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"I have some answers now that I didn't have in times past." (Video Interview, 50:57)

   Donald R. McDaniel
Image of Donald R. McDaniel
Donald McDaniel [2003]
War: Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Marine Corps
Unit: 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division
Service Location: Camp Pendleton, California; Chang-Dan Province, Korea
Rank: Sergeant
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Early in his career as a Marine, Donald McDaniel passed up the chance to go to Officer Candidate School; he felt more comfortable around enlisted men. He arrived in Korea during the winter of 1953. Among his most memorable assignments: given a rifle, a compass, field glasses, and a supply of Benzedrine (to stay awake) for work as a forward observer directing artillery in Inchon, though he had no formal training for the job. Equipment always seemed to be a problem for him and his fellow Marines, especially during the winter, when insulated boots would have made a big difference. McDaniel became a chaplain after he got out of the service, inspired by Jack, a buddy whose selfless actions during the war saved McDaniel's life but cost him his own.

Interview (Video)
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»Complete Interview  (55 min.)
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»Korean War
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (10 items)
Was attending college at time he was drafted; enlisted in Navy instead; Navy loses his records and after several months he enlists in the Marines; "I jumped from the frying pan into the fire." (01:44) Assigned to special unit, among first 11 men in it; inspected by Chesty Puller; trained for special amphibious operations; Puller transferred to Washington, unit disbanded; became Communications Chief of 3rd Shore Party Battalion, though it required a sergeant's rating, he was only a "hard-charging corporal;" training other men who outranked him; rank in the Marines then didn't matter; directing an exercise and brushing off someone trying to interrupt him--that someone was a general, but he took no offense. (04:15) Asked to go to OCS; wife accepting invitation to a lunch; every other Marine there was an officer and he felt out of place; deciding he would rather go to Korea than to OCS; promoted to sergeant before he leaves; shows picture of the ship he went over on; hit storm, got very sick, lost a lot of weight. (04:11)
First impressions of Korea; saw a bank destroyed by artillery and millions in currency lying in the street; GIs pick it up, told it was worthless; dealing with the cold; setting up kerosene heaters on the ground; sinking as they heated up; turns out they were on a rice paddy; lacking cold-weather clothing and boots; back and forth with enemy over pieces of land to be claimed before the cease fire; the MLR (Main Line of Resistance) was a "fluid thing." (03:30) Given assignment as forward observer to direct artillery fire in Inchon, though he had no training; watching a North Korean officer exercising every day and trying to pick him off. (04:01) A number of times people around him were killed; a friend he was supposed to be in a jeep with took a direct round; capturing enemy officers for interrogation; mixed success in getting information. (01:58)
What led him to the decision to become a chaplain after he was out of the service; Jack, a corporal he was with in an attack on a hill, protected him and was killed in the process; he was wounded and evacuated on a chopper, "never so cold in my life;" looked for the man's family for 50 years and found them in 2001; same day he was wounded, his wife was having their first child back in the States; recovering in Japan, he asked that she not be told about his injuries; told he was getting Silver Star but was also being sent back to his unit in Korea instead of home; he refused the medal; only moments after he returned to his command post, artillery rounds landed nearby. (11:41) Orders to go back to the States "got lost;" six months later, sent to Treasure Island, CA and naval hospital for a couple of months; suffering from combat fatigue; trouble walking, couldn't ride in back of car; on a visit, his wife shook him out of his sleep and he almost killed her; had problems with that for many years. (01:56) Upset over Marines' lack of good equipment compared to other branches; saw truckloads of enemy prisoners given new uniforms and boots which they intentionally destroyed on their way to being exchanged at Panmunjom so they could claim they had nothing when repatriated; in terms of equipment, "Marines always got what the Army couldn't use and the Navy didn't want." (02:15)
Didn't expect any celebrations when they came home; comparing casualty rates of Korea and Vietnam; South Korea is prosperous and is a good ally of the U.S.; his thought process in becoming a chaplain; overcoming his serious injuries; wondering why he was saved from death; came out of the service "pretty messed up" emotionally; using spirituality to deal with his problems; found out that the man who saved his life had been studying for the ministry before he joined the Marines. (06:05)  
  
 

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  October 26, 2011
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