Korean War Legacy Project

Warren Housten Thomas

Bio

Warren Housten Thomas, or Housten as he likes to be called, was born in Indiana in 1931.  After graduating from high school, he was wed, and was working a good paying mining job when he received a draft notice from the U.S. Army.  While this was not his desired path, he accepted the task and went to basic training where he was trained to be a combat engineer.  Training was also provided for tractor and scraping work.  While in Korea, Warren Thomas’s services were needed to clear roads as well as transport troops.  He is proud of his service and very thankful at the continued appreciation he has received from the government and citizens of the Republic of Korea.

Clips

Revisit to Korea

Warren Thomas revisited Korea and he appreciated how well the Korean civilians and the Republic of Korean government treated him. The streets were filled with civilians and he was excited to see the population surviving so well. Even after returning home to the United States, he continues to receive letters and presents from South Koreans.

Tags: Seoul,Civilians,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Pride,Prior knowledge of Korea,South Koreans

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0fKUgoq3U8&start=1505&end=1613

Fighting in the Punch Bowl

Warren Thomas was stationed in the "Punch Bowl" which was an area in Korea surrounded by hills and mountains. The Punch Bowl is an area south of the 38th parallel in the Gangwon Province. In between the mountains, drifts were 20 feet high which made it difficult to travel using his tractor.

Tags: Gangneung,Chinese,Cold winters,Fear,Front lines,Living conditions,Pride,Weapons

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0fKUgoq3U8&start=1026&end=1289

Letters Home

Warren Thomas had difficulties communicating with family back home. Most soldiers in the Korean War used letters to stay in contact with family. It took about 4 to 6 weeks to receive a letter.

Tags: Geumgang,Civilians,Home front,Letters,Living conditions,Personal Loss,Women

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0fKUgoq3U8&start=1325&end=1384

Hearing Trouble

Warren Thomas was affected by the artillery fire since it was so loud that it hurt his hearing. Airplanes flying over and mortars were going off all the time, but none of the soldiers received ear plugs. These are the reasons Warren Thomas believes he has hearing loss.

Tags: Gangneung,Front lines,Living conditions,Personal Loss,Pride,Weapons

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0fKUgoq3U8&start=888&end=1002

Video Transcript

I’m Warren Houston Thomas and I go by my
00:04
middle name Houston and I was borned in
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1931 in kale Indiana and
00:21
we moved to burn city when I was little
00:26
and then we moved on to Linton Indiana
00:31
and that’s reason why we left burn
00:35
cities on account of the ammunition
00:38
depot they built their crane crane
00:42
dindin and my and that’s where i was
00:50
drafted one now I there at Linton and I
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was drafted in 51 and I got out in 53 I
01:03
took my basic training at Fort Leonard
01:06
Wood Missouri and I went after my basic
01:18
training I want to tractor scraper
01:20
school and then from there they sent me
01:24
to camp stove in California for the trip
01:32
to Korea and I got their camps tolman in
01:42
May of 52 Oh bleep was and I got on the
01:49
general Debbie MBLAQ the ship and they
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was five thousand of us on the ship and
01:58
we stopped at Pearl Harbor Hawaii and
02:04
then from Hawaii we went to Okinawa let
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some the
02:13
troops off there at Okinawa because they
02:16
were a lot of men there that was doing
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work for that the that’s where a lot of
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the airports with that they’re in
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Oakland all and then from Okinawa we
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went went to Yokohama Japan and I was
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there about a day maybe I was overnight
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overnight and then they checked our
02:49
teeth and this and that and
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identification everything you know
02:55
before we load this back up and took us
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to Incheon Korea and then we went in on
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that landing craft and I was up the
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water up here when they dropped tail
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gate they engage their better to go out
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and a lot of times you’re not you don’t
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have to wait much water but it seemed
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like that I was one of them the dead and
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then we want they kept moving and went
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up to another thing to they was a these
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buildings had been hit by the Navy and
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there’s a lot of little children behind
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him buildings for the walls that’s
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always left them and then we’ll little
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ones they would come run out where we
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was at wanting something to eat so we
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would throw a more Syrians course we
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know we had more you know and they just
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dive in there after and I mean it was
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something to really I mean it was sad do
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you know to know that things like that
04:13
has to happen but but anyway we would
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kept on moving and we I ended up in the
04:23
punch bowl
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and it’s quite a few miles up for mincha
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and then I was in the Heartbreak Ridge
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area and I was with the 116th engineer
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combat battalion of the 19th engineer
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combat group and that 19th engineer
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combat group was the headquarters and I
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we course we used to come combat
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engineers you’ve got construction
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engineers and combat engineer nozzing
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the combat in there I was operated at a
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d7 or a d8 tractor dozer and I was out
05:27
in the opening all time no the machine
05:31
that I run had no top / no cab no
05:36
nothing he was out in the weather rain
05:39
or shine or snow or blizzard or whatever
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he was in it I mean he was out in in the
05:48
opening and then that’s what I of course
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I was in in the foxholes and trenches
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and bunk and bunkers and intense I never
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was on a wood floor never thought it was
06:11
always on the ground all the time i was
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there and then we eat them c-rations all
06:16
time and which you know you kind of and
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I did I lost quite a bit of weight and
06:29
but that’s something you know as a
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normal thing you know being
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on living in a condition and C rations
06:40
and and they did send to meet one time
06:47
to back to Japan for five days rest and
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recuperation they called it and I went
06:55
there for five days I was in Korea and
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osaka japan and they r you know you
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really rest for five days for lawyers
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errand then they need the bad part you
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go back to Warrior was apt to start with
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and you’re kind of dread to go back
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after leaving Japan you know and that
07:29
rest resting place but anyway I are left
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in 53 in in July 53 and it and it took
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me 34 days to come back I came back to
07:56
New York I left California and come back
08:00
to New York and went through the Panama
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Canal and it takes a day to go through
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there because it’s 52 mile believe it if
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52 mile and then you got those locks you
08:17
know they Louis raise the ship and
08:19
glower transferred from the from the
08:26
Pacific to the land but and then I came
08:33
to to capstone one or not camp Toma but
08:41
breaking rich Kentucky and that’s why i
08:44
was discharged separated
08:48
but I I was glad that I went though and
08:56
served my time but if if I had you know
09:05
if we hadn’t to went there the United
09:08
States hadn’t went to Korea and saved
09:12
the Republic of South Korea they
09:15
wouldn’t have that freedom today you
09:19
know just like that city that I sewell
09:22
there the capital it wouldn’t look like
09:25
that it would be a dark under communism
09:30
dictator but I’m really thankful that
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I’m lamb when you were first drafted
09:40
kind of going back in your story when
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you were first drafted like how did that
09:44
feel or what you know what were you
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thinking at that time oh well I tell you
09:49
what we me and my wife we’re still
09:53
married and we got married we just got
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married in April and then I got this
10:01
good job i was making two dollars an
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hour which was union wages at the mine
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coal mine and it was good ever sixteen
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dollars a day boy it was two dollars and
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three cents an hour what it mounted to
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two dogs and three cents off and I got
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that good job and then I ended up I got
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it in this spray right after what we got
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married and then in October the 18th or
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well before that I got my notice that I
10:51
take a physical and then I was inducted
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october they 18
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and of course my seniority went on there
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at that mind you know when I left but
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they shut down about the same time I got
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home and they told me that they were
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down but it would shut down but I would
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have my job back if I if they were still
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working but anyway that was the bad Bart
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just got married I and then I got that
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good job and then I was drafted but
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that’s part of it that’s you know I
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really i’m not complaining about it but
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i remembered yeah so when you first
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arrived at Inchon what was that like
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what were you well i was we was on the
12:01
ship and we had to go down over the side
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see with them rope ladders and then down
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into the landing craft and this real
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good friend of mine John Bosh he was a
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German and he lived from he from North
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Dakota and he he he didn’t want to get
12:29
off you know go down on and I said Marsh
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his name was boss John Bosh I said just
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get up and we’ll get on the craft and
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we’ll be there and and get something
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else on your mind he was what he was he
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a little bit Larry you know of course it
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it’s not easy to do something like him
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oh you got all you got your pack and you
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got your rifle and you got all your pen
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C rations and so we unloaded or got
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loaded on the landing craft
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and then they go in with the tide and
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it’s only way you can get in you’ve got
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to go in they have a time the Navy does
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and they we went in with the tide and
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then they had to come back out with the
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tide to get another load you know well
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so that worked out okay that everything
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was right on time you know and and then
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that’s then we like I said them children
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you know came out from behind them
13:50
buildings and they were hungry and we
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throw her C rations to him but anyway we
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kept on moving we went up this railroad
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track and then we came to a bridge that
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had been hit with artillery and it was
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knocked out so we had to get on trucks
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up there we on the back of them trucks
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and we went for all I don’t know I was
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up there I think was around 50 mile
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north where I ended up at but it it’s
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quite an experience oh you mean you
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don’t forget it it stays with you but
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but it you know it’s an experience I
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wonder neethan mark Hillary guns you
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know and they was eight of them and the
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barrel was up over the road and I took
14:56
his tractor underneath of them and of
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course this airplane that’s our killer
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II airplane is up on he’s there where
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the enemy is over and he the man in the
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plane he calls the artillery people and
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and tells them when too far they’re them
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105 artillery rounds and I was right
15:27
in the middle of them and he told him
15:30
too far and when he tells them far they
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have to regardless what who’s around her
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and I mean that tractor I was on that
15:42
dozer it just like that and Mike I
15:46
thought my head was going to come off I
15:49
mean the noise and they had course them
15:52
once it’s on the artillery guns they got
15:54
them ear plugs in their ears you know
15:57
and then I didn’t have nothing in my ear
16:02
but I had my ears checked all had been
16:06
about 10 years ago and I ask that man I
16:11
didn’t tell him I was in Korea or
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nothing you know I didn’t he mention it
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I said what would cause my my ears to be
16:23
in that shape well he said I’ll tell you
16:25
what’s happened it’s been a loud real
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loud noise a long time ago I said well
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okay I know what it is I’ve always said
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that even before i went to to have my
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ears checked and then more children guns
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I voice said that that’s what caused my
16:48
ear ear drums to being the shape they’re
16:51
in I got two hearing aids but there’s
16:55
sometimes I don’t hear very good even
16:57
with them that really well I know that’s
17:04
what done it your time at the punch
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fallen in that area what was that light
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can you paint a picture for me in the
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punch bowl the puck the punch bowl was a
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big it was a just like a big bowl I
17:22
can’t remember how many miles it was
17:26
crossed it you know but mountains all
17:29
way around it and I would work I would
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be in there mountains and
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this spatial one spatial day or what
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special time I mean we they with a lot
17:52
of troops and trucks and equipment
17:54
trying to get up this hair mountain road
17:59
that we had built and that blizzard that
18:03
snow was so bad it was like 20 feet high
18:09
the the the wind had blown dem snow
18:14
drifts up 20 feet high and or some of
18:19
them was even higher than that and
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Robert and then along the road or the
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road up the long side the mountain would
18:28
be a lot of times in some places just be
18:31
a drop I mean way down I don’t like
18:35
thousands of feet so this lieutenant are
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the the platoon leader he told two men
18:49
to go up one of them was like I was he
18:52
was a tractor operator and he was a
18:54
dozer up at the top of the mountain and
18:59
he warned him to go up there these two
19:02
men to go get it but they was three
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guards up there around it and they got a
19:09
little ways up there and they come back
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and they told the lieutenant says we
19:14
couldn’t make it so I heard him say that
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and the lieutenant said Thomas he called
19:22
me but my last name its way it always
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was he called me by my last name he said
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Thomas he said let’s go and that meant
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an order you know you was ordered to go
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and he took off and this lieutenant did
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and I I didn’t stay up with him but I
19:47
had to crawl always top up mountain I’ll
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never forget
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and thats not you couldn’t see your hand
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in front of you if we just bought the
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wind was blowing so hard I’m the snow
20:03
that you couldn’t say end you just had
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to try to stay it make sure you was on
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the road that you didn’t get over too
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far and and gold with side well I I’ll
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never will forget that and I crawled I
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never I can’t remember ever walking if
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we just crawl but then you know me being
20:31
21 years old I could do a lot of things
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I can’t do now I mean it it was but
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anyway I got up there I got the tractor
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started that bothered me I figured
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everything it would be froze up you know
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that I couldn’t get it started but I did
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I got started and the men got on the
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tractor the three guards and the
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lieutenant and I opened the road back
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come down and then I got down there and
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so I got them off the tractor and then
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he tells me to turn around and go back
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and and clean it off you know and so
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she’d get the troops through and
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equipment and so I did I got them all up
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there and he told me I tell you what he
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told me it’s lieutenant he said I’m
21:34
gonna put you in for a reward but I
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never did I already get it he said I’m
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gonna put you in for room or cuz he said
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you done and out he told me I’d done an
21:50
outstanding job and that’s all I ever
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heard so I didn’t I didn’t get anything
21:57
but but he could have put me in but
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there’s a lot of things they wouldn’t
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you know it was hard to keep a wreck
22:07
or anything where were just like mail I
22:09
get mail from my wife maybe had taken a
22:13
month or or six weeks before I could
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ever get and it was with that mail and
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then they would be some men tell me that
22:27
that their their parents had died or
22:32
somebody in close to the family brother
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sister maybe it been a month ago and
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they just got to report but now it’s
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just you back and forth now you can send
22:45
it I don’t know how they did but you
22:49
know but I don’t but then it took five
22:54
or Tucker five six weeks it was
23:00
altogether different in is now earlier
23:04
before we started you said one of the
23:06
things that you remember is you know the
23:07
enemy and how many there were the
23:10
animation we would be outnumbered
23:16
probably a kid Chinese it be one bus ten
23:25
to one yeah so a thousand Chinese be how
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many of us so I’d be at we was
23:40
outnumbered all time and how did that
23:45
feel that contrasts well that it don’t
23:50
feel very safe but you’re you know you
23:55
take basic like I took basic training at
23:58
Fort Leonard Wood and they give they
24:03
done a real good job down getting
24:05
training but at the time the way they
24:10
treated this it was you wouldn’t believe
24:13
it they don’t I don’t think he’d do that
24:17
no more but they would
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they well they took a hold of you there
24:25
them by the shirt collar and this and
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that it was rough it was rough and but
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that really you know help to be in a
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place like fria IRA preciate the the
24:47
basic training that they give us down
24:50
there but at the time I thought they was
24:53
mean to us but they wouldn’t they tell
25:00
you where it is and that’s what you go
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by you said you went on the revisit
25:07
program what was that like oh it was
25:09
right I tell you what that was a bet
25:11
Evan I believe that’s the best trip that
25:14
I went on because they was the nice to
25:17
us they couldn’t just seem like they
25:20
couldn’t be nice enough it was just and
25:26
you got your meals and they you didn’t
25:30
pay for it and you didn’t and your hotel
25:33
room you didn’t pay for it and we was
25:37
there for five days and they would take
25:40
a load us up on bus as you know and take
25:43
his hair and there and show us a sand
25:47
and the people on the sidewalks if the
25:51
sidewalks was just loaded with people
25:53
walk and they would and on the side of
25:58
the bus we was on it had korean war
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veterans and the people on the streets
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would it’s loot but are you saluting all
26:09
come they was a nicest place i’ve ever
26:13
had and i get mail I get things from
26:19
them today letters and bissonnet and and
26:25
I got a letter from the president from
26:29
of course they got my address
26:32
are you know and real nice I should have
26:39
brought it to and you could read it but
26:46
but i don’t know i’m really thankful
26:49
that I was part of it you know