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Retired at 10 & 16, a triple-dipper at 20—go figure!

The seventh day of March is a red-letter day for me. One of my sisters, the one closest to me in age, was born on that day eighteen months before I made my entrance into the world of 1932 on September 19, one of the more important events of that year. My birth in that month of that year was overlooked by Wikipedia—that organization listed only four events in September worth reporting, and none was on the 19th. If you like, you can click here to read a proudly crafted and craftily presented study of my birth and many subsequent events.

The year 1932 was a leap year—had I been born on the 29th of February that year, I could only celebrate my birthday every four years, and by counting only my official birthdays I would now be twenty years old. I share my birth during a leap year with my neighbor, a lady that was born on the 29th day of February. As Don Adams of Get Smart fame would say, while showing a small space between his thumb and forefinger—Missed it by that much! Using the same formula that made my age 19, her leap year birthdays would make her 13 years old.

I hold the seventh of March firmly in my memories. On that date in 1949 I awakened at an early hour, performed my morning ablutions, broke my fast, allowed my mother to teach me how to make a Windsor knot in a necktie, dressed and bade my goodbyes, walked the few blocks to the courthouse in Columbus, Mississippi, swore an oath of allegiance to the United States of America, became a US  Air Force recruit, boarded a train to New Orleans, transferred to the Sunset Limited bound for San Antonio, Texas, arrived there the following day, completed 13 weeks of training successfully and remained in the United States Air Force for 22 years plus several months. I celebrated my actual nineteenth birthday in 1951 in the middle of a shooting war while based at Kimpo Air Base near Seoul, the capital city of South Korea. If you like, you can click here to learn a lot about Korea and Kimpo and the war, probably a lot more than you thought you needed to know.

I realize that it’s childish to compute one’s age on the premise that one was born on the last day of February in a leap year but it’s a lot of fun, and childish and fun somehow go together. I have retired twice from US government service, once from the Air Force with 22 years, and again from a federal law enforcement agency after 26 years of service. Using the leap year computation with a birthday only every fourth year, I would have been 10 at my first retirement,16 at my second retirement and I would now be—at the tender age of 20 years—a triple-dipper with a combined income from military service, federal civil service and Social Security.

Hey, I didn’t plan it that way—things just seemed to happen, and as they happened I just went with the flow. Oops, I forgot something—I also have a substantial return from a substantial IRA, one that is earning an annual interest rate of six and one-quarter percent. I suppose that would make me a quadruple dipper.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Postscript: I just thought of a letter I wrote to a newspaper editor in McAllen, Texas on the subject of double dipping, a letter that I posted on my blog. Click here to learn how I really feel about double dipping.

 
 

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Revisited: Analysis of a 17-year-old warrior

While wandering around in the bowels of my archived postings on WordPress, I found this brilliantly worded essay. On re-reading it I was so enthralled by the superior quality of the writing that I felt obliged to bring it out of the Stygian darkness of the archives and offer it up to newcomers to my blog, and to any long-time followers that may have overlooked it, whether by accident or through deliberation. It’s a good read, featuring bits of our nation’s history of lost wars and a self-analysis of one who was a participant—at the scene, so to speak, and qualified to discuss such activities. Click here to read about my arrival in the Far East.

Analysis of a 17-year-old warrior

As does virtually every family, mine has a shoe box filled with snapshots of family and friends spanning decades of living and loving and working, showing many of the places where we lived and worked and places where we went for recreational purposes. I recently found an old black-and-white photo of a certain 17-year-old warrior, a young lad that somehow made his way to Japan somewhere between the ages of 17 and 18 years, an age at which he should have been at home in Columbus, Mississippi enrolled in the eleventh grade at Stephen D. Lee High School, working at various part-time jobs, chasing girls and striving mightily to maintain a C-average.
I was intrigued by the differences between that lad then and the same person now, some 60 years later. I was captivated by the photo, taken sixty years ago in 1950 in front of temporary quarters in the city of Fukuoka on the Japanese island of Kyushu—so captivated that I decided to share it with my viewers.

I refer to this lad as a warrior based on the knowledge that during the summer of 1950, shortly after North Korea invaded South Korea, he was en route to Korea from Japan to help in our war to keep South Korea free from communism, and would continue in that effort for the next 15 months. Some nineteen years later he would be in Vietnam for thirteen months with a similar purpose—to help South Vietnam in its struggle against a takeover of the country by the Viet Cong, aided by North Vietnam regulars with help from Russia and China.

In both instances—the war in Korea and the one in Vietnam—he was unsuccessful, and his contributions were for naught. The Korean War ended in a truce that exists to this day, and the Vietnam War ended, for better or worse, in a united Vietnam—the communists won and we lost.

Examine the photo closely—have you ever seen a cockier, more in-your-face, more arrogant and defiant stance? This is a youth of seventeen, some six or seven inches over five feet tall, weighing 115 pounds with a 28-inch waist, dressed in regulation one-piece fatigue coveralls with a fatigue cap on top and un-shined GI brogans on the bottom. Either the cuffs of the coveralls are turned up or the coveralls are too short. The cap is pushed back rather than squared off, hands are in pockets, sleeves are partially rolled up, collar is turned up—a harbinger of the Elvis style to come, still some six years in the future. The first several buttons of the fatigues are unbuttoned revealing no undershirt and a really skinny unhairy chest. And most important, even at that tender age the lad is exhibiting a strong leaning to the right, a stance that incidentally exists to this day, and if it gets much more pronounced I—oops, I mean he—will be unable to stand up without falling.

I am fairly certain that any reader of this posting has already guessed that the lad in the photo is the same person that is writing this posting for his blog on Word Press—yes, I refer to my mother’s youngest son, The King of Texasthat lad is yours truly at the wizened age of seventeen.

My mother’s youngest son bears little resemblance to that 1950s figure, although he still leans to the right in any political stance, and rather than one-piece fatigues he putters around in sweats and house slippers at home and wears jeans, a pullover shirt and sneakers for occasions such as weddings, funerals, jury duty and similar formal events.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

In the four months the original posting was available it garnered only one comment, and that one from a highly biased viewer:

That cocky in-your-face defiance is exactly the kind of guy I want going to war for this country! Thank you for serving with such gusto and guts.

By: sue on August 13, 2010

And this is the response to Sue’s comment by the author, also highly biased:

Hi, Sue, Bless yore little ol’ pea-picking heart. Do you remember Tennessee Ernie Ford and his radio show? Do you remember radio? You have made my day! (Note the exclamation points!) You have a way of reaching the core of any thought and any situation and encapsulating and expressing it in a thoroughly remarkable and memorable manner.

I wanted to use the gerund of capsule by adding “ing” but nothing looked right, not capsuleing or capsulling or capsulleing, and all three were rejected by my spell checker, so I took a path less traveled and used encapsulate, a word that happily accepted the “ing.” I haven’t given up yet. Capsule can be used as a verb and therefore has to have a gerund form—I just ain’t yet found it.

Thanks for visiting and thanks for the comment—y’all come back, ya’ hear!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 5, 2011 in foreign travel, Military, wartime

 

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Listen up, South Korea!

Listen up, South Korea!

In August of 2008 Newsweek ranked the top 100 countries in the world. This posting deals with the world ranking of South Korea today, as opposed to the years before 1950, the year that saw the start of the Korean conflict, one that ended in a stalemate some four years later.

In our president’s recent visit to your country you agreed to none of the proposals advanced by Barack Obama, the man that holds a position considered by many to make him the most powerful person on earth. You rejected every proposal, every idea and every project intended to elevate both the United States and South Korea to higher levels in future such world ratings. Obviously his title as the most powerful man in the world does not impress you, at least not collectively as a nation.

I was in Japan on June 25 in 1950 when the North Korean army crossed the 38th parallel. I was stationed at Yokota Air Base at the time, and I began a voluntary 15-month tour in South Korea just four months later. My military record shows that I was involved in five military combat campaigns during those 15 months before rotating to the United States. I mention those dates and assignments merely to establish my right to speak concerning the before and after conditions in South Korea—I was there, and I can assure the reader that South Korea was a far cry from the world-class country that it has become.

In its 2008 report Newsweek placed South Korea in fifteenth place among the top 100 nations in the world, just four places below the eleventh place rating given the United States. The report compiled by Newsweek ranked nations by economy, politics, health and quality of life and stated that the ranking proves the world’s true national champions. Click here for the list of the top 100 nations.

On June 25, 1950 the North Korean army invaded South Korea and began a war that involved the Chinese army and the armed forces of the United States. The war raged for some four years and ended in a stalemate, an armistice that exists to this day some 56 years later. I consider it a war lost along with our other lost war, the one we unsuccessfully waged in Viet Nam—incidentally, I was involved in that war also, for thirteen months in 1969-1970.

Shame on you, South Korea!

Before the United States came to your defense in 1950, you were a backward country in virtually every category considered by Newsweek’s report. The United States saved you from a takeover by North Korea and the army of communist China. Without the help of the United States you would today be the southern part of a united Korea and your economy would be in shambles, just as North Korea’s economy is now, with the government starving its people in order to support one of the world’s largest standing armies.

We helped you subdue the army of North Korea and helped you drive the Chinese armies back across the Yalu River, and we stayed with you following the truce with North Korea. We stayed with you and we continue supporting you with our troops in-country and with favorable trade agreements, actions that have enabled you to become a world power with a stable government, a thriving economy with world class cities, and with health and a quality of life that places you in the top fifteen percent of the world’s best 100 countries.

Be honest and admit that without the United States coming between you and North Korea, you would never have progressed this rapidly in the short span of 56 years since the truce was made. You would still be a backward country, with animal-drawn carts and three men on every shovel in construction projects. Your manufacturing and exports of motor vehicles, tools and household machines, electronics and other products are legion and the United States is your best customer.

Admit it—you dissed our president by failing to acquiesce to even one of his proposals, refuting some outright and placing others on the back burner. Just as a friendly suggestion, you might want to reconsider some of his proposals. Note that the presence of US military personnel in your country is now less than 40,000, down from an earlier force of some 60,000 and you can expect it to drop even lower, perhaps to zero. I mention this only because the people in North Korea are starving, and your thriving economy is looking better and better to them and to their government.

If you are thinking that the United States will stay with you through thick and thin, think again. I call your attention to the fall of South Viet Nam, a war in which our nation called it quits for a variety of reasons. I submit to you that in the event of another invasion by North Korea, one supported by communist China and possibly Russia, the United States may pick up its marbles and go home.

Take a look at the following video—one day this army may be marching in Seoul, celebrating North Korea’s subjugation of South Korea to create a united nation of Korea.

You might want to think about that possibility coming to fruition. I suggest that you think long and hard about it. More than 40,000 Americans died during the Korean conflict fighting to keep your country free. North Korea is poised to invade your country, and the only thing holding it back is your relationship with the United States. When it happens, don’t expect the United States to sacrifice another 40,000 of our fighting men and women.

Trust me—our government might  consider such an action, but the people won’t tolerate it.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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A two-week boat ride to Japan . . .

In 1950 I traveled from San Francisco to Japan in 14 days, and back to San Francisco in another 14 days, with a considerable amount of time spent in Japan and South Korea between the trip to the Orient and the return to the United States, somewhere in the neighborhood of 22 months. Fifteen of those months were spent in bad neighborhoods—they were spent at Taegu in the south and Kimpo in the north, two of our US airfields in South Korea during the Korean War.

I refuse to call it a conflict. It was a war, one in which more than 40,000 members of our armed forces died during four years of fighting—that qualifies it to be called a war, not a conflict.

I traveled by bus from my mother’s home in Midland, Texas to Alpine, Texas, then by train to Los Angeles and up the Pacific coast to San Francisco. The month was April, and the trip up to San Francisco—a distance of almost 400 miles—with the blue Pacific Ocean on the left and the green mountain slopes on the right was memorable. In San Francisco I boarded a ferry and was taken to Camp Stoneman. I was quartered for a week or so before boarding another ferry to the Port of San Francisco where I boarded an army troop ship bound for Japan.

Camp Stoneman, located in the city of Pittsburgh some forty miles from San Francisco, was a staging facility for military personnel traveling to foreign destinations to the east from the Port of San Francisco. Arrivals from oversea assignments and those departing for such assignments traveled by ferry to and from the Port and Camp Stoneman. Opened in 1942, the camp was shut down in 1954. Click here for images of Camp Stoneman and its brief history.

We departed for Japan on the USS Daniel L. Sultan, a U.S. Army vessel named for an army general, a ship that on this voyage would be loaded with 5,000 troops, 500 dependents and an indefinite number of cats and dogs, pets of the dependent members. When we pulled away from San Francisco, we headed north instead of west to pick up the dependents and their pets in Seattle, Washington.

My brother Larry, an army Warrant Officer, was stationed at the Yakima Training Facility and I obtained permission to debark in Seattle—yes, debarking, that’s what they called it—in order to make a phone call to him. No, I did not have a cell phone—they had not yet been invented. Our conversation was brief, limited to expressions of how are you, how have you been, how is everyone else, where are you going, and good luck.

On my return to the ship I ran afoul of the Officer of the Day, the worthy that stands on deck by the gangplank to greet boarders, to inquire as to their reason for boarding and to ascertain whether contraband is involved in their boarding. I had no problem answering the questions, but I committed a serious breach of military protocol.

As any sailor knows, when one boards or debarks a military vessel, courtesy must be given by saluting the United States flag flown by the vessel. I had been briefed on that courtesy and I saluted accordingly, but I was chastised—chewed out—by the Officer of the Day. It seems that I saluted the prow of the vessel instead of the stern. I had been below decks ever since boarding the ship and had no idea which end was which, so I took a guess—I guessed wrong.

Other than that, the two-week voyage was uneventful. I was seasick for the first two days and spent a lot of time hanging over the rail, and I learned to gauge the wind—one had to watch one’s output closely because one’s output had a bad habit of almost reaching the waves and then riding the wind all the way back up, often to its origin. I learned early to heave and then quickly step back from the railing. Some others weren’t that lucky. There’s an old joke that goes like this: The admiral asks a young sailor if he has a weak stomach, and the sailor says, No, sir, I am throwing it just as far as the others are.

Every GI on the ship had a daily detail. Some worked in the galley, some in the heads, some did laundry and various make-work tasks, but I was one of the very privileged—I was assigned to the poop deck detail. No, not that poop deck, not that flat-roofed cabin that is erected at the stern of old-time ships for storage and to serve as an observation point. The word poop is derived from a French word poupe, meaning stern, the back part of the ship.

No, my detail involved poop, the real McCoy. People with pets were required to exercise them every day on the rearmost part of the top deck, and the poop naturally followed. Every morning the call came over the intercom—first a series of shrill whistles, then came the words, Now hear this, now hear this—sweepers, man your brooms, clean sweep down fore and aft.

I never knew what was swept down at the fore, but I learned over two weeks about sweep down aft. It wasn’t that bad, though. There was always a strong breeze, if for no other reason than the forward motion of the ship. We used high-pressure hoses to wash down the deck, and we used the brooms to loosen poop reluctant to go into the Pacific Ocean.

I was quartered on Deck 4C, four levels below the top deck and three compartments aft of the head, or latrine. My bunk was second from the floor in a tier of four canvas bunks stacked from the floor to the ceiling. I was lucky because the fellow in the bunk above me was slightly built. The unlucky ones were those with a heavyweight sleeping in the bunk above them. In some cases, it was difficult for them to turn over without bumping into the weight hanging above. Bummer!

Speaking of the head—it’s at the extreme front end of the ship, but it would have been far better situated for use had it been located amidships. The bow of a vessel rises and falls with every wave, and one that is urinating must be ready to stop and restart the stream as the bow rises and falls. If not, one will be hitting one’s shoes as the bow rises, and splattering the wall as the bow falls.

If you have traveled on a ship you’ll understand what I mean, and if you have not, just ask any seasoned sailor how the system works. In the event of heavy seas, one would be advised to perform the act in a seated position—not very manly, but much safer and much easier on one’s shoes—and the wall.

We arrived at the Port of Yokohama, Japan two weeks later and docked in a harbor festooned with jellyfish. Just form a vision of Monet’s ponds covered with lily pads, then multiple it by thousands, perhaps millions, and you’ll have a vision of the Yokohama harbor.

A short time later—oops, let me rephrase that. The words short time have a very different meaning in military lingo, so I’ll say that a bit later a dozen or so of us were on a GI bus headed for Yokota Air Base, near Tokyo in Northern Japan. The bus ride, Yokota Air Base, Fussa and Tachikawa merit a separate posting—stay tuned!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
1 Comment

Posted by on August 29, 2010 in Military, Travel, wartime

 

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Analysis of a 17-year-old warrior . . .

Analysis of a 17-year-old warrior

As does virtually every family, mine has a shoebox filled with snapshots of family and friends spanning decades of living and loving and working, showing many of the places where we lived and worked and places where we went for recreational purposes. I recently found an old black-and-white photo of a certain 17-year old warrior, a young lad that somehow made his way to Japan somewhere between the ages of 17 and 18 years, an age at which he should have been at home in Columbus, Mississippi enrolled in the eleventh grade at Stephen D. Lee High School, working at various part-time jobs, chasing girls and striving mightily to maintain a C-average.

I was intrigued by the differences between that lad then and the same person now, some 60 years later. I was captivated by the photo, taken sixty years ago in 1950 in front of temporary quarters in the city of Fukuoka on the Japanese island of Kyushu—so captivated that I decided to share it with my viewers.

I refer to this lad as a warrior based on the knowledge that during the summer of 1950, shortly after North Korea invaded South Korea, he was en route to Korea from Japan to help in our war to keep South Korea free from communism, and would continue in that effort for the next 15 months. Some nineteen years later he would be in Vietnam for thirteen months with a similar purpose—to help South Vietnam in its struggle against a takeover of the country by the Viet Cong, aided by North Vietnam regulars with help from Russia and China.

In both instances—the war in Korea and the one in Vietnam—he was unsuccessful, and his contributions were for naught. The Korean War ended in a truce that exists to this day, and the Vietnam War ended, for better or worse, in a united Vietnam—the communists won and we lost.

Examine the photo closely—have you ever seen a cockier, more in-your-face, more arrogant and defiant stance? This is a youth of seventeen, some six or seven inches over five feet tall, weighing 115 pounds with a 28-inch waist, dressed in regulation one-piece fatigue coveralls with a fatigue cap on top and unshined GI brogans on the bottom. Either the cuffs of the coveralls are turned up or the coveralls are too short. The cap is pushed back rather than squared off, hands are in pockets, sleeves are partially rolled up, collar is turned up—a harbinger of the Elvis style to come, still some six years in the future. The first several buttons of the fatigues are unbuttoned revealing no undershirt and a really skinny unhairy chest. And most important, even at that tender age the lad is exhibiting a strong leaning to the right, a stance that incidentally exists to this day, and if gets much more pronounced I—oops, I mean he—will be unable to stand up without falling.

I am fairly certain that any reader of this posting has already guessed that the lad in the photo is the same person that is writing this posting for his blog on Word Press—yes, I refer to my mother’s youngest son, The King of Texasthat lad is yours truly at the wizened age of seventeen.

My mother’s youngest son bears little resemblance to that 1950s figure, although he still leans to the right in any political stance, and rather than one-piece fatigues he putters around in sweats and house slippers at home and wears jeans, a pullover shirt and sneakers for occasions such as weddings, funerals, jury duty and similar formal events.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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A letter to Jessie (1915-1997) . . .

Dear Big Sister,

I hope you like this photo—I have several shots of you from over the years, and this is my favorite—just check out that glorious smile!

I believe this is where you were living just before you and Victor bought a farm near the air base and moved there. I remember it clearly, especially because when I was home on leave having completed Air Force basic training, I climbed a tree in the front yard to inspect a squirrel nest and had to holler for help from Victor, your husband and my brother-in-law—he brought a ladder and helped me down from my lofty perch!

This coming December will mark the thirteenth year since you left us. My family and I have passed the time peacefully—very little fuss or muss. We have health problems, of course, the young ‘uns as well as those of advanced ages. I know there are no health problems where you are, and no calendars or clocks—there would be no need for them.

I can capsule the major changes in my family rather quickly, changes that have come about since you left. Important changes for my girls include Kelley’s marriage in 1998 and the subsequent births of a boy and a girl. The boy is now eight and the girl is 6 years old. They live in a nice Dallas suburb and are doing well.

Debbie lives just one mile from us. She works at one of our local schools and loves her job. Landen, her son, was graduated from high school last year and is continuing his education at the University of Texas at San Antonio—UTSA. Lauren, his older sister, was graduated by UTSA this year. Her degree is in Early Childhood Development—she is great with children and seems happy with her work with a local Child Care center.

Cindy and Michael are a properly married couple as of last October, still living, loving and working in Northern Virginia. As you will probably remember, they had been a committed couple for many years, a total of twenty years prior to their marriage—they finally put it on paper! They seem very happy—no children, but they have two cats on which they shower all the love and rights and benefits that would be accorded children.

I won’t be able to bring you up to date on your family—you are probably more up to date than I am. I can’t tell you much about your sons, Wayne and Lynn, but I believe that Lynn still lives in South Korea and Wayne still lives in Maryland. I know very little about the boys and their families, but I imagine that you are watching over them—I want to believe you are, and because of that it takes very little imagination! I also know very little about your daughters or their families. I haven’t seen them since we were all together at your funeral. I talk to Toni infrequently on the phone, and exchange e-mails with Vickie even more infrequently.

Jessie, I’m writing this letter for the purpose of recording some of our mutual history in response to my daughters’ request to learn more about their aunts and uncles and cousins. As I continue with my writing I realize that it makes me feel I am in some way connected with you—if you would like to respond to this letter in some fashion, please do so—trust me, I’m up for it, and as the television commercial says, I’ll leave the light on for you!

This is the third letter I have written. The first was to Hattie, our sister that lived only one day—you probably won’t remember her. She was our mother’s second child, born in 1917, so you would have been only two years old at the time. Had she lived she perhaps could have shared some of your responsibilities as the eldest of six children. Looking back on those years, I know that it was tough for you, but you willingly shouldered those tasks and thereby took some of the weight off our mother’s shoulders. My letter to Hattie is posted on my Word Press blog and can be found here.

It’s odd, but I rarely heard any of my siblings talk about our father—a bit from Larry, a bit from Lorene and nothing from you. Most of what I know about Willis I learned from our mother, and I never heard anything positive. There must have been something other than the negative things, given the fact that our mother birthed seven children for him.

I wish you had told me about the incident in the garden between our dad and you, his teenage daughter. Mama said that he gave you an order and you did not comply quickly enough, so he beat you with one of the wooden stakes, or poles, used for growing beans to climb on—unmercifully, I believe, was the word mama used.

I also wrote a letter to Larry, our brother. You may have been looking over my shoulder when I wrote it, just as you may be looking over my shoulder as I write this letter to you. You can read the letter to Larry here. I was recently contacted by Larry’s daughter Deanna, and we are now friends on a web site called Facebook, a place on the internet where people can find new friends and chat with old friends—not necessarily old, of course! I have mixed emotions about the process, and am considering opting out of it.

I often wonder about Larry’s first wife, Toni, and their two sons, Troy and Marty. If she is still in this life, Toni would be about 86 years old now—you might want to check around to see if she is there with you—one never knows, right? I’m sure you remember that I lived with Larry and Toni for a couple of years or so in Suitland, Maryland. That was a hectic time in their marriage and I was caught in the middle of it. That was not unusual for me—things were hectic from the time Mama married Papa John until I enlisted in the military at the age of sixteen, a period of some seven years. The military provided the stability I needed. I finished growing up in the military, and as you know I stayed with it and retired after 22 years. I can proudly say that I assisted Uncle Sam in fighting two wars during that period, wars waged in Korea and in Vietnam. We lost both wars, but I will always be proud of my contributions to them.

Hey, big sis, this letter seems to have a mind of its own, and it’s getting far too long for a single posting. Let me close this one out and get back to you later with more details. There is so much to talk about—perhaps we should consider putting the letters in book form when I run out of words—if I ever run out of words, that is!

Lots of love,

Mike

 
6 Comments

Posted by on August 2, 2010 in Family, marriage, Travel, Writing

 

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Mistaken identification—no gold tooth . . .

Long, long ago in 1951 in Japan, a far off land across the sea, a young American corporal, 18 years old, arrived late in the evening to the Transient Quarters at Itazuki, an American air base near the city of Fukuoka on Kyushu, Japan’s most southern island. That young corporal was on an authorized three-day pass for the purpose of resting, relaxing and recuperating from the rigors of singlehandedly fighting a war from Taegue Air Base at Taegue, South Korea, a war that raged between South Korea and North Korea and lasted four years, but was never won by either side—a truce was declared, and that truce exists to this day.

I was assisted in my efforts by the South Korean army and the US Army, Navy, Marines and National Guard units. That assistance was warranted because Communist China’s vast army was assisting North Korea in its effort to take over the entire Korean peninsula.

The hour was late and the lights were already out in the Transient Quarters. I found my way to an empty lower bunk, stuffed my stuff under the bunk, undressed, slipped under the covers and went to sleep. I awoke early the next morning and headed straight for the showers. When my ablutions were completed I returned to my bunk, donned my uniform and prepared to depart for the city for that aforementioned rest, relaxation and recuperation, activities that were considerably more available than in Korea or on the air base.

And then fate crossed me up—I took a cursory glance at the sleeping figure on the top bunk and recognized him immediately. His name was Ord Dunham, a friend I made in basic training, and we completed technical training together at Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois. We both shipped out of San Francisco on the same Army troop ship early in 1950, a few months before the Korean War began and I hadn’t seen him since that time.

I waited around for awhile for him to awaken, and passed the time by reading a comic book that was lying at the foot of bunk—well, at least I was looking at the pictures. I believe it was titled “Wings” or something similar, and its cover featured a beautiful girl drifting to earth under a parachute, one of the older type chutes, one of those with the straps between the legs of the parachutist—I will neither bore nor arouse my viewers by describing the girl’s dress or the lack thereof—suffice it to say that the cover was interesting, memorable and to a certain extent, stimulating. I sincerely hope that she made a safe landing.

I grew tired of waiting, knowing that the waiting was cutting into my time for rest, relaxation and recuperation, so I rolled up the comic book and smartly tapped Ord’s nose with it. His eyes snapped open, he raised up and glared at me, and I said, “Hey, boy, aren’t you a long way from home? He said, “Yeah, I guess I am, so what about it?” As he spoke I was treated to a good look at his front teeth, probably because he was smiling—well, actually he wasn’t smiling—it was more like he was snarling. The Ord Dunham I knew had one gold upper front tooth—the man I swatted across the face with a comic book did not have a gold tooth.

I said, in a very low and probably trembling voice, “You’re not Ord Dunham, are you?’ He replied, “No, I’m not, and that’s a hell of a way to wake a man up in the morning!” I did what any sane, intelligent and reasonable person would do and should do in such a situation—I said, “I made a mistake, and I’m sorry, really sorry, please forgive me,” and I grabbed my ditty bag and tried to restrain my feet to a casual walk towards the exit door. To others I would probably seem to be skipping, or perhaps speed walking.

I survived my faux pas and extended my three-day pass from three to seven days—why and how that was possible, and why I was never given a second three-day pass while in Korea is explained in an earlier posting—click here for the pertinent detailsI can say truthfully and modestly say that the posting is worth a visit.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

PeeEss:

To Ord Dunham, the Ord with the gold tooth: If you should happen to read this, please know that I forgive you for having a remarkable look-alike, one that almost got me in a heap of trouble!

And to Ord Dunham, the Ord with no gold tooth, the Ord on the top bunk: If you should happen to read this and remember the incident, please know that I appreciate the fact that you kept your temper in check that day—thanks—I needed that!

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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The Korean War—please remember it . . .

As a retired military person I subscribe to the Air Force Retiree web site at www.retirees.af.mil. I received the following e-mail on Friday, June 25, 2010 at 11:27 AM. I am posting the e-mail in its entirety—the sixtieth anniversary of the Korean War highlights a significant milepost in my life and I wanted to share it with any viewers that may pass this way–if the posting strikes a positive chord in only one viewer it will be justified.

When the Korean War began I was stationed at Yakota Air Force Base in northern Japan and had been there for three months when the North Koreans invaded South Korea. Soon after the war began I was sent to Itazuke Air Force Base on the southern island of Kyushu. I celebrated my eighteenth birthday at Itazuke, then on to South Korea for an additional 15 months before rotation back to the states. I celebrated my nineteenth birthday in Korea at Kimpo Air Force Base near Seoul and arrived back in the states eight months before my twentieth birthday.

I mention all the above dates simply to show that my latter teen years do not reflect the usual rite of passage enjoyed by most young men in the US, and because of that I do not need a reminder of the Korean War—my experiences during those years are indelibly stamped in my phyche, and I will take them with me when I depart this vale of tears.

The Korean War claimed the lives of almost 40,000 of America’s best and brightest, yet the war has been forgotten by many and is unknown to a host of others—I’m posting this item as a gentle reminder—nay, a stern reminder for those that fail to remember, and a strong admonition for those that have never known to learn about the war—it is vital history.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Postcript: Viewers will find numerous posts on my blog that deal directly or indirectly with Japan and Korea—I find them well-written and well-worth the time required for reading (nothing strange about that, right?). Below are several on which you might like to pass some of your leisure time—one involves a tattooed lady, another a salute to drive-in theaters, and one concerns the Dixie Division and the Mississippi Army National Guard. Others include my first airplane ride, and a three-day R & R pass that lasted seven days—enjoy!

This is the e-mail, exactly as I received it:

Nation marks Korean War’s 60th anniversary

By Donna Miles

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON (AFRNS) — Sixty years ago this week, North Korean troops stormed across the 38th parallel into South Korea, launching a three-year conflict that culminated in an armistice in 1953, but never officially ended.

The North Koreans launched a massive, coordinated air-land invasion in the early-morning hours of June 25, 1950, with more than 230,000 troops, fighter jets, attack bombers, reconnaissance aircraft, tanks and artillery.

The ferocity of the offensive caught the South Korean army by surprise. With fewer than 100,000 troops, no tanks and limited aircraft, they were unprepared to halt the invasion force.

Seoul, the South Korean capital, fell June 28. Then-President Harry S. Truman, concerned after World War II about the spread of communism, recognized the importance of repelling military aggression on the Korean peninsula.

“I felt certain that if South Korea was allowed to fall, communist leaders would be emboldened to override nations closer to our own shores,” Truman wrote in his autobiography. “If the communists were permitted to force their way into the Republic of Korea without opposition from the free world, no small nation would have the courage to resist threat and aggression by stronger communist neighbors.”

President Truman ordered U.S. air and naval forces to defend South Korea, and committed ground troops as part of a combined United Nations effort. The 16-member coalition formed under the auspices of the U.S.-led United Nations Command, with President Truman naming Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur as its commander.

The 24th Infantry Division, part of the U.S. occupation forces in Japan under General MacArthur’s command following World War II, deployed the first U.S. troops to Korea. Advanced elements of the 24th Infantry Division rushed to Korea on transport planes to block the enemy advance.

As they awaited follow-on deployments, the 24th Infantry Division troops, known as Task Force Smith, suffered heavy losses and ultimately, defeat during their first significant engagement of the war, the Battle of Osan.

Outgunned and overpowered, the division ultimately lost more than 3,600 dead and wounded and almost 3,000 captured as the North Korean progressed south.

By September, the U.N. Command controlled only about 10 percent of Korea in a small southeastern corner of the country around Pusan.

The Battle of Pusan Perimeter raged from August to September 1950, with the U.S. Air Force and Navy air forces attacking North Korean logistics operations and transportation hubs. Meanwhile, troops from the 7th Infantry Division, 25th Infantry Division, 1st Cavalry Division and other 8th Army supporting units poured into South Korea.

The Inchon Landing, a massive amphibious landing in September 1950, ultimately turned the tide in the fighting by breaking the North Korean army’s supply lines. This prompted China to enter the war on North Korea’s behalf, ending hope, as General MacArthur had predicted, that the war would end soon and the troops would be home for Christmas.

The conflict raged for three more Christmases, with neither side achieving a decisive military victory.

Ultimately, two years of negotiations led to an armistice agreement signed July 27, 1953. Representatives of the North Korean army, the Chinese volunteers and the U.N. Command signed the agreement, but South Korea refused to participate.

The United States lost more than 36,000 servicemembers during the Korean War, with more than 92,000 wounded, more than 8,000 missing in action and more than 7,000 taken prisoner of war.

Since the signing of the armistice, South Korea has emerged as an economic powerhouse, with the world’s 11th-largest economy and a gross domestic product approaching $1 trillion. North Korea, in contrast, remains militarily powerful, but economically isolated.

In its most recent act of provocation, North Korea sank the frigate Cheonan on March 26, killing 46 South Korean sailors.

Related Sites:  Remembering the Korean War

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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My first airplane ride . . .

Picture this:

The year was 1950, I was 17 years old, the season was autumn, the month was September and the place was Itazuke Air Base located a few miles from Fukuoka, a metropolitan Japanese city on the southern island of Kyushu. A twin engine US Air Force aircraft, one shaped vaguely on the order of a bumblebee, rumbled down the runway and lifted off on its flight to Taegue Air Base in South Korea. The C-119 was heavily loaded with spare aircraft parts, maintenance equipment, ground power equipment and a cadre of aircraft maintenance technicians that included electricians, aircraft and engine mechanics, instrument specialists, radio, sheet metal workers and hydraulic Flying Boxcarspecialists. My specialties were those of aircraft electrician and aircraft mechanic, and I was on that flight. To read about events leading up to the flight, click here. And for even more exciting events related to my 23-month vacation in the Far East, click here.

Dubbed The Flying Boxcar, the aircraft was configured for cargo, and the addition of passengers was secondary to its mission. It sported no frills such as sound proofing. Until the aircraft leveled off at its cruising altitude, the noise of the two engines at full throttle were deafening, with every rivet in its aluminum skin singing its own tune. The noise made it difficult to converse with others, but after cruising altitude was reached, the engines were throttled back and the aircraft became relatively quiet.

Prior to boarding the loadmaster called us together, briefed us on the flight and fitted us with backpack parachutes. Yes, Virginia—in the old days every person on a military flight was required to have a parachute. Passenger seating consisted of metal racks with canvas webbing, lashed to the side to provide room for cargo and dropped down to provide seating for passengers. The loadmaster told us that seating was available for everyone, but one of the seats was behind the cargo, in a crowded space that challenged one’s entry and egress. He asked for a volunteer to fill that seat—there were no volunteers so he selected one based on size—he assigned the seat to the  one that needed the least space.

Can you guess who that was? Right! It was my mother’s youngest son, and since I had no choice I accepted the assignment—I scrambled up and over the cargo and dropped down to the seat. I was isolated from all the other passengers but I had a window for light and viewing, with a good view of the #2 engine.

This was my first airplane ride—the first of many, of course, because I kept reenlisting until I retired from the Air Force after 22 years. I spent a lot of time in the air during those 22 years, but this is the flight I remember best.

A special note: I reenlisted the first time in order to get married, and I continued to reenlist in order to stay married. My actions may have involved patriotism, but if so it was a very minor factor. The reason I strove mightily to remain gainfully employed is pictured here.

My ears became plugged before we reached cruising altitude, but I could still hear the muted sound of the engines. However, when the pilot reduced engine power to cruising speed, all noise ceased. The quiet was eerie, and I began to have misgivings—misgivings, hell! I thought both engines had stopped. I looked up at #2, the starboard engine—the  props were still spinning but I decided they were simply windmilling, continuing to turn only because of our speed.

Yep, you guessed correctly again—I panicked. Filled with fear and the certainty that with both engines out we would have to ditch or bail out, I tightened the straps on my chute and scrambled up to the top of the cargo that isolated me from the other passengers. I was presented with a scene that could only be labeled serene—some of the men were sleeping, some were playing cards and some  were reading—none wore parachutes. I swallowed hard several times and my hearing returned, along with the noise of the engines, both operating quiet efficiently.

Other than my panic attack—a secret that I did not share with anyone, at least not until now—the flight was routine, and we landed at Taegue to begin, what was for me, a really long fifteen months in Korea. When the Chinese overran Taegue early in 1951 my outfit was evacuated and—but that’s fodder for another post.

I’ll get back to you later with more details.

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2010 in foreign travel, Humor, Military, wartime

 

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