INT: But it's now into the winter properly. How
INT: .well equipped were you for winter fighting and night fighting?
CB: (overlap) I had the same kind of shoes on then that I have now.
INT: Can I just… you slightly overlapped with my voice so I'll just ask you that again so that our voices get confused.
INT: Just tell me about the standard of equipment in terms of gear, clothing, for fighting a winter war.
CB: Well, I had the same leather shoes then that I am wearing today. As a matter of fact, the first night that the Chinese hit us, I lost 39 men to frostbite and we evacuated them and I went by the next afternoon, down to the medical station and the doctors were breaking off those frozen toes with a with forceps. I never saw those men again. That's how badly we were equipped. From the frostbite I lost a whole platoon. We were not equipped, at all. We had no tentage, we had leather shoes we got some mukluks later on and eventually we got some what they call Mickey Mouse boots, but all of this came much later and we lost a lot of people long before that.
INT: It seems that you lost a lot of people due to conditions as well as enemy action. Could you reflect a little on that for us?
CB: We probably lost more people due to conditions than we did to enemy action I think, and that's an after-the-fact attitude of course but we lost a lot of people to situations and that winter was one of them and I don't know how people in the Pentagon and all the way back through the supply chain let that happen because summer is always followed by fall which is followed by winter, and winter imposes some real difficult situations on soldiers.
INT: But the Chinese were enduring the same winter. How was it that they coped so much better - if they did?
CB: (overlap) Well (laugh) The Koreans were much equipped than we were in many respects. First of all, they had a quilted cotton uniform
INT: (interrupts) May I just interrupt you let's talk about the Chinese specifically 'cos they had just come into the war
CB: (overlap) Well that's right. Well, the Chinese came in and they were wearing a one-piece quilted uniform. It looked like a quilt, it was sewn like a quilt, and that was the only uniform they had, just that one and they did very well with it. They had shoes that were rubber and the feet were a part of this uniform that they wore, made right into the thing so there were no gaps, and they had gloves where you could extract one finger for a trigger and they had blow-back type weapons and they didn't care how cold it got. They wouldn't freeze. If you have a cylinder that vibrates back and forth, the oil will freeze and you can't fire this thing. They didn't have that problem. They were issued each a sack - I'd say it was 4, 5 inches in diameter - and it was long enough to fit over a over a shoulder, which left both hands free and that sack had either rice or millet or some type of grain in it and theywere required to live off the land and their protein and their sugar and things, they took from whatever the land provided. They were healthy. They did very well for themselves. They cooked wherever they got hungry and they killed a pig, a cow, a chicken or whatever the land provided and they did very well with that. They were hearty, they were strong, they had very poor communications equipment, they had plenty of guns and plenty of ammunition and one helluva lot of men, and they did very well. They chased us all the way from the Chungchon river all the way to the Imjin river and this was couple of a hundred miles. We didn't stop for anything. We were heading all the way for Pusan and if General Ridgeway hadn't taken over, we'd have finally gotten to Pusan. We fared very very poorly. When we got to the Imjin river, the first thing I did was to destroy all the boats along the river, all everything on the north side of the river I destroyed. The river then was freezing at night, oh, 3 or 4 inches thick ice and every afternoon I blew the river with Bangtorpedoes. Bangaloor torpedo is sort of a pipe that has threads on one end and male thread on one end and female on the other, and this thing is filled with let's call it dynamite so when you fired this thing, it broke ice or whatever. And for the first 3 or 4 nights that we were there, I fired these Bangaloors about 4 o'clock in the afternoon and that cracked the ice and it takes quite a bit of time for that ice to become strong enough to support a man. And there were thousands of Chinese on across the river from us but they couldn't cross this thing because we blew this ice. One afternoon, the regimental commander said 'what's that noise I hear every afternoon about 4 o'clock?'. I said 'oh, I blow the ice out of the river there and we won't have to worry anybody walking across at night.' He said 'well, I don't like that noise' and I said 'well, I don't either but it's effective' and he said 'well, I don't wanna hear it anymore' and I explained to him that that ice and the destruction of it made it possible for us to have the security that we needed against that horde of people on the far bank. He said 'well, I don't wanna hear it anymore.' And he didn't. And the next day at high noon, 10,000 of 'em hit us and drove us all the way back to Yan Dang Po.
INT: Tells you something about the leadership.
INT: But the book described that almost as a rout from the 8th army. I know were you were.
CB: It was.
INT: (overlap) .(unintelligible)
CB: It was a rout exactly like the one (laugh) that Napoleon faced leaving Russia and identical to the one that the Wehrmacht faced leaving Stalingrad. We ran headlong, helter-skelter, pell-mell, trying to get Pusan, trying to get back to Japan. It was disgusting. All grades. No generals, I didn't see any generals but I saw all grades less than that, as individuals, heading south. I had a number of trucks and we had people on top of the trucks, on the running boards. We were just heading south. Disgusting. I never felt so inadequate in my life as to be part of an army that was running helter-skelter, pell-mell. It's unbelievable.
INT: And this is the most superior technologically equipped army in the world.
CB: That's right. We thought. It was disgusting.
INT: What were the main things you put it down to? You've mentioned leadership, this rout of the 8th army.
CB: Well, I'd say leadership and it's all the way from the 2-star right down to the private. It there's the esprit that has to be there. There has to be a determination has to be there. There's gotta be a lot of training and we had none of those things, at any point. When we first got there, we lost a general for crying out loud! A 2-star general who became a prisoner. It's impossible! Absolutely impossible, but we did it and I guess he was a captive for the entire war. I can't imagine this. No army can imagine this. No army can afford this. But we did.
INT: Can I just stop you there and I'll see if there are other things that we ought just to consolidate
BREAK IN TAPE
INT: Charles, can you just go back and tell us about Thanksgiving and mention Thanksgiving in your answer, what sort of day Thanksgiving was, what you did, what the atmosphere was like.
CB: Well, Thanksgiving Day in 1950 was a very fine day, the weather was nice, the typical Thanksgiving dinners were there. We had everything that we woulda had had we been at home. We played some baseball and it was had just a very nice day, and that was the last nice day we had! (laugh)
INT: Well, after that, it went downhill. Can you give us an idea of how the fact that the army had streamed north without a