Korean War Legacy Project

Charles Bissett


Charles Bissett joined the United States Army after initially trying to join the Navy but was turned away due to too many men trying to join. He details his arrival in Pusan in the early part of the war. He describes meeting North Koreans on the battlefield armed only with guns when they had tanks. He recounts meals from K-Rations consisting of meat products and fruit. He also describes the PTSD battles he faced upon his return home and shares that they were hard to deal with.

Video Clips

North Korean Offense with Tanks

Charles Bissett describes the incoming forces of North Koreans armed with tanks against the, initially, light weapons of the American forces. He recounts no aid given after calling in artillery forces for assistance. He adds that many soldiers were killed.

Tags: Front lines,North Koreans,Weapons

Share this Clip +

Share YouTube:

Share from this page:


K-Rations and Where a Soldier Sleeps

Charles Bissett describes eating K-Rations while in Korea as there were no cooks for them. He recounts the K-Rations containing meat products and fruit. He recalls sleeping on the ground during the summer months.

Tags: Food,Front lines,Living conditions

Share this Clip +

Share YouTube:

Share from this page:


PTSD and Its Effects on Personal Life

Charles Bissett describes his battle with PTSD. He shares that upon his return, he was quick to anger not only with his wife but with others. He describes his nightmares of seeing part of the war and his reaction to automatic weapon firing. He shares it was hard to deal with.

Tags: Depression,Fear,Weapons

Share this Clip +

Share YouTube:

Share from this page:


Arrival and Encounter with North Koreans

Charles Bissett recalls his arrival in Korean during the early part of the war. He recounts arriving in Pusan and then transferring north to Daegu where they were met by North Korean soldiers and suffered casualties. He shares that he served as a wireman in communications for a period of time.

Tags: 1950 Pusan Perimeter, 8/4-9/18,Busan,Daegu,Front lines,North Koreans

Share this Clip +

Share YouTube:

Share from this page:


Video Transcript

[Beginning of Transcribed Material]


C:        My first name is Charles, CHARLES, middle initial is P for Peter, and last name is Bissett, B as in Boy, ISSETT.

I:          Good.  What is your birthday, and where were you born?

C:        I was born in the State of Michigan.

I:          Um hm.  What town?
C:        Wyandotte.




I:          WYN

C:        Um hm.  That’s Wyandotte.

I:          So WYAN

C:        AN, yeah.

I:          ANDA

C:        DOTT

I:          DOTT.  And tell me about your family, when you were growing up.



C:        Oh, I was born up in the city of Wyandotte.

I:          Yeah.

C:        I attended school back there, high school and grade school.

I:          What is the name of it?
C:        The school? Oh, the high school.

I:          Yeah.
C:        Is Roosevelt.

I:          Roosevelt.

C:        High School.

I:          When did you graduate?
C:        Nineteen forty-eight.



I:          By the way, when is your birthday?
C:        December 25, 1929.

I:          So, you were born on Christmas Day?
C:        Yes sir.

I:          Wow.  So, you’re sharing the birthday with Jesus.

C:        Well, if you’re a good Christian, yes, thank you.

I:          Um hm. Are you Christian?

C:        Yes sir.  I was born, brought up as a Christian in the catholic church.



I:          Ah ha.  Very nice meeting you.  I’m Christian, too.

C:        Um hm

I:          So, did you learn anything about Korea during your high school?

C:        Not much at all.

I:          Huh.
C:        Just you know, just Japan, Korea, Hawaii, you know, just the principles.

I:          Hm.  So, what do you think, I mean after all those years, you never knew before about Korea.



And you end up in Korea.  And now you know what happened to Korea after the War. So, what is it?  What is Korea to you?

C:        Well, I think it’s, to me, I just hope that the new, the old leader of North Korea doesn’t get in there and muddle things up. And he’ll make it worse.

I:          Right.



C:        Not only that, he’s probably thinking of joining up with the Russians.
I:          Um.

C:        That’s what bothers me.

I:          So, what is Korea to you now?
C:        Well, I think it’s a very aggressive and very ongoing, the people there are still good. I think that most of them are happy, from what I hear from the news broadcasts.  So, I’m happy about that.



I:          Um hm.

C:        I’m sorry that we, I feel bad about us not finishing and pulling the north and the south together because I hear about the North Koreans, how unhappy they must be treated.

I:          Um hm.  So, after you graduated from high school, what did you do?



C:        Well, I worked for a company.

I:          What company?

C:        Litten, no, Wynotte Chemical Corporation.  It was shipping.

I:          Um hm.

C:        They had boats that sailed on the Great Lakes.  And I learned many things,



Preferably how to steer the ship.  I was a bosun. Learned to manage the steering

I:          Um hm.

C:        And I went to different ports.

I:          Um.

C:        And I tried to get in the Navy with my experience, helmsman.

I:          Helmsman, yeah.

C:        You read the compass.

I:          Right.
C:        And read the charts. I knew what direction I was going to and where I had to go.



I sailed all over the Great Lakes.

I:          It’s like an ocean, isn’t it?  It’s so big.

C:        It’s like an ocean.  It could be out there in the water, and it very much so was very much like the ocean.

I:          Um.

C:        You couldn’t see one side to the other.

I:          Exactly.

C:        And of course, we got into,


I became used to it due to the terrible storms they have on the Great Lakes.

I:          Is it like an ocean that you have so much weight?
C:        Yeah.  And the ship was like this, going this way and that.

I:          Oh my goodness.

C:        Yeah, it was a pretty risky job.  But I liked doing it because my dad was a captain on a ship during the Second World War.

I:          In the Navy?


C:        Not in the Navy.

I:          Oh, in that company?
C:        Yes, yeah.  He was with the, on a private ship they had.  And we, he sailed all over.  But really, his training was as a mechanical engineer.

I:          Hm.  So, you liked that job?

C:        Oh, I liked it, yeah, sure.



When I tried to get in the Navy, they wouldn’t take me

I:          Why not?
C:        I have no, they said they had too many people.  And I told them I had this experience on a ship.  He says well, we’re, this was after the Second World War.  So, they were letting a lot of young men go.

I:          Right, yeah.

C:        So, they didn’t have any openings of any order.

I:          Yeah, right.

C:        And there were a lot of ships at that time that were in dock or out of commission.



So, there was nothing open for me.  So, I walked across the hallway and joined the Army.

I:          When was it?
C:        It was 1946, ’47.

I:          Forty-seven?
C:        Yeah.



I:          What month did you join?

C:        The Army?  Yeah, the Army I joined right after I got out of the ship work.

I:          Why did you join the Army because you had a good job?  You liked it.

C:        Well, yes, I did.  And I was very successful in it.  So anyway, that’s the reason I did join the Army.



And I was in Occupation in Japan.

I:          Where did you get the basic military training?
C:        At, oh my basic?
I:          Yeah.

C:        Well, that’s a little different. Back in the states, I was at Camp Kilmer.

I:          Where is it?

C:        That was in, I’m sorry.  My mind is, I’m having trouble.

I:          It’s okay.



C:        Uh yeah. I was, during that time, I took my training over in the middle part of the United States.

I:          Um hm.

C:        So,

I:          So, you went to Japan, right?

C:        Then I was ordered to Japan after I finished my basic training over there.



I:          Um hm.  How as Japan?
C:        I found Japan not bad, very good.
I:          Um hm.  What did you like?
C:        I got along with the people.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        And I developed friendship with them.  And then all of a sudden, the War broke out in Korea.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        So, they put me on an LST,



That was a certain kind of sailing ship.

I:          Ship, yeah.

C:        And they sent me on over to Main City at the coast, Pusan I think it was.

I:          Pusan, yeah.

C:        Pusan, Korea.

I:          Um hm.

C:        And I was ordered out to join a military unit.

I:          What unit?  Twenty-fourth Division?

C:        Twenty-fourth Division and 11 Field Artillery.

I:          Um.



C:        And then I was, many times I was ordered out to be up in the front lines, an FO.

I:          Where was it?
C:        Where the Fos were?
I:          Yeah.

C:        I landed in the southern city along the coast.

I:          Pusan. But after Pusan, where did you go?
C:        Up to, we took our battery, 144 Howitzers.



I:          Um hm.

C:        Up to a town.  The name of the town was south of where the North Koreans were coming down.  And I forget the name of the city.

I:          Was it Iron Triangle?
C:        Yeah.  Well, that’s the name they gave it.  But that was not the name of it.



It was the town or city where we used our weapons to try to stop the North Koreans from coming south.

I:          Um hm.

C:        And my officer, his name was General Smith.

I:          Um hm.

C:        And we, in fact when we were going up the road, we went in him, in his team of soldiers.



So, we stopped there.  And as an FO, Forward Observerver.

I:          Um hm.

C:        We loaded up our artillery and tried to stop them.

I:          When did you arrive in Korea?
C:        I think it was May, I’m not sure.  I mean, June.



I:          June?  So, you were in the very beginning of the War?
C:        The very beginning.

I:          Wow.  But you were in Pusan, right?
C:        Pusan.  Yeah. We got on the road and went north.

I:          North to where, Taejon or Taegu?

C:        Taegu.  Taejon we went through.



I:          What was your unit?
C:        Eleventh Field Artillery.
I:          With what regiment did you belong to?

C:        I don’t know.  I forget.  The Regiment will come back to me.
I:          So, you were in the very early.

C:        First part of the War.

I:          Um hm.

C:        In fact, it was the first part of the War where the Americans were involved.

I:          So, how many, were there many casualties?



C:        Well, there was some casualties because we dug in and stopped, tried to slow them down.  The North Koreans came in and hit us pretty hard.  We lost quite a few men.  And then we had to, so we moved down and then went,



I think it was Taejon.  I wish I had a map with me.  But we stopped.

I:          And what happened to you?

C:        Well, I was sent back to my artillery battalion and worked as a wire man then, a communications person.

I:          Um hm.



C:        Make sure the people could have their telephones.  And the War progressed then, and they drove us almost back to the Pusan Perimeter.

I:          Again.
C:        Yeah.  Back to the Perimeter because I thought they were gonna drive us in the ocean.  But it didn’t happen.



We had more people coming ashore and helping us out, different units.  They encircled us around Pusan.

I:          Naktong Perimeter.

C:        Yeah.  I don’t know.

I:          So, what were you thinking at the time?
C:        Well, I thought they were gonna push us in the ocean.

I:          In the ocean, yeah.

C:        But it didn’t happen.  We continued the War.  We drove the North Koreans back again.  And as it was, my job continued with the artillery battalion.

I:          What did you do in the artillery battalion?
C:        Well, most of it was communications.

I:          Um.

C:        I would unreel, reel wire. I wanted to show you that in the pictures that I had.



I:          But you said that you were in the Forward Observation.

C:        I was at first, yeah.  In fact, during the War, I stopped and ran down the hill to get away from them because the North Koreans are coming through with their tanks.



I wish I had a map with me.

I:          Yeah.  So, it’s okay.  So, were there dangerous moments that you?
C:        Yes, there was.

I:          Tell me about those.

C:        Well, there was dangerous moments in some of the artillery, some of the Infantrymen we had with us.  T hey came shooting, the North Koreans came shooting their way out.  And some of the men were lost.  And I got off the top of the hill and I went down the side of the hill.



And I walked around the railroad track, was heading towards the main city which was in the south.  But I don’t know what happened to all those guys that were killed up there on that hill up there.  And they were running through, the North Koreans were running through there with tanks.  They were the first ones through we met.



And we didn’t have anything like that.  All we had was our light weapons.

I:          Um.

C:        And bazookas.
I:          Um hm.

C:        We had that.  And even though we called back for artillery rounds to help us out, it didn’t.  There was too many of them.  All the North Koreans were headed south.



And they were all coming down in tanks.

I:          Where did you sleep?  What did you eat during that time?
C:        Oh.  At that time, we were eating K-rations.  They were cans of food.

I:          Um hm.

C:        You just opened them up and helped yourself.  But we didn’t have the cooks with us at that time.



They were unavailable. So, we had to use our rations, field rations at that time.

I:          Right.  What was your favorite menu?
C:        Oh of course.

I:          Which one did you like most?
C:        The rations, I liked very much what was in the cans there.  Of course, they were smoking cigarettes in the cans. And then we had meat products and some fruit.



I:          Um.

C:        I don’t remember what that was.

I:          Where’d you sleep?

C:        I slept on the ground.

I:          My goodness.

C:        Yeah.

I:          It was during the summer, though, right?

C:        It was during the summer, yeah.  There was nothing I could do.  And the North Koreans were coming down hitting us kind of hard.  So, I ran off the side of the hill down to the railroad track.



And I walked back up to the principle town or city and ran into some American men who were coming up towards, to try to stop them, the North, from heading south.

I:          Did you have a sleeping bag at the time?
C:        Not at the time, no.

I:          So, then you just slept on the trench?

C:        Sleep in a trench or sleep on the ground.

I:          Without a blanket?



C:        Yeah.

I:          You had a blanket?
C:        What time of the year?

I:          It was summer.

C:        Summer, yeah.  We were getting the most problem we had was getting rainstorms coming down.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        But other than that, it wasn’t until later in my service that it began to get very cold outside.



I:          Right.

C:        And you know that it’s cold in Central Korea and North Korea.  It’s pretty bad.  So, we had tents, and we had blankets.

I:          Did you move around?
C:        Oh yeah.
I:          From where to where?  Do you know?  You went up to North Korea?
C:        No.  Taegu.

I:          That’s far

C:        That’s as far as we got.



I:          Okay.  And how long did you stay in Korea?
C:        I was there two years, I think.

I:          Two years?
C:        No, a year and a half.  Excuse me.

I:          Um hm.  So, you were in Pusan and Taegu, and you didn’t go anywhere else?

C:        Went up to some cities or towns. I don’t remember what they were.



I:          Were you wounded?
C:        I was wounded later.

I:          When?

C:        When I went back to the Army, I got shot through my leg here.

I:          Where did you get hit?
C:        Right here.

I:          Yeah, but where?

C:        Oh, the name of the town or area?
I:          Uh huh, yeah.

C:        It was up near North Korea.  We just went over the edge.  We started heading north.



I:          And you were hit?
C:        And I was hit, yeah.

I:          So, you got the Purple Heart?
C:        Yes, I did get the Purple Heart.  It’s what I wanted to show you on my pack there.

I:          Um hm.  What was the most difficult thing for you to stay there?

C:        Well, one of the most difficult things to see badly hurt or wounded personnel.



I:          Did you see many?
C:        Not a great deal, yes some I saw.  We tried to get them up and back to for medical care.  And I went back because I got this bullet wound.

I:          Right.  Where did you go, Pusan?

C:        Pusan.  And they wanted to send me back to Japan.

I:          Japan.



C:        I said no.  I said there’s a war on, and I know there’s a War.  I still want to get, kick ass.

I:          You’re a brave man.

C:        So, you know, I wasn’t, well I think my reasoning was I seen other guys get hurt, and I think that, I really bad think that that’s (INAUDIBLE) that isn’t gonna kill me.



I:          Um.

C:        And then I continued the War.  And I noticed something, we’re jumping from one city or town after another, going up to the north.  And I’m 85 years old, and I don’t remember as much as I should.



I:          That’s right, yeah.  I agree.  I mean, there are some things that I don’t remember either.  So, when did you leave Korea?
C:        Well, I left Korea when they took over the major city north which was

I:          Pyungyang?
C:        Pyungyang, yeah.



And they said they didn’t need me anymore.  And I said well fine.  I said if you want to, you can send me home.  I don’t care.  But I still stayed with the Korean team and the American team.

I:          Um hm.

C:        For a while.

I:          So, what did you do?

C:        Till they transferred me out.

I:          Um.

C:        Well, I was a combat skilled weapons and tactics man.  And then (INAUDIBLE) Infantry.



But during the time I was with the artillery, I was the wire man.  We had a ¾ ton truck with reels of wires on the back of it.  So, we would pull that wire out and pull it up to where the FO, Forward Observer, was so that he could carry on his conversation to whom he was talking to.



So that, they were the guys that watched what was going on.  If they saw anything through the binoculars, they would report it back, and they would send the infantry guys up to try to stop them.  Oh dear.

I:          Do you have PTSD?

C:        Post Traumatic?
I:          Yeah.



C:        Disorder?
I:          Yeah.

C:        Yeah, I did at first.

I:          Um.

C:        I went to the Veterans Administration, and I had my own psychiatrist, Dr. Kim.  He was, I think he was, Dr. Kim, he was a psychologist.

I:          Um.
C:        I’m not sure whether he was Japanese or Korean. I think he was Korean.
I:          Yeah, he’s Korean.  Kim.

C:        Yeah.



He was grand. And he’d sit down and talk to me and tell me not to be so nasty to my wife.  And I would discuss with him certain things that went on with me over in Korea.

I:          What did you talk about?  What do you see?  What are the symptoms of PTSD?

C:        Post Traumatic.
I:          I know.  What are your symptoms?

C:        Well, I wasn’t getting along with my wife for a while, and I was arguing with her.  I’d snap, you know.



The same thing with other people.  I had a difficult time adjusting and calming myself down.

I:          Is that because of the War experience?
C:        I think so.

I:          What is the, so you did not get along with people?

C:        Get into arguments.

I:          Arguments easily.

C:        Yeah, easily.

I:          Did you have nightmares?
C:        Yeah, I had nightmares, too.



I:          What kind of nightmares did you see?
C:        Well, I could see part of the War coming back to me.

I:          Oh.

C:        Yeah.

I:          And that really bothered you, right?
C:        Oh, it did, yes.

I:          Yeah.  You wake up in the middle of the

C:        Oh yeah.  Sometimes you wouldn’t wake up.  Sometimes you, and you were, sometimes you were very frightened to wake up because you didn’t know whether you’d had an enemy soldier up next to you.



And that’s what didn’t straighten me out very well.  And the noise of artillery and automatic weapons.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        That was hard to deal with. You didn’t know.

I:          Um hm.

C:        There was always a feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen to you.



And you had to try to settle that in your head that you wouldn’t have somebody over you while you were laying on the ground or in a pup tent or in a whatever.

I:          Now you feel better or what?
C:        Oh yeah.  I feel much better.

I:          Oh.
C:        Yeah.  When I came back to the United States, I worked for a Company called Liden Industries.

I:          Um hm.



C:        But I decided then that I was trying to get into sea going activity.  So, I went back, and I enlisted my time for Wyandot Chemical Corporation whom I worked for.  And they had, there were self-unloaders.  They had booms on them, booms would slip over to the side, and we’d pile our cargo from stone and coal and things, cargos such as that.



But after actually, I was more interested in standing my watch up on the bridge next to the second and first mate.

I:          So, now you feel better, and you have a better relationship with your wife and others.

C:        Oh yeah, definitely.

I:          Um.
C:        Oh yeah.

I:          That’s good to hear.



And I’m so sorry about your PTSD problem.

C:        Yeah.  Dr. Kim, he was, and at that time, I could speak a little Korean to him.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        I’ve forgotten most of it.  But even when I came into his office, I’d say hello to him in Korean.



And then he’d sit down and ask me questions.  And now and then my wife found out who he was, and she would get on the phone and call over to the VA, Veterans’ Administration how my behavior is going. So that kind of helped him too, to counterintelligence with me.



I:          Right.

C:        So that’s how that worked.

I:          Hm.