Korean War Legacy Project

Raymond L. Fish


Raymond L. Fish was born in Sherrodsville, Ohio in 1930.  At age eighteen, he realized he needed to gain some job skills, so he decided to enlist into the military in October 1948.  Once he joined the United States Army, he was sent to basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, then sent to Osaka General Hospital in Japan for training as a lab technician.  He set up a laboratory and was working in Japan when the Korean War broke out.  He was sent from Japan to Busan in August of 1950, and was stationed there in the 25th Infantry Division, 35th Infantry Regiment.  He participated in the Pusan Perimeter and Bowling Alley campaigns, and was later stationed at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., as a lab technician.  He received many honors for his military service including the Good Conduct, Purple Heart, United Nations Service, National Defense, Combat Medical Bronze, and Korean Defense medals. 


The Pusan Perimeter

Raymond L. Fish recounts his role as a medic at the Pusan Perimeter. He recalls having to keep up with inventory, which was sometimes a challenge when it came to dealing with soldiers who had alcoholic tendencies. He explains how casualties were treated for wounds at varying locations.

Tags: 1950 Pusan Perimeter, 8/4-9/18,Busan,Food,Front lines,Living conditions,Weapons

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Saved by a Canteen

Raymond L. Fish was sent on one-week detachments to provide aid to Chinese prisoners of war who were under supervision by the United Nations. He shares how a little while later, he was injured while running from the Chinese. He shares the story of how his canteen protected him from what could have been a fatal wound during the war.

Tags: 1950 Pusan Perimeter, 8/4-9/18,Busan,Daegu,Chinese,Fear,Food,Front lines,Living conditions,North Koreans,Physical destruction,Weapons

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Returning Home

Raymond L. Fish recalls the moment his ship approached land, and he saw the lights of the Golden Gate Bridge when he returned home in 1951. He remembers going right to the Army mess hall, and receiving fresh milk for the first time in three years. He explains having to serve additional time in active duty at Walter Reed Hospital, and how he later became a veterinarian.

Tags: Communists,Food,Home front,Pride,Rest and Relaxation (R&R),Women

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Video Transcript

R: My name is Raymond Lee Fish F-I-sh. I was born in Sherrodsville, Ohio April 16th, 1930.

I: The school you went too?

R: Went to high school in Delroy, Ohio, a very small town very small school had 17 members in our class and uh after graduated high school, I joined the army I enlisted.

I: When was that?

R: And that would have been I think October of 1948 as close as I can get

I: Why did you enlist?

R: Why did I what I finished high school and I kind of had an urge to go to college, but I had no money, no prospects, and no real skills, so I thought the place for me is in the marine corps. I went to join the Marine corps and the recruiting officer said our quota is full for the next 90 days, so I walked across the hall and joined the army. I think God was looking over me at the time.

I: Where did you go for basic training?

R: Fort Knox, Kentucky

I: And then, after that, what happened to you?

R: After well, I got chosen for six weeks of leadership training at Fort Knox. Then after that furlough goes home for 15 days or something and then what to camp Stone man, California and rode a bus from my hometown Canton all the way to Chicago. I sat next to an old wino who was on his was to Chicago to sell a pint of his blood, so he could buy a bottle of wine. And in Chicago, we got a train ride for 32 days to California, and it was there for a week or two, and got on the boat to go to Japan.


R: Went up the gangplank and the band were playing

I: Was that 1949?

R: Yes.

I: Went to Japan.

R: The band was playing faraway places.

I: What did you do in Japan?

R: Ah I got chosen to be a medic.

I: A medic?

R: Yes, and they sent me to Osaka General Hospital for training as a lab technician and I finished that and came back to my unit. I set up a little laboratory and most of the work I did was checking people for venereal disease and for parasites.

I: What kind?

R: They’re a lot of parasite problems, intestinal worms from eating Japanese food

I: Oh, I see, so what did you do with those patients?

R: With those patients all I did was help the doctor with the diagnosis and give him my report.

I: So, what happened to them after that?

R: Well I was there doing that in our little dispensary for several months and then the Korean War broke out.

I: While you were in Japan?

R: Oh yes, and they shipped the 24th infantry division over to Korea immediately, and about two three weeks later my outfit 25th wind

I: You were in the 25th division?
R: 2015 4 3 division that’s what this patch represents

I: So, do you remember the day you left for Korea.

R: No

I: When was it?
R: It was probably a month after the war broke out

I: So, August?

R: Probably August

I: where did you arrive in Korea?
R: Pusan.

I: How was it there?

R: Oh, we didn’t stay there long. We got off the boat then got on a train and I don’t know where we went but we were involved in the Pusan perimeter and we were there in this little river valley for probably a couple months before we managed to breakout. When the invasion occurred, that was in Chanya.

I: What was the situation in the front line in some parameter, how severe the battle was

R: Was not bad, we were fortunate to have a really good mess sergeant in our outfit. He kept us well fed and my part of the job was being in charge of the medical alcohol, which was pure grain alcohol 190 proof and that’s drinkable. We had a cook in the mess company, mess unit, who was alcoholic, and he was always pestering me for some alcohol. But I had to be very careful because I had to keep track of it. But once in a while, I would give him a little bit. He’d mix it with grapefruit juice, drink it. He was very happy so consequently I could get something to eat anytime I wanted.

I: What was the situation inside the hospital?

R: Well we were the second chain of command. The first echelon of combat medicine is the aid man who is with the infantry company. And from there they shipped causalities to the battalion aid station. they had a doctor there and several enlisted people. If they needed further treatment they shipped them by ambulance or jeep liturgy, sometimes back to our regimental aid station. We evacuated from there to the division hospital or to the mash, and if you went that far, which I did as the casualty one time, they put you on a train and then you got flown to Japan.

I: So, after you spent 3-4 months in the Pusan perimeter?
R: All I remember is going through tagu, but I don’t remember any of those battles that you read about in the papers. I just don’t remember.

I: All the north?
R: Yes, we got into North Korea, we got crossed at the 38th parallel and then we were pushed back. And during that retreat was when I got wounded.

I: Oh, you were wounded, where?
R: yes, I have a flesh wound right on the upper part of my arm and I got a little scratch across the cheek of my butt.

I: Who shot you?
R: The chinses, I guess. I didn’t ask.

I: Did you encounter the tiniest soldiers?
R: Oh yes.

I: Tell me about it.

R: Well, the outstanding thing in my memory was as a medic, we were detached for I don’t know, a week or two to a Korean prison where they were holding Chinese prisoners of war. It was our duty to look after the wounded Chinese soldiers.

I: Oh, Chinese too?
R: Yes, and that’s about as much as I remember.

I: Tell me about the Chinese soldier.

R: Well I can’t tell you much because I couldn’t talk to him, but they quite passive and they weren’t belligerent or anything. We took care of them the best we could and took care of their wounds and kept them fed. I wanted to tell you about when I got wounded. I was running and the first time I was hit, they spun me around and knocked me down. I got up and ran again and I felt something sting me on the buttocks. I kept on running a little bit and soon the leg of my pants was getting wet.

I: Oh, with blood?
R: I thought, and then my boot was squishing, and I thought “My god, I’m bleeding to death here on this old Korean hillside.” When I get over to the top of the hill and out of the line of fire, and I stopped to reckon order her situation. I reached for a drink of water from my canteen and it’s empty.

I: Hahaha, it was water.

R: It was water from the canteen. The bullet went right through the canteen.

I: Oh my god!
R: I wish I had saved that canteen.

I: So, the canteen protected you.

R: Well I don’t know, it probably did to some extent.

I: Yeah, without the canteen you would have been killed or captured a taken as a prisoner of war.

R: Yeah, well, anything is possible.

I: You still think about that?
R: Yes, many times.

I: So, when you were wounded and been taken care of by the other medics?
R: They sent me by train from the division aid station to Pusan by train, and then on a plane. I guess it’s crucial. Anyway, I got on a plane to Japan, run up in Sasebo, an army hospital.

I: Did they take good care of you?
R: They took very good care of me. I was there maybe a week or two. I got a little liberty and back to my outfit.

I: So, did you engage in the battle again? Or what happened?
R: Oh, we were still in combat situation, but there wasn’t any bullet flying around me from there on.

I: Did your family know that you were wounded?
R: The Red Cross notified them.

I: And did you write back to them, what did they write back to you?
R: Yes, both.

I: You still kept that letter?
R: I don’t’ know, but I didn’t get too many. I mean, I didn’t get home with very many letters.

I: How much were you paid?
R: Well, I don’t remember exactly, but ninety dollars a month sticks in my head. At one point in my military career, I may have made a little more as I got increase in rank.

I: Was there a special bonus for many?
R: No, well we were eligible for a combat pay. It was the same as the infantry when we were in the combat zone.

I: What was the happiest moment in your service?
R: When I got home.

I: Tell me how happy you were when you heard you were going back home.

R: Well, the happiest moment of that period was when our ship was almost dark, and we were approaching land and we knew it. I think everyone of the soldiers on board was on deck as we approached and then the sun was setting and the lights of the golden gate bridge. That nightfall, there was a great cheer that went up among lowly soldiers and everyone who was on that boat, their name is in this paper, including me inside. We were very happy to be back and they took us off the boat trade not to alarm. That’s all I don’t know what we had to eat but I remember having fresh milk for the first time in three years. Dangerous moments how we came under an hour tilery barrage on time and there were some causalities inn our group, but nothing close to me.

I: So, what did you do when you returned to home?
R: When I got home, I still had a year to serve in my enlistment. Actually, I enlisted for three years, and President Truman gave me an extra year when a war broke out, he froze everybody’s enlistment for one more year. We called it the Truman year, and so after I was home for 30 days, I reported back to Pennsylvania camp, can’t think of the name of it, but now  a well-known army post in Pennsylvania though and reported there for reassignment. They assigned me to Walter Reed hospital in Washington as a lab technician, so that’s where I spent my last eight months in the army. Actually they turned me loose a little earlier than I expected, I didn’t have to serve the full Truman year. They turned me loose on the day before Memorial Day 1951. I guess it was, and I went home and got a job working in an oil refinery in Canton. That’s all, I got married and in the next spring I started college to become a veterinarian. I finished college in six years. I graduated from Ohio State in 1959 and practiced for about a year in my hometown. Then I came to Virginia.

I: So, you’ve been working as a veterinarian and what else?
R: I was a veteran Ian in practice for 36 years. I retired in 1994 because of an aneurysm. I came very close to dying and they cut me open a little patch in me and I’ve been retired almost 20 years down. I think we are perfectly justified in saying that we saved Korea from the communist and I’m pleased about that. I am not pleased that they didn’t go ahead and finish the job, so that the entire nation of Korea could be free. I think if Truman had let MacArthur alone, he would have done the job pulling. Consequently, I never though much of harry Truman. I once called him an old fart in a newspaper.

I: This year is the 6-year anniversary of armistice. There is no country that ever existed with the war continuously going on for 60 years after. An official ceasefire. What do you think about that?
R: well I think it’s a shame that the North Koreans are so infantile and so narrow-minded that they couldn’t make peace and give people who love freedom.

I: How did the war effect your life?
R: in a very positive way. It got me an education under the GI Bill I could get my veterinary degree with the help of my good wife who was a nurse.

I: How did you and the nurse meet?
R: she and I went our last year of high school together and I went in the army about the same time, she went into nursing training and she finished her training about the same time I got out of the army. So, we got married. We wrote letters back and forth while I was in japan, and Korea.

I: Any message to our young generation about the preamble and experience as a veteran?
R: Well, I have strong feelings about that, but I don’t know how to quite how to express it. I’m disappointed with our armed forces today. Something happened between Korea and Vietnam. The Vietnam veterans came back a different person than they were. Korea was not that way. We came home ready to work and did get on with our lives. It seems through the attitude changed entirely with the Vietnam veteran so many of them. Anyway, it seems like young people today think more and more about what their government can do for me. More so, than what I can do for the government.

I: So, the message is, not disappointment, so what do you want to say?
R: Get off your duff, and do something for yourself.

I: Any other comments you want to say to this video?
R: I’m God’s say and I’m grateful for my education and am very grateful that the Veterans Administration Service provides me a lot of free medical care today. I’m very grateful for the opportunity of having been a veterinarian that a GI bill did a lot for me. I had a very interesting career.

I: You know that a career is very strong and a vibrant democracy?
R: yes, I think producing some good cars.

I: Have you ever been back to Korea?
R: No

I: Do you want to go back?
R: Not I’m not very interested because basically my wife is not interested and she is my second wife. My first wife died after 50 years of marriage.

I: Thank you very much for sharing.

R: Yes, your welcome.