Willard Grant Clegg

Military Experience

In November of 1951 I was preparing to leave my mission in the western states and we stayed our last night at the mission home. President Broadbent was 84 (can you believe, a mission president at 84?) and he wasn't well. His wife was 20 years younger and after we had eaten breakfast, she said, "The President will see you now." We went up to his bedroom where he was sitting up in bed and he talked to us, giving us counsel and instruction as we concluded our mission. The Korean War was in full swing and there was a national effort to build up the military. His counsel to us on returning home was not to enlist but that if we were drafted, to go and serve willingly and honorably.

About one week after I returned home, I got my first letter from the draft board asking me to report to Boise for classification. There were five of us from this area that went and Dale Kirby was one of those that went with me. One week later, I got a letter indicating that I was classified "1A" which meant that I could be drafted at any time.

_________ (some lady from the office) in Soda kept calling me and telling me that my number was coming up and that if I wanted to enlist, I still could. By enlisting, you could apply for other training and officer duties which had a good chance of not going to Korea. The commitment would have been for four years though, instead of for two years if you were drafted. The last time she called, she said, "Grant, …… (I didn't write this down).

On February 15th, 1952 I was drafted into the United States Army at the age of 23. Dad took me up to Soda Springs to get on the train into the service. The only road open to Grace was out past Whitehead's and the snow was so high on either side of the road that you couldn't tell where you were. We were first sent to Fort Lewis, Washington about halfway between Tacoma and Seattle and were there about three weeks. They administered a battery of tests to see where we could best fit in. It was here that the first of many miracles in my behalf in the military occurred.

Two things had happened before entering the military that influenced where I would be sent and what I would be doing. The first was that I had taken a semester of automotive electrics at Weber college before my mission and I understood the basics of electricity. The second was that Dad had some bulls on the ranch out north of Grays Lake that had strayed from the herd and got in with Collins' cattle which were then moved out by Idaho Falls. Bob Collins called to say come get them and I drove up there in the old Studebaker truck. For some reason I had to wait for the help to bring the bulls in and I stayed overnight at Bob's. He was one of these radio fanatics and all that evening he told me how radios worked and the principles of transmitters and receivers. When I took the series of tests at Fort Lewis, I remembered all that Bob had told me and I'll be darned if they didn't assign me to the Signal Corp which was responsible for communications. I figured that the Lord helped me out there because I could have gone into the infantry. That was the first miracle that happened.

I can still remember when they read off the assignments of where I was going to go-the Signal Corp in San Louis Obispo, California. By coincidence, Dale Kirby was assigned there as well and he went to pole line repair. The training in San Louis consisted of 8 weeks of basic and 24 weeks of radio training. San Louis used to be a National Guard camp which was converted for the purpose. In San Louis, the grass was six inches high and meadowlarks were singing. There was an old guy in open cockpit plane flying and I laid in grass and went to sleep. I thought of what a contrast it was to the snow I had just come from in Idaho.

Basic was infantry training-training for the 'plain old dog-face soldier' as they put it. They taught us everything from marching drills to rifle handling, calisthenics, hours and hours in classes learning military tactics, health, military justice, combat, classes on patriotism and all kinds of things. Basic training was tough.

[I remember Dad saying that it was hard for him to do pushups and at times on drills he wondered what it really meant in the Word of Wisdom that you would 'run and not be weary and walk and not faint' …. Peter]

It was a coincidence, Milo Farnsworth (one of Dad's friends from Grace) was stationed at San Louis as well and his barracks were not more than a quarter of a mile away. I walked down there after dark and it was so pitch dark that I couldn't tell when I was walking in the open or between buildings. At one point, I heard, "Halt! Who goes there?" It was the officer on guard at a checkpoint and he gave the 'word'.

Each day there was a challenge/response given that we were supposed to know. He gave the word and I was supposed to respond with another word but I didn't know it. He started chewing me out and said, "Soldier… do you see this gun on my hip?" "No sir," I said, "I can't see anything!" "Do you know the password?" "No sir. I don't." He was rather abusive but I eventually got to see Milo. All I remember is that he said I needed a bath.

Basic was rough. The daily routine was to get up early. We had marching, calisthenics, and by 8 a.m. had formation with our beds made, barracks cleaned, shoes shined and inspection. If we had even a button undone on our shirts, we were put on kitchen patrol or had to do pushups. We had a rule in basic training that every hour we would get a 10 minute break between classes. All the classes were in big barracks with about 300 men. You couldn't smoke in the buildings and everyone had to go outside. I had a military pocket edition of the Book of Mormon that I kept with me all the time and every time they went on break, I would read from it. One sergeant in charge and I could tell that it really irritated him that I was reading. One day, he came up to me and said, "Clegg-say a word for me will you?" I read the entire Book of Mormon during those breaks in basic training. I had my other scriptures too-my missionary scriptures-that I always kept in my footlocker.

I was just finishing basic training when my dad tried to get me out of the military to come home to help him on the farm. Lou Bitton was the county commissioner and he had signed all the papers and sent them to me. All I needed to do was sign them and take them to the Adjutant General and I'd be on the next train home. I kept the papers for two or three days and prayed about it. I felt like I had as much responsibility to be in the army as anyone else plus I wasn't particularly excited about going back to work for my dad. Lou's own son was drafted while I was gone and I didn't feel like I should be exempt.

The radio training consisted of courses on electronics and learning how radios worked and the basics of transmitters and receivers and how to repair them. After training finished, I came home for almost a month before we shipped out. When I was drafted it was for two years. That was different than World War II where men were drafted for 'the duration of the war plus six months'. The time at home was not deducted from my two years.

One or two of the guys at camp had a car and I rode with them to Salt Lake. I then took a bus to Preston and hitchhiked home. I was there for a few weeks and then had to report to Camp Stowman near Pittsburg, California. I flew out of Salt Lake to San Francisco and then bought a bus ticket to ride out to Pittsburg. At the airport, some other fellows convinced me to just take a taxi with them right to the base. When I said I had already bought my bus ticket and asked them what I should do with it, they said, "Just forget it!"

I stayed at Camp Stowman for a week or two in late December and then they bussed us down to San Francisco and I got on the boat. I could probably still take you to the spot near Alameda where we boarded. We were supposed to be boarded by 2 a.m. and by 4 p.m. the next afternoon we were finally underway. I had called Mom and Dad at 2 a.m. in the morning and said, "I'm on my way."

There were 5000 men on the troop transport and two to three thousand of them were Air Force. It was called the USS Marine Serpent and it had a sister ship called the USS Adder. We sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge just as the sun was going down in the west. It was windy and kind of foggy and I remember thinking, "I wonder if I'll ever see that again." The second day out was Christmas and there was an announcement made on the boat that LDS servicemen could meet and about six or seven guys showed up.

We were on the ship for fourteen days and then landed in Yokohama, Japan. The trip was fairly routine and uneventful. We got off in Yokohama and got on a train for three hours up to Camp Drake. There we were outfitted with gear and rifles. Our rifles were M1s, a WWII rifle. We were there for three days and then taken back to the same ship for the trip to Korea. Our route took us around through Japan and to Inchon on the west side of Korea.

When we arrived at Inchon, the only building that was left standing there was a big house up on the hill. There were four trains waiting and we were all given our assignments and boarded the trains. There were eight of us that had trained together in the Signal Corp in San Louis and we were divided up. The sergeant told us where we were to go and I was the only one assigned to the 40th infantry division. I thought it was a low blow but it turned out to be a blessing. All of the others were assigned to work with the Republic of Korea army in the 8th Army (South Korean Army). As it turned out when I got to the 40th division, I was the only one that to got to go where there were LDS meetings.

It was a pretty scary train ride that night. The train pulled out and the sergeant said, "I don't want to alarm you all but this is for real. There is a box of ammo at each end of each car. If anything happens, grab a bandolier (strap of bullets) with you as you go out. There have been four trains derailed from guerillas breaking through the lines and coming in. Train cars are rolled over." One kid on the train had been wounded and in Japan in hospital and was on his way back. He started crying and shaking so bad he spilled his coffee.

It was kind of a moonlit night and several parts of the route were only a few miles from the front lines. We could see wrecked trains rolled over on the side of the tracks and down into the river. Our orders were to get out as fast as we could with the ammo, and they try and regroup. We ended up in Chunchon, in the middle eastern sector at about 2 a.m. in the morning. Army trucks met us at the train and it was bitter cold-about 20 degrees below zero.

The officer was a captain and almost in tears said he was sorry about the conditions but we had to get stoves out of the warehouse, assemble them, put the chimneys up through the roof of the tents and set them up and then set up our bunks (folding cots). Fortunately, the tents were already set up. It was so cold that when I finally got to bed, I climbed into my sleeping bag with everything I had on. Later on since we were near division headquarters, we had two stoves to a tent and each tent had about 10 to 12 men in it.

Our first day there was orientation and that was followed with about five days of combat preparation. We did maneuvers and they talked to us. One morning, the division general came in to talk to us and try to explain what to expect. He was all decked out with a swagger stick and pearl-handled pistols. We were still back about five miles from the front lines.

On the first morning we woke up and went to the mess area to get breakfast. It was so cold that the eggs froze to the plate. We ate standing because there was no place to sit. The eggs tasted like they came from WWII surplus. We were only there a few days but it was so bitter cold that the river was frozen over and the water was backing up and flooding into where the tents were pitched. They had tanks there and one of them had a bulldozer on the front. I can still see one of the officers in the tank, driving right down the middle of the river making a snow trench so the water would stay in the river. The tank had a bilge on it and water was just a squirting out the side.

They took us out in combat conditions to give us an idea of what to expect. We were led into a box canyon and the officer said this was a simulation as if the enemy were up the ridge. "Now go and take that ridge!" he said. I thought, 'They've got to be nuts! Trying to take it we would be sitting ducks-there's no way!"

After a few days, they took us up to a regular outfit and integrated us with all the other guys. Some had been there a long time and others less.

It was interesting that when I told them I was a Mormon and asked if there were any other Mormons in the division, they said, "Yes, Darwin Christensen." He was from Burley and his friend Stevens Heimer was in pole line construction with me in Signal Corp training in San Louis. Twice Darwin had come over to see Stevens but he wasn't there but I had met him then and we had talked quite a bit. The interesting thing was that when I got home, Darwin had married my neighbor's daughter, Francine Frasier. I only saw him twice while in Korea because he was out on TDY-temporary duty-setting up telephone lines.

My activity there was mostly just routine repairing of radios. We had two or three ten-wheeler trucks with vans on the back outfitted for radio repair. I was assigned to one of them. They had all the test equipment, vacuum tubes, volt meters, power supplies, tube selections and soldering irons-it was pretty elaborate. Each had power generators that ran 24 hours a day.

We repaired two-way radios. The same basic radio was used in all equipment--tanks, jeeps, bases-they all used the same radio. We had spares and would just exchange them whenever one was brought in that wasn't working. They were vacuum tube type radios and the tubes were most of the trouble. About 90% of the time the tubes were gone or wires had come loose because of vibration and it was just a matter of replacing tubes or soldering wires. There were transmitters and receivers and lots of them had crystals that had to be lined up to get the proper frequency.

I arrived in Korea in January and was there 13 months-until the following February. I had several memorable experiences while there. At one point, there was a tank outfit on the front lines and a switchback road that went up the mountain to the tank headquarters. Two radio repairmen were sent up there and about two thirds of the way up, the enemy zeroed in with mortars and killed them. The jeep wasn't damaged too much but the shrapnel cut square holes that went right through it. Stevens was one of the guys that was sent up to replace the two that got killed.

Lieutenant Keenan and I took these two boys up there to the tank company. The Lieutenant was younger than I and had joined the Army to go to Officers Candidate School. He was the officer and I was the driver and when we arrived, the officer of the tank company told us we needed to be gone by five because they started sending in artillery rounds then. It was about 5:15 before we left and the rounds started coming in and going off all around us. The Lieutenant started crying and kept saying, "Can't you get this thing going any faster?" His fear made it really scary for me. The US forces would put up big search lights across the ridge that would light up the whole valley. The North Koreans would zero in on them and try to blow them up. We had to drive right by these lights on the way back and I was almost panicked. I had this feeling however like someone just put their hands over my hands on the steering wheel and just held them there while we got over those switchbacks. I don't know if there was much eminent danger but I felt a lot of fear.

Some of the responsibilities of our group were to provide for sound equipment and speakers for large meetings or gatherings. I had several opportunities to go whenever there was a Korean Presidential Unit Citation. At one of these, they wanted 26,000 men in attendance and we had to set up the public address (PA) system. President Sigmund Rhee of Korea wanted to speak to all the men there. I manned the generator and we had some very large speakers. There were three or four separate amplifiers and speakers off each of them.

Another experience was around Christmas time. The Catholic Cardinal Spelling came to Korea to spend Christmas with the troops. We got word that he was coming on a certain day and wanted a PA system. Some of the officers went and so did I. When he got off the plane, they rolled out a 25 foot red carpet. There were four-star generals and three-star generals and they all knelt down and bowed their heads. The Cardinal gave an impressive speech. He was really down to earth and told the men to be true to their girlfriends and mothers and not to do anything that would shame them.

At the end, they announced that if some of the men would like, they could shake hands with Cardinal Spelling. There were about 75 men and since I was right there I got in line as well. I soon noticed that he had a big pearl ring that he would hold out and the men weren't shaking his hand but kneeling down and kissing the ring. I was already in line and didn't want to bolt out of line but didn't know what to do.

When the time came, he was holding out his hand and I just reached out and shook it. It kind of took him back and he had a funny look on his face but then said, "Well God bless you son!" I had a lot of respect for him and other Catholics. That was back in the days when the Catholics were all bad and it was the church of the devil. I realized that somebody was feeding somebody a line. One of my best friends was a Catholic named Kegley from Washington state. He liked to drink but he was really a good guy.

Most of the rest of the time in Korea was pretty routine. I was at division headquarters and the signal section was within walking distance of church. There was a big drive at one point when the Chinese broke through the front lines.

When the Chinese broke through the lines, it was a Sunday night. Ordinarily, artillery was constant but that night it was like a roar that never quit. You couldn't tell one gun from another. The sky was lit with flares they would shoot up and then descend on parachutes. Outside the tents it was just as bright as daylight. Our division was able to hold… partly due to mountainous terrain where we were located.

When Chinese broke through, some of our guys were left behind the lines. One officer got in a tank and drove right through Chinese lines and went and rescued his men. Most of Chinese were infantry and riflemen. The attack was a human wave of people and when they broke through, other divisions were pulled around and pushed them back.

There was a lot of confusion and for a month or six weeks, we weren't even sure where we were at. The 40th division held but they broke through at the 7th and so part of our group was called in as reinforcements. Bumpers were covered so it was difficult to tell which division was which. It was during this time that my friend from home and high school, Lynn Harrison was killed. He was gathering for mail call when they were struck with an incoming mortar.

It was hard to find church during this time. We were supposed to get R&R (rest and relaxation) in Tokyo every 3-4 months but because of the Chinese push, my papers were pulled and I never got it. Somehow, they lost the papers and I never had R&R the entire time in Korea. I wasn't too excited to go because there were Japanese girls waiting for you when you got off the plane and I also didn't want to go by my self. Another LDS group leader stationed where they kept the papers said he would have gone with me but that wasn't known until later. The lieutenant in charge apologized because my papers were lost.

One time I was sent out on TDY to at tank outfit and kept hearing from the division headquarters that there was a group of LDS servicemen from the 160th Regiment. It was summer and in the evening after chow I decided to hitch a ride on GI trucks. You could do that behind the lines and just catch a ride with any truck that was going your way. I rode down there and was told a certain telephone operator was LDS. We decided to organize and get a group going and went to the chaplain to see about formalizing it with a place to meet-I think he was Episcopal. He was rather indignant and asked, "Who are the LDS? You've got Protestant, Jewish, Catholic-you don't need your own. You're no better than anybody else!"

I got a ride part of the way back and was about a half mile from the tank company when I had to start walking. The road was around the side of a mountain with a steep bank on one side and a 200 foot drop to the river on the other. As I was walking along, here came a convoy of trucks from the Korean Republic Army. I was on the outside and the first truck went by and gave me room-about two or three feet. We had a guy in our outfit that was a truck driver and bragged about all the gooks that he had run over while driving his big truck. The second and third trucks didn't give me as much room and they successively kept crowding me until all eight or ten had passed. They could have easily bumped me over the side if they had wanted to and it was a miracle they didn't. I was scared and figured I'd had it.

One other time, we were up on signal with an inspection team on the front lines. Our guys were on one ridge and across the valley about one mile away on next ridge was the enemy. Just below the top of the ridge was a road cut parallel to the ridge. The inspection team was working and told me, "Clegg, you take the jeep to the top and we'll check equipment and then meet you up there." All of a sudden, mortar rounds started coming in and started down the road from me. Each one was fifty feet closer to me and I just stood there paralyzed-I couldn't move. They were the same thing that had killed my friend Lynn. The very next one would have hit the jeep and me but suddenly they stopped. I don't know why but I know I was right in it's path and couldn't do anything about it.

Another time I was up in this same area but was parked on the other side where the bunkers and trenches were. It was a nice spring day-green and beautiful and the sun was shining. There were some steps that went up and then it was wide open. I was standing there looking into no mans land when I heard footsteps behind me. There was a lieutenant and he was just as pale as could be. He asked, "What are you doing?" and he was pretty shook up. He said, "Two days ago, a young man was standing here and was shot and killed by a sniper!" The thing that had really startled him was that he said I looked just like the fellow that had been killed and at first he thought I was him.

There were one or two incidents regarding the guys in the same tent. One guy there that was little, black and kind of mouthy. He had two big black guys with him and they were going to have a party. They had a record player and were making noise and I told them, "If you want to have a party, I'll call the guard." They shut it off and left and I laid up all night wondering if I was going to be alive in the morning.

There was another time when I almost got shot. A fellow named Spillman from Texas and he had been a sergeant busted to a private back to a sergeant and back to a private all for drinking. He had been so sick that he was out for two weeks and never reported for duty. He kept g to be alive through the night.

Another time when almost got shot. There was a fellow in our tent named Spillman from Texas and he had gone from sergeant, busted to private to sergeant to private all from drinking. For about two weeks, he had never even reported for duty. We called him Pop and he kept weapons loaded with magazines and ready to fire within arms reach. His bunk was along the wall and mine was across the end. He as drunk and as I was getting into bed and grabbed his gun. "I'm getting tired of you guys and I've had enough," and he loaded the chamber. He had one finger on the trigger and another finger on the safety and the barrel pointed right at my stomach. I hollered as loud as I could, "Pop, put that damn gun away." He kind of fumbled and someone else reached over and grabbed the gun. He had worked in Japan for some time, had been in the service and wanted to marry a Japanese girl but his folks wouldn't give permission to marry and I think he was just trying to deal with it by drinking.

A humorous story, one boy got a package about Christmas time and it was all wrapped in tinfoil. When he opened it, it was a nice fruitcake that had gone moldy. He just threw it in the garbage and it stayed there for two or three days. Another guy asked if he could have it and trim off the mold. When he got it out of the garbage and started peeling off the mold, he heard a clink. The first fellow's mom had put a bottle of whiskey inside of the fruitcake. Almost immediately the guy wanted it back. They argued back and forth for quite a while and on the second or third day finally decided to split it.

The war ended in June and a ceasefire was signed. When Dwight Eisenhower was elected President of the United States, I remember listening to his presidential acceptance or state of the union on an old green radio in the squad tent. He said, "I would like to offer a prayer," and he prayed for four to five minutes. His prayer was humble and he pleaded for the peace of the world. This was the previous January and I thought, "This war isn't going to last too much longer."

I was due to come home in February. Every month a certain group would be rotated out to go home. I knew my time was coming as some of the guys who had come after me were going home. The 40th division was combined with another and done away with. I was sitting there one morning wondering what the situation was as the guys from February had already gone home. We had a new sergeant with metal rimmed glasses and he came storming out of the office. "Clegg, get your stuff together and up to division headquarters by two… you're going home!" I didn't even have a chance to say goodbye to anyone.

When we left the area, I wasn't even sure where we were at. We were sent down at night and some of us LDS men were met by Captain Cohen. He was Jewish, a Dentist and Mormon-he had actually been sent for psychoanalysis because he was so dedicated to Mormonism. He invited all of us to his tent for some sweet rolls and he treated us.

The next morning they put us all on a truck, took us someplace where as far as you could see in all directions there was nothing but railroad tracks. They just emptied us out of the truck and said a train would come at one o'clock. Two o'clock came and no train, three o'clock no train. It was sunny but bitter cold and there was no food and no shelter. Finally at four o'clock here came this old Korean train from the north. We got on board and stayed on all night clear down to Seoul. The next morning, I looked out the window and thought we were in the ocean-there was water in all directions. We went on down to Pusan and stayed there two or three days while they moved us around a little bit. Then they put us on the exact same ship that we had come over on, the USS Marine Serpent.

We sailed straight through to Seattle. About three days out of port, we got into a bad February storm. The old breakers would come right over the bow. You could look out and there was two feet of water going right down the deck. There were inch and a half cables going up to the mast and they would hum in the wind just like telephone wires-the wind blowing through them would cause them to vibrate and resonate. On the last night they told us we would be docking at 2 a.m. tomorrow morning. I wondered, "How in the world do they know where we are?"

We got up at 2 a.m. in the morning and the rooms and berths had to be cleaned. There was a bitter cold wind blowing and we stood there from 2 a.m. until almost noon before we started unloading.

I was on the starboard side-opposite of where we were unloading. At about 9 or 10 a.m., I climbed up over the deck on the super structure and looked down on the other side. I was excited and told the others that my brother and sister and her husband might be there and I thought I could see them. When we finally started to unload I looked towards the people that I thought were my family and it wasn't them. There were hundreds of people and then towards the back, I saw a sign with my name on. Suddenly it shot way up in the air and then fell end over end. My brother David had seen me, thrown it as high as he could and came running followed by Carlie Ann and Myles.

Myles was an officer and wanted me to come with them but I didn't want to take a chance of getting separated. We were promised a stake dinner but we didn't get it and ended up back at Fort Lewis for processing. Everyone was restless and wondered, "When are we going to get out of here?" They said we would be lucky to get out by Wednesday and it was actually more like Friday or Saturday. We were there for a week or ten days for processing papers and orientation. We attended lectures and they gave me a photo copy of my service record.

All of us had quite a sum of discharge money and quite a bit of cash. As we got off the bus, we had to walk two to three blocks to the train station and the streets were just lined with guys saying, "Hey buddy, just get out of the army? Come in here and let me buy you a drink." I got on the Portland Rose train and came right to Soda Springs. Mom and Dad met me (I think) in Soda. It was March 10 by the time I finally got home.

Transcribed from a conversation with Dad on January 1, 2002 in the evening by the stove in the family room of his home in Bench by Peter Clegg. When we finished he added, "I'm telling you things that happened almost 50 years ago. What I'm saying is, what I'm telling you may not be the way it actually happened!"