William Herold enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1948 towards the end of World War II. He soon found himself serving overseas during the Korean War. He shares his recollections of Inchon Landing and Seoul Recapture, detailing of his personal experiences as a soldier. He recounts being wounded at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir and experience of evacuation from the famous conflict. He describes everyday living conditions soldiers faced during the cold months and adds his opinions on how warfare and battle affected soldiers. He has no regrets about his service, proud to wear his awards and ribbons received during his time in the military.
Inchon Landing & Seoul Recapture
William Herold describes landing in Inchon around amid Korea's heavy rain. He recounts having to wait the night out by himself until daylight when his company could regroup. He adds that there was little resistance other than sniper fire. He explains that he did not have a chance to really look around Inchon as he and his platoon members had no opportunity to get out. William Herold describes the march to Seoul following the Inchon Landing, adding that there was resistance.
Wounded at the Chosin Reservoir
William Herold recounts his Thanksgiving meal experience before heading up into the mountains of the Chosin Reservoir. He describes being outnumbered by the Chinese 36 to 1 and a fire fight commencing. He remembers silence that followed except for one round sounding out, adding that it was the round which wounded his right leg. He recalls being transported via jeep out of the mountains and eventually to the hospital ship, Consolation.
Living Among the Cold and Bullets
William Herold shares his experiences with the freezing cold of Korea. He describes keeping his shoes in his sleeping bag in order for them to keep from freezing and adds that one's urination was ice by the time it hit the ground. He explains how war made one reckless and offers a relating story of a WWII veteran who removed his helmet and was momentarily shot in the head. He recounts the changes he experienced in weight due to lack of food.
[Beginning of recorded material]
WH: My name is William Herold. W i l l i a m H e r o l d.
I: You said H E?
I: Not A?
WH: Not A.
I: Why is that?
WH; A is, I understand it’s the English is Her, the E is German, and I am of German descent.
I: You’re German dissent?
WH: Yes. My Great Grandfather, Great Great Grandfather come from Germany.
WH: And actually my great grandfather did, too. But they all immigrated here, and we could trace him back to my great, great grandfather about 1799.
WH: My great great grandmother is buried right here in Freeport in the city cemetery.
WH: My great grandparents are buried here in the city cemetery.
I: What is your birthday?
I: So you were born on year of Great Depression?
WH: Yep. Yep. I was a Depression baby.
I: Where were you born?
WH: I was born in Detroit, Michigan. But I, probably about three, two to three months later, my folks moved back here to Freeport. So I lived near Freeport all my life. Well, in January ’39, we moved to a farm out near Pearl City, Illinois, and that’s where I live out in that area now.
I: So, you’re more like, it’s a native town to you.
WH: The what?
I: Native home.
I: Tell me about your parents and siblings when you were growing up.
WH: Well, I’m one of 12 children.
WH: I guess Dad figured it was cheaper by the dozen. I don’t know. [LAUGHTER] Well, one is actually a step-sister, or half-sister, I would say, not a step-sister. But the other 11 of us are all, have the same parents, my mother and father.
I: Where are you ranked
Among those 12?
WH: Fourth from the top.
I: Fourth from the top.
WH: Yeah. I have two sisters and one brother older than me, and I have one sister older than me that’s still living, and my older, one other older brother and sister are both passed on.
I: Was your parents farmers?
WH: No, not really. My Dad, actually his real trade was a tire and batteries.
He learned the tire business, recapping and volcanizing, from Harvey Firestone in Chicago. And he’s the founder of Firestone. And then
I: Your father?
WH: Had learnt the trade from Harvey Firestone, yes. And that’s why, we was living in Michigan at the time. He had a tire shop up there in Detroit. And then that’s, after that we moved back here , and then, I remember during the Depression that he had
dump trucks and that he did trucking and that. And then in ’39, there was nine of us children at that point, and we moved to a farm out near Pearl City.
I: So tell me about the school you went through.
WH: I went to, I started Freeport here in East Side school which is a familiar old school, and then I’d have been in the fourth grade when I moved to the country, and I went to a one-room schoolhouse,
and it was a mile away. We walked back and forth every day and that, and then when I graduated out of the eighth grade there I went to a Pearl City High School for two years, and they didn’t have no football or nothing at that time. I wanted to play football, so I come into Freeport. At that time, we was a non-high school district. You could go to any high school you wanted to where now everything is in districts.
I: So when did you graduate?
WH: 1948. I actually graduated with a GED.
I: What do you mean?
WH: General Educational Diploma. I didn’t graduate with the class. Later I took five tests, passed all the tests, and that qualified me as a high school graduate.
I: Wow, okay.
WH: It’s very prominent thing that they have, a very good thing.
I: Very good. Did you know anything about Korea at the time that you were graduating your high school?
WH: I never knew it exist let alone know anything about it.
I: You didn’t know that famous country? [LAUGHTER]
WH: No, not until in ’50 when, I was in the Marine Corp., and we was just coming back from the Mediterranean. We went over there for six months of [INAUDIBLE]
I: Whoa, whoa, whoa. When did you join the Military?
WH: April 12, 1948.
I: April 12.
I: And that was Marine Corp.?
WH: Marine Corp.
I: You volunteered?
WH: I volunteered.
I: Why Marine Corp.?
WH: Well, there was four of us was gonna go in the Service. My one brother, and myself and two friends. Well, my brother went in the Navy and for some reason he got medically discharged out. My one friend backed off and didn’t go. So me and my other friend went to the Marine Corp., and he had,
When he was younger had a cyst behind his ear and they had to take it off and he didn’t have no but one hearing, or one eardrum I’d say. So he couldn’t stay with it, so he got out. And I was too healthy so I had to stay.
I: But why Marine Corp.? Why not
WH: Because my buddy wanted to go in the Marines.
WH: I took the test for all four branches of the Service. I was qualified to take any one. I had an uncle at the time, was a full Colonel in the Army, and my Dad would have liked to have me going in the Army, but
I didn’t want to go anyplace where I knew of anybody. So anything I got, it was on my own, and that’s kind of the way my life has always been.
I: Where did you go for basic?
WH: Paris Island, South Carolina.
WH: Very famous. If you go to Diego, you’re a Hollywood Marine.
I: You mean San Diego, right?
WH: Or San Diego, yeah. San Diego, yeah, I guess.
I: So you are not Hollywood Marine?
WH: No, I’m not a
I: Real Marine.
WH: I’m a real Marine.
I: Tell me about the boot camp? How was it? Was it difficult?
WH: It was, I wouldn’t say it was difficult. I was, I like to say I was a farm boy, and I was very well built and very healthy and everything like that. So I, the only thing that was there was I was only 5’ 5 ½” at the time, and they tried everything. If you’re short or small like that, they try everything to try and get you to get out.
Well, that didn’t work with me. I stayed and everything.
WH: So it, it was, it wasn’t no picnic I’ll grant you that. Later years, it, it was. Later years if you cussed a guy you got run up for maltreatment and everything like that, but not when I was there.
I: What was the most difficult thing during the boot camp? What did bothers you the most?
WH: Really, nothing. I mean
I: You like the tough training?
I: You are strange kid.
WH: I, I , It didn’t bother me.
I mean, if we went out, and I remember one time there we was out, and it was, well, April there, end of June, May and June and that was pretty warm down there, and we running like around in circles and stuff like that, I used to falling down, and they wasn’t stopping, and I’m still going, and the drill instructors usually quit before I ever quit. So, it didn’t bother me. I mean, like I say, I was in very physical, good condition and that.
I: So from there, where did you go?
WH: I went up to Lejeune, North Carolina.
I: What did you do?
WH: I was in the Infantry, foot stomper you might say. I was, all of my whole time in the Marine Corp. was there. First couple years, I really enjoyed the Marine Corp.
I: Do you know the spelling of the camp in North Carolina that you were there?
WH: L e j e u n e.
I: Oh, that’s it.
WH: Lejeune, yeah.
I: What was your specialty?
WH: Just rifleman.
I: And your unit?
WH: Well, in Korea I was in G31, what they later called Bloody George, and how they got that name was up in Chosin
I: Was it first Marine, right?
WH: First Marine Division, yes.
I: And? First Marine Division
WH: First Marine Regiment,
I: Uh huh.
WH: Third Battalion
I: Third Battalion.
WH: G3 1, Third Battalion [INAUDIBLE] and then George Company, and then I was in the Third Platoon of George Company.
I: But before going to Korea, what happened to you?
WH: I pulled two tours in the Mediterranean. And then I was down in the Caribbean once before that on maneuvers.
We was down to Puerto Rico down there, they later closed it down there for no more maneuvers and that. But, there was one little town down there called Isabella Segundo, and that was quite a little town and that and,
I: In Puerto Rico?
WH: Yeah. It was quite known and that, yeah.
I: Yeah. I was there, and we did interview almost 70 Korean War veterans from Puerto Rico, yeah.
WH: What a coincidence, huh?
I: They are really genuine soldiers.
I loved them. So when did you leave for Korea?
WH: We come back from the Mediterranean I think in June of 1950, and then we all went home on 10-day leaves, and then we boarded a train and went five days across to California, and then we was out in the hills out there for I think about two weeks training and that and firing weapons,
getting different weapons and stuff like that. And then we pulled out of there and, I think it was about the first part of August. Dates just don’t remember any more. But then we went into Japan, and we was there for about two weeks, and every day we was out in the mountains marching and that to, well, hiking out [INAUDIBLE] much marching, but hiking to get training for in Korea then.
I: And then when did you arrive in Korea?
WH: I was at the Inchon Landing on September 15, 1950.
WH: Yeah. I was there from the start to I was wounded.
I: When you departed from the United States, you knew that you were going to go to Korean War, right?
WH: I’m not sure at the time if we did actually, I guess we did know we was headed that way. We knew we was headed that way, but we didn’t have no idea what it was.
I: Still you didn’t know, right?
WH: No, we, we really didn’t know much until we was probably leaving Japan heading to Korea. That’s probably when we was really finally starting to sink in then I guess.
I: Were you nervous?
WH: Not really.
I: Not really.
WH: I spent my 21stbirthday between Japan and Korea. [INAUDIBLE] Board an LSD with pontoons on each side. If you’ve ever been on a ship, you know how it tries to rock?
Well, try to rock in a pontoon, you know, to stop it from doing that, it was kind of a rough ride.
I: Wow. So, tell me about this Inchon Landing. Did you know what you were supposed to do there? Were you instructed that you were going to land in Inchon?
WH: Yeah. We did. Of course, see, we couldn’t, we had to go down landing crafts. Throughout most of my career in the Marines, I’ve made many, many, many
landings, practice landings and that. Even while we was in the Mediterranean we always made them. We made them while we was down in Puerto Rico
I: So you knew
WH: I knew what to do as far as land, We landed, it was about 5:00 in the afternoon when we took off because we had to wait for the high tide to come in, and then we had the wall to go over. We went up over with ladders, and then our company’s objective was there was supposed to have been a building there, was supposed to been a POW,
and it was supposed to be holding some of our prisoners which some of the Army which would have been there ahead, and it poured down rain. I can still picture myself squatted down in my poncho and holding my weapon, the water running off of me all night long, nobody near me at all. I had no idea where I was at or anything. All I was waiting for daylight, and once daylight come, then we’d kind of reorganized.
I: So you’re saying heavy rain on the day that you landed and night.
I: Were there any resistance?
WH: A little. Mostly sniper fire. There was a few killed. I remember landing there and seeing a guy laying his face down, and I kind of picked him off to side, I don’t remember his name or even where it happened. He was one from our Company. But, there wasn’t too much resistance.
I: So you were surprised actually, right, that there’s no
WH: More or less, yeah. That’s about all there would have been have been sniper fire really.
I: What did you see in Inchon? What was the scene? I mean, people, house, how was it? Completely destroyed?
WH: No, we left the next morning right away. We was headed towards Seoul.
I: So you didn’t have a chance to look around?
WH: No. Even after we took Seoul and come back to Inchon to board ship again, we was within our camp and we never got out to see anything.
There was no liberty or nothing like that. I mean we wasn’t there for liberty. We was there for, you know, to fight.
I: So from Inchon to Seoul, you recovered. You were part of the recovery project, right?
And that was September 28.
WH: I don’t remember dates.
I: Yeah. That was September 28. Tell me please. Share your story and what you saw from Inchon on the way to Seoul. How was it? There was resistance, right?
WH: Yeah. There was a resistance.
I: Tell me the details please.
WH: Resistance on the hills and stuff and, of course we marched the whole way up there, and we had tanks that dropping back a little bit later on the night we landed, the tide went back out again, but we had half triaxles with caliber, 50 caliber machine guns. That was the heaviest stuff we had. The tanks that tried to come in got stranded in the mud and that because the tide went out. So they had to wait till
next day for the tide to come in before they can get to shore. But then the tanks had caught up to us when we was headed up there, and about the only one thing I remember is my commanding, he was Regimental Commander, Colonel Polar, one of the famous Marines there was
I: Chesty Puller
WH: Anytime I tell anybody he was my Regimental Commander, I get nothing but handshakes and everything.
I: So he was your Regiment Commander.
WH: Yeah. It was an honor to be my Regimental Commander. And he was up in the hills there in a firefight, and MacArthur come up and sent his runner up, told Colonel Puller to come down. He wanted to citate him. Well, Colonel Puller sent a message back down with the runner I’m at war. If you want to citate me, you come up here. MacArthur did go up in the hills and citated him. What kind of citation I have no idea what he got. But that’s the way Chesty Puller was.
I: Everybody loves him. Have you been to Marine Corp. museum in Virginia, Quantico?
I: There’s a
WH: Never been to Quantico.
I: His monument there. Chesty Puller Everybody talking about him.
WH: Oh yeah. Most decorated Marine ever. I understand, I think he had five purple hearts, course I don’t know what the wounds were and stuff like that all were, you know. But
I: So you
WH: But then, then we
I: You saw him, right? You worked with him?
I: You worked with him?
WH: Yeah. Oh yeah. He was walking right with us and that. Might of, he might have been riding the Jeep sometimes and that. But most of the time whenever the Marines went some place, we always walked. We didn’t, we didn’t ride in trucks and that.
I: On the way to Seoul, what happened?
WH: Other than fire fights, then we entered into Seoul, and I remember the big tower up there, and there was a sniper up there firing on us, and eventually we finally got him. I remember the
tank turned his turret and that, and course they had 90’s on them there, and when he fired that, we was right, we was right by a, a factory and had knocked out every window in that factory. We just got rained on with glass and that from the factory and that. But then, from there, then we set up our resistance there and, there was, I think was six tanks
I remember. I don’t think it was eight. I think it was six. But there was a school there with a moat around it. And there was a draw bridge there.
I: Where, in Seoul?
WH: Right in, just as you coming into Seoul. And these tanks was trying to get down to that there to get some cannons they had in there. It’s what they call them, cannons. I don’t know what the caliber was or anything like that. But every time they’d turn to go in there, we had these new rocket launchers,
and they’d knock the tread off, and there they was, setting. They couldn’t move. And one by one up the line, I’m pretty sure there were six of them. They had them all disabled going up there. And the fire, the fight went on all night long. It, our light machine guns, they’d fire so much they would just cherry red in, just glowed in the dark and that. And, of course, every so many rounds a tracer would come out, and that was set in the houses which was, we called them kind of huts and that
but had like straw roofs I suppose and that. We’d set them afire, and you’d see the people out there trying to put the fire out while we was firing at the enemy and that.
I: So there was no resistance when you landed in Inchon, but North Koreans were waiting for you guys in Seoul, right?
WH: Yeah, yeah. Because there was a lot of resistance in Seoul, yeah.
I: Were you, any episode that you might have lost your life?
WH: No. The only one thing I know I remember going out, had guys cover me and that. We, one of our guys had got wounded while he’s got his whole shin blowed off, and I went out and brought him back in, and that was about it. I think they took a few prisoners down, but the Battalion says we aren’t taking prisoners today, so I don’t know what it was what from there. But then the next day, why, we did load on trucks and we was going back across this pontoon off bridges they had made there
and the Army was out there waiting for us to get out of there so that MacArthur could come in and take the glory and we had to go out on the hills and protect so that he didn’t get shot or anything. So, that was the Marine’s job I guess. But that was pretty much it. I remember we moved more North. We went across the 38th, and I don’t know how far north we went, and that we was called back, and then we come back into Inchon, and then
that’s when we, we was there for maybe a week or something.
I: You mean in Seoul?
WH: In Inchon.
WH: And we was kind of buildered in these buildings that was probably, well, going back before Inchon, there was two ships come in. They come in and made a U-turn and went back out, and they had rockets, and they fired the one whole side off, and as they turned, they emptied the other and they, two ships did that, softening up
the beaches for us and that when we went in and that.
I: You mean in Wonson?
WH: In Inchon.
WH: Inchon before we made the landing on the.
I: Before you talk about the next battle, I want you to share what you saw in Seoul, when you recovered the Seoul. How was it?
WH: Not a whole lot because, like I say, it was late afternoon when we got there, and we fought all night long, and then the next morning we got up and left. So we didn’t get to see much.
I: But you saw. How much destroyed? I mean, were there any rubble? I mean describe the scene.
WH: We didn’t get beyond where they, we just were disabled those tanks and that. So, which was just on the, in the inskirts out there. So then we went back out and like I say the Army came in and took over the occupation of it and everything. But we went back out there.
Se we didn’t get to see much of Seoul at all.
I: I see. And from Inchon, where did you go?
WH: Then we got on the ships, and we went, for every 24 hours, we was turned from Manchurian border at midnight to southern part of South Korea at noon, and then we’d be back. We kept circling in the Yellow Sea there. We did that, oh I don’t know
maybe five days to a week. I don’t remember on those things. I know our rations was cut down to two meals a day is all on that because we didn’t have much on, and by then, why, we landed at Wonsan.
I: So, you were and that ship and the whole, whole, the Military were waiting to land in Wonsan, right, so that’s why you didn’t proceed,
but, you know, waiting there in the Sea.
WH: I don’t know how many ships there was making that rendezvous. I remember Wonsan, though. They had, oh, there must have been ship lines probably pretty near as big as this room that they’d drug in off of the beach and that and was in there when we got in there, and we spent that night on the beach there, and I remember there was an Army
It was colored boys and there was a motor pool there, and they come over and was mingling with us and that and then the next day we boarded the trucks, and we headed up into the mountains into Majimee and we didn’t get no resistance on the way up there, but as we tried
to bring supplies up through there, they got a lot of resistance and was capturing that.
I: When was it?
WH: I have no idea what the dates were. Dates didn’t mean much to us then. I mean, day after day it was just day and night, day and night. But when we got up there, we was, there was supposed to be a salt mine up there that was supposed to have a bunch of POW’s in it
So I remember we went out, well, all that went up there was our Company, just George Company went up there. And I think, I don’t know if it was more than a platoon, might have been a couple platoons went over to check that out, but we found what had been life there, but nobody was, nothing was there or anything. And then was, we’d had, I never actually seen it but was told there was supposed to have been the North Korean General come marching, 1,000, 1,100 something
troops in and surrendered. And then they took them on down to Wonsan. And then we had, pretty sure that there was a caterpillar went up with us. I don’t think it was trucked up there. It might have been. But they made a landing strip there, and they was bringing stuff in, well, they’d bring in supplies or taking out wounded in these planes,
And as they come in, we was in, amongst the mountains, they have such an updraft they had a time getting down. Once they got down they figured well they were, they were good, you know. This updraft put them back up. Well, as they took across the landing there, there was a road, and on the other side was a creek. Well, in the meantime they got a down draft. As it went to go up, it just flipped them right over into the creek. I think if I remember right I think it was two planes they did that. So after that,
then they come in, well, all of our supplies was all dropped in by parachute then, and we used to, you’d pick out a color of a parachute and you’d bet on which one was going to land first and that. So, you don’t win any money or anything. It was just a thing to get time by because we was all in the mountains and that. And then they start taking the, any wounded out with helicopters. There’d be one on each rudder like and one in with the driver.
And then the driver , that’s all it, that’s all as big as they were. They wasn’t these big, huge Hueys or anything they have nowadays or anything. And that’s how they took them out on that there.
I: Did you know where you were?
I: Where were you?
WH: In Majimee.
WH: Yeah, Majimee.
WH: Yeah, I don’t know how to pronounce, or spell. I just know how to say it.
I: Um hm. How was the situation? Did you see Chinese?
WH: No, not at that time yet.
I: At the time?
WH: No, not at that time yet.
WH: That would have been probably middle of November or something.
I: Right. So it was around late October, or what is it?
WH: It would have been in the first part of November and stuff.
I: First part, yeah. Um hm.
WH: And then the Army come up there and relieved us there, and I’m thinking we got on a train, but I don’t remember where and went, headed north up to Chosin then. And I remember we saw
Thanksgiving Day, and they had turkey for us and that. Of course, we, all we ever ate out of is cans and that, and it rained so that day that your mashed potatoes, just if you didn’t hurry and eat them, why, the rain would wash them right off your tray and that. And then we just moved on up into the mountains then. And then on the 29thof November is when I got wounded. It was about 11:00 in the morning.
WH: My right leg. I was laying on my right side with this leg kind of cocked like this
So the shell, we had, had a big fire fight then, and everything went quiet. There was just quiet as can be, and one round sounded out, and that’s the one that got me. So it had to come over my shoulder and go right through my leg, and that was on the 29thof November. It was 11:00 in the morning. I kind of remember that.
I: And now they are all, Chinese all over, right?
WH: Chinese everywhere, yeah.
I: Describe that scene. I mean, what did you think about that,
And how many were there? How can you give us some kind of sense?
WH: They told us at the time we was out number 36 – 1. That’s a terrible [INAUDIBLE] and then they took, well, they had to carry me, they, the Jeep got as far as he could up the side of the mountain, and then they come up with a stretcher and carried me out and that and put me on the back side of the Jeep and took me down to the, they had a big tent down there.
I: What, where were you then? Where you wounded?
WH: I was thinking it was Telegraph Hill, but I’m not sure on that.
I: Was it close to Kodori?
WH: No, I don’t think so. I never got to Kodori and that.
I: Oh, okay. So it’s far below Kodori?
WH: I don’t know. It was up near the Reservoir. So we had to have been above it and that I believe.
I: Yeah. Above Kodori, right?
WH: Yeah, it must have been above it, yeah.
So then, well they went down to the big tent. They had a big tent there that [INAUDIBLE] eats and that and everything. It was 35 – 40 below zero all the time there, and then they put a wet cast on me, and then on the 30thof November we went down out of the mountains, and there was two Jeeps or ambulance, and as far as I know, there was only two that were come down out of the mountains. And there was four of us in each ambulance.
And then we went down to Humhung there and then we got aboard the hospital ship Consolation
I: So you were just transported to the Humhung through, with a Jeep?
WH: There was an ambulance. Well, yeah, a Jeep down out of the mountain, yeah, to, down to the tent, yeah. One of the Jeeps that laying right straight across the back of them and that and
I: You were lucky. You were one of the lucky.
I: I mean, if I asked you which one was more difficult along this two, Chinese or [INAUDIBLE], which one would you say?
WH: Kind of a toss of the coin. I was a farm boy, so at night when I went in, I took my boots off. I threw them in the bottom of my sleeping bag. A lot of the guys didn’t. They left them lay out. Next day they’re beating the hell out of them trying to get them to soften up.
WH: Wasn’t smart enough.
I remember one guy. I won’t mention no names and that. He was from Ohio. He was in my squad there, and we had choppers mitts we’d call them, big mitts with leather in or, wool inner liners. Well, he was wearing the wool inner liners when he, it wasn’t really that cold, and he wore them out and we tried to tell him not to, and when they got up there, they was worn out, so all he had was them leather ones. Well, he’s lost about every finger he had because of that, because he wouldn’t listen and that.
So, but farm boys, they knew what to do.
I: When you pee, does that make of just ice?
WH: Just about.
WH: Yeah. When it hit the ground it would be.
WH: Because, you know, it was still warm when it come out of you, but when it hit the ground and everything it would be froze right up and that. Yeah. They said 35 to 40 below all the time. You couldn’t dig no foxholes at all. You just rolled around in the snow and crawl in.
I: What were you thinking?
WH: It’s cold.
I: What the heck am I doing here?
WH: Yeah, that was true. Well, by then, see, we’d been there pretty near three months. By that time, you get so when you’re in combat like that, you get so you kind of, you get reckless because you just, I know we had some World War II veterans land this and everything. I remember at Seoul
One he was stood up, and a bullet went right through his helmet. He took it off and looked and said as if to say ha ha, you missed me. But the second one went right between his eyes. So, he go reckless because he come through World War II and he thought he was indispensable which you aren’t. Nobody is. So you do, you get a little reckless after you stop and think about it, you know.
I: Did you have enough food there?
WH: Not really. I weight 170 lbs. when I went over.
When I come back, I weighed 135 lbs. with a 9 lb. cast on my leg. So I actually weighed about 126 lbs.. I was just nothing but muscles because we walked everywhere.
I: So it was a successful diet.
WH: Oh yeah.
I: You lost a lot.
WH: If you want to go on a diet, go over there.
I: Did you know why you were there?
WH: Not really.
I: You didn’t know?
WH: We was there to help the South Koreans, but really why are well other we knew the North Koreans was trying to take over the South Korea. At the time, we was supposed to, First Marines were supposed to have been back in the States by Christmas, and we was going to march in the Rose Bowl parade. Well, to this day, we’ve never made it.
Sixty-seven years later, we still haven’t made it to the parade. But we didn’t expect the Chinese to come in. They come in, they come in because we was going to bomb the Reservoir which we had no intentions of it.
I: That was MacArthur’s
WH: Yeah, that was, The guys that was there and everything really, we actually really believed and I still believe it to this day, that China
was overpopulated with males, and this is one good way of getting rid of them. Get rid of some. That was our theory as servicemen.
I: MacArthur knew that China began to intervene in early October, and his General Willoughby Intelligence staff, he really tried to ignore those things because if so, then Truman will angry, and he would not allow MacArthur to go farther, right?
So they ignored it, you know. That was a disaster.
WH: Oh yeah. Well, he wanted to go into Russia, and he wanted to keep right on going. And he wouldn’t
I: So tell me about the Chinese. How close were you with them, and how severe the battle, give some descriptions.
WH: Well, like the day I was hit and that,
there was so much snow that everything is so white it’s hard to see them. And all we can see is you can see the fire fighting and that like that. When we’s coming down out of the mountains, though, we would stop, I know at least three times and possible four times, and all we had was just a little window in the back we could look out of. And you could see them milling around out there and everything and that, you know, and I suppose one in every three to four guys had a weapon. The other ones I, there was just so many they just didn’t have enough weapons and everything.
And at the time, I mean, while we knew there were Chinese and that the way they were dressed and that, but they, you could see that it wasn’t [INAUDIBLE] they shouldn’t have been there because they didn’t have footwear or hand wear or stuff like that.
I: They didn’t even have a rifle, either. Many of them, right?
WH: The burt guns, what they call those, is like what we call Thompson Sub-machine guns, and if you was probably 100 yards
away is pretty safe they wasn’t gonna hit each other. But they were so many rounds. I mean, they could probably put out four or five hundred rounds a minute. But
I: So many casualties in Marines, right?
WH: Quite a few, yeah.
I: Did you see people dying?
WH: Oh yeah. I’ve seen a lot of wounded and dead and that, yeah. I seen the first day we hit Inchon. I could see there was one there laying there. But you just move on.
You’re not there to babysit or anything or anything like that you might say. You’re there to fight I guess you would call it.
I: So, after you were shipped to Consolation, the hospital ship, what happened?
WH: Then we went to Japan, and then I was unloaded and put in a hospital in Japan. I might have been there three, four, five days, something like that.
I: And then?
WH: And then they put us on a plane. There was, I don’t remember. It was a two engine plane, I remember that, and we hit a lot of turbulence, and we made it, landed at Midway, and I don’t think they even shut down. They just took on some fuel and took on chow for us, and then we flew into Hawaii, and then we stayed at the Triple Hospital overnight there
And then we flew out the next day on a big plane then. I mean, that was, I think, a six engine job, and they had booster jets on the back of that. That was the early stages of jets and, I remember the elevator was like four cables of a floor of the ship or the plane come down, and they load on and then take it up and then take them off and that. I think there was about 135 of us patients on there besides the crew and everything.
And then we flew into Oakland, and then we went over to Oaknall Hospital and stayed there for a while, and then eventually I got flew into Great Lakes at Chicago here, and that’s where I convalesced in, in Chicago for about six months.
I: And that’s how you were discharged?
WH: No, I got out of there in June, I must have got out of there like the first part of June, and I stayed here till about the first of August. I was a prison guard over at the Main side, and then I was transferred back to Lejeune, and I spent the rest of my time back at Lejeune and then I put one more tour down in Puerto Rico on [INAUDIBLE], too.
I: Have you been back to Korea?
WH: No. I have no desire.
I: No desire. Don’t want to
WH: It aint gonna look nothing like when I was in.
I: That’s why you need to go because it’s so, it’s been changed dramatically.
WH: I’ve heard it, and I’ve seen a lot of pictures of it and that.
I: What do you know? What do you know about the modern Korea now?
WH: Just what I see in pictures.
I: What did you see?
WH: Oh, towering buildings. Probably 20 stories high. I don’t know how many stories
I: No, more than 100 stories now.
WH: No kidding.
I: Oh, I’m not kidding.
WH: Well, they got no place to go but up. That’s what they tell me, see. Yeah, the only place they can go is up.
I: Any other thing that you know about modern Korea right now?
I: Korean products? Do you know of any Korean products here in the United States?
WH: I know there is, but I couldn’t name any. No.
I: Samsung, Hyundai, is that familiar?
WH: Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard of them.
I: Um hm. That’s why you need to go back, to see how it’s been changed.
WH: I’ve never went to any conventions, none of that kind of stuff. I got five life memberships in five different veterans organizations, but I have no desire to go to reunions or any of that stuff.
I: So when you see this high story buildings in Korea, what do you think? What do you feel?
WH: I kind of, I feel good about it, that, you know, they have progressed. This idiot they’ve got up north there
And that’s firing off these launches, whether it’s rockets, whatever he’s shooting off and that, why it kind of scares the hell out of you. It really does. You don’t know what he’s, where he’s gonna aim that thing next, and that’s, you know, you hate to see it attack the south after we fought so hard to, you know, to save the southern part. So, I don’t know.
I: How you do, how do you link this thought, that you, born here in Michigan, moved to Freeport, farmed land, you didn’t know anything about Korea, you didn’t even know where it was located. Now you were in one of the most severe battle in the history of Korean War. Now you know South Korea is one of the 11thlargest economy in the world. Can you believe that?
WH: I can believe it. I can.
I: How do you link this thought?
Why this happened to you? How do you think about it, the whole thing?
WH: How do you mean?
I: I mean, why did it happen to you, and what is Korea to you now, and
WH: It happened because I was in the Marines. MacArthur, he never liked the Marines.
WH: I don’t know. But he knew that Marines was the only one they could make the landing at Inchon and make it a success. And that’s the way MacArthur was.
I: So, you were in Korea because of MacArthur? That’s your answer?
WH: I don’t know. No, no. I was, I suppose I was there because the North Koreans invaded.
WH: It was just one of those things. Life.
I: Do you regret?
WH: Going to Korea?
WH: No. Never regret being a Marine. I wouldn’t give you a million dollars for the experience,
But I wouldn’t give you, you couldn’t give me ten million to go back. [LAUGHS] No, I’m a very proud Marine. I am. I have a son who was in the Marines. I got a niece who was in the Marines. I got a brother-in-law in the Marines, and I got a brother that was in the Marines, and I think other than my brother-in-law, most of my, my son and my brother and my niece was all because I was a Marine.
I: You know, this brand name U.S. Marine Corp.. I mean,
nobody can actually bid it. I mean, so much respect and loyalty and trust on that brand name
I: of U.S. Marine Corp..
WH: It was, I belong to the American Legion Pearl City. I’ve been there 58 years now, and it was one of our veteran nights there. They was telling what branch their service was in, and I happened to be the last guy to tell. And of course everybody, Army, Navy, Air Force, when he got to me, United States Marine Corp., and then you sort of heard them applaud and everything like that, you know.
And I’m known around as the Marine, and
I: Sometimes it sounds like crazy that everybody just applauding for this U.S. Marine. Nobody challenge anything.
WH: Well, Marine Corp., when you go in the Marine Corp., you’re disciplined, and at Paris Island, you’re disciplined. When you come out of there, you don’t come out of there what you went in with, and you just don’t forget that. I spent four years in the Marines.
I was under, Uncle Harry we called him, President Harry got froze for that year, and I spent it right to the day.
I: I was in Quantico, the Marine Corp. museum, and we dedicated the monument of Ch’ongch’on Battle, Chosin Few. It was a gun fort, the chiefs. The chief of the Joint Chief, you know, Chair, Chair of the Joint Chief staff gun fort, and his father was Chosin Few.
So we celebrated, and Korean government donated a lot of money for that.
WH: Yeah, they’ve done a lot.
I: So, what do you think is the legacy of the Korean War and your legacy?
WH: I don’t know. I never think much about it really. I’m just hoping that South Korea stays free. I mean, that’s about all you can do. Like I say, with that idiot they got up there,
why, and that’s what he is. He’s just an idiot. I mean, when he has his own uncle or brother or whatever it was killed, why, life don’t mean nothing to him. To us, it does. And I’m sure it does to the South Koreans. So, I don’t know. It’s hard to say.
I: Korea completely destroyed, rubble, became 11thlargest economy.
A little bit bigger than Indiana. We don’t have drop of oil. That’s a real success story, and that’s your legacy. Without your sacrifice there, we were not given any chance to rebuild our nation.
WH: Yeah. North Korea overrun it and took control of it. It’s just hard to say what it would be today. It wouldn’t be all Communist,
but it would be, which since the Korean War there’s less and less Communists I think in the world than what there was at that time. I don’t think China and them, I know they’re Communist country and that yet, but I don’t think they practice as much as they used to. And I think it’s the same way as Russia now, and look at how Cuba’s come around. It was all, you know, Communist countries and that.
I: North Korea is the exception though, right?
I: And that Korean War never ended yet.
WH: No. No.
I: It’s still cease fire.
WH: It was declared a national emergency, and that is still true today. It’s never been lifted.
I: So it’s constantly
WH: 67 years it’s been going on. Yep.
I: And why we don’t teach about this success story in our history class?
WH: Now, Pearl City there, they started about three, four years ago on Veteran’s Day. The high school has them come up there,
and I got not to go, so my wife has got, her health isn’t the best, so I haven’t got up there, but I’m gonna make it a priority next year, and I wear 11 ribbons with three battle stars and two purple hearts and a lot of other stars and that, and when I walk in, everybody knows I come in because they know, you know. A lot of the guys won’t wear ribbons. I’ve tried to get them. I got applications they could send for them, and I don’t know why. I’m proud of them. I earned them.
I: You did.
I: Any other episode or message you want to leave to this interview?
WH: No. Good luck is all I can say.
I: So, your story will be heard by the many students and teachers will use that in their classroom. And that’s what my Foundation is doing.
WH: Good. Sounds like a worthy cause to me.
I: And, it is my honor to meet you here, to be able to listen from you, and I want you to know that Korean nation never forgets what you did.
WH: I’m sure they won’t. I’m sure they won’t.
I: Thank you very much, sir.
WH: You bet.
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