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David Morris Williams (1SG USA Ret)
"I don't think the reality of war can be imagined. You have to experience it to really know what it is like. There is no feeling like an artillery shell exploding all around you and no sound like a bullet cracking over your head. The smell of exploded shells, and the agonizing cries of men when they are hit just cannot be imagined."
- David M. Williams
My name is David Morris Williams of Stockton, California. I was born 17 November 1932 in Rule, Texas, a son of Charles and Pearl Bratcher Williams. I was born on a farm so far out in the country that we had no electricity, no running water, and no inside bathrooms. After moving to California, we had all of these things and I became accustomed to them. My father was a farmer in Texas and Oklahoma, then a ship builder in California during the war. He owned 160 acres in West Texas and we grew cotton and corn. We left Texas because of the Depression. When we moved to California, we did not know anyone there. My father worked at Mores Dry Dock. He then worked for General Motors for 30 years. My mother only worked outside of the home during the war. She worked in the ship yard in California building ships.
I had four older siblings, Gilbert, Genevieve, Ruth and Joe, and younger ones, James, Ronald, and Rexford. I attended first and second grade in Oklahoma, and then Ashland Grammar School in San Leandro, California. I attended Hayward Union High in Hayward, California. During my school years, I had a job as a blender in a feed mill and had a summer job in the Shasta Springs Resort. The summer job was in Northern California, so I was away from home while working there one season. I delivered linen and cleaning supplies to the cabins and then I opened up the swimming pool and was a life guard the rest of the day.
World War II was going on while I was in grade school. My brother Gilbert was old enough to be in the military, but he was rejected because he only has one eye. He lost an eye in an accident when he was nine years old. Joe was not old enough to be in the war. Our school sold war bonds and bussed us to local farms to help harvest the crops. It was done after school and it was voluntary. There was a shortage of farm workers because most of the adults were working in the ship yards and factories. I also collected paper and scrap metal for paper and scrap drives.
I left high school in 1949 to join the Army. I did not like school. At the age of 17, I didn't realize how important an education was. I got a GED while in the army and took college courses after I retired from the army.
I had no particular reason for choosing the Army. I just wanted to travel and see the world. A friend of mine joined the Marines at the same time I joined the Army. My parents didn't want me to join, but they signed the papers when I told them that it was what I really wanted to do. I joined 21 November 1949 and went to Fort Ord, California for basic training, taking a bus from San Francisco to get there.
When we arrived at the training camp, we were assembled in the processing center and assigned to a basic training company. The first few days we took aptitude tests and got clothing issued. We were assigned to squads and platoons. I was placed in the 2nd platoon and adjusted to military life. My platoon sergeant was a World War II veteran named McBee. He was very strict. If we didn't follow instructions or made mistakes, we were put on detail. I was personally never disciplined for doing anything wrong, but some were put on KP duty for being late for formations. There were no troublemakers in my platoon.
My 16 weeks of basic training consisted of general subjects such as housekeeping, hygiene, supply economy, discipline, and courtesy, as well as military subjects such as map reading, tactics, formations, marching, and weapons training. During the classroom training, we also watched educational films. The film on map reading was an interesting subject for me. The film on frost bite was very gory.
Our days were regimented. The Charge of Quarters woke us up at 0600 with a whistle. We then shaved, dressed in the uniform of the day, made our beds, cleaned our barracks, and went for chow. We were very well fed--usually eggs and bacon or ham, toast, potatoes, and coffee, milk or juice for breakfast. Dinner and Supper were a variety of meats, potatoes, bread, vegetables, and coffee and milk.
Lights out were at 2200 hours, but sometimes we were awakened in the middle of the night for fire drills and reaction tests to see how long it took to respond to emergencies. Since we were on a schedule, there was no free time unless it was scheduled. Church was voluntary and anyone could go on Sunday.
I liked the Army from the beginning. It was hard at first, but after a couple weeks it got easier as we got into good condition. Fort Ord was located on the Monterey Bay. I think it was an ideal location for training. It was never too hot or cold, and there was no problem with insects. After eight weeks of training, we were allowed to go on pass. We went to Monterrey and the local towns. We attended dances at the Soldiers Club and went to the beach in Carmel.
When basic was completed, I felt much more mature than I did when I arrived. We had a parade and a Pass in Review. The public was invited. My drill sergeant shook my hand and said, "Keep your nose clean and you will make a fine soldier. I took his advice and made a career out of the army.
For me personally, the hardest thing about basics had been the long hours and the field training, including the long marches with full field packs. After I got to Korea, I was glad I had paid attention to my instructors. I don't think I ever thought about combat and whether I was well-prepared for it until I got to Korea. Then I realized how much I had learned in basics.
There was no advanced training when I went in the army. We took 16 weeks of training which included advanced subjects such as advanced first aid, heavy weapons (including machine gun, mortars, and artillery), escape and evasion, leadership, and probably others that I can't remember. After basics, I went home on leave but I didn't wear my uniform while home. After my leave, I went to Camp Stoneman, California, by bus. I had been living at home before joining the army, so I had nothing to store. I was not going with anyone steady at the time so there was no girlfriend to say goodbye to.
War Breaks Out
The war had not started when I went to Camp Stoneman. I was there prior to shipping out for Okinawa. I arrived there in April of 1950. Our main duty on that island was to provide security for the air base and all the warehouses that stored military supplies and equipment. We did go on field operations and to the rifle range to practice firing our weapons. I was at Camp Napunja. It was on the narrow part of the island near Rycom. We lived in corrugated metal buildings called Quonset huts. My friends and I spent a lot of time at the beach at Ishikawa. There was a theater that we went to a few times. Other times we went to the villages and had a few beers. There was a Filipino club in Rycom that we went to also. It was just called the Filipino Club. I don't think it had any other name. We lived a soft life there, but I don't think it adversely affected our ability to fight. I always wanted to go back to Okinawa, but was always sent elsewhere. We had some great times there. The beach was nice and not crowded, the beer was good, and it was just a leisurely way to spend our off time.
I was on Okinawa on June 25th when the war started. Prior to that time, I had never heard of Korea. I was not too thrilled about going to war, but I didn't give it much thought until we were ready to ship out. We read about it in the Stars and Stripes newspaper.
My family was informed about my pending deployment, but like me, they knew nothing about Korea so they didn't know what to expect. As for those in my company, we were a young and cocky bunch who thought we could settle the conflict in a hurry. We were told that it was only a "conflict." None of us expected to be there long. We had a few field training exercises to bone up on our tactics, packed our duffle bags, and shipped out. We were told that we were going to Japan for more training. We were not kept informed about how the war was going. We were only told that our orders had been changed due to the gravity of the situation in Korea and that we were going directly to Korea.
We left Okinawa on an old Japanese ship that transported us to Korea. The ship was pressed into service and was very dirty and foul smelling. It was so hot below deck that I spent most of my time on deck to take advantage of the sea breeze. We had escort ships with us and they detected submarine activity in our area, and determined that it was not friendly. The sub chasers dropped explosive charges and continued to circle the ship. I never heard what the results were. We heard that a Russian sub had been spotted. We had target practice at ration cans thrown from the back of the ship. From the time we encountered the submarine I was edgy all the time. I didn't know what to expect, so I was always on the alert.
Establishing the Perimeter
I went to Korea with the 29th Infantry Regiment. My MOS was 1745--Small Arms Rifleman. It did not change while in the perimeter. I was in "C" Company. The 29th Infantry was a regimental combat team. We were not part of a Division. After arrival in Korea, we were attached to the 24th Division for operational control. We landed at Pusan on the 21st of July 1950. I have heard other dates of our arrival, but I believe it was the 21st. We were sent there to stop the North Koreans from advancing south. (With their overpowering strength, this proved to be impossible until we established the Pusan Perimeter.)
The port was crowded with ships unloading equipment and supplies. Other than thousands of displaced people, there was no evidence of war. I really don't have a clear memory of how long we were in port before we disembarked, but I believe it was the same day. When we disembarked we went to the rail yard and loaded on a train for transportation to Chinju. When we arrived at Chinju, our duffle bags were collected and stored in a warehouse. We moved from there to the front lines.
Shortly after our arrival in Korea we were traveling by truck when a soldier fell against a ring-mounted 50 caliber machine gun that was mounted to the cab of a truck. The gun fired and the bullet struck some soldiers in the back of the truck that was in front of them. It should not have happened--it was accidental--but at least one soldier lost his leg because of it.
There were so many refugees on the road that in many cases they had to be removed by the Korean police so we could get through. They were all going south to Pusan. We usually walked on the hillside and the high ground, but the supply vehicles had a tough time getting through all the refugees. Most of the people in the countryside lived in small huts with straw roofs. There was usually a community water well located in the village. They were usually in the same area as their rice fields. I watched them harvest rice and grind it in stone pots using a stone mallet. It was very primitive. As far as troop movement was concerned, unless we were traveling in vehicles, the natives were not much of a problem. They did block the road for vehicle movement sometimes and had to be moved to the side of the road. Also, some of the enemy dressed in civilian clothes and blended in with the civilians until they got behind our positions. It was necessary to set up checkpoints to separate and capture them.
When I first arrived and saw the country we were fighting for, I had the thought that it was not worth fighting for. Their culture was so different than ours and the living conditions were unbelievable. I mentioned at the beginning of my memoir that living conditions on the farm I was born on in Texas had been primitive. In Korea, only the towns and villages along the main roads had electricity and some had inside plumbing. Most of the smaller villages were like our farm in Texas. In Korea, however, most of the people lived in shacks with straw roofs and had to go to the community well for water. They had no water, electricity, or bathrooms. They used oil lamps for light. I shouldn't have been shocked when I saw this in Korea because it was the same on Okinawa. Only the big cities had automobiles. I saw a few bicycles in the villages, but no other mode of transportation. After being in Korea for a few days and meeting the Korean people and remembering the warm greeting we got, I did an about face and did not feel that we were wasting our lives in a place that was not worth the price. They were hard working people who just wanted to live in peace and go on with their lives without being subjected to the Communist north, and I believed that they had that right. The children were inquisitive, but shy until they knew that we were not going to hurt them. Once we offered them candy or food, they became friendly and followed us along the road for a while before going back to their village. It only took a short time for me to realize that what we were fighting for was the right thing to do. The Korean people were very grateful for the assistance that we gave them.
It was very hot at the time of our landing. The hot weather didn't bother me much because I had been on Okinawa for almost three months. Only after we were on line and couldn't get enough water did the heat bother me, but never to the point that I couldn't function. Those who had just arrived from the States the day we departed Okinawa had more trouble with the heat.
I felt that we were all trained well enough to meet any challenge that we faced as long as we had the manpower and equipment to do so. I was rifleman, armed with an M1 rifle, when I went to Korea. Later when the automatic rifleman in my squad was promoted, I took over the Browning Automatic Rifle on the Perimeter as an automatic rifleman. That position called for the rank of Corporal, so I was promoted. We were not properly armed for what we faced in Korea. Our squad weapons were fine--they all worked well. But our rocket launchers were World War II vintage and would not stop the Russian tanks used by the North Koreans. The ammunition was old and, in some cases, had to be cleaned. Many of the hand grenades, originally issued in World War II, were faulty and did not detonate. In some cases our ammunition was issued in boxes, so we had to put it in clips for the rifles. I will say that within a month, we started receiving better supplies. Until then, I didn't give the inadequate weapons supply much thought and I didn't hear many others complain. We just did what had to be done to get the job done. It was a relief when we started getting new ammo, because it was dependable. We got new rocket launchers that were capable of stopping a T-34 tank, and that was the biggest relief of all.
Except for artillery and mines, we had nothing to stop the T-34 tank. It was a Russian-made tank that was developed during the second world war. It was bigger and faster than those we took to Korea with us. They had a more powerful gun and thicker armor. Our rocket launchers were 2.36 MM and would only bounce off or explode on the tank with little or no damage. They were only able to operate on the road or on a firm surface like our tanks, but they could out-maneuver and out-shoot our tanks. I heard the estimated number of T-34 that were deployed in Korea, but I don't remember just how many. They numbered in the hundreds, though.
The tanks were not our biggest problem on the perimeter. The Air Force and Navy planes had knocked out so many of them by the time we got to the perimeter that they were not a factor there. The enemy infantry was our biggest threat. They were capable of getting almost upon us before we knew they were there. They always attacked under cover of darkness.
When we first arrived in Korea, the communications were not very good either, so the support was almost non-existent. We had World War II radios and they were not very good in Korea. The range of the radios was not great enough to transmit over the mountains. When we used land lines, it was fine unless they were cut by the enemy or accidentally broken. When we couldn't use land lines, we had to rely on batteries. The batteries were old and weak and didn't last long. We had replacement batteries, but they were also old. The old radios were replaced with new ones, so that solved our problem. We got the new radios about a month after we got to Korea. After communications improved, tank and artillery support was excellent. The weather determined the air support that was primarily supplied by the Air Force and Navy, and occasionally the Marines. If the pilots could see the targets, the support was always there. They came to our aid on many occasions to keep the enemy from overrunning our positions.
I am not clear on the date we first encountered the enemy, but it was after we arrived in Chinju. Chinju was a very important town on the road leading to Masan and Pusan. It was a large town with factories, schools, and shops of all descriptions. When we first arrived, the war had not reached Chinju, so everything was open for business. There was a lot of military activity, especially from the ROK army, which was withdrawing South. The roads were crowded with troop movement.
There was a rail system at Chinju that moved supplies north and south. Whoever controlled the road and rail system controlled the movement of supplies and could mass supplies for a continuing attack. We used that rail system when we were sent to Chinju. It was an antiquated, narrow gauge track that had been built by the Japanese during their occupation of Korea. The locomotive that pulled our train was an old steam engine fueled by coal. It probably was used as a passenger train before the war, but was used only for military personnel and equipment when we got there.
From Chinju we moved into a blocking position at Sanchong about ten miles south. Sanchong was just a small village on the road to Chinju. I don't remember anything about it other than its location and that it was where we had our blocking position. The first night we dug into position, we were attacked. We didn't have any warning of the pending attack until we started receiving small arms fire. At the time, we had no way to know what the intentions of the enemy were, but as it turned out, it was nothing more than a diversion for an attack on the third battalion at Hadong. A diversion is a probing attack to deceive the enemy into thinking the main attack is to be in that position, while the full scale attack is in another area. If it works, units are shifted to the areas being probed and leave the main attack area weaker and less able to defend their position. Hadong was another junction city. It was not as large as Chinju, but important for its road junctions and as a direct route to Masan and Pusan.
Hadong was 35 miles from Chinju and the 3rd Battalion's mission was to secure that town. We were in blocking position about 20 miles from Hadong. This all took place before the Perimeter was established, so there was no static line. We operated usually in battalion-sized units controlled by Division, which got its orders from the Army. Once we established the Perimeter, we were in static positions and had linking positions with other units. The perimeter consisted mostly of army units. There were some Marines and ROK units, too. The Perimeter extended from Yongdok on the Sea of Japan to Chindong-ni on the Korea Strait. It was approximately 160 miles long and 60 miles deep.
The first attack we experienced in Korea started at Sanchong in the early morning and probably didn't last more than an hour. It was so dark we couldn't see much, so I just fired at muzzle flashes to my front. They didn't penetrate our positions so we didn't have any casualties that I am aware of. I only saw a few dead enemy--about five or six--out in front of our position. They withdrew after about an hour. We held our positions that night, but were ordered to withdraw the next day because we were being flanked and in danger of being trapped. I saw the first dead enemy soldier on the first night we were attacked. To say that I was anything but scared would be a lie. It was more frightening at night because we were unable to see. We just had to be very alert and observe everything that took place within sight or hearing.
We left the blocking position at Sanchong in the early afternoon, I think on the 26th. While we were moving back toward Chinju, an airplane dropped a message telling us we were supposed to be in Haman, which was 35 miles to the south. We were supposed to have pulled back the day before, but never got the movement order. We continued south until we met a South Korean Navy lieutenant who told us the road was blocked by the enemy and that Chinju had been captured. We had to leave the road and start over the mountains.
After being informed that the roads were blocked, Captain McDaniels issued us some Korean money that had been taken from a North Korean paymaster, whom we had captured. He told us that we were going out as a unit, but if we were separated we were to go south and stay off the roads. In the event we were separated from our unit, we could use the Korean money to buy food or any other things we might need to get back to our lines. I don't recall what time we started over the mountains, but it probably was in the early afternoon. The route we took was little more than a trail. It was barely wide enough for a jeep, and the narrow road was washed out in many places so it was difficult going. We had to make repairs in some places so the Jeeps could get through. We had some engineers with us who made the repairs. They widened the trail in some places to allow the Jeeps to get through and repaired bridges so they would accommodate a Jeep. Nothing larger than a Jeep could travel on the narrow road.
We did not encounter any enemy while on the march. We kept a point squad about 100 yards in front of the main column for security and early warning of the enemy. We were traveling light because our duffle bags were left in Chinju and we never had a chance to go for them. I guess they were taken by the North Koreans. We had all of our clothing and personal items in our duffle bags. We had only a few items in our field packs, such as extra socks, mess kits, and writing material. Some of us had an extra canteen of water. We had all we needed to get back to a secure area unless we were delayed and had to fight a prolonged battle.
We marched all night and finally reached a small village named Masong-ni early in the morning. It was the last road that the enemy could block to trap us behind lines. We beat them there by about seven hours. After a short rest, we left Masong-ni and continued south for another hour until we finally met a truck convoy that had been sent to pick us up.
Battle of the Notch
The 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry assembled in Chungam-ni at 0615. We were to relieve C Company, 19th Infantry at the Notch. The Notch was a pass cut through the mountain for the road. We had five medium tanks and four armored cars leading the column, with five men on the tanks and armored cars. The rest were loaded on trucks and jeeps. My company was leading with A, D, and B following.
We reached the pass and some vehicles had started down the other side when the enemy sprung their attack. The lead tank took a direct hit, disabling it and killing all of the crew, completely blocking the narrow road. Machineguns started firing from the front and both sides. The convoy came to a halt and we jumped from the trucks. My squad was in the second truck. I didn't know until later that my squad leader Cpl. Norman Weidy, along with Pvt. William Rainey, were killed while still on the truck. I didn't know any of the tankers because they were our supporting unit and they usually went to units to support different operations.
We took cover in a ditch on the right of the road and started returning fire. The vehicles were riddled by machinegun fire. The vehicle that I had been in started leaking gasoline into the ditch, so I called out for the men close to me to stop firing their weapons. Pvt. Jackie Mann didn't hear me and fired his rifle. The muzzle blast ignited the gasoline in the ditch and he was engulfed in flames. He jumped from the ditch and started running down the road. I, along with Rudolph Marquez, tackled him and beat out the flames. He was so badly burned that he died shortly after being treated by the medics. Jackie, who was my good friend, was the first American dead that I saw in Korea. Also at the Notch, Pvt. James Sawtelle was shot through the leg and was evacuated to Japan. He returned later and became the Company Commander's driver. Jackie Mann, Rudolph Marquez, and James Sawtelle were all in my squad. We had gone on pass together on Okinawa. Jackie was from the south, but I don't know what state.
At the battle of the Notch, I met Jerry Goulet, whom I had taken basic training with. We had a few minutes to talk before we continued the attack. He was with C Company, 19th Infantry, which was on the hill to the right of the road where we were ambushed by the North Koreans.
I was numb after the battle and the reality didn't sink in until after it was all over. I only got my eyebrows and hair singed helping put out the fire on Jackie. We finally were able to mount an attack on the hill to the right of the road. We secured the top and established defensive positions. The battle lasted until mid afternoon until the enemy withdrew. We were then strafed by our own aircraft at the Battle of the Notch. It was just a mistake in identification. We had identification panels out, but they didn't see them. An identification panel is a colored banner that all friendly units display to identify themselves from the air so they won't be mistaken for the enemy by aircraft. The panel is changed frequently to keep it from being compromised.
We didn't have anyone in the company fall apart after the fighting was over. We all took it very well emotionally. We talked about it a lot, describing the things that we went through and what we did and saw. We had 90 men killed at the Notch, and many more wounded. I'm sure there is a list of the casualties, but I have not tried to get it. It probably can be obtained from the Department of the Army or the Department of Veterans Affairs. Only about 20 of those killed were from my company. The rest were from supporting units. My squad leader was the only veteran in our squad. When he was killed, I had no experienced combat veteran to learn from.
Corporal Weidy was later replaced by Cpl. Benjamin Aslin. He wasn't very well liked because he was somewhat of a bully. Aslin was one of the largest men in the company, and he took advantage of his size by intimidating others, to include beating up on those he did not get along with. He did not last long as a squad leader because he kicked one of his squad members, and was demoted. He was only 19 years old and in many ways too immature for a leadership position. However, he had attended Leadership School at Fort Ord, California, so he was the logical choice as a replacement after Corporal Weidy was KIA.
We moved from the Notch to the rear and then to our assigned position on a hill mass in the Pusan Perimeter on the 4th of August. The Pusan Perimeter was our last chance to stop the enemy. If they broke through, they could drive to Pusan. General Walker said that we would hold at all cost. The road leading south toward Pusan was in our area of responsibility. We established a road block so no vehicles could get through, and the artillery registered on the road to our front as well as other likely approaches.
We spent most of our time preparing our defense. We checked out the terrain that we were to defend and placed our automatic weapons in positions so they could cross fire to the front as well as cover likely approaches. We strung miles of barbed wire and placed minefields and booby traps in front of our positions. We used anti-personnel mines with trip wire, pressure, or pressure release firing devices. When pulled, the trip wire activated a pull-type fuse that detonated the mine. The pressure types was a three-pronged device attached to the mine to detonate it when it was stepped upon. The pressure release was a devise that was activated but would not explode until the person relieved the pressure on it. They were stepped on and when the foot was moved, the mine exploded. On all vehicle approaches, we used anti-tank mines, with anti-personnel mines scattered around the area for infantry who might be with the tanks. The tank mines were a large charge of explosive inside of a metal case which had a pressure type detonator.
In addition to the mines and booby traps, we laid communication wire from the Company CP to all the platoons so we could communicate with supporting units and units on both flanks, stocked up on ammo, and stored as much water in our bunkers as we could get. We checked all weapons and equipment to insure that they were working properly.
We registered the mortars and coordinated with all supporting units, as well as those tied in to our flanks. Mortars are a high angle fire weapons, and are usually fired from a position behind the lines. Since the people firing the mortars and artillery couldn't see where the rounds were hitting, they had a forward observer who directed the fire. All approaches were noted on the map and registered by number. A few rounds were usually fired and adjusted by the forward observer until they hit where they were wanted. The data for that concentration was recorded and if needed, fired upon with minimum delay.
We did anything else that we could to give us a advantage against an attacking force, including selecting an assembly point if we had to withdraw from our positions. We also dug bunkers. We used anything we could for material. We dug holes large enough for two men and covered the back part of the hole with logs, boxes, sand bags, dirt, or any other material we could find. The hill we were defending was almost bare of trees. There was a lot of brush that we used for camouflage. In front of the bunkers we used sand bags to build a burm to absorb bullets and as added protection. The front of the hole was not covered so we could use it to fight from. We used the covered area for sleeping, to get out of the hot sun, and as protection from incoming artillery. We had two men in each foxhole or bunker. During the day, we visited from one position to another. Sometimes we played cards or just talked about home.
We received our first replacements since our arrival in Korea and got a chance to meet them. There were always a lot of questions from them about what has happened and what was to be expected. I shared my experiences with the new men and tried to make them feel that they were really appreciated. I made them aware of how dangerous it was to walk upright so the enemy sniper could see them. I reminded them to keep on the alert at all times.
We got mail on a regular basis while in the perimeter. We had plenty of time to read letters from home because after we established our defensive positions, we spent most of our time in our bunkers out of sight of the enemy. I got many letters from home and girls who I had gone with from school. They were all concerned about me and wished me the best of luck. They said they were following the war in the papers and on radio. I got packages from home often. My parents and I exchanged many letters while I was in the Perimeter. My folks were fully aware of what was going on through my letters. The papers didn't provide much information, so most of what they knew was what I provided as I knew it. They were as well informed as I. I have one letter that my sister gave me a few years after our mother died. I don't know what happened to the others. She had a stack of them when I returned from Korea, but I never knew what happened to them.
We were assigned an area to defend that was a hill mass covering a main road to Masan. (We could not see the Naktong River from our position.) We were tied in with other units on both flanks to make a perimeter defense. We were in that position for over a month (August 4-September 16), so we called it "Homestead Hill." Sometime during that time frame, we were integrated into the 35th Regiment of the 25th Division. The 29th Infantry was returned to Okinawa in name only.
I became the BARman on Homestead Hill. I remember that I took it over after Benjamin Aslin was promoted to squad leader. He had been the BARman until that time. He took it from a soldier who was killed. I don't know his name. Any promotion was nice. Becoming the BARman required more responsibility and I was expected to help the squad leader control the squad at all times, especially during the attack. The Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) was invented by John Browning and adopted into the service in 1918. It was a weapon that could fire fully automatic or fire single shots by use of a selector level. Maximum effective rate of fire was about 350 rounds per minute. Most effective rate was about 170 RPM. The rifle weighed about 20 pounds with a fully-loaded 20-round magazine, and it was equipped with a bi-pod attached to the muzzle for firing while in the prone position. I liked the BAR because of its rapid rate of fire and its capability of delivering a heavy volume of fire on the mass attacks employed by the enemy; however, I didn't like the attention I got from the enemy while firing it. They always tried to disable the automatic weapons as soon as possible to reduce the fire power of the opposing force. The BAR was a .30 caliber rifle.
The first time the enemy struck was on September 1, sometime after midnight. One section of our perimeter was breached and a machine gun was captured. A counter attack was launched and the hill and the machine gun were retaken. When the attack began, all of their vehicles were disabled on the road and the enemy was stopped when they reached the barbed wire that we had strung in front of our positions. Our mines, rocket launchers, hand grenades, artillery and heavy machineguns stopped them. We had several casualties that night, including KIA. Another good friend was killed on the portion of the hill that was overrun.
The North Koreans were very well armed. Their tanks were better than ours for the first two months of the war. They had old artillery, but were very efficient with it. They were mostly young and well trained. They had a lot of Russian and Chinese weapons. They had an advantage over us at the beginning because of their superior manpower. It was estimated that they outnumbered us ten to one. They used camouflage so well that many times we didn't detect them until they were upon us. They had more stamina because they were acclimated to the climate.
During my tour in Korea, I always had good officers. True, most of them had no prior combat experience, but they were well versed on combat tactics and leadership. They were courageous and always had the welfare of the men as a priority. Capt. Orin McDaniels was my Company Commander. He was a World War II vet and one of the finest combat officers I ever served under. He was later promoted to Major and assigned to Battalion Headquarters. He survived the war, but I don't know where or when he retired. He led us out of a trap at Chinju over a mountain trail on an all-night march. My platoon leader was Lt. Robert Sheppard. Lieutenant Sheppard had no combat experience, but was a very capable officer.
We had several casualties while in the Perimeter. I knew some of those killed because they were my friends from Okinawa. When we were attacked on September 1st, my good buddy Robert Swisher was hit just above the right eye. The bullet came out behind his ear. He lived until the medic got to him, but died shortly thereafter. He was from the northeast, but I don't know what state. Another friend was hit in the leg while making a counter attack to regain a portion of the hill that was overrun. He continued the attack and recovered the machinegun that had been lost. He was later evacuated, but returned at a later date. I was hit in the face with dirt kicked up by an artillery shell, but after having my eyes flushed by a medic (I didn't know any of them by name--we just called them "Doc"), I returned to the line. This was one of a few close calls that I had while I was in the Perimeter. Otherwise, I was unhurt. In Korea, bullets close overhead and near my bunker and flying fragments from artillery and hand grenades were common.
I had two South Korean soldiers assigned to me while in the Perimeter, and I have nothing to say but good about them. Han and Rook were good workers and never got tired. I could depend on them as I could our own soldiers. They never complained and never lagged behind in the attack. They were with me when I needed them, and stayed with me until I was evacuated from Korea in December. They were just like another squad member. They carried M-1 rifles and wore American uniforms. They ate with us and fought with us. The language was a problem, but we had an interpreter in the company, so we got by fine. Most of the time hand signals would suffice.
All through our stay on Homestead Hill the enemy was always looking for weak places in our line. Such weaknesses could be a terrain feature that was hard to defend, improper placement of weapons, spreading too thin on the line, or likely avenues of approach not covered by mortar and artillery fire. Sometimes it was just lack of security or not being alert. Inadequate defensive positions were just a few things that could contribute to a weak place in the line. The enemy would probe an area, but back off if they met stiff resistance. We were able to fight them off. Any time we had a reversal of our progress, I was discouraged over it. It was discouraging to know that we would have to attack again to regain lost ground.
The probing attacks always came at night, so during the day we had plenty of leisure time, remaining always on the alert, of course. We lived, ate, and slept in our bunkers. During daytime, we wrote letters, played cards, and caught up on our rest. We didn't get much sleep at night because we were usually on 50 percent alert and always 100 percent when the attacks occurred. Fifty percent alert meant that one half of the unit had to be alert and ready to repel an attack at all times. It was not uncommon for the entire company to be on guard all night.
Most of the time in the Perimeter, we had two hot meals a day. It was prepared in the rear area and transported to our position. It was delivered in Thermos cans. Breakfast usually consisted of hotcakes, powdered eggs, bread, jam or jelly, coffee, orange juice, and sometimes we got coffee cake and doughnuts. At that time we got C-rations for lunch. Evening meal was usually prepared from canned food such as beans, corned beef hash, bread, jam or jelly, as well as coffee and juice. When chow was delivered, we went 50 percent at a time and brought our food back to our positions to eat. After eating, we took our mess kits back to the mess area to wash them and then went back to our bunkers. It was not always possible to wash our mess kits after using them, so we just wiped them out as best we could and if they couldn't be washed before the next meal, they were unsanitary. Not having water to wash our hands created the same problem. As a result of just lack of sanitation more than anything else, a lot of the men got diarrhea.
Once we established the Pusan Perimeter, there was no ground lost. We held our positions until we were reinforced and able to break out in September. On September 15, the Inchon Landing took place. On the next day, there was a full-scale attack by the UN forces where we broke out of the Perimeter and started pushing north.
When we left the Pusan Perimeter, we started pushing north, crossing the Naktong River and continuing toward Seoul. After the North Koreans were routed and in full flight, we were assigned the mission of mopping up those who were by-passed. As an explanation, after the breakout we were moving so fast that some enemy was bypassed and were now disrupting our supply lines. So the 35th Regiment, of which we were now a part, was assigned the mission of destroying them. We encountered more than expected, but were able to kill or capture them. We captured thousands while on this operation, and killed even more. On one operation we brought back over 200 prisoners--the most ever captured up to that time. The prisoners were taken to the rear and turned over for interrogation, then to POW camps.
We had some casualties within the regiment, including KIA. The wounded were cared for as soon as possible. We had medics with every platoon and they rendered immediate aid. Those who had to be evacuated were taken to secure locations, and then evacuated by litter jeep or ambulance to collecting stations. The collecting station was not in the perimeter. It was set up by the medical personnel behind the lines and had doctors present to evaluate the condition of those wounded to determine if they needed to be evacuated. If their wounds were serious enough, they were taken to the hospital. The dead were taken out after the area was secure. They were treated with respect at all times. After the breakout of the Perimeter and we started our push north, we found the bodies of seven American soldiers who had their hands bound behind them and had been shot. They were men from the 3rd Battalion who had been captured at Hadong.
The mop up lasted until either late September or early October. I'm not sure when we went back to the front line. When we did return to the line, we continued the attack north. We were always on the move, so I don't remember all of the places we went, but some of the towns we went through were Taejon, Suwon, Yong Dong Po, Kasan, Khumwa, and the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. We did not have to fight to take all of these cities because they were already liberated.
There were troops from other United Nations countries in Korea with us, but very seldom did we see them. They were usually to our flanks or supporting from the rear as reserve. Only on two occasions did I get to see and talk to them. Before crossing the Han River, the Turks were in support of my company, so I was able to talk to them briefly. It was awkward because we could not understand each other. The British were in our area occasionally and we were able to speak a few times, but it was just a hello as we were passing.
After leaving the Perimeter I became assistant squad leader but kept my automatic rifle. Asin made me his assistant when he became squad leader. I remained in that position until Aslin was relieved and we got a new squad leader. The new squad leader (I knew him only as "Tex" and that he was from Texas) didn't like for me to be the BARman and the assistant squad leader because he didn't think I could do both jobs while we were moving and especially in the attack, so I kept the BAR. Often in the attack, the automatic rifle man was placed in a position to give supporting fire for the squad and was not always with the squad when they were making the assault, therefore he was not in a position to help control the squad. Under those conditions, I could not have performed both jobs so a good buddy of mine took over as assistant. Tex was only the squad leader for a short time. He was relieved for fighting with another squad member. He was replaced by Sgt. Al Lasala.
On the humorous side of things, many of the men had diarrhea and it was not always possible to stop for relief. One day we were attacking a hill when my friend Elmer Meyer called to the platoon leader and said, "Lieutenant, I have to go to the bathroom" (not the exact words he used). The Lieutenant replied, "Damn it, Meyer, wait until we take this hill, then we will all be able to go." After we took the hill and secured the position, Lieutenant Shepard said, "Okay, Soldier. You can go now." The response was, "Too late now, Sir." A little later we were talking about how heavy the fighting had been and Elmer said, "Sure scared the crap out of me."
Another time we were in the attack and a foxhole with three North Koreans was bypassed. It was well-camouflaged with brush. As I came alongside of it, I saw movement and yelled for the squad to get down. At the same time I fired a long burst from my BAR into the hole. After checking it out, we found the enemy soldiers had turned around in the hole and were ready to fire on us from behind.
We got as far north as about ten miles from the Yalu River, which is the border between North Korea and Manchuria. At that point the Chinese attacked the entire front line and penetrated in some areas, so it was necessary to withdraw to prevent being surrounded. Like the situation in Korea before the Pusan Perimeter, when the Chinese entered the war we were not able to stop them until we reached a defensible position, were re-supplied, and received replacements. The Chinese who penetrated the lines set up roadblocks in many places, so we had to fight our way through them, but I don't know of anyone who was involved in hand-to-hand fighting while we were moving to the rear.
I spent Thanksgiving Day 1950 in Korea. We didn't celebrate, but had an excellent meal prepared by the mess personnel. Then on the 26th of November, the Chinese hit my company position. My squad was in position to block a narrow road through a mountain pass when we were attacked by a large force of Chinese. They had already penetrated the lines and captured some of the mortar platoon before hitting my position. Pete Uphold and I were in foxholes close to the road when we saw two soldiers running down the hill across the road from our positions. They were shouting in Korean, so we could not understand what they were saying. We fired upon them and they both fell down the bank onto the road. As one fell, his leg was wedged between the bank of the road and some brush. The next morning, we discovered that they were South Korean soldiers from our mortar platoon who had escaped after they were captured. I will always remember the sound of his dog tags as the wind blew them about. He was hanging his head down from the bank.
I lost two more friends that night--Rudolph Marquez, who took basic training with me at Fort Ord, and was in my squad from the time we arrived on Okinawa, and Arthur Black Hawk, who was in another squad. We had many casualties, but other than these two, I don't know how many or their names. We had at least one platoon leader killed. Lieutenant Fry was from the first platoon. He was killed on the 27th or 28th of November. I never tried to locate their families when I returned home because most of them were from the south or east of the USA.
We held our position, even though the Chinese got behind us, and continued south. The next night we were hit again and forced to withdraw further south. We had to break several roadblocks as we went. The infantry would take the high ground on both sides of the road and allow the vehicles to pass through. During a withdrawal, all units can't move at the same time or the enemy would be free to continue the attack, so some units on the line delayed and fought until others moved back. After the first to move back got into a blocking position, the delaying units moved back through their positions.
On the second night (27 November) is the time when I felt in the most personal danger in Korea. I was knocked down the hill from an artillery blast and injured my leg. After the explosion, I had scraped my knee on a rock when I fell and it was bandaged without discovering the fragment that was imbedded in my knee. I must have been dazed from the blast. I just remember the Korean soldiers who were attached to me came down and picked me up. After I recovered, they helped me back up the hill to join my squad. They both stayed close to me until I was evacuated to Japan.
I was not injured so badly that I couldn't function as an infantryman. I knew that we were in for a long hard fight to escape being surrounded and captured or killed. After walking a while, my leg and feet didn't hurt as bad, so I had no difficulty staying with the company. Since my BAR was a lot heavier than a rifle, Rook carried it for me until I had to use it. He also carried some of my ammunition. My knee bothered me for a while, but the swelling and pain subsided and I thought no more about it until 1962, when I had a lump appear on the knee that was injured. After cutting out the lump, it was discovered that it was a piece of gristle that had formed over a small piece of shell fragment. It had been in my knee since 1950.
While moving off the mountain that second night, Benjamin Aslin, Han, Rook and I came across an Aid man who had been shot in the leg and could not walk. We carried him until we came upon a tank. We put him on the tank and continued with the company. We later saw the tank had been knocked out at a roadblock. I don't know what happened to the Aid man.
Most of the natives were going south, even the North Koreans. They didn't want to be there when the Chinese arrived. It was a very sad sight to see. They were trudging south with what few things they could carry. They had no transportation, so they carried mostly clothing and a little food. Years after the war, I heard about civilians being killed when the Han River bridge was destroyed. I don't like to see things like that happen. Civilians are always killed in a war, that makes it even more tragic, but it happens. To keep the enemy from using the bridge to continue the attack, it had to be destroyed. The way I heard, they were warned to stay off the bridge, but did not heed the warning.
The terrain affected our ability to move by vehicle, which would have been much faster otherwise. The roads were too narrow for a vehicle to pass, so if one was disabled, the road was blocked until the obstruction was cleared, The mountains were so steep that it was very difficult to walk anywhere but on the road. We could not get artillery or enough tank support because of the bad roads. We were only able to defend for short periods in blocking positions to allow other units to pass through, then we pulled out before we were surrounded.
The weather was bitterly cold and we did not have our winter clothing yet, so we had many cold weather injuries. Ever since I was knocked down the hill I had been limping because I hurt my leg in the fall. I didn't pay much attention to it because I was doing the best I could to keep up with the rest of the company. We delayed and fired on the enemy, then moved to the rear and repeated that maneuver until we broke through. It was an orderly withdrawal from beginning to end. There was no panic that I observed throughout the whole ordeal. It was a classic delay, fight, withdraw all the way to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. We walked most of the way back south, occasionally riding on tanks that were with us. When we reached Pyongyang, we heard about what was happening at the Chosin Reservoir. It was from Pyongyang that I was evacuated to Japan with frostbite to both feet and fingers on both hands. Since I didn't rejoin the company until January, I can't describe the withdrawal any further. I have been told that the withdrawal took from 27 November until early January--a little over one month. They continued south until they were just south of Suwon.
The Korean winter was extremely cold. The wind usually blew down from Siberia, and it was bone chilling. I now live in California and ski in the Sierra Mountains where there is much more snow, but it is not nearly as cold as it was in Korea, where cold wind and snow was prevalent most of the time. It was extremely cold, well below zero--as much as 30 degrees below at times. It was so cold the snow was dry, but it was not too deep--probably not more than six inches. We had no trouble walking in it. The snow blowing from the north was extremely cold and about 20 or 30 miles per hour. I don't remember ever being able to get out of the cold during the withdrawal. When we were able to stop, we tried to dig holes in the frozen ground for protection and defense. It was very difficult and often impossible. In many cases when I couldn't penetrate the frozen soil, I scraped up snow, leaves, tree branches, or any other material available to make a protective barrier in front of me. During those times we bundled up as much as we could to get warm.
We had many cold weather injuries because we did not have proper cold weather clothing. We had winter underwear--both top and bottom, regular combat boots, wool socks, fatigue trousers, wool shirt, wool sweater, field jacket, and an overcoat. We also had a pile-lined cap with ear flaps and our steel helmet. We did not have Parkas or cold weather boots. Some had mittens, others had gloves. The mittens had a trigger finger in which to stick the finger in while firing. When not firing weapons, the finger could be retracted and put back into the mitten. Most of the cold weather injuries were to the feet and fingers.
The bitterly cold weather affected everything. In many cases our weapons froze and would not operate. We had to beat the ice off before we could fire them. All weapons with moving parts were subject to freezing. To try to solve the problem, we tried to keep them clean and free of moisture, applied a very light coat of oil, and worked the moving parts frequently to try to keep them from freezing. We had mostly C-rations while moving back. The dry food was not affected by the cold, but all canned rations with liquids froze. We took the food we were going to eat next and placed it inside of our clothing next to our bodies and let it thaw before we could eat it. In a few cases we were able to build a fire to warm them.
Also, when we were very cold, our body functions slowed down if we were in a stationary position. We had to exercise to keep our heart pumping blood to our lower extremities to keep them from freezing. After being exposed to cold weather for a long period of time, we became sluggish. Our brains slowed down and we thought slower and moved slower. When we got that cold, we had to keep moving or find shelter and warm up or we would freeze to death. We found several Chinese soldiers frozen to death in their foxholes. I saw some of our own soldiers who were so badly frozen that their toes had turned black and cracked open. In less severe cases, they swelled and turned chalky white, which was my case. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling in that part that is frozen. I had trouble walking since I couldn't feel my toes, so I walked in an awkward manner. But I was able to keep up with the rest of the men without much trouble.
In spite of the cold weather injuries and all the hardships, however, we endured. I don't know of anyone who gave up. We were in as good spirit as could be expected under those conditions. In my opinion, every man who charges a hill with bullets flying over his head and grenades exploding around him to dislodge an enemy from a well-fortified position, is a "hero." There was a lot of such action by everyone, so to pick out just one would be hard to do. The ones I consider heroes are Han and Rook for not leaving me when I was injured. They could have left me and withdrawn with the squad, but they stayed until I was able to walk out and, with their help, rejoin the company. We didn't always have to dislodge the enemy from fortified positions. Many times they were just moving along the hills or laying down on top of the ground firing at us. We didn't encounter any guerrilla activity, but we saw a few snipers. They didn't bother us much. I don't know of anyone who was hit by a sniper.
As far as the vehicles, ice formed in the fuel pumps and gas lines and block the gas from getting to the carburetor, and the vehicles wouldn't start. I don't know what method was used to remove the ice. Many batteries also froze and ruptured. The tracked vehicles froze to the ground and had to be broken loose by another vehicle. Thankfully, the cold did not affect air support in any way. As long as the pilots could see, they were there helping us. I saw a B-26 bomber dropping napalm bombs on a large concentration of Chinese soldiers. When the bomb hit them, they scattered to the side and continued forward, leaving hundreds of dead behind. The air support was instrumental in helping us escape the encirclement. Whenever possible, the tanks were used to lead the column and for the infantry to ride on. At times we had to breach roadblocks and the tanks were used to spearhead the attack while the infantry spread out and cleared the surrounding hills at the road block. We never had an air drop to our positions. We were moving most of the time and had sufficient ammunition and supplies. We could have used some food, but it was not possible to get it to us without the possibility of it being recovered by the enemy.
We received no special attention when we reached Pyongyang. Everyone was preparing to withdraw, so we were just another unit in the same situation as they were. The Marines and Army units trapped at Chosin were in a much worse situation than those of us on the west side. There was only one narrow road for all of them to move on and the Chinese had established strong roadblocks on it. They had to fight all the way. There were so many disabled vehicles on the road that the convoy was stopped for long periods of time. This gave the Chinese time to catch them in a stationary position and inflict heavy casualties. To the west, we had more room to maneuver and more roads to use, therefore we were not delayed as much as those on the east of the mountains.
I stayed with the company all the way to Pyongyang. By that time the Chinese were slowing down and were not pushing us so hard. We had a chance to stop and build a fire to warm up and have hot food delivered. We also checked for injuries. That's when I discovered my own injuries and was ordered to the Aid Station. I was able to fight along with the rest of the men up until I was evacuated. I think I got frostbite on the night of the 26th of November when we were in a defensive position prior to the first attack by the Chinese. I remember that I could not keep my feet warm. We were in foxholes so we could not move around to keep warm. My feet remained cold through the night and I soon lost feeling in my toes. I knew that I had no feeling in my feet, but I did not know to what extent they were frozen. Prior to the loss of feeling, my toes got extremely cold and I had a tingling feeling in them. We didn't always have a chance to change socks or massage our feet to keep the blood circulating. Our boots didn't offer enough protection against the extreme cold.
I was taken by train to an airfield in Korea, where I was examined, evaluated, and determine severe enough to be evacuated to a hospital in Japan. I don't know the name of the town where the airfield was located. The train I took was a multi-purpose train, It carried troops south for hospitalization, then carried supplies, equipment, and troops north again. After reaching the air base, we were loaded on a C-47 transport and cargo plane going to Fukuoka, Japan. After further evaluation in Fukuoka, I was then sent to Osaka, Japan, and remained there for about three weeks. To this day, I can't remember what mode of transportation we used to get to Osaka.
I wrote to my parents when I got to the hospital, but I don't know if they ever received a telegram or not. I informed them of my injuries, and assured them that they were not too serious. They were anxious to know if I would be sent back to Korea. I didn't know until two days before I left that I was going back.
In Osaka Hospital, my treatment consisted of lots of rest, good food, and sleep without the worries of a battlefield soldier. After about a week, my big toes started to turn black, so a little of each toe was peeled off. After that they were bandaged and cleaned daily. The doctors and nurses were very kind to the patients. They treated us like royalty. We were not allowed to get out of bed for a while, because walking would have done more damage to our frozen feet. I didn't like to use a bedpan, so I would sneak out to the bathroom whenever I could. One of the nurses caught me and took my pajama bottoms away from me. The next time I went without my pajama bottoms, so she gave them back to me with a stern warning not to do it again. The doctors were all great, but I especially liked the nurse who took my pajamas away from me. She was very nice and always cheerful. She greeted us with a pat on the arm and a "Good morning, Soldier. How are you feeling today?" I just called her Nurse. I didn't ever know her name--only that she was from Utah. The Japanese nurse's helpers were very nice to us, also.
There were hundreds of men being treated for the same types of injuries, but only one other from my company that I knew about. Elbert E. Sweet was not in my squad, but I knew him. We went on pass together in Osaka. He had the same injuries I did. We were sent back to Korea at the same time and assigned to the same squad. I was assigned the BAR and Sweet was my assistant gunner. I rotated before he did, but he made it home okay. We spent Christmas Day of 1950 in the hospital in Japan.
After about three weeks, I was sufficiently recovered to be transferred to the 8040th Station Hospital in Nara, Japan, for further rehabilitation. We were allowed to go on pass from there. Nara was a beautiful old town. It was the old Imperial Capitol of Japan. There wasn't much to do in Nara, so we took the train to Osaka. There were several clubs in Osaka where we went to dance, drink beer, and meet girls. I was at Nara for about two weeks before returning to Korea. I went to Sasebo, Japan, and boarded an LST ship for Pusan, Korea. After reaching Pusan I went by truck to join my company around Suwon, just in time to start attacking North again.
While I was rehabilitating, I don't think I thought much about the events leading up to my injury and leaving buddies behind. Most of the men I went to Korea with had been killed or wounded, so there were only replacements and I didn't really have time to form a strong bond with them. When I returned to the squad, there was only one old member left and he was not on Okinawa with me. He joined the squad on Homestead Hill in September. As far as my injuries were concerned, I considered myself lucky to be alive. So many of my friends were killed or injured more severely. I was awarded the Purple Heart medal in December of 1950. It is nice to have and to display with my other medals in a display case in my office.
The cure for my frostbite was rehabilitating, but I will always have a numb feeling in my toes. It's not painful, but cold weather is still very uncomfortable to me.
Return to Korea
Replacements had arrived sometime in the month of December while I was in Japan. No replacements were received during the withdrawal while I was there. After getting replacements and supplies, my company had started attacking north again in January. I joined them again shortly after that.
I returned to Korea in January, joining my company at Suwon. I did not want to go back. I didn't know if I was ready, or ever would be ready to go back. My feet have always bothered me since they were frozen, and many times on the long marches in Korea in 1951, I thought of reporting to the aid station, but did not. They always seemed to be on the verge of freezing again. When the weather started to warm up, I had no trouble other than sore feet most of the time. Even today the extreme weather--hot or cold--is uncomfortable to me.
After getting back to my company and talking to those that I knew, I didn't think much about whether I should have been sent back or not. I was a soldier and I went where I was needed. I think that by that time I had decided to remain in the army. My reason for joining was to travel and see the world, and I got that opportunity with the Army.
One of the replacements who joined the company in December told me that when he joined them, there were only about 50 men left out of a normal 240-man company. I made new buddies and most of them survived the war. Gene Sweet lives in Indiana and we still correspond with each other. Pete Uphold, who joined me on Homestead, lives in Pennsylvania, Elmer Meyer lived in New York, but passed away in 1995. Benjamin Aslin passed away in 2001.
Sometime in January, Ellis Preece was captured while on an outpost in January. Bob Gore was captured by the Chinese. I don't know what the circumstances were of his capture, but I think it was around the same time as Ellis Preece. Both were returned after the treaty was signed. Ellis lives in Texas. Bob lived in Oklahoma, but passed away around 1997. In November of 1950, Rudolph Marquez and Alfonse Gladkowski had been captured by the Chinese and both died while in captivity. After we saw what the North Koreans had done to those who were captured at Hadong, we were all very concerned about being captured. In fact, we were determined not to be captured. If there ever came a time when we had no means to resist or escape, I don't know what I would have done.
I don't remember any hill numbers that we were on in 1951. We were not usually told what the hill number was in the briefing before the attack. Only the towns and villages had any meaning to me. Our area was generally just inland from the west coast. Some of the towns we went through were Taejon, Osan, Suwon, Yongdungpo, Seoul, Uijongbu, and the North Korean capitol of Pyongyang. The Iron Triangle was three towns--all rail towns above the 38th parallel--which formed a triangle. The point of the triangle was pointed to the southwest with Chorwon in that position. Kumhwa was on the right top, and Pyongyang was on the top left. They were located in a valley surrounded by mountains. Whoever controlled the mountains and the Iron Triangle controlled all the roads and rails leading north or south. We went through Kumhwa on our move north. Kumhwa as the first meeting place for the peace negotiators.
After reaching Yongdungpo, we established defensive positions and started preparing for the Han River crossing. While we were there, a Korean boy ran up to me and pointed to a house. He kept repeating "Communist" and pointing to an opening under the house. I went to investigate, but it was dark and I couldn't see anything. I started to leave, so he took me by the arm and led me back. After my eyes became accustomed to the dark, I saw a Chinese soldier hiding in the far corner of the crawl space. I told him to come out, but he did not move. I called for Rook to talk to him and try to get him to come out. After a while, he came out crying. He was a very young boy and he thought I was going to shoot him. After he realized I wasn't going to harm him, he was happy to surrender. The Korean boy who told me he was there crawled under the house and brought back a Russian automatic rifle--we called it a "burp gun"--with a fully-loaded magazine. I realized then how lucky I was that he did not fire at me when I first looked under the house.
Someone in the company found a brewery and brought back some to the company. When they went back for more, the Military Police was guarding it and wouldn't let them have any. While in this position, the Turks were in the same area preparing to cross the Han River with us, so I had a chance to meet some of them. I went to their position and they were sitting around a fire drinking hot chocolate. When I came over to them, an officer jumped up and offered me his seat on a box and gave me his hot chocolate. He was wearing a pair of boots that had the soles worn completely through, so I went back to the supply truck and got him a new pair of boots. He was so happy that he couldn't thank me enough. The Turks were usually attached to the 25th Division and were in support or on our flanks on many operations. There are many stories of the Turks and what great fighters they were, and from what I saw of them, the stories are probably all true. We never had to worry about them leaving their positions until they were ordered to do so. They were fearless fighters and the Chinese were not to eager to confront them.
We were never tied in with the US Marines, therefore I don't think I ever saw a Marine while I was in Korea. Other than being in the same area at times and being tied in or our flanks, I also had no contact with the South Korean soldiers except the ones who were attached to our company. Sometimes we used South Korean civilians as laborers. When we were in a position too difficult for our vehicles, South Koreans were often employed to carry food, supplies, and ammunition to our positions.
We crossed the Han River on the 7th of March 1951 and started the drive to Seoul. We crossed in assault boats early in the morning. The first wave, of which I was a part, had a good crossing. We did not receive very heavy fire. Those that followed weren't so lucky. They were hit by mortar and rifle fire. We had seven men killed that day. My squad had no casualties. After we got across the river, we captured many Chinese soldiers who just did not want to fight anymore. They were in bad condition, short of ammunition, had no food, and many had severe cold weather injuries. The prisoners were taken to the rear and placed under guard until they could be evacuated.
The weather gradually changed from very cold to very hot. In the summer months, it was very hot in Korea, with temperatures reaching 100 degrees at times. For summer uniforms we wore olive drab fatigue top and trousers, steel helmets, and combat boots. It rained a lot--and very hard at times, which made the roads almost impossible for vehicles. I would not consider it Monsoon. The biggest problem we had with the heavy rain was the roads were so slippery the vehicles slid into the drain ditch, and sometimes became so soggy that the vehicles became bogged down in the mud. We had ponchos for rain gear. They were great for stationary positions, but were no good if we were walking. They were made of a material that did not let our body heat escape, so we perspired so much that our clothing got wet. The water ran down it and our legs got wet to our knees. It did make a good shelter if we were in a stationary position by spreading it over our position like an overhead shelter. It rained hard enough at times that our mess kits filled up with water before we finished eating. If we didn't have overhead shelter, our fox holes trapped water so we had to bail it out. It didn't affect our weapons so much if we kept them clean and oiled. A light rain was welcomed in the hot weather because it cooled things down and we could catch water in our helmets for washing. Being able to wash always lifted our spirits and made us feel better. The mosquitoes were a big problem, too. We had to use repellent to keep them off.
I got hepatitis in May 1951 and spent two weeks at a collecting station behind our lines. I was too sick to eat, so I lived on orange juice until I could take solid food again. I lost ten pounds and was very weak for a few days. I got hepatitis from drinking untreated water. It is contagious and there were a few others who got it also. We had infectious hepatitis, which affects the liver. It is not as serious as other types.
My Platoon Leader was Lieutenant Shepard when we first got to Korea. He was evacuated in September. I was told that he was sent to Japan with Yellow Jaundice. I don't know if that is true or not. Lieutenant Shepard was a very fine Officer and a good leader. He was a big man and all the men respected him and did not hesitate to take orders from him. I remember Lieutenant Curtis Freeman was my platoon leader and that he was the officer who brought us out of North Korea. Capt Orin McDaniels was the company commander. He was a combat veteran from World War 11, and as I said earlier, he was one of the finest officers I ever served under. He was promoted to Major and assigned to Battalion Headquarters. Captain Brown took over as company commander and led us until January or February, when he was replaced by Captain Ahern. I don't know much about Captain Brown or Ahern. Since I was evacuated, I didn't serve under them very long. Captain Brown operated mostly from the command post or up and down the column while on the move. Captain Ahern was only the Company Commander for about two weeks, when he was promoted to Battalion HQS. Capt. Luther Weaver took the company in February, just before the Han River crossing. He was also a World War 11 combat veteran. He and Captain McDaniels were the best Company Commanders I had in Korea (in my opinion). We always had good leadership.
The North Koreans were much better soldiers and fighters than the Chinese. They were better trained and better armed when the war started. The North Koreans wore brown field uniforms and were armed with Russian and Chinese weapons. The Chinese wore quilted, padded uniforms which were very warm when dry. But when it was wet, they took a long time to dry and they were very heavy. In that condition, they did not provide enough protection from the cold. I don't remember what the Chinese wore for summer uniforms. The North Koreans wore brown uniforms. Some wore helmets and others wore caps. They camouflaged their uniforms with brush and leaves to make themselves hard to see.
The North Koreans had better weapons than the Chinese. They were armed with Russian automatic rifles as well as some Japanese rifles that were left in Korea when the Japanese left after World War II. They had old Russian and Chinese artillery, but were very effective with it. Their best weapon was the Russian T-34 tank. The Chinese had a lot of automatic weapons. The Russian burp gun was only one of the many weapons they used. It was a fully automatic rifle with a very rapid rate of fire. It had a magazine that held about 30 rounds. They also had some old Japanese rifles from World War 11. The Chinese used their superior man power to overrun the enemy positions in mass attacks. As a result, their casualties were always very high. We didn't use mass attacks. We used fire and maneuver in the attack. One unit fired to keep the enemy pinned down while the rest advanced until we were in a close assault position, then we attacked to the objective. There were not so many casualties that way.
The Air Force, Navy and Marines provided us with air support. The Navy usually had Corsair propeller-driven planes which were excellent for close ground support. The Marines also used Corsairs. The Air Force had F51 propeller-driven planes, as well as the F80 Shooting Star and the F86 Saber Jet. The slower prop-driven planes were better for ground support because they could see the enemy better because of their slower speed. After our communications improved, we always had good artillery support. We had 105 and 155 MM field guns an well as 4.2 MM mortars. Without the air support, we would not have been able to hold the Pusan Perimeter. The fliers almost completely shut down all daytime movement of the North Koreans and knocked out so many of their vehicles and artillery, as well infantry, that they were never able to mount an attack strong enough to take and hold any position for any length of time. The artillery was always in support and ready to fire when needed. Whenever it was possible, tanks spearheaded an attack with infantry attacking on both flanks and alongside of them. When the tanks were road bound, the infantry used the same method of attack, but the tanks followed in a single file on the road. My company never used helicopters while I was in Korea. I saw them flying overhead, but always going to another position.
If we were expected to remain in a position for any length of time, we strung barbed wire and lay mines and booby traps, registered mortars and artillery. We always dug fox holes for self protection. We always tried to pick a location that could easily be defended. Most favored was on high ground overlooking open terrain, or with an obstacle, such as a river, between us and the enemy. Without any doubt, my training helped me to survive the war. Just the very basics such as knowing my weapon and infantry tactics give me a big advantage over anyone who was not trained.
A well built bunker was about the safest place we could be in a defensive position. If they were well built, it took a direct hit to destroy them. We had only our equipment with us in the bunkers. There were no furnishings or bedding except a blanket or sleeping bag. If waterproof material could be obtained, we could build a bunker that kept out the rain and stayed dry inside. Many times I spread my poncho over the top and staked it down to keep the rain out. A typical two-man bunker was T- shaped hole about four feet deep with the top of the T facing the front. It was used for a fighting trench. The back trench, which was covered, could be any length or size we wanted or had the material to cover. It was normally used by one person at a time, since the other person was on guard. It was used for sleeping or as cover from artillery or mortars. I never saw any non human beings in the hole with me except mosquitoes.
In contrast to the bunker, a fox hole was nothing more than a hole in the ground. If it was to be a two-man position, it was more like a trench. It was usually a temporary position, so there were no comforts in a fox hole. In a foxhole, one man sat up and slept while the other was on guard.
My regiment received two Distinguished Unit Citations while in Korea. The first was for the defense on the Perimeter and the Kum River in September 1950. The second was for L Company 35th and other units for the battle on Hill 717 and Hill 682 in September 1951.
We washed and shaved whenever we got a break from action and if water was available. Whenever we were in a reserve area, showers were made available by the Quartermaster, who set up showers on a nearby river or stream. Clean clothing was provided at this time. We had periodic body dusting to keep us free of body lice. We could pick up body lice from sleeping in the Korean houses or using blankets or quilts found in the Korean houses. My friend Pete Uphold got intestinal worms and had to be evacuated for a while.
Whenever possible we were served hot meals prepared by the mess personnel. It was mostly canned food or hot C-rations, canned fruit, bread, beans, corned beef hash, beans and franks, and a variety of other nourishing food. When it was not possible to get hot food to us, we were given C-rations. In the reserve areas, we were always served hot food, including baked bread, cake, donuts, hot cakes, beef, ham, and a variety of other food. On Thanksgiving day in 1950, we were served a complete traditional dinner. The only thing missing was wine. It was the best meal ever served to me in Korea. I loved rice, so I bought it from vendors whenever I could. When going through villages, we sometimes encountered peddlers selling a variety of things. I bought persimmons, rice balls, candy, and dried fish. I liked the food and had no adverse effects from it. More than anything else, I missed milk, ice cream, and fresh fruit.
I had two good friends that were with me almost all the way through the war. Elbert E. Sweet was in my squad and was hospitalized at the same time as I was. We went on pass together in Osaka, Japan, and returned to Korea together. He was assigned to my squad as assistant gunner on my BAR. When his tour of duty in Korea was over, he returned to the states and now lives in Indiana. Elmer Meyer was also in my squad. He took over as assistant squad leader when I was relieved to be full time BAR Man. Elmer survived the war and returned to New York State. He was discharged from the Army and I lost contact with him until 1992, when I located him over the Internet. He was my friend until he passed away in 1995. We went to Korean War reunions in West Virginia and Corpus Christi, Texas, and corresponded with each other for a short period after we returned from Korea. Both Elbert and Elmer were my age and we went through so much together that we formed a soldierly bond. We kept in contact after I located them in 1992. Pete Uphold was another friend who was with me until he was reassigned to ammunition supply in May 1951. I located him in Pennsylvania in 1992, and we still correspond with each other.
During actual fighting, we were always deadly serious, but there were times when we could relax and talk about things other than Korea. One night while in a defensive position, Pete Uphold heard a noise in front of our position and fired upon it. The next morning we found a dead cow that he had shot. Another time he shot at a noise in front of our position and wounded a civilian who was climbing over a wall. The civilian was evacuated for medical attention. I don't know what his reason was for climbing over the wall. Pete thought it was comical to watch me try to climb a very steep hill. The sole of my boot came loose and I took one step up and slide about three steps down. I finally cut the sole off with my bayonet.
Mail was delivered whenever possible. It was not always possible to get our mail daily because of the situation. While in reserve areas, we got it on a regular basis. I got mail from my parents and my brothers and sisters, as well as girls that I knew in school. I got packages from my mother that consisted of food that would not spoil. Most of the time it was dry Italian salami, Ritz crackers, cookies, or things I asked for. On one occasion when it started snowing, I requested some canned milk and vanilla flavoring. I got sugar from the cooks and made a semblance of ice cream by mixing the milk, vanilla flavoring, and sugar, and adding snow. It wasn't as good as the real thing, but it did have a good flavor. The mail and packages I got were usually in good or fair condition. Sometimes I got a package that was a little crushed, but never to the extent that made it unusable. The other guys got mostly cookies in their packages from home, and they were shared with our squad members. I don't remember anyone sharing bad news from home with me.
Church services were offered. I went to them whenever I had the opportunity. When we were in a reserve or secure area, a Chaplain held services and anyone who wanted to could go. Services were conducted behind the front lines and were non-denominational. The Chaplain conducted a service to accommodate all faiths. There was no music, no hymn books, and no candles. It was a worship and prayer service to pray for our safety and ask the Lord for his blessing. There was never a baptism at the services I attended.
When we had leisure time, it was spent resting and writing letters, cleaning weapons, and washing if water was available. I also saw Jack Benny with a USO show in Uijongbu in September of 1950. He had some American women with his troupe. I don't recall the names of any of the ladies. The show was held in the open with the troops sitting on the ground. A wooden stage was built for the performers. The only person I can remember is Jack Benny. The others were unknown to me. Jack Benny told a few jokes, but the only one I remember is about where he had been and where he wanted to go. He said he always wanted to go to Paris, London and Berlin. He then said, "I finally got to go to those cities, but the place I really wanted to go the most was Uijongbu." What was funny about that was the condition of Uijongbu, "where the show was being presented." It was nothing but rubble. He then said, "Thanks to you, here I am." I don't remember anything else about the show, even the duration or what kind of musical instruments, if any.
There were vices in Korea, but I didn't partake of them. Prostitutes were never a problem for the front lines troops. I don't know if the rear echelon had any contact with them or not. I personally never saw any. I drank an occasional beer, but most of the time I gave it to Pete Uphold, a squad member. I have never smoked, so I gave my cigarettes to anyone who wanted them. I am not a gambler, and didn't gamble in Korea.
I went to Osaka, Japan, for five days on R&R. While there I tried to catch up on eating. I went to several night clubs to drink beer, dance, and meet girls. My favorite club was the Pacific Star Club, then the Kabuki Club. A five day R&R was not long enough, but I had a good restful time while I was there. I hated to go back to Korea when it was over. I was grateful for the opportunity to go to Japan. I knew that others were waiting to go when I returned, so I went back as scheduled.
I was notified by the platoon runner that I was going home. We were on the Lincoln Line at the time. The Lincoln Line was northwest of Seoul, somewhere in the vicinity of the Iron Triangle, I believe. I spent a very nervous last night. I spent most of the day before talking to the few men who came over with me and the first replacements that were left. I think that was one of the few times that I drank a beer while I was in Korea. The day I left, I just waved to my friends and wished them good luck, then I went to the CP. I was happy to leave the company because I knew it was the first leg of the journey home. The peace talks had started and I hoped that the war would be over soon.
We went from the company area to a processing center behind the lines. Out-processing was in a different area than in-processing, so I didn't have an opportunity to talk to any replacements. I don't recall where the center was located, but we got showers there, were issued clean clothes, and had medical checks to see if we had any parasites or disease. After that, our records were processed and we were sent to Japan. I'm not sure of the exact date, but it was either in late August or early in September 1951. I was a Corporal when I left Korea.
The ship I came home on was the General Pope. I had one friend from my squad in Korea with me on the ship coming home. His name was Elmer Meyer. We were all very happy to be going home. I don't remember any entertainment being provided for us on the ship. We entertained ourselves by playing cards and lounging on deck most of the time. Occasionally we had to sweep the deck, pick up cigarette butts and clean our quarters, but most of the time we just lounged around or played cards.
The weather was good all the way across the ocean, but there were several men who got seasick. I was never sick on my way over or back. There were no stopovers on the way home. I don't remember exactly how long it took to get home, but I have heard that it took about 10 days. It was a very emotional time for me when I saw the Golden Gate Bridge. It was the gateway to the San Francisco bay, and I knew that I was almost home. I lived across the bay in San Leandro.
We docked at San Francisco, California. The dock was crowded with people waiting for our arrival,
including my parents and most of my brothers and sisters, who were there to greet me. I had told them that I
was coming home on the General Pope and they checked with the Port of San Francisco to see when it was due in.
We were paid at Camp Stoneman, given a 30-day leave, and given orders for our next duty station. I received orders assigning me to Fort Ord, CA. My brother-in-law and sister picked me up at Camp Stoneman and took me home. I spent the next few days visiting with my family and friends. I invited some friends from school over for a party a week after I was home. I bought a car and went to San Francisco with some of my friends to Play Land at the beach, and just tried to catch up on all I had missed while I was gone.
My mother noticed a physical change right away. I had grown two inches taller and gained about 30 pounds. I was a lot quieter than I was before I left. We didn't talk much about the war. When asked, I answered their questions, but never elaborated on anything. The Korean war experience had really settled me down. I was much wilder before going to war. Now I was ready to except the responsibility of my role in training new soldiers so they would have a better chance to survive a war, and to give them a better understanding of what to expect. I had gone to Korea as a young boy and the experiences I had there changed me in several ways. When I came home I was more self-assured and was ready to except responsibility for my life. I was no longer thinking of only myself. My war experiences taught me to look out for others as well as myself. I grew up fast and learned to share my experiences with those who sought information or advice.
At Ford Ord, I was an instructor on the field committee. The field committee didn't teach recruits. We taught advanced subjects to the Leadership School students. Those subjects included, most of all, leadership and decision making, formulation of a plan for the action to be taken on a particular situation, and advanced map reading and land navigation. We mentioned the Korean War , but did not dwell on it a lot since the tactics of the enemy in Korea had changed since we returned home. It was mostly a trench war by the time I got home. The lines were established and each side tried to hold that line. There were no more full scale attacks, only probing attacks and sometimes an attack in force to take a particular hill. There was a lot of patrolling, so it was very important for the new leaders to be very proficient in map reading and land navigation. We also taught weapons, mines and booby traps, and other combat related subjects.
When my enlistment was up, I re-enlisted for three more years and volunteered for over-seas assignment. I guess I had decided to stay in the Army for at least three more years after rotating home or even before. I had thought about it, but didn't really make a firm decision until about one month before I re-enlisted. I talked to some of the career men who had been in the service for a few years and they convinced me that it was a good life, so I decided to try three more years and if it didn't work out, I could get out at the end of my enlistment. I didn't have any job offerings, and I didn't want to go back to School, so I re- enlisted. I thought there would be a good chance of me going back to Korea, but I was assigned to Germany instead. I didn't want to go back to Korea, but I was willing to go if that was my assignment. I knew by then that I was going to make a career of the Army unless something happened to make me change my mind.
Shortly after enlisting in November 1952, I got orders for Germany. Before leaving for Germany I was married to a girl that I had known since 1942. We had written to each other while I was in Korea and had dated after I came home. We were married on March 8, 1952 and our first child was born in May 1953 . We stayed in Germany until November 1955, when I was assigned to Fort Ord again. While at Fort Ord, our second daughter was born in February 1956. I re-enlisted again in 1958 and received orders for Germany again. My wife didn't want to go back to Germany and had decided that she had had enough of the Army, so she filed for a divorce. Everything was put on hold until I returned. Then the divorce was filed and granted.
My second and present wife is named Eva. We met in Ulm, Germany, in 1959 at the Oberberg Hof night Club. I went with some friends to a dance and asked Eva for a dance. I thought she was the most beautiful girl there. She had red hair, sparkling brown eyes, was 5 ft 2" tall and weighed 105 pounds. She agreed to dance with me and I was really flattered. I just had the one dance with her and talked to her briefly. She told me where she worked, but I didn't see her again for about three months. She told me she worked at Telefunken, making radios and other electronic appliances, so I drove by looking for her as the shift got off. We met in April, but I didn't see her again until August, when I saw her walking home from work. I offered her a ride home and she excepted. She lived in a private residence that was surrounded by a 6-foot wall with electronic gates. I let her off at the gate, not paying attention which gate it was. The next night I went back to see her but the gate was locked and I couldn't get in. My battalion went to Grafenwohr the next day for field training and didn't return for two weeks. After I returned I went back to see Eva, and this time I found the right gate. We started dating and fell in love. My first wife had filed for a divorce so we were separated at the time. Eva and I dated the rest of the time I was in Germany and made plans for her to come to the United States as soon as my divorce was granted. I left Germany in April 1961. My divorce was granted in May, and Eva arrived on the 6th of June 1961 in San Francisco. We were married in Salinas, California on the 9th of July 1961. Eva and I have two children. Rebecca, our oldest, was born on the 10 of June 1962, and David was born on the 28th of June 1963. Rebecca has three children. The oldest, Anthony, is 18. Andrea is 17, and Robert is 16. Our son has one child. He is 4 years old and his name is also David.
On my first tour in Germany, I was assigned to the 63rd Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion in Wiesbaden. I was a gun commander on a 90 MM AAA gun. Our mission was to provide security for Wiesbaden Air Base. We spent a lot of time in the field employing our guns and running practice fire missions. The gun weighed 16 tons and was pulled by a full-tracked vehicle weighing 18 tons. We also went to the Baltic Sea on several occasions to fire on moving targets pulled by airplanes. I didn't like AAA because I had suffered hearing loss from exploding shells in Korea and the loud noise of the big guns effected my hearing even more.
My second tour was in Ulm, Germany. I had requested a change of MOS back to the Infantry and was assigned to the 51st Infantry in Ulm. While there we were in the field a great deal of the time maneuvering. We also went to training centers where we had more room to maneuver and conduct field exercises. I only spent two years on this tour because my family did not accompany me.
I went to Vietnam in 1964 and was assigned to the 42nd Vietnamese Ranger Battalion as an advisor. I was with a team of two other American soldiers, Captain Butler, and Lieutenant Shipley. We were assigned to the 42nd Vietnamese Ranger Battalion. They were all volunteers and specially trained as Rangers. They were better paid than regular soldiers, therefore much more was expected of them. They were generally much better fighters. We were located in the Mekong Delta operating out of Bac Lieu and Camau. The Delta was mostly rice paddies and mangrove swamps. Most of the fighting took place in remote areas, and was against the Viet Cong. The Viet Cong operated in small bands, but occasionally mounted full-scale attacks for control of a remote village. We were constantly on the move, going from village to village to clear out the Viet Cong.
As advisors, our job was to help the Rangers in any way we could. Most of the Vietnamese officers spoke English, but we had an interpreter with us also. We went on every operation against the Viet Cong with them, and in many cases actually joined in the fighting. We had a radio operator with us who carried our radio. He couldn't understand English, but when there was a message, he notified one of us so we could hear the message and communicate with our headquarters. We kept in contact with the overhead support helicopters, and directed them to the target. We always traveled light. We carried back packs with extra socks and a mosquito net, mosquito repellent, and iodine pills to purify the water. We ate with the Rangers. A meal usually consisted of chicken chopped up into small pieces and boiled with vegetables and rice. There was always rice that had been pre-cooked.
The Korean war was much more intense than Vietnam while I was there. Where Korea was more of a conventional war, Vietnam was more like a guerrilla war. The Viet Cong attacked at night as did the Koreans, but they tried to infiltrate, do as much damage as they could, and disappear. In 1964, when I arrived in Vietnam, there was only about five thousand American advisors in country. We were scattered all over Vietnam. My base of operation was in Bac Lieu, about 130 miles south of Saigon. The only reasonably safe way to get there was by airplane. The roads south of Saigon were often controlled by the Viet Cong. We had a MAG house (Military Advisory Group) in Bac Lieu, where we kept our personal gear and were able to get clean clothes and eat in the mess hall when we were there. There was also an Aid Station we could go to for medical attention. Some of our missions lasted a few days at a time, and usually start on the weekend. I really don't know why they started on the weekend, bit it was probably because after intelligence reported enemy activity and a plan to attack had been formulated, it usually started near the weekend.
We were involved in several big battles while I was there, resulting in capturing and killing large numbers of Viet Cong. Captain Butler and I were awarded the Bronze Star Medal with "V" devise on Dan Che 92 which took place on the 5th of December 1964. We were attacking a village when the company was pinned down by enemy fire. We were in tall grass. The Rangers, being much shorter than we were, could not see to maintain a line. Captain Butler and I stood up and raised our arms high enough so the Rangers could see and guide on us. We then led the attack on the enemy-held tree line, throwing hand grenades and firing our weapons as we advanced. The Rangers had 27 men killed that day, but the Viet Cong lost about 129. I got my second Bronze Star on another mission at a later date. I also was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge "second award."
My last tour in Germany was in 1965 after returning from Vietnam. I picked up my family in Fremont, California, and drove to New Jersey, where we boarded an airplane to Germany. My assignment was to the 54th Infantry in Bamberg. The mission there was the same as in Ulm--field training, maneuvers, and trips to the large training areas for large scale exercises. While in Bamberg, I was promoted to First Sergeant E-8 and assigned to A Company, 54th Infantry.
I rotated back to Fort Ord in 1968 and was assigned to B Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade as First Sergeant. I remained in that position until I retired on December 1, 1969. I wanted to get out of the Army while I was still young enough to start a second career.
In every occupation there are disappointments, including the Army. Many times we were required to put ourselves in danger for the good of the mission. Disappointments occurred when things didn't happen the way we wanted them to or we didn't get the assignment we wanted. Overall, I was not disappointed enough to let it bother me enough to get out after my enlistment was up. I have no regrets about my military service. Would I do it again? I really don't know. Would I recommend it to others? Once again, I don't know. Not everyone can adapt to military life. It takes a special breed to make a career soldier. The military always comes first, and many cannot accept that. I don't know if I would be any different today had I not been in the Army, but I know that the Army was not harmful to me in any way. I also know that the Army helped me to mature so my experiences were more beneficial than harmful.
I had no trouble adjusting to civilian life after retiring from the Army. I retired on December 1st and started on my new job at Trans Con Lines on the 10th of December.
I worked in the transportation and freight business for five years. I was the Chief of Dock Operations for Trans Con Lines in San Leandro, California. My job was to supervise the loading of freight onto trailers and route them to Trans Con terminals across the United States. I had from two to three dock supervisors under me and a crew of about 40 men who worked the freight. I was not satisfied with the hours I had to work. I started on the night shift and worked there for about two years, then I was moved to the day shift. I liked the day shift much better. The production on the night shift dropped, so I went back to try to bring it back up again. I managed to raise the production by a substantial margin and was given the temporary position of Superintendent of Terminal Operations, then back to the night shift. I didn't like the night work, so I resigned and started working for the US Postal Service. I was a letter carrier for 20 years before retiring in 1994.
While I was still in the Army, I had gotten my GED. When I retired from the Army, I attempted to enter college, but my GED from the Army was not excepted, so I went back to high school at San Jose High. I graduated from San Jose High in 1974 and signed up for evening classes at San Jose City College. I completed two years, taking Transportation and Marketing. All of the other students were much younger than I, so I didn't discuss the war with them.
I had bought a home in San Jose when I retired from the Army, so I had to drive 37 miles one way when I worked for Trans Con. When I started at the Post Office, it was in Santa Clara, which was only 12 miles from home. In 1974 I bought a new house in the same area as my first home, and lived in the same house for 27 years.
My son and I opened our own business in Stockton, California in 1995. When we opened it, I sold the house in San Jose and bought a new one so I would be close to the shop. I have been in this house since 2000. Our business was a sports shop called Crystal Springs Fly Fishing, Inc., and it specialized in Orvis equipment and clothing. We carried everything for fly fishing, including fly tying material, a full line of outdoor clothing, boots, shoes, waders, float tubes, and pontoon boats. We sold the business in 2001, and I retired again. We sold the shop because I wanted to be free to travel. Now I go to several military reunions every year and do a lot of fishing that I couldn't do when we had to run the shop. I ski during the winter months. I also spend more time at home.
I don't think the reality of war can be imagined. You have to experience it to really know what it is like. There is no feeling like an artillery shell exploding all around you and no sound like a bullet cracking over your head. The smell of exploded shells, and the agonizing cries of men when they are hit just cannot be imagined. I will always remember the hard times we had to endure while in Korea. The winter of 1950 was especially bad. The attacking Chinese soldiers, their whistles, bugles, and flare signals will probably never be forgotten. In a nutshell, I would say that my time in Korea was challenging and frightening.
I think sending American troops to Korea was the right thing to do. As a result of the UN going to Korea, South Korea is a free and vibrant country today. When you compare South Korea to North Korea, there is no question who is the most prosperous. Since The North invaded the South, I also agree that we made the right decision by going beyond the 38th parallel. North Korea had to be disarmed and made to pay restitution for their attack. I don't agree with the method we used to continue the attack north. The UN should have made our intentions very clear that we were only going to the Yalu and no farther. I don't know if that would have kept the Chinese from entering the war or not, but it should have been clear to them that we had no intention of crossing the river into Manchuria.
In the push to the Yalu, we (the United Nations forces in general) moved too fast and didn't follow sound tactical principles. We over-extended our supply lines and failed to heed the warnings that the Chinese had crossed into Korea. Units were not tied in from flank to flank, which allowed the Chinese to infiltrate behind our lines. The line was spread too thin. There were not enough reserves and supporting elements. North Korea was very poor tank country. It had too many mountains and not enough roads for large vehicles. Tanks were road bound, so they could not support as they should.
I returned to Korea in 2004 on a Korea re-visit tour with the KWVA. I was disappointed with the tour, because we really didn't get to see much of Korea at all. Most of it was centered around Seoul, with a side trip to Inchon and the DMZ. The Korean war veterans were great. They provided everything once we got there. They had a medal presentation and dinner, and awarded the Korean Defense Medal to all of us who had not gotten it before. I extended my trip and visited China for five days. I got to climb the Great Wall while I was there. If anyone who was in Korea during the war or before saw it today, the difference would be obvious. It has changed from a nation of poverty, poor housing, and a very low standard of living to a nation of industry with a much higher standard of living and a very strong economy. They could not have accomplished that under Communism. Now, however, I think it is time for the US troops to come home. The Korean government should take the responsibility for their own defense. We have done enough for them.
I have never believed that World War II veterans are treated with more respect than Korean War veterans. The World War 11 vets are referred to as our greatest generation, and I can't dispute that. They were in the service and in combat areas for the duration of the war, where we Korean vets were rotated after one year. Many World War 11 vets were called back into the service to serve in Korea, so they deserve all the credit they get.
The Korean War carries the name "the Forgotten War" due to the fact that for many years no one wanted to talk about it. It just seemed that no one was interested. Things have changed now. The politicians are now even admitting that it was a full-scale war and not a police action. By reading this memoir, I hope that its readers get the facts about the way Korea was before, during, and after the war, and make a fair judgment on those facts. The Korean War has been called the war that stopped the spread of Communism. If that is true, it should have a very important place in both American and world history. I have told my own family that I was in Korea during the war, but I have not gone into detail about anything unless they asked. They know that I served in the Army for 20 years and have seen my uniforms, medals, and decorations and they have asked me about them. We still talk about it briefly from time to time.
I have a 15 percent disability on my left knee due to injuries. I had no difficulties in getting this compensation. I receive a disability check from Veterans Administration each month for compensation. I have had my Knee operated on two times as a result of the injury and the medical service is done without cost to me.
I belong to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Korean War Veterans Association, L Company 35th Association, the 29th Infantry Association, and the 35th Infantry Association. When I joined the VFW in 1992, I started searching for fellow Korean War vets. I started attending reunions and I have been going to as many as I can since. I started searching for Korean War friends and was able to locate several. Those I was able to locate and are still alive, attend reunions every year. We will be meeting in Bismarck, North Dakota in June 2006. Those I have located are, Benjamin Aslin, Cassie Bounds, Willy Cedino, George Clark, Sky Foskett, John Frost, Frank Garrison, Bill Halver, Leslie Hudson, Richard Metz, Gene Sweet, Pete Uphold, Elmer Meyer, and Charles Pritchard. I am still looking for William P. Reel and Charles Halquist. Halquist was from Oregon or Washington State and Reel was from Wyoming.