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Interview with George Peter Ducharme [Undated]

George Peter Ducharme:

Okay.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

This is an interview with George Ducharme for the class Composition 104 URI. And his address is 124 Inman Road, Harrisville, Rhode Island, and his date of birth is June 5, 1930. Okay. So first of all, were you drafted or did you enlist into --

George Peter Ducharme:

I was drafted.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Was that like a shock?

George Peter Ducharme:

It was a shock because I graduated from Providence College on June 3. I got married on the 21st. And I was drafted eight weeks later. I had five weeks of basic training in Camp Atterbury, and 10 days later, I was in -- on my way to Japan and Korea.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

How did you feel when you were drafted?

George Peter Ducharme:

I felt quite bad because my wife had just found out she was pregnant.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Oh, my goodness.

George Peter Ducharme:

And I had only been married seven weeks. I didn't have a job. And I'm not one that's usually into fighting.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Wow.

George Peter Ducharme:

So it was a shock.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

So where were you living when you were drafted?

George Peter Ducharme:

I was living on Main Street, Harrisville. There used to be a store there, (Tatreau?)'s store, and then there was (Waltzes?), was in between the two. There was a small house. I lived at -- in that house.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

What branch of the service did you serve in?

George Peter Ducharme:

I was in the Army. They call it 1745 rifleman, infantry. I could have gone into OCS because I had a college degree, but they would have added a year of service.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Mm-hmm.

George Peter Ducharme:

And I didn't want an extra year because I wanted to get home to my wife and whatever child was going to be born.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

So you said that you went to, like, boot camp training first?

George Peter Ducharme:

Only five weeks.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

How was that? What was it like?

George Peter Ducharme:

It was awful because what happened in Korea at the time is all of the North Koreans pushed the American troops down into (Putron?) Harbor. All of this was occupied by North Korea because they came in with tanks and corps divisions. So they threw Americans in here to try to stop them. And they only gave us five weeks of basic training and 10 days at home and then shipped us right there to try to stop. But by the time I got there, quite a bit of it had changed.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

So in the training, you probably had, like, strict instructors, right?

George Peter Ducharme:

We had very difficult instructors because I -- I came from Rhode Island, and it was a New England-New York group. And all our cadre men were from Tennessee and Kentucky. They were what we would today call rednecks, and they hated us because we were from New England. And they were very, very tough. They'd wake us up at 1 in the morning, and they'd give us lectures. Half of the time, not feeling good. But they were extremely good soldiers. Most of them had Purple Hearts. They had been in several major battles, and they were really trying to prepare us in five weeks, which you couldn't really learn in years. They were very, very exceptionally good men.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

I can only imagine, like, the intensity of that training. How did you get through the whole thing?

George Peter Ducharme:

Well, we were -- most of the men were in pretty good shape. And I was an athlete at Burrowville, baseball, football and hockey. And I played college baseball. So I was in good shape, and that was most of it. Running at night, 5-mile walks, hikes. Going without food was never a problem. I could always do that as long as I had water.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

How much sleep did you get?

George Peter Ducharme:

About four to five hours' sleep a night during those training sessions, during that five weeks.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

So you would wake up, like, tired and everything or --

George Peter Ducharme:

Oh, yeah. You'd wake up very tired. But that was the idea because when you got to Korea, you weren't going to have a lot of sleep. Most of the fighting is done at night.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Yeah.

George Peter Ducharme:

North Koreans are night fighters.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

That's awful. So you served in Korea. And where exactly in Korea were you? In, like --

George Peter Ducharme:

We were in (Yango?) Valley. This would be the 38th parallel. It was right about here. And it was a very mountainous area, and we -- I was only there during the fighting about five and a half months. But I was there 17 months in all. They kept us extra time. So the five and a half months I was there, while fighting was on, was in the (Yango?) Valley. It was right near Hill 191. And I don't know. I guess one of them was -- it was probably after (inaudible). Right in that area.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Do you remember the first time you arrived there?

George Peter Ducharme:

The first time I arrived?

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Yeah.

George Peter Ducharme:

Well, fortunately for me, when I got off the boat in Japan, I was with a group of 369 men. And one of the cadre men in Japan was named Phil Paine. And that doesn't mean much to you now, but graduation, at your class day, there's a trophy in Burrowville that was given to Phil Paine. He was a great pitcher. When I was here in Burrowville, he pitched for the Boston Braves and the Milwaukee Braves. Well, he and I played on the same team here at Burrowville. And he pulled me out of my orders because they had a great baseball team at Camp Drake. And what they would do is pull someone out, and when someone better -- would -- so I was there about seven weeks. But the 368 men that went to Korea all got killed but eight. So --

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Oh, my God.

George Peter Ducharme:

-- he really saved my life, my former friend from Burrowville, Phil Paine. And I always remember. He died a few years ago, but I used to write to him and thank him. And then when my unit went in, it was not as bad as that first unit. And it was pretty dramatic when I went -- when you first got to Korea because all you were was a number. Every -- no one knows anybody by name. Like, that was 52 years ago, and I can still remember my number was 51155881. And that's all you would see. When they'd call that number out, that was to eat or get shots or you were on patrol. But they used just that number.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Mm-hmm. Wow. I couldn't -- that's so amazing that, like, you got saved to go play baseball.

George Peter Ducharme:

Yes. And about six weeks after Paine pulled me out, Phil pulled me out, a man named Carl Olson who played for the Red Sox came in, so then that meant I would go because I was a no-name. And they kept him, and he was a great ballplayer. And he took the place that I had originally had.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Okay. I'm going to ask you this question, but you don't have to answer it if you don't want because I don't know if it's too personal, but did you see combat when you were in Korea?

George Peter Ducharme:

The only -- the combat that I saw primarily was on patrols. Korea is made up primarily of either high hills or small mountains. They call them hills and mountains. And they're all about the same height. And you tried to get an advantage point where you could see troop and supply movements. So every night, you'd -- they had patrols go out with either seven or nine men. And you'd go and you'd try to find out where the enemy would be. And you had a twofold reason. One is to -- so your artillery could zero in on them, and the other one is to find out where they were most vulnerable for the next attack. And I went on quite a few of those patrols. Other than that, I did not see any combat because I was in a headquarters company. I wasn't in a regular company.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Okay. What were some of the most memorable experiences while you were there?

George Peter Ducharme:

My most memorable experience? Our group had tried to take a hill for -- oh, I guess it was four or five days. They kept bombarding that hill and bombarding it. And that's another thing that's unusual. In Korea, they used more artillery than they ever used in the entire World War II. Now, you wouldn't think so because it was supposed to be a police action, but they bombarded things because their hills or mountains do not have trees. They have small bushes. Very poor vegetation. And so what they made everybody do is dig trenches. So our group tried to take that hill. And I don't know. We lost 150 or so many men. I wasn't on that. And then the next day, we tried again, and we couldn't take that hill. They wanted it for an advantage point for supply routes. And then the next morning, early in the morning, these trucks came up. And out came all of these bearded men. They were from Turkey. Turks. And they just sat around all day drinking and sharpening these long bayonets, but they were different than our bayonets. I don't know what type they were, but they were long, long. And they drank, and they sharpened their beards and cut their hair off just to see if it was good and sharp. And they wanted no artillery. And that night after it got dark -- because somehow or other, if you read stories, it seems to get darker in Korea than it does here. You can't -- it doesn't seem that you can see very far at all. All these Turks went out. And the next morning, the United Nations flag was on the hill, and everybody in the trenches were stabbed to death. And I thought that was amazing. We tried attacking and attacking, and we couldn't get anywhere. And they went in quietly. You didn't hear shot all night. But the next morning, all of the North Koreans on that hill were gone, and the Turks had taken the hill. To me, that was the most amazing thing I've ever seen because after that, I kept saying -- at night, I kept putting my hand near my throat, figuring I didn't want any part of them because you're not sure of how friendly they were. But they did do an unbelievable job.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Thank God. So were you awarded any medals or citations?

George Peter Ducharme:

Yes. At the end, I'll give you my discharge paper, and it has that on it. But I'd just as soon not really go through. We got at least four major commendations, the group I was in. It was the 24th Division. They were the first division to go in Korea from the Hawaiian islands. That was the same group that got bombed in World War II at Schofield Barracks. That was the group I was in.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

How did you stay in touch with your family while you were there? Because I know that you were just married.

George Peter Ducharme:

How did I what?

Tabitha L. Marsden:

How did you stay in touch with your family?

George Peter Ducharme:

You didn't. Today they let them call home and let them visit if their wife's having a child and that. We couldn't do any of that.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

So you didn't know how your wife was or anything?

George Peter Ducharme:

No. I didn't know until -- just as the war ended, they gave us five days from the front. We could go down the (inaudible), and I called home, and I found out that I had a son that I had never seen and I wouldn't see till I got home. And at that time, he was walking. And some of you probably know that son because he teaches at Callahan now. Mr. Ducharme teaches at Callahan School. He was born while I was in Korea.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Oh, my God. What was the food like while you were there?

George Peter Ducharme:

(laughter)

Tabitha L. Marsden:

(laughter)

George Peter Ducharme:

The food wasn't bad after the fifth or sixth month. But when we were in (Yango?) Valley, we got a small package each day, and it was canned goods that were prepared for World War II. And it says on them the days, 1941, 19 -- so on. And this was in 1952. And most of the time, the evening meal, you couldn't start a fire, so you ate them cold. And sometimes in the morning. And they were like spaghetti and meatballs that were 11 years old in a can. Sausage patties that were really greasy. And when I came home, I attributed my upset stomach to those canned goods that we ate for about four months. But after that, it wasn't bad. A lot of powdered eggs and stuff, but at least it was warm. 12

Tabitha L. Marsden:

I cannot imagine eating that. (laughter) I could not imagine. So did you have plenty of supplies while you were there?

George Peter Ducharme:

Yes. We had good supplies.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

You did?

George Peter Ducharme:

We had good supplies.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Were you stressed while you were there, or did you feel any pressure or --

George Peter Ducharme:

Well, whenever we felt stressed, we started a game, a football game, tag football, or homemade baseball or whatever. But we always got into some sort of sports to try to alleviate the stress.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Mm-hmm.

George Peter Ducharme:

You couldn't think a lot of home. That would really stress you out. Especially when you didn't want to be there.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Did you do anything for good luck?

George Peter Ducharme:

Yeah. I -- well, I don't know if it's because of my background or what, but I went to Providence College, and I prayed a lot.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

You prayed a lot?

George Peter Ducharme:

Yeah. I did. I still -- I made vows when I was there that I would not ever miss mass and that, and I don't. So it was sort of a promise for help. That's all.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

When you were there, you said that you played sports. Did you do, like, anything else to entertain yourselves while you were there?

George Peter Ducharme:

No.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

That was it?

George Peter Ducharme:

That was it.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Oh, my goodness. What did you do when you left Korea and went back home?

George Peter Ducharme:

That was an amazing thing. I had played baseball, football, hockey here at Burrowville during its greatest days. I say greatest because my senior year at Burrowville was 1948, and half of your parents weren't even born then, but 1948, Burrowville only had baseball, football and hockey. And I was captain of baseball and football. And my uncle was captain of hockey. And we played the whole season against the best teams in the state, LaSalle, Cranston, East Cran -- and we never lost a league game. It's never been done in any school in Rhode Island except Burrowville. We played baseball, football and hockey. All three seasons, never lost a league game.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Wow. 14

George Peter Ducharme:

And we won all three championships. So that was a great feat, and we had great athletes. So when I was in Korea, I had been prepared to be a teacher. And that's what I wanted since I was in about the fifth grade. So I called our superintendent. I didn't -- I wrote to our superintendent, Dr. Callahan. They named Callahan School after him. And I told him my situation, and I said I'm going to stay an extra month in Korea so I can get out a month early. And I got home eight days before school opened in September, and he saved the job at Pasco Grammar for me. And from that day on till today, I've been teaching. In fact, this will probably blow somebody's mind, but that year that I started at Pasco Grammar School was 1954. And this is 2004. So last week when I substituted at Callahan, it was my 50th year in teaching.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

My God.

George Peter Ducharme:

Fifty years.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Wow. So when you were in Korea, what was it like? Did you play any jokes on people or anything?

George Peter Ducharme:

No. It was -- it was kind of serious. And I was kind of disturbed anyway because I came from Burrowville, and at that time, there were no minorities in Burrowville. And half of the platoon I was in was Afro-American and some Spanish-speaking. And it was kind of hard because actually, if you're never, never around minorities, you kind of stare at them because you don't see them. And I had to keep looking the other way because I didn't want them to get angry at me, but I was kind of uneasy all the time I was there because I was living with people I had never been with in my whole life, not even in school with. So no. And I'm really normally pretty serious. So it was easy for me. I just wrote a lot of letters, when I could. It wasn't that bad.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Do you have any photographs from when you were there?

George Peter Ducharme:

My wife must have some, but I don't have any with me today. But I'm sure I have some.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Do you remember what they -- like who was in any of the pictures or anything?

George Peter Ducharme:

Oh, yeah. I remember most of the fellows that were in my platoon. I remember most of them. Most of them are probably dead now because I'm 74, and I'm sure quite a few died from fighting.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

So what did you think of, like, officers or the people that you went to war with? What did you think of them?

George Peter Ducharme:

Well, I thought the cadre men, the sergeants and the corporals that we had when we were trained and when we went to Korea, were the best soldiers in the world. I -- they did a lot of drinking, but I think they had to with the memories they must have had because some had three or four Purple Hearts and some had been badly wounded. They knew all the secrets of being a good soldier, little things about not rattling your mess gear when you're eating and things about noise. How to walk in the woods. They knew all of these things. And it's funny because I think about it today. It's almost all of these -- I guess from Rhode Island, you might call them hillbillies, but Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama. They were the greatest soldiers. I mean, they were not nice to us because they thought we were real sissies from New England. But they were great soldiers, you know. They just knew the proper things to do. I didn't like them then, but when I think about it later, it was -- it's really great. They were good.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Were they? Did you keep a personal diary? I know that you said --

George Peter Ducharme:

No. 17

Tabitha L. Marsden:

-- you wrote letters and every --

George Peter Ducharme:

I wrote to my wife every day. Sometimes I couldn't mail them but once a week, but she got a letter a day. That's all. I never kept any type of diary or anything.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

So do you recall, like, when your service ended in the war?

George Peter Ducharme:

Do I call what?

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Recall when your service in the war ended?

George Peter Ducharme:

Yeah. It ended in August of '54. And I started teaching school in September.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

What did you do in the weeks afterwards? Like I know that you said that you were teaching. But was there anything else that --

George Peter Ducharme:

Yes. Mr. Eckelson, who was the greatest coach that Burrowville's ever had, was coaching baseball, football and hockey at the time. And when I came home, I became his assistant for about four years with no pay. I just helped him out and knew that some day, I would get one of the jobs. And I did. About 1957, I got head baseball coach at Burrowville. And I was captain of the first Burrowville team to win the state championship in '48. And my team that I coached with Mr. Doherty, Mr. (Kerchew?), Mr. Murphy -- they're all teachers in the Burrowville system -- they won the last state championship Burrowville's ever won in baseball. And I was their coach. So it was -- I was into coaching. And then I coached hockey at Providence College for seven years.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Wow. Awesome. So did you make any friends after the war? Like, I know -- did you have friends there and then keep in touch with them afterwards?

George Peter Ducharme:

Just one. I had a friend named McGuinness from New York. He went to Fordham University, and he and I became good friends. And I went to his wedding about 1956. But I haven't seen or heard from him since, but I did go to his wedding.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

So now are you part of a veterans organization?

George Peter Ducharme:

Yes. I'm part of the Korean veterans group. They're known as Gray Beards. I get a magazine every month. We have meetings once a month. But all of the Korean veterans.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Okay. So did your military experience influence your thinking about war or the military in general?

George Peter Ducharme:

No. I never liked it. I still don't like it. I think it's an extremely tough life. Not counting the danger, it's just -- it's a ridiculously hurry-up-and-wait type of thing. Like, you wouldn't believe -- most of you would probably become very impatient, but you're going to go -- and they say, "Today you're going to get a shot." So they take you to the infirmary. And the line might be from here to the rink. So you wait all that time and get your shot. And they say, "Now you're going to go fill out papers." And you go. And the line's from here to the rink. And you stand in line. And no matter what line I got into, I got in trouble --

Tabitha L. Marsden:

(laughter)

George Peter Ducharme:

-- because -- it wasn't my fault, but it's just something that happened. I married a woman named Ducharme. She was no relative, but we had the same name. We had to go back several generations to get married in the church, all right. And every time I went to fill out papers, they called me an idiot and a dummy. "This is your wife's name before you were married." And I said, "Yes. It was." And they could not understand that she had the same name before as after. She never changed her name. And that caused trouble every time I filled out papers.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

(laughter)

George Peter Ducharme:

They would not accept that I was understanding what they wanted. So it was like a 15- or 20-minute argument before they would take it from me.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

How did your service in the war affect your lifestyle?

George Peter Ducharme:

I don't know. The only thing that I think it did is probably made me more religious. Other than that, I don't think it did really much.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Is there anything else that you want to tell us about the war or anything?

George Peter Ducharme:

No. I think that -- that -- the saddest part is I hear people today, and they're talking about the tremendous number of casualties and everything that we're having in Iraq. And actually, it's almost nothing. It's unbelievable. In Korea -- and it's not even known as a war. It's supposed to be a police action. We had 103 casualties plus 54,000 dead in Korea.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Oh, my God.

George Peter Ducharme:

That's amazing. 54,000. Now, the North Koreans and the Chinese fought together. They had 2 million dead. This -- this is all proven fact. And the South Koreans with whom we fought, the ROKS, the Republic of Korean 21 Army, they had 1,400,000 dead. So when you consider that that little police action, there were almost 4 million casualties, dead or wounded, is unbelievable. Un -- when you think. And that little country is not any bigger than, I think, maybe Idaho, one of our smaller states. That's as big as it is. And it caused almost 4 million casualties. I think that is a real sad affair. Of course, we consider life is very important. I mean, everybody in this room -- you know, you say, "Hey, I don't want that to happen to me, and I don't want cancer. I don't want this." But the people you fight are a different -- they have different ideas. And they're not dumb or anything. It's the way they're brought up. When we fought -- when our group fought against them, and say we were on a hill, the first wave or group of people that came toward us all had a weapon. The second wave, about one out of every four, and the ones that didn't would pick up those from their dead comrades. And the last group would have none. And they'd come running up, picking up whatever they could get, which I don't think American soldiers could do that. But they did it, and they did it very, very bravely. But they got slaughtered, especially if you had machine 22 guns or BARs situated properly. It was -- it was not nice. It was not nice. Good morning.

Unidentified speaker:

Good morning. Thank you for coming in. You look awesome as usual.

George Peter Ducharme:

For 74? (laughter)

Unidentified speaker:

You've been a principal, too, so you're even better looking.

George Peter Ducharme:

But anyway, their attitude toward the value of life is so much different than ours, it's hard to fight them on our terms because we treasure living, you know. At least I know I do.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Is that it?

George Peter Ducharme:

That's about all I can add, unless you have anything else.

Unidentified speaker:

Well, I do, and I know other people probably have questions. OTZ. I don't want to sound naive, but I don't know what that means. Is it -- (inaudible)

George Peter Ducharme:

Oh, if you were a college graduate --

Unidentified speaker:

No. OCS.

George Peter Ducharme:

Yeah. If you were a college graduate and your college boards were high and you went into the service, even though there was a war on, they would allow you to go to officers training school. You'd come out a lieutenant. But if you signed to go to officers training school, you had to add a year onto your time. And I wasn't going to add a year, if they made me a general. I wanted to get home. You had some questions on this? I could give you this. It's a copy of my discharge, but those were the things that were given to me.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Okay. Thank you.

Unidentified speaker:

What's the difference between a headquarters company and a different company?

George Peter Ducharme:

Your line companies, everybody that stayed in a tent, because we stayed in tents, everybody that stayed in a tent would be a rifleman. In a headquarters company, you had, most of the time, a major and a captain, the lieutenants, and they would make the plan for the coming battles, incoming -- whatever battles you were going to have. Now, I was only in the service less than 24 months, but I spent 17 in Korea. And I was fortunate because if you went out on patrol, as you had asked, there were either seven or nine men. And usually, it was led by either a second lieutenant or a sergeant, and you had two or three corporals, a couple PFCs, and the rest were just no stripes at all. And if one of the persons in the patrol got killed, like say a sergeant got killed, then one of the corporals then became a sergeant. And that's how -- I was only a corporal about a month, and the sergeant got killed, so I became a sergeant. And making sergeant in less than two years is really unbelievable. You know, that was good rank. And I was in a hurry to get it because my wife got more money at home to live on. She was supporting a child.

Unidentified speaker:

That was an amazing story you told about Phil Paine's picking you out of the line. What happened to Phil?

George Peter Ducharme:

He married -- he was pitching for the Milwaukee Braves and the Boston Braves at the time. And when he came back from Korea, he married a girl from Pennsylvania. And he died of a heart attack about seven years ago, but four years ago, he and I went into the Burrowville Athletic Hall of Fame together, and his whole family from Phila -- Pennsylvania came up, and I stayed with them. But he and I were on that same team in '48. He died in Pennsylvania with his family.

Unidentified speaker:

When you said that on the -- when the men got off the boat, there were 369, including you -- 25

George Peter Ducharme:

Well, there were -- on the boat we were on, (inaudible), there were 5,000 on the whole boat, but what they called us was a package deal. We only got five weeks' basic training, and this whole packet was supposed to be sent right to Korea to try to stem off all the troops that they were doing so well. But Phil Paine, I don't know how he did it, but he was a sergeant, I think, a (inaudible) sergeant in Camp Drake, Japan. And he somehow got his officer to pull me out of that 369 because no one was supposed to be removed. That group went in as a group.

Unidentified speaker:

So he must have seen your name --

George Peter Ducharme:

He saw my name --

Unidentified speaker:

Uh-huh.

George Peter Ducharme:

-- and he pulled me up because I was standing there. It was like 1:00 in the morning, and all of a sudden, I heard, "Would US 50155881 step forward?" And I -- "Oh, God. What did I do wrong now?"

Unidentified speaker:

(laughter)

George Peter Ducharme:

And I took a step forward. And he was like 6'1", and this guy came over, and he put his head up, and it was Phil. I almost threw my arms around him.

Unidentified speaker:

(laughter)

George Peter Ducharme:

But he pulled me out. Yeah. And your awards day every year, they give a Phil Paine's award. So you'll hear that name during -- at your awards day.

Unidentified speaker:

For the seniors, the senior --

George Peter Ducharme:

For some senior -- some senior. Usually it's a baseball player.

Unidentified speaker:

That's just amazing to me because you said that all but eight --

George Peter Ducharme:

All but eight. That's what they told us, that only seven or eight had survived that had gone over. So I mean, to me, he definitely, you know, was a savior.

Unidentified speaker:

Yeah. That's amazing. That was (inaudible). And the name of the team. I was trying to take notes. Was that Camp Drake that --

George Peter Ducharme:

Camp Drake.

Unidentified speaker:

Drake.

George Peter Ducharme:

Yeah. They always had the very best football and baseball teams in the service because as everybody that goes to Japan and Korea gets off a boat, they go to Camp Drake. It's like a funneling service. And they have somebody in their processing group that goes through the files. And say you played football for the Patriots. They would yank you right out for their football team. And if you played for the Red Sox, they'd yank you out. And then when your -- when the season came, they had the very best teams in the military because they were pulling them out from left and right. But they only pulled me as sort of a fill-in, a gap. At that point, they didn't have anybody better. But as soon as Carl Olson came in, I was gone.

Unidentified speaker:

How about the rest of you? Was there anything you wanted to ask Mr. Ducharme that you were thinking of while they were speaking?

George Peter Ducharme:

Yes.

Unidentified speaker:

You said that a lot of the North Koreans, like, came in the waves unarmed, like they're the fourth wave or whatever. Was there, like, a lot of, like, hand-to-hand combat during that time?

George Peter Ducharme:

No. Most of the hand-to-hand combat, they would hope that it would be, but most of the hand-to-hand combat came when they drove the group, the South Koreans, toward the Pusan Perimeter. That was at the very beginning of the war. The last part of the war, it was like we could see them maybe 3 miles away on a hill, and they'd be walking around and doing their thing. And they could see us. But you knew it would be worthless to fire. Once in a while, somebody did, figuring he could -- they could hit, but it was like a worthless thing. The only time that there was very, very trying and dangerous times was at night. You could never sleep because even if you were on a hill and you're in your trench and you're looking, you couldn't see. You know. The dark is so dark that you can't see, and they'd crawl up. They'd try to crawl up on you and try to get into your trenches and stuff. And that was really trying because the more you look, it seems the less you see. It's like your eyes get to a point where you can't seem to see anything, you know. But no. I don't want you to think that I was in any -- any real heavy combat like Mr. Murphy and them. I was in trying combat, like going on patrols, because you never knew when you were going to step on a mine or you were going to be trapped. There was somebody hiding -- there weren't trees, so it wasn't behind a tree, but they were in trenches. And they'd dig holes and put leaves over themselves, things of this nature. But the heaviest combat in Korea was probably -- from around here was by men like -- we used to have a Mr. (Maliko?). He was there. And Mr. Menard on Central Street. That's the architect. He was there when they raised the flag on the mountain. He was a Marine. They saw lots of action. I just saw patrol action. Mr. Murphy went to Vietnam, the principal at the junior high. He saw lots of action. When he came home, he was a total nervous wreck, but he's controlled it very well. Any other questions? Yes?

Unidentified speaker:

When you came home, was it hard to adjust back to normal life?

George Peter Ducharme:

The hardest thing was that my son Richard, who's now the teacher -- my wife lived alone, but my parents were there every day. And he kind of accepted that my father was his father. And when I came home from Korea, I came home in the middle of the night. They picked me up. And I went to kiss my wife, and he bit my leg and said, "Get away from my mother," you know. Just bits and pieces of words, but he had no knowledge of who I was. And it took about four or five years before he got close to me at all. He -- I just was a strange man that came into his very happy life. And now I have five children, and I'm probably closer to him than any one of the five, but it took a long time. That was very hard, that your son didn't accept you. Well, he was only -- I don't know. Just starting to walk.

Unidentified speaker:

Anybody else? Well, I have just one more question about you kept saying you're supposed to be a police action.

George Peter Ducharme:

Yeah. Korea was never really known as a war. It was known as a police action. What happened is when the North Koreans attacked the South Koreans, the United Nations said that they would not accept any aggressive act of one country against another for not a good reason. And it wasn't a good reason. North Korea just wanted to annex South Korea and make it a Communist state. So the United States were the first ones in with supplies and men, and they were supposed to just stop the North Koreans from aggressively attacking South Korea. So it's been known as a police action, and yet almost 4 million people either got wounded or killed. So it was a very expensive police action.

Unidentified speaker:

What makes the difference? Just the country declaring war?

George Peter Ducharme:

I don't know. I really technically don't know the difference. I don't know, but if you look up the Korean War in any book, encyclopedia, it will start by saying this was a police action. And it doesn't really -- it's called the Korean War, but a police action. So I don't really know. I know I didn't -- I wasn't happy being there, but it was something you had to do.

Unidentified speaker:

Thank you very much. (Applause)

George Peter Ducharme:

I think you got some information out of it anyway.

Unidentified speaker:

No. No. We definitely did. (inaudible) Tabby just has a couple more papers we need you to fill out so that we can write the story.

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Yeah. I'm going to be writing a paper, if it's okay.

George Peter Ducharme:

You're writing a paper on it?

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Yeah. So this is just some biographical stuff, and then I'm (inaudible) I don't know if it's okay, but if it's okay, then I need your name on my paper (inaudible)

George Peter Ducharme:

Okay. You want me to print my name?

Tabitha L. Marsden:

Yeah. Just fill out the following.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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