Frozen Chosin

A Marine story I would not like forgotten"

I was a Navy hospital corpsman 1949-51, I had many wounded (frozen) Korean Marines from Chosin who needed quick med care and were coming stateside fast, so it was front-line medic if available, M.A.S.H., then airlifted via AF C-54, rest-refueling stop at Hickam, then on to stateside, Travis. One Marine I transported from Travis had a cast (Spika) from his waist down to the knee on his left and all the way on the right with a turnbuckle out the bottom that was tightened to keep his leg stretched because the femur was gone. On the AmBus his litter wouldn't fit in a litter station so I had to place him on the floor for the "bumpy ride" to Oak Knoll. He was in a lot of pain, I had to give him a shot of morphine to at least relieve it somewhat. The M.A.S.H docs had put a little box on the inside bottom of the cast full of maggots to keep the infection abated. Our Oak Knoll med guys removed it before he went to X-ray, the same night I transported him. The leg was so far gone they had to amputate it right after the cast and maggots were removed; it started hemorrhaging again. I asked for and got permission to stand a "special" watch on him that same night. I had my 2-hour watch on him as he came out of surgery without a right leg. The chaplain came in and told me not to mention it to him, he would when he came out of anesthesia. You talk about a gung-oh Marine; when the chaplain told him his leg was gone, he didn't say anything for what seemed like a long time, maybe only a few seconds, but his first words were "Does that mean I have to leave the Corps?" He had three 30cal bullets not across but from just above the knee up to the hip, a few inches apart. They went in small from the left front but took most of the femur bone and flesh from the knee to the hip joint going out. We had many Army and Marines coming back that still had frozen "black" extremities that amputated.
I had the best Black AmBus bus driver you would ever want, he did super and was a great help on every trip. The trip out in the morning, him living in Oakland, we stopped by his house (he made his own beer) to pick up a couple of bottles for our trip, but he never overdid it; the one each was all. We had lunch at David Grant Hospital before picking up our patients for the trip back to Oak Knoll. I'm in contact now with a pt I transported in 50-51; he was frozen but not bad and stayed in the Corps, retiring as a major, I think he told me.