Thursday, November 1, 2012
44649903/ - to see images of 1907 baseball in Puerto Rico, nurses in the
Philippines and a Japanese garden in San Diego. (the newest photographs
are at the bottom)
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Published: August 25
4th Special Naval Construction Battalion. Dental office. Lieutenant Commander J. Pinker, DC [Dental Corps] works on SK2 [shopkeeper 2nd class] E.T. Dougherty. PHM2 [Pharmacist's Mate 2nd Class] N.H. Leger at right. [Dentistry.] [World War 2.]
Monday, August 27, 2012
U.S. Naval Hospital. Hospital Corps and Ambulance, Armistice Day parade. [Parades.][Scene.] Newport, Rhode Island. 11/11/1950. 09-5039-008
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
USNH, Mare Island, Cal. Scene on ward during influenza epidemic. Nov. 1918. (12-0137-009)
U.S. Naval Hospital. A busy winter. General view of inner buildings and influenza emergency camps. [Building.][Hospitals, wards.][World War 1.] Mare Island, California. 12/10/1918. (09-5036-044)
U.S. Naval Hospital. Corpsmen in cap and gown ready to attend patients in influenza ward. [Hospitals, wards.][Scene.][Influenza.][World War 1.] Mare Island, California. 12/10/1918. (09-5036-043)
U.S. Naval Hospital. General view of influenza tents and open-air mess tent. [World War 1.] Mare Island, California. 12/10/1918. (09-5036-031)
THE GROG is accessible through the link below. Feel free to share with anyone with an interest in history. If you prefer a PDF version to be sent directly to your inbox please let us know. For all those who have already requested to be put on the PDF mailing list a low resolution version will be sent to you shortly.
André B. Sobocinski
Friday, August 17, 2012
Kwajalein, Marshall Islands. 17 April 1951. Ward "A," Dispensary.
See all 18 photos at
02079786/ - the newest are at the bottom
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Friday, August 10, 2012
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
few of them are on Navy Medicine's Flickr site at
Please check them out. We're adding more every week. Feel free to write
in with requests.
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Some images of Naval Hospital Corona were missed in our 2009 scanning project, and I've just scanned and put them online here.
Here's some information on the hospital that Andre Sobocinski posted last year:
As a Navy hospital commissioned in World War II, Corona was unique. It was not uncommon for the Navy to take over hotels and even on one occasion a former estate, but the hospital established at Corona was different. Constructed in the 1920’s as a luxury hotel and resort called the Norconian, it owed more to San Simeon than to the Ritz. And like Hearst’s home, it served as the playground for the who’s who of Hollywood.
Architecturally, it offered guests a festival of wrought iron, art deco, and Spanish elements complete with resplendent pillars, marble floors, and lavish Heinsbergen murals. Guests could stay in one of the luxurious 250-bedrooms, and access Louis IV-inspired lounges, dining rooms, bath houses and Olympic-sized pools, and of course, a man-made lake. These amenities would later play a pivotal role in the rehabilitation of hundreds of thousands of wounded servicemen returning home from World War II and later the Korean War. It is remarkable that many of these amenities and architectural features like the murals still exist at the old property today.
As a military hospital, Corona proved to be a rarity among its Army and Navy counterparts in that it had a Hollywood star as a chairman of its Naval Aid Auxiliary Hospital Visiting Committee. Kay Francis, once the most highly paid star in Hollywood, headed this cultural affairs committee. Every Thursday, Francis would bring “friends” such as Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Claudette Colbert, Cary Grant, Red Skelton, and others, to the hospital to meet with patients. And thanks to her connections, the hospital hosted numerous radio programs, big band concerts, and USO shows.
In the 1950’s, the hospital was used by the Navy as a testing bed for new techniques in Occupational and Physical therapy, and the treatment of diseases like tuberculosis. In fact, the Navy saw fit to use the hospital as setting for several important educational and training films now found at the National Archives. Some of these films even featured the celebrities that frequented the hospital in World War II.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Washington Post and is online at
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
http://govbooktalk.gpo.gov/2012/07/03/notable-federal-books-2012/ noting that the Library Journal has listed its 2011-2012 Notable Government Documents at
Included is the History Office's 6-film set Navy Medicine at War, written and produced by now-retired historian Jan Herman. You can see the last in the series - Final Victory - here.
Another book on the list is Legacy of Excellent: The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology 1862-2011. It which was a tri-service agency from 1949-2011, and thus run by the Navy at times. CAPTs Robert Karnei and Glenn Wagner ran it when I worked there, and it had also been commanded by World War Two POW CAPT William Silliphant in the 1950s and CAPT Bruce Smith during the Vietnam War. You can read the book here.
history of the BUMED campus on 23rd street, with topics ranging over
oceanography, the discovery of the moons of Mars, Abraham Lincoln and
the Civil War and astronomy.
See it at
Friday, June 1, 2012
Sunday, May 20, 2012
Washington Post May 17 2012
If anyone finds other death notices, please keep us informed.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
It is with great pleasure that we present to you the latest edition of THE GROG, A Journal of Navy Medical Culture and Heritage. In this issue, we offer you an exciting blend of original articles ranging in topic from the history of Navy dentistry, the Hospital Corps and military psychiatry to tales of forgotten naval hospitals and medical memorials. As always, we hope you enjoy this humble tour of Navy medicine's past.
THE GROG is accessible through the link below. PDF versions are available upon request.
Monday, April 30, 2012
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
of the Potomac Annex on 23rd St, NW and heading to the Skyline complex
in Northern Virginia. We've got most of our collections packed up for
the move, and you may have noticed a slowing in blog posts. It will take
us a few weeks to get unpacked and back up to speed so please be
patient. If you're writing in with a question, it may be better to wait
3 items: "Atmospheric Observations U.S. Arctic Steamer Jeannette.
1879-1881"; "The Private Journal of James Markham Ambler, M.D. P.A.
Surgeon, U.S. Navy and Medical Officer of the Jeannette; Together with
Other Papers and a Photograph" typescript compiled by J.D. Gatewood,
Medical Director, U.S. Navy, Naval Medical School, June 1914; and "Dr.
James M.M. Ambler" typescript of address by David Rankin Barbee.
Monday, April 16, 2012
3 folders, unrestricted, no finding aid
Photographs of the USNS Mercy compiled by Edward Karelin. The 35mm slide
collection was sorted by the donor into categories: Mercy; Construction;
Schematics; Casualty Reception; Operating Room; Intensive Care Recovery
Room; Ward; Radiology; Sick Call; Misc. Medical Facilities; Dental;
Hospital Admin; Laboratory - Blood Bank; Library - Crew & Medical;
Laundry; Galley - Mess Decks; Supply; Berthing - CPO & Crew; Officers
Bunkroom & Lounge; Non-MTF Facilities; Support Facilities - Non-medical;
Legazpi, Republic of the Philippines; Subic Bay; HTM Departure; Pearl
Harbor, HI; Fiji; Golden Shellback; HTM Return; Portland Shipyard.
Korean War Slides
1 folders, unrestricted, no finding aid
Color 35mm slides by unidentified doctor. Includes Western USA, Japan,
Easy Company in Korea, Seoul, "A" Medical Company. Slides are labeled.
Ted Smith and Bob Umstoddt are two medical corps personnel in one slide.
The New York Academy of Medicine's Section on the History of Medicine
and Public Health is pleased to announce that Professor Susan M. Reverby
will present this year's Lilianna Sauter Lecture. Reverby is the
Wellesley College medical historian who uncovered the history of NIH
sponsored experiments in Guatemala in the 1940s, in which hundreds of
Guatemalans were deliberately infected with venereal diseases in order
to test the effectiveness of penicillin.
The 2012 Lilianna Sauter Lecture: Escaping Melodramas: Historical
Thinking and the Public Health Service Studies in Tuskegee and Guatemala
May 16, 2012 , 6:00 PM, with informal reception and light refreshments
The New York Academy of Medicine, 1216 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, New
The U.S. government has now apologized for Public Health Service studies
in both Tuskegee (1932-72) and Guatemala (1946-48). This talk will argue
that much of the literature on these studies treats them as object
lessons on what not to do, casting the doctors as monsters, and turning
the studies into historical relics attributable to "racists" from a
distant time and place. Professor Reverby will investigate how we can
think of racism, scientific certainty and ethical malfeasance outside a
melodramatic framework, if this is even possible.
Susan M. Reverby is Professor of Women's Studies at Wellesley College
and a historian of American women, medicine and nursing. She is the
editor of numerous volumes on women's history, the history of medicine
and the history of nursing. Her prize-winning book, Ordered to Care: The
Dilemma of American Nursing (New York: Cambridge University Press,
1987), is still considered one of the major overview histories of
American nursing. She is a former health policy analyst and women's
health activist. From 1993-1997 she served as the consumer
representative on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Obstetrics and
Gynecology Devices Advisory Panel.
To register for this event, please visit:
For complete descriptions of each lecture, and to register to attend,
please visit: http://www.nyam.org/library/rare-book-room/lectures/;
Thursday, April 12, 2012
are packing material up, and still discovering things such as this:
USS Iowa (BB-61) Medical Logbooks
Arranged, partially restricted
4 logbooks, labeled "Medical Department Daily Journal"
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Aiea Heights, Territory of Hawaii --"Hi-Lites"
Brooklyn, NY -- "All Hands"
Chelsea, MA -- "The Squeegee"
Corpus Christi, TX -- "The Gremlin"
Farragut, ID -- "The Bedside Examiner"
Key West, FL -- "The Scalpel"
Long Beach, CA -- "The Aorta"
Memphis, TN -- "The Clipper"
New Orleans, LA -- "The Nola Lake Front Breeze"
New River, NC -- "The Caduceus"
Newport, RI -- "The Pulse"
Norfolk, VA -- "The Loblolly"
Norman, OK -- "The Gauzette"
Oakland, CA -- "The Oak Leaf"
Philadelphia, PA -- "Skylines"
Portsmouth, VA -- "The Courier"
San Diego, CA -- "The Dry Dock"
Seattle, WA -- "The Stethoscope"
Shoemaker, CA -- "The Panacea"
Treasure Island, CA -- "Isle-O-Gram"
Asheville, NC -- "At Ease"
Glenwood Springs, CO -- "Yampah"
Santa Cruz, CA -- "The Santa Cruise"
Sun Valley, ID--"The Sun Valley Sage"
Mobile/Fleet and Base Hospitals
Mobile Hospital 9/Fleet Hospital 109 (Brisbane, Australia) -- "The Mobster"
Base Hospital No. 4 (Wellington, New Zealand) -- "The Ki-Weekly"
Base Hospital No. 6 (Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides) -- "The Lash-Up"
The centuries-old “Blessing of the Fleets” ceremony is intended to safeguard crews and ships from the danger of the seas through a traditional blessing given by a clergyman at the water’s edge.
The Blessing of the Fleets’ highlight occurs when Sailors from the U.S. Navy’s Ceremonial Guard proceed across the Memorial Plaza’s “Granite Sea” to pour water from the Seven Seas and the Great Lakes into the surrounding fountains, “charging” them to life and ushering in the spring season. Ceremonial music is provided by the U.S. Navy Band.
Following the ceremony, culinary specialists from the White House Mess will prepare and serve Navy bean soup to visitors in the adjacent Naval Heritage Center. Visitors are invited to relax in the Naval Heritage Center’s Burke Theater for a musical performance by the Washington Revels Maritime Voices. Singing “Songs of the Sea and Shore,” the musical group will portray the old life at sea and back home, including the sailors' use of sea chanteys and the joys and hardships of the women ashore.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Medical Center's Stitt Library to the History Office.
Bell's Hospital Inspection Journal
E 621 BV 1863
1 volume, no finding aid, unrestricted.
Dr. John Bell's Civil-War era journal of "Visit of inspection of the US
Military Hospitals in Baltimore April 1st-14th, 1863." A list of the
hospitals is at the front of the journal.
Cronmiller's USS Saratoga Journal
WC 755 CJ 1857
1 volume, no finding aid, unrestricted.
"Journal of practice, USS Saratoga" by T. Le P. Cronmiller, MD, USN.
Begins with cases of fever in Nicaragua.
Igiene Navale Translation Booklets
VG 475 BN 1905
6 volumes, no finding aid, unrestricted.
Uncredited and incomplete translation of Carlo Maurizio Belli's "Igiene
Navale: Manuale per Medicidi Bordo, Officiali Navigante e Construttori
Navali." Milano: Societia Edictrice Libraria, 1905 as "Naval Hygiene."
Parts 5, 9-13 survive as six booklets.
Nell's Medical Journal
W 7 NJ 1854
1 volume, no finding aid, unrestricted.
Jonathan B Nell's "Journal Medical," or school notes from Indianapolis,
July 28, 1854. In German and English.
Pathological Diagnosis Journals
2 volumes, no finding aid, unrestricted.
Two volumes of pathological diagnosis notes of cases from around the
United States, including contributor's name and location. Presumably
done at Naval Hospital, Washington, DC. Volume 3 contains #518-884
(1911-1913) and volume 4 contains #885-1176 (1913-1916).
Monday, March 26, 2012
When a Navy Nurse Corps vet looked back
David L. Sims, Springfield
The Washington Post March 25 2012
On a misty morning in October 1951, SGT John “Jack” Fenwick was on a mission to capture a prisoner to interrogate when his unit collided with a superior force of North Koreans. Most of his Marine comrades perished in the savage firefight that followed. The exchange left Fenwick bleeding and near death as at least four machine gun bullets ripped through his body. Through the gallant efforts of hospital corpsmen, Fenwick was rendered first aid and evacuated by helicopter behind the lines. A Navy surgeon then spent hours repairing Fenwick’s grave wounds before transferring him to a hospital ship offshore and ultimately to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. SGT Fenwick spent the better part of a year recuperating at the hospital he drew a series of sketches based on his Korean War experiences. On 10 July 2011, Fenwick returned to the hospital to donate the sketches in a formal ceremony held in the Memorial Auditorium.
When did you go to Korea?
I went with the first and second replacement drafts which went from Japan together. We landed right after the Wonsan landing. We then went to a repo [replacement] depot and then were assigned to our units.
Were you involved in “Operation Yo Yo?”
Oh, yes, and then I saw some action at Chosin Reservoir.
What do you remember about that?
I’ll never forget that. We were very lucky. We went all the way up the plateau at Yudam-ni in the Taebaek Mountain Range, which are huge mountains. Unfortunately, they were having the worst winter in memory and it came sweeping down. It was about minus 25 or 30 degrees. Of course, the Chinese were there waiting. We were lucky because when we got to the main supply garrison--Hagaru-ri--there was a fork in the road. It was the only road up there and that was the big problem. It was a primitive, winding one-lane dirt road. Our whole battalion had to pull over to the side to let a regiment of the Army Seventh Infantry Division pass through. They went east of the Reservoir and we went west of the Reservoir. In a few days, they got slaughtered up there. They had no cohesive command. They were all scattered around. It was a butchery.
When we got to Yudam-ni, there was a big hill--Hill 1282--a huge mountain. That was one of the company outposts and we were supposed to relieve Easy Company, 7th Marines but by then it was starting to get dark. This was 27 November. Because of the darkness our battalion stayed at the foot of Hills 1282 and 1240 and we were there when the big Chinese attack came. Easy and Dog Companies, 7th just about got wiped out. We clawed up in the dark to reinforce them.
They started hitting us about 9:30 or a quarter of 10. They were great night fighters; they loved attacking at night. Wave after wave of them hit. It was just unbelievable! We got relieved the next day. We had a lot of casualties because they couldn’t contact the Easy Company command post. So they sent our squad across a long saddle to see if we could link up with them. Three big mortar rounds came in and landed right on our squad. Wham, wham, wham--just like that. I was slightly wounded. The guy in front of me took most of the burst; the guy behind me took most of the other burst. I got one in my back and left leg, which wasn’t too bad. Another guy got it in the upper thigh, which broke his upper thigh bone.
There was a lot of confusion. We were pretty much on our own then so we went down the mountain again to try to find an aid station. When we got to the aid station there were so many wounded piled up it was just impossible. The officers wanted to know what unit we were from. “If you’re still walking we need you back on the lines right away.” So, the walking wounded were right back on the lines as long as you could fire a weapon and walk
So, you got sent back.
Yes, and it scared the hell out of me too. We didn’t see to much more action because we had been set in a blocking position behind somebody. I think we had about 20 percent casualties that night. Other units had 60 and 70 percent and more. A lot of friends of mine got killed up there.
Then we fought our way down to Hagaru-ri, the main garrison. We had it pretty rough there. We were the fighting rear guard going out. We took some casualties from sniper fire and a couple of mortar bursts.
What did Taktong Pass look like?
It was a huge mountain mass rising up on both sides. You could almost look straight down on one side. If you started sliding off the road, you just kept going. These diesel tractors that were towing the big 155 howitzers ran out of diesel fuel and created a roadblock at the rear of the column. With all this confusion, the engineers made a bypass to get around it and blow that bridge, and then Chinese sappers came and blew it out again. So they sent us up on a hill to get a couple of machine guns that were working over the convoy. It was pretty bad. Some of the drivers started panicking trying to get around this roadblock. There were knocked out vehicles all over the place. Any vehicles that came in from Yudam-ni were pathetic. They were all piled with dead Marines on the outside and tiers of wounded Marines on the inside. And they were all shot to pieces.
You said you had been wounded on the first night. What kind of treatment did you receive for your wounds?
Really nothing. They said, “That’s not too bad.” It sounds callous, but if you could see the wounded that were coming in. For each corpsman, there must have been 50 wounded. They couldn’t even perform surgery it was so cold. They couldn’t get IVS in. They started carrying solutions under their parkas to keep them warm. But from the IV to the tube to the man’s arm, it would freeze solid in the tubes. They carried morphine syrettes in their mouths. It was unbelievable.
So they didn’t do anything for your wounds. They simply said, “We’ve got a lot of business here. We don’t need to look at you.”
Yes. It was so damned cold the blood would freeze. I did get frostbite in both hands and my feet. The feet were the worst. Everybody in a line company out there got frostbite.
You had those crazy boots--the shoe pacs. What did those look like?
Something like big galoshes. They were leather and rubber. I guess the theory was good if you were driving a truck or a tank. But if you were infantry. . . The theory was that you had a felt inner sole that was interchangeable. And heavy socks. Your feet would get real warm when you were on the move and make your feet sweat. The bad thing was that when you were immobilized, especially when we lost our packs. . . You were supposed to have two spare sets of felt liners to put in and spare socks. We didn’t have anything. Consequently, within a half hour or so, if you stopped, your feet just froze solid. All your sweat turned to ice.
Do you have any lingering effects of frostbite today?
Oh yes. I’ve got it real bad now. I just got finished with a long bout with the VA.
Do your feet tingle? What kind of symptoms do you have now?
Loss of feeling, loss of toenails, discoloration and swelling, sweating. It’s a little hard to walk sometimes.
Eventually, you got to Hungnam.
We got to Hagaru first. And we said, “We’re all out of it now. This is heaven.
Little did you know.
We went 5 or 6 days and nights with no sleep, no food, no nothing, and constantly on the move. The average Marine up there lost from 18 to 20 pounds in just a few days. We met some Royal Marine Commandos on the way in. They were supposed to go out and destroy those tractors towing the guns we had abandoned. But there were so many Chinese coming in behind us, they couldn’t. They had to knock them out with an air strike the following day.
That night they put us in a warehouse on a concrete floor with 55-gallon drums of wood burning. It was so smoky you could cut it with a bayonet, but it was like heaven to us. We fell asleep, then got hot meals, Tootsie Rolls, and that kind of stuff.
The next morning they got what left of us together and had the corpsmen check our feet for frostbite. Some of them were bad--the toes were black and gangrenous. Those guys had to be evacuated. Then they said, “If anyone thinks they can’t make it, let us know now. You can ride shotgun on the convoy when we break outa here.” That turned out to be the following day.
The engineers had pre dug some positions for us on a small hill that we were to cover. It was on the road coming from Yudam-ni. You couldn’t dig yourself. You’d break your hand on your entrenching tool trying to dig into that frozen ground. The only way they could set the trails of the artillery pieces and baseplates for the mortars was to break the earth with C-4 charges. This hill turned out to be a natural approach. The big hill that was overlooking the bridge--the only way out of town--was held by the Chinese. That was East Hill. Our Second Battalion was there trying to hold on to that.
We had the rear guard again. They hit us really bad about 9:30 or a quarter of 10 that night. They started probing and then coming on wave after wave. We had an airstrip behind us to our left where we were flying wounded out. But we held even though we had pretty heavy casualties. We killed a lot of Chinese that night, about 350 right in front of our platoon. They just kept coming, wave after wave after wave. I had a whole case of hand grenades--that’s 24 grenades plus my own grenades--about 34 in all. I was an automatic rifleman. I had magazines in my automatic rifleman’s belt plus they gave me an extra belt. Before daybreak I was out of ammunition. And I was really sparing my ammo. There was a lot of hand to hand fighting. They would come right in the holes with you. But we held and got out.
Then we went across the bridge. As we started across, I noticed the engineers setting shaped charges to blow the bridge, which went across the Chanjin River. We then had to go back and man the hill again because the convoy was held up. When we rejoined the rear of the convoy I was the last Marine out of Hagaru-ri as they blew up the bridge behind me.
So you managed to get down to Koto-ri.
Yes. We rested up there for a couple of days and then as we moved on down the temperature got warmer, perhaps 10 degrees. We were still getting sniper fire and a few mortar rounds but we stayed primarily on the road.
Some time after Chosin you were wounded very badly. How did that happen?
That happened during the second Chinese offensive. We took a hill unopposed.
Where was this?
At the Hwachon Reservoir in April of ‘51. There was a lot of wild garlic growing there. The Koreans love their garlic. I was a squad leader. My squad was protecting a machine gun on a point. We had a defensive line set up. For some reason, I woke up at night. The guy next to me was supposed to be on watch. I checked him and he was asleep. It was raining. I kept smelling a strong odor of garlic. I said, “Uh oh, the Koreans are coming.” They were climbing the hill and I could smell the garlic coming from their mouths. Then a heavy machine gun opened up from a ridge across from us.
The next thing we knew, we were overrun because everybody was doping off and they captured our machine gun.
It was supposed to have been a 50 percent watch and maybe 1 out of 50 were awake because everyone was so exhausted. So we paid for it and lost a lot of men that night. One of them threw a grenade. I saw it coming. You could see sparks coming out of it. It landed right on the parapet of my fighting hole. I ducked down as it went off. Thank God it was a concussion grenade. I just got splinters in both hands and my right wrist and face. But the flash of the blast temporarily blinded me. It was like a flash bulb going off in your face. My ears were ringing. I tried to stand up to get out of the hole but kept falling down. The guy next to me was wounded and I grabbed him and also tried to drag another guy back by his jacket. We had to keep yelling because by then the perimeter had fallen back and reformed. We had to make sure they didn’t shoot us as we came in.
But we survived that and about a week later we moved up a valley and took a hill that wasn’t supposed to be occupied. When they tell you that, that means look out. Anyway, we took this hill. There was a fire fight and we were pinned down and got real low on ammo. They had a huge Russian 120 mm mortar. They hit at the base of the hill and started walking it up the hill. I said, “Man, we’re going to die here!” I gazed up over this little bank which barely gave us cover and my helmet got shot off. I saw a guy about 5 feet in front of me shot through both elbows and he couldn’t even push himself up. He was looking at me, his eyes big as silver dollars yelling, “Please help me.” I told the other guys to cover me as I yanked him in. There was another guy about 20 feet past him lying on his back. He was a BAR man. I got a grenade in each hand and pulled the pins. I knew we were going to die there so I figured I’d take some of them before I went.
There was a big low bunker to our front with two machine guns in it. I didn’t know it but when I jumped up and went over the bank, there was a North Korean on my left about 30 feet away with a burp gun. He opened up. With luck, I lobbed the one in my right hand and blew him up. He put a couple of bullet holes in my pants legs. I threw the other grenade into the bunker and grabbed the other Marine by the suspenders but noticed that the whole top of his head had been shot off. I dragged him back anyway because we needed his ammo belt and BAR. Then I got two more grenades and finished off that bunker. They wrote me up for a Navy Cross but I didn’t get it until April of ‘61.
So, you were uninjured.
They shot my canteen and helmet off. And I had bullet holes in my pants. It was all fate as far as I’m concerned.
What about the wounds that almost killed you?
This happened on a stupid patrol we went on. Somebody wanted a prisoner to see what the enemy was up to, I guess. By then I was a machine gun squad leader. The captain called us in and told us he wanted a prisoner to interrogate. He told me that I was short and would be relieved in 2 days, and then would probably be going home. He then said I didn’t have to go on this patrol. We had a brand new green lieutenant who had only been with us 2 days. I figured I had better go because he’d need some advice. A good officer will listen to his NCOs or guys who had some combat experience.
Anyway, we went out before dawn. The lieutenant disobeyed orders and got us all fouled up. We ended up in the enemy lines. You could hear them talking and starting their cooking fires. It was scary as hell. We then pulled off that hill and instead of going right back to our lines and taking advantage of the heavy ground mist, the lieutenant said, “Let’s try that other hill.”
Where were you?
Northeast of Inje. We were close enough to the ocean to have naval gunfire of the battleship Missouri supporting us. So the lieutenant said, “Let’s try this other hill,” and we went down a valley. The platoon sergeant who outranked me kept telling him we had to get back to our lines. “You can’t make a name for yourself out here because you’re gonna get everybody killed.”
Well, the mist burned off and we were exposed out there, almost like someone had turned on a light switch. Then one shot rang out. A friend of mine, Lyons from Texas, was at the point and got one right between the eyes. We were only 50 yards from some of their bunkers, maybe even closer than that.
We ran behind a nearby knoll but they continued to fire at us from two sides and the front. We got the machine gun set up on the knoll and began to answer fire. But it was like taking a motorcycle and running up against a tractor trailer. We had literally hundreds of them shooting at us.
So, the whole platoon got shot to pieces. The lieutenant then called in supporting artillery and when they registered in, they landed on us right on the hill. I guess he fouled that up too. Finally, they corrected that, and the shells began landing on enemy lines. By then, just about all of us were hit. Our machine gun was out of ammunition and was by then knocked out.
I grabbed the M1 of the dead kid who was lying beside me. I saw some of the enemy trying to work their way around our right and get behind the hill where all our wounded were. Our corpsman, Glen Snowden was from Texas--a great guy, a World War II vet. I was the last guy alive on that knoll. He was treating the wounded below. I raised myself up to shoot at these infiltrators trying to outflank us and that’s when I got it. I got four hits in the body--machine gun bullets. We were so close I could feel the muzzle blasts.
The machine gun was that close?
Yes. It was a Russian light machine gun. When you were there a while you could tell every weapon firing at you. He nailed me four times. It’s indescribable the way it felt. It was like being run over by a train. I was bent backwards and it turned out that two of the bullets grazed my spine. I could feel everything else except for my legs. It was horrible pain.
Doc Snowden came running up and grabbed me. He checked everybody else real quick and saw that everybody else up there was dead. He said, “I’ve gotcha; I’ll get you out of here.” As he started pulling me, the machine gun got him twice in his left shoulder and knocked him right down the hill. He scrambled right back up again. One arm was hanging down and useless but he still grabbed me and got me out of the line of fire.
He began telling the unwounded riflemen how to dress guys’ wounds. I had an artery severed on my left flank and the exit wound in my back was the size of a fist. Apparently the bullets had hit my ammo belt and tumbled.
So, the bullets entered your body from the front and exited the back.
And they missed all your major organs?
Well, some hit my small intestine and I eventually lost 18 feet of my small intestine, which is nothing. If they had hit my large intestine, that would have been real bad.
What did Snowden do for you at that point?
Well, he dragged me out of there with one hand. When I finally got back to our lines I told the guys to write him up for a Silver Star, at least. He saved a lot of guys besides me. He grabbed a jacket off one of the dead Marines and rolled it up into a ball. He was all out of battle dressings. He then put it against that hole in my back and took another jacket and tied it around me real tight to stop the flow of blood, you know, like a compress. And that’s what saved me. A Marine company was fighting their way to extract us.
When did this happen?
It was 5 October ‘51. I’ll never forget it.
So, what happened at this point? Snowden was also wounded and there was no one taking care of him. He’s taking care of everybody else.
He had some morphine syrettes left. He told a BAR man, [CPL Richard]Baiocchi
to give me some morphine. He said, “Here, I’ll give you some morphine. He stuck the morphine syrette in my shoulder. I was looking into his face and saying “Thank you, pal,” or something like that, and just as I was looking right into the guy’s face, a machine gun burst hit him right in the jaw and sheared it off. His whole chin was gone. He also took six rounds between his wrist and elbow.
The BAR man was trying to give you the morphine?
Yes. But unfortunately, I didn’t get the morphine because as he got hit the impact snapped the needle off while it was still in my arm. The pain was unbelievable. It was like someone had opened me up with a scalpel without any anesthetic and then filled your insides up with red hot embers. I forgot to mention that when Doc Snowden grabbed me two more bullets got me in my left upper arm. One was a graze and the other went through the flesh real quick.
After Snowden got through with that compress, two Marines grabbed each of my feet and dragged me face-down back through the rice paddies. They were under such fire that they had to run. They dragged me on my face through all that muck. It’s a wonder I didn’t drown. When we got back a ways they put me on a litter. I really thought I had died because when we got halfway back, I felt warm and peaceful. All the pain left me. While I lay face down on the stretcher, I saw a real bright orange hazy light but there was no pain. I remember thinking, “Thank God, it’s all over.”
Right about then there was an air strike on the enemy position and that pulled me out of it. It really made me feel good thinking that the ones who got me were getting fried with napalm.
So, you were still conscious at this time.
Right. We got back to our own lines. On the reverse slope of a hill they had dug out a helicopter landing pad and we also had surgeons on the line by then. They gave me morphine at the base of the hill, then another one when I got up there. They didn’t think I was going to make it. They could only bring one chopper in at a time and get two wounded on them. There were so many wounded, they could only take the ones who had a chance of making it. Of course, some of them went down the hill on stretchers.
A chief corpsman told one of the surgeons to look at me. I remember he had a big walrus moustache. “Sir, you had better look at this man. It looks like his color’s still good.” The doctor then said, “Take one of them out of the basket and put him in.” The other guy was a rifleman from Texas. He had four bullet wounds stitched across his chest. He was in one basket and I was in the other. He didn’t make it. And he had three kids at home.
We went back to Easy Med. That was quite an experience, too. I remember being very scared. They put me on a slanted wooden table and cut all my clothes off. I had a pair of Army tanker boots I had stolen off the Army, a really nice pair. I begged them not to cut them off but they did. Then they put a catheter in my penis. I think the surgeon’s name was [LTJG Howard] Sirak. He and the other surgeon really put me at ease. And then with his finger he drew a line on my stomach and said they were going to make a small incision. That was no small incision. They ended up cracking me open--a laparotomy! He later told me they put 837 sutures in me. Rather than making a colostomy, they kept snipping perforated small intestine off and re-sewing them.
Where were you when you woke up from the surgery?
I was in the med tent and it was dark. It was night time. I only saw one Coleman lantern at one end of the tent. I was laying on the cot and felt all warm and sticky on one side. I had dysentery once and thought I had messed myself. I called a corpsman who came to me with the lantern. He said, “Don’t worry, it’s just blood.” I had blood and plasma going in both feet and both arms--IVS. There was a Levin tube coming out of my nose, another tube in my penis, and another coming from the exit wound in my back.
The next morning both surgeons and Doc Snowden came in. He was all patched up with his arm in a sling. They told me they had to get me up on my feet. I said, “You’ve gotta be kidding me. I’m dyin’ here. I can’t feel my legs; I can’t move. He said, “When we got in there we found three vertebrae that were just grazed by the bullets and were fractured. But you have what they call spinal shock. The feeling will return. We can practically guarantee it.”
But I was really worried I was going to be a paraplegic. But for the grace of God, another eighth of an inch, I would have been.
Did the bullets go completely through you or did they have to remove any fragments?
No. They tumbled their way through me. But I got peritonitis real bad. I remember by the time I got to the hospital ship I was getting 500cc’s of penicillin a day. It could have been fragments of filthy clothing going through with the bullets, or stuff from the rice paddy, and of course perforated intestines. I remember the day I got hit I hadn’t had anything to eat, just a sip of water. The surgeon said that had I had food in my intestines, that probably would have been it. I wouldn’t have survived.
What was the next stage in your recovery?
The surgeon told me that once I passed wind, he could take the tube out, remove the catheter, cut down on the IVS, and fly me to the hospital ship.
How long were you there at Easy Med?
I really don’t know because I don’t know how long I was unconscious.
How did they get you to the hospital ship?
I saw the ship tied up. I think there were four of us in the ambulance. They took us to an Army hospital train. What an experience that was. These Army nurses came down. I don’t know whether they were having a bad day or a bad week, but boy, they were very different from Navy nurses. They acted like wrestlers and treated us very roughly. One said, “Another damn Marine. You don’t belong on here.”
They put each of us on a litter on the hospital train, then had to take us off, put us in another ambulance, then took us to the hospital ship. They put us in slings and hoisted us aboard.
Do you remember what hospital ship?
The Consolation. It looked great. It was snow white--unbelievable! The ward was so clean and beautiful. I think it was even air-conditioned. I didn’t want to get in that bunk. It was so clean and I was so filthy. There was all the crud from the front plus blood caked all over me. I hadn’t been in a bed in over a year. When they got me all cleaned up and in a bunk, gave me all my shots, and changed my dressings, the nurse, a lieutenant commander said, “How would you like to have some ice cream?” I couldn’t believe it. I thought, I’ll really fool her. So I said, “Yeah, I’d love to have to have some.” And she said, “What flavor?” And knowing they wouldn’t have it, I said, “Rocky fudge.” And then she said, “Coming right up, Sarge.” Then I completely lost it. I grabbed her hand and kissed it. Then I broke down crying. “You Navy nurses are really angels of mercy.” It really broke me up.
I was only there a few days and they flew me to Yokosuka Naval Hospital in Japan. Getting there was hell. We flew in a plane with six engines. And it wasn’t a conventional airplane. It had pusher engines. There were hundreds of wounded on it. There was a lot of brass on hand in Tokyo when we landed because this was the first flight of this kind of aircraft.
The ambulance driver we got must have been the son of a Jap soldier killed by Marines or else he just hated us because he hit every pot hole from the airport to the hospital. I started bleeding again.
It was real late at night when we got to the hospital. They put us in a hallway. When I awoke the next day I was in a sparkling clean ward. There was a whole bunch of sailors walking around. There was only one Marine there. Other than this guy and me, everyone else seemed pretty healthy. The reason why was that this was a VD ward!
They put you in a VD ward?
There were all these sailors and seabees. The guy I mentioned earlier who had his jaw shot off. . . Well they put me on a gurney and wheeled me into his ward to see him. He was in a maternity ward, believe it or not. That’s how many wounded were coming in. They put them wherever they could.
What kind of further treatment did you get for your wounds?
The first thing they did was give me some kind of diluted arsenic to get rid of worms I had. I didn’t need any more surgery but one night I started hemorrhaging and they took me back to surgery. However, they didn’t have to open me up again. I’m not sure what they did.
You must have one hell of an interesting medical record.
Oh, God. I had immersion foot, frostbite--everything. When the surgeon saw me the next day, he looked at the soles of my feet and said, “My God, you could walk on hot embers with these things.” They were so calloused from the frostbite.
Did you ever see Snowden again?
No. I never did. I wrote him for awhile and then we just lost touch.
Did he make it back?
Yes he did.
Do you know if he’s still around today?
No. I’ve been trying to find him for years. I even wrote the Navy. I’d still like to find him.
Well, maybe we can find him.
His name is William Snowden.
I’ll see if I can find him for you. He’d be an interesting guy to talk to.
Oh, he would be. He saved a lot of lives that day. And he went on to serve in our unit after that. He was at the Punch Bowl, Hwachon Reservoir. He was with us the day I got the Navy Cross.
We left you there at Yokosuka being treated in the VD ward. What happened then?
I got friendly with one of the nurses. She was going to take me to the movies one night. They put me on a gurney and she was wheeling me out. She stopped to talk to somebody. There was a ramp. At the end of the ramp was a cactus court. The gurney got rolling and I couldn’t do anything. It hit the wall and I ended up in a cactus bed. It took about an hour to pull all the cactus spines out of me.
You fell off the gurney?
Yes. When it hit the wall I flew off right into the cactus. Luckily I wasn’t seriously hurt. The nurse felt pretty bad about it.
How long were you at Yokosuka?
Probably to the end of October [’51]. They then flew me to Tripler in Hawaii. I was there a few days.
Were you still on IVS?
Yes. Even when I got to Bethesda, once a day they’d hook me up to a drip. It used to drive me nuts.
Do you know what it was?
I think it was glucose and dextrose.
Could you eat solid foods?
Yes. But I still had to get follow up surgery there at Bethesda. The worst thing was they couldn’t go any further with the skin grafts. My spinal cord was actually exposed. A corpsman once showed it to me in the mirror. There was a tube coming out of me with a big surgical safety pin. The pin went through a flap of skin they had by the hole and they’d hook it to the drain tube to hold it in place. Every day or so, they’d pull that drain tube out another inch. That was always a thrill.
Once the tube came out they started packing the wound with silver nitrate to heal it. It wasn’t bad when they packed it in. It was sort of a tingly, itchy feeling. But when they took it out the next morning they had to scrape it out with a spatula. That was something! Sometimes I even threw up. And they always did it right before chow.
It made you sick?
Yeah. It was horrible.
This was the huge exit wound. How big was it?
About the size of a big fist.
How long were you in Bethesda?
Off and on, about 19 months. They used to call me the ox. I was a big strapping Marine about 6 foot 2. I’ve lost about 2 inches in height over the years because I got degenerative disc disease.
Your discs disintegrated?
Yes. Years later. I used to be 6' 2". Now I’m 6 foot.
How long before you fully recovered from all this?
I got back to Bethesda before Thanksgiving but got home for Christmas ‘51.
When did you get out of the Marines?
Later on I went before the PE (Physical Evaluation) Board. By the time I got out it was April of ‘54. I was out for awhile but technically still a Marine. Once the PE Board started I went to the Naval Gun Factory and was stationed there a few months and they called me back to the PE Board. I had to wear a chair back brace. Then they surveyed me out. In ‘54 they determined that I was permanently disabled and then I was out.
What were the circumstances regarding the drawings you did? How did that come about?
I always used to draw even in high school. Back in Bethesda, they wanted us to take therapy. I was doing leather work. That place was fantastic. You were really treated well. I asked for some drawing pads and pen and ink and just started putting some of the stuff down on paper. Around ‘55 or ‘56 or so a neighbor of mine who worked for the Sun Paper in Baltimore saw my drawings and they printed them up in the paper.
They are quite remarkable.
They were printed on a full page in the Sunday magazine section.
Any thoughts about how Navy medicine treated your wounds?
I told my wife that if anything happens to me, the hell with these civilian or VA hospitals. Get me over to Bethesda. I have the highest regard in the world for Navy medicine.
SGT Fenwick incurred six machine gun bullet wounds on 5 October 1951. Two were through and through wounds of the left upper arm with no permanent bone, muscle, or nerve damage. Four were through and through wounds of the left flank, involving the small intestine, left pelvis, left iliac crest and iliac joint, which was destroyed by direct trauma. There was a large exit wound in the lower, left back adherent to the lumbar spine with fractures of L-3, L-4, and L-5. The left artery was severed. Two of the gunshot wounds were “keyhole” rounds, which tumbled, causing large muscle and tissue damage and loss in the lumbar spine region.
John L. "Jack" Fenwick , a retired U.S. Marine Sergeant and Korean War veteran, whose combat drawings are displayed at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (formerly the National Naval Medical Center) died on 18 March 2012. He was 82.
In 1951, while a patient at the National Naval Medical Center, Fenwick picked up a sketch pad and began drawing out his stark and unforgiving memories of the war. Fifty years later, he and his wife donated these drawings to the hospital.
Musical Performance in Celebration of Women’s History Month
WHAT: Women’s Diversity Concert – free, live performance by the U.S. Navy Band held at the United States Navy Memorial in honor of Women’s History Month. The concert, featuring MU1 Shana Sullivan and the Cruisers, will tell the story of women’s growing role in the U.S. Navy through a musical performance accompanied by videos, photography and a narrative component.
Women have served as an integral part of the United States Navy since the establishment of the Nurse Corps in 1908. Nine years later, the Navy authorized the enlistment of women as "Yeomanettes," and in 1948, the Women's Armed Services Integration Act was signed, allowing women to enter the Navy in regular or reserve status. In 1972, Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment, opening Recruit Officer Training Command to women and making it possible for females to enlist in all ratings. Today, women represent more than 15% of the Navy’s sailors and command numerous operational and shore units.
The Women’s Diversity Concert is part of a series that celebrates different ethnicities in the Navy.
WHEN: Tuesday, 27 March 2012 @ 12:00pm
WHERE: United States Navy Memorial
701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20004
Metro: National Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter (Green and Yellow lines)
COST: Free and open to the public. No RSVP required, but seating is limited.
For more information about the U.S. Navy Band, please call 202-433-3366 or visit www.navyband.navy.mil.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
T. Rees Shapiro, The Washington Post March 21 2012
Where were you born?
Luddington, Michigan. I grew up there.
When did you decide to join the Navy?
In January of 1951.
Why did you join?
I don’t know if you can remember, but back then they didn’t draft you until you got to be about age 22. In other words there wasn’t an awful lot you could do and if there were jobs were available, no one took you on for long term because they knew you would end up being drafted at some point when you hit 21 or 22. I think there were five of us. We decided that we’d join the Navy. All of us had worked there on the boats on the Great Lakes. We used to work work the summer months on the car ferries. I say car ferries, but they hauled freight cars from Luddington Michigan to Milwaukee, Sheboygan and Kewannee.
Where did you enlist?
We actually enlisted in Luddington, took all the written tests and then we had to go to Chicago to take the physicals. We went to boot camp from there, which was at Great Lakes.
What kind of experience was that?
Cold. I was used to cold weather but it was exceptionally cold. They were building up at that time and they had a lot of guys up from Texas. And this was January and they didn’t have clothes for them. So they were running around in light jackets for about a week. In fact, it took us about a week to get processed--get our clothes and stenciled and all that.
How long was boot camp at that time?
I think it was 8 weeks.
Did you put in for corps school or were you selected?
No and yes. They wanted me to be a water tender or fireman but I think I put down corpsman, dental tech, and yeoman.
So you got your first choice.
Anybody that even mentioned corpsman got it. This must have been March. They had just opened up a boot camp at Bainbridge [MD] and they also started the Hospital Corps school there.
The Korean War was going full blast at this time and they needed corpsmen. So you went to Bainbridge then?
What are your recollections of Bainbridge?
A big empty place. I think there were maybe 150 people total on the base at that time. It’s the only place I’ve ever been where we were allowed to hitch hike because they had no tranportation out of there. As I say, they had just reactivated it and when we got there they put us to work putting beds in the barracks and all kinds of work just to get the thing off the ground. There was class one and two which was a hundred. And I was in three and four which started a week later. By the time I left there they had probably 2,000 going through Corps School alone.
What do you remember about your corps school training?
At some point, they decided they were going to give us 6 months of corps school, which was quite a bit. If I remember correctly, nobody went directly to the Marine Corps. We all went to hospitals for further training. A Marine would spend a year in Korea and then be rotated back. Some congresswoman went over there and found out that the hospital corpsmen were spending a year and a half and, of course, she made some comment so the next thing you know they was this tremendous influx of corpsmen. In other words, they were pushing us through at quite a clip.
What specific medical training did you get in corps school?
They had called a lot of reserves and we had one who taught us first aid. He had been with the Marines and had been a first class and had made a couple of landings. He always would tell us to ignore that part where they would put sulfa on the wounds because they were using the movies as training aids that they had used in World War II. He’d tell us to disregard that part because they didn’t want us to do that anymore.
Instead of sprinkling sulfa into the wounds, what did they teach you to do with an open wound?
Just put a battle dressing on it and treat it as best we could and get him out of there.
Were they teaching you anything about penicillin at this point?
They brought it up. In other words, you weren’t going to treat him with penicillin.
So you just learned the standard first aid treatment that a World War II corpsman would have learned such as how to apply a battle dressing and administer morphine and things like that.
Yes. As a matter of fact, most of the stuff that was in use was from World War II. They taught nursing also. It was a full-blown corps school. When you got out of there they figured you would end up at a hospital and working a ward for a while and at at some point the odds were that you would be heading for Korea.
Where did they send you after you graduated from corps school?
I went to the naval hospital in Charleston, SC, and ended up on a ward.
What kind of ward was it?
I went to clean orthopedics and worked there for over a year. I got tired of that and then went to neuropsychiatric and worked there for as long as I could--6 months. They had a ward that was intended for 25 locked and they ended up carrying 45 or more. What was so funny about it was that they were drafting Puerto Ricans. We would get 5-10 of them out of Parris Island. And they didn’t speak English and didn’t understand what the Marines were doing. They weren’t mental patients. They just didn’t savvy.
You mean they were being admitted as patients?
Yes. I’ll tell you this much. We had maybe five alcoholics out of the Navy. We’d run maybe five combat vets who were suffering from combat fatigue, four epileptics, and then of course our Puerto Ricans. We’d have a riot at least once a week when they had to pull everybody in to quell this thing. It was beyond belief.
You mean the riot was on the wards? Were they using weapons?
No. I’ll tell you. If a man worked there for 6 months, they took away his keys and locked him up. As I think back, the doctors we had were excellent. They would tell us the varies sympoms and so forth. When Forrestal went out the window there at Bethesda, they cleaned out their whole psychiatric department and we got a couple of doctors that were pretty good out of that incident.
Were these psychiatrists you worked with new in the Navy or were they veterans of World War II?
Most of them were reserves on recall. The head psychiatrist was a lieutenant commander and he had gotten out of the Navy and came back in because of the Korean War. He had been recalled. He was very good. We used shock treatment. We didn’t use insulin then. They had gotten away from using lobotomy. If we couldn’t handle them, eventually we would send them to Bethesda.
While I was there Walter Winchell’s son was down at Parris Island and he lasted a week or two max. He ended up there with us. Walter Winchell would announce in his broadcasts. “If you have a son in Korea, write to him and if you have a son in Parris Island pray for him.”
When did you learn you had been selected for the FMF?
I got there in September and I left the following September--’52.
Did you volunteer or did they just pick you?
Both. I knew that sometime between then and Christmas I would be going to the FMF because I had been there as long as they kept most people. There were probably over 300 E-3 and E-4 and that was quite a few for that hospital. I volunteered because I figured I was going in September anyway.
Were you looking forward to going with the Marines or was it something that you dreaded?
No, I didn’t dread it but you have to understand that I already had a couple of friends who had been killed in Korea. I knew that you could get killed over there, which I really didn’t relish. So, I ended up volunteering. I think I got to Pendleton in September or October.
You went to Field Medical Service School there.
What kind of experience was that?
They gave us a certain amount of time learning to use and M1 and a carbine and a .45 and how the Marines would try to take a position. They broke us into rifle companies. In other words, we’d have a squad of three fire teams and a squad leader. I can’t remember how long the school was but I do remember part of it was learning Marine Corps and part was learning first aid.
Did you learn the whole organizational system, the breakdown of how they had support units and infantry units set up?
Not really so much for that as for company. In other words, you’d have three fire teams to a squad and in that would be four men. You’d have a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle), an assistant BAR and two riflemen. We made some landings and they’d put signs on simulated casualties. A leg was blown off, etc. and you’d treat them.
Did you actually work with LCVPs (Landing Craft Vehicles and Personnel)?
The medical training, then, was several stages more advanced from what you saw in corps school.
Oh, yes. It was a little more advanced.
Were they still using serum albumin as a blood volume expander?
Yes. Everything else was World War II.
What about plasma?
No. We just had serum albumen. That’s all they gave the front line corpsmen because they felt you would be back into a battalion or regimental aid station in a very short time. Trench warfare had already started by the time I went to the FMF.
Were you issued the Unit I medical bag in Field Med School?
What were some of the item you might have carried in the Unit I?
We carried APCs and bandaids, a sewing kit, scissors, and an instrument set, battle dressings, a couple of tournequets, and morphine.
How many syrettes of morphine were you provided for in that kit?
When I got to Korea, I think I carried 10 or 15 of the quarter grain size.
How were the battle dressings packaged?
The larger ones came in a foil package.
When did you get to Korea?
I hit Japan in the very first or second week of January.
How did you get over there?
In those days you had two ways and they were by draft. I recall I was in draft 29 1/2. I use the term half because if you were with the 29th draft this meant you went over with a Marine company. In other word, you were integrated right into that outfit and you went over. But that didn’t mean you’d stay with that company as in the old days. These were just replacements. They would go over by ship. We went over by plane. It was a rather large commercial plane as I recall. We landed in Hawaii and spent a day there and then went on to Japan where we spent a week. A week later we were in Korea.
What did you do for that week in Japan?
They issued us M1s and we went out to a firing range because these were the rifles we were taking to Korea. We really didn’t do much.
Were the M1s issued to hospital corpsmen and Marines alike?
Is that were you were expected to carry out in the field the whole time you were there?
I always thought an M1 was too damn big, not that I didn’t appreciate it but the fact is that when you’re trying to take care of someone, the only thing it’s good for is a splint. I eventually got a carbine.
Did you also carry a pistol?
I had a pistol for a while.
Where did you land in Korea?
I don’t recall. They issued us 782 gear at this city and they took our seabags and they kept them back there.
What was the 782 gear?
It was a big waterproof bag and a packboard, which was so much better than I had used prior to that time for carrying things. We got thermal boots--mostly cold weather stuff.
Did you arrive with your war belt and your pack, canteens, and all that?
No. We were issued that with our thermal gear.
Once you arrive in Korea, how were you organized?
We were at this city for 1 day, and that night we loaded on a train and just took off. I know that when we got off the train, I cannot tell you exactly where we were but I just know we were very close to the 38th Parallel. I remember being told where I was going to go. At this time, all corpsmen who went over there, if you were HA, HN, or Third, you went to a rifle company and replaced some guy who had been there because the usual stay with a rifle company back then was about 4 months. Then you would be replaced by some new guy and rotated back to battalion aid or regiment, or a tank outfit, or mortars. Again the rotation would take place, and you’d go back usually to a med company. I think this was probably battalion. They were were forming us up to send us up. I know I was talking to corpsmen who had been there for awhile and they just got a report that some Marine Corps engineer driving a caterpillar doing a road fell into a river and drowned. I thought, gee, that’s a helluva thing to be over here in a combat area and you get killed in an accident.
Did they do a pretty good job amalgamated you replacements?
No. They didn’t know how long you were going to be with any outfit. I was very fortunate. I didn’t go right to a company right on the line. I went to a company that was in reserve. I was there probably over a week. The guy I replaced stayed there a couple of days and I was introduced around. About 2 or 3 weeks later the guy I used to work with on the orthopedic ward showed up and he was the other corpsman in my platoon. That was really strange. We were really good friends and we are today. I felt he was brand new and I had to show him the ropes. That’s something you learn awfully quick.
Were the Marines rotating through as quickly as the corpsmen?
I don’t think so. If you were a Marine rifleman you went to a rifle company and the odds were that unless you got shot you were going to be there because they didn’t rotate them back. They would draft them back. In other words, you’d spend a year with a rifle company and then you’d be rotated back, whereas corpsmen would come up and they would rotate them back out of a rifle company.
Did the Marines take to you fairly well?
Oh, yes. No problem.
How long was it before you actually went out to the line?
I was probably there for 4 days. We would go out and string barbed wire at night. We wouldn’t come under small arms so much as mortar.
Were you in the same vacinity as the Nevada City outposts at that time?
Fairly close because the Marines hooked up with the Army and then they rolled over to the Panmunjom Corridor where the peace talks were going on. I can recall in the first week they sent us out on a daytime patrol and the idea was that if they fired on us they would be firing into that neutral zone. We passed two tanks that were sitting there. If they did fire on us they were to give overhead fire because they would be firing away from this thing. We found quite a few dead Chinamen in our travels. They had been digging these fighting holes and come closer and closer to our lines and we were blowing them up. They had left out a bunch of things for us--hankerchiefs and literature, or should I say, propaganda. In other words, the guys at home are making a fortune while you’re here giving your life. Keep this pass and you can pass through our lines and sit the war out and go home--all kinds of stuff.
Were you encountering any North Koreans at this time or just Chinese?
I would have to say just Chinese but I can’t be sure.
Did they seem to be well equipped or were they fairly scantilly dressed?
No. Insofar as that quilted uniform they had, they all had them and looked fairly warm. They had those rubber tennis shoes, not tennis shoes per se but a heavy rubber. I was thinking how they must have gotten cold in those. But you could smell those Chinese.
What did they smell like?
Garlic. And you smell them a long way off if the wind was right. If you saw bodies if they had been killed fairly recently, they wouldn’t have any decay odor. That’s just the way they would smell. I suspect it had a helluva lot to do with what they ate.
What month was this?
I must have gotten there in latter February. We had already been told that we were going to go back on line and we were out on patrol. When you got nothing else to do they like to keep the Marines busy. This was a midnight patrol and we were just practicing as a full squad. Tha Chinese liked to open mortar barrages just as it was turning dusk. If you are going to fire back at them, by the time you get your counterfire, it’s dark. Then they come in right under their own mortars. They always did this. You could really tell that they had used an awful lot of mortar plus artillery on this barrage. This guy next to me says, “Jesus Christ, that’s Reno, Vegas, and Carson. The Shit’s hit the fan.”
That would have been the evening of the 26th.
That’s right. We were there for a little while and then they cancelled the whole thing. We went back in. We loaded up and then we were issued granades and ammo and we started on these trucks. When we got there it was fairly early in the morning and we just stayed there in this huge zone. They didn’t have any incoming in there but we were using our own planes and artillery. They told us very early in the morning that Reno, Vegas, and Carson had fallen. I know that it was probably noon when they decided we were going to retake.... And it fell to my company to retake Vegas.
What company were you with?
What was the topography like in that area?
You have to understand that Korea is all hills. You’re either walking up or down hill and if there’s any level area, it’s a rice paddy. It’s that simple. Vegas was a fairly good sized hill. IT wasn’t a giant of a hill but good size.
What do you recall about that whole incident?
The main thing is that the Marines could not get their dead back. As a matter of fact, when we went it was through a blocking gate that was barbed wire strung. When you looked out over the landscape I can only tell you that they had used 60 mortars and they were in blocks probably 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet. You could see where they had hit and they still had guys hanging in this wire. The first real casualty I have saw was hanging in the wire and he must have taken a mortar right on top of the head because there was nothing but the pelvis left. What a grisly sight! And there was another guy that was pretty messed up. We had to cross this rice paddy that had a stream right in the center of it. Of course, I was right in back of the lieutenant and all I can remember. He said, “Give me 20 yards and then you take off. Pass the word back, 20 yards.” So he started running. I gave him his 20 yards, and Christ, I was just about next to him by this stream. The idea was by spreading out like that they wouldn’t fire. But you know how you think of things afterward. I got to thinking, if they had fired we would have been dead if they had used mortars when we crossed there. It was a beautiful day and all I could think of was Death in the Afternoon by Hemingway. I know that’s about bullfighting but still it was something that struck me.
They did fire small arms as soon as they could.
Where was the enemy in relation to where you were?
They were on the hill and we were down in the paddy area. But again, we had other hills and valleys that were the approach to there. They could only get a shot at us when we came up over the skyline and then you’d drop down. If you were right at the base of that hill but we were on a long finger which was a trench that was dug out and that’s how we were going. We were following this trench line. I ended up starting to treat a lot of guys that had been shot up in the 5th. They didn’t have a chance to get them out of there. One guy I started treating had a dead corpsman lying next to him. I kept thinking that if I roll that man over I’ll know who he is and I don’t want to know who he is. We had all come there about the same time.
The corpsman had been treating the Marine when he was killed?
How did you evacuate the wounded after you treated them?
They had stretcher bearers following us up. I told the Marine I treated that I was afraid to move him by myself but not to worry because the stretcher bearers would get him. And then I treated another guy. He wasn’t bad. I just threw a couple of battle dressings and he didn’t really need them.
That brings up something that I should mention. If it’s very cold, seldom will you bleed to death. And it was just cold enough that the blood would coagulate pretty easily.
Did you have to start them on serum albumin?
Not at that time. Later I did on one guy but that was a problem. You couldn’t use a flashlight, a cigarette lighter. Hell, you couldn’t even smoke a cigarette towards the latter part of the evening. Like I said, I got attached from my platoon and ended up in another platoon. My platoon sergeant was a short-timer and he had a short-timer attitude. I think he was ready to go back. Matter of fact, he was in the next draft. His replacement as due to come in and relieve him. This was a pretty bad situation.