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Wayne Stamper

Wayne B. Stamper

Newberry, MI-
Korean War Veteran of the United States Army

"The unmanned portion of the hill gave me some concern, so I told the two boys,
'Don’t fire unless you’re sure of a target.'"

- Wayne B. Stamper

 


Wayne Stamper wrote the following letter in December of 1998, to Korean War veteran Tom Cacciola, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Wayne died August 2001, at the age of 73 years. Wayne’s daughter, Teresa Clark of Portland, Oregon, gave the Korean War Educator permission to post his letter on this website.


A 955 FAB Combat Story

By Wayne B. Stamper, LaPine, Oregon

"I was born December 27, 1927, in a small town named Newberry, Michigan. I left there in January 1941, and came to Oregon. I enlisted in the Army January 21, 1946, and went to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for basic with the 13th Mechanized Cavalry Recon Squadron. I was shipped to Europe May 1946. A bunch of us were screened for a special unit called the United States Constabulary. All personnel were handpicked and sent to various locations in Germany for special training. Upon completion of training, we were given the job of policing the American Zone of Occupation. Border patrol, criminal investigation, military police, search and seizure—you name it, we did it all. Also, we were a rapid deployment force capable of attack or defending against any aggressor from without or within. We drew the line in the sand facing the Russians, and held it. We were a 35,000-man force—the only unit in American history that never knew its homeland—conceived in Germany and de-activated in Germany. I feel honored to have served with it.

Upon returning from Europe in November of 1948, I enlisted in the Enlisted Reserve Corps. I was called to active duty September 1950, and sent to Ft. Ord, California, for processing, then to Ft. Lewis, Washington, thereafter shifting from one unit to another. I was finally with the 955 C Battery. We went by ship into Yokohama Harbor, Japan. Everyone thought we were going ashore, but after sizing the situation up, I told them we were getting the shaft and next stop – Korea! And so we did.

We landed in Pusan sometime in January 1951 (colder than a well digger’s butt in January). Our battery had quite a few ERC in it. No one hardly knew anything about manning a 155. We trained with sticks laid out on the ground to show where the trails were, etc. We did this until our guns arrived, then we fired them a few times and then loaded on an LST and went to Inchon, where we disembarked. Then we went up and fired missions for K Company, 19th Regiment, 24th Infantry Division (the 24th relieved the 1st Cavalry).

From then on things got hairy, as you know. We were firing close support when they were spearheading. They had a breakthrough on the flank and all hell broke loose. We were put in blocking position, firing point blank. The infantry was already bypassing us. Captain said, "Fire everything you’ve got as fast as you can. Everything in front is hostile." We just made it out of there. Through the time we were with the 24th, blocking seemed to be our name.

I don’t remember when we got with the 3rd Division. I know that on the way to their sector, we stopped long enough to stop some attacks for a ROK outfit. At one time we even threw a little lead for the Marines. When we were with the 3rd Division, we had several close calls. We were sent forward quietly (right) and took up positions in the night so as not to be spotted. The object was to get some flat trajectory hits on bunkers on the side of some hills. We started firing around daybreak, as I recall. We were engaged by some half-assed Gook artillery--I think four howitzers and one tank. Well, that was a bad mistake for them. We returned fire and took out the howitzers, but the tank hauled ass and was too hard a target, him moving and all.

We did this forward position bit several times. We fired for a while, then pulled back so they couldn’t get our position targeted. The last time up we were almost too late in pulling out. As I looked back, I saw shells hitting where we just left. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it. We fired our gun so rapidly or something, because it finally lacked about six inches going back into battery. We sent it into ordnance for repair. So three of us had to do perimeter of defense. I remember we were set up by our sergeant overlooking a ravine one night. (We should have been set up on the forward slope.) Anyway, there were two tanks on the hill beside us, and also a halftrack with quad fifties. They were firing forward. In the night, I saw what appeared to be some mortar rounds on our flank. I figured there was another break through. Captain called and verified this and said, "Don’t worry. You have the whole battery behind you." Okay, but the tanks moved back, the halftrack moved back, leaving the crest of the hill unmanned.

By that time, they were hauling infantry casualties through our battery positions, and they were hauling ass. We had a 30-caliber machine gun and some grenades. The unmanned portion of the hill gave me some concern, so I told the two boys, "Don’t fire unless you’re sure of a target." I told them I would go on top and try to cover them. I fixed bayonet and went up. Then I took a position so I could rise quickly—kinda low so I wouldn’t be easily skylighted. It was dark, but I could just make out the skyline, so I knew whoever came I would be able to see them. I intended to use the bayonet as long as possible so as not to give my position away so easily. I wanted to give the boys cover as long as I could. I remember I calmed down a lot. My one big concern was, what if a US infantry straggler came up. In a situation like that, one can’t very well call out a challenge. Others lives might depend on what I do. So I figured whatever came over I had no choice but take them out. A bad thought. I sweated some nights after that. As luck held out, we got M.O. Gives me the willies yet.

Tom, do you remember old Bed Check Charlie? He flew over our battery a couple times and dropped flares. It lit the whole battery up. The gun barrels shined like new money. I don’t see how they missed seeing us. Probably got a lot of light back in their eyes from the flares. Kinda spooky. (I got that book, "The Long Weekend." I saw your articles in it. Very interesting.)

I rotated back to the States in July 1951. Seems I had enough points to be on the second shipment. While I was on the boat coming home, someone said they heard on the radio that C Battery, 955th had been overrun and had taken heavy casualties. I never did know. Maybe I didn’t want to know. I felt kinda guilty—like I had run out on them. I carried this for some time. Maybe it’s time I knew for sure. You seem to be just the man that can do this for me. I’d appreciate it very much. Thanks for writing, and thanks for listening to some of my experiences. I hope I didn’t bend your ear too much. I don’t do this much, but sometimes it’s good to let it all out."

Your combat buddy,
Wayne

 

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