Letter from John (Johnny) W. Moses to his father-in-law Andrew A. Manning and Din about his experience in Korea, 19 June 1953

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John (Johnny) W. Moses wrote this letter while stationed in Korea to his father-in-law Andrew A. Manning and an unidentified person named “Din” in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  In his letter, he gives thanks to all the help Manning and Din provided for he and Virginia’s children.  He describes Korea as “covered with ridges, hills, mountains of all shapes and sizes.”   He goes on to describe the Korean towns and the people.  According to Moses, “the Korean standard of living is pretty low in most places.”  He goes on to compare the Korean people to the Japanese.  He accounts his brief experience in Japan and his encounter with the Japanese people.  He notes the Americanization of the culture.  For example, some of the Japanese women wear American dress and American movies being shown in theaters.  Given his preference for the Japanese people, he expresses a desire to visit Japan once his service ends.  He concludes with hope that he will be promoted to battalion commander.

Following the end of World War II in 1945, major European countries where in shambles: Britain, France, Germany, and Italy.  The two remaining world powers with substantial military forces were the United States and Russia.  Ideologically, these were very dissimilar countries.  The United States favored capitalism, free trade and markets.  Conversely, Russia expounded communist theories of common ownership and a classless society.  During the course of the war, Russia seized control of numerous Eastern and Central European countries such as Eastern Poland, Estonia, Romania, etc.  After the war, countries under Russian control became known as the Eastern bloc, thus forming the Soviet Union.  The Western European countries allied with the United States.  This period of conflict and competition between the United States and the Soviet Union became known as the Cold War.  It was a time of espionage, military coalitions, and weapons development such as the nuclear arms race.  Rather than face each other directly, these two rivals chose indirect methods through their allied countries.

The Korean War lasted from June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953.  However, how it came to fruition stemmed from World War II.  During the war, Japan occupied Korea.  During the Yalta Conference between the Allied powers and Russia in February 1945, Russia agreed to join in the war against Japan.  The 38th parallel was established as the division between Russia and the United States’ area of responsibility.  At the time, the United States lacked the military resources to travel further north up the Korean peninsula.  Upholding their end of the agreement, Russia declared war on Japan on August 6, 1945.  Two days later, they began the libration of the northern parts of Japanese-occupied Korea.  The United States did the same the following month.  In the end, the 38th parallel would prove to be of greater importance during the Cold War. 

North Korea, under communist China, became an extension of the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence while South Korea became an extension of the United States.  The dividing mark became the 38th parallel.  There were attempts by North and South Korea to re-unify and negotiations to hold governmental elections.  However, due to the heightened tensions, ideological differences, and intense pressures from the United States and the Soviet Union, negotiations came to an abrupt end when the North Korean army invaded the South on June 25, 1950.  This open conflict served as a proxy war between the United States and the Soviet Union with both supplying aid.


John W. Moses to Din and Mr. Manning. 19 June 1953, William Sinkler Manning Papers, Manuscripts Division, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.


West Central Korea

Friday night

June 19, 1953

Dear Din and Mr. Manning,

            I imagine that by this time Virginia has heard from me since I arrived at my new unit, the 623rd Field Artillery Battalion, and has told you something about how I am getting on.

            As yet the peace has not come over here and I am in a battalion that is firing some every day and night.  I thought there would be a cease fire by the time I had actually gotten here.  It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was waving goodbye to you all at the airport, and yet time flies so that I often lose track of the day of the week.

            I haven’t heard from Virginia at all since I left but I had two cute cards from Dinny and Dee while I was at Camp Stoneman.  I certainly hope they are getting along all right and are comfortably settled by now.  You were both so helpful to us when I was there and I appreciate it a great deal. 

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You really did far more than was necessary.  But your generosity and continued interest in my leaving and their getting settled made a tremendous difference to us.  I won’t forget either, Din, your taking care of the children the last night I was there so that we could go to the drive-in movie.  Many thanks for everything.

            I hope your law case worked out as you wanted it to, Mr. Manning.  No doubt it was quite a bit of work for you.  I’m sure Sam is learning a lot about the legal profession while he is helping you at the office.  Thank you, by the way for your fine help and advice in putting up those boxes in the garage.

            Korea is quite a pretty, though hilly, country.  It seems to be covered with ridges, hills, mountains of all shapes and sizes—and all covered with thick green growth.  There are a number of small streams and some rives.  The roads are extremely dusty right now due to heavy traffic on them all the time.  The rainy season begins in a couple of weeks.  Then, I understand, we’ll see lots of water including some overflowing streams.  The headquarters battery, for the

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most part, is located in a fairly steep draw and my tent looks down a fair distance to the streams and road.  I am comfortably situated, as executive officer, in a tent of my own.

            Right now we are far from any Korean towns of any size.  Seoul is a good distance away.  It was once a nice looking city with quite a number of modern buildings.  Even now the people are busy doing various things.  They look generally poor although not as much so as the people of Yong Dung Po, where my replacement company was.  There, you can’t imagine the poverty and dirt that is seen everywhere.  The Korean standard of living is pretty low in most places.  There is really quite a difference between Seoul and Yong Dung Po.  One thing you see both in Korea and Japan is little babies being carried papoose-style on their mothers’ backs, and often on the backs of their older sisters, only 7 or 8 themselves.  They seem to carry the babies that way as casually as you would carry a person.

            The Japanese, although their standard of living is also nothing like ours, are a much more prosperous and progressive people than the Koreans.  I did not get

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into downtown Tokyo during my short stay in Japan but I saw lots of Japanese during my trip from the airport to Camp Drake.  Their streets are very crowded in many places and they live in rather flimsy houses very close together.  Many of the women wear the long white or colored kimonos while others wear American dress.  I saw “Gone With the Wind” and other American movies advertised at theaters we passed and long lines of people (including whole families) lined up waiting to get in.  The Japanese are very polite and are hard workers.  Maybe I’ll get to go to Japan after 4 or 5 months here. 

            The weather is very comfortable, hot some times only during 2 or 3 hours in the afternoon.  Cool nights, pleasant mornings.  It has been pretty hot there, I imagine, hasn’t it?

            The battalion commander, Lt. Col. Whitehouse, a fine officer, is leaving on June 28, a week from Sunday, and unless (cross my fingers) something happens, I’ll take over command.  Quite a surprise to me, but a fine opportunity.  I’ll do my best.

            My best to Sam.

                                                                                                            Much love,


P.S. Please ask Virginia to send me the package of writing paper I ordered if it came.


Correlating SC Social Studies Academic Standards:

Standard 5-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the economic boom-and-bust in America in the 1920s and 1930s, its resultant political instability, and the subsequent worldwide response.

Indicator 5-4.7 Explain the effects of increasing worldwide economic interdependence following World War II, including how interdependence between and among nations and regions affected economic productivity, politics, and world trade.

Standard 5-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the social, economic, and political events that influenced the United States during the Cold War era.

Indicator 5-5.4 Explain the course of the Cold War, including differing economic and political philosophies of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the United States, the spread of Communism, McCarthyism, the Korean Conflict, the Berlin Wall, the space race, the Cuban missile crisis, and the Vietnam War.

Standard GS-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the effects of economic, geographic, and political interactions that took place throughout the world during the early twentieth century.

Indicator GS-5.4 Explain the causes, key events, and outcomes of World War II, including the German, Italian, and Japanese drives for empire; the role of appeasement and isolationism in Europe and the United States; the major turning points of the War and the principal theaters of conflict; the importance of geographic factors during the War; and the political leaders during the time.

Indicator GS-5.6 Exemplify the lasting impact of World War II, including the legacy of the Holocaust, the moral implications of military technologies and techniques such as the atomic bomb, the human cost of the war, and the establishment of democratic governments in European countries. (H, P)



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