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John Yancey

Little Rock, Arkansas
Korean War Veteran of the United States Marine Corps

"John Yancey was one of those natural born troop leaders, possessing both the charisma and the steel nerve, as well as the ability to assess objectively the situation he was in."

- Ray L. Walker

 


[KWE Note: Unlike most of the memoirs on the Korean War Educator, the following is in the form of a transcript of a taped interview with John Yancey, conducted by Ray L. Walker in July of 1985, less than a year prior to Yancey's death.  Walker was in the 5th Marines and Yancey was in the 7th Marines in Korea.  Both participated in the Chosin Reservoir campaign in November of 1950, and both were wounded on Hill 1282 at Yudam-ni.  The rights to the Walker/Yancey interview are owned by Ray Walker of Brentwood, TN.]

Memoir Contents:


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John Yancey's Story - Easy Company 7th Marines

In July of 1985, Chosin Reservoir veteran Ray L. Walker taped an interview with John Yancey, recipient of a Navy Cross (his second) because of his actions during the Korean War.  He got the first award on Guadalcanal as part of Carlson's Raiders, and also received a battlefield commission for his actions there.  The interview transcript first appeared in "The Battle Report", Volume 1, Number 1, September 1989, an oral history newsletter edited by Walker. Walker's comments are a forward to Yancey's interview.

Forward by Ray Walker

John Yancey was one of those natural born troop leaders, possessing both the charisma and the steel nerve, as well as the ability to assess objectively the situation he was in.  I did not meet him during the Korean War, though we went down Hill 1282 to the aid station together the morning of the 28th.  It wasn't until the Chosin Few was organized that I happened to "find" Yancey in Little Rock, my wife's hometown and where I lived from 1958 to 1962.  My great regret is that I did not look him up sooner.

John was born in Plummerville, Arkansas, graduated from the University of Arkansas, where he played varsity football; owned a liquor store in Little Rock called "Yancey's," which is still in business; ran for the Arkansas state senate against the then Gov. Faubus machine, and was narrowly defeated.  He was friends with a former Marine aviator, Maj. Gen. Sid McMath, who was a former Governor of Arkansas, also was close to the late Gen. Lew Walt, USMC, who asked Yancey if he would like to be his Exec in Vietnam.  Yancey jumped at the chance, but the Corps turned him down due to lack of sufficient teeth, most of which were shot out on Hill 1282.  John's reply was, "Hell, I wasn't planning on biting the sonsofbitches to death."

Due to his injuries, cold weather was painful, so John spent most of the winters in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where he had a lot of friends amongst the local population.  They nicknamed him "Tigre Jungilia"--I hope I spelled that right--meaning, "Jungle Tiger." One of John's hobbies was the history of Mexico.  He knew more about Hispanic history, both Mexico and the rest of the Americas, than any Anglo I have ever met.  He had a great respect for the people and the culture of our southern neighbors, and had a house full of artifacts from the area.  He also was well read on philosophy and religions and we spent many hours chewing the fat, going through the battles of World War II, Korea, Nam, and the historic causes behind them and the philosophies that were born from these wars.  A truly fascinating man, and a good friend.

Dallas, Texas is home to the John Yancey Detachment of the Marine Corps League.  I am proud to be one of the founders of that detachment, along with the late Ted Lynn, Jr., a former Raider, Don Childs, and many others. The Chosin Few tried to get John's Navy Cross upgraded to the Medal of Honor.  I managed to collect about 30 affidavits, but the Corps said it was the same story they had on which they based the Navy Cross. 

The map below was drawn by me from the original as drawn by John Yancey.  It will be helpful to refer to it from time to time as you read.  And keep in mind that John was a sick man at the time of this interview and did not expect to live very long.  His memory seemed sharp on most aspects of the battle up until the last hour he was on the hill.  As we spoke he would wander off the subject at times, and he was going over this on tape as a favor to me.  He showed me his battle jacket, which he still had, and I counted 57 bullet holes in it.  He still had a copy of a letter from his wife dated September 15, 1950, announcing the birth of a baby.  He had the letter in the upper left pocket of his jacket and a bullet had cut the letter on its thin edge all the way across.  Looking at that jacket it is hard to understand how he managed to avoid being hit far more times than he was.  He suffered three major wounds during the battle, one hitting the right cheekbone, popping his right eye out of its socket.

You will read during his recounting of the battle where he talks about putting his eye back in the socket.  He managed to retain the sight in the eye after he got to the hospital.  One bullet took out a number of his teeth as it crossed from one side of his cheek to the other, then a piece of shrapnel from one of the Chinese grenades hit him in the roof of his mouth as he was yelling commands.  All in all, a hell of a story.


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Preface by Ray Walker

On November 26th the 5th Marines were at Sasaru-ri on the east side of the reservoir and the 7th Marines were on the west side, defending Hagaru-ri and Yudam-ni, two villages about 18 miles apart. The hills to the west of Yudam-ni, where this story takes place were named 1282 and 1240, indicating meters above sea level. The temperature the 26th dropped to about 10/20 below zero.

On Nov. 27th the 5th Marines were relieved by 2 army battalions of the 7th Infantry Division. The 5th then spent about 9 hours motoring across from Sasaru-ri, through Hagaru-ri and up to Yudam-ni, arriving in the Yudam-ni valley about 9 or 10 pm. We broke out sleeping bags and thought we'd sack out for the night. About an hour later we noticed green tracers coming over the hills above us. We were then told we would have to go up the hills and help the 7th Marines who were being overrun by strong Chinese attacks.

One platoon of Able Company 5th went up 1282 and the other 2 platoons went up 1240, just north of 1282. I was with the Able Company platoon sent up on 1282. An officer from Easy Company 7th Marines placed us along the ridge line. When I tried to fire my BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) it was frozen and wouldn't fire. Pfc. John Kelly from Easy Co. brought a case of grenades over and he and I spent several hours dropping them on the Chinese who were trying to come up the hill. Just before dawn I was wounded by a Chinese concussion grenade. All the battle that Lt. Yancey describes in the taped interview took place just before we came up and during the time we were on the hill.

When I was evacuated off the hill, I went down with an officer I later learned was Lt. Yancey. They had him upright, with a tree limb across his shoulders and his arms over it, to keep him upright so he wouldn't choke on the blood from his mouth wound.

We were told later that there were over 1400 dead Chinese on the west side of Hill 1282. The command posts for both the 5th and 7th Marine Regiments were at the base of Hill 1282. Had we not held that hill the Chinese would have been able to overrun the two regimental commands.


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Walker/Yancey Interview


(Click picture for a larger view)

Hill 1282 Yudam-ni Nov. 27, 1950

Walker:  We are recording, John, 30 minutes to a side, and I told Martin Russ I would get it as well as I could. He told me he would like to get you and me and Charlie [Griffin] in a group.  I was hoping that Charlie could come, because Charlie was there and had so much...just the way he expresses himself, he brings out a lot.

Yancey:  I have discussed with him, when you were here and when you weren't, about a situation on Hill 698.  And of course he had a hell of a lot better view of it than I did, but I was leading the fucking charge up the sonofabitch, and, overall, he saw the damn thing better than I did.  He told me stuff I didn't even know about, you know.  But he and Clements came up with those 17 men, including Charlie.  I thought, hell, that is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life, because it was in the ... right in the middle of a counterattack.  I told them to take the right flank.

Walker:  That was 698.

Yancey:  Yeah.  I never told Charlie, but I was on their ass.  When we went up on 1282 initially we were lacking the 3rd platoon because they had been held down in the perimeter around regimental headquarters.  So initially, when we dug in up there we ... I took the front as a semi ... set up a perimeter on the north boundary and Clements went in on the rear.  He was in support.  We tied in with each other, just like in two semi-circles.  So when the 3rd platoon finally came up late in the afternoon --

Walker:  3rd platoon, Sgt. Murphy and Lt. Bye?

Yancey:  Murphy was originally my platoon sergeant, but when the 3rd platoon leader got killed around Seoul, and we got Bye in --

Walker:  Bye was --

Yancey:  Bye was green at the time and we didn't want to trust him with a platoon by himself, so I was more or less forced to act just on the practical side to give up Murphy, because he was the best NCO I had, and put him in with Bye so Bye could have -- would have some guidance as to what the hell was going on and to be able to handle the troops.  When Bye and Murphy finally came up on 1282, Lt. Ball and I discussed what we were going to do.  So we strung them out in a single defense line close to the south, not over 12 foot apart.  In retrospect, what we should have done we should have moved my people up, and then down the hill, on to the north.

Walker:  To the enemy side?

Yancey:  Yes, we should have expanded the perimeter we had and we should have put those people behind my people, in support, and made the thing--in other words, have the defense in-depth, rather than have it strung out.  I have fought that battle over many times in my head and I came to that same conclusion, we should have done that, had it in-depth rather than strung out like they were on the right flank.  Because when they penetrated us, they penetrated my right flank right in between the 2nd platoon and Bye, and that really --

Walker:  How far would you estimate you were at the time of the major assault from the C.P., and in what direction from Phillips and the C.P?

Yancey:  25 yards to my right rear.

Walker:  The C.P. was 25 yards to your right rear?

Yancey:  The C.P., yes.

Walker:  And from that C.O., where would you estimate that Murphy and Bye were?

Yancey:  They were strung out along that saddle and their left flank couldn't have been no more than 30, 40 yards from the top, from the peak of the hill.

Walker:  Where would you say they were from the C.P.?

Yancey:  Tell you what, turn that off a minute and I will get a piece of paper.  Anyway, say this is the top of Hill 1282.  That saddle left off to the right to 1240, which I forget the Captain's name that had it.  But anyway, in general, I had this portion here.  I had my people scattered out in two-man foxholes all the way across the front here.  Now, I had a machinegun here, positioned so it could fire across the face of the 3rd platoon's position.  In other words, it was in such a position that I could not get grazing fire.  As close I could get grazing fire was to put the machinegun here, where it could fire across the face of the 3rd platoon and he could also fire back across this way.

Walker:  3rd platoon was Murphy and Bye.

Yancey:  Yes, this was the 3rd platoon, here.

Walker:  They were out on this east -- to the east --

Yancey:  That's right, between 1282 and 1240.

Walker:  Was this a decline?  This was a saddle?

Yancey:  This was --there was the saddle and here was a kind of gully back down in here.

Walker:  So from where you were to where they were, there was a dip down into that saddle?

Yancey:  A very precipitous dip.

Walker:  They were underneath you by some number of feet.

Yancey:  Absolutely.

Walker:  How many feet do you think it was down that hill where they were?  What would you say, if you were walking --

Yancey:  30, 40 foot drop.

Walker:  All right.

Yancey:  The mortars were in a kind of declivity, kind of a low spot in here, kind of a sink, like somebody scooped it out.

Walker:  Behind you and just before you get down --

Yancey:  To the mortars, yes.  Then the company C.P. was right in here, adjacent to the mortars.  And my platoon was in this situation here, with the machinegun there, on the left, Gallagher's team.  He had the machinegun and he had it positioned where he could fire down that saddle, this saddle, because that was the logical place.

Walker:  Gallagher was on your far left flank.

Yancey:  That's correct.

Walker:  Do you recall who had the machinegun on the right flank?

Yancey:  I don't remember the guy's name, but I had him positioned here where he could fire down this thing here, and also --

Walker:  That "thing" there is the spur going out towards the Chinese position?

Yancey:  That's correct.

Walker:  Going north towards the Chinamen.

Yancey:  And he could also fire across here, kind of like the end of this here.  But it was impossible, it was very difficult to get those guns where they could have maximum effect, that is, grazing fire, say, from four foot down to one foot, and that was a compromise was all that was.

Walker:  This dropped off pretty good in front of you there, didn't it?  Right in here, from your line, was a pretty good drop?

Yancey:  Right.  Right in here it dropped off I guess about 20 or 30 feet, just like it did here.  Because when on the night of the 27th, I guess it was, when everything was quiet and they had everybody laying over on 50 percent watch, and when I heard this goddamn -- I was walking along behind here and I heard this terrible queer kind of a sound, and getting to thinking about it afterwards it sounded like a thousand men walking on Corn Flakes.  And when it was, when -- I called back to the mortars here and I called back to the C.P. here and told Ray Ball, I said, "Ray, something funny going on.  Throw me a couple flares."  And they were right there talking to us, to the mortars, so they threw up a couple flares.  I was here in this position at the time, and I looked down, out this way, and here was all of these fucking Chinamen in a row, and here --

Walker:  One row behind the other?

Yancey:  Yeah, about 20 yards, yes.  Three goddamned lines of them.

Walker:  Well, this was down, looking down in front of you, just a 30 or 40 foot drop and out to the flats, getting ready to come up the hill?

Yancey:  But there was three lines of them stretched all the way as far as I could see, to the left and to the right.  That is when this damn Chinese officer started hollering, "Thank God, nobody lives forever."  So when I saw that, of course I yelled, "All stand steady and hold your fire.  That damn Chinaman is mine."  And when he got a little closer, I cut loose on him with a couple bursts.  I had an M-1 Carbine, automatic selector, you know.  And about that time the shit hit the fan.  The bugles started blowing and cymbals started clashing and they started following at a run.

So Clements was tied in on the rear, because in unknown circumstances like that, where it is almost necessary, when you are isolated -- now the closest unit was way over on the right, seven or 800 yards, Dog Company, I believe it was, and in an isolated position like that, you need a perimeter all the way around to protect yourselves.

Walker:  You all were kind of sitting in like a Y there, with the tail of the Y going to the east, towards 1240, that was Murphy and Bye, and you were on the top end or fork of the Y and Clements on the bottom fork of the Y.

Yancey:  Yeah, Clements' C.P. was somewhere in this vicinity here.  I had a two-man foxhole dug right here.  I had another one, another dug by a Chinaman, I presume -- I had a two-man foxhole dug right here.  I had another one that was a bigger one, started by a Chinaman, I presume, right here, so that I would be, you know, as close as I could to all elements of the front.  Initially, I was right in here.

Gallagher was here, and another guy I don't remember.  But when the Chinamen made the breakthrough, Ray, they made it right in here, right in the juncture --

Walker:  Between you and 3rd platoon?

Yancey:  Right, and they knocked out my right machinegun there.

Walker:  Do you have any idea what time that was, approximately, when they knocked out the right machinegun?  Was it about midnight?

Yancey:  Somewhere around that time.

Walker:  Because my memory is seeing a machine gunner shot down, a guy walking --

Yancey:  You were on the right flank so you saw the machine gunner knocked down had to be this one here.  I had one more machinegun.  I had it stationed in here to protect the left flank, because I didn't have enough men --

Walker:  That would be the top of what would be the south fork of the Y.

Yancey:  It wasn't on the level of the plateau at the top of the hill, it was down a little bit up here.  Maybe a 10 foot difference between here and there, but it was here so he could protect the draw.  The draw came up this way.  I had -- I wanted to have that draw covered by men, riflemen or a machinegun, and I didn't have enough men to spare so I put the machinegun there.

Walker:  As I came up that hill, the way we came up, the platoon of Able 5th that came up, the left of the hill was to my left shoulder, as I came up.

Yancey:  That was another -- from here there was another little ridge come back down here, and this is more than like what you came up, this little ridge.

Walker:  Just below the 3rd platoon's position?

Yancey:  And there was low ground there, a declivity like this, between the ridge you came up on and the 3rd platoon.  And for whatever reason, I don't know why they selected it.  I had nothing to do with it, but down in kind of a little hollow place right here they set up the company tent and had a damn field stove in the sonofabitch and had the First Sergeant and the company clerk there in the sonofabitch.  We were sending the men down to it in kind of relays to get them warm because they had that damn stove in there.  They had water and they were boiling this water and the kids would come up and fill their can of -- give their can of rations and they'd get a can that was already heated out.

Walker:  Charlie remembered the warming tents.  I didn't have any recollection --

Yancey:  It was singular, one tent.

Walker:  I didn't have any recollection of a warming tent.

Yancey:  Well, later on, they -- the Chinamen set the tents on fire, or either that or their fire set it on fire, but the thing burnt, with all of the company records, right here. 

So when they made this thing here, we organized the first counterattack.  We were in a situation like this, across like this, and we lined the people up and we counterattacked in this direction, across here.

Walker:  Back towards the hilt of the Y?

Yancey:  Correct, that's it.  Right across here.  Shit, we didn't get 20 yards before I looked around and there wasn't a man still standing, except me.  And right along in here I was all alone in the situation here, and the Chinamen came right in here, threw a hand grenade at me.  I put up my hand and knocked it back, like that, and at the same time another Chinaman threw another hand grenade in here and the damn thing went off, and that is when I got the slug in the roof of my mouth.  That thing must have blown me 20 foot, at least, and I came down against a damn rock on my left side.

Walker:  Blew you down and sort of off the hill?

Yancey:  Backwards, yeah, in the damn air.  I had gone up to talk with Gallagher and he was low on ammunition and I got hold of some ammunition from the C.P. and carried it up there, myself, and gave it to Gallagher.  I got shot the first time in here.  I also told Gallagher it was his damn fault, you know.

Walker:  Where did that one hit you?  This was before --

Yancey:  That went across here and went through the nose, like this.  Kind of messed the nose up.  Gallagher was real proud of himself.  He had -- the last Chinaman he killed fell right here.  Another step he would have reached and touched the gun, but he had them sonofabitches scattered out in kind of a fan shape from the muzzle of the gun.  But the last Chinaman fell right under the muzzle of his gun.  The night before he had killed I guess about a dozen Chinamen right down in this area here.  You read the book where it was a Chinese officer with an alidade was -- never did understand what that was.

Walker:  It is a means of measuring off real estate.  People use them to measure off distances for a map.

Yancey:  I remember he had --

Walker:  Metes and bounds.

Yancey:  He had a clipboard, he had a compass on his watch.  He had a tape measure in his pocket, vest, something.  But I never did know what an alidade was.

Walker:  It gives metes and bounds on real estate.  If you have a compass, he can take a reading and make a map from that, saying so many feet, so many degrees.  It is used with a compass to make an accurate map.

Yancey:  So we went down there and took the stuff off of him, his papers, so that we could send it to intelligence, and we tore his insignia off of his collar, rank, and all of that shit, and took all of his papers out of his pocket, and whatever he had.

Without a doubt, Ray, what you people did, you came up this little ridge here, which is the way we approached 1282 when we first moved up, and the C.P. was here and the mortars here.  The right flank machinegun was here.  So -- the other machinegun was here so we could cut across here and cover this side to the north, which we knew logically was the avenue of the approach.  Then they would either come up this way or this way.  So I had to compromise and put the gun down here, where he could fire down either side of this little hummock.

So actually what happened, they did, they came up this damn little saddle, and they also came up in this area.  And I had this other machinegun to try to protect the left flank and the foreground.  I've never been able to satisfactorily get in the mind as to where in the hell I should have put it to be more protective.  Probably should have put the damn thing in the center here, but it was -- if I had done that, all of the fire would be plunging fire, which is the least effective of any type fire, with a machinegun.  But it was a mistake anyway.  There was another kind of a ridge came back down from the center.

Walker:  Off to the south, about the middle part of the south end of that Y.

Yancey:  That's right.  So on the 3rd counterattack I had come back around here and kept hollering for Clements, because his C.P. was in here.  He came up and I was standing here.  "Tell me where I'm  needed," he said.  I said, "Clem, give me a squad, quick.  I have got to reinforce this left section near Gallagher's gun."  And he hollered, "Sergeant, go with Yancey."  And that's when the bullet hit in the vicinity of his helmet and he fell down right here.

Walker:  So you thought he was dead?

Yancey:  Well, yeah, when the bullet hit, the blood spurted and he dropped like a rock.  So I took the squad that came up with him and at that time the penetration had been made, the penetration had already been made here.  And I had them line up, kneeling down, firing in this direction.

Walker:  Sort of an oblique angle.

Yancey:  Oblique, that's right.  Firing from the kneeling position, and that is when we made the 2nd counterattack.  Needless to say, we got clobbered.

Walker:  Well, at that point, where was Murphy and Bye, and those people?

Yancey:  They were somewhere over in this vicinity.

Walker:  You were cutoff from them by then?

Yancey:  That's right.  As I understand it, the remnants of their platoon, because they hit them like a damn wave and just kind of rolled over them, and from what I could understand, talking to the guys later, they pulled back to this little ridge in here, the one you approached on.  They were trying to hold the position there.  I don't know that, but that is what -- from all the people I talked to, that is what happened. 

So about the time you came up Bye's survivors and his platoon is somewhere in this direction.

Walker:  That may be where we went.

Yancey:  I imagine it was.

Walker:  It may be the 3rd platoon we reinforced.

Yancey:  Did you notice any high ground to your direct front?  If you noticed any high ground, you would have been in this saddle here.

Walker:  We went up in the dark and never saw much of it in the light.  Where I was, I was looking down the hill.  Chinese were coming up the hill and I was sitting on top of them, throwing hand grenades down on them.

Yancey:  You had to be here or there.

Walker:  I was looking down, and I don't know what --

Yancey:  Either way, you would have been looking down.  You would have been looking down from here into this little area, or you would have been over here, looking down into this vicinity.

Walker:  There were a whole bunch of whatever, a whole bunch of them throwing grenades, because they were going off like firecrackers all over the place.

Yancey:  First time I ever saw a barrage was 698, and they was throwing them sonofabitches in squad formation, obviously, because they would come over 12, 15 at a time.

Walker:  Thoroughly effective.

Yancey:  They really clobbered Bye's platoon when they made the first attack on 698.

Walker:  During the second counterattack, did you see Phillips at that time?  Did you see him at all?

Yancey:  I didn't see him until the third counterattack.  He was standing right here.  He was standing in the C.P. and Bye and Ball -- Ball had a bunch dung in right along here and he was sitting in a sitting position, firing at these Chinamen as they come over the ridge.  You could see them in silhouette.  When they come over the top, you could see 'em in silhouette.

And he was in the third counterattack, that we were still effective in this direction when a guy about this position here was coming towards me.  Had been several Chinamen in this area we had killed and this guy had that Tommy Gun leading the assault right there, and that is where I got hit the third time, was right in here.

Walker:  What time of morning do you think that was by that time?

Yancey:  I think it would have been around four o'clock.

Walker:  About three or four hours since the first major assault?

Yancey:  I'd say something like that.  Given the fact that probably the first was about midnight and. you know, time goes kind of slow.

Walker:  It does.  I understand.

Yancey:  Like sitting on a mound, like you were sitting there all your life.

Walker:  And when somebody's calling you on the phone and puts you on hold.

Yancey:  But anyway, in general, that was the situation, and the disposition of my platoon, Clements' platoon and 3rd platoon, seemed logical at the time.

Walker:  At the point of the third counterattack, now Clements is down.  You don't know where the hell Bye and Murphy are, because they are cut off to the right and you have not seen them.

Yancey:  That's correct.

Walker:  And Philips has been shot down.

Yancey:  He's dead right here.

Walker:  And you got that Thompson in the face and you went down, and that is about four o'clock in the morning.

Yancey:  I'd say something like that.

Walker:  And at the point you went down with the Thompson, do you recall what happened after that?

Yancey:  Well, I was in such bad shape by then that I had that slug through the roof of my mouth and one through the nose, and that damn -- I remember coming back over here and I -- several days before I had had blankets taken off of the dead and wounded, back down after 698, and I had the blankets taken off and we tore them into strips about a foot wide, and I used those as -- had the men wrap them around their necks, use them as mufflers and tuck them in over their shoulders and try to keep warm, and also where they could pull them up to keep the wind off their face.

And I had one around my neck and I took that off and tore me off a strip about four or five inches wide, and after I poked my eye back in the socket I put that thing up under my chin like this, and tied my jaw like this.  But it was hanging way down, you know.  And when it was hanging down, I couldn't articulate.  So when I tied it up and got my jaw back into reasonable shape, I was talking like this, you see.  I couldn't really speak.  So at about  -- seemed like I lost all sense of time by that time.

Walker:  Did you see Gallagher after that?

Yancey:  No.

Walker:  Talk to him at all after that?

Yancey:  No.

Walker:  When was it, in relation to that point, that you got this sort of sling tied around your jaw?  What time -- from there to the time that Captain Jones with Charlie 5 came up on the hill?

Yancey:  It must have been an hour or more.

Walker:  What went on in that hour?

Yancey:  You know, I don't really know.  I know Ball was dead, Phillips was dead.  My right flank had been knocked out, and mostly it was just kind of random firing and occasional hand grenades.  It wasn't really a lot of hand grenades.

Walker:  After the third counterattack you all had pretty much stopped the major --

Yancey:  It was kind of like we both petered out at the same time.

Walker:  so they sort of relaxed.

Yancey:  They kind of petered out here and we kind of petered out across here.  But still we had this random firing here, here.

Walker:  See, at the time I was hit, which was just maybe an hour before sunrise --

Yancey:  That is about when I got hit.

Walker:  Because I lay there about an hour and it was pretty much random, nothing real concentrated, and --

Yancey:  I'd say our time -- I remember about quarter to five.

Walker:  Just a little bit going on, not a whole lot.

Yancey:  If they'd had another wave they would have wiped us out, because when -- what happened to Jones -- I thought it was Baker Company.  You said Charlie Company.

Walker:  Charlie Company 5th.

Yancey:  I thought it was Baker.  But anyway, they came up this little ridge right here, came up right in here.  And when I first became aware there was anybody on my left flank, they were in this position here and moving this way, and I had this two-man hole dug here.

Walker:  So they came up on the wide point of that Y, on the left flank; they came up in trace right behind Gallagher?

Yancey:  Right, right behind Gallagher.  They were here in our perimeter before I realized they were here, and I went up and met the people and, as well as I could, I explained what the situation was.  And they -- as I understand it, they waited until daylight.  They spread their people out across here and waited until daylight and they made an assault.

Walker:  Well, you were the only officer then --

Yancey:  Clements was out.

Walker:  -- that was functioning at all?

Yancey:  Clements was down.  The other two were dead.  Schreier had not been heard from.  He had the mortars.

Walker:  Murphy and Bye are cut off on the right flank.

Yancey:  Yes.

Walker:  They are fighting their own war down there.

Yancey:  Right.  As far as I know, from talking to the guys, Lieutenant Wells, who we had sent back --

Walker:  He had gone down the hill.

Yancey:  We stationed him to bring up supplies and carry off wounded.

Walker:  But he didn't come back up, did he?

Yancey:  No.  I should have had him court martialed.

Walker:  He did get some recognition for his lack of -- I believe he was cashiered.

Yancey:  I never brought the thing up because I didn't want to get tied up with a damn court martial.  It wouldn't have changed a goddamned thing.

Walker:  He got in hot water.

Yancey:  He did.

Walker:  This is always sort of risky to speculate as to what would have happened if something had been different.  You can carry that on to infinity, but if you were to assume that at the time that Phillips was killed that you also were put out of action totally at that point --

Yancey:  It was sometime after Phillips was killed.

Walker:  But assuming you were put out at the same time, let's say they had you out and Phillips and Ball and Clements, the 3rd platoon totally cut off, but in as much as it turned out you were the only surviving officer in control on that hill.

Yancey:  Correct.

Walker:  But assume you went down at the same time that Phillips did, what would you -- would you speculate as to what the outcome of that situation would have been?

Yancey:  I don't think it would have been any different.  Wouldn't have been different because Gallagher had this under very good control.  He was a very forceful, competent leader.

I told you the story about his right flank.  I can't remember that sergeant's name for shit, because after they made that first breach these people in here, somebody hollered, "Gas!" and they started pulling out, pulling back.  And I and the sergeant who had this squad in here, we literally hauled those kids back in, beat them with our fists, "Get your ass back in the hole and fight.  It ain't gas.  It's smoke."

And right in here, I told you the story about the sergeant that helped get those people.  He turned around and hollered, "I'm shot in the balls," and started to run.  Didn't I tell you about that?  I tripped him up here.  I tripped him here and told him he wasn't shot in the balls, he was shot in the leg.  "Now get back up there and make your men fight." 

But the right flank was gone.  That was all there was to it, they were completely overrun.

Walker:  Charlie came up out of Clements' platoon.

Yancey:  When I came back here and hollered for Clem to give me a squad --

Walker:  You went down and picked up what was left of his squad?

Yancey:  He had just said to his sergeant, "Take your men and go with Yancey."  The serge4ant -- never did know his name -- the sergeant came up here and put his squad here, and it was Charlie's squad and Clements' people that were put across here for the second counter attack.

Walker:  That was slightly north of the C.P.?

Yancey:  That's correct.

Walker:  From that position, west and north of the C.P. where you all held that oblique line, what would you say that was, 25 yards?

Yancey:  From there?

Walker:  Yes, 25 yards from the C.P. to the center of that line of resistance.

Yancey:  I'd say that was probably pretty close.

Walker:  And from the C.P. down to where Murphy and Bye were cutoff, was it about 25, 30 yards?

Yancey:  60 or 70 yards.

Walker:  70 yards?

Yancey:  To the right flank over here.

Walker:  From their position where they were cutoff and involved in their own little war, to where the main center of your line of resistance over there, that third counter attack, would have been 120 or 130 yards, a 100 yards, anyway?

Yancey:  No, I don't think it was over 70 yards.  I'd say from here -- from here, my right flank, down to --

Walker:  From the center of where you were?

Yancey:  About a 100 yards, yes.

Walker:  It is difficult, in reading about these things, it is difficult to get in mind the actual magnitude of the terrain that is being defended, from one end to the other, and, you know, you take it in terms of football fields, one sort of takes it from one goal line to the other goal line.

Yancey:  I would say from my center here, which is on the top --

Walker:  Top of that northern leg of the Y?

Yancey:  Right.  To the 3rd platoon's right flank was close to a 100 yards, yes.

Walker:  And that had a declivity going down to it.

Yancey:  They wouldn't have heard -- from here up to here is almost a 45 degree slope.

Walker:  But apparently the way that terrain was set you couldn't hear what was going on down there, nor could they hear what was going on up here.

Yancey:  Taking with Charlie and other people that were here, back on this, Clements' people, they couldn't hear what was going on over here, just -- it was kind of odd terrain, but in retrospect I think what we should have done -- we should have taken that 3rd platoon, moved my people down, say, 25 or 30 yards down this slope in here, and put them in position of depth here, where this front line was.

Walker:  This fellow who was your runner from the state of Washington --

Yancey:  McCann.

Walker:  McCann.  What was -- where was he during all of this?

Yancey:  Last time I saw Marshall McCann I was here and I told Marshall, I said, "Marshall, I don't need you right now."  I said, "Go up and get in the hole with Rick ..." what the hell was his last name?  Anyway, I said, "Get in the hole with so and so, Rick ..." Oh shit, what -- his first name was Rick.

Walker:  About 10 or 15 yards to the east?

Yancey:  That was the last time I remember seeing Marshall.  He probably was --

Walker:  When was the next time you ever saw Gallagher?

Yancey:  Japan.  Gallagher made it through the whole damn thing, including the march back to Hamhung, Hungnam.  And a damn tank sideswiped a telephone pole, one of them old skinny poles, and the damn pole hit him on the shoulder and I think broke his collar bone, something like that.  A telephone pole hit him when a tank sideswiped it.  All that shit going on up here, he had them strewed out in front of his gun.

Walker:  Let me borrow your pen a moment, I'm going to sort of draw --

Yancey:  Did you ever play football?

Walker:  Yes, six man football.

Yancey:  Did you ever play the game over in your mind afterwards?

Walker:  Oh, yeah.

Yancey:  Say, "I fucked up here; what I should have done..."

Walker:  Yes.

Yancey:  I have done this a thousand fucking times, played that game over.  Played it over and over.  I should have put them guns down lower.

Walker:  I'm going to put some names on this thing so we can sort of make some sense out of this map.

Yancey:  The mortar lieutenant, Schreier, he had a little of those grenade wounds all over him.  He was down in that situation, incapacitated from grenade wounds.  Ball and Phillips died within ten feet of each other.

Walker:  Charlie Company came up, Captain Jones came up on this left flank here.

Yancey:  Day was just starting to break, and what the time it was I don't know.  I never have had the time sequence straight in my mind.

Walker:  Well, of course, my recollection of it, you know, we came in late at night and laid out in the valley, and must have been 10:30 or 11 o'clock when I remember watching those green tracers coming over the top of the hill, and in 30, 40 minutes they rousted us out and sent us up the hill.  So it was around midnight was my estimate we went up the hill.

Yancey:  When you saw them green tracers you knew damn well it wasn't ours.

Walker:  We thought it was a typical reserve unit up there, couldn't hold off a half dozen guerillas up there.  We were griping.  We had not had any sleep and we were griping that the 7th Marines can't take care of a few guerillas.

Yancey:  Those tracers green, red, yellow.

Walker:  I remember the green ones.  I think that is -- John, I think that is going to be helpful.  I think this map is right helpful.  It is to me because I have had a hard time understanding all of it.   The thing that has been hard to understand is the distances involved.

Yancey:  Wasn't it the 27th when the shit hit the fan?

Walker:  Night of the 27th and morning of the 28th.

Yancey:  So the afternoon of the 27th there was Gallagher down in here, and scrub brush in here and --

Walker:  It was a little hard to dig holes in that.

Yancey:  You didn't dig holes.  But anyway, they -- the Chinese had a collapsible map board and they had four officers sitting there drawing out diagrams.

Walker:  According to Hamill, I guess, who made a pretty good study of all this, the Chinese unit that hit you all did so by accident.  They had no intention -- they had not intended to hit that hill at all because they had known from the night before, the day before, that it was well defended and they were looking for a soft entry.  They weren't planning --

Yancey:  They were headed towards 1240.

Walker:  Captain Hull's Dog Company.

Yancey:  Hull was about the same stripe as Phillips.  They were both jockstraps.  They had spent practically the whole time in the Marine Corps handling sports and recreation.  And, of course, Hull was -- you know, they got knocked off 1240 back down to the foot somewhere.  I think they later retook the thing.  But had we folded up there, had they sent one more attack, the whole thing would have been open down to the valley.

Walker:  The 5th and 7th C.P.'s were at the bottom.

Yancey:  That's right, the 7th C.P. was right at the bottom of this little ridge that led back down to the left rear, right down at the bottom.

Walker:  John, there is another story that [Martin] Russ had commented on that he'd like to have gotten good, and that was a right humorous one, the busting the bank in Seoul.

Yancey:  That was kind of funny, you know.  He asked me -- he was on the phone one day and he said, you know, he wanted the little vignettes, anecdotes.  Well, anyway, he said, you know, it might add a little color.  I said, "Well, shit," I said, "would you like to hear about the time I blew the bank at Uijongbu?"  What it was, we were going into Uijongbu.  we had a column of those damn tanks, you remember the old 90 millimeters?

Walker:  Right.

Yancey:  We was making a speed march into Uijongbu because that was a railhead, you see, and we had our troops on the -- right behind the tanks, kind of double timing, a speed march, double time.  You walk fast, then you trot, you see, for ten minutes, off and on.  Kind of trying to keep up with the tanks.  But the time element was such that we was trying to get there and secure that rail junction before the North Koreans got there.

So about three quarters of a mile before we got to Uijongbu they hit us on both flanks.  First of all the lead tank hit a damn mine, which was a calculated risk because we were trying to -- when the first tank hit the mine field, they cut loose on both flanks with heavy machinegun fire and antitank shells.

Of course, everybody goes off and hits the side of the road.  And your first tanks up there were afraid to go further because of the mines.  I went off to the left of the damn road and my supply sergeant -- funny damn thing, the day before we had captured a lot of whiskey.  I did my damnedest to keep everybody from getting any, but everybody in the company got some, except me.  And this kid had a fifth of Canadian Club.  And when we went off the side of the road on the ambush, he pulled this damn fifth of Canadian Club out of his blouse and he handed it to me -- tried to hand it to me.

He said, "You want a drink?"  I said, "Hell, no."  He said, "You better take it.  It might be the last one you ever have."  Leaning against that embankment on the side of the road, he lifted that -- he lifted that damn bottle to take a drink, and all at once he went like this.  Still had the cork in his hand, the bottle, like this.  And what had happened, a corpsman told me later, a splinter of an antitank shell hit the tank right above us and a splinter from the damn thing hit him here and went straight through his brain.  When the corpsman examined him he couldn't see any marks on him and finally he saw where the splinter went.

Walker:  Right up under the jaw, through the brain?

Yancey:  Taking that drink of Canadian Club.

Walker:  His prophecy was right, he just had the wrong one.

Yancey:  But my First Sergeant reached over and took the cork out of his hand.  And we was trying to organize an attack up the damn hill, and the First Sergeant reached over and took the cork out of his hand and put it in the bottle and stuck it in his blouse.

Walker:  No sense wasting good whiskey.

Yancey:  We had direct liaison with the tanks, and they put in what we used to call a rolling barrage on the hill line to our left.  And we went down that thing pretty damn fast, just a shootin' and a hoopin' you know.  Because when the tanks opened up, they started pulling out and we were shooting them in the back, so to speak.

So we went down the damn ridge into the outskirts of Uijongbu.  And right down at the bottom of the hill we ran into a Russian jeep.  Later on we got it started.  But we went through Uijongbu shootin' and hoopin' like a bunch of cowboys.

And up on the north part of Uijongbu, where there was a little creek line, I noticed -- you know, a small town bank, you know, like a small town in Texas still looks like a bank.  So when we got up to this creek line and I got my people all dug in, and everything come straightened out, Clements was on my right and the 3rd platoon was on the left.  We hauled back.  We got in touch with regiment and they said, "Hold what you got because we have to clear this mine field before we can come through with the tanks," you know.

So I knew that would take some time.  So I got -- I figured I had about three quarters of an hour or so before the regiment showed up.  So I called my demolition sergeant, company demolition man, and asked if he had any composition C.  He had Composition C, which is a plastic, sort of like soft putty.  And we went back up there, and sure enough, it was a damn bank.

And what I had remembered before this was -- did you ever read the story about Jimmy Valentine?  He was a nitroglycerin man.  You took a bar of soft soap and you filled up the seam around the clamp of the door with soap, and you filled that up with soap except at the bottom, right at bottom you let one little outlet for the nitroglycerin and at the top you formed kind of a funnel-like out of soap on top, and you poured that nitroglycerin in the funnel and it went down the door frame.  When you saw it trickling out the bottom, you knew it was full, you had distribution.  Then you took a piece of soap and closed up the bottom and you took a piece of primer, a blasting cap or primer card, as we had it, and you put it in at the top and mold it in with the soft soap.

Well, I didn't have any soft soap or nitroglycerin, but the Composition C served the same function.  So we packed it in around the door and put my blasting cap in there and a piece of fuse about six or eight inches long, which is about a minute, you know.  And I lit that damn timer fuse and lit out the front door and around the corner.  Well, when that damn stuff went off, I had misjudged it and it blew that goddamn door off and out the front door and clear across the street.  We all run back in there and the door was gone and here was all these 1000 won bills all over the damn place.

So I got the demolition man and myself, and whoever else, and we grabbed ahold of one bundle of money like this, and I walked back up tot he company C.P. and called all my squad leaders in.  I gave them all a whole armload of money.

Walker:  North Korean or South Korean?

Yancey:  south Korean.  I didn't know whether the shit was worth anything.  So I took three bills out of the whole bunch, just for souvenirs, stuck them in my pocket and gave all the stuff away.  There was every squad leader had all he could carry in his arms, like a cord of wood.  so the upshot of the thing was, when we got pulled back to the parallel and went back into bivouac around Seoul, they put us in a -- our company was put into an old abandoned naval factory.  I had seen a -- while going back I had seen this damn brewery.  So I told the First Sergeant, I said, "Sergeant, you take care of things.  I'm going to take this Jeep and go over and see if we can't get the boys some beer."

So I got up some five gallon cans and I got up to the brewery.  There wasn't no bottle beer at all, but they had these vats of beer, you see.  And I filled these five gallon Jerry cans up with beer, just old hot, flat beer, and took it back.  Hot flat beer was better than no beer at all.  And when I got back these piss ants had barbecued chickens.  One of them had a damn pig, suckling pig.  They had -- somehow they'd gotten eggs from the natives and they were frying eggs, eggs, bacon, and at the far end of the damn naval factory, and in what must have been an office, they had a whorehouse going, and they had goddamn women in there giggling, carrying on.  And I said to the First Sergeant, I said, "Goddamnit," I said, "I leave for a damn hour and everything goes to hell.  You know, we got orders not to fraternize with these people or looting."  He said, "What do you mean, looting?"  I said, "All these eggs, chickens, that little pig."  He said, "No, no.  We bought it."  I said, "What the shit did you use for money?"  We'd had no payday.  "All that money you gave the kids, these gooks think it's good.  They think we are rich Americans."

I was still kind of pissed-off, you know.  He had a shoe box and he opened that damn thing up and he said, "Peek in there."  And I looked in there, and he had been over to some one of these gardens and picked that thing about half full of spring onions.  Well, I should have known better, but anyway, he said, "Take some.  They are good fresh green onions."  I got three or four of them, because eating this old warmed up Charlie rations, and that don't taste like much at all, and I ate three or four of them.

And the Colonel -- no, Buzz Sawyer, he was a Major at the time but he had taken over the company.  Major Sawyer was a damn fine Marine.  And he said, "What the shit you got in that damn box there?"  I said, "Green onions.  You want one?"  He said, "Hell, yes." He took a couple of them, and about two o'clock the next morning I'm going down this damn path to where we had this privy dug, the slit trench, and the two paths coming like this and they merged and went over to where we had the slit trench.  And right at the merge I run into a guy, knocked him down.  It was Buzz Sawyer, Major Sawyer.  And the shit hit us both at the same time.  I shit my britches and he shit his trying to get to the damn slit trench.

Walker:  From the onions?

Yancey:  Yes.  He cussed my ass out.  I said, "Hell, I didn't make you take those damn things.  You asked for it."  You know, anything green like that, you know --

Walker:  Yeah, they used the honey buckets for fertilizer. 

Yancey:  But, you know, they grew some of the most beautiful vegetables.

Walker:  I never got anything.  I ate the chickens, turnips.  Never got onions, but before I got discharged I went down to the hospital at Santa Margarita and they checked me out and I had no parasites.

Yancey:  Down around Kimpo, when we were scouring the country down there for leftover stragglers and that sort of thing, they sent me on patrol north of there and I hit a little old village and they had an apple orchard there.  Pretty damn apples, like the Ben Davis.  You know anything about apples?  Ben Davis is a little apple, real tart.  One of those children came up to me and offered me two or three apples, and I had the interpreter with us so I told the interpreter to ask him if he would sell us some apples.  He said sure, you know.  So I bought apples, several bushels of apples, and had the guys, you know, taking them back to the rest of the guys.  And at the equivalent of three cents a bushel.  I figured it out later, they cost me three cents a bushel in American money.

Walker:  They told us somewhere along in there not to eat that stuff, that the communists injected arsenic into them, and all that, but we didn't pay any attention to it.  We didn't believe it.

Yancey:  Well, we ate the apples, three cents a bushel.  Damn fin apples.

Walker:  We used to swap cigarettes for eggs.  They would bring them up in those little knitted straw things that hold a dozen eggs and they wouldn't take Old Gold cigarettes.  Didn't want them.

Yancey:  You didn't count them eggs in Korea.  They sell eggs by the 10.

Walker:  It may have been1 0.

Yancey:  In the little straw deal.

Walker:  Ten?

Yancey:  Not a dozen.

Walker:  I just tend to think in terms of a dozen.

Yancey:  I remember, when --

Walker:  They work on the decimal system, right.  Instead of 12?  They didn't want Old Golds, though.  Lucky Strike, Camels and Chesterfield, but Old Gold and some other off brand cigarettes, they got wise to that real quick.

Yancey:  Around World War II they had the damnedest cigarette you ever seen in your life, Chelsea.  Ever hear of that?

Walker:  Yes, Chelsea and Wings.

Yancey:  They were terrible.  On Saipan we were getting those damn Chelsea cigarettes, and when they put up my company tent -- I was company commander then -- when they put up my company tent, this damn little orphan goat wandered up, about this high, and I was smoking a cigarette and put the butt out and the goat went up there and started eating that damn thing.  So I fed him the rest of my Chelsea cigarettes. He ate them.  Loved them.  And from that time on that little bastard followed me around wherever I went.  And a lot of guys had them Chelsea cigarettes they wouldn't smoke.  I said, "Give them to me."  And I fed them to the damn goat, and that goat became so attached to me.

Walker:  He was addicted.

Yancey:  Several days later we got some heavy old cots and that little sonofabitch kept sleeping on my cot.  And one day several days after that, my First Sergeant said to me, he said, "I think you ought to get rid of that goat."  "What do you mean?"  He said, "He smells the place up." 

Walker:  Down south in August we were at a regrouping area, at a place called Miryang, and everybody was crapped out by the river there and washing clothes and what not, and somebody yelled -- a lot of noise, and a bunch of us went over to see what it was.  And it was a little deer about a foot and a half off the ground to its shoulder, about 18 inches, and running, and about six or seven of us started chasing that deer.  And I tackled it and the thing hit me with a tooth along the thumb and cut my thumb open, and of course we killed it and cooked it.  It was a Saber tooth deer and had incisors, fangs, these long incisors.  But the animal couldn't have weighed over 25 pounds.

Yancey:  I saw, when we were in Hawaii, up around Crater Lake, Camp Catlin, out in the brush, there is a lot of brush around this camp, and I have seen the same damn deer there.  And I'm trying to think what the shit they called them.  You know where Camp Catlin was?

Walker:  Sure.

Yancey:  Crater Lake?

Walker:  I didn't remember Crater Lake, but I remember -- sort of up by Aiea Heights?  Well the anthropologists, zoologists, whatever, called them Saber tooth deer.

Yancey:  There was another name for them. You want another beer, another drink?

Walker:  About half what you made there.

Yancey:  I have had a lot of trouble lately this last month.  I have taken so much codeine I ain't hungry at all.  It comes in spells.  Something you learn to live with, more or less.

Walker:  I guess the mind can accommodate most anything.

Yancey:  A doctor friend of mine yesterday -- he started out as a medic in the Marine Corps and I'm quite fond of him, and he seemingly is fond of me, and he came by yesterday and visited.  He said, "You look like shit, look like a cadaver."  He took my pulse and all this shit, and he said, "I want you to promise me that you will go to the V.A. and let them check you over, because," he said, "you don't look good at all."

 

 

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