~~Five~~

Harold Selley

7th Cavalry Regiment

1st Cavalry Division

U.S. Army

Born on November 16, 1928, in Benkelman, Nebraska, I was one of three children born to Clarence and Maurine Selley. I graduated from Boulder High School, in Boulder, Colorado, in 1946.

Having been notified by the draft board that I was up for induction, as a draftee, I enlisted in the U.S. Army on December 22, 1948. By joining I figured I would have a broader range of schooling than if I had been drafted.

I traveled, by train, to Fort Ord, California, where I took my basic training. After completing basic, I expressed an interest in the medical field; and I also scored well on a battery of tests I was given a month leave, after which time I was to report to my new assignment—medical school.

Upon arriving at Fort Sam Houston, I was quickly processed to a barrack assignment for my eight weeks of training. Here we learned how to apply dressings to wounds, put casts on fractures, the use of Army field kits for combat injuries, assist doctors in surgery, sterilization techniques, give shots, and give physical exams. We were trained to be assigned to an Army hospital, or to a front line aid station.

After my training, I was sent to the 7th Cavalry Regiment Medical Company in Tokyo, Japan. I arrived in June of 1949. Shortly after my arrival, I went with the regiment for two months of training to a camp located at the base of Mt. Fuji. Four months later I went to Osaka for four months of schooling, after which time I returned to the medical company.

Our company had no idea there was trouble brewing in Korea. When we heard that we would be going to assist UN troops in Korea, we thought we would be returning to Tokyo in a couple of weeks. We were to leave in a hurry, so we had no time to contact our families back home. All leaves were cancelled, and men were filling out their $10,000 life insurance papers.

We boarded two ships, the USS Ainsworth and the ship I was assigned, the USS Shanks. The 7th made a beach landing at Pohong-Dong, South Korea on July 18, 1950—we met no resistance. Later that day, as we marched to the train track, we saw evidence that people had been killed. The train we commandeered was riddled with bullet holes. We knew then we were in a war!

Every medic carried a weapon, mostly carbines, which were smaller and lighter than the M-1. Some even carried a .45 pistol; I carried both. We medics often had to use our weapons. Our aid stations were normally set up in a blackened-out school building, a tent, or some other structure, which was illuminated during the night by a Coleman lantern.

I was the main person responsible for seeing that the proper tag was placed on each casualty. The tag, which contained a brief explanation of the wound, was for identification and a record for the regiment. Due to treating casualties by the hundreds, we became proficient in our jobs. We performed amputations, treated spinal injuries, set broken bones, removed shrapnel, and most of all—treated men for shock. Many died before we could evacuate them; dead and wounded were all around us—daily. During heavy fighting, we often went without sleep. Once I went four days without sleep, continuously attending to the wounded.

* * * * * *

While we were in the Pusan Perimeter, we saw a constant flow of casualties. We, the medical company, moved in and around Taegu during this time. During these three months there was little or no rest. We lost a lot of medics; it was a wonder anyone survived this fighting. However, we finally were able to breakout and head north to Osan-ni.

Along the Naktong River was an area of some of the fiercest fighting during the war. The fighting lasted for days, and positions shifted numerous times. We, the Collecting Station, were in the midst of all the fighting. Wounded soldiers could not be evacuated, so we had to perform more medical aid on site than normal. We performed minor surgical procedures and amputations. The wounded came pouring in and many died because we could not evacuate them.

Before the 7th crossed the Naktong, the bridge crossing it had been destroyed. As the men tried to get to the other side, the North Koreans opened fire on them, inflicting many casualties. Many of the wounded drowned as they attempted to cross the river; we felt helpless in trying to go to their aid.

As we trekked northward, we went through the towns of Osan-ni and Seoul. After breaking through enemy lines, and crossing the 38th parallel, we headed straight for the capital of North Korea—Pyongyang. From here we went to Chinampo, which was on the west coast. We continued north until we were within fifteen miles of the Yalu River. One of the towns we passed through was Sinchang-ni.

One of the worse battles that I witnessed occurred in Sinchang-ni beginning on the 29th of November, and lasted for four days. The ROK was on our right and left flanks. When the Chinese attacked, the ROK left without informing anyone. The Chinese came at us from all sides, and outnumbered us ten-to-one. Casualties were extremely heavy, and we worked all day and night trying to save lives. All three battalion aid stations were overrun by the Chinese and most of the medics were killed or captured. Our station was the only one left in operation for the entire regiment.

There were eight of us medics, along with two doctors. Our aid station was set up in a one-room building. One of the doctors stayed outside, in the dark, to give aid to those who couldn’t come inside. By the time the wounded arrived, they were almost dead. As a result, most of my cases died before I could finish any first aid procedures.

Finally, after four days, I was able to take a break. I went outside with one of the doctors, where we saw row after row of dead that had been brought to the aid station. It was a sobering experience; we medics felt helpless.

When we heard that the ROK had left without telling anyone, we became very angry. It was very emotional when we were told which medics had been killed or wounded—they were our friends.

It was amazing what our medical team could do when we lacked supplies; we had to be creative. Our doctors constantly had to come up with alternate procedures. We depended on the doctors for their expertise, but us medics became good at diagnosing illnesses such as, pneumonia, malaria, and encephalitis. Several times I found myself making decisions when a doctor was unavailable—we had to! Each of us understood the gravity of the situation—no one wanted any soldier to die.

* * * * * *

The night before I was to rotate home we had moved to a new location, and a friend and I were to dig a foxhole; instead, I slept on the ground. Later that night we were strafed by enemy aircraft—we quickly dug that foxhole. I was afraid that I wasn’t going to make it home. However, during the last of June 1951, I boarded the Marine Lynx—headed stateside.

After we docked in Seattle, I walked down the gangplank, stooped down, and kissed the ground—I was back in the U.S.A.

I was discharged from the Army on December 21, 1951.[1]

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!