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"Nobody's superior to anybody; we're all dependent upon one another… Everybody got a different talent… Everything you do, somebody else got a hand in it of some other nationality." (Audio Interview, 24:16)

   Eugene Hill, Jr.
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War: Korean War, 1950-1953; Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Branch: Army; Navy
Unit: 619th Ordnance Ammunition Company, 1st Army; Construction Battalion (NCB Seabee)
Service Location: Antarctica; Korea; Japan; New Zealand; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Port Hueneme, California; Davisville, Rhode Island; also: Vietnam
Rank: E-6
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Eugene Hill is blunt in admitting why he enlisted as a teenager. His North Carolina town was run by the Ku Klux Klan, and he felt there was no future for a young black man there, so he "joined the Army to learn how to kill," a skill he assumed he would need to survive in his home town. His tour of duty in Korea was mainly search and destroy missions with a small squad of men. Hill's careers in the Army and later the Navy included many stops, including two tours of duty in Vietnam. Along the way, that "blazing hot" hatred he held as a young man cooled as he was exposed to different cultures.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (9 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: audio (64 min.)
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»Korean War
 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (9 items)
Why he joined the Army; Ku Klux Klan ruled his North Carolina town and he wanted to learn to kill; admits that he mutilated enemy he killed in Korea because of the Korean belief that they could not go to heaven with any body parts missing. (01:33) At Ft. Dix, officer staff was all white down to First Sergeant; knew he had no protection from the police back home; at 17 years and 4 months when he joined the military, he had a hatred that was "blazing hot;" at 21, he came to understand he could not kill all white males, so he would be more selective. (01:54) In Korea, he and his squad went out on weekly search and destroy missions for six months; harassing the enemy; only one of his men wounded in that time. (01:05)
When war broke out, he was stationed in Japan; came in to Pusan July 8; first time under fire: hitting the wooden floor of their tent, assuring everyone it was okay, lights came back up, he discovered he was alone. (01:40) In the winter of 1950-1, getting into trouble with the Army after refusing to fight in light of a news story involving racism in his home state; placed in mental ward in Pusan; volunteering for service duty but assigned to ordnance unit on a 45,000-ton ammo dump in front of their artillery placements; drinking heavily, sent back to US, put in a padded cell, dried out; stayed sober for about 5 months; went out one night with buddies and nursed one drink and found a way to control his drinking. (04:21) On search and destroy, every step could be your last; stealth was most important; in the Navy, as one of the few black men in charge of a unit he was given a lot of white misfits from the South who came to admire him; believes that racism is learned, that his good example was changing the minds of people who had never had a positive encounter with a black man; understanding that no one is superior to anyone else and that we all depend on each other. (02:59)
Mother once sent him a lightly packed jar of moonshine in Vietnam, and it did not break in the mail. (01:09) Food in Korea: so much good food was being diverted to the black market that they ate nothing but creamed chipped beef on toast (aka SOS) for two months; once ate dog "cheerfully;" clothing in Korea was a problem; he wore three uniforms to keep warm; British truck catching on fire, blowing up ammo dump; got a winter uniform from quartermaster in January but his hands and feet were already suffering from frostbite. (03:28) Knew the individual talents of the men in his squad so when he needed a specific job done, he could call on the right man. (00:25)

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  October 26, 2011
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