Forrest D. Claussen
Forrest Claussen enlisted in the United States Army with the hope of choosing his own education and branch of the military. He found himself shipped to Hawaii before heading to Korea where he was perplexed by the methods and rules of war. He describes the destruction and danger of Korean civilian streets carved by craters and the harm in sleeping near large artillery. He also shares his experience with the cold and his attempt to stay warm with clothing from home. Additionally, he adds his final thoughts on the lessons he learned from his military service.
Shell Craters Lining the Streets of Seoul
Forrest Claussen describes his first arrival in Seoul. He recounts walking streets destroyed by shell craters. He describes the rain filling each crater and the hazard they presented as evidenced when a soldier fell into one.
Sleeping Near Artillery Fire Zones
Forrest Claussen describes arriving in Korea and not having sleeping quarters established yet. He explains how his group was sent to sleep inside a makeshift tent with artillery rounds and recalls artillery fire throughout the night. He adds that his group was later moved to other sleeping quarters.
Forrest Claussen shares his thoughts on the life lessons he learned from his military service. He centers his focus on questioning authority and standing up for one's self as he recalls two particular situations which rendered personal loss and physical harm. He also cautions against trusting all one is told.
Winter Clothing from Home
Forrest Claussen recounts cold winter nights in Korea and shares a story about receiving winter clothing from home. He recalls writing home to his mother, asking for additional winter clothing as the military had not issued winter clothing yet. He recounts receiving the clothing, only to be ordered to discard it as other men in his group did not have access to the same. He describes digging a hole and placing the clothing inside in hopes that South Korean civilians would find and utilize his discarded items.
Forrest D Claussen Interview (Beginning to 14 minutes)
Clauseen: My name is Forest Claussen. Nicknamed Forray, and I go by Forray most of the time. My friends call me Forray. I was born in 1931 in Pipestone, Minnesota. My parents were living in Southwestern South Dakota which is close by Pipestone and we lived out there for a few years in the dirty thirties and my father was trying to farm out there at that time and he’d plant a crop of oats and they’d come up and the wind was blowing and it blew the soil away from the crop of oats and pretty soon the oats blew away. It was pretty tough making a living out there. So he kinda gave up on that. And then he went to work, he went to work in Foundry, South Dakota and worked at the Indian school. Large Indians, I understood, I understood at the time it was the largest Indian school in the world at least in the United States. But he was working for a dollar a day or less. Trying to support a family on that was kinda difficult. And then, and then the dust was so bad that farming, of course, was out, so he decided that there’s got to be a better way. And he had a friend that lived in Elkton, South Dakota that was a depot agent for the Rock Island railroad, they were good friends. And the depot agent got transferred from Elkton, South Dakota with the railroad to Conger, Minnesota. Well of course that was back in the days before cell phones. In fact we didn’t even have a telephone in those days. But my dad would correspond with the depot agent in Conger just by mail and the depot agent told my dad, “Well if you want a job” he says, “you could come over here to Albert Lee. There is work here. You won’t get rich from it, but there’s work here.” So that sounded good to my dad so he says were moving. It was myself and three brothers and our mother of course and my dad put us all in an old thirty, twenty nine, I think it was a twenty nine Chevy automobile, put a trailer behind it, loaded all of our belongings up on this trailer and we headed East. The days when we moved east were really interesting when we came across the South Dakota line and proceeded east into Minnesota. We got to the point of maybe Jackson or Worthington, Minnesota and there was grass growing which there wasn’t, you didn’t see much grass growing in South Dakota. This was in the spring of the year and pretty soon we started seeing fields where there was crops, plants coming up: corn, oats, what have ya. And there were leaves on the trees which we did not observe in South Dakota is was so dry. And we finally got over to Conger, Minnesota and stopped there and my dad tried to find a place to rent. If I’m getting this drug out too long just tell me. The depot agent, the friend of ours over there said you can look around, but I don’t know of any places to rent. So my dad looked and looked and looked and he couldn’t find a place it wasn’t in town or in the country there so he thought we were gonna have to go out further. He didn’t really want to get into Albert Lee because we came outta South Dakota, it was pretty remote. He thought getting into Albert Lee was a pretty big move so we avoided coming into Albert Lee for a place to live. So we made a rounds around a certain diameter from Conger and one of the first towns we went to was Twin Lakes which is South of Conger and a little bit east probably six or seven- six or eight miles- something like that. We got into Twin Lakes and there wasn’t much to rent for houses right there, but my dad talked to some people and there was a place he could rent- twenty five dollars a month which sounded pretty good. But Twin Lakes was kinda unique to us because we came outta South Dakota and the area we were in was primarily all German. Descendants from Germany. We got into Twin Lakes, different story. It’s primarily Norwegian and Irish- what a combination. But, that was alright. They were all good people. The farming community around there was the same thing- a mixture of Irish and Norwegians. No offense to the Irish, but the Irish were not real good farmers. When they started out, they want land for farming and they didn’t have much for farming so they bought the cheapest land they could get. It was either real hilly or it was real swampy. Even today it hasn’t changed much down there, although there’s not many Irish left down there. They’ve passed away, they’re in the cemetery down there now. Then I stayed and worked there until, I worked on a farm up by Alden until farmer up there, my dad did a stent on the Elkin Highway and was up there by Yolande brothers for I think it was about nine months- eight or nine months something like that and he worked in construction building the Elkin Highway. When he came back he was pretty strife He didn’t want to farm and he was pretty stuck on this construction bit. He wanted to do that he liked that. So he saved all most all of the money he earned up there working on the Elkin Highway, he saved most of that and so when he came back here he was looking to buy a piece of equipment to get into construction work, excavating and so on which he did. And then he needed some helpers so here I was so I got in there and did that for a few years. Plus in the winter time we couldn’t work in the construction because the ground froze up in this country. So I would work, that’s when I took a job at this farm place up by Alden doing chores in the winter time. And I’m not a farmer, I never was and I never will be a farmer. I admire the farmers but I don’t like the hard work that they have to do. They have to be pretty much tied to their work. So I got the opportunity to drive a taxi cab one winter from the local operator here in Albert Lee. Which was D-Osborne. I drove a cab for about three month in the winter time for a couple of years. There was no money in that. You were guaranteed a wage but then a certain percent of it we took in. It still didn’t amount to much, peanuts was all. Beyond that I still would have liked to get a better job but that was the best I had. That’s the best I could come up with. Then the Korean War broke out and I had to sign up for the draft and I did that alright. But then the draft board told me, “well if you” and I didn’t want to get drafted. There goes my good job driving a cab. Now it was an interesting job, no money in it, but it was interesting. I better not get into all the details on that. But, my mind sorta wanders a little bit. The people at the draft board told me that, “well if you want to enlist, if you want to enlist for three years…” If they drafted me it would be for two years and maybe I could get by with twenty one months because that’s as long as the draftees had to stay in at that time. “But if you want to enlist for three years, then you can get into whatever branch you want to.” And I wanted to stay long ago working in construction running equipment. I wanted to stay with that as much as I could. And I told them that and they said, “well we can’t assign you to any specific organization here, but if you enlist then as soon as you get to a base, a permanent base…” He didn’t call it a permanent base but a regular base. “Then just tell them that you wanted to get into construction with engineers.” They said, “Just tell them that and they’ll put you in that.” That never happened. So I go to Minneapolis and enlist in the army and thirteen of us got together in the army and enlisted all at the same time. We all left by train on the great northern headed west. We really didn’t know where we were going, but somebody in there said we were going to Washington State. Well that was like going to Mars or something that that for somebody like me who hadn’t been out of the county hardly. From South Dakota over here it’s the farthest I’d been away from home, or close to home or close to anything, but for traveling that was it. So then we took the train to Washington State. They dropped us off at, I think it was Decoma, Washington I remember, which isn’t far from Fort Lewis. So we went up to Fort Lewis and that was our reception center. There was a mountain right there and most of the time in Fort Lewis it was kinda over cast and foggy. And at this reception center there was a separate part of the camp from where the main camp and the training camp was. But anyway we did our receptions there. Then they put us on a train again and said, “You’re going down to” I can’t remember the name of the town. Another town a little south of San Francisco a little ways. Not too far off of the ocean. They took us down there and we didn’t know why we were going down there; we were looking for basic training. And somebody, one of the other personnel in the military told us, “Well that’s a port of debarkation.” What’s all that mean? So they explained it- probably gonna send you overseas. We had known the Korean War had started and we didn’t think they’d send us over there without basic training- we’d get shot. So we got aboard the ship and sailed out from under the Golden Gate Bridge. And when we sailed out from under the Golden Gate Bridge….. (next 14 min section)
It was a strange, strange feeling and I`ll probably get a lil emotional to you as I explain this but it`s like leaving home and never coming back. And we kept going, we still didn`t know for sure where we were going. Finally, they told us we were going to Hawaii. Hawaii? Yeah. Well, that sounds pretty good. So we got over the lonesomeness in hurry then, because Hawaii, it was really, and this was in the early part of March, still had winter here in Arizona and all over the U.S. But we got into the Hawaiian Islands, there a fire boat came out and met us. We were within sight of the island, but they came out the ocean ways to meet us and shooting water all up over the place, this fireboat was just a welcoming group, and then there was a couple of, I think they call them catamarans? More a, not a quite individual family boat but kind of a sport boat for small amount of people, and they escorted us into Honolulu also to the harbor, got off of the boat in Honolulu at the harbor and as we got off the boat, we met the Hawaiian girls. They came out with their hula skirts on and we grabbed each one, there was enough of them, they were grabbing ahold of us, kissing us and all that you know? Which didn`t go over too bad. Well then, they were gonna load us up on trucks. So, semitrucks loaded us up. This time we had a lot more people in the base in California before we left because there was a whole train load of us that came down from Fort Lewis down to this base in Southern California and I wish I could think of the name for that. I don`t think I`d ever forget it but they took us out up in the country awaze, we didn`t know where we were going, we didn`t know how long from anything. Started seeing of course a lot of palm tress. There were coconuts in Hawaii, we knew that. But can you tell a coconut tree from a date palm tree? I couldn`t either. Not at that time, now I can. And the big difference is on the date palm trees, it grows dates. On the coconut palm trees, it grows coconuts, makes sense, don`t it? And anyway, we got going further on and we went past Pearl Harbor on the way out there. And as we passed Pearl Harbor, we went right close to it, as we went past Pearl Harbor, cause we were all aware of what Pearl Harbor was, and there sits the USS Arizona, that`s one of them, one we could see the best. And it was sitting there tilted real bad, superstructures at a real long angle and the most of it was sitting down in the water, yeah, we went past Pearl Harbor. We`re able to observe a lot of the wreckage that was still there. Now this was `51, that`s 10 years later, and those ships were still sitting there sunk or partially sunk or heavily damaged. Some of them they have torn out of there and repaired and got them back in service. That little kid, the young kid, I wasn`t a kid anymore, to a young person like myself out in the world like that, it was a big deal for me. And we kept going and we got out of the town and away from the ocean and we got into something else. Stuff growing out in the fields and stuff, figured out what that was. Pineapples. From Pearl Harbor we went north approximately 15 miles I`m guessing, we went past one town. The town of Wahiawa. Wahiawa, I never heard of it before, but we didn`t need a town, we just went past it. And the next place we came to was Scowlfield Barrix. Ever heard of Scowlfield Barrix? Well, that was our destination, but we didn`t know it. They took us in there and then they, we pulled into the courtyard with these trucks and all of these hungry people in there and they said, and they assinged us, they told us what companies we`re gonna be in and I was assinged to the 24th company. They said after you get that you`re gonna go in and eat now. When you come back after eating you find some of the cadre around here and tell them what company you belong to, you`re assigned to, they`ll take you to that company. Okay, so we, I believe, we took to our assigned company before we ate cause they didn`t have a mess hall big enough to take a whole boat load of people to eat at one time, so they took us there. We had a sample of army chow when we were at Fort Lewis, Washington and it was nothing to brag about or write home about it, it was not very good, I didn`t care for it. But we got to Hawaii, they have this meal when we got there, we went into the mess hall, got all sat down, boy they start bringing the food into us, by the way the table in the mess hall, all the tables, were decorated with orchids and they grow Orchids in Hawaii. So that`s understable, I guess then. So they brought out the food. Our food that day was southern fried chicken and all of the trimmings. I think I got that right. Been a few years ago. It had to have been southern fried chicken. So, we got all that taken care of and then they took us back outside, had us all lined up like the 24th company that I was in. We stood in line formation and then they broke it down to platoons and squads. Each one of us was in a seperate squad. Four squads in a platoon, 4 platoons in a company, then they`d go on to the next company. So then we got familar with our barricks, and the barricks were not wooden barricks like we used to see, these were all concrete barricks. And they weren`t spread out all over the island, they were right there in one big quadrangle. A big quad with openings at each corner. And there were 9 companies, if I remember right. In this quadrangle, making of one battalion. So we got acquainted with our surroundings. Then basic training started the next morning. That our CO`s and all of the leaders we`d have and contructors we`d have in basic training, then after we finished basic training, somewhere along the line in basic training we were givin the opportunity to go to OCS. Officer canidate school. And I thought, “Oh that`ll be good if I can get into that.” So I applied for it. I didn`t get it. But then once we finished basic training, they had some advance training at some other posts and one was right down close to Pearl Harbor, but it was an army post, and the first time I was ever down to that. Was a year ago, last winter. I had a wife, took a trip back there and that was my last hoor-ah for that because I`ll never go back again now. I love Hawaii. I`ve been back there after basic training at least a dozen times. I keeo wanting to go back, but it keeps getting more spendy all the time. And this last time over there, for two of us, we spent about 20 days there. If i remember right, the trip and all $1900 too. I didn`t have that kind of money, at least I don`t now, I spent it all there. But I knew I wouldn`t get back again, so like a friend of mine says, “It`s only money.” So I spent it. And no regrets. We enjoyed it. We had a really fine time, they treated us royally over there, and if I had the money I`d go back again this winter. But I won`t go back now I know that. And I didn`t get to go to one of those forward bases to get advanced training. Instead they told me, “You`re gonna be shipped out to Korea.” Two or three or four days, whatever it was, “so, get your stuff, get it done, then you`re going to Korea.” So we got to our boat and headed to Korea. The boat ride was getting to be pretty long. Well, when we went from San Francisco to Hawaii, it was about a week. And you see nothing but water, you think water, nothing but water. If you don`t get seasick you`re fortunate, if you get seasick, it makes it a miserable trip. We got aboard the ship and Hawaii and headed west. We were heading for Japan. Again, it was at least another week before we got there, we landed at Yokohama, got off the ship there, and then they put us on a train and took us to some camp and again I thought I could remember that camp, but I don`t have any idea what it was now, I can`t remember it. I wanna think it was Camp Dreath, but I might be wrong. I don`t know. We did some processing there, and then we were assinged to our unit in Korea at that point. And I was assigned to the 3rd infantry division. I wasn`t too crazy about that because I thought, if I wanted to get into the combat engineers. I didn`t want to be in the infantry. Because I could shoot pigeons and ducks back home, I didn`t have to go out there and shoot things, and those things I would be shooting at would be people. That wasn`t very pleasent. I didn`t think. Anyway, got aboard ship and sailed, after we got to left Japan, we got aboard another ship, and that took us over to Incheon, Korea. This is getting more serious now.
Forrest D. Claussen Interview
minute 42 – 1 hour 10 minutes 38 seconds
Mary Allen Mansell
Claussen: Wool stockings, and she knitted a sweater. A bright green, almost a medium green
sweater. And that was, oh what a lifesaver that was. That was nice and warm. She hand-knitted it.
And, of course when we did, we had to keep what was in my duffle bag, and we’d carry a duffle
bag all the time. We could carry that in the back of the truck. And also in the back of the truck,
we could carry our basic load of our ammunition, which we needed from time to time. And
whenever that truck moved, our whole outfit moved with that gun, we always had that basic load
of ammunition along. Apparently, some of the guys, or a lot of them, were pretty envious of the
fact that I got some of this warm clothing now to wear. And I could take those sleeping at night,
out in the open, and I was still warm and comfortable. And they were still freezing. So they were
complaining about it, and of course they were complaining to the chief of section, and he was
after the commanding officer. And he was telling him, “Well Claussen has got a bunch of
clothing he had shipped from home. And the rest of the guys haven’t got it, and they’re
complaining.” The commanding officer retold him, and told to me afterward, “Claussen, the rest
of the guys don’t like that you got all this clothing and are staying warm. I told the commanding
officer about it, and he said you’ve got to get rid of it. He can’t have anything on that basic load
in that truck except government issue, that’s all, nothing else. Everybody, if they’ve got anything
else, get rid of it.” So that came back to me, but, that kind of upset me. I admit it upset me. Even
that hand-knit sweater, I had to dispose of it. Well, I knew you might in the army. That’s pretty
tough to do. So I was so conservative in my own mind. The way I grew up, from day one that I
can remember, I was pretty conservative about who my family was. So, I couldn’t see putting
this stuff in a pile and burning it. I’m too conservative for that. So, there was friendly people
around us, it was south Koreans. I thought, well i’ll dig a shallow hole in the ground here, about
that deep, and we didn’t have plastic, we had tarps. So I lay a tarp over this, and put all this
clothing in the hole. Anyway, I dug this shallow hole, put all the clothing, laid it out in this
shallow hole, covered it over with the tarp, hoping the south Koreans would see that I had been
digging there, and they’ll want to know what I was digging for. And they’re going to dig it and
find all this clothing. And then they’ll get some good out of it anyway. So thats what happened.
Anyway, I did write a letter back to my mother, and told her that I had to get rid of that stuff. My
parents knew a couple from this area here, that he was in WWII, and he had lost a leg in WWII.
And, he met his wife in a hospital in Temple, Texas. And, she was quite an outspoken lady. She
was a nice lady, but she was very outspoken. My mother passed this information onto her. Well
she, she isn’t gonna let that information go that way. She ain’t gonna drop the matter. So she
contacted somebody that she knew in the army. And Christmas, no, Thanksgiving day, 1951, I
had just gone up to the mail tent, got my food. It was a good-looking dinner. It smelled good. I
was gonna get into it, but here come the runners from the CO tent. And he said, “Claussen,
you’ve gotta get up there. They want you at the CO tent right away, on the double!” “What’s the
big rush?” I said, “I just got my Thanksgiving dinner, can I eat that first?” He said, “Nope, you
are gonna get down there right away. I.G wants to see you.” Well I had no idea what an I.G was,
so he was kind of telling me, “It was Inspector General. It was something to do with your
clothing. You better be careful what you tell him, because you don’t want to get the CO in
trouble or your chief of section in trouble.” So I got into the tent, and I almost started eating. But,
in walks in this officer. I had no idea who he was, but anyway, he introduced himself. He was
so&so, I can’t remember the name. But he was from the I.G. He started asking me questions
about this clothing that I buried, and just questioning me about that. On and on and on and who
told me to get rid of it. And this was the part I was warned about by the runner. And I said “well
the chief of section.” “Well who told him?” “I suppose the commanding officer did, that the
commanding officer told him that.” And we went back and forth a few times. And it ended there.
No it did not in there but that was the end of the conversation. So that came back to haunt me
even nowadays. If I want to try to get some information from the military I know that there is
ways that the military can get this information and I can’t. They have computers. Because I can’t
even remember what my COs name is. He was the captain, he was the West Post captain. I know
that. But I had no idea what his name was. Orders and no orders. No paperwork to show his
name. My memory does not remember. But the things I’ve tried to find out a few things along the
way, for trying to get some compensation from my hearing loss, And an injury to my left foot.
But I have nothing to go by, because I do not remember these things. And I don’t have the means
to dig into the computers World that the Army has stuff all stored. So anyways, so much for that.
Interviewer: So where did you go throughout your time in Korea?
Claussen: Didn’t go very far really. We went up there and got by, we went past Wijungbu on the
way up to the Chorwon valley. When we got to Chorwon, that’s as far north as we got, except we
went on a task force. About a month later we went on a task force into North Korea farther and
fired propaganda leaflets out of a Howetster. And then return back to our station position or our
position down there in Chorwon. As the infantry was pushing the North Koreans some place
other. Maybe they were pushing us. But we were, our primary job there was to support the 15
infantry regiment, which we did. As the infantry moved toward the south, and I don’t know the
circumstances because we never had much contact with the 15 regiment. We were just
supporting them when they called for firepower, we fired the guns. So that’s, we didn’t get any
place, but we did move occasionally, but it was always south. Move south and we were inside of
the Ingem river. And the Ingem river was always to the west of us. And we were, we had that in
sight. 4, 5, 6 miles, whatever distance it may have been. And I don’t know another town along
there. Had different locations where we set up for a couple of weeks, maybe a month. And we
had nicknames put on them. One was “the railroad position.” and we call that the railroad
position because there was a railroad track right there on the through where are set up was. There
was a very used to be a train run down through there, but there was a train wreck right there,
where part of the train still lay right beside the track, right to the side of the track. That’s
probably the only one I can remember along there. And then while I was there while we were
down there, we got sent brother my brother, my older brother had gotten to Korea before I did, a
month before I did. He was not in the shower in the artillery. He was in the aircraft artillery, or
the ACAT, they called it. And he had been to school in the States, training on that, but he and I
would correspond back and forth on letters. And he was stationed at Kimbur Airfield, right
outside of Sol. And now, it’s the Sol International Airport, but at the time it was a military
airport. And he was stationed there, and we rotated out of Korea on a point basis. It was kind of
a, not a solid bunch of points, but kind of a loose thing they had. You get so many points toward
rotation. You get enough points, and you can rotate back to the States. Well, where we were at on
the line, we were up there with the infantry, we acquired 4 points per month for the rotation. And
the number of points toward rotation was kind of a loose number, again. It could vary
considerably. But it was 36 points, and you could rotate out of there, supposedly. Where he was
at, he was only getting 2 points per month. And then there was some place further south,I think it
was, they got even less points than that. We, as we were known in Korea, the Pineapple Guys,
because we came from Hawaii. There was a bunch of us. We acquired 1 point per month for
being in Hawaii. That was a big plus. Because the 4 months we were down in Hawaii, or three
months which ever it was when we got a point per month for that. And that helps toward are
coming home. And then he came up and wanted to join our outfit, transfer up there and I, of
course nothing I could do about it. He said, “ask your CO, and see if I can get up there.” So I
asked the CO, and he frowned on it. You didn’t want him to transfer up there. He said “well, we
don’t know if we want him up here. He might be a damn cripple or something.” That was a nasty
way to put it, I thought. But then he finally backed off his attitude on it. He said, “well, you can
write him and tell him that if he wants to transfer up here, he’s gonna have to initiate the transfer
at his end. If they will let him go up here, we will take him up here and let him sign up to our
organization.” So one day I was over on sick call and when I came back, I forget what I was on
sick call for, nothing major I know that, but when I came back there sat this vehicle up in our
company area. And there was a guy I recognized, my brother, and he got to transfer up there. He
got in the artillery, but he got in what we call the FO Team, Forward Observer. And most guys
are up on the hill with the infantry. Every shell we fired was right over their heads. If you fire a
short round, or you miss calculate your instruments, the setting on your gun, you might spire a
short round, or a long round, off too far to the left or too far to the right. That was always in my
mind when we were firing, but we never had a problem with that, that I was aware of. But he
survived it. That was kind of good to have somebody that I knew, that close around. Because
those fellas that I enlisted with and Minneapolis, there weren’t many of them that went to the
same, most all of them went to Hawaii. But after that, they spread out and went to a lot of
different companies. First have 24th division, 25th division, 7th division, 8 army, and I hardly
ever some one of them guys again after that, until I got back to Minnesota. Basically, our
movement in Korea was, we went up north of Sol, approximately maybe 25/30 miles we went
north of Sol, was the extent we went from Sol, north. And then worked our way back down until
it was time for us to leave Korea. And then we went right back down at about Ninchon. We went
back out at Ninchon again if I remember right. We didn’t get a chance to travel around Korea,
hardly at all.
Interviewer: What was the date you rotated home?
Claussen: I and my brother who was over there, we came home together along with another fella
from Alberd Lee. We all three came home the same day in 1952. I don’t think I can get much
closer than that. And I think it was July or August of ’52. We came back and we landed in that
same camp, but in San Francisco, and then they put us on a train and took us across country to
United States here. We were headed for Camp Mcoy Wisconsin, they told us. And that was a
slow boat to China. A slow, slow train to Camp Mcoy. But we were headed the right way
anyways. We were pleased with that. But then I had another brother that was over there. He came
over, about the time I and my older brother left and came home. He was shipped over there. He
was rear artillery, and he stayed there about approximately 6-8 months I think it was. I don’t
know, like I said I want there at that time. I wasn’t that close to him anyway.
Interviewer: So when were you discharged?
Claussen: The 5th of March, 1954
Interviewer: And you were at Camp Mcoy, then the whole time?
Claussen: No, from Camp Mcoy, they distributed the whole train load of us, distributed us out to
other camps in the United States. Everybody has their chance/choice of where they wanted to go.
And I wanted to go to Martha’s Vineyard. Sounds good, don’t it? Well I didn’t get to Martha’s
Vineyard. I was still trying to get into combat engineers. But they sent me to Camp Mcoy,
Wisconsin. No, no, no, I was at camp Mcoy, Camp Carson Colorado. It’s Fort Carson, they call it
now. But it was Camp Carson at the time. And that’s about the time I learned the difference
between a fort and a camp. You know the difference? The camps were temporary installations,
and most of those, as we know them, were built or put together through WWII. And then, some
of them made permanent camps out of them and then they called them a fort. Camp Carson
Colorado was all wooden barracks, wooden administration buildings, wooden hospital, the whole
thing was wooden. It was a nice location. Wasn’t as nice as Hawaii, but it was right on the eastern
edge of the Rocky Mountains. Right where we were at we could see right to the side of the camp,
the big mountain, Pikes Peak. On the weekends, a few of us guys would get together with our
wives and when we got off duty, (I was living off site at the time out there, some of the other
guys were, too) We would go up in the mountains, for picnic supper. We would walk, of course,
we would drive until the road ran out, not very far. But you would walk on the trails, there were
trails all over, walk up a trail and and sit and roast some hamburgers, or hotdogs, with our feet
hanging over a bank of cool water. We did this in the summertime, not the winter time. I went
from Camp Carson, they sent me off to school. They wanted me to go to Clark Typas school.
Me? Clark? That didn’t fit. But I went. Clark Typas school was in Fort Linardwood Missouri. I
heard all kind of bad things about Fort Linardwood. So I went to Fort Linardwood, I got down
there and I was there through the early part of the winter one year. It must have been ’53, I’m
guessing. The early part of the winter, I woke up one morning, looked out and it had snowed, but
at that time, Fort Linardwood, it should have been Camp Linardwood because all the barracks
and all the buildings were made of wood. And for heat they burned wood, no they burned
coal.And coal has a lot of soot with it. I woke up, we had a nice fresh snowfall. But the snow was
covered with soot. What a mess. And you get that on you, on your body, onto your clothes,
shoes, track it in. And they also used coal to cook. Heating a place and for cooking. No gas, no
Interviewer: So what life lessons do you feel like you learned through your military service?
Claussen: Well, the main thing I learned from that is; You can’t trust what they tell you. Because
this clothing bit was one of them, then after that, both my eardrums got busted, and I was
begging and pleading with the Chief of Section to get us some ear protection because these loud
guns were gonna damage our hearing. He said, “don’t you have something to put over your
ears?” I said,”no we don’t have anything like that. Well how about just a price of cotton? We can
put a piece of cotton in each ear.” And he says, “we don’t have anything like that.” And I said,
“well, I know back home when I go buy a little thing of Aspirins, and put a wad of cotton in there
to keep the cotton from giggling around. Have you got anything like that?” He said, “nope, we
don’t have that.” I said, “well I’ve been around the United States a little bit, and I know they grow
cotton in all the southern states. And I’ve been past some of the places and still see the fields after
they’ve been out there picking cotton. There’s a lot of cotton still left in the fields, they waste.
They drive along the road or a pathway to get to the cotton gin, and there cotton spilled all over
and along there. Around the cotton gin where they pick all of the seeds out of it, and do whatever
they do with the cotton, even there there’s all kinds of wasted cotton on the ground. And you tell
me we can’t get a little piece of cotton for my ear? Because I’m afraid it’s gonna damage my
hearing?” He said, “that’s right. We can’t give you anything, we haven’t got anything like that.”
Well, I disagree with it. And I told him that the sound was gonna damage my ears. One day, I
mentioned we were on task force, we were firing propaganda, and we parked the gun in between
2 little sharp hills, and we fired about 15-20 rounds from that location, out over north Korea.
While I was doing that, I could feel something running down the side of my face. I looked and its
blood. Pretty soon on the other side, same thing, more blood. So I told the chief of section about
it and he said, “Well, just go on sick call when we get back.” Well I did and the doctor said I had
broken both ear drums. And I asked him if he could fix it. He said, “no, there’s no fix to it.” And
that should never have happened. He didn’t know what he was talking about, this Chief of
Section. And he probably thought I didn’t, but I knew that I knew what I was talking about
because I had been around some loud sounds before, nothing like that, nothing like an artillery
piece. But I worked with my dad in construction. And we were on the equipment and stuff, and
when it got real noisy, or real loud, we’d stick cotton in our ears. Nothing happened to our
hearing. And when they promised me all those times that I asked to get into the combat
engineering, never got in there.
Interviewer: Is there any kind of message that you could pass onto younger generations?
Claussen: Get all the education you can early. Don’t be like me and drop out of school, I didn’t
have much choice, but most of that has changed considerably now compared to what it was when
I was growing up at that age because a lot of the farm kids, I remember, in our area, they had to
stay home and help their dad with farming. It was either that or try to hire somebody and there
wasn’t that much money in farming in those days that they can afford to hire somebody. So get
the education. When it’s there, get it.