Me - Two Buddies - Three Snafus

MK note (9 Dec 2001): This photo and the stories that go with it were slightly massaged by me from the emails of Mario DeSantis (#54). The background music is the official "ditty" of the 3rd Infantry Division. MK.

Hi Merv, this photo was taken near Outpost Kelly. I am the tough guy with the pipe. On my right are (1st) Joe Navarro, now deceased, and  another buddy named Womsley. He was from Flint, Michigan. Joe and I manned a 3.5" rocket launcher together.

On 4 Jul 1952, I moved up to the front and was assigned to the 1st Plt, Co C, 7th Inf Rgt. I remember that I had developed a very bad cold during that process and so I lost my voice for about ten days. Shortly after I arrived, I was made Second Scout for our platoon.

My first patrol was an ambush patrol by a squad of nine infantrymen. The plan was to set up an ambush at the base of Kelly. I recall the event well because the First Scout, a Korean, got us lost and led us to the base of the wrong hill.

After that, heavy enemy mortar fire came in on the base of Kelly. Our CO, Lt. Hase, figured we had had it and came after us in company strength. He found us as we were returning to the MLR and he just sighed in relief, remarking, "Boy, I figured you guys had been wasted."

Only then did it dawn on us that we had set up in the wrong place. The way I figured it was: if the Korean lead scout didn't know where the hell he was and he lived there, what the hell could they expect from a kid from the Bronx, who had just arrived less than a month before?

Needless to say, I'm glad the Korean led us the wrong way, as I am here to tell the tale about one of many snafus I witnessed in my tour of duty. Later, I will relate to you the more humorous, and maybe some sad, of those snafu tales. Thanks, Mario.

Merv, there IS "humor" during a War (oops, Police Action). While we were in a blocking position near hill 250, an emergency call came through that the Chinese had taken Hill 250. We were ordered to "retake" the hill: so, we boarded a few trucks bound for the front line and and our "jump off" point. It was pretty dark when we boarded those trucks. We drove and we drove and we drove and we drove. Never did we seem to get to the front line. At long last, as dawn was showing its face, we arrived at the jumping off point, at the front line. The captain was seen walking back and forth like a crazy man. What could he say? The driver had made a wrong turn and headed AWAY from the front line. It had taken most of the night for him to realize his mistake.

We assembled and listened to our captain as he made a small speech. "Men, I realize it is daylight now and the Chinese can see our every move. Of course, we can see his moves as well. So what do you say we "fix bayonets" and go get those bastards and retake the hill?" Not a sound came from my squad, as we were the disagnated assault squad but the remaining squads yelled in unison, "Let's get em!. I looked at my bayonet, which was standard issue for a carbine and thought, "They gotta be kidding." The captain yelled "Follow me, men." and proceeded to head in the direction of 250. He hadn't gone more than a few steps when he suddenly disappeared. He had stepped into an old bunker and Down He Went!

It was very amusing to watch him climb out of that situation, but we all tried to hide our amusement. Those events slowed us down enough that, by the time we started up hill 250, it had been retaken by the second platoon and we never did get to a combat situation. I thought, "What a way to fight a war!" Thanks, Mario.

Merv, later on we went into another blocking position somewhere near the Imjin and were told to "establish" some three man "sleeping positions". I picked a location in the side of a hill and I and two buddies began to dig our position.

I advised my buddies that we should dig a shallow trench around the outer area - in case it rained. One of them remarked, " What're you, a Boy Scout?" I responded, "I never was, but let's do it just to be sure." I took a lot of razzing that afternoon from various buddies. That evening the Heavens opened up and we were literally flooded. Most of the positions were washed away except our three man sleeping hole. One by one, my razzing buddies came over to our hole to ask if they could spend the night? Of course I had to accomodate these men, Boy Scouts or not. We had 14 guys there to sleep in a hole built for three; but, nobody slept, mind you - it was Party Time. My folks had sent a CARE package and it had just arrived. Everyone was enjoying the goodies when I pulled out this hard loaf of bread. "What the hell you gonna do with that bread?" asked one of the original razzahs. I smiled and broke open the hardened loaf. Lo and behold, there it was: a bottle of Dago red (and a homemade brew, at that). The place roared with appreciation.

As we were passing the bottle around, an alarm sounded to indicate that the Chinese had broken through our line. Everyone jumped up to get their weapons and get going. I, for the love of God, had no idea where my weapon had gone to, nor was I in such a great condition as to even think straight. Somehow it all worked out though and we were able to "plug up" the break through.

Is this anyway to fight a war? I don't think so, but the memories are worth cherishing and I do. That's it for now, Merv. There are sad and terrible stories I could have told but, this time, I chose to pass on only the happier ones. Mario.

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