Wages in a war zone
September 1, 2021 6:07 PM   Subscribe

Some questions regarding the physical process of US soldier pay during the Korean war.

How would an American soldier during the Korean War get paid? Specifically would they have gotten all their pay in Military Payment Certificates in Korea?
  1. Would some percentage have been disbursed via cheque/cash in the States?
  2. Was some sort of direct deposit a thing or would someone back home have had to walk a cheque to their bank?
  3. Could people back home send money to soldiers in Korea?
  4. Would that have meant sending a physical cheque to Korea? Or was there some sort of way to send money electronically ala Western Union?
Inspired by a ReWatch of M*A*S*H where there are a couple episodes that revolve around Military Script in the war zone instead of American Dollars (Payday; Change Day).
posted by Mitheral to Work & Money (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Best answer: I was in RVN, not Korea, but I'd bet it was similar. For all enlisted men who had dependents, i.e. wives, a portion of their meager pay was paid stateside by check. The balance was paid in script to the soldier. Probably paid monthly, but I dont have a clear recollection. After a year in RVN, I had approximately $1K in script which was replaced with greenbacks as I left for the US. We were also highly encouraged to put some portion of our pay in US Savings Bonds.

There's not much for a soldier to spend money on, mostly soda, beer, and snacks from the PX. Stores in towns could accept the script, but you're not in a position to accumulate stuff. I did spend some money on film and film processing (remember that?).

It was basically a crime to possess greenbacks in RVN. They were worth about 4 times face value on the black market. If some came by mail, you were suppose to report it. Probably it was swapped with script.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:31 AM on September 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My dad (service from 1953-1957; non-combat) said his family received the portion of his military pay via postal money order. Unsure if this was not an issued check, as described above, because Dad was voluntarily sending a percentage to "non-dependent" family (payment sent to his [married] mother to support his younger sibling), and thus set up differently, or if m.o. was an alternate payment method in that era? When he told me this, he was clear the process was somehow automated; he did not buy and mail a money order himself each payday. (Korean War tax info which might interest you.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:45 PM on September 2, 2021

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