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Memoirs of Robert L. Tate

Evansville, IN
Korean War Veteran of the United States Army

"I don't ever remember (before or since) being as cold and discouraged as I was that December in 1950."

- Robert Tate

Robert Tate was in G-3 Operations, 7th Infantry Division, Korea 1950-1951.

From Inchon to the Chosin Reservoir

I was just 17 years old, stationed in Sendai, Japan, with the 7th Infantry Division in G-3 Operations when the war started in Korea. I remember everyone was anxious to get over there and get into it. The 7th Division went in with the 1st Marine Division in the Inchon invasion in September of 1950.  I remember the sniper fire that first night, and remember wondering to myself what the heck I was doing there and thinking I should be home in school instead of where I was.  My commander, Lt. Col. Hampton G-3, was killed in a tank ambush around the third day while w e were trying to hook up with a task force near Suwon.

After the 7th Infantry and the 1st Marines secured Inchon, Suwon, Kimpo Air Base and took Seoul, we were convoyed back to Pusan in order to make a landing at Wonsan and Iwon on the east coast. The 7th and 1st made the landings without resistance and began the push north.

We had been issued insulated shoe packs for the extreme cold. We slogged into Pukchong late at night.  It was 21 degrees below zero. We were all cold and pretty tired.  I took off my shoe packs, didn't notice my sweaty socks, and jumped into my sleeping bag trying to get warm. When I woke up, my left toes were frozen white with ice between them.  It scared the heck out of me, but I managed to massage them and they were ok. It sure taught me not to leave sweaty socks on when you go to sleep. Units of our 17th Regiment made it all the way to the Yalu River at Hysanjin.

When the Chinese came across the border and began driving us out, I remember trying to make it down the MSR (main supply route). I hitched a ride in an Air Force Forward Observer van before they could cut it off and catch us in the Chosin Reservoir trap.  Elements of the 7th Infantry (31st Regiment, 32nd Regiment, 57th Field Artillery Battalion, and other support units) were caught in the Chosin Reservoir and suffered tremendous casualties and unspeakable hardships. I thank God for not being caught in that part of Hell. We barely made it before they cut it off and closed the trap.

If I remember correctly (it's been over 50 years), our Assistant Division Commander, Brigadier General Hodes, put together a tank task force and broke through at Hagaru-ri to get some of the troops out. Just a couple days ago (after 54 years) not very far from my hometown, they buried the remains of a member of the 7th Infantry Division whose body was recently found in a shallow grave at the Chosin Reservoir.

I remember making it to Hungnam and while waiting to be evacuated I tried to get some sleep in what I think was a bombed out school.  But the Navy was bombarding the enemy from the harbor and it seemed like every shell was going right over the building I was trying to sleep in. Finally we boarded the craft to be taken to the ship. It was dark and I remember our craft being challenged for our identity by the heavy cruiser USS St Paul. We were to be aboard ship for three days, but ended up being on it for over a week before we got to Pusan. Everyone on board was sick with dysentery and the whole ship was pretty messy. I don't ever remember (before or since) being as cold and discouraged as I was that December in 1950.

I was there from the Inchon landing to the race to the Yalu River and all points between. Let me make clear that I consider the Marine Corps as a great fighting force and they did their job in Korea for the most part bravely and admirably. But they were a very small part of the overall fighting force which took part in the Korean War. The overwhelming units in Korea were that of the US Army. There were some outstanding fighting units there from a lot of other countries that played very important rolls in what was done there. My division (7th Infantry) was in close proximity to the 1st Marine Division during my entire 13 months there. I seem to recall the 17th Infantry Regiment being involved in the first taking of Seoul after landing at Inchon. It's been over 50 years now and I know memories begin to fade, but if I remember correctly the 1st Marine Division was located in and around the southern edges of the Chosin Reservoir (Hagaru-ri, Koto-ri), with the 31st Infantry  Regiment, 57th Field Artillery Battalion, and elements of the 32nd Regiment (all 7th ID units) being right in the reservoir area.

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After being discharged in December 1952, I got married and started having kids (seven of them).  Then in 1955, I joined the Air Force Reserve and was First Sergeant of the 71st Troop Carrier Squadron for 13 years.  We were activated during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but as things turned out okay, I was only on active duty for a short period.  We were again activated in 1968 for the Vietnam War.  The 71st TCS was converted to gunships and redesignated as the 71st Special Operations Squadron.  Because of my situation at home (seven kids, etc.), I was discharged for hardship reasons.  To let my squadron that I was First Sergeant of for 13 years go to Vietnam without me was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.  The 71st was the only Reserve Unit to serve in Vietnam.


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