Bill Hall served as a pilot and Landing Signal Officer (LSO) in the Marine Corps stationed aboard aircraft carriers during the Korean War. He was stationed at El Toro, California, when the North Koreans crossed the 38th Parallel into South Korea. His knowledge of aviation-operating procedures was invaluable to successful carrier operations. He also flew several combat missions during the Korean War, engaging the enemy with the weapons loaded on his aircraft.
Pilot Shortage in Early Days
Bill Hall recalls being stationed at El Toro, California, when the North Koreans invaded the South. He explains the pilot shortage the Marine Corps had aboard his aircraft carrier and how this challenge was met by making use of Aviation Pilots (APs), many of whom had served during World War II. He remembers how the first member of his squadron who was killed during the war had borrowed part of his equipment and his flight charts.
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Bill Hall speaks about "getting" an enemy platoon with a napalm bomb from his aircraft. He explains the aircraft setup of weapons and fuel that the carrier aircraft used against the enemy. He recalls the story of one of the captains of his unit who shot down and later rescued.
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New Equipment and Additional Pilots Leads to Advantage
Bill Hall recalls how with the arrival of additional land-based pilots came additional equipment for his unit. He remembers that their new equipment included a 20mm cannon as well as tracer bullets which allowed pilots to see where shots were being fired. He explains how this served as a great advantage for the American planes over the Chinese ground forces. He notes that his first mission was on August 7, 1950, but that he was soon cut because he was needed as a Landing Signal Officer (LSO).
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Medical Care for Wounded
Bill Hall recalls the challenges doctors faced in treating the wounded. He remembers their inability to treat everyone, so they frequently stacked the injured up and covered them with a blanket. He vividly describes one new, very green reservist who arrived in Korea having never touched a gun. He remembers this reservist was injured and later transferred to a Navy hospital for treatment. He jokingly recalls how an Army nurse declared that this young man would live.
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[Beginning of Recorded Material]
Bill Hall: Bill Hall. I was born in 1923, February the 2nd.
Interviewer:I see. Wow. So you’re 93 right now?
B: That’s right
I: Wow. So you are, you’re part of the Chosin Few, right? You were in the Marines when you went to Korea for the Korean War?
B: I was stationed in El Toro California and the North Koreans on the 25th of August invaded
across the 38th Parallel and they came down the west coast
B: and got all the way down to the bottom of Korea and they came to a river and also it had a few hills and they had come down I don’t know how many miles that was, but it was several hundred they were tired the equipment was tired and they decided they would
B: rest. By that time we had come from the coast and on the aircraft carrier which we had I think five squadrons and we’d unload airplanes this way and this way and, and fly off one or two and three four and what not. And we had a lot of
B: ammunition aboard but then we were all floating and, and my squadron due to the annual
transfers we did not have 30 pilots plus the two LSO’s. So we in the Marine Corps had some APs which is aviation pilots
B: they had the same wings that I had but they were not considered– they had a different type of wing. They had been in World War II and they said “let me out, let me out” or they put in for regular commission and were turned down. They were flying 75 hours a month at El Toro where the pilots– we were everything all.
B: those 2 bit jobs who we were flying maybe 20 or 25 hours, they were flying 75 hours, so they were well qualified. But when we got to Japan and we offloaded we were able to get two periods of field carrier landing with our pilots flying together. We all floated in. The first
B: pilot to be killed was the 10th of August his captain Vivian Moses and he was brought back aboard the carrier the next morning and he went out and got shot down again and his airplane was hit in such a way he was found face down in a
B: little creek and he was killed. He had borrowed– this captain of the ship said he will need two landing signal officers at all times so I got one flight in and the other LSO didn’t get any until we got a third LSO, and so the four or five squadrons that were land based squadron
B: people they all, all teamed up and the Chinese, the North Koreans they didn’t know what close air support was. And in the Marine Corps, like I had been trained to be a landing signal officer. I was, I guess Vivian Moses
B: borrowed part of my flight suit because (INAUDIBLE) I couldn’t fly so it was he could take all my, my charts and everything and (INAUDIBLE) got killed. By that time the other squadron that was going to be land based
B: be land-based all of a sudden it they flew over that River and the Chinese were all relaxed and the equipment was just getting, laying out and that wiped them out. They could no longer operate because in my squadron we had 20 millimeter cannon and we had our own belts and the first third
B: with 20mm cannon and the second belt was high explosive and the last third was tracers so we could the pilots could see where the bullets were actually going and so by the time you have
B: oh everybody had 24 24 24 20 about 100 aircraft all along it with some of the planes still had six hundred (INAUDIBLE) and that they had 20 millimeter and where a couple of the squadrons like my squadron only carrier we had 20 millimeter cannon and
B: I got my first mission in the 7th of August and and I was cut. And we had to get a third LSO and then we could rotate and, but by us having that kind of ammunition and that many squadrons of F4Us and plus the other odd people that would
B: to come in and do some shooting– it just wiped out the equipment. They said Ray Mabus, well he was a lieutenant colonel, but he took 550 of his folks and they were loaded to a– well one of them well maybe not getting into that, but I don’t know if
B: you’ve seen all of the the candy
I: Hm Tootsie Roll?
B: battalion, 5th Battalion I think it was notified that they were running out of ammunition for the fourth, for the 60 mm mortars and the Air Force thought it, they, was candy
and it worked out real good because the Marines had no food– they had these that candy and that’s what they lived on. And now I understand that I’m not sure what her first name, I mean what her name is. but her husband died I think a year ago at 95 and she’s gonna be she’s she’s down here
today and have you seen the packages individual? We’ve had a bag and it’s two rolls of candy, rolls of that big around and that long, but she is going to be down here as a guest
B: and me, every one
of our reunions we’ve had a great big thing of candy. And then we have some little things about that big and about so big around and you can make it– cut a hole in the top, already in there and you could and the kids or something can have it for a bank, but, but she is I think they have donated candy and I know that this is the
first time we’ve have had individually. They that big around and I got one in my bag and my wife, she’s got one
I: I don’t see them
B: well there’s more candy coming down from Chicago where they’re made
I: how fun (laughs)
B: the candy bar is a tradition.
B: and the doctors were having all kinds of problems they could not treat everybody and they stacked these people up. and covered them with, with hay in a blanket and they were all knocked out, and there’s something I can’t
tell you but they called in the reserves from Savannah, Georgia and there’s one 17-year old that. he made two weekend drills– he hadn’t even touched a gun. He had, he only had some uniforms and
he went overseas not knowing anything, but he got overseas and he was wounded and they the doctors finally took him out of the stack of people and airvac’ed him to Korea, no to- the Americans had a hospital ship in Japan and at any time they could transfer an airplane and I guess and maybe transfer
some people over and they transferred this kid over he was still unconscious and a navy nurse in her regular dress, I was told it was a she was a lieutenant which is a two-striper, you know, same as an army captain– and she had an aide with her. Have you heard this? Anyway she had a
clipboard and she was going down the line and she looked down, and at the same time she looked down the 17-year-old boy opened his eyes, he’s looking straight up her dress. She looked down and saw what he’s doing and she turned to her aide said he will live and went to the next patient. That- that guy was from Georgia he used
to make all the monthly meetings and he I guess he got the GI bill because he became a school teacher then became whatever the next step up. Every time we’d go out on a meeting he would have to tell the story of how he woke up, and he was looking straight up in a woman’s dress and she looked down and saw him what he was
doing and she turned her head and says “he will live” and she went to the next one. And he used to tell that to everyone of our clubs and his wife would say not to do that .
B: I don’t know if I have helped you or not
I: no that’s good thanks. Do you remember– have you do you have you worked with Korean soldiers when you were in Korea?
B: Have I done what now?
I: did you also work with Korean soldiers?
B: No, not me. The Korean soldiers they work with their ground troops and they were assigned to be in units with the
B:Americans troops, but u
I: Or have you worked with any foreign troops, any other troops from other countries in Korea?
B: I’ve worked with some army troops
I: Okay, just curious.
B: I don’t guess we do because nobody worked the way we Marines did
the Air For said their close air support was four five miles behind the front lines. We had some I think we had a first lieutenant assigned to battalion and a captain assigned to a regiment– I had gone through that school I had attended all of December and I was asked if I wanted to stay with the squadron or go to Camp
Lejeune in December, and I said I’ll go with the squadron. And all of the original pilots that were still living, we came home after about eight months because what we were doing… the new pilots could take over. And in fact we
had some reserves to be called in. They were discharged as lieutenants. they hadn’t flown aany. We had to check them out in S & Js then put them in Corsairs. And then they gave them to me and I haven’t got ‘em ready to go aboard an aircraft carrier, and I wound up being on eight different aircraft
Carriers. I couldn’t fly on three of them because I was the only LSO. In fac,t these some of them might say there’s plan knuckle heads, but they gave ‘em a carrier cruise– a Mediterranean cruise five and a half months. And the Navy on
the Midway which is built on a battleship hull, and it’s basically a thousand feet long the flight deck, it’s now over in the air base over here in San Diego. Ff you go over there, don’t drink the tea it’s $4 for a little glass like this. It was
four years ago. (INAUDIBLE) of the carrier. Also they will tell you about is the carrier Midway was going just north of Sicily and we got out – I think it’s Palermo is the name of a town there, and we were even with that and all of a sudden a whale swam in front of the carrier and it just bent around the bow of the
Ship. And the captain of the Midway stopped the ship and backed up back a little bit and the whale swam off. And a lot of people we didn’t have flight order going on but I went up on the bow and that whale was like this and
when the captain backed up, the whale shot off. But that they said it was in 1953, but I made it a five and a half months tour in 1952. But I told him about if they were wrong but nobody over there cared (laughs)
I: I see
B: I guess that is about all. I know we we did what we
was supposed to do, And I think I, I got a whole platoon with a napalm you, you briefed on what napalm is? It’s napalm is they put it in a 150 gallon belly tank and
when you come in, the way I used to do it I’d come in high speedm and and of course they had 14-foot propeller going around four of them. I’d come in at about 200 feet and just before I get in there I nosed down like I was going to fly into it and then I dropped the bomb and it would explode, but I’d
already be ahead of it. And we had a couple of pilots to land I mean to drop a napalm tank on a tank and he’d go down the road like he nothing was wrong with him and all of a sudden (Sound Effect) he blew up but we’d normally had four or five inch Rockets this big around about
six feet long hanging on the bottom. And then we had the right pylon had gasoline because the internal well had, I think two hundred and thirty gallons or so. So to make sure in
case they have an accident or something on this ship, we have a tank,150 gallons or more gasoline to orbit until they can clear the deck and we can get back in. I think that’s about all I know.
I: Were you wounded at all in Korea?
I: Were you wounded in Korea? Do you have any wounds? Were you hurt in Korea?
B: Not me
I: oh that’s good
B: Now my airplane
most of our airplanes were shot down by small arms fire. Is the gasoline– no we didn’t worry too much about that but the oil section automobiles will go a little bit that with gasoline but one ran out of oil an engine is gonna stop. And our procedure was when you pull out of you drive, is watch your oil pressure and if
that needle starts going down you would head for safety. Oh or whatever it was and hoped you could make it but you need to fight to go to friendly land or country or something is the only chance. I never did do that.
B: We had a captain in our squadron that he was leading a four plane division, was in North Korea and he got shot down maybe his oil section, said if we caught it, and shot down. And he went over and got behind some rocks and his flight flying around and called him for the
helicopter to come pick him up. And they shot one rocket and that stopped the Chinese and who ever the bad guys were, and Charlie got out from behind his airplane, turned on the battery switch, turned on the radio switch, and hold them up and says don’t shoot at ‘em you’ll make ‘em mad. And that stopped them from coming in and by that time a helicopter came in and pick him up, he
got back home . That’s all.
I: And when did you leave Korea? When did you come back to the US?
B: I left Korea. well we we went down to some new pilots were coming in and so I
Left. I don’t know it was maybe six weeks after the Chinese had more or less settled down surrounded
I: Okay. So like January or February
I: of 1951, maybe?
B: Maybe January.
I: January? I see
B: Because I remember going down and they had had to build an airstrip for squadrons that had been carrier based, and I helped waive some people, but I was one of the people that was original in
I lived through it and the people who got shot down. We had two pilots killed as they went over the target the airplane blew up. I think we lost 12 airplanes not 12 pilots, but 12 airplanes. And so if you could have seen that we could bring a airplane aboard. In
fact I think it was in the Seoul area between making the runs and I think, I came in making my second pass and I got hit with anti-aircraft first I’d seen him that put a hole about that big around some five feet from
where I’m sitting. But the next morning that airplane flew overnight. Our maintenance crew they had a whole flight deck hangar deck and they could build an airplane and get the thing airborne the next morning, but they got circles under the eyes. They’d go to bed at two o’clock in the morning. They’d get up at four
o’clock in the morning and they could get a few hours of sleep during the daytime. And it, when I was on the Midway, if I didn’t ,our hangers hanging (INAUDIBLE) but the stateroom ready room rather. was up
forward but the LSO had to be back for the airplanes to be worked on down there. And I used to run right down the middle of the flight deck. I had my paddles with me– I still have that pair of paddles. The Navy made some crazy-looking things with most of LSO’s in my day they made their own paddles. Oh they had to machine, the machine shop to
build anything and they bore the holes and you get the. I will turn them over one way and have a yella or you only have another way and so the ,the pilots could recognize the color. And uh, but I used to right down the middle of the flight deck, that was nearly a thousand feet and I
never did wear. I had stripes you could hang down and but we didn’t do too much– the Navy did some night flying in the Mediterranean but that was strictly peacetime. And I looked in the, in the side of the ship there in the, the catwalk and I thought I recognized the guy. And
afterward we had landed aircraft I was walking back up the flightdeck and here’s a guy who graduated my schooltwo years before I did— he was a chief petty officer
I: (ABRUPT START) I want to thank you for your time today.
B: well I had nothing else to do
[End of Recorded Materials]