Saturday, July 5, 2014

Road to Ruin

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Happy Independence Day everyone! Yesterday, on the Fourth of July, I conducted a groundbreaking interview with Al Gould, the author of Boots on the Ground with Music in My Hands. I wrote about his book in last week's post and first on May 24 but I finally had the good fortune of speaking with him. Gould's insights into that time are extraordinary! As luck would have it, Gould was in the same traveling platoon (Platoon #2) as Pepper and much new information about that period was discovered in our one hour conversation.  First, here's a link to Gould's memoir:
Gould wrote a very good overview of the history of the 10th Special Service Company, not fully included in his book, that I'll post here:
"The original concept of establishing highly trained entertainers for completely mobile shows under very adverse conditions was the idea of Captain Josh Logan, who had served in Germany during World War II. The 10th Special Service Company was started in Guam in 1944 and Josh was joined a year later by a Department of the Army Civilian (DAC), Margaret "Skippy" Lynn. Both had excellent backgrounds in the entertainment field. Logan went on to write and direct the Broadway musicals Annie Get Your Gun, South Pacific, Fanny and others, working with Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Lynn, a dancer and Dance Captain with the Radio City Rockettes in New York, appeared on Broadway in the musicals Oklahoma, Carousel and as the ingenue lead with Ethel Merman in Something for the Boys. 
The headquarters of the 10th Special Service Company moved from Guam to Hawaii, then Japan and, finally, in April 1951, to Korea. Because of extremely difficult combat conditions, travel by civilian entertainers in Korea was limited. On the other hand, fine entertainment was eagerly sought by troops as an essential morale booster. These two factors combined to generate the development of touring soldiers of superior quality. In order to do the job, these traveling units needed to be self-contained and capable of performing under the most adverse circumstances while maintaining professional stage presence and soldierly conduct.
When a member of one of the top dance bands of the day (Tommy Dorsey, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, etc) during the Korean War was drafted or enlisted, he would end up with the 10th Special. This also included celebrity singers, such as Eddie Fisher, comedians, and specialty entertainers. 
The 10th Special Service Company had four platoons. Three were show platoons on the road, plus a Headquarters Platoon. The three show platoons each had about thirty members. The shows were trained in Japan and entered Korea at different times. I was a member of the 2nd Platoon. The 2nd entered Korea in October 1951 and was called "Take 10." It became the "Road to Ruin" Show in October 1952, which I became a part of in early January 1953. 
The 10th was deactivated in July 1955. Skippy Lynn remained a DAC until 1978, continuing shows that were called Army Showmobile Units. They serviced the Berlin and Cuban crises, plus she produced Army competitions worldwide to obtain members for the Showmobile units."
Besides his history of the 10th Special Service Company, Gould also sent me several photographs. One is a shot of the USS Walker, the troop ship that both he and Pepper Adams took from San Francisco to Japan on their way to Korea. Gould pointed out in our interview that he left for Japan on October 25 and Pepper would've left very early that October. 
A second photo he sent me was of Kim Byung Joo, the sixteen-year-old house boy who worked at the Headquarters of the 10th Special Service Company in Seoul. Gould said that Joo was extremely intelligent and spoke perfect English. All attempts so far to locate Joo have been unsucessful, in part because his name is incredibly common. Joo is an important figure because Pepper addressed to Joo a very long letter in the form of a diary while returning to the US from Korea after his tour of duty concluded. It's the longest document I've found written by Pepper and it will be discussed in my forthcoming biography. Pepper had very strong paternal feelings for Joo, as I think most of the 2nd Platoon also felt.
Another photo shows some of the performers of the 2nd Platoon in their costumes and with a caption identifying their names: Jerry Lehmeier, Alfred (Mack) Sanders, Frank Horner, Al Lamo, Al Gould, Duke Duberry, Bob Weiss, Harry Fallon, Park (Pepper) Adams, Neal Brodie, Al Masco, Kenneth Barner and Fred Haney.
A fourth photograph is a spectacular color photograph of the band in performance in Korea in 1953 that I'll be including in the biography. Some of the entertainers in this photo, in Army fatigues, are different from the one above in their show costumes. Nevertheless, this amazing photo captures in vivid detail exactly what the 2nd Platoon was all about: performing at a makeshift stage in a rugged terrain straight out of a Hollywood Western, surrounded by trucks that transported the troop and gear.
Next week I'll discuss the contents of my interview with Gould and I'll be updating Pepper's chronology from that period. Among other things, Gould mentioned that the 2nd Platoon did a command performance for the President of Korea at the Presidential Palace and they also did a recording. Lots to report!

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