Unchon-ni, South Korea, I remember 1962-63

   Strike up a conversation with most people who were young, free, and enjoyed American life in the sixties. You will hear, maybe even feel their urgency to bring back the nostalgia of being young during that era. It was a time, whereas the overall feeling of most people in this country was to live life to its fullest, be what you wanted to be, above all else, be happy. We not only enjoyed it for ourselves but wanted our kinfolk, friends, and neighbors to discover a path to the American Dream. Flower Power, Hippies, Love Child, Soul Brother, names we used to describe certain groups, all while wishing them “Peace, Love, and Soul.”  Find your road to happiness my man, my brother, my sister. Frequently we gave them marijuana joints as fuel for the journey. Some use harder drugs to get there, but everyone was at least taking the trip. Today, most people feel the same but are not as overt with their feelings as back in the day.

It was tough climbing the mountain of change, even though we savored the rewards. Older, conservative folks despised this new attitude. Young black folks were especially having a though transition. Their more discipline parents advised them to act in a more servitude manner in the presence of the southern white man. Don’t stare, look down, don’t talk, don’t dare talk back or act as a smart mouth negro in front of white people. It was the way most of them survived the Jim Crow Era. Black people ought to feel damn proud of the way our ancestors survived thought-out the ages. Without their efforts, patience we wouldn’t be alive today.

In the forties-fifties, they migrated to northern, eastern, and western cities, looking to improve their livelihood with good-paying jobs. They still practiced the same habits; felt that was the best way to get along with white folks. Don’t take their jobs, move in their neighborhoods, take liberties with their kind offerings. And for God’s sake, don’t try to court any of their offspring. Otherwise, a telephone pole would work just as good as a hanging tree.

The problems came when their children grew up in these cities. Youngsters found out that all people were pretty much the same, and no race was better than the other. As a result, they were having none of that servitude behavior. We did not accept our lowly position without objection. In some cases, they were sneaking around with people outside their race, even kissing or doing that thang with them. They didn’t want to disappoint their parents, but then you know the mantra of young folk, “Ahhh…we’re just having fun.”

Let’s take this a step further; I’ve written a semi-autobiography book detailing a lot about my life as one of the black children of the sixties. I left high school and enlisted in the United States Army during the fall of 1961. I had to beg my father to let me join as a seventeen-year-old recruit by promising to finish high school in the Army.

That young black boy’s first assignment out of Ford Ord, California, was a foreign country. It was April of 1962. As ordered, he boarded a troop ship out of Oakland, CA. By that time, he’d gone through Basic; Advanced Infantry Training. Now on a troopship for a twenty-three-day trip with stops in Hawaii, and Tokyo. Upon his arrival in Pusan, Korea, the Army already proved to him that he had joined the ultimate men’s club. They had rules to govern the rules. It was going to be a long three years, he thought.

His assignment to Camp Kaiser, with a local village right outside the main gate called Unchon-ni, turned out to be the best thing to happen to him. First, daily training, practice with your brothers in arms, the American Soldier. It was a fourteen months indoctrination of a war-torn country. We had a very clear understanding of our mission; to stop any advancement into the south by Charlie (North Korean Soldiers). As it was small groups (four, five, or a few more), North Korean Soldiers crossed the DMZ to raise hell, spy, or whatever.

Black GI’s are confronted with duty, honor, confusing because of race issues, demonstrations, back home. Given the oath they swore to when entering the Army, they had no choice but to become exceptional soldiers as did any dog soldier, no matter their race or origin. They found ways to justify their obedience while not sacrificing their racial identities. A quick right cross to Jim Crow’s jaw normally resolved any outstanding issues. That attitude brought about the question, what about the non-violent demeanor as played out in the US of A Civil Rights demonstrations? Conflict of responsibility between race and Army obligations was a daily reminder for Uncle Sams black soldiers.

Unchon-ni camp-town girls made the entire tour assignment worth the experience. Without flaws, they expertly played the part of girlfriend, wife, next-door neighbor, sister, brother, psychologist, nursemaid; you name it. They allowed the American GI to mature, expand their knowledge of the opposite sex. They duplicated as close to a sense of home life as one could ever wish for daily.

Readers can examine the flashback events that the primary character (Author) remembered in his life. I call this book my semi-biography that culminates with my maturing as a person. They said at the time, the US Army would make a man out of you. One learns certain things by accident. From my perspective, given the help of South Korea assignment, mission accomplished.

Unchon-ni is not only a must-read for anybody interested in the life and times of our servicemen stationed overseas.  It’s an emotional exercise in men and women relationships from all walks of life. In other words, it’s a book for anyone interested in following the path of a seventeen-year-old GI discovering who he is, where he fits in then and later in society. The experience was so rich, so real; I just had to share it with you.  

The novel is available in all formats, including paperback, B&N Nook, Amazon Kindle, or download a PDF copy. Check out the novel’s details located at the Author/Publishers site at https://outskirtspress.com/Unchonni

Peace, Love, & Blessings

Codis Hampton II, Unchon-ni Author

Copyright 2011 Codis Hampton II, all rights reserved. A bi-weekly blog for your enjoyment