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Keith M. Nightingale
Ojai, California -
"Within a relatively small community of those that have been shot at on behalf of our Nation, the Combat Infantry Badge (CIB) may rank as the most prestigious award. The valor awards are fine, but the people who have been engaged in warfare know that the award is a matter of luck, timing, and good writing. The one award that bears no vicarious aspects is the CIB. Those that wear it are truly in a brotherhood of shared deprivation, danger and service to a cause greater than any single person. It is a badge of honor and recognized by all as the signification that the wearer has seen the tiger, endured the unendurable, and been part of something greater than himself. It is the ultimate personal and associative honor among those who lay their lives on the line for this Nation."
- Keith Nightingale
[KWE Note: Col. Keith Nightingale is a retired Army Colonel who served two tours in Vietnam with Airborne and Ranger (American and Vietnamese) units. He commanded airborne battalions in both the 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment and the 82nd Airborne Division. He later commanded both the 1/75th Rangers and the 1st Ranger Training Brigade. He was gracious enough to study up and listen to the L-Company story and prose it for them in the following narrative.]
IT'S ONLY A BLUE AND SILVER BADGE
We were that which others did not want to be.
This is a narrative of people rather than a unit. The unit was Love Company, 3d Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment of the 24th Division. It was composed of people who served together in specific conditions in a specific time and place. Due to the circumstances mutually experienced, they created a bond that has lasted for their lifetime and an emotional base that transcended all that succeeded this experience. The example of one of those members, a man nicknamed "Short Round" on paper--not even a member, epitomized the story and the human glue that bound them all to this day.
Korea was not what might be called in reflection, a good war. Officially, it was not a war but a Police Action. It was plenty war for the participants, more than 31,000 of whom were killed policing that rugged neighborhood. It has been called the Forgotten War, but for those that actually served, it never will be forgotten.
Korea was also the last war the US fought in a “conventional” manner. That meant that the gain of territory was a major objective, as was the concept that when you occupied all the land and ejected the bad guys, you won. Land was at least equal to the enemy as a goal. The units that fought remember an endless series of hills, valleys and villages, as well as the enemy itself--initially North Koreans, and later Chinese “volunteers”. And always the weather--hot in the Summer and Siberian cold in the seemingly endless Winter. Soldiers made necessary adjustments to both the enemy and the environment--what they could not adjust was their internal membership. In this case, Love Company was extraordinarily fortunate.
Soldiers that go to war don’t get to select their companions. They don’t vote on where they will be deployed. They don’t even really get to determine how they will fight. They just do. The consequences of this are that each participant retains a memory of those who served and their effect on him--the Good, Bad and Ugly. Sometimes, and very rarely, a person arrives that makes all the difference. His presence helps the sun to shine, the situation to be better and just all around makes everyone feel a little better about themselves and their situation. When finally detached from combat and in the warmer embrace of peace and home, a face and a memory comes to the forefront and makes that bad time seem a little better. Such a person for the members of L Company was Short Round--Olin Hardy, Lieutenant of Artillery.
The first sight of land for the initial influx of American reinforcements to Mr. Truman’s unexpected war was Pusan, Korea. It was the entrance to the last defensible land in a worried and scarred terrain we had sworn to protect against the advancing masses of North Koreans with their old but highly effective armor formations. The port itself was a beehive of activity as the Navy tried to make a sleepy rural seacoast town in a relatively backward land the most important port it operated since World War Two.
To the replacements anxiously gazing across the various ship railings, this was a place at war. The sounds of constant artillery could be heard over the creaking and groaning of pier side ropes and hawsers as the ships tied to the creaky dock. A sense of anxiety and foreboding hung in the atmosphere. For the first time in anyone’s memory, the US military, ostensibly the mightiest force on the planet, had had its ass handed to it in a North Korean mess kit. Task Force Smith was the initial bump in the road to North Korean conquest before the US military replacement and reinforcement system began to gain traction. Love Company was part of that effort.
The replacements, reeking of fish from sleeping on the tatami mats of the recently sequestered Japanese freighters, walked off the ships, loaded in trucks and headed for their new assignments. The distance from the port to the Main Line of Resistance was less than twenty miles. It would not be a long journey.
Olin Hardy, a/k/a Short Round, joined L Company in a Korean apple orchard one mid-day in August of 1950. This was altogether appropriate as he was born and raised among apple orchards in Washington State. And like his home state, this orchard was hot, but not humid. Shade was a precious commodity. The weather was much easier to deal with than the NKPA. Constant companions were flies and mosquitoes--an enemy to be endured, but never vanquished. A certain stench pervaded everything--the more insidious, the closer to the villages--the residue of fertilizer of a personal manufacture. These elements would endure throughout each person’s tour.
Love Company had been mauled and was re-fitting with whatever hurriedly got off the ships in Pusan to fill the constantly gaping holes in the line elements. America had not yet gathered its mobilization skills, and shortages in everything from people to food to artillery were predominate conditions.
Love this day was the coagulation of what could be found in Japan, combined with green stateside soldiers to quickly throw against the North Koreans when Truman decided that was important. The Occupation army in Japan had enjoyed a good life of short duty, long passes and the comforts of life. The lead elements of US resolve, named Task Force Smith, had arrived hastily and with minimal to substandard resources, conditioning and understanding of the battlefield. It was summarily defeated in its first extended combat, the remnants withdrawing to what was called the Pusan Perimeter--a US Alamo position while forces were being deployed to develop a quality capability. It would take time that may have not been available.
The first significant elements in Korea were from the 24th Infantry Division, led by MG John Deane. His unit was quickly decimated and reduced to a desperate group of retreating elements closing in on Pusan--now somewhat secured by the 5th Marine Regiment. He had been captured by the North Koreans in a final desperate act of manning a bazooka as his lines disintegrated. As the remnants of the 24th regrouped, its various entities, of which Love Company was one, assembled its residual parts in an orchard less than a mile behind the front, and waited to become whole again. It was into this environment that Short Round arrived--fresh off the ship and with a quarter-ton Jeep and trailer amidst a convoy of trucks and a huge trailing dust cloud that settled on the orchard in a fine mist.
Short Round was not even Infantry. He was Artillery, and in a twisted soldier-sense, it made a difference. Short Round was one of those unique soldiers that, with a combination of personality and professionalism, could bridge the gap between Infantry Blue and Artillery Red and be loved by both. He had been in the Navy in World War II--a Pacific enlisted sailor. Just a short five years after VJ Day, he had chosen to join the Army and try land warfare, this time as a commissioned officer.
Artillery elements are usually cleaner, better fed, and with lots of gadgets compared to Infantry. Artillery personnel temporarily assigned to assist the Infantry are quite transitory, not wanting to miss too many of their amenities. Short Round was different. He came with some added benefits--a vehicle, a long distance radio, and a trailer with several footlockers of hard-to-get stuff such as whiskey, cigarettes, snacks and socks. For those alone, he was Christmas in August. Better yet, he made it clear behind those ice-crystal blue eyes that he intended to stay in the unit, to be part of the unit, and to help. To the gritty, tired Infantry, this was a welcome relief from either no Artillery or passing personalities constantly looking for a way out. He was instantly liked. "Loved" took a bit longer.
In today’s world of ubiquitous media and mesmerizing military capabilities, we forget that Korea was fought as a war on a shoestring, and the most potent weapon available was usually a man with a rifle and a bayonet. There were no helicopter gunships attacking at will at the first sign of an enemy to relieve the pressure on overextended lines. No helicopters transported troops over rough terrain with all their gear. Soldiers fought with what they had and carried what they needed where they needed to go. Doing without was a common virtue in an uncommon place. It was war at a very basic and primordial level.
Light infantry was exactly that. Minimal to no trucks or ground vehicles. Wounded soldiers just lay in a piece of sheltered ground to await a foot-borne litter down the ridge to the rear. More often than not, the wounded would just bleed out, forcing a Morning Report adjustment from Wounded to Killed. Food was what you carried in a can, and a bath was to be dreamed of. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need rarely progressed very far past survival. This was the world Short Round joined, making everyone much better for his presence.
Very quickly, Short Round made his presence felt within the combat team. Arranged on a rugged tortuous hillside, L Company was, as usual, stretched to an overextended line within sight and sound of the hundreds of Russian-equipped North Korean soldiers that lay behind the forward hills. Short Round went from position to position determining likely avenues of approach, final protective fire grids, and likely assembly points.
He marked his map, cranked his phone to his artillery unit, and passed the grids. Very soon he was receiving friendly marking rounds and adjusted them as needed. He insured the deployed soldiers understood the grid designations and how to call for fires. He then, on his own, essentially captured the supporting mortar platoon and engaged them in the same exercise. He would stealthily determine if other artillery units were within range, call them, and act as if they were his only support. In Short Round’s world, more was always better. The soldiers liked what they saw.
Very early, he earned his nickname through probably no fault of his own. He was adjusting a new unit of artillery and had passed a concentration number to them to confirm positions. The newly-arrived artillery unit, unused to the eccentricities of Korean terrain, took the grid offered, worked the Fire Direction Center, and passed the data to the guns. Someone forgot to check the severe contour intervals of Short Round’s position, and fired several rounds where its map said it would hit. The map was flat and the ground was not. The rounds landed to the rear of the unit, creating a lot of momentary excitement and concern--Do the NKs have artillery? Etc. Short Round, known as Bud to all until now, was quickly renamed Short Round by general acclamation. A little dark humor at a bad moment was always helpful. Besides, if Short Round could talk to battleships and cruisers in addition to Army artillery, those were really big bullets and could be very helpful even if they occasionally might wander. He was particularly adept at getting fires from anything within range, whether or not it flew, floated, or drove to work. This was a greatly appreciated virtue.
Scrounging artillery was but one endearing virtue. The other was scrounging “stuff” and sharing. Like shrapnel, he shared without regard to personality, unit or position. If soldiers needed something and Short Round could get it--it was got. As an Artillery officer, he had both a vehicle, trailer and significant control of his time, as well as access to the bounty of the rear--which was everything else in the US Army in Korea, as nothing good was in front of Love. Given a half day, Short Round and fellow Lieutenant Brownie would travel to the rear and engage cooks, kitchens and supply elements-loading his trailer beyond capacity. Soon, they would appear again within Love Company--but now as a surrogate Santa Claus. Condiments, coffee, sugar, shoepack, cigarettes, whiskey and sleeping bags proliferated along where adjacent units still felt the sting of inefficiency. Between scrounging and shooting, Short Round became an icon of the Infantry. Soldiers smiled when Short Round appeared.
Love Company, like all units in the Army, had a mix of good, bad, and indifferent soldiers. The identities would be known in a relatively short time and measures taken to compensate for weaknesses. In Korea, as in any element engaged in combat, weakness could kill others. Soldiers and small unit leaders had their own ways to manage these issues. Short Round saw all the platoons, made his own assessments, and gravitated toward those that he knew were reliable. He never differentiated between elements or chose favorites. They were all his family, and he treated them as such. His fire planning was thorough, complete, and left no holes. He supported each unit as required, and provided his services as needed and as he saw fit. He became the glue that bound the entire company together.
In this work, he had two assistants, Sergeant Heiser and Corporal Dossett. They were a true team and could blanket the company with equal opportunity fire support. All felt a strong attachment to the company, and each was as much Infantry as the soldiers they supported. The Company had a variety of available assets which the team brought fully to bear. Internally it had 60mm mortars. The battalion had 81mm mortars and occasionally 4.2 mortars. The accompanying support artillery unit, the 52d field, provided highly reliable 105mm artillery, and sometimes 155mm artillery from adjacent Corps and Division elements. Close to the coast, they could call on naval gunfire ranging from 16” battleship rounds to the 6 and 8-inch rounds of cruisers. Overall, Short Round and his team provided a security blanket and association that few other units enjoyed. The team clearly cared, and that made all the difference.
In time, after the initial meeting in the apple orchard, Fall began to encompass the peninsula. Gen. MacArthur, in a hugely successful operation, landed elements at Inchon, permitting a breakout from the Pusan perimeter and a pursuit across the 38th Parallel with the ultimate objective of clearing all of the Korean Peninsula to the Yalu River. But that was yet to come. On 18 September 1950, Love Company moved North across the Naktong River as part of the Breakout. From then until late November, all movement would be North. That would change.
To Love Company, this evolution of Korea was a continuous flow of hill masses, steep valleys, scrub pines, putrid villages, hard scrabble positions, and the normal deprivations suffered by soldiers whose support could not maintain their pace. Initially, the enemy, North Koreans, seemed to fade into the distance with the dwindling light. Occasional snipers or road blocks would exact a price, but the bulk of the days were endless, mindless, painful slogs across ruptured terrain, helpless pitiful village people, and continued filth and lack of the amenities such as clean water and hot food.
Short Round and his team were the one positive presence in this evolution. His forays into the rear brought occasional condiments and coffee, as well as supplies of whiskey to maintain both Dutch courage as well as momentary internal warmth. As they progressed, Short Round insured that the next ridge, the next valley, the next ravine to be crossed, was thoroughly doused with high explosives. The occasional sniper or enemy position would be silenced with a Battery Three on them, saving several casualties. He was a gift from both the rear and the front.
Once in position, the Infantry invariably patrols to its front. For whatever element within the company, it is a task to be endured with high anxiety for all participants. Usually a squad or platoon minus would be charged with going a couple of kilometers to the front or to a specific area to “feel out” the situation, perhaps to grab a prisoner, or just keep the bad guys off balance. Soldiers do not volunteer for a patrol. They are tasked. The patrol breaks the bonds of whatever emotional and physical security the company as a whole possesses within each member. Patrols are not fun events.
Short Round and his team would rotate this chore as the Infantry rotated its membership. Moving within the unit, Short Round could gain a more accurate picture of enemy locations, understand the terrain from both the attackers and defenders perspective, and markedly improve the quality of fire support. Moreover, if the patrol got into trouble, Short Round could bring in the “world” and provide some breathing space for a prudent withdrawal. He didn’t have to do this, and would have been within organizational protocol to remain behind--but he didn’t and wouldn’t, and Love grew to love him.
To the soldiers slogging their way across the broken and battered Korean wastelands, units to their left and right lost identity and significance. The company was the core of existence, the home and the hearth of their being, and the temporary meaning of their existence. The company, Love, was each and every one of them. It sweated, bled, and hard-won every inch of the Peninsula it covered, and always Short Round and his team were part of them as blood is to the body.
Past the Naktong River and to the North, the relatively modest Allied forces spread out to absorb the newly acquired territories. Flanks became somewhat obscure and the distances between positions farther. Resistance did not dictate consolidation. Rather, its absence validated risks of distance and depth that Ft. Benning would not approve. But this was war, not a classroom. All the way, Short Round provided the confidence of fires that gave the Love Company membership some reward of confidence.
Gradually, and then with a sudden sharp stab, Fall/Winter attacked the force. The flat Siberian plain unleashed its distant tongues of frigid air, dry snow and unending wind. This was a Korean winter ,and it attacked as fiercely as the enemy lurking in the hill masses ahead. Korea and Cold have a mutual alliteration, and it may be God’s irony in bringing the two together.
Cold for soldiers is different than heat. Heat can be tolerated and managed with thought. Cold is different. It immobilizes everything--people and parts. There are minimal compensation steps for the Infantry absent the artificial assets of shelter, heat, and food. Cold stops everything--speaking, moving, and working. It demands a sense of pseudo-hibernation that has to be fought off to permit survival. Lips don’t work. Exposed skin stings and blisters, and eyes tear. Surviving cold demands a greater expenditure of effort and self-discipline than fighting an enemy. The basic requirements of personal bodily relief require a major effort to achieve. The mind loses focus and falls from the front--the enemy, to the immediate space of occupation. Here, little things mean a lot.
A sleeping bag can be cut out and worn as a jacket, 24 x 7. Smell and dirt are irrelevant. Three pairs of socks are better than one despite the tightness of boots. A blanket in a foxhole at 3 a.m. is a Godsend. Anything warm in any form is manna from heaven. Trench foot and frostbite took more casualties than the enemy. The Army Bar, Disk, Chocolate, Cream and Sugar is a hockey puck of compressed ingredients. Shaved with a bayonet into a canteen cup, it provided a brief moment of revitalization. Among many of Short Round’s assets was a trailer for his Jeep. In Winter, he could extract a squad stove that didn’t have to be humped, and provide some cheer to the squad whose sector he happened to be in. His forays to the rear would produce jugs of coffee, shoepacks, blankets, sleeping bags and occasionally cold fried chicken-to be reheated on the stove or over a small twig fire in the bottom of a frozen position. On some rare occasions when a cow might “attack” the defensive positions, a burner unit from a field mess might be “acquired” to grill steak or the occasional village chicken. Short Round was a beam of warmth in a frozen environment.
As Winter descended and Love approached the Yalu-an area shrouded in fog, snow, blowing winds, and the seemingly endless ridges and irregular hills, the situation for Love rapidly changed. On 27 November 1950, emerging from seclusion, arose a new enemy-the apparently limitless masses of the Chinese Army swirling around the now distended and thin Allied ranks. Love and its brother elements would be reversing direction and reoccupying the ground to the rear in hopes to prevent flank and frontal annihilation. Here, once again, Short Round and his team provided a rare edge to existence.
The FO’s would plan multiple concentration points-front, flank and rear. These would be fired at the slightest indication of enemy occupation. In moments when the enemy presence was in mass and threatening penetration, he would call on everything within range and provide a blanket of shrapnel and explosive effect that would cocoon Love. When anxious platoon leaders would report a cessation of support, he would instruct them to report that parts and bodies were flying everywhere-send more. Invariably, the call would result in more than a fair share of rounds. Artillery units love to know they are doing good and reinforce success. Short Round understood the language and everyone benefited.
Over time and endless agony, Love wound its way back to the 38th Parallel and a formal defensive position. The “conventional” aspects of the Army took over. Lines were consolidated, personnel replaced, and patrols and fires kept the enemy at bay. The patrolling and negotiating phase of the war took over. As always, Short Round and his team provided a measure of high explosive dedication which would be very useful. On several occasions, the Chinese chose Love Company to test and probe, each time to be turned away by the Infantry and Short Round’s close associates.
Eventually, the members of Love Company rotated home and the relationships dissipated as life took its precedents and programs. Reunions were established through common bonding and the companionships of a lifetime created in frightful moments and momentary pleasures remembered and reinforced. Over time, one thread emerged from all the Love Company membership. Short Round Hardy needed to be recognized as the true Infantryman he was.
Within a relatively small community of those that have been shot at on behalf of our Nation, the Combat Infantry Badge (CIB) may rank as the most prestigious award. The valor awards are fine, but the people who have been engaged in warfare know that the award is a matter of luck, timing, and good writing. The one award that bears no vicarious aspects is the CIB. Those that wear it are truly in a brotherhood of shared deprivation, danger and service to a cause greater than any single person. It is a badge of honor and recognized by all as the signification that the wearer has seen the tiger, endured the unendurable, and been part of something greater than himself. It is the ultimate personal and associative honor among those who lay their lives on the line for this Nation.
In the US Army, the CIB is only awarded for Infantry personnel (Officer and Enlisted) serving in an Infantry unit position in combat for 30 days or more--less if wounded. Love Company Infantry thought this an egregious limitation regarding Short Round, and moved to fix this bureaucratic conundrum on behalf of a man who served them so well as their hostage--when he had the choice to do otherwise. His exemplary service and his deep personal dedication to L Company combined with his highly professional productivity caused the members of the unit to pursue the award of the CIB for him. Won’t happen/Can’t happen/Never happen said the bureaucrats. This is Love Company. It will happen.
Using some degree of influence gained after 30+ years and four stars, 2Lt. Vol Warner, now Gen. Vol Warner, managed to have orders cut awarding a CIB to one of the greatest Infantry cum Artillery officers who ever served. Short Round would stand amidst his long ago compatriots in the sweet homeland of the US and be pinned with the one object that bound the band of L Company-Korea together. He didn’t need the award to be part of that group, but they wanted to demonstrate their love and affection for the man that above all else signified Duty, Honor, Country. Somewhat later, Short Round died at his home within view of the peach orchards of Georgia and was buried at his request wearing the CIB. He was a man truly loved.
Olin M. "Bud" Hardy, age 88, formerly of Jackson Prairie, Washington, residing for 38 years in Tucker, Georgia as his home now, passed away on Thursday, February 12, 2015. Services with be held at 3:00 PM on Sunday, February 15, 2015 at the Bill Head Funeral Home, Lilburn/Tucker Chapel, 6101 Hwy 29, Tucker, GA 30084.
Survivors include his loving wife of 67 years, Dolores L. "Bunny" Hardy; three children, Daniel Hardy, Timothy Hardy (Beth), Barbara Galvin; eight grandchildren, Conni, Jimmy, Ted, Sarah, Greg, Dawn, Amanda, Jason; and 13 great grandchildren.
He was proud to have served his country during World War II in the Navy Air Corps in the South Pacific and re-enlisted as a Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Army, serving in Korea in 1950-1951 (Battery B, 52d Field Artillery Battalion). He was a member of the Tucker Masonic Lodge, and served as a Ruling Elder of the Tucker First Presbyterian Church. He was a ham radio operator, loved RVing, fishing, story-telling of his life, and most of all, his family.
Above all else, he was a Soldier.
Last week Bud Hardy crossed the bridge to Fiddler's Green. He will be met there by Hap, Peepsight, Elmer, Toady, Uf, Brownie, and the myriad of soldiers he kept alive in 1950 during the Korean War.
You see, Lieutenant Hardy, affectionately known as "Shortround", was our L-company Field Artillery Forward Observer. The rest of us were merely walk to work Infantrymen who counted on him to place steel on targets ahead of us when we went North, and behind us when we went South.
Armed with his M-2 compass, he computed mass clearance of intervening hills and provided six-digit target coordinates to supporting weapons ranging from off shore Navy 16-inch guns to Howitzers from our supporting Field Artillery battalion to which he was assigned. He could adjust artillery fires to within 25 yards of our forward positions, then called "danger close", so close, hot shrapnel shards fell among us. Much better the shards than the Chinese hordes with the same purpose in mind. We could not have won engagements without him.
I apologize for the Soldier speak, but that is what he was above all else--a Soldier! So much so that we successfully lobbied the Chief of Staff of the Army in later days to let us award Shortround the coveted Combat Infantry Badge--and I expect him to be the only artilleryman in the US Army ever to receive same.
His personal courage, ready smile, and camaraderie towards all, placed him at the core of the Company. His artillery trailer was crammed full of battle souvenirs stored for soldiers who had too much to carry already. His most prized possession was a shortwave Trans Oceanic Radio, our only source of news from the homeland.
When in reserve, he and Toady entertained by playing a beat-up guitar. And both were accused of getting the score of the Army/Navy game shortwave, then taking bets on the outcome before anyone filched a copy of the Stars and Stripes from Japan. No money changed hands. We had none.
When we returned to the land of the Big PX, Shortround became a stakeholder in the small group that decided we should continue our dedication to one another without the sounds of gunfire. We have been meeting for many years in many places, and most recently with Shortround as our leader.
As I mentioned to Bunny last night, Hardy was not only a great Soldier, but a great man and example for us all. May I express sincere condolences to the Hardy family from all of L-Company. God Bless.
- Gen. Volney F. Warner