PLAYING TAG ON THE WALL
Recollections During the Last Hard Family Reunion in Korea
In 1970, while in the U.S Army, stationed in Seoul, Korea at Company A, 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion, I visited my childhood home in Pusan, 200 miles to the south. It was a great family reunion.
My older brother, Sterling, while on active duty with the U.S. Army Military Intelligence in Viet Nam, took a leave and came home also. My younger sister, Gwen, was there. My younger brothers, Nelson and Gregory, were also there.
This is the last time that my parents and all five of us children were together in one place at one time in Korea.
While visiting, I stood (about where Gwen is sitting in the first picture) looking over the wall admiring the view of the harbor as many childhood recollections passed through my mind.
One recollection of particular significance to this story was the memory of how we kids used to run around our walled in yard playing many games with the Korean neighbor kids we had invited in. Many of the games involved serious rough housing with strong physical contact. Many of them involved a lot of running and jumping. As we all took winning seriously, we would often go to extraordinary lengths to get the upper hand.
The ever present game of Tag came to mind. I recalled the memory of being about seven or eight years old, getting up on the wall (in the picture), and running along it to avoid getting tagged and get past the pursuer. I would often have to jump to avoid getting my foot tagged by the child below that was chasing me. Mom came out and saw me once. She screamed at me to get down immediately. I rolled my eyes and mumbled to myself, "Oh, Mom!"
As I thought about that crazy, childish, dangerous thing I had done (more than once), and realized what could have happened to me so easily, I became physically ill. As I looked over the wall, down at the roof tops below, I got nauseous and almost vomited.
Deep down in my very core, I truly believe that I and my siblings had many protective angels working overtime on our behalf. This story is another example of how I would not be here today if God wasn't watching over me all these years.
This video of the Hard family dressed up and heading to church was filmed with Sterling's 8 mm movie camera.
FIGHT WITH THREE GIS
Lewis Hise was working the 3 to 11 shift as a military policeman. Around 10:45 p.m., he was called to come to the guard post that led to the NCO club due to an unprovoked fight inside the NCO club by three service men from another unit. The three service men had only been inside the club less than five minutes when they attacked another GI without any provocation.
Hise had just reached the guard post when the three service men were exiting the club after being thrown out of the club. All three were yelling boisterously and had open bottles of beer in their hands. As they walked down the walled-in alleyway and approached the guard post to exit the compound, Hise asked them to leave the bottles of beer inside the compound, as it was against regulations to carry opened bottles of alcohol outside the NCO club. One of the men began verbal insults and continued to walk toward the exit still carrying the beer. Once again Hise told them to put the bottles down, as it was against regulations to leave the NCO club with an open container of alcohol.
As the three men got closer they continued the verbal assault until they were within five feet of Hise. At that time, they began to purposely wave the bottles of beer resulting in Hise getting showered with beer.
Hise remained calm and ask them once again to put the beer on the ground and leave the compound. One of the three men exited the compound, but the other two remained inside. The man who had stepped outside the compound began to call Hise a "chicken shit Buck Sergeant", and asked him to step outside the compound to fight him. He continued to call Hise all kind of names, and as the verbal assault continued, a large crowd was developing. The man would not stop with the challenge of a fight, so after hearing enough, Hise told him that he would be off duty in about two minutes and that he would be glad to oblige the man's wishes.
I happened to be watching the event unfold and placed myself in the doorway with my back against the door frame. The relief Sergeant had just arrived to relieve Hise off the shift, so Hise took off his pistol belt and gave it to him. Now the other two who had remained inside started to exit the compound and one purposely jostled me with his body as he was exiting. I immediately tripped the guy sending him sprawling into the street, and the other man hurriedly exited the compound.
The first man was still calling Hise outside after seeing one of his friends stumble to the ground from me tripping him. The other man who had made it outside the compound picked up a large stone and was about to hit me with it when I executed a well-placed kick into the man’s chest and sent him reeling backwards hitting the ground. Upon seeing his friend being taken out of the fight so quickly, the other man ran away.
Not knowing how the first man, who was still yelling at Hise, was going to react after seeing his friend hit the ground, Hise immediately ran to the man who was calling him out to fight and executed a flying side kick, knocking the man down. However, the man quickly got up and attacked Hise. Within a minute Hise had executed and landed numerous kicking and striking techniques on the man until the man was beaten to the ground. Finally the man said that he had had enough, so Hise let him up.
By then, I had also made short work of my opponent and sent him scurrying away with a bloody face and some seriously bruised ribs.
The man that Hise had beaten up walked down the street about 100 feet and turned toward Hise. He began another verbal assault and again told Hise that he was coming back to beat the hell out of him. The amazing thing is that he immediately came back and attacked Hise once again. The results were the exactly the same for the man as the first time. Once again the man said that he had had enough so Hise let him go again.
Now this man had just taken two beatings, and as he got to about the same distance as he did the first time, he once again turned to Hise and once again said he was going to beat the hell out of Hise. By this time, we were both stunned at the tenacity of the man, or perhaps at his foolhardiness.
So, the man comes back again and once again attacks Hise. This time however, Hise had had enough and after another flurry of hard kicks and punches the man hit the ground. Hise told him to leave and never come back to our unit again or he would meet with the same fate. This time, the man left and did not return.
A few days later we heard that the man Hise beat up could not get out of bed the morning after the incident, and that he had been taken to the hospital. Of course we were concerned that we might be called to our company commander’s office, but we never heard from anyone. As it turned out, this particular man had a very bad reputation for instigating fights and beating up on other military personnel. Perhaps that is the reason we never heard anything from our CO’s office.
About a month later Hise and I were transporting one of the North Korean spies to the hospital for some medical reason, and we happened to run into the man Hise beat up. He was sitting in the waiting room inside the hospital. We had heard that Hise had broken the man’s nose, ribs, arm, and collar bone during the fight. Well, the man had a body cast on from his waist up to his neck and down one of his arms.
The man recognized us though we were in civilian clothing on a covert mission. He started to get out of his chair with a wild look in his eyes and started to say something to Hise. But, due to the nature of who the person was that we were escorting to the hospital, we could not allow any confrontations with anyone. Hise and I were in civilian suits so we simply pulled back our coats exposing to the man our concealed .38 pistols. The man shut up and quickly sat back down.
WHAT I LEARNED:
1. In the several hostile confrontations that Hise and I experienced in the streets of Korea, there was never one time that either of us had ever caused or instigated a fight with any military service personnel or Korean civilians. This was not in our nature. However, we both hold to the belief that every person has the right to defend themselves. There is no doubt in our minds that without the extensive training in Hapkido under Grand Master PARK Sung Jae, that the outcome to these hostile confrontations could very well have turned out much differently.
2. I realized how drinking can cause people to have very poor judgment.
3. I realized that you sometimes have to severely injure people on drugs or alcohol to stop them. I guess that they just don't feel as much pain until they sober up.
4. I do have to sheepishly admit that in this one situation, though severely provoked and threatened by aggressive idiots, Hise and I were really not in immediate danger. So, we may have crossed the line to some degree about the self defense issue, but we were young and also full of ourselves. Well, I still think they had it coming.
“Sign out your firearms, gas up the van, and report back to me.” Lieutenant Colonel Luis Castro-Acobez was not a man of many words. He was over-ranked, to say the least, to command a Company in the United States Army.
But this was no ordinary Company. In 1969, Company A of the 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion in Seoul, Korea was a small unit “hidden” in plain sight in a neighborhood called Tae Bang Dong. The interrogation unit, taking up a square block of real estate and surrounded by guard towers and ten-foot high concrete walls topped by barbed wire, housed captured North Korean spies.
Joe and I took the Colonel’s command to mean that we were to check out concealed carry pistols from the armory, put on our civilian clothes, sign out our civilian ID cards and G2 (cooperate with us and don’t ask any questions) credentials, and get the covert vehicle with civilian license plates ready to go. We were excited. A covert mission was a lot more interesting than interrogating the Communist “packages” or typing and filing reports.
We reported back to the Colonel. “What is our mission, Sir?”
“Go the Kimpo Airport and hang loose.”
Bewildered, I asked, “Is this surveillance? Is it a pick-up….?”
He cut me short, “Just hang loose.”
Joe and I pondered the cryptic command all the way to the airport. We were both interrogator/interpreters (MOS 96C) with the rank of Specialist 5 and did not have special training for this “super spook” stuff. What if we screwed this up royally?
We parked at the airport and went inside to case the place and see if we could figure out what our mission was all about. I ran into a missionary kid friend of mine from high school that was heading back to the USA after visiting her parents. I really couldn’t tell her why I was there, so I gave her a bogus cover story and we chatted a little before she had to board her plane.
After an hour we gave up inside and went back out to check the parking lot. Parked near the front entrance was Colonel Castro’s black limousine. We went back inside and finally found the Colonel waiting outside a terminal gate. I sidled up next to him without looking at him and covertly asked him, “Is this a pick-up?” He continued to look toward the gate with incoming passengers and almost imperceptibly nodded his head.
Joe and I still wondered what all the cloak and dagger secrecy was all about, but we didn’t have time to waste. As we headed out to get our Volkswagen van, we spotted a vehicle from the 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion, Company B, counter intelligence unit.
These were the real “spooks” and they were getting into their vehicle to leave. I recognized their covert vehicle by the license plate starting with the numbers 88.
“You guys here for a pick-up?” I asked.
“We don’t know.” one of them said. “We were just told to come here and…..”
“Hang loose!” I said.
Their jaws dropped. “How did you know?” asked one of them.
“It’s a pick-up. Just follow us.” I said.
We raced in front of a line of taxis and pulled in behind Colonel Castro’s limousine just as a space opened up by a departing taxi. The timing could not have been better planned. The Colonel emerged with a man and his family who got into the limousine. We helped the porters load the copious amounts of luggage into our van and the other “spook” vehicle.
We followed the Colonel, and our three-vehicle caravan delivered the family to their new residence on the Yongsan military base in downtown Seoul without incident.
When we got back to our unit, I looked up the Colonel and asked him, “Why didn’t you at least tell us in advance that it was a pick-up job? If we had screwed it up, that would have been embarrassing for you.” I told him about the Company B guys who almost left the scene had it not been for my intercepting them.
He just said, “I knew you wouldn’t screw it up.” And then he dismissed me. That was the pat on the back I needed. That was the unspoken “Well done!” that made my day.
Mister Tom Rowan, my civilian boss at the office, eventually told me that the man we picked up was the second in command in Asia for the Central Intelligence Agency.
PS: Joe is not the real name of the other guy in this story. I cannot remember his real name.
In 1970, while in the Republic of Korea (ROK) at the 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion, Company A, I went to Taechon Beach on a four day pass.
Having grown up as the son of a Presbyterian missionary in Korea, I was returning to a private beach owned by missionary families where I had vacationed several times during my childhood.
Using the civilian ID that I used for a cover during intelligence operations, I hopped a free ride with some officers and flew down on a small two engine plane. In the air, I noticed that the wing had gasoline streaming out of it and I alerted the pilot. We had to land at a small base and get repairs. When we finally arrived in Taechon, I took a local bus to the beach.
On the way, our bus got stopped by ROK soldiers who searched the bus asking for everyone’s IDs.
I asked around when I got to the Korean side of the beach because there had been many patrols that day rousting everyone and asking for ID. Evidently, a team of North Korean operatives had landed on a remote part of the beach and got into a fire fight with a ROK patrol. Several escaped and had headed inland.
The first thing I did was call a special phone number at G2 headquarters in Yongsan to inform the officers on duty, Warrant Officers Clinkscales and McFadden, about what was going on. The Korean intelligence community would not have volunteered that kind of information to their US counterparts unless they were asked.
Because G2 now knew about the search, they contacted their counterparts in the Korean CIA and got access to the interrogation of the two infiltrators that ultimately got captured.
A lot of times we didn’t get access to the prisoners until the Koreans had already had at them for quite some time. Then they would “magnanimously” let us have them.
This time though, since we knew about the captured agents, we got immediate access to them in a joint interrogation with the ROKs at a safe house in the outskirts of Seoul. When I got back from my four day pass, I was one of the interrogators that was involved in the questioning of the North Korean spies.
RODNEY HARD AND LEWIS HISE ARE PUT TO THE TEST
In the summer of 1970, Master PARK Sung Jae and his brother, Master PARK Kyu Jae, took all the Black Belts at our Hapkido Dojang on a memorable summer outing. We packed food and beer along with drums, electric guitars, and amplifiers on a bus and headed out of the city to a mountain resort village.
Lewis Hise and I, along with about twelve other Black Belts, carted all the stuff up the mountain along the narrow paths and long stone stairways. We passed many parties at different beer halls, restaurants, gazebos, and outdoor patios along the way.
We set down the coolers of beer, set up the musical instruments, and plugged in the amplifier at a small fenced off outdoor gathering area Master PARK had rented for the day. We played music, sang, danced, and drank beer. Some passing girls liked the music and dancing and came into our area to join us in the festivities. We were all having a great time.
A couple of drunk men came over and wanted to crash our party. Master PARK told Hise and me to get rid of them. In spite of the commotion, the party continued on without missing a beat. It was up to Hise and me to deal with this minor irritation and get back to the party.
We blocked their entrance, and, in Korean, I asked them what they wanted. They insisted that we had all the pretty girls at our party and they wanted to come in and party with us. I explained that this was a private party and that they were not allowed in. One tried to push past me and I gently restrained him. I pleaded with them again to please leave us in peace. I told him that we did not want any trouble.
They got more belligerent and aggressive. Hise and I avoided or blocked all of their strikes, trying not to hurt them or retaliate against them. After all, they were drunk and didn't know what they were doing.
One drunk took a swing at Hise. Hise easily avoided the punch, but this time shoved the man away. Again, I pleaded with them to leave. I told them that I did not want anybody getting hurt. The man that Hise had shoved pulled out a knife and made a move on Hise. Hise did a crossing power side kick that sent the man reeling backwards about twenty feet and landing on his back with a crash.
The situation had escalated out of control, but the drunks did not know any better and came back after us in a fury. The other drunk came after me with a knife so I picked up a chair and held it between us, keeping him away. He tried to grab the chair and stick me with the knife so I hit him in the head with the chair. That drew blood, and now he was furious.
Suddenly, Master PARK appeared. He grabbed both the drunks with wrist locks that made them writhe in pain. He started to lead them down the hill and shot an exasperated look back at Hise and me as if to say, "I give you as simple task to handle a couple of lousy drunks and you can't even handle it."
We had lost face which, in Korea, was a major embarrassment. We did not know what the rules of engagement were so we had tried to take a soft approach. The other choice was to annihilate the pests. Well, no, there was a third choice. Master PARK had made it look so easy. He just whisked them away with no commotion and without hurting anybody.
Master PARK soon returned and the party went back into full swing. One of the young Black Belts had followed Master PARK at a distance to see what would happen to the two drunks. He returned a few minutes after Master PARK returned and excitedly told Master PARK and the rest of us that the two drunks had recruited back-up. He told us that the drunks told a bunch of partying Korean Air Force guys down the hill that a couple Americans had beat them up. The young Black Belt told us that there was a group of about thirteen angry soldiers coming up the path.
Master PARK looked at Hise and me and in so many words said, "You screwed it up, you deal with it." Everybody went back to the music and dancing and left Hise and me to deal with the new threat.
We positioned ourselves about fifteen feet apart outside the entrance to our enclave. I was leaning up against a big shade tree. The whole group of rowdy Air Force guys headed straight for me. I pulled a throwing knife out of my hidden wrist sheath and threw the knife to Hise as we had practiced many times in the past year. He caught the knife and, in one continuous motion, arched it around and threw it straight back at me. This was all timed so that the lead Air Force guy was just about on top of me when I stepped back, and the knife stuck into the tree inches in front of the guy's face. The man froze in unbelief and fear. The whole group stopped their advanced and sobered up very quickly.
I pulled the knife out of the tree, flipped it in the air a few turns, put it dramatically back into my wrist sheath, crossed my arms, and asked, "Are you guys looking for someone?"
They shook their heads, "No!" and almost fell all over each other trying to get out of there as fast as they could. We came back into the party, Master PARK smiled his approval, and all was well.
We all had a great time. When the party was over, we packed up everything and headed down the mountain to catch the bus. Hise was about twenty paces ahead of me carrying a guitar case in one hand and an amplifier in the other. As we got near the bus in the village at the bottom of the mountain, I saw the drunk guy that Hise had kicked earlier step out from an alley-way right after Hise passed by. He raised a big rock over his head with two hands preparing to strike Hise on the head from behind.
I yelled, “Lewis!” in an alarmed voice and Hise looked over his shoulder. In a split second, Hise did a rear kick to the drunk’s face which knocked him out cold on his back, and the giant rock he had just lifted over his head fell on top of his limp body.
We did not stick around to see how badly he was hurt. We just ran for the bus and told the driver to get us out of there.
WHAT I LEARNED:
From the first two drunks, I learned that when people are drunk or stoned on drugs, they often do not have enough common sense to realize that they are outclassed and in danger of harm if they attack you. They will foolishly press their attack no matter what the consequences. Then, you have to fight them and may have to hurt them pretty badly to stop them.
I learned that having the options, learned in Hapkido, to control your opponent without harming him is really nice for situations like this.
I learned that, in the art of fighting without fighting, you can handle even a large group of attackers with a good trick that blows their mind. Each individual in the group makes up his own mind that he does not want to be the guy who attacks you next.
From the last situation with the guy with the rock, I learned that even when you think a fight is over, don't let your guard down. It is also a good idea to have back-up that watches your back.
In 1969, I learned an interesting lesson that I would never forget. I was sparring with my master and somehow happened to get a clean punch in on him past his guard. That was the last time I ever did that.
He beat me mercilessly. I was thrown repeatedly, kicked across the room repeatedly, and punched very hard numerous times. He had lost face by having a student best him for a moment. He was going to make very sure I did not make that mistake again.
The lesson worked. After that, even when I thought I had an opening on him, I did not try to actually score on him. I learned a valuable lesson about losing face that shaped the way I trained and the way I taught from then on.
Another memorable experience reinforced my belief that Koreans are afraid of losing face and will go to great lengths to avoid the embarrassment.
In late 1970, I was sent to a secret bunker south of Seoul, Korea to act as an interpreter at the Foal Eagle joint training exercises of the US Army Green Beret Special Forces and the Republic of Korea (ROK) Army Special Forces. I was assigned to the HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) parachute teams. These two teams, though training together, were always trying to out-do each other.
On the first HALO jump, after the spread-out jumpers had used tracking devices to assemble at one position, one of the Korean soldiers saw a snake on the ground. He grabbed the snake as he drew his knife, cut the head off of the snake, slit it down the belly, gutted it and skinned it all within seconds. The skinless snake was still writhing in his hands as he took a big bite and ate the raw snake meat, bones and all.
Not to be out-done, an American soldier grabbed it and took a bite. It was passed around and everyone got a bite. Macho men they all were.
A couple of days later, I was interpreting for some visiting big brass observers when the Korean General started bragging about one of his men. He went on and on about how this soldier was the number one fighter in Korea and that he was some great Dang Soo Do karate champion.
I don’t know why I did it, but I got swept up in this macho competitiveness and challenged their fighter to a fighting match. The soldier did not look like that tough of a guy to me. The General was just about putting this out as a challenge which no one present was taking up. So, having to save face for the American contingent, I spoke up and said, "I'll fight him!" All eyes turned to me and there was dead silence for a moment.
The General was taken aback, and all the brass on both sides looked at him as if asking, “Well?”
After a nervous chuckle, the Korean General smiled and said, "OK, we'll set up a match for tomorrow, right after lunch."
There must have been a lot at stake here, because everyone showed up for the fight the next day. All the American and Korean officers were there. I even noticed some higher ranking officers that I had not seen there before during the whole week.
The Americans did not want to look bad, but they already did. None of their own rough and tough special ops soldiers had stepped up to the plate. Now, the American officers were probably worried about this young Military Intelligence interpreter, an unknown commodity that was going to be the guy who represented the American side. But, to their credit, no one approached me about backing down or being replaced. They just showed up to see what would happen.
On the other hand, the Koreans caved. When my opponent stepped out, I asked the Korean General, "Sir, who is this?" It was not the champion they had touted.
"Number one could not make it today, this man is number two in Korea." said the General. He was hedging his bets. If "number one" fought and somehow lost, Korea would lose face. So the Koreans sent in a man that they said was second best.
Well, nobody mentioned any rules. We just took our shoes off and squared off on the rocky terrain. After respectfully bowing to each other, we went at it. We threw a lot of kicks and punches and got our feet all cut up and bloody on the gravel, but neither of us came out a clear winner. We were both cautious, so few strikes or kicks landed squarely. Fortunately, neither of us was injured seriously from the fight.
About five minutes into the fight, we were both showing a loss of steam when the Korean General finally called an end to the fight. Nobody had lost face and all the brass went home happy.
After that incident, all of a sudden I was good buddies with all the Special Forces guys who had teased me a lot and kept me out of their tight circle. Now, I went with them at night and was in on all their off duty revelry.