Frank E. Cohee Jr.
Having no prior knowledge of Korea, Frank E Cohee, Jr. enlisted in the military at the age of twenty-one. He describes the most difficult moments fighting the Chinese and the improvised sleeping quarters in which they slept. He continued to go to school after returning home and used his GI Bill to graduate from the University of Maryland before re-enlisting. Since he served in Vietnam as well, Frank Cohee describes the differences. He has returned to Korea twice since the war and comments on the many “surprises” there- more reasons why to be thankful for the services of the Korean War Veterans.
Most difficult time in Korean War
When asked about the most difficult moment of his service, Frank Cohee says that it was when the Chinese came in. He remembers having to drive down icy mountains and getting separated. He states that they were shot at during this time, but fortunately, didn’t’ get hurt.
Frank Cohee explains the sleeping quarters during the war. He states that they originally slept in pup tents before moving to textile factories. Finally, he was moved to a squad tent with wooden bunks.
"War Just like Any War”
Frank Cohee served in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars and was asked about the difference. In Korea he says that they always knew where the front line was, but in Vietnam there didn’t seem to be a front line. He recalls that they both were “war just like any war.”
Returning to Korea
Frank Cohee has been back to Korea at least three times. He remarks about how many surprises there were- skyscrapers, women drivers, bridges. He ends with how important it is to remember the veterans.
COHEE, FRANK E. JR.
Transcribed by Sarah Ibrahim on 06/25/2018
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
Frank E. Cohee Jr.: My name is Frank Cohee. I’m or–originally from the state of Maryland. I moved to Florida several years ago, and now I’m from Florida. I was born in Ridgely Maryland.
Interviewer: Maryland. What–when?
I: ’29. And then you went to school in Maryland?
F: Yes I did. And I graduated from the University of Maryland.
I: What did you study?
F: Right. I have a–
I: When did you graduate?
F: I have a degree in–d–d– in
business management. Actually, I–I didn’t graduate until I got out of the Army. I was going off and on for several years and after I got out of the army and was discharged in 1971 I went to online–or onsite the University of Maryland and finished up my degree in business. I enlisted.
F: In 1948.
F: September 1948.
I: Mm-hmm. So where did you go to receive the basic training?
F: I went–Camp Breckenridge Kentucky with the 101stAirborne Division. I got married in 1950.
F: In May of 1950.
F: And, of course, then I was later on notified and I left to go to Korea in August of 1950. She wasn’t–she didn’t take it too bad, but maybe it was because
we hadn’t been married that long, I don’t know. [laughing]
F: But, of co– of course, she didn’t like it. She, you know, didn’t want to see me go, but that–I had no choice so. We were stationed in Fort Meade Maryland and actually my whole unit, which was the 19th[Audience Medium Maintenance Company]. Went over as a unit.
F: We had no special training. We, you know, we had already had basic training, coordinates [and bands] basic and that kind of thing. So, we
trained go to go Seattle, Washington and then we left out of Seattle, Washington on a ship. Many people were sick, including myself. That was the first time I was even on a big ship–big troop ship like that, you know. And as you probably know, the bunks are so close together and so crowded and everybody was sick. And, of course, they tell you to eat, but that didn’t help too much. I wasn’t scared–I just
Didn’t know what to expect. And, as I’m sure you’ve heard many, many times before. Korea, I didn’t even know what it was or where it was. I–I–I– guess I was more excited, if you want to say, to see what was going on than anything.
F: Yes [laughing]
F: Exciting to go. We went to Korea on a Japanese ship. It was–it was probably about
August 11thor 12th. And we arrived in Pusan Korea because at that particular time, everybody had been pushed back to Pusan there was no place else to go. When we first go there, we had no to place to go. We had no equipment. Cause our equipment was on other ships coming in.
F: And so, we spent the first few days on the beach in Pusan wondering if we was going to have to swim back to Japan or what we was going to do.
Because, you know, it just seemed like the North Koreans were continuing to push and there was no place else to go. We were at the last safe haven if you will, if you can call it that. And we didn’t get–we didn’t get too much damage from the ground troopers, we mostly got hit from what they used to call Midnight Charlie and he’d fly over at night and drop like,
I’m pretty sure it was like hand grenades because there wasn’t any bombs. And hardly anybody got hurt but it was just one of those things you had to be careful about. And later on, of course, when we started to push the North Koreans back, we finally got our equipment and I believe the first place that we advanced to out of Pusan was Daegu.
F: Yeah, but let me back up a minute while we were ni Pusan,
we finally moved from off the beach and living in Pup-tents to living in more or less garment factories. Some of them had been bombed out but they were a lot better than sleeping out–out under the stars, if you will. So, like I said, then we finally got our equipment and we moved from there as they–as they were moving up as American troops were moving up and North Koreans
troops, South Korean troops and moved into Taegu–Taegu was our first stop. Munson maybe or something like that yeah–yeah–and of course we kept moving on to Seoul to–on up to we almost got up to the Yalu River. We got up to Suncheon North Korea. And that’s when the Chinese came in, of course. And yeah, we were service units so we didn’t really participate in any battles but I was–
I was, you know, involved in them because I got bronze stars for the ones I served in. I got seven battle stars for being in the war, but, you know the infantry did most of the fighting. Again, at that time it was still hectic because, you know, people were running around all over the place. Because they just–North Koreans had just left there and,
I: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
F: But here again we were like we were only staying a day or two at the location because
we were moving up so fast pushing North Koreans back.
I: Mm-hmm. How about Pyongyang? When you entered the Pyongyang?
F: You know, I didn’t–I don’t really remember, but I’m, you know again outside of it being a little hectic, it was probably about the same as Seoul.
I: What was the difficult moment for you in your whole service in Korea?
F: When the Chinese came in.
F: and we had to
the drive back down mountains and stuff and it was nothing but ice roads–off all the roads and y–you got separated. That ws probably it.
I: Were there any engagement with Chinese soldiers?
F: Not parse, no. We got fired at as we were moving back, but I’m not so sure if they were Chinese or Koreans. But we got shot at, you know, in our trucks, but
fortunately it didn’t get hurt. We had eventually, usually we slept in the Pup-tents, of course, but then we slept in textile factories that was on the way up. And then we finally got large squad tents and one squad would sleep in a large squad tent. And we did have wooden bunks. Can–wooden and canvas bunks.
F: The happiest moment, I think, was when I got orders to come home [laughing] naturally.
I: Uh-huh. When did you hear about that?
F: Oh p–probably about a week or so before I–I come home yeah. I can remember–
I: In November of 1951?
F: Yeah probably around November or early December. Yeah, of course, go back a little bit, I was really looking forward to coming home I thought I’d be home for Christmas
in 1950, but of course that didn’t happen.
F: But I did make it home for Christmas in 1951,
I: What was the saddest moment?
F: I guess when the Chinese came in, you know what I mean. Because I coul–you know and of course when I got the Truman year, you know they added a year on to our tour. We were supposed to come home a lot earlier than we did, but an–and
I guess the worst thing was we were in front of the artillery, as I said before,
F: in front of a lot of the other so called ground troops. And we were very close to whoever the division infantry people were, because that’s who we were supporting. They were getting four points a month, and the people behind this, the artillery were getting four points a month, we were only getting two points a month. So…
I: It’s not fair.
F: I know. So we had put out–we erected a big
sign and put it up that said told them now it was that area it said you’re now entering two point area if you go on the other side it says you’re now entering four point area. [laughing]
F: And I’ve still got some pictures of that sign, you know. And there may have been one or two, but hardly anybody ever talked about the Korean War, at that time. And of course I–I’d had enough and I decided to get out soon as I–my time come up.
In 1952, but then things got pretty tough again about like they are now and there wasn’t many jobs and so I decided to go back into the military. And I was able to go back in and then later on, actually I got a direct commission and served my last 10 years as a commissioned officer. And that’s what I was in Vietnam I was a–
I: Oh you were in the Vietnam too?
F: Yeah, I was a major in Vietnam and a staff sergeant in Korea.
F: So. Made a big difference [laughing]
I: Compared to the Korean War, what was the uniqueness of the Vietnam War?
F: I guess the difference was it seemed like in Korea you always knew where the front line was,
F: But in Vietnam there didn’t seem to be a front line.
So… And we used to kid each other by saying the people that work for us–the Vietnamese people worked for us during the day time manned the borders at night and fired on us, you know. But other than that, it was war just like any war. Actually been back two or three times. Two–two at least. And I think it was in like
in the 90’s. I think one of them might have been 97, 98, and one of them was a little earlier than that.
I: So when you first went back to Korea, what did you think?
F: Oh I was so surprised. [laughing] it looked so much different. When I–when we were there, of course, there was only one bridge and that was a man-made bridge and the–and the other one, of course, was bombed out. And now, I don’t know how many bridges to cross there are several.
ones now… and of course most of the buildings were–had grass huts, you know, straw roofs. I was so surprised to see so many skyscrapers and even women drivers [laughing]. Keep remembering it’s not really a forgotten war. The wars never ended. There’s people over there in harm’s way every day right now. So they need to think about that and
not–not forget about the veterans that are still out there, not only in the Korean Wwar but in Iraq and Afghanistan.
[End of Recorded Material]