~~Fifty~~

Alfred Eckhart

7th Cavalry Regiment

1st Cavalry Division

U.S. Army

On November 2, 1950, I was drafted into the service. I was sent to Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky for sixteen weeks of basic training. After completing basic, I was made sergeant and transferred to Roger Company—as instructor—for a sixteen week course on basic training.

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At the end of August 1951, I was shipped to Korea. Here I was assigned as a squad leader in Company D, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. I was to be a forward observer for calling in mortar rounds. However, I was assigned to Charlie Company, which was a rifle company.

The night I arrived at D Company, the operating officer handed me a map, a pair of binoculars, and said, “There is your position at C Company on that hill a couple of miles away.” I worked my way up before nightfall, because when darkness came no one was allowed in or out of the perimeters. When I arrived I met the forward observer who was to be with me the first night. During that night the North Koreans started a barrage of mortar fire, and threw hand grenades. The forward observer, who was with me, was hit in the neck with shrapnel. And all through the night I had to keep pressure on the side of his head with my hand—to stop the bleeding. The next morning he was evacuated by a helicopter, and I never heard any more about him. Just a few feet from our foxhole was the company commander—dead.

My indoctrination to Korea was that I was on the line for nine straight days. I remember on the seventh day, a runner from D Company came to my location and presented me with the “Rifleman Combat Badge.”

Thirty-five of us replacements went in that same night. Except for me, all were assigned as riflemen. At the end of the ninth day, only three of those thirty-five rode off that hill in a jeep. They were all either killed or wounded. There was some fierce fighting during those nine days.

In the fall of 1951, I was a forward observer on another hill located above the 38th parallel. It was a beautiful, warm fall morning and as I started up a long hog-back hill, I noticed a huge rock. Immediately I stopped and dropped to my knee. I was carrying a carbine that I had taken off a dead second lieutenant, which had three banana clips that held thirty-five rounds each. With the clips hanging from my neck, I looked around and noticed the large rock had an opening—it was a cave-like bunker.

From the back of the cavern I saw a North Korean come out, and after about three jumps he was down over the hill. Moments later, another one came out. I thought they might be angling behind me. When the third one came out—I started firing. During the next thirty minutes, I killed or wounded twenty-five enemy soldiers; then it was quiet. A North Korean, with a white flag, came out of the bunker along with forty-two of his fellow soldiers; they all surrendered to me.

I began yelling at some men from Charlie Company, who were in the trenches below me. They came up, surrounded the North Koreans, and took them back to the MP’s. I was unable to go with them, because I ran into a major who was taking over our area and he needed some information.

After helping him, a jeep came to take me to company headquarters. I had orders to go to Hokkaido, Japan, to train the Japanese NPR (National Police Reserve) in the use of mortars and heavy weapons. I was one of twenty-three selected from non-coms, artillery, infantry, etc... We were flown to Hokkaido, which is the northern most island in Japan. When we arrived, the snow was up to our chests. I believe that was the nicest Christmas I would ever have.

This was a welcomed break from the fighting.

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