Daddy joined the marines afer high school and, during the mid-1950s, seemingly smoked his way through several years of service in Korea. I know little about this part of his life, besides what’s recorded in photos from that time. Of obvious importance, however, was my fathery’s fondness for friends, especially smoking and consuming copious amounts of alcohol with them.
So, today I bring you a visual journey through Daddy’s vice-laden tour of duty following the Korean War–along with what my father wrote on the rear of pictures. (As you will soon see, my father was not a writer–or spelling bee champion, for that matter!)
First, a card documenting Daddy’s selective service registration in January of 1953.
Next, his miliary ID from 1956.
A badge documenting Daddy’s service overseas.
Daddy during down-time in Korea.
Daddy thinks about home. Notice how young he looks.
Daddy by his bunk. In text from the rear of the photo, my father describes the event.
Daddy images “Life in Korea.”
Daddy on duty.
Daddy poses with assorted buddies.
My father managed to photo the “local” bookie.
He wrote on the rear of this image.
In 1954 my father visited Japan on R & R.
Before he left Daddy photographed local Korean women washing food in a creek.
When my father returned to the US in 1956, he remained at Camp Le Jeune, North Carolina. One of his high school buddies, nicknamed “Sluk,” joined him there. He’s imaged in the photo below and refered to in a letter Daddy sent home to his mother, asking her to send money.
The letter reads:
Well [its] raining today so I thought I would drop you a line.
We got back from Fayetteville later than we thought we would. I ran out of gas about 16 miles out of Fayetteville. We went and got some old farmer up and he sold us 2 gallons worth of gas.
Sluk got back from [Porto] Rico last week. We went to the movie the other night. I think he went home this past weekend.
Would you go down to the bank and get me some money. I want about twenty dollars. I want to go away this weekend so I would appreciate it if you would send it right away.
I should [should] be home in [ether] two or four weeks. Anyway I hope so.
Well [thats] about all for this time. Be good.
And when Daddy finally came home to Pittsburgh, his car was waiting. In the photo below, the vehicle sits on almost the exact spot where FBI agents arrested Daddy approximately twenty years later. I described that federal raid several posts back.
So, besides the fact that my father prefered smoking to spelling, what have I learned from all of this that might aid my memoir writing efforts?
Most importantly, perhaps, I recognize the need to interview some of my father’s earliest remaining friends from high school and the marines. I know “Sluk’s” real name and that of another friend or two, whom, I believe, are still alive and residing in Pittsburgh. These men might be able to fill me in on what Daddy was like as a young man and help me understand how he came to be involved with organized crime. The three friends I’m thinking of had nothing to do with the mob. They went on to college and became a dentist and engineer, and Sluk eventually attended law school and became an attorney.
I don’t know if Daddy had made any of his mafia connections before joining the marines or if all of these relationships developed between 1957 and 1961 when my parents married. I’m hoping at least one of these men might know when and how. The buddy who later became an engineer was in my parent’s wedding party, along with the mafia friend I refered to in chapter two–the man who remains the underboss of the Pittsburgh crime family–one who, himself, is fond of a cig and swig from time to time.
Is there anything in particular about this information that stands out to you? Any questions I need to pose to the men I hope to interview? Did you, a spouse, sibling, or parent serve in the military?
(My brother thinks I should interview the brother of the mafia friend in my parents’ wedding, the man who was my father’s best friend and closest ally when he died. I’m a bit hesitant to do that, but I’m giving it some thought.)
Stay tuned. Coming up soon–more on my parents’ wedding.