Now this perked my interest since I was a poor private only earning $72.00 a month, and sending $50.00 of that home to my mother each month. So, I went to the Company Commander and requested a transfer to the Airborne.
We were told to pack our belongings and to
send them home, for we would have no further use of our clothing, or other
things we may have accumulated. Each of us were given a large box, and
we began packing our clothing. In addition to my clothing, I enclosed my
High School graduation ring, and my wrist watch along with a short note
It took us three days by troop train to reach the West Coast, and we were then trucked to Camp Stoneman located in the Bay Area just outside of Oakland, Ca.
Once there, we were made to stand in formation
and was scolded by the Commanding Officer of this transit camp. He told
us, that he would be watching us very closely, because
the main group of the 187th Regiment of the llth Airborne having only left
but a few short weeks ago, caused great damage to the beer hall before
their departure, and he, the Commander, would not let this happen again.
Within days we paratroopers were trucked to Travis, AFB, and boarded a Military Air Transport plane, and flew out to Japan. We stopped in Hawaii and at Wake island for refueling and chow.
We arrived at Pusan, Korea, about the 25-26 of October, 1950.
A troop train awaited to take us north to the front. But before boarding the train we were told that at no instance were we to fire our weapons from the train should we be attacked. We were told the South Korean Soldiers (ROK's) would be our protectors. These soldiers were positioned on the roofs of the trains with their weapons.
It would take us 4 days to reach the front lines simply because we could only travel by day. If we traveled at night , it would be at our own peril.
We reached Pyongyang on October 30, 1950. On this day, some of the troops were entertained by The Bob Hope Show. We did not see the show, but heard it.
I was assigned to the First Platoon of G Company, the Second Battalion, and my first sergeant was "Jumpy Valent."
The Chinese had entered the war in December, 1950 and our forces were told to pull out of North Korea. Our unit was assigned as a rear guard, and it was during this time that I was involved in my first taste of combat.
We had many more opportunities for combat, as the United Nations Forces began once again, to attack and push the enemy North.
After our engagement with the enemy in February, 1951, we were taken from the front lines, and shipped to an apple orchard near Taegu air strip. We did not know why we were brought to this particular place . But here we received replacements, some, we hardly got to know their names.
Sometime about the second week of March, we
received word that on Good Friday, March 23, 1951, we would make a combat
jump. Preparations began to increase, and by Monday, March 19, 1951, we
Thursday night was difficult to sleep. We were ready, and we were tensed.
I couldn't sleep. When I finally did fall to
sleep, I was awaken early in the morning by the sound of trucks bringing
our gear, and ready to take us to the hangars for our chutes.
It seemed like no time at all had been wasted, before the props of the aircraft were turning, and we started out to take our turn on the runway.
When the time had arrived for our aircraft
to take off, the aircraft seemed to stand up as the engines began to roar,
and we started to roll out. The plane began to go faster and faster down
the runway. We could see the numbers on the runway slip past us. We could
see the mountains before us, and the C-119 was rolling hard down the runway.
We would fly west out over the Yellow Sea, before turning east to Munson-ni.
I was awaken by a shove from my buddy next
to me. It was getting time to jump.
The commands were given, and each of us checked the chutes of the person in front of us. We shuffled and went to the door. In seconds we were plunging from the aircrafts. My parachute did open, and my first fear was gone.
Picture of jump taken by Life Magazine Photographers
As I floated to earth I could see the entire sky filled with parachutes, 4,000 of them. We blotted out the sky.
I landed, and my second fear was gone. After hitting the ground I looked up and saw the planes flying to my left, so I knew I had to look to my right for my company smoke signal. Seeing the smoke, I ran in the direction of the smoke to find our heavy equipment, our .30 caliber machine gun.
We formed into our platoons, and headed out to our objectives. Our company was in reserve, and on this first day, we did not engaged with the enemy. We marched to our objectives, and soon became exhausted as darkness was approaching. Somewhere ahead of us, our Second Battalion carried the fight.
We soon climbed a hill, and were told to bed down for the night. None of us carried our sleeping bags, so it was simply fall to the ground and sleep. This was not difficult, for in spite of the cold weather, we were bone tired. Within minutes after falling to the ground, we were asleep.
This one night, when we were able to get at least six or seven hours of sleep, would be the only sleep we were to get for the next 10 days.
Saturday, March 24, 1951, was G Company's turn
to carry the fight. As we neared our jump
off point, I noticed a trooper coming toward us with blood streaming from
his forehead. He was evidently headed for the aid station. As he
approached I could see a bullet lodged into his helmet. I thought how lucky
he was, as it probably was a round
Our objective, the hill to our immediate front was now looming larger as we approached hugging the tanks. Suddenly whizzes and pings were heard. I said to Joe, "what the hell is that?" Joe Bachety said, "they're shooting at us." . Joe is still alive and kicking, a retired policeman from Long Island, NY.
Immediately we took up our positions, mounted our .30 caliber machine gun, and commenced firing at the enemy. Several times we moved our positions, always moving forward.
We finally routed the enemy, and pursued them to the next hill. It started to drizzle, and we continued the attack. The drizzle became a heavy rain, and the ground became an ocean of mud. And we continued pressing the attack.
Unknown to us at the time, the North Koreans and Red Chinese had concentrated a force over this other ridge. As we continued to press the attack, we were met with fierce fire from the enemy.
Our attack was stalled, and soon we had to withdraw to the ridge behind us. The enemy fire was relentless, as we scurried to find cover. The rain began to fall harder. We became soaked to our skins. The rain halted the enemies advance, and enabled F Co. which was positioned to our right, to bring heavy fire on the enemy.
During the night we dug fox holes preparing for the coming counter-attack, and dared not to sleep. Occasionally one of the noncoms would whisper our names, and we would whisper back, signaling that we were awake. Saturday night passed without a counter-attack. At daylight on Easter Sunday we milled around shaking off the wet clothes, and calming our shivering bodies. G Company was occupying a ridge, and to our left was another part of the ridge which we did not occupy.
I asked Sergeant Valent if any of our troops were located to our left. He said "no."
Picking up a rifle, I started moving toward this area being careful to walk below the ridge line so as not to be silhouetted to the enemy. I found no one to be there, and started back.
Ed Kiernan, of New York City, was one of the first to fall. I rushed to him, but there was nothing I could do, he was dead. On the ground, lay a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle). I picked up the weapon and laying prone along the ridge, began to fire. A round hit close to me kicking up dirt. For a second it seemed as though the shot had come from my rear, I glanced behind me, but I only saw our troops.
On Monday, G Company set out again to capture another hill. The fighting was not as fierce as the two previous days. We took the hill, and captured some wounded Chinese. One of our squad, Morrison, was told to escort the captives down to headquarters. The rest of us, once more began digging fox holes preparing for the counter-attack. Again, we stayed awake waiting for the enemy to come. Another night, and no counter-attack.
For the next several days, this was our pattern. Take a hill, and hold it against a counter-attack. On the 10th day, we were relieved.
We climbed aboard trucks, and were driven away. My three remaining fears, becoming wounded, killed, or captured faded, as we headed once again, south.
Again , we took on replacements and rested for all of the month of April, 1951.
The 187th would not engage with the enemy until May . But with the peace talks stalled, and the enemy claiming ground south of the 38th parallel, The 187th was called upon to re-take this ground and hold it, so when the peace talks resumed, the United Nations could claim this territory.
Our objective was Inje. Inje is situated toward the east coast of south Korea near the 38th Parallel.
As we neared our objective, we began to draw enemy fire. G company and the first Platoon was leading the way.
The battle as fierce, and climbing the hill was exhausting but after a short battle G company claimed victory. We took a short rest and began to eat our C rations as dusk set in. We all knew the enemy would try and retake this hill because it meant holding ground in South Korea.
We were all combat veterans now and knew various ways to help detect the enemy's advancements on our positions. We knew the North Koreans would attack at dusk and at darkness, and the red Chinese would attack at about 2 or 3 AM.
After eating our C rations we would throw our cans down the hill in front of us, then some of the Troopers would go down the hill to our front and set booby traps with hand grenades. We would then just wait.
When the attack did come, we heard the rattle of cans, then an explosion. Bugles began to blare and the enemy charged. We poured rifle fire down on them - they never made it to the top! This action continued for a couple of days.
On the night of May 31, a
large force was thrown against us. It was
the Red Chinese because the attack came after 3 AM. Again
, the sound of rattling cans alerted us.
This time , there were many of them!!
Off to our right the enemy attacked! This area was held by Rudy Hernandez, and his squad.
As the enemy attacked, our squad poured fire at them; then the enemy attacked our front and we could not assist Rudy's squad any more , we had to defend ourselves!
The enemy breached our positions; we waited in our fox holes anticipating hand to hand combat, but the enemy never got to us, our reserve units to our rear stopped the enemies advance.
The fire fight was hot and heavy. It started to rain, and the enemy had enough. They withdrew.
We later learned that Rudy Hernandez would be written-up for the Medal Of Honor. We learned he had been hit, and that the medics were attempting to keep him alive.
This is Rudy's story
Rudy, seeing that he was alone, charged the oncoming enemy killing several of them, with both his rifle and his bayonet. Rudy was shot several times, but he continued to fight. Through his actions, he alone, stopped the enemies advancement saving many lives, and holding his ground.
On the morning of June 1st, we were relieved by a leg outfit, and returned south once again. But unlike the previous times, we would be pulled from Korea, to Japan. We stayed in Japan for 2 months before it was rotation time, and we left Japan for home.
I arrived home for a 30 day leave in September, and then took up duty with the 11th Airborne at Fort Campbell. I was discharged from service in 1952.
Paratrooper of the 50's - Korean War Series: - Navigator
All stories furnished by Paratroopers who served in Korea
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If you were a paratrooper, or are a paratrooper in today’s Army, this book is for you!
If you are not a paratrooper, nor ever were a paratrooper, but want to read real life stories about the guys with the “guts” to jump from planes and engage the enemy, then this book is definitely for you!
Recently, HBO presented a program series based on Stephen Ambrose’s book, “Band of Brothers.” If you enjoyed the book or the series, you certainly will enjoy this new book, “Silver Wings of Airborne” by Nick Dramis. Each story reinforces what all airborne troopers know and never forget: We are and always will be spiritually inseparable brothers.
The author takes us from the end of World War I, on to the years of Germany’s might, and to the war in the Pacific. The stories tell of our U.S. Army’s trials and tribulations with the concept of Airborne Soldiers. The stories themselves are the result of hours of research and personal interviews, often recorded on tape, and told to author Nick Dramis by those who proudly wore the “Silver Wings of Airborne. These narratives span the years of our airborne interventions in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama and Desert Storm. This is first-hand history told by those who were there to live it.