Korean War Combination Scrapbook and diary - 1952-1953
[Korean War Primary Source Archive]. Tolleson, 1st Lt. George Roland [1929 - 2016]. SCRAPBOOK / DIARY. 25th infantry Division, Charlie Company. "Punch Bowl", Korea. 1952 - 1953. "Punch Bowl", Korea: 1952 - 1953. 36 leaves of mounting paper, 30 of which have entries, affixed photographs, artifacts, momentos. Diary entries are in blue ink and quite legible. . 100+ original b/w photos from "in country", many captioned underneath or on the back. 12" x 11". Tan commercial leather scrapbook, with tan cord tie. "Scrapbook" gilt stamped to front cover. The covers have some wear, the paper is toned and brittle, with almost all leaves detached. Photos generally clear & sharp with some detached. VG to VG+ contents, housed in an about VG scrapbook. Tolleson, who haled from the Carolinas, served not far from the front line in an area called “ The Punch Bowl” along the 38th parallel. The Punch Bowl was the bowl-shaped Haean Basin in Yanggu County, Gangwon Province, and lies several miles south of the Korean Demilitarized Zone. The Punch Bowl was fought over many times by both American, UN, Chinese and Korean forces during the war. Tolleson begins writing in Korea Feb 1952 with a final entry March,1953. He documents his tour as his plane lands in Sasebo, Japan, with entries as time, duties & circumstances permitted, thoug we occasional find entries for the entire month. Once Tolleson arrives in Korea, he is assigned to the 25th Infantry Charlie Company. His diary is a detailed account regarding the conditions near the front line. He mentions his unit discovering the bodies of 20 dead Chinese soldiers, from a previous battle and several court martial cases taking place. He agonized over sending one of his men on a mission to clear a minefield forward of the front lines. He also describes the battle with the elements blizzards, monsoons, nonstop rain, truck’s and bulldozers stuck in mud. His entries also detail life in closed quarters with horrible commanding officers issues with enlisted men, and life in tents with no showers sometimes for a week or more. His unit was very close to the front line and mentions the sound of shelling and pulling out his unit after a Chinese offensive. He writes about troops of the 25th wounded in combat and the horror of war. His outfit was unique in that it had a combination of “colored troops” and a Korean (ROK) Republic of Korean soldier working together in the field plus “Jeep“, a Korean houseboy adopted by the unit [a war orphan?]. Towards the end of his tour, Tolleson was promoted to 1st Lt. and awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service in a combat zone. Regarding the photographs that accompany, there is also a set of very gruesome photos discovered in an envelope marked “ dead chinks” The photos also depict winter scenes, machinery, trucks bulldozers a few photos of Korean labor parties. Included is an interesting photo of Tolleson receiving the Bronze Star. Half of the photos are in photo corners and half are taped to the page. Other items include a very large official armed forces wall map of Korea with the area Tolleson served marked in pencil. Also various ephemera items such as newspaper clippings, military luggage tags, two letters he wrote back home to a school while in Korea. Much other material. Edited excerpt From George Roland Tolleson’s obituary- 2016 : “He was a civil engineer registered in 3 states who loved his family, music, scouting, and dancing the jitterbug. He was retired as Chief Engineer of Republic Contracting Corp. and his projects included many bridges and hydroelectric projects from Charleston to the Carolina mountains. He loved the Lord and was an ordained deacon and elder in the Presbyterian Church. He served as Clerk of Session of Trinity Presbyterian Church, where he was also a leader of Boy Scouts. He entered the U. S. Army upon completion of ROTC and served in Korea, where he was decorated with the bronze star. On returning from war duty in the Army Corps of Engineers, he continued engineering through Duke Power, Easterby & Mumaw, Florida Steel, Jones & Fellers, Wilbur Smith & Assoc., before joining Republic Contracting. His profession included design and construction with steel, concrete, and he was one of few engineers highly experienced with wood. He was esteemed for his work with cofferdams, and has served as chapter president of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He is among four successive generations of Tollesons in civil engineering. He did advanced studies at the University of South Carolina and also constructed an expansion of the football stadium there.” The diary provides an informative first-hand account of the Korean War, and as such, really gives the reader a sense of what life was truly like at or near the front lines. An outstanding primary source document. Below are excerpts of diary entries that focus on the Korean War. Please note: these excerpts are often from much longer entries. * * * * * Pusan Korea -1952 It’s all they say it is - stench and filth these poor people are worse than the Japanese Korea is not picturesque, its pitiful. Riding through the streets on the truck was stifling they need something but I doubt if war was it. No wonder China fell to the communist. Went to the club saw a movie tried out the air mattress and sleeping bag. Got my orders Monday 25th Div hate to leave Mr. Gilbert we’ve been playing canasta on the train from Pusan. Everybody is sacking out now these wooden benches don’t stack up against the Jap sleeper. March 3,1952 “Punch Bowl”, Korea I’m on the 7th day of no bath guess I’ll get one tomorrow. Didn’t get to the Betty Hutton U.S.O. Show saw her when she rode out in a jeep and waved and called bye bye to us in a Yankee accent. March 14, 1952 “Punch Bowl”, Korea The only thing to spend money on is " Jeep" the Korean houseboy’s salary and cigarettes. April 17-March 30 1952 “Punch Bowl” Korea Here I am on the hill practically no water for washing… This road !! Boy oh boy it is a mess its all the jeep can do to make it… it’s surprising how fast we broke camp and set up here. Our tents are those big 16 x 30 wall squad tents they were down and loaded and set up, stoves installed in two hrs. A Coleman ( gas) lantern furnishes light … Luhn is about to have a hemorrhage he gets real excited than he sits down and his eyes get sleepy and he’s the picture of woe. April - March 31st, 1953 "Punch Bowl”, Korea The road has gone to pot with the thaw 2 1/2 T trucks with chains on all ten wheels get stuck up to their axel's. Got a shower yesterday really felt good to be on dry ground again. They found 20 dead “chinks” ( Chinese soldiers) across and down the rd from us from the motor duds and hand grenades Chink bunkers and clipped off trees there must have been some fighting here. April 2, 1952 “Punch Bowl”, Korea Quill almost court martialed one of my colored men who was scuffling in the movie in the BOQ and knocked a flashlight out hand. Not enough evidence. April 4, 1952 Punch Bowl”, Korea For the last week I’ve been worried we have to send a man from each PLTN to help the infantry clear a minefield forward of the frontlines. He’s almost certain to be wounded it was really hard to send this morning. April 9, 1953 “Punch Bowl”, Korea Col. Walker did it again grabbed my PLTN Sgt, by the collar chewed out my dozer operator another Sgt. I get an order to do one thing and he says different. My men complain. Yesterday he was pleasant he’s a babbling fool. April 17, 1953 “Punch Bowl”, Korea Snow turned to torrents for two days we are 15-20 miles to the coast North of 38. April 23, 1953 “Punch Bowl”, Korea My minefield boy got back ok the 2 inf boys he broke in were injured by a mine a week later. Heartbreak is a couple of hills West. April 29, 1952 “Punch Bowl”, Korea We’re building a supply road behind the lines within mortar range but behind the mtns. The only time it comes close is when they overshoot. When they do fire at the inf in the mans we pull out that’s only about once a week for an hour or so. The biggest danger is getting hit with a rock when we blast. The inf sends out an occasional patrol to find out if the chinks have moved there are air strikes on the chinks. May 9, 1952 “Punch Bowl”, Korea Being here is like a bad dream; a strange dream where you are in a strange country where you never see women, especially white woman with white skin and round eyes, where valleys are flat as table tops and hills are mins so steep they slide when the snow thaws. May 19 1952 Wonju Korea - briefly transfer for School Heavy machinery. I haven’t seen another from A division these boys don’t even know a war is on. It’s irritating to hear them taking about it after being up on the line and seeing the boys as they carry them out of the trenches. 2nd PLTN ( Snead’s ) had two casualties several days ago. I’m glad I suppose they moved my PLTN back out of the mortar area. We wanted to finish that road tho. I had been lucky with the PLTN for two months and it would have run out sooner or later. It was Sneads 2nd day when his boys got hit.Than these Stupes sit around and say there isn’t any fighting. Let them build a road 25 yards behind the main line with mortar coming in and they'll find out. June 1, 1952 “Punch Bowl” Korea I stuck my foot in again this time literally. I was riding a bulldozer and told the operator to hold it when he stopped to back up he didn’t hear me and started backwards as I was getting off luckily he stopped and I only got my foot bruised as it caught between the track and the floor pan but it was close. I have a nice swollen foot and am hobbling around on crutches. Yesterday they couldn’t find any crutches so they got me a long handled shovel and I was hoping around on it. This morning as I was going to breakfast a Korean on the other side of the fence called to me in broken English and said he had a ” stick . Than he brought me a homemade pair of crutches he had made for one of his boys when he was hurt. I offered to pay him for them but he wouldn't take it. They are a generous people. July 16, 1952 “Punch Bowl”, Korea Excitement my Sgt. Was awarded a Bronze Star for meritorious service. Maj. Graham our C.O. was here to present it we had a regular stateside formation with shiny boots and all. Than during inspection arms it happened a G.I. had left his ammo clip in his gun when he released his bolt and pulled the trigger BANG! The bullet knocked the thumb of the boy next to him. July 21, 1952 “Punch Bowl”, Korea It’s the same story day after day get up out on the road stay all day. Men dig ditches, blow up rocks I appease any Brass that comes by. Come in wrangle over who gets what dozer what air compressor wonder whether the rumors are true - everybody starts rumors there's going to be a big chink push. We are going to push we count out points - the months and days we’ve been here. The time left till R&R to rotation we eagerly await replacements to pounce on to see if they are worth their salt. Sept 2, 1952 “Punch Bowl”, Korea We finally got a brand spanking 2nd Lt. Just what the doctor ordered Quill and those had fun with their Green 2nd Lt. ( me) now it’s my turn. We fixed him up good. I walked in to meet him sat down than I had arranged for a call telling me that one of our PLTN’s had been hit and was pinned down. The PLTN leader was killed and 2 men injured. Also a dozer was hit than we took off no a flying trip supposedly to get the rest of the men out. He was prettified. Dec 14, 1952 “Punch Bowl”, Korea I just got transferred to HQS and am no longer with the company. I’m on TDY to a special project way back but I get 3 points a month. Dec 18,1952 “Punch Bowl”, Korea I hated to leave Charlie Co. and the log bunker cause the Christmas Stocking you sent looked so good hanging on its nail. Christmas : Korea HQ( behind the front line) Its surprising how G.I.s’ hang onto all the Christmas trees up in this one BN HQS. Decorated with everything from merthiolate colored glaze to cut up beer cans to popcorn strings from the states. Most every unit is collecting candy , gum clothes, from Sears Roebuck and home for the Korean kids. Its spontaneous too. Dec 25,1952 HQ (behind the front line) The Chaplain had a candlelight service with communion at 10:00pm last night. After breakfast we took a big box of candy, gum, and passed it out to the Korean kids. Did they scramble and push for it ! I’m back in the populated area now.