Charles T. Gregg
Charles Gregg was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on August 30, 1942. He graduated from high school in 1960 and earned a degree at the University of Tennessee in 1964, in addition to completing a ROTC program. He received his commission and took part in artillery training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, before being deployed to Korea in May of 1965 where he was assigned to I Corps Artillery, B Battery, 76th Artillery. Over the next year he served as an assistant executive artillery officer. He returned home in 1966. After his time in the military, he worked as a CPA and worked for the government.
Protection of the DMZ in the 1960's
Charles Gregg talks about his time in Korea as an Assistant Executive Officer for I Corps Artillery. He describes his job which was to help plot where the rounds would go. A typical day protecting the DMZ included training, cleaning, and patrolling day and night.
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Poverty in Korea
Charles Gregg talks about some of his experiences with Korean civilians in the mid-1960's. He describes seeing dead people beside the road, a Korean man killing and eating a dog, and how Koreans fertilized their fields.
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Interactions with KATUSA
Charles Gregg talks about KATUSAs. He describes how KATUSA soldiers were organized and used within his unit. He tells the story of dealing with a KATUSA soldier that had killed another soldier in an argument.
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[Beginning of Transcribed Material]
C: I’m Charles T. Gregg. I was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee on August 30, 1942.
I: What did your parents do?
C: My father was a florist. My mother helped him in the flower shop. I was a sibling. I was the 4th child from a total of five.
I: Did any of your other siblings go into the military?
C: No. My uncle did.
My uncle served in World War II, but that’s all.
I: What year did you graduate high school?
C: I graduated in 1960 from high school and 1964 from the University of Tennessee.
I: When you went into the military, did you enlist or were you drafted?
C: I went through Reserve Officer Training Corps which is ROTC in college. I came out from graduation as a lieutenant.
They have an ROTC program in high school. And I had three years of ROTC at University, I’m sorry. I went three years at the high school, Chattanooga City High School. And then I went to University of Tennessee in Knoxville, enrolled in ROTC and was in the ROTC program for four years.
I: So, why did you choose to do that program?
C: I don’t know. I just kind of fell into it. I enjoyed the military in high school and enjoyed the military in summer camp in college. So, I just kept on that program not really having an idea of what I was doing other than I just enjoyed it.
I: What branch were you in?
C: In the US Army.
When you get out of college, you have to choose a field, a branch in the Army, Infantry, Artillery, Signal Corps, Tanks, and I chose Artillery. So, I went to Fort Sill, Oklahoma for training in Artillery. And after I received that training, it took about eight weeks, nine weeks, then I received orders to go to Korea. At the time, I had two children,
And they said that they would not send an officer on a hardship tour, but it just happened that class, almost every one of us went to Korea. And the next class went to Viet Nam.
I: When did you go over to Korea?
C: I was there about May the 15th, 1965.
I: Where did you arrive?
C: I flew in on an airplane, 727 I believe it was, into Seoul, Korea.
And my unit picked me up in a jeep, and we went up north to the ICore Artillery which was two miles north of the 38thParallel.
I: What was your unit, regiment, etc.?
C: I was in ICore Artillery. That was the badge we wore. And I was assigned to B Battery of the 76th Artillery.
And it was an 8” Howitzer self-propelled unit.
I: And what were your duties?
C: I was assigned as an assistant executive officer, primarily dealing fire control center, firing the gun, telling the elevation and the deflection where the surround should go. And I would get orders from the Forward Observer. We would plot the round where he wanted it placed. And so, I’d put the pin in the map and give the order to elevation and deflection, and they would fire the rounds.
I: And what was the purpose of your activity there?
C: Well, we were assigned to, our mission was to guard the DMZ if the North Koreans came across the 38th Parallel, across the DMZ, we had assignment to go and be stationed at a certain location in the valley that we anticipated they would be coming down, and we would protect that valley and provide firepower to the Infantry.
I: What did a typical day look like?
C: Well, a typical day is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. We would be in our barracks. We would do training almost continuously. We would be cleaning our rifles, our handguns, our tanks, our self-propelled Howitzer’s.
Just receiving orders and planning and doing things like that.
I: Were there any stories or memories/experiences from your time that particularly stand out?
C: Well, when I first arrived in Seoul, Korea, I was traveling in a jeep, and the private that was driving the jeep slowed down for traffic, and there was a dead person there on the road. I don’t know what they died from.
But people were walking around him, and I said well, we gotta stop and help this person. They might still be alive. He said no, you can’t do that. He said if you touch the person in Korea, you have to bury them. That’s the way the people are there and the way they think and believe. So, we had to keep going. So, we went on up to my unit, and I got checked into the barracks and met my commanding officer.
One of the duties an officer has is officer of the day and that meant like keeping the compound safe at night and having guard duty. And I would have to walk the perimeter about four times a night. And I noticed that there was a Korean man in the far, oh, he was probably 500 yards from me. He had a dog that he would hang from a tree,
And he was getting ready to cook that dog. And I thought that was real unusual, that someone would cook a dog. And the dog just kept hanging there. He’d built a fire, and the dog kept yapping. Finally, he pulled the dog’s hind legs down till the dog died, then he proceeded to skin him and cook him and eat him. It was very poor country over there, lots of rice paddies. I guess the next thing was when we went in the field.
We had a latrine set up. And as soon as we got through with our mission in the field, it took about eight to ten days, I noticed that as soon as we left, the population would come and dig up that latrine and use what was in there as fertilizer on the rice fields. And I thought that was very unusual. I never even thought people would do that. But it was a very poor country, and they made it. They wanted to live, and that’s the way they lived.
The last thing I was, another tour of duty guarding the perimeter, and I was called by one of the batteries to come up immediately to investigate something that occurred. And I went up there and found a Katusa, Korean Augmentation to the US Army. He was a soldier. He was supposed to speak English, but most of them spoke broken English.
There was a corporal who had killed a private. It was over some girl in the village. And he had taken a mosquito net pole and rammed it through the forehead of the private, and the private eventually died. The medics came in and sawed the iron pole out of his head with a hacksaw. And then they loaded him up in a helicopter and flew him down to Seoul to a medical facility. That’s where I learned later that he died.
That corporal was subsequently taken out of our unit and moved back into the ROK Army. And I never heard from him since. But that was an unusual situation for me. I’ll remember that probably forever.
I: For the sake of those watching the video, can you explain what a Katusa is?
C: The ROK Army, Republic of Korea Army, had men who spoke some English. And they would assist us and bring our unit up to a higher number.
Usually, we had 50% US soldiers and 50% Katusa soldiers. They were Korean. They had the ROK emblems and the ROK insignia. And they helped us and assisted us. So, when we were in a battery situation, we’d have probably four Katusa soldiers and four US Army soldiers on each Howitzer.
I: What did you know about Korea before you went over?
C: I knew there was a Korean War, and I knew that it had something to do with the 38th Parallel. I knew we had lost a lot of soldiers there. And I didn’t know why we needed to still be there. But it was obvious when I got there that the North Koreans were still there and very much a part of having a military force there. I think the United States was very concerned. So was South Korea, that they might come across the 38th Parallel and begin the Korean Conflict all over again.
I: What did it feel like to be there during that time?
C: Well, it was very peaceful as far as military wise. We always were training just in case the North Koreans came across. We didn’t have any shooting or anything like that. So, it wasn’t so bad. But it sure was cold in the winter and hot in the summer.
I: What was it like at that time, society or the terrain, etc.?
C: Well, the terrain was just like it always had been. It was rice paddies all over the place. Had a lot of pheasant flying around, although I never hunted pheasant. But I just noticed there was a lot of poor people there trying to make ends meet. Their houses were dirt floors. And their roofs were made out of straw from wheat and rice straw.
They didn’t let anything go to waste. I don’t think they even had a word for trash or garbage cause they used everything.
I: Have you been back since then?
C: I have not. I did hire my CPA firm in (INAUDIBLE), I did hire a Korean girl. She was an orphan over there, and she was taken when she was just like three months old by a US soldier and brought back to the United States.
And she never spoke Korean and always spoke English. And I always thought it unusual that she couldn’t speak any Korean at all. But she said she couldn’t. But I still have a fond affiliation for the Koreans. They work hard and did what they did to make life as easier as they could.
I: What do you think about US/Korea relations today?
C: Well, I’m totally amazed how US soldiers are received in the Korean communities. They just love us. I mean, they’d do anything for us. I’ve never seen that before. No other country I’m aware of ever showed that much appreciation for what we did in Korea. In every Korean community I go to, whether it’s in Dallas or here in Rochester, Minnesota,
They’re just overwhelmingly appreciative of what we did in Korea. And I think the US/Korean relationship from that standpoint has been very good.
I: What kind of friendships or camaraderie did you form in the military during your service?
C: Well, it was all with the US soldiers, mainly with the officers. I can’t remember their names. I can certainly remember their faces now.
But we got along very well. There wasn’t any bickering or fighting. It was always wanting to go back home when we could. My father passed away when I was over there, so I was able to get on an Americraft on emergency leave and go back to Chattanooga, Tennessee for his funeral. But then right after the service of his funeral, I went back to Korea.
I: How did you stay in touch with family and friends back home during that time?
C: It was with letter writings. We wrote letters. I wrote a letter every day to my wife and maybe once a month to my mother and father.
I: So, as a young kid when the Korean War was actually going on, were you aware of it at all?
C: I was aware there was a Korean Conflict. I knew there were people dying over there. But I wasn’t sure what it was about. I remember that Harry Truman was our President during that time.
And I can remember hearing him on the radio cause we didn’t have tv at first. We had a tv later on. I would sit and listen to him on the radio. My dad would listen to it, not really knowing what was happening over there other than there were people losing their lives over there.
I: So later on in life when you were being sent over there, did you think back to that time at all, or what did you think of being assigned there?
C: I probably didn’t think much at that time, didn’t probably put it all together. It just, I was in the Army. I was assigned to Korea, and I was gonna do what I had to do to protect my country and ended up protecting the folks there in Korea.
I: When did you finish your tour in Korea?
C: It was in June of 1966.
I: And when you rotated home, did you still have time left?
C: Yes. I was in for two years. And I ended up spending two years and six months. When I rotated back to the States at Fort Sill, Fort Knox, Oklahoma with a tank unit. Tank training facility. And I was assigned to an Artillery unit to help with the training of the people in the tanks.
I: So, when you finished your time of service, what did you do after that?
C: Well, I put in for regular Army commission. But I wasn’t granted that. They wanted me to go to Viet Nam first and then said if I came back from Viet Nam, they’d consider giving me a regular Army commission. I said I don’t think I wanna do that. So, I just went ahead and received my discharge from the Army and went to work in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
I: And what have you done since?
C: Well, I worked for Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Tennessee, and then I took a position with Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Oklahoma. Then I went to work for the Federal government in Medicare and Medicaid in Dallas, and I was there about 10 years. And then after I decided that I would leave the government, I formed my own CPA firm and started performing audits.
I: How has your time in the service affected your life? Or are there any life lessons you learned from that time?
C: Well, I learned a lot about leadership and finding that you need to show leadership by example. And I took that with me, that leadership training, and used it in my practice and my CPA firm and also when I worked for the Federal government.
I: Is there any message that you would like to communicate to the younger generations who watch the video?
C: Well, I would encourage them all to serve their country. I think it’s a great opportunity for themselves as well as helping our country to stay free because freedom is not free. And I think that every young man and woman that is interested in serving ought to serve in the country, in the military. I think it’s a great experience. I’ve always encouraged our kids in our church to consider pursuing, going into the military,
Army, Navy, Coast Guard, all of the, Marines. And I think it’s just an excellent training ground for them.
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