2nd Lt. James F. Moroney

In an email Thursday, February 12, 2004 11:05:50 PM to Ray Anderson Jim Moroney wrote:

Dear Ray:

Thank you for the kind words. Yes, I did have the same experiences as Buck and Beechler, differing only in degree. I. have a few ideas on why if you ever want to hear them. I regret to say that I have no pictures of those days. I'll rummage through the old footlocker and send you any PICS of times prior and post Harry.

Tart is one of the few people whose name I remember from Korea. He was a good practical soldier; a hard fighter with no bull and no pretense. He tried to take care of his men. I think of him often.

I am about as Boston as a man can get without being a Yankee: My father was a Boston Irishman, who fought his battles on the streets of `Boston as a police patrolman during the 1930s and 4Os. My mother's people came from Ireland in the 1840s, being driven out by the potato famine. her family fought in the Civil War, The Spanish American War and my Father was in W.W.I. I went through the Boston Public Schools 1-8, a private high school and graduated ROTC from Boston College on June 11,1952. The first in my family to do so. One of my favorite songs is "For Boston," and I still follow the Red Sox but not avidly: We live on Cape Cod in Mashpee which was once an old Indian town. So am I originally from Massachusetts? Well, I guess but without a Mayflower connection, although one of my four daughters did marry a Pilgrim descendant. America has been very good to us and I am proud to say, "God Bless The USA." 

I would be be pleased to hear about your background because Harry binds us all. We few, We happy few, We band of brothers.

Best regards, Jim Moroney

How to be a soldier

U.S.N.S General J. H. Mc Rae (T-AP149)

Jim Moroney and shipmate

My journey to Korea started in Fort Dix New Jersey. It was January 1953 and I had just completed three months of troop duty as a newly minted artillery 2nd Lieutenant. My orders called for me to report to Ft. Dix to be shipped out to Japan by way of Puerto Rico, the Panama Canal, Hawaii then Japan. After thirty days at sea, we saw the snow on Mount Fuji and knew we were finally in the far east.

After a week at the receiving center called Camp Drake waiting for orders and enjoying the delights of 1953 Tokyo, I was sent to the Island of Eta Jima in the south of Japan for two weeks of chemical, biological, radiological training. Then it was off to the port of Sasabo Japan and an overnight sea trip to Korea, the Land of the Morning Calm. The smell of Korea was beyond belief; a combination of, human feces, rotting garbage and some other things I did not then recognize. After a few days, pure chance assigned me to the 3rd Infantry Division and I was on my way to the adventure of my life.

They loaded us on an old Korean train that belched so much flame and smoke that I thought we were under attack.  The train took most of one day and all of a night to reach some city close to the front-I thought. Two truck rides later I was finally at 3rd. Div. Headquarters where I was assigned to the 39th Field Artillery Battalion. 105 howitzer, towed, Battery B. The Battery Commander took one look at us, me and two other new Lieutenants, saw how green we were and assigned us to a week of duty in the battery so we could get to know the people on the guns. And why not? after all these folks would be firing the cannons over our heads when we sent in calls for artillery. My next job was as a forward observer on the front trench line and my life as a combat soldier started.

At the end of April 53, I joined the left most company on the division front facing the enemy. There was a little creek that ran in back of our position. On the right was an American company and on the left a huge space before you came to a South Korean Army Division. There was NO ONE in this space. We were told that the area was heavily mined but how could we tell? We had no contact with our Korean Division and no Korean liaison person, no radio link and no telephone connection lines. In short, we were essentially on our own to the left. My first move was to memorize all the prepared in advance, target locations in this gap. This information was called "concentrations" and I never had to use them but it was comforting to know that by just calling in "fire Charlie 315,316 and 317" the whole division artillery could be dumping all it had into our "gap." 

After being in this position for about a month, I was moved to an outpost called Tom. It was here that I met the then 1st Lt. Tart who was the commander of Baker Company of the 15th Inf. Regiment.  The Chinese sent nightly probing raids and we took a few mortar rounds everyday but it was not too bad. The morning after each probe, the first Sergeant and I would walk through our barbed wire to collect unexploded Chinese hand grenades which we would throw from our trench line just for the fun of it. We also reported them as in coming Chinese mortar rounds. One morning while coming back to the hill loaded with potato stick grenades, we heard pop, fizz and just looked at each other hoping that the end would be quick. Then a flare shot into the air; we had triggered one of our own warning devices. We laughed endlessly, we were already getting to be more than a little crazy.

After about a week or so on Tom, the company got orders to return to the main line of resistance and go into a blocking position. We hoped for a little rest here but it was not to be. Orders had come down for us to reinforce Harry where the Chinese were attacking in great strength. So after a short celebration to honor Tart's promotion to Captain, the Company began a march to the base of Harry. We were a large group of plain Infantrymen, humping along in the dust of June afternoon in Korea, hoping that tonight would be no worse than yesterday. It was to be a forlorn hope.

By the time we got to the trench leading up to Harry it was just turning dark but we could still see what we had to go through. The trench seemed to go up the side of a cliff and was heaped on both sides with dead Chinese soldiers some had fallen into the trench and we had to crawl over them. Between the curses you could hear guys throwing up but that soon stopped and we soldiered on. Troops started to fall out; one of my crew stopped and said that he would see me on the top and he did but the next day and still carrying his two field telephones. Meanwhile Tart was yelling "keep going, don't stop, keep going" Most of us did just that and finally reached the top. All the way up we were taking light mortar fire mostly away from the trench. Once we reached the top, I looked back and could see that the whole rear slope of Harry was covered with Chinese bodies. The hill had been overrun but King Company had beaten the enemy off and we still held the hill. What a gallant job they did, brave men fighting against desperate odds and winning. I hoped that we would do as well.

There was confusion on the top. Many of King's officers and sergeants had been casualties but enough were left to give Tart the general situation and to direct us to the key bunkers. Tart always said to me, "Moroney stick close to me or be easy to find," which I did but now he sent me to the artillery observation post on the hill and asked one of the King people to show me the way. "See if you can do some good up there and let me know if you see any activity" were my instructions. So my radio operator, and I followed the guide to the OP. All this took place during a lull in the Chinese shell fire. I thought it was considerate of them to give us a chance to settle in but they were just getting more ammunition.

The radioman was establishing contact with the FDC and I was peering out the view port at Star Hill when the world exploded on us in what had to be a time on target by the Chinese. The bunker started to fall apart as shell after shell hit us directly. One shell fragment smashed the main radio and others pushed the roof of the bunker down to the sill of the port. Since I could not see a thing and only had a walkie/talkie radio for commo, it was back to the CP for us. We made it without a scratch but the hand held radio was smashed into green hunks. At the CP, Tart was making sure that his troops were under cover and trying to get some mortar fire on the front slope of Harry. "Can you help me out here?" he asked. I told him that I could help out a lot but needed commo.  He scooped some parts off the floor and we got on the air somehow. A handset here, a main body there, an antenna from who knows where and we were in business but not so fast. The people we raised were clearly Americans but did not know who we were. Help of angels, there we were with the world crashing down around us, trying to get some counter battery fire and a barrage around the hill to break up the inevitable Chinese attack and our own people would not recognize us. To this day I do not know exactly what had happened but it seems that our radio was on the wrong frequency. We asked them to patch us through to the 39th's FDC which they did but not before the voice of a friend of mine from Ft. Sill days, John Gallaspy of Louisiana came booming through, vouching for my identity and demanding that if FDC did not honor my fire mission he would call it in himself. Thank you for saving us that day John.

By now we heard the cry, "Chinks on the Hill" and we knew that we had a problem. The enemy had advanced through their own fire and ours and were home for supper. I suggested to Tart that we needed on position fires of VT. Some of the group around him argued against it but he asked "Are you sure all our guys under cover?" Yes was the answer. "Then do it" he said and I called in the mission.  I was now standing near the door, popping away at every Chinese running past and getting a few, when in came a stick grenade. I tried to bat it out using my carbine then bang and nothing. I came to in time to see a rifle carrying enemy come into the bunker to end our days. The carbine was in splinters and scrap but fortunately I had a German pistol that my Father had given me as an emergency weapon and it worked just fine. The enemy fell after four of Mr. Remington's best rounds found their mark. Then came blackness.

This ended my active participation in the battle for Harry. It was the dark morning hours of June 11, 1953, exactly one year from my graduation from college. I came to during the rest of the night and felt lucky to be alive but could not move my arms or legs, then I saw that was because the Chinese soldier who tried to kill me was himself dead on top of me and we both were slowly being buried in the dirt thrown over us with every artillery round. After working my way out from under the corpse, I crawled into the back of the bunker and waited for the Medics. Tart tried to help, giving me water and a patch bandage but he had a company to fight and so I waited. After a while, I noticed in the morning light American helmets advancing over the hill. An Infantry 2nd Lt. stopped by looking for Tart. I told him he was out on the hill. The Infantry 2nd Lt. was hit on the head by a mortar round as he left the bunker and vanished before my eyes, I never knew his name. The mortar rounds kept falling. I could see the fuses pop before the shell would explode but did not care. I felt that since I had survived to that point  nothing could kill me. Just before the Medics came, I looked up to see a gold leaf coming through the door and thought now we really must be in deep trouble when a field grade officer is on the hill. He asked what my problem was and when I opined that in addition to the multiple holes in my arms, legs, back and head I also had a broken left leg. He agreed that I may have a little problem and allowed me to crawl out to the Medics. On the way down the hill I saw Frank Codd another FO from the 39th who was coming up the hill. We talked for a few minutes or rather he talked because by now the Medic's morphine had kicked in. I shook his hand, wished him good luck but he was KIA that very day.

A few more mortar rounds landed near  the collection point on the base of Harry where the wounded were waiting for evacuation . A Medic tending to his job threw himself over the wounded to protect them at the risk of his own life. Many brave deeds were done on Harry but since I was one of the people he was protecting I have never forgotten his action and I never knew his name.  When I got to the battalion aid station I asked the doctor what shape I was in, he said I had two broken legs some  body wounds, lots of holes in both arms and  a nasty head gash. It was not as bad as many other guys but I spent the next six months in Army Hospitals.

Now, after almost fifty-two years the only names I can remember are; Captain Tart, John Gallaspy, a LT Walter Johnson, LT. Frank Codd and that's it. My experiences on Harry deeply influenced the rest of my life. When trouble came in after years, I could hear Tart's words ringing in my mind, "Keep going Moroney, keep going."

Jim Moroney, February 11, 2004


ęCopyright  2004 James F. Moroney  All rights reserved