CENTER FOR U.S. WAR
VETERANS' ORAL HISTORIES
George Hall was born in Philadelphia in June 1932. He remembered hearing about the December 1941 Pearl Harbor attack on the radio. Hall subsequently collected scrap metal to aid in the war effort during World War II. These experiences helped motivate him to consider military service, after dropping out of high school and working as a laborer. He enlisted in the peace-time army in October 1949. Since Hall was only 17, he had to get written permission from his parents to enlist. His mother was initially reluctant but eventually agreed. Hall’s brother enlisted in the navy at the same time he joined the army, and they had a sister who had served in the Women’s Army Corps in World War II.
Hall was assigned to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training; he remembered being homesick for the first several weeks. He was able to go home on leave for Christmas, but had to be back at Fort Knox the next day. On completion of basic training, Hall was assigned to the anti-aircraft artillery; he received advanced training as a radar operator. He was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington when the Korean War broke out in the summer of 1950. Hall and his friends had no idea where Korea was, but were optimistic they would not be sent there. They were wrong.
Hall’s unit, the 68th Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) Battalion, was initially attached to the 2nd Infantry Division, which was shipping out to Korea. The 68th left the United States on a merchant vessel that made an initial stop in Japan. He remembered the voyage as a rough one; and, he recalled that the ship was disabled during a terrible storm and had to be rescued by oceangoing tugboats from Japan. Hall’s unit left for Korea shortly afterward, landing at Pusan Harbor.
Hall described his initial days in Korea as a period of chaotic culture shock. At this point in the war, the Americans had been pushed back by the North Koreans and only controlled the Pusan perimeter. The 68th was converted into a field artillery unit and reassigned to support the 1st Cavalry Division. Hall was detailed to work as an ammunition bearer; his role was to transport ammunition from the battery headquarters to the gun crews to fire. He also had to make runs to the rear area ammunition depots to retrieve more shells.
Hall was wounded while delivering ammunition, when the convoy he was in came under enemy artillery fire. A shell exploded next to his truck; and, he was thrown off the bed of the vehicle to the ground. Hall had no idea how serious his injury was, but the first thing he checked was his face, which was covered in blood; he recalled being frightened. He crawled to a nearby hole, where he was bandaged by a medic. Hall was then transported by Jeep to a nearby aid station for further first aid, before going to the 1st Cavalry Division Field Hospital. He spent five days in the hospital; and, when he looked in a mirror, his face was peppered with black spots caused by shrapnel. The doctor told him not to be alarmed if small bits of metal fell off his face in the future as they worked through his skin.
While Hall was hospitalized, the Americans broke out of Pusan and landed at Inchon, forcing the North Korean army into full retreat. He had to catch up with his unit as it moved north. Hall remembered passing cities and villages reduced to rubble, and seeing roads filled with refugees migrating south.
Hall was a bit nervous around Koreans, as he could not tell whether they were loyal to the South or the North. His outfit had a Korean interpreter, who he was leery of whenever the translator spoke to someone in Korean. Hall met a diverse group of soldiers in Korea, including South Korean, English and Greek troops. As the Americans approached the Chinese border along the Yalu River, the Chinese entered the war with a massive attack; he recalled roads as chaotic and overflowing with vehicles as the Americans retreated. His battery had to abandon and blow up one of its guns during the retreat.
Once the front stabilized along the 38th parallel, Hall’s unit was sent to Pusan, where it resumed its anti-aircraft role. He worked in the job he was trained for, as a radar operator in Headquarters Company of the 10th AAA Group. There was some fear that Chinese aircraft would attack the ships in Pusan harbor, but that did not occur. Hall spent much of his spare time playing softball with his buddies.
When his tour of duty ended in October 1951, Hall returned to the United States on a navy ship. The mood of the soldiers on the ship was much happier than when they had gone to Korea; since, for them, the war was over. He disembarked at San Francisco, and then took a plane back to New Jersey, where he spent ten days at Camp Kilmer. Hall received 30 days leave with his family, and then returned to duty at Fort Bliss, TX, where he worked as a radar operator on training exercises. After his discharge in October 1952, he joined the VFW yet attended no unit reunions. Hall visited the Korean War Memorial in Philadelphia to pay his respects to a good friend of his who was killed in action. George Hall earned the Purple Heart and the Korean Service Medal with six bronze service stars for his service.