Looking back at the Korean War

Marine survived close calls, even before reaching Korea

2013-12-30T10:13:00Z 2013-12-30T23:58:16Z Marine survived close calls, even before reaching KoreaTimes staff report nwitimes.com
December 30, 2013 10:13 am  • 

George Rosenbaum had some close calls in the Korean War, beginning with his trip to the Asian nation.

The seas were rough, with waves 40 to 50 feet high.* Eighty percent of the passengers were seasick. Rosenbaum, a Marine, said he didn't get sick, but it was close.

He was on board a ship with thousands of other men, told to stay below deck the whole journey. He didn't.

Rosenbaum, 83, of Wanatah, and another man decided to go up top and see what the ocean looked like. They climbed the stairs, opened the hatch and saw the ocean up close.

"We no more than stepped off of that step and it was like somebody had poured 10,000 gallons of water on us. A big wave had hit, and we came close to getting washed off. And if you did, it's all over."

It was a sobering thought. His friend thought so, too.

"He looked at me and said, 'You had enough?' And I looked at him and said, "You'd better believe it!" So we went back down just like a mouse going back into its hole."

Once in Korea, the dangers intensified. Even when relaxing, the troops had to be on edge.

"We just started a movie and an artillery shell landed in our company," Rosenbaum said. "And whenever you're close enough to an artillery shell and it explodes and you hear those pieces scream, they whistle when they go through the air — it's cast iron, the shells are made out of cast iron about 3/8ths inch thick, you know — but anyway, when you're that close, you're too close."

He also had some close calls while serving as a welder, repairing vehicles.

"We were just about a mile or so from the lines. A couple of times I got shot at," Rosenbaum said. "I would be welding with my hood down, and all at once I would hear a bullet. You know how a bullet sounds when it ricochets off something metal. So I crawled down under the buldozer and waited a bit."

"Whoever did it was a line crosser, because you couldn't tell the North Koreans from the South Koreans because they all looked alike, you know. That happened two or three times."

* This story has been changed from the original, to correct the estimated height of the waves.

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