Windsor to Korea
Paré lives in Traverse City, Michigan. He regularly sends
in his stories about growing up in Windsor and his service in the
Tom (with hand to face) and his
the most part, the boys youth was spent on Josephine Avenue
in Windsor. Those were his happy times, sharing wars, and baseball,
and girl-dreams with his gang. The other gang members all lived
on Josephine except for Phil Power who lived with his mom and dad
on Bridge Avenue. He was allowed in because his brother, Frank,
had been killed in a RCAF Lancaster shot down over Germany. That
made Phil a hero also, and thats what the Josephine Avenue
gang was all about.
all, they had lived through World War II, and they had all prayed
to be part of an Allied victory, which arrived before any of the
gang was old enough to enlist.
went well until one fateful day when the boys parents announced
that they were moving to the United States. Despite his protests
the house was sold, their belongings packed and the family moved
away. In July of 1950, a very bitter and disenchanted boy of 16
and his four brothers arrived in the United States. To make matters
worse, it was his senior year at school, and he would be forced
to find a whole new group of friends.
the boy graduated from high school and joined the Army to help fight
a new battle. The Korean War had started in June 1950, and the United
Nations Allies were fighting the North Korean Communists. He looked
forward to the adventure and the opportunity to leave a neighbourhood
in which he never felt comfortable.
After training with the famed 101st Airborne Division at Camp Breckenridge,
Kentucky he was sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and at Christmas
1952 orders were issued to report to Seattle, Washington for shipment
to Inchon, Korea.
Boyhood Was Over
at Dawn December of 1952
USS General McRae lay offshore in the Yellow Sea, arguably the ugliest
body of water in the universe. At least it seemed that way to a
boatload of soldiers lined up at the rail, preparing to disembark
and board a flotilla of landing craft, which would deposit them
on the beach at Inchon, Korea.
full field packs and holding tight to newly-issued M-1 rifles, the
roughly four thousand or so replacement troops stared quietly at
the beach. From a little further out, a navy ship fired its quad-fifty
guns toward the shore, and in the pre-dawn darkness, the red glow
of the overhead tracer bullets was plainly visible to the nervous
men waiting to clamber into the barges for their three-quarter of
a mile trip.
no incident at the beach, the men proceeded inward to a holding
area where non-coms with a foot of stripes and hash marks on each
sleeve, read off names and directed the respondents to waiting trucks,
whose motors and drivers rumbled impatiently, and corporals flipped
their cigarette butts out of the windows into the frozen morning.
this was Korea! With a temperature equivalent to Northern Michigan,
some war correspondents called the U.S. troops the frozen
The author, Tom, at the entrance
to his bunker
soldiers stood at ease in formation awaiting their vehicle assignments,
wondering silently where they were going; they knew little about
the country or the war. Like cattle they awaited the prodding of
the men who controlled them, cajoled them, lined them up and told
them to move forward, then yelled at them to go back two paces
and smoke em if you got em.
seemed to make sense; they just followed orders blindly, knowing
that they would end up wherever they were supposed to be.
eighteen-year-old private from Michigan, adjusted his pack and nervously
fingered the blue barrel of his M-1 rifle. Some of the young soldiers
tried to use humor to temper their worry and confusion. Some milled
around staying close to someone they just met, in the hope that
the new friend knew what to do next. None of them really had any
idea. When your name is called, sound off with your first
name and serial number, yelled a sergeant. And when
I check you off, get on the truck, and keep quiet. There will be
no further smoking until we say so. Is everything clear?
when do we find out what unit we are going to? asked the kid
you damn well get there, was the response.
then the boarding began. One after another, the big trucks were
loaded; about twenty-four to a vehicle, sitting across from each
other, silently looking down at their shoes, or off into a now-purple
dawn. A few talked to no one in particular, showing off their bravado,
false or otherwise, as the trucks began to move.
where the hell were headed. Probably around Porkchop Hill
lot of action there, said a curly headed kid who looked
no older than seventeen. Yes, sir! Action! Thats why
I joined this mans army. Or could be down around Pusan or
buddy from home was with the 2nd Infantry Division, the Michigan
kid offered. He got the Silver Star and Purple Heart at Heartbreak
truck eased to a stop and the sergeant came around to the rear.
O.K. Listen up. As I call your name, sound off, grab your
gear, and get your asses down here lined up to my right, he
Yo, Sergeant, answered the young kid.
lieutenant and a master sergeant greeted the new replacements and
they were ushered off toward a group of men in a lunch chow line.
Then, like a city bus that had just dropped off some passengers,
the truck lumbered ahead. This scene was repeated five or six more
now there were only two men left: the kid from Michigan and another
guy from Chula Vista, California. His name was Alfredo Gonzalez
and he was the first Hispanic guy the Michigan kid had ever met.
By this time it was late afternoon, and the two were hoping to be
assigned together. The truck jerked to a stop and the driver put
it in reverse for a couple of hundred yards. It stopped again, and
the sergeant appeared at the tailgate.
Gonzalez, he shouted.
boy, off you go. That nice corporal there is waiting to take you
now there was just the kid from Michigan. He didnt realize
it, but the truck had been heading northeast in the general direction
of the front lines. Suddenly, he felt alone and scared. It was late
in the day and he didnt know where he was going. He could
hear muffled booming sounds from somewhere.
truck slowed as it started up a hill and then as the corporal shifted
gears, it surged forward until the next incline and then more gears
and another climb. He watched through the opened canvas in the back
and saw the road disappear behind each curve. And now it stopped.
The doors opened, and the corporal and the sergeant climbed out
and both appeared at the rear opening. Another master sergeant joined
them and he peeked into the truck.
one? he asked.
all she wrote, countered the corporal. Hey, boy! Youre
the only one in there arent you, he laughed. Hop
down, kid. Youre home. This mean-assed sergeant is going to
show you around.
kid climbed down and reached back for his pack and his rifle.
kid, said the new sergeant. Welcome to the 2nd Infantry
Division. You are now a member of Dog Company, 38th Infantry Regiment.
I am Sgt. Rhinehardt and Im the 1st Sgt. of this chicken-shit
outfit. You are currently in what is called the Hook Sector.
Much of our area is under enemy observation, so you better stick
real close to somebody until you learn the ropes. Im going
to have you stay near Corporal Bish for a while and you listen to
everything he tells you. O.K.?
sergeant, the kid answered.
1st Sgt hollered over to a dirty-faced corporal standing in the
chow line. Hey, Bish. See that this kid gets some chow, and
then the two of you come over to the command post. Weve got
a commo line blown out near the machine gun platoon trenches.
O.K. Sarge, Bish hollered back and then motioned to
the new guy to join him in line for what was to be his first of
many unusual meals.
you from, kid? asked Bish.
area, corporal, answered the kid.
just call me Donnie. And Im from Toledo. Hell, were
almost family, you and me, he laughed.
now, the other guys in line started to come over and ask the kid
about things back home, and how are the girls looking, and suddenly,
just like that, he didnt feel so lonesome and scared. Just
cold. It was about fifteen degrees and starting to get windy. Everybody
stomped their feet and kept their hands in the big pockets of their
kid, lets go to your new house, said Bish, after they
finished eating their cold corned beef hash out of cans.
was almost dark now as Bish motioned the kid through a black-tarped
curtain into a sandbagged bunker where two other soldiers were sitting
on a dirt floor. One was writing a letter and the other was cleaning
his rifle. Neither one looked up.
you guys! Heres our new man from Detroit, Michigan, just up
the road from my hometown. This colored guy is Farrell and he comes
from Washington, D.C. The Spanish guy is Chico Ayala and hes
from New York City, by way of Puerto Rico. Farrell grunted
and Chico greeted him with girl questions. Bish showed him how to
dress for the cold and how to put his rifle in his sleeping bag
so it wouldnt freeze up. And he explained to the kid that
you also kept your extra socks and underwear in the bag. And it
might be a pretty good idea to keep your bayonet in your bag too
and that they usually kept their boots on while they slept. This
last part sounded a bit ominous. The kid remembered an old movie
called They Died With Their Boots On.
Tom (right) on his way to the
helped him unpack and showed him what to throw away, pointing out
all the unnecessary items.
only need a spoon, to hell with the fork and knife, he said.
They clang together and old Joe Chink will put a mortar right
up your keester in half a minute, once he picks up on that noise.
Whenever you go to the latrine, make sure you take your weapon,
and for Chrissakes, dont call it your gun, warned Bish.
Another thing, whenever you go out, and that includes the
latrine, always wear your flak jacket. We could get hit at anytime.
The old man tells us to always wear our steel pots, but they dont
push that too much as long as youre wearing the helmet liner.
I guess not. Ill just watch you and Farrell and Chico. Oh
yeah! One question. Where do we sleep?
all laughed. Especially Chico.
Hombre, he laughed. You dont sleep with me, unless
youre real name is Chiquita.
answered, This is our house, kid. We take turns sleeping.
Two men on guard and two sleeping. On two hours and off two hours.
One man outside and one in here on the PRC-10 radio. For the first
couple of days, you will work with me until you learn the codes
for battalion and regiment. We have to check in with the rear echelons
every two hours. Also we have to report any incoming rounds or enemy
activity in our sector. Dont even try to make sense of all
rookie, you and me are on a mission. We have a blown out commo line
somewhere around the machine gun platoon. Right now, all we have
is radio communication with the platoon, and we need the telephone
lines. Im switching you over to a scatter-matic carbine instead
of that heavy bastard of an M-1. We can have ninety rounds of ammo
in that carbine instead of that little old clip in your rifle. The
M-1 is more accurate up to five hundred yards or more, but
who the hell needs that when we are over-run in a trench by little
gooks just ten feet away. Leave everything else here but your carbine,
put on your flak jacket and this time, we wear our pots. Lets
move out. Ill drive because we wont be using lights,
and you will ride shotgun. OK?
kid just nodded. He had no idea what to say to this corporal who
seemed to have no fear. He silently vowed to be like this man if
he ever got to be a leader.
revved up the communications jeep, and they started out on a road
that the kid couldnt even see. Up and around curves, down
steep grades, bumping over craters and ruts, and finally gearing
down to a stop without braking, to avoid the tell-tale brake lights.
Here we go, kid. Stay right with me and stay as low as you
can. When we get to the trench, we roll into it, and then keep your
head and your ass down. You are just here to watch this time. We
are right now on the MLR, which is the main line of resistance.
The gooks have this position under constant watch, and they have
our position coordinates tied right into their mortars. One mistake
and our asses are mud.
enough, the kids fear was replaced by excitement. Jeez,
he thought. I am in a war. I am really in a war!
was on his hands and knees following some wire and feeling out in
front for a line break. Every twenty-five yards or so he would strip
a piece of the wire and attach it to a telephone-type device called
a TS-10 soundpower. He would whistle into the mouthpiece, and if
that segment of the line was working, Chico or Farrell would whistle
back. Then he would go on and try another segment until there was
no response from the command post. He then moved back retracing
his crawl until he finally found the break or bad part of the line.
Then he cut the line and re-wired it to the good part, and tested
again with the TS-10. If all was well, he then advised the guys
to try telephone contact with the machine gun platoon leader. After
a few minutes, we heard a whistle on the soundpower and Bish whistled
back. Everything was working fine.
go kid. Were through here for now, Bish said.
they started to turn back to where the jeep was parked, the rookie
forgot all his instructions, half stood up and peeked at the now
purple mountains out in front of the MLR. They reminded him of his
train ride to Seattle on the way to Korea, when he had woken up,
just before dawn, and right out in front of his window were the
Dakota Badlands with their purplish stone monuments jutting up from
the ground. But this was not the Dakotas. This was a different kind
of Badlands, and his corporal let him know it immediately.
told you to keep down, Goddammit! Now grab the dirt. Jesus Christ,
he swore to himself. Maybe they didnt see you. Maybe
its still too dark.
it wasnt. It seemed like just seconds, and then they heard
the dull whuump of the mortars. And shortly afterwards,
about a dozen rounds of white phosphorous rounds exploded all around
them. The kid dug into the ground with his fingers and laid his
cheek flat against the damp cold dirt.
heard his own voice. Mom, mom! Jesus Christ! Oh mom! Jesus,
it was over.
and Corporal Bish drove back in silence. There was nothing the kid
could say and nothing the corporal wanted to say at that time. Once
they got back, Bish radioed in to Battalion Headquarters that they
had been hit by twelve rounds of willie peter with no
injuries. He then gave them the coordinates of the incoming rounds
and the approximate range of the Gook position. He leaned back against
the sandbags in the bunker and lit up a Luckie.
problems out there, amigo? Chico asked.
Smooth as silk, replied Bish. We got us a good one here
with this guy.
then he winked at the rook.
kid vowed again to be just like his corporal.