Chauncey E. Van Hatten
Chauncey Van Hatten was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 24, 1932. After attending Columbia Heights High School, he enlisted in the US Army in August of 1949. He was sent to Osaka, Japan in January 1950 and assigned to the 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th division. As the Korean War broke out, he was sent to the front lines and participated the Battle of Pusan Perimeter and the battles of Taegu, Taejon, and Pyongyang. He returned home in July of 1951 and used the GI Bill to complete high school and earn a 2-year college degree.
"Outgunned and Outflanked"
Chauncey Van Hatten talks about the beginning of the Korean War. Stationed in Japan, he describes hearing the news of the North Korean invasion of South Korea and his unit's quick deployment to the war. He talks about being "outgunned and outflanked" by North Korean forces at Masan because of substandard equipment and supplies.
"The Fire Brigade"
Chauncey Van Hatten talks about the 25th Infantry Regiment, known as "The Fire Brigade." He describes his regiments makeup and how the unit was used during the Battle of the Pusan Perimeter.
Masan, Seoul, and Pyongyang
Chauncey Van Hatten talks about the fighting at Masan, Seoul, and Pyongyang. He describes the enemy forces that his unit faced and being outflanked many times by North Koreans.
Fighting the Chinese at Pyongyang
Chauncey Van Hatten talks about fighting Chinese forces at Pyongyang. He describes eating Thanksgiving dinner before the difficult withdrawal south from Pyongyang. During the withdrawal, he says they often went for days without food and their vehicles ran out of gas.
Ch. Chauncey E Van Hatten, Dutch and Irish.
My mother was full blooded Irish, my father full blooded Dutch.
Int. mhm… tell me about your birthday and where you were born.
Ch. I was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 24th, 1932, and that was a good year. I have
two sisters, and one brother, I am 3rd in line, and my sister passed away one year ago.
What school did you go to?
Ch. I went to Columbia Heights High School
Int. Could you spell it?
Ch. C O L U M B I A H E I G H T S
Int. And when did you graduate high school
Ch. I did not graduate, I left school and joined the service.
Int. When was that?
Ch. That would have been August 21st, 1949
Int. You left the school, you didn’t like the school?
Ch. It was kinda the way things were going on at home
Ch. I was ah not a bad student, a “ B” student, family life was kinda changed.
Ch. So I got my diploma through the service and after I came out of the service, I went to night
school for about 6 years.
Ch. And I ended up with enough college credits for 2 years if college.
Int. So it was September?
Ch. No August
Int. August of 1949?
Ch. I ah went to Japan, and I was stationed at…
Int. When did you leave for Japan?
Ch. That would have been January 15th
Int. And where did you depart from?
……… , San Francisco, arrived at Yokohama, ten days later
Int. Tell me about your service in Japan
Ch. 27th regiment, 25th….. We were stationed at Camp Sikhaya, which is approximately 6 miles
away from Osaka, and there we ah.. spent a lot of time in the field. We were very under strength
at that time. My company had 4 officers all 2nd lieutenants, and the other two were sergeants.
Our sergeant was our top kick those days, you really had to have a soldier to make a PMC.
Ch. Again at Camp Sikhaya, Iike I said two patients and we were very fortunate enough that our
CEO and our officer have served together with 80 second airborne in WWII, one being that the
section sergeant the other one being his first gunner on a machine gun.
Int. They are veterans?
Ch. We were very polished, every uniform we had was tailored, our company had the
regimental E flag, which was for efficiency, and we dare lose it because we worked night and
day to keep it, and we got to be a very very close group. The just being 2 petayants of us and
actually when we got the word about the Koreans crossing the 38th parallel we were on
maneurs up at Mount Fuji and I guess it was about 2 o’clock in the morning, It had been raining,
and we’d already dig in once, and I remember Zach Cameroni well sat up boys were moving
again and course’ everybody took their UGIS and there were alot of …. Going on. He says “ we
are making a great move.” The North Koreans crossed the 38th parallel and our… says “ well,
what does that mean.”
Ch. And I said well, there is probably going to be people with pitchforks, and there will be some
mop scenes, and stuff, you know, but anyway we uh, rode camp in the middle of the rain and
bordered trains and went back to Camp Sikhaya, and the rumor was at that time, part of our
outfit did not go on maneuvers with us, they were securing our equipment, we were within the
next 3 days bombed for Camp Sikhaya at Hawaii, at our original home we wrapped 3 grenades.
( 0-6 mins)
Ch. …. And we boarded buses and uh trains, and went up down to camp Sassable.
Ch. Where the 24th division had been. One of the residents were still there and two of them had
already left for Korea and we had uh boarded a – we called it a Shingon Japanese fishing boat
because it was just a small craft and all we had aboard it was one company of men, my
company- and that’s how large it was and that’s how we landed in Busan.
Int. When did you leave Korea?
Ch. That would have been in- guessing it was about the second or third of July
Ch. I know when we got to Busan, we realized then that we didn’t scare anybody- and there’s
where the problem with me come from.
Ch. So many of the articles that the media has written and many of the GI’s themself had written
books and they all referred to the troops from Japan as being lazy occupational troops and, I
really hate the problem with that.
Ch. I uh look at the equipment we had which was stuff that had been left there after World War
II. We had M2 Carbines which would not fire in full automatic and most of the guys threw them
away and grabbed M1’s and we didn’t get in a conflict.. Again we were so under strength we did
not have the 3.5 Bazooka. All we had was the World War II 2.3 Bazooka which did its best to
knock the dust off of T-34 tanks and uh that’s for we got in and our rations- our newest rations
was C-43’s which meant they were manufactured in 1943. And uh they taste like it too.
Ch. Yeah, and some of our ammunition was very old we had alert packs that we each kept
ration of ammunition in our own supply rooms, our arms room and that’s what I have a problem
with, we were not really outmanned- we were outgunned- our fight and uh it’s not that we were
not well trained because we spent so many days in the field and it was in Japan also at that
time. We were segregated and then there was easy to get through Japan, guys could
misbehave time to time and if there was good occasion they came out of the blockade and went
to the 27th regiment. So we had some privates that were four years into servants and retreats
from World War II, but they were still privates because they, as garrison soldiers, probably
wasn’t the best but in the field there were tremendous. And there again I has an argument with
all the regiments being painted by the same brush because we were proud of it and when we
were in Korea in the Pusan perimeter they nicknamed us the ‘ Fire Brigade’ for whenever there
was a breakthrough in the line they pulled us out and stuff to send there and our commander
that time was 37 years old,- Mike Mykayla and he went home as a brigadier general and I think
anybody would have went with him twice. Our company commander Birchum J Bishop we had a
women reported or corresponder Maggie Higgins and she wrote an article- and I want to believe
it was the September 15th issue of the Saturday Evening Pulse of 1950 about my- err- company
commander, calling him one of the bravest soldier she ever met. He had been wounded quite
seriously uh a couple different places and he would not leave until he got an order from the
regiment commander, so again like I said we were all friends along being soldiers.
Int. So you are angry about this mischaracterization all the soldiering for Korea because it was
right after the World War II and the US government was reducing the budget they try to
Int. So I absolutely agree with you that you were not well equipment
Ch. Yeah, so the equipment, that was the biggest thing. We didn’t have the training I think was
okay uh again I don’t know- I thought we were pretty sharp, but it was the equipment we didn’t
have and we didn’t have the manpower, our first replacements that we received in Korea was
two South Korean squid well number one we had the…
Ch. And uh when they made the landing it was like someone turned off a light switch.
Everything stopped. Their orders was to get worth.
Ch. And course we just drove right up the roads.
Int. So where did you go? Where did your unit go? This unit is the 27th regiment, yeah?
Ch. Yep 25th division
Int. where did you go?
Ch. We went up through, soul and then up. We got operated on- and patrols probably to the
front oh maybe 3 or 4 miles. And uh that’s when the chinese entered the war. After that the
guard said we were going to be home around Christmas, he didn’t say which year.
Int. So when did your unit forced to identify the Chinese soldier, when was it? Only November
and late October?
Ch. I really don’t remember. Because we went up to plan and they kind of pulled us back and
reserved and we have been quit for a while.
Int. How was it?
Int. I mean fighting against these Chinese?
Ch. Tough, they were very skilled, um but I think they also had they’re a little. They weren’t as
brutal let’s put it that way. North Koreans and Koreans in the earlier part they had taken some of
our wire men. They captured them laying back with their own wiring and out them in a jeep and
let the jeep on fire. We didn’t have any remorse for the Koreans at all.
Int. So Chinese were different?
Ch. Yes, they were a little bit kinder I think, I think they didn’t pick up some of our wounded. I
don’t know that for a fact but that’s what they did and North Koreans would never do that, they
would set them on fire, something in that nature
Int. So your unit withdraw from Kenya. Right?
Int. When was it?
Ch. When was it?
Ch. Oh golly
Ch. It was in November, I think we had Thanksgiving dinner.
Int. Tell me about it, what did you eat?
Ch. We had turkey of all things we couldn’t believe it.
Int. Frozen or warm
Ch. “It was hahaha”
Ch. “Yeah it was okay. We had some really good cooks, young guys from the South, in fact they
kept us eating pretty good. They had some place along the line. They had a whole bunch of
Int. “So you had Thanksgiving dinner and hung out?”
Int. “Then you began to withdraw?”
Ch. “i was tired to withdraw, yes.”
Int. “Tell me about it. What happens after thanksgiving dinner. What did you do and where did
you go and what happened to the unit.”
Ch. “well, at that time we had to be at a certain row junction and the church held that row
junction half longer than what were scheduled to be. As i understand he ran out of ammo and
he had some attack lieutenant. 28 was also involved in that same route that we had and our
flight was the first capital of rock division and uhh he/she was kind of withdraw. It was pretty
sad. I used to run out of gas even tanks. It would blow of reach and we didn’t have food for days
and we found this aimo dump that hasn’t been blown up yet.
Int. “ You don’t want to go back?”
Ch. I don’t think so, I never have, my time is running out, I, you should go when I’m healthy
enough to get around and uhh.. I guess my son went through that really tore my heart out..
served 3 years and then when I came home, went out to college.”
Int. “When did you leave Korea for the United States?”
Ch. “That would’ve been July, again I’m guessing it somewhere between the 8th and the 10th of
Int. “What were you thinking when you were leaving?
Ch. “Well, we had a company commander who had been our officer and the decision are if you
guys want these neglected as the rank for, you guys, if you wanna stick around for another 30
days they’ll send you home… lot more stripes. My question to him was are they going to be
bulletproof! Yep I wanna go home. I was just turning 19 and so 18 years i spent in Korea.”
Int. “Were you able to write letters back to your family?”
Ch. “Yes i did, i wrote as often as I could and uhh, my father being a World War I veteran, my
brother being a World War II veteran. They knew how important letters were and so I think I did
a very good job of that. I, uh, a young lady wrote to me. We were just good friends. She also
wrote to a friend of mine as a ma…….. at the same time and, uh, I think the corresponder was
good and I know when I was in the hospital, and the 31st stationed hospital in Kiyota.”
Int. “Were you wounded?”
Ch. “I was sick with the Yellow John Hepatitis from drinking their water and their water and their
Int. “Mhmm.. Mugley? You like it?
Int. “Ahaha I like it.”
Ch. “It got the job done”
Int. “Yeah that’s right”
Ch. “And the… my mother was working at the arcell a britten and she was working in the, the
tracer division and somehow the word got out that I was missing and her supervisor had told her
“I didn’t expect you in today” and my mother says “Why?” And she says “Well somebody
sheeted a Saint Paul paper that your son was missing.” Well of course she had an…… When i
was in the hospital I found out about it “So can I arrange a call.” They said “Sure you can.” It
took 4 days for them to get all the station set up and the longest I could talk was 4 minutes and
the cost was $4 a minute. $4 a minute was a lot of money.”
Int. “ How much were you paid? 100 something?
Ch. “Oh, not quite that. No I was with my overseas. I was making 85 – 90 bucks a month yea.”
Int. “Including the battle, battle uhh..”
Ch. “We wasn’t getting _____at that time.”
Int. “Okay. Yeah that was very expensive.”
Ch. “So they lined whole family up so I got to talk to them and let them know “No I’m fine”.”
Int. “From Japan right?”
Ch. “Yup that many days to go through and you think of the technology today would probably
take 40 seconds to get the job done.”
Int. “What is the impact of your service after your return from Korea?”
Ch. “Well I had a very gracious wife.”
Int. “Did you have PTSD?”
Ch. “Yes and um, I went, I would have nightmares and she was a very patient person and she
would wake up sometime, start me through and she had lost her at the end of World War II in
the Pacific, just 6 months before the war was gonna cease and she was very passionate about
the situation and she truly….”
Int. “What do you think was the importance of the contributions made by the korean war
Ch. “I think the relationship between is super. I wish it was worldwide. Unfortunately it isn’t. I feel
that i don’t regret being in Korea. I feel like it was the right thing to do. When we finally found out
why we going to be there and you get educated a little bit more down the line and the
importance of it. 17 18 years old doesn’t really register and I guess I would uhh.. same situation
I would do it again.
Int. I want to thank you for your fight and sacrifice for the korean people and there’s no Korea
without your defence.
Ch. “Well thank you.”