As you have moved through life you had people tell you that you should never volunteer and that was certainly true if you had served in the Armed Forces. The other day I thought about those words, words that I didn’t adhere too. My life in the military had been most unusual. Soldiers could put in a three-year hitch or maybe retire from the service without anything, unusual happening to them. The exception to that was being in during wartime. You could be a tanker or an infantryman for many years, but the routine seemed to be the same. The only thing that changed was the name of the camp, station, or fort.
I graduated from high school in 1942 and the country was at war. However, boys my age weren’t being drafted at that time. Most of the boys my age wanted to get into the service, so they were enlisting in the armed forces. It took a lot of convincing, but I received my parent’s permission to enlist. Surprise, I was accepted, flat feet and all.
We crossed the Atlantic Ocean in October 1944 in a large convoy of ships. The Navy gun crew asked for help in crewing their anti-aircraft and surface guns. I volunteered and was assigned as the hot shell man to a 4 inch 50 surface gun that must have seen service in World War I. In the Mediterranean Sea, just after Gibraltar, we were warned that there were German submarines in the area. Shortly after the warning we were attacked and manned our gun. The submarines were able to sink two of our ships and we never did see them. During that action the troops were confined to the hold, so by volunteering I was on deck and had a chance that they wouldn’t have had if our ship had been torpedoed.Our crew was assigned to the 745th bombardment squadron of the 456th bombardment group. Our pilot had to fly as a copilot before he could take us into combat (he was MIA). In the meantime I volunteered to fly a mission with another crew.
I gave my government wristwatch to one of our soldiers on Vis Island when we had an emergency landing there after a bombing mission to Vienna in December 1944. I thought I could get another watch from our supply room. No, bombardiers were no longer authorized wristwatches, but navigators were. I volunteered to fly a mission as a navigator and then I was able to replace my wristwatch.
The war ended in Europe and I was sent back to the states. My intention was to volunteer for bombing missions against Japan. That never happened because Japan surrendered. I left the service.
I enlisted in the Army in 1950 and in the same year I found myself in North Korea. The Chinese entered the Korean Conflict and so did a Manchurian winter. I was assigned to duty with the US Marines (someone volunteered me). The Marines would leave North Korea, but I would be there until the US Army left on Christmas Eve 1950.
In July 1951, I was in transient from Japan to my unit in Korea. I landed in Taegu and would be there for the night before I could get a flight north to my unit. I contacted a US Air Force pilot, who was going on a photo recon mission that evening, and told him that I had flown in Europe during World War II and would like to go along with him. He OK’d my request and sometime after midnight we flew over the North Korean capital and on to the Yalu River.
I left Korea in early 1952 and settled down to garrison duty at Camp A P Hill, VA. The Camp had a surplus of non-commissioned officers, so my chance for advancement in rank was at zero. In 1954, I found out that the Army had assigned some troops to Viet Nam, so I went to the Pentagon to volunteer. They wanted to know how I knew we had troops there, because it wasn’t known to the public. I was told to go back to camp and put in a request in writing.
In the meantime I was assigned to escort some general officers. One of them learned about my Viet Nam request and the reason for it, so he asked me to go to Berlin where he was being sent as the Berlin Commander. I accepted (volunteered) and went to Berlin, Germany.
After some months there the general called me in and said he was taking command of the 11th Airborne in Augsburg, Germany. He asked me if I wanted to stay in Berlin or go to the 11th Airborne. I told him that I would transfer to the 11th. Next, he asked me if I was going to parachute and I said I would. Maybe he wouldn’t have taken me along if I had said no, so you can say I volunteered again. The day I received my parachute wings, he pinned them on me.
I returned to the states in 1958. In time I got into a position where there was no chance for a promotion, so I volunteered for Korea in 1961. I wound up north of the 38th parallel as the military police detachment commander for I Corps artillery.
In 1968 I retired from the US Army as a military police first sergeant. The pension was too small to live on, so I went looking for a job. I was interviewed for work, at a company, that made commercial explosives. They told me I was too qualified for the jobs they had open at that time, but they would contact me later. They only had laborer jobs open at that time. I convinced them to give me one of those jobs and they did. Fourteen years later they had to cut back their work force, because of business losses, so I lost my job. By that time I had been working for them for years as an industrial engineer. I had moved from laborer to the engineering department in one month.
Looking back at this time I am happy that I volunteered when I did, because it kept my life interesting and in my old age it gives me something to be proud of and to write about. I hope you will reconsider whenever you have that chance to break the old rule about "not volunteering" and "volunteer".
I served in WWII as an officer in the Army of the United States, not the United States Army, which would have designated a regular army officer. The Army Air Corps had a lot of regular army enlisted men (EM), but I don't think there was any unit composed of all volunteer EM.
I started a new career in 1950 prior to the Korean Conflict. I couldn't have joined at that time if I had been married. You see, the military had been ordered to cut back and one of the best ways was to do away with dependents. That eliminated transportation, housing, medical, and other associated cost. If you remember, it was called a police force and the combat arms were cut. Officers were moved out or back to their permanent rank. I knew a major who was moved back to corporal and a captain who was fortunate to have the rank of master sergeant. In 1955, I was on duty as a sergeant first class, with a regular army warrant of corporal and a reserve rank of captain. That confused my German friends. Once an officer, always an officer they said. It seems as if we try to do everything we can to put a dent in service peoples' morale.
I joined the 88th MP Company (Corps) at Seattle in 1950. It was the first and the last, I believe, which had all regular army enlisted men. They didn't have any complaints when they were headed to Korea. I didn't say they liked it, but they had volunteered by being regular army. Years later I would be at a west coast replacement depot for shipment to Korea and Viet Nam. A colored master sergeant was crying the blues about his Viet Nam assignment, saying he hadn't volunteered. I told him he had, and his reply was, "What do you mean?" I asked him if he had enlisted in the army and when he gave a positive reply, I said, "You volunteered by choosing your profession."
After I had joined again in 1950, I was told that you weren't a professional soldier until you had five years service. I never did find out who or what set that standard, but after the fact it seemed to have rhyme and reason. The five years was one three year enlistment and 2/3 of the second enlistment. If you hadn't learned something during the first one, you probably weren't allowed to enlist for the second one. See, you were on your way. You learned to speak when spoken to, with the proper greeting. You probably had gained self-confidence, initiative, and knew what hard, dirty work was. You found out that it never rained or that rain was not an excuse for not carrying on the outdoor duties. You learned to call that lame-brained noncom or officer a S_n of a B_tch, under your breath without changing your fixed expression, but still saying "Yes sir". I met a lot of those noncoms and officers early on. I had seen military police supervisors who hid the 190-45 manual that showed how the various forms were to be filled out. Not only did they hide it, but they didn't follow it. Was it a reading problem? I learned, and when I became a MP supervisor, the manual was in a binder for all to see and use.
During the Korean Conflict, I had requested a call to active duty as a 1st Lt. I found out later that the paperwork had gotten to Seattle and there it stayed. Well, we received one of the lieutenants who was called to active duty. He was a nice guy and when I realized he didn't know how to read map coordinates, I did it in such a manner that he thought he knew all along. Same war, different officer, a captain, who found out that I had constructed a reading light by using expended signal corps batteries. I used it to write letters at night because candles were not always available. He made me throw it away.
Or there was the Colonel, back in Virginia, who decided the service troops should bridge a swamp so tanks in training could use that particular route. The only problem was that all the felled tree trunks were in line with the tank tracks. A good solution; we felled more trees and laid them at right angles to the other ones.
Or the Colonel who assigned an officer and two noncoms per team to trace the streams through the camp to their point of exit. All he had to do was pick up one of the maps of the camp and it was all there. I kept my mouth shut and survived. There were other times when I couldn't and that resulted in not being promoted, and I gave up the Army Commendation two times, when it had been submitted and on the way for final approval. There were some principles that I wouldn't give up. I wound up with the Legion of Merit and two awards of the Army Commendation any way.
My last assignment was to Italy as the Provost Marshal's operations sergeant, Missile Support Command. My first day there a secretary said the other sergeant had gotten the PM his coffee every morning. My reply to her was that if he wanted his coffee she should get it for him or he would have to get it himself. You see, I had drawn my line in the sand a long time ago and that was the duty of an ass kisser and not a regular army sergeant.
If you had the chance, you could correct an officer before he got lost in the military manuals, which they inoculated him with in Officers Candidate School. Such was the case at Site "R" when my Lieutenant had to show his rank to my assistant. I told the sergeant that the Lieutenant was correct and he should go about his duties. Then and there the Lieutenant's education was furthered. I told him that I knew he out ranked me, but he should eliminate the chicken s__t. If he didn't my only defense was silence, and if I wasn't there to correct his mistakes, he was in deep trouble. It worked, but he wasn't a career officer and left the service when his time was up. That was about 1964 and to this day I still get a X-mas card and a family letter.
My assistant was a tall handsome devil, six foot two inches tall with a southern drawl. He was a coin collector, but his other hobby left him in trouble from time to time. Years before he had been shipped out of Ft McClellan, within one day, for having an affair with a Captain, who was in charge of one of the WAC companies. At Ritchie he had an affair with the young wife of a General Officer. They met discretely, far away from the Fort, but she couldn't keep her mouth shut. I left, so I can't tell you how that ended. I had an uncle, who was a sergeant, stationed at Fort Benning in the 20's and 30's. Years later he told me he had affairs with all the Battalions officers' wives, but one. He said that she was too homely. He had played on the all army basketball team and was one of the Army boxers at that time. Could that have been the attraction? Any such affairs of mine will remain a deep dark secret.
You did learn fast. I would not enlist for more than three years at a time. I figured if I was in a spot I didn't like, or under one of the type of officers or noncoms mentioned above, I only had to suffer for the time remaining in the hitch. This paid off in 1958, when I was with the 11th Airborne Division. There was trouble in Lebanon and the 11th was to send paratroopers and I was one of them, but whoa, my enlistment was running out and I was to return to the states. I was pulled off the mission.
GI's could improvise. I remember using a radio in Italy, during WWII, which had been made of a razor blade, coil of wire, and earphones, no batteries. I was listening to the Armed Forces Radio Station in Naples. During the first brutal winter 1950, in Korea, one of the soldiers heated a brick and used it as a hot water bottle to heat his sleeping bag. The only problem was that it was too hot and burned a hole in his sleeping bag. In the same conflict I had to string telephone wire through a mountain pass. Everyone else was committed. The wire was in the back of the Jeep ready for dispensing, so I put the jeep in its lowest gear ratio, started it forward, got out, secured the wires end to the side of the road. The Jeep moved forward leaving wire behind. I would push the wire to the side of the road, run forward to adjust the steering wheel, back to the wire and so on until the wire was laid. We used to use our steel helmet (pot) to heat water for shaving and bathing. I wonder what the modern army is using in place of it? The new one is made of ballistic nylon.
In my time I met a lot of people in the military. I did have quite a few contacts with General Officers and at one time the Assistant Secretary of Army, Hugh Milton. As I told you, in the paragraph above, my enlistment was over and I was headed home. General Harris, the division commander called me in an asked where I would like to be assigned and I said Camp AP Hill where I was last. I took the boat ride home and it was exciting due to the fact we hit the fringes of a hurricane, which had torn up the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, and on up the coast. At a time like that, with waves forty feet high, you know that all the good lord had to do is point and say, "You".
At Fort Hamilton, a WAC Major, called me in to give me the reenlistment talk, and I spared her the effort by telling her that I was going to reenlist. She asked me if there was any particular assignment I would prefer. I told her yes, and my assignment was probably on her desk. She looked at me in a funny way and dug through her paper work and came up with my assignment. She was dumb-founded and wanted to know how I had done it. My reply was, "It is not what you know, but who."
Back in Virginia I had gotten married. I had once again been bounced from a promotion slot by someone other than an MP. My time was getting close to an overseas assignment. Eisenhauer had stopped dependents from accompanying their spouses overseas to save money. I reasoned that would be OK for a while, but the policy would change in a year or so. I decided to go for a short tour (one year) to Korea. General Harris was now the I Corps Commanding General at Uijongbu, Korea. I dropped him a line and said I would like to join him. He wrote and told me he had a slot for me. I called a friend, at the Pentagon, and told him I wanted orders for Korea. He thought I had gone nuts and told me so. He offered me an assignment to Paris and I said, "Korea" and explained my reason. Orders came and I was on my way. I wrote the General that I was on my way, but hated the thoughts of going through the replacement depot there. We arrived at Inchon Harbor. This was where I departed from in 1952, on my way out of the Korean Conflict. We went to the shore in a landing craft. We arrived at shore and the front was opened, everyone was held on board. I was called forward, escorted into an office there, signed some papers, met two members from my new company and we headed to our company. Small world, while signing the papers, I met one of my MPs who had served with me years before.
The following day I was told to go to Corps Hq, G1 (personnel) that I was wanted there. Surprise, I was greeted by my Pentagon contact. He told me my talk with him made sense, so he got on orders for Korea, too. He got there before me because he had flown. My reasoning proved correct and dependents were allowed overseas about a year later.
I was assigned north of the 38th parallel with I Corps artillery. I was in charge of the law north of the 38th. I had twenty-five American MPs and twenty-five Korean MPs. The artillery officer, who signed the paperwork as Provost Marshal, had been one of my jump instructors, in Germany, in 1955.
Time went slowly, but I was busy with police related problems and college courses. I had made up my mind that I would obtain a 2 year level in that year. When I left I was within 4 credits, which I obtained at the next assignment. The General made a courtesy call, during an artillery inspection, saw my quarters, which were non-existent before my arrival. Said that he had been worried as to how I was doing, but had no worries any longer. I called the general's driver from to time and talked him into raiding the general's freezer. He did, and sent me a couple of pheasants, which provided a change in my menu. Later, I called the driver and told him to get the General's ear for me and remind him I had served him in Berlin, Augsburg, and now Korea without a promotion. My requests had been few and far over the years. At one time in Augsburg he had called me in to tell me he was sending me to the Division's Noncom school. I convinced him I should be going to the Criminal Investigators School, at Oberammergau. In a few weeks I was at my school of choice. Another time I had asked to see him. I had been successful in apprehending a barrack's thief. He was tried and the sentence was too severe due to the circumstances. The General wasn't pleased, but he did abide by my wishes. Grif must have done a bang up job, because I was switched into my old intelligence MOS, transferred to artillery Hq (no MP promotions available), but never stopped doing my old job and never moved. General Smith, artillery commander handed me my promotion. I didn't have to sew any stripes on, because they had shifted grades around several years before and my former rank had called for one less stripe. What a way to screw up morale. Several weeks later a directive came, from Army, allowing the transfer from an MOS carried for a short time to a primary held longer, so I was once again back in the MP Corps. This made up for some of the bad times before, where my treatment had been unjust. Had I been a minority I would have blamed that. I had learned to use the system to my advantage. The General went on to become the Continental Army Commander (four star) and is deceased as of this writing
Before closing several things come to mind that happened when I was a corporal. One at Ft Dix when I was in a replacement depot and master sergeants were put on KP assignments. I saw a soldier walking around with a hammer, screw driver, and saw. I asked him what his duties were and he replied, company carpenter. I told him that he was carrying too many tools to meet union regs. He looked at me in a funny manner, went to the orderly room and had me put down as his assistant. That was my job until I shipped. Another time was on board ship leaving the Korean Conflict, we were asked if any one knew how to use an automatic potato peeler. Now volunteering is a no no, but I saw one in the kitchen, so I said yes. I was told to pick an assistant, which I did. I had figured that one of the crew would show us how to turn it on and that is what happened. All we had to do was to keep the machine filled and it did the rest.
A civilian working for the army, at AP Hill Reservation, as it was known a long, long, time ago, told me of an instance where the colonel there hated a sergeant with a passion. Overnight mushrooms sprang up around the buildings. The colonel was a lover of mushroom, so he told the mess sergeant to have them picked to serve to the troops. The mess sgt told him that he didn't know good ones from poison ones. The colonel thought for a minute, told him to cook them and when Sgt Slade came in, give them to him to try. This was done and the mushrooms were OK, so the rest of the troops enjoyed them too.
Farfetched, maybe, but I was at the same place years later and had dated another colonel's secretary and then stopped going with her. My captain started dating her and suggested that I go overseas as he had a good assignment for me. I had only a few more months to go in my enlistment and at that time stripes were requested by name and my name had been submitted to 2nd Army Hq. I wouldn't take the overseas assignment, so when the stripes arrived he sent them back saying that I wasn't qualified. This from an officer, who had only two things to do; sign official papers and sign for his pay. I did everything else.
Time was a factor and he was transferred. I was taking the new captain on an orientation tour when he asked me where my other stripe was. I told him he sure got on board fast. He said he had heard all about it and I would get the next promotion. He applied for it and I eventually got my stripe. AP Hill is Fort AP Hill today named after the Confederate General Ambrose Powell Hill.
World War II in the air and Korea on the ground.
My WW II experiences were in a B-24 bomber as a bombardier with the 745th Bombardment Squadron, 456th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 304th Bombardment Wing, 15th Air Force, located in Italy. I flew 25 missions to targets in Germany, Italy, Austria, Yugoslavia, Poland and Czechoslovakia. One of the 25 as a navigator.
In the Korean Conflict (1950) I was a military policeman in the 88th Military Police Company (Corps), assigned to the X Corps. We started in North Korea and served later in South Korea, during the drive north again in 1951 and 1952.
Personal hygiene wasn't a real problem in WW II. We had a makeshift shower and wash stand in our tent. Water was supplied from a fighter plane drop tank, which had been elevated above the showerhead. Shaving was no problem and it had to be done to provide a seal for the oxygen mask we wore on our missions. The local people gladly did our laundry. The toilets were the of the outdoor, many holed variety and there were standpipes throughout the tent area for urinating. To do #2 on the missions was difficult because of the layers of clothing. However, if you had to go we used an empty ammo box and that was dropped on the enemy. There were relief tubes for urinating and they were easy to use.
In Korea personal hygiene was a problem during those twenty below days in 1950. After the Chinese entered Korea there was only time for brushing your teeth whenever the water wasn't frozen. Your entrenching tool made your hole in the ground, if you had the time. We didn't shave and were dirty. DDT powder kept the body insects under control. We finally had to get rid of our mustaches because of the ice buildup on them, which formed with each breath we exhaled. In the push north again we had the usual outdoor toilets if we were back at company headquarters. If you were forward you turned to your entrenching tool again. You washed and shaved by inverting your helmet, minus the liner, and that was your wash bowl. In time and in the summer months the quartermaster set up shower points. If you were near one you entered the tent, threw your fatigues aside, entered the assembly line for your shower. Upon exiting you picked up freshly laundered fatigues and hoped they fit. You never knew what stripes might appear on the jacket you picked up.
For a combat soldier (in the air or on the ground) there must be a goal to reach for. In WW II it was the number of missions or sorties. On the ground in Korea it was combat time and/or service in Korea. In WW II and Korea the first ones in combat didn't have a goal except to defeat the enemy. Many of those airmen and soldiers paid the price by buying time for us.
As a member of a bomber crew in WW II our action could come anytime we were in the bomber. FLAK was our major problem late in 1944, and as a result we skirted known FLAK areas on our way to the target. The time over the target, under fire, brought most of us to our knees and made believers out of everyone. In about 20 minutes over Vienna I had more fire power directed, at me, than all the time I was in Korea from 1950 to 1952.
On the ground in Korea you weren't sure when you were going to be fired upon. I survived sniper fire probably because the enemy soldier was too cold to made a precise calculated shot at a standing target. I didn't wait for him to rethink his error and I didn't look for him because there was just two of us Americans. We continued our road recon. It was duly reported later. I found out later, that it was an enemy unit in force and they later engaged a signal company that we had seen stringing wire through the pass.
Early on we suffered under our own artillery and naval gunfire day and night. I don't mean that they threw a lot of short rounds, but there was a Hell of a lot of air-bursts over us when timing devices failed. I know the sound of overhead artillery fire. In one instance our artillery on the beach fired 7,000 rounds over us and that didn't include the fire from the Battleship Missouri, the Cruiser Rochester, and a half dozen destroyers. There were no quiet moments when the X Corps withdrew from North Korea by way of Hungnam Harbor and the Sea of Japan. In the bomber the sound was that of FLAK impacting on the airplane. Not so on the ground. Every weapon from the smallest to the largest leaves its distinct sound and it is so registered by the individual mind.
Our food in World War II was edible, but not savory. The K ration cheese dinner was what I liked. We carried the cold canned food on our missions and survived on it. Back at the airbase a lot of the food was dehydrated, but it was a filler for our young stomachs. The food was served on schedule. Thanksgiving and Christmas we had our turkey dinner.
In Korea we carried our canned rations with us. When we took time to eat they were eaten cold or frozen more times than not. If we were at company headquarters the meals were served hot. Nothing fancy and everything came from a can. There were plenty of canned rations and I can only remember one time when I ran out of food. We missed our X-mas dinner in 1950, but I had a can of spaghetti to fill my empty stomach.
My longest combat mission in WW II was over eight hours and I guess the others lasted about five hours on average. The temperature ran from about minus 30 degrees to minus 60 on one occasion. We had heated suits, gloves, and boots plus our usual woolen uniform and heavy underwear. These items made the cold bearable, but we were not really comfortable. If we weren't shot down, or shot up too bad, we knew we would return to our heated tent and we would be sleeping on our own cot that night
In Korea, when the Chinese entered the conflict, they brought the Manchurian winter with them. We had only the clothing, which we would have worn in garrison back in the USA. An exception was the tanker's jacket, which protected our arms and chest. Our field coats had a pair of leggings inside, which could be used to cover our legs. The temperature dropped to minus 20 and stayed there. I just recently read that it dropped to minus thirty at night. We had tents for shelter then, but we were sleeping on the ground inside in summer sleeping bags. Someone found some civilian cotton comforters and those we put between the sleeping bag and the ground. The tents had tent heaters and I'm sure they deterred the cold, but the only time you could enjoy their heat was when you were thawing your hands over them. At first we were placed on duty in the elements for three hours. In that time your water canteen froze solid. As the Chinese pushed closer we were turned into reserve infantry and our duty day became 20 out of 24 hours.
It was a bad period, but those troops to the north fighting their way out had a real Hell. I was assigned to the 1st Marine Division at that time. At their CP, north of Hamhung I saw the lucky ones arrive after their breakthrough. One of the group of six or so Marines would step forward and report for that particular company and that would be what was left of their company. I saw it time and time again. At the Bn CP Marine officers lay on the ground exhausted, in a hut the size of the ordinary stateside kitchen. A fifty-five gallon drum made into a wood-burning stove provided a little heat. Sparks from the stove flew out through the opening and landed on their clothing. I stepped over them and between them to put out those sparks which had caught their clothing on fire. They were too exhausted to be concerned when I put out the sparks.
The winter was not friendly to the Chinese either. In one instance 1,000 Chinese soldiers were force-marched along a ridgeline to cut off the Marines as they moved toward Hamhung. The Chinese wore cotton uniforms, which were warm enough, but did not shed their body moisture. They reached their objective and prepared their ambush. Only a handful survived. The rest froze to death in their foxholes by the time the Marines reached that location.
Death in the air war was distant unless it visited your crew or the crew of a friend. Don't get me wrong, all deaths were duly noted, and missing crews were missed, but we were happy to be survivors and we put death aside in a recess in our mind. The bodies of the dead were usually left behind when a plane went down. We were ordered to stay away from the flight line whenever our planes were returning, so we would not see the dead or wounded. That was another order I didn't follow. I was caught on the scene by our colonel.
The wounded and dead to a ground soldier were part of the winning and losing game. It was not possible to turn your back on that fact. As the lines moved forward, they lay where they fell until retrieved. In the withdrawal from North Korea the dead had to be left behind. They were placed in sleeping bags and after a bulldozer opened a deep rectangular hole in the ground they were interred. I thought to myself, at that time, that at least they weren't being buried in mattress covers as they were in WW II, but that wasn't much of a consolation. After later battles, in South Korea, the dead GI's would leave the battlefield in the backs of army trucks piled three deep. At another location the dead were piled where they fell. I didn't know whether or not they were Chinese or Korean, but we did shoot the wild dogs eating them. They were buried after I reported their location.
The anxieties we carried with us on a mission were reduced after we returned to our airfield. We were far away from the enemy and his capabilities to strike our airfield had been diminished with time. We would head for the club for an evening of drinking and song. We weren't always quite sure what we would be drinking, but as long as it contained alcohol it filled the bill. We weren't restricted, but to go anywhere different was almost impossible due to the distance, time available, and lack of transportation.
In Korea I usually was used in support of the infantry. At times there was no tentage, so you placed your sleeping bag on the snow covered ground, took off your shoe-packs, covered them with your helmet to keep out the falling snow, got into the bag and tried to get some much needed sleep. Other times you had to dig in first to assist in the defense of a strong point. That could be very difficult with over twenty inches of frost to dig through. The enemy roamed freely behind the lines, so there was always apprehension. Once in a while some beer would get to you and you would savor it. I befriended several officers at different times and the one who ran an ambulance platoon sent me some medical alcohol on several occasions. Another officer would give me a quart of his whiskey when he got his ration. I shared it all with my buddies, so it didn't go too far.
Having been an officer in WW II it was a great adjustment for me to be a non-commissioned officer in Korea. Looking back I think I did very well. The fact that I had been an officer couldn't be hidden because my serial number started with an RO instead of RA as in the case of regular army enlisted soldiers. That made me the target for some higher-ranking noncoms who wanted to get even for past run-ins with officers. I had put in for a recall to active duty as a military police officer, but that got buried at Ft Lawton and never surfaced.
If I had a choice to fight another war, would I choose flying or ground duty? Well you have read my story this far. What would be your choice? Remember I can't guarantee that you won't wind up in a mattress cover or a sleeping bag. In the air you had over 2,000 gallons of hundred-octane gas, a bomb bay full of bombs, and you couldn't dig in. If you made it back to your base you could get some sleep in your own bed and you might not be facing the enemy for several days. On the ground you could dig in and enjoy the sun, rain, or snow, depending on the season. There was no time limit on your exposure to artillery or gunfire. If you were lucky the fire would be friendly. You had to be alert all the time, because the enemy roamed freely, taking advantage of any opportunity. Then there were land mines just waiting for you to make that misstep. There was no way to identify the enemy, without his uniform, because they all looked alike.
If I had my choice there would never be another war, so I wouldn't be placed in either position again. I know that is not possible, so I will rely on my old age to lead me down the path of peace in my golden years. On 1 July 1968, I retired from the US Army as a regular army first sergeant, MPC, and returned to civilian life.
NOTE: After I reached a total of 30 years, 21 years active service and 9 years of reserve service I was retired again, but this time as a First Lieutenant, my highest grade in World War II.
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