A1C Reed Shane spent a year at Osan and shared his photos with us. He stated, I was there from May 1965 thru July 1966.” Reed lamented that he made A1c in two years and then didn’t have any chance for E-5. Musing on it, he said, he might have stayed in if there was a bonus, but there was nothing. This was just before the Vietnam War years when stripes were handed out like candy and bonus money was plentiful because they needed cannon fodder for the Vietnam War. Oh what a difference a couple of years makes.
Of the photos, he remarked: “I believe these were taken spring of 66. The rice patties have not been planted yet. … I went to Korea on a passport. I was supposed to go to the ROK with MAG. When I got to Calif. they could not find my passport, so I got delayed 2 days. Was in desk drawer all the time. The position was filled so I ended up at Osan. Everyone who went off base had to be in uniform, but me. Since I was on passport I could go to village in civilian clothes, could come and go anytime for day or night.”
Reed talked about his job assignments. “When I first got there I worked in Comm Center. I guess it burnt down. I was there only a month, then they transfered me to base ops. Guess they couldn’t find anything I could do. Stateside. I was in a radar direction center. We were active air defense for Washington DC. Fort Lee Air Fort Station, Petersburg, Virginia. I was there when Kennedy got shot. We went on alert. Then I got a divorce. She stayed in area. Would call me almost every night about something. I went to personnel said send me somewhere. I got orders for Radio Free Europe in the Azores. That got cancelled. That’s how I ended up in Korea.” Later he wrote, “Since I worked in base ops, knew where every plane was going, I hitched lots of rides to Japan, Philippines (sic) Taiwan, etc.” Later he said, “We would take a C-47 down to Chejudo Island to hunt pheasant. Bring back a bunch and the head cook would cook up a big dinner for all. I worked down by D diamond. Little building on flight line. I made sure all pilots got their AFM66-1 requirements every month.”
At the time, the 8th FW was supporting the nuclear commitment TDY at Osan with its F-105s out of the Diamond area. He stated, “All the F-105′s had no tail markings. That was the time of the nuke exercises.” There were also real-world alerts due to North Korean infiltrations that were increasing at the time. Reed said, “We had several alerts while I was there. Mostly North Korean scare. But one was a AP shot a slicky boy between the fences. He came at the AP with a Iron Bar. The AP shot him. Within 48 hrs his was on his way stateside. We were confined to base about 2 weeks.” As to this situation, the SOFA agreement had been signed in 1963, but the ROK basically gave great latitude to the USFK dealing with some situations. Only if the individual was involved in a capital crime (i.e., rape or murder) would the ROK assert its jurisdiction. In the case of “slickey boys” (thieves who would enter the base to steal anything not nailed down) occurring on the military installation, the local police would usually waive jurisdiction. That the individual would be shipped out of country immediately was common practice to remove the cause for protests. However, in later years activists would claim that the USFK sending of “criminals” out of the country to escape prosecution.
Reed mentioned his barracks as “5-star living conditions.” They were the Korean War vintage barracks with corrugated iron on the outside of tropical plywood interior. “10 men lived on a wing. Had 4 wings (?) centered around a common showed area. Had a 5 gallon fuel oil stove in middle of 10 men barracks. the ones on the end would freeze to death while the ones next to it were hot. Many nights woke up up with snow on blanket.” He said, “In the winter houseboy had to take a blow torch to water pipes almost every morning so we could shower and shave.” He continued, “Summer had to have netting over bed or else you got carried away by the bugs. Woke up one night with slickey boy trying to steal things out of barracks.” “On base there were big open ditches that was for surface water. Ran dry most of year, except when rains came in.”
He mentioned that his houseboy was named Chong Su Won. He stated, “He was a good guy. Hard worker. Meet his family several times.” Reed later mentioned, “I was trying to think where the houseboy lived. Seems when you came out main gate you turned right, but don’t know how far.” This area would have been the Milwal area where the North Korean refugees clustered. His houseboy was most likely his houseboy was a North Korean refugee — as were many employees on the base.
Those were the days of powdered milk and powdered eggs. However, Reed mentioned that “Once a month the airmen club would get fresh eggs. So on Sunday morning everyone goes to club for breakfast.” The beer situation in 1966 was rather limited in selection. Reed commented, “When I was there the airmens club had one beer. Carling Black Label. Then off base had OB and Crown. I still Have a OB Mug.”
In 1966, there was an open house on base for the local community. It was nothing to speak of as far as aircraft displays, but the local populace enjoyed it. The F-105 was from the 8th FBW, while the C-54 and L-20 were part of the Osan Base Flight. The L-20 was used for the “desk-pilots” so they could maintain their flight time. In addition to the static displays, there was a Taekwon-do exhibition on base. At that time, Taekwondo was taught on base in a building near the Civil Engineering compound.
The areas around the base were still mostly undeveloped and remained mostly rice fields. In the photo above from Hill 170 looking east, one can see the Kyongbu Railroad (then only two tracks) running north-south with electric poles along the tracks. This shot from Hill 170 near the main gate area. Notice how the base perimeter was only marked with a few strands of barbed wire — if there was any at all — and in ths case, someone is using it as a clothes line.
In 1966, there was some new construction at the gate area. Looking east towards Chicol Village (Songtan), to the left was a new building just outside the main gate boundary. The building is where the Namsanteo Road runs today. Inside the gate, a new Pass and ID building along with a new Base Procurement section was built. Directly outside the gate was Chicol Village, though the tailor shops used the name “Songtan” on their labels. The name Chicol Village would last until the mid-1970s when it faded away.
The hill was still in place outside of the Main Gate. The hill was where the Thrift Shop is on base and stretched off-base and sloped down to Aragon Alley. The construction along Aragon Alley cut into the side of this hill. The Aragon Alley terminated in rice fields and there was a path where Hoback Road is now that meandered through the rice paddies until it got to Namsan-teo.
If one went out the Shinjang road — which at that time was dirt — and followed it across the Kyongbu Railroad tracks — one would come to a “Y” intersection where it joined MSR-1 (Main Supply Route 1). The police station was located to the left of the intersection in approximately the same location as it is now. Across the street from the “Y” intersection was the Songtan Bus Depot. If one turned right heading north to Osan, one would soon be past the buildings. It appears at the time, the hill descending north towards Osan-ni (now Osan City) was called “Hot Breath Hill.”
To the east, the civilian construction did NOT extend very far. It only extended a short distance east as the rice fields had not been filled in yet. Everything was rice fields. Thus if one were down near the Shangri-la Hotel of Songtan is located now, one would have an unobstructed view all the way to Songbuk Elementary School in the distance. Looking east, to the left would be the villages of Mite-Konjini and Are-Konjini at the base of the hills to the left with Burak-san mountain to the right.
Notice the Korean vehicles on the road resembling the American Jeep. During this period, Korea was entering into the automotive industry. Sinjin (under license to Toyota) started in 1960 and would become Daewoo Motors. The Kyeong Precision Industry manufactured Mazda autos in 1962 and would become Kia Motors. Ha Donghwan Auto Industry started in 1962 also and became Ssangyong Motors. Saenara Automobile starte in 1962 under license to Nissan Motors. In 1965, Asia Motors was founded and in 1968 Hyundai Motors began in cooperation with Ford Motors. The Korea vehicles were of two varieties: (1) Japanese sedan rip-offs with boxy styles and (2) versions of the American Jeep popular with the government and military. We believe the autos in these pictures are variations of the “Sibal” (new start) that first came out in 1955 but was popular because it was cheap and durable. The only color that was available was black for practical reasons as most roads in the country were still dirt.
If one turned right at “Y” intersection, one would follow MSR-1 as it went over Jwadong Hill and then ran parallel with the railroad tracks until it reached Seojong-ni Station. Then the MSR-1 continued on to Pyeongtaek then Taejon. There were only a smattering of small clusters of farm houses in this area as most of the land was rice fields.
Another A shot of the main road looking east towards MSR-1. The banner that is strung across the road reads: “Oppose Reduction in Force.” During this period, the Vietnam War was heating up and money was being diverted to fund the effort. As a result, cutbacks worldwide were being felt. To the left is the Hankook Stone Carving Shop with the Dong Heung Sa next door. The next shop is GQ Tailor that was owned by Oh Sung-soo, the present owner of the Victoria Hotel.Main street of Chicol Village just outside the Main Gate: To the right is a pawn shop and jacket shop. The jacket shop, Chongang Sang Hwi, was owned by Yu Sang-yol, the father of the owner of present day Yu’s Furniture. To the left is a Korean bookstore, Sung Kwank Book Store, that was owned by Kim Hong-suk, the father of the present day Ebenezer’s Jewelry .
(Top) Yu Kong-su, owner, Yu’s Furniture. His father, Yu Sang-yol, owned the jacket shop from 1959-1974. They then rented out the location. Between 1981-1986, a son, Yu Kon-p ran Yu’s Furniture. From 1986-present, Yu Kon-sung has run the business. (Bottom) Kim Sung-eun, owner, Ebenezer’s Jewelry. The business has been changed over the years. The father of the present day owner, Kim Hung-suk, started the Seong Kwang Book Store in 1961. After his death, his wife, Choi Hong-ryun, with young children to raise, carried on as the Seong Kwang Bag Shop, then Seong Kwang Blanket Shop and finally the Ebenezer Jewelry Store — though the shop sign still says in hangul “Seong Kwang Sa.” Now the son, Kim Sung-eun, operates Ebenezer Jewelers from the same location.
He took some pics of Esquire Oh’s tailor shop and stated that he still had the garments. The photos are of the Esquire Oh’s Tailor shop run by a Mr. Oh who reportedly died in 1992 of cancer. The tailor shop is no longer in business. Reed stated, “I still have 3 sport coats he made for me. Good quality. The one one the right is his helper. I do not remimber his name.” The tailor shop was to the right as one left the base. Reed noted the address on the label of his jacket: “Esquire Oh’s, PO box 4, Song Tan Korea Tel 218.” This shows that though the people still referred to the village as “Chicol-ni (village)”, it was being referred to by merchants as Songtan already. Another fact is the scarcity of telephones at the time. Telephones were considered “luxury” items and expensive — many were on party lines — because the country lacked the infrastructure — especially in rural areas. These conditions persisted up until the 1980s when the Miracle of the Han occurred.
Reed commented on the legendary “Crazy Mary.” He stated that “She would beg for money, but if you did not give any she would hit you with that stick.” She is standing at the entrance to the alley along what is now Shinjang Mall (Mike’s Arcade) that leads up to the main street. At that time, the OB Beer Hall was on the left and note how the Americans were in uniform to go off-base. The wear of the uniform off-base was mandatory. The small “tambae” (cigarette) stand to the right is well-remembered by people who grew up in Songtan. At the time, the alley went up and then meandered through small alleyways. The road leading to the Main Gate was not built until the 1978 when the dirt road leading up Milwal was widened. Until then, the area was criss-crossed with little alleyways and at night the area was the Korean drinking area of small makeoli bars. The main alleyways went right and down to where the Asia Hotel is and connected to what became the Shinjang-2 dong area. Along this alleyway, there was a jog to the left that went to the old marketplace and the Sambo Theatre. Korean people relate stories of eluding the police during the curfew hours — that were in effect during that time — by hiding out in the alleyways.
Alley from the main road leading to the Sambo Theater. Note the vertical sign on the electric pole to the left of the alleyway advertises “Kukje Yongau Hagwon Ipku” (English Academy). To the left is a fishing shop. Straight down the alley is the Sambo Theater.
There was the Sambo Theater located where the Baptist Mission is today. Reed stated, “Went to movie with girl friend in the movie theater.Saw a big rat walk across the stage then up the aisle. Life for the Koreans at that time was very hard. All were very poor. … While I was there, the people were really nice, had no problems with them..All were very humble. I think a OB beer was about $.05. My girl would get things from the market and fix to eat. Some of it was real good.”
Reed provided two photos of the Songbuk Elementary School — the first school in Songtan built in 1955. (1) The first is the school as seen from MSR-1 across the wide expanse of rice fields and (2) the second is from the hills behind the school (Buraksan). The school buildings are seen as two long buildings that are perpendicular to each other. Though the buildings are long gone, the new buildings are built on the same locations — and are perpendicular to each other as well.
(Top) Songbuk Elementary School from MSR-1 (SITE NOTE: The town was not very big in 1966 this is taken from near where the Central Baptist Church is located on Taehyeon Road.) (Bottom) Songbuk Elementary School from hill behind the school (Buraksan Mountain) — The school is to the right of the picture as two long buildings perpendicular to each other. (SITE NOTE: To the left of the picture is the village of Mite Konjini which is approximately in the location of the present Dongbu Apartments.)
(Top) Songbuk Elementary School (1969) This is the school that Reed saw. (Bottom) Songbuk Elementary School (Aug 2009) (SITE NOTE: The two buildings in top photo have been replaced by more modern four story school structures based on the traditional design — hallway with classrooms opening onto the hallway. The school grounds are used by the surrounding apartment complexes as a community exercise area when the school is closed.)
Reed relates taking a hike in Buraksan mountain. Where the Jisan Elementary School is now, there was a large swampy area and rice fields. This swamp area was not drained and filled until the late 1980s when Route 1 cut through the area and all the apartment complexes were built along the area and the new city hall was built for the then-Songtan City. To get to Buraksan, one would either (1) go south on MSR-1 until near the kilns of what is the area of Tourism Road leading to where the Songtan City Hall (Pyeongtaek City Hall branch) is now is located. Then one could climb Buraksan mountain. (2) One could go down from Hill 170 through Milwal and Shinchang until near the kiln area and enter Buraksan. Remember that at that time, there was not many trees on the hillsides nor many buildings — besides isolated farmer (choga chip) villages. The area was very open.
(Top and Bottom) Hills in Buraksan area
While hiking some of the hills in Buraksan, Reed remembers coming across some graves. He commented, “If I remember right those graves were up in the mountains …. I remember there were no trees any tall than I was at the time. What, eight the Japan took all or was turned into heat and cooking products.” Actually the truth is the area was stripped of all its wood by the people — not the Japanese. In fact, in 1932 the Japanese started a reforestation project for Korea in Suwon — one of the few successful projects during the colonial period. The area was once covered in pine trees — and the name Songtan comes from “pine charcoal” that the area provided to Seoul in the Chosun Dynasty. By the 1960s, all the hills were barren and reforestation projects were restarted during this time with trees planted in rows, but were not more than 5 feet tall at the time.
Reed also provided some photos of the off-base area to the south that we had not seen before. Some of his photos were of the area that is to the south of the Milwal, Jeokbyong-ni and Sagori areas. This area was known at the time as “Shinchang” and is the low lying area that now leads up to the AFOC gate. It appears that he hiked up the small hills that are in the area capturing the rice fields at the time. Some show that outside of the confines immediately surrounding the base, there was very little construction.
The hills to the left are Jwadong and it drops into the rice fields that are now Shinjang-2 dong. On the other side of Shinjang 2-dong, one can see the Kyongbu Railroad to Seojong-ni. MSR-1 follows the railroad tracks.
Shinchang area (2009)
Shinchang area (2009) Jaeil Church seen from Shinchang area
Shinchang area (2009) Pine Tree atop hill in Shinchang area — Notice pine trees in Reed Shane’s photos of the hilltop view looking towards base
“We took several trips to some historical places but I cannot find any pix. Also went to DMZ couple times. People stateside do not relize that that is still a war zone. There has never been a treaty signed.” “When I was ready to rotate I bought each of my neice a large doll dressed in the old Korean attire. They to this day still have them. They were in a glass case. Were Very pretty.”