After Joining the Army
My Introduction to the "Police Action" in Korea,
I enlisted in Kansas City on Aug 8th, 1951, and took basic training in Fort Riley, Kansas. I was training to be a rifleman in the Infantry. I enlisted in August, basic training lasted until after Christmas of 1951. We all knew we were headed for Korea after our training.
After Basic Training, I was given about a two week leave, with orders to report to a replacement depot in Pittsburg, California. Right after Christmas, and as my leave was up, my Dad drove me to the airport in Kansas City. There I boarded a plane (TWA, my first flight) for California. My Dad walked me to my plane to say goodbye, and this is the first time I had ever seen my Dad cry. After getting on the plane, I could see my Dad standing on the tarmac watching my plane taxi off, and this gosh-awful lonesome and scared feeling came over me. I realized this could be the last time I would ever see them again. I had not told my parents that I knew I was headed for Korea - only to a base in California, but I'm sure that they had it figured out.
A few days after arriving at the base in California, I was put on a ship with several thousand other soldiers. It was a rather glum trip to Yokohama, Japan, where we got off the ship. Within a day or so in a reassignment camp in Yokohama, I was asked to go to a small island off the main Japanese Islands called Eta Jima, to train as a tank mechanic. I was elated - I was no longer a "rifleman"!
I trained in Eta Jima for 2 months, then boarded an open decked Japanese ferry boat to go to Pusan, Korea. The Japanese people had a standard flooring material that was in common use. It was grass mats, approximately 3 feet wide and 6 feet long. The ferry boat decking was made of these mats. There were a few hundred troops on this ferry, I never did know how many, as we could not move around much, it was so crowded. So, they assigned two troops to each mat! Now, we each had a duffel bag, a full field back pack, a steel helmet, and an M1 rifle. That mat was crowded! We had to take turns sleeping, as both of us could not lay down at the same time - no room with all that equipment. To go to the "bathroom" we had to wade thru and over other troops the best way we could.
The trip to Pusan lasted two or three days, I don't remember. It was in February, and quite cold. We were on an open deck on that boat, and arrived in Pusan half frozen. When we got off the ferry boat, we were greeted by a Red Cross crew who had hot coffee. They were charging us 10 cents a cup. I declined. I have not participated in any Red Cross functions since that day.
Later that day, we were loaded on a narrow gauge train (with no heat) and we traveled North for two days, arriving at another reassignment camp near a town called Chin Chon. I had my first culture shock there. Early the next morning I was standing near a barbed wire fence (whether to keep us in, or the Koreans out, I never found out). On the other side of the fence was a foot path, with a huge mud hole. I watched as a Korean man came down the path, followed three paces behind by his wife. Upon reaching the mud hole, the man stopped, the woman got in front, he climbed on her back, and she carried him thru the mud hole. At the other side, she stopped, he got off her back, started down the path with her three paces behind. No words were spoken. I wondered what would happen if some man would try this trick back in the States!
From this reassignment camp I was put on a truck and rode about 50 miles north, on dirt roads, over mountains, toward the enemy. I was assigned to the 89th Tank Battalion, "C" Company, which itself was assigned to a Turkish Infantry Brigade. We arrived in a valley called Mung Dung Nee where my tank company was. We were located about two or three miles from a hill occupied by Chinese troops, but we were assured that the Chinese on that hill had no weapons capable of reaching us. (Yea, right!) So, I felt pretty safe.
I knew then that I had truly arrived at the Korean "Police Action".