The Way it Was –

The Way it Was

The following story was written by my father, Robert G. Salmon in 1996 as his life was winding down. He was always proud of his service to our country and we were all proud of him!

 

THE WAY IT WAS

 

It was Sunday June 25th, 1950, Fort Benning, Georgia, hot and sticky.  I was sitting on my bunk in the barracks talking to one of the guys who had the bunk next to me.  A guy at the other end of the barracks had the radio turned on; all of a sudden he yelled out, “We got a war, guys!”

 

Two days later I was on my way home for a 30 day furlough, then to Fareast Command.  The Korean War had started.

 

I boarded a troop train in Rochester, New York after my 30 days were up.  I had plenty of time to get scared about where I was going.  We picked up soldiers all the way to Camp Stoneman, California.  One of them was Mortimer Walker, from Memphis, Tennessee.  He and I shared many a foxhole; we stayed together all the time I was in Korea.

 

We were in Stoneman about a week, all jammed in together with nothing to do, except stand in line for everything, shots, turn in foot lockers, talk to a nut doctor (I guess anybody who volunteered for Fareast Command was a little bit nuts). 

 

Walker told me this was his second hitch, and he had been in Korea and Japan until last April.

 

This was my first experience being with black guys.  I had been with Indians and Spanish guys, but these black guys were something else, shooting crap was their mainstay.  If it didn’t go right, the knives came out.  I didn’t get much sleep there.

 

I forgot to say that I asked for transfer to Fareast Command about a month before the war started.  A friend of mine from home who had joined the army after I did and was in Japan, kept writing me letters about over there and why didn’t I come over, so I thought I would.  We couldn’t get any stripes except PFC in Benning; I had graduated from 16 weeks of wheeled vehicle school and was chief mechanic for H Company, 30th Infantry Regiment, Third Division, which was at least a Staff Sergeant rating, but no luck.  There were too many NCOs left over from WWII.

 

I didn’t realize signing up for Fareast Command made me eligible for a 30 day furlough.  Most guys didn’t get any at all, they went over right away.  I was just lucky, I guess. 

 

One day, we were all lined up in a field and one guy started calling our names and where we were going.  Anybody going to Korea was “going south”.  I didn’t know what “going south” meant then.

 

We got on another troop train and went to Seattle, Washington.  It was a nice trip.  I remember going through a lot of mountains and seeing a large forest fire.  We stopped several times for water and coal, and they would let us out for a few minutes.  One time three guys didn’t come back; they didn’t like where they were going, I guess.

 

Seattle, at Pier 91, was very crowded.  It was where they loaded the troop ships.  I didn’t like the idea of taking a ship over.  It would take forever, and there would be a lot of sickness.

 

They had mess halls that would seat 2000 at a crack.  We had nothing to do but wait until they decided what to do with us.  If we didn’t walk around all day and stay out of our barracks we would end up on KP for about 15 hours.  It happened to me.  Though, I did get out of it once.  I was sleeping, it was about 2:00 in the morning, and dark in the barracks, some sergeant came in and went from bunk to bunk waking people and asking what rank you were.  Anybody from Staff Sergeant down had to pull KP.  He asked me what I was, I was down in the blankets, and I said Sergeant First Class.  He said, “Okay, Sarge.” (Ha Ha)

 

The next day they loaded Walker and me on an old C47. What a surprise that was.  It rained all the time we were in Seattle.

 

We landed at Anchorage, Alaska.  It was still raining. C47s were landing and taking off.  The next stop was Shimia, and after that, Alutian Island.  We had a small air base there, 300 some men and 3 nurses.  The last leg was Shimia to Tokyo.  We flew with no parachutes at about 5000 feet.  The planes had no seats.  They had stretchers on both sides and on top to bring back wounded.  They traveled a southern route coming back, Tokyo, Midway, and Hawaii.

 

Not much happened on the way over, except the plane kept dropping down all of a sudden.  Once it dropped and all the food (sandwiches) went flying all over and the toilet for number two only tipped over.  They had a tube for peeing, I think it went outside, I am not sure.  Once I was strapped in, it went down a lot and I thought it would cut me in half.

 

We slept, we ate, we played cards, and I spent a lot of time looking out the windows.  I didn’t see much until we got near Japan, then it was fishing boats and the like.  When we got over land we flew over what used to be a city.  There wasn’t much left, a smoke stack or a brick wall here and there.  We were told it was Hiroshima and there was nothing for miles around.

 

We landed at Yokohoma at night.  They put us on buses and we left the airport.  The first thing I saw was a man standing in the road pissing.  We kept going, and the next thing I knew, the bus hit a person in the road and just kept going.  I thought, don’t they have any rules over here? 

 

I can’t remember the name of the camp we went to, but it was First Cavalry Division Headquarters in Japan.  Walker had been there before, so he knew the layout of the camp.  He wanted me to go out a hole in the fence that he knew about, and go find some women.  I said, “You’ve got to be crazy, there are guards all over the place.  They would catch us in a minute.”  I was afraid to go, but he went anyway.  He came back about 1:00 in the morning with all kinds of stories, and was pretty drunk.  I guess he did know his way around.

 

I don’t remember too much of what happened there; we were there about a week.  Then, we were put on a train.  It was a great train, much nicer than any train I had been on in the States.  It had comfortable seats and bunks, dining cars and good food, too.

 

I can remember seeing Mount Fuji.  Everything was crowded with people.  No matter where we went the sun was out.  We were on the train two days.  Then we found out we were going to Sasebo, Japan, and from there to Korea.  Well, I’ll tell you, Sasebo was the dirtiest place I had ever seen, just scummy and crappy.  Of course, I had not been to Korea yet.

 

We loaded onto what was called a Japanese luxury liner (yeah, right).  What I remember most about it was the chow line.  We walked around a large kettle and it was so big we had to walk up steps onto a catwalk around this thing and dip our mess kits into what I remember as being like soup.  So much for chow.  We went down below where we were supposed to sleep on the floor.  There were guys all over, crowded as hell.  Some guys were sick already and we hadn’t left port yet.  I thought, what’s this going to be like later, when we’re on our way over.  So, we decided to sleep on deck.  It was August, and warm, and we had our field jackets, so we were okay. 

 

They were loading Marines now, and the Army guys were asking them what took them so long, and where were their mothers.  They didn’t like that so much, it wasn’t long before there were fist fights, and the officers had to break it up.  I found a pistol that belonged to the Marines afterwards.  I just left it there; I didn’t want to be caught with it.

 

Oh, before we loaded on the boat they issued rifles, M1s and two bandoliers of ammo.  So, we were busy cleaning the Cosmo line off them on the way over.  It was an overnight trip and the waves got real rolly, and my stomach was acting up.  I had never been seasick before, but I had never been on a big boat before, either.

 

It started getting light toward morning and we could see stuff in the water, all kinds of stuff, dead birds, garbage and crap.  It smelled terrible and we could hardly see land yet.  That was my first impression of Korea.  Believe me, there was more to come.

 

We were at Pusan Harbor, the southernmost harbor in South Korea.  There were several troop ships there that came from somewhere with troops aboard, bigger boats than ours.

 

There were lots of planes going over and trucks and tanks all over the port.  They were trying to get into some sort of formation so they could get away from the port.

 

We unloaded from the ship, going down from the gang plank to the dock, and up into the port area.  We marched in columns of twos, with our packs on our back with shovels, gas masks, canteens and bayonets, first aid packs on our rifle ammo belts, plus steel helmets.  In the packs, we had extra clothes, socks, underwear, a blanket, a poncho, and shelter half, and personal stuff.  We had field jackets on and it was warm. We soon started to sweat.  We walked a long time through the city and the people were waving at us and waving small US flags and chanting like crazy.  We finally came to a railroad station, or what passed as one.  The guy that took us from the boat to the station didn’t know what we were supposed to do next, so we just stood around for about an hour and speculated on what was next.  All the time the Korean people, with white clothes that were like pajamas and what looked like shoe rubbers on their feet, were chanting and wailing all around us.  That would happen almost everywhere we went.

 

Finally an officer, a captain I think, (I am thinking back 47 years) came by and appointed one of us to be in charge.  I didn’t know the guy, but he was a Staff Sergeant, and he loaded us on the train.  There were about 40 men in our group.  The train was an old one, with wooden cars, lots of windows, but no glass of course, and it ran on soft coal.  We started out and we were told we were going to Taegu, which is about 75 miles north, where the front was in a half circle around Pusan, with the sea on both ends.  The rest of South Korea was in enemy hands.

 

Well, the train rode like a buckboard and it went through tunnels every few minutes.  The black smoke from the engine came through the open windows and did a job on all of us.  There was nothing we could do, except put our hands over our eyes and try breathing through a handkerchief, and cover up the rifles.  One fellow had his gas mask on; I guess it worked okay.  There are a lot of mountains in Korea, so a lot of tunnels also, so eating anything was out of the question.  That was our first experience in Korea.

 

We got to Taegu at suppertime and were put up in a large Quonset hut and told we would be going to the line in the morning, about 15 miles north.  They fed us supper in a mess hall, it wasn’t bad, either.  They had no electricity, other than generators for HQ and the mess hall, so we went to bed early.  We were pretty tired.  They had two sinks in Q hut.  We cleaned up as best we could, but we all looked dirty and grimy. 

 

I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere, only 15 miles from the front, but the front could be anywhere with the mountains and valleys and rice paddies all over and nothing but dirt roads, which were just two ruts mostly.  I was real tired, but I couldn’t sleep much thinking about what would happen tomorrow.  They woke us up at 5:00 and fed us.  We were grouped around the mess hall waiting for something to happen.  Pretty soon a captain came over with a carbine and full pack.  He told us he was a Catholic priest and he would be taking us up to the line; we would be walking.  He said, “I see you guys have been on the train from Pusan.” He was okay.

 

Well, we walked all day, not following any trail, but going by compass through woods, brush, rice paddies and across creeks.  We didn’t see any other people. We only went about ten miles that day because of the terrain.  Then, we made a no-fire camp and ate C-rations.

 

The captain filled us in on what was happening since the war started.  We didn’t have many troops over here when the North Koreans came over the 38th Parallel in force.  They were well equipped and had plenty of tanks and trucks, and they were big on mortars.  A lot of our guys were killed in the first few days.  They didn’t have enough fire power to stop them, or enough men.  That was over a month ago and we were just barely holding that semicircle of 50 miles around Pusan now.  So, we were going to join some rifle company on the line tomorrow.

 

We slept on the ground that night.  I put my poncho over me.  That was a mistake; it sweated and when I woke up I was wet all over.

 

We ate some c-rations and we started walking again.  In about an hour, we could hear gun fire, rifles I thought.  Then I heard a machine gun going off.  I couldn’t tell if it was ours or theirs.  I guess then I woke up to the fact that I was in a shooting war.  We finally arrived at what was supposed to be the line, a bunch of guys standing around in an apple orchard with hills to the north of us.  I asked someone where the enemy was and he said mostly up in those hills.  They come down at night and try to overrun us.  We have been able to fight them off for about a week now, but it cost us.  We have been waiting here for you guys to get here.  It looks like we are going up that hill tonight.  A soldier came over and said he was Sergeant So and So, and began reading our names off and assigning us to different companies in Second Battalion.  Walker and I went to F Company.  There were only about 25 guys in F Company, counting us.  We were told there would be more in a few days.  Nobody knew anybody else; it seemed hard to get to know the old guys who had been around for awhile.  I guess they had lost too many buddies since it started.  There was one sergeant, a squad leader who seemed friendly, and he seemed ready to talk.  His name was Kelleher.

 

We were in the First Cavalry Division, Fifth Cavalry Regiment, Second Battalion.  I thought I’d better say that before I forget it.

 

By this time there were a lot of us just standing around at the bottom of the hill.  We could hear gunshots up the hill but couldn’t see anything because of the trees and bushes.  There seemed to be no order to anything.  We didn’t know who was in charge or what squad we were in.

 

Pretty soon three tanks came up to us and stopped.  They swiveled their cannon up the hill and started shooting, then four spitfire fighters came in very low, with machine guns firing.  I could see the pilots waving at us.  They kept that up for quite awhile, tanks firing, planes going back and forth firing.  I didn’t see how anything could be alive on that hill.  Then somebody yelled, “Let’s go!”  By that time there was a lot of rifle fire and machine gun fire other than tanks and planes.  Also, bullets were whizzing by and overhead. 

 

Well, we started out.  We had to go across the dirt road where the tanks were and go between the tanks and up the hill.  I got between two tanks.  I had to go across a wide ditch to get to the hill.  I couldn’t go, I couldn’t move, I froze.  I was scared stiff.  I thought I would be running into a wall of bullets.  Some guys were going and some weren’t.  Somebody put his foot on my rear end and pushed like hell.  I went forward and kept going.  Walker was right next to me.  We started running up the hill, firing our rifles as we went.  That was all I needed to get me going.  It never happened again.  We went up a little farther and the firing got worse.  I went to the ground, Walker did, too.  We were lying behind rocks and Walker says, “Lordy, Lordy, what am I doing here?  We can’t go any farther up.”  I said, “We got to go, we can’t stay here.”  By this time it was pretty dark, and to see who was who we started up again.  There were other guys with us and we went almost to the top.  We could see our guys in trenches on top.  Then an officer appeared and told us to dig in for the night.  By that time the firing had slowed down, but we still kept low and started to dig.  We were pretty tired and didn’t dig a lot.  It was totally dark now.  We decided one would sleep and one would be on guard for two hours at a time.

 

While I was sitting there, while Walker was asleep, I thought about what happened on the hill, what a screwed up mess that was, nobody in charge, no order to anything.  If they had been in greater strength, we would have bought the farm.

 

The night passed uneventful.  I got some sleep in the trench and Walker woke me up and said, “You won’t believe this, but we got hot chow over there!”  Sure enough, there was hot chow in big stainless steel cans.  They were carried up by Korean laborers on an a-frame, on their backs.  For little guys they sure were strong.  They ran up the hill like they had no load at all.  They also carried up ammo and cases of beer; we got two cans each every night when nothing was going on.  That lasted about two weeks or so.  The story we heard was some ladies aid society was upset that they were feeding us beer on the line.  

 

The next day after the hill battle we were assigned to squads.  Walker and I were put in the Third Squad Second Platoon.  The squad leader was a guy named Allessandroni, I called him Al.  We got along okay.  He was from Philadelphia.   There was Curly Willman, a guy we called Slim and a platoon sergeant named Gabe (we didn’t like him much then).  I don’t remember any other guys, other than Lieutenant Condon.  He was our platoon leader and was recalled to active duty from the second war.  He was an okay guy, a little soft, though.  Our company commander was a tall guy; I don’t remember his name.  He was always volunteering us for whatever came along.  He was bucking for a promotion.

 

We were all wondering what was coming next.  It didn’t take long.  I was picked to go on a patrol with five or six other guys.  We took off anything that rattled, canteen cup, bayonet scabbard, packs right down to bare bones; the only thing we kept was rifle and ammo.  There were several linking hills to the one we took last night.  We were to check them out to see if any gooks were still there.  That was scary.  We spread out as much as we could to cover as much as possible.  We were on the second hill and when I got to the top, I was all alone for the moment.  I saw legs sticking out from some bushes.  I immediately stiffened up, rifle ready, and then I recognized the boots.  He was one of ours.  I pushed the bushes back and saw that he had been shot in the side of the head, in on the right, out on the left, big time.  His helmet was off, his rifle was lying there, and I could see his dog tags.  Well, I thought I better take the tags. Then, I thought, no, I better leave them for graves registration guys.  Boy, I would have hated that job.  So, I put his bayonet on the M1 and stuck it in the ground and put the helmet on it.

 

The rest of the patrol was quiet.  I was the only one that saw anybody that day.   They must have taken their dead and wounded with them.

 

Still, to this day, I see that dead soldier lying on the ground.  He was the first dead GI I had seen.  Just like it was yesterday.

 

I want to mention that I am remembering from 47 years ago, and from here on things may not be in the order that they happened, so bear with me.

 

We stayed on that hill that night. We all slept better that night and went down the next morning to the road we started from.  We all felt pretty good now.  We had taken a hill and only had light casualties.  We were combat veterans now.  If we lasted four more days we would be eligible for the combat infantry badge. Well, we lasted.

 

The next few days we spent going from hill to hill.  Some we stayed on for two or three days.  Some we went up and down again right away.

 

By the time another week was up we were pretty dirty and grimy.  We tried to keep clean washing in creeks and streams.  I lost my toothbrush somewhere.  We had hot chow almost every night and morning, and it tasted good.  Living in foxholes is not the best way to live.  It was still warm and the mosquitoes and other bugs were a problem.  We had 50% alert at night.

 

There were a lot of air strikes in our area. Some prop planes and some jets.  The jets were dropping napalm in gas tanks.  It just spread fire all over.  I would hate to be hit with that.  There were a few night strikes with napalm.  They were like the 4th of July, but scary because you knew people were being killed.

 

One night we were dug in on a hill, I didn’t have any idea what day it was or where we were, there was a river below us and on that river there was a battle going on.  We could hear gunfire all night and towards morning we heard bagpipes that told us who was winning.  The next day we found out it was the Naktong River Battle and a few days later we went across it.  We knew by that time about the In Chon Invasion by the Marines.  That helped us out; it took the pressure off of us.  Down south of Seoul we had been just about even with the north gooks, and the South Koreans didn’t help us much. They were pretty scattered and had lots of casualties, same as us, so now they were trying to get back up north before the Marines trapped them between us.

 

We rode on top of Sherman tanks left over from WWII to the crossing point of the Naktong River, about ten miles from the hills that we cleared.

 

Then, we were loaded on trucks, just jammed in like you wouldn’t believe, standing up, not sitting down like you see in movies, jammed in so it was impossible to fall down.  You could actually sleep.  We rode like that for hours at a time on dirt roads.  That’s all they had, except in the cities, and they weren’t very good.  The roads were going up and down hills and around mountainsides.  There were no road guards at all; sometimes it was a long way down.  We drove through villages with the people waving flags and throwing apples at us; they weren’t bad, either.

 

We went by lots of burned out vehicles, like Russian T34 tanks, Jeeps and trucks, with lots of dead bodies.

 

We had to clear several road blocks of enemy rear guard.  It was a suicide mission for them.  One of the fellows was shot in the little finger.  We kidded him about that.  We took three prisoners and killed the rest.

 

By now it was a running race to catch them.  We were off the tanks and advancing along some wide rice paddies and meadows, pushing them in front of us.  Every once in awhile we would come to a small village with several adobe houses that were very crude with straw thatched roofs and tunnels that went under the floors.  You built a fire in there and the fire warmed the floors.  It got quite warm inside.  Most of the people were gone except old men and women.  They didn’t know what was going on.  We gave them food and medical attention.

 

One time I went in to get some sleep.  It was in the winter, there was a hibachi in there and I fell asleep.  I had left the door open because of the hibachi.  Well, I woke up in an aid station about four hours later.  Either somebody shut the door or the wind blew it shut.  They found me in time, before the coal gas got to me for good.  I was laid up for a couple of days.

 

The next night, three of us had to be on a listening post on top of a hill.  That was a scary night. Every time the wind blew I thought I heard someone out there.  There was no one out there, but I didn’t sleep at all that night.

 

The next day we loaded on tanks and headed north.  For two days we traveled, and finally reached In Chon.  It was loaded with Marines and they got back at us for Sasebo.  Their biggest thing was “What took you so long?” and “Did your mother come with you?”

 

We traveled right through to Seoul and stopped for the night.  We needed to gas up and make repairs.  Seoul was pretty badly shot up.  Buildings were blown down, sides of buildings were blown off and the streets had more potholes than Rochester.  Marines went door to door to secure the city.  I was glad we missed it, but we were to get our turn soon. 

 

The next day we were loaded on trucks again and proceeded north across the 38th Parallel.  I thought, well I made it this far, I wonder how far we will go.  We went about ten miles on a dirt road.  I don’t know how many we had in the convoy; we were the third truck.  The farther we went the worse the road got.  Finally the Jeep in front stopped.  This was a major and 1st lieutenant, plus the driver.  I could see them going over a map.  Finally they signaled for everybody to turn around and go back, over the 38th again, then go back and turn onto a new road and start over.  Well, that shot the morning. 

 

We kept going all night.  Just as it was getting light, we ran into a roadblock.  We all got out in a hurry and under cover.  The boys in the first truck went forward to clear the roadblock.  We were ordered to go around to the right and the second truckload to go to the left.  We were to encircle them.  I don’t know what happened, but the center boys got four enemies.  That was all there was; we didn’t run into any.  The way they were shooting at us it sounded like a lot more than that, though. 

 

At this time, it was about October 2nd.  We didn’t know for sure; even our platoon leader wasn’t sure.

 

Our hot food, now that we were on the move every day, came only at night, if we were not busy doing what we came over here to do.

 

C-rations were passed out every morning.  They came in a cardboard box about 10”x6”x4”.  We took everything out, cans of hamburger already cooked, cans of fruit, canned ham, cereal, a round bar of solid chocolate, one pack of cigarettes and matches.  I don’t remember what else, oh yes, coffee, and a can opener.  We ate what we wanted for breakfast and put the rest in our pockets (we wore fatigues at that point). 

 

It was October, so getting colder at night and we didn’t have warm clothes yet.  I was wearing a civilian jacket with a big fur collar and a good lining.  I managed to hang onto it since Seattle where I bought it in PX, carrying it in the backpack.  When I brought it out the guys wanted to know where I got it, and could they have it if something happened to me.  Also, I was wearing a pair of jump boots; they were better than our combat boots.

 

We loaded on trucks or tanks, the tanks going first.  We were traveling on dirt roads, only now it was quite mountainous, and sometimes we walked behind tanks.  We always threw our rolled sleeping bags onto trucks.  They only carried bags and anything else we threw on.  So, at night when they caught up with us we never got our own bags back.  You never knew what you would find rolled up in them.  It had been raining quite a bit the last few days, so everything was wet, cigs, pistols, food, even script, and all kinds of things. 

 

We dug foxholes every night unless we found used holes, which were plentiful.  To stay warm at night was a problem.  We had a 50% alert, which meant one man awake at all times, and some nights we said the hell with that.  We were so tired we didn’t care if the gooks came or not.  We would curl up back to front to keep a little warm, sometimes back to back.

 

Weapons were a problem to keep clean with the rain, and dust when it didn’t rain.

 

We had been on the line for six weeks now.  We were filthy dirty.  It was ground in, you couldn’t tell we were white, our hands were unbelievable.  My hair hadn’t been combed in a month.  I must have looked great.  I had lost my pack off a truck, somebody got it.  That was normal.

 

We hadn’t run into anything the last few days since we were traveling so fast.  Our chow didn’t catch up either, so it was c-rations (not so good).

 

One day we were in trucks, all of a sudden I saw Walker climbing over the side and talking to an officer.  He got back on and I asked him what happened.  He said the lieutenant asked him if he had a military driver’s license.  Naturally he said yes, so he went to the motor pool to drive the CO’s Jeep. 

 

So, I didn’t see too much of him for about six weeks, until it got colder and started snowing.  He damned near froze to death sitting in that Jeep.  He couldn’t move around much so he got out of it somehow.

 

The chow had run out.  They had to get ammo and weapons up first, I guess.  They thought we all had enough c-rations to last.  We didn’t.  They grow a lot of peanuts and sweet potatoes in Korea.  We were always looking for them. Sometimes we just found them growing in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes we would go into a village.  The people didn’t like us taking them too much. One time we started into a field quite a ways off the road (there were three of us); all of a sudden we were shot at.  It seemed from all over, but we didn’t see anybody.  We fired into some trees and I heard somebody yell like he had been hit.  We could have probably gotten them, but we figured we’d better get out of there.  From where we were we couldn’t see our tanks.  We made it out okay with no more shooting.

 

Another time we were in a village and chickens were running all over.  Some of the guys were chasing them with bayonets and sticks.  The farmer was very upset about that, and he was chasing the guys.  The chickens got away.  That guy had big balls.  Then we started looking for eggs, but didn’t find them.  I am sure they had some hidden.

 

We were attacked when we were going through a pass.  It was quite a fight; it lasted about three hours.  We lost some boys that time and so did they.  They ran back up the mountain and disappeared.  I was pretty nervous for awhile when it was over.  Others were nervous, too.

 

Our food came back.  That perked us up quite a bit.

 

We had been hearing about the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, and that we were near there.  The next day we came out on a wide plain.  It was about 7:00Pm and getting dark.  We were told that the next day we were to attack the city.  That night we were given a very good meal, so I knew it was true. 

 

On our drive from Pusan to Pyongyang we lost two fellows from our squad.  One was killed and one was wounded.  The dead one was from White Plains, New York.  The wounded one would probably be back.  He was.

 

None of us slept much that night.  We didn’t dig in, we just sat around talking, speculating on what would happen tomorrow.  I didn’t seem to get nervous or upset as much as I used to.

 

We were up moving around before it got light.  We had some c-rations and were waiting for things to get moving.  We could see the city now that it was getting light.  My squad was assigned to one of the tanks.  Actually, there were three more squads on the tank.  We started out and went about two miles.  Then, the tank commander got a call on the radio to fire on some trees up ahead, next to the road.  I guess there was something spotted by a forward observer who had gone up before light.  He swung the barrel over to the right and let go.  Our ears were ringing.  He put four shells in the trees, blowing some over.  Then, another guy came out of the tank and got behind the twin 50s (fifty caliber machine guns), and started firing at the trees.  That lasted about five minutes.  Then I hear the squad leader yell out, “Salmon, you and Willman go check them woods out!  Be careful!”  My heart jumped to my mouth.  We jumped off the tank; Curly and I started toward the woods, we didn’t see anything until we got up close.  Three dead deer all blown to hell, one buck and two does.  Well, we went over the whole woods, nothing else.  There were a lot of deer in Korea.  They were probably sleeping there and were eating when we came up.

 

We started again.  We told the gunner if he was going to shoot more deer to let us do it, so we could save some to cook.  He said, “Yeah, I better,” after we told him what shape they were in.

 

Another few miles went by, and we could see the outskirts of Pyongyang pretty good.  It was a clear day, with sunshine.  We got closer and ran into a rifle company that came in before light and were in a firefight.  Two men were wounded and sitting against a farm wagon.  The rest of them were waiting for us with the tanks.

 

We started out again.  We were pretty near the city now.  The road turned to the left and started going parallel to it.  We were ordered off the tank and to go straight toward town.  We were strung out; it was double time, guns at our hips with bayonets on.

 

There was some shooting over to the left and the terrain was getting rougher.  I ran over a little hill and there was a drop off.  There was somebody there and he was behind me before I knew it.  I swung my rifle around and shot.  It hit him right in the stomach.  He jumped up about a foot and back down again.  Then I saw he was dead to begin with, with a bullet in the face.

 

By that time, my adrenaline was going good and I started out running forward again.  We got up to the outskirts where streets started and buildings were pretty well shot up.  We went from house to house in squad strength.  We had to search each house and building as we came to it.  We found some civilians; at least I thought they were.  We found some small weapons on some of them, and I turned them over to the guys in the street to take back.  One building was apparently a factory and upstairs they had a drafting room.  I remember there were wooden t-squares and wooden triangles and wood boards, but no drawings.  They cleaned everything out.  We got our share of house to house that day and lost six men.  Two were wounded and four were killed out of our company.  My squad was still together, Curly Willman, Mort Walker (but he was still driving the Jeep), Slim Evans, myself and squad leader, (Al) Allessandroni.  There might have been another man, but I can’t remember for sure.  I was called Sam ever since enlisting in the Army, and it stuck until I was discharged.  As long as I was with the Third Squad we were undermanned.  We seemed to do okay, anyway.

 

The next day was spent just looking through buildings.  One platoon came on a brewery and the word spread fast.  There were guys walking along with what looked like quart bottles.  A lot of them were ready to get drunk, myself included.

Well, that went along until the next day when two more breweries were found, and they put an end to the drinking, sort of.

 

There is a river that runs through the city.  I assume it’s still there; I am looking for a map that has the name on it, I just found it, the Taedong River.  Gunfire had started again early in the morning at the river.  There were three bridges across it.  We were waiting for the word to go.  There was an island in the middle of the river with enemy soldiers on it, and they were firing at us with a vengeance.  I happened to be looking at the bridge farthest away from us when it just blew up.  Everybody was nervous, especially the guys picked to cross the second bridge.  Well, that blew too, about five minutes later.  Nobody wanted to cross the last bridge, but it was ours to take, and we did.  We had some casualties, but not in my squad.  I thought, how long can we last without somebody getting it?  We were all thinking the same thing.  That was the end of the fighting for us in Pyongyang.  The third bridge did not blow up; we never found out why.

 

We were put up in an old building with no electricity or plumbing.  We also turned in our ammo and hand grenades.  We were told that nobody was to go any further north and that we would be home for Christmas.  Now, this was our first war, so we believed it, especially when Bob Hope came and put on a show.  We were so far away, we could hardly see anything.  We could tell a man from a woman.  We sat on a rooftop and looked through binoculars, taking turns.  We could hear the music.  The wind was blowing and it was colder than hell.  Some of the girls had swimsuits on.

 

There wasn’t much to do for about a week after that.  Things were getting a little monotonous.  We were getting fed very well and ate lots of fruit and vegetables, no beer, though.  I’m sure somebody was drinking it.  We wondered what would happen next.

 

We didn’t have long to wait.  One night, sometime after midnight we were awakened and told to fall in outside and draw rifles and ammo.  We were going north again, on tanks again.  We were issued c-rations and salt pills, also water purifying tablets.  We were going on a dirt road, the only one there.  We had no rain for awhile, so it was dusty when the tanks were moving, dusty to the point that it was ridiculous.  Our guns jammed, we had dust in our ears and mouths, and our clothes were covered.  It got in our food, too.  It was just God damned miserable. We had a hard time seeing who was who.

 

We didn’t run into anything worth telling about for a few days.  It was difficult telling what day it was and the date.  The mosquitoes were still a problem at night.  We would have to put a blanket over our heads to keep them out, and that didn’t work too well.

 

One night we were trying to sleep on the side of the road, when all of a sudden we heard what sounded like a bell ringing.  We just laid there waiting to see what showed up.  It seemed like forever for the bell to get louder. The tankers had a light they shone on the road; it was an old cow just moseying along as if he owned the place (maybe he did).

 

Well, Thanksgiving was pretty close and that cow followed us several days.  Even if we thought he was gone he would show up, up the road.  Things were quiet for Thanksgiving.  We had plenty of food, turkey and the trimmings.  And guess what?  The cooks butchered that cow for dinner, too.  Some of the guys were pissed, myself included.  It was tougher that hell, but that wasn’t why we were upset.  We liked the cow.  It was something to do everyday; send out a patrol to find the cow.

 

Okay, now things start to heat up.  We started going off the road again, into the hills.  Some of them were Adirondack style, some were smaller.  We heard the Chinese had come into the war, and we were going to run into them.  It was getting pretty cold at night now, and there was heavy ground fog in the morning.  Once I crawled out of a foxhole in the morning and only my head was above the fog.  A few others were just standing there, too.  A plane came out of the clouds and started strafing us.  It was a British two engine light bomber.  It had the circles on it.  We all hit the ground again.  I had a hell of a time finding my hole; you couldn’t see anything below the fog.  Nobody was hit.  Come to find out, someone had put the air marker up backwards.  Our markers were rectangular, quite large and red and yellow, with the colors running the long way if we were on a hill.  The yellow side would be toward us, and the red side toward the enemy.

 

My feet were in bad shape.  I didn’t have clean socks or warm clothing.  We froze at night.  Everybody was in tough shape.  It rained some and snowed some.  I didn’t dare take my boots off at night, and we kept our rifles and ammo in the holes with us.  We had gotten to the point that we were digging larger foxholes and digging back underground so we could get out of the weather.  We would dig the main hole deeper than our living room (that’s what we called it), so that the rain water was lower than we were.  When I got out of the hole in the morning I had to walk on the sides of my feet until the juices in my feet started to flow, and then it got easier, but not good.  But, at least I could function.

 

It seemed like every night there were air strikes with rockets and napalm bombs lighting up everything like daytime.  We could hear gunfire and whistles and bugles half the night, but we never got hit with anything serious.  At this time, we were a reserve company, in case there was a breakthrough.

 

We went on a lot of patrols to find or make contact with the enemy.  I got to be pretty good as point man.  I had a knack for knowing when to slow down, or take cover and let them show themselves.  I used to think I am the only man between the enemy and the people in the United States.

 

On one patrol we were going until we found them.  We found them about three miles north of our lines.  We called for an air strike.  There were three tanks and two trucks loaded with troops.  The jets came and dropped bombs and napalm, and strafed them.  We were hidden on a small hill, on the backside to keep from being hit.  I don’t think anybody survived.  There were men on fire trying to get out of the tanks.  The trucks were blown up, and there were bodies all over.  After awhile we just stood up to watch.  It was bad; it’s hard to forget something like that.  Pretty soon our tanks came up the road.  One had a plow on front and plowed the tanks and trucks off the road.  The bodies were piled up on top of one another.  Then we started back toward our company area.

 

We spent the next few days doing basically the same things.  Then we started walking again, up a different road.  We were told it would be a long walk.  We walked three days straight north, scrounging as we went, with no opposition.  The third day, about midday, we could hear gunfire up ahead.  The pace was stepped up. The road was loaded with vehicles that had come up the road we were on when we were riding; they were parked on the side of the road.  We went by an aid station just being set up, a couple of tents and some tables and cots.  It puts a funny feeling in the stomach because you know that soon they will be filled up.  We finally got to the edge of a valley.  It was about 100 feet down the hill to the valley floor and about 400 or 500 yards across the valley to the hill in the distance, the road going all the way up and over it.  In the middle of the valley there was a building and some outbuildings.  We were told it was a schoolhouse, with Chinese soldiers in it firing at our hill.  Along the edge of our side GIs were dug in and firing at the buildings.  We stopped and were ordered to drop everything but rifles, ammo and grenades. 

 

For some time now, I had been promoted to Assistant Squad Leader (temporary).  That was okay; it gave me some authority to change some things I had notices guys doing that were detrimental to the squad when we were on the move, sloppy soldiering, and not paying attention to what was going on, not following orders.  Only two were involved.  We had been without an Assistant Squad Leader.  I guess we never had one, being undermanned.  Al had to try to keep track of everyone, but it was tough.  I told him what I wanted to do and he said to go at it.  So, I did. I got the guys together when Al went to a meeting at the CP.  I told them that I had noticed some things that were going to change.  I told them what I wanted.  That was all I had to say.  We all had gotten along well.  I pointed at no one in particular; I just said that we had been going so fast that we were getting sloppy with our soldiering, and I knew we could fix it. 

 

Well, Al came back and told me that there would be an artillery barrage at the valley, and then we would be going in to take it and move up the next hill to dig in.  I said, “Jesus, we’ve been walking with all this shit for three days and the guys are tired.”  Al said we had been volunteered by our CO.

 

Ten minutes later the shelling started and lasted for about an hour.  Our guys that were dug in were firing, too.  We just waited until it was over, and then we started down some on the road, some on each side.  I was firing from the hip at the schoolhouse and we saw men running out the back toward the hill.  Some went down from our firing.  There were about thirty or forty of them.  They didn’t try to stop us, so we got to the school without any casualties.  I ordered the men to spread out to avoid being hit in a bunch.  Al went inside with some to see if it was cleared out.  There were some dead there and the building was pretty beat up.  They came out and spread out.  Al came over to me and said, “You got the squad, Sam.”  That scared me.  Now, I had the responsibility of seven men to contend with, where before it was just follow orders and take care of yourself.  Now I had to give orders and take care of seven men.  Well, so be it. 

 

The next day I got a letter from home telling me that my cousin Mary Jane and her husband and three kids were killed in an automobile accident near Batavia.  That flattened me badly.  I really like Mary Jane.  She and I had long talks together before my army days.  Right then the war didn’t seem very important.

 

We stayed there a few days; both sides were just looking at each other without doing anything.  One day we were relieved and taken out of the line to an artillery position where they had hot showers set up and clean clothes and good food.  The thing was that we had to guard artillery positions.  We were staked out all around them.  When we were off duty we were in squad tents close to the guns.  We had candles to use at night, but every time the guns went off the concussion blew them out and we felt like we were propelled up in the air and our ears were shot for awhile.  Not much sleep. 

 

While there I was called to the CP and balled out for not writing home.  My mother had a friend who had a son in the Red Cross in Korea and he located me and I got hell from the CO.

 

I watched the sunset some nights.  It was beautiful, and I thought, will I see the sun come up again? 

 

Well, we were back on the line, wherever that was.  I guess we were still going north.  About this time, I didn’t much care where we were going.  My main concern was taking care of my men, and trying to stay warm.  The nights in the holes were very hard on us, cold and damp.

 

We went through a village that had been shelled and everything was burning, of course.  The roofs were made of rice straw and it smelled strong.  Every time I get a bad cold I can smell that rice burning.  This wasn’t only this village; it was almost everywhere we went.

 

One day while we were stopped for awhile my squad was ordered to go into the village and round up every man who was between the age of 17 and 50 to be drafted into the rock army.  What a day that was.  Everybody was over 50, or under 17, so we just rounded them all up and took them back with us.  I don’t know how that came out.  I kind of felt badly, but this was war and somebody had to fight it.

 

My feet and my lips were in bad shape.  My feet were screwed up bad, so I was walking all the time on the sides of them.  My lips were so chapped that I had a big slit in my lower lip that bled all the time.

 

We were on tanks again.  The road was narrow and bumpy.  We were going up along the side of a mountain when the lead tank went around a bend and stopped.  We were the third one.  We got off to see what was around the bend.  It was pretty bad; there were dead bodies all over the road, maybe 50 or 60, and a rockslide with stones piled up all over the road.  Also, part of the road was blown away.  Well, the lead tank pushed the rocks out of the way (it had a dozer blade on it), along with the rocks went the dead bodies, too.  We figured it was an air strike that got them.

 

The only thing that we had to worry about now was the part of the road that was blown away.  There wasn’t much left from the mountainside to the edge.  It didn’t look wide enough for a tank to pass and we were pretty high up; it was about 200 feet down over the edge.

 

We were ordered back on the tanks and the first one started up.  We were all nervous as we watched it go over the gap.  He gunned it good and it slipped off a little, but he was able to get over okay.  The second one make it okay, too.  We were next.  I told my guys to hold on tight and to be prepared to jump if we went down.  I was on the outside toward the edge.  I knew there was no place to jump to on this side, so I just hung on.  We started off and got to the hole, and about halfway across.  Then the driver stopped and the rear end of the tank started to go down.  I thought for sure we were going over.  I froze to the tank.  I didn’t even look down.  The driver gunned it and kept gunning it, digging up more of the road on the edge of the hole, and finally the tank went up and across the gap.  It stopped when we were over, and we got off.  I almost fell over when I got down.  My legs didn’t want to hold me up.  Curly had been on the other side of the tank from me.  He said, “Sam, your face was absolutely pure white!”  I believed him.

 

Something happened when we were fighting on the Pusan perimeter back in the last of August or first part of September.  We were dug in on a hillside, looking down at the road coming from the north.  There were a lot of refugees coming, walking four or five abreast, with all kinds of things in two wheeled carts and on their backs, women and children, old men and young men.  That part looked funny, why young men were of draft age there. 

 

One of the squad leaders that had been in this mess since the beginning said they could possibly be North gooks.  We had some soldiers at the road looking them over pretty good, but they let the men pass.  They took a woman off to the side of the road and over into the field and were questioning her.  I could tell she was talking to them because her hands were moving around like crazy.  All of a sudden the guy that was apparently in charge took out his 45 pistol and shot her.  I jumped right up; I couldn’t believe he did that.  She went down on her back and we could see that she was not dead yet.  He went over to her and pointed the 45 at her head and shot her again.  By this time there were a lot of soldiers around her.  And then, he shot her again.  End of story, we never found what it was all about.  We figured she was some kind of spy.

 

Another thing happened that I want to mention.  It was about the same time and area.  Two tanks, one a Sherman and the other a T34 Russian fought it out not too far from us.  We could see everything that was happening.  The American one, the Sherman had a name on the side (Rice Paddy Daddy), and it nailed the Russian tank good.  It was burning and men were trying to get out.  I don’t want to get into that; nobody survived.  We rode on Rice Paddy Daddy the next day. 

 

Okay, back to today, the way this scenario gets started is very fuzzy to me at this time.  The only thing I remember well is being hunkered down at the side of a tank and the tank’s gun firing.  I was right under it, and it did a job on me.  My ears were blown out, and I couldn’t hear right for a couple of days.  The line was firing at the Chinese in front of us, but we didn’t know they were Chinese.  We never knew anything that was going on except what was right around us.  So, we just fired back.  I don’t remember where my squad was; I’m sure they were there.  The next thing I remember is being on top of the hill that was in front of us when we started.  We were looking from one hill to the next, so I guess we pushed them off of the first hill and onto the next one.

 

The platoon was spread out on top of the hill.  G Company was on our right; they were the ones picked to take the next hill.  They started down our hill and across the valley below.  As soon as they started up the next hill they ran into a lot of fire from the top.  They were throwing hand grenades down on our boys.  We could see them plainly, but we couldn’t shoot at them; we might hit our boys.  While this was going on we were receiving some mortar rounds every once in awhile, and we had noticed some enemy soldiers on our left, about a quarter mile away, going down off a mountain, and behind some rocks.  That was all we could see.  We told our platoon leader and he called it into the company CP wherever that was.  The mortars were coming in pretty heavy now.  Every time one would hit the concussion would make you feel like you were going up in the air.  Several men were hit with shrapnel.  Our platoon leader was one hit bad in the side; another was Sergeant Lucas, who was hit in the foot.  We got as many as possible out of there and down the hill and back to the station.  Curly and I took Lucas out.  The mortars and bullets were hitting all around us.  I don’t know why we all weren’t hit. 

 

While all that was going on G Company had taken the other hill, and we moved over to that one as soon as we could.  The firing had calmed down to almost nothing. 

 

We were all sitting on top of the hill, pretty bushed, and happy it was over, but it wasn’t.  All of a sudden we hear yelling and gunshots behind us.  It was a counter attack coming back up the hill, more than before.  Well, I hate to say it, but everybody started to run back the way we came.

 

The first one to run was our bar man.  He was an arrogant SOB.  He liked to brag about how good he was; he was no damn good at all.  I managed to sort of organize my squad.  We were retreating for sure, but doing it as orderly as possible.  We got to the bottom and started running along the valley.  When we got over to the first hill and climbed up on top our reserve troops were starting down the other side in front of us.  That made me mad.  We could have made a stand there.

 

We went down with them, and the Chinese were coming right behind us.  At this point it definitely was a route.  At one point, I held my left arm up and was motioning my men to come over to me.  I wanted to know how many had survived the hill battle.  When all of a sudden, whack, something hit my left arm.  It hurt like hell, and I couldn’t move my fingers.  It hit me between the wrist and elbow, right about the middle.

 

I had two field jackets on and a couple of sweaters, so taking them off to look at the wound was not the best idea, so I just left things as they were.  There was no blood coming out, so I felt better, but it hurt some and was very stiff, and hard to use the arm.

 

In the time that I got wounded and realized what happened to me, Curly and Slim were hit.  I don’t know how badly, but I saw them being loaded into a 6×6, so I know they were still alive.  That was the last I saw of them.

 

Walker came up and asked how I was.  I don’t know how he knew.  The next thing I knew I was told to get on this Jeep and I was going down the road, going like hell.  There were eight of us on it.  Not far from where the fight was, I managed to get a ride on a tank with some other guys that had been in the fight, too.  I told this one guy, a sergeant, that I had a hole in my arm, I thought.  He insisted I take what I had to off so we could see.  It was a hole okay, small going in, larger coming out.  It was hard to tell if it had hit bone or not.  I didn’t think so.  He said, “You got to go to an aid station.”  I said, “Yeah, I could use a couple days off.”

 

Well, the next few days were great.  I rode to Pyongyang in a ¾ ton truck with a few other walking wounded.  We went to a MASH unit.  It was just like the TV show, MASH.  We stayed there a couple days.  I thought I would be going back to the line in a week or so.  That didn’t happen.  They sent me to the coast where there was a hospital ship moored.  I could not believe it.  They dressed my wound and I had a shower, the first in a long time.  I kept washing my hair.  I bet I washed it ten times before it was clean.  My hands were so dirty; it was ground in so bad.  I never got them clean for a few more days, but the food was out of this world.  They had three dinners at once, turkey with all the trimmings and roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, ham dinner with sweet potatoes, etc, all you wanted and every meal was the same, all you wanted.

 

Also, my feet were getting better.  They were healing up pretty good.  I still could not walk right, but every day was better.

 

Anybody that was wounded in the arms or hands had their food carried for them and they would go back as many times as it took to fill us up.  We ate like kings.  We hadn’t eaten like this in months.

 

The doctor came around that afternoon and he told me that I would be going to Japan tomorrow.  The ship pulled anchor at about 7:00 and we sailed down to Seoul, arriving at about 9:00.  Then we were transferred to DC6s and flew to Kyoto, Japan, where I stayed in the hospital one 24 hour period, and then I was let out to go anywhere I wanted to, as long as I was back by night.  The only thing was that I didn’t have any money.  They fixed that the next day, but I only got $40.  How could I not get paid for four months and only get $40.  That’s the Army for you.  Well, I monkeyed around the hospital all week, and then they said I was getting better and I was eligible for a week’s furlough.  I could go to a plush hotel with all my meals paid for, and I knew it would be a good time.  By this time I had a couple of buddies that hung around with me.  They were going to the hotel, so I decided to go, too.  So, we spent Christmas 1950 in Kyoto.  We could have gone to a beach resort, also.  Sometimes I think I should have gone there, but we had a good time.  Christmas Day, two of us were walking down the street when a bunch of Jap kids came up behind us and started lighting firecrackers.  We didn’t know it until they went off.  The first thing I did was hit the ground.  My buddy was on the ground, too.  The kids were laughing at us.  They thought it was funny.  I was ready to kick butt, but the sarge told me it was the way Japs celebrated Christmas, by setting off firecrackers.  I said that I didn’t think Japs celebrated Christmas. 

 

The day after Christmas I received orders to go back to the line.  I knew it was coming.  I had tried to forget about it, but it didn’t work.  I was not the same as I was when I came over here; I was different.  I wasn’t at all happy.  I knew too much.  I just plain didn’t want to go to war anymore.  I had no spunk.  I was listless.  In general, I felt like shit.  I went over on the Jap luxury liner again, with new guys who hadn’t been over before.  They asked me more questions, which I answered, but I really didn’t want to.

 

We landed on New Year’s Day.  It was snowing, and colder than hell.  This time I had warm clothes.  I hitched a ride as far as I could on trucks, or anything I could get on.  It took me a week to get back to my company.

 

They were dug in on a hill (nothing new).  There were some new guys in the squad.  They seemed okay.  Walker was still there; he was not driving the Jeep anymore (maybe I said that before).  I was not the squad leader anymore.  That was okay with me; I really didn’t want the job anymore.

 

I had been gone a month.  We had been pushed down below Seoul again by the Chinese.  We were on the offensive again and had taken Seoul back again by the time I had caught up to them.  I was beginning to feel better, so that made me happy.  I guess being back with the boys helped.

 

The weather was extremely cold.  One night the Company dug a cave in a hillside and built a fire in it.  Everybody got a chance to go in and warm up.  But, it was cold when we came out.  It helped, I guess.

 

I forgot to mention that while I was catching up with my Company I got stuck with a bunch of replacements on a train with no engine to Suwan, North Korea.  We were told that the Chinese were up the road a few miles and coming our way.  This was my 21st birthday, and no ammo.  What a mess; there were a lot of refugees moaning and crying by the hundreds all around us.  There was one man lying in the gutter by the train car with his nose cut off.  He was still alive.  Nobody was doing anything for him.  It was a depressing situation.  The engine finally came and took us out of there.  I can still see that guy lying there.

 

We had been doing a lot of walking and we didn’t have the slightest idea where we were.  It stayed cold.

 

I opened a can of beans with a bayonet and had to chop them out of the can to eat them; they were frozen solid.  I had to let them stay in my mouth before I could eat them.  It wasn’t worth the effort.

 

One day, two of us had to take two radio batteries up a mountain to an outpost on top.  It took us about three hours to climb.  Some of the snow was up to my chest and I kind of crawled along.  It’s a good thing there were two of us, one would not have made it.  Then it started to snow once we got to the top.  We stayed for the night and we could see all over after dark, fire lights all over, some were ours, some were theirs.  We just had to guess which was which.

 

Also, when we took Pyongyang we liberated some allied prisoners.  They were glad to see us.

 

The nights and days were cold and snowy with a lot of wind.  It was very bad weather.  The nights were very cold, even with our winter gear.  Try going out in a snow storm and digging a hole in the ground, then get in and stay all night; not fun.  The Chinese were having the same problem, only they didn’t have clothes like us.  They were worse off; a lot of them froze to death.

 

One morning I wanted to make some coffee and all I had was a couple of coffee packets in my field jacket pocket that had been there forever.  They had been wet a lot and were stuck to the jacket pocket.  After the water was heated I turned the pocket inside out and stuck it in the canteen cup I had filled with hot water.  That was my coffee that morning.

 

Between the time I came back to the line and the second time I was wounded I don’t remember too much that happened.  We walked a lot and rode on tanks some.  I don’t remember any large battles other than a few fire fights.  Surviving the weather was the real problem.

 

Two of us were on point one day about 200 feet apart, just walking along.  The company was behind us about 300 feet.  There was a gun shot and we both ducked down.  I was behind a rock; I couldn’t figure out where the shot came from.  All of a sudden I was hit in the left leg, high up.  It took me right down, all the way.  I didn’t hear the shot at all.  It didn’t hurt much, but the blood wasn’t coming out much and I could not get up.  I was flat on my stomach with my left leg turned up in front of me, not in the way it was supposed to go.  I lay there for awhile, not knowing what to do.  I couldn’t do anything anyway.

 

I heard someone yell, “They got Sam again!”  Then I heard, “Where are you going?”  “To get Sam.”  Walker came up and two other guys, also.  They put me on a stretcher and started carrying me back toward the line.  I was still on my stomach.  I was awake okay.  I still had my M1 in my right hand and I fired two rounds from it at an enemy soldier that all of a sudden showed up, up the rise.  I missed.  The next thing I remember I was back behind some rocks with the platoon leader, a real young guy with blonde hair.  He looked about 15 years old and he kept sticking his head up over the rocks.  You learn in the Boy Scouts to look around the rocks.  The last thing I remember was the medic gave me a shot of morphine and everything turned black and white, but I do remember telling the lieutenant to keep his head down.  That’s all I remember.

 

I woke up on a stretcher on the back of a Jeep and went right out again.  The next thing I remember I was in a MASH hospital and a beautiful nurse with blonde hair and a peaked hat was holding a rubber hose in her hand.  I asked her what she was going to do with the hose.  She said, “Put it down your nose and throat.”   I said, “No, you don’t!”  The next thing I knew it was down and I didn’t feel anything.

 

The doctor came in to see me about a half hour later.  He said, “Son, I think I have to take your leg.”  I said, “Okay, sir.”  I didn’t seem upset.  When I think about it now, he reminds me of Trapper John in MASH.

 

The next thing was Kimpo Air Base at Seoul, being loaded into a C46 cargo plane with a lot of other guys.  I remember thinking that I’d slept in one of these cots flying over here.  I thought I was going to the states, but they flew me to Tokyo General Hospital.  I was there a couple of weeks.  I had no appetite, other than milk and water.  I couldn’t eat food at all.  One night I was sleeping and a Japanese nurse woke me up to take my temperature.  I was usually a good patient, but that night I hadn’t had much sleep, and when she woke me up I woke up mad and when she stuck the thermometer in my mouth I bit it in half and upset her.  She ran out and got a doctor.  He came in and gave me hell for that.  Later he came in and said, “I understand why you did it, so try not to do it again.”  A priest came in to see me one day and asked me if he could do anything for me.  I thanked him and said I wasn’t Catholic.  He said, “Oh, I saw the St. Christopher medal you’re wearing and I thought you were.”  I told him a friend of mine gave me it to wear when he found out I was going to Korea, and I had told him I would give it back to him when I come home.  I did.  But I said, “There is something you could do.  I have a friend who works on the docks in Tokyo or Yokohoma.”  I couldn’t remember which.  He said he would find him.  The next day the fella came to see me.  I think he brought a bottle of booze and we got a little drunk.

 

The doc told me that I had to start eating for a week before they would send me home.  I said that I would try, but I wasn’t hungry.  Well, I didn’t eat much, but they loaded me on a plane anyway.

 

I was headed for Midway Island.  We were about 50 miles out and I was looking out the window when the window turned black and I couldn’t see anything.  They shut the engine off and we flew on one engine.  An oil line broke and we had oil all over the side of the plane.  As soon as we landed the mechanics were all over the plane.  They had it fixed in no time.  One fellow asked me if he could get me anything to drink.  I said that I was thirsty for orange pop, so he went out and came back with a quart bottle, nice and cold.  It was great!  We left there and flew to Hawaii, Oahu.  All I could see was tops of palm trees when they carried me into Tripler General Hospital.  I stayed there three days and drank lots of orange juice.

 

They talked about cutting more off my leg and I told them in no uncertain terms to forget that.

 

I left there and flew to California.  I can’t remember where we landed.  I remember staying a week or so.  They had me call my folks and tell them what happened to me.  That wasn’t too easy.

 

Two nurses washed my hair.  Again, it took them forever.  I couldn’t believe the dirt that came out.

 

From there I flew to Texas, an air force base with a hospital.  I can’t remember the name.  I stayed three or four days.  By this time I didn’t care where they sent me.  I went to Washington, D.C., to Walter Reed Army Hospital.

 

And the rest is history! My dad lived to be 67 years old and died in March of 1997. He was a draftsman and worked for Xerox for many years. My dad had his demons, but always loved his family and we miss him and thank him for his service and sacrifice to our country.

 

Jim Salmon

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