"Not Forgotten: A Korean War Vet's Story" (A Long the Way)

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The Korean War is known as the Forgotten War.

For whatever reason, it's never gotten the same attention as America's other major wars.
Now veterans of that hard fought war are aging.
And if we don't hear their stories soon: we never will.

This is the story of one Korean War Vet we met "A Long the Way" in Rapid City.

Outside the Rapid City home of Korean War Vet Dale Olson, A U.S. Flag whispers in the wind.

Korean War Vet Dale Olson says,"It's been 63 years now. I don't think much about it anymore."

But, an old photo album inside, stirs memories of his days serving at K–14, the Air Force base in Kimpo, Korea.

Dale Olson says, "It started as a police action and I suppose that's why people didn't think it was very important, a police action but thousands of American Troops lost their lives there."

He survived...84 years old now, his voice softened by the decades.

Korean War Veteran Dale Olson says, "We were the Northern most Air Force Base in South Korea and 8–10 miles from the 38th parallel where the fighting was going on."

It was 1952 Dale Olson was 20 years old serving as a vehicle inspector.

Korean War Veteran Dale Olson says,"We had to keep those vehicles serviced and ready to go, make sure they operated properly."

The U.S. had stepped in to defend South Korea from a full fledge takeover attempt by communist North Korea.

Olson says,"When I grew up in SD you were lucky if you ever got out of the state."

Far from home, close to the front line of an intensely violent war.

Olson says, "We carried a weapon and wore our helmet at all times. Everybody pulled guard duty also you know, you had to walk the perimeter of the base."

Danger was constant, and they were a target.

Dale Olson says, "Fighter planes had machine guns that shot, ya know, strafed the area."

Spending plenty of time in the Fox Holes outside each tent.

"Oh I suppose they were 5 feet deep. They had to be deep enough so you could get your head down so it isn't in the way", he says.

As an Air Base, there were planes taking off, and planes landing.

He says, "And there was fighter jets up there fighting the Migs. There was activity all the time and you could hear things going on."

He doesn't have the most terrifying moments on film, he doesn't need to: those images are imprinted in his memory.

Olson says, "At 1 time there was a plane that went down at the end of the runway and there were 10 American troops that were killed all at once." He says, "It was horrifying, you know there were 10 bodies spread out."

Night time did not bring peace...it brought North Korean planes, nicknamed, Bed Check Charlie.

Olson says, "They flew low, followed the rivers and flew low below the mountains. Americans had radar they flew beneath the radar, so that's how they would get to the bases then these little bi–planes, they just threw bombs out the window."

Americans serving, in the hornets nest that is war.

Olson says, "Of course anyone who says they weren't scared would be lying."

He says when North Koreans snuck across the border—South Koreans dealt with it.

He says, "When they were caught, they were hung on the Han River Bridge by their neck until they dropped off in the water."

And even when Olson's year was up, and it was time to go, the terror was not over.

Olson says, "The plane ahead of us which was C124 Globemaster had 129 troops on it, crashed and killed all the troops there."

Eventually they flew to Japan, in a cargo plane, and took a 14 day ship ride finally arriving in San Francisco.
It was not the welcome home, one might imagine.

Olson says, "The Red Cross was there and we got a cup of hot coffee and we were carrying our duffle bag and trying to carry a cup of hot coffee down the gang plank, so that was our reception.
Steve Long asks: No big crowds welcoming you?
Dale answers, "No."
Steve Long asks: No band playing?
Dale answers, "No."
Steve Long asks: No flags waving?
Dale answers, "No."

Sometimes silence speaks volumes.

Olson says, "It was quite an experience for a young man from South Dakota."

While a peace treaty was signed in 1953, the war was never "officially" over.
But thanks to American troops South Korea remains free today.

If you've met someone fascinating "Along the way", please e–mail us at Stevel@blackhillsfox.com or call us at 605-394-7777 with your story ideas.