Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Dennis Kux
The roads were largely mud. Of course, when it rained, it was a real mess, and you had to travel by jeep. The poverty was overwhelming; people were trying to siphon off things from the Army. I remember that you had to watch for thievery. Sure enough, somebody came to my tent and stole my pen and my camera. There was a lot of trouble with young kids stealing things. This was a big concern in the U. S. military.
I was in Korea for about a year. When I got the unit, we did nothing for the first six months. The Americans in the interrogation platoon who had been there during the fighting were still there. They just believed in relaxing. The commander had been a professional gambler at Harold's Club in Reno, Nevada and was an Army Reserve Officer recalled to service during the Korean War. Our day was typically like something out of “Mash.” We got up around 8:30 AM and had coffee. We had a joint mess with the CIC detachment. We went back to our platoon, had more coffee, and then broke for lunch. After lunch we had sports. Then it was cocktail hour. There was a regular “black market” run taking cigarettes down to Seoul, bringing booze back, and trading things. I remember that on New Year's Eve 1954 there was a big party. Everybody got drunk and we had a big free-for-all in the tent.
That all changed about six months after I arrived. Another Commanding Officer came and played things “by the book.” He asked, “Where's the training program?” We said: “What training program?”. He said: “Of course there has to be a training program,” and there was. The Army has programs for everything. We soon started training for eight hours a day on how to be an Intelligence Platoon.
When I fist arrived in the Far East, I spent about two months in Japan. I was in Tokyo and then spent a week in Kyoto. I spent about three weeks in Sasebo [Kyushu]. Japan was much more developed than Korea, but there was still plenty of damage left over from World War II even eight years after the end of the war. We were so wealthy, relative to both the Japanese and the Koreans. I remember that the exchange rate of the Yen was 360 to a U. S. dollar. We had access to U. S. Government-controlled hotels. There was one in Kyoto on a lake outside the city. You could get a lobster dinner for a dollar and a filet mignon —Kobe beef—for a dollar each. So our money went a long way in those days.
I left the Far East in August, 1954, having been there for a year. We left Korea from Pusan and spent 14 days on a troop ship—boring as hell. Then I spent seven days on a troop train going across the U. S. I ended up, I think, at Fort Dix, [New Jersey], where I was discharged.
Then I waited until the final week to decide whether I would go to graduate school at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Boston or to Harvard law school. I had been accepted for both. It was a “crossroads” decision in terms of my career. In the end, I went to Fletcher and chose a career in the foreign affairs area. Thinking back, I'm sure that the experience in the Army in Korea “tipped me over” to the Foreign Service.