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Chinese forces (CCF) in 5th Phase Offensive

Chinese forces (CCF) in 5th Phase Offensive

I was recently the recipient of newspaper articles written by Korean War correspondent, Rafael Steinberg.  My original intention was to extract notes of interest from these items to include here, as they fit into the timeline of the war.  But – these particular pieces struck me as so well-written, such an exact depiction of the scene, that I knew I had to receive permission to reprint, in full, as it appeared in the Dallas Times Herald, 4/13/51….

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Bowling Alley
 

 
Sparsely Settled, Isolated Valley Explodes Into Korea War Hot Spot

By: Rafael Steinberg

On the Central Korean Front, April 13 (INS.) – For nearly an hour a sparsely settled, isolated and almost picturesque river valley exploded into one of the hottest front line sectors in North Korea.

In the Pukhan Valley, above the 38th parallel, in an area that up to this week had been untouched by war, 60 U.S. troops crouched into a Chinese-built trench line that circled a dome-shaped hill. They were holding a point far in front of all other United Nations troops in their sector. From their positions on the hill they could see the flat rice fields of the valley in front of them. Beyond the paddies was a bridge and past the bridge the shallow blue water of the river twisted away through a narrow gorge. But the farmhouse below them was deserted and burning and no one worked in the rice fields.

A half-mile across the valley from the hill, the GIs could see a double trench line, punctuated with fortified pill boxes, along the side of a high ridge. From that hill the day before Chinese troops had fired heavy machine guns at the U.N. troops. As far as they knew the enemy was still there. Three of the GIs peered at the enemy trenches through field glasses and spoke code words into a walkie-talkie radio. They were Pvt. William J. Morin of Albany, N.Y.; Pfc. Wesley Falls of Rossford, Ohio and Pfc. Joseph D. Foley of West Medford, Mass.

A few seconds later, puffs of smoke appeared on the enemy slope and the thud of mortar shells echoed across the valley. “White phosphorous,” explained one. Pvt. Morin spoke into his radio again and another blast hit the Communists, this time closer to their pillbox.

In reply, the Chinese dumped a mortar shell a few hundred yards from the hill and the men in the trench ducked. Then, far below in the valley, another platoon broke from cover to the near bank and filed across the river and along a road leading to the enemy ridge.

On the hill, Cpl. Richard Sellars, 21, of Kansas City, MO, sat in a trench and took apart his 3.5 recoilless rocket gun and started to clean it. The troops on the hill had no orders to fire. For the moment they were comparatively safe. But their buddies on the valley tableland walked forward warily, one file on each side of the road. The tanks and machine guns they could see by merely turning heads were out of range of enemy rifles or machine guns – but to the Chinese on the ridge dead ahead of them, they must have looked like a double row of slowly moving targets in a shooting gallery.

Near the bank of the river, they poked their 90-mm. guns at the Chinese positions. They were ugly, squat and menacing and seemed oddly out of place in the simple valley. To the units on the nearly surrounded hill, however, the tanks were old and trusted friends. The unit on the road had nearly reached the enemy mountain. Suddenly Pfc. Stanley Murdock, 23, of Menlo, Wash., on the dome-shaped hill shouted and pointed at the road. His buddies reached for their field glasses. At the same moment the clatter of enemy rifle and machine-gun fire came to their ears.

On the road the attacking platoon was running back toward the river. Around them little spurts of dirt shot into them. One man seemed to fall into a ditch. The others fanned out into the paddies and flopped behind embankments. They fired at the enemy hill.

Then the tanks opened up. Short bright flashes of orange spurted from their guns. At almost the same time, puffs of smoke appeared on the Chinese hill. A second later, two almost simultaneous explosions were heard on the hill. Along the trench the order came: “Stay down.” Incoming mortar shells whined overhead and exploded in the rice paddies to the rear.

Pfc. Dean Paulson, 18, of Minneapolis, Minn., was complaining about food as he watched the unit lie flat. Pfc. Ronald Pocious, 26, of Los Angeles, started to reread some mail from home. Cpl. Byron Myers, 23, of San Diego sat hunched in the trench and put together the rifle he had been cleaning before the fire fight started. The cannonading ceased and an observation plane flew overhead. Pfc. Wayne A. Martin, 19, of South Minneapolis, identified it.

The tanks pulled back and moved down stream half a mile. Jeeps ran freely on the river bed. On the dome-shaped hill, the platoon poked up their heads, started little fires and prepared to spend another night nearly isolated in the deadly quiet valley.

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GI Goes for Drink and Steps on Mine

By: Rafael Steinberg

(Also published in April 1951)

— This is how a soldier died.

It was warm and dusty in the encampment between the river and the narrow Korean dirt road where the trucks and tanks rumble toward the front line and a few miles to the north. The soldier’s unit had just moved to the area. Nearby 50 of his buddies hammered on stakes for tent ropes.

The shallow river rushed green and cool from the canyon to the north, but the road and the flat stoney basin was dry and stifling. Dust parched the soldier’s throat, dust stung his eyes. Someone in a rear command post had decided to hold his unit in reserve and the GI was grateful.

He picked his way across the rocky river bank toward the water. Casually he looked around for mines. Just a day or two ago, the engineers had found some nearby. The river itself held a potential threat too. The Chinese held a dam far upstream and if they opened it the water would rise several feet. But the river looked friendly and green as it ran down the valley, the warm sun on the soldier’s back assured him that winter was over and the flat rocky river bank he walked across was like a thousand in America. Despite the dust and weariness this was a respite.

He headed toward the river for a helmet full of water to wash the dust from his face and neck. A cupful would cool his dust-dried throat. He saw a truck moving up the river toward him and he stopped to let it pass. Once more he moved forward, crossing the path the truck had taken.

Then, perhaps, he heard a click. Then came an explosion.

A mine discovered in time.

A mine discovered in time.

There was a mine he had not seen. A black puff of stone, dirt and smoke shot skyward. In it was a shapeless round object. The sound of the explosion bounced back and forth between the hills. Then there was silence and a ragged shape lay still and lonely on the rocky banks of the river.

One hundred pairs of eyes watched solemnly as two medics lifted what was left of the thirsty soldier to a stretcher, they eased it to the litter and gently covered it with a GI blanket.

Later the stretch of bank was empty and the trucks rolled by on the road. The water still gushed green and cool and the crash of artillery thundered down the valley from the front.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Note to ponder –

Even though the U.S. has been involved in more than a dozen military conflicts over the past 70 years, Congress has not formally declared war on any country since 5 June 1942, when it signed off on military action against Nazi Germany’s allies Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania.

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Farewell Salutes –

Bertrand Levasseur – New Brunswick, Canada & Amityville, NY; served in both the Canadian and US Air Forces

John Levender – Lindenhurst, NY; USMC Sgt., WWII

Donal Mallory – Chicago, IL; USMC, Vietnam

A brief moment of peace.

A brief moment of peace.

Douglas Maranda – Hillside, IL; US Army Air Corp, WWII

Henry Fletcher – Orange, TX; US Navy (22 years) Korea & Vietnam, Bronze Star

Theodore Greenfield – Jupiter, FL; US Army, WWII

Willard Talley, Sr. – Gaithersburg, MD; US Army, WWII

Leonard Ashack – Caledonia, MI; USMC, WWII

Richard Wodarczyk – Chicago, IL; US Army, Korea

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Resources: http://nightowlsnotebook.wordpress.com; “The Week” magazine

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