Richard Fuller enlisted in the military shortly after high school and soon found himself in Korea. Serving in the United States Army while there, he was wounded, received treatment in Japan, and returned to his unit in Korea to continue serving. He speaks highly of the lessons he learned during his 20 years of service, and communicates to younger generations that there is nothing wrong with entering the service if desired. He shares his views of satisfaction regarding what has become of South Korea and its democracy. Concluding, he offers his explanation as to why the Korean War is referred to as the Forgotten War.
Wounded and Recovery
Richard Fuller recounts his wounds while in Korea. He incurred shrapnel in his legs on October 20, 1952, and was taken to Japan for treatment and rehabilitation. He returned to his unit in Korea 3 months later.
Helmets Without a Strap
Richard Fuller shares that his helmet was blown off 3 times. He, along with other soldiers, chose not to wear his helmet chinstrap. He describes his reasoning for his decision not to do so.
Military Service and Forgotten Wars
Richard Fuller explains his views of military service and Korea. He shares that he grew up in military service and feels he learned many lessons along the way. He communicates to younger generations that there is nothing wrong with entering military service if desired. He shares that he is satisfied with what has become of South Korea. He closes with his views on why the Korean War is considered the Forgotten War.
Transcribed by Valencia Robinson
June 1, 2018
[Beginning of recorded material]
R: My name is Richard J. Fuller. I was born in Shin Apple, New York in 1934.
I: What did your parents do, or?
R: My parents farmed and he also, my dad cut logs. And I’ve been working out on farms ever since I was 12 years old.
I: Did you have siblings?
R: Yes I did, I had uh a brother, a half brother, and I had a brother that died when he was four I believe
R: And I had a sister, older sister.
I: Did any of them serve in the military as well?
R: My brother was in for a very short time and then he got out.
I: So, you said you enlisted at the age of 17?
R: 17, three of us went in together.
I: You and your siblings?
I: Uh, neighbors?
R: There were three of us that worked in the sawmills and the weather, we didn’t have any work, and we just decided to join the service.
I: And what uh branch did you choose?
R: At that time we didn’t, I didn’t choose any. We just joined the service.
I: So you were assigned?
R: Uh, took heavy weapons training in Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.
I: And that was in the Army?
R: That was in the Army.
I: What unit were you a part of?
R: In the Army? Basic training? I believe it was the 5thDivision.
I: What did training look like? How long was it or?
R: 16 weeks, heavy weapons.
I: And did you have any type of specialized training?
R: Not really, I mean we took weapons ..
R: ..from the 45 pistol all the way up to all the machine guns and recoilless rifles and mortars.
I: When did you go to Korea?
R: Then we went on leave, and then we came back. We reported back in Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, was put on a troop ship or a troop train and we went to Seattle Washington. And we was there about ten days I think.
R: Then we were put on a troop ship and we landed in Japan. And we were in Japan, I can’t remember exactly, but a few days. And we lost our class A’s which were our khaki’s and class A uniforms. And we had fatigues full filled gear. Fatigues and bedroll, half a tent, sleeping bag…
R: …and one rifle loaded on another ship and went to Korea and landed on July 4.
I: Of what year? What year?
I: And where did you land exactly?
R: I believe we landed in Incheon.
I: And where did you go from there?
R: Uh, then we were went to a like a repla company and we were reassigned to our units. And uh, I wound up with the 7thdivision on a two platoon outpost.
I: And what were, what were your duties there?
R: At that time I was an ammo bearer for a machine gunner, a 30-caliber air cooled machine gunner. And then uh, later on, we moved off of there and then later on I became the gunner, the machine gunner.
I: And where were you stationed?
R: I can’t remember all the places I was stationed. [LAUGHS] But we would go in reserve and then we would go back up on the line and relieve somebody else.
I: So but it was always kind of approximately along the 38th parallel by 1952 would that be?
R: Well yes, in a sense. But we still had listening posts and we had people out in front of the MLR- main line of resistance and we still conducted patrols and all this sort of thing. I was with the Baker Company, 17thinfantry and uh, we moved around but we were in reserve at times too.
R: I went one time 32 days without a shower. That was the longest. But we had our helmet and we would get water and wash up in that. Our socks would get wet, we’d keep them next to our body to dry them, keep our socks changed and dried, especially in the winter time, so you didn’t freeze your feet.
I: How long were you there?
R: I, uh, I got wounded in October the 20thof ’53.
I: October the 20thof …
I: I know that there were some people, there was still some stuff going on but I [Laughs]
R: ’52, then I went to the hospital and wound up in Japan and they took some shrapnel out of my legs and left some.
R: I still have quite a bit in my legs. And then uh, I was rehabilitated. We rode a bicycle to get toughen back up and then I went back to my unit. I got back to my unit exactly uh, three months from the day I left.
I: And what unit were you in in Korea?
R: Seventh division 17thinfantry division or uh regiment Baker company and we uh, then went back on R&R to Japan. That was five days and we came back and uh, I had my orders for rotation uh, for the 14thof April and Pork Chop Hill started on the 12th.
R: So all orders for rotation were cancelled, but uh, I was, I stayed back in supply and separated equipment and that sort of thing from stuff coming back off the hill and then I finally rotated on the uh, I believe it was the 26thof April.
I: So you were at Pork Chop Hill during that time?
I: But you were playing a support role?
R: Yeah I was.
I: Can you describe for me what was the, what was it like?
R: It wasn’t good.
I: Are there any like specific things that stand out to you or any stories?
R: Not really, when I came back, when I came back to be reassigned from Korea..
R: I was put into the medics. They asked me if I wanted to be in. I said as long as I’m, go in a hospital or something so I was assigned to uh, Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 1953 and I worked in the operating room and I was an operating MOS from that time on.
I: So that’s what you did when you rotated back, you still had some time left?
R: Yep, I had uh, 18 years as a operating room technician.
I: So you stayed out in the military?
R: I stayed 20 years
I: Wow, so um, what was the date that you rotated home for approximately a month and a year?
R: Well, when we were there, when we were online you drew 4 points and you rotated on a point system.
R: And uh, if you were in reserve then you may have draw only three or two depending on where you were located uh, so I rotated with 34 points and um, when I rotated on April. I had 34 points.
I: So April of 1953 you came back to B west?
R: Yes, yep and got reassigned and uh, I went to Fort Jackson for reassignment and uh, one of the guys from the company came through told me there was only 2 platoons left out of the company. There’s 4 platoons in the company. Now that wasn’t all killed, I mean there were wounded and so forth whatever, but there was only two platoons of the original guys left.
R: When I was over there I had my helmet blew off three times.
R: We never hooked our chin strap um, came awful close. I’ve been knocked down with mortar rounds or artillery fire from the enemy.
I: Why didn’t you do the chin strap? Was it safer?
R: Well yeah cause that was, I was on patrol one night and uh, we got shelled and uh I had to wait for my helmet to come down the hill. It was dark, I had to wait for it to hit so I could find it so I knew where it was, but uh, we always figured that you know for that to happen why it might it might jerk our neck and break our neck and so forth so we never hooked our chin strap, some did, some didn’t.
I: So what kind of uh like friendships or comradery did you form while you were there?
R: You had buddies and everybody watched out for one another and uh, you know and you took care of yourself and um, because it’s important to stay cleaned and healthy so you can be there when you’re needed.
I: And how did you like stay in contact with family or friends back home?
R: Letters, not all the time, but letters. Once in a while you get a package from home and that was always good, but you didn’t last long. You passed it around [laughs] so it didn’t last long.
I: What were some of the things you received?
R: Oh, you received cookies or, and candy maybe and cigarettes and things like that.
I: What did you do for recreation when you were off duty?
R: We were in reserve, we were never off, but in reserve uh, we had formations and everything, but we uh, we had inspections and every – but we could drink three cans of beer a day, but when we were online we couldn’t have any of it.
R: So when we went back in reserve it was up to the company commander to decide how many cans of beer you can have per day and you’d go through the line and get your issue, whatever he decided. It could be three cans or it could be five cans a day, but you never got that till the end of the day.
I: Where were you when the war ended? I mean you had rotated home.
R: I was in states, I was in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I went there in 1953.
I: How long were you at Fort Bragg?
R: I left there in ’57. I went to Germany. Came back in ’60. And I went to uh, Fitzsimmons General Hospital in Denver and I left there in ’62 and went back to Fort Bragg. Left Fort Bragg in ’62 and went to Germany again till ’64.
R: Then I came back and I went to Fort Bliss Texas to William Beaumont and I transferred from there to Fort Devens Massachusetts. I had 4 children from my first marriage and I had custody of them and so I got close because they were with my mother in Utican, New York and so I, as close as I could get with Fort Devens and um..
R: Then my girlfriend came home from Germany and she was a nurse and we got married and we got married in January. I had my orders from Vietnam in February. So we did some training. We took a full field hospital to Vietnam. We had vehicles and tents and we had everything.
R: When we got their they had Quonset huts already built and set up for us and they added barracks a double-decker barracks already built and set up for us…… in Pleiku, Vietnam.
I: So how long were you in Vietnam?
R: A year, then uh, our son, our youngest son was born while I was there.
I: So when the Korean War ended and you were back in the states, what did people think of it at the time?
R: It wasn’t talked about. Nothing was said. You just, you know, you went on about your reassignment and that was it. We never discussed Korea or anything. We didn’t have any organizations or nothing that I knew of.
I: What did you know about Korea before you went over?
R: Nothing. I was only 17.
R: I was wet behind the ears [laughs].
I: You said you kind of signed up for the military somewhat on a whim with your friends. What made you decide to like continue in the military?
R: Still wasn’t any work. We signed up for three years, so I didn’t get out my first uh, time was ’55 but I just reenlisted for six years and just stayed. There wasn’t uh….
R: I mean there wasn’t that much work at home and actually it was better off in the service, yep. Better pay, you had three meals a day and a roof over your head [laughs].
I: So what have you done uh, since departing from the military?
R: I farmed. I got out, started farming. I had dairy, beef, and some crops.
R: And that ended in ’86. I quit farming in ’86 and uh, rented my farm out, then sold the farm to my son last year.
I: Is there any, do you feel like you learned any life lessons through your military service?
R: I mean I grew up in the service as 17, I grew up you know.
R: You learn quite a bit from being around older people and having to do what you’re told. That’s the main thing.
I: Are there any messages that you would like to communicate to younger generations?
R: Well uh, there’s nothing wrong with – today the service is paid real well and uh, there’s nothing wrong with it.
R: If you have nothing out here to uh, to look forward to, there’s nothing wrong with the service.
I: How did your time in the service affect your feelings towards military service or wartime?
R: None other than, I don’t think we should be losing a generation of uh, people overseas fighting people….
R: That there gonna be fighting when we leave there. They’ve been fighting ever since they were born and uh, were losing a lot of people at a certain age group and uh, this one little scrimmage after another.
I: What does Korea mean to you now?
R: Well I’m, I’m satisfied with that.
R: They have South Korea which is, they have their own government and everything and uh, democratic government you know uh, compared to North Korea I think uh, I think it was well worth it.
I: So why did they call the Korean war the forgotten war?
R: Well they weren’t recognized when they came back uh, they never did get the reception that they get today.
R: I mean we didn’t get none. I got none when I went home and uh, most of them just forgot about it. It wasn’t talked about and it wasn’t uh, publicized and pushed like it is today.
[End of recorded material]