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Interview with Ralph B. Steele [8/28/2002]

Ralph B. Steele:

What do I do just respond to your --

Larry Ordner:

We'll just talk.

Ralph B. Steele:

Yeah. Okay.

Larry Ordner:

This record is made August 28, 2002, with Ralph B. Steele. Mr. Steele resides at 1744 West Gregory Lane in Jasper, Indiana. He is a native of Elkhart, Indiana, which is in Elkhart County, served in the United States Marine Corps in the first Marine Division, Seventh Marine, Second Battalion, Fox Company. His highest rank was at a corporal. He entered the reserves in 1948, went active duty 1950, and was discharged in 1953. He actually entered the reserves at Age 18. Saw service in the primary locations of Parris Island, South Carolina, Camp Pendleton in California and in Korea, and he's been awarded the purple heart. This recording is made with Larry Ordner Regional Director for Senator Richard Lugar. Mr. Steele, thanks so much for being part of the veterans history project.

Ralph B. Steele:

Probably be part --

Larry Ordner:

We're just going to sit here and talk about your time in. Now, you were an 18-year-old kid when you decided to go in the reserves. What -- first of all, what made you want to be in the reserves at that time?

Ralph B. Steele:

I think it was World War II and I had brothers that were in the service during World War II, and to me these were my ego ideal people. Kids later, of course, looked to sports figures, that sort of thing for their ideals, and in my -- as a kid growing up in World War II, the military was who our heros were, the air men, the sailors and so on and so forth. And I think it goes back even to -- I can pinpoint some of this in Life Magazine which everybody, of course, back then read Life Magazine because there was no television. It was either radio and Gabriel Heater, those commentaries, so all the visual that you knew about the war either came through the news reels or most likely from Life Magazine. I remember distinctly I first became aware of what I wanted to do was when I was reading -- looking at the pictures of -- from Guadalcanal and, you know, as an island campaign which we nearly lost and a naval campaign around the island. At the time we didn't realize it. It was a very near thing, and then is when I started to follow the Marine Corps. And there -- because it was a lot of glamour, there was -- their amphibious landing instead of grinding it out across the European plain or across Tunisia or Libya, you were landing on beaches and they were bloody short campaigns. Tarawa, things of that sort or Iwo Jima. So I started following the Marine Corps, and along there somewhere as an adolescent I began to think some day I would like to join -- be a part of the Marine Corps, and --

Larry Ordner:

And this was a time that patriotic fervor was still extreme --

Ralph B. Steele:

Oh, yes. I mean, there was no such thing other than patriotic fervor because everyone -- you're going down the street and almost every house had a service flag in the window and now and then there would be a gold star. As a matter of fact, this was in Elkhart, Indiana, population of 30,000. There was a number of these ladies were called Gold Star Mothers, and they went down to the railroad station and they met trains and they handed out doughnuts and coffee and so on and so forth to the servicemen coming through so -- and at a week or two or maybe three weeks after major battle, Battle of the Bulge or the D Day landings or St. Lo or any of these battles, the town of 30,000, we would have three or four pictures a night of the either KIAs or wounded in action people. So that became a great part of your -- being particularly as a youngster growing up, I hardly knew anything other than, you know, some conflict going on. However, and I think this is something I know it even then. I was a 15 -- 14 years old when the war ended. War ended in 1945. I was 14 years old. I noticed a war weariness setting in, that anyone that dealt with black market was scoured upon. More, more and more you found people were buying meat out of certain farms that you could go to and you could buy meat. Which this was not being patriotic. Gas stamps were being sold. If you knew the right connections you could buy gas stamps. So there was starting to become cracks in the patriotic fervor, but anyway this is the era where that was first inculcated. Then we were -- 1948, remember the day the high school had a career day. Which schools had the day and you could -- people were brought in to talk to the students and we were brought into the auditorium and there was a group that might be interested in joining the Marine Corps, you know, the services. So we went and saw the buddies, encouraged me to go along, we went down, sit down and watch these two guys came in from the local recruiting and they were of course dressed to the nines. They had what they call, I learned later, was called recruit blues. They had their blue slacks on with the red stripe, the tan shirt and white collars. Looked pretty sharp, you know, for a 17-, 18-year-old kid. So they wanted to, of course, recruit us as regular Marines. Then they come up with an offer. They said, tell you what we can do. We're going to start a reserve unit in South Bend, Indiana, neighboring South Bend, Indiana, and this way you can attend monthly meetings and you can go to camp once a year, probably Lejeune or someplace like this, and if you like the Marine Corps you can join the regulars or if not you can stay in the reserve. So of course being 18 I had to get parental permission, and my father -- my mother was absolutely opposed. She did not want me to have any part of the Marine Corps. She said the Marine Corps was always in the bloodiest of battles and no son of mine -- she already had two sons that came home from World War II and she said no son of mine is going to be in the Marine Corps. Well, my father interceded for me. He said, "Let the boy join the Marines." So he signed for me and 18 years old I went in the reserves. Never --

Larry Ordner:

And it was peace time?

Ralph B. Steele:

It was peace time. And, I mean, you're looking to what the girls will think of you in your Marine Corps dress blues. I didn't know then the Marine Corps doesn't furnish their dress blues. You buy the dress blues. But in any event, pretty soon other things came in the way and all I had was this little card that looked like something joined -- you know, almost had the attitude it was like a Jack Armstrong club or something back that you did when you were 10, 12 years old, joined this little hokey club. Nothing's really coming of it and nothing ever heard about this reserve outfit in South Bend. I got a news letter once a month, some little dinkey thing, and then of course Korea was invented -- invaded. Sure enough one of my buddies that were in this reserve thing begin to get called up. And then so I got my letter when I came home from work. Of course now I'm 19 years old. I'm out in the work force. I came home, my mother's crying. She hands me this thick letter from the Ninth Naval District. Of course everybody knew what that is. But to me it was the greatest thing that I've ever received in the mail and was -- I was called to active duty. Interesting thing was how when you're youth you don't read things what they really say. I remember it says report -- you'll report to Cleveland, Ohio for a physical and proceed to Parris Island, South Carolina for boot training for duty in excess of 30 days. I thought I was going to go in for 30 days. Excess of 30 days is infinity. I thought I could do anything with 30 days. No, no. That's not what they had in mind at all. So that's how I --

Larry Ordner:

So you went from Elkhart to Cleveland?

Ralph B. Steele:

Yeah. For a physical.

Larry Ordner:

For ______________?

Ralph B. Steele:

Yeah.

Larry Ordner:

And then to Parris Island?

Ralph B. Steele:

Then to Parris Island for training.

Larry Ordner:

Now, that had to have been a little bit of a reawakening, was it not?

Ralph B. Steele:

Oh, oh, my goodness.

Larry Ordner:

When you guys got to Parris Island --

Ralph B. Steele:

Exactly.

Larry Ordner:

-- you were definitely knew you were in the Marines?

Ralph B. Steele:

Exactly. The train pulled into -- into -- is it Port Royal. Little town across the way from Parris Island, and I notice there was some buses, Marine green bus -- looked like city buses pulled up along the railroad station there, and the train came to a stop and this Marine jumps out and immaculate, and he goes all ___________ dress blues all in tan with the smoky bear -- had a campaign hat on. He kind of a short guy, red haired, freckled face and of course he started right out by, "Throw that gum out now," you know, so we did. And he read the act to us that we were candidates for the Marine Corps, but many of you will not make it through boot train and going to be 12 weeks and you will learn to be Marines. Then he looked at the bus and he says I -- "When I say get, I want you on board those buses," and I forget what the time was, six minutes, four minutes, whatever the time was you had to get on board these buses. So boy when he said get we jumped up and we crowded away on the bus and we crowded __________ train crowded onto the bus. Sit down with our suitcases on our laps, silence. Nothing -- and then here comes this campaign hat up out of the stairwell of the bus, and he -- of course he started in on us with language that we were familiar with but we had never had people talk to us like that. He says, "Get your butts back on that train." He says, you know, you're not close to what the time that he demanded. Back on the train. Three times we went through this routine. And I thought, my golly, they're a cranky lot. What can be so important about getting on a bus in X amount of minutes. It doesn't make any sense. Well, it don't make sense, but that started 12 weeks of unrelenting pressure. Day in, day out. We had one kid jump out a window, second floor -- we was on the top squad bay, top side, H-shaped barracks. Kid jumped out, never knew what happened to him because ambulance came, took him away and we never knew what -- they came in and got his gear. Then a most tragic thing was guy committed suicide on the rifle range. He brought a round in somehow off the range while we went to chow, and he went in the head and committed suicide. So there's a lot of -- the stress was extreme but as most number one thing that guided me through -- I talked to kids that had been through boot camp ahead of me. Guys that were older than I was, and I've looked at them, you know, they're not super men. Surely I can do it, and I did, you know, but boy it is -- it was a stress. Because -- but what they want to have happen to you does happen. That screaming at you, pretty soon you become inculcated to it. You just -- somebody's screaming at you. What's the big deal, you know. I left my gloves one time in a guard shack. And the next day was what they call jump-in-a-bunk inspection. And I lay all my stuff out, looking at the manual, you know, laying our stuff out on the bunk a certain way and all your names showing. My gloves were gone. Where's my gloves? Oh, my God, I left them at the guard shack. So I went to the drill sergeant, and there's a routine here. You March in front of his door, click your heels, hammer on the door. Now, what he will say is, "I can't hear you little girl." And you hammer louder. "I still can't hear you little girl." And you hammer as hard as you can. "Get in here." Get in here, he said -- "Private Steele requesting permission to speak to drill instructor." "Speak." "I think I left my gloves at the guard shack." That sergeant leaped out of his chair, opened the drawer of his desk and pulled my gloves out and says, "Think? That's the trouble with you Private Steele, you don't think. You don't think worth a shit." And whacked me across the face with my gloves and then said, you know, report in here 1700 hours and he gave me a detail scrubbing the passageway down. Did that three times for different infractions, and one time talking in ranks. I made some little remark out of the side of my mouth trying to imitate a ventriloquist and he saw me. One drill instructor saw me. So that went on without relent with no let up, 24 hours a day. And the only time you were -- we had to go to sleep by the numbers. We would stand in front of our bunks and he would blink the lights out in the squad bay, so we would stand in front of our bunks and say prepare -- everything was by the preparatory command, the command of execution. You were drilled that day in and day out. Like forward march, to the rear march. Preparatory command, command of execution, he would say, "Prepare to hit the sack. Hit the sack." We would all jump in the sack. If he didn't think it was done promptly enough he would say, "Out of the sack." We would do it again. Then here's what -- he would click the lights out. You could hear him clicking down ___________ he says, "Prepare to sleep. Sleep." Then he would wait for a few seconds says, "Is everybody asleep?" And some weenie in the group would say, "Yes, sir." Well, you know, "Out of the sack. You people aren't learning to take orders. We'll do it again until you learn to go to sleep on command." So -- it was obviously, obviously it had nothing to do with reality except it was disciplining you and disciplining you and disciplining you. So now today you meet a fellow Marine and the first thing you say, where did you go to, you know, -- we all know we went to boot camp. He says, you know, he says San Diego, well, I know that was just like what I went through except different place. The guy says, Parris Island, we have a bond. We know exactly -- now, here's how this thing really works I found later in combat. Dawned on me one time of the immense trust that I put in the guys right next to me. And, in turn, they put their lives, their trust in me on how I will behave. One day it dawned on me. I don't think it dawned on me then. It was later. How did that transpire? How did that trust come in there? The Marine Corps made us all clones. Unlike out here at Kimbell (sp) when a new guy showed up with a pin stripe suit, I didn't know him from a load of hay. I don't know how that guy's going to behave. I don't know his political outlooks. I don't know his work ethic. I don't know anything about this guy. When I showed up as a new guy in Korea and hopped in a hole, they knew me thoroughly. I was just like every other guy around here, had a different name. They knew it -- they knew my background. They knew that I went through the boot camp thing. They knew I was inculcated with the same ideas. That doesn't mean that we all thought exactly identical, but we more or less subscribed to the same values, and one of them, of course, was peer approval, and he knew that he could depend on me and I knew I could depend on him. Now, now and then it didn't work, of course, but it's a lot different than a mob, you know. We were -- I heard military criticized because you make out -- you just make people don't think for themselves, but you can't conduct combat with everybody having an idea about how it ought to be done. And some people want to do it real bad and some people don't want to do it at all. You know, it has to be done the way they do it.

Larry Ordner:

When did you get orders, then, that you knew you were going to Korea?

Ralph B. Steele:

Yes. As boot camp wound down -- of course casualties this -- we didn't know what was going on much in Korea. We never saw a newspaper. We -- certainly TV wasn't that big a deal. The one movie we got to go to was called Steel Helmet. Incidentally we got to go to one basketball game and we cheered by command. It was the Parris Island basketball team, the permanent personnel played Cherry Point Air Station, and they -- "Prepare to sit, sit." And then he would say, "Prepare to cheer, cheer," and we'd all cheer. It was almost like that in church. "Prepare to pray, pray," you know. In any event, the end wound down and, of course, depending on your educational level, your level of intellect, you got maybe to go to service schools. People wanted to go into aviation, some wanted to go into electronics and this sort of thing and the sergeant drill instructor said, I'll tell you right now, all this group of -- what the heck did we graduate? 48, 49, somewhere in that area, and we started out with about 60, 70 some, and not all of them -- some of them just got hurt en route and went to other deals. He says about ten out of this platoon will be taken to service schools like sea school for sea going Marines and electronics and aviation. I don't mean flying. I mean being a mechanic. Said the rest of you are going to go into -- you're going to be a rifle man. He said, I'll tell you this. You're going to -- if you are selected as a rifle man, you're going to look back on that with great pride and, you know, he's absolutely right. Anytime I'm with a group of people and we're talking about combat and somebody says what did you do I says I'm a rifle man. And that sets the conversation right there. I was a rifle man. You can't be -- you can't be any more in the Marine car than a rifle man. And you fly an airplane or whatever in the Marine Corps, everybody, used to be anyway, your serial number, service occupation MOS number started with 0300 which is rifle man. You were a pilot with 03 blah blah blah. Pilot, 03 whatever artillery man. But everybody's basically trained as an infantry man. Anyway, so I knew I was going to go in the infantry and sure enough I got the orders that we go to Pendleton. What the neat thing was back then was they sent us home in February for a boot leave, and when we came back we got on a troop train, and I went to California on a troop train. That was an adventure. You know, clear across the country, took about four days to go across the country. And they took us right into Pendleton. And I'm all primed ready to go and I have all these about, what am I going to do now? Am I going to get into artillery, am I going to do this, that and the other. My first job was in a mess hall. So anyway, I worked in a mess hall and my buddy from my hometown was with me and he could type, so he became a clerk in the mess hall and we really had a soft touch. Well, one day coming through the line was another hometown buddy hadn't seen -- I knew he was in the Marine Corps. Never seen _____________ ____________ ______________ and here he came down the chow line and I'm ______________ ______________ in the chow hall, "Hi, Berne, hi." So we sat down, have lunch -- had lunch together. And I says, "What's happening?" He says, I knew these guys were getting ready -- I just come from the tent camps. They were main side and then they were going to Korea. And he says, you know, just got finished trained. He says I'm going out with -- I think it was the tenth replacement draft, ninth or tenth replacement draft, and by now I begin to think, you know, I joined the Marine Corps not to work in a mess hall. I joined the Marine Corps so I could do what the guys did in Life Magazine. I want to land on a beach. I want to know if I have the metal. Do I have what it takes to conduct myself in combat. Am I a coward? My parents would never let me play football. I could run on a track team, so I was -- never had any athletic background, and here I am kind of an artist, and you know maybe I don't have what it takes. I need the test. I need the ultimate test. This ________________ coincided when Berne said, wow, he says, I just got back, you know, got off the train. I says, if you go, you know, up to the tent camps, be sure to get into a weapons company. Now, remember these are teenagers talking. He says, that's where all the fun weapons are. That's where the machine guns are, the mortars, the flame throwers, all the neat stuff is in weapons company. I thought, boy, that does sound -- I always -- you know, I would like to fire a machine gun. That's what he was trained as. So we talked about it. We said our goodbyes. I think we met each other a couple times after that. So I went to my -- to the mess hall sergeant and said I want to be transferred out. I want to go into infantry. He said are you out -- and he was a World War II Marine veteran. He says, "Are you nuts?" He said, "You know what you're getting into?" And I told him, well I thought the Marine Corps was all about. And he smiled. He says, "Okay." He says, "I'll sign you out." So off to the tent camp I went, and I got off the bus and I was -- I don't know ___________ to ask to get in weapons company and in weapons company I went. And they were pretty generous about it. They lined us all up and they showed us -- they demonstrated what all the weapons, mortars and the photograph over there of our company. And then, of course, to add some seriousness to it. I don't know where -- they even have accountants in the military. Somebody come up with a number about how long you last in combat in any one of these weapons. You last 14 minutes as a machine gunner. You last 18 minutes as a mortar man and all this. I don't know where they get these numbers. Somebody out there with a green eye shade on counting this, you know, theoretical stuff. So everybody chuckled about that. So I was trained then for three months as a machine gunner during July in the hill around Pendleton. So the 12th replacement draft was formed up and we ship out from San Diego in the general migs. It took us about, I'm thinking, close to two weeks to make the passage. And that was interesting. We had everything from a -- I could not believe an ocean could become absolutely still, glass. The only thing we could hear is the hiss of the wake of the ship, and then two or three days later we were in a storm where actually I could not believe when I walked under the bow, remembering walking underneath the bow of that ship when you're boarding early in the foggy morning in San Diego I looked up at that -- at the _____________ and then to see that plow through a wave. I mean, it went into a wave. You can't imagine the sea running like that. So anyway, we made Japan, and I told you about the first sighting of Japan was the junks (?). We slowed the ship way down, dense fog, and the fog horn was blowing intermittently, and out of this mist came these junks(?). And my -- another thing you think about, when I was a little guy I had a brother ten years older than I was, and he was my mentor because my dad -- I was the last of seven kids. My dad never was interested in the same things I was, so this brother ten years older was my mentor. And one day I asked him -- he was a very brilliant guy. Turned out to be an engineer with Drummond Aviation. I asked him one time, I says, "Where does the sun set?" I was a little guy. And my brother said, "It sets in China." So, oh. I want to go to China, you know. That to me is the orient was -- then I listened to as a kid to Terry and the Pirates. Gee whiz, to go to Hong Kong or Yokohama or Kobe. Any of those places, that would really be a goal. So here I am going into Yokohama.

Larry Ordner:

You were really an adventurer?

Ralph B. Steele:

Yeah, I guess. And I remember we pulled into Yokohama. I don't know if another kid and a whole ship thought about this, but as we entered Yokohama Bay there were buoys stretched across the harbor and a tugboat was moving these buoys out of the way, which was a little strange. Submarine net. I remember as a kid seeing a movie, of course it was all fiction, where a U.S. submarine followed a Japanese ship through those nets into Tokyo Bay and sunk a bunch of the imperial ships and whatnot and went back out. Of course then they _________out after the attacker, then they followed one of them back out. I remember that. Then the other thing that struck me -- I remember these thoughts clearly. This -- I wonder what it looked like in April of 19 -- what was it in 1942 when doolittle (sp) came skimming across the same waters. You know, I thought, man -- but, again, my dad had inculcated with me a sense of history, you know, about these things. And I wasn't thinking about Admiral Perry. Later I read a lot of the history of Japan, and of course I wasn't thinking about Admiral Perry or ____________. But I did -- and remember this is only about five years later or six years. So -- or more than that. Six years since the war was over. But then we went to Kobe. Army is about -- 1,500 Army on the ship besides us. There's about 41- or 4,200 on that ship. Left the Army guys off and then we went to Kobe and we were there about three days. I called liberty every day I was in Kobe and then we went into the inland sea and down through Shimazinski (sp) Strait out into the Sea of Japan and got to -- only took about a day, you know, to get over to Pusan, Korea. And then another kind of one of those tragic things that turned out happens. I met a guy by the name of Ivan Slope (sp) on board the ship. And he and I like every now and then you run into somebody has the same viewpoints you do, so we got -- they're unloading the ship and twilight's coming and nice August afternoon, evening is coming on, starting -- working on the ship doesn't quit because they just bring the lights in and they're unloading cargo and whatnot. So Ivan and I was up -- go up _____________ and across from us was two hospital ships, the haven and the repos were docked. We saw the guys walking on the ship with their blue Navy robes on, you know, and casualties, and ___________ of courage and had bandages on. And Ivan -- Ivan was from Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska. So there's a ritual you go through in conversations of this nature. He talks about home and he talks about his house and his living room and how it is -- he even drew pictures of it on the deck, you know.And then he let's me do the same thing. What we're doing, we're -- I didn't know at the time. We're going back home mentally, but we were courteous enough to let each guy describe his dining room, everything, what the folks did, what we did on Sundays. Yeah, his folks did the same thing. What we were doing was going back home. So then a bad thing happened. Of course these are Korean laborers, and they're taking big steel beams off the hatchet and there's a Korean worker on the lip of the hatch and of course these things are big booms. They're bringing these things up and the steel beam is swinging, and it crushed this guy's leg. It was straddling the lip of the ___________ of course he let off a terrible, terrible scream and ___________ the whole thing went quiet. _____________ of course they got the corpsman down there. He's shrieking ____________ here's this vermillion stain on the side of the thing, you know. So we're saying, well, let's just secure, you know. Let's go below. And he's ___________ we look across at the hospital ships, and I said -- Ivan says, "I sure heck hope they don't get me on one of those things." And I said, "Me, too." Two weeks later, Ivan was dead and I was on the hospital ship. So it was one of those things that I remember so well.

Larry Ordner:

How did you hear about Ivan's death?

Ralph B. Steele:

I was on the hospital ship. We were -- bull sessions, you know.

Larry Ordner:

Yeah.

Ralph B. Steele:

And I had been hit and first I was in Sual (sp)-- excuse -- yeah. Sual (sp), and then they transferred me by train, hospital train down to -- I imagine most Marine naval personnel, of course, went on the hospital ship, and we're all shooting the bull and some guy -- an incident had happened to me, but a guy walking in front of me through a wooded area tripped a booby trap deal. There's a wire stretched across the path wired to a mortar round. It was actually mortar -- actually it was wired to a grenade and a grenade -- the pin would come out of the grenade, detonate the grenade and the mortar round, and it was at about head high. Well, the guy -- two guys in front of me tripped this wire. Of course yelled, "Trip wire." Well, you're so keyed up, I imagine I was on the ground before the word wire ever got out of his mouth, but I thought the thing would instantly detonate, and it didn't. What happened was the gook was pretty clever. He had pinched the ____________ key but didn't pinch the nut, and when the wire pulled on it you had it wrapped with electricians tape, and it just twisted in the electricians tape and didn't detonate. So next thing he says, he says, "You know, one of our guys was a KIA over the same incident." I said, "What's that?" He said, "Oh, a buddy of mine by the name of Ivan." I said, "What's his last name?" He said, "Sloke." Ivan Sloke was killed by the same device that missed me, you know. One of those kind of things. But I found out about that at that time. And -- but then back to our deal then we --

Larry Ordner:

Can I ask you at the time did that make you not as excited, shall we say, about being in the military?

Ralph B. Steele:

No.

Larry Ordner:

No.

Ralph B. Steele:

That's an interesting -- I thought about this because we had the suicides, which I described earlier in boot camp. And when I was at Pendleton we had a range accident. I was in machine gun section. We were over on another area, on another little knoll was the mortar section of our same company firing mortars, A 1 nomier (sp) mortars. A mortar detonated -- a round detonated leaving the tube. Ended up killing three guys and wounded six. I've analyzed what I felt at the time. Of course it was shock, but it was -- I don't want to call it anger. Cheated. That's a word. I could understand that to die we would be cheated out of our lives that was left of us, marriage, girlfriends, families, all these things, we would be cheated. What I later come to think about that was how rapidly we recovered from that. That day we were all upset. We were all upset about this accident, but we weren't mad at the Marine Corps. We weren't mad at anything. It was an accident, just like there were kids being killed in automobile accidents, you know. One time one month there was more kids killed in automobile accidents out of Pendleton than was killed in Korea. Anyway, I've thought about that a lot. How did I react to, you know, a passing like -- Ivan probably got me more than anybody because we were really had a rapport going. We really -- we really enjoyed each other. That bothered me. (Inaudible) observation, which I was going to come up to this but I'll insert now. A psychologist, I guess, called this -- what the hell -- not identification. Transference. Every time I saw KIA, dead Marine, the first thing that came to my mind is what is his parents doing this very moment? That's what I thought about Ivan. What is his parents doing? The first Marine I saw killed, that was the very thing that went through my mind. Here's this guy being carried off and shot through the forehead with a burp gun, and I remember distinctly, and what I was doing was -- psychologists say you're transferring to that -- you are transferring to that person what are my parents doing this very moment. What if I were on that litter? What -- it's going to take -- these parents will not know what has taken place on this battle field for several days. They're going about their daily routine, so on and so forth and their son is dead. But those -- but at the time, in all honesty, I don't know if it's due to youth or becoming _____________ to accepting tragedy, you know, but I think in some ways we do that today. We learn of a -- someone has died, maybe of cancer, somebody's been killed in an automobile accident and we are affected by it immediately, but it's amazing how quickly -- unless they're part of our life and they left a hole there that we have to fill in, it's amazing how rapidly we recover. You know, you never forget it. Now, I haven't forgotten it. I haven't forgotten it. I still choke up about it, but we were -- we were young guys, you know, but another incident then we were taken out -- we were flown then from Pusan to Chun Chun (sp), Korea which is in the center of Korea and the Marines were engaged in the east central, which it turned out to be a very beautiful area, mountainous, wooded. Lot like West Virginia. So of course we're all, you know, what's it going to be like? You know, we're all ____________ ___________ we're in trucks, dusty ride. And twilight comes and pretty soon evening comes and we're still riding in the trucks, but now I know looking back we came to a town in __________ and then we turned north. We're going over these mountain passes and so on and so forth. Finally -- the only way you can tell, they're just little slits for headlights. The only way you can tell you're climbing or going down is by hearing what the engine on the truck's doing, you know, winding or -- there's convoy about, I suppose, eight, ten trucks. And we flatten out across this valley we're rumbling ______________ of course we was facing each other, bouncing along. Suddenly there's brilliant, brilliant blue flashes on both sides of the truck out in these right patties, and then out of these flashes are shrieks and, you know crashes and shrieks. Well, right away I knew I heard artillery, but if you hear a whistle or a shriek and then a boom it's coming in. When it goes boom and shrieks it's going out, well it still shook you up pretty good, you know, and Jiminy Christmas. I look across, the guy across from me during one of these blue flashes, and we had been running like I said in the trucks and our faces are coated with dust. And there's rivers underneath both of his eyes. He's crying, you know, tears are coming out of both eyes. Now, another thing is I remember this reaction to my initial hearing something fired in anger, is a journal say miss not fired in anger at all. We're all professionals. We don't kill the Chinese out of anger. We kill them out of professional. That's our job. We're professional people. The same way with these artillerists. They're not firing at the Chinese out of hate. They're firing -- they're on a firing mission. You know, so anyway, my idea -- I had been -- remember, the Marine Corps trained me to be a professional soldier and, you know, look on the enemy very objectively. My reaction -- I remember it so distinctly hearing these gun fire, why don't we leave them alone? They didn't shoot at us? Why are we goating them? Well, it wasn't very many days. Certainly not very many weeks, I was delighted to hear the artillery going over and landing on the gooks, you know. To me it was -- instead of being terrifying it was musical. Boy, to hear that stuff going out, you know. But at the time I remember, you know, I was frightened, of course, because it was very mysterious. Then we passed that area and we climbed some more hills and they took our -- we stopped, turned out to be the regimental CP which had just been set up on timbered slope and they took our weapons and our ammunition away from us. Smartest thing in the world. You know, green people up there. And of course we weren't on line yet. We're just back from line. Then the first time looked across at some ridges right over there and they were illuminated by flares, and I could hear pa pa, pa pa pa pa pa, pa, gun fire. Then it would be quiet for a while and then pretty soon ____________ flare burst, float down and hear pa pa, pa pa pa pa pa, then it dawned on me tomorrow night I'm going to be up there where the pops are going on, you know. And then, then it dawned on me, my God. This is going to happen, you know, and I was still excited. I was still excited. Eager, but the mean thing was I didn't want to let anybody down. That really bothered me, that I would in any way let anyone down. So I -- we trucked part of the way and then we walked about, I would say about a mile or so to the battalion CP which then was nothing but a -- they dug a -- it was off the side of a unimproved road with almost ___________ ____________ looks a lot like a farm lane weeds, growing in and whatnot. They had dug -- they put a lean to up and there was mortars being dug in and whatnot, so the CP was nothing ______________. Here's something else. Maybe every service does this, maybe just this battalion did it, I don't know, but there was about seven or eight of us replacements, and they got a map out and they laid a map out and put some stones on it to keep the wind from blowing and they showed us where the Chin -- or the North Korea in this case, North Korean positions were, where we were, where our lines ran. They briefed us. (Inaudible) rifle men, they briefed us on the local situation. Then we hiked -- we took all day then we hiked up to our positions which was way up on the ridge. And my thoughts at that time -- I saw my first wounded which happened to be South Korean Marines and another thing I thought about is, you know, our expression of pain has got a lot to do with culture deal, because I don't think we hurt any less and they hurt any more, but the Koreans seem to really let you know he was hurt. He screamed and shrieked and when wounded Marines came off the line, very -- and we weren't trying to be tough guys. It was just that our culture doesn't apparently do that, you know. But we marched from there on up -- up the line. And my concern was, how am I going to be received? Because I hadn't analyzed this thing I just talked about a little bit ago about we were all one type of person, clone. And I thought, am I going to take a guy's place like in the movies, a guy's been killed and am I going it take his place and everybody will resent me and all this kind of thing. Not the case at all. Welcome you in. First thing they asked where you're from because as you're walking along and you're coming into the positions they'll call out anybody from California, anybody from Wyoming, you know, that kind of thing. Somebody from Indiana or whatever. So anyway, I got -- they got us to the company CP. I'm trained as a machine gunner, 03331. So the lieutenant come out which is the company commander, come out of his bunker and introduced himself and he said __________ ____________ again, it's all heavily timbered. And he said, "What's your MOS number?" Like I said, about five or six of us here and ____________ ____________ "I'm 0331 machine gunner." "Okay," he said, "I don't need any machine gunners but I need a BAR man," so I never touched a machine gun while I was in Korea. They got me ___________ that kind of thing. But back to this -- what happened the first time I -- somebody was hit and wanting to do my job. They sent a patrol out, and we were way -- we're high on a ridge. It's all timbered and it goes down way down into a valley. It's timbered, too. There's a river down there and you can only see the river occasionally through the trees. The other side, those slopes were all enemy. We sent up a trail over there, what they call a reinforced patrol. It's probably a squad of guys which would be 12, 13 guys plus a machine gun section, so you got 20 some guys and then with the corpsman you're -- like 30 guys across the river. So, and they got a big -- they got a big pack radio, R300 radio with them. And we're of course -- everybody knows that patrol is out and it's going to be a dangerous patrol because it's one of those ridiculous orders I always thought was, it was a recon patrol but you keep moving towards the enemy until they shoot at you, and then you count the weapons and what caliber they're shooting at you with. In other words, walk until somebody takes a shot at you and then lay down and count the weapons. So anyway, they're out there and I can -- we start hearing pa pa pa, pa pa pa pa and the radio crackles on and it says that they've been taken under fire and they got a wounded. They got a -- we got -- we picked up a WIA. More fire going on. Pretty soon we hear WIAs, they got KIAs. Now they got a critical situation. They're pinned down and they can't get out. So they said lieutenant -- there was a different -- as a matter of fact, it was different platoon than what I was a member of, but I had gone down there with another friend of mine, we was just interested in what was going on and they said hey I need some volunteers. They were going to take a squad from that platoon to actually make the relief, but they was picking up casualties so fast they needed volunteers for litter bearers. Oh, boy, I'll do my part. One thing -- if I'm needed, I'm going. So my buddy and I grabbed a litter, and I would imagine another 15, 20 guys lead out down this trail clear down to the bottom and we -- they made a perimeter down there and they were starting to withdraw. These guys were trying to get out from underneath this fire and they came over the lip. There's a river had made a horseshoe there and a bank on the far side -- say the river is about 15, 20 inches deep and it was probably eight or ten yards wide. And the guys are coming over the far bank and they were just sweat stained and filthy dirty and their eyes were all bulging. I mean, they were terrified. These guys been getting -- guys getting knocked down all around them. They came over the edge, and I'm on this side of the bank and the sergeant in charge of that deal shouted down just in general says, "We can use some help over there." Again, "Hey, that's what I'm hear for if I'm paid the big money," you know, 80 some bucks a month. So I started across this damn stream and here's again, you're a youth. I can hear -- and bullets don't zing when they go by like they do in the movies. They snap. I learned down that at Parris Island pulling targets. They crack. They snap. I heard snap, snap, snap. Well, I thought holy shit I'm being shot at. And I looked around, the other guys didn't seem to be paying any attention to it, and then right in front of me as I got to the other side and some bull rushes and ______________ I saw two sparks, ptue ptue, you know, you know, come up, and I remember I don't think that much about it, you know. I was so green, so I got over to the bank and here come a litter over this -- by now they're just sliding down the bank and they were dusty and they were getting across the river and they're starting up the other side trying to get into safety, and of course this is -- we're ___________ they couldn't get to us, but we were being shot at but they were in the horseshoe. They were shorting down the river. Here come a litter, and so boy I eagerly reach up there for the litter and I bring it down and I could see the top of the guy's head was all sweat matted. Then the ___________ form by the canvas, formed by the V of the weight of the body blood coagulated blood ran out and ran on the grass, you know, the bull rushes and whatnot. I thought man, this guy is a KIA. Sure ____________ I handed him by, handed him by and I looked at his face, which I always try to avoid looking at somebody like that. He had taken four bullets right through the forehead from a burp gun and the face was intact but everything below the face was -- the face just floated on a -- kind of a crust, and I thought Jiminy Christmas but, you know, again, if I would see that today I would probably lose my supper. That was not my motion. My motion was, what is his parents doing this moment? END OF SIDE ONE, TAPE ONE; BEGIN SIDE TWO, TAPE ONE

Ralph B. Steele:

You know, I've articulated _____________ in reflection about things I thought and at that time, and that was one of them.

Larry Ordner:

What about the time you were injured?

Ralph B. Steele:

Well, I'll get -- that happened pretty short time, like the next day. Then within a few days we moved out. We went laterally because didn't know at the time we were going into an attack, and we moved into, again, lateral movement into some other holes. Here's where I often wonder what makes a guy jump on a hand grenade when it's thrown and he takes the explosion when -- I thought -- I thought about that a lot and that isn't a very smart thing to do. I mean, why in all honestly, why do you give your life for somebody else's? I mean, why do that? I had that proven to me it turned out to be non-lethal, but I didn't know it. We met when -- got in fresh holes from the other unit that had moved out of their holes, we moved in theirs of course we met them. They're getting their gear together and they tell us where to expect the gooks on the wire from their experience in the fields of fire and all this thing down through -- again, we're in timbered area. So they take off and there's four guys in a hole and we got 25 percent watch. One guy awake at all times. So we started out earlier in the evening with a little bit longer watch, and then as we get into the early hours you go down maybe only one hour. So anyway, I'm the first guy on watch. So I take my watch, get off watch and they're firing -- we didn't know it then but preparing for tomorrow's attack. We didn't know we was going to be on attack tomorrow. Our artillery was firing. Shells weren't going over our heads because the target was quite a ways away...... We were on a ridge here and the attack was going to take place here. We were over in here. So artillery was firing from here up on the hill 673, 729, in that area. Ground's rumbling. It's a lot like the flashes and the rumble are a lot like a summer thunderstorm coming, you know. And so I get -- I'm done with my watch. I get my sleeping bag, zip the thing up, hold my hands over my chest and my buddy, he's on watch there and there's three other guys and ground's rumbling and I hear like a soft puck, like a -- you know, and then I hear like a trembling, bum bum bum bum bum bum bum. The bank above me, because we're on the side of the hill and this was above me and it's rolling. I could hear this thing rolling. Of course I'm thinking, what ___________ it sounds like a grenade. And the thing lit right on my stomach. And I mean, I'm in my sleeping bag. And so I instantly -- these things are happening in nanno seconds. A Gook -- I think a Gook has thrown a grenade, overshot our trench and threw ____________ of course it's going to detonate within a few seconds. I tore at that sleeping bag, got it opened and yelled grenade, grenade and I picked the thing up and threw it. It was a rock. What did that say to me as far as hero? What did I do? If I would have been one of those great heros, I would have -- I would have rolled over on top of that grenade and taken the blast, no, no, no. I didn't run away. I did the pragmatic thing. I pitched it out. I remember thinking, I'm going to die doing this but I'm getting rid of it, so what kind -- you know, let me analyze what kind of a hero are you? Well, I'm not a hero guy that goes out looking to be a hero, but I'll sure do my damn job, you know, so those are things -- again, I didn't articulate them at the time. A little bit at that time I thought _______________ I'm not any super hero, but I got rid of what I thought was a grenade. Of course it woke the other guys up. They said what the hell -- what's all this about. They thought I had a bad dream or something. I told them I said I thought a grenade, you know, missed. So next morning we take off and we're moving into that valley and we get -- we're coming off the line or off this particular line east -- we're marching east. My buddy said if -- if we get down to that stream and we turn right we're going into reserve. Still hadn't dawned on us attack was eminent. If we turned left or north we're going in the attack. Well, we saw the column down there making a left turn. You know, heading for attack. And another thing about a test, we're crossing a stream. This is in August, so the stream was very narrow but there's cobblestones ______________ both sides. We're dead open. There's no -- there's no place to hide. Well, we can hear fire now is becoming a little bit more prominent and of course _______________ airplanes are starting to orbit the area, you know, making air strikes somewhere. And sure enough here comes some ______________ right when I'm in the middle, the column is in the middle of this open spot in comes some mortar fire. Well, I remember seeing the mortars land in this stream and on the stones, and I can hear the metal from the detonation bouncing, ping, over the stones. I don't know what to do. I can't find a place to hide. I'm literally running in circles. I'm real close to panic and -- well, the sergeant jumped up and ran after me says, "Get your ass down." And he tackled me and threw me down on the damn cobblestone. Well, of course what he did was absolutely right. When they detonate on the stones you get an inverted ___________ they would have to put a round right in your back pocket to get you, but I was terrified. I didn't know what to do. Green soldier, you know. Later as I learned almost become second nature to you, you know, those kind of things. You know how to react immediately. So then we proceed on. We come off this main stream and start up a little narrow path, and the word comes down we're finding mines and _____________ who's doing the stuff, but they got a guy up ahead, some volunteer with a bayonet is probing in this rocky path, and when they find a mine they take the ass wipe out of the C rations and they make a flag out of it and stick it where the mine is. Now that -- they're not -- they don't work for the -- I mean, they work for the government but they're not a -- like underwriters lab or good housekeeping. They're only showing you the mines they find. There might be other mines there. So anyway what I did in case like this I stepped exactly where the guy in front of me stepped. You know, we're spaced out. So ____________ to keep calling constantly, ____________ hold the interval, hold the interval. So I'm stepping right where he steps then they said take five and don't get off the path. Squat right where you are. Because you don't -- it's apparently mines. So in the meantime they've been trying to get mortar rounds into this real narrow ravine, but the rounds are coming over and they couldn't wiggle them in there. They were detonating on the bank and on the hillside right over here next to us. All of the sudden there's an explosion right behind me, damn near lifted my helmet off, you know, big concussion like this, and I thought Jesus Christ they've got a mortar round. They're getting mortar rounds right down on us now. We've got hell to pay because they're going to get plasters and of course somebody behind hollers, corpsman -- well they didn't say corpsman. Bumgart (sp) was his name. We were told not to call corpsman. Call them his name because the Gook would understand we have injured if they heard core man, so we called Bumgartner, so he came down with his assistant, you know, and turned out it wasn't a mortar round at all. The guy walking either behind me or the guy behind him had unloosened his pack when they said take five and leaned against the embankment and leaned right on a land mine. ________________ landed right on a land mine. So we had that -- that was a KIA right there. Then a little further up the way in the bushes was -- and I'm -- I guess because I like history and whatnot I picked up things. I picked up this rifle off the battle field and there's a burp gun laying in the bush. Well just about that time the word came down that sergeant had stepped out and says -- of course not in very good grammar but he says, "I don't want none of you guys fucking with them souvenirs," and he said, "They might be booby trapped." Well, I looked at it and it was certainly no booby trap. I mean, I could see it laying right there. And it was brand new. Man, it still had fresh oil on it and whatnot and boy is that tempting. Then of course I was smart enough, yeah, how do I get to that? They have probably put a mine right where you're going to step for that thing. So I never made it -- first I was told not to do it so, number one, I ain't going to do it anyway but boy I thought geez I know that's not booby trapped. But anyway, passed that point and then looked to me arbitrarily we depart from this path and we started up almost a vertical hillside. Again, it's timber. And it was one of the toughest days of my time in the service scaling that and that vertical, almost vertical hill. You're grabbing at trees and whatnot and I'm -- of course there's saliva and you're getting exhausted and everybody's out of breath so nobody ahead of you says a word, but all of the sudden I'm struggling like this you and I looked up and I'm looking at a Gook right in the face. He was that far away from me. And I couldn't -- it was so horrifying I couldn't understand what I was seeing because everything on his head was in the wrong place. Well it turned out he had been shot just a few minutes before and slid down upside down and his arms are stretched out like this. I'm ___________ at his face upside down. I remember he had a little moustache. His eyes were open. I remember him being jaundice. Really yellow looking eyes. I about craped when I saw that. But I didn't holler to the guys down the line, hey, there's a body here because I was out -- I didn't have any breath to spare and the guys ahead of me didn't. Do you know -- I knew it was getting close to combat now because a few more paces and there was a Gook propped up against a tree with his jackets open and probably somebody from G 2 or couple guys in G 2 had been designated to go through the uniforms to find out if there was any information. But he had been shot in the chest and he was still alive but there was -- he was breathing real heavy but there was big pink bubbles coming out. Well I had been taught that that's a lung -- that's a lung. ___________ ain't got long to last when that's happening. So I saw that. Then within another 50 yards or so we came to the crest of a ridge and you always -- when you get to the crest of the ridge over in Korea ___________ striped of trees from Napalm strikes and artillery and then the Gooks had chopped some of the trees down to make bunkers. So it was all -- it was all _________________ of trees, and about that time what they wanted us to do was get on the other side of the ridge because we were going kind of east really and then we would turn and go north. Well, as we started to move out a bunch of mortar fire hit on the ridge that we were going to occupy, so our lieutenant very wisely says we're not going to do that. What we're going to do is we go over one at a time they'll get us one at a time. He said when I give the word we're going to go over all at once. Now, what was firing at us then was what they call a 76. It's a Soviet artillery piece they used at stalling (sp) Brad where it got its fame, and it got tires, wheels and of course it's tough to get them up in the mountains, but those guys, they're rugged. Those little Gooks got that thing up. And it's high velocity piece. It was used to ____________ ______________. Now, over in Korea, in all honesty, it wasn't that effective because there's nothing -- armor to shoot at and it doesn't -- it doesn't make a very big fragment field, you know, when it detonates. But it's so high velocity the projectile is going about the same speed, 2,600 feet per second that a rifle bullet does. It comes so fast that a lot of times you see the detonation and hear the sound of it coming, where otherwise you always hear a shuuu and then the boom. You hear a boom and then shuuu. It's that fast. So 76 -- and it's flat projectory, so if you're in any kind of a __________________ advantage _____________ if you're in a ___________ position they can't get you where a mortar can. You know, mortar can get you. So anyway the lieutenant says we're going to go in mass across that hill, so he figured it took about -- he was counting. It took about five seconds after they fired a round before they kicked the breech open, got another round inserted, pulled the liner, took about four to five seconds. So when the round hit and said go, so the whole platoon at once -- and you know when you're running like that it seems it takes you five minutes, but we cleared that crest just as the 76 round hit. And then we -- again, we moved on and one of the remarks made -- you know, you're so relieved everybody's giggling and laughing. We jumped in a hole. We were all laughing about it, and one of the sergeants says, you know, this is the second time this has happened to me as if these things you keep track of, but we moved out -- then they called in the ___________ and they didn't even have to make a strike. They just started orbiting the neighborhood and then of course the Gooks fell silent then because they didn't want to be on a Napalm attack. We were starting to come up and more and more debris of battling, a few things struck me. One was there was a machine gun, American machine gun box metal and there had been a concussion next to it. There was an artillery round apparently detonated and it pushed the sides of that box in and all the bullets on the belt had poked through the metal of the side of the box. Shiny brass, just the perfect way -- that bullet was laid in there that concussion had hit that thing so hard it poked those machine guns bullets through. The guy that was carrying that, he was gone. Then one of those horrifying things because you look -- I mean, how did I do this, you know -- by this time I'm 20, just turned 20. How in the heck could you do this -- anyway, here's three Gooks in a trench and a round had hit and they were buried partially, but they were looking out over this valley right there and a round had gone through, a large round ___________ I looked at their faces because I wanted -- you always get curious. What do they look like, and I looked at this one face. I could look right through the eye sockets and see the side of the bank behind it. What the heck. His head was gone just his cervical was sticking up and his head, his face. You see those kind -- I look back on that and if I would see something like that today I couldn't keep my dinner down. And, you know, the remark when my buddy was walking right behind me was same as mine, well, there's three Gooks we don't have to worry about. So then we formed up, made a perimeter that night. Again, you know, how brave are you and what do you think? And I go back to the movie Red Badge of Courage which is a really good movie. We made this real tight perimeter and we were out from the rest of the line. We were by ourselves. We had probed out ____________ very good company commander and the Gooks attacked us that night about four times. Well, it was second group timber down in pitch black. Second __________ timber's down there and we could hear the Gooks down in this ravine, hear them chattering and then we would kind of -- whoever their leader was was giving them kind of a pep talk apparently because you hear them cheer, and then he would blow a whistle and I could hear them crashing through that second row of timber. We started firing down into the ravine and the -- what saved us then was our mortars were zeroed in on that thing and they called in mortar rounds, and that would break up each one of these attacks. But I remember at the time I was in a hole with -- as a matter of fact with a squad leader sergeant, and I remember thinking how bad I didn't want to be there. That if I had it on my own, I would get up and run as fast as I could run and run all the way back to Elkhart, Indiana, but the other thing plays at the same time. That really wasn't an option. It was a mental exercise because I could not let these guys down. That was the main thing. And another interesting thing happened. I didn't believe was true ________________ is the conversations back and forth. Now, we had some Marines with us that were actually stationed in China after World War II. You have to remember they were career Marines. These guys been to China, gone all over. And _______________ and the Gooks would call to them, you know, of course they would use the most vulgar Chinese they knew, you know, and what they -- I didn't believe they really would do this but they actually said, "Hey U.S. Marine, go back to Alabama." Why did they say Alabama? I got to thinking they probably couldn't pronounce Connecticut. So they use Alabama. They knew they could say Alabama and they said, "We come kill you, you know, you go. You go home. We come kill you." And then the attack would get underway, and I was scared and I probably had never been that scared before and I never been that scared since, because that was the crucible.

Larry Ordner:

Was that the Jack Armstrong moment?

Ralph B. Steele:

That was the Jack Armstrong moment. That was just about right. That was -- yeah. That was the moment. Then the next morning we jump off and we -- again, we don't know what the situation _____________. We don't know if the Gooks had pulled out or what until ____________ . Well, it turned out they hadn't, so we had to make an attack and we came up -- we were -- brave _____________ which I made a drawing of, and here's the bunker at the top of the hill 749 we're attacking and here's a Napalm _________________ this is looking northerly, northeast. A Napalm cannon burned up, tin was there and we were being brought up and we were trying to envelope this position, and the lieutenant was releasing guys one at a time. And to me this was the moment of truth because when these guys would run across there you could seat dirt popping up from being fired from this bunker. I found out looking back, and it was long time after this. That was after the ________________ I was reminiscing in my mind about this. How is that lieutenant releasing them? I figured it out. We had a machine gun back here that was firing into that bunker. When he heard that machine gun fire he would release us. That way momentarily they ducked and we would have a better chance of getting across. Again, the same lieutenant that released us in mass on another tactical situation. That's why those aren't dumb guys that are wearing -- for the most part wearing those bars. This guy was clever. He had a different tactical problem, and nobody's coaching him. We're 18, 20-year old kids and this guy's a 23, 24-year-old man, you know. So anyway, that's me running here and I thought because they couldn't get their guns depressed, if I can get to that Napalm tin, I'll have it made. You know, we'll take a hit. So we got there. Here's where a brave thing happens. This is what makes boot camp training professionalism absolutely witness to good training. We were pinned down. I and the rest of our squad had our heads as close to the ground as we could on account of this bunker firing, but the platoon sergeant came up on his knees and commanded return that fire. We jumped up or stood up, stand up, came up on our knees as one and returned fire and got fire supremacy. Would I do that today? I would say are you nuts? I can stop a bullet. No. Training. Number one, tremendous act of bravery. I mean, that's -- command initiative from a sergeant, doesn't get any metal, you know. And he's right in the face of that fire commanded to us, return that fire. Again, our training was so good we didn't think except return that fire.

Larry Ordner:

I'm sorry we have to kind of come to a close.

Ralph B. Steele:

Yeah.

Larry Ordner:

But tell me, how do you look back at this time now, and you've already touched on that you couldn't do that now, so what was it about that time?

Ralph B. Steele:

I had to prove myself. Again, back to World War II, those days bravery, dedication to country and _________ __________ was the highest of things attainable, so I was a product of that, so I was living that very -- I __________. I mean, how many people -- I didn't appreciate it then. How many times did you ever get the chance to live the very thing that, you know, that you thought you admired _______________.

Larry Ordner:

And I have a feeling you wouldn't have traded that experience for anything?

Ralph B. Steele:

No, no. To me.

Larry Ordner:

That was a very defining moment for you.

Ralph B. Steele:

Right. I'm not a handsome guy, obviously, so the girls didn't flock around me. I was not an athlete. At the time I was in school, high school, detested academics, so I was a non-achiever. I mean, the principal of the high school ______________ was a big high school, the principal's a family friend, Mr. French, Dr. French he said, "Ralph, you know, it's a shame I have to give you a diploma." He said, "There's students in this school that work hard diligent and he says they earn a diploma. You come along and I've got to give you one. What I really want to give you is a certificate of attendance." So that -- I had no -- I had no achievements behind me, and this allowed me to achieve those, you know, that -- in other words, of value. Well, what happened then, came out of the Marine -- Marine Corps didn't say -- didn't encourage me along academic lines, but by the time the maturity came I went to college then, loved every minute of it. Just -- every class I would go to I think, you know, I like psychology. You know, maybe I ought to get into industrial psychology. Really thought about doing it. I would go to another class, history. You know, I ought to teach history. Every class I went to, and the only thing that kept me in art was the fact that, you know, Ralph you're a better artist than you are a psychologist. You're a better artist than you are a teacher. That's the only thing that put me in that mind, because everything was interesting after I toured. I had no more to prove. Conversation with other guys can -- you can tell me about your football exploits. You can tell me about all that crap. I'll tell you, Lee Marvin said it all. It's in this book. Lee Marvin, they did a deal -- Hiroshima (?) which he was there, so he did deal. He said, you know, when I become an old decrepit man, nobody can believe this, he says one day I was a U.S. Marine and I fought on the Hiroshima. Nobody can take that away. And that's just the way I feel. I was a U.S. Marine, fought in Korea and not a hero but I did my deal, you know. And I feel comfortable with it.

Larry Ordner:

Thanks so much for telling your story.

Ralph B. Steele:

Well, I'm just delighted that --

Larry Ordner:

Senator Lugar thank's you, too. Thank you, so much.

Ralph B. Steele:

You know, you're taking the time to do this. This is not an easy thing to follow up on.

Larry Ordner:

Appreciate ______________.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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