©Copyright CJ Magro, Paratroopers of the 50's
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Korean War Series:

Paratroopers of the 50's is proud and fortunate to be able to provide its "Viewers" another great article on the Korean Combat Jumps .

Paratroopers of the 50's and Nick Dramis would  like to give a special thanks to Jack Cicolello  for furnishing some old Life Magazine pictures of the Jump. Save for him  by his sister "Elizabeth Legnetti, 1931-1996".

Nick 1950
19 year old Nick,
taken in Pyongyang,
 This account of the Munsan-ni combat jump and the subsequent battles was furnished by: Nick Dramis, who served 1949 - 1952 with the 187 AIR 

Nick, Dedicates this Page to all Korean Veterans.
Nick, has written a great book on the History of the Airborne
"Silver Wings of Airborne"-- A MUST READ !

To find out more about this outstanding book

You can E-mail Nick at:
n.dramis@attbi.com

Editors note: as they say once Airborne always Airborne, Nick is the secretary treasurer, of the Angels Over Hell Chapter in Northern California,

Nick,  enlisted in the Army during the summer of 1949.  He was 18 years old, and recently out of High School. 

His basic training was taken at  Fort Dix, New Jersey.   He remained at Fort Dix after basic training , attending many schools he wanted to get as much education as he could . 
 

I was introduced to the Airborne the summer of 1950, through a fellow soldier attending a similar class as I.  He was with the 82nd Airborne, and  told me that he receives $50.00 more a month for parachuting. 

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.

In August of 1950, I was transferred to Fort Benning, Georgia, to begin Airborne Training. We all know what the training consisted, and I received my wings on September 13, 1950. 

During my training at Fort Benning, the war in Korea, which had begun in July 1950, was beginning to l heat up. Upon completion of my Airborne Training, I along with most of my fellow graduates, were sent to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, home of the llth Airborne. We arrived at Campbell and was greeted with a huge banner reading,

34ft tower
"Welcome Paratroopers, Korea Bound." 

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 to
my mother. They were taken from us, and I learned when my tour in Korea was completed, they reached my parents at their home. 

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.
 

But it did !
It started in the same beer hall. A remark was made, beers were tossed, and another riot  broke out, and the hall once again was damaged. The paratrooper's had once again lived up to our lore. 

Editors Note: 
The picture on the right is not a picture of Nick's old outfit but it a good example of how an Airborne Beer Hall brawl gets started !!

Beer Brawl

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.

Upon arrival in Japan, we were assigned our weapons, which included a .45 side arm, a cloth vest, wool cap with flaps (aka a Pile Cap), and waited for an overnight ferry to Pusan, Korea. 
50's pile cap
The Pile Cap an   ICON of the 50's
In the meantime, the 187th made a combat jump on October 20, 1950 at Sukchon, and Sunchon, in Northern Korea just a few miles from the North Korean Capital of Pyongyang.

The 187th then occupied Pyongyang.

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 were ready. 
 

The preparations included each company to visit Battalion Headquarters, to receive a briefing of the imminent jump. In the briefing tent stood a large mock - up of our intended jump zone. We could see a clearing with mountains all around the clearing. The Briefing Officer said, "this is your DZ. Your will be coming in at about 600 feet, where upon you will be dropped here." He pointed at the DZ area. "G Company will take up positions here, here, and here. your assigned target is here." As once again he pointed.
We left grumbling. 
Korean Map

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. 
 

 
We had a good breakfast of pancakes, and plenty of hot coffee. After which, we packed our combat gear. Our rifles were packed in a rifle bags, and these bags, were then attached to our parachute harness. We were ready to go!

We climbed into trucks and were driven to the awaiting aircrafts. When we alighted from the trucks, I was amazed at the number of planes on the air strip. 

There were C-46's, C47's, C-82's, and C-119's.  I was assigned to a C-119. 

Picture taken from Life Magazine, 
Vol. 30, No. 15  April 9, 1951 .
It was most difficult to climb the three steps leading into the aircraft, as each of us were bent over at the waist with all the gear that we carried on our bodies.

When each of us in turn started to climb the three steps, each of us was helped by people stationed by each door leading into each aircraft. After climbing the steps we positioned ourselves along both sides of the aircraft, sitting on the extended canvas mountings which would be our seats. In the middle of the aircraft which was cardoned off with canvas linings, was our heavy equipment.

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heavy eqt.drop This jump would be the first jump in airborne history in which heavy equipment, such as trucks and artillery, would also be dropped into enemy territory. 

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.
It seemed like a long time had elapsed before the aircraft lifted into the air and took it's position in the flight pattern. 

We would fly west out over the Yellow Sea, before turning east to Munson-ni. 

dramisleep The hum of the engines soon put me into a deep sleep. I began to dream of home and my family along with my friends in my neighborhood. I dreamed of playing baseball with my friends. I dreamed of my sister calling me home from these baseball games, to come home to eat. The dreams were very pleasant.

I was awaken by a shove from my buddy next to me. It was getting time to jump.
Now I began to fear. I had five concerns. Would my parachute open? Would I be injured in my landing? Would I be wounded in action? Would I be captured? Would I be killed?

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.

Munsan-ni Jump
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
shot from about 500 yards. Later in life, I was to meet this trooper his name is George Carty. He lives in Vacaville, California, and is a member of our Angels Over Hell Chapter, part of the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team Association.
 

During the night a company of tanks had broken through the enemy lines and raced to our positions. It was a great relief to us knowing that we were not alone without heavy support. Now we had tanks!

 

G Company mounted the tanks and we soon were proceeding past our jump off point. It was going to be a little sticky from now on.

Picture on left of Dead Sgt. after Jeep hit mine

Picture on right is his helmet used to mark another mine found further down the road.

Both pictures taken from Life Magazine Vol. 30, No. 15  April 9, 1951 .
Photograph for Life byJohn Dominis and Joe Scherschel

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.

The objective was ours !


Picture was cut from Life Magazine, Vol. 30, No. 15  April 9, 1951 .
Photograph for Life byJohn Dominis and Joe Scherschel
Paratroopers, flush enemy snipers from group of peasants' huts near drop zone. North Koreans put up fight but were quickly driven into the hills. 
Three hundred were killed , 131 captured

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. 

Many of our friends fell, most were the replacements. We never knew their names !

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.

The enemy retreated, and the fight ended. 

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. 

Just then I heard someone yell, "here they come !! " The counter-attack had begun. 

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. 

Down the hill, Easter Mass was just concluded, and the troopers ran to their positions. 


It started to drizzle once again, and the enemy was starting to gain ground. Joe, with another assistant, poured machine gun fire at the approaching combination of North Koreans, and Red Chinese. Heavy fire from F Company, situated on our right, made the enemy attack falter, and the enemy withdrew.

Picture  of Mortar men firing into hills taken from Life Magazine Vol. 30, No. 15  April 9, 1951 .

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.
It was the last week of May , and in addition to being warm, it was also humid. It was cloudy when we boarded the trucks which took us to our jump off point were we dismounted and marched for several hours to our objective.
Editors note: this picture is not necessarily the picture rof Nick outfit, although it is one of the 187th marching to engage the enemy. It is intended to give the viewer an idea of the terrain they were fighting in.
187th on March

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.

We would be ready!

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.
G company and the 1st platoon was strung out along the ridge. The Chinese began blowing their whistles and yelling. We began to yell back at them. We had all seen this play out previously. 

Flares were shot into the air and they illuminated the advancing enemy. 
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

At the start of the attack on his position, Rudy's squad was immediately wiped out, either killed, or severely wounded. 

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. 
The Rudy we knew was a soft spoken lad. One never knows his capabilities until put to the test. In later years, Rudy received the Medal Of Honor from President Truman.
We see Rudy to this day, at all of our Reunions.
Medal of Honor

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.



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Silver Wings of Airborne” Book Review by CJ Magro

nickbook
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.

If you are interested in obtaining a copy of this great book, you can E-mail Nick at:

n.dramis@comcast.net


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