Korean War Legacy Project

Harold Barber


Harold Barber was born in Lexington, Kentucky on December 5th, 1929. He explains how he and his friend enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1948 and he stayed in the service for 23 years. He remembers serving in Korea and describes a particular Thanksgiving Day meal that they had. He recalls the time he was shot in the leg and had to be transported to the hospital, a long and dangerous journey. He then returned back to service after his injury. He is very proud of his many years of service.

Video Clips

Thanksgiving Day at War

Harold Barber describes a Thanksgiving Day that he spent during the Korean War. The soldiers were given a bowl of soup to eat, but they had to leave and return to patrolling their area and became completed surrounded by the enemy. Those who did return after the ambush, only returned to soup that was frozen solid.

Tags: Hagalwoori,Incheon,Wonsan,Cold winters,Depression,Fear,Food,Front lines,Living conditions

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Snowballs and Tootsie Rolls

Harold Barber is describing being shot in the leg and being transported to the hospital by a corpsman. The corpsman fed them snowballs and tootsie rolls as they journeyed sixteen miles. It took them eight days to traverse the dangerous terrain, but the injured soldiers ultimately reached the hospital.

Tags: Hagalwoori,Incheon,Depression,Fear,Food,Front lines

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Joining Together

Harold Barber explains why he decided to join the Marine Corps. Having lived in Lexington, Kentucky his whole life, he dropped out of high school his senior year to enlist in the military with his friend. While they enlisted together, they rarely saw each other.

Tags: Basic training

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Video Transcript


I: What’s your name?

H: Harold Barber.

I: Okay and well when were you born?

H: December the fifth 1929 in Lexington Kentucky.

I: And tell me a little bit about your family, your parents and your siblings.

H: My father was born in England in uh 1893.


H: 21 years old when he came to the United States in uh 1914 and then uh the first World War started he joined the army and he fought for the US army till the war was over and then he returned and  became an American citizen and went to work in 1922 at the University of Kentucky as a shepherd.


H: Taking care of the show flock there. And that’s the only job he ever had. And he died in 1960 of cancer. My mother was a housewife and a mother. Never worked outside of the house and I had two sisters. One 3 years older and one 3 years younger than I. And uh I lived in Lexington, Kentucky went to school,


H: grade school all the way to high school up until my, well through my junior year and between junior and senior year I dropped out and went into the Marine Corps stayed 23 years. Went in ‘48 and retired ‘71.

I: Wow. What made you enlist in the Marine Corps?

H: Well my buddy was going to be drafted and he did not want to go into the Army.


H: And he wanted someone to go with him and I told him he’s going to the Marines. I would you know go. He went and stayed for four years and I stayed 23.

I: Wow. Did your friend go to Korea with you?

H: He was in Korea. He was in 1-5 1stbattalion 5thMarines, I ended up in 3rdbattalion 5th.Never saw each other in Korea. We were together for about four months.


H: Uh, in Portsmouth Virginia, close to it. Well it was in the Norfolk area. We were stationed at Marine barracks there. I was on security guard duty and uh he worked for the headquarters and uh I was there only four months because I’d been at Camp Lejeune and the 8thMarines for two and a half years almost.

I: I see. Is he here by chance?

H: He is here yes.

I: Really?


I: Did you remember – did you know about Korea when you were told about the Korean War?

H: I had no idea where it was. I was on duty the day the war started, and uh they closed the base down. Nobody could leave and I was on duty and Charlie got name drawn to leave that day, for replacements for the Corp.


H: And I tried to volunteer and go with him and I couldn’t because I had a top-secret clearance and they needed people with the clearance to man tube cific posts and they already had a couple of guys that were leaving so they were short- handed for that two posts and the next day well Charlie left on a train, troop train that night heading to Camp Pendleton.


H: The next morning, they came out and said they needed 100 more men out of the barracks so they were stripping it to the bones and I said,” I want to go” and they said “Ok so we don’t know what we are going to do but you can go”, and I left that day on a troop train to Camp Pendelton and we never saw each other again until 10 years.


H: Well, I had had 10 years in the Marine Corps and I got transferred on recruiting duty to my hometown meanwhile Charlie got out and got married and had some children and lived in Lexington. He had come back home.

I: August 19th, where did you arrive to?

H: Pusan, that’s when they had pushed to UN forces at the time down within a 16-mile radius.


H: Was all they had left of South Korea. The North Koreans had taken everything except that, so the army was doing the best they could, and the South Korean forces were. They just were not ready for such a powerful group of people to communist North Koreans backed by Russia


H: wanted to take over the whole land and they almost did. And we got there and started an offense and General MacArthur after we got that going, he pulled the Marines out and put us aboard a ship and we went South and around the Southern end of Korea up on the West side to Incheon.


H:  And uh the 3rdbattalion 5thwas selected to make the landing their and our company and soon I was in like I’d say George Company 35 and attached to 3rdbattalion with the machine gun section there and we were in what they called Mole Team 17 which was the first wave to hit


H: the beach on Wolmido, Island the morning before the Incheon landing.

I: I see in the morning in the morning before so, I know Incheon was September 15?

H: Yeah.

I: He hit us that morning and the Incheon was landed later that afternoon and early evening dead weight till the tide went in and out, so they had hidden Incheon itself during the high tide


H: because they had to climb out of their boats and go up out over the walls and ladders where we just hit the beach and went in Security Island and again one of our, the right guide for our platoon, World War 2 man, he pulled a flag out of his jacket he had in there and climbed a tree and had a stick with him or a branch.


H: Tied the flag to it and put it up the tree as its ours now. This island is ours, we have it secured and later reading books and so forth I understand that MacArthur out at sea was told or he could see through binoculars that he saw the flag on Wolmido and he said,” It’s ours. I’m going ashore.”


H: And later in the afternoon uh, we were alerted that General MacArthur was coming ashore and I guess maybe an hour later somebody kicked me on the back of my foot because I was observing an area in Incheon that we were supposed to be shooting at anything that had come over there. So I was looking that way, but they kicked me in the back of the foot as an it’s to be on alert.


H: MacArthur’s on his way. He’s already here and I turned around and he was standing with about 15 feet behind us and he had a man take our flag down and he put one up and there our right guy took our flag back and I don’t know where he put it before, but he put it back under his jacket and then we spent the night on the island.



H: The next morning, we took off with the rest of the company in a battalion across the causeway with the regiment to I think it was Kimpo Air Field with our next mission and then we crossed the Han River. I believe it was and then into Seoul.


H:  And uh the night, the morning we went into Seoul where our mission was to take the University and when we got there it was the city was in shambles. I don’t know why anybody wanted because the North Koreans had went in they tore it apart and when we went in firing guns and bombs to get them out.


H: We tour it up worse I’m sure. But, I had a field of fire setting it to main gate of the University of Seoul setting out into town and uh we sent there overnight and the next morning we started our sweep through the rest of the city and they pulled us back and put us in reserve and then from there we went up to


H: 38thparallel and I remember there was a road coming out of South Korea and it got up I’m assuming where the 38thwas and wide off, one going to the east and west side.  And again they put our machine gun at that intersection, that was our field of fire and we set there uh maybe four, five, six days I really don’t know.


H: As a PFC you just do what you are told, and our section leader and platoon sergeant told us to keep digging in, make those fox holes bigger, make them in case you get mortars, so you can stay in there and shrapnel won’t get you. And so that’s what we did day after day until we left there, preparing the holes. Then they pulled us out because MacArthur planned a landing in North Korea.


H:  We went back to Incheon and that night we slept in a warehouse on the floor and they gave us some new guns or rebuilt machine guns and uh surveyed our equipment that was torn or damaged and we got replacements for men that had been wounded or killed and brought us back up to strength.


I: I see.

H: And then we went aboard a ship, went back around the southern tip of Korea of the East Coast and into Wonsan and made a landing there. And seemed like to me got on a train that was loaded with C-rations they were North somewhere but we had to be the guard for the train.




H: So, I know it was getting cool. It wasn’t snowing but it was getting cold and we rearranged the sea rations where we could get down inside and set our guns up where we can have fire from either side but yet, be blocked some by the wind and I think we were on a train maybe a day or day and a half, I’m really not sure.


H: And then we got off and started moving forward on foot again, and um going from one area to another. On Thanksgiving Day, the night before they told us I was up on a high hill and dug in the company was, but they pulled our platoon off,


H: And told us that we were going on patrol the following morning and they told us we were going up to the Yalu River to go on patrol to see where the electrical down was and I guess we had men to take pictures of the dam or the powerhouse center and so we kicked off early in the morning before daylight and they told us,


H: that battalion headquarters when we got back they would have Thanksgiving dinner for us and was ok you know, so we took off on foot marching and they backed us up with two tanks and, later in the afternoon well I’ll say the early afternoon, a spotter plane came over and dropped a note down to our platoon leader and they told us that


H: We were being surrounded so get the heck out of there so he gave word to the two tanks and they did a 180 degree turn and kicked into high gear and started hightailing it back and we were taking turns on each flank of the tanks and point guards and rear guards for ‘em so we were at


H:  Port arms carrying the guns and running with all of our might you know get out of there and we got back to our base camp.  It was after dark.  I have no idea what time it was and um everything was pitch black and, they someone told our platoon sergeant that the only thing they had was soup.


H:  And so he told everybody get their canteen cup out that we’d have some soup for Thanksgiving and we got our soup and started to eat it and they say forget the soup. Get back into your positions immediately, so we would go up a hill and get back into positions that we had prepared a couple days prior to that and sat there for a few hours I guess.


H: And then they said that things had quieted down.  We could go to 50% alert and we could eat our soup now. But by that time it was frozen solid. No eating it.  So the next morning I know I dumped it on the ground so they pulled us back up the hill and we started in another direction.


H: And I guess two three days after that we were at different locations. I remember we passed through the 7thMarine Regiment cause I ran into some of my old friends that I had been in the 8th and 6thMarines with and played ball with them and we passed by them said hello how are you doing that was about it but then we set up on another hill.


H: And the following morning we were supposed to take, off advance from there.  And we took off and we were receiving fire and delivering fire ourselves.  And I got up to move the gun and took about two steps and got hit in the leg and the other guy grabbed me and he pulled me back over the hill and next thing I knew they had me down


H: In battalion aid station or something patch my leg up and put me on a stretcher and I ended up in a tent and they just kept bringing people in after that and I stayed I think I stayed in that tent overnight and the next day they started loading us on a jeep. They put me on a jeep they had a canvas top no back and sides were


H: Flapping and I was on the top stretcher there was another man on the bottom stretcher and a little seat. It looked like it was big enough maybe for two people your size, set side by side, they were all wounded and facing the stretcher and then in pulling the trailer they had two stretchers on it and the corpsman was the driver.


H: And we started out of the trap and I understand it was 16 miles and it took us eight days to go the 16 miles because we would go maybe 100 yards or 100 feet and we would have another road block and the corpsman would stop the jeep never turned it off. He would just get out grab his hospital bag and his rifle


H: And take off with the Marines to help break up the road block, take care of any wounded there and then he would come back and check all of the six of us and give us a snowball to eat and that’s all we had for eight days, but I don’t know it if was 3 or 4 or 5 days. I, but he came back one time after a road block and then he


H: Had clear or helped clear and he gave us a tootsie roll, each of us. It seemed like it was about 6, 7 inches long about the diameter of a quarter and he says here that these were found in an army supply or something you know and I had no idea where they came from but they were frozen solid and you could probably stand them on cement and hit them with a sledge hammer.



H: They would probably crack the cement. That thing and because that’s all I had to eat for a total of 8 days and stay awake day and night. The corpsman, I remember would take his helmet out every now and then and I asked him because I was on the top stretcher and I could look over and see you know I would talk to him because I didn’t want him to go to sleep while he was driving and I don’t know how the man did it. I really don’t.


H: But I asked him I said what’s your name and he said just call me Doc Red. And I said where are you from and he said mid-west and that’s all I will know about him. I tried to find other people that may have known him. He saved my life and the life of the other men I’m assuming. You know, and I don’t even know who they were. But

I: He said to call himself Doc Red?


H: Doc.

I: Doc Red.

H: The navy corpsman we called them Doc or corpsman you know but he was my angel and that the Lord had sent to take care of us.

I: Yeah, sounds like it.

H: The man drove that Jeep and fought just like the Marines at each and every roadblock. It went for eight days, day and night. I mean he didn’t stop.


H: He didn’t sleep and I never saw him eat anything other than what he gave us the snowballs and on December the 5thwe reached Hagalwoori, the convoy did, at least my part of it that I was in and they stripped all the clothes off of us except our dog tags and then covered us with a blanket.


H: And loaded us on an Air Force hospital plane and off we went to Osaka, Japan and from there they took us to the hospital, the Army hospital. But I know when we circled the field I could look up from where I was laying on the stretcher and I could see lights and then I’m in heaven.


H: I never seen any lights since August until then you know warm in the aircraft nobody was shooting at me and we landed and they took us out and put us in an ambulance by the stretchers and then into the terminal and set all of the guys on the stretchers side by side in the terminal and there was ladies coming around with Red Cross Identification,



H: On them or a tag hanging down and they were taking information from your dog tags and as those that could answer questions, they would ask you a question and we ask what it was for and it was for identifying next of kin that you had landed safely in Osaka, Japan and your going to be in a hospital you’ll be okay and then they looked at my dog tag


H: And they said December 5ththis is your birthday and they said how old are you? and I remember when I got their I was 20 so I guess I’m 21. So they was all trying to raise me up to give me a birthday kiss and I was laying like the day I was born with nothing on you know and I tried to cover up but their must have been a half a dozen ladies trying to give me a kiss.

Both: [Laugh]


H: A birthday kiss and I remember they finally got us into the hospital there in Osaka cleaned us up examined us, gave us some food, and I went to sleep and I woke up two days later and I was in a room by myself with the nurse sitting in the corner with full garb on her face and her gloves and breathing


H: Mask and all and when I woke up I looked around.  I asked her I said, “Where am I or something like that”? and she said you are in quarantine and she said how do you feel? and I said I’m hungry and um she said really and I said yes. She called the doctor and he came in all dressed up and examined me and he


H: said, “He’s okay, he was just tired” and I found out that I had slept for two days. I had know idea how long I was sleep for but I know we were riding on the road for 8 days and they were fighting through the trap and then I stayed in Osaka for I think about a week and then they transferred me to Kobi another Army hospital.


H: And I was there for about a week or maybe 10 days and I got transferred to Yokosuka Naval Hospital and I was there about a month and then sent me someplace else to be evaluated to see if I could go back to Korea or had to be sent home and they told me I was classified as a B 120 plus and I asked the corpsman, I said what in the world was that.


H: And he said you are going stateside for 120 days rehabilitation or more and I said okay and then maybe a half hour later they asked all of us to come outside and I was on crutches, had no feeling in my left leg but I thought I could move around on crutches and they asked for 100 volunteers to




H: Go back to Yokosuka for a period of not more than 10 days. They said there was a troop ship on its way that had one hundred 17 year old Marines on it that could not go into combat and they needed men in Korea immediately and I said oh my buddies there, Charlie’s there and I said my friends that I was with in George Company that survived


H: And not knowing what was what so I said I’ll go, you know if I could be of any help on crutches, and he said yep you can go so they put us on a train that went South back to Yokosuka and we got there about 4 5 o’clock in the morning.  It was before daylight and they trucked us up to the Marine barracks and went in and I was sent up to the third floor.


H: And we went up there and they were waking guys up and they told them get up, make a field marching pack or field transport pack, grab your rifle, pack all of your other stuff and your seabag and tag it, leave your bed alone and fall in down on the grinder. You’ve got 30 minutes.



H: As Korean War Veterans and our chapter the chosen few in Michigan we had 20 something men on the road but we meet the third Saturday each month, but we’re down to 3 members.

I: 3?

H: That attend the meeting and I drive 78 miles up to where we meet and we meet in a restaurant in a little place in Rankin, Michigan.


H: And other guys come in from different places so but it’s about equal distance from and we’re getting old. Some of them they can’t get around well or their spouse so its limited to what they can do.  I’m fortunate enough that I can still drive and I’ve remarried and I ended up remarrying my first wife’s sister.


H: And Emma my wife now, her husband died in ’89 and my wife died in ’97. We remarried in ’05. Matter of fact I have an anniversary coming up next week.

I: Congratulations.

H: [Inaudible]


I: Is she here too?

H: Pardon?

I: Oh yes.

H: She has 3 daughters and a son and I had 3 sons and a daughter and all of our family know each other because I was their uncle from the time they were born and she was my kids aunt from the time they were born. My kids always call her Auntie Em.


I: Well I’m done with my questions is there anything to this video that you would like to add the would be younger generations watching this. What do you think we should always remember, learn from the war stories?

H: I’ve learned so much listening to people and like you said the doctor


H: that you spoke to, Dr. Lee made the presentation and I think it was Minneapolis he and his wife came from North Korea. She was one of the 14,000 refugees on 1 boat. He crossed the


H: 30thparallel on foot by escaping and he became a medical doctor, lives in Cincinnati now and listening to his story. I have gone to church in Michigan and there’s a group of Korean children that they came over to sing and perform and the pastor there


H: they said he’s equivalent to Billy Graham if you know who I am speaking of and he said that this pastor in Korea is their Billy Graham and I spoke to him and he gave me a watch in honor of me being in the Chosen and matter of fact I had a jacket


H: On with the chosen few on the back and one of the directors from the children happened to see it and he told them in Korean language you know and how they were so grateful. They all want to come up and touch you and hug you, you know. That’s the way they are. We go to memorial services around Michigan throughout the years and different things.


H: And Korean people are the most generous polite people I’ve ever seen there. I wish our kids could be half as good as they are and the older generation makes sure that the new generation knows exactly what’s going on and like the young man I told you Matt, he was raised in a Christian home his parents


H: His parents were both Americans. His father had been to Korea and fought in the war but his mother had never been there, but they adopted a Korean boy, a baby and then they adopted another one, a girl but they are just as its gotta be in the blood very grateful for whatever you give them.



H: I’m just thankful that I’ve had a chance to do what I could do the short time I was there. I was only there from August to December but I hope I made an impact on some of them. Help them now and like I say we go around to schools and explain to the people here what Korea was about and what they went through and what they are now.


H: And the Korean people over there I understand that when you go there that they can’t do enough for you in Seoul or any other place that you go.

End of transcription