Christmas Parties, Song and
Dance, Sports, Boy Scouts of Korea.
There was almost a need on the part
of the American Armed Forces in Korea to celebrate the Christmas season
with the children. It was just as much for the psychological well-being
of the servicemen and women as it was for the orphans who were being
feted. I remember we used to begin in September and October planning
for our annual Christmas Party for the kids in our (326th Communications
Reconnaissance Company) orphanage. Such parties were good for the morale
of the troops and stories of them were often reported in the Pacific
Stars and Stripes.
The American armed forces introduced
the concept of Christmas Parties to this Asian Nation that had only
a tiny Christian community. It was the time of the year when the servicemen
and women were feeling a loss of contact with loved ones and the fun
and activity of the Christmas season back home. While the Christmas
parties were for the children the GIs often has as much fun as the kids.
For awhile the horror of war was forgotten and the fun of giving Christmas
gifts and singing Christmas carols took precedence. Along with the story
of Christ’s birth came the story of Santa Claus and in this new
context one found Santa riding an ox cart, carrying an “A-frame”
and adapting to the local culture. The Christmas parties took a lot
of planning that often began many months earlier. It would be safe to
say that almost every military unit in Korea sought to do something
for the children at this time of the year.
photographs and stories.
Song and Dance
Love of music and dance must be in the genes of all
Koreans. Korean choral groups are among the finest in the world. How
far back this tradition goes I know not. I do know that staff in most
orphanages taught the children to sing and dance and the children did
so at the slightest hint that they had an appreciative audience of visiting
GIs. I think "Jesus Loves Me" and "Ariang" were
in the repertoir of every orphanage in Korea during the war years. Many
observers of the orphanage scene in those days commented on the children
singing and dancing. One quote about the children singing sticks with
me and I share it with you here: “The children sang several songs.
… The first number they did was “Old Black Joe.” If
you recall the lines of the last stanza, the words go, “I hear
their gentle voices calling ‘Old Black Joe’.” The
youngsters didn’t sing it that way. They sang it, “I hear
their gentle voices calling GI Joe.”
Knowing how much the children in the Seoul Sanitarium
and Hospital Orphanage loved music the fellows in my unit, the 326th
CRC, offered to keep a portable radio the orphanage has recently been
given supplied with batteries (very expensive on the local market) and
in good repair (we had our own radio repair technicians) provided the
staff allowed the children to listen to the hour of classical music
broadcast every day on the Armed Forces Radio station. Later, when back
in the 'States, I was able to ship a donated piano to the orphanage
in a shipment of aid sent from the Monterey California Public School
District. Here are stories and photos of the children singing and dancing.
||Song and Dance,
photo pages and stories.
Sports and Recreation
Children are very resilient and once
in an orphanage where they received food, shelter and clothing they
began to blossom. American servicemen often went to the orphanages to
play with the children. On many occasions the GIs would take the children
out on walks or to go swimming or to a company picnic. Many games played
by the children needed only a ball, a board or a few sticks. Soon there
were baseball teams, boxing competition, basketball games and other
activities as the GIs brought in sporting equipment from Japan or had
it sent from home. Military units often built swings, slides and other
such objects for the orphanages they were sponsoring. But the kids also
played their own traditional games and sports. Often one would see two
girls on a see-saw, bouncing up and down but not in a sitting position.
They were doing this while standing! Jumping rope, playing tag, playing
soccer were all part of the activities of the children once they were
in good health and able to participate. How great it was to see the
children having such fun!
||Sports and Recreation,
photo pages and stories.
Boy Scouts of Korea
One day in 1952 as I was exploring the
city of Seoul I accidently came upon the office of the Boy Scouts of
Korea. I was delighted as I was an avid scouter and had already visited
the scouting movement and had participated in scouting activities in
more than twenty countries. On entering the army I donated my collection
of over 2,000 scout insignia from 55 nations to the museum of the Boy
Scouts of America. While stationed at Fort Devans, Massachussets, I
served as Scoutmaster of the base troop. Here was my chance to visit
with scouts in yet another nation.
The scout leader I met spoke English.
I took photographs of him with the boys. Unfortunately I did not note
his name. He told me they shared space in a building which was characterized
as the "Smallest YMCA in the World." During the war they had
lost everything and the organization had no scouting manuals or publications
as their library was completely destroyed. On my return to the USA I
sent them a large box of Boy Scouts of America publications, everything
available in our regional scout headquarters. I recall the postage cost
$35 to mail it via the APO address to a buddy of mine still in the 326th
CRC in Korea. He took the books to the Korean Boy Scout office for me.
Below you can read the letter I received thanking me for the donation.
Note the comment that they would henceforth use regular postage as they
could not afford air mail. I have since tried to make contact with the
Boy Scouts of Korea but they have not responded. I offered them copies
of all the material relating to the Boy Scouts of Korea that I had been
finding in my research. But no response to my offers. So rather than
continue trying to make contact with a bureaucracy that does not respond
I post the material here. Perhaps a Korean Boy Scout will find these
photos and tell others about them.
Frankly, I was quite surprised to note
the extent to which the scouting movement had already taken hold in
the Republic of Korea and the extent to which many of the orphanages
quickly developed scout troops. If a reader of this document knows something
about the founding of scouting in Korea I would appreciate knowing more
||Boy Scouts of Korea Photo Page
||Letter from Boy Scouts of Korea to George
Years later (1962 or 1963) one of the
highlights of my involvement in the scouting movement was having the
honor and delight of hosting a reception for Lady Badden-Powell, widow
of Lord Robert Badden-Powell, founder of the world scouting movement,
when she visited Manizales, Colombia. At that time I was in the U.S
Foreign Service serving as Director of the USIS cultural center in that