Voices of Veterans

William Prout, Rutgers College '43, Army Air Forces, World War II, U.S. Army, Korean War, U.S. Army, Vietnam

-On serving in the Korean War:
I went directly from [Japan] to Korea and I joined the Seventh Division. The Seventh Division ... had been heavily drained ... of some of its personnel and equipment to put the first couple of divisions into Korea when the North Koreans came across the 38th, but, when I joined the Seventh, it was in August of ‘50.

We were staging at Mt. Fuji, Camp Fuji, on Mt. Fujiyama, not too far north of Tokyo, and then, we loaded aboard ship, and the Seventh US Infantry Division and the First Marine Division made the Inchon landing on 15 September, 1950. So, I was early into Korea and Korea was the one war that I was with the infantry. I commanded the Seventh Division Signal Company, a company of about 380 men, eighty-five vehicles. We were scattered everywhere, from, sometimes, forward outposts to regiment [or] division [headquarters].

... After the Inchon landing, we cleaned up around Inchon and Seoul, moved over land to Pusan, where we then made ... another landing, north, ... near Wonson Beach, and then, from there to the Yalu River, and, in November of ‘50, we were already getting thirty degrees below zero. We weren’t equipped for the heavy weather, the cold weather, fully. So, it was an interesting time, and the Chinese came in, we had to pull back off the Yalu, drop back to the Hamhung-Hungnam perimeter, and, finally, we were evacuated from there.

I was one of the last off the beach, the 24th of December, and I landed, again, at Pusan, got a jeep, and moved back up land to join my unit. ... It was Christmas Eve, and I went down and got a whole bundle of mail, and one of the packages was from my father-in-law, a little, metal cake tin with a plywood top taped to it, packed with cotton and a bottle of bourbon. So, I celebrated Christmas Eve, 1950, having survived a very interesting and difficult time in North Korea. We stayed there, and rolled with the punches, and chased the Chinese back up after a long period of time, and I finally came home in the Summer of ‘51.

-On being a part of the Inchon landing on September 15, 1950:

Most people, I think, have forgotten about the Inchon landing. ... The North Koreans had come in and pushed the South Koreans and [the] small handful of American troops that we could muster, both from in-country and from Japan, in a hurry to a perimeter around Pusan and General MacArthur decided to use what troops we had left, one Marine division and, basically, two regiments of one infantry division. The Seventh only had two regiments left, the one had been decimated of personnel to fill the others, and the Inchon landing was made in Inchon Harbor, that had thirty-five foot tides. So, we came into the narrows, through the island chain, and it had to be at flood tide to get the landing craft to the ... beaches, and as soon as the tide went out, there wasn’t going to be another flood tide for perhaps another thirty days. So, it had to be done in one fell swoop, and every LST and landing craft that they could muster in the Orient made the landing with as many of the two divisions as they could put ashore. ... The next morning, I looked, and some of the landing craft that had disgorged and put people and equipment ashore couldn’t get back off in time, and there they sat, thirty-five feet out of the water, sitting ... across docks, and on rock piles, and whatever. So, it was quite an interesting operation.