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Interview with Edward L. Pierce [1/14/2010]

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Today is Wednesday, January the 15th. My name is Arlene Montgomery. I am with the Captain Nathan Watkins Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. I am interviewing Edward Pierce, who is a member of the Korean War Veteran's Association in Mountain Home. We start out with, state for the record your name and rank and the service your were in.

Edward L. Pierce:

Edward Pierce, and I was a corporal at one time in the U.S. Army.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

You were enlisted or drafted?

Edward L. Pierce:

Drafted.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Drafted. Where were you living in?

Edward L. Pierce:

I was living in Calumet City, Illinois.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

And this was 19 --

Edward L. Pierce:

1952.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

'52. Why did -- you joined because you were drafted?

Edward L. Pierce:

Yes.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Did you -- you went in the army then because you were drafted? You didn't try to get into any --

Edward L. Pierce:

No, I didn't.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

-- other branch. Tell me about your first days in the service; how old were you?

Edward L. Pierce:

Well, I was 20 years old and it was in July I remember I first went in June for a physical and I didn't pass; my blood pressure was too high because I was drinking the night before and they said, "Go home and rest. Come back on the front at 7:00." And they didn't even check it, they just gave me a couple days off, and I was happy because there was nothing wrong with my blood pressure. I'm 20 years old.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

And you went?

Edward L. Pierce:

I went to Fort Sheridan, Illinois and I was there for a few weeks. It's hard to remember. It wasn't basic training. They shipped me to Fort Riley, Kansas and there I went to basic training, and after basic training, then I went to about 16 weeks of Radio Operator School, to be a radio operator

Arlene J. Montgomery:

That's what you were?

Edward L. Pierce:

Well, that's what I was trained to be, you know, with the code, not with the voice.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Okay.

Edward L. Pierce:

But "Didadida". I do that.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

I talked to somebody else that was a radio person. How did you feel about being drafted? Was the war on then?

Edward L. Pierce:

Yes, it was.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

It was on.

Edward L. Pierce:

I didn't feel anything about it. I mean, you know, I had never been out of Calumet City my whole life.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Were you in school?

Edward L. Pierce:

No, I was working as an -- at a company called American steel in Hamlet, Illinois. I was an inspector for -- actually I was inspecting _+ for tanks at the time.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

No kidding. Tell me about your boot camp, your first -- your first actual boot camp.

Edward L. Pierce:

It's hard to remember. I remember getting up in the morning and marching all day and coming back and just like you see in the movies: Cleaning the barracks; doing details. And we did that --

Arlene J. Montgomery:

This was in?

Edward L. Pierce:

This is in Fort Riley, Kansas, and though the state is mostly flat it's hilly where they had the forts, and, like I said, we used to walk quite a bit, and we just soldiered. It's real hard to remember anymore because so much has happened since then. I can still see myself there but it seemed like it was an instant --

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Yeah.

Edward L. Pierce:

-- now, when you look back.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Then you went to school?

Edward L. Pierce:

I went to that. That was at Fort Riley that was about -- about 12 weeks I don't even remember that anymore, might have been 26.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

That's half a year?

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

And then you shipped out from --

Edward L. Pierce:

They sent me home for a while -- for a short while, and then I shipped out from Seattle, Washington on a merchant marine ship with 5000 other people.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Do you remember that?

Edward L. Pierce:

I remember because we slept in these bunks where person on top of you was no more than a foot above you and the same with the one on the bottom of you. I remember the trip because there were 5000 people and 4900 of them got seasick. And it was just terrible.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

How did the navy treat you?

Edward L. Pierce:

The navy didn't have anything to do with it, it was merchant marines.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Merchant marines, I'm sorry.

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah, but they didn't -- we never saw them, it was just in, stand around all day and get in line to eat and when it was all over you went to bed, then go to back -- we did this for 21 days, I mean, 19 days going over.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

And you landed in?

Edward L. Pierce:

Pusan.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Which is?

Edward L. Pierce:

South Korea. And we got on a train and we went for about, if I can remember, probably about 300 miles -- a couple days -- on a train. It was very cold. There was no heat in it.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

This was in -- July you went in?

Edward L. Pierce:

This was in January when I shipped, so I got there right beginning of February.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

And it was winter there?

Edward L. Pierce:

It was winter there. I remember when we got off the train we went to the side of an air field. There were planes taking off all the time and coming in, and they put us on trucks, and shipped us out north. They let us off in the middle of a big field. And that was it. Tents were there and you had to put them up yourself and the stoves were still in Cosmoline and they had to be cleaned. Everything. I mean, you're just there, and your holes for your bathroom -- anyway, we were there for a few days, and then they got me on another tuck and I went to the 48th Field Artillery.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

And that's where you were?

Edward L. Pierce:

And that's where I was, yeah.. I was a radio operator there, but I never really operated a radio because people were talking, they had a voice and when I did try to send code I was too fast, you know, a letter might be "didadidada," but when they sent it to me I wrote four letters down.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

So then what then did you actually do?

Edward L. Pierce:

I was a radio operator, but, I mean, probably for a few months and then I volunteered to go with what they call a liaison, which was maintaining the communications between the outposts, as a lineman. And then a radio operator and everything. I mean, you learn how to do everything. You learn how to repair wires and lines when they went out, and they always went out.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Were you right up in combat? You were right up --

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah. One of the well-known outposts, as a matter of fact, is Porkchop Hill.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Oh, no kidding?

Edward L. Pierce:

And another one before was Old Baldy and I can remember one called The Yoke. It went out like a finger. And then the other ones had numbers -- three, four, one -- it's hard to remember, except I remember The Yoke. I try to think of the lieutenant that was on there. I read about him after that -- I can't think of his name right now -- he was out there and -- and I was back at the -- in the artillery bunker in the rear where they were calling in -- taking in the fire missions, and I remember him telling Harry -- telling them that they were buttoning up all the holes with the sandbags and to fire right on them. They had these shells that went off 10 feet above the ground, so anyone that was laying on the ground, it got them. They were sending back radio signals and it bounced back, and it exploded. I remember that. I remember stuff like that. And it seemed like his name was Costa or something like that, the lieutenant.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

When you were actually in the front lines was it trenches? How did they --

Edward L. Pierce:

Well, we were back in the headquarters, and in a bunker there, with the radio operator who was there, then you had lines going out to all the outposts and then usually between you and the outposts you had another relay -- radio relay because there was too many mountains. So you'd lay the lines to the relay, and then from the relay to each outpost.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

This was all under fire?

Edward L. Pierce:

Well, not all the time only -- usually at night.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Yeah.

Edward L. Pierce:

The daytime nobody really came out because they're too easy to hit. So we would do that in the daytime. We wanted to make sure we weren't shot because they had artillery too. But the lines, they were out most of the time. I can remember a few of them, you know, where we laid them on the side of the roads and then where we couldn't, we would put them up trees across to the other side, so the tanks wouldn't run over them and trucks. But this -- again everything was awfully fast. I remember being out two times at night, when, you know, the shells were all around you, and you could hear people were walking and talking, but you couldn't see anybody. And we would put the lines in then, and I wore a, what they call a flag jacket, and a couple times when I got back and I took it off _+.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

_+

Edward L. Pierce:

Well I mean, there you were, just like when you see them in these movies. There you are, and these people are all depending on you. You're not just going to turn around and go home.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

How many men were you out on the lines with?

Edward L. Pierce:

There were four. Myself, another guy we called Pollock, and Jack Haley,and Harry Devorek. It was four of us. We took care of four outposts that I remember.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Did you all make it through?

Edward L. Pierce:

Oh, yeah.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Yeah, you made it through?

Edward L. Pierce:

Al was there when I got there and the other people came after that. Oh, and Haley was there. He was from St. Louis as a matter of fact.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Do you keep in touch with those folks?

Edward L. Pierce:

Can't find them. I tried. Al called me one time from Buffalo, New York, and I talked to him for a while, but then you know, this was a long time ago, and when I lost contact -- I can't find him either. I tried to find Harry Devorek. Him and I were really good friends. Last I heard, he was in San Diego. And I can' find him. It's a common name, I mean, uncommon name. D-e-v-o-r-e-k.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

That happened when I was searching for an airforce guy. He resurfaced four years later under the U.S. search. You should try that. It cost you money, but it works.

Edward L. Pierce:

Uh-huh. But he might not be around.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

That's true. That's true.

Edward L. Pierce:

Jack Haley was older than I was, and so was Al, so they might not be alive yet.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Was your whole service time spent, right in that cart, or did you go other places too?

Edward L. Pierce:

No, it was all there, it was a place, it was called Chiron valley and I was up doing that until the war ended in July and then we were just in the headquarters and again all we do was maintain lines, but then you know, it was peace time, and we would do all kinds of detail, and try to keep us busy.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Were you career?

Edward L. Pierce:

No. What do you mean, career?

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Did you stay in 20 years?

Edward L. Pierce:

No, no I went home --

Arlene J. Montgomery:

After the war?

Edward L. Pierce:

When they wrote to me you had to have, I forget, 40 points I think you needed. Yeah, I got four points. That was one reason I went to liaison because when you're on the line you can pick the points. You get home faster. You didn't think of it that way. I mean, they got kind of picky well -- when you're back in the headquarters they're kind of picky, you know, but I was back there a few times. The Koreans and North Koreans had a lot of spies. You couldn't tell one side from the other, so they would be in the hills and they would call in these missions, and you would be in the chow line, getting ready to eat and all of a sudden they're all around you and "bang bang". I do remember a night because we were in reserve about 20 miles behind the line and we had these -- they had these _+, and they were firing all night and then it started to rain. And when it starts to rain the Chinese are going to attack. They always attack in the rain time because those shells hit the clouds and radio signal bounces back from the clouds and they're air burst, they can't get down. So as soon as that started we knew we were back up, you know, they called us back. There is a lot I don't remember but I remember that. And then, when the war was over a couple of nights we had a carnival where all the good people, all the officers in the area came to it and it was for the Koreans. We build an orphanage for the children. I mean it was -- you know, there was a lot of things that happened while we were there. Once the war was over it was just a matter of putting the time in.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

And you spent that time in Korea too or did you get to come home?

Edward L. Pierce:

No, I came home in January of the following year and then I got leave and then when we went, it was in March after my leave, I went back to Fort Sheridan and they let me out. We got three months off, because we were overseas, when we got back, I remember they were going do make us serve the full two years, but there were so many people from Iowa and places like that, they were farmers, so if they were in until July they could forget about the farm for that year. So they let them out in March and let us back in. This was in '54.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Did you ever see anybody wounded or anything come close to you?

Edward L. Pierce:

Well, I -- I -- a couple times, I saw a lot of dead Chinese and on the side of the hill after one night, they were just laying there. I remember putting lines and going up this one hill I used to go up all the time in the daytime. When I got to the top, there was feet in a trench there that someone hit, you know, and I remember an Ethiopian being taken on a helicopter, that didn't have the top of his head. He was taken to one of these MASH _, you know. Once in a while -- I forgot about that guy in the helicopter. But I remember going down a hill one time, that same one, and _+ were coming up right behind me and I'm running as fast as I can and Jack is down there, going like this, you know. He thought that they were just following me, and I dove and when I hit the dead piece that's when I thought it hit right on me, but it didn't and I got ran down and -- you forget about it, but now, it's different when you're 20 years old, well I was 21 then.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Did it feel real?

Edward L. Pierce:

Oh, yeah.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

My brother said it's surreal.

Edward L. Pierce:

Well, the hardest part about is that when you're there, you're hopeless. I mean, absolutely helpless,I should say, there's nothing you can do except do what you have to do. I mean, you sit there at night when you got nothing -- look at the sky and you're thinking "Geez, I wish I was home."

Arlene J. Montgomery:

And your family -- how did you keep in contact with your family?

Edward L. Pierce:

I wrote most -- most days.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

And you were able to get mail?

Edward L. Pierce:

Oh, yes, yes. The first letter didn't come until about four months, but after that I got mail regular. My mother wrote regular.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Were you single when you went in?

Edward L. Pierce:

Uh-huh. Yes. Yeah, and my brother once in a while, my dad once in a while, but mostly my mother.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Were you the only one that served, did your brother serve too?

Edward L. Pierce:

My dad was in the first World War, my brother was in for the second World War. My dad was in France, I remember that. The second world war ended when my brother got drafted, so he didn't -- he wasn't in combat. _+. That's about it. I was pretty young then too, he was 40, I was only 10, so I don't remember a lot. I got pictures of my dad -- when he was -- that he took when he was in the service.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

My father was too young for World War I and too old for World War II. How did they feed you? You were in the field?

Edward L. Pierce:

It was pretty good. We went back, you know, we didn't stay on the outpost, we came back at night and they had a mess hall, it was regular meals. It was pretty good. I can't complain about -- breakfast used to be bad because they -- not the food -- but because you had your mess kit and it was all metal, you know, steel, and you would go in and you dipped it in the hot water to wash it off and then you put ice on it and then you put the egg on it. But the food was good, I can't complain, and there seemed to be plenty of it too. I don't remember being hungry, I mean, unless you couldn't get back or something like that, but that was not their fault.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Were you -- when you were running down the hill, how did you feel with the pressure and everything?

Edward L. Pierce:

You just got up and you just kept going. And the next time you went up the same place, except you would be more careful and stay closer to the side of the hill. And if you didn't take a jeep up there, you ran, instead of driving up, because we used to drive up there if we could, we had our own jeep.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

How far apart was -- was it a long way?

Edward L. Pierce:

Like it is here, you could be a mile and a half from Julie's house, but you have to go 15 miles to get there. Just like it is here, it's all hills, tall high ones. It was all mountain roads.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Uh-huh. What do you know about your officers?

Edward L. Pierce:

I remember we had a Coronal Timoth. He was in charge. He was pretty good. And then there was a Captain Flin. He was really nice, and that's -- we had a Warrant Officer, but I don't remember his name. But -- when you went up to liaison, they left you alone. That's part of the reason why I did it. Once you got up in the combat area, nobody bothered you there really. Especially since you knew what you're doing.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

So your actual training was in Morse code, but you didn't --

Edward L. Pierce:

No, there wasn't any need for it.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

And this was with the lines, is that it?

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah, yeah, that's right.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Like in the movies.

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah, there's a crank with the ring on the other end. And then when we'd be out all day doing that and then usually we took turns and we stayed up all night on the switchboard back there so we could get calls from these people; relay the missions and all that stuff.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

So you heard what was the chatter between -- when they called in?

Edward L. Pierce:

Well, I couldn't hear -- no, you couldn't. Just like the old switch board.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Oh, okay.

Edward L. Pierce:

One call here, and you plug it in there. You say "Go ahead," and that was it. I don't remember hearing any of them. A lot of people called in because I was on the switch board. Someone had to be there all the time, in case something happened, you know. I don't remember why, but you had to be there.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

_+

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah, that was in July of '53. It seemed like there was a couple weeks there all day and all night. It was bad; all around it was bad, like in that movie. But we were looking right down at it all the time. I didn't spend much time -- I was only on the line -- I put it as quick as I could and got out as quick as I could, and get back. There was no point staying there and watching anything, you know.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Must have been very stressful. What did you -- did you get U.S. socials come around you?

Edward L. Pierce:

We had a couple of them. I was with the guys in the tent, they had some show in a couple of tents down and there was this western, Hank Snow, I don't know if you remember him. Him and Ernest Tubb --

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Oh, I know Ernest Tubb.

Edward L. Pierce:

Well, Hank Snow was the guy who had that song, "I'm Moving On," but anyway, I knew who they were and I was really thrilled. They put on a show for about 20 guys. And another time there was somebody there -- nobody went for it, but I went to see it -- it was Dick Contino he was an accordion player who had a problem with the draft -- but he was tremendous, tremendous. He had quite a few records out. Then we went to the best show I ever saw, it was "Horace Heidt." There was probably about 1000 guys in the back, in the rear. They had these beautiful woman and great music. I remember "Horace Heidt" because he was on the radio a lot before I went in the service. That was one of the best shows I ever saw in my life. But that was it. Those three, I remember.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Was there a club?

Edward L. Pierce:

What do you mean?

Arlene J. Montgomery:

_+

Edward L. Pierce:

No, we didn't have anything.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

No?

Edward L. Pierce:

No. There wasn't any alcohol allowed --

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Oh.

Edward L. Pierce:

-- in our days. I mean, people would bring it in; put beer in streams to cool, but if they found it on you, you'd be in trouble. They would put you on different kind of details. But the only time they brought it in was when they had that carnival that time. They brought in 500 cases of beer, and I think it did less than an hour. Everybody took as many as they could carry back.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Did you get leave while you were over there?

Edward L. Pierce:

No. I think they called it "R and R". I went to Japan for, I think it was seven days, and there was sightseeing, and just to get away. It was a nice flight. It's a nice country. Again it's a blur for me now because it was so fast. Just, like, if you went to Las Vegas, you know, and spent the week there and 10 years later they ask you what did.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Do you have anything else that stands out in your mind?

Edward L. Pierce:

No, not that I can think of.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

After a while just go to be _+?

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah. I do remember one night we were laying the lines, and because we were laying there on the road there was -- we were under fire and there was the tanks tearing up our lines so I remember climbing a tree at the time, so that we could take the line and put it across the top to the side of the cliff, I remember that. I remember one time being up high on a cliff and it gave away on me, you know, and I slide down the hill. That's about it.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

So the terrain was not just flat?

Edward L. Pierce:

No, no there was no flat area -- there was absolutely no flat area in Korea. It's all mountains.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Rocks?

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah. Like it is here, I guess.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Did you ever deal with Korean civilians? Were there Korean civilians?

Edward L. Pierce:

Only we had a house boy that washed our clothes. I do remember when I got there I was there about three months, and they put me on a truck and they took me to the rear and gave me a clean set of clothes and I took a shower for the first time -- because it was so cold, we didn't care. When I got there the first night, I was there, and they put me on guard duty and I remember how cold that was. We only had leather boots. We didn't have winter clothes just yet. Then I was there for a while and they gave me a parka with a hood and these shoe packs, they weren't shoes packs, they were actual thermal boots. I do remember that sticks out because that was one of the first nights of being out there.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

So there were no buildings? You were just in tents?

Edward L. Pierce:

Mostly bunkers.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Bunkers?

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah. Dug in the sand.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Underground?

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah. Everybody actually -- when you were back -- even in the headquarters everybody had their own box hole behind there so when you hear something happen everybody ran and jumped in that box whole.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Were you close enough to play pranks on each other?

Edward L. Pierce:

No, it was -- it was -- we were all good friends, there were some, I don't remember them though.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

You had four people working with you. How many in your hole?

Edward L. Pierce:

Well, a battalion. The headquarter I don't remember. It was probably several hundred people in there. They had their own motor pool. And then, you know, the supply and the headquarters.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Were they in tents too?

Edward L. Pierce:

Everybody was in tents. I'm trying to remember -- there were no buildings at all even when I left there weren't any buildings. They were too permanent. You know, if I remember some of the things, they would send a whole battalion into reserve, took everything, and moved a couple hundred miles. That never happened when I was there, but I understand that's what they do.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

So there was no air base where you were,no planes flying?

Edward L. Pierce:

No.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

No?

Edward L. Pierce:

I mean there were planes that came over. I saw a couple of air strikes, you know, where they bombed a few of the hills. And that I watched a couple of times when I was up in those forward, you know, observers -- forward positions. And I remember going back to the rear one time -- we went to see somebody -- we were up so high that when the jets flew by they were below us.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

The jets that were going to strike?

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah, I don't know what they were doing but you could hear -- you know it's a funny thing, but at night, when you were up in the front -- when I go to a fireworks display, and they just keep setting them off, that's how it was. The sky was lightening up all night it was flashing all over. It was almost like daylight and it was like that every day, every evening.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

So how did you rest?

Edward L. Pierce:

Well, you got used to the sound just like people who live by railroad tracks. But that's what impressed me when I first went there. When we first started going up there, I remember, it was -- we were in this position that was about 40 miles behind, but you could see it in the sky, you could see way up ahead, the flashes already. Something was going on over there and that's where you were going. But you see, remember, I got there in '53. There had been people there since 1950. So it wasn't like you were going over as a pioneer, doing it for the first time.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Right.

Edward L. Pierce:

I always thought I was better off than so many other people that were there before me. My neighbor who used to live across the alley from my mother's house had his feet frozen there. He was in the marine reserve and when it started they called him up to the National Guard. These guys are the ?frozen chosen? Those are the guys I feel sorry for.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

__+?

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah. I mean it's just that you see these pictures with that far-away look on this guy's face. I can't believe what I just came through; just exhausted. I used to be exhausted a lot. I would get through and I would just lay on the ground and fall asleep right there, inside the bunker, didn't even bother getting in bed.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

You were there, how long did you actually stay there?

Edward L. Pierce:

I got there in February and the war ended in -- on July 27th. So roughly six months.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Well, that was lucky.

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

You had pictures? Let's do the rest of the questions first. Where were you when you found out it was over? Were you still over there?

Edward L. Pierce:

We were there, as a matter of fact, they fired up to the last minute. It ended at 11:00 o'clock on July 27th 1953 and they stopped firing and the next morning at daylight we were already out in the trenches, taking down the wires and taking down the sandbags.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

You went home immediately?

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah, yeah. We had to box everything up. Take down the bunkers, they were in no man's land then so everybody moved back, to leave a demilitarized zone and then I -- there was something else. I was on a guard duty and you were way out by yourself sitting in a little hole with a lantern that you were supposed to guard over there, and that was lonesome too; absolutely alone, nobody within miles of you, but that didn't last very long anyway.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

The positions you were servicing, where the demilitarized zone is now --

Edward L. Pierce:

Yes.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

-- that was the northern border of --

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah, you see, were were not in South Korea. North Korea. We were as far north as anybody ever got. But I don't remember how far back, but they decided this was the line, and everybody moved back a mile or whatever it was and then you just weren't supposed to go over there anymore. Before we moved back we leveled everything out because I imagine that if it started again you wouldn't want the other guy to have the same place that you just left, you know. So you filled in the holes.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

There would be nothing shred or anything?

Edward L. Pierce:

No, no paperwork.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

No paperwork?

Edward L. Pierce:

There was none, absolutely none, you know, everything was verbal. There was no order given that was in writing or anything like that.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

But you knew immediately to do that? The word must have gone out immediately to every single --

Edward L. Pierce:

Oh, yeah. Everybody knew that it was coming up. I don't know how I learned about it, but we knew about it, in a couple of days they said that it's going to end at this time, you know, at 11:00 o'clock. That was it, like I said, they fired right to the last second.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Both sides?

Edward L. Pierce:

Both sides, yeah. Yeah. I don't remember anything coming in, but I knew I was going out.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

How quick did you get out of there then, after it was over; how quick did you ship out of Korea?

Edward L. Pierce:

Well, we went back -- I went back to the headquarters company and I stayed there until the next January. This was ended in July, so it was another six months before I came home.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Still in Korea?

Edward L. Pierce:

Oh, yeah. It was all Korea, but just a few miles from where I had always been.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

What did you do then?

Edward L. Pierce:

Nothing.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Nothing?

Edward L. Pierce:

I can't remember doing much. Just details. Putting in the time. Right. They didn't need us anymore. All of a sudden they got a little picky about it. Then they start, you know, before that they left us alone, but they didn't leave us alone then.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

You were back in their command?

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah, they got us to be soldiers, I guess. I mean, it didn't bother me. We were good. I mean, I was in good shape and all that stuff. When I went there I was only 21. As a matter of fact, these hills here in Arkansas -- there were mountains out there.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

You were discharged in Korea or in --

Edward L. Pierce:

No, I was discharged in Fort Sheridan.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Then what did you do?

Edward L. Pierce:

Then I went back to the job I had, which they had a lay-off, and I actually couldn't get that job back. I remember waiting for a while. I went to work in a laboratory -- petroleum laboratory -- then I went to the post office for a while, then I went into insurance selling. Oh, and I think I worked for Household Finance, in Chicago.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

You were trained to be a code man, but you never used that?

Edward L. Pierce:

There was no need for it.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

In the service either?

Edward L. Pierce:

No, there really wasn't.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Did you use the GI Bill to get any further education?

Edward L. Pierce:

No. No, I never did. I was drafter when I was 20, and I came home, and most of the people that I had gone to school with, hadn't even gone in yet, I mean, it was just a matter of, I guess, like, a lottery. That used to get me a little. I thought, "Why are they home? Why didn't they go in with me?" Although, I did run across a good friend that went to high school with me, Dan Owen. I met him on a boat coming back. I met, in basic training Al, Alexander Neve, from Highland, Indiana. And we were good friends. I was in 48th and he was in the 49th. He did almost the same job I did, and we came home together and I was best man at his wedding, and he stood at my wedding. Good pinochle player. Hardly ever lost.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

You're a member of the American Legion in and the Korean War Vet Association in Mountain Home?

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah. I used to belong to the VFW, but after a while I didn't enjoy it anymore. The post that I was in, in south side of Chicago, there was a reason, but I don't remember what it was. I just stopped going and I don't want to take on other meetings or stuff like that over here I know that's a little selfish, but that's the way it is.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

It didn't seem hard for you to talk about it. You see to have come out of it okay.

Edward L. Pierce:

Oh, yeah. It was just an experience. So many things -- I'm 71 now, so a lot of things have happened to me since I got out of the service, I mean -- that was a very very important part, but it was a small part. Especially since it's been so long ago, really -- and I didn't -- I didn't remember -- I didn't loose any real close friends, nobody that I knew ever got killed or anything like that.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Do you think it's had an influence on your life?

Edward L. Pierce:

Oh, I'm sure it has. It's hard to put in where, but -- it had to -- it was -- actually while I was single, I should say -- it was -- I don't want to say it was the most important thing in my life -- Joan won't like it if I say that.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

How long after you were out did you marry your wife?

Edward L. Pierce:

1956.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

So that was a while after the war, she didn't have to endure any of this.

Edward L. Pierce:

No, no. I didn't even know her.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Yeah.

Edward L. Pierce:

Because I was 25, it was nearly, you know, four years later.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Do you go do reunions at all?

Edward L. Pierce:

No, no. I have never gone to any. I looked on the internet for the Korean War Page and looked for reunions in magazines, but I have never seen one. I see once in a while 7th Division, but, I mean, I'm not going to go to Hawaii to go to a reunion. So I have never gone to any.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Lets look at your pictures; anything else that you can think of? Any stories? Anything that stands out?

Edward L. Pierce:

These pictures here, those are the onces that I had made at Walmart. These are the ones that I want back for sure.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Okay.

Edward L. Pierce:

This was me waiting for a train to come home.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Okay.

Edward L. Pierce:

Somewhere over here I am --

Arlene J. Montgomery:

This is in Korea?

Edward L. Pierce:

This is in the south part of Korea. I don't remember where this railroad station was. It wasn't in Pusan, it was up closer, far away from Pusan because we had to go on the train for several days before we got to Pusan. That was where the boat was at and then right here it says _+. This was when I was coming home.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Okay. This was leaving?

Edward L. Pierce:

This was leaving Korea, yeah.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Okay.

Edward L. Pierce:

This one is obvious.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Yes, yes.

Edward L. Pierce:

When I went in.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

This is to send to your parents?

Edward L. Pierce:

I got that to sent to my mother.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Okay.

Edward L. Pierce:

And this was when I was in basic training. These are kind of corny these pictures. This is my buddy Al Witkowski.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Okay. How do you spell his name?

Edward L. Pierce:

W-i-t-k-o-w-s-k-i.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

And this is at --

Edward L. Pierce:

This is in North Korea. It was before the war was over, I know that.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Okay.

Edward L. Pierce:

And then this is at the bunker there with this Art Wilson.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

I'll take these.

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

But this is where the base was?

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah, right there. And I don't remember what bunker. We took a picture, so we leaned up against the -- someone wrote a letter home and he was in a templet.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

This sandbag wall, was the wall of the --

Edward L. Pierce:

That was the bunker.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Okay.

Edward L. Pierce:

Here I am digging a hole. I'm posing for pictures, don't forget.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

You're posing for pictures?

Edward L. Pierce:

Obviously. Well, it wasn't taken out of a newsreel.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

This is your rifle?

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah, that was a carbine, that we had, I also had a pistol too.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

This was on the edge of your -- where you were?

Edward L. Pierce:

That was in the headquarters company, I was digging a hole incase we got shot, so I could run and hide in it.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Everybody had to do that?

Edward L. Pierce:

Everybody who had any brains. You know, we all did though.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

_+

Edward L. Pierce:

This is me with the rifle that was taken off the Chinese. I didn't take it but --

Arlene J. Montgomery:

These are all taken in the same place?

Edward L. Pierce:

Yes, all the same area. Yeah, same place.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

The terrain is wooded and --

Edward L. Pierce:

Well, it looks like it from picture, but really it's just brush. Don't forget, this was in the rear, this was not on the front line. This was at the headquarters company. There was nothing on the front line, there wasn't even a bush left everything was blown to pieces. This is what -- taking -- repairing the line. You can see what I was wearing, it was a jacket.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

This was the one that got all the holes in it?

Edward L. Pierce:

Well, I didn't really want to make any point of that. That just happened. Here is where we lived. You slept in a bag, sleeping bags.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

This is you?

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah. Very, very cold there.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

In the bunker?

Edward L. Pierce:

This was in a tank. You went to bed at night and the water froze, and then you had to start a fire to melt the water.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

And everything is just hanging?

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah, wherever you could find a place. As soon as you got up in the morning, you would start getting dressed.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

How many men were in a tent?

Edward L. Pierce:

I can't remember probably about eight. It wasn't very many at all.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Did you have bunks or you slept on the floor?

Edward L. Pierce:

We slept on cots.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Cots?

Edward L. Pierce:

And then for some reason through one of my aunts the Chicago Tribune mailed me an air mattress, and that was great. So there was actually an air mattress underneath that. I remember getting it in the package from the Tribune. This is an idea of how tired you were sometimes.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

You have a tent, did you get that in the service?

Edward L. Pierce:

Got that in Seattle, Washington. _+

Arlene J. Montgomery:

My son has a marine one, yes.

Edward L. Pierce:

There's a -- the war was over there so that was just a happy picture. I got a title In my elbow. Happy face.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Happy face. You're still in Korea though?

Edward L. Pierce:

All these are Korea.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

All these are Korea.

Edward L. Pierce:

This is a picture of me. We were getting ready to go on a parade, I think it was the 4th of July or Memorial -- I don't remember what day it was, but there was going to be a parade, so we were in our best uniforms. The war was over on this one here.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Who is in the picture?

Edward L. Pierce:

Oh, let's see if I can remember. Glen Kivela is the guy whose face is in the shadow.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

How do you spell --

Edward L. Pierce:

K-i-v-e-l-a. And then the back row on the right I don't know who it is, in the front row, I don't know the first name. On then front row I'm on the left here. In the middle it was a guy, his name is Panis. P-a-n-i-s. And I don't know his first name. And then this guy, his name was Loomis. L-o-o-m-i-s. The first name might have been Jack, but I didn't know it was Jack until after I got out. I just knew him by Loomis. L-o-o-m-i-s.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Okay. Where was the parade going to be?

Edward L. Pierce:

Right there in front of the tanks. I don't remember any music or anything like that. It was just to honor the day.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

It was a ceremony, because the war was over or just --

Edward L. Pierce:

No, it was probably Memorial Day or something like that.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Oh, okay.

Edward L. Pierce:

Or Veteran's Day or Army Day. I don't remember what it was, but they were going to have a parade. And this is -- I was getting an Army Commendation Ribbon from this colonel.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Do you know who the colonel is?

Edward L. Pierce:

No, I don't it might have been on the back of the other picture. I got a picture like this -- they gave it to me. They had an official photographer there.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

What was the commendation for?

Edward L. Pierce:

For the -- you know, what I did out there. Doing the back and forth, uphill and all the work. For all the things I did.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Okay.

Edward L. Pierce:

There were a couple of _+ and you can see it nice straight there.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Attention.

Edward L. Pierce:

I was very proud. It was our --

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Your patches on your side, what was your patches, my husband collects them.

Edward L. Pierce:

I didn't have any in front. Just the 7th Division with an Hourglass.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

7th Division --

Edward L. Pierce:

I do have some patches, I am not sure -- they look like shiny pins, sticking out of a pocket of my shoulder, you know, see?

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Uh-huh.

Edward L. Pierce:

It might have been, I don't remember. There was a PFC stripe there. And then this is me. Again, Glen Kivela and Loomis. That was my party going home, I remember, we were singing.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Okay. You were all young.

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah, everybody was there. I remember one older guy, his name was Pop Franklin, in one of my pictures I got a picture of him. He was -- all I remember is how tired he was always because he was older and it was hard to keep up with the young people. As a matter of fact a couple times, when the lines went out on his outpost, he asked me, and I did it for him because he looked so tired.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Were you all draftees?

Edward L. Pierce:

I have no idea. I think these were draftees, all those that I can see. I remember only one guy, named J.R. Willard, and he's not in any of those pictures, he was the only, what we call RA, he's the only guy that enlisted, and we would give him a lot of business for that because, you know, he asked for it. Yeah, you could tell by his serial number, if you got drafted it said "U.S.", but if you enlisted it said "RA", for "Regular Army."

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Oh. I'm learning so much. This is what you actually did?

Edward L. Pierce:

Yes. I'm right now, splicing a wire together. You do it very fast, you know, you did it so much that you just -- the guy in front of you -- if we had a long way to go they had what was called ?"donuts"? -- two feet wide and there was a big donut full of wire, there might have been a mile of wire, and then you strap it to your back and you start running, and the guy behind you would be tying it up on the posts and the the branches, off the side of the road so it wouldn't be run over. Because if it got run over then it would, what do you call -- then you had to go back and it wasn't easy finding out where it was broken at. You had to use logic. You would -- you knew it was -- well, you stopped some place, you put your phone on and if you could get back you know it wasn't there because you got to where you just came from. So then you went and you split, if you went a mile, on the other end, then you'd go on a half mile, then you'd call back again. If you didn't get through then you know it was back behind you again. You kept doing that until you got down to where you start running and the wire wasn't in your hand, and if there was a broken spot and you could feel it. And then you would just cut it there and tie it back together again.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

I would have thought that you guys would have been targets for the enemy?

Edward L. Pierce:

Only in the daytime because at night time, I don't know what they did, they saw it , they used to try it -- in the daytime, like I said, did they see us, we weren't going to climb up a hill, somebody that's on your stomach, you know, take you 10 days to get up to the top of it, so you went up as fast as you can. And the odds were against this happening to you. I mean it would just be a fool, to put it that way. So we really weren't that worried about it. I remember when I got out I looked in the -- some website, that had said that I had read that the people in the hut that I was with during the time I was there, there were about 400 people killed and I didn't know about it. They don't tell you. I mean, if someone -- they take him back, they don't -- that's not good for the morale. And I didn't even know about it.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

How was morale?

Edward L. Pierce:

It was fine. Maybe just tired, that's all. I can't complain about anything.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Did you understand why you were fighting?

Edward L. Pierce:

Yes. I thought I did, anyway. I don't remember all of it, but we had -- you know in basic training they had classes and stuff like that, about a lot of different things besides just weapons, and stuff like that

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Do you feel we won that war?

Edward L. Pierce:

No doubt about it. Oh, yes, no doubt that. There isn't any doubt that that was the stop of communism. Period. That was it. They found out we weren't going do back down. Whatever it took. Truman was not the smartest guy, but he was -- I always liked him and I still do. You know he was a -- came from Missouri and -- he was only high school, you know, for a president? He didn't have a grasp of the world, but everybody liked him in the service. I'll never forget, when I came back and I was reading about him -- when he left the presidency, him and Bess got in a car up to the train station and took a train home. You know what I mean?

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Humble man.

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah. Unbelievable. Unbelievable. No fanfare, no following him all the way there. But still, like I tell my wife, I still like him. I got tape called, Give 'em Hell, Harry! And I love it. James Whitmore plays the part.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

No kidding.

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah, it's super.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Okay. Can you think of anything else we've left out? Anything you want to pass on? This is going to be for national consumption.

Edward L. Pierce:

Well, I don't -- see, now, here I don't know what I put on this disk. This disk here has all the letters I wrote home. My mother saved them for me. I was home for a while and she said, "Here's all your letters." Then I took it and I put them away and a couple of years ago I took them out again. And I typed them out -- at the time I didn't have a computer and -- _+ Not only the typed one, but the original one, with the original envelope, with the stamp -- we didn't have to pay postage we just put "free" on there.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Yeah. Did you duplicate the disks?

Edward L. Pierce:

Oh, yeah. These were easy. I don't know if you want to take a look and see what's on here. I don't remember what's on this one, I put it in here for some reason.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

When you went in the service your legal name was Edward L. --

Edward L. Pierce:

Pierzchalski.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Would you spell that?

Edward L. Pierce:

P-i-e-r-z-c-h-a-l-s-k-i.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

And that's how all your records would be --

Edward L. Pierce:

Everything in the service was that. My number was US5536 -- US553 -- 263754. 55263754.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Okay.

Edward L. Pierce:

And my dad's name was Thomas and my mother's name was Martha.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

And also you are donating to this project the disk with the complete set of letters written home to your mom which have been put on a --

Edward L. Pierce:

Floppy disk.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Floppy disk -- that will be part of this project too.

Edward L. Pierce:

Yes. I wish I had put a sticker on it.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

I'll do that.

Edward L. Pierce:

Yeah, with my name on it.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Anything else you want to share? Anything else you can think of you want to share? Anything to today's soldiers that are in harm's way?

Edward L. Pierce:

No. No, I can't think of anything right now, that I would want to say to them; except that it will go fast. It will go fast, and you'll be talking about it -- joking about it someday. I remember, Audie Murphy said it a long time ago he says, when I read a book about him -- he's the most decorated soldier, he says, "He wouldn't go back for a million bucks, but he wouldn't take a million dollars for what he had seen." Well, that was just the way it is. It's just part of it. So, you know, I dont think I would want any of my children to be in the service though.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

How many children do you have now?

Edward L. Pierce:

I had three -- two boys and a girl. Two grandchildren in Okwandu Illinois -- Simon and Ethan. And I have two grandchildren -- two grandsons and two granddaughters in _, South Carolina; all adopted by my son. The two girls were brought here from Russia. They adopted them and they're not sisters, but -- Anastasia and Olga. And then I have a son that lives -- I mean, a grandson that lives in _, Colorado, Alex Pierce. I have a son, Michael, another one, Robert, and my daughter is Susan. My wife is Joan.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

What did you do when you came out of the service?

Edward L. Pierce:

Different things. Mainly, when I first got out I worked for the post office. At the time, I worked long hours and the pay wasn't very good so I gave up all the -- retirement -- it changed a lot after I left. It was a good job. I liked to walk. That was in Calumet City, Illinois. I was a relieve carrier. I carried all the routs in the city when they took vacations. And then in the morning I got up -- easily I got to work at 6:00 o'clock in the morning, tied up all the mail for the guys, took it all to relay boxes, picked up the mail in the mailboxes they used to have in the neighborhoods, you know --

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Uh-huh.

Edward L. Pierce:

-- people's drop boxes and stuff like that. The mailmen would tie up all their routes and put them in bags and then I would put the bags on a truck and then I would go and deliver that. And then -- my dad worked for the post office, he delivered the partial post after he carried mail for about 37 years.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

What did you retire from, the post office?

Edward L. Pierce:

Actually I just hit age 62 and decided -- we moved -- well, I hadn't retired yet, but I was working for a furniture company, and we came from South Carolina, and our next door neighbor, Mary, had a sister living out here, in Mountain Home. She said we should take a ride through, and see what it was like. We came and we liked it. We said we were going to come back. We made arrangements and we came back and looked around and I think we went back to Chicago. And we came back a third time and we'd -- real estate showed us where we'd be living, and we looked out the back; we loved it. So we went to the car, the two of us, and Joan said that if we retired now, on Social Security, we could make it. And that was the decision. And then we -- I think it was probably about six months later or so we moved. She was working -- she was a life guard in Chicago Park District. Yeah, she was in her 50s. Never was much of a swimmer and she could swim. She went to a two-mile swim on Lake Michigan. Very proud of her.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

And when did you come to Mountain Home, then?

Edward L. Pierce:

1995. And it is great here. But -- I was -- actually I was selling insurance too. I worked for Jackson National as an independent. You didn't have to -- they didn't bother for, you know, as long as you would sell them policies once in a while. I mainly didn't sell insurance as much as I would sell annuities, you know, friends if they asked, but otherwise other people. It was a good deal for them too. I'm glad I did.

Arlene J. Montgomery:

Well, I thank you very much for doing this for us. I'm sure the pictures and the letters will be greatly appreciated by the Library of Congress and it is a very good thing that you elected to share this.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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