Korean War Legacy Project

Robert “Bob” W. Ezell

Bio

Robert “Bob” W. Ezell was born on the 20th of June 1930 in Wilmington, California.  His father was a Canadian Military Veteran from World War I.  Bob joined the the United States Marine Corps Reserve while attending Banning High School.  In November of 1950 he was sent to Korea and was assigned to the  Machine Gun Platoon of Fox Company,2nd Battalion, 7th Marines.  Bob saw combat action at Toktong Pass during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.  He received the Purple Heart for wounds he sustained defending a hilltop overlooking the Toktong Pass.

Video Clips

Journey to Korea

Bob Ezell talks about his journey to Korea and the process "Replacements" went through being assigned to a unit.

Tags: Wonsan,Front lines

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQRWJ99QO4E&start=365&end=596

First Experience in Combat

Bob Ezell describes his first experience in combat at Toktong Pass during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir on November 27, 1950

Tags: 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir, 11/27-12/13,Chinese,Communists,Front lines

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQRWJ99QO4E&start=949&end=1301

Wounded

Bob Ezell describes how he survived being wounded by playing dead as the enemy stole his gloves.

Tags: 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir, 11/27-12/13,Chinese,Cold winters,Front lines

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQRWJ99QO4E&start=1317&end=1433

Thoughts of Dying

Bob Ezell talks about how he felt after being wounded and how grateful he is to have survived. He also mentions the magnitude of death at Toktong Pass and a friend who was killed there.

Tags: 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir, 11/27-12/13,Fear,Front lines

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQRWJ99QO4E&start=1677&end=1785

Survival In the Aid Tent

Bob Ezell describes surviving while wounded in the aid tent as his unit was cut off and surrounded for 5 days near the Toktong Pass

Tags: 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir, 11/27-12/13,Cold winters,Food,Front lines

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQRWJ99QO4E&start=1792&end=1858

Video Transcript

[Beginning of Recorded Material]

R:        My name’s, uh, Robert W. Ezell.  Last name E Z E L L .

I:          Is there any ethnic background of your last name, Ezell?

R:        I think it’s French.

I:          French.

R:        Yeah.

I:          Ah.  And what is your birthday?

R:        June 20, 1931.

I:          And where were you born?

R:        Wilmington, California.   That’s Los Angeles Harbor.

0:00:30

I:          Ah.

R:        W I L M I N G T O N.

I:          Right.  And tell me about your family when you were growing up, your parents and your siblings.

R:        Okay.  My, my father was a, oh, oil field worker.

I:          Uh huh.

R:        And he was born in Okla, Indian Territory in Oklahoma in the 1890 ‘s.

I:          Um.

R:        And

0:01:00

he, he, he joined, he tried, before the World War I, he tried to, he could see the war coming. He tried to join the American Army, but he was too, he didn’t weigh enough.

I:          Uh huh.

R:        And so he, I think he was 10 pounds too light, so he went to Canada and joined the Canadian Army.  He

I:          Oh my goodness.

R:       They were, you could be five pounds lighter, this is a story, and he heard

0:01:30

and he weighed, and he ate five pounds of bananas so he could get in.

I:          [LAUGHS]

R:        So he was an American in the Canadian famous regiment, Princess Patricia’s

I:          Yep.

R:        Light Infantry.

I:          Yeah, yeah.

R:        And he served in, and he was wounded and disabled in World War I.

I:          I was there in Ottawa, Canada, and I did interview them.

R:        Okay.

I:          Yeah, there are Korean War veterans, too, in that unit.

R:        Yeah.  So, oh yeah, right.

I:          Yeah.

0:02:00

R:        They’re, they’re a famous regiment [INAUDIBLE] in

I:          So your father was really, really patriot.

R:        Yeah.  He was very military, but he, he was, got a medical disability discharge.

I:          Oh.

R:        from Canada, and in the hospital, he met my mother who was, worked in the hospital and brought her over here a year after the war was over

0:02:30

and they, they got married in, I think in Canada.  I’m not sure of all this stuff, and the, she was a World War I war bride from Canada, and the, and he became an oil field worker, and he followed the, his cousin was a wildcatter, a, sort of a, a, a, an, a businessman,

0:03:00

and he, wild, and he, my dad and his brother worked for him in wildcatting oil wells, and he followed the oil industry from Oklahoma to Texas to California.

I:          Ah.

R:        My two, my two older sisters were born in Oklahoma, and my brother and I were born in California.

I:          I see.

R:        My older brother.

I:          Yeah.  When did you graduate high school?

R:        1949.

I:          What is the name of it?

R:        It’s

0:03:30

Benning High School.

I:          B E

R:        B A N N I N G in Wilmington.

I:          And did you learn anything about Korea while you were in high school?

R:        I didn’t know where Korea was.

I:          You didn’t know where Korea was?

R:        Or, I didn’t know anything about Korea.

I:          Anything.

R:        Knew Japan.  Maybe I read some history or, you know, learned the history that they

0:04:00

divided Korea, but it didn’t, didn’t, it wasn’t important.

I:          Um.

R:        At that time.

I:          Um hm.  And now you are the Korean War veteran, Chosin Few, right?

R:        Right.

I:          How do you connect this dot?  You didn’t know anything about Korea when you graduating, but you ended up fighting one of the most deadliest war, I mean the battle in the Korean War, and now you know Korea.  How,

0:04:30

How do you, how do you link this thought, why did it happen to you, and what do you know about Korea, and what is Korea to you?

R:        Well, see I was 10 years old when World War II started, and the older kids, older guys in the neighborhood, went to the, you know, went into the military, and some of them didn’t come back.  So I was raised on war.

0:05:00

You know, war was part of, a big part of my life.

I:          Right, yeah.

R:        And it was, and so our, some of my friends, we, we were baseball players, and some of my friends, one of my friend’s cousin got him into the Marine Reserves.  And so he, we says well, we might as well stick together

0:05:30

which was sort of the thing to do.  So we, three, four of us joined the Marine Reserve.

I:          When?

R:        In 1949.

I:          Uh huh.

R:        And, while we were still in high school.

I:          I see.

R:        And the, and so we trained in summer camps and, summer camp, and every month we had a train weekend.  The

0:06:00

and so, well anyway, that’s how I got into the service.

I:          Got it.

R:        You know, to be part

I:          So when did you leave for Korea?

R:        I left for Korea October 15.

I:          1950.

R:        Yeah.

I:          From San Diego?

R:        San Diego, yeah.  Second Replacement Draft.

I:          Uh huh.  And what was your unit?

R:        Second Replacement Draft.

I:          Okay.  And where did

0:06:30

you go?

R:        We went to, we landed in Japan,

I:          Uh huh.

R:        I think Kobe.

I:          Kobe.

R:        Then we went to Camp Otsu and were issued winter gear.

I:          Uh.

R:        And then we were there, we were there for about a week I guess,

0:07:00

and then, well anyway, we boarded ship and sailed to Wonsan.

I:          I, what time, I mean when did you arrive in Wonsan?

R:        The first week in November.

I:          Um hm.

R:        I, I don’t remember the exact date.

I:          Do you know Jack Kohl, the one that

R:        This kid

I:          Yeah.

R:        No.

I:          The one that, he was

R:        The might, we might have been in the same training battalion.

I:          Exactly.

R:        Yeah.

I:          Might been in the same ship.

R:        Yeah, probably.

I:          Arriving in Wonsan in August.

R:        Yeah, I think

I:          He arrived in Wonsan November 4th.

R:        Okay then.  That, so

0:07:30

so we landed there, and we stayed there several nights I guess.

I:          Um hm.

R:        It seemed like it was a school that we stayed in. We, it was a two-story building.

I:          Um.

R:        And we, I guess we were just waiting for transportation to join the division.  Well, they had rebuilt the railroad from Wonsan to Hamhung.  So on November 10, which is Marine Corp.

0:08:00

birthday, we, we went on the train to

I:          Hum, Hamhung?

R:        Hamhung and stayed in a warehouse overnight, then on, the next morning we got on the trucks, November 11, and sit, and went up to Kotori where the, where the 7thMarines were.

I:          Um hm.

R:        Uh.

I:          What was your company?

R:        Okay.  Well, it, when

0:08:30

you’re a replacement, you go, first you go to the division

I:          Right.

R:        Then, then they, it’s sort of happenstance what happens to you.

I:          Yeah, yeah.

R:        And whoever’s in charge, he’ll just grab a group

I:          Right.

R:        Take a group’s list

I:          Um hm.

R:        And say okay, you guys 7thMarines.

I:          So you were a 7th?

R:        So, now they, now they, when we’re in Kotori he says you go with this guy to the 7thMarines.  Then you get to the 7thMarines, and they says okay, this group, you go to the 2ndBattalion.

0:09:00

Then you get to the Battalion and they say okay, you guys go to Fox Company or whatever company.

I:          To what Battalion?

R:        Fox Company.

I:          No, no, no.  Battalion.

R:        Second.

I:          Second.

R:        Yeah.

I:          Okay.

R:        And so then we get to Fox Company.  They say, I had, two of my best friends were with, still with me, but, you know, I guess by, they just got on the same list.  We were close in initials.  Their initial

0:09:30

was G, and mine was E, and so one of them went to the 2ndPlatoon, one went to the 3rdPlatoon, and I went to the machine guns.

I:          I see.

R:        So now they take you to machine guns, and he says okay, you guys are, go with this Sergeant, and so I ended up in a, as a ammo carrier and flank guard and a machine gun.

I:          Did you stay Kotori whole time, or did you go up?

0:10:00

R:        Okay.  Now the, the, so that’s, on the 12th, we went to, we were the point company into Hagaru, up to Hagaru.

I:          I see.

R:        And we climbed up East hill, and the, and the next morning, which was, it was a terrific climb for my first real day with the, with the unit.  And the

0:10:30

next morning we went house to house through Hagaru, and, well, anyway, our, my Sergeant, who went, he, machine gun Sergeant.  There were three replacements that went to our machine gun, and we were, there were four guys in our machine gun, and he says you guys never been in combat before he says.  He’s a World War II veteran, he says you do

0:11:00

exactly what I tell you to do, and if you can’t hear me, you do what I say, I mean do what I’m doing, and, and so, okay.  So now he takes us house to house through Kotori.  We’re on one side of the street.  Somebody else is on the other, and he, and he says don’t touch anything. Don’t move anything, and look out for wires for booby traps.

I:          Um hm.

R:        Well, there were none.

0:11:30

There were no booby traps.  So then we became security.  The other units moved through us.  We were the point company.

I:          Um hm.

R:        So we became security for, where they built the air field at Hagaru.

I:          Hagaru, yeah.

R:        You want the list?

I:          No, no, no.  Go ahead.

R:        Okay.  So the, we were there till, we had Thanksgiving dinner

0:12:00

on the 23rd

I:          Oh.  You had a, only Thanksgiving dinner.

R:        Yeah.  On the 23rd.

I:          23rd, in Hagaru-ri, right?

R:        Yeah.

I:          Yeah.

R:          We had one, the time I was in Korea we had one hot breakfast and one, and a Thanksgiving dinner.

I:          Yeah.

R:        And I was them the month I was in Korea.  And so the, on the 27th, no,

0:12:30

26thwe moved up to, since we were the point company, all the other, the 5thMarines and the 7th, rest of the 7thMarines moved through us, and since we were the point company into Hagaru, we were the trail company of the 7thRegiment

I:          Uh huh.

R:        going up to Kotori, I mean Hag, Yudamni.  And so

0:13:00

we finally got trucks about nighttime, and they took us to Toktong Pass

I:          Toktong, okay.

R:        Yeah, the, which is about seven miles up the road, and it’s another seven miles to Yudamni.

I:          Yeah.

R:        And so, so we dig in.

I:          So it wasn’t really far from each other, Hagaru-ri, Hagaru-ri and, then Yudamni was like a 14 miles difference?

R:        Yeah.

I:          Yeah.

0:13:30

R:        And about the same miles for, I think about seven miles for Kotori, too.

I:          Too, yeah.

R:        To Hagaru.

I:          I see.

R:        I’m not real sure on the exact.

I:          Yeah, yeah.

R:        But, because we hiked all day to, to, from Kotori to Hagaru.  But, so now we dig in, now they assigned,

0:14:00

I was in the 1stMarines machine gun section, and they assigned us, they assigned us to 1stPlatoon where all, the way they set it up, the first section of machine guns goes to 1stPlatoon, second section to 2ndPlatoon, third section to 3rdPlatoon.  So we’re assigned to the 1stPlatoon, and we dig on the right side of the, the hill, and

0:14:30

the, our Commanding Officer, Colonel Barbar, or Capt. Barbar at that time, he went up the, he got a ride up to where we were going that day and scouted out the situation by himself.

I:          Um.

R:        Now he might have had somebody with, some, maybe a couple guys with him, but I, he was up there all day,

I:          Um hm.

R:        and setting up the defenses.  He’s a

0:15:00

very excellent infantryman.  He’d been, he, he had been awarded the Silver Star on Iwo Jima.

I:          Um hm.

R:        But, so he, he was up there by himself, and those, the Chinese communists were all around him.

I:          Hm.

R:        But they didn’t bother him.  So, but we dug in, and, it’s a long story.  Sure you want to hear it?

I:          Yeah.  You can make it just briefly.

0:15:30

R:        Oh, well I’ll try to.  The, okay, so we’re on, we’re on watch.  We’re sharing the watch that night, and we don’t know the Chinese are around us.

I:          You didn’t know that

R:        Yet.

I:          yet?

R:        Yet. Oh no, we do.  One guy got shot by a sniper

I:          Uh huh.

R:        While they were digging in, in his legs.

I:          In Toktong Pass.

R:        Yeah, at Toktong Pass, that evening, while we were digging in.

I:          Yeah.

R:        Before it

0:16:00

was still daylight. He, he got shot by a sniper.

I:          Um.

R:        But we didn’t know that.

I:          I see.

R:        But, you know, his group knew it.  His platoon knew it.  They, okay.  So then we, we hear fire, the guy who, whoever was on watch woke us up, and we heard firing up on top.  We were halfway up the hill, and we hear firing on the hill.

0:16:30

And so, and, so we’re now on alert

I:          Um.

R:        And watching our front which is the east side of the hill.

I:          Um hm.

R:        And, but the firing’s going up on the top of the hill that we know of.  We see tracers and different things happening up there.  And so a Marine comes running into our, comes running out

0:17:00

front where, of our deal.  We didn’t know it was a Marine.  We’re getting ready to shoot him and says, say don’t because he might be a, he might be a Marine.  So we hollered at him, he says hey are you a Marine, and he goes yeah, and he says well, you, you better get over here.

I:          Um.

R:        because, and so he came over, and he, what happened his glasses had been broken, and he couldn’t see, and his pistol was empty, and he says he lost, because he couldn’t see, he lost

0:17:30

the rest of his people.  And so the Sergeant assigned me to take him down to the aid tent.  They moved our machine gun, and we, we assaulted an outpost which had been taken by the Chinese and moved them up, and I was carrying my ammunition cans behind the machine gun, and here comes the Sergeant tumbling back into my arms, wounded.

0:18:00

So, then he says

I:          What were you feeling when, when, when that happened?

R:        And I go oh, you know, I go oh gosh, you know. Sergeant.  I says where are you hurt?  I says I’ll, I’ll put a bandage on it.  He says don’t worry about me.  He says does your, your rifle work, and I says yeah, and he says get up there.  And so I got up, just as soon, so I catch up with the machine gun, and then there was one of our ammo carriers, he’s wounded, you know.  They, they were on top of this rocky area

0:18:30

and, and there’s part of another, there’s a part of another squad from the second, we’re in the, we’re now in the 2ndPlatoon area at the top of the northwest part of the hill, and the, the, and so as soon as I get up there, some, some, a Chinese Communist jumped up about 10 yards in front, front of us, and he, like he was gonna throw a grenade,

0:19:00

and somebody said duck, he’s got a grenade.  Well, I didn’t know any better.  I shot him, and he never got the, and the Sergeant of the group was there, and he says who shot that guy?  Well, he didn’t know me because he’s 2ndPlatoon, I’m 1st, and he, he, so I says I did, and he, he just looked at me and says, you know, put his thumb up or something.  But anyways, the firefight went on till daylight

I:          That’s a November 27?

R:        Yeah.  This is the first night,

0:19:30

and so the, the only two guys wounded up there were our, our two machine gunners, the Sergeant and one of the ammo, other ammo carrier, and, so finally it starts to be daylight, the firefight went on, and they, they didn’t try to throw any more hand grenades, but they, they were moving around, and we’d take shots at them, and you didn’t know whether you hit t hem or not,

0:20:00

you know.  You just go on to the next target, and it came daylight, they started raising their hands surrendering because they’re trapped.

I:          Um.

R:        They’re trapped out in front of us.  It’s a steep, it was a steep hill in front of us. It’s about 100 yards down to the bottom of the marine, the ravine. And so he, and so we took these prisoners, got their weapons.  They had all kinds of

 

0:20:30

different weapons. In fact, one guy even had a wooden rifle with a bayonet on the end of it.

I:          Oh my goodness.

R:        And, see, well we, we eventually figured out that their fire teams were a guy with an automatic weapon like a burp gun or a Thompson.  They had American Thompson machine guns, a guy who carried the sack of hand grenades which were mostly, they still, they had American hand grenades, but

0:21:00

they’re mostly what they call concussion grenades

I:          Yeah.

R:        Like a tin can.

I:          Right.

R:        And then the, the other guy was unarmed, and if one of those guys got wounded, he took his place.  That’s just, I don’t know if that’s exactly how it was, but, but they couldn’t, because we were on top of the hill, steep, they couldn’t only co me maybe a squad of guys, 10 or so at a time.  They couldn’t come up on us, to us in a mass because it was too steep for them.

0:21:30

And so we, they, we were able to pick them off.  But, but now at daylight, they surrendered, and we took maybe a dozen prisoners and while they moved the prisoners out.  And so, I got such a long story.

I:          So from Toktongyoung, where

R:        That’s the first night.

I:          Yeah.  And then, where did you go?

R:        Well, on the third action, I got wounded on Toktong Pass.

I:          Oh.   How?

0:22:00

R:        Well, what happened on our second action, my foxhole buddy gets wounded.

I:          Um hm.

R:        Okay, now it’s our third action, and there was only four of us left now on the machine gun.  Two, my, I, so I have a new foxhole buddy who’s 18.  I’m 19, and we had the gunner and assistant gunner who’s 20, and the other one’s 24, a World War II veteran, from Okinawa.

0:22:30

And so anyway, we, we’re only four of us.   Now we’ve got to hold that area, that outpost area.  There’s just us four instead of a squad of, of Marines because of the casualties of the company took the first night.  That’s, okay.  So now in this third action, the same thing happens.

0:23:00

They start, we, we’re on watch.

I:          Yeah.  I think we don’t have much time.  So.

R:        But I got blown up, my foxhole buddy and I got blown up by a hand grenade.

I:          Yeah.

R:        And got overrun

I:          Uh huh.

R:        But they did, all’s they did was take our gloves. We just played dead

I:          Right.

R:        I got blown one way downhill.  He’s, he was right in the middle of them.  I got blown downhill, and they took our gloves, and we were

I:          You mean Chinese took

R:        They took our gloves.

0:23:30

I:          And you playing dead.

R:        And we’re played dead, and they, they moved through us and

I:          And walked

R:        See, I, I got blown downhill, and I woke up I could hear them talking, you know.  I was knocked out, and, and I says well, I’m not moving.  And so I’m just laying there, and they come by and slipped my gloves off, and my partner, they took his, he’s right in the middle of them.  They took his gloves off.

I:          Um hm.

R:        Oh, I knocked it off.  Too much, using my hands too much.

I:          No problem.

0:24:00

R:        But anyways, well, I’ll wait till you’re ready to go again.

I:          Yeah.  So that, how,

R:        So we, this is, this is maybe 2 or 3:00.  So now daylight comes, and the, as we were in this action, the machine gunner gets wounded, and the assistant gunner takes him back into the woods.  There’s a patch of

0:24:30

woods on the side of the hill, on the hill, where the aid tents were. And so now it’s this, this, my foxhole buddy, his gun, his rifle jammed.  Well, well we threw hand grenades, but took us about every 10 minutes we’d throw a hand grenade, as long as we had hand grenades, they’d stay away. So, but we only had four.  So

I:          How, how you recovered from that wound and then

0:25:00

R:        Yeah.  Well then, it came daylight, and somebody says hey, throw some mortars up by those rocks. I think there’s Chinese up there.

I:          Huh.

R:        Still Chinese, and I says heck no, there’s Marines up here, and

I:          So you were okay at the time?

R:        Well, I’m wounded though.

I:          Yeah, still bleeding.

R:        And my hands are cold.  My hands feel like frozen footballs, and so.  But I says there’s two of us up here.  Can you come and get us, and they says

0:25:30

if you can crawl, come down, it’s better, you know, because they, they’re afraid

I:          Yeah.

R:        that they might be, might be an ambush.  So, so we tobogganed down the snow.  I went down first, and then my

I:          You were able to walk?

R:        No.  I pulled.

I:          Pulled.

R:        We just slide, I slid down the, I pulled myself by my elbows

I:          Right.

R:        Because my legs, I couldn’t walk.

I:          Um hm.

R:        Because of the wounds and the cold.

I:          Uh huh.

R:        But because of the cold, the, you didn’t bleed to death.

0:26:00

Could have bled to death from my wounds.

I:          Yeah.

R:        I had wounds all over.

I:          That stopped it, right?

R:        Yeah.  And my partner was wounded, too.  But we, he came down, too.  So we both, we both lived through it.

I:          My goodness.

R:        So that was the end of our com, my combat.

I:          Ah.  And then you picked up by whom?

R:        Oh, well, that same Sergeant that was with the squad when we took the, the rocks back, he picked me up.

I:          Oh.

R:        He’s a big, strong guy.

0:26:30

He picked me up, and I passed out right away.  And so, but I woke up in the aid tent.  And so I was in the aid tent for two or three nights.

I:          Where?

R:        On Toktong Pass.

I:          Toktong Pass.

R:        And we were cut off for five days.

I:          Right.

R:        And so I got, I got, the convoy come by and picked us up.  The 5thMarines and 7thMarines, and the convoy came by at night and picked us up and took us back,

0:27:00

I got in the field hospital in Hagaru.

I:          Uh huh.

R:        So the, the, and I, then I got evacuated because my feet were frozen because I was inactive.

I:          You were airlifted?

R:        Airlifted out of Hagaru-ri.

I:          To Japan?

R:        To Hungnam.

I:          Hungnam.

R:        Yeah.  There was a big airfield there, bigger.  There’s a small airfield at Hagaru.

I:          Um hm.

R:        They had bigger planes, hospital planes, and then to Japan, and I, I ended up in a Army

0:27:30

hospital because the Navy hospital was full of Marines.  They were too full.

I:          So that’s when you were, you were wounded in November 28th?

R:        29th.

I:          29th.  And did you get the Purple Heart for that?

R:        Yes.

I:          Yes.

R:          Two. One, well I’m supposed to get one for frozen, but I never got it.

I:          Okay.  So that one of the most intensive battle that you were there, right?

0:28:00

R:        Yeah.  We, It’s sort of a famous battle because we were cut off for five days.

I:          Um hm.

R:        On Toktong Pass.  But I only lasted the, the 29th.

I:          And what were you thinking at the time that you were wounded, you

R:        That I wouldn’t make it.  I, I was, I, I thought somebody would come and bayonet me or shoot me when I was laying there.

0:28:30

But they never did. They just took our gloves.  They didn’t want to waste ammunition.  See, they only had enough ammunition what, what they could carry, and that’s why we were able to hold out because they run out of men and ammunition because there was, they had a lot of casualties, 3,000 casualties at Toktong Pass. KIA’s.

I:          Um hm.

R:        [INAUDIBLE] yeah.

I:          And now you

0:29:00

thinking about this, what do you feel?

R:        I feel I was lucky to get out of there.  This, this luck.  It was a, I was in the wrong place, but I got, I got out of there.  So, my, one of my best friends didn’t.

I:          What’s his name?

R:        Roger Gonzalez.

I:          Uh huh.

R:        He was from San Pedro, California.

I:          And he was right there with you?

R:        No, he was in an, he got assigned

0:29:30

to another platoon. I went through training with him, mess duty, all, you know, I went all through till, but his cousin was also my friend, but he made it back. He got frostbite but not wounded.  But he made it back.

I:          I didn’t know that you were evacuated from there because of the wounds so that we have some more time to hear from you about h ow was those five days that you were incarcerated there?  How did you survive?  Did you have a food?  Did, how did you

0:30:00

R:        Well, we were in a aid tent.  The aid tent was full of wounded, and they, some of them would die because there was, couldn’t get treatment, see.  They were just a aid tent, and they couldn’t get to the hospital, and so, but it was cold in that aid tent.  All’s they had was some kind of kerosene stove, but it didn’t keep anything warm except right next to it.  And, but we got, we lived on Charms which is a little candy

I:          Um hm.

R:        and

0:30:30

I:          Charms, yeah, Charms.

R:        Crackers.  So I had Charms, crackers.  One of the guys had in his stuff some candy bars.  His folks were in the, I guess his folks ran a delicatessen or something back in New Jersey, and he was wounded, too, and, but he had some candy bars which he broke in half and passed around, and so we ate those.

I:          Didn’t you have C-ration?

0:31:00

R:        No.  I don’t remember eating any hot food in the tent.

I:          No, C-ration is not hot food.

R:        Well, they.  I know.  It’s

I:          You mean cooked.

R:        Yeah, cooked.

I:          Yeah.

R:        Yeah.  We didn’t have any hot, cooked food that I remember. Now, we had hot coffee because they were keep, people, but the stove, they were able to make coffee.

I:          Were there doctors?  Or, or, or nurse?

R:        The only doctor who

0:31:30

got killed

I:          No, in aid tent.

R:        No, yeah.   No, there was no doctors, just Corpsmen.

I:          Corpsmen?

R:        Yeah, and the, with the relief column, a doctor came.

I:          When:

R:        December 1stI think, the 5th, the five days.

I:          And

R:        He was talking, he was giving

0:32:00

the casualty report to our Captain in the woods, and a stray shot come and killed him.

I:          Oh.

R:        I think he’s the only doctor killed in them in the Marines during the Korean War.

I:          Huh.

R:        And a helicopter crashed on that hill try, bringing, trying to bring supplies in.

I:          While you were there?

R:        Yeah, well, I was, I couldn’t see it.  It was when I was in the aid tent, but I could hear it.

I:          Um hm.

R:        And my friend saw it, some of my other friends.

I:          How many were in the tent?

0:32:30

Do you remember?

R:        It was just full of guys laying down.  I would say maybe 18, 20.

I:          That’s all.

R:        No.  We had, On that hill, we lost 30 some killed in action.  There were 80 guys left, so that means there was 100 wounded.  But some of them were walking wounded.  They didn’t stay in the tent.

I:          But while you were there in Toktong Pass,

0:33:00

were there Chinese around you?
R:        Yeah.  Well, they fought them off.  They had three, see I was involved in the, the major, some of the major battles. They had one more after I was wounded.

I:          Um hm.

R:        They had one more major battle, and they repulsed them, and threw artillery, machine guns, you know.  We had heavy machine guns down by the road, and, but

0:33:30

oh, there’s a lot of story to tell.

I:          Yeah.

R:        But the

I:          Tell me.  Tell me.

R:        Well, the heavy machine guns, they counted 900 killed.  They was two heavy machine guns

I:          Uh huh.

R:        From Weapons Company, and the, our Captain set them up by the road, and that’s the only place, they, they could mass attack two places, down by the road and up at the top of the hill was a saddle.  It was, it was like an inverted horseshoe our, our lines,

0:34:00

you know.  First Platoon, 2ndPlatoon, I mean the 2ndPlatoon, 3rdPlatoon and Headquarters at the bottom and the heavy machine guns.  And so like a big horseshoe, about 250 yards this way and 200 yards across and 50 yards at the bottom.  But the heavy machine guns, they counted 900 dead.

0:34:30

See the, because they came in masses, and, down the road, and the, and it, plus the 2ndPlatoon was up above them, and they could fire down on them, too.  And the, then there was another machine gun up at the top of the hill where they counted 200 KIA’s.  In all, somebody reported that there was 2,000 killed in and around the perimeter.

I:          Wow.

R:        And another 1,000 from the artillery

0:35:00

and the mortars and the air strikes.

I:          So about 3,000 Chinese being killed there.

R:        Yeah, give or take probably.

I:          Yeah.  You have such a vivid memory.

R:        Well, because I just, I was just there a month, and you know, stuff happens over there and happens fast.

I:          Um hm.

R:        When you get in a firefight it, it, you know, and you don’t, you don’t have time to think.  You have to

0:35:30

react with your training, like that guy jumped up to throw a hand grenade, and I, I just shot him, just like I shot the targets, jumped up targets in training.

I:          And you remember like it happened yesterday.

R:        Yeah.  Because I, I’ve been over it with my friends, you know, and I’ve, I was interviewed by the Library of Congress and another group for a documentary

I:          Um hm.

R:        But I didn’t get into the documentary.

I:          Hm.

R:        I just got interviewed.  And I wrote it down because a

0:36:00

guy wrote a book, and he wrote me a letter and asked me to write it down, and I wrote down what happened, too.

I:          Did you regret that you were there at the time? One of the most deadliest battle?

R:        I, I didn’t regret it, but I tried to get out of there.

I:          Um.

R:        The, I wanted, I was a, I had signed a professional baseball contract.  I was going to be a professional baseball player, and, but I didn’t,

0:36:30

you know, for, rub my wounds and stuff and other things.  Maybe I did.  But I was good enough to get signed. I wasn’t a great ball player I guess which is good, and the, I regretted that.  But since my, my father was a veteran, wounded veteran, and because of, I was raised during World War II, it just, just happened.

I:          Um.

R:        You know.  It just, that’s what happened.  Like, see,

0:37:00

I don’t think you could survive over there if you thought that you were, you, you had to think that you might not make it back.  If you were scared of not making it back, you couldn’t, you could not function. But you just had to say well, you know, you’re, it’s fate.

I:          Um hm.

R:        You know.  You’re, you can’t make it back.

I:          Have you been back to Korea?

R:        Yes.

I:          When:

0:37:30

R:        Late 80’s.  80, I think it was, I

I:          Was it before

R:        The date slips my mind all the time. I think it was ’86 or ’87.

I:          Before the Olympics.

R:        Before the what?

I:          Seoul Olympic.

R:        It was the year before.

I:          So ‘90

R:        And I got to visit all the Olympic sites, yeah. They took us on, we got to visit all the Olympic sites that they were building.

I:          Building.

R:        Yeah.

I:          Okay.

0:38:00

So it’s 1987, and how did you get there?  Was it

R:        It was a Korean Revisit

I:          Program

R:        Yeah.  They, they paid all our way.

I:          Yeah.

R:        And, yeah.  So

I:          How was it when you see the

R:        It was a great visit.  We got to Panmunjom.  They took us down to Pusan because we had guys that served there.  they took us to the, where they went after the

0:38:30

Chosin Reservoir, the bean patches I think they called it.

I:          Um hm.

R:        The, up by, is it Masan?

I:          Um hm.

R:        Yeah.  And I never got there.  Of course, I was gone back to the States.  So.

I:          How, how did you feel about it?  Being, being in Korea again after you lived from the one of the most deadliest battle?

R:        I, I was, see, I’ve been to Korea before,

 

0:39:00

on business.

I:          Ah.

R:        In 1976, we started a, myself with some, some other people, started a sporting goods business, and I’d been back to Korea on business when it was still under martial law in the late 70’s

I;          Um, right.

R:        And there were still bullet holes in the buildings.

I:          Yeah.

R:        And

I:          Where, in Seoul?

R:        And you had to be the hotel at 11:00.

I:          Um hm.

R:        There was nobody on the streets after 11:00,

0:39:30

and they had, and a, if they thought there might be trouble from the protesters, they had policemen on each corner.

I:          Right.

R:        So, of the main intersections.

I:          But overall, what did you feel being back to the country you fought for a long time ago and you see it’s developing, right?

R:        The improvements, yeah.  It, they’re very,

0:40:00

I, they have to be very good businessmen, and, and I buy Korean stuff, too.

I:          Yeah.

R:        Not cars, but I buy their Samsung and stuff like that.  But the, the, I just, I, well see, I, I, I did a lot of, I read a lot, I have a big Korean library or Korean War and I have, you know, books, and I read about it, and

0:40:30

and it, it’s just, it’s, it’s just great that we sort of, if we had the blood of the Communists at Korea, they, they, they might have, when, after more countries.  Now, Vietnam was more of a civil war than a, a, that was a mistake.

0:41:00

But the, but Korea was not a mistake.  It saved Taiwan, too.

I:          Yeah.

R:        Because the Chinese were going to go after Taiwan, but now they had to come over here, and in the meantime they saw that the United States meant business, so they better leave Taiwan alone.

I:          Yeah.

R:        Because I, eventually Korea got too high tech for our business which was a lot of hand work.  We had to go to Taiwan.

I:          Right.

R:        And then the, they

0:41:30

got too high tech there, we, the Taiwan company went over to the government

I:          Um hm.

R:        industries, government section in Red China.

I:          Yeah.  I mean, you, how many days?  You, you left San Diego October 15th, and you were back to, to the States by the end of December, right?

R:        Right.  Just before Christmas.

I:          Yeah.  Wow. What a two month, right?

R:        Yeah.

I:          What a two month , and you wounded,

0:42:00

But you were in that battle, Toktong Pass, and that’s the legacy of your fight and your

R:        Yeah, You, you, you didn’t, you didn’t think about it as being so important.  It was just to survive, and, because of, you know, what happened in the first few days, they were able to survive because, well, we had World War II veterans like I mentioned before,

0:42:30

I:          Um hm.

R:        And our, most of our officers.  I think all of our officers were World War II veterans, and a lot of them are Sergeants, and they, they gave you a, a steel thread or something

I:          Right.

R:        through the company.

I:          Yeah.  Bob, I know you have more stories to share with me.

R:        Yeah, it’s,

I:          Unfortunately, we don’t have time.

R:        That’s alright.

I:          But I think you tell me one of the most vivid description of the battle that you had to fight in Toktong Pass,

0:43:00

and I think that’s really important.

R:        Yeah.

I:          So I want to thank you for that, and on behalf of Korean nation again, I want to thank you for your sacrifice and fight for us.

R:        Yeah.

I:          Thank you.

R:        Well, I’m glad it was worthwhile, and I, and such a great success the Korean, South Korea.

I:          And that is your legacy.

R:        Yeah.

I:          Yeah.

0:43:30

That’s why we are

R:        I helped a little bit with the other guys.

I:          Yeah, right.

R:        With the millions, other millions.

I:          Yeah.  Thank you, Bob.

R:        Alright.

I:          Yep.

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