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Arthur "Mac" Millholland
Pleasant Prairie, WI-
"When I got there and saw the Stars and Stripes sign over the door, bells rang, whistles went off, and an almost physical flush of excitement came over me. I knew about the Stripes from my stint in Germany. We had been warned, however, that this was only going to be an interview. So the possibility of being a foot soldier in Korea still loomed. "
- Mac Millholland
<<---The News Room Al Frescoe - S/Sgt Mac Millholland with M-1 and S&S#25 typewriter, on a story, somewhere near Taegu, 1951 (Signal Corps photo)
I think I was destined to cover the Korean War the day I enlisted in the Regular Army in September of 1946. Maybe even before that in the fifth grade when I started getting good grades in English composition (only). After Basic Training at Camp Lee, Virginia, I was sent to Cook and Bakers School. Some result of aptitude testing they gave all recruits indicated I would better serve my country in some capacity other than as a cook. When I arrived at the headquarters of the 10th Constabulary Regiment in Böbligen, Germany, I was assigned as Managing Editor of the regiment's weekly newspaper. I felt confident on being able to write for the paper, but at the age of nineteen, to edit it? Even more daunting the task: the paper was printed at a printer in Stuttgart where no one spoke English, and I knew very little German. How we got out a paper I don't know, but we did, and on time.
Reporters rely on notes for their stories. My notes were fairly cryptic, but amounted to an outline of the story I would write. You have to write the story as soon as you can or the notes will go cold on you. Once transcribed from notes, you have a journal. Unless you have kept a diary, or possibly your notes, you have to rely on memory to write a memoir--from the word memory, that is. Stories, so to speak, are fleshed out notes, and memoirs are fleshed out skeletons. It's been a long time (circa 57 years) since my Korean experiences. Memories that old are by their very nature sketchy. Some details might not be accurate, but the basic skeleton is there, vividly in my memory even after all the those years. So we have to use imagination and creativity to put flesh on memory's skeleton, thus recreating the experiences beyond the memories. Part of the process, too, has been my telling and re-telling these stories among family and friends. Thanks to them for their forbearance. What follows is as close to the whole truth as I can write it.
A Stars & Stripes Correspondent Memoir
Copyright - Arthur M. Millholland, 2008
I was due March of 1948 for discharge from my eighteen month enlistment, a short tour and an offer of the G.I. Bill to attract fresh troops for the occupation force in Germany. At the separation center at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, we were being processed for discharge when a recruiter master sergeant, with service bars on his sleeve that went all the way up to his shoulder, announced, "All you people who want to get a discharge today, line up to join the enlisted reserve. You don't have to go to training, you will be exempt from the draft, and you can't be called to active duty unless there is a national emergency. Line up at that window now. Otherwise you might be here a week or so." There was a stampede to that window.
I enrolled at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, where I met my bride of now (2008) fifty-eight years. The Korean War started in June of 1950. We were married in August, and I found myself torn from the arms of my ever-lovin' bride in October. Then on my way to Tokyo, then Korea. My previous Army journalistic experience earned me an interview with the Pacific Stars and Stripes. I was hired. After a few weeks of training in Tokyo, I was sent to cover the 7th Infantry Division.
A bouncy ride in a C 47 and an even bouncier ride in a Cessna L5 put me down on a road somewhere in Korea. I asked the pilot where 7th Division Headquarters was and he said he sure 'n hell did not know. "Just start walking and ask somebody who isn't the enemy."
So off I went lugging my heavy CM-1 rifle, my portable typewriter, a sleeping bag and a mess kit. And it was cold. How cold I didn't know, but later I found out we had had a ten-day span of down to 19 below. It took me until the next day to find headquarters. That night I bunked up in a bombed out school building. I found out it was cold enough all right. I had a sleeping bag of only a one thickness blanket with a poplin cover. I made the mistake of taking off my boots and hanging my socks over them before trying to sleep. Wrongo! The next morning, still dark, I reached for my socks and they were frozen stiff. I did have the presence of mind to bring my canteen half full of water into bed with me so I could wash down a K-ration I had in my pack.
It was just starting to get light when I started off down the road. Presently a jeep came by and I hailed it. A GI was driving with an officer in the front seat. I asked for directions to Division Headquarters and was told, "Hop in, we're on the way there." That jeep was a most beautiful sight. Having been just dumped off like that at the airstrip without another soul around, I was beginning to be a little bit scared. Like I was the last person left in the world.
I introduced myself as a Stripes correspondent and they both greeted me warmly. "Well, then, Mac..." It's amazing how everybody in the Army knew my name.... "Howzabout puttin' my name inna paper." I heard that a lot in the months to come. I took out my notebook, dug out a stub of a pencil in my shirt pocket. "So, okay, what's your name and outfit?" I tried to make a story of that, wrote it up, and filed it with the tag: Stripes Reporter Hitches a Ride." But it never made the paper. I had only a few misfires like that. In fact, one of the copy readers in Tokyo paid me a compliment by saying that almost all of my filings hit the paper. Very few got the ash can. It seems that our other guys got just as many by-lines, but I was glad to hear the report on my stuff. Most of my stories carried, "By Cpl. (or Sgt.) Mac Millholland with the Seventh Division." The commanding general was getting some good PR. One headline in particular read: "Koreans, North or South, Never Have Seen Likes of Miraculous 7th Division Engineers" (see Addenda following). It may have had a bearing on something later on in my tour as a Stripes reporter. I remember it with a great deal of satisfaction. More on that later.
It was only a 20-minute ride to headquarters, which was a collection of several tents of various sizes pitched in a dry rice paddy. We got there just as "breakfast" was being served. I tagged along with the jeep driver to the mess tent for some "hearty" green powdered eggs, soggy toast, and coffee that could be used as paint remover. Going into the mess tent was the second most welcome event of that day. It was warm in there. Boy, it felt like I had just stepped off the plane in Miami! Well, maybe not warm, but not as cold as I had been experiencing the day and night before. It was heated by little round heaters into which dripped from GI cans a mixture of gasoline and motor oil. OSHA would never approved of that! But they worked to a degree and I never heard of one that exploded, although I'm sure some did. At any rate, these were in every tent, and were used not only to heat but also to warm up C-rations--the favorite being hamburgers in gravy. They were also the means of heating water for face washing and shaving. A steel pot (helmet) balanced very nicely on top of them.
The pot was required wear for all military personnel from generals on down, including chaplains. It was the only thing to be considered body armor, but they were heavy and uncomfortable even with a plastic helmet liner. We all hated wearing them, but we had the MP's to enforce that equipment regulation. It took me quite a while to get used to it--several days of sore neck muscles. There were many stories of how the pot saved a life, e.g., "The round hit a glancing blow, circled around inside the helmet and went out the back." There were other stories which did not have as happy endings. In all, though, the pot did save lives, usually only for small arms fire. But for heating water it was infallible. After a couple of weeks I stopped wearing mine. I received from Tokyo a Stars and Stripes patch to wear on my hat. As long as I wore that in the field, the MP's thought I was a civilian--who were not required to wear one or carry a weapon. But many did.
I hauled around my M-1, that heavy old thing. I wanted a lighter piece like the carbine, but was never able to get one. I guess I just wasn't entrepreneurial enough with the supply sergeant. He did take pity on me the very next day, though, by providing me with a down sleeping bag. A fantastic improvement over that blanket bag I had. I can't recall not being able to sleep in it, no matter how cold. Once I had to roll it out on top of some rice straw, on top of snow, and out in the open.
I found the Public Information Officer (PIO) as instructed and reported in. I actually didn't have orders other than a verbal, "You're going to Seventh Division." The PIO was a nice-looking guy, a real state agent in civilian life who also had been recalled from the Reserves. "About time they sent somebody to cover us," he said. "Last guy we had got sent back to Tokyo. Damn near got himself killed." Yeah, well thank you very much for that welcome news, Captain, I thought. I already knew that, but hearing it again gave me a renewed sense of fear and worry. I had that feeling only a few times thereafter. Sometimes it was riding in a careening jeep on precipitously narrow roads carved by the Corps of Engineers on the side of Korea's steep hills. And once looking down the barrel of a 155mm howitzer firing over my head. Mostly I was too caught up being a "war correspondent" like Ernie Pyle, my hero.
The PIO function at Division was manned by three GIs who were billeted and worked in a squad tent. I was assigned to bunk in with them and work there. One was a Pfc. from somewhere back East, and a pain in the you know where for me. Before going back into the Army, I had taken a liking to Daniel Webster cigars--fairly expensive for the day. My wife sent me a whole box, and one day I found only half of them left after I had a chance to smoke only two or three. I caught that Pfc red-handed digging into them and called him on it. "Oh, what the hell. You were going to share 'em with us anyway." Nuts to you, Bub.
One of the other guys was a tech sergeant (three stripes, two rockers)--a career man with a lot of service. Good guy, but as a writer, ennh, ennhy. This gig for him was a soft one, as in all those years in khaki he had learned how to play the game. The other two guys did all the work, which was getting out press releases on as many GIs as possible to hometown newspapers. They never had to leave Division compound and that was okay with them.
Before leaving Tokyo it was pounded into my head, "Don't try to be a hero. We got other guys to do that. You're supposed to stay alive and write about the heroes." I was more than happy to follow those orders! I had a bride waiting for me back home. There were five Stripes correspondents in Korea and one was killed in action. That's a 20 percent casualty rate. Gives you pause to think! Another one of our guys was a real wild man who jumped with the paratroopers with his typewriter strapped between his legs. When he hit ground, the typewriter broke his leg.
My instructions were to attend the morning tactical briefing for the Commanding General, as did all of the members of the civilian press corps. On the basis of information I picked up there, I was supposed to go to the sector where the most action would be and then observe, write it up when I got back to headquarters, and file the story. That was the feature kind of story the editor looked for. Overall tactical stories were something else.
When I took basic training in 1946, we all went to Army driving school. No matter if you had a chauffeur's license, there's the right way, the wrong way, and the Army way. I had never driven a car in my life up to then because my folks didn't have an automobile. So they tried to teach me to drive a jeep which had, of course, a stick shift. I just flat couldn't master that, so I flunked driver's school. That meant I couldn't drive any military vehicle and if I had to get someplace on "official" duty, I had to have a driver. Well, hell. That made me feel like a pretty important guy so, by George, all through Württemberg, Germany, I had a chauffeur. Then in Korea, I had a whole succession of Pfcs who drove me. Some I trusted much. Some caused me to hang onto the side of the jeep with knuckles turning white.
Lacking an available vehicle and driver, I would hook a ride with something--usually a supply truck--going to the outfit I wanted to cover. Getting back to Division Headquarters was another matter. Sometimes I didn't find a ride and had to bunk in with some of the staff EM at Regiment or Battalion, or Company, and once with a platoon.
If there happened to be some hot news expected with a unit I was headed toward, one or two of the press corps would tag along with me. They were all great guys, good company, and good for a lot of laughs. Once I found myself with the man from the New York Times, a super brain who later became editor of the paper. There was Tom Stone from AP, the sharpest poker player maybe of the century. Poker games in the press tent were a nightly affair. Tom was so good that he never dealt, lest he could be accused of cheating. Bill Burson, a real young guy for UP, later went on to be on the staff of some high-flying politicos in Georgia.
It wasn't too rare that a driver and I got lost. Army units in Korea moved in different degrees of frequency, depending on the progress of the war and the unit level. Division moved rarely, Regiment less so, Battalion, even less so, and companies when not in reserve moved all the time, usually only one or two nights in a location. Division, Regiment, and Battalion posted directional signs along the road. When units moved, they were supposed to take down the old signs and put up new ones. But that didn't always happen. So more than once with my driver and me following the signs, we found ourselves really lost and had to backtrack. Once that got us behind enemy lines. More of that later.
Usually I went up to the front as day trips and was back in time to attend the evening briefing for the Division Commanding General. It was something like a press conference, except the questioner was usually the general. "What's going on with the supplies for the 17th?....", etcetera. It was always amazing to me that this war was being conducted in what we now call transparency. In other words, completely open to the press, with no censorship. Unlike in World War II, our outgoing mail was not censored in so far as I know. Maybe it was that the military trusted us complicity to keep to ourselves information that might be called "sensitive." I don't know. Anyway, I can't recall having any such information myself.
The evening briefing was a grand show. The assistant PIO was a young second lieutenant who was the PIO Captain's go-fer, and mother hen to the press corps. His other duty was to serve as master of ceremonies for the evening briefing. He would call up the officer in charge of various functions of the Division: G-1 (Personnel) would report the status of the troops. G-2 (Intelligence) would report on activity of the enemy. G-3 (Operations and Training) would report on the activity of all units on the front during the day. G-4 (the Quartermaster) was last. He would report on the level, or lack of, supplies and ammunition, Then the general would ask questions and, after that, the press had limited chance to question--rarely, however, directly to the general, but mostly to staff.
This commanding general, Major General Claude B. (Fireball) Ferenbaugh, was a big man with a booming voice and a great sense of humor. When something went wrong he would bellow, "Oh, what a helluva way to run a railroad." The officers, press, and I think GIs as well, had a lot of respect for him and liked him. He spent not a little amount of time touring the front lines (see Addenda). On one such occasion the general found himself behind enemy lines and under attack by machine gun fire. He, his aide, and driver were pinned down for a matter of four hours. With the help of two M-4 tanks called in by a half track which came upon the scene, they made it back for the evening briefing. The general, like a good reporter, regaled us all with his account of being "in direct contact with the enemy." With expansive gestures and sound effects emanating from his massive chest and bass voice box, he kept us all enthralled. An encounter like that was no big deal for a GI, but this was a general! "We sure as hell kept our heads down. When those beautiful M-4's opened fire it was 'Boom, BOOM, BOOM!'", he roared. All of us at the briefing applauded, and I'd bet that story made the wire services. Maybe mine was sent out as a "pooler." I don't rightly remember.
The press corps consisted of correspondents for the AP, UP, INS, Agence France Presse (AFP), Reuters, the New York Times, Chicago Daily News, and other agencies I don't recall. At the end of the briefing, one of the correspondents would write up a "pooler" for AP, UP, INS and AFP to be called to Tokyo to go on the wires. I spent what time we had at leisure "hanging out" with these guys. They truly did consider me their equal, so much so that I was invited every fifth day to write up the pooler and call it in for the other four agencies and then Stripes (see Addenda). It was a kind of relay, as we called in on some Signal Corps land lines to Seoul in a journalistic relay to Tokyo. The land lines were not always that reliable, which drove the little feisty Frenchman for AFP absolutely batty. His name was Albert Smoular, and I can hear him yet today, struggling to get the "poolair" through on the land lines--in French, to be translated in Tokyo for us and the other services. "Allo, allo, au cis Albert Smoular--ah, merde! AHL-bert Smooolaahr. Ay-jonce Frahnce Press. Ah merde." You could hear him hollering away in the press tent all over the Division compound. We didn't seem to have trouble getting through, but he had a heckuva time.
Doing the pooler was strictly on tactical stuff. "A Second Battalion of XYZ Regiment advanced two miles and secured Hill number whatever." That was not as interesting as digging into "feature" or human interest stories in my contact with various units. That was sometimes easy pickings--when a company commander or platoon leader related to me what he considered to be the heroic efforts of one or more of his men. Sometimes that was posthumously. I hated to write those. But invariably the officer had put a soldier in for a medal, and that made a good finish line to my stories.
As I mentioned before, once we found ourselves behind enemy lines due to old unit signs on the road. This "task force" was armed, I guess you could say. The major PIO for one of the battalions had a grease gun, I had my M1, the jeep driver had--get this, a pearl-handed 38. The "grease gun" was a .45 caliber "rapid" fire weapon which had a fat chamber--a short protruding barrel which made it look like a grease gun. Along with some whizzing sounds, a line of dirt puffs on the road kicked up just in front of the jeep--tell-tale signs of a burp gun. From the brrrttt-brrrttt we heard coming from our right, we knew that some unfriendlies were up in the rocks halfway up the hill.
We piled out of that jeep pronto and ducked down behind it. Our driver stuck his pistol up over his head and fired three or four times--an anaemic-sounding "pop, pop." The major crawled around to the rear of the jeep, held up his grease gun, and it went "coccchlikk!" and then jammed, as was the nature of that beast. Very un-soldierly like, I had left my rifle in the jeep. I managed to get it by reaching over the driver's seat. I held it straight up to put in the clip, and suddenly we heard some yelling up there and the sounds of scrambling around. Then nothing. The major told the driver to fire off a couple more rounds. After it seemed like an hour (it was probably only a minute or so) the major peeked up over the jeep. "My guess is they bugged out when they saw that M-1. Let's get outa here." I barked my shin getting into the back seat, the driver piled in, and the major jumped into the front seat. "Hit it, soldier!" He spun her around and stomped on it. While you couldn't lay a line of rubber on those dirt roads, we did leave a rooster tail of dust behind us. When we got back to an intersection, we could see where we took a wrong turn. The sign with an arrow had been turned around.
That was the only chance I had to fire my rifle in anger, even though I didn't. And I never had another one. Didn't want one, either. I didn't file that story because...because, well, thinking back on it, we were probably all embarrassed by our lack of combat efficiency and being stupid enough to get into that pickle. If it were only up to the major, me and the driver, we'da lost that war.
I did have one other instance that involved my rifle. But first: the topography of Korea. Not much pasture, I'll tell you that. Hilly, bordering on mountains. The only flat places I saw were rice paddies. So, in order to follow a combat unit, you had to do a lot of hiking--uphill. Up steep hills on rocky trails. Tough going up. Tougher going down, though. "Slog, slog, slog." Your feet jammed right up into the toe of your boots and you think your hips were punched tight up to your shoulders. No complaint--everybody had to do it, and some had to fight their way along. Some died on the way up. Some died on the way down. What a helluva way to run a railroad!
I had word that some prisoners had been taken on top of a hill that we had just secured. I thought there'd be a story there, but by the time I got to the top of that hill, a squad had already taken the prisoners down to a holding area. However, a straggler had been found hiding behind some rocks. He was a young Chinese soldier, I bet not more than thirteen, and scared to death. The platoon leader asked me to take him on down to the compound as they were going to go on to the next hill. He knew I wasn't a civilian, so I got the job. "Keep your rifle at the ready, and make him walk ahead of you. If he starts to run...." He left that dangling. But run? No way can anybody run down those trails and stay upright. I was worried he would try. After all, I had military responsibility for a prisoner of war, and if I allowed him to escape...? I don't know what I would have done if he did try. No way am I going to shoot him. Well, you don't know what you'll do when you get into a sudden situation in war. Maybe I would have. War can have an effect on an individual's inherent nature. One man can be so shot through with adrenaline that "against all odds, without regard for his personal safety..." as the medal commendations read, he goes on to be a hero. But it can have other effects as well. Seeing all that mayhem and carnage can make some people do things they would never do without that experience.
My Chinese boy, in tennis shoes and a field uniform that looked like padded pajamas, started off downhill. Just to let him know I meant business, I rammed a round home in the chamber of my rifle. At that, he put up both hands and started shaking. I guess he thought I was going to shoot him on the spot. But I just motioned to him with the butt of my rifle to head on down the trail. He would look back over his shoulder at me every once in a while with a much frightened expression.
About halfway down, we came to a little stream with a pool beside the trail. We had been constantly warned not to drink any casual water in Korea because human waste was used as fertilizer. The danger was amoebic dysentery, a particularly serious malady. Too bad, because there were a number of picturesque, clear-flowing rivers and streams which, on a hot, dusty day, looked inviting. In our compounds we had Lister bags, large canvas bags with spigots around the bottom. The water was treated with halazone tablets--and I mean treated. Strong enough, I think, to kill a snake if it dropped in there. When we got to that pool, my boy dropped to his knees and started to drink the water. Thinking of his well-being I tried to stop him, short of threatening to shoot him. But he must have been really thirsty because he went on scooping up water with his hand.
It was almost a mile trip and I was really glad to get on the road and find the tent they were using for POWs. I turned him over to a couple of guards and told them he was from the same outfit as the other prisoners the battalion had captured. One of the guards took a close look at him and exclaimed, "Man, he's damn near not past puberty." As they led him off to another tent for de-lousing (standard procedure), he turned to look at me and he could be smiling and made a gesture that could be a salute. As to the smile, well, it could have been that permanent smiling expression many Asian people have. Nevertheless, I took it as gratitude for sparing his life. I didn't write that story, but I did report it to Division intelligence.
Another behind the lines incident was one of two times I had a brush with the enemy who were by then probably all Chinese. I had checked in at 17th Infantry Regiment Headquarters with that same major we'd been pinned down with previously. He offered that there was some activity going on a few miles from there, so we hopped in a jeep and took off. The major drove. Howzat for a turnaround? A GI chauffeured by a major! We were proceeding along when the MP's stopped us to report some enemy activity just ahead. "Better bail out here. We got one jeep all shot up ahead there as it is." The major asked if it was okay if we walked on ahead. The MP said it was, but he didn't know how far we'd get. We couldn't hear any firing going on, so the major took off. I hitched up my M-1 and followed. After about 100 yards, I saw the major jerk his head back in a flinch. I knew what that was, and I could hear the whisssh sound of close small arms rounds, those little puffs of dust in the road. But that major just kept on walking. Brave or dumb, I don't know.
Some GIs were all hunkered down in the ditch beside the road to our left. The firing seemed to be coming from the hill on our right. Apparently the "front line" was running right down the middle of the road where we were walking. One of the GIs yelled, "You guys better get your tails down here. We're pinned down." So we flopped in next to them. One of the guys said they'd called in some air, but it hadn't come yet. After a few minutes though, we heard jets coming. Two "Fox Four Uncles" (F4U fighters) made two or three passes at the hill and dropped napalm. Everything was very quiet after that. Napalm is a horrible thing to witness, but in our situation it was a beautiful sight. "All's fair...," they'd say after something like that. The GIs cheered, got out of the ditch, and dusted off their pants.
One long, lanky soldier came up to me, bummed a light from me, and when he saw my Stripes patch on my fatigue cap he said, "Hey, Mac. Whyn't ya put mah name inna papuh?" See, he knew my name! So I asked him the standard question, "What did you do..." He told me the following story. This ole boy Dson of the South told me a story nobody would believe, but it had a twist the editors were looking for--humor. "We had just got a new platoon leaduh, a shave-tail loo-tinnant, and he was, I swear, the absolute shortest man ever to get intuh this man's army. But he was a good guy, eager to go. But lemme tell you how short he was. First night out here we went out on patrol. When we got back, the loo-tinnant was missing. So I hadda go back out there and find him. I went a short way down the trail and there in the middle of it was a helmet liner sittin' there. So I picked it up, and there was the loo-tinnant standin' unner it. Now that, my friend, is short!" A couple of the guys were standing there listening to this guy and when that Tennessean wound up his story, they all laughed. I figured it was good enough for a story and wrote it up.
They say the best way to get ahead in the Army is to screw up once in a while so they'll notice you. I thought I had done that when I had a little dust-up with the Lieutenant assistant PIO. He chewed me out for writing "that kind of story" on my by-lined story about a lieutenant found under a helmet liner. Didn't know why and still don't.
But the reverse can work, too. At least I guess it did according to the outcome of an interview I had with the General's l executive officer, a full bird colonel. I didn't interview him; he interviewed me. Soon after the story appeared I was ordered to report to the exec. I had no idea why he wanted to see me, but anytime you get something like "Soldier, report to...", you begin to think the maxim about screwing up. So I was a little bit apprehensive.
The exec was a tall, distinguished-looking gentleman with white hair and immaculately pressed fatigues on which that silver eagle glistened. He had a neat little wall tent, which is a pup tent on giant steroids, about a quarter the size of a squad tent. The tent flap was opened, and when I looked in the colonel told me to come in. I saluted, he returned it, and then he said, "Have a seat, sergeant." I thought, "Oh, oh, here's something I got to hear sitting down!" He looked at me and smiled. Geez I'm going to get it with him smiling. He picked up a piece of paper and said in a very friendly voice, "The Commanding General has read your Stars and Stripes reports on the efforts of the Seventh Division and wants me to convey to you that he is pleased about the excellent job you are doing. He has directed me to send a letter of commendation to your commanding officer in Tokyo." "Oh, yessir," I kind of gulped. "Thank you very much, and thanks to the general. I appreciate it." "Indeed, I will." He looked at me, one eyebrow shot up, and there was, I swear, a twinkle in his eye as if he were savoring a little bit of secret humor with me. I stood up to leave and then he said, "By the way, Sergeant, when was your last promotion?" "1947, I guess. Just before I left Germany on my first hitch in this man's--I mean, the Army." "What rank?" "Buck Sergeant...I mean, sergeant, three stripes." "Well son, you can now consider yourself Staff Sergeant. I'll put through your promotion papers today. Congratulations and dismissed, Sergeant." And he threw me a highball, "Well, thank you again, Sir." And I saluted.
When I left, I must have let out a yippee, or punched my fist in the air because I could hear the colonel behind me chuckling. When I left I knew I hadn't screwed up but, given the expression on the colonel's face, I wondered if it had any connection to my critic, the assistant PIO. Maybe it was the lieutenant who screwed up The General's praise may have come out of appreciation for the good press he was getting at the hands of Sgt. Mac Millholland. It would be a good story if true.
I went back to the PIO tent walking on air. I told the guys about my promotion and they applauded. Then the tech sergeant said that since I was now a first three grader, I was entitled to a ration of a bottle of whiskey once a month from the PX. He produced his bottle of Canadian Club and we started toasting that night. I had never had much experience with alcohol before, so I woke the next morning with one helluva headache. I had to head out early the next morning to the 17th Infantry Regiment. Bouncing along those roads in the jeep, I thought my head was gonna roll off.
In addition to that bottle of hooch, I was entitled to 12 cans of beer provided by the USO. I wasn't much of a beer drinker at all. I was "introduced" to it in Germany, with a local Württemburg beer Dinkelaker Brau in a Stuttgart Bierstübe. Strong stuff, more so than the 3.2 beer of our stateside PXs. I could handle a glass of that easily in a social setting (if you can consider a bunch of GIs with pitchers of beer in front of them as 'social'). This was, though, a social occasion--a birthday party for one of the motor pool guys who drove me around. By the time the cake came, I had been wheedled, cajoled, and even ridiculed in a nice way to consume half of one of those really big bottles of Dinkelaker. I never made it to the cake. The only place I made it to was the can and the porcelain god.
Our man with the division on our left flank asked me to come over one day and have a beer, as he said he was well supplied. We had hit a lull in action and I was having a day off, so I hitched a ride over there. He was a big, tall, wheeler-dealer character from Virginia, but with a heart of gold. I was surprised to find him in a wall tent all to himself. Those were usually occupied by command officers (except Hot Lips O'Houlihan in the television series M.A.S.H. had a wall tent).
Jim had a desk and his own telephone, a field set in a leather case that you crank to make a call. Somehow or another he had wrangled an easy chair, which he offered to me. He also had a wooden floor. The only other one like that I saw was in our exec's tent. "Man, how do you rate all of this?", I asked. Jim handed me a cigar, lit his with a Zippo lighter, winked at me, and said, "In combat, you rate what you can get." Nuff said. "So, howzabout a cool one?" "Sure, one if you can spare it." "Oh, yeah, take a look." He moved his chair back, pulled open a trapdoor in the floor, and there in a hole about five by five by three were several cases of PX beer. Somebody had discovered that if you pour gasoline in a hole and light it, when it burns out you have a natural "refrigerator"--a kind of heat pump effect.
He pulled out a couple of cans and opened them with a church key on a chain attached to his desk. He lifted his can to me. "Cheers." "Okay, Jim. You gotta tell me how...." I pointed to the beer dungeon. He grinned. "In combat you rate what you can get." He said that he made a deal with the motor pool sergeant to get him a 3/4 ton truck and he'd provide him with all the beer he wanted. Through his "sources," he said he knew when they were unloading PX beer from a ship in the harbor at Inchon. He drove the truck to the dock, signaled the boom operator, and had him dump a full cargo net of cases of beer into his truck. I still don't know whether to believe him or not. That guy, though, had more brass than a locomotive bell!
About once a week I'd visit the M.A.S.H near 7th Division Headquarters. Sad to say, but that was a source for some "bad" stories for those involved, but "good" hero type stories for the paper. At any rate, the guys I interviewed liked the attention paid to them by their newspaper. I heard, "Hey Mac," all over the place. And believe me, what you saw on TV was darn near the truth in those establishments. Particularly the whimpy characters. Never met Klinger, but Major Burns reminded me of the assistant PIO of the Seventh.
General MacArthur told us that the Stars and Stripes was his newspaper and he wanted it on his doorstep every morning, seven days a week. That meant we worked seven days a week, even in Tokyo. In the combat zone it's all seven days a week. I had a "Press Pass" issued by General MacArthur, which gained me access to any command. I saw General MacArthur in Tokyo, but not in Korea. When President Truman relieved him, General Ridgway took over and I saw him "wearing his trademark garland of grenades" several times. I didn't have occasion to interview him, but I guess I could have. I did interview General VanFleet, who took over Ridgway's post. Nice friendly guy. Just before a major push, I happened to have a chance to interview him and, by golly, he showed me his map and said, "We jump off here 0400 tomorrow."
I darn near may have had a screw-up involving MacArthur, though. Before shipping over to Korea, we were in training in Tokyo. At first all we did was proofread copy set in type. Dull, dull, dull! But, believe me, very necessary. All the typesetters were Japanese who did not read English, but head down and letter for letter on linotype machines, they did a great job--mostly.
Almost immediately at the occupation of Japan, General MacArthur made an historic (for the Japanese) statement. And that was that the Emperor was not a god, but a mortal human being. What a cultural shock that must have been for the Japanese people. Anyway, he made that statement many times, and while I was in Tokyo he made a speech with that statement in it, viz: "There will be no deification of the Emperor." Stars and Stripes ran the story with that quote. Two of us proofread it--another correspondent and I. I would read it first, then pass it on to him and he would read it and pass it on to the chief proofreader, a little bandy rooster of a corporal who had been on the job since Hector was a pup. His was the last bastion for correctness, and nothing got by him. I can't recall ever seeing a typo in the paper, but we always found a few before passing along the proofs. But one we did not catch. The linotype operator on the story left out the letter "I" in the word deification, and that spells: defecation! Yikes. We both let it go like that.
When the corporal read that proof, we could hear him yell from the other room. He came into our room storming, and laughing. "Oh, I gotcha now. Oh, you dumb bunnies," he bristled. "Lookee here." He slammed that proof down in front of us and showed us the General's quote circled in black. "Holy Moses! You have General MacArthur saying the Emperor is s- - - less. Think what MacArthur would do if he saw that! You guys would be on your way to Leavenworth!" He left shaking his head. "You guys gotta thank me." Not to mention what the Japanese who could read English would think. They seemed to have transferred their impetus to worship a leader onto Douglas MacArthur. People just thronged around to see him every time he left the Dai Ichi building.
One of the most unusual stories I covered involved the aged abbot of a monastery in North Korea--North Korea being defined at the time as territory north of the 38th Parallel. Shortly before I got there in February, United Nations forces had begun a push out from the Pusan perimeter after that early dash to the Yalu River and that invasion in reverse from Hungnam reminiscent of Dunkirk. We were steadily approaching the 38th parallel, but paused right at the line. There was some question as to crossing it. We were asked to interview several of our forces to get their opinion. I got mixed results. "You bet, whatter we fightin' for anyway." But also expressions of doubt, mostly by officers, as to the advisability of, in a sense, invading North Korea. I called our Seoul bureau chief and told him I didn't have anything conclusive to report. He said that was okay because the editor scotched the whole project anyway. "We're not in the opinion business. Just the facts, ma'am, just the facts." Wow, wouldn't we like to hear that from the media today?
Well, we did cross the line, and then stopped at what is now the Panmunjom line. But on the way, we liberated some civilians. One 7th Division unit came upon an ancient monastery high up in the hills. The division chaplain, a bird colonel who was a Catholic priest, heard about it and asked me if I wanted to go with him to interview the monks and the abbot. I went up there with him. The monks had long ago left there, but the abbot stayed on. Our interpreter couldn't understand the abbot, as he was speaking a language he did not know. The chaplain and the abbot conversed as best they could in clerical Latin. As a Presbyterian, I sure didn't understand that. But the colonel said as far as he could tell, all the monks had fled persecution and the abbot managed to survive by ducking in and out of the monastery when North Korean troops came near. He was very old, and probably not in good health. He was almost out of food. Our G-4 alleviated that situation pronto. The abbot had never had much contact with Western people and so was not sure of us. But according to the chaplain, he was greatly relieved when he was greeted in Latin.
All the time I was in Korea, except for many moments in solitude, my emotions were put on hold. Ever since I got notice that I was being recalled to active duty just after being married and at school, that horrible troop train trip from Chicago to Fort Lewis in Seattle, three weeks of excruciating refresher basic training, being told by a Lieutenant Colonel that "every man jack, regardless of rank, age, or specialty is now a rifle replacement", 21 days of sea-sickness, my duty to guard General MacArthur's Christmas tree lashed to the deck of the troop ship, from time to time hearing disheartening news from Korea, sometimes believing in drastic rumors my one emotion was that of anguish, laced through with the abject pessimism that I would not come home alive. (Oh, my! My fifth grade teacher would not have approved of that run-on sentence.)
Right off the boat at Yokohama I was told that I was going to General MacArthur's headquarters for a possible "assignment." A corporal with a clipboard read off my name and four others. He said he didn't know what our duty would be. "Get on that truck for Tokyo. Hop to it." Where all the rest of the men on that ship wound up, we didn't know, but we assumed Korea. Curiosity began to take over for my dark mood of anguish. My still queasy stomach was not helped at all from the exhaust fumes of that truck. Nor could anything alleviate my lovesickness. No man ever loved a woman more deeply and fervently than I loved the woman who stood with me until the last second when I got on the train to Chicago, October, 1950. That malady persisted until I met her at the Bismarck Hotel in Chicago, September 1951.
My curiosity was somewhat lessened when, after checking in at the orderly room of Far East Command Headquarters Company, I was told to report the next day to a building within walking distance. When I got there and saw the Stars and Stripes sign over the door, bells rang, whistles went off, and an almost physical flush of excitement came over me. I knew about the Stripes from my stint in Germany. We had been warned, however, that this was only going to be an interview. So the possibility of being a foot soldier in Korea still loomed. I sat in front of the desk of the Lieutenant Colonel--the officer in charge of the paper, to answer some questions about my experience as a journalist. Then I was told to wait in the outer office with the others who were also being interviewed. Well, all three of us that night went to the Enlisted Men's Club--as swanky a "night club" as I'd ever been in. We celebrated with martinis (one for me, remembering my bout with the bottle of Dinkelaker).
After several weeks of training, I was on that L-5 to an airstrip "somewhere in Korea." Even that terrible cold night of really not sleeping in that deserted school did not dampen a spirit of adventure. I was a war correspondent! I guess I was really eager to go find the war. I did, of course, the next day when even at Division Headquarters I could hear faint sounds of small arms fire in the hills. That sense of excitement and adventure persisted for me all the while I was there. That didn't really replace my anguish, but it kept me most of the time absorbed in the hunt for news. But my lovesickness came over me at night or at other times of solicitude. I wrote something every night to my wife, with my imagination soaring over our reunion--which I was now confident would really be. And, by golly, after 58 years I still feel it.
I waited eagerly for every issue of the paper, looking for my stories, of course. I clipped as many of them as possible and sent them to my wife. Best way I knew of letting her know what I was doing. She carefully put them in a scrapbook, now greatly yellowed with age and in a hallowed area of the closet in my study. They are a great chunk of my emotional and literary life. The following transcripts of my stories are true and accurate from these clippings.
The article about 7th Division's engineers was four columns wide, and I must admit I waxed quite eloquent about these guys. The story was spread over four columns and was, I think, the largest story, in space, that ever appeared in the paper. The story reads in part:
[*I don't know if it was Stars and Stripes policy, but it was mine, to get as many names into the story as possible. Home towns, and middle initials, by golly.]
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