I was a member of Dog Company, 7th Marines, First Marine Division from December 6, 1950 to September 1951 as a Rifleman then Fire Team leader and Squad leader. Then I was in S2 (intelligence) attached to Easy Company and Dog Company for six weeks. Following that I was transferred to 4.2 Mortar Company until my departure from Korea on December 3, 1951. I am writing my experiences as I remember them.
OPERATION KILLER, 15 February 1951:
The Division was on its way to the Chungju Hoengsong vicinity, about 200 miles by rail and than by truck as part of the 10th Corps, than was placed under Operation Control of General Moore of the IX Corps. Chinese Forces had taken Hoengsong and were now in the outskirts of Wonju, a rather large City. While at Taegu, we were waiting for transport to move us to Wonju to be integrated with other units of the IX Corps, the 24th Infantry, the First Calvary, the 6th ROC (Republic of Korea) Division and the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade.
While waiting for our Transport, we sat on our packs and watched a French Army Unit arrive by truck. They stopped and took a break across the road from us. A small Korean boy was walking past them and a French truck driver took a hat the boy was wearing from him. It had a Marine emblem printed on the front. Marine utility hats with the emblem was in demand by UN Troops. The kid tried to get his hat back, but the truck driver kept shoving him to the ground. We watched this happen a few times, then two of us walked over and took the hat away from the truck driver and gave it back to the boy. The French soldiers started milling round us and our fellow Marines stated walking toward us. The French soldiers got back in their trucks, the Marines went back and sat on their packs. The boy got his hat back and was very happy and we felt good about ourselves.
24 February 1951, General Moore, Commanding Officer of the IX Corps was killed in a Helicopter crash. General Matthew Ridgway named General Oliver Smith as his successor pending a permanent appointment. Only twice before in Marines Corps history had a Marine General commanded major army units. We were proud of General Smith and felt he was deserving of the Command.
3rd March 1951, the 7th Marines held the high ground south of Hoengsong. We could see our objective in the distance, hills 536 and 222. We took our objectives and started to dig in for the night. The ground was frozen solid and with our light entrenching tools we would be lucky to dig a piece of dirt the size of a golf ball. The First Platoon was digging in under some pine trees. They looked like evergreen tents with deep pine needles on the ground. We were upset that we were not that lucky. We were on the North Slope with no cover and the wind was fierce. Before we could even get a flat spot of ground dug out, Chinese artillery started dropping on top of us. Heavy stuff and lots of it! We hugged the ground and the shells would scream in and detonate in the frozen earth, the rock hard ground would slam into our bodies and knock the wind out of us. We hugged the ground with our elbows and hands between our bodies and the ground to cushion the shock. It was very terrifying.
The artillery barrage lasted about two hours, I am told, to me, it seemed like forever. The lush pine tree cover the First Platoon dug under was reduced to broken and splintered poles stripped of branches. Hanging in the broken trees one could see sleeping bags and parkas. The First Platoon had 44 men before the artillery fire now reduced to 14 Marines. I made a lot of promises to the Man upstairs during the barrage. If I had just kept one of them I would now be living in a Monastery.
We found out later, the Chinese got the artillery from the Army 15th Field Artillery and the 503rd Artillery Battalions at Hoensong. This, to us was very troubling. If the artillery was going to be captured, it should have been destroyed. This Army artillery was used to kill Marines and Soldiers a short time later.
The following information is quoted from chapter XIV THE BATTLE for HOENGSONG U.S. Army Records.
"General Ridgway initially considered this high equipment losses evidence of weak leadership. General Almond was equally disturbed by the heavy loss of equipment, especially the loss of fourteen howitzers by the 15th Field Artillery Battalion and five by the 503rd, and by what he considered excessive personnel casualties among all 2nd. Division units. General Ridgway said, the loss or abandonment to enemy of arms and equipment in usable condition is a grave offense against every member of this command. I shall hereafter deal severely with commanders found responsible and shall expect you to do likewise."
Dog 7 went into a rest area for a few days to receive replacements and rest. We dug in next to a food and ammo supply dump that had armed guards patrolling the supplies. We spotted some boxes of ground beef across the road, two of us got between the guards and "confiscated" a 60lb. box of frozen ground beef. There was three 20lb. packs of ground beef in a box. That would be 20lbs. for each fire team in our squad, perfect! We started to eat hamburger patties the next day with C ration crackers. It was great! The best food we had in a long time.
March 6th 1951, we went on line and started attacking enemy objectives. Our objectives were not defended. We got a free ride. We are now just little south and west of Hoengsong. This is to be our objective the next day. We gathered pinecones to start a small and near smokeless fire to cook hamburgers. The weather was nice, just a few degrees below freezing and no wind.
March 7th 1951, light snow during the night and early morning. The snow came straight down and there was no wind. With the pine trees covered with snow, it was very picturesque. We had a sack of mail to drop off to Easy Company when we passed through their positions on our way to Hoengsong, which was in the valley below us. When we got to Easy Company they were in a firefight with a heavily defended enemy position. It was a hill between the two mountain ranges blocking the approach to Hoengsong. We watched the fire fight from a short distance and we could see black figures falling in the snow, those figures would be Marines.
Four Navy A1 Sky Raiders showed up and napalmed the enemy held hill. All resistance stopped after the air attack. We proceeded up the hill with the mail. We walked by some Marine causalities covered with ponchos, if I remember correctly, I counted six bodies. The Navy A1's took all of five minutes to destroy the enemy positions, this cost just a few gallons of gasoline. To survive in combat is a matter of luck and timing for instance the position that our platoon assaulted the day before was not defended. If the air assault had arrived sooner there would have been less or no Marine causalities.
As we climbed the hill we walked through the trenches that the napalm hit, it was out of Dante's Inferno, the Chinese defenders were turned into instant charcoal statues. They were killed instantly while aiming rifles toward the attacking Marines. They were looking down the barrels of what used to be rifles, the napalm had consumed the wood in the stock. The Chinese in the trenches were black statues. The Chinese that were away from the trench were burned black and red with their skin rolled up. What horrible weapon napalm is.
After we dropped off the mail we started down the valley, my fire team was in the point. We were walking toward Route 29, an elevated road that goes through Hoengsong. In the distance we could see vehicles and artillery lying in different positions along the roadside. As we got closer we also saw tanks in the ditch. As we got next to the trucks we started seeing bodies stripped to their underwear, lots of bodies, we were in shock. We kept saying to each other, how could this happen? Tom Cassis, machine gun section leader in our platoon said he saw 50 bodies laying in a group in their underwear. The Chinese and North Koreans had stripped the bodies of their cold weather clothing. The soldiers that surrendered were executed for the cold weather gear.
In this cold weather, the battlefield had been preserved and frozen in time. This action took place approximately twenty-five days before we arrived. The stripped bodies were laid out on the road like railroad ties in near perfect rows. It looked like a mile of bodies. Most may have been killed in combat but it looked like many were executed.
The roadway looked like corduroy with the bodies covered with light snow. Some tanks came up the road and stopped where we were standing at the head of the bodies. We were milling around in shock at the massacre. The lead tank without warning started moving and ran over several bodies before we could stop it. The bright red flesh between the tank treads looked just like the ground beef we stole from the supply dump. We threw the hamburger away. Our appetite for the hamburger was gone!
We found out later that the American Support Force 21, which consisted of artillery and infantry with tank support, was attached to the 8th ROK Division, a command structure that required the total dependence on the ROK's for command and control. The normal command, the 2nd US Infantry, had no position in the chain of command. The force 21 was commingled with the ROK's in charge. This commingling of US and ROK forces was an experiment from MacArthur's office and enforced by General Almond. This order was suicide for the Americans, the ROK's are completely unreliable as they have a record of bugging out without warning. The Marines always have a communication team imbedded with the ROK's when they are on our flanks, Force 21 did not have a team embedded with the ROK's.
The ROK's 8th division, whose assignment was to protect the Americans bugged out without telling the Americans. At first General Almond said during the investigation that it was lack of leadership from the American command. Later the investigation put the blame on the commingling of ROK and US Forces and the finger pointed toward Almond. They reversed the results of the investigation and put the blame on General Choi Yong Hee, Commander of the 8th ROK Division. The Chinese forces crushed the 8th ROK Division, then ran along both sides of elevated Route 29 and set up roadblocks and trapped UN forces. The Dutch had a 100 man unit as part of Support Force 21 and had 99 killed and one wounded and found later. In all of Dutch military history, this is the first time ever that a unit suffered 100% casualties with 99% killed.
The military authorities tried to hide the extent of the casualties, the figures are jumbled. Checking on army records Chapter XIV, The Battle of Hoengsong, between midnight Feb. 11, 1951 and daylight on the 13th the total killed, American and Dutch shows to be 2,018. We also lost fourteen 105mm howitzers, six 155mm howitzers, 277 crew served weapons, 6 tanks, 280 vehicles. The ROK's lost six 105mm howitzers and 901 crew served weapons. ROK casualties, 9,844 killed between the 3rd, 5th, and 8th ROK Divisions.
On December 16, 1944 during WWII near Malmedy, a Belgian town in the Ardennes, during the Battle of the Bulge, 81 American soldiers were murdered by German SS troops. This atrocity was in every newspaper and on every radio station in the country. This was the worse single atrocity committed against American troops in Europe during WWII and the world knew about this massacre. Six years and two months later in Korea, February 12 and 13, 1951 over fifteen hundred American soldiers and 99 Dutch soldiers were killed in combat or executed and this was kept a secret all these years.
The Korean massacre at Hoensong was also done by enemy action, but was set up by a military failure from the American high command, Generals MacArthur and Almond, 10th Corps Commander. This was an untried experiment putting American forces under the command of incompetent and unreliable South Korean Army leadership, and it was doomed to failure thereby sacrificing the lives of thousands of American troops on the alter of stupidity.
At first the investigation blamed the American troop leaders for failure in leadership. During the course of investigation this massacre it was determined the commingling of commands under the orders of MacArthur and staff was the main reason for this fiasco. The blame points toward them so they hid this atrocity from the public. Those two Generals were responsible in part for us not winning this brutal infantry war and now North Korea has the Atomic Bomb.
During the spring and early summer of the 1951 offensive we fought Chinese soldiers wearing US Army jackets with the 2nd Division patch. We would reach in the pockets of the dead Chinese soldiers wearing Army jackets and take out letters and pictures from the folks at home talking about all the plans that were in store when they return home. It would bring tears to your eyes reading the letters and looking at the pictures, it was heart wrenching.
We wanted so much to write the friends and families of these US soldiers and say, we killed the sob's, that killed your dad, son, husband, brother or friend. We were told, do not write the folks at home, this would just create problems. We were told to turn the letters into Company officers and they would forward them to Graves Registration, which to my knowledge was done by all of us.
11 March 1951, Dog 7 has three rifle platoons, now used as three individual combat units, each looking for unfriendly forces, wherever they may be found. About midnight 1st platoon, being attacked by enemy forces, radioed Dog 3rd platoon for assistance. While going to help the 1st platoon, the 3rd Platoon was attacked by Chinese grenadiers. This is a unit of the Chinese Army who's purpose is to throw grenades only, followed by the infantry with automatic weapons trying to punch holes in the opposing forces to get behind them and destroy them.
Sergeant Jack Larson was the Squad Leader of the squad that was hit by the grenadiers. The Chinese could not have picked a worse advisory. Sergeant Larson was calm, cool and effective, Sergeant Larson was seriously wounded by grenades, but in spite of his wounds, Sergeant Larson kept arranging his squad in various defensive positions that stopped the superior enemy forces. For saving his platoon, Sergeant Larson was awarded the Navy Cross.
14 March 1951, on this day, North of Hoensong, we were on a platoon combat patrol looking for unfriendly forces. It was approaching darkness and we thought we would be digging in a defensive position for the night. We got near to the top of the mountain where all the ridges run together, a large flat area. Up from this flat area was a long trench line. It covered all the ridges. We stared at the trenches for a bit when we saw a brown wave of Chinese troops running down the hill toward the trenches. We dropped our packs and also started to run toward the same trench, it was a race for survival.
We did not want to be caught in the open with the Chinese in the trenches shooting at us and the Chinese were laying back expecting artillery fire and air attacks, then the infantry assault. We did not have any artillery or air support. When the Chinese figured this out, they came out of hiding to get to the trench. They beat us to the elevated trench line but not by much. They had a problem deflecting their rifles down on us as we were too close to them. Talking about this later, some Marines said they pulled rifles out of Chinese hands. Several of us got to the end of the trench line and jumped in undetected and shot into the Chinese.
They started to fall over like dominoes. They were trapped and could only run back from us as the high and wide trench held them captive. It was such an adrenaline rush that it,s hard to remember all that took place in those few minutes, things were a blur. It was fortunate that we did not shoot one another. I remember cut outs in the trench line where troops could seek shelter from air attacks. They started diving into the cut outs, like diving into a pool. I remember saying to myself, I wonder where they think they are going? It was kind of funny, the Chinese soldiers kept falling over in front of us, we kept running over them like sacks of potatoes. It seemed like when we shot into them two or more would fall over. We got to the end of the trench very quickly. Looking down the trench we could see Chinese soldiers in their brown quilted cold weather uniforms covering the bottom of the trench. It was now getting dark and we started to dig in for the night. This run through the trench line was such an adrenaline rush I could not sleep when it was my turn to do so. We could not wait for daylight to check our work.
At daybreak we walked over to the trench and to our great surprise we could see the bottom of the trench! There were bodies, but not as many as we thought. Our platoon leader Lt. Richard Humphreys, a efficient and gung ho officer walked by us upset and agitated and said: "Do you want to know where they are? I will tell you. At daybreak they were at the bottom of the hill walking around the Colonel's tent with their hands up trying to surrender" We could visualize this.. it was hilarious, we started to laugh..
He said, it is not funny, he could get
courtmartialed for this, the Chinese could have wiped out our command post. We did our best to stop laughing, but he just got more upset and said to us, "you have bayonets, start using them". He said "I want all bodies stuck with bayonets, do you hear me?". When he left, the Marine I was with said he must be kidding, he was not going to stick any gooks with his bayonet because he used his bayonet to open his jelly can. I agreed, our platoon leader had been watching to many John Wayne movies.
Taking this trench line we had two killed and six wounded which is not many, however any lose of life is tragic. When you think of the many Chinese troops we engaged this is not considered excessive. We did good work that day, but we did not get any atta boys. Instead we got chastised because many of Chinese we thought were dead played possum and during the night went down the hill and at daybreak they were walking around the Colonel's tent trying to surrender. The Colonel was not happy and he did some butt chewing and this was passed on to us.
17 March 1951 going in Division Reserve. This is good; we get to be in camp with the General. We had not been in Division Reserve before. Mostly we have been in Battalion Reserve, which has few creature comforts. Sometime we just go back to where the artillery is. We listen to outgoing artillery all night long but it is going in the right direction.
We were in the rest area and dug in next to the Army 92 armored artillery battalion who called themselves THE RED DEVILS who were giving us artillery support. We were next to a creek when several flatbed Army trucks pulled up and soldiers got out and started setting up cameras, some on the flat bed trucks and some on the creek banks with one in the water. Some jeeps showed up and in the lead jeep, with dark glasses, a crushed down hat and a trench coat was General MacArthur known to us as BACK TRACK MAC. His jeep drove into the shallow creek and stopped for several minutes. The cameras started rolling and flash bulbs were flashing. Then his jeep turned around and left with the trucks following him. A week later his picture was on the front page of the 'Stars and Stripes', the headlines read "General MacArthur visits the front". The General should have been in vaudeville.
When we got to the reserve area we were told we were going to be guarding the Generals compound. This compound consists of four or five tents, most with heating stovepipes out the tops. Looks nice and homey. We slept under the stars in rain or snow with nothing but ponchos for a roof. The compound has a snow like fence around it. Strips of wood held together with wire. Very easy to roll up and move. We soon found that one of the tents we were guarding was a food supply tent. This is like making Jesse James night watchman at the train depot.. We made plans..
The plan was the squad on duty would direct the requisition group to the food tent and point out the specials. The first night we requisitioned canned ham, bacon, butter, red raspberry jam, fresh bread, milk, apples, oranges and fresh eggs. This is the food of dreams for a Marine Infantryman, especially apples and oranges. This food was the best I had had since I had been in Korea. We did not have field kitchens like the Army had as least not for the Marine infantry, we had a very primitive life style. In our chow line they served us warmed up servings out of big cans of beans, corn beef hash, beef stew and canned peaches or fruit cocktail just like our C rations, only in larger cans. The C rations were left over from WWII that had been frozen during winter and heated in the summer for seven or eight years. It turned this food into garbage. The chocolate bar was turned into a white powder.. C rations were our staple and we felt lucky if we had enough of them.
About Mid 1951, C rations were changed from WWII silver cans to new C rations in an olive drab colored can with some good stuff like chicken and rice, hamburger and potatoes with gravy, sausage patties, spaghetti with meat balls, ham and beans, and ham with lima beans, it was new and it was pretty good. Later we got field kitchens when we went into reserve and we got fresh milk, fresh fruit and bread and butter. it was a long time coming. We all sat around a small fire eating the General's food and agreed that he had a great pantry. I personally must have eaten five or more ham and egg sandwiches on fresh bread, washed it down with milk and orange juice. This was without exception my fondest memory of my stay in Korea.
That night was my turn to be part of the "requisition team". I received orders for pancake mix and maple syrup. After dark we went up to the guard in front of the compound and gave him the password like, it is Jesse James or Cole Younger, got a counter sign and was told the General's cook was in the tent sleeping on a cot next to the stove so we carefully filled our orders and quietly left so as not to wake the cook.
The next morning, we were gathered around our cooking fire enjoying pancakes with real butter and maple syrup with bacon on the side, washing it down with milk when a tall stern looking 1st Lieutenant and two Marines showed up. They had like new utilities on, we looked like mutts next to them. He said in a commanding voice, I am not going to ask where or how you got all this food; I am ordering you to take it back.NOW. You people could be in a lot of trouble. Someone asked, do we have to take all the food back? The Lieutenant said, I want everything that has not been opened returned, which for us was a great deal because we got to keep the leftovers. We returned the food while getting dirty looks from the two cooks. Needless to say we lost our positions as perimeter guards for the General's Compound.
24 March 1951, approximately, after 6 days in Reserve, Dog 7 went back on line attacking and pushing the commies back. Digging in for the night, two man fox holes with 50% watch, setting out bobby traps with two man outpost in front of each platoon to prevent enemy infiltration. The next day doing it all over again.
It is now early spring and the weather is getting warmer and the digging of foxholes is getting easier as the frost is leaving the ground. Now we are occupying ground that American troops had occupied in the past. We now had predug foxholes on the North Slope this saves lots of digging. My foxhole buddy was Matt Davis from South Central Texas. Matt's family was formerly from Missouri. After the Civil War his family was on the wrong side of history and moved to Texas. Matt was a historian as well as a Philosopher. It did not matter how cold, tired and hungry we were, Matt could reach back in the past and tell of Soldiers long gone who had it much worse than we did. I said, someday they will be talking about us.
We found the perfect pre-dug foxhole; it was wide, long and deep. We put our sleeping bags in place and started to get comfortable. The weather was getting warmer and there was a terrible stench about the place. The Chinese and North Koreans would bury their dead on the ground where they fell, cover them with branches, leaves and maybe a little dirt so we could not count their casualties. We started to police the area and found a dead Chinese soldier under some branches not far from us. We moved him downwind and went back to our dugout; the smell was getting worse.
We were told we would stay in place as currently held for several more days waiting for our flanks to catch up. We started recon patrolling in front of our positions up to the start of the next mountain range. We could tell if it was the Chinese or North Koreans who had been there. When they relieve themselves they do not bury their business because this would be a gift to the local farmers to put on their fields. The Chinese used toilet paper and the North Koreans did not.
We would leave the commies little gifts, also we would leave the worse tasting cans of C-rations for them, to me it would have been the beef stew. This WWII ration was so old it tasted like candle wax. We would leave a few cans of this lying about, take one empty can, slip a grenade in the can which was a tight fit, we would pull the pin, (the tight fit would keep the bale from flying off and arming the grenade.) We would set the can straight up, bottom open. When this can was picked up the grenade would fall out, the bale would fall off activating the grenade, they had about 4 seconds for small talk.
Back in our foxhole the stench was getting unbearable. We got out of our dugout and started moving leaves around and saw small rubber tip sticking out of the floor of our foxhole. We dug around the object with our shovel and we dug up a foot, then a leg with a Chinese quilted uniform on it. We had been sleeping on top of a dead Chinese soldier. I said Matt; we have a three-man foxhole but only two of us are keeping watch. We moved next door with a fresh dug foxhole and we threw the dirt on top of the Chinese soldier. We were victims of a stinking Chinese dirty trick.
A Hero on Hill 430
On about the last week in March 1951, our platoon leader 1st Lt. Richard Humphries asked me to be his Runner. A Runner would carry dispatches from one unit to another under combat conditions and could be a very necessary and dangerous job. We now have other means of communications and this job is mostly being the fox holes buddy. I did not want this job because I was bonded with my buddies in my fire team, a fire team is a four-man unit. There are three of these units per squad if you are up to full strength and you become bonded with your buddies in the fire team, this is your family and to leave it is like leaving home.
I had to take the job of runner and some other Marine took my place in my fire team, I was not happy. On April 1st we were told that our regiment, the 7th Marines was to be placed under the operational control of the commanding General of the first Calvary Division. We are now in the Army, we told our Medical Corpsman Richard DeWert, that we would now have to call him "The Medic", like in the Army and not "The Corpsman", like in the Marines. He said that would be OK and wanted to know if we would now get cherry pie with our C Rations! This was a standing joke, the Army had civilian work parties who carried supplies to the troops online including food in big canisters. We said the canisters had steak and cherry pie in them. Richard said he really liked cherry pie.
On April 5th, we crossed the 38th parallel, the dividing line between North and South Korea. It was a joint operation between Easy and Dog Companies. We took the ridge toward the South and Easy Company took the ridge toward the West, both going up to the same objective, Hill 430. A piece of ground about 1300-1400 feet high, an easy climb. The day was bright to partly cloudy. As we climbed the hill the cloud formation turned into fog, that made visibility at times very limited. Then the fog would clear and the hill would be very bright. Where the ridges meet at the top of the hill is where it is usually defended. This way all approaches could be covered be enemy gunners. My old fire team was in the point and had reached the top and that was when the heavy machine gun fire and grenade explosions could be heard.
I was about 40 yards from the point with our Platoon leader, as I was his Runner. We went up the ridges almost single file in most cases because of the narrow paths on the ridges. The fog had moved in and visibility was again very limited. Bullets from the almost invisible enemy were clipping tree branches. The fog works both ways and we could not see each other so we got very close to each other. I had moved next to the Marines who were being sheltered by a small ridge not more than two feet high.
The machine gun fire was heavy and continuous, along with the noise, we could hear someone screaming obscenities like "you dirty sons of bitches" over and over. Suddenly the fog shifted and it was very bright. It was like a movie, I could see Richard DeWert almost fall on top of the Marine doing the cussing. He was going to aid this Marine who was shot in the knees and was in great pain and shock. A short way from the fallen DeWert, was a bunker with the enemy machine gunners.
It had a large aperture and was covering all approaches. Without thinking, I ran up to the bunker slid on my knees and shot into the faces that I could plainly see and than I checked on DeWert who was dead. Then I went to the still cussing wounded Marine, I dragged him behind some rock formation and out of harms way. He called me every cuss word he could think of. A tough, no nonsense Corpsman by the name of Fred Hardy told this wounded Marine, if he didn't shut his dirty mouth that he was going to drag his ass back up the hill and leave him there!
We as a group, charged up the hill past the now silent bunkers and up the trail that led to a group of Chinese rifleman, these Chinese, who were protecting the bunker and shooting at us had to be the world's worst marksmen and they bugged out before we could get to them. When we gathered up our dead and wounded I saw Chuck Curly, one of our machine gunners, now a stretcher bearer, lift Richard DeWert's body onto a stretcher, water was running out of his canteen from the bullet holes in it.
I also remember the dead from my old fire team being placed on stretchers. I looked at the Marine who took my place and is now dead. Fate had traded his life for mine, I have mixed emotions about this trade to this day. I feel some consolation in the fact that if I had been killed, the possibility is not remote that the Chinese would have killed more Marines that day.
Checking the guns in the bunker, they were two water-cooled 30 caliber Browning's made at the Rock Island Arsenal, with a brass tag that also said US ARMY. In an ironic turn of fate, Rock Island is my hometown, the
Chinese were shooting at me with weapons my friends and neighbors made.
The possibility is the guns were taken near Hoensong about a month earlier when the Army 2nd Division and supporting troops were sent to support ROC Troops, who, by the way had left and told no one, were overrun and massacred by divisions of Chinese Communists. The Easy Company Commander, who was on the West Ridge, radioed our platoon leader and thanked him for taking out the machine guns that had pinned down his Company. Some time later Richard DeWert was awarded the Medal of Honor for giving his life trying to save another.
As I reflect on the events of that terrible day, my platoon leader received a radio communication from the commander of Easy Company on the West Ridge thanking us for taking out the machine-guns which had pinned down his company.
Welcome praise? Yes, consolation for the sacrifices of men like Richard DeWert, and my fire team buddies, the man who took my place and others whose remains we put in body bags that day? Not at all. But then war has never lent itself to tradeoffs, balance sheets, and profit and loss considerations. Men who fight, bleed and suffer the agonies of battle, find no comfort is such detached deliberation. They are too involved with their vivid and tragic memories.
Sergeant Gonzalo Garza wrote to me that if Richard DeWert did not get the Medal of Honor on April 5, 1951, the sacrifices that Dog Company made that day would be just "Dust in the Wind". This is so very true. Hundreds of firefights, patrols and battles take place in a war, most are just fading memories in the minds of the survivors. Those killed are registered in the casualty reports, this also will fade to the backwaters of history and over time to those who are remembered on Memorial Day as the War Dead. The personal sacrifices and pain will be just...Dust in the Wind.