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John A. "Pat" Patterson

Muscle Shoals, AL -
Korean War Veteran of the United States Army

"In the recapture of this particular hill, several were wounded and one squad leader was killed.  The wounded were evacuated just as soon as we got them down on the road.  The dead sergeant was laid beside the road until the next morning.  I thought how cruel and sad this was.  It was almost like saying, "We got all we can get out of you.  No big hurry to get you back." I later told Sergeant Shaddix that I thought it was a dirty rotten shame to leave the sergeant's body down on the road like that all night.  He agreed with me, but said, 'In a war you find out just how cheap life really is'."

- John Patterson


[This memoir is a compilation of correspondence sent to Lynnita Brown in 2010 by John "Pat" Patterson, including answers to Lynnita's interview questions.  In addition to his own memories of Korea, the contents of Pat's memoir include excerpts from letters sent to him by the veterans of Love and other companies who fought so valiantly on Hills 717 and 682 in September of 1951.]

Memoir Contents:

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My name is John A. Patterson.  I was born 9 March 1932 in the small town of Dolomite, Alabama.  My father was Virgil Eugene Patterson and my mother was Jewel Countryman Patterson.  Both were born in Jefferson County, Alabama.  I had two older brothers, Richard and Jack, and one younger sister Lorine.  Our mother died of pneumonia on December 5, 1936 at the age of 27, so I have no memories of her. My brothers and I were six, five and four, respectively when she died and my sister was just a baby.

After Mother died my father remarried and I have a half sister Martha.  My two brothers and I were placed in the Presbyterian Church's orphan home around 1938.  Lorine was farmed out to various relatives.  She and Martha were just too young for the home to admit them.  Our father died on July 12, 1965 at the age of 62.  I wasn't very close to my father and only saw him off and on after I was discharged from the Army.

Living in the "Home" was a very interesting time in my young life.  Mr. Blackburn was in charge of the farm. He kept the boys busy. He ruled us with an iron fist. We didn't dare question him on anything. He could and would lay the strap on our backside. We were all scared of him.  I'm just guessing, but there were probably 70-plus kids housed in the home.  There were four dormitories--one for the older boys, one for the younger boys, one for the older girls, and one for the younger girls.  We were known as "big boys", "little boys", "big girls" and "little girls."  Girls age from around 5 to 13 were in the younger dormitory for girls and it was the same ages for younger boys.  The same age group for older boys and girls.  The boys and girls were forbidden to see each other.  Later on, the sixteen and seventeen year old boys figured out a way to "see" the girls.  One way was with a ladder.  A couple of boys used a ladder to get into the second floor window.

I was a well-behaved child.  The punishment to kids in the little boys hall who did wrong in the home was not a pretty sight.  It would be child abuse today.  The supervisor used a switch to whip the kids.  She put stripes on them from the butt down to the ankle.  The kids would cry and beg, "Please.  I won't do it no more."  Sometimes the kids had to stand in line and wait for their whipping.  This one lady had no compassion at all.  I remember looking at her face and seeing no expression.  I would say that she enjoyed her job as Supervisor.  She was a big woman.  To me, she looked to be six foot.  And she was fat.  As far as I know the supervisors were never married.  They had no kids.

The home had a laundry and the older girls worked there, doing not only the laundry for everyone in the orphan's home, but also laundry for the public.  The church that ran the orphanage owned around a thousand acres of farmland. There was a large apple orchard plus a peach orchard.  We raised all of our food, including cattle for meat and dairy products, and vegetables. We also raised hay and corn to feed the cattle.  We had two tractors and an old flat-bottom truck. We usually had a couple of colored men working for the home.

The orphanage had around 100 cattle and it did its own dairy bottling.  Mr. Martin was in charge of our dairy and his wife was in charge of the bottling. We sold milk to the public and the kids in the home required a lot of milk, too.  Mr. Martin was just the opposite of Mr. Blackburn. Every morning we older boys would milk the cows. Mr. Martin would read the Bible to us, talk about the Bible verses, and then he would close with a prayer.

When we were placed in the big boys hall, the big mean woman was really hesitant about whipping the big boys.  Those who were 16 and 17 would turn on her.  The staff of the home always held the threat over our heads of sending us to "Reform School."  I dropped out of school in the tenth grade.  I hated school.  I had to curve hop at a drive-in restaurant and made twelve dollars a week at that job.  All I wanted to do was join the Army when I was 17.

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Basic & Advanced Training

Basic Training - Ft. Jackson, SC

I joined in June of 1949.  My first stop was Ft. Jackson, SC. The Basic training was not as bad as I thought  it would be. A Platoon Sergeant came in about 4 a.m. and yelled, "Okay.  Hit the deck.  Fall out for roll call."  He yelled at us to try to scare us. After roll call we went to mess hall. The chow wasn't bad at all.

The first two weeks we had to learn to march. That was kind of funny. About half of the recruits didn't know their left foot from their right. Old Sergeant Cobb would get so mad. There were always two or three that just couldn't march. The Sergeant would pull two or three out of the platoon, assign them to his Corporal, and his assistant would take them off to a different area. We could hear the Corporal screaming and hollering at them.  There was one boy that just could not march. We had a "Pass in Review parade" every Saturday morning after the third week of training. This one kid was pulled from the platoon to keep him out of the parade. Poor kid.  He just couldn't keep in step.

The fourth week we went to class. We learned all about small arms such as the M-1 rifle. We learned how to take it apart, clean it, and put it back together. The same with the carbine and .45 pistol.  We were assigned an M1 rifle and had to learn its serial number. The Platoon Leader inspected our rifle about once a week. Then it was off to the rifle range. All week we would have target practice. I really liked Basic training. I liked everything about the Army--the chow, the training, the uniform. After Basic training we were assigned to different Army outfits around the country. I really hated to be separated from buddies I got to know while in Basic training. My next stop was Ft. Bragg, NC.

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Advanced Training - Ft. Bragg, NC

After basic training I got two week's leave.  I stayed at my uncle and aunt's house and mostly loafed around town (Talladega, AL). I went to the orphan home to see some of my friends. I visited Mr. Martin as often as I could. He was a father figure to me. He and Mrs. Martin never had kids. A lot of the boys in the orphanage joined the Army, Navy and Marine Corps. When we came home, we visited the Home and school.  We made it a point to wear our uniform and the little boys would crowd around us. (Me, I was a proud little Soldier.)

After Basic and leave it was on to Ft. Bragg. I reported to Ft. Bragg in September of !949 and was assigned to Quartermaster.  We supplied troops with clothing. We also had a bakery where we baked bread for the troops. We even kept furnace heat for the officers' houses. There was a WAC (Women Army Corps) company and we had to take care of their heat in the winter. There were three barracks.  Early in the morning we were trucked around to all houses and barracks to fire up furnaces. Then late evening we would bank the furnaces for the night. This was good duty.

Sometime in August of 1950 there was a rumor that America was in a war and that the North Koreans had invaded South Korea.  Most of us thought there was a chance we were going to war. I was kind of excited. We used to play war in the orphan home during World War II. We used the limb of a tree or any kind of stick for our rifle. The only problem was, all of us wanted to be the Americans.  Nobody wanted to be the hated dirty Japs. The little boys usually were picked to be the Japs. Then we would go to war. Americans always won.

I remember reporting to the CP to make sure I had someone listed as beneficiary on the $10,000 insurance policy. I asked why we needed to do this. I was told that in case I was KIA, someone needed to be the beneficiary. At that moment I knew this was a serious matter.

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First Days in Korea - Pusan Perimeter

After a short leave I went by train to San Francisco, California.  In less than a week we boarded a transport plane headed to Japan. We couldn't land in Korea because there was no place to land at the time. We then loaded on a ship and went to Pusan Harbor. I have no idea how long that took. In fact, I don't remember anything on the ship. I don't even remember when we loaded the ship in Japan. I do remember going down the gangplank at the Pusan harbor and I remember being nervous.

There is an old saying in the army, "Hurry up and wait."  This did not hold true when the replacements docked in Pusan on 6 September 1950.  We walked down the gangplank and as we got to the end a Sergeant hung four bandoliers of M1 ammunition around our necks and four hand grenades.  At the same time, a Chaplain gave each of us a handshake and a New Testament, saying, "Read this every chance you get, pray often, and God Bless you, Son".  As soon as we got clear of them I heard one man say, "Damn it.  Is it that bad?"  In less than two hours we were on the front line.

I don't remember much about Pusan.  After we unloaded from the ship we loaded up in trucks and headed to the front.  Included in my first impression of Korea was the smell of the rice paddies.  The Koreans didn't consider human waste "waste."  They used it for fertilizer.  On the short truck ride to the front I could smell gun powder mixed in with the smell of the rice paddies.  A short time later we were in a foxhole.

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35th Infantry

I was assigned to Company L (Love Company) of the 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division as an SCR 300 radio operator and rifleman.  Three days prior to our arrival in Korea, Love Company's David Alexander Morningstar was killed in action on September 3.  I was one of the replacements assigned to the company to bring it up to strength.  Seven or eight of us loaded up in a truck for a short trip to the 3rd Platoon.  On the way we stopped alongside another truck headed south.  The driver of the other truck asked if we had a medic with us because he had a man stretched out in back of his truck.  Our driver checked the man and said, "I'm not a medic, but that man is dead."  The dead soldier looked to be 17 years old.  It was a pitiful sight.  Soon we heard artillery and I smelled gunpowder.  It seemed to me that things were happening pretty fast.  The truck came to an abrupt halt and the driver said, "Okay.  Unload.  This is as far as I am going.  Go up there (pointing up a hill) and report to your Platoon Leader."

Moving up the hill, some artillery was still falling around the area.  We noticed a man that turned out to be our platoon leader.  These many years later, I don't recall his name.  I seem to recall that he was a World War II veteran who was like all the other men in the platoon....  He was unshaven and had had no bath in weeks.  He was jumping up and down waving frantically at us and hollering, but we could not understand what he was saying.  As we got a little closer we could hear.  He said, "Spread out you dumb slobs.  Don't you realize that you are in a war?  One round could get you all.  Where did you take your training?!"   Actually, the first group that went to Korea had little or no infantry training.

All in all, it was one of the better chewing-outs I ever got.  Then in a quieter tone he gave us a little briefing, like, "Stay off the skyline."  "Be sure you get the password every night."  "Don't leave your foxhole."  He said that the North Koreans would likely attack about midnight and told us that when they did we were to shoot them.  "We don't retreat any more," he said.  "We got no place to go."  I later heard that the Pusan Perimeter was called the "do or die line."

Artillery stopped coming in and the platoon leader introduced Sergeant Anderson to us.  Both the Platoon Leader and Platoon Sergeant Anderson were World War II infantry vets, but Anderson seemed to have more confidence than the other man.  I guess the way we came up hill all bunched up was enough to shake anybody's confidence.  I got the idea we were in a desperate situation, but Anderson gave us a good pep talk about what a beating the North Koreans had taken.  He said that we would all be brought up to full strength and then we would drive the North Koreans back across the 38th parallel.  That was the first time I had ever heard of the 38th parallel.  It was nearly the first time that I had even heard of Korea.

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First Night

Each of us was assigned a foxhole.  I was put in a foxhole with the squad leader, Sergeant Shaddix.  He was called "Pop" and was the oldest enlisted man I ever saw in the army.  He had about 20 years service and was part of what was left of the 29th Infantry that came over from Okinawa.  He was quiet, and well-liked and respected by everyone in the platoon.  I met the rest of the squad, but can only remember the names of two of them besides Shaddix, Lopez and Hernandez.

The whole squad suffered from diarrhea and looked pretty haggard.  None had had a hot meal or a bath in weeks, but they were still in good spirits.  Most--or some of them, were what was left of the 29th Infantry that had come over from Okinawa.  Later Pop wanted to know how old I was and said that if I was not 18 he could get me out of there.  He thought that I did not look to be 18, but I convinced him that I was.  Pop said it was not that he didn't want me in his squad, it was just that I did not look old enough to be in the front lines.

Then Pop explained the situation about rotating guard duty.  He said that I would see a lot of movement after dark, but most of it would be my imagination so I was not to shoot at anything until he checked it out.  Most of the action, he said, had been over on the left flank.  They had been catching hell almost every night for a week.  He also said that the gooks would sometimes try to draw fire from us by blowing whistles or do other noisemaking, but we were to hold fire until given the order.  Finally he said I could have the first watch, as being my first night I probably was not sleepy anyway.  He said I was to wake him up when I got sleepy.  Then he curled up in the bottom of the hole and went sound asleep.  I thought to myself, "Ain't no way I will get sleepy tonight."  Pop would get a good night's sleep on this night.  It wasn't long after Pop curled up in the bottom of the hole that he was sound asleep.  Looking out across the front, it was like seeing a bad electrical storm.  It was very spectacular with the Air Force bombing and the Navy and our artillery shelling.  You gotta believe, this was really something for a kid just out of an orphan's home.

Pop was right--I thought I saw gooks everywhere.  I held off waking him up until sometime after midnight, when all hell broke loose over on the left flank.  Never in my wildest dreams had I ever seen anything like it.  Every artillery and mortar we had, along with all that the North Koreans had, seemed to be firing.  The tracers were going in all directions and I could not hear anything for the roar.  I had my M-1 pointed down range, safety off, and I was ready to go to war, even though I was shaking like a leaf and expected to do battle with a million gooks any minute.  I kicked Pop and told him to wake up as they were fixing to come in on us for sure.  Pop slowly roused up and asked me what time it was.  Cool as a cucumber he said, "Hell, Kid.  It's three o'clock.  Why didn't you wake me?  You got to get some sleep!"  I asked Pop, "Ain't they fixing to attack us?"   He replied, "Naw, Kid.  They're working on that left flank. That has been happening every night for a week."

He then said, "Before you go to sleep I'm going to make me a cup of coffee.  Hold this poncho over the foxhole and you'd better use yours, too.  I don't want any light showing."  He put soluble coffee (a powder that looked like snuff) and water in his canteen cup, built a fire out of pieces of C-ration box in the bottom of the foxhole, and lit it with his cigarette lighter.  He must have done this before because no sooner had he lit his Zippo when several men in loud whispers said, "Dammit, Pop.  Are you crazy?  Put that fire out."  Pop just grinned, "Cover up, Kid.  Don't let any light out."  Sergeant Anderson crawled up and whispered, "Don't shoot.  This is Anderson."  Then he said, "Dammit, Pop.  You know better than that."  Pop answered, "Why hell, Sergeant.  The whole damn front is lit up and you're worrying about a cigarette lighter."

After Sergeant Anderson left, Pop drank his coffee cold.  He told me that he knew he was wrong to make a fire, but with everything going on there was no chance the gooks would see what little light he was making.  We both stayed up the rest of the night, talking and watching the battle over on the left flank.  Pop said, "There will be a lot of young boys killed over there tonight.  Such a waste.  Makes no sense at all."  e swapped life stories for the rest of the night.  Pop took a liking to me and I really admired him and looked up to him. Daybreak 7 September 1950 finally came.  I didn't fire my M-1 once that night--not once, but I will never forget my first night on the front line.

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Purple Shaft

For the next week or so that I was in the Pusan Perimeter, a bloody battle was waged both on the left and right flanks.  The Air Force, Navy, and our artillery pounded the North Koreans.  All the ammo and supplies that we could possibly need were coming into the Pusan harbor.  The Third Platoon was only attacked by squad-sized probing attacks.  We had a few casualties in the platoon.  I remember one man got shot in the foot in his foxhole.  The last I saw of him he was trying to explain to the medic how he was shot.  I heard later that he got the "Purple Shaft", not the "Purple Heart."

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A New War

The whole 8th Army made a mad dash north, mostly in trucks, around September 15 or 16, 1950.  After we left the Pusan Perimeter, the North Koreans knew exactly where we were.  We made a mad dash north, mostly in trucks.  Later the 25th Infantry was stopped for the purpose of wiping out the North Koreans who had remained behind in the hills.  There were only North Korean guerrilla forces setting up ambushes for supply companies.  Sometime during this time a squad from King Company was on patrol to root out the North Korean guerrillas.  King Company got caught in an ambush.  The radio operator radioed in and said, "Send in support.  We have many casualties.  Please hurry."  When we finally got to the area there was probably a squad of K Company.  I don't remember just how many, but it was a gruesome sight.  The North Koreans had stripped off their uniforms and boots.  All of the K Company squad--probably ten or twelve--were dead.  Some of our squad said that their hands were tied behind them.  If that was so it could be that what was left of them may have wanted to surrender.  Since these guerrilla units were left behind while their units had all headed as far north as they could, they valued getting clothing, food or anything because they had no way of being supplied.  The North Koreans were known to take American POWs, tie their hands behind them, and shoot them in the head.

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First Combat

About a week after I joined L Company, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, Fox Company was driven off one of the hills they were holding and 3rd platoon was selected to retake it.  On September 16, 1950, we charged up the hill.  This was the first combat that I was in.

About halfway up the hill, a Corporal took a shot in his right eye by small arms fire.  His eye was gone and it was a bloody mess.  I didn't know any better, so I stopped to assist him and try to bandage his eye.  Bad mistake.  I heard, "Leave him for the medic and get the hell up here."  I thought, "Leave a buddy to bleed to death?  You're crazy as hell."  Just then a medic came up and I caught up with the squad.  We went on to the top of the hill without too much effort.  I got a chewing out from our squad leader, who said that I broke ranks with the squad.  He said that I should never stop to help wounded.  That's what the medic was for.

After the hill was secured, Sergeant Shaddix let me go back with the wounded guy, along with a four-man South Korean labor team that carried him down the hill on a stretcher.  Every few steps the wounded guy asked me if I was still with him.  He kept saying, "Pat, stay with me."  I stayed with him until we got him down the hill and the medic took over.  He had to wrap his whole head from his nose up.  He later wrote to Lopez and said, "Tell Pat thanks for staying with me."

After I got back to my squad we went about halfway down the hill and got in a trench that the North Koreans had occupied earlier.  They bugged out, so we just stayed in the trench until we got orders.  About that time the North Koreans set up a machine gun and started firing on us.  We were pinned down in the trench with machine gun bullets just over our heads going "POP-POP-POP."  We didn't know where the machine gun fire was coming from, so we couldn't return fire.  I learned later that when bullets sing over your head they weren't all that close, but if we raised our head when they were popping, we would be killed or wounded.

Later that evening Pop Shaddix also explained to me why I should not have stopped to help wounded during an attack.  He said that if there had been several wounded or killed and we stopped to take care of them all, it would make it more difficult to capture the hill. 

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Sergeant Englehart

In the recapture of this particular hill, several were wounded and one squad leader was killed.  Sgt. Walter Scott Englehart was a veteran of World War II who had been wounded in that war and was now in another one.  He was from Pennsylvania.  On September 16, 1950, he was a squad leader in Love Company.  He was up behind us, almost on the sky line.  He was in a foxhole and I could see him from his waist up.  He hollered down to us to keep our heads down until he told us to come up one at a time.  He instructed us not to run straight up, but to zig zag and run as fast as we could.  We came out as he instructed.  At the time, I didn't know if all of us made it out, but I soon found out that Sergeant Englehart was killed in action.  He was shot in his throat and drowned in his own blood.  His body was later returned to the United States, and he was buried in Sinking Spring Cemetery, Sinking Spring, Berks County, Pennsylvania.

The wounded were evacuated just as soon as we got them down on the road.  The dead sergeant was laid beside the road until the next morning.  I thought how cruel and sad this was.  It was almost like saying, "We got all we can get out of you.  No big hurry to get you back." I later told Sergeant Shaddix that I thought it was a dirty rotten shame to leave the sergeant's body down on the road like that all night.  He agreed with me, but said, "In a war you find out just how cheap life really is."  That was the first time I had ever heard that term used.  Here was an infantry sergeant who was in his second war and a statement like that was made.  It just didn't make any sense to me.  There were a lot of things that happened in the Korean War that didn't make any sense to me.

One other incident happened to me while I was in the Pusan Perimeter.  While this didn't change the course of the war, I will never forget it.  I'm not sure if every platoon or every squad did the same, but they gave one man--me, a 536 radio.  After dark I was sent about halfway downhill in front of the squad and was told to stay there until dawn.  The idea was that if I saw any gooks I was to call in on the radio and return to my foxhole.  This sounded simple enough--if the North Koreans didn't start shooting or my own people didn't do the same.  Oh, and one other thing...I didn't have a foxhole for cover.  As luck would have it, no shots were fired and I walked back in the morning unharmed.  This was another night that I would never forget.  I suppose this was a good military tactic, unless you're sent down between two trigger-happy armies.  It's a little bit like setting an alarm clock.  If your guys go to sleep you can say, "Wake up, men.  The gooks are coming.  I'm coming in.  Don't shoot until I'm safely in the hole."

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Chinese Intervention

China entered the Korean War after we left the Pusan Perimeter.  The only time I remember seeing Korean natives was when they were trying to separate themselves from the North Koreans and Chinese to get as far away from the fighting forces as they could.  They didn't want to get caught in a cross fire.  Most of the time there were hundreds of thousands of them moving away from the enemy.  They were frightened and all they had was what they could carry.  I felt sorry for them but we were on the move, too.  When we were stationary and dug in was the only time we saw civilians.  In some cases they were used to bring up supplies.

After the Chinese swarmed out of Manchuria, it was a new war.  (Notice I never call the Korean War a "conflict".)  I have trouble getting everything that happened to us in chronological order, but one thing I will never forget is the longest, coldest night of my life, riding on a cold, steel tank.

We moved south while the Chinese were on the west side of us up in the mountains, firing down on us.  I remember our trucks being on fire and our tanks having to shove them off the narrow road so our truck convoy could get through.  It was like nobody was in charge.  It seemed like we were all in a panic, although maybe it was just me--an 18-year old high school dropout.  All I could see was what was in front of me.  I just followed everybody. If we ended up in a ditch (and we did), we just shot up the mountainside and I did the same.  We could see the Chinks, but they didn't seem to be very good shots.  I didn't see many of ours wounded or Killed in Action.  What trucks still made it on the narrow road had wounded and some KIA in the back of them.  There were times we moved south day and night.

On November 5 we came upon a village that didn't have any North Koreans.  They had bugged out and retreated, so we held up in an old school house in the village to rest.  Some of our men were playing around with a .45 pistol, seeing who could outdraw the other.  Somehow one of the guys shot Robert Edward Dillard in the chest and he was instantly killed.  The Army sent his body home to be buried in the States.  The "boy" who shot Dillard went back to the rear for a hearing and then came back to the Company after it was ruled as an accident.  I wondered how in hell the bullet got in the pistol.  I know in reason that this was a dumb, horrible accident.  It's bad to get killed in combat, but this is part of war.  I always wondered what his family was told.

Sometime in November the word from the grapevine was that we would be in Japan for a Victory March by Christmas.  We thought the war was about over.  A lot of guys threw their helmets away.  A day or so later, the Chinese stormed across the Han River.

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First Chinese Attack

Along about this time I was assigned as a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) man.  I didn't want the BAR.  For one thing it was much heavier than an M-1, and I had never fired a BAR.  The squad leader said, "I will show you all you need to know."  He showed me how to put the 20-round clip in and, to be funny, he instructed me on how to squeeze the trigger.

Not long after that we had our first encounter with the Chinese.  (At the time, we didn't know that the Chinese had entered the war.)  It was in November and we were way up in North Korea.  I don't know the exact date, but it was winter because there was snow on the ground and it was as cold as a well-digger's butt.  I don't know who was in the foxhole with me, but my foxhole buddy had just relieved me and I had just gotten comfortable in my sleeping bag when he kicked me and said, "Get up, Patterson.  Look down front.  The Chinese are fixing to come up."  I got out of my bedroll like greased lightning and grabbed my BAR.

I heard some whistles blowing and a weird sound like a horn blowing.  Then we heard another whistle blowing from another direction... and then another one from another direction.  I thought, "What the hell is happening?"  We found out later that the whistles and horns were the Chinese way of communicating.  They had no radios.  Although I have never heard of Chinese having sheep, someone later on said that they were shepherds' horns.

I looked downhill and it looked like a brown wave slowly moving toward us.  There I was, fixing to go to battle with an automatic rifle, and I had never fired one before.  I pointed my BAR toward the Chinks and, as instructed, I squeezed the trigger.  Wow!  That damn thing really spit out the bullets.  I cut loose with my BAR just like Ole John Wayne would have done, except I was scared shitless.  Ole John Wayne wasn't scared of anything.  I don't know how many I hit or if I hit any at all, but I don't know how I could have missed.

I put the second clip in, but my buddy said that we were pulling back.  I looked up on the skyline and I could see all of our troops were moving back.  Sure enough, we were making a strategic withdrawal.  In other words, we were bugging out.  It didn't take me long to catch up.  Someone thought that if we stayed, we would be overrun.  Others thought we should stay because, after all, there were only a few Chinese "volunteers" that came into North Korea.  This was no time for a Private to argue with his platoon leader. There was a discussion with Lieutenant Freeman about which way to go.  This was not the last time that we would move south in the coming weeks.

It's a good thing that we had good officers--a good platoon sergeant and squad leaders.  I found out later that the Generals in the rear had to get the 8th Army disconnected from the Chinks and then get reorganized for a counter attack.  The Chinese were on the attack, but they got way ahead of their supplies.  Our Air Force bombed the Chinese forces and our artillery played hell with them.  The Chinese had to take cover at night.  They never had the fire power that we had, but they had the numbers and they didn't care about their losses.

Communication between our withdrawing troops had to be somewhat good, because we finally got back to an assembly area.  This Chinese attack had been a total surprise.  We will just have to let the historians figure out what we did right or wrong.

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Casualties Mount

In 2010 I found a casualty list on the internet for this action.  When I saw it, my eyes glassed over with tears.  Thomas E. Cordell was killed in action on November 11, 1950.  Then on November 26, 1950 there were four more KIAs.  They included Arthur I. Black Hawk, Elvin Wallace Haase, Joe Angelo Huffstutler, and Kenneth M. Mesel.  Black Hawk was a full-blooded Indian who couldn't speak English.  I became friends with another Indian, White Calf, later on.  He was a good friend of mine and a fun guy.  White Calf was later wounded on Hill 424 while in Woody's platoon.  I was in 3rd Platoon and Lt. John H. Haddock Jr. was our platoon leader.

On November 27, Charles Lindberg Minyard was killed.  The next day, Robert Maurice Genereux, Alphons F. Gladkowski, Richard D. Hutchinson, Rudolph Marquez, Clarence Edward Morgan, Wallace F. Ritter, Edward Jerome Schwartz, Joe Dempsey Stutts, James Wesley Teague, and Clement Thibodeaux were all killed.

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SCR Radio Operator

I was assigned to the communications team as an SCR Radio Operator.  We had to install a field phone to platoons.  I was introduced to a guy named Watson who was from New Jersey.  I was from Alabama.  He said, "I've got to break in a hilly billy."  I thought, "Okay, you damn Yankee."  But you know, old Watson turned out to be pretty good--for a Yankee.  He was a hustler.  He and I ran I don't know how many miles of commo wire because it was not unusual for a company to be spread out on three or four hills.  We went in a run to lay the wire because we sure as heck didn't want to be running those lines after dark.  Both Watson and I were "runts."  We probably weighed about 120 pounds each.

Forty years after Korea Watson called me.  "Hey, you hilly billy SOB," he said.  He sounded just like he did in Korea.  He said that he and some of the others had been looking for me for about four years.  We had a really big time on the telephone.  We must have talked three or four hours.  It was great.

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Below the 38th Parallel

Company L settled back below the 38th parallel south of Seoul.  I had the feeling that we were near defeat.  This was about the time that enlisted reserve were activated and sent to Korea.  Some of them were World War II veterans.  Our company was at about 50 percent when W.B. "Woody" Woodruff and John Skirvin were assigned to our company.  Both were veterans of World War II.  Woody became platoon sergeant.  We got several more replacements in all divisions.  I give these replacements credit for pushing the Chinese back north of the 38th.

At this point we found out that we had several Missing in Action, Killed in Action, and Wounded in Action.  Many more had weather-related injuries such as frostbitten feet.  Lieutenant Haddock, our platoon leader, had been captured on November 28.  He later died in a prison camp.  We found out that King Company had really taken a beating.  So had Item Company.  The 1st Cavalry and 7th and 2nd Infantry Divisions had the most casualties in Korea.  The Marines had to fight back from the Chosin Reservoir and load up on ships.  The 7th Division was also evacuated from Chosin.

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Sleepless New Year's Eve

Memories of War Live On

Ex-soldiers recall having a
New Year's dinner while serving in Korea.

Frank Perkins
Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

DECATUR - When W.B. Woodruff Jr. sits down to his New Year's Day feast featuring the traditional black-eyed peas, his mind will be on another New Year's Day dinner, held picnic-style 42 years ago near the Imjin River in South Korea.

It was January 1, 1951, and Woodruff was a 25-yea old staff sergeant, a World War II veteran recalled to active duty in Korea in L Company, 35th Infantry Regiment of the 25th "Tropical Lightning" Division.

L Company, or "Love" Company as it was called in the Army's phonetic alphabet, had spent a sleepless New Year's Eve watching the Chinese army launch its second major counter offensive of the war.  "We kept expecting something to hit us but nothing ever did," Woodruff recalled.  "Finally we got orders to move back from the river a few hundred yards.  When we got to the new position, the mess trucks were set up to feed us a New Year's Eve dinner of roast turkey, dressing, giblet gravy and all the trimmings."

But the war intervened, Woodruff said, reminiscing this week in his Decatur law office with a pair of old buddies, former Cpl. Bill Sisemore of Sherman and former Staff Sergeant Bob Baker of Richardson.  Woodruff said that about five men of L Company had gotten through the chow line, their mess kits loaded down with steaming hot turkey, when the Chinese counterattack ended the feast.

"All of a sudden, this jeep, followed by a string of trucks, came roaring into the chow area, kicking up a big plume of dust.  The driver threw on his brakes and yelled out, "Dump that chow and load on these trucks and I mean now!" Woodruff recalled.  "The cooks slammed shut the lids on the cans of turkey and goodies and we piled on the trucks.  The first few guys through the line got a bite or two before they had to dump their mess kits and board the trucks.  The Chinese were close behind."

The trucks carried the company a few miles to the rear, just ahead of the oncoming Chinese.  "The following morning about daylight, we lined up in front of those mess cans again and had frozen turkey, dressing and all the trimmings for breakfast," Woodruff said, laughing.  "You've never really appreciated giblet gravy until you eat it like ice cream, with ice crystals crunching in your mouth," he said.  "You know," Baker added, "even frozen by that 20-below weather, that was pretty good chow."

Baker was a veteran of the 82nd Airborne.  He had parachuted into France on D-Day and spent 11 months in combat before the war ended.  He was recalled to active duty in Korea five years later.

Woodruff had served with the 612th Pack Artillery Regiment in Burma during World War II.  He had finished his studies at Texas A&M University and received his law degree from the University of Texas at Austin, before he found himself called up from the reserves for the Korean War.

"I like to think I was the only squad leader in the 8th Army that had a law degree," Woodruff said.  In December 1950, Woodruff and Baker joined the 25th Division, which was then in retreat from the first massive Chinese counter offensive, which rolled the American forces out of North Korea and pushed them almost off the Korean peninsula.

L Company had been decimated in the fighting and retreat.  Of 200 soldiers, only 43 answered roll call when Woodruff and Baker reported for duty.  One 42-man rifle platoon had only five men left.  The rest had been wounded, killed or captured.  "It was the Army's Pearl Harbor," Woodruff said. 
That attack was totally unexpected and the Chinese enjoyed reasonably good luck with it."

The company's retreat ended a few days after New Year's, 60 miles south of Seoul, South Korea.  An over stretched supply line and bitterly cold weather consistently 20 degrees below zero--halted the Chinese advance, clearing the way for the 8th Army counterattack that began in February 1951.

"To fight the cold, we wore six or seven layers of clothes," Woodruff recalled.  "Two sets of long underwear, two sets of wool uniforms covered by fatigues or field pants and whatever else we could find.  I got hit in the back by a mortar fragment during the retreat, but I had on so many clothes that when the shrapnel got through, it only had force to barely break the skin, after all those layers."

During the American counter attack, which lasted through the spring, Sisemore joined Love Company as a reluctant machine gunner.  "I always figured Woodie [Woodruff] did that to me," Sisemore said.  "His machine gunner left and the next thing I knew, I was the machine gunner in his platoon's weapon squad."

At Hill 424, Chinese bullets almost ended their friendship.  "I never had as many bullets fired at me at any other time than on that hill," Sisemore said.  "The muzzle blast from my machine gun was kicking up dust, even though I had emptied two canteens of water on the ground under the muzzle to dampen the dust.  Those Chinese could easily see my position.  I could hear their bullets snapping over my head, so I just ducked my head down so that my helmet was pointed at the enemy and kept on firing."

While Sisemore kept firing, Woodruff, by that time a platoon sergeant, was organizing the attack on the hill.  In the process, Woodruff was hit by a rifle bullet that grazed his left cheek and hit his ear.  He picked himself up off the ground and kept up the attack.  "I would have liked to have sat down awhile and thought about things a little, but we were under fire and that wouldn't have been too smart," Woodruff said.

After being rotated home that year, Woodruff returned to his law practice in Decatur and a long career in the reserves that saw him retire as a Lieutenant Colonel a few years ago.  Baker came home to get a degree in petroleum engineering at Texas Tech University.  Sisemore went to business college in Sherman when his Karen War tour ended and became a plumber and ultimately a plumbing contractor.  The three kept in touch through their membership in the Company L association formed five years ago.  Woodruff is the recording secretary for the association.

"It keeps memories alive," he said.  "When we were in Korea, we thought we had been forgotten because the government didn't seem to want to win hat war.  At home, we still felt forgotten because Korea was an unpopular war, the honors and treats enjoyed by returning World War II vets weren't there for us," Woodruff added.  "They still aren't there."

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Year 1951

Our first casualties in the year 1951 were Raymond Krzyzaniak on January 21 and Marvin J. Hoheimer and Vernon Leon Kesler on January 26.  Three days later, Walter D. Lien and 1st Lt. Alan D. Fry of St. Paul, Minneapolis, were killed in action.  Lieutenant Fry was just 21 years of age.

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Death of Lieutenant Fry

Due to hilly terrain and rice paddies, we generally didn't have very much tank support.  That particular day, our troops were in a ditch in the Suwon area, firing up at Chinese troops.  I was standing behind a tank and the tanker was firing up at Chinese troops who were firing down on us.  The gun on the tank might have been 75mm or larger, and every time the tanker fired, the concussion almost knocked me down.  I learned that standing near a tank was one of the spots where it just wasn't safe to be.  I should have been in the ditch on the side of the road.

I looked into the ditch and saw someone was in the bottom of it.  Someone else was trying to put a bandage on him.  As it turned out, the fatally wounded was Lieutenant Fry, the 1st platoon's leader.  He had been shot by a sniper.  The guy trying to desperately to keep him alive was Woody Woodruff.  I was frozen in my spot just a few feet from Lieutenant Fry and Woody and the others returning fire.  As it turned out, Lieutenant Fry was shot in the heart.  I don't remember if Woody used my radio or not.  A little while later, a Jeep with a stretcher on either side of it moved up the road and parked where Lieutenant Fry was laying.  Now that was a sad sight.  I had gotten to know Lieutenant Fry by just seeing him at the 1st Platoon CP.  What struck me about him was that he was a real low soft speaker.  He didn't have his Lieutenant's bar on his uniform.  A lot of our officers chose not to wear their bars while in combat.  When his body was put on a stretcher to evacuate him, the Chinese stopped firing.  I heard later this was similar to professional courtesy.  That was a bunch of bull.  I just don't think the Chinese had good manners.  Neither did we.  Woody and Sergeant Alford took Lieutenant Fry's death very hard, but that is the nature of war.

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Long Antenna

In January of 1951 our line was along a river.  I don't think it was the Han River, but I remember that it was frozen over.  We were dug in on a dike near Yongdung-po.  One of the benefits that I had as a radio operator was having the opportunity to be in the CP with Captain Weaver.  Our CP that day was back of the dike in a Korean hut.  The Koreans had what I will call a "fireplace." It was located at one end of the house and the heat went under the hut via some kind of duct.  The floor of the hut was covered with what looked like a straw mat.  Wow!  When we sat on the floor mat it was really nice and warm.

Captain Weaver had just been assigned to "L" Company and I was assigned to him as his radio operator.  Captain Weaver was short in stature and weighed about 140 pounds (which was my size).  Funny thing, though.  I always thought of Captain Weaver as being six feet tall.  He was one helluva good Commander.  This particular day I thought to myself, "Man, this is great.  Assigned to the Company Commander.  Inside a warm hut.  This was the first time that I had been warm since back in October.  I thought about those poor guys in their foxholes.

Well, this didn't last long because all of a sudden I heard the "Pop", "Pop", "Pop" of a burp gun, which had a sound of its own.  The bump gun was a weapon that the North Koreans and Chinese infantrymen had.  It was a Tommy Gun with a round barrel just front and under the trigger.  I guess it could fire at least 600 rounds a minute.  The burp gun was good in close combat, but it wasn't very accurate.

We had short antenna for our radios, but we couldn't communicate with any other operator with it so sometimes we used long antenna.  Just after I was assigned to him, we were on top of a hill near a skyline and Captain Weaver was using his binoculars.  He moved several feet away from me and then I moved by his side.  We moved again and so did I.  Captain Weaver then looked at me, kind of grinned, pointed to his right, and said, "Move over there and down the hill."  I stopped a short distance away from him and he said, "Move a little further."  It didn't dawn on me that the Chinks were probably looking at us from afar and my long antenna might draw fire.  I was just a kid so I had to learn on the job.

Captain Weaver rushed out of our warm hut because he heard what sounded like a fire fight.  Captain Weaver said, "Get your radio and come with me."  I had to attach my long antenna to my radio and then run to catch up with him.  This was my first mission with Captain Weaver.  I couldn't believe that we were running through the middle of a town in the pitch dark night and there was a fire fight going on.  I decided that this new Company Commander must be crazy.  We came upon the 1st Platoon Sergeant, Woody Woodruff, who I didn't know at the time.  Everything suddenly went silent.  Woody and Weaver talked a little, then we headed out for a stroll in the town in the pitch dark.  We learned later that it was a couple of Chinks running around firing their sub machine guns.  We called them burp guns.  They were not there to fight, they were only trying to cause some confusion.  They accomplished their mission.

I followed Weaver back to the CP.  Later he got a call on a field phone with a report that a soldier on the outpost had cracked up.  As I remember, the outpost was located on a little island in the middle of a river.  The Captain told whoever was on the other end of the phone to bring the soldier to him in the CP.  It wasn't long before a guy led a young black soldier to the CP.  There were big tears rolling down his face.  He looked about 15 years old, but he was supposed to be at least 18.  Captain Weaver began to talk to this young boy.  Really, that is what we were--boys.  Weaver talked to him in a low, consoling voice.  He asked him his name and calmed the little guy down.  He told him how badly we needed him.  He asked him if he had a New Testament and asked him, "Do you read your Bible?"  He nodded his head yes, still sobbing.  He was just a scared little kid at that time.

On February 3, 1951, Jacob Kenneth Overbay was killed in action.  On Valentine's Day 1951, Roland W. Cullins lost his life in combat.

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Han River Crossing

There were four killed in action during the Han River crossing on March 7, 1951.  They were Andrew Beley, Arthur R. Ikkala, Gene F. Klos, and Stephen J. Smallbone.  I really didn't play much of a part in this invasion across the Han.  In fact, Watson took my place as Captain Weaver's radio operator that day so I stayed back with the 1st Sergeant.  I don't remember his name, although he later came to one of our company reunions.

I got me a good spot too watch the crossing.  They used assault boats that held about a squad.  Before the attack started, every artillery company was supposed to fire across the river.  At a given time, all hell broke loose.  Tanks on the south side of the river were firing their guns and their machine guns were doing a number on the enemy.  The Air Force was bombing the hell out of the Chinks, too.  In the Korean War napalm bombs were used all the time.  I had never seen anything like it.  The whole earth shook.  It was just amazing.  I thought that there was no way there would be any Chinks left alive.  After a while, things got quiet. 

I get chill bumps just trying to explain this.  My wife Barbara told me that she could tell that even writing about that day is affecting me.  I didn't ask her how because she is overprotective of me.  At that moment in March of 1951, I was proud to be an American soldier--but it might have been different if I had been in one of those little boats crossing the Han.  The next day I rejoined the company and found out that Smallbone had been killed as well as a couple more from L Company.  I think there were about six or seven casualties after the crossing.

John Skirvin was wounded on March 9--my 19th birthday.  John was not only a good soldier, he was and is a good person.  He was wounded in World War II, and then in the Korean War he was shot almost in the temple above his eye.  To this day he is partially paralyzed in one of his arms.  He still has a metal plate in his head, and still has a brace on one of his legs, too.  I have met Skirvin several times at our reunions.  I have never met anyone like him.  He will talk to anyone mostly one on one, but he doesn't tell any war stories.

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Hill 424 - May 1951

There was only one KIA in April of 1951.  He was killed on April 4, 1951 and his name was William L. Cochran.  Our next casualties were Donald R. Cochran and Charles G. Haitz, both killed on Hill 424 east of Uijongbu in South Korea.  I remember the action, even though I wasn't in the battle that took place there to counterattack retreating Chinese.  The date was May 25, 1951.

I was supposed to be Captain Weaver's radio operator and I was ready to go with my SCR radio, but he said he would just need a 536 radio (walkie talkie).  The SCR radio weighed 3 pounds but the walkie talkie was hand-held.  Because Hill 424 was very steep, there were times when you had to go up in single file.

Pfc. Charles G. Haitz was Captain Weaver's runner, and he went with him because his lightweight walkie talkie was more practical for the steep climb.    They were about halfway up the hill when they started to receive machine gun fire.  They were on a patch and Weaver stepped off the trail to take cover.  Pfc. Haitz stepped off on the other side into a Chinese foxhole that had been mined.  It exploded with a BOOM and Haitz was killed.  That was the way of war.

Woody got wounded in this action.  A bullet graded the side of his cheek, went through his ear into his helmet, and knocked Woody on his back side.  Sergeant Woody took stock of himself and felt of his ear.  It was still attached to his head so Woody got back up and led his platoon up the hill.  He had to drag one of the wounded men out of the line of fire.  When they got to the top of the hill, three Chinks came out of a trench and surrendered.

Although two men in Woody's platoon were killed and some were wounded, all in all this was a successful battle because 63 Chinks were killed and eight were captured.  Woody got to go back to a MASH unit for a few days.  This is how I remember Old Woody--somebody told me that he was laughing and saying that someday I was going to get my ears pinned back.

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The Days Ahead

I don't remember all the details, but on July 21 we went north and crossed a bridge that was over a river.  When we got north of the bridge the Chinese started a barrage of artillery on the bridge.  There were three killed from incoming artillery--William Owen Kolb, Norman Leroy Neiheisel, and Rudy Ted Netry.  This was the first time I saw helicopters come in to get the wounded and killed.  We had to go west to a railroad bridge to get back across the river.

More battles took place after this.  On July 30, 1951, Otto Reeves was killed.  Ricardo Ballestero, Norman Stephen Manning, Daniel Carter Randall, and Jack Robert Westel were killed on August 8, 1951.

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Patrol Base on Hill 717

There have been numerous stories written about Hills 682 and 717 located north of the 38th parallel near the Iron Triangle in North Korea.  These were the highest hills in the area and they were used as an observation post and patrol base.  On September 2, 1951, "L" Company made its second trip to Hills 682-717.  The patrol base was manned by an infantry company and our patrol base was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, consisting of Item, King and Love Companies and a unit from a heavy weapons company.  Each morning a squad-sized patrol was sent out to scout the area and at night a patrol was sent out for the same purpose.

When we were on the attack, a Forward Observer (FO) from an artillery unit was assigned to the infantry--in this case a patrol base.  Our FO had the largest set of field glasses I had ever seen.  They were mounted on a tripod.  Each company rotated on the fourth day and every fourth day a South Korean labor team came up with the replacement company.  They brought C-rations (canned food left over from World War II) and water and ammo if needed.

On September 6, 1951, I went on patrol with Sergeant Ross as radio operator.  As usual I didn't have a clue as to where we were going.  I just tagged along with the squad.  I didn't use my radio unless Sergeant Ross wanted to report in.  We were up on the ridge when we looked down and saw a squad of probably 10-12 Chinks.  They didn't see us.  This was the first time since I had been in Korea that we got a chance to ambush the enemy.  I don't know if Sergeant Ross gave us the order to fire on these Chinks.  It was always the other way around--them ambushing us.  We all opened up and fired on the Chinks.  Since I was a radio operator, I usually didn't get a chance to shoot back, and this felt great.  I used two 30-round clips from my carbine.  We headed back to 717.  I think the Sergeant thought this may have been a setup.  On our way back we met one of our squads.  They were going out for the night.  Some of us said, "Go and give 'em hell."  If there were any Chinks left, they would be P.O.'ed (mad).

That night, Item Company came up to relieve Love Company (our company) on Hill 717.  As luck would have it, they were late.  Since it was too dark for us to move back to the line, it was decided that we would stay over until the following morning.  The Company "I" fellows had to start digging their own foxholes or all squeeze into what was already there.  The weather was just like an Alabama summer--hot and sticky.

It wasn't long after we got back to Hill 717 that we started to receive incoming artillery from the Chinese and Sgt. Ross English was wounded by shrapnel.  We didn't know it at the time, but the Chinks were zeroing in on both Hill 717 and 682.  On more than one occasion before, the forward observer had let me use his binoculars any time I wanted.  That day I went up to the FO and asked to use them.  I was amazed at how far out I could see.  I had the binoculars zeroed in on what turned out to be two artillery cannons down in the valley below.  When the Chinks fired the artillery, a puff of dust went up.  The FO said that when I saw that dust kick up I should start counting "one thousand, two thousand until ...."BOOM".  At the same time I was to run like hell and dive into the nearest foxhole.

The FO radioed our artillery and told them that he needed support.  The problem was, however, that our artillery pulled back at night to support the front line and were too far back to support us.  The artillery was already loaded up on transport and was about to move back all the while we were being shelled.  After the FO raised hell with them, they set back up.  The FO gave them the position of the Chinks, had the artillery fire a round, then he had them move up or right or left until they were zeroed in on the Chinese cannons.  Then the FO gave the order to "Fire for Effect."  The Chinese got the hell out of there.  As it turned out, the Chinese got what they wanted.  They were zeroed in on us for the attack that would happen later that night.

I was in a foxhole about 30 feet from the Command Post (CP) with my foxhole buddy, John Charles Redman. I was just a scared kid who had turned 19 years old only six months before.  John was not only a good buddy of mine in Korea, he was also like a big brother to me.  We were both radio operators in communication, plus we ran all the wire for field telephones, so we were located inside the perimeter on Hill 717.

Around midnight the Chinese started an artillery barrage.  The shelling seemed like it would never stop.  It seemed like it went on for hours, but I think it lasted 30 minutes.  Soon after the artillery barrage ended, Item and Love Companies were hit with an entire brigade of Chinese--one American soldier to five Chinese.  We could hear them down below, jabbering and making a lot of noise as they came up the hill.

About 50 yards from us the Chinks had set up a machine gun on the ridge that they were using as an outpost outside of our perimeter.  When the attack started, the men in Item and Love Companies who were also out there were told to come inside of our perimeter.  I was behind the riflemen's machine gunner (Locke) on the front line.  Locke used to kid me about being in the rear echelon.  He was one of the many who were KIA the night that all hell broke loose.)

There were several attacks afterward that went on until daybreak.  They tried to dislodge us in human wave attacks, wave after wave.  I could hear our guys shouting, "Medic" and "I need a medic over here."  This continued throughout the night.  All I could see was what was in front of me.  Some of the Chinese got inside of our perimeter and others were on a ridge outside of the perimeter.  The Chinks were throwing concussion, German-type "potato masher" grenades at us.  These grenades had a wooden handle on them that was supposed to make it easier for them to throw it.  They made a loud noise when they exploded, but they were not as effective as our grenades.  They didn't have any other weapons--they just ran around throwing grenades.  It was hard to shoot them because we couldn't tell if they were our guys.

Around midnight that night, John Redman was wounded by machine gun fire.  The bullet entered his right shoulder, going all the way through and coming out of his left shoulder.  He was in the bottom of the hole, curled up so I could have standing room.  It seemed like everything was happening outside of our foxhole.  I could hear the men crying for the medic.  I tried to bandage Redman, pressing the bandage on what felt like a big hole in his shoulder.  He said that it was a machine gun bullet, but I couldn't tell because it was so dark.

All of a sudden a Chink was behind us.  I could see him on the skyline west of us about two or three feet from me and Redman.  He had one of those potato masher grenades, holding it above his head.  Just as he released the grenade, I pointed my carbine at him and shot him in the gut.  There was an explosion and I heard what turned out to be a South Korean scream four or five times--and then he was dead.  This probably saved both Redman's and my life.

I think what happened was the South Korean soldier came running into our foxhole at the same time that the Chink threw the grenade.  The grenade was between him and the wall of the foxhole.  It blew him out of the foxhole and his feet from the knees down were hanging in our hole.  His arms were outstretched, his mouth was wide open, and his eyes were open. For some reason I always thought that it was Pok.  All of this happened in a split second.  Thinking back, I might have shot Pok accidentally anyway if I hadn't seen the Chink first.  I probably would have thought that Pok was a Chink.

In all of this I did not get a scratch, but the concussion from the grenade stunned me or rattled my brain.  From the time this happened on, I only remember things in bits and pieces.  I know I went down on the front sometime during the night.  The last time I saw Redman during the attack, he was in bad shape.  I promised him that I would come back up and check on him when I could, and then I began to run around from hole to hole, passing out grenades and ammo.  (Ross English later told me that he remembered me passing out those grenades.)  When the fighting was over we were ordered off the hill and as we were leaving the hill our fighter planes were strafing the hill and dropping napalm.  Later I remembered that we had left our dead on the hill.  Much later I remembered that we had left at least one wounded on Hill 682, but he was later rescued.

The next morning I crawled back up to my hole, but Redman wasn't there.  Pok was still in the same place where he had been killed.  He was laying on his back, feet still hanging in the hole.  His mouth and eyes were wide open.  What a gruesome sight.

Redman had been moved back to a lower slope with the other wounded in the early hours of 7 September 1951.  I wish that I could have gone out with him, and I have always felt guilty that I didn't.  I looked for Redman among the wounded and dead, but I couldn't find him.  I guess I couldn't find him because we had so many wounded and dead.  Since there were 36 MIAs from the battles for Hill 717 and 682 (L and I Companies), I thought that Redman could very well have been one of them.  I found out that he wasn't when we finally reconnected on 7 December 1990.  (More on our reunion later in this memoir.)

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Last Combat - KIA on the Patrol Base - September 6 & 7, 1951

Forty-six Americans were killed in the fighting.  When the Chinese dropped back the next morning, we walked off the hill back to the front lines.  We were beat up pretty badly.  Everyone was wounded.  The ones who hadn't been hurt that bad carried the dead, and the injured helped the other injured.  Everyone was in terrible shape.  On the way back we ran into some Turkish troops who gave us some bread and water and helped us with our injured.  I think it was the best bread and water I had ever had.  Later we watched as American planes dropped the ammunition we needed into Chinese-held territory.  They didn't even attach parachutes to the boxes.  They just flew over and dropped them into the bay.

Losses to L and I Companies on September 6/7 were put at 46 KIA, 130 WIA, and 36 MIA.  Enemy losses were estimated to be well over 600.  Among the American KIA were:

  • Vernon Baird
  • Burton Eugene Baker (buried in Mountain View Cemetery, Altadena, CA)
  • Dale Gerald Barnhart
  • Andrew Phillip Boyer
  • Cpl. Dewey Fred Bruce (buried in Barbourville Cemetery, Barbourville, KY)
  • PFC Jack Wayne Callahan
  • Sgt. Roy M. Caudell - 2nd Platoon
  • Donald Way Chan
  • Cpl. Thomas E. Cordell - 1st Platoon
  • Cpl. Wesley Ivan Hallock - 1st Platoon
  • Frederick Ralph Heck
  • PFC Davis W. Jones - 3rd Platoon
  • SFC Lloyd Marvin Locke - 3rd Platoon
  • PFC Melvin James Michaels
  • Paul H. Myers
  • PFC Charles Leroy Ollom
  • PFC Jorge Legarreta Rivera
  • Max D. Robinson
  • Cpl. Marvin Royal - 1st Platoon
  • Cpl. John Dave Scholes
  • Sgt. Bill Thomas Sizemore - 2nd Platoon
  • 2nd Lt. Myron D. Smith
  • Anthony D. Srok
  • Herbert Takayoshi Takamatsu
  • Pvt. Barnard J. Tillman
  • PFC Jack R. Westel - 1st Platoon
  • Cpl. Virgil Earl Westlund - 3rd Platoon
  • Cpl. Leroy J. White - 1st Platoon
  • John William Wimbley Jr.

Killed on September 8, 1951 was Masaru Kumashiro.  Robert D. Rodriguez died September 10, 1951.

In Their Memory - Forever Young

They left this world forever,
With life not fully led.
Now, who will mourn their passing,
or remember what they did?

They'll never have their children,
Nor have their praises sung.
For most, they'll be forgotten,
And remain forever young.

I speak about those warriors
Who trod Korea's ground
They lay here now among us,
And make not a single sound.

If not for us survivors,
Who will, their story tell?
To speak of deeds heroic,
Of men who fought, and fell.

Time has spread her cobwebs,
Encasing them in snare.
Now, no one stops to ponder,
And no one seems to care.

In the stillness of our memory,
When the bells are slowly rung,
Dwell silent for a moment,
For those, - forever young.

- author Unknown

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Privileged to Know Them

Platoon Sergeant W.B. Woodruff Jr. rotated home a few weeks before the battle on Hill 717.  He sent the following letter to Capt. Luther A. Weaver on 21 September 1951:

Dear Captain Weaver;

I sat down and attempted to write you several weeks ago, but without success.  It is amazing how difficult it is for me, in my present comfortable surroundings, to write to anyone still over there.  You can't help feeling like some species of deserter in such a situation!  Besides that, when I stop to think about the old outfit, which frequently occurs, I get almost as homesick as I used to do when the situation was reversed.

However that may be, I have a few things to say before the passage of time becomes such that it is a difficult or impossible matter to contact you and the rest.  Serving with all of you, though briefly, in our Korean endeavors constituted one of the outstanding honors and privileges of my life.  There is no substitute for service on the battlefield, if one is to have any adequate understanding and appreciation of his fellow man, of the heights of unselfish labor and sacrifice of which he is capable, or of the real meaning and significance of comradeship, which elsewhere is seldom more than an empty term.  Among those who have been thus introduced to the fundamental problems and relationships of life there can be no pessimists, no skeptics, and no weaklings.  So considered, even if all other reasons be left aside, this experience surpasses all others in the depth and character of the advantage it confers.

I consider myself even more fortunate than others, however, because I think the men with whom I served in "L" Company were as good as the best the United States had ever sent as its representatives to any darned old war!  In particular I think we were privileged to have, in yourself, a leader who as man or as soldier had no peer anywhere in the Eighth Army.  I am in position to speak for every rifleman in the company on this point; I may say that we were in complete and unhesitating agreement on it.  Which, after all, is the main point of this letter--if I had not made some attempt to express, on behalf of all of us, our deep appreciation for your able leadership and even more for the many efforts and innumerable sleepless nights you passed, as all of us were well aware, to insure the success of our efforts and the welfare of the men--if I had not made some attempt in this respect it would have been on my conscience from now on.  You entitled yourself to the fullest devotion of every many who served under you, and I doubt that you will ever realize sufficiently the great extent to which you received the same.

I have talked to Sgt. Baker, and also Tidwell, since getting back, and both are in good shape.  Never have heard from Alford, but am confident he too has the situation well under control!  If you ever happen to pass this way I hope you will find time to stop over.  The fishing hereabouts is not the best, but I will be delighted to show you what there is. - Sincerely, W.B. Woodruff Jr.

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Fringe Benefits

Some fringe benefits the infantry got in Korea included housing a double-man foxhole measured approximately 6 foot by 4 foot and 5 foot deep.  There was no indoor plumbing.  We had one canteen of water and a canteen cup to be used for heating coffee (although not at night).  If we had to pee, we did it in our cup and poured it outside the foxhole.  We didn't do Number 2 in our living quarters.  If we were not under attack we rotated our sleep, working it out with our foxhole buddy.  Most would do one hour on guard and one hour off.

Now for a good shower.  Well, we might get a shower when and if we went back in reserve.  The longest period of time we went without a shower was from early October to March.  But not to worry, who wanted a tent shower in 20 below zero?

Food was called C-rations.  They were left over from World War II.  They consisted of canned corned beef hash, beans and wienies, and fruit cocktail--all good if hungry.

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Don't Run Over the Whiskey

Almost everybody who came back from R&R brought a bottle or two of whiskey back with them.  There was one young lad who smuggled a whole case back.  As I remember, we landed at Kimpo Air Field.  There we loaded up in trucks to make our journey back to the front.  There were three or four trucks in a convoy.  As it happened, this young lad and his case of whiskey were on the same truck as I was.  We were in the lead truck, and this young lad sat in the back of the truck next to the tailgate.

While we were lumbering north at the rate of 15 or 20 miles an hour, the lad must have dozed off.  He fell out of the truck, whiskey and all.  The driver following us slammed on his brakes at the same time someone in our truck screamed at the driver behind us, "Hold it!  Stop!  Don't run over that WHISKEY."  (Both guys were probably from Texas!)  Anyway, as luck would have it, neither were damaged much.

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Stop Complaining

We were back in reserve, but not out of enemy artillery range.  One day a bunch of us were standing around drinking coffee and telling war stories.  All of a sudden a couple of rounds of incoming artillery came roaring in, landing several hundred feet from us.  About three or four of us dove into what was supposed to be a two-man foxhole.  You can imagine how tangled up we were.  Someone in the pile-up hollered, "There are too damn many of us in here."  At that point he was thrown out of the hole.  He came scrambling back in, not complaining any more.

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Going Home

When I rotated out of Korea I was more or less in a daze.  It was right after the outpost.  I swear to God, I don't even remember the trip to Japan.  After I rotated to Sasebo, I remember that it was quiet and peaceful.  I got to sleep in a bed and there was no reveille.  As I remember, we just rested.  I don't remember how long we were at Sasebo, but I wasn't anxious to go home.  This to me was as good as it could get.

For the trip back to the States, we loaded up on the transport ship Marine Lynx.  We were crowded.  We were fed twice a day and a lot of the guys entertained themselves by playing poker.  We slept on canvas cots (which was a lot better than being in a foxhole in Korea).  Most of the time I slept on deck.  I remember that we had to go through a storm and a lot of the men got sea sick.  Me, I didn't have anything to gripe about.

After about two weeks or so we docked in Seattle, Washington.  I remember there were only a few people waiting to greet us--mothers and a few sweethearts.  No bands.  That was okay with me.  I couldn't have been happier.  We were loaded up in trucks and went to a processing camp.  We were assigned to double bunks and had a chance to shower.  Then we went to mess hall and we were fed.  We were checked for health, etc.  It seemed to me that everything was just great.  After a few days we were loaded on a troop train and headed to Fort Jackson.  It was a nice trip that took a few days.  We were in Pullman cars that had seats that let down into beds.

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No One Home

We arrived at Ft. Jackson probably late October.  We checked in and processed.  Here we got our orders for our next assignment (mine was Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania), and then I got a 30-day leave, after which I was to report to my new assignment.  I got on a bus to Talladega, Alabama to visit my aunt and uncle, who didn't know I was coming home.  Their home was my chosen home, even though I had another home with another aunt and uncle in Midfield, Alabama.  When the bus stopped, I got off, loaded my duffle bag on my shoulder, and headed home about a mile--maybe a little further.  When I got within eyesight of their house, I didn't see anybody so I knocked on the front door.  I knew Uncle James would be at work, but Juanita wasn't home.  I walked around the house and sat down on the front porch, thinking I would wait until they got home.  While I was sitting on the porch a neighbor who lived down the road, James Searcy, waved at me and walked over to greet me.  He said, "John, is that you?"  I answered yes.  He shook my hand and told me that James and Juanita had gone over to Georgia to visit someone.  Neither my uncle nor aunt had a car because they couldn't drive.  Mr. Searcy and I talked for a while.  He wanted to know how I was doing.  He had a house full, including two beautiful daughters, but he didn't invite me to visit them until James and Juanita returned home.

I didn't panic.  I picked up my duffle and headed back to Talladega.  I decided to stay at the town's only hotel, which was just off the courthouse square.  At the time, I had never spent the night in a hotel.  I walked up to the counter, still in my uniform, and asked for a room.  The clerk asked, "Are you going home on leave?"  I said that I had just come home from Korea, but my parents were not home because they didn't know I was coming home.  I told the clerk that I came back to the States by transport ship to Seattle.  That took over two weeks, then I came to Ft. Jackson on a troop train and then got on a bus to home.  I didn't know when I would get home.

I checked out of the hotel the next day and headed back to James and Juanita's house.  They were home.  Mr. Searcy told them that I had come by and that worried them a little.  They couldn't imagine me staying in a hotel.  I hung around Talladega for about two weeks.  I visited some of the orphan home kids.  My age group was still in school.  Some of them had gone off to college.  I went down to the skating rink and went to the picture show.  Back then, a movie was called a "picture show."  I didn't take my full leave--I had about two weeks left and got credit for the remainder of my thirty days.  I couldn't wait until I reported to Indiantown Gap.  I hadn't heard of that Army post and was anxious to find out what I would be doing there.

Indiantown Gap post was near Harrisburg, the capitol of Pennsylvania.  I saw a couple of soldiers and asked them for direction to the post.  They said that they were headed that way and that I could go with them.  We caught a bus to the post and the bus driver took me to my new company.  From there I found the command post (CP) and reported to the 1st Sergeant.  He then informed me that I had two weeks left on my leave.  I explained to him that I just wanted to report in early.  He told me that I was to be the platoon sergeant of Third Platoon.  He went on to explain what my duties would be.  I said, "Sir...Sir, I'm not a Sergeant.  I'm just a Corporal."  He let me know that he gave the command around there.  I said, "But, Sir...I've never been a drill sergeant.  I have never marched any troops.  I don't know how."  He said, "How long you been in the Army, Soldier?"  I thought to myself, "Too damn long."  Pointing to an office, he gave me my marching orders, "Now you report to the Company Commander."

I knocked on the Captain's office door and he said, "Come on in, Soldier."  I stepped in front of the Captain's desk and saluted him as sharp as I could.  "Sir.  Corporal Patterson reporting for duty, Sir."  He replied, "At ease, Corporal."  He turned out to be an easy-going officer.  He had been to Korean and knew that I had just recently come back from Korea myself.  He put me at ease and explained what I would be doing.  He said, "Don't worry about breaking in the new soldiers.  Just remember that these men are being drafted out of civilian life.  They don't know anything about the military, so you are way ahead of them."  Then we exchanged stories about Korea.  He asked me what outfit I was in and told me that if I had any problems I should feel free to come to him.

The platoon that I was assigned to had already been in training for five weeks.  They already knew how to march.  The rest of the training would be in classrooms by special instructors.  The platoon sergeant's job was to move the soldiers from one class to another.

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After leaving Indiantown Gap, I was assigned to advanced infantry school at Ft. Benning, Georgia, for training in light and heavy infantry weapons.  I wish I had been sent to this school before Korea.  In fact, I may have been the only one there that had already been in combat in Korea.  We learned everything about light and heavy infantry weapons, combat training and tactics, etc.  We had soldiers from all over the United States at this school and most were Corporals or higher.  We also had some National Guardsmen.

I was at Benning about six or seven weeks, and during that time I was sick, weak, and just didn't feel good.  I was okay as long as we were in class, but when we went down to the rifle range I just couldn't make it.  I did not want to give up.  If you went on sick call you had to do it in the morning and most of the time a clerk would just give you an APC, which was some kind of aspirin, I think.

Sometime in the middle of the night I got up to go to the latrine and fell going down the steps.  I was on the second floor.  I eased myself on down the steps.  The next thing I remember hearing a siren and I was on a stretcher being unloaded at the Ft. Benning Hospital.  I was given a shot of Penicillin.  Back then Penicillin hadn't been on the market very long and it was given for everything.  I woke up and a nurse or somebody was bathing me with an iced towel to bring my fever down.  I was told that I was going to be moved to another ward because I had malaria.  I was in the hospital for weeks.  I remember that a doctor was giving a new kind of drug to cure malaria and asked me if I minded being treated with this new drug.  He said that they had treated over 20,000 and so far it was successful.

I was treated at the U.S. Army Hospital in Ft. Benning, Georgia and discharged on 16 May 1952.  For the next five months I had to report to a hospital laboratory for malaria smears.  As the years passed I had symptoms of cold weather injuries, including foot and ankle pain which got worse when I walked, numbness and tingling in my feet, nail abnormalities (such as misshaped and partly gone nails), excessive sweating when exposed to cold temperatures, itching in both legs, cracked and dry skin on my heels, and sleep disturbance.  My feet were sensitive to cold and I had to keep socks on my feet except when I showered.  I had to stop participating in hunting during hunting season.  All of these symptoms were determined to be Korean War-related health issues that supported a 30 percent VA compensation.

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I received the following awards from my military service:

  • Korean Service Medal with two Bronze Service Stars
  • United Nations Service Medals
  • Combat Infantryman's Badge
  • Distinguished Unit Citation
  • Meritorious Unit Commendation

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So I got back with a little fuzzy head.  Big deal.  When I see John Skirvin, that puts everything in perspective.  Now there's a guy that's truly had to live with the war since March 9, 1951.  He has to struggle every day of his life.  Because he can't drive, he mostly travels by bus or train to our reunions.  He is a very humble, good guy.  He makes it to a lot of our reunions.  He is my hero.

I go to our company reunions, where we gather in the hospitality room and tell our war stories.  John Skirvin just sits and listens, and kind of smiles every one and then.  I found out that after he was wounded and evacuated from Korea, John had to have all kinds of surgeries.  I don't know how long he spent in hospitals.  I never hear him complain.  One time I indicated how he had suffered since he was wounded but right away John said that he was blessed after seeing some of the wounded soldiers in VA hospitals over the years.

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Reconnecting - The Men of "L" Company

In 1988 I joined the 25th Infantry Division Association so that I might possibly hear from anyone that I served with in Korea in the 35th Infantry Regiment, Company L, September 1950-September 1951.  Two or three days after I got my first association newsletter, "Tropic Lightning Flashes", I received a long letter from my former CO that I served with in Korea.  Capt. Luther Weaver (retired Colonel) was my CO from February to June 1951.  Captain Weaver was the greatest and most courageous CO I was assigned to in Korea.  After he left L Company he went to the Third Battalion of the 35th Infantry.  Some 37 years after Korea he called me.  I just couldn't believe it.  He talked and his voice sounded the same as it did in Korea.  I went to Macon, Georgia to see him.  It was one of the best visits I ever made.

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Captain Weaver

Captain Weaver sent the following letter to me on June 23, 1988:

What a wonderful feeling to see your name and address in the 25th Division Vet Association "Flashes" I received today.  Another "Love Company" name to add to my roster and correspond with.  I have been trying for many years to locate personnel that were in Love Company during '50-'51 when we all served together in that great company.

I retired out of service in August 1968 and we have lived here in Macon since 1975.  We are in another one of those hot, dry situations and Macon is known as the hot weather spot of Georgia....I sure hope this finds you doing well and in good health.  Always remember how you packed that SCR 300 radio up and down those Korean hills.

I was assigned to Korea in 1966 for 13 months and while there visited a few of the places we fought over during the war.  Those hills were still the same, steep as hell and the rice paddies still smell as bad as they did during the war.

A few years ago I made contact with an author of Military History by the name of Donald Knox.  He was interested in writing of Korean War vets experiences during the war.  About the only Love Company contact I had at the time was Sgt. Woody Woodruff (1st platoon) and Ed Williams of 1st Platoon and later company clerk.  Our XO Lt. Joe Schilling and I had kept contact through the years but Schilling died of cancer about 1979.  Anyway, I published notices in several service publications, etc., and Woody and I wrote many, many letters to old addresses but most all except a couple were returned unknown.

Myself, Bob Baker (squad leader of 1st platoon) and Woodruff got together in Atlanta in 1982 for a mini-reunion. In 1983 the 25th Vet Association held their reunion in Atlanta so we all met again and Emil Hoffman (1st platoon) from New York joined us also.  Without going into a lot of detail, Woodruff and I dug out our old albums, pictures, bits and scraps of rosters, etc. and started writing Author Knox about Love Company.  His first book, The Korean War: An Oral History from Pusan to Chosin, was published in 1985.  It covered the first six months or until December 31, 1950.  The second book was to be published in 1986 and highlight Love Company in several combat operations.  One chapter was devoted to the Han River Crossing, 7 March 1951.  The book also included other battles such as the Chinese Spring Offensive where Love Company held a blocking position until 1st Battalion got out and we fought our way out that night to arrive where the 35th Regiment CP had been overrun and the vehicles were burning; Hill 424 battle; and a chapter on the patrol base action in September 1951 where I got cut off and worked my way back to the Turkish lines.

In writing the first book on the Korean War, Author Knox, not having a military background, used to communicate with me often by phone and correspondence to explain military terms, etc.  Also, I drew up block diagrams of a T/O&E from an Infantry Company to an Infantry Division, which he used in the book.  We formed a good relationship, although I never met him personally.  Of course I was pleased that he did acknowledge me in his book as one that gave him much assistance in writing the history of war.  Of course, it was unfortunate that in March 1986 while doing research on the second book at the archives in Washington, DC, Knox suffered a heart attack and died.  He had completed most of the history of Love Company from January 1951 through the patrol base action of September 6, 7, 8, 1951.

I see I am getting involved in too much detail and would end up with ten pages about Love Company, so to make a long story short, check with your local book store--Walden if you have one.  The second book is The Korean War: Uncertain Victory by Donald Knox, with added text by Alfred Coppel, publisher Harcourt, Brace.  The book has been out about a month and the Macon book stores only had three copies, which I bought.  Let me know if you cannot find one.  I will get a copy to you.  Woodruff was only able to find one copy in Dallas, Texas, so it is hard to find.  More should be arriving in bookstores soon.

John, the purpose of this note was not my intent to dwell on the books, but to establish contact with you as another good Love Company member, all of whom I love and am proud of their record in Korea.  Do you by chance have the names and addresses of any more of the company?  I would really appreciate it if you would drop me a note.  Who knows.  Although I will reach the seventy mark in a few months, we still might get enough Love Company together to have a reunion one of these days.  That would be wonderful if we could get together again.

I am to meet Woodruff at the Korean War Veteran reunion in Washington DC on 25, 26, 27 July.  We would really like to see you if you could make it.  If you can and need details give me a call.  I will rodger out for now, so take care and if you are ever this way give me a holler.

Captain Weaver left L Company long before the attack on Hill 717.  In another letter to me, he wrote:

"Shortly after the patrol base was recaptured, the bodies of men found on the hill were brought in to be identified and processed by Graves Registration personnel.  At this time the stark horror of that battle really hit me.  I had known many of these men by their first names.

The first few days after the battle, most of the survivors were in a state of shock and disbelief.  I found it hard to think about visiting Love Company or ascertaining the status of some of the individuals I knew well.  A few days before the battalion was pulled back in reserve, I managed to find the courage to visit the company.  I arrived while the men were having their evening meal.  Other than the mess sergeant and a couple of cooks, I found very few faces that I knew.  About 40 or 50 men out of the 160 that had been on 717 before the battle made up L Company now.  I had a deep feeling of loss when I realized that this was all that was left of that great rifle company I had led a few months earlier.  To me, they were still my L Company, and I could not have been more proud of them."

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Sergeant Woodruff

I received a letter from Sgt. W.B. Woodruff three days after I received Captain Weaver's letter.  Woody's service with L/35 was in 1950-51 as a squad leader and platoon sergeant in the 1st Platoon.  Woody told me that everybody that was on the patrol base in September of 1951 wants to talk to anybody else he can find that was there.  "After all these years there is still a desperate hunt to try to clear up in everybody's mind just what happened, what went wrong, who was lost and who got out, etc."  In 1990, Woody wrote to tell me that he thought that "L" Company's battle on Hill 717 was likely the very first one of a series of such attacks the CCF mounted during the peace talks.  He said:

 "The negotiations began in July 1951, as I recall it.... When I say 'series of such attacks' I am talking about those that make no military or tactical sense, but are mounted, regardless of high cost, or worthlessness of objective, just to gain a publicity point to influence the peace talks.  That ought to make you feel better--to know that you had such standing with the Chinks that they were willing to sacrifice a regiment to boot you off that hill.

Reminds me of Scosh Myers saying to me, 'Sergeant Woodruff, they are calling your name' when the CCF jammed our radio with their sing-song.  I thought of a phrase of somebody that, 'If it was not for the honor of the thing, I would just as soon be in Philadelphia.'  You may feel the same way."

Sergeant Woodruff was a great platoon sergeant.  On 30 June 1988 he wrote:

"I received my Tropic Lightning Flashes this morning and as always the first thing I turned to was the list of new members, looking for a familiar name.  For only the second time in five years I found one--yours.

I was recalled from the army reserve in 1950 and arrived at L Company on 7 December 1950, give or take a day - was not watching the calendar too close at that time.  I was assigned as Squad Leader of 3rd Squad, 1st Platoon; in January 1951 to Assistant Platoon Sergeant, 1st Platoon, in Mach 1951 (the day we crossed the Han) assigned as Platoon Sergeant, 1st Platoon; in April became acting platoon leader; and was with the first group of reservists to rotate home in June 1951.

I am in contact with LTC (Ret.) Luther F. Weaver, who was our CO from February to June 1951; also Robert A. Baker and John Skirvin, also reservists, who arrived at the company the same time I did.  Baker was a squad leader in 1st Platoon, later Platoon Sergeant of 2nd Platoon.  Skirvin was squad leader in 1st Platoon, severely wounded on 9 March 1951 and permanently disabled.  Skirvin, Weaver, and I all expect to be at the reunion in Colorado Springs this year, and hope to see you.

I believe you were in 2nd or 3rd platoon?  Some names I well remember but have lost contact with are: SFC Lopez (WIA at Han River crossing); M/Sgt. Joe Alford, PFC "Scosh" Myers (runner), Lt. Fry (KIA in January 1951), Lt. Shilling (CO XO; now deceased), Lt. Fleming (3rd Platoon), Lt. Shepperd (with 1st Platoon briefly in May 1951), later CO XO; M/Sgt. Goggins; and SFC Pelfrey.  Of course I still have complete roster on 1st platoon.

Just remembered I had a company roster as of February 1951; and found your name listed as radio operator in Company Headquarters.  This roster I think was prepared for Captain Weaver at the time he took over the company; in his handwriting at the upper left in pencil is written '167 EM 4 Off.'"

The following excerpts are from other correspondences with Woody Woodruff.

13 July 1988

"Got your letter; we would have a lot to talk about, remembering so many of the same men, and in the same way.  I would sure agree about Captain Weaver; he was the best CO I ever had, in 35 years Reserve with three tours active duty.

Regarding Lt. Fry, all your recollections of him jibe with mine, except the date he was killed.  Unless there were two of them--unlikely--it had to be January 1951.  Think on this; if you are like me, your memory plays a lot of tricks after 35 years!

I will be leaving in 10 days for the annual reunion of the Korean War Veterans Association in Washington.  I like this organization.  Somehow I expect to see Captain Weaver there.  You may want to join next year; you might even get in on the reunion this year but I guess it is a little late for you to make plans on it.  Sure hope you can make the 25th Division Reunion.  If you do, let me know and I will try to find and bring a few photos, rosters, etc., that I have.

I kept up with Baker all thru the years, as he was living in Texas.  After many years I got back in contact with Skirvin; he and I went together on a 5-day "Revisit" to Korea, sponsored by the 25th Association in March 1986.  Also he and I roomed together at the 25th Reunion last year in Cleveland, and will again this year.  I will put their addresses in with this letter, and my phone number.  You did not give me your phone number.

Others I have tried to locate but no luck, like Scosh Myers.  I would like to hear from you about the patrol base action in September (about 7th or 8th), 1951.  Did not learn about this for years.  Love Co. lost many men; I am afraid this may be why I have had so little luck finding them.  I left the Company in June 1951.  Elmer Little of 1st Platoon was in this, but could never remember much about it; must have been a bad experience.  Also have talked with Fleming about it; saw him at KWVA reunion two years ago.  Elmer is now dead.  About 4 years ago we tried hard to get up a Love Co reunion but could not find many, and all that showed up were Weaver, Baker, myself, and Elmer's widow. 

One of my strongest memories of Korea was Hill 424, on May 25, 1951.  Do you remember this attack we made?"

16 August 1988

"Memo to: Love Six
From: Woody

I struck pay dirt at the 25th Inf Div Assn reunion in Colorado Springs -- two more names and addresses.

When I arrived at the airport another member, there to pick up new arrivals, told me there was someone at the hotel making inquiries for me, but could not recall his name.  Soon after getting to the hotel I found him -- Allan Lauhoff.  He was in contact with Louis Kindt and gave me Kindt's address.  While there we phoned Bob Baker and shook him up, as Lauhoff had started out in Baker's squad.  Both Lauhoff and Kindt were in first platoon.

It was funny how Lauhoff heard about the 25th Div Assn.  He was driving his 18-wheeler down the highway when he saw a van with a large 25th Div decal on the spare tire mounted on the rear of the van.  He chased him 4 miles or more before getting him stopped.  There got the necessary info and in due course joined the Assn., and came to the reunion.  John Skirvin was there also, and we had the chance to meet Mrs. Lauhoff and their daughter Nancy.  We now have nearly enough former members to Love Company to start our own reunion.

I am sending copies of this letter to all, per list on next page, so that all can have the addresses on the others.  Also, Lauhoff says Kindt has had recent bad health, with his heart, and we will all be pulling for him to have a complete recovery.

Some day I am going to take time to get some Love Company stationery designed; but for now have to make do with what I have."

9 September 1988

"Had a letter from Lt. Fleming, thanking me for the info and roster I had sent him.  He said that I should say 'Hello' for him to any Love Company man I ever ran into, anywhere and anytime.  Also that he is retiring the end of this year, and after that would be available for a reunion.

I also wanted to thank you for your idea on contacting Goggins via the newspaper.  I forgot to tell you I tried to phone him in Birmingham thru the operator.  She told me they had a Joe Goggins listed, but his number was an unlisted number.  I talked to her supervisor, and she agreed to call the number and pass on a message for him to call me.  I sat by the phone for two hours, but no luck.  Maybe it is not the right Goggins; or maybe????  If that old rascal is still alive I would sure like to see him.  I may have told you I saw Alford (M/Sgt. Joe V.) here in Decatur in about 1960 or 61.  From the way he looked then, there is little chance he is still kicking around.  He first joined the army in 1932, which would make him now in his mid-seventies; and the way Alford operated he would have to be even tougher than I know he is to last that long!  He was living in California, and was en route there when picked up and jailed in Oklahoma.  That led him to call me to send him $10, which would pay his fine, and in exchange he would come by to see me.  He did, and spent the day.  On departing that PM, he got back to the matter of the $10 by asking if I could make that an even fifty!  I will never forget his standard greeting to new recruits.  After telling them who he was, he would add: "Now I'm not a'looking for any goddam heroes; all I want is good, steady fighting men."  He also taught us there was no such thing as being pinned down -- if any of his men were ever "pinned down", they had better be bleeding, bad.  One day I found out he really meant it.  We were advancing up a valley when the enemy opened up with some long range rifle fire.  Bullets were really popping, but no one was hit.  His notion was that we would ignore the fire until somebody was hit; not the easiest thing to do.  However in that instance the firing stopped and we took our hill with no further problem.  The Chinese had gone when we got there.  So much for the memories."

11 October 1988

"You have given me the best understanding I ever had of the Hill 717 action.  I now for the first time feel like I know a general picture of what took place.  Everybody I ever talked to about it feels the same way you do--bugged about it and cannot seem to put it behind them.  I can think of two differences between this incident and that of Nov. of 1950, that could account for it.  (1) In Nov. 1950, the tragedy affected the whole 8th Army; everybody was in the same boat.  Whereas, on Hill 717 it was only the two companies, and was possibly avoidable.  This would make it stick in your mind.  (2) After Nov. 1950 you, and the others, remained in the Army and in Korea.  You could talk about what had happened with others who had shared the same experience, and gradually put the ghost to rest.  But after Hill 717, most or many of you rotated home, and brought the memory back with you still fresh, and nobody to talk to about it that really understood.  All I can say from all I have heard, and from what I knew of those men I had served with and knew well, all of you did everything you could.  Everybody is subject to falling into a bad deal sometimes, and that was your turn.

You may find it hard to believe, but I have always been a little ashamed that I was not there.  I said everybody is subject to a bad deal sometime, but I never had one.  There were times when I was there that could have got out of hand, but never did.  Most of the credit for that goes in my opinion to Weaver.  He did not let things get out of hand; he always knew what he was doing when he started.  But, you can't expect to always have a Weaver around.

I had 4 company commanders in Korea.  If we had had any of the others, on several occasion I can recall, I could well have got baptized myself.  I lucked out, and I have had to contend with a little guilt feeling about it.  Especially as most of the 1st Platoon were younger men that I had "raised", or helped to raise, sort of brought them along, and watched them grow--from a rifleman to an asst. squad leader, to a squad leader, and a good one.  I was proud of that group, and thought I had the best platoon in the army.  Felt toward them something like I was their Daddy.

Leaving on rotation was no occasion for me to celebrate.  After I got back to Sasebo I stayed there several days.  Every morning when I got up I had to wrestle with the same question: Should I go and tell somebody in charge that I did not want to rotate, but to go back to L Company.  Of course if I had done that I would have felt like a fool that could not make up his mind, and it would also have meant that one rotation slot would have been wanted--other men would maybe have said, "If you didn't want to go why didn't you let me go?"  Anyway, that is the frame of mind that I came home in.

Then when I heard about Hill 717 the first time, I felt guiltier than ever, like I had let them down when they really needed me the first time.  I know there was nothing I could have done that would have made any difference, other than just be there to share it with them.  You were there, and you shared it.  Those of you that did, to me, are like a piece of good steel, that has been thru the fire and the hammer.

One of the men in 1st Platoon who was killed on Hill 717 I remember real well--he came in as a draftee in April 1951.  You may remember a lot of those men were not much to brag about at first--green, half-trained, and not too much ambition to do anything about it.  This lad stood out in that crowd.  Looking to rotation, I already had him marked as a man who could handle more responsibility, and that I could use down the road to plug the gaps that would arise.  He had only been there a little over four months when KIA.

Well, your "ghost" is a whole lot bigger than mine, but we all have some.  We all handle them our own way.  All I can say is, if you look at it the way I do, you have a lot to be proud of; and whether you realize it or not, you well may be a better man for it.  My hat is off to you, for passing the ultimate test.  The tragedy of the experience you must put behind you, to make room for the others that are always out there, waiting to happen."

5 September 1989

"I have not heard any more from Robert Gorr [MIA] as yet; hoping to get a little more detail on him.  Pelfrey is the most likely to have known him, as both were in 1st Platoon in November 1950.  Weaver guesses he was captured on 27 November, as he recalls that as one of "those days" that are hard to forget.

Breslin is a mystery to me.  I see he was in the 14th Infantry.  This regiment replaced the 24th Infantry in October 1951.  I think the 24th was then de-activated.  (Some will say they had been de-activated from the start, and just did not know it yet.)  This would be about the time you were rotating..... I have had several letters from Mertel, the last one after I got back from Washington.  He has had an interesting career, by the way.  He was CO Love Company in summer 1952, briefly; was injured and evacuated.  Came back and commanded another company in the 14th Infantry in 1953.  He went on to Airborne, and in Vietnam was in the 1st Cavalry Division that had all the choppers and was featured in the film, "Apocalypse Now" -- sorry war movie, by the way.  Vietnam has not produced a good movie yet.  I thought Korea did all right in this department with "Pork Chop Hill."

4 October 1989

"Gordon - Just got a letter from John (Pat) Patterson, sending me your name/address, as SFC, 3rd Plt., Love Company in 1950-51.  He said he had sent you a current roster of members we have located, and copy of last news letter.

I am enclosing copy of a Company Roster compiles as of (about) 13 February 1951, date Capt. Weaver assumed command of the company.  I do not find your name on this roster, but I have a vague recollection you were in hospital at this time, and later returned to the company? - which would explain why you are not listed as of 13 Feb 51.  Maybe you will see some names on this that will look familiar.

Next newsletter I hope to complete and get in mail within about the next month.  It will include a new updated roster of members today, plus the latest on our reunion next year in Michigan.  We had 17 last year, and look for 25 next year, attending reunion.

My old foxhole buddy Alfred Bressard now lives in St. Albans, VT -- may or may not be close to your home -- you will find his current address on the roster Pat sent you.

Glad to have you on our mailing list.  If you have any other current addresses of L Co men, would like to have them.  Let me hear from you when time allows, and hope you can make plans to attend our 1990 reunion."

1 March 1993

"Your advice and wise counsel ref use of the VCR is appreciated.  Even back in Korea I could tell you were an electronic wizard; I always admired those who were smart enough to change batteries in an SCR 300, more so a 536.  Back in World War II I was in a commo section in pack artillery.  We had an early day version of tactical radio called a SCR 609.  This was designed to be carried via muleback.  It was big, heavy, complicated, and never worked; all I ever got on it was static.  Toward the end of the war we got new radios, model SCR 610.  This was just like the 609, except designed for use in a jeep, where you had a steady power source.  I found this damned confusing.  Couple times I tried to plug the 610 into a battery, and tried to plug the 609 into the mule's butt.  In the first case I got an electrical shock, in the second I got kicked into the middle of next week.  I asked for a transfer to the infantry.  It was refused on ground that with all my training I was too valuable in artillery.  I knew something was messed up.  Five years later when recalled to active duty they asked my MOS; I told them Infantry, 1745.  That solved a lot of problems, as my records had been lost and they did not know the difference.  In infantry I had still to put up with radios, but never had one to shock me, and no mules around.  Everything great."

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Ross English

Ross English sent the following comments to me about Hill 717:

"There's not enough time and paper to tell and listen to everyone, but I know you saved a lot of lives on 717.  For that only the ones there will ever know.  These are the best kind of awards anyhow.  But you did deserve some for that action.  I had put some men in for awards for action before Hill 717.  That was when I was in Tokyo Hospital.  A GI said he was in Love Company Headquarters and when they came back for approval, they were thrown in the trash can.

I've always been proud of the men of "Love Company" I served with.  I never want it to happen again for anyone else, but it's something that stays with us.  I've always felt bad about Caudall and Sizemore, etc."

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Harold Loney

Harold Loney was wounded on Hill 717 in the evening of September 8, 1951. He had married Marilyn Adams in March of that same year on a delay-en-route prior to shipping to Korea, and they had about ten days together before he left for overseas duty.  He and Marilyn now have four grown children.  Harold retired at age 59 after working 45 years (40 with the same firm).  He retired as plant manager of a textile/sewing plant.  He now lives in Willard, Ohio.  Included in his 1990 correspondences with me, he wrote the following:

"I was drafted November 13, 1950, took basic training at Camp Breckenridge, KY (101st Airborne, but no airborne training).  Arrived by barge at Inchon on April 26, 1951, assigned to the machine gun platoon of Co. H, 35th/25th Div.  Served in all of the crew positions from ammo bearer to squad leader (with no rank, however).  Loved and hated every minute of service--and if I hadn't been married, I'd have been a hell of a soldier!  I was too young for World War II, but I have three brothers who served in the army.  I was so proud of them, and I thought war was glory and exciting.  And we had National Enemies--the Germans and the Japs.  There was no doubt that America was "good" and the enemy was "evil."  We boys in our neighborhood who were too young for service saw all of the war movies and beat it for home so that we could re-play the movie.  We used sticks and limbs for rifles, clods of dirt for grenades.  Little did we know that some of us would be in "the real thing" in just a few years.

I wrote home to my new wife and to my parents quite often.  On outposts, things were rather quiet in the daytime, and some of my best and informative letters were written from outposts.  Write letters in the daytime, fight off attacking Chinese in the early morning.  All of my letters were saved, and from them I have written "my book" of my experiences in the Korean War.  I don't know if it will ever be published, but it contains material that is all true, and material that would interest every man and woman who ever served in the military.  But the main reason I have written it is for family history and record.  I hope someday my grandkids and great grandkids will find it in an attic, and find it great reading, thereby getting to know their old grandpa long ago.

Among the 60 or more people I correspond with are about 17 veterans.  This interesting contact with veterans started about three years ago when I learned of the 25th Infantry Division Association.  I became a lifetime member right away, and was fortunate enough to get in on the "Revisit Korea" tour in March 1987.  My wife and I went to Korea with about 27 other veterans and wives.  Our country never treated us as kindly and hospitably as the Korean people did--especially the Korean Veterans Association of Seoul.  They gave us a banquet that was exquisite in every way, and presented us awards, and pinned a medal on each of us.  It was an unbelievable display of gratitude.  I correspond with the Korean Vet Association and they send Christmas cards every year.  I also correspond with the young fellow (Korean) who was our tour guide.  Of course, the country has changed: the kids are not lost and starving, looking for family now--they are well-fed, educated, and happy.  That was my best reward in seeing the new Korea.  Seoul, a city of 10 million, looks like any American city now, instead of looking like Sanford's junk yard.  We took bus tours (no charge) each day to important places of interest and historic places.  One famous place was east of Seoul where the 25th Division crossed the Han River on March 7, 1951, allowing the UN forces to take Seoul for the final time.  It was quite a moving ceremony.  And, we visited several cemeteries where GI's are buried, laying wreaths at each one.  I could go on and on about the revisit.  It is a vacation that my wife and I will always cherish.  I picked up rocks at some strategic places--so I have a little bit of Korea on display in my War Room.

In my basement, I have a room that I call my "war room" in which I have displayed all of my Korean War artifacts and souvenirs--such as maps, helmets, packs, photos, uniforms, documents, flags, shoulder patches, etc.  A year ago Christmas time, I bought a carbine just like the one we used in a machinegun platoon (dated June, 1944).  I bought it in, of all places, a Woolworth Store!  I didn't know what would be a fair price for it, but I paid $186.00 for it.  They also had M-1's, British Enfields, and a Dutch rifle!  And ammo for all!  I think I have about all that I want, except I will likely pick up a mortar shell or an artillery shell.  I know where I can get one.

Now that I am retired, I have the time for my favorite hobby--military.  I am not a "rambo" type at all, and this old carbine is the first firearm that I have ever owned.  I have several other hobbies, but this is my favorite.  And I love to exchange items or copies of items with the veterans who wrote.  My biography and photos are in the new 25th Division history book printed in 1988.

In 1990, Loney wrote his recollections of the Hills 682/717 episode:

On September 7 we advanced toward the area to "help I and L Companies out of encirclement."  That was what we were told.  We walked on an aqueduct in our approach.  This remains one of my most traumatic moments of the war.  The aqueduct was about 5 feet high built on the side of a cliff.  The water running through it was about 3-4 feet deep.  As we walked the length of it, about 160 of us, I was with "H" Company machine guns attached to "G" Company.  I thought as I looked ahead toward the front of the column, "What a good place to get caught with artillery or machine gun fire!"  I no sooner completed the thought when I heard the soft "boom" of artillery in the distant north.  Three or four rounds struck the base of the cliff.  We were terrified at the thought of the next salvo striking the cliff above us, showering us with rock and shrapnel.  We all ended up in the aqueduct for cover.  (This is where I damaged the camera that I carried around my neck on a cord.)  Fortunately those first few rounds were the only ones, and we were able to cross the aqueduct safely.  My spine tingles yet when I think of it--I'm sure you know the feeling.

We then progressed to a rock of a hill where we dug in for the night.  It was almost solid rock, and it was impossible to dig a decent hole.  I got my body in far enough to cover from head to buttocks, with my legs sticking out.  The Chinese artillery came in all night, as well as on the neighboring hills, which were probably 717 and 682.  We had no casualties from the shelling.

The next morning, we continued toward the area where "I" and "L" were trapped.  We leapfrogged with "G" Co rifles, a couple of times giving supporting fire.  I'm not positive about the hill numbers as we occupied a shorter hill, and observed after some moderate action which broke a hole in the Chinese line.  "I" and "L" came out with heavy casualties--one well man would be helping one or two wounded men.  It was a sorry sight.  We continued up a shorter hill, and were told to dig in for a likely counter attack.  I positioned our two guns in strategic places, and before I could dig in for myself, artillery began to come in.  I knew, and I'm sure several others knew, that the next adjustment by the enemy observer would have the next salvo right on us.  The next salvo hit us dead center.  One officer, a Lieutenant, was killed and I and two others were wounded.  Captain Thompson (I think, since we never really got to know the officers) ordered me off the hill, and directed me to the two tanks which were positioned in the valley.  I was bandaged about the hip, and bleeding badly, but I knew they didn't want to spare men to assist me.

I got down to the bottom only to see two Orientals racing toward me.  I pictured that it was the CCF enveloping the hill.  I thought, "Just when I am headed for safety and a good rest, I'm going to get "it" right here in view of safety."  I thought the Chinese were coming around the base of the hill, and that I would be right in their path.  I crawled into a dry stream bed and figured that I would fight to the death right here.  Then I saw them.  There were only two of them -- and they were South Korean.  At least, they looked like South Korean.  They had GI uniforms, helmets, and rifles.  I waved to them, and they waved back.

I reached the tanks, and the officer in one of them called and said that they had received a call to watch for me, and that I could get in one of the tanks.  They wouldn't be going to the rear for a couple of hours (it was toward evening).  I told the tank officer that I knew where to go, that I better not wait until they went back.  I also wondered why they didn't move up to where they could do some good for the guys on the hills.  As I left the area all hell was breaking loose on 717 and 682.  I could hear "H" Company machineguns firing (I could distinguish them with no problem), and the whole area was enveloped in dust and smoke.  As I rounded a few low hills, the sounds began to be muffled.  It was almost as if I had walked through a screen, and suddenly it was quiet and like another world.

I reached the aqueduct that we had crossed the day before on our way to this area.  Climbing up on it, I walked the length of the high aqueduct.  I noticed a red cross jeep and two aid men waiting at the other end.  (I guess they thought they were already too close to the action, and didn't make a move to come after me.)  I was loaded onto the jeep, and driven to a MASH unit.  It was here that the aid men took my pack, which they promised to return to me.  It contained letters from home, and two rolls of exposed film--photos that I had taken the last few days of some pretty good action.  I never got them back, and I regret it yet.  I had good shots of the men on the aqueduct.

So you see, my involvement was brief.  I met Ted Braybrook in a "revisit Korea" tour in 1987, and we compared notes of the action.  My last day in Korea was about his first, as he was a replacement arriving about September 6, or sometime about then.

I was then taken by train to Pusan, later to the 6110th Hospital Group, an Air Force hospital in Yagoya.  The hospital in Pusan was the Swedish Hospital.  On the day that I was declared fit to return to my unit in the front, I accidentally found out that I had accumulated enough points to rotate!  So, instead of processing and drawing equipment to go back to "H" Company, 35th, I processed to return to the States!  So, I had 32 points to the very day!  From April 26, 1951 to December 26, 1951, at 4 points per month I had the required 32 points.  (I became a father while in the hospital in Nagoya, as our daughter Donna was born.  The Japanese people working in the hospital called me "papasan" when I announced that I was a new father.)"

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Cpl. Frank Jones

Cpl. Frank Jones wrote:

"I don't know if you saw the picture Stan gave me.  It's of me, Rudy Netry and Colb about two weeks before they were killed and I was wounded.  It was very moving to see them after all these years.  Nihisell was killed also.  It was his first combat and never got a chance to fire a shot.  Of course we were very close (buddies).  On your question of the man who received the Medal of Honor, as I remember, it was Pvt. Billie Kanell.  He was in I Company, 35th and was on 717.  He was killed in the morning hours of 7th September 1951.  As I recall, a hand grenade was hurled in position.  He threw himself on it to save his buddies.  Then another one came in.  Although he was wounded, he rolled it again to save his buddies.  Of course, he was killed."

Herbert Smith of Elberton, Georgia wrote about Hill 717 in a letter to me in 1990.  His letter stated that he was wounded on September 8, but he must have his dates mixed up because we withdrew from he outpost late in the afternoon of the 7th.  It way be that he was wounded on the recapture of the hills.  He was with H Company machine gun platoon.  He wrote:

"I knew several of the boys in L Company, especially the ones that went from Japan with us when we first went over.  It's hard now for me to remember names any more.  I remember a boy named English and one named Caurdell.  I knew them real good.  They were killed on 717.  All the boys I knew real well were killed.  I guess you remember there was almost one company up there on the day of the 7th of September.  L Company had been up there on the outpost for several days and I Company was supposed to relieve L Company on the 6th but we didn't get up there until pretty late in the day.  They decided to wait until the next morning for L Company to come down and they hit us that night.  As well as I can remember, there were two platoons of L Company on Hill 682.  I Company sent one or two platoons over there with them.  If they had caught only one company up there, it would have been really bad.  I guess we were lucky.

I was a SFC and a platoon sergeant of the 2nd platoon.  Captain Burkhart was wounded on the 7th.  He got shot in the chin, broke his jaws loose on the back.  I took my first aid bandage and tied his mouth shut.  he was in Tokyo General Hospital with me and several more of the boys.  Someone told the captain there were only 17 men in I Company that were left that were not killed or wounded.  After I received the number from you, I think there must have been more than that.

I was shot in the back around the belt line with a burp gun on the morning of the 7th of September when they overran the hill.  I was lucky to have got out.  I suffer every day from that wound now.  I have to wear a back brace.  I have been operated on three times but it doesn't help any.  I have been totally disabled since 1982."

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Ken Sessions

Ken Sessions of Three Rivers, California wrote:

"I saw 7171 as a rifleman, 3rd Squad, 3rd Platoon, Co. B, 35th as described on page #9 of the S-3 Report.  Page #9 makes it sound like a piece of cake, but I sure don't remember it as such!  Co. B was on a ridge leading up to 717 when we took some 120mm and small arms fire.  One guy was cut up in his shoulder area, and I drew the short straw to get him back to the lines and on to the MASH unit.  I was given two ROK soldiers and a litter.  We started down around 1100 hours, and crossed through the Turks lines around 2300 hours.

We ran into a recon patrol of Gooks at dusk, and walked a small stream to scoot around them.  I also came across some KIAs from either the 2nd or 3rd Battalion's forces.... I do remember "No Moon."  Total black night.  Yeah, one of those!  How we laughed when we saw the Turks bon fires, which helped me zero in on where the line was located, etc., in that no moon landscape.

Well, John.  My best to you.  After four children and 14 grandchildren, I consider myself a lucky survivor of the "Land of the Morning Calm."  God Bless you and yours."

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Gordon Hill

The following letter was written by SFC Gordon Hill on December 11, 1951, to Stan Van Dorrumburg of Grand Rapids, Michigan, while Gordon was still serving in Korea.

"Dear Van - How are you, you old son-of-a-gun.  Received a letter from you today.  Glad to hear you are a civilian again.  I'm not with the 3rd Platoon now.  I'm still attached to the 35th Regiment as an aerial observer.  I'm about 20 miles south of Seoul.  I like it pretty good here, but they are shooting hell out of our planes.

Well, Van.  You and Johnny got out just in time.  After you left we sure run into shit.  I'll try to give you a rundown on what happened.  About two weeks after you left, 1st and 2nd squad were on a patrol.  Whitey got wounded, Netry was killed.  Kolb was killed, Nehisell was killed, Jones and Hertsogg and Tommy Martin were wounded.  On September 6 the Co was on an outpost.  The Chinks threw everything they had.  We were two days getting back to lines and lost nearly half the Co.  The 3rd Platoon was by themselves out further.  We held our hill but lost more than half the platoon so there isn't many you know there now.  Pearl and Affferdall were rotated.  Locke was killed.  You remember the fourth squad.  Bragg and Green Boyels were wounded and the rest were killed.  Martin boys both wounded.  Fraley rotated after you.  Flemming wrote you as I got a letter a letter from him.  He's General's aide.  the 3rd platoon was all gone when I left.  The Captain got me this.  He thought I'd had enough.  I'm sorry to have to tell you this, Van.  Yes, I was platoon sergeant when I left.  I can't say hello to the boys.  Are you married yet?  Van write again some time and take care of yourself. - Hill"

Gordon wrote to John Patterson on October 7, 1989:

"Dear John - Was sure glad to hear from someone from Co. L after all these years.  Thanks for the copy of citation, CO roster, pictures.

I joined Co. L the last of February 1951.  Can't remember what day but we crossed a river the next day.  Third platoon, second squad, Lt. "Stock" Fleming was my platoon leader.  Soon after Redman gave me his BAR I moved fast.  Captain two weeks.  Sergeant one month.  SFC John Redman was from Maryland, Baltimore I think.  Being wounded would the VA know his whereabouts?

I had some pictures of some of the guys but they all got destroyed.  I do remember you only by your picture.  As you know, it was hard to know guys outside your own platoon.  Jones, Harszogg, Cunningham came in soon after me.  3rd Platoon.

Lt. Fleming went to the 4th platoon before Hill 682 but was there with the 3rd platoon.  I was squad leader at that time but had to be platoon leader when we went back to take the hills later.  I had 12 men left.  When I joined the CO my platoon sergeant we called Handlebar Hank.  Would this be Paul Russell?  Alfred Bressard lives a short ways from me so I will look him up.

Again, thanks a lot.  Will keep in touch. - Sincerely, Gordon Hill"

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Arnold Morrison

Arnold Morrison was on Hills 717 and 424.  In a letter to Woody Woodruff dated March 29, 1990, he wrote:

"Hello Woody - Events have started coming back to me.  According to my separating papers I left on December 26, 1951.  I survived Hill 717.  I remember Hill 424.  I was there.

During the summer I remember a Cpl. Whitey McCloud who crawled for eight days and eight nights to get back to our lines.  He asked about Cpl. Jones and how he was getting along.  When Cpl. Jones learned of this he promoted him to Sgt.  I remember a Sgt. Locke who was past due for rotation and 3 times he couldn't get back on account of mortar fire.  I remember Hill, who was BARman.  I was beside him on 424.  I remember Santos on Hill 424.  I was on the Lincoln Line and got my first battle on 424.  I do remember Lt. Roederer.  Lt. Fleming was the last man to leave 717 and it was getting hot when I left.

One day I looked and the leadership was gone.  Lt. Fleming, MSgt. Fisher and all I came with except one man who came back from R&R--a Melvin Grantis from Minn.  I remember being in the rear end when men were standing around a burning pit and one man was standing at the fire.  Somebody had thrown live ammo in the fire, killing one man.  About 3 minutes later they called his name to go home.  I remember Sgt. Fraley and Lt. Young who got wounded on Hill 717.

I have already made my plans for the reunion.  Am looking forward to seeing everyone.  Have lots to talk about and have never been in the State of Michigan.  Lt. Shepard as I remember was a tall man and about 6'2" tall.  I remember a Pvt. Lutz and Spaulding and maybe later can remember more.

I remember the constant summer rain about every 15 min.  I remember when the whole company came down with the G.I. s_ _ _ _.  I was drafted and came from the coal fields of West Virginia.  I worked for 30 years after Korea and retired.  Hope to see you at Grand Rapids on the evening of May 4 and will recognize most of you."

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Searching for John C. Redman

I started my search for Redman in 1988 after Col. Luther Weaver located me.  I ran ads in all of the vet magazines trying to locate Redman with no results.  I finally got in touch with him through the Maryland Department of Transportation.  I wrote to the MDT and informed them that I was trying to get in touch with a John C. Redman.  I told them that I had been trying to get in touch with him for several years.  Thinking it might make an impression on whoever read my letter, I told them the whole story of Outpost 717 and that the last time I saw Redman was on Hill 717 in Korea while he was being moved to the south side of the hill because he was badly wounded.  I also told them that I wanted to pay the expenses of having to go into their computer.  About a week later I got an answer from the MDT administration saying that they had two John C. Redmans in their computer.  The cost would be $2.00 a copy.  I mailed them a $4.00 money order with two envelopes, two postage stamps, and a note from me to Redman.  They mailed the notes to both addresses.  To my surprise I got a call from a real excited John C. Redman.  Needless to say, we talked a long time and we have burned up the telephone since that date.

After making sure I was the Pat Patterson he remembered in Korea, the first thing Redman asked me was, "Do you remember Pok, the South Korean soldier who was blown out of our foxhole?"  I sure did remember.  I've always been reluctant to tell about this incident to anyone because it sounds like it came out of a John Wayne movie.  Being able to finally confirm this story to myself is another reason I was so glad to meet up with Redman.  Maybe he was like me--afraid to tell the story because it is so hard to believe.  But it is the truth.

Redman and I did a lot of speculating on why Pok came into our hole.  It could be that his foxhole buddy might have been wounded or killed and he might have just panicked and ran into our hole.  Both of us agreed that we will never know why he ran into our hole, but when he came into the hole the grenade must have landed in between him and the wall of the foxhole.  While Pok took the full impact of the grenade, neither Redman nor I were hurt by it.  Redman said to me, "Pat, you and I would not be talking today if Pok hadn't come in the hole when he did."

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The Old Man

From the men of Love Company 35th Infantry to Captain Weaver
on his departure as C.O. to Battalion S-4 June 1951

Our Captain is gone now to a job in Battalion.  We sure are going to miss him.  You see we called him, "The Old Man," though he was not old.  Every man in the Company loved and respected him.  The best I can tell, it started yesterday when "the old man" asked to have everyone form together.  All eyes were on him as he stood in front of us, a small man but determined.  He spoke, "I intended to surprise you, but I guess it's already gotten around.  I was relieved of command of L Company this afternoon."  Heads jerked up.  Surprise was in the faces of the men.  Sorrow also showed.  "The old man" went on, "You have all showed me the best cooperation any officer could ask for.  You have proven to me that you are a good fighting team."  "The old man's" lips quivered ever so little.  Those of us who were in close association with him knew he hated to leave.  He said more, but little more was needed here.  Some will remember him one way and some another.

The first time I saw him was back in February at Yong Dong Po.  A 20-man patrol had just come over the dike screaming, throwing grenades, and firing their burp guns.  I had a 536 and out of the receiver came a cool, soft voice.  "Love 3, this is Love 6."  I answered.  Then it came again, calm and unnerving, and I realized then the voice on the other radio was very close.  "Whoever."  Someone was coming toward me.  "Captain Weaver," came the calm, sure answer.  We were no longer afraid.  Our "old man" was with us.

Others think of him.  A radio operator said, "He could walk farther, faster on those little short legs than any man I know."  A medic remembers him crossing the Han when five men were wounded at once.  "The old man" said over the radio, "I have some casualties here and I want litters as fast as I can get them.  My men need to get out of here."  The men in the rifle squads knew him too.  "Remember that last road block we hit," one asked me.  "That man was everywhere at once keeping us all together.  If it hadn't been for him half of us would be out there on the road now."

It's that way throughout the company.  When he told us he was leaving, I saw tears come to more eyes than one.  We tried not to show it, but they came anyway.  In the crude expression of all G.I.s from the ranks, he was paid the greatest of compliments.  As he walked toward his new job, I heard one soldier say, "There goes the best Goddamned C.O. in the U.S. Army."  I know it.  So does the whole company.

Good luck, Capt. Luther Weaver.

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Final Reflections

I found the names of Love Company's Korean War casualties on the Internet in 2010.  Looking at the list took me back.  The KIA list for the patrol base is a lot higher than I thought, although I always felt there were more KIAs on these bases than I realized.  Item, Love, How and King Companies were all involved.

I was in Korea longer than anyone in my company.  I was not wounded--not even a scratch.  Woody once asked me how I did not get wounded.  He said, "You were in the two most costly battles that Love Company was in--the Chinese intervention and the patrol base Hill 717."  I came back with what is called "Survivor's Guilt."

I did not write this memoir to paint a story of me being a hero.  I joined the Army in June of 1949, a 17-year old high school drop-out.  To tell the truth, I was a wide-eyed kid who had never even shaved.  I had no idea what I was getting into.  My memory of events that took place in Korea might be different from others who might have been in the same situation, but just remember--it has been over 60 years ago that I experienced combat in Korea.  Col. David H. Hackworth said this in About Face:

"The problem with war stories is that they have their genesis in the fog of war.  In battle, your perception is often only as wide as your battle sights.  Five participants in the same action, fighting side by side, will often tell entirely different stories of what happened, even within hours of the fight.  The story each man tells might be virtually unrecognizable to the others.  But that does not make it any less true."

One time years ago one of my sons asked med, "Dad, were you a hero in the Korean War?"  I told him that I was not any kind of hero, but I was in the same battle with some real heroes.  I won't name names because I don't want to leave anyone out, other than to mention Billie Kanell, who was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.  A hand grenade was hurled into his position.  He threw himself on it to save his buddy.  Then another one came in and although he was wounded, he rolled on it to save his buddy's life.  He was one of 46 killed in action that day.  He had only been in Korea 11 days.

I think that we forget that the Korean War is all but forgotten.  After all these years, the only ones who remember are the combat veterans and their families.  You've got to be at least 60 years old to even remember the Korean War and I've never heard of it being taught in school.  Most people think that "MASH" is just a funny TV series.


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