Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Dennis Kux
As I said, I started off in Ft. Benning [GA]. I was there for three months for basic training. Then I was transferred to California to Camp Roberts as an instructor in the 7th Armored Division. It was also a basic training camp. From there I went to Ft. Riley, KS, in January or February of 1953 where I enrolled in the Intelligence School and was trained as a prisoner of war interrogator. I think that I was on leave in the summer of 1953, before going to Korea when I came to Washington to take the Foreign Service oral exam. In those days everything was done in Washington, and you had to travel there at your own expense. That was not too difficult from New York. However, I didn't pass the oral exam. You either received a pass, a fail, or a “try again.” I got the latter. My main recollection of that test was that Walter McConaughy, later Ambassador in Pakistan and Assistant Secretary for the Far East, was one of the examiners. It was given in one of the apartment buildings near the “Old New State” building where the State Department used to have offices.Then I went overseas to Korea, and that really “tipped me” towards the Foreign Service, because I discovered new worlds in Japan and Korea. I had the opportunity to travel around Korea a lot because I was in an “odd ball” unit—20 or 25 people in a “prisoner of war” interrogation platoon. There were four or five officers. A captain, who had more experience, was the commanding officer of the platoon. There were three or four second or first lieutenants, like myself, who were in their early 20's. The enlisted men were mostly Japanese or Chinese Americans.
I was very lucky. I got to Korea a week after the Armistice was signed in July, 1953. So I interrogated only one prisoner, a Chinese deserter who, somehow or other, had wandered across the De-militarized Zone (DMZ). Given all the mines and other barriers, this could not have been easy for him.
I was assigned to the 500th Military Intelligence Group attached to Eighth Army. I went from Tokyo, where I stayed about a week, down to Sasebo [Kyushu], where I spent about three weeks. Then I was put on a boat and sent to Korea. Eighth Army in Seoul had a Military Intelligence company or battalion, under the MI Group in Tokyo. I was attached to this unit and then sent down to the 7th Division, where I was assigned to the 505th MI platoon. We were really part of the Eighth Army Interrogation Group.
It was rather interesting. The barracks or the house the unit had in Seoul previously belonged to Korean President Syngman Rhee's rival, Kim Ngu. Seoul at the time really impressed me, because I had never seen a city which had been so totally destroyed. There wasn't much left. It had really been obliterated. There were individual houses still standing, but damaged. I remember that the Korean Parliament building was destroyed. The Presidential Palace [Blue House] somehow still survived. I had seen pictures in the movies and newsreels of World War II—Seoul was very much like that. Still, Seoul was well populated, even with all that destruction. Cars were running, but everyone was very poor, and we were very wealthy (by comparison). There was very little economic activity.