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Purple heart veteran reflects on Korean War

Korean War veteran Jim Oden shared last week, about his life as a soldier during the Korean War.

John Brown professor, Preston Jones asked Oden, “What are your memories of the United States entering into the Second World War?” Oden said, “I was in the eighth grade at that time. We didn’t have the means of communication you all have today, but we were pounded with a day-by-day hate of the Japanese for what they did to Pearl Harbor.”

Oden said it was not until he was in the military and stationed in Japan that his opinion of them changed.

Oden agreed with the statement that the people of the United States have never been as united as they were than during that time.

“Everything was rationed back then: sugar, gasoline and butter.”

Oden was drafted in October of 1945 and sent to Japan for occupational duty around January or February of 1946.

“When I first got to Japan I was assigned to the 25th entry division, and we were strictly occupational,” Oden said.

They would patrol the city of Nikolai in Jeeps from midnight till morning.

During this time the city was under strict supervision.

“There was no flags allowed and off the streets by midnight,” Oden said.

He commented on the state of the people during his occupation,

“The people themselves were desperate. No doubt about it. They were looking for wood, water, heat, even the animals were desperate.”

Oden recalled several stories of odd events that happened to him and his troops. One night, when they were patrolling in their Jeep, they came across what appeared to be a dead, elderly man.

When they tried to take him to the hospital, the hospital was hesitant. The doctors informed the troops that when one treats a Japanese person, one is responsible for that person from that moment till even after death.

Oden then told the story of his friend Jack Brown.

Brown was positioned as an artilleryman. An artilleryman’s job was to go to the frontline and direct where to aim the weapons.

“This was a dangerous job, because the enemy was looking to see where the shot came from,” Oden said.

Oden said the men that he worked with “became a family.”

Oden’s regiment started with 105 people and quickly decreased to 70.

Jones asked Oden how he dealt with watching his friends die so rapidly. “I think you just push it back. There was no time to grieve.” He continued to say that even today he still thinks “of little things sometimes.”

As the interview drew to a close Oden discussed why he valued his Purple Heart more than any reward.

“It is an award I visibly earned myself. It is not a reward you get from someone liking you and writing a nice letter. You have to shed blood for your country,” said Oden.

Jones believes it is important to continue talking about veteran stories similar to Oden’s.

“I think it is an important part of history,” said Jones.