~~Fifty-Nine~~

Mark Pease

7th Infantry Regiment

3rd Infantry Division

U.S. Army

I was on my way to my mother’s apartment, in Rochester, New York, after a job interview and I had to stop at the street corner because of a red light. As I waited for the light to change, I noticed an Army Sergeant standing next to a card table with brochures on it. I walked over, looked at the brochures, and on the spur of the moment went inside and enlisted. Two weeks earlier, I had turned eighteen.

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I arrived in Korea in March of 1951, and was assigned to Company F, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division.

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I remember the month of November 1951 very vividly. We were on Hill 355. It was located near Kowang-San, and our company was one of the few that weren’t kicked off the hill. The savage Chinese attack lasted four days, from the twenty-second to the twenty-sixth. Being surrounded and cut off for almost three days, we were running out of everything. We were just holding on until someone could get up the hill and help us. I will always be grateful to the brave men of the 15th Infantry Regiment who fought like hell to get us out of our predicament.

We arrived at Hill 355 not long before the start of the battle. We replaced a British Company, who left several boxes of grenades and C-rations. It was a good thing because we used all of them.

The nights were bitterly cold, with a devastating wind chill. I was wearing GI boxers and undershirt: longjohns, which were two-piece: fatigue shirt and pants: field jacket and a sweater: winter pants that were suppose to be windproof: winter parka, with a hood: bunny cap, which was a cap with a fur lined bill and ear flaps. We also had winter mittens, which had a slit for your trigger finger. Our boots were leather high-tops, which had a liner in them that you could change if your feet became wet. We kept an extra pair of liners, along with an extra pair of socks, under our armpits—to keep them warm.

With all these layers of clothes, I always seemed to have to go to the latrine at night, in the howling wind. Trying to balance yourself on your heels, with your ass pointed down the hill was quite a task.

During the first days of the attack, we were subjected to the most intense artillery barrage during my year in Korea. My bunker took a direct hit, just moments after my bunker buddy—Barney May—and I got out. The roof of the bunker was well built, but it still collapsed and almost buried Barney alive. He was forced to double over until we could dig him out; he only sustained a strained back.

Noah Knight’s bunker was also destroyed, and he laid in a shallow depression. Here he fired continuously on the hoards of Chinese as they came toward us. Having run out of ammo, he noticed three “gooks” trying to infiltrate our lines, with demolition charges. They were going to blow up our lines of barbed wire, making it easier for the ones coming behind them to penetrate our lines. Finally able to get up, Knight rushed towards them and disabled two of them with the butt of his rifle. The third one blew the demo charge, killing the three “gooks” and Noah. He was just twenty-two years old.

Noah Knight was awarded the Medal of Honor—posthumously.

During the time we were surrounded, we ran low on everything; machine gun ammo, mortar shells, grenades, etc... Lucky for us, those boxes of British grenades came in handy—after we learned how to use them. On American grenades the spoons have a space between them and the body of the grenade. However, the spoon on the British grenade rested on the body. And in the cold, the spoon would freeze to the body. We would pull the pin, throw it, and nothing would happen until the sun came up and melted the frozen spoon; then they would explode. We soon learned that we had to pry the spoon after pulling the pin. As if this wasn’t a big enough problem, the frozen ground would contract, setting off the mines we had placed out in front of us.

Since we had missed our Thanksgiving meal, the cooks—back at headquarters—made a big turkey dinner, with all the trimmings, and brought it up to the line. To keep it warm, they brought it in thermal cans. After they had everything set up and ready to serve, it started raining. Even though I tried to shelter my mess kit with my helmet, it filled up with so much rain that my turkey was doing the backstroke. We ate it anyway, because we had something other than C-rations to eat. And because the cooks had worked their asses off to give us a great meal.

I believe it was after Christmas, and maybe just before New Years Eve, when we got off that hill. We used cut up C-ration cans to decorate our bunkers. Someone managed to get a #5 can of condensed milk. So, we ground up some cocoa, which came in our C-rations and looked like hockey pucks, in a few helmets. Then we poured in the milk, mixed in some snow, and stirred until our arms about fell off—we made chocolate ice-cream.

Isn’t it strange what one remembers after fifty years?

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I left Korea in February of 1952.

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