ROK Drop

Avatar of GI KoreaBy on January 8th, 2013 at 6:02 pm

GI Flashbacks: The 1970 Camp Red Cloud Motorpool Suicide

» by in: USFK

(Note: This is a guest posting from ROK Drop reader Steve McGee that served in Korea when the below incident happened.)

It was a normal day on March 6th 1970 and in the evening one of our guys had to pull guard duty at the motor pool at Camp Red Cloud.  The camp is located in the city of Uijongbu, South Korea.  The slicky boys would try to steal parts from the trucks if not the whole truck. It was fenced with barb wire at the top but they would still try. Earl Harms checked out his M-16 and two clips of live ammo that night and headed to the motor pool. Around 10:00pm he came through the barracks and I waved at him as he passed back by on his way out. The next morning we got up and headed for chow. After chow we went to work at the motor pool.

Camp Red Cloud’s main gate in 1966.  Picture from Flickr user Ottmar.

When I got there some who arrived early  were already talking about not being able to find Earl. The motor pool was the old wood style with bays on one end and offices at the other with an OVM equipment room loft above the offices. The bays were high for the trucks which made the offices and OVM room two story. There were three offices, an outer office, a middle generator office and the tool room and a desk. The loft OVM room is where we stored extra equipment. The tool room had a ladder on the wall that went up to the OVM room. You could also access the OVM room from the bays.  In the outer office we had file cabinets and desk. His M-16 was leaning up against the file cabinets and the clips were laid on top. We started a search for him and some went out to check the grounds. I had a key to the tool room and went back and keyed the door.

I sat down for  a minute at the desk and picked up a comic book. When I sat down I looked up and noticed the sliding wood door to the tool room was slightly open and the light was on. I figured maybe he went up there and was sleeping. I went up the wall mounted ladder and slid the door open. There I found Earl hanging from the end of a rope stark naked. Why he was naked I don’t know. There was a five gallon gas can that was tipped over beside him. His clothes were all piled neatly just a couple of feet from him. His hand behind his back. I have tried over the years to zero in on my memory to see if his hands were tied. I froze in shock. I fell backwards off the ladder and landed smack on my ass. I jumped up and went running out screaming he’s dead, he’s dead.

SGT Corey caught me outside and shook and slapped me. I had run by everyone one else as they thought I was nuts. They took me next door to the other office and left. I remember sitting there watching an ambulance and MP’s rolling into the motor pool. After awhile the ambulance left. The MP’s and people still all over the place when they realized where they left me. They took me to the dispensary where I don’t remember a whole lot of. I remember seeing a doctor then I left with two guys with me. As we walked out the back door there was the ambulance with the back doors open and a black body bag inside. I did not find out until years later when I got my records that they had drugged me up pretty good. I do remember that I had two guys that went with me no matter where I went. To the bathroom even. I called them my shadows. I don’t know how many days after it happened my shadows told me the brass wanted me down at the motor pool. I told them No. They almost carried me down there.

Picture of Camp Red Cloud in 1966. Picture via Flickr user Ottmar.

When we got there we went in the outer office and they sat me in a chair. I remember there were MP’s, some officers and the CID. I should say here that he had just re-enlisted and was married to a Korean national, thus the CID. They started asking me questions and then opened a brief case and took out 8×10 glossy black and white pictures of what I already had burned in my mind. It was him hanging and where they had cut him down. I flipped out again and ran out of the motor pool with my shadows running after me. I never went back there again. I transferred to another unit until I left Korea. Earl was a friend and he drove the 5 ton wrecker and we use to make runs to the different units. I still have pictures of him in our year book. No one ever talked to me about it nor did I get any counseling. I was never told the end results of any investigation. I went on to spend 18 months in Germany with the 8th infantry division motor pool.

Since I got out I never talked to anyone about it. I have had PTSD and back problems from the fall off the ladder for which I am now totally disabled from. back in the early 80′s after joining the VVA and through the first councilor I ever talked to about it, we got my medical records. By chance I found a friend that served with me there. His name was Gerald. He lives just a short way from me. I had to have my wife call him and afterwards she says that he doesn’t know much more than me. He was the second one up the ladder after me and I did not know that. He said that he thought that it had to do with something sexual.  I started posting in the web site, Korean Tour of Duty and ROK Drop  about the incident to see if anyone I served with at that time could tell me more than what I knew.

This last year out of the clear blue I get an e-mail from Earl’s niece. She lives in Nebraska where the family is from and she had read my post as she was looking for answers to.  After several e-mails I told her what I knew. Earl’s mother is still alive and in a nursing home. The family does not believe what the Army report says. The funeral was held and Earl’s Korean wife came over for it. The funeral home director told the family that there were bruises on his body around his shoulders. Debbie ask if it would be alright if her uncle (Earl’s brother) could call me and I said sure. He did and after I told him he just said thanks and hung up. The mother must have a report from the military but she is not sharing it and Debbie is not wanting to ask her for it yet. Only family can get the official report until 60 years after the incident then  it opens to anyone. I was never told if it was suicide, a sexual thing or it was murder. Sure would like to know.


Note: If you are a Korea veteran and you have a story you would like to share please contact me and have your story published here on the ROK Drop.

For those interested you can read more GI Flashback articles at the below link:

  • GI Flashback Archive

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  • once there
    7:34 pm on January 8th, 2013 1

    I can’t believe they would hold the records for that long. I would contact my Congressmans/ womans office and ask for their help.

    If the records are not considered classified they should be able to get you a copy.

  • Brian K.
    8:34 pm on January 8th, 2013 2

    Former figherfighter/EMT here. Somewhere, (police, different district?) I heard of a suicide who did the exact same thing with their clothes. Taking off his clothes, plus not using the M16 makes me think it he wanted to die cleanly, without leaving a mess. The location and circumstances seem way to ackward for a staged suicide, and the brusing could have been from something completely unrelated.

    If you were to talk with an experienced coroner or detective, they might have more insight into your friend’s behavior. Try asking around for someone like this, and ask if you can talk to them about it over coffee or a meal. If you explain the circumstances and the pain it’s caused you, I’m sure someone would be willing to share what their experiences tell them about the circumstances.

  • Bob
    12:41 am on January 9th, 2013 3

    Why get naked? That part is one that gets me…I can understand not using the gun that makes a loud sound and creates a mess where hanging does not create much of a mess.

  • Brian K.
    1:11 am on January 9th, 2013 4

    @Bob, If I had to guess, he wanted to go out of this world the same way he came into it, leaving everything behind. The more I think about the location, (being really out of the way) the more I think he chose it because he really didn’t want to be interrupted.

  • All Seeing Eye
    5:33 am on January 9th, 2013 5

    There was a soldier a few years ago who was hit by a taxi on a country road. He was completely naked as well. USFK was very tight-lipped about it. Is it something in DMZ water?

  • Bob
    6:45 pm on January 9th, 2013 6

    Two soldiers commit suicide in a 40 yr span and you accuse the water?

  • Johnne Lee
    8:42 am on January 10th, 2013 7

    I was in the ROK during the Pueblo Crisis. I recall CRC (and the guys at my Camp considered it a “rear area” not particularly close to the DMZ by comparison.) ; – ]

    A sad incident was described in this post. But honestly, back in the day the first (if unspoken and unwritten) rule of the CID was…

    “Protect the Army.”

    And there were many, many unfortunate (and more serious?)incidents in the ROK (and, of course, RVN as well as West Berlin) in the ’60s and early ’70s. Those memories die hard, if ever.

    From what my yung’uns tell me, things have not changed much. My daughter just returned from the ROK and she much preferred it to her times in the various sandboxes of the world.

    Continue to March, Men ! “…one to count cadence….”

  • kushibo
    3:27 am on January 11th, 2013 8

    I figured maybe he went up there and was sleeping. I went up the wall mounted ladder and slid the door open. There I found Earl hanging from the end of a rope stark naked. Why he was naked I don’t know.

    Autoerotic asphyxiation, perhaps?

    If an actual suicide, I agree that “going out the way you came in” could be a factor.

  • Steven McGee
    4:19 am on January 11th, 2013 9

    When talking to Gerry he said the word was that it looked like asphyxiation. I am sure there were a lot of people up there after me who found or saw things I didn’t in just a few seconds. The problem with that theory is his hands were behind his back. That is why I have tried to focus in on that aspect. Could someone have been up there with him and something went wrong ?

  • Bobby Ray
    4:46 am on January 11th, 2013 10

    Two soldiers commit suicide in a 40 yr span and you accuse the water?

    Darn good observation there Bob. Whatever it is in that water sure aint very strong.

    That there is a bad story and Im real sorry you had to see that. Dont let that PTSD get on top of you. You got to let that go. Things happan and it aint your fault. I saw me a couple of mighty terrible things that done brought a chill to my heart and the bile to my mouth but aint nothing I could do about it and it wasnt my fault so I just accept it and keep on trucking. Aint had no nightmares and aint got no worry. You take care of yourself.

  • Brian K.
    5:45 pm on January 13th, 2013 11

    >Autoerotic asphyxiation, perhaps

    No, those kinds of deaths always happen where the person could have stood up, where they could have touched the ground. (Their whole thing is to half strangle themselves, stand up, and repeat). But if they go too far, they can pass out and their body weight will strangle them. If they’d been able to stand up, they would have been fine. Jumping off something (an oil drum) is straight suicide.

  • Brian K.
    5:47 pm on January 13th, 2013 12

    @ Steven, I have heard of suicides who tied their own hands, just to help make sure they wouldn’t change their mind.

  • Crawford R
    6:40 pm on April 1st, 2013 13

    I was stationed at HQ battery of 2/71st at that time and recall the rumors circulating at the time about Spec-4 Harms death though I didn’t personally know him. The story went that he was into self torture and had miscalculated and taken it too far. I wasn’t there, so this may or may not have been the case.

  • Robert Evans
    2:03 am on June 25th, 2013 14

    was in 2nd Engr Gp Camp Mercer 69-70. Looking for anyone who may know if their unit mailman made deliveries or trips off base to pickup and deliver mail. I had my own assigned vehicle and made trips 6 days a week to Kimpo and areas beyond

  • Steven McGee
    8:24 am on September 27th, 2013 15

    Crawford: I am glad that at least there are stories and folks heard about it. The Military sure has kept a tight lip about it. As I mentioned he came back to the barracks and got some magazines. I could not tell what he had but they could have been girlly magazines. I don’t remember if there were any laying on the floor around him, It was to graphic and shocking what I did see before I fell off the ladder.

  • Steven McGee
    5:34 am on March 14th, 2014 16

    ROCKDROP is on the ball. Someone had read this post who was there that day and ROCKDROP forwarded the e-mail to me. After spending hours on the phone with the gentleman who was the first in the attic after I found him and saw a lot more detail. Although not an investigator the info he gave me cleared up a lot of issues. Bottom line it was accidental Erotic asphyxiation. Accidental in that he explained to me the ligature (hands tied behind his back) Earl had rigged that failed thus accidental suicide. The responder went on to be a police officer/investigator and is now retired. He said he has used this case many times in his career. I thank ROCKDROP for being attentive and for the person that responded.


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