Korean War Legacy Project

Norman Charles Champagne


Norman C. Champagne joined the U.S. Marine Corps in February of 1951.  He was sent to twelve weeks of basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina.  Afterwards, he was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where he also joined the 2nd Medical Battalion, and gained experience with amphibious landings, driving an ambulance, and handling emergency combat situations.  Before shipping out to Korea, he went through more infantry training at Camp Pendleton, California in 1952.  After landing at Inchon, his first encounter with fighting came at Bunker Hill.  What followed, were combat experiences that proved to be extensive throughout 1952 and 1953.  He shares unique perspectives about the harsh realities of battle, as well as his lasting impressions of Korea.





Video Clips

Attacks on Chinese Outposts

Norman C. Champagne describes a mission to attack Hill 150 and 153, which were two Chinese outposts. As a Fire Team Leader, his goal was to blow up the Chinese bunkers and trenches to break the lower and upper trench lines. He explains why the Chinese were formidable enemies, despite the additional dropping of napalm by Corsair bombers.

Tags: Chinese,Front lines,Living conditions,Physical destruction,Weapons

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Battle for the Berlin's

Norman C. Champagne shares a story about being under attack near the end of the Korean War. When asked to describe a challenging time, he talks about the Battle for the Berlin's and Boulder City. While he and another officer were driving to deliver supplies, they came under attack, experiencing a few terrifying moments that continue to live on in his memory.

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

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Beautiful Korea

Norman C. Champagne speaks fondly of his opportunity to revisit Korea, and his pleasure at physical changes that have occurred since his time in the country. He describes coming in by airplane into Seoul, and his surprise at the beauty of the country. He discusses frustration at the political challenges that keep the Koreans from fully enjoying a unified country.

Tags: Incheon,Seoul,Yellow Sea,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Modern Korea,Prior knowledge of Korea

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of recorded material]

N:        I am, uh, Norman Champagne, 79 years old.  Uh, I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York.

I:          [INAUDIBLE]

N:        Well, you see, most of the veterans from World War II, uh, came home and, uh, they didn’t talk to their family about the war and, uh, I didn’t, either.  But I, uh, after I raised the family and


finished my career in 2005, I retired officially, and at that time I started researching World War I, World War II, Korea and everything since.

I:          Hm.

N:        And I found it very interesting, and the…People didn’t care, didn’t know what we had done or, you know the sacrifices that were made by the soldiers that went there except one people, and that was


the Koreans.  The Koreans more or less pushed us to, I, I was in Washington, D.C. and, uh, uh, this gentleman and his mother came up to me, and she kept telling me [KOREAN PHRASE], and I wondered why, I said why is she thanking me, and he was the interpreter, and, because she couldn’t speak English, and she said that without the United Nations getting involved in


South Korea, I would never be here today.  She was born in 1953 in Seoul, and she said I would have never been here today if it hadn’t been, hadn’t been for the UN troops.

I:          That’s pretty powerful.

N:        And this brought tears to my eyes.  Eh, I, it, I never had anyone, especially the guys from World War II, had people from Europe come up to them and say the same, similar things.

I:          Um hm.

N:        So it, the


people from Korea had always, they pushed us more or less to this.  The people themselves in America, uh, didn’t know or care about the Korean War virtually.  They didn’t know where Korea was.  They didn’t know where Asia was half of them, and they didn’t care.  They were fed up with World War II and, uh, now five years later this starts, and as Truman called it, it was a police action.  Well, it turned into more than a police action.

I:          Um hm.


N:        Uh, when you get 30, uh, 6,000, uh, troops killed, then it’s more than a police action.  But it finally, they didn’t recognize it as a war until the late 90’s and early 2,000.  Bill Clinton finally said in 2003 that it was a bloody, it was no police action.  It was a bloody war.

I:          Um hm.

N:        So that’s why I, uh, really got involved with, uh,


learning more about the wars we were on and why we were in them.

I:          And, I mean you bring up an excellent point. That’s basically our motivation for this project is to enlighten the public on, on this war.  So is that, I guess that’s clearly the motivating factor in you participating in this project, too.

N:        That’s right.

I:          Get the information out to the public, right?

N:        The, you know that after Korea, uh, we came home, and nobody


talked about it and, uh, and nobody talked about.  And, uh, I didn’t either, and, uh, finally I, within the last 15 to 20 years, people have started to talk more about Korea than they did 50 years ago.

I:          Um hm.

N:        And Vietnam and what have you.  Uh, the people are starting to, the, the new generation want, is eager to learn what, why we were there, what we were doing and, you know.

I:          I guess there’s this generation now that’s just so anti-war they didn’t want to be


involved or with it at all, and now a newer generation is starting to accept our history and be interested in

N:        Right.

I:          in getting to know about it.  Alright, so that’s, exactly.  I mean as we were saying, this generation’s don’t, are ignoring the war, and President Clinton, first one to actually mention the, the realities of the war I guess to the public and maybe it’s the first time the public actually head about that.


It’s interesting that

N:        And that was in 2003.

I:          Um hm.

N:        That, but he would, not when he was in office.  When he was in office, it was, uh, it should have never been fought.  It was a mistake and all this.  All wars were mistakes.  But when he addressed the, um, 2000 or the 50thanniversary of the Korean War veterans in New Jersey or somewhere, he then had a speech, and he said that


I think that he admitted he had made a mistake,

I:          Um hm.

N:        that he had not, uh, learned about it or learned more about our history.  He didn’t know that much about our history, especially warfare, uh, seeing as he, he was a draft dodger to begin with, so he didn’t. but now when he’s addressing the war veterans of the Korean War, he finally admitted that it was a bloody, and it was


not a police action. It was not a, um, uh, they called it a police action.  Then they called it a, a, something else, and finally he said it was a war.

I:          Um hm.

N:        Period.

I:          So what was it like to, you know, from a veteran’s perspective to hear such a high profile person, you know, a former president actually admit to this when no one else has, has admitted to it.

N:        Right.

I:          It must have been a real

N:        Made it, it made us feel good that he

I:          Yeah.

N:        and the VFW and the, uh, Korean War Veterans Association and


I:          You were getting some recognition of

N:        Finally.  Finally, yes.

I:          Yeah.

N:        And really in the last 10 – 20 years is when we’ve really got more recognition than we got after the war was over.

I:          Um hm.

N:        Nobody wanted to hear about it.

I:          Well, as Dick was, was mentioning how Americans have a short-term memory, right?  So maybe finally we’re starting to

N:        Right.

I:          remember our history and appreciate it.  Um, alright so let’s, let’s go back to before the war.  What, what were you doing before the war?


N:        Before the war, uh, there wasn’t a lot of work around, uh, of course it was half the population that there is today anyway. But, uh, what I was doing was I was, to get a job, I worked in a gas station for a year, and then I worked, uh, at, uh, American Standard starting in September of 1950.  My father got me into the American Standard plant in Buffalo which would make furnaces.


I:          Um hm.

N:        And I was a mechanical oiler in the foundry. And, uh, six months later I joined the Marine Corps.

I:          This is back when Buffalo was a little more booming than it was, than it is today, huh?

N:        Syracuse, Buffalo, Rochester, all of them.

I:          And so is that what motivated you to join the Marine Corps. because you didn’t like your job situation?

N:        I didn’t like the job situation.  I didn’t wanna continue to live at home any longer. I just wanted to get out,


and my brother had joined the Marine Corps. a month before.  So I just thought, uh, I was going to try it.  My grandfather had been in the, the Canadian Army.  My uncle had been in the Canadian Army, and I wanted to get

I:          Um hm.

N:        You gotta understand the time

I:          Um hm.

N:        that, you know.  There wasn’t a lot of things to do.  There was no tv.  There was no, uh,

I:          Um hm.

N:        you know; the communications was terrible.

I:          No I-phones?


N:        [LAUGHS] Mostly your phones, you were on a four-family line

I:          Yeah.

N:        you know.  Somebody, the phone might ring and you pick it up and it’s for the guy down the street.

I:          [LAUGHS]

N:        Yeah.  That’s the way it was.

I:          And

N:        So that, it, it just, uh, I wanted to get out and see the world.  That’s what I really wanted to do was see the world, see something besides Buffalo, NY.

I:          Yeah.

N:        I went down and joined the Army, and the Army said that they weren’t taking anyone within the next few months because they were trying to straighten out the people, the amount of recruits they


had and, uh,

I:          Yeah.

N:        They were over staffed and all this, and even though Korea was going on, they had thousands and thousands of young men who had enlisted, and they were starting to draft.  So, or constrict.

I:          Um hm.

N:        So what I did was, uh, on the way out of the building, I see the Marine Corps. office, so I walked in, and there’s two guys in there in dress blues and, uh, nobody was there but them.  Nobody looking to sign up.  So


the guy says, uh, can I help you?  I said yes, I’d like to join the Marine Corps.  Oh, come over here.

I:          He’s like [LAUGHS]

N:        So they gave me a physical and the whole shot right there, and one was a Navy corpsman, and the other guy was a, a regular Marine. So they gave me a, you know, sort of a physical

I:          Um hm.

N:        and, uh, signed me up.

I:          And, and what, what, when was this?

N:        It was in, uh, February 1951.

I:          So did you know about the escalating situation


in Korea at the time when you enlisted?

N:        No, no I did not.  I didn’t know, uh, I really didn’t know where Korea was, and I had no, I didn’t join the Marine Corps. to, uh, because of Korea.

I:          Yeah.

N:        It wasn’t publicized that much at that time. It was kept low key

I:          The Army probably wouldn’t have gotten so many recruits if they publicized it.

N:        Um hm.  It was kept low key. That, as MacArthur told them it’d be over by Christmas,


so they didn’t want, you know, it was so low keyed and, uh, well, it’s past Christmas now

I:          Um hm.

N:        and it’s, now it’s escalated and, uh, so I did hear about this thing,oh, way over in the east near China or something. There was a war going on or a, a, some sort of a conflict.

I:          Yeah.

N:        So I joined the Marine Corps., again notice, as I said, to see the world

I:          Right.

N:        and to meet other people and get out of Buffalo, NY.


And I was, uh, 18 years old, and I turned 19 in boot camp.

I:          Where was that?

N:        At Paris Island, South Carolina.  And I was there for 12 weeks and, uh, went through, see, the Marine Corps. where they take you through boot camp, everyone is a trained to be a basic rifleman.  It doesn’t matter if you’re gonna end up driving


a truck or if you’re gonna end up, uh, in communications or 8, you’re all trained as one basic rifleman, 0311.

I:          And then they, and then they

N:        From that.

I:          assign you after that?

N:        After that.  Then you, then you know from there that you might, because when you’re interviewed, you tell them what you’re doing, and I was a, a truck driver, uh, part time at night, and um, so after I was through boot camp,


they assigned me to the 2ndMarine Division at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina I joined the 2ndMedical Battalion

I:          Um hm.

N:        as a, uh, ambulance driver and a supply hauler, whatever they wanted done.  And, but through the year of 1951, I was on three amphibious landings.  One, in fact, was Puerto Rico, and two at


uh, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina where we made actual full division amphibious landings.

I:          Um.

N:        Three of them.

I:          Could you describe that a little bit?

N:        Hm?

I:          Could you describe

N:        Well, what you would do, uh, uh, the one that we went to Puerto Rico on, the, first of all when I got to Korea, I had seen dead Marines prior to that.  Uh, When I got to, uh, to, uh, I mean when I got to Korea,


I had seen dead Marines before that.  And one guy said to me, you know, uh, it’s gonna be a little different here than it was in, uh, you know, where you were in the States, and I said this won’t be the first time I’ve seen a Marine dead.  I said I was in the 2ndMedical Battalion in a, on June the 5th, 1951, they had a live round maneuvers we were going through at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina which is a huge, huge, huge post,


and, um, they had combat, uh, readiness areas.  They had areas where post-ground support, airplanes could come in and bomb and all that stuff.  Uh, the Navy could fire, uh, their 16” guns on, uh, the, on land into North Carolina. But when I, uh, we got an alarm one day. It was the 6thMarine Regiment was on maneuvers,


live round maneuvers, and they were hit, two 81 mm mortar rounds landed shortly at the CP, the 6thMarines.  They killed eight Marines, and they had 21 wounded.  So we went in with our ambulances and, uh, that’s the first time, you know, to line the dead up along the road for, waiting for graves registration and took the other guys to the base hospital.  And, uh, during the second maneuver at, uh,


when we landed at, uh, Vegas, Puerto Rico, uh, we had six guys killed at the beach, uh, run over by AmTrax, uh, you know, in the assault.  You, your, you have a full division assault

I:          Yeah.

N:        and, uh, you, you’re trying to land, uh, about, uh, 12 – 15,000 troops, and you have a lot of, uh, LCDPs which are the landing craft, uh, vehicle personnel type ship, the Higgins Boat.


They would take a platoon ashore or a squad or whatever and, uh, when we were taken ashore, the, some of the boats were caught between one another, or the, the boats would slam together and somebody get caught in between them or when a Marine was laying on the beach firing, and AmTrax

I:          [INAUDIBLE]

N:        would come ashore, and he couldn’t see them on the beach

I:          Yeah.

N:        They’d tip her over or something.

I:          And this, these were all training exercises in preparation to ship out to Korea?

N:        Preparation to ship out, yes.


I:          So was this kind of the first time or a lot of the, the, I guess the young newly enlisted Marines were kind of realizing this is real.  We can die, you know.  This is

N:        Well this, you know, if you join the Marine Corps., first of all you’re gung-ho.  I mean you, the, there is a certain history on the Marine Corps. all the way from, uh, Belleau Wood in World War I on through the Pacific on through into Korea at Chosin Reservoir at that time.


So there was, uh, we were taught more and more about Marine history and about what’s going on now which was going on in Korea.

I:          That’s part of education to know the facts.

N:        So after the end of the year into ’52, they asked me if I wanted to go on the Med cruise, and that would be a six-month cruise to the Mediterranean with the 6thFleet and, uh, two Marine Regiments, and I said, so I went, I went and saw the lieutenant


and I said is there any chance of signing up for duty beyond the seven seas?  That’s what they called it.  And he said yes.  We’re looking for people to go to Camp Pendleton to train to end up in the Pacific somewhere.  Well, I knew what he meant by that.

I:          Yeah.

N:        In the Pacific somewhere.  Uh, so anyway, I signed up.  So they called me about a month later and gave me orders to report to Camp Pendleton, California.


and, uh, we went through three months, three weeks of extensive combat training, uh, because you gotta understand we were already in the Marine Corps. for a year and a half. So, but we had to get back into the infantry part of this thing because every man, every Marine is a rifleman.

I:          Yeah.

N:        So anyway, we got on the ship, and we went, our destination out of San Diego was, uh, uh, Kobe, Japan.


And, uh, we hit a, a, that was, it, you know, you, you don’t get, don’t get scared too easily when you’re 19, 18, 20 years old, uh, unless the guy besides you gets blown away. But I, you, you get on that ship, and we run into a typhoon near Wake Island for five days we were in a typhoon. And, uh, the ship is going at, uh, the rate of 2 knots


speed just to keep steerage.

I:          Pretty slow.

N:        Just to keep steerage because he’s going up, and he’s coming back down and slamming and slamming and slamming.  After the 3rdday, they had to put 19 rounds of weld in the bow.  That didn’t even disturb us, and we look out on both sides of us, and there’s not another ship anywhere, and it’s raining and it’s blowing and the, you know, for five days.

I:          Yeah.

N:        So we get to Kobe, like four days later.

I:          Like let’s just get there already.

N:        Yeah.  They didn’t have airplanes


then to fly you over.

I:          Um hm.

N:        They had a, you had to go by ship.  So when we got to Kobe, we stayed there one night, and then we took off the next day, and we ended up, uh, after a day and a half at Inchon Harbor.  And, uh, the Army took us ashore at Inchon and, uh, there was, uh, 2,200 Marines and 200 Navy Corpsmen.  And what we did was they needed 100 men in a hurry


up on the line at bunker and heddy which were two combat outposts.  They had lost so many men, especially at Bunker Hill, and, uh, so they called out our names to stand over there and we’ll tell you what you’re gonna do next.  So we all stood up, you know, in, uh, a column of twos or whatever, and there was 100 of us, and there was a train there just near, um, Yeongdeungpo, and we got on the train,


and we went north to Munsani Railhead.  And when we got to Munsani, oh, when we got on the train, the train was not a Amtrack. The train was a old, narrow gauge railroad that had boxcars.

I:          Um Hm.  Yeah, you could ship livestock or cargo

N:        Yeah, well, we had to lay flat on the floor or sit, at least sit up.  do not stand up because there’ they were afraid of snipers.

I:          Um hm.



N:        Between, uh, Yeongdeungpo and Munsani.  So they slid the doors closed and locked the doors, and we were in this training, and it’s going real slow.  But finally it gets to Munsani.  They open the doors.  We all get out, and then they put us in trucks and took us up to Bunker Hill. They, it was behind a hill, the biggest hill there, highest hill there, was, uh, it’s about 500 feet high.  And


behind that, then we could hear some firing going off.  And, uh, now we’re getting nervous.  We’re looking at each other.  What’s going on here?
I:          Where are, where are they taking us?

N:        So, uh, they fed us.  We went through the chow line, and we got a hot meal there.  They had a, uh, a mess tent, tent set up, and we got through eating it was getting dark, and we climbed the side of the hill and climbed up the road on the hill, and we ended up in a fighting hole for the rest of the night.  And we were told to,


don’t worry about what squad you’re in or anything else. You’ll find out in the next couple of days.  So we went through that, and that night the, that was my first experience, the Chinese attacked Bunker Hill.

I:          That, that first night.

N:        That first night.  They attacked Bunker, and they killed three or four guys right out in front of us and, uh, one thing I’ll never forget is that after the firing. it had died down after about


two hours.  I could hear a guy yelling real plain, and, uh, one other guy told him to shut up.  Shut him up.  Shut him up.

I:          Was he injured or he was just kind of

N:        Well, here’s what he was, he was injured.

I:          Um hm.

N:        He said oh mommy, I’m dying.  Oh mommy, I’m dying.  He said that about four times.  And then it was silent,


and there was nothing, and

I:          That must have been kind of a morbid thought to, like that’s the last thing and you’re like nighttime after the battle. Everyone’s kind of thinking about that.

N:        Here I am in a fighting hole looking out at the hill. I could see illumination and that. It was a 300’, uh, yards in front of us. And I’m by myself.  The closest guy is like 6, 6 yards on either side of me and, uh,


I got tears coming out of my eyes.  And I know that this poor buy had died and, uh, it was, you know, that, uh, just never heard

I:          There was nothing you could do about it, right?

N:        No, there was nothing you could do about it, no, no.  If you were, you know, you couldn’t pull a John Wayne and jump up and run over the, they’d have shot you.  But anyway, after a few days there and we met, and were there for, uh, from the 4thof October


of ’52 until the 12th.  Eight days, and then we were pulled off line.

I:          Um hm.

N:        And then in 19, uh, in November of the next, the next month, we pulled a raid on hills 150 and 153, full company sized raid. We had, uh, four dead and 93 wounded and 55 stretcher cases.  And, uh, that was my first, you know,


combat and front of the line on an attack.  We were, uh, uh, it was a full, uh, company attack.  Was, we were on OP Vegas which became the famous, uh, battle site, Vegas. And, uh, we, the company walked through Vegas at 11 :00 at night, and we, our destinations were hill 150 and 153 which one was to the northeast and one was just to the northwest of it.


Uh, those two hills. They were both manned by the, uh, Chinese and, uh, they were Chinese outposts.  They weren’t their main land.  They were outposts.  We wanted to, we had satchel charges.  That’s three long sticks of, uh, uh, X3 charge, uh, explosive

I:          Um hm.

N:        with a hand grenade, uh, uh, pin stuck in it like the guts of the hand grenade?  So all you had to do is pull the pin, and when that blew, it would blow to C3, and we,


our duty, or what we were trying to do was to blow their trenches and bunkers in the lower or upper trench lines.  That afterno, noon prior to that, they had, um, four, we were taken up on the hill. The, cause I was a fire team leader. The fire team leaders and the squad leaders were taken up on the hill, and we


overlooking hills 150 and 153, and four Corsairs come in to the right of us and, uh, fighter bombers,

I:          Um hm.

N:        You know, the Corsair, the Gullwing job, there were four of them lined up, and they’re coming in.  The first thing they did on the two peaks was drop, uh, two tanks of Napalm.  There, if you were looking at it from east and west and we’re over here,


uh, the two were not in line.  They were separated.  So two Corsairs took care of this hill, and two Corsairs took care of that hill.  And they went up and around behind us and come around, and when they came around on the next run, they lit up the whole hills with the Napalm.  The next round they dropped two 500 pounders, and when they dropped the two 500 pounders, they went around again, and the came back and fired all the 40 mm cannon off their wings, and they fired,


and, uh, they made, some of them made two runs, and one made one run.  Okay, not the C3 officer is standing there, or the, uh, intelligence officer, and he says to us, you’re not, nothing to worry about. Nobody could live through that. Well, we hit them at 4:00 in the morning.  This was 4:00 in the afternoon, and we hit them at 4:00 in the morning.  And at 4:00 in the morning, you wouldn’t have known that they had been bombed or strafed or Napalmed.


I:          They were completely, they got, they, uh,

N:        See, they knew, they, they heard and saw the Corsairs coming cause they came at 4:00 in the afternoon.

I:          So they could cover.

N:        still day, They go into the tunnels.  I mean, that whole North Korea is tunnels.

I:          Tunnels?  Oh.

N:        And, uh, they’re like moles.  They just, you know, they’re very, uh, very good fighters, very good, uh, uh, very, uh, guerilla-type fighting.

I:          Yeah.


N:        Uh, they’d been fighting in China for years and years and year and years, against each other or the North Koreans or the, uh, Japanese.

I:          Um hm.

N:        And most of these guys were, uh, veterans of wars for the last 10 years.  But anyway, uh, you could convince anybody of that.  But until it happened.  So after that battle, we went back into reserve again, and then we went back on line, and we served for the next six weeks, from the middle of December through January on an outpost which we called Nevada Cities, Reno, Vegas, Carsoned and there was the, uh,


Reno block or Alcove. And that was a famous battle in, uh, March 26 and May 29 of ’53.  Famous battle at, uh, the, uh, Nevada Cities.  Because virtually in, uh, January and February, there was hardly any, uh,action at all.  There was a lot of patrols going on.  We were going, you know, to see,


you just go and go and go until you make contact.  And when you make contact, the officers usually mark the area or the forward observers and the artillery, and then they go back.  We go back.  We take off out of there and get the hell out of there before we get killed.  And, uh, they would do the same thing for us.

I:          Um hm.

N:        They wanted to know where you were because during the daylight, hardly anything took place.

I:          Yeah.

N:        Uh, they certainly didn’t come out of their holes because during the daylight, we had aircraft up.


They didn’t have any. But, uh, what we were trained to do was to find out where they were.  So, uh, you, what do they call it?  You either had a, a combat patrol or a recon patrol, and that’s what we did in January and February and most of March because of snow, cold, whatever. So the Chinese made no, they were restocking and restocking, restocking and waiting because they were coming.


I:          Yeah.

N:        And we knew this.  We didn’t know when.

I:          So what’s that like, you know?  I mean it seems like, you know, during the down months you guys are probably, you might even get a little bored at your, at your station

N:        Well.

I:          and then

N:        That’s the problem with having people sitting in a stationary front

I:          Um hm.

N:        is boredom and trying to keep these troops, uh,

I:          Cause they have to be attentive at the same time.

N:        Right.  Right. And that was up to the officers to do that.  But what we would do during the day,


a lot of us would take off in different groups and go south, uh.  We trucked, uh, a couple of miles south to rebuild the Kansas line which was a fall back trench line, It was called a Kansas line.  We were on the Jamestown line.  We’d fall back to the Kansas line.

I:          Um hm.

N:        And when you fall back to the, uh, but we could advance.  We were told by the 8thArmy that we could not advance and hold anything. You could advance and shoot and kill


and, but you couldn’t hold

I:          Because they were too well defended.

N:        No. You, you could, if you took their outposts and that, you could not keep them.

I:          Yeah.

N:        You know.  You could do all the damage you wanted on them, but then you had to pull back.

I:          Um.  What was your rank again?

N:        Corporal.

I:          Corporal?  Okay.

N:        Yeah.  I was a Corporal the whole time in Korea.

I:          Um hm.

N:        Yeah, that, once you got into Korea, you, they weren’t giving out ranks or given.  They would, the last thing they were worried about was giving anybody any

I:          Yeah.

N:        A, a Sergeant or anything else.  I had already passed the Sergeant


when I went to Korea, but I never got it.

I:          Um hm.

N:        So, the, uh, that took us into, to, uh, uh, the end of January, and I was in Dog Company as a fire team leader and a platoon runner.  I was a runner for the lieutenant.

I:          This is January of which year?  January of what year?

N:        Ja, this was in January of ’52, uh ’53.  ’53.


And in January of ’53, I was the, became a platoon runner for the lieutenant, the platoon leader for the whole month.  And that was anything he wanted or any communication.  If we were pinned down somewhere and he wanted me to go over to the 2ndplatoon and notify because they would cut your lines all the time. The Chinese would sneak around and just, you know, they were always cutting the lines behind you.  So you


had to, if you didn’t get on the phone and hear you good, if you had hill between you and the next guy, you couldn’t hear nothing anyway.

I:          Um hm.

N:        It, it isn’t like today, you know.  The communication was terrible.

I:          Yeah.

N:        So anyway, I, uh, beca, then there, we went, came off line the end of January of ’53, and the lieutenant said to me, uh, Champagne, uh, you’re a, get him over to my, uh, bunker.  So I went over there and talked to him, and he said would you do me a, he said


do you want to get back into motor transport?   I said oh yeah, lieutenant.  If you could arrange that, he said yeah.  We just had four or five guys who were drivers rotated, and rather than they give it to a new guy coming in, we’ll give it to you if you want it.  So I took over, and I was had the, I was driving the commanding officer of the 2ndBattalion First Marines who was a lieutenant colonel.

I:          Um hm.

N:        And I drove him for about a month or so until


we got into March, and then the big hit came at, uh, Nevada Cities.  The 5thMarines and the 7thMarines actually of Nevada Cities.  They had in, uh, four days, they killed 190, 193, 194 Marines, and they had about 1,000 wounded in a four-day battle.

I:          How’d you guys do that besides the, besides the, the, the, killed in action,


did you guys defend the line or

N:        Yes.

I:          Yeah.

N:        Yes.  We were over on the left flank from where this major battle took place, but what we had to do was to, uh, back them up.

I:          Um hm.

N:        Uh, anyway, we, you know, they, they just called for another platoon or another company.  You gotta shift them.

I:          So what’s it like, you know, through your eyes, I kind of wanna think we’re interested in, you know, through your mind and your eyes, what it’s like to be on the line


with, you know, living in those conditions just, you know, there’s so much going on, and it’s, it’s probably so hectic and chaos and

N:        Well I

I:          what were you thinking?

N:        You know, you’re scared not.  You’re, you’re scared, and then you’re not.  You’re scared and then you’re not.  When, uh, the raid we pulled in, uh, November of ’52, when I was out in front, I, now remember.  I was out in front of the line over a mile and, uh, it was night.  And we hit there at 4:00


in the morning, and we were there till 6:00 and, uh, the first thing that happened was we were pinned down by mortar fire, and you’re laying on the ground, and all you can feel is the ground shaking.

I:          Um hm.

N:        And, uh, there are people yelling and screaming and, uh, this is going on.  The Chinese are playing, uh, uh, the, uh, what are the, they’re blowing their trumpets and, uh, they’re banging, uh, pans


together.  These are signals between themselves.  Also the attack, but where they wanted to maybe bring up a co, another company or platoon.  They had signals, and this was just all this noise going on.  But the artillery, both ours going out and theirs coming, they knew where we were.  And we laid there in that ground for about 15 – 20 minutes.  You couldn’t move because of the mortar fire.

I:          Yeah.

N:        And at that point, you just,


you’re, you’re, you’re digging into the ground.  You’re, and, because you know you’re gonna get it splashed any minute because it’s mortar.

I:          You gotta know it’s coming, yeah.

N:        You don’t know, and you can’t move.  You can’t get up because they, you can hear the, uh, whirling of, uh, shrapnel going over your head.  You can hear it.   [NOISES]  Constantly. And you knew if you stood up you were done.

I:          Yeah.

N:        So you’d lay there, lay there and finally it stopped, and they


moved their firing pattern off to the right.  We then ran

I:          You’re like let’s get out of here. [LAUGHS]

N:        Well, the Sergeant said here’s a, a trench over here by the road.  So we ran and got into the trench by the road, and from there we, now, I mean there, uh, another spot, I’ve got a fire team which is four guys, and now I have six machine guns, Chinese, firing at me, and so I just, we had tracers, and we just, now I don’t feel afraid


I:          Cause you’re so in the moment, yeah.

N:        Yeah.  You’re, you’re, now you just wanna, you know, you’re trying to hurt somebody now.

I:          Yeah.  So when you’re lying on the ground, uh, thinking about these mortars

N:        And you’re helpless.

I:          that might hit you, are you, are you ever thinking what am I doing here?

N:        Well, you know what I thought a couple times was, uh, I just, after a while you just, you don’t care if you get hit or not. It’s just, it gets to a point where hit me or get rid of me, you know.  It, it does because you, you don’t know how


the hell you’re gonna get out of there.

I:          Yeah.

N:        Yeah.  You just have no concept [INAUDIBLE]

I:          And that’s a scary thought, you know.  You don’t know what’s gonna happen next.

N:        No, you don’t know what’s gonna happen, and you can hear other people screaming, and you know they’ve been hit and, uh, yelling and, uh, crying and what have you.  So, uh, because anyway, that, that’s what went on and especially I went over to, because I was driving now, I went over, took the, my commanding officer, over to the 5thMarines when they got hit


at Bo, at, uh, they Gambling Bowl or, uh, Nevada Cities, and it was just, uh, it, this we, went on and on for four and a half days and, uh, the, the, we were down to eat breakfast at the base of the hill the second day with my Colonel.  I took him down there, and I’m telling you right now, you had to, the trucks were coming up from Graves Registration


to get chow, the truck drivers,

I:          Um hm.

N:        and in the back of the trucks, they were opened, and you could see the heads, four or five, above them four or five, above them four or five.  They were shoved in the back of the truck.

I:          So after a while it’s almost like

N:        These guys are dead.

I:          you get numb to the

N:        Exactly.  Exactly.

I:          Yeah.

N:        I could sit there and eat, eat breakfast and look just take a glance.  It was right there at that wall, that’s where the back of the truck was,


and I, I looked, and I thought why the hell did he park that truck in there?

I:          [LAUGHS]

N:        Really I did.  But after a while the captain said what are you worried about, you know?

I:          So what about, I mean, dealing with maybe, uh, friends of yours that, that fell in the war, were shot?

N:        Yes, uh, my, uh, that night at, uh, Reno, they were the, it was the furthest outpost out and, uh, Jack Mullen


who I had joined the Marine Corps. with in, uh, Buffalo, New York and Jack and I had been together at Camp Lejeune, and we went over in the same ship together, and I went over there the next morning and asked the gunny sergeant. He said, uh, what, Corporal, what can I do for you, and it was a madhouse in there. Reporting they needed help, they needed this there, and I said I’m looking for Jack Mullen, and he looked at me and he said Mullen never come off the hill last night.


And I said thank you, and I walked out, and I knew that that meant they, they, they had been totally overrun, and the, the Chinese down along the hill.  So anybody who was still on the hill were in the cave.  We knew this later.  They went in the cave that they had dug, and the Chinese covered the cave so that they would suffocate.

I:          Um hm.

N:        And that’s what they did.  Yeah.  There was about 12 of them in the cave, and, but Jack was hit by a, a 60 mortar.  Jack was a flame man,


had a flame thrower,

I:          He had that

N:        A flame thrower.

I:          Yeah.

N:        And Jack was firing off this, this is what the report came out.  Jack was firing off the side, and a 60 mortar hit right in front of him.

I:          Yeah.

N:        And, uh, the witnesses said they never found his body.  The witnesses said that he was hit face on.  They could just see a splash and, uh, that he was just, he caught a 60 mortar.

I:          How does, so how does that affect you, you know, or tell us.

N:        It affected me for,


I still today, uh, I, I think of going to Buffalo, and I know where, where he’s buried in Buffalo and to go and see

I:          Yeah.

N:        It, uh, really does and, uh, I haven’t done it yet, and, I don’t know if I’ll ever do it.  But I, every year or so I, I gotta go see Jack

I:          Yeah.

N:        And, uh, yeah.  And then there’s another couple of guys, uh.  My sergeant on that raid, eh, on hills 150 and 53.


we lost, uh, my barman went down, it’d BAR, Browning Automatic Rifleman.  He went down, uh, with white phosphorous and, uh, a grenade, white phosphorous grenade.  He did things, burned the, uh, uniform right off him and, uh, we carried him down the slope and, uh, he was just burning, uh.  You could smell the flesh burning on him, and he was, he was dead by the time we got down to the bottom.  But, uh, my, my, uh,


platoon sergeant, Ed Dorman, was killed in that, uh, a great guy.  He was, you know, the guy was supposed to go home a week, in one week, and the lieutenant said to him, you don’t have to go on this raid.   You’re due to rotate out of here in one week.

I:          Yeah, so?

N:        So he, and he volunteered.

I:          Yeah.

N:        He was gonna stay with the guys till his time was up.

I:          Well, I guess you create this bond, you know, go through training and fighting with each other you don’t wanna, you know, kind of give up on your guys I guess.


N:        That’s right.

I:          Right.

N:        And Ed volunteered, and he was killed in that raid. So anyway, after, uh, but it went like that, it was constant.  When, when they weren’t attacking you, and you weren’t attacking them, there was all kinds of patrols all the time.  When you went into reserve, you had jobs to do.  you were working, uh, doing, uh, uh, bi, rebuilding bunkers on the outposts, uh,


because, you know, of artillery fire.  But without the KSC, the Korean Service Corps., um, the Korean Service Corps. was our labor department.  They were Korean men who were too old to fight or too young to fight.

I:          Um hm.

N:        But most of them were older, and this was called the Korean Service Corps., the KSC.  And, uh, they were, without them, I, you know, cause you couldn’t get a Marine to dig a hole for you or, you know,


or lift anything.

I:          Yeah.

N:        That had to be, but they, those guys carried out the wounded, the dead,

I:          Uh huh.,

N:        brought in supplies out to the Ops, uh, ammo, uh, water, uh, medical, uh, food. [ABRUPT START], them that, uh, and, and a lot of them got killed.

I:          Yeah.

N:        And, uh.  But they, uh, they had nothing else to do during the war.  In fact, we fed them, we paid them,


you know, the 8thArmy, the, uh, UN and the South Korean government and also, uh, they were starting their own, we were training their own people.  Our, uh, general staff for the 8thArmy who was, at that time, Ridgeway and, uh, Van Fleet.  Those are the two generals.  One was the, a Corps. commander, and the other was the 8thArmy commander, and they trained along with General P-A-I-K, uh. He was


the, uh. first four-star ROK General, and with him, he was in charge of the, uh, ROK Army and, uh, they were at, by 1952-53, they were, they had been trained, and they were good.

I:          So what was it like fighting with them and living with them?

N:        Well, we’d see, the Marine Corps. took a stand that we would not put any ROKs in our ranks because of the language barrier.


I:          Um hm.

N:        So we, the Army, took, in some cases, they took 1/3 of the troops they needed were katusas or Korean, uh, ROKs.

I:          Um hm.

N:        And the only problem that they had in the early part of that war was that these guys were not trained.

I:          Um hm.

N:        They would, the South Korean government would take these men


uh, draft them one day off the streets of South Korea somewhere, and they’d try to put them on to the line with an Army unit two days later.

I:          Yeah.

N:        They never been trained or anything.  And then they couldn’t speak English

I:          Um hm.

N:        and now you’re, say, you talk about frustration n. You’re a, a sergeant or a lieutenant, and you’re trying to get a group to move forward in an attack, and they can’t speak English.

I:          Did it even seem almost like a


liability to your unit because you can’t necessarily

N:        It did.  The troops, it really hurt a lot of the troops.  They just, they weren’t gonna go with them.  They just sent a, no, I

I:          Uh huh.

N:        Because you can’t communicate.

I:          You depend on the person to your left and to your right for everything.

N:        Right.  You’re, you, your flank movements.  But, uh, the Marine Corps. told them when they first started the trench warfare in ’51 that they would not have any ROKs in the ranks


I:          Um hm.

N:        The Army did.  They had to take like 1/3 of them.  But then there was ROK units by themselves with, uh, interpreters.

I:          Um hm.

N:        Always had an, we had interpreters in our ranks in case you caught a prisoner.  He could speak Chinese.

I:          Um hm.

N:        And, uh, what we would do, so we never had that problem, the Marine Corps., but we did have our own unit to our left flank across the Panmunjom Peace Corridor, there was the, cause


we were from Munsani northeast toward the Seomjin River.  That was where we were located.  It was around forty miles or something.  But to our left was our own unit under Marine Corps. guidance was the KMC, the Korean Marine Corps..  And they had, uh, a couple of hundred, uh, Marine officers

I:          Um hm.

N:        in their ranks who were running, uh,

I:          Were they trained by the United States Marine Corps.?

N:        Yes, sir.

I:          okay.


N:        They were trained by the Marine Corps..

I:          Um hm.  And, and did you share a camp with them when you weren’t on the line?

N:        Uh, yeah. They, you could, uh, somebody, we didn’t sleep in thesame tents, but if we, let’s say we went to Camp, uh, Mroz.  It was one of them.  The Korean Marine were on, let’s say one side of the room.  We were on the other side.

I:          Um.  Did you guys interact at all when you were fighting, you know?

N:        Ah

I:          I kind of want to, you know

N:        Yeah, I know what you

I:          Get that interaction between


you guys.

N:        We, some of them you did because they, some of them had learned how to speak English, uh, somewhat.  And they could communicate with us.  So we would, uh, trade some chow and, uh, talk about some battle or

I:          Yeah.

N:        But very limited.

I:          So that, I guess that was, the communication barrier is what kind of prevented a full, uh, interaction.

N:        More, more interaction, yeah.

I:          Okay.  That’s interesting.


Um, so did, did you, did, I guess, the United States Marines learn anything from them, I guess, different guerilla techniques or just culturally or

N:        Yes.  The officers would tell us what the Korean Marines were doing.  Like, they had, let’s say they had been attacked, and they set up an ambush, and they said the way that we were setting up an ambush for that country


wasn’t, wasn’t right. If you wanted to catch the Chinese in an ambush, you gotta do it this way,

I:          Um hm.

N:        and we would learn from them.

I:          Yeah.

N:        Yes.

I:          Okay.

N:        And we, they would learn from us as to fire discipline.

I:          Um hm.

N:        At night, firing in a straight line instead of all over the place, and fire discipline and how to, uh, move one platoon through another like this to get up a hill and, uh, we, they learned that from us. But we


also learned from them because, you see, the Chinese had been there in that area, and they had a lot of North Koreans on their side and, uh, who were from South Korea even, and they had been fighting amongst themselves or with the Japanese, uh, since 1910 the Japanese took over, uh, South Korea, North Korea. So, uh, they, they knew the country.  They knew


how to get

I:          You gotta depend on that intelligence, right?

N:        Yes, of yeah, because, uh, the Chinese could sneak right up on you and be standing next to you in the dark, and you wouldn’t even know it.

I:          Yeah.

N:        Yeah.  And you get some mouthy American to do that, no.

I:          Um hm.

N:        He makes too much noise, and, but they don’t. They

I:          Yeah.

N:        They’d sneak right up on you.

I:          So you described some pretty intense situations. What, who do you think, I guess, the most difficult or challenging part of living and fighting over


there was throughout your whole, your service?

N:        Well, uh, the, in, uh, the last 20 days of July was the Battle for the Berlins and Boulder City which was hill 111 and to its west there were two hills, Berlin and East Berlin, and the Chinese hit for the last 20 days, they hit those hills.  I was driving a truck


at that time and, uh, the last battle was the last four days of the war, 24th, 5th, 6th, and the war ended on the 27th.  Those three days, I never slept.

I:          Of the entire war.

N:        Of the

I:          The Korean War.

N:        Ended on the 27thof July.

I:          Um hm.

N:        But those three days, we lost, uh, close to 200 Marines dead and over 1,000 wounded in, and they do the Peace Agreement or the,


not the Peace Agreement, but the cease fire was going to be signed.

I:          Yeah.  And they knew it was gonna be signed.

N:        But they still wanted more because what they want, the more that they did, they could add on to that in the final analysis, and they’d get more land or whatever.  But in those three days, I never slept, and the worst thing, you, I, we were hauling ammo for two days to the, uh, uh, artillery that was behind the line of course,


and the, we took, we had an emergency load of 105 shells that we had to get to the, uh, 11thMarine Regiment which was four artillery regiments.  Me and a supply sergeant loaded that truck with the help of, uh, some KSC, the Korean, uh, Service Corps., and we drove down the road, cause he had to show me how to get there.

I:          Um.

N:        So we’re driving down, and there was a sign up, and he said turnleft here.  We turned left


into a valley that was about a half a mile deep, curved to the right and came around and horseshoed back to the road, okay, cause you could only go in, it, it, the road would only take one vehicle.

I:          Um hm.

N:        So we started down the road, and just to the left of the road come a rocket ripple.  The Chinese rocket ripple come in, cause they were trying to hit this, there was three batteries of 105 artillery off to the right,


and we were gonna re, try to resupply.  Well, they started, we’re driving down the valley, and me and Sergeant, uh, Brown, and they started firing white phosphorous, 88 rounds.

I:          So what, what does that mean, the white phosphorous?

N:        White phosphorous is a, uh, it’ll burn a hole through you.  White phosphorous is a, uh, it’s phosphorous.

I:          Um.

N:        White, uh, uh, uh, fire.  With a round hit, it explodes



I:          [LAUGHS]

N:        You know?  But it’s phosphorous

I:          Yeah,

N:        And it clings to your skin, and it’ll burn a hole right through you.  They, usually when a guy gets hit bad with phosphorous, he’s done.

I:          Um hm.

N:        But it started down the left, and neither one of us had a helmet on, and I’m driving the 6 by, and we, all of sudden I reach for my helmet, and there’s a hand on it.  It’s Sergeant Brown, and he’d start laughing, and he said go ahead, take it.

I:          [LAUGHS]

N:        So I put the helmet on

I:          So you had one helmet between the two of you, [LAUGHS]


N:        Yeah.  And we’re driving down, and the rounds started filling the valley coming right down at us, not on the road, just to the left of the road, and we, I just kept, uh, right on driving.  Now, at that point, for some reason I was not scared.  I was not scared at all. I don’t know why.  And we got to the end of the road.  It was, was about almost, uh, a half a mile, we turned to the right, and there’s three batteries.  We unloaded. These guys are firing artillery, and this is about, uh,


2, 3 in the morning. They are bare from the waist up. No armor on.  No helmets, pair of, uh, pants on or shorts, and they’re firing as fast as they can fire

I:          Um hm.

N:        out at the Chinese and Boulder City, and, because it was so hot.  This was July 24thor 5th, and uh, they’re firing, and the guns are almost red, the barrels, and they’re firing as fast as they can,


and we left there, and we started around, come around the other way, and I’m about hallway out to the road, and a flash went off in front of me.  I mean a, just like lightening sometimes you’ve seen, and I couldn’t see.  I pulled the emergency brake, threw it in park or whatever it was, and Brown said are you hit?  I said no, but I’m blind.  For 20 minutes, that scared the hell out of me.

I:          That’s scary.


N:        Twenty minutes I couldn’t see nothing. I could not, it was pitch dark.

I:          So was it an explosion that just

N:        It was a, yeah.  It was a round that hit right in front of the truck,

I:          Um hm.

N:        and for some reason, the truck never got hit. But the flash, it was white, just pure white.

I:          So what did you do at that point?

N:        Well, I got out of the truck, and I walked around it, and he walked with me to help hold me, and I, we stood, and he said just calm down, calm down.  Stay by the side of the truck.  Stay here. Hold on,


and slowly, I could hear all this artillery going up, and slowly it came

I:          Came back

N:        back to me.  It came back.  Uh, I could see, and then we got in the truck and went back to the depot, and they wouldn’t let me drive no more that night.  So they give me another chore to do.  But that was it.  But I, and when it ended the next day, the Korean Service Corps., the, the men who were in the Korean Service Corps., they came


and pulled the bodies off of the three hills.

I:          Um.

N:        The Chinese came.  We saw them from, you know, they come up, and we’re all standing there and, you know, saluting each other, and\

I:          With the Chinese?

N:        They, yeah.  And the Chinese took their bodies off, and the Korean Service Corps. took our bodies off.

I:          So what was that like,

N:        Well, it was kind of

I:          [INAUDIBLE] the guys that you’re fighting against for the past years?

N:        You know, after a while you, you kind of, uh, as one


lieutenant that I know very well said to me, he would like to meet the guy that put him down. He was shot twice at the Chosin. He would like to meet that Chinese soldier

I:          Um.

N:        and sit down and have a beer with him and just, and just talk.

I:          So is it like a mutual respect, you know.  You guys, you’re fighting at each other but, you know, you both kind of respect one another.

N:        Yeah.  I don’t hate any, uh, Koreans, uh, North, the Chinese or any, I don’t

I:          Um hm.


none of t hem. I, I would like to talk to them and find out why they did what they did, and they’d probably ask

I:          They’d probably do the same thing.

N:        me the same question.

I:          Yeah.

N:        And, but, uh, the, the greatest thing though, as I say, was the ROKs when they were by themselves, and the, uh, Army’s, the Americans by themselves as far as the, uh, uh, communication went.  The language barrier.

I:          Um hm.


N:        And, uh, the, uh, Korean Service Corps., without them, we didn’t, you know, and, uh,

I:          Yeah.

N:        they, uh, just, as I said, they took out the wounded. They took out the dead, they took, brought in some supplies.  They, they did everything.  And when that, that battle was over, there was 154 dead Marines out there somewhere, they came, and they took, put them on stretchers and brought them back.

I:          Was, was I third to go through those last four days knowing that there’s gonna be a cease fire


and, you know, you guys were kind of ready to ship out or, or whatever

N:        That’s right.

I:          Um.

N:        There was a lot of guys that, uh, uh, hey really started to complainat that point.  What are we, what are we doing this for?  What are we doing this for?  And if you had a good sergeant and that, he would tell you to shut up and just keep, you know, doing what you’re doing.

I:          Yeah.

N:        When it’s over, they’ll tell you when it’s over.

I:          Yeah.

N:        But it’s, uh, it, it’s frust, it’s frustrating.


Some, some generals left, uh, Korea because of the frustration, because they thought they were gonna attack and go right to Yalu.  Even in ’52, ’53 they thought that was still the plan.

I:          So they’re frustrated with the leadership above them who, you know, making the plans for the policy of the war.

N:        Of the policy of the war, yes.

I:          Uh huh.  And, uh, the, you see, if, if you had a mission that night and you had a bunch of Chinese


and you had, you’d set up flares, and you could see them in the valley.

I:          Um hm.

N:        And they wanted to fire, blow them out, uh, uh, fire a full artillery support against them.  They had to call 8thArmy and get permission to do this.

I:          Yeah.

N:        The 8thArmy might not call them back till tomorrow at noon.

I:          Yeah, and then

N:        And the Chi

I:          By then they could have moved or

N:        They’re gone.

I:          Yeah.

N:        So General Walt and the 5thMarines one night, he got, uh, wrapped.


He got set, put over the coals for this by the 8thArmy.  He spotted about 2,000 Chinese, uh, beyond the, uh, Reno, Vegas, Carson. Somebody told his outposts, these are listing posts that you put out in front of your book, oh, your outposts in no man’s land, and they heard things, and they reported to him.  So he sent up flares

I:          Um hm.

N:        and the flares lit up the valley


and God, did, there they are.  It’s like a whole battalion

I:          Yeah.

N:        coming toward them.  So he did not call 8thArmy.

I:          He just

N:        He called the 11thRegiment and told them to fire for effect and gave them the coordinates, and they fired and fired and fired.  Next day, 8thArmy wanted to know what was all the noise about over there. So he said oh, didn’t anybody tell you? They did really

I:          Um.


N:        and, uh, he was sent home shortly thereafter because

I:          So it’s an interesting dynamic between, I guess, what the units on the ground are seeing and what the people making decisions are doing it, you know,

N:        It’s like calling

I:          instead of going back and forth,

N:        Yeah, it’s like calling Washington, DC and saying I had uh, an enemy tank out here.  What should I do?

I:          And as a soldier, you know, I guess you’re there to fight, and you don’t wanna get mixed up in the politics of everything.

N:        Well, that’s it.  The communication problem we had was not the greatest, you know.  I mean,


when you take on, uh, the east side of, uh, Chosin where you had two Army battalions four miles apart and two mountains in between them, they couldn’t communicate.  They couldn’t tell, one couldn’t tell the other how bad of a shape they were in.

I:          And by the time you do communicate,

N:        Today, uh, the kids 4,000 miles away can tell you what’s going on

I:          Yeah.

N:        in one second.

I:          Yeah.  So,


So, um, after the cease fire, how, did you, you were shipped back home or?

N:        Yes.  After the cease fire we, uh, what we did was to, um, uh, deliver water and pick up garbage and stuff for the division.  And, uh, what we, uh, did was to, waiting for a ship, waiting to get rotated out of there. We adopted a bunch of kids.  We adopted a bunch of kids


down at the, uh, river, down at the Imjin where we were, uh, used to go down at, at Munsani,

I:          Uh huh.

N:        and we adopted these kids, and we put clothes on them. We fedthem and, because they had no, see, their mother and father had abandoned them or had sent them out to beg for food because, the father was either dead in the Army or still in the Army,

I:          Yeah.

N:        and, excuse me,


the, uh, uh, the mother may have been, uh, killed during the war, so these children had nobody, they had virtually nobody.  So we used to feed them and, uh, you know, take…The Army actually started some, uh, orphanages south of Seoul in, uh, Korea.

I:          So what, I wanna, I guess, ask you or find out about how you thought about, you know, these, the Korean kids but


also how your impressions of Korea kind of progressed throughout the war, you know.  What, what did you think about the country when you first arrived versus, you know, towards the end when you were working with these kids and

N:        Well, when I, we first arrived, uh, we didn’t know what to expect for one thing.  When we arrived Inchon, we had heard of the battle for Inchon, but, when we arrived, we went north on a train, couldn’t see any of the countryside because


we were told to lay down.

I:          Yeah.

N:        We went north.  We ate some chow and climbed a hill and stuck in a fighting hole for,

I:          Where?  Were there interactions

N:        for eight days

I:          people, the civilians at all really?

N:        No.  You see, when they started the, uh, uh, trench warfare, the last two years of that war, the, we had a five-mile civilian stay back line.  So that meant that


no civilian could approach within five miles of the front line.

I:          Um hm.

N:        So we never saw any civilians.

I:          Um.

N:        Never saw any until after the war.

I:          And what was that like?

N:        It, well, we didn’t know if there was any civilians left during the war because we never saw any.

I:          Yeah.

N:        And af, it was, it was, we talked to a couple of people that we, I remember a woman sweeping the streets in Seoul in August of ’53, out in


front of her house, a little, little tiny shack, and she was sweeping the street and, uh, we talked to her, a mamasan and, uh, she told her she, in broken English but she, we could, we could understand her.  She sweeps the street every day.

I:          Um.

N:        And I said my God, can you, I couldn’t imagine my mother going out and sweeping the street every day in front of her house. But the people are so, they’re very clean.


They were, uh, very, they, they were very nice to us.  They were, they were. They, yeah.  They really thought we had saved them.  They’re, re, and I guess we did.

I:          So they, I guess, the Korean people had an idea of what was going on, you know, what the whole war was about and like why you guys were there.

N:        I’m not so sure they knew why the war was going on or what it was about.  Back then in 1950 when it started,


the further you were away from that border between South and North Korea, the less you knew because of communication back then.  You, those people didn’t have a radio.  They certainly didn’t have television.  They didn’t know why these troops from North Korea attacked them and killed them


and, they

I:          So how did they react to American soldiers, you know?

N:        Well, they knew we were driving them out of the country.

I:          Yeah.

N:        Yeah.  They knew that.  And, uh, because we had been all the way down to the Pusan Perimeter and been all the way through South Korea and, uh, so they knew of us, and they were told by the ROKs why we were there.

I:          Yeah.

N:        It was the Republic of Korean Army, and the ROKs, uh, you know, assured them that we were the good guys and not the bad guys and, uh, well, they knew that by then because, see at Chosin when they evacuated the troops


off of Hungnam Harbor at, at the Chosin Reservoir up in North Korea, they took out 98,500 North Korean refugees and loaded the top decks of LSTs with 98,500 people.  The word spread.  These guys are the good guys.  And those people weren’t even half of them, would have starved to death for sure


I:          They might have been thrown into the Army or something.

N:        Or be killed by the, uh, Chinese.

I:          Huh.

N:        Because they thought they were.  The Chinese would come upon them at different villages, and they thought they were helping us.  So they [INAUDIBLE]

I:          [INAUDIBLE]

N:        Yeah.

I:          So, and then when did you actually ship back home?

N:        October 13 of ’53, our ship left Inchon and, uh, it went non-stop to Frisco and, uh,


it was, uh, it didn’t even stop in Japan it, and it, it took us about 20, 22 days to get to Korea by ship, and it took us 12 days to get back.

I:          That ship was excited to get home I guess.

N:        The Pacific going back to the States was like a sheet of glass.

I:          Um.  No typhoons?

N:        No, not, no storms, no.  It just barreled right, uh.  It was the John Pope,


and it was a bigger ship than we went over on.  It had 3,400 Marines on it going back.

I:          I guess someone knew that you guys were coming home from war, so they wanted to escort you safely.

N:        Yeah.  It, it was. It, it, it I remember just before the second day Japan, we passed the southern tip of Japan and we’re looking north, and there was Mount Fujiyama.  You couldn’t see no land, but Mount Fujiyama was


sticking out of the water.  It was snowcapped, and the sun was setting.  It was incredible.

I:          That’s great.  So is that the highlight of the war right there?

N:        Yeah.  It was. It was beautiful.  I didn’t have any

I:          Yeah.

N:        film or anything.  I went oh God.

I:          Yeah.

N:        But I’m sure some guys took a picture of it.

I:          Um hm.

N:        Uh, I got discharged from the Marine Corps. in 2004.

I:          Okay.

N:        February.  Now, when I got back


to the United States in, uh, November, I had a short leave, and then I was, uh, to finish off my, uh, duty, I was stationed at Great Lakes, Illinois which is at what they call North Chicago

I:          Um hm.

N:        Illinois, and that was to, uh, as an MP at the Navy Brig

I:          Um hm.

N:        taking bad sailors back and forth to court.

I:          So how did you, why did, how did it become where you transferred, I guess,


from the Marine Corps. to

N:        Then I would come home, and when I got home and discharged, my brother, who was in the National Guard and a couple of friends of mine, they said why don’t you join the Guard blah, blah, blah

I:          Um hm.

N:        And so I joined the New York 27thDivision National Guard unit out of Buffalo and106thField Artillery

I:          Um hm.

N:        for three years, from ’54 to ‘57/

I:          And did you, did you have a family when you came back?


N:        Uh, no.  I got married, oh, a year after I got back.

I:          Um hm.  And, um, okay.  Well,

N:        And then I raised, uh, in, uh, five years, we had four kids.

I:          And when you first got married, you were still enlisted. That was when you were in the Guard?

N:        Yes, I was, uh, when I was discharged from the Marine Corps. as a Corporal, and I entered the Guard as a Sergeant

I:          Um hm.

N:        because of my


prior experience.

I:          Yeah.  And how, how was that, start a family after being back from the war?

N:        Wells, it was great.  Uh, I, I, It, uh, but working conditions hadn’t changed much.

I:          Yeah.

N:        This still was har, eh, hardly any jobs. There was, uh, the economy was not good at all yet until you got into the 60’s.  That’s when things

I:          Uh huh.

N:        started to move.

I:          So, I guess, you know, I wanna find out about how


the war impacted you, what you, when you, you know, got back to the States, I mean, um, you know, how did it influence, I guess, your life?  You know I, you know the reason why you enlisted in the first place was to see the world.  Did you feel satisfied with that or, you know,

N:        Yeah, yes, I did.  I, I, uh, talked to my father at, at length about that because he did not want me to go over to Korea to begin with and, uh, he didn’t want me going in the Marine Corps. to begin with.

I:          Um hm.

N:        And, uh,


but I talked to him about, uh, uh, you know, the, I’d been across the Pacific.  I’d been in Japan.  I’d been in Korea.  Uh, I had been to, to Puerto Rico, uh, in, uh, Vegas and all across the United States, and it, it, it helped me at that point because I was, I had very little education, uh, as far as, uh, career wise

I:          Um hm.

N:        But I got into self, I was self-taught in mechanical engineering.


And, uh, I became a sales engineer and worked on that for 35 years and, uh,

I:          Um hm.

N:        uh, was very successful at that.

I:          So you think, I guess, you know, your experience.

N:        My experience.

I:          in Korea

N:        Yes.  Taught me

I:          [INAUDIBLE]

N: discipline for one thing

I:          Um hm.

N:        and, uh, to respect other people.  If you’re born and raised in Buffalo, NY, uh, you


don’t know what conditions people around the world are living under, and you, you hear things, but you can’t believe what you read in the paper any more.

I:          Yeah.

N:        But the conditions that people live under.

I:          Um hm.

N:        And going down to Puerto Rico and going to, uh, Korea, and going to Japan and, it was quite an experience, uh, especially after the war in Korea and to see what the people, at that point, uh,


when we left Seoul, there wasn’t much left standing at all, and there was one bridge over the Han, and today I guess there’s 27 bridges over the Han.  But the, the change and difference

I:          Yeah.

N:        and just the attitude of the people of Korea, uh, is, is a lot better than they had with the Vietnamese or with the Europeans.

I:          Um hm.

N:        Uh, for those guys that were in World War II,


they still don’t have the respect from a lot of them that the Koreans have shown to us.

I:          Yeah.

N:        And it makes you feel good when, when that happens. It makes you feel good.  As far as you’re con, I don’t care what the people down the street thought about me being a baby killer or something because I didn’t see any babies.  So I, I wouldn’t know what that was.

I:          Was that

N:        But, it made me feel good when I saw, especially when you see those kids.

I:          Yeah.

N:        The homeless kids.  And we helped them, and


I:          So it must be hard, I guess, you know.  You, you want your neighbors and your friends at home to understand the experience that you went through.  But there’s no way you can actually really explain it to them.

N:        No.  Eh, they do today, those that survived or still live.  The Korean, the people studying the Korean War or interested in it are the younger people even today.

I:          Um hm.




N:        Like yourself.  Uh, or younger.  They are interested in Korean, the war, that it was a war, and the amount of soldiers killed on both sides and, uh, more so than they did 50 years ago or 60 years ago.

I:          Yeah.

N:        They didn’t give a damn.  They didn’t care.  They were fed up with war.  They had gone through World War II, and they didn’t want to hear anymore about it, anything.

I:          Yeah.


N:        But now after they’re gone virtually, the people are more interested today

I:          Um hm.

N:        in what happened in Korea than

I:          Yeah.  I don’t, I don’t think it’s necessarily just a statistical thing, you know.  We, we, I guess we care about how many people died, how many countries, you know, fought in the war, how many veterans we have. But, you know, we, we want to know about what it was like fighting over there and living over there and interacting with people and, you know,


it’s, I guess maybe now we have a new found appreciation for the sacrifices that the soldiers are, are making.

N:        If you’re usually on the line for six weeks at a time because it would start to pray on your mind after a while, uh, especially if you were under a lot of heavy, every day there’s incoming and outgoing, and after a while you got to learn the difference between incoming


from the sound of it and outgoing artillery.

I:          Um hm.

N:        But you’re, you’re under pressure all the time because you can hear the rounds going off, and you don’t know if they’re coming to you or not, and you’re out on patrol every night, and it’s no picnic. It, is never is.  There’s no, uh, you’re under the pressure all the time.

I:          Yeah.


N:        That’s why they try to relieve these guys after one year because

I:          It’s too much, yeah.

N:        It’s too much for a humanbeing to take, uh, although those Chinese fought, a lot of them, for three years.

I:          Yeah.

N:        That they were there.

I:          How do you feel about the soldiers that are fighting now, previous Iraq war and Afghanistan?

N:        Uh.  I don’t, see, they, it’s, with, uh, the, uh, today with the, uh, what do you call it, the, t he


increase in intelligence of the, the, um, uh, technology

I:          Um hm.

N:        Today’s technology compared to what we had, we had, all we had was World, World War II, uh, weapons and, uh, some even World War I weapons to fight a war

I:          Um.

N:        as did the Chinese, as did the Koreans, and today as they’ve gone through this thing, the evolution of the, uh, technology itself is mindboggling.


The type of aircraft and the type of bombs, the type of tanks and

I:          Um hm.

N:        it’s, it’s a different, different, different war that, that they have to fight today than they did back then.   Uh, it’s just a different thing.

I:          Completely different.

N:        Yeah.  Yeah.

I:          Have you gone back to Korea?

N:        Yes.  I was back to Korea in November of last year.  I was back for eight days.

I:          How was that?

N:        And, uh, it was astounding.


I:          Yeah.  A lot had changed, huh?

N:        It was just incredible that, uh, well, when you come into, uh, Inchon and come down the, uh, Yellow Sea and, uh, or China Sea, eh, come ov, first of all, I’m watching on the back of the seat where the map is and, uh, and it’s triple 7, and we went up through Canada, up through Alaska and crossed over the eastern end or


tip of Russia and down through China, and I’m thinking we can fly over here now?

I:          [LAUGHS] Yeah.

N:        And, then I, into the Yellow Sea and come right into Seoul, and that, there’s a Korean gentleman sitting next to me who had been in the Korean, he had been, he was a North Korean, and he was now living in, with his family in South Korea.  He was about my age, and he said that, uh, were, as we’re approaching Seoul, uh, or Inchon,


he said, uh, I said where, cause all these apartments lined up like

I:          Oh, yeah.

N:        and I said where is Inchon?  Right here he said.  Right here.  Right here. I said this can’t be Inchon.

I:          Yeah.

N:        He said yes it, this is Inchon.  You at Inchon?  It, it, it was incredible just to go.  But they, the, the, that country is so beautiful with

I:          Um hm.

N:        if there was no war.  The, the, the country itself is so beautiful.

I:          Um hm.

N:        It, it’s,


I:          Right.

N:        It’s incredible.

I:          So what was it like actually being there, you know, again after all these years have passed?

N:        Well, there was a lot of, uh, growth

I:          Yeah.

N:        that had been replaced or grown in and, uh, the, uh, foliage was, it was beautiful.  The, the, and the tunnels, what they’ve done with the roads.  They, they don’t go up and over them around them. They go tunnel after tunnel after tunnel.  When you’re going from Seoul to Chorwon,

I:          Um hm.

N:        It’s just, uh, it’s incredible.  It, it’s, uh,


but then when you get to the observation towers up in the north and you look out into North Korea, it’s a shame what they could do to, then you look back to the South

I:          Um.

N:        and you see the difference.

I:          Yeah.

N:        The foliage and, there is, it’s, their hills are still barren, and, and you wonder why, what they’re missing.  It’s incredible.

I:          Yeah.

N:        I don’t know.


I:          What do you, I mean, I guess you don’t want to get too political, but

N:        You don’t.

I:          it’s interesting to

N:        Yeah.  That you’d think somebody would wake up and say what are we doing?

I:          Um hm.

N:        Let’s open the border.

I:          Um hm.

N:        Let’s

I:          Um hm.

N:        You know, because that country is beautiful country.

I:          Um hm.

N:        Beautiful country.

I:          So if, uh, another escalation happened in the region again, and you were physically fine

N:        I’m gone.

I:          You’re gone?

N:        [LAUGHS] Yeah.  No, I’m gonna hide if they call again.

I:          Yeah.


N:        No, but the, uh, it, it, it, it helped me personally in my life to find out how people lived in other parts of the world.  It did, certainly did.

I:          Um hm.

N:        I, I, I just couldn’t believe, uh, you know, of course back then there was no television, no radio half the time and no, you know

I:          Yeah.

N:        uh,

I:          Well it’s, it’s something that not just people in Buffalo don’t experience.  I think the majority of Americans don’t know what it’s like


in the rest of the world and

N:        That’s true.  That is very true.

I:          Yeah.

N:        And, uh, they, people have to, people are people. I don’t care where they are and, uh, they all love something or somebody and, uh, they’re not all killers

I:          Um hm.

N:        and it’s just amazing.

I:          Yeah.

N:        Once you get to know them.

I:          Right.

N:        And once they get to know you.

I:          Um hm.

N:        because they’re told

I:          on a human level.

N:        On a human level because they’re told other things

I:          Um hm.

N:        about you

I:          Um hm.


what a bad guy you are.

I:          Yeah.

N:        But when you meet them face to face, you can sit down and talk with them, they’re just like you.

I:          That’s right.  We’re all the same.

N:        Yes.

I:          So what

N:        what, what, what we’re trying to do basically is, uh, one of our best programs is Tell America, and we go into the schools in the summertime generally, and what we do in the schools is talk to the children. We have posters.  We have pictures that we put on, uh, the fold out, uh, styrofoams, and we show


these kids the pictures of, uh, what went on during the war, what went on after the war, and you’re talking to 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 up to maybe 15 year-old kids, and some of them ignore it.

I:          Um hm.

N:        But you find more and more they want to know.

I:          Um hm.

They want to know what, how was it, what was it, what, you know, and they, more so than their parents.


I:          So educating the public.

N:        Yeah.

I:          That’s what it’s all about.

N:        Or some of their parents.  Yeah.  And it, it, it’s, uh, remark, and that’s what we, that’s our main focus is Tell America.

I:          Um hm.

N:        And, uh, then we raise funds for people or veterans in the hospitals and

I:          Um hm.

N:        At Christmastime, we take funds and ta, take, uh, kids whose parents or father is in, uh, Afghanistan


or Iraq, and we take them on a shopping spree to Walmart or something to buy clothing or

I:          Yeah.

N:        not toys, clothing.

I:          They don’t need toys.

N:        Yeah.  I think after World War II most of the people came home that, or the, uh, soldiers and sailors.  The, the troops came home, and they didn’t discuss what happened in the war with their family.


And I always thought that they should be told what happened, uh, how the people over there lived, who suffers most in this war,

I:          Um hm.

N:        these wars.  Most of them are the children that suffer. Their mothers and fathers were killed. The kids are left alone, and we sort of take care of them and, uh,


I was in Canada last year at the Wall of Remembrance for the Canadian, uh, Korean War veterans on the 27thof July, the day it ended, and I was at the Wall of Remembrance they call it in, uh, Brampton, Ontario, and I met an old gentleman there who was in World War Ii with the Queen’s own rifles in France and Germany, and he said to me what do you people in the U,


uh, veterans from the Korean War, do you, do you ever tell anybody about your experiences, and I said yes.  I told him about Tell America.  He slammed the desk and he said dammit, I’ve told my guys they should be talking about this World War II

I:          Um hm.

N:        and educate the people on the wars and what they were about and that people that get, you’re, how many civilians were killed in Korea?  I mean, you know, millions.


And I said, uh, and he, he agreed with me.  Keep it up, so.  This guy’s 86 years old, and he said keep it up.  And I get all you people in the same light, and all I would do to tell the people fromVietnam or from, uh, the Gulfs and the, uh, all these battles they’ve had over in, uh, the Middle East that they should talk about them and try to educate the children as to what went on over there. And it’s not like Hollywood.  It ain’t like Hollywood at all.


I:          I bet.

N:        Uh, they, they can make anything happen, uh, you know.  Uh, with this, uh, new, uh,

I:          Well that’s the problem.  I mean we’re so far removed from battles over here in the States, our impression is what they have in the movies and Hollywood and so it’s, maybe it’s one of the responsibilities of veterans to, to inform us, inform the public, and this is, I guess, one of the ideas of this project as well.

N:        That’s right.  And because, you know, it, when you had John Wayne and all that during World War II


there, had the World War II movies. When I got there and I talked to a Sergeant, Staff Sergeant in boot camp, he said let me tell you some thing, shitbird, and that’s what we were called, he said there ain’t no John Waynes going over there with you. So if you wanna stay alive, you’d better listen to what I tell you, and do what you’re told, and discipline, discipline, discipline.

I:          Um hm.

N:        And that’s how you’re gonna survive and get back home.


So that, I, I never forgot that, you know because it, it does, you know, it’s, so that, nobody built it up for us.  We had to, um, do it ourselves.  But I suggest or would recommend to anybody that’s fought in any of the wars, pe, they don’t even know the people of America that South Korea had 2 ½ infantry divisions in Vietnam


during the Vietnam War.

I:          Um hm.

N:        The people of America don’t even, you could ask anybody anywhere how many South Koreans fought for, with us in Vietnam.

I:          They’d probably say zero.

N:        And they’d probably say none.  What are you talking about?

I:          Um.

N:        But there was 2 ½ divisions of it and, uh, this is what, if we had the United Nations and let them run this, these situations.  But it appears that the


United Nations doesn’t want to spend any money.  They’re always fighting over it anyway, yeah.  So, but anyway, to answer your question, uh, yes.  These troops that are over there now should join the Marine Corps. League, the Army units, the Navy units, the Air Force and tell their stories and educate the people back here.  What, what is it about.  You don’t really because you’re under pressure for about a year over there, and you just


I:          Um hm.  Yeah.  Well,

N:        It’s

I:          you’re home now.

N:        Yeah.  Yes.

I:          I appreciate you talking to us.

N:        Thank you, Matt.  Thank you very much.

I:          Alright.  Well, first, thank you for the interview,

N:        Thank you very much.

I:          Mr. Champagne.  We also want to thank the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs as well as the Korean Veterans Association from the Republic of Korea

N:        Thank you.

I:          and, uh, as a token of our thanks, we’d like to appoint you with this medal.


There you go.

N:        There we are.  Thank you very much.

I:          Appreciate it.

N:        Thank you.


[End of Recorded Material]



Profile Picture of Norman C. Champagne in USMC

Profile Picture of Norman C. Champagne in USMC

The ship that Norm went to Korea on

The ship that Norm went to Korea on

Close Air Strike at Hills 150/153

Close Air Strike at Hills 150/153

Trench Line near Panmunjeom named 'Nevada cities' by USMC

Trench Line near Panmunjeom named 'Nevada cities' by USMC

Christmas morning 1952 on front line at snowy mountain

Christmas morning 1952 on front line at snowy mountain

81-mm Mortar on O. P. Reno

81-mm Mortar on O. P. Reno

Two soldiers loading Flame Tank M-4 on O.P. -2

Two soldiers loading Flame Tank M-4 on O.P. -2

Corporal "Cash" holding rifle on main line outpost


Dog Company C.P. near Bunker Hill

Dog Company C.P. near Bunker Hill

Norman Champagne on outpost Vegas in Korea

Norman Champagne on outpost Vegas in Korea

SGT. Bob Howard and Hank Cheskiwicz holding bottles

SGT. Bob Howard and Hank Cheskiwicz holding bottles

Korean Kids at Garbage dump

Korean Kids at Garbage dump

Korean Kids at Garbage Dump 1953

Korean Kids at Garbage Dump 1953

Norman Champagne's truck

Norman Champagne's truck

Norman Champagne carrying Korean A-frame next to Korean boy

Norman Champagne carrying Korean A-frame next to Korean boy

USMC Engineer Built Bridge over the Imjin River

USMC Engineer Built Bridge over the Imjin River

Korean people sifting through garbage near USMC base for food

Korean people sifting through garbage near USMC base for food

Certificate of Good Conduct by United States Marine Corps

Certificate of Good Conduct by United States Marine Corps

Christmas Propaganda to conciliate US soldiers found in the frontline in Korea

Christmas Propaganda to conciliate US soldiers found in the frontline in Korea

Norman Champagne's hand writing on Christmas Propaganda

Norman Champagne's hand writing on Christmas Propaganda

Report of discharge from The Armed Forces of the United States

Report of discharge from The Armed Forces of the United States

Certificate of safety for Norman Champagne for having driven military motor vehicles safely in the 1st Marine Division.

Certificate of safety for Norman Champagne for having driven military motor vehicles safely in the 1st Marine Division.

Certificate for Norman Charles Champagne to be honorably discharged from the US Marine Corps

Certificate for Norman Charles Champagne to be honorably discharged from the US Marine Corps

Certificate for Bruce Henry Ackerman to be honorably discharged from the US Marine Corps

Certificate for Bruce Henry Ackerman to be honorably discharged from the US Marine Corps

Champagne's Certificate of Service, which is proof that Champagne honorably served in the United States Marine Corps.

Champagne's Certificate of Service, which is proof that Champagne honorably served in the United States Marine Corps.

Champagne's Certificate of Service, which is proof that Champagne honorably served in the United States Marine Corps.

Champagne's Certificate of Service, which is proof that Champagne honorably served in the United States Marine Corps.

Champagne's Geneva Connections Identification Card, which was the only form of identification given to the opposing side if captured.

Champagne's Geneva Connections Identification Card, which was the only form of identification given to the opposing side if captured.