Interview of Paul Steppe, Korean War, Veterans History Project (Primary Source Interview/Memoir)

Interview/Memoir of Paul Steppe, Korean War, Veterans History Project, Voices of War : National Geographic

Paul Steppe, Marine Corps, Korean War

The best part of my equipment, aside from my weapons, were the new boots issued in late fall. Everyone had seen movies about the seriousness of taking care of their feet. The gravity of that was due to the many foot soldiers of the various countries fighting under the United Nations Colors getting frozen feet during the winter of 1950. Many toes, feet, and legs were amputated due to frostbite that was either not treated immediately due to the war situation or ignored by the afflicted. These newly issued boots that I now have were a gift from Heaven. Requiring only one pair of socks, the boots are waterproof and insulated and have at least an inch and a half sole and larger heel. They are a little heavy but absolutely great! They keep my feet warm and comfortable.

 The United Nations forces had established a front line of defense, called an “MLR,” or main line of resistance. 


The night watch starts just before darkness sets in at the end of another long day. Everyone has finished their evening meal, the canned heat is out, the weapons have been checked, loaded, and ready for use, extra ammunition is accounted for and placed in logical locations, and the wristwatch is checked for accuracy. It is entirely up to the two persons assigned to their bunker how long each watch will last, but generally it is two hours in cold weather and two to four hours in the warmer months.

The same activity is occurring in each two-man bunker across the entire MLR. The sentry expects something to occur when it is least expected; therefore he must discipline himself to always expect it. The sentry feels totally alone in the darkness. No talking, no whispers unless there is a need, no humming, and doing nothing but watching and listening. These cycles of anxious and tense moments wear on the sentry. Soon he is ready for sleep, just to get away from the presence of war.

Steppe’s battalion saw its first action in June.

With every mortar shell that came in screaming. I thought it had my name on it. My eyes caught something moving to my left about thirty yards away. I turned and saw an NKPA [North Korean soldier] moving southward on another smaller ridge line consisting of soft dirt or sand, which made running away difficult. I sighted him with my rifle and pulled the trigger. I know that I hit him, but so did about four other marines. The guy was picked up off the ground from the impact of the bullets and moved sideways about a yard and fell dead. I didn’t feel any remorse for that soldier, perhaps because U was not the only one that shot him. I had heard that the first kill was the most difficult, and many marines were killed because they hesitated in squeezing the trigger before the enemy did. The soldier was running away from battle. He could have been shot by his own colleagues.

That was the way it was, waiting, attacking, digging holes, attacking, waiting, and more hills to climb up and down. That was Korea and its famous mountain ranges. Engagements were sometimes swift with little defensive reaction, but often they became fierce, and men were killed or injured and most were never seen again.

I think your worst war memories are your buddies being killed. It’s a buddy system. You have a bond and brotherhood when you’re overseas. Watch the man on your left, you watch the man on the right, and they do the same for you. They do best by replacing that man as soon as possible, to keep you talking, to keep you occupied. I lost six buddies over there. And they were senseless. That’s when I started considering war senseless, when I started losing my buddies.

On watch, December 24, 1951: My buddy was awakened at 6 P.M. and he prepared to stand the first watch. After being relieved I went to sleep and slept soundly. Two hours later, at about 8:00 P.M., I went outside to relieve my buddy from his watch.

While scanning areas toward my left, I heard a “pop” over my head to the right flank. I knew it was a grenade because I saw the fuse from the Russian grenade flicker several times. I yelled out, “Fire in the hole,” and bent forward and heard another “pop.” By then I was bent over on my knees and partially around a corner of the trench. Both grenades landed to my rear and exploded. The first one merely threw dirt all over the place, but the second one found me. It blew my right boot completely off with its shrapnel and injured my right foot and buttocks.

Attachment: war interview korean war steppe


About historymartinez

Social Studies Department Chair, Room A305 Tutoring Mondays @ 4:15 pm & Wednesdays @ 8:00 a.m.
This entry was posted in Korean War & the Conformist Era, U.S. History. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Interview of Paul Steppe, Korean War, Veterans History Project (Primary Source Interview/Memoir)

  1. Pingback: – The 6 Most Epic One Man Armies in the History of War

  2. Craig McElroy says:

    The US Marine in the second photo running through the rice patties is my Grandfather. His mane is David Lee Hulett.

    • Thanks for sharing. As a history teacher, I think its great when a real life connection can be made. I shared your comment with my class this morning – they thought it was “cool” that your grandfather was in the picture. I often forget to include photos of my own family in these entries. My grandfather, James C. Markwell, also served as a Marine in Korea. Congrats to your grandfather, David Lee Hulett, and all members that serve our country. Thanks again for sharing.

  3. Craig McElroy says:

    Thank you Sir, He would be proud to know your class was told, and thanks to your Grandfather as well. It is men like these that make America great… and safe.

  4. Clem Kadiddlehopper says:

    I have seen this photo of your granddad many times, and have often wondered who he was! He appears to me that he has nothing on his mind except for getting the mission done.

    Looks like a very professional Marine!

  5. Sandra Ponce says:

    My father Ralph Ponce was a soldier assigned to the 7th Division. The picture of the soldier with the Browning rifle reminded me of something my father told me, he said that weapon saved him many times it was a good weapon did’nt jam as much as the M1. My father was in King Co and fought at Pork Chop Hill. He Is still with us he is 86 years old.

    • Thank you for sharing the insight on your father. I enjoy the comments regarding the Browning. No doubt, our fathers would debate all day over the supremacy of the Browning vs. the M1. I grew up hearing about the supremacy of the M1 vs. the M16 (and my dad never fired an M16), but he was sold on the M1. Again, thanks for sharing. Your dad served our country in service, and for that, we are all grateful.

  6. David Beeman says:


    My father, Layton Beeman, fought and was wounded in Korea. All I know is that he was in the Army 7th Division (Second Army) as I have some of his medals, some pictures (one with a flag with a Buffalo on it), some letters he sent to my Mother, and a Record Locator card from when he was in the hospital recovering from his wounds. I also have a letter that says Sgt. Beeman at the top right and then has the following on the next line “Ltr. Hqs, 7th Inf Div, APO 7, Subj: Transmittal of GO’s and Citation, 7 Aug 52” then on next line it says “AICXI 201 Beeman, Layton G. several spaces then 3d Ind”. On the next line it says “US 52025594 (7 Aug 52) AG-DA” and its addressed to “Headquarters Maryland Military District, 408 Post Office Building, Baltimore 2, Maryland. 20 November 1952. The next line has To: Commanding General Second Army, Fort George G. Meade, Maryland ATTN: AIAAG-MA. The letter has to do with my Fathers Bronze Star (he has 3) being shipped to his home on 94 West Main Street, Lonaconing, Maryland. I know that all of my Fathers service records were burned in the St. Louis fire back in the 1970’s.

    Quite understandably my father never wanted to talk about his experiences and took them to his grave in 1998. I have been trying for years to find more information like what unit he fought with and where he may have fought in Korea. I was reading a book called “Voices of War” and on page 309 Paul Steppe said he tried to contact one of his buddies from Maryland and “he didn’t even want to talk to me. He wanted to forget it”. My Mother told me that for many years some of his buddies would try to contact my Father to try to coax him into attending their reunions but he never wanted to talk to them or participate. I was wondering (really hoping) that Paul Steppe could have been talking about my father. I know Mr. Steppe was in the Marines so it’s highly doubtful he would have fought alongside my Father who was in the Army (my father was in the Marines first and then go out and was drafted by the Army) but it’s worth the ask.

    Any insight or where I can go to get more information would be much appreciated.

    Kind Regards,

    David Beeman

    • Thank you for sharing your fathers story. We can all be thankful for his service to our country. I suggest contacting the Veterans History Project through the Library of Congress. You might be able to secure some initial contact information. Best wishes on your quest. Again, thank you for sharing this amazing story. R.L. Martinez

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s