I had a new home and had taken my first step toward total independence with a decent job. I was a soldier on my way to see the world, to seek out what fate had in store for me. I was shipped off to Camp Chaffee, Arkansas for 8 weeks of Basic Training, which turned out to be a breeze. During my first month there, I was selected as Soldier of the Week. One was from Arkansas and the other from Mississippi.
They were darn sharp too! One day the Sergeant from Mississippi called me aside and wanted to know my age. Are you sure?
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Nothing else was ever mentioned of my age again, until I went to Korea. During my tour there, I faced fear several times. I recall being assigned guard duty for prisoners on work detail, and at the Stockade. The prisoners were much older than I, and because of this and how young I looked, I felt intimidated and afraid whenever I performed this duty.
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One night, one of the prisoners tried to escape and was fired upon by another guard. This frightened me because it could have easily been me firing that shot. I always felt real glad whenever my tour of guard duty was over. While stationed at Camp Carson, I received training in 4. And, little did I know my next stop would be a war in Korea, where my rites of passage for bravery would be tested while incarcerated as a Prisoner of War for 32 months and 20 days!
Before the war broke out in mid, few people in the Western World either knew, or cared to know, about Korea or its people. Under the impact of war, knowledge became essential. Old books on the subject were dusted and new ones were quickly rushed to the printers. Maps of Korea filled the newspapers and slowly some of the strange sounding names became familiar to the man on the street. The candle of indifference was replaced by the searchlight of interest as Korean geography and history took on new importance.
Korea shares a long, common frontier with Manchuria along the Yalu and Tumen Rivers and touches the Soviet Union on the mouth of the Tumen, see Figure 1 below. From the northernmost bend of the Tumen, Korea extends some miles to the southern tip of the peninsula with a width varying from slightly over miles at the waist to approximately miles at its broadest part.
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The dominant feature of the topography is the mountainous Taebaek chain covering northeastern Korea and running south along the eastern coast. The mountain slopes dip sharply down to the sea in the east, but are gentler in the west. Roads, railroads, and the communications network follow the valleys and mountain passes in the broken terrain. Korea is an agricultural country raising most of its dry crops in the north and the bulk of its rice in the south. The majority of its heavy industry and hydroelectric development is located in the north.
Average precipitation and mean temperatures are similar to those in the Middle Atlantic States of the United States, but the winters are much colder and over 80 percent of the rainfall is concentrated in the seven months between April and October.
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Floods are fairly frequent during this period. With such a long salt-water frontier, fishing villages dot the cost of Korea. Ironically, the best ports are on the southern and western coasts, where tidal variations are more extreme. There are few good harbors on the Sea of Japan, which has a tidal range of only about three feet. Located at the strategic crossroads of East Asia, Korea has had a long and checkered history. For many centuries the peninsula experienced a series of petty wars between rival powers seeking to establish hegemony.
Finally, during the seventh century, the kingdom of Silla managed with Chinese aid to gain control of most of Korea.
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The influence of Chinese civilization at this time brought about Korean acceptance of the Confucian system of social relationships and left a lasting imprint upon Korean ethics, morals, arts, and literature. Despite invasions from barbarian hordes during succeeding centuries, on the whole, Korea remained faithful to its father-son relationship with China. Then, more news followed… The North Koreans had invaded South Korea and overran the City of Seoul like a horde of locusts, and were pushing further south toward Pusan.
Korea was a country only a few of us young soldiers had heard of, much less discussed. So not really knowing what it all meant, we briefly talked about the situation and proclaimed our hope and belief that the United Nations action would settle the matter. There were rumors that the United States forces were to be deployed to deal with the aggression, before the United Nations could begin their deliberations. Soon there were speculations on which units would do what, causing Commanders to inventory equipment on hand and attempt to make up the shortages in manpower which, they learned, was not possible in the peacetime United States Far East Command.
Six days later, a battalion of the United States 24th Infantry Division was rushed to South Korea from Japan, and readily engaged the enemy on the outskirts of Seoul. The 7th Infantry Division was stripped of all but a few trained men to reinforce units going to the Pusan perimeter. More then half of the units were replacements just in from the States, and most of them came from the 3rd Army stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia.
The U. Equipment budgets were slashed. In its new role as a peacekeeping force, the Army of June was ill-equipped, under-strength, and poorly trained. Within weeks, United States forces in Japan were being reinforced with South Korean Army troops to make up for the shortage of manpower in our units.
When the Korean War started, my Company had about 60 men and half of our reinforcements were South Koreans. The South Koreans were hard to understand, so we needed an interpreter for everything, but they were good people. Then news came describing how the initial American reinforcements in Korea were being virtually annihilated, and more were needed. The 7th Infantry Division, with its three regimental combat teams and support units which my unit, "The Polar Bear Regimental Combat Team" was an integral part of , was soon to be on its way to the "United Nations Police Action.
Then came the long array of convoys, their equipment and ships all being of World War II vintage. The hours of loading and getting underway were long, dismal, tiring, and nearly unbearable for the young and inexperienced troops at hand. We were then briefed on what lay ahead although our superiors had no idea what we would eventually encounter, since American forces had never before met hard-core Communist elements in battle.
Shortly thereafter, my childhood memories rolled vividly before me; school years, the pledge of allegiance each morning before class, the study of American history and American patriots, and of the forward drive and greatness of our country's sovereignty. In September , the United Nations launched a powerful counter-offensive against the North Koreans.
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But on Sept. As the United Nations Forces were 'mopping up' the southern resistance, plans were being made for another landing.
This would be a back breaker landing in the North Korean heartland to isolate the North Korean units from logistical support and to force them to surrender. Within weeks, the North Koreans were pushed back across the 38th parallel.ykesahapyfuk.cf
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The heavy black arrows on the map show the routes I took prior to my capture. On or about October 5th , my unit, the 7th Infantry Division assembling near Suwon, commenced its motor-march southward to the huge, overcrowded with refugees and United Nations Army Units city of Pusan, South Korea. We used our own trucks and some from the 8th Army and the Marines. My first real enemy engagement came in the mountainous Suwon area.
After several heavy encounters, our leaders assumed the arrival of the second wave of United Nations Forces would convince the North Korean commanders to lick their wounds and high tail it back North. We had been in combat wearing the same clothes since landing in mid-September.
The Marines and 31st RCT boarded ships for our landing further north. General Almond decided to land the 7th Infantry Division as close as possible to its axis of advance inland toward North Korea's northern border. By October 16, the 7th Infantry Division with its equipment and men had been packed aboard ships for the trip north.
The fleet set sail, heading north through the chilling winter waters off the eastern coast of North Korea. Only this time, it was supposed to be comparatively easy, with the psychological effect of a mass UN Forces landing in North Korea, to finally complete the job. Two days after boarding the ships, we landed at Iwon, North Korea. The beach was rocky and the water much colder, but the overall terrain was much kinder than our previous landing. My unit, the 7th Infantry Division, headed north along the northern coast through Kilchu, to the Yalu River at Hyesanjin.
Roads were non-existent in this area. We spread out, mostly on foot, into the mountains, "holding" or "advancing" in the Division's center. However, we made a tragic mistake by spreading ourselves too thin over the northern most part of North Korea. The 3rd Battalion of the 31st encountered a few Communist Chinese Forces soldiers who fought desultory or not at all. This led our Commanding Officers and others to unwisely regard all Chinese with contempt.
We skirted some straggling Chinese soldiers, believing our rear echelon units would make short work of them. The ground troops assaulted from the south, and a parachute drop north of the city by the th Regimental Combat Team completed its envelopment. To all of us, the fall of P'Yongyang, the enemy's capital city, symbolized complete defeat of North Korea. Practically all organized resistance had come to an end. The North Koreans had ceased to exist as an effective fighting machine and the way seemed open to a speedy end to the hostilities.
As the bitter cold North Korean winter moved upon us, we were ordered not to cross into Manchuria, pending negotiations that would end the "Police Action.