Korean War Legacy Project

Charles L. Chipley


Charles L. Chipley Jr. enlisted in the Navy in 1949, following his father’s lead and personal interest in travel. He enjoyed his Naval tour of duty traveling to foreign locales until the Korean War erupted. He describes his life aboard the USS Rochester during the war, from the food served to surviving an aircraft bombing of his ship. He recounts his ship’s main assignments which entailed providing ground support for troops via the ship’s weaponry, rescuing flyers at sea, and clearing out underwater mines. In addition, Chipley recalls stories of Chinese movements resulting in waves of civilian death.

Video Clips

Life Aboard the USS Rochester

Charles L. Chipley Jr. describes the food available aboard the USS Rochester. He shares that meat, potatoes, fruits, and vegetables were available among other foods. He adds that supply ships would replenish his ship's stock.

Tags: Food,Living conditions

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The Bombing and Return Fire of Incheon

Charles L. Chipley Jr. describes the USS Rochester bombing of Incheon prior to soldiers landing. He shares that the landing, in his opinion, was very successful. He recounts that return air attacks came from the north while his ship was sitting in Incheon Harbor, and 4 bombs were dropped targeting his ship.

Tags: 1950 Inchon Landing, 9/15-9/19,Incheon,Yellow Sea,Fear,Front lines

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Chinese Attacks Against Civilians

Charles L. Chipley Jr. offers his account of providing evacuation aid to the Marines at Heungnam. He recounts that his ship provided gunfire support so that troops could be loaded onto the evacuation ships. He describes the movement of a speculated 100,000 Chinese troops killing civilian Koreans.

Tags: 1950 Inchon Landing, 9/15-9/19,1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir, 11/27-12/13,Busan,Heungnam,Jangjin,Chinese,Civilians,Fear,South Koreans,Weapons

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First Assignment

Charles L. Chipley Jr. recounts his first assignment on the USS Rochester CA-124. He recalls the weaponry installed on the heavy cruiser and describes its use as gunfire support for ground troops, adding that some of the weaponry on the ship served the purpose of protecting the ship from enemy aircraft. He explains that the ship's mission was also to rescue flyers at sea and to clear out underwater mines.

Tags: Yellow Sea,Front lines,Weapons

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Video Transcript

Charles:     My name is Charles Lawrence Chipley Junior. Last name is c-h-I-p-l-e-y. Charles Lawrence (muttering). November the eighth, 1930 I was at Bronx, New York. My father was in the Navy and my mother was, uh, a phone operator in New York City and when he was stationed in Brooklyn, that’s when he met her, so they got married up there. I was born there and of course he put 27 years in the navy. And we moved on over to the East coast here. I was growin up and everything so, I thought I had it in my blood. I only had one sibling that was younger then I, but uh he died of pneumonia when he was bout only eleven months old. So, I don’t have any siblings after that, my mother decided no more children.

Interviewer:     Did you go through the school in Bronx?

Charles:       No, I left there and I was about eight-ten months old and I hadn’t been back. So, I had been brought up in Maryland, Virginia, Florida, Georgia and all the different duty stations my dad was assigned.

Interviewer:    Where did you finish your high school?

Charles:    Frederick Maryland.

Interviewer: Frederick Maryland? Ah.

Charles: I graduated there in 48′. And the I went in to the Navy in ’49. So I was in the navy from 1949 to 1979.

Interviewer:    You enlisted?

Charles:    Yes.

Interviewer:   Because your father was Navy? So you enlisted Navy?

Charles:     Not necessarily that, as much as I like to travel, I guess it was in my blood. So I wanted to see part of the world and I did. I went in got assigned to a heavy cruiser and I was havin a ball at the new port in Rhode Island, Boston, went around y’ know for a while and then I went down through the Panama Canal over to California. We were doing a world cruise so we hit Hawaii, lot of Pacific Islands, Carolina Marshalls, and so forth. Sittin in the Philippines having a ball, getting ready to go to Bali and then the Korean war broke out so we went right straight up into the Korean War.

Interviewer:    So you achieved your dream going all over the world?

Charles:    Yeah so the schedule was to go to the Suez Canal and then back to Boston but.

Interviewer:    It was like a Carribean Cruise?

Charles:    (Laughs) I’ll say, I was having a ball until the Korean war broke out and then we went straight up there so it was about the third of July

Interviewer:    Let me ask you questions before you talk about your experience in the Korean war. Where did you get your basic Military training?

Charles:    Great Lakes, Illinois,

Interviewer: Illinois?

Charles: Uh, in February during in a snowstorm.

Interview: Ah, so cold isn’t it?

Charles: Oh yeah, it was very cold!

Interviewer:    What was your specialty?

Charles:    Well they wound up putting me in finance, dispersion clerk.

Interviewer:    So you dispersed the salaries and stuff?

Charles:    Yes that is right. Pay bills and all stuff like that, financing.

Interviewer:    So, what was your first assignment in where, when?

Charles:    On the U.S.S. Rochester a heavy cruiser. CA124

Interviewer:    The USS Rochestor?

Charles: Yes CA124

Interviewer: CA124

Charles:    Yes, correct

Interviewer:    And what kind of ship is it?

Charles:    It’s a heavy cruiser.

Interviewer:    How many navy crews there?

Charles:    About towards the nine hundreds. Basically, we had 8 inch guns like a destroyer has five inch, the battleship we sixteen so, we had 9 of the 8 inch guns and we had about 12 of what they call the anti-aircraft guns, the quad, and naturally the 8 inch guns are for gunfire support for ground troops and landings and all. Course, the other guns are for to protect the ship against aircraft and all. So that was our mission to rescue flyers at sea, clear out mines, we are put in water like a DLC and that was all part of our mission.

Interviewer:    When were you first into this ship? When was it.

Charles:    I went aboard in September of 1949.

Interviewer:    And, where did you go with it?

Charles:    Well we started out in Boston and then went around through the Panama Canal and up to California, and over to Hawaii, over to a bunch of islands in the pacific inspecting the old radio stations out there. Then the Philippines and up to Korea. We started right away with gunfire support for the Korean soldiers ashore, as far in as our guns would reach you know. We couldn’t go within 15 miles in or something. At least we protected those along the shore.

Interviewer:    What were you told when you left the Philippines toward Korea? Tell me about this.

Charles:    Well of course its hard for me to remember but I do remember this and we were invaded and our president said we were going to go up and help. And we went up to help the UN force together. That’s about as much as we knew. That was our job. To go where they told us to go.

Interviewer:    Were you scared?

Charles:    There was a time, we were a little, I don’t know if you called it scary or apprehensive because you know you are going into battle and you get with all these questions like what do they have what do we do. Do they have a big air force? But we just didn’t know.

Interviewer:    Were you not briefed about enemies in Korea?

Charles: Was I what?

Interviewer: Briefed. Nobody ever explain about what is your mission and what is Korea and conditions of the war, things like that. Briefing?

Charles:    Well yes, we got a briefing that north Korea invaded south Korea and our job was to go up and give gunfire support to drive the north Koreans back across the 38thparallel. You know that’s what well we were told.

Interviewer:    Did you know anything about Korea before?

Charles:    Oh no, no , nothing. (laughs) Of course we had to get out a map, and go “now where is Korea?”

Interviewer:    You didn’t know anything from your high school?

Charles:    No

Interviewer:  You stayed inside of this, this USS Rochester, right?  For how long?

Charles:    Well I was on board until September of 52′. We were in Hungnam and we evacuated the guys out of Hungnam in ’50 so it would be about uh January, or February or so of  51 and we went back for repairs and recreation and so forth. Gunfire support, we had been over in the Yellow Sea. And we’d go over at Hungnan, for those, another time.

Interviewer:    And you were discharged in September of 1952′?

Charles:    I left the ship then. The ship was still there.  They high lined me off to an oiler and then I went back and I flew back to the States. I was discharged in uh January.

Interviewer:    Tell me about, so you were there in Yellow sea and you were part of the Inchon landing?

Charles:    Yeah.

Interviewer:    Tell me about those days.

Charles:    Well basically on about uh in July we got there and it was gunfire support back and forth and then they decide to have a landing at Inchon so on the thirteenth of September we went up to Inchon and we bombarded all along the coast for two days.

Interviewer:    That was September thirteenth?

Charles:    Yes. And then on the fifteenth of September was the invasion. And they uh landed the troops. And it was very few lost I remember there was hardly any because we had just leveled off, and of course us and a whole other bunch of ships you know bombers and all, so then uh the invasion was very successful and they went in and  landed real fast. So, on the seventeenth, a Sunday the, everything was so secure that we wasn’t too much on alert so we sittin’ an Inchon harbor and of course they got a tide that’s thirty two foot so we couldn’t get out if we wanted to.  And three planes came out of the North and weren’t identified to and one of them being a medium sized plane carrying bombs.  They spotted our ship and of course it was the biggest one so they came by and dropped four bombs on us and they got the guy who had poor eyesight I guess because he hit the side and we only got shrapnel but uh the last bomb we had a crane on the back of the ship and the bomb hit the crane and bounced off so it exploded in the water. So the good lord was really just watchin’ over us. If it had bounced the other way that’s where our fuel and ammunition was well you know. But that was probably really scary because you know we heard general quarters ringing and then the bomb and you’re getting up and getting dressed. You’re just shaking like mad wondering,  “Good lord what’s happening? ”, because the ship was rolling and that was really a time when I would we really were scared. The other times we were apprehensive you know but we’d say come on we’re ready but. We never had any incidents or anything. We stood watches on different gun mounts as well the finance station had what you call general quarter stations which was a 4o millimeter gun mount were for aircraft firing and so we would do four hours on and then four hours off. Whatever the weather was. That was my job there also.

Interviewer:    When did you leave for Hugnam from Inchon?

Charles: Leave for what?

Interviewer: For…

Charles:    Oh, to Hungnam? Well, it not that you actually left but After the Inchon invasion we still were there for gunfire support for the next uh you know six months so uh when they was having trouble up at the marines and all at Chungsin there we were called over to Hugnam because we were going to have an evacuation. So we got there the first of December in 50′. And so we provided gunfire support so that we were in our range so that we could start loading all the troops and there were thousands of ships, all sorts, fishing boats and everything with civillians and all. Everybody was coming out of there, in hungnam.

Interviewer:    You saw all of those?

Charles: Oh yeah

Interviewer: How was it?

Charles:    (laughs) crowded! It was a mass. It was something. Of course as soon as we pulled out they had demolition teams and so we bombarded the cities so they wouldn’t have anything to use. So yeah that was a big evacuation, yeah. And we helped escort them down. We either dropped them off at Puson or somewhere else. Course being enlisted and all we didn’t know exactly what was going on and such where they dropped them off and what the plans were and all. What we had was filtered down to us at the time.

Interviewer:    What were you thinking? What were you thinking when you saw so many refugees and rubble?

Charles:    I kinda just thought, woop, this war isn’t going like it should.  There’s something wrong here. The thinking was and of course we heard there was not many like oh there’s’ a couple hundred thousand Chinese that had come across just wiping out everything. And so of course we were just thinking how do we stop them you know? Course being the enlisted guy you don’t know what you’re going to do. But yeah, your kinda scared mainly for the people in the country. Of course I was sitting out there. You just try to visualize a hundred thousand troops just wiping away. Of course, we heard the rumors we heard naturally our troops and the South Koreans they didn’t have any modern-day weapons and the Chinese had tanks and everything else.

Interviewer:    Let us talk about the life inside the heavy cruiser.

Charles:    We had just about every kind you want. We had your meat and potatoes, your vegetable and fruit. The navy, you go out and you got a supply ship so when you start running low they schedule you to go out to sea come along a supply ship and they replenish you. Of course, you don’t have milk you have powdered milk. But you know we didn’t have fresh stuff really.

Interviewer:    What was your rank at the time?

Charles:    When I went aboard I was a E2. When I got off I was a E6.

Interviewer:    When you were in Korea what was your rank?

Charles:    when I left the ship I was E6. First class petty officer. We started out about 32 dollars a month… Yeah I guess about a hundred or something. The pay wasn’t too much.

Interviewer:    The salary and then did you have an extra combat pay or something bonus or anything? Tell me about the details. How you made up the whole monthly payment?

Charles:    Well with the government your entitled if you are married then there is a family allowance. However if you get family allowance you have send however much to your family. So and then with us was sea pay which was extra duty. And combat pay used to come out.

Interviewer:    Did you get the combat pay?

Charles:    Oh yeah! If you’re in the combat zone you get combat pay.

Interviewer:    What do you think about your service in the Korean War?

Charles:    It was a small part but I feel like I did my small part and I’m very proud to help. I just feel so humbled the way the Korean people treat us all the time, the embassy here. The revisit program.

Interviewer:   You went back?

Charles: Yes I did.

Interviewer: Ah. When?

Charles:    2010 I went through an invitation at the Presbyterian church. During the landing at Inchon, I did go ashore at Womedo with my security officers to exchange money and everything and what I saw there was just nothing, I mean, desolation. I didn’t get back to Womedo as such, but Inchon we got back and Seoul of course, (whistles). It’s unbelievable. That revisit program is something else.

Interviewer:    Is there a message you want to leave to the interview?

Charles:   No, I’m just so happy that the Korean people have built up like they have. And to have a small part to say that I helped in that.