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Carl Edward Bowers

Tampa, Florida-
Korean War Veteran of the United States Army
Korean War Veteran of the United States Air Force

"Things happened in Korea that I want to forget and it really bothers me to think about them sometimes, but I think that people need to know what happened in Korea--even though those who have never been in something like that can never really understand what happens in combat."

- Carl Bowers

 


The following memoir is a compilation of memories of the Korean War experiences of Carl Bowers, as recounted to his nephew, Joe Mode, and to Lynnita Brown of the Korean War Educator.  The compilation was changed to first person by Lynnita.  The memoir exists because of Joe, whose own father, William Franklin Mode, was in Korea as a radio operator with the First Marine Division.  Joe sent this message to the KWE to introduce himself and his Uncle Carl:

"The following material is really a hodgepodge of stories collected over a number of years. My uncle, Carl Edward Bowers, lives in Plant City, Florida and I live in Knoxville, Tennessee. It is hard to do a good interview and even harder to get him to write down anything. Like many others, it is painful for him to really open up to me. I feel lucky to have collected what I have. We visited him several weeks ago and he gave me his Purple Heart. I collected a few more stories as well. I wish someone could do a better interview like those on your site, something more comprehensive. I guess this will have to do for now. Uncle Carl has had two minor heart attacks.  He also has a mass in his lung that is pressing against his heart.  He is not sure if it is cancerous, but he will be having surgery sometime soon to remove it. Keep him in your prayers."

Carl Bowers died on October 2, 2008 in Florida.

Memoir Contents:


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Pre-Military

My name is Carl Edward Bowers of Tampa, Florida.  I was born on 13 October 1932 in Knoxville, Tennessee, the ninth child of William Edgar and Jerusha Edith Grant Bowers. I was named after my mother's brother Carl Grant, and my dad's brother, Edward Bowers.  Uncle Carl died of cancer when he was pretty young.  My Bowers family came to Greene County, Tennessee in the 1840’s from Virginia and my grandfather, Robert E. Lee Bowers and his mother and brothers and sisters, moved from Greeneville to Knoxville, Tennessee, sometime between 1870 and 1880. My great grandfather, Jacob D. Bowers, died in a cholera epidemic in Greeneville in 1873.  Our Grant line came out of Connecticut to Campbell County, Tennessee, prior to 1796 and founded the town of Grantsboro.  My mother was born at Liberty Hill, in Grainger County, Tennessee, on 25 September 1898 and my father was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on 15 January 1894.

I spent my childhood up until the time I enlisted in Knoxville, Tennessee. The neighborhood was made up of mostly white working class folks.  My mother stayed at home with the kids.  She was a housewife and took care of ten kids.  My father worked several different jobs. He was taken out of school early by his father, Robert E. Lee Bowers, to work in a box factory during World War I as a "ripsaw tailer."  He tailed the ripsaw or picked up the tailings from what was being cut. He worked two or three jobs at a time. He worked at a funeral home and was the custodian at Gillespie Avenue Baptist Church for thirty-six years. He was sick an awful lot. He worked hard, but just couldn’t get ahead to stay healthy.  My dad fell forty-five feet flat on his back while topping a maple tree at the church. He broke his back and didn’t know it, but walked home and went into a coma for a month. He was doped up for the pain and eventually had to be committed to Eastern State Mental Hospital.

I was the ninth of the ten children. The first born was my sister, Dora Katherine who was born in 1916, then there was William Robert, Lena Margaret, Frank Lee, Melvin Leon, Charles Eugene, Harold Leonard, Arthur Richard, then me, Carl Edward, and last, my youngest brother Fred Allen, who was born in 1935.  My brother Charles Eugene was born in 1926 and died in 1930.  Harold Leonard was born in 1928 and died in 1931. They both died of pneumonia.

I attended Christenberry Junior High School before entering the service.  I worked for the Knoxville News-Sentinel as a paperboy for a while. They made a training film that was used to help train new newspaper boys and used me as the example of a bad paperboy being rude to customers and all. I didn’t really act that way though.

I had three brothers, Robert, Frank, and Melvin who served in World War II and another brother, Art Bowers, who later served in the Army and was stationed in Alaska, Korea, and Germany.  My brother Robert was a tail-gunner in the Army Air Corps on a B-17 named the Thunderbird. He was with the 97th Bomb Group, 340th Bomb Squadron.  He flew out of England and Africa. One bomber ran out of fuel and he had to ditch over Africa. He had two bombers shot out from under him. He lost a lung and was shot up pretty badly. He had shrapnel in him until the day he died. Once he was shot up pretty badly, knocked unconscious, and had to be pulled out of his position by his feet. Doctors once thought that he had tuberculosis because they saw a spot in the x-ray on one lung, but it was shrapnel. My brother Frank was in Patton’s Third Army and drove a half-track and 2 ton truck. Frank was a mechanic. He was involved in the Battle of the Bulge and lost a lot of his hearing due to the machine guns mounted above him on the half-tracks. Melvin was an Army medic with the 79th Infantry Division. He was involved in the D-Day invasion on the second day and went on to France, Belgium, Holland, and France. None of my brothers would talk about their experiences very much when they came home. Melvin and Frank met in Czechoslovakia once by accident.  My other brother Art went into the Army when he was sixteen.  (He lied about his age.) He joined up in 1947. Fred tried to enlist, but he was married and they turned him down. He wasn’t too happy about that and had some choice words for Uncle Sam.


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Joining Up

I had a nice looking, blond teacher when I was in Christenberry Junior High School.  I was 15 years old at the time.  One day she said to me, “Carl, what are you thinking about?” My reply would have made a sailor blush. I was told to go home and later that day I had to return to school with my dad. The principal told me to wait outside and the principal and my dad seemed to talk forever. The principal told me that I would never amount to anything. After the powwow, my dad said, “Come on."  We went outside where Dad gave me a street car token and said, “You know the way home.” Instead of going home I took the street car uptown to the army recruiting station, took my physical, filled out the necessary paper work, and was taken back home in a staff car in order for my parents to sign for me. I lied about my age and told the recruiters that I was seventeen, born in 1930.  Since 17 was underage to join the military, the enlistment papers required a parent's signature. My mother refused to sign but my father didn’t. I later went uptown to catch the bus for boot camp. My brother and sister-in-law, Melvin and Nell Bowers, tried to talk me out of going, but the reason I joined was because my dad called me stupid.  I joined the army on 10 May 1948 and my serial number was RA14297164.

My first stop was Fort Jackson (Tar Heel), South Carolina. After that I went to Fort Benning, Georgia, for jump school with the 82nd Airborne.  During training we had to wear our zippered jump boots, all shined up.  They ran us through a mud puddle and then waited for us on the other side and asked us why we got our boots muddy.  They made us run around the parade ground when we got out of step yelling, "I don't know my left from my right."  It made us feel so stupid.  I made my jumps and earned my wings, but I broke my ankle during a jump at Polk Field at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  We were given the green light too soon and dropped into the wrong zone, thus landing on the airstrip.

After jump school I went to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to the Brooke Army Medical Center/Medical Field Service School and graduated on 24 September 1948 as a Medical Aid Man.  After my training I was transferred overseas to the Philippines.  Prior to leaving the States I was given a five-day leave or delay en route and went home. When my leave was over Dad went to the bus station with me.  Mom made me a big ole sack lunch and boy, was I glad that she did.  I had sent all of my money home to my parents while I was in training and I didn’t have a penny for the trip. The lunch ran out by the time I arrived at Camp Stoneman in California. A buddy and I went to a bar and the only food they served was chili, so we had chili and wine.


Carl Edward Bower (right) in the Philippines (or Japan).
Goofing off in my silk pajamas.

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I boarded the Liberty Ship U.S.S. Greely and headed to the Philippines, arriving there about September of 1948. On October 25, 1948, I completed a course on military justice at the US Army Philippine Scout Hospital.  I was given the job of working in the cast room of that hospital, putting casts on and taking them off.  I also had to go out with the regular infantry when they were hunting down the Huks (guerillas) who were harming Filipino and American officials.  The Huks wanted valuables so they often ambushed convoys and kidnapped these officials for ransom.  At first the Huks were an organization of Filipinos dedicated to the defeat of Japan, but later it became a Communist organization dedicated to turning the Philippines into a Communist country.  General Lansdale was instrumental in their defeat.

I was only in the Philippines a short time when I got in trouble.  I swam in MacArthur's swimming pool when he wasn't there, and I also got into trouble when a buddy and I went to the "Greenhouse," a bar/house of ill repute in Guadalupe.  We were drinking Peso gin and raising hell--just having a good time.  Some Filipino scouts from the Philippine army came in and started raising hell and a couple of the Philippine soldiers were killed. My buddy and I were accused of killing the scouts. Those scouts thought they owned the world, and if we did kill them, they probably needed it.  That was in December.  That night we were shipped out to Japan to keep the Philippine government from getting a hold of us. I probably would still be there if I hadn’t left.


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Duty in Japan

From the Philippines I went to Japan for about 19 months.  When I arrived in Japan it was cold as hell and my only clothing was a lightweight summer uniform.  I was standing at that railroad station platform just shivering.  A woman with the U.S.O. came over and put her overcoat around me.


Carl (left) and unidentified friend
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I was stationed at Camp Drake, located near Osaka, 18 miles out of Tokyo.  I spent most of my time on Mt. Fuji attached to the 8th Engineers while they were on maneuvers.  The 8th Engineers also retrieved the bodies of servicemen or civilians when their planes crashed.  I attended the Medical Department Technicians School, 28th General Hospital, and completed the Specialized Training Course for Medical Technician, Class #21, on 29 September 1949.  The next month I completed a military justice class. 

When the Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950, I was in downtown Tokyo on a Saturday and Sunday with a friend who had a Buick convertible.  We heard the news on his car radio and went back to the base.  They told us to put our personal gear in our footlockers.  Our lockers were bound with a type of tar paper and then strapped with steel bands and sent home to our parents.  Mine went to Hoitt Avenue, but I don't know what happened to all the stuff in it.  It was open when I got home.

On Monday we were sent to the armory where we were given live ammo.  I said, "Oh shit!"  I knew something was up.   On 10 July 1950, C Company was ordered to Camp Zama (located about 25 miles southwest of central Tokyo, Honshu, Japan).  Two days later we went from Camp Zama to Oppama, Japan. We boarded a Landing Ship Transport (LST) and made the trip to Korea.  From the 14th to the 18th the battalion was at sea, according to the diary of war historian Frank J. Armstrong.  When we got over there, we went over the side of the LST and down the nets to small landing craft--the kind that had the fronts that went down.  We saw that the country was all mountains and rice paddies, and not all that clean.

I was just a kid, but quickly realized that being in an actual war was different than playing cowboys and Indians when I was a kid.  They didn't call it a war though.  They called it a "police action."   While unloading rations from the ship, I heard someone yelling but I didn't pay any attention to it. Finally someone yelled, "Carl Bowers." It was Joe Carver from Knoxville. A moment later I saw Carver get hit. He received a "million dollar" wound and was sent home.

We made a landing above Taegu at Pohang-dong on 18 July 1950.  At the time I was with the First Cavalry Division, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 8th Engineers, Charlie Company.  "Sandbag Charlie" was our call sign.  Years later, Frank Armstrong said that the 8th Cavalry Regiment was the first to land in Korea.


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Pusan Perimeter

From the port city we went by motor convoy to Togu-dong.  There were originally 18 personnel in the medical unit of Charlie Company.  I was a medic and demolition expert, armed with an M-1 Garand rifle, ammo belt, and clips of ammunition.  I carried a medical bag on my left hip and a demolitions bag on my right hip.  My medical bag had all kinds of bandages, including Vaseline bandages, morphine, surrettes, chloriquine tablets, and a regular medical kit with scalpels, "kellys" to clamp off blood vessels, etc.  My demolitions bag had 30 pounds (in three-pound blocks) of C3 explosives or TNT in it.  Demolitions men worked as a team and each one carried a bag that had different things in them.  Mine had the TNT, others carried caps, and some carried the detonating cords.  That way the explosives wouldn't be on one person if he got hit by enemy fire.

We landed at Togu-dong behind the North Koreans and went on to Kaesong on the 38th Parallel.  At the time, C Company was attached to the 8th RCT.  We got hit hard and were pushed back to Taegu. The first man killed in our group after landing on the beachhead above Taegu was PFC William W. Mims, who was killed while on outpost duty at Taeryong-dong. We had just dug in.  Mims was killed the first night there (July 26, 1950).  He was accidentally shot in the head and killed by a nervous or jumpy sentry who shot him with an M-1.  I knew he wouldn’t make it.  He had a hole in his helmet.

Not long after we got to Korea one of our men was wounded while we were clearing a minefield.  Someone yelled "medic" and I saw the guy going down.  I pulled him into a ditch and I took care of him even though we were all alone and still under fire.  I knew that I couldn't get the wounded guy out of the ditch by myself and wondered how we would get out of the ditch because everybody else had left.  Suddenly one of our tanks drove over the top of the ditch and straddled it over our heads. I thought he was going to put us out of our misery.  Instead, a tank crewman opened a hatch on the underside of the tank and asked me if I could drag the wounded man into the tank. I did and we got out of there alive.

The North Koreans were using Russian tanks and we didn't have much of anything to stop them.  They were big and our Sherman tanks were too small.  Our bazookas couldn’t knock out the tanks.  They just bounced off. We asked the artillery to bring up some artillery but they wouldn’t do it.  They wouldn’t come up to where we were but they said we could take a piece (artillery) and some shells.  We borrowed an artillery piece and the shells and even though we didn't really know how to use it, we aimed it at a curve on a mountain road and proceeded to knock out the front and rear Russian tanks.  Then we took care of the ones in the middle.

I was wounded twice during the Pusan Perimeter campaign.  The first time was in the Battle of the Walled City (Kasan) on 5 September 1950.  We were fighting like hell against a bunch of North Koreans and conditions were bad.  It was raining half the time and it was overcast, so we didn't have any air support.  Someone yelled, "Medic," and I went over to him. As soon as I started to stand up, my right leg buckled out from under me. I had been shot right between the groin and my right knee. The bullet came out on the outside of the knee.  Then a mortar shell blew up behind me, causing injury to my right leg and foot.  I took care of myself, tying a tourniquet around the wound, and then I just continued taking care of the others too.

When the fighting ended the Marines flew me out in a helicopter on one of those canvas stretchers on the side of the helicopter.  It liked to scared me to death.  A Purple Heart was thrown on the litter that I was being carried away on, but I can't figure out where it went.  I didn't leave Korea.  I was taken to Taegu to a MASH unit, but I didn't stay there long.  They patched me up and sent me right back to my outfit.  We didn't have any replacements at that time, so we just had to keep on fighting whether we were sick or wounded or whatever.  My nephew Joe recently told me that one of my ancestors, Alexander Black, served with the 16th Georgia Confederate Infantry and was shot in the knee at the Battle of the Wilderness.  I told him that the North Koreans were short and shot low--or maybe I just wasn't running fast enough.

My company didn’t participate in the Inchon Landing on September 15 because we were already in Korea when it took place.  We were in the ditches beside the road when the Marines landed.  We cussed each other back and forth like we did--just jawing. The Marines had the attitude that they were going to take care of business, but when they  came back down that same road later after being in action, they looked worse than we did.  We were already in Seoul when the Marines arrived there, too.  We found a brewery there and filled our water tanks with beer.

Once my men and I charged up a ridge towards an enemy soldier who had a "burp" gun and was firing on us. I kept hearing a popping noise so I hit the deck.  We found that the "pops" were where bullets had been hitting my overcoat.  The coat was full of holes.  We knew that when that gun "burped" we had 50 to 60 rounds coming at us. We got the sucker who was firing at us.  Have you ever heard of "Heart Break Ridge"?  We went there and found about 30 G.I.'s with their hands tied behind their backs and their feet tied with barbed wire. Their heads had been bashed in.

I fired a .50 caliber machinegun from a ring mount on a six-by truck until the barrel turned red. The bullets just dropped out of the barrel when it got that hot. We had to wear gloves to change the barrel.  When using a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle), we could take out a whole squad with one burst. We also used the old water-cooled .30 caliber machineguns from World War II.  They were very heavy.

On October 11, 1950, we were north of Kaesong when we came under heavy small arms and mortar fire.  We ran into heavy fire again while we were trying to clear a minefield and one of the guys in our company was killed.  There was only one tree in the minefield.  A mortar shell hit the top of the tree and exploded and we all hit the ground.  Private Vernon C. Hardin of Unicoi, Tennessee, got hit by shrapnel  in his right lung.  I know that to be a fact because I took care of him.  He was breathing through a hole in his chest and the blood was coming out of his mouth.  I didn't even have time to put a Vaseline bandage on his wound.  It was hard on me to see him die.  He was a friend of mine.  People fuss at me for smoking.  They never say anything about the napalm or all of the crap in the rice paddies that I breathed in Korea, or all of the burning bodies--the sweet smell. Lord, I’ll never forget that.

Major Holmes was on one side of a rice paddy and I was on the other when Holmes went crazy, took his .45, and shot one his own men in the leg. Someone grabbed him.  We were lucky he didn’t shoot more of his own men. He might have gone crazy because he was the one who had to write letters home to the parents of those who had been killed.  His motives were good though.

We had lots of chances to see how the North Koreans fought.  I remember one time seeing one of them wrap dynamite around his whole arm and then he went up to a tank and slapped his arm on it.  It blew the tread, but it blew him up, too.  Russians were in on the war, too. About mid-October we were having trouble knocking out the Russian T34 tanks. General Walton Walker told us that he would give a bottle of champagne and a Silver Star to anyone who could stop those tanks. Three other guys and I were in a group that tried. We went out one night and stacked anti-tank mines in the road.  They were connected to one another by rope, and were commonly known as "daisy chains."  Two of us pulled the daisy chains across the road as three tanks came down the mountain road.  We forgot what would happen when the mines blew. When the first tank ran over the mines we were blown off the mountain and into the Han River.  We were sitting there thinking how stupid we were when the ammo in the tanks (which we had also forgotten about) blew as well.

We knocked out the first tank and the other two in our group knocked out the third tank, but we couldn’t get to the middle one, which kept shooting at us and had us pinned down.  The middle one was really tearing everybody up. When it became light enough to see, Navy Corsairs came in and took out the middle tank.  We kidded that the pilots who came in very low on bombing or strafing runs were probably single and those that stayed high were married. Once the tanks were knocked out, I went into one of the tanks and took a pistol off of a dead Russian officer. He was wearing a Russian uniform.  I kept the pistol until I got to Japan and the authorities took it away from me.

I believe that it was my eighteenth birthday when I received the Silver Star. General Walker called us out and we had a little ceremony and he gave each of us a Silver Star and a bottle of champagne.  I don't recall what the general said.  At the time, the champagne meant more to me than the Silver Star.  We were just doing our job.  The Knoxville New-Sentinel had an article about my awards.  It can be found at the end of this memoir.

Frank H. Armstrong, author of The First Cavalry Division and Their 8th Engineers, had this to say about Daisy chains and their use:

“Daisy chains were anti-tank mines connected by a wire and concealed along the side of the road. The wire stretched across the road to a concealed personnel shelter. When an enemy tank neared the wire, the mine was pulled across the road until it was just in the path of one of the tank treads. The tank driver’s field of vision did not include the few feet of road immediately to his front. The operation of a daisy chain entails the use of exceptionally courageous men The double daisy chain operation was an even more hazardous action. This was designed for enemy tanks which traveled in pairs. The first tank was allowed to pass the first daisy chain and then stopped by the second daisy chain. The second tank would then proceed to assist the first tank but would strike a mine on the first daisy chain. This was successfully employed by some very brave men. In the early days of the war there was really no other way of stopping the Russian T34 tanks.”

There is also an account in Armstrong’s book about several men receiving Silver Stars for knocking out two T34 tanks employing the Daisy Chain method. The incident in Armstrong's book is not the same as the one that resulted in me receiving a Silver Star.

The second time I was wounded was after the Walled City battle when we were up near the 38th Parallel. The North Koreans smelled like garlic, so when they were close enough to where we could smell them we knew we were in for it.  One of the North Koreans crawled into my hole and took a gash out of my right arm.  I had a tattoo with my initials on that arm but now I only have part of it.  I killed the gook with my bayonet and they buried him later.  A buddy and I sewed up the wound.  It was almost three weeks before I could get back to the rear where they could take care of the wound at the battalion aid station.


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North Across the 38th Parallel

I don't know how many times we went back and forth to the 38th Parallel.  We went all over Korea, up and down, back and forth.  My outfit was almost annihilated on two different occasions with 90% casualties.  We went to the Yalu River and went across it too.  That’s when MacArthur got fired.  We weren't supposed to be there, but we were.  We were across that damn river--the Yalu River.  After coming back from the Chosin Reservoir area, I saw stacks and stacks of dead Americans, stacked in two rows.  They put them in mattress covers and then bulldozers were used to bury them in a mass grave.  By then I'd seen so much that the sight of it didn't bother me.

Winter in Korea was the coldest weather I have ever been in.  My toes and finger tips were frostbitten and they still bother me today.  When it's cold they turn black. I remember that we received two cans of beer once.  We couldn't dig a foxhole because the ground was frozen so we had to sleep on the ground in our sleeping bags. When I woke up I thought, "This is nice and warm."  When I unzipped my sleeping bag, snow fell in on me and I found that my beer was frozen.

The Army went to the power plant and the Marines went to the Chosen Reservoir in North Korea. We were then pushed all the way back to the 38th Parallel. I recall that a C-47 came over and someone on a loud speaker from within the aircraft told us, "All U.S. military personnel head south.  You're on your own."  It was every man for himself.  There were no officers to tell us what to do.   At the time, I was a Staff Sergeant.  Three other enlisted men and I kept together.  Sometimes we didn’t even know which way south was, and meanwhile the Chinese kept blowing horns and whistles.  We were captured by the Chinese and they took everything from us--weapons and a lot of our warm clothing.  They put us in a dark cave, which we didn't mind because at least it was warm. When we crawled in we discovered that there was someone else in the cave with us.  We found out later that he was a Republic of Korea (ROK) soldier.  We didn't understand him but we treated him.  The Chinese didn't feed us and we later escaped them.  It was almost a week before we found our outfit.

There were refugees as far as we could see coming out of North Korea. They wore white and there was white for as far as we could see.  They kept getting hit because the Chinese mixed in with them and dressed like the Korean civilians. The enemy mixed in with them during the daytime and attacked us from behind during the night. Once we stopped an old women with a cow that was loaded with bags. We searched the bags and found machineguns hidden under the bags. We let the woman go and took the machineguns because we figured she had probably been made to carry the machineguns and the enemy were probably close behind her somewhere. Kids were also sent into our camps by the enemy.  They brought whiskey bottles with them.  We found out that the bottles were filled with poisoned whiskey. We didn’t drink it because we knew that some soldiers had died from drinking that poisoned whiskey.

I got my demolitions training in Korea with the 8th Engineers.  Around Christmastime six of us were ordered to plant charges on a railroad bridge.  Our orders were to blow the bridge after the last train out of North Korea came though.  We waited and waited and then were told to get our asses out of there because the train wasn't coming.  When we blew the bridge the pieces from the blast nearly landed on us.

My enlistment in the Army would have been up on May 10, but they made us stay an extra year in what was known as "The Truman Year."


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Fighting in the Spring

General Hobert R. Gay took over after MacArthur was relieved. Meat was sometimes hard to come by so some others and I decided to confiscate a cow and deliver it to our mess hall for cooking. We were trying to load the cow into the back of a six-by and an old woman--the owner of the cow, was fussing and making a racket while we were trying to get the cow into the truck. We had the road blocked as well when along came a jeep with a three-star insignia on it. We figured, “Oh boy, are we in trouble now.”  General Gay came up to us and said, “Boys, what are you up to?”  We explained to General Gay that we were preparing to take the cow to our mess hall for supper. General Gay responded by saying that perhaps he should join us for supper.

While marching we had to spread out.  All of a sudden the rice paddies would come alive with Chinese who were hiding under the water, breathing through reeds. They would start blowing horns to unnerve the American soldiers. They blew a horn over here and then over there, then nothing.  Silence. The enemy attacked in waves. The front waves would be armed, but the second wave would not be armed. They picked up the weapons of those who were mowed down. Sometimes the Chinese blew the horns and nothing would happen. Lots of times at night they would sneak up on us in masses.

I have a picture of me in Korea holding a puppy. I accidentally killed that dog.  There were always dogs coming around and we tried to get rid of them. We were given pills for malaria--something called Chloriquine, I believe.  I thought if humans could take it so could the dog, so I gave him one.  He fell over dead. War is a cruel thing.

I don't remember a lot of names of the men I served with in Korea any more.  I remember Master Sergeant Stonebreaker.  He was someone I knew who was in the rear echelon. I also remember Sergeant Harold D. Day.  I saw him get blown up right in front of me.  When clearing mines we took a rope with a hook on the end and slung it as far down the road as we could in order to find trip wires. We also had to worry about “Bouncing Betty” mines, which would spring up and blow near waist high.  We were clearing mines on the road to Chunchon, South Korea, when Sergeant Day stepped on an anti-personnel mine, a mortar that the gooks had buried in the road nose up with a board on top of it so it wouldn’t be seen. Sergeant Day stepped on the mortar and that was the end of him.  There wasn’t anything left. I was about the third or fourth man back from Sergeant Day when the mine blew. The other guys in front of me really got tore up but I didn’t get anything from the explosion. I really liked Sergeant Day.  He was a good guy and the son of a preacher from Tazewell, Virginia.

In March of 1951, I was severely wounded by a mortar shell.  I got shrapnel in my back and intestines.  I had to take care of my own wounds again.  (I learned I could do a lot of things if I had to.)  This time, however, my wounds were serious enough for me to be evacuated out of Korea.  They took me back to Taegu by helicopter, then put me on a medical ship that took me on to Japan.  I was taken to the Tokyo Army Hospital where two-thirds of my stomach and part of my intestines were removed.  I stayed in Japan for three months recovering.  During that time I didn't write or call my family.  I was 17 when I went to Korea and 18 when I received the Silver Star, Purple Heart, a medal medal, and several battle wounds.


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After Korea

I was one of 75 men from Tennessee among 3,759 combat veterans from Korea who were transported to the States from Japan in May of 1951.  We arrived in Seattle on the General M.C. Meigs as the third and largest group of combat rotation troops to arrive in Seattle since the rotation program began in early May.  I received an honorable discharge from the Army on 29 March 1952 while at the U.S. Army Hospital at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Less than 90 days later I enlisted in the Air Force.  They sent me to Homestead Air Force Base in Florida, and from there I went to McDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, where I worked as a surgical tech.  I also worked as a boom operator on KC130 and KC 135 fuel tankers.  It was while I was at McDill that I went on a blind date.  A buddy of mine had a date but not a car.  I had a car but not a date.  He asked me if I wanted one, and that's when I met Anita Heslin.  We were married on July 16, 1953.  I stayed in the Air Force for two years, but got out because I continued to have problems with my stomach.  I am now 100 percent disabled because of my Korean War injuries.

I have three sons, Steven, Michael, and Richard.  Michael is in his third tour in Iraq with the Army and it's a worry.  My wife died on New Year's Day in 2002.  This year I had two heart attacks, one on January 25 and the other on June 8, 2007.  On September 4, 2007 I am scheduled for lung surgery.

Writing this has not been easy for me.  Things happened in Korea that I want to forget and it really bothers me to think about them sometimes, but I think that people need to know what happened in Korea--even though those who have never been in something like that can never really understand what happens in combat.


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News Clippings

I no longer have my Silver Star citation, but there are news clippings that tell about the awards I received in Korea, including the Silver Star.  They are not dated, but they were published in 1951 and 1952 while I was still serving in the U.S. Army.

 


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Photos

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