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"I thought joining up was the thing to do, because all the guys went through World War II to do their thing to save this country, and I thought that’s what we were doing. Patriotism was very high among boys my age."
- Arthur Smith
I belonged to a Local Company, a reporting division; they were C Company out of 123 Infantry Regiment, a Reporting Foreign Division, here in Tuscola. The armory was here in Tuscola. I joined the National Guard while in high school here in Tuscola. A friend of mine, Lefty McGuire, Robert McGuire was his real name, and I thought we were going to save the world. We kind of lied to our parents and got into the National Guard; my parents said well I heard they were going to be activating that. I said oh, no there’s no way, we already heard. We entered the Guard on July 3, 1951. I was 17 years old.
We trained every other weekend. We meet on Wednesday nights, and sometimes on the weekend, but then we went to camp two weeks during the summer. We trained on weapons, marching and basic military skills. Our instructors here were some sergeants and Lieutenants from World War II, and just some who had come up through the ranks. Sergeant Black was our first sergeant, he was World War II, Captain Norvall, who was World War II also, went though West Point. I’m not sure who the other officers were because I really never had much contact with them starting out.
I thought joining up was the thing to do, because all the guys went through World War II to do their thing to save this country, and I thought that’s what we were doing. Patriotism was very high among boys my age.
My mom was not too happy about my activation since I had told her we would not be activated when I joined. She said, "You said they weren’t going to be called", and I said "well, I don’t know the government, how would I know." I was still excited because I guess its foolishness; you think your doing something. Lefty and I stayed together through basic training together in California, or advance basic. And we both went over one day and said, "well, we want to get into OSS." It used to be the secret group that used to go out behind the lines and stuff, and they said, "They disbanded those after World War II." We said "well, give us Rangers." We wanted to get into the Rangers. And they said "they’re disbanding now, because they had 98 percent casualties." Well, get us Airborne. Well jump school is full, but you could volunteer for Korea, but you’re too young, so you’d have to waiver your age. And I looked at Lefty; I said "no, you don’t do that." He said "well, you don’t either." I said, "No, let’s go." So we went out the door giving each other heck not to go in and waver our age. We went back on our own, but I didn’t want on my conscience that he did it because I did it, and he probably felt the same thing.
Our opinion was what we were trying to stop communism, and I said I’d rather fight it in someone else’s country than our own, and that was our basic idea to stop the communists there. We had a company formation, talked a little bit about our volunteering, and they said the following men are the first ones to leave this outfit for Korea, and they are all volunteers, so we’re standing in formation and they called out Lefty’s name, and I looked down says "you lying little SOB." A few minutes later they called out my name and he looked up and said "who’s the liar now." So we got two weeks at home before we left. We then returned to Camp Cook, California for shipment overseas.
My oldest brother, Wayne, was in the Air Force. He was stationed out in March Air Force Base in California. He was teaching survival training, waiting to become a pilot. He called, talked to me and asked me where I was, when I was leaving, I told him Oakland, I would be landing in San Francisco on the plane and go directly out to base. I told him the date. He said, well I’ll see you. I said "what do you mean, you’ll see me." He says "I’ll be there." I said "how are you going to do that." He said "don’t worry about it, I’ll be there." So when the plane landed, I walked down the ramp and he stood at the bottom of the ramp waiting for me. He took me back out to the air base; I said "how did you accomplish this?" He said "well, I told these officers I had a kid brother ready to go to Korea, and there might be some good training ground over there. While I’m in San Francisco, I could to look it over." And they decided it was a good idea so they confiscated a vehicle and he went to check the area out.
We left on the USS Walker. I had never been on a ship before. I did real well. I had to fight it, we went through two typhoons, one after the other, The USS Collins was following us, and it split three seams, so we had to slow down to see whether they were going to sink or not or if we had to take anybody on. On the whole ship, we had 7,500 troops, some air force, and most army. The reason some of the guys were from the army was because they cleaned out the camp, prison camps, told them they were going to Korea. So they were on board ship, it was a pretty rough bunch. They had us locked below and we had these little racks we slid into. The guys, some of them started getting seasick as soon as we went under the Golden Gate. I went down to chow the first time, there was an old soldier sitting there, and he said "your first trip?" I said "Yeah." He says "I don’t care what you do, come down here, eat every meal, got to eat food, at least eat bread and butter, it puts something on your stomach." And you had to use self-control and swallow hard and look away quick because people were sick all over the whole ship, and its floating in the bathrooms and everywhere. So when the typhoon ran out of power we were within two days of Japan, and there on a real foggy day we went up on deck. This was the first time we were allowed to go up on deck, get fresh air. We were walking around and I looked, and there’s this guy standing with an M-1 riffle in the bow of the ship. And I said "What in the world is he doing?" Someone said "Oh, he’s looking for floating mines from World War II." I said "Oh, ok." That night my bunk was as far forward as you could be on the bottom of the ship, and of course, I slept on the top rack, thank goodness, everybody else was below me. But I just slid into my rack when the ship struck something, and shimmered. And the first thing that came to my mind they use to have those floating mines chained together. They would come in to both sides of the ship. Well the whole ship shook all the way down and so the next day I saw one of the Merchant Marines. I said "What in the world was that last night." He said "Oh, either a sunken ship from World War II, or a mountain range." And so we pulled into Japan, there was an old aircraft carrier of theirs, small one. I mean it was a small one, I’m not even sure it was as big as the ship I was on. It is all rusted down, been burned out. We loaded on a train at night and they took us to some camp. If you had to go to the bathroom, there were a couple boards out on the floor in the back of the train, or back of the car we were on. The train was taking us to the camp where we turned in our uniforms and then we drew our battle clothes that we wore. Actually, its winter coming on so we got wool underwear, we got old OD war uniform to fit on top of that then fatigues on top of that, and battle pants, shirt. They started using, wearing the wool pants and the old wool shirts in the wintertime to keep you warm. We were issued our weapon. The next day we zeroed our weapon in. They gave us all M-1 carbines. And then this is the first time it hit me. They said "Now you will go in and sign your Last Will & Testament." And that’s when I think "oops, what did I do." You get a little shook up when it’s your last will and testament. We only stayed in Japan for two days. We were told also the fruit looks very nice; don’t pick any of it to eat because your system will not take it because they used human waste to grow everything. So we got back on the train and we went back and boarded a ship again. I believe the ship that carried us around was the USS Nelson. We got on a ship and pulled out, we started down around Japan and we came in on the west side of Korea and Inchon.
I was in line for quite a while and the navy had this one replacement who kept complaining about the clothes they gave him. He said, I said "What is your biggest gripe." He said "Like this wool undershirt, it comes clear down to here." He means to your knees. I said "Well there’s a reason for that." He said "Oh, what’s that." I said, "We don’t have toilet paper up here." He had a stung look on his face, and a little worried.
Daylight came and we came into port, we anchored off shore at Inchon. The country was like Japan; it’s fertilized by human waste, and just slaps you in the face the smell. I could see our artillery rounds hitting on the mountain way off in the distance. All I remember was we had to still use rope ladders to get down, we had our duffel bags and our weapon, and climbing down that rope and then hoping the rope didn’t break. The landing craft didn’t come in very close to shore and you got off into the water. Inchon is very shallow, they could only go in there during certain times, high tide, and then they had to go back out. They had that problem when they landed there when they cut off all those Chinese. I arrived in Korea around the 3rd of September or October of 1952. We got into a little landing craft. They had the flat front and moved very slowly it seemed like to me, you’re sitting out there and finally it hits this place. They have metal mesh out there when the ramp came down you walked off of a ramp down on the metal mesh and then we were formed up and fell into our units.
I was assigned to Able Company of the 224th Infantry Regiment of the 40th Division. They had some kind of little make-shift train that we got on it still while it was running. The cars had some little benches and it had windows in it because I remember looking out seeing these kids and adults all looking up starving. The train stopped and they told us to be alert because we could be attacked at any time. One of the guys threw a C- ration can out he’d been eating out of. This little kid grabbed it, and I heard bump, bump under the train as he ran under the train to get away from the rest of them with the can. He had a lot of blood, and he came out holding the top of his head, and blood was coming out from where he hit the train. They’re a proud people but they were hurting and they wanted to eat, they were hungry.
My regiment wound up in central part of Korea. But Korea at the widest point is only 75 miles. When I first got there we were picked up and moved to our units in trucks and the captain came on, and introduced himself, and he said "I don’t suppose any of you know how to fire a machine gun." This one dummy standing there says "I do." It was me. I said "I’m an expert." And he says "I have a place for you son." In fact here in the States I also helped train other guys on how to fire a machine gun. You lay on one side and your feeding the belt, talking to them and the machine guns going off right by your ear, so you don’t hear for about 3 ½ days afterwards. I wound up the company gunner because I was pretty good with them. The .30 caliber machine gun has tripod which you can use to set up in a fixed position, or in my case I also had a bipod and shoulder stalk I could put on with a bug out handle. It’s a handle that you can grab it and pick it up and run with the whole thing because it gets hot. Anyway the Captain asked, or said I have a place for you. And then he says do any of you have any problems? I said I had one maybe small problem. He said "What’s that?" I said "I was never blood typed." He said, "You get my jeep driver in the morning and he’ll take you down to the aid station and get typed." So I said "ok" and that night we heard a lot going off close to us and somebody said they were hitting our triangle that night. The next morning the jeep driver and I drove down to the aid station, and we got there the place was full of wounded from the night action. Apparently the operating tables were all full and there were at least 37 casualties on the line outside waiting to be taken in.
The wounded came from several units. There was ambulances coming, up and down the road waiting to come to unload, and on the helicopter pad, there was one landing and unloading and another was waiting to come down to unload their dead. A lot of casualties. It is eye opening. I mean the one guy laying there holding his stomach together with one hand and they give him a cigarette to smoke, he didn’t finish it. I thought, "Well you were man enough to volunteer, you’re man enough to do it, so I did." They came up and they said "What can we do for you?" I looked around and said "Not a damn thing." We got back in the jeep and left. It turned out that they knew what kind of blood type I had or I would have never left the states. I have one of the rarest bloods, A-B Negative. Two percent of the world population has it. We went back to the company and then we went out on a training problem for what we were going to be involved in, and I was set out on the outpost. They didn’t bother us. We didn’t have any ammo with us, just weapons. There’s also a rumor that the South Korean President had cut 25,000 North Korean prisoners loose behind us. So I’m sitting out there and I hear these voices, they aren’t English, so they’re Korean coming across towards me, and a I called up on the phone and said there’s somebody down here with me moving and who is it? They checked and said "We don’t know." And they tried to talk to me. Well their voices were getting so close that I held the handle of the phone and pulled my bayonet because my pistol was no good, and they went on by, and then I started back on the phone and they said "Oh, we think that’s a patrol from one of the other platoons practicing." They lost where they were going and went out and came back up further than us. At nighttime, we just had to learn the people around you. We did most of it, practically all of the fighting at nighttime. You learned to listen and look off to the side and you listened very closely.
The 224th (California National Guard unit) was in trouble. They did not uphold the army tradition. I don’t know whether they bugged out and left a hill or what it was. They were moving to Koje-do Island to guard prisoners. They had moved from Koje-do Island up to this position and we were loading up to go on line.
There were two of us GI’s to a squad. I, the squad leader and 7 South Koreans made up a nine man squad. We were to fight and train them at the same time. We had a schoolteacher, a farmer, and people like this that had no idea or concept about battle. But anyhow we decided we should start going on line, and in combat zone you have rain. The explosions seem to attract rain, and rain. We moved to one position and act like we were setting up camp, we may go on line here, and then during the middle of the night we struck camp, move to another spot like we were going to go on line in that area, and during the day we struck a camp again, moved again. We did this five times in about three nights and days. And then there was rain pouring down in buckets to the point where we were going up the hill, water was running over the tailgate about six inches. I had on my battle clothes, my rain coat and my poncho, and it rained clear through all of it. It was about 40 degrees or less in the wind. We pulled to a stop once and we’re all sitting there and we had no idea where we were. We could hear the firing of artillery to cover our move to the line when all of a sudden it turned out to be the noise was from a quad 50 planted on a halftrack. It’s what they used to shoot down air planes in World War II, and it was sitting just above us. We didn’t even know it was there until it opened up. We all started going over the sides of our truck.
They’re doing all this firing periodically because of the noise of the trucks and us going up, and so the enemy won’t know we’re coming. We get up there, we unload, we start up the mountain, and I slipped and fell about three times carrying that machine gun. I don’t want any mud in it, so I had to start firing. I protected it, but I got a few bumps. Got it on the line, the winds blowing, I’m soaking wet. I take my pack off; water is coming out of that water proof bag. I threw it down on the ground and they said, "Come on see." I said "What?" "Oh, you have to learn the way to the outpost; it’s a machine gun outpost." They took me out in front of the lines to show me the way because we went through mine fields. I’m cussing every step of the way because I’m cold, and then real cold, wet. They said "Sh, they’re right over there." I said "I don’t care if they’re right here." I was cold and miserable. And I spent the night there, and then we came in the next day. The next four nights I went out on the outpost and I had two South Koreans with me each time. We had a little bunker in case they really start shelling us. I used it a few times. That outpost was a jinx to everybody but me. When they said on the 5th night I had been up working on position in the daytime improvement, the Lieutenant had me doing this and that. On the 5th night I passed out I guess. I didn’t realize it, but I came to and didn’t even think I had been out. I guess I was tired. This was my 5th day and night up in a row up. I was between Heartbreak Ridge and the Punch Bowl. We called our site Sandbag Castle. It is like the name says, we had trenches, we had a bunkers, all built with sandbags, a Sandbag Castle. On our left was Heartbreak Ridge and on the right was the Punch Bowl. Our ridge on the right in the castle was where we were. The ridge went up to a great big mountain in front of us. We called it Papa san. A smaller ridge down below us was called Dagmar for obvious reason, a shapely breast. And it showed
If you broke the Sandbag Castle the enemy could pour down and pour in behind all those other units up and down the line. This was the site that holds all of it together right through there. The 40th Division was the only one there. No other units or nations at this particular spot. Other nations were in Korea but not right where I was. The Turks were there before they built their bunkers on the forward slope; they took down some Bouncing Betties, which is a mean, anti-personnel mine. It has 3 prongs, you touch any one of the prongs would set it off. It bounces in the air about 6 feet high and explodes and throws steel balls. They went out and sowed them right around their bunkers like wheat, and never mapped any of it. We had to find a way through to Heartbreak Ridge a time or two. In fact we lost the second squad there once. One of the men was a kid named Shrinner. He was from Hawaii, he was 17. I had the outpost and we got a big shelling, they kept shelling us and finally I got out to the outpost. My lines were dead. We carried out our own lines but the mortar or artillery, whatever had messed them up, cut my lines in two. Shrinner was with the patrol, I was in the outpost. We heard the explosion off to our right, and the scream. The guy screaming and crying and we couldn’t notify the line because earlier when I was told to stay in, they got shelled like that. They told me I couldn’t go out on the 6th night because they didn’t realize I had been out that many days. The guy who replaced me that night panicked. There were two ways to go out to the outpost. He had one of my South Koreans with him. He and the South Korean went one way, the other went in the opposite direction, and he and a Puerto Rican soldier in our unit ran into a heavy 30 caliber machine gun. The Korean was yelling the password in Korean, and the Puerto Rican was shook up and he was yelling at him for the password in Puerto Rican, so the Puerto Rican opened up on him and we found out he shot him through the neck and he crawled out to the outpost and died out there. We learned to quickly speak a little of the Korean language and you use a little broken English. In fact, that’s what all of us did. I noticed when I came home and tried to call my mother, I had to stop and think before I said anything because I was used to broken language. I had to rethink what I wanted to say. You got very adapted to the broken language.
Your life expectancy with a machine gun in combat is I believe 3 to 6 seconds. I could handle a machine gun; I could do anything I needed done with a machine gun. I’ve even had to fire the gun from my head, but you can only do that shot first because can’t feed the belt that well. Every night the reason that things kept getting to me was I’d go out so many nights on the outpost and then they’d say tonight you have to stay and rest. Every night I stayed in and rest, they’d loose the outpost, and that works on you. We lost Shrinner when he slipped going through the minefields, stepped off the trail and onto a mine, where he slid off. It took four hours to get in there and get him out. The rest of the guys, the whole squad were hit. The squad leader caught a piece of shrapnel between his eyes in his skull. Everybody else had wounds so by the time the rest of the line realized what was going on and we got down there, it took more than four hours to get them all, and Shrinner was screaming all the time. He was in pain, knew he was going to die. Scarred.
I had to stay because I couldn’t go back to the squad and leave my men out there. I heard Chinese off to my left, and I’m at a low ridge between them and the guys that were hurt. So if I send one of them back there, I didn’t want another one shot coming back because my lines were cut, I can’t call anyone. I can’t send one of them back, and I can’t go back and leave them, because they couldn’t handle it. One of my Koreans went to pieces and he started screaming, he thought it was a Korean. I said it was Shrinner who was doing all the hollering, and I finally got him to shut up. I told him I had a hand grenade in my hand, and I said "if you don’t shut up, I’m gonna ram this down your throat and pull the pin." I guess I said enough that he didn’t say any more. Anyway, we got those guys taken care of. Then they realized that we hadn’t called in and nobody got in touch with us, so they ran a new line out to us. We stayed there in the outpost the rest of the night. We wound up staying up there over 107 days and nights. No regiment had ever stayed up there.
At the farthest point we were 300 yards away from the enemy. Where I was, there in the Castle, where that ridge was to my right there, was, we were 12 to 13 yards apart. You didn’t stick your head up in the daytime. After we lost so many, we lost the second squad; I think 3 times, that’s when they took me off the machine gun section, put me over there. You draw from the experienced men that go in the hole, and take some of the new men to put in there. We were down to at one time from 250 men to approximately about 60 men. We would send out a whole 9 man patrol because we didn’t want the enemy to know how many men we were that short. On the 3 man outpost, we sometimes didn’t have enough to fill all the holes, positions on the line. We filled every other one. Before that they came around and said "Do you need anything" He said "Art, the captain wants to see you." So I went down to the bunker down on the point. He said, "See if you can hit that." The first round I dropped right behind it in the trench. And all he said was "Can you do that again?" I said "Yeah, don’t you want to hit the bunker?" "No I want to hit in there." So I dropped another round, and about that time the snipers started zeroing in, and when you hear the buzz, that’s close. When they snap, that’s when the air is going together behind the bullet, that’s really close. And they were snapping, and the captain took off. He says "you keep that with ya." I have a machine gun and now I have a bazooka.
The bazookas were designed for tanks and I couldn’t touch the tank. They had a T-34 that would roll around way over there on their ridge, and fire off a few rounds and our answer to that was a Sherman tank. He rolled into position but the other tanks started backing out and away, and around where he could not be hit. They had had their little battles. The only thing is, whenever people want to hit tanks, the infantry catches hell.
Once a day they’d try to get some hot food to us. They didn’t have enough hamburgers, but they made us stew and then had some rice. I’d take a little stew but not the rice. On Thanksgiving we were cold and it was raining. I sent everybody in the squad down first and I went last. They got down there, and everybody had eaten so I went down there, and everybody is yelling "Hurry up Smitty, we want to get seconds." So I went through the line, by the time they put the last dish of whatever I came to the rice. I said no I didn’t want any. They put the last food of whatever it was in line on my plate, my canteen mess kit, was over flowing with water. I sat down and everybody started through for seconds. I took about 3 or 4 bites and there was a crust of ice on it. So none of the food tasted too good. Then the guys started hollering "Hurry up, get your seconds on, we want thirds." I said "be my guest, I don’t want any more." And when they’re dishing up the rice; they went down with the dipper and came up with a GI scrub brush. Needless to say, there were a few boys standing in line for the outhouse the next day. I saw one go down there about the 6th or 7th time, I said "Hey lieutenant where you going?" He said "Smitty I’m going to have to set up CP down here n the outhouse." He had it bad.
I did try Korean food once. My Koreans kept frying squid, and they would put it up if we had anything hot or where they could heat it up. I gave in one day; I said "Ok give me a piece of that, a small piece." I put it in my mouth, and it seemed like the more I chewed, the bigger it got. I kept chewing it and chewing it, and I didn’t want to let them know that I just threw it away, because they thought so highly of it. I walked outside and gave it a toss. That’s it, the only time.
The Koreans were mostly ok to work with. They had no idea of the concept of what was going on. The one Korean I had was about as big as I am, and I’m 6 foot. And for a Korean that’s unusual. He had been drafted into the Japanese Imperial Marine Corp, and when World War II was over with he came back to Korea. When this broke out he was drafted into the South Korean Army. I used to marvel at their ways. They lined their teeth, even if they were good, with gold or silver. It was a sign of beauty to them. If you had silver you were in poor class. If you had gold you were the rich class. Yen Chew Wan was with the rich class, big Korean. One day we had a fire fight and all the weapons were dirty and I hadn’t cleaned them, because I was in the outpost every night. So, he decided he was going to wash the rest of them. I told him to get in there and clean the machine gun with the rest of them. He said "no." They act like they are spitting when they’re talking to you in their language. It made me mad that he kept talking real nasty, so I threw him in the corner of the trench, I locked one arm behind him, reached around his neck, pulled his other arm up with my other hand and held it, and hit him about four times in the face. I said "Who is number 1 honcho?" He said "Smitty is." I said "Don’t you forget it." And I looked at the rest of them, and I said "Who is number one honcho?" And they said "Smitty." I said "That’s right." I treated them like I wanted to be treated, but with his influence and all, they were doping off. All they wanted to do was to eat and sleep. Enough is enough when you’re tired. The Koreans proceeded to tell me that it was ok for him not to because he had gold, and I proceeded to tell them, "No up here gold, silver same old same old, it was all the same, and he’s going to do it." Because it didn’t make any difference up there, everybody had to do part of the work.
Korea in November is cold. It’s 16 to 32 degrees below zero, and actually we hadn’t gotten our Mickey Mouse boots yet, we were still wearing our leather boots. They shipped them up on line. I was helping improve the bunker down by the CP, and I noticed I would be working in one spot for a while; I was soaked to the skin in the rain. When I started moving, I couldn’t move very well. I looked down and my feet were frozen to the ice. My feet were hurting and it was cold, so I told the Lieutenant I was going to take a break, and a get some sleep before I had to go out on an outpost. I went back to my bunker, and crawled into a bunk, and pulled my sleeping bag around me. I never crawled into the sleeping bag, I would keep my feet open, and I wouldn’t zip it up. I’d hold it together with one hand, my 45 pistol in the other, because I didn’t trust the fact that it would opened like it was supposed to. I woke up about 15 minutes after I went to sleep with pain like somebody had taken a cigar and put it right in the arch of each foot. I jumped out and I was jumping around trying to get circulation going, there was frost bite thawing out, my feet had been frozen. It didn’t look too bad, but I went down to the medics the next day and told them., The doctor says "Oh, just put winter green on them, wash them every day and put winter green on them." I said "Where am I going to get the water? We don’t have water, and the water we do have is for drinking, and we had to boil it because it comes off of the spring over there. There are all these bodies out there soaks down in the water. We didn’t have regular water to drink except what we had to boil." He said, "well get snow and melt it." I said "No, snow is on the north side of the ridge, what do I do, say hold up fells I got to go get some snow to melt to wash my feet in, and don’t shoot me." He just told me to get out of there. Two weeks later, I was hobbling and I took my shoes and socks off, and all across my toes and about an inch up all the way around the skin had died and cracked and was bleeding, so my one trip to the medics didn’t help. I decided to go to the rear. I had four teeth broken off, and I said I wanted to go see the dentist at regiment. So they said ok, and the guys in my squad knew what I was going back for to show them back there what happened, and they all said good bye. I said, "What do you mean good-bye?" They said you’re going to the States. I said, "No, no I’ll be back." They said uh-uh you’re not coming back up here. So I went back and I went in the bunker where the dentist was. He was an oriental sitting in the dentist chair reading a magazine. He says "What do you want?" I said "Well I have a few broken teeth." So he got out of the chair and threw his magazine down. I sat down and he looked, and said, "Yep they are pretty bad, but we’re too busy right now. In about 3 months come back." I got up, he picked up the magazine and sat back down in the chair, so I went over to the medical bunker, and hobbled in, and the guys says "What do you want?" I said, "I just want to show you something." He said "ok." I took my one boot off and sock, he said "My God, what happened?" I told him about being frozen and all, and he says is the other foot like that. He said "Yeah." He said get your boot and sock off, and grabbed the phone, cranked it, and said, "Quick give me the regimental surgeon." And that’s when I thought I was going to loose both feet. The surgeon came down, he looked them over he asked what happened, and I told him. Told him about the wintergreen and all that and no water. He said "Well, why didn’t you change socks, it’s your fault." I said "Wait a minute." You told us when we went on line to turn all our socks in, we’d get a fresh pair of socks every time we got a shower. We get a shower every 15-20 days, one time went 31 days." So they shut up pretty quickly about it being my fault. The Mickey Mouse boots were still back in the warehouse, not up on the line with us. So they sent me up to battalion I guess to keep me quiet. He couldn’t blame me because they said to turn your socks in. I had no socks to change to. I did everything I was told. They took my boots and started soaking my feet in skin toughener, took a GI scrub brush to take the skin off twice a day, and I said "Well give me my boots." They said "Uh-uh, only if you have to go to the bathroom." They were afraid I’d go back up on line. So Christmas Day, or Christmas Eve, I’d been there almost a week or maybe 10 days. The white dead skin was gone and it stopped bleeding. One night the enemy hit the Sandbag Castle and I said "You give me my boots." He said "What for?" I said "They need help." I was stupid for trying.
I was at the bottom of the hill and I knew they were in trouble. I went back to regiment. The battalion collecting area for the whole battalion was right at the bottom of the hill we were on. When they saw what happened, they knew they should have had us socks, they should have had our Mickey Mouse boots; they sent me back up the bottom of the hill to take care of it. I don’t think it’s in my records, about me having frost bite. That’s another part of the story. So anyway everything’s going off on top of the hill, and we’re at the bottom of the hill. I said "Give me my boots." He said a "No." I said "They need help, and I’m a machine gunner." He said "We’ll call up there." So they called up and they said if they need you they’ll call us and we’ll send you up, get back in the bunker. So the next morning they decided to let me loose. They gave me my boots and I had to walk through Charlie Company in which one of the guys from here in town. I asked about him, they said he was on the outpost. Well they had a tunnel to that outpost. So I called out to see him. Clash was in my regiment, he was on down the line. I crawled out to wish him a Merry Christmas, and we sat there and listened for Chinese, just listened, they were about 13 yards away from us. They didn’t let me go into the next point until Christmas Day. I went back to my squad. I was in second squad. A Lieutenant was on his 3rd Korean tour. He said we were going to drive the Chinese out of the Castle. Then have another group come in behind us and pull everything up. And I was the point man on the attack, the 3rd man in command. We trained for it a few days. We were going to have a bombardment. and then jump off and try to kill everything, move everything back so these guys could come in with demolitions, blow it all up and move them away from us, more than 13 yards. We went down to have our last breakfast; it was probably your last meal and we got anything we wanted. Then they said it has been called off. They found out that we were coming, and they moved 90 Chinese into one bunker, very hard for us to hit, to take out. As soon as it lifted they were all going to be pouring in at our rear and there were only 10 of us. So I went back to my company, and got with the platoon. The platoon leader we had came out and said, "Oh I wanted to meet you two guys, da te da." He said "how would you guys like 10-15 days R & R in Japan?" "Oh great! What do we have to do?" He said, "Get a live prisoner." This regiment has never taken a live prisoner, or got back with a live prisoner. They usually ran and got shot. I said "Ok what do you want to do?" He said "We want you to go out with patrol then we’ll leave you and he says we’ll climb up the ridge and when one of the Chinese comes down we’ll knock him out, drag him back to the patrol, and then come back up on the ridge, bring him back." I said "Ok, how long will it take to get it coordinated?" He said "What are you talking about?" I said, "the other companies and our people all know when we’re going up there." He said "Oh, we aren’t doing that." I said "Why?" He said "We aren’t going to tell anybody up here." I said "You’ve got to be nuts." Anything that moves out here gets killed. I said "I want support. I don’t want to be shot and killed by my own people. No, hell no, would I do that."
Well that started it. I was sent out on an outpost or a patrol 30 days in a row. I suppose it was a sort of punishment for my attitude. On the 31st night, I didn’t get sent out. At midnight I finally laid down because I was wore out. No sooner than I laid down when the guy on the phone said "Smitty, he wants you." I literally exploded. I came out of that bunker, I picked up an M-1, I stepped outside, I emptied it, made sure it fired and I stepped inside and I threw a full clip in. I said "you tell that son of a bitch I’m coming." I guess I gave it away, the way I said it because I went down there, I kicked the safety off, flipped the curtain back on the bunker. If that man had been sitting there I would have emptied it. The sergeant was sitting there with a radio man and their eyes were about as big as silver dollars. They looked at me, and the M-1, they looked at the trigger housing, back up at my eyes, and I said "Where is he?" "Well he doesn’t want you now Smitty, its ok you go on back." I said "No it isn’t ok. He wanted me, and I want him, where is he?" "We don’t know." I says "you sure?" "Yeah, he’s gone." So I went up and down the line at night time, it’s a wonder I didn’t get shot by my own people yelling his name. Finally I went back to my bunker and when I walked in they said "Hey Smitty guess what?" I said "what?" They said "You get to go back for 24 hours R & R." I said "How about that." 31 days and nights without a shower or a change of clothes, and all of a sudden it’s my turn, and I wonder why. So the next morning I walked off the hill and our hill was so steep you had to zigzag. You walk down this way and then you’d zag back across. I started down, I looked and there was a platoon leader and a runner standing there and the lieutenant was standing behind them, peeking over their shoulders as I walked down. If I go to the right, he’d pivot back to the left, keeping men between me and him. And when I came back up on the hill after I spent the night, got a shower, and went to my bunker, they said grab your gear. I said "What?" They said "Yeah, you’re transferred to 3rd platoon." I said "Why?" He said "You know damn well why, you get out of here."
The combat and Shrinner worked on me more than I realized, by not being able to aid him, but I did what I thought was right by keeping Chinese to the left, protecting the men, but it worked on me. I came out of the bunker one night and started walking. All of a sudden I doubled over like I had appendicitis. If I tried to straighten my legs out it was like tearing my guts out. So I started crawling on my hands and I crawled oh about 75-100 yards down to the medical bunker. The bunker was built down, dug down, and I knocked on it and yelled, told him who I was so he wouldn’t shoot. Yates, this black medic, poor guy couldn’t keep food down. He was vegetarian and was having a hell of a time eating. Anyway, Yates and I were friends and he opened it up and he saw me laying there staring him in the eye. He says "What’s wrong?" I said "I think I got appendicitis." So he really hurried, got some help and got me on a stretcher. We had a truck that we sent food and ammo up the hill. He got me on it and they met me with an ambulance or a jeep, they put the stretcher on the jeep and ran me back to Regiment. When they were carrying me in my legs were still drawn up, I saw a nurse, the only nurse I saw. I heard her say yeah, she was brought up for the special operation they had to do. They were usually kept back.
I wasn’t the special operation. My problem was not that drastic. I fell asleep, it was nighttime and I was still lying there. So I fell asleep and when I woke up the next morning, I squeezed my right hand where I usually had my 45 when I went to sleep, there was nothing there. I didn’t know where it was. I cracked one eye, and I saw this big bottle. What the heck is this? I saw the tube, and I followed the tube down out of the bottle and it went in the arm of the guy next to me. Then I realized I was in the hospital. I could straighten my legs out then. And then a lieutenant, or the nurse, somebody came around, handed me a two inch square box, said give us a sample. I said, "What are you talking about?" The lieutenant said. "Shit in the box." So I walked out, they have what they call a 50 holer. In the wintertime 16 – 32 below zero, they’re cold. You sit down on them, the winds blowing up through it, and you’re trying to get a sample in a two-inch square box. What are you doing down there? Anyway, I got it. They came around finally and gave me a canteen cup full of water. They put 3 drops in and stirred it up and said "drink every bit of it." So I did. They had Quonset huts and tents tying this all together for the hospital. The next day they said if you can get across the hall to the other Quonset they had movies. So I could walk then, so I went over and I sat down on a wood slat board like you have in the shower. I sat down there, and finally the movie came on. Low and behold it’s a war story. So I didn’t stay for that. Went back to my bunk. When I got ready to go back up on the line, after a couple of days of this, I said "Well give me the medicine if I start again." Then he said it was battle fatigue I had that’s why I doubled up like that. I said "Well give me the medicine and I’ll just take it if I have trouble again." He said "No." I said "Why not?" He said, "Do you know what that is?" I said "No." "That’s pure arsenic, and that’s why we gave you only 3 drops. A little bit relaxes you." It was all nerves and trying to settle in my mind about if I did do the right thing at the time. There were times they tell me I couldn’t go out to the outpost any more or they’d lose me. I’ve talked to guys in the trench I’d leave and start up the trench and they would be caught by an explosion. Now they’re gone. After a while we started getting replacements. One of them was a French Cajun, from Mississippi. He had a French accent, and was about 34, frail. Poor old Frenchie was staying over in Japan. He was a regular soldier and he didn’t care where he spent his time. He had it easy; they had a formation wanting 2 to 4 each replacements real bad. We want all the volunteers we can get. And his buddy says, "We’ll go." And he says "What’s this we?" He said "Here I am" Poor old Frenchie and I were out on an outpost and he whispered "Smitty, I’d rather be back in a Jap POW camp than where you and I are sitting".
We did get mail as I said before. My mom and my sister, and then I had a girl friend that eventually I started reading between the lines, she found somebody else. I also got some packages from my sister but that’s another story. My sister, Virginia made fudge with marshmallow and it would be soft when it got there. Everybody else’s was dried up in crumbs. She made me banana nut cake and that was soft and fresh, and everybody knew it. In fact one time they also sent some packages of vegetables that could be dried and made into soup. I gave those to the medic who couldn’t eat meat... They also sent me some gasoline powered hand warmers and they worked a little bit. I came off patrol one night, and they said "Smitty you got a package from home." I said "Good, where is it?" They said "Over on the bunker." I went over there and it was opened. I said "Who in the hell opened my package?" They said "Oh, we did, we didn’t think you’d make it back." I never made any more friends per se, as friends after Shrinner died.
The family made a record and sent it to me. My parents had the trailer park in town and one of the engineers that built USI had one of the old reel tape recorders that could also make into a record. Then he came over Christmas time and made a record of the family and then let them send it. We didn’t have a record player over there. Hard to find one in the combat zone. But I carried it. I still have it at home. Yeah, they all just sent a kind of Christmas greeting it turned out. I think Mama got some kind of a sweater and sent it over here. They found out how cold it was here
We spent 12 hours down on patrol or outpost. If you went on the patrol, which I wound up doing later, at one point after you got through the mine field, we had a rope that you hung on to and helped yourself walk down. You couldn’t walk down it, you slid or fell but you couldn’t just walk down it, you used a rope to work down, and then you used it to work back up. They called it an ambush patrol. Basically all it was was to sit out there. If the enemy started coming, you were to start firing and do what damage you could. This warned the line they were coming that way. There was no way of getting out of it if you got wounded or anything else. We were ambushed before we got started. They told us the Chinese were professional, the North Koreans were business.
The Chinese did crazy things. We heard sometimes they would capture somebody and they would give them something to drink, and then turn them loose. They had their women with them. They were fighting and killing just like the men. North Koreans, they were vicious. They would sneak into your lines, take an hour to crawl an inch, and once they got into your trench they’d go through it killing everyone until somebody killed them. This would always set everybody’s nerves on edge. In fact, one poor guy in one of the other companies, an assistant squad leader, saw something coming down the trench, he started yelling the password, and the person coming ignored him. He panicked, shot and killed the guy. It was his squad leader. He went berserk and they had to send him home. I saw others who couldn’t handle the war very well. I was getting shower, change of clothes and I was going back up on the hill. This young kid was with me carrying an M-1. I had a 45. He kept pointing his M-1 in my face telling me "They’re just 13 yards away." And I kept shoving the barrel away from my face, saying "Yes, I know, I’m right here too." He kept it up all the way up on the hill. So when we got up there, I went down and told the Captain, I said "This boy’s had it, get him out of here, he’s done, and he can’t take it." He says "Oh, he’ll be alright." Two weeks later the boy put his thumb in his mouth and wouldn’t put it out. They put him in a straight jacket and sent him home. You get mean. I just got to the point where we lost so many guys, I had this feeling that I was gonna kill as many as I could to make up for every one of us that we lost. I would take binoculars when I was on in the daytime and search through hills trying to find them. I would do whatever it took to kill as many of them as I could. My ammo report was up to 7,000 rounds a day. When we harassed them, they would open up on us with what we called a 45. We figured it was some kind of anti-tank gun. They were good with it.
I went through 7,000 rounds a day... Every day it was 7,000 rounds that I fired at the enemy and 7 cases of bazooka ammunition. At nighttime, the enemy always took the bodies so you had no idea how many you killed. That works on your nerves too. You’re firing out there; you know they’re out there. One time they were so close that I pulled the pin on a grenade. You’re supposed to let it pop, then go 1, 2, and 3 and throw it because it goes off on 5. I popped a grenade, and I went 1, 2, 3, and 4 then threw it. Just as it cleared it went off, and I didn’t hear any more over there, they were that close.
Towards the last of the war they sent me to the bottom of the hill because I had more points than most people in Korea. We spent all our time on the line. Towards the last they sent us right back to the Castle which they very seldom do. But they sent me back to the same place, because we never lost it, but I was sent out on daylight patrol in the fog because in case they attacked in the fog we would be out there to warn the line. The fog was rolling, I was sitting there, and all of us were nervous. Finally, the fog lifted and I’m looking over there less than 200 yards to the top of their ridge. We had to sit there until we got clearance up and down the line for us to come back in without getting killed. So you sweat it seems like 100 times longer than days, and they give us clearance and we went back. I went down to the chow line, and the first sergeant is down there, I said "You got a good rear echelon job?" He said "Smitty how many points you got?" I said "I don’t know 38, maybe 39 or 40." He said there isn’t anybody in Korea with that many. I said "I know one guy who does." He said "I’ll check." So I had my dinner, and went back to my squad, and he said "Get your gear." I said "What?" He said "You’re going to the bottom of the hill; you’re not even supposed to be up here." Most guys rotated on 32 points, and I had almost 40. So they sent me to the bottom of the hill to do me a favor.
That was just prior to signing of the truce. After the truce was signed, we were to quit firing the small arms fire at 10:00 a.m. but we could throw mortars and artillery at each other for the next 12 hours. We lost 7 men in that 10-hour period. But the men felt so much hatred against these Chinese who came running up on the 3rd ridge. He pointed to this other guy and he said listen to them. They opened up on them. The Lieutenant ordered it to stop and then finally everybody knocked it out.
When I lost someone like the friend I lost over there, it makes you angry. In my case it made me angry. I mean no one can say what the other is going to do, but I listened to him screaming and I could not leave my position, and I was so frustrated. We both came to the unit the same day, and he was 17, and we’re the only ones who knew each other. Shrinner used to play guitar and sing kind of what was popular at the time. We also had another guy in the unit who could take the same guitar and play country music. They would get together with these phones set up between bunkers, and they made almost a little radio program. He was just a happy go lucky type person and like I said, the friend who was dying and I had to hear his screaming, I stayed on the ridge, I was in the outpost between Chinese on the left and they were on my right. Then my squad ran phone lines out every night because they may tap them. If you just use the same one. Or like what happened to mine that night, they got cut in two by artillery.
If I had left where I was and gone to Shrinner, what could I have done for him? I wonder if I could have sent word back to 3rd platoon. I would have had to gone through 3rd platoon, just gone back there and told them to call 1st platoon and tell them the patrol was in trouble. But I couldn’t leave the ones with me, the 2 Koreans, because they were already panicking. I couldn’t send one of them back because the same Puerto Rican was sitting behind the .30 caliber back behind us where we had to go. He’s liable to shot one of them, so you have to make decisions, and I made one.
Some of the worst fighting I was in? The Sandbag, but just not at that place. Off and on they got in trenches with us at least 3 or 4 times. Weird things made me feel almost like I had had it and it made me mad. The one time that we got hit on the outpost, and the guy finally got in, and he left a machine gun outside, in the trench. We had 3 or 4 sticks we were going to burn to try to keep warm. I went out with a hatchet, and I came down with a hatchet to cut the stick. A round went off to the right, and dirt kicked in my face. I hit the ground, pulled out my 45 and rolled. There was no enemy there. I looked at the end of the barrel of a machine gun, and there was smoke. The guy had whipped around and jerked the belt out leaving a round in the chamber. When the stick hit the trigger, it fired off close to my face.
Accidents did happen. The first night right before we went on line down in Boon Company, the others down the line towards Punch Bowl saw these people coming at them and they opened up and started a firefight killing each other. It turned out it was a patrol from another company. The first night when they went out they got lost and came looking for the Cane Company. Cane Company didn’t know it was them. They thought it was the enemy. I guess they did a good job on each other before they got it to stop.
My training in the states did not prepare me for real warfare. The training prepares you to listen, do what you’re told, but you have to adapt to the conditions, the situation, and there is no manual on it. There can’t be a manual because human beings are individuals and they will adapt themselves. The Chinese put chill up your back by blowing bugles in the distance.
Well the Chinese leaders usually directed them to do this stuff. Of course, that was a good way to get them killed. I was sitting in outpost one night and I heard this trumpet. I found out later some idiot down in one of the other trenches had found a trumpet in the rear, brought it up and blew it that night. It didn’t go over quite well either. The worst part was you had your situations of fighting and everything going on, but going out there 12 hours. If you had the patrol you had to lower yourself down in one area, you’d be perspiring to walk or climb down and then sit down in snow that came up about chest high. When you sat down, and in Korea being only 75 miles wide at its widest point you had wind off the ocean on you at 16 to 32 degrees below zero, your sweat would freeze. You started getting painful.
The weather did have an effect on our weapons. We took out every type of weapon we could think of one patrol. I had my 45 and a M-2, a one guy had a BAR, another one had a M-1, another one had a grease gun, and some other weapon. Anyway we wound up with all these odd weapons. So after 12 hours down there we stopped. One thing about when you came in the lead man would step off the trail and start counting, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, if there was number 9 you’d start. But we decided we would test our weapons and see what would fire. Only one weapon fired out of the whole lot. The old M-1.
We occasionally had air support and we had our triple nickel behind us. Artillery and the Castle was at the height, they brought a flood light on the ridge behind us and showed right into their face. I mean floodlight was behind us, but it was right in the enemy’s eyes and they’d jump up and try to count em, which helped immensely. In fact they also had Bed Check Charlie. He had a small Piper Cub type plane. He sounded like a war ship’s engine when he flew over. You could hear him at night. He’d fly over. He’d go back and throw out hand grenades, mortars, shells. That made me nervous. Some other troops came up and said, "Say we want that flood light so we can get Bed Check Charlie." I said "Tell you what, you stay up there, and I’ll go back there where Bed Check Charlie is, keep that flood light up here." They didn’t think that was a good idea.
The enemy had different kinds of weapons. Most of the weapons were used from a World War II. They had Japanese rifles, they had some other rifles, which were probably 6 foot long, a real long rifle with a Civil War type bayonet about 2 foot long.
Their grenades were like the Japanese grenade where they had the pin you could pull, or you could hit the pin sticking out of the top of it on your helmet and throw it. They also had potato mashers from Germany.
They would send a first wave, and line after line after line after line of people with no weapons. Their mission was to blow up mines, absorb your fire, and knock down barbwire. Behind that wave would be a wave of people with the hand grenades, dynamite wrapped with barbwire, glass, nails, everything else they can get in there, with a rope tied around the middle of it. They would light the fuse, swing it and throw it up at you. After that would be a wave of people who had all types of weapons, burp guns from Russia, the long rifles, pistols, sickles, pitch forks, axes, anything you can kill with. Behind that was a line and another one, and another one, and another one. Whenever the person in front would get killed, the next one would come along and take whatever weapon he had and keep coming. They’d use opium before they got started. They had belts on their legs and on their arms. If they got hit in the leg, they’d tighten the belt and keep coming, get hit in the arm, tighten the belt. They were high on opium. You had to try to knock them down. That’s another reason I liked the machine gun I had. It put out a lot of firepower. I kept myself to six round bursts because a burned out machine gun won’t do anyone any good. I was watching the attack across from Castle. From that position I can move my one gun or I had four guns. I took one and put it on my flank so I could fire or cross fire into the Chinese that came across. That took some pressure off. I noticed the poor guy on the Castle apparently had locked down on his gun to the point that the tracers were coming out, going end over end. The barrel’s probably going up and down you know, he just locked down and just kept firing. Got to try to stay calm.
We had Korean labor to help us. We had what we called cheekies. They were South Koreans. The truck could only bring so much. There was a group of South Koreans who would bring up food and ammo. They would track up the hill, drop whatever, go back, and then maybe bring another load up on their back. Koreans are very strong in their legs and back. You could see an old gentleman with a tall stove pipe hats. If the guy had one of those and he had holes in it, he would be the oldest gentleman in the village. When he passed through the village his knowledge would go up and out through the holes toward the people that was the idea. They would receive knowledge from him just walking by. These people, even the older ones, you could see them walking up a mountain with an A-frame attached to their shoulders. On that A-frame would be a big potbellied stove. They had strength in their legs and back. They’d tilt it forward and get it in position and they could walk, they wouldn’t run, but they’d walk. Right up that mountain.
We were considered the unit to be picked in case the truce signing didn’t take place, to start the initial attack north. We were, because we got the colors back, we were a pretty tough outfit. We didn’t lose the Castle. They sent enough Chinese after us that they could have gotten in with us. We had over 65 percent casualties in the regiment. Everyone of the casualties were either killed or wounded, but we got them back, got em out. The Chinese had to bring all their food and ammo down the length of North Korea, and we would bomb, strafe, and cut up their supply lines. They tunneled under us. Also in the Castle we had guns pointing North and others pointing South because of the rumor that the President of South Korea had freed 25,000 North Korean prisoner behind us.
Most of my time in Korea was all fighting. In less than 11 months I compiled almost the maximum points. If you were in Japan, I think you got one point a month, Korea basically you got 2 points a month. In a counter-attack you got 3 points a month. The front lines you got 4. At the 10th month I had 39 points. Even with all the violence there were humorous times. I’m afraid I’m the guilty one. I’m afraid I was ungracious on this one. This poor kid came in, he had a brand new wedding band on, and we knew he just married before he left, because it was shinny and all. He said you know when I got off the ship back there they came up and tried to sell me jewelry. It looked like it was our jewelry. You suppose they’re taking it off the bodies. I said "Sure. But that won’t happen in this unit, we take it ourselves, we won’t let them." I said, "of course, you know we get killed. Well we’ll have to cut your finger off, but you won’t feel it, you’ll be dead." Another guy came in, and he says "You guys got any medals." I said "Oh, yeah." He said "What do I got to do to get some?" I said "Oh, nothing. Just hang around you’ll get the purple shaft." "Oh, what’s that?" I said "Oh, don’t worry about it, you’ll get one." "What do I got to do" he said. "Nothing, just stay here, you’ll get the purple shaft." Then one of the other guys picked it up and said "Yeah Art, you got at least 9 barbwire clusters on your purple shaft haven’t you?" I said "at least 9." And I pulled things like that.
I had help adapting when I came to Korea. We had a 1, 2, maybe 3 or 4 sergeants that were World War II. In fact, one sergeant was offered battle field commission 3 or 4 times, but he just wanted to be a sergeant. The Captain and some of the lieutenants we got weren’t too good. Our Captain, the nick name for him was "the mole." He would stay in his bunker. Every morning he would step out, stretch and yawn, look around, and after 3 or 4 stretches, he would climb back in the bunker. He’d see his shadow and hide. He wanted a bunker built. I think we got at least 3 or 4 men killed building that bunker. He wanted it built with a small entrance to look out, so not much can get in. That was his observation post. He may have used it once or twice. The men were killed because the Chinese knew we were doing something there, and they wanted us. The Captain aggravated people. Once we were getting mortar fire every night. It gets on your nerves just like a gun they use to fire every morning at 7 o’clock and every night at 5 o’clock till I knocked him out of it, and shut him up. But I noticed when I was on the outpost I heard the shell slide down the tube. I said "they’re close, and they’re not on the other side of the ridge" or I wouldn’t hear that going down the tube. The next morning I got in and I started scouring their ridge. I noticed down on the far left what looked like an enemy position. I picked up a bazooka, loaded it, and raised it up, had a lot of help somewhere. The first round dropped right in, there was about 4 explosions, and we didn’t get any mortars fired that night.
We did go on R & R out of Korea. That was an adventure. They sent us back to Kimpo Air Base. They had us out there on the runway. They had a parachute and a May West. Of course, they started instructing you on how to put the May West on then the parachute. Then they tell you when you jump out and you are coming down over the ocean, you start unbuckling your chute, do not inflate that May West until after you are in the water because it will break your neck entering the water. Do not let loose of the parachute too soon, or you will fall maybe 100 yards, not realizing you are that far away into the ocean, but just over about 10 feet away release the chute and fall free into the ocean. Then inflate your May West. Ok, I got it, but they kept going over it, and going over it for 45 minutes. Let’s get on with it. So we got on the plane. We went on a DC-3 plane. I’m looking around I say "Oh there are bullet holes." We’re sitting on the 2 x 6’s which ran both sides of the plane. Then I said uh-uh there’s some patches, and there’s some more holes, um. Then they tried to start the engine. One didn’t want to start at all, the that one did get started had black smoke just pouring out of it. Then they finally got the other one going. I said "Now I think I know why we had 45 minutes of instructions." It took off and we got over there, I saw that little green island down there, and I said "whew", we’re here. We went to Japan to Kure where I got my R & R. It turned out I had 6 days there. Like any young 18 year old, I was interested in girls and drinking. I stumbled into the house where I was staying about 10 o’clock in the morning and this Korean, or Japanese girl says "What’s that matter you GI?" I said, "What do you mean?" She said, "you sick?" I said, "No, I feel fine." She said, "Well you not stinko yet." I wasn’t drunk. We got to drink beer for breakfast because we didn’t want to eat the food. Then I’d go, I had a private rick shaw hired, so he could take me out to the air base or to the post. I went to the NCO club and had dinner, and sat there. The girl would go have her hair done, and I’d sit there and drink screw drivers, then I’d make my way out to the gate. They’d be waiting there in the rick shaw, take me back and I’d drink my dinner. So you know, I changed girl friends, my friends said "you’re asking to get something." I said "So?" I go back, get a penicillin shot, if not I may get shot, who cares." He said "Well you’re asking for it, I’ve got it made. This girl is married and he’s over there, she gets lonesome, but you’re asking for it." So we got up on the hill when we got back, he went down in the trench a few days later with his helmet on and his rifle and stuff. I said "Where you going Boyson?" He said "To the medics." He says "if I had her here I’d kill her".
The government was vicious about R&R. Our government was real nice, you’re away from combat and all that. You got at least six, and I wound up with seven days pretty much there, so I got an extra day. You got to the R & R Center, they say "Well how did you like that, would you like 30 more days or 60 more days of that?" And everybody was kind of like "yes." "Well you re-enlist for 3 years, you get 30 days, you reenlist 6 years, and you get 60 days." That’s nasty. I thought hard, but I said no. No way. So, some of them did, and then when they came back, their faces, chins were on the ground, realizing that they had 3 to 6 more years to go on.
We did see a USO show. I was trying to think of her name. She looked real nice on the screen. I got close enough to see her. I thought a whole lot of her. I worked way down and got on the front. I had a picture somebody had taken. At that time my whole platoon, we shaved our heads, we had no hair on top, kept it shaved, and we had long handlebar mustaches, kept everything else shaved on our face. We were considered by the Commanding General, the outfit to go North.
The war certainly changed me and my outlook on everything. When I went in the army I was 17, and I knew everything there was to know about anything. Three months after my 19th birthday I was let out and decided I didn’t know a damn thing. And then attitude of some people. Its like the one guy in my class, when I worked at the chemical plant. He came up to me out there and says "What are you, you went to Korea and I went to College, now I’m your boss." Yeah. That’s the attitude.
I don’t think the US accomplished what it started out to do. I think MacArthur messed that up. MacArthur was a general, he had a war to win in his mind, and he planned on winning it. They didn’t win it long. I’ve come to this realization, they were going to let this string on; they were going to make a lot of money out of it.
I’ve also heard what the Chinese could do to people at that time, and that’s why we went in there anyway, to get rid them. The Chinese had two standing armies. They sent one down there and we initiated them. People don’t realize how they got recruits. I’ve heard that they go into town, small town, say ok we’ve got to move you down here, just outside of town for you to see everybody go. Men, women and children. They go down there, they have trucks down there waiting, they loaded them on the trucks, drove them down to Korea for replacements. They give them one pound of rice a week to live on practically. Of course you could get all you could from the ones who got killed to up your ration.
On my birthday I was sitting in the punch bowl in the counter-attack reserve for 4 different units for which we could be called. The medic says "Hey Smitty come over." So I went over. He said "I hear its your birthday." My 19th birthday. I said "Yeah." And he said "here" and he gave me a fifth of whiskey. And that’s the only day we got Coca-Cola. All the time I was over there we never got Cokes or anything like this. So it had to be on my birthday, we each got one ice cold bottle of Coke. So he and I sat down, ate a steak and drank whiskey and chased it with Coke. We’re sitting there and a round came in between us and the line. And right after that another round came in between us and the company on the other side. Then the third round hit was closer to us than the line, they were bracketing in. They had somebody behind us calling it in. So we had trenches dug, and we hit the trenches. We had pup tents that we’ve been sleeping in, just two man tents. We got in the trenches and they kept zeroing in on the Able Company. They didn’t like our company that well. We sent out a patrol. The patrol must have got close to the spot that was calling the artillery, it was over and they quit firing. Our poor medic he, I don’t know he got wounded but they had to take him home on a stretcher., I went over to where his tent was and about 10 feet away was a Coke case the guys were putting their empty bottles in when they got through, well they hit that Coke case and that tent where he and I were sitting was nothing but holes with shrapnel, glass.
When my time was about up, they just moved me down off the line to the run the Tran because we were in the Castle the second time and they kept saying, no one is leaving. Until finally they said tomorrow at 10 o’clock we’re going to stop firing small arms. From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. you can throw artillery back and forth. So we threw artillery back and forth and they lost everything after it was signed.
We pulled back to the line that they had and they started sending replacements for us who were going home, It was less than 2 or 3 weeks. They sent me to where the collecting point was. It was a real nice place, with a 16 foot high barbwire fence, a 3 foot walk space and another 16 foot high barbwire fence. In that walk space they put a Korean who could speak English carrying a shot gun, and a German Shepherd attack dog. That was to keep the Koreans out. It had nothing to do with us getting there. I saw a ship or two leave. They got me and some other guys, said, "oh you’re going Kimpo, you’re going to fly back to the States because you got the highest points." We went to the air base, they loaded the first plane up and it took off. They said, "well you guys go in those tents, and wait." About a week later, they announced that they decided not to fly anyone back, had to go back, you were shipped back. So as we were coming back our port, I see a ship pulling out. Missed that one too. So finally they got us on the USS Black, and we had the last 436 POW’s on that ship. They were debriefing them on the way back. It was close to September 1953. I talked to them, and they said they had guys on the ship that helped the enemy against them. I said "What are you going to do about it." He says "nothing." I said, "They’ll have to live with it and deal with it." I mean like going over I said they had so many guys out of prison out of the camps or jail, whatever we used to call them. They threw one kid over the side of the ship one time. He was with some tough guys, had to do with a poker game. He was just a young kid that got into bad company.
I was bitter. I was supposed to have made Sergeant, Platoon Sergeant, but after running the lieutenant off, I didn’t get my raise. Oh, we’ll give you corporal they said. I said "No, I was supposed to be sergeant a long time ago, I want out, I’m going home."
The worst thing I remember about Korea was the cold. It pained and you don’t realize how painful the cold can get. You can’t move, you’re sweaty when you get down there; you sit down in the snow, you can’t move around. They know where you are, you can’t be moving because you can’t be watching if they’re coming. So you have to sit quietly and observe, with the pain of the cold, wind blowing up through there. I would take out a cigarette and light it and keep it cuffed. I had a poncho on to help break the wind, we all did. I’d get down under it and light it and would smoke it with my hands cupped with the cigarette turned inside to try to get some heat off of it. They give us 3 cigarettes and candy once a day, and C-rations packed in ’42 we were eating them in ’52 and all the cigarettes were dried out. Camel’s were most fresh, moist I think, and then came down to Lucky Strikes, Chesterfields, and then Phillip Morris was the driest, then we’d get down to the Kools.
I feel our nation and the people have forgotten and it was out of their minds before I even got back to the States. One of the POW’s passed away on the ship coming home. His poor parents got a telegram missing in action, they got one after it was over saying he was found in prison camp, another one saying he is on the way home and then he died on the way home. But anyway, when we pulled into dock his parents were standing down there, because his body was the first thing taken off the ship. The army band was down there playing. Nobody else.
I kept sticking by our country even through Vietnam until finally dummy me starts looking at what happened to those guys. Then I start hearing people don’t realize we had 7,000 MIA’s in Viet Nam in 10 years, we had 8,000 MIA’s in 3 years. When Russia fell, it came out that they had told our government that at the time I was there they took 3 train loads of Americans prisoners. I don’t know if all of them were American but at least 3 train loads of prisoners from Korea, to Russia, and gave them 2 choices, be executed or become communists. They said don’t look for them, they’re all dead now. Now whether they were used for guinea pigs or what, I have no idea. And they never told the story. I never heard anything about how many casualties, well it came out months ago, a year ago or whatever, there were in excess of 2 million casualties on all sides for a piece of ground 75 miles wide, and a 300 mile long in 3 years, that’s a lot..
I never looked up anybody. I think I pretty well blocked out my own mind to everything. I would try not to a dream. My poor mother came in the room after I’d been back a few months. I was laying there and she walked up and touched my shoulder. I squeezed my right hand, there was no 45. I shot up off the bed, swung so hard that I came off the bed about 2 feet and I just missed my mother. I don’t think mom would have said whatever she felt to me. I told my mother at the time, I says "stand at the door and speak, that’s all you have to do, do not touch me." I felt like such a heel. Even today, if there is a back fire, I get really nervous.
I haven’t talked to my son about Korea. I really haven’t talked to too many people. My son knows that I was there. I even went back in the reserve for a short period because they were wanting combat people who could tell them things that about how to fight and what to do in combat that wasn’t in the books. I brought him a little fatigue outfit when he was little. He knows the memories. He went to Korea this year, he and his girl friend are nurses, and they stopped in Korea. He said he had a very funny feeling knowing that I had been there and fighting the war.
I am still somewhat bitter about Korea. The day I came back they said I got to go to Colorado. I got off the ship they give us a short arms inspection but I won’t go into that. Then they lined us up, we had dinner, and then we got on the troop train and went right straight to Colorado Springs. They give us a 24 hour pass. I went to town and looked at the skating rink, was lost, went back to camp. They started processing us out. Just sign the papers and all that. Number 1 is write down everything that is wrong with you, and we’ll take care of it and your out. Well I had 4 broken teeth pulled, all the rest of them needed filled. I had a back that was giving me a bad time when I fell in the bunker when a guy and I were turning a log. He slipped and when he did he shoved me forward, knocked me down and the log came across my back. I had the frost bite where they almost amputated my feet, and I had carbon shrapnel coming out of my skin. When you fired a bazooka in the wintertime the carbon doesn’t burn up because it’s too cold, it blows back on your face and hands. The back of my hands were cut so much and my face, I couldn’t see my face because we never had mirrors, but when I went out on those patrols those cuts hurt worse, and a my face hurt in a lot of places. So anyway, I wrote all that down. About two to three years after I was out, about 22 years old, I had false teeth, couldn’t shave. I kept trying to tell them. I paid for all this. After I was out five years, about a two years after I had my teeth done, I got a notice from the government saying we don’t consider this 45 percent disability, you get nothing. Well, the guys in the VA out in California when I was down there said you should have been getting something all this time. And so I was ready to fight. Their answer this time was "it never happened." So I’m glad they didn’t come to my house and tell me that, because I would have had no qualm about blowing them away and saying "Oh, that was Korea, it didn’t happen."
I think we have forgotten Korea because we never talked about it, we ignored it. It was forgotten by the time I got home. If something comes up, you mention something, you know I’m not ashamed of what the hell we did, I thought we did a hell of a job with what we had, some of those rifles didn’t even have rifling in them, wore clear out in World War II. But we had to work with what we had. I thought we did a hell of a job, but the people coming in said "Oh, that was only a police action, that wasn’t a war." You never heard anything mentioned about Korea, no, never. I watch the History channel and finally they said something about Korea last month. Three to five minutes. The other day they did show a little more, and they showed the Sandbag Castle and they said this is the toughest point against the enemy, and it was.
I think they sold out a good general. MacArthur was told to send all his battle plans before he put them into effect to Mr. Truman. Well Truman would tell one of the allies, the British and French who were selling weapons to the North Koreans about it, and then Mr. Truman would say "ok, you go ahead."
I do wonder how many of my buddies did survive life itself. Like Eleanor the Sergeant who got the shrapnel out of between the eyes whether he lived through it, can he talk? He wouldn’t let anybody touch him until they took care of everybody in the squad. That is an American soldier.