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Volney Frank Warner
McLean, VA -
"Keep your focus on adequately equipping the infantry soldier so our flag stays at the top of the pole and you'll never have to learn another language. God Bless America and the soldiers who defend it!!"
- Volney Warner
Picatinny Arsenal Speech
I was asked to speak today about Korea. Not the Korea of today, but the Korea of 1950 since this marks roughly a half century since the armistice was signed July 27, 1953 and major battles ceased. The Korean Conflict has been diversely called a limited war, a police action, and a forgotten war. Certainly any of you there in the winter of 1950 would agree that it was a cold war. Perhaps it is more accurate to categorize the Korean Conflict as a war without end since in many ways it is still not over. In fact, it stands as a prime example of what Dick Sinnreicht wrote on the editorial page of the Washington Post last month in an article called, "Winning Badly." His contention is that it is not the winner who decides when the war is over. It's the loser. This is why most soldiers I know prefer the employment of overwhelming force from the outset to force the enemy to accept that it has lost. World War II was ended on the doctrine of unconditional surrender. Since then we have sent all too many 20-year olds in green suits to give their youth, or more, to bail out senior policy makers' errors. The trend continues.
Indeed, Korea was an early prime example of too little too late to produce a conclusive outcome. The reasons were many, but inadequate weaponry was certainly a major one. So let me describe for you the battle conditions of the early days in Korea and let you draw your own conclusions as to how much better off we are today. Better off because your predecessors, and indeed, some of you, dedicated your lives to provide today's soldier with the tools he needs to prevail and survive on the battlefield.
But back to Korea.... I joined "L" Company, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division in Korea in August of 1950 as a 2nd Lieutenant replacement for one of the many officers lost in Task Force Smith. In the period June 1950 to June 1951, we lost approximately 200 people in that rifle company--killed, wounded or captured. Certainly nothing to brag about, but indicative of the dangers, hardships, and the sheer terror produced by prolonged conflict experienced in that war at the infantry soldier level--slogging it out.
It's common litany that we were poorly-trained and poorly-equipped. All true! After having succeeded in World War II, the country had hardly expected to fight again so soon after. But there we were in Korea, yo-yoing up and down the peninsula. First defeating the North Koreans. Then trying to stop the Chinese. Finally stalemated roughly along the line of contact that exists today.
So let me describe for you the battle conditions that existed in Korea in 1950:
It was, indeed, a miserable war. But reflect upon the results. A free and independent South Korea secured by a military that is second to none and who has supported us in our own conflicts more than once. Just think of the differences in equipment and training when you see our U.S. soldiers on television in Iraq today. The advances in tools of the trade are nothing short of remarkable and many of them the result of a lot of hard work done by you and your predecessors since 1953.
So, Picatinny. Keep your focus on adequately equipping the infantry soldier so our flag stays at the top of the pole and you'll never have to learn another language. God Bless America and the soldiers who defend it!!
Vignettes: Korean Collections - The Lighter Side
What follows are a series of very short vignettes on "L" Company activities often the subject of reunion banter, seldom reduced to writing since no one person is repository for the total story.
The First Day
What a ride it was for the new butter bar lieutenants on the tatami mats of the Japanese pig boat that took us from Camp Drake to Pusan, then by train to Taegu and finally into the Apple Orchard. All along the way we received excellent advice on how to put our bars on under our collar, that the North Koreans couldn't shoot straight (despite the constant flow of casualties headed the other way). The Lieutenant Colonel at Camp Drake stood under the smoke stacks decorated with the 1st Cavalry patch and announced to us that he was a "be'r." When asked what a 'be'r' was, he responded, "I'll 'be'r' when you go and I'll 'be'r' when you get back."
I reported in to "L" Company, 21st Infantry, as a replacement 2nd Lieutenant fresh out of West Point at the end of August 1950. Carl Bernard had already distinguished himself in battle in July as one of the few survivors of Task Force Smith. As 1st Lieutenant Company Exec, Carl was now tasked with fitting me and several of my classmates into the remnants of Task Force Smith, then holding a section of the Naktong Perimeter. Carl took one look at the lot of us and remarked, "The war is over. The ring knockers are here".
Our new gear and equipment disappeared the first night on the hill as the various South Korean units shot back and forth at each other, and we at both of them. In fact, one lieutenant spent most of his first night having been assigned to a squad given no visible rank and of an age judged too tender to be in charge of anything. Thus the war began!
We called Carl Bernard "Peep Sight" because he had broken his glasses and refused to go to the rear to get another pair. Instead he put a thin strip of white tape across the offending lens which obscured his vision, but improved his aim. As for weaponry, he often carried a .45 with one round in the chamber as alternative to capture. He wore a bedraggled World War II wool knit cap and sweater which he claimed, as did the Ghost Dancing Sioux before him, to be "magically bullet-proofed." No bullet would ever have his name on it as long as he was so garbed. The Division MPs fined him 25 dollars in the rear area for failure to wear a steel pot, but it took an order from Ridgeway to get him to comply. Those soldiers who survived the initial North Korean onslaught with him worshipped the ground he fought on and the rest of us loved him for what he was and would follow him anywhere. The company lost about 200 soldiers mostly killed/captured and some were wounded from July 1950 to July 1951.
When Carl was sent to the rear for a break as an L-19 observer, he continued to keep track of us on the ground like an overhead mother. When the going got tough on the ground, he came forward to join the fight, even once arriving in a "borrowed" armored vehicle for added fire support. He adjusted "danger close" artillery support one day on the Chinese contesting our real estate--so close that it splattered us with hot fragments, but separated their body parts and obviated our fixing bayonets.
We never had time to appropriately record Carl Bernard's heroic efforts. Pencil and paper was in short supply in those days and the enemy just over the next hill mass. So each year those of us in "L" Company, plus wives who will listen to us, meet for three days somewhere to relive (and embellish) our exploits and discuss who will toast the company from the "last man standing bottle," before "L" Company falls in again in the Great Hereafter. Last year (2008) I lost my warrior friend Col. Carl Bernard. He died comfortably in his bed reading a book on Korea. It was my honor to offer the eulogy at his funeral at Arlington.
One lieutenant's mother became exceedingly alarmed upon receipt of a package in the mail containing, "every stitch of clothes he had on when he left for the Far East." She was so alarmed that she called a Senator who was friends of the Regimental Commander (Big 6) because she was convinced that her son was already dead. So thirty days into his war and at the top of an exceedingly tall hill, the lieutenant was ordered to get down to the Red Line in the valley and report directly to the Regimental Commander in his Jeep Command Post. Some 30 minutes later after a long run down the hill, the befuddled lieutenant reported to the battle-hardened colonel of rather ominous appearance who gave him a pencil and paper, offered the hood of the Jeep as table, and directed that the lieutenant, "Write your mother now, tell her you are alive, and don't let it happen again!" After a profuse string of 'yes-sir's', the lieutenant slumped back up the hill to assume his duty of staying alive so that he could continue to write home.
Once in a while the troops got beer and the officers a fifth of hard liquor. After many consecutive days of the extremes of heat or cold, a formal liquor ration or merely a square barracks bag returned by someone on R&R created great excitement in the ranks. Those officers who did not drink, and there were several, passed the hard liquor off to the platoon sergeant, who established a rather unique procedure to ensure that the troops got some--but not too much. Basically, the troops fell in in a single file facing the platoon sergeant. The platoon sergeant then uncorked the fifth, aimed the aperture toward the single file, and summoned each troop forward for one small swallow, no more. The risks of overindulgence were great--as many will recall the formal, near fatal, duel in the company street in the Apple Orchard where the pace count got to six before some courageous soul managed to enforce a halt and disarm the two.
The Inchon landing was followed by the long trek north as North Korean forces crumbled in front of us. Unfortunately, we outran our field kitchen. We were short on rations and frequently reduced to periodic combinations of foraging and barter. Upon crossing the 38th Parallel, we discovered our South Korean Won was unacceptable currency. So, as we waltzed through a comparatively well-off village on the West Coast, several of the more enterprising troops had a great thought. "Let's rob the bank." Though there undoubtedly must be volumes written on why this is unacceptable behavior, one round from a "bazooka" unhinged the safe and suddenly there was chicken money for all in the form of newly-minted North Korean currency.
At some point in the walk north, we managed to overrun a T-34 tank, Soviet Jeep, and assorted other items of equipment. As soon as the more mechanically inclined discovered how to get the T-34 out of reverse gear, it began to move forward northward at the head of the column. In fact, it led the advance for a day or two until finally the word came down from on high at 8th Air Force that if we persisted in having that tank in the column, the Air Force could not guarantee that individual pilots wouldn't make a gun run and a rocket attack on the Company column. Not that this hadn't occurred before for lesser reason, but it did seem prudent to abandon the tank, which we promptly did, and began again to walk to work.
The terrible cold of the Korean winter became a far greater hazard than enemy fire. Our adversaries were much better prepared for the rigors of winter. That fact was not lost on the shivering troops. Still equipped with summer clothing, troops quickly learned to improvise in all manner of ways. The summer sleeping bag was suddenly transformed into a field jacket by cutting it off at the bottom, providing two arm holes, and then simply pulling it on like a parka. Some squads even launched 'Chinese pile cap and blanket patrols' with the admonishment not to put bullet holes through these items, but to put them on instead in order to armor up against the increasing cold. The incentive to attack until a village had been secured just prior to darkness was driven less by the enemy and more by the elements. Pushing straw under the floor to generate heat Korean fashion became a common way to stay warm through the night.
R & R
Somewhere at the 6-9 month point, if you were still standing, five days Rest and Recuperation (R&R) out of theater became your reward. This meant a quick trip (usually to Japan), throwing away all your clothes, running through a hot shower, delousing, then wandering around drunk for about five days in newly-issued, clean fatigues--as those few who hijacked the Japanese train to Kumamoto only to be met by the Provo Marshall on arrival can well attest. Thank goodness they were delivering the mail from the unit or they might have spent the rest of their R&R in the stockade!
The Air Force Club later refused to admit such a motley and rambunctious bunch of ground-pounders into the Club for lobster night, so they squatted in front of the main entrance as properly attired guests walked around them, threatening to warm up "Mung" on a squad stove. Then, fortuitously, the Base Commander arrived and, either because of self interest or sympathy, interceded and invited us into the Club for a free meal!
As the Cav Commander stated in Apocalypse Now, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." As I recall, we loved the smell of napalm any time that it was at least 25 meters away on the forward slope of the hill. The ingenious use of napalm as "FUGASE" or a jury-rigged minefield on the forward slope often diverted the Chinese to the flank or into somebody else's domain. Fifty-five gallon drums of napalm spaced along the platoon or company perimeter some 500-800 meters out created a remarkably effective barrier to break up the traditional Chinese early morning assault accompanied by bugles and ear-splitting whistles. Each drum was connected by telephone wire extending from a "naily board" in the platoon headquarters position running out to the drum and two pounds of TNT underneath the semi-buried drum and a circle of det chord around the middle, plus a white phosphorous grenade replacing the bomb on the top. Once the nails were touched at the Command Post, a charge under the barrel was detonated and, if the timing was correct, the det chord cut the barrel in half and a WP ignited the napalm as it geysered up into the air then settled back to melt the snow or reasonably good-sized area of effect. Early one morning during a Chinese attack, what appeared to be a Chinese Company Commander observed this series of partially-buried 55-gallon drums, and could not resist the thought that they offered a better vantage point for him and his binoculars to survey our position. Unfortunately for him, but perhaps fortunately for the rest of the organization, the temptation to send him sky high was overwhelming, so somebody touched the nails and let him go up in the air in a spectacular display, albeit about 20 minutes too early. Nonetheless, it did break up the attack. Napalm definitely has a deterring effect!
I went through the UW Course at Fort Bragg in 1963 and what passed for Robin Sage at that time. We needed help from one of the locals to guide us from his barn, where we were hiding, to the bridge we were supposed to wire for destruction at first light. We explained the mission to him in great detail, leaving out one important detail: that the charges emplaced were dummies, although the 82nd bridge guards were not.
We were shocked to find most of our guide's ancestry sitting on the river bank next morning waiting for the blow. He was shocked that we did not want him to take out the bridge guards. When we told him we were against the government in Washington, he said he was too. Apparently he meant it.
The Continuing Tragedy of the American Indian
I watched Wounded Knee '73 on Channel 26 the night before last (11 May 2009). It presented the Indian side very well, the Government side not so well. As a matter of historical note, I was sent to Pine Ridge by the White House as the Senior Army Representative and traveled as the only passenger on a White House aircraft in the dark of night. My guidance from General Abrams, passed in a phone call to me upon landing in Rapid City, South Dakota on Day One, was: "Don't you kill any Indians. Provide whatever military support the Federal Marshals and FBI need. Let the 82nd plan for back-up, but don't ask for them. Wear civilian clothes and keep a low profile." (I never once heard myself or the Army mentioned in the program, so I consider it "mission accomplished".)
Al Haig was my point of contact until the beginnings of Nixon's finish, then the Attorney General took over the guidance task. I was probably the only one in the United States happy when Watergate broke because the Press left South Dakota for Washington, the Indians capitulated, and I returned to the 82nd as Chief of Staff with scalp intact (although I got sued several times thereafter until the Supreme Court finally threw the case out in the late 1980's as an ill-advised accusation of my violating Posse comitatus).
U.S. Army Military History Institute
AJDCS 23 May 1973
SUBJECT: After Action Report - Wounded Knee
TO: Director of Military Support
Final Thoughts on Soldiering
For over 32 years I have followed soldiers, led soldiers, and tried hard to be a soldier. Now the time has come for me to leave the Army I love so well.
To all us survivors retirement comes sometime, someplace; if not in an office ceremony surrounded by family and friends, then on a parade ground with bands playing and flags unfurled. Whichever, farewell speeches fail to capture the emotional essence of a military career. It is an insurmountable task!
Now as I approach the inevitable final day, my mind recollects and rediscovers those greatest satisfactions of my military service. Present, in each finding, is the soldier. Leading him is what it is all about. If he cannot do his job, then what generals do in theirs is of little importance.
What is important is that the officer and non-commissioned officer corps realize that theirs is the awesome responsibility of preparing American youth to defend our country. For faithful execution of that mission, the precepts of leadership remain the best guide. They are relatively unchanged by time, immutable, available to be practiced by all. I would add the following observations for your consideration:
Additionally, for all you junior officers, remember to create challenge and rise to it, move the system rather than be moved by it, and accept that in the military, courage, both moral and physical, is not an isolated act, but expected behavior.
So my final thanks to all the soldiers everywhere, in and out of uniform, whose dedicated service over the years has resulted in my professional success and personal satisfaction. A special thanks to those at Fort Lewis with whom I expended much boot leather on four mile runs and, of course, to those at Fort Bragg, with whom I shared many an anchor line cable.
Lead, lead, lead!
About Volney Warner
General Volney Warner served in the United States Army for over thirty years as staff officer and commander from an infantry platoon in the 24th Division in Korea through the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg. He enlisted in the Navy in 1944, then was transferred to the Army the following year upon receiving an alternate appointment from South Dakota to the United States Military Academy at West Point. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1950 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Infantry. Almost immediately after graduation he was ordered to Korea, where he served in combat as an Infantry platoon leader in "L" Company of the 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division.
Warner was reassigned to Europe in 1953, where he served as a company commander and battalion staff officer in Trieste, Italy, Austria, and West Germany. Following attendance at the U.S. Marine Corps Advanced Course in Quantico, Virginia, Warner served a tour of duty at West Point as an instructor in the Department of Psychology and Leadership, after earning a Master of Arts Degree in Psychology from Vanderbilt University in 1959. His military education includes the Command and General Staff College in 1963, Armed Forces Staff College in 1965, and the National War College in 1969.
In 1963, Warner was reassigned as a Province Senior Advisor in South Vietnam. After returning from Vietnam in 1965, he served in a variety of positions in Washington, D.C., to include duty as the Military Assistant to the Special Assistant to the President for Vietnam Affairs. After earning a Masters of Science in International Relations from George Washington University in 1969, Warner assumed command of the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. Returning to the Pentagon in 1970, Warner served as the Executive Officer and Senior Aide to the Army Chief of Staff.
Warner was reassigned to the 82nd Airborne Division in 1972, first as the Chief of Staff and then as the Assistant Division Commander for Operations. After a tour of duty as the United States Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, General Warner assumed command of the 9th Infantry Division in 1975. Later in 1977, Warner assumed command of the XVIII Airborne Corps.
Attaining the rank of General on 1 August 1979, he served on the White House Staff, was Chief of Staff for the 82nd Airborne Division, and served as Commander, 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. His last assignment was Commander-in-Chief, United States Readiness Command, where he was responsible for the joint training and readiness of U.S. Army and Air Forces in the United States and for putting together the four-service Rapid Deployment Force for the Persian Gulf. As an additional responsibility, he was Director of the Joint Deployment Agency and worked with Military Sealift, Airlift, and Traffic Management Commands to ensure best use of land, sea and air commands. General Warner is regarded as an expert in the training, equipping and deployment of land forces to meet overseas contingency requirements.
Although retired from the U.S. Army, General Warner continues to consult in a personal capacity regarding U.S. military strategy and tactics and is a frequent lecturer at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces on these and other subjects. More information about General Warner can be found on Wikipedia.
A native of Woonsocket, South Dakota, Volney Frank Warner was born June 7, 1926. He married Belva Janice Forbes in 1950, and had two daughters and two sons, one a retired brigadier general and the other a retired colonel.
Following retirement from the U.S. Army on July 31, 1981, General Warner joined Vertex Systems, a military consulting firm. On July 1, 1984, General Warner formed his own international consulting firm incorporated in the State of Virginia as V. F. Warner & Associates, Inc.. The Washington-based, service-disabled veteran-owned small business with over twenty years of success in matching domestic and international firms and products with U.S. Government requirements. V. F. Warner & Associates serves a number of major European defense firms on a full spectrum of gun and ammunition products and armored vehicle systems. Most recently, V. F. Warner & Associates expanded its clientele to include both U.S. and non-U.S. firms interested in U.S. defense and commercial markets.
On August 18, 2005, Volney F. Warner's granddaughter, First Lieutenant Laura Margaret Walker, was killed in action in Delak, Afghanistan, making her the first female West Point graduate to die in combat. She was the daughter of BG Keith Walker (West Point 1976), niece of BG (Ret.) Volney J. Warner (West Point 1976) and Col. (Ret.) Jerry B. Warner (West Point 1976), sister of Capt. Brian Walker (West Point 2005) and Lt. Duncan Walker (West Point 2008), and cousin of Capt. Valerie Warner Bushman, USAR.
1Lt Laura M. Walker of Texas, 24, (West Point Class of 2003), died on August 18, 2005 in Kandahar when an improvised explosive device detonated underneath their HMMWV during ground assault convoy operations. Lieutenant Walker was assigned to the Army's 864th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy), 555th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (Provisional), Fort Lewis, Washington.
Laura's grandfather Volney F. Warner has since come out to publicly criticize the Iraq War.