First Person War Stories

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Col. Charles Bussey: Christmas in Korea

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Col. Charles Bussey: Christmas in Korea

Warning: This episode contains harsh language and discussions about rape.

Col. Charles Bussey was an African American fighter pilot and a member of the famous Tuskegee Airmen in WWII. You can listen to him speak about this experience here.

He later fought in the Korean conflict during the Jim Crow era, where he and other African American soldiers were given the worst leadership and equipment due to their race.

Ken Harbaugh:

Hi, I’m Ken Harbaugh, host of WITOW. In this episode, Col. Bussey discusses the horrific experience of fighting in Korea, and the inhuman conditions faced by civilians. He talks about their brutal treatment by soldiers on both sides, including assaults against women. We describe every episode of this show as an attempt to provide the unsanitized truth about war. That’s why we chose to leave Col. Bussey’s reflections as they are. As difficult as his stories are to hear, I hope you’ll understand why we wanted him to tell them, in his own words.

Thank you for listening.

I’m Ken Harbaugh, host of Warriors In Their Own Words. In partnership with the Honor Project, we’ve brought this podcast back at a time when our nation needs these stories more than ever.

Warriors in Their Own Words is our attempt to present an unvarnished, unsanitized truth of what we have asked of those who defend this nation. Thank you for listening, and by doing so, honoring those who have served.

Today, we’ll hear from Col. Charles Bussey. Col. Bussey fought in the Korean conflict during the Jim Crow era, when he and other African American soldiers were given the worst leadership and equipment due to their race.

Charles Bussey:

Well, my name is Charles Bussey. I was a soldier for 24 years. First the fighter pilot, and when the war was over, I went back to school to get a degree. The army looks askance at people who don't have degrees, or they use that as one of the things that they can look askance at you. And when I finished, the job situation was kind of tough. So, we're overseas as a combat engineer and combat engineers are the people who do all the things that the infantry can't do or doesn't don't want to do. And it's kinda ugly work. We do many things. However, we purify the water for the other troops. We did the fuel fortification to work and this is, again, those things that the infantry can't or won't do, we put in all the barbed wire, the things that kill people: Mayans, booby traps, barbed wire, and we handled that, all those things. And when it really got tough, then we worked as infantry as well. A lot of people didn't like that at all. largely because you find yourself in a position of being 180 shovels by day, 180 rifles by a night, 10 days of that becomes kind of tiresome. But, I had a very, very fine outfit and we could do all of those things. And we did.

After the landing at Inchon, we forced them back and the Koreans were ineffective. They had nothing going for them at all in the fall. As winter came on, however, this all changed. The Chinese came into it, and they came in, I've heard many, many numbers, a hundred thousand strong, 50,000 strong, half million strong. And I have no idea what is valid, but I know that we were outnumbered tremendously. That I do know. But what the actual numbers were, I don't know. But we were a very poor example of fighting men beside them. They had a lot of very practical things, as I said, they had quilted uniforms, one uniform, and it was heavily Clinton and warm.

We had leather shoes. one night I lost 39 men to frostbite. We were wearing the same, the same kind of shoes that I have on, and this is highly inadequate when the temperatures get down to 28 below, the Chinese soldier was well-trained, he was tough. He was mean, and he liked the killing business that he was in.

When I got to Korea on the 10th of July, 1950, from that date, till the 10th of December, I slept on the hood of my Jeep. I had no tentage. I had nothing. I said, I lived like a badger. We had no blankets. We had no tillage of any kind. We just survived. It's like badgers said, no, unless you can consider a layer of mosquitoes as a blanket, we had none. This didn't seem to bother people as much as you would imagine. We survived and, we lived, we lived fairly well. all things considered

In a situation where you could come under fire at any time, night or day, you were always alert. You were always with it. And, everybody griped. Griping is one of the soldiers... how do I put it? That's his legacy. And, it didn't bother us as much as you would imagine. But I slept on that damn Jeep every single night on the hood, and I don't recommend it, but we survived it.

Soldiers don't perform well under adverse weather. They just don't. The guns don't fire as well, the guys are unhappy, and they don't survive well.

There was a certain amount of booze that came into the country. I'm not a drinker, so it didn't mean much, but, I don't know how it got there. I'm told that the women's club from the station we had, that we ran in Japan, somehow shifted over. In Japan, the whiskey of choice is called Suntory. It’s a scotch type whiskey. And there's quite a bit of that over there. And then of course the British are great traders, and they had an issue with whiskey. It came in five gallon jugs, and there was a lot of that around and guys would trade a raffle off for a five gallon jug of whiskey. And there was marijuana by the ton, absolutely by the tongue. You can imagine in this country, even, you could never see the quantities of marijuana that grew along the roadsides and for Maria.

And this was a part of my problems. I didn't smoke this stuff and I didn't have much sympathy for people who did, they, trees that would grow maybe 20 feet high. And, in the morning the guys would pick this stuff and put it on the hood of the vehicle. And, by evening, of course it was dry and ready to smoke. You know, I had a lot of misgivings about this and I discussed it with my first Sergeant. He said, “Well, I'll do whatever you want me to do about it”, but he said, “You can't stop it. There's no way that you can stop marijuana from growing or, or the kids from using it. You just can't, you're stuck with it.” And he was right. There's just nothing you can do.

Well, when the temperatures get down, I'll say below, eight or 10 degrees, people are not as efficient and their clothing is not our holding wasn't efficient. Like I said, I lost 39 men to frostbite one night. And I went down to the hospital. The doctor was breaking these dead toes off. He had forceps. Doctors call them forceps, they’re pliers to me. And he was just breaking off these tones, throwing them a little panel there.

When this happens, the guys know that's going to happen to them too, or they expect it will. And they never came back. Those guys that got the frostbite never came back. I don't know where they went. They must move them to the rear and into some hospital or something. And that was it. When the guys are under those conditions, they don't fight well, they're unhappy.

They know that some civilian, or some army officer- somebody in the way back in the rear didn't look out for them, because we were there in July, and that was plenty of time to get several tons of boots out there, but they never came. They came to the thing they call mukluks. The mukluk is a boot that you can put inserts in. Sorta felt inserts. But you can't walk in them very well. And so when your equipment is poor, a soldier's poor. He's never better than his equipment. Never. And ours. Wasn't very good.

The blow back weapons didn't perform at all. Or performed poorly. You know, the carbines and the M1s would work alright. But, they're heavy. At least the M1s were heavy. Anytime you've got soldiers in the field, you’ve got bitching and groaning and moaning, and even beyond what the equipment is entitled to. They want the very best equipment and the very best of clothes. And I think they're entitled to it. I think there's no question about this. When you're out there in the field and it is cold, or even when it's warm, guys want the very best of equipment. Yeah. I think a fighting man is worth it.

First of all, we had lousy leadership, that's the first thing. This was the Jim Crow army that I was in, and this means many ugly things. First of all, whatever equipment is available, you're going to get the poorest. Always. There's no question about it. and, you also have the poorest officers. You had officers who, well, let's put it this way. You had the poorest possible officers, white fellas, the organization that I was in had 13 different battalion commanders and a battalion commander is a man who commands a thousand men, and he's got to be damned good, and we didn't have them. We had white officers who had goofed off someplace else, some General's wife or whatever, but they weren't out there with the troops. And the troops couldn't help but realize that they had the poorest quality of white officers that were available.

This is an obvious statement, but it's true, and I can show you 10,000 guys to testify to this: I said we had very, very poor officers. When we got up to the Chuncheon river, this was immediately before the Chinese came in, General MacArthur's headquarters put out a little poop sheet that said, the first troops to the yellow river will be the first troops home. Bull shit. It didn't happen ever. I didn't see this, the sign that said this, but this was on everybody's mind. Everybody knew that. Well, my god, we gotta get up there first. The first trip troops to the yellow river would be the first troops home.

Well, that was immediately before the Chinese came in. When they came in, they saw to it that nobody got home for Christmas. Any Christmas, if possible. We were up there when we did nothing. We just milled around and it was beginning to get cold, and tens of thousands of north Koreans, went ahead south, because they know that when the Chinese get into the war, there's a rapes by the million, it’s real tough when the Chinese army comes in. So we probably ferried 2 or 3000 people across the river. There were some barges there, and we ferried people back to the south side of the Chuncheon river so they could continue southward.

This worked fine, but it had nothing to do with the war. It was make work. And I believe in making work. I swear by it. If you've got people laying around doing nothing, then they're going to get involved with the rapes and anything else. But if he worked the shit out of him, you have very little trouble. No fights, nothing. Everybody gets along real well.

So we did this for maybe a week. We started the day after Thanksgiving, and we were doing this up until Christmas. We did nothing. We are just milling around up there. And then we didn't know that the Chinese were in the war until they could kill those people in the tents that Todd mentioned earlier. Then everybody realized that, “Well, this is for real, and the Chinese are for real, and we're in trouble.” And we were in trouble. Believe me.

The first encounter I had with the Chinese, I was amazed. They had big feet. Hell. They were about size 12. I was so amazed at the size of the feet on these guys. We were working hard by then, and I got a call one night about midnight for the regimental headquarters. They said, “Get two platoons ready to go, and we got a job for you.” And, I took a dim view of it. As dim a view as a Lieutenant canned the full Colonel, which aint very much. But we went up to his office and he showed me where there had been a roadblock and some people dead, and there was a hospital. I've forgotten the number or name of this hospital, but he said, you'll have to walk because we can't send our tanks on at night. I don't know why, but tanks do not fight at night. Never. And I've never heard a good excuse for it, except that they're noisy.

But anyhow, he pointed out where I was to go, and a very, very weird thing happened to me. We walked this road 5, 6, 7 miles I guess, and there were some Chinese up on the hill. They had some 55 gallon drums and they were laughing and talking and having a big time. So I broke my people up so that we could get to them before they ever became aware that we were there. And I said, don't fire until you hear us firing down below. And they didn’t. They waited. And then they shot this a bunch up. Oh maybe a dozen up there. They shot them up.

I came back off the hill and then I headed for this hospital. And by now, it's one o'clock in the morning, I guess, and I heard somebody call my name. Now, we're way, way, way, north. You don't expect someone to call your name in the middle of the night. You just don't. And I kept hearing this guy call my name and I didn't know what to make of this, but when I left Bakersfield, my hometown, I came down to Los Angeles. I was sort of the idol of ridicule. No one had heard of Bakersfield before, you know, and I didn't know whether to answer this call or not, but there were three or four vehicles that had been shot up on the side of the road. So I answered. And, when I answered, then this guy called again, and I said, where are you? And he said, “I'm down at the bottom of this hill, just below where you’re standing.” And I went down there and sure enough, there was a guy that I knew in high school. And he's one of the guys who used to ridicule me, from Bakersfield. And they have a tree there that has exposed roots and he had crawled up under this tree. And that's how he evaded the Chinese. But he says, “My back is broken”. I said, “How do you know?” And he said, “Well, I can tell.” Anyhow, we dragged this guy out of there with us down to the hospital. And there was no one there. the Chinese had turned over guys who were in traction, or all, all kinds of miserable conditions. And, the doctors had run off into the night and, and I don’t find fault, given the opportunity I would have done the same, but they're out there.

And so we got some fire started and started calling the medics to come back in. Oh, we've had a lot of shooting, by then. And the Chinese had moved out and the doctors came back and we got this hospital up and running, but they should never, never have been there. A hospital has no means of fighting or supporting themselves. That's not their business, but they're up there way, way, way, north, up, up in Chinese country and why they would set this thing up that far, away from any kind of support, I'll never know. But, we got the demand and got the hospital and running. And, the doctor looked at this kid and he sees him. He's got three ribs broken on one side and four on the other, L one tooth in three or whatever, describe these things. But,I was amazed to find this guy who, I hadn't seen him in, I don't know, 15, 20 years, way up there, almost up to the yellow river.

Anyhow, we did the little killing job there and they sent us over to another town, and there was nobody there. So it didn't amount to much, but you don't fight well when it's cold. You just don't. But we had cold nights.

I'd been up for two days and two nights by then. And, I did have a bed by then, believe it or not, but, gentlemen, call me in the middle of the night and he said, I got a problem. Now, this is the guy who's got 3000 men working for him, and I resented him putting this kind of thing off on me. And I told him so, and he just laughed and said, it'd be ready to go in five minutes.

What had happened was one of our battalions had gotten far afield from where we were and the Chinese were moving rather rapidly. And, the route that they had moved away from us, initially, a bridge had been blown behind them. So they had no way of getting back across, but they didn't know that. And, he said, last time we saw them, they were in this big white spot in an area that hasn't been surveyed. You just got a big white spot on the map and he said, this they're in there somewhere and find him, well, hell that's, this was not my business at all. But anyhow, he said, take two men. I said, “I need a platoon.” He said, “No, you got a platoon. Anything comes up, you're going to start fighting. And you're not out there to fight, you're out there to find these people.” And so their Lieutenant lives in Los Angeles, the west point type I used to go to Sunday school with, and he's kind of a guy that could shake, rattle and roll. And I had a Sergeant who would rather shake, rattle, and roll. And so I took these two guys. We walked off into the night.

The ore over in North Korea is a low grade of molybdenum. And it, it, it glows at night, or Moonlight makes this stuff glow. And we walked off into the night and I heard a woman scream off in the distance because every house in North Korea has a mud fence around it. And the guys that I chose, they knew how to handle themselves no matter what caused that woman to be screaming. They could handle it. We got to the fence, and over the fence.

In Korea, they save all fecal matter. They use that for fertilizer, in this free, effective way. This girl was screaming and she was drenched in this stuff from a chin down. Damnedest thing you ever saw. And so we put a round in the chamber there, and there were two soldiers from my outfit, not my company, but another company. Their CO was a very good friend of mine. So anyhow, I gave him hell for being- by now, they're eight and nine miles from home.

When I heard this woman screaming in the night, I assumed that Chinese soldiers had gotten to her somehow. They were every place, the Chinese soldiers. They were just like flies. They're just all over the place. So anyhow, it turned out that these two soldiers were in the process of raping this woman, but they had a tank in their backyard, right about the size of that room. And they saved this fecal matter, and rather than be raped, this guy jumped off into this tank. You never saw a mess like this in your life. And I give him hell for being there and told ‘em to take off and go back home. And they did, but they were reluctant even then. I don't know what they had in mind for a woman in that condition. But they said, well, you know, he said, “Ever since the Dawn of time, soldiers, had right to the spoils.” I said, “Well, she damn sure is spoiled. I don't know what the hell you're hanging around here for.” But they said, “Well, you know, we lost a lot of soldiers getting up to this point in this country, and we got Chinese to worry about. And we got rights to this woman.” I said “No, you don't.” Anyhow, I took off home and they did. And we did.

But the thing that had sent us out there to do in the first place was the friend of Italian that somehow disconnected from the rest of the regimen.

And, oh, this old man did another thing. He said, you can have one ration period. One ration is not a lot of food, but we walked all night long, and just before they break, we stumble upon a little hut, kick the door in, and it was an old, old man and an old, old woman. I've never seen people that old, their skin was like wax. Old timers. And they couldn't speak to us. We couldn't speak to them, but there's some things in life that happened. And you recognize them right off. There was a Chinese soldier there who'd been shot through both legs. And each of his legs was the size of his torso. And he had gangrene. Gangrene is a terrible thing. He then kept beckoning for me to shoot him. Well, shooting an able-bodied soldier is one thing and shooting a man with gangrene is another. So I talked to these two guys with me and, kind of what should we do. They said, well, from the smell of him and the looks of him, he ain't gonna live long. He's going to be living miserable for whatever time he's got. So anyhow, we took him outdoors and we got some pillows against his head and we shot him. It sounds kind of crude, but I think it's a humane thing to do.

And we started walking again and I wasn't expecting to be surprised the way I was, but I had a guy put one in his gun and “Halt who goes there?” And I told him who I was. And he says, what's the password? Well hell I didn’t know what the password was, I had left home the day before, but anyway. He said “Oh, I know you anyway so…” His boss, who was a very good friend of mine, was up the hill from where we were standing there talking. And so I climbed the hill and I asked him “What the hell is going on?” He said, “Well,” and this guy's name was Clayton. He said “He’s collecting all the radios in the battalion. Nobody's got a radio. He collected them all several days ago.” I asked him why. He said, “Well, that's just the kind of man he is. A kind of an Italian commander we got. So I went over to this man's headquarters. And he said, “What are you doing here?” I had a note that the restaurant commander had given him, giving me to give to him. And then I gave it to him and he said, “Well, you can't be here”. He said, “We're surrounded by Chinese”. He says, “Matter of fact, I've killed a hundred or so myself”. When I talked to my friend, I said, “Well, what about combat? He said, they ain't got no combat. We got nothing. We’re just here that's all”. So this little man was trying to convince me that he had killed all these Chinese himself. And, that I couldn't possibly have gotten there because he was in complete charge of that sector.

Anyhow, I told him, “Well, here's your note. I'm going back.” They said, “No, you can't leave here”. And, the scared us, I guess there had been in my life, took his gun and put it in the chamber. And I had a feeling that when I got to the door, that joker was going to put one in my head. I can see my brains coming up through my head, or split my spine or something. Something drastic was bound to happen when a guy puts a bullet in his gun. Something supposed to happen. But I, I just, I walked on out and, and, and left.

As I left, I said, “The Chinese are all over the place. You may have a hard time getting back home”. Anyway, I walked away and I told him exactly how to get to where we were. I had a couple of bulldozers and from where his vehicles were going to have to go to get up a hill there, I told him “We’ll drag your vehicles up the hill so that you- because you can't climb it, it’s too steep.” And they gave him a better job when he got home, they gave him a better job, and they made him a part of the G2 setup, and so I should have shot him. But that's the kind of, officers we had, not all of them, but we had a lot of like that. He got back that evening just before sundown. And I say this, I estimated it to be 30 miles. That's a long walk. That's a long, long walk. That was an interesting evening.

There came a time and this was about the, let's say the 20th of December. That may not be exactly right, but about that time, and then they really moved in on us. And I had several things that were where my province was, things that I took care of myself personally. And one of them was, to survey the area that we were moving in, had moved into or moving into. And I had bulldozers and whatnot, and every stream, every [inaudible], every passageway of any kind I surveyed. And I looked to the countryside over and I had, and I took notes and whatnot, and I took these notes back to the regiment and they put them on their board and wherever you go, they're always little means of, of passage, one type or another.

So I did that first. I did it myself. I did all of it. And, and that saved our bacon many times. In fact, my hand and their regiments, the Chinese removing all that by then, were really, really moving over and they were shooting our kids right in the left.

There came a time when it was obvious that they were going to move in and take over. And they did. And I had a way out for these roads and things that I'd surveyed. It’s a thing I call a goat track because it was not a road, it was just a trail really. And, I had a trail mapped out, and I told the regiment that if we got into a jam, we could get out of this lonely little country road that I had. And he would take us all the way back to Pyongyang, which is the capital. He didn 't have much faith in that because, at that point, he thought that we were going to be able to wage us a successful war against the Chinese, which was foolhardy.

I also discovered a transportation or communications net. and I don't know why the division had this thing back in the country there. And no one knew about it until I had stumbled upon this thing and I reported it, but somehow it didn't register with our people when, as nightfall fell on about the 20th, it was obvious we had to move, the Chinese were moving fast by then.

I told him, the Colonel, get out that way, because the Chinese had cut off the main road. You could hear that you hear this fire, they were putting up and they were really, they really meant business. And we came out on this little dirt track, goat track, I guess I call it. And, it took us all the way. It would bypass the Chinese and by then it was a bitter, bitter cold. I guess by then it was 22nd, 23rd.

And, again, we lost a lot of men. I had a little reconnaissance team out and they went to the marshaling yards there and they found a lot of PX supplies. I said, “Well, that's great. Pull a trailer down there and get loaded up cause we’ll probably need it before we get where we're going.” And those sons of bitches came back and they had rubbers. That's all. Just rubbers. They had a whole truck load of rubbers. No place to use them at all. I was a little happy with them, because they had chewing gum and all kinds of goodies there. And they came back with these doggone rubbers.

Anyway, we headed south, and being engineers, we had a lot of space, and we had a lot of food, and we started picking and picking people up. And, the roads were absolutely full of soldiers from full Colonels down. All the trucks were full and the guys started riding up on the top and it was bitter, honest to God. It was terrible. We started hitting south. No instruction, no one knew where to go, how far to go, we had no information of any kind. And we drove about a hundred miles down the road and we fed all these people and the vehicles that didn't have gasoline, where we ran out of gas. He just dropped them off to the side of the road and left them there. At least they could have burned them, I felt. So that the enemy couldn't use them either.

But anyhow, we stopped, we drove about a hundred miles and we stopped and set up a little barrier there so that, I didn't think a Chinese could travel that far on foot, but, you couldn’t afford to gamble.

The next day, we drove down to Kaesong. That's where they had the peace treaty meetings later on. We got down to a place called Imjin river, and Imjin was a very fast river. And, I had a lot of Bangalore torpedoes on. A Bangalore torpedo is a pipe loaded with dynamite or an explosive, I guess I should say. And you can screw, the end of one into the next one. And then you could, in the case of the river, you could screw it in and push it out. I didn't want those Chinese to be able to walk across the ice to get to us. We were on the south bank and the first three or four days, this went on fine. We could really push these torpedoes out there, fire them. And they cracked that ice and the Chinese and couldn't cross the river.

This Colonel that I worked for decided that those things made too much noise, and it made a lot of noise for sure, but they cracked the ice so that the enemy couldn't walk across. We had a serious confrontation, he and I, about those things. But I knew damn well that first of all, this Chinese fellow weighs 125 pounds, so they could walk across on the ice. When he wouldn't let me fire those damn things, the next day at noon, 10,000 of them crossed right where we were. They piled in on us. They were smarter than we were. They didn't stop and fight. They just started running toward the rear and they ran back maybe three or four miles. And then they started to fight.

They cut all the communication wires, everything. They just put us out of business. Lots of men there too. Matter of fact, that's all we did was lose men. But they'd get back as far as our vehicles. And, the next day I met Watson on the bridge across the Gimpo.

W. Watson was another classmate of mine in flight school, a very tough, hard kind of a guy. He got killed later, after Korea. He was a jet pilot, and he was night flying with another fella and the plane just blew. No one ever knew why.

But he was crossing the bridge going one way. And I was crossing the other, and the vehicles moved very slowly and I recognized him and yelled at him, and we stopped and talked for a few minutes. I said “Say, any vacant beds, this BOQ you live in? He said “Oh hell yes.” He turned around and went back and introduced me to somebody. I got in this bed, I'm telling you I was there. Well, this must have happened in the morning, about 7:30, 8 o'clock. I had my Jeep driver come back and pick me up at six o'clock that night. And he did, and I went back to my own, our own business, but I had a hell of a night's sleep. Or a day's sleep, at least. I never saw him again. He went on about his business and I did the same. I did see him later, but, back in the states.

I hadn't been in bed since the 10th of July. And this was Christmas day, and a bed is a bed. Believe me. .It's the sort of thing that you take for granted. But I slept well. I said that was the best Christmas present I've had since I left Japan. and I did enjoy it.

There were no Christmas packages and there was no mail. It was just another cold miserable day, and nothing more. Nothing more. You know there was no mail of any kind and we hadn't had any mail for a considerable period of time.

I think that people are hardly aware of the fact that it was Christmas. It just didn't mean much. It meant nothing really, because all that time, staying alive was the important thing. Keeping that river frozen. But no, there were no greetings and none of these things that people normally do. None at all.

I think that your concentration was on either staying warm or, getting some sleep or something that was significant, like staying alive, things like that. It was not a holiday.

We moved south, southward and we moved into a school house. The only real shelters we had over there were school houses. Every town in Korea has a school, and a pretty decent school. They only taught animal husbandry and farming and things like that. But they were adequate and we had plenty of stoves, so we had no trouble staying warm once we got back to them. So we weren't under fire.

The people that remembered us had harvested their rice, but they had no way to get it to market. And so there was nobody to tell me not to. So we loaded their rice harvest up into the, back to one of the little towns, down the road from us. It was Christmas for them, but that's about the best you can say for it. The mail did catch up with us.

You know, that's your life. And then you hear about your kids and the life that you would like to live in, or be a part of. And the mail is very important to everybody, regardless of grade. Mail was damn important.

It was a grim, ugly time of life, anyway you looked at it. There were no gifts. Nothing cheerful about any aspect of it- and I say we were on the road for four or five days, hitting back towards Seoul, and Seoul had been completely ravaged. There was nothing there. You could stand on the far side of town and then you can look all the way across Seoul. and Seoul’s a great big town.

Christmas had passed us by the time we got into a situation where we could participate in or enjoy life. We had mail and that sort of thing, and Christmas never happened at all. It just didn't happen at all that year. Christmas had already passed us before we got back to a situation that was comfortable and meaningful. And of course we had our Christmas cards and things that came in a month later. It was an entirely different kind of a Christmas than any of us had ever been exposed to.

It was over before I became aware of it. I had two kids and I could imagine the kind of things that they were doing. They didn't even know me. Well, I guess my oldest son knew me, but my daughter didn't. As a matter of fact, something happened and I told her not to do something and she went ahead and did and I just swat her. And she says, “Mama, that man hit me!” She didn't know me at all ‘cause I didn't get back until the next summer. But, yeah, I'm sure that the people at home did the usual things that people do for Christmas.

Well, like most people, I guess, I sent out a couple of hundred Christmas cards, mostly to old soldiers. I give a few gifts to my worthy children. I sent out a few gifts to my grandkids, you know, and things like that. And I enjoy Christmas. It's not so much a fun time, but a time of Goodwill and I enjoy it. A lot of booze, a lot of whatever. And I hope I won't have to have any more cold ones. I can, I can do without them, for sure.

Yeah, there's no question about it. It's a time of Goodwill and people generally, I think, feel good toward each other, neighbors or whatever. Most people participated in one way or another, and I hope we don't have to have any more Christmases where the kids are getting shot. I don't ever want to see a young man have to go out to fight again. I think it was wasteful. And we lost every damn one of them. No, I take it back. What's his name? The president we had, who sent the kids down to a Ruba a few years back. Reagan. Yeah, we won that one. That's the only, the only fight I've ever known the Americans in that they won,

I think that wars are totally wasteful. I mean, absolutely wasteful. I'd like to see him put a stop to it.

Yeah, there's a thing in that book that I sent you. In the very back, it tells you what our losses were in guns. Guns cost a hell of a lot of money and we lost- I don't have the numbers before me, but, we lost hundreds of guns. It's mainly we lost people, and I just feel that you can't replace him. I was there so I participated in that, but when you lose a kid, you've lost a human being. For nothing. We can't even win. And when we do, when we developed Japan, we developed Germany, and, I think it's a shame, no matter who's in power. I just, think the losses are, they’re absurd. And of course the nuclear weapons I'm categorically opposed to them.

Well, they weren't prepared. We had a lot of guns. No beds, it's difficult to get ready for combat. It's difficult, even if it's summer. You got a weapon to worry about, you've got a lot of make-work if you will. And you've got to participate in it, and it's tough. War is hell, no matter how you hack it up. It's a tough, ugly place to be. Now there are some guys who enjoy it. Some guys get a hell of a kick out of it, but not many. Most guys feel badly about it, and feel unhappy about it because the first thing that happens- Well, it doesn't matter whether you're in the Korean army or the Chinese army or the U S army, the first thing that happens is women and kids start dying on the side of the road. It doesn't matter who killed them. Doesn't make a bit of difference. But a lot of dead old men, women, and kids who start dying for no reason. They're there just ‘cause they're there. And it's an ugly situation. It's an inhuman situation. We'd been up Gardner bridge once and I could hear a lot of gunfire behind me and we were relieved, let's see, at 2:30 in the afternoon and the ditches on the side of the road were full of babies and women and old men. Not combatant, just people who had been shot, like that thing that you heard about. We got some bad GIs. They enjoy killing people.

And this happens not just once. This happened frequently as a PO because they're there. And, I told a little story and a lot of people don't like it, but I was doing some mapping, planning some mine warfare, and up above me on the hill there, there were a couple of GIs and they were laughing and bullshitting you know. And the Korean male wears an upside down hat. I'm sure you saw those. And the guy said, one of them said to the other, “How far do you think that motherfucker is?” Guy said, “Oh, 600 yards.” Other guys, “Betcha $10 I can hit him.” The guy said, “You're on.” Boom. So men came rolling off the hill and he hadn't done a thing to anybody, but just on a $10 bet guy killed him.

You get a lot of this sort of stuff. It's an inhuman thing. It’s the only way to describe it. Guys do all kinds of things. They rape women, and women by the thousand come by. If they hear the Chinese are coming, they start to run. If they know Americans are there, they start to run. They're in mortal fear of the kind of things that happened to them. And if you're the CO and this happens, how do you tell yourself, “Well, I'm going to turn this guy into the MPs so they can put his ass in Leavenworth”? Because this is one of your soldiers. That same night you might need him just to help hold the ground that you're on. Anyway you look at it, it's a dead bang loser. There's no other way. And they do. They rape women. There’s no limit to what the GI will do. People are funny. If you have a kid that lived down the street here, he has a certain pattern of decorum. He acts a certain way, but you move that joker out into Korea or someplace, he's an entire different person. He don't give a damn, and he'll do things that he couldn't even dream of doing if he were at home.

We’re a funny people. It doesn't matter what your religion is. ‘Thou shalt not kill’, ‘Thou shalt steal’, Thou shalt not…’ We’ve got thousands of dollars of ‘Thou shalt nots’. I don't care what the religion is, it means the same thing. But, when you send him away, then he'll do any damn thing he pleases. Anything. There’s no limit to what Kyle will do once you get him away from home. And he can do these things with impunity. You didn't have to worry. You'd have to worry about it. You just do it. I wouldn't exactly say for fun, but I guess that's what it amounts to.

Ken Harbaugh:

That was Col. Charles Bussey. To hear him speak about his time as a member of the famous Tuskegee Airmen in WWII, click the link in the description.

Thanks for listening to Warriors In Their Own Words. If you have any feedback, please email the team at [email protected]. We’re always looking to improve the show.

For updates and more, follow us on twitter at Team_Harbaugh.

And if you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to rate and review.

Warriors In Their Own Words is a production of Evergreen Podcasts, in partnership with The Honor Project.

Our producer is Declan Rohrs. Brigid Coyne is our production director, and Sean Rule-Hoffman is our Audio Engineer.

Special thanks to Evergreen executive producers, Joan Andrews, Michael DeAloia, and David Moss.






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