Back to "Memoirs" Index page


(Click picture for a larger view)

Clifford Marshall Prest
Marissa, IL -

Korean War Veteran of the United States Army

"I was beginning to realize where we were going, wondering if we would be in the fighting when we got there.  It was evening when we had loaded.  The next morning we woke up off the coast of Pusan.  I prayed like I had never prayed before for God to bring me through this."

- Clifford Prest

 


[Clifford Prest was in Love Company, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, serving in Korea as a BAR man in 1951-52. To honor him, his memoir was placed on the Korean War Educator in December 2012 as a Christmas gift from his children: Vernon Prest, Kathleen Prest Blair, Eric Prest, Theresa Prest Albers, Everett Prest, and Clark Prest.]

Memoir Contents:


Clifford Prest - 1951
(Click picture for a larger view)

Clifford Prest - 2012
(Click picture for a larger view)

Back to Memoir Contents

Korea
1951-1952

By Clifford Marshall Prest
U.S. 55082352

This is written for my grandchildren and
future generations who might be interested
in my experiences in the Korean War.


Back to Memoir Contents

Author's Note, Dedication, & Preface

Author's Note

Special thanks to the following who helped make this book possible:

  • My wife Betty, whose patience and encouragement helped me through this book
  • My sister Ann, who typed and compiled my thoughts
  • Bill, for help in this project
  • The many people who gave me encouragement and support in this endeavor

Dedication

These men of 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon:

  • Harold Enloe
  • Lewis Rose
  • Pete (Dana) Clemons
  • Robert Trueblood
  • Others of Company L who helped make Korea bearable

Preface

I was inspired to write this book because I wondered about the experiences of my ancestors who fought on Kings Mountain, North Carolina in the Revolutionary War.


Back to Memoir Contents

Pre-Military

My name is Clifford Prest.  I was born February 1, 1928 at home on County Highway 12 in Washington County, Illinois, a son of Everett and Nettie Stevenson Prest.  They were from farm families in the Tilden, Sparta, and Marissa, Illinois area.  Our family consisted of my parents, my older brothers Wyman, Milton, Orville and Nolan, older sister Ann, me, and my younger brother Loren.

I was only five when I started to attend Prest School, a quarter of a mile from home.  I graduated from Prest School in 1941, I didn't go on to high school until after I left the Army in October of 1952.  I didn't mind the teachers when I was going to the country school, but I didn't like to shut up.  My favorite part of the school day was recess.

After graduating from Prest School, I helped my four older brothers and my dad with the farming.  My brother Orville owned the telephone company in Tilden, so I also helped him work on the lines when I wasn't working on the farm.  Orville sold out his telephone company in 1948 to General Telephone.  My father's dairy farm had 20 cows.  My dad never had an idle moment and neither did we boys while we were working for him.  It was my job to milk the cows every day, and that was in the days when the milking was done by hand.  We also put up hay for the cows and raised corn that we had to shuck by hand.  My dad was a partner in a threshing ring so we helped out there, too.  We did a lot of custom work for people in the area-- cutting cords of wood, combining, and cutting oats.  I operated a tractor from the time I was 12 years old.  Dad had a 1020 International that he later traded for an Allis-Chalmers.  During the wartime he bought a used International so that two of us could be on tractors in the field at the same time.  My dad was a worker and he kept us busy.

We survived the Depression.  In fact, I didn't realize it was a depression because I always had something to eat.  We lived through World War II, as well.  We were at church when we heard the news that war had broken out.  My brother Nolan was in the Army, but he wasn't deployed overseas during World War II.  I remember rationing of gas, sugar, and other foods, and I remember hearing at church that one of the boys in the community, Dean Akin, died in the war.  I was too young to be drafted or enlist for that war.  I was working on the family's dairy farm and when I came in from plowing one day I was told the war was over.


Back to Memoir Contents

I Remember the Day Well

In June 1950, the Korean War started.  I remember the day well.  Dad and I were combining wheat.  Mom and my younger brother Loren were at a church conference at Monmouth.  I was up along the north road.  My neighbors Olive "Ollie" Dickey and Norma Sauerwein said to me, "You won't miss this one."

My brothers had been lucky in the time of World War II.  Wyman and Milton had gotten farm deferments.  Orville was 4F and Nolan had been drafted, but never went any further than Fort Knox.  But there were no more farm deferments.  The only deferments were to be married and have a child on the way or to be going to college.  I never went to high school so that was out, and I didn't have a girlfriend.  I wasn't even looking for one then.  I was very interested in farm work and didn't have time to chase girls.

Ollie's son Bob joined the Navy at the end of World War II and had gotten out after a year.  Wayne Dickey, Ollie's other son, was still in high school.  They were not drafting anyone then, but started soon after the Korean War started.  It was not long until I got notice to go take a physical.  We were sent from Nashville, Illinois by bus to St. Louis.  It was quite a shock to me when they told us to strip and to see all the naked men running around in a line from one doctor to another checking us over, then taking blood away.  They almost made us sick.  I think my cousin John Prest was lucky.  He didn't even have to take a physical.  I wouldn't have traded him places later on.  It was really an experience for me.  I was to have a lot more when I went to the Army.  I hoped I wouldn't pass, but I did with flying colors.  It was one time it didn't pay to be healthy.

They started calling men in a couple of months.  They started with the 26 year olds.  I was 22 so I thought it would be a while or even not at all as it was just a police action.  It might end any day.  We had burned wood for heat up until that fall, so that fall we dug a hole under the house and installed an oil furnace.  That summer we had taken a trip to Niagara Falls.  In November we had gone to Hot Springs, Arkansas and out to Kansas to visit my dad's cousin, Lem Curtis.  Dad had gotten a new Nash, the first car we had with power shift.  I think maybe the Lord was preparing us for what was to come--me to be away from home.  I had gotten word that I was to be called about the end of December.

Frank Brazinski, a friend and neighbor, had gone the first of December.  He was 25 but had gotten a delay from the coalmine.  My greeting didn't come until after Christmas.  It said I was to report the 12th of January 1951 at the train station in Nashville (Illinois) and was to be there about six o'clock that morning.

When I got there, there were 25 other men and myself ready to go.  Another friend and neighbor, Leslie Coulter, was one of them.  We had never been away from our families that much so we stuck together.  Leslie's cousin, Wilbur Schaffer, was also there and I got to know him.  We got on the L&N train to St. Louis Union Station.  They took us to the old post office and we were sworn into the Army.  We were joined by a bunch of guys from other counties, which helped make up a trainload.  We were told we could spend the rest of the day in St. Louis doing what we wanted, but to be back at Union Station by five o'clock.  We were going to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.


Back to Memoir Contents

Infantry Training

First Days

It already seemed like a long day, but it was just beginning.  We took a train to Fort Leonard Wood and got there between nine and ten o'clock.  They came with a bus and took us to a mess hall and fed us.  Then they took us to a theatre and showed us a movie on V.D. for an hour.  Then we were finally taken to a barracks and taught how to make a bed.  it was to be made a special Army way, to be tight enough to bounce a quarter on it.  By this time it was getting late, between two and three o'clock in the morning.

At five o'clock we had to get up and make our beds and were supposed to be ready for inspection at five-thirty.  The sergeant came in that morning and checked the beds.  There was one guy named Jimmy Walker who just threw his bed together.  The sergeant made him make his bed ten times the right way, then go on K.P. that evening.

In the week ahead, they gave us tests and started giving shots (48 of them).  Before I got out they gave us our uniforms.  We were supposed to get shoes, but they didn't have any to fit me so I had to wear my good slippers I had worn from home.  I walked in mud and slop until they were ruined before I got my shoes.  While these things went on, we did K.P., worked in the supply room, and washed windows--anything to keep busy.

We got our G.I. haircuts.  One boy got a Mohawk, but had to shave his head.  We had to shine our shoes three times a day.  It wasn't long until they started putting guys into their outfits.  Leslie was gone.  I had to make new friends.  Schaffer was still there and Ervin Woker and Ervin Weihie.  I had met them at Ft. Leonard Wood, where we had cleaned barracks together.  They were from Nashville (Illinois).

Back to Memoir Contents

93rd Armored Division

We were all shipped to the 93rd Armored Division to start our basic training.  Our two-story barracks building had wooden floors that we had to scrub daily.  There were cots on each side of the room with a bathroom on the end.  This building was a block from the rest.  We had to march over for reveille in the morning and after meals, but that was good in one respect.  They didn't come over for us to do detail as much.  Our instructors during basic training were Captain Sherwood, Lieutenant Ellis, Lieutenant Williams, Lieutenant Berry, and Platoon Sergeant A. Mahoney.

We got up at five o'clock most mornings, but if we were going on the rifle range we got up at three thirty.  It was a six-mile march and we were to be there by seven o'clock.  When we did K.P. we had to get up so we would have breakfast ready by six.  When we got up we had to make our bed, scrub the floor, clean up and shave.  If they found any whiskers they would make us shave dry.  It was a very cold winter, ten below sometimes.  It would freeze the water when we went to scrub the floor, but it was good training for what was ahead in the next winter in Korea.

We also had classes in buildings.  We learned what we could expect during our stay at the army and basic training, along with some engineer training.  When we went into the building or theatre to take instructions on things it would be warm and we would go asleep very easily.  The Sergeant had a time keeping everyone awake.  When we got to the rifle range we took our turns firing our M-1 and then running the targets.  By "running the targets" I mean that I was in a hole where bullets were flying over the top of me.  When they quit shooting I had to get up and change the targets.

One of the things we had to do in basic was go through the infiltration course.  It was about 100 yards long and there was barbed wire strung through it.  They shot .50 caliber bullets above our heads as they kept hollering, "Get down!"  We had to keep our M-1 up so it never got dirty.  We were required to go through this course both during the day and night.  At night we could see the bullets flying by.  The day we went through the infiltration course was a very cold and miserable day.  The cold had frozen the water holes.  When we went through, the ice broke and we got wet.  Then we went to the rifle range all day and froze.  That night we went through it all again.  I was glad to see that day gone.

I was always hungry because they didn't feed us very good.  We did get to eat three times a day, but the cooks weren't the best.  I remember coming in from bivouac and they had one boiled potato.  It was good, but not nearly enough.  I always went to the PX and bought candy bars by the box and cookies.

In basic I learned many things about people, including to never loan money because they would never have it to pay back, or would never intend to.  We could never leave anything laying out or someone would swipe it.  I was very homesick and wrote every other day.  After about five weeks Mom and Dad and my brother and sister-in-law, Milton and Olive, came down to see me.  They came to the Company, but I wasn't there so they went to the service club and I was there.  I had to get away from the barracks because if we were there it was a good way to get on detail.  I was really lucky to see them there. We went to see Leslie, a neighbor who had gone into the Army with me at the same time I went.  He was on K.P. but was glad to see them.  It did me a lot of good and them too.

After six weeks we were allowed a pass from 12 noon on Saturday until eight o'clock on Sunday night.  I took a bus from camp to St. Louis and my brother-in-law Bill Wheeler and my sister Ann met me at the bus station.  They then came down to my parents' home for the weekend with me and brought me back on Sunday afternoon.  I was glad to come home if only for a short time.  I think I had one more pass at the 93rd.  Bill was there to pick me up after eight weeks infantry training.

Back to Memoir Contents

Engineers Training

We were sent to the 9th Armored Infantry Battalion (AIB) for engineers training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri.  We didn't get a pass that week as we had to move.  When we went home the next weekend, some of the guys brought their cars back.

Our training as engineers was building pontoon bridges on the Piney River in the Ozark Mountains near Ft. Leonard Wood.  I crossed it every time I went on Rt. 44.  It was just a small river that went through the mountains.  It was a lot of fun but we had to march to the river, which was six or seven miles, and then back.  We sang cadence, which helped to pass the time while we marched.  I don't remember too much about this instruction except for stringing cable across and putting pontoons in the river.  Pontoon bridges were used for temporary bridges.

One week we had bivouac at the river, which was much better, although we had to live in tents.  It was warmer than the time we went in the 93rd.  We had almost frozen.  I learned later in Korea that we had summer sleeping bags in zero weather.  We also learned how to handle TNT, blow bridges, dig ditches, and make holes.  There really was not a lot of instruction on the use and handling of TNT and I didn't think that TNT was too exciting because I was already used to blowing up tree stumps on the farm. Our instructors taught us to make sure we didn't get the cap with it until we were ready to detonate it.   With the TNT, we wrapped it around the post and blew the post out from under the bridge. 

I had lost my friend Leslie within a week.  Then Wilbur Schaffer got out on a hardship discharge.  In about four weeks Woker took sick and went to the hospital.  I had found a new friend named L.W. Polly from Lincoln, Illinois.  He stayed with me all through basic.  He was one of the few who got to stay at Ft. Leonard Wood when we shipped out after basic.  Some other friends were Erwin Droge and Leo Greinart.


Back to Memoir Contents

Camp Stoneman

After fourteen weeks we were given orders to go to Camp Stoneman, California.  We were to have a 12-day leave.  They took us by train to St. Louis, Missouri and we were to report back to Union Station in 12 days.  The folks, Ann, Milton and Olive took me to the station.  Later Olive wrote how hard it had been for them to see me go.  They said later they thought it might be the last time.  I still couldn't believe I would go to Korea.  I really didn't want to believe it.

We left by troop train.  We had K.P. on the train just like camp, with the same kind of food.  Mom had sent cookies and other things so I didn't get hungry.  Besides K.P. duty, I read books and looked at the scenery.  The next morning after we got on the train we woke up in Kansas.  The next night we were in Oklahoma.  That morning when we woke up the train had stopped.  There was high water and the train couldn't cross it, so we had to stay on the train for two days and wait until the water went down.  After we got started again, in a day we got to the mountains.  They put a second engine on behind to push us over.  They were still steam engines at that time.  It was kind of exciting taking a cross country trip, but I was glad to get to California after a week on the train.

We arrived at Camp Stoneman in the evening.  I had always heard California was warm and it did seem warm that day, but that night it got cold and I couldn't get enough covers.  The next day it got real hot again.  I didn't think much of the weather, but learned later that being close to San Francisco, the coolness comes in from the ocean.  I had never seen the desert or San Francisco or the Golden Gate Bridge.  I liked seeing the new sights, but I didn't want to stay there.

Camp Stoneman was a replacement center.  The first thing we had to do there was to take our clothes off,  get more shots, and take another physical.  Other than that, I can't remember much about my stay there.  They had us out for calisthenics and I got a tooth pulled.  I went to the service club as well.  We were there about a week.  Then I got word I was on the advanced party to go on a ship.


Back to Memoir Contents

Sailing to Korea

We were going to Japan on the ship USS Morton.  The Morton was 525 feet long and there were going to be 2,900 Army soldiers on the merchant marine ship, all headed for Korea.  The only ones I knew were the guys who went to basic with me.  Our advance party went to the ship three days ahead of the rest.  When we got to it, we learned the ropes.  Then they gave us a 24-hour leave in San Francisco.  I rode cable cars, and saw the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman's Wharf.  I had a good time.  I called the folks on the phone.  It was before the new phone lines and they had to go to Tilden to talk to me.

When we got out under the Golden Gate Bridge, the water started getting rougher.  Guys started getting sick.  I was sick and felt bad for about three days, but I never vomited.  I didn't eat much the first days out.  Everywhere we went, those who were a lot sicker than me had thrown up, and some of them spent their time in the latrine.  If we weren't sick already when we went in there, we would be from the smell.

The ship had hammock beds hanging about 18 inches apart with the bottom almost on the floor and five high with very narrow aisles.  Mine was the second berth from the top.  A guy by the name of Porter was in the berth above me.  He was killed in Korea.

There was not too much entertainment on the ship and we had no further training.  I was supposed to be on K.P. on the ship, but after the first and second day when they sent the list down, they had spelled my name wrong.  (There was a guy named "Frent" on the list.)  The guys said I would be a fool to go, so I didn't.  They checked dog tags for a week looking for a guy named Frent.

There wasn't much room to do anything unless we went on deck.  They had free coke to drink.  We ran around on the deck, read books, and played cards.  I had lots of time to think.  I didn't want to believe we were going to Korea, but knew we were.  In Stoneman they had showed us movies, being in battle, the wounded and blood, kill or be killed--but still I couldn't realize it could happen to me.  They told us to write letters and they would mail them when we got halfway across, but it was just to get us to write and get our mind off of things.  The ship had an intercom and they were always saying, "Now hear this."  Then an announcement came.  They made a big deal out of crossing the Date Line, where we lost a whole day.

We hit a day or two of rough weather, but not really anything spectacular.  After a few days we had calmer water so most of the trip was nice and calm, but I hated being out on the ocean.  There was nothing but water.  We never saw a boat or anything. 

Back to Memoir Contents

Processing in Japan

After 17 days we landed at Yokohama, Japan.  I was glad to see land, even if it was Japan.  We went to Camp Drake.  It was a nice camp and we had a real nice, big barracks.  The Japs did all the work and we were there about three days.  It was there I was told I would be in the 7th Division.  I had lost all my buddies.  They had been sent to other units.  I still didn't know anything about where or what I was doing.  It was an infantry unit, but I was told that they had engineers in it, too, so I still thought I might be a combat engineer.

We had a shake-down where they took all our clothes, gave us another physical, and gave us more clothes, but not near so many.  We were put on a train at Camp Drake and sent clear across Japan to Camp Sasebo.  In the seat across from me was a guy named Lewis Rose. We began to talk.  I had got mail from home for the first time since I left.  He had too and told me his wife was expecting a baby that month.  He didn't know he had a new baby girl at home.  She was born the day we landed in Japan.  Lew turned out to be a life-long friend.

Our train went through Hiroshima and we saw where they had dropped the bomb.  I couldn't believe one bomb could do so much and they hadn't cleaned it up at that time.  I was surprised to see people still farming with oxen.  The rice paddies were fertilized with human manure carried in buckets, which stunk up the whole place.  The people were very small and they had lots of kids.  There were kids everywhere.

When we got to Sasebo we were processed again.  It also was nice.  I wasn't there too long before being put on a Japanese boat.  It was all wood and didn't look too safe.  I wondered if it would even make it across the channel.  They gave us life jackets and asked if we could swim.  We didn't have anything to sleep on but the decks.  I was beginning to realize where we were going, wondering if we would be in the fighting when we got there.  It was evening when we had loaded.  The next morning we woke up off the coast of Pusan.  I prayed like I had never prayed before for God to bring me through this.


Back to Memoir Contents

Love Company

We arrived in Pusan, Korea, on June 20, 1951 in the morning.  We weren't on the ship for too long, maybe about an hour, before we got off the boat.  My first impression of Korea was that it was kind of junky and out of date.  At that time I wasn't in a war zone yet.  My regiment was in reserve at Kumhwa, having just come off the line for two days.

The only other person I knew was Lewis Rose and I had only known him for a few days.  When we got off the ship we were taken to a camp.  It seemed like a junkyard to me.  We slept outside on wooden bunks, just like sleeping on a wooden bench.  We stayed a couple of nights and had C-rations to eat.  I didn't know it, but they were getting us ready for what was ahead.  They gave us more clothes and took more away.  By this time we didn't have much left--just our sleeping bags, the clothes on our backs, and our rifles.

They put us on a train to the north.  The only town I remember was Chunchon and the only natives I remember seeing were on the trains.  The rest of the towns we passed were very small and badly torn up from the war.  The train was small like the Japanese trains, only it didn't have any windows.  The glass had been broken out.  It had the wooden bunks to sleep on, and we had them for seats, too.  It was pulled by a steam engine and we had many tunnels to go through.  The smoke coming through the windows almost choked us to death.  When we got off the train we were somewhere near Inchon.

We were loaded on trucks to go to battalion.  Lewis Rose was still with me.  We rode for a day through the mountains and it was very dirty and dusty with many hairpin curves.  We were sent to the 3rd Battalion.  From there we were sent to Company L, 32nd Infantry Regiment, which was in the 7th Division.  We were taken to Captain Bill Marcou and he seemed very nice.  He wasn't like the stateside officers.  He told us that they had just came off the line two days before and we might stay in reserve, as they were in corps reserve.  They had been on the line for about four months and it was their turn to be in reserve for a while.  He said that Rose and I were going to be in the 2nd Platoon.  Lieutenant Frank Sobey got us.  He was very young and had just gotten out of ROTC.  He was from Texas and proud of it.  He took us to the platoon, which was camped by a river with a rock bottom and clear water.  There was lots of shade and they had put up pup tents in a row with two in each tent.  They were just big enough for two men to lay down and sleep on the ground.  There were ditches around them to drain the water away.  My first duty was to help put up my tent.

I was put in the 1st Squad.  Our squad leader was Sgt. Dean Rohr.  He was from Utah and was a Mormon.  He had been with the company when they landed at Inchon.  He had gone to the Yalu River and was waiting to get rotated.  He had been decorated with the Silver Star and was very proud of it.  His assistant squad leader was Robert Trueblood.  He was from Ohio and had gone to college.  He had been an orphan.  He hadn't been there but three or four months, but knew what was going on.  He was a very talkative person, which was good for us as we had many questions.  They were not like the sergeants in the States.  They were just one of the guys.

Back to Memoir Contents

Learning the BAR

They decided I would make a good BAR man because I was so big.  They called me the big guy.  I didn't know what they were talking about when they said BAR as I had never seen one.  I had engineer training and they had not showed us the BAR.  They said they would put me in as an assistant for a guy named Harold Enloe.  He could teach me all about it.

Enloe was from North Carolina and was raised in the Smokey Mountains.  He said he was part Cherokee Indian.  He had been there about two months.  He wasn't very big and didn't like to carry the BAR, so they thought I could do it.  It weighed 20 pounds and we carried 320 rounds of shells.  The BAR was a Browning Automatic Rifle.  It fired like a machine gun but used a clip of 20 shells and was used like a rifle.  It used a 30/06 shell and if we wanted to be accurate we used a tripod.  The assistant carried 400 rounds, plus some extra reload.  I was to be Enloe's assistant while I was learning.  He took me under his wing and told me the line wasn't so bad.  We talked a lot, as we shared the same tent.

Back to Memoir Contents

In Reserve

Rose was put in our squad in another tent.  I always felt Enloe was special, as I was very upset and scared when I came to the company because I didn't know what was going to transpire or happen.  He helped me put my mind a little more at ease.  Trueblood was also a great comfort.  I had found two more good friends.

The river beside us was very useful.  It was a place to take a bath and wash our clothes on the rocks, as we only had what was on our backs.  It was warm weather being the 26th of June when we got there.  The chow tent was on the other side of the river and we could cross on the rocks.  When we went anywhere, even to eat, we carried our rifle and wore our steel helmet.  We even took our rifles to bed with us.  For things to do we trained through the day getting used to being together.  In the evening we could go to movies at Battalion Headquarters, or usually they had some kind of sport we could play.

We had a chapel laid out with sticks and rocks.  It was named Gainer Chapel for a lieutenant who had been killed just before they came off line.  Our chaplain was a Catholic.  Some of the guys said he got drunk once in a while, but I don't remember him that well as he didn't go on line with us.

In a few days we were to go up on a hill to work on foxholes.  We trained in case they would be pushed back that far.  I was helping Sergeant Rohr work on a foxhole when I heard a shot and we came around to see what was going on.  They said a guy named Cruz had been playing with his .45 and had shot himself in the leg.  Lewis Rose was beside him and it came out of his leg and went into the ankle area of Lew.  He was taken off the hill by stretcher.  I was very shaken up, as I was losing the friend I had known the longest.  I was back to Enloe as my best friend and he said I could write to his sister, but I didn't know what to write to a girl so I never did write to her.  Enloe later made squad leader and was a very good one.  His growing up in the mountains was very helpful, as the mountains in Korea were a lot like the Smokies.  I myself was lost in them.

After being on the hill a few days I was sent down to bring up a gook or Korean supply train.  They carried everything on a rack on their backs.  They carried everything from C-rations to barbed wire.  It was quite a task as I didn't know anything they said, but they knew what I was saying.  After about a week we went down to where we had been camped.  It was nice to get back to the river to take a bath and wash our clothes in the river.

July and August was the rainy season.  One night we had a big rain and in the middle of the night we woke up to find the river out and we were lying in water.  That day we had to walk a mile down to battalion to get across the river and a mile back as the mess hall was a big tent across the river.  We had our drinking water in a big water sack hung to a tree to keep it cool.  They put pills in it to kill the bacteria.  When we got the beer and soda, we put it in the river to cool.  I didn't drink beer, so I traded it for soda.  They didn't get much soda.  It seemed very disgusting to me.

Back to Memoir Contents

Men of Love Company

It wasn't long until we were moved up on a hill in a blocking position. We were just behind the lines in case of a breakthrough.  We spread barbed wire and started guard duty.  We lived in foxholes.  It was still rainy and wet.  We had to put our poncho over our foxholes and still the water ran in.  In the meantime, Rohr was rotated and Trueblood was promoted to squad leader.  Enloe became assistant squad leader.  I was the BAR man and hadn't been on line yet.  One thing I was happy for, I didn't have to carry a bayonet.  I carried a .45 on my hip.  When we were in reserve, all I had to carry was my .45.

By this time I was getting to know the guys in my platoon, although this many years later I don't remember some of their first names.  When we served together, we just called each other by our last names or nicknames.  They gave me the nickname "Farmer" because they said farming was all I knew how to talk about.  The one in my squad other than Trueblood and Enloe was Willie Wisenberger.  He was from North Dakota and was there when I got there.  He was fun to be around and helped make things bearable.  There was Perry Tennison, too.  He was from California.  He was a little older than us and liked to talk of his aches and pains, but he was a very nice guy.  He buddied with a guy named Robert Bixon ,who didn't talk much.  He was from Minnesota.  There was Young, Fist, Frank and Taylor, but they weren't there very long.  They got wounded and were sent back.  I never saw them again.

After I came we started getting more replacements.  There was Leighton Auld from Ohio who talked like he was an only child and was very rich.  I couldn't figure out why he had enlisted.  Then there was Harold Montgomery.  He was just a kid of 17 who had lied about his age.  They found out and sent him off the line until he turned 18.  He didn't care much about anything and was very hard for the Sergeant to handle, plus they felt sorry for him.  His ambition was to go home and get on the chain gang.

Then in the 2nd squad was Francisco Onate.  He was Spanish, lived in Arizona, and worked in the copper mine.  He had come from the States with me on the same boat.  He was a very good friend all the way through.  William Armstrong had come with Auld and was very much fun to be around.  He would sing and do his imitation of Woody Woodpecker.  Marlow was from South Carolina.  He had lost his father when he was young and had done all kinds of work, even picking cotton.  He had joined the Army to make money to support his family.

There was Marquis, French, Zinza and Tony Olivora.  In the 4th squad there was Wilkinson, Nick Worniecki, Trinkle, and Shepperd.  I didn't know much about them.  The 4th squad carried the mortar and the .30 caliber machine gun and bazooka.  We were all very good friends, but I was afraid to get close to them for it might be like Rose, and it would hurt too much that way.

There was a Sergeant Shaw from Grayville, Illinois.  He was our 1st Sergeant.  It felt good to know him, as I felt like he lived close to home.  When he rotated Sergeant Ray Sinclair took his place.  He was a reservist from Toledo, Ohio.  He had been called back in and, as I said before, the sergeants were just one of the guys.  We respected them enough to do what they said.

Back to Memoir Contents

C-rations & Mail

We had been eating C-rations and drinking spring water.  Some of the water wasn't very clean by the time everyone had filled their canteen.  It got to be a mud hole.  The rations were very good other than corned beef hash.  No one liked it.  The best was beans and frankfurters.  We got a can for each meal, powdered milk, coffee, two pieces of chocolate candy, a pack of cigarettes, and a can of fruit.  I didn't smoke so I always traded cigarettes for either fruit or candy.  If I had Camel cigarettes I could get both.  I usually could trade better with Lew Rose when he came back.  I never ate the native food because it didn't look good.

Our mail was slow catching up.  It was about three weeks until I started getting mail.  I was out of paper to write on and there was no place to buy any, so when Mom wrote, she sent me paper and a self-addressed envelope.  We had free air mail so I didn't have to stamp it.  They usually got my letters faster than I received theirs.  I asked my family to send canned foods to me--something that would keep.  I got many food packages, but it took a month to get them.  I even got one from Odle's store in Tilden.  Their boy Bill had been called in out of the inactive reserves.  They knew how hungry we got.  We got all kinds of cookies and canned food, and when we got a package we shared it.


Back to Memoir Contents

Going On Line

About the first of August we were moved on the line.  One morning we were told we were moving and to roll up our sleeping bags.  We didn't know where we were going, so we packed everything.  We didn't know we were going on the line.  It was a long way to walk up the mountain (10-15 miles).  It took us about four hours and we were very tired.  We weren't on line long when a short round from our artillery killed a guy.  I didn't know him since he wasn't in our outfit, but I thought it was awful our own round had done this.

We holed up for the night three in a hole and pulled guard two hours on, four hours off.  It wasn't too hard to stay awake because I didn't know what to expect.  They had told me if they were going to attack it would be at night.  If they attacked in force they would blow their bugles.  I prayed that night that they wouldn't come.

Back to Memoir Contents

Baptism of Fire

The next morning we were told we had to go on patrol.  Our squad was point and Fist was the point man.  I didn't know what patrol was, but it was to go in front of the line and make contact with the enemy.  Fist saw them first and hollered for me to come up beside him.  I went.  He wanted my BAR but I wouldn't let him have it.  He then decided he would go get them with an M-1 and throw grenades.  He just got about fifty feet ahead of me and they shot him.  He called to us that he was hurt.  I didn't know what to do, but Doc was with me.  He said he would go after him if I would keep him covered with the BAR.  By that time the rest of the squad was up close beside me.  Doc went out and pulled him back.  Doc got the Bronze Star for it.  I never knew his name.  They just called him Doc.  I sure wish I had.  I never saw Fist again, but they say he lived.  It was a memory I will never forget.  That was my first battle and I had made it through it, never having time to be scared.  It was like the paper had said, "from a hustling farm hand to the battlefront in less than a year" was a harsh awakening.

We didn't stay very long on this hill, but I remember the march off of it.  I picked up an empty machine gun ammo box because I thought it would keep my letters dry.  But after this march I soon got rid of it.  I didn't carry any more weight than I had to.

Back to Memoir Contents

In Harm's Way

We were met by trucks and taken to another location, then we marched up a valley.  We slept in a house--the one and only time I slept in a house in Korea.  It had a dirt floor.  Sinclair told me later that he was covered with lice the next morning and had not wanted to sleep in one again.  The houses were made of mud with straw roofs.  I remember when some of the guys shot tracer bullets in the roofs.  That was just like lighting a match to them and they burned fast.  The tracers were used to tell how close we were coming to our target.  We could see them even in daylight.

We once again went up a mountain.  The same thing happened again.  We had to pull guard duty all night and eat C-rations, and we were again point squad and point platoon.  We were to jump off again.  I think I was about seventh man that time.  We took the hill with ease.  They said the Chinese were playing cards.  We killed two or three and the rest bugged out.  We all thought we had everything under control and had taken the hill when all hell let loose!  They started throwing mortar artillery at us.  We had nothing to get behind but rocks.  I prayed again and asked the Lord to save us and to get us out safe.  We were pinned down and didn't dare move until it stopped.  We were relieved by another company.  Onate told me later that it was Able Company and he had seen one of his friends from home.  As they moved through they had told me, "If you hear the shells whistle, they have gone over you.  It's the ones you didn't hear that get you."  After that day I knew what they meant.


Back to Memoir Contents

Old Baldy

I don't know, but I think it was about September when Rose came back and we were moved over to Old Baldy.  I think they called it Hill 1073 or Million Dollar Hill, as it had had a million dollars worth of shells thrown at it.  They shelled it for days.  There was no vegetation on Old Baldy, and there were dead Chinese all over.  They had rice bags on their bodies and they smelled.  The maggots were running on them.  It was not a pretty sight.  It was on Old Baldy that our company had the heaviest casualties while I was in Korea.

I was sure glad to see Lew again.  We had changed company commands.  Marcou had gone to battalion as an observer.  A guy named Antero Cerdero took his place.  He was a Philippino and wanted to be a hero.  The guys didn't like him much as he was nothing like Marcou.  It was our company's turn again to lead off on patrol.  The second platoon was lucky this time.  We were to stay in reserve on the line.  The first and third platoon was to go out front and we were to hold the line.  The fourth platoon had set up the .57 and the .50 caliber machine guns.  I had made friends with a guy from Mascoutah.  His name was Wilhelm and I knew a guy from Albers and Monmouth.  They were all in the bunch that went out.  They went too fast and ran into an ambush.  They called in artillery and mortars and got some short rounds besides.  The second platoon was called to help get them out.  The .57 and machine guns covered us while we went out and picked up the wounded and their rifles.  Some were wounded but were able to walk back.

Back to Memoir Contents

Salute to Medics

I don't remember how many were killed, but one was an Indian named Cpl. Austin Lewis Klinekole.  (When his body was returned to the States, Klinekole was buried in Cache Creek Cemetery, Caddo County, Oklahoma.) He was scheduled to rotate home the day he was killed, but Cerdero made him go along on the patrol.  Klinekole was like the rest of us--we didn't know what decisions were made that shouldn't be made, we just followed orders.

I made several trips that day carrying litters and then going back for their rifles.  There weren't many guys left in the First and Third Platoon--they were either wounded or dead.  Later a lot of the wounded came back from the hospital.  After that I was sure glad I wasn't a medic.  They had to wrap up the wounds, carry litters, and also defend themselves.  I don't think I could have taken it, seeing all the pain that other people had to bear.  It was very hard on me just to carry them back and seeing them after they had given them morphine to help relieve the pain.

The folks had written me saying Leslie Coulter had stayed at Fort Leonard Wood two or three weeks after I had left, but had come to Korea as a medic.  They thought he had gotten a break.  It wasn't long until I got word from him in the hospital in Japan.  He had been assigned to the 1st Cavalry as a medic and had been wounded.  The 1st Cavalry was on the east side of Korea and was having a tough time of it.  The Chinese were more afraid of the 7th as we were known for our bayonet fighting and they didn't like being cut up.  The 1st Cavalry was relieved by the 45th Division about Christmas and went to Japan.  Leslie went too.  I didn't know it at the time, but Frank Brazinski came with the 45th.

I will never forget Old Baldy.  I had never seen so many dead.  They were laying, some half buried.  The smell was terrible as it was warm weather.  They had shelled the hill for a week before we went up on it, and the Chinese never picked up their dead.  Cerdero thought he should be put up for a medal, but the men thought he should have been court-martialed.  Marcou was mad.  He asked him what he thought he was doing--trying to get his men killed?  It was not his way of battle.  He had always tried to take care of his men.

Back to Memoir Contents

Re-grouping

We went back to our position to re-group.  The 2nd Platoon didn't get any more replacements for a while as the 1st and 3rd got them.  They sent over patrols through us from other outfits.  I was out of my hole on guard duty when I saw a guy I had known when I was growing up.  He was Freddie Rothlisberger.  I didn't get to talk to him as he was marching through.  That was the one and only time I saw him.

We pulled other patrols after that.  After one night attack we went after them and it was late morning when we got back.  We had gone out too far and they had cut us off, so we had to come back through our own minefield.  Two of the guys had to feel their way through with their bayonets.  I don't ever remember being so hungry.  The pack train didn't get there the night before and wasn't there when we got back.  I ate corned beef hash that had been thrown away--the one and only time it tasted good.

Back to Memoir Contents

Scar of War

It was on this hill that I got my only scar of the war.  We were coming through barbed wire and I cut my hand.  I didn't think it was bad, so I didn't do anything about it.  I got dirt in it and it got infected.  The doctor cleaned it out and bandaged it, and it finally healed.

I can't remember just when this was, but we were very thirsty.  We were on patrol and we came upon a stream.  We filled our canteens and had a good drink and thought it was awfully good water.  We walked up the stream and there was a dead gook in it.  We all dumped our water out.  None of us got sick, other than the thought of it.

Around that time we got some new replacements, one of those being one of my best friends.  His name was Dana Clemons.  We were to share a lot together.  He was a little quiet.  He didn't tell much about himself, but was very nice to be around.  I think Joe Lawrence came about that time, too.  He was full of life and a lot of fun to be around, he and Woody Armstrong.  He was put in the 2nd Squad.


Back to Memoir Contents

Heartbreak Ridge

We had been on line for six or seven weeks and it was time to go in reserve so we were relieved by the 24th Division.  We went back to our old camping area.  We were supposed to stay a month, but we weren't there but about a week when we were told one morning we were to be ready to move out in about an hour.  We were going back on line.  They said the 2nd Division was having trouble and we had to take over for them.

The hill was later named Heartbreak Ridge.  They weren't expecting this, as two days before they had given out two cases of beer a piece.  I had taken mine for trading.  A lot of the guys were drunk and we all thought we would take it along, but it was mostly thrown away when we got there as we had to carry so much other stuff.  We were loaded onto trucks and were on the hill the following night.  We always moved at night.

The fighting had slacked off, but they had lost a lot of men.  The company we relieved was down to 40 men.  We had a battalion of Ethiopians on our right and K Company on our left.  The Ethiopians were palace guards and they all had to be over six foot tall to be in their company.  They were attached to the 7th Division.  The Ethiopians and Turks didn't believe in shooting.  They would rather use knives on the enemy and dismember them.  They liked to go on patrol the same time we took ours.  One morning they were supposed to go out at six, but instead they had already taken their objective.

At that time we weren't to take any more ground, but still had a lot of patrols.  We had to go out and make contact, then come back.  it was very scary as they shot mortar at us all the way back.  Usually it was a squad at a time.  Onate's squad had their point man killed after he walked into a minefield.  The rest of the squad was lucky and were spread out enough that they didn't get hit.  The guy had only been there a short time.

About that time Sergeant Sinclair rotated and we got replacements, one of them being a guy from Alabama.  He was Sgt. Perry Trueblood.  He got Sinclair's job.  Enloe got squad leader and Perry assistant.  Perry was in the Alabama National Guard.  He had been in the Navy and joined the National Guard coming in as a Sergeant.  He thought if he was in the National Guard he would not go out of the States.  Others that came about that time were Sutton, Dick Gorton and Abello.

It was now November and the weather was getting cold.  We got winter sleeping bags, shoe packs, parkas and our second pair of socks.  We were to change socks every day, putting the other pair under our shirts to dry out.  We didn't take our shoes off, only to change socks.  On Thanksgiving we had our only hot meal.  We took turns going down the hill to eat.  We had turkey and all the trimmings and it was good for an Army meal.

I wrote home saying I guess they would be going to Grandma's for Thanksgiving.  Mom wrote telling me they didn't go and didn't have Christmas either that year.  I hadn't realized that she was taking it so hard.  I had let on to them that it wasn't so bad and I would be okay, but she wrote and told me she knew I had to be on Heartbreak Ridge.  It had been one of the worst battles of the war.  I told her that she was right, but we had relieved the 2nd Division and they had gotten the worst of it.  They were more afraid of the 7th and hadn't lost too many battles.

Back to Memoir Contents

Promoted to Corporal

It was here I made Corporal, this being my third promotion.  It didn't mean too much other than pay.  I had started out with $78 a month and now would get $127 a month.  I had been doing a Corporal's job since I started carrying a BAR.  That would be as far as I would go as I would have to sign up for 30 days more over there after I made Sergeant.  I was coming home as soon as I could, so I wasn't interested.

About that time we got a new platoon leader, 2nd Lieutenant Doug Fargo.  He made 1st Lieutenant soon after he got there.  He was just one of the guys and was out for his men.  Lewis Rose took the runner job, so he had left our foxhole.  Clemons and Ault were still with me.

Back to Memoir Contents

Christmas in Korea

We went off the hill about ten days before Christmas.  We were put in big tents this time, two squads to a tent.  We had a cot to sleep on and oil stoves to heat with for the first time, but as cold as it was, there was no way to really heat it.  The guys drank whiskey.

We had seen Jack Benny and some other shows, but it was here that we went to see the Bob Hope Show with Hope and Jerry Colona.  When we were going to these shows we saw the MPs.  No one had a good word for them and we always hollered at them.   I would rather have a sister in a whorehouse than a brother in the MPs.  The Bob Hope Show was out on a truck/stage thing with a tent all around it.  There were 1,000 soldiers there to see it.  We sat on our helmets as seats.

The days were very short and we didn't have any lights.  Fargo spotted a generator that wasn't being used in a supply depot one night.  He said he wanted six big men and I was picked.  He got the guard's attention and we loaded the generator.  We painted it blue and told the battalion and whoever asked that we had found it along the way.  It was nice to have lights.

They got another beer ration and the officers got a fifth of whiskey.  They drank themselves sick.  I couldn't see how it could be very much fun, but they thought it was.  We had a big Christmas dinner and in three days we were to go on the hill again.

We had to learn not to be too serious, so there were some fun times in Korea.  We had William "Woody Woodpecker" Armstrong in the company and he kept us laughing.  We were also excited to see the things other brought back from R&R.  We went to church during our time in reserve.  We didn't have a chaplain on the lines but we did a lot of praying.

Back to Memoir Contents

Guarding the Valley

We went to a different part of Heartbreak Ridge and were to guard a valley.  We were on the left up on the hill and the other platoon was in the valley.  On the other side of it they had tanks in the valley.  It was about midnight when we relieved the other outfit.  They were dug in, so we just took over the holes.  It was to be our home for the next two months.

It got very cold--20 and 30 below, and we often had to put my BAR in the sleeping bag to keep it warm.  It got so cold it wouldn't fire.  We were back to two hours on guard and four hours off.  It was hard to stay awake unless we got out of our sleeping bag, but we knew we had to.  They had a phone hooked to the CP and checked on us once in a while.  Montgomery was bad at going to sleep.

There we watched the planes drop napalm bombs.  We were sure glad they didn't drop them on us, but they kept throwing artillery at us so we usually stayed close to the holes.  I will always remember one coming about 30 feet from me.  It was a dud and didn't go off.  I knew the Lord was with me, as it was the day our bunker was blown up.  We had extra shells and about 50 grenades in it and they all blew up.  Clemons and I had gone to the CP to warm up and when we came back it was gone.  The CP was behind the hill and when we put it together we made a much better one.  It had been the cold that had saved us.  Fargo, Enloe and Rose lived in the CP and kept a fire in it because it was behind the hill.

Our company often got artillery and mortar support.  Airplanes came over and dropped napalm and the Navy shot flares over for us during the night.  The only tank support available was in the valleys of Korea.  We were on the mountains.

Back to Memoir Contents

Everyday Living

New Year's Eve was one I remembered well.  They shot off artillery and flares lit up the whole valley.  Some said they had lost a patrol down there and had sent some guys to find them.  They sure lit the place up.  They told us that they had taken the sleeping bags away from the 17th Regiment as they had gone to sleep on guard and they had got some killed in their bags.

We didn't get many baths, but every two or three weeks we got showers.  They were in a tent.  It was very cold stripping off and getting in the shower.  They took everything we had on and gave us clean clothes.  I can still feel those cold showers.  Our helmet was used for a lot of things--on a cold night as a pot, and we used it to sit on and for a wash basin.  Later in the hot months we wore our fatigues, but our winter clothes consisted of long underwear, wool pants, a fatigue jacket and parka.  At this time it was very cold--about 20 degrees colder than this time would be back home in Illinois.  The cold weather even affected our weapons.  Sometimes they wouldn't fire because they got stiff or froze.  I put my rifle in my sleeping bag with me to keep it warm.

We didn't go on as many patrols at this time, but we still had to go ahead of the main line on outpost, usually about 400 yards or a quarter of a mile ahead of the lines.  We took a phone with us to keep in touch with the company so when we came and went we wouldn't get shot.  All we could do was lay and wait for the enemy and rotate guarding throughout the night.

We had no contact with the Red Cross or the Salvation Army in Korea.  The only women I saw while I was in Korea were the women at the stage shows, and even then we weren't too close to them.  They claim that one of the guys went off with a prostitute, but no one could actually say.

We were not really anywhere near the civilians, although sometimes we saw their straw-woven houses with mud plaster.  I remember there was a guy that killed a Korean for wood.  We didn't have any contact with the South Korean military other than the two ammo bearers we had in our platoon.  South Korean civilians were always around trying to sell us something when we were in reserve, but other than that we didn't have much contact with them.  We had to guard the garbage to keep the civilians out of it.

I only met one high-ranking official while I was in Korea, and that was General Van Fleet.  We were in reserve and all passed by and shook his hand, including me.  While we were in reserve we slept when we could, went to the movies, and played games like football.  We also went swimming in the river.

Back to Memoir Contents

Dreading Outpost Duty

We always dreaded the night we were to go on these outposts.  The enemy didn't want to be seen so they usually attacked at night.  I remember one night Clemons and I were out on one of these posts.  I think it was maybe one of the most scared I had been because before I didn't have time to be scared.  We were out there and we could hear the enemy walking and talking.  We tried to get a hold of the CP, but could get no answer.  We knew we couldn't bug out or we would be shot by our own men.  I always told Lew he was sleeping, but he never would admit to it.  Fargo told me later that they knew that the enemy was there.  They were in-between where we were and the CP, but he couldn't let us come in or they would get us.  He didn't want us to know what was going on or we might have panicked.  He couldn't do anything after we started firing.  The others did, and after they left they found four of them dead the next morning.  The dead enemy was wearing quilted clothing and looked fairly young.  The Chinese had burp guns and had to be closer to us to be effective compared to the American way of fighting.

Finally we started firing and got the attention of the other guys.  We finally got hold of the CP and they let us come in.  I guess we scared the Chinese as well and they didn't follow us.  There was about six inches of snow and it was very cold.  We had been there about six hours.  The hours were very long on the outpost.  I will always remember that night.

Then there was the time when we were supposed to not fire and make them think we had moved out.  One night they came upon us and an Indiana boy named Jackson fired anyway.  They asked him how come and he said he was scared and wasn't going to let them get him.  They talked like they were going to court martial him.

Back to Memoir Contents

R&R in Japan

I was supposed to go on R& R in Japan on my birthday, but never got to go until a week later.  I was taken off line and taken somewhere around Seoul.  I got a bed that night and the next day we were flown to Japan on a four motor plane.  I didn't think much of the plane, but made it okay.  We went to a city in southern Japan called Kouker.  They fitted us with uniforms and we were allowed to do anything we wanted to do for the next five days.  I went to the PX and had ice cream and other things to eat.  I stayed in camp the first night.  I didn't see any need to waste my money on sleeping when I could sleep free.

When I went out on the street I was met by little boys wanting to give me rides in a rickshaw, shine shoes, sell things--any way to get a dollar.  They said they even would supply me with a woman.  No wonder they are such businessmen today.  I was tempted, but then I had remembered the first night I had come into the Army and the movie on VD and the many movies after that.  I decided it wasn't worth it.  I had also seen some of the guys with the clap when they came back and didn't want to be in their shape, so instead I spent my time shopping, going to the movies, and eating.  I gained twenty pounds in five days.  I went from 210 to 230 pounds.

Mom had written that her cousin Moore Wilson had kidded her and Grandma that I would probably bring a bride from Japan or Korea home, but I assured her that they didn't look that good to me.  I bought some things and sent them home for myself and the rest of the family.  I still have a pool stick, a knife, a jacket, and salt and pepper shakers, and a service flag that I sent Mom.  For the guys in the platoon I got pictures developed and brought back a radio that would get stations in Japan.  I don't know what happened to it as we all chipped in to buy it and it was still with the company when Dana Clemons left later. After five days we got on the plane to go back to Korea.  I hated to go back.  I enjoyed sleeping in a bed and eating all the food I wanted.

I went back on the hill for about two weeks.  It was the same old patrols and guard duty.  About the first of March we came off the hill and went back to where we were when we had come to the company in June.  They had set up big tents and had fixed wooden bunks.  It was coming spring and down in the valley it had warmed up.

When we came off the hill I got letters saying my oldest brother Wyman had about died with spinal meningitis.  I also had a baby announcement from my brother Orville's oldest daughter Cheryl that she had a new brother Steve.  Even through this, Mom wrote every day.


Back to Memoir Contents

Going Home

I was going to have my points for rotation the 26th of March, but didn't know if they would get to us by then.  It took 36 points to go home.  We got four points a month while we were on the front line, otherwise it was three points a month.  I already had 33 points and I only needed 36, so I hoped I wouldn't go on line again.  It was too cold to swim, but we washed our clothes in the river.

When a quota came down I jumped for joy.  They had sent a quota of 12 and I was number 6.  We were to leave in two days.  I told all the guys goodbye and then on March 26, 1952, we were taken to Inchon.  When we got there, it started all over again--they gave us a physical, took all our clothes, gave us new ones, and then gave us another physical before we left.  If we had any diseases or VD we would have had to stay until we got cleared up.  The guys said that one of the men in our company almost didn't get to go because he had VD.

I had written to tell the folks I was on the way, but I was getting impatient as we had spent about five days there.  After a few days we were loaded on landing craft and were taken to a ship in the ocean.  I left Korea for home as a Corporal on April 1, 1952, along with many of the guys that had come over with me.  The ship took us to Japan to Sasebo again.  I had things to do and the time went fast.  The general mood on the ship was happy, and mine was the same.  We had our usual shake down in Japan, and got new clothes and a physical.  I went to movies and service clubs and I signed my name in the "Going Home" book.  Frank Brazinski still talks of me taking the whole page.  He came through Sasebo about three or four months later.

Back to Memoir Contents

Sailing to the USA

We finally were to go on our ship to come home.  It was the Marine Phoenix.  It was a rickety boat.  A lot of the guys that had come with me on the USS Morton to Korea and had taken basic with me and had been in other divisions knew about the ones that weren't there and told us what had happened to the others.  There had been several killed, one a kid I knew real well in basic.  His name was Portor.

In the point of the ship there was a Robert Cathcart's name carved.  He had come to Korea on this ship and had been in the 17th Regiment of the 7th Division.  He was from Clarmin, a small mining community southwest of my home, and the folks had written about him being killed on Heartbreak Ridge on November 24, 1951.  I began once again to feel very lucky and thanked God He had brought me through all this.

We were out in the ocean about four days when we hit a storm.  The waves got very big and we would almost think we would go under instead of going over.  The boat rocked from side to side.  Finally it got so bad we were told we had to stay in or we would be washed overboard.  We were kept inside three or four days.  It got very stuffy inside and made me very happy I had not been in the Navy.  I would rather have been on the front lines than this all the time.

Back to Memoir Contents

Back in the States

Although it was a straight shot back to the States, it took us 22 days to come back as the storm held us up.  It had only taken 17 going over.  We finally landed in Seattle, Washington.  We could see land about daylight and it was sure a joyful sight.  As we came into the harbor we were told to clean up the ship and get lined up in alphabetical order to disembark.  There were a lot of people waiting at the docks.  We got off the boat, loaded in a bus, and went to Ft. Lawton.  It even smelled good after Japan and Korea.  At home it had been put in the papers that we had landed.  My next door neighbor Ray Church had seen it in the Post Dispatch and came over to tell the folks. 

We processed again, same old thing.  We had a big supper and were loaded on a train to Ft. Sheridan, Illinois.  The train was luxurious with Pullman cars and porters to wait on us like royalty.  I think it took about three days, but the time went fast.  When we got to Chicago they told us we would be there about 24 hours, but we were out by noon.

The next day we were given a 30-day leave.  I took a train to uptown Chicago, then took a cab to the station to get me to St. Louis.  I called the folks and told them what time I would be in.  I was to be in about 9 o'clock.  They had gotten the new telephones and the lines buried and we could talk fine.  When I got to St. Louis, Dad and Mom, Loren, Milton and Olive and Ann were there to meet me.  It was a very happy occasion.  It had been over a  year since I had left and the folks' son had returned.  They had thought they might never see me alive again.

On my furlough Dad decided to trade cars.  The car he had was a 1950 Nash and he wanted a 1952.  Bill and Ann went with us to St. Louis to shop, but we didn't find what he wanted.  We went to Belleville the next day and found what he wanted.  I decided I would like to see Woker as he had been a good friend in basic and had got out on a medical discharge.  He had written to me and his dad always asked about me from Olive's sister Mildred, who worked in the bank.  Milton and Olive, Mom and I went and we had a good visit.  On the way home, I was driving and was following a truck.  It suddenly put on the brakes and I ran into the back of it.  It sure made a big mess out of a new car.  I thought Dad would be very mad when we brought it home, but Milton told him what happened and he didn't say anything too bad about it.  I didn't have a valid driver's license.  Mine was outdated.  But the cop said it was all right.  I had 60 days to bring them up to date.

I planted the corn that year--the farm work was a pleasure.  Dad had read in the paper about William H. "Bill" Thien Jr. being killed on October 23, 1952.  He was in Company L and I had known him well.  He was from Fults, Illinois.


Back to Memoir Contents

Camp Atterbury

When my furlough was over, Erwin Weihie came down and Ann and Bill took us to Union Station and we took a train to Fort Sheridan.  I stayed there a week and had passes in the evening.  I went downtown, and did jobs like picking up trash on Lake Michigan beach area.  I had a good time on the beach.  On the weekends we got passes and some had cars that were coming this way, so I came home.  A couple of days after we went back we got transferred to Camp Atterbury in Indiana.  It was near Indianapolis, 250 miles from home.  We were free to come and go from there as long as we didn't have duty.  I almost had every weekend off.

Rose was still a very good friend and we had met a guy named Albert Standish.  He claimed to be a descendent of Miles Standish.  He was a very good guy.  He had a new model Buick convertible.  The first weekend he brought us as far as Effingham, Illinois.  We thought we were the cat's meow.  I hitchhiked home from there.  Hitchhiking was very easy as people would pick up soldiers.  I even had women give me a ride.  One time I had a three-day pass and was going to take the bus, but I missed it.  I started out hitchhiking and was going good and then it got dark.  I couldn't get a ride, then got a bus as far as Posy Corner and got off.  I couldn't get a ride so I lay down and slept in a wheat field.  Sleeping on the ground was something I was used to and in the morning the first car that came by picked me up.  Later I met a guy named Charles Guest that I had been on guard duty with out at the airport.  He worked there and said he came to Addieville, Illinois every weekend, so I started riding with him.

In camp we had good food and didn't have much to do.  The best thing was to make ourselves scarce, so we always kept away from the barracks.  It was there we short-sheeted the beds and put the beds on the roof.  The guys would come in drunk, sit on the pot and throw up at same time, and have bad headaches.  Then they couldn't get in their beds as we had them fixed.

We had to pull our share of guard duty.  One of the duties was to take guys in the guard house out and work them around the camp.  They gave us a sawed off shotgun and we were to shoot if they tried anything.  They knew we had been in Korea and knew they had better work or suffer the consequences.

We went to Indianapolis often.  We went to stock car races, the State Fair, and the Ice Capades.  I was told that Dale and Nelda Mulholland were going to college at Franklin, Indiana, a town about ten miles away, so I looked them up a couple of times.  They were from Gary, Indiana, but had spent summers across the road with their Grandma and Grandpa Mulholland.

A lot of the camp was Alabama National Guard.  They were giving basic training to new recruits.  Joe Dickey, a friend from Marissa, Illinois, and John Hunter, a friend from Sparta, Illinois, were there.  They heard I was there and sent word for me to come to see them as they couldn't come to see me since they were in basic.  John was having a very hard time.  He had been babied since his dad had been killed when he was very young.  His dad was one of the Flying Hunter Brothers and he had walked into a propeller and was killed.  John couldn't seem to make a bed and do other things right.  The Sergeant picked on him one day and he had been made to do a hundred pushups.  They were both very disheartened about the Army, but I told them that was the way it would be until they got out of basic training.

I was supposed to get out on October 12, so I talked Dad into letting me bring the car back.  I finally got discharged on October 14, 1952.  I had put in 21 months of Army life--an experience I will never forget and never want to do again.  I always said I would never get on another ship or boat again, but I wouldn't take a lot for my experiences.  I have done a lot of things I would have never done otherwise and have made a lot of new friends.  I don't know how I would have gotten through it if it hadn't been for Mom, Olive and Ann writing as often as they did.

After I came home to the farm, I went to night school at Sparta High School for two years, twice a week.  I married Betty Henderson in 1956 and we had children Vernon (1958), Kathleen (1959), Eric (1961), Theresa (1964), Everett (1965), and Clark (1967).  I joined the VFW, American Legion, Imjin Chapter KWVA, and Combat Infantryman.  I continued farming until I retired in 1992.  Now I do the mowing, help my wife around the house, and read books.


Back to Memoir Contents

Final Reflections

Being in the Army wasn't bad for me because I learned how to get along with people better and I learned about teamwork.  I also learned that the real heroes of the war were those who risked their life to save someone else.  The hardest thing for me personally while I was in Korea was being away from home.  My strongest memories of Korea are of how backward it was, with rice paddies fertilized with human feces.

The time overall when I felt I was in the greatest danger was in the Sanarea Valley.  A shell came in and hit our bunker.  Luckily, we were out of it at the time.  We went to take the hill and they started shooting.  We had no place to go and no cover.

The war was supposed to be ending (all of the time), but it never did.  When I got there, there were supposed to be peace talks.  I guess they never got over.  I think they should have sent even more troops over there and cleaned it up, but they didn't.  Most troops went to Germany where they thought the war was going to be fought.  That is where they made a mistake.  I think that MacArthur was right to go north of the 38th parallel and they probably should have let him finish what he set out to do.  One good thing that came out of the war was that it made South Korea do a lot better and be self-sufficient.

Korea carries the nickname "The Forgotten War" because it was too close to World War II and because people called it a "police action" rather than a "war."  I want it to be like all other wars--put into more than one page, and have people know more of the history of it.  For me, Korea was a bad experience that turned out to be a good experience.  I'm proud that I served.


Back to Memoir Contents

Addendum

Love Company Reunions

Harold Enloe, the guy that I bunked with in the tent that first night with the unit and a calming source for me, was the first member of Love Company to call me years after the war.  That was in 1982 and we talked with each other for a whole year before holding the first Love Company reunion.  Only four guys came to the first one in 1983, but more of them joined us for the reunions that followed.  Except for one, all of the reunions were held in our home in Southern Illinois.

Back to Memoir Contents

Rosters

32nd Infantry Regiment, L Company, 2nd Platoon - November 1951

Platoon Headquarters - Lt. Fargo, T/Sgt. Trueblood, S/Sgt. Enloe, PFC Alter, PVT Cabello

1st Squad 2nd Squad Third Squad Fourth Squad
PFC Wisenberger CPL Onate CPL French SGT Wilkenson
CPL Sutton PFC Armstrong SGT Perry CPL Woroninecki
CPL Prest PFC Lawerence PFC Medina CPL Sheppard
PFC Ault PFC Seagraves CPL Johnson PFC Van Diveer
PFC Rose PFC Gorton PFC Quiggle PFC Mello
PFC Trinkle PFC Boozer PFC Lower PFC Reyna
PFC Montgomery PFC Fiorentino PFC Olivares ROK Hue Jung Ok
PFC Jackson PVT Yazzie PFC Chimelowiski ROK Kim Kwong Jun
PFC Clemens PVT Alpaio PVT Brown PFC Rickerson
PVT McMicheaux   PFC Thomas PFC Randazzo
    PFC Puttman  
 

32nd Infantry Regiment, L Company, 2nd Platoon - February 1952

Platoon Headquarters - Lt. Fargo (Platoon Leader), SFC Perry (Platoon Sergeant),
Sgt. Sutton (Assistant Squad Leader) and PFC Rose (Messenger)

1st Squad 2nd Squad Third Squad Fourth Squad
SFC Meier, Squad Leader SGT Onate, Squad Leader CPL Chimelowski, Squad Leader SGT Heavner, Squad Leader
CPL Clemens, Asst Squad Leader CPL Armstrong, Asst Squad Leader SGT Noretic, Asst Squad Leader CPL Rickertson - LMG
CPL Prest, BAR CPL Lawrence, BAR CPL Putman, BAR CPL Mello, 3.5 Gunner
CPL Ault, Asst BAR CPL Seagraves, Asst BAR CPL Montgomery, Asst BAR PFC Brown, Ammo Bearer
PFC Jackson, Rifleman PFC Gorton, Rifleman PFC Fiorentino, Rifleman PFC McMicheaux, Asst LMG
PFC Fortorella, Rifleman PFC Yazzie, Rifleman PFC Lower, Rifleman Hue Jung Ok, Asst 3.5
PFC Coplan, Rifleman PFC Alpaio, Rifleman PFC Whitlow, Rifleman Kim Hyum Sok, Ammo Bearer
PVT Lewis, Rifleman PVT Pierce, Rifleman PFC Randazzo, Rifleman  
PVT Thompson, Rifleman PVT Herther, Rifleman PVT Thomas, Rifleman  
    PVT Solkoff, Rifleman  
    PVT Ballance, Rifleman  
 

Back to "Memoirs" Index page back to top
 

| Contact | What's New | About Us | Korean War Topics | Support | Links | Memoirs | Buddy Search |

2002-2012 Korean War Educator. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use of material is prohibited.

- Contact Webmaster with questions or comments related to web site layout.
- Contact Lynnita for Korean War questions or similar informational issues.
- Website address: www.koreanwar-educator.org
 

Hit Counter
 
.