Guardian Angel? I can think of no other reason.

My Guardian Angel

By Bill Kerrell
Comments by Editor
Patrick Tillery

How did I get to this hell hole (Korea War)?

Bill Kerrell 2002

San Louis Obispo, California
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

Troopship USNS General John Pope, 1952
Click image for larger view
physical 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 my country.
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.

At Sea
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
duty. 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 than that!
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 hostile sergeant.

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

This is not the USS General Pope but typical of Pacific typhoons Merseyside Maritime museum.
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
not expect. Suffice to say it did cause us to arrive in Japan three days later than our schedule.

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
mesquite 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 ...

Greenies Thanks to History By Zim
Click image for larger view
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 adventure.

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

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 to tell
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 I thought?

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! (Smile)


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

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, where the
serious stuff was going on.

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.
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.
watery eyes as we passed under it that day in '54. 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)
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
didn't work. It was usually best not to have to make that trip twice. Remember the old D pack with a hand set
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' — Smile.

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
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.

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.

PPSH41 Burp Gun.
Click image for larger view

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 outside.

Mid Winter in Korea
Korean War Memorial, Washington DC
Click image for larger view
Then 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
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 me?
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 pause.

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 River

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
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.

Korean Homes
He hit the handgrip of the Carbine and put a small cut on my left arm. It was hard enough to cut through my

Bayonets Image courtesy The 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 Shooting
Click image for larger view
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.

Guardian Angel? I can think of no other reason.

What Happened ?

East of Seoul just South of the Han River

Artillery Battery, Korean War. Image thanks to

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 all around.

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

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 took the

Marine PFC pulls a shell fragment from his armored vest
Click image for larger view

" Once 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.

"Flak" 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.

Neither 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 70 percent."

Image courtesy

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....

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.

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" happening.

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.

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
waiting to feel the lift off.

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?

Midway Laysan Albatross, or Gooney Birds
Click image for larger view

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

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
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.
hurts a little... even now . . . I guess it is like scraping a scar, it still bleeds a little.

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.

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 cared.
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, Illinois

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.

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 unspoken,
they of course told me how stupid I was and we laughed. Yea, I know . . . I thought to myself

"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
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 .
. . 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"

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.

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
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'.


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 bag.

The Mukden Cable

Eastern Korea

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 them survived

Why not me? Guardian Angel? I can think of no other reason. Well, in this case my Guardian Angel had a name . . . Mom.


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.

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 location.

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

USS Missouri
Click image for larger view
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.

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 hoards.

My buddy

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
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.
memories' but for the most part, they are just that, memories of another life time.

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

Miss Monroe stopped for photos on her tour of the military units in Korea.
Click 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
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

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.
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?
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.

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,
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 saved
far more people are saved because of firearms, than killed or injured by them.
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.

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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