Flow Gently Sweet Imjin
MK note: Richard Coate (#36) doesn't come out say it, but the "commanding height" he refers to below as the object of his trek upward from the Imjin while taking the first four photos below was probably Hill 355; but, I don't think that the fifth photo below could have been taken from Hill 355 because, after November of 1951, the Imjin was always on the friendly side of Hill 355 - confirmations anyone? All comments below are by Dick and are only slightly edited. MK.
My viewing these photos after five decades stirs up many feelings of unrest and sadness. The Imjin River and the hills overlooking the river conjure up images of savage battle and hand to hand fighting. It gives me much pause to reflect on the horrors endured by the young men who wrested many hills along the Imjin from enemy hands - oh, the terrible cost of lives lost and wounds suffered!
In a letter to Betty shortly after the action on Hill 355, I said that my duties (tallying the KIA, WIA, and MIA) as a Company Clerk were that of "a sort of scorekeeper."
A look back
after beginning the trek up the hill:
At the peak of the action on 355, orders came for kitchen and supply personnel to join the battle, by leading ammo trains up 355 or serving as ammo bearers. For Tom Coughlin, who was in training to be my replacement, it would prove to be his baptism to fire. I later learned that he had volunteered. Like I had been for my trainer, he was my ticket home. Warrant Officer Clark told me that Tom was wounded and that the Korean civilian ammo bearer in front of him was killed.
ten - a smoke break to view the panorama:
When Clark advised me to go get him if I wanted to rotate home any time soon, I didn't hesitate. I made the trek as far forward as I could get when I spotted an assembly of wounded. Thinking Tom to be among them, I was to learn that they were "F" Company men. When it proved to be a fruitless search I headed back to "White Train" where the Bn clerks were located.
Made it! The view from a Commanding Height:
On the way, I thumbed a ride with a two-and-a-half ton truck. As the driver came to a screeching halt to pick me up, a round of enemy artillery burst just ahead. Apparently, an enemy forward observer had been tracking him. Had he not stopped for me, the truck would have suffered a direct hit. I have wondered what would have happened to the driver had I not gone up to search for Tom.
Later, I was relieved to learn that Tom's wound was slight, a small piece of shrapnel in the fleshy part of his back but nothing to prevent him from returning to duty. However, I let him know, in very strong terms, that he was my ticket home and that he was not to volunteer his services for such hazardous duty as long as I was still in Korea!
After the battle for Hill 355 in November of 1951, the nature of the war changed. Up to then, the army had been in a constant state of flux in what was known as "the yo-yo war" and we never remained in one place very long. Such hills as Hill 355 (later known as Dagmar, Little Gibraltar, or, as the army first termed it, Armistice Hill) were, for the most part, known by numbers representing height in meters. I didn't know the number of the hill which is fortified with bunkers so, on the back of the photo I sent Betty, I called it a "Commanding Height".
The four photos above were all taken on the same day, sometime after the action on Hill 355.
view of Chinese turf across the river:
This photo of burning villages across the river was taken on a later trip to visit the Imjin and, maybe, from a different location along its banks.
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