Philip Davis joined the Army in 1948 at the age of seventeen, deciding that the military was the best option for him. While serving in the Korean War, his main responsibility was to drive trucks— a responsibility that he believes kept him safer than others. He remembers how naive and passionate the young soldiers were at first and how he wasn’t afraid when he first arrived, but things changed as his service progressed. Philip Davis argues that he and his fellow soldiers were not ready for fighting, and it still haunts him to know that others were left to die and yet he was able to survive. He is thankful for the celebrations and honors that he has received and proud of the progress that South Korea has made since the war.
"I Was Not Afraid"
Philip Davis is recounting his first duties in Pusan. He remembers that the soldiers were young and had a lot of passion- not understanding what was really happening. Philip Davis admits that he wasn't afraid either.
I narrowly escaped death
Philip Davis believes that he and his fellow soldiers at that time were not really ready to fight. He describes the ammunition they were given and how many American soldiers died helplessly in rice paddies in Korea. He was very fortunate to escape with an army captain, but still struggles today knowing that those soldiers were left to die without any help coming.
A New South Korea
Philip Davis describes the commemoration events that he has attended for Korean War Veterans. He is grateful for how the veterans are treated and honored at celebrations throughout their community and nation, stating that it is different than how the Vietnam Veterans were treated. He is amazed at how well South Korea has continued to establish their economy and democracy.
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
P: My name is, uh, Phillip Davis, and that’s uh, P H I L I P D A V I S.
I: D A V I S. What is your birthday?
P: Birthday’s uh, uh, uh, 9/17/31.
I: ’31. And where were you born?
P: I was born in Humphreys, Missouri.
I: Missouri. And tell me about your family when you were growing up with, with the siblings,
parents and siblings.
P: Oh, I have a, a, a, I was, uh, one of five children. I had a twin sister, and I have two older sisters and an older brother.
P: Which they’re all dead now.
I: Um. How about your parents?
P: My parents was good. My Dad died young, uh, and he was a mailman in Los Angeles, and my my Mother worked for Santa Monica Hospital.
I: Oh. And when did you graduate high school?
P: I didn’t graduate from high school.
I: Oh. So you went through middle school?
P: I just went to, uh, a junior high
I: Junior high.
P: And that’s it.
I: Uh huh. And where was it?
P: Uh, in, uh, Los Angeles.
I: And, what did you do after grad, I mean, the school?
P: Oh, after school I joined the Army right at, pretty, right away. I joined the Army just when I turned 17.
I: When was it, so 19?
I: ’48 you joined the Army.
I: And where did you go to basic training?
P: I went through basic training at Fort Org in the last part of, uh, ’48, in November and December of ’48.
I: Um hm. And what was your MOS?
P: I was a, a rifleman and, and a truck driver.
I: Did you know anything about Korea around that time?
J: No, I didn’t.
I: You haven’t learned anything from school?
P: No, I didn’t, didn’t really, I, you know, think about Korea or what I didn’t, I didn’t know. And so as soon after I joined the Army, uh, after basic training, I was, I was shipped to Japan.
I: When did you leave from where?
P: So, I, I left from San Francisco in the, uh, first part of 1949.
I: Um hm. Where did you arrive in Japan?
P: I rode in, rode in Japan in, uh, uh,
Yokohama, and they sent me to, uh, uh, uh, let me see, uh,
I: Camp Drake?
P: No. I, I, I, I went to the I Corp. and then that was in, uh, uh Kyoto.
P: That’s where I was stationed, in Kyoto, Kyoto, a beautiful town.
I: Yeah, it’s a historic city.
I: What was your unit then?
P: I was in the, uh,
I was in the Signal Corp..
I: Signal Corp..
P: Yeah. I was in Signal Corp. in, in Kyoto, and uh, I stayed in, in there for approximately, uh, a year, and, uh, they would send me to the 24thInfantry Division which is down at the end of Japan, and I was over there, I was over there for, uh, probably, uh, uh, seven months or something and, uh, then the
Korean War started, and then I was in the 24thDivision, and we was the first Division that went there.
P: Went to Korea.
P: And, uh, uh, the, the Division had the 24thInfantry, 21stInfantry, 34thInfantry Regiment and the 19thInfantry Regiment and, and the, the 19thwas the last, was the last ones of, of the Division to get to Korea.
I: So 21stInfantry Regiment and
P: 34thInfantry Regiment
I: 34th, and where did you belong?
I: What Infantry Regiment did you belong?
P: What do you mean what Regiment?
I: What is your unit?
P: Oh, I was in the 19th.
I: 19th. So the last
P: We was the last, uh, regiment to get there
I: Um hm.
P: And, uh, I was in, uh, Headquarters Company 19thInfantry, and we got to Korea I think, uh, about the 12th, the 10thor 12thof July.
I: Where did you arrive?
P: At Pusan.
I: And did you know what was going on in Korea at the time?
P: Not really, not really. I, uh, the soldiers was all young, and they thought, you know, we’ll go to Korea and we’ll just take care of this real fast and come on home because we’re the American Army, you know. That’s the
I: That’s the kind of spirit.
P: Yeah. that’s the kind of thinking.
I: And were you afraid?
I: Not at all?
P: No, not really.
I: You know that you were going into the war, right?
P: Yes, yes. We knew we was.
I: But you were not afraid.
P: No, not really.
P: Till they start, you know, they, it, it was kind of hectic, uh, when I first got to Korea I, I was, uh, driving a truck and, uh, as soon as we got to Korea, um, they, they, uh,
uh, took my truck, and they assigned me to go with, uh, A Company, Rifle Company, and they said on the West coast of Korea they was having a problem, so I drove troops right up there. But when we got up there, some North Koreans had landed at the little town, but the South Koreans had already taken care of them. So we just, when we got there, we just went
I: Got there means Taejon?
P: Yeah, no, huh?
I: Where, do you remember
where was it, Taejon?
P: No, I don’t know. It was, uh, uh, on the, on the West coast of Korea, and when we go there it was all over so
I: Was it, uh, around the river? Kuhn River?
P: No, that was, no, it was way before that.
I: Oh, way before that.
P: Yeah. So it was only a few hundred miles or 100 miles from Pusan.
P: Yes. And, uh, some, they said some, un, North Koreans came down there on boats
and got into the Harbor, so, and then after that, that was, uh, I was young, so I, they, uh, they, I took the troops back, and we went North. We went North and, uh, came, came across the 1stBattalion of the 19th, and, uh, troops get out, and I asked them where, where Headquarters Company was, and they said Headquarters Company is, is, uh, North of here.
You’ll have to go North to come upon it. And, uh, they said you think you’re free just to go, and at that age I thought, I thought well, being as they’re have, having a war and stuff, you don’t want to send me North empty, do you? So I said it would be good, and they said yeah, that’s good thinking. We’ll load gasoline on it. So they gave me 17 drums of gasoline, and I drove, I drove up and kept watching the signs.
As you know, that, uh, that they leave signs and, uh, uh, the, uh, Regiment I was in was called, uh, Dough Boy. The, the call letters was Dough Boy.
P: And so I just kept following the signs to Dough Boy, and I finally got there during the night. I got up there and found the Dough Boy signs, and I pulled over in the lot and parked and, uh, the next morning, uh, our Company Commander
had made Major just before we went to Korea, and he was a Major. They didn’t want to transfer him out. So he was a Major, and that was the first time that Major brought me a cup of coffee in a pot and wanted to know what I was doing, you know, what was happening and stuff, and I t old him all that stuff, and.
I: Um hm.
P: He took care of me. That was good.
I: Um. Did you encounter directly with the North Korean soldiers?
Not, not there.
I: Uh huh. And then after that, what happened?
P: Well, after that, we went to, uh, Taejon
I: Uh huh.
P: When we got there
I: When was it?
I: When you were there in Taejon?
P: We got to Taejon, uh, I, I believe it was about the, uh, uh, 13thor 14th, got there, and they assigned me to, uh, to Anti-Tank Platoon, and they flew in some, uh, of the big size, uh,
bazookas, and they taught us how to, how to fire them.
I: You learned there.
I: Oh my goodness.
P: Taught us how to fire the bazookas and, uh, you know, how to take care of the tanks and stuff, and as I say, I was a truck driver, so then they, once I was assigned to Anti-Tank, then they moved me on to Security Platoon
P: Truck driver, and then that’s where I was when, when we, when, uh,
the, that was it. So with, uh, Security Platoon, we was guarding the rear CP for the 19th. It was a rear CP. So that night on the, on the 16th, the North Koreans crossed the, the Hahn River, and uh, so, uh, they got everybody was in the rear [INAUDIBLE], and took us to the front to take over, take back to land.
So we went back there on the, on the, uh, morning of the 16th, and we, we charged the hill and took over that, took the land back.
I: In Taejon area?
P: Yeah. Well, it, it was along the Kuhn River.
I: Kuhn River.
P: Yeah. It was. But I think it was like 20 miles North of Taejon.
I: Um hm. And most of the, many, many soldiers killed there, right?
I: Tell me about those, real, uh, combat situation.
P: Well, I, I, uh, the combat situation was on the Kuhn, on the Kuhn River was, I was fortunate, so I went up there with a Company Comma, I mean the First Sergeant, and the First Sergeant is, my luck, the First Sergeant held me back and said he’s gonna stay behind the lines a little bit, and he wants me to watch the rear to see for snipers or somebody and dig a foxhole. And so, uh, unfor, uh,
fortunate for me I got to stay there because up on the lines when our soldiers went up on, went up on line, they got in the trenches that they had before, and there was a, uh, North Korean sniper there, and he had, he had a little, he had a, a Japanese machine gun that was on wheels, and he had a, a, a wire on it to pull the trigger. He pulled the trigger and that machine gun would start firing.
Then those soldiers was in those trenches and would pop up to look and see what was going on, and he would, he would, he would kill them. He killed quite a few soldiers from my company.
P: There that was, you know,
I: What were you thinking those, witness all those things and you’re
P: I thought it went well. I thought by then, I thought what the heck is going on here, you know? So, and that’s uh, I was scared.
I: You were scared.
P: I was. Then I was, then I was really scared and, uh,
when we took over and saw it was all kind of a mess, uh, uh, uh, a soldier with, everything wasn’t, wasn’t really going good. It was like everybody was like almost for yourself, trying to figure out who, where you belonged and everything else, and so I was just a young kid, so I just sat around there waiting and I, uh, they was gonna try to get out of there and the, and the North Koreans had, there was one road in there, and the North Koreans
had a lot of machine guns along, along the top of the hill by that road. So there was no vehicles getting out of there.
I: Um hm.
P: So, uh, some of the guys said they’ve gotta try to run the road block, and so this Jeep had a trailer on it, and it was full, and the Jeep was full of us soldiers, and uh, so I got on the back of that, uh, that trailer and laid on the trailer, and the trailer, and the Jeep started to cross this little clearing
and, uh, a lot of machine guns went off, and they, everybody in the Jeep, I think, was killed, and I just rolled off the, the trailer and rolled over into a rice paddy. So
I: Um hm.
P: Then crawled back out of the rice paddy, and then it was setting there, then it was really scary. So I sat there and dried off and everything else, and at that same time everybody’s kind of leaving, you know. They’re not leaving that
I: From Kuhn, Kuhn River?
P: From that area.
P: They’re living, there’s, there’s like a big rice paddy over on the, on the right, and so there’s like this little concrete, uh, wall, and they’d jump over it, and every time they’d jump over it the machine gun would try to shoot them while, while they was jumping over. So I just, I was scared to jump over. So I just stayed there like a dummy, and pretty soon I’m looking around and I think there to, there isn’t too many people here left, you know. So I, I
finally jumped over, and nobody, nobody, uh, shot at me, and I, I started walking across this big, uh, rice paddy, and, and, uh, here come two F80s and, uh, they, they, they fired at us, and they shot the, shot the guy right next to me and, uh, then, uh, then the, the, there was a second F80 coming right behind him, but the second F80 never fired. He must have realized he was firing at troops.
P: So, uh, we went
I: Do you know how many soldiers in the 19thRegiment , how many were killed and how many were there?
P: Uh, well I, I, read in my magazine, uh, uh, Headquarters Company lost 57 men,
I: Uh huh.
P: That day.
P: And, uh,
I: Whole, what about the whole Regiment, 19thRegiment?
P: Oh Regiment. I don’t know.
P: Because I don’t know what the casualties was.
I: So almost 70 – 80% been killed, right?
P: Well, I think Headquarters Company had like, probably 150 people or something. I don’t know exactly how many. So, 57 is quite a, quite a big thing. We, the, the ones that was killed mostly was, uh, the Regimental Band troops was there, and the cooks because they, we come from the rear, the cooks was there. We lost like
over half of our cooks and most of the, uh, band guys.
I: Why was this such a big defeat? You know, you were told that you, you know, it’s not a big deal. You going to come back soon.
I: But were you not equipped well, or were you not
I: Know about the North Korean forces? What was the reason that you got so defeated?
P: Well, the whole, the whole thing is is I think that, that our soldiers really wasn’t
uh, uh, especially Headquarters Company, not really trained too good to fight, and then our, uh, we hadn’t, we had, uh, our rifles and uh, we had, uh, when I went into combat, they gave me, I had my cardcreek belt full of ammunition. They gave me two bandoliers of ammunition.
I: That’s it?
P: And they gave me three hand grenades.
I: That’s it.
P: And the, and the bandoliers of ammunition was for
the old three. They was like rounds of five hooked together, so you had to empty a clip and then take the clip and change your ammunition back into, into that ammunition feature in my rifle.
P: So that was part of the problem and stuff and kind of, uh, this, this makes me sad. It was like when I got on the other side of the river,
there were, uh, other side of the big rice paddy, there was, uh, uh, soldiers there carrying wounded, carrying wounded from a, a, from a, uh, uh, uh, uh, what do you call it, from one of the uh, uh, uh, places where they collect the wounded and stuff, was carrying them from, from them, and we
I: Casualty Depot:
P: Yeah, and there was like 30 wounded people, and we carried them up
the other side of that, that, that rice paddy and, uh, uh, and then we kind of crossed over from this little, uh, uh, riverbed that went across the rice paddy and went to the other side where the, where the mou, a little bit of mountains was, and they went up, and I’d been up all night so I was pretty tired then, uh, they, uh, uh, they took and stopped, and it was,
it was a dark night. So I, I, uh, uh, laid down there and I went to sleep, and I didn’t wake up till the next morning, and I got a cigarette from one of the soldiers was laying there on a stretcher by me, and I smoked it, and pretty soon, I don’t know, I, I can’t remember what his name was, maybe you know of it. The Chaplain from the 19thRegiment, the Catholic Chaplain, come over to me,
and he’s giving everybody a little prayer and stuff. He come over to me and asked me what’s the matter with you, soldier? And I told him nothing. He said well, you better leave. And I said well, isn’t help coming back? He says, he says I told you you better leave. So he gave me a little prayer and, and, uh, and sent me off, and I, I started walking up this, up this hill,
little, they was just little rising hills, and I started walking up this, and pretty soon, uh, a fire, uh, bullets was coming by me, clinging, clinging off the rocks by me and everything else, and I looked back, and, and the North Koreans was coming through the brush. It was about waist deep, and they was skirting the whole area looking for soldiers. So, uh, I, uh, waited. I see, I see, I went and hurried, and I seen another guy coming, and I thought I’ll wait for him
and so I waited for this other soldier to come, and he was, uh, older than me, and he, and he came and uh, uh, and, uh, me and him, uh, left and, uh, so I would go, we crawled around, I go around this hill and we looked down on the road where some trucks was parked and, uh, there was, uh, a Chine, uh, North Korean soldier going through the trucks looking under the seats and
all that stuff. So me and him kept pretty quiet and went up that hill until finally walked about seven or eight miles and, you know, we’d come across a place where they, uh, artillery had been parked, and they, uh, left some C-rations there, and I went and got them box of C-rations, me and him sat under this bridge and ate, uh, those things, and he took off his helmet, and I’d been telling him all day which way to go, which way to go, and he was a Captain.
P: I was just a Private.
But he was, uh, and I found out later he was the Regimental surgeon, and he had left those guys, and uh, the North Koreans come there and bayonetted that, uh, that, uh, uh, uh, Chaplain and all those soldiers that were still there on stretchers. They didn’t take any prisoners.
I: I mean, you talking like a reading, but now,
looking back all those years, what do you, I mean, how do you put that into perspective? Why did it happen to you, and what were you thinking? I mean,
P: Well, I think
I: It’s a horrible stage of the Korean War.
P: I think, I think, I think back, and I think I was, I was very lucky that I was in the spots where I was at, you know, and, uh, didn’t get killed. But I, what, what, what kind of hurts me is I wonder why did they leave those soldiers there?
I mean they said that some of those guys had carried those soldiers up there and took, and taken some back that night he left. I think there was enough people to carry those soldiers. Why did we leave the? I mean, that kind of hurts and I’m thinking we should never have left them or
I: Why didn’t you report to that?
P: I mean, no I never reported, uh, nothing. But I mean I just, I, I just can’t realize how, how they would do that.
P: And those soldiers laid there thinking all the time that help’s coming, coming for them.
I: So do you have some sort of flashback or
P: No, not really. I, I
I: No PTSD?
P: I dream about it a lot. Just think about all the people that didn’t get born. They didn’t get a chance to live because most of the soldiers
was all 17, 18 and 19 years old.
I: Ah. That’s horrible.
P: You know, that’s
I: So from there, where did you go?
P: Well, from, from there I went back and, and I got to my uh, uh, Company, and at that time, at that time I, I was a rifleman plus I was a truck driver, and uh, they needed trucks more than they needed riflemen. They needed trucks there. So I spent, I really wasn’t assigned
to a, a certain group of people. I really didn’t have a Sergeant in charge of me, uh. It, it seemed like the, uh, Company Commander would tell me, you know, go here, go there. So I would, I would go to different, uh, uh, places all the time, you know. They’d send me here, send me there and, uh, so that’s what I mostly did all that time
I: Um hm.
P: But another thing that kind of bothers me, too,
that, uh, at that time the, uh, 29thRegiment came to Korea and, uh, I, uh, I, hauled a truck load of those guys who were in tin trucks full of soldiers, and we hauled them North to relieve our, an A Company out of, out of our Regiment, and when we got up there, they was in, the A Company was in contact with the North Koreans.
P: Uh, up at, I don’t know what town it was. They was,
they, they was, uh,
I: North of
P: Well this was, uh, uh, well, we, we probably pushed back so this is probably, probably, you know, uh, close to the Pusan perimeter.
I: Right, um hm.
P: And, uh, then, so we, uh, uh, those soldiers, uh, got, uh, went up there, and they got thinking that finally our A Company came back, but, uh, it came, came, came down to getting our trucks, and
I told them that I thought they had a machine gun, uh, zeroed in for that intersection, and the Company Commander said we ain’t got time to go up there, and there was, a, so we drove around the corner where the machine gun was, we drove around there and that, uh, he didn’t fire. We stopped. We stopped there to see if everybody got through, and that we had, there was four South Korean trucks loaded with South
Korean soldiers that had been with A Company. So they got eager, and they went past us. They passed us up and went down in the, and went down this dirt road for around, around, and around the corner and, uh, all hell broke loose when they went around that corner, and, uh, uh, North Koreans had a, had, went back on us and had roller blocks back there and they, they killed almost all those South Korean soldiers. And so Company Commander said dump our truck.
We dumped them in the ditch, and we took off walking. We walked for like two days, and when we came to our lines, we came to the 34thRegiment. We didn’t come to our Regiment. We came to the 34thRegiment. And, uh, you know
I: So from there, where, did you went up to Yalu River or what, what happened?
I: Tell me about those briefly.
P: So we went to the, uh, uh, uh, back to my Company
and so then we uh, uh, when the North, when the North Koreans kind of broke down, we went all the way, all the way up and, uh, of course I wasn’t in a rifle Company, but our Company, we got with, we was in 11 miles from the Yalu River.
I: On the way up to Yalu River, did you encounter any Chinese?
I: Not at all?
P: No, no Chinese. But the way the war, the way it was going, there was, there was North Korean soldiers that would
come over and try to surrender to us.
P: Our off, our offs, our officers given them a, give them a box of C-rations, each of them, and tell them go surrender someplace else.
P: Yeah. He didn’t want to mess with all in the
I: Wow. That’s a terrible.
P: That would be like there would be several groups came like that, and there’d be like maybe, uh, 7 – 10 North Korean soldiers in each one.
I mean I thought
I: Surrender somewhere else, not to me.
P: Yeah. Don’t surrender to us. Surrender someplace else. And when we was going North, uh, to, there were some, uh, in our convoy. There were some North Korean t rucks that would try to get in our convoy and go North with us.
I: [LAUGHS] So that they are protected.
I: My goodness.
P: So, that was, and they, we didn’t. They just found out accidentally. One guy jumped
out of the truck and thought I need some matches for my cigarette, and he went back in their truck, and there was all North Korean soldiers. He’s trying to get matches for him. So I don’t know.
I: And you were told that, uh, you going to go back to your home before Christmas.
P: Yes. We all thought that, everybody thought that yeah, we’ll be home, we’ll be home for Christmas, and as the luck goes, as I was always lucky so far, when we was at the Yalu
River, up that far, they started R and R. They, you know, they started RI and R. So my Company Commander, he, he lied to me. I was the first enlisted man to go on R and R from Korea to Japan,
I: From Yalu River?
P: Yeah. And so
I: So you avoided all those things.
P: Yeah, While I was gone to Japan, the Chinese come,
come across the border, and, and when I got back there, my, my Company had moved South about a hundred and something miles. So that’s a
I: You are really lucky.
P: Yeah, that was really, so I was real lucky right there again.
I: While so many others encountered so many Chinese.
P: Right. So, and I’ve been to places where, where, uh, uh, driving the truck and stuff and looking back when the Chinese was coming,
I, I, I, we was parked one time in this convoy trying to get out, out and go South. I looked back, and I was just at the edge of the, where the mountains started and the flat road out there, all these trucks parked in there just stopped, can’t go no place. I looked up on the hill, and there is thousands and thousands of Chinese soldiers running down the hill at
those guys, and I, I don’t, I
I: Where was it?
P: Huh? When was it?
P: I, I don’t know. It must have been uh, uh, well, I don’t know what, what month the Chinese came in, but this was just
I: It was in November.
P: This was, this was probably just a month after they, after they come in when we was still
I: So around December.
P: Yeah. We was
I: Where were you?
P: We was still moving South trying to
I: So you came back from R and R?
P: Yeah. I came back from R and R after
I: and joined them.
P: I couldn’t find my unit because uh, uh, uh, uh, nobody come to picks us up at the airport. Uh, they dropped us off in another place and what they, it was up to ourselves to get back to our unit. So, you know, it was like trying to get back to the unit, trying, trying to find it in
I: On your own.
P: Yeah. On, on our own because they would, and they would put out signs, uh, uh, uh, Dough Boys CP this way and
this way. But they was getting all messed up. So I’d have to go along and ask different units, uh, where, where, uh, you know, where my, uh, Company was.
I: So when you saw thousands and thousands Chinese soldiers, what were you thinking?
P: Well, I was scared. I was thinking man, where, where’d they get all these soldiers, you know? I mean there were just tons of them, you know, coming down there. So then shortly after that, shortly after that, as I said,
I, and I, when I had got back and, at the, I lost that truck when I walked out with that A Company, when I got back my, my uh, Company Commander thought it was easier on me. So he, he gave me the easiest job in there, in the, in Regimental Headquarters Company. He gave me the kitchen truck, drive the kitchen truck and drive the supplies and the cooks and the stuff which was pretty good. And at that time, just
after I took over, they, they was scared that the, uh, that they was gonna get overrun. So my Company Commander came to me and asked me, uh, is this a Corporal, he said Corporal, I got a job for you to do. He says, he says I want you to take the kitchen truck, and he said we’re gonna unload one stove so we can make coffee, and he said, we can eat C-rations, and he says you’re gonna take the S2 Officer
and our flags and some paperwork because we don’t, the lad, we don’t want to lose our flags. So they said that we, he wants me to get in the truck, drive this S2 guy back and a officer back and, and, uh, drive as far as I want to go, stay like two weeks or something before you come back till things settle down a little bit.
I: Where did you?
P: So I just went South, and I would
just go to South till I maybe came across a engineer company parked or something, and I would go ask them, you know, do you have any quarters for a Major, you know? I’m from the 19th, Major, and they would always say yeah, we got a bed for him and feed him and stuff. So we did that. He was a nice, he’d been in the 2ndWorld War officer, you know.
I: You came back to Seoul?
P: No. We didn’t go that far.
I: Where did you go then?
P: I don’t,
I don’t know.
I: Then what happened?
P: Well, we just stayed, uh, you know, a couple weeks and, uh, then I went back to my Company, and they had, they had moved South quite a ways. Uh, but they moved South, they was still close to the, uh, 38thParallel.
I: And when did you leave Korea?
P: I left Korea in, uh, I can’t, I can’t think about it. I had so much time in Japan and everything I was actually only in
Korea, I was only in Korea, uh, 10 months and 20 days and they
I: So you left around August of ’51.
I: And after you around the 38thParallel, what, where did you go and what did you do?
P: Well, uh, I, we, we, we was just a part, you know, and stuff and our, naturally our rifle companies was up on line and, and stuff. But Headquarters Company would, uh, not, they was,
they was spending more time, you know, putting telephone lines up and all that kind of stuff, you know. And so that’s about it.
I: Um. What was the most difficult thing during your
I: Service in Korea?
P: Uh, I don’t know. I had it pretty easy. After that I just drove and, and I never, I, at the Kuhn River I was a rifleman and stuff. But after
that I, I did, mostly didn’t, uh, do, do any, any rifle, any, any rifle fire. But I did do my, uh, I was always driving out by myself and stuff, and the [INAUDIBLE] for Headquarters Company gave me a, uh, Thompson submachine gun which I could just set on my lap, you know, if they might have jumped on my truck, I wouldn’t have time to get my rifle out.
so I, I’d have that submachine gun just laying on my lap, and you could shoot anything or jump out with it real easy.
I: Um. So have you been back to Korea?
P: No I haven’t.
P: My wife says I should go, but, you know, I keep thinking about signing up to go, but I, I haven’t done it yet. So
I: Do you know what happened to Korea now? Korean economy?
P: Oh, I watch, uh, I see it, and it looks like they’re doing, Korea’s doing very, very well. So. I’m glad for them.
I: The country you saw completely destroyed, right?
I: From Pusan, Taejon, Kumwha, Kuhn River and then went up to Seoul and Pyongyang and, you know, Yalu River
I: You saw everything destroyed.
P: Yeah. Well, and the, and the, one thing I, what, what kind of got me,
South Korea had a lot of rice paddies and stuff. Looks like they was pretty prosperous. But when I got to the North Korea, North Korea was, they didn’t have as many rice paddies, and they had, uh, apple orchards and, and stuff. The, the land didn’t look as promising as it did in the South.
I: More mountains in North Korea. But lots of, um, you know, plain field in South Korea what has a lot
of rice paddies
I: Um, so when you look back 60, how many years, 66 years ago, the Korea that you saw and the Korea that you know now, what do you think about this?
P: Oh, the, I think it’s great. I, I watch all the history programs and see how, how they got everything and they got a lot of military bases there,
and the cities is growing up big and stuff. But I, when I got to Korea, when the war started, I got, Pusan had paved roads. But that was about the end of that. There was no paved roads any place in Korea. I, maybe in, maybe uh, uh, uh, the Capital city had some paved roads. But most all the other roads was all dirt.
I: Um hm. And South Korea now is 11thlargest economy in the world.
P: Is it?
I: Do you know?
P: I think it’s great.
I think it’s great.
I: Do you know how big the whole territory of South Korea? It’s a little bit bigger than Indiana state.
P: Is that right?
P: No, I didn’t know that.
I: We don’t have any natural real, natural resources like, uh, oil.
P: Uh huh.
I: But we are the 7thlargest trading partner to the United States in the world.
P: Yeah, that’s, that’s great. I think it’s great it is and, uh, uh, uh, I really like what the South, what South
Korea does for the veterans. They, they honor the veterans, you know. They have some of the churches in the United States here has some dinners for us and everything else, and it, it’s not like the poor Vietnam veterans that came back to nothing. But the Korean veterans is all treated very well.
I: Um hm.
P: I went to this, uh, I went to, in, uh, the 52ndanniversary I went to, uh,
Washington, D.C. where they had a big thing. The President spoke and everything else, and they gave me big medals, uh, that, that has, it’s made from the, uh, made from the, uh, barbed wire at the 38thParallel.
I: Um hm.
P: It was really, really, really treated us nice.
I: Yeah. Because it, the Korean War was to point for the great transformation, Korea was so
poor under the Japanese colonial control. After the war, everything is devastated. But we were able to reconstruct our nation
I: So that we were protected by your fight, and we have a chance to rebuild our nation, and we are very successful now.
P: Yeah, I know. It’s, It’s, uh, great.
I: Um hm.
P: So it, it, it is good to, do you think that’s because uh, Americans are, are, are yours, your allies and stuff and help
your country go in and
I: Absolutely. There are several big variables, factors that we can explain why Korea has become so successful. One biggest is that we are ally to the United States. We have access to the biggest market in the world. We have been invested by the Americans. We had a lot of aid from the United States, and there has been lot of transfer of knowledge and technology in many different way including Korea
I: Who’s stationed in Korea after the war.
P: Yes. I didn’t realize there’s like 18,000 American soldiers still in Korea.
I: No, we have about 30,000.
P: Is there?
I: Yeah. Every year since the end of the [INAUDIBLE] War, I mean the Korean War by the cease fire, there has been stationing there, at least around 30,000.
P: So is it, is Korea worried about the North Koreans?
I: Yes, we worried.
P: Is it because I was thinking
if North Korea knows that our, our, our Army has those, uh, uh, uh, high, high velocity, uh, uh, uh, artillery pieces I, and I’m thinking when they develop the, you know, the, the nuclear
I: Yeah, yeah
P: things, will they come across the border or something, I don’t, I don’t know. Because the North Koreans is not very stable.
I: Not, no.
I: Very insecure.
P: Those guys, you know, I don’t know.
I: But North Korea has 4thlargest Army in the world.
P: I know.
I: And their, their weaponry systems are really formidable, and the reason is because the South Korean Capital city, Seoul, is just 40 miles from the DMZ. So it’s within the, you know, the cannons.
P: Yeah. Yeah. They
I: And there is no way that we can protect it.
P: Yeah. They can send
I: Yeah, artillery is within reach to the Capital city, and they have a tons of artillery around the DMZ area. We cannot control those. So that’s why we are kind of threatened by them. But we have a very strong South Korean Army with the U.S. forces in Korea.
P: Yeah, and I think the U.S. is, has got big names, big Air Force, so they’ll
P: They’ll help you out
as much as
P: they can. I ain’t worried about Korea being taken over again. So
I: So I think you’d better go back to Korea to see what happened in your eye, okay?
P: Well I, I should. I was thinking I should, I probably should before I get too old.
I: Um hm. And now, you didn’t know anything about Korea. You were in the major battle in the very early phase of the Korean War. You were lucky enough to avoid all those
P: Oh yeah.
I: Some of it.
Now you know Korea has so prospering economy and democracy.
I: What is Korea to you now?
I: The Korea you didn’t know. Now you know.
I: You fought there. What is Korea to you?
P: Well, I don’t really now. But I, I, I am very happy for Korea. I’m very happy for the Korean people, that they, you know, got it because I know that Korea people had it tough and, um, one thing I was impressed
about when I was in Korea was there, there’s not that many roads, and the American Army, we did not allow refugees to walk on the roads. They would kick them off, you know. I don’t know how, but anyway they, they [INAUDIBLE]. The, the, the refugees traveled in riverbeds, and I would see, I would see Korean people carrying their old people across
the river on their backs.
I: Um hm.
P: You know, just carrying their people, carrying their people and, uh, you know, I thought, I thought boy that, them, them people must be really, really good. I don’t know if American people would go do all that stuff.
I: Um hm. Yeah.
P: Probably would. But I mean the Korean people did.
I: Um hm.
P: Carried their people across the. Most of the rivers I don’t think was real, real deep, you know. So lots of you walk across.
So because at that time in the War, the, the, all the bridges was blowed up.
I: Um hm. Any other message that you want to leave to this interview?
P: No, I don’t, I don’t think so. But I’m, I’m happy for the, uh, people of Korea that everything’s going good for them, you know. That’s, that’s real good I think.
I: Where do you live?
P: I live in, uh, Hesperia. It’s a, that’s about
40 miles North of San Bernadino.
P: So I lived in California in the high desert.
I: Um. Twenty-first Division, 19th, uh, Infantry Regiment. They are the heroes in, in the Korean War. Uh, thirty-fourth and what is it, the Regiment you have 21stInfantry Regiment , 34thand then 19th.
I: They are the real sacrifice of
P: Oh yeah, they, uh, uh, uh,
P: I read in one of my, uh things that they said that the, uh, uh, 21stRegiment had set like 300 or something up there in, in, uh, Ulsan or whatever, and they dug in, gonna try to stop the, the ar, the North Koreans. But they really didn’t have big bazookas. They just had a few artillery
pieces and stuff and, uh, a woman reporter, they got a huge [INAUDIBLE] surprise, wrote an article, said that, uh, American soldiers are cowards. They just, when the enemy come, they just ran and, you know, they just ran and got away from the stuff, and then, and then they stopped and, and fought sometime. But I can’t, I can’t imagine seeing this. They said that, uh,
the, those soldiers that was guarding there, they looked up and seen the North Korean Army coming, and down the road, and here come a column of T34 tanks
P: And had I called them a Infantry or either side of them
I: How could they
P: As far as they, as far as they could see, and here they had like 300 men down there. So they, they pointed their artillery pieces point blank at, at the thing and would
have to wait till the Russian built tanks would get right to them so that they could fire.
I: Yeah, that’s unfair.
P: Try to knock them out. It was like
I: That’s unfair.
P: Can you imagine that those, those guys and so when we, when we was the last ones a moving, when they moved on at Kuhn River, there were still, and this was, I think Ulsan was 30 or 40 miles North of Kuhn River, there were still refugees, uh, still soldiers
dragged and coming, coming from those battles up there.
I: Um, what do you think about the MacArthur Headquarters about this, I mean their operation, their policy?
I: The MacArthur.
P: Oh. I, I think, I, I find out things later. I think MacArthur, I don’t know what was the matter with him because I, I read in the books and stuff and they said
that the Chinese, uh, told the United States through an embassy in, in, in one of those embassies. I don’t know if it was in uh, uh, uh, India or something, told him don’t let
P: Don’t let the American soldiers get up to our borders, and MacArthur just let us go. How come he didn’t stop us 100 miles or 50 miles from the border, and the Chinese might not have, never
came in the War.
I: Chinese crossed the Yalu River in early October already in North Korean region where that has not many, but in November, they crossed thou, hundred thousands, and MacArthur thought that they should deal with this Chinese in Chinese territory. So he was kind of hard lining
I: And colliding with President Truman about that, and so. But he, I think, as a Commander, I think he is also responsible
for this early phase of casualties and mass killing in our side.
P: Well, they had, uh, they had, uh, if you realize they, uh, uh, the American Army really wasn’t supplying like like they was. They thought the War was with, uh, Communists and was gonna be in the, in the, in the European campaign. So America, we didn’t have big bazookas. We didn’t have
flame throwers. We didn’t have good ammunition, and another soldier [INAUDIBLE] I didn’t realize that we, a soldier was telling me that yesterday. He said they had artillery pieces or big mortars, firing the mortars, firing the mortars. Most all of them, most all the ammunition was duds.
P: You know, they, they was just duds. It just wasn’t, uh,
I: Many from World War II, right? Mostly from World War II, yeah. All of them. All of them.
P: All of them was from
P: World War II.
I: So, but your fight, your service and your sacrifice in the early phase of the Korean War was critical so that we could deter them until Inchon landing was successful and turn everything upside down.
P: Yes. I’ve heard, I, I, seen things on that, and they said the 24thDivision did a good job slowing the, slowing the North Koreans down. I don’t know if they could have
slowed them down more, but they did slow them down.
I: Without sacrifice of 24thDivision.
I: It could have been completely different story.
P: I think so.
I: Yeah. Any other things that you want to say?
P: Because if they wasn’t there they, uh, uh, the, uh, uh North Koreans could have just came down there and took over all of Korea.
I: Yeah. That’s right.
P: Look how, look how it was in Pusan Perimeter. At, at the time I was there, I did not realize that Pusan
Perimeter was that small. But, but they had, they had came through our, our division, then regiment, and we, we knew which vehicles we was gonna take and which ones we had to burn up and leave there. So I’m very, very glad that
P: that we, uh,
I: Phillip, it’s very nice meeting you here, and thank you for accepting this, uh, interview. We met last minute
yes, last night, and it was very nice of you to come to and share your story.
P: Well, I hope it did you some good because like I say, I wasn’t a rifleman and, uh, on the front lines all, all the time when, when guys I, I hear stories about some guys I’m thinking some of the riflemen went through a terrible, terrible lot. I met one soldier at one of the reunions, and he got hurt by a mortar, uh, and
hurt real bad and, uh, but he would call me, and I, I think of this sad day. He said it was one of the saddest things he was. He had two, uh, friend that went with him, and his friend, him and his friend would always dig the foxhole together, and he said one day, he said his friend was laying on him. He told him get off my, darn, get off me, and he says he was dead.
P: He had been, been, uh, uh, shot and, uh, and then he said
one terrible night after that, he said there was Chinese soldiers around there, and there was wounded down that they had, thinking the Chinese was going through killing some of the wounded that they’d left down the hill and stuff. And he said he was in his foxhole there, and he heard somebody coming. Somebody was crawling up to his hole, you know, his foxhole. So he got out, and he bayoneted him, you know, bayonetted whoever was coming up, and
he laid there the rest of the night thinking I hope I didn’t kill an American soldier. But when he woke up he, when he got up the next day, it was a Chinese soldier.
I: Um. You, you met John Baker last night, right?
P: I think so. I don’t
I: John Baker in the wheelchair.
I: Yeah. You had, uh, dinner together with him. Yeah. How was it?
P: Oh, I talked to him. It was very, very nice talking to him.
P: He was, he’s a very interesting man, and I told my wife this morning
looking at his medals, he went through a lot. He’s got the Silver Star
I: Bronze Star.
P: Bronze Star with a
I: Two Purple Hearts
P: V, with a V on it you know, and uh, he does, he was a very, very courageous guy, and he had like the Korean Campaign, he
P: He had all five battle stars which I only had like three. He’s got all five. But the only sad to thing, thing that I thought that when rotation come
I was one of the first out of my Company to go because I’d already been in Japan a year and a half. I was sent overseas a long time. Uh, the one think I’m kind of sorry for I’m thinking I had such an easy job. I should have, I should have signed up and stayed longer and
P: Let some rifleman go home, you know.
I: But it was, uh, nice to, to see him, right?
P: Oh yeah.
I: Yeah. Same Division.
I: Different infantry but
P: Yeah. He lives in California, too.
I: Yeah. Monterey. Um,
P: I got his card, and he got mine.
I: I’m going to see him next week there.
I: So very nice to talking to you, sir, and thank you for your fight.
P: I hope I done you some good.
I: Absolutely. Thank you, sir.
[End of Recorded Material]