John Ferrara

The following letter was sent to Ray Anderson

Dear Ray,

Finally, Iím getting around to your request of my time and experiences while in the service.

The following pages are from memory.  As we all know, itís been a long, long time.  I am sure many of us have stories and experiences that are, at best, left alone.  I guess these are the untold stories that help bond all veterans.

I entered the service in January and was inducted at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey and most likely headed to Fort Dix., New Jersey for basic.  I felt good, had a good attitude even at the early stage.  O.D. was becoming my favorite color.  I heard some NCO talking about a small group going to Hawaii for training.  I asked about it and was told it was strictly volunteer since Hawaii  was overseas and not a state at that time.  Well, anyway, I got ,my butt over to the other side of the camp, raised my hand and volunteered for Hawaii.  The next morning us pineapples as we were called fell out and headed to the Newark, N.J. airport for a flight to California.  Everyone told me never to volunteer.  I didnít listen but this is one of the many times I took that one step forward. 

The plane was a converted Flying Tigers cargo with metal seats bolted to the floor.  The cabin walls were the body with the ribs and rivets showing.  You could see daylight through cracks and missing rivets.  A few minutes after take-off, one of the engines caught fire and back to Newark Airport.  Needless to say, we had an experience to last us for awhile.  We were put up in some hotel and once again, we were off by 0800 the next morning.  Our first stop was Tucumcari, New Mexico..  I guess it was a fuel stop because shortly we were airborne.  Next stop, Camp Stoneman, California.

Not sure as to the time factor.  Somehow, I was at Fort Mason and on a ship for Hawaii.  Canít remember but the trip was twelve or fourteen days.  We hit a typhoon and had a roller coaster ride.  What a mess!  The ship was a MASTS  ship (Military Air Sea Transport Service).  The ship size was General class and not too large.  We took some beating but all made it to Pearl Harbor.  What an experience and exposure for a 21 year old!  I really loved every minute of it.

I volunteered  for the garbage detail.  We took the cans of garbage and tossed them over the fantail.  It was a restricted area which had a small private deck to it.  It was all ours.  It sure beat down in the hole or on the crowded decks.  I also learned never to take a lower bunk.  The compartments had five high bunks.  Top bunk was the best if anyone in the lower bunks got sick..  We had the run of the galley, but food wasnít on the agenda for a few days.

A day out of Pearl Harbor, excitement was running high.  The weather had been good for the past few days, beautiful sea and skies.  The blue waters of the Pacific added to the rush.  What helped was that we all had our sea legs by now.  Aboard ship was army only people from all over the states.  I believe I was the only one from New York.  I am not sure but aboard ship must have been a few hundred.  Maybe an understaffed battalion. 

We were to dock early morning.  We all were spit and polish in our Class Aís.  We learned fast.  Our duffle bags were packed full with summer and winter uniforms, overcoats and all.

Upon entering Pearl Harbor, we saw several subs and smaller ships. We could see some remnants of December seventh.  When we disembarked and walked down the gangplank, we were greeted by a band and a Hawaiian  group, hula dancers grass skirts and all.  We each  had a lei placed around our necks.  What a beautiful feeling, how proud we all felt.  What a welcome, what a sight!  The first of many tears  For me, it was love at first sight.  It was home, and I made it home for the next eight or nine months.

We piled into trucks for a ride past pineapple and sugar cane fields  to Schofield Barracks.  This was the training area of the Hawaiian Infantry Training Center,United States Army Pacific.

The grounds and barracks were just beautiful.  It was like being on a campus with a country club thrown in.  It would take hours for me to describe and tell you about this place and our training.  It was intense, thorough, and complete in every way.  You worked and worked hard.  It was unlike the movies or anything else .  We were treated as soldiers from day one and very special.  Our instructors were top notch and all regular army.  Some had been to Korea already.  These were the ones who put the pressure on. 

I really donít know why Schofield  was such a special place for such outstanding training and morale.  Maybe, because we were three thousand miles closer to Korea, who knows.Well, anyway, I ate it up , worked, and studied hard.  I spent most of my time with the manuals.  I wasnít much of a mixer or off to Honolulu on a weekend pass to drink beer.  Although, I did go several times and went surfing, fishing, and visited downtown.  Canít believe what is there today, then it was one hotel on the beach.  In town bars, tattoo shops, and not much else.  Shades of ďFrom Here to Eternity.Ē

I did manage to take some college courses under USAFI and earned nine or ten credits.  Part of our basic was unarmed defense.  At that time, it was Judo.  I liked it and joined the club made up of our instructors and others.  I was able to earn a brown belt.  I did continue in this sport when I returned home. 

As you know, guns are my thing.  I had been involved with shooting sports before I entered the service.  I shot small bore and high power rifle competition for several years. What an opportunity to shoot the big and little stuff.  I made expert on anything that went bang.  This whole thing suited me fine.  I was very proud of myself throughout basic and got an extra boost by making trainee of the month twice.

It was coming to the end of basic.  Our sixteen weeks were over and graduation was upon us.  After graduation, we were interviewed as to our future assignments and orders.  Some put in for Europe or specialized schooling and so forth.  I chose Korea.  I made OCS but turned it down.  I was one of a few selected to go to Leadership School here in the islands.  I didnít think I would be sent home for leave after school and travel six thousand miles and then all the way back to Korea.  I am not sure, but peace talks may have been on again off again so off to Leadership School.  If basic was good, Leadership School  was simply outstanding. You name it, we covered it. I learned what it meant to be in a pressure cooker.  For the first time ever, a seam was being pulled , but I got it under control.  It was finally over.  We made it!  Standing tall and proud  and a PFC to boot. 

A strange feeling came over me.  All these weeks or training and hours upon hours  of class work had filled me with such energy that I just had to burn it up.  I wasnít the only one.   Two others and myself ran as hard and as fast as we could  until we were soaked through  and ready to drop.  Also a great sadness came over me when I realized that it was over.  While cleaning out my wall locker and foot locker waiting to go and pick up my orders and briefing, I suddenly had a feeling, would I really be able to go to Korea and apply myself to do the job I was trained for.  Only time would tell.

Much to my surprise, my orders were for leave home.  I couldnít believe it-the same trip in reverse.  I was afraid that if I went home, the war would be over.  It made no sense to send me all the way back. 

Buses this time to Pearl Harbor.  A sad farewell, another lei placed around our necks.  A tradition I had found out when one arrives and leaves the islands.  This time, a navy ship.  We knew our way around by now, good food, lots of relaxation, reading, and plenty of thinking.  The weather was good, calm seas, and we made good time crossing.  Again, processed Pipeline Camp Stoneman, California.  I still have my original orders that read completion of leave report to FECOM, Camp Stoneman, California.  I was able to get my leave reduced from twenty-one days to thirteen.  Went to Fort Dix, New Jersey for special orders, tickets and so forth for my return to Camp Stoneman, California after leave.

Leave went by very quickly.  Said my good-byes.  Didnít have a girl back home so Johnny get your gun and off I went back to Stoneman for the Far East Command.  By now I had more sea time than my brother who was in the navy.

We shipped out of Stoneman or Fort Mason, not sure, but anyway passed under the Oakland Bay and Golden Gate bridges which for me by now was old hat.  As luck would have it, we hit another typhoon several days out.  Lots of green looking people, I did okay.  I had ginger tablets with me and ate crackers and solid food.  I knew what parts of the ship were okay to go to.  Once again, good weather was with us.  Boredom struck all of us.  There was lots of card playing.  I read a lot and looked for work to do.  Since it was a navy ship, all details were assigned navy personnel.  I tried to get some classes going, but it was shot down.  Uneventful crossing, everyone in their own thoughts.  Not much talk about Korea or the war itself.  I knew I was infantry.  There were others also infantry and all else.  Docking came early.  It was dawn when we entered Yokohama, quite a sight.  Many navy ships of all sizes were docked.  When we tied up, all was quiet

No  band or a welcome like the other islands I knew. 

We were broken into groups by our orders and sent to different locations.  Some by truck, some by bus.  I was put on a train and headed to Camp Gifu.  I am confused as to the time factor, but Gifu was a small camp just outside of a small Japanese city.  You could get a day pass and visit outside.  The next morning I was told to report to the Commandant as he was called.  By now all on the ship and here at camp were asking how I got to be a PFC.  I just realized I outranked almost the whole ship and most of this camp.  I had a good laugh. 

The Commandant was a good guy.  We spoke briefly about the states and here.  I had the feeling he was about to ask me to do something.  Not another, ďWe need volunteers.Ē  Iíll at least listen.  He told me he had to have so many trained in CBR warfare.  They wanted to have at least one trained person in every unit.  Would I be willing to go to a CBR school here at Camp Gifu?  Yes, I would go!  I had to think this one out.  Are they going to use the bomb or is gas warfare coming back?  Got through the school okay.  I even had my own Geiger counter!  I really wonder today what was going on in the minds of those that pulled the strings.  As far as I know, this was kept quiet and not known to many.  The official title was Japan Logistical Command, Far East Command Chemical School.  I completed a course of instruction in unit chemical defense and phase two and three of atomic energy orientation and indoctrination.  This is what my certificate said (Wow).  I didnít think much about it then, but some time afterward I was starting to wonder.  By the time I got to Korea. I lost (donít know how) the Geiger counter. 

Off and running again, canít remember the details but wound up in Sasebo, Japan.  We boarded a ferry across the Sea of Japan and landed at Pusan.  From there we were put on a train.  It was old and primitive.  The end of each car had a hole in the floor for a latrine.  We passed through many farming villages and saw civilians in peasant dress, ox driven carts, and tin roof houses  beaten from five gallon cans and old oil drums.  Many children by the tracks looking for candy and gum.  My first thoughts were how in the world can these people defend themselves.  I remember a town called Taegu and not much further arrived at a replacement depot.  Still, up to now, I wasnít assigned or had any idea as to where I was going or to what unit I would be with.  All I knew was I was infantry and did not want that  to be taken from me.  The replacement depot was the third divisionís.  We werenít told much of anything just that in a day or two we would be trucked to our assigned unit.  I still could not put it all together.  We were issued an M-1, ammo belt, and two first aid pouches.  Told we could get anything else we needed at company level.  After hanging around all day, I was going to hit the sack early when it finally came, ďFall out, and into the trucks with all your gear!Ē  Remember I still had the big, fat duffle bag.  No one told us any different.  I had my O.D.s on and still carried my summer uniforms, low quarters and all.  The weather was still good, warm days and cool nights. 

We drove for a few hours at night and realized that this was intentional.  We could hear some firing going on and, at times, larger shells exploding.  Dead silence in the trucks.  The trucks picked their way with no lights on.  You could feel the tension building.  Before you knew it, we were dropped off in groups at different locations at the bottom of some big hills.  Each group was met by a few guys and led off.  I was in the last group and   was told to wait for someone  to come  and lead us  to a position up the hill.  The truck turned around and left.  It was dark and quiet for the most part but on occasion, I heard shots.  Some sergeant  came down the trench and led the group up the hill.  I was told to stay back.  I was going to a different platoon.  As soon as they left, I was alone for what was the longest minute of my life.  I could hear a vehicle coming, it was a Jeep.

I got in and a few more minutes later, we were at the base of another hill.  I could see trenches and the hilly outlines.  Someone appeared from nowhere and spoke to the Jeep driver.  I could make out this scruffy looking GI with a carbine and 45.  He looked at my duffle bag and said, "Weíll take what you need and dump the rest.Ē I kept very little, the O.D.s, underwear, socks, towel, shave kit and that was it.  I had on a field jacket with liner, pile hat, and gloves.  We shook hands.  Eddy was his name.  We became good friends.  He was squad leader of second squad. 

We made it to the CP.  I got a flack vest and helmet.  We met the CC, a lieutenant.  The platoon sergeant introduced himself and off we went to my hole in the hill.  I finally made it Ė first squad, second platoon.  Home was not like this!  It took some time to get settled in.  I didnít know where I was.  It turned out I was on the MLR just behind Outpost Harry.  I was pretty well beat by now.  Confused is putting it mildly.  By the way, it was Fox Company.  It must have been eleven or twelve P.M. when all hell broke loose.  They were already on seventy-five per cent alert.  I thought I knew it all this trainee of the month.  I didnít know squat as to what was happening.  Flares were lighting up the sky.  Now it was one hundred per cent.  Mortar rounds were coming in and the light thirties and the BARs were firing.  Some one said, ďGo to the AR bunker and back them up!Ē  This I did!  Jesus Christ, my gun was not loaded, and I had no ammo on me. 

We were being probed, and it stayed this way till around four A.M..  I was so tired by now but keyed up that most likely I couldnít sleep.  Well, we all made it through that night!  So that was my first night in Korea on the MLR, getting shot at and having rounds explode all around me.  I wasnít thinking about Hawaii, I was wondering about what it is going to be like tomorrow. 

I had to learn all over again.  I knew the basics, but with all my training, they canít teach you about the real thing.  Sleep was divided up.  Some were fixing up and repairing the bunkers where the guns were and where the squads slept.  Some were piling any rocks they found on the tops or roofs of some of the bunkers.  This was to burst the incoming before they could penetrate. 

I met with the platoon sergeant and later spoke to the lieutenant.  I was to sort of float for awhile.  I talked to the guys and looked things over.  I didnít move out of our platoon area.  We were far from up to strength.  Some squads had eight or nine.  The big news to me was we had a lot of the KATUSA with us.  I liked them.  They were quiet and worked pretty well, but most of all I hate to say it, they looked more like soldiers than our own.  They were neat and orderly and took care of themselves.  It took awhile but I got to know them.

I hadnít thought much about Korea for years even when I started to go to the OPH reunions.  When you asked me about my experiences and to put them down, I really drew a blank.  I then started going through my stuff and going over the dozen or so pictures of the MLR and Harry .  I guess I didnít forget.  I really put it way back in my mind and wanted to suppress it.  I am amazed what pictures will do.  I go off in a corner and look and think and write. 

I donít know if I should be doing this.  I feel guilty about it, I donít know why.  I had a lot of hang-ups about it for years, not the so called normal kinds but a major guilt trip that I left too soon.  I had much to do and never was able to complete all that I wanted to.  Crazy, yes, but I hated to leave the line.   The first time I was wounded, I went to the rear aid station, got fixed up, and returned on my own.  I was taken off the morning report but put back on much to the objection of a few, brass included.  Anyway, I had a job to do and felt a lot of people were counting on me, and I couldnít or wouldnít let them down.

As I got more and more settled and sized up the new world around me, it looked pretty bare and bleak.  We were almost at the top of the hill with some heavy weapons above.  Our trench followed the contour of the hill with a few other trenches going up and down.  Also a connecting trench to the base of the hill which led to a L.P. and on our side a direct line to Harry.  The big stuff above us was a 75 recoiless and a 50 caliber ground mount machine gun.  We had a 30 caliber air-cooled machine gun and a BAR on our end..

Things got quiet for the next several days.  We could see some mortar hits on Harry , and we had a few rounds that came in short on us.  Life was on again off again.  I was feeling much better as I was getting closer to becoming a veteran.  Little by little, I was able to pitch in and help out and correct many of the problems.  As I said earlier, I did pay attention in basic and knew what to do.  For starters, I spoke with the platoon sergeant and the C.C. as to what needed to be done.  I was given a free hand.  I set up the guns differently since you had no field of fire from the angle we were at.  The phones were out.  I knew enough about basic wiring and fixed them.  Would you believe there was no communication to the listening post?  I ran wire out to them and set a few single mikes further out in order to hear movement at night. 

I was busy and going all the time.  I checked and cleaned the guns, kept the phones working, repaired the bunkers, and set times for work and rest.  Made sure the guns were test fired etc..For all this, I was now squad leader and filled in as assistant platoon sergeant.

The weather was changing, getting cold at night.  I got a sleeping bag from the C.P. along with other gear piled up  from those that didnít make it or were wounded and left.  We had to wear the flack vest and steel pots all the time.  The vest we had was the old bib style with metal plates.  Later we got the new Kevlar type of  vest.  I hated both.  I always wanted to travel light..  I took my helmet liner and covered it with a sand bag and wore this most of the time.  The vest was nuisance, so I cut out all the inner plates except for the bottom row.  I will tell you a story about this vest later when I was on Harry.

Most days were pretty much the same.  We were always digging and filling sand bags.  We had incoming almost every day which kept us in the trenches or near a bunker.  Most of the rounds coming in were mortar.  From the distance across the valley floor to where the Chinese were dug in I would guess they were 120MM.  We would get a bit upset when the 75 above us would let a round go.  It almost always was answered by an artillery round in our direction.  I had found out their cannons were 76MM and 122MM.  You knew very quickly since these flat shooting guns hit in a matter of seconds after the boom.  We still had people hit or killed from these occasional rounds. We would get probed now and then which we also hated since it always caused a hundred per cent alert.  Not much sack time.

We ate C rations most of the time.  The KATUSA thought the food was great.  We would trade them for what we liked best, but they didnít care. If there were quiet times, a few could walk down the backside of the mountain and walk a long way to a rear area for a hot meal.  Some went, I never did go.  The climb back wasnít worth it to me.

There was a plan in effect to send several men at a time to the rear for a shower, a change of clothes, a winter issue of long johns, and shoe packs or Mickey Mouse boots.  This I was sure I would do.  I needed the change, and a hot shower was so appealing.

Later on, I did this.  The meal was worth it and a hot shower felt so good.  They had quite a set-up.  A deuce and a half was parked in a stream with most likely a generator and pump.  The water was somehow heated and sent to the makeshift shower area. 

The food was prepared in field kitchens, and I will say they did a super job.  The chow line and food containers were spread out.  We did not eat in groups since we were told, on occasion, they took some rounds.  All of this was nice but with a price.  You had to go back up with something: water, ammo, or whatever.

The weather was starting to turn now.  I would guess we were in mid November.  Still had sunny days but cool nights.  Not sure if we had freezing temperatures by now.

I was given more and more responsibility and took it upon myself to get involved.  I did this not only because it had to be done, but many relied on me for help and guidance.  It somewhat bothered me for I always feared for the worst.  I did not want to get attached to any of the quote,Ēmy men.Ē  The KATUSA were good men and learned quickly.  The language barrier was there, but with hands on and a word here or there, we got by.  I always paired them off with a G.I..

We did get a few replacements but still were far from full strength.  Contrary to what I thought, we had no movement.  We were in a static position just waiting and building.  It seems traditional that the biggest guys got to be BAR men.  Granted the gun weighed twice plus the M-1.  We werenít on the move.  I wanted someone that would take charge and care for the gun and keep it running.  The same for the machine guns.  I had hopes of having backup gunners and rotating people in and out of the gun emplacements.

There were a number of Chinese bodies below us and, at times, the smell was awful.  A few would shoot into them now and then which I am sure opened them up and added to the smell.  Soon the temperature would drop and take care of our problem. 

Every once in awhile, we would see one of our jets diving and dropping H.E. or napalm on the Chinese positions.  We would also be in contact with Harry and, at times,would see some hits.  For some reason, early mornings were always quiet.  You even found yourself talking in a lower voice than normal.  This must be where morning calm came from. 

We did get mail and packages from home which pleased everyone.  I wasnít too much of a writer and didnít really have a girl back home.  I did ask for and my father sent me a box of candles and my wool hunting socks.  I was surprised that we had little or no light in the bunkers. 

I wrote to a back home friend who was also in Korea with the 25th.  He was on a half track with quad fifties. 

You could mail film to some place in Japan for developing and picture returns.  I have about a dozen or so pictures, some of copies I am inclosing.  I gave most away and wish now that I had kept the negatives.

I didnít think or know much about the point system, but a few went to Japan for Rand R.  I never paid much attention to it.  Never did go.

Over a period of time, I had been keeping and adding to a list of things that would be nice to have and should be available at company level or included in your ration box.  To name a few items that I remember:  small tubes of toothpaste, boot laces, candles, waterproofing for boots, clothes repair kit, and goggles.  Would you believe I was going to write and send my list to the Department of the Army?  We do strange things at strange times and strange places. 

I canít believe I am going on and on like this.  I keep going back and looking at the pictures and remember more and more.  As I mentioned before, this is the first time I am telling about my time in the service and Korea although my son has asked me many times about this.  I never opened up to him like this.  Pent up emotion, who knows.  If you donít mind, I will go on.  I am trying to stay in some kind of order as to how things were progressing.

Rumors were always flying.  Talk of a turkey Thanksgiving dinner.  It would have been nice, but I doubted it since we had heard that we would be relieving those on Harry for a break and also a chance for a hot meal, winter clothing, and showers. 

Sure enough, before Thanksgiving, the word was out to saddle up for a night exchange trip to Harry.  You know Harry so I wonít go into describing it.  The sector we were assigned to wasnít too bad.  Our platoon was a little further down the hill than I would have liked to been.  The gun placements were okay.  Lots of sandbags and good fields of fire.

Once again, I made sure our communications were in good shape and all the phones working.  I set up an L.P. and like the M.L.R. several listening phones out on the wire in front of the L.P. and hoped it was marked well enough.  Back at the C.P., we had a listening box for the mike on the wire.  Come night who ever was in the C.P. heard voices near the wire called in some flares.  Sure enough, there were several Chinese out on patrol.  We opened up and hit a few of them.  As always 100% alert the rest of the night. 

Harry seemed quiet.  In fact nothing much did happen for several days.  We got brave a few times and got out of the trenches.  I am sure we were being watched.  We still had a few incoming and several rounds that fell short.  The short rounds were to our front in the open fields.  It was new to me battalion was asking for a volunteer to do some shell reports.  Never heard of such a thing but what the hell, Iíll do it.  The C.C. gave me some small cloth bags with a label attached for information requested.  I was to go out front and look in the craters new or old and try to find fragments from the exploded shells.  Much to my surprise, I did find pieces of shells , some quite large say as big as a spoon.  It got a little out of control later when they asked to see if I could get an approximate direction from any just exploded incoming by using triangulation.  I know I was seen out there because I could hear small arms being fired and some close 60MM mortar getting closer.  I knew they were zeroed in on the hill but not the field out front.  I wanted out in a hurry since the next rounds would be a lot closer.  I have no idea how good the shell reports would be if a direction could be determined or not.  I only did it a few times and was never asked again.

One of our added activities on Harry that we didnít have on the M.L.R. was night patrols.  You guessed it, I often went.  I would select a patrol and get them ready.  Only once did the Lt. go with us.  It was either myself with the platoon sergeant and , at times, myself alone with the rest of the patrol.  Most of our patrol orders were for intelligence gathering only.  I couldnít figure this out since it was across flat open land as you know with little cover and if heard or spotted, we would be sitting ducks out in the open.  All the patrols went well without a hitch except for one.  I will tell you about it since it is part of some of the good, the bad, and not so beautiful. 

This night patrol was like all the others.  I had always briefed the men as to what, why, and where.  I wanted to be as quiet and as quick moving as possible.  No personal items such as wallets, pictures, and so forth.  Steel pots stay, taped dog tags, no junk in pockets, stripped ammo belts except for first aid pouch, and no canteens.  We passed the L.P. and got our sign and counter sign worked out and off we went.  We were not to get too far away but to gather any info we could.  I know it was to be close since someone was carrying a doughnut of commo wire on a pack board along with a EE-8 field phone.  If we got into trouble, we could call in for help or maybe supporting fire of some kind.  We passed a place where we had encountered and made contact with a small number of Chinese before. 

All of a sudden, someone started to scream and yell.  I was about in the middle of the patrol.  I turned back to the sound which was so loud after total silence, and I had no idea what was the matter.  Did we make contact?  Didnít hear a mine go off or shots fired.  One of the patrol saw a Chinese body and for what reason or crazy thought that went through his mind, he stuck the body with his bayonet.  Surprise, the poor guy wasnít dead!  He started to scream.  He was on his back still screaming.  My only thought was we were going to alert the Chinks.  For sure, a flare would be over head any minute, and we would all be in a mortar barrage or a fight of some kind.  I only hoped that no one would panic and run. 

I had no choice but to pounce on him and silence his yelling.  I started with my fists then grabbed a grenade from my shoulder straps and hit him with it a number of times.  When all was quiet, I was soaking wet with sweat and started to get chilled.  We got away with it that night.  I called it quits and phoned the C.P. and asked to cut it short and return.  I explained what happened to the old man and he let us all sleep until we woke up the next morning.  The stupid one was very upset and was really scared for what he had done.  He got a chewing out, and that was it.  Afterwards, we all talked and thought about it and figured he paid the price.  Could you just imagine what reaction he had when  this guy screamed?  I never did look at his pants.

For myself, a face to face kill was difficult.  Glad for the darkness.  I really did not have any feeling at that time or afterwards. I certainly wasnít immune to this kind of behavior but all I could think of was that we were going to be detected.  I had been in fire fights before except that itís a little different through the sights of an M-1.  I have much different thoughts today in who I was then.    

Donít know where I am now in time or place.  Never did get our Thanksgiving dinner.  At times, my energy level dropped and suddenly, it would climb back.  I often wondered if we had drugs or something in the C rations.  Everyone kept going and performed.  Lack of sleep was the biggest complaint.  No one seemed to get sick.  No colds, upset stomachs, headaches and so forth.  The weather and keeping warm was also a problem.  You couldnít always heat up your C ration cans.  My other concern now with cold weather upon us was frostbite.  Looking at pictures today of the past war, I see clothing and other items I never saw or had.  The Marines had parkas, shoe pacs, mittens, scarves and so forth.  My winter wear was long Johns, wool shirt, field jacket with liner, OD dress pants with field outer shell, and pile cap.  Thatís about it, you added extra layers if you had them when needed.  The Chinese that I looked over seemed to be dressed okay for winter.  Their quilted cotton jacket and pants looked warm but sure would be a sponge if they got wet.  I saw different footwear-some with low rubber boots with soft sneakers.  Did see one with fur lined high boots.  He must have been an NCOor better.

Life on Harry was somewhat routine.  We still pulled patrols but not as many.  We had snow, not much, a few inches.  The ground was freezing, and it was harder to dig or repair any bunkers.  We all tried to keep busy, it helped to stay warm.  We had one bunker with an oil stove , and there were several makeshift charcoal burning stoves of some kind.  I once did see some older Koreans using ďAĒ frames bring charcoal and other supplies up on line.  This was back on the M.L.R..How all the supplies got on Harry I donít know.  I assumed by G.I.s hand carrying. 

Our ammo supply, okay, I guess.  We had a number of cases of grenades, mostly fragmentation type and some W.P. and smoke.  I canít remember but there is a figure as to how many days you could hold out with a certain number of rounds and people.  Somewhere, I did see a flame thrower.  It was empty most likely since to fill it would be a rear area task. 

I didnít want to waste ammo, but did test fire the B.A.R. and MG daily.  I had to keep the guns clean and almost dry so the cold wouldnít jam them.  I had the guns oiled very lightly.  One other job was to have a number of the A.R. magazines filled.  We had to hand fill from 20 round boxes.  The carbine was no problem since the ammo came in cloth carriers with stripper clips. 

We had heard that one of the other platoon Ďs MG was test fired at night and looking out over its position  the next morning, there were a number of Chinese dead who were trying to infiltrate the trenches. 

At times, I was overwhelmed with duties and work I placed upon myself.  I wasnít trying to win the battle alone.  It was that many were not up on the basics.  Also, replacements just couldnít cut it at first and had to be watched and walked through it until they got seasoned.  The old man even had me go to other platoons to help out if a problem came up.  Sorry if I sound like a one man army.  I found out that a little knowledge is dangerous.  I really didnít care if it was wrong.  I would fix it and make it right.  I felt good about helping my platoon.  They were grateful and often thanked me in many ways.  It was worth the effort on my part.  But I kept a distance between us as I was afraid of what could happen at any time.  I didnít need any emotions to detract from our reason for being here or to be weakened and make matters worse for the entire platoon. 

Itís now December and , for sure, we will have snow for Christmas.  For quite some time, things quieted down.  We still had incoming and had to listen and take cover.  The company always lost men from these scattered mortar rounds.  Our platoon lost a number of men since our time on the M.L.R. and Harry.

As always, our food was C rations.  We had been able to heat some up in boiling water.  I canít remember exactly but somewhere we got a new type of ration.  It was called ďAssaultĒ and it was pretty good.  It came in a gold can and had better choices.  I guess it was an experiment since we were mostly back to C rations. 

We still got lightly probed-just enough to get you teed off.  Also the 105 and 155 would have a fire mission that would bring some stuff back our way. 

Christmas came quietly with every one in their own thoughts.  What a surprise the next morning on Christmas day!  Right out in front and not very far away was a

Christmas tree of sorts.  The Chinese got that close and set up this make shift Christmas tree about three feet high, really just a bush with branches.  Unfortunately, it was decorated with Zippo lighters and what looked like a wallet.  I thought it would demoralize everyone, but it didnít at all.  It was a little closer to the second platoon sector, if the Lt. gave the word, I was going to open up on it.  It stayed for quite awhile.  I think some rounds finally took it out.

At one of our meetings and briefings, we were told that there was a lot of activity up and down the Chinese trenches.  New trenches of theirs were found, and maybe, reinforcements were coming in.  We beefed up our positions and checked our phone lines to the C.P. added ammo, and put more men on guard duty.  This went on for several days with nothing happening.  We relaxed a little.  Donít remember the date, but it must have been around January or a little later.

The intelligence was true  Just around midnight, we got hit but good both flanks and in the middle of the company area.  My platoon was on the left flank.  I donít know how they got past the L.P..  Up the hill they came twenty or more of them.  Flares lit up the sky, and you could see them very clearly.  Our guns opened up and slowed their advance.  I hollered for everyone to stay put.  If they got in the trenches, it would be hard to make out who was who.  Several men did get in from both ends.  My A.R. man cut them down with deadly accuracy.  I shot a couple in the trench and one or two that got behind us above the trench.  I turned to go back to the MG position and saw a Chink throw a grenade.  It went off just as I turned.  Someone else shot him.  I got hit with some fragments.  I didnít even know it until later.  Got some pieces in my leg and my hand.  It didnít last long.  Unfortunately, when it was over, we had four or five men killed and several wounded.  No one from my platoon killed but two and myself wounded.

I made my report later and helped get things back in order.  To get the wounded down the hill was a problem.  I remember we had help come out from the M.L.R..  Anyway, it was over and the Lt. saw my hand and some one told him about my leg.  He wanted me to go back with the others.  I was devastated at the thought that I had to leave.  I donít know why but I just couldnít go.  My leg felt a little numb, but the cold helped and no more bleeding.

I did go down and made it to the M.L.R..  I had a medic clean me up at some aid station and went back alone the next day.  I got the old man and the Lt. a little bit sore but told them a medic and some doc back on line said I was fine-just a surface wound.  All healed well but little did I know, I still have a piece of shrapnel in my leg.  They took me off the morning report.  I would like to think that they were glad I was back.  I know I was and my men made me feel good.  They performed like soldiers, and I was really very proud of them.  It took a situation like this to make a bond even stronger. 

Needless to say, it did shake everyone up.  We took things more seriously and were more attentive.  There was less fooling around, and it seemed most were in their own thoughts.  We were critiqued as to what happened and how we did.  The old man and battalion sent compliments back and a lot of praise was given.  Several Bronze Stars were recommended. 

Back to the basics again: dig, fix, look, wait, and guard.  It was a hell hole.  No trees or anything green.  Even though I lived in the city, we had trees and green grass, and color.  I realized the absence of color.  What a place!

With nothing much to do, at times, your mind runs in many different directions.  Sometimes I thought of home and Hawaii.  I always wished I could do something to make every one feel really good.  It must have been harder for most since I liked what I was doing and always kept busy.  The men talked of home and their wives or girl friends.  I was surprised as to the number of married guys.  There werenít that many but it made me think especially if they had children.  Almost all of us were in our early twenties. I lived at home and got along very well with my mom and dad even though I was always going somewhere on weekends either shooting, hunting, fishing or camping.  Talking to the guys and looking at the pictures of their girl friends, wives, and families got me to thinking that the army should be for single people only.Enough of that.  I tried not to go down that road.

  I searched some of the Chinese bodies for intelligence info.  I often found small bags of rice.  Much to the dismay of the men at first, I cooked up the rice and mixed it with the rations.  The rice sure gave it a lift.  They changed their minds and started to look for bags of rice.  Not all looked, just some.  To each his own.

We stayed static for some time.  We still sent out a few patrols and the rounds would still come in but for the most part, it was a lot quieter than before.  It helped a great deal since we did get more sack time.  Our new replacements were no longer new.  Everyoneís job was a little easier.  I slowed down a bit now.  I took over the platoon at times.  I wasnít concerned as I had good people that I could trust.  Oh, there was always one or two that you had to come down on, but for the most part we were a good outfit.  One of the guys really liked his liquor.  There wasnít any around but this old boy could suck a bottle of Aqua Velva dry.  I saw him do it.

We were on Harry a long time now.  The weather was starting to come around.  The days were warmer with more daylight.  We had an oil stove going in the warm-up bunker.  It was simple, but it worked.  I was always a little concerned since the apparatus was a hole in a five gallon gas can that dripped diesel in the stove and burned.  It worked and it was warm.  It also helped to dry out any clothes especially socks. 

Well, it was same-o, same-o until one early morning, it happened.  We were hit but good.  Have no idea as to how many but the whole company had Chinese to their fronts.  The mortars were coming and the sky lit up from the flares and rounds were bursting everywhere.  Couldnít tell if theirs or ours.  Every gun was firing.  They got in the trenches and pushed some of us out.  We formed a line and got back our position.  It was fast and furious.  I canít remember all the details but daylight came and confusion was everywhere.  The shooting stopped, the barrage ended.  What a mess!  I was lying in a trench covered with dirt.  I do remember not feeling much of anything.  I remember the smell of smoke.  The medics were going up and down.  We had bodies here and there, Chinese and GI wounded and dead.  I started to get my senses back but felt warm with a burning sensation in my back and arm.  I must have gotten hit.  I asked someone to look me over.  He told me I had been hit in the back most likely by mortar.  A piece of shrapnel went through the only few plates left in my vest.  It slowed it down.  I was lucky since I removed all the plates except the lower ones.  I also got hit in the upper arm with something.

I didnít feel too bad but was shook up.  I was concerned for the men.  I did call the C.P. and reported.  I wondered how bad it was for every one.  They said, ďBad enough!Ē  We took a number of loses and had many wounded.  We got our butts kicked but we still were in our position.  We held on and just about wiped out all the Chinese.  Some said they saw them retreating across the rice paddies with some of their wounded.

Shortly, we tried to get organized.  I was patched up.  My breathing was a little labored.  I only hoped that I hadnít punctured a lung.  This is not what I wanted to happen.  I was very angry with myself for having been wounded.  I knew it wasnít my fault.  The group were asking all kinds of questions.  Some were really afraid, some in a daze and not asking saying anything.  A few were helping those that needed it. 

I didnít know which way to turn.  My head was clear, In fact, I took off my vest and threw it away.  If the Lt. or the old man saw what I did to it, they would have chewed me out.  Funny how well I remember this.

Word came down.  Help and replacements were on the way.  The exchange was made without any problems.  Thank God we had no incoming.

I was caught in a situation that I had no control over.  I knew I had to go but didnít want to.  I was trying to resist but couldnít.  I kept saying that I had to go back and get my stuff.  I really did have items that I picked up and saved.  Before I knew it, I was in a tent getting worked on.  I could see tables with other guys getting treated.  I had no idea where I was or how I got there. 

My next memory is that I was in a hospital in Japan.  It really bothers me that I lost the time from the aid station to Japan and some of the time coming off Harry.  My wounds were okay and in time I would be fine.  My lung collapsed a few times, but they plugged the hole.

None of this was any problem to me at all.  I did have a bad time accepting the end.  I never had a chance to say good-bye to any of the living or dead.  I never did hug anyone.  I always kept my distance, I knew now that it was too late.  How I so much wanted to tell them how much I loved them and would have traded places with all of them at any time, even the dead. 

The hospital was hard for me.  I had time to think.  I thought of each and every one of them.  The burning question that has always been in my mind even to this day is how well did I do?  Did I do enough.  If I can go back, I will.  Next time I will do better. 

I am not certain as to how many weeks I was in the hospital.  My mind and thoughts were getting under control.  I was feeling well and trying to adjust to this is it and soon back on the boat for home. 

The final chapter of my Korean experience came one afternoon.  This I shall never forget!  How and why I was to be in that situation, I will never know.  I can only believe that I was being tested. 

I was able to get out of bed and was walking around quite a lot.  One day I left the ward which was in the center of the hospital floor.  The outer walls had private single rooms.  I was walking past the rooms when I heard a harsh, guttural voice.  I turned and looked into the room.  I was taken back beyond belief.  We had seen it all before but this was the worst for me.  Maybe it was because the time and place were wrong or that the trenches were already far away.  I don't know..

On the bed was a basket.  It was more like a metal grill of some sorts.  In it was a young looking GI with no arms or legs.  His jaw was wired shut.  I could see the wires laced through his teeth and there were cutters hanging around his neck.  He couldnít talk words very clearly, but his eyes pulled me deeper into the room. 

I will never forget his eyes.  He tried to speak.  At first, I couldnít understand him.  I then bent over the bed and put my ear closer.  I could now hear and understand him.  He said over and over again, ďKILL ME, KILL ME!Ē  I went numb and left the room  I went to the day room and cried.  I was afraid to go back anywhere near that room.  After lights out, I laid in bed thinking about what he had said.  I tried to sleep but couldnít.  I looked at my watch.  I will always remember the time.  It was 2 A.M..I decided to do it, to kill him.  Please, if God is real, let me do it and forgive me this one time.  I entered the room.  He was asleep.  I would use his pillow.  At the head of the bed, I started to cry.  I couldnít stop, and I was starting to sob.  Many thoughts raced through my mind.  I turned and left, I couldnít do it.  I had had enough.

Shortly there after, I was discharged from the hospital.  I had a new set of orders.  They were familiar to me and again, Camp Stoneman, California. 

Thank you for the opportunity to tell my story.  It is not only mine, but is also everyone elseís who was there.  We were all in it together and shared equally the good and the bad. While there, I was totally engrossed in my surroundings.  Contrary to what some may think, I did love my time there.  Even now, when I wander back to that place and time, I can still hear the guns.

April 1, 2003



©Copyright 2003, John F. Ferrara.  All rights reserved