Telephone interview with Sergeant John L. Fenwick, Jr., Co. A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. Wounded in action, Korea. Conducted by Jan K. Herman, Historian, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, 25 October 2000.
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.