Korean War Legacy Project

Martin Goge


Martin Goge was born in New York City in 1928.  He attended Holy Family Catholic School and Iona Preparatory School.  He went on to attend Iona College while working for Esso Export when he was drafted in 1950.  He arrived at Incheon on November 1, 1951 from Japan and was stationed at Chorwon Valley as a part of the 14th company, 27th Regiment and 45th infantry division as a 1st Sergeant.  He returned from Korea in the fall of 1952 and was discharged later in the fall of the same year. He became a salesman and finished night school afterward.

Video Clips

Attack Plans

Martin Goge describes spending a lot of time at meetings planning attacks to straighten out defensive lines against the Chinese. He helped maintain communication with the soldier's families and assisted in night raids against the Chinese to keep them out of no-man's-land, a constant job. He explains that both sides made efforts to take and prevent the other side from taking no-man's-land.

Tags: Chinese,Front lines

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Living Conditions, R&R, and sharing war stories

Martin Goge recalls having to face crude living conditions and food that was just as bad. He describes feeling great satisfaction with being able to pay his dues. He goes on to explain how his friendships made life bearable.

Tags: Food,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Rest and Relaxation (R&R)

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Discussing Korea

Martin Goge explains why he didn't share his Korean War experiences for many years. He describes overhearing men telling their stories for years and feeling extremely fatigued with hearing war stories from Korea. He admits he only agreed to give this interview at the request of his Commander at his chapter.

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of recorded material]

Speaker 2: [00:00:00] My name is Martin Goge, G O G E. I was born in New York City on, uh, May 15, 1928.

Speaker 1: May 15, 28

Speaker 2: . . . and my family immediately moved to the suburbs, um, where, where I was raised till I went in the army.

Speaker 1: What school did you go through?

Speaker 2: I went to Holy Family Catholic School [00:00:30] and then I went to Iona Preparatory School, and I was going to night school at Iona College when I was drafted. 

Speaker 1: When were you drafted? 

Speaker 2: I was drafted in nineteen, right after the war started. As a matter of fact, kinda funny, I was working in New York City at Esso Export, which is the aviation branch, and [00:01:00] I had finished about half my college and . . . 

Speaker 1: What did you study in the college, and [unintelligible] 

Speaker 2: Business Administration Iona College, and I graduated from the University of Detroit, which is a Jesuit college. 

Speaker 1: So you’re a Catholic? 

Speaker 2: Yes. 

Speaker 1: Did you know anything about Korea around your college?

Speaker 2: [Laughs] No, no . . . 

Speaker 1: Your college students didn’t know about Korea?

Speaker 2: I didn’t know [00:01:30] there was any place outside New York City. I was quite surprised to find that out. 

Speaker 1: How was New York City? I mean, you born in 28, so . . .

Speaker 2: No, I was born in 28, well, let’s put it this way, when my, my mother used to drive into New York City and shop at Sturns on 42nd Street and we used to park at a meter and put pennies in it. 

Speaker 1: So your family must be very rich? [00:02:00]

Speaker 2: No, no, no. My father worked for the same, for Ingersoll Watch, which was, um, during during the Depression, he always had a job, but it, it was they went through bankruptcy quite often, but he had a job through the whole . . 

Speaker 1: That’s amazing that he had a job through the Great Depression. 

Speaker 2: Yah, yah, I mean it was, he held the place together and, um, but, um, as a matter of fact, that watch company was very famous [00:02:30] during the Depression. They came out with a pocket watch that sold for a dollar and which they called the “Ingersoll Buck, the Watch that Made the Dollar Famous”. Um, so I wasn’t hurting during the Depression.

Speaker 1: Wow. You are lucky. 

Speaker 2: Yes, yes I am. Very lucky. 

Speaker 1: So, then, what were you exactly doing when the Korean War broke out, June [00:03:00] 25, 1950?

Speaker 2: I was a clerk in Esso Export which was the aviation branch – overseas aviation gasoline. We sold all the carriers overseas gas, and also gas at the local airport, which was very nice because, when I was drafted, if I put in an allotment for my mother, I am, they made up half [00:03:30] my salary. 

Speaker 1: Were you married at the time? 

Speaker 2: No, no. 

Speaker 1: You were single? 

Speaker 2: I was single and very much so, although I was going with a lady who I – she was by bosses secretary, so, and when I went I know when I come back were getting married. 

Speaker 1: Ah. What’s her name? 

Speaker 2: Her name was Cecilia. 

Speaker 1: Cecilia? All right, um, what people say about Korean War [00:04:00] at the time? Did people say actually anything about Korea or?

Speaker 2: No, no. We just, um, it was, probably it was more, um, more talk if there was a riot in the Bronx, and, um, then the Korean war, I mean, um, there was talk about how Dean Acheson had declared Korea [00:04:30] out of our sphere of influence, and that’s why this had happened. Why, whether the North Koreans felt they could take over South Korea. 

Speaker 1: Excellent point. I’m studying about, I am writing a book about why Acheson withdraw the defensive perimeters from the Korean peninsula. What did people say about it and did you know about the Acheson Declaration?    

Speaker 2: After the war started, I did because [00:05:00] if you follow the news, it, it was in the news, but, um, it, um, it, the most stir about the Korean War was when I was in Korea and, um, that would be 51 and 52, the biggest thing that happened was, when Truman fired MacArthur. [00:05:30]

Speaker 1: Uh ha

Speaker 2: And, um, the girl who was not yet my wife joined what they called the “Committee of One Million” who were making terrible fuss about Truman firing, um . . .

Speaker 1: What does the club name? One million . . .  

Speaker 2: Committee of One Million, it was in New York.

Speaker 1: Committee? 

Speaker 2: Committee. They had large, well, very well represented. [00:06:00]

Speaker 1: What is this Committee of One Million? 

Speaker 2: Well, basically, were a group of people who hated Harry Truman for having fired MacArthur. 

Speaker 1: So they formed this Committee? 

Speaker 2: Yah. 

Speaker 1: Wow. I didn’t know. 

Speaker 2: Yah. Big thing. 

Speaker 1: Tell me more about it if you know. 

Speaker 2: I really don’t, I just know what she wrote me in the letters, and that was 60 some-odd years ago, so I really, um, [00:06:30] I know she was very active in it, and she was not normally the kind of person who got active in political things. 

Speaker 1: So, what happened to you after you are being, after you were drafted?

Speaker 2: Well, after I was drafted, um, I went to the induction center in [00:07:00] Massachusetts and most of my classmates who were drafted the day before went to Fort Monmouth for the Signal Corps and, um, there was no chance I was going to make the Signal Corps. The dot-dash stuff left me completely out and, um, so myself and two of the guys that I knew were sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana to the, the 45th Infantry Division [00:07:30] from Oklahoma had just been um, activated and, um, they were filled with young kids. Before they got activated, they made a big drive, go with the man you know, and all these young kids joined up. So we took some, we didn’t didn’t really take basic training, we just hung around Camp Polk for a couple of months [00:08:00], and then we got word we were going to go to Japan for advanced basic, and the officers looked around and they all these high school kids with the rank, and these people who had joined them like myself, I was 22, and so after about 2 months in the army after we had got on the boat, I was made recon sergeant which is the [00:08:30] buck sergeant in charge of headquarters platoon. 

Speaker 1: Headquarter platoon? 

Speaker 2: Headquarters platoon, and since that was made up of cooks who nobody bothered, and the company clerk who nobody bothered, and the motor pool, who nobody bothered, I didn’t really have very much to do. 

Speaker 1: Ah. Let me go back. When were you drafted? [00:09:00]  

Speaker 2: I was drafted in about the beginning of September, 1950.

Speaker 1: Oh. And then when did you arrive in Korea?

Speaker 2: I – The 45th Division went from, we went to Japan, and the 45th division went and landed in Korea on, um, [00:09:30] January first, 1952, but I had gone over, over 30 days in advance with the advance party, and the reason that I did that is when the 45th Division realized they were, um, they were going into Korea, they sent all the Oklahoman’s home [00:10:00] because they had terrible problems in World War II with whole towns, the males in whole towns being wiped out and so I was made First Sergeant, and the guys like myself were whole platoon Sergeants, it was a weapons company. We had a 75 millimeter recoilless rifle platoon, a heavy machine gun platoon with 30 caliber water-cooled [00:10:30] machine guns for, and 75 millimeter recoilless rifle, and so I was made First Sergeant, so I went over with the executive officer on the first of November, 1951, so I was there in ‘52. 

Speaker 1: Right. Where did you stationed?

Speaker 2: We were mostly in the Chorwon Valley and the Iron [00:11:00] Triangle.

Speaker 1: Chorwon Valley? 

Speaker 2: Chorwon.

Speaker 1: In 1952? 

Speaker 2: Yeah.

Speaker 1: There, there were severe battles there. 

Speaker 2: Yes, there were. As a matter of fact, do you know Tiger, the . . . 

Speaker 1: Yeah.

Speaker 2: The lowest First Sergeant, I got to several company commander’s meetings, and at one of them I picked up a set of, picked up a map of the Chorwon Valley, which was a regimental [00:11:30] 270, our regiments, um, attack plan, and it was straightening all the lines out, taking out, taking about eight hills, it had where the tanks regiment put the tanks, and the 81 millimeter mortar and then they come to the company commanders meeting and the rifle companies would fill in besides having the objectives, they also had the axis of attack and [00:12:00] so they would plan out the overall battle and the company commanders of the rifle company would put in specific things and I picked up a map of the, um, of that action, and just a month ago I gave it to Tiger because, um, when I die it’s just going to get thrown out, and I have him the least in Korea, but you’re more than welcome to ask him for it, [00:12:30] I think you’d find it quite interesting. 

Speaker 1: You gave what? 

Speaker 2: I gave a topographical map of of a regimental attack, straightening out the lines. 

Speaker 1: Tell me about the regimental attack, how the Chinese, right, 

Speaker 2: Yeah, yeah. 

Speaker 1: And how was it done?

Speaker 2: Well, you really can’t tell. I mean, when you’re in an operation [00:13:00] like that, the only reason I was up with the, where the fighting was is that the 75 millimeter rifles and the machine gun platoons were lent out to rifle companies and, um, I felt my job as First Sergeant was to keep them, um, keep them in touch with home. I’d string wires to them [00:13:30] and go with them on, um, evening raids and night raids so that they weren’t being taken advantage of – one of the things about being sent in as an outsider into a rife company, you could be taken advantage of. 

Speaker 1: So you engaged in the battle directly, right? 

Speaker 2: Yeah, well, I must say most of the fire I exchanged was at night [00:14:00] on combat missions where each side would try to deny “no man’s land” to the other side and you just go out and try and make contact and then one side or the other would “bug out”. 

Speaker 1: Can you tell me about the kind of encounter with the enemies or dangerous moments in your service? 

Speaker 2: Confusion is the only, the [00:14:30] word you can use.

Speaker 1: What do you mean by confusion?

Speaker 2: Well, a lot of shooting around you and, um,  they say moments of terror and tremendous times of boredom, that was it. It, um. 

Speaker 1: So why did you leave Korea? 

Speaker 2: I left in the fall of 1952

Speaker 1: Fall of 1952. [00:15:00]

Speaker 1: How you become recon sergeant so quickly? 

Speaker 2: Because I came into this group of high school kids, the officers were all World War II people from the 45th Division, which was a very famous World War II, but the soldier were all just [00:15:30] young children, young farm kids who just joined just to make some money and then they got activated and they, when they were sent to Japan, they all went home, so here we had a company with just people like myself, people who would add into the company. Some were young draftees, and some people like myself were 22 years old with half their college done [00:16:00] and that’s really why I got to be. 

Speaker 1: There were not many college graduates there, right? 

Speaker 2: There were none [laughing], when we, I mean, when in Japan, there were a lot of boys from the Indian School, that – that’s it. 

Speaker 1: What did you think about Korea at the time that you were in Korea? What was the scene? What was people like and tell me . . .

Speaker 2: I was very glad, I felt very satisfied [00:16:30] at what I was doing. I had a sense of satisfaction, kinda like I was paying my dues, I guess, but, um, except when it was not good, it was not bad at all. Hard, but not bad. I mean, we lived in rather crude conditions and we ate rather crude food and, but, [00:17:00] um, you were with your buddies and you were alive and kicking, so. 

Speaker 1: So you were in Chorwon Valley until you left Korea? 

Speaker 2: Yes, as a matter of fact, we went into reserve and none of the platoon sergeants or myself had taken any [00:17:30] R&R, so when we were back in the reserve, we had got a new commanding officer who we did not like at all, so all, all of the top sergeants asked for an R&R link to Japan and when we got down to the airport, they called our names and told us to come back, and we got back and picked up our duffel bags [00:18:00] and were shipped to Sasebo in Japan and went home, so I did get home a little early. 

Speaker 1: After you came back, did you talk about your service to your family? 

Speaker 2: Absolutely not at all, that’s . . . 

Speaker 1: Why not? 

Speaker 2: You can probably – I traveled a lot. I was a salesman and I used to go to a lot of bars, and [00:18:30] I used to hear a lot of stories, as I’m sure you hear a lot of stories, and I just got so fed up with them that I just kept quiet. 

Speaker 1: Why? Why you were so [quiet]?

Speaker 2: I just guess that’s the way I am. 

Speaker 1: You didn’t want to disclose some of the stories that you had in the war?

Speaker 2: No. No, no, the kids had asked me if I could get a film of some of this because the one part of my life that they don’t know about is, is this [00:19:00] part.

Speaker 1: Hm. It’s strange because the veterans from the World War II, they talked about the war, right? 

Speaker 2: Some did, some didn’t. Um, we’ve got guys out here who love to talk about it. They love to go to schools and stuff like that. I’ve never – and, and there are a lot of, a lot of people who are in that, and I’ve noticed [00:19:30] more guys who had boots on the ground in Korea proper are that way than the Navy guys or the Air Force guys. 

Speaker 1: And why you talk now about your service? 

Speaker 2: Because our commander asked me to come here. He knew I had avoided this, and he’s been such a perfect guy for our chapter that I can’t refuse anything the guy asks. 

Speaker 1: What’s his name? [00:20:00] Bob [Aider]?

Speaker 2: Bob [Aider], right. 

Speaker 1: Why people say the Korean War was forgotten? Why people say it’s a forgotten war? People like you don’t talk about it so that people don’t know about it.

Speaker 2: That’s true, and you know, I went through a, a whole part of growing up after I got home, and I never joined the Legion, I never joined [00:20:30] anything until, un, until I got much older and then I did it because I drank [laughs] and then it branched out to this Korean group and I enjoy this Korean group more than any group I’ve, um . . .  

Speaker 1: Korea was very outdated at the time, right? 

Speaker 2: I think that’s a good word – outdated – [00:21:00] people were absolutely tired of World War II. I mean, you can’t believe how tired the American people were of World War II. I mean, they had been rationed and didn’t have lots of things and, and were – upsetting time upsetting time for a lot of people. The men were all drafted, the women were all working. 

Speaker 1: What is the legacy of the Korean War [00:21:30] and Korean War and Korean War veterans? 

Speaker 2: The answer for the Korean War?

Speaker 1: The Legacy. Why was . . .

Speaker 2: Oh, oh, I’ll tell you the whole thing boils down – have you seen that, I’m sure you have, seen the map of North and South Korea at night lit up? To me that, that says everything. When people tell me that Korea’s the 10th largest economy, [00:22:00] I feel pretty good about that. Now, I’ve never gone back to [inaudible] revisit Korea, and the reason I haven’t, I have no desire to go back and see big buildings. If it was like it was when I was there, I would give anything to go back, but to go back to the opulence that’s there now is just, just no, no interest and, did you notice how few guys in London on Sunday raised their hands? [00:22:30]  Six guys who raised their hands, they went back, and all those guys were probably more like me who didn’t say much. 

Speaker 1: There were more Korean War veterans who had an interview with me, rather than those who went to Korea through a revisit program. 

Speaker 2: Yeah, and, and the guys who go out and talk at schools and stuff like that

Speaker 1: The “Tell America” program?

Speaker 2: Yeah, they’re Air Force and Navy and, [00:23:00] although, the guy who was just ahead of me, he was there and he’s very quiet. Jack . . .

Speaker 1: Jack?

Speaker 2: Jack – yeah, he’s, he’s a lot like, he was old like I was when he was drafted, he was drafted into a National Guard company, and we’re a lot alike. 

Speaker 1: So do you agree that Atcheson should haven’t done that?

Speaker 2: Pardon? 

Speaker 1: Acheson, [00:23:30] Dean Acheson, so you think that, do you agree that Dean Acheson should have not spoken? 

Speaker 2: Oh, definitely, yeah, I, I more than most, I believe that was the sole cause, cause of the Korean War. I mean, when you went out, I mean, you had to be alive at the time to know how, how carefully people watch the nuanced words, I mean, that was extremely nuanced, and yet, [00:24:00] to them, it was like getting hit over the head with a hammer, I mean.

Speaker 1: Hm. Are you willing to go visit Korea? 

Speaker 2: Yeah, as I say, I don’t want to go back and see a bunch of big buildings. If, if I could see where I was and bunkers and stuff I would go back in a second, but, um, not, not to see some big city or to visit [00:24:30] some plant. 

Speaker 1: Do you have any message to young generations about your experience in the war? 

Speaker 2: Yeah. My biggest message would be how great the Korean people are. I mean, you don’t know what it’s like to have been an American and, and go to France now and [00:25:00] right after the war, before the war was over, the French hated us, and the Koreans have just been, I mean, you can’t believe how wonderful the Korean people, and not only the generation that we fought for, but the children and the grandchildren of them. It’s just really amazing. Lunch Sunday was a perfect example.

Speaker 1: So [00:25:30] how did your military experience impact and affect your life? 

Speaker 2: The biggest impact at all, I was a “C” student at night school when I left, and I was an “A” student when I came back. 

Speaker 1: What did you do? [Unintelligible] 

Speaker 2: I got married. Before I graduated, I had three children and, um, and good business promotion. [00:26:00] Had I not been a Korean veteran with First Sergeant stuff like that, I – I don’t think as many opportunities in business would have been open to me. 

Speaker 1: Do you have grandchildren in the age of college students? 

Speaker 2: No, I have grandchildren in their 50s. Oh, no, children in their 50s, grandchildren all out of college, and a . . . 

Speaker 1: How old are they?

Speaker 2: Great, a great grandson. [00:26:30] My kids are 23 to 28. 

Speaker 1: Grandchildren? 

Speaker 2: Yeah. 

Speaker 1: Ah. You know what? I created Korean War Veterans Youth Corps. It’s like a Peace Corps by the [unintelligible] and I did it last year because I want them to be able to continue in your legacy of Korean War veterans, and if you have grandchildren [00:27:00] in the 20s, in their 20s, I already reserved the hotel room for the convention here in Washington DC from July 25 – 28. If they’re interested in it, it’s all free except the transportation. 

Speaker 2: Yeah, I am, I asked, um, I have one grandson who I thought might take the return to Korea as a grandson, but he, um . . .

Speaker 1: Not interested? 

Speaker 2: As a matter of fact, instead, he went to China [00:27:30] and, I mean, he’s got an interest in a lot of things, but not interested, but very, my generation of grandchildren is not really interested in war. 

Speaker 1: A common characteristic. 

Speaker 2: They don’t think much of our involvement in the Mideast and all that. 

Speaker 1: Any other message that you want to add? 

Speaker 2: Absolutely not, except thank you very much. [00:28:00]

Speaker 1: Thank you for coming. I want to thank you for the fight for the Korea.

Speaker 2: Well, thank you. 

Speaker 1: Thank you. 

[End of recorded material]