Barry McLean was born on February 5, 1932, in Los Angeles, California. While attending Garfield High School, he was focused on learning about aeronautics and planned on joining the United States Air Force. He chose to enlist in the United States Marine Corps because his relatives told him they had the best training. His unit landed in Incheon and then transitioned to the Chosin Reservoir. Throughout his experience, he was able to photograph and gather artifacts to preserve the memories from the war. He is proud of his service to the Korean people and proud of the Korea that has developed.
So Many Refugees
Barry McLean shares his experience walking through Wonsun in sub-zero temperatures. During the evacuation, he shares he encountered a young girl and offered his rations, but she refused. He recalls the touching moment when the girl came back with a token to trade for his food. Along with this experience, he describes seeing thousands of refugees they loaded onto the ships to evacuate.
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Here to Tell Their Stories
Barry McLean shares his thoughts on why some veterans struggle with talking about their experiences in Korea. He reminisces about a female nurse in Korea who flew every mission to pick up the wounded soldiers at the Chosin Reservoir. He highlights how all of the people he is reminiscing about are gone, but he is still here wearing out.
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They Kept Coming Back (Graphic)
Barry McLean elaborates on an experience that haunts him after returning home from Korea and the toll of war. While climbing a mountain, he recalls encountering around three hundred Chinese soldiers eating lunch. He shares how, afterward, they began to monitor the routine of the Chinese soldiers. He describes the measures they took a few days later to eliminate the enemy soldiers.
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[Beginning of Transcribed Material]
B: My name is Barry McLean, McLEAN.
I: When were you born?
B: Oh, my goodness, 1932.
I: Nineteen thirty-two.
B: Yeah. I’m an old man.
I: When’s your birthday?
B: February 5.
I: Okay. And where were you born?
B: Los Angeles. I was raised and born in Los Angeles.
I: Wow. And you don’t live too far still.
I: Were you also, did you also enlist in the Marine Corps from LA?
B: Yes, of course. Yes. I wanted to get in the Air Force. In high school, we had a flying class, believe it or not. Isn’t that something, from high school.
I: What high school did you go to?
B: I went to Garfield High School. And we had a class that taught aeronautics and weather and everything you had to know about airplanes.
B: And we had a (INAUDIBLE) even, you know, to learn to fly.
And after that, we went out to the airfield. We had an airfield, and the Navy flew in Navy pilots, and they took us up in Cessnas. And the first thing they would ask is what’s this on the airplane? What’s that on the airplane. That’s the (INAUDIBLE) you’re on they would say. That’s the elevator and this is a trim. And they’d say okay. You sit in front with me. And the other two, you sit in the back cause you don’t know nothing.
I: That is great. I think that school still exists.
B: We would fly down the coast, come back up and land at Douglas Air.
Those big flying wings, have you heard of those big flying wings that they had during the war? Anyway,
I: Yeah, please.
B: The tires on them are 6’ big airplanes, you know. And we’d land there. And then one of the pilots says to me one day you know what? You’re about ready to qualify for, uh, solo flying. And I said really? I said you know, I wanted to join the Air Force. He said why don’t you go there and talk to a recruiter? Oh boy, that was something else. I was, I did.
I walked in there, and this big Sergeant looked down on me and said what do you want? I said well, I want to join the Air Force. How old are you? I said well I’m 16, sir. He said well, you better go to college for a couple years and then come back and see me cause you’re not ready. I said yes sir, and I ran out. It was about 10 of us, and we were from two different grades.
And they were starting, and we said okay. So, two went in the Navy, two went in the Air Force. They didn’t fly, but they went in the Air Force, two went to the Marine Corps., me and one other guy, and two went in the Army, you know. And I was, from my relatives, I was told that the Marine Corps had the best training, best training in the world if you’re going into the Service, and that’s where I went. And it was true.
A lot of the guys that were in the Army were drafted in the Army most likely. They didn’t want to be there. But they had to go. But the people that were in the Marine Corps were there because they wanted to be there, you know. There was a different community.
B: And went over to Korea, landed at Inchon, Walmadu, and fought there for a little bit, very, very little because most of the North Koreans took off after we landed.
And we went up to Inchon, to Seoul. And then, I got a map with me. Diane brought a map
B: Of all the places we went.
I: I see it.
B: And we went finally all the way up to the Chosin Reservoir which was Inchon at the time. Here’s the map I brought along shows exactly where I was.
I: So, this is the map that we’re looking at. Alright.
B: It shows where we went.
B: And all the different names. The Pusan Perimeter and Wonju and Wonson.
I: Um hm.
B: Wonson is where we came when we came back down in kind of shifts. We walked from Hagaru to Chinhungni which was about 30 miles and 30 degrees below zero weather which was very, very cold.
My feet are still messed up a little bit.
I: Oh, I see.
B: Ugly. They sent me a camera. Well, that little girl there, I saw her standing there and I offered her some food, some K rations or A rations, whatever they are. And she went like this (WAVES) and walked away. And then she came back, and she came, and brought this with her.
B: I cry, every time I see it, I get upset.
She gave me that for food. And I gave her the food, and she gave me that. Like this, you know. That’s all she had.
I: Oh, my goodness.
B: So, I kept it as a souvenir.
B: It’s not much. It was, you know, it’s not a diamond or anything like that, but it’s beautiful. We took aboard, they sent thousands of refugees also.
As many as we could get on board. And I think a couple babies were born when we were on the ship. And we came down into Seoul. I got there. We got a lot (INAUDIBLE) I got hit right here. You can see a little mark right here on my eye.
B: See this little mark right there? That’s awfully close. If it had went there, I would have lost my eye. But I didn’t.
It was just this right there. Anyway, I took off and I started looking for the people that, there was a guy named Fellis. And he was our truck driver. He was totally dead. I found him and I found another guy with a shoulder hit. And then I found another guy and I said keep calm. The medics are on their way, and you’ll be out of here very quickly. So just keep calm, you know. And they said okay, they felt they could relax, you know.
And then the medics came and took everybody away that were dead. They took away everybody. Then I went back to where the two guys were watching the ammunition that was on fire, you know. It was put out because it was dark. You could tell if it was burning or not. And they said the wood fire is out we’ve gone he said. But two people came here to talk to us. And I said yeah? Who were they? The guy said we don’t know. They looked like they were officers. They had the uniforms on, you know, with the trench, the coats they wore in the cold.
And they had just left. They were walking away when I got there. And I said I didn’t know. They just wanted to find out what happened. Well, I forgot all about it after that , went on with business, you know. I found out later, much later, that they awarded Charley Begonis and the hill the Silver Star, you know. And when they saw this blood coming down my face, they said here, this is for you. It was a box. They gave me the box.
They said call the medic. Are you, if you want to go where the medics are at. I said where are they at? They’re up the road about a mile if you wanna walk. I said no way am I gonna go up a dark road in the middle of the night looking for a medic. I’m gonna stay right here where it’s safe, you know. So, I didn’t go. I stayed right there, and they put a patch on my eye. And next morning, they had a pile of clothing they were burning to get rid of. They didn’t want to leave anything for the Chinese, you know.
And then, show the picture of the convoy leaving the Chosin Reservoir. They invited me to lunch.
I: Is that you in the
B: One of those is me.
B: That’s me right there. And they invited me for lunch, yeah. I also took a picture of the convoy leaving the Chosin Reservoir, which was interesting because for history, I didn’t realize it was gonna be history.
But it is. This is the picture I took. On the left, on the right side you can see the convoy, the trucks.
I: I do.
B: And then on the other side you see a lot of smoke. Well, we burnt the town down, the town of Chosin. We totally burned it down so that the Chinese had no place to stay, you know. They went there, there was no place to stay, you know. No cover for them cause it was all, I don’t know. How many did they say came down there, 300,000 Chinese?
I: I think I heard that.
B: It was something like that, a lot of Chinese, you know. And they had no place to stay. So that’s just a picture of one of the power plants that was involved near Chosin. This I don’t understand.
Female Voice: That’s the (INAUDIBLE)
B: I don’t understand this really. That’s why I cut it out of the paper and brought it along anyway because it’s from an old newspaper. You might want to look at that.
You know what it says? It says B29s bomb this thing. And when they drove away, it looked like a mushroom cloud coming up from like an atomic bomb. But no, that’s all. There was no other facts about it, you know?
I: Um hm.
B: Isn’t that weird?
B: It was weird to see that, like an atomic bomb went off. But it wasn’t an atomic bomb I guess. I don’t know.
B: Boy it was cold up there. We huddled in our clothes. We didn’t really have really good clothes to wear, but we had what we had. And it was like 30 degrees below zero. We did the best we could.
I: And you also took this photo.
B: I don’t know if I did or not. I don’t remember. I think I did.
B: I’m not sure. I don’t know who else would. Here’s, my son’s gonna bring that, I wish I had it with me today, it’s at home.
I left it home. It’s my hat that, part of my uniform that I was wearing when I left there. It was in total rags. Just like a hobo or whatever you wanna say. And that’s the hat I was wearing. I still have it. I kept it. These are just guys sitting around. I don’t think I took this picture. I can’t remember taking that one either. I didn’t take this one. But this is me with my hat.
And I beat it all. The smirk on my face. Is that the same one? I’ve got a bigger one there, too, huh?
I: So, this hat in the photo is sitting right here.
I: Oh my.
B: Yeah. I brought it.
I: Can I touch it?
B: Absolutely. You can try it on if you want.
I: Oh gosh, it’s heavy.
B: I know.
I: Oh my gosh.
B: I lost about 3” in height wearing it.
Male Voice: I got one of these at a surplus store a long time ago.
B: The hat has a history, too.
I: Yeah, please tell us.
B: Let me tell you the history of the hat.
B: We had a Marine named Mumbers. And he stunk. He didn’t clean himself or wash himself. And pretty soon we could smell him from here to the door. So, me and some other guys got together and said you know, we can’t, jeeze, get out of here.
So, we put water in the hat and put it over the fire and go tit hot and said here, go wash your face. Go wash, here. He took it. And you know what he did? He made tea out of it. That was it. We didn’t, I didn’t see him after that. However interestingly enough, years later, and I don’t remember what year it was,
He was here in the United States. I saw him walk in a restaurant. We were there eating, and he comes walking in. And we said Mumber, is that you? Yes, it is. I said, he’s working for Sparkling Water delivery.
B: He’s delivering Sparkling Water. You know, he’s all clean and shaved and everything really nice, you know. Oh my God.
I: Oh wow.
B: Interesting. What else we got here? Got a Western Union message to my father that I’m coming home. You wanna see that?
B: Okay, here it is.
B: I’m telling my father I’m coming home.
I: Did you work as a journalist or something? You kept all these things.
B: I don’t know. I was, my father was Irish, but my mother was full Italian, okay? (TALKS ITALIAN) Anyway, and we lived with them.
In his backyard, he built a, what do you call it, place, a cook stove? What do you call it, a big thing. It’s like, it looked like a dome. And he, out of bricks and stuff. And then you would put wood in there and you can make a fire and you get it real hot and then you’d bake your bread. He sent us some bread. But when we got the bread, it was so hard we put it in the cannon, and we fired it at the enemy. And he thought that was the funniest thing he ever heard. He said , you couldn’t break it or nothing.
We’d pound on it. It was so, like a rock. But we, I told him that. We started writing women when we were back in the United States, young ladies, you know. And like making a contact with them. And I didn’t think I was very handsome or anything like that. But we had one guy there that was, he should have been a movie star. I would send his picture to these ladies back then. They wrote back whoa, we wanna meet you. Oh my God.
Here’s a group that is with us when we finally got back down to a place where it was safe to be. Here’s the whole group right there. Howitzer cannon aiming up in the air like this. (INAUDIBLE) up high and come straight down again. It’s not gonna go very far. Here’s a picture of me and my Howitzer. They come and took that picture.
Me and my Howitzer. I mean, you could not bring any automatic weapons home. And that meant a Thompson submachine gun which I had picked up, you know, (SHOOTING SOUNDS) And so I took it apart and threw the pieces all different directions all over the place.
B: I didn’t want to give it to nobody. So, I just took it apart and threw it all over the place.
B: And I have a Russian rifle, of course.
You can’t hit nothing with it. You hit the side of a barn; you could not hit any wall in the barn. A lot of things happened in the Service. We made a alcoholic beverage called Kickapoi Joy Juice.
I: What joy juice?
B: Kickapoi Joy Juice. There were several ways to make it. One way was to, the medic, Doc Newey, we went to the doctor, then he would give us some alcohol.
And we mixed that up and mixed it with water. And then we’d take one of those lifesavers sticks like that and drop it in there. It would give it flavor. And man, it knocked you on your butt. It might make you blind, too, if you drank too much of it.
B: But uh, fruit like pears or peaches , peaches in the juice into a metal container and bury it in the ground for about a couple weeks.
We’d bury it in the back area. And when we dug it up, oh boy. Knock you on your butt. Then finally we got some beer. The Army got beer a lot. And they saved it up. They got drunk one time, and they got overrun by Chinese and had a big, big problem. They didn’t want that to happen.
And we were very, that hole I was in with those other guys, they were over there a little ways, about a couple hundred yards. And we understand they got attacked in the middle of the night after a night of beer drinking contest and had a hared time with the Chinese. So, things like that happened. It was all kinds of things that happened in the Service.
I: What does Kickapoi mean?
B: Kickapoi, it’s just a, it could be that, I don’t know. I’ll be honest with you. It could be something that came out of Appalachians, the hillbillies, you know.
It’s kickapoi joy juice, you know.
I: I see on your hat you have some writing.
B: Well, let me tell me about those on there.
B: These guys got the medal of honor. These are big deals. I gotta get my glasses. Oh, Lewis Millet.
Lewis Millet was Army, but he was a heck of a guy, nice guy. And he was, he’s the one, where the heck he is. He said we did it in World War II, and we did it in Korea. I said well, what’d you do? He said we were fighting the Chinese, and they yelled out fixmason. That means put your bayonet and your rifle. We’re gonna charge. And he charged them. He said there was Chinese running in all different directions.
Scared the hell out of everybody. Al Rascone, yeah. He came up from North California. Oh, he covered a guy with his body and saved his life. But he got shot. They gave him one. And then there’s, there’s one on here I really think, Ray Davis. Have you heard of Ray Davis?
I: Oh, I think so.
B: Ray Davis was a wonderful person. He’s a little guy. He got another one. Wonderful person. Ray, he signs here Korea December 1950. Yeah.
I: And he signed it in December 1950?
B: No, he signed it when I showed him. But he put down when he was there.
B: That’s the date he was there, December 1950.
I: This is gonna be like a treasure, yeah.
B: Here, Ray Murray. Ray Murray has a down at Oceanside. And he’s got a flagpole. I bet I have his picture somewhere.
I: Yeah. I saw that.
B: We didn’t bring it.
Female Voice: No. Or even Millet. We have a picture of Millet here.
B: Yeah. It’s at home. And there’s one more on here somewhere.
B: Who’s the guy that has a park named after him?
Female Voice: Oh, Barber,
B: Barber, yeah, Barber, Colonel Barber. He signed it too. He got the Medal of Honor, too.
B: It’s just memories, you know. But nobody made a cooking product out of it.
I: So, have you always been able to talk about the Korean War? I heard from some veterans they couldn’t for a while after they got back.
B: Well, it’s their personal problem, not the Korean War’s problem. Like when I started to get a little, few tears when I started talking about the little girl. Certain little things upset you. And I’m 84 years old, and they still bother me, you know? Yeah, 84.
But they still bother me when I talk about it. So, I don’t talk about it. My nose would stuff up if I didn’t. And that’s about it then. I don’t know what else to say. There’s a few other things that happened. Many other things happened. What’s the lady’s name that was a nurse?
Female Voice : Lillian Kyle.
B: Lillian Kyle. Oh my God. If she walked in here, you’d think what is this, a little nun or something?
Lilian Kyle was a nurse, and she flew every mission there was over to the Chosin to pick up the wounded. And they were gonna make her a captain on the way home, but she didn’t stay in long enough to make captain, almost. They wanted to make her a captain. She was a stewardess to start with. And then a nurse.
And then she flew every mission there was that I could think of back and forth out of the Chosin Reservoir with the wounded.
Female Voice: She was also a World War.
B: Yeah. There was a, what I thought were one of the wounded asked her am I gonna live? And she said don’t worry son. You’re gonna be fine. I went to her house several times. She lived in Covina, West Covina. And she had one room in there with little airplanes you know.
And uh, stuff like that. She was a wonderful, wonderful person. I got pictures of her. How come I didn’t bring any?
Female Voice: I was mainly picking out the ones that you were in.
B: That one of her is uh, what’s his name?
I: Is Miss Lillian Kyle still alive?
B: No, they’re gone. All these people are gone. I don’t know why I’m still here.
I: To tell these stories.
B: But they told me that after the age of 80, if you have lived that long, you don’t die. You wear out. So, I’m still wearing out, you know. I’m still wearing out. My grandpa was 93, 94, 95, and he was still drinking wine and didn’t smoke anymore, you know. Then he called me one day and he says Barry, but he didn’t call me Barry. He called me Benny.
Benny, I said yes grandpa. Where are you? Little short guy. He says I’m tired. He said I’m tired. And I said okay grandpa. It’s okay. Then very shortly after that, he passed away. He just got tired, you know. But he had a wonderful life. His house where he lived had a big, big backyard. It had chickens and had rabbits.
It had all kinds of plants and fig trees and avocado trees and lettuce and tomatoes and everything growing in his yard. When he, he didn’t have a car. He worked in the foundry, and we would pick him up and take him to the foundry cause he worked in a foundry, he had a bicycle that he took to the market to buy, he got oil, like cooking oil. His wife would take the tomatoes and make a paste, tomato, for spaghetti, lots and lots of spaghetti, you know.
And lots and lots of people went there. During the hot weather, he had a big patio with a grape vine growing above it you know, stuff like that. And they’d sit out there and drink wine and say it was beautiful.
I: Did you say you’ve been back to Korea to visit?
B: I would love to.
I: Why didn’t you?
B: But then again, I don’t want to.
B: You know why? Because it’s not the Korea I left. Like you’re who you are now. You’re beautiful.
You’re young and beautiful. Thirty years from now, who knows what you’ll look like. You won’t be young and beautiful anymore, that’s for sure. You’ll be older and beautiful, okay? Once we were young and beautiful. Now we’re just beautiful. So, I see pictures, photos of it, and it’s like New York, like I said. It’s a big giant industrial work. And the people are great. I can’t believe, they can believe because it happened. We can’t believe. Yes, you do because it happened.
You’re like my son and you’re like my daughter, you know. And we have a relationship that I don’t know why we have such a relationship, but we do. We went there to a country that we never heard of. I never heard of Korea before. I didn’t know the people. I didn’t know the country. I didn’t know nothing. But all the places we went, you can’t compare any other place, Germany, Japan or maybe Italy you can because I know the Italians.
We were that close as being brother and sister. And uncle and aunt or whatever, you know. It’s just the way it is. I don’t know why, but that’s the way it is. I guess God knows why. And here we are. And there I am, here I am, goodbye. That’s it.
We had the hour’s up.
I: Yeah. Well Ken, by chance, do you have any questions?
K: Yeah. These are just specific details I thought maybe you could answer. Where were you like in Korea when you met the Royal Marines?
B: I was at the Chosin Reservoir.
K: Chosin Reservoir.
K: Um, do you know anything about the Yoktong Pass?
B: About the what?
K: Yoktong Pass.
B: There’s a pass you said?
K: Yeah, Yoktong Pass.
B: Is it on the map?
I: I heard a few veterans talk about that, too, Yoktong Pass.
B: Let’s see what we got here. Udamni.
K: Yeah. There was a
B: Yoktong, Co di you tunk, Yoktong.
B: Pass, right there. Right above Hagaru.
K: Yeah. From my understanding, I’m aware that there was a convoy from Yongdong to Hagaru consisted of the 5thand the 7th Marines.
But as far as I’m concerned, I’m not sure.
B: It’s on the map.
K: It’s on the map.
B: Yoktong is right above Chosin.
B: You see it?
K: Yes sir.
K: What could you tell me about the Pass?
B: I didn’t get that far up.
K: Didn’t get that far.
B: I got as far as Chosin. What I will say, uh, Chosin.
B: A lot of them went up through, excuse me, went up further, turned around and came back down because they ran into 3,000 Chinese or 30,000 Chinese, 300,000. I don’t know how many there were. Like ants. Oh, I gotta tell you about that. The Royal Marines.
I: Oh, would it be okay to take off your glasses?
B: Oh, excuse me.
I: Thank you.
B: Uh, we’re walking down the road and there’s smoke coming from over around the side over there.
And so, let’s go see what it’s all about. We climbed the mountain to look, looked over the top and we looked down probably, I would say around 300 Chinese having lunch. And how I counted them I learned to count by section. See this square, square, square, 10 in a square, 10 more, 10 more, 10 more, like that. That’s how I learned to count.
And so, we added it all together, and there, I would estimate at least 300. Wow, that’s a lot of people. They were all wearing white. They were eating rice. They had these big bowls cooking up rice after. Well, we looked down and we looked at each other and don’t move. Don’t say anything. Don’t shoot. Don’t do nothing. So, we just sat there and waited till about 4:00 in the afternoon. They all left. I don’t know where they went. They went back to their guns positions.
And then a little bit later in the late, late afternoon, I had the Howitzers fire one round. It’s called a marker shell, and it landed over here. And then I told, you gotta move it to the left abut 500 yards or whatever. And they fired one more round, and it was pretty darn close. And that’s it. No more. Stop right there. The next day, we didn’t do anything. They all came late again.
And the next day, they came and ate again. Well, then five Howitzers over here (INAUDIBLE) on them. And five Howitzers over here will put (INAUDIBLE) on them. And blew them all to hell. God. Rice flying, people flying and pots flying in the air. And they totally destroyed the whole bunch. That was the, that’s what happens.
You know, it was a bad thing in me because it upset me, you know. It was murder, you know, and it felt like. And when I got home, it kept coming back to me what happened, and I didn’t like what happened. Although they were out to, they would have caught me, killed me if they had the chance. It was just the way I felt about things. And other people felt the same way I did, I’m sure, that there’s war and then there’s murder.
[END RECORDED MATREIAL]