By Franklin Fisher, USAG Red Cloud and Area I Public AffairsMarch 27, 2018
CAMP CASEY, South Korea -- One sunny day in Korea last summer, a group of U.S. and South Korean Soldiers met for a friendly game of screen baseball. When it was over, the Koreans, who'd lost, offered to buy dinner for everyone.
So that evening, the group of about 20 Koreans and Americans were soon seated in a Chinese restaurant in Uijeongbu, about an hour north of Seoul, before a long rectangular table. Set before them were ceramic dishes of sweet-and-sour pork, fried shrimp, and vegetables and seafood in hot mustard sauce.
Among the group was Col. Brandon D. Newton, a stocky career infantryman and graduate of the U.S. Army War College who bears a resemblance to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Newton is commander of U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud and Area I, which is headquartered at Camp Casey in Dongducheon, 11 short miles south of Korea's Demilitarized Zone. With him were some of the garrison's senior Soldiers and civilians.
The Korean Soldiers were from two Korean military units in Area I, the Republic of Korea Army Support Group, and the Defense Security Command.
Stored in Newton's smartphone were hundreds of photos of Korea his grandfather took while serving in the Korean War. Whenever Newton has shown them to Koreans, they've seen them as having historical value.
"I'd say, 'Hey, these are some pictures of Seoul back in the day,' and everybody goes, 'Well, those need to be in a museum! Those are significant! They capture Korea's landscape in a way that we don't have a lot of from the Fifties.' Korean people said this."
Seated next to Newton that evening was Korean army Sgt. Major Park Young-ju, a member of the ROKA Support Group assigned to the U.S. Army's 55th Military Police Company at Camp Casey.
As the dinner progressed, Newton took his phone and showed Park a photo taken in Korea during the Korean War, of his grandfather, Master Sgt. Thomas Benton Hutton.
His grandfather, Newton told Park, had taken well over 200 color photos of Korea during the war. They were in the form of slides that were stored in small boxes at Newton's parents' home in Texas. And Newton believed they make up a fascinating record of Korea's landscapes and people during the war.
What Hutton had preserved for history through his 35 mm lens were color images of a Korea as it looked in those now distant, war-ravaged years. His camera took in Korea's everyday people, young and old, on sparse city streets and dusty country byways. He captured a sunny, open air Korea, one of blue skies, thatched roof villages, sprawling green fields and distant hills. And in the bargain were off-the-beaten track photos of Korean and U.S. Soldiers and others in uniform, items of potential historical interest to both armies.
Hutton was born in 1910 in Porum, Oklahoma. He joined the Army in 1934. That year the nation and the world were in the throes of the Great Depression, and Franklin D. Roosevelt was president. Severe drought and dust storms continued to plague the Great Plains. In the course of that year, bank robbers John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, "Pretty Boy" Floyd, and "Baby Face" Nelson were shot dead in encounters with the law. In baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers 4-3 in the World Series. On the silver screen, Frank Capra's "It Happened One Night," starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert was a box-office smash. And the Cole Porter musical "Anything Goes" starring Ethel Merman opened on Broadway.
Later, during World War II, Hutton served in the China-Burma-India theater. By the time of the Korean War he was a Master Sergeant serving as First Sergeant with the 91st Ordnance Medium Automotive Maintenance Company.
Hutton died in 1988 and the small boxes of slides were handed down through family members. About three years ago they found their way to the home of one of his daughters -- Newton's mother -- in Texas.
In the summer of 2016 Newton's official duties took him to Texas, and during a visit to his parents someone mentioned his grandfather's slides.
"For whatever reason they came up. They said 'Hey, you should look at these slides,'" Newton recalled.
The photos were Kodachrome transparency slides, each 2 by 2 inches square, many from Hutton's service in postwar Japan, many others from his service in Korea.
Some bore simple captions Hutton had written: "Schoolboys in Korea," "Knocked out Russian tank," Bridge on the Kum River, 25 miles from Taejon," "Road to Taegu," "Inside Temple," "A street in Seoul," "In a part of Seoul," "Near where Gen. Dean was last seen," "Cemetery near Seoul."
Newton decided to order a slide scanner online and have it delivered to his parents' home so he'd be able to digitize the slides when he'd have a chance. When duty again brought him to Texas some months later, he made the digital copies. He also uploaded a set to his phone.
Now, at dinner, he was telling some of this to Park.
"After the dinner," said Park, "I asked him, 'Sir, how many pictures do you have and could I see more?' And he showed me at least 30 or 40."
"Very important historical materials," Park thought to himself. Park had known for some time that the Korean army has been aiming to more fully develop its historical archives. But digging up new photos from the Korean War has been tough, he said.
"We keep trying, searching [for] the early KATUSA pictures, or the Korean wartime pictures," said Park. "We cannot find [any]. So his pictures are very important things. I realized that."
So Park had a request. "I just directly asked him, "Sir, could you donate these pictures for [the] ROK army?" said Park, using an abbreviation for Republic of Korea. "And he said yes."
Newton explained that the slides themselves were at his parent's home, but that he'd be visiting them later that year and would bring the slides back to give to the Korean army. Park meanwhile told the Korean army that Newton was willing to donate the photos.
Soon after that, the Korean army, through Park, asked what Newton thought of an idea they had: once Newton was able to give them the slides, they'd put them into a handsome book that would include a concise biography of Hutton.
They would then hold a formal military ceremony at Army headquarters in Daejon to mark the donation. The slides would go to the Korean army's archives section, and could also, potentially, be available for use of historians and others wanting to chronicle Korea's history during the Korean War.
Newton said sure, and in November 2017, he again had to be in Texas.
"So I made it a point when I went back for Thanksgiving to the U.S., I said, 'I'm gonna bring these slides back'," he said.
Then, last December, Newton gave the slides -- 239 of them -- to officials of the Korean army. They picked them up at Newton's Camp Casey office.
The Korean army has sent Newton word that they plan to schedule the donation ceremony in the near future.
Newton hopes in part that the photos will help those chronicling Korea's history, in several ways. One is the glimpses they afford of Korea during the war, what the land and people looked like.
"Just the day-to-day life of the Korean people and what it was like," said Newton. An example is a slide his grandfather labeled "Wash day in Korea -- Taegu."
"It's just everybody at a creek, washing their clothes," Newton said. "Just the difference between then and now. I think it's just a part of the heritage of the country, to see the differences in the buildings, and just the way of life."
The photos also preserve glimpses of the Soldiers, uniforms, and equipment of the Korean and U.S. armies during the war, as well as of the terrain they operated in and the camps they worked from, Newton said.
Some of the photos may show members of the Korean Service Corps, whose laborers during the war carried supplies and ammunition to the troops and brought the dead in off the battlefield. It may also show early KATUSAs, forerunners of those South Korean troops who live and work among U.S. troops to this day.
"There are Korean men in these photos," said Newton. "They're in uniform. So they may be ROK army. They may be KSC. They may be early KATUSAs, right? That would be an important thing, to establish the history, especially for those military organizations."
But for Newton, the photos -- and the fact that his own grandfather took them while serving in Korea -- are also a reminder that the history of U.S. service members serving as allies of their South Korean counterparts, living in Korea, often raising their children there, is a long one.
"It's our parents and grandparents in many cases who set the initial path in this relationship" between the United States service members and the people of Korea, said Newton. "And we've raised children together. In many cases we've married each other. It's a very human relationship. That, I think is what I recognize, and these pictures -- this is a part of that for me."