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Posts tagged ‘Korean War’

11
Jun

Battlefield Chronicles: Battle of Heartbreak Ridge

By the summer of 1951, the Korean War had reached a stalemate as peace negotiations began at Kaesong. The opposing armies faced each other across a line which ran with many twists and turns along the way from east to west, through the middle of the Korean peninsula, a few miles north of the 38th parallel. UN and communist forces jockeyed for position along this line, clashing in several relatively small but intense and bloody battles.

One bloody ground battle took place from August 18 to September 5, 1951. It began as an attempt by UN forces to seize a ridge of hills which they believed were being used as observation posts to call in artillery fire on a UN supply road.

It was a joint operation conducted by South Korean and the U.S. Army’s 2nd Division. Their mission was to seize a ridge of hills used by the North Koreans as observation posts to call in artillery fire on a UN supply road. Leading the initial attacks was the 36th ROK Regiment. It succeeded in capturing most, but not all, of the ridge after a week of fierce fighting that at times was hand to hand. It was a short-lived triumph, for the following day the North Koreans recaptured the mountain in a fierce counterattack.

The next assault was made by the 9th Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Division. The battle raged for ten days, as the North Koreans repulsed one assault after another by the increasingly exhausted and depleted U.S. forces. After repeatedly being driven back, the 9th succeeded in capturing one of the hill objectives after two days of heavy fighting. The weather then turned to almost constant rain, greatly slowing the attacks and making operations almost impossible because of the difficulty in bringing supplies through “rivers of mud” and up steep, slippery slopes.

Fighting continued, however, and casualties mounted. The 2nd Division’s 23rd Infantry Regiment joined the attack on the main ridge while the division’s other infantry regiment, the 38th Infantry Regiment, occupied positions immediately behind the main ridge which threatened to cut off any North Korean retreat. The combination of frontal attacks, flanking movements and incessant bombardment by artillery, tanks, and airstrikes ultimately decided the battle. Over 14,000 artillery rounds were fired in a 24-hour period. Finally, on September 5, 1951, the North Koreans abandoned the ridge after UN forces succeeded in outflanking it.

The American soldiers called the piece of terrain they had taken “Bloody Ridge.” which indeed it was: 2,700 UN and perhaps as many as 15,000 communists were casualties, almost all of them killed or wounded with few prisoners being taken by either side. The much higher communist casualties were probably caused by poor discipline in the KPA and constraining orders so strict to the point where subordinate leaders were often not allowed to withdraw under any conditions, in which case the entire unit would be blooded. Even when permission was granted for a withdrawal, it often came only after the large majority of troops in the unit had been killed.

After UN forces withdrew from Bloody Ridge, the North Koreans set up new positions just 1,500 yards away on a seven-mile-long hill mass that quickly earned the name “Heartbreak Ridge.”

The month-long battle took place between September 13th and October 15th, 1951and was one of several major engagements in the hills of North Korea a few miles north of the 38th parallel-the pre-war boundary between North and South Korea.

If anything, the Communist defenses were even more formidable here than on Bloody Ridge. The U.S. 2nd Infantry Division’s acting commander, Brig. Gen. Thomas de Shazo, and his immediate superior, Maj. Gen. Clovis E. Byers, the X Corps commander, seriously underestimated the strength of the North Korean position.

They ordered a single infantry regiment, the 23rd, and its attached French Battalion, to make what would prove to be an ill-conceived assault straight up Heartbreak’s heavily fortified slopes.

All three of the 2nd Division’s infantry regiments participated, with the brunt of the combat borne by the 9th and 23rd Infantry Regiments, along with the attached French Battalion.

The initial attack began on September 13th and quickly deteriorated into a familiar pattern. First, American aircraft, tanks, and artillery would pummel the ridge for hours on end, turning the already barren hillside into a cratered moonscape. Next, the 23rd’s infantrymen would clamber up the mountain’s rocky slopes, taking out one enemy bunker after another by direct assault. Those who survived to reach the crest arrived exhausted and low on ammunition. The inevitable counterattack soon came-waves of North Koreans determined to recapture the lost ground at any cost. Many of these counterattacks were conducted at night by fresh troops that the North Koreans were able to bring up under the shelter of neighboring hills. Battles begun by a bomb, bullet and shell were inevitably finished by grenade, trench knife and fists as formal military engagements degenerated into desperate hand-to-hand brawls. Sometimes dawn broke to reveal the defenders still holding the mountaintop.

The battle progressed for two weeks. Because of the constricting terrain and the narrow confines of the objectives, units were committed piecemeal-one platoon, company or battalion at a time. Once a unit could no longer stand the strain a replacement would take its place until the 23rd Infantry as a whole was fairly well shattered.

Several units up to company size of 100�??200 men were wiped out. The Americans employed massive artillery barrages, airstrikes, and tanks in attempts to drive the North Koreans off the ridge, but the KPA proved extremely hard to dislodge.

Finally, on September 27th the 2nd Division’s new commander, Maj. Gen. Robert N. Young, called a halt to the “fiasco” on Heartbreak Ridge as American planners reconsidered their strategy.

As long as the North Koreans could continue to reinforce and resupply their garrison on the ridge, it would be nearly impossible for the Americans to take the mountain. After belatedly recognizing this fact, the 2nd Division crafted a new plan that called for a full division assault on the valleys and hills adjacent to Heartbreak to cut the ridge off from further reinforcement. Spearheading this new offensive would be the division’s 72nd Tank Battalion, whose mission was to push up the Mundung-ni Valley west of Heartbreak to destroy enemy supply dumps in the vicinity of the town of Mundung-ni.

It was a bold plan, but one that could not be accomplished until a way had been found to get the 72nd’s M4A3E8 Sherman tanks into the valley. The only existing road was little more than a track that could not bear the weight of the Shermans. To make matters worse, the road was mined and blocked by a six-foot (2 m) high rock barrier built by the North Koreans. Using shovels and explosives, the men of the 2nd Division’s 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion braved enemy fire to clear these obstacles and build an improved roadway. While they worked, the division’s three infantry regiments-9th, 23rd and 38th-launched coordinated assaults on Heartbreak Ridge and the adjacent hills.

By October 10 everything was ready for the main operation. On October 11th, led by more than 30 tanks and supported by artillery and airplanes, the 2nd Division started advancing into the valley. The sudden onslaught of a battalion of tanks racing up the valley took the enemy by surprise. By coincidence, the thrust came just when the Chinese 204th Division was moving up to relieve the North Koreans on Heartbreak Ridge. The Chinese unit under fire was the 610th Regiment of the 204th Division (Commander: Wenfang Luo), dispatched by the 68th Army (Commander: Niansheng Wen). The regiment’s mission was to reinforce the North Korean defense along the valley against a possible American armored offensive; more specifically, it was ordered to prevent the Americans from reaching the town of Mundung-ni at all costs.

Before the Chinese could dig in, the 2nd Division had already started the attack. Caught in the open, the Chinese division suffered heavy casualties from the American tanks as the armored vehicles penetrated to a depth of 6 km of the Chinese defense lines and caused great damage. However, the 610th Regiment managed to damage five Sherman tanks before the Americans halted the offensive.

On October 12th the 2nd Division began an airborne and artillery bombardment that lasted for two hours on Hill 635 and Hill 709 before the 23rd Regiment, led by 48 tanks, assaulted Chinese defensive positions. Having learned the American tactics from the previous day, the 610th Regiment of the Chinese army had already reinforced the anti-tank trenches flanking the road that runs through the Mundung-ni Valley; in addition, a battalion of anti-tank guns was assigned to the regiment (49 infantry guns, recoilless guns, and rocket launchers were also distributed among the front-line soldiers.) At point-blank range, the Chinese soldiers fired upon the advancing American tanks. Before the 23rd halted the assault at 4 pm, the Chinese had destroyed or damaged 18 tanks.

The 23rd Regiment did not assault the hills on the next day. The South Korean 8th Division, however, starting from October 13, launched its attack on hills 97, 742, 650, 932 and 922. These battles were subsequently known to be brutal and costly; for example, a company of the Chinese 610th Regiment was defending hill 932. Under the attack of four South Korean battalions, the company resisted for four days to the last man before the South Korean army took the hill on its 11th assault.

On October 14th eight Sherman tanks in arrow formation attacked the Chinese positions along Mundung-ni Valley. All the tanks were knocked out by the crossfire of Chinese anti-tank guns. Two more were lost on October 19th due to mines. During the five days, the Shermans roared up and down the Mundung-ni Valley, over-running supply dumps, mauling troop concentrations and destroying approximately 350 bunkers on Heartbreak and in the surrounding hills and valleys. A smaller tank-infantry team scoured the Sat’ae-ri Valley East of the ridge, thereby completing the encirclement and eliminating any hope of reinforcement for the beleaguered North Koreans on Heartbreak Ridge.

The armored thrusts turned the tide of the battle, but plenty of hard fighting remained for the infantry before French soldiers captured the last communist bastion on the ridge on October 13th.

After 30 days of combat, the Americans and French eventually gained the upper hand and secured Heartbreak Ridge. Yet the Sherman tanks did not penetrate through the Mundung-ni Valley and reach the town of Mundung-ni after 38 of the armored vehicles were destroyed and nine were damaged. The defense of the Mundung-ni Valley (or as it is known today in North Korea, the Battle of Height 1211) is today celebrated as a great victory in North Korea, with a claim of a total of 29,000 enemy casualties (certainly inflated), 60 tanks destroyed and 40 airplanes shot down: North Korean propaganda today enhances the defense of the heights around the valley and a number of significant acts of courage and sacrifice (real or alleged) committed during the battle. Actually, the failure of the Allied offensive inside the valley and the heights above gave to the North Korean Army one of the few victorious actions during the last phase of the war.

Both sides suffered high casualties-over 3,700 American and French and an estimated 25,000 North Korean and Chinese. These losses made a deep impression on the UN and US command, which decided that battles like Heartbreak Ridge were not worth the high cost in blood for the relatively small amount of terrain captured.

However, the UN offensives were to continue with equally high casualty rates for the 1st Cavalry in Operation Commando, and the 24th Division in Operation Nomad-Polar, which was the last major offensive conducted by UN forces in the war.

Public opinion had by this time turned against “limited-objective” operations of this nature, and military censorship resulted in far less media focus on the other October battles that followed Heartbreak Ridge.

Heartbreak Ridge is regarded as a good illustration of simple lessons. First among them as in World War I and World War II, simply using tremendous quantity of firepower did not guarantee victory in mountainous terrain. For attacks to succeed, attacks had to be made on a large scale and combining maneuver where possible. Even then attacks in the mountains would be a slow and laborious process, even where the enemy was vastly outnumbered and suffering grotesquely disproportionate casualties. In this sense what Heartbreak Ridge also showed was that the U.S. Military could be amazingly stubborn about having to re-learn the same lessons over and over again.

In the case of Heartbreak Ridge, it emerged as the consequence of an earlier, also bloody battle for the aptly named Bloody Ridge, where lightly-armed Communist troops used terrain to negate some of the effects of UN firepower, and relied chiefly on stubbornness and willpower to protract the fighting in this first stage.

In spite of the fanatical nature of the Communist resistance on Bloody Ridge, UN troops assigned to Heartbreak Ridge which consisted initially of a U.S. infantry regiment and a French battalion to capture this ridge. Against them were dug in a large number of far more lightly armed North Korean and Chinese troops.

The result was that the UN forces prepared a full-strength divisional attack on the ridge, using concentrated armor in an attempt to outflank the North Koreans. By this time the Chinese were preparing to send their own reinforcements, which is one of those chance co-incidences possible in warfare collided with UN troops which had managed to clear means through a minefield-ridden defensive position for the armored strikes to start pushing through.

At the same time, UN infantry forces began what proved to be an unpleasantly slow, slogging drive against a primarily North Korean defense. The Chinese troops, unpleasantly for them but happily for the UN got caught in the open by the armored detachment, were massacred, but the UN found that mountains canalize armor, and from this one incident at the start came far more slow, steady slogging of air, infantry, and armor that would finally take Heartbreak Ridge at the close of a month’s worth of major combat, between September and October of 1951. The result was an increasing tendency among UN troops to decide that such costly battles, with a sum total of 3,700 UN troops (as opposed to 25,000 Communists) were not a good augur for any kind of significant breakthrough operation.

Editor’s Note: A well-written story of one man’s experience on Heartbreak Ridge gives a personal account on what it was like to fight in this bloody battle. He is Sgt. 1st Class Bill Wilson who served as a Platoon Sergeant in Company I, 23rd Regiment 2nd Division U.S. Army during the Ridge.

http://www.accesskansas.org/kskoreanwar/stories/story_wilson2.html

12
Feb

Featured Military Association: Korean War and Korean Defense Veterans Association

kwvaTogether We Served is pleased to feature one of our Association Partners, the Korean War Association.

On June 25, 1985, Sgt William T. Norris , a member of F Company, 27th Infantry Regiment (Wolfhounds), 25th Infantry Division founded The Korean War Veterans Association (KWVA), in NY.

The Mission Statement reads:
DEFEND our Nation
CARE for our Veterans
PERPETUATE our Legacy
REMEMBER our Missing and Fallen
MAINTAIN our Memorial
SUPPORT a free Korea

Membership is open to any service member who served in the Korean War or who has earned the Korean Defense medal during any era.

KWVA encourages the younger generation to join in the mission to Perpetuate the Legacy of our aging Korean War veterans and help them tell their story.

If you would like more information on the KWVA and how to join, contact AFTWS Member Thomas Stevens at stevenst@swbell.net or visit their website at http://www.kwva.org

11
Sep

Battlefield Chronicles: Korea 1952 -Firefight at Outpost 3

By Maj. Allan C. Bevilacqua, USMC (Ret)

There were 80 of us on that hill when an estimated 600-800 Chinese hit us hard that night. Sixty-six of us were killed, wounded or missing.”
PFC Edgar “Bart”Dauberman, USMC
“Easy”Company, 2d Battalion 5th Marines 

In the spring of 1952, General James A. Van Fleet, USA, Commander, 8th United States Army in Korea and supreme commander of all Allied Forces in Korea, undertook one of the most audacious operations in the history of warfare. With his Army fully engaged against Chinese and North Korean communists across the Korean peninsula, General Van Fleet completely realigned his entire force. Dubbed Operation Mixmaster, thousands of men and vehicles and thousands upon thousands of tons of supplies and equipment were shuttled hundreds of miles to new positions over a period of more than one week. It was a daringly unprecedented operation, and the Chinese and North Koreans, who could have ruined it all, were caught flatfooted.

For Major General John T. Selden’s First Marine Division, Operation Mixmaster meant a move across the width of Korea, from positions near Pohang on Korea’s eastern coast to a new location on the extreme left of the 8th Army line in the far west. From its new position on the Kimpo Peninsula west of Seoul on the Yellow Sea, the assigned sector of the 1stMarDiv stretched 32 miles eastward to the Samichon River, where it linked up with its “brother” division, the British Commonwealth Division. Thirty-two miles was an extraordinarily large stretch of front for a division to cover, but it was no coincidence that the two divisions were sited in such a manner. In planning the relocation of his forces, Gen. Van Fleet specifically directed what he termed “the two most powerful divisions in Korea”be positioned to block any Chinese attempt to access the Uijongbu Corridor, the traditional and natural geographic invasion route into South Korea.

One of 1stMarDiv’s first tasks in taking over its sector of the Main Line of Resistance (MLR), dubbed the Jamestown Line, was the establishment of a Combat Outpost Line (COPL) designed to break up any Chinese attack against the MLR. Most of these outposts were quickly, if unofficially, dubbed by Marines with names of famous motion picture and TV stars; Hedy, Dagmar, Marilyn, Esther and Ingrid, while others reflected names in the news: Siberia, Warsaw, Berlin and East Berlin. One of the first combat outposts received nothing more in the way of identification than a number, Outpost 3 (OP 3). It would be the scene of the first Chinese attempt to test the COPL, and while it was a small engagement in light of things to come, it would entail some of the heaviest fighting of the Korean War. There, on an otherwise insignificant hill, a small reinforced platoon of Marines withstood every attempt by two Chinese regiments to exterminate them and wrote a lasting tale of courage in their blood and steadfast resistance.

Before there was any shooting, however, there was a full ration of plain, old-fashioned, back-breaking work. Not an overpowering hill compared to the heights that confronted 1stMarDiv in the eastern region of Korea, OP 3 boasted an elevation of 400 feet. That, however, was the hill’s elevation above sea level. In tactical terms, the hill rose little more than 70 feet above the surrounding terrain. If not overpoweringly tall, the hill covered a good bit of ground, a very good bit of ground to be defended by a platoon, even a reinforced platoon. Nor did the hill possess even the most rudimentary of fighting positions. Every bunker, every weapons emplacement, every inch of trench line had to be dug and dug and dug.

The task of all this digging, manual hauling of timbers and filling of sand bags, fell to the 2d Platoon of Capt. Charles C. “Cary” Matthews’ E Company, 2d Battalion, 5th Marines (“Easy”/2/5). There would be a full ration of sweating, straining work and, while none of the platoon were aware of it, not overly much time to complete it. Watching them intently from concealed positions on the bulky hill mass of Taedok-San to their front, Chinese observers were following their every move. Farther to the rear, two entire regiments of the 195th Division, Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) 65th Army were making final preparations for what they intended to be the obliteration of the handful of Marines on OP 3. They would be supported by the fires of 10 artillery battalions fielding 106 guns, in calibers ranging from 76 mm to 152 mm and one battalion of self-propelled, high-velocity 76 mm direct fire guns, all courtesy of the Soviet Union.

As Tuesday, April 15, 1952, dawned over OP 3, Lieutenant Dean Morley, platoon leader of 2d Platoon of Easy/2/5, awakened to what appeared to be yet any other day, one he hoped would be uneventful. Throughout the day, Dean Morley got his wish. The Chinese continued to be relatively nonconfrontational. On OP 3, the Marines of the 2d Platoon contented themselves with making improvements to their positions, gnawing at C-rations, making small talk and speculating on when the battalion would be withdrawn to regimental reserve and the intriguing possibility that there might be a shower point set up. Two machine-gun squad leaders, Sergeant Arthur G. “Artie” Barbosa and Corporal Duane E. Dewey, made their usual daily checks of ammunition supply and marking stakes for principal direction of fire and final protective lines. In the 60 mm mortar section like routine preparations were undertaken. None of it was lackadaisical, and everything was done competently and professionally. There was no sense in getting caught with your skivvies at half-mast. All in all, though, it was just another day on OP 3.

That ended abruptly during the waning hours of April 15th. At 2330, a single green star shell was fired from the vicinity of Hill 67, which subsequent information would reveal to be the forward headquarters of the 195th CCF Division some 1,900 yards to the northwest. Everyone who was on watch on OP 3 saw it. Everyone back on the MLR saw it. Everyone knew what it meant. The Chinese were about to register their preparatory fires as a prelude to a major ground attack.

When the Chinese fire came, it came methodically and deliberately in the form of 76 mm howitzers and 122 mm mortars controlled by forward observers on Taedok-San. The Chinese, who tended to be quite skillful in these matters, raked OP 3 from front to rear and from side to side, concentrating their effort on key positions. The Marines of the 2d Platoon, who had sweated, strained and voiced their displeasure at all the manual labor that went into fortifying the hill, hunkered gratefully in the bunkers they had built as the ground about them rocked like an earthquake, fires lighting up the night sky with the brilliance of a fireworks display.

Amazingly, despite the intensity of the Chinese fire, there were no Marine casualties as the Chinese gave OP 3 a first-class working over. To Marines with an ear for such things, though, there was a disturbing uneasiness at the lack of any evidence of the presence of incoming 122 mm or 152 mm artillery rounds in the downpour of shells pummeling the position. That could mean but one thing: the Chinese were saving their heavy hitters for the main event. It wasn’t a comforting thought.

As suddenly as it had begun, the volcano of fire that engulfed OP 3 ended about 20 minutes later as another green star shell was fired from the same position as the first. No Marine on OP 3 had to be told what would be coming next. After an eerie quiet that lasted about five minutes, a third signal pyrotechnic fired once again from Hill 67 bathed the area out in front of OP 3 in a lurid green light which gave every tense face on the outpost an unsettling corpse-like tinge. No one had much time to contemplate that. Even before the illumination completely burned itself out, the Chinese, in what seemed to be inexhaustible numbers, came out of the dark and began moving toward OP 3.

When the Chinese came, they came in near mechanical waves, as though there were some manner of machine back behind Taedok-San grinding out rank after rank of automatons. If they were automatons, they were well-directed automatons, advancing implacably against the front and both sides of the Marines’ defensive positions. The entire perimeter erupted in a blaze of muzzle flashes as the defenders of OP 3 laid into the oncoming tide of Chinese with everything they had. It was a one-sided contest. There were too many Chinese and not enough Marines spread over too large an area.

Soon enough, the attacking Chinese had totally enveloped OP 3 on all sides and were firing into the defenders from every point of the compass. With more Chinese following close behind, some forced their way into the forward positions by sheer weight of numbers. In the process they gave Hospital Corpsman Second Class Jerome “Jerry” Natt a baptism of fire that would have been hard to duplicate.

Jerry Natt had joined Easy/2/5 shortly after noon that day and had been sent forward at dark to join the platoon on OP 3. Assigned to a bunker with two Marines and advised to get some sleep, he was told that he would get an orientation tour in the morning. The Chinese arrived first, and with them came casualties. Immediately there was the cry of, “Corpsman!” One of the first to send up that call was one of the Marines Natt had shared the bunker with to “get some sleep.”

The wounded Marine – Natt didn’t know his name – was outside in a firing position. It was as dark as the inside of a cat out there. The corpsman could only attempt to find the man’s wound by feel. Eventually, it was revealed to be a chest wound. Only because of the strobe-like light produced by incoming was Natt able to see well enough to stop the bleeding and put a dressing on the wound. Natt never forgot his abrupt “Introduction to Ground Combat 101,” nor did he ever learn the name of the first combat casualty he treated. There would be more.

One among those was platoon leader Lt Morley, who went down hard hit (he would survive) and unable to continue. Lt Bill Maughan, a “short timer” due to depart in only several days, assumed command of the platoon. Maughan, a former enlisted Marine who had served in China before being commissioned, was immediately confronted by a problem, one that had been a disturbing possibility and was now a reality. Outpost 3 was too big an area to defend and there were too few Marines to adequately defend it.

Slowly, steadily, the defenders of OP 3, taking their wounded with them and keeping the Chinese at bay, withdrew into a tight perimeter in the southeastern corner of the hill. It was a barroom brawl every step of the way, Marines and Chinese locked into a welter of personal combat featuring rifle butts, fighting knives, entrenching tools and bare fists. They were getting help from the 81 mm mortars of Weapons Co, the 5th Marines 4.2-inch mortars back on the MLR and the 105 mm howitzers of Lieutenant Colonel James R. Haynes’ 1st Battalion, 11th Marines that pounded the Chinese relentlessly. Adding their voices to the symphony of explosives were the 155 mm howitzers of LtCol Bruce F. Hillam’s 4th Battalion, 11th Marines ranging farther back to punish Chinese assembly areas. It was not at all easy. Through rock-hard resistance and inspiring acts of personal courage beyond counting, the Marines established a defensible perimeter, but something had been left behind.

A member of the 60 mm mortar section was the first to notice it. A significant amount of 60 mm ammunition had been left behind. When you have both hands engaged in fighting the man who is attempting to kill you, there aren’t enough hands left over to tug along a crate of ammunition in the bargain. Another part of that bargain is the fact that a pair of 60 mm mortars are of scant use if there is no ammunition for them. Somehow that ammunition had to be retrieved by whatever means necessary. That was when Stanley “Stan” Wawrzyniak took over. Wawrzyniak, the company gunnery sergeant and no stranger to combat, had volunteered to accompany the platoon to OP 3 just to see if he could “help out.”

GySgt Wawrzyniak could smell a firefight from 5 miles off, and he couldn’t be paid to miss one. The situation on OP 3 looked promising. Already a holder of the Navy Cross for his valorous acts while “helping out” during the bitterly contested battle for Hill 812 in eastern Korea the previous fall, he proved once again his uncanny ability to be the right man at the right time. A man utterly without fear, he waded into the hail of incoming fire and swarming Chinese not once or twice but three times, returning each time with two cases of urgently needed ammunition. Being wounded during one of these forays didn’t stop him. After his final trip, he waved off medical attention to make a complete circuit of the new perimeter to direct the fires of individual positions. Only after that, did Wawrzyniak consent to allow a corpsman to stop the leakage of blood from two separate wounds. For his actions in the early morning hours of April 16, 1952, GySgt Stan Wawrzyniak would receive a gold star in lieu of a second Navy Cross.

(Author’s note: It was my good fortune to know LtCol Stan Wawrzyniak as a friend for many years until his death. He truly was that combat oddity, a man utterly without fear. Stan Wawrzyniak would not have backed off from an enraged gorilla.)

As chaotic as the situation on OP 3 was, it was not without one saving grace. For all the ferocity of the Chinese ground assault, that assault was not properly supported by artillery. Despite meticulously registering their fires on the positions of Easy/2/5 on the hill, when the Chinese infantry moved forward, the fires of the artillery were, for the most part, some 1,000 yards off target. While there was enough incoming on the hill itself to keep life from being dull and uninteresting, the bulk of the Chinese fires were falling off to the west at the time when they were most needed. Had some Chinese forward observer misread his map? Had the Chinese fire direction center incorrectly calculated elevation and deflection? Had someone erred in plotting the gun- target line?

Whatever the cause, it was enough to allow the defenders of OP 3 a few fleeting moments to catch their breath. As quickly as the Chinese attack had begun, it stopped, and the Chinese infantry withdrew to regroup before coming on again, this time properly supported by artillery.

While the first Chinese attack had approached tidal-wave proportions, the second Chinese attempt to wrest control of OP 3 struck like a human avalanche. By this time half of the defenders of OP 3 were dead or wounded. That didn’t prevent the wounded who still were capable of using a weapon, however, from using it to good effect. The Chinese were resolved to take the outpost. The Marines were even more resolved to hold it.

Hell was in session on OP 3, and machine-gun squad leader Sgt Artie Barbosa was suddenly fighting a one-man war. With his entire squad but one down, killed or wounded Sgt Barbosa manned the gun himself, laying withering streams of fire on Chinese attacking from two directions. As one after another of his squad fell, Barbosa, despite the deadly Chinese fire directed at him, single-handedly carried the machine gun and tripod to a position where it could enfilade both sides of the Chinese avenues of attack. Through his actions, Sgt Barbosa laid a carpet of dead Chinese at the points where the attackers came closest to breaching the perimeter.

While it cannot be said that any one man saved the day on OP 3, had Artie Barbosa not been there, the outcome of the firefight on OP 3 may have had a different ending. The Marine Corps felt the same way. For his courage and complete disregard for his own safety, Sgt Artie Barbosa would receive the Navy Cross. Rifleman Bart Dauberman, who lives today in Pennsylvania, still thinks it should have been the Medal of Honor.

If Artie Barbosa didn’t receive America’s highest award for military valor, Cpl Duane Dewey did. Duane Dewey, the squad leader of the other machine-gun squad that fought on OP 3, had his hands as full as anyone beating off what seemed to be a never ending supply of Chinese. Then a Chinese grenade landed alongside a corpsman who was caring for a wounded Marine.

Duane Dewey didn’t hesitate. He shoved the corpsman aside and threw himself atop the deadly device – after first putting his helmet over it. Incredibly, despite offering up his own life to save the lives of others, Cpl Dewey lived. One year later, fully recovered, Duane Dewey went to the White House where recently inaugurated President Dwight D. Eisenhower placed the blue ribbon of the Medal of Honor about his neck. Asked why he had first placed his helmet over the grenade that was about to detonate, he replied that he thought “maybe it wouldn’t hurt so bad.” Duane Dewey is made of tough stuff. He spends his time today in Florida and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He still attends Easy/2/5 reunions.

There were courageous acts aplenty in a night that was torn apart by explosions and the never ending deadly roar of gunfire. One of the most courageous among those was the action of SSgt Quinton Barlow, the 2d Platoon’s platoon sergeant – he was the man who seemed to be everywhere at once. If there was any point at which the Chinese threatened to break through the perimeter, SSgt Barlow was there to pitch in and help beat it back. Moving from position to position amid a whiplash storm of incoming fire, Quinton Barlow went undeterred from one threatened point to another, giving no thought to his own safety, always managing to be in the most dangerous location. Quinton Barlow would become the third defender of OP 3 to receive the Navy Cross.

Almost as quickly as the firefight on OP 3 had begun, it ended. The Chinese attackers had met more than their match. Two entire regiments of Chinese never succeeded in their objective of wresting OP 3 from less than 100 Marines who intended to hold the hill or die on it. The sole Chinese who succeeded in breaking through that stalwart wall were three who were immediately overcome and taken prisoner. They seemed to be glad to be out of it.

At daybreak on April 16, the defenders of OP 3 were relieved. As they filed off the hill, they brought nine of their dead and 39 of their wounded with them. They brought as well one Medal of Honor, three Navy Crosses, six Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars and a basket full of Purple Hearts.

Has there ever been such an engagement in all of Marine Corps history, one in which so many testimonials to bravery and valor were showered on a single reinforced platoon? It would be interesting to find out.

Less than a week later, OP 3 was abandoned. The hill was simply too large to be defended by much less than a company, and the MLR could not spare a company for duty on an outpost. The war in Korea would go on and battles involving much larger units would be fought. Places with names such as Yoke, Bunker Hill, Ungok, the three Nevada Outposts (Reno, Carson and Vegas) and the Hook would all find their way into the record before the guns fell silent at Boulder City on July 27, 1953.

The firefight on OP 3, a minor engagement compared to the much larger battles in that war 65 years ago, would be forgotten, earning at most a page or two in Korean War histories. It would not be forgotten, however, by the Marines of Easy/2/5 who were there. They will gather one last time this summer, those who are still with us, men well into their 80s, to recall those long ago days and the men they shared them with. So many of those Marines of Easy/2/5 have answered their final roll call. After this last gathering, the proud banner that hung over their annual reunions will be presented to the 1stMarDiv for safekeeping, perhaps to serve as a testimonial to what rock-hard Marine resolve and Marine courage can achieve.

Author’s note: Deep gratitude and appreciation are owed MGySgt Leland “Lee” Brinkman, USMC (Ret) and Marine veteran PFC Edgar “Bart” Dauberman, Easy/2/5 Marines who were there, for their invaluable assistance in putting this narrative together.

Author Allan C. Bevilacqua is a former enlisted Marine who served in the Korean War and the Vietnam War, as well as on an exchange tour with the French Foreign Legion. Later in his career, he was an instructor at Amphibious Warfare School and Command and Staff College, Quantico, VA.

Reprinted with permission from the Marine Corps Association & Foundation, Leatherneck Magazine, May 2017

21
Aug

Korean War Wall of Remembrance

The Korean War Veterans Association (KWVA) and the Korean War Memorial Foundation (KWMFB) have been trying for some time to get Congress to enact legislation that would allow The Wall of Remembrance (WOR) to be constructed at the site of the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D. C. The Wall of Remembrance (WOR) would have the names of the 37,000 plus Korean War KIA’s/MIA’s engraved in it, much like the Viet Nam Wall

The enacted legislation states that “no federal funds can be used in the construction of The Wall of Remembrance. The Foothills Chapter #301 of The Korean War Veterans Association located in Greenville, SC passed a resolution and named a “Fund-Raising” committee to raise the money for the 547 plus South Carolinians who paid the ultimate price to stop the spread of communism in Asia and to keep South Korea a free nation. South Korea, in a relatively short time, became one of the largest economies in the world, and instead of being a receiver of foreign aid became a provider of foreign aid.

The Korean War was first dubbed a “Police Action.” It was not covered very much by the news media and became known as “The Forgotten War.” But since the founding of the Korean War Veterans Association in the mid-1980’s, it has been working hard to make America knowledgeable of the Korean War, and they are having much success.

Instead of being thought of as “The Forgotten War,” it is now being billed as “The Forgotten Victory.” Just contrast North Korea to South Korea today and it’s easy to understand why it should be billed as “The Forgotten Victory.” While South Korea is wildly successful, North Korea can’t feed their own people or even keep their lights on.

For that, and many other reasons, we not only need to but we “MUST” build this wall to honor America’s the 37,000 plus heroes who sacrificed their lives in this now “The Forgotten Victory.” And we MUST do it now if we want any Korean War Veterans to be around to attend the dedication of the Wall.

The average age of Korean War Veterans today is eighty- five years. The average of men (a few women) fighting in the “Korean War” was nineteen (19) years. If the average age was nineteen (19), there must have been many sixteen (16), seventeen (17), and eighteen (18) year olds on the frontline. The draft had ended after WW II so all of the military in the first few months of the hostilities were volunteers. And yes, they were heroes, every single one of them. All who served in Korea, in my view, were heroes.

As I said, we are raising money for the South Carolina KIA’s/POW’s. But let me hasten to say, every name will be on the Wall, no matter where the money comes from. We are requesting that contributors from South Carolina make checks payable to: KWVA Foothills Chapter #301. In the “FOR” area write “Wall of Remembrance.”

Mail them to: Lewis Vaughn, 623 Ashley Commons Ct., Greer, SC 29651.

If the contributor is not from South Carolina, go to the KWVMF website to make a contribution. Of course, we in South Carolina will accept and appreciate contributions originating anywhere in or outside the U.S.

Thank you!

7
Aug

Korean War Wall of Remembrance

The Korean War Veterans Association (KWVA) and the Korean War Memorial Foundation (KWMFB) have been trying for some time to get Congress to enact legislation that would allow The Wall of Remembrance (WOR) to be constructed at the site of the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D. C. The Wall of Remembrance (WOR) would have the names of the 37,000 plus Korean War KIA’s/MIA’s engraved in it, much like the Viet Nam Wall

The enacted legislation states that “no federal funds can be used in the construction of The Wall of Remembrance. The Foothills Chapter #301 of The Korean War Veterans Association located in Greenville, SC passed a resolution and named a “Fund-Raising” committee to raise the money for the 547 plus South Carolinians who paid the ultimate price to stop the spread of communism in Asia and to keep South Korea a free nation. South Korea, in a relatively short time, became one of the largest economies in the world, and instead of being a receiver of foreign aid became a provider of foreign aid.

The Korean War was first dubbed a “Police Action.” It was not covered very much by the news media and became known as “The Forgotten War.” But since the founding of the Korean War Veterans Association in the mid-1980’s, it has been working hard to make America knowledgeable of the Korean War, and they are having much success.

Instead of being thought of as “The Forgotten War,” it is now being billed as “The Forgotten Victory.” Just contrast North Korea to South Korea today and it’s easy to understand why it should be billed as “The Forgotten Victory.” While South Korea is wildly successful, North Korea can’t feed their own people or even keep their lights on.

For that, and many other reasons, we not only need to but we “MUST” build this wall to honor America’s the 37,000 plus heroes who sacrificed their lives in this now “The Forgotten Victory.” And we MUST do it now if we want any Korean War Veterans to be around to attend the dedication of the Wall.

The average age of Korean War Veterans today is eighty- five years. The average of men (a few women) fighting in the “Korean War” was nineteen (19) years. If the average age was nineteen (19), there must have been many sixteen (16), seventeen (17), and eighteen (18) year olds on the frontline. The draft had ended after WW II so all of the military in the first few months of the hostilities were volunteers. And yes, they were heroes, every single one of them. All who served in Korea, in my view, were heroes.

As I said, we are raising money for the South Carolina KIA’s/POW’s. But let me hasten to say, every name will be on the Wall, no matter where the money comes from. We are requesting that contributors from South Carolina make checks payable to: KWVA Foothills Chapter #301. In the “FOR” area write “Wall of Remembrance.”

Mail them to: Lewis Vaughn, 623 Ashley Commons Ct., Greer, SC 29651.

If the contributor is not from South Carolina, go to the KWVMF website to make a contribution. Of course, we in South Carolina will accept and appreciate contributions originating anywhere in or outside the U.S.

Thank you!

8
Mar

Sgt James Hastings U.S. Army (1951-1953)

Read the service reflections of TogetherWeServed.com member:

profile2Sgt James Hastings

U.S. Army

(1951-1953)

Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/profile/348999

PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE ARMY?

I had saved my money from the time I started working at 14 in food preparation in a Mexican deli in East Los Angeles and later as a warehouse worker for Western Electric in Los Angeles. I had learned to speak French and German and intended to travel to Europe,
buy a bicycle, and tour several countries for a year or so after I graduated high school. Unfortunately the Korean War started just after I graduated in 1950. I realized that I was going to be drafted sooner or later and didn’t want to have my life disrupted before it really began, so I visited all the recruiting stations and finally decided that the Army was for me and enlisted.

My father had served in the peacetime Army from 1930-1932. mainly because of the Depression and lack of other jobs. He was drafted and served again from 1942-1945, fighting in the Aleutian Islands against the invading Japanese Army. He was wounded on Aku Island. My great grandfather had been an Officer in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He had been wounded and after some basic medical treatment, walked home on crutches until he healed enough to rejoin his Company at Appromattox.

It seems that Army has been in our family for several generations and I continued that tradition.

My son also served. He joined the US Air Force and was assigned to the Pentagon as a computer programmer for most of his 6 years.

WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK. WHAT WAS YOUR REASON FOR LEAVING?

I intended to try for Officer Candidate School but during Basic Training I made some stupid decisions, so that was out. I had worked for the Telephone Company before enlisting so I went to Wire School to increase my knowledge so that when I returned to civilian life aftermy 3 years I might be able to get a better job with the Telephone Company.

After getting out of the hospital, recovering from combat wounds I was assigned to the 8001st Transportation Depot in Yokohama, Japan. I met, dated and later, married a Japanese lady while serving in Japan. I took my discharge in Japan and went to work for the Department of the Army as a Civilian. Part of the next 5 years I worked for 8th Army HQ supervising the printing of all classified materials. As such, I had to proofread all the classified correspondence from the front as well as from agencies that were not supposed to exist (Black Ops). That made my life difficult since I no longer could talk to anyone about anything except weather, sports and art since I couldn’t take the chance that I would say something not in agreement with the “news” about the various wars in the Far East. I also was a part of FECTAC: the war room to run WWIII if the stateside war room was destroyed.

I later asked for a transfer and was assigned to the Signal Corps in charge of inventorying and negotiating the return of telephone exchanges that the US Army had confiscated during the occupation of Japan. I spoke Japanese fluently enough to act as an interpreter during some of these negotiations with the Japanese Government since, at that time, the Telephone company was run by the government.

IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN ANY MILITARY OPERATIONS, INCLUDING COMBAT, HUMANITARIAN AND PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO YOU AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.

Well, as a “green soldier” I just arrived at the front, I was assigned to the Second Division, 38th Regiment, Charlie Company to replace the Wire Chief at the front lines. The next day, he took me out to lay a new telephone line to our troops who were engaged in
combat with the enemy. We were in part of North Korea at the time. As we walked along a pathway it appeared that he tripped a booby trap wire and the homemade explosive device blew up right next to me. My right arm was sprayed with shrapnel and a piece went through my belt very close to my spine. I also had shrapnel in the joint of my little finger and couldn’t move it. The roll of wire on my back was full of shrapnel, which made it unusable.

So, we walked in the center of the river until we reached an aid station. I was transported to a MASH unit where I was X-rayed and from there to the Army Hospital in Pusan and later to the Jutlandia (Danish hospital ship), docked in Pusan harbor, for surgery to my hand. When I was in recovery stage, my Doctor sent me to Japan to recover, and from there I was reassigned to the 8001st Transportation Corps Depot in Yokohama, Japan where I served until discharge December of 1953.

OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?

Of course the least favorite was at the front lines because of my injuries. That leaves only my time at 8001st TC Depot in Yokohama. I was progressively promoted from E-2 to E-5 within a year and was put in charge of an Accounting Section where I served until my
discharge. One of my employees had been a Japanese Army Officer who was trained in English with the intent to serve in the United States, after it was conquered, as a liaison officer. I studied Japanese with him and then took 2 years of Japanese from the local University of Maryland school in Yokohama. I was able to become proficient in the spoken language and learned to read some also.

Off duty I was asked to teach English at a local Japanese Business College which I did for several years. This gave me a love of learning and teaching. I learned to brush write Japanese characters from a Japanese college professor which gave me an appreciation for Japanese brush painting which I used to make my own paintings. I also studied Kamakura style wood carving and carved some plates as well as some bookends with the Japanese name that I was known as by my closest Japanese friends.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?

Yokohama was fire bombed prior to the end of the war so when I served there, some 5 years after the war ended, it was still a very struggling economy. I walked all over Yokohama on my days off, taking pictures, many of which I still have. As I learned
to speak Japanese better, I talked to shop keepers and everyone that I could. I ate at a restaurant for day laborers. At that time the going rate for day labor was the equivalent of around 56 cents a day! (200 yen). The yen was 360 to $1.00. A dinner at this restaurant cost the equivalent of $0.20, so, I frequently ate with these men even though my salary as a Sgt at that time was close to $500 a month. I did this to get to know people.

As soon as I spoke to them in Japanese their attitude towards me changed from one of being an outsider to being someone that at least liked their country enough to learn their language. They were very open and I felt, honest with me about their struggles. I learned that the beggars we saw on the street had banded together, pooled their money and rented rooms together so they had somewhere to sleep. I saw grey haired old ladies carrying telephone poles on their shoulders for the US Army and others sitting on the ground using a sledge hammer and chisel to break off chips to create gravel for road construction.

It was a humbling experience for me.

WHAT ACHIEVEMENT(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM YOUR MILITARY CAREER? 
Our Unit was given a Citation for the accounting work that we did of highly classified work. That of course was for the Unit and not individuals, but as someone involved, I felt honored.

Much later, I received a medal from the Korean Government for my service in helping South Korea be free. It was awesome to be among the others receiving this honor. This medal was presented by a member of Washington State legislation. He had been adopted by some GI’s and brought back to the United States, where he completed his College education and later was elected to the legislature.

OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES YOU RECEIVED, OR ANY OTHER MEMORABILIA, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH ARE THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?

I’m proud of my qualifications on the rifle. My mother was a crack shot and I had learned how to shoot and clean a rifle as a small child of 7 or so in Kansas. I was only sad that I couldn’t qualify with the machine gun since it was hooked to a board, which had sunk into the mud so I couldn’t change the elevation so it fired into the ground and no one could qualify with it.

My Honorable Discharge was my most cherished possession from the Army.

WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
Major Oakley, who was the officer to which I reported for the Accounting Department, taught me how to do my best and encourage those under me to do their best. He went on to teach at the War College I was told. He had a speech impediment so I was encouraged to see that the Army gave him a chance to do his best and serve rather than rejecting him and not allow him to serve his country. Before entering the Army, he had been a tugboat Captain and I learned a lot from him about that kind of work also, something that I never would have learned otherwise.

CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME, BUT STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?

We learned that we had a Criminal Investigations Division person in our midst for a short time. He talked to me about his past and I thought it was strange that he confided that to me. His objective, he said, was to blend in and investigate and keep this a secret from anyone except the Commanding Officer, to my knowledge. He told me stories of his first assignment. He was to go to prison impersonating a criminal in order to befriend a man known to be a Nazi spy. The man had been caught but was imprisoned by the government on a different charge so that they could find out what his mission really was. He didn’t share that with me.

WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? 

I was employed by the Department of the Army as a Civilian employee and started off in charge of coordinating military air traffic movements in Japan. From there I was recruited to supervise the printing section for the Japan Procurement Agency that bought off shore supplies for the Korean wareffort. I was recruited from there to work at Eighth Army HQ to supervise classified printing. As part of those duties I supervised the U2 spy photo library as well as worked on second strike information in case of nuclear attack on the US. I also was a part of the War Room in case the Pentagon was destroyed by nuclear attack. This was too stressful for me and I began to have ulcers so I asked for and was later transferred to the Signal Corps where I inventoried all the US telephone stations in Japan and negotiated the return of them to the Japanese government after a base was closed.

I was then recruited to go to Inchon, Korea to establish a supply depot to repair spy boat engines, as that is part of what I did in Yokohama. After it was up and running in 8 months, I resigned from the Department of the Army and returned with my son and wife to the US.

I was trained at the Bank of America to be a Manager and after a few years, left that to become HR Director for a small bank chain for a few years. All this time I was going to school on the GI bill and finally after getting a Master’s degree I left banking and became the Director of Employment and Training for Goodwill Industries of Los Angeles, CA. I worked at various Goodwill Industries as Executive Director and then spent the rest of my working life as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor serving those with barriers to employment until I retired in 2010.

I also served as an AmeriCorps volunteer in 1999 and again in 2012.

WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?

I visited the VFW hall but couldn’t relate to the members there so never joined any military related organizations Likewise, by the time I visited the American Legion I was way older than most of the members and again, couldn’t relate to their lives. I was a member of the Rotary Club and Toastmasters in several cities and usually deeply involved in Community relations where I lived and worked but seldom lived and worked in the same towns. I also served on the Board of the Chamber of Commerce in charge of environmental relations at one time.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?

The military didn’t ask me what I could do or was interested in doing. It gave me an assignment and expected me to learn how to do it to the best of my ability. This trust in me helped me to grow and become someone that I might never have
become without that trust. Most employers hire you based on your known and proven ability to do something. That is completely different from my military experience. I don’t think I would have accomplished whatever I did in my civilian life if that start in the military hadn’t taught me to strive to do my best. I learned to make decisions and how to supervise others in the military. I learned to accept responsibility for my actions: good and bad.

I was taught time and motions studies; work simplification and forms design. I have utilized these skills in many different occupations. I have worked as: College Teacher of ESL, CEO of statewide Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, State Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor, Certified Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for Worker’s compensation and VA referrals, Purchasing Agent for School District, Commercial Bank Manager, Accounting Supervisor for Savings Bank, Employment and Training Supervisor for Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, President of the Board of Local Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies as well as Merchandise Manager for Hallmark and Glass Artist selling through a gallery.

BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE ARMY?

Follow the motto “be all you can be” and ask for advice even if you feel you don’t need it. Seek out responsibility and do more than asked (being careful that what you do has consequences). When in doubt, ask. One solution may create another problem unless you know the whole process involved.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.

I haven’t ever forgotten the chances to grow that the Army gave me and appreciate that but I was discharged 61 years ago and since there was no reserve, at least at that time in Japan, I didn’t continue my service in the Reserves for the last 5 years overseas.

When I returned to the US I had a hard time finding a job since I had in essence, grown up and worked overseas and unless I went to work for the Department of the Army immediately in the US, I had little work experience that anyone would give me credit for having.

The only assignment I was offered by the Department of the Army after I returned was as Supply Officer for a Ammunition Depot out in the desert where my family wouldn’t have the conveniences that they would in the city. When I finally looked for those with whom I had served, I have been out of touch for so long that I gave up looking. This is one connection that may help me, if they are still alive. Just recently, a person I served with in the 8001st Transportation Depot in Yokohama contacted me through another military organization and at last I am in touch again with an important part of my life.

6
Jun

SSG Robert L Tate U.S. Army (1949-1952)

An up close and personal interview with U.S. Army Veteran and Togetherweserved.com Member:

tateSSG Robert L Tate

U.S. Army

(1949-1952)

Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/profile/287713

PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE ARMY?

In 1949 I was 16 years old and had just started my junior year in high school and worked part time for a national food store chain called the California Markets in my hometown of Evansville, Indiana. They offered me a produce manager’s job if I would go full-time. Being raised in a father-missing family, I thought it was a good idea so I quit high school. About a month later the chain went bankrupt.

I looked up an Army recruiter early named Tech Sgt. Vickery in December 1949 who always came by the schoolyard trying to get new recruits. I told him I wanted to join the Army but wouldn’t be 17 until February. He said just lie about my birth date and to say I was born in another state. He added they probably wouldn’t check it out. My 16-year buddy Don Bullock also decided to give it a try. We joined a week later and were bused to Indianapolis for physicals. Don passed without any problems but I was sent home to get some teeth fixed and told to come back once that was done. A few days after getting my teeth fixed, I returned for my physical. The minimum requirement for joining was 5′ 2″ and 112 lbs. I was exactly 5 feet, 2 inches tall but I weighed slightly less than 112 pounds. To make sure I would tip the scales at the minimum weight I ate a whole sack of bananas before weighing in. I stepped on the scale and came in at exactly 112 pounds.

My friend Don had been sent to basic with Company B, 13th Armored Infantry Battalion, Combat Command A, 3rd Armored Division, in Fort Knox. I was also sent to the 13th for training, but Company B had already filled so I was put in Company C. Both of our company commanders found out we were underage. His commander gave him a hard time and got him a minority discharge. Mine didn’t care, so I got to stay.

WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK.

My orders out basic training were for occupation duty in Japan. I was also given a 30-leave to go home to Evansville before heading to Seattle for shipment overseas.

When my leave was up, I reported to the Evansville train station where I ran into two other young soldiers also on their way to Seattle for shipment overseas. One was Bob Willett a buddy of mine from Evansville and the other was Ralph Jenkins who was came from Oakland City just up the road. When we changed trains in St. Louis, we were joined by another trainee from Fort Jackson South Carolina. Our new train was a relatively new Streamliner named ‘City of St. Louis’ which would take us partway to Seattle. Once we jumped aboard, however, we found the only thing available was a four person suite and the Military Vouchers we were travelling under did not include such ‘luxury.’ But the kindly conductor let us have it anyway. WOW!!! We had a steward in the car that we called back to order ham sandwiches. When we gave him a tip of $5 (back in those days great tip) he really took care of us for the entire trip.

We arrived two days early and since we didn’t want to go to the base until we had to we decided to look around Seattle. But we also were pretty well broke so we scrapped our pennies together and had enough for me to call home and have my mom wire us some money through Western Union. For two days after the money arrived we had some fun and still reported to base on time.

I shipped out on the USS General M. M. Patrick and landed in Yokohama. Since I had been trained for the cavalry I was certain I would be assigned to occupation duty with the 1st Cavalry Division. But at the reception station I learned I was assigned to the 7th Infantry Division, which was spread all over Japan with garrisons on Honshu and on Hokkaido, the northernmost island. My duty station was the division headquarters in Sendai, 231 miles north of Tokyo where I would be on the staff of the Division’s G-3 (Operations). A couple of days later I was on a train to Sendai.

I remember pulling into the Sendai train station and seeing men urinating in outside urinals and wondering what kind of world had I entered? When I stepped off the train, I was then hit with an awful smell. Part of the smell was fish markets and open drain ditches but the worst smell came from what I would learned later were called ‘honey buckets.’ The Japanese at the time used open latrines and the waste was collected in buckets below. Workers would go around every morning, collect the waste buckets and empty them into ‘honey wagons.’ The waste was then used to fertilize crops. I never really got used to that smell.

When the Korean War broke out in June 1950, we were moved to Gotemba and into a tent city at the base of Mount Fuji and put through a rigorous training schedule, including amphibious landing training. I remember everyone was anxious to get over to Korea and get into the fight.

The 7th Division was understrength since many of our officers and NCOs were sent to Army Divisions already in combat in Korea. To bring us up to strength thousands of Republic of Korea (ROK) troops were integrated into our ranks. At this stage in their training, the ROK soldiers were not worth much. There was also a language barrier that constantly got in the way. Later when we got in combat most of the ROKs proved to be brave fighters.

When we boarded the crowded troop ship for Korea we were assigned three men to a bunk. When I got down to my rack there were two ROK soldiers sitting on it eating dried squid with kimchee, which stunk to high heaven. I managed to get it over to them that they were not going to use my rack and they had to sleep on deck. I noticed later that one of them left his Japanese made Kodak camera on the bunk. I never did find him and still have the camera to this day.

Soon after arriving in Korea in early September 1950, we made an amphibious landing with the 1st Marine Division at Inchon. Days later we engaged North Korean soldiers in the First Battle of Seoul. The Division then marched 25 miles east to Suwon to capture the important rail juncture of Inchon. A few weeks later we made an amphibious landing at Iwon and made a rush to the Yalu River separating North Korea from China and when the Chinese entered the war we ended up at the bitter fight at the Chosen Reservoir.

After leaving Korea, I was assigned to US Army Forces Command and was discharged in 1952 as a Staff Sgt. From 1955 to 1968 I was a member of the 71st Troop Carrier Squadron, US Air Force Reserves.

DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?

On the morning of June 25, 1950 we awoke to the news that Communist North Korea had smashed across the 38th Parallel and invaded South Korea. South Korea’s army, smaller and not as well trained and equipped was unable to halt the onslaught. By June 28, Seoul had fallen, andacross the peninsula the shattered remnants of South Korea’s army were in full retreat. Three United States divisions sent to its aid were committed in small units. They too were driven into retreat. We all knew it would be a matter of time before our division would be going to war. In late August or early September we sailed across the Sea of Japan and landed at Pusan. A week or so later we were on ships going to Inchon.

On September 15, 1950 the 1st Marine Division swarmed ashore after preparatory bombardment by aircraft and naval guns. Our 7th Infantry Division followed. Taken by complete surprise the North Koreans put up a light resistance and most quickly fled the city.

I remember the sporadic sniper fire that first night in Inchon and remember wondering to myself what the heck I was doing there and thinking I should be home in school instead of where I was. The next day we headed for what would be the first of five battles for Seoul.

The division’s first objective was to take the heavily defended North Koreans holding the high ground immediately northwest of Seoul. It was a brutal battle with many casualties on both sides. Once our frontline troops defeated the enemy, elements of the division entered Seoul. After a couple days of vicious house-to-house fighting,any enemy that had not retreated was either dead or captured. With Seoul firmly in our hands, the division was ordered to take two vital hills southeast of Seoul. It took 12-hour of fierce battle to take the two hills. Later my commander, Lt. Col. Hampton G-3, was killed in a tank ambush around the 4th or 5th day while we were trying to hook up with our tank task near Suwon just south of Seoul.

After our division and the 1st Marine Division secured Inchon, Kimpo Air base, Seoul and Suwon our division started a long overland truck march to the east coast of Pusan where we renewed training and added replacements for our combat-thinned ranks. Orders came down in October to advance to the Yalu so again we loaded sea transport and headed north along the east coast of Korea to Iwon. As a part of the G-3 shop I knew in advance that the push to the Yalu, which separated North Korea from Manchuria (China), was to stop the flow of supplies coming across the river. Our amphibious landing on the last day of October, 1950 was unopposed. We set off north toward the Yalu wearing our newly issued insulated shoe packs for the extreme cold.

We slogged through the cold into Pukchong late at night. We were all cold and pretty tired. I took off my shoe packs, didn’t notice my sweaty socks and jumped into my sleeping bag trying to get warm. When I woke up, my left toes were frozen white with ice between them. It scared the heck out of me, but I managed to massage them and they were okay. It sure taught me not to leave sweaty socks on when you go to sleep.

As the division moved north we met a sharp skirmish at Pungsan and a harsh firefight at Kapsan. The push continued in arctic-like cold weather, and on November 20, the 17th Infantry slogged into Hyesanjin-on-the-Yalu–the first U.S. unit to reach the Manchurian border. It was the northernmost point of advance by the United Nations’ command in three years of bitter warfare.

When the Chinese came across the border on November 27, 1950, we were totally unprepared. The enemy attack caught our division strung out, with some elements as far as 250 miles apart. I remember trying to make it down the MSR (main supply route). I hitched a ride in an Air Force Forward Observer van before they could cut it off and catch us in the Chosin Reservoir trap. Elements of the 7th Infantry (31st Regiment, 32nd Regiment, 57th Field Artillery Battalion, and other support units) were caught in the Chosin Reservoir and suffered tremendous casualties and unspeakable hardships. Thank God I was not caught in that trap. I made it down the MSR before the Chinese cut it off and encircled the troops at Chosen Reservoir.

If I remember correctly (it’s been over 50 years), our Assistant Division Commander, Brig. Gen. Henry Hodes put together a tank task force and broke through at Hagaru-ri to get some of the troops out. Just a couple days ago (after 54 years) not very far from my hometown, they buried the remains of a member of the 7th Infantry Division whose body was recently found in a shallow grave at the Chosin Reservoir.

I remember making it to Hungnam and while waiting to be evacuated I tried to get some sleep in what I think was a bombed out school. But the Navy was bombarding the enemy from the harbor and it seemed like every shell was going right over the building I was trying to sleep in. Finally we boarded the craft to be taken to the ship. It was dark and I remember our craft being challenged for our identity by the heavy cruiser USS St Paul. We were to be aboard ship for three days, but ended up being on it for over a week before we got to Pusan. Everyone on board was sick with dysentery and the whole ship was pretty messy. I don’t ever remember (before or since) being as cold and discouraged as I was that December in 1950.

OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?

My fondest memories come from the five month I was stationed at Camp Sendai, Japan. I like learning about the Japanese culture and seeing things that were new and sometimes strange to me. I hated to leave when the 7th Infantry Division reassembled its scattered units throughout Japan to train in preparation for going to Korea to join other American divisions already fighting.

On March 11, 2011, memories of Sendai came flashing back when I saw that a major tsunami hit the city following a magnitude 9.0 Earthquake off the coast. I understand the center of the city was barely damaged but the areas closest to the coastline received major damage resulting in hundreds dying. It was the largest earthquake recorded in Japan’s history.

The memories I dislike the most are those dealing with the many casualties, “American and Korean” I saw during the Korea War.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?

The particular memory that stands out for me was experiencing the bitter, subzero temperature I experienced during our push to the Yalu and at the Chosin Reservoir. Both battles were fought over some of the roughest terrain during some of the harshest winter weather conditions of the Korean War. The worst was the cold front from Siberia that engulfed the Chosin Reservoir with temperature plunging to as low as −35 °F (−37 °C). The cold weather was accompanied by frozen ground, creating frostbite casualties, icy roads, and weapon malfunctions. I had never been so cold in my life.

IF YOU RECEIVED ANY MEDALS FOR VALOR OR AWARDS FOR SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT, PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW THESE WERE EARNED.

My buddy Scotty and I were recommended for the Bronze Star Medal but through some unexplained policy in place at the time, they could only give one. Scotty won out and they gave me the one just below, the Army Commendation Medal w/Pendulum. The medal was presented by Maj. Gen. Goodwin Barr, the 7th Infantry Division Commanding General.

OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICE YOU RECEIVED, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE ONE(S) MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?

While in the Korean War with the 7th Infantry Division, I participated in 5 major battles and 2 amphibious landings resulting in having five Battle Stars and two Arrowheads on my Korean Campaign Medal.

WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?

Col. Joe T. Pound, from Sullivan, Indiana was truly a great leader of men. I met Col. Pond while I was the First Sgt. of the 71st Troop Carrier Squadron from 1955-1968. There were two others commanders before him and another one who followed. All were fine men and great squadron commanders and since each was required to put in their flying time in order to maintain their proficiency they placed a lot of responsibility on me saying I would have to take care of most of the other functions in the Squadron. They were true to their word and backed me 100 percent.

Of the four Col. Joe Pond was the one who most led by example. He was stern but fair. He became my mentor in many ways. When the Squadron was activated and sent to Vietnam in 1968, Col. Pond stayed on active duty and finished out his distinguished career at the Pentagon. He was the finest Commander I ever served under both in the Air Force and the Army. He was not only my commander but a good friend as well. He has since passed away.

CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME, BUT STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?

When I returned from Korea, I was stationed at Camp Atterbury, Indiana just south of Indianapolis. While I didn’t go to Indianapolis that often, one Friday night I decided to go there just to get off the base, find a place to relax and maybe have a couple of drinks. Apparently I must have had a lot more than just a couple of drinks because all I remembered was waking up in my bunk Saturday morning with a hangover. My roommate asked me if I remember anything earlier that morning. As hard as I tried, I could not remember a thing. He told me he was awakened around 2 am by some commotion in the company street and looked out the window to see what was going on. The racket was two burly MPs holding up a drunk under his arms and carrying him down the street. He said the drunk was so short his feet were not even touching the ground. As they carried the drunk closer he realized it was me, all 5 feet 2 inches of me. That was the only time in my life I couldn’t remember where I had been and what I had done. However, I cannot help smiling to myself on those rare occasions when I think of my ‘lost weekend.’ But I see it more as a cautionary tale since it taught me a valuable lesson that I have lived up to even now: ‘Always drink in moderation.’

WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?

After being discharged in December 1952 I got married and started having kids (seven of them). I joined the Air Force Reserve in 1955 and was First Sergeant of the 71st Troop Carrier Squadron for 13 years. My unit was activated during the Cuban Missile Crisis but with the Russians backing down at the last minute. We were on active duty for a short time. We were again activated in 1968 for the Vietnam War and during our preparation the 71st TCS was converted to gunships and re-designated as the 71st Air Commando Squadron, (Later designated as 71st Special Operations Squadron). Because of my situation at home (seven kids, one severely handicapped, the rest school age or under)I was discharged for hardship reasons.Watching my squadron go to Vietnam without me was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I have always felt a little guilt about not being able to go with them. The 71st was the only Reserve Unit to serve in Vietnam.

I made my living in the construction business for 50 years building primarily homes and apartment buildings. I have been retired since 2003 along with “The Light of my Life” (my wife of 58 years). I spend a great deal of my time working around my house and yard.

My Kids kept telling to get a computer but I said I lived without a computer for almost 70 years. But I finally gave in and bought one. WOW!!! I wish I had bought one year’s ago. I am on it a good deal of time each day (especially in the winter). I am getting involved in a lot of things going on in the world, Government, and Ancient Roman and Greek history, EBay, etc. It has sure been a way of keeping my mind active.

WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?

Am a member of the 7th Infantry Division Association. I derive a lot of satisfaction in keeping in touch with some of my comrades in arms. I attended their convention in July, 2004 in Las Vegas.

I belonged to the American Legion for years, but had to drop it because of personal reasons.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?

I learned a sense of responsibility and discipline while in the military that I have carried with me all my life and in the workplace. Having been in combat I have also realized not to sweat the little thing. Finally, I found out I could accomplish almost anything regardless how hard or difficult if I set my mind to it.

BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE AIR FORCE?

My simple advice is to take your service seriously and consider it as a career. But the best advice I can pass on to new soldiers was something I heard when I was discharging from the Army in 1952. I was Camp Atterbury and attending an orientation lecture about adjusting to civilian life. At the end of his lecture the crusty major spoke these words: ‘You can leave the military but it will never leave you.’ He then made us a bet that in in the years to come if we were to go into a bar we would more than likely notice some guys sitting around and talking. He said if we got close enough to hear the conversation, chances are they would be talking about their military service. I found out more often than not, he was right.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.

Setting up my profile page was like taking a trip down memory lane. Browsing other profile has the same effect. The feature I cherish the most is that my profile page can be viewed by my six living kids, 15 grand-kids, 15 great-grand-kids and so far two great, great, grand-kid. Here they can get a glimpse at what I did in the military service to include some of the ways in which I felt about things. It’s a good feeling. As a life member who knows how long people will be able to read of my experiences.

I would like to add that these pages are dedicated to all those men and women who for over the last few centuries have answered our country’s call to defend the freedoms and the way of life we all now enjoy. Their efforts and sacrifices have made this great country the model to all freedom loving people in the world. God grant that we will always have enough of those individuals that put these beliefs above all else. We must always extend the hand of friendship to all people everywhere. By freely giving to others our greatest possessions of freedom, justice, and the basic principles of human rights, we will insure that we will always have them ourselves. I pray God will continue to shed his grace on this great country.

29
Feb

CSM Charles Ross U.S. Army (Ret) (1947-1970)

rossView the service Reflections of US Army Soldier:

CSM Charles Ross

U.S. Army (Ret)

(1947-1970)

Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/bio/Ross

PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE ARMY?

It was my desire for travel and adventure that influenced me. That was in 1947, a couple of years following the end of World War 2.

WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK.

I went through basic training in Ft McClellan AL then a three year overseas tour in Germany with the 1st Infantry Division. I was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment/K Company. Orders then came down for an assignment with 3rd Infantry Division in Ft Devens, MA. I was there for only four weeks and then off to the 3rd Battalion 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. Soon after I arrived the Korean War broke out.

The war began when the North Korean People’s Army (KPA) crossed the 38th Parallel (border separating the North and South Koreas) at dawn on Sunday, June 25, 1950 with a combined arms force including tanks supported by heavy artillery. The KPA easily ran over the South Koreans who did not have any tanks, anti-tank weapons or heavy artillery to stop the surprise attack. The battered South Korean army and their U.S. military advisers quickly were pushed into the Pusan Perimeter, a 140-mile defensive line on the southeastern most tip of the Korean Peninsula. To prevent any further defeat, United Nations Forces were rushed into the war.

The 1st Cavalry Division was shipped to South Korea in July 1950 and immediately thrown into the Battle of Pusan Perimeter. That lasted nearly three month and by October 1950, U.N. Forces had successfully broken out of the Pusan Perimeter and began an aggressive northward advance in pursuit what was left of the now defeated army of North Korea. We moved rapidly north to a place near Unsan, set up defensive positions in the mountain and awaited further orders.

On November 2, 1950 our regiment was overrun by the Chinese Army who had just secretly entered the war. Those of us who were still alive withdrew and after a week of escape and evasion I was captured and remained a Prisoner of War for three years until September 1953.

From 1953-1955, I was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment (Airborne)/ A Company, 101st Airborne Division at Ft. Jackson, SC.
1955-1958, I was a First Sgt. in the 3rd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division in Schofield Barracks Hawaii.

1958-1964, First Sgt. at the Engineer School, Fort Leonard Wood/5th Battalion, 4th Training Brigade (AIT) and then the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment/C Company, stationed at Camp Carlson South Korea until 1965.

My next assignment was for three years at the Armor School/USATCA Special Training Regiment, Ft. Knox, Kentucky when, in 1968, I received orders for Vietnam, ending up in the G-3 office at the 4th Infantry Division in Pleiku. I spend the last of my Vietnam tour in the 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division as the Sgt. Major.

My final assignment was the Armor Training Center (USAARMC)/ 6th Recon Squadron, 2nd School Brigade (AIT) where I served as the Command Sgt. Major. I retired in 1971.

IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN COMBAT, PEACEKEEPING OR HUMANITARIAN OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO YOU AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.

The most significant combat event for me would be in November 1950 when our battalion was attacked by an overwhelming number of Chinese soldiers at night on November 1, 1950. We were able to fight them off for almost three days and nights and as we began to run out of food, water and ammo we were informed that help from other units could not reach us and we would have to fend for ourselves. Those of us that could still walk attempted to escape the perimeter. Most, if not all, were killed, captured or perished in the mountains in the following days.

OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?

My favorite one was Fort Knox, Kentucky because that’s where I was stationed when I met my wife.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?

Surviving the 34 months I was a prisoner of war in North Korea.

On November 1, 1950 my unit, 8th Cavalry Regiment, occupied defensive positions on the high ground south of Unsan when thousands of Communist Chinese Forces attacked our 1st and 2nd Battalion and South Korean units with three-prong assault from the north, northwest, and west. It wasn’t until the early morning of November 2 that our 3rd Battalion with hit with the same “human wave” assaults of bugle-blowing Chinese. For about half an hour, we were fighting hand-to-hand combat before the enemy broke contact and retreated.We had been told elements of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 5th Cavalry Regiment and 7th Cavalry Regiment were on their way to help our isolated battalion but when they were driven back. With daylight fading, the relief effort was broken off and we were ordered to get out of the trap any way we could. Breaking into small elements we moved out overland under cover of darkness. Most did not make it (according to official records of a total strength of 800, the 8th Cavalry Regiment lost 600, either killed or missing).After evading the enemy for about six days, I and another member of my squad were captured by Chinese soldiers on November 10, 1950. We were marched north each night for several nights until we reached an unnamed valley. We were then put into a house and kept there until January 1951 and then moved to Camp 5 at Pyucktong where we joined several more prisoners. I have lots of bad memories of that place: Men began to die in large numbers shortly after we arrived. Deaths were almost daily for the next several months. After the weather warmed and food rations were improved the deaths began to taper off but did not stop completely. Men were still dying from disease, malnutrition, untreated wounds and the unsanitary conditions we lived in. We were crowded into small rooms, slept on the clay floors and had no means of bathing or laundering our clothing which were the summer uniforms that we were wearing at the time of our capture. Body lice were rampant and we had neither toilet facilities nor paper products to keep ourselves clean.

Things began to improve a bit in the spring and that’s when the Chinese “Instructors” or “Comrades,” as we had be forced to call them, began the daily “brainwashing” lectures that lasted until August 1952 at which time I, along with all the other NCO’s, was moved to Camp 4 at Wiwon. The lectures were political in nature and would praise the virtues of Communism and condemn Capitalism.

I don’t recall any prisoner deaths after moving to Camp 4. Lectures there were less frequent and the content seemed to have changed to “enlighten” us as to how China was always trying to promote world peace and the U.S. was always starting wars. Most of us recognized it as rubbish and tolerated it as best we could. On August 20, 1953 we were informed that an armistice had been agreed to and that we would be repatriated shortly. I was returned to US Army control on September 1, 1953.

I would have to say that it was not a pleasant experience but given the fact that I had enlisted voluntarily and that we were at war I accepted my fate and made the best of it.

IF YOU RECEIVED ANY MEDALS FOR VALOR OR AWARDS FOR SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT, PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW THESE WERE EARNED.

Bronze Star for Meritorious Service in Vietnam, two Army Commendation Medals for Meritorious Service at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. and one at Fort Knox, KY.

OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICE YOU RECEIVED, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE ONE(S) MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?

Combat Infantry Badge 2nd award. I think it shows that you’ve been in one of the Army’s most dangerous and difficult jobs.

WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?

T/Sgt. Harvey Brown. He helped me as a young soldier to break away from the “Crowd” and encouraged me take leadership courses that helped up my ranks and eventually a decision to make the Army my career.

M/Sgt. William Hamilton. Helped me to learn and understand the complexities of being a First Sergeant.

CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME, BUT STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?

As a young sergeant, I was assigned as color bearer for the National Colors at a congressional welcoming ceremony while I was stationed in Germany. As we marched to the parade ground we had to go up a very steep bank and the grass was wet. My foot slipped and I fell to one knee and as a result I ripped my trousers. After a rapid recovery we continued to our designated place on the field. The Regimental Commander looked at me and then told me that I should be ashamed for wearing a damaged uniform while bearing the Colors. Not very funny at the time but when he found out what had happened we laughed about it and he apologized.

WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?

First: Retail sales in a family owned furniture store for 14 years.

Second: Owned and operated a cattle farm for 24 years.

Now: Part time work in a local funeral home and enjoying life and the grandkids.

WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?

DAV Chapter 20, Glasgow, Kentucky.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?

It has helped me to understand the importance of discipline, as well as keeping everything in my life organized and to obey the rules of law.

BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE ARMY?

If you decide to make the Army your career, I would advise you to separate yourself from the “Crowd” and be careful of whom you choose to be your friends, educate yourself at every opportunity. Always do your best and show enthusiasm when given a task.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.

It has brought to mind many years of memories that I probably would not have had if I had not found this site.

30
Nov

Sgt Robert Deeds U.S. Marine Corps (1948-1952)

deedsView the service reflections of US Marine:

Sgt Robert Deeds

U.S. Marine Corps

(1948-1952)

Shadow Box: http://marines.togetherweserved.com/bio/Sgt.Deeds

If you served, join your brothers and sisters at TogetherWeServed.com
WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?

There were several life-changing events going on in my world when I decided to join the Marine Corps.

I was born into a large family of nine children in 1930 and raised in Isle, Nebraska, during the Great Depression. Like most large, blue-collar families of the period, we struggled to stay afloat. My father worked hard as a cement contractor and brick and block layer. It the warm weather he worked a lot. In the winter months not so much. My mother worked from sunup to sunset every day cleaning, cooking, washing and sewing clothes for me, my father and my four sisters and four brothers. Twice a week she baked bread, cinnamon rolls and on special occasions, pies and cakes. One of my fondest memories is her giving us hot bread right out of the oven covered with melting butter. She also made sure all us kids went to church every Sunday.

When I was seven or eight, the world was in crisis from both economic pressure and ethnic conflict. Adolf Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany, stormed into eastern Europe, seizing Czechoslovakia, Poland, Finland, Norway, France and other nations. He ordered his SS Gestapo to round up Jews and put them in death camps. The Italian fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, raided and occupied Ethiopia. He banned Italian Jews from professional occupations. Japan’s leader, Gen. Hideki Tojo, occupied much of China and took possession of British and Dutch colonies in the Pacific. In one exceptionally heinous crime in 1937, Japanese military forces marched into Nanjing and systematically raped, tortured, and murdered more than 300,000 Chinese civilians.

I remember how outraged the older folks were over the wanton slaughters, imprisonments and human degradation being carried out by Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo. But I also remember most of them saying it wasn’t our problem and we should stay out of it. But that attitude changed overnight on Dec.7, 1941, when the Japanese, without warning, bombed Pearl Harbor, killing 2,402 Americans. The next day the United States declared war on Japan. Three days later, Nazi Germany declared war on the United States. In a matter of a few days, our nation turned from isolationists to one frantically building for war.

Caught up in the wave of patriotism sweeping the country, two of my older brothers, Marion and Lloyd, signed up in the Army. Marion never left the states, but Lloyd fought in most of the battles in Europe as a member of Lt. Gen. George Patton’s Third Army. He was also a prisoner of war twice. The first time was when our forces crossed the Rhine River into Germany. He and others were captured but within a few day were liberated. He was captured a second time and remained a prisoner until the war ended in 1945. Lloyd was awarded the Bronze Star.

I quite school in the 8th grade and worked full-time with my dad pouring cement foundations and laying blocks. Increasingly, I began to distance myself from my dad who was a harsh, quick-fisted, short-tempered man. At 16, I left home for good.

I traveled from state to state in search of available work. Sometimes I would hitchhike, other times I would jump freight trains. I rather enjoyed travelling around seeing different parts of the United States and once I had a little money ahead, I’d moved on to the next place. But competition was fierce. Wherever I’d go, there’d be other boys like me, men of all ages and a lot of World War II veterans, all looking for work. Hearing the veterans talking about their experiences, I felt a surge of patriotism and excitement. As soon as I turned 18, I quit my job carrying shingles for two roofers in Ft. Smith, Ark. and enlisted in the Marine Corps.

WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?

I signed up for the Marine Corps on July 29, 1948 and within a week, I was raising my right hand at the induction center and two days later, put on a train with a bunch of other recruits and sent to Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego.

While I watched other recruits struggle with the physical challenges of boot camp, I did not. I was in good physical shape from my two years of hitchhiking around the country searching for odd jobs and was used to walking long distances when I couldn’t get rides. The work I found was back-breaking, but it also laced my thin frame with strong, flexible muscle. So if any of my drill instructors (DIs) told me to drop for 25 push-ups, no problem.

But what I wasn’t ready for was the strict discipline and the harsh penalties for slowness or inability to accomplish tasks like marching and rifle drills. I also had trouble with our DIs yelling at us like we were the lowest living thing on the earth. Worse was my having to do what was told of me without question. If any of us were slow in getting the point, our senior DI, Staff Sgt. Chatham, would not hesitate to ‘clobber’ us until we totally understood what point he was making. Toward the end of boot camp, however, I saw how he and the other DIs had shaped raw, fumbling civilians into tough Marines. As I stood proudly on graduation day, I silently thanked them for helping me get there.

When I got out of boot camp, my entire recruit platoon (Platoon 72), along with other Marines already at Camp Pendleton. CA, were assigned to the newly reactivated 1st Provisional Marine Brigade. Within days, we were loaded onto the troop ship USS General W.F. Hase and taken to Camp Witek, Guam. The trip to Guam seemed like it would never end but finally, after 31 days and 30 nights of sailing rough seas, we set anchor and stepped onto the island that would be our new home.

We were taught infantry tactics at first and then continuously ran field training exercise to refine those skills. We were also taught survivor skills by Master Sgt. Potter, a World War II Bataan Death March survivor. He was a tough old guy who earned our respect for what he knew and what he taught us. Our company commander was Capt. Robert Bohn, who retired a Maj. Gen. in Sept. 1974.

Sixteen months after arriving on Guam, Typhoon Allen ripped through Camp Witek, destroying everything standing. The entire brigade was shipped back to Camp Pendleton where we continued training.

A couple of months later, on June 25, 1950, North Korea attacked South Korea, crushing its army and within a couple of days captured Seoul and was moving rapidly down the Korean Peninsula. Among the casualties were some of the 481 American military advisors. To stop the onslaught, the United Nations rushed in military forces from 16 member nations. Our unit, the 1st Marine Provisional Brigade, left Camp Pendleton in mid-July, boarded ships in Long Beach and San Diego and landed at Pusan, South Korea, on Aug. 3, 1950. For the next seven months I found myself in combat nearly every day.

Read more »

28
Oct

The Grim Fate of Korean War POWs

The fury of the Korean War raged all around Private First Class Jack Arakawa on July 16, 1950. In hastily prepared defensive positions outside the South Korean town of Taejon, his unit watched grimly as North Korean tanks raced towards them. Acrid smoke hung in the nighttime air as the sounds of war abounded. The occasional fighter plane screamed across the sky.  Death lurked everywhere.

As the enemy neared American lines at 8 PM, Arakawa’s machine gun squad let out a torrent of fire that pinged ineffectually off the advancing tanks. North Korean troops poured over the beleaguered defenders’ position moments later, forcing the men to flee.

In the chaos, Arakawa – a Japanese-American – found himself staring at the barrel of an enemy rifle. His heart raced as North Korean soldiers brusquely tied his hands with wire. He knew all-too-well that the enemy had executed bound American captives in prior days with a gunshot to the back of the head.

But Arakawa, able to communicate fluently with his captors in Japanese, escaped that fate. While the Korean People’s Army fought its way towards Pusan over the next month and a half, he and other Americans carried their ammunition and food at gunpoint. At night, the bound captives slept next to KPA bunkers, wondering if a midnight napalm strike might send them into an eternal slumber.

When the North Korean drive towards Pusan stalled in early September, KPA authorities transferred Arakawa and his peers to a makeshift prison camp ‘a former school’ in Seoul. There, guards interrogated the prisoners daily, asking the same questions over and over: “do you actually admire Truman and Joe McCarthy?” a common query went.

At the same time, the POWs attended mandatory lectures on the evils of Wall Street capitalism and the righteousness of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). They watched Soviet propaganda films contrasting racial prejudice in the United States with the “ideal’ life” of the Socialist world. (“Free Love” was apparently a common theme.)

Throughout these experiences, Arakawa acted as an interpreter for the other prisoners, imploring the North Koreans for better conditions. The guards, however, responded by demanding that the Japanese-American join the Korean People’s Army since he could pass for one of their own.

If Arakawa would fight for the DPRK, they argued, he would “attain great heights” and “be part of a great machine fighting for the good of all mankind.” In exchange for his service, the guards promised, he would receive a house and servants after the war and “in the immediate future” the “privilege of better food, sake, medical care, parties, better housing facilities, and a woman.” Arakawa- wisely – remained noncommittal.

In the aftermath of the Incheon landing on September 15, 1950, North Korean forces began preparations to evacuate all POWs north of the 38th parallel. On September 26, 1950 as American-led forces seized control of Seoul in brutal street fighting, KPA guards led Arakawa and 375 other men on a forced march to Pyongyang.

Paraded by their captors in villages along the way, the POWs staggered towards the north – many of them with maggot-infested wounds. North Korean guards killed those who could not keep up. From the skies above, American planes frequently strafed the prisoners with gunfire, mistaking them for a retreating enemy column. By the time the Americans reached the North Korean capital, approximately 80 had perished from malnutrition, disease, summary executions, and friendly fire.

After arriving at a schoolyard there on October 10 – with American-led forces advancing rapidly behind them – guards informed the POWs that they would depart soon for a permanent camp on the Manchurian border. Arakawa, and four of his friends, decided then and there on an escape attempt. With the rumble of artillery fire growing louder each day, and the North Koreans becoming noticeably more frantic, the men saved-up their meager rations and fashioned crude knives out of wood.

The opportunity to get away came four days later on the evening of October 14, when guards ordered the prisoners into the street to depart for the refuge of the Yalu River. As the grim POWs lined up outside, Arakawa and his four friends managed to break away and hide in a dark alley. Detection at this point meant certain death.

As the POW column marched away, Arakawa donned a North Korean Army coat and hat – left haphazardly on the ground by a retreating soldier – and proceeded to march his friends through the streets of Pyongyang as his “prisoners.” His ethnic appearance and basic knowledge of Korean helped him get past numerous roadblocks on the way.

On the outskirts of the city, however, the group approached a much larger checkpoint. Arakawa, as he later told an Army investigator, decided that his “limited knowledge of Korean would never get the group past this last barrier.” As a result, he explained: “I proceeded to march the men to the entrance of the main road block at a fast pace. When approximately ten feet from the main gate of the road block, I shouted ‘Air Raid’ in the Korean language, at the same time we charged the gate using the knives we had made, as well as broken bottles.”

After fighting their way through the checkpoint, the men escaped into the night. As the sun came up early the next morning, they hid in an abandoned home. For the next six days, the group survived there on weeds and flowers until dawn on October 20. Following hours of intense mortar fire, South Korean units moved into the area and discovered Arakawa’s group. Within 48 hours, the five men were in Tokyo – warm and safe.

The 180 other Americans that went north without Arakawa and his friends were not so fortunate. Within sixteen days, 70 had died from disease, malnutrition, and exposure while traveling in an open-air railroad car towards Manchuria.

The worst, however, came on October 30 outside the town of Sunchon. There, with U.S. forces just miles away, KPA guards led groups of prisoners from a railroad tunnel to a nearby ravine, where waiting soldiers opened up with gunfire. Sixty-eight men died in the slaughter. Twenty-one others were wounded but survived by playing dead in the piles of bodies.

Three years later, Jack Arakawa – wearing a silver star and the stripes of a Corporal – told his stunning story to an Army Intelligence Officer. Exceedingly aware of how fortunate he was to have survived, Arakawa knew he would never forget the so-called forgotten war in Korea.

The primary source for this article is Jack Arakawa’s Army Counter Intelligence Corps File from the National Archives, Record Group 319.

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