Oral History of Clyde Hodge
During the Cairo Conference, Prime Minister Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt discussed plans for reestablishing Korea’s independence from Japan after World War II. After many failed attempts to unify the country, the 38th parallel was established as a strict boundary between the communist influence of the USSR in the North, and the non-communist influence of the United States in the South. Although random border clashes continued to happen, the separation of the two conflicting governments seemed to settle most differences, and by 1949, both the USSR and the United States had withdrawn most of their troops from Korea. Soon, the possibility of a civil war ignited when another failed attempt to unify the country occurred in September of 1949. Subsequently, on June 25 of 1950, communist North Korea invaded non-communist South Korea. Two days following the invasion, after being called upon by the United Nations to aid South Korea, President Truman permitted the use of American forces by land, sea, and air in Korea. Within one week into the Korean War, fifteen other nations united together to join forces with the United Nations, led by Douglas MacArthur. A few months into battle, the North Korean forces managed to drive the South Korean army even farther south into the Pusan area at the tip of Korea. Quickly reacting to the devastation setback, the United Nations forces made a landing on the west coast of Korea forcing the North Korean forces back into their territory. North Korean forces fell back as their capital of Pyongyang was captured, giving the South Korean forces the power to drive them almost to the border of communist China. To help initiate a successful retaliation, communist China teamed up with North Korean forces. They were able to progress into South Korea until the heart of the conflict returned to the 38th parallel, where it remained for the rest of the war. While small border clashes continued to occur, peace negotiations were in the making. Soon, an agreement to settle disputes was signed on July 27 of 1953, establishing a true between the two contentious forms of government.
One veteran involved with aiding South Korea during the Korean War was Clyde Hodge. He was born in 1932 as the youngest of six brothers and one sister on a small farm in Manning, South Carolina. Since his mother died while he was a young child, Clyde’s older cousin took care of his family while also helping around the house. Unlike most kids his age, Clyde enjoyed going to school and learning; however, college was too expensive for his family to afford. Following the rest of his siblings’ footsteps, he joined the National Guard while still in high school in order to gain experience with the military. Upon his high school graduation, he was drafted into the Army, and told he was being sent to Korea. Although he was proud to be called an American soldier, there was one thing holding him back from his excitement: his high school girlfriend, Alice. In order to show his commitment to his girlfriend of three years, he proposed to Alice, and they quickly got married before Clyde left for South Korea in January of 1951.
Being in the National Guard prior to being drafted into the United States Army gave Clyde a special advantage over other teenagers who were drafted. Instead of being ranked as a Private, Clyde was automatically promoted to Master Sergeant. As a Master Sergeant, Clyde operated the field and was in charge of a platoon of about fifty soldiers. Instead of listening to orders during training and missions like most soldiers his age, Clyde had the honor of giving them. He decided what exercises and duties his platoon would perform each day. Even though many soldiers looked up to him and respected him, Clyde still felt something was missing and spent many nights by himself instead of with the other officers. His loneliness was conquered when he became close friends with another officer named Jullian Whineberg. They were stationed in Seoul, Korea together and were quickly recognized as best friends by the other officers and soldiers. Although Clyde was never faced with any devastating combat, he did have many encounters with North Koreans. Fortunately, most of the devastating combat that could have happened was stopped before it reached his platoon.
To the average American, North Koreans and South Koreans were impossible to differentiate. Throughout his time in Korea, Clyde had many encounters with North Koreans that tried to pose as South Koreans. On one occasion, Clyde was confronted by a North Korean that demanded entrance into the platoon barracks that Clyde was in charge of. At first, Clyde was unaware that the man was a North Korean; however, he soon realized the man was attempting to murder all of the soldiers in his barracks. Instantly, Clyde, and other officers took the man into custody and questioned him in order to find out if the North Koreans had any other plans for attack. According to Clyde, nothing significant came out of the interview, and he was never again faced with another attempted attack. After a few months of being stationed in South Korea, he began to learn the small differences between the North and South Koreans, such as a slight difference in the darkness of their skin. After spending two years of active duty in Seoul, Korea, Clyde finished his deployment, and returned home to his wife. As a result of having to recognize the communist Koreans apart from the non-communist Koreans, Clyde brought back his habit of always guessing the trustworthiness of everyone he met.
Even though Clyde and Alice stayed in touch as much as they both possibly could, two years apart took a toll on their new marriage. Written letters were their only form of communication, and every now and then the occasional picture brightened their day. When asked why he thought it was a good idea to get married to his high school sweetheart before he was deployed, Clyde said that knowing that he always had someone waiting for him back home always gave him something to smile about, and have something to look forward to. Also, he reminded himself daily that every day was one day closer to seeing his wife, and being able to start their life together.
Being drafted into the Army at such a young age greatly affected Clyde’s outlook on life. While he was in high school he was a typical teenager able to goof around and take risks, but upon joining the Army and becoming situated with its lifestyle, Clyde realized that life could end at any second. The Army made him develop maturity and responsibility. Also, instead of keeping a calendar and making plans for the future, weeks in advance, he developed a habit of simply waking up every morning and deciding what to do during the day while drinking coffee with his wife.
Upon his homecoming, Clyde and his wife were finally able to settle down into a home of their own, and start a family. They bought a house in their home state of South Carolina, and had their first son, Michael, two years later. After his service for the United Stated Army was completed, Clyde enrolled in medical school, at Virginia Commonwealth University, to become a pharmacist. His new career as a pharmacist granted him the ability to give his son the opportunity to attend college.
Research by: Taylor Moore
Volunteer for the Cold War Museum
Cosby High School
Flint, Roy K. “Korean War.” Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. 2010. Grolier Online. 16 Mar. 2010 http://gme.grolier.com/article?assetid=0162680-0.
Hodge, Clyde. Personal Interview. Apr. 2010.
“Korean War.” 6th ed. The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 2007. Web. http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/korean+war.
“Korean War.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online School Edition. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2010. Web. 18 Mar. 2010
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