In recalling some of the accounts of his experiences involving the Korean conflict and the sometimes distressing stories of the war between veterans who were there and other sources who were not, I have to say that it was an illuminating journey. The road to truth can only be paved one way and that’s by the men and women who were there sacrificing their lives for a land they love and were actually there! So it was with my father who unhesitatingly served.
My Dad had served in the National Guard previously before joining the US Marines. He was stationed at the National Guard Armory in Kansas City, Kansas where most of his family lived. It seems that Dad needed the discipline of the military after having to quit school in 9th grade to help his mother raise a big family while his father was serving in World War II. Apparently his wild side needed taming and my uncle who had also served in WWII and was heavily decorated now residing at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia also saw action in Korea and Vietnam. As a family, when I was growing up we often made a trek up to the Kansas City National Guard Armory where we enjoyed get togethers with our cousins, aunts, and uncles on our Father’s side. My Uncle Paul, the highly decorated Army officer suffered from many heart problems over the years. He blamed them all on a commanding officer who continually assigned him point man at the head of each patrol, a risky assignment that generally draws enemy fire first so the rest of the troops can take cover and return fire.
My Father told me that on the onset of the Korean War that an appallingly unprepared military threw every asset they could muster into the fighting with little of the much needed hardware and weaponry to take on heavily armored columns of tanks running interference for thousands of Communist shock troops! According to my Dad some 50 thousand National Guardsmen were called up for active duty in South Korea. This would prove to be an automatic death sentence for many of them who were barely 18 years old many with peach fuzz still on their faces. These kids were not trained in boot camp under battle hardening conditions, they were trained like high school kids going through a junior officer’s course! The results would be grimly predictable. My Dad had attended the National Guard alongside many in Kansas City before enlisting with the Marines.
Another veteran of Korea
Years later in 1995 I was in my soon to fail 2nd marriage and I attended a group who offered information on the unconstitutionally applied federal income tax. There I met with a former intelligence officer who was part of a general’s staff serving in Korea during the war. The man was dying of cancer of the prostrate while his wife was not much better off in a wheel chair. He was a former IBM employee living off his pension in a one bedroom apartment where the IRS knocked on his door, harassed him, and even garnished his meager retirement income! He was teaching the class on the every tightening grip of big government and its violations of Constitutional Law that most people either overlooked or were too uninformed to know about. He told of us of an account of how he was driving a jeep for a colonel that got ambushed by a South Korean machine gun nest over turning the vehicle and killing the US Army superior officer. He claimed when I talked to him that National Guardsmen were not thrown into the conflict in the early days of Korea, but this conflicted with my Dad’s knowledge as those he knew were indeed deployed in the Korean malaise. He had been in the very units who had been ordered overseas.
My Mom told me a story of how when Dad first got back from the war and they rented a tiny 3rd floor apartment in Los Angeles where I was born that he had her make him 9 eggs for breakfast every morning because he missed good wholesome food. The powdered eggs he was forced to live on mixed with water and cooked many times in a helmet over a fire had left him missing the simply luxury of home cooking. Dad told me that even though the US Marines prided themselves on cooking hot food for their fighting men sometimes the mess halls could not safely be established close to the front lines so that those men often times had to eat K-Rations.
It was clear later on in life that Dad was bothered by the number of fatalities his artillery unit was forced to inflict even though they had nothing to do with starting the war, and plenty of our men were mercilessly killed by the heartless North Koreans and Chinese. He told me on one occasion an incoming barrage of Chinese artillery began raining down upon his unit one day. First, the Marines were forced to take cover lest a shell landed in the parapet and the entire storage of munitions detonated annihilating everyone! With moments they established the coordinates of where the enemy shells came in from and they countered with barrage of their own. He said within minutes they were firing off 60 shells a minute until they had wiped out the Chinese artillery who had attempted to destroy their position.
One horrific incident
Dad told me that in the course of the fighting in another battle that one of the Marines had been hit by a ribbon of 50 caliber machine gun bullets from his temple down to his boots and was still alive screaming. The commander had to put the poor mortally wounded soldier out of his misery with an officer’s pistol to the head. He probably had used a model 1911 which was common issue back then. The screams of the wounded man were unnerving his buddies and there was nothing they could have done to save him. Under these circumstances a position could be given away to the enemy resulting in more deaths. Sometimes I wondered if the commander my Dad had been talking about hadn’t been himself forced to make a terrible decision for the sake of his surviving men.
Don’t poke the bear
My Mom told me that Dad had a bit of a temper after getting back from the war and could get enraged with a little provocation. Once at a stop light some fool had taken away my Dad’s right of way then given him the middle finger! My Mom had to grab my Dad and hang on for dear life to keep Dad from dragging this guy out of his car and beating him up, but I think back to the way the veterans got treated back then and ignored by the public after what they went through. California never really was a bastion of law abiding citizens especially patriotic ones even then.
As kids, my brothers and were raised in northwest Dallas and the LBJ Freeway was just being constructed. It was a new area of track homes. When we moved in one half of the neighborhood was still an old cotton field and dry creek bed on Maple Ridge Drive. The first generation of Championship Dallas Cowboys were among our neighbors. Players like Bob Lily, Dan Reeves, and Chuck Howley lived just a few blocks away. They were endlessly hounded for autographs by the kids in the neighborhood but they never growled and told any of us to quit pestering them. They usually came to the door tired from workouts and not that happy to see us, but unlike today’s NFL player, overpaid, self-important, and often rude to fans, these guys were a class act.
The joy of football
One day over at Lake Highlands Junior High football field where all the kids played on weekends and after school I actually got to catch a few passes from the 3rd string quarterback, Jerry Rhome, who ended up being traded to the Houston oilers where he played starting passer and eventually coach. I will never forget hearing the sizzling sound of one of his passes coming toward me. To illustrate how my Father never backed down from a challenge my brothers and I had begun playing football with an older man who had 2 Korean sons whom he brought to the football field with him and even though they were younger than us he gave them a chance to play too. Howard, as we knew him would play all-time quarterback for both sides and we would play for hours. No matter if it was 90 degrees out or 20 degrees we would gladly play for hours! One might recall famous guitarist, Steve Miller, attended this school a few years before my brothers and I.
The quarterback Dad
Howard was a former defensive lineman for the Chicago Bears and had claimed that he had left Hall of Fame Baltimore Colt quarterback Johnny Unitas on the ground after one play shaken up after Howard had tackled him. Howard was about 6’4” probably weighed around 250 lbs. and was still active and as my Dad once said a pretty graceful athlete. My father knew because he played along with us and scared the crap out of Howard when he blitzed even threw a game winning touchdown pass to the fastest kid in our neighborhood when he and Howard played opposite each other as quarterbacks.
Don’t poke the bear Part II
Well, one afternoon, Howard caused an altercation. Apparently he had been drinking too. He had accused my younger brother of stealing some change from one of his sons when they had gone out to the public pool together which was McCree Park down Plano Road from us. He had slammed the garage screen door in my brother’s face after accusing him. Now, my Dad was about 6ft. tall and probably weighed about 180 lbs. and when he got home and heard about what happened he took me and my brother in the car over to Howard’s house, knocked on the door, and confronted Howard the big ex- Chicago Bear defensive lineman. I watched as Dad began chewing the guy out but kept it from being too nasty, but it was apparent Howard was intimidated and was having nothing of a knock down drag out. When Dad got back in the car he asked us, “So he claims to have played for the Bears, eh?” And we responded yes. Dad’s retort had been, “well, he sure must have been a chickenshit!” That was the lifelong Marine that Dad carried with him the rest of his days.
Don’t poke the bear Part III
Even in his seventies my Dad could ball up his big ham sized fist and give me or one of my sons a playful shot in the arm and damn near knock one of us over. There was another such incident where living in North Dallas as were we had a former US Army colonel next door. The man wasn’t particularly friendly. He stood about 6 foot 7 inches tall, a huge man, with a mustache and salt and pepper head of hair. One day my brothers and I were playing football in his yard and once of us kicked the ball by accident into his backyard. When I went to get my football I explained to the ex-Army officer I was just getting my football when he growled at me and hurt my feelings. When I came back my Dad noticed I was a bit shaken and asked me what happened. I told him and Dad went storming over to the guy’s front door!
Dad was usually very professional, very mild mannered, but when it came to his kids he was a real bulldog. Well, the tall and massive ex Colonel came to the door and Dad just about tore right into him. The taller man who seemed to tower over dad backed off and kept saying. “Calm down now. Be civil. We can work this out!” After Dad got through with him he came back over to the house and said, “Just because he was once a colonel he thinks he can still keep ordering people around! Not anymore!” I think it was evident that Dad had kind of a chip on his shoulder about higher ranking officers. No wonder he didn’t want to accept a Captain’s promotion when offered to him!
Dad later admitted,” that guy probably could have crushed my head if we’d gotten into it.” But, I doubt that. Dad had the kind of adrenaline strength you don’t see in many people and besides the ex-colonel was an older man. I actually felt sorry for him. When they say once a Marine always a Marine, it was definitely true back then! Now, well it’s a different world and I’m not so sure even though I respect all soldiers who have served. Raising 6 boys would have been enough to drive anyone crazy or to make them become too fond of physical punishment, but Dad though tough was always fair. He was the rock we depended on. We always knew where he stood and that he loved this country. Dad expected honesty and discipline from his sons. He often reminisced about the Great Depression when he was just a little boy and how everyone everywhere in America mostly had nothing but they all got joy out of life. Comparing life then to the present he was disappointed in the people. Just as Comedian, George Carlin, once said, also a former veteran only of the USAF, “Too many choices America. Not healthy!”