Korean War Legacy Project

James Elmer Bishop


James Elmer Bishop began his military service at a young age by joining the United States Army National Guard when he was thirteen years old. His experience in the U.S. Army National Guard prepared him for his time in the U.S. Army. At the age of sixteen, he was drafted into the U.S. Army for missing three consecutive National Guard meetings. He expected his age would be discovered, but he was sent to basic training. During basic training, he was promoted to acting corporal because of his service in the National Guard. He experienced the integration of the military when training at Fort Bliss in Texas. Before departing for Korea, he believed that the war was not as bad as it was made out to be. He recalls this feeling changing quickly once he heard and saw the guns. He was wounded several times with the first injury being after shooting a Chinese soldier who stabbed him with a bayonet. He was injured again with shrapnel when he was ambushed on a patrol. He recalls being sent back to his unit as a replacement for himself since the U.S. Army was short on tank drivers. After the war he was able to use the GI Bill to buy a house. He expresses his pride in serving his country but hopes that others won’t have to go to war like he did.

Video Clips

Joining the United States Army National Guard

James Elmer Bishop discusses enlisting in the United States Army National Guard at the age of thirteen. He remembers driving a jeep and handling supplies, and how he was considered the Sergeant's favorite and would always go above and beyond what was asked of him. He shares that he missed three National Guard meetings and ended up being drafted at the age of sixteen. He describes waiting for them to call him out on his age, but they never did.

Tags: Civilians,Home front,Pride,Weapons

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Learning to Drive a Tank

James Elmer Bishop discusses being trained as a light truck driver and learning to drive a tank at Fort Bliss in Texas. He admits that driving a tank was difficult for him due to his height. He describes the process of starting a tank in second gear as the first gear was only meant for pulling things. He demonstrates how he would shift a M47 tank and explains how to speed shift a tank. He recalls being left out in the field and told to bring the tank back, forcing him to figure out how to drive it.

Tags: Basic training,Home front,Pride,Weapons

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First Time Under Fire

James Elmer Bishop discusses the first time he came under fire in Korea. He recalls a time when he was on guard duty, and he came face-to-face with a Chinese soldier. He describes shooting the Chinese soldier with a forty-five caliber sub-machine gun and being stabbed with a bayonet when the solider fell on him. He explains that he fought the Chinese solider for a while not knowing the soldier was already dead. He says while he can laugh about it now, at the time, he thought he was going to die.

Tags: Chinese,Fear,Front lines,Weapons

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Being Wounded and Helicopter Evacuation

James Elmer Bishop discusses being injured when a shell hit near him after an ambush. He recalls being thrown over nineteen feet into a river bed by the blast. After returning to camp, he recounts being told he was bleeding and realizing he had shrapnel in his leg. He shares that he realized how much he was bleeding when he removed his boot. He describes being flown on a helicopter to a hospital, losing consciousness, and coming to while lying on the stretcher attached to the side of the helicopter. He admits he passed out again from the loss of blood and woke up next in the hospital when they were pulling shrapnel from his leg.

Tags: Chinese,Fear,Front lines,Physical destruction,Weapons

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Transcribed Material]



Born 12 September 1932

Cleveland, Ohio

I:          Where were you born?
J:         I was born in Cleveland, Ohio.

I:          What year?

J:         Uh, in the year, uh, 1932.

I:          Nineteen thirty-two.  And your birthday is in September?

J:         Twelve September 1932



in the Depression.

I:          Right in the Depression baby.  In fact, Roosevelt hadn’t even been elected at that time.

J:         Right.

I:          Three years later, he would be elected.  And you lived in the Southeastern portion of the city. What did your father do for a living?
J:         My father was a gas station manager.

I:          Remember what station?

J:         Well, with the Standard Oil Company.  And he was a personal employee of John D. Rockefeller.



I:          Tell us about that?

J:         He was his mechanic at that time when he started Standard Oil.

I:          And he started Standard Oil.

J:         Yeah.  And uh,

I:          So, he was living a number of years then.

J:         Oh yeah.

I:          It was known as Esso then.

J:         Yeah.

I:          Instead of Exxon.

J:         They had a heck of a history.


[Take Care of Your Things] No Audio


We uh, everything we got,



to a point we got it.  It was told us and educated us to a point teaching us responsibilities like a pair of shoes, you took care of that pair of shoes.  You’d come home from school, you polished it up and put it under your bed.  When you got 12 kids, there’s a lot of shoes, clothes and stuff.

I:          And you were gonna pass them along, too.



J:         No passing along cause whatever individual used their clothes.  And uh, in a situation like uh you had person, [INAUDIBLE].  You cared for that.  And you personally protect it.  Was no passing along.

I:          I thought maybe the younger child got it then after you.

J:         No.  They

I:          You wore it out.



J:         We wore it out.  You don’t know what [inaudible] shows out when you get to the point where you have to put paper in the bottom of your shoes, where you had to flap, your soles would come loose and would be flapping.  That’s our education.  You figured out a way to keep it from flapping, and at a certain time, you’d know how to cut it off and not walk on that paper that you was putting in your shoes.



And uh, you’d learn real quick I had, I got to a point where you was the individual, you’d try to survive.

[First Job:  The Iceman, Age:  9]

I got my first job when I was nine years old.  I was the iceman.  Too many people don’t know about ice man.  Iceman is the guy that put



ice in your icebox.  And you had to keep your food cold before the refrigerator was invented.  So, at nine years old, I’d carry 25 lb., blocks of ice.  I had an ice tong that was swinging on my shoulder.  And you go down the street, and everybody had a card in their window turned a certain way for how much ice they wanted to buy.



Fifty or 100 lbs.  And whenever you see that card in the window, you get your wagon, get that block of ice.  You had an ice pick, and you had tongs. And you had a leather pad on your shoulder.  You’d swing it on your shoulder and go upstairs, and the ladies usually had, they had all the food out of the icebox.  And I had that icebox filled [INAUDIBLE]



Which never happened.  They always got you standing there with the ice on your shoulder while they’re cleaning out their icebox.  You put it in there and walk, she put paper down where the ice was dripping.  And you stood there and waited for her to clean it up which was like it was hours when you got ice on your shoulder.  And you put that ice in there, and they put the food back in around the ice.



They had top opening iceboxes, and they had front loading iceboxes.  It amazes me today to see these refrigerators because hey, they don’t know what’s going on.  Even our cooking stove where our food was cooked on a stove which was coal and wood burning.


It had eyes on the top.  It had like four eyes.  And you had to put paper in there, and then you put wood in there and you’d light it, and wood would start burning, and put the coal in there.  And uh, momma would come along and start cooking. That was interesting days then.

I:          Did you also heat your irons on the stove?
J:         Oh, definitely, yeah.  Those days were the good old days.



I remember those.  Getting up, everybody would be assigned a job.  And when you had the morning when you had to start the fire in the kitchen stove and start the fire in the dining room stove or go down and get coal out of the basement and bring it upstairs, those, it kept kids out of trouble.



[The Importance of Food]

[Signing Up for Draft Cards]

At eating time, I had the biggest dining room table you ever seen in your life, great big round table.  And when you’re sitting down 12 kids at a table, it’s crowded.  When dinnertime or breakfast time comes around, you’d better be fast getting to that table.



Cause if you are late, you have not had nothing to eat.  You’ll have leftovers.  And there’s hardly ever leftovers.  That was really [INAUDIBLE] back in those days.

I:          Among the 12 children, were you the oldest, youngest?
J:         No, I was the fourth.

I:          Fourth one.

J:         Yeah.

I:          Were you the first, uh, first of your brothers and sisters to go into the military?
J:         No, I was the second.



I:          Who went before you?
J:         My older brother.

I:          And what did

J:         He went in Special Service.  He played the trombone in the band.

I:          Was he in World War II?

J:         Well, between World War II.

I:          Between.

J:         Between that ’46 and ’44.  That’s when he went.  And I went, actually I,



due to the fact that there were 12 kids, mealtime got to be a thing where food was valuable and rare.  You couldn’t just sit there and say give me some more. You had to eat what you had and get on.  And what made me go in that military is uh, I wanted to eat regular.



I:          Your brother told you he was eating regular?

J:         Hey.  They called and they used to say three hots and a cot.


[Enlisting:  National Guard – Age 13]

And I, actually I was 13 years old.  And a bunch of guys and me, we went down and see if you could get draft cards.


We went down there and got draft cards.  I was the littlest one.  But all the guys are bigger than me.  I was the littlest one, 13 years old.  And then we joined the National Guard, five of us.

I:          How old were you when you joined the National Guard?
J:         Thirteen.

I:          Thirteen.

J:         All five of us joined.  And they threw all of the guys out except me.



I never did understand that.  They kept me cause I got a job in the Supply Room.  I handled supplies.  And I also was taught how to drive a Jeep.  So, there I was, 13, 14 years old driving a Jeep.

I:          Where was

J:         I used to drive that thing to school.

I:          In Cleveland?

J:         Yeah.  I could wear my uniform.



I was showing all the girls things cause I had a uniform and wear the fatigues.  I’d wear them to school.  I was dressed to a t.  And we’d go to school.  I went, when I went, by the time I got to high school, I was really in there. I stayed in there for about three years.  And uh, I got to be the Sergeant’s pet



Because I could do so much.  I always tried to do more than they asked me to do.  That made everybody like me.  And I was able to do different things.  And it was a real different experience. Then I found out hey, if you, there’s three meetings, if you miss three meetings, you were volunteered for the draft.



And uh, well I did miss three meetings.  They sent my name into the Draft Board.  And uh, next thing I know, I got a greeting.

I:          From Mr. Truman.

J:         Greetings.  Your friends and neighbors, a board consisting of your friends and neighbors have selected you



For the military service.  And uh, I really didn’t think they were gonna take me.  But they took me.  Went down to the Draft Board, had my physical and everything, and I was continuously waiting for them to catch me.  I’m about 16 years old then.  I was continuously waiting for them to call me out and call me on this 13-year-old



and 16-year-old thing.  But they didn’t uh, until uh, finally when I went down there and got my physical, [INAUDIBLE] physical, I took the oath, ended up going to Fort Knox, Kentucky.


[Drafted:  Regular Army – Fort Knox, Kentucky]



There I was, 16 years old and going to Fort Knox, Kentucky and had previous service. And by me having previous service, I got to wear Acting Corporal stripes.  Had some PFC stripes at the time.  And I was promoted to Acting Corporal.  And instead of everybody else was walking up and down the hills marching,



I got a job driving a truck and a Jeep.  They had two hills at Fort Knox.  One was called Agony Hill, and the other one was called Misery Hill.  And those guys marching, and I was, I had the job of taking their food up there to them and stuff like that and doing all odd jobs.  Well, I got out a whole lot of things.



That they were going through.

I:          Was the Army integrated at that time, James?

J:         No, it was all black then.  There was black outfits.  And there were white outfits.  I didn’t even, the only white we had in our outfits were officers.


[The Army Integrates – Ft. Bliss, Texas]

What taught me, I never had to distinguish



black and white because all my friends were black and white, Jewish and German.  And uh, I didn’t experience any of that thing until I got to Fort Knox, Kentucky.  I got off the train and saw a sign saying white only, black only.  And uh, that’s when I started to experience it.  Now, that scared me.  I went to Fort Knox.


I didn’t come off that base.  I didn’t come off that base until I got my shipping orders.  And that was a new experience for me. We got on a plane on our way to Fort Bliss, Texas.  And this train segregated us.  And when we stopped at certain places and everybody went to eat,



They didn’t, they segregated us and made us eat in the office or in another separate room for the rest.  It still was integrated.  And I went to Fort Bliss, Texas.  Suddenly the integration came.  And uh, they did, some outfits, they dissolved period.  They deactivated, and some outfits, they just integrated.



And so that was a new experience, too.  There was a lot of animosity developing because

I:          [INAUDIBLE]

J:         Oh yeah because certain people, they lived a certain way, and this is a new way for them.  And certain people can’t adjust.  Meanwhile, for some reason, I adjusted easy.



And I got respect for some reason because I didn’t go with any man unless he had had a soul.  I had not, see, I was, my grandfather, both my grandfathers were preachers.  And I was raised with a certain moral.  And this is that.  They teach you treat other people



like you want to be treated.  And it’s easier to make friends than it is to make enemies.  And good, I found that to be a good way to go because if I can’t, like they teach you little things like if you can’t say nothing good to a person, don’t say nothing at all.  Little things help you if you take them to heart.



So uh, that way I adjusted to the military, and I earned respect.  They had uh, white uh, people, in charge in the military.  They even had classes.  They’d call it class. I called it brainwashing.  They tried to teach us



how to get along with each other.  But they had the wrong idea.  They said the way they wanted you to belittle yourself instead of being arrogant or outstanding, you’re to stand back.  But it didn’t work for me.  One day a Lieutenant told me that I’m from a certain environment, and that’s the way I’m gonna be.



And I questioned that. I said an individual could be what he wants to be.  He got mad at me, very upset.  And uh, I found out that some people feel certain ways.  I learned to deal with that, just stay away from these kinds of people.  And I’ve had guns pulled on me.



Believe me, that was very, that was experience I never thought I’d have.  But I learned to survive just day by day doing the best with every day you get and get along with everybody you can.  Finding by friendly, people grow together.  Being unfriendly, people grow apart.  And I said something to you.



I don’t look at your skin.  I look at your character, you know what I mean?  I don’t want negative people around me.  If I meet negative people, I’m gonna try to get to them and make them have a positive attitude.  If I can’t I guess, I don’t deal with them.  So uh, that was another experience.



Now being young, I tell you something.  You don’t develop your mind.  Your mind really don’t develop.  All that time I heard about the Korean War.  They were fighting and stuff, I was naïve.  I didn’t believe it was really happening.  I didn’t believe there really was no war, people shooting and cutting each other.  I didn’t know there was really a war until I got, went on a troop ship



with thousands of men going to Korea.  And got to Korea, I didn’t believe there was fighting until I saw fire in the air and heard these guns.  That’s when I realized hey, they’re really fighting over here.

[The Korean Conflict – Training and Shipping Out]

I:          Now, when was that?
J:         That was in uh,



1951, around June.

I:          Do you remember the day that your unit got orders to move?  Do you remember what it was like the day that you got orders?

J:         Immigrating or what?
I:          No, to move to Korea.

J:         Oh.  They had individuals.  They called names up.  They called names off a roster.  Some were going to



uh, Europe.  Some people were going at Japan.  Some people were going to the Far East Command which was Korea.  Uh, we kind of raised a little heck because when I got in the line, I looked over there, it was all white.  And I looked at my line.  It was all black.  I said wait a minute.



I talked it over with a couple of guys, said man, they sending all white guys to Europe.  And uh, we questioned that.  First, they told us, they said well, they’re sending the blacks to Korea, not sending no more to Europe because uh, they’re leaving too many black babies over there.  We questioned that.

I:          The officer said that to you?
J:         Yeah.



And uh, I never thought no more about it.  But uh, from then on, it was a plain old integrated Army.  You did what you did.

I:          By that time, you were no longer a clerk.  You were, you had changed your jobs.

J:         I was never a clerk.

I:          Well, in the National Guard you were.

J:         Uh huh.
I:          When you got into the Army, what was your job?



J:         I was a military truck driver, 1345 was my MOS, a light truck driver.  That’s what my MOS was.  They changed me from Fort Bliss, Texas.

I:          Um hm.

J:         My MOS as a tank driver which was a heavy vehicle operator, the MOS.



I:          You were doing your basic training at Fort Bliss then?

J:         Advanced training.

I:          Advanced training.  That was in the tank?

J:         Yeah, that was in the tank.

I:          Which tank was it?

J:         Uh, at Fort Bliss, the M47.

I:          And what tank did you, and what tank in Korea?

J:         M48.  It was an old tank with Ford



engines in it.  It had a lateral like this and great big old wood pedals.  I never will forget that big iron monster, coldest vehicle in the Army.  Had two Ford engines.  It was a nice tank.  You could speed, learn how to speed.  I was short, and I could not reach the clutch pedal and the gas pedal at the same time.



The seat was on the springs.  When I raised up, the seat would raise up.  Anyhow, the gear [INAUDIBLE] were way over here. And uh, you know, third gear.  You always usually start off in second gear.  First gear was for load, pulling something heavy, trying to pull it in.  The second gear, you pull us.



Third gear, fourth gear, fifth gear, over here, sixth gear over here.  That was a job.  The way they taught me how to drive, they took me out with an M4, the M4 tank had first gear, second gear, third gear, fourth gear, fifth.  That’s the clutch, that’s your gas.  Here’s this switch.  And they left me out there.



He said you drive it back.  You drive it back to camp.  And I had to learn how, stay out there and learn.  I’ll tell you, when I first got this thing into second gear and went to get up on the clutch, they pushed me up on the clutch cause that tank raised up.  It was a job.  But uh, I finally learned how to speed shift.



You get the gear a certain way and you can shift it.  And now speed shifting was the only way you could do that tank.  And uh, I got pretty good at it.

I:          Which camp were you at?
J:         Camp, Fort Bliss, Texas.

I:          No no, when you were in Korea.

J:         Oh, Camp.  Oh goodness.  I started out at Pusan.

I:          Did you get there when they were in the Pusan Perimeter?



J:         Yeah.

I:          So, that was in ’50 that you got there.

J:         Yeah.  It was Pusan.  This was when they tried to push back.

I:          Right.

J:         We started at Pusan.  I went to Taegu, Tajon, all the way to Kyungson, Suwon, Seoul, Yeongdeungpo.  That’s the way we was going, all the way up.

I:          Did you get as far as the Reservoir?  Or didn’t you go that far?



J:         When I went to the 38th Parallel.

I:          Okay.

[Kill or Be Killed]

I was so scared.  I told those guys that I ain’t fighting nobody.  They said yeah.  Well, you got, you’re here and you got to kill or be killed.  No, I ain’t, I said.  I said they can put me in jail.  I said I’d rather be alive than be dead out here.



So, they oh, they laughed at me.  And I laid in my bunk one night, and three of them came in, and two of them sat on me.  And they had a fifth of Old Crow, I mean Old [INAUDIBLE] and started pouring it on me.  And I wasn’t eating that.


I wasn’t drinking that.  I wouldn’t open my mouth.  They put it all over me.  But I got enough in me where it got me woozy.  They did that for four days to make me drink liquor.  I had never drank no liquor before in my life.  But I got to a point where my defense was I’ll drink some liquor.



But I gotta take it with Coke.  They gave me some Coke in there, and I drank it.  But I put enough Coke in there, and I got pretty well looped.  First time they got me drunk.  After then, I kind of done away with the ignorance or what they call it.  I didn’t really realize why I was so scared.  And uh,



I was pretty well able to handle it.  I used to live in a drunk world as you would say.  Staying over there, I was high most of the time I was there.  I used to lay on the ground and look at the sky.  And I imagined that when I look back, I’m gonna see neon signs,



stop lights and red lights and blue lights and like, you know what I mean, like in the city.  I was up on top of a mountain looking up in the sky.  And that was a nice time cause you go into a imaginary world.  And that’s the way I got on with it.

I:          Do you remember the first time you realized somebody was shooting at you?

J:         Oh, we’d had attacks, you know, guerillas.



Attack our company area.  And I used to lay back in my bunker.  And I would have a square of the sky up there.  And I had a 45-caliber sub-machine gun.  And anything came within that square light, I’d shoot it.  I was laying there in the hole one night,



and something came in front of my hole.  I saw a shadow, I fired at it.  And this Chinese fell in there on top of me.  And when he fell on top of me, he had his weapon with a Chinese bayonet on it.  It stuck me in the side.  And when he was on top of me,



I thought he was alive.  And me and him wrestled.  We were rattling in that hole.  And I said, well, he’s winning.  The man was dead.  I fought with a dead man for about an hour.  I thought he was winning.

I:          You thought he was winning.

J:         I can laugh now but never hey, I did it in my pants.



I did everything.  I’m telling you.  I thought I was in the last moments of my life when that happened.  And that’s probably why I can laugh now.  But it wasn’t so funny then.

[Wounds, Medals, Promotions Without Any Ceremonies]

I always got hurt out of the tank, not in the tank.  I was always got hurt doing something



I ain’t got no business doing, you understand?

I:          Yes.

J:         Going out there, going across the MLR, going to visit the girls.  Stuff like that.  And uh, I, I and five more guys out, we went across the MLR.  On our way back, we were ambushed.  And uh,



you’re taught that when you’re, when a flare goes up, if you freeze, you won’t be seen.  And I hollered freeze when I heard a flare go up, and they’d light up the whole area.  The guys took off running.  I took off running.  And I heard this shell when it hit.  We heard it, thump, the ring.  I know where I was running,



but I took off fast.  And I had a concussion from that shell.  It picked me up and threw me about 19’.  I ended up on a riverbed and oh, the cold water didn’t mean nothing.  I some kind of way, I never did see the other guys.  But I made it back to camp.  And uh,



I was sitting there by the fire trying to dry off.  Somebody said Bishop, what’s wrong with your leg?  I said there’s nothing wrong with my leg.  And I looked there and said oh my goodness.  It’s blood.  I found shrapnel, a piece of shrapnel this big had went through my boot.  Got me in the back of the leg.  And uh,



it was sticking out of the boot really.  That was kind of why I was trying to pull it out and didn’t.  Took, we took a knife and cut the strings on the combat boot.  The combat boot was full of blood.  And uh, they called a helicopter.  Helicopter put me on the stretcher.  I was getting dizzy, you know.  Had lost a lot of blood.  Put me in the helicopter.



I remember being on the helicopter.  I went to sleep and woke up, and they had covered me with this shell thing, plastic.  And I was on the wing, out on the, not on the wing but on the landing gear of the helicopter, yeah.

I:          And then the little stretcher on the side.

J:         Yeah.  And uh, and I woke up.  I went to sleep again and woke up, and I was at the hospital.



I was laying on my stomach, and this guy was, the first thing I heard was something ringing.  And that was a piece of, pulling a piece of metal out of my foot.  I had 19 pieces of metal.  I didn’t even feel it except when he was pulling it out.  And that was my first experience with getting wounded.  And uh, I stayed up in there.



Now you know something weird.  It wasn’t reported on my medical records.  I can show you scars.  But they didn’t bother to report it.  And uh, that’s why I’m going home, cause everybody was going home after they get hurt.  I was



what they call, they told me that I was replacing myself.  I’m a replacement for my own self.  They explained to me that they was short of tank drivers.  I ended up going back to Korea, back to the same outfit.  And uh, it went on like that.

I:          You said, you said that was the first time you were injured.  There were other times?



J:         Oh.  I had four times altogether.  But uh, I said they were all minor.  In other words, it wasn’t nothing to handicap me or anything like that.  Most of them, I healed myself.

I:          Really?

J:         Yeah.

I:          Could you tell me about that, the other times?
J:         The other times, I heal, I heal good.  All I’d do is kept a band-aid and clean.



And it healed itself up in about three weeks, something like that.  And uh, it wasn’t nothing that stopped me from walking or stopped me from moving around.  And uh, I tell you, I was pretty lucky.  At that time, being that young, that was trivial to me.

I:          What about the DSM?  For what, did you get that?



J:         The Distinguished Service Medal?  Uh, the Distinguished Service Medal, we got it, it wasn’t formally, it wasn’t done formal or anything like that.  It just appeared on my records.  And uh, never thought [INAUDIBLE] I’d gotten too busy to ask them what service medal’s you got.  That’s when I found out I had medals.  I didn’t know I had them.



So uh, I had a couple officers that liked me pretty good.  And I got promoted with no ceremony.  I went over there a Corporal, Acting Corporal.  I came back SFC, Sergeant First Class, E6.  At that time, it was an E6.  But uh, I came back.  Well, they did heal.  And uh,



let’s see when I got hurt last time.  I think I was writing a letter on the outside of the tank.  I was leaning against the tank, tank treads.  And I was writing a letter.  And a guy jumped me.  He come from nowhere.  He jumped on me.



And me and him had it.  I had a 45-caliber pistol.  In the tank, we had a shoulder holster.  We had 45-caliber submachine gun.  Some kind of way, I wrestled this guy, and I got the pistol, and I shot him.  And uh, that was the last time.  Got some scratches on them.

I:          Did you ever drive your tank on an attack?



J:         Oh, when we were going through, our outfit, going through the, what they called the Punch Bowl in Korea.  And uh, they attacked the convoy.  It just happened I was on the first tank, they let me through.  They attacked the rest of them.  That’s about the best firefight that I saw.  We lost about eight tanks in that.



When I got through the [INAUDIBLE]

[An Atomic Bomb Explosion – Testimony of a Close Witness]

I:          You told us about something that happened to you and your unit, uh, when you were moved out from uh, from Fort [INAUDIBLE] to the Mojave.  Do you remember that?

J:         Oh that.  You’re talking about the atomic bomb explosion.  That was at Fort [INAUDIBLE] between that uh,



[INAUDIBLE] experience and the [INAUDIBLE] station.  That was the day they come in one morning.  Orders came to, for us to, I forget what they called it, load up anyhow, ready to move out.  And uh, they had made arrangements.  They had a train waiting to take the tanks.  And uh,



We went to uh, outside, [INAUDIBLE] do you know Barstow?

I:          Yeah.
J:         And uh, we went over there.  And then we got our tanks back, and we cleaned up our tanks and everything and went up to uh, what you called, some kind of point.  And uh, we were told to park the tank facing this way.



And they came through, and they passed out dark glasses and some yellow badges and uh, I know some, they wasn’t telling us.  That, that disturbed me.  They wouldn’t directly tell us what they’re gonna do.  And we were told put our glasses on.  They had that explosion.



I can tell you how the sky lit up and everything.  Then they were told, sitting there waiting and waiting.  They told us take our tanks and move them to this uh, other line.  We moved up to about two or three miles up to this line.  And they told us to sit there



till we were told to move again.  Then uh, we drove back to that point that we were in at.  They collected the badges.  That’s when I found the badge was yellow, gave it to me, wasn’t black now.

I:          What did everybody do when the explosion went?  Was it a surprise?



J:         Yeah.  Word started getting around it was an atomic bomb explosion.  The ground shook and everything.  I mean, it was [roar]

I:          Was there a big blast?
J:         It had like a large earthquake.  I never did see a big cloud.



I:          Did you feel any concussion from it at all?

J:         Uh,

I:          The blast itself.

J:         Big wind.

I:          Wind, yeah.

J:         And it had a big wind.

I:          Was it at night or during the daytime?

J:         At night.

I:          At night.  Did they ever explain to you what they were doing?

J:         They just told us later.  They took all day.  They had set off atomic bomb explosion.  And they wanted to see how soon



they could move troops in after the explosion.  And what amount of radiation we could, we did.

I:          Did they do any follow-up to find out radiation effects with you?
J:         My, I just had, I just happened to uh, rotate atomic benefits.  And they could have gave me a physical.



And uh, I started naming off things I did.  Well, five years after that, I said I lost my teeth, all my teeth.  I said I got Asthma.  Nobody in my family has asthma.  I said I don’t have any kids.  And my family, a large family.


All of them have large, I don’t have one.

I:          Right after the experiment, there wasn’t any follow-up with

J:         No, no, no.  At that time, I’ll tell you.  The Army, they was kind of haphazard keeping records so on and so forth, tests.  There was a lot of weird things going on at that time.


There was a lot of things going on that I questioned.  I questioned myself.  And I questioned my activities alone.  I said now, ordinarily in my mind said now. I would have never done the things that I did.  It’s all extraordinary for me, maybe because of the liquor and stuff I was drinking.  But I’ll tell you what.  I uh,



we smoked marijuana and everything.  But uh, I had a habit of smoking something every day.  But the minute I got back to the United States, I didn’t have no more smoking this dope or getting, well, I did do a lot of the alcohol drinking until a night in September 1955.  And uh,



I went on a three-day drunk.  And I said Lord, if you let me get over this, I’ll never do it again.  And today is 2003?

I:          Yes.

J:         And I had no alcohol.  But before, I had to have a taste of whiskey in my mouth



all the time.   It was like chewing gum.  When the sweetness went out of the gum, you’d get another one.  That’s the way I was.

[1955:  Honorably Discharged for the Convenience of the Government]

I re-enlisted for six more years with the stipulation I’d go to Europe.  And uh, I, they gave me a $3,600 re-enlistment bonus.



So, I got a 30-day leave.  And I went home and had a wonderful time.  And uh, my next orders were to go to Fort Dix, Kentucky, I mean, Fort Dix, New Jersey and to go to Europe.  And I went there and processed and everything.  And uh, suddenly, people don’t understand see.  After the Korean War,



they had a, what’d you call them, an abundance of uh, soldiers.  So, they were releasing them for no reason whatsoever.  They came and told me that uh, I didn’t meet a certain category.  They were, they had uh,



also, they had let me re-enlist without waiver and disability.  They told me, well I had a option of staying in the Army, taking immediate discharge or stay in the Army till April 23 and go before a board. And uh I said well, I don’t know.  Do I have to



pay back the re-enlistment bonus?  They said no, you got that.  I said well, I’ll go home.

I:          Tom, you have 14 minutes left on the tape.  This was in March of ’55.

J:         Yeah, March of 1955.

I:          So, you got out during the discharge for the convenience of the government.

J:         That’s right.  That’s exactly what it was.

I:          Right.

J:         Convenience of the government.  Got an Honorable Discharge, though.

I:          Were you able to use any of the GI Bill rights at that time?



J:         Yeah.  I bought a house in California.  It came in mighty handy.  No problem there.

[Last Words, What Was it All About?]

To me, it was survival.  And uh, when you really get down to it, you think of your life, the people back home and the way you were raised and the opportunity you had back home.



And everything that the average soldier fights for, it’s for the freedom to be what he was back home.  And uh, the freedom to say things and do things.  And uh, the military experience to me is the greatest experience I ever had.  I don’t think I would have ever had it.  Now thank God I was able to have it.



I hope to never have to get to a point where everybody has to go to war.  But I’m definitely, just fight for what you believe in.  Fight for what you have.  And uh, look out for your fellow man.

I:          Jim, thank you so much for giving us this interview.  And thank you so much for your service.

J:         Thank you.



I:          Very good.

J:         Thank you.

[Sergeant First Class – E6 – US Army]

[Born 12 September 1932 – Cleveland, Ohio]

[Died 12 July 2003 – Phoenix, Arizona]


Interviewed by Thomas Barratt, PhD

Sound Technician:  Joshua Alonso

Coordinator:  Diane M. McGuire, CTRS

Camera and Post-Production – Doug Pratt

A Vido Production

Copyright 2004