“When I was 16, I was a coast watcher. I walked the beach at Gulf Shores watching for submarines. I never saw one. I was a Navy brat. We lived in New York when World War 2 was declared. We also lived in Haiti and spoke French.
I went to college at Livingston State. I wanted to be a coach and history teacher. I enlisted so I could put my time in and go back to school.
I was part of one of the first units that went into Korea. The Korean War started on June 25, 1950. I went in on July 27. On the boat going to Korea, we thought we would kill them all the first day and go home the next. The first night, we realized it wasn’t going to be that easy. We knew we couldn’t stop the North Koreans, but we tried to slow them down until more forces came in. Outnumbered isn’t even the word for it. We were going to make an attack across the river early in the morning. They came across before we did. There were 350 of us and we took shelter on hill 409. We were attacked by four North Korean divisions. We fought for four days and they shelled us constantly. When they stopped shelling, we knew they were going to attack. We were out of everything, and it was attack after attack. We had orders to evacuate at 10:30 at night. The wounded who were still alive didn’t want to be captured and go through horrible treatment. They wanted us to shoot them. We set them up with their own weapons or put a live hand grenade in their hands and took off. That was the hardest thing I have ever done.
I spent three days by myself behind enemy lines. I was beyond scared and had no food or water. I had to will my body and soul to survive. I slept in the daytime and traveled at night. I walked 8.5 miles. I could smell the North Koreans. It was a fishy smell. I followed the road and hoped it took me where I needed to go. I heard a laugh. Only an American could laugh like that. I hollered ‘G.I’. They told me to come in slow, with my hands up. I was safe. They gave me two weeks to recover then sent me back to the company. We lost a lot of men. Our replacements were KATUSA’s, South Korean augmentation to the U.S. Army. They spoke little English.
We were going to attack a hill and the North Koreans started shelling us. I took cover in a hole. I had just gotten out of the hole and was standing on the edge when the mortar landed in that hole. I was severely injured and evacuated to a hospital in Japan. I almost lost my left leg. There is still shrapnel in it. I stayed in Japan until December and went back to fight in Korea.
The Chinese were helping the North Koreans. There were so many of them and they just kept coming. They were fanatical. Human life wasn’t anything to them. We would see a leg with a boot on it, or a head. You never get over that. I came home with PTSD. The South Koreans were very appreciative of what the Americans did. If it wasn’t for us, they would be a Communist country.
We came home and didn’t talk about the Korean War. When I talked about it years later, it was like a weight came off of me. My wife was good to me and helped me through the nightmares. I came through hell and found an angel.
I had a career in the military and went back to South Korea twice during peacetime. I served in the Army from 1948 to 1968, retiring as Command Sergeant Major. I was stationed in Key West during the Cuba Missile Crisis and Alaska during the earthquake of 1964.
I met my wife, Millie, at a dance after the war. She was full-blooded Checkoslovakian. She didn’t have a telephone and I called her at her friend’s house. We were married for almost 66 years. She passed away in October of 2017.
During the last 23 years before Millie died, we were church builders and missionaries around the U.S. with the Assembly of God. I knew nothing about building, but if the Lord calls you, He will equip you. We had been traveling in our motorhome, so we used it for our mission work. We helped build more than 20 churches. We also worked on colleges and camps. We worked for three months in Puerto Rico after Hurricane George demolished it.
I am 92. I was selected to represent Alabama in the Purple Heart Patriot Program. In April, we are going to the Purple Heart Museum at West Point. The purple heart is the oldest military award in existence. Many towns and communities in Mobile and Baldwin Counties now sport purple and white signs announcing the Purple Heart Community designation.
Everyone should serve in the military for two years for the training and all that it teaches you. But war is hell. The Lord had a purpose for my life or I would have never made it through North Korea.”