INTERVIEW WITH RAYMOND "DOC" FRAZIER
INTERVIEWER: It's the sixth of February 1997, we're in Washington DC this is tape 10485, an interview with Doc Frazier. Thank you very much for coming to Washington especially for us to give us this interview Doc. Can I start off by asking you what you were doing and where you were when the Korean war was started in June 1950.
RAYMOND FRAZIER: I was on the Isle of Guam in the Mariana chain, I was an ambulance driver and I was taking a patient to the naval hospital who had been injured in a wreck and as I entered the gates of the hospital all the security had set up, addition security, and they searched my ambulance, patient and all, everyone was kind of in a panic and I kept trying to find out what was going on. No-one would tell me 'cos no one knew. And when I returned to my unit, course they told me that the North Koreans had attacked South Korea and we were on a full alert, which meant nothing to me actually because I never heard of Korea.
INT: But Korea played a big part in your life. At the very outset the West was very anxious about Communism at the time. Can you remember if among your fellow soldiers, it was a popular war to begin with, it was seen to be taking a stand against the spread of Communism?
RF: I would say that at the initial start it was a very popular war among the troops especially and like I say, I was on Miriana Islands at the time, but everything I could learn from the States, everyone was very supportive of what was going on and they thought it necessary that we be there to stop Communism before it spread any further. But the troops, they were all for it. I personally was very enthusiastic about it.
INT: You arrived in Korea in January in 1951, the depth of the winter, can you give us an idea of what that countryside looked like?
RF: Oh, it was very depressing. The country was in a total state of chaos, the temperature was below zero, sub-zero weather. I had come off the island of Guam, which the temperature stayed about seventy eight at all times and the sub-zero weather and the main thing I remember was I kept putting on clothing, while we travelled across on the open troop train with the doors ajar and the wind whipping through and that and the refugees marching in the snow, it was just a real pathetic heart-breaking scene really.
INT: It was quite an under-developed country then, what was the farming like, did the place smell, even in the winter?
RF: Even in the winter there was a putrid smell from the fertilisers they sprayed around and it was a very primitive country, very primitive. I had grown up in rural Tennessee, which is a fairly primitive part of the United States at that time, but we were light years ahead of them.
INT: How much contact did you have with the ordinary civilians, the farmers and so on?
RF: Quite a bit. After I had been in Korea a while and we would go back in reserve to rest up, then I would have quite a bit of contact with the locals., I always liked to meet people and I tried to learn the language, I never could pick up Korean, but I would communicate with them by sign language and spent a lot of time with them trying to learn what I could about them and letting them learn what they could about me mainly.
INT: You had about four months before there was a... the Chinese over-ran your positions.
INT: What actually happened?
RF: Well, we were set up in a defensive position, Hill ten eighty one I believe it was and we'd been up on the hill for about three weeks just dug in, waiting and it was boring. On the night of the sixteenth of May 1951, we were hit by a probing action, probably by the company side of Chinese, which we engaged 'em for about five minutes and killed a few of them and they run and that was it until the next day. And on the seventeenth, the clouds were low, our planes couldn't get out and the artillery was ineffective and in the afternoon of the seventeenth, they hit our positions in full force. I've never seen so many people in my life coming at me at one time. There were literally thousands of 'em hit the first and second battalion of the Second Division Thirty Eight Regiment and within a matter of minutes they had completely over-run our positions and for the next day we [inaudible], a few of us, what was left, what survived the attack, we avoided and evaded the Chinese all day of the eighteenth and with the exception of a couple of little fire fights, and then on the morning of the nineteenth we were out of ammunition and we were surrounded by thousands of Chinese, and on the morning of the nineteenth we had hidden in a little enclave of rocks and five fifteen am we heard 'em coming form all directions, some of them speaking English saying, hello OK? And when we looked up from the rocks there were thousands of little faces looking down at us over Burp guns. So we raised our hands and immediately watches, rings or anything of value went... kept going and they took us in and they marched us a few... oh a few miles to a collective point where there were more prisoners there that they'd already captured and we spent about, oh, three hours there, but at the end of that period of time there was forty eight men had been collected there. Then they've started moving us out north. We came up one hill there, a sight that frightened me and still sticks with me. We saw three Americans hanging from a tree limb by communications wire and we didn't dare look, we didn't dare not to look. But we'd see their wrists had been penetrated with wire through the wrists, the hands tied and they had been hung by the neck with communications wire. Not a very good feeling when you've first been captured, but then for the next six or eight hours, they continued to march us to the battle field and we literally walked over corpses of Chinese and dead people, dead mules, you know, they transported their supplies by donkey carts and for the next several miles, several hours we literally just stepped over a field of bodies, of dead animals and dead troops. the purpose of that, I don't know why, but they made sure that I guess that we saw what we saw what we had done, I don't know. After that, we hit another collecting point and there were several hundred at that point and the... we got there. Now, we hadn't eaten in two to three days, when we got to this point, an English speaking Chinaman he came out and told us that you will be fed. We were ready we thought. And after, oh about an hour we saw one of the cooks approaching with two pots and he was carrying a reddish looking substance that was steaming. We looked, someone says, what is this? I knew what it was, being a farm boy from [inaudible] County, Tennessee I knew sorghum seeds when I see sorghum seed. I said, it is Sorghum seed. Someone said, is it fit for human consumption and I said, well we fed it to hogs, I don't know, and I said, we raised some healthy hogs, but I'm going to eat it, I was hungry. We ate it, it was rough, but we eat that and that was our first meal of about three days. Then we had this English speaking Chinese come out and told us that we would not be killed or harmed or insulted or any of our personal belongings being... would be confiscated, at which time I asked him about to repeat that and he said, none of your personal belongings will be confiscate