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Home | Oral History Archive | Reporter's Notebook


Curtis Morrow of Chicago, Illinois fought with the Army's 24th Infantry Regiment. He describes the terrifying experience of crossing the Han River in March of 1951 in amphibious boats under heavy enemy fire. Morrow was 5'6", carrying a heavy pack, and couldn't swim: Listen(1:38) or Read the entire transcript.

"First they give you a chance to pray, they always before a major battle like that. There be time set aside you could go, you could go and say your prayers and whatever. I didnít go there. By that time, I didnít believe in nothing but myself. We were assigned these amphibious boats.

"I felt so helpless as the boat was crossing the Han River. You could see. You look down at the water when you could because we inside, you know. It looked like raindrops. It wasnít raining but bullets striking the river. Also bouncing off the side of the amphibious boat. They just want to get you out of there and get the hell out of there.

"So some of the boats were dropping short. You step off that boat and you might go down in about four or five feet of water. With your pack on and your weapon. You got at least 45 lbs, I imagine you're carrying 45 lbs. I stepped off maybe three feet deep and I found myself nearly panicking because the water came up to here on me and it was cold. But you canítóthereís people pushing you, 'Let's go, let's go' By that time all hell is breaking loose, 'Let's go'. When you hit start running toward that mountain, your helmet slipping toward your face and you just began shooting. Guys dropping around you and you just keep going."

Ike Gardner of Chicago Illinois, fought with the Army's 24th Infantry Regiment. His discovery that the Chinese had entered the war on the side of North Korean Communist forces came from a surprising clue: Listen (1:14) or Read the entire transcript.

"We were riflemen. I was close enough to smell their breath at times. But it didnít get serious till a couple days after Thanksgiving. As we got further up, the stiffer the opposition got. We were up on a little ridge near the capital of North Korea, and a guy from Oklahoma, he was mixed race, black and Indian, I would say it was, and he told us a man said thereís some horse dung down here. He picked it up and broke it open to find it moist. We knew then that the Chinese were coming down, because the Koreans didnít have horses."

The Korean War was often fought hill by hill in close combat. Laurence Hogan of Boston, Massachusetts fought with the Army's 7th Infantry Division. He describes what can motivate a man in combat: Listen (1:23) or Read the entire transcript.

"We got three-quarters of the way up the hill and we got bogged down and everybody was eating the dirt. I was trying to figure out if I could just get these buttons off my shirt (scratches mike), that's how close I was. This captain or lieutenant stood up, and he got hit, He got hit in the eye...and he's bleeding and he's yelling: get up, get up, you yellow bastards! And he's yelling everything at us just trying to motivate us. And nobody's moving. You're just going to get yourself shot to death anyway. Everybody's down and they're just firing like crazy. And he said, okay, hey, forget it, okay. You don't go up today, you go up tomorrow. Man! That guy said that to me! That resonated with me! And I'm three-quarters of the way up the hill! (Laughs) I got up and started boogying. We got up and took the hill. We took it. But it's amazing what motivates people any given time. That doesn't happen everyday. Because I try to figure out what is a hero and what is a coward? It's just a matter of who's there at any particular time."

The Korean War ended with lines not far from where they were originally drawn. George Cureaux of Garyville, Louisiana, fought in the 999 Field Artillery Batallion. He recalls the bloodshed-and soldiers and civilians--as enemy forces traded the same scrap of land back and forth: Listen (:50) or Read the entire transcript.

"Well, I had described the Korean War as a football field on a rainy dayóthe 38th parallel in particular. Because they pushed the Chinese back; Chinese pushed us back; we pushed the Chinese back. You know, when you have two good football teams on a rainy day and that center is muddy, everything is level. You know, there were no houses or nothing; everything was level. They were just knocked out. One of the things that really lasted with me though was the small kids. That their homes were bombed out; their parents were dead and this ranged in area from age 4 to say 11. And our 999 was the only one that was feeding those kids Ďcause in Korea at the time, it was the survival of the fittest."

Murray Havalin of Boynton Beach, Florida was with the 2nd Division combat engineers. He was burned over 80% of his body when he was caught in a napalm attack by American forces on Heartbreak Ridge in 1952: Listen (1:00) or Read the entire transcript.

"I don't blame the air force. It was dark at night when we were hit. There were 285 of us, I'm the only one that came out of it alive. My 284 buddies were all burned to death, they died. I'm one of the only ones left. I am in the medical history books that the doctors have put me in for being miracle worker. The burns I had were so enormous that I don't have a piece of my body that's mine. It's all surgery, plastic surgery. My face is about the best part looking of my whole body. The rest of my body is all scarred. I'm not ashamed. I served when I had to serve and I got hurt unfortunately. But I'm not sorry. I would have done it again if I had to."

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image credits: left and center - National Archives and Records Administration; right - Department of Defense