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The NYC Veterans Oral History Project: Johnnie White

October 28, 2013

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Johnnie White served in the United States Army from 1952 until 1954. Mr. White was warned by his grandfather not to become a “chicken plucker,” or a cook. Instead  Mr. White ended up on the front lines in Korea, and realized, as many had told him, that “war is hell.” On his last assignment, he guarded prisoners of war. Mr. White comes from a long line of military veterans. He frequently mentions his large family, to whom he is very grateful. He especially would like to thank his wife Willie M. White, his daughter Nikole White, his parents Johnnie and Matilda White, and his aunt and uncle Joel and Iris White.

Major Points in Interview

:32 - Enlisted in the Army in 1952 and went to Boot Camp in South Carolina.

1:12 - Tells the army he can’t read or write, so he is sent to Korea.

1:39 - Goes to Japan and is stationed in Sendai.

3:41 - Serves with Task Force Smith, who he feels is the best group of men.

5:22 - Gets to Korea on a Wednesday, a rainy day.

6:44  - When he realized he was going to Korea, he was scared for the first time.

8:38 - Reminisces about his family’s history of service in World War I, the people he knew who fought in World War II and the courage it gave him.

10:50 - His grandfather did not like the army, and gave him advice to not be a cook.

14:48 - Wondered on the front line, why was he fighting.  

19:04 - Explains how it was hard to tell the South Koreans from the North Koreans.

20:09 - While on guard duty, North Koreans surrounded him and told him he did not belong, but did not capture him.

23:21 - Proud of the group of men he served with.

24:20 - Discusses how the US is a young country, compared to Korea or Japan.

25:03 - Saddest day was the day the war was over.

28:23 - Last assignment was on Koje-do Island, where many of the North Korean POWs were kept.

29:33 - Made trips to Pyongyang for prisoner exchanges and saw why some of the North Korean POWs did not want to go back.

30:55 - Treated the POWs very well and always according to the Geneva Report, as opposed to the treatment of US Prisoners of War captured by North Korea.

32:41 - Did not understand how defectors could stay in North Korea rather than come back.

33:54 - Feels that stopping the North Koreans and the Chinese was incredibly important, potentially saved the US from being invaded.

34:59 - Feels South Korea is more advanced than we are after visiting Korea more recently.