~~Thirty-Three~~

Byron Dickerson

23rd Infantry Regiment

2nd Infantry Division

U.S. Army

I joined the U.S. Army at the age of seventeen while living in Texas in 1948.

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On January 5, 1951, I arrived in Korea where I was stationed with a truck company on Koje-do Island. Later, I was transferred to the 23rd Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Infantry Division. After traveling for about ten days, I finally arrived at the 2nd BN Headquarters on the 17th of May—as a replacement.

When I arrived the 23rd Regiment was located at Chaun-ni, which was on the north side of the Soyang River. At this time the river, which was normally a half-mile wide, was nothing more than a trickle of water.

Around 7:00 AM the following morning I went down for chow. As we hungry soldiers stood in line, the cooks suddenly slammed the lids on the pots and took off running. We began to yell at them, but soon realized they were being fired on by the Chinese. Needless to say, the situation had now turned chaotic.

The ROK unit that was our left flank had left and the Chinese began to rush in. It was now one American division against twelve Chinese divisions. We were outnumbered eight to one. We were completely surrounded.

During all the chaos I was able to grab a can of fruit cocktail, which I was eating when some Chinese soldiers eased up behind me and opened fire with their burp guns. Luckily for me they missed, but they got my can of fruit cocktail. As they continued to overrun us, two other guys and I jumped into a hole where we stayed until around 9:00 PM that night. Next came the difficult part, finding our way back to our unit. We did, but it took us five days.

During our journey, I almost stepped on the head of a Chinese machine gunner. If he had not been wounded, he would have shot me.

Of one-hundred and seventeen men in our company, ninety suffered injuries. This was consistent with all companies in all three battalions of the 23rd.

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On November 25, 1951, I left Korea from Inchon Harbor. As I stood on the deck, while the ship pulled out, I turned my back to Korea. I had already seen enough of the country. However, in 2000, along with other veterans, I went back and was glad I did.

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