Korean War Legacy Project

Gene Peeples

Bio

Gene Peeples joined the military when he was underage by having his mother forge his papers in 1952. After joining the United States Army, he was sorted into medical training and became a Combat Medic. He describes the constant rotating schedule of a Combat Medic, joining different units every two weeks. He explains delousing and treating POWs as they were released at the end of the war. In addition, he describes the most common wounds he would see on the battlefield, including how he would treat them.

Video Clips

The 7th Med Battalion

Gene Peeples describes his role as a combat medic in the 7th Med Battalion. He describes combat medics rotating between different units every two weeks. He explains that he would spend time with engineering troops, then switch to another unit such as infantry.

Tags: 1953 Battle of Pork Chop Hill, 3/23-7/16,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwgvwnwur3g&start=202&end=300

Delousing the POWs

Gene Peeples describes being sent to Freedom Village as the war was coming to an end. His job as a medic included handling the POWs who were coming in from the Chinese camps. He explains the clothing of the POWs, their vomiting from being fed ice cream, and the thickness of lice on the shower floors.

Tags: Chinese,Food,Living conditions,POW

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwgvwnwur3g&start=303&end=489

Mostly Gunshot Wounds

Gene Peeples describes his treatment of the most common wounds he encountered as a medic during the Korean War. He explains his quick treatment of gunshot wounds before sending injured soldiers off to evacuation. He also describes another of the most common conditions they saw in the hospital, venereal disease.

Tags: Yeongdeungpo,Civilians,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,South Koreans,Women

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwgvwnwur3g&start=739&end=872

Video Transcript

[Beginning of recorded material]

G:        G-E-E-N-E Peeples, P-E-E-P-L-E-S.  I was born in, uh, North Carolina.

I:          Um hm.

G:        Greensboro area.

I:          Um hm.

G:        It was called, uh, Guilford County.

I:          Um hm.

G:        And, uh,

I:          Birthday?

G:        Birthday?

I:          Yeah.

G:        Was, uh, 4/11/35.

I:          ’35.  So this year, how old are you?

G:        I’ll be turning 80 pretty soon.

0:00:30

I:          80.  You are youngest group.

G:        Yeah.

I:          You’re youngest group of Korean War veterans.

G:        I am one of the youngest, yeah. [Abrupt Start] I come from a family of 10 kids. I have

I:          Ten kids

G:        There was, uh, six boys and, uh, four girls in our family.

I:          Wow.

G:        And, uh, born and raised on a farm, and I hate d to live on the farm.  So

I:          Nobody likes farm.

G:        No.  And, so anyway, I conned my mother into

0:01:00

lying my age and, uh, she signed the papers, and I went in, went in the Army.

I:          She agreed.

G:        Yeah.

I:          You enlisted Army?

G:        Yeah.

I:          In your 15th?

G:        Right.  1952 I went in.

I:          You knew about then Korean War broke out.

G:        Yes, I did.

I:          Were you aware of anything about Korea before?

G:        Never even heard of it before.  Never heard of it.  [Abrupt Start] Yeah, I took my training at, uh, Fort Jackson, South Carolina,

0:01:30

I:          Um hm.

G:        and they, they, I didn’t know anything about medical, and they, at that time they, they would give you a test

I:          Uh huh.

G:        to, uh, see what you’re best qualified,

I:          Uh huh.

G:        and they put me in the medical.

I:          Really?

G:        So I must have scored high in the medical, and they sent me to San Antonio, Texas for medical training.

I:          Ah ha.

G:        And then from there,

0:02:00

they sent me to Fort Lewis, Washington for more extra training.

I:          Um hm.

G:        Then after that, they, uh, shipped me off over to Korea, and I got in Korea on November 6 of 1952

I:          Where?

G:        Uh, we landed at Inchon, and then they assigned me to the 7thDivision

I:          Um hm.

G:        as a combat medic.

I:          Combat medic.

0:02:30

I:          Yeah.  So where were you

G:        And, uh, we were all over the place.  We went, uh.

I:          I know; I mean the first place after you landed in Inchon.  Where did you go?

G:        Well, they processed us through, uh, at Yeongdeungpo

I:          Yeongdeungpo

G:        Right.  And then they, uh, trucked us up to an area, uh, around (Tungduchani)

I:          Um hm, yeah

G:        And then after that, we were all over the country.

I:          All over the

0:03:00

G:        Yeah.  It’s hard for me to remember all the places.

I:          38thParallel, right?  Around?

G:        Yeah.

I:          Um hm.

G:        I think we were mostly around, probably around four miles south of the 38th

I:          Yeah.  Um hm.

G:        which later I found out because I did two tours there. Later on, uh, I think it was called Camp Casey.  [Abrupt Start]  Most of my duties over there, uh, being in the, the medical unit, uh, we were what they called a seventh med battalion.

I:          Um hm.

0:03:30

G:        Um, the combat medics rotated every two weeks

I:          Oh.

G:        with a different unit on the 7th.

I:          Why is that?

G:        Uh, you know, I really, that’s hard to answer.  I don’t really know why they did it.

I:          Um.

G:        But I would be like two weeks with, uh, let’s say a combat engineer group.  Then they would rotate me to, uh, signal corps.

I:          Uh huh,

G:        31stInfantry Regiment,

0:04:00

I:          Oh.

G:        17thInfantry Regiment, tank battalion, and then maybe about every two months I’d rotate back to my headquarters.  Uh, I remember a lot of my duties were, like we got into some of the battles.  We were involved with, uh,

I:          Uh huh.

G:        Pork Chop Hill.

I:          Pork Chop Hill, yeah.

G:        Right.  And I know in, uh, ’53, we

0:04:30

were up there in, uh, July,

I:          Um hm.

G:        and around the 8thof July and then, uh, they sent me and three others over to the Freedom Village

I:          Uh huh.

G:        where the, they got, the prisoners got released. My duties

I:          You mean 1952?

G:        ’53.

I:          ’53.  You talking about 1953, July 8, right?

G:        Right.

I:          Yeah.

0:05:00

Tell me about that.

G:        Well, uh, we were up on, uh, Pork Chop.  I think I was up there like 18 days

I:          Um hm.

G:        and, uh, then they, they pulled me and, uh, three others off line, and then the, the, they had started signing a truce and stuff, so they sent the three of us over to Freedom Village.

I:          Um hm.

G:        And, um, our duties, of course, was, uh, delousing

I:          Delousing?

0:05:30

G:        Delousing

I:          Uh huh.

G:        POWs.

I:          Yeah.  So?

G:        Yeah.  Uh, and we, my experience with them was seeing how bad shape some, a lot of them came in.

I:          Tell me the details.

G:        Well, some of them would come in, uh, they done load off the trucks.  They’d just be in shorts, their skivvy shorts.  Uh,

0:06:00

some of the, some would be, uh, would have parts of Chinese uniforms on them

I:          Really?

G:        Yeah.  They’d be, according to what they got issued I guess in the camp.  In fact, I have a Chinese officer’s hat

I:          Huh.

G:        that one of the POWs gave me.

I:          Uh huh.

G:        And I still have it.

I:          You still have it?

G:        I still have it.  Um, anyway, uh,

0:06:30

I rotated back to my unit, and I stayed there until

I:          But what did you do?  What did you do with the American soldier who were released?
G:        Well, I sprayed them with, uh, DDT, and then they would go into the showers and they’d take a shower, and about every eight or ten of them that went into the shower, you’d look in the shower and there’d be that thick in, down in the shower with lice.  [Abrupt Start]  Then they would, uh,

0:07:00

after they were deloused, they, and, uh, had their shower, they’d go and they’d get clean clothes, issued clean clothes and then, uh, then we, they would go over and, uh, feed them, and I never will forget.  They would feed them ice cream, and for all them years, they hadn’t had nothing that sweet, and the ice cream would make them sick, and they, they would vomit [Abrupt Start] Anyway, I didn’t get to see, uh, much

0:07:30

detail after they left, you know, because they, they’d go out of there, and they’d get picked up.

I:          How do they react, those, the released U.S. POW? How do they react to this new environment, ice cream?

G:        Oh my God.  They, they’d almost kiss you, you know.  And they, when they come out there because actually where they came out, we were the first people they saw.

I:          What did they say to you?

G:        Uh, they just, more or less

0:08:00

have tears in their eyes, and their, their eyes are wandering, you know and they, they’re kind of skittish as to what’s going on and all that, you know.

I:          What were you thinking?  What were you thinking when you saw them released and coming across the Freedom House and tearing?

G:        It’s, it’s hard to explain really, what you would think of something like that.  Uh, I was also there that day that, uh, they release General Dean and, uh,

0:08:30

I never will forget. They come riding up.  They had this, uh,

I:          When was it?

G:        That was, uh, in ’54, well, ’53, uh.  It’s about

I:          August

G:        Yeah, probably, I want to say about mid-August.

I:          Mid-August.  Tell me about General Dean.  How was he?

G:        Well, uh, he, uh, looked like he had lost

0:09:00

a lot of weight.

I:          Uh huh.

G:        Uh, well when they pull up, he started to get out of the, uh, Russian jeep,

I:          Uh huh.

G:        and there was a Chinese officer there told him to set there, and of course there was a Major, United States Major, and he said come on, General.  Don’t pay him no attention.

I:          Um.

G:        And, uh, they came across and, uh, there was no delousing or nothing like that

0:09:30

with him.  They, uh, got him in a chopper right away, and I think they, uh, I think they took him to Tokyo.  I have a, uh, 19, uh, ’53 issue of Life Magazine

I:          Uh huh.  You were?

G:        I have one.

I:          Oh, okay.

G:        Uh, one of the POWs, uh, his, uh,

0:10:00

sister was at one of our reunions.

I:          Oh.

G:        And she knew me real well, and she knew that I liked to read stuff like that.

I:          Um hm.

G:        And, uh, she found this magazine somewhere and gave it to me.  [Abrupt Start] The only thing I remember is they had the, uh, Operation Little Switch was in April

I:          Uh huh.

G:        uh.  They released them because they were in the worst shape.  But I wasn’t involved

0:10:30

in that.

I:          Okay.

G:        But I, anyway, I stayed there until on the Big Switch, uh, I left there the 6thof September

I:          Uh huh.

G:        and went back to my unit.

I:          Where?

G:        Uh, we were up around the, uh, (Tungduchani)area that time.  And, uh, I stayed with them until the 4thof December.

I:          Uh huh.

G:        ’53.

0:11:00

And then I rotated back home,

I:          Oh.

G:        and got a leave, rotated home.  And, uh, took a 30-day furlough, then re-enlisted and, uh, I was giving physicals to new recruits in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I:          Um hm.

G:        and I stayed there a couple years.  Uh, I think it was until sometime in 1955.

0:11:30

And they sent me to a place called Fort Lewis, Washington.

I:          Um hm.

G:        Uh, I think it’s now called Lewis McCord Base,

I:          Yeah.

G:        and, um, worked in a hospital there, Army hospital, called Madigan Army Hospital.

I:          Yeah.

G:        Then in, uh, ’56, they sent me back over to Korea.

I:          1956?

G:        And would you believe they sent me to the same unit that I was with over there, the 7th?

I:          7th.

G:        And we, uh,

0:12:00

built a hospital. The medical hospital there at, uh, Camp Casey.  [Abrupt Start] There we just took sick call and, uh, more or less, uh, the American patients they’d be so sick call in the hospital.

I:          Um hm, um hm.  Tell me about when you were in Korea in 1953, what was the typical kind of wounds that you cured, you treated?  What is it?  And how was

0:12:30

the situation, the soldiers?

G:        Well, um, it was mostly it was gunshot wounds that I handled.

I:          For example,

G:        Well, for example, uh, they’d get shot in the leg or something like that.  I’d just patch them up the best I could, and then we’d get them back off line.  Mainly I, mainly I’d just patch them up and bandage them up a little bit and, uh, I’d give them, uh, 50ccs of, of, a shot of Morphine,

0:13:00

I:          Um hm.

G:        and they’d, um, take them by ambulance back to a evac hospital.  They had a, at that time they had a big evacuation hospital at, uh, Yeongdeungpo, uh, called the 121 Evac

I:          Uh huh, uh huh.

G:        and, uh, if they, if they couldn’t patch them up to go back on duty, then they would

I:          Send back to Japan.

G:        they’d send them to Japan.

I:          Yeah.  Well,

0:13:30

do you, can you tell me about this 121 Evac in Yeongdeungpo?  How big was the hospital?  How many doctors and nurse and so on?  It’s a MASH, right?

G:        It was like a MASH.

I:          Right.

G:        Uh, oh, it was kind of a small hospital. I don’t think it could handle more than, maybe 10 patients.

I:          Anything that you especially remember on your second tour?

0:14:00

G:        Well, the only thing I remember on my second tour is, uh, I worked mostly at that hospital and, uh, we were having a lot of troops that had VD problems.

I:          Ah ha.

G:        And, uh,

I:          Venereal Disease?

G:        Yeah.

I:          Yeah.

G:        Anyway, we came up with a idea as to how to kind of tone that down.

I:          How?

G:        Uh, we started by having the village girls come up and issued them a health card and, uh,

0:14:30

once a month they had to come and get a checkup.

I:          Have you been back to Korea after that?

G:        No, I haven’t.  Uh, I’ve been invited by, uh,

I:          [Abrupt Start] What is Korea to you?

G:        Just one modern, built up place that I could see. [Abrupt Start] I was very worried that they were gonna have another war break out.

I:          Ah.

G:        I talked to the, uh, Korean, uh, Consulate General in Washington.

0:15:00

I:          Um hm.

G:        And, the biggest Korean person I ever saw in my life.  Tall. [LAUGHS]

I:          [LAUGHS]

G:        I’ve got his card somewhere.  But anyway, we, uh, one event that we put on in Korea, the 7thDivision had a battalion of Ethiopian

I:          Yeah.

G:        soldiers.

I:          Um hm.

G:        They never got a thank you or nothing

0:15:30

out of it.  And they have a Ethiopian Embassy in Silver Spring,

I:          Um hm.

G:        and I met the guy that, uh, runs it.  His name is Asafa.  Well anyway, uh, this General that I met, he was up standing over me looking down on me [LAUGHS]

I:          Ethiopian?

G:        Uh, no, the, the Korean general.

I:          Korean general.

G:        Major, he’s a Major General I think.

I:          Yeah, yeah.

0:16:00

and, huh, I asked his aid, I said you ever think, uh, North Korea will invade again?

I:          Uh.

G:        He said not a chance.

I:          Not a chance.

G:        Not a chance.

I:          Um hm.  So what do you think about your service?  Are you proud of it?  What do you think about your legacy as a Korean War veteran?

G:        Uh, I never did really think about it really.

I:          Hm.

G:        How I got involved with the POWs

0:16:30

is because of me delousing them I think.

I:          Um hm.

G:        Uh, years ago they made me an honorary member of their group.

I:          Your name please?

E:         Elaine.

I:          Elaine.  And you’ve been with him for 30 years?

E:         Thirty good years, yes sir.

I:          Thirty good years.  And you just witnessed that your husband, he will welcome this history book project.

E:         Yes, I did.

 

[End of Recorded Material]