Excerpt from Robert Extrom’s Biography as a radio operator, 1st Marines, 3rd Battalion, H Company to be published on the Korean War Educator Website.
Submitted by Janice Extrom Sheridan
“There are so many tanks going through the mountains in North Korea and so many dead bodies on the side of the road that they didn’t stop and pick them up to clear the roadway. They checked for IDs and filed a report, but kept moving. If you wanted to get shot, you stopped … so if we were following some tanks, when the tanks moved, we moved. We didn’t have time to put two and two together.
We were following a tank when we came to an area that was kind of an intersection near Hagaru-ri. I remember that there was a dead body in the middle of the gravel roadway. I was shocked. He was a North Korean or Chinese enemy that had been flattened on the road, having been run over and over by tanks and other vehicles. He was only about six inches thick at this point and looked to be about eight feet tall. He was just like almost make-believe and something that I never expected. Flat. He had been run over so many times by tanks that his body was like a pancake, and there we were walking right over on top of him.
It was the first time I had been that close to a body that had been run over by a tank. I knew he was dead, but still it affected me. He was probably a father and had kids at home. You don’t get over that very easily. I had to just close my eyes, push it out of my mind, and keep going. You can’t imagine how that is when you haven’t been exposed to something like that. I still can’t get that image out of my mind.
I remember thinking that anybody who thinks war is good has something wrong in the head — I don’t care what outfit he’s with. All that could be done with the dead bodies was to get them out of the way by pushing them off the side of the road and down in the gullies. I also thought, ‘That’s going to stink in the springtime when their bodies start thawing out.’”
ROBERT EXTROM’S LETTER TO HIS PARENTS, SEPTEMBER 28, 1950
Dear Mom and Dad,
Received your letter of the 16th yesterday. We are now 3/4 of Seoul secured. Our Regiment/1st Marine had the privilege and hard task of going through the heart of the city and it was hard with resistance heavy. Our casualties were not too bad though. Yesterday and last night our Battalion was given a rest, much needed. As ROK forces came into Seoul to relieve us for a spell.
Sept. 25th almost spelled doom for this company I’m with. We made a big push the 24th and our flank companies were pinned down by the enemy. Only our H Company could advance. We lost communication with everyone and got lost behind enemy lines and Emplacements. For 16 hours straight we were seeing heavy fire from every side.
Believe me we prayed a lot and someone else must have been praying hard too. For with God’s will did we finally gained communication and fought our way out of the trap back to our lines. But it’s over with now and with yesterday’s rest we’re ready to take the rest of the city. It’s much harder in a city than out in the hills and mountains.
We receive very little, if any, news at all pertaining to the armies down south. But we do believe it won’t be long before this is over. I believe I’ve lost close to 25 lbs so far. But some good meats (not rations) and some sleep would
put that back on. Hope you write often. You don’t know how good it is to receive mail over here especially after the past two weeks. I wish I had time to write to everyone individually but that’s impossible.
Hope they write though. The days are warm and the nights very cold. Sure hope we don’t have to fight during the winter months. In another week or so we should be taken off the line and return to a rest camp known as de lousing camp. It sure will be good and get new clothes. If you’d like to send a box, I could use some heavy socks and a muffler. You could add some goodies.
Thinking of you mother and dad and everyone. God bless you all.
All my love, Bob