When I was on the line in Korea with the 17th Infantry in 1951-52, I saw courage exhibited every day. The second night I was on the line we were under heavy Chinese fire and then our own artillery fired on us three times.
In fact I was by the artillery observer and he was firing on himself!
I am sure what happened that November evening since I had been trained in the Artillery School in Fort Sill, Oklahoma before I ended up in the infantry. The 155 mm Howitzers were set at the wrong elevation and were clipping the top of our mountain where we happened to be. A higher elevation and range correction would have put us in the clear.
Anyway, it was amazing to see how the medics went in to action despite the fact we were being fired upon. My radio man (I was a mortar forward observer at the time) was very brave too and got blown clean off the trail and somehow was not injured.
Over time, I saw many brave men in Korea.
One Brave Man
I had just finished a fire mission where we were shooting at Chinese soldiers who were trying to put in new fortifications, when a group of us stood around shooting the bull. One man in Baker Company to whom I was assigned said that he had orders to go home but was staying because his half-brother was in the company and would not be leaving for a couple of weeks. He wanted to leave with his half-brother.
Now infantrymen are a superstitious lot who do not think it is wise to invite bad luck. We insisted that he go home right then and there.
He said that if he were going to be killed, it would have happened by now. We told him to take that back. He should not say that.
To make the story short, he was killed that afternoon.
Nobody is safe on the line. Enemy fire came in on us each and every day. The Stars and Stripes said that we were getting 1300 artillery rounds (plus mortar fire) every day. I don’t know who was counting but the article said it was the highest concentration during the Korean War.
I thing a of that brave brother.
A Sad Story
When I was on my way home, a highly decorated soldier form our outfit was criticized for having so many ribbons. One ass said he couldn’t be so highly decorated. The soldier took off his ribbons and threw them in the ocean. That started a war with the rest of us who knew the decorations were earned. Why we didn’t throw that SOB critic overboard, I’ll never know.
I still wish we had.
Bravery is not always rewarded or even recognized.
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