Korean War Legacy Project

Basil Kvale


Basil Kvale was a WWII veteran who tried to join the British military to fly their planes, but he was told he was too young, so as a 17 year old, Basil Kvale lied about his age to get into the Marine Corps.  He fought in Guadalcanal and Okinawa during WWII, and then Basil Kvale went over to Korea when the Korean War began.  He fought in the Uijeongbu and the Taebaek Mountains which stretch across North and South Korea.  Basil Kvale was so close to the Chinese that he could see the type of guns they had.  While using cannon fire, planes, and aircraft carriers, he assisted in the war effort by giving the coordinates of where to fire on the Chinese.  It was difficult to fight in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir due to the extremely cold weather that reached 40 below zero.

Video Clips

The Battle of the Chosin Reservoir

Basil Kvale fought in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir in weather that reached 40 degrees below zero. The men nicknamed the region the "Frozen Chosin" since the temperature was cold enough to freeze a soldiers' skin. He worked with a lieutenant to create locations to hit the enemy throughout his time in this battle.

Tags: 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir, 11/27-12/13,Jangjin,Cold winters,Front lines,Living conditions,Personal Loss,Physical destruction

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Fighting in Ujeongbu and the Taebacek Mountains

Basil Kvale was taken to Ujeongbu (Northern Korea) with an amphibious military group to set up for battle. They moved a lot and were so close that they could see the Chinese right near their location. At a new location in the Taebacek Mountains, Basil Kvale was over 3,000 feel above sea level and it was an important location to give orders of where to bomb.

Tags: Gangneung,Chinese,Cold winters,Fear,Front lines,Living conditions,Personal Loss,Physical destruction,Weapons

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Chinese POW-Ping

Basil Kvale captured a Chinese POW named Ping who later was sent with other soldiers. As a Marine, Basil Kvale was asked to help give the coordinates for the bombing to aid his commander. He had the cannons and bombs attack from four different sides which led to total disaster for the Chinese.

Tags: Gangneung,Chinese,Fear,Front lines,Living conditions,Personal Loss,Physical destruction,Weapons

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Transcribed Material]


B:        My name is Basil Kvale.  The V is  a W, and you drag it out and get Kwale.

I:          When and where were you born?
B:        Uh, Conger, Min uh, it’s Conger, Minnesota supposedly.  But there’s a funny thing about this. Conger, Minnesota, and Iowa were half and half as far as the road is concerned.



I:          When did you enlist?
B:        When I was 17 years old.

I:          What year was that?
B:        Oh God, 17 years old. I tried to get in with the British to fly airplanes and do the gunnering on it.



But they said I was too young.  And they said you come on back again.  And I said don’t pull that crap on me.  I said I am gonna go home and get into the Marine Corps.  And that’s exactly what I did.  When I was 17 years old, I lied my way for a little bit as to how old I was.



And I was in the Marines.

I:          It says on your bio that you enlisted in 1943.

B:        Yeah.
I:          So, what made you want to enlist in the military?

B:        What did I want?  I wanted them to get to the point of where we could beat the Japanese down to the point of where they wanted to go for peace.



Well for one thing, I was two years in Guadalcanal. And after that, we got to Kalalu which was Japanese also.  And I said if we get aircraft carrier down here in two days,



We got a, I’ve got about uh, 80 cannons that are kind of keeping the Japanese where they are.  And I said if we get aircraft carrier, I said, (INAUDIBLE) Corsair airplanes and F4s and I said they ain’t gonna wanna come back anymore and try for peace.


And I said well, organize things so they could do coordination with the fire direction signal in, where we were.  And it actually turned out that way.



We had about 16 cannons, and the Japanese I don’t think had anywhere  near that.  And I had a little argument with this guy that was directing the artillery fire up in the air. So, I said if you shut up and let  me do the coordination with the fire directions, I said we can get the aircraft carrier down there.



And I said it’s gonna be the same Japanese.  But I said those guys are gonna be awful close to the ground when they get down here.  And it was that way.  I would say that the Japanese probably had a mile and a half or two or more of troops there and aircraft carrier and about 80 or 90 cannons that I had.



It was nothing but dead guys.  And shortly after that I told the aircraft carrier (INAUDIBLE) and I said I think the Japanese are gonna plead for peace.  And that’s what, exactly what happened.



I:          So, when did you arrive in Korea?
B:        Huh?
I:          When did you arrive in Korea?
B:        In Korea?  Well, it was uh, Guadalcanal, Kalalu, Okinawa.  Kalalu is pretty close to Korea.  And that was actually as far as the battles with the Japanese was very, very bitter fighting.



But we did, went out with them.  And when we got the aircraft carrier down there with as many aircraft that they had, that was the end of the war between Japan and the United States.

I:          So, were you still in the military when the Korean War broke out?
B:        Huh?
I:          Were you still in the military when the Korean War broke out?



B:        Oh yeah.

I:          So where were you in Korea?

B:        Uh, we were in the different kind of situation.  There was an outfit that was an amphibious corps, and they were gonna shoot us up to a place that was gonna set things up in Korea.



And they (INAUDIBLE) up into Uijeongbu way up in the north of the United States.  And that’s where the main part of the battle was fought.  We were in the Taebaek Mountains.



And B29s and 28s just tried to destroy that area.  And it was hard to do because the weather at that time was 40 degrees below.  And after they got done with their stuff, why we moved to a different part.



And the Japanese, it was like I was looking at them just sitting down there and watching.  And got the aircraft doing that and the 80 or 90 guns that I had.  The Chinese were nothing ,or Japanese were nothing as far as doing good.


There was one thing that they did want.  They wanted a 50-caliber gun, and they were trying to get up to the top of the thing.  There was a different thing between them and us.  They were down in a valley, and we were up in the Taebaek Mountains looking down at them from three to four thousand feet down.



And the Japanese were getting, trying to get up to the place where we were in the Taebaek Mountains.  And there was a gentleman by the name of Chinese Pang, and we captured one little guy from that outfit would have been in World War I,



The stuff was from there.  And Chinese and the Japanese got the stuff that was in with the United States Army.  And the 29th bombed the first for about three or four days trying to destroy the ones.



And the Marines had a captain that was gonna direct the air things as far as the battle was concerned. And he said he was, I think he didn’t want to have me do the thing as it was.  And he says I can verbalize it, he says, and you’re gonna have to tell me what you want.  So that’s what I did.



I attacked them from four different directions.  And that was bad business for them cause I could sit there with 80 cannons, and they were down at their end in a, you know, 3,000 what difference between where I was and they were.



And it was just total disaster.  And it wasn’t till about a month and a half later that they moved their place away and finally figured out I went down there, and they had their, most of their troops there had a big hospital down there.



And they bugged out on that.  And that kind of cost them a little bit.  So that got into the battle after that.  I had them coming in from four different ways.  And we had ammunition as a barrier



Cannon shells opened up at about, uh, less than 400 places from, for the airplanes. But the Admiral didn’t know whether he wanted to do that.  He wanted to use his big cannon.  And I said well, if you will allow me to or you do it, I said, try to get an aircraft carrier in two days,



And I said I guarantee you that we’ll knock the Japanese down to the point of where they want, uh, super peace.  And that’s exactly what happened.  I had them pin in with our fire direction area with the airplanes.



And I laid the cannons down there to try and keep them down, and the F4s were, and the Corsairs, I would say were probably 50’ off the ground when they started getting onto the Japanese from an area where they were at least a mile and a half or two miles of Japanese down there.



And it was so close that when I was setting there direction, the other stuff, the shells coming out of the airplane were so warm that it got on my jacket and nice and hot, burned my neck.



So that was about the end of the whole thing because they got beaten to pieces.

I:          So back to Korea, what was your date of departure from Korea, or approximately?

B:        Korea?  Oh, that was awful close to the 40’s.

I:          From Korea?

B:        From Korea?  Yeah.



Korea uh, we were up in what they call the Frozen Chosin where the temperature was 40 degrees below.  And uh, we had a good time to start out with.   Now there was a Lieutenant that was supposed to be above me.



And the guy from the air Force was also and coordinated with the FDC which is called Fire Direction stuff.  I got the airplanes down to lower level.  And uh it was just sheer things murdered if you wanna put it that way.



Cause just General Ping from China or Japan, he said that I killed too many troops of his.  And when it was all over with, I went down to  where we did it and it was a great big underground hospital that was treating the people that were still alive.



That was pretty much the way it ended up with.  And it wasn’t me that guaranteed the thing. I was just directing the thing cause the Colonel of it was telling them that Basil was gonna direct all of the firing where the Japanese were.