James Jolly is originally from Illinois. He joined the Marines when he was 17 years old with his mother’s permission. He assisted in the early battles of the Korean War and is considered one of the “Chosen Few” due to surviving one of the bloodiest and most severe battles of the Korean War at the Chosin Reservoir. He recently began sharing his experiences during the Korean War, never doing so earlier because of his struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In this interview, he discusses his upbringing, basic training, Incheon Landing, the recapturing of Seoul, Chosin Reservoir, rescuing of refugees at Hamheung, PTSD, and the legacy of the Korean War.
The Incheon Landing
James Jolly describes his platoon's experience at the Incheon Landing on Blue Beach from Kobe, Japan. He explains that his platoon was the first to capture one of North Korea's T-34. He goes on to describe the lack of resistance from the North Koreans.
Pure Destruction: Seoul
James Jolly describes the recapturing of Seoul in 1950 and the destruction that was endured. He explains that the majority of the city's buildings were destroyed in order to get rid of the enemy who were inside of them. He goes on to describe his pride for the strength and will of the Korean people to rebuild.
Cold at Chosin
James Jolly describes the extreme cold temperatures his platoon endured while at the Chosin Reservoir. Temperatures were usually -20 degrees fahrenheit and sometimes as low as -40 degrees. He recalls many soldiers suffered from frostbite while some froze to death. He also elaborates on their Christmas miracle known as "the star of Kotari" which gave them the will to persevere.
James Jolly recalls that while at the Chosin Reservoir, his platoon survived on Tootsie Roll candy. He explains that their C-rations were frozen and the only way they could thaw them was by holding them against their bodies, which was very unpleasant. He goes on to explain how the delivery of this candy was originally a mistake; they had ordered mortar shells which happened to be the code name for Tootsie Rolls, thus tons and tons of candy was delivered from Japan.
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
J: My name is James Jolly. The last name is J O L L Y.
I: Jolly. And what is your birthday again?
J: It’s 4/22/31.
I: Where were you born?
J: In Southern Illinois.
I: Southern Illinois. And tell me about your family when you were growing up, your parents and your siblings.
J: I’d like to say something first. I have PTSD, and
talking about Korea is a bit uncomfortable for me. In fact, I’ve never talked about Korea until I came here and I met a young lady that worked here, WDVA employee, and her name is Amber Nikoli, and she was, through her efforts putting me on to work programs, it brought me to a point where I could
talk to somebody about the Korean War. Amber’s always been with me when I’d talk to anybody about the Korean War, and she would have been here today, but she’s on medical leave at the present time. So you’re going to be the first person I’ve ever talked to without her with me.
I: Wow. What’s her name again?
J: Amber Nikoli.
I: Nikoli. And she’s working here in this veteran’s home?
J: She worked her for WDVA. She’s on medical leave at the present time or
she’d be here with me.
I: So you had this PTSD, how long did you have it?
I: So you had that PTSD symptom right after you came back from Korea?
J: Not right after I came back. It hit me about in 1973, and I came here, and I met Amber, and she brought me out of it through her work programs that she put me on.
I: I have done a lot of interviews with Korean War veterans who had symptoms of PTSD. So I know what it is, but I never know because I didn’t have it myself. But I understand how hard it is for you to talk about this because you can fear again that it will reattack you, right?
J: No, I, I don’t have any fear about anything like that so.
I: Can you tell me about what is your symptom,
PTSD, and why do you think you have it?
J: I was at the Chosin Reservoir, and you know about that, and we’ll get to that when, during my story. But it’s just basically you keep dreaming about it all the time every night, and it just never goes away, and you put one battle in particular where I lost most of my platoon in one fight
I: So, that awakens you in the middle of the night, right?
J: Yes, it does.
I: Do you scream?
I: No, just waking up?
I: Do you sweat?
J: Not that I know of, no.
I: And then is hard to go back to sleep.
I: So what do you do after you’re awoken?
J: Just lay there and try to get back to sleep.
I: So what do you think about that PTSD? Do you ever complain
why do I have this and?
J: Well, back then, nobody knew what PTSD was, and, and even a lot of people still don’t.
I: They might have it, but they don’t identify as PTSD, right?
I: I am so sorry to hear about that, but you are strong enough to deal with it.
J: Well, that was what Amber did for me.
She gave me the
strength, through her work programs to deal with this.
I: Please tell her that I really appreciate what she is doing with other veterans on this symptom.
J: She’s helped several other veterans same as me.
J: She’s a very good woman.
I: So thank you for sharing that story with me up front in the beginning of this interview, and you told me that you were at the Chosin Few. You are the Chosin Few,
I: and I have done
lots of interviews of those veterans who were at the Ch’ongch’on Battle. In Korean, it’s Ch’ongch’on.
J: Right, right.
I: So, I’m so glad to meet you. It’s one of the most severe battles, the second largest casualties that have been produced among the battles during the Korean War, so I’m so glad to meet you, and thank you for your fight again. But let’s go back to our talk,
I: and tell me about your family background when you were growing up there.
J: Well, it’s just a
normal growing up, I guess, and I joined the Marine Corp. when I was 17.
I: How many siblings did you have?
J: I had six siblings.
I: Six? And are you the eldest?
J: Yes, I am.
I: You’re the eldest son. Wow. So tell me about growing up with six siblings.
J: Oh gosh.
I: It was kind of normal at the time, right?
J: Just normal kids, you know. We had
our times, good and bad, and it’s kind of difficult.
I: So tell me about the school you went through.
J: I went to Lepeer High School.
J: Lapeer, L A P E E R High School.
I: In Southern Illinois?
J: No, in Lapeer, Michigan.
I: Michigan. Peer Michigan?
I: Lapeer, Michigan
J: L A P E E R
I: L A P E E R, Michigan.
And when did you graduate that high school?
J: I didn’t. I joined the Marines when I was 17.
J: Yeah. When I was in the 10thgrade.
I: And, tell me about you learn anything on Korea in your school?
J: Never heard of it.
I: You never heard about it?
I: They didn’t teach about my great nation?
J: No they did not.
I: Anything you knew
J: Knew very little about it. First I learned was when I was in the Marines, and they come out and told us one day we’re heading for Korea.
I: And that’s it?
J: That was it.
I: So why did you decide to join the Marines at the age of 17? You should have parents’ approval to do that, right?
J: Right. I had to have my Mom’s approval.
I was under 18.
I: But why did you want to join the military and stop school?
J: Because I’d always liked the Marine Corp., and I’d made up my mind that when I was 17 I was going to join.
I: So where did you get basic military training?
J: Down in Paris Island, South Carolina.
I: Tell me about basic training. How was it? You’d been longing for
joining this Marine, and did you like it?
J: Yes, I did. It was right after the second world war, of course, and our drill instructors had just come back from the islands fighting the Japanese, and they just simply told us that we’re going to train you to make the other guy die for his country instead of you dying for yours. And that’s the way they trained us.
I: So after that, where did you go?
J: Then I went to the Mediterranean Sea for six months doing some work over there, and then I came back to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and was just doing natural, every day work there, and then one day we were
practicing jumping out of a helicopter which were brand new things at that time, and that’s when they told us that we were going to Korea.
I: So when was it?
J: They told us that right at the end of July.
I: Of 1950?
J: 1950. And it took us till September to get there.
I: And tell me about how did you learn about the break out of the Korean War? Where
Were you? You were in North Carolina, Lejeune, right?
I: And how did you come to know of it?
J: That’s when, like I said, when they come around and told us that we were heading for Korea, that a battle had broken out between the North and South, and we were going there to help the South.
I: So what were you thinking? Are you excited or scared?
J: We were all excited because I’d already been in for two years, so, we thought we were prepared.
I: What was your specialty?
J: I was a machine gunner.
I: Machine gunner. Wow. Were you good at it?
J: Very good.
I: And what was your unit?
J: Mine was the 1stMarine Regiment, 2ndBattalion, Dog Company, Machine Gun Platoon.
And I was under Chesty Puller.
I: On the Chesty Puller?
J: Yep. He was my Commanding Officer.
I: Tell me about him.
J: He is one of the greatest Marines as I have ever met. He was always in the line with you. He feared nothing.
I: Give me more personal description of Chesty Puller because I know Chesty Puller. Many have been talking about him. But is there any personal encounter with him or experience that you had?
J: I had one
personal experience with him up at the Chosin Reservoir. We were under attack, and he was walking the front lines with us, and he jumped into my machine gun pit, and he was sitting there on the edge of it, and he tapped me on the shoulder, and he says you’ve got a Chinese machine gun over here about 200 yards, and we took
care of that.
I: Isn’t this wonderful, or what do you think about this, that you talk about him, and every Marine seems to know about him and so proud of him and talking about him after 60 – 70 years of the Korean War.
J: Yep. He was one of the best. But the thing about Chesty Puller,
When we were totally surrounded, we were totally surrounded up there, and when he was told by MacArthur to evacuate, he and our other officers would not evacuate. They stayed with us.
I: I know Marines don’t like MacArthur, right?
J: They did not.
I: So when did you leave for Korea, from where?
J: We left early September, no, it was in late August by ship to Japan
I: From where?
J: From San Diego.
I: San Diego. And where did you arrive in Japan?
J: I think it was Kobee.
I: Kobee. And what did you do there?
J: We got new arms and ammunition because ours was pretty banged up from
World War II.
I: So you got
J: So we rearmed there and got some more reinforcements and
then went from there to Inchon.
I: Any instruction you got about Korea at the time?
I: In Japan? They didn’t brief anything about it?
J: All we knew was that the North Koreans were overrunning the Army down by Pusan Perimeter, and we were going to go to Inchon
to relieve that pressure.
I: Oh, so you didn’t go to Pusan, but you directly went to Inchon.
J: Some Marines went to Pusan.
J: Earlier. I don’t remember which unit that was, but they later joined us for the landing at Inchon.
I: So did you know about Inchon Landing project, Cromite?
J: A little bit.
I: I mean when you were there, before you left
For Korea from Kobee,
I: You didn’t know nothing about it, right?
J: We knew absolutely nothing, that we were just going there.
I: So from San Diego to Kobee, when did you leave from Kobee?
J: Oh gosh. It was about five days before, about the 10thof September.
I: Five days before?
J: Yeah. We were, We got in a typhoon.
I: So you encountered typhoon, right?
J: Yes. Going around the Southern end of Korea.
I: How was it actually?
J: Not fun.
I: Tell me. Describe that. How was it?
J: We were on a small landing craft, and it was very, very rough. Most of us were sick.
I: Were there any aircraft carriers around you?
J: They were spread out. We had ships spread out all over the place.
I: So tell me about the Inchon Landing. Describe in detail how was it there, and how did you land, and how was
the resistance from North Korea and Seoul? Please, describe it.
J: We had to take Wamedo Island first, and so they did that in the morning, and then because it was a 29’ tide, our shift had to back off until later in the evening. So we started heading for shore about 4:00
in the afternoon on September 15, 1950, and when we got ashore we landed on Blue Beach which was at the Southern side of Inchon. The resistance there was pretty light, and the North Koreans started surrendering to us almost instantly.
I: They didn’t even resist?
J: Some did, but most were starting to surrender.
And we found that pretty much across the whole campaign.
I: So there must be preliminary bombing there, right?
J: Oh yes. The battleships and the other ships were shelled at Inchon to pieces. So that’s why the resistance was pretty light I think because those ships were right on, and they really made a mess of things.
J: So we sat and watched that all day long while going ourselves. So when we did get it, we made a couple miles the first night, and the resistance was still pretty light, and so we just kept going and, I think it was probably our third day before we met our first heavy resistance. We had a battalion
of North Koreans, but three tanks come at us about 2:00 in the morning, and we captured one tank, and I think it was the firstT34 that had been captured where it wasn’t damaged. The other two tanks turned around and headed back from Seoul, and the North Koreans that were with them, they didn’t make out too well.
I: So you are the one who captured
the first T34.
J: My platoon did, yes.
I: Yeah, you were part of it.
J: Oh yes.
I: How was it?
J: What we did was it was shooting over our heads, and of course we’re all banging away at it and not hurting it any, and it backed into a deep ditch and couldn’t get out. So it was ours. And we sent it back to Camp Lejeune.
I: What were you thinking? You told me that you knew nothing about Korea, and you landed in Inchon, what was your first impression of Inchon, not on the first day. Obviously it was dark, right? As you made progress towards Seoul, how did you feel about this country, and what were you thinking?
J: The only thing we felt was we wanted to get
the country back to you, and we did that? So, our next big opposition came to us at the Han River before we got into Seoul. And the North Koreans really started resisting then. The river was too deep to wade, and all the bridges had been blown out, so we had to wait till night to get some armored ducks
come in to get us across the river.
I: How was the Han bridge shape? How was it, almost destroyed or what happened?
J: The bridges?
J: They were all destroyed, the ones that I could see. So we finally got across, and then we got into house to house, building to building fighting which isn’t an awful lot of fun. About the 29thof September
we’d gotten all the way through Seoul, and the war was basically over at that time. No more shooting. North Koreans were surrendering like crazy. The ones that weren’t were already headed to China.
I: Tell me about Seoul you saw. How was it? How much was destruction? Tell me the details. Describe it because this is like a before and after picture.
You saw, and you described those before, and these kids in the school they know about current Seoul. So when you describe in detail, it gives a lot of information to our teachers and students.
J: Well, unfortunately we pretty much destroyed every building that we came to because there would be enemy soldiers there. So, it was easier to destroy the building and get rid of that
and, I’m sorry to say that it was just pure destruction all the way through, and I know you’ve seen pictures of what it looked like.
I: Were there South Korean people or Korean people there in Seoul?
J: Never saw anybody until after the shooting was over. They were all in cellars or wherever they went, I don’t know. I think it was the 29th
that we finally made it through Seoul, and the shooting was over at that point.
I: Have you seen any modern Seoul pictures?
J: Yes I have. I have a book that your government sent me
I: Korea Reborn.
J: Yes. Excellent book.
I: That was made by the MPVA, Ministry of Patriots and Veterans’ Affairs. It’s like a VA Office in the United States, and they’re also funding this project,
too. So, tell me about it. The Seoul you saw in 1950 by the end of September and the Seoul that you see now.
J: It’s just a beautiful, modern city now, and of course I would have liked to have seen it in person, but I just can’t.
I: Why not?
J: I just can’t get back there. I know that the government has offered
free trips there, but I just cannot.
I: Why not?
J: My PTSD has got me to the point where I just can’t get there anymore.
I: But you talked to me now about all those things.
J: That was because of Amber Nikoli, and she was the one that gave me the strength to be able to talk about it when I met her here.
I: So after this interview, you might have another strength to go there
and see it in person.
I: That may really put a final closure to it.
I: So tell me about the transformation from the rubble to now what you see.
J: It was absolutely amazing. And then the next picture would have showed South Korea at night and North Korea at night where South Korea was filled with lights, and nothing in North Korea
except for [INAUDIBLE] And it’s still like that I believe.
I: Are you proud about what that transformation has been made?
J: Yes. Very. You people have done a wonderful job bringing Korea back.
I: But because you gave us opportunity to rebuild our nation.
J: Actually, you gave your own self the opportunity to
rebuild because it had to be you that done it.
I: That’s true.
J: But we got rid of the North Koreans and the Chinese for you.
I: So from there after September 29, where did you go?
J: We got orders from MacArthur to advance to the Yalu River at the Manchurian Chinese border. So boarded ship again at Inchon
and went around to Wonsan, North Korea.
I: When did you board the ship back to Wonsan?
J: I don’t know the exact dates. But we got to Wonsan sometime in October, and then we went from there up to the Chosin Reservoir. We didn’t go all the way up
to the Manchurian Border because we’d already heard the Army on the west side of Korea was running into some opposition by supposedly Chinese, and of course we hadn’t seen any of that yet. So
I: Did you know that there were already Chinese soldiers, I mean in general, the soldiers were aware of Chinese intervention?
I: Not at all?
I: Until you went up to
J: MacArthur didn’t believe that there was any more than a couple thousand
Chinese there, but our officers thought that maybe if we got passed the Chosin Reservoir, we would be in an area where we could easily be beat up pretty bad because we only had 15,000 Marines up there. And we were always spread out over 15 miles. So they stopped us at the Chosin Reservoir.
I: When did you encounter first attack of Chinese?
J: Our very first time learning about Chinese was we got up one morning and heard some hollering. It was, over about a couple hundred yards from me some Marines could see a couple of men in quilted clothing operating a radio out in the snow.
I: When was it? Remember? November
J: That was, that was still in November.
I: Middle of November or end of November?
J: Oh gosh. I don’t know. I don’t remember. But anyway, they wouldn’t come in when their interpreter started hollering at them, they wouldn’t come in, so they got shot. And when we went out to pick up the bodies, we found that they had been radioing,
and the interpreters thought they were Chinese, and that was our first indication that we had any problems with Chinese soldiers. Later that night, we got our first attack, and they almost always attacked at 2:00 in the morning. You could count on it.
I: How was it?
J: They always tried to overrun you,
and they did a few times. It’s just normal fighting.
I: Were you able to see them crawling up on you?
J: Yeah, their clothing stood out in the dark against the snow, and you could see them coming.
I: Can you describe how many?
J: That first attack against our company was probably about 2,000 Chinese.
I: And how many of you were there? In your company, about how many?
I: 350. So you,
J: We had two companies that were fighting
I: Almost like triple
J: Yeah. But they always did that.
I: What happened at, what happened at that battle? Did they just withdraw or
J: After a while, they just withdrew and disappeared back into the hills, and that’s when we found out that we had been surrounded.
I: Where were you? Were you in
Yudamni, or where were you?
J: No, I was at Kotori.
J: Yeah. Yudamni, and we had another city up there, and I can’t remember the name of it right now, between us and Yudamni.
I: And did you go up more, or did you stay all in Kotori?
J: We stayed pretty much in Kotori. The only time we didn’t, we found out that one of our units
at this other town just north of us right on the edge of the reservoir, they were being overrun, so a bunch of us loaded up on trucks and with some tanks and we thought we would get up there to relieve them. We didn’t make it. Thousands of Chinese suddenly came out of the hills and took the middle of our convoy out, and
that’s when I lost most of my platoon.
I: What was your rank?
J: I was a PFC. Well actually I didn’t know it, but I was a Corporal at that time because they hadn’t, I didn’t make Sargent till I got back home.
I: And did you see your platoon dying beside you?
I: Did you see those?
J: I do.
And I still can.
I: What were you thinking? Were you afraid?
I: You were not afraid.
J: You don’t have time to be afraid. You’re busy fighting.
I: While your members are dying.
I: Everybody tells me about this winter, cold winter.
J: It was very, very. Very cold.
I: Describe in your terms, personal terms that students can understand.
J: The average temperature was 23 below zero. We had a lot of snow, about 2 – 3’, and we didn’t have any winter clothing yet, and after about two weeks of being up there, they did airdrop us a bunch of parkas,
so that helped, and a bunch of real nice sleeping bags.
I: You had a sleeping bag? How cold is it? Describe it.
J: Well, we had some people that froze to death. It was that cold. We had a Chinese platoon surrender to us
because they all had rubber sandals. They had good upper clothing, but rubber sandals. And their feet were frozen solid. So, they
J: Yeah, they had rubber sandals, and their feet were frozen solid. So they just surrendered to us. And the worst was when we finally got the word, we had about three weeks of steady fighting up there.
And we finally got the word that we were supposed to withdraw. Of course, we were going to have a hard time doing that because the bridge had been blown out at Funjung Pass. So our engineers had to rebuild the bridge before we could get out or we couldn’t have brought out our dead and wounded which is what we did, most of them. I don’t know if we ever did recover,
We buried about 100 up there at Kotori, and I don’t know if we ever did get them back yet. But the night we finally decided we were going to have to break out, it was 40 degrees below zero.
I: 40 degrees?
J: This is all documented, yeah, and a wind chill of 60 degrees below zero, and a blizzard. You know what the star of Kotori is?
I: Yep. Tell them please.
J: It’s about, it was on the 8thof December, 1950, 10:00 at night.
I: When was it?
J: The 8thof December
I: 8thof December
J: 10:00 at night, and the clouds broke open enough that a single star showed through, and by that time we, out of the 15,000 Marines,
we had 3,000 dead, 6,000 frostbite, 5,000 wounded and when that star broke through, we all just thought it was a miracle and that God was going to lead us out, and he did. It was a tough fight to get down to Hungnam, but it only took us three days
to get down there after that, and it gave us the strength.
I: Did you see that?
J: Oh yes
I: Did you see that the star just coming out of it?
J: Yep, yeah. We all, almost all of us saw it. It was just something absolutely wonderful. We all thought holy smoke, we got us a Christmas miracle. I know this sounds nuts, but it happened, and it gave us the strength, even in that cold, to get up and get
ready to break out of there, out of that entrapment the next morning.
I: Do you know Steven Olmstead?
J: No, I don’t.
I: He was right there. How about Richard Carey? You don’t know?
J: No, we, we got in an awful lot of new replacements when we were up at Kotori. They were flown in, and so I knew, I didn’t know half the people any more.
J: All my own friends are, were already gone.
I: Do you know that there is a Ch’ongch’on Battle monument in Quantico, Virginia?
J; Oh yes, yes,
I: Marine Corp. Museum?
J: Oh yes, yes.
I: Tell me about when you see that star coming out of the cloud, did you have a hope that you could withdraw from there safe?
J: You know, it took so well. Then all of a sudden everybody’s getting up about it, you know, and all we could think about was
this is God’s hand, and he’s gonna lead us out of here. It was our Christmas miracle. So
I: Did you have a frostbite?
J: I only had it on my ears and on my fingertips.
I: Wow, you’re lucky.
J: Yes, I was.
I: So from there, what happened? Did you just went down to Hungnam?
J: Well, it took us three days to get there because the Chinese has,
had a little old trail totally covered with roadblocks and ambushes.
I: And? Were there many ambushes on the way down to Hungnam or?
J: There was a, quite a lot until we finally got within about five miles of Hungnam, and the Navy opened fire, backing the Chinese off of us. So
I: What did you eat when you were in Kotori ?
J: Believe it or not, I’m sure you heard the Tootsie Roll story.
I: Yeah, tell me about it, please.
J: We had pockets full of them.
I: How did you get the Tootsie Roll there. I know the story, but please tell students.
J: Well, we didn’t know, we had ordered 60 mm mortar shells, and that was the code name for mortar shells.
I: Tootsie Roll.
J: Tootsie Roll.
So we ordered many cases, and whoever got that, wherever those messages go, they sent us Tootsie Rolls, many, many cases.
J: I don’t know where the message went. Some place in Japan. And when they dropped,
we all went tearing out after our mortar shells, and
all we had was Tootsie Rolls, and that was all we ate most of the time because our C-rations were frozen solid most of the time, and the only way you could thaw them is put them against your stomach or against your body underneath your clothes, and that’s not fun putting something like that up against your body to heat, warm up, and Tootsie Rolls were, they worked perfect. We had pockets full of them.
I: So, that was the code
name for 60 million
J: Mortar shells.
I: Mortar shells, and somehow that communicated to Japan that we want Tootsie Rolls, and somebody actually sent candy.
J: They actually sent Tootsie Rolls.
I: When I went to the reunion in San Diego, they gave us a, what is it, lots of Tootsie Rolls, too. Still that Tootsie Roll company actually donated to that.
J: Oh yes, yes. The Tootsie Roll Company did well on that because
it went, it went worldwide when it happened.
I: Did you think that you were going to survive there?
J: We’d already been, when we were at Kotori, we finally had all the Marines back from, those other 2,000, and we’d already been told that our intentions of getting out of there was zero to none.
I: Zero to none.
J: Zero to none.
I: So, what were you thinking? You thought that you were dying there?
J: We all thought we were going to be staying there
and that night we did, when we say we were going to try to break out, and when out little star came out, and he gave us enough strength to, to go again.
I: Were there Army unit there?
J: There was a
J: Yeah, but, it was the 31stRegimental Combat Team, Army. But there was 6,000 of them but
But they got overrun, and we nearly totaled out. We were able to rescue about 300 of them off the ice and at Yudamni.
J: I’m sure you know about that about that unit.
I: So, all the Marines, did they know that MacArthur put 1stMarine and 8tharmy apart and then Chinese flanked them out, right?
I: Did you know that at the time?
J: No I did not. Not until we got some of those Army guys off the ice, and that’s when we found out what had happened to them.
I: Uh huh. So, you came to Hungnam, right?
J: We made it down to Hungnam. Hungnam or whatever it is.
I: How was that situation there? Were there many North Korean defectors or refugees?
J: They weren’t defectors. They were refugees. We had about 100,000 of them nearly, I think it was 98,000.
But we got them loaded and aboard ship before we loaded, and got them headed back for South Korea.
I: Tell me, describe that when you, how many refugee, how was the situation? How, how desperate they were to be in the ship, and how was it inside of the ship?
J: Well, I never got on a ship where they put them, but I know that they were very crowded, and those people were
desperate because the Chinese were shooting them down, the North Koreans, they were shooting down the North Koreans, and, and they were desperate to get out of there and, and of course they loaded us on to different ships, so I never knew what happened to them after that.
I: So after that, did you go to Pusan or
J: I went back to Pusan, and, and, and we, we had new replacements and new
weapons and put us back on the line at, I think it was the Naktong River is where the Chinese were stopped. And so we started all over again there.
I: But, so how many dead and how many wounded out of Ch’ongch’on Battle, and out of total what?
J: Well, out of the 300, out of that 3,000 soldiers, most of them died.
I: No, whole Marine. How many were there?
J: We had 15,000 Marines up there
J: We had 3,000 dead, 5,000 wounded and 6,000 frostbite and included many of the wounded also. We only had about 3,000 to 4,000 able-bodied Marines left.
I: How many?
J: Probably had about 3,000 to 4,000 able-bodied Marines left
out of, out of that 15,000.
I: You are one of them.
J: Fortunately. So, we got down, back down to Pusan and fixed up again with new equipment and all that and got up to the Naktong River and started north again, yeah.
I: Where did you go from there?
J: It was just, I never, I never knew the, all of towns or anything like that. It was just day to day battles with the Chinese, and
and I got my first hit, I got hit the first time when we had just taken Hyeongsan.
J: Hyeongsan or, we had, we had taken a ridge just north of Hyeongsan, and we were still headed, trying to get to the 38thparallel and
I: Were you wounded?
J: In the face.
I: In your face.
J: Yeah. I, my, my machine gun got jammed, and I crawled out of a foxhole to try to unjam it,
and I was laying up beside the machine gun, and the bullet went in my face and came out my back.
I: When was it?
J: March 3, [INAUDIBLE]
I: March 3, 1951.
I: And so what happened? Did you go to
J: I went to, I went to a MASH unit for about a month, and, and then they sent me back to the lines.
I: I, where were you at, I can’t see any scar there.
J: No. I had, I’ve had several operations on the face.
I: In your face.
J: And, and it was a very small hole. It didn’t mess up nothing, and just went into the skin, clipped my jaw bone, went down just past my carotid, and, and came out the back of my shoulder.
I: Does that still bother you?
I: Does that heat up on you when you have a nightmare?
J: I don’t even think about that. Just, the Chosin Reservoir is the only one that gets, gets to me.
I: So, from MASH unit, where did you go?
J: Right back to the lines again.
I: Again. Did you know where it was?
J: We were north of Wonson some place, and we were back pretty close to the where we had taken, some people were already taken, retaken Seoul, and
We were up near the 38thParallel some place, and
I: Even among Korean War veterans, those who Marine Inchon Landing or Naktong Perimeter, Pusan Perimeter and then going to Ch’ongch’on Battle and then coming back again up to 38thParallel, those are the ones who had experienced most severe battles. What did you think about that now? I mean, the country you never knew before, and you had to fight
J: Well, I was just proud that I, that I was there and that I did it. And after seeing that book, Korea Reborn, I was pretty proud that we helped get that done.
I: So, when did you leave Korea?
J: It was late August or early September of 1951.
I: And when you
left Korea, had you ever thought that Korea would become like this today?
J: Actually, you know, I didn’t even think about it. It totally left my mind. I came home, and I was lucky enough to get a job right away and
I: What job?
J: I went to, I got a job as a carpenter first, and so, where I met my wife, and then I worked for Montgomery Ward for 30 some odd years,
and for a couple of security companies until I came here, [INAUDIBLE]
I: So the War was forgotten even in your mind, right? You wanted to forget about it, right?
J: Well, back then most people had never heard of Korea. I lived in the mid-west, and, and most people if you said “I was in Korea”, they’d say “Where’s that?”
I; That’s radically different from World
War II, right?
Everybody knew about it because it’s Europe obviously, right?
J: Right. Told everybody we started a war. They didn’t want to hear about it anymore.
I: And whole nation was mobilized to support the War, but during the Korean War, it was
J: They ignored it which is okay with me. I didn’t have a problem with it.
I: So, do you know why the Korean War has been known as Forgotten War? Because you wanted to forget about it, too.
J: No, it wasn’t a case of wanting to. I just did. I just went back to work
J: and lived a normal life.
I; And you’ve never been back to Korea, right?
I: No. And you know all happened in Korea. Now Korea is 11thlargest economy in the world.
J: I know.
I: It’s just a little bit bigger than Indiana State. We don’t have drop of oil. We didn’t know
how to build
a ship. We are the largest ship builder in the world. We are the largest market share of the semi-conductor, the computer chip.
I: And we are one of the few biggest automobile makers in the world. What do you think about that?
J: I think that’s super great. I don’t know how to express myself any better than that.
I: You never thought, I mean, had
you imagined that Korea would become like this?
J: Not in the slightest.
I: So, what is the legacy of the Korean War to you?
J: I’m glad I had the experience of being in a country like yours.
I: Um hm.
J: And, and thankful that I was able to help
you people get back on your feet.
I: Yeah. Unless you deter the Communist attack, we can build our nation like this today.
J: I know.
I: Yeah. I really hope that you can deal with your PTSD and put a final closure on it as soon as possible.
J: Well, like I told you, Amber Nikoli made it possible for me to cope with it, and
coping, I’m doing quite well now.
I: Um hm. Many of them who had PTSD about to lose their wives because they just woke up in the middle of night and began to scream, and somebody’s begin to hit their wives, but they didn’t recognize it.
J: That didn’t happen often, you know. I don’t think so.
I: Um hm.
J: You hear about it once in a while
and that makes the news.
I: So you got the Purple Heart?
J: Oh yes.
I: How many?
I: Three? So where were you wounded again then?
J: I had a slight wound on the leg, and
J: Right after I got back on the lines from that first one, and then I got a mortar fragment in the shoulder.
I: Um hm.
J: Nothing serious.
I: I really appreciate, and I want to thank you for your fight for the Korean nation on behalf of Korean nation.
J: Well, I appreciate it very, very much Dr. Han.
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