Oral History of Paul Lindsey

The time was 1950, just five years after the Second World War and the Korean War was just beginning. The Korean War was a conflict which fought the principles of a once allied nation during the Second World War. Soviet Russia supported North Korea and provided resources to them in hopes that they would fight the south who opposed a communist regime. Although the goal was a stable Korea, the North was the first to invade, triggering a response from the United Nations which included many other nations as well as the United States. The Korean War also took place around the height of the “Red Scare” in the US, a movement primarily led by Joseph McCarthy to seek out and remove suspected communists from the country. The aggressive acts of North Korea coupled with the fear of communists, led the U.S. to take a particularly strong role in the war, with minimal opposition.

In order to fight a war soldiers are needed, soldiers who are comprised not of super heroes, but regular people. Mr. Paul Lindsey was a typical American citizen at the beginning of the Korean War. Born in 1931, Mr. Lindsey went to school as a typical child normally did. His education went from elementary to finishing high school with a diploma, after which he decided to enlist in the Navy at the age of 19. This was a near immediate decision, seeing as the war started in June of 1950 and Mr. Lindsey was just finishing his last school year. He had a brother who also served during the conflict; however, he was drafted into the army as opposed to enlisting in the Navy. He had a mother and father at home while he was overseas, and mentioned that they were his primary motivation to continue working and make it back home. When asked why he chose to enlist, Mr. Lindsey replied simply, “Navy had to enlist, [and] I thought I’d like the Navy better.”

As a member of the Navy, it was almost guaranteed that Mr. Lindsey would end up overseas for his assignment, and that’s exactly what happened. Mr. Lindsey was stationed primarily in the Caribbean and a little on the east coast of the U.S. mainland where he worked with those known as “mine men” in the mine force. During his four years of service from 1951-1955, Mr. Lindsey became a, “MN2”, or Mineman 2nd class, where his primary job was mine evaluation. Essentially, this role included the analysis of land mines which were to be used in the field. Mr. Lindsey and the rest of his company were in charge of making sure the mines would work once shipped to the front lines, as well as participating in some of the mine’s assembly process. From time to time, defective mines would be given to them where they would need to analyze, and find the point of failure. They then figured out how to fix the problem and implemented the solution to make the mines more effective. Although Mr. Lindsey himself saw no combat action, his role was no doubt valuable to all those on the front lines and more than likely, his brother.

Mr. Lindsey’s war time experience was different than what most people would think of when they associate a person’s involvement during a conflict. For one, Mr. Lindsey never actually saw any combat. Instead, his role provided necessary supplies to the troops over in Korea. Because of this, many of a typical combat soldier’s lifestyles and routines did not apply. Although the fear of the death was relatively unknown to most of his friends, they did still have stressful times. For example, sometimes shipments of mines would need to be made faster, forcing the evaluating teams to work harder and longer hours. There was also the feeling of guilt when mines would come back defective. In response to this stress, Mr. Lindsey said that he and his buddies typically played, “lots of cards…pinnacle.” This was primarily reserved as a weekend activity but occasionally, in times of low work, would be the recreation during the week as well. Life in the Caribbean was drastically different than life over in Korea, and goes to show how soldiers can serve vital roles even if not directly involved in combat.

One of the most important factors in any military conflict or involvement deals with the morale of those involved, before, during and after the conflict as well as the amount of patriotism of the time. When asked how he felt, Mr. Lindsey first replied, “No, I was not opposed to the war…” He continued to talk of the morale situation stating that after the war had started it was “good” as well as while he was there. He emphasized that there was much patriotism back then, much more than currently. Mr. Lindsey related much of what happened back then to the present as well, making examples out of Vietnam and Kuwait as well. Patriotism was much greater during the Korean War, less during the Vietnam Conflict, and slightly less during Desert Storm. Mr. Lindsey felt as though politicians stepped in too much during each of the above conflicts, and because of this, a proper job could not be conducted, and each time, “we never learned our lesson.” He also pointed out that much of this can be applied today, during operation Iraqi Freedom. Politicians are stepping in too much and trying to fix the problem, when ultimately the responsibility should fall to the soldiers. After the war, Mr. Lindsey said he had regret for not finishing the job. Instead, “proper victory was not achieved,” and the job was not finished the way it should have been.

Thus far, many of the experiences and feelings of Mineman Second Class Paul Lindsey were quite different than what most individuals would picture of a Navy man during a time of war. There were different roles, different feelings, different locations around the globe, and no combat experience. Mr. Lindsey’s job stresses the importance of not just fighting soldiers, but also those who provided the equipment and services necessary for the combat soldiers to do their jobs. In the process of interviewing, it became evident that there are many different types of roles within a war. The support and effort put out by Mr. Lindsey and his company was no doubt beneficial to the war effort, and as I asked more and more questions, it became more apparent that what one would initially picture of a soldier can be completely wrong. Mr. Lindsey explained that supportive and logistical roles such as his were key towards the war effort and rightly so. Firing a weapon does not win a war if you have no ammunition or supplies, thus one can deduce the key position, not only this veteran, but all veterans in similar forms of service, served during times of conflict.

After returning from overseas, and after finishing his military service, Mr. Lindsey had few things to say. When asked if he though anything was different, he didn’t feel like anything had changed to drastically, but he mentioned that he felt there were “too many students who didn’t know what they want to do…” In essence, he felt that too many students right out of high school don’t know what they want to or should do, so they choose the military, which might not necessarily be the right choice. He also mentioned that after returning, “Jobs were tight” and it was sometimes difficult to find work. Due to this, in part, Mr. Lindsey, after the war went off to college on the G.I. Bill, a government program which paid full tuition for soldiers. After graduating from college, Paul went into the education field where he worked for 30 years. For 15 years, Mr. Lindsey taught woodworking at a local high school, after which he continued his career in education as a Vocational director for another 15 years. Although he no longer keeps in touch with friends formed during his years of service, he stated that he did keep in touch with friends for a few years after his service ended.

Researched by Kevin Crowley
Volunteer for the Cold War Museum
Cosby High School

Lindsey, Paul. Personal interview. Apr. 2008.

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