Girl of Chun-Chon
by Tom Paré
in Korea is much like it is in northern Michigan – chilly,
sometimes snowy, and always unpredictable. During the Korean
War, the April weather, combined with the grim reality of
war-torn landscapes, only made things bleaker. Tired young
soldiers tried to ignore their surroundings and hone their
mental sharpness with thoughts of home and loved ones.
non-coms from Dog Company, 38th Regiment, still in their teens,
stood guard at a blocking position bunker just outside of
Chun-Chon. One of them, Corporal Dominic Amato, looked over
the trench wall about fifty yards in front of the bunker,
while sergeants Alfredo Gonzalez and Tom Paré stayed
close to the PRC-10 radio. Amato manned the listening post
and periodically whispered reports of his observations over
the TS-10 sound-power. The other men then relayed Amato’s
information back to the Company Commander, Captain Harry Offatt.
Usually, the LP reports were negative, but at times Amato
would report Chinese movements at their positions, just a
few hundred yards away.
this day in the early spring of 1953, thoughts were on many
things including the peace talks going on at Panmunjom and
the rumors that ran rampant through the U.N. forces. Amato,
at his listening post, would be going home in a couple of
weeks, so his thoughts were on his wife and baby. The other
two had some time to go before rotation, but figured that
if the war was to end, they would be heading back to the States
their reverie was interrupted by the sound of Amato’s
voice over the TS-10.
hear something out here, but I don’t see a damned thing,”
he whispered. “Sounds like crying. Like a kid.”
be a kid. Must be another gook trick,” Gonzalez answered.
Chinese and the North Koreans were good at those types of
tricks designed to catch the soldiers off guard. At times,
they even played American music, like Doris Day or Joni James
love songs. And just as you let your guard down, here they
came in screaming waves, blowing their bugles and leaping
man after man into the trenches, bayonets bared and burp guns
Amato whispered again. “This is no God-damned trick,
you guys. There’s a kid out there. I know there’s
a kid out there.”
the two men could answer, Amato came back on the sound-power.
“God Almighty, I was right. There is a little girl right
out in front of me. She is dirty as hell and bawling like
a baby. I’m going to get her.”
Christ’s sake, Dom, be careful. The kid might be booby-trapped.
Or they might blast your ass the minute you step out of the
trench,” said Sgt. Paré. “Wait for us and
we’ll cover you.”
There was no answer from Amato, and the two men in the bunker
had no idea what to do, except wait. Hopefully, it wouldn’t
be the burp-guns they would hear next.
look what I found,” came a voice from outside the bunker.
It was Dominic carrying a little girl about three years old.
She was dressed in the familiar winter clothes of the Korean
civilians. Baggy pants and padded shoes with a long jacket
buttoned up to her neck. And crying in confusion and despair.
in hell did she get here?” asked Gonzalez. “There’s
not supposed to be any civilians within fifteen miles of here.”
answered, “I don’t know, but we got to get her,
and us, the hell outta here. Call the old man or battalion
or somebody. Maybe Sgt Rhinehart. Or try to raise Corporal
Bish,” he screamed. “Anybody!”
gave the girl a couple of crackers from his rations and she
stopped crying, wiping her tear-stained face with the gray
padded sleeve of her jacket. About a half hour later, Sgt.
Rhinehart arrived with new men and ordered Amato, Gonzalez,
and Paré back to the company area with the little girl.
stayed with the outfit for a week while Captain Offatt tried
to make some arrangements for her. Because of her size, the
Dog company soldiers named her S’koshi, which was a
Korean slang word for small or tiny.
captain brought the news to the three men. “S’koshi
will be leaving today with a couple of people from the Seventh
Day Adventist School in Seoul,” he said. “And
I have some more news for you guys. A recon patrol found the
bodies of a woman and old man out in front of your old position.
Probably the kid’s mother and grandfather. They were
dumped at the bottom of the ridge. We think they were there
about three days or so. The kid must have heard you guys at
the position and came looking. Anyway, she’ll be safe
now,” he said. “So get back to Sgt. Rhinehart
and see what he wants you to do.”
turned away and wiped something out of his eye and Paré
and Amato just grinned. As they started toward the command
post, they heard the captain, who was holding S’koshi
in his arms, yell out. “And by the way, Amato. If you
ever leave your post again without permission, you better
give your heart and your soul to God because your ass is mine.”
And he grinned.
left with the people from the school in an ambulance truck,
waving goodbye with her hand clutching a package of unopened
candy chuckles and a half dozen G.I. soda crackers.
three soldiers watched happily. And sadly.
rotated back to his wife and his baby the following week.
Paré and Gonzalez returned to the States at the end
of April. Their war was over.
in some ways, so was their youth.
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