Monday, November 19, 2007

Forgotten War - Part 2

Uncle Don and grandpa were long-time friends. Don had moved to Tecumseh, Oklahoma in 1946. Pepaw's buddy, Cotton was born in Tecumseh. In a small town like that, you knew everyone my grandparents say. Uncle Don's parents had to sign for him to go because he wasn't old enough to enlist at the time.

According to his discharge papers, my grandpa, Private Jerry D. Reeves, received the Army Occupation Medal, UN Service Medal, Korean Service Medal with 1 Bronze Campaign Star and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

He enlisted in September of 1950 and was discharged in June of 1953. He worked for a local grocery store before going into the service and he and his older brother, Leroy had a paper route. Pepaw started his paper route when he was 9 years old and continued it until he was 17 when he went to work in the grocery store.

In Korea, he worked in the Motor Pool and while he was assigned to Company D, he also worked for the Headquarters Company. Uncle Don stayed in Company D. Grandpa's first assignment in Korea was as a radioman for a forward observer. One of the vehicles he drove was a captured Russian truck with no brakes that he used to haul food, mail and other supplies to the frontlines.

All of their equipment and clothing was WWII issue and that included their food which were C-Rations. The eggs they got at Camp Chitose had been frozen in 1945 and stored at Zero Mountain, Arkansas which is just down the road from Springdale, Arkansas where they lived when I was a boy. They received their cold weather clothing after they had been in Korea for several weeks. Until then they wore the WWII long overcoats.

General MacArthur had recently been replaced by General Ridgeway when grandpa left for Korea.

He traveled by ship from Japan to Korea in early December. Once they arrived they were loaded onto 'antique' Korean trains that had wooden seats with no padding. They were taken to a staging area just south of the 38th parallel, the line that separates North and South Korea. Their only gear was World War II issue ammunition.

From the staging area they moved closer to the 38th parallel. The ground was frozen and covered with snow and ice. They lived in dugout, sandbag hooches which held from two to six men. They made roofs out of whatever they could find. For heat, they stole fuel oil from the motor pool and burned it in ammo containers as there were no trees or wood available. Pepaw's first bed was an old stretcher and items were confiscated back and forth constantly.

For the first two months there were no showers. They heated water in their steel helmets and took 'whore's baths'. The soldiers had to dry shave and many of them grew beards. They eventually built a shower with hot water and they received their first clothing issue. Grandpa and the others went and showered, deloused, and were issued new clothes.

The North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded South Korea on June 29th, 1950. Seoul fell into enemy control. By the time my Grandpa got there, United Nations Forces (US 8th Army) was almost to the Yula River and the Chinese had entered the war to aid North Korea. Between January and April of 1951, the Chinese drove U.N. Forces south, back across the 38th parallel in three separate campaigns and recaptured Seoul. In May of 1951, U.N. Forces again regained control of Seoul.

Grandpa was there during that time - June 1951 to June 1952. The U.N. and Communist Forces fought bloody battles for control of the mountainous terrain around the 38th Parallel.

On the home front, my grandmother worked at the weekly newspaper, The Tecumseh Standard, worked second shift at Sylvania in Shawnee and took a refresher class in book keeping. She did what she had to do until he returned.