Letters from the War Zone

The Carl J. Dorsey Letters

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Submitted by his nephew, Frank Warner

I'm sending you two letters my late Uncle Carl Dorsey wrote to my father during the Korean War.  SSgt. Dorsey was part of a C-119 "Flying Box Car" crew that flew between Japan and Korea during the war.  USAF SSgt. Carl J. Dorsey, was an aerial engineer for Combat Cargo Command and, later, 315th Air Division. His birthday being January 2nd, Sgt. Dorsey was 26 years old when he wrote from Tachikawa [probably] Air Base, Japan, during the Korean War. These letters were written to his brother-in-law, U.S. Army Sgt. Thomas E. Warner, Easton, Pennsylvania. Sgt. Warner was 28.

On June 3, 1951, SSgt. Carl J. Dorsey was killed when the C-119 "Flying Box Car" he was in accidentally was shot down by "friendly" South Korean artillery during a re-supply airdrop over advance United Nations positions. His was one of two 315th Air Division planes mistakenly downed that day. Altogether, 10 Americans died in the two crashes. The incident led to new procedures for identification of Friend or Foe.

Notes: Tom and Georgiana Warner's first son was born Dec. 20, 1951. He was named Carl J., after Sgt. Carl J. Dorsey. "Mary" is Mary (Emrick) Dorsey, Sgt. Dorsey's wife; "Gana" is Georgiana (Dorsey) Warner, Sgt. Warner's wife and Sgt. Dorsey's sister; "John" is John Dorsey, Sgt. Dorsey's brother; "Tom" is Tom Dorsey, Sgt. Dorsey's brother; "Hugh" is Hugh Dorsey, Sgt. Dorsey's father; and "mom" is Mae Dorsey, Sgt. Dorsey's mother.

3 January 1951

Greetings Brother-in-law,

I got your letter a few days ago but as you so aptly phrased it I've been shagging ass all over the place since then. How I ever got talked into the Air Force is beginning to bother me. I must have holes in my head. I think I'm getting too old for that stars and bars routine but it's too late to quit now. I shoulda stood in bed. All kidding aside if this crap keeps up I'm going to have grey hairs up the gazoo. I try to kid myself that I never get scared but I ruin more shorts that way. How about sending me some nice tender replacement that wants to get a couple of air medals real quick. I'll teach him more about a C-119 in a week than the people that built it know about it.

In three days of 1951 so far I have three missions including two paradrops behind the lines. To top the works off at exactly midnight on New Year's Eve we were lost in the fog out over the drink between here and Korea. The pilot was tuned in on the wrong radio beacon and by the time he realized it no one knew where we were. Did you ever sweat at -10 degrees? We had enough gas to fill about five Zippos when we finally got parked on the ground. The airplane will never replace the bird. They know enough to stay on the ground once in a while. Old "Ten Ton Tunner" [Maj. Gen. William H. Tunner] can't see it that way. As my co-pilot puts it "Oh my aching back, what a great outfit." We used to piss and moan all the time but after a while everything became a joke. You know how much sympathy you get from a gang of GI's.

When you ask one of the flight crews what kind of a trip they had you can expect one of two answers. Oh well, meaning fouled up as usual, or Oh well shit! The latter is strictly a double snafu. Instead of bitching about missing a meal someone generally pops up with, Geeze Christ, no rice, pretty soon die. A slight Japanese accent adds to the gag. They've come out with some better ones that will have to wait until I get a chance to pull a mission on your wine cellar.

We made a drop today to an outfit that got themselves surrounded. The ROK's [army of the Republic of (South) Korea] have a habit of doing it. As usual it has to start at two in the a.m. Rush like hell to get ready for a four o'clock take-off and then wait until five while the wheels get the word on where we're going. The names of the places over there all sound alike. Longdong, Pingpong, Whoflungpo and just plain shit. Anyway we were off at five with a formation and at seven we were over the IP [insertion point?] which gives us twenty minutes to check everything and get the load ready to dump. At the five minute warning all the lines are out except one and the DZ (drop zone) is generally in sight. The formation goes into a trail, follow the leader in steps, and we start the run. At seven or eight hundred feet over a T pattern laid out on a flat spot on the ground, the pilot pulls the nose up sharply and the last line is cut. Out she rolls and then we pour on the coal to clear the mountains. It's always in the middle of a range of mountains which aren't at all hard to find in Korea. It's mountains from one end to the other. After we get back to altitude we reform and head for home, wondering how long we'll have between trips. Right now I'm alerted for another one but they'll probably wait until I get in the sack.

We have good heaters on the crater which is one good thing. Flying with the back doors off is mighty cold. We've had the heaters freeze up already and that's practically murder. We flew one day zipped up in sleeping bags and the pilots kept taking turns trying to warm up. I was afraid to move in fear of my jewels, they'd have dropped off.

I don't know what you could add to the "Capers" ["Circle Capers," the Easton recruiter's office newsletter about area servicemen]. It seems to cover everything unless you could roll Mary up in the next issue and send her along.

There are more rumors about us going back to the states. We're supposed to get the word one way or another in two weeks. I'd like to get that off my mind, either we do or we don't. As it is I sweat out every rumor I hear.

I don't want to hear any remarks on my spelling. As Gana may have told you I'm the best in the family. The only trouble is half the people I meet spell their words differently. I have more trouble trying to read what the ign'rant bast-ds write half the time.

I don't think I told you how they load these barges for a drop. First of all the clam-shell doors are removed and the cargo floor is covered with roller racks. Then the bundles are put on plywood pallets and tied down. Each bundle weighs between 3 and 400 lbs. with a cargo chute fastened on the top. A static line is hooked to an anchor line in the ship and we're ready to roll. Our loads average about seven tons on a drop. A little less than we carry ordinarily.

Enough war stories. I'll have combat fatigue the next thing you know.

Don't tell me about Tony Farino [of Eighth Street, Bangor, Pa.]. I worked with the sad sack for quite a while. He's a first-class stooge, should get along good in Washington. When bigger and betters stooges are found they end up in D.C.

Sorry to hear business [Sgt. Warner's Army and Air Force recruiting] has fallen off. I thought there'd be plenty of red-blooded American boys signing up since this deal started. I guess there's too many guys back there telling them what they're in for. You can have that job. I blow my stack too fast. I hope you don't get run out though. It's no fun being married by mail. If and when I get back I sure hope I get stuck someplace for a while. That's the biggest trouble with troop carriers, they're always on the go. You'd swear there was a war going on the way they operate.

Well, sarge, take it easy. I might even come in for a meal if you two have had enough practice by the time I get home. Be seeing you.

As usual,


[P.S.] I tried to get you a copy of the "Airlift Times," our personal propaganda sheet. They're always fresh out when I get to the orderly room. One of these days. They have the best cartoons in the far east command.

To Army Sgt. Thomas E. Warner, Easton, Pennsylvania

14 Feb. 1951

Greetings Soldat,

Got your letter and the latest copy of "Circle Capers." The latter is the best so far I think.

No sign of coming back yet. In fact things seem to be turning the other way. We're in a temporary change of station (indefinite) status now. We were supposed to get the word today again, but so far the only word we got is to get everything ready to fly. We have another maximum effort coming up as soon as the weather breaks.

As you probably know, the gooks have started another counter-offensive. Every time they do it means the works for us. I'm supposed to be off today and so far I am but my flight chief told me I'm on stand-by. In other words if the weather clears it's the end of my day off.

I have 71 missions in now and about 375 combat hours. I'm number four man in the squadron. I'd be in the lead if I hadn't got stuck in transition flying for a week straight. I'd much rather fly the missions, especially the drops. I'd rather take my chances with the gooks than with some of the pilots we've been checking out.

I don't know what the old man is but I know he's not Irish. He and I are buddies now. We went on a three-day jaunt over the weekend. He's a pretty good pilot and he even went out of his way to see that I was taken care of at all our stops. He's a bit different from McNulty though. He's strictly regulation. I had the "Red Rider" snowed!

I doubt if you have any trouble getting people to help you on the stock in the wine cellar. I'll give you plenty of help as soon as I can. How does Gana do? She used to get wound up on a couple and talk her head off.

I heard about the television. That's a good deal. Now all you have to do is follow the instructions in cc and buy your hootch by the gallon.

Are you a member of the local fire company up there? I hear they have quite a joint. John's going to sign me up when I get home. What happens when they have a fire?

I tried to tell Tom to join the Navy or even the Air Force rather than get drafted but I guess Hugh had a lot to say about that. [Tom Dorsey was drafted into the Army.] He might still get a half way decent deal out of it. I hope so.

I don't appreciate the way the Air Force has screwed up my marriage so far but I'm still ready to sign up for more. I only hope they don't change the re-enlistment deal before my time is up in October. I'll really make a haul on the loot if they don't foul up and change everything.

How's the chow up there these days? Do you work in shifts or what? I'm going to have to give Mary a demonstration when I get home. She was doing so good before I didn't want to foul up the routine.

It looks like the baseball around Bangor is going to air [?] out again. Hugh will have to get himself a television set to occupy his time. I don't know why he hasn't done it before anyway. I'll have to talk to him about it when I get a chance. I don't owe him any money anymore so I can afford to give him a little hell.

The house will really be dead when Tom leaves. The place sure can change in a year. I'll bet mom has to look around for something to do. We sure kept her busy while we were there.

I hear John's new buggy is pretty sharp. I wanted to get a new one but I can't quite make up my mind. The way things look it'll be old before I can see it anyway. I've almost given up the idea of getting home in the near future but I'll be ready whenever they give us the word.

Well I guess I'll sign off and go to the VD lecture. We have to make one a week. I'm one behind now. They always have them when I'm flying. I'll be an authority on it in another few months.

Take it easy. I'll be seeing you.


Oh well, yourself.


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