Korean War Legacy Project

Robert Talmadge


Robert “Bob” Talmadge grew up in a family of eleven children in New Haven, Connecticut.  He enlisted in the United States Marine Corp in 1947 with his best friend and served in Korea during the war for 9 1/2 months.  During this time he participated in the Incheon Landing as well as the Miracle Evacuation of Korean civilians from Hamheung. After returning from the war he married his wife Rose in 1952.  Robert Talmadge served again in Korea in 1963 as an adviser to the South Korean Marine Corps.

Video Clips

Incheon Landing

Robert Talmadge describes the initial ground attack of Wolmido Island before the artillery assault during the Inchon Landing. He shares some of the rationale behind the attack and when it occurred. He then explains what happened right before the landing.

Tags: 1950 Inchon Landing, 9/15-9/19,Incheon,Wolmido,Front lines

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Hamheung Evacuation aka Hungnam Evacuation (code name Christmas Cargo)

Robert Talmadge talks about the Miracle Evacuation of Korean civilians from Hungnam including the loading of the civilians onto the USS Victory. He remembers 99,000 civilians on the pier that loaded onto the ship. He explains how the civilians had to leave all of their belongings before boarding.

Tags: 1950 Hamheung Evacuation, 12/10-12/24,Hamheung,Heungnam,Civilians,Front lines

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Recorded Material]


Robert Talmadge:

I’m retired Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant Bob Talmadge.


Mmm hmm.

B:        And, I was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1930 and I was the seventh child in a family of 11 children.

I:          Mmmm.

B:        So, I had a lot of siblings, brothers and sisters, to play with.

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        I joined the Marine Corps in 1947 and at the time that I went in, my very best–


–friend, who lived right down the street from me and joined with me.

I:          Mmm.

B:        And the two of us went through recruit training together.

Rose Talmadge: My name is Rose Talmadge.  I was born in 1927 in Hamden, Connecticut.

I:          Mmmm.

R:        I’m from a family of five and I went to a business high school.

I:          I see.

R:        I met Bob, as I said, in ’51–

I:          Mmm hmm.

R:        –and we married about a year and a half later. I think–


–he came away from it with a big, um, appreciation for the Korean people.

I:          Oh.

R:        He really did.  He, he, it didn’t manifest itself right away, and, that I could see, but his life is all Koreans, Korean friends–

I:          Mmm hmm.

R:        –anything he can do with the Koreans, I have to say this, you might delete it, but that refrigerator is an LG.

I:          Oh, okay.

Male Voice:

Yes, no, we don’t delete–


–that part.

R:        [laughs]

B:        In 1963, after I was married, after we were married, I’m sorry, after we were married, I got transferred to Korea as an advisor, to the Korean Marine Corps [INAUDIBLE].

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        And, I spent spent 13 months there.

I:          Mmmm.

B:        During the war there, I spent 9 ½ months.

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        The tour of duty for the veterans of, of, for the people, Marines who were in Korea, was 13 months.

I:          13 months.

B:        But, since I went with a Marine Brigrade–

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        –and we were the–


–first ones in–

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        –when they started rotating people back, I was, well, lucky enough, to be, to come back on the third draft–

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        –and I only spent 9 ½ months in Korea.

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        The difference between 1963 and 199-94–

I:          Four.

B:        –was like a whole new world.

I:          Whole new world.

B:        Because, in 1963, nothing had really changed. I, I didn’t get into Seoul to see any of the bombed out areas from the war, but the people were, were–


–not, and at that time, well, in ’63, they had military control of the country.

I:          Yep, yep.

B:        Yes, and so it, outside of Masan, during the War–

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        –when we would enter Masan, right outside of Masan, a bridge was blown.  And there were wooden barriers set up. At nighttime, the Korean people would come and take the wooden barriers for fi- The war broke out 20, 24thof June–

I:          Mmm hmm. Yeah.


B:        And on the 14thof July, we were aboard ship and leaving San Diego with all of our equipment.

I:          Ahhh. That’s right. So, you didn’t leave on the day?

B:        No, no.

I:          So, you, when did you actually left for Korea?

B:        Well, all the decisions had to be made in Washington, as what was going to happen–

I:          Right, right, right.

B:        –who was going to do what.

I:          Yeah, yeah.

B:        And then President Truman said we’re gonna send troops in and they sent these occupation troops out of Japan into Korea.

I:          Right.

B:        The, the 24thInfantry Division–


–was the very first unit that got into K–

I:          So, you left California on July–

B:        On–

I:          –14th.

B:        July 14th.

I:          And when did you arrive Pusan?

B:        The 2ndof August.

I:          Mmm hmm. So, you said that you participated in the Inchon Landing.

B:        Yes.

I:          Yeah, did you went to Inchon through the Pusan port and then through the ship?

B:        Well, [unintelligible] what happened, we went eastward from Pusan toward Chinju–


–because the North Koreans already captured Chinju–

I:          Mmm hmm. Yeah.

B:        –and their next objective was Masan.

I:          Masan?

B:        And they were going to Masan, and they would have made it if the Marine Brigade had not gone ashore. Because the Marine Brigade when out in the first week, about, somewhere around the 4thor 5thof August, they moved up into the front lines, and they hit the fourth, North Korean, Fourth Infantry Division. They hit them with not only their, with their six rifle companies–

I:          Mmm hmm.


B:        –who were well trained, but with their aviation. And, right off shore, we, we had Aircraft Carrier Badoeng Strait. And the Badoeng Strait had our Marine aircraft on it. Now, when our Marines prepared to go off into battle, there was a flight of planes overhead.  Would be that, we moved up in the daytime. Now, what happened was that Wolmido Island sat off shore of Inchon–

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        –and they determined that had to be taken in the–


–morning, and then the mainland in, in the afternoon, 12 hours later.

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        So, when they sent the, one of the battali-, one of the regiments that was, no one of the battalions, from the, who had been at Inchon, at, at Pusan, had already, had been fighting North Koreans for 39 days, with experience. They sent them in in the morning, about 4:30 in the morning of June, I-I’m sorry, September 15th.


They sent them in to capture Wolmido. And they had Wolmido captured by 10:00 in the morning. And those Marines wanted to go to Inchon, bec- but they said no, because we had the planes for the landing in the, in the afternoon, you can’t go in, you’ll be in the way. So, we had to sit on Wolmido all day, 12 hours, until the landing in the afternoon. And I was on the deck of the ship and suddenly, the landing was going to be at, I believe, 5:30 or 6:30 in the afternoon. And suddenly at–


–4:00, all the Navy ships opened up, BOOM.  And then the rocket ships were sent, voom voom voom. And all these rockets were going up into the city. The American airplanes, primarily Marines, were coming overhead, getting targets, and going in, and all of the sudden, by, within an hour, you couldn’t see Inchon, it was covered with smoke.  These are service medals, and, and one that I’m particularly proud of–

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        –when I joined the Marine Division in 1948, one of the first things they told me I had to get–


–a Presidential Unit Citation, which is this one, right here, with, with just the ribbon, no stars on it, because the first Marine Division had been awarded the medal during World War II–

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        –a couple of times. And anyone joining the division, had to wear the ribbon because the division had been awarded it.  So, while I was at Camp Pendleton, I wore this ribbon, with no stars on it, and I, I didn’t do anything to earn it, it was just that the division had it, it’s a unit.  Okay–


–now when I came, I went to Korea and spent 9 ½ months.

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        Now, in the American military forces, very few very few military organizations have been awarded a Presidential Unit Citation. I went to Korea, and in 9 ½ months, I came back and I was authorized four Presidential Unit Citations.

I:          Woah.

B:        One for the Pusan Perimeter, one for Inchon-Seoul, one for the Changjin, the Changjin Reservoir,–


–the Chosin Reservoir, and one for Central Korea. We were heading north, as our units were heading north on the 2ndof November, the 24thChinese Infantry Division attacked the 7thMarine Regiment. Now those are th-three to one odds, four to one odds. At nighttime. Unexpected. The 7thRegiment went up, but they had replaced a North Korean army unit, and the North–


–Kor-, I-I’m sorry, South Korean army unit.

I:          South Korean Army.

B:        The South Koreans had captured some Chinese soldiers, they had battles with Chinese soldiers. And so, they, they interviewed, or questioned, these soldiers. And they said that they, they were part of the 24thInfantry Division and the, I’m sorry, the 124thDivision. The 125thDivision was up ahead at Hagaru-ri and the 126thDivision was over at (Fujin) Reservoir that was a little further over east.

I:          Yeah.


B:        Then they said that they had come into Korea with the 9thArmy, Field Army, which consisted of six or eight armies. And each army had three or four, usually four, divisions in it. What had happened was that the Chinese army had come in across the Yalu River, they had told the Americans–


–if you come too close to the Yalu, we’re going to enter the water.  But, MacArthur did not believe that. The communists had just taken over China, the, in, a year before. And MacArthur did feel that they were ready for war and that the Chinese “peasants” were no match for the American fighting men. What he didn’t know, was that the army, our army, I think they had probably about 160,000 men in the 8thArmy–


–and we had 15,000 men up at the Chosin Reservoir.

[ABRUPT START] came back, fighting their way back out of (Yoon Yeon Li), they had seen no civilians, then all of the sudden, out of the woods, out of the caves–

I:          Uh huh.

B:        –out of caves–

I:          You saw them, came out?

B:        No, I didn’t see them, because I wasn’t there, they saw them. And they started following the Marines down, and then as they got down to Hagaru, more came out, more came out from up in the towns, up in the, where the army was. And as it came, it was like raindrops falling in the mountain and it building–


-up into a torrent.

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        By the time they got to Hungnam, the seaport, there were 99,000 civilians on the pier.

I:          Did you see them there?

B:        Well, I saw them yes.

I:          Oh, yeah.

B:        I don’t have any pictures of my own–

I:          Right, right, right.

B:        -but I’ve got pictures in a magazine.

I:          Yeah.

B:        Yes, they were there. And the ship next to us was a, a LST. And the, the hold in the LST was completely filled–

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        –with Korean civilians.

I:          Yeah.

B:        The deck was completely filled–

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        –with Korean civilians.


I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        There was a ship out in the harbor that was empty–

I:          Mmm.

B:        –except in the bottom hold in the front, there was 90,000 gallons of aviation gasoline.

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        That ship came in through the mine fields, but, that had an opening. But if they had hit one of those mines, it would have blown half of Hungnam apart.

I:          Yeah.

B:        90,000 gallons of fuel.

I:          Yeah.

B:        But they made it into the pier and the captain of the ship was up there and the loading officer, who was an army–


–man, called up and said how many civilians can you take aboard? And the captain said, 2,500, maybe 3,000. And they were next to our ship. So these Korean civilians had to leave all their stuff on the pier, climb up onto the ship, come across this ship, and out to the USS Victory. And so, they started p-, they took them in these empty holds, they put them down into the hold and pushed them back in. And then they put a cover up, partial. Then they brought more–


–in and put them in the second hold. Then the third hold, they were back through the whole ship.  Then they started putting them on the weather deck.  When the ship left Hamnung, Hungnam, it didn’t have 2,500 or 3,000. It had 14,000 people in it. Just like these Korean Civilians —

I:          Right, right.

B:        — were going in.  In fact, one of the ships, the LST 845, was taking Korean civilians out.

I:          Right.

B:        That was the ship that I went ashore on at Wonsan.

I:          Mmm hmm.


B:        At, in late October. I went ashore on the 845, now it’s right next to us, loading civilians

I:          Mmm hmm.  So, when did you came down to when did you come down to Pusan?

B:        Um, we probably got down there, I, we, we left there somewhere around the 15thof December.

I:          December.

B:        We probably got down to Pusan in one or two days. It wasn’t that far from Hamhung–

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        –Hungham down to Pusan.

I:          Mmm hmm, Mmm hmm.

B:        And when we got down there, then we moved over to–


–Masan and set up a camp, and we got new replacements in and new uniforms, got our, we spent a month rebuilding our division.

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        And then in January we left for Pohang, because there, there was guerillas operating in the area, North Korean guerillas.

I:          Guerillas, yeah.

B:        And so, we went on what they called Pohang guerilla hunt.

I:          Mmm.

B:        And then from there, in late February, we moved up into Andong and then were headed over to Wonju.


I:          Ahhh.  Andong is one of the most beautiful pristine place in terms of–

B:        Yes.

I:          –Yi Dynasty culture. What did you see there?

B:        I really don’t remember much about–

I:          Mmm.

B:        –’cause we were at the train station. And I showed you some of those pictures of the children.

I:          Right, yes.

B:        We were at the train station, so I didn’t really get to see the town at all.

I:          So, what happened to Andong?  After that, Andong?

B:        Well, after Andong, we moved up to Wonju, in the Wonju area.


I:          Hmmm.

B:        And I was there in, on the 5thof April, the 6thof April.

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        And I was in my tent in the morning, and the first sergeant came by, and he put his head in the door and he said, oh, good morning lucky, and he turned around. And I thought, nobody called me lucky, what-, and I, I went running out.  The 6thof April was my birthday and I went out and I said, first sergeant, what are you calling me lucky. And he said your orders are, you’re going back to the United States.

I:          Ooooo.

B:        Yeah. On my birthday.

I:          Ahhh, that’s a–

B:        But, the Chinese had–


–an attack going at the time and they held off until either the last week of Au-April, or the first week of May, before I finally got, went aboard ship, the George Antilog–

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        –and went to Japan-

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        –to Kobe–

I:          Mmm hmm.

B:        –and got new uniforms and everything, and then went back aboard the Antilog to California.

[End of Recorded Material]