I was drafted into the U.S. Army on 6 September 1967, 5 months shy of my 25th birthday.
I was inducted at Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, New York, and did basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina from 18 September 1967 through 10 November 1967. I was in Company E, First Training Brigade, Fourth Battalion. The Vietnam War was raging then, and at that time the U.S. Government was sending vast quantities of men and material into the ever-widening conflagration. Most of the men in my basic training company received orders to go to Fort Polk, Louisiana for advanced infantry training, which was almost a sure ticket to Vietnam; I thought that I would also be sent to Vietnam.
However, fate decided otherwise; I received orders to go to Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, to be trained as a Guided Missile Propellant and Explosive Specialist (Military Occupation Specialty: 55F20). Redstone Arsenal is located adjacent to Huntsville, Alabama, and at the time, civilian scientists were at Redstone, testing rocket motors for the U.S. space program. When they test fired the Saturn rocket motors, which would take the first men to the moon, the ground shook. I was at Redstone Arsenal during the North Vietnamese/ Viet Cong Tet Offensive that took place during January 1968; I remember watching the fighting on the television set located in the company recreation room.
Another significant event also took place at that time, but it has been minimized and largely forgotten, because of the ferocious fighting taking place in Vietnam. On 23 January 1968, the day after my 25th birthday, the North Koreans captured the American spy ship USS Pueblo, and incarcerated the captain and crew. Shortly thereafter, I received my orders to go to Korea. I arrived in Korea during early March 1968, and was assigned to the 7th Ordnance Company (Special Ammo), which was part of the 83rd Ordnance Battalion. We were headquartered about 20 miles south of Seoul; our mission was to store and maintain tactical nuclear warheads and rockets. The storage facility was located within a high security area about 5 miles up a dirt mountain road from the living area. The weapons were stored in tunnels dug into the surrounding mountains. The MSA (maximum security area) had an infantry company from the 7th Infantry Division living on-site and performing perimeter guard duty, the 260th Military Police Company was doing interior guard duty with guard dogs, and of course, the 7th Ordnance Company (SA), was doing the ammo humping. Shortly after I arrived at my Korean duty station, the Command Sergeant Major of the 83rd Ordnance Battalion, CSM Daniel Nifong, chose me to become the 83rd Ordnance Battalion mailman. I was a fortunate trooper; I got my own jeep, a Colt 45 pistol, and was told to go to 8th Army headquarters in Yong Son, near Seoul, twice a day, six days a week, to get the mail. No one hassled me as long as I delivered the mail correctly and promptly.
Photography was a hobby of mine prior to being drafted into the U.S. Army, and I brought my cameras and lenses with me to Korea. The pictures in this collection were taken with one of two Nikon F bodies, and either a 50mm f1.4 lens or a 200mm f3.5 lens. All the images are from 35 mm color slides; most of the film was Agfachrome slide film shot at ASA 50. Most of the film was purchased with photo processing included. So, after a roll of film was exposed, I sent the film back to the States for processing.
After I was discharged from active duty on 12 April 1969, I probably viewed and showed the slides 2 or 3 times after I returned home. Then, for the next 33 years, they were stored away unseen, but not forgotten. In early 2002, a friend was sending me e-mail attachments of pictures he had taken in the 1970's. I was curious how he was converting his old 35mm slide photos to digital images. He told me he was using an Epson 1250 Photo scanner, and so, the next day I purchased one. All of these images have been scanned using the Epson 1250 Photo scanner, a Macintosh G4 733mhz computer running OS X 10.2 and Adobe Photoshop 7.0.
It is a distinct honor for me to have Don Lopez, and www.imjinscout.com, provide a portal to my Korean photo collection. When I was in Korea I never went north of Seoul, and I never saw or spoke with a GI who was stationed on the Korean DMZ. Now, www.imjinscout.com has given me a fresh understanding of what it was like to be "on the firing line." I thank Don, and all his compatriots on the DMZ, for a job well done. The motto of the 83rd Ordnance Battalion was "Supporting the Best." It feels as if I am once again supporting the best.
Below are links to my Korea slides. I hope you enjoy them.