The Library of Congress Veterans History Project Home 
Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project
Home » Text Transcript

Interview with Ronald Eugene Rosser [n.d.]

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

...Turner people... [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]

Unknown interviewer:

Really? How [ ? ]

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

They did a one hour movie and I had nine minutes of it..

Unknown interviewer:

Wow...

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

..you know, this - some guy played my part and did all this stuff that I'm...

Unknown interviewer:

Oh, terrific. It's ... [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

Yeah...it's called the Medal of Honor. And -they still show it.

Unknown interviewer:

Let's start - if you could tell me your name and where you live and where you served..?

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

I just served all over the damn world [LAUGHS] You know, I served in the United States Army and I'm Ronald E. Rosser. And--I'm - served in the United States Army over twenty years, most of it as a paratrooper. And - the 82nd Airborne back in the forties, 187th Airborne in Japan, instructor to parachute school at Fort Benning, Georgia for many years; 101st Airborne...in fact, after I got out of the 101st Airborne, my daughter went into the 101st Airborne and stayed ten years. And now, my granddaughter is in the 101st Airborne. So..

Unknown interviewer:

A little history there.

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

Yeah.

Unknown interviewer:

So, if we could start out by just, tell me a little about where you grew up, you know, where you grew up, what's your - any kind of hobbies, interests, as you were - ?

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

Well, actually, my hobby was fighting. I'm the oldest son of seventeen children. And - if you bothered one of my brothers, I cleaned your clock, and if you bothered one of my sisters, you better leave town. And that's - I grew up like that. Worked in the coal mines. And--was just a young guy, I worked in the coal mines. And really didn't have any hobbies. Just--taking care of my brothers and sisters was - keeping them out of trouble was enough to keep me busy.

Unknown interviewer:

Mmm-hmm.

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

It was kind of interesting life. Went in the Army in forty-six, and--they, my kid brother, one of my kid brothers was killed in action in Korea, and I re-enlisted for combat duty in Korea, and-and that was what my assignment was: combat duty, Korea. You know, they give you a re-enlistment option. And the Army couldn't believe that's what I wanted, but I-I got over there, and -they assigned me to heavy motor company. And the company commander told me, he said, "Now, Private Rosser," - actually I was a PFC, then, he said, "Private Rosser", he said, "you're going down to Third Platoon as a, as a First Gunner. You've got a lot of experience." I said, "I ain't going down to Third Platoon. I'm going up on line." And he said, "Nope. You're going down to the Third Platoon." And I said, "No, I'm going up on line there, Captain." And he said, "I'm in charge here. You're going down." And I said, "No, I'm not." And he said, I said, he said, "I'm going to tell you something. You're not, you're not going up on line." I said, "Hell, Captain, I can't think of a damn way you can stop me." And so, I ended up as a radio man for a fort observer, when he was wounded, I became the fort observer, and I stayed a fort observer for almost a year. Lost a lot of radio men; they - a lot of men were killed around me. First three months I was in combat, we lost six thousand men, killed, wounded and missing. The--they killed Thai and Chinese until you wouldn't believe it. The--and house caught on fire al--every day, you know, it - the - I was always assigned to whoever was, whoever was attacking, assaulting the enemy. This is on the what they call the "Bloody Ridge" or the "Heartbreak Ridge." And I'm getting into both of them. And--whoever was attacking - if A Company was attacking, I went with them. If they got wiped out, I went with B Company. If they got wiped out, I went with C Company. I served in combat with every company in my regiment. And every company in the--the Dutch battalion, plus the Turkish brigade - a [ ? ] of Turks that were there as a fort observer. And - had a lot of combat time. Frankly, it was all interesting to me. I--I was having a ball, blowing the heck out of things. The--I had made up my mind, you know, before I went there, that - you know, you can't kill my brother and get away with it. The--so, I went over there with kind of "vengeance is mine" kind of, attitude. And that's I wanted to go up on line. 'Cause you can't kill anybody back behind there. So, after this aired a little while, you know, I -everywhere around me, you know, when we attacked to [ ? ], there was these refugees and children. You know, with no mothers, fathers, and-and no hope - were all around me. And--I come from this big family. With all these - they all had a lot of children. And--and I was used to children. Somebody care of them. And here was these children starving to death. And--the, somehow, I just lost all the hate in me; became a soldier. And--they - right on the heart, [ ? ] said, fight on the bloody on the Heartbreak Ridge, and not very many of us made it through that. They pulled my--my regiment back in reserve, but they sent me up on the front line to be with the Turkish brigade. And I was to set up mortar concentrations to cover the - my unit when they come out of reserve. To move in and replace the Turkish brigade, which I--I stayed with the Turks for about three weeks. And my unit come up and replaced them. And then, we started what we call, "aggressive patrol action." And--deep raids, back in enemy lines. And every time they went out, if they went out in, like platoon or company strength, I went with them. And the place we were at was called, "The Iron Triangle." And another good name for it was a death trap. The-every unit went out there was wiped out. They - I went out the day before Christmas with seventy-three men. Six of us made it back alive. And I was the only one who wasn't wounded. And the ones who obviously got out - they flushed us down a river, and we had to just -we took a rifle and broke our way through the ice, and tried to cross the river, and they come down the other side and had us trapped. And we had to swim for it. About eighteen of us got in the river and six of us got out. [LAUGHS] The - eighteen days later, I was set out on this--raiding party that - a company sized raiding party there, and this was when I got the Medal of Honor on. And, again, it was - we were outnumbered. Just, absolutely hundreds of Chinese all over us. And we got wiped out. Kind of the text of what went on.

Unknown interviewer:

Mmm-hmm. All right, I'm going - you've covered so much ground here. I'm going to back up a little bit, and then we'll come back to this.

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

Mmm-hmm.

Unknown interviewer:

But - let's go back. What--what made you enlist in the first place? What was, you know, what was the reason that you - [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

That I went in the army?

Unknown interviewer:

Yes.

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

Well, it's kind of a private joke. My mother'd had seventeen children, and my brother and I - the one that was killed in the Korean War later on -we were walking up toward our home, and my mother always had her children at home, and my sisters were up there waving their hands and hollering, and - we got close and--and, one of my sisters hollered, "Ron, Mom had twins!" And I looked at my brother and I said, "Well, there goes my place at the table. I'm joining the Army." [LAUGHS] And - so, I went in and joined the Army a couple of days later. But - I was going to join anyhow. I always tell that's my private joke. [LAUGHS]

Unknown interviewer:

[LAUGHS] ...but it's true, right?

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

Yeah.

Unknown interviewer:

Now, where did you, where did you, where did you enlist? Where did you do your initial training?

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

I went to - I enlisted in Ohio, Columbus, Ohio. And I had my basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama. And I didn't take advanced training. They sent me straight from there, I--I - somebody started a rumor that I had a high I.Q., so they sent me to the infantry test board at Fort Benning, Georgia to test new equipment for the Army. And I--I was involved in, various testing for the Army, including the Newport[?] point two, and the new types of rifles and stuff. All kind of equipment. And--the - I didn't particularly like that, so I joined the paratroops. And I was sent to the 82nd Airborne in 1947. And I went to the 82nd Airborne and - when my time was up, I got out of the Army and came home, worked in a coal mine until my kid brother got killed. Then I re-enlisted. So, once I got in the second time, you know, I'm kind of trapped in there, you know. I decided to - I had the expertise to keep people alive. The - not many men get in the kind of combat I was in. Most men - their company goes up, and the company comes back. I never came back. I always stayed up there. And - I watched a lot of men out there come and go. So - and I was lucky. I didn't, you know, I didn't know them real well, or know then at all, mostly. And so, I didn't suffer what a lot of people, you know, this trauma that a lot of people had when --when they have a lot of people get killed around them. And -they was a lot of them killed around me.

Unknown interviewer:

Do you remember the first time you were in a combat situation? Do you- did your training prepare you for that? Or is there any - [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

No, your training don't prepare you for combat. Not-not a nickel's worth. The - it's the funniest thing. I can remember sometimes when I killed fifty men, but I can't remember the first one I killed. I just don't remember. I don't know why. They do a lot of shooting. People fall down. You don't know if you shot them or if the next guy shot them, but - later on, I-I got where I, you know, I knew, I'd actually stick my carbine in the rear, or be [ ? ] for the rifle or whatever. I had a lot of called, hand-to-hand combat. In fact, when they dedicated the Korean War Memorial down in Washington, President Clinton had me up on a dais with him and was using me as an example of the hand-to-hand combat on the Heartbreak Ridge - which I thought was interesting. The - 'cause - I-I got involved in a lot of that, but it wasn't - wasn't my idea, of course. And to get in that thing, you know, they'd come in on top of you, and you know, you didn't have no choice. But it got really nasty up there.

Unknown interviewer:

Now why did President Clinton use you as an example of hand-to-hand combat? What did he say or what was it?

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

He said I was the example of the hand-to-hand combat up on the Heartbreak Ridge. Because I was involved in a lot of it - I was involved in a lot of close combat with the enemy. Clubbing them down, you know, all kinds of stuff. The - I mean, actually - bayonet, whatever. I didn't kill a lot of people with the bayonet, but I got a couple.

Unknown interviewer:

Mmm-hmm.

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

And - the - even if they asked me not to, I'd done it anyhow. [LAUGHS]

Unknown interviewer:

You know, earlier, when you started telling me, you--you spoke about - when you first -when you re-enlisted, and that you insisted you wanted to go to the - why was that? Was it because of your brother that you -? [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

Yeah, the eleventh, you know, I been taking care of my family all my life. And - the brothers and sisters - and - somebody killed my brother and I--I thought about it for quite awhile. And I knew I'd never find the guy that killed him. And never - probably not even the group. But I made up my mind if you're going to kill somebody - and that's why I went. This - I was going to get personal vendage[?] - a little of a vendetta there, and - but you lose that. Too many people get killed and yet, you lose this edge, you know, that - this bitterness you have - to get down to the real test of combat, which is surviving.

Unknown interviewer:

Mmm-hmm.

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

I had a tendency of being a little careless. I don't think I ever had a brave bone in my body, but I was always colorful. The - I was always doing weird stuff. Thinking up ways of getting closer to the enemy there to bust him up.

Unknown interviewer:

Mmm-hmm.

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

And, you know, I'm just - my nature - to do that kind of stuff.

Unknown interviewer:

Is there anything that comes to mind? Or -?

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

I don't know. I - close combat never bothered me like it did a lot of people. The - it always seemed like they were - the enemy was a lot slower than me. It looked like they were in slow motion. And I was, I was always on top of them, you know, real fast. And I'd close with them, take them on in large groups at a time. The - in fact, the day I got my medal, they -I had had nothing to do with writing this citation, but, first time I'd seen it was when I got to Washington. And it said that I killed at least thirteen. Well that - I got that many in the first trench. And - I was up on top of this mountain by myself, you know, taking on, sometimes, as much as two hundred Chinese. And they were all over me - jumping on my back, and grabbing my leg, and - I was beating them with my rifle, just k-ing [ ? ] on them. I kind of had them surrounded there. No matter which way I went, I had them. And--weird things happened up there. One time, I run out of ammunition and I was standing there, I was checking my pockets, trying to find a magazine to fight with - and I sat in this trench. And this Chinese soldier ran right up in my face, and - put a burp gun down right in my face and started to shoot me. And I swung my carbine a-around on him - I didn't have ammunition, but he didn't know it. And - for a couple of seconds, we just looked at each other. And then I screamed just as loud as I could right in his face. And he let out a-a scream, and turn around, and run like a rabbit. [LAUGHS] I bluffed him. And--I - that kind of tickled me, you know, that - you know, you could bluff a man like that. But - he was scared. they were, they were more afraid of us than we were of them. And if you could keep your head. And if you attacked it all the time, you heard the stomp.

Unknown interviewer:

Well, let's talk about the action that, you know, earned you the--the Congressional Medal. What was your position? Where were you, what was your position then? And - [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

How, you ask?

Unknown interviewer:

Walk me through, sort of - [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

I was a fort observer and I was attached to Eleventh Company of the 38th Infantry. And their mission was a company sized raid on this Chinese mountain. It was a-a huge mountain outpost out there, and--it was - they had about a battalion of Chinese up there. And our mission was to hit them at daylight. Kill as many Chinese as we could. Capture as many as we could. And blow up their winter installations. Sort of put them out in the cold, so to speak. It was twenty below zero at the time, and about a foot of crusty snow. And - instead of going out before dark, we went out in daylight. And instead of sneaking up on a Chinese, they--they hit us all the way out -in about two miles out. And we sent a--one platoon up the front of the mountain. There's a diversion that kind of sucked the Chinese forward. And the rest of the men there - as fast as they could move, we went around to the back of the mountain, which was a good half mile away, and attacked it up the back of the mountain. And - we had to fight our way through bunkers, trenches, lines all the way up. And by the time we got up to what we would call "assaulting position", we were down about thirty-five men. All the officers were down, the company, the company commander was hit in the face, the artillery fort observer had his - had lost his sergeant and his radio and radio man, and he was shot in the shoulder. I'd been calling fire on him, his - you know, I'd - a couple of platoons of, you know, fire, continuous fire all over him. But by that time, we were getting close, you can't call a fire that close 'cause you getting [INAUDIBLE] people. So, I'd seen, you know, we were in a really bad situation. And - not likely to survive. And - so, I got on my radio and I called my -got on the command net and I called my regimental commander, and I gave him a situation report: Down to about thirty-five effectives, about out of ammunition, request orders. And - he knew who I was. But he wanted to talk to an officer if they had one alive. And so I drug[sic] my radio with - and I had the only radio back - they were - all the rest were destroyed. And - I got - I drug my radio up to the company commander and his whole face was frozen blood; I was surprised he could even talk. And - they -the colonel told him to make - you know, re-organize and make one final attempt to take these here - take the mountain. And -you know, you're not going to do that. It's just impossible. There's hundreds of them up there, and we'd have thirty-five counting the wounded. And walking wounded. And - he told him to do this, and the company commander said, "Yes Sir!" and hand me the mic back, and--and the captain looked up, and he got this very hopeless look on his face. You could look and see five machine guns and about two hundred Chinese were right in front of us, all there are were submachine guns. And - the captain I'm in - I--I don't think I ever seen a look on a man's face, like - just hopeless. And - they - I said, "Well, I'll take them up for you, Captain." And he said, "How are you going to do it?" I said, "I'm going straight ahead shooting, Captain. I'll take your men with me, and we'll go straight in, shooting. If we make the trench, we've got a chance." And he said, "You're not going to make it." I said, "Well, we'll try." And so. I lined his men up and told them what we were going to do, and I said, "You won't have no trouble knowing where I'm at boys. I'll be right in front of you." And so, I got them lined up and - I said, "All right, let's go." And we jumped up, started shooting, and went straight into them. You know, and they were, they were pouring the fire on us, and it was like you could walk on this stuff. And I got about two feet from the Chinese -the only thing that separated us from me and the Chinese was the dirt from the trench. The - I was on one side of it and they was on the other.

Unknown interviewer:

Mmm. I see.

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

And I stopped and looked back, and I was by myself. All these other guys had been cut down behind me, or was looking for a place to hide, because, you know, to get some cover. And there I was, and with all this trouble to get to Korea and get up on the front lines, and here I was, like a dog, I could shake hands with him. And--and I'd been in that position before, but - there was always hope somebody was willing to help me. But this time, there wasn't nobody to help me. And I said, "Well, Ron Rosser, you went to a lot of trouble to get here. Let's give it a go." And - I let out a war-whoop like a wild Apache indian and jumped in the trench with them. And - the - I took on eight of them in close combat there. Some of them, some of them I shot, some of them I beat to death. And - I-I fought my way over to a big old bunker, a machine gun bunker, and I'd - I done flanked the thing, so he couldn't shoot me. As - I had one of white phosphorus hand grenade, so I crawled up on top of the bunker and I pulled the pin on the white phosphorus grenade, kicked the spoon, and--and ... [RINGING SOUND]

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

and then, later--the, rolled in, rolled the hand grenade in the bunker door, and - there was a lot of screaming going on, because it set them on fire. The - [RINGING SOUND] [OFF-MIKE DISCUSSION]

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

I got to the trench and I looked back at I was by myself. And--I'd went to a lot of trouble to get to Korea. And - so I said, "Well, Ron Rosser, you're--you're right where you wanted. Let's give it a go." And I let out a war-whoop like a wild Apache indian and jumped in the trench with the Chinese. And I was so close to them that I actually stuck the carbine in one of them's ears, pulled the trigger, and - one of them was behind me, and I swung around and shot him in the neck, and he fell over and grabbed me by the leg. And - the - and I--I kicked him off of me and shot him in the heart. And then I turned around and ran right into the next China-Chinese. And I shot him, and the next one, the next one come at me and try to, try to shoot me with his burp gun, 'cause they all had burp guns. And I hit him - I hit him in the head with my rifle. Was just a lot of a - you know, something to hit - stuck my rifle, the butt of my rifle have in his head - I didn't think you could do that, but you can. [LAUGHS] And - they - I knocked, he went down. I hit the next one with my rifle, and - they - and-and a couple of more tried to make a run for it. And I shot them. And when I got to the end of the - where the bunker, or the trench turned, there was this big bunker there. And - I--I fired through the door with the bunker, you know, to get then away from the door, and then climbed up on top of it. Pulled the pin on a white phosphorus hand grenade, kicked the spoon, and rolled it in the back door, and--the bunker door, and the -a couple of Chinese come out, they were burning up, even, I think, even their eyes were burned out. They - 'cause they were in bad shape. that stuff splashed all over them. They were on fire. And I just shot them just to be merciful and let the rest of them burn, 'cause they didn't come out. And I--I got, I got back on top of the bunker and I was hollering for the guys to come up and help me, 'cause, you know, I'd made it in the trench. And every time a guy moved, he got killed -killed or wounded. And even the wounded was trying to help me and they--they'd get knocked down again. It was really a nasty fight. Close-in fight. And I thought, well, I'll, you know, I'll try to hold this--hold this place as long as I could. So I went around the corner of the trench and I run into about thirty-five more Chinese coming at me, so - you know, I just - [OFF-MIKE DISCUSSION] BEGIN TAPE 6, ROSSER CONTINUED

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

...like most of them, it--it bothers you.

Unknown interviewer:

But thinking of the medal.. [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

It's so, it's so traumatic - holler when you're ready.

Unknown interviewer:

We're all set.

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

Okay.

Unknown interviewer:

So just thinking of this. In--in terms of, you know, your life, how - where does the medal? This--this?

Ronald Eugene Rosser:

The--for most of these gentlemen, the fact that--they have the Medal of Honor - it--it changes your life in a lot of ways. It opens a lot of doors. You get invited to a lot things, you're involved in the White House, things at the White House, and veteran's organizations, and - all kind of patriotic things. And--and we're honored to be able to participate in this--this kind of a "thank you" back to our country. For me, the - I used to think about the Medal of honor, and, you know, and the--the importance of it. And a lot of people think that the great thing about the Medal of Honor is it's awarded by Congress and presented by the President...but to me, the real honor of the Medal of Honor is that a handful of young men [COUGH] who were with you in a difficult time, thought you was worthy of it. And to me, that's the real worth of the Medal Honor. And all this other stuff is like, icing on the cake. The--every once in a while, I see one of these boys that recommended me, and -it's--it's really something, you know, to watch how they - And they look upon me--as different. I can recall this one thing and, I'll close it out with this: the--I was in Washington one time, and this lady called up and said her husband served with me in the Korean War, and said his name was Murphy. And I understood they wanted to come over and visit me, with me, that night. And I said, "Well that'll be fine, ma'am." And I--I told my wife, "Listen, I don't know nobody named Murphy. And never, I don't remember nobody." And I got to thinking, I said, "You know, I think there was a lieutenant named Murphy in my company" - but never was around my company very much. I was always with the, you know, with the line units up on the line. And - so, this man and woman came into the hotel lobby, and I recognized him right off the bat, and they recognized - or she, or he recognized me. And - we went over to sit down. And this woman said, "May I just touch you, Mister Rosser?" And I said, "Why yes." I said, "But what for?" And she said, "I want to see if you're real." She said, "My husband always talks about you." [LAUGHS] You know, about the Korean War. She said, "As far as I know, you're the only that was over there fighting." [LAUGHS] And it really wasn't so, you know, but - that's all they talked about. You know, 'cause I was--I guess, colorful. You know, I was always--I was always one to be up on the line, and--and actually, I liked it up there. Most guys are afraid of getting killed up there. And I frankly never even thought about it. The--I got in a lot of really close things, and--I mean, so close that it'd make your hair turn grey. But - I never worried about it. Enemy - I was cut off several times by the enemy, and I had been surrounded and cut off. And mostly, I just - do anger and I even shot at them and not worry about it. Chase them all. And I'd get - I'd talk at night to the guys around me and I said, "Peg them up boys, they're coming in on the left, now. Don't worry about it. We've got them." You know, talk real slow and easy. And they could hear my voice. And they'd say, "Hey boy, if it wasn't for you, I'd a sure made a run for it." [LAUGHS] And that's-that's basically what I have to do with that day. It's--it's just one of the things that happened almost every day over there. And it happened to a lot of people. I guess that I'm - I'm just lucky that I made it. And - I'm actually proud to be part of this organization here. The--we're kind of an organization of brothers and - who take care of each other. Somebody gets in trouble, we get him out of trouble. We take care of each other.

Unknown interviewer:

Great. Thank you. [End of Interview]

 
Home » Text Transcript
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
  Legal | External Link Disclaimer Need Help?   
Contact Us