Guardian Angel? I
can think of no other reason.
By Bill Kerrell
Comments by Editor
How did I get
to this hell hole (Korea War)?
Bill Kerrell 2002
San Louis Obispo,
It was June 1952, I had just turned 19 years old, had just gone through
16 weeks of basic training at Camp San Louis Obispo, California. We
can all remember that at this point in our lives we were in excellent
physical condition. 16 weeks ago I also didn't know that, Camp San Louis
Obispo was specifically picked for training troops for Korea, or deployment
to the Far East Command mainly because it was very much like the Korean
terrain very hilly. Running around those hills with a 65 pound
back pack can get you in good
There were about three thousand of us
standing there on the dock that morning getting ready to board this monster
ship and head into a world that we all were a little excited about and
yet a little scared of at the same time. We were gathered in a large covered
warehouse looking building, so when load commands started being yelled
out, it had a eerie echoing sound and in columns we started marching aboard.
In my mind I was thinking, "well here we go" it was almost like
a movie I had seen once. Soon we were all on board and standing on the
deck as we shoved off, it was only a short distance and as I looked up
we cruised under the Golden Gate Bridge, I think for a few seconds we
all wondered . . . would we ever see it again? But then in the same breath
or thought . . . (Being 19 years old) we couldn't imagine anything would
happen to us. I felt good, healthy and in many ways looking forward to
the new adventure that lay ahead.
Troopship USNS General John Pope, 1952
image for larger view
condition in quick order. But on this morning my mind had a lot
of mixed emotions. We had already been up and moving a couple of
hours and it was just now starting to break day light. We were all
standing on the dock in San Francisco, California next to the biggest
ship I had ever seen to that point in my life. The USS General Pope,
a troop ship. I had Just spent seven days at home on leave and just
nine days before this I had heard those startling words called out
as we all got our orders, "Kerrell, FECOM" Damn I thought,
Far East Command . . . Korea! Those of us in our age group remember
the mind set of us and the country at that time. Just a few short
years before this, I had two brothers that had both come out of
the military and how proud I was of them, one brother had served
in the army in Europe and the other in the Navy in the Pacific.
I felt that I was carrying sort of a tradition for the family and
The trip across the Pacific proved
to be more of an adventure than I had planned on. In my young years I
was amazed at the size of that body of water. We cruised along for days
and saw nothing but water. Looking over the side as we cruised along,
it was fascinating to see the shades of blue as the ship plowed forward.
Another thing, the ever presents of the Albatross flying and following
behind the ship. We watched the daily posted charts each day, it told
us where we were, (as if that told us anything anyway) but it did tell
us that we averaged about 13 to 14 knots, and that the expected trip would
take 23 days. I also learned things about the Navy and ships that I thought
I was too sharp or smart to learn. We were all given duties as we traveled
across the Pacific. In truth we welcomed that, it did give us something
to do, 23 days . . . 24 hours a day is a long time! But each compartment
or group was assigned different duties. My groups first duty was guard
I know that the poop deck is only in comic
books and movies, there really isn't anything like that, They are trying
to get me to go for the old left handed monkey wrench game. I am a little
sharper than that, so I went back to the compartment and laid in my bunk,
smiling to myself about how smart I was in not falling for that old game.
In about 20 minutes the sergeant had made his rounds to check on the posts,
he came screaming into the compartment (we all remember that sergeants
did not speak in a normal tone anyway) between a lot of not so pleasant
terms my name was mentioned. I was then taught in very unpleasant terms
that in fact, I was stupid and less than human and that there really was
a poop deck on the ship. I was then escorted to the poop deck by a very
Our Sgt. called us together and read off our assignments. My name
was the last read and I heard him yell out."Kerrell! The Poop
Deck" guard post assignment. Ha, I thought, do they think I
am some kind of dummy?
I am a little sharper
The next adventure on that trip was I taught
that was such a big ship . . . Mother Nature was to teach me another
lesson and all of us (Army personnel) on board that it really wasn't
that big. About our 17th or 18th day out we ran through a Typhoon. In
the Atlantic they call them Hurricanes, but whatever anyone calls them,
it made out great big 'ole ship seem like a very small little cork,
it suddenly didn't seem to be much more than a row boat. We were all
confined to our compartments and the water tight doors were sealed and
we were told to stay in our bunks. That alone was a true feat, as the
ship fell with the swells; you were floating in mid air. Then as it
rose with the swells you were plastered to the bunk not even able to
raise your head. That
not expect. Suffice to say it did cause us
to arrive in Japan three days later than our schedule.
||went on for several hours.
Aside from the vocal outbursts from most of those in compartment,
it really became worst, because some of the guys couldn't hold it
down and not being able to leave their bunks... well I think the
vision is clear enough. Just for those who have never seen the bunk
arrangements on a naval ship, there is only about 12 inches above
your face as you lay on your back in your bunk. Some of the 'eruptions'
were higher than that, so they would splatter out over the side
I was proud that I had had some experience at sea, so I was able
to stay dry. Just kept the blanket over my face and did the best
I could. It sure didn't smell very nice though and there was nothing
to do but hold on and ride it through. The ride that Typhoon gave
us and the events that took place is a whole new adventure I did
We arrived on the Southwest tip of Japan, in the port of Sasebo. It
was in mid morning when we arrived. We were placed on trucks and taken
to a Repo depot in Sasebo. This is where things started to get a little
more serious. Everything we had was taken away from us and replaced
with what we referred as 'bug clothes' all uniforms had been soaked
in some kind of anti bacteria solution that felt sort of like starch
and smelled like
but somehow we all made it back
to camp in time for bed check, however sleeping time was very short and
there were a lot of aching heads the next morning . . . But on to a new
spray. These clothes were very distinctive, being a vivid green
in color. (Later on when we became 'veterans' new arrivals to the
units in Korea were called 'greenies') everything we had was replaced.
Here we were issued our 'Combat Gear' pistol belts, first aid pouches,
steel helmets, canteens and all the other stuff that went with it.
We were told we would be given a pass to go into the little town
of Sasebo that night and our weapons would be issued the next morning
before we boarded the ship for the rest of our journey. A pass!
They just let us walk out into the town on our own and do almost
anything we wanted to do, but had to be back for bed check by 0300
and would have reveille at 0600 to get ready to board the ship.
Again this was my first exposure to anything outside of California
USA. We thought it was neat that we could drink, the Japanese beer
came in large bottles of almost a quart size, that night we rode
in rickshaws, learned that men and women used the same restrooms
in Japan, (very startling to a 19-year old) from Bakersfield, California.
We all got a little drunk, We whooped and hollered and laughed a
lot that night. I wonder now, for how many of the guys, that was
their final and last big night ...
The next morning although I know now that our
sergeants and commanding officers knew how bad many of us felt but of
course we received no sympathy and the sergeants yelled a little more
than they had to just to see the grimace on our faces. We dressed in
our new 'bug uniforms' and were issued combat gear. There
everyone I came in contact with. I had a
cousin assigned to an infantry unit in Korea and we had been writing,
I was wondering if I was going to get a chance to see 'Red' (my cousin)
sooner than I thought. My orders read KcomZ Longlines, I didn't know enough
to know what that meant yet. But I did know that this Garand rifle wasn't
right! Everyone I tried to tell this to just looked at me like I was speaking
in a foreign tongue and told me to shut up and keep going. So I did, but
I am really kind of wondering if I really wanted to be here as much as
M1 Garand Click
image for larger view
were rumors now that they
would be shooting at us before we got off the ship! So one can
imagine what was going through our heads now. We were issued our
final orders, ammo and weapons, dressed combat ready, Steel Helmets,
ammo belts, first aid packs, canteens and etc. a full backpack
of new treated clothing and all the rest of our gear. Now here
this young mind had a major problem! I was working for General
Telephone Company as a Cable Splicer's helper before I was drafted
(I actually volunteered to go early) . Therefore, I was given
an MOS 2039 in the Signal Corp. And this was the problem, I was
told by everyone that the signal Corp. was issued an M1 Carbine,
I was looking at an M1 Garand! This wasn't right, and I tried
In the beginning there were three thousand or so of us, but somewhere
we lost a lot of those. Our group that I boarded the ship with were in
most part strangers, it looked like maybe there were about a thousand
of us, I don't really know but there wasn't anyone that
I knew. At that point I felt, well, you are on your own now. We were driven
to the docks in trucks and this time we boarded a the USS Sgt. Kendrick,
(I think that was the name) a much smaller ship, it was actually a large
landing craft, and we were all assigned to the deck as we cross from Japan
to Korea. I can't remember now, but it seemed to take about six or seven
hours. We were all beginning to listen and watch very close as we knew
we were getting kind of close, the rumors were flying. I am still trying
to get someone's attention about this weapon and ammo I have been issued!
Then someone yelled out that saw something, and as we all looked, you
could make out a cloud of black smoke on the horizon. Everyone grew
very quite now; we were listening for explosions. What else would cause
all that black smoke? As we drew nearer and could see more, eventually,
we could only see the dock we were coming to and a lot of people and
trucks. Finally as we got closer everyone from the bow is starting to
yell. I was somewhere in the middle looking over the rail. We didn't
hear any firing or shells, but as we got closer and closer, a stranger
sound came to us. There standing on end of the dock was a Korean band,
there were about 8 or 10 members with their beat up instruments and
kind of mix and match uniforms playing If I
Knew You Were Comin' I would Have Baked a Cake. You could
barely make out the tune. But I will never forget that image for the
rest of my life. It was the most bazaar scene one can imagine. The whole
ship grew silent as we slowing passed them as they were playing their
hearts out as we docked. (Oh Yea, the black smoke, it was from burning
charcoal, the air over Korea was always black.)
Then once the lines were secured and the gang
plank down. The dock was alive with trucks, drivers holding signs in
the air and yelling with their unit names, we were hustled down the
gang plank to find our prospective truck and units, I saw a soldier
holding up a sign for KComZ Long Lines, It turned out I was the only
one on the ship that was assigned to that unit. So I jumped aboard the
truck and away we went. Oh yea I finally did get my Carbine and a 45
for my hip. KcomZ Long lines was a bastard group that traveled
|everywhere and fixed the broken
and downed communications, We did have some members with us with
Garlands' and I learned to be happy about that, they had a much
longer range than the carbines most of us carried and there were
times when we needed that. I spent a couple of weeks at the main
headquarters of Long Lines in Pusan for orientation and additional
training. Then our fully loaded and equipped truck, the five members
of our crew were put on a train and headed north to the Inchon -
Seoul region of Korea. I had spent about eight months in a National
Guard Unit, also had prior experience with cable splicing, so I
was promoted to Corporal and made the Crew Chief. So, here we go,
this 19 year old, who just a few years before was a hot shot, 'Duck
Tailed' member of a high
serious stuff was going on.
In charge of what? Heading off to what?
|school gang (club) named the
'Stags' Wearing a blue suede jacket, now, on a train, in charge
of what? Heading off to what? I thought, now we would find out how
tough you really are,. the train was headed toward North Korea,
But it's over now, too many good people didn't
make it back to their homes or see the bottom of the Golden Gate bridge
for the second time.. 17 United Nations countries participated in the
Korean War. Total losses 776,360 killed, wounded or MIA. Three Iron
Curtain countries participated in the Korean War. Total losses 1,545,882
killed, wounded or MIA. ALL took place in just three years, two of which
were during peace talks. Many of us that fought there have many memories
that are now buried too deep to be allowed to come out.
watery eyes as we passed under it that day in '54. Blessed are those who
served and remember.
| But there were also good memories
and friends and buddies that will never be forgotten. Obviously
I did get to make that second trip under the Good 'ole Golden Gate,
But I also saw a lot of hardened 21 and 22 year olds with
Blessed are those who served and remember.
I will try to tell you as close as I can where
most of these events took place, but locations were oriented on the
map with longitude and latitude and hill numbers. So in most cases I
really can't remember right where we were when some of these things
took place (A lot of times, days of the week or month had no relevance)
didn't work. It was usually best not to have to make that trip twice.
Remember the old D pack with a hand set
or the names of the villages we were in or near.
Our five man crew traveled in a 3/4 ton ammo truck with a canvas
cover. Our team's objective was to lay wire for telephones, repair
damaged or blown out communications. Repair communications in
towns and villages that was for the military use. Set up temporary
command posts. Running hard wire between phone setups, like, artillery
units. In doing this we would have a lead man running out front
with two crank type phones in a back pack. In those cases, the
other two would give cover fire if we needed it. That is when
the Garand rifles were put to good use. The point man (Usually
me, as the crew chief) always carried two phones in a back pack
in case one
That is enough for me, if it helps them to believe, even just in their
last few moments, let no one discourage that belief. If one chooses not
to believe in a superior being, so be it, don't ridicule those that do.
I truly believe I have a Guardian Angel . . . I am hoping that mixed in
these experiences you will understand a little of why I believe that,
especially in my personal guardian Angel. If I had not been convinced
that my strong belief might be an inspiration to others, these stories
would remain buried, after all it's been 60 years, I doubt that the events
themselves matter to anyone any more. It is now only how we survived those
times that are in question . . . and wonder.
stuck down the side and a crack to ring the other
end? Two men would follow with a spool of wire held between them
spinning it out and laying the wire as it pulled off.
When we got to the destination, we would hook up the wire to a
phone or terminal then come back. At night we would
2 man wire spool
| usually stay with whatever group
or unit we were working with. Many nights
(more than I like to remember) we spent in the field in
a dug out fox hole, with cold 'C' rations. Lots of' Beanie-Weenies'
I don't intend this to be a book of war stories. It is much
deeper than that. It is a very serious subject for many and
also a very silly subject for others. Do we have Guardian Angels?
I am in the camp of the believers and these short stories are
my examples. In order for there to be Angels, is there a God?
I can't really speak for anyone else, but I personally do believe
there is a superior being or entity, call him or her what you
want. I have been on the battle field and heard the last sounds
of those in pain and agony gain comfort in seeking his mercy.
D Pack Portable phone
The reason I haven't told these stories before
is that, to be honest, I just didn't want to talk about them. These
experiences for a lot of us are very personal. I did things that many
might not agree with, but in a war time atmosphere there is a whole
new mindset. It isn't something that you can explain to someone who
has not experienced it. Maybe it is a mental defensive condition a person
goes into. We did things that no normal person would think of. We looked
on the dead bodies of the enemy and made jokes about them. I can say
now that I felt very little remorse about anything I saw or had to do
at the time. That's just the way it was and I don't want to have to
explain anything to anyone. I suppose it comes down to that number one
instinct survival. Many that have shared these experiences already
know and no explanation is necessary. Many things led me to believe
very strongly in my Guardian Angel. Maybe some of these stories will
explain that, maybe not. In the end it is what you believe that really
matters and no one else. I guess that makes me kind of spiritual. But
there is no doubt in my mind that my guardian Angel protects me.
The Guerrilla Infiltrator
Between Inchon and Seoul
Our eyes locked! We were just a few feet apart,
I am sure we both knew that we could both be dead in seconds. He was
a North Korean infiltrator and I was a sleepy and tired soldier. I had
awakened out of an
we could both be dead in seconds
|exhausted sleep a few seconds before. I saw a figure
standing by the glowing oil stove in the middle of the tent. We
were between Inchon and Seoul, Korea, in the early winter of 1952.
My first thought: he was the South Korean orderly
charged with going to each tent and keeping the oil stoves fueled. But
a closer look saw the typical North Korean quilted jacket, the ear-flapped
hat, the rice bag hanging from his waist and he was carrying an unusual
looking burp gun. The stock was sawed off and he was holding it like
a pistol. It also had a VERY big muzzle pointed directly at my head.
I saw far more detail
|than I ever saw before - in an instant.
I must have moved a little under my blanket, when I sensed someone
else in the tent I opened my eyes, he was standing still and looking
straight at me. He was no oil man! I had these strange thoughts
pop into my head, is this a dream? I had no idea who this was, why
he was here or what he intended to do. We just continued to stare
at each other. I couldn't make out any expression on his face, just
his eyes reflecting in the glow of the stove. I thought again, this
has to be a bad dream, who is this guy and why is he here. I did
have enough sense not to move, we just stared at each other.
My carbine was hanging by its sling on a nail
beside me on a wooden wall that split the tent into two sections. We
had been given permission to spend the night with an Engineering outfit
we were working with at the time. I have no idea what is in the other
end of the tent, beyond the wall, but as for my weapon, we both knew
I couldn't reach it in time. The North Korean could have and would have
put a dozen rounds in me far before my fingers could touch it. I figured
this was it! All these thoughts flew through my mind.
We both also knew that if he fired on me, the
noise would wake the other four, but he could strafe them before they
knew what was happening so if I moved and took the first blast, the
others would die too. But maybe that is why he was here, how many more
are there? We continued to stare at each other, it was deathly still
I could hear no sounds from anywhere, except the low growl from the
oil stove and the orangish glow from it sort of ebbed in and out. The
time seemed to drag on and on although in reality it was just minutes,
I thought so this is how it ends. I wondered, is it going to hurt to
be shot, maybe it will kill me fast and it won't hurt too bad? It seemed
like a very long time! He stared down at me and I lay there staring
back. I still did not know why he was there or what he intended to do.
Shall I make a try and end it or shall I wait to see
what happens? I said a silent prayer and I had
just lost my Mother a few months before coming into the Army, I wondered
will I see her? When you are sure that your end is in sight, I can tell
you some strange thoughts pass through your mind. Now they seem a little
silly so I would rather keep them to myself. Then in the middle of all
of these thoughts I heard a very low whistle, my visitor gave me a very
slow little nod, backed through the doorway and was gone. It took a
second or two for me to get back to reality and to what had just happened,
I still was not sure of where he went and what was coming next, but
I yelled at rest of the crew and first told them to hit the floor. For
all I knew he was outside of the tent ready to spray us all from the
Mid Winter in Korea
Korean War Memorial, Washington DC
Click image for larger view
we all heard commotion from outside. Soon I could hear our guys
yelling and talking and it seemed it was over.
It turned out to be a small group of guerillas had broke into
the compound in order to raid the quartermaster tent to steal
whatever was in there. Supplies, clothing, blankets and etc. (It
was mid winter) The only casualties we had were the three KATUSA
(Korean Augmentation To the United States Army) guards who were
killed at the beginning. The guerillas took them out. It seemed
they were gone as fast as they appeared. But their short visit
had certainly changed my life. I had for my first time stared
at death and would never forget it. Was I afraid? It was kind
of odd but I was not panicked, I think after it was over I was
more shook up and rattled, you know the old, 'What if'
Why not me? Guardian Angel? I can think of
no other reason.
Shortly after this, we had one of our crew shot
and killed by a sniper. We all tried to do something to save him, we
were unable to stop the bleeding and we lost him. I think what hits
hardest are the thoughts that, in these times we are all exposed, you
can't help but wonder why was he chosen, it could have been any of us.
Editor's note: he said with moister welling up in his eyes. My
heart stopped then and now with WHY! Why
sake of conquering for more land or taking something from someone. When
people blame the United States for these atrocities or say we fought for
nothing. It means that all those fine men died for nothing. I feel that
they can no longer speak for themselves, but by the grace of God I can
and will until my time is up. Maybe that's why I am finally trying to
talk to you about it now. They simply cannot be forgotten. Long, silent
|him and not me? I know it is called survivors'
guilt but it is very real. I went through a lot of, why me? Why
me? I still upsets me a great deal when I hear anyone talk bad about
our country, or blame us for wars. We don't go out and attack countries
just for the
WHY! Why him and not
We were ordered to Inchon just shortly after
the landings. We were there to put the cables back together, string
the wire and get communications back after getting it blown all to hell
during the invasion. Of course there were other eight army signal corp.
outfits there too, we obviously didn't do it all ourselves. But they
in most cases were restricted to their companies, while we were a roaming
crew that picked up the slack where it was needed, wherever that was.
If we were near a larger group or company, we would spend the night
in safer conditions. We spent many nights out but always at least 25
yards from the truck since it would be a target. We learned that early
on, that was not a good place to be.
Korean T-34 Tank
Image courtesy Wikipedia
|We would choose the darkest place. It is amazing when
it is that dark, how much you can hear. We were near the Han River.
You could always hear tanks when they start up at night especially
the Russian T-34s that the North Koreans were using. They were noisy
bastards. Then we heard them on ice! The tracks on ice had an incredible
sound. Have you ever skipped a rock across a frozen lake? It is
kind of a pinging sound. The ice acts almost like a musical instrument
so when a tank crosses the ice, there is no question about where
they were. We were just sitting there listening in the pitch black
until suddenly flares flew up. The whole place lit up. We were maybe
3/4 mile from the river and on a hill looking down. With the flares
lighting up everything, we could see clearly two tanks trying to
sneak across the frozen river in the darkness. All our guys needed
to do was to drop a few mortar rounds between them. They sank like
. . . well, tanks. One went completely out of sight. The other sank
until just the very top of the turret was above the water. One North
Korean tried to escape but they took him out immediately. He couldn't
have survived in that frozen water long enough to get ashore anyway.
We were of course under no threat from this, it's just an event
that happened that went through my memory and I thought I would
tell you about it.
Up Close and deadly Gate
Just east of Seoul on the south of the Han
The people of Korea didn't have houses as we know them. In most cases
they were more like shelters made from anything like large corrugated
cardboard to scrap lumber, sometimes built right onto someone else's
He hit the handgrip of the Carbine and put a small cut on my left arm.
It was hard enough to cut through my
shelter, three walls attached to the wall of someone
else's shelter. They were heated through raised floors. Beneath
the floor was a pot of charcoal, the heat rising and heating the
floor and the home. Many times they were built in an area that
made you wonder, who was first? Anyway they would cut off access
to phone lines we had to get to, so we would have to actually
go through someone's house to get to the back of it. This night
we went through more of a yard that was fenced off in the back.
There was a small gate.
I was crew chief so I didn't normally carry a carbine. I carried
a .45. (Although I did have a carbine issued to me.) That is the
one I had with me that night.) On this night for some strange
unexplained reason, I was carrying my carbine with me. As we went
through the little yard and passed through the gate, I was holding
my Carbine at sort of a 'port arms' position, as opposed to carrying
it by the strap over my shoulder, and the gate opened out and
to my right. I pushed the gate with the butt of the rifle. As
I stepped through a North Korean was standing to the left and
swung at me with a long knife weapon. He swung like he was swinging
a baseball bat. He intended to behead me if he could.
seconds. I was right-handed so it was pointed up and to my left. He was
standing right there to my left very close! . That was it. I suddenly
had a notch in my carbine. The rest of the crew thought that was cool,
he notched my rifle for me. I thought it was funny then as only a 19-year-old
could. You know 19-year-old males are immortal, invincible, and bulletproof.
Once again a thousand things flew through my mind. It put a small 'Band-Aid'
cut on my left arm. ("Band-Aid' was a term we kidded each other with
if the wound wasn't really serious) Like, "Stop whining, it's only
a Band-Aid hit." Silently I thought to myself and thanked my Angel.
Why was I carrying that weapon at that time? Why did he try to take my
head off with a slash and not just stab me? Why was he left-handed? It
made him come at me from the side my rifle was pointing? Some would say
I am over-thinking it. I prefer to thank my Angel for looking after me
one more time.
Bayonets Image courtesy
First Division Note
longest one at top.
Click image for larger view
Field jacket and Fatigue
shirt and put a small gash in my left forearm. As the blade
glanced of the hand guard As it all turned out he was looking
right down the barrel of my weapon, in a reflex I thumbed
it off of safety and pulled the trigger. He happened to
be no more than a foot or two from the muzzle. It all happened
very fast. My weapon was set on automatic, as they all usually
were. He took three to four rounds right in the face. All
of this happened in a matter of a few
M1 Garand long
bayonet courtesy Koop
image for larger view
Guardian Angel? I can think of no other reason.
What Happened ?
East of Seoul just South of the Han River
||I don't remember
what happened. I guess maybe that is what happens if you are killed.
It was like a switch. I was running across the rice paddy and the
next thing I was aware of is this loud noise!. It didn't make any
sense but I thought I must be being run over by a tank. I listened
closer and opened my eyes. It was dark with really hellacious noise
We were just below the Han River with an artillery battery and setting
up phone lines between the batteries. They had received some sniper
fire and some mortars but couldn't find their source. I had a back
pack on with phones. It was my job to carry the phones and make
sure the path was clear because the two guys were running behind
me with a 75 to 100-pound spool of wire on a pole between them laying
the phone line as we ran.
Just before we left, this GI in the engineering
outfit (not part of our group or the artillery battery) offered me an
Air Force flak jacket. I had never seen him before, or seen a flak jacket.
I answered yes, I would, not because I was thinking of its use or that
I would need it, I just thought it would be cool to wear it. It was
a bit too big for me but I put it on anyway. He helped as I stretch
the pack over it and the three of us took off running out
brunt of it. It took me a while to put it all together but I learned that
a mortar had hit very near us. I don't remember hearing a sound of the
blast or anything, it was like I blinked my eyes and I was somewhere else....
across the rice paddy!
Instantly, like a switch was flipped,
now I was no longer running! There was this hellacious noise!
The last thing I remembered was I was running ahead of my guys.
Then I realized that all of this noise, its dark and I can't move!
I was strapped down. It took me quite a while to realize or think
that I was in a helicopter. But that really didn't make any sense.
In one of the stretcher like things hung on each side. There was
a hood over me to protect me and I was strapped down so all I
could move was my eyes. There was a strap across my forehead.
It was hard to not panic a little, I was completely confused.
I had to force myself to try to relax and figure out what had
happened. I was strapped down to keep me from falling out, but
I couldn't move. How the hell did I get here? I couldn't sense
any pain. I later found out I had been shot up with Morphine by
the medics. I certainly wasn't high from it, I was more panicked.
I was taken to a MASH unit and I found
out later that one of my guys had been killed and the other was
badly wounded. He was a lot worse off than I was and was eventually
sent to a hospital in Japan. A mortar round had hit near us, I
heard. The guys in the artillery battery had, thankfully, called
in the chopper.
The Flak jacket took most of the hit but one piece
of shrapnel went over the front edge of the collar of the jacket
and shattered my collar bone in several pieces. The doctors found
it remarkable that the artery just under the collar bone was not
hit. I also had some broken ribs and a piece of shrapnel had caught
me in the calf of the left leg. They put the collar bone back
together with screws, nuts and bolts. Shaping it back with a bar
sticking out in front of my shoulder, held with screws in the
bones. All that remains today are the scars. (Pointing to a
small scar on his shoulder near his neck.) That flak jacket
Marine PFC pulls a shell
fragment from his armored vest
Click image for larger view
armored vests, or "flak-jackets," were introduced to
UN forces in early 1952, they became the most important piece
of equipment an infantryman had, next to his weapons.
derives from a German Antiaircraft gun, "Flugabwehrkanone".
The Marine vest was sleeveless, had nylon padding around the upper
chest and shoulders, and plates of Fiberglass bonded with resin
that covered the lower chest, back, and abdomen. The Army vest
used layers of basket-weave nylon.
vest could stop a rifle bullet at close range, but both could
reduce casualties by mortar and artillery fire and hand grenade
fragments. In addition, the pistol ammunition used by CCF burp
guns could also frequently be stopped. An Army report concluded
that the vests reduced chest, back, and abdomen wounds by up to
Now I will tell something that I have never spoke of until now, 60 years
ago, why? Because I spoke to those that were important at the time and
had their blessings. I didn't feel I had to explain it to anyone else,
so I didn't say anything and made up stories to cover for my true decision.
Guilt, I suppose, maybe, But that was a very big and real, "Why Me"
Helio Evac Korea Click
image for larger view
I don't know who the guy
was that gave the flak jacket to me that day or why. I never caught
up with that engineering outfit again. Did I thank him? I don't
even know who he was. I never saw him before or ever again. Never
saw the Flak jacket again either. I don't know what happened to
it. Someone had to take it off to get at the wounds but I have
no idea who. I hope they used it. It sure served me well. What
else can anyone say about this, was my Angel with me or not? I
know the answer, it doesn't matter what others think . . . I know
I am here today only because of it and my Angel.
Guardian Angel? I can think of no other reason.
Hospital in Japan
The day after I had the pins removed from my
shoulder, I still had a bandage to cover the open spots where the screws
had been removed. They told me that could be handled by any local medic.
The bindings were off the ribs and I could breath OK again. They had
to cut into my calf to remove what was there. That was healed, so all
in all I was in my mind in good shape again and ready to go back to
work. There is no way to explain how much guilt I was feeling at this
point. But, instead, I was given orders to pack my gear and that I was
being flown to Japan. Since I was classified as 'walking wounded' I
had insisted that I stay with my unit and return to my crew. Now they
were sending me to Japan, but I really did not know anymore than that.
waiting to feel the lift off.
|When I arrived at the hospital in Japan I was immediately
placed on a bus and taken to the main Airport. I don't remember
even what city I was in. At the airport there were a lot of other
soldiers, Marines, Family members of stationed GI's and just a lot
of people in one area. We traded out GI script for US Dollars and
were put aboard one of the biggest prop driven planes they had at
the time, A Globemaster, one of those double decked planes. We were
loaded onto the plane. Military personnel were seated in the outer
web seats, backs against the fuselage They also had airline passenger
seats in the middle for women and children. When all were loaded,
the plane readied for takeoff. As it rumbled down the run way, everyone
was sort of relaxed and
C-124 Globemaster II
All of a sudden the plane applied full braking procedures and we came
to a abrupt stop. There were male air force personnel that acted as
stewards, they told us that the pilot had heard or seen something that
did not look right and had aborted the takeoff. That it was a minor
problem and we were going to go back and take off again, there was nothing
to be alarmed about. ... So we did, this time all was very quiet as
the engines revved and we started down the runway. Everyone listening
to the sound of the engines and then again all brakes applied and we
came to a abrupt stop again at about the same place, just before the
wheels were ready to leave the ground, as the aircraft reaches that
well marked, 'point of no return'. And once again we were assured that
it was nothing they could know exactly but that the pilot felt something
in one of the engines. That was two tries and some of us were getting
a little nervous now, But assured by the air force guys that it was
a minor thing, so we taxied back to the starting point again. This time
we heard the engines being revved and it seemed longer than what we
knew as usual. The stewards returned and told us all was OK now and
fasten your seat belts we were now ready to leave for sure. So, off
we went again, no one was speaking now and those that could look out
of the windows were watching everything they could. Everyone was listening
to every beat of the engines roar. We rumbled down the runway and just
as we are about to leave the ground, it seemed that we actually did
and bounced back to the ground and ground to an abrupt stop. Now these
are combat veterans I am traveling with and there was a small revolt
starting to take place, like 'Let me off of this plane! Well we did
taxi back to the hanger and finally we did manage to change planes,
off of one Globemaster and on to another one. That after what we had
been through getting back on the same kind of plane, was a little unsettling
. But, as we finally made a successful takeoff (on our first run) that
night, no one spoke until we were well in the air and on our way and
they were sure we were - flying.
If the pilot had not been as good as he was, had he not been as aware
and we had taken off, would we have crashed? Had that pilot not been
stubborn enough or not had the instinct that he had, would I be here
today? You know there were people giving him a bad time and saying to
him, "Oh come on, let's go" . . . and then another thought.
Was my Angel at the controls? Was my Angel
whispering warnings in his head?
and the ribbon on my uniform. They made us dress out in class 'A' uniforms
for the flight home. If I had ever had a more 'Not worthy' feeling in
my life it was then. I decided that I would never complain or whine about
anything that ever happened to me again my life. How could I have survived
? How and why ? Why me ? Yes, I had a long time to think on that flight
home about what I knew I had to do. At that time I knew I certainly did
not deserve any medal. My just being alive was more than they had, also
I decided that I would never let anyone forget that good men died there,
So many of us were just boys when we went over there, but those of us
that made it back, were men. For those that didn't make it we knew they
could no longer speak for
Midway Laysan Albatross,
or Gooney Birds
Click image for larger
All right, obviously the flight was successful we landed on Midway
Island to refuel and Breakfast or lunch I don't really remember
which. We got to watch the 'Gooney' Birds for awhile and then
we took off to Hawaii. There we spent the night and took off the
next morning for the USA.
During those long hours in flight, there wasn't much to do, but
sit there and think. I remember feeling almost ashamed. One of
my friends was dead and I still didn't know how bad the other
was wounded, But I knew he was much worse than I was. I had the
little case in my pack they had given me with my Purple Heart
hurts a little... even now . . . I guess it is like scraping a scar, it
still bleeds a little.
|themselves for their country they helped make safe,
but I could. I suppose that is why some people today think I am
a little radical ... yea, maybe I am,,, but, that is just the way
it is Blessed are those who gave their all ....It still
So many of us were just boys when we went
over there, but those of us that made it back, were men.
My Angel knows and is still with me.
When I finally arrived at Fort Ord California and since I had no chance
to talk to anyone until that point about my orders. I was finally able
to tell someone, that I wanted to go back. I didn't want to come home
yet. I called my Dad and brothers. They told me at Fort Ord that they
would check and see what they could do.
My Dad and one brother came to see me and I told them what I was going
to do if I could. They told me to do what I thought I needed to do.
My cover story would be, if someone found out I was home, That my Dad
was ill and the Red Cross had sent me home. We agreed that only the
three of us would know the truth. That way I would not have to explain
to anyone what I decided to do. I didn't want to be criticized for it.
At that point I carried a big chunk of guilt. It was a fact that The
Flak jacket had saved my life. Where did it come from... and why me?
Why not either of the other guys? My Angel must have more work for me
while I am here on earth. There are no coincidences.
wounded crew member and brother in arms was already home and we spoke,
that was a good thing, I told him what I was going to do, his reaction
was what I expected, he told me I was a complete idiot,.... smile., He
is my brother, I hope he is still well and doing OK. Somewhere in Chicago,
|With the help of some of the personnel at the post,
after I explained why and a day of exchange phone calls I was able
to get in contact with the families of my two crew members (They
had received the news long before my call) I just wanted to tell
them how sorry I and the rest of our crew was ... that their sons
had given all they could, I just wanted them to know I and many
others cared. My
I just wanted them to know I and many others
I was soon told they would get me on a ship
going back. The Sergeant told me, "Son, we have ships traveling
that way all the time, won't cost nothing to put you on one, if that's
what you really want to do", I assured him it was. I was only in
the U.S. for less than a week and I was on a ship heading back to Korea.
It actually happened faster than I thought it would. As it turned out
there were several of us returning to Korea. They grouped us all together
in one forward bow compartment on the ship. It was our duty to keep
the forward head clean. That was a story all of its own. It seems like
there was about 2000 or so troops onboard, for a lot of them it was
their first voyage. We did hit some rough seas, so I don't have to explain
the details of the job we had.
We first docked in Hiroshima, Japan. As Korea returnees, we were not
allowed off the ship in Japan, but I was surprised to see the harbor
still showing damage from the Atomic bomb blast that took place there
at the end of the Second World War.
they of course told me how stupid I was and we laughed. Yea, I know .
. . I thought to myself
O-1E Bird Dog
|We then got underway and the next day docked in Pusan,
Korea. I was met at the dock by members of my company, I don't remember
how they knew I was coming. I spent that night in our KComZ Long
lines headquarters compound. The next morning I was taken to the
air field in Pusan (The airfields were all designated by 'K' numbers.
I don't remember them) It was arranged for me to hitch a ride in
a air force Cessna class airplane (a close ground observer) The
pilot was incredible, he gave me a few demonstrations on the way
We flew north, made a couple of fuel stops, to an airfield near
Inchon and when we pulled up ... there was my crew!... It was like
coming back home. There were a lot of mixed emotions, only I and
two others were original, two of our crew were new, aside from the
"My angels are wise and strong, they
will protect me . . . and I hope you too."
A drive in the park or The longest trip
I was called back to Inchon for some reason I forget now. I left my
crew and began a search for a vehicle (the only way back.) The only
thing available in the motor pool was a jeep that had the windshield
and top had been blown off. As I remember, It was only 30-35 miles back
but you could only go about 30-35 MPH on those rough MSR (Main Supply
Routes) roads. It was early morning and I figured what the hell, I can
make it. I had, what we called a horse blanket which was a very heavy
long wool overcoat, a winter cap, a scarf up to here (to cover your
face) But I damn near froze to death! I would stop and lay across the
hood of the jeep
. . for the last time. It was only about 20 maybe 30 below. We had been
out in that weather before, but it was adding the wind chill of driving
into the wind. I just know I will never forget how good that Front gate
looked. That was the coldest I have ever been. Now it is easy for me to
keep in mind, when I am cold, It's OK, I always remember I have been colder.
No one will ever know how close I came to just giving it up that night.
But the voices kept telling me, "get up" "Don't stop"
"you will make it" "you're almost there" They would
not let me give up. "Thank You"
|trying to warm up - but it was cold too! Driving into
the weather without a windshield! I considered a fire but my hands
were so cold that I couldn't pull a match out of the book and I
couldn't get my lighter to light. It was the longest trip I ever
made! I remember finally seeing the dim lights at the company gate.
THE FRONT GATE! As I drove up the guard asked my ID, I could hardly
speak. I was so sleepy, I just wanted to give up and let it go.
I stopped but passed out. They took me inside and warmed me up,
they said I very nearly died! All I remember was that I got soooo
sleepy. I guess that's the way you go. You just go to sleep .
Guardian Angel? I can think of no other reason.
The Last picture . . .
The day finally arrived! I received my orders!, My last day of duty
in Korea, I was to pack my duffle bag and board the ship out of Inchon.
I was leaving at 0500 the next morning. My replacement had been with
us for three or four days. He had re-enlisted with a promise that he
would be sent back to Japan, not Korea. He was promoted to Sergeant.
But lo' and behold, here he was.
suppose they thought they were getting the highest in command. He only
made it about half way up the ladder and we heard that 'thud.' There is
no other sound like it. After 60 years I can still hear it. He didn't
make it. He had gone through all that crap before and was home, was sent
back, and within a week in Korea, he was gone. He got about half way up
the ladder when a sniper got him. Obviously I was a target that certainly
could and by all rights should have been the one who got it. No one will
ever convince me that my Angel doesn't watch over me. I do find comfort
in knowing he or she is there. I always thank them for looking after me.
I think all we have to do is recognize their presents and be thankful.
Many don't and actually scorn the thought that it might be possible. I
have been convinced that there are no 'Coincidences'.
I didn't have to but I went out with the guys for a last job. As
much as I was looking forward to coming home, we became very close
and I really hated to leave them, so I went. It was a cold day and
snowing, not real heavy but enough to make it a nuisance It was
a simple job. Someone had shot a hole in a cable running along a
ridge above Inchon, north of the city. As it turned out I was goaded
into doing one last job, Everyone was laughing and claimed it one
last good will gesture "for the crew" so we swung a ladder
up on the span and up I went, it took about a half hour to fix the
cable and get it sealed again. As I came down, we were all laughing
and have a good time for the last time. The new Sergeant asked if
before we took the ladder down, he could go up and take a picture
of the landscape and Inchon. Of course he could, I had been up for
all that time and it was clear. One of the things about getting
shot at from a distance is you never hear it coming, in other words,
the bullet is passed you before you hear the rifle shot. I have
heard it before. It sounds like a bee flying past your ear very
fast, kind of a quick hummm. At that point you just fall or jump.
You don't want them to get a second shot. This wasn't one of those
times, although the snipers or sniper was probably watching us all
the time we were there, our new sergeant was wearing strips, no
one else was. I
Guardian Angel? I can think of no other reason.
Editor's note: James L. Stokesbury in A Short
History of the Korean War described the cold as 40 below with 40-50
MPH winds The ground that was not already rock was frozen hard. No one
could dig a hole. Engine oil froze. Gun breeches froze. Morphine froze.
Blood Plasma froze. Hands and feet froze. The 38th Parallel is approximately
even with Philadelphia, Denver, and Reno but Korea's position, a long
thin peninsula between the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan made it worse.
Imagine living in that weather out in the open in Fox hole or sleeping
What our KcomZ Long Lines company did was to
maintain the repeater stations up and down the Korean Peninsula. In
addition, we were to keep in operation the Mukden cable - Korea's key
telephone-telegraph system. The cable and repeater stations were of
Japanese construction, then run by the Ministry of Communications of
the Republic of Korea. It was buried one meter into and one meter under
the Pusan-Seoul-Pyongyang-Mukden highway. It ran from Mukden Manchuria
to Pusan, South Korea then across the Korean Strait/Sea of Japan to
Japan. It must have been very important to both sides because (and this
happened before I got there and before the Chinese intervened) but they
actually declared a cease fire. Both sides stopped long enough for KComZ
Long Lines Company to go out and repair it. Our unit was cited for that,
Given the Syngman Rhee (The President of Korea at the time) Unit Citation.
If the cable was disabled at one point, it was disabled all the way.
Note: This is also the Mukden cable of the
famous "The Mukden Incident" or sometimes referred to as the
Manchurian Incident. It staged by Japanese as a pretext for invading
Manchuria, in 1931. This led to the occupation of Manchuria and the
establishment of its puppet state of Manchukuo. The ruse was soon exposed
to the international community, leading Japan to its withdrawal from
the League of Nations.
Had it not been for my mom
San Louis Obispo, California
I was seventeen in the late 1940s and wanted to join a National Guard
unit in Pico, California where I lived at the time. My friends joined.
They were all having fun. They were participating in beer drinking and
debauchery being away from home on drills. You had to be at least 18
or have permission from your parents. All I needed was my mom to sign
the release. My mom wouldn't. I was really upset because I was missing
all the fun.
|When the Korean conflict first broke out
They (the unit I would have been in) were one of first called. They
had no training, it had all been fun and games to that point. Out
of the whole unit of about 70, only about six of them survived and
came back. There again! I would have been one of them but for .
. . Yes, I truly believe there are no
only about six of
Why not me? Guardian Angel? I can think of
no other reason. Well, in this case my Guardian Angel had a name . .
Between Inchon and Seoul
There were a few hills but by that time we had blown all the vegetation
off. There had been a forest but there was nothing left! We would walk
through there wondering how could an ant survive. We would watch the
artillery blast away all night long, it was an incredible sight, better
than a lot of fireworks displays I have seen. But, the next day those
f__ers would be coming out of there - they'd come crawling out. Don't
know where they came from.
over and over. And then they would come running. From where we were it
was almost like ants. Some didn't even have weapons but they would run
anyway picking up weapons from their fallen comrades or just come running,
some just waving their arms. This happened with the North Koreans and
later with the Chinese. They seemed larger - taller than North Koreans,
some said they were Manchurian Chinese, but otherwise fought the same.
They would swarm over the hill again like ants. Our guys would burn out
their guns firing and firing. They knew every shot killed someone but
they just kept coming. I was one of the lucky ones. I watched that kind
of action through binoculars and prayed for the guys down there. It was
a very helpless feeling. We were even out of rifle range.
|I remember the time when the Battleship Missouri was
laying offshore blasting away. Over the horizon we could see a kind
wave or glow or slow flash. Then we would wait and wait and then
some said they saw them, I never did. It was a 55 gal drum flying
through the air, when it hit, Whoom, it took out everything around
for 50 yards or more. You could see these large pieces of the shell
fly out like a giant propeller mowing down trees and brush like
a giant lawn mower. I actually never did see the ship. We were just
told what it was. It did attract a lot of attention, I was only
able to see the show one night and we were ordered off to another
We were never actually on the front lines. We were just behind it
trying to keep communications going. We were near enough to hear
though. The North Koreans would blow a bugle. I can almost still
remember the "tune" or series of notes they played
image for larger view
We all carried phosphorous grenades with us.
We had probably a dozen. If we were overrun, we were to put them on
the hood of our truck to disable it. That phosphorous was bad stuff
and would burn right through the hood, the engine block and to the ground,
everything. It would completely destroy the vehicle!
Then came the napalm show, it would come in
from close air support. It just sucked the air out. We were a mile or
two away and could still feel the heat. But it sure stopped the running
Back Home many years later
The real heroes of that "Korean Police Action" are not here
to speak for themselves but there are still a few of us that can. All
the guys over there lost 'brothers', we were that close. This is the
very first time I have ever told or spoken of this. I mailed my Purple
Heart to the family of one of my fallen brothers. I know he received
one of his own, but at the time it seemed a way for me to tell his family
that I cared too. It seemed better and
memories' but for the most part, they are just that, memories of another
|more worthy with him. Even today when asked about
a purple heart, I answer no, I still believe it is better with him.
After all these years there are still, 'buttons of
I mailed my Purple Heart to the family of
one of my fallen brothers.
When we came home, that's what it was, we just
came home. No one said anything or spoke of it anymore. It wasn't all
bad. I still remember funny things that happened, maybe twisted in some
people minds, but they
chop and hack away. They were fierce fighters. They would have these bon
fires at night when everyone else was afraid to show a light
Miss Monroe stopped
for photos on her tour of the military units in Korea.
image for larger view
were funny to us at the time. I got to see Marilyn
Monroe get off her plane, from a distance, when she came to entertain
in Korea. We heard she was coming and made sure we were in the
area. We were so far away that we needed our binoculars to tell
it was her, Smile, but we could say we saw her. We would visit
English units when we were close by, for a hot meal and I tasted
my first cup of 'English Tea' and learned that they always served
it with cream, or as they said, 'milk', but it was very good.
Being able to travel around like we did, we were able to see more
than many who were sort of confined to a particular unit. We were
able to get to an Air Force unit from time to time. They had the
best food! It certainly outshined our usual 'C' rations 'Smile'
We saw the Turkish troops dances around their night fires. They
were the most feared by the North Koreans, They would wade right
into the Korean attacks with their Swords and
of any kind that would draw fire from the Koreans.
But the Turkish were never bothered, I think the Koreans were afraid
to make them mad, (Smile.) We met a lot of great people from other countries
that were there. Many of those meetings would be a whole new story,
but most were good memories.
Somewhere, someday, I'll face it and be honest.
I keep thinking WHY? Why didn't I die? Why the flak jacket? Why the
sniper's delay? Why the carbine? And why had the infiltrator hesitate?
And that wonderful Pilot of the Globe Master So I justify it, that my
Guardian Angel has reasons and more for me to do while I am on this
earth. I went through a short period in my life that I was sure in my
mind that my time was very short and had to hurry and get done with
what I was going to do, because I didn't have long. Now I am going to
be 80. That is older than any member of my immediate family was and
I am the last one. My parents, my brothers, I am the end of that line.
But I leave my children and Grandchildren and am fortunate enough to
have Great Grand children I am certainly not as I was a few years ago,
but all in all I am in pretty good shape. But I can tell you that my
mind set of belief has only grown stronger. So many more things have
happened to confirm my belief in my Guardian Angel. What I have told
you here was the formation of that belief, where I began to understand
the meaning of my mortality and the meaning of God and our possible
purpose on Earth.. It becomes a 'Universal' question of why? At this
point in life, there are far more questions in life than answers.
question of course is why do some survive and others do not? That is an
answer that goes beyond my level, only God knows the answer to that. I
have had several 'events' take place in my civilian life that have only
deepened by conviction of my Angel. But the time I am relating to you
here is when its presents became evident and brought about my inner questioning
and searching for answers.
|Is there life after this? I believe If I have a Guardian
Angel, it only follows that there must be something deeper than
the life we now know. But of course that is a question we must all
answer for ourselves. The big
why do some survive
and others do not?
I can't help but remember in those years past,
and the thoughts of the many who strike out against those who have laid
down their lives for them.
They complain that war
is so evil ... Here is a thought.
The human race has been
at war since the first human walked out of their cave and decided to
take the other cave because it looked better. War is when someone decides
to forcibly take what someone else has. When they take or attempt to
take another's property against their will, that is a war. In that case
it is only a war between two individuals. There are thousands of these
wars throughout the world ever hour of every day. It just breaks down
to what size the war is. If someone breaks into your home and takes
something from you, that is a war. If a gang breaks into your neighborhood
and takes or destroys something' that is a 'war'
Who do you call? of course, the Police! If someone
steals something from you, that is a 'war', who do you call? of course
the Police. The size of the 'war' only is decided by the power and gang
members of the initiators. So in the thinking of the 'anti war' activists,
to stop this 'war' we should fire the police force. It costs to much
money and we hate all of this violence. They must remember, they are
warriors on a smaller scale, but warriors none the less. When the President
of or leader of a country orders his (National Police force, Military)
to go to another country and take it or invade it, steal it, or destroy
it, who do you call? The Police? Our country's police, on a national
level is called the military. The thugs whether they be on the streets
mugging an individual or a country invading another country. They are
essentially the same class of cowards,
because of firearms, than killed or injured by them. That is why Japan
did not try to bring their attack to the west coast of our country. They
thought to many citizens were armed. That is why Switzerland was not attacked
during the Second World War. It was a law of their land that all people
owned and knew how to use firearms. That is why Israel is not attacked
by ground, accept by rockets and etc. All citizens are armed with firearms.
So if these people are so set against war, let them start by firing their
local police. Then they can have their 'anti war' Ideals . . . and fight
their own battles. Winner take all.
|so they (The commanding leaders) will always try to
pick the weakest victims they can find. They won't attack anyone
unless they feel they have the advantage. So in that thought, the
safest country we could possibly have is to have every citizen armed.
Don't let anyone fool you with phony numbers, far more people are
far more people are saved because of firearms,
than killed or injured by them.
Bless my brothers and sisters, the sacrifices
that they have made and never forget, had it not been for them, we,
YOU would not be here today.
And that, my friends, is an undeniable FACT!
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