Korean War veterans share their experiences with cadets
Story and photos by Kathy Eastwood
Three Korean War veterans spoke to cadets Nov. 16 during a panel discussion inside Thayer Hall and shared their experiences of “The Forgotten War.”
Ron Rosser, Medal of Honor recipient; David Mills, former prisoner of war; and Jim Ferris, president of the Korean War Veterans, were introduced by Col. David Clark, Army staff director of Foreign Intelligence, Army G2 at the Pentagon and executive director of the 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration.
“For the past two and a half years, the Department of Defense set up a commemoration honoring Korean War veterans on the 60th anniversary of the war,” Clark said. “The purpose is to educate the American public about why the war is an important chapter in our history. Today, these three extraordinary men, who played a part in our history, are here to talk to cadets about their experiences in the Korean War.”
The veterans travel around the country to speak to Americans, especially the young, about the war.
Jim Ferris from Liverpool, N.Y., is the president of the Korean War Veterans Association, the largest in the United States with more than 16,000 members. He has been active in getting congressional approval to grant IRS-recognized veteran status to those who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone since the war ended in 1953.
“I arrived in Korea in January 1953 with the 3rd Marine Division in an engineering battalion,” Ferris said. “However, I went to Japan first and then I was transferred from engineering to G-2 (intelligence) for some reason. I was part of a liaison team between the 1st Marine Division and the 3rd and was skipping back and forth from Japan to Korea passing information back and forth. Eventually, I was transferred to Okinawa and Iwo Jima after the war, doing the same thing, passing information. I thought it was very interesting because I was able to see both sides of the war.”
After the Korean War, Ferris was sent to Vietnam on a rescue mission.
“The French were having a hard time in Indochina, which is known as Vietnam today,” he said. “We were ordered to go and bring back as many French Nationalists as we could find. It was a touchy situation; we were not allowed to take any weapons, not even a jackknife with us.”
One cadet asked Ferris how morale was among Marines with a war that came five years after the end of World War II—a war that was to end all wars.
“Exceptional,” he said. “That doesn’t change. The morale was good for the most part. They had their bad days, naturally, but we all knew why we were there. It was a good cause. Without the United States and South Korean nationals, South Korea would not exist today.”
David Mills was a 17-year-old Army private and a member of Company F, 15th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division. He deployed to Korea on a mission to hold Outpost Harry “at all cost,” a directive of the Eighth Army, to prevent Chinese troops from taking control of the outpost. It was there where Mills was shot nine times and taken prisoner by the Chinese, spending four months in captivity.
“It was the last week in June 1953 at about 8 a.m.,” Mills said. “I’m walking on the only level ground in our camp. A Caucasian could be singled out very easily, not just because of our height, but also because of our gait. We walk differently than they do. Suddenly, I see the ground jumping all around me and hear gunfire all around me.
“As I was taken off that hill by the Chinese, I saw death everywhere,” Mills added. “Most of them were Chinese, but there were many Americans too. We had two platoons on that hill, 88 men. There were 72 American casualties.
“I know what battle is, I’m not afraid of battle because I was trained well,” he explained. “I felt fear and helplessness as a prisoner and I thought I was the only one alive.”
Fifty-three years later, he met another veteran of Outpost Harry, who happened to be the one who called for artillery support who told him about other survivors. Mills also received the Purple Heart 57 years after the Korean War.
Recipient of the Medal of Honor, Ron Rosser from Columbus, Ohio, was a corporal and served as a forward observer during the war, although he ended his Army career as a sergeant first class. He is one of 17 children and brother of a Soldier killed in the Korean War. Rosser first enlisted in 1946, got out of the Army in 1949, but re-enlisted in 1951 after learning of his brother’s fate. He was a member of a heavy mortar company with the 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division and was acting as forward observer during an assault on a Chinese fortified mountain near Ponggilli, Korea.
“By the time we got to the top of the mountain, out of 170 of us, there were 35 left,” Rosser said. “I ended up as the commander—command can drop on you at any time, folks. I ordered the men with me to follow me up the mountain. By the time I looked back, I thought I was the only one left because my men were wounded or dove for cover. You get a funny feeling (when that happens.) I just let out a war whoop and jumped into the trenches right on top of the Chinese. I kept going to all the trenches. Then I ran out of ammunition. I ran down and retrieved about 13 or 14 grenades and ammunition and just kept charging as well as bringing down the wounded.”
Rosser said that as far as he knew, he didn’t do anything that anybody else hadn’t done; he was just doing his job.
“About three days later, all of my men that survived put me in for the Medal of Honor,” Rosser said. “The funny thing about it though, no one knew my name.”
Rosser received the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman at the White House on June 27, 1952.
Three Korean War veterans, Jim Ferris, president of the Korean War Veterans; David Mills, prisoner of war; and Ron Rosser, Medal of Honor recipient, spoke to cadets Nov. 16 at Thayer Hall in a panel discussion where the three described their experiences in the Korean War. David Mills (left) spoke to the cadets. The event was part of the Department of Defense’s 60th anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee that recognized Korean War veterans. The three were also honored Nov. 17 at the Army Football game against Temple.
Rosser served in a heavy mortar company with the 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, when he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions as a forward observer.