4:58 | After a short stint in the Navy, Bill Camper decided that it wasn't for him. He was going to serve, but in the Navy, the gulf between officers and enlisted men was too wide, so he got out and enlisted in the Army, where he knew the officers would be in the mud with him. Once in the Army, he was sent to Officer Candidate School and went to Korea with an engineer battalion.
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When Bill Camper arrived in Korea in command of an engineer company, the peace talks were going on so they were able to do their work on roads and bridges without getting shot. Mines were a threat, though, left by the retreating Communists. After tours in Japan and Germany, he was training paratroopers at Fort Benning when the Vietnam War began to heat up.
Bill Camper felt like the people of Hue supported the South Vietnamese soldiers he was advising. He made some headway encouraging those men to fight and he relates the story of how he taught them to advance through their own artillery barrage and surprise the enemy from the rear.
It was a hurry-up assignment. Bill Camper was sent to Quang Ngai to advise the civilian administration and he was so rushed, he had no radio or vehicle when he got there, but he went right to work. He had to put together a reaction force of locals armed with whatever they could find and he had to deliver medical and infrastructure assistance.
Civilian Advisor Bill Camper only had a small force to deal with snipers and ambushes, but he could call the ARVN unit stationed nearby to deal with larger enemy forces. The first time he went to answer a distress call from a village, the unit was ambushed, so there was some adjustment to procedures. During this time, he developed respect for the Vietnamese people, regardless of their allegiances.
"No one in Vietnam needs these." That's what Bill Camper thought when his district was sent boxes of laxatives by mistake. The civilian advisor told the doctor to hang on to them and that led to victory over a North Vietnamese unit that had moved into the area. "It was kind of like biological warfare."
He had been a civilian advisor, but Bill Camper was reassigned to Hue to advise an ARVN regiment. This made life simpler, just find the enemy and engage him. In his first large operation, the relief of an overrun forward base, victory was achieved, but with a high cost in lives. For three days, they had to wait in the jungle with the bodies of their fallen comrades.
It had to be a mistake. Bill Camper was not a headquarters man but when he arrived in Vietnam for his second tour, he was assigned to Military Assistance Command (MACV) Headquarters. He managed to get a field assignment and was sent up near the DMZ to advise an ARVN regiment. Unfortunately, the Vietnamese commander was hard to get along with.
The North Vietnamese attacked across the DMZ with everything they had. Bill Camper was an advisor to the ARVN unit stationed there in the wake of the American drawdown and barely got back inside the perimeter as two battalions on a maneuver were lost. The enemy artillery barrage was relentless, and after four days of fighting, the South Vietnamese commander decided to surrender. Camper was having none of that.
The artillery fire was so intense at Camp Carroll that Bill Camper could not get a fix for counter battery fire. The rounds were coming from four directions. After four days of intense North Vietnamese attacks and with his ARVN counterpart ready to surrender, Camper escaped with a few others, but they were cut off and had to fight their way back into the camp. Then came a fateful radio call.
ARVN advisor Bill Camper received an unusual experimental weapon to possibly counter the Russian tanks that were tearing up the Southern forces. It was the XM72, a four barreled handheld rocket launcher. While he was training some men to operate it, the North Vietnamese attacked.
In the tense concluding days of the Vietnam War, ARVN advisor Bill Camper was with a unit holding bridges at Quang Tri when he went out to check on suspected enemy activity. He was unconcerned about the artillery rounds passing overhead because the enemy's Russian rounds had no air burst capability. Then a round hit a tree above him.
They aren't all heroes, they were just doing their jobs, says Bill Camper, veteran of Korea and Vietnam. He remembers laying in bed in basic training and trying to breakdown his $55 a month into what his hourly rate was. You don't do it for the money.
After his first tour in Vietnam, Bill Camper was assigned to Fort Carson and the 5th Mechanized Division, training soldiers destined for that conflict. Then he had a six month assignment with a Special Forces team in the Dominican Republic during that country's civil war.
Following training and boot camp, Bob Owen attended radar school so he could learn to detect and communicate with other ships while overseas. Before that, however, he was given two weeks with his family for the holidays and remembers a nasty bus accident that happened on the way home.
The outbreak of war in South Korea pushed Young Chang Ha’s family further south to Pusan where an already struggling family would have to find any way to survive. As the U.N. forces repelled the North Koreans, he would find work as an interpreter despite not knowing much English at all. In spite of the hardships he and his family were able to hold out until the armistice was signed.
T.J. Martin was marched north to Camp 1 in NW North Korea, along the Yalu River. He recalls what he considered the mercy of his captors, and fellow prisoners’ comparison to their treatment as captives of the Japanese years prior.
Ben Malcom recalls a mission to infiltrate and destroy a 76mm gun hidden inside a North Korean mountain. During the cover of night on July 14, 1952, Malcom managed to sneak 120 guerilla fighters onto the mountain and into the bunker, and describes the combat that ensued.
When it was time to act, Bill Minnich came through. On a night watch, as he caught sight of a Chinese patrol, the only question was, rifle or grenade? When the unit was pinned down and no one responded to the order to move out, he cussed them all out and charged forward. And when he fell wounded, it was a sure thing that he would get up and scramble through the bullets landing at his feet.
After the war, competition for any work or education was very high for the young men living in Korea. Young Chang Ha tells the story of how he managed to get his education, make his way to America, and begin a career in the U.S. Navy as a Chaplain aboard the USS Sperry (AS-12).
It was called Hill 205. The small Ranger company was told to take and hold the hill. They did that as long as they could but Ralph Puckett and his men had to go through hell to do it. Waves of Chinese attackers had him calling in very close artillery strikes. He lay there, unable to move after three wounds, watching the Chinese bayonet wounded Rangers. Then two figures charged up the hill.
A year after his family made it to safety in Seoul, the North Korean forces had begun their invasion of South Korea. Young Chang Ha describes the terror he faced as he spent three months in an attic with his uncle trying to avoid capture, and the relief of hearing U.S. tanks retaking the city.
Ron Clark remembers when the Chinese would attack and how the strategies between American and Chinese differed. He also explains one detailed account of an American casualty during battle and his own major injury that permanently disabled his eyesight.
Young Chang Ha was still a young man living in North Korea at the end of WWII. Korea had been divided and occupied by the Russians in the North and the Americans in the South. Growing up in the town of Yongchon, he lived a quiet farming life, but the religious persecution against Christians brought on by the Communists would force him and his family to flee.
There were many miles between Young Chang Ha’s village and possible refuge in South Korea, so when his father decided they would flee, they had to figure out the safest possible route and carry only the essentials. The Communists didn’t make things easier when they switched the national currency.
T.J. Martin had already lost many men and the Chinese were taking even more prisoners. Thanks to some quick thinking and some good teachers back home, he was able to talk his way out of captivity, but he wasn’t out of the woods yet. Part 1 of 2
Young Chang Ha’s family took a train from the Northwest Corner of North Korea through Wonson, and eventually made it to the 38th Parallel. While there, his mother would be separated from them as they were able to get into Seoul, but he recalls the miraculous string of events that happened as they made their way to his uncle’s house in South Korea.
T.J. Martin was trying his best to resist the indoctrination attempts of the North Koreans, so they sent him to Camp 2, just north of Camp 1. There, they had different methods to try and break him. He remembers his time there before being relocated again, as well as participating in Operation Little Switch where North Korea would exchange wounded prisoners with the U.N. Coalition.
Able to reconnect with his mother and find shelter with his uncle, Young Chang Ha had successfully fled the Communist regime in North Korea. With only the little capital they had from selling dried squid at the border, his family took up baking as a means to survive in Seoul, but this period of peace would not last.
T.J. Martin left his home in South Carolina when he graduated as he was drafted into the Army in 1950. The Korean War would take him across the Pacific to Japan where he would do some teaching, before ultimately landing in Korea to join the 38th Infantry Regiment.
Grace Chicken wasn't necessarily drafted into the Korean War since she willingly took the nursing job she was offered immediately out of school. It was around this time that the Army Air Corps became the Air Force. She was stationed in Japan and would fly to Korea to pick up wounded Americans, and oddly enough, sometimes they would even pick up wounded enemy soldiers. (This interview made possible with the support of RICHARD A. BERNSTEIN.) ( Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the Military Heritage Museum- https://freedomisntfree.org/.)
The North Koreans had captured hundreds of soldiers and kept them in a prison camp that was also a tactical target for the American Air Force. It became unfeasible to keep the prisoners there, so they began marching for the North Korean headquarters. T.J. Martin recalls not everyone being able to survive the trip. Part 2 of 2
He was tired of war and service, but he still found himself trying to get back in the Marine Corps. Emory Ashurst had to settle for the Army, but it worked out for 17 more years serving his country. In Korea he was a communications specialist and was fortunate to face no combat. (This interview made possible with the support of MICHAEL J. TANNER.)
During her time in the service, Chicken remembers that the treatment nurses received on board the airplanes was incredibly positive. According to her, nurses were held in very high regard because of their ability to quickly care for patients as well as their status as officers. One time in Korea, her team was tasked with saving a group of orphans. After the war ended, she went back to having a job at the Red Cross. She gives her reflections on both wars she was involved in, and what she wants to say to everyone watching her stories. (This interview made possible with the support of RICHARD A. BERNSTEIN.) (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the Military Heritage Museum- https://freedomisntfree.org/.)
After his missions in Japan, Owen came back to the states for a brief period as a plane guard for aircraft carriers with the Valley Forge. His ship acted as underwater security for the pilots in the air. If a plane went into the water, it was his team's job to rescue the stranded pilot. As soon as the North Koreans crossed the 38th parallel, the US declared that it was going to help the south. Owen and his team helped aid in the Korean War.
With few options, T.J. Martin had to make a move to get out of the ditch. In spite of taking a hit from a grenade, he made it to a larger group and they’d attempt to escape the massacre, but many of those men would not survive. Part 2 of 2
After a bit of relaxation back in the states after World War II, Koshewa was recalled in to report to Springfield, Massachusetts for the start of the Korean War. In Springfield, he had to undergo navigation refresher courses in preparation. His Korean missions mostly involved transportation, such as dropping off leaflets or agents behind the lines. Unlike in World War II, a lot of the times the enemy did not have radar to help them shoot down US planes. Because of this, Koshewa's missions became much easier to carry out. (This interview made possible with the support of RICHARD SPEARS.)
During the Korean War, Bob Owen took on many responsibilities in the Navy. He joined Task Force 95 and helped the South Koreans intimidate the North during negotiation periods between the two. His team continued to help pilots that were shot down, but at one point there was an incident where they accidentally shot down a friendly pilot who had lost the ability to communicate that he wasn't a threat.
Nearing the end of the Korean War, Bob Owen was sent back home for the second time and was accepted into Tennessee Tech college. Following that, he landed a job working radar for the Federal Aviation Administration. After spending many years in the states, he was very flattered when he found out that his grandson wanted to join the military too to follow in his footsteps. To conclude, Owen leaves us with his sentimental final thoughts about his interactions with the Korean people.
The Chinese People's Volunteer Army had begun to push back against UN Forces in Korea, and T.J. Martin would be there, present for the Battle of Hoengsong. His column was moving out and he would be on the last Jeep, but the oppressive fire led to him taking cover in a ditch. Part 1 of 2