Benjamin Basham is from Los Angeles, CA. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1947 and was called into action from Camp Pendleton, forming a brigade that was supposed to go to Pusan, but unexpectedly landed in Inchon. He subsequently describes entering Seoul after the city was taken by the Americans; Wansun landing; encountering the Chinese, and his impressions of Korea then and now. He even explains the living conditions, including the terrible frostbite due to a lack of supplies. Even after coming home, Benjamin Basham continued his military service until October 1, 1982.
Benjamin Basham describes landing unexpectedly at Inchon directly after the Army had landed there for the invasion. He describes it being frightening, and experiencing some sniper fire, although the army had cleared out most of the opposition.
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Benjamin Basham describes his company going into the city of Seoul, capturing the Capital, raising the flag, and clearing out the resistance. He says that during the night they were assaulted, yet he was so tired he slept through all the gunfire. He remembers the reception of the Korean residents, who at first were dazed, but then were welcoming of the Americans.
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Death by Frostbite
After describing the intense attacks that his company went through, Benjamin Basham explains how many people died from frostbite as well. He says that they didn’t have the right type of equipment, even with the Mickey Mouse boots. Unfortunately, there were not extra supplies or new socks to prevent this from happening. Even with those conditions, he was confident that he was going to survive and come back home.
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[Beginning of recorded material]
B: Uh, I’m, my name is Ben Basham and, uh, I was born in Los Angeles, California. I was, uh, was born on July the 23rd, 1931. Uh, I enlisted in the Marine Corps. in, in 1947, and when the Korean War broke out, I was at Camp Pendleton, California, uh. So I was probably about 19 at that time and, uh, we formed a division, uh. After the second world war, they decimated the Marine Corps. as they did to every other service,
so they had to bring in people from all over and started to form the First Marine Division. They took all the people that they had at the Camp Pendleton just about and formed the First Marine Brigade that went to Pusan. Uh, I was with the division. I as with, initially, the 11thMarines which is an artillery outfit and, uh, we, we went over, uh. We sailed in August, I don’t recall the date,
on the William Wegel[INAUDIBLE]
I: August of what?
B: of 1950.
B: Yeah. And we, we, we, uh, went to Japan and then reloaded into, uh, I, I went to an LST, Japanese LST as a matter of fact, and we sailed around, I was supposed to go to Pusan and join a unit there, but instead we went around and went to Inchon to make the landing on September.
I: What day?
I: So you were in the Inchon Landing?
I: The original first one?
B: That’s right.
I: So, uh, what was the kind of order, or were you aware that you were going to land in Inchon?
B: No, did not. Uh, uh,
I: What did you hear from your superiors?
B: Well, not very much. Uh, uh, we, when we were in Japan, I was, we were loading and reloading, and we didn’t even know where we were going, you know, where we were going. I, we always thought we were going to Pusan and, uh, people said no, you’re gonna go
up and make a landing in North Korea. And, uh, we did know it due to the rumors. When we got on board ship and we were there, uh, we were told afterwards that we were gonna after we came around, uh, the typhoon, and went up to the, the west coast of Korea, we, uh, uh, were told that we were gonna go into Inchon and, uh, which didn’t mean anything to us. It was just that it was a port on the, the west coast.
Uh, we combat loaded and went in, uh, on the first day and not much happening. There was, there was some light resistance, uh, cause I was with the artillery, and we were getting that much, uh, the infantry outfit would call in on, I don’t know, on the island, uh, when we were on the, the, can’t remember the name of that island that sits right at the end of the harbor there. They, they moved, they went into there and, uh, and we went in,
and went in then, and for several days, uh, things were, were moving at a pretty, pretty rapidly. Uh, then I was transferred to the infantry with, uh, the 5thMarines, uh, and we went into, uh, the Seoul, the seizure of Seoul.
I: You are; you are walking too fast here.
I: So historic day of Inchon Landing on the September 15.
I: What was feeling when you first land into the seashore there?
B: I was scared.
I: And could you describe the, the scene there?
B: Okay. The scene, it was, it was pretty chaotic. We, we, uh, some of the outfits were going in, and we had to go to a, through the wall and climb the ladders and go up. I did not have to cause we went in, into the side and went around that area on an LST and landed. And, uh, the, we had some resistance, and there were, were snipers shooting at us. And so, but
not much because most of the infantry had cleared those areas out by the time we, we, we, we pulled into there. We pulled in and set up and, uh, were talking to the, talking to the other people and firing the artillery, uh, to, uh, the, uh, toward the, the city.
I: So the American soldiers were actually waiting for you guys there.
B: Not, well, we came in approximately the same, within hours of each other. The, the infantry, uh,
you know, was there ahead of us. The Marines that were ahead there and, uh, we set up, and then they kept going forward, and then as, as they would go forward, we would move forward with them, uh, several, several hundred yards behind them. Uh, this, this went on for about a week maybe, uh. I don’t recall exactly, and then I got transferred up to be with the infantry as a forward observer team, uh, for artillery. I was with an infantry company, uh,
George, George Company, Third Battalion, 5thMarines, uh, and we were the assault at that time. So we would move, move up to an area and then we’d leapfrog going in until we could bog down while we went across the, the river, and then we were on our way to, uh, to Seoul and, uh, we got bogged down in there and, and we were calling in artillery support and, and support from the Missouri which was out at, out at sea, uh,
and then we went into Seoul. Going into Seoul, uh, there was resistance going in, especially, uh, city fighting. You’re, uh, you’re going through houses and, and going, and of course Seoul, at that time, was all, all, I remember it was single story houses. There was no big, those are the biggest building that I remember seeing was the Capitol, and our, our objective, from my company, was the Capital. So we went down and went down to the city
and to the, to the, the, the alleys and through the streets, uh, of Seoul cleaning all the existence out as
I: Macking out.
B: Uh, yeah, as we did clearing out everything and going toward the Capitol, uh, and then that morning, uh, we made the grand assault, took the Capitol building, uh, first the flag of the Capitol building and we, we did have some snipers. We had a couple people killed and a couple people wounded, uh, from snipers which we sent out patrols to clear out, uh.
We stayed there, I think it was one day, maybe more, and we started to do patrols through the city. They, when MacArthur was coming in, they kicked us out because we didn’t, we didn’t look very good. I mean, we were pretty dirty and, and, and, you know, just, and, and, we, they didn’t want our pictures taken they told us. So then we moved out, just outside of Seoul, outside the walls there and, uh, we stayed there and set up a [INAUDIBLE] thing, and then we went to
and spent the night in the University, uh. I think it was the University. It was a school. Anyway, we spent the night in the school.
I: Was it west or the east?
B: It would, I don’t know.
B: I, I don’t recall. And then we went, and they, we had, were part of the whole unit was doing a big, uh, security area all the way around the, the city, and then we went in, in, into a, a, by truck for a couple hours outside of Seoul,
and then we got hit by a machine gun fire, uh. There was, uh, actually they were young kids. They were, they, they had, they were shooting at us with machine guns and the, the,
I: Young kids?
B: Young kids. They were, uh, they, they, the North Koreans had gotten them and put them there to shoot at us, and they were young kids that were, were shooting.
I: Were they were chained?
B: Yes. And so, we got up there, we cleared that area out, and we went up on the hill.
We spent the night there, uh, and strange thing happened. In fact, this is one of the things in, that, to have, that night I was just so tired, and then I had set my radio up right next to me, and I rolled over to sleep, and I woke up in the morning, and everybody thought I was dead because they had a, they had an assault on the hill, and I slept through it. Uh, my, my radio was full of holes. My sleeping bag
had bullet holes in it. I wasn’t having a scratch on me. Nothing.
I: You slept through the night?
B: I slept through the night through the assault and everything. I was definitely tired, you know? And, uh, they thought I was dead because they, the, I didn’t move and, uh. And so then the, the, in the morning, you know,
I: So that, was that around the end of September or early October?
I: You recur, rec, recovered the, uh, Seoul,
I: uh, September 28.
B: 28th, yeah. So it would have been, it would have been, uh, late, probably early October by that time.
I: Early October.
I: Before you go elaborate on, uh, how was the reception of the Korean people, uh, in Seoul City when you marching in?
I: Remember anything?
B: Well, it, it was kind of sketchy, and the reason why I say that it was, the people were scared. There were still snipers. There were still wars going on, and then when we were doing our, our patrolling, uh, there was an awful lot
of Koreans who were getting, uh, revenge if you will, against the South Koreans who had, uh, worked for the North Koreans, and the, the, so the [INAUDIBLE] types of, type of people. And we, we, we’d see, we’d come to an alley and we’d find several people beating up on somebody, you know, um, and, and we had Korean, uh, interpreters with us, and they’ re just don’t worry about that. That’s okay, you know. They were the bad guys. And, uh, we ran into
several cases of that. The people themselves, you know, like when we were in the roads there, they would wave at us and, uh, you know, [KOREAN PHRASE] and all that kind of thing, which was, as, as I found out later is, is the, we’re, you know, hooray for the Americans kind of thing. And, uh, and we went into this little town, as I said, it’s a little, small village, uh, and we, we spent about a week there patrolling uh, uh, outside, uh, and then we got the vehicles checked and came back to Inchon, uh,
Inchon and this would have been, uh, I guess, uh, it, it was in October, and, uh, got back to Inchon, reloaded onto, uh, ships and sailed around to, uh, Wonsan.
I: Okay. Um, before we talk about your, uh, another landing in Wonsan, what was the Seoul City like, it was, when you marching in?
B: Yeah. Uh, Seoul, it, it was, like I say it looked like a, a small, small town with a big, one big building, you know. And, but it looked, you know, it had, it had really been torn up. I mean, the, the, the, you know, there were a lot of buildings that had, that had been just destroyed, uh, a lot of houses, um, um. Most of the people did not have any place to go, uh, and, and, those people who were there were just, you know, they were, uh, initially just dazed. They, they didn’t have, know what was going on really.
It’s like, it’s like everyplace I’ve ever been there’s been a battle, uh. The, the refugees were, were many of them, uh, and we would give them our c-rations and things like that. But, uh, the, once things sort of settled down, they were so happy to see us, you know. They were very elated and everything
I: What was the rationale to relocate the Marine through the sea rather than
B: Go straight up.
I: go straight up to the land?
I: To the Wonsan?
B: Okay. My understanding, the Grand Plan, which came from, uh,
B: MacArthur’s [INAUDIBLE] was that the, the plan was to move north, and the idea was that the Marines would take the, uh, eastern side of the mountains, and the Army would go up the western side of the mountains.
I: Um hm.
B: Theoretically, we were supposed to be able to support one another
I: Um hm.
B: which was stupid
because the mountains were too high and too big. It can’t be done. It just, not, not a, you, eventually they could get over, but they, you know, by that time the battle would be over. So we, we’d pull around, and the Korean Marines and Army had gone up the east coast, uh. They, they were there before us
B: Yeah. And they, uh, we moved in, and the, by that time there was nothing going on, and we, we moved by train to Hamhung, uh, and, uh,
Wonsan, and then we went by truck mostly and sometimes by foot, uh, going north, and we would, our, the commanding generals in the Marine Corps. did not like, uh, MacArthur’s plan because they could see it as anybody could that, uh, this, you sent us up on a single narrow road, uh, to the north, uh, no way to support each other, stretching our supply lines to the, to the nth degree, and theoretically
we were supposed to go up to the reservoir and make a left hand turn and go to the west coast, uh, to help them in the, help the Army go up. That was the plan. The landing at Wonsan was almost like a training express. Uh, we, we did the normal thing. We, we off loaded from the, uh, personnel carriers, the big ships and what have you onto this landing craft, and we circled, came in, uh, and there was, there were some people there to meet us, but that was, and we just came up and, uh,
we could see where the defensive positions on the beach if the Koreans, uh, Army and Marines had not cleared that area out before we got there, we would have had a terrible battle and a, a, uh, a blood bath because the, the thing was, was nothing more than trench lines, uh, one after the other on that beach, uh, that we, they would have met us. The, and barbed wire and what have you. But, uh, there was nothing there. I mean, there was
I: Was Korean military
ordered to be there earlier than the Marines?
B: I, I think the, the intent, uh, was we were gonna be simultaneously. But because of the lines in Wonsan Harbor, we were delayed. We, we stayed up and down the east coast for about a week, uh, waiting to go ashore.
B: And that, so in the meantime as, as we were doing this, of course, the Korean Marines and Army came up and
I: And demining.
B: Yeah. It was as a, it was, we brought in mine, the mine sweepers to clean that out so they could bring the ships in. But in the meantime, the Korean Armies moved up north and pushed the North Koreans out of the area.
I: Um. So what was the main mission of your Wonsan landing. Wasn’t just to kick the Wonsan on the control, but where you were headed, and what was the main mission to achieve?
B: Uh, our, ours was just to get it and continue north to the Yalu River.
I: Yalu River.
B: Yeah. We, we, we, we didn’t think we’d ever get there,
uh, because they, there was no, you know, once we got up there, we figured that the war would be over. As, as a matter of fact, once, after we landed at Wonsan and, and moved, start moving up, uh, we were t old that we’ll probably be home for Christmas, you know, which was, you know, not happening but, uh,
I: But why Yalu? Why, why not Tumen River? You know, you were in the east side
I: or east coast, and, you know, obviously the river up there
I: is Tumen River, not the Yalu River.
I: So why?
B: I have no idea.
I: Uh huh.
B: That’s what we were told. And now I, now, uh, whether that was just rumors that was, uh, you know, to going, because our, the actual specific missions sometimes were very unclear because it changed often. As we were moving north, uh, I said we, the, the, part of the plan was we would leap frog, uh. A, a battalion, uh, would go up ahead, and you would go there, and then a regiment would move up and then, this kind of thing, uh. So
making sure we consolidated our areas as we moved up, up north. And my unit, uh, we, we moved right straight up, and we went to the, the, uh, east of the, of, uh, the, uh, Chosin, uh, rather than to the west, uh. We went out on the east side of there took that area. We were patrolling up there, and we would run into, uh, firefights, you know. But it was quick, and, and then we would move up, and there was nothing there, you know.
And it turned out it was the Chinese that were, had come down and some of the North Korean remnants that were there. We would run into them periodically, and to where, especially when we were patrolling up into the hills. But we went to the east side, and we ran into a little bit of, uh, opposition, but not much at that time. By that time, I think the Chinese had, had start hiding more than we, and then we stayed there for about a week, and we moved over on the 27th,
I remember that so very well because that’s when the Chinese was. So the Army came in, task force faiththrough the Army moved in to the east side of the, the reservoir, and we, we
I: Task force what?
B: Yeah. And then we moved out from there and went around to Yudam-ni to, to the west and I, and the, orders were that we were to stay there and then start, rather than moving straight up north, we were going to go to the left, as I said, go over to support the Army.
because in the meantime the Army had stepped in to some terrible battles on, uh, the other side of the mountains. Uh, we got to Yudam-ni, uh, the morning of, early morning or late morning
B: The 27th.
I: Of October?
B: No, of, of, uh, uh,
I: Oh, oh, oh.
B: The, with the, uh, yeah. When, the Reservoir, we got hit by the, uh, the Chinese.
I: Twenty-six of November?
B: Well, the 25thwas when the, they started hitting over on the side. But we got hit badly on the 27th.
B: So we, we came around to Yudam-ni, the 7thMarines and the 5thMarines and part of the 11thMarines were, were up there. They were trying to consolidate the thing, and the 1stMarines, it was the other regiment, was, uh, spread out all the way back to, almost to Wonsan and, yeah. And so
I: Total how many Marines were there?
B: One division.
I: One division.
B: Yeah. We
I: So about
B: About 2,500 to 3,000.
I: Three thousand.
B: With, within Korea, all, all the way because, uh, a third of them, if you will, uh, were with the 1stMarines, and they, they, they moved, they were on the, to handle the, the main line of [STAMMERS] supplies and so on, because they were at, uh, uh, I can’t remember the name of the town now. But anyway, there, they had several places along there on down, and we were all, we were as far as went.
The 2ndBattalion 5thMarines were, uh, in the point at that time. We, as the third battalion, were going to leap frog them the next day. So we were in reserve, uh, the regiment, the battalion headquarters was, uh, right off the side of the road, and we were sitting on the other side of the road, uh, just, in tents. I mean, we, we had pup tents. We up our pup tents for the night because we were in reserve, uh. The 7thand most of the 5thMarines were
all on, on line, and we were gonna go take the point the next morning, uh. Now, in the middle of the night, uh, I was, I was on guard at the time. All of a sudden over the top of the hill behind our, our, uh, battalion headquarters, this mass of people, Chinese, came running down the hill, uh, to go down, and we all, uh, scrambled, got up, got up and got the people up, and we went on, we were on this side of the road and the, like I say, we’re still supposed to be in reserve,
but we were this side of the road waiting to, to move. In the meantime, the Chinese had come down and come through our battalion headquarters, uh, killed our executive officer and a lot of people. We were, didn’t attack directly. We, we took and ran across the road, went through the headquarters, uh, taking the Chinese out of the point, chasing them back up to the top of the hill until, and, until early in the morning, uh, and they were, then we were getting sniper fire more than anything else.
Uh, I was sent back down to the, with our group, uh, our company. We went back up, uh, and, to set up, to try to put a, our, observation post, to get up, up there, for, to call in artillery so we needed to bring artillery support more accurately. And we got up the other side of the hill about ¾ of the way, and then we, we came under a lot of fire. So they pulled us back, uh, from there. But there were bodies all over the side of the hill from the Chinese and, and North Americans, uh,
and we got, we got pulled down, and then we, they shuffled us, us around, consolidation, and, uh, then a couple days later the decision was made to go back, to pull out. Well, at that time we knew that we were surrounded, uh. When we, we first went up, we didn’t know we were surrounded with [INAUDIBLE]
I: You were completely surrounded?
B: Yeah, we were surrounded. And, uh, the, we found out later one of the major goals of the Chinese was, was to, to actually destroy the 1stMarine Division.
They figured if they could destroy the 1stMarine Division, they would do several things, one of the psychological thing. So we, uh, started moving, uh, we were, uh, moving down, and we were, moving down andpart of the convoy went up on the sides of the hill providing support, and we would get periodic road blocks, uh, getting shot at the, uh, by, snipers and what have you, uh, and I got down, we got down almost to Kotori,
and, uh, uh, Kotori, or Hungnam, I don’t remember the name of the town now. But anyway, the first, the first major thing, uh, we were on the road for probably, uh, I don’t know, four days, five days, whatever it was, then. I lost track a long time ago. And, uh, just before we got out of there I was, we, we, we went back up to the hill, and I got blown off the hill and, and, uh, hurt my leg, and then
I had, uh, ended up with frozen hands and feet, and the n I got taken out of the convoy and went down to Hagaru, and then they flew me out from there. But the, the convoy themselves moved into the, you know, into, into Hagaru and, uh,
I: What do you mean flew you out? Helicopters?
B: No, they, they’re, they had a small airfield that they built, that the Seabees built, and they brought in C47s
I: In the middle of combat?
I: They, they built a runway there?
B: Yeah, built a runway. There was, there was one there, small,
but they extended it during, during the interim, interim while they were moving up there. They kept improving it. And they made it long enough. You could bring in a C47.
B: Yeah. And the most of them, or not all of them but quite a few of them were, were flown by Navy chiefs who were pilots. They used to have enlisted pilots in the, in the Navy and the Marine Corps., uh, during the second world war. They, uh, uh, many of these guys, most of the Air Force guys were not,
uh, familiar with trying to fly off on a short runway, and these, these guys knew what they were doing. They did it all the time on carriers. So they flew me from there down to, I think, uh, Hamhung, but I’m not sure of the, and there, uh, I was, they, they took care of my problems that they had to take care of right away, and then they flew me from there to, uh, Japan, and
I: Where you wounded, right?
B: Yeah. Yeah.
B: My leg.
I: Leg. And was it gun?
B: No, it was, it was more from, uh, from, uh, mortars kind of thing.
I: Um hm.
B: And I had to, I was on the side of the hill. They kept blowing up hills and landed, uh, down to, to, the thing, was there for a while and, and unfortunately I as having problems with frostbite at the time, and this just made it worse. I had frozen hands and feet and things. So they flew me, uh, to, to Southern Japan and, uh,
then by train to Yokosuka and then from Yokosuka and then from Yokosuka, uh, I was flown back to the States.
I: When was that?
B: That was, uh, in December of, uh, 1950.
I: December of 19?
I: What was, uh, uh, allied Air Force strike, uh, against Chinese? Was, were there any?
B: Uh, yes, uh, mostly, you know, we, there were, there were, uh, mostly carrier planes came over. They, they,
they’re all from the Navy, uh, and they were flying in there with, uh, F4s and, and, and, uh, and some prop, prop jobs [INAUDIBLE] and I think there were other, other services were invol, I mean, other countries, their, their people were involved because with us, there were, uh, a number of, uh, we, we’d start, uh, with some Koreans up, up there and, at the Chosin and, uh, cause when we, we, we met some Korean up there which we, we relieved, and
they’d go back and, uh, and I believe, I, I, I’ve heard that there was other Air Force providing support to our, our convoy coming out of there.
I: But that didn’t really help.
B: Well, it did
I: Too many, too many people there, right?
B: Yeah, well that, that, that, that did help from the point of the, uh, the air, air support helped a lot because it kept these, uh, massive during the day time. The, the Chinese had to stay hidden, so we could move during the daylight without having this, this, uh, thing because
if, if they, if they moved any place where or, or, lit a fire or anything like that, they could see it, they, they’d drop Napalm on them, you know. And so they learned very early they don’t wanna do that, you know.
I: So how many survived, the Marine there?
B: I don’t know totally. I know, I know that, uh, my company that I was with, uh, until it was reinforced, we were down to probably 50 people if that many.
B: And, uh, they, uh, for all reasons. Some of them, not all, excuse me, not everybody was killed or anything, but the wounded and then, then when, when, uh, we got down to Hagaru, and awful lot of them because of frostbite. We, we had, we did not have the right kind of equipment for whatever, but everybody got [INAUDIBLE]and we used these shoe packs with, uh, a felt liner, and, and it would perspire and then, of course, you spin down, and
your feet would freeze cause, and you take out these felt things and they would just be a piece of ice, and that’s what you were, had your feet on.
I: Did you wear Mickey Mouse boot?
I: And still it didn’t work?
B: That didn’t work because what happened was a, there was no way to vent, they didn’t ventilate nor did they drain.
I: And you have to constantly change the socks, right?
B: Yeah, if, if you had them, yeah.
I: But out of supply.
B: Yes. Well, if you had supply socks, extra socks. You’d take and put them inside and, to try to dry them off and, uh, when you could.
But, uh, there was just, there’s no, there was no available supply of getting new socks or [INAUDIBLE] as we were coming out. Uh, once you got out from getting what there was, up there at, uh, Yudam- ni, I remember very, I, I did get a pair of socks, uh. They, they had a big pile of stuff there, burnt. They’d burn all the extra stuff and, uh, if you wanted it, if it was there, take it. But if not, they burned it all so that the Chinese did not get it. But other than that, I, I always felt that, uh,
I was confident that I was gonna make it. It was just, uh, it moves the bravado of being a, a teenager, you know, under those circumstances and, and, uh, with my Marine Corps. training it, it just, uh, I always felt that, uh, yeah, I was gonna do it. I’m come, coming back.
I: Uh uh.
B: But, uh, again, it’s just, uh, there were, there were, there were occasions. I can’t say that I was always like, when, when things got, uh, really tight and we were really did some, uh,
situations where the Chinese were overwhelming in numbers or you, you, you, you’re firey and you’re scared, but you, you just, you know, you just did it kind of thing. Uh, I, I know people, uh, who could tell you in detail where they were and what they did exactly at any moment during that warand I, I tell people I don’t remember. All I remember is being told don’t do this, do that, and I did that, you, you know, and it was never,
uh, thinking about the big picture or, or any of that kind of thing. It’s, it was a, the only, my, my, uh, universe was myself and the three guys on either side of me. That was my universe.
B: So that, that’s where I [INAUDIBLE].
I: So you were hit November 27th,
I: and then you were flown
B: Actually, the, the, the, I was hit actually about, uh, the 29thsomething like that.
I: No, I mean the whole unit
B: Oh, yeah.
I: The whole Marine
B: Oh, yeah, oh yeah. The 27th.
I: by the Chinese 27th.
I: And then when was the
date that you were flew out?
B: Oh, I, I, I can’t tell you that. It, it’s, it was probably a week.
I: A week.
B: Week or so later, yeah.
I: Right. During that week, how many times were you able to eat?
I: Did you have enough C-rations there?
B: Well, most of them were frozen. That was the problem and,
B: No way to heat them.
I: Uh huh.
B: Uh, I ate a lot of Tootsie Rolls and, uh, which they inadvertently dropped, you know, cases of Tootsie Rolls to us and you take the
Tootsie Rolls in your pocket and they’d warm up and you could eat them. Uh, but I remember getting, having a can of beans and I put in my, uh, parka and, and warmed them that way till they, so I could eat some of them. But I, I don’t know. You look at the, a lot of times you didn’t eat the canned stuff. You eat the crackers and things like that. But when we were coming out, they, they didn’t issue any rations. I mean, there, there, there was some there, and, and, and people would get
to t hem. But, uh, there was never a time when I could say I sat down and, and had a meal until we got into Hagaru. In Hagaru there, uh, they gave us some, some, uh, warm rations. It was up to us. There was not, uh, we weren’t depending on, on, uh, anyone coming in and, uh, doing things for us. We, we felt, you know, we’re, we’re, we’re going out and we’re, we’re planning our way out. We’re gonna get out of here. It, we’re gonna do it, you know, and
that, then I know there was support. There was support through the, when they dropped the bridge, you know, and they, and they had to cross the thing on the way down and things like that. Yeah, the, they, the support that, that was hard. But primarily it was, uh, it’s us against them, and we’re gonna make it. When the Chinese came at us for example, as we, we noticed later many of the Chinese did not have weapons. Uh, their, their concept I, I’ve been told, was that if, when somebody ahead of you gets shot,
you take his weapon and go on. So they did not have, necessarily have all, everybody did not have weapons. Uh, so, and they just came, you know, [INAUDIBLE]. I do know that, you know, many of them, you know, they had, they had like rope wrapped around them kind of thing which was to give t hem sort of a bullet-proof vest if, uh, if you will, uh. because the carbine did not have hitting power, and the hitting and the, and the hits I think might eventually kill them, but, uh, it was not gonna stop them. That was
always a problem. That’s why many people, uh, got rid of their carbines an, and the M1s because they, they had much more hitting power. Uh, but they, they, but I saw the Chinese, uh, prisoners that, that, that they’d gotten or came across. We came across one with, uh, he was wearing tennis shoes, you know, uh, uh, it just is ice. His feet were cakes of ice, uh. He had, uh, you know, come down trying to, you know, get help from us and it, and many of those,
they did not have hardly anything. They, they were, were fighting, uh. But that, I guess that was their way of doing things and they, they, a handful of rice and, and, and a bunch of bullets and go, you know. And, uh, the, the biggest problem that they seemed to have is they, they had a single plan, and, and whether that plan worked or not, that was what they’re gonna follow. So they would come down a road that they said that they were gonna get shot at and, and, where we would have gone
around, they would still come on that same road, you know, that kind of thing. Uh, I, I, I was a professional Marine. I served a career in the Marine Corps.. I’ve been in, uh, other wars over in Vietnam and what have you. Uh, we’re, uh, it, it’s an enemy. It’s somebody that, uh, that took their hand, uh, yes, I, I would have killed them, you know, and maybe when I first returned from, uh, Korea, I might have had, you know,
uh, but it’s been 60 years ago, and I have been through too many things in my life to allow, uh, something like that to control my life. I, I do know people today who hate the Japanese from the Second World War, you know. They just, and I, I, I’m not that way. I cannot, uh, hold that kind of a grudge, uh. I dislike what they do. I dislike what they did over there, uh, and, and I would go back, you know, if, if that would
help them to regain and, uh, what they have today. Yes, uh, I was almost recalled to active duty for, uh, Desert Storm even after all these years. Uh, and, because, uh, my background. But, uh, no, and it just, uh, it, it, it isn’t, it’s not that kind of a thing. I don’t, I don’t personalize, you know, the Chinese, uh, in that, that way.
I: Have you talked about this desperate week at Changjin Reservoir to your family members?
I: You never?
B: No. Uh,
I: I mean, you, you have a family, right?
B: Yes. Yeah, I have, uh, ch, uh, not really.
I: Haven’t they asked you about it?
B: Sometimes, and, and I actually questioned that they asked. Uh, you know, without embellishment. Yeah. Were you ever shot at, shot at, Dad, and, yes.
I: Why not? Why you haven’t
B: I don’t know. I, I, I’m, I, it’s just something, it, it seems like the only time I, uh, we ever discussed the Korean War or any other war, is when I’m with Korean veterans, uh, to talk about, you know, what we did, uh, and where we were and who we were with, sometimes funny things, sometimes, uh, serious things. But other than that, I, I don’t. Uh, it’s the same thing with Vietnam.
I, I don’t discuss, you know, Vietnam among things.
I: Would you be willing to shake hands with the Chinese soldier who fought at the time
I: in, around Changjin Reservoir if it is somehow arranged?
B: Sure. Absolutely. I have no, you know, I, I don’t hate the individual soldier.
I: Um hm.
B: The individual soldier is like me, uh. I was a, like I say, I was a PFC and never a private and, uh, he had a Sergeant who says you go shoot this guy,
and my Sergeant says you go shoot at this guy. Uh, we were a means to an end, uh. I, I, I, the, there is no, he, there was no face to him, let’s put it that way. Uh, I, I couldn’t say, uh, if, if he came up to me, if somebody came up to me and hit me in the face, I’d hit him back, you know, and, and maybe I tried to really do a job on him, and I would be upset with this guy. But because of, uh, some place way back when,
you know, we shot at each other, uh, and didn’t know each other, didn’t know a thing. I, I, I don’t have any real hatred, uh, for him. That’s like disliking somebody because, um, they do something that, you know, that I dislike and that just got in my way [INAUDIBLE]
I: Any regret during that Changjin Battle or anything out of Korean, uh, War service?
B: Not at all.
I: Not at all.
B: No. I, I, I’ve,
I’ve thought about, you know, the war many times and, and how it’s, maybe changed me or it made me the man I am today. Uh, I, I, I’m unhappy with, uh, some of the things that are going on, uh, about it, uh. The, uh, way people took the Korean War as it was, uh.
I: Yeah. I mean, forgotten
B: Um, yeah.
I: and it was somebody call it conflict or police action
B: Police action, yep.
I: And it’s not that, right?
B: No, absolutely not.
I: It’s a war.
B: It’s, it’s a, it’s a war no matter which way you want to call it, and as a matter of fact, you can, US government, uh, may change their name to the Korean War, you know. It was always called a police action over anything. And as a matter of fact, even some veteran’s organizations did not allow Korean veterans to join their organizations. So because of all of that going on, officially it is a Korean War. Now, it was not a, a war constitutionally correct because it was never actually declared nor is it
ended. It still exists.
I: Why is it important to correct that, not police action, not conflict but
B: I think it’s more from, uh, uh, a personal thing than it is anything else. I think it’s, I have to look at myself and say no, I wasn’t a policeman. I was a Marine, and I was up there doing my job, you know, as a, as a Marine and finding, uh, the bad guys wherever they happen to be. Uh, it’s not, it’s not like a police officer on the corner going after the, the
drug dealers downtown. It’s, it’s a different mental attitude as far as I’m concerned, and I think it’s very important that people understand that, uh, couple of things. The result of that war, and that’s why to Korea is, is something that is, it just, unimaginable. When I saw the devastation in Korea and what I have seen when I would, I, I went, I was stationed in Korea again in 1976
B: for, uh, uh, about, uh, well, I was over there for about six or seven months. I was with, uh, I lived in Yangsan, and I was with SUSLAK special unit, U.S. liaison adviser Korea, uh. It was a, a, it, a, intel type of job. But I, I was up there and, and I, I, when I was there, I had weekends off a lot of times, and so I would take tours, and I went on many, many tours
down in the south, seeing areas that I remember, uh, and the one that I didn’t never get to for some reason, I never went to Inchon, and I was right there. But I was outside of Seoul. I was
I: Maybe that was the easiest time for you, right?
B: That was, yeah.
I: Just landing.
B: Yeah. But I, I, went down and I went all around in Pusan and to other places, and saw the, the fantastic development that the country has come through, uh. And I have met, uh,
interesting people, uh, who were there, a short story which, which is kind of interesting. Uh, I was, when I was there in, uh, ’76, I was there for the Korean Marine Corps. birthday, and the Commandant of the Korean Marine Corps. invited all the Marine officers that were stationed there to the, a party at his house. Uh, and the first thing that happened when we were up there in the house and we, I was standing at a long table with, and this Korean general came up, he was a Marine Corps. general, and I don’t remember his
name or anything. But we, he spoke English, and we were talking, and it turns out that he h ad been, uh, drafted if you will, uh, to be an interpreter for my battalion in Korea, uh. I didn’t know him then. He was at battalion headquarters and everything like that. But he knew all the people that I knew, the, uh, battalion commander and all those kind of guys and, u h, he was, he was that. He was a, he was a Marine Corps. general at the time, and so we
were talking about just different people that, I was just, you know, astounded the people that the, he knew. He had been at the Reservoir. He had been, uh, all over on that thing and, uh, then, and then the other thing that happened was that it turned out there was one more Korean officer than there was American officers, and they made a general officer leave to, uh, because, so they wanted to meet the balance. The Commandant of the Marine Corps. was just livid because of, see, if they, one more, somebody had come that shouldn’t have come or something like that.
But, uh, I was up there. But I, I got to see the city, and I used to have to go down to the Embassy a lot. So I would go down into Seoul, and, and I would be down into the area that I was actually in, you, you know, like in the Capital Building and, and where, where I was, the flagpole was. Uh, I, I slept right there, you know, and I, I, and things like that. And the place is, and that’s [INAUDIBLE] I’d tell them, and they’d tell me that it’s expanded since then. But just fantastic, you know,
from, uh, from last year. And then the appreciation of the Korean people, and I’ve told this to I don’t know how many people. But the only country in the world and all the wars we have fought, all police actions and whatever they want to call them, the only country that deserves a thank you.
I: Why is that? I think that it should be natural to say thanks.
B: I thought so, too.
I: To the people who fought for them, especially, you know, they knew nothing about
I: Korea before.
B: There are some, some small pockets. There’s a town in Poland, for example, where a, a guy, uh, is buried with the pilot, and he interviewed Kip from crashed into the town, you know, and they, through the Second World War and, and, and they’ve think that’s why he was buried, and you gotta, you got a statue to him and everything else, you know, in honor of this one we got. And I’ve been other places, little things. But as a whole, you know,
the, officially the country, uh, and the people, you know, had been just phenomenal from that point I think. And I’ve been all over the world, and I’ve, I’ve, you, in the, in the MOS that I had in the Marine Corps. I was stationed in Turkey. I was stationed in Germany, uh, Japan, uh, China when every, and that did, the only, only place that I have ever been, you know, where people say thank you.
I: Would you be willing to say enough is enough. There are many other issues to be resolved
but still can you say let’s replace the Armistice with the Peace Treaty?
B: Yes, I, I would think so. Uh, I can imagine and guess the reasons why it has not happened. Based on, uh, just the, uh, the current regime, uh, in North Korea, uh, especially previous regimes. As a young boy, it’s kind of hard to tell which way he’s gonna go. Oh, he’s cleaning out
some of his, uh, father’s cronies and so on. And so we may see some changes based on that. Uh, he’s, he’s, he’s, uh, he’s, uh, he’s, he’s, he’s very young, uh, very naive I think in, in, thinking what he saw how his father was, so I think he’s going from that route. But I think he’s, he’s, he’s seen some of the realization that things that he can’t, that he would like to have he can’t get in his country. He has to go out, outsideand looking from that point of view.
Uh, the, the generals, uh, up there, I think are controlling the country, and the reason why it, these, these, you know, they got beat and, and, and it shouldn’t be. But I’ll visit him a lot. Uh, it is, it’s very hard. Um, but I think that, uh, in my mind, I, think ultimately it’s gonna happen.
Somebody, somebody, if, if somebody had told me in, uh, 1945 or so that, uh, the Russians and us would be friends or at least not enemies, uh, I, I would have probably laughed at them. Uh, so I think that things are happening, and there are little things that seem to be happening that are, that were good for a while, and there were some allowing going across the border to see families, uh.
I know that stopped recently, uh, and then, of course, then all of a sudden the whole thing blows up again when they shoot at the island, uh. These things, you know, went on. I, I used to go up to the DMZ once in a while, and, when I was there, and we would, you know, if you talked to some of the guys that did the patrols along there and, you know, every once in a while, you know, they get shot at, uh. I was in Korea during the time when they had a tree cutting situation, when the Americans got
killed and then they had
B: Yes, it was ’76, yeah. Uh, I, uh, one of the highlights of the Korean War, I mean, I, it was to me. One of the biggest things in the Korean War that, that I, I’ve been, I was in Vietnam, and I’ve been in other smaller things, the Dominican Republic and every place like that, uh, and there was never any tangible, I didn’t see the tangible gain, uh.
I, things in Vietnam just too, too political [INAUDIBLE] But there is so much about, uh, the Korean War and looking at Korea and South Korea today, it is, you know, fantastic. Uh, there, there’s this map that I always loved it which shows the lights in the world, and it shows the Korean Peninsula, and you see South Korea, it’s just like, like, like the Milky Way, and up there there’s maybe
a light here and a light there, nothing. You can see the differences there. And I know that, uh, people who I’ve even come across, uh, that, from North Korea, you know, that, uh, they, uh, they’re not very happy, you know.
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