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Carroll Gifford Everist
"I now understand why I lived. The Lord heard my prayers. Later in my life I became an ordained minister."
- Carroll Everist
Both of our parents were raised in Marshalltown, Iowa. Dad owned the Star Oil Company and later during World War II sold used farm machinery through the Farmers Exchange in Mason City, Iowa. Mother did the bookkeeping and took care of three boys and two girls. My dad's father had a gas station in Marshalltown called the Everist Oil Company. My paternal grandmother was born in Nebraska. Mother's dad, Charles Tabor Gifford, was a circuit rider born in 1836 in New York State. My maternal grandmother, Anazelica Griffin George, was born in Omaha, Nebraska. We were poor during the Great Depression, but we never knew we were poor. We ate bread and gravy, and never went hungry.
I heard the news about World War II on the radio. I was only ten years old at the time. War affected my family because Dad had the gas station and gasoline was rationed during the war. Every day in school we sang the song, "Let's Remember Pearl Harbor As We Did the Alamo." We did the pledge every day and bought war stamps at school that we could turn into war bonds. We had paper drives and picked up aluminum. I had a cousin in World War II, as well as two uncles--one a doctor in the Army and the other a dentist in the Navy who was serving on the USS Missouri when the peace treaty was signed. I remember VJ Day. The town went crazy with joy.
I lived in Mason City, Iowa until the age of 18, attending Roosevelt Elementary School, Roosevelt Junior High School, and then on to Mason City High School until I turned 18. I didn't like school. I didn't participate in sports, but I was in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. I had a job working at Earl's Fruit Market, where I pecked potatoes and did carry-out for customers.
After World War II was over, I still wanted to support my country by joining the regular Army, but my dad wouldn't let me. He was born in 1903 and knowing about World War I and World War II, he was just concerned about me. At age 17, I was able to volunteer for the Iowa National Guard. There were two guards--the Army National Guard and the Air Force National Guard. While I was in the Army National Guard, I had training in the Armory and had summer training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. Most of our instructors had been in World War II. I was on the 75 recoilless rifle team. It took four men to carry the rifle and some were attached to the Jeep used to pull it. The recoilless rifle had a back blast, and anyone right behind it could get killed. The things I learned in the National Guard about the 75 recoilless rifle helped me in Regular Army, as I was on a smaller recoilless rifle that one person carried. At summer camp I learned how to break up a riot, and this also helped me when I went into the Regular Army.
Jobs were not too plentiful for a young man at that time, so on September 14, 1949, I requested a transfer from the National Guard into the U.S. Army and it came through. (At age 18 I could join the military, but I could not vote until I was 21 years old.) I dropped out of high school to go into the Regular Army, but years later I took the Military G.E.D. test. My friend, Don Mugan, went into the Army and his brother went into the Air Force about the same time that I joined.
When I joined, my parents told me that my brother had gone into the service in 1948 and I should learn from him, but I would not listen. Kempton also did not approve of me joining the military. He himself having been in the Army, he thought I should have stayed home. Instead, I went on the Jefferson bus line to Waterloo, Iowa, to raise my hand for induction in the Army. From there, I went by bus to Camp Funston for basic training. John Sollie from Minnesota traveled with me on the bus. He was later killed in action in Korea on the same day I was captured.
On the first day of basic, we got haircuts, had pictures taken, and sent our civilian clothes back home. We were assigned to a barracks. Our barracks were two-story and had windows open for fresh air. The beds alternated with the head of one toward the wall and the head of the next one opposite. Corporal Webb was our drill instructor.
Although there was no war going on at the time, I took my training very seriously. I knew that the way things were going, it [war] could happen. Basic training was 13 weeks of gas mask training, learning to take apart the M-1 rifle, a test on Morse Code, tests on compass reading and rifle, and other tests on our abilities. Everything was regimented, including meals, personal hygiene, training, free time, taking care of the barracks, lights out, learning bugle calls, reveille, mess call, retreat, compass training, and throwing hand grenades. Training films even showed us everything from how to set our knife, fork, and spoon on the table to how to eat our soup right (putting the spoon away from us) and table manners. For me personally, the hiking was the hardest thing about basic.
I recall one time getting in trouble in sports playing soft ball. I got to second base and was told to run. Corporal Webb had the ball hidden and said, "You're out." I had to scrub his room with a G.I. brush. I also recall that someone got into a fist fight once. Only the one that caused the problem got in trouble for it though.
When basic was completed, we had a parade and I got orders to Camp Carson, Colorado. I had a 15-day delay en route to visit my family. I wore my uniform during my visit because I was proud to wear it. After my visit, I went by train to Camp Carson for ski and mountain training in the 14th RCT. I learned how to ski and learned how to climb mountains. It was while I was at Camp Carson that the Korean War broke out on 25 June 1950. The training we received there prepared us for Korea. The winter training at Camp Carson and Camp Hale helped me to know how to take care of myself.
I did not have a chance to go home and visit my parents one more time before shipping out. We had to send our civilians clothes home. One person borrowed my dress jacket and then went AWOL. I never saw him again. I remember that he was from Tennessee. News that I was going into war was very stressful for my family and my father had his first heart attack because of it. As to whether or not I wanted to go to war, I never thought about it. Being in the Army, we went where we were needed.
Trip to Korea
The General Pope held at least a Division or more, as well as other parts like artillery. Everyone on it was in the same company back in the States. We were on D-deck, which was the lowest deck, and ventilation was poor. The trip to Korea took 15 days and we hit two storms along the way. I got sea sick, went to the wrong side to throw up, and the wind brought it back. The troops were unhappy because of the wind.
We stood up to eat--we never had a seat. The officers were in their own quarters and had their own mess hall. There was no entertainment on the ship. Instead, we got put on KP duty. The only training we had on the ship was training to know what to do in case the ship sank. We were to stop for more training at Japan, but orders were changed and we went straight to Pusan, Korea. We were told that we would be home by Christmas.
The train took us to the Naktong River, where we rushed into position and had our baptism of fire that same day. We were on the south side in a flat area with hills behind us and the North Koreans were on the north side. We had a bonsai attack from the North Koreans. Bonsai means "long live the Emperor." The Japanese used these same kinds of attacks in World War II. Around this time I received my Combat Infantryman's Badge (C.I.B.), which is given to all soldiers who come under enemy fire. This was taken away from me when I was captured a few months later.
The regiment was broken up, one battalion being assigned to each of the three regiments in the First Cavalry Division, Fifth, Seventh, and Eighth Cavalry. We were re-designated 3rd Battalion of the Fifth Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. Our Battalion Commanding Officer (CO) was Lt. Col. Edgar Treacy, Jr., a West Point man, Class of 1935. He had commanded us at Camp Carson and remained our Battalion CO. My company CO was Captain Perry. His Executive Officer (XO) was Lt. Dixon Rodgers. The Battalion was broken down into companies: L Company, K Company, I Company, and M Company. I was in "L" Company. Each company was broken down into four platoons and each had a Heavy Weapons platoon. I was in Heavy Weapons. Our recoilless rifles worked like a bazooka. We could knock out a tank and had different types of shells, like white phosphorus (W.P.). White phosphorus could burn a person real badly.
During the Naktong fighting we were always on 100% alert. To stay awake, we broke apart Vicks inhalers. They had Benzedrine in them, and we would mix it with gum and chew it to stay awake. It kept me awake, but after several days of this it almost cost me my life. When I finally did go to sleep, my Platoon Sergeant could not wake me during a North Korean attack. We were not at the Naktong too long, but while we were there the tanks had to be careful how many shells they fired due to the short supply they had of them.
We were on Hill 174, Hill 303, and more, trying to go forward. There was an orchard at the bottom of Hill 174 where we were told to leave our packs. Later that night we had one "field cold" to share to keep warm. We took Hill 174 at least three times. We had our first five men killed while we were dug in on Hill 174. Our first KIA was Cpl. Carl W. Cook. I'll never forget him. He raised his head above the skyline and a sniper shot him just about the eyes. Also on Hill 174, Captain Perry was shot. Another time, a shell hit near our machine gun. Both the gunner and the assistant gunner were hit. My foxhole buddy and I took over the MG. Although I was new to combat, I didn't think about it because of the buddy system. We helped each other. My buddy said that if we got out of this, he would go to church every Sunday. I've often wondered if he did. On September 8, 1950, I turned 19 years old. Five days later, while on Hill 174 on 13 September, I received a Dear John letter, was discharged (my first enlistment was up), was called back to active duty, and survived a human sea attack. We lost Hill 174, then retook it, only to find some of our men butchered, hands tied behind their backs and shot. Shortly thereafter I was promoted to Corporal, most likely because of Hill 174 and the battles we fought.
The Marines and the 7th Infantry Division of the Army were involved in the Inchon Landing in mid-September. After Inchon, our company broke out of the Pusan Perimeter and went north on trucks. We also did some walking. We took Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, and lost one man by a sniper. The city wasn't in too bad of shape, but I remember there was a billboard like we have here in America showing an American flyer shooting down a mother and a baby.
After we cleared the area, the North Koreans ran. In October we stayed in a building in Pyongyang, and in the courtyard we dug up Korean people who had been murdered by the North Koreans. Their hands were tied behind them. I stood guard over them until Graves Registration came to check to see if any Americans were buried there too. We went on pontoon bridges and boats and held a memorial service. At that time we had about won the war, but then the Chinese came in.
I don't remember when the weather changed from hot to cold, but the Korean winter was cold just like Iowa. Most of our gear was blown up back at Hill 174 in the orchard. To stay warm, we had field jackets and a pile cap with flaps that went over our ears. Some had sweaters. We ate at the mess hall tent and didn't have to eat C-rations, which we had to eat when we were on the front line. In the C-ration was one pack of smokes and free beer until someone in the States decided it would make us killers, so this was stopped. (However, in Pyongyang, the 5th Cavalry came across a brewery and took it over.) We also found half-inch Russian cigarettes with the rest made of paper. The only time I had the assault ration was in Task Force Crombez February 15, 1951. Early on in the war, we had chickens which we knocked out of the air. We also ate some potatoes that the Koreans had. They tasted like our potatoes, then the next bite they tasted like a sweet potato. The best thing I ate while I was in Korea was turkey at Christmas. We were on the front line and unable to have Christmas as we know it in the USA. I wrote my mother and asked for a can of Log Cabin syrup. She sent it, and she also put tea bags in the mail. Unfortunately, the syrup did not show up until after I ended up in the hospital in Japan. The nurses enjoyed it.
During the stay at Pyongyang, we had a shower, otherwise we kept clean with water in our helmet. We shaved when we had water, but sometimes we did not because of the distance we had to go to get more. We were lucky to get a canteen of water for a day or so. Quartermaster or Supply took care of the washing of our clothes and the issuing of new ones when they were needed.
From October to December our morale improved. Between hills or when someone took our place on the line, we even had lighter moments. One time we used a hand grenade to throw in a pond and catch fish. Snakes came up, but no fish. Another time we found a horse. Being part of the 1st Cavalry, which does have horses, the top officer took it. Receiving letters helped morale, too. My mother was faithful in writing letters to me, but the one package she sent to me is the one that arrived in Japan rather than Korea. We had a chaplain for church services. I had sent money to the local church in Mason City, Iowa, and this caused more people to give back home. The church then gave me a prayer book. The Red Cross gave us playing cards and collected some money from the soldiers before they went into battle. Besides playing cards, we also played poker and cribbage.
After we left Pyongyang we went north, but I don't know where we were at. We were told that the Chinese had entered the war, which changed everything. Unknown to us, the Marine Corps and the 7th Dixie Division were trapped by the Chinese at the Chosin Reservoir. Sometime later (this was also after we left Pyongyang), I got lucky and became the mail clerk. My job was to take mail to the soldiers. This job lasted maybe a month until I was put on the tanks on February 15, 1951 as part of Task Force Crombez.
Our contact with the natives was limited to having one Korean soldier with two GI's as part of a buddy system. We also had a little boy we called Number 3. He was with us a lot, staying with the cooks. When we first got to Korea, our Company Commander, Captain Perry, told us that we were not allowed to be around any of the Korean prostitutes that we saw. He said that if any of his men got a venereal disease, they would be court-martialed.
After so long in a combat zone, soldiers were allowed to take a break called Rest and Recuperation (R&R). I was third in line to go on R&R when on 15 February 1951, my company became a part of Task Force Crombez and was sent to the aid of the 23d RCT. Crombez was Col. Marcel Crombez, West Point 1925, Regimental Commander of the 5th Cavalry. The 23rd Regiment, along with the French, were trapped at Chipyong-ni, so we were put on top of 24 tanks and sent to rescue them. Col. Edgar Treacy Jr., West Point 1935, 3rd Battalion Commander, and Capt. John C. Barrett did not want to put their men on the tanks because it would make targets out of us, which did happen.
En route, we were riding our tanks when we came under fire from all sides. S/Sgt. John Sollie was killed that day. He had been my buddy from the beginning to the end. The two of us shared a foxhole (a bunker would have been safer, but we were never in one), made jokes, and sang songs like "Maresedotes." John was killed and I was shot in the left knee. The tanks stopped and I got off to find cover (there was none) and to return fire, but I wasn't of much use. I had no mobility. Lt. Colonel Treacy, who had been shot in the mouth, carried me on his back to about 15 feet off the road. He also gave me his first aid pouch. The tanks bugged out, leaving eight or nine wounded behind.
Once off the road, about 15 Chinese swarmed in on us and we were all captured. Because I was shot in the knee and couldn't walk, Colonel Treacy carried me. We were taken to a wooden building (like a gazebo) with no walls and no furnishings. It was one big room in an open area close to the top of a hill. That was the area where all of us were before they took two men away. I don't know who the one man was taken from our group--I just remember that he was very tall. We never saw him again. He was probably shot. The other man taken away that night was Colonel Treacy. I learned years later that he died in a POW Camp on 31 May 1951 of malnutrition. He remains my strongest memory of Korea. Had it not been for him, I would have been murdered like the six that were with me who were shot in the head. I was next, but I put on a first class show of hysteria, not all of it simulated. I had heard that the Chinese believed if you were insane, they thought you were worse off than if dead and they left you alone.
Years later, Bob Anderson (now deceased) sent me a tape that explained that six of the men were murdered. The Chinese used a shovel tool to smash them in the head and their brains dropped out. The first thing the Chinese did after capturing me was strip me of my CIB, watch, and billfold. They took, but returned, a prayer book given to me by the Wesley Methodist Church in Mason City, Iowa. I still have it.
After the others were either taken away or murdered, a Chinese person guarded me (he could have been a conscript), and I maintained an insane attitude. They did not harm me physically--they only threatened me. From time to time, and very surreptitiously, I loosened the tourniquet on my leg in order for me not to get gangrene. The Chinese pulled out and left me, and I never saw the Chinese guard again. I lived on icicles and snow from the roof of the building I was in until 18 February, when I was picked up.
After the Chinese left, I was alone and out in the open. Some South Korean people saw me, but were afraid to help me and would not come to my aid. I was very religious having come from a family that went to church together as a whole family. My mother was a "preacher's kid". My granddad (mother's father, the circuit rider I mentioned at the beginning of my memoir) was born in 1836 and the town of Gifford, Iowa, was named after him. (Gifford is also my middle name.) I prayed for all the men, I prayed for the enemy, and I read my little prayer book. I stayed where I was at because I could not walk. I did see a helicopter, but I do not know if he saw me.
I could see a squad of 1st Cavalry men down in the valley coming up the hill, so I called to them. The officer sent men up to me, but was careful it was not a trap. They gave me a drink of water and some food--a can of franks and beans. (I like them to this day.) Then they put me on a stretcher and carried me to an ambulance. I remember that there was an enemy in the ambulance as well.
After I was found, I was first taken to a MASH unit where they took the bullet out of my knee. (I still have it.) I was then flown in a C-54 to a hospital in Japan. I was on a stretcher during the trip and they took care of me and the other wounded who were on the plane. When they found out that I was a brick (POW), they sent me to Tokyo General Hospital. At that hospital, I was given blood. I was also treated for second degree frostbite on my hands and feet. I stayed at the hospital the whole time I was in Japan because I still could not walk. My parents and I wrote to each other while I was in the hospital. There were no phones for us. The army contacted Dad, who told my mother to sit down and then he showed her the telegram. Dad had gone through a heart attack, but asked Mother to sit down for the news.
From Japan we took a C-97 to Hawaii where we had a 24-hour layover. We stayed in the big hospital there. Girls came and put a lei around our neck. One girl kissed me on my right cheek, another kissed me on my left cheek, and another on my forehead. Then a blonde kissed me on the lips. I told the hospital I wanted to stay there, but they said, "You can't. This is not America." (It did not became part of the USA until 1957.)
I went on to Camp Cooke, California, which is now Vandenburg Air Force Base. While there, I was a patient in the base hospital. I was given 30 days leave more than once, but it did not go against my regular time in the Army. (My parents had moved to San Diego, California, because my granddad lived there and my dad had had a heart attack. He was able to find work there.) Besides visiting my parents, I made trips to Mason City, Iowa. Also while at Camp Cooke, they had to remove a big scar on my left leg. At one time I could put my hand in it. The scar was where I had gotten shot in Korea. After the procedure to remove the scar, it got infected and I had to stay in the hospital longer. I left Camp Cooke in January of 1952 when I was discharged from active duty, and I went into the Reserves.
From January of 1952 to August of 1952, I was unable to work because I had to spend more time in the VA Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa. I re-enlisted in the Army at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, on August 4, 1952 because I missed the comradeship. Being in the Reserves, they just transferred me back to active duty.
My first duty station after I re-enlisted was at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. From there I was sent to Fort Sheridan for cook and baker school. I ended up as a Mess Sergeant--the best job in the Army. I spent some time at Brooke Army Hospital, Texas, but my Army career ended when I retired on a medical discharge on February 28, 1954. Over the years, my bad left knee has been replaced four times. This also caused me to have wear and tear on the right knee, and because of this they had to replace my right knee in 2000. Thanks to the American Legion and Service Officers who helped, I am getting disability for my war-related health problems. The government takes care of me. Some things are denied to others, however. The government has not kept its promise to most service personnel.
I had no trouble adjusting to civilian life except that I still had the memory of what happened to me in Korea and the man that saved my life. While I was still in the Army, I married Kay Berneman on April 13, 1953. After I was discharged the next year, I got a job at Roft Iron Product as a spray painter. I stayed at that job until the paint affected my health and I had to quit. I then went to Hamilton Business College in Mason City, Iowa. I went for Junior Accounting on the GI Bill. I also learned to use the comptometer, which is useless today. The only problem going there was climbing stairs with my bad leg. Going to the business college helped me get a job at Deckard Packing Company, a hog buying business in Mason City. The job did not last long as they used me so someone could take a vacation.
My first wife and I had children Wanda Kay, Mary Hazel, Pamela Sue, and Guy Carroll (deceased 1957) before we divorced in 1961. She left me while I was in the first years of my ministry work. On April 21, 1961, I married Dixie Lee, and we are still married today. We have one son, Charles F. Everist, and we also have 11 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.
Insurance became my main career as of the late 1950s. I first sold insurance door-to-door for American Republic Insurance Company out of Des Moines, Iowa, and I made a good living from it. Then years later I changed to Banker's Life and Casualty. I did so well that the company wanted me as a manager in Terre Haute, Indiana. That was in 1965, the year that our son Charles was born.
While I was still married to my first wife, I became active in church and decided to go into the ministry. I served at the Mission of Hope Church in California, the Free Methodist Church in Logan, Kansas, and Wesleyan Church in Mankato, Kansas. The Wesleyan Church closed from lack of people and the congregation of the First Baptist Church of Mankato asked me to be their pastor. In 1961 I sold my insurance agency so I could pastor full time. I became an ordained minister in 1962.
I was also active with the Salvation Army, which was founded in 1865 to be a church and do social work. (As William Booth said, you cannot preach to a man on an empty stomach.) In 1965, I became a Salvation Army Officer, as did my wife Dixie. In order to become a Salvation Army officer I had to have a GED, so I took the Military G.E.D. test and passed it on July 13, 1966, in Terre Haute, Indiana. I then served the Salvation Army in Princeton and Vincennes, Indiana, and Rock Island, Illinois. In 1972, I was transferred to Beatrice, Nebraska, and then in 1974, I was transferred again to Watertown, South Dakota.
Sometime in the fall of 1975 I became a police officer in Smith Center, Kansas. I then pastored a church in Logan, Kansas, and worked at the Logan High School as a janitor to make ends meet. Income at the church was not great and I was only paid $35 a week. In 1977, I had my first knee replaced. The church found out that I had a compensation income from the VA, so they changed my income to $25 a week. At this time Mankato, Kansas, hired me as chief of police. I did okay until I arrested the "right people" and lost my job in 1978. The Salvation Army needed a P.R. man for Kansas and Missouri, and I got the job.
Of my two careers--insurance and the ministry, ministry has been the most meaningful to me. My becoming a minister goes back to my POW days and the prayers I said in Korea. I believe that God saved my life there and that He heard my prayers. I now understand why I lived. As an ordained minister, I have served as minister of Mission of Hope Church, Chula Vista, California, the Free Methodist Church in Logan, Kansas, Wesleyan Church, Mankato, Kansas, and the First Baptist Church of Mankato, as well as served as an officer in the Salvation Army in three states. Due to my health, I retired from the ministry in March of 1996, but I am still chaplain in military groups.
I received the following medals for my Korean War service: Purple Heart With one Oak Leaf Cluster, POW medal, Good Conduct medal, National Defense medal, Korean Service medal with four bronze stars, Combat Infantryman's Badge, United Nations Service medal, Republic of Korea War Service medal, Presidential Unit Emblem on February 15, 1951, and Korean Presidential Unit Emblem.
I believe that I am a better person for having been in the army and I have much respect for the military. Korea was a place where there were good times and bad times and where I met friends. I am now a member of the 1st Cavalry Association, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, and American Ex-POWs. I am also chaplain for the Wichita Korean War group. Going to military reunions has helped me meet some of the men I served with in Korea.
Sometimes we Korean War veterans try to put things behind us, but I have told my children about Korea and they know. My oldest daughter, Wanda Kay Magers, spent 24 years as a Marine. When she retired, she said she had joined because of me. Although you hear about World War II and Vietnam, you don't hear about the Korean War. It is "the Forgotten War," as well as the "Forgotten Generation." I hope someone reading this memoir will someday understand that we saved South Korea, and it is free. Because of China, however, North Korea is not free.
After what I saw the North Koreans do to their people, I think it was right for the United States to send troops to Korea in the first place. I am only sorry that Harry Truman did not listen to General Douglas MacArthur. I was very upset when Harry Truman fired MacArthur. Truman should have let the military do its job. I also think that until we have a peace treaty (China and North Korea have not signed one yet), the United States should still have troops stationed in Korea. Our government is doing as good of a job as it can, but the remains of our men who died in POWs are still in Korea because North Korea is no help and will not let us take the remains home. We were told the conflict in Korea was not a war, yet we have 8,177 missing in action from it and 381 known POW's still there. My perception of a war hero is these missing men.
Pfc. Allen Green - Killed in Action
2Lt Roger R. Kuhlman - Killed in Action
Sfc. Earl W. Small - Killed in Action