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Richard E. Jaffe

Miami, FL -
Korean War Veteran of the United States Army

"The fight raged on for another day and a half with "Easy," "Fox" and "Able" Companies of the 17th Infantry Regiment fed into the rotating meat grinder that Pork Chop had become.  The ultimate US casualty toll of more than 800 killed and wounded was believed greatly exceeded by the Chinese losses. "

- Richard Jaffe


[The following short memoir was submitted to the Korean War Educator in July of 2009 by Richard Jaffe, who was an artillery forward observer in the battle for Pork Chop Hill in the closing months of the Korean War in the spring of 1953.]

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Pork Chop Hill, Korea -
An FO's Perspective

At 2100 hours on April 16, 1953, EE-8 telephones began ringing in CPs all along the Seventh Division front just south of the 38th parallel in Korea.  I was a 24-year old shave-tail forward observer just nine months out of Artillery OCS at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  When I answered the phone, I was told by the Battalion S-2 that Intelligence expected a broad-based attack in our sector starting at 2300 hours.  One of our agents working behind enemy lines had heard it from a Korean woman who was also a friend of several Chinese soldiers.  Although that was only two hours away, I didn't get too concerned because we had been getting similar alerts for more than a week.

Three hundred meters to the west of my position in OP 15 on Hill 200, 2nd Lieutenant Harvey D. Anderson received the same message in the "Easy" Company CP on Pork Chop Hill.  So did Lt. Herbert W. Linn manning OP 14 on a higher hill behind us about 400 meters southeast of Anderson on Pork Chop.  All three of us were good friends with the common bond of working as green new Forward Observers assigned to Battery B, 57th Field Artillery Battalion, in support of the 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division.

At 2300 hours precisely, I stood at the north aperture of OP 15 staring intently at the invisible Chinese lines 1000 meters away.  Suddenly, the entire northern horizon erupted in a series of rippling flashes which lined the intervening mountains against the light.  With all of the veteran assurance born of 30 days experience on line, I turned to my Recon Sergeant standing behind me and said, "Looks like those B-29's are giving them hell with radar bombing tonight!"  My Sergeant, with the superior knowledge that six more months on the MLR than me had given him, quickly corrected me: "No, Sir!  Those flashes are from enemy artillery firing at us!"

Seconds later began one of the most intensive artillery bombardments in the history of modern warfare as preface to the Chinese infantry assault on Pork Chop Hill.  As Brigadier General S.L.A. Marshall said in his book, Pork Chop Hill:

"Pork Chop itself was a contemptible hill, ill-formed for all-around defense and too loosely tied in to the supporting neighborhood.  Only 234 meters above sea level at its sharply peaked summit, the outpost was not only dominated by the Chinese-held ridges, but in fact extended into their country, being on the wrong side of the main valley.  When one month earlier Old Baldy had been wrested away by the Communists, there was good reason in military logic why Pork Chop should have followed it as a gift.  That concession would have been in the interests of line-straightening without sacrifice of a dependable anchor.  But national pride, bruised by the enemy's rudeness toward Old Baldy, asserted itself, and Pork Chop was held."

As the 122mm Soviet gun/howitzer shells began screaming in, I ducked down below the lip of the aperture, grabbed my EE-8 telephone, cranked the handle, and had barely enough time to yell, "The s--it has hit the fan!  Give me some flares over Pork Chop!"  In the next second, the roaring crescendo of exploding shells was punctuated by the blinding flash of a direct hit on OP 15.  The explosion blew off part of the bunker's overhead cover and caved in the rest in a jumble of broken timbers and slashed sandbags.

I lay on my back, dazed, still clutching the telephone handset and buried up to my neck in collapsed debris.  As I recovered my senses, instinctively I drew the telephone to my ear, pressed the butterfly switch, and gasped, "Give me Flash Pork Chop!"  (A pre-planned, Variable Time proximity-fused artillery concentration designed to explode 20 yards overhead to decimate any assaulting infantry in the open.)  Then I noticed the severed wires dangling uselessly from my telephone headset.

I next began examining myself and feeling my limbs to see if everything was still attached and in working order.  Much to my amazement, they were, and I began digging myself out of the rubble.  Grinning with the realization that I had survived the blast without a scratch, I helped my Recon Sergeant dig himself free.  He did not appear to be hit, but complained that he was not able to see.  The flash from the exploding shell had singed his eyelashes and eyebrows and left him temporarily blinded.  He recovered his sight the next day.  Fortunately for us, OP 15 had been the target of a "low order burst"--a partly defective projectile which had not fragmented properly, thereby sparing the sergeant and I from almost certain death.  The Chinese were likely using surplus Russian shells from World War II.

I knew that the next order of business was to restore communications with both Pork Chop and the Fire Support Coordination Center (FSCC).  After leading my temporarily blinded sergeant to a safer nesting place in the other leg of my partly demolished "L"-shaped bunker, I crawled back to the corner of the "L" and turned on our 610 radio.  I reached Lieutenant Anderson on Pork Chop almost immediately and asked him if I could be of any help.  By this time, the remnants of a Chinese assault company were storming the crest of Pork Chop tossing grenades and spraying PPSH submachine gun fire into the "Easy" Company CP bunker.  Soon, most of the occupants of that bunker, including Lieutenant Anderson, were wounded.  So when I called him on the radio and asked him what I could do to help, the first thing that popped into his head, and which has been forever burned into my memory was, "Sure thing, Dick.  You can come over here and take my place!"

Anderson's radio antenna had been shot away in the initial barrage, drastically limiting his transmitting range.  Fortunately, since we were less than a quarter of a mile apart, we could communicate clearly.  For the rest of that endless first night of what went down in history as the "Battle of Pork Chop Hill," I provided Andy's link to the FSCC relaying his requests for "Flash Pork Chop," for VT fire on position, for reinforcements, supplies and medical assistance.

Lieutenant Linn, from his superior vantage point on a higher hill between and behind the other two positions, was able to maintain observation of the area throughout the action.  In spite of the constant hail of artillery and mortar fire, Linn continued to adjust illuminating flares and the "friendly" VT fire over Pork Chop.  The Chinese suffered severe casualties and were unable to consolidate their initial advantage of taking and holding the hill.

"Easy" Company of the 31st, commanded by Lt. Thomas V. Harrold, was relieved the next morning by the remnants of "King" and "Love" Companies.  In the movie, Pork Chop Hill, which starred Gregory Peck as Lt. Joe Clemons, CO of "King" Company, the story begins the second day when Clemons led his Company into the battle to retain the hill.  The fight raged on for another day and a half with "Easy," "Fox" and "Able" Companies of the 17th Infantry Regiment fed into the rotating meat grinder that Pork Chop had become.  The ultimate US casualty toll of more than 800 killed and wounded was believed greatly exceeded by the Chinese losses.  Pork Chop was essentially a massive artillery duel with the recurrent infantry efforts by both sides repeatedly disrupted by the deadly storm of exploding howitzer shells.  By the second day, the supporting American fire had built up to a total of 77,349 rounds.  Quoting S.L.A. Marshall again:

 "Never at Verdun were guns worked at any such rate as this.  The Battle of Kwajalein, our most intense shoot during World War II, was a lesser thing when measured in terms of artillery expenditure per hour, weight of metal against yards of earth and the grand output of the guns.  For this at least, the operation deserves a place in history.  It set the all-time mark for artillery effort."

My friend Andy was evacuated to a hospital in Japan where he spent the next few months learning to relax in other than a sitting position.  For his cool performance under fire on Pork Chop, in addition to his Purple Heart, Andy was also awarded the Silver Star medal.  I survived Korea without a scratch, but about ten weeks after Pork Chop, I was evacuated by helicopter to the 48th M.A.S.H. outside of Seoul with an acute case of hemorrhagic fever, the medical mystery ailment peculiar to the Korean peninsula.  Ironically, one of my additional assigned duties was "Battalion Hemorrhagic Fever and Malarial Control Officer."  Naturally, I was the only one in the entire Battalion to come down with either disease.

By the time they discharged me from the 48th MASH at the end of July 1953, the truce had been signed and the "Police Action" was over.  And in an ironic footnote to history, three months after the grim battle for the bloody hill ended, "Pork Chop" was abandoned as part of the general line-straightening which followed the end of hostilities.


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About the Author

Following his separation from active duty in October of 1953, 1st Lieutenant Jaffe retained his commission in the Army Reserve until 1959 when he resigned his commission to accept one in the Coast Guard Reserve, from which he retired as a Commander in 1980.  In civilian life, Jaffe served in the US Treasury Department for 22 years as an IRS Special Agent until he retired to accept a position as the Supervisory Investigative Accountant for the State Attorney's Office in Miami, Florida, where he served as the next 24 years until his final retirement.

 

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