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.
This is a picture taken at a “Tacky” party at Western Heights Church of Christ on 10/25/2007. Virginia and Paul Carter, who have both passed away were real mainstays of the senior dinners about once a month. This one was close to Halloween and that seemed to be the theme. We were supposed to be scary. Johnnie was really able to get into the events in a Christian way.
Such a fine lady. Miss her daily. She showed very little if any of the signs of Parkinson’s disease at that time. I may have noticed some micrography which was very small handwriting. It wasn’t until 2009 that she had to start taking medicine for Parkinson’s disease. She was a trouper until the very end. She now is no longer captured in that deteriorating body. Praise God!!!
We boarded the ships in North Korea at Hungnam. This was in December 1950. The Marines had been extracted from the Chosen Reservoir and the last to load was the 7th Infantry Division. We all of the troops were safely on ship there was quite a fire display on shore while the Navy bombarded the ammunition and other equipment that we did not have time to evacuate.
Many of us had frostbite and were being treated in the ship below deck at bunk side or for the worst cases they had to be admitted to the hospital on board. My blisters were not too bad and I did not want to report to sick bay because I was afraid of being court martialed from not taking my sleeping bag with me when I went up as shot gun to deliver battle plans to the 17th Infantry regiment who were near the Yalu River. I was assured by the driver that we would return by nightfall. What the driver did not know was all the traffic going north was one way and the next day the traffic was coming south. This was the plan because of the small winding roads and total chaos the haram scarum way. I was caught in 35 degrees below zero and the only way I survived was to find a school house where our troops were bedded down. I could hardly get to the stove in the center of the room to keep the coal shoved into the stove. By morning I could not feel my feet.
It took about 2 weeks for the ship to make the trip south to Pusan where we would be off loaded for the battles back north. The Chinese Communist has literally driven us out of North Korea and now a new battle plan was instigated. One bright spot in our stay in Pusan this time is the Bob Hope Show. Bob Hope as most people know entertained troops all over the world during World War II and now in the Korean War. This was a great Christmas Present for the Army, Navy and Marines.
I was able to do my duties with the G-3 section but was not able to march and do parade stuff. I hid out in my little office because the blisters on my feet were still pretty tender. It was some time around mid January 1951 before I got comfortable in my combat boots to do any marching. I really was getting homesick by now. Three years away from home.
Charles and Johnnie on beach in Galveston after mission trip to Bridge City to help with disaster cleanup
My barefoot bride loved the beach. After the team finished their work at Bridge City we went to Galveston for a couple of days before coming back to Southmayd. It was hard dragging her away from the beach.
The Korean War had now changed from retreat to pursue. Those in the Pusan Perimeter were now breaking out and coming north in pursuit of the retreating North Korean Army. The orders for the 7th Infantry Division, after the successful invasion at Inchon was to go south so we could board ships. Some said we were being sent back to the States. Wishful thinking. We were headed north to make a landing in North Korea. I am not sure Truman wanted that. MacArthur thought it was the right thing to do.
The landing site in North Korea was the Hamhung, Hungnam area. The South Korean Army was coming up the east side of Korea and was to meet up with the U. S Marines first and the keep going to meet up with the 7th Infantry Division at Hamhung. They were to keep going up to the Yalu river on the east side of Korea.
The orders for the lst Marine Division was to go to the Chosen Reservoir Area and head to the Yalu river. The 7th Infantry Division was to go up to the Yalu River East of Chosen. The 17th Infantry Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division was the lead unit and they made it to the Yalu river and celebrated by making a urine deposit in the river. Then things got hairy. This was the last of October in 1950.
There was a lot of talk about the Chinese entering the war but this seemed to be discounted. MacArthur was quoted as saying “The Chinese would not dare to intervene”. When all of the American and South Korean forces started going over the 38th Parallel it was with a lot of enthusiasm that the Korean Peninsula could be united under a Democratic Government.
Several things happened to change the results of the war. The “Coldest Winter” came to bog down the American Troops who were not well equipped for this kind of weather. The Communist Chinese did indeed enter the war with a vengeance. The air support was spotty because of bad weather conditions. On October 9, 1950 when I was supposed to be discharged from the Army, I was in North Korea near the North Korean Chosen Reservoir getting frostbite. I was headed back to Hamhung, Hungnam to be evacuated to South Korea. Christmas 1950 in the good old USA? How about South Korea?
Fast forward 68.5 years and we are still having difficulty with the North Korean Dictatorship.
The North Korean Army invaded the South Korean Country on June 25, 1950. They rapidly went south capturing all of South in just a few days. Truman got a declaration from the United Nations to send troops to defend the South. Several Divisions from the US Army were sent from Japan and the Divisions set up a perimeter around Pusan.
MacArthur was in Japan devising a plan to attack the North Korean Army. My Division, the 7th Infantry Division was part of that plan along with the lst Marine Division which was being sent from the States. MacArthur’s plan was very bold. He was going to send the Marines and the 7th Infantry Division in at Inchon. The tides at Inchon were very high and most of his planning committee thought he had gone off his rocker. He prevailed and the invasion up near Seoul occurred on September 25,1950.
I was devastated on the 4th day of the fighting going in at Inchon when our G-3 Leader Col Hampton was killed.
The Korean War then got very personal with me. Truman had extended all enlistments for a year. I was supposed to be headed home but instead I was now in the middle of a war not of my choosing. This is one that could have been prevented in my opinion had the powers that be left the troops in Korea until the South Korean’s were prepared to defend themselves. I grieved as though I had lost my father
The Marines captured Seoul and the 7th Infantry headed south to me up with our troops who were breaking out of the Pusan encirclement. Things were breaking our way and we started hearing that the troops would be going home by Christmas of 1950.
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