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Jack William Jaunal
Federal Way, WA-
"The first shell to hit our area on 5 November shook the van. I remember it very well. It just shook everything. As we looked out, we could see this pile of smoke coming up in the air and we knew it was close this time. We shut down the van, went off the air, and crawled in alongside the truck which was in a large hole, ditch had been dug to place a vehicle. For some reason unknown to myself to this day, I said, "Everyone to the bunker." We had never been to the bunker before. We took off to the bunkers and just as we started to leave, I could hear this whistle coming in behind us. As we jumped over the embankment into the bunker, turned around and looked back, this big smoke cloud was coming up from where the truck had been. The shell had landed at the front of the truck and just blew shrapnel through everything."
- Jack Jaunal
My name is Jack William Jaunal of Federal Way, Washington. I was born 2 August 1927 in Los Angeles, California, the only child of Francois (Frank) Judson (Judd) and Esther Margaret Adie Jaunal. Father served in the USMC, seagoing, on the USS Pennsylvania circa 1923-1926. Because Marines in the lower enlisted ranks were not to be married, my father left the Marine Corps for civilian life after my parents were married. After I was born, our family moved to Washington State where we lived for a while in Northport and Seattle. Northport is located near Boundary, which at one time was my mother's hometown.
Mother stressed being polite and for me to be a gentleman, so I was never considered to be "rowdy" as a child. I spent my childhood in Santa Monica and Burbank, California. I liked living in Burbank best, probably because I lived there the longest and had school friends there. I attended grade school in Santa Monica and Burbank, as well as in Boundry, Washington. I am a non-graduate of the high school in Burbank.
While we lived in Washington, Mother worked as an assistant in a day nursery. It was in the Boundary and Northport area during the Great Depression that Father became a bootlegger. He helped smuggle liquor and beer into the United States from Canada. "I drove the scout car, never the booze truck," he once recalled. "I drove about a mile ahead of the truck and if I saw any police or border patrol ahead, I would turn around and drive back. When the truck driver saw me coming back, he knew the cops were up ahead and he would turn around and we both high-tailed it out of there." We stayed in Washington State until 1931, when we moved back to California and lived in Santa Monica. Father became a salesman for the Regina Vacuum Cleaner Company, and he was a good one--being top salesman several times. He claimed to have sold a vacuum to a banker in Santa Monica who was the father of child film star Shirley Temple.
The Depression broke up our family. According to my mother, one day when I was about five years old, my father "walked out the door one morning and never came back." It was the time of the Great Depression and many husbands went looking for work elsewhere and never returned to their families. Mother returned to work as a doctor's assistant until 1936, and then worked as a nurse at a rest home until the fall of 1938. In August of that year, she became a housekeeper for Mr. and Mrs. Tony Gaudio in Van Nuys. Being a housekeeper paid more than a nurse. Tony Gaudio was a director of photography for Warner Brothers studio and was well known for his cinematography in motion pictures. Among the films he was director of photography was The Dawn Patrol, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and High Sierra. If we were poor, I did not realize it. However, we had a low income. Mother's pay during the Depression was about $25.00 for working five and one-half days a week.
Our neighborhood in Santa Monica had Negroes and Mexicans. Across the street from Mother's apartment lived a Negro police officer. At the time I thought nothing of it and sometimes visited his house and played with his small dog. Many years later, I learned that there were very few Negro policemen at that time.
My father served in the Essex Highlanders of Canada circa 1939-1941. He returned to Los Angeles and enlisted in the US Army after Pearl Harbor, taking basic training in the army at Camp Roberts in 1942. He then served overseas during the war with Company C of the 156th Infantry Regiment. He was medically discharged at Brooke Army Hospital in 1945. His military records were destroyed in a fire at the Military Records Center in St. Louis several years ago. Mine were also destroyed in the same fire.
Because there was need for war workers during World War II, my mother left the Gaudios in August of 1942 for employment by Douglas Aircraft Company in Long Beach, where she worked as an aircraft assembler. For a brief time after World War II she worked as a nurse in a doctor's office, but quit to become a waitress because she could "earn more money, counting tips." She worked at one bowling establishment for several years. Over the years she became seriously crippled by arthritis. She died 30 October 1976 at the Santa Rosa (California) Hospital.
After he was discharged from the army, my father worked at several jobs and saved enough money to buy a restaurant at the Gardena Airport in California. The restaurant was advertised as "The Blue Devils Grotto, Home of the Muggers Club, Rotten Food, Lousy Coffee, Terrible Service, and the noisiest-Frank J. Jaunal, Mgr." He operated the restaurant until his death in 1949.
We heard the news about the outbreak of World War II by radio on Sunday afternoon, December 7th. Mother went to work at Douglas Aircraft Company in Santa Monica, and I lived with an aunt and uncle until I enlisted in the U.S. Maritime Service. I remember war bond drives and buying war bonds, and the collection of scrap for the war effort. I got a part-time evening and summer job as a riveter for Lockheed Aircraft Company. I also joined the California State Militia and became a weekend warrior from March to October of 1943 for home front service as part of the war effort. High school classmate John Irwin was the first to join, followed by me, and later James Idleman, John Shewbert, and Bob Noyes. All of us but John Irwin were stretcher bearers for the women's Medical Corps/Service. Meetings were held one night a week in an office building on San Fernando Road in downtown Burbank. Field maneuvers were held at Warner Brothers Studio Ranch in the San Fernando valley.
Because I went off to World War II, I did not graduate with the Burbank High School Class of 1947. Shewbert graduated in 1947 and a few years later arrived for the war in Korea about the time I was leaving. Noyes attended summer classes and graduated in 1946. He later served in the Navy Reserve. Idleman enlisted in the army during his senior year and did not graduate with the class of 1947. John Irwin became an unknown. Of the five former militia members, I am the only one who made the military service a career. I retired as a Sergeant Major from the Marine Corps in 1978 after 34 years of service and three wars.
I received first aid training and had duties as a medical orderly while in the militia. The instructors were nurses, two with World War I service in Europe. Captain Johnson was the senior nurse officer. She was a former army nurse and World War I veteran. I remember one weekend field maneuvers she passed the word that if any snake bite cases came in and she found whiskey in any canteen, she would "cut an inch deeper." Sometime in 1943, the CSM was merged into the California State Guard and militia members were encouraged to join the state guard, which then became the primary military organization in California.
I enlisted in the California State Guard beginning 24 October 1943 after the militia was disbanded. I served as a private in Company D, 3rd Battalion, 29th Regiment, Burbank, California. Captain M.C. Cettell was the company commander. State Guard was the state's military force after the National Guard was activated for federal service for World War II. An Army winter uniform (OD) with a state guard insignia sewn on the left sleeve shoulder was issued, as well as a weapon. Militia personnel had to buy their own uniform as well as a copy of the Infantry Drill Regulations, known as the IDR. I was issued a Springfield rifle (1903 model) and was allowed to keep it at home. Weekend meetings for the guard were held where the Joslyn Adult Center is now located on Olive Avenue in Burbank. We received infantry training and instruction in close order drill, guard duty, bayonet drill, hand-to-hand combat (Judo), and other military subjects.
In July 1944, a few weeks before my 17th birthday, I enlisted in the US Maritime Service (USMS), answering the call for "American seamen for American ships." You could join the USMS at 16 if you had your parents consent. The USMS provided seamen for merchant marine ships and the Army Transport Service (ATS). The Navy, Coast Guard, and Marines would not accept me because of my poor eyesight and the fact that I had been hospitalized for two years with tuberculosis. At that time you had to be 18 for acceptance into the army. The training I received at the USMS Training Station in Avalon (Catalina Island), California was basic training in seamanship: lifeboat drill, knots and splices, abandon ship drill, swimming under fire, swimming with and without life jackets, gunnery, and various deck duties. I rated papers for deck, engine, and stewards departments and attended cook and baker school. Recruits were known as "Gleeps." Most of us were not old enough to vote or drink beer. However, in our section was a World War I veteran. His name was Casey and he was over 50 years of age. The age limit for the merchant marine was 78 years. One of the instructors in charge of a recruit section was James Doughty who was married to the future film star Marilyn Monroe. The film actor Richard Jackel was among the group that graduated ahead of me. In his first film, Guadalcanal Diary (1943) he portrayed a Marine. My only meeting with him was while standing in one of the "heads" at the docks in Wilmington.
Although my mother was not enthused at the idea, for patriot reasons I joined the US Maritime service on 28 July 1944 because I wanted to participate in World War II. Although I could not, for physical reasons, enlist in the armed forces, I was eligible to volunteer for military service at age 18 through the selective service system. Two weeks before the end of World War II, I volunteered for service. I was in Los Angeles on V-J Day, waiting for induction into the US Army on 24 October 1945. V-J Day was one big celebration and there will never be another one like it. Hugs. Kisses. Dancing in the street. Noise. Yelling. Joy.
I received basic training at Camp Roberts, California. The camp was set in arid, desert-like conditions and there were some hills in the area for long hikes. I arrived there by train in the evening and was sent to a training company where we were issued clothing and formed into platoons. Our instructors were Staff Sergeant Manning, Corporal Loa, and Lieutenant Lemon. Our officers changed twice. Manning was a rather easy-going, non-combat veteran with 17 years army time. Corporal Loa did not like to run, so on the days he had the morning run, we considered ourselves lucky. The company commander was named Captain King. He was small--about five and a half feet tall, and he would run us for what seemed forever.
I believe basic was eight weeks. We learned infantry skills, rifle and machine guns, mortars, map reading, combat course, field marches, etc. In the classroom, we watched educational films like The Late Company B that showed what would happen if you did not do your job. It showed how even one mistake could cost lives. We also watched films on VD. I remember the VD film because of a young actor who later was in several Hollywood films. His name was Keefe Brasselle. He never made it big.
Each day began with company formations. We were marched to and from areas. Meals were good--there were about 200 men in the company mess at that time. There were daily inspections of personnel and barracks. Hygiene and avoiding VD were stressed. Church was offered but there was no pressure from instructors to go. Not many went.
I don't remember anyone in the platoon being punished other than myself and a buddy, Steve Gross. We both had a weekend of KP duty (pots and pans detail). I was disciplined for being late to formation, but I don't remember why Gross got KP duty.
Two of my buddies were Jack Kelly and Steve Gross. We traveled together with a group of recruits from Fort MacArthur to Camp Roberts and were assigned to the 86th Infantry Training Regiment. Steve was from Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. I was from Burbank and Jack was from Van Nuys. When we were given a weekend pass, we traveled home together by various means. Steve had a car and he drove back to Roberts with Jack and I paying for the gas. Steve left Beverly Hills, picked me up in Burbank, and we went to Jack's home in Van Nuys. Jack invited us in while he finished saying goodbye to his family. Among them was his sister Nancy, who Jack introduced to us. She said hello and went on her way. Only later in our conversation on the way back did we realize Jack's sister was the film actress Nancy Kelly. Although she was never considered a film star, Nancy appeared in several films and won an award for starring in the television drama The Bad Seed. As a young girl she was a model and was considered the most photographed girl in America.
Although World War II had ended by the time I was drafted, the government recognizes me as a World War II veteran because of the date of my entry into the army. However, in spite of that recognition, I was disappointed for having "missed out." The colors on our army ground forces shoulder patch in basic training were blue for infantry, red for artillery, and yellow for cavalry. Staff Sergeant Manning stated that the army ground forces shoulder patch indicated, "The blue is for the sea you will never cross. The red is for the blood you will never shed. And the yellow is the streak down your back." The USMS did not receive veterans recognition by the government.
For me personally, the hardest thing about basic was the final overnight march prior to completion of our training. The band that played after the final hike was welcome, as was the platoon party, receiving orders, and getting out of basic. Upon graduation, I felt that I was more knowledgeable about soldiering. I believe our infantry training was good, but when the war ended, I felt there was some ease-up. Before we finished our infantry training the army decided it no longer needed infantrymen since the war was over. A few others and I were transferred from the infantry to the air corps. Steve was assigned to Boca Raton Air Base in Florida as a radio tower operator. Jack was sent to a weather station in Alaska. I was sent to Japan.
Sometime in 1947, I met Jack in Burbank and he told me he was looking for work as an actor. He said that if he did not become an actor he was going to be a lawyer. "To be a lawyer you have to act," he said. "Either way I will become an actor." Jack became an actor and was in several films. Among them were To Hell and Back with Audie Murphy and the TV series Maverick with James Garner. Later in life Jack went into politics and became mayor of Huntington Beach, California. He died November 7, 1992 at the age of 65 because of a stroke.
Several of our company were ordered to the Overseas Replacement Depot, Ogden, Utah, to process for duty in Japan. I do not remember how long I was at Ogden, but I think it was about two weeks. It was a good duty station. While at Ogden, other than processing for overseas, we had few duties. We got a weekend pass to Salt Lake City, had dinner at a big hotel, attended a few dances, and went skiing at a ski resort at Alta, near Salt Lake. Although we had replaced our infantry insignia with the air corps insignia, we had our infantry piping on our caps. Our infantry pride. One afternoon an air corps officer questioned us about our blue piping. We replied we were infantry and he told us, "You're in the air corps! Get rid of that infantry color--NOW!"
I sailed for Japan on 27 February 1946 on the troop ship Marine Falcon. I have an old newspaper article that states 2,337 army and army air corps replacements arrived in Yokohama aboard the Marine Falcon. Once in Japan, I served with Headquarters and Base Service Squadron, 13th Air Deport Group, Far East Air Force (FEAF) at Tachikawa. We lived in bombed-out former Japanese army barracks until new quarters were built. My assignments were in communications. I was a teletype operator for a while, assisted in the installation of communications equipment, and operated portable and common battery switchboards. As chief operator, I supervised ten enlisted and three Japanese civilian switchboard (telephone) operators. I also supervised the compilation of a telephone directory that included all bases connected with Tachikawa. While stationed in Japan, I was promoted to corporal.
I stayed on base most of the time, although I went sightseeing in Tokyo. It was a city still recovering from wartime bombings. There were several damaged or bombed-out buildings. It was in Tokyo that I saw Soviet soldiers for the first time--two men and a women along the Ginza. I enjoyed watching the Japanese eyes pop out when looking at the tall, very large, busty, female soldier. Also, one night a buddy and I were trying to catch a ride back to base when two Soviet soldiers in a sedan car stopped and probably tried to offer us a ride. They did not speak English and we did not speak Russian. They both seemed to be drunk and we decided to stay put. Entertainment was at the Ernie Pyle Theater, named for a famed war correspondent who was killed at Okinawa. While in Tokyo, troops could eat at the Imperial Hotel for free, army supervised. We also got one week rest and recreation (R&R) at the Konoko Hotel, Akakura. My tour of duty in Japan was one year. During that time I was on temporary duty (TDY) to the Territory of Hawaii to attend the Navy School of Electronics at Aiea. I attended radar school (ETM3) on temporary duty from the 13th ADG in Japan. About six army enlisted from various units in Japan attended.
After discharge from the army in 1947 I went to Canada to meet my future wife. In 1945 I was on leave in New York City and met a Canadian sailor in the Merchant Navy. We exchanged addresses of girls we knew and he gave me the address of a girl he knew in Toronto. I wrote to her, she answered and we wrote to each other while I was stationed in Japan. We married in 1948.
While in Canada, several Americans, myself included, volunteered for service with the Maple Leaf Battalion being formed to fight for Israel. One of the recruiters was a former Marine and famed boxer, Barney Ross. Ross, the only boxer to hold two titles at the same time, had been awarded the Silver Star for heroism at Guadalcanal during World War II. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on one's viewpoint, the American government threatened loss of citizenship for service in Israel. I did not serve. As far as I know, the Maple Leaf Battalion never did go to Israel. Also, I was a Seaman First Class in the US Navy Reserve. When I was discharged from the army, I enlisted as a Seaman First Class in the USNR and planned to go back to sea as a merchant seaman. Because I was still a navy reservist, the Maple Leaf decision would create problems. Last, my fiancée would disapprove. I requested active duty with the US Naval Reserve, but after a short time I decided that sea life was not for me--not as a merchant seaman or in naval service. When I was rejected by the Marines for a second time, I enlisted in the army to continue my military career. I was discharged from the naval reserve so I could enlist in the US Army.
I was stationed at Fort Ord, California, in Company L, 3rd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division when I volunteered for radio operator school at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. I had prior army communications experience and was qualified for the radio operator course. At the school I learned how to be a high speed, manual radio operator. We spent primarily all day in class learning the radio international Morse code, sending and receiving. We received by hand (slow speed) and mill (typewriter). There was a test each week and if we passed, we began receiving and sending at faster speed. I graduated on 13 September 1949 as a radio operator, high speed manual. I could send and receive at 25 words per minute.
From there I was assigned to the 51st Signal Battalion in Fort Meade, Maryland. I was assigned to the Second Army Radio Station for temporary duty (TDY). The Company Commander of Radio and MC Company, 51st Signal Battalion, was Captain Shirley S. Ashton Jr., also known as "Ashcan" and "Yellow." Prior to departure for Korea and after a company formation in front of troops, he accused me of trying to defraud the government. In 1946 after radar school in Hawaii and while awaiting return to my unit in Japan, I had drawn advance pay. In 1950 a letter from the government informed my unit that I owed the government for advance pay. After a morning formation and in front of my buddies and other troops, Captain "Ashcan" informed me about the letter and stated, "Jaunal, you should know better than to try and defraud the U.S. government!" I explained that an error must have been made because payment had been made upon my return to Japan and that there should be a record of my payment. Nothing more was said or heard of the matter. Being accused of fraud in front of my buddies and others is an example of that CO's poor leadership.
I do not remember any feeling of being apprehensive when the Korean War broke out. Instead, I had a feeling of excitement, adventure, and wanting to go. I knew very little about Korea. I knew that it had been occupied by Japan for many years and that it was divided at the end of World War II. I knew that American troops from the 7th Infantry Division had been stationed there. Army military advisors (MAAG) were in the country when war broke out.
I thought our unit would probably go to Korea and I believed we should go--in part for my own reasons of wanting the experience and having missed combat in World War II. During that war, I was a seaman USMS who had not been in combat. Our unit was alerted for Korea almost immediately. At that time I had a one year old son. My wife was filled with fear, dread, worry, and concern, and she wanted me out of the army. She and our son went to Toronto to live after I received my overseas orders.
My unit spent time preparing for movement, traveling by troop train from Fort Meade to Fort Lawton, Washington. We traveled the northern route and made a 15 or 20 minute stop at a small town in Montana. The town was about 400 yards from the railroad track and troops began running for town for whatever. When the train sounded its whistle, soldiers came running from all directions. As far as I know, everyone made it back. We rode in Pullman cars and I was fortunate enough to have an upper berth for sleeping. When the beds were made up, there was one in the upper berth and two on the lower berths.
In August of 1950 we left the USA for Korea, sailing on the USNS Ainsworth to Japan. The Ainsworth was a victory class ship for troops and cargo. There might have been an estimated 500 troops on board. The ship carried our battalion, battalion cargo and equipment, and other cargo. There were some civilians on board as well. They were government workers and/or dependents.
There were a few seasick soldiers for the first day or two out of Seattle, but I had my sea legs from my merchant marine days. It was also my second time aboard a troop ship bound to Japan as a passenger. There was good weather and a calm sea, and it was an uneventful voyage. A movie was shown almost every night outside on the upper deck. One day there was a good stage show by officers for the enlisted. They sang songs, danced, and told jokes. For the rest of the time we just read books or played cards. There were no stops along the way to Japan.
We stayed in Japan for two weeks in preparation for the final move to Korea. During that time we had no further combat training, but we did have one or two tactical marches. Other replacement troops arrived. We sailed from Sasebo, Japan to Pusan, Korea overnight aboard the Japanese ship Koan Maru. There were a few hundred Korean soldiers on board--from where, how, or why, I do not know. As the ship pulled near the dock, some of the troops on board began to toss over trash, empty ration cans, etc. An American army sergeant, port authority, yelled over the loudspeaker, "Stop tossing your garbage. This isn't the city dump." Someone yelled back, "It sure as hell looks like it!" We debarked that day and our unit assembled in the dock area. It was a busy port with troops and vehicles about. I did not think it looked like a war zone. It just looked like a busy port. It also looked similar to Japan, but was not as clean.
I arrived in Korea on the morning of September 17, 1950 with the 51st Signal Battalion. The 51st Signal Battalion was not considered a combat unit and certainly was not combat ready when ordered to Korea. Except for some senior officers and NCOs who had World War II service, the troops had no wartime experience at all. Because of my service during World War II, I was considered an old soldier by many of the men. In comparison to my service, one of our platoon sergeants, the radio relay platoon sergeant, was a master sergeant with almost 20 years service, and he had never served overseas before.
We stayed overnight in Pusan. We had gone to Korea together as a unit and morale was good. Although I had some thoughts about being killed, I felt no fear at that time. I had some concern about my family if I should get killed. What would they do? Armed with an M-1 carbine, I was assigned to the Radio Relay Platoon, Radio and Message Center Company, 51st Signal Battalion, I Corps. Our job was to provide communications support for I Corps Headquarters. Teams were set up in various locations, usually a hill or mountain, the high ground, for radio communications and the automatic relay of radio transmissions.
I did not like my assignment to the Radio Relay Platoon primarily because I considered the duty boring and static. Also, I did not like the platoon sergeant, a mutual feeling I am sure. Most relay teams were supposed to provide their own security. Some had Republic of Korea (ROK) soldiers for security because of enemy infiltrators or guerrilla activity in the areas. There was not a great deal of trust or confidence in Korean guards. At one relay station, the 304th Signal Battalion, I believe, the ROKs went to sleep and all were killed or wounded by enemy troops or a guerrilla force. For reasons I will explain later, I never performed radio relay duty in Korea.
The following afternoon we departed in a convoy with vehicles and equipment for Taegu. The area around Taegu was, for the most part, flat rice fields. There were some hills or mountains in the distance and the Naktong River nearby. At I Corps Headquarters the battalion lived in tents. One sign along the road stated, "Danger Forward," and I thought, "Hell, yes." Danger Forward was the identification for the 25th Division Command Post. About halfway to Taegu, the weapons carrier I was driving broke down. I was told by an officer or NCO that a vehicle would be sent back for me and then I was left alone on the side of a road near a small knoll. As the last vehicle in the convoy passed, I felt rather lonely. Alone, armed with an M-1 carbine, I waited and waited and waited. During the late afternoon, a few unsmiling Koreans walked past the vehicle. Other than those I saw in Pusan, these were the first Koreans I saw.
Later that day two Negro MPs in a Jeep stopped to see what was the matter. They were from a Negro MP unit that policed/covered that part of the road. I told them that someone was supposed to come back and get me. I was told I had better be out by dark as there were guerrillas in the area--then they drove off. Alone again. The MP jeep had a large bar upright on the front bumper, windshield high, to cut any wire or rope that might have been strung across the road by the enemy.
As I mentioned, my vehicle was near a small knoll. When it got dark, I decided to move to the high ground for observation and some protection. While alone and waiting before and after the MPs, I do not remember any specific thoughts except when (or if) anyone would return before nightfall. As darkness began to set in, the MPs came back with a truck to pull me to their CP or unit. They put me up for the night and the next day one of their mechanics worked on the vehicle.
Late that second night, I left with the vehicle for Taegu. Somewhere down the road there was a flash of light and after that I remembered nothing else, including any feeling of pain, until I woke up at a field hospital.
I wrote the following narration about being a Korean War casualty circa the 1970s in answer to a request for stories from veterans of the war in Korea. The original version was published in Weapons and Warfare Press. A shorter version appeared in Military magazine, circa the 1980s. A digested version was published in 2000 in Quiet Heroes: Navy Nurses of the Korean War 1950-1953, Far East Command.
They were blue eyes. From a distance I heard a voice. "Do you want a cigarette?" The rest of the face came into focus. It was a nice, plain-looking face with a smile. She was an Army nurse. "I don't smoke. Thanks." She said something else but the noise from a helicopter overhead drowned her voice out. "It must be a bad one. They fly them in." She turned around and walked off.
I was on a stretcher. I thought, "Where am I? How long have I been here?" My head ached and I tried to remember. Just then the medics brought in a wounded man and placed his stretcher beside mine. I could see he was a Negro soldier and he had been hit in the face. Red on black, I thought. For some reason the colors seemed to stand out in my mind. The medics started to cut away his clothes.
I rolled my head back and stared up at the ceiling. I tried to remember what happened. I was in Korea. It was September 1950. How long? When did we land? I started to remember. We landed at Pusan on the seventeenth. The first night was spent on the docks. Next day we went north to Taegu. Another night and day; this is my fourth day. It happened on my third night. I was driving a weapons carrier with some communications supplies to one of our units near Taegu. It was a dark night and all of a sudden there was a flash of light. I didn't remember any noise--or anything else.
I started to sit up on the stretcher when I noticed my left arm would not move. It was bandaged and someone had pinned it across my chest to the right pocket of my uniform. I sat on the edge of the stretcher with my head on my knees waiting for my thoughts to clear. I rubbed my free hand through my hair and felt something tacky. It was blood. Everything was like a dream. I could only remember parts. The North Koreans had me prisoner. That wasn't possible. I was crying and a Russian army officer was trying to question me. I would only give him my name, rank, and serial number. "Go to hell!" I wouldn't tell him anything.
"How are you feeling?" It was blue-eyes talking to me again. "Okay, I guess. How did I get here?" "Some Korean soldiers from the Capitol Division brought you in." A medic came by and told me noon chow was going and asked if I wanted to eat. I said "Yes" and he helped me get up from the stretcher and led me towards a chow line. I picked up a tray with my good arm and followed other patients through the line. The food was hot and looked pretty good, but I couldn't eat much of it. I filled up on coffee and walked back to my stretcher. I was in some kind of an empty building. It had been converted into an army hospital.
The nurse with the blue eyes returned. She told me I needed X-rays and pointed me in a direction I was to follow. It seemed like a fifty-mile hike both ways. The medic at the X-ray unit pointed me back to my part of the hospital. I got lost. I stopped someone and asked for directions. It was hot outside the hospital and I felt lousy. I was moving, but felt separated from myself. I walked back into the main building--funny, no doors. I didn't notice before, but most of the wall was missing. I got to my stretcher, collapsed, and passed out.
It was late when the medic woke me up. I had missed the evening meal. The patients who could travel by rail were being sent to Pusan. He told me that I would be leaving on a hospital train in a few hours. Pusan would be safer and had better hospital facilities.
The train had two flat cars placed ahead of the engine and two at the end of the train. The flat cars were sandbagged and had machine guns placed behind them. The stretcher cases were being carried on first. I was standing with the walking wounded. One of them had shrapnel in his shoulder and arms, and was naked from the waist up. He had only his bandaged shoulder to keep him warm from the night chill. I gave him my field jacket. He was worried I would be charged for it. Someone yelled, "All aboard" and we climbed onto the train. I found a seat, sat down and tried to relax.
"Clickety, clickety, clickety, click." The rails sounded different than in the States. For the first time I noticed the hospital tag tied to the front of my uniform. My field jacket must have covered it up. I turned it towards me and tried to read it. All I could make out was being in severe shock. I remembered what the nurse had said about being brought in. It was the South Koreans who found me, not North Koreans. And the officer questioning me had been U.S., not Russian. My head was clearing. The ache was gone. I could remember very little and felt no pain. I wondered if and when my wife would find out. It would give her a scare. The train was quiet; each of us had our own thoughts.
Medical teams and ambulances were waiting for us when we arrived at Pusan. As we got off the train we had to get on a stretcher and be carried. The doctors and nurses would look at our tags and decide which hospital we would go to. I wanted the Swedish Hospital ship and all those blue-eyed blonde nurses. I was tagged for the hospital ship Repose. "Hell," I thought.
A hospital corpsman met me at the gangway and took me below decks to my ward. At the ward another corpsman took over. He gave me a pair of pajamas and led me to the washroom. "You can change in here." He promised to return in a few minutes and left me on my own. It was almost midnight and I was tired. As I removed my clothes I noticed that I smelled like a rice paddy. Using my free arm I removed my boots. I unfastened the safety pin and let my left arm drop free. I could move it a little. I removed my clothing. I was a dirty mess. As I started to pick up the p.j.s I stopped. I entered a shower stall and turned on the water. Nice, clean, clear, warm water. I was showering when the corpsman returned. He wasn't too happy about me being in the shower. "You can clean up in the morning." I informed him that I wasn't about to get into a clean bed without taking a shower. He helped me remove the bandage and splint from my left arm. My wrist was broken. The shower felt good. I could see brown dirt, a little blood from my head, and soap later, mix and go down the drain. The corpsman told me to hurry up.
After re-bandaging my arm the corpsman took me through the ward to my bunk. It was an upper. He helped me up and mentioned that the lower bunks went to the leg cases. The clean sheets felt good and I was drifting off to dreamland when I felt a "thump" on my forehead. I looked into a pair of brown eyes. A voice said, "Open." She was a Navy nurse and she placed a thermometer in my mouth. As she took my good arm to feel my pulse I could smell her perfume. It was then that I fell asleep. - End of narration
The ward on the Repose was similar to any hospital ward except it was aboard ship and there was less space. As mentioned in the above narration, I was given an upper bunk and was told that the "leg cases get the lower." It seemed most of the leg cases that I met were tankers or tank drivers. The second case below me was a tanker. His left leg was missing below the knee. "You a tanker?", I asked. "Yeah," was his reply. "I'm a driver."
I was given an X-ray and placed in a cast from elbow to hand because my left wrist was fractured. My wife did not know I was injured until she received a letter from me mailed from the 376th Station Hospital. I told her a nurse said my arm would be "all right." Because my wife lived in Canada, she did not receive my letters posted in Korea. Free mail postage for troops in Korea was for USA addresses only. My letter was the first she knew about my hospitalization. She contacted a friend who worked in the office of US Senator Thomas of Oklahoma. His office contacted the army and a telegram was sent. The telegram was sent to my home address and forwarded to my wife by my mother. The telegram arrived one month after my injury. My letters from the Repose were being returned to my unit and the unit, Radio and MC Company, was not forwarding any mail to me. I received no mail forwarded from my unit during my entire period of hospitalization. I told my wife to write to me at the 376th Station Hospital because I was not receiving mail from my unit. From that time on we had mail contact. I informed her of my injury and that I was okay. When I returned to my company, I was given about three months mail.
When she learned I was not receiving my mail, my maternal grandmother wrote to the Department of the Army, her two Senators, the Postmaster General and the Chairman of the Republican Party. Needless to say, she received prompt replies. Also, the Secretary of the Army wanted to know "why" I was not receiving my mail. The company wanted me to sign a statement that I had received my mail. I refused, saying I would only sign that I was now receiving my mail, not while in the hospital. This did not make me popular with the company commander, Captain "Ashcan."
Except for two officers, Captain Paradise and Lieutenant Shankman, I had no favorable comments about the company or battalion officers in the 51st Signal Battalion. For the most part its officers were aloof and distant from the enlisted. I felt their leadership was poor. This poor leadership was, in my opinion, the lack of concern for the enlisted soldier. From lieutenant to general, an officer has a responsibility for the welfare of his troops. The essence of military leadership is looking out for the troops. My hospitalization is one example of poor leadership in my unit. As I said, I never received any mail--even after I wrote the company 1st Sergeant during my hospitalization.
I stayed on the Repose about three weeks. During that time I was an ambulatory patient waiting for my wrist to heal. The USNS Repose, civilian crew, was commissioned USS Repose, all navy crew. Doctors, nurses, medical personnel, did not change. They were USN. Those of us on board at the time believed the meals were better when the crew--galley crew anyway, were civilian. We had a South Korean band to entertain us one day. They played both concert and swing music.
Casualties continued to arrive. A few days after I arrived there was a British officer from a Scottish unit--Seaforth, I believe--who was returning to his unit. He was on our ward and I noticed more than the usual number of nurses on our ward and about. They came to see the lieutenant go ashore. He was dressed wearing his kilt. I heard comments about "nice legs" from some nurses, and saw a smile or two. There was one Australian and two British soldiers in the ward I was on. The Protestant chaplain (I believe his name was White) visited all patients several times during my stay. The Catholic chaplain seemed only to visit Catholics. On his only visit to me, he questioned my not being a Catholic when I had a French name.
While I was recuperating, I followed the news about Korea by reading newspapers, Stars and Stripes daily, news magazines, and talking to recently arrived patients on the war. Because I was not considered well enough to go back to duty and space was needed for casualties more serious, a few others and I were evacuated to Japan. Our group of patients flew from Korea to Japan. The aircraft began to take off and then returned to the flight line. The flight nurse said there was a mechanical problem and we would have to wait until it was fixed. After about an hour or more the problem was fixed and we began another take-off. One of the patients remarked, "I hope we make it this time. Today is Friday the 13th!" There were seven navy men on the plane with us. They were either navy crewmen off a minesweeper that had been sunk or navy corpsmen from the 1st Marine Division.
On the medical evacuation flight from Korea to Japan, we landed at Fukuoka and stayed overnight at the army hospital, then continued on to the 376th. Sometime during the night I woke up and a nurse was standing at the bedside. She said, "You have been talking in your sleep." She held my left hand and said, "Squeeze." Then she said, "Your arm will be all right," and walked away. It was the first time I ever held hands with a major. The ward was quiet except for mumbles and sleep talking by some casualties. Two patients began talking in their sleep, one trying to get his machine gun in action, the other answering him!
The 376th Station Hospital had both army and air force doctors and nurses. There were various casualties. Most on my ward were ambulatory. I had no reason to go on more serious wards. We had one patient in the hospital who arrived from the 1st Cavalry Division in Korea. He was 70 years old and a veteran of the Spanish American War. He had lied about his age and re-enlisted. He had a heart attack while digging a foxhole and was evacuated to the 376th where his true age was discovered or became known.
When I returned to Korea, it was by the US Army Transport USAT James O'Hara. The ship had just arrived from the States carrying National Guard personnel and reservists called to active duty, so I returned to Korea with other former patients and about 600 army replacements. Because I was an NCO (Corporal), a Navy Chief gave me a bunk in one of the cabins with three other NCOs. The three NCOs were all reservists called to active duty.
I was ready to return to Korea. I had no fear or dread. Although I wanted to return, I wanted to be assigned to a different unit, preferably an infantry division. Instead of the infantry, I was returned to the 51st Signal Battalion, I Corps, in November 1950 and assigned to the Radio Platoon, Radio and Message Center Company. The 51st was providing communications for I Corps headquarters at Sinanju, approximately 45 miles north of Pyongyang in North Korea. There were some radio teams assigned liaison or temporary duty at various I Corps units. Communications included wire and telephone (Wire Company) and radio relay stations, radio operator teams at corps, division, and battalions, and communication center operations at I Corps (Radio and MC Company).
It was in December of 1950 that I saw the enemy for the first time. When I saw dead enemy, I felt indifference. When I saw dead Americans, I felt sorrow and faced the realization that it could happen to me. The first American dead that I saw were five bodies in a row alongside the road from near Sinanju. The bodies were covered and only the boots were showing.
As I mentioned before, I did not like assignment to Radio Relay Platoon when I got to Korea the first time, but due to injuries I never operated with the platoon. I was assigned to Radio Platoon at I Corps Headquarters as radio operator after my return from hospitalization. I preferred Radio Platoon. Unit morale was good when we first landed in Korea, and after my return from hospitalization I noticed that the morale still seemed good.
We sent messages of the command, tactical, and administrative sort. Depending on the situation, location, and radio station, messages were sent by voice or Morse code (CW) and in the clear or coded. Some stations were also capable of relaying telephone conversations (phone patch) between units. The radio equipment I operated most of the time was the SCR-399 radio van, mounted on a two and one-half ton truck. At other times I operated the SCR-608 mounted in a jeep. (SCR stands for Signal Corps Radio.) The range of the SCR-399 was approximately 250 miles. It could get more range when we were able to use a long wire antenna. The long wire was normally used in a rear area or fixed station. Mobile operations used a whip antenna. The range for the SCR-608 was approximately 20-25 miles. The range of equipment depended on location, terrain, weather, power source, AM or FM frequency, and voice or CW.
The radio van SCR-399 was a small van/box housing unit on the bed of a two and a half ton army truck. There was a small door or hatch at the rear of the truck bed for entrance. We had to step over and into the unit. Inside the van opposite of the hatch was a transmitter about two feet by two feet and four feet high. The operator's table/shelf was along one side and there were radio receivers and a telephone in front of the operator. There was also a key (CW) and mic (voice). I believe there were two operating positions. Operators sat on a bench about the center of the unit. There was about six feet (or less) of height inside for standing room.
The difference in operating radio equipment under combat conditions as opposed to operating the equipment under non-combat conditions was that someone was trying to kill us. The radio antenna was a target for the enemy, so they searched for it. Regardless if it was a man-pack radio, vehicle mounted, or in a building, it became a target for enemy gunners. Destroy the radio station and a means of communicating was lost. A commander needed communications to control the movement of his troops. Sometimes radio direction (DF) equipment was used to locate a radio station and, once located, destroy it. In Korea, it was usually destroyed by artillery fire. Radio equipment might not always be located in a desirable location because of combat conditions. Enemy radio jamming caused some problems or deception in trying to enter on friendly radio frequency. An infantry company radio man with a man-pack radio had no friends. They "moved away" because the antenna marked him. Other units did not always welcome the radio vehicle. "Don't set up here"--the antenna was a target for the enemy.
It was very hot in September when I first arrived in Korea, with the temperature an estimated 90 degrees and humidity trying to match it. Relief from the heat was to wear the minimum clothing allowed. After return to my unit in November, it was cold and getting colder. In the next few months I learned by on-the-job training how to survive in cold weather. I also had on-the-job training with regards to the operation of radio equipment under combat conditions. Since there was a shortage of cold weather clothing, I had some items mailed from home--socks, scarf, gloves. I survived the cold weather by learning to accept it and finding ways to combat it. I wore the right amount of clothing needed to keep warm but not work up a sweat underneath. (Perspiration could cause chills when body heat lowered.) I wore one of two pairs of socks, depending on the thickness. Boots too tight because of socks could slow down circulation, causing the feet to become colder. I learned to keep an air pocket between the top of my finger and glove finger so the finger did not get as cold. On one occasion, my hands were so cold I urinated on my fingers for warmth, then immediately re-gloved my hands.
At Sinanju we were informed of the Chinese breakthrough from the Yalu and were told by I Corps headquarters to prepare for movement south. The Second Infantry Division caught hell as they pulled back. During the evacuation from Sinanju we did not set up in a building. All radio operations were from the radio van SCR-399. I was assigned guard duty at one of the security posts during the night. Around midnight I noticed some figures in the distance coming in my direction. When they got nearer I challenged them, but got no response. Trying to decide if I should fire or not, I challenged for the last time. One of the figures replied in English, "We're Americans." Finally I recognized them as American soldiers. After a few swear words at them for wandering about the area and not identifying themselves, I learned that they were from an artillery unit moving into position and they were looking for some firewood. Why I did not shoot at them I will never know.
After we began the move south, my radio team made several jumps. A jump was when one team leapfrogged or passed another to set up at a new position. The jumped team then repeated the process. Again, many roads going south were heavy with traffic--soldiers, trucks and tanks, and refugees and civilian carts. At one stop while operating from a position alongside the road, we talked to some soldiers from the British 27th Brigade. Another time we gave some C-rations to two American soldiers. I don't remember the unit, only that it was foot-slogging infantry.
In Pyongyang we set up on a small hill and saw Turkish soldiers for the first time. It seemed to me that they all had moustaches and were six feet tall. I believe it was 5 December when we pulled out of Pyongyang. I remember seeing a train overloaded with civilians fleeing south. People were all over the train--inside, top, side, and between box cars. The locomotive was loaded almost the same. It looked like everyone in Pyongyang was trying to ride the train. Indescribable.
Most of the city seemed to be on fire when we left. Warehouses, supply dumps, buildings, and military installations were all destroyed one way or another. Supposedly some tanks were left on railroad cars, however it may have been a rumor. It was reported that the Chinese were using camels to transport some of their supplies.
During this time period, I reported to battalion headquarters for a new assignment. I had just arrived late at night from an assignment and the temperature was probably in the single digit. One officer began a conversation with me. I believe it was Captain Paradise. Although I do not remember the conversation, I do remember how he reached down into the lower drawer of his field desk and brought out a bottle of whiskey. He told me, "Have a drink. It will warm you up." The drink burned going down and became a ball of fire in my stomach. It did provide a feeling of warmth.
We stopped at Sariwon while bridges to the city were destroyed. The destruction of bridges was a way to slow the advance of Chinese forces. The radio team provided communications between Corps Headquarters and other units. While there overnight, I had my first bath in weeks. The village we were located at had a round concrete barrel-like tub, heated underneath by a fire. We skimmed the crud off the water and had a bath. I believe I was the sixth person in the tub--same water for all.
About mid-December defensive positions were set up around Seoul. It was at this time that I had the most contact with ROK soldiers, and that was due to traffic accidents. Near Seoul on 24 December 1950, a ROK truck crashed into our parked radio van and moved the rear about one and a half feet. On the opposite side of the vehicle I was resting under my shelter half, which was tied to the truck. Also during the Seoul evacuation, a ROK truck crashed into a power unit trailer. In another accident, the commander of the Eighth Army, Lieutenant General Walton H. Walker, was killed when a truck from the ROK 6th Division suddenly pulled out in front of his speeding vehicle. That crash happened on 22 December.
For about two weeks until the first of 1951 there was sort of a lull in enemy activity. At that time the 8th Royal Irish Hussars of the British 29th Brigade were in reserve and located across the road from our radio van. The Hussars were an armored unit of Centurion tanks. I became acquainted with several of the British soldiers. One, a sergeant, was later captured by the Chinese. During November-December I did not serve with any of the foreign forces in Korea. My assignments during that period of time put me in contact with the Turks whom I could not understand and the British, whom I understood much better.
The weather was cold, estimated to be 15 degrees to zero and below. Although I grew up in a warm climate, I adjusted to the cold very well, especially compared to my buddies. Most of them wore more extra clothing than I did. Our cold weather clothing was regular underwear, sometimes two pairs of socks, sometimes two trousers, one shirt, one sweat shirt, field jacket with liner, fatigue hat, scarf, and gloves. I never received even one of the winter parkas, hats, or thermal boots. I didn't want thermal boots because they caused the feet to sweat. Wet feet could freeze when we were not moving around. I felt the cold for the most part in my fingers and feet. The temperature was so cold it could freeze vehicle motor or power equipment, especially if not operating. According to a letter I wrote on 13 January 1951, "Last night was the coldest night we've had yet. I swear it was. I worked all night and at 6:30 the power unit went out and I froze trying to start it. Never did. I was trying for 90 minutes and my hands got so cold my fingers got numb. I had to get in the truck to thaw them out. I sure felt sorry for the guys in the infantry last night."
During the year 1951, I was assigned to the 51st Signal Battalion and later the 4th Signal Battalion as a radio operator, both voice and CW. During this period of time I served on temporary duty (TDY) with the 25th Infantry Division, 29th Independent British Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, IX Corps Headquarters, 300th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, and the 196th Field Artillery Battalion. I also served for one or two days with the 8th Cavalry and 187th Regimental Combat Team (RCT). About the middle of December to the first of January operations were pretty quiet north of the Seoul area and where we were set up. I operated one of the Corps' radio stations for a while. On the first of January, New Year's Day 1951, the Chinese opened up their offensive and troops gave way. The Chinese rushed through the hole or gap in the line and I Corps began a retreat called a retrograde movement.
For the withdrawal (retreat) south, I was assigned a radio team that was attached to the Lion CP, the 25th Infantry Division. One of the operators was a guy named Rose, but I do not remember the name of the other operator. A liaison officer--a captain, was sent with us to the CP. I stayed there overnight and another day. After about a day and a half of operations mostly working I Corps evacuation for the evacuation of the city, everyone was leaving. About that time several of my communications problems began. First, my power unit--a PE-95 carburetor, went out and we went off the air. (The radio equipment for SCR-399 was powered by a PE-95 power unit mounted on a trailer.) Of course, the Captain believed it must have been some fault of ours, raised hell, and told us to go down the road and try to find an engineering unit. We went south looking for repair facilities to try and fix the power unit. We had to go quite a way. It took several hours, but we finally found a unit at Yongdong-po. They replaced the carburetor for us and we came back to Seoul.
That afternoon and evening it seemed like everyone else in Korea was trying to move south across the Han River bridge. The main highway bridge across the Han had been destroyed by the ROK army earlier in the war. There were two floating army engineer bridges for the military to use and a foot bridge for the civilians. Troops, trucks, tanks, and other vehicles were crossing on the floating bridges that day. In returning to Seoul (this was by that time late at night), we had to work our way back against the traffic. This was quite a feat because everyone was leaving the city. We had a hard time reentering, crossing the bridge. Some of the British Centurion tanks were on the road and we had to clear a path for them and move to the side of the road.
By the time we managed to get back into Seoul, it must have been midnight or after and the city was deserted--or at least seemed deserted. We were trying to drive through the streets of the city, when we saw fires and flares in the background and heard noises. Things were going on within the city or outside the city that we did not know about, and we were trying to find a way back to the Lion CP. I remember we drove down this one street and there was nothing. All of a sudden we came to a roadblock and were a little apprehensive at the time. Out of the shadows came two American MPs and we told them that we were looking for the Lion CP. The Lion CP was the headquarters up front for the 27th Regiment (Wolfhounds) of the 25th Infantry Division commanded by Col. John H. "Mike" Michaelis. The 27th provided the rear guard for the evacuation through Seoul. They said, "Well, you can't go here any further. The city's closed off. The Chinese are at the other end. You'll have to find another route."
We turned around and went on down through the city. Somewhere we either came under enemy fire or took fire from someone--a few shots at us. We managed to make our way and finally found the Lion CP. At this time it was 2:00 a.m. I remember going back into the CP and looking for the captain to report that we were back. In the CP at the time was Marguerite Higgins, the famed war correspondent. I know more about her now than I did at the time. She looked pretty bedraggled herself. Worn out. She asked where I had come from and I said, "Yongdong-po. Just came across the river and through the city. Deserted as hell except for snipers and fires." After these few words, I moved on. I gave no thought about her being at the Lion CP. There were women war correspondents during World War II. After my return from Korea, I bought a copy of her book and thought it good. I still have a copy on my library shelf.
When the Chinese attacks began on Seoul, many civilians began to flee, most on foot, some riding, others pushing two-wheeled carts. Those that could not get across any of the bridges fled across the ice on the Han River. Women with children and babies, people carrying the old and sick. Some had bundles of personal goods on their backs or carried them on their heads or in their arms. Some did not survive trying to cross on the ice. The military used the floating bridges in what seemed to be an unbroken flow of traffic. By daylight the city had pretty well been cleared and the only ones left were the few troops that would be falling back to the Han River to hold position there.
As we were leaving the CP to evacuate (everyone was pretty well gone by that time), the liaison officer came roaring up in his jeep to where my set was and said, "Let's move out." About that time the fan belt on the truck broke and we couldn't move. Oh, god! Looking through our gear we found a spare fan belt and put it on. Unfortunately, when trying to place the new fan belt in position using a tire iron to stretch it, the tire iron slipped and punctured a hole in the radiator. The generator had also burned out and that's probably why the previous fan belt had busted. At this time the captain roared back and was really raising hell, screaming about how we were going to have to blow up the truck. The captain sped off in a cloud of dust, never to be seen again. I have no memories of him after that. As I stood in the street watching the captain's jeep fade into the distance, a tank came rumbling up from behind. Saved by the US Cavalry!
The tank crew hooked up a cable from the truck and gave us a tow until the truck started. After a heartfelt thanks to the tank crew, we were left on our own. With the generator not working properly and overheating the engine, causing water to boil out of the punctured radiator, the vehicle was smoking and not running well. Still, we managed to get across the Han River bridge. In a letter to my wife, I mentioned that I had talked to members of Company K, 27th Regiment of the 25th Division at the particular portion of the bridge that was being held. Next to them on the other side was a unit from the Thai army.
After watching the Air Force jets bomb and strafe the advancing Chinese, a colonel turned to me and told me to find my way back to my outfit. We left the Han River and started driving south towards Suwon looking for I Corps Headquarters or our unit. During this travel south, the road conditions were crowded with units moving south. A ROK army truck came up behind us and the driver (who was not a very good driver), smashed into the back of my power unit and knocked it out.
We finally reached Headquarters. My team and I managed to get some food--the first we had had in two days. We received word that we were to continue on, make the next jump, and then go on straight through to Osan and set up there. After that we continued on down from Osan to Suwon, where we set up positions while the forces dug in.
I never had to defend myself with a personal weapon because I only saw the enemy from a distance. I did have to close down radio operations due to enemy artillery fire, however. No one in radio platoon was killed or wounded that I remember. Some wiremen were killed. I do not know about radio relay platoon. Years later I learned that one of our good platoon leaders, Lieutenant Stanley Paul Shankman, was later killed in an aircraft crash in January 1952. Shankman enlisted in the United States Coast Guard in 1945 and was discharged in 1946 for appointment to the Military Academy at West Point. He graduated June 1950 and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Signal Corps. He was considered a "good officer" by his platoon. [Note 2008: The 51st Signal Battalion had a total of 13 casualties in Korea War--one MIA changed to dead and four KIA, all wiremen, and eight wound/injured in action.
I never saw the enemy up close except for prisoners or dead. Most of them looked old. They sometimes attacked UN forces in human waves with bugles and noise. Most fighting seemed to be during the day. Most infiltration, especially by guerrilla forces, seemed to be at night. When we crossed the 38th parallel going south towards Seoul, I noticed that someone had placed a sign there which read: "You are now crossing the 38th parallel by courtesy of the Chinese army."
We had very little contact with civilians. When located outside Seoul in December 1950, some of us had traveled into Seoul for a bath during the lull. We thought the owner charged too high a price. Some paid. Some did not. When set up in Suwon, one team leader had a local girlfriend. He had a telephone line from his radio vehicle (SCR-399) to her house so he could be contacted when needed. While he was on duty one day, the local police arrested her and she was gone. End of romance. In the rear area of I Corps, civilian children stood around the chow line and tried to get troops to give them some food. I remember the major who was the wire company commander kicking at a small Korean boy to chase him off.
While at Suwon, I took a radio jeep to the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division to replace one. I do not remember the location, but I do remember passing the 65th (Puerto Rico) Infantry Regiment. Twice I went out to the 29th Independent British Brigade with equipment or supplies. On one occasion, my second trip to the Brigade, we took a wrong turn in the road. My team was taking a PE-95 large power unit out to them. I noticed that we passed all of the artillery positions and other positions and that we were passing troops coming in. As we drove along, I saw a group of men coming towards us. I pulled up and asked the captain in charge, "Is the 29th Brigade up the road?" He said, "There's nothing up that road but Chinese. We're just a patrol coming back in." We went looking for a place to turn around. The only problem was, the road we were on was on one of those rice paddy embankments. We had to drive down the road quite a way before we could find a spot where the ground leveled off and we could turn around. We kept on going that way until we found a spot and turned around. We broke all speed limits as we went speeding back, found the right road, and then went on to the 29th British Brigade to give them the power unit.
In the headings of many of the letters I sent home from Korea during 1951 can be found the dates and locations of where I was at the time:
Near the end of January or first of February 1951, I remember going with a task force for a short period with communications. I don't remember if it was Task Force Allen or not. I do remember the division commander being General Hobart B. "Shotgun Gay." Supposedly he always enjoyed running around in his jeep with his shotgun across his lap. There was a reconnaissance force or probing operation going back toward Seoul to probe the enemy out. I remember the unit at the time because of a radio operator named Murphy who had been a radio operator in the 51st Signal Battalion and requested a transfer. He was assigned to this outfit. During the operation, I remember running across and talking to him. He was with the First Cavalry Division, 8th Regiment. I don't remember just where it was when I was with the Northumberland Fusiliers, but judging from a map of Korea that my wife used to keep track of my travels, I believe it was when we were at Koksu. During that same period of time we were at Kimwha-ni.
On 22 June 1951, I was at Andong. I wrote, "I'm on a train going to Wonju. Left Taegu last night. Been in Andong all day." It was there that I observed an American army office, a colonel, slap a ROK soldier or civilian across the face, then use both hands to hit him on the ears. There was some type of questioning going on at the train station. On 25 June 1951 I wrote, "Left Yongdon-po the 20th almost six at night. Rode a boxcar with MP guards as far as Taegu. Got in Taegu after noon and left Wonju about six that night. Took another freight all the way. Had to spend one day in Andong and then got in Wonju about one the next afternoon. Rode a truck to X Corps headquarters, Haesong, I believe it is."
29th British Brigade
Because my company was a combat support unit providing radio communications for Corps headquarters and other units, we had very little contact with other troop nationalities. Operations were in rear areas, not up front. Individuals and teams were sent up front on temporary assignment (TDY). It was in the middle of the month of February that I was assigned to the 29th British Brigade with my liaison team. I stayed with the British for maybe almost a month or month and six weeks. I don't remember exactly where we were all the time, but according to a letter to my wife on 19 February, I had been with the Northumberland Fusiliers during an attack on one of the hills. I remember that my wife wrote that she did not approve at all. At one time there were 35 Americans with the Brigade. They were radio operators, wiremen, a cook, liaison officers, and Americans from other units. They weren't all from our unit.
The 29th also had a Korean guard force, and I remember seeing a guard mount or a guard inspection at one time when the Koreans were wearing the British army uniform. A Korean NCO was inspecting the guard. I remember that one of the guards did not have the correct answer or something and the Korean NCO belted, hit him in the face using physical violence. It seemed to be an accepted behavior--at least among the Korean troops. I also remember a Korean infiltrator or possible Communist sympathizer who was being interrogated around this same time. They had him down with a two by four behind his legs and the guy was sitting on his legs with the two by four behind him. They were interrogating him. They didn't seem to get any information out of him. Later on there was a couple of shots and this supposed Communist was shot.
When I served with the British 29th Brigade, there were the Gloustershires, King's Royal Irish Hussars, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, and the Royal Ulster Rifles. All seemed to be good troops. It was said that the RURs were a rough, tough group. The 8th Hussars were across the road from our radio vehicle when we were outside Seoul in December 1950. One British sergeant I knew from the 8th Hussars was captured by the Chinese in 1951. He was Sgt. Fred Andrews, 20 Hill Street, Kettering, Northants, Great Britain. I contacted his wife, who lived in England, to inform her that I knew her husband and was sorry to learn of his capture. She replied that other than the 29th Brigade chaplain, no one had written to her about her husband or told her how he was captured. His sister was married to a former GI and lived in Texas, but I was not able to visit her after my return to the States.
We were treated very, very well by the British forces when we were with them. We received the same rations they did. The NCOs received a rum or whiskey ration. Usually the complaints the Americans had while with the brigade was the food, American rations being different than the British rations. Americans especially missed having their coffee, but they got used to having the tea and tea time. Later we had our own cook sent out in our little mess section and the Americans had their own rations and their own kitchen set up for their meals. Many of the Americans attached to the brigade found it hard to get used to the idea that the British had their tea time once in the morning, again in the afternoon, and then again in the evening. When it was tea time, everything pretty well stopped. No matter what was going on, war or no war, they had their tea.
I remember on one occasion my team was near the end of a convoy when the 29th pulled back into reserve. As we were driving to Yongdong-po, we kept passing various vehicles alongside the road. Their occupants were having tea. By the time we reached our new destination or CP, it seemed to me that we were almost leading in the convoy. When forming the convoy and preparing for departure, a young British officer came up to me and said, "Are you in charge of this vehicle?" I said, "Yes, Sir." "Well," he said. "I want you to get nipping." Later on I was informed he was killed in action. His name was Alexander and he was the son or a relative of General Viscount Alexander.
We had ROK guards at I Corps for security. Units also provided some guards, especially at night. In a letter dated 18 May 1951, I wrote, "Before I left the outfit I was on guard and from my post I could see the planes taking off from Seoul airport. The night I was on, a fighter crashed on its take off. It got about 50 feet off the ground and then crashed into that bomber that crash-landed last month. The fire burned for hours and we could still see other fighters taking off or returning from missions."
During the three months after my tour with the 29th British Brigade, approximately from the end of March until sometime in June, I had short tours, on occasion only myself with a radio jeep. I went to the 187th RCT for the airborne drop at Munsan-ni, to the 3rd Infantry Division, and the IX Corps Headquarters for a short period of time. While serving with the 3rd Division, we participated in the third battle for Seoul. It was the second time I had participated in the defense of Seoul. In this case, the enemy had been north of Seoul for a while and had tried to cut off the northern route and road. We had to go through this and while we were driving, we hit a body on occasion. The Chinese were making an all-out attack and all-out effort on the city. I remember one vehicle had a large sign on it that was pointing south and which said, "This way out." The enemy tried to take the city by mass attack and they were piled up on the barbed wire outside the city. They just kept on coming with their bells, symbols, screeching, hollering, and bugles--the entire noise bag. They were just wiped out.
Sometime in the month of June 1951, one other operator named Leo F. Schor and I were transferred to the 4th Signal Battalion in the X Corps area. My job then was to operate at the Corps' radio stations until September when I was transferred to the 300th Armored Field Artillery.
We hitchhiked south to a railhead and caught a train on the narrow gauge railroad that was going over the mountains toward the X Corps area. During this period of time, there was a lot of guerrilla activity behind the Corps areas from Chinese and North Korean units that had been cut off. It was on this trip that we passed through the village of Andong. We stopped there that night and pretty soon there was all kinds of noise and firing started. The town was under attack by a guerrilla unit. The soldiers on the train--guards from the 772 MP Battalion, started firing back, screaming, "Get this goddamn train going" and "Let's get out of here." We started moving out and the town was still under attack as we left.
X Corps Headquarters was located in Hongchong at the time. I stayed there and operated with the Corps Headquarters until the end of August. Then I was sent on liaison duty from September to December with radio teams at two of the artillery units in the Inje Valley area. We operated the Corps artillery net. (All Corps artillery was supposedly tied in on one radio network communicating back to Corps Headquarters.) This included all units of the Marine artillery, including the Marine artillery that was located near us. The two units I served with were National Guard units--the 300th Armored Field Artillery from Wyoming and the 196th Field Artillery from Tennessee. For the most part these units were in support of the First Marine Division which operated up forward of us. From my perspective, the cooperation between Marine and Army artillery units was good. On 2 October we saw a Marine liaison plane go down. He had just taken off and we could see he was in trouble. He went down in a river. We jumped into a jeep and went to the spot. No one was hurt.
The 300th Armored Field was a self-propelled unit set up on a hillside within the Inje Valley. It was there that the enemy infiltrators came in and knocked off B Battery outpost one night. One of the rumors at the time was that one of the enemy soldiers actually was sitting in the back of the area watching a movie being shown on the side of one of the artillery trucks. I'm not sure about enemy small arms, but enemy artillery and mortars were sometimes very effective. In the Inje Valley area, we felt there was an improvement in enemy accuracy. During this period of time, the valley came under enemy Chinese shellfire on several occasions. Those of us from the 300th Armored stood on the hill and watched the valley below as the artillery batteries and units down there came under fire. We were at too high an angle for the firing to reach us. Our problem seemed to be infiltrators or enemy ground movement more than it was artillery fire. In a few weeks, however, I found myself down in the valley under artillery fire and looking up toward the mountain, wishing I was back up there.
On 27-29 September, while serving with the 300th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, I woke up one night with great pain in my stomach. I went to the battalion medic, was given medicine, and threw it up later. I was sent to the Marine hospital unit about 10-15 miles behind lines. After a few days I returned to duty. My illness was worms. I was treated good at the hospital unit by navy corpsmen and Marines. A Marine truck driver going up front gave me a ride back to the 300th FA.
About the end of September I was assigned to the 196th Field Artillery which was down in the valley floor. This unit was set up by a stream bed and was operating Corps artillery fire missions and normal artillery procedures. We came under artillery fire. On one occasion, the Marine unit on the road across from us came under enemy fire. The Chinese hit the ammo dump. There was a fire and shells exploded. One of the Marines got on a bulldozer and started pushing the burning ammo out of the way and smothered the fire. While he was doing this the enemy fire and explosions continued.
Normally when we were under enemy fire, we continued to operate right on through and didn't worry too much about the shelling unless it actually really looked like it was getting close. Several times we had to leave our van and take cover. On 5 October 1951, we came under particularly heavy enemy shelling. This time it seemed the Chinese artillery was becoming more accurate. Later on it was rumored that one of the Korean mess boys who had been working amongst the artillery units in the field kitchens was a spy for the Chinese and the North Koreans. He was giving them information as to the gun positions.
The first shell to hit our area on 5 November shook the van. I remember it very well. It just shook everything. As we looked out, we could see this pile of smoke coming up in the air and we knew it was close this time. We shut down the van, went off the air, and crawled in alongside the truck. A large ditch had been dug in which to place the vehicle and we went into the large hole with the van that night. For some reason unknown to myself to this day, I said, "Everyone to the bunker." We had never been to the bunker before. We took off to the bunkers and just as we started to leave, I could hear this whistle coming in behind us. As we jumped over the embankment into the bunker, I turned around and looked back. A big smoke cloud was coming up from where the truck had been. The shell had landed at the front of the truck and blew shrapnel through everything. (I was supposedly recommended for a commendation medal for service with the 196th Field Artillery Battalion. It was never received. However, I did receive the Navy Presidential Unit Citation for the 196th Field Artillery support to the First Marine Division.)
The correct nomenclature for the radio van was SCR-399, powered by a PE-95 generator (power) trailer unit. When the enemy shelling knocked out the van, I looked over the bunker trench after the explosion and I could see the power unit operating, although it had been shut off. In front of the unit radiator was a pair of socks, recently washed and hung out to dry. I remember laughing about the socks flapping in the breeze against a background of smoke, dust, etc. The enemy shell fragments had cut the cable between the power unit and the van about 50 feet away. When the cable was cut it started the power unit. In a few minutes the unit shut off because it was out of gas. Shell fragments had also gone through the gas tank, causing the gas to empty out.
Shortly after this incident I received promotion to sergeant (the old/former Staff Sergeant rank and insignia). Then a few weeks later, I received notification that my tour was over. By December I was on my way back to the States. Christmas was spent at sea aboard ship.
8 January 1951
Have been busy the last few days and haven't had much time for writing. I did get a card mailed yesterday. We moved south again and will probably go on to Taegu or Pusan, or even be pushed off completely.
At our last stop I was sent with my radio truck to the 25th Division at Seoul and stayed there overnight. The next day the situation got bad and we set up in Seoul. We were working Corps evacuation and had a captain in charge of us. Everyone was leaving Seoul that night and then my troubles began. The carburetor on my power unit went out and we were off the air. The captain raised hell and sent us to Yongdong-po to get it fixed. It was four o'clock before we got back. Everyone had cleared Seoul so we were supposed to leave with the C.P. and my fan belt on the truck was busted. I found one from a truck and put it on. Next the generator wasn't working and that was what burned the other belt up. By that time the C.P. had left and the captain was chewing me out but good, as if it was my fault! I got a tank to get me started and we got across the Han River. The captain was ready to blow up my truck if it didn't start. After we crossed the river the colonel turned me loose and I got a tow to the outfit, thirty miles away. I put my truck in the motor pool for repairs, had dinner, washed, and was told to get ready to leave. I went out with a jump team and drove fifty more miles that night. It was early morning when we got here. I slept in the truck that night I was so tired. I was tired, ate once in two days and had all kinds of troubles, everything happens at once. Some ROK truck hit the one in back of me and it crashed into my power unit and I had to leave it behind.
When I crossed the Han River and was waiting to get a tow to Sariwon, I watched the air force jets dive on the other side of Seoul, shooting Chinks up all day. Seoul sure didn't last long when the Chinks made their drive. The 1st ROK Division broke and ran again and left a hole in the line. The tankers I knew from the 29th British Brigade were rushed up for support. Some of the tanks are missing and the guys I knew also. That last night in Seoul reminded me of Pyongyang. The sky was all red from fires burning and explosions. When I returned to Seoul that night from Yongdong-po I reported to the C.P. and saw that woman war correspondent there. Margaret Higgins is her name I think. She was in "Life" magazine about four months ago.
(Note: It was the "Lion" C.P. [25th Division] and our conversation was only a few words. Something like: "Where did you come in from?" "Yongdong-po. Just came across the bridge and through the city. Deserted as hell except for snipers and fires." At the time I did not know her name was spelled Marguerite Higgins. Seoul evacuation: buildings burning, explosions, smoke, no police, looters at large, refugees trying to cross Han River over a single footbridge for their use. Refugees not allowed to use the two bridges that UN troops crossed over. Sign on one jeep, below windshield, "Leaving Body & Seoul."
13 January 1951 Chonan
Did I tell you I almost went to the 29th British Brigade the other day? Was going but would have had to give up my truck and team so another guy went in my place. Otherwise I would have gone. We have two radio trucks there and all over, some of the divisions and ROKs. The rest of us are with Corps. I know some men in the 29th from the 8th Irish Hussars. When the drive for Seoul started I heard ten of them were lost. I've been looking for two sergeants I know from the Hussars. I don't know if they were lost or not. Knew a Polish guy also in that outfit. He was a very nice fellow. Spent four years in a German concentration camp, escaped and fought with the Polish army in Italy, etc. He can't go home to Poland because of the Russians so he's in the British army now.... The 29th has no use for the ROKs. The ROKs were supposed to be guarding one flank and when the Chinks came they left the British to shift for themselves. When Seoul was being evacuated I was set up along the road and watched the trucks roll through, saw a lot of the 29th but none of the Hussars.
15 February 1951 Suwon
Been busy the last few days, went out to the 3rd Division and twice to the 29th British Brigade. Had to take a power unit. Got to go now, just got orders that the radio team I'm on is going out to the 29th Brigade to replace the team there. Will finish this letter later.
Later: Well, we're at the 29th Brigade now. Artillery fire been going on all afternoon now. Air Force jets were at work also.
The day I brought a power unit out to the 29th I took a wrong turn and was going in the wrong direction. I wasn't sure when I passed the artillery, but when I passed the second patrol of infantry facing me, I knew. I asked some captain in charge of the second patrol if the 29th was up the road. He said nothing was up there except shell from the artillery. So I found a rice paddy and back I went till I found the right road. The next day I took a radio jeep out to the 29th Signal Officer. Now I'm assigned out here for a while....
28 April 1951 3rd Infantry Division
We are set up at Seoul University and it is surprising the buildings are still standing....
The Chinks tried to cut off the Uijong'bu-Seoul road so we would have been cut off when we were falling back. There was a battalion on the hill to one side of us but they never got to the road. Some managed to put up a road block once but everyone went through firing like mad, and chinks jumping up in the rice paddies or running across the roads firing back....
(Note: It was Ewa College, not Seoul University)
11 June 1951 Uijongbu
I remember when Jay Warren, a little guy in our outfit was on Task Force Allen to Kimpo. He was driving one of the radio jeeps down the road when General Allen went to flag him down. He didn't have any brakes and he kept on going so two Lieutenants grabbed the back of the jeep to slow him down. So here goes Jay down the road, almost runs over General Allen with the two Lieutenants flying behind. As he passed the General he gave a very short speech, "No brakes." The General said "get that damn fool off the road before he kills somebody!" When Corby first arrived at the outfit, Jay drove him over the mountains to one of the new locations and after he got there Jay said, "I'm sure glad we made it." Corby said, "So am I." Then Jay told him it was the first time in his life that he had driven a two and a half ton truck! [Note from Jack Jaunal 2008: Oscar Corby was from Longview, Washington. He served one enlistment in the army prior to World War II.]
You know it's a wonder the Chinks ever got as far as they did last time, barb wire from here to Seoul, Chinks all over it when we started up again. You would have to see it to believe it.
25th June 1951
I left Yongdong-po the 20th about six at night, rode a boxcar with the MP guards as far as Taegu. Got in Taegu after noon and left for Wonju about six that night. Took another freight all the way. Had to spend one day in Andong and then got in Wonju about one the next afternoon. Rode a truck to X Corps headquarters, Haesong I believe it is. No one at X Corps knew anything about us and yesterday this other guy and myself came to the 4th Signal. This outfit is what the 51st is for I Corps. So it looks as if I will finish my time in this outfit....
When we rode the train up from Taegu we ran into some guerrillas. We rode on an ammo train with the MP guards, and at this one stop before Andong was where the guerrillas came out. It was at night and we were stopped in this station when we heard a lot of yelling and a couple of shots were fired. We pulled out a few minutes later. The guerrillas have been hitting the stations along the way....
(Note: While on one of the trains I met a ROK army doctor and Korean nurse. The doctor was interested in learning English, and American songs, so I taught him and the nurse the words to Chattanooga Choo-Choo. The doctor spoke fairly good English, the nurse none.)
17 September 1951 Up Front, Korea
.... haven't had time to write, I've been busy. I am out on a team again. I don't know just where I am except near the front. We are working with Corps artillery. I'm with the 300th armored field artillery battalion. It is a National Guard outfit from Wyoming that got in Korea about the end of January and went into action in May. It is a pretty good outfit. There are quite a few N.G. artillery outfits over here. I'm with Headquarters Battery, set up on the side of a hill in this valley. The rest of the batteries are behind us, and then some Marine artillery behind them. A battery in the artillery is the same as a company in other units. Two days ago the Chinks dropped a few rounds of fire in the valley. They landed in the vacant spots and didn't do any damage. One Marine was killed by shrapnel along the road, but that was about all.
The nights are getting COLD now. Between the cold and the artillery firing I don't get much sleep at night. It is about time we were issued some winter sleeping bags. The days are still warm enough....
I sure ate a lot of dust coming up here. I rode in the back of a jeep and I haven't seen so much dust in a long, long time. The Battery behind us just sent some "outgoing mail" to the Chinks. Hope the Chinks don't send any "incoming mail."
21 September 1951 300th Armored F.A. Battalion
... had a little excitement... one or maybe more "gooks" infiltrated our lines and shot up "B" Battery's outpost. Sprayed their tent with a burp-gun and three grenades. They shot up three men, one pretty bad. Don't know if he died later or not. He had a bullet in his brain. One was shot through the eye, so it may have been him. It happened about mid-night. I know because I woke up when one grenade landed on the hill by our tent. Whoever it was threw two Russian type grenades on our side of the hill. Only one went off and it didn't do any damage except throw some dirt on the tent. At first we thought someone had stepped on a mine but found out the next day what was going on. We knew some "gooks" had shot up "B" Battery outpost though....
This afternoon we had some incoming stuff, first time in five days. It landed in the valley, twenty one rounds. Didn't do any damage that we could see. One came over a few minutes ago and landed on or near the road, couldn't tell for sure. They were coming over about every five minutes. We can almost time them....
2nd October 1951 Korea 196th FA Battalion
This afternoon we had incoming stuff and under the truck I went. It's all right as long as you can hear it whistle over. It all landed on the side of the hill to the side and rear of us. A couple landed near the road. One hit near the ammo boxes and started a fire. Some Marines were hit in one tent. We saw the medics carry them out. It was a Marine artillery outfit that was getting it this time.
That's the first time in over a week since anything was fired over here. Last time it happened we were with the 300th and could see it land down here. That is because we were on the hill in front of the valley. From where we are set up now I can see our old position. When the first round came over I didn't even know it. I was laying under my shelter reading my mail and one of our other ops was going to the "can" when it hit. He came pulling up his pants and it was sure funny. He said he could feel that shrapnel hitting his butt when the first one went over!
[Note from J. Jaunal: His name was Paul Braum or Braun.]
20 October 1951 196th FA Battalion
Had the Chinks shell "C" Battery the day before I left and they threw them in fast and true. We saw the mess tent go up "blewie." First time I ever heard and saw them come in so fast. Must have been a hundred come in at least....
The valley I was in was to the right of the Punch Bowl, one hill between us. I just don't know what the name of it is. All the same to me.
5 October 1951 196th FA
Had some excitement here yesterday. We lost our truck and all our personal equipment. A Chink '76 hit right by our set, missed it by three feet, put three holes in the radiator, and all over the front. One piece went through the housing unit and knocked our transmitter out. We had just got a small tent for our team--never slept in it, and -- swish! It was tore apart, our bunks, blankets, sleeping bag, parkas and clothes all had holes in them. What happened was yesterday the Chinks threw four rounds in close, one in the river and three on the hill by us. Then it was quiet for a while and everyone felt half-safe when some more came in. We were in our tent setting up when that one came in. One of our men, Braun, had just said "funny only four came in" and "wham," one landed near us! We came out of the tent and dived under the truck. Got up, looked around, and decided to run for a bunker behind us. We got there and "wham" one landed by the truck. Don't know why we decided to go but we did. Smartest move I ever made. One blew up part of our mess tent and some trucks got sprayed. No one was hurt but it kept us jumping till it got dark. When it is dark they never drop anything in -- yet. Our planes never did find that gun. You should have seen this one pair of boots. It was in shreds. My small cargo pack was missed so my socks, underwear, and pictures didn't get hit. My duffle bag was punctured quite a bit. The company sent up another truck and tent we will get some more clothes in a couple of days. The whole team could have been replaced if we wanted. We had a chance to go in. But we decided to stay out a while yet. I took some pictures of our ex-tent and truck and I hope they turn out. Just as we thought it was okay that lousy Chink sent one over and scared "H" out of us. I hurt my finger diving in a ditch. I think I knocked the knuckle out of joint. It is still swelled up a bit. It will be sore for a few days I guess.
I'll never know why we decided to leave the truck before it got hit. We have always hid under it. I was by the rear wheel and may have only been battered up at the most, but Braun was near the front wheel where it hit. After it landed I looked out of the bunker and all I could see was black smoke. I was sure the truck had been hit square. When the wrecking crew came up to tow our set back to the company we had "4th Sig Combat Team 12" printed on the sides!
When I received battalion orders to return to the States, I processed out at Yongdong-po, hiking along the mud flats for exercise. I then rode a truck to Pusan. Other than that, I remember very little about my last hours with my unit. They checked my name off the company roster, but I do not remember a records check or medical check. I left Pusan, Korea for Sasebo, Japan on 7 December 1951 by aircraft, arriving there on 7 December. I have not been back to Korea since my departure, and have no particular desire to return.
I left Sasebo aboard the Marine Adder for Seattle on 10 December. I was glad to leave Korea and not reluctant to leave my unit. I had almost 15 months in country, counting hospital time in Japan. I was eager to see my wife and son since we had been separated almost 18 months. The mood was cheerful on the ship. We were going home: "California, here I come." We were at sea at Christmastime and there was seasickness because of the rolling sea. Mess trays slipped and slid and cups did the same. It was difficult to eat even for those who were not seasick.
The ship made a straight shot to the USA, arriving at the port of Seattle on December 28, 1951. Seattle was the "Welcome Home, USA" city. Entering the port area, fireboats and a few other boats were out to greet us. There was an army band at the docking area, a chorus line of girl dancers (I believe they were known as the "Barkley Girls") from a local night club, and some families and friends of troops on the dock. Coming down the gangway, we were met by Miss Seattle or Seafair Queen. We were placed on buses and driven to Fort Lawton via a ticker-tape reception through the city along Second Avenue. I had a good feeling about being back in the States, and I was cheerful and happy. We had no liberty in Seattle. We rode buses to Ft. Lawton, where we were housed in tar paper-covered huts or barracks. There were about two days of processing: medical check, records check, veterans benefits explained, uniform issued if needed, pay if due, and orders to our new duty stations. I then rode the bus to Los Angeles and rejoined my family.
I do not remember any difficulties adjusting to home life after my return from Korea. There were a few weeks of adjusting for my son who, although he knew who I was, wanted his mother to do things for him. Other than a greater appreciation for life, I do not believe that Korea changed me in any way. If others noted a change in me, I was not informed or aware of it. I do not have any permanent disabilities associated with the war.
I completed my enlistment in the army serving in the 123rd Infantry Regiment ("1-2-3-GO"), 44th Infantry Division at Camp Cooke, California. My duty assignment was radio chief for regimental headquarters. The 44th Infantry Division was a national guard division federalized for service during the war in Korea. My company, Headquarters Company, was from Springfield, Illinois. There were several World War II veterans in the company. The communications chief was a former paratrooper of the 11th Airborne Division. His hometown buddies called him "Mom".
I did not go "wild" after return from Korea. I received my discharge from the US Army and enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve. Because I had three dependants, the recruiter recommended the USMCR and then request active duty. It would be faster than requesting a waiver. While waiting for orders from Headquarters Marine Corps, I worked as a journeyman electrician for Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. I had worked for Lockheed during World War II prior to enlistment in the U.S. Maritime Service. I wired Navy P2V aircraft. The company listed me as an electrician or journeyman electrician and I received a journeyman electrician book from the International Association of Machinists (IAM), North Hollywood Local. It surprised me; however, I never complained.
I enlisted in the Marine Corps because I had always wanted to be a Marine. Due to physical requirements, I was unable to enlist for service during World War II. I enlisted in the Marine Corps rather than re-enlisting in the army because I was very dissatisfied with army leadership in Korea, although I had no complaints about duty with the 123rd Infantry. In 1953 I was awarded the Purple Heart. By then I was in the Marine Corps (enlisted as a Private First Class) and off on another career.
I made service in the military my life's career until I retired from the Marine Corps in 1978. My wife did not like my decision of a military career, however, she did accept it. She handled it very well, although wartime service was a worry/difficult. My wife (deceased) and I have two sons, Garry, an attorney for Kirkland & Ellis, Chicago, and Brian, a high school history teacher for the Los Angeles school district. Garry served in the Marine Corps, "Semper Fi" and Brian served in the Army Rangers, "Airborne!" My family got to go with me when I was on stateside duty and during a tour of duty in Hawaii. They were also with me when I was at MCRD, San Diego; MCAS El Toro; Force Troops, 29 Palms; Recruiting Duty, Seattle; 9th District, Kansas; FMF Atlantic; and Norfolk, VA. Having them with me made things easier.
When I first joined the Marine Corps, I was ordered to Camp Pendleton, California, for duty and advanced training. Some World War II and Korean War veterans were not required to go through recruit training. I was a two-war veteran, so I was among them. My first duty assigned in the Corps was as a communicator in an artillery 105 howitzer battalion. Because of an administrative error, I was designated a wireman. The error was corrected and I was re-designated as a radio operator.
During my first enlistment period, I served with the 3rd Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California, and later, in Japan. When the 3rd Marine Division was ordered to Japan in 1953, the Korean War veterans did not have to go unless in a critical duty assignment. I was reassigned to the First Radio Company at Camp Pendleton. In January 1954 I received orders to the 3rd Marine Division in Japan. I served in Japan with the 12th Marines (artillery regiment) as radio chief. The 12th Marines were located at Camp McNair on Mt. Fuji, near Yamanaka. During my time here, three other Marines, a corpsman, and I climbed Fuji-san, 12,395 feet. I also served in Headquarters and Service Battery as gunnery sergeant and later in the division reconnaissance company as radio chief.
I reenlisted in Japan while serving in the reconnaissance company. When my overseas tour was completed, I received orders to the 3rd Marine Air Wing at El Toro, California in 1955. I then served as radio chief for Marine Air Group 15. It was here that some of my Marines captured the general's wife. I had taken the radio section for a full day of field training under tactical conditions and operations of the wing radio net. The rest of the day was for scouting and patrolling, squad tactics and other military subjects. We set up near Hill 620, outside the main base, halfway between the ammo dump and the bridle trail. Scuttlebutt had it that the commo officer would be out to inspect our set-up and would be on horseback. One of the Marines reported two horseback riders in the distance. I told one of my sergeants to take two Marines and scout out the situation. When he returned he had two "prisoners." One was the wife of General Clayton C. Jerome, AIRFMFPAC Commander, and the other was the wife of Colonel R. M. Baker, Commander of MAG-15. Mrs. Jerome asked if they were really prisoners. I replied that I would rather think of them as our guests and that they were free to leave at any time. However, the prisoners-guests were now enjoying themselves. Because it was noon by this time, in accordance with the Geneva Convention I offered to share our C-rations. I told the ladies we should let their husbands know of their capture. The general's wife agreed. We sent a radio message to Wing Headquarters but they never replied. It was too complicated or too unbelievable. At this time the ladies decided to ride off. The next day the base newspaper wrote about the capture and had a posed photograph of the capture. I noticed for the photograph the general's wife wore a more colorful western outfit.
In 1956 I received orders to the Operational Communications Chief School at the MCRD, San Diego, California. Upon graduation I received orders to Force Troops, Marine Corps Base, 29 Palms, California in 1957. I served as radio chief, 1st Anti-Aircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion, and later as communications chief of 1st 155 Gun Battery (SP); communications chief and battery gunnery sergeant, 2nd 155 Gun Battery (SP); and communications chief, First Field Artillery Group.
While stationed at 29 Palms, I was assigned temporary duty with the 4th Provisional Marine Brigade for Operation Plumbbob, the series of atomic tests at Desert Rock, Nevada in 1957. I participated as a monitor in test Priscilla, 24 June and Hood, 5 July. Hood replaced Diablo when Diablo misfired. The Marine test had several objectives, including the training of Marines in the effects and employment of nuclear weapons, the formation of tactics and techniques relative to nuclear war. The monitor teams were observers for test shot Priscilla monitored for Diablo.
We arrived at our positions about mid-night for test Hood, and stood around and talked until time to go into the trenches located about three miles from ground zero. We entered the trenches several minutes before the detonation. The trenches were about six to seven feet in depth. The loudspeakers in the trenches ordered us to prepare for the blast or "shot" as we called it. The shot was for 0440. The count down began. "This is it," I said to myself, crouching low in the trench. I placed my head on my arms, arms on knees, and closed my eyes. I counted down with the loudspeaker, "Four...three...two..." and we both said "One." A flashing light like an exploding sun illuminated the trench. I could see it even with my eyes shut and covered. The shock and sound waves rolled across the desert surface like a giant road grader, destroying everything before it. The sound of a locomotive roared overhead. The heat wave rolled over the trench and warmth was felt on my back through my field jacket. Heat from the blast was reportedly felt by observers 14 miles away. The ground around the trenches shuddered like a small earthquake. Clods of dirt landed on my back and helmet, bounced off and rolled in the dirt. A great canopy of dust shrouded those of us who had just been rocked in the trenches.
We got out of the trenches about 0450 after the dust had cleared the immediate area. Sometime after 0530 the monitor teams "moved out" to check the area for radioactivity/gamma intensities. After monitors reported a "safe" reading, troops were allowed to view some of the area. For Priscilla we observed from seven miles away from ground zero. We had to turn our backs to ground zero before the blast. When it went, we could feel the heat on our backs. When we turned around, there was a pillar of smoke that looked as if it was sculptured. Priscilla was a 34kT detonation, Hood was 74kT, the largest up to that time. According to a Defense Nuclear Agency report, dated 15 September 1981, my film badge recorded 1.78 rem radioactivity.
In 1959 I was ordered to Morse Supervisor Course, National Security Agency, Fort Meade, Maryland. After graduation I was assigned to First Radio Company, Fleet Marine Force, Hawaii. My duty pertained to electronics warfare. Although my tour in Hawaii was for three years I was only on the island about 18 months due to TAD (Temporary Additional Duty) to other locations. My platoon provided electronic warfare training to the Marine division and air wing in California, Okinawa, and Japan. On one of our flights from Hawaii to California by Marine aircraft R4D, one of the engines stopped. Looking out the windows we could see the feathered engine and a Coast Guard aircraft. We had passed the point of no return, so it was California here we come. The Coast Guard was to escort us to El Toro or pick us up if we crashed. We safely landed at El Toro and learned our flight had made the news, press and radio. According to one reporter, it wasn't news. He said, "Now if you had crashed, that would have been a story." I reenlisted in Hawaii and was transferred from Hawaii to the First Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, where I was assigned to the First Anti-Tank Battalion as communications chief. When Company C needed a first sergeant, I volunteered for the assignment. I served as First Sergeant, Company C, and later as First Sergeant, Company A.
In 1964 I was among the non-volunteers ordered to Recruiters School, Parris Island, North Carolina. I became one of the First Division's quota fillers when there were not enough volunteers. The course lasted six weeks, uniform inspection in the morning and afternoon. Some of the subjects taught were how to interview applicants, requirements for enlistment and facts concerning the Marine Corps, administrative duties, test scores, records, etc. Writing material for newspapers and radio broadcasts. television interviews, high school talks, and community activities were stressed. Learning to type was difficult for many. For those of us who passed the initial typing test, we had an hour of free time.
After graduation I was assigned to Seattle, Washington, for duty. It was a challenge, interesting, and provided meeting with many individuals in business, education, and civilian government. After three years recruiting duty, I received orders for Vietnam. I reenlisted during my tour of duty in Seattle.
I landed in Da Nang, South Vietnam on December 27, 1967 and remained in that country until April 1968 as First Sergeant, Headquarters and Service Company ("Heat and Steam"), 3rd Amphibious Tractor Battalion. The 3rd Amtrac was located south of Marble Mountain. I was promoted to Sergeant Major 1 April 1968 and was assigned to the First Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, until January 11, 1969. My service in Vietnam included participation in the Vietnamese Counter Offensive Phase III, the communist Tet Counter Offensive, Operations Auburn and Meade River, and the Battle of Cam Le in defense of Da Nang City on 24 August 1968 with Company A. I participated in two security bridge checks and five re-supply missions to battalion outposts. I also went on one long-range reconnaissance patrol (Slate Creek) from Company E. I fractured my right ankle while on patrol at Ba Na Mountain and was medevaced by helicopter on 24 June. I departed Vietnam on January 11, 1969 and was awarded five campaign stars.
I do not believe we should have been in Vietnam. We should have learned from the French involvement and left the problem to the French. They lost at Dien Bien Phu. America should have stayed out of Vietnam. Vietnam was not vital to America's defense. I believe that the American people who opposed the war were justified in their opposition, but not in their violent protest or against the military serving their country. Their protest gave the enemy encouragement to continue, especially after the Communist Tet Offensive of 1968. No one ever gave me face to face flack for being a Vietnam veteran. One protester gave me "the finger" when he was a safe distance away.
After duty in Vietnam, I served as Sergeant Major, Marine Barracks, Naval Station, Treasure Island, California. At Treasure Island I discovered some band instruments that had been in storage for many yesteryears when the Marine Barracks had a Drum and Bugle unit. I recruited about a squad size number of volunteers from Headquarters Company and formed a Drum and Bugle team. The D&B would play at morning formation for colors, MB ceremonies, and on the Marine Corps birthday march throughout the area. The drum section was composed of Women Marines and the first all Woman Marine musical unit since 1945. After my assignment to a new duty station, Okinawa, I learned my replacement was not musically inclined and disbanded the D&B. I was ordered to Okinawa for duty with the 3rd Marine Division in 1972 and served as Sergeant Major, 4th Marine Regiment. I also had additional duty as camp sergeant major. I extended my enlistment while serving on Okinawa.
Upon completion of my overseas tour of duty, I was assigned to the 9th Marine Corps District as the District Sergeant Major. The Ninth District was composed of all recruiting stations and reserve units in 14 Midwestern states. I reenlisted at ninth district headquarters, where the oath was given by my brother-in-law, Lieutenant Colonel Melvin W. McCoury, USMC, of the 12th Marine Corps District. My final duty assignment was 1 June 1975 to 26 April 1978, as Sergeant Major, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic, Norfolk, Virginia. I retired from the Marine Corps on 1 May 1978.
After retirement, I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree cum laude in history from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington in 1983. I earned a Master of Arts degree in American history from the University of Washington in Seattle in 1985. My thesis, The U.S. Marines in the China Relief Expedition, 1900, was published by Merriam Press in 1986. In 1989, my book titled, Vietnam '68: Jack's Journal, was published by Denson Press, and in 2008 my book Fort Lawton, a pictorial history, was published by Arcadia Publishing. Currently I teach history for Pierce College at the Fort Lewis campus.
At the time I was sent to Korea, I believed we should stop communist aggression in South Korea. Later I had a changed attitude after my return from Korea. When I think of the casualties, I am not sure.
I believe that MacArthur should have gone north of the 38th parallel. However, he should have stopped after the capture of the enemy capital, Pyongyang. An error made by the American government was to disregard the warnings from D. K. M. Panikkar, the ambassador from India in Peking. He stated that China would enter the war if American forces crossed the 38th parallel. Errors made by MacArthur included his disregard for reports of Chinese soldiers taken prisoner in October 1950 and his orders for UN forces to continue to advance to the Yalu River that borders China. The American troops I knew preferred the methods of General Ridgeway as compared to MacArthur, and there was no sorrow amongst any I knew when MacArthur was recalled. Most of the troops in the units were glad to see him go. Things began to look up for many when Ridgeway took command of the entire operation.
The supposedly UN action should have had more UN participation other than the forces sent. Of those forces sent during my tour, the British, the Canadians, the French and the Turks had the best reputation and were the most thought of. Of the Korean forces, the Korean Marines seemed to have had the best reputation. Chinese soldiers were tough. In the early stages, many of the ROK soldiers I came in contact with thought that the Chinese were number one. Some of the ROKs may have been mentally defeated before contact in battle was actually made. At least in the early stages there was some fear of the Chinese. The Chinese themselves seemed to have a complete disregard for lives and their casualties were very high. In particular, I think they were awesome around Seoul in April during the defense of the city at that time.
One of the faults of the American army at the time, in my opinion, was that of leadership. I particularly noticed this when I was on liaison duty with the artillery units. I went to one of the Marine artillery units for a while and noticed the command relationship--the relationship of the noncommissioned officer with the Marines, the relationship with officers and enlisted, the noncommissioned officer and the officer within the Marine Corps, the discipline. There was an entirely different attitude.
Because of leadership, I think it was the attitude of the American soldier in many cases that made the difference in his performance. Some of the hard-charging units, the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team, were all volunteers. When I was at that unit there was that same high spirit and positive outlook. But in the early stages of the war, with a lot of the American units there seemed to be poor leadership or lack of leadership. Some of this is personally known by me because of what happened to me. As I mentioned before, while I was aboard the hospital ship for three weeks, I received no mail. Nothing was sent down to me from my unit. It was as if I was completely forgotten--which I was. My wife was not getting my mail at the time because free mail would not go to Canada and I did not realize this. My letters were being returned to the unit. The unit was not forwarding any mail to me, so it was over three weeks before my wife found out that I was in a hospital in Japan. She received the first letter from Japan because in Japan I had to use postage.
With regard to comparing combat in Korea with combat in Vietnam, I had corporal/sergeant ranks in the Korean War and was a Sergeant Major in the Vietnam War. There was no jungle in Korea and I was there in a cold and freezing winter, especially in the mountains. Vietnam was hot and humid most of time, had jungle terrain (including jungle on the mountains), and monsoon seasons with weeks of rain. There was more guerrilla warfare in Vietnam. The rice paddies smelled the same in both countries. There was more travel by helicopter in Vietnam whereas travel in Korea was by jeep or motor vehicle. I was under enemy artillery fire more in Korea and more rocket fire in Vietnam. The two wars are difficult to compare because there were different types of operations and duties. In both wars the bullets were just as deadly and the blood just as red. I believe there is more emphasis now on trying to locate those missing from the Korean War because of the Vietnam War MIAs. According to some sources, the Eisenhower Administration was aware of prisoners in China after the cease fire in Korea.
From personal experience and observations, the difference between the Marine Corps and the Army is discipline, training, and esprit de corps. One branch is no "better" than the other because the mission for each is different. Marine close air support should not be compared to the air force strategic concept of support. A seaman's duty aboard ship should not be compared to the infantryman ashore. The more disciplined, the better combat trained, the most esprit de corps is in the Marine Corps. Still, my Army basic training, although five years earlier than Korea, was important for my survival in the Korean War. I did not have what is known as advanced training. Training in combat skills is important--weapons training, first aid, field sanitation, map reading, and other military subjects.
I have not searched for any buddies from the war. Over the years I have lost contact with those I did know. While stationed in Japan in 1954-55, I visited with a former British soldier I knew, Kevin Dobbyn, from the 29th Brigade. He stayed in Japan, married a Japanese woman, and became a school teacher in Yokohama. Another, George W. Young was an air gunner in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. After returning from Korea he enlisted in the US Air Force and retired a Tech Sergeant. He remembered an incident I had forgotten and only remember vaguely. It happened during the retreat from the north in 1950. Our radio van was positioning on a very steep hillside and I was alongside the van helping to direct the driver when the van, while turning, rolled over in my direction. He told me, "To see you trying to outrun that rolling truck was the funniest thing I ever saw." Young had been one of the instructors when I attended the radio ops course at Fort Monmouth. A fellow student, Jack B. Bellmard, and I were assigned to the 51st Signal Battalion. Bellmard was a navy veteran of World War II and later after he returned from Korea re-enlisted in the army were he served until retirement. When the 51st deployed to Korea, Young joined us. I have been informed both are now deceased. One friend from the 187th RCT was Bernard L. Turley. He was from Nitro, West "by God, smile when you say it" Virginia. Turley is listed in a history of The Rakkasans (Turner Publishing, 1991) as unconfirmed KIA, Chorwon, 16 October 1950. However, that is incorrect because I knew him after that date.
My military service has provided me with experiences, knowledge, leadership and working with various individuals. This is an asset for teaching at the college level. In some ways there is a similarity---a group of different individuals (platoon), discipline (classroom), requirements to be met (orders), personal knowledge and experience in the subject.
Many memories have not come forth because they are forgotten or need a reminder to come forth. One I had forgotten until I found in a letter dated 28 November 1950: "Had to spend the night in Pyongyang before I returned to the outfit and almost froze. I was in a bombed out building, no windows, and so cold I just lay on the floor and shook." Another letter, dated 18 April 1951, reminded me: "We've been having air alerts and 2:30 this a.m. we were in our foxholes 45 minutes. Most of the outfit is up forward except for a few radios here. Our truck is the air raid warning net." During our withdrawal from Sinanju the company 1st Sergeant was burning trash and papers in a latrine in which, unknown to him, someone had tossed in a few rounds of ammo. The fire caused the ammo to explode and surprised the 1st Sergeant when the crap began to fly!!
It is not my habit to talk about Korea or any war in which I served unless asked or if there is what I believe a valid reason to talk about it. Korea is the "Forgotten War" probably because many of the American people did not care about a far off place called Korea. World War II was still fresh in their minds. Interest was in a return to normal, civilian life after World War II. Korea was far away and could be forgotten. It was not a war when many people compared it to World War II.
My family (sons Garry and Brian, eight granddaughters and two grandsons, one of whom is a Marine) know some of my wartime experiences. They and others who read this memoir to gain an understanding of the Korean War should know the importance of the war for the future of South Korea and the sacrifices made by American and United Nations forces. I hope my readers will have an appreciation for what was accomplished. I believe the UN actions in South Korea saved that country from a Communist takeover.
Many of the younger Korean generation would like to see American soldiers out of their country now. I, too, do not believe that American troops should still be stationed in Korea today. Korea should now defend itself. I believe that many Koreans appreciate what Americans did for their country. Not too long ago at the college where I instruct, the Korean language instructor said, after I told her I served in Korea during the war, "I thank you for saving my country." Also, the Korean communities in the Seattle-Tacoma area recognized all Korean veterans at several receptions or occasions; there has been food, entertainment, introductions, and applause in greeting the veterans. Korea was a high mark in my life--an interesting and sometimes exciting, if not great, experience. However, once is enough. World War II was the big war and the one by which all subsequent wars will be measured. Therefore, there is more appreciation for the World War II veteran.
I always wanted to be a Marine. However, due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unacceptable for the Marine Corps at the beginning of my military service. Having served in other branches of the military, I can say there is no comparison to the Marine Corps' esprit de corps, pride, and discipline. I was always loyal to whatever service I served when in that service. However, once a MARINE, always a MARINE.
Memorial Day 2003
Today is a rather poignant day for me. Not too far from here my wife waits for me at what I call our last duty station. It is a proud day for me because I stand among veterans of our nation's wars. It is a day I share with you to remember those veterans--our husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, family members, friends, and even those we did not know.
I want to share with you some of the memories of the veterans I remember today. The first is a Captain Mengay, a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and a veteran of our Civil War. It is fitting I remember him first because Memorial Day, first known as Decoration Day, is a legacy of the Civil War. Captain Mengay would visit our elementary school when we observed a Memorial Day program. He must have been about 90 years old, give or take a few years. He did not say very much, but he told us to love our country and honor its flag. Then he would walk to the flag placed in a stand near him, reach out, take a hold of it, and kiss the flag. There would be a few giggles in the audience, but for many of us it was a very solemn moment. Afterwards many of us got to meet Captain Mengay and I shook his hand. This is the hand that shook the hand of a veteran of the Civil War. Not many people can make that statement. Captain Mengay taught me to love my country and honor its flag. Today I remember Captain Mengay.
Bill Horton was 89 years old when I first met him. Private William F. Horton was a Marine who served in the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. Horton was aboard the USS Oregon when it was ordered to China to land its Marines for the defense of the American Legation in Peking. For 55 days the international force in Peking defended the international settlement. Horton was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions helping in the defense of the wall. Also, during the battles the American flag was shot down three times. Each time it was shot down, Horton raised it. He brought the flag with him when the Marines were relieved. It is now at the Marine Corps Historical Center in Washington, DC. Outside Horton's home in Seattle, he flew the American flag from a pole in his front yard. He said it was much easier to rise than the one in China. Horton is buried in the veteran's section at Washelli Cemetery in Seattle. Today I remember Marine private Bill Horton and his respect for our nation's flag.
Captain Johnson was a veteran of World War I. I never knew, nor do not remember, her first name. She was always Captain Johnson to me. She lived with and took care of her brother who was gassed during the war. Captain Johnson was in charge of the nurses in the California State Guard unit I and three other high school friends were members. For a short period of time we were assigned as stretcher bearers for the nurses. Here I learned first aid and other medical procedures. I remember during one weekend field problem it was reported that some of the guardsmen had whiskey in their canteens in case of snakebite. Captain Johnson passed the word that if any came to her with a snakebite she would "cut deeper." When I enlisted and went off to World War II, I went to see her. She told me to take care of myself and wished me luck. She died while I was overseas. Today I remember Captain Johnson and for snakebite, cut deep.
Yosh was a friend of mine in high school. We had known each other in elementary school. I had a crush on his sister, although she was a few years older than me. I could smell cherry blossoms every time I talked to her. Actually, I don't believe I really knew what cherry blossoms smelled like. Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Yosh and his family were sent to an interment camp. It was from here that Yosh volunteered for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team composed of Nisei soldiers. Yosh was among the 442nd soldiers that rescued the "lost battalion" of the 36th Division, sometimes known as the Texas Division. The battle was in the Vosges Mountains in France. The 442nd had 800 casualties in the rescue of 211 survivors. Yosh was among the 800 casualties. He is still overseas in an American cemetery in France. Today I remember my school classmate Yosh.
While a patient at the 376th army hospital in Japan after medical evacuation from Korea in 1950, I and other patients on our ward noticed an old soldier we called "the old guy." We figured him to be "at least seventy!" Now that I am over that age the statement seems rather funny. Later, in the hospital paper and the Stars & Stripes, his story was told. He was 70 years old. A veteran of the Spanish-American war, served 20 years in the army, then 30 more years in the civil service as a cook. When the war in Korea began, he somehow managed to enlist in the army and was sent to Korea. He was serving with the 1st Cavalry Division as a cook when he had a heart attack while digging a foxhole. Age has nothing to do with wanting to serve your country. Today I remember that old soldier.
During my service in Vietnam I was sergeant major of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, First Marine Division. There was a young sergeant in our battalion who was the battalion police sergeant. The battalion police sergeant was responsible for the cleanliness of the battalion area other than what each company was responsible for. It was a duty he did not care for. Often during the day he would greet me with a cheerful, "Hi, Sergeant Major" and sometimes we would have a brief conversation. One day he told me that he wanted to go to the bush on patrol and asked if I would help him. I told him he had a good deal and should take advantage of it. Besides, he was a good police sergeant. However, I remember how I felt during World War II and wanted to get into action, and said I would help him if that was what he really wanted. I informed the battalion adjutant I was in favor of the sergeant's return to his company. Besides, there were some Marines that would like to stay out of the bush for a while. A few days later the sergeant knocked on the door of my "hooch," a wood frame with a tent over it, and I told him to enter. He wanted to tell me he was back in his company and was going on his first patrol. "I want to thank you, Sergeant Major," he said, "for helping me get back to my company." We had a few more words and just before he left he turned and said, "Thank you, Sergeant Major." The next time I saw that young sergeant was at the First Medical Battalion Hospital, Graves Registration. He was on a stretcher, dirty, pale, and bloody. There was a large hole from the top of his chest to his groin, as if a giant spoon had scooped out his insides. As I looked at his bloody body, I remembered his last words to me. "Thank you, Sergeant Major." Today I remember the words of that young sergeant.
I am sure that those veterans we remember today do not want us to mourn or weep over them all day. However, I am sure that in their veteran's Val Halla above they are looking down on us at this moment. And if you close your eyes and listen real hard, you will hear them say, in the words of that young sergeant, "Thank you. Thank you for remembering."
It has been my honor to share this day with you. I thank you for being here. I thank you for remembering. I thank you.