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“I had more freedom in the service than I did at home.” (Video interview, 2:30)

   Gerald Ketcher
Collection image
Gerald Ketcher at time of interview
War: Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Navy
Service Location: Great Lakes, Illinois
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Hailing from northeast Oklahoma, Gerald Ketcher joined the Navy in the early 1950s in search of better opportunities than he could find at home. He graduated from self-described "deck ape" to trained teletypist before landing tanks and evacuating Marines at the Battle of Inchon Bay during the Korean War. Then, upon his return stateside, a newly discharged Navy contact offered him a factory job in his hometown. The Navy had taken him out of Oklahoma only to lead him back to his roots.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (5 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (43 min.)
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»Legacies of Service: Celebrating Native Veterans
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (5 items)
Assignment as a “deck ape”; shipmates calling one another ethnic pejoratives. (01:46) Korean War declared; sailing from Virginia to San Diego; transporting tanks and Marines to Japan, then to Inchon, Korea in September 1950; USS Missouri shelling Inchon shore; landing tanks in second wave of invasion; retrieving undersupplied Marines on Christmas Day 1950. (06:15) Danger of floating basket mines; minesweeping; firing at mines without knowing whether he’d hit one. (02:07)
Leaving the ship for an on-shore post; unable to say goodbye to a good friend scrubbing the ship as punishment for an infraction; mental illness was unknown and overlooked. (01:53) Thinking he would never return to his hometown; passing civil service test; leery of heading back out to sea; an officer from southwest Missouri offers to find him a job at B.F. Goodrich should he return home; returning to Oklahoma and landing the job. (03:49) 

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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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