Veteran Stories:
Joseph Clorice Gautreau

Army

  • Joseph Gautreau, November 23, 2009.

    Joseph Gautreau
  • Photo of Joseph Gautreau, 21, taken during his overseas service in Newfoundland during the Second World War, prior to his service in the Korean War.

    Joseph Gautreau
  • Dagger with its scabbard belonging to Mr. Gautreau.

    Joseph Gautreau
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"One day, this little fellow come over and asked me, he says, could I help him to learn English? I said, “Sure.” So he told me to go across the street behind the building, I couldn’t see it but there was a little school there. So we went and sat on the doorstep and I’d help him out with the … But he brought a friend the next day and ended up I had about a dozen kids there, teaching English."

Transcript

[The barracks that Joseph Gautreau lived while stationed in Korea] The building was in three stories and one story at the top was the officers so they had maids that made the beds and stuff like that. And then the middle floor was sergeants and NCOs [non-commissioned officers] and they probably had girls working in there as well. And then the kitchen staff, cleaning staff, we had a big crew really that way.

I was impressed with the house next door, there was a big cement wall or brick wall all around it and apparently, it was being used as a hospital sort of thing. But what impressed me was there was a young fellow that, he arrived about the same time as I did, he was going there, they were going to treat him, they were going to operate on him for something, he was really pale. And his mother had to come and he could go to that little hospital but you had to supply your own meals. And his mother used to come every day with a baby on her back and cook his meals outside on a little, well, I don’t know what kind of stove it was, you just put the pot on top of that and that was her cooking thing. And she did that the whole year.

And during the latter part of the year, like we went there in May and let’s say like in September or something like that or October, they had like a little building outside with the screens all around, like I don’t know what you call them, they’re for mosquitoes. Anyway, we had a ramp on our side, we couldn’t see over the fence but if we had the ramp to put the vehicles on to change the oil and stuff like that, we could see over the wall. And we could see this building and one day we heard somebody yelling and crying and whatever. So we climbed up on that ramp and see what it was and I asked the two little Koreans that worked for us, I said, “What’s going on?” He said, “They’re going to operate the little boy.” Well, I said, “What’s he screaming about? Well, you see, they’ve got no anesthetic.” And he started to scream, there was four men holding him on a table sort of thing and they were holding him and they were going to start cutting him to operate on his leg or something. Gee whiz, he was screaming so much, we had to get out, we went inside the building, we couldn’t stand the yelling and screaming. So that was something. Later on though, but he was there the same amount of time I was. He was going home the same week I was going home. But it took a whole year to get him fixed up and whatever.

One day, this little fellow come over and asked me, he says, could I help him to learn English? I said, “Sure.” So he told me to go across the street behind the building, I couldn’t see it but there was a little school there. So we went and sat on the doorstep and I’d help him out with the … But he brought a friend the next day and ended up I had about a dozen kids there, teaching English. Geez. And it lasted about a couple of weeks and then they gave me a different job so I couldn’t go in the evenings. I used to do that in the evenings and help them out that way. But boy, they were sure telling each other, one another to go and learn something English.

They didn’t have restaurants but the year that I went there, they finally made a United Nations restaurant. That’s the only restaurant we were allowed to go outside of our quarters. We couldn’t eat at any little restaurants around there, we had to go to that United Nations restaurant. And you got ordinary food like you do in a restaurant here. That was nice, you know, you get a hamburger if you wanted one. But God, you weren’t supposed to go and eat for the food, the Korean food or nothing like that. Like same as blood donor, that little boy [the boy that was operated on at the hospital next to the barracks] needed blood, well, I had given blood 35 times so I went to see our doctor at home and he says, “You can’t go to the Koreans and give them blood because their needles may not be properly cleaned up and everything.” So he says, “You can’t go give them blood.”

I went on a holiday or a leave like a seven day leave to Tokyo and we had to go by train and then take a ferry up Pusan [city on south-east coast of the Korean peninsula]. So we got on the train, it didn’t cost nothing, we got a travel warrant that’s they call it, got on the train and it was run by the Americans, American soldiers were running the train. And we were going down, it was quite a ways there to the end of the country to get the ferry. And all at once, the train stopped real fast there and it just jerked everybody in there. So we were looking around and the train backed up a little bit and that was stopped and we couldn’t see anything around. Pretty soon, one of the guys that we knew was an American, he was working on the train, I says, “What’s going on?” He said, “We just hit a couple of young teenagers on the track and killed them.” Holy God. Oh yeah, we said, “Gee, that’s terrible and everything.” Oh, he says, “It happens every day, we kill one or two every day. They just walk on the tracks, they said, they don’t move.” So I said, “Well, what happens now?” Oh, he said, “They go over and pay the family $500 each for each one and that’s it.” And they just jump the train and took off. Holy God, that shook us.

Another thing that impressed me was, where this nun was, they called us one day, she called, we went to see her, she said, “Come on over this afternoon, there’s an American colonel that donated a sewing machine for the little girls, not to learn but to help them to make their clothes I suppose or something like that. So they’re going to put a little show on and you guys come on over and have a look, there won’t be that many people.” And there’s only about a dozen little girls because the Koreans, he told us, the Koreans don’t give out their boys, they keep the boys because they can grow up and go in the army and they give the money to their parents. But the little girls, they grow up to become prostitutes. So they looked after them there. They had all kinds of different hair colours like there was only one little blonde and all the rest were dark, you know, different colour of darkness though and their faces because it was mixed blood from, you know, mostly American soldiers I guess.

Anyway, we went to this little show that they put on, a little dance and the nun told us, she says, “Watch that little blonde. That little blonde, but the other little girls, they liked her so much, they didn’t want to let her do nothing, they do everything for her. And she’s really stupid, she can’t do nothing. So you watch.” Sure enough, they started doing their little dance and she stood in the middle and they were dancing all around here, she never moved at all, she just stood there.

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