William “Bill” F. Beasley
William “Bill” Beasley (a.k.a. Beas) describes how he graduated high school in June of 1948 and decided to enlist. He explains that he lived as an orphan as a young child. He explains how he felt that experience prepared him for the discipline needed for the armed forces. He discusses that he heard the news at a train station in Dallas Fort Worth that the Korean War had just begun. He describes how he joined the 2nd Battalion 1st Marine Division, also known as “Chester Puller’s Outfit”. He describes his 360 days of fighting and his job as a photographer in the Marine Corps after the war for 16+ years.
Get Rid Of Me
William "Bill" Beasley explains how he went to enlist the day after graduation. He describes marching straight to the Post Office to enlist in the Navy, but it was closed. He explains how he met an officer at the Marine Corps who told him that if he chose the Marines, he could leave sooner. He describes how he found out that the officer was dating the same girl he was, and that led him to arrive in San Diego quickly.
Up To My Knees In Mud
William "Bill" Beasley describes his Unit arriving in Inchon in September 1950. He describes the troublesome deboarding of the Amtrak due to his equipment. He describes that because of the weight instead of just getting mud on his feet like the others when he jumped off, he sank into the mud up to his knees. He describes three unknown men that helped him get to the shore.
Did Taking My Shoes Off Stop the Pain? Frostbite.
William "Bill" Beasley describes the suffering and cold at the Chosin Reservoir. He describes that it was so cold that if he stopped crystals would form on his feet. He recalls being told since he couldn't feel his feet to remove his boots and socks while on a listing post, which resulted in him getting severe frostbite.
Midnight Requisition-We Had Two Christmas Dinners
William "Bill" Beasley describes being transferred to the Chosin Reservoir. He describes being transported by train from Pusan to Masan (Bean Field). He explains that next to their train was an Army loaded with provisions and food, which is known by the Marine's as the "Midnight Requisition". He explains how they had Thanksgiving Dinner but had to replace all of those supplies that they used.
Not Forgotten War But Ignored
William explains how he detested for years that the war was not forgotten, but ignored. He explains how he felt that the American public didn't want to go back to war after WWII so soon. He describes returning from Korea on leave, but no one cared.
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
W: My proper name is William F. Beasley.
I: Um hm.
W: B E A S L E Y. I was generally known in the Marine Corp. as Beas, B E A S, no matter where I went, over a 20-year period. My friends refer to me as Bill.
I: What is your birthday?
W: October 5, 1930.
I: And where were you born?
W: I was born in a little town
Called Cody, C O D Y, Nebraska.
I: Um hm.
W: And as an infant, my family moved to Lincoln, Nebraska where I grew up, went to school and where I enlisted in the Marine Corp. in 1948.
I: Whoa. Tell me about the school you graduate.
W: I graduated from Lincoln High School.
I: Lincoln High School?
W: Lincoln High School.
W: June of 1948.
I: Um hm.
W: The day after the last day of
Classes, I went down to the Post Office, was going to join the Navy. The Navy recruiting office was closed. But there was a Marine Sergeant sitting inside the Marine recruiting office. He asked if he could help me, and I said no, I don’t think so. I’m thinking about joining the Navy. He told me it would take me four to six weeks before the Navy could take me. But if I wanted to leave pretty quick,
he had an opening or two. I said well, yeah, I’ll, I’m interested. He signed me up, and I was in the Marine Corp.
I: When was it?
W: This was in June of 1948. I come to find out that that Muck Sergeant in the Marine Corp. was dating the same girl I was interested in in high school, and he wanted to get rid of me, and he did.
I: You joined the Marines right after your graduation?
W: Right af, right after.
I did not go to our graduation ceremonies. The night my graduating class were getting their diplomas,
I: Um hm
W: I was at Marine Corp. Recruit Depot San Diego wondering what in the heck I had gotten myself into.
W: Well, boot camp in those days was a lot different than boot camp of today, and that’s enough said on that subject.
I: Tell me about it.
W: Uh, the DI’s had fewer restrictions on them than they do today. The method of training was hard
I: And some harsh
W: Physical, and none of us were quite prepared for what we, we found once we got aboard the Recruit Depot.
I: So how did you survive that?
W: Just pure will I guess. I was too stubborn.
I wasn’t gonna quit because I know if I quitted and went home that I’d never live it down. And I knew as long as the man on my right or my left was there, I was gonna be there.
I: Where did you get the training? Where was it?
W: Maybe it came up, my life I lived, I was a single child.
I lived for five years in a [inaudible] orphanage which pretty much prepared me for the type of life you find in the Marine Corp., living in a quad bay with a bunch of other people, having a strict discipline to adhere to
I: Um hm
W: And so it seemed a natural transition, and at that time when I was in high school, I wasn’t top of my class
by any shakes academically, knew that I didn’t have the means to go to college, and I wanted to get away from home. I did in a big way.
I: So after the basic training, where did you go?
W: I was stationed here in San Diego across the bay at North Island Naval Air Station in a Marine Guard Detachment
I: Um hm.
W: until summer of 1949. I went up to Camp Pendleton and
was there until June of 1950, and I was transferred to another Marine barracks. It was called Shoemaker, Arkansas
W: Naval Ammunition Depot. On June 23, 1950, there were three of us
being transferred. We were in the train station, Dallas/Fort Worth, in the lunchroom, and I was paying my bill, and a gentleman behind me said are you a Marine? I said yes sir. He says are you on your way to Korea, and I said where? He says Korea. I said I don’t know what you’re talking about. He says don’t you know a war broke out in Korea? And I said no. He says well
good luck. Less than 30 days later, I was back at Camp Pendleton on my way West. Our company, Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines,
I: 2nd Battalion
W: 1st Marines
I: Um hm
W: Chesty Pullers, one of Chesty Puller’s outfits
W: was made up primarily of, kind of the scrapings of the bottom of the Marine Corp. barrel.
In those days, the Marine Corp’s. authorized strength was 100,000 men. At the beginning of the Korean War, we were doing good to muster 75,000 warm bodies. So they pulled people out of Guard Detachments, Independent Duty, Recruiting Stations, all sorts of things, and we had a few Reserves in our Company, and we had
Very little time to train at Pendleton before we boarded ship for Japan. We went to Camp Otsu in Japan which had been a Japanese military installation, and from there we went back down to Kyoto and boarded an LST on our way to Inchon.
I: When was it?
W: That was September, 1950.
I: So you participated in the Inchon Landing?
W: Yes, I did.
I: Tell me about it. How was it?
W: Well, for me it wasn’t too good. The Amtrack, Amphibious tractor that we went ashore on, was supposed to take us inland at least 100 yards, and we landed across the mud flats at Inchon. Most of the boys got over the side and said oh, it’s not bad. The mud’s only ankle deep. Well, because of my assignment,
I was a gunner for a 3.5” rocket launcher, bazooka, and I had three additional rounds on the pack board on my back. When I went over the side of the Amtrack, I sank up to my knees in mud. Had it nor been for two other Marines, and I don’t know who they were, I don’t know their names. I probably wouldn’t know them today if I ran into them. They helped me ashore, and the more I got ashore, I
got rid of the extra load that I had. We moved a few yards in, and by that time it had gotten dark and a little bit rainy, and we held up until the next morning, and then we headed for Yongdongpo. The night of the 17th and 18th, the number two gunner in our section, no, he was number one gunner, I was number two.
A young Marine by the name of Walter C. Monaghan knocked out two North Korean tanks
I: With a bazooka
I: With a bazooka.
W: With a bazooka. Disabled the 3rd one. He was killed by the North Koreans. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, and his son, Walter C. Monaghan III,
was the Commissioner of Public Safety that Sarah Palin fired up in Alaska. Walt never knew that he had a son. I think when Walt died, he didn’t even know his wife was pregnant. But we miss him. He and I didn’t get along. He was a wise guy from New York, and I was a dumb farmer from Nebraska, like mixing oil and water.
But we went through Seoul, of course, and liberated it, and it was pretty torn up by the time we got done. MacArthur was mad. He wanted Seoul kind of spared so he could make a big splash. Then we pulled out, and John went around the, the Peninsula and yo yoed back and forth off
the East coast of North Korea
W: Wonsan, waiting for the Navy to clear the mines. Well, we finally got in. Our Company went down to a little village South of Wonsan by the name of Wonju
I: Um huh.
W: A little fishing village. Had a railroad tractor in alongside. And we found a hand car, and then, you know, you pump up and down, two ends, one on each side.
We had fun with that thing up and down the railroad. The North Koreans had almost overrun the 1st Battalion, and we went down to relieve them, and we didn’t have much trouble. So then it’s getting on into November, and they moved us back up into Wonsan. We had Thanksgiving Day dinner, and I remember eating my turkey. It had gotten dark and started to rain again,
and it was cold. And the next morning we left for our trip up North, up to the Chosin Reservoir. I was at Kotori which was a southernmost group of Marines, 1st, 1st Marines, and Fox Company was out in the valley west of Kotori where they dropped parts for the bridge to help us
get across where the tire plant was.
W: Yeah. Here I differ with some people on history. Some people say they dropped it twice. My recollection is they dropped it three times.
W: Once pieces got stuck in the snow, or not snow but in the, in the ground, and the ground was so full we couldn’t get them back out. Second time the Chinese got most of the parts, and the third time the Marine engineers got
enough parts to build a bridge where that power plant was so we could get out of there.
I: Um hm.
W: And I, like just about all of the Marines and the Army and the ROCs and the British Marines, suffered from frostbite or frozen feet, but we didn’t know any different. Our footwear was inadequate. It was based upon faulty information.
They were trying to keep water out, and in doing that, they allowed no way for perspiration to get out. Shoe facts were fine so long as we moved. But if we stopped, we started to get ice crystals in our boots. I was on a listening post, supposed to be out there for two hours. The kid that was supposed to relieve me couldn’t find me, according to him.
I ended up out there for eight hours, and my feet, at most times, I couldn’t feel them, but they hurt. Had a Navy corpsman take a look at my feet, and he asked me, or told me, ordered me, to go over and sit in the corner of the tent with my boots and my socks off. Don’t touch them, just sit there. And every
thirty minutes or so he’d come by and take a look at them. Okay. Finally he said okay, put your socks back on, put your boots back on. If you have any more trouble, come see me. Well, I didn’t have any more trouble up there in Kotori, but over the years, I started having trouble with my feet. Finally found out that it was exposure to the extreme cold we had up there.
I: Yeah, frostbite.
W: Frostbite, and now I’m a Disabled Veteran. But I was able to spend 20 years in the Marine Corp..
I: But from Kotori, where did you go?
W: After Kotori, we marched down the hill, trucks picked us up at the bottom, and we went in to Hamnung, Hungman, hung
I: You didn’t go up from Kotori?
W: No. We stayed in place because about that time General Smith had made
the decision that he was going to consolidate the Marines. MacArthur and his Intelligence Officer, Willoughby,
W: that jackass
W: You can edit that out.
I: No. We want to put it in.
W: Telling that the Chinese would never come across the border, that any Chinese we ran into were just incidental. We kept running into Chinese all over the place,
and some of them came in to our line simply because they were in worse shape than we were. Their feet were like blocks of ice. I mean not literally, but actually. But General Smith made the decision to consolidate, so he pulled all the Marines back from the Reservoir, from Hagaru, Yudam-ni, back into Kotori in leap frog fashion. One unit back through another.
As they pulled through us, they’d stop, get warmed up a bit, and what we had in the way of tents up there or any other structures that they could put a stove in, warm up a bit, and then head on down the hill. We were one of the last units to leave Kotori. The last one, to the best of my knowledge, was a Marine tank platoon
I: Um hm.
W: And the tank Commander, platoon Commander, Lieutenant
blocked the road with his tank because it had become disabled, to keep the Chinese from getting too close. And on the way down, we ran into road blocks. There was a gap in the line, and because a winding road going down the hill, the Chinese very quickly moved in to fill those gaps, and we had to clear the road blocks again. It was a long night.
It was a long walk, and we darn glad to get out of there.
I: So from Hungnam, where did you go?
W: Went down to Pusan.
I: Um hm.
W: And from Pusan, went over to what the Marines call the bean field in Masan, where we had Christmas dinner. We had two Christmas dinners because while we were setting on the train that brought us from Pusan to Masan, we noticed there was a supply train next to us.
Now the Marines were always good at what’s known as a Midnight Requisition, [LAUGHS] if you know what that means.
W: We liberated some supplies that the Army had provided for our Thanksgiving Day dinner
I: You liberated, right?
W: Yeah, we liberated. So the Army had to replace all those supplies. So we had two Christmas Day dinners.
And there, from there, I was part, I stayed in Korea. I was in Korea a total of 360 days. I left on the 10th of September, 1951. But I was in the Spring Offensive,
I: Where was it? Where were you in Spring Offensive? Do you remember?
W: I got wounded in the Hochong Reservoir
I: Hochong, yes.
W: That’s got a piece of, or a couple pieces of shrapnel from a Chinese mortar
I: Um hm.
W: And didn’t even know I was hit until I was helping a corpsman work on another man,
and the corpsman saw blood dripping off my fingers and he said I think you got a piece, and he cut open my field jacket, says okay buddy, down the hill, put a tag on me. I was in an Army MASH unit, Medical unit, for, oh about
four or five days, down in Taegu, and then went back up on the line
W: Again, and stayed with the Company until September, and I
I: Where were you after the
W: I don’t know. We were just South, well, we had been up far North we could see what became known as Pork chop Hill, that area, and our
Company, no, our whole damn battalion had been pulled back in the reserve, and it was iffy, there were three of us from the Company that had made the Inchon Landing still remaining. Whether we would go back into action or if they would send us back down to Pusan to rotate back to the States. Fortunately, we rotated back to the States.
I: Tell me about the Hochong Battle, the, the lake where you got wounded.
W: Well, I didn’t get to see much of it. I was on the reverse side of the hill
W: Dug in when the mortar barrage started. It was early in the morning. We were getting our gear together, getting ready to move out, and we’re packing everything up. We dug slit trenches if you will, shallow foxholes, and I was standing up, bent over position
and I felt something hit my left elbow like somebody had taken a ball bat and slugged me with it, and because of the confusion, I didn’t think much of it until the corpsman found out, oh, you’re, you got a wound. You’re going down for a while.
I: But I heard that there was a severe battle there, right?
W: It was, it was.
I: So many Chinese were killed there too, right?
W: Yep, yeah.
I: Luckily you were at the other side of it.
W: Yeah. I was on the reverse slope that morning simply because the weapon I carried, the 3.5” bazooka, was an anti-tank weapon. By that time, the Chinese had no tanks, and the Koreans, if they had them, they didn’t use them.
The 3.5 turned out to be a very effective weapon against the Russian T34 tank
W: The Army had used the old World War II 2.36” rockets down at the Pusan Perimeter, and the T34 Russian tank got a reputation of invincibility. Well, we soon destroyed that reputation when we showed up.
I: So, you didn’t know anything about Korea before you left for Korea?
W: Never heard of it.
I: Never heard of it.
W: Never heard of it.
I: Have you been back to Korea now?
W: No, I, when I was stationed in Japan in 1958, yeah, ’58, ’59, I had a chance to go back to Korea, but I didn’t. I would like to go back and if not trace our route from Inchon to Seoul just to see how Seoul looks because Seoul was then and pardon the expression
kind of a backwards Capital, very few two-story buildings. We pretty much tore it up, but I’ve seen pictures of, of Korea, and the one that always amazes me is the nighttime shots from space. Korea is, South Korea brightly lit. North Korea a black hole. And you ask a previous interviewer
about the Forgotten War. All my life, I’ve detested that term because the Korean War was not a forgotten war. The Korean War was an ignored war. The American public was never prepared to go back to war after World War II so soon, and unless you had family back in the States,
No one was interested. When I returned from Korea and went home on leave, people would say oh, where you been? North Korea. Where the hell’s that, you know. Had no idea what was going on. And because I spent 16 of my 20 years of Marine Corp. in the Information field if you will, photographer, motion picture cameraman,
I’m aware of what can be done with the audio visual media. And I’m ashamed of our country for reducing the Korean War to one small paragraph in a textbook because I look at what we and the South Koreans did. As a beginning of the fall of communism.
W: Had it not been for Harry Truman and the Russian ambassador walking out of the U.N. figuring we wouldn’t do anything, who knows where we’d be today.
I: At the Security Council, yes.
I: Malik is the Ambassador, and exactly.
W: He got up, walked out, figured they wouldn’t take a vote,
he did, Harry Truman took action under the U.N. banner, and there we go.
I: You want to go back to Korea?
W: I would like to, yes.
I: Do you know Korean government’s and MTBA is running Revisit Program.
W: I, I do, and I have an acquaintance of Korean extraction by the name of Jim, Jin Huer, up in Lancaster, California
that every year on June 23 opens his restaurants to all Korean veterans for a meal. Jin has been doing this for a number of years, and a couple of years ago he had contacted the Korean government and helped pass out some of the awards and memorabilia that the
Korean government has provided over the years for people like myself, and in our business meeting this morning, I think you had left by that time, I would like to see Jin get some recognition for his efforts. While I appreciate your efforts, and I wish you a great success.
I: Thank you, sir.
[End of Recorded Material]