5:20 | There were celebrities in Gilbert Howland's training unit at Fort Dix, including Eddie Fisher. They were preparing to go to Korea and it wasn't long before Howland found himself there in the frigid winter; dodging artillery and trying to capture prisoners for interrogation. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
Keywords : Gilbert Howland Korea Eddie Fisher Communist Ethiopa Pusan winter 17th Infantry Regiment artillery
Gilbert Howland was already in the Army when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was down in Panama taking jungle training and his unit was guarding the canal. They moved to Trinidad to guard against German submarine activity and then the call went out. Volunteers were wanted for a dangerous jungle mission. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
Once he volunteered to join the unit that became known as Merrill's Marauders, Gilbert Howland was whisked across the country and shipped off to India. Several months of training and planning and then it was on into Burma, where they joined the British commander Orde Wingate, who was already engaged in deep jungle penetration missions behind enemy lines. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
When the volunteer unit known as Merrill's Marauders got to Burma, they made a long march up the Ledo Road and began operating in the steep terrain. They gained valuable intelligence by tapping the telephone lines of the enemy. Gilbert Howland led a section of machine gunners as the battles began for the remote land near the Himalayas. Part 1 of 5. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
They were in a bad defensive position when the Japanese attacked at daybreak. The Americans were a unit of Merrill's Marauders and, after a full day fending off the enemy, they moved to a higher position in a bamboo grove. Gilbert Howland remembers the distinctive sound that bullets made as they tore through the bamboo. Part 2 of 5. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
Gilbert Howland describes the difficulty of fighting the Japanese in the mountains of Burma. The enemy had something that the men of Merrill's Marauders lacked; artillery. Then there was the terrain, which was mostly vertical, and the ammunition, which was mostly used up. Part 3 of 5. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
They had been holding off the Japanese for a long time when another combat team finally broke through to Gilbert Howland's group. High in the Burma hills, the men of Merrill's Marauders had been at a disadvantage because the enemy had artillery. Once someone figured out how to air drop a couple of howitzers, the situation improved. It was good news, bad news for Howland, though, when an enemy bullet found him. Part 4 of 5. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
The men of Merrill's Marauders finally had a day off from battling the Japanese in the foothills of the Himalayas. Gilbert Howland's turn to bathe in the river came and he headed down the path. Coming the other way was a soldier who made a strange comment and at that point, Howland realized who it was. Part 5 of 5. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
From the rear at the Battle of Pork Chop Hill, Sgt. Gilbert Howland sent in the worst casualty report of his life. The tenacious enemy would not let go, even though the territory being fought over had no real tactical value. His unit was relieved and then, to the relief of everyone, came the armistice. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
Gilbert Howland had already served with Merrill's Marauders and was there at Pork Chop Hill in the next war. He shipped out for his third war in 1966 as an ARVN advisor in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. He felt lucky that his Vietnamese counterpart spoke English, which made the job much easier. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
Gilbert Howland moved from an ARVN advisor position to become operations sergeant at a1st Infantry Division unit with large artillery pieces. He was the in the command post, but he dodged the Viet Cong rockets along with everyone else. During the Tet Offensive, a few infiltrators made it into the base, but the damage was limited. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
One of Sgt. Gilbert Howland's duties was to make a circuit of the perimeter of the base and make sure the guards were awake. It was at this time in Vietnam that drugs began to flow from there back home, transported by soldiers. Knowing that disturbed him, but he, too, brought home something illicit, souvenirs. Before he left, the B-52 strike that had been requested finally came, to everyone's surprise. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
There were no disturbing interactions with anti-war civilians when Gilbert Howland returned from Vietnam. The veteran of three wars was retired at Fort Dix after almost thirty years of service. He finally got his parade decades later at Fort Benning and the Ranger Hall of Fame. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
After the Japanese surrendered, Gilbert Howland was transferred to an MP unit for a while, then discharged. He reenlisted after a year and left for a tour in Italy, guarding Trieste against Yugoslav incursion. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
While on Cold War duty in Italy, Gilbert Howland found the time for golf, a little cognac and entertainment in a Trieste nightclub. One of the entertainers became very special to him. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
He had served in the mountains of Burma and the mountains of Italy. Now, Gilbert Howland was serving at Fort Dix and trying to find enough whitewash for his part of the base. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
When peace came to Korea, Gilbert Howland's first job was to disburse a giant supply of lumber for the construction of new fortifications. Then it was back to Fort Dix and the training regiment, but it was his next post that he describes as a Christmas present; Hawaii. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 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.
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 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.
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/.)
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.)
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/.)
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.
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.
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
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