CENTER FOR U.S. WAR
VETERANS' ORAL HISTORIES

Korean War

Eugene Fuery

Korean War Oral History Interview
US Army, 7th Infantry Division
Date: September 25, 2002
Interviewer: Michelle Carrara
Summarizer: Macartan McCabe
Veterans History Project

Summary

Eugene Feury

Eugene Feury graduated from high school in Jersey City, New Jersey, shortly before the Korean War broke out. His older brothers had served in World War II in the Pacific and European theatres, and the new conflict was a major topic of conversation in the Feury household. Feury was drafted in November of 1951. He completed sixteen weeks of basic and advanced training as a heavy weapons infantryman at Fort Dix, New Jersey, in a unit mostly composed of other young men from Jersey City. Feury recalled the training as very rigorous; but, he believed it prepared him well for combat. Only five people in his basic training class did not go to Korea.

After completing training at Fort Dix, Feury traveled by train to California, where he received some additional instruction before embarking on a 10-day troopship voyage to Japan, during which he experienced a typhoon. Then, after three days, it was on to South Korea, where he landed at Pusan, and joined the 7th Infantry Division’s 17th Infantry Regiment’s Company H as a machine gunner at Taegu.

Feury recalled Korea’s temperature extremes as considerable, noting that they would range from boiling hot in the warm seasons to below freezing cold in the winter. His unit served primarily on the front lines, although it was once detailed as the American honor guard during peace talks. After returning from that detail, the company resumed combat operations in an area known as the “Punch Bowl,” engaging in very fierce fighting with the North Korean and Chinese enemy, particularly during a fight for Hill 851, known as “Old Baldy.”

Feury remembered the Communist offensive tactics as being somewhat simple — consisting of efforts to overwhelm American defenders of a given position with vast numbers of attackers. As a countermeasure, the Americans planted numerous land mines across their front to break up the enemy assaults. During one offensive, a friend of Feury’s was killed when his machine gun ran out of ammunition. Feury described the North Koreans as being crueler opponents than the Chinese, and he said their fighting style became more ruthless as their numbers diminished. He believed that the war could have been over much sooner had the Chinese not assisted the North Koreans.

7th Infantry Division Insignia

On one occasion Feury escorted a wounded North Korean prisoner of war to the hospital, and he remarked that injured enemy soldiers were sent to the same facilities as American casualties. When Feury was subsequently wounded and in the hospital, a North Korean prisoner spit at him.

Feury said that he was not impressed with the South Korean or Republic of Korea (ROK) army, which he considered a poorly trained and incompetent force. He recalled that the ROK Army would often lose captured towns to counter-offensives and would leave their weapons behind for the enemy to pick up. Feury said that he had very little contact with civilians; he would see children and their mothers with the occasional father carrying a firearm walking along the roadside heading south to flee the war.

Feury recalled day-to-day life in Korea as hard, with nothing but C-rations to eat, and the opportunity to take a shower being only once every several weeks. On September 3, 1951, he suffered grenade fragment wounds and was treated at the 171st Evacuation Hospital in Seoul, returning to front line duty after thirty days. Feury was subsequently seriously wounded in his left eye and his legs when a mortar shell struck near him, killing several men in his unit, and ending his participation in the war. He was transferred to a MASH hospital in Taegu, and then on to Osaka Army Hospital in Japan, suffering from impaired vision and paralysis in both his legs. Fortunately, a dedicated surgeon restored his ability to walk, although he lost his left eye. During his time at Osaka, Feury was subjected to testing by doctors who were interested in discovering why he was one of the few soldiers they had seen who had not suffered from frostbite while in Korea.

Machine Gun Crew in Korea.

After the hospital stay in Japan, Feury returned to the United States to further convalesce at Valley Forge Hospital in Pennsylvania, where his family could visit him, and from where he could go home on weekend leave. He enjoyed his stay at Valley Forge, which featured what he recalled as an upbeat environment, and he said that he made a lot of friends in the hospital.

After being released from Valley Forge, Feury was discharged from the army on July 31, 1952. Classified as 100% disabled, he attended St. Peter’s College in Jersey City, New Jersey, graduated with a degree in marketing and married Frances Lamont soon afterward. Feury later returned to school at Fairleigh Dickinson University, gaining an MA degree and a teaching certificate. After a 35-year teaching career at Forrestdale Middle School in Rumson, New Jersey, he retired in 1991. Feury told the interviewer that his experience in Korea changed him greatly, and that he had difficulty dealing with the fact that his friends had died, and he had not. While not regretting his service, and viewing Korea as a “good war,” he viewed war in general as a waste, and he did not want to see his children and grandchildren involved in pointless conflicts. Feury takes Tylenol three times a day to cope with pain from the shrapnel remaining in his legs.

Feury concluded by noting that only 10% of the people in his battalion were not wounded or killed in Korea, but that his unit had great morale, rivaling the renowned esprit de corps of the Marines. At the time of his interview, he was a member of the Ocean County, New Jersey, Purple Heart Association, and attended regular meetings with a dozen other members, as well as he attended veteran reunions with members of his battalion.

Eugene Feury was awarded the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, Combat Infantry Badge with two Battle Stars, United Nations Medal, American Defense Medal, Good Conduct Medal and the New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal for his service. He passed away in 2010, at the age of 81.

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