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In war, you win or lose, live or die - and the difference is an eyelash.
-- General Douglas MacArthur
Dear Mom: Well, I suppose you wonder where I am, and where I have been. I will start at the beginning. We left for Korea the 1st of July. We were the first regiment to hit there and fight. The North Koreans had about ten divisions to our one regiment. About all we could do was hit them and back up and they would get us surrounded all the time.
And now we will get to Taejon - one place I will never forget. Good size town. We were there for about four days. Last two days we were there we caught hell. Morning of the 19th, July, I woke up, enemy planes came over and straffed a little and they shot down one of our own jet fighter planes, nothing left of him when he came down.
Nothing too much happened ‘til the morning of the 20th, July. That is when all hell broke loose. The enemy got the airfield to the north of town and they sent tanks in on us. They would go by our Reg't Headquarters and shoot up everything. They had men in them going to the other end of town to surround us. We would get their tanks knocked out but after they got to the other end of town, and by 4:30 that afternoon we all got on trucks and jeeps and started out, all shooting into the buildings as we went down the street. The enemy was all over in them. We were sitting ducks for them. Then we had to go through about five blocks of fire. All that end of town was on fire. Some places the streets were nothing but fire. There were tanks, trucks and everything else burning in there. We made it. A lot of them didn't. I just about cooked. Then after we got through, they shot our driver through the head and we hit a telephone pole and that stopped us. I got out of our truck - it was a radio truck - one that I worked in all the time. I got my carbine and started shooting at the dirty blanks. They had us from both sides with machine gun fire and about everything else they could throw at us - hitting guys left and right. We were just on the edge of town now - we were laying along the side of the road pinned down. We would try and make a break for it. We would get in the trucks and jeeps and we'd not move for I saw we would never make it out of there. I tried to help some of the wounded but that was hopeless. It was every man for himself.
I made up my mind to get out of there, so I and four other guys took off over a little hill to the left of the road into the enemy and I guess they saw me. Bullets started hitting all around me. I was in the back of the other guys. I was laying down - one missed my face about four inches - knocking dirt in my eyes and mouth - it gave me a bloody mouth and I could not see too good. I started to get up and go when a bullet hit me in thru the back end and down through my leg - did not go clear through. I just took off and got in a little washout. I about dropped dead when I got there and raised up and saw an enemy machine gun about twenty yards to our one side on a side hill and there were about three North Koreans that we could see. We could have killed them but I don't think I would be here today. I don't see how they could help but see us. That was one place I said my prayers. We lay there until it got dark - about ten. There was a town about a mile to our front that was all on fire and everything was about like day yet. But we had to take the chance. I was not thinking about my leg - we started out of that place - got just about to the top and some "gook" took a shot at me, good thing I was about four yards from his hole for I would have walked right in on him. Guess he did not sight his gun - all I saw was the flash and I hit around to one side. Guess that gook was as afraid as I was because he never came up any more and I took off - didn't go too far and we ran into one of our G.I.s - that guy that was hit in the head. I was surprised that he was still going. He was in bad shape. He was hit in the upper part of the cheekbone and it went through his face just under his eyes. He had blood coming out of both sides of his head, nose and mouth. Both his eyes were shut and he couldn't see. We had to lead him and that made six of us - three of us were hurt. We hit for the mountains. It was hard going, for the enemy was all around us and we had to stay low a lot of times. We got up in the mountains and stopped at a stream to get a drink of water - I was about dying for a drink. My mouth was still full of dirt. Darn if we didn't get lost from that G.I. - that left me with that guy that could not see and another guy that was not hit. We kinda came down out of the mountains and hit machine gun fire again. That guy that was not hit said he was going no more, said he was going to stay there and die.
I stayed there for about fifteen minutes - told him he was crazy if he did, and I got mad and took that other guy and left him there. We went back up into the mountains. I could not go too good myself and I had to lead that guy that was shot in the head. We kept going all night stopping only when my legs would go no further and that was not very far. We had gone a long ways that night and we took a chance on coming out of the mountains the next day. There was a road at the bottom. We thought if we could get there we could go fairly fast, but we hit gunfire, so we went back up in the mountains. Do not know if they were firing at us or not, and I wasn't going to find out. That afternoon we came out again and we were safe. We got down on that road and the South Koreans tried to help us as much as they could. We came to one place and ran into other guys and we all kept going. We got to a small town and there was some South Korean soldiers there-we stayed for about two hours. Everybody was leaving that place and I was too tired and could not go any further, so a South Korean soldier helped me down and asked me if he could take my watch and gun. I said O.K. - he said he would be back in fifteen minutes. He did come back and he said he was going out again but would be back. About that time two guys came in and told me everybody had left - they were not hit so they helped me. I was so darn weak - when I would get on my back I could not get up. There were four of us together. One guy could not go too fast - he was shot through the leg and side and that slowed us all up but we kept going ‘til it was dark and I ran onto one of the guys from the radio section. Sure was glad to see him - then we left the guys that were wounded at a Korean place. They wanted me to stay there and they would get help. I said, "Nothing doing." I went the worst part and I was not going to stop. I got a ride for a ways in an old cart pulled by a cow - it was better than nothing. We kept going - ‘til about 2:30 that night, then we stopped at a Korean place and he fixed us up and we slept for the night. My leg was swelled up in the knee. The next day we made a Korean take me in a cart - this time pulled by a little horse. He took me a long ways into a good size town where we met a Captain. He said we had to go east to get back to our lines. He said it was about 25 miles to Yonkdong - that was where the 1st Cavalry Division was. They had just come from Japan and had not met the enemy yet, and so we took the road east. I got a ride for a little ways and ran out of road so had to walk - and ran onto a Korean that would help me. He gave me support.
Then about sundown we came upon a M.P. Patrol that was picking up guys up that road. We had just made it because they could just go so far on this road and it ran out. We had to walk along the side of a mountain with a river down below. It was just a trail until we hit the road again, where a jeep could go. I was never so glad in all my life to see those guys. We told them about the wounded guys we had left behind. They said they wouldn't take a chance to get them out so I guess it was a good thing I kept coming. Three full days to get out of that place back to our lines. I had not eaten in four days, after I got out they tried to feed me and I could not eat. All I wanted was water. They took us to the aid station and gave me some first aid. The bullet in my leg was just under the skin. We stayed there until morning, when we got on a train for Pusan. We got into Pusan that night and they cut my bullet out - next day they put us on a ship for Tokyo and was I glad. I still feel for the guys that were left in Taejon. There were a lot of them. They would holler, "Don't leave me." Fellows that were shot and couldn't move, but there wasn't anything we could do for them. Gen. Dean was left in there and never came out. He was at the head of the Company. When we started out of Taejon he was our Division Commander.
Well, I'm here in the Tokyo Gen. Hospital - still kicking, but not too good. My leg is still weak and I'm sick to my stomach. I think I drank too much of that dirty water from those rice paddies. I don't think you would know me now. I lost so much weight, nothing but bones. I hardly know myself and I still can't eat too good. I keep telling these people and they will not give me anything. I get so darn mad, they can send me back to Korea anytime. I don't give a damn if they send me to Siberia. I wish they would get all these big wheels from all these countries and make them fight their own wars. It may sound a little bad - there should be better days ahead. Guess maybe I shouldn't write home such things as this. I don't think it will hurt to let you know the inside picture of things.
Never want to worry about me, they can't get the best of a man from Nebraska. You just don't find men from that state. Most all of them are from New York and Pennsylvania, along the east coast states some place.
I do not know when I will get home now. Could have told more, but I'm getting tired. Write soon.
Lots of Love,
Note: letter from PFC Donald Luedtke, U.S. Army 24th Division.
This Day in History
Edward I defeats the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar.
King George II wins the battle of Culloden.
American forces capture York (present-day Toronto), the seat of government in Ontario.
The Army of the Potomac begins marching on Chancellorsville.
German bombers of the Condor Legion devastate Guernica, Spain.
The German army enters the Greek capital, signaling the end of Greek resistance. All mainland Greece and all the Greek Aegean islands except Crete are under German occupation by May 11. In fending off the Axis invaders, the Greeks suffer the loss of 15,700 men.
North Vietnamese troops shatter defenses north of Quang Tri and move to within 2.5 miles of the city. Using Russian-built tanks, they took Dong Ha, 7 miles north of Quang Tri, the next day and continued to tighten their ring around Quang Tri, shelling it heavily.
Saigon is encircled by North Vietnamese troops.
Afghanistan President Sardar Mohammed Daoud is overthrown and murdered in a coup led by procommunist rebels.