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    “Clearing to the Punchbowl and back…” Highlighted story of a 40th Infantry Division’s Korean War Veteran, Mr. Jim H. “Pete” Peterson

    “Clearing to the Punchbowl and back…” Highlighted story of a 40th Infantry Division’s Korean War Veteran, Jim H. “Pete” Peterson

    Photo By Lt. Col. Cara Kupcho | Photo of Jim Peterson (right) and his friend Jake Skolnick from Chicago in South Korea...... read more read more



    Story by Lt. Col. Cara Kupcho 

    40th Infantry Division (Mech)

    LOS ALAMITOS, California - Jim Peterson, now 89, was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His father, Herbert Peterson, a Machinist, and his mother Helen, a stay-at-home mom, raised him along with his brother Bill and sister Marge. His brother Bill joined the Navy in 1941 and served until 1945. His sister enjoyed photography, and after her husband died at an early age, she continued to raise her children and attended school.

    “I really enjoyed my family growing up, especially at big family parties…in the 30s and 40s,” said Peterson. Peterson was 19-years-old when he decided to join the Army in the summer of 1951.

    “There was a seven or eight of us sitting at the bar one night, and we all decided to join the Army,” Peterson continued. “We figured we would get drafted anyways, so we joined.”

    1950, The Korean War draft enabled Congress to call up men between the ages of 18-and-a-half and 35 for averaging up to two years of military service.

    June 25, 1950, North Korea, backed by China and the Soviet Union invaded South Korea that subsequently led the United States along with the United Nations involvement in the Korean War.

    February 2, 1951, Peterson enlisted in the United States Army. He took a train out of Minneapolis to set out to his induction station at Fort Lewis, Washington. From Washington, he, along with a company size element, took a train to Lompoc, California where they would receive basic training at Camp Cooke.

    At Camp Cooke, Peterson completed a quick two-week basic training before boarding a bus heading to port. The port would eventually land him in Yasaca, Japan.

    September 1, 1950, the 40th Infantry Division received orders to Japan. Japan would be where they would receive intense training and when it was time, they would be sent to South Korea to relieve the 24th Infantry Division.

    “They assigned me and a bunch of my friends in The California National Guard,” said Peterson.

    Peterson became one of the Soldiers in Charlie “C” Company, 578th Engineer Combat Battalion under the command of Captain J.D. Moore. The 578th Engineer Combat Battalion fell under the 224th Infantry Regiment Combat Team, 40th Infantry Division.

    Christmas 1951, Charlie Company received orders to Camp Haugen, Hachinohe Japan. Their mission was to replace the 524th Regiment Combat Team, who was serving in South Korea at the time.

    “They put us on a Navy transfer ship, this ship was huge, there were over 2,000 of us aboard,” said Peterson. On the way to Japan, they stopped in Honolulu, Hawaii for eight hours. The total time on the ship to Japan was ten days at sea.

    “I remember that stop like it was yesterday,” smiled Peterson. “There were four or five of us who had about a dollar-twenty-five between us, enough for five beers. We bought the first round, and after that, a couple of World War II vets bought the rest.” Peterson stated that after the bar, they made their way to Waikiki Beach and enjoyed the rest of their eight hours on the beach.

    Peterson spent six months in Japan training for the Korean War. They were on alert and were ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. January 2, 1952, orders finally came. They had roughly a week to prepare.

    January 8, 1952, just before heading to Korea, Peterson described that day as the hardest part of the war for him. Peterson ran into one of his best friends Sgt. Kashmir Janowinc. Peterson, age 19, met Janowinc, age 31, and become really good friends during their training at Camp Cooke.

    “He was my mentor, he was smart, and he was a Master Sergeant,” said Peterson. Peterson said that Sgt. Janowinc served in Italy during War World II, and told him that night, that he didn't want to fight in another war. Peterson never asked him about what he saw or went through in Italy, only that it eventually made him lose faith in being a Soldier.

    “That was probably why when I saw him in Japan, he was the rank of sergeant or ‘buck-sergeant’,” as Peterson explained. “He was acting funny that night, he started handing me his personal belongings. He told me he didn't need them anymore,” said Peterson. Later that same night, Janowinc took his own life with his M1 rifle to his chest.

    Just like almost all suicides, we see the warning signs after the fact. Janowinc friendship with Peterson was unbreakable that left Peterson feeling the loss of his friend until this day.

    Sgt. Janowinc’s death was so unimaginable that sent a shock-wave that hit hard within the ranks of Charlie Company, especially at the brink of those who were set to deploy into Korea that week, including Peterson.

    When I asked Peterson about his time in Korea, he gave a humble smile and said, “I was one of the lucky ones.”

    Peterson didn't see much action as he described that he ‘lucked out’, but still was physically and mentally prepared to fight at any moment.

    When I asked him to describe the living conditions and weather in Korea, Peterson explained.

    “We were cold, there was a bunch of us living in twelve-men tents,” Peterson said. “We stayed in those tents the entire time overseas.”

    Peterson explained that the winter months would drop below negative 30 degrees, but the summer months were beautiful.

    Charlie Company’s main mission was to keep the roads clear to the Punchbowl to assist in resupply to the men on the frontlines.

    “We would plow the roads to the Punchbowl. We were the lucky ones, never had to go to the frontlines, but close enough to hear the mortar shells. All we heard were mortar shells go off, they made a loud “pop” sound,” said Peterson.

    The Punchbowl was a name that was given to the Haean Basin, a bowl-shaped mountainous landmark south of the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

    August 31 to September 21 of 1951, the ‘Battle of the Punchbowl’ was a well-known battle, a part of the Korean War, that resulted in a United Nations victory over North Korea.

    One advantage Peterson had over his fellow Californians, is that he was from Minnesota and knew how to drive in snowy and icy conditions. Peterson described the mountainous roads to the Punchbowl as steep, frozen ice patches covered with snow. One small mistake and you would go over the mountain.

    “I got so scared at first, riding with one of my sergeants. He kept locking up the air-brakes on the 5-ton truck,” Peterson said. “The truck was sliding down the mountain, it was so intense, I got out and started to walk down the mountain.”

    After that, Peterson spent most of his months as a driver, clearing to the Punchbowl and back. “I wasn't going to ride in a truck with an inexperienced driver,” said Peterson.

    March 14, 1953, Peterson redeployed back to California, spending a total of 14 months overseas. They didn't make a stop in Honolulu, as they hoped, that would have made the trip back home less miserable at sea.

    He talked about volunteering as a cook on the ship heading back from Japan.

    “I couldn't stand the smell of all the Soldiers getting sick,” Peterson explained. “I was on the bottom bunk and the Soldiers were throwing-up over their bunks. When a Navy Chief Cook stopped by and asked for the cooks, I raised my hand and told my buddy Jon Herron to raise his hand as well. I told him, ‘we were the cooks’.”

    After the first day, the Navy Chief Cook ask us, “you’ll are not cooks are you”. When we told him our story as to why we volunteered, he felt bad for us, and for the next ten days, he taught us how to be cooks. From that day on, we were the cooks even when we return to base.

    “We got bunks up top and served the food, no one bothered us.” smiled Peterson.

    After returning from overseas, Peterson was sent to a Replacement Deposition Company for two weeks at Fort Carson, Colorado. He then received his orders to report to Detroit, Michigan where he spent the remainder of his time, a total of nine months in a small-outfitted company-size unit under the 6th Army.

    Peterson remembers his time in Detroit when his commander called him in his office and ask him what he did, Peterson said construction. Peterson never really had construction experience, but he started with building a wooden walkway that is still used today.

    His team’s main mission was to replace the famous-style warehouses known as Quonset huts with more updated buildings known as prefabricated homes that would be used as office space in the outskirts of Detroit.

    February 2, 1954, Peterson received an honorable discharge from the Army at Fort Sheridan, Illinois.

    His life experience in Army, like many, would never leave him, all the good memories of dear friends along with some of the bad memories of the friends that were lost.

    Peterson met his wife Norma and was married on August 27, 1955, and had four wonderful children. Today, he enjoys spending time at his winter home in Arizona and visiting his friends and family, especially his grandchildren and great-grandchildren in California and Minnesota.

    There are many great stories that have never been shared and many great stories that have died along with our honored Soldiers who fought in the Korean War.

    I thanked Jim Peterson for sharing his story in hopes to inspire the Soldiers within the 40th Infantry Division today and to those yet to come. Each Soldier’s story is important and their time spent serving is an important piece of our history.

    The Korean War resulted in 44,499 Americans' lives lost, thousands wounded, and many missing. Among those, the 40th Infantry Division lost 376, suffered 1,457 wounded, and 47 of those men succumbed to their wounds.

    The golden ‘Punchbowl’ that honors the men who served in Korean War is still displayed to this day at the 40th Infantry Division Headquarters located in Los Alamitos Training Base, California.



    Date Taken: 01.24.2021
    Date Posted: 01.24.2021 14:55
    Story ID: 387476
    Location: LOS ALAMITOS, CA, US 

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