Dick Coate at Work
MK note: All un-attributed comments on this page were emailed to me by Richard Coate. MK.
The photo (to the left) of me standing against the backdrop of tents was taken in early May of 1951, shortly after my transfer from the rifle platoon to Company HQ for training to be Company Clerk.
The new rotation plan dictated that a soldier, before he could rotate home, had to train a replacement (in this case, me) to do his job.
Corporal Alvie Taylor, the Company Clerk who came over with the division, had been wounded in late January of 1951 during the action on Hill 425 and had returned to the line after three months of hospitalization in Tokyo General. He would train me to be his replacement - his final duty before returning home.
The photo (to the left) is of me standing in front of the CP tent. The photo was taken in the summer of 1951.
That's one corner of my field desk you can spot just inside the tent.
photos below, one (below left) of me sitting in front of a bunker
with my helmet between my legs, and one (below right) of me
sitting on my helmet in front of my pup tent office/home and
typing up casualty reports, are "before and after"
The "bunker" shot (left) was taken in mid-September of 1951, before Operation Cleanup I.
The pup tent shot (right) was taken in early October of 1951, either during Operation Cleanup II or during Operation Commando and between heavy rains. In this one, I'm sitting on my helmet, with my typewriter between my legs, and typing up casualty reports during the action on either Hill 487 or during the action on what was believed to be Hill 477 by most of the men who saw action there on October 3, 1951. However, declassified Command Reports in the early '90s, revealed the hill to be Number 460, a rise in the saddle between Hills 487-477. The objective had been Hill 477, but the Chinese did not abandon that commanding height until 460 was wrested from their hands on 3 Oct 1951 and defended against a Chinese counterattack that same night.
Maybe you noticed that I lost about fifteen pounds during the elapsed time between the taking of the "before and after" photos. The weight loss was from round-the-clock duty with the medical staff at the 2nd Battalion aid station.
Within feet of where I was typing was a field strewn with dead soldiers - the price that the 2nd Battalion of the 15th Infantry Regiment paid for its part in securing what a Stars and Stripes reporter labeled as "Bloody Angle". The 2nd Battalion aid station at which I worked was a primitive facility in a tent at the far end of the field.
Dick Coate email add-on (23 Oct 2002):
The following letter was written to my wife, Betty, at the 2d Battalion aid station following the action on Hills 487-477, September 29th and 30th, 1951. Though the letter was not dated, it would have been written during the lull between Operation Cleanup II and Operation Commando. The letter was included in Role Of The Medics In The Korean War: A Remembrance, the article I wrote for The Stars & Stripes which was published in the 21 - 27 December, 1992 edition:
Today has been beautiful. With the exception of a few intermittent showers - the sky has been deep blue with great white clouds drifting with the wind.
Today finds me sitting on my can in a pup tent beside the aid station. The regiment went into attack - with Easy Company in the assault - Hill 487. I've been here since the morning of my last letter.
Much has happened. As usual it has rained most of the time since the push started. A miserably cold rain that pelts - hampers all operation. The last few days are ones I won't forget.
Today seems to be the quiet after the storm. Yesterday and the night before the earth was a mass of mud and surface water. Vehicles were stalled - supplies and rations were slowed down.
And the wounded couldn't be carried to the aid stations with the rapidity that saves misery and lives. <*1> The medical men look haggard and worn as do the men up front. They have been working day and night.
It's a strange feeling - being a part of something like this. Everybody has a job to do - each job is separately operated yet all efforts are a piece in the mechanism that makes the machine go forward to complete the operation.
But Hill 487 was secured and Easy Company was the first to reach the objective.
Picture night at its blackest - a cold dreary rain - mud - the roar of artillery - the sound of sloshing feet - people ambling down a newly made road - usually litter bearers carrying the wounded to the aid station. Or to hear a cry for help - and men rushing out to grab and restrain a soldier who has cracked up - who is running down the endless road of blackness out of his head.
To see a cramped aid station - low lights - low voices - and mud. Men staring into space with a blank expression on their face - carrying the expression that becomes commonplace among the wounded. Or those who flinch at the sound of artillery. Or to see the litters completely covered - those who have had their attention and will need no more - ever.
Hill 487 is a bald mountain - a commanding height. To see it's barren peak and burned trees one gets a macabre impression. Hill 487 has hung over our heads ever since we've been in this sector.
The enemy could watch our every move. And now its ours - and what a price.
Well, darling - Belassario <*2> has just brewed up some hot cocoa - Will knock off for tonight.
Lots of love, darling. Think of you much.
*1: "and lives" was an insert
not in the original letter.
*2: Full name and spelling correction - Sgt. Russell P. Belisario [US 52103020]
Letter © By Richard Coate
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