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Interview with William F. Mitchel [5/11/2001]

Erin McCarthy:

All right. Today is May the 11th, 2001. And this is an interview with William Francis Mitchell. If you could start by telling us your age and your date of birth.

William F. Mitchel:

I'm 72, soon to be 73. And it's July 29th, 1928.

Erin McCarthy:

And where were you born?

William F. Mitchel:

Cook County, Chicago, Illinois.

Erin McCarthy:

And did you grow up in Chicago; were you raised in Chicago?

William F. Mitchel:

I was raised in St. Philip Neri Parish, 7410 South Merrill Avenue.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay. And can you tell us your -- your ethnic background?

William F. Mitchel:

My mother was all Irish, and my father was part German and part Norwegian. So I -- whenever I'd get into a fight or anything, people were saying anything, I'd just say I'm a Norwegian, because nobody hates a Norwegian, except the dumb Swedes. Ya know. (Laughter.)

Erin McCarthy:

And can you tell us your educational background; where you went to school?

William F. Mitchel:

Let's see, grammar school was at St. Philip Neri Grammar School, eight years there. Went to Mt. Carmel High School for four years. Went to St. Norbert's College in West DePere, Wisconsin for two years. And then came back and graduated in two years from Loyola University.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay. Tell us how old you were when you joined the military and what were the circumstances surrounding your entry into the military.

William F. Mitchel:

Well, it's a pretty interesting story. I don't know, you've probably heard it. But, a group of us, it was -- I graduated in January of '51. So a group of us decided that this was going to a land war, and we didn't want anything to do with a land war. We knew we were bait for trap -- or graduated from college, unemployed, 21, 22-years old. So we thought we'd become officers in the Navy. So we went over, Loyola was at, on Rush Street then. And Michigan Avenue and Rush, you know, front and back. And on Rush Street was a Naval recruiting station. So we were in there. And they gave us a test. And the test was the hardest test I've ever seen. It was ten questions. I think the highest score was six. And they said, well, that's borderline, six. You know. We'll let you know. But you're not accepted. So as we were walking out, there's a Marine major standing there, saying, do you want to become an officer. We said, yes. He says, well, we have got a new program and you may be interested in. So he told us what it was. You go to Parris Island for ten weeks. You get a commission, second lieutenant. And then, so that made us a 70-day wonder, and in World War II it took them 90 days. And then -- then we went to Quantico for officers' training for five months. And then it was -- then you would be assigned a -- a unit. You know, you could be going to the artillery, you could go into intelligence, you could going into anything. But naturally, they were looking for infantry officers, but they never mentioned infantry, as such. So we said, yeah, that sounds fine. So as I'm walking -- he says, well, you go in there and take your physical. As I'm walking in, a corpsman says, hey, buddy. I could hardly hear him, but I heard him. He says, you just passed your hearing test. And I thought, uh-oh. (Laughter.) That's no wonder this was so easy. So that was it. So that's what I did.

Erin McCarthy:

And what year was this?

William F. Mitchel:

This was 1951.

Erin McCarthy:

So the Korean War is going on?

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. It started in '50, and it was going on. It was at its height in '51 and '52. Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

And just -- was the Marine officer outside the door hoping for people that --

William F. Mitchel:

Oh, he knew they were all going to flunk. Because the test was impossible. It was made to be flunked. By -- by the way, when I was down at Parris Island in my ninth week, I got notification that I was accepted for naval training to become an officer. You know. Too late. Nine weeks too late. So.

Erin McCarthy:

And so you -- and you did this with several friends?

William F. Mitchel:

Mainly acquaintances.

Erin McCarthy:

Acquaintances. From college.

William F. Mitchel:

Actually, one -- one guy, myself, and one other guy passed all the tests that they had. They had -- you know, then you went in for your IQ test, and all that. You had to have a 128 minimum IQ to become an officer in the Corps then. And what else. And your physical. The physical was extremely thorough, it turned out to be. And a lot of them didn't pass it, the physical. And so some didn't pass the mental, I guess. But I don't know. There was only two of us out of that group. There were probably 12 or 15, something like, that passed and went in. And the other guy's name was Maloney, and he flunked out about his -- about six weeks in. He was tossed; relieved. The special deal with this first program they had with the Corps was that they -- if at any time you wanted to get -- walk away, you could walk out. And there would be no repercussions, you know. Or they could throw you out at any time. And what we didn't know is, when you got thrown out or left, -- I shouldn't say thrown out. When you were separated because of some reason or another, you were not eligible for the draft, because you had served in the Marine Corps and were turned down. They didn't tell us that. I would have -- I would have flunked out immediately. (Laughter.) You know, gotten my two weeks in and then gotten out. But it was -- it was a weight loss program for me. I lost 40 pounds in 10 weeks. And it was -- it was good training. Quite similar to the boot training. All the discipline they gave the boots. You know, shave your head and everything. But then you would go to classes at night and -- and be thoroughly educated in the use of arms and the logistics and how things were done and everything else like that. Then you would get about five hours sleep. And then you would be up and in the physical part of the training the next day. So you got mental and physical. So when you got to Quantico, which was mainly mental, it was -- it was a snap. Nothing to it. And I think out of all, I think there was a class of -- well, my platoon. They had platoons of training officers, officers in training, there were -- there were 60 guys in a platoon. And when we ended, there were only 25. And then when we went to Quantico, we had two weeks off, leave, and then we went to Quantico. And as I said, the training was more mental, much easier, stressing the logistics on how to run a platoon, different types of platoons that they may have. It may be a mortar platoon, a machine gun platoon, you could be an R -- FO, forward observer for artillery. You could be an artillery commander, you know, all the -- all the different types of things.

Erin McCarthy:

Did you get exposed to all those or did you go into a specialty?

William F. Mitchel:

No, no. We were exposed. We didn't know what we were going to be until the end.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay. Right.

William F. Mitchel:

I was recommended for, they start off with a one. One-oh, oh-seven, which was artillery.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay.

William F. Mitchel:

Instead, I got oh-three. As we said, oh-three, oh, shit. (Laughter.) Because it was oh-three, oh-two -- oh-three, oh-one, which was a -- infantry. So that's it. And then after -- after I had been in -- then we went to -- we went to Camp Pendleton, California. On our way to Korea, we spent a month there in cold weather training up in the mountains, and in handling a platoon, actually handling a platoon, but it was, you know, just physical. It was easy. It was no -- we ran problems and things like that, but they were so self-evident you know, not confusing, because nobody's shooting at ya. So it -- that was -- it was good training. But they -- the Corps at the time, these were all reserve officers. Once they were commissioned, they were not regular officers, they were reserve. And you always -- they -- they wanted to keep as many Annapolis people as they could get or VMI people. They wanted to keep them alive, because those are the future generals.

Erin McCarthy:

Right. Right.

William F. Mitchel:

So they did a pretty good job of making sure they got experience. But they didn't spend as long -- like out -- the whole nine months I was there, which isn't very long, but the whole nine months I was there, I was on -- on line eight months out of the nine with the platoon. And normally they would put a regular in. This was my observation. I don't know, probably disprove. But we had two or three guys from Annapolis come in, they'd spend about six weeks and be gone. You know, be taken away and they've have -- see, they get their oh-three, oh-two. You're no longer an oh-three, oh-one, which means you're an officer in infantry, but have never commanded a platoon. And an oh-three, oh-two means you've had a platoon in combat for six to -- six weeks or more.

Erin McCarthy:

So you felt -- I mean, I am curious as to, because the war was going on, it -- it still sounds like you felt you got pretty good training; that you weren't -- or were you being pushed through, do you think, quickly to get you over there or they were --

William F. Mitchel:

Oh, no, they were -- they were very thorough.

Erin McCarthy:

-- giving you enough preparation?

William F. Mitchel:

No, they were very good. Quantico was an education.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

It was really good. You had night problems, you had day problems, you had everything they could think of. You know. And it -- it was much easier than a -- a -- than Parris Island, because they treated you with some respect. In Parris Island, you were -- they treated you like they do all recruits; to respond to a command immediately, no questions, which pays off.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

That was -- that's about it, as far as the training goes. Then when we got to Korea, it was March of '52 -- or nine -- yeah, '52. No, it was late February. Late February. We left the 1st of February, got there late February. And I took over a 80 mortar millimeter platoon immediately, because the officer was -- I came in and he walked out. There was no -- no transfer or anything.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay. Before -- before we get you to Korea.

William F. Mitchel:

No. Okay.

Erin McCarthy:

Again, while the war is going on, what kind of -- what did you know about Korea or the Korean War before you entered the military, and then what kind of stories were coming down the line --

William F. Mitchel:

Oh.

Erin McCarthy:

-- while you were in training?

William F. Mitchel:

Well, you know the -- the Corps. I like the Corps.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

The -- the stories that came down the line were -- were that you had Chosin -- you're familiar with Chosin Reservoir?

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

That was MacArthur's fault. Because he took the Eighth Army and put them on one side of the mountains, and he took the First Marine Division and put it on the other side. There's no way they could help each other. And the Eighth Army bugged out entirely. And the Corps had to fight its way back. And I picked 'em up, oh, about three months after they got back. And they were -- they -- to put 'em on a boat, took 'em -- took 'em back behind lines and went right back into action. You know, and they -- they had had it. They were disgruntled. But then as they got replaced with new men and everything, it was -- I had a very good platoon. But go ahead. I didn't know anything about Korea. Nothing.

Erin McCarthy:

You knew nothing.

William F. Mitchel:

I knew where it was. I knew that it had been divided. I mean, I knew enough about that.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

But I didn't have any idea what it was going to be like. I mean, it was very mountainous. Very rugged terrain. By the time I got there, there weren't many trees left. I'm sure there must have been at one time. The smell in the summer was awful, because they -- the rice paddies were, you know, human waste was used to nourish them.

Erin McCarthy:

Right.

William F. Mitchel:

And it seems every time you're out on patrol during the day and working on patrol, some Chink would take a shot at you, just to watch you jump into the murk. I swear that was it. One shot and everybody hits, you know, goes down. And so I think that was -- you never -- you never got an eye without somebody taking one shot at you. Even if they shot up in the air, you hit the ground, so it was funny.

Erin McCarthy:

Do you -- okay. Do you remember whenever you finally heard that you were being sent to Korea?

William F. Mitchel:

Um-hum.

Erin McCarthy:

And what did you do, did you call home, did you say, I'm on my way?

William F. Mitchel:

No, I was -- no, I knew that when I left here, I got a leave in between Quantico --

Erin McCarthy:

Right.

William F. Mitchel:

-- and going to the west coast. I had the month of January -- December off. Had to report back January 1st.

Erin McCarthy:

So what did you do during that month at home?

William F. Mitchel:

Drank a lot. Went out court -- with my wife -- we were engaged.

Erin McCarthy:

You were engaged?

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. So we had a great time.

Erin McCarthy:

And her name?

William F. Mitchel:

Is Barbara Bechtel (phonetic).

Erin McCarthy:

Bechtel. And her nickname --

William F. Mitchel:

Was Corky.

Erin McCarthy:

-- at -- at the time --

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

-- you called her Corky. Okay.

William F. Mitchel:

So -- bad reference. (Pause for five seconds.)

Erin McCarthy:

You can just take your time. Yeah. (Pause for nine seconds.)

William F. Mitchel:

The hardest thing about going away was saying goodbye to her. (Pause for four seconds.) So many -- I knew my odds were pretty bad. I really -- the Corps was truthful about it. I think out of my -- my group of officers that graduated from Parris Island and Quantico, about 200 of us, about 30 came back. No, I am not saying that all of them were killed.

Erin McCarthy:

Right.

William F. Mitchel:

But wounded or killed. Yeah. So I knew that was the hardest part of it.

Erin McCarthy:

So you -- and you were aware of that --

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. Because --

Erin McCarthy:

-- at that stage.

William F. Mitchel:

-- I knew I was going to spend a month out in California on -- in training and get aboard ship right away.

Erin McCarthy:

Right.

William F. Mitchel:

You know, there was no -- they needed -- they were -- in deep -- they didn't have any officers.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

As Justeepler (phonetic) said, he was our general, he says, second lieutenants are expendable; I know, I was one once. And I'm sure Silleetree (phonetic), you know, we knew where we stood. And we had a job to do and we did it.

Erin McCarthy:

That -- I've read that in several different accounts. That -- that was well known amongst the Marine corps, because the officers and the lieutenants tended to go with their men into --

William F. Mitchel:

Oh, yeah. See, it's really --

Erin McCarthy:

They weren't in the back.

William F. Mitchel:

As a second lieutenant, you're really in complete command. I had a hundred guy -- men under me. I was 23-years old. I was the oldest guy in the platoon. Even my staff sergeant was 21. Most of them were 18, 19, 20-years old. A -- well trained.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

That's all I can say. Faces start --

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah. Coming back. When -- what was your -- your first assignment when you -- when you got over there? Now you said you relieved; the guy walked off, you walked on.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. We were on line.

Erin McCarthy:

Where were you put and, you know, what was your assignment?

William F. Mitchel:

All right. Whenever -- whenever we were on line, which means that we were in contact with the -- with the enemy. And --

Erin McCarthy:

Okay.

William F. Mitchel:

-- I took over an 80 millimeter platoon, which is -- calls for a first lieutenant and here they -- I am a second lieutenant, --

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

-- with no background in mortars. But I learned quickly. And what -- I would say it was three days before I was in combat actively, after going to the Second Battalion, Fifth Marines, I went into the weapons company. And then they assigned me the platoon -- the mortar platoon. There were only, in the -- in the whole battalion, I think at that time there were only four second lieutenants. One -- the battalion was -- I don't know who the hell was -- the head of the battalion was. I never saw him. I knew at the end.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

Because I got more experienced and I moved up the ladder a little bit. But I don't know who was the head of it. But the battalion, the commander of my company, which is, calls for a major, was a captain. They were all understaffed. They didn't have any -- any experienced officers. And the captain had only been in combat for a few weeks, you know. Silverthorn was his name. He was a character. But he was a good man. You know, he was good. He had the troops' welfare at heart, which is always, -- I think all the officers do. Oh, you always find a jerk or two. You know.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

That doesn't pay any attention to them. But they're -- you get to be pretty close to them all. As a matter of fact, when I was leaving, the only -- they give you a fitness report, and I had an excellent fitness report, except the comment by the colonel, whose name was Petros (phonetic), who I read about. In the history of the Marine Corps, he was a lieutenant, that at the -- he was on the Carlson's Raiders. I don't know if you heard of them.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. Well, he was -- a lieutenant who took a platoon and was the only one on this raid that Carlson made that was a disaster, he was the only one that accomplished his mission and got all of his men back. So he was at the end he was our colonel. I don't know where he was before that, but he was very good. But he said too close -- he said I was too attached to my men.

Erin McCarthy:

Oh, really. That was the criticism?

William F. Mitchel:

That's criticism. Yeah. You got -- you got -- you got -- you got to be close to them, but you can't be attached to them.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

Because they -- they do have -- they do get killed, they do get wounded and they do move, you know. It happens. So that was -- I thought it was an attribute. I told him that. Because he was leaving, I was leaving, so -- so it -- it was nice.

Erin McCarthy:

You could -- you could speak freely.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

Where were you sent in Korea; what part of Korea?

William F. Mitchel:

It was the -- well, you know the Peace Quarter, the Panmunjom Peace Quarter.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

We were just to the east of that. In the hills, just to the east of it. There was a -- there was a traditional route, so where I was told, where there was a big valley and between a lot of mount- -- hill, mountains, hills, mountains. They called them hills, they looked like mountains when we were climbing them. That was the traditional invasion route the Chinese had used and retreated and used again, you know, and then retreated again. So that was -- that's the area that we had. We were spread pretty thin, but I think everybody was.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum. And you were saying when you got there, if you could go back to that, that the people that now you were going to command and you were talking about the new troops were coming in to relieve them. But when you initially got there, they looked pretty worn out, or they -- ______+?

William F. Mitchel:

No, they -- I had -- no, by the time I had gotten there, they had pretty well replaced them.

Erin McCarthy:

Oh, they had.

William F. Mitchel:

I had run across a few in California.

Erin McCarthy:

Oh, okay.

William F. Mitchel:

And a few -- and a few that were still in my platoon when I got there. But they were -- soon were replaced.

Erin McCarthy:

Right.

William F. Mitchel:

You know, I -- I didn't even -- I can't even remember their names, you know.

Erin McCarthy:

And so how soon after, when you arrived in Korea, did you see -- did you go into battle and did you --

William F. Mitchel:

Three days.

Erin McCarthy:

Three days.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

Do you remember --

William F. Mitchel:

We took a -- we went to Inchon -- we landed in Inchon.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay.

William F. Mitchel:

We took a convoy to Seoul. And then we took a train over a trellis, that I didn't believe that this train could make it. It was -- you know, I thought I -- we're -- we're going to go right here. It's going to be the biggest train accident in the Corps' history. And -- and they took us out and then we, again, convoyed to the -- to the front. And it was about -- it was just about a day's journey. And then the next day, after arriving, we were assigned a battalion. And then the next day after that, the battalion signed you -- assigned us to platoons. And that's the last I saw of a lot of the guys, you know.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah. Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

A lot of them that were with me. I had two guys come into the battalion with me, and I lost contact with them.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

One guy was evacuated because he was wounded, and another guy was evacuated because of bee stings. That was -- I thought that was pretty funny, myself.

Erin McCarthy:

And do you remember what your state of -- I mean, what, you know, you're anticipating, participating in a war, your training, you know, all that, you know, what you've been preparing for. What's going through your mind? You're on this train, you're to kind of going into the unknown. Do you remember or --

William F. Mitchel:

Well, I -- I just remember taking in the -- the countryside.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

I mean, when we came into Inchon, the south coast, south -- I guess it would be the southwestern coast of Korea. It was pretty.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

They had houses sitting right up on -- you know, pagodas or whatever. You know, typical Asian houses sitting along -- along the water's edge, except they were all up on cliffs. It was very rugged. And then we came into Inchon which was, you know, just burned out. Nothing there really. Just Marine -- just military and ships coming in with supplies and things like that. Then the train trip to Seoul was -- was washed out. There was nothing. It was just burning. You know, still smoking. You know. I think it was either fires or something. It was -- there was nothing there except people.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

And that was the last civilians we saw, I ever saw until we came back.

Erin McCarthy:

Really.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. Well, when we -- after we -- the one time we came -- we got on reserve, we had some kids, 12, 13, 14-years old, would come, I don't know out of where, and do your laundry and things like that, and stay with you until you went back. They'd do -- do things for you.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum. Um-hum. (Pause for three seconds.) Can you talk a little bit more about the -- your -- the assignment and the mortarer. You know, like what their role was, who -- what -- what decisions you made or what -- what was the directions that were given to you?

William F. Mitchel:

Okay. Well, there's a -- the mortar platoon. All right.

Erin McCarthy:

Right.

William F. Mitchel:

I -- I -- it's about my letter of commendation was about. I -- I took over the platoon. And they had, what they call a direct FO. The F -- forward observer.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay.

William F. Mitchel:

You had forward observers with each platoon that was on line. See, the mortars -- the -- your -- the infantry is divided, is up on top -- on top of the hills. Right behind 'em are the mortars.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay.

William F. Mitchel:

And -- because they're on the deaf laid, they're harder to hit. Only can hit them as -- you know, your chances of being hit are less than if you're on the flats, away from the hill. Because it takes perfect shots. The Jap- -- Chinese were very good at doing them. You know, you would exchange -- well, let's not go into that. So I had -- because -- I was interested in the artillery way. They had, I am hazy on it now, but they had a command center where anybody -- anybody could call -- call in, phone in, radio in where they were. And they could pick him up on this little ouija board, where the guy would do it by hand. And he would say, the enemy is approaching. He'd give you where he is. And he says, to my left, 300 yards is a group of the enemy. And you could hit it.

Erin McCarthy:

So that's --

William F. Mitchel:

They didn't have to --

Erin McCarthy:

-- that triangle that they talk about with the FO --

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

-- and the mortar?

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. Yeah. See, we eliminated the FO.

Erin McCarthy:

Oh.

William F. Mitchel:

Anybody could do it.

Erin McCarthy:

Oh, okay.

William F. Mitchel:

We still had FOs up there. Four of them. But if a lieutenant or a sergeant or somebody is in, let's say, is out on patrol and he's attacked, he can say, I'm -- I'm in coordinate so and so, and so and so, and to my right and front or behind me --

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

-- are -- which is normally, they would be behind them, so you would have to be sure you didn't overshoot. Then they would, you could zero in on it rather, very quickly. And I think by the time I left our -- our battalion, and I think the rest of the regimen was using that system. We also had two different types of tubes. They called a mortar, a tube.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

All right. They had a square base plate which has to be settled. You have to set it before you can fire it accurately. In other words, you have got to drop three or four rounds in, get it pushed into the earth before you can really control --

Erin McCarthy:

Oh.

William F. Mitchel:

-- where you're shooting. The round one was the newer one. Was the new -- new one that came up at the end of World War II that had -- had not been tested very much. And then the Corps had -- had to use whatever they got. And so they -- we had a mixture of square ones and round ones. And there -- this round tube was not as good as the square ones that worked in a square. They had different knobs like this at the bottom. The round one had a round -- round knob and the square one had a square knob. So they could only fire a square -- the old-fashioned one could only fire right, in front, right, right; 180 degrees.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay.

William F. Mitchel:

The round one could fire --

Erin McCarthy:

360.

William F. Mitchel:

-- 360. And in Korea, that meant a lot. I -- and you would -- you would move your tubes from one position to another all the time. We found that if you left your baseplates at certain places, then you could fire a -- a guy, you know, everybody knew where the baseplates were. You just had a lot of baseplates stashed all over the line, fluctuating, you know.

Erin McCarthy:

Right.

William F. Mitchel:

And they'd be sunk in the ground. So that when you -- you just take your tubes, go someplace, and there would be somebody else's baseplates in. You wouldn't have to settle in, get each one.

Erin McCarthy:

Right.

William F. Mitchel:

You would have eight or ten tubes. You wouldn't have to fire 30 or 40 rounds, total. Because by then, by firing that many, all of the sudden your -- your -- their people had picked you up and they knew you were settling in. You know, they weren't dumb. They could -- and I'm sure that they did the same thing.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

Or -- or they did -- they -- they were very good with their mortars. Much better than we were.

Erin McCarthy:

The -- the Chinese.

William F. Mitchel:

We closed the gap, though, when we went to the artillery system.

Erin McCarthy:

But maybe -- and maybe this would be a good time just to speak to that. What was your assessment of the enemy? Because so, part the problem earlier in the war was the complete, from what I've read, underestimation, certainly --

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

-- of not only the North Koreans, initially, but then when the Chinese invaded, their numbers and their abilities. I mean.

William F. Mitchel:

I -- I think that -- I don't know how the Corps ever got out of Chosin. And I don't know how the Eighth Army ever regrouped. But it did. And then -- because I think the Chinese generals screwed up. And so that they should have eliminated those two units, the Eighth and the First Division. They shouldn't have -- they shouldn't have been in operation. But they were still a cohesive force once they -- they, the Marines always remained. And once -- I forget the guy's -- the general with the Eighth Army did a great -- great job of forming them up and getting them back in to be an effective unit. And so I think that -- I think our enemy could have -- we were spread out so thin, that if they had concentrated, they could have, --

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

-- if they -- if they really wanted to lose as many men as -- as we thought they did, --

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

-- they could have penetrated our main line of defense, because it was, you know, it was thin.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

Very thin. So I think they were just content to play the politics, and that's -- that's the way it went on for some time. It became sort of like a World War I type stay, with the bunkers. And that's why you could do that with the baseplates, put 'em around, because, you know, you never really -- it would be pushed so far away from, that you wouldn't get 'em back and so on and so forth. You know, they were never really got them into contact.

Erin McCarthy:

So was there -- was there anything that you could call a typical day? Or, you know, what -- what were some of the characteristics that --

William F. Mitchel:

Well, most of your fighting -- most of your fighting was done -- our fighting was done at night.

Erin McCarthy:

At night.

William F. Mitchel:

We would always have -- they had three type of patrols that went out. Either had a combat patrol, which was usually a reinforced squad. Reinforced, meaning, maybe two extra fire teams.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

The marines are a squad. Twelve men. Is divided into three fire teams. This -- I mean, then, in Korea. They had a Browning automatic rifle and two riflemen. And that would make a team. The fire.

Erin McCarthy:

Oh, okay.

William F. Mitchel:

A fire team. So you had four --

Erin McCarthy:

Four.

William F. Mitchel:

-- fire teams in a squad. And you could -- a squad could envelop, you know, if it wanted. You know, use envelopment. You could maneuver. You've got three different little units. I mean, moving regiments around, the same thing. You've got three regiments. The -- you have got, you know, I mean, in a division, you have three regiments, and in a regiment you have three battalions, and everything is down to threes. I think it probably still is in the Corps. So you could use a fire team to, you could say, fire team one, envelope them from the left and fire team two, envelope them from the right, and then tell the other two fire teams to pin 'em down, so they could -- could eliminate. I mean, that's the theory.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

So what was I was driving at?

Erin McCarthy:

We were talking about typical day.

William F. Mitchel:

Oh, yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

Fighting at night.

William F. Mitchel:

Oh, yeah. We were -- yeah. All right. So fighting at night was the most common. So you had the three different. Combat platoon. Try an ambush, which would be a type of combat, but a short contact. And then try and capture the enemy. Main purpose. And a recon. Find out what the enemy was, where they were setting up ambushes. Things like that. An officer had to go with every patrol. They had maybe two or three a week. Some -- some would be uneventful.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

Some -- some would lead into major contact and escalate. But mainly they were uneventful. You know, I mean -- you would have -- you would always have some small arms fire, a fire fight of some sort. That -- that are confusing. Because you don't know who's firing at who. You know, it's -- it's -- that's scary. It's very nervous. But once -- once you're fired upon, then it -- then things -- you know, then you've made contact. And sometimes your order was just to make contact and withdraw. So that's what you do. Other times it was make contact, you advance. You -- you go in and get somebody as a prisoner. You know, don't kill 'em all. Things like that. Or don't get all get killed. You know, one or the other. So that's -- that's -- that was the normal procedure. And then the daytime was, you'd sleep. Try and stay -- depending upon the season, it would be hotter than hell in the summer. And it was -- when I left in December it was cold. And when I got there, there was snow on the ground. There was snow when I left. But in between, it was -- I didn't have really extreme weather. Except in the summer; it was hot and smelly and dirty. You'd get a shower maybe once every month. It was okay at first with the snow runoff, you could get clean water, but then after that, there was no. So it was, bathing was never really thought of, you know. You would have to wait until they -- until they set up a shower unit. And then they'd have to be very careful of where they set it up. Because they -- you could only stay for an hour or so. Because the Chinese would pick it out. I remember there was one time, they put in a -- oh, a hot meal and a shower. And I -- I said -- I broke the platoon up, the squads up. You know, half the squads could go -- we left enough squad -- few squads -- we left two squads to take care of any fire missions we may have. Then one squad went to the dining room and one squad went up to the showers. So I took the first squad and went to -- to get a shower. I really wanted one. And the Chinks somehow or another had zeroed in on the thing and I lost the whole squad at the -- at the -- having a hot meal.

Erin McCarthy:

Really?

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. It was really -- oh, they really -- there was -- had to be something. You know, they -- a lot of the -- they had a lot of -- an Asian's an Asian. The Chinese are usually taller than -- than the Koreans. But to look at 'em, I know you can't tell the difference. And there was always a lot of what they called workers; guys building things for regiment or somebody like that. Building things. And you don't know if, they were all Asians. And it's hard to tell.

Erin McCarthy:

So they're supposed to be -- I mean, supposedly they're South Koreans?

William F. Mitchel:

They're supposed -- they're supposed to be South Koreans, but they could have been infiltrated by Chinese or -- or North Koreans.

Erin McCarthy:

Right. Or North Koreans.

William F. Mitchel:

Which would be very easy. Then they could call in fire missions without any problem. You know, a little radio and you're -- you're in business.

Erin McCarthy:

How -- like something like that, where really your -- it sounds like -- and you made the decision to rotate, okay, you guys stay here, mind the fortress.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

You guys shower. You guys eat. And switch, then, whatever.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

And then one of the three in the rotation, they're gone.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

So that the uncertainty, the chance of war, I mean, is that something that you're able -- does that just become part of it or is it something that you have to -- you know, in your mind, do you have to deal with that or -- or do you say, I am not going to think about that now?

William F. Mitchel:

It never entered my mind about losing men. I mean, I would never -- I never expected to lose 'em. I knew -- I knew it would happen, but I didn't think, you know, that it would -- it would be that.

Erin McCarthy:

I mean, did you think that could have been me; I could have gone --

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

-- with the people to eat?

William F. Mitchel:

That's what I -- yeah, that's what I thought, too.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

You know, everybody says, oh, well, you know, you think of the things. No, I said, no, you think of thank God it's not me. Like when, let's say, there's a -- exchange of mortar fire and artillery fire, which was always going on, and sometimes they get, you know, they're right on target. And -- and you just have to move out under fire and change positions, because they got you zeroed. And as soon as they get a secondary explosion, like they hit a bunker, an ammunition bunker, it goes up, boy, then it really comes in. So you've got to -- you move out and you go to another position, and then you can come back to that one some other time.

Erin McCarthy:

But that becomes your -- your routine, it's just that there's --

William F. Mitchel:

There was --

Erin McCarthy:

-- always --

William F. Mitchel:

Yes.

Erin McCarthy:

-- firing.

William F. Mitchel:

The -- the -- well, see, you were pretty well dug in. When you've got the mortar, you've got sandbag. You're dug down, you're in a trench. You got sandbags all around it. You got the mortar up there right in the middle of it, firing with the ammunition bunker being -- with two guys in the bunker passing out to the tube man and the -- the loader. And you had the two guys feeding them ammunition. That's -- and so they're -- they're pretty well protected. But -- but the direct hits happen, you know. And if it does, it's curtains for those four guys. So.

Erin McCarthy:

And when you think about the men that -- that were under you. I always think it's interesting, do you have any, you know, favorite stories or memories of someone that really rose to the occasion or, you know, did something extraordinary or even funny, or you know, what -- when -- when you --

William F. Mitchel:

Well, there's one story I tell. That we had been extremely active. Lots of artillery, lots of mortars, lots of troop movements on both sides. A lot of contact. And it went on for maybe two or three days, and you never -- you never got any sleep. If you did, it was half an hour or something like that.

Erin McCarthy:

And when was this; do you remember about what time this was?

William F. Mitchel:

It was -- it was warm weather. I can't remember what month, but it was warm.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay.

William F. Mitchel:

And it was maybe, I think it was three days. A kid that I grew up with on Merrill Avenue, where I grew up, he was a friend of my brother Jim's, and he was a corpsman, and he was killed on this particular occasion. Because one hill that we had occupied became a focal point. Why the Chinese wanted fight then, who knows, but they did. And he got the Navy cross, which is second only to the Congressional Medal of Honor. It's the Navy's -- Navy's highest award. The -- the hill that they were on was being overrun by the Chinese, and the lieutenant had nothing -- couldn't do anything but call in his own artillery on top of 'em. So we started to fire at our own hill. But what happens is with the mortars, they hit and they explode, but the artillery can make -- they had, what they call, vicinity fuses. They would explode 10 or 12 feet up in the air and shower. So if anybody in the bunker with -- with sandbags over them, they won't get killed.

Erin McCarthy:

They should be all right.

William F. Mitchel:

And that's how they were maintaining the hill. But, yeah. So they were sitting there, they were getting all that. Then somebody yelled for the corpsman. And he went out and -- then I -- (Pause for two seconds.) Then when I came home, I had to go see his mother, in my last act in the Corps. And it was very sad. It was their only child. Not that it didn't --

Erin McCarthy:

Right.

William F. Mitchel:

(Pause for 9 seconds.) Terry O'Donald (phonetic). Ha. He was a great kid. He owed me 20 bucks, too. (Laughter.) Because I had -- because he had always -- whenever we could get beer, which was very seldom, you had to pay a high price for it. And he didn't have -- he never had any money. And I did. So he'd always come over and hit me for some. Payable when we'd get back home.

Erin McCarthy:

So did -- and did you have some down time where you could, like you said, beer --

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

-- was hard to get. But would they play -- would you play cards, what would you do?

William F. Mitchel:

Well, no, we -- we -- we were really -- we -- when we went in reserve.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

Sometime we could get maybe three or four days in reserve.

Erin McCarthy:

Right.

William F. Mitchel:

They'd take a whole unit off. Let's say a battalion. They'd take them back. It's supposed to be two weeks, but if you were lucky, you got five days in reserve.

Erin McCarthy:

Oh.

William F. Mitchel:

Like I said, I was in combat nine out of the -- eight out of the nine months. But that one month wasn't all off at one time. There was five days here and five -- you know, things like that. And that's when you would get beer rations and the officers got whiskey rations. One guy would be taken out, one officer would be sent to Jap- -- Japan. For -- yeah. One -- one officer from each battalion was sent to Japan to get, to make purchases of beer and -- and whiskey. And the -- I ordered in a -- it was inexpensive as hell. Because no duty and everything else. I ordered in bourbon, a case of bourbon, a case of beer. And then I gave it -- I gave -- I didn't drink, myself, the hard liquor at all. I drank beer. So I gave that to my troops, you know, the case. And they thought I was Mr. Great Guy. (Laughter.) Because they -- you know.

Erin McCarthy:

Santa Claus.

William F. Mitchel:

They would -- if you ever had a minute off, there would be people with raisins and candy and everything else fermenting it in helmets.

Erin McCarthy:

Really.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah, they'd call it raisin jack. And they would throw the raisins in there with some alcohol from the shaving cream or anything like that. Or if the doctor did it, he would have, well.

Erin McCarthy:

The rubbing.

William F. Mitchel:

The doctors would have the alcohol, you know. Not the isopropyl. But the --

Erin McCarthy:

Okay. The stuff you could drink.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. Yeah. And then he would supervise and make sure nobody went blind or anything like that. But, they -- and they would put it in with raisins and candy, and get it sweet, and then drink. It was very quick. It only took about two days for it to ferment.

Erin McCarthy:

So they were making their own moonshine?

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

In their helmets.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

I never heard that story before.

William F. Mitchel:

I didn't -- I didn't drink it. I didn't --

Erin McCarthy:

You weren't that desperate.

William F. Mitchel:

There was -- there were guys that thought it was just great. They preferred it to the other stuff.

Erin McCarthy:

And how important was mail? Did mail work the way we -- we tend to think of it in the military? Was it hard to get letters out and in?

William F. Mitchel:

No, the mail was regular. They always made sure the mail got through. And no matter what was going on, we'd distribute it. We had -- we had a supply clerk -- a supply sergeant that was in charge of supplies, he was also in charge of distributing the mail. And he did a very -- he always had us -- we always had ammunition. He had stolen a Jeep. I don't know how the hell he got it. The colonel didn't have one. Everybody -- he had stolen. I believe every supply sergeant is a thief. And he stole an Army Jeep. Painted it over. And.

Erin McCarthy:

Did you have the same supply sergeant most --

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. All the way through. Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

Really. So this was your -- your -- or your person that you came to know?

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

And he brought in ammunition, letters?

William F. Mitchel:

Food, rations.

Erin McCarthy:

Food.

William F. Mitchel:

He was -- yeah. He was busy -- I mean it was a full-time job. He had a corporal to the system. There was a sergeant and a corporal. They -- they did a very thorough job. But I think all the -- all the -- all the units had good supply people.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

Because you've got to have them.

Erin McCarthy:

Did you ever ask him for anything special or extra or --

William F. Mitchel:

No. No. He just did the best he could.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah. And so mail -- the mail was -- was important that he made sure that got through?

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. Yeah. And then about once a -- a month a priest would come by. And they'd have Mass. I never saw any non-Catholic chaplains. So everybody would go to the Mass.

Erin McCarthy:

Whether you were Catholic or not.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

And he didn't ask if you were Catholic, he just gave you communion. You know. Because I know a lot of the guys, they were a bunch of Southern Baptists. You know.

Erin McCarthy:

At home they didn't like the Catholics.

William F. Mitchel:

Well, you asked about a story. And after we had been in action for maybe two days, two or three days, I can't remember. I was sitting down with a bunch of the enlisted men. You know, not a bunch. Maybe four or five of them. People are telling jokes. And this one guy told this joke. And it stuck with me to this day. He says, they were out coon hunting. And they had trained this coon dog. You know, raccoons.

Erin McCarthy:

Right.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. Out coon hunting. And they had trained -- training our dog, Old Blue, to when we get a raccoon out of a tree and it came down to the ground, Old Blue would grab him by the balls and bite his balls off. And they -- and everybody says, yeah, well, that's -- that's pretty good. You know. And he says, yeah, he says, well, one day this friend of mine was up in the tree and he was trying to get the raccoon down, and the raccoon didn't come down and he did. And in midair he's yelling, hold Old Blue. So I -- (Laughter.) I thought it was very funny. So. It got a big laugh.

Erin McCarthy:

Did -- had you ever, before going into the military and in training or in -- in combat in Korea, were you meeting a lot of people from around the country that you had never had contact with; was that an education in itself?

William F. Mitchel:

I was -- the south side was, you're either Jewish, Catholic or Protestant. You never associated. We played with -- baseball with the Jewish kids. That's about all we did. You know. It was very clanish.

Erin McCarthy:

Right.

William F. Mitchel:

And I didn't meet a Protestant until I had gone into the Corps. And the -- the -- I tried -- I had some very good friends. A guy named Jet Ford (phonetic), who's no longer with us, he was killed over there. But he was a friend of mine. And he was from Tupelo, Mississippi. I didn't know at all where it was. And it's a big city in Mississippi.

Erin McCarthy:

That's where Elvis is from.

William F. Mitchel:

He was Jet T. Ford and a great guy.

Erin McCarthy:

Had he ever been -- met a Catholic before?

William F. Mitchel:

I don't think so. But, see, the Marine Corps is very Protestant. Very -- or was. Let's say. And I had a major, they were trying to get the reserves, see, after you had put in seven or eight or nine months, nine months was the longest the lieutenant could stay on line. You know, so then they would move them out, because those were the future captains and majors and all of that. After -- after I had been on line for eight or nine months, they were trying to get me to go regular. They would give me all of the privileges of being. They would move my commission date back to coincide with the graduating class from Annapolis in that year. See. So in other words, instead of getting my commission in January -- or December of -- when the hell did I get it? When -- no -- instead of getting it in October of '51, I would have gotten it in June of '51. Which puts your -- your -- your -- every promotion date into the next year. You know. Into a year up.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

Because their cutoff date was the nat- -- well, it's very complicated. But he advised me not to go in, because he said, don't go regular. He says, Catholics and Jews, really, you never will get above major. Maybe a lieutenant colonel. Well, I think lieutenant colonel would have been about the max.

Erin McCarthy:

So when he says, don't go in, they were asking you to?

William F. Mitchel:

To -- to re-up.

Erin McCarthy:

To re-up.

William F. Mitchel:

Reenlist, yeah. Because my -- my tour of duty was up after 23 months. I didn't have to serve two years.

Erin McCarthy:

And he's saying, in the early '50s, there was a glass ceiling --

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

-- for Catholics and --

William F. Mitchel:

They had to have me back in the states, unless I --

Erin McCarthy:

Oh, okay.

William F. Mitchel:

-- by a certain date. By December 10th or something like that. I don't -- you know, I'm going from memory. But by December 10th, I think it was, to get -- to adhere to the rules of their --

Erin McCarthy:

Right.

William F. Mitchel:

-- enlistment -- of my enlistment.

Erin McCarthy:

But had you re-upped --

William F. Mitchel:

Then -- then -- then --

Erin McCarthy:

-- this gentleman was just saying there was a ceiling?

William F. Mitchel:

Then I -- yeah, I could stay there.

Erin McCarthy:

You wouldn't have moved ahead.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. Yeah. They said I would also be transferred out of my platoon, my combat platoon. And I would -- they, you know, made it all very nice.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

And I think that's why Colonel Petros -- Lieutanant Colonel Petros said I was too attached to my men, because he thought I was crazy not to do it. You know, because they had stayed on line a month, and I only had a month to go when I could have been back training. I think it was-- they offered me to train -- training of a -- a Korean -- or a artillery man, not artillery, but a mortar man.

Erin McCarthy:

So and were there other reasons why you decided not to do that?

William F. Mitchel:

Oh, yeah. I was in love.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

I wanted to go home. Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

And the --

William F. Mitchel:

And I wanted to be one of the warriors that went away January 1st and came back December 23rd. So I could -- fought in between the holidays. So it -- it was good that way. But that was -- I wanted to get home. I had had it. I had a great platoon. And it was -- you know, I lived through it.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

And I -- I was pretty sure I would -- you know, it -- it -- my tour of taking the guys out on night runs was just about -- it was over. I wasn't having to do that anymore. Because we had more officers. I had two -- by the time I left -- when -- when I came, I had a hundred men and I was the officer. When I left, there were three officers. I was in charge.

Erin McCarthy:

Oh, okay.

William F. Mitchel:

And then I had -- we had -- my platoon had two hundred guys in it and they were spread out all over. So we had an officer with each other unit.

Erin McCarthy:

So your turn of rotation at going out on those recognizance or night trips --

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. Yeah, was -- was gone.

Erin McCarthy:

-- was -- was -- was diminished and had gone?

William F. Mitchel:

The younger guys.

Erin McCarthy:

Oh.

William F. Mitchel:

It's their -- yeah, the newer men.

Erin McCarthy:

But when you first got there, you were doing it?

William F. Mitchel:

Doing it on -- on a rotation basis.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

But you -- who -- how many officers were you rotating, then; not as many as the beginning?

William F. Mitchel:

No, let's see. Our company had three, but see, the infantry line got the --

Erin McCarthy:

Would be --

William F. Mitchel:

-- had -- they had four.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay.

William F. Mitchel:

-- four second lieutenants in each infantry. Company. So that's -- there were four -- three companies. So there would be 12.

Erin McCarthy:

So as -- as --

William F. Mitchel:

So once a month, maybe you had to go out.

Erin McCarthy:

And as your time was winding down, you were doing less --

William F. Mitchel:

Less and less. Yeah. Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

_____+ --

William F. Mitchel:

Because you got -- there were more -- more officers coming in, you know. So.

Erin McCarthy:

So I was, that was the question I was -- I was going to maybe ask a little later. But that idea, I mean, is that something that -- that, you know, I think I could die here or I think I am going to make it, you know, or that anticipation I am -- I am going to make it home. I mean, is that something that ebbs and flows or -- or is that something you don't let --

William F. Mitchel:

It's something you don't think about.

Erin McCarthy:

You don't think about. Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

I never thought about going home.

Erin McCarthy:

You didn't?

William F. Mitchel:

Ugh-ugh. I mean, I never thought about the date.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

I knew there was a date --

Erin McCarthy:

Right. Okay.

William F. Mitchel:

-- that they had to get me out of there on. But it never -- it never entered into my thoughts, that I can remember.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

I wanted to go home, but I was just busy taking care of the comp- -- my platoon and my men, that I just didn't pay any attention to it.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

It was a full-time job, and I was only 23.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

You know, and it was -- I turned 24 when I was there. So I was getting old. They -- they -- finally, when I was leaving, the -- my sergeant was still there. See, the enlisted men would stay for a whole year. They -- they got screwed. I mean, they were there for a year before they were rotated out. But they -- they -- they were all -- when they saw me first, I had my helmet on. And they -- and they -- the sergeant says, you know, lieutenant, you do have a baby's face. And we thought, oh, God. Everybody looked at everybody, said -- I said -- I don't know if you got it. I thought, here's another baby lieutenant, you know, we're going to have to -- make him to thr- -- but then I took off my helmet, and they saw I was bald, and they thought I was really all right. (Laughter.) So again, my -- my premature losing of my hair was to my advantage. So.

Erin McCarthy:

In -- when I read other accounts of Korea, the -- the accounts of battles, you know, some were complete chaos, it seems, some were very orderly. Did you have a feel for that or were they both, did it run the gamut?

William F. Mitchel:

That's why I was glad I was in the Corps.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay. Maybe speak to that.

William F. Mitchel:

I really think that, you knew that everybody was going to be there.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

Alive or dead. They were going to be there. And so you could depend on the guy on your right or your company on your right, company on your left. They were Marines and they were going to be there.

Erin McCarthy:

What does, do you think, what do the Marines do differently, perhaps, --

William F. Mitchel:

I think it's --

Erin McCarthy:

-- than other branches?

William F. Mitchel:

I thought of it.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

And the training at boot camp, because I went through just like every private that ever went through it in the Corps, was a pain in the ass. But it was -- it was -- it taught you to respond to an order --

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

-- immediately. And that's all they wanted. And I think, then, the -- the sergeants are the backbone of the Marine Corps. They -- they love it.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

And they're regulars. You know. They reenlist. Like this guy I was telling you about, this Vietnam guy. He's -- he loves the Corps. He's, you know, I don't know why he ever left it, but he did. But he's -- and I -- I -- I was glad I was in the Marine Corps. I -- I -- if I had to do it again, I'd choose the same circumstances. Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum. Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

But why, I -- I don't know. But I even had it, you know, everybody, we weren't -- you weren't going to let anybody down.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah. Because you -- you were talking about the structure, too, from talking about taking orders.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

But what about that horizontal, too, amongst -- that -- that feeling of not letting other people down?

William F. Mitchel:

Down. Well, see, like the fire team.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

Like it's just -- they all intertwine. So if one guy lets you down, one fire team lets you down, the whole system would fall apart.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

So. And it's the way it's developed. I -- I don't know why it's carried over into the civilian life. I mean, how people can, you know, think so much of the Marine Corps after they've been out for all these years. But the experiences I had as a Marine were beneficial to my -- my whole life. They taught me discipline. They taught me responsibility. It certainly matured me. I was just a kid when I went in, and I was a man when I came out. You know I thought it was, you know, I, overall, seeing as I lived through it, and it -- tearful to think of. (Pause for four seconds.) But it was beneficial to me in the long run. Besides, I was in terrific physical shape. I mean, I could -- I could do anything all day long. Run. Carry. You know. It was just, go up and down hills like there were nothing to 'em.

Erin McCarthy:

What would you have to -- like, equipment moving around. What equipment did you and your men carry? And --

William F. Mitchel:

Well.

Erin McCarthy:

-- how did you eat? You know, what -- did you carry your food with you or did someone come and bring it regularly?

William F. Mitchel:

Well, it depends upon the situation.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay.

William F. Mitchel:

A -- if it's a fluid situation, you carried assault rations with you, which were little cans of food. All of it inedible. (Laughter.) But actually, the assault rations were better than C-rations. C-rations were the ones that you would get, your supply sergeant would bring to you once a week. And then --

Erin McCarthy:

So what's, okay, the assault rations?

William F. Mitchel:

The assault rations would -- would last you a day or two.

Erin McCarthy:

Those you carried. The C-rations you had --

William F. Mitchel:

You always had assault rations in case you had to re --

Erin McCarthy:

Oh, okay.

William F. Mitchel:

You know, you always had those. You never ate those.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum. Okay.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. You always carried those. Because you never knew when it would become a fluid situation.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

The regular would be, I don't know how it -- what -- what the system was. I never paid any attention to it. It was being done and it never called for me to get involved in it, because it was being handled satisfactorily. Properly. You know, so I never -- never -- never even thought of it. And -- and now as far as ammunition and the equipment, that's different. I was aware of what the ammunition we had to have. We had to have heavy duty, light duty, armor piercing, illumination, light phosphorus and smoke.

Erin McCarthy:

And if --

William F. Mitchel:

Mortars. Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

What about, like, the -- the uniform and the equipment that you wore; did you have cold weather gear? And I mean, did that work well, too, was that organized in outfitting the _____+ --

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah, we -- the sleeping bags were great. The down sleeping bags were -- were marvelous. Because you could, even if you were in -- on line, you could put your body into it and keep it around you to keep warm while you were, you know, and it would really do a great job. And you just could sleep in it and do everything. So it was marvelous that way. The cold weather gear when I was there was excellent. I never -- never -- never -- never suffered from the cold. But I -- I am -- I am very hard- --

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

I really am good about cold weather. I don't, you know, -- I don't -- I don't mind it, like a lot of people do.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

But -- the -- well, our -- our uniforms were just cotton. They were very sturdy. But they weren't -- they weren't built for warmth. You had -- you had long underwear and heavier -- heavy field jackets. But that was all.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

You had Coleman lanterns which gave off heat. And -- and this -- in my -- in my quarters, in my command bunker, there was a Coleman lantern that was going all the time, whether you needed it or not, because it was, it would give off a lot of heat. And where -- where -- where we directed fire was from this one -- my command bunker. And that was -- the men -- the men never were really that cold. They never had fires, because -- if they did, they had them during the day. But yet it wasn't -- they weren't -- you would only have one, because you don't want to have a lot of smoke. You know.

Erin McCarthy:

To attract.

William F. Mitchel:

So you didn't -- you wouldn't want anything to give your position away; let them know exactly where you were. And so you didn't have smoke. And you wouldn't have any open fires. They may picture it as so. You don't see it. You didn't see it. Maybe once in a while they'd have a clean burning. You know, some wood -- some woods from ammunition cases or something like that would be dry and you could burn it quickly, without much smoke. You never had one at night, when you mostly wanted it. Because their sparks and everything would be too -- too noticeable. Our standard equipment, besides carrying a mortars, you would -- I had a, my personal weapon was a carbine, which is mainly made for personal protection. It's fully automatic. With -- we had magazines. That you put in 15-round magazines. You tape two of them together so you had 30 rounds. You take it, and then flip it around and turn it upside. So I had 60 quick rounds.

Erin McCarthy:

And would you -- have -- did you have to use that?

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. Sometimes. Mainly just to -- to help the guy, you know. Because if our mortars came under personal attack, we all had to man the -- had to defend the mortars.

Erin McCarthy:

And how close did, like, did you see the enemy face-to-face at times?

William F. Mitchel:

No, the -- not very often. But yeah. Yeah, you could see them. Yeah, they were shooting at you and you were shooting at them. But that means that they had penetrated the MLR, and they'd come over the hill. So there really weren't that many of them. But you still -- you still had to clear them out. That was -- I think that only happened twice.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

It wasn't anything major. So that was -- that was -- that was not a problem. Although we always dug a -- a fighting -- fighting positions. You always, always did that. That was a standard procedure whenever you set up your mortars, you always had fighting positions for each and every man in there to guard the tubes -- the tubes. Then you also had phosphorus grenades to throw down the tubes if you were overrun.

Erin McCarthy:

So, well, explain that; the phosphorus grenades, you would --

William F. Mitchel:

You would -- you'd drop into the tube and it would blow up.

Erin McCarthy:

Destroy --

William F. Mitchel:

And destroy the equipment.

Erin McCarthy:

So the enemy --

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah, so the enemy couldn't use them.

Erin McCarthy:

Oh, okay.

William F. Mitchel:

But you couldn't destroy the ammunition without killing the people. So we left the ammunition. But see, the Chinese were very good. They had 82 millimeters. And they could use our ammunition, but we couldn't use theirs. And the same thing with the 60 millimeters. They had a 61 millimeter tube. And we had a 60 millimeter tube. So we couldn't use theirs.

Erin McCarthy:

So you couldn't use theirs. They could use yours.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. And --

Erin McCarthy:

I understand what you're saying.

William F. Mitchel:

But it isn't as accurate, you know, --

Erin McCarthy:

Right.

William F. Mitchel:

When you have a tube it's too big. It isn't as accurate. But it still throws it out there, you know.

Erin McCarthy:

Did your platoon ever have to destroy its mortars?

William F. Mitchel:

No. No. Just part of me coming up, joining up to them. They -- they were in a very fluid position, and the mortars were in front of the MLR by about a mile. And that's -- the MLR, meaning the main line resistance.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay. And that's -- is that the infantry, I mean, the people that are in front of the mortars?

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay.

William F. Mitchel:

The people in front of the mortars. They should have been in front of the mortars, they were behind the mortars.

Erin McCarthy:

Behind of the mortars. Okay.

William F. Mitchel:

And this was before the mortars could shoot 360.

Erin McCarthy:

When you say fluid, is that when you mean that MLR is moving back and forth?

William F. Mitchel:

Moving back and forth. Yeah. Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

Moving back and forth. Okay.

William F. Mitchel:

And so they had to destroy the weapons, and they bugged out and that was a disgrace. They really had a bad name. They were -- they did the right thing.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum. Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

But they lost their equipment. They -- I mean, it was destroyed. But they were no longer an effective unit. I guess that happened about two -- two or three months before I got there. And it was a whole new platoon by the time I -- they had -- they had shaken it up quite a bit.

Erin McCarthy:

I -- I wanted to move kind of into another subject. But anything else about the military experience and, you know, your experience in Korea that you don't want to leave out or you want to -- that you remember anything as significant?

William F. Mitchel:

As -- no. No. It's -- it's -- pretty well covers the whole general atmosphere.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

A lot of it -- a lot of times were just boring.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

You know. You have a book, it will last you a long time. You couldn't finish it. But you'd read once in a while. But mostly I was around, checking the men whenever -- whenever things were slow. I was making sure they had their equipment in shape, making sure that their rifles were cared for. Because being mortarmen, they had a tendency -- and making sure that they weren't killing rats with their .45s, because the mortarmen always carried .45s. And I always carried a -- a six-pack of morphine, which was -- it helped --

Erin McCarthy:

To give --

William F. Mitchel:

-- to give to wounded.

Erin McCarthy:

-- to wounded.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

And --

William F. Mitchel:

If the guy's in real pain and a corpsman isn't available, I give 'em a shot, you know, in his hip, and it puts him in la-la land.

Erin McCarthy:

So this was, you drew it up, it was in a shot form?

William F. Mitchel:

It was -- it was a disposable.

Erin McCarthy:

Disposable. Oh, okay.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. You would shoot it. I mean, it would be a needle.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah. Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

You just take off the plastic tip and put it right through their clothes and everything.

Erin McCarthy:

And that would be until, what, the medic --

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. Then --

Erin McCarthy:

The medic --

William F. Mitchel:

Then he could stand the pain until the medic got -- until he was evacuated or until the medic got up and gave him some more or started to work on him.

Erin McCarthy:

Now the shooting of the rats, that's an extracurricular activity that -- that the soldiers sometimes liked to do? You said, make sure they weren't using their .45s to shoot rats?

William F. Mitchel:

Oh, yeah. Yeah. In the bunkers there would be rats. And they were big -- big rats. And they would use their .45s to blast 'em. See, if they -- well, let's see. One -- one, we had been on reserve for about a week. And one guy, we were getting ready to go back and he shot himself in the head.

Erin McCarthy:

I'm -- or -- ______ --

William F. Mitchel:

Well, we said it was a mistake. But I think it was intentional, because he just couldn't take the thought of going back on line, you know. And he wasn't busy enough. He should have been busy. He wouldn't have thought of it, if he was busy. You know, but he was -- he killed himself.

Erin McCarthy:

When -- but when you were talking about killing the rats, were -- they were doing that for, because they were bored or were you worried about their --

William F. Mitchel:

Bored.

Erin McCarthy:

-- safety or you didn't want them using their guns that way?

William F. Mitchel:

I didn't want -- no, I didn't want people shooting a .45. You know, that puts a hole in you about like that. And it's -- shouldn't be done.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

And some of these officers permitted it. I didn't, wouldn't let them to do it.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay. So you, also, part of your responsibility was to keep them busy in these down times?

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. Because the equipment has to be maintained.

Erin McCarthy:

Right. And there was stuff --

William F. Mitchel:

Once you start firing, you want your equipment to work properly. So you have got to -- it's not an exercise to take it and clean it and everything. It's -- it's -- it's -- it has to be done, because you don't know when you're going to do it again. So you have to maintain, we had to maintain all of our equipment and they had to maintain their rifles. So -- and there -- that was about it.

Erin McCarthy:

Does anything come to mind when you think of what, that came up that you were totally unprepared for that you kind of had to learn on the spot or figure out on the spot and that -- you know, worked out all right or that, you know, training didn't cover?

William F. Mitchel:

No, I -- I really can't think of anything.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay.

William F. Mitchel:

I imagine there were plenty of instances where the unusual happened. Like being surrounded or having the enemy behind you or having them pop up in the middle of you or something like that. But no, it never happened to me.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay.

William F. Mitchel:

I had a pretty -- a pretty good platoon that nothing seemed to faze them too much. They -- and we weren't -- you know, we really weren't the infantry down in, you know, the -- the pits, you know, right on top of the hill. But it was -- it was bad enough. But it was not as bad as those guys out in front had, you know. They -- it was, you know -- and our -- we had, you know, we had to take an FO and put them up there. Or -- and I would go up with them and spend a few days training them. I had one FO, I can't even remember his name, and he had the most beautiful blue eyes. And he was a kid of 18-years old. And I took him up, explained to him what he was going to do. He had -- he had been trained to be an FO. He lasted one day. And that night, the Chinese overran the position and he died -- died at his bunk- -- you know, calling in fire on himself. Well.

Erin McCarthy:

The realities of war are --

William F. Mitchel:

Well, it's -- yeah. This kid was, I felt sorry for him, you know. I really did. I mean, I felt sorry for anybody that got killed or wounded or anything like that. But, you know, this guy was just a nice young man, 18, 19-years old.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay. I want you to think back to those days. And do you remember at the time, what I am going to ask you about, you know, some of the leadership at that time, certainly, and what you thought of them then. You know. And maybe if your opinion has changed over time.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

But of General MacArthur. Did you, you know, have confidence in him or did the people around you?

William F. Mitchel:

Well, when I got there, I thought -- I thought MacArthur was a genius when he landed at Inchon.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

And divided the peninsula and turned the whole war around. You know. Chosin was -- was a dead end. And he took the Marine Corps out and did it what it does best. Is -- see, Marine Corps is not made for a long sustained ground, they're made to take an island, and sacrifice their men, and then get it over with, and then re-group and be out.

Erin McCarthy:

Right.

William F. Mitchel:

They -- they didn't have -- we didn't have eight-inch guns. We didn't have the -- we had some 155s and 105s. But the 11th -- the 11th is the artillery battalion. It couldn't compete with the Chinese, and -- because they had eight-inch, and the Eighth Army had eight-inch artillery which, you know, big things. The size of what they have on cruisers. You know, you could hear those shells going over you like they are screaming. So I thought that the -- that they made a mistake by putting the Corps in this. But they used them properly at Inchon. Go in, lose men, accomplish the thing, you know, let the Army, which is the big group, -- I mean, one division is nothing, you know. An Army is five or six divisions. So I think that's what it is. Or three, at least. So I think that they -- they misused the Marine Corps.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

I think then when he -- as I mentioned before, when he divided -- when he -- put the mountains in between the Eighth Army and the Corps, it was a big mistake. And he had been warned by the Corps that they were the -- the Ja- -- the Chinese were in force. They had intercepted lots of traffic and -- on the radio and everything else, and they knew that there were a lot of them out there. So. So I've read -- I don't know --

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

-- if it's true or not. But that's so I've read. But Ridgway was the guy I was thinking of.

Erin McCarthy:

Oh, right.

William F. Mitchel:

The general. Yeah. Ridgway. He did a very good job. The Army was poor until he came in. My brother Jim was with -- with the Eighth Army when it had to bug out.

Erin McCarthy:

Oh, really.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. He was a corpsman. He was -- he -- very scary. You know. He survived. So Ridgway was good. My -- all the officers I was under were -- were adequate, if not real good. They were all experienced.

Erin McCarthy:

Anyone stick out that or the name you want to --

William F. Mitchel:

Well, Petros. Lieutanant Colonel Petros.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay. Right. And Silver- --

William F. Mitchel:

And Silbulkin (phonetic) was -- he was the Jewish guy that gave me, the major that told me to --

Erin McCarthy:

Oh, okay.

William F. Mitchel:

Took over -- he finally took over our company. And he said -- he was the one that we were talking to and he advised me, personally, to get -- don't go regular, because of my religion.

Erin McCarthy:

Right. Right.

William F. Mitchel:

Maybe that was just a feeling he had. But it was advice that I used. And it was -- I was not going to go regular anyway. So, you know, I was not -- this was not my type of life, no, thanks.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay. So, I just want to ask you a few questions about the transition back to civilian life.

William F. Mitchel:

Okay.

Erin McCarthy:

You have already mentioned that you wanted to go home, you were not going to make the military -- you weren't going to re-up and the military was not going to be your career. Do you remember the day you left Korea?

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. Well, actually, there was two -- the -- the ship was there. And it was -- it was getting cold. It was early December. And it was bitterly cold. And I -- if I remember correctly now, Eisenhower had just been elected President. And he decided -- as we were all gathered on the pier, waiting to board ship, they wouldn't board us because he was flying in and he wanted to see the troops. Well, the troops did not want to see him. (Laughter.) And this was a mixed bag of -- of --

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah. But why?

William F. Mitchel:

All veterans. Well, they wanted to get on board the ship, and take a shower and get warm, you know.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

And so when they were not permitted to, when they raised the gangplank, wouldn't let anybody up, they set the pier on fire. And I thought it was -- I thought it was hilarious, you know, because my -- my responsibilities were over. I -- I was not --

Erin McCarthy:

Right. You were -- right.

William F. Mitchel:

-- a troop commander. I had gotten -- I had gotten our -- everybody from replacement. I had gotten them in. Gotten all of their arms taken from them. Made sure they were clean. And then my -- my job was over. So I was just a -- a freelance lieutenant waiting to go home. And it was -- I thought it was marvelous that they did it. They -- you know. So they -- that's how they showed their respect for the new President of the United States. (Laughter.) And so I -- do I remember leaving, yes, I do. I remember getting aboard the ship and how happy I was to get aboard. And we had about six guys to a state room. And we were right across from the shower. And I took two showers a day, every day. And it was marvelous. And the ship was not crowded. Going over, the ship was jammed. And coming back, it's the same people that came over.

Erin McCarthy:

Not one.

William F. Mitchel:

Not -- not coming back.

Erin McCarthy:

Right.

William F. Mitchel:

So it was nice in that respect. We got to San Francisco. We came under the Golden Gate. And I thought this was great. And we went to Treasure Island, which was the naval base there. And it took us three days to get separated. But when we got -- when we got off of Pier 39, which is a big recreational pier now.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

And there was not one person there --

Erin McCarthy:

To greet.

William F. Mitchel:

-- you know, to greet anybody. You know, it was just a bunch of guys getting off a ship and being transported. The Army went to the -- the base there in San Francisco. You know, the -- not the Miridia (phonetic). The Persaido (phonetic).

Erin McCarthy:

Perseo?

William F. Mitchel:

Perseo. Yeah. We -- they went there. And we went to Treasure Island. Then we spent a day, we checked into Treasure Island, then we went into San Francisco to sleep at the Marine Officer Club. We had a room there, each of us. And we drank a lot on our way there. Drank while we're there. And one person was just happy, Merry Christmas. It was -- it was the twenty -- late December, mid-December, 20th or something like that. And that was it. So that was our welcome home. We were completely ignored.

Erin McCarthy:

They -- well, I'll -- I'll come back to that in a moment.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

What -- then did you come out of Chicago? How did you -- did you take a train?

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. I was separated. I hadn't resigned my commission. I was -- was separated from the Corps. I had done my tour of duty. And I had seven years to go in the inactive reserve.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

Short -- shortly after I got home, I was made a first lieutenant, and then before I resigned my commission, I was made a captain. But I never pursued. They tried, again, to get me to go in -- into the regulars when I became a captain, and I said, no. So that was that.

Erin McCarthy:

What --

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

Did you have a plan when you got back to Chicago? First of all, talk about meeting up with your fiancee and your family. How did that feel? What --

William F. Mitchel:

Oh. Well, I arrived at Midway Airport on the 23rd. Midway was great, because it was very close to home. And --

Erin McCarthy:

So you flew home?

William F. Mitchel:

And my brother -- hum?

Erin McCarthy:

Did you fly home?

William F. Mitchel:

Flew home.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay.

William F. Mitchel:

Barbara -- Barbara had hit my mother -- well, the two them, together, got the airfare together, which was, one-way was $230, which would be like $2,000 now. You know, but it was -- it was -- I paid her back. You know. So everything was okay. And they had made the arrangements weeks in advance to get me home. So that I managed to get -- get there. And it was a lovely flight home. Very happy. And Barbara met me at the airport with my brother Ted. And we sat in the back of the car and kissed and kissed and kissed. (Laughter.) And very happy.

Erin McCarthy:

Was it in time for Christmas or --

William F. Mitchel:

Then she told -- she told me, when I get home, to get out of that uniform and get it cleaned, because it smelled of mothballs. Because, you know, when we went -- when we went into combat, they -- I've still got the bag downstairs.

Erin McCarthy:

You do.

William F. Mitchel:

Yes. It shows my replacement battalion. 16th Replacement Battalion. Lieutenant W. F. Mitchell, USMC. They didn't put the "R" on. But that's -- our clothes were stored in that. And all's we had was our combat, I mean, --

Erin McCarthy:

Right.

William F. Mitchel:

-- our fatigues. Our -- our uni- -- our fatigue uniforms. So that it did smell of mothballs. I didn't notice it. (Laughter.) It was clean.

Erin McCarthy:

You smelled worse things. (Laughter.)

William F. Mitchel:

Oh. Yes.

Erin McCarthy:

Did you get a job right away; did you know what kind of job you were going to get?

William F. Mitchel:

I wanted to go into sales. And I got a job rather -- it was a recession. We were in the middle of a recession, I was told. And I got a job working for an oil company, selling oil door-to-door at $300 a month. I actually made more as a first lieutenant, but that was one of the things. I should -- should have said this. Another thing I remember about leaving is that Chesty Puller made one of his famous speeches to us before we left, telling us that, we didn't know how -- what good we had it. We had three hots and a flop, and you're going to get home and nobody is going to call you "Sir." (Laughter.) He was -- he was a character. So. But my adjustment -- I -- I -- was very easy. I took a few weeks off. I had plenty of money. And went out and bought a car. And then made arrangements for a marriage. And I got -- I think -- well, no. I got a job before, because I told -- no, we made arrangements for the wedding. Because then I told -- when I got my job, I told the guy I was going to take two weeks off.

Erin McCarthy:

To get married.

William F. Mitchel:

In May. To get married. And he said, okay. Just, I'm glad you told me before. You know. But.

Erin McCarthy:

Did you ever have a feeling when you came back of that -- that the -- you know, the contrast between battle and the military life, in that --

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

-- that reality, and, you know, people walking down the street, going in and out of stores, the world going on or that --

William F. Mitchel:

I didn't, no. No.

Erin McCarthy:

It didn't -- it didn't bother you; you were glad to be home?

William F. Mitchel:

I was glad to be home.

Erin McCarthy:

And jump back in.

William F. Mitchel:

I was glad I was going to get married.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

I was 24 then. And I was -- I had held no grudges. And I, you know, felt sorry for all the people that didn't make it. But I made it and let's get on with doing what I should be doing. Having, living a life. A normal life.

Erin McCarthy:

You --

William F. Mitchel:

Of what is a normal life.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah. You mentioned about, you know, that there wasn't anyone to greet you. And -- and I don't -- did you use the word "ignored"?

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. Well, yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

Because the Korean War is often referred to as the "Forgotten War."

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

What were your feelings about that? At the time, you know, you had told us that you signed up because you knew you were going one way or another.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

Did you have feelings about whether we should be in Korea or not, or that this is the reality, I want to make the best of it?

William F. Mitchel:

Well, I had to agree with MacArthur on this. Getting involved in a land war in Asia is just a -- a meat grinder. They -- they -- they can -- I mean, you're doing the Chinese a favor when you kill a million people. You know. (Telephone ringing.) That's a million less people you have to -- I'll let it ring.

Erin McCarthy:

Okay.

William F. Mitchel:

You know. Just not -- not it. You know. I didn't think about it at all, about when I came home.

Erin McCarthy:

And -- and looking back, do you have or --

William F. Mitchel:

I feel bad that the -- the -- a lot of the veterans weren't treated properly or they weren't treated at all. I mean, they were ignored. I think everybody felt that way that came back from that war. There was -- the people were tired of war. I don't blame 'em. So were we. You know, and it was -- it was a war that shouldn't have been fought. And just -- I think it was a war that was not won or lost. It was a draw, so to say. And it was a -- a half-assed war. And you killed lots of people. Lots of people. Both sides. You know.

Erin McCarthy:

Do you, on any level, have empathy or do you identify with Vietnam vets on some of -- for some of those same reasons or?

William F. Mitchel:

I do more so now than I did when they -- seeing those guys walk around in fatigues and things like that ten years after the war is over, just sort of irked me. I thought, why the hell don't they get on with their life. But then I think, well, then they say, well, they -- they were, you know, there's a lot of narcotics. Well, I think of me walking around with syringes full of -- full of morphine and never even dreaming of doing anything but the proper use of it. And so it's -- times change. I -- now that I've -- look at it more, I feel sorry for them. I think that they -- I've read this by a guy named Brady (phonetic). That the people from World War II were admired, the people from Korea were ignored and the people from Vietnam were despised. And I don't think they deserved that.

Erin McCarthy:

'Cuz you -- you have a son that had really -- really had to have come very close to going to Vietnam. I --

William F. Mitchel:

Billy. I think he -- he had -- he was -- had a draft number, but they never called it.

Erin McCarthy:

Right.

William F. Mitchel:

I mean, they never -- it was a low one, too. I mean, he would have been called.

Erin McCarthy:

At that time.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

How did you feel about that? If -- you know.

William F. Mitchel:

I didn't feel good about it. He felt worse. (Laughter.)

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

But I didn't see any alternative if he was drafted.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

I figured he could take care of himself. He'd have to do it. After all, my mother saw four of her kids go; two into World War II, and one was missing for three months. You know. So I -- we -- you know, we were raised differently. I'm not saying we're patriotic, but we were disciplined and respect for the -- the government.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

And now the government has lost its respect, I think, due to many things of our leadership, both present and past.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum. Do -- and I -- I kind of know the answer to this. But do you talk about your wartime experience or is that something that recently you're doing?

William F. Mitchel:

A --

Erin McCarthy:

Did anyone ever ask?

William F. Mitchel:

I -- I try and avoid it.

Erin McCarthy:

You try to avoid it.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. I don't like to talk about it. It's not pleasurable. It brings back too many faces.

Erin McCarthy:

That are -- that are -- that are gone, when you say that --

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. Whole bunch of men. Kids, really. 18, 19, 20.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

Dead. Good guys. You know. No life.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

And I can imagine the same with the -- the Koreans and the Chinese. So it's -- a lot more of them were lost than ours. But still, I can remember going to -- you know, they -- walking through the field with the bodies laid out. And. It's all.

Erin McCarthy:

At -- did you have that -- one level, you just said that, you know, the other side, the enemies lost and also allies lost.

William F. Mitchel:

Um-hum.

Erin McCarthy:

Is that something that's come over the years, you appreciated that?

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah. Yeah. I didn't feel it. I can see 30 dead Chinese and I wouldn't, you know, no feeling at all. One dead American.

Erin McCarthy:

Right.

William F. Mitchel:

Feeling.

Erin McCarthy:

Because they say that in order to get soldiers to fight, you have to dehumanize the enemy.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

Or else soldiers will identify with each other --

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

-- from across the lines.

William F. Mitchel:

I never thought of that. No, there was no feeling about the enemy being good or anything.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

Or even human.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

You know, they were just the enemy.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

There were a lot of them. And you had to kill as many as you could.

Erin McCarthy:

But -- but now looking back.

William F. Mitchel:

Now to look back.

Erin McCarthy:

There's --

William F. Mitchel:

I realize that it was the same feelings.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah. Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

I -- I presume that they -- I know that they have the same feelings that we do. You know. It's human. You know, that was -- it's funny. I never thought of that. But I just didn't, never, nothing. It was just -- dead.

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

Good.

Erin McCarthy:

Right.

William F. Mitchel:

And it's not good.

Erin McCarthy:

Not you. No. Right. But at the time.

William F. Mitchel:

At the time, I thought, well, you know, they tried to kill us, we killed them. I had -- I remember when I was at Parris Island, and I had to go, they asked -- I had -- you know, you fill out a questionnaire and everything. And they had me see a psychiatrist because I put down, it says, are you religious? And I consider myself to be religious. I went to church.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

And a psychiatrist wanted to know, would I -- would I be willing to kill for the country. You know. I said, well, certainly. I mean, you know. Being, going to church has nothing to do with being Christian. (Laughter.) This is what I said.

Erin McCarthy:

Haven't we fought wars _____+ --

William F. Mitchel:

That's right. Sure, I can kill. You know. Sure, I can kill if I have to. So yeah, it was only a one stint. If I had known I wouldn't have been drafted, I would have said, yeah, boy, I really don't want to kill.

Erin McCarthy:

My last question is, recently, and it's come up with Korea, but also very recently with Vietnam with the --

William F. Mitchel:

Civilians.

Erin McCarthy:

Right. With Senator Kerry.

William F. Mitchel:

Yeah.

Erin McCarthy:

And revisiting Vietnam. Can you give any insight or your own point of view about in peacetime civilians, you know, taking an incident and revisiting it or trying to judge it.

William F. Mitchel:

Um-hum.

Erin McCarthy:

A wartime event. You know. I mean, do you see difficulties or -- or how, what's your read on revisiting these --

William F. Mitchel:

Okay. Well, let's see.

Erin McCarthy:

-- atrocities?

William F. Mitchel:

Let's take the guy from Wyoming. The Senator.

Erin McCarthy:

Kerry.

William F. Mitchel:

Wyoming or Idaho, wherever he's from.

Erin McCarthy:

Nebraska. Nebraska, I think. Kerry.

William F. Mitchel:

Is he Nebraska? I thought he was Wyoming or Idaho. Oh, well, either way, he's a westerner.

Erin McCarthy:

One of those.

William F. Mitchel:

I feel sorry for him. But if what he said is true, that it happened during a fire fight at night, if that is true, there is no fault to be -- he should not feel any fault and there should be no fault given. On the other circumstance, if he did, as this one person says, line 'em up and have 'em shot, or do this on purpose, then he should be tried -- I don't think he should be tried. I think that's embarrassment enough. Men behave funny. I can remember, you know, guys playing games with the enemy and killing them. You know. But at a distance. Not up close. I mean, they were being fired at. I mean -- I mean, it was a game to them, you know.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

They'd lure them out into the open and then killed them, which is what they're supposed to do. You know. But --

Erin McCarthy:

Were those civilians or were they soldiers or Korean --

William F. Mitchel:

No, no. It's hard to tell.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

But there -- there weren't any civilians around on our side. There might have been on the other side, but if there were, they were carrying guns, and they were shooting at us. I never a saw civilian get killed on purpose.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

Now is it all right to kill with a rifle? It's not all right to kill with a rifle, but it's okay to drop bombs on civilians by the hundreds of thousands. Dresden, five, six hundred thousand fire bombed to death? That's -- that was good? You know. But some poor guy who's been in combat for -- for three days in a row or something like that, or is on a mission or something and kills somebody, oh, that's bad, you know. It is if you line 'em up and shoot 'em. It's much more personal than dropping a bomb. But they're both, in my estimation, it's -- war is hell and it changes man's attitudes towards each other.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

I mean, respect for life is zippo for theirs, and it's very high for your -- for your counterparts and your -- your people. But as far as they're concerned, they're nothing but the enemy. They're nonentities. The more you kill, the better -- the better we are. And I don't look at it that way now. I don't think any -- any war's worth killing people. Military or otherwise. But I think the attitude towards war is changing. We haven't had -- there's plenty of them going on. God Almighty, you know, Africa's -- what they're doing over there is -- it's unbelievable. And I -- I -- I do believe the -- that the -- I don't know if he should be tried or not, though. If -- if -- if -- it's one man's word against another, I think it's a draw. And I think the guy's led an honorable life. He -- he regrets whatever he did, whether it's accidental or on purpose, I am sure he would never go back and do it over again. But I can understand it happened -- happening. Because you really don't know. We were a Caucasian army fighting a -- a yellow army. And anything yellow was a fair game. And I'm sure -- now the -- in Vietnam, it wasn't all Caucasian. It was black and -- I -- I didn't have any -- I had one black in my whole platoon. And I think he was the only black in the whole company. A guy from Texas. He was a good guy. A real good man. Good Marine. But there weren't any. And they were all volunteers. There weren't any draftees when I was there. So it was a different -- different than Vietnam. They were all draft- -- all draftees, I presume. And so I think that that's -- that changes the caliber of the people. When you have a volunteer, that's a guy that wants to do something. When you have a draftee, he wants to avoid something. I'm not criticizing.

Erin McCarthy:

Right.

William F. Mitchel:

No. No. I am just saying it's a different attitude. So that's my opinion of the --

Erin McCarthy:

Yeah.

William F. Mitchel:

-- turmoil that's going on today with the military. You can -- you can dig back into everybody's -- that was ever in combat, and there are things that were -- I know the guys on the line sometimes might have killed civilians. Not willingly. But might have had to in -- in order to maintain their position. They felt they were threatened.

Erin McCarthy:

Um-hum.

William F. Mitchel:

And you do -- you're very -- the instinct to stay alive and to -- to stay there is very strong. And you'd rather kill than be killed. So. That's about it.

Erin McCarthy:

Well, thank you.

William F. Mitchel:

That's it?

Erin McCarthy:

Yep.

William F. Mitchel:

Good. Good. Now --

 
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  October 26, 2011
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