Korean War Legacy Project

Carl Rackley


Carl Rackley served in United States military in the Korean War, captured as a prisoner of war along the 38th Parallel. He describes the duration of his stay at the 38th parallel. He also describes having a hard time adjusting to a normal lifestyle when he came back home.  Carl Rackley was deeply affected even later in his life from the trauma he endured during the Korean War. He also details his job responsibilities while serving in Korea and his thoughts on the legacy the Korean War has left in the world today.

Video Clips

Escaping Through Marine Corps Bombs

Carl Rackley reflects on his experiences at the 38th Parallel. He describes being trapped there for roughly ten nights. He also details the amount of Chinese soldiers there. He expresses his gratitude for the Marine Corp troops who bombed the area for him to escape.

Tags: 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir, 11/27-12/13,Chinese,Fear,Physical destruction,Weapons

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Aiming Without Seeing the Enemy

Carl Rackley describes his job responsibilities concerning weaponry of the war. His unit prepared the Artillery 155 weapons. He details loading shells and powder for combat. He also describes the inability to see their target and using spotters to help their aim.

Tags: Front lines,Physical destruction,Weapons

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Nerve Damage from War

Carl Rackley describes here the lasting impact the Korean War has had on his life since he served. He describes having nerve problems and how this affects his daily life. He describes the roots of these nerve issues from their origins in war.

Tags: Fear,Living conditions,Personal Loss

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Never Going Back to Korea

Carl Rackley expresses his desire to never return to Korea. He describes how many of his fellow Korean War veteran friends have gone back. Despite their journeys back and hearing of South Korea's immense success, he insists he does not want to return.

Tags: Impressions of Korea,Modern Korea

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Transcribed Material]


C:        I don’t recall how much (INAUDIBLE) in that Reserve.  It was like, I think, about $25 a month I believe. It wasn’t much.  And we didn’t have to go very often anyhow.  For 20 years, when I got out, you know, I got released from duty,



I didn’t draw no Disability.  And I could have stayed when I got out one more day.  You draw Disability, you got it coming.  One more day, we’ll do your paperwork tomorrow.  I said no, I want out, and I wanna go home now.  And I didn’t take it.  And this guy with Disability insisted in 20 years, you got it coming.



You’re gonna need it later on.  So I didn’t draw no Disability for 20 years.  And then I started.  And it moved up a little each time, you know, as years go by.  But anybody, it was 38th Parallel.  They don’t even hardly ask no questions no more.  If you was there, you got Disability. You got frozen hands and feet back then.



And they was 10, 12 days and nights we were trapped without hardly anything, you know.  We was learning to fish in a barrel.  (INAUDIBLE) 20,000 of us, 120 – 30,000 Chinese.  But condition was so bad they would come over the mountain from other side to get to us and try to get any equipment there and grain, corsairs, they were small airplanes.



That they could drop those bombs, the whole mountain where they were trying to set up a machine gun to work on it, it would knock them out.  It saved our lives.  They were great Corsairs.

I:          How was your relationship with other foreign troops including Korean soldiers?

C:        Those in our outfit were very close.  It didn’t matter what nationality they were.



It was a few Mexicans or Spanish in there.  There was part that.  We only had, while I was there, there was only I believe, a couple of the colored in our outfit at the time.  And they started on their part.  They did make sure that they weren’t goofing off.



They would do their part or more.

I:          What were some of the most difficult or dangerous times during your duty?

C:        Difficult times?

I:          Um hm.  Or some of the most happiest or memorable, funny memories.

C:        The hardest on me, I didn’t understand.



When they started the rotation draft to come home, I thought well, I’ve served, and I’ve got a son that’s nearly a year old that I’d be on the first rotation draft.  I’d think here I go home.  R is way down the list.  Alphabetically is the way they done that apparently.



I:          What was probably one of the most severe battles that you engaged?

C:        The what?

I:          What was probably one of the most severe battles that you engaged in while you were in Korea?  Were you in any battles?
C:        Well, I’ll tell you.  You’re not infantry.  Artillery (INAUDIBLE).

I:          So, what were you responsible for doing?  What was your job?

C:        Well, you’ve got a crew, you know, like 12 or so operations, some zero in the end, some loading, you know,



And some good, you knew every part.  You done everything, different jobs.  And you know, when you put your shell in and you put the shells were close to 100 pounds.  They were 90 something.  And then, it depends on, you  had bags of powder, you know.



Five charge, six, seven, eight, charge, it depends on how far.  One fifty-five.  You didn’t actually see the targets you were shooting at.  But you had a spotter would tell you you’re right on the dot.  You hit the tank and would blow the tank up and throw, they had pack mules.  Knocked out so many Chinese, so many mules.



And stuff like that. Our troops, you had a different fuse, and you’d make a shell go o ff in midair, you know, so many feet above the ground, would kill more.  They had that down to a science.  The different fuse to where it was going.  It could go through a building, penetrate a building and then explode.  It leveled the building.

I:          Were you assigned to that position?
C:        What?
I:          Were you assigned to artillery?  Is that where you were assigned when  you were drafted?



C:        Yeah, that’s what we were in.  That’s what we went to California to practice, and that’s what I was trained to do, in everything that you do with the 155.

I:          And what was the impact of the War upon your life after you came home from Korea?  What was life like?  What impact did it have on you and your family?



C:        Well, I had, I still have, a nerve problem.  Don’t walk up and touch me.  You may not know it cause I, in church, I won’t sit on the outside, you know, people walk by and touch me, and you know, I come up fist doubled.  But if you get down not on the other side, it wasn’t so bad.



When I go to church, they know it.  And they avoid, and I would catch somebody you know.  But my wife had to be very careful.  That happened at night when we landed.  First night we had landed, someone bent over to wake me up to go duty, guard duty.  I was just exhausted, you know.



We’d been watching them bomb and shell.  We landed, they bombed and shelled and we watched it for hours.  And anyhow, we landed just before daylight, and we landed on dirt and somebody woke me up to go on guard duty and scared me so bad I had a rifle across me and a bayonet in my hand.



Scared me so bad I jumped, and it went across his body and knocked him down, breath out of him.  He scared me so bad I went over him, and I got him a (INAUDIBLE) before I come back and restabbed him.  But I like to kill the Marine when we landed cause he scared me so bad when he touched me to wake me up.



I:          Looking at your hat here it says the Chosin Few.  Can you kind of explain what that was?  Can you tell me about it?

C:        That’s where we was trapped at the 38th Parallel.

I:          And about how many were there?

C:        That First Marine Division, there was, I think it was around 20,000.  I think it was 130,00 Chinese that had us trapped.  We went ahead of the main line too fast, too far ahead.



Conditions were so bad like I tell you. Everything, water would freeze instantly.  Anything (INAUDIBLE) and it would freeze.  And they had us.  Their airplanes saved us and they blowed the bridges up.  Corps of Engineers, they would fly in some pallets.  It would help.



It would fill up all the mounds where the water runs off the bridge.  It may not be big, but just a bridge.  It might trap anything kind of equipment, spare some equipment.  Put a raft across, get the other equipment out.  It spared some equipment to have some to put on it.



Helicopters might pick up some with them bags.

I:          How long were you all trapped there for probably?
C:        We were trapped

I:          How long?
C:        It was about 10 days and nights till we got out to where they were holding the line when we got out.  The Army had the line and was holding the line and we got down to flat country, some flat country where rice paddies were.



I:          Have you been back to Korea since?
C:        No, and I’m not going back either.  They say that’s a concrete city, modern stuff now.  But it was, there was, you know, they were in bad, bad shape. I mean, it was natural for them.  They didn’t have nothing.  Everything was destroyed, you know.



But they welcome, they would pay our expense if you wanna go back and visit.  And there was some in (INAUDIBLE).  I went to a friend’s funeral last week.  He went back twice, Roy Atkins.  But I wasn’t interested in going back.

I:          In 2013, we witnessed the 60th anniversary of the Armistice which was signed by China, North Korea and the UN on July 27th, 1953.



There’s no war in modern history that lasted 60 years after an official cease fire.  What do you think we have to do to put a closure on it?  Do you support kind of  movement to petition to end the War officially and to replace the Armistice with a Peace Treaty?



C:        Well, I don’t know enough about that to make a statement.  Part of it would be wrong.  So much what I said was wrong.  Some men agree. I’d rather not make a statement on that.
I:          Okay.  That’s perfectly fine.  What do you think the legacy of the Korean War veterans and the Korean War, what do you think the legacy is? And do you think it’s important for younger generations to know what happened in Korea?



C:        Yes.  It was a great sacrifice that the United States made.  We lost lots of lives, very expensive war it was.  But they showed, you know, we got some respect there.  But that was, they called that a Police Action.



It was a War.  They called that a Police Action, some people.  That didn’t sound good either. But I thought we was in a war.  With guys getting killed all around you and shelled and all that, it looked and smelled like a war to me.

I:          Did you happen to get wounded at all?
C:        Me?  No.



I couldn’t remember the name of the award. I didn’t put it down.  But one wounded got mortar fire and I thought this buddy was in a sleeping bag with his, you know, powder exploding.  It was burning.  And I was trying to get him out of his bag.



And he was in that bag.  I got a medal, you know, for it.  I was standing there trying to save him.

I:          Is there anything that you, anything else you’d like to share, any other stories or memories that you had during the Korean War that you would like to live onto the Digital Memorial?



C:        No.  There’s some things I don’t tell.  I don’t tell, I won’t tell.  Maybe that’s the way to keep from being, but there’s things that wouldn’t change.  It was done in the past, things that happened.  Some of them were very sad. Some of it hard to

I:          Understandable.