Korean War Legacy Project

Charles Ross

Bio

Charles Ross enlisted in the Army in 1947 and served a three year tour in Germany with the 1st Infantry before being assigned to the 1st Provisional Battalion to be shipped nearly immediately to Korea in 1950. He recalls his experience during the Inchon Landing and recounts the Battle of Unsan where he saw the death of many American and Chinese soldiers. He shares details of the moments leading up to his capture by the Chinese as well as his memories as a POW for thirty-four months. He comments on the progress South Korea has made since the 1950s and is proud to have served there. He went on to serve in the Army for seventeen more years following his release in 1953, retiring as a Command Sergeant Major on October 31, 1970.

Clips

Inchon Landing and Movement Northward

Charles Ross describes his experience during the Inchon Landing. He recounts an order given to his unit to hold its ground at all costs and shares that it was one of the scariest moments he experienced while in South Korea. He describes traveling north, receiving little resistance along the way, and recalls North Korean soldiers surrendering as his unit crossed the 38th Parallel and made its way to Pyongyang.

Tags: 1950 Inchon Landing, 9/15-9/19,Incheon,Pyungyang,Fear,Front lines,North Koreans,Weapons

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJtapAGefo8&start=1418&end=1677

Initial Attack at the Battle of Unsan

Charles Ross recounts being under the impression that the situation in Korea was under control and in the process of ending during the fall of 1950. He recalls his unit being sent north to help a unit which had run into some resistance and being attacked by the Chinese on the way. He describes an emotional scene once the attack had ended that left a lasting impression on him.

Tags: Chinese,Fear,Front lines,Weapons

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJtapAGefo8&start=1743&end=2325

Chemical Attack at the Battle of Unsan

Charles Ross describes being trapped for three days following the attack at Unsan, near the Nammyon River. He recalls waiting for the 5th Calvary to come to the rescue and overhearing that it had met resistance and would not be able to help. He recounts a strange explosion and shares how a phosphorus chemical attack allowed him and other soldiers to make their escape.

Tags: Chinese,Fear,Front lines,Weapons

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJtapAGefo8&start=2582&end=2778

Captured by the Chinese

Charles Ross details the lead-up to his capture by the Chinese following the Battle of Unsan. He recalls searching for food and lodging in an abandoned house until meeting a Korean civilian. He recounts the generosity showed by the civilian prior to his capture. He provides an account of his experience as a POW.

Tags: Incheon,Panmunjeom,Pyungyang,Chinese,Civilians,Cold winters,Food,POW

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJtapAGefo8&start=2817&end=3337

Korea Now

Charles Ross shares his thoughts on the progress Korea made since his time spent there in the 1950s. He recalls the poverty he saw and compares it to Korea now. He comments on the speed at which Korea transformed itself.

Tags: Seoul,Impressions of Korea,Modern Korea,Poverty,South Koreans

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJtapAGefo8&start=3648&end=3795

Singing in the POW Camp

Charles Ross describes how the Chinese forced them to learn a particular song. He shares that once he and other fellow POWs found out what the words meant they refused to sing it as it called for the death of Americans. He details going on strike and singing "God Bless America" during his time as a POW.

Tags: Chinese,Living conditions,POW

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJtapAGefo8&start=4883&end=5192

Photos

NPRC Letter to Alma J Ross

Description : " A letter that was sent to my step-mother by the U.S. Army Adjutant General informing her that my name was on a list furnished by the CCF stating that I was a prisoner of war." -Charles Ross
Coverage : October 15 1952
Creator : Charles Ross
Publisher : Charles Ross
Contributor : Jongwoo Han
Rights : KWVA veterans & KWVDM
Date : 1/23/15

NPRC Letter to Alma J Ross

Battle Casualty Report

Description : A Battle Casualty Report that was sent to my sister by the office of the Secretary of The Army informing her that a list of prisoners was received from enemy forces which included my name.- Charles Ross
Creator : Charles Ross
Publisher : Charles Ross
Contributor : Jongwoo Han
Rights : KWVA veterans & KWVDM
Date : 1/23/15

Battle Casualty Report

NPRC Letter to Mae R Hankins

Description : A letter sent to my sister by the U.S. Army Adjutant General thanking her for sending letters which had been written by me, both before and after my capture, for handwriting analysis.
Coverage : January 12, 1953
Creator : Charles Ross
Publisher : Charles Ross
Contributor : Jongwoo Han
Rights : KWVA veterans & KWVDM
Date : 1/23/15

NPRC Letter to Mae R Hankins

MIA Envelope

Description : "An envelope that was addressed to me in October 1950 but returned to the writer showing my status as 'Missing in Action' " -Charles Ross
Coverage : 1950
Creator : Charles Ross
Publisher : Charles Ross
Contributor : Jongwoo Han
Rights : KWVA veterans & KWVDM
Date : 1/23/15

MIA Envelope

Telegram to Alma Ross

Description : A telegram that was sent to my step-mother informing her that I was aboard a ship en-route to San Francisco, California.- Charles Ross
Creator : Charles Ross
Publisher : Charles Ross
Contributor : Jongwoo Han
Rights : KWVA veterans & KWVDM
Date : 1/23/15

Telegram to Alma Ross

Newspaper Clipping

Description : Newspaper clipping about Charles Ross, who at the time was being released by the Chinese.
Coverage : 1950
Creator : Charles Ross
Publisher : Charles Ross
Contributor : Jongwoo Han
Rights : KWVA veterans & KWVDM
Date : 1/23/15

Newspaper Clipping

News Clipping: Two More S.C. Repatriates Due Today

Description : Newspaper clipping telling that Ross, along with another POW, was due to arrive home that day.
Creator : Charles Ross
Publisher : Charles Ross
Contributor : Jongwoo Han
Rights : KWVA veterans & KWVDM
Date : 1/23/15

News Clipping: Two More S.C. Repatriates Due Today

Dentsville POW Greets Family

Description : Newspaper clipping with picture shortly after Ross left the plane.
Creator : Charles Ross
Publisher : Charles Ross
Contributor : Jongwoo Han
Rights : KWVA veterans & KWVDM
Date : 1/23/15

Dentsville POW Greets Family

News Clipping: POW Returns

Description : Newspaper clipping showing that Ross was released on September 1, 1953.
Coverage : 1953
Creator : Charles Ross
Publisher : Charles Ross
Contributor : Jongwoo Han
Rights : KWVA veterans & KWVDM
Date : 1/23/15

News Clipping: POW Returns

Returned Mail

Description : An envelope that had been returned to Ross's sister showing that he was missing in action.
Creator : Charles Ross
Publisher : Charles Ross
Contributor : Jongwoo Han
Rights : KWVA veterans & KWVDM
Date : 1/23/15

Returned Mail

Video Transcript

My name is Charles Ross. You say you wanted my birthdate?

Yes

My birthdate is December 6, 1928.

December 6, 1928. And where you born?

Columbia, South Carolina

Columbia, South Carolina. Tell me about your family…when you were growing up, your parents, your siblings.

Well my mother and father separated when I was four years old. I really didn’t get to know my mother.

I was raised by my father, and uh,  He provided for a sister and myself. Uh I graduated high school in 1946 there in South Carolina and shortly after I graduated uh after a short attempt at public work I drove a truck for a couple of months and then I wanted some excitement and adventure in my life and wanted to kind of leave the area so I enlisted in the US Army.

Mmm. Do you remember the date you enlisted?

February 13th, 1947

What was the name of the high school you graduated?

Dentsville High School

Could you spell it?

DENTSVILLE

D-E-N-T-S-VILLE High School

Uh huh

Where did you go to receive basic military training?

Well I started my basic training at Fort Jackson SC for about two weeks and then they moved us rather abruptly down to Fort McClellan Alabama. Uh there was some political jockeying going on about closing the fort, Fort McClellan and the senator from that state had enough political pull to move that one company of trainees down there just as an effort to keep the fort open.

Mmm-Hmm So what kind of basic training did you receive?

Basic Combat Training

Basic Combat

Just Basic Combat – we just call that basic training. It’s just a rudimentary training for conversion from civilian to military – army

How long was it?

Eight weeks

Eight weeks. Were you paid any during the basic military training?

I didn’t receive any pay while I was at basic training due to a loss of my records. The transfer from South Carolina to Alabama and somehow they misplaced several of our records. It was a political thing and they did it rapidly and somehow our records became separated from us as individuals. We completed our basic training in May and we were given a – I think it was a 21-day leave and they call at that time a “delay in route” because my first assignment out of basic training was to a unit in Germany – post ww2 Germany.

Yeah -So did you go to Germany?

Yes I did.

Where were you in Germany?

I was stationed in Kaserne, a German Kaserne, which was the army camp in Friedburg. FRIEDBURG is the way it was spelled. And there I stayed there for the next three years.

So you were there until 1951?

50.

50?

Yeah. I left the states in June of 1947 and came back in June of 1950. I cam back the rank of sergeant.

How did you like Germany? I mean the station there.

I liked it. I liked the people.. I liked the assignment of course when we got there in 1947 it was just two years after the end of the  hostilities there the war. And the larger towns like Frankfurt was a pretty well torn up.There was a lot of rubble in the streets building were bombed out and the town itself the infrastructure, the streets, the sidewalks and everything was in terrible condition. It seemed the railways were spared for some reason so the rail transportation method was fully functional while I was there. But the three years I was there, there was huge improvement lots of rebuilding, cleaning up. I got on very well with the German people I got to meet several of them. Learn some words in their language.

Do you speak German?

No, I don’t speak German. But if you are familiar with the term GI German you’d understand what I was talking about.

What is that?

We just learned words…what they meant.

GI German I see. Now I got it

GI German, that’s what we called it.

How much were you paid at the time in Germany?

I started off at 78 dollars a month, I was a private when I arrived and when I left there in 1950 as a sergeant I was making somewhere around 140 dollars a month.

Do you remember the date you returned to the United States from Germany?

Nah, I don’t remember the exact date but it was somewhere near mid-June.

Before the Korean War break-out?

Oh Yeah. Yeah. I was on leave when the Korean War began. Uh I didn’t know what Korea meant when a lady asked me while I was on leave. On My leave from Germany. I was given a 20 day leave. My new assignment was to Fort Devens Massachusetts with the seventh infantry division and one Sunday afternoon in June -late June a lady I had known ever since I was a child-  see I was at home at the time. She asked me if I was going to Korea and I thought she asked me if I was going to make the army a career. I confused the two words. I didn’t know where Korea was geographically. I was not all that good at geography anyways when I was going to school. I never really studied it and the words career and Korea sounded alike to me and I just assumed she said career and I answered I hope to. And she said oh you want to. And I said yes I do. I was thinking I wanted to make the army a career and she was thinking I was telling her I wanted to go to Korea. Of course, uh about two days later, I saw the headlines in the paper about the uh beginning of the war and uh the attack on the south part of the country and then I didn’t know what Korea was. I mean I didn’t know it was a country and then we found out it was separated into two parts, North and South Korea at the end of WWII. And I began to do a little studying right quick to know where this place is because being in the army and had three years of infantry training I thought I might just wind up there. But I went on to my assignment in Fort Devens Massachusetts and I was there just a short time and being the new guy and this always happens in the army – I found it and I stayed in the army for years. But being in the army, the new guy coming into the unit, the unproven guy – haven’t been there long enough to prove himself generally gets the details that other people don’t want. And if they call for people, you know, send me so many privates or so many  person when they called to build a battalion, General MacArthur had called for more troops, quickly. Because the NKA the North Korean Army was advancing southward, rapidly and he didn’t have enough forces to stop them. So at the time, the army began to build, quickly, these provisional battalions and I was fortunate enough to be a member of the first provisional battalion. It was formed at Fort Devens Massachusetts in July of 1950. And having just arrived there from Germany and having infantry training they wanted infantry people so I was one of the quote lucky ones because I was one of the first ones moved to this provisional battalion and when I first reported to the new unit, I was the only one in the squad – I was assigned the position of squad leader of the third squad of the first platoon on Company C first provisional battalion. And within, I’d say, seven to ten days, we were fully at full strength. We were fleshed out completely. I had a nine man squad under me and we were preparing for movement and we had and orientation and that was the gist of the talk that we got – Our battalion commander – He was a Lieutenant Colonel. He was a WWII veteran. And he called the whole unit together as a battalion and told us that we were preparing to move to Korea.

When was that?

That was at Fort Devens Massachusetts in July

July…

1950

Oh, but the date? Around mid early or end?

It was mid to late July. I don’t remember exact dates. But we started all of our medical screening, dental umm health checks, to see what shape we were in. And we had people assigned to our unit that – some of them had just completed basic training and advanced individual training of course they had had that. But they had no infantry training we had people from military police units, ordinance units, We had motor mechanics, cooks, assigned to us as an infantry unit, issued a rifle and told, “You’re going to war!” So we were not prepared.

What were you thinking…that you heard that..

What was I thinking

Yeah

WOW What’s going on here!?

You are already a professional far advanced soldier than others and you’re a sergeant and you knew that you were going to war that you  might be killed

Well absolutely

You were not scared?

I was concerned. I would say scared – no. I had I always kept in the back of my mind, I enlisted in the army for adventure. I want to do something. I want to go somewhere I want to see things. If I say I wasn’t frightened I wouldn’t be truthful. Yes, I was frightened at the thought of being killed. But at that time my father had already died. He died while I was in Germany. My mother, which I was not raised by but she died while I was in Germany. I had one sister that I was still in contact with and a step mother that my father had died after I mean I am sorry—Had married just before his death. And that’s the only family I had. So I had no one really to account or to hold myself to as a family or.. so I was not concerned about others. I was kind of a loner. Uh, one of the sad parts of my military career for a long time was I didn’t have a home address. My home address was US Army—wherever I was at, all I had to worry about was me. Having enlisted in the service, I was not bitter when bad things happened, I just accepted them. You know, I asked for this. Here I am. And for some weird reason.,I liked it. It fed some inner feeling that I had that I wanted to do these things. I didn’t do anything heroic, but I think I did my job. And uh they assigned me as a squad leader and we had all these people that was assigned to us, untrained and our battalion commander was a Lieutenant Colonel Harold K Johnson, he later became chief of staff of the army. – 4 star general. He organized the battalion at Fort Devens, Massachusetts and we traveled to Korea with him as our commander and our first couple of months there in South Korea during an attempt to hold the NKA back., he was our commander. But they saw his talents and they moved him to a regiment. He took over the 5thCalvary Regiment.

But weren’t you concerned that these people hurriedly put together tobe sent to Korea without proper military training… Weren’t you concerned that they might be?

Oh…YES very much so. I was more concerned for my men than I was for myself.

Mmm-Hmm

Uh. It’s difficult to try to train people when you’re under the pressure of armed combat. And their safety was my concern. A squad is the smallest uh of the organized military unit in infantry and I was a small unit leader – a squad leader. I was a sergeant first class by that time they had promoted me on the ship, on the way over there to the rank commensurate with the job that I was holding. And I was tremendously concerned about them. And I was trying to be a father.

Mm-Hmm

I was 21 years old but I was trying because several of them were like 18, 19 years old.

When did you leave for Korea?

We left in Late-July. Took us 14 days on a ship to go over there. We went across on the USNS John Pope, that was the name of the ship.

U-S-N-S John Pope?

Yeah, that’s the United States Naval Service ship and our first orientation they told us we were going to stop in Japan for a couple weeks of training to try to build some unit cohesion but we were out about a week on the water and then we got the word that we were going directly to the port of Pusan.

Mmmm

And So we did not stop in Japan. We steamed right on in to Pusan and arriving there – it was in early August – I couldn’t give you an exact date. But uh – I’m gonna say maybe the second week of August we arrived. And we disembarked there at the port and stayed off the ship for – We had to go back on the ship and eat, they still had the mess hall in there. And we were there for the better part of a day. They took away all of the equipment we had brought with us except what we needed – rifle – they even took – we had gas masks with us – protective masks and they even took those away. They called that making us combat light. Ready to go. And late that afternoon some trucks pull up. We call them “deuce and a halfs” – two and a half pound trucks. You’ve probably heard the phrase and we noticed they had the first calvary division patch on the hoods – stuck on the hoods. That’s the first indication we had that we were going to be part of the First Calvary because we were the First Provisional Battalion. We had no unit designation when we got there. And we found out that afternoon that sure enough we were going to be assigned as the Third Battalion of the Eighth Calvary Regiment.

Third Battalion and what?

Third Battalion of the Eighth Calvary Regiment

Eighth Calvary

Regiment. That’s part of the First Calvary Division

Mmm Hmm

And consequently since I was in Company C of the First Battalion – provisional battalion, we became Company L because of the alphabetical way that they aligned the units – what they called – Lettered Companies. C become L when we were assigned to that battalion. And Uh we were transported to a rail station, put on trains along with Korean civilians. I mean there were women, children, men, boys, all aboard this train. But They just piled us in it. And here we are fully armed and ready to go. I say armed – We had no ammunition, we had weapons. And we went to a town they called it Taegoo. We arrived there maybe an hour an hour and a half train ride and we disembarked, trucks picked us up again and we went out into a orchard of some kind we had apple trees, fruit trees of some kind. It was an orchard. It was in August it didn’t have any fruit on them but you know they put us out there and we set up a bivouac out there. We put up tents and all, we were ready to stay. And the following morning…well, sorry. That afternoon, they issued us ammunition and brought out the 30 caliber M1 Rifle ammunition and told us not to load your weapons. It’s a safety device. One…People – soldiers don’t always listen and some man loaded his weapon and stumbled and fell and a round went through the tire of one of the trucks out there. And the battalion commander became excited and had all the ammunition taken away from us. And the following morning we got on the trucks and they took us north- I don’t know about three, four, five miles up there and we were going to watch a marine unit attack a hill. And there was NKA on the hill. And we were going to set up on this knob and watch this. And we could see ‘em. They came up and they looked like little animals working their way up in little streams. We could see them moving back and forth. In the meantime, they had a hour or more of preparatory fire on the hill. Uh,  artillery, air power, air craft came in and they strafed, they rocketed, they bombed. And we thought no one could live on the hill with all that going on. And we saw these marines get a third, maybe a half way up this hill and then they came out of bunkers and holes and all that. Drove the marines right back off the hill and we’re sitting up there with no ammunition and we could see these people coming around us. To get behind us – (Laugh) So someone finally gives the order, “Get on the trucks and get out of here!” So we got on the trucks and we were lying down as best we could and the trucks were flying down there – as fast as they could go. And we could hear small arms fire but we didn’t know where it was coming from. And my particular truck, the truck I was on was stopped by a lieutenant, an army lieutenant. He got up and waved us down and the truck stopped and he had us all get out and get in a ditch. And he said, “Give me all your ammunition and you can get up and get out of here”  And we said, “We don’t have any ammunition.” (Chuckle) He gave us a few choice words and told us to get on up and get out of there. And we did. We went back to our units and we stayed all night in this bivouac area – this orchard. The next morning we went across then to a –it’s across a road and into a field and then out in some hills and at the base of a hill then we’re beginning to receive fire. First time we were ever fired on. And someone was wounded and all I can remember is his last name was Johnson and he received a wound – got a wound in his upper leg. And we were quickly given ammunition. And it never was taken away from us again. But we went through night after night after night of being fired upon, and it seemed like at dawn every morning, just before daylight, they’d come up the hill screaming and yelling and scare the pants off of ya. We’d just shoot back. We didn’t know what we were shooting at – We couldn’t see ‘em –  It was dark. We would still shoot back at them, we could see muzzle flashes. But that was our baptismal fire – when we first got fired upon. I’m gonna say the next two to three weeks, all we seemed to do was retreat – fall back – fall back. Go back to the next hill and the next day we’d hear fighting in front of us and around us and they’d give the order and we’d get up and move again. And uh we just kept going back back back and it went on til we got into September. And then we received word that General MacArthur was going to attempt a landing in Enson

Did you hear about that from people?

Oh yeah. We were told…our commanders told us that this was in the works. They planned this invasion and so that should relieve some of the pressure on us. And I remember an order being given… I was just a squad leader so I was not really given all the big picture. I didn’t know what was going on – big -. I just knew what was going on in our unit – What we were told to do – what our mission was – and it was just HOLD. And I remember we got the order to “Hold at all costs” We follow that “?non verde? This is it. You stay and you defend or you die – but we’re not falling back anymore. And that was one of the most scary moments I think I had in South Korea. But then on the 15thof September the invasion took place and within I’m gonna  say 24 to 48 hours the North Korean army seemed to just fade away.

In a – How many  hours after they enter…..

I’m gonna say 24 to 36 hours, within a day – day and a half. We stopped receiving any fire and we didn’t see anybody, everything got quiet. And shortly after that, we began to move north by truck. Instead of foot, we got on the trucks and we were going up the roads now and just about as fast as we could go. We saw some of the North Korean soldiers surrendering by units. You know, 20 or 30 people at a time would just stand there and hold their hands up like this (holds hands in surrender position) They would leave someone their to take charge of ‘em and take ‘em back and process ‘em as prisoners of war. But we traveled day after day after day…I don’t know how many days it took. I remember goin’ through Seoul. And we went on until we reached the 38thparallel. We didn’t receive any resistance at all. We just rode trucks. We’d get off at night and sleep by the side of the rode, next morning get on. We just traveled in the daytime. And then when we reached 38thparallel we stopped. We didn’t know why but were told later that we had to wait until the United Nations approved crossing of the 38thparallel.

Ahh.. I see

Political Thing – Which was given a couple of days after we arrived there and we start our move into North Korea and we went in. The first town we went through was called Kaison.I may not be pronouncing this the way you would but they told us it was “Kay-San” and uh – We continued moving northward and about the third day we were in North Korea our trucks didn’t show up and we began to move by foot, up the road. Late in the afternoon, we received some incoming small arms fire, automatic fire – and we stopped and deployed off each side of the road and eventually someone determined it was a tank. It had been camouflaged and sitting beside the road. He was using his machine gun to pin us down and we were pinned down. But they brought in some uh air power, air craft came in and quickly took him out. And then we got back on our trucks again and we didn’t stop. We’d drive sometimes way into the night. And uh – Stop and eat and get re-supplied, get on our trucks and go again. And we went on and in early October we arrived in the North Korean capitol, Pyong Yang.

Mmm-Hmm

And uh, we were not the first unit there but second – I think we were the second unit. I think the Republic Korea Army was the first and we came in behind them. And we stayed there just about the whole month – the remainder of the month. And we had a formation, we stayed in a hospital building. They put us in a hospital building..had rooms in there. And we had a uh – one man injured himself. He had taken a Russian made pistol off of a North Korean officer that had been killed and in an attempt to manipulate of get the ammunition or something he fired it and it went through his leg. That was the only casualty we had while we were there, I think. But we had a formation and they issued us our Combat Infantryman badge, ‘cause we’d been in combat over thirty days. And we had uh – a few jobs. We went out and did some house searches looking for ammunition. And we did some road blocks where we stopped people and searched them to see if they had any weapons or anything. That’s about all we did for the next two weeks or so. And then on the 30thof October, we had been told that the wars all but over, and we were gonna do a Armistice Day Parade for General MacArthur in Tokyo, Japan on the 11thof November. And we were planning on that, but on the 30thof October just after lunch they had a formation out front and told us to pick up all your gear – We’re gonna move North. Some unit up there is having trouble – had run into some resistance. And so we were going to run up there and knock that out for them right quick. We travel all night by truck – and stop dur… – Well not all night but all afternoon, and stopped that night and slept alongside the road…the next morning got in the trucks and we went on til sometime in the afternoon we were si We arrived in an area. We didn’t know what it was called but we later found out it was called Un-San.

Mmmhmm

And we got out and we set up a defensive perimeter and being the in the third battalion we were assigned as the reserve battalion. And I was in the first platoon of that L company and they sent us up on a ridge which was to the southwest of our unit of our battalion area and we were on what they call a “Listening Post”. We were out there to watch and listen and not allow anything to slip up on us. And we were out there sort of enjoying ourselves – nothing going on, didn’t hear any gun fire. An airplane would fly over every once in a while – just light planes. But there was smoke in the air, lots and lots of smoke – like the forest was on fire. But we didn’t give it much concern because we had seen fire the whole time we’d been in Korea, burning up the hillside. And uh, along about 10 o’clock that night, we call it 22 hundred hours…got a call on our sound powered telephone there at our platoon… telling us to pack up and come into the CP that the entire regiment was going into withdrawal at 24 hundred hours which was midnight. And incidentally, I was acting platoon sergeant this time. Our platoon sergeant that had wounded himself, the one I was telling you about shot himself through the knee. And I was acting as a platoon sergeant til a new one was assigned to us. When we went down the hill, our platoon leader, we got to a bridge along the road on the NamionRiver. And this Lieutenant Keyes which was our platoon leader – he called for me to come forward and he said, “Have all the men sit down on the side of the road. I’ll go up and find out where they want us. I’ll come back and get you.” I said, “Fine.” And so the moon was shining very bright that night, November 1st, 1050. And I had everybody sit down on each side of the road. And a man that II knew very well – he was not in my squad but he was in my platoon. His name was Luther Wise and he had fought in WWII. He was a little bit older than I was. And he came up and was talking to me and he started to light a cigarette and just as he started to light the cigarette, everything broke loose. Fire from everywhere you can imagine. We – even from within the battalion area. They had infiltrated our area. They came – the fire was coming off the same hill we had just come from. So I just rolled down the hill and yelled at everybody, “First platoon get under the bridge!” That’s all I could think to say. And from then on, uh, organization was lost. Confusion reigned supreme. No one knew what the other man was doing – I didn’t know where my squad members were. I didn’t know where my platoon had gone. I told them to get under the bridge but some of ‘em went the other way. It’s night time – Moon’s shining. When I get under the bridge I can hear rounds hitting the bridge, They’re hitting in the water. You hear fire going up in the CP the Command Post area. We didn’t know what to do or where to go. We had no leadership and we became all disorganized and people just went every direction. And… It was a terrible night, but uh… I saw several wounded. And we just sit there and they had set all of our vehicles on fire there on the road – They were all burning – ammunition in our trailers was catching fire and tooking off and it sounded like fireworks going off there in the trucking area.

Was it near Unsan?

Near what?

UnSan

Unsan – Yes! Yeah – Yeah

That happened in Unsan?

Right. Uh – That was our final battle with the Third Battalion of the 8thKay?We were overrun there. But this went on. This happened on the night of November the 1st– that’s when they first hit us. The following morning the firing ceased – early in the morning. And by the time daylight come I looked around and I couldn’t see anymore. I was lying in a ditch and my two men who had been with me were gone. But during the excitement – We fought all night. We fired at anything we could see that didn’t have a steel helmet on. See we still had our summer uniforms on. We’d not been issued winter uniforms yet. And the Chinese that we were fighting – We didn’t know that they were Chinese. We thought they were North Koreans. And they had on these Powcaps. So that was my means of identifying whose – who were fighting. But I’m thinking still, that they were North Korean soldiers. So I’d shoot anyone with a powcap on. And the following morning when I looked around, I didn’t see anybody moving or anything. And I raised up to take a look, thinking I may be the only survivor. When I raised up a little bit, I heard the loud crack of a shot right over my head. So I ducked back down real quickly. And I yelled someone yell in English – “Are you a GI?” And my mind didn’t work right or something cause I thought, “Well,  if I hold my helmet up they will see I’m a GI.” And I held my helmet up and they shot another time at me. So I pulled it back down real quick. Then I yelled as loud as I could, “I’m a GI!” Then I hear this voice say, “Stay low and come on across the road.” Which I did. And I said many times and this has haunted me for…….excuse me……..It still bothers me……….I saw more dead people……………..than I ever have before – had before or have since……on that road………………. I’d hate to venture a number…but there were many…..Both sides….

Both sides

(Nods head) There had been a light machine gun set up just in front of me, in this, right on the side of that ditch. And the people either didn’t know or they were trying to rush them. Because I saw bodies light cross spots…..with American uniforms and Chinese uniforms. And, uh,…I can’t get over that.But I have had many, many troublesome nights…when I think about that scene. This happened when I was 21… And now I am 85…. And it’s still painful.   But I was able to get across the road and I was told, ” get into this hole” Someone had dug a foxhole. And when I got in there, are you familiar with the term “katusa”?

Yeah

Okay. There was a katusain there.

Ohh.

And they had only been assigned to our unit maybe three weeks or more. I didn’t recognize the individual. I had two assigned to my squad but I didn’t know where they went or what happened to them. And the poor man I got in the hole with had been wounded. There was also a carbine, a 30 caliber carbine, a canteen, which was empty, and a pair of binoculars laying on the ground. I don’t know what happened to the person that had them. I assumed he must have been an officer because it was a 30 caliber carbine and we only had rifles and this man I’m talking about, this Katusa, he had an M1 Rifle with him. And poor guy with a hole in his stomach and I could see the blood on the outside of his field jacket. I knew he was wounded, couldn’t understand a word he was saying. And he was saying something to me…It sounded like he was saying, “Mule”

Mule?

Mule. Sounded like he was saying “mule”, which is an animal, you know, similar to a horse. And I had no idea why he would be saying that to me. And he looked so painful, and I said, “Buddy, I’d love to help ya’ but I don’t know what to do.” I later learned after I was captured. Someone told me that the word “mul”…”mul or something like that

Mul .. water

It’s water! He was wanting water, and had I known it….I coulda give him………But I didn’t know what it meant – had no idea what he wanted and he succumbed to his wound while I was there. I just saw him fall over and there’s no Movement.

Hmmmm

And I stayed there for -oh I don’t know – a half hour or so and I was called and told’ “come on over.” And they were going to form a perimeter out there in this field which I did and uh…we tried to gather in all the wounded. I didn’t particularly help. I helped in digging the holes to get people into these holes to try to defend theirselves. We didn’t see any enemy. We didn’t know who our enemy was until after dark. And the sergeant I mentioned before named Luther Wise, he was a little more experienced than the rest of us. He had been in WWII. He had fought in Italy. And he was the one that told us – Bright Moon, now remember – and he told us, “Don’t fire” – We could see them moving toward us. We could see these figures coming toward us… In Large Numbers…. He said, “Don’t fire until I fire.” So we passed the word, “Don’t fire until you hear firing on your right.” Which he was up on the right end of our south side – southwest side of the perimeter. So we waited until he fired and he waited until they got about 40-50 yards from us. And he started firing and then everybody started firing. And I’ve often been asked, “Did you kill anyone during was?” My answer is, “I don’t know.” By all probability, yes – but I don’t know that for sure. All I know is I fired at figures, in moonlight. And they came at us in great numbers, but we beat ‘em back. And they still come. And this went on for a half hour or more. Then everything quitened down and all we could hear was crying and moaning out in the distance. The following day we had little to no action. But we had some aircraft came by, light aircraft, and they dropped some medical supplies. That night we had some more frontal assaults where they came out. We again fired on them. Then the third day uh we were just – we were out of food – we were out of water – It was getting pretty cold – and we only had our summer uniforms on. And we were told that the 5thcalv was coming to our rescue – gonna come get us out of there. And the way we were communicating was through 5 tanks that we had attached to our battalion. They were there in the perimeter and aircraft fying by – they had radio contact with them. So they could tell them and they told us about the 5thcalv coming so we had some hope. But then late on the afternoon of the third day..

Which is 11th..November 4th?

This is gonna be on the 3rd– at best I can think. See we went 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. The night of the 1stand on to the 2nd,

November 3rd.

3rd. (nods) But late that afternoon, and I was close enough to this tank that I could hear. They had the hatch open. I could hear the voice on the radio and I hear them say something about they had run into stiff resistance. The 5thcalvary that was suppose to be coming to our rescue and was unable to break through the road block. And then about 30 to 45 minutes later we got the word that the decision had been made that the third battalion would be left to its own devices.

Ooooo

And that the order had been given that you are now on your own and I heard the word “Godspeed”, which to me meant

Death.

“You’re abandoned – you’re either gonna get out or..you’re not gonna get any help.” That’s what it meant to me. And somehow, I did not get frightened. I just vowed, “I’m gonna do my job as long as I can.” And we stayed there through that night. Then the next day -uh -up into the middle of the day -uh-we heard a strange – or I did – heard a strange explosion. It wasn’t like high explosives – the real crack of a high explosive, but it was just a “thump” sound. Then I heard people screaming and I raised up out of my hole, there are three of us in this hole. And I looked back and there was smoke and white phosphorus falling like an umbrella and I thought, “Oh Lord…” I’ve heard of these chemical rounds and what they’ll do to you. And I heard people screaming so I figured someone is hit with this stuff. And then I heard a sound that I didn’t know what it was and I raised up and looked and it was just a wall of men. Soldiers runnin’! Kinda to the northeast. And I yelled at the two men in the hole, “Come on let’s go!” Well we’d been there on our knees so long to where – I was 21 years old, but it took me a good 20-30 steps before I could run at full speed, cause my legs had to get used to it. And we ran and we could hear small arms fire through that smoke but it was white smoke everywhere. Just the perfect smokescreen. They fired into the smoke but I didn’t see a single person get hit. So, that’s how we made our Exodus. About 150 of us made it out of there. Out of that perimeter at the Battle of Unsan. And uh – then we wandered around the hills and on the morning of what I think was the 6th. But I’m not sure of these dates, but uh -we were struck again -this unit that I’m talking about this 150 men. And they were from all the companies of the battalion -just the survivors – the ones that were able to walk. The wounded that had to stay back at the battlefield where we’d been and a chaplain named, Emil Capon, He was captain -Catholic chaplain. He stayed there to surrender them. He was uninjured but he stayed there and surrendered the wounded. We tried to make an attempt to escape but we wandered through the hills..uh – didn’t really know where we was going – we was trying to go south. And on the morning of the 6th, I believe it was the 6th, we were again struck by unknown forces – uh Chinese probably. And myself and one man named Donald Vaughn, he was a PFC, he was from Raleigh, North Carolina. He was in my squad incidentally. People just scattered like flies. They went every direction, when they started firing on the front of the column. And him and I went and got under a rock ledge and and we laid there until dark and heard no further sound. And then we got up and began to look for water and food. And we wandered around out there for about 4 days, drinking from whatever source we could find. We would stop at these abandoned houses. They were few and far between out there in that part of the country. But we’d find, sometime we’d find a vegetable like a beet or a turnip or something like that. Sometime they were half frozen. We were just—Vaughn would peel his and eat it. I’d just eat peel and all. I just wanted everything I could get to eat. And then wandering around, him and I one night stopped in an abandoned house and stayed there all night. Very cold. We were going to stay there a second night but an old Korean man came to us. We couldn’t understand him but he kept motioning us to come with him. So we decided to trust him. He took us out on a hillside and motioned for us to stay right there. He was gone ten minutes or more and he came back and had some hot broth or soup or something. It had a taste to it. He gave us that and gave us a bottle of water and took us over this hill to a field and took us into a little dugout. I imagine he had it for his family- I’m not sure. But I know it was straw lined inside. And we stayed in there that night. And he had indicated to us or what we thought he was trying to tell us was to stay there and he would come back and give us more guidance. Why he was doing this?—I don’t know to this day. But, if I knew…He was a lot older than I was so he’s  probably no longer alive, but if I knew his family and could some way even though it’s in North Korea, I would try to repay them. But the man I was with became claustrophobic and he couldn’t stay in that hole any more and it was after daylight and we got out – outside – and decided we would climb to the top of the hill and look at the river and use it as a guide and try to keep it to our left so we’d go south. And as we were on our knees looking over that bank we were spotted by some Chinese soldiers and they blew a whistle and we laid down quickly in the grass but about 20 of them walked across in front of us. And one man walked to our rear, and we were laying on that hillside and he yelled at those others and they turned around and came on back to us. And as best to my knowledge – as best as I can calculate, that was the 10thday of November, 1950. They took us, both of us as prisoners. We stood up and surrendered.

November what?

10th

10th

As best I can calculate, that would have been the 10thof November, lat in the afternoon. And we were taken right back to the house that we had stayed in two nights before where the old man cam and got us.

Yep, yeah

And they had set up sort of headquarters because they had maps anad stuff on the walls and they had the lanterns and things in there. And we were kept there that night and the next day we were turned over to a field unit and we were just kept out there just the two of us and the following day, the third day of captivity, we were marched up a road just near dark and we were joined up there with seven more Americans. That made 9 all together. And they were all from the same battalion, the third battalion of the eighth calv. And there was about 20 South Korean soldiers – ROCarmy soldiers. But we were kept segregated and then each night from then on for about the next week we were marched Northward every night. We’d walk til daylight in the morning. And then late Dec….well Mid-December I guess, we arrived in a place – We just called it The Valley, that’s all we knew it –It was just a valley.

Valley?

Valley. We just called it the valley because it had…It never was designated as a prison camp. There was a little village up through this valley and they just commandeered those houses and put us in ‘em. And we stayed there for, Ii’d say three weeks or more. We were not allowed to go outside during daylight. At night we’d go carry water from this creek to cook the grains and whatever other food they’d given us. And then one day in early January they lined us up on a road and we marched across the Ay-leeRiver right on the ice and walked into Pi Dong. — and it was designated Camp 5.

Yeah

And about a month after we were there all the NCO’s sergeants were taken and placed in the 4thcompany and moved to the other side of the camp. And then we started our daily lectures…we went through that until August of 1951- oh -52, I’m sorry. August of 1952. All the sergeants were put on river barges and towed by motor boat up to a small village or town called Wiwanand that became Camp 4. And we were split in two different companies – were put in old school buildings and that’s where I remained until we were told in August that an armistice had been signed on July 27th. And we were sent back to a company to wait and we waited until August 20thand that was the day they had trucks lined up out there and they announced that morning, “Everyone that wants to be repatriated, get everything you own and come back outside.” and I think there was about four stayed there and all the rest of us went out and got on the trucks. And we rode pretty much all day and we got into a big rainstorm, half of a mountain washed away…we sit there for a couple of hours, while I’d say a thousand or more Chinese soldiers got out there with hand shovels and picks and stuff. And they took us over one truck at a time ‘til we got across that. We went down to a rail head and got on a train.  And uh we were near Pyong Yangbecause we crossed a river and we could see all these lights and they said that was Pyong Yang.They told us that was Pyong Yangand we rode pretty much all night and the next day and then we arrive near kay-sanand taken out to a tent city. And I remained there until the night of August 31st. And that’s when my name was called. And we were taken down to a temple and we stayed there that night. And the next morning we were put on these real shiny, clean, new lookin’ trucks and taken southward to what they call Freedom Village at Pamon JongI believe that was the name of the town. And we were welcomed back and I was told at that time that I was now a Master Sergeant. I’d been promoted one grade while I was up there. And we went down from there by ambulance to Incheon. And that where we went through what we call a debriefing where they’d show names of people that were missing and ask if you knew them and if you did what circumstances… If you knew they had died, what circumstances. But you know that in most cases, although we had hundreds and hundreds of deaths there in Camp 5, I didn’t know their names. They weren’t in our unit so I didn’t know their names – We’d just been put together like that but uh…. I was never bitter. I’m still not, today. I’m sad. But, I enlisted. I asked for it. And I did the best I could. I would love to have had the opportunity to go back and see that area again, just for my own satisfaction. About six months ago, I received a book. It was published by the government of South Korea, called Korea Reborn. , which, I appreciated it, uh Showed it to my son. And I have had the opportunity several times now to talk about this – this experience I had. For 54 years I wouldn’t mention it. When someone asked me if I was a prisoner in Korea, I’d ay “yes.” And that’s it. I wouldn’t talk about it. But in 2007, a lady asked me about her uncle that was in my company and I began to dredge up all these old memories. And tried to remember everything I could and then my wife here and my children asked if I would put that in writing as best I could. I did. I just entitled it Memoir of the Korean War , and by my name, Charles R. Ross. And then I began to break down and talk about it. And I had several people ask me to, I’ve had the VFW club, the MOAA, a church, city – Cave City, where I live and the Lion’s Club in a neighboring town, a school, an elementary school of all things. It was on Armistice Day. And they were young children. I just tried to explain there was now two Koreas – one country but two governments, and what the difference was and we had went to the aid of – the president ordered the armed service to go to the aid of the South Korean Government. And that’s the way I approached it with them. I did mention the fact I participated in that war. I had eventually been captured by the Chinese. I realize there was a lot of mistreatment – terrible lot of – now I’ll say I was maltreated but I was never mistreated. I was never beaten. Had I not got captured, I would have surely perished in those mountains. I had no means of support, no water, no food. The water we got was out of rivers, creeks , streams -anywhere we could find water to drink. And we were running out of houses to swipe these vegetables and things and many houses you went in and there was bare. There was nothing in there. But we would only go where we didn’t see anyone because we were evading the enemy. So I have to credit the Chinese army with my survival.

Huh! Heh heh heh (chuckle)

It was a painful thing – It lasted for 34 months. And

That’s very ironical characterization

But had it not been for them, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you today. Because my skeleton would be out there in that hill somewhere

What was the most difficult thing in the camp?

Difficult what?

Difficult Thing?

Thing?

What was the most bothering and most..

During prison camp?

Yeah

Oh. Uh, the first, I am gonna say 6 months., early ’51, Camp 5, we’d just arrived there. They were bringing troops in – well troop – they were bringing prisoners in daily and we had deaths by the hundreds. People were dying daily. And that was awfully painful. And the worst was we didn’t know their names, most of them. And then we had to take those folks out and bury them. That had to be the most painful thing. The most difficult thing, I guess, for me was the lack of food. We were just so hungry all the time.

What made you get through – do you think? What made you survive all of it?

The Will To Live. I just wanted to make it. I’d try to talk to these people. They’d give up and say, “I don’t want to live like this. I would rather die than live like this. We’re never gonna get out of here.” And I would talk to some of ‘em and say, “Sure we will! Hang on! Eat! Eat everything you can!” And one of these guys – Huh?

There were some people who refused to eat?

Yeah – Some were on…

Why?

They’d sit there and talk and say, “I don’t want to live like this. I can’t live like this.” But we called it “Giving up” They’d just give up and quit trying.

What is Korea to you now? After all those years and horrible memory..what is Korea to you now?

South Korea – A beautiful place…from the pictures I’ve seen. Very progressive as far as the democratic movement of their government. Very productive, just look at the automobiles that they’re putting out. Many, many things now are manufactured in Korea. When I went to Korea in 1950, I thought I’d never seen such an impoverished place. Horrible ways these people had to live. And when I went back. I spent a second tour there, 1964-65, and there had been many improvements. I took one weekend pass and I went to Seoul and I though this is a modern city now. It don’t look like it did when I came through in 1950. And then over the years – I was just there until 1965, we came out of Kempo which was a modern airport

Kenpo?.

Kenpo, yeah. We came out of Kenpo airport. I thought it’s a very modern. It had a nice terminal. And I thought what improvements have been made. And I’d just see the people as I would see them on the streets as we’d go through dressed in mostly western dress now instead of the old traditional wear that I had seen them in back in the 1950’s. And then over the years there’s uh. I’ve always tried to keep up with the news in Korea –the south part –well we always read about the north. What is he named – Kim yum ung?

Kim Jon Jung

Jun yung – He’s always making the papers with some movement he’s making but.. Yeah I read that they have a female president now which is, I think, progress. So I got a favorable – a very favorable opinion of the south part of Korea. And they have progressed since WWII, I guess faster than Japan did after WWII after the Korean war I mean.

Would you be willing to re-visit Korea?

If I’m physically able. I’m having some difficulty now, especially with my feet. The Chinese walked us through a river. But they didn’t want us to take our boots off and I did. Some didn’t but I did. And my feet were numb like for two days and now they are – got to where I’ve got very little feeling in my feet. So I can’t walk very far at a time and I don’t know as I’d be able to . I would love to make the trip. I talked to a man last night down there that had been back. He said they treated him great.

Yeah

My second tour we were up near the DMZ. We weren’t on the DMZ.

Wow! Okay.

I heard the name – Pa Gee Ree?

Pagiri

Okay, it was near where we were at. I was with the 7thCalvary on the last trip And they call it Camp Clausen. And the nearest village was right outside the gate and they called it Boo Do May. But I was at a place Pa juu li, somewhere near that. So it’s in that area. That was our last tour and I spent 13 months on that tour in that area. But again when we left, I left there in 1965 and uh – We went to Kempo airport and that were we left from. We flew out of there. That was 1965, what? 48 years ago. 41 years ago I guess it was – something like that but it was a long time ago. But I’ve got a very favorable opinion of South Korea. And that’s been about my story for the – my time in Korea. The time that I spent in Korea. The most difficult time was in North Korea. We did have some difficulty when we first arrived. We were in the country about 48 hours before we got shot at. But uh – and we were untrained, the unit I was with . In fact, our commander, Lieutenant Colonel Johnson described us as a untrained unit. A thrown together unit is what he called us. Thrown together and it was. We had people from all types of MOSS – Military Operation Specialist but I’ll say one thing for ‘em when we arrived and Unsan and got fired on they were brave. They fought. I didn’t see a single man run from it. They stayed. A lot of them lost their lives and several of the remains has been found in that area. I read about it all the time. Everytinme I see the word Insan or returned remains from North Korea my ears perk up and I have to check this out. One man was from Bowling Green, Kentucky. He was – His last name was McManus. I think it was – Was it McManus? I can’t remember to be sure of the last name but uh I called the television station when they announced it and said he was found in the insanarea. And I called and asked them if I could get the contact information from them for his brother. They listed his name as the next of kin that was taking care of the visit because his parent had already died. And I was sent an e-mail by the  station manager saying they don’t give out contact information. And I had no way of contacting the person. And the next thing I saw was a report on television where they had actually buried the remains. All I wanted to do was say “Hey I was there and I would be willing to sit down and tell you what happened there.” But I was not given that opportunity by the radio by the television station.

Why do you think it happened? Do you have any idea?

I have no idea. I was a individual, alone in the world. I was not married. My mother and father were dead. I had a sister – had no idea where she was. I was not in contact with her, although we had maintained letters through the mail, but I hadn’t heard from her in a long time and didn’t know until I had wrote her and told her I was in combat in Korea. I had wrote her a letter. I got an answer back from her and she was living in Alaska at the time. She had married a soldier and was living in Alaska. I was a single individual who had enlisted in the service, seeking adventure and I accepted my fate. And I still do today. But, there was some sadness attached to it…a great deal of sadness. And I described the scene to you, that… I’ve been unable to shake that from my memory. For 54 years, I did. I’ve completely, thought I had completely wiped it out of my memory. Refused to talk to it. But in the year 2007 when my half brother that lived in Florida contacted me – told me he’d seen my  name on the internet and we began to talk about it. And he told me it was on a website called the Korean War Project. And I went to it and I found it and it was a casualty list, showing that I had been captured. And it had my name, rank and serial number on there. I said, “Yeah -That’s me.” And while I was there I found a page and they were asking, “Do you know these people – anyone on this list?” And I saw a name “Ed Potter” and I responded, “Yes, I knew an Ed Potter. He was a prisoner of war with me.” As strange as it may seem it was the Ed Potter they were looking for. That could be Edward or Edwin and this guy’s name was Edwin Potter. And that was the man they were looking for. So I corresponded with his nephew for over a year and told him the story that I’ve told you today. And his uncle, this is the man we’re talking about, Edwin Potter and he had started to write a book about his experience. And he asked me to help him confirm some of the information he was taking from his hand written notes. And he sent the entire package of notes to me in Kentucky. And as I began to read the notes there were things that I knew nothing about, that I had not witnessed. And I e-mailed him back and told him , “I have read the notes and there are things in here that I cannot confirm because I had not witnessed them.” One of the examples was, he had been placed in a hole in the ground and his hands tied behind him. I didn’t see that. He was not with me when this happened. I was in Camp 5 with him and we moved to Camp 4 together. But I did not see that and I wrote him and told him that I cannot confirm these cause I didn’t see it and I will only tell you what I saw. So he quit writing me…he just dropped me. But he did put me in contact with a lady whose uncle was in my unit and she’s the one that got me talking about my experience, because she wrote me and asked me to give my perspective on what happened there during the battle. That’s where her uncle was killed and his remains was found there at InSan. And I was able to find his squad leader which lives in Thailand right now. He was in a company with me but he was not at Insan because he get wounded in September and sent back. But he was this guy’s squad leader so I put them together. But she wrote and told me, “Please tell the story. If you don’t tell it, it won’t be told.”

Right.

So I agreed and I told her and I said uh, “It’s painful and I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights trying to dredge up these memories But uh –but I’m gonna try…to tell what happened.”

Did you publish your book?

No, it was just a written memoir for the family. It’s about sixteen pages long. And uh I started off telling that I had just returned to the United States from a three year tour of duty with the First Infantry Division of the United States in Germany and had a twenty day leave in the states. I just made it very brief at the beginning. And how I moved to Massachusetts and got my orders to go to Korea. And the trip to Korea and what happened after we arrived there. One incident that I put in the writing there was when we got off the ship we were allowed to wander around the docks there for exercise and we heard a loud sound—yelling and screaming coming from a building way over on the far edge so about three or four of us wandered over to see what the sound was all about. And there was two guys getting just beat to death. I mean they were beating the fire out of ‘em! And we quickly left there I mean we got away from there. It wasn’t our business what they were doing. And we were told by some people up at the warehouse that they were North Koreans that they had captured. And they were working them over down there. That was their words. But we don’t know who they were. It was just two men – Four men beating up two men in this building. We got back on the ship and eat dinner, then come out and got in the truck and was taken to a rail station and taken to Taigoo.And I tell them it was written primarily using military terminology. And I was given several suggestions on how to make it more understandable to the civilian that read it. For instance, I have used the word CP and AMMO and they didn’t know exactly what that meant. And so I explained after the first use of every word, what it was. And well, several has told me. Well she started off that they were words that brought tears to her eyes. And I had some of her friends that read it and they’d say, “This is terrible!” A grandson that read it said, “I can’t believe my grandfather when through this.” And I say, “Well I defy anyone to prove me wrong on any of the facts that I put in. Now the dates – I clarify that these are as close as I can remember, these dates. But the facts of what happened to us and where we were moved to and from. I defy anyone to tell me this is not true. Because I was there. I did not exaggerate. I did not enhance the story in any way. Now I’ve heard a lot of stories about the Korean War but everybody tells it differently.

Yeah

And I tried to make that clear in there, that there are many stories about the Korean War, but this one’s mine. And this is what I experienced during the Korean War. And I don’t dispute another person word. If they say, “I was tied. My hands were tied with barbed wire.” … Maybe they were. Mine weren’t. I was never beaten. And I call it maltreatment because they had food available and wouldn’t give it to us. We didn’t get enough food. Many men starved to death, wounds untreated, no medical treatment. Uh – that’s maltreatment to me – not to give people..

Right

Uh – sanitation supplies. We had no paper for sanitary purposes. We were left to our own –you know – relieve yourself,– go out there on the hillside, somewhere – clean up as best you can – rub your hands in the dirt if you have to. This was it! We didn’t have any – and That’s cruel! Then about mid ’51 when they started the lecturing, life improved greatly. The food improved. We were given tobacco – and uh. Weren’t given any cigarette paper but we were given newspapers – The Shanghai News. I remember one man saying, “If they ever x-ray my lungs they’ll be able to read The Shanghai News.”

HaHaHaHa

Cause he’d smoke so many cigarettes of that newspaper – rolled in newspaper.

So when they began to indoctrinate you, they treat you better?

Much! There was a great improvement and in May of ’51 they allowed us to go down to the river, which was just a short walk down there, to bathe and wash our clothing. We had on the same clothing in May of ’51 that I had on when I was captured in November ’50. And when I took my socks off, they come apart. You’s talking about a worse moment awhile ago -One of the worst things that happened to us in captivity was body lice.

Yeah

We were absolutely infested with body lice. And we’d sit around during the day time. We were jammed in these little rooms and we’d sit down between our thumb nails and squeeze these little critters. And we’d be bloody all over from these things cause they’d suck the blood from your body. And uh We’d call it our indoor recreation. I can remember guys lying at night in these rooms. We’d lay on the floor and sleep. And you’d hear some guy, “I’m getting’ another transfusion!” they’d be scrathin’ those lice.

Hahahaha

The lice was eating them up. And when the sun began to get warm up on say about March or April, we would take our clothing and wear them and take the inner -the underwear and lay ‘em out in the sun to try to -you know – delouse ourselves.

Did it work?

Not very well. It helped for a hour or two but they migrated and they’d crawl on you at night, usually in our sleep. And they’d particularly get around where your clothing is tight to your body, the waistline, around your socks. Of course, we didn’t have socks until late ’51 when the Chinese began to give us uniforms -the blue uniforms. I was offered to keep my uniform when I came through Pamijamin 1953. One of the GI’s there asked me, “Did I want to keep that. If so, we’ll launder it and package it for ya’” Anad I said, “I don’t ever want to see it again!” I’d give $10,000 today if I had it. Wouldn’t that have been great to come to this reunion, wearing that uniform that they hadn’t seen for 60 some years?

HeHeHehehehe. No, no ,no ,no. You are okay with it. Don’t look back, don’t look back.

I wish I’da Kep it. One other guy I talked to last night told me he was given the opportunity to keep his. But I turned ‘em down. I was so tired of it I didn’t want to see it again.

You made the right decision, Don’t, don’t…

But it would have been interesting now to see one. I can see the pictures of them ‘cause they’re on the internet – the way we were dressed back then. But now, after we left Camp 5, I’ve seen pictures of that and they’ve added a basketball court and they had a POW Olympics – I think they called it – there. But we were up in WiWanthen so, we didn’t get to see Camp 5 again. And then some Austrailian put a picture of it on the internet. I just purchased a book today, down there in the uh..

Arzan?

Yeah. And it was – had a picture of it And I told her, I said, “There’s Camp 5 right there!” Cause uh – But you know most of the people that are in this reunion that I talked to last night… They were all of lower rank because I moved to Camp 5. I was a sergeant first class and I moved to Camp 5 in August of ’52. They weren’t – the people I talked to last night. One of the guys told me they were taken out of the camp that morning up into the village of Pyat Tongand brought back that afternoon and all the sergeants were gone.

What’s going on?

And I said, “I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that they had hidden our departure from the rest of the camp.” Because we were put on barges, very openly. And then these – I call them tug boats or motor boats, hooked to about three of us and we just went up the river. And then we were marched from the river over to our school building that we stayed in until the end of the war.

You have an amazing memory. For 54  years you are trying to wipe it out but you are very very

It took me, what how many months? When I started trying to get it all back together. Several months I went through trying to dig up these memories and I would add detail after detail.. That’s the reason I put it on a computer so I could add in or take out. And if I’d think things are not exactly with – I’d leave it out. It’s exactly as best I can remember it. But there’s some funny things that happened while we were up there. We made our own entertainment. We were sometimes

Playing chess?

Were castigated –( Laughs )– You might call it. I guess that would be a good word.

What?

Castigated by the Chinese for some of the things we did. We tried a strike one time.  We refused to go to formation.

Uh-huh

They were lecturing us to death every day, at least twice a day, two hour long at a time and then we had to go back to our rooms. We just called them hits – what they put us in and discuss this – What we’d been told. And we had a squad monitor. I was monitor for six months, I guess. We had to take notes, what everybody’s opinion was and turn it in to them. And they would read over them and if somebody didn’t have the right attitude or something they would call them up and talk to them. So we got angry about  — Well, I’ll tell you why we really got mad. They made us learn a song in Chinese and we had no idea what we were saying. It was all phonetic. They told us, “Say ‘Son-ju-chook.” So we says, “Son -ju-ju” Then they say ”Chi-non-niun” – We say “Chi-non-nun” Over till everybody could say it right. They’d say okay now they were gonna add a melody to it. “Son-ju-ju  Chi- nun-nun” (singing) That’s the way the song started. We had no idea what we were saying. And then they got to a point in there where the song said, “Doc-kwa-mi-gwa”hmmm

In Chinese. We had no idea what it was. And then it was “Choon-gwa-har-ni” was part of the song. They told us that the name of the song was a Chinese volunteer march. It was kind of a four quarter time song. So the beat was of a marching timing. And one of the – they call ‘em progressive – and we call ‘em rats.

Hmm

They would join in with the Chinese and inform if any of us said anything that was out there. They were gonna go tell them about it. Tattle tale is what we called. They call them progressives. But one of them was talking on day and told us that one of the English speaking Chinese had been educated in the University of California at Berkley. Spoke perfect English, I mean American English – just as well as I could. And he had told this man that the “Doc-kwa-mi-gwa” was “Death to the Americans”

Hmm

And we’re singin’ that to these people?! And that the “Choon-gwa” part was Chinese that was the Chinese people. So we refused to sing it. Two or three times they’d call us up there and we’d be like a company of a hundred men – a hundred twenty men or something standing up there and they would have us sing this Chinese song out there. We were all out there, “Son-ju-ju Chi-nun-nun” (singing) singing away and Oh they’d just laugh and clap their hands for us and everything. They were just visitors or something. We didn’t see -they weren’t around the camp all the time. We had no idea what they were saying but he told us that we refused to say it. We wouldn’t sing it anymore. And some guy thought let’s just strike. Let’s just don’t go to a lecture. And it lasted a very short time because there was some…He was a Chinese officer because he had the red piping on his uniform -He was different than the normal soldier. He got up and he spoke in Chinese and one of the English-speaking Chinese interpreted to us. And he said, “You are now prisoners of war, but if you refuse to obey the orders that we give you, you will lose your standing as a prisoner of war and you’ll become our enemy. And we’ll go to war with you. And we’ve got all the weapons.” We didn’t try that anymore. We said, “okay.” We come back to formation. But that is just one of the things that I can remember in Camp 5 that was alarming to me. But then one of the strange things that happened there one night and they didn’t do a thing about it. We was standing in formation and some guy had attempted an escape. And they had captured him back. And they made him criticize himself. They called it self-criticism.

Yeah, Yeah

You may have heard of that. And he was standing up telling what a bad person he was. And somebody broke out singing, “God Bless America”

Oh boy….

And we all chimed in. There was never such a feeling in my life… I mean we just decided – I did! – “If they kill me, I’m gonna sing!” (emotional pause). So, they didn’t interfere. They just stood there and let us finish the song. And then we went on about as if nothing had ever happened. But we sang through that song. And we’d been prisoners like a year a y ear and a half and here we are standing up here in the middle of North Korea, under the command of Chinese soldiers that captured us, singing, “god Bless America”! (Laughs.) But we did it!

That must have been an amazing moment.

It was a strange thing. I’ll never forget that one. Uh, they didn’t discipline us as individuals while we were prisoners that I can remember. Uh – they come ‘round with a form, one time said, “If you’ll sign this form, where you joined the side of the people and are against the capitalist warmongers uh, we will serve you with a sumptuous meal.”  Ha, Ha, Whose not gonna sign it? We’re gonna sign that rascal! Everybody signed it and so they give us a better meal than we’d had in a long time.

HEHeheheheh

And ah—They even brought in fish and stuff like that for us, that we hadn’t had in ages. They called it a sumptuous meal. It wasn’t very sumptuous but it was a lot better than what we had. Some funny things happened up there. Of course the sadness was always present. I guess one of the funniest things that I can remember was they put me on trial – me as an individual on trial. We would go down to the river

Trial?!

Yeah! We’d go down to the river. The Ailiriver was – the camp was right on the Aili river and it was just a short distance – maybe a city block, from where I was sleeping to the river. And after they started letting us go down there in May of ’51, we were pretty well free to go down there any time we wanted to during the daylight. And uh, guards was up on higher ground all around us but they didn’t bother us at all. And uh – We’d go down and wash our clothing. And they’d issued us cotton underwear, boxer shorts and I’d wash mine and come back and we all had a habit of hanging them on these rocks. They was right beside the building I was in. It had been put there for a retaining wall because there was a hillside that the house was built on. And it had rocks there and there was kind of a walking space between there. And we’d lay ‘em on these rocks when they was clean. And I went to get mine on afternoon and I picked up the wrong one and I hadn’t gone two steps.. A guy said, “Put my drawers back!’  And I –“Oh I’m sorry!” And I looked -weren’t mine- laid ‘em down and got mine. And somebody out in the audience around there yelled, “Thief! Theif! Stealin’ underwear!” And everybody started in calling me theif. So they decided to try me. And they figured out a court room. And they got a fella to act as judge. He put on an overcoat for a robe.

HaHaHa

It was just for fun. And if you might have heard me mention, Sergeant Potter a while ago that I recognized his name on the internet. He’s dead now, bless his heart. But uh, he was gonna act as my attorney. It was just a fun thing. It was on a Sunday afternoon, weren’t doin’ anything. -just sittin’ ‘round in the huts. And uh – They pulled us all together. Anad uh – the judge was sittin’-the guy that was acting as the judge. Someone had took a string and tied a hangman’s knot on it. And he was sittin’ there swingin’ it around and sayin’, “Bring the guilded bastard in!”

HaHaHa

(Laughing) It was all for fun and we went in. And he had a piece of a little ol’ reed that’d been cut down by the river. “Cause the guys are very ingenius -they’d take those things. Some of them would make a whistle out of ‘em. You could blow ‘em and make a sound. And he had one in his mouth. And he..

Almost like a play…

Yeah! It was just play. It was all play… Just for fun… somethin’ to do. We were so bored. And while we started to walk in . They just took nd drew..just tooo a rock and marked it out. Said, ”Okay this is the courtroom.” Set the judge up. They got a chair for him – a stool or something for him to sit on. And they had the ummm trial lawyer over there. He was gonna try me for stealing this man’s underwear. And I think the first question he asked him was, “Do you think this man is capable of stealing…capable of larceny?” He said, “He’d steal anything he could get his hands on!”

Heheheheh

But it was just for fun. We was all playin’ and carrying on. And everybody’s laughing about it. And some of the guards began to yell and holler from up in their posts, you know. And it wasn’t very lone, some tf the instructors- We were required to call them “Comrades” And uh -Some of the English speaking come round and made us all go back to our units. They thought we were plotting something or something. We were just playing. But that was one of the funny things that happened. Everybody was having a big laugh over it. But they wouldn’t allow it.

A fella named Nicks, Henry Nicks. He was from Yazoo City, Mississippi- Everybody knew Nicks in Camp 5. Had very wavy hair and he had grown himself a very fine handlebar mustache. And he’d take soap and twist the ends of it. It was – You’d see him from a long way off. He’d make you laugh -just to look at him. And people were laughin’ at him and the Chinese instructors, or comrades, they told himi that would not be allowed. To cut that off. And we had a Philippino guy there was our barber. He was a barber by trade. And the Chinese had furnished him with some large clippers – long handled clippers –not the squeeze type -but you’d take a hand and move them. You hadn’t ever seen one of these before. And we’d have him just start here (indicated chin on one side of face) and go all the way over our head. Cut everything off. Cause -beards all – we couldn’t shave or anything. And when they made him cut that off, he had guy -Barber – fashion a mustache on the top of his head with his hair and cut all the other hair off. And he’d wear that cap that they delivered us. And he’d take that cap off and bend his head over, and there was that mustache. And everybody would just crack up laughing about it. But that was just his way of beating them at their own game. A lot of funny things like that happened.

Mmmm

I was in my early 20’s. I was in the prime of my life. So I could find a lot of things to laugh about. Uh-We were missing out on a lot but at the same time, we were learning a lot.

Anything that you want to add more to this interview.

No that’s – I’ve told my story. I was just telling you some of the funny things that happened.

MMmm

Charles, uh – I don’t know how to put it but … I just want to thank you for what you did for Korea and I hope that you have a chance to go back to Korea, the country you never knew before and… You didn’t have any hope when you left because we were miserable. But now, we are the thirteenth largest economy in the world.

Yeah

And one of the most dynamic democracy in the world. This is the book that I wrote, How We Did It,And I want to Thank you, Thank You…just thank you.

You’re very welcome.

I don’t know how I can put it out –other than thank you. Stay healthy. Let me know, if you want to go back.

I’ll do it. I’ll do it.

Okay

Sure will.

Thank you so much, again!

You’re very welcome!

Your Welcome

Thank you!

(Interview ends with hand shake between Mr. Ross and Dr. Han)