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James W. Scarlett

Nashville, TN
Veteran of the United States Army

"Being a Christian, I don't intend to be bitter about Korea, but I don't intend to be silent any longer, either. My question is why were we silent for all these 50 years?"

- James W. Scarlett


Memoir Contents:

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The following memoir is the result of sets of questions and answers about the Korean War that were exchanged between James Scarlett of Tennessee and Lynnita Brown of Illinois by U.S. mail.  James Scarlett does not own a computer.  Lynnita sent the questions to Jim, and he responded to each set by sending answers written out in long hand.  His answers were then combined by Lynnita into the narrative you see below.

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I was born at Gentry, Tennessee, in Putnam County on 28 November 1931.  Gentry is near Baxter, and about ten miles from Cookeville.  My parents, Harley T. and Winne C. Brown Scarlett, named me James Wilson Scarlett.  I was born in a log cabin to a share-cropping family - very poor people.  We lived on and worked somebody else's farm.  I was raised up very hard.  Dad was rough on all of us kids, but I will share how this paid off for me in Korea later.

My dad was a farmer, and worked for the Work Projects Administration (WPA) during the Depression.  He learned how to cut hair and became a barber.  He also did sheet metal cutting, learned how to be a carpenter, and also did road construction work, but he held most to farming. My dad was a hard man and a big man.  He stood about 6'1" or so, and weighed about 210 pounds.  He could take a 16 hand mule with the left hand and whip him in a circle with the right hand.  He was very strong.  He was a good man, but when he got to drinking, he could get mean and sometimes mistreat my mother.  That didn't go over too good with me.  Mother was strictly a homemaker.  I think that before she married my dad, she worked as a telephone switchboard operator for a while.

Seven children were born to my mother and dad.  I am the oldest.  My siblings Earl T., Joe Mac, Emma Sue, and Anna Ruth are now deceased.  My brother Harry D. Scarlett and sister Jane Evelyn are still living.  We went to grade schools in Putnam County, Tennessee.  I attended Cedar Hill Elementary School, Chestnut Mound Elementary School in Smith County, Tennessee, and Baxter, Tennessee Elementary School.  I attended my first year of high school at Baxter Seminary High School, but entered the military before I finished high school.

As a youth, I spent about two years and maybe more in the Boy Scouts.  I also played baseball.  I was second pitcher on the baseball team, pitching over-handed, not side arm.  I remember that there was a fellow on the team named Preston Presley. He was always blowing hot air, and one day I hit him upside the head.  I thought I had killed him.  They laid him in the shade and poured water on him. That kind of unnerved me.

I worked after school in the evenings.  While in grade school, I cut grass and painted some.  There was a lady named Mrs. Oliver in the little town of Baxter where we lived, and she and her husband owned a small hotel.  I made beds, mopped floors, cleaned windows, raked the lawn, cut grass, weeded her garden, and cut wood--whatever she wanted done.  My after school work in high school followed about the same pattern.

World War II was going on while I was in school.  My dad's youngest brother, Charles Scarlett, was in the war, and he served in the Army Air Corps.  I think he was a gunner on one of the planes.  He served in the Pacific, but when he came home he didn't talk much about it.  I cannot speak for the other students in the schools I attended during World War II, but I remember collecting scrap iron to sell it to support the war.  I tried to keep up with what was going on in the war by asking my paternal grandfather questions about it.

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Conger & Santo Players

Back in the 1940s and 1950s, when a young man reached his 18th birthday he had to register for the draft.  Tennessee at that time had draft boards in many of its towns.  I registered at Cookeville, Tennessee, at Local Board #75.  There are no local boards today because there is no draft. After registering at the local draft board, I was not called to be examined until I was almost 21 years old.  In the meantime, I joined a country music band out of Ohio named the Conger and Santo Players in the early spring of 1948.  The band came to Baxter to play circuits in Tennessee.  They set up headquarters at the old hotel, which was owned by my dear friend Mrs. Oliver and her husband.

I had purchased my first guitar from a young man in Baxter.  It was well-worn, but it still had a good sound.  This young man's dad played fiddle, and he and his son played rhythm.  They played cake walks, pie suppers, and different kinds of local events, so I finished it wearing it out.  I ordered a small guitar by mail order catalog.  It was a "Bob West" guitar--a small Gene Autry type--with a western cowboy scene on the top. I also bought a course booklet to teach myself how to play it.

Since I worked for Mrs. Oliver after school in the evenings, she introduced me to the Conger & Santo Players.  They asked me quite a few questions about my life and family and playing the guitar.  I tried out with them and they wanted me to go with them to the Ozark Mountains of Missouri.  I was not sure about it at first, so I talked to my mother about it.  She was not sold on the idea.  My dad and I did not get along as good as we should have, so I told Mother that I was going.  I left with some strained feelings between me and my dad.  When I left Baxter, I stayed gone for about four years, but I did write to my parents.  Sometimes I became homesick while on the road those four years, but dating young women and playing music for the most part kept my mind at ease.  Forgiving is a great cleaning to the soul.  My mother accepted my leaving with the show troupe.  We had that understanding.  But my dad did not say either way.  I cannot answer for him.

The Conger & Santo Players played waltzes, polkas, western swing, and country. (We had pop music even at that time.) I was the number one lead singer.  I sang country songs such as, "Hey Good Looking" by Hank Williams, "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You," "Too Old to Cut the Mustard Anymore," "Tumbling Tumble Weeds" by the Sons of the Pioneers, "I'll Sail My Ship Alone" by Moon Mullican, and many more.  They were all accepted at that time.  One of the band members played accordion.  His name was Karl Eggert and he was from Germany.  He was some musician.  There is no instrument in the world for rhythm like an accordion -- bar none.  The fiddle or violin player was also an accomplished musician.  He was Santo--a Jew from Hungary.  Conger was the clown and played rhythm guitar.

We also put on "bit skits."  They were short and I played the female parts.  I became proficient at playing them.  Some folks would want to meet the lady that was in the act, so Mr. Santo would say she had to leave shortly after the act.  That is how we got around them not knowing it was me.

My pay scale was from $15.00 to $25.00 a week, along with my board.  We were not union players; in fact, I did not know what a union was.  I didn't suspect anything.  We operated under a big top tent.  We put up in each town and spent from six to ten days in the town, depending on the attendance.  It was hard work putting up and taking down the tent.  Conger and Santo promised me a career in Hollywood, but it didn't turn out that way.  I had to go to Korea.  When I came back to the States, they wanted me to join up with them again.  But by that time, college was more important to me than getting back to the band.  I did not play professionally with another band after I came back to Korea, although I could have if I had chosen to do so.

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War Breaks Out

When the war broke out in Korea, I did not know anything about Korea.  In fact, I did not know where the place was at, or that it was 11,000 miles away from home.  What little I did get to know was from newspaper headlines and news on an old Montgomery Ward battery-powered radio.  Television was coming in at that time, and if I could be somewhere that somebody owned one, I heard a few headlines.  I was just a dumb old country boy.  (I still wonder if I know much today.)  From the time the war broke out until I was drafted, I paid very little attention to what was going on over there.  My music kept me busy.  Some people talked about the war, but I really did not know what they were talking about.  I did not know what Communism was about.  But I dedicated myself to know and find out when I came back from the muddle mess.  I think I know a few things today that I didn't know then.

At the time war broke out, I didn't have an opinion about the war in Korea because I didn't know anything about it.  I had no idea if troops would be sent to Korea or not.  I had no idea if it would be settled soon or if it would go into a prolonged period as we know today that it did.  In fact, I really didn't know much about World War II, other than a few things my grandfather (my dad's dad) had told me about being across a big wide ocean and thousands of miles away.  What would a dumb country boy like me know about World War I and World War II, and Korea.  That is where I stood.

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My mail did not catch up with me so easily at that time because we played many towns in Missouri.  Then, we left Missouri and went to Mississippi where we played circuits there. My examination notice caught up with me at Walker, Louisiana.  I did not have time to go back to Tennessee and be examined, so that put me on the spot.  Walker did not have a local draft board, but Denham Springs, Louisiana, did.  My boss, Mr. Santo, said, "Let's try and get a transfer from Cookeville to Denham."  On a Saturday morning, we left Walker for Denham Springs, hoping we would find someone in the office that morning.  We did.  She was a lady with a small child, and she was in a bad mood.  I don't know if it was because of the child or because she had family problems.  She did not want to take my case, but my boss spoke up and explained that I couldn't make it back to Tennessee on the date set for my examination.  She finally agreed to have it transferred to Louisiana.  She was mad.  I won't ever forget what she said to me as I got ready to leave.  She said, "If you are not here on Monday morning to take the bus to New Orleans for your examination, it will be your little red wagon."  That shook me.  On that Monday morning, I was the first name called to board the bus.

When I got my draft notice, I did not want to go.  I had gone home for a few vacation days and wanted to go back on the road in show business--to the music I loved.  The draft notice shifted every cog in all of my plans, but the Army or Armed Services have a way of doing that.  Nevertheless, I grew to love the military down through the years that followed.  I am proud for what I did for my country now that I understand some of the formats of the reason.  When that general from South Korea hung that 50-year medallion around my neck at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, I knew then that I had served my country well.

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The trip to New Orleans was an all-day affair.  I passed the examination and they informed me that they would let me know when to report for basic training.  We left Louisiana for the Ozark Mountains again to play another circuit.  The next Christmas, the band members wanted to go home for the holiday.  Some went to Ohio, and some went to New York.  They wanted me to go to Ohio with them, but I said no.  I wanted to see my folks in Tennessee.  When we left Missouri, I left the other members of the band in Memphis, taking a Trailways bus via Nashville to get home to Baxter.  I had been away from home almost four years.  I had a two weeks visit at home, and then a notice came for me to report to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for basic training.  My folks had little to say about my leaving for basic training.  After all, I had been away from home for almost four years.  That may have helped some, but I am sure they had deep thoughts about it.

The year was 1952.  I traveled to basic training by another Trailways bus, going from Baxter via Nashville to Fort Jackson.  No one that I knew traveled with me to basic training.  It was an uneventful trip, stopping at towns along the way for rest and refreshment.

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Basic Training

When I arrived at Columbia, a few miles from Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, I boarded a military bus from the base that took us to the reception center at Fort Jackson.  It was mid-fall of 1952.  From the reception center, we were assigned to a training company.  Sometimes new recruits stayed several weeks in a reception center.  There could be many work details at the center: police call, picking up paper and cigarette butts; KP, kitchen police; barracks guard; CQ runner, in charge of quarters.  NCOs were in charge, with a trainee runner.  There was the filling out of many forms, medical records, Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) tests to see what field of training we would fit into best such as medics, cooks, MPs, infantry, administration, or special services.  Later in my military career, I grew to dislike a military reception center deeply.

That first evening, I was in line to draw linen for my bunk.  It was raining and I was mad because I had been drafted.  While standing in line, Faron Young, the Grand Ole Opry star who had finished basic training and was assigned to special services, came down the line in the rain asking for musicians to join his band.  His famous hit song at that time was, "Going Steady."  In my anger, I kept my mouth shut and did not step out and let him know that I had just come off the road playing with the Conger and Santo Players as lead vocalist and guitar player for about four years.  I have often wondered what my military career would have been like if I had taken him up on the challenge.  He has been dead now for quite some time.

I was assigned to Love (L) Company on Tank Hill at Fort Jackson. Tank Hill was, and is, on a hill.  I do not know what the degree of incline is.  A big water tank was at the top of the hill with big letters, "Tank Hill" at the top of the tank.  I think that "A" Company started at the top of the hill and "B", "C", "D", "E" and so on ended at the bottom of the hill.  I was in "L" company.  We were about mid-way on the hill.  That means "M" company would have been next down on the hill.  I am not positive about "A" company at the top of the hill or at the bottom of the hill.

Some of my instructors were from World War II.  My barracks drill instructor was a PFC graduate from an earlier training group.  He was sharp and he was rough on us, but he was fair.  I had one run-in with him.  We were marching to the machinegun range for the .30 caliber water-cooled barrel weapon.  There was a jacket around the barrel that held water to keep it cool and prevent it from melting down from rapid fire.  I was carrying the water can that contained the water to pour into the jacket.  The weather at Fort Jackson was like most of the military posts across the country.  The wind blew a lot at Ft. Jackson, and blowing through those tall pines it moaned.  So while marching to the range, the wind was blowing hard and whistling underneath our helmets.  He gave a left flank march.  Due to the whistling underneath my helmet, I did not hear the command.  I kept doing a direct ahead march.  He threw his helmet at me and missed.  I didn't say anything, just kept my mouth shut.  Next morning while shaving in the latrine, he was shaving next to me.  He rattled off a few words about it. I turned and looked at him and said, "You'd better thank God you didn't hit me."  I figured I had had it, but he didn't hold it against me.  I meant to bang him royally with that can.  I had no more trouble with him.  His name was Gross.

My field first sergeant was a SFC from World War II.  He got wounded at the onset of Korea, and was sent back and later assigned to a basic training company.  He showed us his bayonet wounds on his back.  We took note of that.  He carried a  xylophone mallet around with him and used it to discipline.  When we were in formation and at parade rest, feet about 36 inches apart, hands at the small of the back with finger extended and joined, we weren't allowed to curve our fingers or bend them.  He silently walked behind us, and if he caught a finger or thumb curved or bent, he gave the knuckle a thump with that mallet.  He caught me with my thumb curved.  He tapped my knuckle and every nerve came alive in my body.  While standing at parade rest today, I still remember to keep my fingers extended and joined.

Basic training was from sixteen to twenty weeks of training.  I had about eighteen to twenty weeks of basic training myself.  We learned the nomenclature of all small arms that were in the military arsenal at that time.  The films in the classroom showed assembly and disassembly of the weapons.  Then we went through the assembly and disassembly of the weapons by the numbers.  After classroom instructions, we went outside and practiced all of that in a training area.  I was trained to use the .45 caliber pistol, the M-1 rifle, the .50 caliber machinegun, the .30 caliber machinegun, also the .30 caliber water-cooled machinegun (mentioned earlier), the M-1 and M-2 carbine, also the 57 recoilless rifle, which was a larger weapon.  It took three to four men to carry it.  It was broken down as barrel, tripod, and ammo bearer.  There had to be precise training on this weapon.  We functioned as a team with it.  We trained on the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR).  The point man in a squad used it for rapid fire support.  We also had to train on the use of the "grease gun," which was a type of weapon that men assigned to tank units carried.  Also, we trained on the 60MM mortar, a three-man assignment: base plate, barrel and ammo carrier.  We also trained on the 80MM.  It took four to six men to carry it broken down.  It was a larger weapon.  We also were taught how to use a flame thrower and hand grenades.  I was trained with strictly infantry training.  We trained on the very dangerous weapon, the Bazooka--the one with the back blast.  Extreme safety had to be practiced.  Discipline was rigid because a mistake could cost lives.

The classroom films contained information on training hazards in the field, like snakes from the Pit Viper family, poison oak, poison ivy, poison sumac, and ticks.  There were films on hygiene showing how to keep the body clean, how to treat blisters rubbed on feet from marching, and on how to recognize and deal with heat exhaustion or sunstroke.  We learned how to care for frostbite and the general run of first aid.  There were films on how to recognize the enemy that we would be fighting, and how to recognize their military vehicles and personnel.

Besides watching films, we learned about the Geneva Convention rules--how to treat prisoners and how we were supposed to be treated by the enemy if captured.  The rules were not always followed in the realities of war.  I feel that we got the best training that could be given at that time.  Thank God for that. The small arms instruction that I had in basics has stayed in my mind all these years.  I practice safety to this very day.  I do not point a weapon at a person unless I intend to kill them.  I don't believe in playing or joking around with weapons.

Our days were regimented in basics.  First thing in the morning when it was time to wake up, the DI would put on the lights in the barracks and bang the wall.  He said, "Let's go.  Let's go."  We had better hit the floor when he said that.  We had only so many minutes to get dressed and fall out into the company street for roll call or head count.  They checked to see if all were present or accounted for.  If someone had gone AWOL overnight, that would be taken up by the company first sergeant and company commander.  We were dismissed to go back into the barracks, make bunks, shave, and put the barracks in order.  We also had to make sure the latrine was left clean.

Then it was off to chow or breakfast.  We had about one hour to eat.  Breakfast consisted of cereals, eggs, sausage, fried potatoes, milk, orange juice.  We also had S.O.S., called by many GI's, "Shit on a Shingle."  It consisted of gravy and ground beef poured on toast.  I liked it myself.  We did not have it every morning.  Once a month, we also had cold cuts, the sandwich meats, vegetables, bread, milk, tea, coffee.  There was no cooked meal that day.

After chow, we fell out for formation again.  Sick call was given for those who needed to go.  During work call, some were assigned to special details.  Some had medical appointments. Our training was broken down into so many hours of certain types of training for that day.  Maybe the first two hours were marching movements and formation.  There were so many hours on the machinegun range and on all the other weapons.  This progressed as the days and weeks went on. Basic military movements had to be first and foremost for the first three or four weeks of basics.  A man had to learn how to march.  It took about four weeks to smooth out a platoon or company, how to march smoothly, and finally precision toward the end of basics.

I already had some knowledge about rifles.  My dad had taught me the safety and use of the .22 rifle, as well as the 12 gauge, 16 gauge, and 410 shotguns.  He taught me how to hunt for small game like rabbits, squirrels, and quail.  He taught me how to be a crack shot with the .22 rifle, and right aim with the shotgun.  I qualified many times on the military firing ranges as expert and sharpshooter.  (At retirement in 1991, I could still fire a deadly volley.)

Lights went out about 10 o'clock at night on weekdays and maybe at 11 o'clock on Saturday nights.  Free time was spent cleaning weapons and writing notes home.  Sometimes a platoon was sent to the motor pool for special detail or to clean weapons.  Of course, there was guard duty.  That came later on in basic training.  A young trainee had to learn all of the basics of guard duty.  He had to know all of his duty orders by number before he was put on guard duty.  Guard duty was serious business in the Army.  You didn't play around on guard duty.  It is still the same today in the armed services.

Barracks were inspected each day while we were out training.  (If those old barracks could talk, what stories they could tell.)  If things needed to be corrected, we were told about it that evening during formation in the company area.  If shortcomings in the barracks kept coming up, we had a G.I. party--cleaning in general at night after all-day training.  We learned to keep our own area clean and orderly.

Sometimes we were awakened in the middle of the night for a special training instruction.  That trained us to be ready any time day or night for anything that might come up, especially in combat--all of us.  We trained to endure long hours.  It paid off in combat.

Our instructors in basic training were strict and precise.  If we did not do it right, we went through the exercise until we did get it right.  And sometimes we got a lot of chewing out (or as they say in the military, "Reaming Out").  I think sometimes they used an auger or a brace and bit (ha ha) for the chewing out.  There were times that I wished that I wasn't there.

At times the instructors used corporal punishment.  It was given out to let us know that all of us had to work together as a team.  We were taught that we could not accomplish the objective if we were divided.  I found that so in combat.  All must work together.  One man's goof could cost several lives in combat.  The instructor might give extra duty in the mess hall at night, or cleaning weapons detail, cutting grass in the company area, or extra drill ceremonies as punishment.  Sometimes they gave Article 15--strictly restricted to the company area.  Sometimes we were also disciplined as a whole platoon.  The whole platoon would be taken on a night march, or restricted to the company area.  If stealing took place in the barracks or in the platoon, caught or not caught, the whole platoon paid the price for one man's infraction.  The lesson to be learned:  You don't steal from each other.  For the most part, you could have your money or valuables on your bunk and they were never bothered.  Your buddy could also put his valuables under your bunk dust cover and not worry about them.  Not so today!

We really did not have much discipline for doing wrong in my company.  All of us tried to do what was right.  I do recall one incident.  One young fellow would not take a shower.  He had a dirty neck and ear wax hanging out of his ear.  So the word got to DI Gross.  He said, "Men, you know how to take care of that.  Give him a G.I."  We asked him again to take a shower, but to no avail.  One night we all crawled the infiltration course.  It was wet and cold, and when we got back to the barracks, it was late.  The fire had gone out in the boiler that heated the water to our barracks.  I, like the rest, turned cold water on, and ran under the water for as long as I could take it.  We all showered in cold water, but that one young man went to bed wet and dirty.  He got sand all over his bed.  That did it.  Two or three days later, we told him to take a shower or else he would be G.I.'ed.  He rattled off smart remarks.  We threw him into the shower.  We used a G.I. brush, G.I. soap, and some scouring powder.  We rubbed the blood out of his skin.  That helped for awhile.  I ran into him in Korea.  Same old thing: dirty neck, wax hanging out the ears.  I don't know whatever happened to him.

I was never personally disciplined severely for anything while I was in basics.  I made it a point to stay out of trouble.  My mother and dad had taught me to do right.  I remember one humorous incident, however.  DI Gross assigned me to buff the first floor of the barracks.  I told him that, being a country boy, I had never used a buffer.  I probably would tear the wall out.  He said, "Get hold of it.  You're going to learn how to use a buffer." So I did.  I thought it would tear out the side of the walls, along with the upright support beams.  He did not get mad at me.  I learned how to use a big buffer, and I think about him today when using one.

Church was offered in basics.  We were called into formation and marched to the chapel.  The chaplain delivered messages on morals, ethics, discipline, and problems that we would face away from home while in the Army.  All of us had to take advantage of worship on Sunday, because we were required to attend.  That was military regulations at the time.  The instructors did not breathe down our necks while we were there, but they did keep eyes on us to make sure that we did not nod off to sleep.  If a soldier did nod off to sleep, one of the DIs would tap him on the shoulder and motion for him to stay awake and pay attention to the chaplain.  They were not rude about it.  When we marched out of the chapel and back into formation, they encouraged us to pay close attention to the words of the chaplain.

Besides church, there were "Character Guidance" subjects and classes given in the 1950s and 1960s on the moral and ethical problems we would face.  There were classes and films on moral issues and how to possibly solve them.  Sometimes they asked a question on how we would solve a particular question or problem.  (I called them hanging question marks.) Sometimes these classes were held in the chapel by the chaplain, and sometimes the classes were held out in the field by trained instructors.  These types of classes were done away with later in the 1960s.  Many of the subjects and classes helped me.

Fort Jackson, South Carolina, was sandy with tall pine trees.  It got hot in the summer and cold in the winter there.  Thunder storms were heavy in the summertime, and there were ticks, chiggers, sand fleas, sand flies, mosquitoes, snakes, poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac.  Most the basic training posts in America were that way, I believe.  There were always some animals around the field training area.  There were deer, fox, skunks, and opossums.  They always caused trouble for the basic trainee or DI or whoever.  There were certain fevers caused by ticks.  They included the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Q Fever, Lyme Disease, and Tularemia.  The swamp areas had the snakes: cottonmouth, rattlesnake, copperheads and coral snakes from the pit viper family. Chiggers could cause bad trouble if they got on and buried into your skin, particularly at the top of boots and around the waist.  They could cause solid sores.  Today the Army has good repellent for this.

Toward the end of basic training, we had to qualify in a proficiency test--a test that was given on the weapons that we trained on.  If passed, we were assigned to the infantry.  As I mentioned much earlier, at the entrance of basic training, we had to take a battery of tests to see which field of service we best fit into, such as supply, infantry, electronics, transportation, chemical field, and others.

We also had a certain amount of fun in basics.  At times the physical fitness tests and exercises were funny.  Competing against your buddy, trying to get everybody in unison, the shape and position some got into--you couldn't help but laugh.  The hardest thing about basics was hoping to do everything right.  There were so many things to learn in a short period of time.

There was a ceremony after basic training was over.  We spit-shined boots, got uniforms in top shape, and had a company parade.  We marched past the grandstand on the parade field.  Some trainees' folks got to come and see their sons graduate.  What a beautiful scene: a battalion of soldiers on a parade field, passing in review.

I left basic training feeling that I had been trained to fight, but I can't say dogmatically that I was as prepared as I would like to have been.  I was stronger physically, quiet and reserved, and my head had been trained to accept life or death, because I knew where I was going next.  I came to appreciate my instructors after I got to the combat zone of Korea.  I thanked God many times for them and the rigid training they put all of us through.

Some men could not take basic training because they could not physically take it.  Some could not take it mentally.  There was one in my platoon that went AWOL while in basic training.  His last name was the same as mine.  I did not know him.  He was from Georgia, but I don't know what part.  We were in the sixth or eighth week when he left and I never did see him again.  I don't know why he left.  Probably he just couldn't take it.  It takes guts to be a soldier--especially a career one.

I went home on leave after basics on a 10 or 15-day delay enroute.  I visited my loved ones and dated some.  I wore my uniform while at home, and the townfolk always made comments on the uniform and how fine I looked in it.  We did not talk much about the war when I was home that week.  My mom and dad didn't know anything about Korea.  They didn't know where the place was.  Yes, my folks were concerned about me and my safety.  I am sure that they thought that I could be killed.  Any man headed into combat who is not concerned is either an idiot or a fool.  There is a gut feeling that only those who experience it can understand.  Two combat soldiers can relate to each other.  I have never met a civilian who I could relate to about the gut feeling of walking into combat.

After leaving home, I went to Nashville, Tennessee, on a Trailways bus.  I went to the Nashville airport and boarded an airplane for Fort Lewis, Washington.  I remember two things in particular about the flight.  We flew over the Rocky Mountains.  That was an experience for a country boy.  I also remember the plane hitting air pockets.

At that time, we were at war.  I had no other training in the United States.  My country said go - and I went.  My advanced training took place in the battlefields of Korea.

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Shipping Out to Korea

I left for Korea the last part of December 1952.  The name of the ship that I sailed on was the Marine Lynx.  It was a one-stack job.  It was a troop ship, and only operating personnel were in charge as best as I can remember.  I think it could carry about 1800-2000 personnel - maybe 2,500.  I think that only Army troops were on it.  We were packed like sardines, and I think we were escorted by submarine.  I could be corrected on that.  Only people were transported on the ship as best as I remember.  Naturally, food supply had to be transported.

I had never been on a ship of any kind, but I didn't get seasick - at least not going over.  I got sick coming back because of my stupidity.  Many others got sick going over.  Men have died from seasickness.  There is no way that I can relate to you unless you have experienced it the vomit, the smell, and the misery.  There is a smell that I cannot describe when men are vomiting all over the place - in cans, over the rails, wherever.  I thought that the young man that bunked above me was going to die.  I helped him all I could.  He made it.

We ran into a hurricane or a cyclone, and I thought all of us would be killed before we even got to Korea.  It was so bad that everything had to be tied down and locked tight.  The only person who could go on deck was one of the ship personnel, and he had to be strapped into a harness and guy line tied inside to pull him back inside.  I had never heard such moaning and squeaking out of steel in my life. We looked like a rubby-dub-dub floating in the Rocky Mountains.  That shook me up for sure.  However, I also remember that when the weather was good, it was a wonderful pleasure to be on deck and see the dolphins and porpoise play alongside the ship and then pass and leave us doing 17 knots.  That was a great thrill to this ole country boy.

On the trip, there was card-playing for entertainment, as well as writing letters, telling jokes, and getting to know men from all walks of life and finding out what states they were from.  I didn't know anyone on the ship.  There were movies shown on certain nights.  We had chapel service.  We could check out books for reading pleasure.  So there were quite a few things to do -- and there was duty to pull, also.

We crossed the International Dateline, but there was not all that much to it.  The ship's commander came over the PA system and told us that we were crossing the dateline.  I think he mentioned the beautiful mermaids and dragons of the sea.  Then we were issued a wallet-sized card with mermaids and dragons on it, with the name and date that we were initiated into a certain order.  I carried mine until I wore it out.

The only duty I caught going over was for the most part cleaning the latrine and helping to keep the bay clean.  I also had to keep my own area orderly and clean.  That was about it for me.  Many others pulled a lot of details going over.  I caught mine coming back home.

We did not sail straight to Korea.  We docked at Yokohama, Japan, on Tokyo Bay in Central Honshu.  It took 18 to 20 days to get over there.  Once we arrived, military personnel were vehicled out to Camp Drake, Japan, from Tokyo.  We hand-carried our records with us.  Our 201 file was checked and we were assigned to a division.  I was assigned to the famous 2nd Infantry Division--the ole Indian Head.

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First Days in Korea

From Camp Drake, Japan, we boarded a troop train and rode across the country of Japan.  Then we boarded a ship at another port for our journey to Korea.  We arrived early afternoon at Inchon, Korea, about the middle of January or first of February in 1953.  We were slowly taken off the ship and transported to a staging point where we were assigned to different companies of different divisions--like the 2nd Infantry Division, the 24th Infantry Division, the 3rd Infantry Division, the 25th Infantry Division, and others.  My first impression of Korea was that I had arrived in a war-torn country that had been destroyed by artillery, bombing, and other large weapons.  I could tell upon my arrival that we were in a war zone.  Just about all of the homes and buildings had been destroyed.  War is Hell.  It just destroys.  Period.

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I was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division back at Camp Drake, Japan, but not to a company, regiment, platoon, or squad.  That was done at the staging point after getting off the ship in Korea.  I was assigned to B Company, 2nd platoon, 1st squad, of the 9th Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division.  We were transported to our outfits by trucks, half tracks, Jeeps, and some by tanks.

My regiment was at Pupyong-ni.  The men in the 9th Regiment had pulled back from the front lines for some training and replacement troops.  The subjects taught during the training were basic military subjects, such as map reading small unit tactics, use of the compass, foot marches, and soon included attack and defense problems on the snowy hills, made more realistic by the rattle of machineguns and the crump - crump of the mortars.  You can never forget the sound of it.

I was briefed about the critical situation of combat and told that I would be pulling guard duty.  Guard duty was very serious in combat situations.  To slip up there would cost lives.  The North Koreans were very good at slipping through the lines.  At times some of the companies found a man with his throat cut while sleeping in his sleeping bag.  That's why guard duty was such serious business.  I was fortunate to get some of this training, because it prepared me more for the weeks ahead.

I did not complain about the position and job I was assigned to do.  I was taught in basic training to obey orders, and that is what I did.  The young soldier is quite different today.  (The Special Forces don't have that kind of problem today.  They are close knit.)  Morale had to be kept at a high point for efficient operations. I always did my job to the best of my ability, and it paid off.

At this point, I met a sergeant that was from my home town.  I did not know him, but I did know his sisters while in high school.  He found out I was from Tennessee, and asked what part.  I said Baxter, and he said, "I am from Baxter also."  We hit it off.  He asked me what weapon I had been assigned to.  I told him the 57 Recoilless Rifle.  He said that he thought he could get that changed, so he did.  I was assigned to his squad and the 60mm mortar.  I gunned on that weapon until I left Korea. This sergeant was Ridley Cole.  He took me under his wings and taught me the ropes.  I have thanked God for him many times down through the years.  I was a replacement soldier, and Ridley was one of the seasoned combat soldiers in my company who helped me when I got to it.

I was apprehensive about going into combat.  If I had had advanced basic training, I still would have been apprehensive.  I think any man living has some fear of dying, I don't care how much hot air he blows through his nostrils.  He still has fear.  Like I said earlier, there is a gut feeling that only a man walking into possible death can know.  I cannot relate this feeling to anyone reading this memoir, nor can they know it or feel it unless they are walking into possible death.  It is easy to blow hot air, but when walking into combat and maybe death, there is no hot air blowing.  Some of the biggest men that walk upon the face of this earth prayed and ate dirt like I did, saying, "Oh God, get me out of this mess." I think I can truthfully say that there are no foxhole atheists.

The weather when I arrived in Korea was cold and wet.  I remember training in rain, ice, snow, and the rice paddies.  Not long after I got in country, the weather went into the rainy season called monsoon.  And I mean it rained in downpours.  Several weeks of this went on.  Spring came and the rain tapered off.  Then it was summer.  Summer got hot in Korea--up to 105 to 110 degrees and humid.

We were in the hills, valleys, and mountains.  The hills and mountains in Korea looked like the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee and the Rocky Mountains of the west in our country, but they were maybe higher.  I was so high in the mountains in Korea that I had a feeling I cannot explain looking down into the valleys and rice paddies.  There was some vegetation--trees and shrubbery, although much had been destroyed by bombing, artillery, and the dropping of napalm.  Napalm burned and destroyed vegetation.  I remember that there were azalea in Korea on the mountains.  One of the most beautiful scenes I have ever seen was when they were in bloom in the spring of 1953 and 54.  They were pink, red, and white.  I wish I had a color picture of them, but I don't.

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To the Front

After the training, we headed for the Kumwha and Chorwon Valley up in the north.  I came close to losing my life in the valley near Hill 1062 known as Papasan--Pike's Peak Hill 597.9.  I also served in the Boomerang sector.  I have never been so cold in my life as I was during those following weeks in Korea.  At night the temperatures were 40 to 60 below zero.  I was so cold I just about wanted to die, but I kept fighting on.  I hope and pray anyone who reads this memoir never has to be that cold.  Some of this cold is being experienced by our men in Afghanistan now.  I can relate to it.

I saw the enemy about two or three weeks after I got over there.  Through field glasses we could see them throughout the day.  The Forward Observers (F.O.) could see them day and night.  They were positioned out in front of everybody else on listening posts where they could warn us of an attack and enemy movements.  The first round of fire I came under was in the Kumwha Valley.  The Communists threw everything they could at us, I think. We had to retreat about two miles and re-group.  I don't know how many men were lost at that time.  I had a close call that round.

60mm Mortar Bunker, early 1953. Scarlett manned a 60mm mortar.
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Since I was assigned to a 60mm mortar, I did not see as many dead as the riflemen did in front of me.  We fired over the heads of the front lines, and killed men who never did get to the Main Line of Resistance.  After about two or three weeks on the front line, I could see the helicopters lifting out our wounded and dead every day.  Our helicopters were small at that time.  We called them the "Bumblebee."  They could lift out three and four at the most at one time.  Oh, what a great difference today.  So many more lives are saved.

We never liked seeing the dead, the wounded, or the dying.  I do not like seeing a dying or dead retired veteran today.  I hold a military funeral from time to time here in Nashville, TN.  There is a gut feeling that I don't like.  Seeing the dead, you cried and wept, but you carried on.  All the mental agony came later.  Later, many went out into twilight zone and never came back to reality.  I have so far had only a few flashbacks.  As I get older, that may change.  I pray not.

My first few days on the front lines were spent digging trenches, building bunkers, and stringing barbed wire.  This was done many times with incoming mortar and artillery rounds dropping all around us.  Many were killed doing this kind of work.  You did not have to be in hand-to-hand combat to be killed.  One afternoon, my company was in a valley in the Chorwan Valley area.  It was sometime in April of 1953, just a couple of months after I arrived in Korea.  The enemy was on the forward slope of a hill to our left.  My squad and company were in the valley and we were very visible to the enemy.  They opened up on us with heavy weapons, mortar and artillery about mid-afternoon. They blew up a water trailer that I was standing near.  There were only eight or ten steps between me and death when that happened. Their fire was heavy and deadly, and we knew that there was a possibility that most of us would be killed if we didn't take cover.  We were ordered to withdraw, re-group, and prepare to advance on the same position again.

I made a misjudgment while trying to find cover.  I ran into a decline that had barbed wire in it.  I got tangled in it, and that slowed me down and almost cost me my life.  Although rounds were falling all around me, I managed to get out without a scratch, but for a while there, I thought my time had come.  By the grace of God I made it out of that one, but wondered if I would make it through the next one.  I do not know how many men we lost that day, but I do know that I did not lose any of the men in my squad. Our squad leader ran out on us that day, leaving ten of us to find our own way out.  When we regrouped, I felt like killing him.

I saw the Air Force planes bombing the enemy and strafing them.  I highly praise the Navy for the accuracy of their big coastal guns (or weapons) that they used to prepare a hill or mountain for us to go in to.  Many lives were saved because of them.  The spotter planes dropped red or yellow smoke bombs on the enemy, and the Air Force did the bombing.  A lot of time, our artillery was also called in.

Although I was new to combat, emotionally I held up well.  But I did have times of fear, always wondering, "Am I next?  Will the next round get me?  Will a sniper pick me off?"  The thought of stepping on a trip mine was always there, too.  As I said earlier, only a fool or an idiot would not have fear in a situation like that.

I was armed with an M-1 carbine, a .45 pistol, or M-1 rifle, six to eight grenades attached to the field gear, and a gas mask.  I had to be armed while gunning or manning the 60mm mortar.  If I were to be overrun, I could defend myself--live or die.

In Korea, I learned "on the job" that we as men had to depend on each other.  That meant trust.  I might be the one that could keep my buddy from being killed.  He might be the one to keep me from being killed.  You paid close attention to all orders of operations and instructions.  We had to make sure that our weapons were operational at all times.  A faulty weapon could cost lives.

During my first three months in Korea, my company stayed in one place for four or five weeks.  We moved and set up operation, and then maybe we would be ordered to replace a tired and fatigued unit.  We were in danger most of the time.  We never knew what was going to happen next.  The North Koreans picked certain units and hit them, with all hell breaking loose when they did.  Sometimes it would be us and sometimes it would be one of the other companies they hit, so there was a high state of alert at all times.  That was something you did not learn in basic training.

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Weapons Lesson

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There were nine to eleven men per squad and there could be from forty to forty-four men per platoon if it was all full strength. But due to combat, there was usually less men than were needed.  Only when first committed to combat was the platoon up to full strength, and even that did not sometimes hold true due to the shortage of trained men.  Replacements did not always come easily.

There were eleven men in my squad.  I was assistant gunner on the 60mm and a big black soldier from either North or South Carolina, who was over six feet tall, was gunner.  The gunner set the sights for firing the weapon.  I proofed him on the setting and then we waited for orders to fire.  There were two or three men who were ammo bearers.  They carried three to six rounds on a pack board, depending on how much ammo was at hand.  Orders to fire most normally came from the company commander through the first sergeant to the platoon sergeant and to the squad leader--then fire weapon.

In the heat of combat, it did not always work that way.  Sometimes we had to fire at our own will.  If the gunner got killed, it would be my duty to step into his place.  If I were killed, the ammo carrier would have been the person who stepped into my place.  We were all trained to operate the 60mm.  The other men in the squad were placed as support or guards around the 60mm.

The 60mm supported the line company and the line platoon.  A platoon of 30-44 men could have two 60mm per platoon.  I am not sure how many were assigned to a company.  There were one or two 57 recoilless rifles to a company for support.  It was a heavy weapon that was broken down and carried by four to six men.  If there was a shortage of weapons, you made out the best you could with what you had, and prayed to God to survive.

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The various weapons we used were: 60mm, 57 recoilless rifle, M-1 rifle, M1-2 carbine, .45 pistol, and grenades.  The 60mm was broken down into three pieces--base plate, tri-pod, and tube.  It was carried by three men.  The 57 recoilless rifle was broken down into two pieces--barrel and tripod--and carried by four to six men.  It was a very heavy weapon.  The gunner and assistant gunner for the 60mm picked a spot for it to be set up.  We would not set up in open space or on the forward slope of a hill if it could be avoided because the enemy could spot us in open space much easier than if we set up behind a hill.  We didn't want to be sitting ducks for the enemy.

Ammo carriers helped prepare to set up the weapons.  The ground had to be leveled.  No trees could block the flight of the round fired.  We had to have an opening so that the round we fired could have free flight in an arching pattern.  A short round could kill several of your own men and a tree in the line of fire could cause the round to detonate or explode in flight.  We could set up behind a small hill and fire over it.  That way, we had more cover and protection.

We worked with the 57 recoilless rifle the same way.  All the men in the squad helped to set the weapon up if they could, but the gunner and assistant gunner and ammo carrier did most of the setting up. The gunner set the sighting and the assistant gunner checked to see if it was correct.  The ammo carrier placed rounds to be fired near the assistant gunner.  The assistant gunner prepared the round to be fired.  When the rounds were ready, I tapped the gunner on his steel helmet and said, "Ready."  The gunner said, "Fire Round One."  I replied, "Round on the way."

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Dangers & Problems

The 60mm and 57 recoilless were easy to fire, but they were very dangerous.  The 57 recoilless had a back blast, so we had to be careful of that.  Nothing could be in the way behind.  We were quick to adhere to all the safety precautions.  Still, there were other difficulties that had to be surmounted with the use of these weapons.  Because it took more than one man to carry the various parts, if just one got separated from the others, it created a problem.  The three men carrying the 60mm mortar in my outfit did not get separated.  We were fortunate to stay close together.

The tube or barrel of the 60mm could be fired without the base plate and tri-pod.  You could place the tube on solid rock, hold the tube between your legs while sitting down, and elevate it by hand and sight.  It worked, but it was very dangerous to do that.  If it is a live or die situation in combat, men will do what they have to do.  In a rice paddy, you couldn't fire it that way.  The water and softness of ground hindered firing the weapon.

The 57 recoilless rifle could be fired at almost ground level, providing you had open range, but not so with the 60mm.  There had to be clearing above so as not to block the flight of the round.  It had to arc to its target.  The distance of the 60mm round was determined by powder increments attached to the round to be fired.  Not so with the 57 recoilless rifle.  It fired a shell-cased round.  The 60mm could be carried into firing when the enemy approached too close to the line troops, or whenever else it was deemed useful or necessary.

Prior to joining the 60mm platoon, I had been trained on the 60mm and the 57 recoilless rifle at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.  In Korea, I learned that the biggest problem with the 60mm and the 80-81mm was preparing position to fire.  If possible, 180 degrees had to be selected for setting up, and sighting could be very delicate.  You did not want to fire upon your own troops, so sighting had to be accurate.  Once positioned, firing orders and directions came from the forward observer (FO) at an outpost.  An outpost or "listening post" was in front of the line troops.  The FO gave firing orders (coordinates and azimuth on firing direction) to the company CO, and then they came down to the squad and platoon.  The platoon sergeant gave the squad leader orders to fire so many rounds of HE or WP.

Weapons did not function well if they were dirty or rusty from rain.  Weather-related problems also resulted if the weather was 40 to 60 below zero.  The weapons froze up.  The M-16 of today is even more sensitive.  Ask the Vietnam vets about it.  I trained on all from M-1 rifle, M-14, and M-16 rifles during my career.  As far as I am concerned, the M-16 was the most barbaric weapon in the military arsenal for small arms.

While on duty in Korea, I had a misfire or a round that failed to fire.  This could happen to something as seemingly small as a broken firing pin, faulty ammo powder (damp or too old), or a worn tube, but the results could be disastrous.  A worn tube could cause a round to fall short and kill some of your own men.  It happened.  Also, to take a misfired round out of a 60mm was very dangerous.  The tube had to be taken loose from the base plate, but not loose from the tri-pod.  The base of the tube had to be lifted upward slowly while the assistant gunner had both of his hands holding around the top of the tube, thumbs and forefingers circled so that as the round slowly slid out, it slipped into circled fingers without the plunger hitting your fingers.  If the plunger was activated in the round, it could explode.  You could kiss all of it goodbye.  Some men became nervous and let the round slip out of their hand.  It then would explode.  Sometimes a round could fall out of the hand and still not explode.  While taking out a misfired round, I thought about eternity and the next world, and I did some praying also.  Again, any man who says he didn't pray while in combat in Korea is a lying fool.

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The rounds for the 60mm were the same size, but I don't remember their weight.  There were three types of ammo used: High explosive (HE); White phosphorus (WP); and Smoke.  HE rounds exploded and shrapnel flew in all directions.  It could be set for air burst or ground burst.  WP could also be set the same way, but it was especially effective when you got an air burst that spread over a wide area and fell onto the enemy.  White phosphorus could burn through a body, burning the enemy (or ourselves) alive.  Only stopping the air to the phosphorus would stop the burning.  A handful of wet mud placed over the spot could help extinguish it, for instance.  Smoke was used for cover under enemy fire, and it was very effective in combat.  Many lives were saved due to smoke coverage during combat.

The 80 or 81mm mortar, which were a level above the power of the 60mm mortar, used much bigger rounds, but they were fired on the same principle as the 60mm, and used the same type of ammo.  Artillery rounds were bigger, and the Navy used big guns on the coasts to support troops in combat.  The rounds they fired were huge.  They did a good job supporting us, and so did the Air Force.  Today, the fire power is much greater and more advanced due to the use of helicopters and the weapons in them that were designed especially for supporting ground troops.

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Weapons Repair

If the weapons broke down for some minor reason, generally the gunner and assistant gunner could repair it.  But if a major repair was needed, such as a worn tube or barrel or the sighting levels had a problem, they had to be repaired by the trained armorer.  These specially-trained men were assigned to repair small arms in a unit.  A trained armorer was an integral part of all artillery units.  Some of them were assigned permanently to units and some of them merely visited units to repair weapons.  The armorer was a very important soldier in the Army during the Korean War.

Normally the tube or barrel had to be replaced if it was defective.  Also, the tripod could become so damaged that it had to be replaced.  New firing pins had to be made to replace defective ones.  There were some spare parts on hand, but if they weren't available, they had to be ordered through supply channels.  Supply had its  own section for weapons maintenance.  Sometimes supplies were not easy to come by.  So many units requesting repair parts at the same time could cause a shortage.  This could be very dangerous for combat troops and units.

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On the Front Line

During my time in Korea, I was mostly up in the Kumwha and Chorwon Valley in a section known as Boomerang.  Hill 1062, better known as Papasan, and Hill 597.9, Pike's Peak, were located there.  At times, we were in some hill locations, but these were mountains, not hills. I was north of the 38th parallel, and then later south of the 38th.

In the Boomerang sector, we were always digging in or fighting, building bunkers and setting weapon positions, stringing barbed wire, or preparing for the next fight or possible fight.  One that stands out in my mind most vividly was in the Kumwha and Chorwon Valley near Papasan.  We were attacked from our front in the afternoon.  We were hit so hard that we had to move back for about two miles.  That one almost cost me my life, and yet, by the grace of God, I did not get a wound.  A water trailer was blown up so close to me, only a small bunker saved my life.  You could put both fists in the holes that were blown into the trailer.  I don't know how many men we lost that afternoon.

We also guarded the tungsten and coal mines in Sangdong-Yongwol.  We relieved the 160th Infantry of the 40th Division.  This job of security was so critical because it could have been blown up at any time, but it wasn't.  The material that came from these mines was used for explosives, in ammo, and for other uses.  The danger was that we expected sabotage or possible bombing of the mines.  All of us guarding were very sensitive to the danger of our assignment.  All of my company was involved in guarding the mines.  I don't remember the size of the mines, I just know they were large.  We were armed with the M-1 rifle, the .45 pistol, the M1-M2 carbine, and the BAR.  We also had the 60mm and the 80-81mm artillery positioned in case of needed support.  The grease gun that the tank crews carried were used, too.  The grease gun fired the same size of ammo that the .45 pistol fired, only it was a larger weapon than the .45 caliber pistol.

The guarding hours of duty at the mine was 24 hours a day, two hours on and two hours off if the company was up to strength.  It if wasn't, a shift might run twelve hours on duty.  I was a guard there in the early part of 1953.  I remember that one of the problems of guarding the mines was that some villages were nearby and some of the women made their rounds to offer their services.  Our orders were to not accept the services of these women.  I don't recall any serious happenings with that, although I'm sure that some soldiers found a way to oblige.

At times, we had a change of command in my company.  I don't recall that much about it.  I was concerned about staying alive, and it didn't matter that much to me.  Most of the officers in combat made good leaders, although sometimes you had a rinky-dink.

The Thailanders were attached to us. They were good fighting troops who were not afraid. We also had the Turks from Turkey. They did most of their fighting at night with knives and machetes – silent death. They were friendly, but you left them alone. The French were there. They did their part of fighting. The Canadians from Canada were there also. I think we had soldiers from Australia, too, but I could stand corrected on that.

Most of the enemy soldiers were young, although there were some older ones in their ranks. They fought well, and although they fought in the day, it seemed that they fought more at night. They doped up and came with a yell. They were armed in much the same way we were--small arms, hand grenades, and artillery pieces.  They were very accurate with their weapons and because of that their weapons ere effective.  They had a lot of dud rounds in their artillery that did not explode.  They must have had poor powder for their artillery and mortars.  Thank God for that.  My company (B Company of the 9th Regiment of the 2nd Infantry Division) never suffered extreme casualties during the months that I was with it.  Unfortunately, other companies did.

No one in my company was taken POW that I know of while I was serving in it.  We managed not to be taken or captured.  There was always concern about being captured--how will I take it?  Can I stand up under the torture?  Will I break?  Even fear crosses the mind.  You didn't talk about it.  You just waited to see what happened.  You only carried your dog tags and the Geneva Convention card on your person, so you see, they had to use torture to pull information out of you.  I won't say what I would have done if I had been captured, because I don't know.  I won't blow any hot air about it either.  By the grace of God, my time did not come to be taken POW.

We merged South Koreans into our units and trained them to fight as we Americans fight. They made good soldiers. They now have a tremendous army today. Their "White Horse" division fought in Vietnam and racked up some outstanding history. The American soldier is probably the greatest fighting soldier in the world, unless it would be the Turks and commandos of Israel. I’ll leave that to the historians to decide.

I was fortunate to have never lost any of the men in my squad. I know the company lost men, but I don’t remember who. I also don’t remember the names of the medics who were in my company. They just did their job and they were good at it. A good medic was loved by most of the men in a company.

The weather in Korea got cold in the winter. It was 40-60 degrees below zero sometimes, and as mentioned before, that kind of cold weather could cause your weapon to malfunction. In the spring it rained like monsoons. It got hot in the summer, but the fall was pleasant. The flowers were beautiful in the springtime. Above all, however, the cold of Korea remains strongest in my memory.

We wore our regular fatigues and regular underwear spring, summer, fall and winter. For very cold weather we wore long handled underwear, our regular fatigues, and then over them we wore a cold weather pair of lined trousers made strictly for cold weather. The wool sweater could be worn under the fatigue jacket, our field jacket with liner, and parka lined with fur which was very warm. We also wore head gear that was helmet liner, steel helmet, and a pile cap underneath which was made of wool and polyester. That was also very warm. We also had a wool scarf that we wore around our neck and over our mouth and nose. I have had icicles hanging down from my scarf five or six inches from breathing moisture through the mouth and nose. I pray to God that anyone who reads this memoir never gets that cold. I got so cold that at times I felt like dying, but I kept pushing on. Forty to fifty degree below zero weather didn’t make it easy. It was common for the temperature to drop that low at night in the northern part of Korea.

For the footwear we had our regular combat boots that we wore in basic training. They were leather. As long as you kept moving you were okay, but if you had to stand or sit for long, your feet would freeze. I came close to losing my right foot from the ankle down, and my right leg from the knee down. I kept moving and would not give up so I did not lose them. I have a circulation problem in them now. The mountain boot was issued to us while I was there. They were thermal and lined so air could circulate inside the boot. That was a great improvement. If you stood in water, snow, or ice for too long, you could get trench foot. Your feet could literally rot off and make it necessary for amputation.

I was sick in Korea. I had dysentery so bad that I passed blood. It was rough. I also had an impacted wisdom tooth cut out. I thought I had been kicked in the head by two mules. My jaw looked like it had two golf balls inside my mouth. My buddies always liked to joke around about things like that.

When we were on the front line, the 1st Marine Division was to our right flank and we had field radio contact with them, as well as messengers, I think. The Marines are one of the elite fighting outfits in our military make up. They will fight to the last man. They were fighting to stay alive and hold ground as the 2nd Infantry Division was trying to do.

We had some tank support but our greatest support came from the artillery a good distance to our rear. The 105mm weapons mounted on jeeps gave us much-needed support at times. This 105 was mounted on some tanks also. It was larger than a 80-81mm mortar, and fired somewhat like the 57 recoilless rifle.

When we dug in for the night, we dug as good a foxhole as we could in a line or half moon shape.  We set up our mortars and 57 recoilless weapons and positioned the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) for support.  Then we positioned the riflemen, strung barbed wire, and tied tin cans to the barbed wire.  When the enemy got into the barbed wire, the cans rattled and the lead would fly.  Many times night vision equipment would tell if enemy or animals were in the barbed wire.  A flare was sometimes shot from the mortar and an air burst would light up the area and give information on what needed to be done.  There was no lighting cigarettes and no flashlights unless you were covered with a blanket where it could not be detected by the enemy at a distance.  We had some infra red equipment, but not like today's.  We set up a listening post out front.  What was detected by the guard at the outpost was passed on to us, then we decided what to do from there.  The terrain always played an important role where and how we would set up also.

Sometimes civilians became problems to units if they were close to towns or villages. If the women gave the come on or were willing to sell or give away that "Booger", there were soldiers that wouldn’t turn it down. Children could be a problem begging for food. Stealing could and did take place. You had to set up tight security.

We saw helicopters used by other units to take out their wounded and dead.  They flew over us almost every day and sometimes at night after a heavy fire fight.  It was strange how the North Koreans and Chinese soldiers would attack some units more than others.  It is a sound you never forget when a battle takes place across the hill or down the valley from you but they don't attack you.  You know all hell has been let loose on some other unit.  Some of the companies in the 9th Regiment lost almost all of their men.  Somehow my company was spared of that.

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I had never worked with blacks before I worked with the black gunner in my company who was from South Carolina.  My first contact and working with blacks was in basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.  I did not know what prejudice was, let alone to feel prejudice.  I was just a plain ole dumb country boy.  We had a few blacks in my company.  If there was prejudice or dislike from whites toward the blacks, I did not notice.

I do remember one black soldier from Chicago who was a mean rascal.  He would not take orders from anyone.  I do not know what ever happened to him.  A platoon or company of soldiers does not like troublemakers.  I do know that the black soldier served well in combat in World War I and in combat in World War II, and after reading some 70-75 volumes on how the military role helped win the American frontier west, I know that the black soldier has played an important role.

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Everyday Life in a Combat Zone

Scarlett and a buddy in Reserve, early 1953.
(Click picture for a larger view)

While on the front line, we did not get to wash and shave very much.  We filled our steel helmets full of water out of a rice paddy, small creek or large stream, and washed off as best as we could.  The soldiers called that a "whore's bath."  Sometimes we bathed in small streams and rivers if they were nearby and safe.  I went for weeks without a bath in Korea.  When we were pulled back in Reserve, we could get a hot bath or shower and change of clothes.  There were shower points set up for that.

On line, we washed our clothes in a rice paddy, and sometimes we washed the small clothes in the steel pot.  When we had the chance, we washed our trousers in a creek, river or rice paddy, then laid them out on a flat rock and used a smaller rock to pound the dirt out.  In Reserve, we exchanged our dirty clothes for washed clean clothes, hoping that we would get the right size.  Unfortunately, it didn't always work out that way.  Sometimes we ended up with a size or two too big, but at least they were clean.

Shaving created a problem because when we were in combat, heating water was not an easy thing to do.  Starting a fire to warm the water meant there would be fire and smoke.  This could give a position away to the enemy, but some did it anyway.

While on the front line, we ate C rations out of a can.  These pre-packaged meals consisted of corned beef hash, sausage patties (so greasy that most of us did not like them), beanie weenies (beans with franks cut up and mixed in with the beans), spaghetti and meat balls, and canned fruit (pears, peaches apricots and fruit cocktail).  We were issued packets of food that consisted of one can of the meat type mentioned above, one can of fruit, a plastic spoon, a package of coffee, sugar, salt, crackers, chewing gum, and a few other items. 

The food we ate in Reserve was different.  We had cooked rice, potatoes, vegetables, chicken, ham, bacon, eggs, pork, and sometimes pie and cookies.  It was always a treat to get a hot meal.  We even got one occasionally on the front line.  It was sent to us in marmite containers that kept the food hot.  What a treat!

We were instructed not to eat the native food because it was raised where they used human manure to fertilize the potatoes and other vegetables.  I did not eat vegetables that were grown in the ground.  Some of the soldiers did and as a result, they got intestinal parasites and dysentery.  But I did eat some peaches from the trees and some of the finest chestnuts I ever did eat.  I ate them because I knew that there would be no harm to my body (which there wasn't) and because I liked them.  Those chestnuts and peaches were the best things I ate in Korea.  I got them because we were going through the fields and orchards when they were ready to pick. The stateside food I missed the most was my mother's cooking.  She could cook green beans and potatoes and corn bread like no one else I knew.  I also missed a good old hamburger and milkshake, as well as a moon pie and R.C. Cola.

Life in the Army in Korea also was a time to make friends.  I became good friends to two buddies while I was there.  One was a guy named Whaley from Kentucky.  He played guitar and so did I, so we hit it off.  We took turns playing the guitar that we had.  The other fellow was Murphy.  I think he was from North Carolina.  He liked to hear me play the guitar.  We had to use commo wire to string the first two strings on the guitar until someone in our company went on R&R and maybe brought us back a set of strings.  All three of us loved country music.  As far as I know, both of them came back home safely.  I have not heard from them all of these years since I came back.

Lighter moments - Scarlett left, Trappier center, Jones right, last of 1952 or early 1953.
(Click picture for a larger view)

Although war was always serious to us, we tried to have lighter moments and the guitar helped supply them.  We picked some country music when in Reserve, told some jokes, and sometimes read our mail to each other.  We told about our families and tried to balance it out.  That is how we dealt with being in a combat zone.

Mail from home always helped.  At first I did not get my mail, but when I did finally get it, it was tied up in a bundle, there was so much of it.  I was glad to get it.  My mother and my sisters wrote to me, as did a girlfriend in Missouri.  I asked her to wait for me and we would get married when I came home, but while I was in Korea, she wrote a Dear John letter to me.  At 11,000 miles from home and in combat, a Dear John letter will un-gyro your head.  There was one soldier in my company who was thinking about re-upping in the Army.  When he wrote to his wife in California to ask her about the matter, she wrote back to him and said, "If you do, don't come home to me and the children."  He shared the letter with me.  It shook him up and he rotated home.

Packages from the States were a great morale booster.  We got packages from home with cookies and cakes.  Some came in good shape, but some were also crushed and stale. The fruit cakes seemed to make it okay.  Cookies and cakes were generally shared with each other.  I asked my mother to send a cross on a chain to me so that I could wear it around my neck.  My sisters picked one out and mailed it to me.  I wore it for a long while.  When I came back from Korea, I became a Christian.  I don't wear crosses today around my neck or on my body.  My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ bore the cross for me and I don't feel worthy to wear one.

I attended worship in Korea whenever I could.  Services were held in a field setting out in the open.  My mother had taught me to go to Sunday School and church.  I drifted away from it while on the road in show biz, but I did read my Bible in Korea.  Chaplains visited us when they could.  Sometimes there were not enough chaplains to go around.  During combat one chaplain might have several units he had to visit.  It is different now.  Today there are more chaplains to go around.

I  spent twelve months in Korea, but I don't recall celebrating any American holiday while I was there.  There was work to be done and we kept at it.  I had my 22nd birthday over there, but nothing special happened to mark it.  It was just another day being a soldier.  There were USO shows while I was there, but I did not get to any of them.  My company and regiment were for the most part on line or in fighting position.

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Funny (and not so funny) Stunts

Sometimes humorous things happened to break the boredom of being in a combat zone.  For instance, we had a young black soldier in the company by the name of Farmer.  He was from Buffalo, New York.  We were in a critical situation one day and Farmer was on guard duty.  One of the officers caught him sleeping at his post so they were about to court martial him.  They called him before the company officers and accused him of sleeping on duty.  He told them that he was not asleep on duty--he just had his eye lids at "parade rest."  They dismissed the whole thing.  He was a clown.  They all had a big laugh over that.

Farmer stands out in my mind because of another stunt, too.  This one was not so funny, and it was my fault.  I had just made corporal and some of my squad, including Farmer, were in guarding position.  It was night and pitch black dark.  We were expecting all hell to break loose that night and the words "Red - Bird" were the password and counter password for the night.  I eased out to check Farmer and his position.  He whispered "Halt" and gave the password "Red."  I did not give the counter sign, "Bird."  I took another step and he said, "Halt - Red."  I stopped and eased up another step or two.  He said, "Red" and I stopped, but I did not give the counter sign, "Bird."  I did that four times, I think.  The last time I heard the c-l-i-c-k of the weapon.  I readily spoke or whispered "Bird."  I eased up to him and I will never forget his words.  He said, "Scarlett, I came close to killing you."  I can still hear the click of that M-1 carbine to this day in the corridors of my mind.  I still have some IBM recalls.  The reason I did what I did that night in Korea was to see if he had any guts.  I found out very readily that he did.  Out of my own stupidity I came close to being shot and killed.  In my 35 years of military service, I never pulled another stunt like that.

Another time, we were going to Wonju (at least, I think it was Wonju) and we were traveling in a 2 1/2 ton military truck.  Several of us were in the back of the truck and the top was off of it so we could jump out if we were attacked.  While going down this dirt road, we saw a papasan with an ox pulling a loaded cart with some kind of stalks of grain.  The ox was pulling slow because the cart was so loaded.  Papasan was walking beside the ox.  As we passed the ox and cart, our driver backfired the truck engine.  The ox went crazy, bucking and pulling the lead rope out of papasan's hand.  He bucked and kicked off all that was on the cart.  Papasan shook his fist at us and I suppose cursed us.  The ox was still bucking and kicking when we drove out of sight.  I am sure the ox tore the cart up.

Papasan was not the only Korean that members of our company came in contact with.  Korean prostitutes came into the Army areas sometimes.  If we were guarding or holding in positions near a village, some of the women made their rounds selling their wares, and some of the soldiers bought their services.  Our orders were to leave the women alone. On the front lines, we seldom saw a woman.  In the rear area out of harm's way, I saw some American women.  They were not prostitutes, however.  They were Red Cross workers giving out doughnuts and coffee.  We appreciated them.

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Our Living Quarters

Bunkers we had to build in the Chorwon Valley in late 1952 and early 1953.
(Click picture for a larger view)

I spent some time in bunkers in Korea.  Inside of them, we had some ammo boxes to sit on and a can of water.  Our ammo was close at hand.  So were rats, snakes, field mice and weasels.  I enjoyed watching them play around the bunker.  Some of the weasels were beautiful in colors of cream, red, and mixed shades.  One night standing outside of my bunker, there was a big full moon.  I was watching a ridgeline for any movement.  I  kept hearing this "rattle, rattle", so I eased behind a big stump and l listened to that noise for about 30-45 minutes.  I couldn't spot anything, but finally I turned my M-1 carbine loose on a brush pile and riddled it good.  That stopped the rattle, but I got everybody else out of their positions.  I got chewed over that.  I could have caused many of us to be killed.  The next day I found my enemy.  They were two weasels--one cream colored and one red.  For all the bullets I fired, I did not kill them.

If good timbers were used and it was sand-bagged well, bunkers could stand a lot of artillery and mortar rounds.  But eventually they weakened and the monsoon rains caused some of them to cave in.  Then they had to be re-strengthened.  During the rainy season, they could and did become unsafe.  The bunker was leaky, wet, and uncomfortable during rainy season, but dry in the summertime and somewhat cooler inside than outside.  We could stand, sit, and even sleep in a bunker, but living conditions in them were crude.

Foxholes were even cruder, however, and they were uncomfortable living spaces.  They were depressions in the ground that we dug for ourselves, or they could be a crater hole from an artillery or mortar round.  There was not much room to move around in one.  If it was raining there was water to contend with.  A trench was just a long foxhole, sometimes dug so deep it was over my head.  They were in a long line position.  We dug out step-ups so that we could look out.  We also dug out notches so that we could sit down.  Trenches were wide enough to walk in, so that helped for exercise.

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Varmints Among Us

There were fleas and mites on the rats and mice that occupied the foxholes and bunkers with us.  They got into the sleeping bags and on our clothes, so we had to sprinkle a preventative powder on them to keep the fleas and mites off.  It usually worked.  Bites from the fleas and mites could cause a health risk called hemorrhagic fever.  There were many cases of this in Korea, but I don't know if we had any cases of it in my company.  There were cases of malaria, caused by the bites from the mosquitoes.  I saw some of the largest mosquitoes I had ever seen in my life in Korea.  They made the mosquitoes in the rice paddies of Arkansas look like small flies.  When those large Korean mosquitoes bit you, it felt like you were being bitten by a horse fly.

There were disease-causing bacteria in the water, too.  If we filled our canteens full of water out of a rice paddy, we had to use iodine tables to purify the water before we could drink it.  We carried these tablets with us regularly.

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A Break from War

For seven days, I got a break from war when I went on R&R to Kobe, Japan.  There was a serviceman's center there where there were games to play like ping-pong and cards.  There were also reading materials and writing paper so we could write home.  We could watch some movies, too. The Navy had a docking port there, and their facilities were available, if I remember correctly.  We also went out in the town.  Kobe had bars and red light districts with women readily available.

It helped to go on R&R. We could get some badly-needed rest for our bodies and minds.  I rolled all that had happened in Korea in my mind and put it together--what it was all about--while I was on R&R.  That helped me to go back and face what was still ahead for me.  Combat fatigue could cause you to get the feeling that you didn't care whether you lived on or died.  R&R was a catharsis to the mind and soul.

While leaving for R&R, I met someone I knew from my hometown.  I was in a waiting area to catch our flight to Kobe when I saw this red head bop up in the group.  I thought to myself, "I think I know that dude."  And sure enough, I did know him.  His name was Vinson.  We talked some and then went our separate ways.  I never saw him again over there, but I have seen him a few times since I came back home.

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Bad Habits Were Not for Me

I drank very little while I was a young man.  I drank a little while on the road in show biz, but all the drunks I ever got on, you could number on one hand.  I drank my last beer in Korea, giving what I lacked finishing to my buddy.  I have never had another drink since, not even during the rest of my years in the military. I was never a smoker either. What little I did smoke was rabbit tobacco, corn cobs, grape vines, corn silks, and burley tobacco.  I tried a few chews of chewing tobacco, but that made me sick.  I knew that tobacco was not for me.  I was never a gambler and didn't play cards or dice.

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The Natives

The contact that I had with the natives in Korea was for the most part when they began to assign their men into our units to train them as soldiers.  They have a very good army today, but not so back then.  From a distance, I saw other natives, too.  Those who lived in the rural areas lived in huts made of mud and stone or rocks.  The roofs were made of straw and they used straw for flooring.  These homes were crudely put together.

I did not see any prejudice toward the South Koreans that I recall.  Certainly we had no use for the North Koreans and the Chinese.  Our job was to kill them while defending South Korea.  Back then, I really did not know what "prejudice" was, but I think I have learned a few things about prejudice after 35 years of military life.

At the time I was serving there, I never gave it any thought wondering if Korea was a country worth fighting for or not.  After 50 years have passed, I have mulled it around in my mind.  I know now why I was sent over there.  When a South Korean walks up to me and says, "Thanks for what you did for my country," it makes me proud to have been a soldier there.

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A Job Well Done

The whole 2nd Infantry Division, that includes the 9th Manchu Regiment, was awarded the presidential unit citation from South Korean president, Syngman Rhee.  It was "for extraordinary valor in combat and excellence in training..."  Syngman Rhee tied the Korean Presidential Unit Citation streamer on the 2nd Division colors during the Indianhead Division's 36th anniversary ceremony.  A plaque was presented to the 2nd Division by the British Commonwealth Division as "a memento of the first occasion in history in which the Royal Artillery has had the honor to serve as part of a United States Infantry Division, Korea 1953."  The Royal Artillery supported the 2nd Division in the "Little Gibraltar" sector, as quoted from The Second United States Infantry Division in Korea, Volume 111, pages 3, 34.  We were awarded the Presidential Eisenhower Citation, which all of us are proud of in the 2nd Division

The most important award to me is my Combat Infantry Badge (CIB).  It takes thirty days in combat under fire to qualify for it.  I was awarded mine right away.  One of the company officers pinned it on my jacket in Korea.  I can wear it among any of them--the Rangers, Airborne, Special Forces, whoever.  It is honored among all of them.  For sure the Medal of Honor exceeds it, and I have no problem with that.  I have many other medals awarded to me down through the years, but my CIB takes first place.  I will go to my grave proud of my CIB--not arrogant pride, but to know I got it honestly.

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Going Home

My time in combat and Korea came to an end when the first sergeant made an announcement that a rotation list was coming down from headquarters.  He did not know who all would be on it.  When the list came down and was posted on the bulletin board, to my surprise, my name was on it.  I had been there a year already, but I really did not know how long I would have to stay unless I got killed or wounded.

During my last hours with the company, I turned in my field gear and got the paperwork done so that I could leave the company and go back to the rear.  I had mixed emotions when I left the company.  I was glad in that I had lived to come home, but I was sad in that I was leaving men who I had fought beside, slept with in the same tent or wherever we could find a place to sleep, and who had experienced the same hardships that I had experienced while I was in Korea.

I was transported to the area that I was to leave the country from by truck. There, I filled out more paperwork and got ready to go to the ship.  The standard procedure to process to go home was to have orders cut (some had "special orders").  You carried a copy of these orders all the way back to the States.  A copy of them also went into a soldier's permanent 201 File.  I left Korea sometime in August of 1954.  My rank when I left was corporal.

Some departing soldiers had to have shots before they could leave the country or get on the ship.  I had to take a series of pills for a while coming home.  All of the men had to take them--two or three pills a day for 12 or 15 days.  They were chloroquine tables to make sure that we would not take malaria and typhoid fevers home with us.  Every Friday the medics passed out primaquine and chloriquine tables, and it was mandatory that we take them.  The taste of them could make you vomit.  Some of the men tried to get around taking them, but an officer watched.  If you did not make the first round, you tried the second round.

I returned to the States on a two-stack job named the General John Pope.  There were Army and Marine personnel on the ship, as well as some Navy personnel and the ship's crew.  If my memory is correct, we had over 2,000 personnel on the ship.  The general mood was a mixture of gladness and sadness.  My personal mood was a mixture of happy and sad--I knew that I was finally going home, but my mind went back to the buddies I had left behind.  In time, I began to shake that thought.  I was going home!

I was assigned to kitchen police (KP) duty on the ship, pulling 27 or 28 days of cleaning pots, pans, and trays.  I washed pots that were so big I could almost stand up in them.  One morning I failed inspection on the pots.  The medics did the inspecting, and they could close down a mess hall or mess section if they felt that sanitary conditions were unsafe.  Grease could cause serious dysentery.  I know because I not only saw it, I had it in Korea.  The mess sergeant got chewed out because they found grease on the rims of a pot or two.  The mess sergeant said, "Scarlett, we won't fail another one."  He went to the supply room and got a bundle of rags.  I wiped the rims of the pots with a clean, dry rag after washing them in hot water.  We didn't fail another inspection.

It got hot down in the mess section on a ship, for sure in the kitchen section.  When I got hot and sweaty, I went up to deck side and cooled off in the sea breeze.  By the time we got to the States, I had taken a cold that took me three to four months to get all of the congestion it caused out of my lungs.  I almost had pneumonia.

I didn't like K.P. duty, but I did not grow to dislike it on the ship.  It was in a reception center that I grew to dislike K.P. duty.  I had to get up at 3:00 or 4:00 o'clock in the morning and start working there, and then I didn't get off duty until 10:00 or 11:00 at night.  They treated us like a herd of buffaloes.  As a result, I hate a reception center.

As I mentioned, there was a sea breeze on the return trip from Korea.  There was also not as much seasickness coming back as there had been going over there.  When I was enroute to Korea, the weather was bad, but coming back, the weather was pleasant.  On the trip to Korea, seasickness was no problem for me.  Coming back was another story.  An old salt told me, "Scarlett, don't miss a meal on the ship.  Eat the light bread and fruits they put on the trays and you will be fine."  I missed a meal and got hungry, so I went to the ship's PX and bought a chocolate bar and some peanuts.  That un-gyroed everything for me.  Sick -- I was SICK.  I think everything came up but the soles of my feet.  So today when I go deep sea fishing, I try to take some fruits, light bread, and crackers.  That taught me a lesson.  The old salt was right.

We made a straight shot back to the States.  If I remember right, we were on the water for 29 to 30 days.  We watched some movies, checked out some musical instruments, read books and magazines, played card games and dominoes, and had a lot of bull sessions.  Finally, we docked at Treasure Island, California.  We disembarked at the naval base there.  If I remember right, there were a few loved ones waiting for some of the Marines and what few Navy personnel we had onboard.

Seeing Mainland USA was very thrilling to me.  We came down the San Francisco Bay and under the Golden Gate Bridge, sailed past Alcatraz prison and on to Treasure Island.  It was very exciting.  We were processed off the ship by roster and left the ship in formation.  As soon as I got the chance, I reached down and patted good old terra firma.  Some of the men kissed it, which was all right by me.  I understood.

There was very little liberty after landing stateside.  There was more paperwork to be done before we could leave for home and our next assignment.  We were then transferred from Treasure Island to Camp Stoneman, California, an Army base.  We had more processing to do there.  After a while, we left in all directions for home.  I got on a troop train at Camp Stoneman and traveled all the way to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.  After more processing, I was on my way home to Tennessee for a thirty-day leave.

My training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, had served me well in Korea.  I came home alive in spite of the fact that I only had 16-18 weeks of basic training, and no advanced training at all.  After basic training, I had orders to be shipped directly to Korea and the battlefield.

Although I know that some guys went a little wild when they came back from Korea, I was not one of them.  It took me about three years to adjust, however.  I dated some of the hometown girls, but as I mentioned earlier, I drank my last beer in Korea.

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Next Assignment

Fort Hood, Texas, 1954.
(Click picture for a larger view)

After my leave was over, I asked to be assigned to the then 7th Army area, which was at Fort Ord, California.  I wanted to go back to California to see more of the scenery that I saw when we landed at Treasure Island upon returning from Korea.  They informed me that there was no opening, so I was assigned to the 6th Army area at Fort Hood, Texas.  I was assigned to a recon outfit.  I stayed in the infantry field about all the time, so to speak.  I was in the 1st Armored Division - tanks and half track vehicles.  We reconnoitered out in front of everybody but the forward observer people, who were out front of everybody else much like duty in Korea.

I did not dislike Fort Hood as a post, but I did have one set back there.  I got poison oak and poison ivy on me from being in a recon outfit.  I am highly allergic to oak, ivy, and sumac.  Today, I would ask for a hazard transfer.  Back then, I could not.

When I first got back from Korea, I had some trouble adjusting to civilian life.  I had to train myself to trust red lights at street crossings.  I had to learn to trust stop signs.  When I went into a pool hall, I kept my back to the wall.  I did not trust anything behind me, and wanted to always see what was going on in front of me.  At times I wanted to be alone.  I didn't want to be in the "flow."  I had to train myself to trust and mingle with the crowd.  That took time.

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Trouble with Bosses and Drunks

I stayed out of the military for about a year or maybe a little longer after I returned from Korea.  I stayed at home with Mother and Dad and my brothers and sisters for awhile, then I decided to go to Michigan and work a few months at Briggs (which was part of Plymouth and Chrysler at the time) on the east side of Detroit.  My job was assembly line work.  I worked on the line where they made quarter panels for the Plymouth automobile.  It was very hard work.  They tried to take advantage of me, thinking I was a dumb ole country boy with not much education.  With not enough help on the assembly lines, I had to do double work at times to keep the line going.  They did that to me for a few weeks.  I asked for help and sometimes they gave it to me and sometimes they would not.  One night I had had enough.  I pulled my gloves off, threw them on the floor, and sat down.  I think I closed down two assembly lines that night.  So they gave me some help.  I put up with that for six to eight months--the same old thing over and over.

On Mondays, most of those who got drunk and partied all weekend did not make it to work.  Finally, one Monday night I had all I wanted of the Detroit job.  They thought that with me being "a country rube", they could continue to mistreat me.  So I threw my gloves on the floor again and closed down three or four assembly lines that night.  The steward asked me what was wrong.  I told him that I needed some help.  He said that he could not give me any help and that I should put my gloves back on and go back to work.  I said to him, "If you think you are man enough, you put them on me."  He decided he did not want to do that.  He knew that I was ready for "bear, elephant or rhinoceros."  I had had it.

The steward got the foreman, who came to check out the situation.  The foreman told me to put my gloves back on and get back to work.  Again, I told him if he thought he was man enough, he should try to put them on me.  He also decided not to try it.  I told the foreman to take me to his office.  He didn't want to, but we started walking that way.  As we started to the office, he kind of got up near my face with a big dip of snuff in his mouth that was running out of the side of his mouth and down his chin.  He will never know how close I came to breaking his neck or jaw.  (I was a strong young man.)  When we got to the office, a young clerk was there and he asked the foreman what he was firing me for.  I told the clerk, "He is not firing me.  I quit."  When I threw my gloves on the floor, the clerk and foreman looked at each other kind of funny.  I said to the clerk, "Make sure you don't put on my slip that I was fired."  He pulled out a leaf on his desk and on a sheet of paper there were several reasons for leaving.  I pointed to the one that said, "Leaving the city."  While I was working in Detroit, I boarded with my aunt Ollie Brown, who was the wife of my mother's brother.  She was a widow at the time.  She owned her home there on St. Jean street east of Detroit.  I told her that I had decided to go back to Tennessee.

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My Future Wife

When I got back, I enrolled for a year of high school at Baxter Seminary in my home town of Baxter, Tennessee.  That's where I met my future wife, Ruth Lee Wade.  She was to graduate from the same school that year.  At first, I had no interest in her.  But she came into my classroom before class started and talked to me in the morning and between classes.  She knew of my dad and I knew of her dad, but I did not know her family personally and she did not know mine.  She kept coming into the classroom to see me, and finally those big blue eyes and her smile won their way into my heart.  I walked with her each evening after school as she caught a bus to her home.

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Troubles at Home

During this time, I had trouble with my dad.  He often drank, and when he got drunk, he got mean.  He stood at 6'2" or 6'3" tall and weighed 190 to 210 pounds.  He was strong as an ox.  I share this in my memoir with reservations, but the truth is the truth.  When he was not drinking, he was a wonderful person to know.  He was a good worker.  He did not have much of an education, maybe only six or seven years of schooling, and maybe not even that much.  When he was drunk, he came home and mistreated or whipped my mother and us kids.  We would all have to run outside of the house to get away from him.  I remember running out of the house in the wintertime in my drawers.  My brothers and sisters ran from him, too.  If you don't think that leaves some lemon taste in your mouth, try experiencing it yourself.

My dad was a sharecropper.  We lived on somebody else's place and tilled the land for them.  In return, we got one third of the crops that were raised--corn, tobacco, etc.  We also tended the livestock for the landowners.  We lived in some houses that were barely fit for animals to live in, let alone human beings.  You could see daylight from the cracks in the wall, and you could hear chickens scratching under the house. I have gone to bed at night and woke up the next morning with snow on the quilts where it had blown through the cracks in the wall during the night.  Mother quilted and we at least had warm coverings.  My dad could have done better, but he didn't.

I had been back from Korea for some time.  One night I went to Cookeville, which was about eight miles east of where we lived in Baxter.  We were living in a better house at this time, deeded to my mother from her dad.  I was with a friend and his girlfriend who were engaged to be married and did get married later.  I did not have a date that night.  I was sitting in the back seat of the car and enjoying the fellowship.  On the way back to Baxter, we stopped and got a milkshake.  There was a big, beautiful moon that night.  My friend and his girlfriend offered to take me on home from the little old town square about a quarter of a mile from the house.  I told them that I wanted to walk on home that beautiful night.

As I walked down the sidewalk of that small town, the sheriff, Mr. Maxwell, saw me.  He told me that my dad had gone home after drinking and was maybe causing trouble with my mother.  I walked on home.  When I got there, Mother was outside in the chip yard where we cut wood.  She was crying.  I asked her what was wrong.  She told me that my dad was after them - her and my brothers and sisters - with a rifle.  She said that he had threatened to kill all of us.  However, when he saw me coming, he threw the rifle down and ran.

My mind went back to the battlefields of Korea.  I grabbed the chopping axe and told my mother that I would chop him up like chord wood.  I started looking for him, and found where he had dropped the rifle.  I placed the axe back in the chop block and checked the rifle.  (Why he dropped it, I don't know to this day.)  I told Mother that I would find him.  She pleaded with me not to kill him.  I looked and looked, but I could not find him.  Finally, we went inside the house.  I told my mother that I would wait until he came back.  I sat down and cradled the rifle across my lap.  I waited and waited. I was not aware that he had slipped into the house and he had crawled under the bed.

Company officers and drill instructors at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, 1956. Scarlett is kneeling 2nd from left.
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There is something about a person who drinks.  They have to cough.  He coughed and that gave him away.  I checked the round in the rifle and seated it firmly.  I told him to come out from under the bed, but he said he didn't want to come out.  He told me that if I killed him, I would go to Hell.  I replied that we would both go to Hell, then.  I made him stick his head out from under the bed like a turtle.  I fired one round, missing him on purpose by only about one or two inches.  I did that to show him that I was the one in control.  As I was seating the next round to shoot him between the eyes, I told him, "You have mistreated us off and on for most of our lives."  I told him that where I had just been, we played for keeps and I made it back home.  As I was getting ready to shoot him, the sheriff spoke to me through the screen door.  He called me by my middle name Wilson.  He told me to think for a few minutes before killing my dad.  I did think.  And I put the rifle down.  I told my dad that if he ever placed his hands on my mother again, Putnam County would not be big enough for him and me.  I told him that the next time he would need a casket and an undertaker, because the next time I would kill him.  And I meant it, too.  Sheriff Maxwell took me back to Cookeville and I got a warrant to put my dad in jail.

Ruth Scarlett, wife of James Scarlett. Photo taken on post, Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, 1957.
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It wasn't too long after that that I went back into the Army (1956) and started my 35 years of military life.  After going back into the Army, I carried hatred for my dad for three long years.  I hated him with a passion.  But after becoming a Christian, I knew that hate would destroy me.  Due to an eight-year obligation, I had joined a National Guard unit in Cookeville, Tennessee, when I returned from Korea.  After the trouble with my dad, I requested to go back to active duty.  I was assigned to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for the second time.

Before I left Tennessee, I asked my girlfriend Ruth if she would wait for me until I got out of the Army and marry me.  She agreed.  I left for Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, and then was assigned to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.  While I was stationed at Fort Chaffee, I was faithful in writing to her and she to me.  I dated another girl at Fort Smith, Arkansas, a couple of times, and another fellow back in Tennessee came close to winning Ruth.  I got my act together, bought rings for Ruth at the PX at Fort Chaffee, and went home on leave.  Ruth and I got married on 23 June 1957.  This June (2003) will make 46 years we have been married.  Ruth has always been okay in either place I served - the military or the ministry.

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Accepting Christ

While in combat in Korea, crawling in mud, snow and ice, I had prayed like other men did: "Oh God, let me live to get out of this and I will live for and serve you."  So I lived to come home.  If I had gotten killed in Korea, my eternity would have been Hell.  Although God let me live in Korea, I started to drift from Him when I got back home to safety.  With women being my weakness, I did some things at the time that I am not proud of.  God took me to the woodshed for it, too, and when He did that, it was not like Dad using the razor strap in the woodshed.  Instead, it reminded me of Francis Thompson's "Hound of Heaven."  Like the rabbit beagle, the Hound of Heaven never loses the trail.  He always trees the bait.

In June of 1956, I was sitting in a small church in Baxter, Tennessee, with a girlfriend.  The preacher preached from the Old Testament, Ezekiel 37-8 Chapters, "The Valley of Dry Bones."  He seemed to preach my soul into Hell.  I could not take any more.  When the invitation was given, I got out of my seat and walked down the aisle and said, "Preacher, I am a lost man.  I want to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior."  He told me to get on my knees, which I did.  Christ forgave my sins from that day to this day.  I know where I am going when I leave this world.  I am going home to be with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

One Sunday morning at Barling Baptist Church at Barling, Arkansas, one mile from the main gate at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, I walked down the aisle of the church and told my beloved friend and pastor Dave Land, I want to surrender to the service of My God I serve.  We knelt and prayed.  Eventually, Pastor Land (now deceased) licensed me as a minister.  For over forty years now, I have been serving the Lord Jesus Christ.  My prayer today is, "Oh Lord God, don't turn loose of me now.  Hold on to me until I come into your presence."

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So Starts a Long Military Career

While I was at Fort Jackson, the officer in charge of personnel treated us like a herd of buffaloes or a herd of cattle on a trail drive.  He gave us detail after detail.  I recall one incident.  I had been assigned to a grass cutting detail.  A young black PFC was in charge.  I was corporal at that time, and made a suggestion to him, "Could we not cut the grass a little different from the way he wanted it cut."  He let me know that he was in charge (head honcho) and he would get my stripes--and he could have.  I gritted my teeth, clinched my fists, and kept my mouth shut.  Being a corporal and a combat soldier, I knew a young rinky dink could ruin my life for me.  That left some lemon taste in my mouth.

And there was another incident at Fort Jackson after I returned from Korea.  Another soldier had a name similar to mine.  If I recall right, he spelled his name Scarritt.  My name was spelled Scarlett.  When the personnel in charge wanted to call him, they called me.  They kept me at Fort Jackson longer than I wanted to stay.  They wanted to send me to Europe and I did not want to go at that time. I did have the option to stay stateside assignment.  You were allowed a stateside tour before you went back overseas.  After holding me about two months at Ft. Jackson, I was assigned to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas - a beautiful, small artillery and infantry training post at that time.  It is closed down now.

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Drill Instructor

James Scarlett as a DI
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The fellow Scarritt followed me to Fort Chaffee, and down there, the same thing that had happened at Fort Jackson happened there.  One morning all of us fell out for police call (picking up trash).  After police call, we all fell out in formation to go on other details.  Barracks guard duty was on a list posted on the bulletin board inside the barracks.  I had checked the list to see if I had barracks guard duty.  Scarritt's name was on the list, but not mine.  So at the formation, the first sergeant called me out of ranks and said, "Scarlett, the company commander wants to see you, and I don't know why."  The first sergeant and I went to the C.O.'s office.  The C.O. asked me why I did not report for barrack's guard duty at the back door of the barracks.  I said, "Sir, my name is not on the list."  The C.O. said to the first sergeant, check it out.  I explained that the fellow at Fort Jackson came to Fort Chaffee about the time I did.  I will never forget that the C.O. had the first sergeant put my name and the name of the fellow Scarritt on the blackboard in his office.  The C.O. said to me before I was dismissed from his office, "If you are called back in here, I will bust you."  He had the authority to do it on the spot.  So you see, not only do I have a lemon taste in my mouth, I hate a reception center.  I do not know how it is with the new breed we have today.

When I first arrived at Fort Chaffee for permanent assignment, I was kind of apprehensive about what I would be assigned to do.  I had to stay at the Reception Center for some time.  When they finally assigned me to Basic Training Company (D-3 BTC), I knew that I would be training young men.

At first, I did not feel at ease being a drill instructor.  My discomfort was that I was assigned with other drill instructors who had no combat experience.  I learned later from one of the DIs that they talked about sending me someplace else.  They did not think that I would fit in.  To the best of my knowledge, I was the only combat DI in the company - that may have been the reason.  I really don't know.  However, I showed them I was a soldier.  I put full swing into my many duties as DI, and I was platoon sergeant for over three years in one platoon alone - 2nd platoon.  That just didn't normally happen.  Some do well today if they spend six months to a year in the same platoon.  Some don't have it.  I don't know how many thousands of men I helped train.

Scarlett & Guitar - A little time out from DI'ing. James Scarlett and Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, 1957. Scarlett still plays music today.
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I lived with them in the barracks and in the field.  When a new group of trainees came in, we had to orientate them about military life, teach them how to make a military bunk, and inform them that they were restricted to the company area for three weeks.  I had to be nurse, doctor, Mom and Dad to them all, so to speak.  I trained all kinds of men--doctors, lawyers, psychologists, and many other types of professional men, both educated and uneducated.

I lived in the barracks with my men in the cadre room for over two years before I got married and moved off post.  I saw that they got bedded down at night and lights off on time.  If a young man had a problem at night, he could knock on my cadre door and come in and we would talk about it.  I saw to it that they got up on time.  In the morning, we had formation and roll call before breakfast or chow call.  I taught them how to fall in and out of the barracks for correct formation.  I made sure they were all present and accounted for, and checked to see if anyone needed to go on sick call.  Then after morning chow, they went back to the barracks, and finished making beds, and cleaning floors and the latrine. Then they fell out for formation again and work call or assignments and duty training for the day.

I taught new recruits the movements of close order drill, such as right face, left face, about face, forward march, right turn, left turn, to the rear, march.  All of these had to be executed by precision count and movement.  The Company Commander kept a metronome in the orderly room, and all DIs had to practice perfect timing for marching and close order drill.  It took about three or four weeks for the trainees to start smoothing out in marching--heads finally stopped bopping up and down.  Then you knew that they were beginning to become soldiers.  It made you feel proud.

I had to march the recruits to the training areas--the rifle range, grenade range, and the bazooka range.   I instructed them on the manual of arms--how to move their rifle from one position to another position in unison.  I showed them how to make their bunks or beds, and how to fire and handle their weapons.  I taught them the hygiene of caring for their feet on a 20-mile hike, and what to do if their feet blistered.  I taught them about the hazards of sunstrokes and poison oak, ivy, and sumac.  I instructed them about the pit viper family of snakes and what the dangers with them were, as well as the hazards of water.  I instructed them on how to put a mask on, clear it, and take it off in a gas chamber.  I instructed them on how to use the Red Cross to get permission to go home on leave if something happened at home.  I taught them how to have a G.I. party (how to clean the barracks) and how to display their equipment for a full field inspection.

A DI also had many chores or duties of their own to do.  All DIs had to pull Charge of Quarters (CQ) at night and on weekends.  That was where we had to fill in for the commanding officer (C.O.) when he wasn't on duty.  We DIs had an agreement to pull CQ from noon on Saturday to Monday evening once a month.  We did that for two years and then had the first sergeant change it back to a 24-hour shift.

I didn't have too much trouble with my recruits.  I only had one young soldier who I could not teach to smooth out the bopping up and down while marching.  I put him up front, in the center of the platoon, and in the rear.  I also gave him instructions outside of the barracks.  Finally, I put him on the rear of the platoon and kept him there until they graduated.  He never got the bop out of marching.

Occasionally there was a young soldier who did not want to obey all the orders.  For instance, he might only half make his bunk or he failed to sweep around his bunk area.  I informed these types that they had to correct the problem or I would assign him to extra duty, like kitchen police, cleaning weapons at night on his free time, restrict him to the company area, or make him work in the supply room.  I only had to help get two or three out for being unfit to be in the service.

Scarlett having mail call at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, 1956.
(Click picture for a larger view)

My combat experience helped me to be stern with them and to tell them the truth.  I did not curse them.   I made extra effort to teach them how to survive in combat.  All the extra effort paid off.  Many times when they graduated and were getting ready to ship out, they would tell me that they were proud of me for being good and kind to them and for always being fair.  At times when they were loading on busses to leave, I had to ease around behind the barracks and let the tears clear out of my eye ducts.  I did not let them see me cry.  The Army saw that as a weakness.  So be it.

I always stressed to my recruits to take their training seriously.  They would need it someday.  I loved my job as a DI.  When the Department of Defense decided to close Fort Chaffee, I helped close some of it out.  I was urged to go to Fort Ord, California and DI there.  I turned it down.  I had gotten married and decided I needed more schooling.  While I was a drill instructor at Fort Chaffee, I finished my high school through the United States Armed Forces Institute (USAFI). I attended these classes at Fort Chaffee.

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College, Preaching, & the Chaplaincy

My seminary work actually began while I was at Ft. Chaffee in 1956.  But when the base closed, I went directly to college in May of 1959 at Walnut Ridge, Arkansas.  Just prior to that, my wife gave birth to our first child, Myron Lynn Scarlett, born at Fort Chaffee Army Hospital on 30 June 1958.  My wife, son, and I moved to Walnut Ridge and I entered the two-year college there, which today is Williams College.  Dr. H.E. Williams was the founder of the college.  I came to know Dr. Williams personally.  He was a fine man and a good president to the college.

While I was in college there, our second child, Juana Lee Scarlett, was born at Walnut Ridge, Arkansas County Hospital on 3 March 1961.  When I finished at Walnut Ridge, I had an Associate of Arts degree in social studies. I then entered Arkansas College to finish all four years.  I took all of the required courses that all students had to take, even though I had surrendered to the ministry.  I graduated in 1961.

While there, I attended Barling Baptist church.  David Land, who I grew to love as a pastor, had advised me that if I was going to get out of the Army at that time, I should continue my education.  He recommended Southern Baptist College at Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. The students at Southern Baptist College had a deep respect for Army veterans.  There were several of us in the classes.  Most of the students at Southern Baptist College took their education seriously, but, of course, you will always find a few that don't give a rinky dink which way the wind blows as long as Mom and Dad foot the bill.

Pastor Land also introduced me to the Seminary Extension Educational program that all six seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention support.  I attended several courses with Pastor Land at Fort Smith, Arkansas. We went once a week and took one or two courses in theology.  I will always love him for that.

From 1957 to 1983, I worked on theology courses wherever I could get them.  During all of my college studies, I attended classes at Walnut Ridge, Fort Smith, Arkansas,  and Southern Baptist College (Arkansas College at Batesville), finishing my studies in 1983 with two diplomas from Belmont College, now Belmont University.  If all of my schooling had been in the Army--that is, in the chaplain's corps--and were to be evaluated, I would have a master's degree in theology.  That was a long haul.  I was licensed to the ministry at Barling Baptist Church at Barling, Arkansas, just one mile from the front or main gate at Fort Chaffee.

Meanwhile, during the time I was taking classes and being a young pastor who needed all the financial help I could get, I pastored the Floral Baptist Church, a rural church in the area.  Pastoring an old church can be difficult.  The church was around 100 years old, and the deacons and I did not get along.  I preached against sin, but some of the deacons and members wanted to live in it.  I held to the Bible (as I do today) and the deacons didn't like it.  They wanted me to leave.  I resigned and came back home to Tennessee.  That experience almost caused me to frown and turn my back on all that pertained to Christianity.  I almost became an agnostic.  I lacked a little credit finishing my fourth year at Arkansas College at Batesville, Arkansas (which is now Lyon College at Batesville), but I wanted to go back to Tennessee.

In 1964, my family and I settled in Nashville.  I asked the Nashville Baptist Association to help me, but they gave me a cold shoulder.  I came close to denying it all, but thank God His hand was in it.  He makes no mistakes.  He is always right, praise him for that.  Not long after that, I went back to the Armed Service and stayed until the end of 1991, serving--lacking 12 days--35 years of my life in the Armed Service of the United States.  It was a career of which I am proud.

I enlisted for two or three years at a time.  At each enlistment, when I took that step forward, I knew that signing up again could cost me my life somewhere in the world.  I am not sorry that I did it.  I would do it again.  I love my country - America.

My dad and I got our differences settled before he passed away with lung cancer on October 15, 1982.  Today I have no malice toward him.  I do have a little lemon taste in my mouth knowing that he could have done some things better, but thank God we got it settled.  I think it would have destroyed me if I had to carry the weight of hatred all of these years.  Becoming a Christian changed all of that.  How grateful and thankful I am that I went to my father and got the matter resolved.  I am not sure if he would have ever come to me to resolve our differences.  After that, we enjoyed each other like a father and son should.  We went fishing and we hunted together.  I treasure those times.

Today when I counsel young people (or older people), I tell them that if they have hate toward someone now, they had better settle it.  If they don't forgive that someone, how do they expect the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive them?  All will face Him in eternity, and what then?  I don't need a shrink, an egghead, or a theologian to explain to me about hate.  I know about it.  I experienced it.

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A Wide Variety of Jobs

I led a long and varied military career.  Among my duty assignments during my military career were: (1) the DI field - drill instructor, (2) the electronic field - a field I did not care much about, (3) the supply field - all kind of issue parts and warehouse or depot locating and issuing.  (4) I also served in clothing -  issue and inspection, which had a heavy and trying workload.  I was responsible for thousands of pieces of paper and records.  (5) I worked directly with Fort Campbell, Kentucky, while assigned to a National Guard unit here in Tennessee.

The highlight of my service was the twenty years I spent in the Chaplain's Corps as a chaplain's assistant (CA).  I served as CA to some good chaplains, but also one or two of them whom I felt were duds.  I give God the glory and praise for those years.  They exceed all the others.  I kept teaching the word of God and supply preaching, but I would not pastor a church.  The only way that I would pastor a Baptist church today would be if the deacons and I had an understanding before I even started.  The experience that I had at Floral, Arkansas, with the deacons was part of the reason I went back to the Armed Service.

During all of my 35 years of service, I only advanced in rank to Sergeant First Class.  I attribute this to the fact that I did not drink out of the same bottle or kiss on the same women as those who had the power to raise my rank.  Instead, I can say that I sleep well at night and I think I will die well at death.  I don't know about some of those who rubbed me the wrong way.

I spent time in the Chaplain's Corps at Fort Stewart, Georgia; Camp Shelby, Mississippi; Fort Monmouth, New Jersey; Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island, New York; Fort Indian Town Gap, Pennsylvania; Camp Robinson, North Little Rock, Arkansas; and Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver, Colorado.  I had some great training at Fitzsimmons.  My duties as a chaplain's assistant were to set up for services for the Protestant chaplain, Jewish chaplain, and in some cases Catholic chaplain.  My main job was to help Protestant and Jewish chaplains.  I made appointments for young men and women to see the chaplain.  I helped see that the bulletins for Sunday services were printed, kept the chaplain informed of his appointments, made hospital visits to the sick, took up offerings at the chapel for ongoing expenses, visited the troops in the field, and made sure that the chapel was cleaned after services.  The chaplain's assistant had a lot of work to do.  He carried a weapon, but the chaplain did not bear arms.  The chaplain's assistant had to keep abreast of training so that he could defend the chaplain.  I always had work to do.

I was discharged 28 November 1991 on my birthday, but I was not released until the end of December 1991.  At that time, my formal discharge became effective.

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I have had no trouble retiring from the Armed Service.  My mind was ready after 35 years serving my country.  Every once in a while, I see a scene that causes me to have recalls.  I refocus my mind and get on with it.  Some never adjust.  In 1995, we were on vacation at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  When coming back to Nashville, we drove by Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and stopped in at the PX.  We also drove by the old barracks area that I had trained in during basics.  I did not walk through the area.  I admit that melancholy briefly came over my soul while driving by.  This old soldier wants to go back and walk through the area before I die.

For now, I work three days a week for Advance Auto Parts.  I drive to the mechanics for them, delivering parts.  I also teach the Bible at Radnon Baptist Church here in Nashville, Tennessee.  I belong to the American Legion, 2nd Infantry Division Association, and the Korean War Veterans Association (KWVA).  I help them out at fairs and special events.  I stay busy.

I attended my first 2nd Infantry Division reunion in 2002, and I hope to attend more in the future.  The reunion of the 2nd Infantry Division was held here in Nashville, and was convenient for me to attend.  I have a desire to keep up with what is going on in the 2nd Infantry Division, especially with the 9th Regiment.

I have done a lot of playing guitar down through the years for my own pleasure and for friends.  One enjoyment here in Nashville has been playing nursing homes.  What a joy.  I am not playing as much as I did.  I have a catalog of quite a few songs I have written since I retired from the Army at the end of 1991, but I have not pushed for publication.  There are so many sharks and crooks in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Filing a VA Claim

I don't have any permanent disabilities from the Korean War, but I did file a claim for something that happened to me later in my military career.  A captain came close to blowing off my head with an artillery simulation while training at Fort Stewart, Georgia.  Unfortunately, the incident was not recorded or documented in any way.  When I began to lose hearing in both ears (the left side worse), I filed a V.A. claim.  I was turned down two or three times.  I went to the V.A. Hospital here in Nashville.  They said that I didn't get wounded in combat, so it wasn't a service-connected problem.

One day I returned to the V.A. Hospital and asked for some help.  I got treated like some dirt.  I told the fellow who treated me that way that I would fight to my dying day for the benefits due to me.  I left about half mad and I was ready for bear, elephant or rhino.  One night I sat down and wrote a two-page letter to my Congressman.  My wife didn't think he would answer it, but at least I stated how I felt.  About 14-15 days later, I got a letter from him telling me that he had contacted the V.A. Hospital in Nashville on my behalf.  In the meantime, I had the Tennessee Veterans Affairs file a claim to the Department of Veterans Affairs Board of Appeals in Washington, D.C.  That was in 1999.  On 10 March of 2003, it came back approved.  Nick Seats represented me.  He told me that my claim was one of the hardest claims to get accepted.  But I said, "Let's go for it."  We did and it came through.  I would not take no for an answer after serving my country for 35 years.  If you know of anyone who has to file a claim, tell him not to give up, Instead, he should hang in and hang on.  Never give up.

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Thinking Back on Korea

James W. Scarlett, 27 July 2003 at the Veterans Centennial mall 50th anniversary of the Korean War celebration.
(Click picture for a larger view)

Serving in the Army has shaped and affected my post-military life, but my time in Korea was the greatest thing that happened to me.  Out of that experience, I was led to Jesus Christ.  My strongest memories of Korea are of the days and nights that I did not know whether I would live or die.  My two feet and legs remind me of the cold and coming close to losing them.  My nerves remind me every day of all the tense hours I spent in a combat situation.  As I grow older, I am beginning to tremble more.

I recall that one time we were in Reserve, training to get ready to go back into front line combat.  We were about to be inspected by Gen. William J. Bradley, so we cleaned all weapons and set up for inspection.  General Bradley was brought in by helicopter.  I was set up and manning the 60mm mortar and was the first man he inspected.  I won't ever forget the question he asked me:  "Soldier, do you like to fight?"  I did not answer him.  I had my own reserved thoughts about that question, as I do to this day.

Much has been said about "war heroes."  As far as I am concerned, all who served in that savage mess in Korea were heroes.  We went 11,000 miles away from home to a country that many of us knew nothing about, including what we were fighting for.  When ordered to move into combat, there is a gut feeling that only two soldiers can understand.  It is a feeling that I cannot explain to civilians who have never experienced it.  They just don't know the feeling. You know you have to try and live through what you are about to face.  By the grace of God, I did.  There were times when I wished it would end and all of us could go home.  I missed my home, my folks, and being with the country music band that I had played with before being drafted into the Army.

But I think that the United States was justified in sending troops to Korea. At the time, I didn't realize it, but today I know. We said to the communist world that it was and is not for them to rule the world.  The war was bloody and gory, but they got the message.  I have not revisited Korea, but I would like to go back and see Seoul and the places where we did hard fighting.  Some of the fellows in the KWVA have gone back.  They say it sure has changed.

The great good I see that came out of the Korean War was that a great democracy was established there, and it shows to the world that freedom works.  It shows that the communist world and system is ungodly and doesn't work.  God created people to be free, not to be ruled by tyrants.  I think that we should have troops in Korea now.  The troops serve as a buffer effect to the communist world, causing them to think twice before they start another war.  It may not be that way for too many more years--time will tell.  China is rumbling.

I think that the reason that the Korean War carries the name "the Forgotten War" is because other veterans are like me.  We came back and kept our mouths shut for 48-49 years, talking very little about it.  I told my children and my wife about what it was like in Korea during the war.  I told them how cold it got in the winter, and how hard it was to fight in that kind of weather.  I told them about the rice paddies and the mountains and the hardships that we had to endure.

I also shared some of my experiences in the Korean War with the young soldiers I was training when I was a drill instructor at Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas.  I talk about it more now, like in this interview.  If someone comes across my memoir someday and wants to know what I think is the most important thing that came out of the Korean War, I want that student or person to know that we put a great W-H-A-M to the communist world.  We said to them that we did not intend for them to take and rule all the world.  We probably caused one of the most serious setbacks that the communists have ever experienced.  Freedom still rings out to the nations of the world because of what we did in Korea.

I saw Ridley Cole one time in the past 50 years at Cookeville, TN.  We talked a little and that was it.  He seemed to be bitter about Korea.  Being a Christian, I don't intend to be bitter, but I don't intend to be silent any longer, either.  My question is, "Why were we silent for all these 50 years?"


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