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Bill Dallas

John William "Bill" Dallas

Tuscola, IL-
Korean War Veteran of the United States Army

"Since I was a farmer I looked at how the Koreans farmed, but there wasn’t any comparison."

- John William Dallas

 


[Interview conducted by Lynnita Brown on the 21st  of December 1996 at the Douglas County Museum in Tuscola Illinois. Edited by Chuck Knox February, 2003]

John William "Bill" Dallas Served May 1951 – Feb 1952
709 E CR 1300 N HQ Co, 2nd Bat, 9th Inf 2nd Div
Tuscola, IL 61953 Pioneer & Ammunition Platoon

I was drafted into the service. I guess I had a small deferment because I was farming. My brother and I went to the draft board and I don’t know how much of a deferment we got but they agreed to let me stay home until I got the crops harvested that fall. I went in December 11, 1950

My mother was upset, she was really bad. She hated to see me go. She had an older brother who was wounded on Okinawa.

I knew Korea was probably where I was going. After the war broke out I had a pretty good idea what was coming so I paid a lot of attention to it.

For Basic Training I was sent to Fort Leavenworth. We were inducted in St. Louis. There were 6 of us from Douglas Co. The other fellows from Douglas County were Rod Walters, Kenny Mayer, Jack Shields, Forest Street and Jack Teal.

We had 6 weeks of basic infantry, and then they moved us to another outfit in Fort Leavenworth and we had 8 weeks of what they called engineer training. Actually it was almost the same as infantry but we did have some contact with engineer tools and stuff.

After Basic Training we received orders right then that we were going over to Korea. We had a 15 day leave at home before shipping out.

We went from St. Louis, they put us on a troop train and we rode on that troop train to San Francisco to Camp Pendleton, CA. I think we were on that thing three days and three nights.

We left on the troop ship, Collins was the name. I was on, what they called an advanced party that they put on that boat about three days before we left. We sat there in the harbor and rocked around a little and I guess we got used to it. As the advance party, we just kind of cleaned up a little and I don’t know what we did do really. But the morning we left they run about 1500 on there and also I think there was 150 WAC’s, and some Air Force people too, I believe. We left right away and got out into the ocean of course went under the Golden Gate Bridge and that was a thrill. We didn’t get out in that ocean very far and we got to rocking around and you never seen such a mess. Everybody was sick, and of course, at the time to eat that evening they went down inside the ship there and you’ve never seen such a mess. You could hardly get up the steps it was so slick. I didn’t eat. I got out of there. Everybody was up on top hanging over the rail. But you know that never bothered me a bit. So I never was a bit sick. It was a little rough at times, you know the front of the ship would go down in the water, and waves would come up over the deck a little bit but was nothing drastic or anything. We went to Okinawa first. We dropped off a bunch of guys there. Most of them had had restrictions of some kind, non-combat. Then we went up to Yokahoma, that’s where we got off at Japan. I think we were on there 21 days. Then they put us on a railroad train, we went down through Japan to Sasco, which is right on the very tip of that one island where they had a big base there. We stayed there a day or two.

They shipped us over to Inchon. We went at night, I guess so nobody would know we were coming. We landed on the 20th of May, 1951. Then they put us on the train right away. I remember the windows were all boarded up and you couldn’t see out much. I don’t remember having any seats, I guess maybe it did. It seems like it had benches along the side that you sat on. It was just an old rickety train.

After we got up there a little ways we were in the war zone and we began to see tanks and trucks, burnt out stuff. Here we were, we all had rifles of course but nobody had any ammunition. We were pretty worried about that of course, we didn’t know we were safe as babies. We were all pretty worried because we didn’t have any information. I remember we stopped somewhere up there and they let us all get off and walk around a little while. There had been an old ammunition dump up there and there were a few 30 caliber rounds laying there and everybody grabbed up all they could carry, stuck in their pockets. That made us feel a little more secure. But they didn’t tell you anything of course. We were a long ways from where the fighting was going on.

We went to this replacement camp first and we stayed around there a day or two. Then they loaded us on a truck and hauled us up to what they called the division rear. The next morning we were assigned to the different companies. I had a guy that I was well acquainted with, he had been in the same training company, or in the same battalion I guess. His name was Roy Fender and we stayed together and went to this headquarters company over the second battalion. Headquarters Company 2nd battalion, 9th infantry, 2nd division. We stayed there, both of us stayed there all the time. We were part of the P & A platoon, Pioneer and Ammunition. We had carpenter tools and trenching tools and all of that, a lot of shovels, and some saws and picks. We had big long tool boxes that were just full of tools. Well, we used them ourselves, also the line companies would come get them and borrow them and use them. A lot of times we didn’t get them back.

The company was camped in a little ole crook in the river. I don’t know what river it was. There wasn’t too much going on. I remember the night before we were assigned to our companies. They just left us out in the rain. We didn’t have any cover or anything. You could see the artillery flare when it was going off. We were about 4-5 miles from the front line, I guess. But we didn’t know anything about anything and we were all scared to death. I know that night it was rainy and we were pretty miserable the next morning. We covered up as best we could with our ponchos. It was pretty cold too. That was about the last of May, right after what they called the May massacre. They had advanced to the north quite a lot.

We were scared to death! We didn’t know what was going on! As far I know there wasn’t anybody with us that had been in any combat. Nobody said anything. If I remember correctly, they just pulled up and they said get out and you stay here. That’s about all I remember that anybody said. There wasn’t anything there. We just covered up the best we could to keep warm and keep halfway dry. After we got assigned to a regular company, there was no problem at all. We had a big squad tent and no problem. There was no heat and we slept on the dirt. The next winter we had things a lot better.

The pioneer and ammunition platoon had all the ammunition for the whole battalion. We carried it with us and we delivered it right up to the front sometimes. I remember we had mines, and did demolition work, sometimes the battalion commander might want to go up to the front to look the situation over. We would go up and build him a place with sandbags and in trees or whatever, a place where he could get in and be kind of halfway safe.

When we did demolition we would blow up bunkers that the Chinese or Koreans had built. Also, old ammunition or stuff that we captured, we would blow it. We couldn’t use their ammunition, it was different. If you had their guns you could. They had what they call a burp gun. A lot of the Chinese carried the burp guns. They had a round cylinder underneath. They would shoot faster than anything we had, they always claimed that if you got hit once you was gonna get hit more than once, the bullets was coming so fast. They were pretty short range and light caliber.

We also supplied land mines for the battalion. They were mostly for head personnel, the line companies would use them out in front of their positions, to protect them, especially of a night. They had trip wires on them, you rigged them up, if anybody got into them, they went off.

With the enemy mines there wasn’t any difference in power, they just had different types. We had mine detectors, and a lot of those mines that they planted in the roads to blow up tanks and jeeps and stuff they could detect with these mine detectors. But these little anti-personnel mines were just in a little wooden box. They were just a little explosive device about 4 inches by 2 inches and had a detonator in it, they didn’t have any shrapnel in them. This day we was going up to the front line, about 8 or 10, six of us walked over this mine, made it clear. We walked right over it. It was a little bit of a step up in the trail and when he stepped up on that upper step it went off. He was a big tall guy, pretty heavy. I don’t’ know if it was because he was a little heavier, or because he just happened to step in the right place. Our man lost a foot. It just picked him up and blew him off that whole side of the hill. Of course, we were all petrified, everybody was white as ghosts. Nobody moved, of course they were afraid to move and somebody in the back of the line run back and got ahold of another outfit camped out there. They called in a helicopter right away. The guy that was right behind the one that stepped on the mine, he was bleeding at the ears from a concussion and the one in front of him, he was all dirty from the rocks and stuff blowing on him, but he wasn’t hurt particularly. But anyway, when they brought that helicopter in they took the guy that was right behind him along too, to balance it out, but he wasn’t too bad hurt. He came back to the company within a week or so, but that was really the worst thing that I was involved in. One other thing that was kind of rough, I had to take a Korean party right up to the hill on the front and we had to pick up 15 dead Americans. I think they were out of A company, second battalion, and they’d been over run a couple of days before. I think there were 15 of them we had to carry back down to where they could get to them with trucks. One of them was a captain, I remember, company commander I suppose. But that was all. I didn’t sleep very well that night. It worried me that they had been over run or killed that way. We were just young people, you know. They didn’t have a chance, I guess. I never really did know what the circumstances were, but that is what happened. They were all right close together, probably within a 100 ft of each other. They were all lying out in the open. They were right there where they were killed, some of them were right on top of the ridge and some were down the hill in front a little ways. I should’ve found out a little about it I guess but at the time I was just glad to be over and done with it. But there was another person with me from my platoon but I can not remember who it was. They had stretchers. Sometimes if they had heavy people it took four of those men to carry them down the hill. But if they weren’t too heavy two of them would carry them. That really bothered me for a long time that I got into that and had to do it. I was really fortunate that I didn’t get over there or go in the army any sooner. I had got over there probably three weeks or a month earlier I would’ve been assigned to a line company, no doubt. I did have an engineer MOS. Because there were a lot of men that had engineer MOS’s sent to the infantry and the line companies. Anytime you can stay back away from the front a little, even if you have to go up there now and then you’re, a lot better off. Of course you got regular food, you can halfway sleep of a night without worrying about somebody jumping up or over you.

That was our only casualty I guess, outside of some scratches and stuff. I got a little cut on my leg one day from mortar or an artillery shell went off when I got close to it. I heard it coming in, we shouldn’t have been where we were standing right on top of a ridge watching them capture a couple of Chinese that were holed up out there. About the time they routed them out of the hole, the shell came in. Another guy was standing there right close to me, of course we heard it coming and we dived for this hole. I felt a little tug on my britches. I got to looking and I had a little bit of a cut on my leg. I was really pretty lucky.

I guess one night, I and another guy had to go out in front of the front lines and put out barbed wire. That wasn’t too nice out there. We were out there with sledge hammers, me and one guy from my platoon, and about 10 line company guys, out there driving iron stakes in the ground at night, out there in the moonlight. I don’t know how far the Chinese were over there but it wasn’t too nice out there banging around. We drove stakes then we had this concertina stuff made out of barbed wire we rolled out and stretched on those things to protect out front lines.

We moved all around. Actually, we hadn’t been there but just a few days and they put the whole division on reserve. I think the name of the base went back to was Chin Chun. We were back there at least three or four weeks before. We were away from the fighting. We went back up there in the same vicinity. Right after that was when they had all that trouble with taking up bloody ridge. There was a period of about three months or so that we were almost constantly on the move. They were fighting all the time back and forth. Our job was to supply the front line troops with ammunition.

Ammunition was just out in the open. We guarded it the whole time. It wasn’t like in 2nd World War when they had to camouflage the stuff on account of airplanes coming over. We didn’t have any trouble with that. Once in awhile they would have an infiltrator scare and everybody would be on alert. They didn’t allow many to get through the lines. Not like the first part of the war, that was a big problem. The infiltrators would get through the infantry to get back and attack the artillery units, In the first part of the war the artillery units suffered a lot of casualties. I really only remember one time that they infiltrated, got into a mortar unit and it seemed like they killed one or two guys before they could run them off.

The winters in Korea were colder than the dickens. It must have gotten 20 below 0 most times. But there again we were a lot better off than they were the winter before because all of the people that weren’t on the front line had these tents that had little round stoves that either burnt gasoline or fuel. We were halfway comfortable. We had these big, what they called mountain top sleeping bags and we had air mattresses to sleep on. Then later on we actually had cots, so we got in pretty good shape there. After they quit there in the fall of ’51, after the capture Heart Break Ridge and some of those other hills, everything over there just stopped. They didn’t attempt any more offensive action. It was all defensive, and occasionally they would send out patrols. I went on one one time, me and another guy from my platoon went out with the line company. There must have been a whole platoon of them. There must have been 50 or 75 of them. We went out to this little ole hill, must have been two or three miles out to the line. The guys that had been out the day before got all shot up and got into a mine field. Actually some of my platoon buddies went along that day too and they were disarming these mines when they got attacked by the Chinese. Fortunately, neither one of my platoon buddies got hit, but some of the mine company people did. I and another fellow went out the next day but there were no Chinese there. They had all gone that day. Needless to say I did not volunteer for that assignment. I was ordered to and we had a 1st. Lt. that was our platoon leader. His name was Shots. The Chinese had a whole lot of ammunition out there. I remember we had to gather a bunch of that up and put it in a pile. We had demolition stuff with us and we were going to blow it up. We had what they called prima cord that you ignited these demolition charges with. We chomped off a big hunk and put the charge in there and lit her up, we all took off  back to our lines. I don’t think it ever did go off. I don’t know for sure. I never did hear it blow. It should have blown up in 3 or 4 minutes. I never did hear it blow, but I wasn’t going to go back to look. I wasn’t feeling too secure that day. Another time, we would get what we would call Korean Armies, they were Korean people, men, either a little old or a little young for their army. They had camps of those around and you got some of them. They had these A-frame things and you load them down with ammunition and took them out to the front. Well this night a Lt. came and said some outfit up there was without ammunition. He said to me, you take these Koreans, load them up and take them up there. Well, it was raining right down, it was in the late summer, I guess, because it wasn’t really cold yet. Well, we got going and we got up there a good little ways and we met some South Korean soldiers coming down off that hill. I could understand enough of what they said. They told the Koreans I had that the Chinese were coming. That’s all it took. Of course these guys I had with me, these Koreans, just threw down the ammunition and ran. The only one we had left was the one I had hold of.  He didn’t get away. I guess the Chinese weren’t coming but we didn’t wait around to find out. We went back down the hill. There wasn’t anything else to do. We went back down and we walked all night in the rain. They picked us up the next morning in a jeep. I wasn’t very happy that night either. I was pretty much scared. The reason I got picked that night was that I was the only one that had a flashlight. I’d had that flashlight the whole time I was over there. My future wife gave it to me. I think she gave it to me before I went. As we were coming home the first night after we left the company there, we were sleeping at this place and I left that dang flashlight where we were sleeping at.

We did have a little fun over there. Another time I remember that was funny was when we were back at this Chin Chun in reserve there, we still had the ammunition and everything right with us, had it stacked out back of us. We’d been burning some stuff back there, some debris, I guess and had those toolboxes all lined up back there. We had a guy named Robert Temple. He was from Ohio. He was kind of a dowdy like guy, a little older than the rest of us, more serious. And this fire blew up for some reason, and he thought somebody was trying to blow the ammunition up, I guess. He went running out there, it was just about dark and he fell over one of the toolboxes and it destroyed him of course, just knocked his feet out from under him, he just went sprawling. Of course that was the funniest thing in the world to me. I couldn’t keep from laughing if it had killed him. He never did like me much after that.

I learned a lot. I was pretty cautious when I first went over there about doing anything out of the ordinary. Some people were kind of exuberant and ran around here, there and yonder. Well, this John Freeman got over there a week or so after I did. He was just like a big kid. He was running all over looking for souvenirs and anything. They finally collared him and said hey, you better calm down. You’re gonna get into bad trouble. There are mines and stuff around. They kind of had to slow him down. He was full of energy, you know.

We had R & R after we were over there about six months. We were sent to Japan for five days and drank beer, bought stuff. They had a USO show when we were back in reserve in Chin Chun, we went to see Marilyn Monroe.

Since I was a farmer I looked at how the Koreans farmed, but there wasn’t any comparison. Really the only farming I ever saw them doing was when we were in reserve that time. They were working out in this rice paddy planting it by hand. They had some kind of a wooden-hole affair. They would go along and chop holes and drop that in it. I guess they were glad of that. They were working right out in the water.

Mosquitoes thick as the dickens, of course they were use to that. Closer to where the fighting was going on everything was destroyed, and there weren’t any Koreans around, except those Korean Army people that they kept around. That summer we had mosquito bars that we slept under that kept off the mosquitoes. Some of the guys had attacks of Malaria. They also gave us stuff that would prevent us from getting Malaria.

The food was fairly good. But they supplied the milk already mixed. The cooks handed out these individual boxes of cereal, we poured a little of the milk and put on sugar and ate them, there was no problem. For Thanksgiving we had a wonderful meal, we had everything. You couldn’t have asked for anything.

There was no problem keeping clean in the summer. There were these little ole rivers running everywhere. You could go take a bath or go swimming or whatever. They came down out of these little hills everywhere. But in the winter of course they would be colder than the dickens. After it got cold we got pretty grubby there. Actually I think we went about six weeks without ever having clean clothes or anything. Finally they loaded a bunch of us up and took us back to what they called shower holes. We all took a shower, of course it was warm when you took a shower but when you got out, son of a gun, you liked to froze to death. It was just in a tent, there wasn’t much heat. But they gave us all clean clothes, from the skin out and we were alright. I don’t remember taking another shower or bath till I went home in February.

I guess we needed to be there. We kept them from over running South Korea, that’s what it originally started out to be. In my opinion they should have never attacked North Korea. I mean after they ran them back up North, they should never have pushed North unless they intended to go all out.

I grew up a little while I was there. I learned how to smoke cigarettes. They gave you cigarettes over there all the time. One thing that always bothered me was the fact that the government starved the military so much after the Second World War that they weren’t prepared for anything. Those boys they sent over there, in June when that started, they weren’t prepared for anything. They didn’t have any equipment, their weapons weren’t working or a lot of them had a shortage of ammunition and everything. You’ve got to blame the government for that. They sacrificed them; a lot of them got killed for no good reason.

The Koreans lived differently from anything I had seen before. Just looking at them, they were dirty. We didn’t see many of them of course because there wasn’t very many of them. As it began to get cold in the fall they just put on another layer over, these little white baggy dresses they had on, as it got colder they just kept putting on more and more layers. And everything they wore was a dirty white. It was really a pretty poor country. Everything about was poor as far as I could see. The ground where they grew stuff was bad. I’ve see little ole rinky rice paddies on the side of hills that weren’t any bigger than a room where they had leveled out a place and they didn’t have any roads, no good bridges or anything. It was totally different than what our country is.

I left Korea at the last of February of 1952. We went to Inje, Korea and we left on a troop ship, Hassel. We came direct to San Francisco, sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge again. Everybody was out on deck and really cheered. There was a band and the Red Cross people there gave us cookies or donuts or something. It was a happy time.

I suppose when you first went in, they treated you so ornery down there that you couldn’t have been happy about anything then. They really abused you, and the weather was terrible. The winter of ’51 was terribly cold and we had a lot of snow and ice there. They heated those barracks with a big ole coal furnace that had big old ducts that ran down the center. One night, I don’t know what they did, they threw too much coal in there or something. Anyway, the furnace blew up. Soot blew all over us, all over everything and if that wasn’t a terrible mess. It was on our blankets and all over us. I guess that may have prepared me for Korea, but I lived worse down there than I did in Korea. Of course those people who were right on the front lines, the line companies, some of them didn’t live too well. But that was bad down there. First thing in the morning they would run you out for breakfast and you had to stand in line of course. Everything you had to stand in line to do. Maybe you’d stand out there for 15-20 minutes freezing and that soot drifting down on you like snow. It was really an unhealthy place. A lot of guys were sick with colds, some of them even had pneumonia and they had to take them to the hospital.

I am not sure the country understands the cost of freedom. I think a lot of these younger people, especially the ones that are in their 20s and some of the younger ones that are in school now, don’t have any appreciation for what the older generations went through. A lot of these kids that grew up here like 15, 10 years ago, I began to wonder if they were ever going to amount to anything. I think the children now that are in school are better. They have more appreciation than some of these older people. But we did stop the communist from spreading there. I don’t think they should have invaded North Korea unless they were gonna go all out.

I always have felt that I was really lucky to be assigned to where I was. What made it better was the fact that everything wasn’t moving much. In the early part of the war they were moving everywhere, back and forth. Nobody knew really what was going on then. We were in pretty good shape, I guess.

 

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