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"Following are some of my memories of my time involved with OP Harry during those critical days. This was written some time ago as part of an autobiography for my daughters. During the events following I was the commanding officer of G Company, 15th Infantry, Third Infantry Division.
- Emory Walker
My time in the 28th Infantry was in a trainee capacity for a week or two after which I was transferred to another regiment as cadre. One night I was the CQ (Charge of Quarters) and I was looking through various stuff in the office. I ran across the name of an old friend, Oscar T. Buchholz (who had been a member of St. Mark's Methodist Church in El Paso and had worked for MST & T Co. when I was a frameman). He was listed as the Field Officer of the Day. I called him and he asked where I was. I told him and he came over to my company. It was really funny, before Buck arrived my company commander, a 2nd Lieutenant, came into the office. When Buck arrived with his gold leaves and the FOD arm band my CO about died. Buck said he didn't want to see the Lieutenant, but had come to visit Emory instead. We saw quite a lot of each other while at Ft. Jackson and I often went to their house for dinner after church. Buck had been recalled after service during World War II. A little more about him later.
When I reported to the Leadership Training School I was really surprised to find my friend Buck was the commanding officer. Upon completion of that school there was an automatic promotion to corporal involved so I never was a PFC. When my orders for OCS arrived it included an automatic promotion to staff sergeant so I was a very short term corporal. I remember the First Sergeant of whatever company I was in at the time couldn't understand how someone could be promoted so fast after so short a time in the army. I reported to Fort Benning, Georgia in October of 1952 as a member of OC Class 11A.*
Until graduation day on April 21, 1952, I had experiences like I could not imagine. Because of how tall I was I was assigned to the first platoon. Too bad! The platoon leader and tactical Officer was a 2nd Lt. William H. Tyler, an SOB if ever one lived. He had just graduated from the Citadel that spring and had just completed his advanced infantry class at Ft. Benning. He knew all of the ways to make officer candidates eat dirt, and he did. He was probably the most despised individual among the company because he took sadistic delight in harassing every member of the company regardless of which platoon the individual was in.
Fairly early in our tenure in OC Class 11A the company commander put together a team to write and edit a class yearbook of sorts. I was very fortunate to be named the photographer for that effort. I requested permission to do all of the processing, printing, etc. of all the photographs and he agreed. This meant that I had to have a Class A pass to get off the post where we were stationed to go to the main post photo lab to do the work. What a deal! OCS with a Class A pass. The class book staff had a special room assigned to it which was never to be inspected by order of the commanding officer. That proved to be heaven. Bob Andrews was the editor (and we were room mates for quite a while) and had an affinity for bourbon, having been an INS reporter in Dallas prior to the army.
Having a car and a Class A pass proved to be a real benefit. I could make a run to the main post, do some photography work and swing by a nearby package liquor store. Of course, those bottles stayed in that never inspected room. Working on that class book was a real opportunity to meet and get to know everyone in the company. We had decided early on that our class book would be individualized rather than like some of the boiler plate stuff others had done. One thing this meant was a candid photo of every member of the class to appear along side his graduation picture. I still have my copy of the book and really cherish it.
The experiences of those six months in OCS are far too numerous to mention here, but a few highlights will have to suffice. The fall of 1952 was mostly spent in the basics of map reading, tactics, marksmanship, etc. The only remarkable thing was that I was top in the class with the M1 rifle, the carbine and the BAR having made the highest qualifying scores. With the .45 pistol I was lucky if I could hit the ground. I did respectfully well with the other weapons, light and heavy machine guns, mortars (60 mm, 81 mm and 4.2"), and even artillery. When Christmastime rolled around there was a question of whether we could go home or not. The decision was finally a YES. What a welcome break to some very serious tension. I managed to get back to El Paso via an air force hop and returned to Ft. Benning via train.
We had to report in no later than midnight on January 1, 1952. I remember I arrived in town that afternoon and fooled around until evening when I got back to the company. It took Lieutenant Tyler no time at all to begin the harassing again, even before we had to report back. We finally got to bed after midnight and to some very welcome sleep. I think it was about 4:00 or 4:30 in the morning when we were all aroused to be greeted with a major obstacle. It was customary to begin each day with calisthenics but this day was to be special. Double-timing was common, and running was not out of the question. This day, however, was both. At our early morning formation we were told we were going on a fourteen mile excursion. For the first seven miles we double timed and stopped for about a fifteen minute break. We then double timed for two or three miles on the way back but were stopped and told we would run the rest of the way. Anyone who failed to return with the rest of the company would be automatically expelled from OCS. We lost about one third of the class left at that time. (Several had been expelled for various reasons during the first three months.)
It wasn't too long after surviving that awful January 2nd that all of a sudden we were slated for an inspection by none less than General Mark Clark, Chief of Staff of the U S Army. What an honor? It seemed necessary to our Tac Officers that the company area needed some sprucing up and a new coat of paint. Of course, that was the order of the day (I really should say nights because that is when all the work was done) except we had no paint. That meant we "contributed" some of our meager pay with which to buy paint. Needless to say, that company area was a knockout when General Clark arrived. In fact, he was quite impressed. Somehow after that episode we managed to get a few coveted, weekend passes.
One of the things stressed during OCS was physical fitness. Every morning we did calisthenics and a lot of double-timing, running, etc. We had a couple of practice physical fitness tests on which I was only about average. Then came the three tests which were for the record. Those were really stressful but I managed to ace them. It seems that on the Saturday morning of our first record test I had two wisdom teeth pulled. It was pretty obvious, even to Lieutenant Tyler, that there was no way I could do very well on that test. When the second record test day arrived, another Saturday, guess what? I had the two remaining wisdom teeth pulled. Even with that I did manage to show some improvement over the first test so that was good. Improvement was the main goal. When the final test arrived I was near the top of the class in improvement because I had no more wisdom teeth to come out.
One of the evaluation techniques was to send candidates before an officer evaluation board. This was a dreaded experience because that board could summarily kick one out of OCS, send him back to another company or pass him along to continue with the class. My board experience was a real trying time. It seemed that most, if not all, of our platoon were sent before the board for any reason Lieutenant Tyler could dream up. I managed to survive and did graduate with my class. From that point on my one big goal in the army was to outrank Lieutenant Tyler, and I almost made it. More on that later.
April 21, 1952 was a BIG day. What was left of OC Class 11A were brand new 2nd Lieutenants, absolutely the lowest form of life in all of the army. That probably goes for the Marines and Air Force, too. Several of my class mates stayed on at Ft. Benning to attend parachute school. At that time I wanted nothing more to do with Ft. Benning so did not volunteer for that training. That is probably the biggest regret I have concerning my five years in the army - not learning to jump out of airplanes. I have regretted that decision ever since.
I was assigned to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri to the 94th Infantry Battalion (Separate) as a platoon leader. This was an interesting and good experience for a brand new 2nd Lieutenant. This unit was one of the last segregated units in the army with all black troops and about two-thirds white officers. The reason that training was so good was that everything that could happen did happen in that unit. We always had the best of everything on the post - best day room, best mess hall, best supply room, etc. On the other hand every problem that could come up in the army probably happened there. We had AWOL as a matter of course, summary courts martial of all kinds, many crimes both on and off post, general courts martial, and more company punishment that one could imagine. They were either very good or just terrible.
One of the nice side benefits of being assigned to this unit was the battalion commander. It seems he had a girl friend in Kansas City and wanted to spend the weekends with her. As a result he would always arrange for a night training exercise during the week and give everyone Saturday morning as compensatory time off. That was just great. Some of us from the BOQ had gotten acquainted with the Haggadorns who owned a lodge, or resort, on the Lake of the Ozarks. Bill Haggadorn had a problem in that the lodge had a great many single girls from Kansas City and St. Louis who would spend a week or two at the lake. Bill's problem was a shortage of young men for these girls to square dance with or whatever kind of dancing was to go on at the time. He also needed young men to escort these women on some of the hayrack rides, etc. So naturally, he encouraged us to spend our free time at the lake and to further encourage us he gave us everything at half price. Not a bad deal. I did meet some very nice girls this way but nothing developed in a very serious vein. It was during this period that I received my one and only proposal of marriage. Some girl thought I was what she wanted in a husband. I do not even remember her name or what she looked like. I guess it made only a small impression on me.
Another benefit of being stationed in the 94th Infantry Battalion (Separate) was that I got to go to Alaska. One of the platoon leaders had volunteered for Summer Arctic Indoctrination Training but was involved in an auto accident and could not go. At the last minute I volunteered to take his place and was soon on orders to proceed to Great Falls, Montana to connect with a flight to Alaska. In those days the train was the way to get around so I was off to Montana via Denver (the first time I remember ever being in Denver and then only to see the city from a train). I remember when we got to Billings, Montana they set the Pullman car on a side track and said we were welcome to sleep there for the night, a Saturday, as I remember. I know I left the train to wander around Billings and to have dinner somewhere. I was really shaken to see vast numbers of drunk Indians laying on the sidewalks, passed out. We were off to Great Falls early the next morning to meet our flight on Monday.
The trip on an air force C-54 was uneventful. We did stop in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada for refueling before proceeding to Big Delta, Alaska. The arctic indoctrination school was located in Big Delta which is about 90 miles or so south of Fairbanks. As I recall the first couple of weeks was spent teaching us technical climbing, that is using ropes, pitons, etc. This was really a blast because I had always done quite a bit of climbing in younger days.
We then had a weekend on TDY (temporary duty) to Fairbanks so we could see the sights. Two things really impressed me. First was the museum at the University of Alaska where an enormous Kodiak bear, stuffed and standing on his hind legs, greeted one as he entered the building. That bear must have been at least fourteen or fifteen feet tall as he was displayed. The second thing I remember well was a large sign over the bar in the officer's club at the air force base which said "This air force base has the highest birth rate of any air force base in the world." I also remember that downtown Fairbanks, which wasn't much, had board walks and beer cost $2.50 per bottle.*
The next couple of weeks were spent teaching us how to fish and run outboard motor boats called Tanana Freighters. These were specially built boats used primarily on the Tanana River for moving people, goods, etc. and were quite long and fairly narrow. It was at this time that I learned to catch and eat grayling, a cousin of the trout. They are delicious and far better than any American trout I have ever eaten. We also caught a lot of northern pike, another delicious fish. You must understand this was all in the line of duty!
When this part of the training was over the last part of the training involved climbing on a glacier, in this it was the Black Rapids Glacier, a rather formidable one to say the least. The snout or end of the glacier loomed more than 200 feet deep and the whole area of the snout was filled with many crevices. This training led into simulated attack and defensive maneuvers which involved both tanks and aircraft. The planes used were really interesting. They were P-51 Mustangs except two of them had been converted into two engine planes that looked something like the P-38 Lightning.
This was a most rewarding experience and I fell in love with the kind of training done there. I talked to the base commander at Big Delta to see if he needed any instructors. He said he did and would like to have me join his staff. He told me to make a formal application for transfer to Big Delta and he would at the same time request a new 2nd Lieutenant instructor and name me as the one he wanted. Good idea? Wrong!
Some things I particularly remember about my Alaskan experience was learning about the temperature extremes. Near where I was, the record low and record high both occurred. If I remember correctly, the record high was a bit over 100 degrees while the low recorded was around 90 below. Quite a range! With Alaska being so far north it is truly the land of the midnight sun. I remember coming out of a movie theater some time around eleven o'clock and finding the sun still brightly shining. I remember the day we left Big Delta the sun was coming up and it was around three-thirty in the morning. I also remember what a terrible flight that was. We were in a C-54, not too bad an airplane, and ran into a ferocious storm over the northern Rocky Mountains. That plane rode like a bucking bronco and everyone aboard got airsick, including the pilot and crew. It was awful.
At that time any request for a transfer involving a change of station required that the request include three choices. My first was Big Delta, the second Europe and the third was for FECOM (Far East Command, which translated to Korea). Guess which one I got.
Upon returning to Ft. Leonard Wood just in time for the Labor Day weekend I was anxiously awaiting orders to go back to Alaska. One of the things I had to do was set up some training exercises to demonstrate what I had learned in Alaska. We did some minor technical rope work and I taught the troops how to rappel, which is great fun.
Training was a very big thing and my favorite class to instruct at that time was unarmed defense against a bayonet. When one learns how to do it the danger of being stabbed is absolutely minimal. I learned how to do this very well and did a lot of teaching. I remember one day one of the GI's was very sluggish and lackluster in his training and the attention he was not giving to me, the know-it-all 2nd Lieutenant. He would not perform the exercise properly so I started picking on him until he was really getting mad. This worked to my advantage but he didn't know it. Finally, I told him to stab me with his bayonet which was attached to his M-1 rifle. I knew if he really tried I had him. As it turned out I kept nagging him until he made a serious lunge with the full intention of killing me. He didn't. I easily disarmed him and in doing so accidentally hit him in the ribs with the butt of his rifle and broke a couple of his ribs. From that moment on those troops never had a problem paying attention when I was the instructor.
By this time things were all over between Anne Marsh and me so when I got home on leave before going to Korea I managed to date a couple of other girls. One I remember was Barbara Banner whom I had known in high school. I remember taking her to an affair at the Ft. Bliss Officer's Club where I was to meet someone I had known before in the army. I cannot remember who we met but I do remember only dating Barbara a couple of times. She was one of the girls I also knew at Trinity Methodist Church.
I had to leave El Paso in early December to go to Ft. Lawton, Washington for transportation to Japan. It was almost three weeks before we sailed which was a surprise to me. Usually they flew 2nd Lieutenants to Japan because there was such a turnover and replacements were in short supply. But the USS Marine Phoenix was my mode of travel. We sailed on the worst possible date, December 24, 1952. I doubt if you can imagine what it was like to set sail on Christmas Eve. But sail we did! The people of Seattle had a custom of welcoming servicemen home from Korea when a troop ship arrived. This was the exception since, if you will remember, there were many protests about the Korean "Police Action." Anyway, on this Christmas Eve the reverse was true. People turned out in droves to wish us well and give out over four thousand Christmas presents. What a send off!
With the holiday season at hand one might well imagine there was more than a small amount of liquid refreshments on board that troop ship. It was well hidden until someone caught the troop commander with a bottle. That did it and the booze flowed from that time onward. The trip was pretty dull except for one thing - a major northern Pacific storm which lasted for three weeks. The captain of the ship tried to sail around the storm but to no avail. We went south to just north of the Hawaiian Islands and then to just about the Philippines Sea to get to Japan. I was one who got seasick going to Catalina Island but this voyage didn't faze me. Since I was one of the few not seasick I was made the mess officer. Not too pleasant a task with so many ill troops. We did spend quite a bit of time playing Canasta, cribbage and a lot of poker during the trip. We eventually made it to Japan none the worse for all the travails of that crossing. It was quite a sight to see Yokohama and Mount Fuji and some seas without 30-foot waves.
Aboard ship, one of my roommates turned out to be quite a valuable acquaintance. It seems his father was a very senior officer of a New York bank which had a branch office in Tokyo. When we arrived at Camp Drake he contacted the branch manager who in turn furnished him with a car and driver who spoke good English. Camp Drake was a replacement center and we were required to report in twice each day to see whether we had orders. The rest of the time was ours. With the availability of the car and driver, four of us had the run of Tokyo, Yokahama and as far south as Kokura (sp?), and we really took advantage of that. Not much worth seeing was missed. It is hard for me to realize just how fortunate I have been all of my life and this was just another example.
Towards the end of January I was assigned to Korea but with no specific assignment yet. Sometime before I had left the states Buck Buchholz had told me to look him up when I got to the far east. I called him from Camp Drake. He was then assigned to the POW camp on Koji-Do (sp?), I think as commanding officer. (By then he was a Lieutenant Colonel.) Anyway, Buck asked me if I would like to be assigned to Koji with him but I declined and said I wanted to take my chances elsewhere, and besides, I told him I wanted to outrank my Tac Officer in OCS. That was the last time I ever talked to Buck; we completely lost track of each other and have never reestablished a link since.
Again, instead of flying to Korea I went via MSTS, this time the USS Marine Lynx. It was only an overnight trip so not much happened on that short crossing of the Sea of Japan to Korea. The pipeline, the vehicle for processing replacement personnel, soon had me assigned to the Third Infantry Division. This was and still is an old and very proud division with an impeccable record from both World Wars I and II. My assignment then was to the 15th Infantry Regiment, another old and proud unit with a distinguished record for a great many years with the motto "Can Do". This motto came from the 15th's days in China during the later part of the 1800's. The 15th Infantry was commanded by Colonel Richard Stilwell (he retired as a four star general) who briefly greeted the new arrivals upon reaching the his HQ. I was assigned to the 2nd Battalion of the 15th as a Platoon Leader of the 3rd platoon of Company F.
The 2nd Battalion consisted of companies E, F, G, H, and HQ and was commanded by Major John K. Singlaub (who ended his army career as a two star general). My company commander was Captain Kless von Guysen and the other platoon leaders were John Mitchell, Jim Baker and ????. The Executive Officer was ????. Our company was located on a part of the MLR (main line of resistance) immediately behind Outpost Harry. Our regimental sector had responsibility for Outposts Tom, Dick and Harry. Tom was located on the edge of the Chorwon valley while Dick was just to the east. Harry was a company size outpost but at the time I joined Company F we had only a reinforced platoon there.
My first days of combat resulted in nothing happening except for lots of patrols. My platoon would get a patrol assignment about every fourth night or so and were of the ambush type of patrol. We were not to look for trouble but rather be a point of first contact with the Chinese if they were to launch anything. At some point my platoon rotated out to Outpost Harry for a stay of a few days. Those episodes were pretty routine except that occasionally the Chinese would lob a mortar round or two just to keep us on our toes. I never really heard a shot fired in anger except for the friendly artillery that was fairly constant. My days as a platoon leader were days devoted to developing strong friendships with my fellow officers and the men in my platoon.*
When I took over the 3rd platoon I was warned that I would have a difficult time replacing Lieutenant Hutchinson, a West Pointer who was adored by the men. Fortunately, for me, that was never a problem. When I was at Ft. Leonard Wood my company commander had just returned from Korea. When I asked him for advice he gave me two pieces - take along a one burner gasoline stove and a large coffee pot. This I did and was that ever good advice! My platoon sergeant was about to rotate back to the states and was worthless as a platoon sergeant so I gave him one order, the coffee pot was to be full at all times. This was especially true after a patrol because the patrol members were mighty glad to have hot coffee when they came in from freezing their butts. This gesture really endeared those men to me.
During the long nights when we had a patrol out everyone was on a 100 percent alert and often when there was no patrol. During some of these times John Mitchell undertook to write a poem about our experiences. That poem follows:
Korea - early 1953
Tired, cold, scared - The fear obvious in their steps and eyes.
Men, maybe; boys mostly -
The boy from Michigan who skis
The boy from Brooklyn who wants to fight but is scared to death
- - - talk only-
This one loads and reloads a thirty round clip, curved to be held.
"When I get back to Virginia, man, all I want is a girl and my bakery truck."
Here's one - Calm, steely eyes -
He hates patrols, his guts twist inside him -
two-seven-zero Jackson Heights Chorwon -
"Yea, I'm ready" - "Everybody got grenades?" "Yes, Lieutenant"
Another Lieutenant - the seventh, no, sixth, - - they move so fast -
Fourth Platoon, Battalion, Rotation, (yea, Quartermaster Rotation).
Dig all day - - Patrol all night
Dig Patrol Dig Patrol Dig - Just five more points.
There stands the Lieutenant, new Lieutenant,
Shiny (no, not shiny now, serious; scared too; doesn't show it
much, though) sort of a nice guy - - likes to laugh -
No brass on the collar now, no green-gold bar - Just like a G-I;
Password - - Mae West Call Sign - - Suffering Succotash
Pyrotechnics: Green Star - Amber Parachute - Red Star cluster
Check Points - Obvious
and, Damn - - can't remember -
"Joe Chink's not going to get Coco!" -
"Not tonight or ever, Coco - - we go out as a unit - come back as a unit - "Yea"
"O.K., Let's go. -
Jose (doesn't speak much English, but sure can fire that AR) crosses
himself - Quiet, confident, a good soldier, R.A.
Black, Dark, Night, Deep, - Deep, Dark, Black, Night.
Safe Lane, damn, be quiet.
Barbed wire Barbed wire
Barbed wire Concertina
Concertina Barbed wire Barbed wire
Point man moves - stops - listens - looks - Patrol moves -
There it is! Artillery moonbeam - There! Now we can see -
Cross the creek, up the path -
"Wire, commo wire - must be a million miles of the stuff in this
damned safe lane."
Step easy -- Walk slow
--Bet we sound like a Battalion to the Chinks - -
Quad fifty cracks overhead - Deadly Christmas Tree Lights
Red, rosy, friendly - Red, angry, tearing
Slow, move, stop, move -
Ambush site up ahead (ours or theirs?)
Eyes and ears strain - damn those people -
Who? Everybody in this stinking country.
KATUSA (small Korean, can't pronounce his name - Mim Jung Ki or
something.) Moves out behind the commo-man (boy from Michigan
(likes to ski).
The lieutenant moves out into the darkness, two men cover him as he
moves - Hope we're here first.
THE CHINESE SOLDIER IS WELL TRAINED, WELL EQUIPPED AND CRAFTY
Move, the troops are watching -
"Fool! - just five more points - no more patrols - just dig - more
sukoshi - HOME -
Don't like this place - just like Two-seven-zero - Jackson Heights -
Damn Lieutenant doesn't know how -- good ambush site though.
Cold, wet, cold, cold, cold, cold - Mickey Mouse boots, number one
Hands cold, feet warm - Mickey Mouse gloves, havano!
--Wake up that damned medic - Chinese can hear him snore across the
Sleep, warm, comfortable - Cold, wet, cold, cold, cold. Sit here,
wait, freeze, sit.
The tank fires, splitting the air, everyone jumps.
Come back - maybe -
Time - slow, cold time, short, fast sleep - long cold wait.
Move out - No chinks tonight - Quiet - God Damn - Quiet -
Wake up everybody -
Slowly - - not so fast - - easy. Down the path - Cross the creek -
Into the safe lane and now - -
The bolt goes back. Snaps forward
Mr. Browning's machine gun is now fully loaded -
Voices - - Dark -
Mae - - - - an AR bolt goes back in the patrol - - - - West.
Move in - count noses - back to the platoon - Tell the old man, - - go
to bed, - Bed! Sleep!
No more for a couple of nights - -
Damn - - just gotta get five more points -
by Lt. John A. Mitchell; Co. F, 15th Inf.
I remember only one specific patrol with any clarity. Most were simply ambush patrols but one was special. It was what was known as a combat patrol. This meant we went out specifically to try to find and engage the Chinese. Before the patrol was to go out I requested an aerial reconnaissance of the area we were going to cover. This was done in an L-19 airplane, a small two-seater. I remember the pilot must have been married with several kids because he had no thought of going low enough for me to see anything.
Eventually I convinced the pilot that the Chinese slept during the day and he should make one pass down the valley we were going into so I could see. We made that pass to the east of Outpost Harry and right down the adjoining valley. Just as we crossed the Chinese MLR they opened up with a machine gun and managed to stitch a few holes in our tail. No damage done and there were no injuries. When we came roaring down that valley we crossed immediately over the position of my platoon. My troops had my Texas flag out on the top of my bunker and we couldn't miss seeing it. That flag was a gift from the Mitchell Brewing Co. in El Paso, something they did for anyone going to Korea.
When we got back to the airstrip I returned to my regimental headquarters and greeting me there was an Episcopal chaplain, Major Marsh. He told me he understood what I was about to embark on and offered a prayer for our safe return. It worked!
Another interesting patrol involved taking a 2nd Lieutenant from the division G-2 along with a war dog. These were dogs trained to warn the handler of a potential problem. That dog really saved us by alerting us of a Chinese patrol across a small valley. We were able to call in some mortar fire on them and they dispersed. Since that was right in front of the Greek position they sent out a patrol to mop up.
I also remember coming in from one of the early patrols I took out and having a real problem. When we came in we had to cross through a safe lane and clear our weapons. This night was bitterly cold and it had snowed. When we started to clear our weapons we found all the bolts were frozen closed. Had we run into any Chinese that night we could each have fired only one round. Even the pins on our hand grenades were frozen in and could not be readily pulled.
My platoon position was the right flank of the entire 3rd Division tied in with the Greek unit on my right. Infantry training always teaches that where two diverse units are joined at a point, that is a source of real weakness because of communications, etc. Because of this the Assistant Division Commander, Brigadier General Dunkelburg, spent a lot of time in my area making sure that all was well. Over a few weeks I became well acquainted with the general and he with me. It was probably sometime in about March when I received the finest compliment of my army career. General Dunkleburg told Major Singlaub and Captain Guysen that mine was the best platoon in the entire 3rd Division. Talk about brownie points, that really did it!
It wasn't long after that that I was transferred to Company H as the Recon Officer. General Smyth, the 3rd Division Commanding General had decided we needed to fortify a mountain immediately behind the Greek positions and my job was to direct the Greeks in doing this. I was assigned an interpreter, Lieutenant Vakalopoulos, who proved to be a very fine gentleman and friend. He was about as tough an officer as I had ever known. One night the Greeks were involved in a pretty serious fire fight with the Chinese while both were on patrols. One of the Greeks killed that night was a Lieutenant who was a boyhood friend of Lieutenant Vakolopoulos and the two of them had served together in the Greek army for some time. I expressed my sorrow to my interpreter who was pretty philosophical about his friend's death. He said this is war and these things must be expected. Army friendships are not easy!
An interesting sidelight about my time in H company was quite a bit of poker playing. Captain Rizzo, Lieutenant Huddleston and some of the platoon leaders plus some officers from the 5th RCT joined us on occasion. When ever there was no alert we could play and that happened fairly often during that time. I was incredibly lucky with my playing and one night I had held a few pat hands and won the pot. Everyone was getting a little more than exasperated at my luck. In one hand late in the game I was dealt three aces and the joker plus a garbage card. Since I had won so many hands with a pat hand I discarded the garbage card and drew the other ace. Needless-to-say, I simply laid down my hand and won the pot, again. Great fun! I won enough during those days to make a $500.00 down payment on a car later.
It was during my time with company H that Outpost Harry was hit with a small Chinese probe. Company F had the responsibility for the outpost on that night and Jim Baker was the platoon leader. They were able to drive the Chinese off the outpost and Jim distinguished himself in a true John Wayne style, shooting a light machine gun from the hip. For his bravery and daring that night Jim received the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest decoration for valor. Jim and I have kept in contact with each other these many years via Christmas cards and a visit with each other a couple of times. He remained in the Army Reserves and eventually retired as a Brigadier General.
While working with the Greeks I received a call from the 2nd Battalion Adjutant telling me to report to Battalion HQ. Of course I did just that as fast as my little old jeep would permit. When I got there I was almost ignored. Major Singlaub made some small talk and we had a cigarette or two along with coffee. Eventually, a cloud of dust approached and out of it came General Dunkleburg who together with major Singlaub pinned the silver bars of a 1st Lieutenant on my collar. Boy was I one surprised GI. When I got back with the Greeks my interpreter noticed the promotion and that called for a party.
*It seems that in the Greek army a promotion is almost unheard of, one must do something special to rate one. The Greeks had a great advantage over the American troops in that they were allowed to have liquor on the line. That party is where I was first introduced to Greek liquors, both Metaxa and Ouso. I still like Metaxa to this day and enjoy it once in a while. I remember that the Greeks had some of the finest bread one could ever eat. I do not know how they obtained the ingredients and raw materials, but they really did eat well. So did I at that party.
Colonel Stilwell had been reassigned and was replaced by a Colonel Russell Akers. Colonel Stilwell (no relation to general Vinegar Joe Stillwell) was such a fine officer it was a shame to have him leave. His replacement was Colonel Russell Akers who was an alcoholic. Col. Akers was not one to leave his regimental headquarters but rather to stay in that relatively safe environment. It seems that it might have been in May when there was another fire fight on Outpost Harry. Major Singlaub was always a hands on type of commander and during this engagement he was very busy organizing a relief of Harry. Col. Akers called him to ask what was going on and the good major didn't have time to talk to him. Major Frank Hewitt, the battalion executive officer told Col. Akers that the battalion CO didn't have time to talk to him so Col Akers relieved Major Singlaub on the spot. Interestingly, it was only a few weeks after this unfortunate incident that it became Lt. Col. Singlaub.
It was during my stint in Company H that I found out where the hated Lieutenant Tyler was stationed. I called him and learned he had beat me to 1st Lieutenant by only a few weeks. It seems he spent the normal 18 months as a 2nd Lieutenant while my promotion came in a year and nine days. I also learned that his time in Korea was as a platoon leader only so I think I really outdid him.
It was in late May that Col. Akers got a bee in his rum-soaked brain that I should be on his staff as an Assistant S-3 and had orders cut to that effect. I was livid to think I would be stuck in some HQ with an alcoholic CO so I called General Dunkleburg to see if anything could be done about the orders. My overwhelming desire was to outrank Lieutenant Tyler. At that time a company commander who was a 1st Lieutenant could be promoted to Captain after ninety days so that was my route! (The general had told me to call him if I ever needed anything, so I did.) A day or two later the orders were rescinded and replaced with orders naming me as company commander of Company G which had just come off line into a regimental reserve area.
Captain Atkinson had been the CO of Company G and had been relieved along with his 1st Sergeant. I never did learn what they did but the good thing was that I had become a company commander. This was in the period in the army where companies had a Warrant Officer as a Unit Administrator. Mine was a WOJG Jug Black who was an old timer in the army. I told Jug his first job was to find us a First Sergeant and suggested he scour the regiment for someone who had been a Master Sergeant for awhile and who would like a crack at being "first soldier." Jug found someone who fit the requirements and I had him transferred to Company G. Company G was really in a shambles with poor morale, little discipline and in need of a lot of work. One of my first moves was to fire the Exec officer, the supply sergeant and the mess sergeant. It was simply intolerable for me to have such incompetents around.
Company G had been pulled into a regimental reserve area where we did some small amount of training and started to get reorganized. This is when I learned the true value of a scrounger. WOJG Jug Black was a scrounger of the first order and could really get things done. We were very short of the thirty round magazines for carbine rifles so I asked Jug if he could get us some. He asked what I had to trade and said some kind of souvenir would be best. I did have a cap from a dead Chinese soldier which still had its small red star on it so I gave that to Jug and he was off. A couple of hours later he returned with as many magazines as could be loaded into a jeep.
Being in a reserve area electricity would be nice so again I asked Jug what he could do about a generator. Again the question about trading material came up and this time it would take something pretty good. We had just received our class VI ration so I had some liquor and could use that. I gave him a couple bottles of scotch and away he went. When he got back he did indeed have a generator behind a 2 1/2-ton truck, and a trailer to move it with, and gasoline, and electric wire and whatever else two bottles of scotch could obtain. We did have electricity!
We had the new generator only a day or two when the battalion commander came through the company area on an inspection trip. When he saw that generator he just about flipped. He wanted to know where I had gotten it, etc. I told him and he said that I didn't even have a vehicle capable of moving it and I agreed. He said he had a small generator which could easily supply my company while my generator could supply the entire battalion headquarters and, he could move it, so we traded. We were both happy with that deal!
During this time I developed an intense hatred for the Red Cross and whatever it stood for. It seems that one of the sergeants in the company received a letter from his mother telling of a heart attack that his father had. In the letter she said she had contacted the Red Cross to try to arrange an emergency leave for the son. The telegram to the Red Cross representative in our regiment was never delivered to me so I could authorize the emergency leave. A couple days later the sergeant received another letter from his mother saying his father had died and she could not understand why he had not gotten home to see his father. My investigation proved to be incredible. The Red Cross representative was an alcoholic who never bothered to do anything with the telegrams about the sergeants father. Had I gotten the information in time he could have gotten home and seen his father before he died. After a death there was no provision for an emergency leave at that time so he could do nothing. I know a lot of men in that company stopped any contribution to the Red Cross because of that incident. I know that I did.
It was on June 10, 1953 that the Chinese launched an all out offensive to take Outpost Harry. General Maxwell Taylor, the commanding general of the Far East Command, said that this outpost was a hold-at-all-costs position. It seems that Harry occupied such a commanding position that to lose it would have necessitated our MLR being shifted almost seven miles south. With the so-called peace talks going on at the time, that was not a good idea. Company K received the initial assault by about 3,600 Chinese. The company held, but suffered almost 100 percent KIA and WIA. Captain Martin Markley was the CO and I later met him for the first time at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital.
On June 11th the Chinese launched a rare daylight attack with about a battalion-size attack, but were soon repulsed. On the 12th another assault, this time with a Chinese regiment, attempted to take Harry, but could not. I think it was on the 12th that Company G was ordered into a support position behind Outpost Tom and I had a platoon of tanks attached. That was the first time I had ever had to contend with tanks, and fortunately I didn't have to use them.
The 13th, Harry was pretty calm, with only a company-sized attack--and then came the 14th. Company G was ordered to Harry under the operational control of one of the battalion commanders of the 5th Regimental Combat Team and I was to return to a once very familiar piece of ground. Wrong! That outpost looked like nothing I could remember. On the way out to Harry we passed by immense piles of Chinese bodies. Climbing up Harry we saw countless pieces of both Chinese and GI's body parts laying all over the place. The trenches were mostly caved in from all of the intense shelling that had been going on. I later learned that the Chinese had fired about 89,000 rounds larger than 81mm in size to support their attacks, while our forces fired over 368,000 similar size rounds. (I understand this amount of large caliber ammunition was more than was fired by both sides during the entire Battle of the Bulge in World War II.)
We spent all the day of the 14th trying to refurbish the trench lines and bunkers, which were by then quite devastated. The first thing I did when I got to the top of the once familiar Outpost Harry was to remove all radio antennas. I had learned that the Chinese zeroed in on antennas. One of the smart things I ever did in regard to combat occurred that day. I had my communications team bury four separate land lines for our telephones along the sides of the trench leading back towards the MLR. After the lines were buried, I had them buried further and covered with steel pickets used for barbed wire. This meant that we should have decent telephone communications for a while when the Chinese started their TOT. It did indeed work out that way. The other good thing I did that day was something to what Major Singlaub had preached about--VT on our positions. I arranged defensive artillery and mortar barrages to begin on a timed sequence. Unless ordered to cease fire, the last barrages were to be VT on top of us. I feel very confident that that last stage saved G Company from being completely overwhelmed.
In the early evening of the 14th, an artillery sergeant from the 39th Field Artillery attached to my company, along with a forward observer, decided he was going to wage his own private war when the Chinese came. He got up on the top of the CP bunker and built a sandbag emplacement where he said he could fight any Chinese who came that way. As he was nearing the completion of his position, the Chinese started shelling with their 61mm mortars. The sergeant was hit and very badly wounded. His left arm had been blown off. I went to the top of the bunker and managed to get him out of the mortar barrage and back into the relative safety of the trench outside the bunker. He was unconscious and bleeding profusely. We got the battalion surgeon on the phone and he told me what to do to try to save him. I managed to get a tourniquet on the stump of his arm and our medics got him off the outpost and to the battalion aid station. A little later the doctor called me and said in spite of all our efforts he did not make it. For the life of me I cannot remember his name.
Very early on the 15th of June the Chinese started their initial barrage. The incoming mortar and artillery in the volumes they were using is impossible to describe to anyone who has not experienced anything like that. It was devastating. I very foolishly started to make the rounds of my platoon leaders to make sure all men were inside their bunkers when the barrage started. In spite of the trenches for getting around in, I was wounded quite severely within just a few minutes. I remember being temporarily deafened by the noise and was crouched down in a trench. My arms were supporting me by holding onto the sides of the trench when I was hit. It was in the left arm and my hand was left attached by only two shreds of skin on either side of my wrist. I never knew for sure what got me, but I strongly suspect it might have been a mortar fuse or possibly a hand grenade.
I eventually made it to our medic's station, which I had placed at the bottom rear of Outpost Harry in what was left of a bunker. The medic was unable to stop the bleeding enough for me to get back to my CP, and about the only thing he did was to give me an unwanted shot of morphine which caused me to be unable to perform any duty. An armored personnel carrier evacuated several of us to the battalion aid station where Doc Merrifield, along with John Mitchell, was more than busy. Several ambulances started the trek to the 44th MASH and I was such a bloody mess that chaplains managed to give me last rites on three different occasions before I got to the MASH. (Much later, after reading General Singlaub's book Hazardous Duty, I learned that the 44th MASH was the model for the TV series M*A*S*H 4077.) Isn't it interesting what things come to mind when writing something like this?
Previously during my short army career, I had donated blood on five separate occasions. From the time I arrived at the battalion aid station until I left the MASH, I had received back six pints. I guess that is why I was such a bloody mess during those first few hours after being wounded. I remember asking a doctor if they were going to amputate my arm. His answer was no, if they could restore circulation to my hand. It seems that was the criteria to amputate or not.
I remember that after the surgery under a general anesthetic at the MASH I had just regained consciousness. There were three generals waiting to talk to me. I think it might have been Lieutenant General Jenkins who asked me how we had managed to maintain telephone communications for such a long time through the Chinese shelling. When I told him, he said that that was rather an expensive, but very effective means. The other generals were Ridings and Dunkelburg.
I was in the MASH for only a day or so and was evacuated to the 121st Evac Hospital, where I spent another couple of days waiting transport to Japan. It was from the MASH to the 121st that I had my first and only helicopter ride. I was in one of those carriers attached to the side of the chopper on the landing struts. From the 121st I was sent to the Osaka Army Hospital in Osaka, Japan.
While in Osaka the doctors did an operation called a debridement, which was a procedure to remove dead and/or infected tissue. They also changed bandages and casts a couple of times and started antibiotics. One thing I particularly remember from Osaka was a typhoon. I have never seen so much or so intense rain before or since. Each drop must have been a quart or so. I know that all of the wounded in the orthopedics ward where I was experienced very severe pain because of the drastic drop in the barometric pressure. As soon as the storm reached us the nurses were on their rounds with shots of morphine.
One really funny thing happened while at Osaka. I had been taken back to my room from recovery and was still quite groggy. My roommate later told me that when I started to come around I was singing The Eyes of Texas and told him to stand at attention when he heard the national anthem. He swore that really happened. Another thing I recall is going to the officers club with a nurse for a dinner. It was kind of strange since I had no uniform, only hospital clothes, but they let me in anyway. The only thing I remember about her was she was very nice and was either Amish or a Mennonite and had volunteered for nursing duty in the army.
While at the hospital I was able to complete a call home to tell the folks that I was in pretty good shape. Those telegrams from the War Department are pretty stiff without very much information. I know the call lasted about fifteen minutes and cost three dollars per minute. I said I would call from Hawaii to let them know I was on the way home, and they said to call collect.
I had recovered my savings from my poker games from our battalion safe before I left the MASH. I remember John Mitchell was hopping mad because he couldn't bring the money to me at the MASH. Anyway, I did get it, and used it as a down payment on a new 1953 Plymouth sedan to be picked up in Detroit after I got home. There was some kind of a problem with the person who handled the automobile sales and the CID contacted me about my arrangement. I had made the contact through the hospital, so there was no problem there. I know a CID agent took me someplace to identify that person, which I did. There was no problem for me and I picked up the car later. Apparently, some people had been taken for their down payments and never got their cars. I was very fortunate!
Only a few days were spent in Osaka before starting the trek back to the States via the MATS (Military Air Transport Service). We flew from Osaka to Tokyo to meet up with others to be evacuated back, and were at the Tokyo hospital for only a few hours until our flight left. I remember the plane was a C-54 equipped with stretchers all over the place. There were nurses and a doctor on board to look after all of us. The trip, for the most part, was uneventful. Our first stop was on Midway Island for refueling. I was ambulatory and could walk around Midway for a couple of hours. I wish I had had a camera! Watching those Gooney birds (a kind of gull) was hilarious. To take off they would run as fast as their short legs could carry them flapping their wings furiously. Most often they would tumble head over tail and not get airborne. Usually it took a bird several tries to get into the air. Once up they were very graceful, but their landing was just the opposite of their takeoff. They would coast down to the ground as graceful as could be, but as soon as they touched down they tumbled for several yards getting stopped.
Our next stop was in Honolulu, Hawaii. We landed at the Air Force base there and were taken to Tripler Army Hospital to spend the night. As soon as we landed there was a swarm of Red Cross types with fresh pineapple juice. That had absolutely no appeal to me because it had been months since I had had any fresh milk. I asked if such was available and it was. I cannot remember anything tasting so good as that glass of cold, fresh milk. The other thing I particularly remember about Tripler was waking up the next morning. My room was loaded with fresh flowers.
Eventually I arrived at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Aurora, Colorado, on July 15, 1953, just a month after being wounded. I was to remain at Fitz until I was retired on December 31, 1955 with a 60 percent disability. As I was nearing the end of my hospitalization, I was assigned to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs to recuperate and await one final surgical procedure. That assignment was for about five months or so and was not very interesting since I was assigned to a Personnel Center. I did luck out again and got the job as coach of the Ft. Carson rifle team.
Fitzsimmons was an excellent hospital with outstanding care. One good thing about my time there was that between surgeries I had many convalescent leaves or could live in a BOQ. In all I had fourteen surgeries, including two bone grafts and a lot of other repairs. It took a lot of time, and the result was I had a hand on the end of my arm instead of a hook. It is not very useful, but looks far better than any artificial one.
In all, in spite of the trauma my five years in the army were rewarding and have provided many good memories. Most who have had similar experiences tend to remember the good or unusual and forget most of the bad. This is how it is with me.
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