Born 1/6/30 in Holdenville, Oklahoma,
as Birchard Lee Dillinger. Our family roots went
through Texas and Arkansas back to the Stars and Bars, forever a symbol of sacrifice and valor,
as are the Stars and Stripes for which my family
fought and bled in our later wars.
We were very proud of the America that had helped defeat Facism, and of our Constitution
which, in 1950, still united us all.
My parents, teen-agers of a lost
generation, began me when the world's economy was
roaring and its dreams unbounded. Only I appeared at
the start of the soul-crushing Great Depression. The
sequence destroyed my parents, and stamped my life and
values forever, as with so many others.
There is no
"typical" background for Americans in the
military at the start of the Korean War. We represented all the cultures
that had built our country, and my own background was not uncommon.
I moved to California at age 5 with my
then-single-parent mother, just another couple of
dirt-poor Okies blowing out of the Dust Bowl. But my
mother was a doll, and married five times. They were
all sorry when she left, but the crippling
uncertainties of the times marked her, too, and she
always did leave. Until she met Harald Kortegaard, a
Danish marine engineer, who adopted me. That
intelligent, quiet, thoughtful man helped me change
course from North Beach waterfront gangs to a road much
less certain, a road with hope.
Went to grammar school in the San
Francisco Bay Area. At nine or ten became a
Salesboy for Liberty and Saturday Evening Post
magazines, and later paperboy for L'Italia
and the SF Chronicle, I always had some sort of
job as a kid.
Joined the United States Merchant
Marine (6/46) at age 16. Somehow finished
School between cruises.
Mess cook and Hospital Attendant.
Had won a local Golden Gloves and hoped I was
tough enough, suspected I wasn't, but did
okay. Thought glasses made me look older, but
couldn't hide the baby fat.
Sailed all over the Far East on
the SS General W H Gordon, and for a long time a
shuttle route between San Francisco, Honolulu,
San Pedro, and back around the reverse way, on
the SS Matsonia. These were large passenger
liners, of about 18,000 tons.
Joined the United States Navy
1/10/48 at age 18, with my buddy Ken Roach. We
intended to join the Marines, but the Navy
recruiting office came earlier in the hall, and
we got seduced by an offer of 14 months
Two years later, when we embarked
I/3/5 of the Brigade at Pusan, I wished more than
anything in life that I was one of them, that I
had gone the rest of the way down that hall.
Not too smart, but that's how I felt.
I went to Electronics Technician (ET)
school where I spent most of my spare time at the
gyrene armory qualifying on small arms, hoping to get
into PHIBPAC (Navy Special Forces ). Graduated
5/49 in the top 10% of my class, which brought with it
the rate of ET2.
Served on DD858, finally got in
PHIBPAC, aboard the USS Wantuck, APD125, about
12/49. I fixed our radar, sonar and radio gear,
and manned the radios in our landing craft
(LCVPs) whenever possible. As an ET, I was
commonly known as a Twidget.
Did one Korean combat tour with
the Wantuck, and another with the
Union, AKA 106. Made ET1, but took a
Discharge to join Philco as a Field
Engineer (Tech Rep) 2/52, and go to Germany and
meet the Fräuleins, and for the money (a
After 6 weeks heavy-ground radar
training at Warner Robbins, Philco sent me to Clark
AFB, Philippines, not Germany. After a few months the
radar C.O. gave me a commendation ... and Philco sent me
to Korea again, not Germany. So, I did a six-month tour
AC&W Squadron above Kimpo, with 1st Mar Div
between us and the Chinese armies. With 606, I was
radar tech rep for the installation primarily
supporting Sabre interceptions of MiGs in MiG
Alley, and helping all our aircraft in North Korea find
their positions. After that tour, Philco sent me to
Japan, absolutely not Germany.
Note: I was in our LCVPs at
and Wonsan and two Commando raids, sweated
and the MLR.
I was Regular Navy, volunteered
for Korea, went where I was sent, kept our radar
and radio gear working, and did my job as best I
But I did nothing at all deserving
special commendation during these three Korean War
tours. Others did, though, and I've never forgotten
That's why I've put my
War sites on the web, including the Aussie KW Photo Album, and also a
couple of my short stories. The stories
are pretty much fictionalized fact, attempts to
make terror and tragedy entertaining. It is
useful to understand these things, but not
necessary to only learn them the hard
During a year and a half of working in
Japan my hatred for the Japanese, and the rest of Asia,
and my passion to go chase German girls, all vanished.
Eternal gratitude to a very special lady. With Viet Nam
just perceptible next over my horizon, I changed course
yet again. I quit Philco, and went back to San
Started pre-engineering at San
College in 9/54, at age 24, on the GI Bill.
||BSEE, Massachusetts Institute of
University of California, Berkeley 1964 (did this
Engineer, Lawrence Radiation
Engineer, Los Alamos National
I was forced to resign at Lawrence Radiation
Laboratory seemingly out of nowhere, my career a
shambles, caught in an Engineering recession ... worst
for older Middle Managers.
"The catastrophe that awaits everyone ... every life has such a moment ... what distinguishes us
is whether, or how, we ever come back" (Charles Krauthammer "Things That Matter")
I doubt if many of us do come back from genuine catastrophe, without help from decent people, and a lot
of luck. With plenty of both as a start I found a job at Los Alamos, and managed the rest of a comeback I find I am
Life at LANL has been so absorbing I
had almost forgotten how I came here until I was asked
for input to a Biography about the famous Berkeley
scientist who had forced my resignation. Subsequent
email correspondence reminded me of long-forgotten
Engineering triumphs, but mostly of the
crushing ordeal they led to for my whole family. And
yet, in retrospect my personality had probably always
made some sort of human-relations disaster a good
Appraised objectively, my personality
and attitudes had been set by the Korean War. Childhood
had been a war in itself, and I was little more than a
child while knocking around the Pacific before Korea.
That mixed my psychological concrete, then Korea put in
the re-bar and let it all harden. By the time I joined
Philco I had the personality and attitude of an average
guy in the 5th Marines.
It was survival but the whole rest of
my career I, and the people I worked around, suffered
from this in more ways than I can fully realize. This
was particularly tough since my professional career was
as an Engineer, among people who took cultured,
considerate, predictable behavior for granted. I never,
ever, came close to being describable by terms like
To anyone who found working with me
difficult I offer the above as explanation, together
with my most sincere apologies. Hopefully, in Retirement, I am
finally growing up.
Gast Wissentschaftler, Gesellschaft für
Schwerionenforschung, Darmstadt, BRD,
(Finally got to Germany, but
had a wife and kids by this time.Probably
better all around.)
At Los Alamos I received a few
patents, a few internal LANL distinctions, and
won two international awards. I was
privileged to lead a talented and dedicated
Engineering Section, to occasionally teach at the
University of New Mexico Graduate School, Los
Alamos, but I never again went into middle
Working at LANL was exciting, and
a lot of fun, and I ended my career by developing
an Applied Sciences program, week-long
theoretical and design seminars on LANL
engineering problems. Still, like all things, it
came to an end.
I (mostly) retired in 1991, play
at running a small consulting company, writing
short stories about Korea (and occasional mocking
satires about upper management), and
putting them and other things that interest me on
I hope you're enjoying some of them.
Los Alamos National Laboratory