160th Infantry Regiment
40th Infantry Division
One month after the beginning of the Korean War, I received my draft notice. After being inducted in the Army, I was assigned to Company A, 160th Infantry Regiment, 40th Infantry Division—a California National Guard Division that would be federalized on September 1, 1951.
In April of 1951, upon completion of basic and advance training, the division left for Japan. After landing in Tokyo, the 160th was transported by train to Camp Haugen, which was located at Hachinohe on the east coast of northern Honshu. We spent the next three months training, which included amphibious training. It also included an eighty-two mile march to the northern tip of Honshu.
We left camp on a Sunday morning, arriving at the northern tip of Honshu—three to four days later. This was in the heat of the summer (late June or early July). The objective was to average twenty miles per day, with a five-to-ten minute break every hour. We carried a full field pack, an M-1 rifle, and one canteen of water. There was no riding in vehicles unless you couldn’t walk because of multiple blisters on your feet, or if you fainted. We were issued water purification tablets to use in case we refilled our canteens with contaminated water from a rice paddy. In Japan they used human waste as fertilizer, so the prospect of any surface or underground water being contaminated was likely.
I recall the first morning of our march that some Japanese youngsters were riding bicycles down the middle of our column—selling Popsicles. With the potential of being contaminated, an order came down prohibiting the purchase of Popsicles.
I don’t remember exactly how long it took to complete the march, but it was a bit longer than three days, but less than four.
We were transported by truck to Camp McNair a temporary “tent” camp located on the slopes of Mt. Fuji. During our three months here, we went through basic and advanced training for the second time. It was not a required training exercise to climb Mt. Fuji, but one weekend (in August) many of us climbed to the crater—12,400 feet above sea level. Also, during August, typhoon Ruth hit the camp blowing away all the squad tents we slept in.
In October, we moved to Camp Zama, which was located near Atsugi Naval Base. Here we trained aboard C-119 transport planes. While we were here a major fire destroyed seven barracks; we were fortunate not to have lost any lives, only equipment. For ski training we were scheduled to return to Mt. Fuji. However that was canceled on December 22, 1951, when we received word that the 40th was shipping to Korea; we did not consider this news to be a Christmas gift.
On January 7, 1952, my unit, the 160th RCT (Regimental Combat Team) was the first unit of the 40th to go to Korea. Having boarded a ship at Yokohama, we landed at Inchon on the 11th of January. The mercury was dipping to fifteen below zero. We were transported by train to an area just behind the front lines. On the nineteenth we took our position on the front line, replacing the 19th Infantry Regiment of the 24th Division. The line was located at the central front of the Iron Triangle area in North Korea. We were in the mountains of the eastern leg of the triangle near Kumhwa.
The first day on line, my company sent out a ten man patrol and a buddy of mine, SFC Loren Knepp, who was leading the patrol, was shot in the leg. He was the first Purple Heart recipient of the 40th Division. The following day, SFC Kenneth Kaiser, who was with Baker Company and on our left flank, was killed in action by a mortar round. He would be the first loss of life of the 40th.
On the 28th on January, the 223rd Regiment (of the 40th) took up positions west of the 5th RCT, which was on our left flank. The 5th would be replaced on the 3rd of February by another regiment of the 40th, the 224th. Over the next couple of months we engaged the Chinese; mainly in patrol type action along the MLR.
During this time, we experienced temperatures as cold as twenty below zero and not having been furnished proper gear, frostbite became a problem. On the 1st of April, the 40th was replaced by an ROK Division and we moved to our new position overlooking the Kumsong River valley—still in the Iron Triangle. Here too, we engaged the Chinese in patrol type action until late June, at which time we were replaced by an ROK unit. We then moved to a reserve area at Kapyong.
While there, our regiment observed the ruins of a city that earlier in the war had been occupied by the North Koreans. Thousands of the cities residents died from starvation, disease, or the bitter cold, as they fled south. We soldiers couldn’t help but notice the plight of the children, who had been without a schoolhouse for two years. Building them a new school became a division project. In just one payday, over $17,000 was contributed by guys of our unit.
Our engineer battalion, along with Korean civilians, built a new ten classroom high school on eight donated acres. The school was named for the first soldier of the 40th to have been killed—SFC Kenneth Kaiser. The school is still in existence today.
While at Kapyong, I accumulated enough points to rotate home. I left Korea in late August 1952.