Skip Navigation and Jump to Page Content    The Library of Congress >> American Folklife Center  
Veterans History Project (Library of Congress) ABOUT  
SEARCH/BROWSE  
HELP  
COPYRIGHT  
Home » Text Transcript

Joseph Peters June 1, 2000

Sara Wilbur:

June 1, 2000 This is an interview with Joseph Peters who lives at 117 Channing Road in Concord. The interview is being done for the Concord Historical Commission. It is part of the Veteran's Oral History Project and is being held on June 1, 2000. Mr. Peters was in the Korean War and is presently 70 years old. The interviewer is Sarah (sic.) Wilbur, a member of the Commission.

Sara Wilbur:

Mr. Peters, tell us how -- how did you happen to get into the service? What made you join up?

Joseph Peters:

Well, I was a 17-year-old high school dropout and there wasn't too much to -- to do and it was right after the war and there was sort of a recession. So, I went into the Marines. I'd just turned 17, and I went down and signed up 'cause I figured I'd make an adventure out of it.

Sara Wilbur:

And it was peacetime.

Joseph Peters:

It was peacetime.

Sara Wilbur:

Yeah.

Joseph Peters:

But after -- from '47 to '50 we spent a lot of our time in the -- in the Mediterranean because they expected the -- it was the beginning of the Cold War. So, we fooled around out there on an aircraft carrier for about 10 months.

Then we did the various training down in Villegas Island out Joseph Peters June 1, 2000 3 of Puerto Rico.

Sara Wilbur:

Famous spot today.

Joseph Peters:

(No audible response)

Sara Wilbur:

A famous spot today, isn't it?

Joseph Peters:

Yeah, it was --

Sara Wilbur:

+

Joseph Peters:

I wonder how they expect you to train if they don't give you a place to train.

Sara Wilbur:

And then in -- so that was from '47 to '50, you were --

Joseph Peters:

I was --

Sara Wilbur:

-- first trained in --

Joseph Peters:

I was --

Sara Wilbur:

?

Joseph Peters:

I enlisted for three years, and I was due to get out. The Korean War broke out, and they held me at the convenience of the Government for one year. With my hospitalization and everything, I ended up doing 4 years, 10 months, and 1 day on a three-year enlistment.

Sara Wilbur:

Convenience of the Government means you're not allowed to get out?

Joseph Peters:

That's exactly what that means: the convenience of the Government. They keep you as long as they want you.

Sara Wilbur:

I didn't know they could do that. So --

Joseph Peters:

One thing about -- about Korea is that we were about evenly matched. During the war they were trying to get rid of the Marine Corps and they were down to -- when the war broke out, they were -- there was 200 on their staff divisions, the 1st Marine Division on the West Coast and the 2nd Marine Division on the East Coast.

Sara Wilbur:

Of Korea?

Joseph Peters:

No.

Sara Wilbur:

No, of America?

Joseph Peters:

America.

Sara Wilbur:

Uh-huh.

Joseph Peters:

Camp Lejeune and Camp Pendleton, Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and Camp Pendleton in South Carolina -- I mean in --

Sara Wilbur:

California.

Joseph Peters:

-- California. And instead of calling up the reserves -- instead of calling up the reserves, what they called "the active reserves," they called up the inactive reserves, which were mostly veterans of --

Sara Wilbur:

World War II.

Joseph Peters:

-- World War II. And these were guys that had fought at Guadalcanal and Cape Cloucester, Okinawa, Iwo Jima. Our officers were -- my -- the senior noncommissioned officers and the officers were mostly veterans of World War II and we were pretty well -- we were always training.

So, we were pretty well -- we were in pretty good shape compared to what the Army was like.

Sara Wilbur:

I've heard that they really -- these officers and the noncomms really knew what they were doing and wanted to +.

Joseph Peters:

My company command -- my -- my platoon leader John Yancey, was a Raider -- in a Raider battalion on Naked Island. He won the Navy Cross, which is next to the Congressional Medal of Honor; and, like I say, we knew our business. We were all trained, you know, rifle companies that knew what we were doing.

Sara Wilbur:

When did you go over to Korea, then?

Joseph Peters:

I went over to Korea in August of 1950. The first -- the 5th Marine Regiment had -- originally went over there to shore up the Puson perimeter.

Sara Wilbur:

Uh-huh.

Joseph Peters:

And the rest of the division came -- came over in August of '50. Then we made the Inchon landing in October.

The 5th Marines and the 1st Marines and the Summit Marines all combined and we assaulted the Island of Wolmi-do, took the island and then we took on the -- took on the city of Seoul. We drove in, secured the city of Seoul, took a lot of casualties doing that in Osayka (ph), a city of over a million people.

Sara Wilbur:

But you went through Inchon very quickly, didn't Joseph Peters June 1, 2000 6 you, then on to Seoul?

Joseph Peters:

We made -- we got up and looked good.

Sara Wilbur:

So, after Seoul was captured, then what happened?

Joseph Peters:

After Seoul was captured, they decided that we -- they -- a couple of weeks later, they loaded us in L.S.T.s and -- and we prepared to make an amphibious landing in Wonsan, on the other side of Korea.

Sara Wilbur:

Yeah. I'm looking at the map; and, so, you got onto the map -- onto the water on the L.S.T.s on the west coast and went all the way around the bottom of Korea and came up on Wanson on the far side, right?

Joseph Peters:

See, anytime you was driving up on the -- on the --

Sara Wilbur:

By land?

Joseph Peters:

-- left side, we were supposed to come over and make a landing at Wonsan but --

Sara Wilbur:

Which is north of the --

Joseph Peters:

North of the 38th Parallel.

Sara Wilbur:

You were already in enemy territory.

Joseph Peters:

Yeah. We -- hung out there for two weeks while the Navy tried to clean up the land mine -- the mines of the -- they had mined the harbor. So, we landed, we come ashore, and Bob Hope was there waiting to greet us.

Sara Wilbur:

Telling jokes, huh?

Joseph Peters:

I can remember one guy -- he was making a joke of it and there was this gunnery sergeant had a big wad of tobacco -- chewing tobacco. He spit all of it out right at Hope's foot and said, "Where the hell were you at Inchon? I didn't see you at Inchon." Bob Hope looked at him and said, "This guy can't take a joke."

Sara Wilbur:

Well, I'm glad he had a little light moment for you. So, it was safe by the time you landed at Inchon?

Joseph Peters:

Yeah, then we started up the -- we started up to the T'aebaek Mountains and there was continual pressure on us to -- to speed it up but this is a lonely -- it's a short, narrow road with -- it was a narrow road with a -- made of dirt and --

Sara Wilbur:

Mud on both sides?

Joseph Peters:

And there was steep embankments on the side. So, we just worked our way up there trying to -- we had no -- we -- our flank wasn't coming. There was a hundred miles between us and the 8th Army.

Sara Wilbur:

You had to have the Army, yeah.

Joseph Peters:

We were in the T'aebaek Mountains, which was this side of the fall, deciding to get cold.

Sara Wilbur:

Did you have winter clothes?

Joseph Peters:

Yeah, we -- we -- we were pretty well taken care of in that respect, but we heard of army units that weren't.

Sara Wilbur:

They nearly froze.

Joseph Peters:

But our division commander was -- was -- had been Joseph Peters June 1, 2000 8 a veteran of the Pacific, fighting in the Pacific and he knew -- he knew what was going on.

Sara Wilbur:

So, when you were going up this road, were the North Koreans or somebody --

Joseph Peters:

There was nobody there.

Sara Wilbur:

There was nobody -- nobody taking shots at you?

It was --

Joseph Peters:

No.

Sara Wilbur:

-- okay. When did --

Joseph Peters:

The first time we -- we -- we got -- the first big fire fight we got in was in November 10th at Sudong,

Korea, which is down the road from Hagaru and Yudam-ni, where we eventually ended up; and it was the first indication that the -- that the world -- that the game had changed.

Sara Wilbur:

What was that first indication?

Joseph Peters:

Well, they attacked us at night with -- with bugles and drums and making a big racket trying to -- trying to intimidate us, I guess is what they were trying to do. We only made for better targets.

Sara Wilbur:

Now, these people were trained?

Joseph Peters:

Oh, yeah, we were trained, as I said, but all our N.C.O.s and all our staff N.C.O.s were -- were --

Sara Wilbur:

Experienced.

Joseph Peters:

-- veterans of World War II.

Sara Wilbur:

But were the people who were attacking you— North Korean or Chinese?

Joseph Peters:

The Chinese.

Sara Wilbur:

They were Chinese who had come over.

Joseph Peters:

The Koreans were out of it.

Sara Wilbur:

Uh-huh.

Joseph Peters:

We hadn't been as successful. There was guerillas around, guerilla bands, but -- but that was the first indication. That's where my friend -- and I'm trying to find out where his body is -- was killed. We took some pretty heavy, heavy casualties there. We kept going and then -- what's Thanksgiving Day? -- the twenty --

Sara Wilbur:

It's about the 26th. It's the same date every year, I think.

Joseph Peters:

26th?

Sara Wilbur:

Yeah.

Joseph Peters:

That's when they really had been hitting our fan.

We got up there, and there was a hundred and twenty-five thousand Chinese against us.

Sara Wilbur:

How many of you?

Joseph Peters:

Well, the 1st Marine Division was made up of -- of -- probably at the peak it was about 15,000; but you got to figure out that for every man that's a rifleman, there's about ten support troops. You got a division of 15,000, you might have in a battalion -- a regular battalion you might have, at tops, 4,000 riflemen.

Joseph Peters June 1, 2000 10

Sara Wilbur:

Really? That's pretty few of you; and what, a hundred and fifty did you say? All these Chinese, a hundred and fifty thousand Chinese coming in?

Joseph Peters:

Well, they said there was an indication of 120,000 Chinaman but -- then the weather turned bad and dropped to -- that night it dropped to 10 to 20 degrees below zero, and it was a real problem just trying to stay alive.

Sara Wilbur:

Yeah.

Joseph Peters:

We got air power, which -- which -- which probably saved the day. We had our own -- we had carriers operating off -- off in the Sea of Japan and we built an air strip up there at Hagaru and that's eventually how we got most of our seriously wounded out.

Sara Wilbur:

So, you could truck them back to -- back to Hagaru?

Joseph Peters:

Well, when we were at Hagaru -- I think they're on the map here.

Sara Wilbur:

Here you go. Here's Hagaru.

Joseph Peters:

Yeah

Sara Wilbur:

And there's the -- it's right at the southern tip of the Chosin Reservoir, wasn't it?

Joseph Peters:

Yeah.

Sara Wilbur:

Now, which side were you on? Were you on the east side or the -- the Marines were on the west, weren't they?

Joseph Peters:

We were on the west.

Sara Wilbur:

Yeah.

Joseph Peters:

The Army's 7th Division, I think, was on the west. They -- they weren't too well -- too well prepared.

They took a lot of casualties.

Sara Wilbur:

What is it like to hear thousands of people coming towards you at night blowing trumpets and making a lot of noise?

Joseph Peters:

What it is is you're too busy to be scared.

You're just trying to pick out a target and --

Sara Wilbur:

Aim at them.

Joseph Peters:

-- they had heavy mortars. They didn't have too much -- too much artillary. We had an artillary regiment which was very effective.

Sara Wilbur:

Did you actually see waves of people, or did you just --

Joseph Peters:

There were waves of people. There were -- there were -- they just -- they managed to get a big wall.

Sara Wilbur:

Did they wear white?

Joseph Peters:

Well, they wore white camouflage.

Sara Wilbur:

Yeah.

Joseph Peters:

And, then, before you know it, they'd be right up at the -- at the point where we had a -- we had -- oh, I was trying to say -- we had a -- we had a fully supported -- but they could operate and they could move without a -- they were very good at concealment. Our intelligence never got any wind of this, though. Crossing the border with a hundred fifty -- with half a million men and people would --

Sara Wilbur:

+?

Joseph Peters:

Yeah.

Sara Wilbur:

And they came across the river, didn't they?

Joseph Peters:

They came across the Manchurian border, the Yalu River.

Sara Wilbur:

And we didn't know until they were right there at your bunker or someplace nearby?

Joseph Peters:

Yeah, usually we have -- we had patrols all over.

We had trip flares up or we -- listening posts and when -- once they'd start taking fire, they would -- they would shower them with the bugles and the noise.

Sara Wilbur:

What was the point of that?

Joseph Peters:

I think they -- they used it to intimidate.

Sara Wilbur:

To sound like there were so many of them?

Joseph Peters:

There was a lot of them, and they were all trained. I mean, they were -- they were -- they were good soldiers. They were brave. They could -- they could exist on a subsistent diet. They were good soldiers. They would -- they had fought the Nationalist Chinese for --

Sara Wilbur:

And probably the Japanese before that?

Joseph Peters:

The Japanese before that. They were all well trained. We were all surprised with these figures.

Sara Wilbur:

When the daylight came, did you find lots of dead bodies of these Chinese soldiers?

Joseph Peters:

Yeah, we found -- found lots of dead bodies -- theirs and ours.

Sara Wilbur:

I had heard that sometimes they carried their dead away with them, but I didn't know if that would be true.

Were you aware or not?

Joseph Peters:

Well, I didn't see them carrying any. We took our dead out in trucks. I got a picture of all of them there from this war that -- it's pretty graphic stuff.

Sara Wilbur:

And they were frozen, too, I guess, at this time, weren't they, if they'd been lying on the ground for six hours, it's long enough to have been frozen?

Joseph Peters:

Yeah, it was -- the trouble was the plasma froze; and, you know, casualties were a real -- a real problem.

Sara Wilbur:

You said earlier that your buddy was -- the man you were seeking was killed in that first attack. Did -- was he buried right there, or was his body eventually carried out?

Joseph Peters:

Well, that's the 64-dollar question.

Sara Wilbur:

You don't know, right?

Joseph Peters:

Supposedly when the armistice -- the armistice was signed, we were supposed to be -- to be all repatriated.

So, I tried to find out. His family's from Uttica, New York.

I haven't been in touch with them since 1951. When I come home, I went up to visit them. But I wanted to find out if his -- if he was -- where his grave site was, if he was reinterred. So far, I haven't had much luck.

Sara Wilbur:

You don't know if his body was even brought back to this Country?

Joseph Peters:

Well, it was originally buried in -- in Korea, in -- in North Korea.

Sara Wilbur:

Yeah.

Joseph Peters:

But now I hear that -- the President talking about -- about opening negotiations with them. I guess they found some more bodies.

Sara Wilbur:

It would be satisfying to have closure on that, wouldn't it, to know where he is?

Joseph Peters:

Well, I'd like to visit his grave site, if he was returned to the United States, before I pass over.

Sara Wilbur:

Uh-huh. Now, at what point -- was it during the retreat that you were wounded?

Joseph Peters:

It wasn't a retreat; it was an attack in another direction. We were surrounded. So...

Sara Wilbur:

Oh, you were?

Joseph Peters:

We were -- they were above us; so, what we did was just --

Sara Wilbur:

+?

Joseph Peters:

-- just pointed our -- turned around and pointed our guns the other way and drove our way to the sea.

Sara Wilbur:

So, you came from here and went this way?

Joseph Peters:

We went to Judannee (ph). We went to Hagaru. We come right down to -- right down to Hongshong to Hamhung.

Sara Wilbur:

Okay.

Joseph Peters:

That's my wife, Marie.

Sara Wilbur:

Hello, Marie, how are you?

Marie Peters:

Hi, it's nice to meet you.

Sara Wilbur:

Nice to meet you. I'm hearing all about your husband's days in Korea.

Marie Peters:

Good.

Sara Wilbur:

So, at what point were you wounded, then?

Joseph Peters:

I was shot in the neck and right under the arm and shot in the hand, and my feet eventually froze when they -- when they put me into a sleeping bag --

Sara Wilbur:

To carry you back?

Joseph Peters:

-- +

Sara Wilbur:

How long were you -- how long was it from the time you were wounded till they got you back?

Joseph Peters:

Well, they got us out -- they built an airstrip, and they flew -- they flew me out.

Sara Wilbur:

In a day or two, or was it -- I mean, were you in a truck for week?

Joseph Peters:

It was probably three or four days after they got hit.

Sara Wilbur:

Do you remember --

Joseph Peters:

So, I -- I never -- I didn't have to make the trip back. I got a ride in the truck + to +.

I could sit up. So, they -- I had a shot here and my hands were --

Sara Wilbur:

Tied your hands up.

Joseph Peters:

-- and my arm was just -- he stuck me in the arm like slicing a roast, a slice of roast beef. I had 42 stitches there.

Sara Wilbur:

My heavens. Was it a slicing wound that just went right across?

Joseph Peters:

It was a bayonet.

Sara Wilbur:

Oh, you were face to face with somebody. Oh, my, how terrifying. Did he also stick it in the throat?

Joseph Peters:

My friend finished him off with an entrenching tool shovel.

Sara Wilbur:

Oh, my God. So, you hit him over the head?

Joseph Peters:

He hit him over the head. I wasn't --

Sara Wilbur:

Oh, your friend did, yeah, 'cause it sounds like you couldn't have done very much more.

Joseph Peters:

I was down on the ground. I wasn't doing any --

Sara Wilbur:

You weren't doing any hitting. Mr. Peters, was there a lot of hand-to-hand combat like that, or was that unusual?

Joseph Peters:

It was -- it was --

Sara Wilbur:

A little too much?

Joseph Peters:

Well, Dog and Easy Company were -- had a hundred and fifty men. There wasn't enough left of them to form a rifle squad. We were taking about a 70% casualty -- casualty rate. The Marine Corps requires you to become qualified with small arms, rifle, machine gun, mortar. So, cooks and bakers became infantrymen when the regular troops couldn't.

Sara Wilbur:

That's very interesting. So, everybody had the ability to fire a couple of kinds of weapons?

Joseph Peters:

You had to qualify every year with your weapon, and if you qualified -- if you made sharpshooter or better, you got extra money for it. In those days, we were getting what -- $70 a month? So, if you got 10 bucks more, yeah.

Sara Wilbur:

So, what day was it when you were hit and evacuated?

Joseph Peters:

I was hit November 28th. I was brought back to the aid station and they sat me up in a barber's chair and stitched me up 'cause the field hospital was full and I was --

Sara Wilbur:

And you were mobile, sort of?

Joseph Peters:

Yeah. And, then, they -- there was no room in the tents they put up; so, what they did is they put a bunch of straw and put us in sleeping bags and put a tarp over us.

Sara Wilbur:

And what was the temperature?

Joseph Peters:

I think it was 20 below zero.

Sara Wilbur:

Why didn't you-all just freeze to death?

Joseph Peters:

Well, we didn't freeze to death because we -- we had our sleeping bags.

Sara Wilbur:

And how long were you in that field hospital?

Joseph Peters:

Oh, three or four days while they finished the airstrip.

Sara Wilbur:

Oh, completing it just for you?

Joseph Peters:

Well, fighting was going on all around us and the engineers were out there building an airstrip at night going 24 hours a day and without that airstrip that's -- deciding to build an airstrip there saved the day. We were able to get our wounded out.

Sara Wilbur:

Yeah, it made a difference in evacuating the wounded in time.

Joseph Peters:

We didn't evacuate any dead -- but the dead -- we didn't leave any of our dead behind. We --

Sara Wilbur:

You buried them?

Joseph Peters:

We took them with us till we got down to a collection point, and then they dug out a grave for them and took map coordinates --

Sara Wilbur:

And, so, they knew where the burial was.

Joseph Peters:

-- and buried them in a mass grave.

Sara Wilbur:

And where was that?

Joseph Peters:

Some of them built in -- that was at --

Sara Wilbur:

That was south of Hagaru, right?

Joseph Peters:

Yeah.

Sara Wilbur:

Did they try to take people all the way down to -- across the 38th Parallel?

Joseph Peters:

Well, when we -- when they retreated, they come all the way back down to Hamhung.

Sara Wilbur:

Okay.

Joseph Peters:

There's a new book called The Boys of +. A guy by the name of Brady that writes for that -- you know, that supplement they have with the Parade magazine?

Sara Wilbur:

Yeah, uh-huh, + ?

Joseph Peters:

He's wrote a book about it. He was over there.

Sara Wilbur:

So --

Joseph Peters:

We lost 3,000 men over there, 3,000 killed in action --

Sara Wilbur:

In that one --

Joseph Peters:

-- in the Chosin Reservoir, plus some casualties we took in --

Sara Wilbur:

Yeah, that was a most terrible -- terrible war.

Joseph Peters:

See, people forget that the major problems when you're -- when you're -- when you're fighting in a city, you know, trying to take a railroad station and hunt you through a city, you know, to take -- it wasn't like the battle of Broen, but it was bad enough.

Sara Wilbur:

Are you --

Joseph Peters:

So, we weighed -- I -- I weighed 190 pounds when I -- when I went over there, and I weighed 161 when I got back.

Sara Wilbur:

And was that partly from the rigors of the --

Joseph Peters:

Oh, yeah.

Sara Wilbur:

-- fighting and marching, yeah.

Joseph Peters:

Plus, you know, you had -- we were eating C-rations. We did get a good meal Thanksgiving Day.

Sara Wilbur:

They cooked hundreds of turkeys, didn't they?

Joseph Peters:

Yeah, they did manage to get it.

Sara Wilbur:

Well, was the turkey -- when you got to the turkey, was it hot; or was it frozen?

Joseph Peters:

It was good.

Sara Wilbur:

It was good, huh?

Joseph Peters:

Yeah.

Sara Wilbur:

Not like home. Tell me then: You left Korea, and where did you go from there?

Joseph Peters:

I went to an Army hospital in Pujeova (ph),

Japan.

Sara Wilbur:

How long were you there?

Joseph Peters:

I was there about a week or so; and then they flew me to -- to Hawaii. And you're not gonna believe this. They took us off the -- off the plane -- we were getting out of the plane, and the customs agent is coming around and asking us if we had anything to declare.

That's the honest -- honest truth.

Sara Wilbur:

That's unbelievable. What'd they think you were bringing in from Korea, I can't imagine.

Joseph Peters:

Well, it was -- I think that the I.N.S. agents were -- were sort of embarrassed by the whole thing.

Sara Wilbur:

I would hope so. Here you are with your arm in a sling or your head bandaged, gosh. So, they knew where the military hospital in Hawaii, though, was?

Joseph Peters:

Well, there were a couple of days just until they got a --

Sara Wilbur:

hopscotch, uh-huh.

Joseph Peters:

Those guys were dying in the planes coming back.

Sara Wilbur:

Oh, how awful. Were you-all laid out in a cargo plane?

Joseph Peters:

We were in a transport plane. It had bunks in it, and they -- they had bunks in there. I mean, we weren't complaining; we were going to get the hell out of there. One thing I don't like about the -- the memorial they got down there in -- in --

Sara Wilbur:

Hawaii?

Joseph Peters:

-- Washington is the faces of the -- of the statues. We were young. We were 19, 20 years old. Some of us were barely shaving. And they got the faces of these guys that are -- not middle age, but people in the late 30s.

Sara Wilbur:

I thought --

Joseph Peters:

And that doesn't represent what -- what I saw.

Sara Wilbur:

No.

Joseph Peters:

I mean, we were all 19 and 20 years old. The majority were, you know, 18, 19, 20. They wouldn't let you -- they wouldn't let you go until you had your 18th birthday.

Sara Wilbur:

Oh, really? They kept you in this Country? That was big of them. Did -- as a soldier in the middle of something like the Chosin, the Battle of Inchon, did you have any idea of the big picture of what was going on?

Joseph Peters:

Not a clue.

Sara Wilbur:

You just knew that there Chinese surrounding you completely and you better fight your way out?

Joseph Peters:

That's right.

Sara Wilbur:

I think you told me earlier that your officers were killed in the attempt to get out; is that what you said?

Joseph Peters:

Well, either killed or seriously wounded. I think every officer in my -- let's see -- I'll show it to you later.

Sara Wilbur:

Is it a list of the officers in the different -- so, you were in the 1st Battalion, right?

Joseph Peters:

No, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines.

Sara Wilbur:

2nd Battalion; 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines. I guess you must be on the next page -- 5th, 6th, 7th.

Joseph Peters:

Here it is.

Sara Wilbur:

Uh-huh. And you were in Easy Company?

Joseph Peters:

Yeah.

Sara Wilbur:

And this shows all the ones who were killed. Oh, my goodness. Killed, killed, wounded in action, wounded in action, wounded in action.

Joseph Peters:

Freddie was the only one, I think, that survived.

There was -- Dog Company was -- Fox Company was a -- was the one that held at Tokchon Pass, that held --

Sara Wilbur:

They had -- they had the most trouble?

Joseph Peters:

Well, they had two Medal of Honors in there.

Sara Wilbur:

Well, it looks like yours was the one that lost people who were killed.

Joseph Peters:

I can remember my executive officer, Lieutenant Ball. He got shot. They were just holding him and beating him up; and there were, I'd say, three on him. He just died there cracking off rounds.

Sara Wilbur:

Oh, amazing.

Joseph Peters:

And the company commander come -- let's see.

Sara Wilbur:

This is an incredible book. It's got everything in it, huh? Here's the 7th again. Here we go.

Joseph Peters:

Captain Folse, he was killed in action.

Sara Wilbur:

Let's see if we can find it.

Joseph Peters:

It was like his last words is "Easy Company stands here" -- with his finger up -- "all they way."

Sara Wilbur:

When you look back on your time in the war -- you were in the hospital in the States for a couple of months, weren't you?

Joseph Peters:

I was in the hospital. I went to -- I went to -- they sent me home to the States. They took me to Chaucy Naval Hospital.

Sara Wilbur:

Oh, so, you were right back here?

Joseph Peters:

I was at the Chaucey Naval Hospital, yeah.

Sara Wilbur:

So, your family could come and see you?

Joseph Peters:

The scar was -- I had a big scar. It was draining and the -- and the frostbite. My feet were pretty badly -- when they took off the -- my socks, it peeled off the -- it peeled off the bottom of my feet with it and I had --

Sara Wilbur:

Has that recovered?

Joseph Peters:

It pretty well --

Sara Wilbur:

You can walk on them again.

Joseph Peters:

It doesn't bother me that much.

Sara Wilbur:

You didn't lose your toes?

Joseph Peters:

I don't have any -- I don't have any hair from here down.

Sara Wilbur:

Because that was where the frostbite was.

Joseph Peters:

Yeah, frostbitten.

Sara Wilbur:

+

Joseph Peters:

I was seated in the hospital drawing room with the doctor sitting there and other guys that got it worse than I did +.

Sara Wilbur:

+?

Joseph Peters:

But I spent some time there and then I went back to duty and I had a reoccurrence of it and they sent me to -- they sent me to the National Naval Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and they did some surgery on me there.

Sara Wilbur:

And that was for your feet or for some of the other wounds?

Joseph Peters:

Yeah, this here was -- this was -- the scar keloided and --

Sara Wilbur:

Oh, yeah, bad stuff.

Joseph Peters:

And the nerves -- it affected the nerves.

Sara Wilbur:

But now you don't even have a scar. So, they must have --

Joseph Peters:

Well, this is --

Sara Wilbur:

Very slight.

Joseph Peters:

-- 50 years old. It was pretty bright then.

Sara Wilbur:

I have some that are 50 years old, and they're still showing.

Joseph Peters:

It was pretty -- it was pretty vivid when it was --

Sara Wilbur:

Yeah.

Joseph Peters:

I remember I talked to Piper, going to him for my + -- one time he asked me what my scar was from. I told him I got shot in the neck, and he couldn't believe it.

Sara Wilbur:

So, you were sliced in the arm and shot in the neck and in the hand?

Joseph Peters:

Yeah, in the hand.

Sara Wilbur:

Shot?

Joseph Peters:

Yeah. I have a bump there.

Sara Wilbur:

On your thumb, yeah. When you look back on your time in the war and your time in the hospital, is there -- are there ways that you feel like it affected your life particularly? Are there things about it that -- obviously your life is different afterwards, after you've been through so much; but can you pinpoint how it's different?

Joseph Peters:

When I came back -- I was a kid when I left; when I came back, I was a man.

Sara Wilbur:

Yeah.

Joseph Peters:

And I started to go back to school. I eventually got a master's degree from Madison College --

Sara Wilbur:

Good for you.

Joseph Peters:

-- working nights. I went into Government service; but, you know, it was kind of funny. You went over there and you come back and they were arguing about the war and whether we should be fighting over there and I can imagine how they had -- then they had all kinds of deferments. Some of the younger guys were gone when the kids from South Boston and Doucester --

Sara Wilbur:

Uh-huh.

Joseph Peters:

The kids from Concord weren't going. The kids from Akron weren't going. So, it was a pretty sobering experience. I can't complain about the Marine Corps. They treated me right.

Sara Wilbur:

Did you feel that it was something you would do again if you had the choice to enlist or --

Joseph Peters:

Anybody who would do it again if they had -- had the choice is crazy. I mean, if I had to do it, well, I'd do it; but I wouldn't volunteer for it.

Sara Wilbur:

War is not something you think is worth knowing about?

Joseph Peters:

The reason we fought was for each other.

Sara Wilbur:

It sounds as though there was a real strong sense of camaraderie and brotherhood amongst the men who fought.

Joseph Peters:

As they say, "Semper Fidelis." I'm sure there were people that didn't do what they were supposed to do, but I never saw much of it or any of it. Most of them were trying to help each other.

Sara Wilbur:

It sounds from the way you describe it as though the Korean War was a lot -- in some respects a lot like World War II and the view of people who fought in it and the way they went into it was pretty --

Joseph Peters:

Well, except for the politicians. They use euphemisms. Instead of calling it a war, they call it a police action. Maybe 53,000 or 54,000 guys died in that thing, and that was in three years. Vietnam lasted for 10 years --

Sara Wilbur:

And then the 50,000. This is probably not a fair question, but do you think there is any alternative to wars?

Is there another way to solve these things?

Joseph Peters:

We can't get along with our neighbors. Why should we think we can get along with somebody that's -- oh, yeah, I think we can. I mean, we have a peacetime -- peacetime Army now that people are eligible for food stamps.

Sara Wilbur:

We're not treating them very well, are we?

Joseph Peters:

So, when they want to -- first thing, all they want to do is they want to get Veterans benefits.

Sara Wilbur:

I don't think they're going to get away with that, do you?

Joseph Peters:

Probably.

Sara Wilbur:

Do you want to, in concluding, say anything that would sort of sum up your view of how your life has been in the years since the war?

Joseph Peters:

Well, I feel like I had a 50-year bonus. I often think --

Sara Wilbur:

It was a gift, wasn't it?

Joseph Peters:

It's a gift. And I often think that why them and not me and what would have become of these guys?

Sara Wilbur:

They might've been like you if they, too, had lived.

Joseph Peters:

Yeah.

Sara Wilbur:

Well, I'm sure there's a reason that you got the bonus.

Joseph Peters:

I hope so.

Sara Wilbur:

I really thank you. This has been wonderful to have a chance to talk to you, and I think you shared something that's very special for us. Thank you, Mr. Peters.

Joseph Peters:

Thank you. I'm pretty emotional.

Sara Wilbur:

I don't blame you.

 
Home » Text Transcript
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
  Legal | External Link Disclaimer Need Help?   
Contact Us