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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Roy Lee and Mary Ruth Auton, February 28, 1980. Interview H-0108. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Disdain for the lack of clear purpose in Vietnam and Korean Wars

The wars in Korea and Vietnam upset Auton's sense of fair play and honesty. He describes some of his experiences to illustrate how a lack of clarity in conflict causes problems.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Roy Lee and Mary Ruth Auton, February 28, 1980. Interview H-0108. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you think about the Vietnam War?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I didn't believe in that, and I didn't believe in Korea. I believe in fighting for your rights if you declare a war and fight. But damn this police action stuff. What I figure it is, it's nothing but a prosperity deal(). During World War II we had a good army, and old General Patton can't be beat for a general. He was tough, but we were, too. When he told you to go take a town, he meant to go take it. And my company used something over seven hundred replacements, and there was four of us that originally went that come back. And I don't think that that's too bad in a way, for what we did. I put more than two thousand away myself. I was a machine gunner, and I got pretty bad with it, I mean to do good work. But people think you're crazy when you say that you can cuss and pray at the same time, but I've done it; I know. And people that's never been in a place like that don't realize what you can do. Because you figure if you don't have a minute to live, that you want to get every one you can before you're dead. And I've stopped several counterattacks myself, just by being like that. It's crazy to talk about and comical in a way. Just be riding along, and because you see somebody not dressed like you are, just shoot him, because if you don't, he'll shoot you. But see, we went over there a declared war, and we fought like hell and won. But like Korea, I got over there and they said, "Now don't load your weapon. Wait'll you're fired at, and somebody'll give you orders to load." I blowed my top right then. I said, "Any time you want to check mine, it'll have every one in it it'll hold unless I've got it tore down cleaning it. I lived through one war by being ready, and I'm planning on going home this time." And I kept it loaded, too. Of course, we didn't fight as much in Korea. I was in the Engineers. But sometimes we'd go to build a bridge and get attacked by guerillas. Then we'd have to kill all night( ) before we could finish the bridge. It took us three days to round them up one time. [Laughter] But just have a rifle, and you can't work for it. You set it down, and then you'll be a hundred feet from it when they start firing at you, then you have to crawl to it or get to it the best way you can, and I've crawled to it before. But Vietnam was the same way. It wasn't a declared war, and they'd just send out people every day to try to see what they'd get into. That's no way to fight a war. And whenever you take something, keep it. See, they'd just go out and look for something and then come back to the barracks. Well, we did do better than that in Korea. But the first time we got up to northern Korea, you could see the stockpiled enemy stuff across the river, but you wasn't allowed to shoot into it. And you wasn't allowed to shoot the soldiers on the other side. Well, all you could do is turn and come back, and then they'd come back across and face you. It was just like a football game, backwards and forwards. I don't believe in stuff like that. And there was as many people killed in Korea as there was in World War II. And look how many was killed in Vietnam, and then lost it. And if they'd have turned loose on them like we did in World War II, Vietnam would have been over in ninety days. So I say if you're going to fight, fight, and if you're not, run.