Name: Joseph Fabiani
Date of Birth: 1929
Place of Birth: Donora, PA
Dates of Service: 1950 – 1951
Branch: US Army
Unit: 2nd Division, 23rd Infantry, East Company
Prisoner of War: No
Awards: Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal
Today is January 28, 2008, this is Fidencio Marbella of the Melrose Park, IL Public Library. Also present is Heidi Krug, Reference Librarian here at Melrose Park. Today we’ll be speaking with Mr. Joseph Fabiani. Joseph served in the United States Army from 1950 through 1951. The highest rank he achieved was as a corporal and this interview is being conducted for the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress. Okay, let’s go ahead and get started Joseph. Why don’t you tell me when and where you were born and tell me a little bit about your parents.
I was born in a little town called Donora, Pennsylvania in 1929. My parents came from Italy around 1922 and married over here. From there we migrated, we came over here to Melrose Park, Illinois in 1949 and I’ve been here ever since.
Do you have any siblings?
Yeah, I have one brother and three sisters. My brother is deceased, but my three sisters are still alive.
What did your parents do for a living?
My mother was a housewife and my father worked at a steel mill in Pennsylvania but times were real hard there and half the time he was laid off. It was more or less after the Depression era, so my father, he did the best he could but after my father passed away, my mother didn’t want us to go work in the mills so she brought us all out here. We went to work in factories and such because she had a brother working out here, that’s why we got out here.
You mentioned that you were in the United States Army. How did you end up joining the army? Were you drafted or enlisted?
I was drafted.
What was that like when you found out you were drafted into the U.S. Army?
It was terrible! No, it was okay, I expected it because the war was going pretty strong and a lot of kids were getting drafted. I was just waiting for my turn.
This was 1950?
How did your mother react to this?
Well, she was kind of sad. She didn’t want to see us go in and get hurt, anything like that, but we all went down to this drafting center in Forest Park where you had to go be interviewed. My brother and I were identical twins and all my sisters were married at the time, so we went over there to see about being inducted. This guy told us, he said being identical twins and you’re mother’s a widow, only one of you has to go and it’s up to you to choose who’s going in. So my brother and I flipped a coin and six weeks later, I was in the army. So then I went downtown to 22 Van Buren Street for an induction center and examination and all that. From there they took us up to Fort Sheridan, Illinois. We stayed there for about two weeks, indoctrination, shots and all that stuff. Then after that they sent us down to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I stayed there for sixteen weeks and I took eight weeks of infantry training and eight weeks of combat engineering. After that, they gave us a thirty-day furlough and I came home and then after the furlough was over I went downtown and got on a train and went up to Fort Lewis, Washington. That’s our debarkation center. Going overseas. We stayed there for about two weeks, waiting for a ship to come over and we finally loaded up. I went over on the General H. B. Freeman, a “General” ship. We were on the water about fourteen days and then we went into Yokohama, Japan. From there, we got off at Yokohama and they put us on a train. They sent us to a processing center. We traveled all night, we processed ‘til about one o’clock in the morning. From there, they put us on another train and we went down to Sasebo, that’s like on the ocean. From there, we got on a, it was big steamer that the Japanese used to use for a luxury liner but they converted it into a transport, so we got on there. We sailed all night and we woke up in the morning and we were in Pusan, Korea. Then from there we all got off and they took us into a gigantic building, like the store across the street and we had our first breakfast over there. Ask any GI and they’ll tell you what they had for breakfast.
What was your first impression of Korea when you got off that boat?
Oh, I almost started crying. This has to be a nightmare, this can’t be true. So we all got off. The clothing that we took over, they took most of the clothing away from us. They gave you only what you needed, like a pair of socks, we used to put in our helmet or an extra jacket or an extra pair of pants, an undercoat, but that’s all you took. What we needed was mostly socks over there.
Why was that?
Because we did a lot of marching. Your feet got perspirated, you got holes. And then they took us up into the hill country. They didn’t billet us in any buildings. They put us in foxholes, just to get us used to this. They put us up there and we were up there for about a week and a half. We’d come down to eat and then back up. One night we got on two trucks. They called them, six-bys.
A deuce and a half?
Yeah, a deuce and a half and they took us up to the lines further up where we had to be, almost like a human pack train. We had pack boards with ammunition and stuff and we had to go way up to the lines and drop it off for the artillery and the guys that were up there. It was scary, I’ll tell you. And then, back down again. We did that for about a month and then finally they put us on another troop transport. We went all the way up in the lines to Heartbreak Ridge and they dropped us off there and we went up. The other outfit was coming down and we relieved them. We stayed up there for roughly about five weeks and it was rough up there. You had artillery barrages three times a day, you hear kids screaming and stuff like that, medic! We stayed up there for about six weeks and then I was lucky. The nearest I came to getting hit was, I was huddled up in a little foxhole with a poncho over me and they were throwing a mortar barrage in. I don’t know if you know what mortars are. It’s like a tube, you insert the shell. One of them exploded about, maybe from here to there and then a little piece came down and hit me right on the kneecap. My knee was swollen for about three days, about the size of your thumb. But all the way down it’s about one or two hundred feet which is coming down pretty hard. But I managed to get over that and then we got relieved. From there we went to this outpost that was called Yoke. I can’t remember the area, I think it was like a punchbowl area. Then these other guys, this other outfit came down off Old Baldy. They were a black outfit, the 39th or the 38th. We went down to this outpost and we stayed at this outpost for about five weeks, we were over there. Just in a holding position in a big valley. Then after there, they took us down to another area where we were guarding tungsten mines. About sixty percent of your tungsten comes from Korea, bet you didn’t know that. We stayed there for a couple of months, then we went down to another reserve area, like the picture there. Then from there we went back and forth a couple times and after that they called me up and said Fabiani, load up, you’re going home, I was rotating home, that was about it.
Let’s go back and get some of the details of your life in the army. Tell us a little about your basic training in Fort Leonard Wood. How did you end up in engineering?
Well, you had what they called MO, your method of operating, everybody has an MO number and by your aptitude test, well eight weeks of basic training was compulsory, everybody had to do that. The other eight weeks then they put you where they think you’ll be better off and that’s how I got in combat engineering. Took eight weeks of that at Leonard Wood. We did a lot of marching, we shot machine guns, we shot carbines, we shot rifles, we learned how to play with explosives and stuff like that. It was very interesting down there. After sixteen weeks we had a nice big party.
So what exactly does a combat engineer do?
They go out, mostly with explosives and they build bridges, just like an engineer. If you need to use explosives and stuff like that, like one time we had railroad tracks and we had to destroy them. So we took two quarter pounds of TNT, slap them together, put a fuse in there, light it and wait for it to go up. But sometimes the fuse went out so you had to kind of creep up real slow and light it again. That’s what you had to do! If there was any building you, well like in Fort Leonard Wood across the old Piney River we built a steel construction bridge all the way across the river. You have to do this in the morning and in the afternoon you have to tear it down. It’s like these railroad guys, when they carry the railroad ties and put them on boards, that’s what we had to do and another guy would come up with the nuts and bolts and straighten them out and all that stuff. When we did that it was ninety-nine degrees that day and we were sweating like dogs. Half the guys were just falling in the water trying to cool off. That was part of my training there too.
So you built a bridge in less than a day?
We built the bridge and we, let’s see it was about seven hours and we tore it down in another seven hours. Then we went on a lot of night training too. You know, you went to bed at ten o’clock and you got up at five. We got a half hour for breakfast, you cleaned up and then whatever you had to do for that day, you had to go out in the fields for rifle training, whatever you had to do, that’s what you had to do. And then once, everybody had to do this once, it’s called an infiltration course, that’s when you have to go, an area just like this and they flooded it down with water, real muddy and they put barbed wire all over and the barbed wire’s about this high and they have a guy on each side shooting a machine gun, crossfire.
With real ammunition?
Real ammunition. What you have to do is get into a prone position like this with your rifle and you crawled all the way through there.
In the mud.
In the mud without getting hit. When you get through, if they see mud in your rifle barrel, you do it again. Now we did this twice, once in the daytime and once at night and when we got back in these trucks, we were all muddy and everybody had three minutes to take a shower. We went to bed, five o’clock the next morning . . . Sometimes these [garbled] they would get, I don’t know, teed off and they’d get mad at you and wake you up at one o’clock in the morning, say you guys don’t want to sleep, let’s go for a walk, march you for three miles, then bring you back again. That was basic training. You’d wake up, this can’t be real, it’s got to be a nightmare.
So you did that for eight weeks.
Eight weeks, no sixteen weeks.
Oh, eight basic and eight specialized?
Basic was when you took the infiltration and all that. I’ll tell you, it separates the boys from the men. I think every kid should do at least one year in the service, whether he fights or not, you get them off the streets and you get better habits and all that stuff.
When you were finished at Fort Leonard Wood, you went on to Fort Lewis in Washington State. How long were you in Fort Lewis?
We stayed up there for two weeks. We were waiting for a ship to take us overseas. We went to the army barracks and they were like temporary barracks, and we got our issue of clothing, we got our rifles and all that stuff, and then they put us on a bunch of buses and they took us down to the navy base and we got billeted down there. We stayed on the navy base. We were eating in the navy kitchens and finally the ship came in and we loaded up. Thirteen hundred of us.
And you all fit on the one ship?
Yeah. There was one ship that had twenty three hundred.
What was the sea voyage like going to Japan? Had you ever been on a big ship like that before?
No, first time.
What was that like?
Well, I’ll tell you. First of all they start loading by alphabet. They start loading from the top to the bottom. If you had a “Z” you were at the bottom. If you had an “A” you were lucky to be on top. The officers, they had their own barracks, their own staterooms. Then we took off and we could still see the lights of Seattle and guys were sicker than dogs. They were all getting nauseated and stuff. I never got sick one day going over there but we had a lot of choppy water. One night we hit a storm and the bow went bam! Like that. We were sleeping on deck and they chased us down below. I always kept a bunch of crackers on me, kept something in your stomach this way you wouldn’t get so sick all the time. But the food was good, a lot of guys, damn! Coming home, there were about eighteen hundred of us and the water was like silk all the way home. We chatted on the main deck up there, we played bingo for fourteen straight days, that was all we had to do. We were running around the deck and stuff, pulled KP and finally we came into San Francisco. We came under the San Francisco bridge and people were throwing firecrackers down, there was a band on the dock and after we got off the ship, I came home on the John Pope, that’s the one that I came home on, like a three-stacker. We could have made it in nine days, but I understand they didn’t have any dock space for us so it was fourteen days coming home. We had a lot of fun, it wasn’t all bad. We played games, then we finally got into San Francisco and they put us on the ferryboat. You know, take us across the bay to I think it was Pittsburg, a little town called Pittsburg where the army base was, Camp Stoneman. We stayed there for three days and after three days about sixty percent of the guys went home by airplane but most of the guys were from Illinois so we had to take the train. We were on three days and two nights all the way to Flint, Michigan, where they make the Kellogg’s and stuff, we went in over there. From there we got our thirty day furlough and I came home for thirty days and after that my records said I had to go to Camp Atterbury, Indiana and report up there and that’s where I spent the last four months of my duty up there. It was nice, it was about thirty miles from the city, Indianapolis. They were nice up there. I was in a company where there were only nine of us. We were like the Street Department for Melrose Park, we delivered rations, we picked up trash, stuff like that. They didn’t know what else to do with us. We stayed up there about four months and we used to come home every weekend. It was about two hundred twenty, a friend of mine had a car and he was good enough to, we’d pay him to bring us home. But in those days, hitchhiking, hitchhiking today is bad, right? But up there they had these bus stops. You’d go out there and sit there. You weren’t allowed to thumb but you would sit there and within a half hour somebody would stop and pick you up. That’s how good people were to the GI’s in those days. They’d say how far are you going? Chicago? Hop in and they’d take us all the way home. People were nice in those days. When I got discharged I came home and just spent two weeks bumming around and then I worked at Chicago Rivet and Machine Company over here and I went back to work and I took up an apprenticeship and I spent the last thirty one years there until they closed and then I had other jobs where I spent fifteen years with the Village of Melrose Park. I worked here for nine years, he remembers. He said I was a bad dude.
But with great stories though.
I spent more time downstairs with Delores emptying that room down there.
You were on that ship going to Japan for about fourteen days and you landed in what port?
What was it like landing in Japan? What was your first impression there?
Landing in Japan was very, Yokohama was a very beautiful city. Japan itself is beautiful. Oh, I forgot to tell you when I was on this one hillside they came and got me. Everybody goes on R and R after six months, so they took me right off the line and went down and got on the truck and went down to this repple depot and I took a bath and changed my clothes and all that. We got on a C-47, these old propeller jobs, two engines and I told the guy, hey Mac I’m not going on there, I never flew before. He said no? He grabbed me by the collar, said you want to go to Japan? You’re going to fly and threw me into the airplane. So they had stretchers there, twenty guys on each side. And all the parachutes there, just like this. I didn’t know if I could use it anyway. We went on a four-hour trip from Pusan to the Sea of Japan and we landed in Osaka. I spent nine days there. That was a very beautiful place and I had the best time of my life. We used to go out to these cabarets. Beer was twenty-five cents a quart.
A quart. Red Label Nippon. Good beer. Then we had the R and R center. If you wanted to stay there they had accommodations for you. You ate three meals a day. When we first got there, I couldn’t believe it because there was a tablecloth on the table. This can’t be real because being in Korea, you didn’t have any of that stuff. We got these C-rations. Everyday they’d bring you a box of C-rations up. You got six cans of like meatballs or corned beef hash or stuff like that. Then you got a can of hard crackers and jelly and then a package of cigarettes. That was your daily ration. We got tired of that stuff. One time I was on Heartbreak and I got sick, very sick. They thought I had worms in my stomach or something so I went off the hill and went back to the aid station and they sent me back to the, this one aid station way in the back. You know like MASH? It was like a MASH unit, but not quite like that! They thought I had something in my stomach, so they sent me to Pusan, the field hospital over there and I stayed there for about two weeks. They gave me a physical and all that stuff. Gave me medicine until I was okay, then put me back on the truck. Back to the lines, back to the front. I got into the repple depot and I stayed there for a week, waiting for a truck to come and get me and all that stuff and then they took me back up to the lines. That was about it.
You mentioned a couple of times, what’s a repple depot? What is that?
A repple depot is when, let’s say you go to a hospital or something like that and then after the hospital says you’re okay and you can go back on the line, they put you on a truck and they take you to this one staging area. It’s like you’re not connected to anybody, but you stay in that area. It’s like a convalescent place and you wait for transportation to come over and pick you up and take you back to your outfit. That’s a repple depot.
So it’s replacement . . .
Yeah, a replacement center.
So you were in Japan, and you got sent to Pusan in Korea from there. Tell us about the march up from Pusan to where you were actually stationed in Korea. Were you driven in trucks up there?
No, they put us in these foxholes and they would put us on these deuce and a halves and take us to this ammo dump, ammunition dump. Then we would put pack boards on our back. They’d give you four rounds of ammunition or whatever you had to take up there, machine gun ammunition and then you would have to walk up the hill. It was all mountain areas. Maybe a mile, sometimes two miles and this was done at nighttime. When we went up there, they had giant searchlights shooting up into the clouds, like a flash down so the enemy couldn’t see you. Searchlights. And then you just kept walking up and walking up and bring the ammunition to where it was supposed to go. You came back down again and put you back on the truck and took you back to the repple depot.
So how many times did you have to make that trip? Do you remember?
Oh, four times. There’s an old saying, what’d they call you. They called you a chogie train, chogie. You were a human packhorse, chogie train.
So from there you ended up on Heartbreak Ridge? Now why was it called Heartbreak Ridge? Do you know?
It was shaped like a heart, if you saw it from the air. Like Old Baldy, the reason they called it Old Baldy was because artillery, hit so much artillery down there, they just blasted all the trees down and everything was leveled. From an airplane it just looked like nothing. That’s why they called it Old Baldy. That was in the Chowan Reservoir. They called it Punch Bowl. It was all mountains and everything was down in the valley. They called it a punch bowl. That was Old Baldy, they called it. And then we fought with the French, alongside the French. There were Koreans up there, the ROK Division, but at that time they had no training at all. They always got beat up all the time. They had very poor equipment. The Americans weren’t servicing them. They had to do it all on their own. And then the Ethiopians were there and the Greeks and the French and then we had a bunch of Canadian dentists. The Canadians, they sent some dentists over there. And we had Australians and we had a bunch of people that were separated all over Korea, but the Eighth Army had the most people. We had over, I’ll bet you we had over 150,000 people over there at one time, in the Eighth Army. The rest of them were all groups from different countries, like NATO they called it. They sent troops over there.
So it was a true United Nations effort then.
UN, yeah. The United Nations. We got along good with the French. We traded, am I allowed to say this? We used to trade them candy for wine.
They would actually want to give up wine for candy?
Yeah sure, candy and cigarettes. They loved them. We had what they didn’t have and they had what we didn’t have. They used to make their own bread. Oh, it was delicious and then they had a red powder. We got a five-gallon, no ten-gallon gas can and fill it up with water, take this powder and dump it in the water. We’d make wine. Wine! So we’d pick it up and have a party with them because we gave them candy and cigarettes. There were guys over there like that, everybody got along good. They were good fighters too. The Ethiopians were good fighters, the Greeks, they’re notorious, those guys. They like to fight with knives.
What was it like for you fighting on Heartbreak Ridge?
It was scary. I mean anybody tells you that they’re not scared, they’re telling you a lie. There’s an old saying, “There’s never been an atheist in a foxhole.” Whenever shells start coming in, everybody looks up. Nobody hollers for their father. Everybody hollers for their mother, when you get hit. They holler medic, medic! These poor medics, they’ve got to get out of their holes and whenever somebody’s hurt, they’ve got to get over and fix them up. I felt sorry for these guys and they’re not allowed to carry rifles or anything either. All they’ve got is their bag. You would actually have to experience it. I couldn’t explain it to you. If you’re laying in a hole and shells are coming. Say we’re in a foxhole and over by 25th Avenue [six blocks away] there’s a mortar outfit and they’re shooting 81-millimeter mortars. You’re laying in the hole and you hear . . . bang . . . bang . . . bang and you’re just laying there to see where they’re going to hit. That’s got to drive you out of you’re mind. Scared the hell out of you. That’s what we kids went through.
How long were you on Heartbreak?
Five weeks. Three times a day, three times a day they would harass us. Throw shells, just to harass you. Like lunchtime, morning and then the evening again. And then you’d just have to lay there. Sometimes you had to go out on patrols at nighttime. You have to go through it in order to understand. I couldn’t explain it to you.
What were these night patrols like? How far away from your lines did you have to go?
Sometimes you had to go about a mile or a mile and a half. Sometimes they sent guys out on, in a scouting position and just stay there all night long, watch for enemy patrols and such. Then in the morning you’d come back and you’d be debriefed. You had to tell them what you’d seen. That was scary over there, I’ll tell you. Sometimes there was a moonlit night. We went on a patrol once where we all had to hang on to each other’s shirts. We couldn’t see anything. The squad leader would walk and we had to follow him, wherever he went we had to, you know. That’s the way it was. But it wasn’t all bad. We had a lot of fun too. In the reserve areas, we had a lot of fun. Parties and stuff like that.
Tell us about the parties!
We had, let’s see, every month we got what we called a ten in one ration, okay? We paid $2.50 and we got a fifth of whiskey and a case of beer. Every month you got that. But if you were on the line, they would hold it back for you. So when we went back there, we made up for that. And then they would bring, sometimes if it was available the cooks would bring hot meals up for you, if you were in an area where they could bring it in. If you weren’t, you got C-rations. Like Heartbreak, they couldn’t bring hot food up there. And then we went down, like [garbled] area during the winter. We set up what they called an MLR line. That’s the Main Line of Resistance. There’s very little fighting in the wintertime. We just went on patrols, scouted, stuff like that, held our position. That’s what we did. And then we went down to this area where we guarded tungsten mines, we stayed there for about a month. We saw one old guy down there. His kid did something bad and he took a stick and just beat the hell out of that boy, so we had to go up there and stop him. Shot a round over his head and he got scared. I don’t know what he did, bam! Bam! Old man with his club. He’s funny, he stopped, we went over and stopped him. He was going to kill that little boy. People over there, they were very, very poor. They had huts, the floor was made of clay. Now over there in the wintertime, it got to be twenty below zero, sometimes colder. Then in December, you got the winds. Then underneath the house they would build a fire and then that’s how they would sleep. No thermostat. When it was cold you put more wood in there. They never wanted money, they wanted socks and clothing and food. I had me a little barracks boy. His name was Charlie. Charlie. Cute little kid, seven years old. He used to come in, Joe I shine your shoes. Joe, he’d bring me a pail for shaving and stuff. Every time we went to lunch I used to take him with me. I’d feed him half of my rations. They didn’t have any money, they didn’t want any money. And I’d give him some apples and oranges to take home to his mother. Boy, they were delighted to get that stuff because they didn’t have anything over there. If you gave them a hundred dollar bill, they didn’t have any place to spend it. We went to one area though, on the way down, we went in a three-day convoy. We stopped in this one area and they had a bunch of stores, they were like orange crates and stuff like that. These people were selling us our own cigarettes for a dollar a pack. The old black market. Lucky Strikes, how much Joe? One dollar. What? That’s our cigarettes. Sorry Joe, one dollar. Whatever you wanted, they had it. They made mirrors out of stainless steel, they had razor blades, they had soap, whatever you wanted they had it. The black market, people would sell it to you. When you’re in the repple depot all the kids would come up and they’d stand outside the wire and they’d go what do you need Joe? Want a watch? Like on MASH.
So that part was true.
The black market. Every place you’d go they had a black market. That was the fun part, down there. That little boy. I was sorry to seem him leave. He cried when I left and I cried when I saw him leave. There was an incident one time, some little boy by a house in a little village, this place here, this little boy got shot by accident, cleaning a rifle. Killed him, he was eight years old and the mother and the whole neighborhood came down and they were throwing stones at us and everything. They were very angry. We were told to stay inside and not come out because we were afraid they were going to come out with machetes and stuff. They were mad. You can’t blame them, we killed their little boy, but it was an accident. Finally things cooled down and everything was okay again. They buried the boy, it was sad, but those things happen. My job over there was on a 57 recoilless rifle. I had a picture of it but my sister lost it. See, it was a rifle, it was like a close range artillery and it was a rifle that you could carry around on your shoulder. It was 57 millimeter and had an extended cartridge like this with a warhead like this, 57 millimeter and it was like powdered BB shot in there with a celluloid wrapping. You could see the little holes in there. You put this shell inside the rifle, where the breechblock would close and then there were two, almost like holes in the back, one underneath and one on top. When the rifle was fired so much pressure pushed the shell out and you had a back blast. There was no recoil to it, that’s why they called it a recoilless rifle.
Was it almost like a bazooka?
No, not really. A bazooka was, it was a long stem like this but you had to put the shell in the back and you had to put two wires on it. It worked by electricity. Then when you wired it up and sighted everything and you had the trigger, that’s how you would shoot it. It was just like a missile, like a missile. That was called a bazooka. There was a 2.5 shell and a 3.5 that was bigger. It was an anti-tank shell they called it, anti-tank. They didn’t do too much damage, they were too small to knock a tank out. But if you had a foxhole or something like that, a machine gun or something, you could use that. That would do a lot of damage.
What would you use the recoilless rifle for? Was that against tanks?
No, that was more, that was more like, you could use it against a pillbox or you could use it as artillery, you could set it up here, it had a range of 2,400 miles [yards], you could shoot that far, if you were in an area, say like that building over there and there was somebody in there, you could hide behind these railings here and put that on your shoulder, sighted him and knock that building out. There was no recoil to it. That’s what it was for. Or if you had a tripod, you could shoot it off the ground or shoot it from your shoulder, one of the two. Whatever target you had.
Did you have much chance to use that in combat yourself?
Oh yeah, a lot. When we were down on this MLR, my squad leader, I had an ammo bearer. He used to go with me all the time. My squad leader used to give me six rounds a day. He’d say Joe, pick your target. The thing is, when you shoot this gun off, you have a back blast, so you can’t stay in one area too long because the enemy can see the smoke and the first thing you know you get something coming back.
So after every shot you had to move.
You moved and after I finished the rounds we went back to our foxholes again, do whatever we had to do, go out on patrol or something like that. Then you had to pull guard duty all night too. It was a two-man hole, two guys in a foxhole. You had to pull one hour on, one hour off, all night long. But the more guys you had in your squad, the more sleep you got. Now there were five of us in my squad so I pulled guard duty one hour and slept four hours, it was better. If you had a mortar platoon, there were five guys in a mortar platoon, one guy on, that’s how you did it, but you had to pull guard duty all night long. If there was like a disturbance out in the area and thought something was going on, you shot what they called a flare. It was in the air and lights up on the way down. Illuminates the area, it’s called a flare.
How long would it be lit up?
The flare? Maybe about ten seconds, not very long. It comes down and just gives you enough time to see what’s in the area, then just goes out. If you see a disturbance or something going on you called for a flare. If you go to jump on a hill, like if you’re going to attack on a hill or something like that, you usually go around the face of the hill, you set up your situation and everybody gets into position. You’ve seen these movies where the guys charge up the hills and somebody would shoot a flare up. That means go, and everybody would go up. Actually, you try and stay as small as possible so you don’t get hurt. But sometimes they had shoe mines. It’s about a quarter pound of TNT in a wooden box. Just enough to tear your leg, to tear your foot off. Not enough to kill you so they have to carry you off. Then if you hit the top, you’re lucky, the enemy goes up and you go down. Then they fight back and forth, that’s the way they do it over there. I’ll tell you, it’s scary.
So how long were you actually in Korea?
I was there eleven months, thirteen days.
What was your reaction like when they told you okay, it’s time for you to leave? Did you celebrate?
Probably got drunk. They don’t give you time to do anything. They just said saddle up, you’re going home. I don’t care if you’re playing ball or whatever you’re doing. That’s it. You have to put your stuff together and then a deuce and a half will come over, put you in the truck and then take you south where they take you to the repple depot and you wash up, you clean your clothes, you get a nice hot meal and stuff like that and the first thing you know they’ll take you to this base where you wait for a ship and then you go on the ship and from Pusan you go straight home. There’s no in between. We came in from San Francisco, California. It was nice.
What was your reaction to seeing San Francisco?
Oh it was beautiful. I saw that San Francisco bridge. I didn’t realize it was so high.
The Golden Gate?
Yeah. They were throwing flares down at us and confetti and all that and then when we finally hit the dock there was a big band over there, Welcome Home and all that stuff and then they put us on a ferry boat and they took us across the bay. You know, I can see why nobody can swim in that bay. All the way across there’s suction holes that’ll take you right down. I don’t think anybody can swim across that bay. So they took us over to Camp Stoneman. We stayed there for three days. We went to the PX, we had shopping centers there and a swimming pool. We had good food over there, we went to a movie and then after three days, I didn’t want to leave there. They put us on a train and went to Michigan, over there. I forgot the name of that camp over there in Michigan, where they made Kellogg’s. We went right into the camp area, got off. Right there they stripped us down, they gave us a physical and all that stuff and then they said if you had anything physically wrong with you, they’d take care of you right there. Otherwise they gave you papers and stuff and you went home for thirty days and after that you looked to where you were assigned to go. I was assigned to go to Camp Atterbury in Indiana. I went up there and I stayed up there for four months. It was nice up there. You were, most of your camps were way out in the boondocks, but Camp Atterbury was about fifteen miles from Indianapolis and you had a lot of other surrounding little towns that we used to go to on the weekends. We had a lot of fun up there. We went down to this one town called, they had two tomato factories down there, but I forget the name of the town. The chief of police was eighty-one years old and he had one wooden leg. His squad car was an old beat-up car. I think there were maybe six hundred people in that town. You kids better behave yourselves or I’ll come after you. He was a nice guy though, we used to go into this restaurant and hang out there. I’d never seen anything like that. That was a beautiful town. I met a nice waitress over there, we got along pretty good.
So then you got discharged in 1951?
Do you remember what month?
I believe it was, let’s see, I think it was in the winter. The latter part of the wintertime, about September or something like that. 28th of March, 1951. 28th of March I got out, ’51. Then I went into reserves. No, December, right after Christmas, that’s right, December.
You were in the reserves but you never had to go back.
No I never got recalled back.
Did you have any problems readjusting to civilian life after you left the army?
The first couple of days or weeks. You went around and visited and all that stuff. I wanted to get up early and my mother would say go on sleep late, you don’t have to get up then after a while you’d go out, go to the movies.
Do you ever keep in touch with any fellow veterans from Korea?
Yeah, one kid from New York by the name of Eddie Dynum. I used to keep in touch with him but the rest of them, I don’t know where they’re at. Then there’s one from Missouri, I kept in touch with him for a while. Then we had a reunion one time in a big dance hall way out south of, anyway, fourteen of us got together, about four months after I got out. We had our girlfriends and our wives. We had a nice steak dinner and after that everyone went their separate ways. Haven’t heard too much from anybody.
Okay, well thank you very much for sharing your memories with us.
Thank you for asking me.