Paul Wolfgeher served in the U.S. Army in the Korean Conflict, 1952-1955.
Paul was born in Kansas City, Mo. Born into a large family, he has one sister and six brothers, all of whom were in various branches of the Armed Services. His father worked for a dry cleaning company, and also made extra money by hauling wood for people who needed the help. Paul has many great memories of playing in the parks around Kansas City while growing up.
Paul decided to enlist into the Army, as many of his friends and neighbors were already getting drafted to go off to war. He went to the recruitment station at 25th and Grand, and the very same day he was sent to Camp Crowder, Mo., and eventually made it on to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Paul’s older brother, who fought and died in WWII, was a tank commander. That was something he hoped to aspire to when he joined the war effort. However, he ended up being sent to school to learn photography and printing. Paul was in the 1st Loudspeaker and Leaflet Division.
Paul’s company landed in Seoul, South Korea. While stationed in South Korea he was trained in psychological warfare where he printed and dropped leaflets on the enemy. They also made broadcasts to the enemy.
The leaflets they printed were taken to a cutting room and cut to a standard size of 5x7 inches, boxed up and then transported to wherever they were needed at the front lines. The boxes of leaflets that were going to be dropped from the plane were wrapped up with a time fuse attached. When the box was dropped at a particular altitude, the time fuse would go off and the leaflets would then be scattered to the ground. The members of the unit were always hoping for a particularly windy day, that would have helped out with the distribution of leaflets in the area.
The printing presses also had thermal grenades attached to them. The grenade, if set off, would burn down through the equipment. That would make them unusable to the enemy in case the unit had to move out in a hurry. Paul’s unit was about 35 miles from the front lines of action, but they could see the bright flashes of light from the fighting and the bombing. One of their printing presses was located in a van in case they had to move out in a hurry. Even the printing paper had grenades attached to it so nothing was usable to the enemy. Paul stayed there two years doing this work and they were billeted in a two story school house and each room held 13 men.
Even though they had the freedom to leave the compound when they were off duty, Paul’s unit was on call 24 hours a day. Being able to visit the PX in Seoul practically at any time, and the flexibility to leave the compound when he had time off, he was able to learn quite a bit of the Korean language.
Page 2 of 3 - Paul can remember one time when a Marine Major was shot down. When word got around that he was lost, Paul’s unit had to start printing leaflets to help find him. When he came back from Korea, Paul had with him two copies of that leaflet and sent one to the Marine Major’s wife. The Marine Major was held captive for a couple of weeks, but managed to escape.
Some of the other leaflets that were dropped were for food and for safe conduct passage. Safe Conduct Passage leaflets were leaflets that were dropped on enemy soldiers. If they had a pass and showed it to an American or United Nations soldier, they would not get shot. The enemy soldiers didn’t always know if they had the right leaflet, so they would collect as many of the various leaflets that were dropped on them as they could to make sure they had picked up at least one of the right ones when they surrendered.
At the beginning of the war, 1 million leaflets were dropped on the enemy; by the end of the war 2 billion leaflets had been dropped. When the war ended, Paul’s unit began working directly with the South Korean Army. They would teach a classroom of soldiers the skills necessary for printing so they could take over when Paul and his unit left in 1955.
Even though he was in a war zone, Paul has some pleasant memories of being part of a playful, adventurous unit. He remembers his unit doing things such as building a kite and putting their unit logo on the kite. Once the kite was flying in the air, the Korean children in the area flocked in from all over the hillside to see it close up.
While in Korea, he sent many of his original leaflets home to his mother, who saved them for him once he came home. However, over the years Paul has given many of those original leaflets away, which he regrets. That being said, he still has more than 1,000 leaflets that he helped create, which were dropped on the enemy.
Coming home from the war, Paul returned to the United States on a Navy ship and remembers going under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. From there he took the train all the way to Union Station in Kansas City. Paul believes that most of his experiences in the Army were positive ones, and is very grateful to learn about photography and printing while in the military. Those particular skills he learned while overseas helped him become employed in great jobs here at home. He ended up retiring in 1987.
Paul is a very active member of the Korean War Veterans Association Tell America Program and spends time giving speeches to various groups and relays his experiences in Korea and has quite a substantial display of the original leaflets that his mother saved for him. He also explains to each group about his training in psychological warfare.
Page 3 of 3 - Paul was awarded the Korean Medal with four battle stars, the U.N Ribbon, the National Defense Ribbon and the Good Conduct Medal.
Peggy Sowders, a city of Independence staff member, compiles stories from veterans from around the area at the Truman Memorial Building. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-325-7979 if you are interested in helping a veteran tell his or her story.