MK intro: (15 Mar 2003)Let's all remember to thank Arc for telling us more of his story. Anytime as you are reading along, you may click on the speaker and, if you have proper machinery, hear the prime Korean folk song - "Arirang" - sung by an unknown lady soloist with a fine voice. Later, you will get a chance to hear another "golden oldie". MK.
As I remember --------
I was commissioned on 10 June 1951 at the Citadel, Charleston SC and entered active duty on 25 June 1951 at Ft Benning, GA. I remained in the Army for 28 years retiring at Ft. Sill, OK in 1980.
On 20 March 1952 I joined G Co, 15th Infantry Regiment on Hill 355, known as Gibraltar. Lt (later Cpt) Robert Marshall was the Company Commander and Lyle Penfold was the First Sergeant.
There were multiple strands of barbed wire fencing to our front, with mines and "foo" gas canisters throughout. In order to get off the hill and patrol, the units had made zigzag safe lanes from the hill forward of the barbed wire. At night, two and three man listening posts were located at the end of the safe lanes, to alert the company if Chinese were moving to the safe lanes. I had a very lonely and spooky detail on a listening post my first night in the company. It was very cold, very dark, and snowing, and this was one very scared Lt! I'll never know how the two troops breaking me in were able sleep so soundly.
Our left flank platoon was the left flank unit of the US forces and was tied into the Australians of the Commonwealth Division. We would exchange weapons and food when we went out on patrols. They liked our rations, and we liked their automatic weapons.
The three platoons of G Co were emplaced around the top of 355.The 3rd platoon (Lt Roger Peterson) was on the left; the 1st platoon (me) and the company CP were located around the topographical crest and the 2nd platoon (Lt Dick Hoff) extended down the east ridgeline to the next company. The weapons platoon machine guns were interspersed among the platoons to get enfilade fires across our company front. The mortars were on the reverse slope of the hill. The positions were reached by climbing up 300 or so steep steps from the kitchen area, which was at the bottom of the hill to the rear. We could never walk on top of the hill or the Chinese would begin shooting at us, so we moved about in trenches, which covered the entire hill. We ate C-rations for breakfast and evening, and relied on a homemade apparatus to get a hot meal for lunch. A large "dead man" had been put in the ground behind the CP. A heavy-duty pulley was tied to the dead man and a steel cable was looped from the kitchen and through the pulley, then back down to the kitchen. At mealtime, a 1/4-ton trailer was loaded with marmite cans of rations, mail, sundries etc, and hooked to the cable. The other end of the cable was hooked to a 2 1/2 ton truck. As the truck pulled away, the trailer was towed up the hill. Most of the time it worked. When it failed, we had cold C-rations again.
Our combat patrols were known as contact patrols, and they were all at night. We moved in leaps and bounds. The scout element would go forward to the next location, while the rest of the patrol provided cover. When the scout element reported all clear, the main body would proceed to their location, and repeat the movement until we made contact and started fighting. Then we would break contact and pull back. On one of my first patrols, the platoon sergeant (John Riddle?) took the scout element forward while I waited with the rest of the men. When I didn't get his signal, I got worried and "bravely" told the guys I was going to see what was wrong. About mid-way, I realized I was alone, in total darkness and must have lost my mind. Suddenly I spooked a Korean night bird, which took off with a great flapping of wings and loud cries. Needless to say, I damn near died of shock. Luckily my platoon sergeant rescued me and provided me several admonitions, most of which related to officer stupidity.
On another night patrol, a similar situation took place. However this time I got to what I thought was the scout section and lay down beside my platoon sergeant. I asked him something, but he didnít answer. So I pushed my face up close to his so he could hear me. I found my self staring into the face of a dead Chinese soldier! Whew.
One of the more interesting activities was to preview the patrol route from the air since the maps would not reflect current conditions. The patrol leader and platoon sergeant, having planned the patrol on the map, would jeep back to the regimental command post airstrip. There we would coordinate with an L-19 pilot and over fly the patrol route. This was very good, except that the plane would fly so high to get over ground fires, that it became difficult to really see the route. Overall, a very useful activity.
It was decided that G Co needed to establish a 24-hour ambush patrol along a route known to be used by Chinese patrols. My platoon got selected. We moved off our hill and planned the set up and rehearsed moving into position The patrol went out at night and quickly got to the selected position, having crossed several Chinese routes as evidenced by the garlic smell. We occupied at night and silently dug positions and settled in waiting. They probably knew we were there because no one came to visit. We stayed in the holes, nice and camouflaged, eating and doing bodily functions in position. About mid-morning, a flight of F4U made several strafing runs on positions directly in front of our location. They were so low that their expended .50 caliber casings rained on our position. We didn't move a muscle, hoping that someone would show up, but no one did. At dusk, we closed station, and returned to our home on top of Gibraltar.
On 26 April 1952 the division was placed in Eighth Army reserve for a two-month training period.
After G Company had been on Hill 355 for over 100 days and a bunch of day and night combat patrols it moved into reserve at Camp Casey near Tong Du Chon. Elements of the Welch Bn, Commonwealth Division, conducted a night relief of our position.
Shortly after going into reserve, my company commander received an invitation to come back up the MLR for an Australian Bn Dinning In. He had no desire to go back up to that area, but had to respond. So he ordered Roger Peterson, whose platoon tied into the Aussies, and I to do the duty. We cleaned up as best we could and went to the party. They were all assembled in a tent just behind the lines. They were in full battle dress, white linen tablecloths, silver and crystal and the military formality of a true Dinning In. We were dumfounded at such elegance within mortar range of the Chinese. However, not being completely stupid, we went along. We drank every concoction they made, joined in a toast to God, Country, the King, the Queen, and anyone else of notoriety, then ate a superb multi course dinner served by army cooks and batmen all dressed out with white coats. It was fantastic, but I never figured out how Roger and I woke up the next morning on top of a Korean burial site.
We were able to R&R from Tong Du Chon, and I got to Japan with two other men from the regiment. Hell was raised in Japan.
Much of the time in reserve was spent in training to include small unit tactics and coordinated operations. We also worked on equipment and indoctrinating new troops into the units
Each platoon had ROK-Army soldiers in and a senior ROK NCO was responsible for them. One of the young soldiers in my platoon was one short of a six-pack, and was always wandering off. One day he was found in a chestnut tree and not at his duty site. The ROK sergeant had him stand-alone while all the other ROK soldiers, who had filled their helmets with rocks, were prepared to administer punishment. The sergeant would yell at him, in obvious strong words, then command the soldiers to pelt him with rocks. By the time we found out what was going on and brought it to a halt, "Squirrel" was a bloody mess. Harsh discipline in the ROK units! (This may have taken place after I was assigned to I Company.)
Our unit received a special assignment to move out to the far west of Korea, into the USMC sector, and assist in searching for infiltrators. These were North Korean troops who would slip down the seacoast and land behind the MLR. Then they would try to cause damage. We went out on patrols with a jeep with a MG on a pedestal and a 3/4-ton truck with a squad and another MG. The area was almost totally rice paddy, freshly fertilized with "night" soil, so the only paths were along the dikes. On one patrol, while traveling at a high rate to cut off some infiltrators, our 3/4 slipped off the dike and turned over in the paddy. No one was hurt, but we were all covered in foul smelling stuff. When we were rescued and brought back to the compound, we had to strip outside the gate before they would let us in.
While still in reserve, we began having cases of what was later determined to be hemorrhagic fever. It came with sudden onset and death in a couple days. The medics had no idea what it was or what to do about it. It was sort of like bubonic plague, and was later found to be transmitted by the fleas (vectors) on the rats. Of course all the bunkers on line were infested with rats and some guys used to wait in the bunker for a rat to show up, and then shoot at them with a .45. Can you imagine the sound of a .45 in a bunker?
One day I went by the Mess Hall tent and noticed some soldiers all dressed up in new fatigues and looking at a square of wood on a folding stand. One had a hand counter, and the other a stopwatch. It seems they were from food service and they were making a fly count to see if we were having sanitary problems.
The 3d Division was reassigned to I Corps on 1 July, and relieved the ROK 1st Division south of Chongjamal, and once again engaged in daily patrols.
Hill 355 was now occupied by the 1st Bn of the Canadian Rgt and G Company was on the Main Line of Resistance (MLR) to the east of Hill 355. We were in the middle of the rainy season and everything was soaked, food, weapons, clothing, bunkers etc.
I was wounded on KELLY on the rainy night of 28 July at 2330, during a relief of another platoon commanded by Sgt John Burke. The Chinese attacked with mortar, artillery and small arms during the middle of the relief, and cut my platoon in half. My command group had followed the point element onto the hill, and I had moved up the position and was on the right side of the hill in a trench. The rest of the platoon was strung out in single file coming up the hill from the valley. The Chinese attacked from the front, against the position, and at the same time made a left flank attack, cutting across my platoon coming up from the valley. I was hit in the left shoulder and got off the hill with some soldiers by going down the right slope through the several bands of barbed wire. We made it back to our lines where I was evacuated to the 8055 MASH and then to the 25th Evacuation Hospital in Tagu south of Seoul.
When I got out of the Hospital, I was again assigned to the 15th Infantry Regiment. After a short stay at Regimental Headquarters, I joined I Company on 31 August 1952 as a platoon leader. I company was across the Imjin river further east of Hill 355. There we would cross the river at night in outboard engine powered engineer rubber boats, and conduct combat patrols forward of the MLR and up the valley to the rear of Hill 317. On the night of 21 August 1952 (The records show 21 August, but I think it was actually 21 September) I led the support element of a combat patrol whose mission was to attack enemy positions on a hill near Chokko-ri. As the patrol approached its objective, my bunch detected enemy forces following the patrol, that were trying to encircle and cut off the main body from my support element so we attacked them. Notwithstanding the heavy volume of small arms and automatic weapons fire, we caused the enemy force to withdraw which allowed the main body to continue on its mission. After the main body moved to the objective, we set up the support element and covered the withdrawal of the main body until contact with the enemy was broken.
On 30 September the 3d Division was relieved by the ROK 1st Division and moved to reserve positions in the vicinity of Yongp'yong.
On 25 October 1952 the 3d returned to the front near Ch'orwon and away from "our hills".
I was still a platoon leader with I company, and took one of the first patrols up the Chorwon valley railroad line, through areas that were supposed to be cleared of mines. We found that the area had not been cleared, when I kicked a tank mine with my foot! When a patrol went out, Korean laborers that carried litters, and were to assist in the evacuation of any wounded, trailed it. On this same patrol, we made contact and got into a little firefight. Our orders were to make contact, then withdraw. As we approached our lines all sorts of officials was present congratulating us for capturing so many POW. Hell, they were my litter bearers, who had dropped their litters and ran back to our lines when the firefight began. I was known as the Lt who captured his own patrol
When a patrol went out, it had to stay in telephone contact with the CP, so doughnuts of WD-1 wire were put on pack boards carried by soldiers, and connected to an EE-8 phone carried by the patrol commo man. The phones were modified by the communications platoon, so that the ringer would not ring. However, on one of my patrols, when we were way out on that railroad line, in the middle of nowhere, the damn thing started ringing. My commo man beat the phone to death trying to make it shut up. He did!
Company I was to make a coordinated attack up Jackson Heights. The plan was that my platoon was to advance up the forward slope, and set up covering fire positions to support the main attack from the left. Plans got changed after my platoon was in place. We were informed that the coordinated attack was canceled, but we were to attack the crest that had a bunker with a machine gun firing right down the ridgeline. Indirect fires were unable to knock out the bunker and even direct fire tank guns failed to hit it. This was very difficult attacking up a ridge about 15-20 feet wide; it was a dumb, two or three man abreast advance, with little opportunity to provide supporting fires, and we didn't make it. Several attempts were made and several people were wounded or killed.
I had been a platoon leader for my entire tour, which was a competitive tour for making Regular Army, so I was moved to Headquarters 3rd Battalion on 25 November 1952, as the communications officer. This was not an easy job, since keeping up the wire and radio communications for a battalion was tough, but still better than night patrols. I actually came under more artillery fire than previous, because we were told to police up all the mounds of telephone lines run out every day and night from the MLR to the COP. However the Chinese didn't like us to be forward of the lines during the day so they continually fired artillery and mortar at us to discourage the work. Even so, we managed to pull out several 2 and 1/2 ton truckloads of WD-1 wire. I guess it was just something to do.
One day Wilber Sidney, the Bn S2, and I took a jeep with driver and headed to Seoul to do some scrounging. We went to an AF compound that was in the University of Seoul. The motor pool was filled with small generators, which is what we were after. With prior agreement, Wilber went inside to convince an AF Major to sign out a generator to us. In the meantime, the driver and I found a generator on a trailer and hooked it up to the jeep. I went inside and told Wilber to forget it and go home. The old sly devil knew what I meant. We bid the Major farewell and ambled to the jeep. We then zapped out of that motor pool in a huge cloud of dust and didn't stop until we all the way back up to the Bn CP. I guess this was in late November or early December or so, because it was after the Jackson Heights attack. In 1953, I ran into Wilber and his wife Mary at Ft. Campbell and we used to regale listeners with the story of the stolen generator. By the way, the Bn CO was overjoyed!
I returned to the USA in late February 1953 and during the summer met Grace Lyle Campbell. On Dec 5 1953 we were married in the Ft Jackson main chapel. Here is a photo of the very happy couple coming down the front stairs coming down the steps of my new mother-in-law's mothers home after the reception
and here, for you to click on, is the promised link to that other "golden oldie" ... Arc.
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Arc, Roger, and Buddies Memories of War
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