By A Hoey & Farina Investigator
My Veteran's story like that of so many of you reading this boils down to "brotherhood"; the feel for our companions, their livelihood, safety and when they are hurt how to help them.
In combat you know and feel each other's moods and pains; too often leaving behind those buddies, wondering into later years: Why them?
I started railroading in 1948, business slumped and was furloughed. After playing some pro baseball (class D), I was called back to railroad. With the impending "draft" I enlisted in the Army 1949 and did basic training, then cryptography (top secret), leadership and OCS schools in Georgia and Alabama. During OCS the Korean War started. I arrived in the Pusan Perimeter of South Korea July 28,1950 and was assigned to Battalion S-2/S-3 (Intelligence /Operations) of an Infantry Regiment. It was hot, humid and all uphill. The North Koreans were fighting hard to push us off Korea: so, mobility to plug the gaps was a key to stopping them. That became a responsibility of mine for the battalion.
The Army Commendation Medal was awarded for my effort. In September I then participated in the Inchon invasion and the recapture of Seoul.
In November 1950 my Battalion was part of Task Force MacLean in Northeastern Korea, on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir. There it became -35° F, blowing snow and rugged mountains. There was a narrow gauge RR track, and a winding oxcart road. We had just gotten into our forward positions when the Chinese hit us after midnight November 28, fast and hard. We moved from our forward position back 2-3 miles to our main force at an inlet to the reservoir. Enroute the Task Force Commander was lost; my Battalion C.O. took over. We repelled the Chinese, but took huge losses. Radio communication in those mountains was non-existent. We doubt anyone knew of our situation.
We decided to take our non-walking wounded in trucks, destroy equipment and artillery and walk our convoy out the 12 miles to the Marine positions at the south end of the reservoir at Hagaru-ri. Enroute we continuously were shot up, the wounded re-wounded, truck drivers were wounded or killed, trucks were immobilized and had to be pushed aside. When weather would break, air cover appeared with drops of supplies, much of which landed closer to the enemy. Our Marine officer Air Controller could contact the planes when overhead and called in the missions best as he could. The strafing and napalm helped; except once for the early release of napalm into some of our own men; a painful, disastrous and demoralizing memory.
Constantly, we had to keep the convoy moving. The enemy seemed to have roadblocks at every twist or turn. We did successfully circle and knock some out; but we took losses; wounds in that weather were more than crippling. At one block the C.O. was killed and the convoy bogged down to a stop and the enemy was having easy target practice. That was still about 5 miles from our goal and those still having feeling in their frostbitten feet chanced the ice on the reservoir to get to the Marine positions. When we got to the Marines they were also besieged and a Marine officer berated us for leaving our area.
After a warming tent, c-rations and a catnap (first in a week), I talked to some in my unit about going back to see if there was anybody to bring out from the convoy, if we could get transportation. I then hooked up with a Marine Major at the motor pool, told him my idea. He said "your nuts"; but if I had enough nuts to go along he would try to help, after all he had to keep the vehicles running or freeze up. Forty-five "nuts" did join me (God bless them).
They motored us out on the ice close to where the convoy should be. The Chinese probably were surprised but did pick up shooting at us. We found our guys around or close to the convoy some were still alive and could walk or be helped the mile on the ice to the Marine trucks. At this time much of the enemy shooting diminished (but this could have been compassion on their part). We got out of there with 84 survivors and without further loss.
Arriving back at Hagaru, the same Marine officer who had berated us, shook his head said: "that took guts; you guys are Marines", shook my hand and saluted us. Later I heard he wrote me up for the highest of decorations. Moving out of Hagaru-ri with the Marines ("Retreat Hell"), we became the 31st Battalion / 5th Marine Regiment. Of almost 3300 in the Task Force (700 were Koreans), only 385 walked into Hagaru-ri. Of my Battalion Headquarters Company of 101, only 10 got to Hagaru-ri and of the battalion officers...only 3 !!
Later being flown to Tokyo and interviewed at some length at Far East Command Headquarters in the Dai Ichi Building about the action east of Chosin about being written up for the Congressional Medal of Honor. Later the award was made for the Distinguished Service Cross.
Returning to South Korea with a new unit but in the same capacity. In a later action the Chinese had counter-attacked. My Battalion was involved; we mouse trapped them inflicting huge casualties on them and then exploited their loss to gain a couple much needed ridges. For this they awarded me the Bronze Star.
September 1953, Camp Wolters, Texas; At a Parade Formation I was presented with the D.S.C., Bronze Star, and Army Commendation Medal. I had already earned the Combat Infantry Badge, which I take personal pride in wearing in my lapel. (As a Veteran gets older, he seems to reflect on these things more.)
Nothing in any of these actions were accomplished without the combined help of each other; the ultimate Golden Rule. I was fortunate to have survived as so many have not. THEY WHO NEVER RETURNED ARE THE REAL HEROES!
On Veterans Day we do well to honor each of them; as the song sung by Billy Ray Cyrus says: "Some Gave All".
Today, wearing my lapel ribbons proudly, so you will ask me about them and I can tell you about those who are Heroes and those who unselfishly put their lives on the line in hopes of helping their brother.....In their memory...I SALUTE!!!