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George Francis Webb

Swansea, IL -
Korean War Veteran of the United States Army

"I have no resentment to the Army or Korea for what it cost me physically. Nothing. But I just don’t feel that we have any business getting our noses stuck in all the stuff that we do in all of these countries. Let them do it their own way. All of these mothers and fathers losing a kid. Kids that will never know their father. Other guys that are hurt much worse than I was and the number of them that are going to go to hell and back every day of their lives."

- George Webb

 


[The following memoir is the result of an in-person interview between George Webb and Lynnita Brown, both of Illinois.  The interview took place in 2003 in the Douglas County Museum in Tuscola, IL.  Participating in the interview was George's wife Marilyn, whose own memories of life with a Korean War veteran amputee appear in her husband's memoir as, "A Wife's Point of View."  Consequently, the George Webb Memoir is actually two memoirs in one.  What Mrs. Webb has to say as the wife of a disabled veteran is important to understanding the toll that the Korean War took on families as well as veterans.]

Memoir Contents:


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Pre-Military

My name is George Francis Webb.  I was born May 5, 1931 in Granite City, Illinois and that is where I was raised.  My parents were Leo Francis and Juanita Irene Proffer Webb.  My mother was originally from Venice, Illinois.  My parents divorced when I was a baby and my father's parents raised me.  My grandfather was George F. Webb, a Spanish-American War veteran.  Grandma's name was Catherine Irene McGeaver Webb.  I had three half sisters and one half brother, but I didn't live with them.  Basically I didn't even know them.  My grandparents also raised two of my first cousins, David Patrick Knight and Daniel Henry Knight.  Their mom and dad were both dead so they were orphans.  They were four and six years younger than me and we didn't get along.  Grandmother always felt sorry for them. She felt we were supposed to feel sorry for them because they were orphans. By the time I was about 14 years old, I had had a lot of this.

I attended St. Joseph's Catholic Grade School and then I attended Granite City Community High School where I graduated in 1949.  I was attending grade school and had barely turned 14 during World War II, but I remember the collections we had.  I know at home I collected all the glass and scrap iron and everything I could around the neighborhood to turn it in.  I also remember rationing.  We had to have little stamps to buy different things.  We couldn't get very much meat.  Sugar was hard to come by. Gasoline was scarce.  In fact, my granddad used to mix gasoline and kerosene in the car so it would go farther.  But we always had plenty to eat.

We kept up on the war news because my father got drafted.  From the States he went to Britain and then he went to other places in Europe after that.  He was involved in some actions close to the front.  I don’t honestly know that much about it because that type of information was kept from me. Years later I was told that while he was in England he was in a house that got hit by a B-2 rocket. He was the only survivor. I remember hearing some war stories, but I don't remember too much about them.  I know that he had been in some pretty tight places there in Europe. When he came home he was a very nervous individual. A heavy drinker. If I went into his room to wake him up to go into work or something like that, I stayed at the foot of the bed and just barely touch him.  He had a lot of nightmares.  I had the bedroom across the hallway and at different times I could hear him in there when he was having one of his dreams.  I also knew about the war from the movies.  I went to the show probably every Saturday afternoon and it always had some type of news clips about the war.  I never did associate that with my father, even though he wrote to me a couple of times when he was in the service.

My dad and I didn't get along.  He was an alcoholic.  He wouldn't have anything to do with me when I wanted to go someplace.  If he decided that we were going to go hunting, the first thing we had to do was stop at the tavern and get one of his buddies.  I resented my father not taking me anyplace unless it was a tavern.  I resented not being able to go fishing or hunting with him without him wanting to stop and get some of his drinking buddies.  He once bought me a white tee shirt with the Lone Ranger on the front of it and "Carps Clothing Store, 19th Street, Granite City" on it.  I was a little kid then, about nine years old.  I also remember that he bought me a Harley Davidson motorcycle when I was 16 years old.  Most boys who get something like that would be in hog heaven.  But when he brought that motorcycle home he was half drunk.  He wanted me to get on it so he could teach me how to ride it.  I said to him, "No, Dad.  You're not feeling good.  You go upstairs and go to sleep and then tomorrow we'll learn."  He told me that if I didn't get on it right then I was not to ever touch it.  That motorcycle sat by the back porch where I had to walk around it when I went up those steps for almost six or seven months.  He asked me when I was going to learn to ride it but I told him that I wasn't going to.  It disappeared one day and I never asked where it went.

I saw my mother a few times when I was a little kid.  Instead of going to the show I got on a street car and I went over to St. Louis where she worked at the St. Louis Dairy.  I would tell my grandmother that I was going someplace else, but then I'd sneak over to see Mom.  I would get to visit with her for about a half hour and then come home.  Mom later got married and went to Alaska, but she came down for my high school graduation.  She and her husband later moved back to St. Louis.  After I was married I started getting acquainted with her again.  She and her husband came over for Christmas and Thanksgiving at our house and they visited other times, too.  She even got to taking trips with us.  After she became a widow we got to see each other more so. I never really got that close to my mother, though.  There was always a distance there.  I got closer to her, but it was never really a son/mother relationship.  There was always a gap there that I couldn't get over.  My wife says that she wishes she had known my mother better.  She says that my mother had a rough way to live too, even though she kind of resented her coming back into my life at such a late date.

While I was in school I wasn't involved in any extra curricular activity or sports.  I had jobs in various grocery stores.  I worked in a bakery frying regular doughnuts and using a machine to make cake doughnuts at Siebold's Bakery late in the evening.  I also worked at a fruit stand.  I had these jobs all the way through my high school years.  In the grocery stores I sacked groceries, stacked shelves, worked the cash register, and did just about anything and everything in the store.  At the fruit market I sold the produce and vegetables, unloaded the truck, and displayed the fruit and vegetables.  I worked because I had to work.  I got so much a day for doing a job and then the money went to my grandparents. I was allowed to keep very little of it.  What money I kept I used to go to the shows to see Westerns or shows about big game hunting in Africa.  Tarzan was a pretty long-running series at the time.  I ran around and rode my bicycle all over the area.

I was a good kid in that I never got into trouble. I worked hard. But I had my own opinions and I formed my own opinion as to what I liked and what I didn’t like. That sometimes got me in trouble.  For instance, I was brought up in a Catholic school.  My grandmother went to church every Sunday but then the rest of the week there was nothing sacred to her.  I felt that she shouldn't go to church on Sunday and be a hypocrite when the rest of the week she was trying to figure out how to beat everybody from all angles financially.  To me those didn't go together.

When I was in grade school I decided I wanted to become a priest. I was told from the time to go to high school on that my grandparents would pay for my tuition and I could go to St. Henry’s in Belleville, Illinois. I got out of grade school and graduated in time to go, but then they said, “No. We’re not going to pay your tuition. If you want to go you'll have to plead that your family cannot afford it.” To me, if you’re going to start to be a minister, you sure don’t start out lying your way into school. From that point on I didn’t go to seminary.  This put a serious wall between me and my grandmother.  I stayed in the Catholic Church, but I lost some faith.  After I got out of the service I had some trouble with one of the priests and started to lose interest in and respect for the Catholic Church.

The last year of high school I worked part-time at Blue Ribbon Markets in Granite City.  When I graduated from high school I got a full-time job there.  I was generally a grocery clerk, but I also did the ordering, took care of the shelves, and ran the cash register.  I stayed at that job for one year and then in 1950 I quit and went to work for the big chain store, Tri-City Grocery Company.  I did clerk work--cash register, stocking, ordering merchandise, taking care of the vegetables--whatever was assigned to me.  I then quit Tri-City and went to work for Kroger because Kroger paid about a dollar a day more.  I was there for six months before I went into the service.

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National Guard

When I was 17 years old I joined the Illinois National Guard.  That was in 1947.  My intention was to go into the military and make a career out of it.  If I joined the Guard, that would start me out at a younger age and it would give me retirement at a younger age so I could leave the military and then go on to another field and be fairly well off financially to take care of my family.  No recruiter or anybody talked to me about this.  I had always been told that my actions and thinking were much older than my calendar years, possibly because I was raised by aged grandparents.  I thought the world of my grandfather, but due to problems with my grandmother, I looked forward to getting out of there about as quick as I could.  She was a very strong-willed little Irish woman who came from a well-to-do family.  She went to her grave thinking she was still an Irish aristocrat.

I was a member of Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 209th Field Artillery Battalion, 44th Infantry Division.  I attended weekly National Guard meetings at the Anid Temple (Masonic Order) on Missouri Avenue in East St. Louis.  I received PFC pay for attending.  We were trained by World War II veterans in both the classroom and out in the field.  I changed MOSs several times.  I worked in Fire Direction for a while.  I was in Communications-Radio and Communications-Wire.  I just changed to different sections for learning purposes.  Two weeks every year I had to go to summer camp.  Three years I went to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin and then one year we went to Camp Ripley, Minnesota.  We did calisthenics, learned how to assemble and disassemble our weapons, how to maintain things, how to take care of our vehicles, how to fix our field packs, and whatever we needed to know to be self-sufficient.  It was just general army training.  We fired weapons, but I don't remember too much about any one unit going against another one in war games.  I learned to follow orders and not give it a second thought.  I was taught close order drills.  I learned that my clothes were to be hung in a certain order, my bed was to be made a certain way, and that certain sections of my footlocker had to have certain things in them and how to maintain uniformity.  Even though there was no war going on at the time, I took my training serious.  I was then, and still am, a serious person.  I've often been accused of not having any funny bones.

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Marriage

On May 5, 1951, I married Marilyn Marie Bollinger.  I met her at the grocery store.  She was just a kid there in the neighborhood who came into the store once in a while.  We lived a block apart actually, and I walked by her house every day when I went to work at the grocery store.  After we got married we rented a two-room apartment on Benton Avenue in Granite City.  I quit my job at Tri-City a couple of days before I married Marilyn and then I went to work for Kroger the next week.  I doubt that Marilyn and I even discussed my continued service in the National Guard at the time.  We were two kids that decided we wanted to get married and that was it.  I was 19 years old and she was 16 and still a sophomore in high school.  We didn't know much about life or what was going on.  Her parents didn't object when we got married.  Her father didn't particularly care and it was okay with her mother, so we just went ahead and got married.  I wouldn't recommend that to anybody that young.  We were two kids trying to raise kids.


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Activated

While I was in the Guard, the Korean War broke out.  I knew nothing about Korea at the time and didn't go to any trouble to find out too much about it.  I knew it was in the Orient someplace close to Japan and China.  I knew some of the guys who went over there and came back.  I don't remember any discussions about the fact that those of us in the National Guard might get called up for active service.  When we finally were, all I knew about it was what came across the local radio station.  My grandmother walked down the block to tell me that she had just heard that we were going to be activated.  Marilyn and I had been married for six months at that time.

Somehow the National Guard got in touch with us or maybe we just attended a regularly scheduled meeting.  We had a meeting every Monday night.  Things hadn't been worked out yet as to how the activation was going to be done yet.  They didn't get all of their orders or paperwork as to what would or wouldn't be done.  I was given a chance to go in early and go to school.  I decided that if I did that I would be in a position to make more rank, so I went into active service on October 29, 1951.  The rest of the division got activated in the latter part of January 1952.

When I married, my dad gave me a diamond ring that was his.  It was like a belt buckle and it had a big ruby and diamond.  It was a very nice ring.  He wouldn't go to my wedding, though, because he didn't like my wife.  When we found out I was going in the service, he asked me if he could keep the ring for me.  He said there was a possibility that I would go and not come back so I took the ring off and gave it to him.  When I came back home I never asked for it back.  If he wasn't man enough to give it back to me like he did the first time, I didn't need it.

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Ft. Sill

I was sent to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma for three months where I attended communications chief school. I learned the proper installation of wire to switch boards in a different area on up to the OP to the different battalion companies around us. I learned radio communications.  I learned the supplies that we were supposed to have, what their correct nomenclature was, and how to requisition them.  I learned everything that someone needed to know to supervise a communications team.  The schooling lasted three months.

After I got to Ft. Sill I started looking around at different places for a place for my wife, but I didn't find any place that I was comfortable with for her to live.  Around Army bases at that time, people were even renting garages out to soldiers and charging them a tremendous price.  I found a regular un-insulated garage with a dirt floor.  There was no bathroom in it that I can remember.  That’s the only thing I could find that was available, but Oklahoma was having a bad winter then and I wasn't going to bring my wife down there and put her in that type of environment.  I was living off post with three other guys in a house at that time.  The lady who owned the house found out that a lady friend of hers had a small apartment in a house that was going to come open and she was going to remodel it.  Our landlady talked her into holding off on the remodeling so my wife and I could live there until the later part of January, when I would be finished with my training.  I went home for Christmas and then Marilyn came down about the first week of January. I guess we got to stay together for maybe a month before I had to take her home to live with her parents when I went on to California.

I was assigned to Camp Cooke, California by Lompock, right on the coast.  We owned a 1948 Plymouth at that time, so two other guys and I drove it out to California.  Bill Keck, John Price, and I were in the National Guard unit in East St. Louis.  We drove to California on Route 66, laying over at night in motels.

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Camp Cooke

When I got out to California, there again I couldn't find any housing.  My wife came out later and lived in Santa Barbara about sixty miles south of Camp Cooke.  She got on a bus and came out to California by herself.  When she got to California there was a bus drivers' strike and she got stranded in Los Angeles.  She had a cousin there who was married to an FBI agent, so she called them and they came down and took her to their house.  The next morning I was going to come down to Los Angeles and get my wife, but there was a pretty bad storm.  Some of the roads got washed out in between Camp Cooke and the main highway.  For a while my wife lived in a hotel with two other gals and I drove back and forth on weekends to see her.  Neither of us had ever been that far away from home before and it was a big adventure. [KWE Note: To learn more about this big adventure, see "A Wife's Point of View" at the end of this memoir.]

I got to Camp Cooke in the last of January or first of February in 1952.  I continued training there and went to the Troop Information and Education School.  I did some instruction work there in the company before I got my overseas orders in the latter part of August 1952.  My rank was E-4.

While at Camp Cooke I had to make a decision about Officer's Training School.  I decided that I would go overseas first because I wanted to get my overseas duty over with while my yet-unborn baby was very young rather than wait until the baby was a year or so old.  I wasn't too happy about going overseas and leaving my pregnant wife behind, but I chose to get her back home to Illinois before she had the child instead of her being in California by herself when she had the baby.

After I got my wife settled back in with her parents, I took a train from St. Louis to Kansas City, Missouri, and flew from Kansas City to California.  I left the car with Marilyn.  It was the first time I had ever been on a plane.  I don't know what kind it was.  It was an old two-motor transport.  I enjoyed the trip.  I remember that we lost altitude over the mountains somewhere when we hit an air pocket or something.  When we dropped it scared a bunch of people to death, but it didn't bother me.  I went back to Camp Stoneman near Oakland, California.  It was a deportation port.  I was there three or four days before I got on the ship USS General Black.


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Off to Korea

We left California for Korea the first or second of October 1952.  I worked in the ship's kitchen every other day serving chow.  There was an old master sergeant who was in charge of the crew.  He told me, "Son, every time that you start getting sick, stick one of these ice cream bars down your throat.”  I don’t know how many ice cream bars I ate. I almost got sick, but I didn’t. We got into a really bad storm and nobody was allowed out on deck. It seemed to me that about half the people on the ship were as sick as the dickens. The only reason I didn’t get sick was because the old man kept saying, “Hey, eat another ice cream bar.”   They were just little bitty ice cream bars with a little piece of paper wrapped around them like the Army had.

That ship was loaded to the gills with personnel and supplies, so there was no organized entertainment.  I tried to write to my wife about every day.  We slept in canvas hammocks and I think mine was the second one from the floor.  There were guys that got sick there, but I don’t really remember it happening right there by my bunk. I know I saw some of them leaning over the rail and other ones in the bathroom heaving their socks up.

I guess we were out at sea for ten or twelve days from California to Yokohama, Japan. When we got to Japan all of the troops came off the ship and we stayed there for a couple of days.  We didn't see anything of Japan except the inside of one base.  It's my speculation that they were going through the files of everybody on the ship to determine what area they would be sending them to in Korea.  I was issued a brand new M-1, but not any ammunition yet.  I knew a little bit about the M-1, but I had always carried a carbine.  I had fired an M-1 a couple of times, but that was about the extent of it.  By no means was I an expert with it.

We landed in Inchon, Korea, late afternoon on October 23, 1952. We got off of the USS General Black and onto landing craft and went to shore on them.  I don't remember if there was a gang plank down the side or if we got off by rope.  The Black didn't go right up to the dock because the harbor at Inchon was very shallow.  At that time I don't think there were any facilities there for any deep dry ship.  After landing we got organized.  We got onto a regular Army passenger train that was pulled by a full steam locomotive.  I was told to be a guard on the end car on the rear platform so nobody could get on or off the train.  At that time I was given ammunition.

There were a lot of Koreans along there.  Since I had never been to the Orient before, it was all completely foreign to me.  At Inchon I couldn't tell that we were in a war zone yet.  There were a few buildings around the train station, but I couldn't see much more from where I was at.  Then the other thing was we were occupied following orders, getting off the landing craft, and getting on this train.  It was, "Get everything moving.  Keep moving.  Let’s get this thing going."  We were just so busy trying to watch where we were walking and carrying all of our equipment that we didn’t have time to be sightseeing. We had a big duffle bag on one shoulder and an M-1 on the other and we were trying to follow the guy in front of us to climb those steps to get on a railroad car.  I didn't know anybody on the train.

The train went forward to a replacement depot.  I remember that there was an airfield real close by and there was a small mountain or something that made it a tricky maneuver for airplanes to come in and land at that landing strip.  I saw the mountain and I saw airplanes come in and turn to get to the approach to come in.  When I got there I saw PFC Glickman.  He was one of the original members when the Illinois National Guard was activated and he and I had been in the service together in California.


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Short Tour of Duty

At that point in time I had no idea where I was going to be assigned.  It ended up that I got my first assignment at that replacement depot.  I was there a day and then the next morning or sometime the next day I left that depot by truck and we went forward to a division depot. Like the first depot, everybody from Inchon went on to this one. From there they sent some to the 24th Division. They sent other ones to the 40th. The replacements were split up.  At the division depot they assigned me to an outfit. On October 26, 1952, I was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 160th Infantry Regiment, 40th Infantry Division.  I was assigned to the communications team due to my training.  I stayed right there in that outfit.

The outfit was holding a spot when I first got there.  That first night I could hear cannons.  An eight-inch long tom was behind us and I could hear it coming over.  It sounded like a freight train as they shot barrel-sized bullets.  We were shooting at the enemy but the enemy wasn't firing back into our area at that time.

About the second night I was in the outfit we were in a fire fight.  We went out on patrol and got into a fight with what I think was a Korean.  There was a sniper in a low spot in the ground like a barrel.  They called them spider holes or something like that.  This sniper took one shot at me from about 50 feet.  I rose in that direction with an M-2 carbine with a banana clip on it and I put over 30 rounds where I thought he fired from.

I was the communications team chief and I had 12 men in my team.  We had a telephone line going from Headquarters to Blue Forward.  (Blue Forward was a code name.)  They had a lot of trouble with communications going through on that line because the line had been damaged from mortars or something else coming into the area. They assigned me to check that cable out.  The cable was through a mine field and I went through it with a Korean guard checking the cable out. Before I was halfway through, I came to the opinion that the cable was damaged so much it was not worth trying to repair anymore. We needed a new one. I came back and reported that to the commanding officer. He told me to lay new cable through there the next morning.  Supposedly a path had been cleared through the mine field and this was the shortest route to Blue Forward.

My men got all of our equipment and we started laying new cable the next morning. While we were going up the side of this hill, it was raining enough that we were soaked to the skin.  The rain had also made the path slick.  We had six teams of two men following one another and these six teams were carrying a DR4 of wire. A DR4 was a drum about two foot in diameter and about ten inches wide. Communications wire was rolled on it. I don’t remember how many thousand of feet of wire went onto that spool.  The thirteenth man was falling off behind and, if I remember correctly, he had the DR36. That was a finer wire.  He was binding the six pairs of wire to make a cable out of them as we went along.  The wire was carried on a shaft probably three and a half foot long.  I had one end in my left hand and Bill Sanders (Texas) had the other end in his right hand.  We were the second pair going up through there.

I spotted several trip wires on the way up where mines were or where I thought they had tied the mines, so I called back and told the men behind me they were there and to be careful.  We got to one area where Bill was kind of above me and I was walking along on a path right on the edge where the ground broke off for a couple of feet or so. Apparently when I stuck my left foot forward it went to my right in front of me over that little embankment. In that embankment there was a land mine. The Koreans used a lot of small wooden mines, so there was no way of detecting them.  Their idea was to cripple somebody because it took about eight people to take care of somebody that was wounded.  When my foot touched the land mine, it blew my complete left foot off.  Bill Sanders lost his right eardrum.  I lost my foot on October 31, 1952.  I had only been in Korea since October 23.

I never did go unconscious. I fell on my back, there was this blue smoke all the way around me, and I couldn’t see anybody. I didn’t know where any of my men were. My foot came up and I couldn't see the toes. The tip of the boot was missing on my left shoe, so I realized I had lost my toes. I didn’t feel any pain and, honestly, I was looking at that cloud of smoke and I didn’t know if the Good Lord was going to send St. Peter or if the devil was going to stick his head through that way. I knew that part of my foot was missing, but I was not hurting. There was all this smoke and I didn't see any of my men.  That all had to have happened in a matter of just a couple of seconds because the next thing I knew Bill Sanders was there holding me down. I started shivering. I told him, “Bill, I know my toes are gone. What other damage do I have?” He said, “That’s the only thing, George. You’ve just got some toes missing.”  I told him, “Well, I’ll be home when the wife has the baby.”  When I started shivering several of the men gave me their field jackets and covered me with them to keep me from getting cold.  I guess I must have been in shock because I wasn't hurting.

I thought about going home.  I knew that since my toes were gone, I was on my way home.  My wife wasn't due to have our child until the last part of December or first of January.  A medic by the name of Bob Chambers came up there to where I was. He was a small man, the best I remember. He carried a litter and a big bag and gave me a couple of shots of morphine.  He even apologized for having to use a needle.  They were going to have to carry me out from where we were because from what I understand it was in an area where it wasn't safe to try to bring a helicopter in to get me.  Four of my men started carrying me off that hill in a litter. I knew that if one of them stepped on a land mine, I was history--so I prayed.  I knew everything that was going on.  I prayed that they wouldn't get hurt.

When they got me to the bottom of the hill, they put me in a two and a half ton truck and we went a little way before the truck stopped and I was transferred to a regular US Army ambulance.  There was a medic right there with me on the trip to what I refer to as a field hospital.  He was part of the ambulance crew.  When they got me to the field hospital I was cold, so I asked them to take my clothes off because I was soaked.  I begged them for some black coffee, but I couldn’t have that because I was going into surgery. The doctor said, "I can’t give it to you, but I can give you a shot of whiskey."  I didn't want any whiskey because I had never drank any and I didn't want any.  But after a couple of minutes or so I was miserable enough and getting so cold that I asked for that shot of whiskey the doctor had offered to me before.   I think that did more good as far as knocking me out than the morphine did. I don’t remember being transferred from there to the 8209th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. I don’t know where it was.  I don't even remember if the trip was a long one.  I must have slept a lot. With morphine and that, I was sleeping.

When I arrived they took me into one room and they examined me.  In fact, my battalion exec was there waiting for me.  I don't remember his name now, but I remember that I was really fussing and complaining. My stomach was killing me. The Major went to get a doctor. He said, “Hey, come over and see about my man. He’s got a problem over here.” So the doctor come over and re-examined me.  He rolled me over and checked me around. He said, “Son, I don’t see any wounds on your back or your stomach. What do you think is wrong?” I said, “I’m hungry.” They probably got a big kick out of that. One nurse told me, “Son, if you’ll quit fussing, when you come out of surgery you’ll get a chicken dinner.” The doctor told me, “We’ve got an awful lot of wounded today. Yours is serious, but you’re not life-threatening. You’re going to be okay.”  He said, “You’re going to have to wait a little while.” I went into surgery about five o’clock. When I came out, I woke up hungry as the devil. There was a Korean lady there. I told her, “I want something to eat. Food. Food.”  She brought me a bowl of green pea soup and a cup of black coffee. I don’t think I had ever eaten green pea soup in my life, but I inhaled that bowl of soup and that cup of coffee and I wanted more.  I was starving and motioned for more so she gave me a second go around.  About that time an American nurse came in and asked her how much I had had. She told me, “You don’t get anything else. You’ve just come out of surgery and we don’t want you getting sick.”  Then they put me on the ward.

When I was assigned to a ward, I got a young doctor from Alabama. The next day he came in to check on me and then he told me the explosion had taken my foot off below my anklebone and it had shattered my anklebone. They had to take my leg off to right above the ankle, but outside of that everything was good for the rest of that leg so I wouldn’t have problems being fitted for a prosthesis. I didn't think about how having a prosthesis would affect my future jobs or anything else at that time.  All I thought about was that I was going to be home with my wife.  I also thought that being as I had to get injured, at least it was right at the beginning of my tour of duty in Korea.  I didn’t have to stay there and freeze to death for a year like a lot of guys did and then get hit the last day.

I was only in Korea long enough to get one package.  I got it the day after I was hit.  I don't know what was in it.  I told Bill to divide it among the guys in the tent.  I think there were letters and cookies and stuff like that in the package.  My mother-in-law sent it to me.

They kept me for ten days in that unit.  I guess I was the ward comedian.  I did a lot of cutting up. I got to kidding the nurses pretty bad.  I told them, "A guy comes over here, serves his country, winds up getting hurt, he’s in the hospital, the nurse promises him a chicken dinner, and he wakes up to green pea soup. That’s awful. I don’t understand how they can do that."  Finally the nurse who had promised me the chicken dinner introduced herself.  She was from Rochester, New York, I think. There’s another in the state above it and another nurse was from Worchester, Massachusetts. We got to clowning and cutting up. They looked all over and found Field and Stream magazines for me to read. Different things like that.  I never did get that chicken dinner, though.

It must have been the angle that my body twisted as I went over that bank that caused me to have damage to my right side.  I think that when my foot slipped out from under me I must have lunged front-legged.  When I did, the right leg was up and the left leg was down.  My right side took the blast.  The right side of my head had been busted open in the mine explosion and they had to sew it up.  At the time, I wasn’t aware of my ear damage--a broken ear drum on the right side. My right leg was laid wide open in three different places so they could doctor it with medication.  Once my foot was amputated they put my leg in traction so the skin didn't come back and the meat didn't pull out the bone.  I kept my leg elevated on pillows.

I saw other guys in the ward who were by far way worse off than I was.  There was a young kid next to me. I wasn’t very old myself, but this kid had lied about his age to get in, the way he talked. He had been hit with a mortar and had taken a lot of blast to his stomach and the front part of his body. One arm was broken and had damage.  He had other damage too, but I don’t really know what all of it was. Then there were other guys there in the beds who I could see were in a body cast or they were bandaged up quite a bit. I felt fortunate.  They were laying there and they hardly knew what was going on.  They were in quite a bit of discomfort and there I was clowning and acting the fool.  The chaplain came to see me every day.  I don't remember who he was, but I know that he carried a machine gun in his gear. The driver told me that.

In about ten days time they sent me back to Seoul for two to four days. I don’t remember exactly how long.  It was just so they could get me scheduled on an airplane and get me to Japan. They flew me to Yokohama, Japan, and then they did some surgical procedures and sewed up my right leg.  Right after this I got a telegram from my mother-in-law telling me that the baby had arrived early.

The amputation specialist at the hospital in Japan had me brought down to his office.  He told me that my leg was doing so well that he wanted to go ahead and do the revision on my stump. I said, “What are you talking about?”  He said, “We’ve got to cut your leg back to only about six inches long from the knee. That way it will have a much better fit with the prosthesis. As long as your stump is, it’s just not practical. There’s no way at all that you can wear a leg.”  That’s the first and only time I cried about having lost my leg.  I thought I was going home and that I would get a leg real quick and be back up on my feet.  Then suddenly there was another operation that was going to set me back.  I told the doctor no. I said, "I just got a telegram. My wife has had a boy and I want home as quick as I can get home. I want to see my brand new son.”   The doctor said okay.  In fact, he even stopped a flight that was getting ready to leave and had me loaded in an ambulance and taken right out to a four-motor aircraft so that I could start home.

I was in Japan six or seven days and had surgery on my right leg in three places.  When we left Japan, we were supposed to land at Guam but we didn’t because we had had such a good tailwind the colonel who was flying said, “Things are going so good we aren't going to change our luck. We’re on a roll.”  We flew all the way to Tripler in Hawaii.  They took me and everybody else off the plane for about four hours and then put us back on the plane and we flew to San Francisco to the Army hospital. I stayed there until after Thanksgiving and then on the last day of November or a short time before that we left San Francisco headed for Scott Air Force Base in Illinois by four-motor.  We had to stop at Denver, Colorado, because one motor went out and we lost oil pressure. When we landed at Denver they didn’t even take us off the plane. They checked the motor and apparently it was something minor so we were back up in the air.

We landed at Scott Air Force Base about two o’clock in the morning. They took us into the barracks they had for a hospital and said they were going to let everybody have a chance to call home.  I told them that I lived in Granite City and had a wife and brand new baby there.  I said, "Can I call ahead of somebody else or something so maybe I can see my wife and child?”  They got me a different phone line and I called our neighbor because Marilyn's parents didn't have a telephone.  I guess it was about 5 o'clock in the morning when Marilyn came up to the hospital with the baby. I got to spent about an hour and a half or two hours with them.  It was an emotional reunion.  The baby seemed so small.  I knew he was my son and I was tickled to death to see him.  I wished that I had been there when he was born.  I wondered, "How do I bond?"  It was a new experience to hold him, but it was also kind of awkward.  Eventually we did bond.  I'm probably the only one that can get him to change his mind on something, and then it's not too often.


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Ft. Campbell

From Scott Air Force Base they transferred me to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky because that was a recuperation center. I hitchhiked (on crutches) back and forth from Kentucky to home in Illinois quite a few times.  The weather got a little warmer and then Marilyn brought the trailer down there.  I was in the hospital eating at the hospital and the government was paying for everything--plus I was getting my soldier wages.  If I lived off post and didn't eat at the government's expense, they would give me an increase or an extra supplement pay.  Major George Hollis, who was over the patients, took a liking to me and he signed papers for me to draw separate rations that increased my pay.  There was a trailer park/camp ground right across from the hospital, so Marilyn brought our trailer down and parked it there.  I lived there with her, the baby, and the cat.

In February they did the revision to shorten my stump to six inches from knee center.   They fitted my leg and I started walking pretty good.  A lot of the other guys were pitching a fit saying, "I want out of this Army."  I guess there was a lot of bitterness over injuries or some other problems.  Major Hollis told me, “Be patient before you go to the Board of Review. Be patient.”  By being patient, and with his guidance, I got military retirement instead of just a regular discharge.  With military retirement, that put me in the same category as somebody who had stayed in the Army for 20 years and retired. I could go to a PX or to a commissary, although we didn't know that at the time.

Actually, I knew the benefits were there, but I had to keep fighting the Army to get my ID card. I got discharged on August 31, 1953 with medical retirement, but I didn’t get my ID card until 1959.  An ID card could get us onto a military base. It would give us authorization to go into the PX, to a movie on the base, or to the commissary.  It would give us the advantage of using everything on a military base, at the VA, or anything like that.  The reason why it took us six years to get an ID card was because we were dumb.  We didn't know how to go about getting it.  Every time that I tried down at the depot, I got some young officer who said, “No, you’re not entitled.”

After about six years I sat down and wrote a letter to the commanding general of the 5th Army area when he was stationed in Chicago, Illinois. I gave him my name, rank, and serial number. I told him that I was under the impression that I was eligible for an ID card and different benefits on a space-available basis. If that was true, I said, I wanted my ID card so I could use the benefits when they were available.  I immediately got a letter back from his adjutant. It instructed me to go down to the depot to a certain department and they would be more than glad to get this situation straightened out. I did do that. I went down to the depot and got some young lieutenant.  Apparently he had been dragged through the coals, because he wasn’t too happy to see me. I said I wanted my ID card so he signed one and gave it to me. Then I told him that I also wanted an ID card for my wife.  He told me that he wasn't going to give her one, even though I had a copy of AR600 which said that she was authorized to have one the same as I was. He said, “That’s not my book. I’m not going to read it.”  What difference did it make who it belonged to--it was Army issue.

I went over to the provost marshal’s office.  I saw he was at his desk in his office so I asked the lady at the counter if I could see him because I had a problem.  When I said that my name was George Webb, he came out to see what the problem was.   The colonel told me to come into his office and I explained the problem.  I told him how abrupt the lieutenant had been and that he had refused to give me an ID card for my wife and refused to look at the AR600.  The colonel asked me if I could wait about a half hour.  In my opinion, when he came back, he had been in, shall we say, "a pretty strong discussion" with somebody.  He signed a new ID card and tore up the other one.  He also signed one for my wife.  Then he said, “If you ever have trouble on this post, you come to see me immediately. I’ll solve the problem.”


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Life of an Amputee

Job Hunting

When I got out of service I needed a job. The company that I had been working for wouldn’t hire me. Kroger wouldn’t hire me back being I was disabled.  So I went up to Owens Illinois Glass and filled out an application. You couldn’t tell I was an amputee.  They called me in to take a test and they said the top three grades would get the job. I got the top grade. But when they found out I was an amputee, they told me, “We don’t hire amputees.”  I then went to Standard Oil to put in an application there and they told me, “We don’t hire amputees.”  I finally got a job as a welder in a machine shop. I guess I worked there for about six months and then A.O. Smith opened up a brand new plant in Granite City, so I put in an application there.

A.O. Smith was a large corporation that made a lot of automotive parts. In Granite City they were making frames for General Motors. Marilyn's cousin Ray was a supervisor there so Marilyn's mother called Ray and then Ray went to the personnel manager and talked to him on my behalf. They called me, interviewed me, and hired me.  They hired other handicapped people, too. They were good about that.  I hired in as a welder and I worked as a welder for a while. I transferred to machinery where I operated different types of machines. I operated different sizes of cranes. I did assembly work. I had about every job in the plant except supervision. The personnel manager asked me one time, “George, how come you change jobs so much?”  I told him that I learned a lot by doing that.  I said, “If this plant doesn’t last here, I've got more experience to take to another employer.”  I felt that the plant wouldn't be there for me to retire, and it wasn't.  I worked there twenty-four and a half years.

During all that time my disability caused me to have an awful lot of problems.  I had to have a new leg at least every year. They just could not fit me right. The way I was and as active as I was, my right leg started giving me a lot of trouble about 1960 and I had to have the knee operated on. Since then I’ve had the foot operated on, too. I have a lot of trouble with my right hip. It has been deteriorating all along. It has been very depressing. I went to the VA and told them that I wanted the damn foot taken off like the other leg. You can imagine how they looked at that one--I must be nuts to come in and say something like that.

What it is, there’s so much damage to the foot. I’ve been on so many pain pills for so long that at times it gets extremely depressing to me. I was having a lot of trouble with my left leg and I told them, “I want it taken off above the knee.”  They said, “You can’t do that, George. You’ve got a heart condition.”  My reply was, “I tell you, I don’t give a damn. I want it taken off above the knee. It’s killing me below the knee.  With all your education, you just can’t understand what I’m going through with that leg the way it is. That’s causing more trouble to my heart than an amputation."  I was having severe pain due to damage to the nerves.

My stump would break open and bleed like crazy because it got blisters all over it.  To try to wear the wooden leg over that was painful.  A lot of people at work did my job for me while I sat down for a while.  They would cover for me a little bit until I could kind of get a second breath.  There were people who treated me good--but there were also several of them who said they didn't want to work with me on a two-man operation or whatever because I was an amputee.  I guess they thought I couldn’t move fast enough or something. When I had my leg—the artificial leg, down below my knee, I got along really, really well. I walked well and everything. But when I started getting those blisters and started getting real sore and everything, I couldn’t get around very well. That’s when everybody started trying to help me along. A.O. Smith was good about something like that.

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Fighting the VA

I went to the VA hospital in St. Louis, but the VA is over-worked and understaffed. They don’t have near the money and unfortunately they’ve got many employees with the attitude, “I work for the government. Do you mean I’ve got to do something?”   I bumped heads a couple of times with a couple of doctors over there, one of them in particular.  I was having an awful lot of stump trouble so I went in to see him.  He said, “What do you weigh?”  I probably weighed about 160 pounds at that time.  He said, “What did you weigh when you got injured?” I said, “130.”   He told me that was my problem.  I said, “What the hell are you talking about? I’m 30 years older than I was then. Everybody gains weight.”  Talk about somebody gaining weight--he was just as round as a doughnut.  I let go with that.

I went in another time complaining about the leg and the doctor said it couldn't do what I told him it was doing.  I said, “Are you an amputee?”  Of course, I knew that he wasn’t.  I said, “Let me tell you something. You might know the name of every nerve and muscle in that leg, and you might know how to take it off, but understand one thing. I’ve got 30 years wearing that damn thing. I know what it does and what it doesn’t do. I’m here because I’ve got a problem, not to cry on your damn shoulder for an increase in pension."

A.O. Smith closed down in 1981 and I went to work for the post office.  I started out sorting mail and then I immediately went into maintenance.  Then in 1991 I had my first heart attack.  After that I went into maintenance control where I had a desk job.  According to VA studies, if you have both legs off below the knee or if you have one leg off above the knee, when you're 50 to 55 years old, most likely you will develop angina pectoris.  It happens in such a high percentage of amputees that the Veterans Administration considers that secondary to an original injury.  I was having all these problems with this leg and they kept coming back, “But you have your knee.”  In other words, they felt that if I had my knee, the symptoms I was describing couldn't happen.  You're supposed to be more mobile with your knee than you are without it.

I went to the VA Hospital in St. Louis and told them that I wanted the leg taken off through the knee joint.  They told me no way and asked me where I had come up with that idea.  I got the idea from the Stamps Clinic when I talked to them.  Stamps Clinic is a special amputee clinic at the Hines VA Hospital in Chicago.  They told me this was an option that could solve my problem.  After I talked to them the nurse there said that she could tell I was a little uneasy with this type of procedure and she told me to go home and think about it.  That's when I went back over to the amputee clinic at the VA hospital in St. Louis and told them that I wanted my leg taken off through the knee.  When they asked me why, I told them that it would be the minimum amount of stress on my body to do it that way. All they had to do was just cut it with a knife, twist that bone, and take the bottom part off.  Then I would have a stump that I could walk on.  If I needed to go to the bathroom at night, I could walk on my knees.  The doctors at the VA hospital in St. Louis told me that they would take it off through the knee, but then they would have to shave the knuckle joint down.  I told them, “You aren’t going to shave my knuckle joint down, because when you do that you’re not taking it off through the knee, you’re taking it off above the knee, and then the only way I can get around is if I sit down on my butt and scoot.”  I told them, “That ain’t gonna happen.”

When they said they would "think about it," I went back home and called the Stamps Clinic in Chicago the next morning.  I told the nurse there that I was ready for the surgery and when did they want me.  They had an airplane ticket waiting for me on Monday morning.  This was in 1991.  Two cardiologists gave me their blessings for the surgery and then the cardiologist in Chicago had to approve the surgery as well.  I stayed there from Monday until Friday having tests and preparing for surgery, and then Friday they amputated my leg through the knee.  I came home the following Friday, which was a little too quick. I should have stayed two weeks, but I didn’t.

I waited about a month and then I called the amputee clinic in St. Louis and told them that I needed a new leg.  They said, "We thought you wanted to have your leg taken off above the knee.”  I told them that I had already done that and I wanted a new leg now.  They okayed my fitting so I went to Limb Company and got the new leg.  The guy that owned the leg shop worked on it on Saturday and a Sunday both so I could have my new limb.  Within a month of my amputation I was walking.  I have never regretted my decision to have my leg amputated through my knee.  That is the best thing I ever did because I had been to hell and back many times with the leg.

I have not had a problem with my left leg since, but my right leg is continuously deteriorating.  My right leg is full of shrapnel where it was blown open in three places.  I’ve always had trouble with my right leg. I’ve been an amputee for what, 50 years? I have beat this right foot to death walking on it. This leg has been going downhill ever since 1960.  One time I fell in the shower and broke it. I went to the hospital and they x-rayed it, but I've got so much shrapnel in my foot they thought the break was a piece of shrapnel and they didn't do anything about it.  It didn’t get better so a week later I went back fussing. They x-rayed it again. In the meantime it had opened up a little bit so they could see where the difference was.  I've talked to many doctors about the deterioration in my right leg, but there's not much they can do about it.  They tell me to go to the VA because they see more patients like me in one day than a local doctor does in a year.  They all turned me down.  I retired from the Post Office just before I turned 62.  That was in 1993.

I fought the VA almost from Day One.  The biggest thing that I remember Marilyn saying to me is, “Why are you upsetting yourself and wasting all of this time and energy batting this thing when you’ve lost so many times?”  My answer was that I was entitled to it according to the law.  I said, "I’m going to stay and be a pain in their ass until the day they embalm me."

I don't resent having been sent to Korea.  I served my country. Those people in South Korea are a whole lot better off. That part I don’t resent.  But I’m very bitter about the way I had to fight the VA. The politicians are real quick to send some kid into combat, but when they come back into the country they say they don't have enough money to help them   Here's an example of the VA system today.  They don't have half good enough medical personnel. They've got less money. They’re closing facilities down. One of the biggest things wrong with the VA system is that it is a government agency where so many people feel like they work for the government so they don't have to do a damn thing to earn their pay.  Their attitude is, "I’m here. What more do you want?” I ran into that kind of attitude with several of them.  I would imagine there’s some type of mark on the outside of my folder that indicates, "This guy is a rabble-rouser."

About eight or ten years ago there was a story on a major newscast about the employees in the compensation section of the VA. Their bonuses were based on the number of claims that they turned down. For them to make a bigger bonus was an incentive to them to turn down a disability. This is also the reason why they’ve got a half million backlog in claims that they’re trying to settle.  They turn them down when they’re a legitimate claim and then the veteran has to appeal it once or twice. That ties it up that much longer. It costs the VA that much more money. But someplace up there in top management somebody is not smart enough to see that. First of all, I don’t understand where in the hell they’re entitled to a bonus. They should get a yearly or hourly salary. That’s what their wages should be. Bonuses are encouragement for a government worker to distort the facts so they can get more money.

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Psychological Problems

I not only had a lot of physical problems caused by the land mine accident, I wound up with psychological problems that I didn't even know that I had.  I had dreams at nighttime.  I saw the accident that caused me to lose my leg many a time.  That's been a constant replay.  But it was other things too, even though I wasn't in Korea for very long.  I have dreams about that firefight that I had with that sniper.  I know how well I shot that carbine, and I am upset because I feel bad that I might have killed another human being.  In basics I was taught that to kill the enemy was to kill someone who, if I didn't kill him was going to kill me.  I especially learned that in bayonet training.  But when I shot at that sniper in Korea, I did it as one individual who did that in the name of some government.  It was an automatic reflex in self-defense.  I've thought about that at different times.  Most likely the sniper was some poor dumb kid over there who got sent up there by his country just the same as this dumb kid here got sent over there.  My wife says if I had been over there longer than I was, just think how I would have felt.  But that's not the case.  The guys who had been there for eight, nine, ten months, they finally became hardened until killing the enemy was just like swatting a fly.  They had seen so much of it.  It's the only way they could survive.  This incident has been bothering me for the last 50 years or so.

I did go to a PTSD clinic at Jefferson Barracks for a while.  There was a lady down there that was in charge of the group and she was real good. She did a pretty good job of controlling it, although there were a couple of guys in there that every other word they said was a profanity that I didn’t appreciate. She left and they put a guy in charge who was an amputee.  The group went from about five up to about nine or ten, all Korean War veterans.  While the group was small I enjoyed it and I went. After it started getting bigger, I quit.


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Remembering Korea

A few years back I got some maps and a friend down the street helped me locate where I was in Korea.  I was in Mundong-ni Valley in North Korea. We pretty well found the spot right there on the map. I then put a little piece in the VFW magazine, wanting to hear from anybody that was with me when I stepped on the land mine, or anybody who was at Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 160th Infantry Regiment, especially October 31, 1952. I tried to find some of the men who were with me when I stepped on the land mine. I didn’t get any replies from anybody that I was with, but Dick Gephart in Michigan wrote me a letter. He was in the outfit and said that we had met one time. He said that he had tried to find out where they took me after I got hit, but nobody seemed to know what was going on. I wrote and called Dick a couple of times. I quit writing to him when he told me that he was going to build a new house.  I felt that having a family and building a house, he had enough stuff to do.

Six months ago we were talking on the phone and he said that some of the guys were trying to get together to form a reunion of our outfit, Headquarters, Headquarters Company.  They were talking about having it in Chicago because that’s the center of the country. The guys are all up in their seventies or better, so that way instead of one going all the way across country, two of them just had to go halfway across. I don’t know how this came out. I was thinking about that the other day. I would kind of like to go to that. The wife asked me why since I don't know anybody.  While it's true that I don't, I think I would like to go out of curiosity.  I'd like to know more about Korea.  How was the weather? Did anybody get hurt right there in our encampment area? Did we get hit by any mortar barrages?  I can’t explain it.  It's just a curiosity thing.

I follow the messages in the back of my VFW and DAV magazines every time I get them.  They're beginning to show reunions for the 40th Division for Korea once in a while.  In fact, there’s something in the latest edition saying that the 44th Division for Korea is going to have a reunion.  About six or seven years ago there was going to be a meeting in Decatur, Illinois.  So I called a bunch of the guys that I had been in service with in the same outfit here in the States. They said, “Well, I don’t know,” or, “I’ll have to get back to you.” Nobody took the time to get back or anything like that. Whether it was lack of courtesy or whatever the deal was, I don’t know. One guy that I met out there at that meeting in Decatur was from Mt. Vernon.  He was an M.P. It took him six months to get back to me.  Diplomacy has not always been my best feature. When he finally got back to me about a reunion, I told him that I had tried and tried to get something going with the guys but they didn't call me back for five or six months so to hell with it.  And that's where it stayed.

I never talked to my boys about Korea.  Why hash over something?  But if they don't know anything else at all about it, I want them to know what the facts and truth are about the Korean War--or as far as that goes, any of the wars that we’ve got. We need to get authors and historians that will write down the truth and not put their own liberal translations into it to try to water it down. They don’t teach history in this country anymore. The kids don’t know anything about it. So until we can get some government officials that demand it and some historians and politicians who will write down the true facts as to what happened and what didn’t happen and let the cards fall the way they ought to, the kids are never going to know the truth about anything.

When I got out of the service I joined the DAV. I'm now a life member.  I went down there one evening a week for information and other things and to try to make contacts to help me get a job and stuff like that.  It got to be a bunch of penny ante nonsense. That’s not what I went down there for. Later after we moved up to Fairview Heights in 1965, I joined the VFW with a life membership. About the second time I was down there, I got into it with a Second World War vet. First thing, he had been drinking. I can’t stand a drunk to come up and put his arm on me.  Maybe you can blame this on my father. I dislike an alcoholic. If Marilyn hadn't raised so much hell and watched me like a hawk, I could have very well been one, too.  Anyway, that old man down there at the VFW came over there with his feathers fluffed about how he fought overseas in Germany and thought it was the big war.  He said that Korea didn’t amount to a bunch of so and so. It was a police action. When I got done on him it was real quiet in there and I left.

Korea was a war.  It killed people.  It was only a police action because the politicians didn't have guts enough to call it a war.  I’ll give President George Bush credit. He’s got guts enough to say it’s a war. He said, “The war is over.” Now it’s an occupation zone. But he referred to it as a war. Truman never had guts enough to call it a war. And then the left wing newspapers said it was a police action.  It aggravates me.  If I’m in a museum or something like that and see the word "conflict", a lot of times I’ll get somebody and complain, “What the hell do you have that word there for?  Conflict is when you have a little difficulty. Do you know that there were 53,000 of our boys who got killed in Korea? And 103,000 plus wounded. Police action my ass."

Fifty years ago if our government said it was black, as far as I was concerned, it was black. If our government said it was white, it was white. I believed in our government 100 percent. I had full trust in the politicians. I believed that a veteran who came back would be taken care of and his injuries would be treated. But I've had nothing but hassle physically and mentally all these years because of the short time that I was in Korea.  If I knew then at age 20 years old what I know now, I might have moved to Canada with some of my relatives.

I’ve had two of my boys in the service.  I wanted them to be.  Our youngest son was in the Navy over there in the Gulf. Kadafi has a guided missile with Don's name on it that didn’t explode. Don’s name isn't the only one. The reason we know that is somehow Kadafi got the message back to the commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS America saying, “You’ve got this guy, this guy, this guy, this guy, this guy on your boat."  Their names were on that missile. The old man (ship captain) call them all in and talked to them about all the artwork on the missiles.

I honestly believe that when a kid gets out of high school, boy or girl, two years in military service would be the best thing in the world for the country. Reason, after hearing a First Sergeant raising cane, these kids would find out that mom and dad aren't so bad to get along with after all. I think from that point it would do them a lot of good. We don’t need every one of them to be taught how to use a rifle. We’re going to have to have a standing army, that’s true. But if you take every boy and girl at eighteen and put them in service, let some of them learn the medical field so they can help people. Take the extra service people and use them like we used them for the WPA. They could help out in smaller communities to teach the people how to take care of themselves better. Hygiene. Medicine. How to operate a bulldozer. They could work in state parks. They could work out here on some of the county roads and do different things like that.

I think we did good with our purpose in Korea. Those people are living well today and they’re independent.  I was hoping to get the chance to go to Korea when they offered a tour last month free to veterans if their name was chosen.  I didn't think they would choose me because I'm sure they had to sift through a little bit on medical problems.  I'm not the best candidate to take but I wanted to see Korea.  I think sending American troops there was a good move.  During the Second World War they stomped the Nazi and Japanese empires.  They stopped them.  The Korean War stopped communism from spreading.

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Politics

I have mixed emotions about having someone like Hillary Clinton as president.  Hillary is a very smart woman and I'm not against a woman being president.  I think that nothing has been proven against Bill and Hillary Clinton, although God only knows there were people who tried.  Kenneth Starr spent $24 million of our tax money trying it.  Also, what happened between President Clinton and Jennifer Flowers and the Lewinsky girl was a personal problem.  He isn't the first president that did it and he won't be the last one.  Marilyn says look how we did with Kennedy.  We absolutely worshipped him and what was he doing the whole time?  Nothing any worse than what Clinton did, but look what happened to Clinton.  Marilyn says that Hillary has put up with a lot.

I resented Bill Clinton being a draft dodger. A commander in chief should not be allowed to evade the draft.  But I also believe that there were groups of big business that resented a lot of his ideas and that they went to extremes to distort anything they could to ruin the man. If you pay attention, all of George Bush's right hand men are the same ones that his father had when they attacked Iraq before, and they were all involved with big oil or the military complex.  So there is money in it for them.  A lot of times I wonder if the reason we got involved is different than what we were told.  That’s part of it, but they kind of distort it a little bit. We’ve got our nose stuck in over there. Like right now in Saudi Arabia. We’ve been propping up Saudi Arabia for years politically. We’ve been backing the king. The people in Saudi Arabia itself don’t like him. If you turn around and start watching now, the biggest part of all these terrorists all over are Saudis. Then here the President says, “We’re going to make a democracy in Iraq."  Now that sounds good.  I think we’ve got the best government there is.  It’s got a lot of flaws to it, but I still say we’ve got the best thing going. There isn't one of the kings or sheiks over there in the Middle East who want to lose the golden carpet they’re sitting on, so they may say to our face that they're going to help us, but then I wonder underneath just how much they are helping.


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To Hell and Back Every Day

Going to see the Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC really bothered me, so I did not go when I was by Washington, DC.  Going to the Korean memorial in Springfield, Illinois bothered me.  One of the guys that I knew got killed in Korea on the first day.  His name was Sawyer.  He was in Service Battery, 209th Field Artillery Battalion.  I saw his name on the memorial.  I looked at the Vietnam Memorial there too.  When I was touching Sawyer's name on the Korean one, a young man from the Vietnam War came over and tried to talk to me.  I choked up so bad.  I just looked at the list and thought about those guys who were 19, 20, and 21 years old.  They were like me.  A bunch of dumb kids.  They lost their lives and it goes back to -- for what?  The whole damn place wasn’t worth it.  I know it might sound like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth on that. What we did on saving South Korea was good. I think it was a good thing to do. I have no resentment to the Army or Korea for what it cost me physically. Nothing. But I just don’t feel that we have any business getting our noses stuck in all the stuff that we do in all of these countries. Let them do it their own way. All of these mothers and fathers losing a kid. Kids that will never know their father. Other guys that are hurt much worse than I was and the number of them that are going to go to hell and back every day of their lives.

I saw how poor the homes and facilities were that I guess 95 percent of the people in Korea were living in when I was there. They were just little shacks or anything they could make. But I realize and know that we have a lot of people in our own country that are living in poor houses, too. They don’t have enough food and they don’t have the proper medicine.  I think that we should take care of our own at home first before we get involved in so much of this stuff overseas. We have a knack of sending diplomats to different countries that are stupid. They don’t know the language. They don’t know the customs. They don’t know anything else and the only reason they got the job was because they bought it through a political contribution. So I guess we’re going to be in these kind of problems until the end of time because of the way we elect people to political office.


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A Wife's Point of View - written by Marilyn Webb

[KWE Note: Marilyn Webb was present when her husband George was interviewed in the Douglas County Museum in Tuscola.  She was asked a number of questions about her home front experiences and what it was like living with a Korean War amputee who had to fight for his VA benefits.  Her story begins with a trip to join her husband, who was stationed at Camp Cooke, California, in 1952.]

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California Adventure

I really did love George and thought that I just couldn’t live without him.  Besides that, when I moved back in with my mom and dad, things weren’t just as good as they could have been either. My sister was still there and she and I shared a crowded room.  It just didn’t work out.  George had taken all the pots and pans and stuff like that with him because I had told him, “Just as soon as possible, you find me a place to stay out there because I’m not staying here.”  I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for him to say that he had found a place, but he just never did.

I got aggravated at home one day so I took the bicycle and rode to the Army surplus store in Granite City where I bought a big footlocker.  Although the store was in one section of town and my parents' home was at the opposite end of town in another section, I brought that footlocker back on the front handlebars of the bicycle. (George had the car in California.)  Then I promptly got a bus ticket to California.  I had gotten my allotment check of $120 a month at that time and decided that I was going to go to California.  When I started packing, Mom asked me, "What are you doing?"  I told her that I was going to go to California and that I was leaving in the morning.  My dad drove me to the bus station when he went in to work that day.  Nobody made a big deal about me going to California.  My mom and I never did think anything that I did was a big deal.  I always knew what I was doing.  My dad said, "You're the stubbornest, bullheadedest, most stout-minded person I've ever seen in my life.  I can't do anything with you."  That might have been true, but I took that bus.

I’m kind of like what my mom, my dad, my grandma, my grandpa, and everybody else said I was. I guess there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do.  If I really wanted to, I could do it. And did. Nobody could keep me from it, it didn’t seem like. When I was a little girl, Grandma would put me on the back of the old horse and throw a grass sack over the old horse and say, "Here.  Go to the mail box."  The mailbox was about two miles away.  I rode the old horse over to the mailbox. Well now, to get to the mailbox I had to go through two fields.  The old horse knew to get up to the gate so I could climb down the gate and open the gate so he could go through.  Then he would come back up to the gate again and I would climb up the gate, get on his back, and go across that field and to the next gate.

There are a lot of stories to go with that trip I made to California.  It was a big adventure, but you know, I was lucky. I had two really good bus drivers that looked out for me.  When I got out to Los Angeles and the buses were on strike, I couldn’t figure out how I was going to get to the camp or get to where George was.  So I stayed there at the bus depot. Somehow or other I was able to get in touch with George and he told me about the bad weather.  He said, "Marilyn, I don't know when I'm going to be able to pick you up because the weather's really bad."  There were heavy rains and mud slides.  All I heard about was the bad weather they were having.

After waiting all day at the depot it dawned on me that I had two cousins in California.  I called Don and Hester Lynch, my cousins in Van Nuys.  They told me to stay right there because they were coming to get me.  Don and George both walked into the bus station at the same time.  George had gotten through somehow.  Everyone told him that he couldn't do it, but George said, "I'm going to."  And he did.  When the bus depot man saw that George and Don were there and that we were related, he let me go.  Otherwise he didn't let me out of his sight.

We stayed all night with my cousin and her family and then we drove on back in to Santa Barbara. George told me that I was going to be a ways from camp because he couldn't find any place to live nearby. He said that I was just going to have to stay in a hotel.  That was okay with me. I thought I would be all right.  We got a room in a hotel whose name I can't remember. I had a hot plate and dishes and pots and pans and everything like that.

There were two other girls from Illinois--Shirley and Darlene--in the same motel.  George was in the 44th Infantry Division of the National Guard.  When they had their meetings the girlfriends and wives would go too.  While the guys were doing their thing, we ladies gossiped and talked and got acquainted with each other.  So Shirley, Darlene, and I were not strangers.  We were all staying at the El Camino Hotel on the main street through town in separate rooms and the guys were only able to come in maybe every other week or so. Darlene was really smart.  She said, “You know, it’s really stupid to be paying for three rooms when we only need one.” So we three girls all rented just one room during the week.  We put all of our stuff in one room and the three of us slept in one bed. I had my hot plate, so we got to cooking some of our meals on it.  When the hotel manager found out that we were cooking in the hotel room, she told us that we couldn't do that because it was against the rules.  But she told us that we could use her kitchen if we cleaned up after ourselves.  So we did.  We used her kitchen for a long time.  We stayed there at that motel for at least a month.

I got a job as a waitress at the Recorder Restaurant.  They had a ticker tape thing that was constantly going all the time with all kinds of news on it.  Darlene got a job as an assistant nurse in a hospital.  Shirley's allotment had not yet started so she was always penniless.  Darlene and I kind of footed Shirley's bills.  When the guys came in we rented another room. The hotel was a really big one and it had a bowling alley downstairs.  There were a lot of free snacks there.  I learned to drink coffee because, after the first cup of coffee, refills were free.  I learned that coffee could fill me up, so I drank coffee.

Darlene decided there was no sense in us paying for three rooms every now and then. She thought that if we were paying for three rooms we could afford a house. So she went to the Red Cross and got the address of a rental house at 217 Figueroa Street near Santa Barbara Street.  We went in to look at it and decided that it would do just fine. The lady who owned it was a French woman.  She was going to move down to Georgia to take care of her sister who was ill, but she had a kitty cat that she wanted to leave behind and wanted to know if we would take care of it for her.  The cat’s name was Monechee.  We said that we would be glad to take care of the cat, so she said that she would rent us an extra bed because the house only had two bedrooms. That way we could have a fold-out bed if all three husbands came in at one time. Otherwise we shared the two bedrooms.  We also had to share the bathroom.

Our old car got to the point where it didn’t want to run right. It certainly wouldn’t start. The house that we rented was on a hill and to go down to the street we had to go down the hill. I learned that if we could get the car over to the driveway—which we three did by pushing it over to it, we could jump in, I could let the clutch out as we were going down the hill, it would start, and we were on our way.  I took Darlene to work and then I took myself to work.  I don't know how we did it, but we always managed it.

Shirley didn’t work.  She just wasn't the working type.  We decided that if she wasn’t going to work she could go ahead and keep house, cleaning it and cooking.  We thought she could have a meal ready for us when we got home from work.  However, she preferred to do nothing.  Her husband got to the point where he wouldn’t even drive down to see her. He was seeing other women. He wouldn’t even come into the house so Shirley decided she was going to go home.  We told her husband that she still owed us money and she was not going anyplace until she paid us. He got a loan and somehow or another paid us what Shirley owed us.

When she left that meant that Darlene and I were sharing the house together. I then started getting sick.  I got so darned sick of a morning that I couldn’t hardly keep anything down. I went in to the restaurant real early of a morning to serve meals.  Those egg yellows would float on that white stuff and I got sicker. One day I wound up spilling a hot cup of coffee on a guy who was wearing his good suit and I got fired.  When I got back home I told Darlene and she said, “Marilyn, don’t you know what’s wrong with you?”  When I said no she said, “You’re pregnant.”  I said, “I’m not pregnant. I can’t be pregnant.”  "Well," she said, “You’re pregnant. You’d better believe you’re pregnant.” I didn't see how I could be, so I went to take a pregnancy test.  Sure enough, I was pregnant.  I couldn’t figure that out. How did that happen?

I decided to stay in California even though I was pregnant.  I got a job as a waitress in a different restaurant, so I made out.  One thing led to another and George and I decided that I needed to live closer to the base.   We wrote to my mom and dad and asked them if they would take the title to our car and use it for collateral on a loan so we could put a down payment on a trailer. We put a new motor in the car, so it ran much better. My parents got us a loan and we bought a trailer.  When we got the trailer we moved it to the campground that was closest to Camp Cooke--about five miles away.  Since the trailer didn't have a bathroom in it, we parked right close to the bathhouse in the camp ground.  George lived off base with me in the trailer.  When he and the others went on maneuvers someplace, another girl named Emma Logan moved into the trailer with me.

Every now and then I went back to Santa Barbara to see about the cat.  Darlene was still living in the rental house, but she wasn't taking very good care of the cat.  I wrote the landlady and told her that I was going to bring the cat with me.  The cat didn't enjoy riding in the car because he had never been in a car before.  By the time we got done with him, he rode like a trooper.  We kept that cat for many years.

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Return to Illinois

I guess I would have stayed in California, but there wasn’t really any choice. I had to go home to live with my parents when George got his overseas orders.  We hooked the camper trailer on the back end of that little old Plymouth and put the cat in the car with us.  George and several of the other soldiers were all one big group and a lot of the other guys from the Illinois National Guard were going overseas too.  They needed to get their stuff home like we did, so we figured it would be cheaper for them and no big deal to pile their stuff in our camper rather than for them to pay to ship it home.

It was just George and me and the cat in the car trip home to Illinois.  We had quite an adventure going home.  We had the trailer loaded, and the car was just a little old Plymouth.  But you know, that thing really did well. It had a new motor in it so it was running good. But in those mountains we burned the brakes out on the trailer in no time at all.  The only brakes we had were the car brakes. George sideswiped one of the highway signs with the trailer once and scraped it all the way down the side.

Going up Needles Mountain we got part of the way up and the car was not going to tow the camper the rest of the way up. There was nothing to do but back that trailer and car down the mountain to the little service station that we had passed at the bottom of the mountain.  And it was hot. I mean, it was HOT!  George backed that car and trailer a good halfway down the mountain.  I directed the traffic away from him so other cars could go over in the other lane.  When we finally got down to the service station, the woman who owned it with her husband saw us and came running out.  She said, “Oh Honey! You’re killing the cat. You’re killing the cat.” Old Monechee was sitting there with his eyes bugged out and panting because it was too hot. That poor woman grabbed him up and took him inside of her house where it was air conditioned. She put him down in front of the air conditioner and started wetting him down. She was more worried about the cat than anything. She told me, “Don’t EVER lay him back on that feather pillow again. That’s the hottest thing you can do.” So I made sure I didn’t do that anymore.

She said that her husband could take us up over the mountain.  We thought that he would hook on to the trailer, pull it up the mountain, and then we would re-hook and take the trailer on by ourselves. No, that’s not what he did. He brought an old dilapidated truck around (the fenders actually flopped), hooked on to the front of the car, and pulled car, trailer, and all up over that mountain. We made it up like that.

We slept in the trailer at night wherever we could. We didn’t stay at campgrounds.  We parked the camper, stayed in it at night, and got our meals in it. On our way home on Route 66, George got tired one night. I wanted to get into Missouri so I said that I would drive. George got in the back seat, laid down, and went to sleep.  So did the cat. It was late at night and the whippoorwills and everything else were hollering along the highway. It was dark and there wasn’t a lot of traffic. We were batting right along. With George and the cat asleep, I thought I would turn the radio on. I was driving with my left hand, which I normally didn't do, because I was turning the radio on with my right hand.  All at once I looked up and there I was going down a hill.  Way over on the other side of the hill were headlights coming towards me. It scared me so I slammed on the brakes. Well, when I did that, the trailer just sort of lunged and the back end of it went “swish!” and started swaying. I thought, “Uh oh.”  I pushed a little harder on the brakes and the brakes started squealing but I wasn’t stopping. That other headlight was coming toward me and I figured there was no way in this world that I was going to miss hitting those headlights. On each side of the highway were big ravines going down. I was going back and forth across both lanes because I was jackknifing continuously. I knew that if we hit that other car we were all gone so I said, “Dear God, help me.” And do you know what that guy did?  He helped us. Just when we should have gone over that embankment or hit that truck, which would have killed us, that car and the trailer stopped.  I was petrified.

When I had sense enough to look around and see what was happening, I found out that the back end of the trailer and the front end of the car were sitting across the highway in a V-shape and there sat that truck. We did not touch him.  George raised up and said, “Why are you stopping?” I said, “I think I just had an accident.” He looked over and saw where we were and said, “Well, Marilyn.  You’re going to have to straighten out and move it.” I said, “George, I can’t. I simply can’t.” He told me to move over to the passenger seat.  He crawled over, got in the driver's seat, straightened us out, and we were on our way.  We didn’t stop to ask the man if he was hurt or if everything was okay.  We stopped at the next service station, pulled in, and decided to spend the night. When we went back to the trailer, things weren’t just exactly like they were when we left them. But we did make it home. We parked the trailer beside my mom and dad’s house and left it sitting there. I moved back in with Mom and Dad again.  George went on to Korea.

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Receiving Bad News

Not too long after that I got a letter from George saying that he wasn’t enjoying his trip any because he was too cold and too damp. He also told me how he had been a guard on the train and all that. My mom, dad, sister, his grandmother and grandfather, and everybody read the letters.

Then one day a Western Union telegram came up to the house by messenger and my dad signed for it.  I was too young to have any good sense at all, so I wasn't scared to open the telegram.  It told how George had been hurt in Korea.  I went to his grandmother and showed her the telegram.  She got really upset and said it was my fault that he was hurt.  She didn't like me and never did.  I can't say that she liked George all that much either.  His mother and father were both alive and she raised George, but she always thought that she was doing him a favor because his parents were both alive.  His dad lived with them, but he never had anything to do with raising George.  His mother had moved over to St. Louis and once in a while she came to visit, but not very much.  Later she married another man and moved to Alaska.

Anyway, Grandma figured that if it hadn't been for me, George would have gone to OCS School and this would never have happened to him.  I tried to explain to her why George had made the decision he had, but it didn’t register with her. It just didn’t make any difference. It was still my fault.  I got really upset.  I wasn't so upset because my husband had been hurt.  I was more upset with Grandma.  She was really hateful and was raising her voice at me.  Finally my dad took her by the arm and told her that she was going to have to leave.  He said, "We're not going to take this anymore.  You've said enough."  She got really upset with dad and when he told her to leave, that didn't make her like me any better.  Later on she and George got into some bitter arguments over how she treated me.  It got to the point that he wouldn’t bring his family in there to see her and a short time after that we just quit going.  George says that Grandma was the type that wanted to run the entire family lock, stock and barrel and business, but he had no intentions on doing it her way.

Between the telegram and Mom and Dad and Grandma and everybody, I got pretty upset.  My parents were never really caring. My Grandmother Bollinger had 18 children so we had a big family, but only one cousin was ever in the military so my dad just wasn’t military minded. I mean, he didn’t really go for the fact that George was in the military to begin with.  Then when he got hurt, it upset my mom and my dad--especially my dad.  He thought that George being disabled was going to cause problems for me.  I think Dad kind of thought that George was going to be really disabled and may not even be able to take care of a family.  Here I was pregnant and expecting a baby, and George wasn't going to be able to take care of us because he had lost a leg.  The telegram said that he had lost his leg.  It was dated November 7, 1952, and it said:

"The Secretary of the Army has asked me to express his deep regret that your husband Cpl. Webb, George F. has been seriously ill in Korea since 31 October 1952 as a result of injuries.  Right side of head, right thigh, right lower leg and amputation left foot incurred when he stepped on land mine.  Mail may be forwarded to him Rank Name Service Number c/o Hospital Directory Section APO 503 c/o Postmaster San Francisco, California." - Wm E. Bergin, Major General, USA, The Adjutant General of the Army

That really upset my dad. I then started getting labor pains for long times. Finally Dad told me, “We’re going to go see the doctor.”  We went to the doctor and he put me in the hospital immediately.  He said, “You’re in labor.”  I was only seven months along and was in labor because of the stress from Grandma and my parents and everything else.  The baby was born on November 15.  With George's grandma hating me and my parents thinking their daughter had now got some problems, I didn't have anyone there to say, "Everything is going to be okay, Marilyn."  I didn't really feel that I needed anyone though.  I thought everything would be all right.  I wasn't in labor very long--just a couple of hours.  They knocked me out so that all I can remember is hollering, "Help me.  Help me.  Get it out.  Get it out.  Help me."  After the baby came out, I don't remember going back to my room.  As a matter of fact, when they came to me and told me that I had had a baby boy, I said, “No, you’ve got the wrong person. I’m not having my baby for another couple of months and when I do it’s going to be a girl.”  They started laughing and the woman next to me said, “Honey, believe me. You had your baby and it is a boy.”

I stayed in the hospital for three days.  Gary Marvin stayed in the hospital for five days because he was premature and underweight.  When he was born he weighed five pounds, four ounces, which wasn't bad.  But he kept losing weight until he went down to four pounds.  After he gained his birth weight back they let me bring him home.  I had Mom, my dad and my sister to help take care of him.  He was something.  He was spoiled rotten.  Come to find out, one of the girls that George went to high school with was a nurse there in the delivery area. Every time she was on duty all she did was drag Gary around.  The kid was bad spoiled when he came home from the hospital and we didn’t know it.

I didn’t much more get home when George landed at Scott Air Force Base.  He called me and told me that he was at Scott and he wanted me to bring the baby.  I said okay, although I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do that because Gary Marvin had just gotten out of the hospital and he wasn’t supposed to get cold or anything.  My dad had never been to Scott Air Field and didn't think he could find the way.  He didn't know how to get on the base or anything else and he was a nervous wreck what with trying to get us to the base and trying to keep the baby from having a breath of air.  My mom and sister came with us.  It's a wonder we didn't smother that baby to death.  The kid didn't have a chance to catch cold.  He was so wrapped up he couldn't have gotten a breath of cold air.

I remember getting to Scott and seeing George and him seeing the baby for the first time.  We talked and everything but it didn't seem like we had very much time until they had to leave again with him.  He was going down to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.  He seemed like the same old George.  I didn't see any difference in him.  His injury didn't bother me a bit.  It never did.  Later on when we were back together again, when he told me to get him a shoe I would take him a left shoe instead of a right one.  I forgot which leg was off and everything else.  That never bothered me.  My parents reconciled to his injury, but Grandma never got over it.  She continued to blame me for it.  When I moved down to Kentucky with Gary Marvin, my mom and dad were okay with that.  They always felt that I could do anything I wanted to do.  I had the car and trailer at my Mom and Dad's, so I took them to Kentucky.

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Struggling Financially

From 1953 to 1959 we went without an ID benefits card.  Did we ever struggle!  In those six years we had babies on top of babies and we paid for every last one of them where we could have had them in a military hospital and it wouldn’t have cost us anything. We couldn’t do that without an ID card, so we paid for all of our babies that we had.  We had five sons, Gary, Larry, Terry, Jerry, and Donnie.  Donnie was born in 1961 after we got an ID card, but I still had him in a civilian hospital because there was no space availability when he was born.  If we had had an ID card, I would have been able to go to the commissary where groceries and everything else were so much cheaper.  The same thing for the PX.  Things are cheaper in the military facilities than they are out in public.  I could have had a free medical doctor and all of my prenatal care and everything for free.  Food would have been so much cheaper.  When we didn't have the ID card, a lot of times I went to the store on $20 to feed us all for the whole week.

During the time that George was at Fort Campbell, we didn't have any other money other than the money that came from his monthly Army pay.  He was getting a prosthesis and trying to learn how to walk on an artificial leg.  Meanwhile, I got pregnant with the second baby I guess the very night I got down there. I wasn't working outside the home.  George and I didn’t get along too well after that. He was getting fitted for a leg and wasn’t in the best of moods, and Gary had been so badly spoiled all he wanted to do was cry unless he was being held.  We were constantly taking him over to the hospital to see if something was wrong with him because if we got out of his sight he wanted to cry. He wanted to be held all the time. That got on both of our nerves.  On top of that, I was pregnant and heaving my guts up.  And, of course, our trailers were just boxes.  I mean, there was hardly any insulation or anything.

We separated for a time after returning to Illinois.  George drank.  He would have made a great alcoholic.  He just didn't see a thing wrong with it.  Catholics drink.  We separated not because of the drink, but because of a lot of things.  When he came home what did he have the most of? Alcohol beverages. I took all that stuff back to the car, took it back to the liquor store, and got the money back out of it.

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Watching a Husband Struggle

As the wife of an amputee,  I’ve seen him struggle with a whole lot of stuff.  He gets depressed, aggravated, hurting all over, and not able to do a whole lot.  He can sleep 12 hours a day and then take a nap of an afternoon.  I tried to do things behind George's back to help him because, if I told him what I was going to do, he would tell me not to do it.  So I did it behind his back and after it was done, it was done.  For instance, I wrote letters to the VA.  I would write and tell them what was happening and how he was hurting and everything. I don’t know if any of it ever did any good, but it made me feel a little bit better.

Sixteen years ago we built a house.  They had just started on it and had the foundation all dug out and everything. George went out to the lot there to see how that was coming along.  He came back home to mow the yard and had a heart attack. I think it really got to him about how big that house was going to be.  Then later on he stepped on the edge of the shower and broke the instep of his right foot. We didn’t know it. We thought it was just badly bruised. By the time we had the x-rays taken and found out that it was broken, it had already started growing back together again. As a consequence, they didn’t want to re-break it and they decided they could fix his shoes and everything in order to compensate for that. He’s had problems with that foot ever since then.

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Fighting the VA

George is one hundred percent disabled now.  He fought the VA and he fought me on that.  I got tired of him fighting all the time over at the VA. I mean it was just one thing after another. He was never satisfied.  I just wanted him to quit. I didn’t want to hear any more.  Eventually I understood why it was so important for him to get what he's got now, but at that particular time there was just so much going on.  The kids were growing up.  Four boys!  And the boys got sick of the hassle, too.  There were a lot of times they got the backlash of George's fight with the VA.  Boys will be boys--and they were boys!  Healthy boys who made a lot of noise.  They would wrestle and scuffle and fuss and fight with each other.  When they were young they were always being threatened with being sent to the military school at Alton. George's grandfather was in the military. His father was in the military. And then George was in the military.  He knows what can happen and everything, yet he was always so doggone military minded where our boys were concerned.  Even to this day, when he gets hold of one of the grandchildren he tells them that if they want their schooling, joining the military is the best way to go.  I can see the advantages as long as they don’t have to go into a war. But that’s the problem. You join the military to get free schooling, and what happens is you wind up in a war.  At least our grandkids so far have been able to figure that out and they haven’t gone in.

When our boys were growing up, it didn't take much for them to get on George's nerves because of the health problems he was having.  The boys got some pretty dad-burned good whippings.  What they would probably claim is child abuse today, they got.  I did my best to try to keep them away from George and to keep them quiet so that they didn't get on his nerves.  I knew--and the boys knew--what would happen.  But again, we learned that boys will be boys.

I got to the point where I didn’t want to hear about the VA anymore. George wasn’t making any progress at all so I figured that he was getting what he was going to get and there wasn’t any sense in messing with it any more.  I had no idea what he was supposed to get. I had no idea how any of that worked.  I just knew we were getting a compensation check. He was working. We were making ends meet. We were getting ahead.  I was satisfied. I would have been very satisfied just to not have any more to do with the VA.  Now, knowing what I know about what a disabled veteran is entitled to and what George went through to get it, my advice to other women who are sick and tired of hearing this is:  It's worth sticking with it.  It is worth it.

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Losing a Child

We lost our third boy Jerry from crib death when he was three months and nine days old.  I had put him to bed. He had a cold and I had taken him to the doctor that day. The doctor gave me medicine for him. That night after I gave all the kids their baths and everything, I put him to bed. He always wanted to sleep on his stomach.  He wouldn’t sleep any other way--just on his stomach. So I laid him on his stomach and patted him on the back and he went to sleep.  We went to bed. When I woke up at 2 o’clock in the morning, I went in to see about him. Mom had kept Gary overnight and I had Larry. Larry was in the top bunk bed and Jerry was at the bottom. I went to roll Jerry over and when I did, he was real stiff and his cheeks were black and everything.  When I shook him he didn’t react. I told George, “There’s something wrong with Jerry.”  I called the neighbor next door who was a nurse and she came over.  She told me, “Marilyn. He’s not breathing.” She called the fire department and they came in with their machines and everything, but they said he was dead. So we had a funeral for him. That was a tough one. But we got through it.

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The Aggravation of War

There have been a number of times where George and I have really gotten down to the nitty gritty of things and he has told me things about Korea that normally he wouldn’t tell anybody. I have to get him in the right mood at the right moment though.  As the wife of a Korean War veteran, the whole thing--war--aggravates me to no end.  I'm as upset as I can be with Iraq right now. You bet I am. Do you think I would vote for Bush? I wouldn’t vote for him if I had to have a kitty cat in office. I know what war can do to a soldier deployed.  There are just so many and those guys are over there in 120 degrees in the shade--and there isn't any shade. They’re over there. Doing what? Getting shot at. We’re not even in a war right now but they’re being shot and killed.  Every day there are people getting killed. Our American people over there are being killed. For what? You want me to get started on this? The Iraqi people had a leader. All right, he wasn’t great. I’m not saying Bush is great. They had a leader. They had rules and regulations. They knew what to expect if they did not obey them.  They knew damn good and well their head would be chopped off in a second. They knew how to live with this. What do they have now? Bush has gone over there. He’s tore up their houses. He’s tore up their lands. He’s killed their people. What have they got now? They can’t even get electricity to go to the places or anything they’re fighting over there.  And we’re supposed to support all that?  Get all that fixed up and everything else with our tax money?

We have rules and regulations we have to follow here too. If we don’t follow them, we know what the consequences are going to be. But that doesn’t mean that those people over there—the Iraqi people, the governor over there or whoever, has the right to come over here and say, “Get rid of that president. We don’t like him. He’s going against our country. Get him out of office.” They don’t have any right. Why do we have that right?  Maybe I wouldn't feel the same way if I had not had personal experience with somebody who has shown me the results of war.  I don't think average Americans comprehend the meaning of war unless they have somebody in the war and they have somebody hurt or killed who has been in a deep war.  Somebody that has been mentally disabled because of it.  And we're not really teaching our grandchildren about war either.

I agree that it wouldn't hurt if kids getting out of school went into the military like George says.  But would I want one of my children, one of my grandchildren, or any of my great grandchildren over in Iraq right now? No, I wouldn’t.  I think that there are some wars that are justified, but I don't think Iraq is.  Our youngest son Donald was on the aircraft USS America in 1980 and was in fighting a little bit.  They did shoot bombs and everything over there then.  You better believe I was scared to death.  I never missed a news program.

I have never been able to figure out what war helps, although I do know one thing. It does cut down the population.  George says the population expands faster during a war, but just think of what it would do if the war hadn't cut it back to begin with.  We are over populated, there isn't any doubt about that. Pretty soon we’re going to be able to walk right up to Heaven with all the trash we’re accumulating. Our pile of trash is going to be so high that we won’t have to worry about flying to Heaven. We’ll just be able to walk right up to it--if we’re even able to get there.

George doesn't belong to the Korean War Veterans Association, even though there is a chapter right here.  One of his good friends, Marvin Donaldson, wanted him to join but you know what happens when you join these different groups or organizations.  They all have their responsibilities.  There's money that has to be raised.  There are parties that you need to go to.  It takes time, money, and energy to keep these organizations going because the government doesn't sponsor them or give them money.  George and I like to travel. You can’t belong to all these doggone groups, do what you’re supposed to do with them, and travel. And we travel. We've got a camper that we can live in now.  What we had before didn't even have a bathroom in it and it wasn't very well insulated.  This one is good and insulated.   We’ve got one boy that has never been married. Our youngest boy, God love him, he keeps going all the time. He lives with us and takes care of everything at home so we can go any time we want to and we can stay as long as we want to and we don’t have to worry about anything. When we come home everything is exactly where it belongs. I’ve also got a daughter-in-law that comes in and cleans. Everything’s clean when we get home.

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Politics

We’ve got countries all over the whole world that are living well today and they're independent right now because of United States intervention. We’re trying to help everybody. I didn’t realize until I just read Hillary Clinton’s book that the United States has given so much money to so many of the little countries overseas that we've never even heard of.  Hillary has visited them and taken stuff with her to give to them as a goodwill gesture. I’m telling you, there is a smart woman. You may not like the Clintons very much after all the crap you’ve heard against them and everything, but I think they went into this thing meaning all the good in the world and it just bounced back somehow or another. But I think that woman is a smart woman.  I hope that in 2008 we have Hillary as our president.

Clinton at least had some of those enemies in the Middle East shaking hands with each other in front of the White House. He got them all together. But since Bush has been in, it’s all gone right downhill. When Clinton came in to our economy we were out of jobs. We had more people on welfare than you could shake a stick at. Clinton took care of that. He said you either work or you don’t get on welfare. He started sending them to school and everything else. He started making people work for their money. And what are they doing now? They’re back to not working again. Clinton has got a lot of enemies and I don’t know why. I’ll tell you what, I think he did a heck of a lot good while he was in as the president. And he had the backing of Hillary.

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Final Thoughts

I have seen on memorials all of the names of the people who have died for this country. And for what?  We’re still in a damn war. We’re still fighting. And for what? Are we going to do this until the country blows up? I guess we are. The Bible says so and I guess so.  But you would think after a while we would learn, wouldn’t you? You would think that the reason the people in the United States have done so well is because we have had so many different types of people in our country with all kinds of different ways of doing things.  They have made this country as well as enabled it to take care of itself as it can. Then we go over there and we try to make those other countries do it our way. Hey, we’ve got problems too. But as long as those people over there know the rules and regulations and they know what’s going to happen to them whenever they don’t follow those rules and regulations, what’s the big deal?

I’ll tell you what.  It’s really hard to deal with a disabled veteran.  To make a go of it you’ve got to really love that person who comes back from a war. You’ve got to really love them. Because it gets hard.  I’ve always loved George. Sometimes I think, "Oh God. Take him. I’ve had enough."  But I don’t mean that. Oh, I get aggravated with him, don't think I don't.  But I love George and I really don’t know how I could live without him. I’ve always felt that way.  George and I have celebrated our 52nd anniversary.  You know what?  If I had it to do it all over again, I guess I would do the same thing.  I would do it all over again.

 

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