Intermission Stories (14)

(Top): Lt. Lewis Wood on right in Korea (Bottom): A Korean valet assigned to Baker Co.

(Top): Lt. Lewis Wood on right in Korea
(Bottom): A Korean valet assigned to Baker Co.

W. Lewis Wood, Jr.

Baker Company/179th Infantry Regiment/45th Division

This story is from the “I Was There” series in the History Channel magazine, January/February 2012 issue.  It is not condensed or edited in any way.  

Pullin’ a Hank Snow: ‘I’m Moving On’

During the winter of 1951-1952, I served as platoon leader with Baker Company of the 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Division on the front in Korea.  One of the most popular ballads of the day was entitled, “I’m Moving On” by country music star Hank Snow.  Since many of the men of Baker Company, including myself, called Tennessee home, we had adopted the theme “Hank Snow” to use in radio communications.

In order to maintain radio silence we could use phrases such as “I’m pulling a Hank Snow” or “The enemy is using a Hank Snow to the rear” or “You better get your Hank Snow going.”  These phrases were used to indicate movement of one kind or another, and although the Chinese could hear our radio messages, “Hank Snow” was a code word they could never decipher.

(Left): Soldiers take a break at company HQ in Korea (Right): A pair of disabled M-17 tanks in a valley below the platoon's defenses.

(Left): Soldiers take a break at company HQ in Korea
(Right): A pair of disabled M-17 tanks in a valley below the platoon’s defenses.

Another code word was “Hank Williams,” who was famous for many country music songs, but was especially noted for his ballad “On Top of Old Smokey.”  So, any time one of our units wished to indicate their position, they could signal the code word “Hank Williams” which meant they had occupied the crest of a hill.  We also used other country music stars that were famous for lyrics such as “Down in the Valley” or “St. James Infirmary.”

One of our wiremen from the communications section, Pvt. Eddie Kohl, was an excellent guitarist and country singer.  He would help us come up with appropriate lyrics and the name of the singer most related to the song, whose name we could use as our code word for particular messages.  Kohl was an excellent soldier.  He so loved the military that he later volunteered for the U.S. Marines and served with distinction in Vietnam.

W. Lewis Wood, Jr. is from Germantown, Tenn.

Click on any image to view full size.

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Dan Blocker as Hos Cartwright

Dan Blocker as Hos Cartwright

Dan Blocker's High School Yearbook photo

Dan Blocker’s High School Yearbook photo

 

In continuing to research the 179th Infantry Regiment/45th Division, I discovered a well-known and beloved actor who also served with them in Korea.   As part of F Company/2nd Battalion/179th Infantry Reg, Dan Blocker, better known as Hoss Cartwright on “Bonanza”, was a Sergeant who gallantly received a Purple Heart for his wounds incurred during combat.

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Farewell Salutes – 

Maria “Angie” Arreola – Mesa, AZ; USMCwar-on-terror01

John E. Benz – Palm Beach, FL; US Navy, WWII

James Cox – Chicago, IL; US Navy, WWII

John C. Fisher – Waihi, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 81913 & Royal British AF # 3528335

Walter Glanc – Toronto, Can. (born in Russia); RAF Polish Air Squadron, WWII

Ervin Dayton Hand – Fayetteville, AR; US Navy, WWII, aviator, USS Randolph

William Kaufman, Jr. – Seattle, WA; US Air Force, Colonel (Ret.)

Richard Mathieu – Annapolis, MD; US Navy, WWII, aviation ordnance

Murl Orr – W.Palm Beach, FL; US Navy, WWII, captain’s talker aboard a minesweeper, PTO

Manuel Rojas – Long Beach, CA; US Army Air Corps, 187th RCT, WWII, PTO

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on April 24, 2014, in Korean War, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 43 Comments.

  1. Ingenious method of code signals, great idea.
    Thanks for enlightening me on Dan Blocker, a great piece of history that I think, not many Aussies know, even though Bonanza was a must on out TV’s here back in the great Western days.
    Ian

    Like

    • No problem, yes Hoss and Bonanza were very popular here too. Did you happen to know that Michael Landon had written the final 2 hour episode especially for Dan to finish out the series, but he had died just before they shot it? Landon said it was the hardest acting he ever did to have to take his place.

      Like

  2. Dan Blocker was a great guy, he and my 8th grade science teacher were on the same football team in high school, he used to mention him often.

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    • I almost put a picture of him with a friend in school! They was there of course to show the difference in size. In one he is standing by 2 fellow football layers, but no names are mentioned, in the other he is with Bill Echols; I wonder if your father knew him?

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  3. Quite interesting to read about Hoss!

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  4. Fun story – a bit of levity and culture in a deadly environment – thanks for bringing it to us.

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  5. What a wonderful entry!
    Ellespeth

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  6. Music fills our lives and gives it meaning in so many different ways – using codes based on songs tells me also that music in all its references including a song name could have also served to calm anxieties harsh battles surely evoked…the real possibility of death … I like this idea very much

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  7. I love the American spirit. Great story.

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  8. Thanks for sharing these great stories! I had no idea that Dan Blocker served in Korea. I grew up with Bonanza!

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  9. Another great story! I love that note about Dan Blocker. He just always came across the screen like a very nice person! I wonder if all those country singers learned of how their names and music was helping with the codes! Perfect! 🙂

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  10. I also did not know of Blocker’s military history. His son, Dirk, played in “Baa, Baa Blacksheep”; as Dirk ages, he looks more and more like his father did while Dan was on Bonanza.

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    • Right on all counts, Koji. Baa,Baa Black Sheep had the sons of different friends of Robert Comrad’s plus his own daughter played a nurse in a recurring role – you KNOW Smitty and I HAD to watch this! I got a regular history lesson during each episode! Great times!

      Like

  11. Yanks are ingenious! 🙂 And you bring up a good thought, gpcox, about “(being) in the US”. If someone has the language skills, there is LOTS of information, albeit from a different perspective, if you query in other languages. While your series here is for Korea, there are tons of posts in Japanese about WWII, for example. Stuff you don’t see in English websites.

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  12. Great story. The ingenuity of these guys is wonderful! Thank you for sharing. 🙂

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  13. I guess the country music code reminded these guys of home , which would have been a little bit of comfort so far away in the “forgotten war ” .

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  14. A great story and a nice break from the dark side of war. Even if the enemy realized who Hank Snow and Hank Williams were they still wouldn’t know that it was one of his songs that held the meaning and not the person. Just one more reason to puff up with pride for our boys.

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  15. Interesting. What does it take to hack a code?

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  16. A country music connection & Dan Blocker story–great before breakfast story.

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  17. Very clever of them 🙂

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  18. I didn’t know that Dan Blocker (Hos Cartwright) served in Korea. Bonanza was one of my favourite western TV series. Thanks for this snippet 🙂

    That was shrewd – how they employed code words. I wonder whether the Chinese resorted to similar codes.

    Like

    • I was unaware of Blocker’s involvement either and I was also an avid Bonanza viewer (every Sunday – stuck to the tv like glue!)
      The Chinese, I am finding difficult to look into. Maybe because I’m in the U.S.?

      Like

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