Several Spanish Cove residents visited the Yukon Veterans Museum on Dec. 16 with Curator Rick Cacini as their bus driver and tour guide.
Among those residents were Korean War veterans Civilla Ball (Frederick) and Joe Brown, who shared some stories of their time in the war.
“The Korean War began in 1950 when Communist forces of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea crossed the 38th parallel and invaded the Republic of Korea in the south,” according to www.redcross.org. It’s often referred to as “the forgotten war” because it was overshadowed by World War II. The war ended in 1953 due to a truce—but not a peace treaty—that still divides the Korean peninsula along the 38th parallel.
Drawing blood and finding love
Civilla Ball, Frederick at the time, said she can remember when the building the Yukon Veterans Museum is now housed in originally went up because she’s sure it’s the same building they came to during the Korean War to draw blood. Ball was a chief nurse with the Red Cross Blood Mobile at either 21 or 22 years old.
She said they set up eight beds and would usually get a local doctor who wasn’t in charge, but would be there in the case of an emergency. Ball said she wishes she could remember who the doctor was that came, but she doesn’t. She also said she wishes she knew who the volunteers were as well.
“I don’t have anybody to ask now, they’re all gone. They’re all dead,” Ball said.
She added that there wasn’t an exact schedule set for the blood drives in each town, but they would usually do one every six months, and they’d usually get several hundred pints of blood. There was a three-man crew that took care of setting up and taking down, as well as the blood, she said. They would rush the blood to the airport to be sent to Korea.
“Yukon always had a good turnout,” Ball said.
Ball also met her husband, Dick Ball, who was a “Yukon Boy.” She took his blood on one of the eight tables.
“I guess he must’ve gotten my phone number while I had him on the table drawing his blood. Not too much longer than that, he called me on the phone and came over,” Ball said. “We started dating and eventually got married. We had six children and 30 grandchildren and 33 great grandchildren, going on 34.”
Ball has three brothers also in the military. One was in the Army, one was in the Navy and one was in the Merchant Marines, which she said doesn’t exist anymore. She donated a photo of her and her three brothers with their parents to the Yukon Veterans Museum. Ball and her relatives lived along 6th Street in Yukon.
Bracing the cold and being appreciated
Joe Brown served from January of 1952 to ’55.
“In the real military… and that’s the Army. I volunteered once and it took me three years to get out of it,” Brown joked.
He added that he was a very troublesome teenager so the Army is probably what saved him.
“They straightened me out,” he said. “But the training I got while I was in there sure made me able to retire where I retired because very good paying jobs in electronics.”
Brown said how cold it is in Korea sticks out the most to him from the war.
“There was more causalities in Korea from frost bite than there was from the fight,” he said. “The clothing and equipment we had was not adequate. Many times when you pulled your boots off you had ice slivers in your socks.”
Brown said he lived in Alaska for four years, but he was never as cold in Alaska as he was in Korea.
“People look at the temperature and they say, ‘oh, well that’s not cold.’ Go to Korea and feel that cold. I don’t know what it is, but it cuts to the bone,” Brown said. “I’ve been back to Korea many times since because I work for the Federal Government, the FFA, so I’ve become even more familiar with Korea, but it hasn’t warmed up over there at all. It’s still a bitter cold.”
Out of everything, Brown said the thing that’s impressed him the most about the Korea is that the Koreans still appreciate the troops.
“Even the little kids will thank you for saving their country,” Brown said. “[The Koreans] shake your hand and bow, and ‘thank you and thank you and thank you. What impressed me the most is when little kids do that because who taught them to do that? Their parents so it’s deep-rooted over there, the thanks they give to the troops in there.”
Brown has gone back twice on the Revisit Korea program, which is hosted by the Korean Veterans Association of Korea.
“If you spend any money over there it’s because you bought a souvenir,” Brown said. “They put you up in a five star hotel. As the old saying goes, they wine-and-dine and tour you all over. It doesn’t cost you a penny. Now what other country has done that for the troops that have gone in and fought for them?”
For the 60th anniversary trip with the Revisit Korea program, they even paid half of Brown’s airfare and a one third of his wife’s.
“There’s not a country that we’ve ever helped that has done anything like the Koreans have,” Brown said.
Brown also said he enjoyed his visit to the Veterans Museum because it brought back a lot of memories for him.