Pete J. Nadeau
Pete J. Nadeau was born on August 19, 1929. He grew up on a dairy farm in Minnesota which proved to be difficult and dedicated work for a young boy. He loved geography and, while many American Korean War soldiers were unfamiliar with Korea, Peter J. Nadeau was somewhat familiar with the geopolitical aspects of Korea when his service began in 1950. He enlisted in the Marines, and spent time in Chuncheon and Wonsan. He left Korea in 1951 as a Buck Sergeant, where he specialized in Anti Tank. Pete J. Nadeau revisited South Korea in 2000 where he gained clarity on the legacy and purpose of the Korean War.
From Rubble to Democratic Metropolis: The Rise of South Korea
This clip articulates the epiphany Pete J. Nadeau had while revisiting South Korea. He frequently contemplated the legacy and purpose of the war as well as the lives lost, including some of his good friends. He came face to face with that legacy when he revisited South Korea in 2000. He recalls being in awe of the roads, the cars, the children going to school, the growth in population, and the complete renewal of a country he left in 1951. When he left, the country lay in ruins.
The Cold and a Memory
Pete J. Nadeau recalls the cold as he shares a fond memory of dragging a fellow soldier for five hours.
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
P: My name is Pete Nadeau. Nadeau is N A D E A U.
I: Is it French name?
P: Yeah. It’s a French name.
I: So you have a French
P: Both sides. One, one, one’s my, My mother’s side was from Belgium. My father’s side was Canada.
I: Canada. What is your birthday?
P: August 19, 1929.
I: That’s the year of Great Depression.
I: Where were you born?
P: In Centerville, Minnesota.
P: Where? In Centerville, Minnesota.
P: It’s about 15 miles north of St. Paul.
I: Um. And tell me about your family when you were growing up, your parents and your siblings.
P: The, the, the worst thing I can say is the, I had
four older sisters, and I was 8 years old before I ever got a name. They called me the boy, and then I had a little brother so they had to switch and call me something else. But I grew up on a dairy farm helping with the cows. I didn’t especially like the dairy part of it. That ties you down too much. You’re, you’re gotta be there every, every morning,
I: Too much work?
P: Well, the work isn’t that bad. It’s just that you’re
I: But why do you have to be every morning there?
P: Well, to milk the cows.
I: You have to squeeze the milk?
I: You have to squeeze the milk I mean?
P: Well, no. We got milk, electricity about 1940, and we got milking machines shortly afterwards. So about the time I started to milk cows a lot,
we had milk. That wasn’t too bad.
I: Um hm.
P: You know, that went pretty fast. It wasn’t quite so boring, and.
I: But what was the bad part of it?
P: Well, the bad was always the same. The bad part was I had four older sisters.
P: And, and, so I was, oh, when I got in the first grade all the way up, I
it kind of carried forward. They would, their favorite game was school. They were the teachers, and of course they were older than me so. I went to first grade, and I could do addition and subtraction and write my name and write stuff, so I jumped on other kids, and, so that was the benefit of it probably, too, but
I, I’m not so smart in some ways and some ways I am. I, I was picked actually to go back, come back home the second day I was in Korea to go to OCS because of a test score that I got so high on, but, so, and I was in a company that, platoon that was kind of dysfunctional.
I was always in trouble because I was doing things they didn’t want me to do
I: In, in four months I went up awfully fast. In four months, I was a squad leader. Five months I was the platoon leader. Six months I was a platoon leader taking an officer’s place. Lieutenant got rotated back home. So I talked a lot
with, I’d have to report in with these, like a weapons company. It was a 75 recoilless platoon, and until I got to be the squad leader, they fired, I think, about four rounds, and it was always after the battle was over, and it was very discouraging. Within a couple months after I got, we’d
usually fire 30 rounds a day. But that 75, sometimes 50, and the battalion would want us to be there to, because they could see what we could do.
I: But before you continue on that, I want to ask you other question. When did you graduate high school?
I: What school was it?
P: St. John’s Prep School in Collegeville, Minnesota. And it’s a, I’d say rated above,
scholastically about the best in Minnesota anyway.
P: It was high. I got F’s the first, my mother wanted me to get some religion, go back. So my senior year I went to St. John’s. I didn’t like it.
I: You didn’t like it?
P: Well, I, I had, I was in sports and, you know, bigger public high school, and
I, it wasn’t that I hated it or anything, but it was, I used to come home usually, oh, it’s about 70 miles, at least every two weeks to help on the farm, to help clean out box stalls and stuff.
I: So, after that, what did you do?
P: Uh, I went to work at Swiss
and Company in South St. Paul in the, in pork cut department.
I: Um hm.
P: And it paid good money and
I: How much?
P: Oh, I started at $1.02 an hour plus bonus money.
P: Yeah. But
I: An hour.
P: But that was in 1947.
I: How much, what, what kind of things that, were you able to buy with $1.02 at the time?
P: I didn’t smoke that time. I can, I’m trying to think but uh, a loaf of bread was $.15, $.20 or something then. That was at the beginning of the second war, the end of the second world war.
P: So things didn’t go up right away. It was afterwards.
I: And did you know anything about Korea? Did you learn anything about Korea from your high school?
P: I knew where it was. I loved Geography and I knew there was a north and a south, and it had been divided. Beyond that, I was pretty much, I was always interested.
I: So you knew about the location of Korea.
I: Mm. Very exceptional because most of the veterans that I did interview, they didn’t know it, where it was. So then, when did you leave, when did you join the military, I mean the Marine?
P: I joined the Marine Reserve unit in Minneapolis a couple months before the war started.
P: Oh, I got a, I always was impressed with the Marine Corp.
and thought well, if something ever happens I’d have some training that I established but had no idea what I was getting. My oldest sister was a Master Sergeant in the Marine Corp.
P: Through the second war, world war. In the Korean War, she went, was in the Reserves, and they called her back.
I: So she was in Korea, too?
P: And then, what happened? Did, how did you come, come to know the breakout of
the Korean War? Where were you in the June 25?
P: Ooh, I, I honestly couldn’t tell you. It was a, I, you know, [INAUDIBLE]
I: So when did you leave for Korea then?
P: Around October something, yeah.
P: Yeah. Toward the end of October. What I, what I, I hadn’t gone to boot camp, I didn’t go to boot camp and
I: Because you were in the Reserves, right?
P: But they, that was, a lot of other people had the, were the same situation as I was in.
I: Mm hm.
P: So we, so I ended up in the first replacement draft, so I actually, the day after the Division landed at Wonsan, the first replacement draft landed.
I: So you landed in Wonsan?
I: And then?
P: Oh, it took a, a week, two weeks that maybe we moved up.
I: Mm hm.
P: I was a, usually it’s regimental company, but I was usually attached to first battalion, second battalion, sometime first Marines. But first battalion was, us, sent to Chin Hung Ni
I: Chinini, yes.
P: I think the 7th, might have been the 5thMarines were there. But I didn’t really know about that, you know, too much [INAUDIBLE] But, but we were, it’s a real little town, and it’s west of the river and the road, and the battalion was all west of the, of the river except for the 75, two squads run
I: What is the name of it, Yudamni?
P: No, no, no. That’s way up north.
I: So you were at Kotori?
P: No. Well, close, but up on the hills it wasn’t
I: So it was between Chinini and Kotori. Were you at
P: Yeah, but where I, where I spent most of my time was at Chinini.
I: I see.
P: It was only the last four or five days where we pushed north.
I: So what was your specialty?
P: I, I imagine it was a
I had a MOS, I think, of anti-tank
I: What do you mean imagine? Why do you have to imagine about your MOS?
P: Could you repeat that?
I: What was your MOS?
P: I, I think it was three, I don’t remember, 301.
I: Yeah. No, not about the number, but what was it, anti-tank?
P: Anti-tank, yeah.
I: Okay. So did you work with a, did you use the bazooka?
They, I was, I was in, the Marine Corp. division, first division, was set up, every regiment had their own anti-tank company.
P: In that company was a platoon of five tanks and a platoon of 75 recoilless, and I was in the 75 recoilless.
I: Um hm.
P: And I, uh, tried, tried to get out, transferred, stay
with my friends, and I got rudely told no, and pointed a finger at for about two hours that you’re never gonna get out of this company. The next day, I had the pleasure of bringing a letter from headquarters, Marine Corp., to go back to Japan and get a physical look to go to OCS.
I: Go back to what?
P: I was, I was, two of us from the first regiment were picked
to go back to Japan for physicals, and if we wanted we could go back and go to OCS immediately.
I: Wow. That’s a very exceptional, isn’t it?
P: Yeah. But I, I kind of thought, I thought it over. But I just had got there and I thought I want to find out what this was all about. I was an aggressive kid, you know. I wasn’t a kid. I was 21. I was, that was
one factor. I was an old man compared to some of these 18
P: And I had done a lot of things. I was, I was blowing stumps with dynamite when I was 16 years old for a construction company.
I: So did you go to Japan?
P: No, no I didn’t.
I: What happened? What happened?
I: What happened? Did you refuse to go?
P: I, I, yeah, I turned her down.
P: Well, I wanted to find out what combat was like
or something. I wanted to see, no.
I: You were crazy.
P: At that, at that time there was still already talk about the war was over.
I: Who says that?
P: Oh, scuttlebutt and, and after Inchon and the, and they took back Seoul, went north of the Parallel and people were saying the war was going be, we were gonna be home by Christmas.
P: And, to go back to OCS, I wasn’t sold on the military life, and that meant signing up for six years I think.
I: So you didn’t want to commit.
P: Yeah. So I didn’t.
I: So what happened then? You were in, mostly in Chinini and tell me about what happened in Chinini? Did you encounter with the Chinese?
P: I probably had more encounter with Chinese than anybody
in the battalion. But it wasn’t close. We were up against a bluff, oh, 80 degrees, about a, oh, 200 yards high, and every night they’d come and they’d hang on the rocks with their hand and they’d pick up [INAUDIBLE] come over the
I: Hand grenades?
P: No. But they’d fire with a burp gun.
P: We were right down below, see. And
I: Why didn’t you change
P: I don’t, I don’t, I don’t know. I wanted to go up because it would have been simplest get up there quietly and not move and have three, four people coming, moving toward you. You’d have all the advantages, and I got threatened with court martials and everything else. My platoon leader found out about it and had mentioned it to a corporal that I wouldn’t be
on guard that night, take my turn because I was. But so that was ruled out. So instead we had a light machine gun in our trailer, and there was sand under the ice in the river, so I made, filled up some sandbags and blocked it up so I could sandbag, you know, light machine gun, I knew where the rock was. I went up and looked at their tracks, and
I knew right where they came and there was empty cartridges around, and so I aimed the machine gun there, and that night when they came and they fired, well I’d fire a burp back and it, yeah, bounce off that rock if it didn’t hit them. I don’t know if I’d ever hit anybody. But they got discouraged doing that.
I: Um hm.
P: And he came back the next night, but that was it. They quit. But we weren’t hit
as far as I know. The whole battalion wasn’t really hit until, oh, it had to be the 20thor so, 21st, 23rd, I’m not sure, of November.
I: How cold was it?
P: It wasn’t too bad until about the 24thor 25thof, of December.
I: December? November?
P: Of November, yeah. And, of course, it was, stayed pretty cold until.
I: How cold? Can you describe it, the way that you felt?
P: The only thing I’d have for a fact was I, I dragged a guy for five hours one night from Able Company, and when I got down with him to the road, there was a, a common thermometer in a house
but it had 19 below. If it was 19 below down there, I figure it had to be 25 below up above because, you know, I couldn’t tell.
I: Um hm.
P: But, uh, and it was a, I don’t know how much time you have, that was a, I looked for 50 years for that guy, and nobody in Able Company knew about him, and finally in San Diego
in, I think 2000, there was a reunion, and I, I’d usually stop, talk to people in Able Company. One, one guy said I know who you’re talking about. It was a guy, a big guy, 215, 220 or so, and he was, he’d come to, and he told me he was from Syracuse, but that’s all I knew. He said I know just the guy.
He’s sitting across the room. I went over there and told him, I said I gotta big investment in you, you know, I was kind of half joking and stuff. I said I spent a lot of time dragging you down a hill.
I: What’s his name?
P: I forgot now, and I
I: How can you forget his name? Come on.
P: It’s a shame. My, I’m, my memory now is bad.
P: But anyway, the first
thing he says when I found him he was to the side of the hill,
I: Uh huh.
P: And we were trying to make sure we weren’t’ missing anybody. He was laying, and his sleeping bag had broke, the zipper, and his hands were half all the, and I touched his hands and they were just like hamburger you took out of a freezer.
P: They were froze solid. I thought oh, you poor guy. You’re gonna lose your hands. So I put my gloves on him
and tried to tuck them in, and there was six of us. I think we went 200 yards carrying him, and four of them, their back hurt, and they, they was goin down and get more help, and I said I wasn’t, I wasn’t about to leave him, and there’s another guy I’d like to get a hold of that helped me. There was two of us, and we dragged him, and it took about five hours. But anyway,
the first thing he said after I introduced myself was did you get your gloves?
P: I, we got him in the, a pyramid tent, the sick bay, and got him on the stretcher, and he was unconscious. But I went outside and it hit me. I went 50’ maybe, oh, my hands were, I’ve trapped muskrats in the wintertime and everything else. I knew what cold was
pretty well. I know, oo, I went back quick and got my, he was in a, gonna be in a warm place. So I took my gloves back. But somebody, Corpsman or something, when he came to must have just said come back, pick up your gloves, and, but, and he remembered that.
P: That’s what he said. So it was kind of a tearful, uh, meeting anyway between the two. But
he, his wife had died, and he moved to Tucson and had a daughter and two sons.
P: So we talk on the phone. I must have called him four or five times and sent two or three letters. He came to another reunion for a day or so. But he had got his, almost all the use of one hand, but the other hand was pretty rough. Never did recover. But uh, anyway
it’s a, a side note, but
I: No, no, no. It’s a big part of it.
P: The power of the words did you get your gloves?
I: Yeah. And from Chinini, you went down to Hungnam to evacuate, right?
P: Yeah, from there, yes.
I: Do you remember seeing North Korean refugee there?
P: Well, where we were, we were on the road, and so our unit did the road, kept the road blocked
I: Um hm.
P: And we both inspect, check for weapons and stuff. Most of the refugees were half froze. They finally got a tent with oil stove in it so they could warm up a little bit. But, you know, some were almost barefoot [INAUDIBLE]
I: Barefoot at that December?
P: Yeah. Oh man. And carrying kids and
trying to carry, and it was pitiful. And here I have right away, I’m, wherever I went, I always fixed it up good. I had a foxhole with a stove in it, and I put wood in the stove made out of a big ammunition box for a stove. I remember telling the guy in a, I assumed it was a husband and wife, I said go down, lay there and warm up I said. It’s
you know, it was warm, but it, it was pitiful. It was, it was, you know, They really were suffering.
I: But because of that 100,000 North Korean refugee was evacuated, were evacuated, and
P: Um hm.
P: A lot of them came from the area south of the Chosin Reservoir.
P: The Chinese, if they were
scattered you didn’t see them. But there were scattered houses here and there with little nature ground right there, well, right away Chinese took those houses to stay in the, they were trying to stay alive, too.
P: And I think that the cold hurt them more than, as in the good statement for me because I could stand the cold pretty well, you know. I knew how to take care of myself. I spent the last night
without a sleeping bag, but I, I would have froze to death if I had, hadn’t stayed, I stayed awake, I didn’t dare sleep and, I did freeze my right foot pretty bad.
I: So from, you went to Busan and Masan, right?
I: And then, did you go up to 38thParallel again?
P: Slow. I think in January, oh yeah, early in January we went as far north as Andong
I: Andong, yeah.
P: It was a kind of a railroad center, I think. But the, the gorillas, the North Korean remnants would still raid that town, and so we sat up on the hills, well then, they didn’t raid the town anymore. And I think we stayed there, I’d say 10 days or so. It was on,
in February, I believe, that we, I think it started at Hongsong.
I: Um hm.
P: Had to push, We had to push that first, first battalion was lean, but there wasn’t a lot of resistance compared to, you know, But they were fighting the South Korean Army which wasn’t organized and, our regular, our Army wasn’t organized, and
we, I think we went 53 days, and we dug two foxholes. I mean, I got that backwards. We stayed in the same foxhole two days in that 53, we’re moving, every day we moved five miles, four miles, and there wasn’t, they’d send a platoon out to take this hill and chase them off of it.
I: When did you leave Korea?
P: November 9, 1951.
I: So you stayed there long, even in 1951.
P: Well, I think
I: Because you joined
P: They, they had some year
P: I think a year, not much, somebody could take that pretty well if they were
I: Then where were you in the east side after Hongsong and, were you at the
P: We went up to Chungchong, north of, got up along the Huichon Reservoir
I: Huichon, too? Huichon, too? Huichon.
P: Is that a
I: Yeah, Huichon Reservoir.
I: Were there any battle there when you were there?
P: Oh, the heaviest fighting I saw was, oh, just east and north of that reservoir, in May or April I think.
It’s where, where we finally got to work with the Infantry to, especially on an assault. The 75, they, it was an anti-tank gun, and it was too light for a T34. But it was, you could get up a hill with it where you couldn’t go with a tank, so that when they run into a bunker, we get up close and we’d blow the bunker, and they’d move up
where they couldn’t do it with a tank, and so from then on we were, felt pretty useful. It wasn’t the same, and all that time I was a, they usually have two squads. Well, I’d be over them, and, and, instead of a, we didn’t have a platoon leader.
And it was about, oh, in August anyway I talked to the exec. officer of the battalion, in the battalion, the commander of the battalion, I can’t remember his name. He had a beautiful moustache, but he’d always call me Sergeant. One day we were just talking and I said you know, I’m not meaning any disrespect, but, I said,
I wish you wouldn’t call me Sergeant. What’s the matter? What’s the matter? Are you only a Corporal? I said I’m a PFC, sir, and he knew I had two Corporals under me, and it was about 10 days later I got a letter from Division Headquarters that I was a Buck Sergeant.
I: Uh. Big promotion.
P: Yeah. Fast. And I, and on my records and stuff, it was
that I was, should be, when ava, when time permits or something, I forget the wording, I should take the test for Staff Sergeant anyway.
I: Have you been back to Korea?
P: 2000. Now I got a friend of mine in talking and he says it’s 1999, but, one of those, I’m sure it was 50 years’ anniversary at Inchon.
I: Um hm.
P: And till that time even, I figured what a waste, all the friends I had that got killed and, and for what? To go back there and see that? It’s an eye opener.
I: Tell me about it.
P: All, all the roads
and the endless dream I have. Everything green. They had, it was all, they had evergreen trees in Korea before but very few. But they must have planted them about 20 years before, seedlings, and they were, ah, Minnesota trees, White Pine, Red Pine, and there, you know, they were 10”,
some of them, in diameter. Just beautiful, all green. It was like Seattle. I don’t know if you’ve gone to Seattle
P: [INAUDIBLE] But it was the, the roads and the cars and the kids and all dressed up going to school. Every, no, that they could do that much in 50 years when it was just rubble, nothing. The town of Chungchong, I kind of always kept in my mind
because I stayed with a, well, 18 of us for three days, the, on both sides of a, the, the front fell apart, and we, uh, the Marines backed up, and they took out the trucks and everything, and they left us on the south bank of the, of the river right at Chungchong. We could
have only stopped Infantry. We didn’t have any machine guns. We just had small arms. But I, during the day, explored the tunnel, and it was all leveled. But there might have been, I had guessed, 10,000 people at the most in Chungchong, and when I went back, I hired a guy that gave tours for Korean people to Scandinavia,
but he took his own car. He was off one day. I talked to the girl that was on our bus right away to line that up. He drove us back down to Hongsong, and we followed where we went up, went to Chungchong. Here’s this, everything that was, houses and thatched roofs was, had been leveled. This was all set up in blocks now with signal lights on each corner,
you know, and five, six story buildings in the valleys where there was, they were growing rice before. that was all high rise, and he showed me in an almanac where they estimated the population of Chungchong to be a million and a quarter people. Oh. It looked, [INAUDIBLE] There was a lot of people, and they’re so close to the DMZ, that’s what kind of surprised me, too.
P: But, uh, yeah. I came, I changed my mind completely about, you know, I could, I could look back and see the people I knew, I had some real good friends that got killed and stuff, and you say to them boy, that was, that was worth it to,
I: That’s about it. That’s why I’m doing this. My Foundation is to
keep your legacy, and people has to know because this is the most successful war US has ever involved since World War II.
P: Yes, it is.
I: But we don’t teach about it.
P: Yeah. Keep it quiet.
P: I, I couldn’t pull over, I went, I’ve got a friend in San Diego that lost most of his jaw in Iwo Jima. He’s a relative of my wife, but I, I saw him twice before, and I wanted
to see him, so the, we went through the museum. He used to work it a lot, and I could just see how he was almost in tears because they had torn down all the Korean displays, everything. They had a room that was cold. You could go on there and you could feel the cold, and that was all taken out, one window with a bazooka inside of it, and I think, and I think a tiny prisoner or something.
I: Why is it forgotten then?
P: And why, yeah.
P: Well, a lot of people involved in Vietnam, even though there wasn’t that many more killed in Vietnam, there was a lot of people involved with it, and, and to them, they don’t remember Korea, and that’s quite a, quite a few. But to forget about the second World War?
That was the, the, the war that really made our country, saved it. But so it really hurt to go through that museum and see that all gone.
I: Now Korea is 11thlargest economy in the world.
P: I bet.
I: It’s the size of Indiana. We don’t have a drop of oil. We don’t have much natural resources.
P: But you got more kinds of shipping built every year.
I: Every year. And we are the substantive democracy in Asia.
P: Um hm.
I: That’s the legacy.
I: We need to teach about this.
P: I agree. I agree.
I: Why we don’t teach about this?
P: Yeah, that’s why I was so happy to, my daughter came, daughter, my granddaughter, one granddaughter came along so at least she can see a little bit that hey,
you know, there was a war, you know.
I: You were with your daughter and wife in 2000 in Korea?
P: My wife went with me, yeah.
I: Um hm. That’s why we are doing this. We, my Foundation hosts an annual conference for Social and History teachers. We had a 90 teachers from 25 states in Orlando, Florida this year in June. We going to have another one next year in Mount Rushmore, South Dakota.
I: We going to invite 200 teachers. If they are qualified and if they show and demonstrate interest in learning more about the Korean War and post-war Korea development, we cover hotel, meals and half of airfare, everything. Would you be interested in spreading this to any teachers in your region?
P: Yeah, but
I: From Minnesota?
P: You’re gonna, you’re gonna, I don’t have that long to
I’m in good health, but, I mean, I lost my hearing, and I lost my, my memory. That’s a, but I, I hurt myself and I fell in a hole that I dug in the backyard to drain the, the roof on the house and stuff, but I do things that I shouldn’t be doing.
I: Spread information in your region to the teachers.
P: To the teachers.
P: The whole school.
P: That, that would be a program that would be good
to talk for an hour and have some slides to show them, a screen or something to show them
P: Books. I, I think I’ve got
I: Korea Revisit?
P: I think I gave away 30 of those books.
I: Korea Reborn?
I: Yeah. Do you have any teachers in your family?
P: They’re all teachers.
I: They’re all teachers?
P: I lost a daughter. She was a teacher, too, and I’ve still got two that are teachers,
my, and my son
I: Talk to them.
P: is a, but my one son’s a master electrician, but the rest are all teachers, all Masters degrees in Teaching.
I: So then they, talk to them and ask them to contact me, okay?
P: They’re, they’re all busy. But boy,
I: But it’s going to be during the summer.
I: July 11thto 14thin South Dakota, Mount Rushmore.
So it’s going to be during the break, summer break, and if they qualify, we cover them almost free, okay?
P: Um hm. The one, my oldest daughter is, is moving to, but it’s Brookings, South Dakota, with kids. That’s. but I, It’s easy for me to go there. I’ve been to, and sign as long as I can still drive.
I: So talk to
your family member who are teachers, okay, and spread this information. Ask them to contact me.
P: Um hm.
P: Um hm.
I: Any other message you want to leave to this interview?
P: Well, why I wanted to talk again was a, a Chesty Puller story.
I: Tell me about it please.
P: We were, we had this road blocked, and it was about 10:00, and it had to be a, oh, about 24thor 25th
maybe of November. It was about 10 above, but I was, had a little fire there. Usually there’d be two of us, and I think there was two of us. But I saw a helicopter come over and he went around the corner and I could hear him land. I didn’t think much of it, but then I saw three people walking up the road, and Puller I’d never met, but I saw pictures of him, you know, and stuff. So I recognized
him right away with a fatigue hat and a, kind of a navy watch jacket on that was open
I: Um hm.
P: you know, He, He dressed like the cold didn’t bother him. But there were two Army officers with him, and I hate to run down the Army because I pitied them. They were, they were so in the start with, you know. They, they were, they weren’t, we took
one hill that I remember in Central Korea three times was a platoon or company, and they’d put a regiment on it, and a week later we’d have to go back and take it again, you know. It was, it was, it was, but, you know, you, you, I don’t know. I could have done anything in their place, you know, better than them. But, but anyway, there was two officers, and I didn’t pay much
attention to them. Thinking afterward, I imagined the one was Almond. I don’t know who the other guy was.
I: So you sure that there was, one of them were Almond?
P: I’m not sure, but, no, but I, just from talking, and of course as they walked up, you could kind of see the fur ruffling be, they’d been arguing all the way up, you know, about it. But they both had M1’s.
They both had bandoliers, extra bandoliers hanging on them. Each had two grenades, and here’s Puller with a open shirt, you know, nothing, and they, they wanted this one guy with, both had glasses, field glasses and they were looking for Chinese, and they kept watching directly in front of us and to the north with the highest hills. But the train was
so bad that you, you could never, nobody could get up on the, on the end. But anyway, he was looking for, and, and Puller, you know, asked me. He said Do you ever see Chinese from here, and I said well yeah, across the river up about ¾ of a mile. They walk on the ridge line I said. There’s usually someone up there walking on it, see.
So this guy looked over and says yeah, there’s Chinese. He said boy Chet, this is the front lines. He said you better get with it and find yourself a weapon, and kind of a derogatory. They were both putting each else down. I shut up. I figured I’d stay out. Puller looked at them and he said you just don’t get it, do you?
What? What he says. These guys are Marines. He doesn’t need, insinuating, he didn’t need a weapon. He had people there to fight for him. They turned around and they walked back down, it was downhill, but storming down. Puller just stood there and shook his head, looked over me and at me and winked and
grinned a little bit, and then he finally followed them. But it was a typical Puller.
P: He, he’d hurt people’s feelings, you know. I heard pretty factual accounts. But he was all combat, and he didn’t want anybody ahead of him. He wanted to be with them.
P: He had some very good officers in the Korean War at that time.
Captains and above, especially. They had been [INAUDIBLE] towns and the islands.
I: During the World War II.
P: The commander of first battalion, Schmuck, a little guy, energetic and wanted to always practice fighting at night, do, do it at night. But it was always, everything was always organized so he,
you, you know, you, you didn’t come off the hill saying oh boy, we goofed up and. You had a good feeling. The other story was about, you hear about the Marines always take out their dead and, and it gets to be a long story. I don’t know if you’d have time for it or not. I, I, I was go ne from my unit. I went back up the hill after we got the one guy. This Corpsman said he had a, on the radio they talk, talking with somebody else, and I said, so I went back, and it was no small feat of taking four or five hours, see, to go up the hill, to climb the hill, and by that time it was almost, oh, late in the next day,
and Able Company was getting relieved. They had taken the, the hills and all the bunkers that were shooting, could shoot at the bridge, and they were, Charlie Company was gonna stay till mid, till three in the morning, and I had three, four friends in Charlie Company, even that I knew before the Marines, and, but they were all, all they wanted to do was sleep.
But anyway, I, so I had all stay with you at 3:00, going all with you. It, It wasn’t with any worrying about patrols or Chinese. There was no pressure, but you never know for sure, you know,
I: Um hm.
P: Anyway, we got in an argument, oh, and I said I’d, I hadn’t slept for, for three, the third night in a row
I hadn’t slept. I didn’t have a sleeping bag, you know. I wasn’t, I was moving all the time, and I went through there twice the night before, and they were all sleeping. I want, I woke them up to try to see them. Boy, the one guy almost chopped me that I woke him up. He, I wanted to see if my buddies were still okay. But anyway, I said I’ll stay awake the first hour and, it was like they didn’t
even, how are they gonna wake up at 3:00 in the morning if they didn’t keep somebody on watch. That was, I was just so frustrated with them, and I went to sleep, and I, I think in 15 minutes I woke up, and the guy that I was gonna be on a watch was snoring away. I got up, and I knocked him over, and they all just about jumped on me. I thought I was
gonna have a big battle, but I, I said, you know, you, you’re all Able Company isn’t in front of you anymore. I said you don’t know what’s gonna happen. Anyway, I said, finally said the hell with the bunch of you. I said, I’ll, I’ll stay awake myself. I want to get out of here. And so I woke them up at 3:00, and by 9:00 we got down to the road, to
go the long way. This guy that was kind of the platoon Sergeant or something over them come over and asked me what, what time was it? I said oh, about 9:30, and I said, he said well, what time is it he said? I wanna, and I said I don’t know. I said, and he said well, look at your goddamn watch, and I said my watch broke two weeks ago. I said, I don’t have a watch.
Well, how did you know it was 3:00? He was, he was just, I thought he was gonna shoot me. He was [INAUDIBLE] I said look at the stars. I can tell time by the stars, and within 10 minutes or 15 minutes, and I don’t think he ever believed me. He said oh well, you know, [INAUDIBLE] look at the stars now. I said it’s cloudy now, and it’s daytime now. I can’t see the stars. But it,
but, but it was the fact that he couldn’t understand that you’d think that every, at least with the rank of Sergeant in the Marine Corp. would know how to tell time by the stars. See, I grew up. I knew, I’d go in a department store up and down and here and back, and I’d still, there’s north, you know. But that’s kind of a gift, too. But at least he
should be able to know that you can tell time by the stars.
I: Um hm.
P: But uh, and then shortly after I got back to my unit and of course my, I was always at odds with the squad leader. he was a hillbilly from Oklahoma. We never got along from day one. So he, he started to jump on me. Where was I? He was gonna run me up, boy,
for desertion in a combat zone. I kind of cooled him off a little bit. So we walked, we were the tail end of the convoy, and we went about a mile, and up ahead of us the Chinese broke the convoy. So people started to go up there to help them, and they passed the word back stay where you are. We’ll take care of it. They, and I was sitting there, and I
was so tired, I couldn’t think even. Here was an Army truck on the side of the road, and I got a little look at it. A couple tires were shot out. It had, keys were in it, full tank of gas, four miles it wouldn’t start. And of course my [INAUDIBLE] and I got out my knife and started looking at the points see what’s wrong, why the, why don’t it start.
The points were, how they could have a vehicle with the points that far out of adjustment I don’t know. So I just used a feeler gauge, 1000thof an inch is a lot, and, but I did by eye, and it started, and once spark plug was, had been hit with a bullet, so it ran pretty bad, maybe on three cylinders. But, and we really had a hard time getting one wheel off.
A nut was really rusted on. We got, behind us was a halftrack and an Army light tank with twin 40 mm on it. So we got wrenches from them to change the tire. There was a lot of tires, but we could only go about 15 miles an hour with that truck. But they said well, that’s fine. We’ll stay with you.
We started up. In the meantime, the convoy had gone, walking. We went around the corner, and we never, about two miles down they had all been picked up in trucks. So there we were with this, with this, and of course the Chinese were mostly on the west side. But of course, they’d shoot at the truck. But we picked up dead bodies along the way.
I think it was the town of Sudong, I
P: I think it, what happened the night before it really broke the line for a while, and this guy went off the road with his truck, but he got his arms in the steering wheel, and I couldn’t get him out, and I tried to pull him, found out afterwards I should have taken the butt of my rifle and broke his arm. And I could have got him out and thrown him on the truck and we’d throw him in the back of the truck again.
But I was, I always felt bad about it because their, his parents or something would have known he came home. We had to leave him there. And that’s about. Actually as far as combat reservoir, I didn’t see that much. I got a medal out of. But
But what you saw in Korea 1950 and ’51 and 2000 that you saw, it’s a, that is your legacy. That is the, so that means that your suffering miserable situation that you had to suffer never been wasted, and the Korean people now very proud of what they have achieved because you fought for us. So Pete, help us to
educate our teachers. Teachers has to know about this. Teachers have to know about this, and that’s why we are doing this, and help us, okay?
P: I would say I should, I don’t know if there’s a, a supply of those books about Korea Revisited, but boy if I got another 30 of them
I: Um hm.
P: There’s schools, local schools.
I: Talk to teachers and ask them to contact us, okay?
I: Yeah. Peter, thank you so much for your story and your service, and this is going to be edited and will be uploaded into internet, and we’ll let you know, okay?
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