Pease on 355

Mark H. Pease (#53) email notes:

This photo is of me on Hill 355. I has just turned 19 a couple of months before and already was a Platoon Sergeant.

On the first few days of the Chinese attack on the hill, our platoon sustained the most intense artillery barrage of the entire year that I was in Korea. I had just left my bunker when it took a direct hit. I was knocked flat by some kind of debris hitting me right in the center of my back and the only thing that saved me from serious injury was all the layers of clothes I had on. The bunker held up pretty well except for sort of caving in on top of my buddy, Barney May. He sustained only a strained back. We were both very lucky.

Do you all remember how cold it was up there and how hard it was to take a crap. First, there was all the layers of clothes that we wore and I always seemed to have to go at night when the wind was howling. Trying to balance on your heels with your ass downhill was quite a trick.

When we first went up on the hill, we relieved either a British or a Canadian outfit - I can't remember which. Apparently they didn't like the spaghetti C-ration because the top edge of the bunker I used was lined with the stuff. That was okay with me because I liked the stuff.

Anyone remember the sausage patties that had that thick white grease all over them? I liked the patties but couldn't stand the grease which I would scrape off with my bayonet.

During the time we were surrounded, we ran pretty low on all sorts of stuff - machine gun ammo, grenades, and mortar shells included. Fortunately, the Brits had left some cases of their grenades but we first had to learn how to use them. The spoons on our grenades (as you all remember) had a space between them and the grenade. The British grenade had its spoon right up against the body and, in the cold, it would freeze to the body. We would pull the pin and throw it and nothing happened until the sun came up and melted the ice on the spoon and then they would all start going off. We learned to pull the pin, pry up the spoon, and then throw it. I also remember it getting so cold the ground would contract and set off mines we had placed out in front of us.

I can't remember whether it was Thanksgiving or Christmas that our cooks worked their asses off trying to fix us a hot turkey dinner with apple pie. They lugged it up the hill (no easy task) and were set up to serve when it started raining. It came down in buckets and even though I tried to shelter my mess kit with my helmet I had as much water as food in there. I really felt bad for the cooks because they had worked so hard.

I talked the cooks in bringing up some cans of condensed milk. We took some of those cocoa hockey pucks, ground them up, and mixed them in my helmet with snow and the condensed milk. Then, we took turns beating until we had some not too bad ice cream.

Isn't it strange the things one remembers after 50 years?

The photo below was taken from a forward aid station which was a few smaller hills away from and on "our" side of Hill 355, which is the saddle just to the right center of the photo. You can see why some called it Dagmar Hill. Do you remember her? Mark.

MK add-on (16 Oct 2001):
Yes, Mark, I remember Dagmar; but, I was never on the hill of that name so I don't remember how cold it was there - only how damn cold it was about a mile from there. And yes, it is strange what we remember.

Of course I also remember the spaghetti although I liked the ham and lima beans much more and sometimes traded two spaghettis or two beans and weenies for just one ham and lima beans.

The cocoa hockey pucks I remember also - along with the orange candy hockey pucks which were an alternative selection (not ours) for the meal packet. A meal packet's best part, for me, was the small pack of (four?) cigarettes which were included therein - they sure came in handy if saved for the times when our weekly cigarette ration could not arrive as scheduled for one reason or another.

The sausage patties I liked very much when I could not only scrape away the grease but also warm up by burning the hexachlorophene horse pills that were in the meal packets; but, of course, lighting a fire was not always practical or wise.

I think your watery holiday meal must have been on Thanksgiving rather than Christmas. Because our Christmas meal in that memorable year (1951) along the Imjin was served (not far from where yours was drowned out) on my first full day there, I remember it well. Our meal was fairly successful - served in the bitter cold but without rain. My Thanksgiving meal that year was, like yours, a disaster. I was somewhere in the Pacific on a WWII liberty ship (USS Sylvester) hurrying to join your happy crew in the 3rd Infantry Division. The disaster? Being drafted for K P on a ship full of seasick soldiers. Fortunately, the officer who drafted me to replace one of the seasick souls failed to ask for my name. So, a timely AWOL maneuver was no problem at all. I wasn't that hungry anyway.

I hope that you eavesdroppers who failed to notice the location of Mark's present abode will get a clue from my choice for the background music.

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