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Maurice Deneen Mason

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

 

"There was no floor on the bridge.  It had been bombed and burned out.  A roadway of three-foot wide boards had been laid across the steel girders of the bridge. The officer assured us that they would hold us, for tanks had crossed that bridge several times....  I could see the front wheel tire and knew I was on it.  If the wheel ever missed the board, my truck would be wrecked and fall downward into the Han River waters."

- Maurice Mason


[The following memoir was sent to the Korean War Educator in conjunction with questions asked of Maurice Mason by Lynnita Brown in 2012.  Maurice served with the following units in the 1951-52 time period in Korea..

  • 532nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, Inchon
  • 378th Construction Engineers Detachment, Inchon
  • 378th changed to 96th Quartermaster Headquarters Detachment, Inchon
  • 375th Port Guard Detachment
  • Eighth Army Headquarters Command, Seoul
  • 96th Quartermaster Battalion

Memoir Contents:

  • Pre-Military
  • Joining Up
  • Ft. Leonard Wood
    • Advanced Training
  • Seattle to Korea
    • Trip to Korea
    • Short Stay in Japan
  • Mountainous Terrain
    • Listen to Every Word
  • 532nd at Inchon
    • Mr. Mosquito
    • Constructing the Command HQ
    • Tidal Basin
    • Mail Call
  • 378th Construction Engineers
    • Company Clerk
    • Multiple Jobs
    • Unloading Gasoline Drums
    • Dump Truck Driver TDY
    • Scary Journey
    • The Gopher
    • Helicopter Mishap
    • R&R in Japan
  • A Complicated 1952
    • Thawing Boots
    • Fire at the Pipeline
    • Under the Desk
    • Tomb-like Setting
    • POL Pipeline Guard
  • Port Guard Detachment
    • Finding Buddy Birch
    • Blixie Cold
    • Secret Mission
    • Bed Check Charlie
    • Death in Mud
  • Eighth Army HQ Command
    • First Office Day
    • Getting Organized
    • Time Spent in Seoul
    • Episode at Kimpo
  • Drinking Opportunities
  • Maritime Ship Story
    • Wonderland
  • Going Home
    • Sea Voyage

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Pre-Military

My name is Maurice D. Mason of Eldorado, Illinois. I was born on my parents' 50-acre farm in Hardin County, Illinois. We lived approximately three and a half miles from the nearest village named Cave in Rock. I attended Cave in Rock Community High School from 1945 to May 27, 1949, receiving my diploma.

My father had many occupations. First, he farmed 40 full acres. Second, he worked as an auto and truck mechanic in his small one-vehicle garage which sat near State Highway #146. He had cattle, hogs, sheep, and a few goats at times. He also had two or three horses. Another occupation was that of owner of a motor vehicle junk yard.  At one time it housed nearly 375 partial or complete trucks and cars, farm tractors and other types of horse-drawn equipment. My father also raised, cut and baled hay and straw which he sold or traded with other farmers in the area. Father also hauled crushed rock from the local fluorspar mines.  At the time, the mines gave him surplus rock which needed to be removed so the mines could have a broader work area to stockpile other items in their operation.

My mother raised my only brother Marvin and me. She cared for us dearly, teaching us how to write and read some before we ever entered the first grade of elementary school.  We attended the Simpson country school located a quarter mile south of our home in District 25, rural route Elizabethtown, IL. My father was a school board director in charge of ordering and keeping the school supplies on hand for teachers and students both to use. He ordered paper, pencils, desks, coal for the stove, etc. I was proud my father was a school board director.

My mother also had many jobs she worked each day. Besides raising my brother and me, she went to Cave in Rock and worked with her mother in canning foods and ironing clothing for money and such things. When there was a family or person in dire need, the two of them went to aid that person if the person would permit them to do so. Everyone in Cave in Rock knew my mother and grandmother, as we were close kin to many families there.

In high school I worked as class editor for the year book and other things involving our class and school activities. I also worked as a cheerleader at basketball games beside three girls who kept me in line. They all liked me because I always tried to tell jokes and keep people happy. I fit in like a glove on the hand.


Joining Up

On January 16, 1951, I was sitting in my father’s auto waiting for him to return from an auto parts store in Harrisburg, Illinois. I was listening to the radio of Dad’s new Plymouth car when a news flash came out that said that were a war going on in Korea and the United States was in that war and in great need of men to help fight the communists who had come in from Manchuria and were destroying people and burning cities all over the peninsula of Korea.

I wondered how I could enter the service.  Lo and behold, I looked across the street at the window of the First National Bank. There was a poster with a military recruiter’s logo and statements to sign up and be part of the needs of the USA. I walked to that bank and entered it, going to the office of the Recruiting Sergeant. In just a few minutes he had convinced me to join the U.S. Army for a term of three consecutive years. He also had filled out the forms, checked my age on my automobile driver’s license, wrote down my Social Security card number, and shoved the enlistment paper in front of me so I could sign it. He handed me a copy of what I had signed and said, “You will report to the U.S. Army next week at St. Louis, Missouri at the railroad station. There will be a train there waiting to take men who are entering the military to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, their basic training home base.”

My mother and father cried that night when I asked for the keys to the car and $50.00 to do as I saw fit. I told them that I had joined the Army and couldn’t back out of it. Father said to me, “You will be sorry you did this before you get out.  You wouldn’t have been drafted because you can’t see out of one eye very much at all.” They gave me the keys to the car and $50.00 to go see my girlfriend, who lived in Shawneetown, Illinois, which was 28 miles northeast of our home. I went out that night and did as I wanted, but I got a rude awakening when I told my girlfriend what I had done. She said she would get another boyfriend because she just knew that I would not be returning for three years, if ever. She gave me a “Dear John” answer immediately. It was there I began to experience the results of what I had done and what was about to start happening.

The next week my father drove me to the St. Louis railroad station where the train was waiting for us to board it after we were sworn into the military by officers standing there for that purpose.  My father saw and heard me repeat the officer's statements of promise to obey what the military asked of us from there on until we were discharged from the Army.  My father turned and left before I boarded the train.  I could sense he was in a state of mind he never thought he would ever come to.  I watched him enter his car and drive away, heading back to Cave in Rock.


Ft. Leonard Wood

After boarding the train we were given a lecture on what we were about to enter into and what we were required to do on the train until it reached its destination at Ft. Leonard Wood.  We were handed coffee and sandwiches to munch on until we arrived in Rolla, Missouri, where the train stopped and we debarked, getting into 2 1/2 ton Army trucks to be moved onto the Army base.

It was cold and we had no winter underwear on, so we were glad to arrive inside the Army base and be told to crawl down out of the truck and line up to march single file to a group of buildings nearby.  There we entered and lined up beside wooden counters.  We were told to drop our drawers (take all clothing off) and place our belongings onto the counter in a pile beside us.  Then we were marched single file into a room of that building where clothing was stored in storage boxes on the walls.  We picked out the clothing we thought would fit each of us, starting with long underwear which we donned immediately, then a pair of very too long and too big around trousers.  We were told they would "draw up" after we washed them by hand a few times.

We finally got all our clothing on and then we were given two more pairs of every article of clothing we would need to get us through a week of starting in the U.S. Army.  We were notified that we were responsible for all our clothing and would have to pay for anything we destroyed recklessly.  We were given a sewing kit in the next building, and this was what we used to repair any damages to our clothing.  If we couldn't repair the damages, we presented the clothing to a company clothing room clerk who sent them out to be repaired by civilian workers.  Then whatever they charged for the repair was taken from our monthly pay of a great $70.00 per month.  We were given a duffel bag that would house everything we owned and would be carried slung over our shoulder.

The next step came as we entered a barracks building where we would live when not on training duty.  I was assigned to a group that would live on the second floor, having stairs to climb.  The shower rooms were on the first or bottom floor.  After being led to the upstairs and assigned a bunk to sleep on, we deposited our clothing on a bunk and were led back downstairs and out of the barracks.  We were marched double file to another building which they said was the "mess hall".  That didn't sound proper, but we accepted it.  When we entered, we smelled good old hot soup cooking and saw hot rolls in large pans on a counter.  There were tables galore for us to take our food to and sit and eat.  We were introduced to food trays for the first time, and picked up eating utensils that I thought were large enough to feed animals in the barn.  I sure could see these changes were going to be something for me to contend with for three years.

We were told how long our training would be.  Each man would receive 13 weeks of basic training of how to live in a battle zone, how to fight, how to kill, how to take prisoners, etc.  They said that after the 13 weeks were finished, we would go on to Advanced Basic Training, which would involve training in large items such as trucks, tanks, boats, artillery guns, flame throwers, pontoon boats, bombs, land mines, booby traps, and the like.

I went through the 13 weeks basic and sensed a bitterness I could not determine or describe.  I could not put a finger on it.  I thought we would really be given rifles and sent right on to war.  I knew how to shoot many sorts of rifles, pistols and double-barrel shotguns, and I knew how to ignite dynamite sticks before I entered the Army.  I lived in a mining area and dynamite was a common item in many businesses.  High-powered rifles and shotguns were common place, as farmers used them to kill cougars, wildcats, skunks, and other destructive animals.

Advanced Training

By the time I entered Advanced Basic Training, I had rebelled to many rules and regulations and had been censored for my rebuttals.  I wanted to do it my way, which I thought was better than the way the Army wanted me to do it.  My way was very familiar, as I had already done it sometime previous.  I was told by non-commissioned officers (rank under a certified officer) that I would have a harder time in Korea due to my being so self-centered and not listening to their instructions.  Anyway, I finished Advanced Basic Training with honors--and lots of scars and torn clothing.

I was given a notice that I was being transferred to another Army post at Seattle, Washington.  I was to report there in ten days using an "en route furlough time" which permitted me to go home and say all my goodbyes to parents, friends, and animals.  I spent a week at home, saw all my old friends that I could, made all my goodbyes, and got pretty loaded two or three nights at the local bars.


Seattle to Korea

After my leave I reported back to the recruiter who had signed me up at Harrisburg.  He said he would drive me to the train at St. Louis that I would ride to Minneapolis, Minnesota.  When I got there I was to change trains and get on another one that would take me to Seattle.  This was an experience also--sleeping in train car bunks and eating meals handed to us by men who brought the food to us from the dining car that was attached to the train.  The trip to Seattle took three days and nights.  When we arrived there we entered trucks that took us to the Seattle Replacement Center.  We stayed there until the ship arrived that would take us to Tokyo, Japan.

In Seattle the process started and stopped again. We had to remove all clothing and be re-issued new stuff.  Anything we did not want to go with us overseas had to be wrapped and mailed back to our homes.  We were presented with brand-new rifles and clothing, plus eating gear.  We carried this with us until we reached Tokyo, Japan.

Trip to Korea

[TEXT TO COME]

Short Stay in Japan

When we reached Japan, we entered barracks and were taken the next day to an area where we received instructions on how, when, where and what we were to do.  Number 1, we had to remove all the cosmolene from our brand-new rifles, clean the barrels spotless, and make sure all parts were dry, oiled, and working properly.  The next day we were marched to a rifle range where we again took target practice.  I got three bulls-eyes.  We were told to do our best because as soon as we hit Korea we would be fighting communists.  The time for play had ended and getting down to life and death had arrived.  We all took heed of these instructions and information.

The next day we got on a Japanese train with real narrow tracks and seats.  It took us to Sasebo, Japan on the west coast.  Again we went to a rifle range and took target practice (to see how nervous or anxious we might be) as before.  We were fed a great supper and went to bed before darkness fell.

The next day we entered an LST ship that took us to Pusan, Korea, approximately 750 miles across the Yellow Sea's waters northward from Japan.  This trip took about a week.  We ate hot food that was brought onto the LST from the far end of it where a kitchen was working around the clock.  Our laps were the food tables. As told to us by Army officers, this was a version of how limited things were going to get in our everyday lives in Korea until we got down to eating C-rations from cans while in foxholes and bunkers.  The officers tried to transform our thoughts to actually being there on the battle lines already.


Mountainous Terrain

We at last arrived at Pusan where we unloaded at piers that had processing buildings built on them.  There we were given food, had our clothing and supplies all rechecked many times, and made sure that we had our ammunition belts totally loaded with ammunition and we had hand grenades on our belts and bayonets in their holders.  The time I shall not forget, because daylight was beginning to get grey heading for sunset.  We were then ordered to load onto railroad cars which had no windows.  The cars only had doors on each side.  Cracks in the wood that the railroad cars were built of had been covered with nailed-on straps of wood.  This made the insides of the car impossible to see.

From within each railroad car one soldier had been assigned and told how to oversee his fellow soldiers.  He told us that we were heading into a highly mountainous terrain where it was unknown if communists had been there or possibly were at this time.  He said every area from there on was to be counted as a possible fighting area and anywhere might have an enemy in, on, or under it.  We were not permitted to smoke cigarettes or tobacco to prevent the light from a fire from possibly being seen by enemy who might be looking through telescopes for a live target.

This trip found us eating our first C-rations from cans that were already on the floor of each railroad car.  Did this make us happy?  "Crap" was all we thought.  "We're going to have to eat this crap the rest of our days in Korea?"  The man in charge of our car laughed and said we would come to areas where we would eat hot cooked food again.  He said that the only time C-rations were necessary was when we were too close to the front lines where no one had a kitchen to cook food.

Our first stop was at Taegu, South Korea.  This was in the daytime.  We were permitted to debark from the train and were given a full-course hot meal from aluminum trays.  Here we received more instructions, which came with fear behind them now.  Some of us were heading from Taegu to the front fighting zones by trucks sitting there waiting.  I could barely grasp a view of what was next to me and I asked one man near me if he wanted to be my buddy so we could talk and try to learn what was going on and what we would be doing every minute.  It was then that I sensed a need to have someone to assist me through conversation.  This new friend asked if I wanted to walk around a little and get to know where we were at.  I agreed.  We didn't walk over 50 feet in any direction, but it gave us freedom to view Korean landscape, ditches, rice paddies, and a dirt road where a blown-up communist tank lay leaning over on its side.  This was our first combat sight.

We were loaded back onto another train that sat waiting there in the Taegu railway track junction's depot station.  This train had box cars that had open doors and we could see things as we passed by them.  Now we began seeing war damages we never expected to see unless we were right in the midst of the fighting.  We saw burned and blown-apart trucks that looked foreign.  They had been built either in China or Russia and didn't much resemble those made in the USA.  They looked antique.  Blown-up trains sat off the tracks, some burned into rusty piles of iron.

Listen to Every Word

Onward we went about 25 miles per hour.  Once, we were going so slow up the side of a tall mountain that we could have walked faster than the train was moving.  Finally it sped up and we grew more excited.  At last we came to a stop and heard someone on a loudspeaker saying something to the engineer at the front of the train.  We had arrived at the railway depot in the South Korean capitol of Seoul, Korea.  We were instructed to unload and wait beside our railroad car.  There we could vision a bombed-out and yet-burning railroad depot.  The railroad station was being cleaned and junk wood burned so the station could be reconstructed as it was before the last bombing by the Commies.

We were really anxious now!  What next?  Could we talk safely or move around or anything?  Were there land mines yet unexploded anywhere in that area?  What were we to really know?  Finally an instruction officer came and read us the riot act.  Some of us were going to location units in the Seoul area itself.  Others of us were going to Ascom City just west of Seoul about 15 miles.  I was loaded onto a deuce and a half (2 1/2-ton) truck along with a few other soldiers.  We were taken to the Ascom City Replacement Detachment where we were instructed again as to where we were and what we were going to be compelled to do before nightfall.  Our great command was to "listen to every word like it was gold", for that just might help save our lives.  Again, fear came to this 18 1/2-year old high school graduate who was acting as if he was an 18 1/2-year veteran of the military service.

I listened, then found out I was going to live at Inchon, Korea, which was a port city west of Ascom City about 13 miles.  I had been assigned to "B" Company of the 532nd Engineer Boat & Shore Regiment.  My commanding officer would be Captain Beers.  Now the journey by truck to Inchon.  What waited for us there?  Fighting?  How could we fight if we were going to be in boats?  Poor little lost 18 1/2-year old boy!


532nd at Inchon

Finally we arrived in Inchon and could see village things like old straw huts and bombed and burned vehicles.  There were warehouses that were blown to pieces with just the concrete pillars remaining.  There were railroad tracks that were blown out of the dirt and standing up like people or posts.  What a mess!  It looked like my father's junk yard back at Cave in Rock, Illinois.

The truck turned into a barbed wire compound after a guard took a barbed wire gate down and pulled it aside so the truck could enter the guarded area.  The truck pulled up sharply and the wheels sank a little in the sandy beach of Inchon.  It stopped and we were quickly instructed to unload everything that was on the truck, including ourselves and our things.  After unloading, we stood and waited for instructions.  A Jeep pulled up at last to the area where we stood and an officer got out.  He instructed us to all sit or find a comfortable something to sit on.  He said he was in charge of us and that he was going to tell us what was to happen next.  We finally got ourselves situated and were sitting down.  We were given permission to smoke at will and those of us who smoked tobacco did as we were told we could.

The Commanding Officer told us we would be sleeping on the sandy beachhead until we could find something to make a proper bed on.  We were given a choice of six bottles of soda or six cans of hot beer to help soothe our crying thirst.  We had not drank anything except water from our canteens that we had filled at Pusan.  I chose six hot beers.  Someone said I would be sorry as soon as I took a drink.  They were correct, but I had made my decision.  The beer lasted a long, long time, believe you me.  As we sat there kitchen supplies came by trucks and were unloaded.  Wooden platforms were unloaded where the cook stoves were to sit on and the kitchen began taking form.

Mr. Mosquito

The date was July 3, 1951, and it was hot as blixie.  While we were sitting there waiting and while the trucks were being unloaded, thousands upon thousands of mosquitoes arrived to welcome us.  They covered us like a plague.  We stopped working long enough to open cans of DDT and other mosquito repellants and hunt for shirts, coats, or anything to cover ourselves with to try to keep them from b

That night we ate a field-cooked supper of pork chops and potatoes and hot coffee with no cream or sugar.  We fought mosquitoes with one hand while trying to eat with the other.  Finally someone got smart and small fires were lit.  Used oil was poured on one of them to create smoke.  That ran some of the mosquitoes away from us a little bit, but they still covered us.  When night fell we were given permission to sleep until morning light came.  We lay on whatever we could find and hoped that we would feel a little different in the morning.  As darkness fell the mosquitoes relented some and the fire smoke did its guard duty.  I fell into a peaceful sleep.

The next morning I saw daylight.  I had all my arms and legs.  I knew I was safe at that time.  But I wondered, "When will the hurt begin?  Where will it come from and how?  Will it be a bomb, a bullet, a bayonet?  A Communist right on top of me trying to cut my head off?"

A non-commissioned officer appeared and told us to all line up and form a chow line, for it was time to eat breakfast.  I recall we had scrambled eggs, potato cakes, some pieces of pork chop and a mixture of bacon and other bits of hog meat.  It was enough to fill an empty belly.  Then we were told we were going to help build a company area and erect tents, buildings, and other things necessary for us to live there as a permanent command area where our living quarters and work areas would be near each other.

Constructing the Command HQ

Trucks came rolling into the tidal basin area with supplies to help construct a command headquarters that would be known as the 532nd Engineer Boat & Shore Regimental Headquarters of the Tidal Basin of Inchon.  This was my first experience in great construction activities in the U.S. Army.  Everyone did something.  Enlisted men carried things, used hammers, lifted barrels, etc.  Every few minutes a formerly blank area now became part of a greater enclave that housed something.  The blank spots were now being filled with great haste and every few minutes a whole unit stood where nothing had stood previously.  A mess hall was constructed without outside galvanized sheets of cover.  It had walls and eating tables, cooking stoves on wooden floors, and vats and tubs standing on wooden floors,  Some concrete was found and that formed a base for a wall or corner to a wall.

The entire place was like a bee hive.  There was much, much talk among the men and laughing could be heard where previously complaints were all that formed from their lips. I could not believe my eyes, for they couldn't accept the fact that a Company was almost all there except having walls and paint on the walls.  Cheer came into the hearts of the men.  We took a break for the evening meal.  After supper, news came about the battles going on in northern parts of Korea.  We learned about our men who were suffering defeat in many places.  This dropped our spirits, but our Chaplains (who were officers) came and explained that this is how war is and how it is to be lived and fought.  Most construction operations ceased shortly before midnight.  Some minor operations still went on, but not enough to keep weary troops from a night of sleep.

Our spirits rose again on the day that we were told where we could sleep as soon as we put all the wooden pieces of the tent floorboard together.  We helped measure the areas, mark the spots, and drive stakes into the ground where the tent would be tied down.  Next came boards to be laid down as a floor, then more boards to create a wall half-way up the side of the tent.  Six men brought a tent while two tent poles were stood up using cripple boards to keep it standing while the tent was brought down on top of the poles.

The tent was not unrolled all the way down due to the heat of July.  It was rolled halfway down and mosquitoes came into the tent until we finally got a truck in that had screen-wire mesh to cover the sides of all tents.  Ours waited almost a week before the screen-wire arrived and was nailed down.  We had many mosquito bites and I caught malaria from the bites I received from the poison gnats.  I went through the month of August sick as a dog and ate a barrel full of APC's (aspirins).  That was all the medicine we were able to get at that time, as no medical tents had arrived, nor had the medicines to go in them or personnel to run them.  Crazy war!  August came and went.  I started getting well and could eat and sleep like a human being would like to.  This ended August 1951 at Inchon, South Korea, in the land known as Chosun or Chosen, written both ways.

Tidal Basin

At Inchon, about a quarter of a mile west of where we constructed the company command headquarters of the 532nd EB&SR, lay the tidal basin.  It was an enclave built of concrete walls.  Hydraulic gates on the west end permitted the waters of the Yellow Sea to enter it.  The tide from the sea came in and caused the water in the tidal basin to raise and lower when the tide went back out.  Imagine this basin (something like a bathtub basin) filling up at its discretion every few days and then emptying out at its choosing.  When the tide went back out toward Japan, whatever was floating on its waters had to either be moved or tied down to keep it from floating away.  Ships, barges, and other floating-type apparatus were at risk of turning over or being destroyed when this tide reaction came about.

The dimensions of the tidal basin were about a half mile square.  At the left end of it were the hydraulic gates that opened and let ships and barges come and go.  This basin was the most vital point of help in the entire Korean War zone.  Without it supplies and war materials of all sorts could not have reached the front line UN fighting troops quickly enough because railroads had been destroyed and there were no major highways on which motorized vehicles could travel.  There were only dirt paths or country-type roads used for Korean oxen carts and other types of primitive transportation available to the UN troops when they arrived in Korea.  Fighting troop divisions constructed roads of their own with bulldozers, drag lines and graders.  This gave them access to fight.  All of the equipment to do this was furnished by guess who?  The good old USA.

Mail Call

By the time my 19th birthday came on September 16, 1951, I had received good letters from my parents and I think one letter from an old friend I had written after I arrived at Inchon.  I should state now that our postage was free and required no stamps.  We just had to write "FREE" where a stamp would normally be placed and hand it to the mailman/company clerk in the orderly room tent.  Our full name and full Army serial numbers were required to be printed on each envelope, as well as our organization's name and numbers.

In the beginning, we received mail during mail call at night just prior to supper time when everyone was off work duty.  We formed in the company area and waited for our numbers to be called out, then stepped forward to get our mail from the mailman.  Each soldier stepped back and read their mail away from soldiers that did not receive mail.  I can recall some soldiers who had no one back home to write to them.  There were also some that only got mail once a month or so, and others who needed another soldier to help them write as they couldn't write much at all, just scribble.  War is hell!  This brings me to my first birthday in Korea and through it.  Now we go forward into a ripening command post that was expanding and developing into a blossoming fruit tree.


378th Construction Engineers

My first duties were, as I term it, a gopher.  "Go fer this and go fer that", as men wearing stripes or officer's bars told me.  I was off duty one night in September after supper and walked down to the sea shore where LSTs and other ships were anchored either on shore or almost to the shore banks.  I remember that there was one LST anchored on the beach whose doors were being opened.  Inside were Army vehicles of all sorts from a Jeep to an Army tank and other types of motorized vehicles.  Hook-on trailers such as jack hammer compressors, field kitchen units, some artillery guns and the like were unloaded.  I wondered, "Why unload here?"  Well, dummy.  They couldn't be unloaded anywhere else that was close to the fighting lines.  As I said and as I will state many times before I finish writing my memoirs, I was only a kid 18 1/2 years of age when my feet touched Korean dirt.

Being off duty and wondering while wandering around, a Captain in a Jeep saw me and asked me what I was supposed to be doing.  I told him I was off duty after supper and lived to the east of there.  He said (and I recall this like it was yesterday), "Off duty?  What are you trying to pull?  No one is off duty any time.  This is a war and you are in Korea.  How long have you been here?"  It was then that the officer drove near me, asked my name, and asked why I was down there wandering around doing nothing.  I told him I was just curious, I guess, and needed something to do before going to bed.  He said that I was sure in the right place, for he needed men to drive the vehicles off the LST and get them ready to be driven to the front lines as fast as possible.  He asked me if I could get anyone else to drive and I told him I knew of no one else.  I had painted myself into a spot.  He said he was going to drive back to where I lived to see if he could get volunteers to help drive the vehicles that night.  He returned with three or four men in his Jeep and we began driving vehicles off the LST.  That lasted until daylight the next morning.  When we were almost finished, a crew of men assigned to unload that very LST finally arrived at their job site.

Company Clerk

The officer's name was Captain Grace.  He told me that he had just arrived and had a small Quonset hut building set up with galvanized sides and roof.  This was his Command Headquarters building he said, and he told me I was welcome to come there and we would make a pot of coffee in our helmets in his pot belly stove.  I went with him and we had coffee.  I saw a typewriter and asked him if I could go back to my tent and get some envelopes and address them to send to my parents.  He said, "Can you use a typewriter?"  I told him that I could and that I was a high school graduate.   He said to me, "There are blank envelopes there in the desk drawers.  Use all you want of them and get busy typing so I can know you can type."  I rattled the keyboard and he then said, "Private Mason, you are now my Company Clerk.  You will come here in the morning after breakfast.  I am going to your Company Commander now and tell him I want you transferred to me and my organization." So now you know how I became a clerk in Korea.

This was my first transfer while being inside Inchon itself.  In a few days my first organization, the 532nd EB&SR, moved out and went to Japan on their way back to the USA.  Now I was in a brand-new organization again.  I had just about accepted the old one and thought I had the pattern copied in my mind of what I was doing and where I was going, then change hit!  The new organization, the 378th Construction Engineers Detachment, replaced the 532nd.  Captain Hatfield, my new C.O., told me that I could have gone with them had I been in Korea the allotted amount of time each soldier was required to stay before rotating back to the USA.  This I understood very well and accepted it with no complaints.

While I was in Korea I was shuffled from one organization to the other on TDY as Company Clerk.  I even worked as Company Clerk in two different units during the same day.  There were no Company Clerks in Inchon at that time and most Commanding Officers did their own meager bits of typing.  They employed some Korean girls who could type, but that was a secret, I think, back here in the USA.  My temporary duty transfers in Korea included (in chronological order):

  • 532nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, Inchon
  • 378th Construction Engineers Detachment, Inchon
  • 378th changed to 96th Quartermaster Headquarters Detachment, Inchon
  • 375th Port Guard Detachment
  • Eighth Army Headquarters Command, Seoul
  • 96th Quartermaster Battalion

My Commanding Officers were: Captain Beers, 532nd Engineer Boat & Shore Regiment; Captain Grace, 378th Construction Engineers; and Captain Hatfield, 96th Quartermaster Battalion.

The duty of the 378th Construction Engineers was primarily to run their fair share of the work assignments centered around the tidal basin and the POL pipelines coming through Inchon beaches and from the POL Filling Plant which lay east of Inchon approximately three winding road miles.

Multiple Jobs

As mentioned, my first duty at the 378th was that of Company Clerk.  I typed the Morning Report of enlisted personnel assigned to the 378th.  An officer could enter and get a copy of the Morning Report and know how many men and what type were living in that immediate area.  If he needed mechanics, he could ask for them by name when talking to my Commanding Officer.  This didn't happen very often, though.  Please take note from here on how many jobs I worked at each day.

First I was in the orderly room typing and filing for the Company Commander.  Then I walked to town and picked out a crew of Korean laborers, along with their crew boss.  We all got into trucks that were assigned to the job of transporting us.  With this crew of Koreans we came back to the tidal basin area and began the day's work of unloading gasoline drum barges and LSM boats or maybe a ship that was small enough to enter the tidal basin gates.  The gates were not too wide; they were approximately 75 feet wide.

I learned a few Korean words like "go", "stop", "hurry", and "over there" because I wanted to be good at my job and eliminate all the confusion I could from my mind.  I worked two or three crews of men until I at last found a crew and their boss who wanted to work there every day they could.  The crew's boss was called a "honcho."  The word "go" was spoken "chogie so." "Hurry up" was "baally so."  "Stop" was "chung gee."

Unloading Gasoline Drums

The cranes that unloaded the gasoline drums and other types of war liquids and materials were sitting right beside the edges of the huge wooden rails that lay on the ground.  They were fastened down with bolts to the concrete pier that ran from the concrete walls of the basin and out about 40 or so feet away from the water's edge.  At one time I counted nearly a dozen cranes working away swinging back and forth.  The noises of the cranes and the drums hitting the concrete and each other, as well as the sides of the water vessels they were being transported in or on, were almost steady.  Sounds of men yelling above the machinery sometimes made me pretty jumpy, but I couldn't do anything about that.

Several times these gas drums fell from the ropes or chains that were used to hold them to the crook of the crane's lifting cable.  One day I saw a drum fall back down onto the barge it had been on.  It hit a Korean laborer and he was flattened.  It broke his legs, then rolled and hit a soldier who was on the barge showing them how to hook the chains to the drums.  This was just one instance of reality telling me what war was like.  I felt so sorry for that Korean.  No one  ran to help him, but soon a non-com officer did attend to him.  They did not hurriedly move him away, for a boat had to be sent to the barge to pick him up and get him to a doctor or undertaker.  Business as usual went onward.  For this not-yet-19-year old smart aleck, this hurt me deeply in my heart and brain.

Dump Truck Driver TDY

Somewhere around the day the above happened, a Jeep drove up beside us and an officer asked me if I could drive a dump truck.  When I answered yes, he went to the officer overseeing the tidal basin unloading operations and I was given the TDY chore of driving my first vehicle while in the Army.  We traveled about a half mile on the dirt road east of Inchon, then turned into a barbed wire compound where several trucks were sitting outside some buildings that were being used as garages.  I saw a huge truck and several deuce and a half trucks.  The Jeep pulled up beside the truck and the officer told me to get out, inspect the truck, and see if it was ready to work.  He then went to the Motor Pool Commanding Officer and got it assigned to him and me.  The officer returned and told me to start the truck, raise the bed, and see if the four-wheel drive transmissions worked.  They did and the air compressor stopped working after the air tank had filled.  Hey, I just thought I had never driven a truck before that had air brakes.  The officer said I would learn fast and he drove away telling me to return to the tidal basin when I went through the paces with my new truck.  This was a brand-new truck just from the factory in the USA.  Boy, did my ego get another kick!

I drove back down the dirt road and turned into the gate where a guard checked me out and waved me on to the tidal basin.  Arriving there, I saw the officer standing beside some Korean workers.  I was waved over to them and told I was to get a bunch of wooden planks laid in/on the bottom of the bed because I was going to be hauling some very heavy stuff.  I must inject that this truck was a five-ton Mack dump truck.  The steering wheel was approximately three feet in diameter and it was a chore to turn at times if it had to be turned fast.  I learned how to place two hands in one area and the wheel worked swell.  I was scared as a rabbit sitting in the brush because I had driven very slow getting the truck there, trying to learn how and when to shove the air-driven brakes.  It wasn't like a hydraulic brake system at all.  I had to learn to hear the sound of the "sheee-shee" of the air brake when pressed.  I was one proud young man driving that giant truck as if I was totally in control.  I might have been, but my mind sure as heck wasn't.  I sure couldn't be careless.

I followed the officer in the Jeep and we drove east of Inchon down the narrow dirt pathway the Koreans used as a road.  Finally making a turn to the right, we went down another narrow dirt road until finally coming to, of all things, a rock quarry.  There was a little bitty office that had no window and the officer went inside.  He came back out with a piece of paper in his hands and told me to back my truck down into the area where crushed rock was being loaded with a front-end loader machine that belonged to the Army.  It was olive drab color.

I backed up and stopped when signaled to.  The truck rocked sideways and I thought it was going to turn over.  At last the front-end loader stopped and the soldier operating it waved me away from him.  I pulled up to where the officer sat in the Jeep and he told me where in Inchon I was to take the load of huge rocks.  I did as told, and when I arrived back at Inchon, someone was waiting for me at a huge ditch that was being filled in with rocks and other types of junk materials.  Aha!  A roadway was being constructed.  Now I saw how my unit was being used as its title, a "construction engineer unit."

When I took the truck back to the Motor Pool later that day, I was told by the Motor Pool Commander that truck would be mine only and no one else would drive it because they didn't have another man who knew how to drive one that large.  Ego lay down!  I still have a photo taken of me standing in front of my truck.  One of my children now has it in an album of photos of my family.  Photos of many things in Korea were prohibited, but this was not for I asked my Commanding Officer if it would be permitted.  Only appointed photographers were permitted to take photos of things in and around the tidal basin, at Inchon, or at the POL Filing Station east of Inchon.  Photos of Koreans and their homes or outside military units were permitted.

Scary Journey

Now is the time to tell of my first scary journey with that five-ton Mack dump truck.  I was told to join a convoy of other smaller trucks that would load up with wooden boards and off pieces of wood in designated areas around Inchon.  We were to make a night journey using the black-out lights of our vehicles to assist us in our journey.  Hello fear!  There was a faint moonlight that night after we had been loaded with wooden boards and other what I termed debris.  The leader of the convoy was an officer and the rest of us were enlisted men or "EM's."

The officer circled all of us, counted the trucks, and then said, "Fall in line and follow me."  There I was, dark night, no rifle (they were in the Jeep with the officer), going down a dirt pathway in Korea following trucks I could barely see and was not close to.  I played catch-up all the way.  It took several hours for us to at last reach a stopping spot. The officer came to each truck, told us we were near the Han River, and said that we would cross the bridge there.  He told us to just go on the right side of it.  Across the waters we were to turn down a pathway and find an area to dump our loads of wood and debris.  I could buy that, but when my eyes finally squinted and saw the huge river and bridge arching across and over it, fear hit again.  There was no floor on the bridge.  It had been bombed and burned out.  A roadway of three-foot wide boards had been laid across the steel girders of the bridge.  The officer assured us that they would hold us, for tanks had crossed that bridge several times.

It was dark and I could barely see the boards, so I formed a plan.  I placed the truck in four-wheel drive, put it in first gear, opened the driver's door, and stood on the running board looking downward to the dirty boards.  I could see the front wheel tire and knew I was on the boards.  If the wheel ever missed the boards, my truck would be wrecked and fall downward into the Han River waters.  When I finally got to the other side of the bridge, the other trucks had already gone down the dirt pathway.  I arrived a little late, but was not chewed out.  I was just told to find a spot that would permit me to dump the load of wood and then turn around and head back to Inchon by myself.  The officer and other trucks were heading toward the front line areas.  I was given a great, "Thank you, Soldier" by the officer and he presented me my rifle from his Jeep.  I propped it beside me in the truck and carefully, so carefully, drove back to Inchon.  This was one of the most scary and "what's out there" nights I had been through yet.  Finally, a few miles away from Inchon the moonlight grew brighter and I could see pretty durn good, so my ego assured me I was okay.

When at last I arrived in Inchon, daylight had arrived and I could see where the roadway was into the Motor Pool compound.  I turned into it and parked my truck, opening the air tank valve to let the air out so it wouldn't freeze in the event of a huge temperature drop.  I then took the check-out slip the officer gave me back to the motor sergeant and hung up the keys that went into the ignition lock.  This truck did have a key lock, which many did not.

I had to walk back to my company area and the walk was slow.  I was durn tired and hungry.  At last I thought I could shake off the fright that had been riding alongside of me that night.  I arrived just in time for breakfast and other soldiers asked me how come I was so dirty that early in the morning.  I told them I had been on a secret mission that night and had driven to Seoul City, the capitol of South Korea.  I was told that was about 30 miles away from where we lived.  I went to the orderly room and the Commanding Officer said I could take the entire day off and rest up.  He said that I had done a fine job because the officer that was in our convoy telephoned him and said so.  I slept well that day and awoke in the afternoon.

The Gopher

Now let's look again at how I was a gopher.  I had just gotten out of a huge truck I had driven all night.  What now?  The Company Commander told me I could stay in the orderly room a day or two doing typing, the Morning Report, and a few items that might come in by messengers who drove Jeeps with orders and miscellaneous communications from unit to unit or possibly from Japan or the good old USA.  I stayed at the typewriter and smoked cigarette after cigarette.  I do believe I was addicted then, for I burned my fingers several times using my lighter trying to get the nicotine in my blood.

I had permission to go back into my tent living quarters any time I felt the need to get something from my footlocker if my work was caught up.  This freedom was great!  I could roam a little, go to the latrine which had at last been dug and constructed, or look around at the new things that had been brought into the company area and erected.  I saw men digging holes and asked them what they were.  They said, "You are to help dig this hole when you can turn loose from other stuff, as this is your air raid shelter, too, as well as ours or anyone that might need it someday."  I told them I would ask the C.O. about that.  The C.O. said I could help any time I wished if I was caught up at my desk.  I was to just leave him a note on my desk saying where I could be found.

That afternoon I helped shovel sand into sand bags.  The hole had been dug and wood placed across the top of a hole that was about eight foot deep.  An entrance way was made where the sand bags lay on the ground.  The bags that went back into that place were sitting beside the entrance way.  The entrance was in a direct line from the back of my tent, so I felt lucky the air raid shelter had been positioned that close.  Other soldiers would have a distance to run to get into the shelter.  There I was again--an unknown, better-than-thou soldier in the sights of other EM who were assigned to my detachment of approximately 35 men.  My unit grew slowly as soldiers were sent in from other units.  But for every soldier that entered, another soon left.  I never could get my brain to work on that process and didn't really give a crap.

Helicopter Mishap

One thing that bothered me happened when I was working at the tidal basin helping unload AV gas drums from barges.  A helicopter came near from the north and it had two wounded or deceased soldiers on its landing skis.  A man or wrapped-up body fell to the ground.  The plane circled once and then headed on out to sea to the hospital ship that lay in the Inchon harbor/Yellow Sea's water.  In a short time I saw a military police Jeep come to the spot where the wrapped-up person had fallen.  The body was loaded onto the gurney attached to the rear of the Jeep.  This hurt me badly to see such a thing happen, but I returned to work.

R&R in Japan

I recall Eighth Army sent notices that were posted on bulletin boards.  The notices said that enlisted men could take Rest & Recuperation (R&R) leave to Japan after they had been in Korea for six straight months.  This leave was for seven days.  I was selected to go on R&R first from the newly settled 378th Construction Engineer unit in Inchon.  I was looked down on by other enlisted men who thought I went ahead of them.  They had not been in the newly-formed company as long as I had by a few days only.  I'll say this, you are known by the company you keep.

I sold my radio and an old pistol for $50.00 to have money to go on.  The Captain loaned me another fifty, so I was able to enjoy the full week by being careful in spending in Japan.  We were flown to Osaka, Japan from Kimpo Airport, which was about 30 miles northeast of Inchon.  A Jeep drove us there and picked us up when we returned.

I went to Osaka at Christmas time in December 1951 and enjoyed the week immensely.  I had a Japanese date and we attended movies, ate out, and all that.  I gave her my money and she spent it wisely so we both could enjoy my vacation.  The end of my R&R was also the end of my first year in Korea.  I recall 1951 very well.  As was all soldiers' experience in a construction battalion in Korea in 1951, I think, it was pretty common place.


A Complicated 1952

Then 1952 arrived and I really got into some fearful, crazy, who-would-believe-its.  The year 1952 in Korea was as hectic as anything that happened during the three-year enlistment I volunteered for.  I went back and forth from duties as a company clerk, truck driver, and jack hammer operator.  I even drove an officer at night back to his quarters on Lookout Hill, which lay to the north edge of Inchon on the mountain side.

After I returned to Korea from R&R in Japan, I found nothing the same.  People, tents and trucks had been moved to new locations closer to the tidal basin.  I could hear jackhammers working as they broke up concrete from bombed-out buildings. I was taken on a walking tour of the tidal basin by an officer and non-commissioned officer so I would know exactly what was going on.  I was selected because I was capable of doing many, many things.  I was also told that I would be a permanent party at Inchon during most of the war.  This just made my little old 18 1/2 (by that time I was 19) heart jump with joy, because it meant I wouldn't be forced to go to the front lines and actually kill the enemy or possibly not have to ever do that.

In my tour I was told that barges and ships with cargos of war materials and foods that would go to troops all over the peninsula of Korea would be coming into the tidal basin.  The officers told me that the cranes that unloaded trucks, boats and ships and other activities would be sitting beside the tidal basin.  I did not realize at that time just what this tour really meant.  In fact, it meant the Army personnel in high command had put me in a category and that category centered at Inchon. 

Things began getting more complicated as days went by.  More activity went on around Inchon.  Many trucks and boats kept arriving that were never there before.  Units formed and their logo signs were erected.  Heavy equipment on barges from Japan and other areas of Korea like Hungnam on the east coast came into the barbed wire compounds that surrounded the tidal basin operations.  It was less than two weeks after I had arrived and the tidal basin operation was going steadily, receiving ships from Japan, the USA, Pusan, and other port areas of Korea.  I was shuffled around from job to job of very different sorts, from truck driving to supervising unloading of gasoline drums by Korean civilians to standing guard duty at the gates of the tidal basin area.  I was later given a job of running one of those heavy tools, but I had to quit.  Apparently I hung too many bits deep down in the concrete because I couldn't lift the jack hammer fast enough to keep it from going to the hilt.  When I did that, it forced another jack hammer to come and break concrete from around it to get it out and back to work.

At Inchon there were many detachments or smaller companies that had moved in from areas we did not really know about.  They just moved in.  Sometimes we could see their names on the bumpers of the equipment and get a faint idea as to where they had been located before.

Thawing Boots

I have read about the frozen Chosen and how cold it got.  I also experienced the cold of Korea.  I remember that in the winter of 1952 we woke up in the morning one day and our pot belly fuel oil stove was off.  We tried in vain to get it working and finally went outside to see if we were out of fuel or what.  The copper tubing that ran from the oil barrel outside the tent to the stove inside was frozen solid.  We took the tubing off with wrenches from the motor pool and thawed them out inside the mess hall, which had heat in it all the time because of the stoves they cooked on.  We took the tubing back, hooked them back up, and fuel oil slowly ran from barrel to stove.  Because our boots were frozen and too stiff to put on, we also had to unthaw them in the mess hall.  We ran to the mess hall in several pair of socks to get things working.  Someone who had a thermometer and was in the know told us that it was 26 below zero.

Fire at the Pipeline

In 1952, a gasoline pipeline about a quarter of a mile south of our tents was unbolted at a job so a South Korean could steal gas.  A fire erupted that burned the Korean up and caused several guards to be burned very, very badly.  I recall seeing one soldier standing up at the emergency medic building.  He had little meat left on his back.  I saw his muscles and veins, yet he was standing on his own.  God had to be there!  This burned a deep memory in my mind that is still there like the brand on a horse or cow.  This 19-year old had seen bar fights at home, but they didn't bring such pain and blood.

Under the Desk

Another time Captain Grace and I were working in the orderly room past midnight on highly important front line materials.  I was listening on my short wave radio to a revival that was in progress in Eugene, Oregon.  It was a good one that I heard using radio ear phones that I had bought for $50 from a soldier who was rotating back to the USA.  Something made noise above that of the radio and I looked at the front of the enclosed galvanized roofed building we were in.  (The building had no windows and only one door.)  I saw something odd, stopped working, and went to the front wall.  There were bullet holes that had just come through the building.

I ran back to my desk, crawled under it, and whispered to Captain Grace.  He was in his office located south of mine by a wall.  I asked, "What do we do now?"  He replied, "Where are you, Mason?"  I told him that I was under my desk.  He replied, "I am, too, so stay there until we learn more from someone who may come to our rescue."  We were trapped.

In less than five minutes (it seemed an eternity), an officer identified himself outside the front door.  He didn't open it, but he said, "You inside.  It is now safe.  We got the guy and he is in handcuffs."  I heard a Jeep leaving very fast.  The Captain and I talked for several minutes before we decided to open the front door and look out.  We both went outside.  It was pitch black, but we could see the lights of the orderly room shining through the 28 (I counted them) bullet holes in the orderly room front wall.  I guess the varmit who shot at us had a banana clip with 30 rounds of ammo.  I never heard another word about this event and the Captain never mentioned it to me again.  Why?  This hurt deep and remains this day.

Tomb-like Setting

I can recall a scary, confusing, and almost crisis period of my being at Inchon, Korea.  I had been working at the tidal basin all day as a Korean laborer supervisor.  I instructed them on how and where to place 50-gallon barrels of AV gas and other liquids.  When it was time for me to quit for the day, trucks took my Korean laborers back up town to Inchon and let them off to go home.  Crane operators had shut down their cranes and went to their separate units located in and around Inchon.  I was terribly tired that day for some unknown reason and walked slowly to the company area.  As I said earlier, the company area was about a quarter of a mile from the edges of the tidal basin waters.

I saw the tents of the company and was glad.  I was holding my head down from tiredness.  As I got to my tent I looked up and around and stopped.  Something was durn bad wrong!  There was no company orderly room sign, no vehicles the officers drove, no soldiers anywhere, no noise of any sort.  It was a tomb-like setting.  Fear came over me and I was afraid to even enter my own tent because of this sense that something highly unusual had and was going on.  My nerves and mind were in as high alert as they could ever be made to go.  I lit a cigarette and smoked it, then convinced myself to enter my tent, which had tent flaps that tied at the entrance.  I untied the tent entrance and looked into the darkness.  At last I saw an electric light bulb and walked over to it.  When I tried to turn it on, nothing happened.  No electricity.  No men.  What in the heck was happening?  Had the enemy forced all these soldiers to retreat?

At last I decided to enter the tent again, lights or no lights.  I went to the other end of the tent, untied the flaps, and tied them open.  Then I almost fainted.  All bunks were gone except mine.  There old faithful sat with my M-1 rifle laying on it and a box of ammunition sitting on the floor beside it.  My footlocker was there, but nothing else was in the tent except dust, sand, and dirt from where things had been moved out.  The broom had been left standing against the wall in the corner.

I was scared, overly tired from a very hard day's work with Korean civilians, and very hungry.  Fear can cause a human to get hungry very fast.  I thought I would go to the kitchen and see what was going on there, but I was too scared, thinking someone might be there snooping around (like perhaps a communist that sneaked in from North Korea).  By this time I was in possession of my M-1 rifle and carrying it with me every step I took.  I had to form some kind of a plan that would let my mind rest some, so I walked back and forth all over the former company area in the darkness.  This gave me courage enough to go back to the tent, sit down, then go back outside and look over the area.  I walked back down to the tidal basin area with my M-1 and several clips of ammo, for I didn't know if I would have to use it before coming back to the tent or not.  Inchon had become desperately quiet because all former trucks and machines that operated at night on the dirt path roads had ceased.

Returning to the tent, I formed a plan of sitting up all night and then sleeping in the daytime.  Smart thought, but it didn't work.  I was still so hungry I could eat a rock.  Where could I locate food???  Aha!  Another Army unit nearby surely!  So I began walking towards the sounds of a company called Headquarters & Headquarters Company 21st Transportation Medium Port Area Command.  I entered the unit's compound that was barbed wire fenced.  I located a soldier and asked him where the commanding officer was, but he said he didn't know.  He said I needed to walk around and try to find him myself.

At last I found the Commanding Officer and told him my story.  He asked me if I had been drinking and I said, "No, Sir!"  He couldn't believe my story and said he wasn't going to waste time on me trying some practical joke.  I begged him to let me get food from their mess hall.  He said if I was not assigned to his company I could not eat there.  I swore a durn good one right then and that drew his attention.  He said he was going to call the mess hall and tell them to fix me up some cheese sandwiches to take back with me.  He also told me that every day or so I could return and get some more if no one returned to my former company area.  I thanked him highly and saluted him, which he shrugged off and turned his head.

I walked back to my old company area with food and a fresh canteen of water.  I had to figure out what to do with my idle time.  Number one, I could write letters back home.  No, that wouldn't work, for I had no post office to mail it and no return address anymore because my outfit had departed unannounced.  I was afraid to go very far from my tent as my footlocker and personal things were there and someone could enter and take them.  Then I would really be in a mess.  It had scared me when I walked down to the 21st TMP Command for food, for I thought my footlocker could be stolen by the time I returned to it.

I finally got saner and said to myself, "Let what happen that's going to happen happen."  I then began walking to other units east of the tidal basin area and entered them.  I talked with enlisted men who were available to talk and hear my story.  They persuaded me that all were going to be okay if I just hung in there and stayed at my tent until the unknown became known to me.  I agreed.

When I returned that day to my tent, I noticed an Army generator sitting in the former company area.  It had not been there prior to my unit's departure.  There were wires running from the generator to my tent, the mess hall and other tents.  Had the C.O. of the 21st TMP heard my cry for help? What was happening?  The unknown was happening.  Another unit was moving in a piece at a time, just exactly like we did in the beginning when coming in from Ascom City on July 3, 1951.

I sat down in my tent and calmly waited for things to start happening.  A Jeep pulled into the company area and an officer got out and stood looking around.  I reported to him and said I was Private Mason and had been there 11 days waiting for something to happen.  Then came the answer!  The Captain introduced himself as Capt. Robert A. Hatfield and said that I was his new Company Clerk.  He said he needed me to help him set up his new orderly room.  I said, "Fine, Sir!"  He had items for the orderly room in his Jeep and we unloaded them outside the tent on the sand.  A truck arrived in a very few minutes with steel desks, file cabinets, and equipment for a command post.  The desks were carried in by enlisted men who brought them and left.  The Captain and I began placing things in order in and around the orderly room.  He told me to stop for a while and we would go have some food and coffee at the mess hall.  When we entered it, soldiers were moving food and equipment from a field kitchen setup into the Quonset hut mess hall.  The food was hot and I ate like I was in paradise.  Saved at last!

I asked the Captain why I had been left there without anything.  He said he did not know, but had assumed I would be taken care of properly by my old unit before they left for--get this--Japan and then on to the USA at Ft. Lewis, Washington.  He said he had asked Eighth Army Headquarters at Seoul, Korea to insure that he had a clerk typist at the new place in Inchon he was going to so things would not go too slow because he could barely type a word himself.  Boy, did my ego rise!  I was necessary and appreciated.  I just didn't see the whole picture or know the whole story of what the future held for me there at Inchon.

POL Pipeline Guard

In the spring of 1952, the POL Pipeline Storage Dump at Inchon was in dire need of guards to try to protect the stored POL products which had been brought to that location by a pipeline running from tanker ships parked on the Yellow Sea beach which lay between Japan and South Korea.

I was ordered to go stand guard once in a while for just a few hours until another soldier could replace me.  A Jeep took me to the POL pipeline eastward from Inchon about two miles or so.  The pipeline lay on the ground near a lot of mountains where the POL Tank Farm was located.  The Tank Farm had huge tanks that held thousands of gallons of petroleum, AV gas, and other liquids used by the different military of the USA.  It was hard to try to figure where the liquids ran from and to because the pipes were sometimes underground and sometimes above ground, laying on huge stones that assisted the men putting the pipeline sections together in the beginning stages.

I stood guard there and found that I was compelled to work around a barbed wire fence compound which circled 56 1/2 acres.  Why they entered that half acre is beyond me.  This first walk gave me a pretty good view of what was going on, but I had a hard time trying to place all the things and people I saw into a picture I could look at when I returned to my tent.  I do know and can well recall how my legs hurt from the few hours guard duty because I was told not to stop walking except to get my breath and let the blood catch up through my arms and legs.  I was also told an officer-of-the-day very possibly might come to check on me to see if things were going okay with both me and the Army POL items I was guarding.

The dump was in sections.  The western section was that of a filling station that had pumps, hoses and nozzles used to fill 55-gallon and other sized containers with the different types of liquids that flowed through the pipelines.  As I walked near the barbed wire fence on the westward side, I came upon a huge Red Seal Continental pumping engine that was running.  This intrigued me very much and I walked over to look at it.  It had a governor on its engine and it stopped while I was standing there.  Then in a few minutes the motor started by itself again.  Hey!  I was so surprised to know that non-electric motors could start themselves.  I walked on further and saw another motor in line with the Red Seal.  I read the name on it and it said "Silver Seal Continental."  I think the tag read, "Made in Wisconsin", but I won't swear to it.  I have sworn to everything else, though.

I walked on around the POL Dump and possibly made two more trips before I was relieved of my duties by an officer who was standing at the POL office building at the front gate of the barbed wire compound.  The officer asked me if I had live ammo in my rifle and I said, "Yes, Sir!"  He said for me not to bring it back out there anymore with ammo in it when I was walking guard duty.  Hey--fair warning had been given me.   I asked the officer why no ammo.  He said, "Some of the soldiers might get scared and jumpy and forget that they cannot shoot unless they shoot in a direction away from the gasoline barrels."  There were thousands of these barrels, filled and stacked on top of each other, waiting to be removed elsewhere.


Port Guard Detachment

I was transported back to Inchon and let out at my tent.  I was told by the officer that I might be called back out there at any time from my other duties, which had so far been driving a truck and supervising Korean laborers, as well as my company clerk's duties.  I was not approached by anyone else concerning the POL Dump guard duty until one day when I was sitting in the mess hall near another soldier.  He said that there was a bulletin on the bulletin board that said something about forming a permanent guard detachment of men that would do nothing except stand guard duty.  I went from the mess hall to the orderly room bulletin board and saw the bulletin.  I read it and it gave more details about the guard duty being at some place and time in the Inchon area at gates or POL dump or in buildings, etc.  It had the time and place that a meeting was going to be held where men who thought they would like to volunteer in forming this permanent guard detachment could come to it, hear about it, and either be accepted or rejected from duty in it.  It had a place to write our names and tent numbers if interested, so I wrote mine down.  I was tired of the same old same old in Inchon.  At least I wouldn't be lifting a heavy jack hammer or something of the sort.

That week I was informed by a Corporal that my name was selected to go on the new guard detachment roll of members.  He said to sit tight and someone would come to me and take me to where we would meet and then bring me back.  Our meeting was held in a building east of where we were living at that time.  I never could figure that out, but later I did.  The Army didn't want the news spread all over. A couple of officers and non-commissioned officers were there and gave informational lectures about the need and reasons we were being asked to form this detachment of special guards.  The possibility that communist infiltrators might be in the area and possibly had been down through the months was brought out.  They could have been spying and getting all the pictures and information they could to take back to their officers.  They, in turn, might make plans to form a sabotage operation in Inchon and at its vitals.  This made sense in a "what else is new, buddy" statement.

Before that meeting had ended we were chosen to be members and were told that we would receive new helmets that would be white and have the letters "PG" printed on their fronts.  The white helmets were supposed to be a warning to anyone even close to thinking about trying to destroy the military's stuff that they were being watched and would be shot dead upon being caught.

Within a week we had new white helmets, new M-2 carbine rifles, and new overcoats and boots suitable for lots of use in bad weather.  Then we were summoned again for another meeting about where the detachment should be situated apart from other military units.  Finally a decision was made to erect a couple or three new tents specifically for guard duty inhabitants only.  We also were assigned some new trucks that had our logo on their bumpers that read "375th PG".  We would be taken back and forth to the sites we stood guard in or over.  A day was assigned when we would move from our former tents into the new detachment and we did so, lock, stock and barrel.  We moved it all.

Drop cords had to be laid for electricity for over a week, then electric poles were erected and wires strung into each tent.  Heating stoves also came and water tanks were set outside every tent.  Fuel oil barrels were set near the water tanks with copper lines running the fuel into the tent stoves.  Now we were ready to fight war again?  It was more like "do and undo" to me.

We had a small bulletin board erected outside the detachment and were to go to it every day and see what was up.  It had lists of men who would be on what shift of duty only.  We were taken to the location of duty, then told the specifics of what we were to do, sit, stand or walk, write down stuff on paper or just flat do nothing at all except to be there and stop anyone coming into the area or trying to go past us.  Everything was to stop when we said, "Halt!" (or "Kung-gee" in Korean).

In approximately a month I had been on guard duty several times.  At last we asked for specific times we could know about in order for us to be able to go to the PX and visit buddies who might be in the nearby areas.  We were given specific times, six hours on duty, six hours off duty, for a full day, then the operation started over again.  Each time we stood duty we received six hours off duty, which would come after we had accumulated a total of 36 hours.  During those 36 hours we could go wherever we chose, but none of us had access to our own Jeeps or vehicles.  This 36 hours would permit each of us time to walk to the PX, go see the Chaplain (if he could be found) and possibly if arrangements could be found and assured each of us, we could go to Seoul Area Command PX which lay 28 miles east of us.

I wrote letters home telling that my new duty gave me more freedom, but I couldn't elaborate any farther than that.  I could tell about the weather and things pertaining to myself so my parents wouldn't think I was in or out of danger anymore than what they already did.

Bed Check Charlie

In 1951, 1952, and 1953, we were attacked at night by a North Korean communist airplane called "Bed Check Charley".  He always came at night after the Army bed check hours of ten p.m. or 2200 hours Army talk.  During one of his attacks in 1952, we went into our air raid shelter where we talked and pulled head count.  One man was not there and when the air raid was over and we re-entered our tent, we saw a young 17-year old boy from Kentucky who had been shot through his right arm and leg by a .50 caliber bullet.  He lay passed out on the floor and there was blood running from him all over.  This hurt me again.  I think I recall pissing on myself.  Forgive me, but truth is truth.

Death in Mud

I saw and heard lots and lots of things that put brands in my brain that still pop out today in 2012.  Been there and done that sure has a price tag that I cannot pay.  Once I saw a Korean laborer fall from a maritime ship that had made its way into the tidal basin when the tide was higher than it ever had been before.  I saw him falling after the crane on the ship swung and knocked him overboard.  He didn't come back up out of the water, but stuck in the mud beneath the ship.  About four days later the ship was unloaded and the propellers of the ship churned his body to the surface.  I watched men wearing special clothing remove the body from the water and place it in a small Korean boat that had entered the basin.  Another pain branded to my brain.


Eighth Army HQ Command

Another segment of being a gopher for the US Army was when I was notified one day in 1952 to pack my duffle bag and get ready to transfer to Seoul, Korea, the capitol.  I was going to be on TDY to Eighth Army Headquarters Command where I was to act strictly as a clerk-typist at all times.  I bid my buddies in Inchon goodbye and departed in a truck that had a load of other things that were also going to be unloaded at Seoul for the 8th Army Command.

I was amazed at how Seoul had changed, how it had been cleaned up from the bombed-out buildings, and how the main road going through its center had been repaired.  The main road was smooth except in just a few spots where holes were deep and would not hold their level surface, but kept sinking downward into the earth.  The roadway had some blacktop and concrete mixtures on it that had been leveled down somewhat to afford passage by Jeeps and tanks and other vehicles.

I could see through the front window of the truck easily and saw the capitol building.  It had been burned totally inside, yet was still standing erect otherwise with no damages to its outside structures.  At the very front gate of the capitol building the truck I was in turned to the left and went down alongside the wall that surrounded the Presidential capitol compound and capitol building.  This wall was built completely around the capitol grounds.  A few minutes later the truck turned left again and went down a very bumpy narrow street that had been reconstructed just enough to permit passage.  The truck came to a stop and I saw that we were at the gate of a walled compound that circled a three-story building that resembled a city municipal building.

An American soldier was acting as a guard.  He came to the truck and asked the truck driver for ID and orders telling him what to do there at the compound. The driver gave him a sheet of paper, the guard read it, then nodded okay and opened the gate of barbed wire to permit the truck to enter.  The guard was walking in front of the truck and pointing where to park.  Upon getting out of the truck, the guard said to enter the building through the door in its center parts, go to our left, and down the hallway to the Command offices.

The truck driver was at that time my boss, for I had no further idea as to what was supposed to be happening.  I followed the driver into an office where he spoke to a clerk who looked at papers the driver had shown the outside guard.  Then the clerk asked me to step up to his desk and show him the ID card which had been given to me back in Seattle, Washington when we were coming to Korea.  The clerk told me where I would be staying in the building, then led me to that area.  I sat my duffle bag down and went back to the truck to get my footlocker.  It was a journey in itself and I was barely able to carry everything by myself.  I dragged my footlocker a lot of the way inside.  After getting my footlocker inside, the clerk said to me to just wait there in the room that was going to be my living quarters.  In a few minutes a Colonel came into the room and introduced himself to me.  Forgive me for not remembering his name, but that is how my brain has been since Korea.

The full bird colonel told me he would be my only boss while I was on duty there in Seoul.  He said that I had no worries about that and did not have to report or obey any other Army personnel who might say I had to.  "What in the heck am I in?" I thought.  The Colonel then told me how to go to what was termed the orderly room of the Command.  It was inside the building on the downstairs floor.  My living quarters were on the third floor and my working place was going to be on the second floor.

I went back to the orderly room and spoke to a Captain that was acting as the Building Commander and the other soldiers who were not going to be in the same category as I was.  The Captain explained to me where the mess hall was, when meals were served, and that I could come down there any time I had questions that they might be able to answer concerning my stay and duty while in that building.  I thanked him.  There was no saluting, I was informed, because we were too close to the front lines to salute any more for fear that a communist might see it and learn who the ranking officer was they had to kill or capture.

I returned to my living quarters and started opening my things for the 900th time since I had been in the military.  When the appointed time for supper came, I walked down the stairs to the mess hall and ate like I had not had food in years.  No soldier spoke to me while in the mess hall.  Things were sure getting eerie compared to what I had experienced back at Inchon.  I walked back up the stairs to my living quarters.  There was a note on the door to my living quarters that said, "Go up the stairs to the third floor and wait for me."  The Colonel had started the process.

First Office Day

I walked slowly up the creaky stairway to the third floor and waited as soon as I arrived, for things were getting scary.  I heard the stairs creaking and it was the Colonel.  He said, "Follow me" and we went through some small rooms that all had doors in them.  We came to another door and when it was opened I saw a very small room that would hold a desk and a few other items.  It was approximately 10 feet by 25.  The Colonel told me this was my office and that office furniture would be brought up that afternoon.  He said his office was next door to mine and he opened it as he left my room.  There was his office and desk.  He told me I was not to come into his room unless he ordered me to.  He said I had no need to ever come in there because he would hand-deliver anything he wanted me to do for him in the line of typing and filing.  He went on to say that the office furniture would be placed in my room that day by other soldiers who were bringing it into Seoul from Taegu.  I then began to realize that the Eighth Army was making a huge move of their command operations.

The Colonel told me I would be my own instructor and boss any time he was not present and that he personally would tell me what items of paperwork he needed and how to type or file them.  He also noted to me that lots and lots of records, Army regulations, and special regulations paperwork were coming to my office and it would be my duty to arrange all this in an order that others and I could locate.  I was to put a title on each file cabinet that was coming into the room.  It sounded like I was being bombarded with work assignments.  The Colonel went on to tell me what free time I had, how it could be used by me, and how and when I could go to the Post Exchange (PX) there in Seoul.  He said I was not to leave Seoul without his permission because he and I were going to be as close as fleas on a dog.

A desk arrived, along with three or four filing cabinets that had four drawers in each, a chair, and a couple of flat tables to work on and to stack paperwork.  I was told to go down to the orderly room and pick out a typewriter that was not being used, bring some ribbon to fit it, and then come back to my office. I did as instructed.  I thought I had hit pay dirt with what looked like a very new typewriter.  When I first typed on it, I found that I had made a good decision in selecting it, for the print was so neat--black and red.  Hey, this typewriter had two-color ribbon on it!

The rest of that afternoon was very rewarding to me, for it took my mind away from Inchon, the USA, and everywhere else.  I started making an office, moving tables and file cabinets back and forth until I had at last decided this is where they would be living also.  As I was moving things, soldiers came in with huge stacks and boxes of paperwork that had been hastily taken out of some office and brought in some vehicle to Seoul.  What a durn mess!  Finally the soldiers told me they might be back in a day or two with more paperwork, then I would see them no more.

My first office day came and went and I returned to my living quarters to prepare for supper and a good night of rest and sleep.  It went by in just that order, too.  I asked the Colonel if there was a set time I could enter my office and he said no--if I wanted to work in there I could do so, for what we were doing was one of the most important things there was in the war effort.

Getting Organized

The next day I ate breakfast, went to my office, and sat down at a table to write an organization list of what I needed to start doing to go through the mess.  I had to have a system.  First, I placed papers that had Eighth Army in a pile by themselves.  Then I sorted them by subject and then by location if it gave a location.  First of all the date was vital, but all papers did not have dates and some of the stuff had been published years prior.  I tried not to get confused at what lay before me, for I wanted to be a success.  The Colonel popped in just before lunch and asked how I was doing.  I showed him and he thought I was very smart in doing it just the way I was.  He said that he had confidence that I was the clerk he had been told that I was.  He said he would not disturb me anymore, and gave me a week to create my office and filing system before he would ask me to do something special for him in typing or filing.

So -- a full week to be me!  I wanted that.  I needed that so much.  At that time I did not realize the pressure that had been on me back at Inchon.  I also did not realize what effect alcohol had had on me.  At Inchon I had it to drink daily if I chose to do so.  All I had to do was stay straight and work and not be around officers who might smell it.  There were many a second and minutes that I wished I had a big slug of alcohol there in that office, but I fought that off and got down to the basics.  I wrote my parents a letter, using care not to tell them just exactly where I was located.  That I was in Seoul was permissible to write.  This letter took me back to my time spent just prior to joining the Army and I mused over some dates with my girlfriend, but that left suddenly.  All gone, no more!

Back on the road again was the feeling I had in my daily work.  I was very successful in forming a system and placing paperwork in piles. Now came the harder part--putting it in file folders and using compression clips to hold it in.  Many of the paper sheets had filing holes already punched, but I had a hole-maker there on the desk that made two and three-hole perforations.  One day the Colonel came into my office and handed me some papers.  He said, "See what you think about this stuff" and asked me to what type of letter that he needed to write in answer to its contents.  "What the heck is this?", I thought.  "Am I his personal secretary?"  I typed an answer and he read it, then said he shouldn't have asked me to do this.  He said that was actually his job, but he had just wondered how close we were thinking alike in this operation of the Eighth Army Command.

Time Spent in Seoul

Time flew by.  I walked downtown Seoul to the PX, carrying my rifle as I went.  I still had it, my helmet and ammunition.  I was proud that I had swapped around and had two banana clips for my M-2 carbine.  At the PX I saw things that appealed to me: radios, Ronson cigarette lighters, candy, cigarettes of all brands, some Army undershirts and shorts, and items that would not have been found at the PX at Inchon.  I spent an hour or more in the PX, then slowly walked back to the Command Building.

One day I found paperwork in my IN basket that read: "Officer's Billets".  I didn't know what that meant.  I knocked softly on the Colonel's door and told him it was me, Private Mason.  He came to the door and asked what my problem was.  I showed him the paper that said Officer's Billets.  He explained the best he could that someone (not him) had brought that piece of paper into my office and placed it in the IN box.  He went on to explain to me that officers lived down the roadway in a small, one-story building and it was titled Officer's Billets.  The reason the paper was left in my IN box was the officers wanted to get things typed and done, but had not gone through the Colonel.  They just left it in my box.  They knew I was there, but they did not know they should have gone through my Colonel first.  The Colonel said there would be mistakes by about everybody, but we would all work together as best we could.

I spent a lot of time in Seoul, for I was there several months.  I met a soldier assigned to another unit in Seoul who became my friend.  He was at our mess hall when I met him. We talked over a plan of free time where the two of us could walk (with our weapons on our shoulders) around the capitol and parts of Seoul.  It was better for two to be together than one when gawking around or snooping or whatever others might term it.  I have a photo in my possession right now that he took of me.  I was sitting on a concrete seat inside the capitol lawn, his rifle sitting beside me and me holding mine.

One day we were determined to go inside the capitol building in spite of the fact that we could be caught by Koreans since Koreans were in charge of their own capitol.  The guards were just not there that day.  My friend and I went inside the building and our eyes beheld pure mahogany walls and floors.  Some floors were burned out.  We had a story to tell, but it couldn't be told to other soldiers because we had been off limits when we went inside the capitol building.  We could have been punished by our superiors if they desired to do so.

Episode at Kimpo

Another episode was the week I asked the Colonel if I could go to Kimpo Air Base and visit a friend of mine from my hometown who was a radio repairman in jet planes.  He gave me permission, but told me to be highly careful walking and hitchhiking through Seoul City and other areas where I might be attacked by unknown Koreans.  I did as told and went to see Airman Blakely, my friend.  We looked at the jet planes.  I crawled into the cockpit of one and almost pressed the machine gun button of the loaded machine guns.  There was a napalm tank strapped to the jet plane on its wings on both sides.  I was so scared I could hardly crawl off the wing onto the ladder and to the ground.  While at the air base, my airman buddy and I went to the enlisted men's bar/club where real Korean girls worked serving drinks and food to men sitting at tables.  The tables, as were the bars, were made with marble tops.  Talk about an easy life.  These airmen had it, I thought.

On my return hitchhiking trip, I had to wait at the air base entrance gate because a red alert had sounded that a MiG plane was in our area.  No traffic was allowed to enter or leave the airport.  In about two hours the alert clear siren was sounded and I started back to Seoul riding in a truck that had been leaving the air base when the alert was first sounded.  The driver of this truck gave me a lift into Seoul and then he went in a southern direction that I was not heading.  I walked all the way through Seoul that night with my rifle in my hands, ready to shoot if necessary.  I knew I was in a mess that I had created myself, but I kept walking and at last came to the capitol building and walked left.  I heard a Jeep behind me and it pulled alongside.  Two MP's were in it and they told me to drop my rifle and show them my ID.  Then they started writing me a Delinquency Report (DR) for being out after curfew hours.  Darkness was the curfew door and all soldiers were to be in their respective living quarters.

The MP's took me to my living quarters building and let me out at the gate.  They watched to see that I went inside to my bunk.  The next day the phone rang.  The Colonel said that the Provost Marshall's Office was in need of a clerk typist that day and I was to go down there (approximately five blocks away).  I went into the office and told the Provost Marshall that I was the clerk and would probably be typing up my own Courts-Martial I had received the night before for being out after curfew.  He looked at my DR slip and judged me a $25 fine under a Summary Courts-Martial.  I pled guilty and wrote up my own Courts-Martial that is on my DD214.


96th Quartermaster Battalion

Shortly after these things happened I was transferred back to Inchon to the 96th Quartermaster Battalion, where I was assigned to guard duty as well as company clerk.  The crap began to get thicker in my young 19-year old life.

Finding Buddy Birch

One day I received a newspaper from my home county that my parents had mailed to me.  In this paper I read about servicemen overseas.  My name was not mentioned, but a friend named Buddy Birch was.  He was in the Sixth Combat Engineers under the 1st Cavalry Division in Korea.  I thought how good it would be to see someone from my own hometown, especially a buddy I had drank beer with in our old hometown taverns.  He also was a relative of one of my school buddy's friends, so this made us somewhat related.  (Ha!)  In Korea, anything that put us close to something else was a reward.

I thought and thought as days passed about trying someday to go find Buddy Birch.  I was at the beer hall downtown near the PX of Inchon when some soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division came to pick up things for the front line troops.  I talked to one who said he saw an Army-type sign that designated units at the front lines, and he had seen the Sixth Construction Engineers on Route 1 going northward from Seoul about 25 miles or so.  I asked him if the roadways were good and open to Army and Marine troops and he said, "Yes, and dusty as hell, too!"  So, hhhmmmmm. I had enough evidence of things unseen to form a picture of me hitchhiking, catching trucks, and arriving at Buddy Birch's outfit.  I decided then to go the next morning as soon as I got out of the mess hall from breakfast.  That way I would be counted for meals and no one would bother me the rest of the day.

Tomorrow came and I began walking on the dirt road that Korean honey wagons were driven on by "old poppasans" who were taking their loads of human waste to fields and maybe to a rice paddy in need of being enriched for future farming.  An Army truck came rumbling down the road behind me.  I turned and stuck out my thumb.  The driver stopped for me to get in the seat next to him and then we drove on.  "My luck is great" (so I thought) during that very first trip to the front lines.  I was let out inside Seoul City proper and I got a wee bit scared as I saw again all the destruction left by war.  Then I walked on among Korean civilians who didn't look at me, but stared at the ground in their journeys.  Some might wave at me, but most ignored me.  They were going through a life and death day again seeking food, shelter, clothing and safety.

This was my first trip north of Seoul on Route 1.  The truck driver let me out in the middle of nowhere and rumbled on down through a field.  I saw the countryside and thought back to what going out into the fields of my home farm was like and how it resembled the situation I was now in here in Korea.  I walked and walked.   Finally a truck came up behind me, but it sped past me regardless of the thumb that I waved wildly at the driver.  Over in the distance I spotted a huge tent and men standing around drinking or doing something inside it.  Its sides were rolled up, so I figured it was not a living quarters where things could cause soldiers to be aggravated.  I walked to the tent and saw soldiers who were wearing British caps and drinking cups of tea.  I introduced myself to one and he said, "Join me in a cup of hot tea, Mate?"  I nodded my head yes, and did so, taking my canteen out and letting him pour me some hot tea from a pitcher sitting on a stove used to keep it hot.  I asked if they knew where I might find a United States organization of the military and they said no.  They only knew of British locations.  I bid them farewell and one gave me a salute holding his hand out above his head where I could see the entire palm.  This was how British saluted and I felt well after that event.

I returned to the roadway I had left an hour or so back, turned left and headed north again walking slowly and thinking about a vehicle that might pick me up.  Thoughts began to run through my head about "what if".  I was a ways away from Inchon and no one knew where I was. I then reassured myself that I was okay, for I had hitchhiked dozens of times back in the USA and I could do it in Korea--or Brazil, if I was there.  I had to keep souping myself up mentally, which I learned to do by talking out loud so I might be heard by unsuspecting soldiers someplace out of my sight.  After sitting down several times and resting on the earth, I again slowly walked.

Finally I heard a Jeep coming from behind me.  It stopped and the driver was a Captain.  Oh, oh!  I figured I was in danger of being asked questions I would rather not have to go through.  He asked me where I was going and why I was walking alone.  I hurriedly told him I was looking for a buddy of mine.  He thought I had been on the front line all along.  Suddenly a bomb exploded in the air above us and I was startled.  The Captain stopped the Jeep and told me to get out.  He was heading to his unit and I was definitely not in it.  He was leaving the main roadway, but I needed to stay walking on it in search of my friend.  I got out of the Jeep and thoughts upon thoughts ran through my mind.  "Front line."  "I'm  being shot at."  "I don't know what to do other than take cover and survey what is going on, then try to find Buddy Birch."  I also thought maybe I should turn around and head back home to Inchon.  Then I thought, "Me telling myself I had failed?  Get out, Devil.  I am going to make it!"

That was my first attempt.  I failed that day, but I kept trying. I made two more trips to the front before I found Buddy Birch on my third attempt.  He was standing near a woods on a mountainside greasing the bulldozer that he used in building roads and digging air raid shelters.  I walked up beside him and he looked at me.  I said to him, "Buddy Birch.  Are you Buddy Birch?"  He looked me in the eye and said, "Aren't you Mousy Mason?"  I said, "Yes I am."  He asked me if I was coming in to be part of his unit.  I said no, that I had just come up for a visit from Inchon.  He shook his head at me and said, "You are crazy, aren't you, to come up here just to talk to me?"  I frowned and said, "I guess so.  I just wanted to see someone from near home."  He told me to get out of there and head back to Inchon by catching a trailer truck that was pulling a wounded tank back up to Uijongbu, the Korean village.

As I walked back down that dirty, dusty road, I had feelings of failing to accomplish whatever it was that I was searching for in that journey.  I came to a road that turned to the right and went into a bombed-out village.  There stood a 150-foot tall chimney that had an insignia of the 1st Cavalry painted on it about halfway from its top.  I mused over that several times and thought, "Boy, if I only had a camera to take a photo of that."  I looked many times to get the memory implanted in my brain.

I decided the sun was moving toward the evening positions so I had better get on the road back to Inchon.  My luck had been wonderful, but I sure didn't want to go against the odds of being caught in the darkness, for catching a ride then would be almost nil for anyone during this trip toward the front lines.  I headed down the return road to Seoul with an ease I had lost when on the front lines.  Safety, I suppose, spoke to me the further away from the front lines I went and the closer to my rear echelon home quarters I came.  With great luck I made it into Inchon before total darkness surrounded me.  I entered my tent, and spoke to one of the men saying, "I'm heading to the mess hall.  Are you going?"  He said, "Where have you been?  Supper ended about an hour ago and the mess hall is closed."  I didn't try to tell him any more.  So -- Korea, guard duty, front lines, back home safe!  Here was a memory to keep and cherish, and I durn sure kept it, friends.

Blixie Cold

It was about a month more before I ever went back to the front line areas.  I hitchhiked there to view what was going on, to see some dead communists, and look at more destruction.  I had thoughts of helping kill a communist and helping other front line riflemen while up there bumming around.  What could bring thoughts and events like this?  Who really knows the human mind?

In these next two attempts to analyze the war by viewing it in person and bringing it back with me, I was caught between two huge mountains having walked down a very narrow road.  I came upon a blown-apart American tank with a hole in its side that I could almost crawl through.  On the road near the tank lay three M-2 carbine rifles with their clips still in them.  I thought about picking one up and looking for a name carved in its stock or something like that, then safety first told me it might be booby trapped and a mine might be anywhere in that area.  I picked up a bunch of rocks and threw them to the ground, thinking they would explode a mine.  If they did, I was far enough away that shrapnel from the mine possibly wouldn't harm me in any way.  Nothing blew up, so I dared to walk to the tank.  I climbed up on its tracks and looked inside, as its tank turret lid was up when I first saw it there.  Inside was blood on the floor and on the sides of the turret.  I crawled out before I got sick.  Thoughts pounded me again.  I needed a souvenir, yet I didn't need one.

At last I said to myself, "Go home, Maurice.  It's all over here and no need to look any further."  I started walking back toward Seoul. It grew dark almost instantly and began to get so cold.  I began to trot a little to keep warm.  I heard the roar of tanks in the front of me, so I walked on.  As I grew closer to the noise of the tanks I looked to the right and saw tents among some woods.  Here must be the tank outfit and I was trapped.  I was growing cold and darkness was on me.  I thought, "I must go to this unit and see if they will accept me and give me heat and a place to stay for the night."  I entered a tent and an officer asked me what I wanted.  I explained quickly that I was not from his outfit and was on a journey back to Seoul and then onward to Inchon.  He heard my story, asked me how old I was, then nodded his head and said to me, "Boy, I will write your Company Commander a note and tell him that you stayed here in our unit tonight and that you did not go AWOL or desert or attempt to.  You just went a little crazy."  I thanked him and took the note.  He told me which tent to go into and told me to find an empty sleeping bag and crawl into it, for it was going to get blixie cold that night.

I did as instructed and entered a tent where I found a sleeping bag by groping in the almost darkness.  A Sergeant sleeping in a bunk next to me said, "There is the tank commander's sleeping bag.  Use it until he gets back from patrol in the morning."  I thanked him and started to take my boots off so I could get into the sleeping bag easily.  He stopped me and said, "I can see you have never been at the front lines before.  No one takes their boots off up here except to change socks or put more on.  We may freeze or be shot if found without our boots on where we can move quickly and fight."

I finally managed to get into the sleeping bag with all my clothing on.  This was a chore beyond description.  The sleeping bag was a mountain-type sleeping bag as classified by the military, for it had a lining of fur inside that was really warm as toast.  The night went by and I heard tanks as they crossed the creek adjacent to our tent.  They were coming in and leaving.  I at last went to sleep and when I awoke it was barely daylight.  I felt the hairs in my nose that had stuck out of the sleeping bag.  A few hairs had broken off inside of my nose.  It was a wonder that I had not died from exposure to the cold.  During the night the temperature had gone down so much that a tank was driving in over the creek that had been running freely the night before.  I got out of the sleeping bag and headed back to the roadway that led to Seoul.  It was so cold that I was forced to begin running.  When I came to a place the sun was hitting, I realized I had run far away from the mountain range and was heading south.

I grew tired and rested along the roadside for the next hour or so.  I caught a ride with a Korean Military Advisory Group (KMAG) truck loaded with tree limbs and wood.  The wood was high and I barely could climb to the top.  I lay down to keep the cold air from harming me.  The Koreans drove for an hour or more and I then realized how far I had actually come getting up to the front lines to begin with.  They turned off and came to a Korean house where they got out of the cab (three of them) and entered the house.  I could hear them talking inside.  I slowly crawled down from the limbs and when my feet hit the ground I started running as fast as I could go.  Fear had hit me that these characters might be communists who had stolen this truck and were trying to disguise themselves as local Koreans fighting with the United Nation troops.

Time went by and I at last caught a ride in an American Army truck that took me all the way to Seoul and let me off just at the southern tip of Seoul, turning away from the main road.  I started walking and swore I would never again head to the front lines.  Another truck picked me up and I got into the cab.  Aha!  A real seat to sit in!  The driver said he was going to pick up stuff at Inchon tidal basin.  I thanked him a hundred times, it seemed.  When we arrived I headed to my tent and lay down waiting for the bomb of what I thought now would explode.  Nothing happened.  I took the note to the orderly room (not to the 375th Port Guard Detachment).  I told the Company Commander I had been visiting a friend at the front lines, had stayed all night, and that I had brought a note to him to prove where I had been.  He looked at me, said he didn't really care where I had been or where I was going, and tore the note up after reading it.  He told me to get somewhere and do something.  He said he didn't have time for any foolishness.  I left and went back to my tent.  I was home safe.  I had to form a new plan of what I would do.  Keep my mouth shut and see what erupts was the plan.

I didn't really have to wonder what I should do, for the Army had their plans already in progress and it didn't matter if I was in the Army or not.  I waited and nothing happened unusual.  I finally went to the bulletin board and there was my name as always.  It listed the time for me to be on guard duty and where it was being held.  I dressed that day and went outside waiting for my ride to the place I was to stand guard.  I was driven to that place and nothing unusual was said or done by others toward me.  I stood guard duty for six straight hours, waded mud and stuff that had formed from the last rain a day or so previous, and returned that night.


Drinking Opportunities

Things began to get murky from there on until I was sent back to the USA, so I will strive to put some sort of format or order to it.  Having been to the front lines per se and returning safely, I fell into my regular assigned duties of driving trucks and Jeeps and clerical work, as well as temporary short-term guard duty of four hours.  This was all done in the Inchon city limits.  Things began to swiftly take on error after error because of things the Army had done to afford me the opportunity to get to more alcoholic drink than I should be consuming.

A brand-new beer hall had been opened in a bombed-out Korean building next door to the PX.  In it we could buy a card with numbers printed on it.  Each number represented a drink.  When I bought a beer for 35 cents, the Army bartender punched a number out of my card.  I had to purchase a brand-new card each time I entered the bar and the cards were dated.  I was also able to purchase beer by the half case lots and carry it out with me.  It was almost like civilian life again.  At times I purchased a whole case (24 cans) of stateside beer, which was said to be three percent alcohol content and wouldn't get us drunk as fast.  Crap!  Whoever wrote that didn't know much about alcohol.  Enough of one percent could overcome the body's ability to dispose of the destructive power of alcohol.  Of course, at that time in 1952, I did not know the power of beer or whiskey other than it durn sure put me on my rear-end when I got enough and I had to wait until it let me get back up and start trying to proceed as in the beginning. In the next few months I became totally dependent on alcoholic drink, even though I didn't tell others.  I would whip this son-of-a-bitch all by my little 19-year-old lonesome self.

Everyday things began to take the appearance of peace in Korea and we were told that soon we might be heading back to the USA a little earlier than previously told about.  If North Korea signed the peace treaty, we would be in business.  I was back at the typewriter most of the time now.  A brand-new battalion headquarters building had been erected of galvanized roofing and concrete floors.  This had been completed while I was away on TDY in Seoul Area Command Headquarters.  The building sat all the way across the barbed wire compound of where I had formerly lived and worked.  The former tents being used for administrative duties and clerical work were converted into other means to help the war effort.

This new headquarters building was approximately 200 feet long and about fifty feet wide.  It had two doors that only people could enter.  One door was on the south side and the other was on the west end viewing the PX area about a half mile distant.  Several detachments and company commands were contained in this building.  Clerk-typists from each unit were assigned a desk side by side and across the huge room from the desk of the Company Commander who might be a Captain, Major, or maybe a Light Bird Colonel.  I wondered where they dug up all these men, for they were not the ones that I had left when going to Seoul.

I was handed paper that contained the very essence of our operation and it gave the names of each commander and clerk and the unit it was representing.  This way I could take papers that were written to a specific unit to their proper setting.  I often left to go get a cup of coffee, which we were permitted to do when we asked the officer in charge of us to do so.  Ha!  There I could hurriedly get a cup, pour some vodka I had hidden under the tent into it, take a sip, and return to my desk with the cup.  I sat the cup in a spot it would not turn over, for the odor might get wild then.  I was watched as I drank from this cup and the officers often asked me if that coffee was that good to go out and make it myself before we went to chow.  These questions made me think they knew what the heck was going on, but I didn't care for I was in need of it more than being frightened by the words or actions of others.

I had already been through a battle with alcohol and been given six months incarceration for drinking on duty.  I served a little over a month of this incarceration and wrote a letter back to my Commanding Officer notifying him of his involvement in helping me get the whiskey that had caused me to be in the stockade.  I said I was going to the front lines AWOL when I got back from doing my six months if that was how he felt about the drinking problem that had cut me down.  In less than a month I was told to go read the Stockade Bulletin Board and see what it said about me.  I wondered, "Why would I be on that?"  I walked down the hill to read the bulletin board.  It read:  "The following EM have been allotted clemency and are considered 'time served' and will return to their assigned organizations."  My name was in the list, as were a few other soldiers.  We were to ride a train back to Seoul and then catch a Jeep that would be waiting for us.  This was a joyful time to me and it was also one of fright, for I now would have to think about other soldiers who ribbing me about not being a good soldier.  I worried that I might have a few fights and that would end everything.  Not so.  When I returned, the former buddies of mine were elsewhere, having been transferred.  I was in a brand-new ball game with the exception of getting accustomed to new officers in charge.


Secret Mission

I was called to the orderly room once from my duty at the tidal basin where I helped unload ships and boats by hand.  I lifted crates and boxes and stacked them in piles along the pier.  Other soldiers came and helped also.  We moved from chore to chore unloading these ships, taking broom and shovels to clean up the pier's surface.  At the orderly room I was told that I was going on a highly secret mission  I had already been working as a guard walking the 56 1/2-acre POL filling station and storage area, and I had also worked in the office there making an inventory list of all liquids that entered, were stored, sent out, and where they were sent.  I helped create this secret list alongside Koreans who worked in the POL office.  I put figures into columns and did bookkeeping clerk chores.

This secret mission was thus:  I was to go to the clothing room of my unit, which at that time had been renamed the 96th Quartermaster Headquarters Detachment, Eighth Army.  From there I was to receive a stateside uniform of O.D. wool texture, a cunt cap, Army brass, a brand new .45 automatic pistol, and clips of ammunition.  I was to be awakened before dawn the following day by a soldier driving a Jeep that would take me to Kimpo Air Base of the Fifth Air Force.  There I would enter a single engine double-winged aircraft.  I was to carry with me a brown envelope with the secret data of the POL dump.  Only the pilot and I would be in the aircraft.  I was told this: "If anyone tries to take this brown envelope away from you, kill them instantly because what is in and on this paperwork could determine the lives of many thousands of soldiers and Marines."

I did as told.  I didn't even ask the driver his name, for I presumed he already knew all about what was going on or he would not have been chosen.  He did tell me on the way that if I wanted to smoke I could light up any time.  Never again did he talk until we got to Kimpo Air Base and pulled alongside a small aircraft.  He instructed me to get out and wait while he started the plane's engines and checked everything out to see if we could fly.  He came back from the cockpit and said to get in and he would pull the ladder in behind us that we used to climb up into the plane.  We were at last taking off into flight and the wings leaned somewhat.  I was told by the pilot to expect this once in a while, but that he would warn me before he had to make a turn or lean, for he didn't want me to get scared and shoot him thinking he was going to kill both of us and destroy the data I was carrying.

We flew what I thought was hours.  There were no windows in the plane and only one door.  There was no divider wall between me and the pilot.  I could see him at all times.  He wore a pilot's cap with black goggles that covered his eyes.  He wore no weapon, nor was there another weapon on the plane other than the one I carried.  I had been forewarned that if the pilot tried to take the sealed brown envelope away from me to shoot him and take control of the plane.  Ha! Me?  Fly a plane?  The Commanding Officer sort of smiled when he said that, searching for a reaction from me, I guess.

At last the pilot spoke.  He said, "We are at our destination and I will be making leans with the plane to approach the landing strip.  Please sit still."  I had nothing to hold onto except some straps on the floor of the plane that were used to hold down certain types of cargo.  I heard the plane's engines slow down, then felt a "bump, bump" and we were coasting down a very smooth concrete landing strip.  The plane stopped, the pilot came past me to the door and unlock it, and he place the ladder for us to descend from the plane.  The pilot went down first, then beckoned me to come out also.  He backed away from the plane a good distance and said, "You are to go into that huge concrete structure there that is part of the Army."  He said I would receive instructions from the officers inside.

I had at last got something I could believe and sounded like it was sane.  I walked inside the building and was stopped by an armed soldier who wore a stateside uniform of khaki and 2nd Lieutenant bars on his shoulders and collar.  He instructed me to follow him and wait outside a door of an office that was shut.  The door had no window.  In a couple of minutes the door swung open and a full Bird Colonel stood in front of me.  He spoke the secret word I was supposed to hear before I turned the secret envelope over to him.  He also stated his full name, rank and service number.  I gave him my name, rank and service number in return.  Then I was bid enter and sit down in front of him at his desk.  He quickly unwound the strings that held the Army manila envelope shut, removed the papers from it, and began reading and sorting the sheets of paper apart in stacks.  It seemed an eternity before he smiled and said, "Your assignment is finished, Private Mason."  He told me, "You are to go right when leaving this office and to the end of the hall where you will find a kitchen and dining room with hot food waiting to be chosen by you.  The cooks are there working."  I was told not to return to his office, but to eat and then the pilot would enter the building and beckon me to follow him back out to the Jeep that would take us back to our waiting airplane.  Its engine was at idle speed and warmed up.  After we were inside the plane, the pilot was strapped in his seat, and I had a strap from the floor rerouted around me, we started the flight back.  On the journey back the pilot said we could talk a little if I chose to, for my job was done.  He announced that he worked with the Secret Service section of the US Army and I was not to be concerned about him for he definitely was a friend.  The pilot announced that we had landed at Taegu, which was at that time a temporary headquarters for the Eighth United States Army of Korea or EUSAK.

He said we might have awards placed on our military records for this work, he didn't really know.  The flight back was close to three hours and I was beginning to get sleepy and tired.  I dozed off and on a few minutes at a time and was awakened by the pilot's voice saying, "Hey, Soldier.  We are home again and I'm going in for a landing right now."  Down we swiftly fell and slower ran the engine.  I felt another "bump, bump, bump" and the pilot said, "I landed a little too fast, but we are okay."  We came to a halt, the pilot opened the door, and we left the plane and entered a Jeep that sat there waiting where the plane had landed.  Another soldier got into the driver's seat and said, "Get in.  We are going to Inchon."  I saluted the pilot and we left.

In less than an hour I was again seeing familiar sights of Inchon, and then, hooray, the barbed wire fences of Inchon Army compounds.  I had never realized how safe these barbed wire fences actually were on my body and brain.  I returned to the Company orderly room and reported to the Commanding Officer who was working at his desk.  He looked up at me and said, "Well, Soldier.  You can go undress from that stateside uniform and put your olive drabs back on now."  He said, "You can go to your tent for the rest of the day and eat a regular meal when it comes time."

No one can know what went through my mind after returning to Inchon that day.  I mused over everything that had happened and sought to find some definite answer as to why I, the little Hardin County, Illinois 19-year old boy had been given such a highly important task.  Ego patted me on my back again.  This episode was just another of the many I experienced at Inchon, plus other areas of Korea proper.


Maritime Ship Story

Always expect the unexpected was what we were told by some officers.  One morning in 1952, we were called into a company formation so an officer could give us sad news.  He said, "I need a crew of men willing to go out to a maritime ship with a bunch of Korean laborers and unload the thing.  You will be taken out there and back in LCM boats every day until the job is completed."  Of course, this old kid of 19 shot his hand upward, as did approximately a dozen other men who wanted out of the same old rat race of Inchon's daily drudgery.

We were told to go to our tents and get our field jackets, gloves and rain poncho, plus one blanket.  The explanation from the officer was, "The sea might be mighty rough and colder than here in Inchon."  We did as instructed and returned to formation.  Soon a two and a half ton truck came, we piled into the rear of it, and off we went to the seashore at the beach where LSTs parked to unload.  LCM boats sat there waiting with engines running.  We were loaded into them and away we went far out into the Yellow Sea, which we had not been on since arriving at Inchon.  Other LCM boats contained Korean laborers who smelled like pure garlic, which was used as a medicine/food by most Asians.  The Koreans ate garlic like food.

It seemed an eternity before we at last arrived.  I suppose it took at least an hour and a half to get out there because the water had some waves that forced the small LCM boats to go slowly.  There sat the big, dirty, black maritime ship waiting to be robbed of its cargo.  An unloading net hung down its side, on which men climbed up and down to enter the ship any time the ship was not landed and the debarking ladder was fastened to the land.  We all climbed the net and waited on the deck.  Then we were told how lonely this job might be to most of us.  Each man was to go down into a "hold", as they called it.  These holds were actually rooms or sections of the ship where cargo was placed.  To accompany us, Korean laborers would also be let down into the hold so they could move boxes and crates of food and other items onto a net used by the ship's cranes to haul cargo up.  The net was spread open in the hold, cargo was placed on it, then the sides were brought up to the center and fastened to the crane's cable hook and up, up and away went the cargo.

There I was in the hold with garlic breaths about to choke me.  I had only my small pistol that I had bought for $50 a month or so before that.  The other men had only their bayonets to use as protection and to possibly assist in opening something in the hold so it could be lifted out.  The men on the deck at the top of each hold were the bosses, and they yelled down when the crane was either letting something downward or lifting it out of the hold.  My duty was to supervise the unloading in the hold, as there was a system.  That system was to start at the edges and come into the center.  The hold had been loaded that way with layers.  Some parts of each hold had been just tossed in and let roll as they would, so rearranging items and carrying some items was necessary.

The Koreans were a bunch of slackers.  Some of them hid behind the crates and let the other Koreans work.  They robbed (broke into) boxes to see what type of stuff was there.  I caught them opening gallon tins of peaches and other fruits, tasting them, and then going to another crate of food to do the same.  They were like children in a playroom.  Finally I called one Korean aside and, while pointing my pistol in his direction, I told him to "bally bally boy san."  That meant to hurry up and work.  So the unloading went onward.  I had the Koreans stack the crates that had been broken into by their buddies into one pile.  This I did by taking one crate myself and carrying it to start a pile.  They finally got the message and did like I did.

What did we do for food to eat at lunch?  C-rations were lowered into each hold, along with a container of hot coffee.  Hot rice was sent down in containers for the Koreans to eat.  They really liked that part of their work day.  Finally the work day ended and we all loaded into a net and hung on for dear life while we were lifted out to the deck.  Then came the sad part for the Koreans.  They were shook down by Military Police.  The Koreans tossed what they had stolen from the holds overboard or onto the deck.  I saw cigarettes, articles from First Aid boxes, and a variety of stuff that the holds contained.  I could see the sad, sad faces of the Koreans who thought they had hit a bonanza and would have much money to receive from what they had stolen.

Wonderland

We were taken back to Inchon every day at darkness and taken back out the next day.  Finally the ship was empty.  The commander of the ship told us we were to be rewarded for a good job by eating a great meal of steak and potatoes cooked by the maritime cooks.  We also were to eat in the dining rooms where the crew of the ship ate.  Boy, did our egos get another kick!  We went into the dining room and beheld real tables with linen tablecloths on them, pure silver eating utensils, and crystal dining glasses that had real lemon in the tea and all that jazz.  They even had salad forks and a zillion other utensils like huge soup spoons.  I think there were at least ten eating utensils beside each plate.  The cooks came and served us while we were sitting.  Boy, were we in wonderland!  Then came the last bite and we were ordered to hit the nets and climb back down for the final trip to Inchon.  This was a sad journey indeed, but did we have a story to tell anyone that cared to listen!

We arrived in Inchon and the Korean laborers were searched by, guess who?  Us!  I searched one who had a five-pound bag of sugar stuck between his legs like a lady's personal items pad.  He sure did moan when I made him undress and deposit the sugar on the unloading pier.  The laborers were not punished for trying to steal stuff.  I never could figure that one out, but who was I to care?

When I finally found my tent again and went in, the other men asked me where I had been.  They said, "Have you been doggin' off all day long?"  I told the story and they said, "Do you expect us to believe that crap?"  At least I had a story I could write home and tell my parents at least.  I tried to write letters that would not be censored and the words blackened out by the mail clerk at the Army Post Office, also known as the APO.

Looking back at this experience, I find I was very special in being given the opportunity to see and do stuff such as this that was very educational, as well as morally uplifting.


Going Home

Each day I went to work, came back to my tent, wrote letters home, and waited and waited.  I was getting so tired of waiting to rotate home that I thought about walking back to the USA.  Then came the day I was told to have my bags packed and ready to get onboard a ship that would take us to Japan.  It was leaving from the pier in Inchon where I had formerly got off the ship that took us to the maritime ship out in the Yellow Sea.

Did I smile?  I couldn't think of what to do.  I hurriedly packed all my things, then learned I had to go to the supply room and other places to be signed out of the organization.  I also had to go to the motor pool and sign off my duties.  I had to undo what I had formerly done and forget about.  I was tired.  No specific day had been set that the ship would arrive, but I had time to go to the PX and nose around.  I also tried to find my former girlfriend whom I had worked with at battalion headquarters.  I had no luck finding her.  At last I just stayed in the tent and thought and thought and smoked a barrel of cigarettes.  We had already been told there would be no smoking on the ship going to the USA except on the decks outside the living areas.

At last the day to leave arrived and it was almost noon.  We were told at each tent to be ready when our names were called, and all of us made a formation in the company area.  Trucks drove up, our names and numbers were called out, and each man went to a truck and was helped up into the bed along with his worldly possessions.  Away we went.  We then waited on the pier for the time to be set to board the barge that would take us out to the ship.  The ship was waiting in the harbor where the water was deep enough for it to travel.  A crane using small loading platforms was let down, and all of our possessions were loaded onto it and taken to the deck of the ship.  We were all taken up separately due to the ability of the crane's platforms to provide safe lifting to the deck.  When I stepped onto the ship, my feet felt like they had hit Heaven.  I was actually there and going home to see my parents that I loved so much.  My only brother was stationed at Scott Air Force Base at Belleville, Illinois at that time.

Sea Voyage

We arrived at Sasebo, Japan and debarked.  There we waited for several days and stayed in barracks used for that very purpose of transporting troops to and from Korea.  Finally the day to leave came.  We had been through the replacement process and were loaded onto the ship that was going to take us to the USA.  The name of the ship was the USS Ballou.  I will not go any further in these episodes of my coming back to the States, for the journey aboard ship was full of sea sickness, gambling, and who knows what else.  I saw it all, although I was not injured in any of it except the sea sickness.  I found an answer to the sea sickness by working in the food storage rooms of the ship where I could get fresh fruits to eat any time.  Eating these prevented my sea sickness.

I saw fights among soldiers on the ship.  I was told that several might have been thrown over the rear of the ship when they goofed up and tried some sort of shit that wasn't right in the eyes of the majority.  This hurt when I heard it, for I could take it as truth or pitch it out.  My brain had lots of, "Do I believe it or just forget it?"  I am still trying to forget it in 2012.

We arrived at Seattle, Washington at Pier 91 and I was processed.  I stayed there an extra ten days due to disobedience to Army regulations.  (I sneaked off to get some booze and was caught, so I had to stay ten days for punishment.)  I had to carry the Commander's coffee to him and act as his waiter.  Shame, shame.  Maurice, the Korean War guy who was fighting life and what it held with no view of himself.


Post Korea

I was discharged from the Army on March 03, 1954 at Ft. Benning, Georgia.  My life since then has been filled with hurts, bad news and blood shed, mostly from me getting into fights and accidents in automobile wrecks. After discharge I returned to my parents' home, drew my final mustering out payments, and then went to work at the TVA Shawnee Steam Plant in Paducah, Kentucky.  I replaced a veteran who was in the V.A. Hospital, but would return when he was well, which he did.

My next job was in Pontiac, Michigan, where I have relatives living still.  I took the position of Manager Trainee under the GI Bill.  That lasted a few months, then Kresge went out of business completely.  I then went to driving trucks of various owners in Pontiac, hauling dirt, sand, gravel, peat moss, and various other types of materials.  Soon I purchased my own dump truck for $350, worked on it a little, and went into business hauling any and all things I could get paid to do.  Soon I had a brand-new Ford car and another dump truck.  I started a junk yard business and had oodles of hundred dollar bills.  Then I got my finger cut off.  I had no insurance, couldn't work any more, and the doctor said I might be off for over a year before I would recover enough to work again.

I returned to southern Illinois to my parents' farm and worked with my father in his business.  I grew well long before the time the doctor had told me I could/would.  I returned to Michigan where work was known to be.  I took a position with GM at the Buick plant, building new autos.  I worked there until union problems forced me to make a decision to fight with them and take the chance of being canned, or do as Buick wanted me to do--slave labor.  I stayed with the union.  A friend told me of a better paying job with Ford Motor Company at Dearborn, Michigan as a mechanic on their fleet of 634 trucks.  I worked with them seven days per week, 12 hours per day until they went to diesel motors in their trucks.  I was uneducated in diesel engines and quit again.

By this time I was having many problems staying out of jail due to alcohol being my driver per se.  When I returned home from Korea, I was well-known as the local drinker of the entire county.  People didn't shun me, but they pitied me. I returned to southern Illinois and worked there with my father and a man who owned the Ford Motor Company dealership.  In the year and a half that I worked for him, I had a wreck with my brother's new Dodge auto and it tore me to pieces.  That was on January 25, 1957.  It was a bad car wreck.  I went through the windshield of the car, cut my right ear off (they sewed it back on), and fractured my skull, neck and spine.  I lay unconscious 17 days, I have been told, before coming to life again.  I fished and recovered for the rest of that year.

In 1958 I drove to Amarillo, Texas, where my brother-in-law lived.  He helped me learn the town and then I got a job as auto mechanic, working there until 1961, when I went to California to work.  From California I lived and worked in 26 states of the USA.  Alcohol was still my driver and gambling was his companion.  I was durn good at drinking as well as gambling, but the two of them got me.  I finally learned that I was a full-blown addict to alcohol in 1979 and they told me that there was no way out.  I took my last drink of alcohol on October 26, 1979.  In 1980 a friend of mine told me about Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and said he would help me get back on my feet and learn how to really live.

Having been sober for nearly two full years, in 1982 I fell victim to my immune system failing completely.  All my defenses were completely gone.  I suffered, prayed, and almost died for six straight years.  Then the V.A. heard my humble cry to save me or give me drugs so I could go out of life with no pain.  They did as I pleaded for them to do and I have been well and kicking since 1991.

Going backward a little, on March 01, 1989 my first wife passed away from heart trouble.  She had been in hospital intensive care units five times.  I was disabled and could hardly work at anything.  The V.A. kept doctoring me, and in 1993 I remarried a widow with five adult children.  We are still together today.

I think my alcoholism was service-connected, although it isn't listed as such on my service papers.  I have contacted the VA for help in this matter.  I want a letter from the government reclassifying me as a veteran who didn't get a bullet or shrapnel wound, but did get a brain wound inside that is implanted there for keeps.  Unfortunately, it is useless to try to get the attention of someone who is already brainwashed to state: "No action unless you have evidence on paper that is signed, sealed, and recorded as facts of the Korean War."  I think it is durn simple to say that our great USA should listen and help those who seek stuff on paper from the government instead of, "Here is a pension.  Go away and don't bother us anymore."  I tried to tell the VA that the past is as much a part of my daily mental capacities as today is.

I think if I had been given a thorough examination by the military before my discharge, I would have been rated as having a service-connected alcoholism problem due to the stress of war, seeing too much pain and hurt, too much blood, and a million other scary events that are sometimes too bad to bring back into my memory bank.  I know that I am not the worst victim of the war, for there are those who went before me who lived in hell fighting on the front line.  But I went through my own personal little hell in the rear echelon.  I feel that I am a victim of the Korean War due to conditions that I did not cause, but VA hospital workers have told me that, since I am not on record as having been wounded, they can't treat me for something they can't see. Our men deserve more help and examinations to find out what they suffered due to war.  The DAV just this week (December 2011) made a decision that I was qualified to have a van take me to the VA hospital for treatment--57 years after my discharge date!  Me crazy?  The world I live in is blinded to the truth.  Let truth ring.  Let freedom ring.

I think about my Korean War experiences often.  I do not want these reminders, but they came to stay as Army Permanent Party People.  I spend my time trying to help others in need, and this includes animals or any living thing.  I am thankful for the ability to be sitting here after all the hell I have been through (mostly self-created) and write this positive memoir so Ms. Lynnita Brown can use it in the Korean War Educator.  I now close my memoirs and hope I have at least done my duty as my consciousness had prodded me to do for many decades. Old Man Hurt, I now lay you down to rest!

Salute and Amen! - Maurice Mason


 

 

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