Bruce R. Woodward
Bruce R. Woodward was born on February 21, 1931 in Pasadena, California. On March 19, 1949, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserve, and graduated from Belmont High School in Los Angeles, California later that same year. In the summer of 1950, Bruce Woodward completed his first year of college at Los Angeles City College. In August of 1950, he was activated into the Marine Corp and sent to Wonson Air Base in North Korea after the Inchon Landing. While at Wonsan, he was involved in battles with the Communist Chinese during their winter offensive, including the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir until October of 1951. His duties included briefing and debriefing pilots that flew out of Wonsan. In November 1951, Bruce Woodward returned to the United States and was discharged in February 1952. After his time in the service, he became a successful businessman working in Los Angeles, California, Omaha, Nebraska, and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Training for Korea
Bruce Woodward describes his unique circumstances entering the conflict without having been to bootcamp. He learned how to shoot an M1 Rifle before his arrival in Korea at Wonsan Air Base from the deck of a ship.
Flights to Support UN Forces
Bruce Woodward describes his duties as an Assistant to the Squadron Commander during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. He along with the commander received intelligence briefings from headquarters in Japan. This intelligence was used to provide close air support to the troops on the ground.
Bruce Woodward talks about the missions pilots flew out of Wonsan Air Base in support of the United Nations ground forces. He assisted the work of around 25 pilots and about the same number of aircraft.
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
Bruce R. Woodward. Korean War Veteran.
I: Uh huh.
B: I was there 1950 and ’51. During the Chosin Reservoir campaign.
I: First, I want you to tell us about where you born, when you born, and the school you went.
B: Ok, I was born in Pasadena, California.
B: And, went through, you know, grammar school, high
school there for the most part.
B: And then college was at L.A. City College. But I didn’t graduate.
I: What, what, when you born?
B: I was born 1931, February the 21st.
I: Tell me about your family background.
B: My family background, I come hom-, from a family of eight, four boys and four girls.
B: That was in California, that’s where we grew up. They’re all scattered around the country now, different places. I happen to be in Texas, ’cause I got here as fast as I could. [laughs] But anyhow, they, they’re are all scattered around the country.
B: Brothers and sisters.I’ve lost two of ’em.
B: My oldest brother I’ve lost and my youngest brother. But the rest of us are still here.
born in Pasadena, Florida?
B: Pasadena, California.
I: California, I’m sorry.
B: Mm-hmm. That’s the home of the Rose Bowl Parade.
I: I know.
B: And I played football in the Rose Bowl. In, back, that was years ago when I was in college.
I: What was your parents doing?
B: My parents, my father, you know, worked for the Broadway Department Store.
B: And my mother was a mother for all her career,
’cause she had eight children.
B: And she did an excellent job.
I: What’s her name?
B: Crystal Marie. Woodward.
I: When did you graduate high school?
B: I graduated high school in 1949.
B: And went on to one year of city college.
B: And I had just finished my first year of City College in Los Angeles, when the Korean War broke out and I had joined the Marine Corps Reserve prior to that,
while I was still in high school.
B: ‘Cause I thought I could impress the girls in my uniform.
B: So, when the Korean War broke out, you know, boom, I was gone. They called me in and I went immediately overseas.
I: So, you were drafted or enlist?
B: No, I was in the Reserves-
B: and being in the Reserve, well they drafted me when the Korean War broke out.
I: Right, draf-, draft you?
B: they brought me into the regular, regular Marines.
I: Mm-hmm. What did you ss-study in City College in L.A.?
B: City College,
mostly business course, ’cause I been a business man and salesman, ever since I got back from Korea.
I: Mmm. What do you think that you would do if there was no breakout of Korean war?
B: I would have probably finished college.
B: And, and, said, but when I got back from the Korean War, I just wanted to get out and make money.
I: So, the Korean War really entrapped your life?
B: Yes, it did. I could have gone back in college when
I got back from the Korean War, ’cause I spent almost a year over there. And, most of my time was at the air base at Wonsan.
B: Because I was with a squadron of corsairs that, Marine corsairs that flew up around the Chosin Reservoir. In fact, the guys, if you talk to the guys that were at the Chosin Reservoir, they’ll tell you that if it hadn’t have been for those corsairs, they wouldn’t be here today.
I: Mmm. Before we go into the
details of this Chongjin battle, I want to ask you about, so when did you leave for Korea?
B: Had to be, let’s see, 1950, was the Korean War broke out, what about December, was it, 1950?
I: No, June.
B: June of 1950?
I: Yeah. That’s when Korean War broke out.
I: June 25th.
B: Well, I was, shortly after that I was activated, and they sent me over there. So,
that, in, I don’t know, say the end of the year. I remember being there in 1950 and ’51. So, it had to be the end of ’50 and first part of ’51.
I: Where did you leave from the state? Where? San Francisco?
B: No, Los Angeles.
I: Los Angeles?
B: I went by ship, on the William S. Weigel. We bounced around like a cork all the way over to Japan.
I: Uh huh.
B: And, I’d never been outside of the State of California at
I: You don’t remember the month that you left for Japan?
B: Well, the Korean W-War broke out-
B: Nah, it was shortly after that, I, I couldn’t tell you the exact month.
I: Was it during the summer or?
B: Yeah, it was the-
B: s-, end of the summer
I: Alright, so did you, you didn’t get any extra training?
I: Was you able to shot?
B: Well the, well, I was kinda unique in a way, because I was a Reservist and we didn’t go through boot camp.
B: The guys in the Marine, and air wing.
B: And, south of Los Angeles, the El Toro Air Base.
B: And, so, I was a corporal and I was assistant to the squadron commander.
B: So, on our way overseas, they found out that a lot of us young Reservists that had been in school, had never been to boot camp
and so, they finally decided to teach us how to fire a M1 rifle off the side of the ship. So, when we got over there, if we had to go into battle, we’d know how to fire an M1 rifle.
B: As it turned out, since I was with the first Marine Air Wing, and we stayed at Wanson air field, which is south of the Chosin Reservoir, about 40 miles, I think. And our corsairs would fly up there on a daily basis to give close air support to the guys at the Chosin Reservoir.
I: When did you arrive in
Korea? Late 1950, right?
B: That’d be, yeah, shortly after the war broke out-
B: so that’d be late 1950.
I: And what happened to you, where, where did, did you go directly to Wanson?
B: No, we went to Osaka, Japan first. That’s where-
B: they, they dropped us off.
B: And then from Os-, and we used to fly out of the Osaka airbase in Japan.
B: And then once they made the Inchon Landing,
B: and they started push
B: that’s when they, we went up to Wanson.
I: So, you went to Wanson through ship, from Inchon?
B: No, we flew over. We were in Japan flying out of the Tommy airbase and then they, once, once our guys went, pushed north
I: Uh huh.
B: towards the Chosin Reservoir, then they brought us over to Wanson.
B: Directly to Wanson.
B: So, our squadron was giving close air support to the 1stMarine Division and other
U.N. troops, during that period of time.
I: Mmmm. How was Wanson when you first landed there?
B: Wanson was great. I mean, they were, you know I was in over in Japan. Japan was wonderful. And then the, Wanson had already been cleared after the Marines had already pushed north, and it was fine.
I: Mm-hmm. So, tell me about your battle in Chongjin?
B: The Chongjin-
did it happen? How did you go there? And tell me about the detail there.
B: You mean, in the w-, Cho-
I: Chosin Few.
B: Chosin Few.
I: Yeah, so [inaudible]
B: I, I, I never got up to the Chosin Few, personally.
B: Because I was with the air wing. And we flew planes up there to give closer support.
I: What was your duties?
B: My duties was, I was assistant to the squadron command.
B: EMF312. And that was a f-, that was a squadron of corsairs.
I: And what did you do?
B: I did all the work that they wanted me to do in the office. I was his,
when I’d brief and debrief the pilots, they sent them up there, I knew where they had to go. And they came back, they had to be debriefed, and the squadron commander and I did all that.
I: Okay. So, you never, you were not in Chongjin-
B: I wasn’t no.
B: At the Reservoir.
B: You know, I have, I’m in charge of the, Texas, Texas
Chosin Few group. So, most of the guys that are my group were at the Chongjin, or Chosin Reservoir.
I: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
B: But I’ve, since I was a part of it, that battle, even though I was at, airbase-
B: I didn’t actually get into any hand to hand fighting.
B: So, I was, [laughs] I guess I was lucky.
I: Tell me about your, what you heard and what you think about the Chosin Few, Chongjin battle?
I: Just, the
name of the lake, it’s actually manmade lake, and it’s called Chongjin, and Chosin is the Japanese pronunciation.
B: Yeah, I know Chosin is Japanese. But Chongjin,
I: Yeah, so.
B: I thought that was actually a reservoir too?
I: Yeah, reservoir.
I: Man made.
I: Tell me about what you hear, heard from them, what do you think about the battle and so on.
B: Well, most of the guys that are in my group, the North Texas Chapter of the Chosin Few,
B: ’cause we were all over there at the same time, and most of the guys were at
the Chosin Reservoir. The guys that I’m involved with now, the North Texas Chapter of the Chosin Few, most of those guys were at the Chosin Reservoir, so I here all kinds of stories. Well, when you talk to General Carey, he was up there.
B: I also gave you the name of Watson Crumby. I don’t know if you got an interview with him.
B: Okay, or. But, you know, I hear their stories all the time of what went on,
B: but I was never up
there with them, because I was at the airbase.
B: It’s about 40 miles south-
B: of the reservoir.
I: Whatever the details that you have in Wanson related to Chongjin battle? Just tell me about it.
B: Well most of that was due to the fact that we had to brief and debrief the pilots as to where they had to go that particular day
B: to give close air support to, not only the Marine Corps, but all the other U.N., U.N. forces that were in the
battle. So, I had to get that intelligence from Japan-
I: Oh from Japan?
B: From Japan.
I: How did they, why, why from Japan?
B: Well, because in Japan is where they, they had the intelligence to tell us what we should do as far as our battle was concerned.
I: So, who gathered the information?
B: It mostly came directly to the squadron commander-
B: and to me. And we briefed and debriefed the pilots-
B: before they went up to the reservoir. But it wasn’t the
reservoir, we were all around North Korea, wherever we, they needed some close air support.
B: Our planes were up there.
I: So, tell me about what the kind of intelligence you that had, and what was the order from Japan.
B: Most of the intelligence came from our, the rear echelon in Japan. I think a lot of it came from General MacArthur’s headquarters, who was in Japan. And-
I: But that coming from-
B: That came from Japan.
B: No, the Korean-
I: People collect the intelligence on North Korea where the war was and then they send it to Japan and they send-
B: They sent it back to us.
I: to you. Right. So, it, the intelligence from Korea, right?
B: Um hmm.
B: But when we got up to the Chosin Reservoir, we had people on the ground that communicated with our pilots, and they knew exactly where to send them.
I: Uh huh.
B: Used to have big, you know, red
paper on the ground to point to an arrow where we needed to either napalm it, or shoot rockets at, and, we were doing that. We didn’t have too much problems in the air, because Korea didn’t have any.
I: North Korea didn’t have-
B: Now we, yeah, but we did get some static from Russia. Some of the Russian planes came over there that the guys had to fight off, you know, but most the time, we didn’t have a problem, with the airplanes.
I: How desperate was the war there?
I mean, tell me about intelligence that you got from Japan. What was the details, and when was the most important moments in that battle and so on?
B: Yeah, most of the time the details were this is where you go and this is who you contact when you get there.
B: In other words, we had people on the ground at the ch-, at the reservoir, Chosin Reservoir that would guide our planes in to the target. And that intelligence came from Kore-, from Japan, to us,
and then we’d relayed that to the pilots and they knew exactly where to go.
I: Mmm. Any anecdotes or stories that you want to share while you were in Wanson?
B: In Wanson? No, Wanson was-
I: When were you in the airbase?
B: Uhs, Wanson.
B: When we first come over to Korea, we landed at Kimpo. Or at least I did. And I landed at Kimpo right after the Inchon Landing.
That’s where I, I met General MacArthur at the Kimpo airfield.
I: So, you didn’t directly fly to Wanson?
B: No, I went to Kimpo airfield, right at the, which is right outside of Inchon.
B: And, that’s where I met General MacArthur, and then subsequently, the squadron moved to Wanson. We didn’t spend too much time at Inchon, because all the guys, the, the Army, and the First Ranger Division was pushing north. So, we were kinda right behind
them, and as soon as they cleared Wanson, our planes went in there.
I: Any other story that you want to share with this interview about your service in the air, the airbase?
B: No, we, we were busy all the time. Most of the time, it was in the office, we were gathering intelligence to pass on to the pilots.
B: But, it was, you know,
interesting experience for me because I was only 19 years old, I didn’t know anything.
B: Just outta the first year in college. So, you know. I did what I was told to do, I was a corporal. And the squadron commander relied heavily on me, because I knew how to type, and I, I guess I was a pretty sharp kid at the time, because he gave all of the intelligence to me and between him and I, we briefed the pilots, both going up there and coming back.
I: How, how many
soldiers a day on average?
B: I would say as far as individual sortage by plane, probably somewhere around 10 to 20.
I: A day?
B: A day.
B: Sometimes they might come back and refuel and go up again, but most of the time they’d go up there and do their thing around the reservoir and then come back to Wanson.
I: What kind of aircraft were there?
B: Is a Corsair.
I: Corsair. Um-hmm.
I: F what?
B: F4U Corsair.
I: How many pilots were there?
B: I would say probably around 20, 25.
I: How many aircrafts?
B: About the same, we had a few extra aircraft, we had a couple of other night fighters and things like that at the squadron. But most of the planes were Corsairs.
I: Any pilot killed, or?
B: [shakes head]
B: We had some pilots that were killed up there,
but they came probably from the aircraft carriers which were in the China Sea, or Sea of Japan, I guess it was.
I: East Sea
I: East Sea.
B: Is it East Sea?
I: Yeah, that’s the East Sea.
B: Well, I, that’s East Sea. I know I flew over to Korea over to Japan one time-
I: And that’s a sea in our east side, so we call it East Sea.
B: Yeah, well I remember is Sea of Japan, that’s all. But we flew over there. I had, since I was in charge of
all the, ordering all of the equipment from Japan to get over to our squadron, there’s, occasionally I had to fly back to Japan to pick up parts. But I was, you know, had a pilot I went with.
B: One time I almost had to jump out over the Sea of Japan, or East Sea. But it was 30, 40 degrees below zero and I would have probably frozen as soon as I hit the water. But fortunately, I didn’t have to bail out of, of the plane.
I; Any other foreign pilots?
From other countries join?
B: Not that I knew of, ’cause all of our guys were from the United States.
I: How were pilots doing? They were?
B: Well, the pilots were great guys, I mean, they, they, you now, we, we didn’t lose any pilots. Some pilots were lost up there, but personally from my squadron, we didn’t lose anybody.
I: So, major mission of the pilot was either recon or bombing?
B: No, bombing.
B: Yeah, we went up there specifically
with rockets, napalm and some bombs, and we dropped them right on the Chinese that were surrounding the Chosin Reservoir, or, you know, the peripheral are.
I: So, you had warehouse where, that you stored all this bombs, right?
I: What kind of bombs?
B: They, they were shipped-
B: They were shipped from Japan over to our base and we kept them in storage.
B: But yeah, we had a big ground crew that took care of those airplanes. But it got to the
point to where it as so cold over there, even at Wanson, during November and December, that they’d even have guys like me go out during the nighttime every four hours and warm up the corsairs. So that they were ready to fly at first light. And so, I was only a corporal worked in the office but they, everybody had to go out there and warm up those aircrafts, so the pilots could sleep and be ready to go.
I: Did you like working with the pilots?
B: Oh, yeah. We had a great time. I mean they, they’re
all, most of them were a little bit older than I was, I was only 19-
I: Uh huh.
B: so’s a bunch of them in their 20s and probably 30s. Yeah, I had a great time with the pilots, we got along good.
I: How much were you paid for your service at the time?
B: At the time, ’cause I remember when I got back from overseas, I believe I was getting about $125 a month.
B: As a corporal. And, so when I got back to California, after the Korean War, not after the Korean War, but when they shipped me back,-
B: they gave me the opportunity to go to flight school, ’cause I took all the test and I qualified. I could either go to flight school or go to get out.
B: I, I took the discharge.
B: Because, even though flight school, I kick myself for not going, but, they get paid a little bit more than $125 a month, so that would have been fine, but I wanted to get out and make some real money.
I: What did you do with the money that you got during your service?
B: From the service? Well I didn’t get any money from the service because I spent all that.
But after I got out, then I had become very successful in sales and business ownership.
B: So. Yeah.
I: What did you do?
B: Well, I owned several, a little string of furniture stores in Texas called Bright Ideas.
B: We had that for many years, I was in sales, was Combined Insurance Company out of Chicago, Illinois, and I did extremely well in sales.
I: Excellent. Did your experience in the war help?
B: It probably did,
only to realize, and you know, that this wasn’t a very friendly world in some places and that we had to fight for freedom, and make sure that we stayed a free country. And, yeah, I felt proud of my time that I spent over there.
I: What do you think is the legacy of Korean War and Korean War Veterans?
B: I think the legacy of the Korean War was the fact that, you know, we stood up to the communist Chinese at the time-
B: That came across from,
you know, across the Yalu River from China. And I think it made a big difference a far as the future we see today, that some of the rogue nations around the world realized that, if you push us up against a wall, we’re going to fight back, and fight back hard. And, we felt that way when I was in Korea when I was with the Marine Corps, and I still feel that way today.
I: Do you think then U.S. has to go for Ukraine right now, because it’s under military threat by the PT?
I don’t know, I’m not real sure our president the wherewithal to get involved in a war.
I: I mean, whether you think that U.S. has to engage in, involve in that or not?
B: Oh, no. I’m-
B: 83, they’re not gonna take me.
I: No, no, no. U.S., the-
B: Oh, the U.S.
B: Oh, with the present president, no, I don’t think we’ll get involved.
I: No, I’m saying that whether United States should do act, or not?
I’m not saying, I’m not asking you-
B: Yeah, yeah.
I: whether Obama would do or not.
B: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
B: Um, I don’t think we should.
I: Why not?
B: Well, because based upon what I’ve read about, you know, Ukr-, what’s happening over there, that this is kind of a rogue, or part of Russia, or a lot of Russian people in that southern part. If we go into the, if they go in over and above where they are right now, yeah, then I say we’d need to get involved.
I: Okay. When did you leave
B: I’m gonna guess and say it was sometime in the summer.
I: Have you been to Korea, back?
B: No, I’ve been asked a couple times, but I’ve never gone back.
I: Do you know what happened to Korea?
B: W-What happened to it?
I: In the economy and politics? South Korea.
B: Oh, well, yeah, I follow that part of it.
B: Oh, well, you can see the, if you ever take a look at Korea at night time,
I: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
B: South Korea is lit up, in other words, the free enterprise system is working.
I: Yeah, yeah yeah.
B: And North Korea is still dark.
B: And that’s because of the communist ruler, rulers, that’s going on up there. It’s unfortunate, but I’m sure the South Korean people are a lot happier than the North Korean people.
I: Yes, yes. And we were able to do it because you protected us. So, we-
B: Yes, yes.
I: never forget.
B: I, I feel that I did my duty as a Marine, and yeah, I’m very proud of that.
B: Even though small as it was, I wasn’t,-
B: didn’t do anything heroic.
I: Do you have grandchildren?
I: In high school or the college or-
B: Well, they-
I: in their 20s?
B: they’ve graduated from college or yeah, they’re out of high school, but they graduated from college, well they didn’t graduate-
I: How old they?
B: from four years, but they went to college?
I: How old they?
B: Well, they’re in their late 20s.
I: Oh. Still I, you have my business card, –
I: ask them to see if they want to join the Korean War Veterans Youth Corps in July 26thto 28thin Washington D.C.
B: Okay, I’ll ask them.
B: Neither one of them have, have any desire to get into the military. You know, I tell them all the time how great it was for me, but then-
I: We’re not we’re not talking about joining military.
B: Yeah, yeah I know.
I: It’s a Youth Corps.
B: But, you know, they, they,
you know, they’re, they don’t have the same ideas, or desire to do something good for your country that, like back in the ’50s.
I: But you, they will meet many young descendants of the Korea War veterans and they can build their own community and do-
I: something about it. Okay?
B: Yeah, okay, well I tell them about it.
I: Please do so. Anything else that you want to add to this interview?
B: No, no, anything you want?
I: That’s all?
B: That’s all.
I: Great. Thank you so much again for your fight.
B: Okay, You’re quite, quite welcome.
I: Thank you.
B: And keep up the
I: Yes, sir
[End of Recorded Material]