George J. Bruzgis
George J. Bruzgis was born in New York City, NY. He was working before he entered the military, and his service was carried out from January 1953 to March 7, 1957. During his service period, he went to Inchon, Korea, and was stationed at North Korea from April or May 1953 to September 1954. He served in the 7th Infantry Division, 73rd Tank BN as a PVT upon entering, and had transitioned to a SGT by the time of his discharge. He was an armored tank crew man MRV, and participated in the back up of the 1st ROK Division. After returning to the United States, he was stationed in Maryland. After being discharged from military service, he returned to work.
I'd Seen A lot of John Wayne Films
George Bruzgis admitted that he'd never heard, seen, or knew anything about Korea before being shipped there. He remembered watching John Wayne films and the idea of going somewhere else in the world seemed like an exciting adventure. In actuality, he was really scared.
Befriending The KATUSA
Short on men within his own division, the KATUSA pictured with George Bruzgis is Corporal Yu daek yoo. He described him as a great man and he was considered a part of the division. George Bruzgis mentioned how little the KATUSA was paid, so the men in his division pitched in 5 dollars each, so that they could paying him over 20 dollars a month. This was a lot of money in 1953.
Signed To Cease Fire; Look What We Hit!
George Bruzgis vividly recalled on July 26, 1953, a Major approached them with a document they (both US and ROK) had to sign agreeing that at 10 p.m. on July 27, 1953, they had to stop firing their weapons. Shortly afterwards, a two-ton truck arrived taking most of their ammunition away, so they wouldn't shoot. However, at 6 a.m on July 27, 1953, they got a phone call that they were given coordinates to fire 5 rounds on what they thought maybe a cave or a bunker. He later learned in 2000 when he received a battalion pamphlet, his story of that morning was located within it saying his division destroyed a Chinese Observation Post.
Being hit; In-Going Mail, and Out-Going Mail
George Bruzgis shared some of the most difficult and horrible experiences during the war. He recalled knowing the sound of artillery shells coming and going (nicknamed it In-going mail and Out-going mail). Before he closed the tank, he could see the enemy close. After firing, they found the men in bloody pieces, and he still can't get that scene out of his head.
R&R, Hitchhiking, and Trench Injuries, Oh My!
After reenlisting in the military in March 7, 1954, George Bruzgis was given a 30 day leave and 7 day R&R in Japan, but he had difficulty getting back to Korea since the French were fighting in Indochina.
After finally being shipped to Pusan, he had to hitchhike for 3 days to get back to his unit. George Bruzgis would rest/sleep along his hike by signing paper work that would allow him to eat and sleep before moving to the next Army unit and so forth. After he met up with his division, he fell into a trench and injured his knees for 2 weeks.
Strong Appreciation for the Korean People
After his revisits to Korea and and a banquet in honor of soldiers who fought in recent years, George Bruzgis shared his sincere appreciation and gratitude for the people of Korea. The Korean population continues to show their love for the United States Military Forces. George Bruzgis was honored to go back and visit the country he had fought for all those years.
George J. Bruzgis: My name is George J. Bruzgis. I was born in New York City 18thAugust 1933 at the Woman’s Infirmary.
I: Mm-hmm. And what were you doing around the time that the Korean War broke out?
G: I was going to high school and when the war broke out I–I was 17 and I asked my mom to sign the papers I wanted to go join the Marines. And she wouldn’t sign so I–I finished high school.
Thank God for mama, because I think I would have been stuck in sh–at the– at the Reservoir.
G: So, I’m lucky mom said no.
G: But anyway, me and my buddy we were very close and we decided to join the Marines anyway after–after high school. We decided instead of waiting to be drafted we would voluntary induction. Thats two years. If I sign up its three years, maybe I don’t like it.
G: So, we went down and he signed and I chickened out. But, you know after about a month or so, I went down and I signed.
G: Exac–and he told me exactly when I’m going to go in. Actually, they asked me and I told them when I wanted to go in. I went in the first week of January 1953.
G: And, of course, I went to–to Fort Kilmer for processing and then they shipped me to Fort Knox, Kentucky. That–that place
is nothing but clay.
I: So, you knew that there was a Korean War broke out, right?
G: Oh yes.
I: But were you aware of Korea, where was it?
G: I never heard of it before.
I: You never heard of it before.
G: I never heard of it
I: Not in the history class in your high school?
G: No. I had to look up on a map–on a geography map where Korea was. Of course then the newspapers, when they came out, they had this–the map of Korea. I still didn’t–you know, they just showed you the map I didn’t know where it is. And when I landed in Korea. Actually the–
I went to Japan first.
I: Yeah, but when you were receiving the military training, especially in armor, you knew that you were going to go to Korea?
I: No? Okay.
G: No. They posted a list and I checked on a list. Some of us went to Germany, some went to here or there. Some stood in the States as cavalry. And I went to Korea. Well, I didn’t care, because I seen a lot of John Wayne pictures and I really wanted to get in there, ya know?
I: So you were excited, kind of?
G: I was, but
I got scared over there.
I: so you went to Jap–when did you left for Korea from the United States?
G: I don’t remember the date. I really don’t.
G: Maybe April? Maybe before–maybe it was before April I’m not quite sure.
I: April of 19–
G: Maybe a month before that even.
I’m not even quite sure.
G: Because I know I had 12 points and I got four points per month in the combat zone so, I had to be there like for 3 months, you know?
I: Right. By March.
G: Yeah. So maybe I went in March but I don’t–I really don’t remember.
G: Nobody ever told me to write a diary on this.
G: You know, I don’t even know what ship I was on when I went over, but I know that I–I landed at Sasebo.
I: Sasebo, yeah.
G: The Japanese Naval Base
G: During the war and I stood there for about 3, 4 days and then they gave me an M1, 8 rounds, they set [side it] for 100 yards. I fired at the target and they said that’s it, take it apart, put it in your duffle bag you’re shipping out tomorrow.
G: and they put me in an LST we went across I–I–the waterways to Korea and I landed in Incheon.
G: That’s in 1953 so, I didn’t go with MacArthur.
I: Yeah. Yeah.
G: And you go up and they had all the trains there. And they–they put us on the train and they said put your riffles together we may be attacked by guerrillas. Now, they got me scared. They says the ammunitions on–on each end of the car. So, we got our band of ammunition.
G: We rode for a few hours on the train and I was assigned to the 7thInfantry Division, at the replacement center there.
G: I spent two nights there and then–my name starts with B, and always get duty. Every–I wish they started with Z, I didn’t have to worry. So anyway, I pull guard duty and on the–there’s a mountain on the other side of the–
I: Where was that?
G: This was some place in–I have no idea, in Korea.
I: But the name of the base.
G: It was a replacement center.
G: It was for the division.
I: In Seoul?
G: No I think in–I really don’t know. I don’t know. Because I got there and nobody tells you anything, you know what I mean? But that night, on the other side of that mountain, you could see the flares, you could hear the artillery, you could hear the machine guns, and I got scared. I says you know, I don’t think I’m gonnna make it home. Okay, and they ship me out to a tank outfit.
I: To where?
G: To a tank outfit. 73rdtank battalion.
G: And, of course, I’m a new recruit I just got there. I haven’t shaved in 3 days. And the first sergeant says “get rid of the idiot stick” meaning the M1 rifle, “and take that damn hair off your face”. And I got assigned to a tank as a loader. And then I went around on line the next day with the engineers to set up the bunkers. [showing a picture] that is online in the–we were on [I and triangle]
A particular mountain up there
G: [the area that they called] and my firing position was on Queen. I had–that’s what the range card said. And I was a loader. Eventually I made gunner, but that was after the war. And I have a bunch of pictures here
I: Who is that–who is that Korean?
G: That was –at that time, he’s corporal [yu dakgillo]
G: He’s a Korean [katusi]
G: We had one in each tank. Cause we were short-handed.
G: When the 7thdivision went over to
Korea, the–the band was stolen and put into the other divisions. And they were very, very short on personnel so the inter–put the Koreans in with us. And they wore our uniforms, they ate our food and everything else.
I: Mm-hmm. How was the relationship?
G: I had a great time with this guy. He didn’t get much money. He got so much of the won was big stack of money. So we all decided we were going to pay him.
So we each gave him $5. So he made $20 a–a month. Which was big money back in those days for them, you know.
I: Yeah. He must be a happy man.
G: I wish I could find him.
I: From March up to the armistice in July 27 there has been a severe battle there, right.
G: Not that I could recall. On the 27th–well, we’ll put it this way, when they had the cease fire, back then we didn’t call it a cease fire we called it an ar–armistice
On the 26thof July, this stays in my mind. A Major came up and we had to sign documents that we understood that at 10 o’clock on the 27thcease fire or armistice,
G: We don’t shoot anymore. So we signed. Each one of us signed the documents.
I: What documents?
G: Stating that we understood.
I: That we not going to fire.
G: fire them and–
I: Wow that’s very interesting. So each soldier?
G: Yeah I had to sign. Each–each four of us and the–the Korean had to sign it that we knew that–that the war would be–no more shooting.
I: So almost every soldiers in our side–
G: I don’t–I don’t know about any soldiers. I know about when he–he came into the bunker.
G: And he came out and he explained everything and we had to sign that sheet that we all understood.
G: Two hours later a deuce–a 2 ½ ton truck came up and took all our small ammunitions we had, small arms.
The 45’s the 30 calibers. They did–they took it away from us.
G: I guess presuming that so we wouldn’t shoot after the 27th.
G: but we always carried extra. Because they have an inventory list, but we didn’t worry. The next day the–the cease fire was at 10 p.m. on the 27thof July. At 6 o’clock in the morning the phone rang. Fire mission. Five rounds HE on a site and position
here are your coordinates. And I look on the range card and that’s where we fired. And it’s the last time we fired. At 6 o’clock in the morning. And then–
I: So what was the target?
G: they just gave us the coordinates. They said it was a cave or something, you know?
G: Or a bunker.
I: They knew that you guys have extra.
G: Well, the 90mm they didn’t take, but but I–I’ll tell you the truth. In 2000,
I got a hold of the pamphlet of our battalion with the history
G: From Germany to Korea and those five rounds I mentioned are in it. And it destroyed a Chinese observation post. And I–I was telling my tank commander, I says, oh and the gunner, you know, he was the gunner then you know, I says, you know, this is something you know to find out after all these years that–what we destroyed, you know what I mean?
I [used to back to] battalion reunions and [sad] we talk about old times, you know
G: But I just can’t–can’t travel that much anymore now, you know. It gets too expensive.
I: So, from March to the armistice there is no severe battle there?
G: No, I didn’t see no severe battle.
G: Because we just moved back a little bit. I was still in North Korea when they–when they signed. Because that’s where the company area was, you know what I mean? It was just a few miles back.
Cause I know like we always passed the 38thparallel going North and that’s where I stood. And then, of course, when the time came I shipped–I–they took me in September and shipped me to Pusan.
I: Did you then ever fire tank artillery?
G: Not at the enemy. I loaded the gun.
I: So not a single?
I: Oh. So–
G: In practice and maneuvers, yes. I was very good w–with the [diandi]. I think I took second in the battalion.
But I was a loader during the war. Because I was the last man on the tank, usually the loader. Actually, the Korean was the loader at one time. They made him assistant driver.
I: Mm-hmm. So, your service from March to the armistice was kind of sort of
G: It was just–
I: static, stale mate
G: stale mate–
I: not much.
G: and you just stood there. One day, the–the alarms went off.
That means the Koreans are coming.
G: What happened was, a–a North Korean pilot flew a MiG 17 over the 38thparallel and landed at Kimpo airport.
G: And he–he received $125,000 and he went to California to college. That was like a reward that they had passed out, you know. And this guy took the gamble and he did.
I: Wow. $125,000 in 1953.
G: Yeah. And going to college LCU I think it was.
I: What was the most difficult and horrible experience that you had during your service?
G: Well, I–you know you could tell artillery shells coming and going. We called it income mail and outgoing mail.
G: And you could hear it. You could tell the difference which way it’s coming from. So, the in–
I: How? How?
G: The d–the noise that it makes
G: As the shot goes through the air.
G: and we got some incoming come in so when I jumped in the tank and I closed the hatch I noticed a couple of Korean soldiers down the road very close to us and after the shelling I opened it up and I still remember it–they were in pieces. They were–
G: Blown up. And I still have that–I get up in the middle of the night thinking about that. And–
I: You–you still have that image.
G: Yeah I have that image. I–I get up. I don’t scream or beat my wife or like–they call it post stress–
G: I just get up til I clear my head about that. You know what I mean? Sometimes–and if I see a war picture on television,
G: it–that reminds me of it, you know what I mean. And I–I have a habit of watching military channels.
I: But they were directly hit.
G: Yeah. They were in pieces and blood and this and that. I mean, it was–it was–I’ve been to [your] funeral homes I’ve seen bodies in a casket in one piece they have pieces all over ya know.
I fell in a–what they call a slit trench one night. See, when I reenlisted in Korea–
G: Yeah. In Korea.
G: March 7, 1954.
G: I just wanted to stay in the Army.
I: You wanted to stay.
G: See, my father was an alcoholic.
G: And my mom and that they’re always arguing–you know I just didn’t want that no more so I said I’ll stay in the Army. I had no trade whatsoever.
G: So, I says let me stay in the Army for 20, 30 years you know what I mean? And–
I: So, you came back to Korea?
G: I went–no–it was–let me see- March yeah, yeah in March 1954 I reenlisted. Yeah.
G: And I got a 30 day leave and 7 days I–I’m going to go to Japan. So, when I got to Japan you know I had a good time and all I had trouble getting back to Korea.
Because the French were fighting in Indochina.
G: So what they did was they were going from Japan to Indochina bringing the supplies, flying to Korea, taking guys on R and R bring them to Japan doing that one cycle. They weren’t bringing anybody back. So we had about 1,500 to 2,000 guys that were supposed to be in Korea that were in Camp Drake. So they finally decided to get a ship
And they put us over on the ship to bring us back and the left us in Puson. I hitchhiked to North Korea, took me 3 days. And I just stopped into any Army unit. Sign the sheet they’ll put you up for the night, and they’ll feed you. And you’re back–your back on the road the next day.
G: But I finally made it where my outfit was, they weren’t there anymore. It took me another day to find them.
And I’d finally found them and they put me on a detail that night because I was gone for so long. And–to load up the gasoline into the tanks. As I was walking, I didn’t know the area, and I fell in a slit trench. And the heels of my feet were on my shoulders I injured both knees. I couldn’t walk for about two weeks.
I: What was the most rewarding moment in your memory in your service in Korea?
G: That’s a good question.
I guess coming home.
I: Coming home.
G: Yeah. Because, you know, I hadn’t been home for so long, you know what I mean. And to come home and then to have trouble with your hand and everything, you know. But it was a funny situation, my mom was working and she told everybody–and I never told her that I’m coming back– my son is coming home today I know it. And I did come home that day.
She had a premonition.
I: Oh really?
G: Yeah. She came home, I was only home about an hour or so and she said I knew you were coming home something, somebody told me. God told me that you were coming home today.
I: Have you ever been back to Korea?
G: I’ve been back in 2003.
G: And I was back last year.
I: Oh, last year too?
I: Who has invited you?
G: Well, I went the first time with the
KWVA the revisit program. I paid for that trip.
G: And I did– a Korean girl, a woman, and she’s South Jersey Korean American Association or something like that.
G: I did them a favor one time. She wanted me to come down and give a talk and bring a color guard down. So I had one of the guys down in the particular area come down. I came down with my assistant I gave the speech and everything
And she wanted me to award one of the Korean guys a plaque. Give em a name you know. So I gave it to my assistant you know. And she thanked me she says what can I do for you? I says well, when I do my ceremony in Atlantic City, I used to do that, I did that for four years, you can bring the ice water for the guys. She brought the ice water. Then I got a call last year, first time in a while. They says, would you like to go to Korea?
I said yeah I would but I says I’m a little short on cash right now. She said no, no, this is for nothing. I said sure, I’d love to. She said you know anybody else? Oh I know some people. Oh I’ll get back to you. Somebody followed me up from Philadelphia I think they were–they were some– associated with the Eden, St. Eden Church, they says you got 10 tickets. Get 10 people.
I couldn’t get 10 people.
G: Nobody had passports.
G: I had three guys and myself so four for sure went over. I always carry a passport. And it was better than the first time that I went.
I: In what sense?
G: Its–they took us to the rest–it was like a banquet every day! Different restaurants. This and that, you know, different foods. And you got a place that–they don’t always–they take you to the same places all the time.
You know, but this was all over. We had a ball, we went here we went there it was–it was very enjoyable. And the people, they were lovely. They had the girls that were maybe your age here as the I guess called chaperones or–
G: And they had some older people and they took us around. They took care of us very nicely. I really enjoyed it. I–when we left, they gave us a big bag. All gifts. When I got home, my wife said where did you buy all that stuff?
I said I didn’t buy that, they gave it to me. It was very nice stuff like–it was–I’m going to go back again. [laughing]
G: You know, I’m waiting for a free trip again.
I: So, what did you see the difference between
I: When you serving–
G: When I left Seoul, Seoul was more or less flat, except for the Blue House. And when I back in 2-0–2003, and I looked at these apartment houses 63 stories high
and then the underground garages all the cars and everything and I’m saying to myself, the North Koreans, If they’re very close to the 38thparallel or DMZ, they could fire their Howitzers blow these houses up, you know. I says you know, but I think eh–it seems very odd to be a–to be–there’s no peace treaty. And they build all these things so close.
G: If anything every starts again, its–its really going to destroy everything and there’s a lot of people going to get killed, I know that. And I have a feeling that they–they’ll within the next couple years there’s going to be a problem. That’s my feeling. Because I can see the way they act and they’re always trying to show off their military and everything else, you know what I mean?
I: You mean from North Korea?
G: Yeah because to me, the people are starving, but you look at their army how their dressed. They’re full of vigor and all and the people on the farms are starving.
you know what I mean? Look the difference between North and South. You see yourself two lights, North Korea and South Korea is all lit up. About two, three years ago, the Korean Navy came in to New York and I got invited to go on their ship. And it was so–a–a pleasure. It made me feel so proud because as we were approaching the ship,
they had the canopy and the sailors were lined up and then they had the guy that pipes, you know–
G: That you see in the movies. He piped us aboard and everybody saluted us and the Admiral was waiting at the gang plank. He saluted me and he shook my hand. And he gave me a [gadette], which would be my escort, me and my wife’s. And I had my own table and everything. Now, I found out why I really had my own table. Everybody had their own table.
Because your gift with your name on it was underneath that table. And he gave me a picture it was about this size and it’s a mirrored frame with North and South Korea with the lights, and it’s signed by the Admiral. That’s the only thing my wife lets me hang on the wall.
I: So, did you feel rewarded or you feel–
G: I–I thought that was–that was great, you know what I mean. The entertainment and everything else and–. It’s just the thought of
how they treated us on that, you know. That’s why like I say, the Koreans will never forget us. I’ve been to France, they treated me like dirt. That’s–you know what I mean. I’ve been to Germany, I’ve been to Holland. I’ve been to–I’ve been to all–quite a few places in Europe. And the French, they’re the worst people. They hate us Americans, you know what I mean? And after that what–we saved them twice. Now you people, you’ll never forget us.
I: What do you want to pass on to the younger generation?
G: I try to tell–tell my children–I went with my grandson’s to look at the memorial. My wife took them to the museum. These two haven’t looked at the memorial. I have all my ribbons in the shadow box. Someone said have them thrown away when you die. I said oh no, you give them to the kids just to ge–I don’t know if the kids will want them you know. But I–I just went to see
tell my grandsons you know about what we went through and the pictures and–
I: Are they receptive?
G: Well, right now they’re–they’re in college. One is at Steven’s Tech in I guess its in Weehawken or Hoboken, ones in Hofstra in law school he’s got one more year to go. And the other guy is in a vocational school in Pennsylvania. I always mention, when I talk to the kids, your grandfather, your great grandfather, maybe your mother and father were there
at that particular time it depends on how old you are, you know what I mean. What they went through. And of course I show them pictures. I have a tape that I show them I got that from the KWVA.
I: Next year will be 60 years anniversary of Korean armistice.
I: so more than half century that Koreans were at–technically at war. Would you be willing to symbolically say that lets finish this and
replace with a peace treaty?
I: You don’t have any problem with that?
G: I don’t have a problem with that.
G: But I don’t trust them. [laughing]
I: So, yeah let’s set North Koreans aside, okay,
I: But from our side and–
G: I would they–they–they need it–look at its been 60 years.
G: It’s about time.
G: I mean when I used to do my ceremony, I used to mention that–that we are still at war with them.
This is only a cease fire.
G: And you know it–it is time. How long is this going to go on, you know what I mean?
I: Right. Right.
G: The American troops are still there. Let them come home.
G: Let you take the barbed wire fence down.
G: Get your families back together. You probably have family there you haven’t seen.
[End of Recorded Material]
George Bruzgis Working on a Tank in Korea
George Bruzgis is standing on a tank shirtless loading supplies/parts from a crane.
Prisoners of Reds
After being forced to remove their shoes, a captive audience including Korean "witnesses" in background, assembled to hear U.S. aggression denounced.
George Bruzgis with a KATUSA
George Bruzgis is pictured here with a KATUSA while sitting and standing on a machine.
George Bruzgis in Uniform with a Friend
George Bruzgis is pictured here in uniform with a friend.
George Bruzgis and Friends
George Bruzgis is pictured here with friends in front of a tank.
Soldiers with Mechanical Parts
Soldiers are pictured here standing next to mechanical parts while located in Korea.
George Bruzgis Standing with a Friend
George Bruzgis is pictured here with a friend in front of building that is supported by sandbags for protection.
George Bruzgis Posing with Protected Building
George Bruzgis is sitting down on the right with friends in front of a protected building that was reenforced with sandbags in Korea.
Soldiers and a Tank
Soldiers are pictured here surrounding a tank in Korea.
The Boys of Korea
George Bruzgis took a picture with fellow Korean War Veterans on Veterans Day 2004.
George Bruzgis's Close-up
George Bruzgis is pictured standing in front of a building protected by sandbags in Korea.
George Bruzgis: Up Close with his Tank
George Bruzgis is standing in front of a tank in Korea.
Faded Picture of Soldiers
This is a faded picture of two soldiers standing in front of a tank.
Soldiers and tank
This is a picture of soldiers wearing iconic ponchos behind a tank in Korea.
Soldiers Ready for Combat
This is a picture of soldiers in combat position while riding on a tank and traveling next to one while in Korea.
Bruzgis with friends
Bruzgis sitting down on right with friends in front of building.