Former commando shares experiences, traumas during the Korean War



john connor:John Connor, Sacramento State professor emeritus of anthropology and Korean War veteran, talks to guests at the lecture and book signing held today in the University Library Petris Room. :Brittany Bottini – State Hornet

Brittany Bottini

Professor emeritus and former Korean War commando John Connor recalled his experiences in the “forgotten war’ and introduced his new book, “Let Slip the Dogs of War,” today in the University Library.

Every chair in the Petris Room was filled with attentive guests listening to Connor tell a story so unfamiliar to many.

“It was really interesting to hear first-hand accounts of this war,” said Sacramento State librarian Rosalind Van Auker. “Growing up in the ’50s, it wasn’t even in our textbooks. All I ever really thought about it was in reference to MASH.”

Connor discussed the brutalities of guerilla warfare, the bitter cold of North Korea, and how the occurrences of those years still affect him today.

“(During the war) I really found out what some of those guys were capable of doing,” Connor said. “Although many missions were truly suicidal… the morale was definitely up.”

After the war, Connor said he suffered from depression, alcoholism and what he now knows to be post-traumatic stress disorder.

“(My wife) always worried about me. I had a serious problem. I’d walk around and just burst into tears,” Connor said. “But my strategy was always to work hard and continue to do research until it finally disappeared.”

Connor referred his listeners to Act 5, Scene 3 of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”

“Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased, pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow, raze out the written troubles of the brain…?” Macbeth asked the doctor.

The doctor replied, “Therein the patient must minister to himself.”

Four hundred years after “Macbeth,” Connor said, nothing has changed.

“War rips the mouth of civilization and lays bare the beast within,” he said. “War is not only as bad as you think it is; it is far worse than anything you’ve imagined.”

Jennifer Mak, senior anthropology major, said listening to Connor speak of this time in his life was heartbreaking.

Mak was the 2009 recipient of the John Connor Scholarship through the anthropology department at Sac State.

“He has offered so much support to the anthropology department and myself.Ijust wanted to support him and hear more of his story,”Mak said.

To read more of Connor’s story, see the print edition of The State Hornet.

Brittany Bottini can be reached at [email protected]