William Jacque enlisted in the United States Army in 1951 and served in Korea during the war as a supply sergeant. He recounts surviving Chinese fire along a supply route and details the defense of an ammunition truck. During his time in Korea, William Jacque was wounded, sharing his experience recovering in a M.A.S.H. hospital. He offers his reasoning as to why he chose to serve in Korea, sharing that he considers it an honor to have been given a chance to assist in the efforts against Communism. He encourages younger generations to enjoy their freedom in a way that respects all they enjoy in their country.
Guarding A Truck Under Chinese Fire
William Jacque details a supply route mishap while on a truck carrying ammunition. He recounts the route being under fire by the Chinese and describes his truck hitting a hole and tipping over. He shares that he was forced to guard the truck until a wrecker could recover it, and he adds that he hitchhiked a ride back to his unit.
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Talking to the Dead
William Jacque recounts his experience at a M.A.S.H. (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) after sustaining a shoulder and hip injury. He describes waking up to use the restroom and tripping over a person on the way. He shares that he felt so badly about the incident that he spent the next 2 hours talking to the soldier only to find out that the unidentified man was deceased when morning came.
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Rather Fight Communism There Than Here
William Jacque shares the reasoning for his willingness to serve in Korea. He explains that he wanted to fight for the Korean people as he was familiar with Communism and it's movement into Korea. He shares that he would rather fight Communism somewhere else than in his own country.
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Transcribed by Karen Kelly on 5/30/18
00:00:00 [Beginning of Recorded Material]
William: I’m William Jean Jacque Jr. I go by the Bill. I was born December 23rd 1931 in Geneva, Nebraska. My dad was in grocery business and we moved to Kansas, a little farming community in Kansas where I was raised and then we moved back to Nebraska again.
Dad had his own grocery store in a little farming community of about Uh 350 people and while he was there that’s where I was in school and met my current wife, my only wife and I initially enlisted in the service, the Marine Corps in 1949 and was taking book camp at Camp Pendleton, California and I had an asthma attack running and the Marines wouldn’t let me stay.
So they discharged me and then I went to Colorado. I did different jobs, picked fruit, fixed venetian blinds and decided I needed something stable so I enlisted into the army. I enlisted in 1951. Took my basic training at Camp Carson, Colorado, with the combat engineer organization.
We were activated primarily to go to Korea. But when we finished basic and were waiting orders to go to Korea, the unit was assigned to a post in Alaska and I didn’t want to go to Alaska. I had enlisted to go to Korea. I was kind of gung-ho I guess.
So I did get my assignment to Korea. We left out of Fort Lawton, Washington, on a troop ship. The troop ship was a gentle Megs. We had 4,600 military and went to Alaska and picked up another 400 people there. From there we went to Yokohama, Japan.
In Yokohama they decided to send me to Sendai, Japan for further training. So trained initially in explosive ordinance. They decided they needed radiomen and signalmen. So they trained me on the radio bowl lineman Morse code. But I took Morse Code too slow. So this is ok, that won’t do.
So we’re going to put you in supply. So they sent me to the southern Japan to a little placed called Iro Jima, way on the southern tip for a supply school. When I finished supply school they sent me back to Sendai, Japan. In Sendai I received my orders to go to Korea.
We left Japan and we arrived in Korea in Inchon. In Inchon I was assigned to the 7th Infantry Division 57th Field Artillery Battalion. Who were at that time was in ’51, late ’51.
Our headquarters and service battery was in Chuchon, Korea. While in Korea I was a supply clerk supply sergeant. I did various jobs. Our responsibility was providing support for the batteries. We had 105-millimeter cannons. One of my memorable experiences was learning how to drive a two and a half ton truck.
The Chinese were hitting us and we were supporting the Turks and they needed all available trucks and drivers to haul ammunition at night and daytime. I told them I didn’t know how to drive a truck. They told me you were going to learn. So I had a good friend of mine, Homer Cook, that took me on one run going up.
Coming back he says “okay you can drive a truck”. So by the time we made our second run it was dark and we were driving the blackout. The MSR, that was the main supply route, the rode that we had to travel had been under fire by from the Chinese and the North Koreans. My truck hit a chuckhole or an artillery hole and tipped over. I did not get hurt but I had to stay with the truck and the ammo until we got a wrecker to come by early in the morning.
I was kind of nervous standing out there.
Female voice: How long did you have to wait for it?
William: I guess it was probably about four or five hours. Once they got the truck and the ammo loaded back on the truck was not drivable. So I had to hitchhike a ride back to my unit and I got a ride on a tank.
That was my first association with the army. It was quite an experience. I drove the truck periodically on and off whenever we had an emergency or our batteries needed ammunition. Other then that just doing the normal day-to-day activities of supply.
Oh early 1952, we starting getting in cold weather clothing because initially the cold weather clothing that we had was not very good. This stuff that was left over from World War II and they had tucked it away in Japan and all over Europe. We finally started getting the heavy weather gear here.
Female voice: Is that one of the main things you remembered, the weather?
William: Yeah. Yeah, it was cold. But one thing about being in an artillery unit, when we went place to place we didn’t have to worry about diffing foxholes or anything like that. But it was cold and I we didn’t change clothes to often. While I was over there I picked I picked up a little Korean boy.
Either I picked him up or he picked me up. He was my gopher. He took care of me. He slept in my bunker and everything. He brought me water and all that. I guess he was with me or I was with him for about four or five months. Then he got killed. but it wasn’t by enemy fire or anything like that. He was going across the highway to get water and he got hit by a two and a half ton truck. We didn’t know anything about it until he didn’t come back.
That was a heartache that was hard losing him. I had, like I said earlier, we supported the Turks and the Ethiopians at one time. The Chinese didn’t mess with those guys too much because they were scare of them. I learned why while I was there.
But Chinese did hit us a couple of times and they never did infiltrate our positions. I met a good friend of mine, a Turkish Lieutenant. We kept in touch for quite a while. But after time everything stopped, the letters and all that. But I never had a chance to meet any of the Ethiopians that we were assigned to.
I got hurt over there. I fell and dislocated my right shoulder and my right hip. They took me to the Ford aid station. Then from there they took me to a M.A.S.H. hospital. That was one of my weird or funny things that happened at the M.A.S.H. because they put me under to relocate my should and my hip.
During the early morning hours I had to go to the bathroom. We had in the tent cots all over the place with wounded and what have you on the cots. They were pretty close together. But going outside to the latrine I stumbled, I tripped over a person and I felt really bad. So when I came back I sat there and I think I talked to him about two hours.
In the morning I found out that I was talking to a deceased soldier. He had a tag on his toe. I didn’t know he was dead when I tripped over him. I thought to myself here I have been sitting out here a squatting and talking to this guy for two hours and he couldn’t care less what I was talking about because he had passed away and just waiting for grave service registration.
That is something I will never forget. Talking to him and I could never figure out why he never answered me. Later I found out why in the morning when I got a light. I stayed in the service for 22 years. I retired in 1972.
My other tour of duty in Korea was in 1964. At that time I was in communications. I had gotten out of the supply business. I had taught myself electronics. Then went to electronics school and then I started operating, building and maintaining communication stations. I had a receiver communication station just outside of Seoul.
It was halfway between Seoul and the Han River. At that time Korea was starting to build back up again. The people, I just couldn’t get over the people. Out day-to-day and very polite, everything was clean, very religious. That was quite an experience.
I spent quite a few years, off and off, maybe nine in total in the Orient. I had a three-year tour in France. My wife joined there and our oldest son was born in France in Chinon. That was the only accompanied tour I had with my wife. All my Pacific tours were unaccompanied.
My wife stayed home and took care of the boys. I’ve got two sons; one lives in the New York and the other in Las Vegas. I have five grandsons and no girls.
Female voice: Not yet? [laughter]
William: Not yet anyway. My oldest son, the one that was born in France, from his first marriage had one son. He’s in New York now working for an engineering firm.
His three other boys are still in school here in [Lark]. My other son, Garry, has one son Christopher that works for General Motor in Austin. So that pretty much takes care of them.
Female voice: That’s really all boys.
William: All boys.
Female voice: You have boys and your boys had boys. Oh my goodness. [laughter]
William: We didn’t have to worry about frilly skirts or anything like that.
Female voice: My family was the exact opposite. [laughter] All girls. Too funny. Tell me again where were you stationed at in Korea.
William: Well, Chuchon I was up in the Chorwon Valley. Some of those towns there I can’r remember them all. I wrote them down because I’ve got some memory loss.
I was going through my papers and letters I wrote the friends that were back here in the states. They kept them and gave them to my mother to go along with letters I wrote to them. From them I was able to come back with the towns where I was at. I was north of Seoul at Uijeongbu and then over on the Chorwon Valley, the area of the Iron Triangle.
I was at [Changwon], [Gwanju], [Chungu] then in the [Chorwon] valley. We were at the Old Baldy T-bone Ridge and [Chorwon] area.
Female voice: Did that make up the Iron Triangle?
William: Yeah. Yeah, the Old Baldy or we had another mountaintop bridge over there we called Jane Russell.
So we have nicknames for quite a few of them places around there. Another interesting thing I think about I know a lot of the old infantry men will say that because some of those guys didn’t take a bath for six months or change clothes. We have a quartermaster unit the laundry and bath.
They would come by every three to four months in different areas and they’d set up a great big tent. It was a portable field shower unit. You got in line outside and you went inside the tent you took off your old long johns, underwear, and clothes. You would walk over to get a hot shower and got your new clothes. That’s what you wore for the next few weeks, few months, or what have you.
That was always a fairly interesting occasion there.
Female voice: Do you recall how much you were getting paid during this time?
William: I know it wasn’t over one hundred dollars. I know that. The pay was never that good.
We noticed more too after I got married we were moving post-to-post just took everything we had. We never got on post housing. I was always off post. They gave us, oh gosh, some pretty sorry places to look at. One place we looked at that they showed us to rent had grass growing or weeds growing out of the living room floor.
They just never had the best military. There was something else I had on the tip of my tongue. I can’t remember. Oh yeah, when I reenlisted we got a reenlistment pay of a hundred dollars a year for every year that you reenlisted. So what I mean is that I always took a six year enlistment.
So I can get that six hundred bucks. I was enlisted for seventeen years. Then I took a warrant commission. I stayed in electronics but I went into the army aviation field with the one hundred and first airborne in Vietnam. I put two tours in Vietnam.
They were getting ready to send me back for the third and I said no I don’t want to go back. I didn’t lose anything over there.
Female voice: Earlier you mentioned that you had originally been assigned to Alaska but you had signed up for Korea and you prefer to be in Korea then Alaska. Why is that?
William: Well, I don’t know. I was gung-ho. I was a fighter you know. [laughter] I guess I didn’t have any more sense but I just didn’t want to go to last hour.
I wanted to go to Korea. That was one of the reasons I joined the Marine Corps to start with because I wanted to go to Korea. I wanted over there and fight for those people and wear the uniform in combat situation. That was about it.
Female voice: So had you already had knowledge of the outbreak or what was going on in Korea and the war?
William: Yes. I did. Yeah.
Female voice: What was you impression or a reaction when you learned about it?
William: Well, I don’t know it was at that time we were familiar with communism. Because of World War II with Nazism and the Communists trying to take over Europe.
Then they started this nonsense in Korea and I just didn’t think it was right that people should be that way. It just got under my skin and decided I’d go over there because I’d rather fight communism somewhere else than my own country.
Female voice: So were you exchanging letters with family and friends back home while you were in Korea.
William: Yes, I was.
Female voice: Were you married yet?
William: No. I didn’t get married until 1953. I mentioned that I am familiar with armored in Korea riding in that tank. One of my first assignments back in the States I wanted to come back from Korea was at Fort Ord, California, with an armored outfit.
I was with research and development on the supply. We were developing an armored carrier, a first aid carrier. They would follow tanks into combat, which I was kind of proud of being able to do that. I did a lot of research and development with the army aviation.
Female voice: Were you able to make a lot of close friendships with foreign troops you were stationed with.
William: Yeah, I did. I have a lot of good, a couple of good, Korean friends that were with us during ’51-’51. I had a couple of Koreans working for me there. I’ve got pictures of them. But I lost track of those guys.
Over the years you kind of lose track.
Female voice: What were some of maybe the most difficult or dangerous, happiest, rewarding memories that you had during your tour?
William: Well I guess the scariest was the first night was that our outfit was attacked by the Chinese.
They had broken through the outer defense and they had hit us on the outside. I was on guard duty because we pulled our own guard duty there. They were battery and that was kind of serious. It scared the dickens out of me. Then at night you knew you could hear the mortar and the artillery and we slept in our bunker.
We pull the flaps down so if you have a candle going you couldn’t see it from the outside. If you could see it from the outside that meant that Charlie, I mean not Charlie, but the North Koreans or Chinese could see that light too. The North Koreans would come over periodically in an airplane and drop grenades on you at night just to keep you on your toes.
If I remember right I think they called him bed check Charlie, just chunking those hand grenades from planes at you.
Female voice: Would you say that’s probably most severe, serious battles that you probably were in?
Female voice: So you were wounded?
William: Well I wasn’t really wounded. I fell. I don’t remember what I was doing or how I fell. But I fell.
Female voice: Apparently hard enough or not.
William: But it’s ok. It was still the wrong way. I ended up getting surgery on my right shoulder at the Great Lakes Navy Hospital up on Illinois while I was stationed in Chicago.
Female voice: After you returned home from Korea did it have an impacted on your life? Is there anything that you gained or some different kind of insight?
William: No. Yeah, I guess acting on friendship, just making friends and trying not to make enemies and enjoying what you got. Because I tell you what, once you go to a place like Korea and you see what those people live through or even Vietnam.
What those people went through after their towns were shelled and living in holes, caves and that. It makes you appreciate what you got. It makes you see when other stuff is going on that takes that a way. The democracy or a republic away from those people by other people trying to force their opinions or their religion on you just upsets you. Really it makes me awful mad.
Female voice: Have you been back to Korea?
William: Not in peacetime but when I was reassigned there in ’64. I haven’t had a chance to go back yet. I would like to. I’d like to see it.
Female voice: In 2013 witness to the 60th anniversary of the armistice that was signed by China, North Korea, and the U.N. on July 27, 1953.
There is no war in modern history that has lasted 60 years after an official ceasefire. What do you think we have to do to put a closure on it?
William: I don’t really know. I don’t really know. I think that is why it’s taken over 60 years because I don’t think anybody else knows. I know the people who like the democratic style of government are not going to boy to communism or anything like that, not a dictatorship. Until those people quit trying to enforce there will on the people who want to live free. There is never going to be an armas tambien, or a peace treaty signed.
Female voice: Would you support a kind of movement to have a peace treaty?
William: I would.
Female voice: Think it would be possible?
William: If it would be possible to. Yeah, I would like to see that.
Female voice: What do you think the legacy of the Korean War Veterans or of the Korean War are? What’s the legacy?
William: What do you mean?
Female voice: What is important to be remembered? What was the purpose and what do the Veterans or Korea take from the war?
William: I think it is we think from the way that we fought and tried to help the Korean people. How they have developed their country themselves out of the war.
They have really that country. I’ve seen pictures in books and all this and not just their perseverance and their will. All that just amazed me to no end.
Female voice: Why do you think, in your opinion, is the Korean War also known as or called the Forgotten War?
William: Well I think it come up right on the heels of the Second World War, which was horrendous. Then all the other activities afterwards, like the Vietnam War and the people were getting so fed up with wars, especially during Vietnam. It just kind of pushed aside the Korean War. They just don’t remember.
Really and truly, I don’t think there are a lot of people that even remember the second war in the Pacific. They might remember the European campaign. But I don’t think they remember the Pacific.
Female voice: When you returned home from Korea did you speak about your experience at all? Did you share it or did you king of keep it to yourself?
William: I spoke about it. There are some things you can talk about.
Other things you know because people don’t really want to know or recognize. I said earlier I cam from a little farming town. I have four close cousins and a lot of friends that were all farming that area and all of us were in the 7th division at the same time. But we were spread over. I think I was the only artilleryman and they were all infantry.
So we can talk to each other because we know what the experiences were. It’s easy to talk to somebody who has been there and done that knows what the conditions were.
Female voice: Do you think it is for younger generations to understand what happened in Korea and to be knowledgeable and educated?
William: I sure do.
I would probably get kicked and beaten but I think there ought to be a draft so people can know what liberties they have and enjoy the liberties and freedom that we have here and see what these other people are doing. They want the same liberties we do. Most of them do anyhow.
I don’t know, I just feel honored that I was able to assist them in that.
Female voice: Is there any kind of message that you want to give to younger generations. Maybe, you know, just tips?
William: Well, just enjoy your freedom. Enjoy not only your personal freedom but your religious freedom and respect what you do and what you have.
Don’t give it away. That’s all I have to say about that.
Female voice: Do you think that the Korean War Veterans Memorial and what we are doing here with the interviews and trying to preserve your legacy is important and necessary?
William: Yes. I sure do because that’s the only way that the Forgotten War is going to be remembered.
[End of Recorded Material]