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Home | Oral History Archive | Reporter's Notebook

AMERICAN RADIOWORKS
ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE

interview with:
Willard Rudd



As part of the research for Korea: The Unfinished War, American RadioWorks conducted almost 100 interviews with veterans and historians. We've made those interviews available here. Rough transcripts accompany each interview - but these are incomplete, and often paraphrase the speaker. The authoritative source should be seen as the audio recording, not the transcription. You can listen to and/or read the interviews -but please DO NOT QUOTE from the transcript.

Transcript:

KOHP 92

Willard Rudd interview by John Biewen
Yanceyville, NC
March 27, 2003

{Willard Rudd:} March 10, 1952. Took basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. And went straight to Korea and was there September 2, 1952.

{John Biewen:} Right Ė that was when negotiations were well under way.

{WR:} I guess they were. I donít know. You hear more about that over here than you do back there you know.

{JB:} What is your memory growing up Ė what did you know about Korea?

{WR:} Nothing.

{JB:} What do you remember about the first time you started fighting Korea?

{WR:} When we started fighting. I guess I heard about it before then. A few boys from World War II were over there too you know. I was a young guy then, it didnít make too much difference.

{JB:} When you got to Korea?

{WR:} September 2nd. I went over as a replacement.

{JB:} What unit were you in?

{WR:} 92nd Artillery Battalion.

{JB:} What is your memory?

{WR:} When I first got over there they assigned me to [Ö] team, observer team. It consists of a lieutenant, radioman, jeep driver and a reconnaissance sergeant. I was radioman, jeepman. We would go up stay ten days, come down and someone would relieve us. Went on like that till the lieutenant I went up with, they made him battery commander and he wanted me to drive for him and I did. Was pretty soft job you know. I got to untouchable for details and such. Thatís really about it.

{JB:} How long did you do that for?

{WR:} I got that job in the spring of the year.

{JB:} Spring of Ď53.

{WR:} Yeah.

{JB:} I gather you were wounded.

{WR:} Yeah.

{JB:} Tell me what happened.

{WR:} Shot. I got shot in the back of this knee here. They took it out here. I got a tail? full of shrapnel too. It wasnít real serious wound. It burnt me pretty good. We pulled in this position and were there to be disposed of and we got overrun and they ambushed us trying to get out. That was the morning of July 14th of í53.

{JB:} Did you say you were put up there to be disposed of?

{WR:} Thatís my opinion.

{JB:} What do you mean?

{WR:} We were up there what you call Capital Rock Division. We had M41 tanks with 155 howitzers on them. We were put up on that point and the 105ís half a mile behind us; they are small howitzers. They got completely annihilated on that deal. What we call Triple Nickel.

{JB:} Whatís that?

{WR:} 555 Field [Ö] we call it Triple Nickel.

{JB:} Oh right.

{WR:} All night long we were pinned down. The [Ö] was trying to get the battalion commander to let us out. No, he said, ďhold.Ē And one of the captains at headquarters got in at about daylight and told us to bug out, thatís when they ambushed us. I never went back to the outfit after that. The 21st Hospital. Was on a train and went to Pusan and the next day they flew us out to Japan, southern tip to a place called Fukuoka or something. Forget the number of the hospital. I stayed there until I rotated home

{JB:} Going back to the ambush Ė when you say someone told you to bug out, you and someone you were with tried to get out?

{WR:} Yeah. We all tried to get out.

{JB:} And in the process -

{WR:} Yeah

{JB:} how many people were in that situation when pinned down, how many you lost?

{WR:} No I donít have any figures. I donít know, I donít remember. Maybe in the neighborhood of a 100 maybe. I donít know. Iím just guessing.

{JB:} How many would be in that unit you were traveling with?

{WR:} I would say, itís just pure speculation, I donít know how many it was. Out regular position Ė they left some back and we went forward. Donít know how many we had there. Lost two tanks and several boys got captured. I was in the hospital with two or three from my outfit.

{JB:} Do you remember hearing about the armistice?

{WR:} Yeah I was in the hospital.

{JB:} How did you hear?

{WR:} I donít know how I heard it, but I was in hospital in Japan.

{JB:} Did it effect you Ė would you have had to go back?

{WR:} No I didnít have to got back. I had points to rotate at that time, to rotate home. I donít know how it would have affected me. It would have been some time before I could have went back [Ö] They split us up down there in a little tent down in Seoul in what is called 121st Evacuation Mash Unit. They left you open, this was Tuesday morning. They sewed me up Sunday morning.

{JB:} That must have been - do you remember how much pain you were in?

{WR:} I know my tail was on fire. Shrapnel pop you like a cigarette. I really didnít know I was shot down here till I got out. I knew I was hit with something. If you ever been hit with hot shrapnel, you never forget it.

{JB:} And you were hit by bullet in your knee?

{WR:} In back of here and this side of the hip.

{JB:} When did you get back?

{WR:} I got out, got out on a 30-day furlough, got out 30th of December, 1953. 21 months and one day. Back then if you were drafted and got back in 21 months, they would let you out.

{JB:} So you got back to North Carolina in December of 1953?

{WR:} I really got back straight before then because I had a 30-day furlough. I took that and then got out.

{JB:} So you were still in but back here by -

{WR:} I got out December 11, 1953.

{JB:} What do you remember about coming home and the reaction of people?

{WR:} Didnít get no reaction. Got off the ship in California and they gave you a donut, the Red Cross did. Thatís all the recognition I seem to get (laughs), not like it is now. Not as bad a Vietnam was, but as far as recognition goes, the hoopla and all that stuff, I never did see any of it. Whether anybody else did or not.

{JB:} And having been around for WWII, sure you remember -

{WR:} Yeah, had a brother in WWII.

{JB:} what was it like for him?

{WR:} Couldnít tell you. He was overseas for 3 years, started in North Africa. Thatís all I can tell you.

{JB:} What has it been like since then to watch people talk about WWII or Vietnam, how do you feel about the Korean War?

{WR:} I donít hear much said about it myself. We have a reunion now, had one last five years. Some of my outfit, I didnít know all of them. Some came after I left. We were on a rotation point system.

{JB:} How does that feel?

{WR:} Well, I tell you I feel like this. I went like a man and done a job and Iíll take my own ego. Let the chips fall where they may. They didnít ask me to go; they told me to go and I went like a man. I tried to be like a man and thatís the ego I got. I know I didnít win anything or lose it. I think I done my part

{JB:} Any talk or lack of talk?

{WR:} I donít pay any attention to it. (pause) If I feel I did my best, other people can like it or not like it. If Iíve done my best, I can live with it. I donít think as a whole that people who served in Korea were given their dues. I tell you the weather situation was something. I seen the thermometer go down to forty below zero and just hang there. And in the summertime, it was just as miserable, about that got. When everything thaws in the rice paddy, muddy good gracious. Terrible place to live there. Sure itís different now.

{JB:} How old were you went you got there?

{WR:} 21 or 20, guess was 21.

{JB:} 72 now, so seems you must have been 19 if you got there in Ď52? When is you birthday?

{WR:} September the 2nd.

{JB:} so just about to turn 20. What do you think about doing your part Ė ever given thought to the policy of the country being there or to have been there at the end Ė ever given second thought if you or we needed to be there?

{WR:} Well, at the time I think there was scuttlebutt that we didnít have business being there, it was Trumanís war and stuff. Itís proved to be a good thing in terms of communism and things, I think. Lot of things Truman was criticized back then he would be praised for now.

{JB:} Lot of people thought the restraint he showed was wrong, that he should have gone after the Chinese like MacArthur wanted.

{WR:} Well, he could have been right in his thinking. But the President is Commander in Chief and they are under him. I think he was right in getting rid of him in hindsight.

{JB:} Do you remember what you thought?

{WR:} Got to remember, I was a young boy. I didnít think of too much back then. Politics was furthest thing from my mind. (pause)

{JB:} Was Pete Taormina in your unit at the time?

{WR:} Yeah, he was in the gun section. He was a half track driver and a gunner in the gun section. Have you talked to him?

{JB:} Yes.

{WR:} Ah geez.

{JB:} He was the one who told me about you.

{WR:} I never thought I would see him again. Came in one Saturday morning and my son says ďSomebody called you from Florida, said he was in the Army with you.Ē I said, ďWhatís his name?Ē ďI canít even pronounce his name, but I have his telephone number. Peter Tomany or something like that. I said, Pete Tormeny.Ē I donít know any Pete Tormeny in Florida. I know one on the police force in New York and I called and it was Pete; he had retired to Florida.

{JB:} And youíve seen him since then?

{WR:} Oh yeah, yeah.

{JB:} Where are the reunions?

{WR:} Last year in Nashville and this year in Branston, MI. they have been in Washington twice, Columbia, Georgia once and San Antonio, Texas.

{JB:} What time of year?

{WR:} This year in September, last year in September. Usually in fall.

{JB:} How do you think your experience effects how you see the news in Iraq?

{WR:} Seems like they give out valuable information. Donít know if itís physiological warfare or what. But seems like they give out a heck of a lot. Anytime in a combat element, surprise is a big thing. I donít understand all of it.

{JB:} Different kind of war.

{WR:} Maybe there is a reason. Too many retired generals and colonels trying to analyze things. Just guessing. Think I would be a little coy on stuff like that. And these demonstrators, I have no use for them. All right to speak your piece, but when it comes to disturbing things, itís gone to far. If you want to speak your opinion, I may not accept it, but Iíll respect you for it. But this demonstrating business Ė I could fire on them just as quick as I could on the enemy. Thatís my personal feeling.

{JB:} Think Iím running out of questions.

{WR:} Donít know what you can make out of it. I didnít keep up with all that stuff. When I got out, I unloaded myself, just get it off my mind.

{JB:} I heard Korean vets say this war wasnít just forgotten by the country.

{WR:} Well, we had one POW attend the reunion. The POWs seem like they donít want to remember any of it. I donít know. Some of the others, they just wipe their hands of it. Two or three chose not to come.

{JB:} Truman order integration in 1948 and Korea was first time integrated units fought. I believe your unit was one?

{WR:} Yeah.

{JB:} What was your memory of how that went?

{WR:} We didnít have a problem. Outfits I was in there was never a problem.

{JB:} Pete showed me a picture of the gun squad he was in and they had out of 12 or 15 maybe 6 black.

{WR:} Majority were white, but to my knowledge there was never a problem.

{JB:} Thank you. Is there anything we didnít talk about that we should have.)

{WR:} I canít think of it. Told you it wouldnít take long.

END OF FORMAL INTERVIEW


CONVERSATION WHILE LOOKING AT PICTURES

{WR:} I wasnít no hero, heroes didnít get back. Back then, boys were getting married and getting deferred. I was on the verge of getting married.

{JB:} How many children?

{WR:} Three.

{JB:} Did you get married soon after you got back?

{WR:} Yes while I was on furlough. 47 years before she died [Ö] Got my Purple Heart a little over a year ago. Thatís getting it there.

{JB:} Why not before that?

{WR:} I was running too fast to get it.

{JB:} What are we looking at?

{WR:} Pictures of the reunion

{JB:} What did you think of the memorial?

{WR:} It was nice. They did a lot more work on it. Itís nice.

{JB:} This actually looks like a guy I interviewed a couple days ago.

{WR:} He wouldnít have been a Marine [Ö]

{JB:} Can you see that?

{WR:} Thereís a flag. All my personal pictures in Korea. I guess the Chinese looked at that. I didnít get out but what I had on. A bag and nothing else.

{JB:} What do you mean?

{WR:} I guess they looked at them. I didnít go back to get them. This is my daughter and this is my son

{JB:} What were you thinking about when you were pinned down?

{WR:} I was taking a long breath to see if I was still living (laughs), you canít explain to nobody. But you canít tell me you werenít scared [Ö]

{JB:} Yeah is that all right?

{WR:} Korean Memorial

{JB:} Heard a report on the radio this morning, that they made a mistake, that one of the soldiers has an M1 pointed at the guy in front of him and that you would never carry it like that.

{WR:} See Pete on there. Hmmm

{JB:} Does that memorial make you feel better about the recognition?

{WR:} Yeah.

{JB:} Thereís Pete.

{WR:} Hereís one guy down at Timberlake, Bill Hall. This is Bob Odell, he was combat reserve and got called two or three times. Last time went to Vietnam and lost his leg. You might want to talk to him. Iíve got his address.

[END]

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