GAG at the end of his tenure as County Judge of Cochran County – 1938
THE GRAHAMS’ OF COCHRAN COUNTY – CHAPTER 60
It took several days for me to be processed out of Korea and then I was transferred to Japan to board ship for the trip home. It is interesting to note that I departed Japan for the United States of America exactly 3 years after I left – April 22, 1951. The travel time on the ship was going to be fewer days because we would be traveling the “northern route”. Out destination was Seattle, Washington. The ship that I had boarded was the USNS General Leroy Eltinge. She was one of the ships that assisted in the Inchon Landing in September 1950. Now she was bringing me home. I have a list of about 650 men on the ship passenger roster that is growing brittle with age.
As we were coming through the channel approaching Seattle the night before we arrived we were told that there would be a car light welcoming party when we got to a certain area of the inlet. Indeed it happened with horns honking and lights flashing it seemed like hundreds of car and people inside were welcoming us home.
The trip seemed to pass pretty fast and the welcoming city of Seattle went all out to line the route where I trucks were passing from the ship to the Military Base. The first thing I noticed when I checked into the barracks was this funny picture tube that had motion pictures on it. Someone explained to me that it was called television. My first experience of seeing a television set. The clerks were busy getting each of us transportation back to our homes since all of us were getting a 30 day pass. They gave me a train ticket that took me to San Francisco and was to carry me to Los Angeles then a long journey from Los Angeles to El Paso and up to Lubbock, Texas. There was a train layover in San Francisco and I aborted my train ride and chose to fly instead. I had saved some money while overseas and had a Bank of America account. I went into the bank and told clerk that I would like to take some money out. He asked me what my account number was and I had no idea. He wanted to know if I had a blank check. I told him that I had never received any. I started looking in my wallet that had been through thick and thin on the battle fields of Korea and I did find a crumpled up deposit slip that I handed the fellow. He said that this was sufficient. “How much do you need” he asked. I think I told him about $500.00 so I could by the air ticket on Braniff.
I was able to catch a taxi out to the airport and get a flight to Denver, Colorado with a 12 hour layover. During the layover that I was able to get some rest in a place they had for GI’s who were in transit. The next morning I boarded my flight to Amarillo for a brief stop and then a landing at Lubbock airport. I had notified my family that I had changed plans and would not be coming in on the train that the Army and provided for me but to expect me on the Braniff flight. There must have been 20 to 30 family members waiting on me at the airport. The news media apparently noticed the large crowd. I went to the Drug Store that my parents operated and later that day I received a call for an interview. I also received a call from a lady who’s son was in Korea and she had not heard from him for awhile. She wanted to know if I knew him. She seemed disappointed when I told her I did not know her son.
I kept pinching myself to see if all this was real!!!
After my squad had delivered the prisoners to the lst Battalion area we then were transported by jeeps up to the front again. This time we were crossing the 38th Parallel that used to be the dividing line between North and South Korea before the war started. Our task was to probe the area going north to find the enemy. I was hoping that we would find some more enemy that were willing to give themselves up and not give us any fight. We were north of the town of Inje and close to the Hongch’on Reservoir. We were involved in an operation that the big wigs called Operations Rugged and Dauntless. I think they liked to use those big words to impress themselves. All it meant to me and my squad was more walking and climbing hills and trying to get shot at so we could find the enemy.
At night we would secure a hill and the surrounding road so we could keep the enemy from getting behind us and causing havoc. These Chinese especially liked to do just that. When we would stop for the night we dug fox holes and put out watch stations out front with trip wires to set off flares to notify us of welcomed guests. The next morning we would retrieve all the wires and flares to be used at the next stop. From April lst to April 11th we made good headway and found only a few stragglers who were wounded or just had had enough war. It was on the evening of April 11th that the Captain came up to my position and said “Graham you are being rotated home tomorrow”. With that good news I started digging my foxhole a few feet deeper.
True to the Captain’s comments, just after morning chow a jeep came up on the road and I took my gear and headed behind our lines to be processed and get out of this terrible unfriendly environment. I did ask the jeep driver to stop by the 7th Division Headquarters area so I could see my old buddies from the G-3 section. One of my buddies was Robert Tate and he snapped a picture of me leaving the front that I did not know about until I make contact with him 60 years later.
It is interesting to know that Truman fired MacArthur that same day so I can say I share significant history with one of our Generals.
Personal experience during the Korean War 1951. In the previous chapter I described contact with the enemy (North Koreans and possible the Red Chinese). After a few days rest behind the lines the lst Battalion of the 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division was on the move toward the front line again. We were on the Eastern Front and moving toward North Korea. We had not entered North Korea yet since we had been evacuated from North Korea by ships. We were about a days march from the 38th Parallel that was the division between North and South Korean peninsula. We were expecting to have some viscous fighting as we approached the parallel.
We had been given some ROK troops to take with us to fill our depleted ranks. As we moved forward we were met with some North Korean soldiers with a white flag and no arms. The South Korea Soldiers with us started interrogating them and found that they were tired of the war. The South Korean Soldiers took off up the hill and started firing at something. They left me and my squad to guard the North Korean captives. In a few minutes South Koreans came down the hill carrying a deer that had been their object of gunfire. After they got back to our position one of the South Koreans took his long knife and disemboweled the deer. I was quite surprised when they pulled out there canteen cups and started reaching into the deer cavity for some of the remaining blood. They were happily drinking the blood and offering some to me which I refused.
My squad was selected to escort the prisoners and the deer and a few of the South Koreans to the rear. The battalion Lt. Col. wanted to interrogate as many of the prisoners as possible and especially the officers. As we were departing there was some gunfire from Sgt Skaggs (not his real name) squad. I sent one of my squad up to see what was happening. He came back rather excited and perhaps agitated and gave few details but suggested that I go look. When I got to that area it was apparent that Sgt. Skaggs had made a couple of North Korean Officers kneel and he shot them in the back of their head. If I have PTSD that incident may be the cause of the problem. I hated war and after that finding I hated war even more. The information had already reached our captain and they started asking me for details. All that I could truthfully say was that I did not witness the episode but had heard the gunfire and found two dead officers from the North Korean Army who apparently chose not to surrender with their enlisted men. I was not sure that they had not fired at Sgt Skaggs first.
I was getting increasingly frustrated with this war. I prayed for my rotation home soon. Man’s inhumanity to man was the theme of my dreams and thoughts for many days to come.
The Graham siblings about 1934 after the death of Beatrice Graham. She was the second born child of G. A. Graham and Bessie Graham. Beatrice died of meningitis. Pictured is tallest: Marguerite then George with Leola on his left. Janie, the shortest of the bunch, the Bob next to her then yours truly Charles chewing on something with Katie to my left the Mary to the left of Katie.
The Grahams’ of Cochran County – Chapter 57
Charles Graham who is shown in the caption above with the funny hat on top of his head was now over his head in Korean War. Actually he and his lst Battalion of the 32nd Infantry had been relieved from the front lines in Korea. They were behind the lines a few miles so they could take a bath after two weeks in the same clothes. The section that set up these bath stations would give the soldier a large bag to put there personal possessions in and these were secured in lockers. The troops then stripped to birthday clothes and stepped into these showers that were set up near a creek. Water was heated up and each soldier was given a bar or soap. Lather down and come out the other side were the instructions. A clean towel was thrown to each soldier and just beyond that station we were given shirts, pants, socks new boots if we needed them. We never saw the old clothes again. They probably burned them.
We then were given a few days off to write home and visit a portable Canteen where we could purchase tooth paste etc. There was a very popular mail call. My oldest sister Marguerite who is the tallest in the picture above sent me some stationary and I was glad to have that to write a few letters back home.
There was a lot of criticism of Truman for not letting MacArthur use the atomic bomb against the hordes of Chinese Communist fighters who chased us out of North Korea and were heading south over the 38th parallel. We were wondering why we did not get enough air support on the missions we were doing on those hills just north of us. We were wondering when we would get out of this God forsaken place.
Here it was in February and March of 1951 and I was wondering when the powers that be were going to start rotations home. I got to Korea in 1948 and my enlistment should have been up in October 1950. I did not like Truman very much for extending my enlistment without my permission. I was not alone in those sentiments.
I was beginning to wonder about my sanity for joining Company B of the 32nd Infantry. I thought I was getting a ticket to leave for the states early and here I was getting equipped to return to the front lines in a few days. One of the medics in our group started getting yellow eyeballs and he got out right away. I was wondering how did he do that? Some said he may have taken too much of that anti malaria stuff.
We were ordered back up the same hill the next day with instruction not to go up on the trail but to stick to the wooded areas along the path. The powers that be promised that we would have some support mortar and other artillery to help neutralize the enemy. I kept thinking about the old man and the child that I had discovered in a house in a small village we encountered when we were driven back by intense machine gun fire. My squad was leading again and like a good squad leader I was out in front. All of a sudden rounds of mortars stared falling in our position and one that came close to me was of the phosphorus type. It was obvious to the captain in the rear that we were being attacked by friendly fire. They had not zeroed their mortars in correctly. Again our captain ordered an evacuation to prevent casualties from our own people.
When we got back to base camp our company was told to clean our rifles and other guns and get ready for the third attack the next day. The leaders went into a planning session and it was decided that our company would advance on the road the next day and climb the hill from a different direction. We left the next day early and around noon time we started climbing hill 600 (indication the elevation of the hill) from the back side. Thirty minutes into the climb the temperature started dropping and a front came in bearing a blizzard of sorts. We were not carrying our sleeping bags and by the time we reached the hill to attack it was impossible to see where we were going. We could not bed down for the night because no one brought any bedding. We were apt to all freeze to death unless we kept moving or built fires and that was impossible because it would give our position away to the enemy and we would be annihilated. We were ordered back off the hill and it took much longer because our tracks had been obscured by the snow. When we finally reached the road that would take us back to camp our boots were frozen and feet inside not much better. We arrived back to camp about midnight and I for one found my sleeping bag and crawled into the thing frozen boots and all. To my surprise the next morning everything had thawed and all I needed to do was change socks and dry my feet.
The next day we were rotated back a few miles so we could get a shower and change of clothes.
We all learned a lesson that day. Don’t stay on the road until you secure the hill tops. My squad was the lead up the hill on the left the next morning. The hill was about 600 feet tall from the maps I was reading. There was a walking path up toward the top and we stuck to that path until we came to a small collection of huts. Another lesson struck very fast when machine guns opened up on my squad. I darted behind some little huts on the right and my squad was behind me and most retreated behind a small hill. I searched the huts to neutralize any enemies and found none. The was an old man about 80 holding a small child between his legs tightly protecting him. The captain started ordering us all to retreat because the mortar company could not give adequate support.
My problem was that I had to run across that path to get to the hill where my squad was located. The enemy was anticipating that some numb skull was going to have to run across that path to get to safety. I did not want to stay behind and possibly be taken prisoner or worse yet, KIA. I mustered my best dodging and jumping and diving techniques learned in basic training and went for it. Fortunately none of the many bullets hit me. I did have a group of members of my squad who were rooting for me and they caught me before I dived over the next hill.
I learned after we returned to base camp that one of my squad who was behind me had sustained a fatal head wound. He was my BAR man and I had a strong attachment to him. One of the hardest things that I had to do was write a letter to the family that would be included in the packet sent to them from the Army.
The captain was very reluctant to take us back up the mountain the next day but he had assurances from the mortar company that we could have the proper support next time we got pinned down. I had a restless sleep that night.
As I heard the artillery bombarding the hill that night I could not help but think of the old man and the child that I had met in an almost friendly way in that small village up the hill.
After our stay in Pusan, the 7th Infantry Division started moving north again and started filling our ranks with new recruits or enlistees from the States. The Faith Battalion, as it has become to be famous for and written about was looking for most of the new personnel. The first battalion of the 32nd Infantry Regiment was decimated at the Chosen Reservoir.
The G-3 Section of the 7th Infantry Division was getting crowded because the new people coming from the States wanted to stay as far behind the lines as possible. The Captain of Company B was begging for recruits. Sergeant Wetzel was looking for someone he could volunteer for duty with Company B. Turns out it was his nemesis, me. Off I went to Company B. This was not all bad because I had notice some of the correspondence coming across my desk was that before long there was to be a rotation back to the States. Longest away from the States was given a higher priority. Front line troops plus longest away from the States was destined to be on the first troop ships headed home.
I packed my duffel bag and headed over to Company B. All of us at Company B of the 32nd Infantry Regiment were new to each other because there were only 3 that survived in the Chosen Reservoir without being taken prisoner of war, wounded or KIA. Out of compassion the 3 that survived the ordeal were assigned to safer units.
The entire 7th Infantry Division started moving forward to mid-South Korea, all the while doing practice combat maneuvers. In February 1951 we were assigned a section of the front line. Matt Ridgway was brought in by MacArthur to give some order to the 8th Army after the death of General Walker in a jeep accident. This was in late December of 1950. Unfortunately MacArthur had separated the command into the 8th Army under Ridgway and the X Corp under his friend Ned Almonds who needed a little combat experience to get the next star on his shoulder. The 7th Infantry Division was under X Corp leadership.
Between February 17 and March 17 of 1951, the 7th Infantry Division and my Company, Company B of the 32nd Infantry Regiment started pushing north again in combat mode. I can remember very well the day we found them near Chipyong-ni. My squad was walking ahead of the probing group and I noticed some pretty flairs coming from the mountain tops. Then the machine guns broke loose. We ran for the ditches and any other cover that we could find. The tanks came forward and zeroed in on the incoming fire and neutralized the machine guns after about 30 minutes. I think back at those flares and realize that I should have prewarned my men to hit the ditch then. A couple of my squad were wounded and I was scot free until I noticed when I was taking my boots, there was this hole in my britches leg where the leg was tucked into the combat boots. Close call. We cleared the hills, secured the road and bedded down for the night.
Many of you reading this newsletter know Mary Graham well. She is the middle sibling of the original Graham children produced by George Andrew Graham, Sr and Bessie Beatrice (Wood) Graham. Me (Charles Graham) and Mary are the only ones left living out of the original 9 siblings. Mary is 94 years young as of this writing.
Mary never married. She lives in Lubbock and was relying heavily on help from our nephew Don Vanlandingham. Also one of her former neighbors help Don watch after Mary and her needs especially since she developed macular degeneration and could not drive herself around Lubbock. Because of obligation on the Farm near Southmayd, Texas I was not able to get to visit Mary as often as I would like. I was finally able to go to Lubbock in April after tax season was not and issue and told Mary that I would come out and we could go visit around the Panhandle of Texas and visit old friends etc.
When I drove up into Mary’s driveway at Shadow Hills apartment complex I noticed her door was open but the screen door was locked. I could hear noises in her apartment and thought that one of the home health people was visiting at the time. This was about 1pm and I was hungry so I told Mary that I would go get us something to eat and be back in a few minutes.
Unbeknownst to me at the time Mary had fallen and broke her right wrist when she came to open the door for me. When I did return with the Chick-file meal, the next door neighbor Sandra was frantically motioning to me to come quickly. Shortly after I had departed for the food, Sandra had heard Mary hollering for help and at Mary’s direction she had pried the storm door open and found Mary lying on the floor moaning. When I came in the door it was obvious to me that Mary had fallen and sustained a Colle’s fracture of her right wrist.
The ambulance was called and Mary was transported to ER at Covenant Hospital. Doctor Patrick Molligan was called and came to the ER 2-3 hours later and admitted Mary to observation. He scheduled her for ORIF (open reduction and internal fixation) the next day Saturday morning. No beds were available in observation so Mary waited until 7:30 pm Friday to be taken to a room.
I went to Don’s house and spent a restless night worried about Mary and what I caused by visiting her. As it turned out, Mary had been having issues with living alone and this may have been a blessing from the Lord who works in mysterious ways. When I got to thinking that way the burden of guilt left my shoulders. I spent three nights sleeping on that small bench like structure in the hospital room but went to Don’s house to shower and change clothes.
After a few days Mary was admitted to TrustPoint Rehab and I was able to return home. She admitted that she was not able to return to living in the independent living situation and before I came home Nelda Gilbert, Don and I found a nice place called Raider Ranch and we were able to secure quarters for Mary in that facility. This facility has independent living and also assisted living apartments. I talked to Mary today and she seems very pleased with the arrangements.
So much for visiting the sites around Lubbock on this visit. I finally got to eat my portion of the Chick-file meal about 7:30 pm in Mary’s new room. Mary did not feel up to eating and then after midnight she was NPO for surgery the next day.
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