38th Infantry Regiment
2nd Infantry Division
I was born on June 16, 1923, in Saco, Montana. Our family lived on a cattle ranch forty-nine miles south of Saco. However, after attending school by riding twelve miles on horseback, and spending the week away from home in a dormitory, the family moved to a farm four miles outside of Glasgow, Montana. Here I entered the seventh grade, and Bill—my older brother—started high school.
It was in Glasgow that an Army recruiter—a lean old sergeant who repelled a stack of silver dollars in his hand—made me want to be a soldier. I was too young to join, and mother wouldn’t lie for me. He let me join the National Guard, so on December 8, 1938—at the age of fifteen—I enlisted in Company G, 163rd Infantry Regiment, 41st Infantry Division.
On September 16, 1940 we were inducted into Federal Service, and went through training until March 19, 1942 when we boarded the Queen Elizabeth—in San Francisco. We docked at Sydney, Australia on the 6th of April, because Melbourne, our original destination, could not accommodate our ship. After disembarking, we were taken to Camp Seymour, which was a deserted World War I camp.
From January 1943 until September 2, 1945—V.J. Day—the 163rd was involved in the following campaigns: Port Moresby, New Guinea; Sananada-Kamusi; Aitape: Wakde Island; Biak Island; and the Philippines.
On August 15, 1944, I was given a Battlefield Commission to Second Lieutenant, and transferred to Company I, 186th Infantry Regiment, also of the 41st. Later, due to having run out of Second Lieutenants, I transferred to K Company.
Our division, along with eight others, was scheduled to take part in the invasion of Japan planned for November 1, 1945. However, the end of the war allowed us to enter Japan peacefully—as occupation troops.
We set foot on Japan on the 7th of September, with the 186th encamped in an old warehouse in Kaidaichi. The warehouse, which was crawling with fleas, took several days of dousing with DDT. It was located about four miles from the edge of the main drop zone—Hiroshima.
My platoon and I traveled through the rubble of Hiroshima each day to reach our assigned work area; we where in charge of destroying ammunition. As we walked around the city, we picked up debris. Its a wonder any of us lived for we did not wear any protective gear, nor did we have any. We were not aware that any was needed. You could use your fist to knock a hole through what concrete buildings were still standing.
We left Japan on the 13th of October, arriving in Portland, Oregon on the 11th of November.
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While stationed at Fort Lewis, before I shipped out to Korea, I went down to Scappoose, Oregon to visit the Hallock family. They were friends of my parents and had left Montana before I was born. They had a daughter, Betty, who I began to date and proposed to before shipping out. We decided to wait until I returned home to get married. We gathered both families, and on December 16, 1945 we were married. We chose this date because I wanted to be in the service when we married, and I was scheduled to leave the Army on the 18th of December. However, that was pushed back to the 24th due to spending six days in the hospital with malaria.
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On January 7, 1946, I re-enlisted and served with an engineering unit that processed and shipped soldiers to Europe. Then after doing stints in Fort Jackson, South Carolina and Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, I put in for a transfer with the Washington National Guard Instructor Group; which I received. I remained with them until I was reassigned to the 2nd Infantry Division—at Fort Lewis—when it was put on alert for shipment to Korea. War had broken out there on the 25th of June.
I was the Operations Sergeant for the 1st BN, 38th Infantry Regiment. We arrived in Korea on the 19th of August, and on the twentieth, we were being shot at; we were part of the Pusan Perimeter.
Korea was an unprepared mess, both in equipment and officers and soldiers. We lacked most everything in supplies, equipment, and ammo. Soldiers were ill-trained; some were using weapons they had never been trained with, and some had not fired a weapon in years. Most of the officers were self-serving, lacking the know-how and willingness to get the job done—unless they could do it from a foxhole. This was not the case with the units I served with during the Second World War.
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During the fighting along the Pusan Perimeter, North Korean soldiers dressed as refugees crossed our lines. Once they were behind us, they assembled into small units attacking our rear areas such as hospitals, ammo dumps, and even our headquarters.1
On the 18th of September, the 1st BN crossed the Naktong River heading north. The rest of the 2nd Division passed through us on the 19th and 20th of September.
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After being in constant contact—forty-eight straight days—with the enemy, the division went into reserve at Chonju, North Korea, on the 8th of October.2 However, by the 2nd of November the 2nd Division found itself in the area of Kunu-ri and Sunchon, North Korea.3
By this time the weather had turned bitterly cold with temperatures dropping to ten below zero, and falling. We had no winter clothes, nor arctic type sleeping bags; our canteens and C-rations froze. On November 23rd, they tried to feed us a home style Thanksgiving Dinner. At this point the men’s morale was low, because MacArthur had said troops would be eating Christmas Dinner at home; we knew this wasn’t going to happen. During interrogation of some prisoners, it was learned that Chinese forces had crossed the Yalu; however, we couldn’t get the upper echelon to believe it.
The following morning, the Eighth Army began its drive to the Yalu River.
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On the twenty-seventh, orders came down for the 2nd Division to withdraw. However, the 38th was to hold at all cost while the rest of the division withdrew southward. We were to withdraw to Kujang-dong, which was an important road junction north of Kunu-ri. The following day, the 9th and 23rd__our other two regiments—suffered heavy losses in both men and equipment.4
By the twenty-ninth the situation in Kunu-ri had become perilous. The next day the division was given the okay to withdraw, so we headed south towards Sunchon—going through the Gauntlet and The Pass. This was two days of hell.
We had been under constant attack since the 24th of November, losing 546 men. By the end of December 2nd, we had lost another 632 men.5
We were able to finally stop at the Hoengsong-Wonju (South Korea) area, where we received a much needed rest, and received replacements in both men and equipment—in preparation to head north again.
Around mid-December, the 38th received a battalion of Dutch soldiers. On New Years Day 1951, I walked to their CP to visit with their S-3 section. As I walked through the snow that had fallen the day before, I noticed oblong humps along the sides of the road. Thinking my eyes were playing tricks on me, I went over to one of the humps and kicked away the snow; it was a mother holding her baby. The humps were too numerous to count.
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We had moved up to Hoengsong, and by the 10th of February we were receiving aerial reports that thousands of Chinese forces had been spotted to our front. The following day we saw little gain on the front, and as we came under fire, we had to try and stop the ROK troops from leaving—we were unsuccessful.
As our tanks were pushing stalled vehicles off the road, their turret gunners were taking a beating; they were using their 76mm cannon as direct fire weapons. Our ammo supply had gotten so low, that our rear guard—Company A—was down to fixed bayonets.6
By the twelfth, personnel from BN HQ Company had been organized and placed on the line. Along with a few staff members, Burr, and myself got off the road to set up a temporary CP. A call came in from Major Blackwell telling us that the lead truck had stopped and was under continuous fire from a machine gun that was located on a ridge line to their left. He wanted troops sent to knock out the gun. So, Burr and myself said we would take care of it; there was no objection from the major.
Master Sergeant Guenther Burr was our S-2, Intelligence Sergeant, and I must say, a very good one.
We organized the members of our temporary CP into an assault team, with Burr and myself as the lead. With little trouble, we knocked out the machine gun; however, we didn’t know there was a second machine gun further up the ridge. Suddenly, lead and grenades were flying everywhere until I took a slug to my head, which rolled me down the hill. Burr rolled down the hill with me to see how bad I was hit.7
As he raised up to check my wound, a burst of machine gun fire opened up on us; Burr was nicked in the shin, grazed in the forearm, and had his carbine destroyed. So, we rolled further down the hill, where he was able to dress my wound. Suddenly, six Chinese soldiers appeared motioning for us to follow them—we had no other choice. As they marched us across the road, to an open field, we heard the rest of our team silence the second gun. Now the column of vehicles were able to move.8
We finally joined up with a group of seventy to eighty prisoners, most of who were not wounded. Then we moved south to Chongbong-ni, where we joined another group of prisoners that was about the size of our group. That evening Burr was able to get a better look at my wound, which was still bleeding. I had been hit in the left corner of my mouth, with the bullet passing through my cheek, and jawbone, exiting out the back of my neck. He took a piece of an old Korean blanket and stuffed it in the hole in my neck—the bleeding stopped.
A few days later we came under an aerial attack and five guys—including Burr and myself—walked away from the group. Unfortunately, we were caught and taken back to the group. Later, we would make a second attempt of escaping; this time we had a better plan. We would walk down the road, in the open, telling the enemy that we had been released to go back and tell the Americans to stop fighting the Chinese, because they were good people. As we got close to the front lines, we could hear shooting in the distance, a squad leader stopped us and he didn’t believe our story. So, he had some men take us back.
After being back a few days, they began to divide our group, which had grown to about two-hundred men. They divided us in two groups; those who could, and couldn’t walk. Burr was placed in the group of those able to walk; I was placed in the other. Before the first group was moved north, Burr came by to say good-bye and to give me his fiancées address—in case he didn’t make it home. I never saw Burr again.
It had stopped snowing, and as it began to get dark, the healthy group started their journey north. As we sick were left behind, four soldiers remained to guard us. In our group there were twenty-eight men, including myself, who wanted to escape. The guards left to go cook their meal and they had not returned when darkness came, so we got up and walked away.
After traveling several days, I began to hemorrhage and had lost a lot of blood before I could get the bleeding under control. Just before daylight, a small group came to where I was and told me the group had talked it over and they were going to leave me. I told them to wait for daylight before they left, then told them good-bye and wished them luck.
Due to being weak, I fell asleep. Later, I heard footsteps as they approached and stopped next to me; I knew the Chinese had found me. Luckily for me, it was a guy from L Company—Joe Dorshefski. He informed me that Bill Mashburn and he had stayed behind.
Around noon, we decided to leave. As we neared a river, the “Gooks” began to shoot at us from a ridge. With Bill and Joe on each side of me, into the river we went. Lucky for us, across the river was a Marine outpost. Once they noticed we were being shot at, they sent out a patrol to get us—we were safe.
To my knowledge, none of the other twenty-five men were ever heard from again.
We were taken to a collection station where I underwent surgery to connect three severed arteries in my neck. From there I was flown by helicopter to a M.A.S.H. unit. After a brief stay, I went to the Tokyo Army Hospital and was treated by Colonel Childs. From the Tokyo Army Hospital, I ended up at Letterman Army Hospital—in San Francisco—where I stayed for seven months.
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A short time after being released from Letterman, Betty and I went to Gillespie, Texas. Here we visited with Hetty—Burr’s fiancée. Some years later, Guenther A. Burr showed up on the casualty list as having been captured and dying on July 15, 1951—from non-battles causes.
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After serving my country for twenty-four years, four months, and twenty-three days, I retired from the U.S. Army.