Leon “Andy” Anderson
Leon “Andy” Anderson enlisted in the Marine Corps during the Korean War in 1951 after completing four years of college as a football player. He was part of the 1st Recon Company of the 1st Marine Division and his job was to patrol the line toward the end of the war and after it ended. Throughout his time in Korea, Leon Anderson was able to experience the twenty degrees below zero weather. Since he was only nineteen-year-old when he went to Korea, Leon Anderson looked up to many of his Marine Corps buddies in his platoon since they had fought in WWII and the beginning of the Korean War. After serving in the Marine Corps for five years, he switched to the Army and finished his military career out in the Army.
Leon "Andy" Anderson explains that he entered the Korean War in 1953. He explains his job to patrol the lines for line-crossers and guerrillas. He shares how he was also sent to French Indochina to assist the French. He shares how he was not part of the front lines.
Twenty Degrees Below
Leon "Andy" Anderson describes his time in Korea. He describes forming into boat units in freezing temperatures and landing in Korea to live in just a thin tent. He describes giving the order for his men to gather what they could in order to make life better inside the tent. He explains what resources they found. He shares how even when the went to the range to practice the weapons would be frozen.
Leon "Andy" Anderson shares his experience being there for the Armistice in July 1953. He explains how he was near the front lines in the recon rear area. He shares how the Chinese and North Koreans were shooting at the US troops all the way up to the last minute before the Armistice. He shares how he celebrated the end of the war.
Leon "Andy" Anderson explains his experience upon returning home. He explains that there was no big fanfare when he came home since many people didn't know much about the war. He shares he was discharged and just went home. He shares how he and other veterans work to help returning veterans feel welcome upon returning home.
Leon Andy Anderson:
My name is Leon Anderson, but I go by Andy, have for years and years. I guess all Andersons do. I was born in Kremmling, Colorado, 1932, so that makes me 82, and I was actually spent my youth on ranch not far from Kremmling and gravitated into the city when my mother was working and attended middle school, what they called junior high those days, and East High School. Then, I went to the University of Denver four years, playing football and
majoring in running around and having a good time, I think more than anything so.
The Korean war started, and I went down and joined the marine corps has sent to San Diego for boot camp and from San Diego where I stayed for I was in an accident training accident so they kept me right there at San Diego for a number of years and I I was then sent to Korea
itself in a latter part of but no but January of 53, I think it was, and which made me he arrived at the end of the war, the last few months of the war itself, and I was a squad leader. I booked
sergeant a squad leader a recon squad, but we belong to the first recon company of the 1st Marine Division and our duty was primarily patrolling trolling between the lines trolling whenever we could. The lines but we didn’t get into any of the big big fights ahead especially the last one they had it less the war and 1st Marine Division took a lot of casualties on that but we were back and out of the primary fighting itself and so you know I didn’t see a whole lot of combat but what we did was pretty intense.
We actually saw more combat after the war because they sent my squad down to the 1st Marine Division Headquarters and attached us to the g3 which is operations behind the operations, so forth, and then we were further sent down to the Army 25th division to recon, to patrol looking for line crossers and gorillas, and they had a lot of them and down the Cheonggyesan (?) mountain region, and so we got in some, some pretty good fights down there I, pretty low level but yeah, we had a few guys hurt, and then in 54 it was and they sent my squad down to Inchon Harbor and put us aboard a submarine that took us to Indochina when the French were and you know really taking a licking their Dien Bien Phu and we get recon the beaches around Da Nang and Chu Lai, and then we went back to Korea itself, and in 54 hours, I was discharged in San Francisco. That’s about the extent of my wars.
Interviewer: So what was the date when you enlisted?
Leon Andy Anderson (LAA): I unlisted in 1952, September of 1952, and I was discharged in October 54. No, I’m sorry, I got them uh I got the dates wrong. There 50 he’s got three years. 51, I guess it was I enlisted. I was 19 when I first went over, and so it made me 21, oh no, 22 when I when I was discharged. Then I, from there I went back to college and after college I went back in the Marine Corps as a commissioned officer and stayed for 5 years, and then I had an inner service transfer into the army, so that’s my background there, and then I retired from the army in 76.
Interviewer: Why did you choose to enlist?
LAA: Oh like I say I wasn’t doing very good in college, and I was just kind of wasting my time, but the real reason I- they made us join the ROTC. However, football team young guys had to join the ROTC, and I hated it, absolutely detested, so the coach said, “Well you know you got to keep do something to keep you here if we’re going to give you a scholarship,” and which they did, and so a buddy and I went out and joined the Naval Reserve because they said, “Hey this is not a navy war this is all a land war.” I think was our third meeting we came out, and there was a banner all around the, the building. They were saying that this unit was going to be activated into the active Navy and I knew I wasn’t going to do that, so I showed him I went down and joined the Marine Corps. See, that was the primary reason I did.
Interviewer: Why at the age of 19, was that how old you were when you enlisted the first time,
Why did you choose to enlist the first time?
LAA: Well because the Korean War, you know, I said I was, I hadn’t intended to go to college right off but I did, and I got a scholarship, athletic scholarship, to play football, and so basically I joined joined because of the ROTC thing. I just couldn’t stand it, and I guess we’r eall, in those days, it was the thing to do- join the military, go to college that was the 2 areas, or go to work, that was the three areas that you had to follow after high school, and some of us just weren’t ready yeah you know to go to college. I was one of them, but I sure did after I got out. Yeah that was the reason.
Interviewer: So what was your first initial training like when you first went to boot camp? what was that transition like?
Oh wow, Rincor (?) boot camp. It is something you’ll never imagine. Hey, they take you, and, and make you conform to a life you never had before- a military life. That’s what they make you, a military, and they do it by, for lack of better words, by brainwashing. They just, repetition repetition, repetition, you are, you will, you do, and the first first experience you have is pretty scary because you don’t, you didn’t think you were going to get into this kind of a situation, and you did, real fast, and it was 12 long weeks, and they take you through all the basic fundamentals of Marine Corps life to include weapons and history and just the whole gamut, and then from there go to, or we did at least, go to advanced infantry training that was at Camp Pendleton California, and there’s where you get into the nitty-gritty of firing weapons: the whole thing. They teach you to fire. They teach all the basic maneuvers, field maneuvers, and squad platoon company, the whole nine yards, and it’s pretty, pretty intense. We were firing M1 rifles, BARs, the Thompson machine gun, submachine gun, and 45 and he went into recoilless weapons in 3.2 rocket launchers. They don’t have any of this stuff today. That’s all been, I think and I can’t really remember was my first trip to Vietnam, they still had World War II weapons, the Vietnamese did, so it was probably in 67, made to start making the transition to the new weapons they have today which are a lot lighter, more easily to handle, and carry more ammunition, the whole nine yards, and that’s about it as far as the training prior to going to Korea, consists of boot camp and advanced infantry training.
Interviewer: Where did you arrive at?
We went to Inchon harbor and deboated there on a landing craft. They took us in to the beach, and then we were loaded on trucks two and a half ton trucks and to a place called Ascom city which was the divisions rear area’s best I can describe that supplies came through there replacements came through there, and I happened to be going to, as I told you, a recon and we went over as a squad, and we were attached to the, or not attached, assigned to the 1st recon company as a whole, so we went basic training together, recon training, and, and then to Korea together, the whole squad, so actually, it was a platoon and I’m sorry, the whole platoon, so we replaced the platoon, and they went back as a whole. Normally what you do is go bunch in and
then they just scatter your wherever they need troops, but we we had a specialty, and that’s where we ended up
Interviewer: And what was your unit?
LAA: The, I was a 1st 3rd squad leader of the 1st platoon of the 1st Marine Division.
Interviewer: Can you tell me more about your time in Korea, is there any stories or experiences that you remember?
LAA: Oh Lord, yeah right from the start. We landed, and the PA system came
on and said, “Now hear this, now hear this. Welcome to Korea. It’s 23 below zero.” I remember that distinctly, and we had to go from the ship to a barge was tied to the ship and formed up into, into boat units LCM BP’s, LCM BT’S, and then taken ashore, and from the time you get started at the to debark, yeah waiting int he whole ship, you’ve got winter clothes and because you’re gonna eventually get outside, all your equipment and we had that was on the third deck. We had to make our way up slowly up to it. By the time we got there, was sweating profusely, and when that cold air hit you, it hit you. You know you (incomprehensible noises) in Minneapolis you know, and so it started right there, and we went down the ladder, got on the barge, and then we formed up and eventually landed in these landing craft and took us across Inchon Harbor and dumped us ashore, and by the time we got there we were frozen stiff. I mean, feet didn’t want to work, hands didn’t want to work, cheeks, everything, and they marched us up past the, what the heck do they call them, well, anyway they marched this up to the trucks and loaded. We had just a terrible time getting into those trucks. We started to limber up a little bit, and by the time we got on the truck and taken to Asgon city, which wasn’t too far, we were frozen again right men in open trucks, and then we say, they assigned us to tents, and I had to go out and get the, as I was squad, they assigned us to a squad tent, and we entered this tent, and that’s what it was, a tent anda wooden floor with spaces about like that cold air was coming to, had one Yukon stove one little stove in there couldn’t possibly heat this hand. It wasn’t winterized tent. It was just a tent, so we tried our best to take the cots we had and get our sleeping bags and get it all towards that stove you know with our feet sticking towards the stone, and we froze to death, so I said “we’re not going to do this again. You are authorized by me to pick up anything you can pick up that we will use in this tent, and we, I had some pretty good scroungers in that squad. We got another tent, or another stove I don’t know where I still hadn’t asked them where they got the stove, got the stove got more heat than usually they would only give us one can of oil, we had five, and we brought plywood in and covered the deck and, and winterized the tent, and we also came up with some extra blankets somewhere. I’m not, so from that point on it was pretty, it was like home. We had to go through a series of lectures. Welcome to Korea you’ll be doing this as a situation on the line. This is what’s happening, and then went to the rifle range and had to zero in our weapons, and we were frozen again by the time that was over, and they put us on a rickety old train, has a real old smoke coming out the front of the thing and rickety train and took us up to the front lines, and they’d stop every once a while, they did. A bunch of little Korean kids had come up and just gather around and of course these young Marines giving them part of their cigar rations, and in the process they started stealing watches and rings. They were so good at you couldn’t believe it. Whap, that thing was gone in a flash, so we had some angry Marines by the time we got up there, and at the combination of this long trip, they put us off in the wrong place. We were behind an army unit and they had to get, collect trucks get down there pull us in the back of these trucks, wide open you know, that canvas cover but that was it. Air was just freely blowing. We were in our sleeping bags, everything to keep warm you know, had everything we could possibly get on, and again by the time we reached the first marine headquarters, it was frozen, frozen time, let me tell you. It seemed like that was our introduction to Korea, and it lasted for about the same time. Never been so cold in my life everywhere you went. When you’re on the line, you were in bunkers. Some of them were fortunate enough to have a little kerosene stoves in them and everything, but they, they, they weren’t too bad, but it’s when you live in bunkers for a long period of time, you go crazy. It just gets on you. I was happy to get out and get out in the patrol and get away from those lines. Then when we weren’t on line, we were back at the Recon company, had a rear area. It was pretty nice. We had tents, and we had a mess hall, bunker mess hall, and you could eat, and you had to eat in shifts, couldn’t put everybody in at one time. It was too good a target, so you had to know all the times you were going to eat, and we got a breakfast one day, lunch the next day, and supper the next day, and they rotated them. That way that’s what you got. You didn’t eat three times a day. You ate once, and other than that, you ate c-rations. Then my first experience on line is they took us up, and we were in trucks moving along and all of a sudden this light, just a big light, you know of course, it was flares coming down in our general area, but we, trucks had to get off the road and disperse and set their nital, wait till they went out. Then we got up again, and then when we finally stopped, we were at the base of the MLR which was the Main Line of Resistance we had and we were working for the seventh, the seventh Marine Regiment. They were on line there, and so we had to climb up this very steep incline, very steep, and yet be very, very quiet, you know, and because you were right there on line and, and every once in a while, flare would go off, and you’d have to hit the deck, and finally we got up to the bunker line, and we were assigned our bunkers from that point on, and that’s where we stayed. I think we we stayed up there for two weeks the first time. That was about it, and then we rotated back other squads were working with other regiments, so we didn’t work with the same regiment all the time. We rotated, and we did specific things like we patrolled make sure there was no enemy in between the the lines, so we were out in between the lines. We did some behind our lines too just to make sure there wasn’t anything back there. We did that kind of stuff, and then prior to an operational, we call it a snatch operation, we’d go up and try to capture North Koreans or some other mission we had, and so we’d go out and try to gain ground that the enemy owned and bring back prisoners and that. We actually were pretty proficient at it for a while and that was a primary combat we saw was that kind of stuff platoon and company level operation. We didn’t get involved with the big ones. Mark you’re going to talk to now is in the big, big ones, works up hill on all that. We didn’t do that, so then the armistice came in July twenty-third, I think it was, and the Chinese, the Chinese were fighting Chinese and North Korea, forgot about that, but they fought, they fired their weapons was ten o’clock at night I think the Armistice was supposed to go into effect. Right up to the minute that, that thing was supposed to go in effect, they fired everything they could fire. Twenty fifth army division was on line at the time, so we were back in the rear with the gear, so to speak, and then, as I told you, after the Armistice says when we were sent down and attached to again the 25th Infantry, I believe, doing these patrols, looking for gorillas and line crossers, and that kind of stuff and, and we were in the process of packing up the whole 1st Marine Division to send to Indochina, at least that’s the word we got. We knew we were packing all our equipment, all of our everything, and we did our thing in French Indochina by reconning the beaches and that kind of stuff, and by the time we got back, somebody was smart enough to say, “No, we don’t want to go there, you know,” so they cut that off right which was good, and we ended up going to Hawaii and forming what they called Amphibious Recon Company, and it was a different type of recon working off of submarines and, and small craft and rubber boats, those kind of things, and then back home back to college.
Interviewer: Where all did you go as you were serving?
LAA: We were on line the whole time where the 1st Marine Division was, not too far from Seoul, and when I came back into the corps with us with a commission after college, they put me in the engineer. I was (incomprehensible words) 7th engineer, but I didn’t want to be an engineer. I majored in geomorphology in college. They didn’t know what it was. They thought it was geology, so they thought they were going to make an engineer out of me, and I just am not an engineer. I’m not a number-crunching guy or anything, so I tried to get in the infantry all for five years trying to. Finally, I said, “I can’t handle this,” and had an inner service transfer into the army, but that of course didn’t apply to Korea, but that was kind of the ongoing part of my service in the Marine Corps.
Interviewer: How many years did you serve in the Marine Corps.
LAA: Three years. It was standard enlistment at that time. Yeah, I spent, as I told you, I was in a training accident. I was scheduled to go to Korea much earlier. I would have been in all the big battles then, but we’re in a training accident up at Camp Pendleton and got hurt, and after we got, out of the hospital they reassigned me back to MCRD, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, in San Diego and I was assistant drill instructor, that means I, I marched them to chow and marched them here, marched them there. It was about the extent of my DI assignment and played football for the MCRD, so I had kind of a convoluted career. Even when I was in the Marine Corps, it wasn’t like the standard career.
Interviewer: So you were in for three years the first time you enlisted…
Interviewer: And then the second time, how many years?
LAA: I was commissioned officer. Five, I was in five years in the Marine Corps. Then, I went in the army, and I I stayed in the Army until 76, retired in 76, so I had a lot more time in the army than I did in the Marine Corps.
Interviewer: What kind of friendship or comrade, camaraderie did you build during your time in Korea?
LAA: Well, as I said, we went over as a squad, as a platoon. We had trained recon, for recon and Camp Pendleton, Camp Del Mar actually we were stationed, and we went over as a unit which, which is I mentioned before is unusual, and so we became very close. We were close before we got to Korea whereas the normal guy gets over there and individually is assigned. He might go with a buddy, but more likely he won’t. He’s, they just take two or three guys here and two or three guys there you know, and so it takes you a while to build that, that closeness and friendship that we already had. We were very close. Had, I had two Sioux Indians in my squad. One was named Charlie Kills Enemy, and the other one was Bob Crushed Ice, great, great Marines when we were in the field, but they caused me a little problem when we got back. Alcohol and Indians just don’t seem to match too good, you know, but good, good Marines, good guys. I had one, one guy in my squad who would we call professional privates back in those days. these guys were good Marines, good, very good Marines, most of them, and they’d get up to corporal sergeant and then get busted back down. This guy had gotten up to Staff Sergeant, and he’d been a marine Raider in World War II, and he went through Guadalcanal. He went through a lot, so he’s an older guy by far, and he was a corporal when he got to me, so he was like my second in command. Of course, I listened to him more than he listened to me. That’s what I’m, all these guys were older and two of them already had a tour in Korea. and two of them, three of them, had been in World War II, so we’re talking a lot of experience, and it was more learning curve for me than it was for them because I was so young and they were a lot older more experienced (incomprehensible word), and they were this particular guys talking about. He was very well-decorated. He had Navy Cross, silver star, at least one silver star maybe two, had six purple hearts, so this guy had been through it in World War II. He’s got out of it. He got out of the Marine Corps and became a private detective and even got shot while he was working, working that route, so this guy was, was very knowledgeable, but he’d get up to a certain rank, and he’d go get drunk or get crazy. Bam, right back down to (incomprehensible word), didn’t bother him a bit, and he’s just as happy as a, as a private as he would be as a staff NCO. Yeah, and there were a couple of guys in my squad were young like me, three maybe, had a 13-man squad, and so it was pretty well mixed between experienced guys and newbies like me, and by, by and large, we were better trained than the average marine were because we were trying to do a specific job. That’s only reason I say we were more experienced, better trained, but for a specific thing.
Interviewer: Where were you when the war actually ended?
LAA: I was behind the lines in the Recon company rear area. We were one company of several that were back in this one area, so I was right right there when the, the Armistice was signed. I mean, when it went into effect, and, as I said, they. they were shooting right up the very end. and not at us but at the army guys up on line, so I was, I, exact location is hard for me to say. I can’t remember. I can’t remember the name of anything that would be recognizable here just on the 1st Marine Division four lines. This is the best I can say.
Interviewer: What did it feel like that day?
LAA: Oh, we got drunk, the whole, the whole bunch of us, you know. We turn on every light we could turn on, fired flares up in the air. You know, it’s like fourth of July, and we had stockpiled some beer, so we had a beer party in which we didn’t usually have, and it was so strange you know to go from a war environment to a peace environment just that suddenly. Yeah, you know, still had, still had all those reactions you had inwardly when you’re in war. You jerk. You move fast. You talk so softly, and you wake up with a start, you know, that kind of thing. We still did that to a certain extent for a long time after the armistice, couldn’t believe it was really over. I can’t, that’s about as close as I can tell you about location though. It just, for the first Marine MLR was.
Interviewer: When you returned home, what was the reception like?
LAA: It was not like coming back from Vietnam where they were spitting on you and that kind of thing, but people just didn’t care. They called us the Forgotten War, Korea, very few people knew or cared about the war unless they had somebody involved in it, so they had a big splash in the paper. 2360, I think it was, Marines come home. We landed at Treasure Island, went through some discharge routine there. I hadn’t have a friend there in San Francisco, so I spent some time with herm and then I got on the train went home. Because it was it was no great big thing, no parades, none of that kind of stuff. It was just get off the ship, go through discharge routine, and go home. So people didn’t really know about Korea. I bet if you’d asked young folks today, very few of them would even know there was a Korean War. They don’t know anything about Vietnam, I guess, so they wouldn’t know anything about Korea, but now there was no big homecoming ‘till got home, you know. Then, it was family. That was it. Now we go out of our way to handle our troops, make sure they don’t come home to that kind of, especially like they did out of Vietnam. You know, we have a lot lot of intermingling with the veterans and the troops, lots of parties and things of that nature, make sure they feel comfortable being in the military and especially those coming back from from Iraq or Afghanistan, so that’s about it. It’s the only reaction I had.
Interviewer: What did you go on to do after your service in Korea?
LAA: Come back to college, I went back the University of Denver, and I played little football, but I said, that year in Korea and seeing a little combat, it felt foolish. I felt like I was playing a kid’s game, and I didn’t belong there anymore because I was older than most of them, and so I settled down, but I, I really studied hard. I had to study hard because I hadn’t been a good student in in high school. I didn’t flunk anything, but I was like, you know, like a C-student, and so when I came back, I knew I had to study, and I studied all the time very hard, and then on my, in my junior year, I got married, and so that complicated things (incomprehensible phrase), so I had to work as well as go to college, you know, had the GI Bill back in those days, and it provided me with enough to pay tuition and that kind of thing, but and DU you was a private school, so it was more expensive. It wasn’t state school, and so I worked six days a week, and went to college for full time to college, and, and got married had a child and one boy, and that’s about it, but I already committed myself to going back in. I joined what they called the platoon leaders, course, PLC’s, and I that meant I had to spend two six-week periods in the summer in Quantico Virginia, and you know, doing what I already knew how to do. It’s boot camp all over again basically two times, and so I was committed to go going back to the Marine Corps. My wife knew that before we got married, and yeah, I was a full-fledged marine. I loved it. I loved Marine Corps, but I couldn’t stand the engineer part of it, so that’s why I got out. That’s about it, I think.
Interviewer: Is there a piece of wisdom or a message that you could impart to future generations?
LAA: They need to continue to devote their life to being an American, and whatever it takes,
joining the military, whatever it takes, to maintain a country like it’s been maintained up to now and cherish the Constitution, cherish the American Way of life, and that’s about it.
Convoy Stopped in Munsan
Leon "Andy" Anderson took a picture of a US jeep convoy in Munsan.
This is a photo of soldiers cleaning and maintaining weapons including machine guns. Pictured from left to right is Leon "Andy" Anderson, Clodfelter, and Tofsly who is cleaning the machine gun.
Soldiers Standing in a Line
This picture shows soldiers (Left side) Peter Doyle, Anderson, Chak, and Bride. They are standing in Korea ready to shoot if needed.
Corporal Patrick Anderson with a Carbine
Corporal Patrick Anderson is pictured with a carbine. Leon Anderson shared that he was a machine gunner and in the same squad as Peter Doyle. It was 17th regiment, 7th Division, Dog Company. He shares that Corp. Anderson's hometown is Weirton, West Virginia.
Two soldiers Cleaning a Rifle
Leon "Andy" Anderson and Tofsly are cleaning their rifles in Korea.
Carrying Firewood to Bunker
Patrick Anderson a1st gunner is carrying firewood across the ridgeline to Machine Gunner bunker on a forward slope.
A picture of Division Supply from distance.
Road into the C.P.
A picture of the outpost around the C.P., with a Korean village and river basin visible over the hill in the picture.
Able A Company
A picture of Able A Company and the mess hall in the bottom right hand corner of the picture.
A picture of the tent campsite. "Taken to the right of our tent-- that is the Bn Motor Pool down there and their tents up on the hill. Those are soldiers' sleeping being aired out on the tents."
"Rice Paddies and Such"
A picture "taken to the left of our tent row-- rice paddies and such."-Leon Andy Anderson
In the Dugout
A picture of a dugout, taken while Leon Anderson was firing his rifle.
C.P. and Chapel
A picture of the C.P. with the chapel under construction.
A picture of Sergeant Taylor on top of Carson.
Seoul Freedom Arch
A picture of the Seoul Freedom Arch in the middle of a street.
A picture of a street in Seoul.
A picture of a Korean traditional house in Korea.
A picture of three soldiers huddled in sleeping bags.
Soldier in tent
Soldiers and Koreans
A picture of Korean villagers walking past American soldiers.
Our Tent Row
A picture of a row tents in which Leon Anderson lived in while in service.
A picture of a man driving a honey cart on its way to Seoul.
Not the Outhouse!
Moving out and taking the high ground. Taken in Korea in September 1953.
A picture of a view of the South Korean coast towards Seoul.
Good Land the Enemy Territory
Taken in September 1953
A picture of four soldiers on Carson after the company retook it from the enemy in September of 1953.
A picture of an enemy hill, taken in September 1953 in Korea.
A picture of Leon Andy Anderson digging a fox hole down from the tent right after arriving in this new location.
A picture of Corporal Lewis taking cover from an enemy sniper. Taken at almost the same time the shot was fired at him. Taken in September 1953.
Bn Motor Pool
Bn Motor Pool
Imjin River Valley
In the background is the Imjin River Valley, as seen from the hill at our tent.
A trench on Carson. Taken in Korea in September of 1953.
Korean Rice Paddy
A picture of a Korean rice paddy-- one of many that Anderson said were "in every nook and corner around here."
A picture of an American soldier and some Korean children outside the C.P.
1st Marine Chapel
A picture of the First Marine Chapel in Korea.
D Company Hills
A picture of Dog Company engineers over the hill from us.