I arrived in Korea in February 1952 and was assigned to the 7th Motor Transport Battalion. My the first day there I noticed we had no can opener.
We fed almost 800 Marines each meal since we had a company of Amphibious Ducks TAD from the
Second Marine Division assigned to the First Marine Division.
Much of our food came in 16 ounce cans and we had to use a meat cleaver to open them. Bacon
came in 1 pound cans and both the top and bottom had to be removed and the side of the cans split in order to get the bacon out of the can. As a result, many of us had a lot of bad cuts from getting the bacon out of those little cans.
When I left at the end of my tour thirteen months later we still had no can opener.
Our M-1939 Cook Ranges had to have 40 pounds of air pressure pumped into them order to burn
properly and we had no air compressor so we used a bicycle pump which took forever. The Ranges had a generator (piece of pipe) running down the center that
had to reach a certain temperature before the Range would burn properly with a blue flame. Otherwise they just burned yellow and would flood, not heat right
and often catch on fire.
With temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees the leather seal inside the bicycle pumps would freeze
and when it was zero weather the leather was so stiff it could take 20 minutes or more, taking turns pumping to get the 40 pounds of air in one Range. We had many Ranges to pump up so it took forever to
get ready to light the burners. To make matters worse, when it was below zero the generator was too cold to generate so we used a blow torch to heat the generator but it was often so cold the blow torch would not generate either so
we had to burn gasoline in the little cup below the blow torch nozzle in order to thaw the torch. Many times it was still to cold for the blow torch to generate so you had to keep repeating the process until the torch thawed out enough to work properly. We had one cook badly burned trying this as he took a funnel with gas in it with his finger over the end and just dripped the gas into the cup a little at a time. When he repeated this the second time the cup on the
blow torch was too hot and ignited as soon as the gas hit it. He threw the funnel in the air and the gasoline came down on his arm and set his clothes on fire.
When we received water in the water buffalos (portable water trailers) it was frozen solid so we had to climb on top and with a big steel bar we had to break the ice
into chunks so we could melt it to make Coffee and cook for the Marines.
The camp was blacked out at night except the mess tent which served the truck drivers who drove around the clock. We always had coffee and something to eat if they wanted
it. We had one cook who for some reason known only to him would get mad if a truck driver would get coffee without asking him first. The cook had just bought a brand new leather bound short wave radio with AM on it too from the PX truck
that came around about once per month which cost him at least a months pay. One night when he was on duty the Marine who ran the Camp generators at night came
in and went to get some coffee without asking first and the cook chewed him out and would not give him any coffee. The Marine left and about 3 minutes later our lights got real bright and all of them burned out and his brand new radio was smoking and never did work again. A few minutes later the Marine came over and said something happened to the generator, he brought new bulbs with him and some flash lights for us to see to replace them. He told me later “that will teach him not to let me have coffee, I went back and ran the
generator up to about 300 volts”.
I never did tell the cook what caused his radio to burn up. I figured he deserved it.
Sgt. Phil Street served on active duty from 1951 to 1954.