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Home » Harvey B. Steinberg

"I guess getting shot was the best thing that ever happened to me." (Audio Interview, 34:06)

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   Harvey B. Steinberg
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War: Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Marine Corps
Unit: 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division
Service Location: Korea; China; Guam (Mariana Islands); United States
Rank: Sergeant
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A troubled teenager, Harvey Steinberg enlisted in the Marines shortly after the end of World War II. As a telephone lineman, he did a tour of duty in China, when the communists were warring with the Nationalists. His enlistment commitment was to end in October 1950, but when the Korean War broke out, the Marines told him they needed platoon leaders and would make him an officer. He turned down the offer, assuming he would ride out his enlistment. Instead he was frozen in his position and soon shipped out to Korea. When he arrived at Inchon in September 1950, the weather was still summery, but two months later he was at the Chosin Reservoir, battling subzero conditions and an overwhelming force of Chinese soldiers. During the withdrawal, which he refers to as "attacking in the opposite direction," Steinberg was wounded in the wrist and ankle. The blood on his foot froze, likely saving him from amputation. Recuperating at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, he met a Jewish Marine, the only other one of his "tribe" he came across.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (8 clips)
»Complete Interview  (38 min.)

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»Korean War
 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (8 items)
Signed up for the Marines two days short of his 16th birthday; wanted to train for radio repair, was put into Communications and wound up a telephone lineman; tours in China and Guam; after Korean War broke out was offered platoon leader school; he chose not to, knowing his term was nearly up, but was frozen and sent to Korea; laying phone wires over and over as invasion vehicles cut newly laid lines. (04:44) On a forward observer team, laying lines in front of company's advance and directing artillery fire; to Wonsan and Chosin Reservoir; weather turned in two months from warm to below zero; having Thanksgiving dinner with real turkeys, many left behind in the withdrawal. (02:38) How he was shot during the trip south from the Chosin; ambushed, radioman was shot out of the jeep he was driving; he evacuated and was wounded in the wrist and ankle; blood froze around his foot, likely saving it from amputation; taken off the field in a Piper Cub airplane. (04:10)
Had planned to stay in the Marines after he recovered but could not get promotion to staff sergeant, so he finished his term and went back to school, finishing high school, and going to college and law school; worked for the CIA while finishing high school and worked with the guard force at Treasury from midnight to 8 while he went to law school during the day. (02:00) In Tsingtao, China, to see Chiang Kai Shek's forces being driven out by the communists; desperate times for the locals, but his duty time was enjoyable, with plenty of diversions; hated his time in Guam; locals there resented the military presence. (01:51) His recuperation at Bethesda; doctors changing their treatment for frostbitten toes; keeping your feet dry in the field helped prevent frostbite; how he and a buddy went AWOL just before they shipped out to Korea; went to Los Angeles for the weekend, staying awake on Benzedrine; got back just in time for a captain to take note of their absence only to cut them slack. (03:42)
Met one other Jewish Marine in the five years he was in service; why men join the Marines; didn't practice religion while in the Corps; once offered Yom Kippur off while he was still stateside. (02:11) Credits the Marines for straightening him out as a trouble teenager; boot camp was brutal; when he would tell civilians about it, they wouldn't believe him; at Bethesda, a doctor was saving bones from amputations in a bone bank which could be used for bone grafts, which helped his wrist. (04:39) 
  
 
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  October 26, 2011
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