Charles Eugene Warriner
Charles Eugene Warriner was born on October 1, 1931, in Onida, South Dakota. He grew up on a farm and graduated from Watt High School in 1949. On November 5, 1952, he was drafted into the US Army and completed basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky followed by advanced infantry training. He was deployed to Korea and landed at Incheon in July 1953 and was deployed as a part of the 8th Army, 10th Corps, 92nd Engineer Searchlight Company based near Chuncheon. During his time in theater, he served as a searchlight operator and cook. He rotated back to the US and was discharged from the Army on July 27, 1954.
Korea After the Armistice
Charles Eugene Warriner talks about arriving at Incheon and his assignment near the DMZ in the time just after the signing of the Armistice. He describes building a bunker and collecting lumber. He shares how although the war was over, one could still feel and sense the horror of war overhead.
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Winter in Korea
Charles Eugene Warriner describes the winter conditions at his outpost near the DMZ in 1953. He remembers there was a terrible ice storm. He describes wrapping barbed wire around his boots to aid walking upon the ice.
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"You Do Crazy Things"
Charles Eugene Warriner tells a story of how he took pest control into his own hands when faced with a rat problem in his mess hall. He explains he shot the rat. He describes how it helped not only the rat problem but to cure boredom as well.
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Charles Eugene Warriner speaks about seeing impoverished Korean children while on his way to his unit. He describes the emotional impact the experience had on him. He recalls how many of those children were starving and had lost their families and homes.
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Pumpkin Pie Out of Strained Beans
Charles Eugene Warriner recalls a funny story when, as a cook, he came up with a clever way to use cans of strained beans. He explains the strained beans were like baby food. He describes how he used them to create a pumpkin pie.
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[Beginning of Recorded Material]
Charles Eugene Warriner: Eugene Warriner. E U G E N E W A R R I N E R.
Interviewer: Great, could you tell us when you were born and where you were born?
I: And where were you born?
C: The town in South Dakota was Onida. O N I D A
I: Great and could you talk about your family at the time?
C: My family, two sisters and I was the only boy on a farm. So, we did a lot of chores and
we didn’t have toys and things. We made our own. The best time of the year I would
play with grasshoppers. [Laughs] Cause that was a toy. Or, make a plane out of a license plate or something.
I: So, did you graduate high school?
C: Oh, it was one high school Blunt, South Dakota.
I: And when did you graduate?
C: In 1949.
I: Now, did you enlist or were you drafted?
C: I was drafted.
I: And when?
C: 1952, November 5th.
I: And where did you receive basic training?
C: Fort Knox, Kentucky.
I: So, after basic, did you go directly to Korea?
C: No, I had advanced infantry training of sixteen more weeks. I believe is what it was
was. I got through it and I was oh my gosh, this thing is still going on over there. So, I thought well, maybe I should go OCS. So, I took tests, and I was eligible to go to Officer Candidate’s School. So, I started in that
C: And got about three weeks into it, or something like that, or maybe not
even two weeks and I got pneumonia and that was the end of that. So that was the end of OCS. So, after that we, so that’s when we get moved on, yeah.
I: Did you know about Korea at this time?
C Oh I knew about Korea. Yes. Yes.
I: What did you know?
C: Well, I knew it was a small country. That was probably abused by other countries next
door and things like this. Yes. I was quite a geography guy. So, I didn’t, yeah I knew
I: You had learned about it in school?
C: No, they never taught that in school. But things, just books, reading.
C: So, yeah that’s basically it. I was just interested in if I ever got dropped off some place
in the world, I’d know which direction to go to come home. That’s the reason I knew
this. Where places were. [Chuckles] Does that make sense?
I: Yeah. Absolutely, that’s great. So, when did you go to Korea?
C: Oh in July 27, 1953 I was on a ship outside of
C: Yokohama Bay, in Japan.
I: So right when the armistice was signed?
C: Yes, right in the bay that’s when it was signed. I was right there. Everybody was
elated. So, from there I went, oh where’d I go, to Osaka, I think. That’s a ship place. It’s where the ship could go in. And I was there for probably three weeks
C: And I got another MOS, and I didn’t know what that was, Military Occupation
Specialty. That MOS was a searchlight operator. Which I never heard anything like
that. So, that’s what my MOS was at that time. So, I got this ship. Well, after I was there for like two weeks.
C: Board ship and went into Incheon. [Gasp] Sorry about that.
I: Take your time.
C: All I seen was a sea of kids. I thought wow, there’s no grownups around? Everything
was leveled. [Gasp] I guess you could’ve been one of those kids, practically. You know or a mother of one, whatever.
C: But there just wasn’t anything left of it. So, from there we got on a train, a narrow
gauge train and went up to Chungcheong. Chungcheong, yeah. And that’s where we got off at and was dispatched out of the trucks and went right up to the 38th parallel. And up there, that’s
C: First thing I was doing, had been doing, was help building a bunker and going doing
into the valley there collecting and lumber to. [Gasp] Man, I’ve never been this way before.
I: It’s ok. I’m sorry I don’t have any tissues with me.
C: Yup, well.
C: So I was down there, all the trip wires and scattered to things. Started to think, well I’m
not doing this. The war is over. Took my bag and thought I’d go building the bunker.
We’ll put these things in place. We were still building bunkers at that time. And it was right next to the 38th parallel. So, everything still smelled of dead flesh.
C: Um, quite a wake up. So.
I: Can you tell me why you feel emotional when you think about Korea?
C: Well, I guess because the kids, they were all good. And I actually, when I wasn’t, after
the searchlight operator, I got in
C: As a cook. Because it’s a small platoon up on a hill about 20, 15, 20 people. And this
one guy was going out, he says can you handle this? And I liked that a lot better. Well, he said you don’t have to work seven days a week for this, you know inspection and things. On the searchlight I was always, every day, doing things with it. I used my electric razor then though. [Laughs]
C: I had a generator on my truck to do that. So, god I was, oh, I lost my train of thought
there. Building this bunker, we got that thing dug and they sent some other down there
to do that. And I don’t even know if they dug.
C: But built a nice bunker there in the side of the hill. Rocks and everything on top, so
deep. So, after I got in the bunker there, the ROK army was right there next to us. Right down the hill. We used to play silly games with them. [Laughs] Some of them weren’t nice. [Laughs]
I: And what unit were you a part of?
C: 92nd Searchlight, 10th Corps,
C: Eighth Army. That small outfit you probably never would not even hear of it. So, or
even read of it. So, I guess they were coming over there doing things. Um, going through our trash and things. I knew they, you know looked after. So, some of the guys, you know I didn’t have a part in it, but they’d do bad things
C: To ‘em. Like taking the shells out of the bullet and putting in comet wire in there when
somebody’s going through the trash, going through our trash or something. God we j
just don’t need these guys in there. So yeah, well that wasn’t a nice thing. But I mean
it didn’t hurt anything. But, we all got our butts all chewed out royally from that. The
whole bunch of us. Yeah, which they needed to be. I guess I never had it in
C: You know I saw the kids, but we were away from all that and so.
I: What did you think when you saw these kids and how did it make you feel that you
were there in Korea and helping them?
C: Well, I guess the whole thing was, I was, yeah is to help them. And when I become a
cook then I did make it. I worked like, oh what was it
C: Worked four days and take off three. And, so then I make trips just hitchhiking back
down in Seoul and things… So, I actually ended up in a Korean home. I guess it’s probably rural place and they fed me. You know they didn’t have nothing but they give me egg, you know, and so, I showed ‘em pictures.
C: Of my farm. So, we had a connection that way. And, they were amazed, you know,
that I’d go there to just leave a farm. Actually, I was drafted. [Laughs] So, but it’s
something, yeah it’s really, neat. Going into Seoul had the four gates there: east, west, north and south. And that’s about the only thing standing.
C: The rest was all rubble going in there. I go wow, this is really something! Cardboard,
tin, shacks there and things. One of the things I do remember is the first winter there. Course, I was a country boy and I knew a lot about things. We got this ice storm and got about two inches of ice over everything and on the side of a hill. And I had to go from my bunker to
C: The mess hall to feed the 18,19 guys. Nobody to get around except on their hands
and knees. So, I got some barb wire and wrapped that around my boots and that’s
they way we walked, on barbed wire. So, they thought well he’s pretty smart, huh. Yeah, well that’s the way you had to do it back home. So, yeah, that but first winter, that was really bad. It wasn’t cold
C: But it was just icy. [Laughs] So, yup, and I did a lot of, oh just traveling around. So, I
seen all the pagodas and ask about that and the religions there and things. I’m a Christian guy so that doesn’t bother me. Yeah know, so we just, it’s just.
C: I hope you don’t print all this stuff. [Laughs]
I: Oh no, no no. I definitely want to hear all about it. So,
C: It’s just, yeah.
I: So, what were the living conditions like?
C: The living conditions for me is that after the bunker, well we. If you weren’t real, there
there were a lot of rats around. You get a big, bunch of people, garbage.
C: I thought, wow! So, I took my thirty-aught-six, here. [Laughs] I got it out on the table
and here this rat. He was underneath all this canvas, you know, on the wall there. . I think, I’m gonna shoot this sucker. [Laughs] So, I put a tracer shot in it. So, I shot the little rat behind what made a bulge in the tarp on the wall. The rat squealed and dropped down
C: In there. Maybe got away, I don’t know. And it blew out the candle on the table when I
was doing. Course I plugged my ears before. [Laughs] Got everybody excited. But it
was inside, nobody can hear a shot outside. But, it was just one of the fun thing. Well, it just breaks up the monotony. ‘Cause a lot of times you do crazy things and it might have been a fun thing to do, didn’t hurt ‘nuthin. So.
I: So, what was your duty at the time? What was your purpose for being stationed in
Korea and where were you stationed again?
C: It’s 92nd Searchlight, the 10th Corp.
I: Do you know what town you were stationed in?
C: It’s up by Chungcheong. You know, it’s probably the first town. It’s a mountainous area.
Ah next, out ahead of us it’s right on the 37th parallel
C: Christmas hill. Ah, I can’t remember all of those, you know.
I: And you were there for your entire time?
C: Yes, yeah except the times I take off of my cooking activities. Yeah. [Laughs]
I: And so, what was your purpose for being there? What was your main duty?
C: My main duty was just cooking for the guys. What it ended up to be?
C: Yeah, that’s what it ended up to be with that.
I: Ok, ok.
C: So, I went through all this stuff.
I: So, when did you learn that, you know. Um, no, before that. Did you experience
anything that was very difficult or hard for you during your service. that you remember?
C: No, just seeing kids.
C: [Gasp] Sorry.
I: No, not at all. Did you ever talk to any of those kids?
C: We were just on the train going through. Going up Chungcheong. So, and of course
they were all starving. Give ‘em a little
C: Cook here or something. And, that’s the way they are. Yeah. Oh yeah, you have
compassion when you see that and no parents around. And, wow, everything is
rubble. The train station there was just a chunk of concrete up in the air when it get on up in flight.
C: And that’s all that existed. And plus all the shacks and things that were around for
living out that way. Yeah, it’s very emotional. But not then, later.
I: So, then you weren’t but what were you thinking then, when you saw them?
C: Being a big, big boy
C: What ya, pat somebody on some shoulder something like this.
I: Did you write home when you were in Korea?
C: Oh, I wrote home, yeah, my parents and sisters. Probably at least once a week or
I: What did you say?
C: I just told ‘em that’s what I was doing. And tell ‘em what I was seeing
C: And things like this. So, yeah, that’s basically it. The ice storm, cooking or something.
Yeah, maybe the guys you know like I don’t feel like cooking that morning because we
all had a party the night before. And one thing that was impressive, is my uncle had a egg place down in Nebraska and he shipped eggs
C: Cold storage. And I got one of his cases of eggs over there. Wymore Produce,
Wymore, Nebraska. Yeah. And so I’d cook those eggs, cold storage, like they’d been
probably been two months old. But, I got ‘em. [Laughs] So, I’d do my best. A lot of times strictors yell everything turns out easy if you scramble ‘em. But, that morning seemed like I had a hangover or something. So, I just took eggs,
C: I let the guys all, gosh, they all look half sick. They should all still be in bed. But, there’s
probably three or four of ‘em. It wasn’t a big group. It’s just different. I said, I’ll just have my egg now. So, I just popped ‘em in my mouth, you know. They picked up the trays and left. [Laughs] So, I didn’t have to do nothin’. Just a funny thing.
I: What was your favorite dish to cook or what did you cook most often for them?
C: Uh, what was on the menu, the rations
C: That were brought here. And one day a week we’d get our sea rations and that was
just cook’s didn’t have to do anything except warm up stuff. But, the things I would cook ‘em, the one thing that we got was really funny, was we got some these gallon cans, steel tin can, of strained beans, which is usually like baby food.
C: Strained beans, all by itself. What in the world am I gonna give these guys? [Laughs]
With all the strained beans here and all of them. I talked to somebody else, oh yeah they got that too. They threw it out. You know, what I did, is I made, we’ll just make a pumpkin pie out of this. So, that’s what I did. Put a lot of cinnamon in it and sugar and it turned all kinds of colors. Guys looked at it.
C: Ate every bit of it. [Laughs] That’s right. So but, it turned green, purple and red. And
there were different colors cooking but it kind of tasted like pumpkin pie. [Laughs]
I: It’s very innovative of you. Had you cooked before? Like, had you cooked often before
C: No, no, no, no, no, no my mom took very good care of me and things like that.
C: Or I’d go to a restaurant or something. But, I was kind of like a bottomless pit when I
was growing up. So, I’d eat anything. No, but it’s fairly simple because you get certain
food. I think one time our First Lieutenant, he complained that his steak was tough. So he got out his bayonet and to cut his steak. So, I always made sure if he was around [Laughs] he’d get a tough steak. [Laughing]
C: He don’t control it. [Laughs]
C: And you know, and in mess halls, my mess hall.
C: And you don’t criticize that.
C: Yeah, so I used my authority though, over a commanding officer.
C: They don’t talk back. [Laughs]
I: So, when did they tell you, you were going to go back home?
C: My mother had gotten in with her gallbladder operation
C: And they did the Red Cross because they didn’t expect her to live. And so, went
through the Red Cross. So, then I got back home through their help and flew out of
C: In 1950, uh, four. And sh, so it must’ve been June or July probably.
C: And then got out of there on a little Piper Cub because up there on the mountains,
short landing strips. And so that’s why I got out on a little Piper Cub and all I’d seen
those trees ahead of us. I thought oh my god are we going to get out of the tops of trees here or not? I knew what was over the top and man, I think you get a little up draft. Lift you up over the top. It was just two-seater plane
C: Oh, so yeah. That’s why I came home, yeah.
I: One sec
C: And my mother, uh, pretty covergal she died several years after that.
I: Um, could you say that one more time for the camera?
C: What’s that?
I: That she recovered.
C: My mother recovered, and she lived, oh gosh, well several years after that. Three, four,
C: Or maybe more than that. No about four.
I: How did it feel to leave Korea, especially in the state that you found it? Did you feel
C: Yes, I did, because it rebuilt very quickly. Because I went down to Incheon there, along
C: On one of my little tours. And out of Chungcheong up there. Everything was built
pretty nicely, you know. In not too long of a time and there’s streets and there’s people in the streets and everything. It’s kind of temporary and people were going about their work. And saw the Korean guys were carrying briefcases and things like this.
C: I’m, wow, this thing is really, yeah, you guys are workers. [Laughs] So, I did have a
Korean chef, I mean they’d be in the cooking thing, and cleaning up things here and
I was always instructioning ‘em. Aluminum pans, things like this, getting the grease out was very hard. So, I need these pots cleaned.
C: So, I said you can go down there and eat with your friends down below. If you don’t get
those things cleaned, just go down there and eat. He got pissed and things like this. He came back after a while. Got along okay. But it was just the thing, yeah know, like keeping people healthy is very important when you are a cook. You don’t, had another guy there that he always liked to help in the mess hall and he had tuberculosis.
C: So we’d get it in a can, bacon. So they just chop a whole in it and one end and the
other, they open up. So you just take and blow, blow it out. Oh my god, this guy’s got
tuberculosis. I think this ain’t gonna happen. So, I can’t have that. No. So, I did have
one of them that was, you know couldn’t stand out
C: Being in my mess hall and infect everybody. So.
I: Did you ever cook Korean food?
C: Hahaha, but yeah.
I: What, what did you cook?
C: Well it’s mostly raw stuff, like eggs. Yeah know, nobody would eat it. Oh really! You
know, it’s like that kind of thing, Well it’s really that kind of a thing. You just go ahead and eat that stuff. But, you know
C: Living in a place where you got, a farm place. Where you eating hogs, pigs, and
chickens, things like this and they weren’t close to water, fish and things. Because I know fish is a big thing for you guys. So, there wasn’t many fish eaters around or anything like that. Everything they thought had to be really cooked. Raw eggs probably aren’t the best thing for you. [Laughs}
I: So after you got home, when were you discharged from the military?
C: Oh it was, I think it was July 27th of ‘54.
I: So, exactly two years? Oh no, well you arrived in Korea on the 27th.
C: No when the truce was signed, I was on a ship there
C: At Yokohama Bay over in Korea there. Well, I suppose one full year. Yeah.
I: So, have you been back to Korea since?
C: Well, I got married. Yah, my girl well she thinks more about going some place where
It’s. I’m a farmer. So, it has to be like wintertime or something. Well,
C: Korea’s got winters. No. Can’t go, like that. But no, I think it probably, it would
be interesting. Don’t travel a lot. I’ve been to Hawaii and places. Some close places.
And Mexico and places. But, yeah, Europe, Asia, no.
I: So, are you aware that Korea is not the 11th largest economy in the world?
C: I just told that to somebody the other day there. I said Seoul is
I: I have pictures of Korea here. I want you to look at them.
C: Sure. Oh my. Wow! Fantastic! Unbelievable!
I: This is Seoul.
C: Oh yeah.
I: What you are looking at.
C: That is like a lot of people. Oh, yeah I like if I go some place that would have to be
taken care of. You know, I like to go here or there or whatever. Because I sure as heck
wouldn’t drive, you know, any place.
I: How does this, how do these pictures that you just saw compare to the Korea that you
C: The Korea that I remember was a big mountainous place and the roads narrow.
Narrow of a shot-up trains, train. A lot of people that, well not a lot. Seems like I just
never got in a bunch of crowds or something here. They were scattered kind of all over because I guess I never.
C: Realized, you know how. But that shows me that my goodness that rebuilding was
fantastic there. You know, you got further south I understand that’s where that would
all be, south of Seoul. In that area where it’s flatter. I guess it used to be rice
paddies and stuff. I guess that kind of thing. And up north that’s more the industrial
part but probably do some mining.
C: And making things like concrete and things like this.
I: How does it make you feel about your service to see Korea this way, at least South
C: It’s fantastic! It’s like a dream. Yeah, it’s really, really, really is something. You
really had to do things to get it like this because you’re completely, completely destroyed.
C: Yeah, it make me feel good serving and being drafted. To have a part, although my
duty didn’t really have a part because the war was over with. I didn’t shoot anybody or anything like that, you know. Because [Coughs] both I guess is just really, I guess I see more of the people as they were and
C: I don’t know, just talking and everybody’s friendly and all that stuff, so.
I Are you proud of your service?
C: Oh yeah. Sure, sure. Wouldn’t have missed it.
I: Would you go again?
C: Yeah. Really, yeah really would. Well, it’s just like what’s going on right now. Yeah, with
this country and with these people.
C: Cutting heads off and suicide bombers, things like this. So crazy.
I: Thank you very much.
C: You bet. Thank you.
[End of Recorded Material]