Crossing the Naktong The Valiant Mac's Marauders The FO's Reward With The Aussies-Aussie Patrol With The Aussies-Aussie Ire -Dong
CROSSING THE NAKTONG
by Olin M. Hardy
Eighth Army had said it was time. "Love" Company had said it was ready. As ready as we could be given the situation as it was. I donít remember the date but I believe it was the 17th or 18th of Sept. 1950. There was fear and trepidation to this operation. Open boats without protection was a scary thought. Would the boats have motors or oars. Would we have to row? After all there was no place to dig a hole in a boat. The thought was scary. Most of us were scared. I was. Now we knew, yes we would have to row. Small wooden boats, carrying about 10 or 12 men was to be our means of transportation. At least we werenít the lead company. I believe that was Gibís Item Company.
What did the enemy have in store for us after we got across? It was an unknown factor for us but one we would soon have the answer. The night before, the incoming mortar and artillery rounds were frightening enough to cause one of our members to lose-it. It was not as if it were embarrassing, because it was no more embarrassing than getting hit by a snipers bullet. Sometimes it just happened. When a comrade cracks-up, mental fatigue, looses-it or whatever tag is imposed on the incident. Members of Love rushed in to console and assist as best they could the man in trouble. It happened to Franks the night before we crossed and it happened to Ulrich the day we crossed.
It was to be a daylight crossing. We were scattered along the river bank digging in, waiting for the boats when the incoming rounds started to pound.. it was an all out barrage, mortar if I recall correctly. I dug faster and deeper. I thought it would never end. It is difficult even when you can fight back. But in this position we were with out Artillery support that I could direct. I couldnít fight back just had to hide and pray. Within a few minutes Ulrich lost-it. Fellow comrades rushed in to comfort him and try to assist him in overcoming his fears. Itís not easy to help someone else when you are as frightened as we were.
The boats arrived and we loaded up. Scared to death. Eager for it to be over. We moved out, there were 6 paddles. I donít remember who paddled. We all ducked low, a few incoming rounds landed in the water, but no one was hit. We landed on the other side. Awkwardly and hastily we escaped the confines of that totally unacceptable floating device. It was over. Now we advance and fight as we go. Scared yes, but much more in control of my own destiny now I breathed a sigh of relief. So did the members of "Love". Here they were confident of their own abilities. As we formed up and moved out the feeling of self confidence almost over took the feeling of caution we had about moving into the unknown. Now all we had to do was link up with the elements of the 3rd Battalion. Secure our flanks and wait out the first night. Our first night outside the Pusan Perimeter. There was a good feeling about being here.
by Olin M. Hardy
Out of the mountains Now back for a rest. Dog dirty and bare, Maybe two days or three. Staggered ninety-six men ĎCause it was up to God, And they didnít care. Enslaved or free.
They were all that were left So on down the trail of one company strong. the weary men dragged, They had been on the line Foot weary and sore, 20 days too long. Many of them lagged.
Their beards were long But theyíd return again And their bodies were gaunt. to avenge the dead. Eyes sunk way in Back up every word with a look that would haunt. their buddies had said.
There was Greco and Nelson So the war goes on. Dossette and Cox Just a line to some. and Even old Zeke Or a tack on a map, With a nose like a fox. pushed in by thumb.
Their buddies were gone, But itís vivid to them Some wounded some dead. and those who fell Some even had Ďbuggedí. For in other words Just took off and fled. Itís a taste of Hell.
But the rest had remained and held fast the line. The Eighth Army had said, "you did mighty fine." written after Hill #1157 in April Ď51
Motivation and Visibility
by Olin M. "Short-Round" Hardy
Many times during our tenure in Korea our battalion had the opportunity to be labeled different. We were well aware of the difference of Love Company. "We were different," but by the same token, so was our Third Battalion. "Macís Marauders" were not always in step with the rest of the 24th Division. The reputation of "Big Six", Colonel Richard Stephens, was legendary in the division. He was a leader who led by example. This often put him in Ďharmís wayí. It was not uncommon to find him with the lead unit of a night march.
Talk about motivation. I remember one dark and scary night the Regiment was advancing to an unknown position in an unknown area. This is normal, of course, but within the confines of the Pusan Perimeter we, more often than not, had been over the same road before. Now we had crossed the Naktong and were marching into new and uncharted waters. There was considerable grumbling and distaste for this type maneuver, and the members of Love Company were not above voicing their disapproval. Fear is normal, and the tone of some of the voices expressed it better than words.
A slow moving jeep progressed through our column and in the dim illumination of the night-lights we could read the words, "This is Macís S-3". Written in white paint on the 8-inch metal strip below the glass of the windshield in 6" letters. The sign stood out even in the pitch black of the night. Some Love Company "wiseacre" smarted off with a comment about werenít they worried being so far forward. A voice from the jeep assured them that they were really in the rear. "Big Six" was a couple of miles ahead of them already.
Needless to say the spirits of the unit took a turn for the better. The pace picked up along with the mutterings of how did he do that. "Love" Company was used to being in the lead. Now the regimental commander was ahead of us. That was a little too much.
Colonel McConnell was very much aware of the importance of staff visibility. He accomplished this in a very unique manner. His staff jeeps had painted on each of their jeeps the designation of the staff member. "This is Macís Exec.," "This is Macís S-4," This is Macís S-1," and so on until all staff members were identified. Then came the jeep with the sign "This is Mac" and in small print in front of the driver was the sign "This is Macís Driver". It was always a good sign when we would see the Jeep with the sign "This is Macís S-4". That usually meant the Major Uzzle had come forward with the Class X supply. Many comments were cast at the S-4 about the sign on his jeep. A few brazen types suggested that it be changed to "Guzzle with Uzzle."
This method worked. I thought enough of it myself to label the FO jeep with the sign "The Short Roundís." It identified my vehicle and trailer to all members of Love Company. The trailer became the target of many as a place where they could store their unmentionables, i.e. captured weapons, whiskey, the frozen side of a "prime mover," (side of frozen beef) as well as packages from home that they wanted to save Ďtil later.í
Visibility, motivation, and pride eventually went the way of all things that are good for the troops. Colonel Armor, the 52nd FA Bn. Commander noticed my jeepís FO sign on one of its trips to the firing battery. He said it was degrading and I was ordered to remove it immediately. The 3rd Bn. lost itís identification when Lt. Colonel Gines Perez took over the regiment. Some one in a high place ordered them all to be removed.
So some of us were different. Perhaps we just expressed ourselves more openly, or the urge to be different may have been more abundant with us than with others. In any case, we noticed, were noticed, and proceeded accordingly.
Where was our faithful FO while the battle of Sleeping Bag Hill raged?
The FOís Reward
by Olin M. Hardy
There is nothing normal in the life of a Forward Observer. Digging fox holes in the frozen hills of Korea is not normal, becoming personally involved in a firefight is not normal, sleeping in 30 degree below zero in the open is not normal, nor is using the heat from your fox-hole buddyís body to warm the cold water of your foxhole normal. The life of a Forward Observer is comparable to that of the normal infantry soldier on the front lines of combat. The only privilege I can recall was the liquor ration. I received an officerís ration not only from the Infantry but from the Artillery as well. Of course we had to climb down the hill and drive back to the Artillery Battery to collect it. If the liquor ration hadnít arrived by the time we went to mail call we didnít get it. So that wasnít much of a privilege after all.
Feb 3rd, 1951 I was selected to perform my duties from the air via the auspices of the 24th Infantry Division Light Aviation Section. Now, this was a reward, befitting the abnormal behavior pattern that I had developed over the past 7 months of front line combat. Sleep in a tent, eat hot food at a table, from real plates. Just to be warm was reward enough. Now this was more what I envisioned a Forward Observerís life should be. Little did I know.
The amenities of the month at the rear were a wonderful change. I do not recall any heat features of the plane and the bitter cold at the high altitudes seemed to penetrate all layers of clothing and even seeped through the blanket wrapping the steel plate I had liberated to sit on. The thought of rifle fire penetrating the fragile fuselage where I sat was of much concern to me, (had a puckering effect on me).
The Chinese activity during this period increased and we often found ourselves in danger of flying through our own high angle fire. The Chinese would dig in on the reverse slopes of the ridgelines. High angle was the only solution to reaching this near impossible target area. The Chinese were dedicated in their training. They never seemed to move and never fired at our plane. Only at the lower elevations or the base of the mountain would we receive small arms fire. On occasions they would fire mortars at us and we could witness the round as it sped by our plane and in some instances its descent after it reached the apogee of its trajectory. Apparently they believed the round would not return to their area to impact, or they had an impact area cleared and only fired if we flew through their field of fire. It was disconcerting to say the least.
I flew 43 missions during my reward period. Often two, and sometimes three missions a day. Mostly enjoyable missions, despite the cold and the bitter biting wind. The one exception to this favorable routine came with this memorable flight with a newly commissioned 2nd Lt with dubious piloting expertise. I had flown several missions with him before and had never noticed any thing peculiar about him other than his incessant scratching and his obvious inexperience. He scratched himself continually. During this flight I happened to notice that during take off he not only scratched him self he also checked mags. Now checking mags during take-off is a dangerous procedure. It is normally performed prior to take off. This time it was very obvious. Now I was nervous. As we climbed to our observation altitude I noticed that we were really moving as we headed north. We really had a tail wind. We made it to our area of observation very rapidly but had to climb over a very high range of mountains to get to the area. Because of the high velocity of the wind we had trouble staying over our target area. Since this pilot easily became disoriented, I always was especially observant of our location and direction.
We finished our mission and were headed home when I noticed our land speed appeared to be negligible. We were now headed into the wind and the speed of the little Piper Cub type aircraft was less than the velocity of the wind. When I noticed the bobbing cork wire that represented the gas gauge I really became nervous. We had to gain altitude to get over the high range of mountains before we were behind our lines. At this point it was a formidable task. My brave pilot seemed not to notice our stand still position. At times we even appeared to be flying backwards while at full power. I called this to his attention and he seemed to become more confused. We needed more speed to gain altitude to get over the mountains. I finally convinced him to do a split-S maneuver, dive as steeply as possible and ride the curvature of the mountain to its peak and then dive down the other side. Granted we would be very close to the surface but I really didnít want to be forced down behind enemy lines. My young pilot completed the maneuver successfully. As we glided down the south side the mountain headed for home the wire gas gauge was bouncing on the top the gas cap. I was near the end of my tour with Light Aviation but needless to say, I never flew with this pilot again.
By the way, if any one should ask me to describe the sound of a bullet piercing the fabric of a plane wing, it is indescribable in sound and not decipherable in the printed word. I actually believe I am more comfortable in the security of a foxhole during a firefight than in the seat of an ice-cold plane at the hands of an inexperienced pilot. Iím not sure I can stand any more rewards.
When we went into reserve, our FO always seemed to luck out and draw something exciting to do. The Aussies and the Turks were very different duty indeed!
WITH THE AUSSIES
by Olin M. "Short-Round" Hardy
I made several patrols with the Aussies.
On this particular one we went out in the small half-tracks, I believe they referred to them as "weasels". We opted to leave our jeep behind and carry the radio and spare batteries. With the Aussies, their actions being unpredictable, using their equipment seemed prudent at the time.
We left the line of departure just before daybreak and prceeded to our objective. We had been there before. We stopped and the officers and command NCOís had a conference. They elected to proceed until we found some of the enemy. I advised them that we would be out of artillery range within another 1,000 yards. They indicated they understood, and were openly hostile to returning to their positions. I kept my mouth shut while they decided which route to take as we advanced. We moved slowly now with occasional stops while a squad sized unit spread out and reconnoitered.
About 3 miles down the road the advance party found about a company or larger group. It was still early in the morning. We advanced slowly towards their position, lined up the weasels and then attacked at maximum speed. Each vehicle was equipped with a mounted machine gun and about 4 or 5 heavily armed men. It was early morning, and the entire camp was in the process of doing the usual morning things, going to the slit trench, eating breakfast, getting dressed etc. This wild bunch of Aussies descended upon them with all guns blazing and yelling in an obscene way that was enough to terrorize a company of Turks. People ran in all directions, some half dressed, some with their pants around their knees. One vehicle ran over a man who couldnít move fast enough away from the slit trench. When they had over run the entire area, they turned around and came back through the area killing anyone they had missed the first time. Then they departed very rapidly, forming up as they left the area. There were no wounded or killed that I can recall. But there was a lot of laughter, camaraderie, and checking of weapons as they rolled back to their positions. This was the second or third time we went past our objective. But by far the most rewarding.
During my tenure as an FO, I continually found myself directing fire for other members of the United Nations contingency. It seemed that every time Love Company was placed in reserve I was directed to one of these participants. I served as an FO for the Australians, the Canadianís "Princess Pats Own", the British Commonwealth Brigade, the Turks, the Colombians, as well as the ROKs. If any of these were really memorable it would have to be my times with the Aussies. The best of the best of the many stories I could tell about them went like this.
The company I ended up with was commanded by a Major, who appeared fastidious in his personal appearance and insisted on traveling with a real bed and mattress for his CP. Where he acquired them I havenít a clue. One afternoon I had joined them rather late in the day and had to hastily lay in my defensive fire for the evening. We discussed the avenues of approach and possible eventualities and I began my registration. The Major hurried back down the hill to supervise the erecting of his CP tent on the reverse slope of the hill approximately 75 yards from my OP. The registration was proceeding as scheduled when apparently someone forgot to level a bubble or there was a 100 mil error on the registering piece. Whatever the problem, it produced the eerie whissssh of on incoming round. I dropped to the ground and yelled "Incoming" while turning to see where it would land. As fate would have it, it landed in the middle of the Majors CP. Tent, bed and CP paraphernalia, the Major and his orderly were sent flying. I yelled "Cease Fire!" to the FDC and asked them to stand by while I investigated the damage. I stood up and started to run down to the CP when a very disheveled Major picked himself up, dusted himself off and hurried in my direction. Prudence dictated my conduct at the time and I snapped to attention as he approached. I prepared myself for the Ďass-chewingí I felt was coming, and saluted. He pointed his swagger stick at me and in his very proper, very controlled Aussie brogue said, "I say ĎArty, old boy. Was that one of yours?" Not sure of the outcome of this encounter I squared my shoulders and answered, "Yes Sir." He looked at me with the dirt in his hair and the anger still in his eyes and then most suitably said, "Well, would you mind lifting them up just a little bit?" He then turned abruptly and limped back to his CP, leaving me in a quandary as to the proper reply to his question. It wasnít till I quit shaking that I started to laugh. Even today as I tell this tale once more, the humor returns.
by Olin M. Hardy
After we were relieved by the 2nd Division on the Naktong, we moved to the Taegu apple orchard for rest and re-supply. From there we moved to Pohangdong on the east coast. We set up positions north of the city. Love company in the center and to the left of the road, King company on the right and Item company on our left. I company drew the patrols and K the attack on hill 99. During one of the patrols into the valley that stretched way north across a wide level area, I company came under mortar fire as well as attack from our own aircraft. The F.O., Beverly Dunlap was injured by the either the mortar fire or the aircraft. It was around the end of August I believe. during our short 2 or 3 day stay there, K company was involved in a furious fire fight for hill 99 directly to their front. Bill Head was the FO at the time I believe. We had dug our OP in on the forward slope of the hill overlooking the entire valley. We were peppered by flat trajectory weapon fire during most of our stay there. Sniper fire was continuous. Here I learned that the sound of a round that misses you by scant inches gives forth a resounding "whap" like the side of a wooden ruler smacking the top of a desk. At the time I was not aware that these "cracks" were from sniper fire until part of my helmet camouflage dropped down the neck of my fatigues.
Apparently I wasnít the only one receiving fire because Love company returned the fire and the harassment ceased. My OP was barely over the crest of the hill and I had been desperately trying to locate the high velocity weapon that had us under fire. The weapon was well camouflaged and couldnít be located. My only alternative was to return fire to the suspected location. This was accomplished and some of the rounds must have irked them because we came under an intense concentration of firepower. Most of the rounds went over my position. Thinking I had the range I adjusted the next volley for the FDC. I had just ducked down in my foxhole with the EE-8 telephone to my ear when a round hit the front side of my OP. The force of the explosion tossed me up in the air with the telephone still to my ear, turned me upside down, and threw me outside my hole. I was deafened, and visibly shaken, unable to continue with the fire mission. Gradually my senses and hearing returned, my actual return to reality took a little longer.
Dusk was rapidly approaching. Still shaken by the close call I had experienced, I became more determined than ever to find the SP that had damn near killed me. Night time arrived and K company across the road was once again under attack. Then I saw it. The flash of that obscene high velocity weapon firing on our position. I immediately pointed my compass and shot an azimuth to that position. Battalion FDC was notified of the situation and preparations were made to record the flash to bang time and to further solidify the azimuth. They fired again and I hit my stop watch. "Got it," I yelled to Bn., fed them the rest of the data and requested Bn 3 rounds. With the "On the way" information tucked in my head, I watched and waited. What a beautiful sight. All the guns in the Bn landed on target. Secondary explosions confirmed that we had indeed hit home. What a feeling. Elation, revenge, contentment and complete satisfaction that everything had worked out as "the book" said it should.
Morning found us in the same position. Patrols went out and returned. K company and hill 99 had not come to terms. Business as usual. That afternoon the FO crew was informed that the Bn was pulling out and that we were to cover their withdrawal. "How long should we stay here?" I queried. "As long as you can," I was told, "the ROKís are supposed to occupy our positions." Somehow I had trouble accepting this as I watched the Bn pull back to the rear to load up on trucks to go plug a hole somewhere else in the line. We were alone. We had not been given a location to report to. We had not been given any indication as to how long we were to remain. We dug deeper in our holes.
There was movement way out to my front, near the suspected location of the High Velocity weapon. I rang Bn FDC and gave them the fire mission, also explained our position and the absence of the Infantry. The fire mission was completed and we waited. The enemy, politely called our little brown brothers from the north, regrouped and started once again in our direction. I waited until they were closer and called for another fire mission. When I reached battalion they said this was the last mission they could fire for us. "Why?" I asked. "After this mission we are CSMO (Close Station, March Order)." They answered. The mission fired and the lines were disconnected. Now we really were alone. I called Sgt. Heiser and Cpl. Dossett up and explained the situation to them. We all agreed it was time to move on down the road and see if we could locate Love company before dark.
As darkness fell, we were west bound towards Taegu. We became involved with a KMAG (Korean Military Advisory Group) group who stated they would try to find our unit for us. Suddenly from the north came the sound of many running feet. The entire Korean First Capitol Division was headed south in retreat with two ranks on each side of the road. None appeared to have weapons. All this without any sound other than the slap slap of their feet as they hit the ground. We then joined up with the KMAG unit and followed them as they headed North. The KMAG Major explained that by going north we would miss the traffic jam on the main road at night. He also explained that we needed an assessment of the situation to send to Headquarters. So we tagged along. Not necessarily happy about going north, but resigned to the fact we didnít know where we were or where our unit was, we found the other west bound trail and progressed slowly. Dawn found us on some high ground overlooking another short valley. Behind us was a contingency of the enemy and another group approaching us from the northwest. Following the KMAG Major we headed northeast to evade the NKA that seemed to have us pinned in. The KMAG Major knew what he was doing and by late afternoon we were back on the main road. We never did find out the name of the KMAG Major. He was one of the true heroes of the conflict. We were passengers in the night, looking for Love.