B Company Marine Reserve Unit Group Interview - Oral History B Company -

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"B" Company Marine Reserve Unit

The "B" Company Marines were headquartered in Duluth and were called to active duty on August 21st 1950, during the Korean War.

In 1950 is when we got greetings from the President of the United States. You are now ready to go to (war). So, we marched down from Park Point. We marched down to the Depot, down Superior Street. We got aboard a train and went out to Camp Pendleton, California. There, they separated us.

All the guys who had been in the service before, went in one bunch, and those who had only had two or three weeks of summer camp (training) or whatever they wanted to call it, would go in another one. So, the guys who had been in the Service, we went up to what they called Tent Camp 2. We were on the ones who were ready to go to combat.

For more complete history of the "B" Company Marine Reserve Unit that was based in Duluth, Minnesota, see the list below for links to their individual stories and Oral History accounts of their experiences during the Korean War.:

Group Oral History:

  • Dale Alfred Erickson, B Company Marine, Sergeant,

Dale Alfred Erickson | Veterans Memorial Hall (vets-hall.org);

  • Michael Lanaski, Corporal,

Michael Lanaski | Veterans Memorial Hall (vets-hall.org);

  • LeRoy Ramon Hintsa, B Company Marines. Sergeant,

LeRoy Ramon Hintsa | Veterans Memorial Hall (vets-hall.org);

  • Thomas Richard Stauber, Air Force, 51st Air Wing, Staff Sergeant,

Thomas Richard Stauber | Veterans Memorial Hall (vets-hall.org);

  • Peter Selmer Hildre, Buck Sergeant, no Boot Camp,

Peter Selmer Hildre | Veterans Memorial Hall (vets-hall.org);

  • Fredrick Daniel Peterson, Corporal,

Fredrick Daniel Peterson | Veterans Memorial Hall (vets-hall.org);

  • Duane Norman Booker, B Company, discharged as Sergeant

Duane Norman Booker | Veterans Memorial Hall (vets-hall.org);

  • Warren Ben Kregness, B Company, Chosin Reservoir, Staff Sergeant

Warren Ben Kregness | Veterans Memorial Hall (vets-hall.org);

  • Clifford Theodore Boe, B Company, Buck Sergeant

Clifford Theodore Boe | Veterans Memorial Hall (vets-hall.org);

  • Robert "Bob" M. Johnson, Chosin Reservoir, Staff Sergeant,

Robert (Bob) / Virginia Johnson | Veterans Memorial Hall (vets-hall.org);

  • Robert "Bob" E. Olson, Able Company 1st Battalion 7th Marines. Continued on in Marine Reserve, ended up as 1st Sergeant;

 

Individual Oral Histories:

  • James George Morrissey, B Company Marines, Sergeant,

James "Jim" George Morrissey | Veterans Memorial Hall (vets-hall.org);

  •  More to come...

             

  


                "B" Company Oral History Project Group Interview

                                     Recorded April 3, 2013

        After a "B" Company Luncheon at Blackwoods in Proctor, MN

 


Interviewers:

DH: Dan Hartman, Program Curator for the Veteran’s Memorial Hall at the Depot

GTR: Gina Temple-Rhodes, Oral Historian, Cedar Story Services

 


Participants:

Left to Right around the table (last two on right in photo are GTR and DH):

LH:  LeRoy Hintsa, B Company Marines. Rank at departure: Sergeant

TS: Thomas Stauber, Air Force, 51st Air Wing, Staff Sergeant

PH: Peter S. Hildre, Buck Sergeant, never went to Boot Camp

FP: Fred Peterson, Corporal

DE:  Dale Erickson, B Company Marine, Sergeant, 1 year in Korea

DB: Duane Booker, B Company, discharged as Sergeant

WK: Warren Kregness, B Company, Chosin Reservoir, Staff Sergeant. Youngest in his rank at that time?

CB: Clifford Boe, B Company, Buck Sergeant

BO: Bob Olson, Able Company 1st Battalion 7th Marines. Continued on in Marine Reserve, ended up as 1st Sergeant

 


GTR: Thank you all for joining me. Now I should be able to tell your voices while I’m transcribing. I recognize a lot of your voices already, thank you!

The same as the individual interviews, we want to learn a bit about what your lives were like before the Reserves, why you got into, that kind of thing. Then, experiences in Korea and coming back, in later life. If anyone wants to start with… how many of you served prior to joining the Reserves? Were you in WWII?

DB: I did.

GTR: So, the rest of you ended up in the Reserves. Does anyone want to share why you joined the Reserves, and how that all came to be?

CB: Because we got a C-bag full of clothes! {group laughs}

BO: We got paid for every meeting we went to!

LH: Two dollars and 50 cents a meeting! {group laughs}

BO: I don’t remember what it was, but…

DE: And we had two weeks summer camp, in California or North Carolina.

GTR: So, it was an adventure, so that was good?

DE: A real adventure, right.

DH: How was that different, from say, the Active, or a different unit of the Marines, something to that effect? Why did you choose the Marine Reserves on Park Point?

DE: I joined the Marine Reserve because I had several friends that had joined. That was the influence.

FP: Jack Nordling was a coach at Central High School. He was a Major? A Captain. He was…. I don’t know if you want to call him a recruiter… an influence! Yes. That’s a good word.

BO: He was a jock-strapper. I served as his First Sergeant later on in the Reserves, when he was a commanding officer of the 16th Rifle Company, here in Duluth.

PH: In 1950, you had to register for the draft. That’s one reason I joined. It was influence from other people. My brother was a WWII Marine, served in the South Pacific.

FP: I was 17, graduated in 1950 with Pete. I didn’t remember registering for the draft, or anything.

Others: Oh, yeah.

FP: I suppose I was supposed to, I don’t know.

CB: I registered for the draft on the ship going from South Korea to North Korea to make the second landing on the North Korea. My mother sent me the slip that I was supposed to report to the draft! {laughs, others laugh}. I should have went! {others laugh}. I had to go to North Korea!

LH: I think the reason I joined the Marine Reserve was, I saw too many John Wayne movies in High School {others laugh}.

GTR: So, the Marines had a certain mystique, compared to other branches?

LH: I think so.

FP: My whole family was in the service. My brothers, myself, in different branches of service. I was the only one who ended up as a Marine. My oldest brother was a fighter pilot in WWII. He shot down two ME109’s and was a prisoner of war. Then, my other brother was in the Air Force as an enlisted man. I had another brother that was in the Army. I had another brother that retired as a Navy Chief, stayed in during WWII and Korea. Then, of course, I was split from the rest of the group and sent to boot camp in San Diego, MCRD. To this day, I’m 80 years old, I still respect those Marine drill instructors. I would go to Hell and back for either one of them. I was instilled into the Esprit de Corps. It wasn’t any propaganda, or anything. They molded me to have a respect for Marines over other branches of service. To this day I still feel that same way.

LH: One thing a lot of people don’t know, though, this is a good time to bring it up. A lot of the guys in this group; we never went to boot camp! I’ve seen articles in the paper where some former Marine officers couldn’t believe that there were guys in the Marine Corps who never went to boot camp! But they were hard up for manpower.

GTR: And you’d had some training, so you were considered combat ready?

LH: I never went to the summer camps, so I was not combat ready. I was in the second group,  that never went to boot camp, but went through basic training. It took us about 6 weeks, in California.

BO: The criteria that they had at the time, in order to be classified Combat Ready: you either had to be a former Marine, or had summer camp. And most of these guys had went to Little Creek, Virginia in June of 1950. Other than that, some had been in another service such as the Navy or Air Force or Army. That made up the criteria whether or not you were combat ready. But again, some fell through the cracks. They didn’t meet that criteria, but nevertheless they got sent over. On the 1st and 2nd Battalion, there were two ships to Kobe Japan, and then we combat loaded. So, they more or less learned on the job. But what was really instrumental, was all of our staff NCO’s and our officers, primarily 99% of them were all WWII veterans. So, that really helped us. In my own case, I joined the Marine Corps when I was 16, in 1946, and served in North China. Then we were kicked out of China in ’47. I served on Guam. Then, the Marine Corps had an austerity program; they didn’t really have the funds. At that time, the Marine Corps was under the Navy, and the Navy allocated the money for the Marine Corps. They used to give the Marine Corps crumbs. So, the Marine Corps had to get rid of personnel. Actually, I was discharged early, you might say. Rather than stay out of the Marine Corps, I joined the Reserves. I was one of the first ones, in January of 1948, that joined the Marine Reserve Unit. Of course, even after serving in Korea, I continued on in the Reserve Unit. The 16th Infantry Company, the 16th Special Infantry Company, and then the 65th. The different designation only meant a change in the manning level. But other than that, eventually, we, in 1961, we disbanded the Marine Reserve Unit here. Again, the Marine Corps had a problem, an austerity program. They cut out many, many Infantry Units around the country. Therefore, a lot of us didn’t have a home after that. I could have went to the 26th Rifle Company in Minneapolis, or the Air Wing had an air wing reserve in Minneapolis. I chose to go up to the 148th, and I ended up up there 14 years, serving as the head of security up there.

GTR: You’ve had a long career!

DH: I’m going to back you guys up a little bit. When you were part of the Reserve Unit here in Duluth, what do you remember? Where was it based out of?

LH: Emerson School, to begin with. 11th Avenue West and 3rd St.

BO: And eventually down on Park Point, at the Naval and Marine training center, which is now called the Army Reserve Center.

GTR: Did it move before 1950? When you say Emerson to Park Point….

LH: I948, ’49, maybe.

CB: 1949.

PH: When we left, that’s where we marched from, was Park Point to Superior Street.

GTR: Yes… how did you get down to Park Point, most of you? Even for the meetings?

PH: Family dropped us off.

GTR: For the meetings, too? Would you walk? Or were there streetcars?

LH: Well, when we went to Korea, our families dropped us off. But for meetings, we were on our own.

DH: Back up a little bit. Talk about that Emerson School as a training facility. How was it?

BO: Well, we had that little playground, near Emerson School, and that’s where we drilled.

PH: Yep.

BO: Or the street!

CB: The Gymnasium.

DH: When you say the street, do you mean London Road?

BO: No, no. 3rd St. Hoping a car wouldn’t hit us! {group laughs}

GTR: It’s still there, as an apartment, right?

CB: There’s an apartment there now.

DH: The Marine Reserve itself didn’t start in 1948, did it?

BO: Yes, it did.

CB: 1948.

BO: January of 1948. Melvin K Anderson, who later on… he was a Captain. He worked for the Post Office Department. He more or less was the volunteer officer to enlist us. He’s the one who enlisted me. So, we actually didn’t have meetings until we had enough personnel. After Anderson, Captain Hilford G. Bowes was our first real commander of B Company.

DH: So, I’m a little confused on this. In 1940, Henry A Courtney was sent to be an officer at the Marine Corps Reserve here in Duluth. So, did it exist for a short period during WWII and then was disbanded, and then was brought back in 1948?

BO: I’m unaware that there ever was a reserve unit before B Company.

DH, GTR: Hmm. Good to know.

FP: Might have been part of the Naval Reserve, at that time. I don’t know.

DH: But you guys are the group that started it off in 1948?

CB, BO: Yep, yes.

FP: I was 16, and you had to be 17. So, I got the papers for joining the Reserve. I went home and I talked to my Ma. She reluctantly signed, so then I was 17 years old {laughs}.

DE: When we were attending meetings at Emerson School, we had classroom training. We used the Marine Corps manual, how to wear a uniform, the history of the Marine Corps, and the other formations, information about tactics. It was quite a bit of classroom training.

FP: I’ve got a 1950 Marine Corps manual that I was issued when I was in Boot Camp, at home. From what I hear, it’s quite a collector’s item, now. It’s a Manual for all Marines. It shows all of the formations, how to stand at attention, parade rest…

DE: How to make your bouffant…

FP: Field stripping an M1, all of the nomenclatures of the parts…

BO: One of our favorite destinations, after drill, was Kyto’s Korner, down on Michigan Street. {group laughs}

FP: I don’t want to talk about that! {group laughs loudly}

BO: A lot of our personnel was 16, 16, 18. We drank like no tomorrow, and we fought like no tomorrow!

DH: For people who never saw it, this was a bar? Describe what that used to be like!

BO: Oh, man!

PH: It was on Michigan Street.

DB: I think I was probably about as old as the officers. I was 24.

(Unclear who says): It was like Fight Club (movie).

GTR: Who was doing the instructing? And would they go with you? Because you were older, but you were…?

DH: Would the instructors go to the bar with you afterwards?

DE: I don’t remember any officers going with us.

FP: No, no officers.

CB: Most of the officers were our instructors.

GTR: And they had been in WWII?

CB: Normally, yeah. (others agree)

BO: Not too many of the staff NCO’s, either.

15:30

FP: I do remember when we all came home. I went down to the Karr’s bar, on Superior Street. Lo and behold, there were 4 or 5 other Marines in there. We started partying. We moved the orchestra right off the stage! {laughs} We all got up there and sang “Goodnight Irene” {group laughs}. I remember that so plainly.

BO: One of the bouncers at the Karr’s bar happened to be one of our B Company men, named Don Jasper. Don Jasper was a local boxer, here. He fought Ezra Charles. When he was in fighting Ezra Charles, it was the second or third round. Don was taking some pretty good punches. Ezra Charles told him, he said, “Hey, kid. Lay down! You get paid the same!” {group laughs}

FP: You probably don’t realize who Ezra Charles is?

GTR: We can look it up. But that was after you came back.

BO: He was a heavyweight boxer!

GTR: Let’s not get too far ahead. We do want to hear about when you came back. But first we want to hear about before you went. What was the mood in those reserve meetings? Did you think, “Wow, we’re doing to end up in combat?” Or was it just fun?

LH: It was a uniform and two dollars and fifty cents a week, for me!

BO: When we got activated, we actually got a ten day extension. We were supposed to go ten days earlier, and we got an extension, from the 10th to the 21st. We didn’t have a clue that we were going to be processed as rapidly as we were, and go over.

DE: I had no idea!

GTR: But you had no idea you’d be deployed in any way, when you first joined the reserves?

DB: When we got to Camp Pendleton, they told us that you guys that were in the service before will probably be DI’s, Drill Instructors. I was a drill instructor, alright! (Whoosh!) Gone!

DH: Back up again! Before you were activated, what was the mood in the unit. Describe the scene in these classes. Was it pretty boring stuff, or was it actually kind of fun to go through?

FP: They had a trampoline down on Park Point. Who was that Buck Sergeant? He was really good on the trampoline.

BO: Bob Severson?

FP: Yeah. I’d go down, a lot of times, and after the meetings the guys would work out in the bridge.

BO: Tony Romano was another one.

FP: I remember that trampoline, and how good he was on that trampoline.

LH: It was more of a fun experience, not like being in the military. I think we went there just for things to do. I know, a lot of times after the meetings, on Park Point, we’d go down to the end of the Point, where the amusement center was. I remember doing down there with Jim Morrissey and some of the other guys. We’d go on those swings, go round and round like that. Jim, he couldn’t take that. He’d get a little dizzy on those things. It was just a place for young guys to go!

BO: Yeah. I don’t think…

LH: We weren’t patriotic. We weren’t there…. Like I say, we got two and a half bucks a meeting for doing basically nothing.

BO: I don’t think the personnel, by and large, were really interested. It was like…

LH: We were patriotic. That wasn’t the reason.

BO: But it sure changed once we were on the ship. Colonel Davis, aboard the ship that 1st Battalion was on, which many of us were on, gave a little sermon. “I can’t promise you any gooks, maybe 2,3 days, though”. And I guess you know, you woke up then. And not only that, on that ship going over, that’s when the realization came about. A lot of our guys had never fired their weapon, or anything. In my case, I was issued 40 rounds and two grenades. I went and zeroed in my rifle and threw the two grenades. A lot of guys didn’t have that opportunity at Pendleton at all!

GTR: Can we back up just a little bit, before Pendleton. I’d like to know more about that march down Superior Street, and leaving the Depot. What was the mood like that day? Did you have family there to see you off? What did you think was going to happen when you left?

DH: Describe the scene of that day.

BO: First of all, Captain Bowes called the police department. He told him, he said, “I’m leaving with my unit. Would you please try to control the traffic?” And they ignored him.

CB: Yep.

BO: So, he said, “The hell with them!” And so, he marched us from Park Point, right down the middle of the street. Now, there were people who were astonished. There were some looking out the windows, some on both sides of the street. But other than that, no big fanfare at all.

FP: There was one lane of traffic going one day, and we were going on the other lane, marching.

PH: Yep, yep. {others agreeing}

FP: Cars were driving! They didn’t even stop the traffic.

GTR: Wow, so you were just marching down?

BO: So, there was no cooperation from the City, at all.

LH: There was a picture in the paper of us walking down Superior Street, and they took a picture of one of those hotels? (along the side of the road). There was two women looking out the windows out there. We found out later on that it was two prostitutes, watching! {group laughing}

PH: There went your two dollars and fifty cents! {group laughing}

LH: That’s what it said in the paper!

CB: Found out later, yep, yep.  They got arrested.

GTR: They got arrested?

LH: It was a man’s hotel. They got arrested because they weren’t supposed to be there.

BO: Oh, Leroy!

PH: (unclear) Snyder’s dad was a policeman!

DE: Leroy yelled out, “Hi, Sally!” {group laughs, joking}

GTR: So, there was no respect from the police? They didn’t know what you were doing (marching?)

BO: Well, there was no representation of the City, even.

CB: It was all immediate family. Wives, girlfriends.

PH: They were waiting for us at the Depot.

DH: You started at Park Point, correct?

Group: Yep, yep.

DE: When we were activated and given orders that we were going to California, I was under the impression that we’d go to California for training, and then take over guard duty at some post while the regular Marines were sent into battle, but it didn’t work out that way.

DB: Who were the regular Marines?

DE: We were the regular Marines!

LH: I’ve heard this story, but does anyone know for sure, the story of Jerry Couture? How he joined us marching down the street on Superior Street? Nobody ever heard that story? {group murmurs no…}

DH: I’ve heard it, but I shouldn’t say. If anyone else knows, it would be great to hear that, for the record.

DH: It’s an interesting story. I don’t know if it’s true or not.

PH: He was not a member of B Company, originally.

22:36

DH: He joined the parade, enroute.

BO: Yes. A friend of mine, Ken Hardy, he worked at Marshall Wells. He served with me in China. When he found out I was going, he wasn’t a member of B Company, but he said, “I’m going to go along for the ride!” So, he joined a day or two before we left.

GTR: Wow. And he did go with you?

CB: Yep, yep.

DH: What time of the day was it when you guys left?

DB: Early in the morning {others agreeing}. It was sunny.

TS: I can remember, your sister calling me and saying, “Can you get me down to the parade? I said, “I’ll see…” I asked my mother if I could take the car and drive her down to Superior Street, the parade. “Yeah,” she said, “Go ahead!” So, we were able to park right in front of Snyder’s Drug Store, just as you guys had passed 1st Ave W.

CB: Who was calling cadence that day? Whoever it was, they did a good job.

(Someone) Harvey! Harvey Solon.

DH: Is that right? How was the weather that day?

PH: Beautiful!

LH: Nice!

TS: About 60, 70 degrees.

DB: When we got out to Camp Pendleton, we had a physical. I went into the Doctor’s office, and he pulled out my papers and it had a big red “X” on it. I said, “What’s that mean?” He said, “You’ve got a heart murmur,that we’re going to hold you back.” I said, “How long are you going to hold me back?” He said, “We don’t know.” I said, “Is it possible to throw them papers away and make some new ones? I want to go with this outfit, these guys that I’m with now, I want to go with B Company.” So, I argued with the doctor for about five minutes, and finally he said, “Hell, I can give in.” So, I did get a chance to go, but I wasn’t going to go alone!

24:30

GTR: I wondered about the separation once you got there, being assigned to the different companies. Did you expect that, or did you think you would all go at the same time, to Korea?

FP: We got split into three groups. One was Combat Ready. Second group was sent to either tent camp 1 or Tent Camp 2, and the third group, that I was in, was sent to boot camp. We were assigned for Boot Camp, but they didn’t send us there right away. There was such a rush to get these guys over to Korea that we were send down to San Diego. We loaded ship 12 hours on the night shift. There was cargo nets; there was everything under the sun going on board of these ships. I remember so plain… I happened to walk out. I looked down the line and here was a line of Destroyers in mothballs. There must have been 40 or 50 of them. I was so impressed by looking out and seeing all these grey ships, all in a row, there. Well, then after a week or so of loading ship, they brought us into San Diego, to boot camp. When I got there, there was a guy scrubbing a garbage can out. He was on mess duty. He didn’t have any hair. He was from down South, and as I went by, he said, “Man, you all ain’t gonna like it here!” {group laughs}.

BO: The reason the Marines had to load the ships is the longshoremen were on strike in San Diego. That’s the reason the Marines had to load the ships.

DH: This is my last question about the Depot, but to me this is important, because it’s a lot of the local stuff that people rarely hear. The day, when you got to the Depot, describe the scene. Were there lots of people there? Your family and friends to send you off? How was it?

DB: There wasn’t a lot of people. (other agree; no).

LH: I remember when we got there, but there were no friends, no family.

BO: I was married with a son, seven weeks old. My wife didn’t drive. I lived in Gary-New Duluth. So, my grandfather drove my wife and my son to the Depot to say goodbye to me.

CB: One of the biggest things I remember is Laveryn McKeever came down there. She had a little baby in her arms, Mike?

BO: Yes.

CB: They were standing there by the gate, there. I can still remember that. Ed was saying goodbye to her.

BO: Yep. My grandfather was holding my son, seven weeks old.

CB: I never had anybody to come. My dad was working and my mother didn’t drive.

LH: We just went down there!

DE: My two brothers were at the Depot, to see me off.

DB: I had two kids at the time. My wife and two kids were there.

GTR: Did they have any sense of how long you’d be gone, or where you were going?

DB: No, no (group agrees).  We didn’t even know where we were going!

GTR: Right. Did you get orders on the train?

WK: Then we took the records from B Company, Captain Anderson and I. We drove out to California.

BO: He was in what we called advanced detail.

CB: He went a couple weeks earlier.

GTR: Oh! You went a couple weeks earlier, with records. You drove?

WK: Yes. I was classified Combat Ready, and I never went to boot camp!

CB: I never did, either.

FB: When we were on the train, going out, Captain Bowes came by. I was a Private. He gave me a certificate. “To make you a PFC right now, so you’ll get a little bit more pay.” PFC’s didn’t go to boot camp. So, when I got to boot camp, I told my drill instructor, “I’m not supposed to be here!” I said, “I’m a Private, First Class!” {group laughs, amazed} He says, “Wrong thing to say!”

CB: I can imagine!

FB: “Mister,” he says, “You’re nothing but a goddamned boot!” {group laughs}

WK: After the Korean War, a friend of mine was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps. He would ask me some things, wanted to know if I’d gone to boot camp. I said, “No, we never did.” He says, you know, you were a Staff Sergeant when you got out. He said, “That’s unbelievable! Normally, you’ve got to be in the Marine Corps for at least eight years before you are eligible for being a Staff Sergeant.” {group agrees}

CB: Staff NCO!

PH: We have microfilm of all the orders, and where everybody went. We got it from Chuck Pierson in the Navy Yard at Washington, DC. And they are in our files. Dale has them, now. It shows who left, who went home.

BO: It’s what we call the Termination Roster.

GTR: That’s good to know. You said Captain Bose was on the train. Did you even know you were going to Camp Pendleton, or did he tell you that on the train?

PH: We picked up other units.

BO: We picked up the other Unit of the 4th Infantry Battalion at Minneapolis, and we stopped at Kansas City, also. We got off the train and did some exercises.

FP: When we got to Pendleton, they asked everybody, what did you do in civilian life? I told them… I had worked for a car dealership, washing cars and getting them ready for resale and everything. So, I thought for a minute and I thought, well, what am I going to tell them? Something went into my mind, so I said, “I was an automobile parts salesman.” I didn’t know anything about any parts or anything. So, they put that in my records, and when I got out of boot camp….Most of the guys were Infantry, 0300. A spec number is what your job is…

BO: MOS: Military Occupational Specialty.

FP: Mine was 1841. They… (audio recording ends for some unknown reason; take it up on the Video 2 of 2 file). They sent me to Camp Delmar to be a tank mechanic, just because I had told them I had been a parts guy. {group laughs}

GTR: Did you learn fast?

FP: No! We had the personnel from Australia, from Canada, from our Army, all over, learning how to be tank mechanics. They had all these other military personnel from all these other branches of service to acquaint them with the M46 Patton tank. It was so new that we weren’t even allowed to take a picture of it! We did most of our training with Sherman tanks that had two levers, one for shifting and steering and everything. But the M46 had a joystick where you could turn to either side of shift back and forth. It was just a pleasure to get into one of these and work on it. We talked about the WWII personnel. At my age, I was just a kid. I got tangled up with a lot of WWII guys. I looked up to them like they were my older brothers. They’d been there and done it, you know. Turns out, after Pendleton, I was assigned to the 7th Tank Battalion. I stayed right there. I didn’t go to Korea. I was on a replacement draft. We sailed out for two, three weeks, then turned around and went back. We made three landings, one on Santel (?) Bay Island, playing around with these brand new tanks. That was a ball. We made on Legal (?) beach and one on another beach. In one of the landings, I climbed over the cargo nets and got into a little LCVP. We were going to rendezvous, when we had enough of them. Then all of the LCVPs were going to go ashore at once. One wave…

DB: LCVP is Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel.

FP: Correct. The sea was kind of rough, so water was coming over. Pretty soon, I’m in water up to my waist. A lot of these WWII vets were there, too. Some of the guys got sea sick. They started throwing up, and pretty soon that was floating around there. I was up, trying to get air because I didn’t want to get sick, either. Anyway, we got to come into shore finally and drop the ramp and run like hell to make the landing on the beach. A guy was standing there and he grabbed a hold of me and threw me down on the beach and said, “You’re a casualty!” I didn’t know what he was talking about. Pretty soon, two guys came with a stretcher. They had me on a stretcher with a big white X on my back! Well, that was a good deal because I didn’t have to go on any of the exercises that the other guys did. I was knocked out of it for 3, 4 days. Finally I was reunited with the rest of them.

GTR: So, you thought you were on your way to Korea, and then you just did practices?

FP: We didn’t know where we were going. We had a lot of scuttlebutt going. The Navy personnel didn’t like us, that were stationed on the ship. The bunks were 7, 8 maybe 9 high. They had chains between them and then a piece of canvas between them. One of the guys got up on the top bunk, and the other guy started horsing around with him. One of the chains got loose and went around his neck! We had to go and climb up there and try to get him loose, otherwise he probably would have been strangled. We stole all the clothing we could from the sailors. We took all the metal pieces… ships would send these signals up to the other ships. Pennants, I guess you’d call them. We’d cut all the ropes there and use them for key chains! I guess they were pretty happy when they finally got rid of us. That was the USS Sandoval. We’ve got a history on her, later. Right after I got off her, she went to Korea with another replacement draft, but regulars. By that time they were phasing out the reserves or guys who had had so much time in.

DH: Let’s go to Camp Pendleton. What happened to you guys? How did you get reassigned? Obviously you all got sent to different things. Explain that individually, what happened at Camp Pendleton.

LH: Lines. Everything in the military is in lines, so you stand in a line to fill up your gear, get your clothing. But before that, they put us in a line, trying to assign you into your Military Occupation Spec number, MOS. Everybody ended up with an Infantry number. If not the initial number, the secondary number was Infantry.

BO: They had to fill up the rifle platoons first. So, we had our guys. My own MOS was A 1 Mortars. That’s what I was when I was in my first hitch. You had Cameron Heimbach, he was one. You had Diedrichsen, tanks. I can name you all the guys how had served, prior, and their specialties. Didn’t make any difference. Fill up the rifle squads, the rifle platoons, and that was essential. A lot of good personnel, like Roy Pearl, was communications. He was a fireteam leader in the Infantry Platoon, until Colonel Davis, our Battalion commander, his radio operator was killed. Word got around that Roy had been a communicator in WWII, so he became Davis’s radio operator. That’s really the only reason he got elevated from a fireteam leader to being radio operator for Colonel Davis, (who won the Medal of Honor).

LH: In the Marine Corps, your MOS, either your primary or your secondary number is Infantry. You’re a Marine Infantry member, first. They’ve got you in Infantry, one way or the other.

BO: And that’s what saved us, really, because I don’t care if you go in the Artillery or tanks or wherever, first of all you learn how to fire a weapon.

CB: You’re an Infantryman, first.

DH: So, where did you get put? Where did you get assigned? Where did you go after Camp Pendleton. Many of you had different routes.

LH: We went to tent camp. At Camp Pendleton, we got assigned to a tent camp. I think we were in Quonset huts, up in the hills. (someone breaks in; For Advanced training) Everybody in our Quonset hut, I believe they were all from Duluth.

DE: It’s called Advanced Infantry Training.

DH: At some point, you guys got separated.

DE: Right. They were all sent to different training units.

PH: We were all in different units, at that point. We were first replacement draft. We crawled under machine gun fire. Foxholes you had to crawl out, firing a machine gun over your head. Threw a couple hand grenades.

FP: For all intents and purposes, once we got to Camp Pendleton, there was no longer a B Company. (other agree, no).

BO: See, what happened… The Units that were in Korea, that had fought, had casualties, so they had to be replaced. So, the first replacement draft, which Pete was in, whatnot, they took those people and assigned them to either the 1st Marine Regiment, the 5th Marine Regiment, or the 7th Regiment. Then, within the Battalions in those regiments. Then the companies within the Battalions. Then the Platoons within the Companies. That’s how they got assigned.

PH: Yes. We went to Japan. We stayed in Japan for close to a month.

BO: Oh, that long?

PH: Yep. Climbing mountains, all over. Training and training and training. Then, we boarded ship towards Korea and Wonsan. Then there was a big schoolhouse, there. They had our name on the wall and what Unit you were going with. I went with How Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. We were with Headquarters, 5th Marines.

GTR: So, that happened in Japan, that you go those assignments?

PH: Nope, Korea.

LH: I think that was only a month from the time we left the States, in Japan, so it was not a lengthy stay.

BO: We didn’t get any replacements in the South Korean operation. We had to continue on with what we had, because there was no bodies to replace them. Then, we got into North Korea, that’s when the first replacement draft, when we first got our first replacements. That was in November, 1950. Then, we got the second replacement draft in November 1950.

PH: Yes, they came in in Pusan (others agree).

LH: If you think this sounds confusing to you…. {group laughs}… it was confusing in the Marine Corps the same way.

BO: I might just relate to you that I was a squad leader. I was one of those in my platoon, one of the originals, one of two throughout all of my time in Korea. 1 of 21 in my Company. So, I seen them come and go. I seen guys join my squad at 8:30 in the morning. By 10:30 they were on a stretcher. I never got to know their name, or nothing! That was numerous guys. I served all the way from September until I got rotated in May of ’51.

FP: To back up a little bit, there’s something you probably don’t know. When I was at tank mechanic school, they had an inactive reserve. These guys were WWII vets. They were called back in (Class 3). Those guys were like bigger brothers.

13:31

Their lives had started, they had wives, maybe a couple kids, maybe going to college, and all of a sudden, Bang! And they’re back in the Marine Corps. These guys, they figured, well, not much they could do about it, so they’d make the best of it. They sent us up to Pickle Meadows for winter training when it was 30 below. I remember one morning it got to be so it wasn’t too cold. One of these WWII vets had his helmet out, his helmet liner out, and he’d gotten a hold of some water, and he was shaving! I looked over at him and I thought, “Geez, how he’d probably done the same thing in WWII to keep himself clean and everything. He made a statement about how cold it was which I can’t repeat here now. I always remember staying as close as I could to those inactive reserves and those WWII vets. We had one fellow from Minneapolis that was called in. He was a sole surviving son, name of Wagner. His brother had been killed in WWII. He said to me, “Well, I don’t have to worry about going overseas, because they’ll never take a sole surviving son and ship him overseas; that was a policy. He was right; he never went overseas.

PH: A lot of the regulars had looked down on the reserves. Took them a long time for them to realize…

LH: Can we go back a little and kind of straighten this out for the list in California. There were lots of different groups. Bob was in Combat Ready.

BO: When they went through the administrative process, there’s no unit that existed in our country that deployed the way the Marine Corps did at that time. If you were Combat Ready, in your recordbook was a great big CR in red. That meant Combat Ready. No doubt, maybe there were a few that went through the cracks, but by and large everybody took it in stride. The one thing that did happen, when we boarded ship in San Diego, on the way to Kobe Japan to combat load before we hit Inchon in South Korea. On the way over on the ship, that’s when the reality really sunk in. We had lessons. I as a squad leader with prior service was teaching my squad, people in my platoon, the weapons and all that. A lot of guys didn’t have a chance to zero in their M1, so we threw cardboard boxes off the fantail, and that’s how they zeroed in their weapons, shooting at them boxes. Likewise the machine guns, same things. We conducted a lot of schools on our journey from San Diego to Kobe, Japan. The guys really took hold, then.

LH: The timeframe that might be missing, that gets confusing for people is guys like Bob… we left Duluth on August 21st.

BO: Sept 1st, we were on a ship on our way over.

LH: When did you hit the beach?

BO: September 21st.

LH: One month to the day, from the time they left Duluth. The guys that were Combat Ready, the oldtimers, they hit the beach in Korea. That’s one of the important things. There wasn’t much training involved.

BO: There isn’t any other organization in the country that accomplished what the Marine Corps did!

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LH: To pull a guy from civilian life and have him in combat in one month!

BO: The reason the Reserves had to be recalled: The 1st Marine Division wasn’t really a Division, it was a Brigade. Even the Regiments didn’t have full battalions. A Regiment has three battalions. Most of them only had two battalions. They were in the Pusan Perimeter, the 1st Marine Regiment and the 5th Marine Regiment. In order to complete a division which is three Infantry divisions and an Artillery Regiment, they had to call the reserves. So, all of our reserves that were call, we filled out the 1st Battalion and the 2nd Batallion of the 7th Marine Regiment. The 3rd Battalion was made up of people in the Caribbean, the Mediteraon, out at sea! And that’s what made up the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. That was finally a full division so we could hit Inchon. Otherwise, we didn’t have a Division to hit Inchon. Furthermore, when we did hit Inchon, we should have hit it with two Divisions, the 1st Marine Division and the 7th Army Division. We didn’t have enough capability. So, the 1st Marine Division landed first, then the ships had to go over and get the 7th Army Division. That’s how dire a shape we were. Our Artillery, our 105’s,were at Guadalcanal. They didn’t have lands and grooves (?) anymore, they were smoothbore! All of our weaponry, our ammunitions, our mortar rounds, were all WWII stuff. Believe me, those of us that were in the rifle platoons and the rifle companies, we had lots of deaths, and a lot of misfires. Our illumination didn’t go off, half the time.

FP: Your M1 was full of cosmoline, had to clean that out. You’d have to memorize the serial number of the M1 {group agrees}.

BO: Our Corsairs were hung together with haywire. They were cannibalizing to keep them in the air.

PH: The Italians that were in the fire brigade, in the Pusan Perimeter. They were the first ones in. They had to take that island. They had the land, and kept firing. We did fire protection at the landing at Inchon.

GTR: At the landing at Inchon, was the mission really clear, and did you feel like this was something you could do, or did it feel like “what are we doing here?”

BO: Inchon was a spectacular maneuver by General MacArthur. You can’t deny him that. He broke the North Koreans in half. That’s what really put the North Koreans on the run. When we took Seoul and were on our way to the 38th parallel at Ujon-bu… in fact, we crossed the 38th. We had the North Koreans on the run. Oh, man, we had them on the run! Well, then we withdrew and went back to Inchon and boarded ship, in preparation to land in North Korea. Of course, you know what happened. MacArthur and our intelligence in Japan would not believe what air was telling them. Air reconnaissance over the Yalu River, between Manchuria and China, was telling them, “There’s thousands and thousands and thousands of Chinese crossing the Yalu River. No one would listen. General Almond and the 7th Army Division said, “Oh, just a few renegades.”

PH: It was 75 miles. The Marines went in on the East Coast. The Army was going up the West Coast. There was a 75 mile gap. You don’t do that! Keep them together as units.

GTR: They didn’t know what they would encounter, yes.

BO: Well, we hit the Chinese the first time November 2nd. Our Platoon and our Company, we ran into a regiment. We fought them for four days. We couldn’t hold the hill. Called Artillery on top of us. Eventually, we were relieved by the 2nd Battalion. After that, we grassed up into the high country. I mean rugged terrain, up to Hagaru to Udamni, which was the first part of the Chosin Reservoir. Our regiment was up there all alone. We had made our last patrol, we thought, a reconnaissance patrol up to the Yalu River. But we never quite reached it. We were about 17 miles from it. The 5th Marine Regiment was going to take over the point from our regiment, because we’d been in the point all the way from November 2nd, and this was around November 27th or so. Anyway, thankfully, our Division Commander O.P. Smith had enough intelligence… we were under Army Command at the time, 10th Corps, which was commanded by an Army General named Almond, who was a nitwit! Our Commanding General O.P. Smith consolidated our regiment with the 5th, otherwise there was no way we’d be able to be successful in the fight. 70 miles with conditions of 35 below zero.

GTR: So, that was the Chosin Reservoir area?

BO: Yes.

GTR: How many of you were there? (show of hands, about half of them)

FP: When I was at Camp Pendleton, I was in what they called a Casual Company for a little while. While I was there, they lost my records. So, I wasn’t paid or anything while I was there. A lot of these wounded vets came in from Korea. I get a lump in my throat just telling the story. I’d see these young guys come in there and they’d have casts on their arms and shoulders; they were just all shot to hell! They were in the barracks in Casual Company. I was pretty close to them before they got filtered out into other outfits. It wasn’t a very pretty sight. My brother was in the Navy, stationed at Inchon, and my mother saved all the letters that we ever wrote. He’s passed away now. But some of the letters he wrote to my mom said that there are a lot of Marines coming down the hill that weren’t in very good shape, being shipped out.

DH: So, for the folks that were part of the Chosin Reservoir, describe the conditions. You were leading, but then you were surrounded, you made your pushback. Describe what it was like to those who weren’t be there. Obviously it was very cold, mountainous….

LH: I’d like to go back a little bit from that, and talk about when we first got to Korea. I was in the first replacement draft. We got there to Korea, and this is when they assigned us to our units. We went to a little town called Chin-hung-ni; it was at foot of the mountains before you went to North Korea. There were five of us from Duluth, and four guys from Rockford, Illinois. We got assigned to H & S Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. Kind of a funny story. It was cold out. The gunnery sergeant came out and he asked where we were from. There were five of us from Duluth. He disappeared and went back into the tent. He came back and said, “I’ve got news for you. Our company commander is from Duluth. He’s never met a guy in the Marine Corps from Duluth in his whole live. He’s going to come out and one of you guys is going to be his runner.” So, it was cold out there. We stood out there. They said, “Take off your field jackets.” We took off our field jackets. He said, “Roll up your sleeves!” The Company Commander comes out. He had a scroungy little mustache and beard. He said, “Put out your arms!” There were seven of us, five from Duluth and two from Rockford. I had been doing gymnastics and weightlifting at the YMCA and I was a pretty husky kid. He came up to me and said, “You! You’re gonna be my company runner.” He rolled up his sleeve. He said, “I guarantee that in six months you’re gonna look like me!” A little skinny guy. {laughs} And that’s how I became the company runner!

(Unknown) He knew he was a Finlander! {group laughs}

LH: Anyhow, this guy, his name was Walter Godenius. He was from Duluth. He had lived on top of Lake Avenue. He had enlisted in the Marine Corps I think about 1935.

(recording ends)

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