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Letter from Kang Wha-do Vets Group

Hi Dave,

One of our members with the Kang Wha-do Vets Group stumbled across your site and passed the URL to me as I had a number of visits to "your" island in one of my earlier lives in Korea. More on that below. In any case, as our Group is strictly limited to ASA folks who served on Kang Wha-do, PY-do's nearest "neighbor", I thought an email might open up some relationship between our organizations.

The KWD Vets Group has been going since 2001 when three guys who served in the 226th ASA Co in the early 60's reconnected after many years. From that humble beginning, the Group is about 140 strong with members in 36 states and 4 foreign countries. Our members served in all the unit designators ever on Kang Wha-do from the first day in 1956 (the guy who turned on the lights is a member) to the end of manned operations in the 70's (the guy who turned off the lights and put the key under the mat is also a member) into the 90's when a skeleton crew was on our mountain. We have hosted three national reunions so far (the most recent this past October) and have another working for 2009. At the October Reunion, we actually had at least one person who had served over all the years from 1956 to 1976. We're all a lot older, grayer/balder, and heavier than back then, but it sure is a blast hooking up with old friends.

Our Group operates one public site (www.kangwhado-veterans.net) and three private (members only) sites with a constant flow of memories, tall tales, pictures, and camaraderie daily. Stop by the public site for a look. It will lead you to one of our private sites (the public page) that could contain a link to your site if you wish. In exchange, we'd like a link to our public site as it is one more chance for our lost souls to find their way home. We reckon we are still missing about 600 or so of our buddies.

About me and PY-do... I never made it to your island when I was at the 226th ASA (Sep 63 - Mar 65), but later as a civilian working for the US Government in the 80's I did direct support visits to PY-do. Here's a picture taken in March 1984 at a "mountain" site about mid-island. The site you guys probably used was still there and doing probably the same job at the eastern end. I traveled out to PY-do sometimes by ROK Navy LST, sometimes by commercial "ferry" (passenger only), and once partly by a high-speed ROK Navy Patrol Craft and part by a ROK civilian cargo boat. We did a vessel change at sea!. One time I had one of my team members evacuated by the "mythical" plane that landed and took off from the south-side beach at low tide (that time is was a C-123, a two engine C-130 type craft). The ROK Marines had "ownership" of PY-do at that time, although the ROKAF operated a RADAR at the western end of the island. A sign at the civilian ferry dock proudly boasted of the "6000 fanatic ROK people" living on the island ("fanatic" is a close translation). By the 80's there were two lonely civilian busses that ran from end-to-end on the island. A couple civilian trucks rounded out the population's mechanized transport. All other vehicles belonged to the military. PY-do by the 80's could also boast one "hotel (actually a Yo In Suk - "a traveler's inn" - only rated in stars if you have a good imagination), a number of mom-and-pop restaurants that were quite good (Korean food only obviously), probably a dozen coffee shops (Ta Bang), two or three "night clubs", and two or three "hot floor" party houses (Kae Sang). Electricity, although "iffy" at times, was available all over the island as was a primitive telephone service.

Somewhere in my piles of pictures I'm sure I have more shots of the island if you guys are interested in the 80's times. Please let me know. I'll be glad to share them with you.

Looking forward to hearing from you sometime. Till then,

Jim Wandell

Treasurer, KWD Vets Group

Wandell on PYdo ca 80s

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