Korean War vet returns after 60 years -- amazed at transition
OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- It has been 60 years since he's been back on the soil he once stepped on when he was just a boy. Scared and in a foreign land, he stepped off the ship in Pusan (now Busan), ROK, bound for Seoul.
The then 19-year-old Army infantryman was attached to the 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division in 1952 where he spent 18 months in the Korean War.
Former Sgt. Richard W. Mofield left Pusan and traveled north to Taegu (Daegu) and then further north by train to Seoul. From Seoul he moved through what is now the Demilitarized Zone, en route to the Battle of Old Baldy, a series of five engagements for Hill 266 in west-central Korea.
"I never had the opportunity to come back until now," said Mofield, who was drafted into the Army. "I was 18 years old then, I came in a scared kid. I grew up while I was there."
Mofield described his experience in Korea as trench warfare; he recounted the scenario vaguely with the help of his daughter. "We were just lobbing shells back and forth every once in a while," he said.
That's where he received shrapnel wounds, which earned him the Purple Heart.
Mofield and his daughter, retired Senior Master Sgt. Diane Mofield, both live in Hampton, Virginia, the sister city to Anyang City.
For his valor and service, Anyang City, ROK, paid for Mofield to come to Anyang for five days and be recognized during its Citizen Festival.
Upon arrival, they were greeted by local civic leaders who invited the two to special banquets, a few local tours (including Osan Air Base) and the Korean War Memorial.
"Everyone was so nice," said Mofield. "Going to the (welcome banquet) was my favorite part. It was unusual seeing all the Korean soldiers in their own uniform."
Mofield added that it wasn't uncommon to see ROK soldiers in the same uniform as American Soldiers when he fought in the war.
During the visit to the Korean War Memorial Museum in Seoul, Mofield got to see the transformation the city took from the World War II era to today.
"I can't believe the change that has been from there (1953) to right now; I can't believe how much this country has grown," said Mofield. "There were no high-rises; there was not much left of the city."
Mofield explained he didn't have very many good memories from the war. However, historically, Seoul was a battleground in 1950s where the North Korean Forces initially took it over. The United Nations took it back about three months later with artillery and urban combat. Much of the city was left in rubble and destruction.
The tour of the museum also brought back memories of fallen friends.
"It was moving, and frankly a little upsetting -- they had the names of all the 33,000 troops who were killed during the war," said Diane. "We tried to find his friend that he came over here ( ROK) with and his name was not on the wall because he is still missing in action."
Mofield did not discuss the circumstances surrounding his friend who was MIA. However, they laid a flower down for Mofield's friend before leaving the memorial.
Eighteen months separated a man from a boy. Sixty years separated a man from his past. Now at 81 years old, Mofield can look back and tell the tale of what he and his companions contributed to and look on with pride at what the ROK has now become.