Our Echo
Title, story type, location, year, person or writer
 
Add a Post
View Posts
Popular Posts
Hall of Fame
Projects
Visitors
Contests
Search

HIS NAME WAS KIM

Story ID:1321
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:K-9 Air Base South Korea
Year:1954
Person:Kim
View Comments (2)   |   Add a Comment Add a Comment   |   Print Print   |     |   Visitors
HIS NAME WAS KIM
By Fred Wickert


“He said he is going to send for me,” the boy said. “He promised me he would!”

“Does he have an address where he can contact you?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t think so. I don’t have an address,” the boy said.

“What’s your name,” I asked.

“Kim.”

“Yeah, that figures,” I said, thinking to myself that more than half of the Koreans I have met are either Kim or Lee.

Little by little Kim told me his story. He had lost both of his parents and his home in the war. After he became orphaned, an American Major had taken him in as his houseboy. The Major had taught him to speak, read and write English. He had done very well because the boy’s English was much better than most of the English speaking Koreans I encountered.

I had been shipped out with a number of other Air Police from Okinawa to K-9 air base in Korea, about twelve miles south of Pusan. The base was on the edge of the ocean between two sets of mountain ridges that formed a “U” shape to the north. When the winds caused aircraft to take off to the north, they had to be sure to get altitude quickly to clear the mountains at the end of the valley.

I had only been there about a month. I was assigned that day to what was called Gate #2, which was adjacent to the Korean Air Lines compound. The boy had come up to the gate in search for food. Finding me friendly he stayed for conversation.

The boy had an Air Force flight jacket the Major had given him, but no hat or gloves. He was sleeping in a nearby culvert that went under the road. As long as there was no rain, it was dry and protected from wind.

Kim said he was fourteen years of age. The Major who’s houseboy he had been said he cared for him and wanted to adopt him. When he left to go to the United States he had promised to send for him. He had never heard from him again, but even though seven months had passed he still had faith in the Major. He was certain the Major was going to keep his word.

I tried gently to advise him that without any address where he could be contacted, that was not going to be an easy thing to do. Kim understood that, but believed the Major was going to find a way. Perhaps he planned to contact him somehow through the base Chaplin or perhaps he had a friend who could contact him outside the base.

As we came to know each other better, I arranged to obtain sandwiches and cans of c-rations to give him. I gave him whatever I could get my hands on for him in the line of socks, gloves and a scarf. I wanted but was unable to get a blanket or two for him.

When the Major left for the States, he had given him some money but that had been used up long before I met him. One day I asked him what he needed the most, or what he wanted the most if I could get it for him. His answer astonished me. He said he wanted more than anything else in the world, some textbooks. I asked him on what subject and he replied, “Any subject.” He just wanted to learn and there were no books to be had in Korea, from which he could get an education.

I wrote home and asked my parents to send me some textbooks as soon as they could. It was not difficult as my father was a schoolteacher and had access to many textbooks. He himself owned many.

In about two and a half weeks, a package arrived containing six used schoolbooks, in very good condition. They were on a variety of subjects. I took them as soon as I could to Kim. Kim was extremely happy with the receipt of those books. You would have thought I had just given him a box of gold, he was so happy to get them. I felt pretty good at being able to bring forth such happiness to a boy with so little to be happy about.

That was the last I ever saw of Kim. I looked for him for a long time but never found a trace. He was no longer sleeping in the culvert. He was no longer around looking for food. I had another friend named Kim who lived at the police station just outside the Main Gate of the base. That Kim was a police sergeant detective. I asked him to inquire around and see if he could get a line on the boy. A few days later he informed me that he was unable to find any trace of the boy.

As an Air Policeman on the base, if he had obtained employment again on the base, I would have known because all Korean employees on the base had to go in and out through gates manned by air police. He was not among them.

Many times I have wondered what ever happened to the boy Kim. In a war torn country like that, I know there were many tragic stories similar to his. I always hoped that somehow the American Major had kept his word and came for the boy. I always hoped for a happy ending.