And third, the telling can be intimately
important to the teller. White recalls the
veteran, dying of cancer, who heard about
the project, asked to be interviewed and
died the day after they put the transcript in
his hand. “He was hanging on for that.”
Some, he said, had children who wanted their stories told. Others had not shared
their stories with anybody.
John William Kraus and Joe Bergman
landed at Inchon and were in some of
the heaviest fighting in the Korean War.
They were interviewed together.
Bergman: “At first I said, I don’t know
if I can kill these people. They haven’t done
nothing to me. Then I saw the Marines laying
around dead, and it changed your mind about
whether you could kill somebody or not, be-
cause you know you could be next.”
Kraus: “You don’t think of them as a per-
son. The only thing you’re firing at is a target.
So there’s no real face-to-face shooting, unless
you come to hand-to-hand. And then you
don’t care what anybody looks like. You’ve got
one thing on your mind, that’s to survive.”
Bergman: “We got up to Ansan, and the
place was so heavily mined that we couldn’t get
in. So we stay out there while the Navy clears
the mines away, and when we did get in there,
Bob Hope was there to greet us [as part of a
USO show]. Yes, he was. The ROK — the
South Korean army — had already taken that
by the time they got the mines free.”
Later they were at the infamous action
at Chosin Reservoir.
Kraus: “That’s where it got sticky.”
Bergman: “We had 15,000 men going
up there, and we got up there and we heard
on the radio that elements of the First Marine
Division are encircled by Chinese and had very
slim chance of anyone coming out alive.”
The Chinese had more than 120,000
troops. Temperatures dropped to 35 below
zero. Casualties were heavy after 17 days of
fierce fighting — thousands died from the
weather alone — and Kraus and Bergman
were among the United Nations troops
who made it out.
Kraus: “We brought out most of our dead
and all of our wounded.”
Bergman: “You just don’t know until
you’ve been there. I could tell you all day long.
I’ve had nightmares ever since Korea. There’s
nothing I can do about it. I just hope to God
that none of these young fellows like you …
Men of Company C, 1st Battalion, 5th
Cavalry Regiment, advance on Hill 45
near Inchon, Korea, after three days of
bitter fighting, Jan. 29, 1951.
U.S. ARMY SIGNAL CORPS