Korea 1952 by Bill Childers
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Bill is a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars. The majority of his military writings came during the Vietnam conflict (including this prelude), but here is a writing from an earlier time.
Sixteen years earlier...
When I tired of waiting to be called to active duty in 1950 after the invasion of South Korea by the North, I decided I would "show them" (actually I was not too certain exactly who the "them" were). Anyhow,, after coercing a few of my friends, who to this day still look at me with a jaundiced eye, we went down and volunteered for the United States Marine Corps... the last segment of the armed forces that I ever thought, much less actuated that thought, of joining!
They messed around and finally finessed us into a 175 man unit of future Marines called the North Texas Company. Since I had been a colonel in my high school ROTC, they made me the Company Commander. It had some benefits, besides expecting me to exert some control over this group of guys who, for the most part, didn't know their left from their right. One of the benefits was becoming acquainted with a very nice and lovely lady, our company sweetheart, Dorothy Malone, a Dallas-ite who had become a movie star and won an Oscar.
To make a long story short, we traveled through boot camp, boot leave, advanced combat training and then on to a sometimes very hot (115 in the shade) and sometimes cold (35 below) "paradise" where there just happened to be a war going on. There were some good times and some really bad times... you quickly found the only thing you could do with a war was to try to emerge a year later much the same as you were when you started. Of course, none of us were the same, and would never be the same again. I met some really great guys in the tank company... our platoon sergeant, Jim, hard but fair... he kept us alive. Then, there was "Greasy", our driver, "Banny", later, our driver, "Squint" or "One-eye", the 90mm gunner for whom I was the loader. Later, I became gunner... my name was "Deacon".
It was later in 1952, while I was the gunner, that we supported a unit for Operation Hill "William" in Korea. When the marine casualties passed through our position, I knew I had to write the following...
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The number were many, the spirit strong,
And in each man's mind were the questions of old.
In his heart, old love and memories lingered,
And wonder of the story yet to be told.
With silent, grim faces, the men, one by one,
Marched to the steady cadence of their hearts.
And though lips were silent, prayers came forth...
Words that always come before the battle starts.
I cannot know the thoughts of each man,
They are but ONE to hear and know.
Yet, I can imagine, knowing that they are much like I...
The time is near... the minutes creep slow.
The... the battle! The shots! The curses of fear!
The cries, the agony, a gentle helping hand,
A buddy falls, a buddy helps... the end nears!
Lives have passed like grains of sand.
The number is taken, names are called...
A "here", another "here"... silence fills the air...
And with that silence, the sobs of a close buddy.
It goes on... silences no longer rare,
Now the number, no longer many, the spirit not strong,
The questions are now completely filled.
With those remaining, memories yet linger,
Of a different story... of love now stilled.
Do not cry in lands beyond the sea...
Tears cannot change things that had to be.
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