John O. Every
John O. Every was born in Bloomville, New York, in 1931. After suffering athletic injuries brought on by playing baseball, he was unable to finish schooling. As a result, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at the age of seventeen. He was sent to Parris Island, South Carolina, for basic training, then on to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where he received training to operate artillery. Upon arrival in Korea, he was assigned to the 7th Marines, 3rd Battalion, Weapons Company as a Mortarman and participated in the Inchon Landing. He was also in combat during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir near Hagaru and Yudamni. After sustaining severe frostbite to both hands and feet, he had to be evacuated to Japan. He was awarded the Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his actions in combat.
The Terrible Cold and Frostbite
John O. Every talks about being in combat near the Chosin Reservoir, and being evacuated due to extreme frostbite. He recalls seeing airplanes drop supplies, and recounts the tough losses of fighting. He explains being evacuated and taken to various hospitals for recovery.
Close Encounters Under Enemy Fire
John O. Every speaks about being under enemy fire and encountering Chinese soldiers. He was awarded a Marine Corps Commendation Medal for enduring the enemy fire. He explains having to repair ammunition that was not properly operating.
From the Mediterranean to Korea
John O. Every describes the journey to Korea from his location of deployment in the Mediterranean. He explains having to go through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea, en route to Korea, for the amphibious landing at Inchon in 1950. He discusses other battles as well as what he had to eat for Thanksgiving that year.
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
J: John O. Every, Bloomville, New York.
I: And what is your birthday?
I: And where were you born?
J: Bloomville, New York
I: You born there and you still live there?
J: I still live there, yes.
I: And I’m from Syracuse, so it’s so good to see the person from Central New York
J: Yes. [LAUGHS]
I: And tell me about your family when you were growing up, your parents and your siblings.
J: I had one brother and three sisters. My mother and my father both worked very hard all their lives. My father worked in a creamery
and my mother, she was, well, she used to take care of elderly people.
J: And anyway, I didn’t quite finish school because I had fell, hurt my shoulder playing baseball
J: And split my finger playing baseball
and then when I was 17 I enlisted in the Marines, and I went to Paris Island, South Carolina for the
I: So you joined the Marines.
I: In 17.
J: Yes I did.
I: And so you have to have parent’s permission, right?
I: Did you get it or not?
J: I, I, I got it.
I: Oh you got it.
J: Begrudgingly, yes.
I: [LAUGHS] So your parent didn’t like it?
J: My parents, they thought well, that would be a good place for me I guess.
I: So you went to Paris Island for
J: Recruit training.
I: Basic training.
J: Basic training, yes.
I: How was it?
J: It was
We got up in the morning at 5:00, and we weren’t allowed to get back on the boats until 10:00 at night. and it, it was, it was, it was tough, but it, it was a very good training.
I: For 17 year old, it must have been very tough, right?
J: Yes, it was.
I: From basic, where did you go?
J: To Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
I: Uh huh. And what did you do there?
J: I was put into HNS Company, 37 Anti-tank Platoon
I: HNS Company
J: 8th Marines
I: Uh huh.
J: And 37 mm anti-tank platoon.
I: Uh huh. And what was your MOS?
J: I don’t remember what my, what the number was.
I: Yeah, but what did you do actually?
J: I, well I guess I was a assistant gunner on the, on the gun. And then we went to Vegas for warm weather operations
J: Then we come back to Camp Lejeune, and I was in the 6th Marines, or the 8th Marines, I’m sorry, and then we went, in August ’49 we went to Labrador for cold weather operations
J: And March 1950
I was in a machine gun platoon. I had been in the 9th Marines when they came back from China, and then I went into the 6th Marines and into a, in a mortar platoon, and I was a mortar gunner.
I: So you’ve been changing all this
I: From, you were originally 8th, and then you went to 6th
J: From the 8th, I went to the 9th
J: And then the 9th to the 6th, and we
I: Did you know; did you know anything about Korea around that time?
J: No, I, I never heard anything about Korea at that time.
Then we went to the, on a Mediterranean cruise, and we were just going to different ports and going on liberty and meeting people, and when the Korean War broke out, we got orders we was going to stay in the Mediterranean for five more months. Well, we was quite happy bunch of boys because all we was doing was going on liberty.
J: But the next day, we got orders we was going outside the Mediterranean area, and we knew exactly about where it was because the Korean War had broke out, and we went through, down through the Suez Canal over into Japan
I: From Lejeune?
I: From Lejeune?
I: So Lejeune?
J: Back from the Mediterranean right through the Suez Canal over
I: Oh, from Mediterranean
J: And Red Sea over into Japan
J: And then we got reorganized into weapons company, 3rd Battalion 7th Marines
I: Um hm.
J: And September we made the amphibious landing at Inchon.
I: So you were at the Inchon Landing?
I: You were at the Inchon Landing?
I: September 15 or 16?
I: And how was it?
J: Well, it, we did [inaudible] things very little resistance.
I: Uh huh.
J: And we made the landing, and then we got on a, a, a train, and I don’t remember just where it was that we went to. There was a short distance, but.
Then everything was going good for us, and we advanced on up through the 38th Parallel without too much resistance.
I: But did you went into Seoul?
J: I was on the outskirts of Seoul.
I: Kimpo, Yungkimpo?
J: Um hm.
I: Um hm. And then you didn’t go to Seoul?
I: So from Yungkimpo you went up to
I: Do you remember where?
J: No, I don’t because, well, we weren’t told any of the names of the places. But then we, after the 38th Parallel, we come back down to Inchon, got aboard ship and went around the coast, on the other coast to Wonsan
J: and made the amphibious landing there, and we worked on our way up to, towards the Chosin Reservoir, and November, Thanksgiving, November, well
I: 23. 23rd, you had a Thanksgiving dinner on November 23.
J: Okay. I had
a turkey leg
I: Where was it?
J: I’m not sure where that was, either. But I had a turkey leg and a slice of bread, and the slice of bread was delicious because it was the first one we’d had [LAUGHS]
I: Not frozen.
J: No. No it, actually we had a little warmth in them because they’d brought it up in, in ovens and passed it out.
I: But you were at,
you don’t remember where you were at the Ch’ongch’on Reservoir? Hagaru-ri or Kotori, anything
J: We was above, let me see
I: So you went up to, all the way up to Haguru-ri and then Yudamni.
I: And what happened?
J: Our resistance was getting heavier, and
November 27 it was very heavy, and I, being a mortar gunner, I could see tracer bullets coming at me
I: Um hm.
J: and artillery was coming over, and anyway, I was in a squatting position
and I got froze, frostbite both hands and both feet because I, I couldn’t move. I was squatted down firing my mortar, and I didn’t realize just how cold my feet was.
J: Then I, the following, two days later
I took my boots off, and there was particles of ice between my toes, and anyway, then we was, I could see the airplane, or the airplanes dropping supplies to us, and then we started working our way back down through, and we would set up our mortars
and fire whenever they was needed which was most of the time. But then the, our platoon leader of Deniker Dakus, he told me, had the medics look at me, and they said well, we’re going to evacuate you. So anyway, they, I, I was on a,
walking alongside of a, a Jeep trailer that had a, a boy was on it that had been shot, and he, in the leg, and he said I would be better off dead. I said Jesus don’t, don’t talk like that, and within 12 hours he was dead.
J: And it just, and, but then I got back down through to
Hagaru, and they evacuated me from Korea. And
I: What happened? You were wounded?
J: I had just frostbite.
J: Yeah. Both hands, both feet.
I: So you were evacuated from Hagaru-ri to where?
I: And how long did you stay there?
J: I was in
Japan makeshift hospital for three days
J: Then they flew me from there to Vallejo, California, and I was in kind of a hospital there, and I spent three nights there, and then from there I went to San
St. Alban’s Naval Hospital in Long Island, and then my, my brother was also in the Army, and he saw my Company the day they got evacuated from Korea, and he was looking for me, and he went up, this one guy was laying on the, resting, and he
nudged him with this foot, and he says where’s Every? The boy looked up at him, Every’s gone. My brother says gone? Gone where? And the boy told him that I had been evacuate d, and he said out of the 90, 97 men, there was only seven or eight of them left because everybody else had been shot or, yeah,
killed or frostbite so bad they couldn’t walk.
I: So that frostbite must have been very severe, right?
I: Otherwise you couldn’t evacuated.
J: No, it, it, it was severe.
I: There are many people, many soldiers got actually frostbite, but you, your case seems to be, seemed to be very severe.
I: You couldn’t walk.
J: I could walk, yeah,
more or less hobbling. But when my toes, both, both feet turned a real dark, almost black, and my fingertips the same way. They were going to take three toes off on my right foot, but they decided to leave them on as long as I didn’t get gangrene in them.
I: Uh huh.
to help me keep my balance. So as of right now, I can’t bend my toes. I have very little feeling in them
J: And when I drop something, I have a terrible job picking it up beasue I, I don’t have that much feeling in the tips of my fingers.
I: And you, so you don’t feel that much about there.
I: So that’s how you ended your Ch’ongch’on Battle Korea.
J: Yes it is.
I: Have you been back to Korea?
J: Yes, I went back to Korea three years ago I think it was, on the Revisit. It was
I: Tell me about that experience.
J: It, it was nice. We landed at Inchon, and they,
they met us, and one of the Korean boys from the hotel grabbed my suitcase and I didn’t know, and he put it on the wagons to take it to the hotel, and we got to the hotel, and we was greeted, and we got the, it was beautiful.
And a a, I forgot what the name of the hotel was
I: Uh huh.
J: But the
I: Ambassador? Lookday Ambassador, whatever.
J: Yeah. Whatever. And, but the Korean government
would give us that medal.
J: Medal, and then they took us up to the 38th Parallel and Panmunjom, and I stuck one foot over into North Korea again. Oh, it, it was, it was a marvelous trip, and when we got back down through, they took us to, they had a show for us, two shows for us
and the, the Korean people were just marvelous.
I: Come out of your service, but this War has been known as Forgotten.
J: Yes. And, and I was in a Memorial Day parade two years ago, and the Korean War was never mentioned. And well, that, this was the third,
we paraded in three villages, and the, the two first two villages, they were mentioned. But the fourth or the third village, the guest speaker never mentioned the Korean War. World War I, World War II, Vietnam, but not Korea. And this past year, this past Memorial Day
in the parades, the guest speaker at the second village, the only war she mentioned was Vietnam.
I: That’s the reality, isn’t it?
I: What do you think about that?
J: I, I think it, I think it’s terrible because the Korean War we had so many people that lost their lives, and
the Korean people also, and I, I just feel so good to be honored to have been part of the Korean War to save the [inaudible] South Korean people. It, it, oh, it’s unbelievable.
I: Um hm. So that’s why we are doing this. The history textbook has
only one paragraph coverage in average.
J: Oh boy.
I: And it’s so dry so that I don’t expect our students to learn much about Korean War from one paragraph. It’s all about MacArthur, MacArthur and, you know
I: And they say it’s forgotten or is still, you know, stalemate.
J: And now this monument at Quantico, Virginia
there was, I think it was in Minnesota that one of the officers in the, the Chosin Few was bound and determined that we put all our money into a scholarship fund, and I didn’t agree that at all
because I think it would be better if some of the money went into the monument for the future generations because with the scholarship fund, so it’s gonna benefit one person
I: Um hm.
J: and in the meantime it’s also gonna be get, forget, the Forgotten War.
I: So unless we have a sort of
systematic way to educate our younger generations with the scholarship as you mentioned, there will be just, for just one person.
I: And Korean government donated $300,000 for the Chosin, Ch’ongch’on Battle monument in Quantico, Virginia.
J: Yes. I
I: And other Korean organizations donated $200,000. Altogether, it’s a $500,000.
J: Yes. And I, I have also sent in a, well, a donation for a.
I: So that’s why we want to invite our, my foundation invites, have an annual conference for social and history teachers conference. We had about 90 teachers from 25 states in Orlando, Florida this year, and we talk
about the Korean War, and we show this films, and they were really fascinated by the outcome, and we took 10 teachers back to Korea with the Korean War veterans,
I: And they were amazed, amazed by this, and they were saying to themselves that why didn’t we teach more about this, you know, successful outcome, Republic of Korea? 11th largest economy, one of the most dynamic economy, strong ally to the United States.
J: And I, I personally am so grateful to the Korean government for paying the airfare and inviting my back to Korea.
J: It, was a great experience, and I’m so proud to have been part of the Korean War.
I: So let’s go, a little bit go back, go back little bit more
about your experience in, your combat experience in Yudamni. How was, how severe was it? Do you still remember those? Do you still see the Chinese soldiers coming at you?
J: I didn’t actually see, I, I heard them, but I didn’t actually see any of the Chinese soldiers.
I: But I remember seeing some of them that had been hit.
They had just a, just, I don’t know what they call them, tennis shoes on, and I, I was so surprised because I, I couldn’t understand how they was keeping their feet warm. But
I: Why? You didn’t see any real bullets?
J: I, just when the real bullets coming at me? The tracers, I could see them coming, and
I had one of them hit right in beside me, and one of them, one bullet hit my debase plate
J: off from the, the gun. Oh, and I could hear some of the small arms going overhead, but, being young,
I guess I wasn’t that awfully concerned because I just kept firing, firing my gun, and I was awarded a, a medal, Commendation Medal
I: Um hm.
J: For, because some of the ammunition I had to service it myself before I dropped it into the, the barrel, the mortar, 81 mortars
came in three pieces, the base plate, the tube and the bipod which I carried, and I had the sight on, and we had aiming sticks, and it, it was, we just couldn’t concentrate on, you know, anything but
[inaudible] had to, some of them shells laying not too far from our position, and I wasn’t actually up on the front because I was back maybe 3, 400’ or 200’ with my, with my gun, and it, it was, it was unbelievable.
I: So looking at all those, thinking about all these years, 65 years ago
you served there, and now Korea is one of the most successful country in the world. What do you think is the legacy of your service?
J: I think if we, the United States considers the Korean government one of the,
a really friendly nations put it that way, I, like I said before, I’m just so proud to think that we could save the Chinese, or the Korean people from the Communists
I: Um hm.
J: So I, I, I don’t know. I just get, feel so honored, you know, and when I, when I go to these Chosin Few meetings, it’s just so nice to see Korean people, and in our local post which,
which has the meetings in Albany, NY, we, we have Chinese, or Korean people coming to them once in a while they, and they come to our dinner, and the Korean people have a picnic they invite us to it, and it’s, it’s just so marvelous.
I: Um. I think that is the legacy of it also, that US and Korea are so
become friendly to each other, becomes friend.
I: Yeah. And you feel that, right?
J: Yes I do feel it.
I: John, I want to thank you for your service for the fight for the nation so that we were able to build our nation again, and thank you for sharing your story. Your frostbite still you don’t feel a thing there in your toes, and I hope that
you can continue to maintain your health. You look, you look marvelous now.
J: Thank you.
I: And, and, and thank you so much again.
J: You’re, you’re welcome.
I: Any, any other message you want to leave to this interview?
J: No, I guess not if I did. Like I said it, it’s just so nice to, for the Korean government to benefit us so, you know.
I: That’s very nice of you to say. Thank you.
J: Thank you.
[End of Recorded Material]