Nearly 65 years after 36,914 young U.S. soldiers would die while serving their country fighting in the Korean War from 1950-1953, the often called “Forgotten War” is again front and center with nuclear bomb threats and tensions running high between North Korea and the United States.
When the Korean conflict was over it stopped where it started, with the country remaining divided between north and south along the 38th parallel. For Korean War veteran Everett B. Hanson, 89, of Fairfax, he’s one of the soldiers of that time still living today who remembers his experiences and considers the men and women who fought the war as heroes.
Hanson was drafted into the Army at age 22 and began active duty on Feb. 22, 1951. He arrived at Ft. Lewis, Wash., by Northern Pacific Railroad train on Feb. 26. Next, his journey continued to Ft. Ord, Calif., where he finished infantry basic training.
By Aug. 1 he was on his way to the Far East sailing past Alcatraz Island and under the Golden Gate Bridge on the USNS General E.T. Collins troop transport ship.
Upon departure, Everett recalled being ordered to be a part of the advanced party where he helped direct the soldiers once they stepped on board. Seven miles out to sea the ship encountered rough seas, with numerous soldiers becoming sick.
It took 18 days at sea to reach Camp Drake in Yakima, Japan, that included enduring a three-day typhoon in the Pacific.
“We were about halfway to Korea when we ran into the typhoon,” Hanson stated. “I learned real fast that the key to not getting sick was to eat as much food as you can which seems a little odd,” Hanson said.
“While on the ship my job was working in the bakery so I was able to eat a little all day long for three days, and I didn’t get sick. Actually, I felt pretty good, which wasn’t the case for a lot of other fellas,” he said.
As the ship dipped and dived back and forth with the ocean storm whipping up the waves, Hanson would get his food tray and coffee cup and headed for a place at the center of the mess table. “Then I looked to the other end and here comes a big porcelain coffee pot sliding across the table toward me. So I grabbed the pot, poured myself a cup of coffee, set it down again and watched it go back as the ship dropped in the other direction,” Everett laughed.
The ship arrived at Pusan, Korea, on Aug. 25, and on Sept. 1, Hanson went by train to Seoul and the 60th Ordinance Group Headquarters. Then it was on to the 328th Ordinance Battalion Headquarters at Hong Shon.
He said he arrived as an infantry man, and according to Hanson, one of the first things a soldier learns is not to volunteer for anything. However, soon after his arrival he was asked by a corporal if he took a typing class in high school. “All I said was ‘yes’ and the next thing I know I was going to be a clerk typist,” he commented.
The year that followed found Hanson consumed with the task of record keeping and entering soldiers’ duties into files. All of that filtered into his own off-duty military time when Hanson kept meticulous personal records that eventually filled up a couple of three-ring notebooks after he got home. It included camps where he was stationed, places he traveled to, photographs of Korean landscapes and fellow soldiers with a 3C camera, along with his rank promotions up until he was discharged as a Sergeant in November 1952.
“I was one of the lucky ones,” Everett said. “Half of the guys I went to basic training with never returned home alive.”
Weather conditions were often unpredictable in Korea, with cold winters in the north, which were reminiscent of Minnesota Hanson said. “A lot of guys suffered because they didn’t have proper clothing,” he said. With an agricultural background he noticed that there were hardly any farms in the mountainous country, but the southern region did have some fields of soybeans and rice that were grown. However, rice wasn’t one of his favorite foods for a long time after he returned home again.
Hanson was glad to get back to America after his time in Korea, and the vividly recalled the homecoming sign that welcomed him along with 2,999 fellow soldiers that got off the U.S. Naval ship Marine Adder in Seattle, Wash. The sign read: “You’ve earned your trip home.” Hanson was eager to return to life on the farm that included working on his beloved hobby of restoring old tractors, trucks and antique cars. He would go on to join the Fairfax VFW organization, where he served as adjutant for 23 years and became a member of the honor rifle squad.
Hanson received several notable awards and commendations to recognize his military service and achievements in Korea.
A few years ago he was presented the Ambassador for Peace Medal from the South Korean government in appreciation for his service during the Korean conflict. He also received the Korean War Service Medal that commemorated the anniversary of the outbreak of hostilities in Korea.
But for a job well done as a headquarters clerk typist, Hanson is proud of his Army commendation with medal pendant for his service in Korea. His citation reads:
“Sgt. Everett B. Hanson, a member of Headquarters Detachment, 328th Ordinance Battalion, cited for meritorious service in Korea during Aug. 25, 1951 – July 1952. Served as Personnel Sgt. and responsible for supervising the maintenance of officer and enlisted personnel records of the battalion. He consistently carried out his many duties in a highly competent and commendable manner. His keen judgement, outstanding ability and devotion to duty earned him the deep respect and admiration of all those with whom he worked and contributed immeasurably to the success achieved by his battalion in accomplishing its vital mission. The meritorious service rendered by Sgt. Hanson throughout this period reflects great credit on himself and the military service.”