Korean War Legacy Project

Bob Couch

Bio

Bob Couch, a native Texan, was eager to leave home after high school and sought to join the Marines. Unable to join due to age, he joined the reserves instead and worked for the local electric company reading light meters until he turned 18. He joined the Marines on June 20, the day Korea was invaded, and within 2 weeks, he was sent to California for basic training and then on to Korea in February of 1951. He recounts his first impressions of Korea and an injury he suffered while setting out a mine. He recalls the brutalities of war and offers his account of the war’s legacy.

Video Clips

The Eye-Opening Trip to Pusan

Bob Couch discusses his basic training in California and his deployment to Korea. He recounts the "jolt" he experienced upon his arrival in Pusan after seeing the state of destruction and poverty level among civilians. He recalls trucks making rounds each morning to collect bodies of civilians who had died during the night.

Tags: Busan,Basic training,Civilians,Cold winters,Communists,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Physical destruction,Poverty,Prior knowledge of Korea,South Koreans

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OA_Nh7t3yjE&start=111&end=204

Injury and Meeting Jennifer Jones

Bob Couch discusses an injury he incurred while setting out a mine. He recounts the tripflare going off in his hand and suffering a wound from the encounter. He describes being transported back to Pusan and to a medical ship where surgery was performed on his hand and where he met movie star, Jennifer Jones.

Tags: Busan,Front lines,Weapons

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OA_Nh7t3yjE&start=225&end=348

Food Quality and Fortune in Korea

Bob Couch recalls the food provided to soldiers while in Korea. He shares that while it was not elaborate, it was still nourishment. He recounts there being no refrigeration and shares that products were canned and then boiled. He recalls being fortunate compared to other soldiers in Korea and even to those who served in WWII as he had a food line available and never went hungry.

Tags: Food,Living conditions

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OA_Nh7t3yjE&start=387&end=456

Letters Home and Witnessing Death

Bob Couch speaks about the letters he sent home, arriving anywhere from 2 weeks to a month after he sent them, and shares a few words about witnessing death. He mentions one particular day where many suffered severe wounds and recounts ditches filled with American blood. He describes the scene as unimaginable and unlike any movie he had viewed.

Tags: Front lines,Letters,Physical destruction

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OA_Nh7t3yjE&start=456&end=533

Recollections of Korea and the War's Legacy

Bob Couch mentions his wound again and shares he was sent back to the States due to it not healing properly. He recalls arriving home on a Friday and returning to work on Monday. He offers his account of the war's legacy and states that he views all Korean veterans as heroes. He explains that he was fortunate compared to other Korean War soldiers and admits that he still has a hard time believing all he and others went through during the war.

Tags: 1953 Battle of Pork Chop Hill, 3/23-7/16,Cold winters,Front lines,Home front,Pride

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OA_Nh7t3yjE&start=600&end=700

Video Transcript

Bob Couch Interview

Me: What is your name?

BC: My name is Bob Couch and I live about a mile from where I was born and from where I lived when I got in the Marine corp.

Me: When were you born?

BC: December 25th, 1930

Me: Where did you go to school?

BC: Keller, Texas. First was Florence Elementary school and that’s in Keller, Texas and Keller High School.

Me: When did you graduate?

BC: 1949.

Me: 1949?

BC: Yes.

Me: So, what did you do?

BC: After that I went to work for the electric company reading light meters. I joined the reserves when I was 17 cause you had to have your parents sign and they wouldn’t sign for me to go into the Marines, so I just signed for the reserves and within a year and a half they called us.

Me: So, tell me about your life during the reserves.

BC: Well, when I joined the reserves we went to meetings once a month I believe or every two weeks something like that. We went to California for a week I believe we spent a week or two weeks in California and then after that, that would put it in about 1948 I guess. Then I go out and then after high school I went to work for the electric company and I worked there for about six months or more. Then I went back down to join the Marines and that was on June the 20ththe day Korea was invaded, and they told all of us “Don’t do this if you wanna stay here because we’re going to Korea.” Of course, I’ve never heard of it before, so I just I was ready to go somewhere because when you young like that you’re tired of home and so within two weeks we were gone. I went to Camp Pennington and in San Diego I did boot camp and then artillery training in Camp Delmar up in Pennington. Then in the end of February of ’51 we went over to Korea.

Me: Where did you go?

BC: To Pusan.

Me: Pusan?

BC: Yes, we went in on Pusan and then…

Me: Do you remember the date?

BC: You know what I sure don’t. I wish I did. I was really in for an eye opener when we got there. Of course, the Pusan perimeter we hadn’t gotten our way out of that, yet I don’t believe at that time. All the people where there, people that had everything they owned living in tin huts, grass huts or just anything they could live in. They were running for the communist and it was really a lot of mud the mud and snow and they would drive a truck around in the morning and pick up the people that died during the night, the civilians would, and so that was really a joke to me being a young kid and then we left from Pusan and we started North, and I never knew where I was for the rest of the time. We rode a train a ways and then we rode a ammo train and up until we got up to where the front was and I think we finished our journey there on a truck until we got to where Arora was.

Me: Did you have any injuries?

BC: Yes, I had a trip flare go off in my hand and I was sitting on a mine or a flare and it exploded and that was up there when we were taking the rounds and taking the prisoners and yes, I got hurt there and that is when I got sent back. Back to Pusan and then back to Japan.

Me: When was that? Do you remember?

BC: The 1stof June approximately.

Me: So, the 1stof June of ’51 and you were injured.

BC: Yes. Yes, and then somewhere in that area I don’t know the exact date or exact place I have no idea.

Me: So, you were shipped to Pusan?

BC: I drove back in and that put me on a Jeep and trucks and things of that nature. They took me back to an aid’s station first which was back across this river. I think it was the Hana river, but I don’t know. Where the Pontoon bridge was, and they administered to me. You know clean the wounds and stuff. When they took us by truck to Pusan and there was a hospital ship and the doctor there in Korea and that’s where they and that is where they set my hand and did an operation and that and that’s where I met Jennifer Jones a matter a fact. She came. You Know Jennifer Jones?

Me: No, I don’t.

BC: No, you don’t know Jennifer Jones. (Laugh)

Me: Who’s that? Tell me about her.

BC: That was a movie star.

Me: Oh.

BC: A very pretty movie star. She came to visit the troops.

Me: Did you take a picture?

BC: Swabby did and he sent it to me and I lost it. It was a million to me, but it’s gone now. (laugh)

Me: I saw it. I saw the picture.

BC: Yeah. Yeah it was. And she had on perfume and I never smelt something so good. (laugh)

BC: Straw. The had a lot of straw. Rice straw around all the huts and people’s farms that we were invading actually, and those poor guys work for everything to keep their place up and we come through there and tear it up and one night I was sleep on the side of this house on some straw and we had a long morning march that day and it was a long way. It rained so hard the next morning that I got up I was about 10 feet down the hill from where I laid down that night and didn’t realize I was slipping, you know. I never went hungry we had food. We had a supply of food it wasn’t the tastiest, but we had rations. What type of rations did we have?

Me: Serration.

BC: Yeah. See I suppose. Sometimes we had a lot of…they call it Vienna Sausages, but they were just wieners. Just boiled wieners. Because with artillery they had a cook shake and he boiled those wienies and make coffee for the morning and stuff like that. So according to who we were and how much combat we were involved with. But we were so much more fortunate than the World War 2 people were and more fortunate than the chosen residents. Because we had a food line to us with okay rations and that sort of thing and when I first got there the first meal I had there was steak and I could cut it with a fork, but because everything was frozen, so they could keep meat without refrigeration and, so I actually had a steak and I thought “Oh man I never thought that I would be in Korea eating steak.”.

Me:  Did you write a letter back to your family?

BC: Yeah. Quite a few.

Me: Quite a few?

BC: Yeah.

Me: What did you write?

BC: Well, I just ask about “How where things on the farm?” you know, how everybody was and that was had a long march that day, where it rained and that sort of thing just to get a word from home. Sometimes you’ll get a letter within two weeks you know and if you did that would be in a hurry, usually it would take about a month.

BC: I had one article on one terrible, terrible day we had been in battle and a lot of blood and guts and people dying and a guy trying to give himself up with maggots eating on his head and that sort of thing and a guy described that so well in a newspaper in Oregon. He was with us and somehow I got ahold of that article and it was word for word just everything that we saw that day in one day that Koreans dead Americans, blood that ditches were running with blood it looked like a movie or something you couldn’t believe it.

Me: How much were you paid?

BC: How much was I paid?

Me: Yeah. Do you remember?

BC: Yeah. I got one check for three hundred dollars. Actually, I got paid twice both for about three hundred dollars for the two years I was in there and when I got out they gave me some I forget how much that was.

Me: So, six hundred dollars per month, per year, right?

BC: Well, I’m sure it was more than that, but it wasn’t much more than that.

Me: Okay.

BC: But, we got a room and bored free. (Laugh)

Me: (Laugh) Yeah. Sleeping bed, right? On the ground? Serrations? Oh my god. (laugh) What did you do with the money?

BC: I sent it home to my folks.

Me: Nice!

BC: Yeah and they kept it for me for when I got out.

Me: So, what did you do?

BC: I actually bought something for the place and put it in a kitchen sink for my mother.

Me: you’re a very nice man.

BC: We did at that time. We all owed one another a thing.

Me: So, after the operation. You went to Japan? What happened?

BC: I stayed there until and my wound wouldn’t heal I had pried flesh growing out of it and it wouldn’t heal and in Japan the doctors said it wasn’t going to heal so they sent me back to the states. I arrived at the states on July the 4thof 1951.

Me: Did you get a job?

BC: Yes. Yes. I went back to well I got out on a Friday and went back to reading light meters on Monday.

Me: What do you think the legacy of Korean war and Korean veterans from your perspective?

BC: Well, I really don’t know how to answer that other than every one of them is a hero to me. Because they went through the same thing I did and some of them…I had it very easy to what some of them had and I just… as you are interviewing the guys that were in the reserves and in the cold winter and there wasn’t no reserves in the winter and operation Harriet and Porkchop hill just man slaughter of people and you just if anybody got back was very lucky.

BC: Some people don’t like war stories and don’t like to hear them and it’s unbelievable to anybody today what we went through.

Me: Yeah.

BC: I don’t even believe it sometimes.

Me: So, would you talk to them and would you ask them to stand in you photographs?

BC: Yeah. They will. Yes.