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War Diary9716 Reads  Printer-friendly page

KoreaThe flights to our new station at K-2 (Taegu) consumed one day and within several days more the squadron was in full operation. While we unpacked and positioned our main equipment, hundreds of cans of exposed aerial film began to backlog in our holding area.
A temporary lab for the emergency-classed films received rush priority. This temporary structure set up by a small work party that arrived several days ahead of the main transport of squadron personnel from Fukuoka, Japan. Our lab moved from the K-2 base to the middle of Taegu and into a large and deserted former school building called Kyung Buk Middle School. Without delay, we created living quarters, set up pumps and electrical generators and secured the camp. From the start, we worked twelve-hour shifts and longer hours when emergencies occurred. The weather worsened in October and everyone sensed a hard winter ahead. The North Koreans reached the outskirts of Taegu and all around our lab remnants of several broken armies clogged our streets. Major Brewer ordered First Sergeant James Balint to open the armory and issue each of us 30 caliber carbines--but no ammunition. I remember Corporal Jim Welk let out a laugh when he received his weapon. A born comedian, Jim mimicked gunfire with pops and bangs followed by the words, "That will scare 'em." It was unwise to issue arms without ammo since we were exactly eight miles from the dug-in forces of the North Korean Army. Armored vehicles of our 8th Army had just that day come through from the battlefront and they looked totally beaten. Every soldier riding them had bandages and the vehicles looked ready for the junk pile. We stood along the walkways with our empty carbines feeling silly as the parade of real soldiers filed down the road. Several weeks went by before our film processing managed to keep up with the demands of war. Each day, however, the sky turned from gray to black and winds whipped up a severe cold from the North. Our oil-fueled stoves in the personnel tents stayed hot day and night. When we finished our long lab shifts we trudged to the tents where we ate and fell asleep without conversation. By November 1950, the war had the UN still clinging to the edge of the Pusan Perimeter. Our forces had not yet taken charge of the ground war and only then did the sky come under UN control. Our RF-80 and RB-26 recon aircraft were not doing what we had hoped and many of them returned with scars and damaged parts. In late December 1950, new military units began to show up in Taegu as part of the United Nations forces. As they arrived, we who were free of shifts visited their camps. The Turkish Army was the first in our area being housed up the street from Kyung Buk Middle School. I saw them drive by our front gate and got permission to watch them off-load and to take pictures. They appeared husky with their heavy clothes, mustaches, deep voices and knives. I noticed they smiled and sang a lot, even danced together around their night fires. No matter what they did, they never lost a certain fearsome appearance. I was happy they were nearby--and on our side. One cold night in late December 1950, an unknown number of North Korean soldiers made their way past the Turkish compound and into ours at the school. Somehow they managed to avoid contact with our South Korean Army sentries and entered our mess hall. Once inside, they killed several of the night personnel and made off with a quantity of food supplies. The attack took place without me hearing a single shot or noise even though my tent sat 50 yards away. I noticed, too, that Jim slept through it with his empty carbine stowed beside his cot. A week later, about Christmas day, 363rd's lab burned to the ground. No one will ever know what caused the fire even though there was speculation it, too, suffered at the hands of North Korean soldiers. I feel we had stoked our oil drum stoves one time too many and the heat inside the lab ignited somewhere upstairs. In less than one hour the 363rd Photo Recon Technical Lab ceased to exist. I remember I awoke to hear persons yelling outside my tent the lab was on fire and all of us to vacate. I dressed quickly, except for my missing boots, and ran into the dark and snow with the men from my tent. Sergeant Balint ordered everyone to assemble near the messhall and we came quickly together. A head count taken and Corporal Bill "Willie" Sponheimer found missing. Willie was a friend of mine and I knew where he slept inside the burning building. He had the task of protecting from theft the lab's camera lenses and other special equipment. I advised Sergeant Balint where Willie slept and for a moment we all stood in silence as a large portion of the two storied school's upper roof collapsed into the ceiling of the ground floor. Standing beside me in the ranks was a young airman from Canada who also shared Willie's friendship. Without saying a word, the two of us sprang forward and headed into the smoke of the main floor. Inside, we dropped to our stomachs and crawled below the heat and toward the door where Willie slept. Balint sounded like a person gone crazy as he screamed at us to stay in the ranks. Again the youth mentality gave us the strength to face the smoke and heat and to ignore our First Sergeant. I reached up and turned the door knob and found it locked. A chain rattled on the other side that told us Willie was there--and asleep. The Canadian lifted me so I could see through the wire mesh above the door. I reached the top and yelled to Willie to leave the building. Willie sat up, coughed, and struggled with the lock and chain. As I lowered to the floor, we told Willie to climb the door and run for his life. I led the way out with the Canadian close on my heels. Willie came out moments later without his clothes, rubbing his eyes, and stumbling around on the steps to the school. Moments later, the ground floor began to disintegrate and the old dry wood of its sides sizzled and cracked before becoming a pile of grounded embers. As we moved back from the smoke and sudden rise of the heat, someone in our crowd took a blanket and wrapped the naked body of Willie Sponheimer. While beside the school, another airman thought to save the mess hall by taking an ax to the roofed walkway connecting the two buildings. With several strokes of the ax the walkway area was on its side and the precious mess hall spared. Admittedly, this period was both exciting and dangerous. For me, however, I managed to make the most of conditions and to pretend each day was something to experience, to cherish as a memory. Through all of this dangerous and nerve-wracking activity Cpl. Jim Welk kept his energy level at a peak and, as usual was the center of much of our social activity. In spite of the long work shifts, worsening weather, bad food, and the frequent sicknesses experienced by most, he and I remained close. Jim lost some weight and his face became skeletal and his lips thinned. He wasn't alone with the weight problem, however, as I, too, began to lose my fat gained months earlier in Fukuoka. Dysentery became a major problem for me and several doctors advised I would be shipped out for treatment if I didn't improve. They gave me medicines and I took them religiously until the problem subsided. Because of the school house fire that destroyed our lab, (read Part One) we moved to the air base outside Taegu (K-2). Our encampment was on a slight rise of land that allowed us to see the 5th Air Force's airfield below and the hills that surrounded our base. The runways were cluttered with all sorts of vintage aircraft, trucks and armored vehicles--and chaos seemed to reign as far as the eye could see. The aircraft of the day included World War II types composed of P-51s, B-26s, B-25s, C-47s, and the latest fighter aircraft, the F-80s. Beside the runways were stacks of canvas-covered boxes of equipment and supplies. Men in fatigues moved in and about them performing day and night tasks. Beyond my view of K-2 was the rambling city of Taegu. Five miles beyond Taegu sat the entrenched cream of the North Korean Army halted only because they faced a stand-and-fight American 8th Army. I didn't know it at the time but K-2 was in great jeopardy and would not have survived had any part of the 8th retreated. Taegu was North Korea's only block between them and Pusan at the Southern tip of South Korea. Taegu and K-2 had to fall if the North was to claim the entire Korean peninsula. Bad news and rumors reached the men at the photo sinks and printers every hour; most expected the 363rd to be returned to Fukuoka, Japan. I was not, at the time, totally confident we would win or that Korea was worth winning in the first place. But it was my war (my only war) and I was determined to do my share and to enjoy the war at the same time--if at all possible. General MacArthur, while relying on the 363rd's aerial photos of the beaches near Seoul, turned the war around with the Inchon Landing in mid-September. At that time, the Navy left Japan carrying with it thousands of Marines and supplies. At the same time, the 8th Army and other UN Forces hit the North Koreans hard in the midlands to distract them from MacArthur's real objective: Inchon. History shows it went well and many of the aerial pictures we processed at the time depicted troop and equipment movements on both sides. It was my first experience with raw intelligence and, at the time, I sadly lacked the training and skills to recognize its full value. The winter months hit us hard and by the end of February 1951 we were all wearing everything the Air Force issued plus things that had been sent to us from home. We looked like rag dolls and were unrecognizable until we took off the several layers of soft hats and helmets. Cpl. Jim Welk had a colorful scarf his mother had sent him and it helped me pick him out in the crowd. On the 25th of February 1951, the 363rd became the 67th Reconnaissance Technical Squadron to make us fit in with other organizational changes in the Wing. It didn't matter to any of us except it proved to be a little confusing for the mail man and was never appreciated when the mail arrived months late. More changes were in store for me when, on the 29th of April, I was reassigned from the 67th RTS photographic lab to the Public Information Office of the wing. This was an assignment I had long sought and finally an opening appeared. Staff Sergeant Mike Russo and Captain Moats made it happen. It was a good thing for me and it made the rest of my days in Korea much more pleasant. There were now three of us in PIO with me doing the writing and Mike Russo taking the Wing's pictures. Best of all, the 67th RTS was only a hut away which kept me close to my old friends from Fukuoka and Langley Field, Virginia. The 67th was transferred from Taegu (K2) to Kimpo (K14) on the 15th of September and our duties resumed as in the past. Again we lived in canvas tents strewn along one side of the sprawling base. The base still had its scars of war and the metal hanger was shattered and unusable. Kimpo had been the center of a massive firefight between US Marines and its North Korean defenders and it had been heavily bombed into total submission. Very little had been done to improve conditions on the base when the 67th RTS arrived and set up labs and tents. Kimpo, in the few weeks between when it was recaptured by the Marines and the arrival of the 67th, had been a drop and pickup point for military aircraft. Large transport planes off-loaded supplies and returned to Japan as hospital aircraft carrying wounded from the front. The ferrying of the wounded from Kimpo was ongoing and continued to be so until my return to the United States in early 1952. I remember the base to be little more than several thousand feet of iron grating for a runway and a tattered structure of a hangar. Off to one side perched a large shell of a maintenance building, piles of supplies under wooden roof tops and canvas covers, and hundreds of small and large tents. Here and there, oil drums sat lined up with their stove pipes spewing smoke from oil fuel and men scraped shiny trays and splashed boiling water. Several laundry buildings edged the compound inside which Korean men and women scrubbed, dried, folded and stacked military sheets and clothes. Beyond the barbed wire fence was the village composed of mud huts and thatched roofs. They, too, added cooking smoke to the already fouled air. People in strange clothes moved about carrying things like wooden back frames, pots, bundles of grass and tiny tree limbs, all the while coaxing their small children to follow with grunts and threats. Ringing the base and the tiny village were putrid rice paddies, knee deep in mud and gray water, their infant rice sprouts breaking the surface of the murky soup like motionless green needles. Stink as it did, I nevertheless saw it the most exciting and interesting place on earth.While the smells gagged me and the sights turned my stomach, the fact the scene was different from anything I had ever experienced kept me excited and entranced. My views of Taegu, Kimpo and surroundings, however, were not shared by many of my friends. Corporal Bill Keeney from San Jose, California had been in Japan and Korea about the same time as me except our paths didn't cross until we were assigned to Kimpo. Bill was a tall, black hair and handsome young man who had a bit of the devil in him in all that he did. It mattered not if he was working or at play when his jokes were played out. It was partly because of this humor and vigorous lifestyle that I was drawn to his friendship. Bill and I shared a tent with six others. It was next to a wide and deep sewer trench being excavated while we were there. Every day we watched the trench and the Koreans below laboring with shovels and carrying the dirt out in tiny buckets. Bill would laugh at their labors and make comments that one USA backhoe would do the job in one tenth the time. Then we would go to breakfast and disappear into our individual assignments. One warm September morning, Bill sat and listened to the yells of Koreans running wildly outside our tent. He hollered at me and I dropped my book. We dressed quickly and found ourselves the first Americans to reach the side of the twelve foot deep trench. It had collapsed covering two workers into the hole. Bill and I stared downward for a few seconds and, sensing none of the Koreans were moving to help, I jumped downward. Bill was aghast and told me to climb out. He had seen a new crack forming on the opposite bank and knew I would be covered next. I must not have heard him for I started clearing dirt away from a tiny air hole I saw in the soft dirt. Below the hole somewhere was the face of a Korean laborer. I dug the soft soil and the man's face appeared. His eyes were open and dirty and his mouth drooled mud. I scooped the dirt out and them slapped the man several times. He blinked and expelled the remaining air in his chest. A second Korean leaped into the trench and, together, we cleared the man's shoulders and chest. As we dug, I noticed a group of Americans standing on one of the banks watching our work. I remembered Bill's warning of a crack and I ordered everyone to back away. One of the persons above was Warrant Officer Braun of the 67th and he didn't take kindly to my ordering him about. I paid dearly for this failing to recognize authority in the months to come. As more help arrived, I took my leave and stood back by the tents to catch my breath. I stayed long enough to see both Korean laborers removed to safety. Bill stood beside me and smiled, rather a wide toothy smile, which told me that while he appreciated my successful life-saving it had been a dumb thing to do. It seemed that when Bill and I came together the need for adventure dominated our minds. No matter who came up with an idea, we both quickly agreed if the idea meant fun, sport, danger or travel. We were both very bored with the Kimpo assignment by now and well conditioned to the hardships we faced on a daily basis. By this time we were carrying loaded carbines and going into places, such as outlying villages, with reckless abandon. And we were still looking for more things to do. A plus for us over most of the other men in the 67th RTS was the fact I had my own PIO jeep and was authorized to drive on and off base in search of stories...and we used that jeep a lot. Bill was walking on the tarmac one day when he spotted a C-47 transport being loaded with magnesium flares. He heard someone say they were looking for personnel to help drop the flares over enemy staging areas, bridges, and dams. Bill asked a few questions such as when do you go and how many personnel do you require. He ran across the runway to our tent and announced his "good news." The discovery of adventure had put a smile on his face that told me his dreams of "high adventure" had come true and I knew I was about to have some wild times, too. That night we were at the side of the C-47 and waiting for the pilots to arrive. They expected us and nodded their greeting as we climbed aboard and took seats. It was about 10 p.m. and Kimpo was dark in a blackout as we cleared for departure. Minutes later, we were airborne and headed someplace to the North. Ten minutes airborne, we were beyond friendly lines and climbing to what the pilots hoped would be a safe altitude. This first flight put a wide grin on Bill Keeney's face and I could see he was in Seventh Heaven with all the adventure he imagined would soon be his. Admittedly, I was excited, too, but I remember thinking what I'd do if forced to bail out over cold North Korea. We wore shoulder holsters with loaded handguns and, somehow, their weight gave us both a sense of security. I don't recall what Bill carried but mine was my German Luger I found in Waegwan while riding shot-gun with Charlie Veltsos. Our long cabin was dark except for a few dim red lights to illuminate the flare load and the drop chutes. It was warm in the bay even though we flew fairly high. Outside, it was probably 30 degrees. The crew boss signaled us to stand near our individual drop chutes and to insert the magnesium flares for dropping. We responded by standing up and attaching drag lines to our waists. Next, we unstrapped flare containers and freed the top flares. Under our feet, we could feel the aircraft shift direction slightly, drop a little altitude, and assume a steady course. At that point the crew boss signaled to begin the dropping. Our flares were spaced several seconds apart. This delay allowed the aircraft to cross the target area and make a turn before the first flare parachute opened and the flare ignited. The first string of flares that evening halted almost as soon as it had begun - - and for good reason. A string of parachute flares not only exposes the enemy below, it also identifies the direction of the aircraft above. Our pilots changed altitudes and directions as soon as the first of series of flares ignited. There were wide scratches on the painted windows in the bay and Bill and I peered through them to see what our flares illuminated. Suddenly, there was a bright flash off to one side of the aircraft, then a second, a third, and so on and our previous flight pattern was easy to see. Thank heaven we were elsewhere as the flares ignited and dropped to earth for now there was anti-aircraft fire popping ahead of each new flare burst. Bill yelled with delight when he saw the first brief burst of dark red off his side of the aircraft. Then another yell as several more burst beside him. We took on fire and the people below worked hard to destroy us. I never lost the thought that a lucky stray shot could easily bring us down. I was excited, too, but didn't yell because my face was pressed hard against the scratch in the window paint. We continued to drop flares in all sorts of crazy patterns and directions. Behind us, the Marine Corsairs and the Air Force F-80 jets criss-crossed our flare patterns in a war frenzy that meant people died below. Over the loud drone of the propeller engines we yelled back and forth until we were hoarse. When the flares were gone, we stood and watched until the sky became dark, lit briefly by distant flashes of anti-aircraft fire. "We'll have to do this again," Bill yelled across to me as we bounced down at Kimpo, "that's exactly what I like to do." His smile had not diminished one bit from the flight's start and I had the feeling we would be in the sky again - and soon, too. To the West of Taegu was the single line railroad linking Taegu with Taejon and to Seoul. The small town of Waegwan rested on this rail and it was the final halting position of the North Korean Army. In October, with the push of I Corps during the Inchon counter-offensive, the North Koreans put up a strong fight before leaving Waegwan forever. When they had been pushed several miles, I Corps requested volunteers from Taegu to operate their supply trucks. Corporal Charlie Veltsos ( Massachusetts) and I volunteered thinking we would be inside and warm while driving trucks. Instead, the supply officer put us on the cab tops where they had installed 30 caliber machine guns. We had volunteered to ride shotgun into a hot war zone. An Army sergeant showed each of us how to set the weapons for firing and then moved on down the line of trucks. I looked my "piece" over carefully and moved it about pointing it here and there while we sat on the Taegu Street. I could almost hear Charlie Veltsos' pretended staccato gunfire in the background. I distinctly recall our long line of trucks were loaded with artillery shells in long painted boxes. We moved in single file and headed Northwest out of the city. Within minutes, I was fighting the cold, my nose ran and tears streaked my eyes as I blinked before the Korean wind. American and Republic of Korea tanks and trucks littered the roadside as we made our way through otherwise barren hills. After eight or so miles on a rutted road we came across the first burial details scouring the hillsides. Further on, we witnessed the jagged outlines of small farm buildings. Beyond them, small groups of American soldiers sat waiting for directions. Our trucks paused near a large group of seated North Korean prisoners of war (about 5,000) and, beside them, fifty or so North Korean nurses. They huddled together behind a half dozen South Korean soldiers with rifles and fixed bayonets. The day had become warmer by the time we backed the trucks into an offloading compound. Prisoners came forward and began transfering the shell boxes to a bed of wood planks. As I climbed down through the truck cab and onto the dirt road, I found Veltsos among our volunteers. Like mine, his face was streaked and dirty and we congratulated each other for having survived one half of the ordeal. Charlie was the first to spot the towering pile of enemy weapons and waved me to join him for a close examination. An Army MP, on guard there, allowed us to enter the barbed wire enclosure and told us to take what we wished. Charlie stepped inside and walked around the pile of wooden handles, black barrels, clips, loose ammo, and bayonets. Occasionally, an automatic weapon protruded but otherwise the weapons appeared to be the work of one poor craftsman; all crudely done. Charlie spotted the genuine German 9mm Luger and I was the first to reach it. It had been owned by a high officer judging by his quality and condition. The rules of war prevailed as I slipped the piece under my heavy jacket and avoided Charlie for the rest of the day. Charlie and I spent the mid-day hours at Waegwan staying close by waiting for the convoy to reassemble. At dusk, we climbed into our gun ports for the cold hard drive back to the labs of the 363rd RTS. The selling of imported materials in the Korean market place which had been brought to Korea by military aircraft was considered black market and the penalty for such crime was severe. But there was much profit to be gained and few were ever caught--at least few were known to Cpl. Bill Keeney and myself. And we needed the cash. We got into the business mainly because we had the connections and we knew what the Koreans most wanted. They craved a meat tenderizer known in the Far East as Ajinamoto. It softened dog meat to the point it was chewable. But it was a Japanese product and difficult to move from one country to the other. All we had to do was get a few hundred cans of it to Kimpo Air Base (K-14) and lots of money would be ours. It seems that Bill and I were both due for some R&R (rest and relaxation) in Japan in October 1951 and were scheduled to go together. This was a dangerous combination of guys because, when paired, we often flirted with wrist chains and dark disaster. Knowing we were headed for the Ginza, we checked the purchase rate for Ajinamoto in the local Korean village and found it at one US dollar per can. Enlisted people returning from Japan said the miracle powder could be purchased by the case for about $100; or 10 cents each. We counted up our combined savings and set our sights on the purchase of 2,000 cans. Next, we arranged with a friendly RB-26 pilot from the Wing who would be there at the same time to bring back to K-14 what he believed to be "souvenirs" inside his bomb-bay. For his troubles, we agreed to give him several bottles of hard-to-get American whiskey. In the middle of our Tokyo visit, (this particular visit is a story in itself) we met the Ajinamoto sales rep and had him bicycle deliver our 2,000 cans to the base where our RB-26 was being serviced. The pilot allowed the boxes to go onboard and several days later the ammo boxes sat on the Kimpo tarmac waiting our return. As soon as our C-47 transport stopped beside the Kimpo passenger tent, Bill and I scurried about until our boxes were located. We hastily loaded them on the back of my Public Information Office jeep and drove directly to our tent. Once inside, we cracked them open and counted what we expected to be new-found wealth. The box was like dug up treasure, its shiny tin cans were pearls and gem stones. Several days after my return from Japan, Captain Donald Moats allowed me to take the jeep off base to develop a story or two for release back home in the States. With my gate pass in hand, Bill and I headed straight for Inchon where, we were told, the highest prices were being paid for the infamous red powder. On arrival, and expecting the merchants to line up with fists full of military script, we instead faced stall operators more skilled at bargaining than we had anticipated. They wrinkled their faces and pointed to shelves lined with cans of the tenderizer. None would pay the one dollar we expected and all turned their backs on us as their unified show of refusal. We were broke, had a Jeep stuffed with illegal black-market items, and were a long way from Kimpo. What to do? Bill, being the more aggressive of us, decided to end the standoff by grabbing the first merchant (the smallest one, perhaps the oldest, too) and make growling (threatening) noises. I watched as the other merchants got the idea the sale would be made--one way or the other--and I was very surprised to see them step forward and fan out their military script. The 2,000 Ajinamoto cans disappeared into the busy market place without further discussion. It was now late and a very cold Korean afternoon and we had twenty miles to drive before reaching the Kimpo gate. We had to move quickly and be off the road before dark because of the curfew. With the money stuffed into our grenade pockets, we took off in a whirl of dust. Near the edge of Inchon, we stopped for a few minutes to compute our nefarious earnings. It was on the shoulder of the dirt road we found why the merchants had been so willing to conclude the sale. They had simply used Bill's physical subterfuge to give us what they had offered in the first place: eighty cents per can. Bill's smile disappeared as he looked over at me with all the anger he could muster. He'd been out-maneuvered and he was not a happy GI. Further on, we were stopped at a road check composed of Korean and US Army military police. Their job to counter moves such as ours and to confiscate vehicles, equipment, money and to jail any culprits they found. They were also looking for deserters from all the armies since the battle zone was only about a few miles to the north. We worked our way forward as one vehicle driver after the other successfully gave answers for being in the area. Bill and I watched and listened trying to conjure up some response that would clear our path. On both shoulders of the road soldiers watched the short train of vehicles for suspicious behavior such as the dumping of contraband, turn arounds and the hiding of money. Then it was our turn. "Let's see your pass, Corporal." The military policeman held his hand out and I was thankful Captain Moats had authorized me broad movement with the Jeep rather than his typical directions of where I was to go and when I was to return. Bill sat motionless, his face sober. It was one of the few times he wasn't smiling and he was letting my pass do the talking for the two of us. "Why Inchon?" I mumbled something and swallowed a lot of spit. The policeman stared hard into my eyes and I felt the money grow in size and begin to burst the seams of my grenade pockets. I wished I had been given a check for the amount and not the bundle one dollar military script notes. While they were small in size, they felt heavy and I prayed he wouldn't order me to turn my pockets inside-out. "I'm a writer," I said, "I write!" It sounded dumb and I was sure he saw through my facade. Beside that, my voice was unusually high due to my nervousness. The MP scowled and said something about writers being fags and most of them hailing from California. I hoped he wouldn't ask me where I was from for I would have lied and said Arizona or Texas. The military policeman waved an associate over and instructed him to ride on the back of our jeep and for me to drive to their headquarters. He advised there wasn't much of a problem but they wanted to ask more questions. My stomach soured and Bill's face showed, for the first time, worry lines. I had hoped we would be sailing down the road by now and I would be listening to Bill laughing and bragging about how we had outsmarted the cops. I swung out of the line of vehicles and headed back toward Inchon. It was now about three in the afternoon and getting colder. I had sweat rings where they shouldn't be and I tried to dry them away by elevating my arms as I drove. The soldier was casual as we walked into the front door of the military police building and he left us unescorted at the counter. To this point, we were treated as persons more lost than under suspicion. Then the soldier came back and told us we could go inside and take chairs. A technical sergeant looked up, showed no recognition for a moment, and went back to his singlesheet of paper. "You guys involved in the black market?" When we didn't immediately reply he looked up and calmly stared at our faces. "Well?" Bill stammered something about being on an authorized trip and that we had the pass to prove it. I briefly told him I was a writer and that I was getting background for several stories. I remember mentioning Inchon as being one of the places I had chose to look. "Yeah, I'll bet," he said, "and if I direct you to open those fat pockets of yours I suppose you and your friend will say you've been gambling, too." The sergeant laughed and showed no inclination to pursue the pocket inspection. Neither Bill nor I got a chance to reply because the sergeant had better things to do and he walked out of the small room. We heard him tell our MP passenger to escort us back to the road. Before he was out of sight, he looked back and waved a fat hand. "You two Air Force shirkers get your butts back to Kimpo. Do it now! Next time I see you, you're going home in irons three decks below the waterline." I believed him. Crime was not for me. I intended to get my Air Force shirking butt back inside the K-14 fence and never again to venture out. As soon as we were beyond the checkpoint and well beyond their hearing, Bill did let out a holler-like laugh as he grabbed at the frame of the windshield and pounded his boots against the floorboards. He was truly overjoyed, I was relieved, and Moats never heard a word of it. The twenty cents loss per can came up later only when we were drinking. As time went on, it became funnier and something we both enjoyed recounting. By now, the Chinese Red Army was well into the war on the side of the North Koreans and they were not making life easy for the United Nations. We at Kimpo felt the pressure applied by them in a number of ways. First of all, demands for aerial pictures to be produced by our lab increased markedly causing longer shifts with the same number of personnel. Second, were the demands on the airfield itself. On one particular day, I saw the last great air show of probably all wars with the fly over of several hundred B-29 four engine bombers on their way from Japan and Okinawa to the Chinese army front. Their targets were along the Yalu itself and their task to stop the flow of Chinese into North Korea. The two air groups had come together somewhere south of Kimpo and, in tight wing-to-wing formations, they passed overhead low enough for me to see their insignias. I recall standing outside my field tent and seeing the black formations and hearing the powerful drone of their combined engines. I watched history pass overhead as groups at varying altitudes held their positions--perhaps like WW-II--and disappeared beyond the low foothills north of K-14. Death flew with them that cold day for many of the air crews and for thousands of soldiers on the ground. Several hours later, I began hearing the first of the "May-days" from the returning planes, many of them limping along barely hundreds of feet over the crests of low hills and villages. Those coming to us for emergency landings were missing tips of wings, tails, and wheels, had holes in their fuselages, and many spewed streaks of black smoke across the sky. We in the 67th were responsible for taking pictures of aircraft problems occurring on the base. The job was called, "Crash Camera" and several of us were trained to do a first-class photographic investigation. We, at first, thought the first "May-day" would be the sum total of our day's work. But as soon as the first bomber had slid in on the metal grating and come to rest as a pile of useless aluminum and wire, we realized many more might just be beyond our view. As I recall, Staff Sergeant Mike Russo was "Crash Camera" at the time and he soon was being supported by several others with Speed Graphics from the 67th laboratory. All-in-all, I believe we had six or seven "May-days" with each plane adding to the carnage on the ground. I was there, too, but more as a helper wherever help was needed. My recall tells me there were many bodies in the gun turrets and, occasionally one or both of the pilots of an aircraft were wounded, dead, or dying. No B-29 bomber using Kimpo that day ever made it back into the sky. They were down for good and most were just pushed aside and pressed into heaps of crushed aluminum. The sight of the carnage changed my perspective of war forever and more than a little of my youth had left me by nightfall. Later, we were told that every airbase in Korea received one or more of the derelicts of that final great bomber run to the north. Bill Keeney, Jim Welk, and myself found ourselves a war and in a place where promotions were slow and with little hope for going up in sight. We were all corporals for most of the Korean Campaign and it wasn't until time to rotate back to the States that our third stripes (or Airman First Class) came to the three of us. Donald Moats, now a major and still in charge of the Wing's Public Information Office, called me into the Quonset hut and announced I had become a sergeant. Staff Sergeant Russo was there, too, and the three of us celebrated even though there was no alcohol available. Moats handed me a set of stripes and told me to have the Korean momma-san sew them on that very day. I wrote the date down because it was such a momentous occasion and one that I had given up all hope of ever enjoying. It was the 15th of September, 1951. During the celebration, Major Moats alerted both Russo and myself we were scheduled to return to the States in the very near future. Rumors had been flying for several weeks that most of us would be soon leaving Korea and from Japan in mid-January, 1952. I wasn't sure I really wanted to go just yet: After all, it was the only war I would ever be in and I wanted a bit more of it. Crazy as this may seem now to the reader, the excitement of war was part of my needs and I felt let down that it would soon be behind me. On the 30th of December, 1951, SP Order #287 reached the PIO office and was posted on the hut's tiny bulletin board. It said that the below named personnel were being rotated from the 5th Air Force, Korea and transferred to a receiving area in California. We were to leave Japan by ship on the 13th of January, 1952 and would arrive in San Franciso on or about the 29th of the same month. I was again with friend, Jim Welk, for another epic event and this time on the SS J.C. Breckinridge. It left Yokohama right on schedule but instead of going straight across the Pacific as we thought it surely would, it headed south to Okinawa. It was announced it was scheduled to pick up several hundred metal caskets of our war dead. From San Francisco, I was dispatched to Wichita, Kansas and to a newly opened airbase. I still had about two months to go on my four year service and had decided to make the most of my time remaining before hanging up my uniform. After all, I was still in a Public Information Office and writing stories; life was going to be easy and very uncomplicated, I was certain. As fortune would have it, I chanced to see a pretty blonde girl with blue eyes working for the Wichita City Airport manager in the next office to mine and my two months became a period of my life I shall never forget. Complications set in immediately and everything I did or thought about was dominated by the blonde with the blue eyes. I couldn't sleep and my eating habits changed, too. The hardness that war had driven into me slid away like so much jelly. I was in love. But then, she is yet another story. It shall suffice to end my Korean experience by writing I was honorably discharged on the 3rd of June, 1952 and married the former Ms Freda Marie Simon on the 5th.
Note: by Sgt. Jack Morris, 363rd Recon Tech Squadron Korea.


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