Hatteberg's People - J.R. Willcut

By: Larry Hatteberg Email
By: Larry Hatteberg Email

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

On Hatteberg's People, the Korean War is sometimes called a forgotten war. One man who will never forget is Wichitian J.R. Willcut, an 80-year-old former Marine who is bound by tradition and honor. He begins every day with a salute to his father who was also a military man.

"I come down here every morning. First thing I do, before I say a prayer, I salute him. The reason I do it every day Larry, is because I had a wonderful dad. That's a picture of him when he was in the Army. People say, 'Why is it you have him setting up in that chair? I say because it is the best seat in the house, and my dad is worthy of it," said Willcut.

J.R. has a voice of authority that he used well as a Marine sergeant in Korea. He has maintained a personal history of the war that is deep, detailed and heart-felt.

"The thing that brought me through this whole thing mostly was a deep faith in God and Marine Corp training. We done what we were told to do, and we done it with discipline and we made every blow count," he said.

"It was cold over there. People don't realize it was 30 degrees below zero at times. That's not a wind chill factor, that's the actual cold. No place to get warm. Manchurian winds! Snow four foot deep."

J.R. remembers everything in vivid detail, in his possession, a knife that isn't a memory, but a reality.

"This K-bar knife was issued to every Marine. I used it for a lot of things. Probably helped save my life. It was real good to me, and I've tried to be real good to it."

"This M-1 rifle is the most wonderful weapon, in my opinion, that was ever made. This rifle would never freeze up, it would never misfire. It was just a wonderful weapon. You slept with it, you lived with it, and this was your mistress."

Then, there were the Korean children. They touched J.R.'s heart.

"Those kids were all over the place. They were real dear to me. We would give them script money; we would give them our C-Rations. I wonder what happened to those kids, and what kind of life they had."

J.R. was in Headquarters Company of the 3rd Marine Regiment of the First Marine Division. He won't talk much about himself, but he will talk about his Marine buddies.

"That's what the Marine Corps is made up of... 'Team'! You can't do it by yourself; you have to have someone to help you! We had the faith that the man beside me was going to help me and he had faith I was going to help him."

"I think of these people who didn't make it back. Sometimes I lay awake at night and I still miss 'em."

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