Korean War Legacy Project

Harold Don


Harold Don was born in 1931 in Tucson, Arizona. His grandfather and other relatives immigrated from China to set up a produce store. Later, his father moved to Tuscon, Arizona, to start his own grocery business. While in high school, he joined the United States Marine Corps Reserves. In June 1950, his reserve unit was sent to basic training at Camp Pendleton. He was part of the Incheon Landing and experienced heavy fire from the North Koreans at Yeongdeungpo. He was on the front lines at the Battle of the Jangjin (Chosin) Reservoir, which has gone down in U.S. Marine Corps history as an epic military campaign. He received a letter of commendation for his involvement at the Jangjin (Chosin) Reservoir. When he was redeployed to Korea during the major Chinese offensive, he became a machine gun squad leader. He served a total of eleven months in Korea. He volunteers actively in his community, including the VA hospital and at other organizations.

Video Clips

The U.S. Marine Corps Reserves

Harold Don, during WWII, joined the United States Marine Corps Reserves while still in high school. He explains that students living in poor situations wanted to join the Reserves because of the small monthly pay and issued uniforms. He shares how he, initially, aspired to be an aviator, but his small stature and vision impairment prevented him from becoming a pilot. He recalls being called to service in June of 1950 and sent to basic training at Camp Pendleton when the conflict in Korea broke out.

Tags: Basic training,Home front,Poverty,Pride

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Seeing and Experiencing Battle

Harold Don shares that he was apprehensive about arriving to Korea. He recalls witnessing the destruction from prior battles upon landing in Incheon. He remembers how his unit experienced fire from North Korean tanks at Yeongdeungpo and observed the destruction at Seoul. His unit then boarded another ship and attempted a landing at Wonsan but was forced to wait due to mines needing to be cleared.

Tags: 1950 Inchon Landing, 9/15-9/19,1950 Wonsan Landing, 10/25,Busan,Incheon,Seoul,Wonsan,Yeongdeungpo,Fear,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,North Koreans,Physical destruction,Prior knowledge of Korea,South Koreans,Weapons

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Battle of the Jangjin (Chosin) Reservoir

Harold Don shares memories from the front lines at the Jangjin (Chosin) Reservoir. He recounts how the United States units were surrounded by the North Koreans and Chinese on all sides. He notes how cold the temperature dropped in the winter and how the lake would freeze over. He comments on how the Battle of the Jangjin (Chosin) Reservoir was one of the epic battles in United States Marine Corps history, evidenced by many Medal of Honor recipients.

Tags: 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir, 11/27-12/13,Jangjin,Wonsan,Chinese,Cold winters,Communists,Fear,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,North Koreans,Physical destruction,Pride,Weapons

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Extremely Cold Conditions

Harold Don describes the challenges of digging foxholes in Korea's frozen ground during the winter. He details how one had to clear enough snow to make an indentation to rest in. He notes how, as he was assigned to heavy machine guns, his foxhole was located at the most vulnerable point. He explains how, in an effort to keep the machine guns' barrels from freezing, he had to utilize antifreeze.

Tags: 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir, 11/27-12/13,Jangjin,Cold winters,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,North Koreans,Personal Loss,Physical destruction,Weapons

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Redeployed as Machine Gun Squad Leader

Harold Don discusses being redeployed to Korea during the Chinese major offensive. He shares he was unaware, at the time, that Chinese forces had retaken Seoul and that he became a machine gun squad leader. He remembers partaking in Rest and Relaxation, which meant moving back several miles from the front for a hot shower and food. He notes he remembers the country itself when asked what he remembers most from this eleven-month tour in Korea. He describes Korea as being like a third-world country at the time with primitive farming, sanitation, and construction methods.

Tags: Hwacheon,Seoul,Chinese,Civilians,Communists,Food,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Physical destruction,Poverty,Rest and Relaxation (R&R),South Koreans,Weapons

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Transcribed Material]


I:          Good morning.  My name is Mike Brian.  I’m working as a volunteer at the Southern Arizona VA in Tucson, Arizona.  Today is Friday, September 27, and TGIF, yeah.  And we’re here today to interview Harold Don who, uh, was with the uh, Marine Corps in Korea, uh, specifically on the Frozen Chosin area I understand.  We’re


here to get Don’s story.  So, if you would, just give me your full name and uh, your birthday.
D:        My name’s Harold Don.  I was born in Kastrand, Arizona January 12, 1931.  My parents came over from China, oh I guess maybe about eight or ten years earlier, and landed in San Fransisco where my sister was born.  She’s the oldest.



And I’m the second oldest.  And the uh, first son.  And uh, after a year in Kastrand, uh, let me back up.  My grandfather came over from China and established a store in Kastrand, with three brothers.  The oldest brother took over the business in Kastrand, and the two younger brothers who were twins,



Moved to Tucson because there wasn’t enough business.  They wanted to start to support their two families at the time.  The families always lived in back of the store.  So, my dad came down to Tucson established a little store here in Tucson, first by peddling uh, vegetables and produce, uh, around the uh,



West part of Tucson.  Back then, it was all dirt roads, and it was called the Hollywood Barrio.  And from that, he managed to scrape up enough money to rent a building and start a grocery store.  And uh, it wasn’t until maybe four or five years later he saved up enough money to buy a piece of property right by the uh, railroad.



It was just a block down from where he started his business.  And built a grocery store there.  And that’s where I grew up.

I:          What started the migration?

D:        The migration?
I:          Your grandfather and his brothers?
D:        Well, what they used to tell me is America was, the Chinese used to call it uh, Kim Sung



Which meant uh, whole mountain.  I guess back then, people living in China were so darn poor that anything, anything uh, that would tempt them to come over.

I:          For a better life.

D:        Yeah, for a better life.  And so, they did.  And that’s how the, that’s how he got started in Tucson.

I:          Very good.

D:        And so, I lived there


For the better part of all my life up until uh, we sold the place in 1990 I believe it was after my parents had passed away.  Um,

I:          So, they came over just a few years then before the start of the War.

D:        The uh, World War II.

I:          Two.
D:        No.  They were here way back uh,



Let’s see, about the 1920’s I want to say.

I:          Okay.  Those were your parents?
D:        My father.  Well actually, my father, he got established. He went back to China and married my mother and brought her over.

I:          Um hm.

D:        In about, uh, 1926, 28, something like that.



And uh, and after I was born in Kastrand, uh, we moved down to Tucson.  And I lived in Tucson all my life.  So, I’m a  native, more less a native to Tucson, or native to Arizona.

I:          You don’t meet many native Tucsons.  Everybody’s from somewhere else.

D:        Yeah.  And the neighborhood we lived was called the Hollywood Barrio.  I don’t remember what the story was on that.



I guess it’s because a lot of the guys that lived in the neighborhood used to wear sunglasses.  It’s sort of got a cute name, Hollywood, I guess.  And uh, so from there, we went to school in Menlo Park which is uh, a couple blocks from the house there.  And then we went to uh, Cross Ridge Junior High School in the Tucson High School which was the only high school in Tucson at the time.



Other than [INAUDIBLE] And that’s where I, in Rostridge and [INAUDIBLE] where the majority of my classmates were in the Marine Corps with me.  We uh, somehow, we all uh, joined the Marine Reserves back in high school.

I:          This was before the War started.

D:        Right, before Korea, yeah.



It was right after World War II.

I:          Yeah.

D:        And uh, while most of the kids going to high school at the time were so poor that they joined the Marine Corps, the Reserves, to get, I think it was $2.30 once or twice a month.  I can’t remember now.  And then all the clothing that they issued which uh, which we wore to school.  And t-shirts.



And uh, I graduated in 1949.  And in 1950 when the Korean War broke out, they called the Reserves.  And there was, I guess, about 250 of us that were in the Reserves at the time.  And the Reserve Center was on 22nd Street in Alvaron.



I:          What was your impression on the Marine Corps, you know, coming out of World War II and then that short lull in between World War II and Korea?  Did you have an impression of what the Marine Corps was like?

D:        Well, I used to watch a lot of those John Wayne movies during World War II.  And that sort of sold me on the Marine Corps and being a Marine, wanting to be a Marine.  Actually, I wanted to be



An aviator flying fighter planes.  But I was too short and wore glasses.  I knew I wouldn’t qualify, so that was like my second-best choice.

I:          So, who all joined the Reserves then?  You said

D:        Well, most of the kids from high school, through Junior High and High School with me joined up.  And uh, at the time we were called in, I think there was something like close to 242 or 250



Uh, guys that were in the, uh, Reserve.  Of course, there were a few World War II veterans that were in the Reserves at the time, too, just to keep up their eligibility I guess, with the military.  And so, we were called up in June, and left Camp Pendleton in July.

I:          This was in 1950.

D:        Nineteen fifty, right.



And then in August, uh, well we were, once we got to Camp Pendleton, we were all reassigned to different units.

I:          Um hm.

D:        We didn’t stick together as a unit.  And there were other Reserve units coming in from all over the country, too.  So, we were reassigned to different units, different Reservists from other areas of the country.
I:          So, what did you do during that month at Camp Pendleton?

D:        Mostly uh, just uh,



Training, depending what your MOS was.  And uh, infantry training, basic infantry training.  The Marine Corps, that area of Marines basically is an infantryman.  And so, whether you were uh, Headquarters or not, you learned to shoot a rifle.



So, after we were assigned to Camp Pendleton, we, uh, left for Korea. I believe it was August 17, 15 or 17 or something like that.  And if I remember correctly, it took us like 17 days aboard ship to get to Korea.

I:          It was a long haul.

D:        And aboard ship, we were uh,



They were training us to condition us, you know.  We were doing exercises and stuff like that.  And field strip our rifles and machine guns and fire uh, out into the ocean to get used to firing rifles when they’re shooting at us.

I:          What was the mood like amongst the guys?  Were they

D:        Well, some of the guys were sort of scared.


And I wasn’t particularly scared.  I was, I didn’t know what we were getting into. So uh, I guess overall they didn’t know what to expect as far as what we were going to be used for.  So, and most of us had never even heard of Korea.  We didn’t even know where Korea was at the time.



We knew it was near like China and Japan or something.  But exactly where, we didn’t know.  At least I didn’t.

I:          So, what was, when you got there, what was the first couple days like?

D:        In Korea?
I:          Yeah.

D:        Well, we, I believe after we disembarked, we were up at about three and four in the morning with all our gear



Ready to go.  And we, I guess earlier waves disembarked earlier.  But uh, we were like in the, I believe it was 14th, 15thwave or something.  So, we didn’t disembark till later.  And you could see the different waves going in.  And uh prior to that, I guess they just bombarded the area two or three days in a row, you know.



I:          Now where did you land at?
D:        At Inchon.

I:          At Inchon.

D:        Yes.

I:          Okay.  So, the War had already, the North Koreans had already attacked and pushed the UN Forces south.

D:        Down to Pusan, Mason perimeter there.

I:          Right.  So, Inchon over on the West Coast.

D:        Yes, on the West Coast, yeah.

I:          So, that was really the first assault that the US made to try to retake

D:        Right.

I:          North Korea.



D:        And I guess the idea was to cut off the North Koreans as they, cause I guess that was part of the supply route going South.  I guess the idea was to cut off the supply route.  And so, we made the Inchon Landing.  And then in four or five days, we took Seoul.

I:          What was the fighting like?
D:        It was uh,



It was uh, I guess for certain units it was good.  It was pretty heavy.  Other units weren’t hit as hard.  Our platoon wasn’t hit that hard until we got to Yeongdeungpo.  And we were, there’s a river there, and it runs through uh,



Just before Seoul there, Yeongdeungpo.  And it was like a river. The highway was built up along this road where we were dug in at that time.  And we got hit pretty heavy that night.  There were tanks coming through there with North Korean tanks.  And of course, we didn’t want, we thought maybe they were our tanks. But it turned out to be North Korean tanks going North.



And that morning, we heard some more tanks rumbling through the village there.  We all jumped in our foxholes thinking they were North Korean tanks.  As it turned out, they were our tanks that came through up North.

I:          So, they were pushing the North Koreans back North.
D:        Yes.  And then from Yeongdeungpo, we went into Seoul.  Seoul was all bombed out.  I mean, the city was really flattened out.


There was nothing but ruins there.  And we took over Seoul.  And then after that, we came back and boarded ship again and rounded the Peninsula headed on the East side of the Peninsula going up North.  And I guess the plan was to make a landing at uh,



We landed at Wonsan.  But we couldn’t land right away because we spent about two or three days just going back and forth on the sea there till we cleared the harbor to pull out.

I:          Mines and what have you.

D:        Yeah. [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Give the mine sweepers a chance to get in and clean

D:        Yeah, right. By the time we landed,



the South Koreans had already entered the Wonsan.  And so, we didn’t have to fight the battle there or make another landing there.  And then from there, we headed up towards, uh, towards the Chosin Reservoir.

I:          That’s pretty close up to the Chinese border, right?
D:        I think it was something like 75 miles from the Chinese border.



But uh, they, I think that some of the civilians reported that there were Chinese troops massed along the border there.  And uh, but they didn’t know for sure.  And if they did, they didn’t think they were gonna invade, uh, North Korea.



So, we went in and took the area around the Chosin Reservoir there and then head on towards the Yalu River, the Chinese border after we took them.  But then the Chinese intervened when the Marines were at the Chosin Reservoir.

I:          Is that where you were at?

D:        Yes.  And uh, the 7th Marines were the unit



That was furthest ahead.  And the 5th and maybe one battalion first Marines.  And we were more less like the, in reserve.  But uh, the day that the Chinese hit in full force, we were supposed to move up to relieve the 7th Marines.

I:          At the point?
D:        At the point.



And I guess that was lucky that we didn’t because otherwise we would have [INAUDIBLE].  And the 7th Marines and 5thMarines all started dealing with people up there. And uh, well, we had to fight our way out of the Reservoir there.

I:          So, the Reservoir was,



Was that a man-made reservoir for drinking water and that kind of thing?
D:        I guess it wasn’t meant to be a reservoir.  I’m not sure.  I think there was a dam there. And uh, for power I guess.  That was part of their source of electric power in North Korea.

I:          Um hm.  But when the Chinese started into, when they engaged in the War, and it took a turn.  So, it must have been pretty awesome wave of people coming at you.



D:        Well, there’s something about 100, over 120, 10, 20,000 thousand Chinese troops up there that came into the War at the Chosin Reservoir.

I:          Um hm.  So, what do you remember about your involvement and your activities, when you found out?
D:        Uh, we were coming up from the South.  We had landed further South.


And uh, at uh, Wonsan.  And then we, in Wonsan, we spent a couple nights in the area there fighting guerillas.  And gradually we made our way towards the Chosin Reservoir.

I:          You say fighting guerillas, what?



D:        Well, North Koreans I guess, the North Koreans.  They were more less like guerillas, guerilla tactic, type.

I:          It wasn’t an organized frontal assault kind of thing.

D:        Yeah.  Little groups here and there that were hitting our lines in full force and attacking.  And then uh, from there, that’s when the uh, Chinese moved into the



Chosin Reservoir and tried to, well they were trying, from what I’ve read, they were trying to knock the 1st Marine Division cause eventually annihilate the 1st Marine Division.

I:          You all were pretty far advanced along the Eastern Coast.

D:        Yes.

I:          So, it seems like it would have been pretty easy to get in behind you guys and to is [isolate], to cut you off.



D:        That’s right.  Well, we were surrounded.  I mean, there’s no, they were in the mountains all around the Reservoir there.  And on the East side, there was an Army unit that got hit real hard.  And uh, they were trying to withdraw back down the East side of the reservoir.  And they got hit real hard and were overrun.  And a lot of the wounded that were



On the trucks were all killed or burned.  But uh, some of them did manage to escape.  And by then, the lake had frozen over.  And some of the Army units that were wounded and kind of withdraw from, were overrun by the Chinese.  And quite a few of the



armored people crossed the frozen lake to get to the Marine lines.

I:          It was frozen enough so that they could walk on it, or did they drive trucks on it or?

D:        Uh, jeeps maybe.  But I don’t think they tried to drive heavy trucks.  But uh,

I:          So, you were on the West side of the Reservoir.

D:        Yes.

I:          [INAUDIBLE]



I:          So, you’re surrounded, and you got this wave of people trying to kill you.

D:        Yeah.  And of course, we had to fight our way down.  And the Marine Corps history is one epic battles of the Marine Corps because of all the uh, the um, troops that were surrounded.



By supposedly 120,000 Chinese troops.  And uh, at the end of the battle which lasted probably about almost two weeks, there were something like about 17 Medal of Honor given out,



Seventeen.  Some were Navy crosses given out to the second highest award and uh, Silver Stars, Bronze Stars, [INAUDIBLE].  It’s gone down in Marine Corps History one of the epic battles of the Marine Corps.

I:          So, what were you trying to do so you could get out of there?  So where, I’m assuming

D:        Yeah, we were trying to fight our way out.

I:          Yeah.  And where to?



D:        Back down the road to, they called it the main, MS, Main Supply Route.  It was only down the road about to North Korea to the Chinese border.  And of course, we had to maintain that road open, you know, for all the ships to get back out to it.  They had to come down that one road, and that was it.

I:          So, you had one basically dirt road.

D:        Yeah.



To uh, to hold open so that everybody could retreat back through that road.

I:          How long of a trip would that have been?

D:        I guess it was something about, I’m not sure, about 50 miles, something like that.  That’s to the seaport.

I:          Oh, it was going, yeah, South back over to the coastline.

D:        The coastline, yeah.
I:          Okay.

D:        To put,


We evacuated from that seaport there.  And also, not only that but there was like a hundred, I read about 100,000 uh, North Korean civilians that uh, that followed us down the road to the seaport in order to escape from the Chinese.  They feared the Chinese.  So, they, uh, they evacuated with us



There.  There were somewhere about 100,000 that the U.S. evacuated from that seaport there, cause they came back South with the

I:          North Koreans.

D:        North Koreans so they didn’t yes.

I:          That was a pretty cold winter, too.

D:        Yes, it was, very cold.

I:          They said it was historic, I guess.

D:        Um, it was so cold that uh, well, we couldn’t really dig a foxhole



Cause the ground was so frozen.  We just scooped out the snow and make an indentation in the ground there and just lay in the indentation like that.  And in some cases, throw snow back over us to keep us warm.  And uh,

I:          It probably sounded pretty good with that hole.

D:        It sure did, yeah.  So, I didn’t get in my sleeping bag very often, year-round in the snowpack and everything else.



Of course, I never zipped my sleeping bag.  I probably slept with my ammo right on top of us pointing out like a bayonet.  There was one disarmament, disarming service with another company that was bringing in a sleeping bag.  And he’s one of the 12 or 13 Tucson Marines that were killed while in Korea.



And he was one of the ones that was killed at the Reservoir.

I:          And he was bayonetted in his sleeping bag?
D:        Yeah, right.

I:          So, then you never zipped it up again.

D:        No.  I always slept with my sleeping bag open.  And uh, one of the other Tucson boys was missing in action.  I don’t think they ever found his body.  But uh, there’s a uh,



An area set out at Keno Memorial Park I guess it’s called.

I:          Um hm.

D:        With pictures of the 13 from Tucson that were killed in Korea.

I:          That’s where the Korean Memorial is set up.

D:        Yeah.

I:          So, what were nights like during that two-week period?
D:        What were?

I:          The nights? Did you all try to position yourself?  Or did you try to keep moving?



D:        Uh no.  We used to tuck in at night.

I:          You did.

D:        We’d, the officers would form a perimeter around, make like a mountain top.  And they would all dig in.  We’d check foxholes uh.  It’s usually two men to a foxhole and maybe about five or 10 yards apart, depending on the terrain and whatnot.

I:          Uh huh.

D:        You’d get steep terrain; you probably wouldn’t have as many foxholes.



But it was more level where it was easier for them to tackle.  We had more foxholes and more men.  And [INAUDIBLE] machine guns.  They had water for the machine guns.  And we’d put that on the most vulnerable point.

I:          Um hm.

D:        And that’s where we would get the most vulnerable point.

I:          Were you also on the heavy machine guns?
D:        Water for the machine guns, yes.  But it was extremely cold,



The water for the machine guns back then.  They don’t have them anymore.  But back in Korea, they had them.  Um, I’m not sure what they used in Viet Nam.  I don’t think so.  In Korea, it was the last

I:          Viet Nam, they had the M60.

D:        Yeah.  So, Korea was the last place they used water-cooled machine guns.

I:          Would that water freeze up?
D:        Oh, we used anti-freeze.

I:          Oh, okay.

D:        We replaced the water with anti-freeze.

I:          And it would warm up,



D:        Well or keep the barrels from freezing.

I:          So, some of the people that you were serving with, do you remember any particular individuals better than others, and friends that you had a bond with?

D:        We still have a group here in Tucson that were in the Reserve unit that left Tucson.  The last Thursday of every month, we have a luncheon



at the LNL.  Mexican restaurant there.  And normally we have anywhere from seven or eight guys to about oh, 14 or 15 guys.  Every month we get together and just enjoy each other’s company and go over sea stories and refight the war. [LAUGHTER]



I:          I see where you had a Letter of Commendation with a Combat.

D:        Yeah.  I got the Reservoir, the Chosin Reservoir.  We were dug in.  Our machine gun was dug in on the road.  And uh, one night, one evening, the Lieutenant came by and asked for volunteers to take supplies up to, up the mountain.



To No Man’s Land at night to resupply uh, the uh, the platoons that were on the mountain.  So, I volunteered knowing that there were some Tucson guys up in the mountains.  So, that’s the reason I volunteered.  And so, he called up supplies, water and food, uh, C-rations, uh, to the mountains there, to the people.



It was the Able Company, to the Able Company lines, dropped off the food there.  And I can’t remember where we brought several wounded Marines with us or not.  But anyway, that was what that Letter of Commendation was for.

I:          Did that take all night?
D:        Yeah.  We didn’t get back till about three or four o’clock that morning.

I:          Did you run into anything on the way?

D:        No.



Well, one thing.

I:          So, you got a Purple Heart?

D:        No, I didn’t.

I:          No?
D:        No, not for frostbite.

I:          Not for frostbite.

D:        Closest I came to getting a Purple Heart was at Horseshoe Ridge there.  We were withdrawn.


We were surrounded, and our machine gun that was dug in in the back of the mountain with the uh, tanks.  Course, the tanks were shooting, firing all night long.  The next morning, course half the forest was blown down from all the shooting.

I:          Um hm.

D:        And they were evacuating their wounded.  And from the backside of the mountain with a helicopter.  And uh,



At one particular time, I was watching a helicopter go over, and it got hit, and it, but the pilot was able to land the helicopter and took off the wounded on a truck.  It was one of those six block trips.  And uh, then the pilot, well, they blew up the helicopter.  The helicopter was blew up.  And the pilot had to walk out with his M1 rifle.



He had to walk out with it.  And uh, it wasn’t until later we were talking about that.  And Gilbert Romero, have you talked to Gilbert Romero?
I:          I will this afternoon.

D:        Oh, okay.
I:          Yeah.

D:        He was on that helicopter.  I didn’t know at the time.  And so, they took him off and the other wounded Marines, took them on a truck

I:          Um hm.
D:        And on the way down got hit again in his other truck.



And uh, one of our Tucson Marines was a Corpsman.  And he had to I guess back up a Captain, CP there, Battalion Aid Station I guess, he recognized who he was.  And he didn’t think he was gonna make it.  He had his jaw, he got hit in the jaw with a bullet, and I guess it ricocheted through his shoulder or something.  But anyway, he thought he was, he was, didn’t think he was gonna make it.



The way he looked then.  So, he gave him his rosary beads I guess, and he read him his last rites.

I:          Um hm.

D:        And Gilbert likes to tell the story where they put an M on his forehead, and it was for Morphine.  And he says I thought that M was for Mexican.  [LAUGHTER]



That’s one thing about us.  We’re always joking around, you know.

I:          But that’s how you get through those kinds of things.

D:        Yeah, right.

I:          Yeah.
D:        So, we’re a close-knit group.  We enjoy getting together like that once every month.  We tell all our sea stories and what not.  Of course, each time we tell them, it gets bigger and bigger.


I:          Did anybody make any observations



About you know, you had these attacking Chinese, and you were of Chinese descent.  Was it ever an issue or a conversation?
D:        No.  The only issue was a couple times, there was another uh, Chinese guy in our unit.  He was in 81 Mortars.  And his name was uh, Richard, Richard Sung.

I:          Richard Sung.

D:        Do you ever watch the series uh, MASH?
I:          Uh hm.



He appeared in that several times. MASH.  And I was watching a uh, a western series here, How the West Was Won, and it shows this guy, this was about Chinese immigrants working on the railroads, you know.

I:          Um hm.

D:        In this one scene, it shows this guy standing by a tree there. And I mean, it’s right, a full shot. I said I know that guy.  That’s Richard Sung.



And it was him cause after the movie, they list the whole characters, you know.  It said sentinel.  He was a sentinel, trained sentinel, Richard Sung.   I’ll be darned.  And uh, he was trying to get us to uh, have a reunion in Los Angeles I guess, or some uh.  And he’s trying to get the, all the MASH characters to,



To appear as guests, you know, for all the reunion.

I:          Um hm.

D:        And he says they turned him down cause it wasn’t their idea, because he uh, he suggested the idea.  They turned it down he said. Otherwise, if somebody else had thought of it, they would have probably gone ahead with it.  So, they didn’t do it.

I:          You all took pretty heavy casualties during



That two-week, course the Marines don’t call that a retreat, do they?
D:        No.  They just went in different directions.  We had to fight our way out of there.  Yeah, we lost a lot of guys up there.  I think, I can’t remember what the casualties were, 750 Marines or some were killed.   And uh,



I:          What was the total number of Marines that were out there?

D:        I think it was something like about 1,500.

I:          Fifteen hundred.

D:        Fifteen, no, 15,000 were killed.

I:          Against 120,000.

D:        Yeah.  And um,

I:          So, you finally get back to the Port.

D:        Yes.

I:          Was there a point during that two weeks when you realized that you made it?

D:        Uh, well we knew we made it after the last tanks came back through that, uh,



That road that was uh, that bridge that was bombed out.

I:          Um hm.

D:        Just before the tanks came through, our unit which was on the road, took off before them, ahead of them, and before the trucks went and the truck brought us back down to the seaport with the tanks following them as a rear guard.

I:          What was the sense then, relief?



D:        It was great.  To know that we were, you know, finally going into a safe zone because from there on, I think there was an Army unit up there that was in charge of that one area there around the seaport.  In fact, we stopped, they stopped our convoy as we got towards the seaport there.  And they took away a couple



Of jeeps in a truck from the Marines that they had picked up, that the Army had just, you know, that the Army had abandoned up there.  The Marines took them over.

I:          Yeah.

D:        And they stopped the column and took the jeeps away from the Marines.

I:          So, we could use them now.

D:        Thanks for bringing them down for us.

I:          So, how much time did you have



To relax and like that because there was still, I mean

D:        I think it was just a day or two then we boarded the ship that brought us back to South Korea then.  We weren’t there too long.

I:          Because the Chinese were still invading the US, and units were moving South.

D:        Yes.  Once we got there, we were assigned



Like I don’t think we stayed overnight on the uh, out in the area there.  I think they assigned us to that uh, it was a Red Cross ship, a hospital ship.

I:          Okay.

D:        Then we were, our units were in the dental office. [INAUDIBLE] Guys were sleeping in dental chairs everywhere.  The rest of us were all on the floor sleeping.

I:          It probably felt pretty good though, right?
D:        Yeah.  That’s how crowded it was. I mean that ship was just jammed pack with Marines.



And then we left the port there I guess the next day or day after, something like that.  You’ve got hot chow.  For once, we had hot chow.  We hadn’t had it for about three or four weeks.

I:          Then you got your frostbite taken care of and everything there.

D:        Uh, no.  We just learned to live with it, you know.  It took my toes a while to turn pink again.  They were sort of purple-looking for



Quite a while there.  And I was lucky that I didn’t lose any toes and fingers.  So, but then when I came to the VA later on, you know, I learned to live with it. I didn’t have a lot of problems with my fingers and toes, uh, until I started getting older around 60 years old.  I came to the VA to see if I could get some sort of



Uh, medical treatment or care.  And they said oh, you’re just getting old, that’s all.  It’s just old age.  So, I said oh, okay, you know.  They didn’t do anything about frostbite then until more and more Marines started showing up with symptoms of frostbite, after you know, after so many years.  It damages your nerve endings I guess.

I:          Um hm.

D:        And uh,



And so, the guy realized, finally realized well, maybe there is something to it.  So, he started checking into it.  And I guess ’98, the date they finally passed a bill to, they were accepting veterans’ frostbite in ’09.  And then after that, it took them about two years to learn what to look for as far as symptoms went, you know.

I:          What are the symptoms?

D:        Yeah.  Well like you lose feeling.



Like my feet always feel like they’re numb, you know.

I:          Um hm.  And when you’re numb, they’re numb like that, sometimes you can’t get, sometimes when I walk, I sort of walk around and after I’ve been sitting for a long time or standing for a long time, it gets, I haven’t any feeling there.

I:          So, that often comes associated

D:        Yeah.  And uh, of course my hands and



They’re always aching.

I:          So, when you got on the hospital ship then, were you redeployed somewhere else in Korea?

D:        Uh no, we came back down South.  And then from there, we uh, started up the Central Eastern Korea.

I:          So, you were redeployed.

D:        Redeployed, yeah.  Central Eastern Korea.  And uh, that’s where we got most of our



Fighting took.  I left in August, and as I recall, I think we were up there by the Quochung Reservoir or even up a little further maybe.

I:          Cause that was the other phase because the Chinese, I guess, pushed South.

D:        Well, I didn’t know at the time, I think when they retook Seoul.

I:          Yeah.

D:        Of course, I didn’t even know about it



Till after I read about it.  I didn’t know at the time.

I:          Yeah.

D:        But see, after all that, we took Seoul.  [INAUDIBLE] But that was heavy fighting there when the Chinese were in South Korea there.  And they had pushed I guess the UN troops back down.  So, I guess the UN troops had another



Spring Offenses or something to retake some of these land that the Chinese had retaken.

I:          Um hm.

D:        Up towards the uh, 13th Parallel I guess it was.

I:          So, were you involved in that?

D:        Up until August, yeah.

I:          Up until August.

D:        Yeah.

I:          So, were you still on the machine gun?  Or did you have different duties?

D:        Yeah, I was a machine gun squad leader at the time.



But then, I was made squad leader then Sergeant [INAUDIBLE]. So, they promoted me to Sergeant and made me a Sergeant. I guess that was wrong.  And so, I was a squad leader.

I:          So, by then you’d been in the country how long?
D:        Uh, by the time I left there, it was 11 months.  And I was in combat most of the combat time, you know, yeah. Every now and then,



Our units would be relieved for R and R.  R and R was like about five or 10 miles behind the front lines.  A hot shower and hot food for about three or four days.  And then they’d send us back up to the line.

I:          Knowing that there is no incoming.

D:        Not like the Army.  They got to go back to Japan, rest a couple weeks and then get back.

I:          So, what do you remember most about those 11 months?
D:        About what?

I:          Those 11 months.



In the country.

D:        What do I remember most?  Uh, I guess the country itself.  It was sort of a third world country, you know.  They were backwards in a lot of ways.  I guess the only modern city was Seoul, and that was all bombed out.

I:          Um hm.

D:        But all those little villages that we went to, they were still using uh,



Old methods, you know, to farm.  And they lived in those little uh, mud buildings with straw roofs, you know.

I:          Thatch.

D:        Yeah.  And then they uh, their uh, cesspools were just like a little cup with a couple of ponds running across it doing their squat, do their business and then they’d use that to irrigate their fields with really.



I:          Fertilizer.

D:        Yeah, fertilizing it.  Korea had a sewer smell everywhere you went.  It had that sewer smell.  But it was something you got used to after while.  There’s such a thing as getting used to something like that.

I:          So, the country itself is what you

D:        I think it was mostly mountains and uh, mostly green uh.



It’s a beautiful country if you’re just talking about the countryside itself.  But mostly mountains from what I remember.  Every area we went was mountains and trees.

I:          You didn’t have much time to really appreciate a whole chunk at a time.

D:        Not really.

I:          Were there guys or leadership, you know, commanders or you know, folks like that that come to mind?



D:        What do you mean, the Marines?

I:          Um hm.

D:        Oh yeah.  Uh, that’s one thing I really got from is uh, you read about all these brave men uh, commanders.  And I got to meet and see the majority of them at our reunions.



And uh, our company commander that house of the first, there’s two machine gun units, first, second and third machine gun.  And we were, I was with the First Machine Gun Unit.  And we were usually assigned to Able Company, and the second was Baker Company and third was Charlie Company.  Well, Able Company, at the time, Captain Barrows



Was the CO of Able Company. Turns out later on he becomes the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

I:          Seriously.

D:        And he came to Tucson for Able Company reunion, I forgot what year it was, 19 something.  And he met with all of us here in Tucson, with all Able Company from, other guests from Able Company coming from the whole company, yeah.



So that was something.  And with him at the time was General Johnston.  I don’t know if you remember him.  Anyway, Johnston was a Marine General in charge of Desert Storm Marines.  At the time, he was, after that he was General Barrow’s, uh, sidekick, whatever they called them.


And he was here in Tucson with General Barrows.  And uh, so we were all in the meeting room there, and he comes up and introduces himself, I’m Bob Johnston. Oh, glad to meet you.  And I looked at him and I says how do you fit in?  I said you look too young to be one of us.  [INAUDIBLE] I didn’t know he was a General at the time.  He just didn’t introduce himself as [INAUDIBLE] Oh, okay sir, yes sir.



I:          General Bob.

D:        That was sort of funny.

I:          So, the reunions are pretty common then it sounds like.

D:        Well yeah.  It’s uh, they’re talking about this, I don’t know, but they were talking a couple years ago maybe they’d only have one or two more and that was it because our numbers were getting fewer and fewer.

I:          Yeah.

D:        We’re all in our 80’s, you know, 80’s and pushing 90.  And so, the next one’s gonna be



At Nashville, Tennessee.  And uh, I made it a point we’re gonna make that one because my grandson and my son-in-law live in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

I:          Oh.

D:        Kill two birds with one stone.  Go to the reunion, have them pick me up and we’ll visit with them for about a week.

I:          Are there things that you still value that you learned during that experience in Korea?

D:        Well, I learned to appreciate life more.



I, it was a good experience.  And the fact that I made it out okay without any loss of limb.  But I wouldn’t want to do it again.

I:          Um hm.

D:        Once is enough.

I:          So, you learned to appreciate life.

D:        Oh yeah, sure, yeah, sure did.   And uh,



And I always look forward to reunion.

I:          Is there anything that we haven’t talked about that you sort of anticipated this interview, things that kind of pop out at you?

D:        Uh, no, not really.  I thought that, uh because I was so lucky, that uh,



and I’m able to, and I like to keep busy cause I think that’s what sort of keeps you young.  I volunteer here at the VA a lot.  I volunteer about three times a week.  On Mondays, I volunteer driving for the maintenance service taking cars to get washed



And serviced and whatnot, [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Um hm.

D:        And then I volunteer at the [INAUDIBLE] club.  I just sorta got indirectly involved with that.

I:          You sound like a volunteering guy.

D:        Yeah, yeah.  And then on mostly Fridays and Saturdays and sometimes Sundays, I volunteer as a driver for the Blind Rehab Center



Driving patients here and there for breakfast, for lunch, for dinners.

I:          Do you have grandkids?
D:        Do I have

I:          Grandkids?

D:        I have one, adopted from China.  My daughter wasn’t able to have children.  So, they adopted a boy from China.

I:          Does he ever ask about your experience?
D:        No, not really.



Well, he lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  And once in a while, I’ll talk about my experience.  But he’s never really curious though.

I:          What’s your observation on, you know, sort of the current generation in terms of you know, what you did, willingness to sacrifice and do something on behalf of the country instead of you,



Do you still see that uh, in

D:        I don’t think I do, no.  I don’t see the patriotism there that we need to have as, you know, when we were kids, serving, Of course, uh, we read all about World War II and all, you know.  And a lot of our family members and friends served in World War II.  That was the thing to do back then, you know, serve in the military.

I:          That was the value that they passed on to the rest of us.

D:        Right.  And now it’s like uh,



They have it too easy now in the military.

I:          You mean in the military.

D:        Well, I mean, they don’t realize how soft life is for them in the military compared to what we used to have to do.  It’s like uh,



I don’t know.  I don’t know how to explain it.  It’s uh, they uh, it’s come a lot easier for them well, except when they’re in combat.  But uh, everything else uh, the military life, I watch like every time we go [INAUDIBLE]



I’ll watch all these young airmen.  And they haven’t got, they’ve got it made, you know.  Of course, until they go into combat.  Then that’s different.

I:          Yeah.

D:        Everything else comes too easy for them.

I:          Yeah.  Well, we’re fighting a war it seems like at a distance sometimes with drones and things and such as that, you know.  So, it’s taken on a whole different character.

D:        Yeah.  It’s like they go for let’s say maybe a year, somewhere.  And they come back like heroes.



And there’s, everybody will welcome them home like heroes, you know.  When we came home, there was nobody there to welcome us home like heroes, you know.

I:          Korean veterans never got that.

D:        Yeah.

I:          Why do you think that was?
D:        I don’t know.  It’s just a change, you know, like people.  People uh, people don’t, people live I guess.



It’s uh,

I:          It wasn’t like that for World War II, you know, for returning veterans.

D:        Yeah, right.

I:          The parades and everything.  And people, you know, were tired of War.  Maybe they were just tired.

D:        Could be, yeah, right.  But it’s just different which I guess you expect that from so many years, you know.  Kids are forever.

I:          Um hm.

D:        Things changed.  Ideas change.



Views change.  So,

I:          Well, Viet Nam veterans kind of had the same reception you did.

D:        Oh yeah.

I:          But now it seems to be turning the corner.

D:        Uh, we used to think, uh, when we first, when the Viet Nam veterans started returning home, I guess a lot of them hadn’t been with uh,



A lot of them were addicts I think, you know, the Viet Nam veterans.  They had to murder or whatever.  And uh, we used to, when they first started coming back and we used to hear about the Viet Nam veterans and stuff like that, they were nothing but a bunch of crybabies.  That was ours.  But you know, now later on, I think, it isn’t like that anymore.



I don’t think like that anymore.  One veteran’s a veteran, you know.  He served no matter what conditions he served under, he’s still a veteran.  He served his time.  So, he came back a vet.

I:          Very good.  Enough said.

D:        I refused ideas change as time goes by.

I:          Um hm.  Well, veterans suffer trauma,

D:        Yeah.



All lifelong.

D:        Um hm.

I:          Anything else that we haven’t answered?
D:        I think we covered everything pretty well.

I:          Well Harold, I want to thank you for your service.

D:        Well, thank you.

I:          Thank you very much.  And uh, it’s been a while, it took a while for the Korean veterans to get that recognition and that honor.  I hope many at least feel the appreciation.  Thank you.

D:        You’re welcome.

I:          Thank you.