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invasion of okinawa
break of dawn
4th July Fireworks: Good Hiding Places For Combat Veterans And Their Dogs
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Our last dog, Oliver Twist, at the first blast from the 4th of July fireworks, would race for the shower in our bedroom. That is where I would find him as I too raced for a place of safety. Before the United States gave me an all expense paid trip to Korea in 1951, I loved fireworks. I loved to fire noisy weapons. I loved noise. Well, at least it didn't bother me all that much. But Olive Twist and my other dogs never did. Even cats and other pets shutter at the sound and scamper off to safety.

"Vets" like my son, the DVM, know all about the effect of 4th of July fireworks on pets. (or any kind of fireworks or loud noise for that matter). There advice is to get your pet the heck out of there but if you can't, get under the bed and hug him.

In November of 1951 I climbed with my radioman, Sergeant Ted Olean of Minnesota and his radioman, and seven (7) other dog faces up Hill 1243, the highest hill on the line. Some of these men were killed or wounded and one had frozen feet when he could not get the proper footgear for his Size 15.5 feet. (He was court marshaled for not taking care of his feet. Army B.S.)

Hill 1243 was and probably still is 1243 meters high. That is about 4040 feet above sea level. The sea was just to the east of us with the United States Marines, God Bless them for being there, guarding our right flank. That was much better than having our weakest regiment there who had lost most all of their noncoms and where not quite back up to snuff.

The Battleship Missouri with her 16-inch guns was out there somewhere along with the aircraft carrier that we relied on for air support. (Calling the Missouri "she" is navy talk I learned from my late brother, Aaron, who sailed the Pacific during WWII and was at the invasion of Okinawa.) But we knew nothing of ships as we climbed 1243. All we knew was that we took three steps forward and the mud moved us back two steps.

We left at the break of dawn and did not reach the top of the hill until just before dusk. Later, in dryer weather, it would take us fraction of that time.

It had been an eventful day so far, seeing a large number of ROK soldiers die from Chinese mortar fire. One group was standing around a fire and the another group was underground in a bunker, more than a dozen men. (The ROK Army had taken 1243 and we were sent up in relief, first just our heavy weapons company and the headquarters staff of the rifle companies.)

The night before was my first day in combat. We were shelled all night by heavy Chinese mortars. We saw a small aircraft and wondered if it was Chinese and if it had spotted our 81mm mortar position. I remember our Platoon Leader, Lt. Kieth Abbot of Bellingham, WA, veteran of WWII combat in New Guinia (may he rest in piece), saying, "It's no fun is it, Jones."

I told him it wasn't.

I didn't sleep that much, if at all that night. We had no food since about noon when we ate Assault Rations in the truck. We had nothing to eat until just after we got to the top of 1243 when my radioman and I shared a can of fruit cocktail that someone shared with us from his C rations. That was all that we had for about 36 hours. We would get C Rations the next afternoon. I knew why Lt. Abbott had been so stringent with our training. Still, the conditions of combat could not be reproduced.

The Chinese of course knew we were there. They probably read it in the newspaper as the media had no concerns for our safety, and those in the military who publicized our troop movements, cared less. (It was a strange war which we fought with junk equipment left over from WWII and that was rationed. We could only fire a certain number of rounds each day unless we were attacked, and even then, our supply people would have to scurry up and down the line to borrow ammo from other units.)

The top of the mountain was like solid rock so we could not dig in. We had to find B Company Commander so we would know where he wanted us. My radioman, who was about ready to rotate home, said he would take a look for him. I laid on the ground in the dark and then all hell broke lose. Incoming fire from our 105mm howitzers came in on us, exploding and casting a bright flash, killing two of our men, ROK soldiers attached to us, the shell hitting right where they were sitting, and wounding a man from B Company, shrapnel slashing off his leg, and opening the shoulder of one of our machine gun sergeants exposing his clavical.

I was ready to climb over the ridge line to the "Chinese Side" of 1243. As the medics went about their duties, I prayed for safety. I got a message too. It was, "You may be killed or horribly wounded but it will not matter in the eternities. Do as you have been trained and do your duty."

Those are the exact words and they, for some reason, removed all fear from me. We were shelled twice more. My radioman was blown off the trail as he came back but was somehow not injured. A tough competent combat veteran. Sadly, I can not remember his name. I lost the little red book I kept them in.

Being an artillery man before I joined this Infantry unit, (17th Regimental Combat Team, 7th Division), I realized what was happening. The firing batteries had the right range but the wrong elevation. They needed a higher trajectory to clear our mountain before the shells hit the next mountain over.

When I run my American Flag up my flagpole each morning, I think of those and others that died that night on Hill 1243.

Anyway, those fireworks that put out only a huge flash white and a big boom remind me of that night.

I'm such a wimp.

Like Oliver Twist and Zipper and other dogs we have owned, I hold my hands over my ears and run for cover. They say many a vet may be found during a fireworks demonstration under the bed hugging his dog.

John

AAAFlagpoles


Street Talk

Tough time John...some reminders we could do without...appreciate your article

Reply
  about 6 years ago

A night to remember, Kevin. John

Reply
  about 6 years ago
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