Taylor shares Korean War experience
Korean War veteran Selbert Taylor of Pryor arrives at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Sept. 9, 2019, as part of the Cherokee Nation’s annual Warrior Flight that takes Cherokee veterans to Washington, D.C., to tour the capital building, war memorials and other sites. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee veteran Selbert Taylor tours the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 10, 2019. Taylor fought in the war and got to tour the memorial and other war memorials as part of the Cherokee Nation’s annual Warrior Flight. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee veterans from different eras stand in front of a statue of soldiers at the Vietnam War Memorial on Sept. 10, 2019. In front is Korean War veteran Selbert Taylor who got to tour the Korean War Memorial and other sites with fellow veterans as as part of the Cherokee Nation’s annual Warrior Flight. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
PRYOR – Selbert Taylor, 88, of Pryor, served with the 7th Marine Regiment during the Korean War, which began in June 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea following clashes along the border or 38th Parallel that divided the countries.
The United States was one of 21 countries of the United Nations that eventually contributed to a UN force, with the U.S. providing about 90% of the military personnel.
Taylor enlisted in the Marine Corps in February 1951 and went “from Pryor to Oklahoma City and from Oklahoma City to San Diego.” He attended basic training at Camp Pendleton, California, at age 20.
Afterward he shipped out to Hawaii and was put on mess or kitchen duty.
“They were going to give me another month (of mess duty), and I said ‘no way.’ I said ‘send me to Korea.’ I volunteered to go,” he said.
He left Hawaii for Guam and then Tokyo. From there he was sent to Korea, but he doesn’t recall where he began his service there. However, he remembered Korea being cold.
“It was cold. It was in February, and they sent us on a guerrilla hunt behind the lines, and the snow was about waist deep. You couldn’t walk 50 feet. The first guy (in the squad) was breaking the trail. We came up on these two huts and they had a rock fence all the way around it, and one guy went in to look,” Taylor said. “This Korean, he jumped out with a M1 (rifle). He pulled the trigger, but the gun was so dirty it wouldn’t work. Another GI saw him and, of course, he killed him. They caught another one (Korean), and he had on a GI wool shirt with a bullet hole. The captain asked through the interpreter, ‘ask him where he got that wool shirt.’ The guy said he got it on the black market.”
They sent the enemy soldier back to headquarters to be questioned further.
Sometimes the Marines would have to dig foxholes to prevent the enemy from coming through their lines. Taylor said the Marines would place concertina (razor) wire around their foxholes.
“There was one guy who was kind of there on the point. Pretty soon he started firing. He come running back up there and told the lieutenant, ‘they’re all around us.’ The lieutenant said I’m going to ‘rock the curtain.’ He called in mortars in a line in front of us, but that didn’t work. He said, ‘boys pray. I’m going to tell them to box us in.’
The lieutenant’s plan was to call in artillery shells nearly on top of his men to prevent the enemy from overrunning their position.
“They had so much ammunition that I thought the battle would last from now on, but they run out, and that’s when lieutenant said, ‘fix bayonets!’ And I had a BAR (Browning Assault Rifle) and there was no place to put a bayonet,” he said. “The next morning, oh it was foggy. This guy come walking up carrying a brand new Burp (submachine) gun. The lieutenant said, ‘where’d you get that?’ He said, ‘lieutenant there’s about 300 of them (enemy) laying out there on the ground that’s dead.’ Come to find out they (enemy) hit us on the way to hit someone else. You could hear them trying to get through that wire. I’m telling you, you could hear them.”
The incident that still affects him the most, he said, happened when he was serving with VM06, a medical unit.
“One of the Koreans came carrying his son. He was a small kid. He was probably 3 years old, maybe 4 or 5, and we couldn’t see nothing wrong with him. He had found a Korean hand grenade and was playing with it and it went off,” he said.
Taylor said all you could see, in the child’s chest, was a small hole, but the grenade killed him.
“The next day you could look up on this mountain and they (Koreans) had a big tent, and they were celebrating his death. I never thought about people over there being like that.”
On Aug. 16, 1952, Taylor was wounded. He said on the frontline the Marines were getting shelled at night and that’s all he remembers before being wounded.
“I woke up and I was in a field hospital. The first thing I remembered, I was in a tent on a stretcher…and then I was in the field hospital. The doctor examined me. Myself, I think it was concussion, and he said he couldn’t find anything,” Taylor said.
He said that Marines had to go to the frontlines for a month before they could return to basecamp to rest.
Fighting in Korea ended on July 27, 1953, when the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed. Taylor was discharged from the Marine Corps in February 1954 as a corporal. He had earned the Korean Service Medal with one star, the UN Service Medal, the National Defense Medal, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and a Purple Heart for being wounded.
“When I got back I couldn’t sleep at night. I’d wake up 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning. I’d put my clothes, and I’d get up to take a walk. My mother, I guess she would hear me getting dressed, and she would get dressed and take a walk with me,” he said. “My cousin, I guess she asked him about me, and he said, ‘don’t worry, he’ll get over it.’ And I did.”
He said he’s proud that he served with the Marine Corps and “would hate to go through it again,” but “would if he had to.”