Book II

July 1951 thru June 1952

~~Forty-Four~~

David Lopez

19th Infantry Regiment

24th Infantry Division

U.S. Army

I served in Korea from July 17, 1951 through February of 1952. I was with George Company, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division. As a member of the second squad, second platoon, I carried a BAR, which is an automatic rifle that has three speeds. It is also capable of shooting faster than the .30 caliber machine gun. And since it only weighs nineteen pounds, it is easier to maneuver in and out of tight spots.

* * * * * *

There are many stories of my days in Korea, but this is the one I remember the most vividly because I was wounded.

We were located on a mountain that we had fought for, and had been holding for thirty days. On September 11, 1951 we were relieved and moved to the rear area. Here we were able to take hot showers, get a clean change of clothes, but the best of all—we ate hot meals.

On the 14th of September, two tanks moved up close to my position. They began to fire at some bunkers that were located on the hill in front of us. The enemy had moved in a cannon, and after each tank had fired six rounds apiece; the cannon fired back. Suddenly, I heard a bang, but the shell went by me so fast I didn’t have time to yell, “Incoming.” Shortly after this, the tanks pulled back. This was the first time I had seen tanks in action, because my war had been fought from mountain to mountain.

We were told to clean and oil our weapons, because the next morning we would be going back into action. Up by 6:00 AM, breakfast by 7:00 AM, we started crossing a river that was thirty yards wide, and, in spots, chest high. If you looked to the right, then left, you would have thought the entire division was on the move; which was good, because your chance of getting hit in such a large group drops was less. We couldn’t move very fast, and we could see bullets hitting all around us.

Each squad usually had one or two Korean boys they used to wash clothes, carry ammo, or other odd chores. Our Korean boy, who looked to be about twelve years old, was hit. The bullet entered his mouth and came out his left cheek.

Finally, we made it across and then we were at the bottom of a cliff. The second platoon quickly set up. We had one .30 caliber machine gun and three BAR’s—I was to the right of the machine gun. The first and third platoons passed through us as they went on attack, and we immediately fired for support. Our machine gunner was hit by enemy fire and his body was quickly moved out of the way and a replacement took over. As I fired my BAR, I tried not to give the enemy too much of a target to shoot at. My assistant, Benny, was behind me reloading the magazines when he was hit in the elbow.

After a while, we too began to move up so we could continue to provide supporting fire to the advancing platoons. We came to a place where the trail looked like an upside down question mark. From there, I had a good view of the enemy, and I opened up on them. I also noticed they were going down the backside of the hill, heading towards a certain point; the exact same spot our platoons were headed.

The action had been going on for close to an hour, as the enemy and our platoons were getting close to the spot on the trail. As the firing intensified, some of the men began to break. If some broke, this meant the rest would usually follow. Sure enough, they all came running by my position. To give you an idea how scared a person can become while bugging out; there was a BAR man from one of the platoons yelling to put a BAR on the flanks. He was correct, but he had a BAR in his hand as he kept on running.

I continued to cover the retreating platoons until everyone was back. Word soon came down for the second platoon to continue the attack, and to take the hill. We started up the hill, with the enemy firing at us, until we reached the location that the other platoons made it to. The intense shooting lasted from forty-five to sixty minutes, and we only had one guy to crack. After all was done, we had taken the hill—but at a cost. Out of thirty-seven men, in our platoon, we were down to a rifle squad. We had three killed in action, and nineteen wounded—including myself.

I had set up close to two bodies from the other platoons when I noticed that one of them had his finger cut off; an enemy soldier had taken his wedding ring.

Of the enemy, we counted at least thirty dead, and there was blood everywhere. I checked my ammo and I must have fired over five-hundred rounds, but to tell the truth I cannot say if I killed any enemy soldiers for we were all firing. Have you ever seen ants when they run away? That’s how it looked. When my final day on earth comes and I meet my maker, He will tell me who killed who. Having fired that much ammo, I am sure I will share the responsibility with the rest of the platoon.

On the 16th of September, I had my wounds treated at the aid station. As I walked the trail back, I came across four wounded North Korean soldiers. They asked me for some water, which I gave them; however, they emptied my canteen. I went back to the aid station to inform them of the four North Korean soldiers, and to get more water. As I went back up the trail, they again asked me for some water, which this time I refused because water was hard to come by.

As we continued to move up, we soon found out why the enemy wasn’t running out of soldiers. They had escape routes dug through the hillside. This was also how they managed to get their cannon up there.

Two weeks later, as we were coming down the hill someone started firing at us. Needless to say, we returned the fire. As we continued, we came face-to-face with those four wounded North Korean soldiers—this time they were dead.

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