Following are some of my memories of my time involved with OP Harry during those critical days in June 1953 This was written several years ago as part of an autobiography for my daughters. For a while before and during the events described here I was the Commanding Officer of Company “G”; 15th Infantry.
It was on June 10, 1953 the Chinese launched an all out offensive to take Outpost Harry. General Maxwell Taylor, the commanding general of the Far East Command said this outpost was a hold-at-all-costs position. It seems that Harry occupied such a commanding position that to loose it would have necessitated our MLR being shifted almost seven miles south. With the so-called peace talks going on at the time that was not a good idea. Company K received the initial assault by about 3,600 Chinese. The company held but suffered almost 100% KIA and
WIA. Captain Martin Markley was the CO and I later met him for the first time at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital.
On June 11th the Chinese launched a rare daylight attack with about a battalion size attack but were soon repulsed. On the 12th another assault, this time with a Chinese regiment attempted to take Harry but could not. I think it was on the 12th that Company G as ordered into a support position behind Outpost Tom and I had a platoon of tanks attached. That was the first time I had ever had to contend with tanks and fortunately I didn't have to use them.
The 13th Harry was pretty calm with only a company sized attack and then came the 14th. Company G was ordered to Harry under the operational control of one of the battalion commanders of the 5th Regimental Combat Team and I was to return to a once very familiar piece of ground. Wrong! That outpost looked like nothing I could remember. On the way out to Harry we passed by immense piles of Chinese bodies. Climbing up Harry we saw countless pieces of both Chinese and GI's body parts laying all over the place. The trenches were mostly caved in from all of the intense shelling that had been going on. I later learned that the Chinese had fired about 89,000 rounds larger than 81 mm in size to support their attacks while our forces fired over 368,000 similar size rounds. (I understand this amount of large
caliber ammunition was more than was fired by both sides during the entire Battle of the Bulge in World War II.)
We spent all the day of the 14th trying to refurbish the trench lines and bunkers which were by then quite devastated. The first thing I did when I got to the top of the once familiar Outpost Harry was to remove all radio antennas. I had learned that the Chinese zeroed in on antennas. One of the smart things I ever did in regard to combat occurred that day. I had my communications team bury four separate land lines for our telephones along the sides of the trench leading back towards the
MLR. After the lines were buried I had them buried further and covered with steel pickets used for barbed wire. This meant that we should have decent telephone communications for a while when the Chinese started their TOT. It did indeed work out that way. The other good thing I did that day was something Major Singlaub had preached about - VT on our positions. I arranged defensive artillery and mortar barrages to begin on a timed sequence. Unless ordered to cease fire, the last barrages were to be VT on top of us. I feel very confident that last stage saved G Company from being completely overwhelmed.
In the early evening of the 14th an artillery sergeant from the 39th Field Artillery attached to my company along with a forward observer decided he was going to wage his own private war when the Chinese came. He got up on the top of the CP bunker and built a sandbag emplacement where he said he could fight any Chinese who came that way. As he was nearing the completion of his position the Chinese started shelling with their 61 mm mortars. The sergeant was hit and very badly wounded. His left arm had been blown off. I went to the top of the bunker and managed to get him out of the mortar barrage and back into the relative safety of the trench outside the bunker. He was unconscious and bleeding profusely. We got the battalion surgeon on the phone and he told me what to do to try to save him. I managed to get a tourniquet on the stump of his arm and our medics got him off the outpost and to the battalion aid station. A little later the doctor called me and said in spite of all our efforts he did not make it. For the life of me I cannot remember his name.
Very early on the 15th of June the Chinese started their initial barrage. The incoming mortar and artillery in the volumes they were using is impossible to describe to anyone who has not experienced anything like that. It was devastating. I very foolishly started to make the rounds of my platoon leaders to make sure all men were inside their bunkers when the barrage started. In spite of the trenches for getting around in I was wounded quite severely within just a few minutes. I remember being temporarily deafened by the noise and was crouched down in a trench. My arms were supporting me by holding onto the sides of the trench when I was hit. It was in the left arm and my hand was left attached by only two shreds of skin on either side of my wrist. I never knew for sure what got me but I strongly suspect it might have been a mortar fuse or possibly a hand grenade.
I eventually made it to our medic's station which I had placed at the bottom rear of Outpost Harry in what was left of a bunker. The medic was unable to stop the bleeding enough for me to get back to my CP and about the only thing he did was to give me an unwanted shot of morphine which caused me to be unable perform any duty. An armored personnel carrier evacuated several of us to the battalion aid station where Doc Merrifield along with John Mitchell was more than busy. Several ambulances started the trek to the 44th MASH and I was such a bloody mess that chaplains managed to give me last rites on three different occasions before I got to the MASH. (Much later, after reading General Singlaub's book Hazardous Duty, I learned that the 44th MASH was the model for the TV series M*A*S*H 4077) Isn't it interesting what things come to mind when writing something like this?*
Previously, during my short army career I had donated blood on five separate
occasions. From the time I arrived at the battalion aid station until I left the MASH I had received back six pints. I guess that is why I was such a bloody mess during those first few hours after being wounded. I remember asking a doctor if they were going to amputate my arm. His answer was no, if they could restore circulation to my hand. It seems that was the criteria to amputate or not.
This photo was taken of me at the hospital in Osaka Japan about 4-5 days after I was wounded
on June 15th, 1953. (Click on the image for a larger
I remember that after the surgery under a general anesthetic at the MASH I had just regained consciousness. There were three generals waiting to talk to me; I think it might have been Lieutenant General Jenkins who asked me how we had managed to maintain telephone communications for such a long time through the Chinese shelling. When I told him he said that was rather an expensive but very effective means. The other generals were
Ridings and Dunkelburg.
(The photo at right of MG Eugene Ridings (3ID
Commander and LTG Rueben Jenkins (Corps Commander) was taken by James
Jarboe at Division Headquarters.)
I was in the MASH for only a day or so and was evacuated to the 121st Evac Hospital where I spent another couple of days waiting transport to Japan. It was from the MASH to the 121st that I had my first and only helicopter ride. I was in one of those carriers attached to the side of the chopper on the landing struts. From the 121st I was sent to the Osaka Army Hospital in Osaka, Japan