BY ALEXANDRA NEWMAN
Bob Bergren, who grew up in Baillytown, was 17 years old in 1949 when he
enlisted in the United States Marines. He served from 1949 to 1953.
Of course, when he penned his signature for enlistment, he did not know that
he would be in the historical 1st Marine Division that would be in the primary
invasion to land at Inchon and then capture Seoul in Korea.
(about 63 men) landed in an amphibious vehicle," he recalled about the
September 1950 event, adding that he was in the mortar company that followed the
"It wasn't like the movies," he continued.
saw a lot of action, during his tour. He survived injuries from being hit by a
land mine, for which he received the purple heart. He was in a truck that ran
over the mine.
"I became numb," he said. His legs were the
most severely wounded part of his body. "It happened on March 5,
1951," he said. As he talked, it could be seen in his eyes that he was
visualizing the explosion. He spent about three weeks in the hospital then
returned to his company.
During his 14 month tour, he traveled the whole
length of Korea. He slept in tents, pup tents and fox holes. Meals consisted of
C-rations; three meals a day and always four cigarettes a day (provided with the
During that time, his regiment did not get R&R (rest and
recreation leave). However, he did spend one Thanksgiving in Wansan where he saw
Bob Hope and Doris Day on that holiday. (Bob Hope was known for entertaining the
troops during the holidays.)
Going further back in his memories, to
November of 1950, he revisited the second invasion of Wansan, when the
temperatures were 50 degrees below zero in the hilly area where his troops
"We carried a spare pair of felt bootliners under our
armpits and changed them when we stopped," he recalled. He said, if they
stopped and did not make the exchange, their feet would freeze.
described himself as a survivor of the "Frozen Chosin." The marines
maneuvered the Chosin Reservoir through blizzards howling through mountain peaks
where weapons, food and human flesh froze. Mechanized vehicles and weapons no
longer worked. Battles were fought behind fortresses of dead bodies and the
enemy advanced from Manchuria toward them.
The 1st Marine Division was
led by Colonel Puller, a hero to his regiment even today. They have been
lobbying to get a U.S. Postage Stamp in his honor. Puller was criticized for
strip searching all Koreans or prisoners that crossed their path, he said.
Puller wouldn't take prisoners. He gave them to other regiments, Bergren
"They couldn't get supplies to us," Begren remembered.
The Chinese had set a trap for them. "We walked back five days and five
nights - without stopping - to Hungnam where the troops were evacuated, he
Americans were not in the conflict alone. The companies were
flanked by the Greek and Turkish forces. However, they were always separated by
Americans because the Greeks and Turks would fight each other if they got
together, Bergren said.
The impact of his experience in Korea left a
"It made me believe in God," he said.
"People in front of me, in back of me and to the side of me were killed,
but I was spared. Why was I spared and not them?"
my outlook on life. I realized there is more to life than just me. I learned to
rely on and trust people," he said.
Bergren returned home thankful
he had a future. And an interesting future it turned out to be. He began
civilian life working in the mills, and realized that was not for him. An uncle
persuaded him to become a barber, which eventually led to coiffuring women's
hair at Marshall Fields, and ultimately to opening his own salon.
considers himself an entrepreneur. He continues to study, not only hair design,
but marketing as well. He currently is changing the name of his salon to House
of Berggren. The shop includes a clothing store and a gift shop. It is a family
He has kept in touch with members of the 1st Division via
a news-letter called the four deuces. He has not been able to attend any
of the reunions, but has that on his to-do list. Semper Fi (which means Always
"I've lived a good life and thank God for it," he