William Beastrom was born on August 20, 1932 in Harrold, South Dakota. Although he was drafted into the Army, the wait time was “killing” him so he enlisted into the Navy so he could start in the spring of 1952. After basics in San Diego, he shipped to Pearl Harbor to board the destroyer, the USS Radford, as a gunners mate for the duration of the war while working along side Task Force 77. Their main mission was security as well as search and rescue missions for downed pilots and their planes. He is proud to have served in the armed forces and glad he made the choice to join the Navy.
Most Harrowing Moment Aboard the USS Radford
William Beastrom describes his most dangerous day aboard ship. The USS Radford entered Osan Harbor to assist a cargo ship that was out of ammunition and was being fired upon. He explains that his ship was running low on rounds also but they were able to intimidate the enemy with what they had, leading to their cease fire.
Life Inside A Destroyer
William Beastrom describes the terrible living conditions aboard the USS Radford. He recalls the profuse sweat and horrible smells inside the ship that did not have air conditioning. He explains that due to a water shortage, the shower routine had to be altered; the men would have to wet down, shut the water off, soap up, and rinse off. Some men even chose not to take a shower.
Food and Entertainment on the Destroyer
William Beastrom describes the only form of recreation aboard ship was watching movies whilest standing. He explains that hot meals were usually available, but they were often low on food and had to eat everything that was given to them. He recalls that much of their food was bug infested and describes finding a cockroach in his macaroni and the baker picking weevils off of the bread.
Near Collateral Damage
William Beastrom explains that the enemy were known to booby trap boats with explosives in order to sink enemy ships. He describes an occasion when a boat was approaching their ship and his captain had to choose to fire or not fire on it in order to prevent his own ship from being damaged. He describes the relief he felt that they did not fire on the boat, for it carried American Marines and they would have surely killed them had they fired upon them.
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
I: William. Middle initial?
I: E. Last name?
W: Beastrom, B E A S T R O M.
I: Beastrom. Right. This is, it’s August 24, 2016, Pierre, South Dakota. My name is Jongwoo Han. I am the President of Korean War Legacy Foundation which has more than 900 interviews like this
I: And we have a, more than 8,000 pictures and artifacts related to Korean War.
I: This is to honor your service and preserve your memory, but at the same time we want to use this interviews for education
W: Oh yeah.
I: because American history textbook doesn’t tell much about the Korean War, that the war that you fought for.
I: So we want to use this as a digital
history textbook on the Korean War
W: Oh yeah.
I: And, so that we can teach our young childrens to know more about the war that you fought for us. alright?
I: So, it is my great honor and pleasure to meet you. Unfortunately in the hospital. I hope that you can get out of here as soon as possible.
W: I do to, yeah.
W: I can’t walk. I can’t walk by myself, but, but
I: Keep speaking.
W: Yeah, it’s
I: Yeah, speak please.
W: Yeah, I guess, I guess I can try to remember the best I can. But dates and stuff is, aren’t, are gone.
I: No problem. Would you please introduce yourself, your name and spell it for the audience please?
I: Your name. Spell it.
W: B E A S T R O M.
I: Your first name is
W: William E.
I: What is your birthday?
W: August 20, 1932.
I: Where were you born?
W: I was born at Harrold, South Dakota.
I: Right here.
W: In my, in my home
and, yeah, I wanted you to get a tape of that for I, I witnessed the first hydrogen bomb test that was
I: Oh you are going far too advanced.
I: Let me ask you question. Tell me about your family when you were growing up, your parents and your siblings when you were growing up. Tell nme about it.
W: Okay. You know, I don’t recall if they made any big farewell deal for me when I left or when I come back. I was, I was, I was living with my parents not too far from here, and, and when I left home dad just took me to the bus station
and left me off, and that was about it. When I come home, I hitchhiked home from San Francisco where I got discharged, and, and I just walked in the house and mom was home alone if I remember right, and that’s, that was my coming and going.
But, but, you know, I don’t recall any big parties or anything that they had for me.
I: Um hm. When did you graduate high school?
I: When did you graduate high school?
W: I didn’t go to high school.
I: Uh huh.
W: No. I didn’t get to go to high school so I just, I went to work right out of grade
I: Um hm. Did you know anything about Korea?
W: Not a thing.
I: Not a thing.
W: I might have been able to spell it, but that’s about it.
I: That’s about it.
W: No, I sure didn’t.
I: Could you speak a little bit up?
W: I’ll try.
W: I’ll probably have to sleep today for some reason, but
I: When did you join the military?
W: I joined in April of, of ’52.
I: What, Army? Did you join the Army?
W: You know, I was drafted into the army.
I: Um hm.
W: But the longer I, then I had to wait to, for, to, to get, to call for, for duty, and that bothered me that I didn’t think that I could shoot a man standing in front of me,
and I worried a lot about that, and I [inaudible] so I decided to join the Navy instead.
I: When did you join the Navy?
W: That was the 10th, I think, the 10th of, of April in 1952.
I: Um. Where did you get the basic military training?
W: In San Diego, California.
I: Was there any special training for Navy?
W: No, it was easier than the Marines. [LAUGHS] That’s another thing. I was going to bring up was I think you, you’d be better to interview the Marines and the Army because they, they’d seen a lot worse stuff than I did. But
I: John is sitting here. He’s Vietnam veteran
I: And he is Marine.
Female Voice: Oh wow.
W: Yeah. I felt the, the, them people
seen a lot and, and did a lot more than I did. But, and
I: You’re very humble.
W: Well, it’s a, it’s a fact, so.
I: And from there, San Diego, where did you go?
W: Well then, I, I took, I had a 15-day leave, and then sent me across to catch my ship, and they sent [inaudible] for it was in Pearl Harbor.
And, Oh I lost my credit card or my ID card. Some, some, son of a buck stole it during the night. I was in an outgoing unit waiting to be shipped out the next morning for Pearl Harbor, and a bunch of guys shooting craps under a nightlight there
and I’m sure, I’m pretty sure that’s where my billfold went. But, and I even had it, I even had it into, in my pillow because I thought it was safe. I put it inside my pillow case and went to sleep and I, I don’t know yet how they could reach under that pillow and get that out of there without waking me up, but they did.
I: They good. [LAUGHS]
W: And then, so here I am
being shipped out, and I don’t have any ID.
I: So when did you arrive in Korea?
W: Oh, I don’t recall how long, how long it was that we was aboard ship. It probably just guessing probably about days
I: Um hm.
W: going across on a cargo ship, and had a real nice welcome in,
in Hawaii when I got there. Anyhow, I had a, I had a real good, my ship was a destroyer and, and it had a real good, exec., executive officer on there because he, he overlooked several things for me when. But I, I, I just, just felt like I was in trouble
all the time, but it, but some of it was on my ID, and the, everything worked out all right. So, but he, he was real good, he was real good about helping me get through that time. So
I: Where did you go in Korea? When did you arrive in the ocean around the Korean Peninsula?
W: That would have been in January of
W: ’53, yes.
I: And what was your mission?
W: To operate with a, with a DAS 470, 7.47 I think it is, isn’t it?
I: Um hm.
W: the other thing. So, and we operated with DAS 47, or is it 77? I can’t remember now. But
but anyhow, you know, that was our, that was, Our mission was to operate with the task force off, off the coast of Korea.
I: Where were you, in the East Sea or West Sea?
W: Oh boy. All I remember about it is Wonsan Harbor.
W: Wherever that I s.
I: That’s the East Sea.
I: Yeah. And what did you do actually: What did your ship do?
W: I was, I was a gunner’s mate. I worked on the guns, on the big, bigger guns, and then get them firing and so forth.
I: So you, your ship destroyer or bombed North Korea in 1953, right?
W: Did what, pardon?
I: Did your destroyer bomb North Korea in 1953?
I: Yeah. What was your target?
W: Well, we had several targets. We’d, we’d, when they sent us in, all parading out in the task force, we were just there for security for those aircraft carriers.
I: Aircraft carrier.
W: And, and we’d, we’d do, we’d get sent out once in a while to pick up a downed plane and their pilot. Some of them we, some of them we found, most of them we didn’t. But
the, yeah, I don’t know that, that, we, our, our ship was a, was a anti-aircraft ship, aircraft ship, ship. It was, our main purpose was anti, antiaircraft,
and also submarine. We had, we had torpedoes in, and well, we didn’t have the torpedoes back then. They put them on the ship later. But, but they, but they were bombers later in, in the war. And we had, what they called, the depth chargers for,
for subs, and you couldn’t, you couldn’t have paid me enough to get on a submarine and see what them things would do.
I: Um hm.
W: But, but yeah, that’s, that, that was our main war, warfare was in the aircraft and, and, and the
I: Do you remember when there was a dangerous moment during your service in the ship, in the destroyer?
W: Well, probably the most dangerous was at Wonsan Harbor. They, they sent, we were, we, this cargo ship didn’t get out there when it was supposed to, and we run plum out of ammunition,
and, and the ship that was in the harbor, they had to have a ship in the harbor at all times because they, they’d blow them out of the water so you didn’t have, and, and they’re only on the, the, We, we understood that they was British Marines had a hilltop there close by that they could get up on and, and
direct firing for the ships,
and we had to keep them, keep them guys on their toes so they would, so they would keep the ship in there at all times to, to keep them, they were on three sides they had them on, and they, and they, whenever the ship
was, was out of ammo or wood, they, they’d fire on that hilltop and try to get the Marines off of there. And usually if we’d fire on them, why they’d, they’d cease fire. They didn’t, they couldn’t reach as good as we could, and, and some of this is my opinion of what I understood it to be.
But, but yeah. That, they, they, anyhow we were out of ammunition, we were just about out. We just had a few rounds left I remember, and the Captain told us that we, we were going in to relieve the ship that as in there. They were plum out of ammo, and the, and the enemy was, was trying to sink them, and
they, they were firing on the ship real heavy when we went through the harbor into the mouth of the harbor, and they, we went to the mouth of the, of the harbor there where the Captain come on and said that we were pretty near out of ammo. We had like 30 or 35 rounds of it I think and, and he said
that we’re gonna go in like we’re loaded and we fire everything that we got, and, and we did, and then they, they, they ceased fire, and, and they never fired one round at us while we was in there, and it worked real good. But that was probably the most hairiest one.
I: Um hm.
W: Time [inaudible]
I: What was the name of destroyer?
W: Radford, yes.
I: Um. How big was it? Tell me about the whole destroyer.
W: Well, I, I can’t remember for sure how many men there was on there. I would guess there were about 300 men on the ship.
I: Um hm.
W: And the ship was about 360’ long. We had two
5” gun mounts on it, and, and I think we had three, two 3” gun mounts on there for antiaircraft and several, several depth charge stands where we could just roll them off the ship and, and then I
can’t remember a lot about that now, but, I gotta get a drink of water.
I: Um hm. Are you okay?
W: Yeah, I’m okay.
I: Good, good.
W: Had a real dry mouth.
I: Um hm. So the destroyer was pretty big.
W: Well, it was small to major battleships, you know. But yeah, it was, it was a pretty small ship actually.
I: What was your unit?
W: The unit, I don’t know. I remember we, we had two, two of our sister ships
was the Obana, O, Obannon and the, the Fletcher were two of our ships that were called our sister ships, and
I: Did you belong to the 7th Fleet?
I: 7th Fleet?
I: Um hm. And what was your rank?
W: I was a Gunner’s Mate, 2nd Class.
I: Second Class
which is equivalent of Corporal?
W: I was the 2nd, I was actually a Second Class Petty Officer, and, and my, my rank, grade, my rank was, was a, was a Second Class Gunner’s Mate.
I: Um hm.
W: And, and I got that, I got that, I didn’t have that during Korea, during
the war. I got that later. But I, most of the time I was in Korea, I was a Seaman.
I: Tell me about the life inside of the destroyer. Where did you sleep? What did you eat? How was life?
W: Yeah, that was, that was bad. The, the sweat and the stink, and there was no air conditioning.
I: No air conditioning?
W: No air conditioning.
I: But did you take a shower, right, every day?
W: Yeah, you can take a shower, but there, there was a water shortage. You’d get done, you, [inaudible] up and wet, wet down and shut the water off and, soap down then rinse off and, and it was, there was a few people who didn’t take a shower.
I: So very stinky, huh?
Yeah. They, it was terrible them, them apartments. I remember, well, that was, that, that wasn’t quite so bad in Korea because it was not cold over there. [inaudible] Our first duty was, with that ship, was witnessing that hydrogen bomb test.
I: I’m sorry.
W: That was down in the Marshall Islands, in the Marshall Islands.
I: When was it?
W: It was in late ’52. Because we got back from that, and they sent us to Korea. So they sent [inaudible] in November or December of ’52, just guess, guessing again. But
I: So you were there watching this hydrogen bomb test before you come to Korea?
I: Uh huh.
W: That was a horrible thing to see.
W: That was a, We were 35 miles away from it as I remember out, out to sea, and it went off and, and they had built houses and built a house on the land on the end of an island called Enewetak Island, and they were
trying to determine what, what it would do to people. So they put dummies in the house around a table so,so they could witness what affect it would have on people, and of course the atomic bomb was one that they had at that time, and anyhow, they, they, and they put a car out in front of the house
with dummies in it, and they wanted to find out what it would do, and when they, when they got done, the, the whole end, the whole south end of that island was gone, and they said you could set, set the Empire State Building in the hole that it left underneath it and [inaudible]. That’s why I don’t believe that they had any idea how big that bomb was. But we come back
by there later and they was, they was, they was gone on that end of the island.
I: Oh, so you, you saw what they set up, and then you went there to see after they, the bomb goes off?
W: Yeah, yeah. You couldn’t
I: You saw it?
W: Yeah. I’d seen it, well I’ve see it, couldn’t see it because there was nothing left. But yeah. That tank is really pretty good about [inaudible] explains a little better.
I: Um hm.
But that, that stem of the, of the, of the bomb going off was, was, just looked like death itself. I mean, it was, it took massive red flame and, and coal black smoke just angled mass up to, into the mushroom. But like I said, we was 35 miles away from it, and two minutes after it went off we were
able to open the porthole and look out at it, and the mushroom was just going over the top of us.
I: Um hm.
W: And that’s 70 miles in diameter.
I: Very fearful.
W: Yeah, yeah. But, but anyhow, yeah. That was a, that was a frightful thing to see.
I: Let’s go back to Korea now. Were you able to write letters?
W: Oh yea.
I: From the ship?
W: That’s all.
I never made one phone call for four years.
I: Um hm.
W: that I was in the service. I, I got one phone call from my brother when I was in an outgoing unit getting discharged, and he, my brother wanted to meet me some, he was in Denver, and he wanted to meet me there somewhere, and I could ride home with him. But it, it didn’t work out. We didn’t get our, get together on our dates and so.
But no, I never, now they call, we call the kids all the time when they’re in the service. But I never, never got one phone call while I was in there.
I: No, I’m asking you to see if you wrote a letter, letter.
W: If what?
I: You, did you, did you write letter back to your family?
W: Oh yeah, we wrote letters all the time, yeah.
I: How often did you get the mail from your family?
W: How old was I?
I: How often did you get the mail from?
W: Oh, I don’t know.
It, I’d say I’d get a letter probably twice a week from the folks.
I: Um hm.
I: And you were not married at the time?
I: Were you married?
I: No. Um hm.
W: And I’m kind of thankful for that, yeah.
I: Did you have a girlfriend?
W: Well, kind of when I went in, but, but that didn’t last very long.
I: Okay. What kind of entertainment did you have
in the ship? Did you watch movie or did you play sports? What did you do?
W: We showed movies is the only thing we had for recreation was, it was show movies. Usually you have to stand up and watch them.
I: Stand up and watching?
I: Why? There’s no chair?
W: Wasn’t enough chairs to
W: And the, yeah. The movies was pretty important to us, too. But
I: How was food?
I: Food. How was food? Eating?
W: Well, there’s another thing. That, we run out when there was a cargo ship and get out there, we run out of ammunition and we’d run out of food, and
I: You could fishing.
W: I was just telling Taryn, yeah, that I, I remember taking cockroaches out of my
macaroni and slide them under the edge of the dish and, and take a few of the ground kernels that when you cooked them and slip them under the dish and keep right on eating because that’s all you had. There was one time we put a, [inaudible] for some K-rations.
I: Um. So you have a C-ration there?
W: No, it was all cooked meals.
I: All cooked meals.
I: But not always you run out of food, right?
I: You had enough food, but sometimes you lack of food, right?
W: Well, this, this food was, had weevils in it and long weevils. But bread, I went in one night to get something from the baker to, to eat, and he was, had loaves of bread set up there, about 25 loaves I suppose, and he was setting there picking like that and I asked him what are you doing, and he said
well, I picked a few of these weevils off the outside so they don’t show. But he said when you cut the slice, they’re all in there you know. But we, we just kind of fired their cooks so you get protein with your bread. But anyhow, it was a, and that, I remember one time we had these little boxes of cereal, dry cereal, and that powdered milk. I couldn’t stand
that darn stuff. But you could use it on cereal with a little sugar, and you could use it. But I went down to the, I, I, I could do without breakfast if I had my coffee if for some reason we always, we always had coffee it seems like.
I: Um hm.
W: And anyhow, the, I got, I’d go down and get it, down the galley and, and then
pour my cereal in the dish and pour the milk on top of it, and then I’d set there and watch it, and if it floated, floated weevils to the top, why I wouldn’t eat it. And I did that one morning. This guy setting right across from me at the steel tables and steel deck, everything’s steel, you know, down there, anyhow I poured that cereal in there and then I set there and watched it, and if weevils floated to the
top and he threw the damn spoon down as hard as he could, bounced across the deck and said damn you, Beastrom. I could have ate this crap if you hadn’t of showed them to me. But that’s all, that’s about all we had, you know. So rice, we had rice, and that had weevils in it, and then sometimes a cockroach, and rice
and macaroni and, and cereal, dry cereal.
I: Um hm.
W: They seemed like they had plenty of that. I always said that was a kind of tough time through there without, with, when they run out of chow.
I: Had you been attacked by North Koreans?
W: Did we, were we attacked?
W: Uh, yeah, when we would float down the,
shore [inaudible] along that way, we’d go down the ship, they’d, they’d fire at us from the, from the coast, they, but they couldn’t reach us, you know.
W: They, and as soon as they’d fire on us, first they gave us our, their, gave, their position away to us and, and we’d fire back. But, but yeah. There was one guy, I remember, an old farmer leading a cow, and he lead that cow
right through a bunch of, of shelling going on, and didn’t seem to concern him a lot.
I: Hm. Were you able to see him?
W: I, not close up, you know. We, we, we were at least two miles away from the shore.
I: Well, how did you see them?
W: I could, I, we had field glasses and I could look through them once in a while if I got up to the, up to the,
to the, to the, we had a lookout on the top of the mount where the Capt., the Captain of the mount would look and, and they’d get out there and then a few times I got to crawl up on the ladder there and look out the top.
I: And there was no North Korean Navy battleship, right?
W: Is, is what?
I: North Korean enemy naval battleship.
Did you see any enemy battle, battleship?
W: No, I don’t think I did.
I: So you are completely superior to North Korea, right?
W: Yeah. I don’t remember seeing North Korean ship. We seen some Russian ships while we were over there.
I: Really? Did they attack you? Did they attack you?
W: No. No.
I: What did they do then?
W: Well, they just do, actually we took some prisoners one time off a Russian ship.
I: Did you capture them?
W: Well, you know, I didn’t, I, I was just a Seaman and I don’t remember that there was any fighting going on, but, but, but I remember we took a few Russian prisoners off the ship
I: Russian prisoner. Wow, that’s
I: In the, in the sea?
W: Yeah, out to sea, yes.
I: That’s, I never heard about it.
W: After, after the cease fire, we, they sent us to, names are terrible, the, the [inaudible] China, God, I can’t say the name of the, the people down in, that we rescued them off of a hermosa
I: Um hm. Hermosa, yeah.
W: Yeah, it was Changkai Chek I think it was.
I: Yeah. When did you leave Korea?
W: Well, we left the Korean waters right after the cease fire.
I: I see. And what did you do after that?
W: What did I what?
I: Yeah. What did you do after that?
W: Well, just routine Navy stuff I guess.
We got, we got a lot more military in our living inspections and things like that. But, but yeah. It, it was a, got a lot more military after the war seemed and time to have inspections and so forth.
I: You never landed on Korean soil, right?
I: You never landed in Korean soil?
W: No I never did, no.
I: Um hm.
W: We went twice I think we went, 35 days without seeing land.
I: Um. Have you been back to Korea after that?
I: No. Do you know about the modern Korea right now? Korean society, Korean economy?
W: Oh yeah, some, some.
I: What do you know?
W: Your, your country gave me an award here just a few months ago.
I: Were you, were you in the Capital building when they awarded the medal?
I: I was there, too.
W: Oh yeah. I thought you probably were, yeah.
I: Um hm.
W: That was a, quite an honor for me.
I: I mean, we want to thank you because you fight for our nation, and now Korea is 11th largest economy in the world.
I: That small country. It’s a small, little bit bigger than Indiana state, but much smaller than South Dakota
W: There’s something that always puzzled me is that little country of Japan declaring war on the United States like they did. That just blows my mind away. Why, why they thought they could, why they thought they could
win a war with as small as they were.
I: Yeah, but I’m talking about Korea, not Japan.
W: Yeah, right.
I: And that Japan colonized Korea for all time, but now we are very strong in economy, and it’s just very substantive democracy.
I: So we were able to develop our country after you fought for us.
I: Um hm.
W: Yeah. I’m glad things worked out that way, too.
I: Yeah, but, so it was very successful. The outcome of the Korean War was very successful, but we don’t teach much about it. Why is that? We don’t in the United States, we don’t teach about this Korean War, not much.
W: Yeah, I don’t know much about that I guess.
I: So that’s why we are doing this.
I: Students in some school will listen from you because we going to put this one on the Internet. So
anybody from anywhere at any time can listen this, and they will learn more about, you played the role in the Korean War as a Navy Seaman, right? Yeah.
W: Yeah. I can understand that now.
I: Are you proud of your service?
W: Did what?
I: Are you proud of your service.
W: I was. I was never ever sorry I went in to change from going into the Navy instead of the Army.
I come out alive for one thing.
I: Um hm.
W: But, no. I’ve, I’ve, I’ve never been sorry, and I think I learned a lot in the military. I think a stint in the military will help most kid I think.
I: Yeah. What is your message to our young generation about the war that you fought for? Do you have anything to say about the, your experience?
W: Well, I did just, I guess just that I’m glad it worked out the way it did, that you got, kept your freedom and like, like Vietnam, you know. They, they didn’t gain much, but it, Korea lays free and helped them keep their freedom.
So that’s still helping them I guess. They still have, have problems with North Korea. But, and that, that North Korean President worries me.
W: Yeah. He’s a
Female Voice: Ask him about the dark ship.
Female Voice: That was the story he was telling me earlier today.
I: Tell me about the dark ship. Your daughter asking me to ask you about it.
W: The what?
Female Voice: The dark ship and flying over with the tubes?
W: Well, yeah, over in, We had blackouts, you know, and you’d have no lights outside at all. If you went in a hatch, you had to turn or come out of a hatch you had to turn the lights out before you come out so and, and it was,
that was, guy’s were hard to put up with. We had, one time a plane was coming in. We were, the carrier was here, and we were right back on over here. Planes would come in make a circle and come in and land on the carriers. And we were standing out on the deck of our ship just talking and visiting, and,
and they all made, all of a sudden we heard a plane rev up and we looked up and you could just see the outline of the plane in the dark, and he, he just about took the mast off our ship that was, there was a close, close call. All we had
was on the ship was a little red light and, on the mast so they could see that it was there, and he’d get pretty close to it before you could see it. But the funny part about it is I was a small world. About two weeks later this fellow had a friend that was a pilot, and this, he got a letter from him, and he, he said he wanted, tell his father he just about took the masts off of the top of a ship, and
that was, his friend was flying that plane.
W: But, any elements of that, that was kind of a coincidence and maybe the writing just to the same plane.
I: Any other story that you remember to share with me?
Female Voice: Can you tell them about the red tubes?
W: Well, there was only carrier
shells that were tubes pointing back like this and up, and the planes, man them guys had to have a lot of guts.
W: They, they didn’t circle around till they’d see them tubes on the flight deck on the carrier.
W: And then they’d come in to land on them, and they couldn’t, that all they had to go by was them [inaudible] little tubes and red lights and sirens.
I: That’s how they landed in a
I: You know, short runway in the back.
W: And they had to catch that cable because if they didn’t, they went off in the drink.
W: We, we picked up, one plane that we couldn’t pick up to the passengers also that made it. And I think it might have been the only one. He was probably called out, either for or five times. Get set out to look for a plane that went down,
and but, that, that one time there was a torpedo ship when a plane went down, and they have a torpedoman that set it in a little bubble underneath it, and he has a sonarman and he could, he could read the sonar in one hand he can read, read the sonar and tell, point out where this, where the submarine is, and anyhow, the plane went
down, and they got, they got on the plane alright and was, was had found their little boat to get into. But they didn’t have their sonar men with them. And they hollered and hollered, and this, this pilot was, sonarmen was a, was his, was high prayer, part of his party, you know.
and he was a wing, anyhow he said all he could think about is the sonarman was an alcoholic, and then he wanted to go on the beach tonight before and his, and he wouldn’t let him go.
W: because he knew he was coming back drunk and be all disoriented. So, but he felt real bad about it and he said he couldn’t let him go, and anyhow
he, we, we got him aboard ship and then not a, no, none got hurt at all, and they went in, the wind was blowing pretty hard, and they went through a steel hatch into a ward room to check him over. We had a corpsman is all we had on that ship
W: was a corpsman, and they took him into the ward room to
check him over and, and they [inaudible] on his hands, broke his hand right through there , and, and and he got, he got a, he said he thought he went down probably 100’ guessing that it probably seemed like longer than that, but, and anyhow he got, he, he lived through it, but he had a hell of a sore hand.
I: Um hm.
W: But it was, but, yeah, they, they, a lot of times we found shrapnel or pieces of plane. We had big, big flood lamps. We’d hit the water with that all the, every colored fish that you can imagine and size and shape would come to top of the water, and
and then I remember than, and then we’d just leave him, just shine it on the water, and the fish would just go right up to top.
W: But, but yeah. That’s a, well, that, that’s a, that’s a story about the, about the ship, the ships and planes
landing on the, that was spooky to even to watch, you know. I don’t know how them guys could do that.
Female Voice: Can you tell him about the, when you were bombarding the shoreline, and the boats were coming out, and the Marines, and the one boat?
W: Oh, well that was when were heading shore bombarded, yeah. It wasn’t a close call for us, but it sure was for the, for the
seven or eight Marines, I don’t know what they had in the boat. I couldn’t see it in the dark.
I: You mean U.S. Marine?
W: It was a Lieutenant, yeah, it was a landing force party.
I: Oh, so
W: Heading into the shore, and they’d work their way up to the high point, and their [inaudible] start shooting [inaudible]. And, and we had to be careful because they’d fill little, little boats with TNT or whatever they used
I: So that could have been a collateral damage, right?
I: So U.S. Marine, right? Um. Where was it?
W: Well, it would have been fairly close to Wonsan Harbor I suppose.
W: Along that coast somewhere.
I: Um hm. Um hm.
W: But they, we had to be real careful about mines floating in the water and so forth, and they, they were,
they were, they’d set these bombs off they’d have a fuse on them somewhere. If you bumped them it would go off and blow a hole in the side of your ship. So we had to be real careful. This one night we was setting in the water about two miles off the coast, and this object was floating
we each picked it up on radar, and it was floating right out towards us, and of course right away we figured it could be one of them little boatloads of explosives, and anyhow we, the ship kept coming, floating out closer to us, and, and the Captain, we
had a good Captain. We made some good decisions while, while we was in there, and anyhow, he was, he kept telling us to hold your fire. We had, we had a 5” gun mount, trained on it, and then it was getting so close that we would’ve damaged our own ship probably if we fired on it, and shrapnel. But, and they,
we, we tried to Morse Code, blinking lights . They wouldn’t answer. Tried the radio. They wouldn’t answer. Either they didn’t, didn’t want to give away their position and let the enemy know we were coming in. Anyhow, and then we had big blowers on the front of the ship there that were noisy. So we couldn’t, we couldn’t hear them. But when they got close
enough the Captain kept telling us hold your fire, and it was a good thing we did because we’re pretty quick. We could hear them, U.S. Marines, don’t, don’t shoot U.S. Marines. Jesus, if we’d have blown them guys out of the water, we’d live with that the rest of our life.
I: Yeah, that might have been really disastrous.
W: But it worked out good.
They come up and visited with us for a little while then paddled on toward shore.
I: Um hm. Any other story you want to share?
W: I don’t think of any right now. I think that’s about it.
I: Um hm. What do you suffer now? What, why you are here?
I: Why you are here?
W: Why am I in here?
W: They don’t know yet.
They think I probably got, well they know that I had a light stroke.
W: And, and they took a small tap of spinal fluid from my spine, and they found a little infection in that. But otherwise, doctor says that he doesn’t, doesn’t know what, just did it, put me down.
W: But they think that probably it was like a deer tic
or, or a mosquito or something got me, and, yeah, that, that’s about, that’s about it I guess. I don’t, I don’t know what, what it, what brought the big problem on me. All of a sudden I had a lot of pain around, across the front of myself, body here, and, and I,
my brother passed away here just a couple weeks ago, and
I: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.
W: And I thought I could get to the service by taking some Tylenol I could get through the service. But I set up in the front of the church there, and it just kept hurting worse and worse, and pretty soon I break out into a cold sweat and I knew I was gonna pass out, so I got, got out of there, and they took me down to the, to the, Medicare,
Emergency and checked me all, my heart all over, and they just didn’t find anything wrong with my heart, and that’s, then I went through a couple of pretty tough tests after that
I: Um hm.
W: and doctor says he, they still are baffled. They don’t know what really put me down, but lost all the strength in my legs
I: You are U.S. Navy. You’re going to gain, regain the strength,
and I hope that you can get out of here as soon as possible. Alright?
W: I sure hope so. I, I had a dream one night that actually was induced by taking the wrong kind of medicine I guess. It was, and I had a weird dream that Pearl Harbor was our home port, so we spent a lot of time in Pearl Harbor,
and, anyhow I, I woke up, and this was just a week ago so, maybe 10 days ago, and they, they, I woke up and this fellow was taking an x-ray of my chest, I’m laying in bed like this and, and he’s taking an x-ray of my chest,
and I, and I, and looking outside it looked like it could have been Pearl Harbor with no, no, no palm trees, you know,
I: William, I really appreciate your service for the Korean nation.
W: I appreciate you saying that.
I: Um hm.
W: And I hope it’s, hope this takes care of and does you some good.
I: Yeah. You are the only Navy from South Dakota so far that I have interviewed,
so you represent Navy, U.S. Navy and, and I want to thank you for your fight. Because of that, we, Korea, now is strong in economy and very democratic society.
W: That’s good.
I: And strong ally to the United States.
W: Thank you for coming out and doing this. This is, this is a, I’m pretty proud of it.
[End of Recorded Material]