P. Stanley Cobane
P. Stanley Cobane is from Lake Placid, New York. He joined the Marine Corps in 1948 because he wanted the hardest challenge available. He found himself aboard a destroyer headed for the landing at Incheon and participating in major battles until his removal from the war due to a paralyzing shrapnel hit. He describes his jungle training in Guam, battling North Koreans in foxholes and hills, and the hit from shrapnel that ultimately paralyzed him.
P. Stanley Cobane describes his unit relieving an army organization on a small ridge that had had a fire fight the day and night before. While digging in they watched who they were told were South Koreans walking up the higher ridge above them. Later that night they were fired on by who they realized were actually North Koreans. His unit attacked the ridge that morning and the first platoon suffered almost total casualties. His unit lost a quarter of their men in that battle including several of his friends but they took the ridge that day.
P. Stanley Cobane explains that Wolmido is an island in the Inchon harbor which has a causeway connecting the island to the mainland. He explains that it was the job of his platoon to protect the causeway so that a mainland landing could be made without any interference from the island. There was resistance but nobody was killed. He describes an explosion near him by what he later thought to be a WWII Japanese concussion grenade.
Shrapnel Injury Leading to Paralyzation During Battle
P. Stanley Cobane describes taking Hill 296 outside of Seoul. He describes a fierce battle that involved artillery and mortars. He describes sticking his head out of fox hole "at the wrong time." A mortar exploded and shrapnel went into his neck, hit a bone and splattered. He has had one surgery to remove the biggest piece of shrapnel but seven pieces still remain and he was left paralyzed. He goes on describe being pulled from the foxhole and taken to Hill 296 and was air-vac'ed out.
PTSD and the Hardest Part of the War
P. Stanley Cobane describes how his PTSD manifests in his dreams. He describes his dreams that entail being chased and he doesn't have any ammunition. He wakes after falling into a hole or off a cliff. He says he dreams that he is being chased by the enemy, tanks and motorcycles. He goes on to describe the worst moment of the war was along the Busan Perimeter when he was almost forced to go to an honorary memorial for his friends who had been killed.
Stanley Cobane: Stanley Cobane and my birthplace is Lake Placid, NY and I am 82. I was born November 30, 1930.
I: Tell me about your birthplace – Lake Placid
SC: Lake Placid: I was born there, brought up there, went to high school there. And, enlisted in
the Marines after high school.
I: And, um, how about your family there.
SC: There is no family there today. My dad was the manager of the creamery of the Lake Placid Club. Made ice cream and pasteurized milk and so forth. My mom was a homemaker.
I have three younger children besides myself. We had four kids in the family. My sister Sheris(?) was a student at Syracuse University. She married a fellow, Peter Brock from Syracuse University who has a doctor’s degree in infrared and ultraviolet photography out of the physics department. I have a second cousin, Edith Colbane, who was born and brought up
in the Ogdensburg area who was the director of women’s athletics at one time at Syracuse.
I: (laughter) You know that I got the Master’s and Phd degree from Maxwell School at Syracuse University. What a coincidence. So, you are familiar with this upstate and Adirondack mountain area?
SC: Adirondack Mountains, Yes.
I: Beautiful place.
SC: Great place to go and visit and enjoy, but difficult place to make a living.
I: And, snow.
SC: And, snow. Lots of it. I skied competitively in high school and skied at Oswego competitively.
I: Downhill or cross country?
SC: In those days, you had to be a four event person. You were downhill, cross country, slalom and jumping. My best part of it was the cross country.
I: I love it. I have Green Lakes very close to my home and it is one of the most gorgeous lakes there. It’s designated as a landmark. Beautiful. And, the color of the water is unbelievable. It’s cobalt. Oh, good to have somebody from the same region.
When did you graduate high school?
SC: In June of 1948.
I: And, what did you do?
SC: In the summertime, I was a caddy on the golf course. Do you know what a Caddy is?
SC: I caddied on the golf course and I enlisted in the marines on July 27, 1948.
I: You enlist. Why? Caddy was not enough to get the money?
SC: My parents felt that I should have more regimentation than what I had at home and I figured that as long as I was going to go into the service, I was going to go into the hardest one there was which may not have been very smart, but, uh, I went into the Marines because I thought it was harder than any place else.
I: And, You didn’t know anything about Korea around the time you enlist yourself?
SC: Never heard of it.
I: You never heard about Korea? Not during the history class?
I: Anything – did you know about Asia?
SC: I knew about China, but that’s all. I didn’t know anything about Korea.
I: Not even Japan.
SC: Yes, because of the WWII,
but other than that, nothing. I’d never heard of Korea.
I: Had you imagined that you would be ending up fighting for Korean nation?
SC: No, never thought of it.
I: Now, what do you think about it?
SC: Great experience. Very good experience.
I: In terms of?
SC: You see a part of the world you would never see otherwise. In those days, Korea was a very poor country and the people were very poor lived at a standard of living that was totally different than anything I had ever seen or expected or experienced.
I: Where did you get basic military training?
SC: Paris Island -South Carolina –
that’s boot camp and after that I went to Guam for nearly two years for advanced jungle training and in February of 1950 a typhoon blew our camp away in Guam and so we lived in pup tents for a couple of weeks until we could get shipping in from the United States so we could get back to the United States.
Latter part of February, first part of March we were transported back to Camp Pendleton in California and we were there in Camp Pendleton when the war broke out. I happened to be in the Marines at the time the war broke out and I was in the most highly trained organization at that time.
I: You must be because you received the jungle training.
I: Tell me about the jungle training. What kind of actions were involved there?
SC: Infantry and tactics with reference to fire teams and squads and attacking hills and coping with the jungle and sawgrass. It was different than anything I had ever seen before. We had mock trainings to take pill boxes and mock trainings to take caves,
battles along the roads and of course all the blank ammunition and tactics to have the ability to attack. Not necessarily defense, it was always attack, attack. Learn how to attack this and envelope if you know what I mean by envelope around the sides. We did that for nearly two years.
I: Did you learn survival technology – like when you are short of sea rations you gotta eat something unusual?
SC: No, no. I don’t remember anything like that.
I: So, you came back from Guam and you came to know there was a war in Korea?
SC: I was at Pendleton when the war broke out. Right.
I: What did you think about it…I mean what was your reaction to it? Had you thought about that you might be dragged into that place?
SC: Not before the war, but when the war broke out the word, the scuttle but, the rumors were that we may end up in Korea and it wasn’t too long before the orders came that we were going. And you don’t think much about, you know, that’s part of being in the Marine corp. I think about it – I wasn’t’ more than a week or ten days
after we heard that we got the orders that we were going to ship out.
I: Did you tell your parents about it?
SC: Oh, Yes.
I: What did they say?
SC: I don’t think there was every any comments. Of course I was a long ways from home in California and those days the only correspondence was letters and I don’t think there was any comment at that time.
I: Were you afraid?
I: Not at all?
I: So you were ready, kind of. You were trained in Guam and you know how to attack.. You were ready.
SC: That’s correct It just so happened that I was in the Marines at the time that it was the most highly trained marines that they had the time the war broke out.
I: Did you get any special instruction about Korea? Korean history, Korean culture before you left?
I: So where did you go to be shipped?
SC: I went to San Diego. They trucked us down to Sandy U California and we boarded a Navy transport ship and we sailed for Pusan. We sailed for the Far East and I am not sure the original destination was Pusan but that’s where we landed, Pusan.
I: So, you didn’t go by way of Japan? You never stopped in Japan?
SC: No. Went straight from San Diego to Pusan
I: Do you remember the day you left for Pusan
SC: I remember the day I got into Pusan. That’s the third day of August of ‘50.
I: Wow. And, how was the trip to Pusan in the Pacific
SC: It was no problem.
I: No one got sick?
I: How many were there? How many soldiers? Only the Marines or Army or …
SC: Marines aren’t called soldiers, sir. I can’t tell you how many. It was all of our company which was 200 and some odd men in the company plus I am going to say nearly a battalion which is two companies
and when I went to Korea we went to Korea as a company and the first provisional Marine brigade which fought on the Pusan perimeter. We were not a division which did not form until after Inchon. The reason we were a brigade was because each one of the battalions was short a company, each company was short a platoon and each platoon was short a squad
and consequently because we were not the size of a division, it was three battalions it was first marines and fifth marines until Inchon and after Inchon we were built up to be division strength.
I: So, what did you do in Pusan as soon as you arrived there?
SC: As I read history today, we were supposed to have been issued ammunition aboard ship, but the word did not get down to the lower echelon so we did not get issued ammunition until the next day. We debarked the next day and we marched to some trains with some cars –
I call them cattle cars they were kind of old fashioned from what I had seen. Straight back benches in the cars and we went towards the front – we went toward Masan and we were at Masan for I believe two nights.
The train was slow, stopped often, narrow gauge. The gauge there was totally different than what was in the United States. Kinda crude.
SC: And there’s pictures in the book David Duncan’s This is War. David Duncan is a photographer of the Marines riding in the straight bench seats in the train.
We stayed there two nights at Masan and then we moved on to the front.
I: Front, meaning where?
SC: I can’t tell you the name of the town – the first battle we had. Uh, it was west of Masan. We relieved some army units and we were attacked the first night and we attacked the next morning.
I: It might be too cruel to ask this question, but can you describe the battle scenes at the time you engaged in the first battle near to Masan.
SC: Yes, the first battle, we relieved an Army organization on a small ridge
that had had a firefight the day before and the night before and the Army had been fairly well disseminated and they were short… They moved us up the ridge and told us to dig in – we were going to spend the night there, but don’t use any of the army foxholes, build your own. Make your own.
I: Why? They didn’t trust the army foxhole?
SC: No, I don’t know if it was for sanitary reasons or if we had our own lines, but we were told don’t use the Army foxholes and while we were digging in that afternoon there was a higher ridge to our right.
We were on a lower ridge and we could see what we were told were South Koreans going up to the higher ridge to protect us. And we watched them walk up, file up this higher ridge. We watched them most of the afternoon. The next morning we were being shot at from the higher ridge. In those days, radios weren’t like they are today.
Anytime you have a mountain between the two radios, the radio didn’t work. It was basically what they call a straight line radio in those days and it was a communication error. They were North Koreans we watched go up this higher ridge so we attacked the next morning. The first platoon got beat back and suffered
almost total casualties and corporal, I can’t say his name now, enveloped on the right hand side and came around from behind knocked out the gun that was up there and he received the Navy cross for his actions. He took his fire team but we lost.
We lost a quarter of our strength in that one battle. Our company commander was wounded, c. Feegan (??Name?)
Some of my friends were killed. After we took that hill that afternoon, we took that hill that was flat on the top and went over and dug in the side of that hill and we stayed there that night
trying to recoup, reorganize and have friends that were killed there. Tiny Carlton was killed there. Wirltsbaugh was killed there. Batluck was wounded badly there, but it was one of the many battles that you were involved in.
I: What were you thinking that you saw many of your friends killed and wounded and you know, that’s a battle. You were on the Nangong perimeter, right?
SC: Later, we fought on the Nantong perimeter
I: What were you thinking?
SC: You know, I was a point man for several of the hills we took and you get to the point where you almost feel like you are invisible and nothing is going to happen you invincible.
I don’t mean that I was never scared. I was scared, don’t get me wrong. You get to the point where – they aren’t going to get me. I know later in one of the battles in the Nancong in hill 102, I was on a point with one of my friends,
his name was Lloyd Green, he was a Hopi Indian from the state of New Mexico and he and I were on point and he was the most fearless kid I ever saw. Someone would holler grenade, and he’d stand behind the tree. Someone hollered grenade and I would get on the ground in the biggest hole I could find. But, we attacked on hill 102 on the Nancong
and there was a hole half way up the hill in the bank and there was shooting all around us I didn’t see anything to shoot at but I could see shooting all around us and I heard him shoot and I saw him shoot into a little hole and I went over to see what was in the hole and there was two or three dead North Koreans and one came out of the hole
and bang says I and he flopped over and just kept going. We got up to the top of the hill, the two of us and there was still shooting all around us and I don’t know where it came from or who was shooting, but feel like, I’m not going to get it. We laid down and there was a gully and another hill and the North Koreans were running down this gulley and up the other side and we laid down and we started shooting
and Lloyd and I had met many years later and many years ago and we talked about his and my turkey shoot. He said there was 50 of them and I said 30-35.
I: What do you mean Turkey shoot? What’s a Turkey shoot?
SC: Turkey shoot was a slang that was given where you just laid down and
bang, bang, bang, and there was no shooting back. You shoot a turkey and anyway none of them got away, we got them all. Now the last one was crawling and he crawled behind a tree and I remember us peeking around the side of the tree we see him moving and we were trying to shoot around the edge of that tree.
And, when the shooting finally ceased and we were laying there both short of ammunition and it got to be 3:30 in the afternoon and we were wondering where everybody else was. It was the two of us just over the hill off the top of the skyline. And, couldn’t find anyone else so we decided we better go back and see where everyone was. We started down the hill and there was nobody.
When we got down to the bottom of the hill, here was Army trucks to pick up our company and take us to another place the North Koreans had broken through the army lines. You can read all sorts of books today on the Army lines kinda faltered in those days and if you read the books about the first provisional Marine brigade they got to be called the fire brigade
and the fire brigade was because the filled the holes in the army line and they were removed from place to place to place to eliminate the whole in the army line to put out the fire in the South Korean lines.
I: You didn’t get wounded out of that battle?
SC: No, sir, I did not get wounded at all at the Pusan perimeter and I fought the whole length. They took us out of the Pusan perimeter.
I think sixth day of September of ‘50 and put us on board a ship at Pusan and we received replacements from the states and some of us got promotions because we had lost so many men. I got promoted to be a fire team leader and made first wave green beach at Inchon.
I: When you were headed to Inchon, did you know your mission?
I: What did they tell you about it?
SC: Our company which was roughly 200 men – 220 men were on a destroyer and I don’t remember the name but it was called a DE which is a destroyer escort and of course there were no more near enough beds in the destroyer so we slept on the floor and my floor happened to be in the kitchen and mess hall.
We went through the edge of a typhoon at that time and I remember the front end of the destroyer going underneath the water and then popping back up. That scared me more than the bullets that were supposed to be coming at me. I landed at the first wave at Green beach
which was on Wolmido which was on Inchon. There was three beaches on Inchon red, green and blue. Red blue landed on Inchon in the evening. Green beach was in the morning – 6am in the morning which was on Wolmido which is an island in Inchon harbor which had a causeway to the mainland.
On board ship they had a model of the island on a big 4×8 sheet of plywood and they had a model of the island I assume made out of paper mache, plastic and so forth which showed the elevation identical model of the island and each platoon was
set down to look at the model and each platoon was given the instructions on where you’re going to land, what you going to do when you get on the island what is your responsibility after you take the island. My particular platoon’s responsibility was to guard the land and take immediate area and go straight to the causeway and guard the causeway so no one could come across the causeway
to the island. My company was H Company, 3rd battalion, fifth Marines and there was 13 men in the squad and I am the only one left from that squad. Everybody else is passed away. Several of them were killed but I am the only one left out of that squad.
I: Why is it important to have Wolmido in our influence? Tell why is it important and what is the geographic situation between Wolmido and Inchon.
SC: Wolmido was an island in the harbor. It guarded the harbor and that island had to be taken
so that the main landing could be landed without any interference or fire from this island. And, we landed at 630 in the morning and there was several waves and that was the first wave. We had tanks on shore on the third wave.
Our company responsibility was the left hand side of the island which today is an amusement park and George company also landed in the second wave and they took the hill on the island and they hoisted the flag over the island.
I: Was there any resistance from Wolmido?
SC: Yes, we had resistance. It was fortunate that nobody was killed in the invasion.
I think there was 17 wounded, but nobody was killed. I had a scare there. On landing in the sand, there was barbed wire on the beach and I was crawling in the sand trying to get away from the barb wire and I got my cartridge wire hooked onto
the barbed wire on the beach. I was in a position where I had an American flag rolled up and tied on the back of my cartridge belt and that is what caught in the barbed wire. Here I am stuck on the beach, in the sand, in the barbed wire and shooting all around. What are you going to do?
I unhooked my cartridge belt and left it there. I got up on shore and off the sand and we did not have a lot of resistance and a half an hour later I went back and got my cartridge belt. But, that flag was torn to pieces. I had only been on shore for twenty minutes, not more than a half an hour and somebody hollered grenade and I happened to be on some wood
that had been a building that had been blown up or torn apart and I couldn’t find anyplace else to lie down but on those boards. So, I laid down on the board and I heard the hand grenade hit on the boards and it rolled and I hoped, boy, it didn’t roll to me. Bang! It went and my body and jumped up off the boards and it kinda knocked the wind out of me.
I looked around and I couldn’t’ find any holes and I couldn’t do anything, but I was having trouble breathing. I looked at my hands and my hands were kinda green – a I spit green and I finally got up and set on an old stump until I got my breath, catch my breath. And, after I caught my breath I checked the rest of my fire team and one of my fire team
leaders had a bullet through his thigh and sent him down to the beach and told him to find a Corman and we need to get him evacuated. He had been a replacement from the States and he had actually been in combat about twenty minutes and he got hit. And, come to find out, we believe that what the hand grenade was a WWII Japanese concussion grenade that had been thrown at us.
But, we took consider number of prisoners and we went over and set up a bazooka and a machine gun.
I: So you were not wounded? Out of that grenade…. Wow, what a lucky man you are.
SC: I am. In more ways than one. When we get down the line here, you will see I am one that is not supposed to be here.
I: Oh boy.
SC: We went down and we set up our defenses and at the end of this causeway that went to mainland, we set up the bazooka there and the machine gun and the rifleman on each side and we stayed there all day long. Nobody tried to attack us. We didn’t have any incoming. No shells, no mortar, no artillery nothing inbound. The main landing the on the beaches red and blue came that evening at 5:30
and in the night, after dark, we walked across the causeway into Inchon and we were reserve at that time. The rest of the 5th Marines was in the point and we walked into Inchon and we set up the on the other side of Inchon during the night.
I: Let me stop you there. So there were North Korean soldiers in Wolmido but you out powered them and cleared them from (Wolmido)?
SC: We cleared them and there was over 100 prisoners taken at Wolmido. There was considerable number killed, don’t get me wrong. In one instance on Wolmido there was a bunker with a big hole in the ground on the hill.
There was shooting from that bunker in the hill in machine gun fire and george company attacked in that bunker in the hill and some people came out and were taken prisoner. There was telephone line in there that was ringing and continued to ring and we had an interpreter come up and holler into the hole and nobody came out.
So, we called the tank up and the tank stuck the muzzle of the barrel in the hole and fired one round and you never saw so much dirt and dust and smoke come out of that hole and we called another take up that had a bulldozer blade on it and covered it up.
I: How was North Korean soldiers’ resistance? Was it severe? Was this really fighting – what was going on there?
SC: There was some resistance but they were not good fighters, let’s put it that way. They were overwhelmed, they were scared. I brought with me some pictures of North Korean prisoners on Wolmido.
I: Where did you get that picture?
SC: There are the actual pages of a newspaper.
The London Times from London, England. These pictures were taken by a British photographer and published in the London Times and the date is September 30, 1950.
I: Where was it?
SC: This was taken on Wolmido- on the western side of the island
and these are the prisoners we took. I don’t think you have ever seen this. I have never seen these pictures anywhere – whether it be in the Marine bases or the Marine museum at Quantico. I have never seen these pictures. Here’s one sheet. There’s another sheet
and here’s the front page. London Times, September 30, 1950.
I: And, that’s about Wolmido. So, you landed in Wolmido at 6:30 in the morning on September 15th.
SC: That is correct.
I: And, then red and blue came in in the evening and they landed in Inchon.
I: So what happened to you? Did you stay there or what happened?
SC: We left during the night – the 15th – and went across the causeway and were reserve
we went to the other side of Inchon and dug in for the night. The next couple of the days we fought our way to the Han River. We dug in at the Han River and waited from transportation – Amtrak if you know what I mean by an Amtrak, came up and took us across the river.
Little or no resistance at the river. As we neared Sewell, we ran into a considerable amount of resistance and we veered back to our right near Sewell and we took hill 296 which is on the outskirts of Sewell.
The hill we took is actually a mountain and I can’t tell you the name of it. But it was hill 296 and it was the largest hill on the outskirts of Sewell and we took that hill with some resistance but the next day we had everything thrown at us that you could imagine. We had artillery inbound to us, we had mortars inbound to us. They attacked us.
On the 23rd in the morning about 10:30 we had a tremendous inbound of mortars and we all were dug in and I got hit in the morning of the 23rd of September. I was in a fox hole and I apparently stuck my head up at the wrong time, shrapnel, mortar went off very close behind me.
And I had shrapnel in my neck. Piece of metal went into neck right here.
SC: See, the scar. And hit the bones in my neck and splattered and the biggest piece was cut out over here and I have the biggest piece.
There are seven pieces still in there. In my neck.
This is the biggest piece that the cut out. (shows it to camera) The other seven pieces in my neck. I was in a situation that no one wants to be.
I was paralyzed and my whole body felt as if it had gone to sleep. When your foot goes to sleep – my whole body felt that way. Couldn’t move anything. I found out I could spit. I couldn’t talk. I’m in a foxhole. I heard the check down the line.
Everyone checks one foxhole to the next foxhole and my foxhole buddy – I heard him call the Corman… Cobane’s hit, Cobane’s hit. They came and they took me out of the foxhole, I was totally limp and I couldn’t talk but I could spit.
The mortar barrage stopped and the attack stopped and the North Koreans were repulsed and they put me on a litter and I was carried to a nearby bump on the hill they were on.
I: And, that was hill 296?
SC: That was hill 296.
The name of that hill, I cannot tell you. It starts with an A and it’s right outside of Sewell. We could look right down into Sewell. And, there’s a university up there somewhere. The road that led out of Sewell – it went to the North West and the North Koreans were retreating out of Sewell up that road. And, that morning when I was hit
they were retreating out of there one right after another and we were shooting at them a long ways away downhill. I was put on a littler and I was airlifted off that hill to Kippel that is now Sewell International. I remember being put in a helicopter and in that time frame, you read after
there’s only four helicopters in Korea during the Pusan perimeters and Inchon up to Sewell the twenty sixth September – there was only four helicopters and the Marines had them and there was supposed to be experimental helicopters, they were Sakorski H-03’s and they were single pilot, they were rather narrow, they were single pilot and they had a
bench behind a pilot that two people could sit together on this bench behind the pilot but the Sakorski H03 had two windows – one on each side and they could take the litter and stick it through the helicopter and part of the litter could be sticking out on each side of the helicopter They shoved me through this helicopter and
how they tied me down or if they fastened us down – I have no idea if they did – but, I remember the wind from the rotor beating on my legs that were sticking outside of the helicopter and they took me into Kippel airport and I remember being at Kippel and a red tube coming down and I remember airplanes
and I remember an argument we got one more littler patient for this airplane going to Tokyo Army hospital. Well, you can’t take this guy – he’s a Marine. We don’t give a GD, put him on the airplane. We can’t. He’s Marine and this is going to the Tokyo Army hospital.
And, then more profanity and put him on the thing. So, I ended up in the Tokyo Army hospital and I was in the Tokyo Army hospital and if I was the only marine that was the only thing I knew and when the little Japanese girls came around to wash you, the Army fellows were screaming for help, looking for help and these girls come around to wash me and all they could say was, you marine, you marine?
And, there’d be 6 or 8 of them taking care of me but the army guys hollering for help and they weren’t paying any attention to them. I was in Tokyo army hospital for a month. Paralyzed. I was a quadriplegic. One day, several weeks
later I found out I could move a toe and all the sudden I had nurses and doctors and little Japanese girls around and move your toe, move your toe. I then was airlifted to Tripala general hospital in Honolulu. I was there for several days and I got my hair washed for the first time.
They put me in a bed and the bed could be tipped upside down and there was a rubber mat under my head and they could wash my hair and water would run into a bucket under my head on the floor and I woke up normal and I was dizzy and passed out. I was there three or four days and then I was airlifted to Vallejo Naval hospital outside of San Francisco where I spent several months there.
I learned how to walk again there. My arms were still paralyzed then I was I was airlifted to St. Alma Naval hospital on Long Island outside of New York and I spent the rest of my time there. Eventually my arms came back.
Now, what’s in my medical records, I’m told today isn’t true what happened to me.
The records say the metal was hot and burned my spinal cord and my spinal cord didn’t come apart so it was able to regenerate over a period of time. Today, I’m told that of course that was in 1950’s and they know so much more about medicine today than they did then. Today I am told by the doctors that what happened to me in their opinion
is the shock waves of the metal hitting the spinal cord and the muscles around it, shocked it and paralyzed it and it regenerated.
I am a disabled veteran today. I draw 100% disabled. I have little or no feeling in my hands but I have lived a good life, I’ve done well, I have no complaints.
I have been in the veteran’s association program since 52. They’ve taken care of me. I have never had an operation other than to take out the metal from my neck.
I: Did your family know about your wound?
SC: When I was in the hospital in Japan, the Red Cross wrote a letter to my mother.
My mother got the letter before the telegram came from the government that I had been wounded. I never told my mother that I had been hit in the neck. I had also had been hit on the hand and this knuckle, no skin on it. So, I used that as an excuse that I couldn’t write my mother. So, all my mother knew is that I had a hand that had been wounded.
When she got the letter that I had a wounded hand, she wasn’t too concerned as I learned later. But, when the telegraph came from the government that I had been wounded, she then became real concerned. The first time I went home from the hospital, they wouldn’t let me go home by myself because I
had no way to feed myself or no way to do anything – because I had nothing in my hands. My hands were totally paralyzed. My younger brother who was 13 I believe at the time, maybe 14 – I paid for him to come to the hospital from Lake Placid down to the hospital on Long Island
and he escorted me back to my home cause I had no use of my hands. When my parents saw my condition they weren’t very happy. They were shocked because I hadn’t told them the whole story.
I: Do you still have the letter you wrote back to your ma?
SC: You know I do and I don’t. I don’t have my personal belongings but it’s in the hands of my children. They’ve got it.
I: Are you willing to share it – our foundation – so we can scan it?
SC: If I can find it and get it back, I’d be glad to share it with you.
SC: I have an incidence on the Pusan perimeter.
We had been on the front lines for a week or ten days and hasn’t washed and haven’t brushed our teeth, we had nothing but sea rations and they took us back to in what they call the bean patch at Masan. Masan bean patch is where when you came off the line, you set up your pup tents and you had R & R – you weren’t allowed to go anywhere around the base.
There was a river nearby and we had a tank down at the river and you could go down and jump in and bathe and wash our clothes. We had been there for several days… every day a South Korean lady would come around and she had a woven basket, two feet across and she was selling peaches and she had a round watermelon. I had never seen a round watermelon – about the size of bigger than a softball.
Anyways, she was selling them – she couldn’t speak much English – all she could say was hundred won, hundred won Jo. We had strict orders not to eat anything the natives had. She had peaches – the fuzziest and nicest looking peaches I ever saw and this one watermelon. We had been there two or three days and we were still living on sea rations
and those peaches were the fuzziest most beautiful peaches you ever saw. So one day, I got brave and I bought – I had money, we all had money we had taken from dead North Koreans and they had taken money from dead South Koreans and we had wads, wads of money. So a hundred won was nothing. That wouldn’t even make a dent in the money we had and so I paid
her a hundred won for one of those peaches and I ate the peach. I will tell you, talk about a delicious peach, that was it. The next morning we had order to move out – going back to the line. I didn’t get up the road a hundred feet and I had to go. Off my rice paddy, off my rifle, off my pack and off my britches and I could have drilled a well right there.
By the time I got cleaned up, my britches back on, pack back on and rifle on, and run to get my spot in the line again, I had to go again. Off my rice paddy, off my pack, off my rifle, off my britches and I did that all day long. That night I went to sick bay and checked in. My Corman said, what’d you eat? I told him I had a peach. He said, you know you have orders not to eat that peach and you know I could have you court martialed right now.
I won’t turn you in if you promise you will never eat another one. I promised I would never eat another one. He gave me a round hoit it looked like a wafer that you would get in church. He said put that on your tongue and let it dissolve. Well, I did, and that didn’t have any more effect on me than a man in the moon. But, I have the letter I wrote home to my mom and asked her to get my some cheese and peanut butter. (laughter)
I don’t mean to make your thing here bad but that’s the truth here.
I: Do you have PTSD?
SC: Yes, not real bad, but I have it.
I: What do you see in your dream?
SC: Being chased. It’s the craziest thing you can imagine. I am being chased and I don’t have any ammunition.
I eventually fall into a hole or off a cliff and then I wake up. I talk to the VA doctors and they know what – it’s not that unusual from what I understand. I don’t know why I am being chased. Sometimes I am chased by the enemy and I am running, other times I am chased by a tank. I’ve been chased by a motorcycle.
I: What was the worst moment except in addition to the day, September 23rd that you were wounded by the mortars? What was the worst moment except that in your service?
SC: Back in the Pusan perimeter almost being forced to go to an honorary funeral, honorary memorial for my friends that were killed.
Funerals and participation in funerals, for me, are one of the hardest things for me to do. I remember when (Wordsgaugh) was killed and they wanted to have a memorial and that was difficult for me. That’s the hardest thing for me to do.
I: When were you awarded the Purple Heart?
SC: I was in the hospital, the Tokyo Army hospital and army captain came around and pinned it on my pillow. I never got in paperwork with it. Of course it’s in my records. Some of the fellows got paperwork with the Purple Heart – the date and so on and so forth. But, they just pinned it on my pillow and put the box on the bed beside me.
I: And, your hat is full of guys who had a Purple Heart?
SC: I am a member of the Veterans organization called military order of the Purple Heart. In Massachusetts and at this time, I am the judge advocate.
I: Have you been back to Korea?
SC: 1997, I went back on a return visit sponsored by MPVA and it was paid for by the South Korean government. We went back for a week and I couldn’t find much that I could see that was the same. Everything had changed.
I: What was your feeling to see the changed Korea?
SC: It was nice to see that the people had advanced so far, so quickly. For instance, from Wolmido to Inchon that causeway is just a road now.
It’s been filled in, the mud flats, what do you want to call it, it’s all land. They have been filled in and Wolmido is forested now when I was there was no trees there. Everything had been blown off. Artillery and naval had burned off the marine coarse hairs. The beach we landed off at Wolmido is now an amusement park.
It was totally different. I couldn’t find the hill 296. I went up 296 and tried to find my foxhole. The top of 296 is now a military radio commander – sometime of command. I was fronted with the South Koreans up there and they wouldn’t let me get any farther. And, one of my friends said to me, Cobane, he says,
wounded in 296 in 1950 and don’t be killed in non-action in 1997 on hill 296. (laughter)
I: You know that this year is the 60 years anniversary of armistice and the US Korea alliance.
Now the South Korea is the strongest Ally, I think, in the world.
How do you see the alliance between countries and how we can strengthen it? What’s the legacy of Korea and Korean War veterans?
SC: I don’t think there is any stronger partner than what South Korea and the US have. That is very, very strong. Good people.
I don’t see any break down or any possibility ever of any break down with the United States. I have the utmost respect for those people. I saw what they went through during the war. I saw pictures of peasants, wounded peasants, and beggars. Today is just the total opposite. Industrialized working people, good people.
I: Would you be willing to go back if there is another war?
SC: I don’t know if they would want me. (laughter) I would go back if I was to go back if there was advisory or supervisory set up. Sure, I would go back. I would go back today. Korea, Korea is modern, maybe more modern than many of our communities and counties and states here in the United States. They have come a long ways in a short time. I have nothing but respect for the people of Korea.
I: My book is coming out about how we achieve one of the most rapid economic developments but at the same time how we achieved the democratization. We are a strong democracy, one of the most substantive democracies in East Asia. Japan has been known for democracy, but they this is different. My book is talking about how we achieve these two biggest goals that any other country wants to achieve. The democratization and rapid economic development and we couldn’t do it without your blood and your sacrifice.
SC: Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate it
I: What is the overall impact of your service in the Korean War upon your life? Do you regret it?
SC: No, I don’t regret it because I have actually lived a pretty decent life. I’ve been able to do lots of things that maybe I wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. After being discharged from the military-
I: When were you discharged?
SC: The 7th of March, 1952. Discharged out of the military and out of the hospital the same day.
SC: I went applying and was accepted to go to school at Oswego State Teachers college in Oswego, New York. That fall I entered college as an industrial arts major. Which is in our lingo, a shop teacher. I was a poor student in high school. I did very well college. That one year, I had a car.
I: When was it?
I: So, you were completely recovered? Not your hands?
SC: Not my hands. I learned how to drive while I was in the hospital. I bought a car while I was in the hospital. And, I put a spinner on the steering wheel and with two hands, I could steer the car. I remember getting my driver’s license and taking the test and I took the written test and passed it without any trouble. The instructor said to me, let’s go down and drive the car so we went down and drove the car. When he saw what I was doing with two hands and that I had a Purple Heart, he said just drive it around the block and park it where it is now. And, he gave me my driver’s license.
I: So Purple Heart paved the way. Good. You deserve it.
SC: Thank you. Thank you.
SC: So, I was in college and I had a car. The rules at college that year was that no freshman could have a car.
I: But you had a Purple Heart.
SC: I had a purple heart and I was on disability and I kept using the excuse that I had to have my car to get around. I had been called into the Dean’s office several times warning me that it was against the rules and regulation to have a car as a freshman. I kept arguing that I needed the car. At the end of the second semester, in May of 1953, I had completed two semesters or one year of college. The president of the college met me in the parking lot and told me don’t return. He says, you can’t follow orders. So, I was thrown out of school. I was he first carrier of air freight via truck under ICC rules and regulations into O’Hare field. That operation still goes today. It’s a multi-million dollar operation – Cobane air freight. My kids and my first wife have that business.
I: So, you’re now a millionaire?
SC: I wish I was. My kids do very well. And, I retired in 1997
as the general manager of a country club.
I: Anything you want to say to this interview?
SC: You’re a fine fellow. And, I appreciate coming and helping you in your endeavors. It was a great experience. I don’t wish it on anyone, but it was a great experience.
I: Why do you think the Korean War is being called forgotten?
SC: Because there is little or no mention of it in any history book that’s taught in schools today.
I: I am going to have a workshop in Washington, DC. The first Korean War veteran’s descendant workshop. I am inviting the descendants in their age of college or high school of the Korean War Veterans for the first time and I am going to talk about
how we can continue to carry the legacy of the Korean War veterans. One of the descendants of the Korean War veterans from Georgia, she is the history teacher and she talked to me about only one small paragraph, very small paragraph of the history of the Korean War in the history text book. And, I am going to ask the descendants to do something about it. I am going to come up with a petition that we need to increase the page about the Korean War.
The Korean War is very, very important war, you know.
SC: Yes, it is. It changed the history of the world. No question about it. It was the first place that communism was totally stopped. But, it doesn’t resonate among today’s population.
I: So, it’s a sad story and it should be corrected. And, that’s what I am going to do. It’s not just preserving your memory, I want to do something about what happened to the Americans. So many men and women who sacrificed their lives and wounded and still missing in action, but history book talk about a paragraph.
I: It doesn’t sound fair at all. Do you have any message to the young generations in America at all?
SC: Everybody should stand up and serve their nation. No matter who you are and where you are for a certain amount of time. What I am saying is if all young men today would serve a couple of years in the military, we’d be a totally different country and a different world.
I: Thank you, Stan. I am so lucky to see you and meet you and hear from you about your story.
(End of Recorded Materials)
P. Stanley Cobane and Fellow Soldiers
A picture of Stan Cobane with fellow soldiers. Top Row L to R: Wally Reed, unknown, Mr. Burke, Tom Stidham, P. Stan Cobane. Bottom Row L to R: Yance Halcomb, Cliff Daniels, Mr. Stirewalt, Tiny.
P. Stanley Cobane
A picture of P. Stanley Cobane in uniform.
US Marine Corps Identification Card
P. Stanley Cobane's US Marine Identification Card
Illustrated London News: US Marines Capturing Inchon and Wolmi Island
The third page of a news article published by the Illustrated London News dating from September 30,1950 with pictures featuring US Marines capturing Inchon and Wolmi Island. The caption to the top picture says: “Communist Prisoners on Wolmi Island, stripped for convenience of searching, wait under guard, while a US tank rumbles forward to the second assault-- that on the mainland at Inchon. Marine casualties were low and some eighty North Korean prisoners were taken in the battle.” The caption to the bottom picture says: “Moving into the second phase of the attack on Inchon: US Marines, with one of their tanks, moving alertly across captured Wolmi Island for the assault on Inchon itself. The picture gives some idea of the devastation caused by the bombardment.”
Illustrated London News: US Marines Capturing Inchon and Wolmi Island
The first page of a news article published by the Illustrated London News dating from September 30,1950 with pictures featuring US Marines capturing Inchon and Wolmi Island. The caption below the picture says: The first step in the brilliant amphibious operation to capture Inchon, behind the North Korean Lines-- U.S Marines moving cautiously through the shell-battered ruins of Wolmi Island.
Shrapnel from Korean War
Shrapnel from the Korean War from P. Stanley Cobane's neck injury.
A picture from the London News at Inchon behind North Korean lines.