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Home » William F. Mitchel

"The experiences I had as a Marine were beneficial to my whole life." (Audio Interview, 56:12)

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   William F. Mitchel
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War: Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Marine Corps
Unit: 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division
Service Location: Parris Island, South Carolina; Quantico, Virginia; Camp Pendleton, California; Korea
Rank: Captain
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William Mitchel, fresh out of college in 1951, decided to enlist rather than be drafted to serve in Korea in the Army, and he wound up in the Marines, one of the few in his group of recruits to pass muster as an officer. He arrived in Korea in February 1952 and met up with the First Marine Division, which had fought their way out of the debacle at the Chosin Reservoir. Mitchel was in command of an 80-millimeter mortar battalion. Trading artillery rounds with the enemy became a daily routine; one day, Mitchel lost a number of his men when the mess tent was hit. His last act as a Marine was a visit back home with the mother of a corpsman, killed in Korea, whom he and his brother grew up with in Chicago.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (16 clips)
»Complete Interview  (97 min.)

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Interview Transcripts
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»Korean War
 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (16 items)
How he came to join the Marines. (01:41) Arriving in Korea in early 1952; knowing very little about the country of the war; knowing of the disastrous situation at the Chosin Reservoir and MacArthur's part in it; in country during the summer with the stench of human waste, used as nutrients on the rice paddies; Chinese snipers taking shots at them just to make them drop down into the muck. (02:42) A 2nd Lieutenant in charge of over 100 men at the age of 23; no background in mortars but learning quickly; shortage of officers in general. (02:32)
His location in Korea; the ruins of Inchon and the burned-out countryside. (03:43) Forward observers weren't always the ones to direct artillery fire; explaining how mortars are constructed and work; Chinese were better with mortars, but U.N. closed the gap when they went to artillery system; war in stalemate; U.N. line was thin but Chinese didn't choose to attack with their great numbers. (04:46) "Typical" day involved mostly fighting at night; soft probing; trying to sleep during the day; losing a squad while he was in shower and they were at mess; suspecting inside information passed along by "workers" who may be affiliated with enemy. (04:03)
Death of a corpsman, a young man he and his brother grew up with in Chicago. (02:08) Beer and whiskey rations for the enlisted men and officers, respectively; giving his whiskey to his men; soldiers making moonshine in their helmets with fermented raisins. (01:49) Associating with people of different backgrounds that he had back in Chicago; Marines heavily Protestant; advised that Catholics and Jews couldn't rise above a certain rank in the Marines. (03:19)
Happy to be in Marines, knowing the bond between you and your comrades, especially during battle; training and the sergeants were the bedrock. (03:29) Good sleeping bags to keep warm; other cold weather gear was excellent; could not build fires because the smoke would give away your position to the enemy. (02:16) In case of being overrun, they were to blow up their mortars; the Chinese could use their own ammo with the American equipment, but it did not work the other way around; the fluidity of the Main Line of Resistance (MLR) (02:59)
Good platoon; they weren't in the middle of the action like the infantry; training forward observers; one 18-year-old was killed after one day, when his position was overrun and he called in fire on himself. (01:13) The day he left Korea; departure held up because of waiting for President-elect Eisenhower to land; men did not care about seeing Ike and set fire to the pier in frustration; arriving in san Francisco to no one greeting them. (03:16) His feelings about our involvement in Korea; feels badly that the veterans were ignored; war shouldn't have been fought; not won or lost; more understanding of Vietnam veterans' problems than he used to be. (02:11)
Question of killing in war: shooting a man vs. mass killing by bombing (02:08)  
  
 
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  October 26, 2011
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