5th Cavalry Regiment
1st Cavalry Division
I was born in Mason City, Iowa on September 8, 1931. And at the age of seventeen I volunteered for the Iowa National Guard, which was divided in two different sections—Army or Air Force. I chose the Army National Guard. I received training at the Armory with summer training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
When I turned eighteen, I requested—on September 14, 1949—a transfer to the U.S. Army. Being granted my request, I dropped out of school. However, I eventually took the military GED test.
After completing basic training at Camp Funston, Kansas, which was part of Fort Riley, I reported for duty at Camp Carson, Colorado. Here I became a member of the 14th RCT, and received skiing and mountain training. While I was stationed here, war broke out in Korea. We had to ship out quickly, so we were not given furloughs to visit our families.
We boarded a troop train, which had a guard at each door, and headed for Camp Stoneman, California. During the first part of August we left Camp Stoneman, to board the General Pope. During our fifteen day voyage we ran into two storms, which made me seasick. We were supposed to have stopped in Japan for more training; however, our orders were changed—straight to Korea. They also told us we would be home by Christmas.
After docking in Pusan, Korea, we disembarked and waited for our orders. We were taken to the train station, not far from the docks, and loaded onto a train. Armed with a carbine rifle, I couldn’t help but wonder where we were headed. The train took us to the Naktong River, where we were rushed into position—the Pusan Perimeter.
The 14th RCT would now be broken up, with one battalion being assigned to each of the three regiments of the 1st Cavalry Division—the 5th, 7th, and 8th. I was assigned to Company L, 3rd BN, 5th Cavalry Regiment. Our BN CO was Lt. Colonel Edgar Treacy, Jr., a West Point graduate of the class of 1935; he was our commander at Camp Carson. Captain Perry was CO of L Company, and his executive officer was Lt. Dixon Rodgers.
Our platoon sergeant with the 14th RCT Sgt. John Rice, was assigned to Company A, 8th Cavalry Regiment. On September 6, 1950, he was killed in action.
We were always on full alert during the fighting along the Naktong. To help us stay awake, we broke open Vicks inhalers and mixed the Benzedrine—in them—with chewing gum. However, after chewing this for several days, it almost cost me my life. I finally went to sleep—a deep sleep—and during an attack by the North Koreans, my platoon sergeant was unable to wake me. We were not at the Naktong very long before we started moving north.
As we moved north we were on Hill 174, which had an orchard at the bottom; we were told to leave our packs there. While we were on the hill, we lost five men. Cpl. Carl Cook raised his head above the skyline only to be shot—just above the eyes—by a sniper. Captain Perry was also mortally wounded. A shell took out our machine gunner, and his assistant. Immediately my foxhole buddy and I manned the machine gun. On the 13th of September, five days after my nineteenth birthday, my enlistment was up; however, I had been called back to active duty.
We lost the hill and when we retook it, we found some of our men with their hands tied behind their backs—shot and butchered. Before leaving, we had lost and retaken Hill 174 at least three times.
As we continued our northward journey we finally reached, and took, the city of Pyongyang—the capital of North Korea. During our stay there we were able to shower, shave, and have our clothes washed. Needless to say, our morale was also improving.
Finally, we left Pyongyang continuing north when we were told that the Chinese had entered the war—this changed everything. However, we were unaware of what was happening with the Marines and the 7th Infantry Division at the Chosin Reservoir. During this time I became the mail clerk—lucky for me. I kept this job until February of 1951, when I became a member of Task Force Crombez.
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At Chipyong-ni, the Chinese had surrounded the 23rd Infantry Regiment (2nd Infantry Division), a French Battalion, a Ranger Company, and an engineer company. On the 14th of February Colonel Crombez, CO of the 5th Cavalry Regiment, received orders for the 5th to go to their aid. Crombez decided to take twenty-three tanks, from the 6th and 70th Tank BN’s, and have a company of infantrymen ride on them. This task fell to L Company, to which Lt. Col. Treacy expressed his opposition. However, Crombez had his way. Men riding on top of tanks! What an easy target.
As we neared Chipyong-ni, the enemy fire became more intense. I was shot in the knee and for some reason, the tanks stopped. So, I quickly dismounted to seek cover, and return fire. However, due to my wound, I had no mobility—I wasn’t of much use. More men began to dismount seeking cover. Suddenly, the tanks took off, leaving us behind. Several of us were wounded, including Lt. Col. Treacy. Shortly after, we were all captured.
Not having an aid pouch, the colonel gave me his. Being unable to walk, he carried me on his back. The colonel had been shot in the mouth. The Chinese took one of the guys from our little group and we never saw him again.
I had heard that the Chinese thought one was better off dead than insane; so, I pretended to be insane. I would loosen the tourniquet on my leg so gangrene wouldn’t set in. Finally, the Chinese took the other prisoners and left, leaving me behind. I survived by eating snow, and icicles, until the 18th of February when I was picked up by a squad of men from the 1st Cavalry. They offered me a drink of water and some food—a can of franks and beans; which I still like to this day. After placing me on a stretcher they carried me to an ambulance, which was occupied by a wounded enemy soldier.
I was taken to a M.A.S.H. unit where I was taken into surgery. They removed the bullet from my knee; I still have the bullet. From there I was flown to Japan in a C-54, and transported to General Hospital, because they found out that I was a brick—POW.
After a few more hospitals, and surgeries, I re-enlisted. However, on February 28, 1954 I retired from the U.S. Army with a medical discharge.
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In 1988, I found out that of us eight wounded men, at Chipyong-ni, I was the only one to come home alive. Six of the men were beaten in the head until their brains fell out. And Lieutenant Colonel Edgar Treacy, Jr., died on May 31, 1951—while in a POW Camp.