(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.
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.
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