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Interview with Henry Andrasovsky [10/2003]

Tom Swope:

This is the oral history of World War II and Korean war veteran Henry W. Andrasovsky. Mr. Andrasovsky served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in the Pacific Theater during World War II and his highest rank was Gunnery Sergant. I'm Tom Swope, and this tape was recorded by Mr. Andrasovsky in October of 2003, and he asked me to submit it to the Veteran's History Project. Hank was 80 at the time of this recording.

Henry Andrasovsky:

Gunnery Sergeants, United States Marine Corps, retired. I went in to the Marine Corps on the 15th of May 1941. Went through my boot training in Parris Island, South Carolina, and after boot training I was sent to Yorktown, Virginia, in the guard detachment.

I remember, I was on liberty in Williamsburg, Virginia, in the drug store where they sold beer. And I was having a beer and listening to the music. The radio was playing Chopin's Polonaise, and the music stopped and they said, "We have a news bulletin, Pearl Harbor has been bombed." And, out of all the people there, everybody said, "Where's Pearl Harbor?" And we soon had to learn a little more geography and find out that Pearl Harbor was American territory in Hawaii and that we were at war.

And, I remember, the radio announced that all service men would return back to their bases. And I went out and met a friend that was driving a Marine Corps truck around telling people to go home, go back to the base. So I joined him, and I rode around helping the troops go back to the base. And I thought when I got back we were gonna pack a sea bag and head out, and it would be two, three weeks, and we would be coming back, and the war would be over. And I didn't know what the Japanese had.

But it wasn't until 1942 about... I didn't get to go over seas until about August, something like that, September. And I joined the first Marine division on Guadalcanal in November. I landed on Guadalcanal. And the day I arrived we had an air raid. I was aboard the President Adams troop transport and we were in a convoy of about 20 ships including a couple of cruisers and a few destroyers, and we got an air raid. And it was about a dozen dive bombers came in, but they were intercepted by the interceptors. And the torpedo planes came in without the dive bombers.

The Japanese... about 18 Japanese torpedo planes came in. They were deck level. I could see the pilots in the plane, and I was watching our Navy shoot 'em down, and it seemed like they weren't gonna fall for a while, and after a little while, why, they started, one by one, they started hitting the water in flames, and they shot down all 18. I think one of our ships was hit. One of our cruisers stopped the torpedo. Kept it from hitting the troop transport.

That was my introduction to war the first day. And we landed, and I went into the jungles of Guadalcanal. Went to Coolie Point; joined Able Company 7th regiment. Chesty Puller was my Battalion Commander and they had a battle, when I arrived they were in battle. And there were troops, Japanese troops, trying to infiltrate at Coolie Point. Made a landing up there someplace prior to that. And, anyway, that's when the war started for me.

And later we boarded a LCVP. That's a landing craft. And we rode along the coast. It took us back to Anderson Field. And we marched up and set up a line up in Bloody Ridge where we were making combat patrols every day.

In January of '43, we were relieved by a part of our second Marine division. Six Marines were coming in. And we were relieved and boarded the President Adams again and headed for Austrailia. And we got to Austrailia, and our division was in poor health. Half of 'em had malaria. Half of the troops were in the hospital half the time and people going in the hospital, coming back out.

We rebuilt the division. We got more replacements, and we started training, extensive training, in Austrailia. That's where I went through sniper school while I was in Austrailia. And they gave me an 0383 Remington rifle with telescopic sights. And we ... we were making 30 mile marches. I never walked as much in my entire career as I did in Australia.

We would work seven days straight and then get three days of liberty. And the seven days we worked we would be walking 30 miles a day and attacking a hill each day when we were finished with our march. And we were getting ready. We boarded ship and we went to New Guinea. This was '43 in New Guinea, and in New Guinea we were training. We didn't do any fighting, real fighting anyway. We were getting air raids there but nothing to talk about. But we were getting ready to make this landing.

We were staging, and we got the division in shape and we landed. I landed off of an old destroyer, The Brooks number 10. And we made the landing on Cape Gloucester, New Britian. I was a scout, and I was in the first wave. And I landed, and I was the first one to run ashore. And my job there that day on the landing was I would run 200 yards and see a road, cross the road, and then reconnoiter for another 100, 200 yards and come back to the road and meet the troops.

And I remember when I landed and the road wasn't there. It was a small trail is what it was. You couldn't even see it, it was covered with leaves. So I ran about 500 yards looking for the road and I never even find it. Came back and the landing was pretty good and we set up lines. We had some hairy deals going on, little things going on here and there. We took ... our Baker Company took Target Hill, and we were on the foot hill living in a swamp. It rained for 23 days without stopping. With no relief. We were wet for 23 days.

We didn't have any dry ...anything dry. They'd light a cigarette, and the whole battalion would take a light off the guy that had a light on his cigarette. Nobody had matches that would work, and it was really a wet battle. We lived in a swamp for about a week. Swamp was about three feet deep. In order to sleep in the swamp, you had to fill up sandbags and put 'em onto the roots of a tree to get out of the water so you have a dry place to sleep. Not dry place, but out of the water. It was still raining.

And, I remember, the biggest battle we had in Cape Gloucester, New Britian was on January the sixth. We were moving out, and I got within 25 yards of a trench. They had a trench shaped like an "L".It was kind of a road block. And I was told that there was 800 Japanese in that area then when we were fighting. And they ... I got within 25 yards of 'em. They hit my other scout with a grenade somebody threw, and they got him out of there and moved back about 25 yards. And we got to where more and more fire was coming out.

Pretty soon we were pinned down behind trees and all. I saw my best buddy get killed that day, Mike Garrity. He ran up to pick up a guy that just been killed, Moe Holder. He picked him up, he looked at me, shook his head, and fell dropped dead, you know. He got hit in the head. And we lost a lot of people that day. We had... anyway, we were pinned down. And we were quite a while we waited. And two tanks and a half-track came up with our reserve platoon. And we all got up and attacked and wiped out that road block. We wiped out 800 Japanese on that push. And they reorganized and pursued by fire, and all this.

And then we went ... we kept moving. And it kept raining. And, I remember, to take your socks off... I found a bunch of Japanese socks. And they were wet before I could put 'em in my pack. But at least they were clean. And I would change socks. I'd have to cut the old ones off 'cuz your skin would come off with the ... with the socks. But that was Cape Gloucester, and there was a lot of other firing there, and you can't really think about it. Well you figure that 1944 is 60... almost 60 years ago.

And we went from Cape Gloucester, New Britain, to the Island of Peleliu and the Russell Islands. It was in the rear area where we trained... retrained and reorganized the division. Filled it up with replacements. And we sent back ... a bunch of people went back to the States now. They had over two years over seas and they were sent back to the United States. And we had new troops come in to replace them. And we filled up the division and then it took some training to get 'em organized and see how we worked.

And, while we were in Peleliu, Bob Hope came there. And, I remember, there was ... we didn't have an airport. All we had was artillery spotter planes, and they would land on the road, and little Piper Cubs. And we had a bunch of them. And when Bob Hope came Mbanika, which was a big island near us, where they had an airport, and there was more civilized. And he got there, and when he heard that the first Marine division was getting ready to go to war again, and he insisted that we... he come and give us the show before we left.

So the only way that they brought 'em... his whole cast was brought in on Piper Cubs. One at a time. There was one in each airplane. And they put on a real good show. And Jerry Colonna and Betty Thomas... Patty Thomas. She was a Varga gal, I guess they called them... Varga gal? They were sort of like a Play Boy gal you know where they had calendars that these girls made. Anyway, for guys that were on an island that was really something. They had a row of MP's guarding them. These guys were desperate.

And on September the 5th we boarded LSTs now. Forty-five days aboard a LST heading for Peleliu. And we made practice landings on the way at Guadalcanal. And that's why it took so long. But we were aboard this ship for 45 days and it rained again. I think they took all the storms to keep from getting air raids, or for cover we went through storms. And I was wet on that ship all the time.

And we made the landing at Peleliu which was, in my opinion, the most ferocious thing I've ever been in. Where I landed out of a Am Trac, amphibian tractor. I remember we boarded it in the tank deck of the LST. And we drove it off the LST, and when you hit the water, you think you're gonna sink in that thing. It's a tank and it floats. And we circled, and then we head for the beach and as we're... we got about a hundred yards from the beach when my Am Trac was hit by something. And we thought was a underwater mine or something that hit it, that blew up.

And it stalled us, and the driver cranked the engine and he finally got it started again, and we moved up about another 50 yards when a mortar hit the track and blew the track off. At which time, they dropped the ramp, and we had to disembark. And I know my side of the... I was a corporal then and I'm hollering, "Spread out, don't bunch up". We had about 13 guys on there, not 13, about, I don't know, something like 23 total in there with the crew and all. But everybody seemed to want to go on one side of the boat.

So, I and about four guys jumped out the other side, the left side, facing the beach. And the right side was kind of bunched up. And a machine gun opened up on us in the water, and they aimed at the side that had all them people on it. So I was lucky. I was on the other side. And I could see the machine gun shooting at us. And I'd fire eight rounds out of my M1 rifle and dive under water. The water was about waist deep... chest deep in fact. And when we were trying to attack this beach, and you had to walk straight at the machine gun. And it cut down just about everybody that was on that left side of the tank. I don't think any of them made it ashore.

I went through some under water barbed wire, tore up my clothes going through it. But I just kept going. And there was about five of us out of that Am Trac made it. And, you know, the minute we got out of it, as soon as we cleared it, there was another mortar come in and it landed right inside of it. So it got the crew, and buckled ... the Am Trac was burning when we left it.

And we made the beach and threw grenades at this... about five of us threw grenades at that machine gun. We got a little help from ... an adjacent Am Trac opened fire on it. And it caused them to have to duck and not be able to see what they're doing. And while they were ducking, why, we threw grenades in it. And we had to get off the beach as fast as possible, so I reorganized our unit and started moving out. And we were heading ... made a right turn and we were going for ... we landed on Orange Three... Orange Three.

And we were moving down to the southern end of the island where we would cross the island. And there was a small, little island that you have to wade through some water to get there. And we were gonna take that other little island at the bottom of this island. Peleliu Island was only five by three and a half or something like that. A small number like that in area. And on our way there we were moving out. And I got... we came upon an area where there was a palm tree knocked down. There were a lot of trees knocked down but this one that I was passing, I was right on top of it almost, when I saw something move underneath it, and realized that there was a hole under it, you know.

So I ran around the side of it and I thought I'd fire about eight rounds in there and throw a grenade in. And I fired one shot, and I don't know what I hit, but the entire tree and all blew up. It knocked people out that were 15 feet away from it, you know, and I was right standing on top of it. And when the smoke lifted, I was still standing there. And I had shrapnel in my face and arms and chest, and my leggings were burning because some of the metal didn't go into the skin. It didn't penetrate the skin. It just clung to the outside of it and burned.

And, as I was ripping my leggings trying to pour water on my legs, and my platoon sergeant come running up, Lacy Warden. He said, "You're hit". And I says "Yeah ". And he... anyway he called the Corpsmen. And the Corpsmen come up and put an evacuation tag on me. And there were two other guys got hit. And the three of us were trying to make it back to the aid station together and we had tags on.

This guy Rankin was hit in the side and Chet Sheifer from Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. He was hit through the arm. And the three of us were heading back to the aid station and helping each other. Ranking was in bad shape, so we were actually carrying him. And I was not in a good frame of mind. The concussion had blood coming out of my nose and ears and every place, you know. And I went back helping carry this guy, you know. I didn't know where I'm going.

Chet Sheifer was the only one with a clear head. And he guided us back. We went the wrong way for a while and all. Anyway we got there and a stretcher came and took Rankin away. And they left me waiting there, and I was sitting on a parapet And this was a couple hours later already. Another mortar came in and hit a tree. And the tree hit me in the back, and a piece of the tree broke off and hit me in the back and threw me about 30 feet.

And then I was paralyzed from there on out. They had to carry me the rest of the way. And I lay there. I thought was dying, and I thought my God, you know, I'm dying. And the Corpsman come up, he says, "You're hurt bad". And I was thinking, well he ain't real smart. And he gave me morphine which didn't seem to do anything. It still hurt. And he carried me and told me I'd be on the next Am Trac out back aboard ship.

And they were blowing the Am Tracs up in the water before they get ashore. I'd see one coming and I'd think, there's my boat, and they'd blow it up. And finally a DUKW had got in there. One of them DUKWs, it's a truck that goes on water, amphibious truck. And they put me on that and he got me out. And they like to blow us up out of the water when we got out about 50 yards.

Mortars were all around us, and the guy stalled and we kept going and they took me out about a mile or so when a LCVP Higgins boat came up along side and they transferred me from this DUKW to the Higgins boat. An artillery shell went over our head and almost got me there. Again, they almost dropped me in the water between boats. And I finally got to the transport... troop transport, and they put me on it.

I was on there for three days. They were shooting ... giving me morphine for three days and, I know I didn't want any more after a while and they then put me in the basket and transferred me by cable. And they lowered the cable into the boat and took the boat over to the hospital ship Samaritan, raised it, put me aboard the hospital ship Samaritan, and there I was operated on.

While I was on there, they removed shrapnel from my chin. And my back had a coconut on it where the mortar hit me. It was swelled up like a big coconut back there and I couldn't lay on my back and I couldn't move. And, little by little, for about 10 days it... as it receded I could move my arms then I could move my legs. In about 10 days I was able to move and not hunch around on the ship.

And I got back to Mbanika, the sister island. I was in mobile hospital number 10. And then they sent me back to Pavuvu. And when I got back to Pavuvu it was time to be sent back to the United States. And, anyway, that was the end of the war for me. But I was, I was ready to go back over seas. And they had me in the draft to go back over, after three months in the United States, when I got malaria, and they put me in the hospital. And then they couldn't send me for another, I don't know, they had a period they wouldn't send you out if you had malaria.

And so, by the time that six weeks was up, or something like, why ah, the draft left, and left me there. Then they were getting ready to send me overseas in preparation for the landing at... we were going to Okinawa. If I went with the draft, I would have made the Okinawa landing. But the malaria kept me from making that and then just as they were gonna send me out again, they dropped the atom bomb and the war ended.

And I was discharged. And then I come back in the Marine Corps a short time later. I just stayed out for a few months. And I reenlisted. And it was peace time and I was stationed in Brooklyn for a while, in Quantico. I shot in the rifle matches. I went ... in Camped Lejeune... I went to Camp Lejeune in the 1950'S. Joined the second Marine division. And the Korean War broke out and we headed for California. And the second Marine division, second regiment, became part...


It was early 1950. I was stationed in Quantico. And I left Quantico and I went to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. And I got into the second Marine regiment, Able Company. And the Korean War broke out ... and the Korean war broke out, and the first Marine division began forming to go. And they were very short of people. So they took the entire Second Regiment... Second Regiment from the Second Division and put it in the First Division and changed our name to First Regiment... First Marines.

So, I was in "A" Company, First Marines when the Korean War broke out. They had ... our brigade went over first. That was part of the Fifth Regiment of the First Marine Division. And we landed in ... we wound up in Camp Pendleton, where we were taking in people from all Navy yards, reservists and scrounging people from all over America. And we had to do a quick training job on some of them. Get 'em all to where they all fired a rifle and had a basic understanding of what the rifle does.

And we went over seas within a month. We were in Pendleton about a month, and we went over seas and made the Inchon landing September the 15th, 1950. We landed at Inchon. And the landing was very successful. And we started attacking towards Yeongdeungpo. It's like a suburb of Seoul. It's another city on the other side of the Han River from Seoul. And we took Yeongdeungpo.

I remember there we... I had a very close shave. We were dug in a levy on the Han River. And there was a road above us on the levy. And we were dug in the side of it facing the town. And three tanks came up. Two Russian tanks accompanied by a Sherman tank, an American Sherman tank that they... the North Koreans got from somebody, somehow. Anyway the three tanks came up. Ran up and down our lines and went on the road about 30 feet. That's 10 yards. About 10 yards in front of me was a road ran parallel to the dike that we were dug in on.

And I hear this tank coming down the road. And it was still light. It was just starting to get dark. This tank was chugging down this road, and he stopped when he got right in front of my hole. And I heard the turret turning. I grabbed all my gear and pulled it in the hole with me so he wouldn't know I was there, and waited. He sprayed the hole with machine gun fire 30 caliber. And then I can hear him get ready to fire the big gun.

And I held my breath and kept my mouth open and waited to reduce... the blast would cause a concussion. You keep your mouth open, why you're... you're in a little better shape. And I had my mouth open and I waited and (sound of gun fire made) I heard that 75 millimeter fire right at me. And he hit in back of my hole. And I can hear him. He was so close I can hear him open the breach and reload. And he fired another one. Right at my hole. It hit in back of me, just in back.

If he had H.E. that's high explosive shells, I wouldn't be here now. But later on they knocked that tank out, and they said all he had was armor piercing, anti tank weapons, you know, and they don't make the big explosion, they make a penetrating power. So, it wound up where he fired armor piercing at me which didn't have the effect that H.E would have had on personnel and... but it shook me up.

I know what it means, now, to be in front of a tank when it fires at you. And it had a shock affect that's out of this world. Because when he left, I think I was paralyzed for about a minute or two before I could get out of the hole. And, I remember, I looked out the hole, and I didn't see anybody there. And I thought, did they go over the dike and leave me here by myself.

And, one by one, people were sticking their head out of the hole saying, "Did they leave". That was the day I saw one of the most funny things, is a big Russian tank came running down this line. And he passed my hole ... right in front of me and he drove to the... like there was a corner and turned right, you can go up a street into town. But he made the right turn and started heading up town, and then I look and there's a Marine... a Marine chasing this tank with a rocket launcher. Here he is running on foot, chasing after this tank, trying to hit it. That was really gung ho. And that was Yeongdeungpo.

We had a lot of ... we had banzai charges there... banzai ... try to over run us and they couldn't. And we took our Am Tracs and crossed the Han River and made a landing on the other side of the Han River. And, once we crossed it, we were in the outskirts of Seoul. And we start heading towards Seoul.

My company put the first flag up in Seoul. It was hill 79 under Captain Barrel, Captain Bob Barrel, my skipper. He was my captain. He later became the Comadant of the Marine Corps. He was a four star General when he retired. And he was in charge of the whole Marine Corps. Bob Barrel. Very wonderful man. He saved my life. When we were going through Seole he helped us... he kept us from going into this railroad station.

If we'd have went there, we would have been wiped out. And the Captain had enough sense to stop us from going there, you know. And so he raised a lot of credit. He got a Navy Cross for doing it. Anyway, we took Seoul, and that took quite a bit of doing. I'll just say, real fast, we took Seoul. But it didn't come that easy.

Hill 79 was the first hill we could run the colors up on the top of the flag... the flag on top of the hill. And that night we were attacked all night long. They attacked this hill like clockwise. And they'd hit it at 1:00 then they'd hit it at... not time but direction. It would come from where 12:00 would be on the clock, the attack. And they'd fire ... they'd fire three red flares in attack, and then they'd fire two green ones and they'd withdraw. And then they'd come back up at 2:00. And then they'd move over and come up where 3:00 is, 4:00, 5:00. They made a complete circle around us that night, attacking in every direction, all the way around, looking for a weak spot. And they didn't find one 'cuz they never did get in.

Anyway that was Seoul. And we ended up attacking and attacking until we secured Seoul. And MacArthur was able to present it back to the city. This ... to the mayor and everything and turn it over to the politicians. And they had a big affair out of that. And the rest of us went down... back down to Inchon at the docks, and we waited there one night. And boarded an LST, and went around Korea.

And went around the peninsula. Come up on the other side, on the east side... east side of Korea. Seoul was on the west side ... the Yellow Sea... now we're in the atlantic on the right side of Seoul... or the Japanese sea or something was over... Anyway we landed at Hamhung. There's Hamhung and Hungnam. Anyway, we landed there, and the first thing we did was get on trains and head for Chonju In...?Congju? They put us on three hills. And we were supposed to protect them from the rear.

When we cut 'em off by making that landing, the Inchon landing, and then the landing on the other side, why, we cut off a lot of north Koreans that were (inaudible.)And now, to rejoin their units, they had to go through us to get up north. So they were all trying to get back out, and they sent us down there to stop 'em from coming up. And that night we were told that there was groups of 20, 30. And they hit us on three hills at one time.

So they probably had a regiment there. At least ... at least a regiment coming up that hit us. And Able, Baker, and Charlie Company was overrun. And Able Company had part of our hill... one hill. We had 2 hills for Able Company and one of the hills was hit and penetrated. They brought us back to Hamhung, Hungnam and we celebrated the Marine Corps birthday. We were all on a hill, and we had to go down off the hill and have a cake ceremony, and then we went back up to positions with a piece of cake. And I remember we got a job to... Able Company got a job to escort a convoy to ? Mezane?Mezane was cut off.

Their supplies were cut off, and we had to break our way through. And the first day we went, we had a very late start for some reason. So we got there and it was just about getting dark. And we couldn't use our air cover or nothing 'cuz it was already dark. And we got ambushed. And we had to turn the trucks around and withdraw and come back. We had to come back where we came from. And we were unsuccessful in penetrating the North Koreans on that road.

It was a mountain road, and you didn't have any leeway. You had to stay on the road. There was cliffs on both sides. And we got up early the next day and started the same thing over again. This time we were early enough to get air support and all that. And we ambushed the ambush. We got some information where they were hiding and all this stuff by capturing a few north Koreans and getting information from them. We found out where they were gonna be and we surrounded 'em, coming in back of 'em. And we wiped their ambush out. And we moved back. And then from there we went out to the Chosin... the Chosin Reservoir area. And we manned the line there just south of the Chosen Reservoir. And when the reservoir... when the Chinese came in, the hordes of Chinese, you know, it was like at least 10 to one.

Chinese came in and surrounded us and my battalion had a job of breaking... taking ... heading north instead of... everybody was heading south. And my battalion went north, and took a hill that opened the road for the others to come through. And it was cold, and ... very cold. It reached 40 below zero. And we had a lot of frozen feet and a lot of people that didn't make it. And we went... from there we went to Pusan.

We evacuated Hamhung, got aboard the ship, and we all went south. Went to Pusan and then to Masan where we trained and reorganized and got ready to start pushing back up again. And it was ... in spring we started "Operation: Killer" and start heading north again. And, anyway, I was in "Operation: Killer" and then they... from there I got rotated.

They sent me back to the states in May, and I got to be a drill instructor at MCRD, San Diego. And then I became a special instructor. And I was teaching school up until my 20 years were up, just about. The last year I was the guard chief at (inaudible), and I retired from there.

That was the end of my Marine Corps career. Although I stayed in the reserve for another 10 years. That was about the end of my active duty. And I still keep in contact with the Corps. I go to Camp Pendleton, and I visit the troops; talk to the troops every now and then. And the Marines look better than ever. They're a good branch, and I think we owe the Marine Corps an awful lot. Okay, thank you. That's it. This is Henry W.Andrasovsky, Gunnery Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps, retired.

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