~~Sixty-Nine~~

Charles Klenklen

279th Infantry Regiment

45th Infantry Division

U.S. Army

I was glad the U.S. Postal Service didn’t deliver mail on Christmas Day, so I received my draft notice on the 26th of December, 1951.

I traveled by bus to Kansas City for my physical. Later I would return for my induction into the U.S. Army—on March 5, 1952. For processing I was sent to Camp Crowder, Missouri. From there I took another bus to Fort Riley, Kansas, where I was assigned to Company A, 87th Infantry Regiment, 10th Infantry Division. Now began my basic training.

* * * * * *

When I arrived in Korea, on the 1st of September 1952, I was assigned to Company K, 279th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division. During September, we arrived at the 3rd Battalion’s area of Luke’s Castle, where a few of us were reassigned. Along with three other guys, I was assigned to L Company. The North Koreans really put us to the test during our stay here. It was only about seventy yards from our trenches to their lines, and they were looking down on us from a higher elevation. On the 25th of October, we were relieved by a company from the 179th Regiment. Boy was I glad to get out of there.

We moved to a reserve area where we received a much needed shower and clean clothes. A few days later, during the month of November, I was sent to the School of Standards for NCO School.

The day I left school, it was raining and was I ever glad the truck had a cover. As we went further north the rain turned to snow. Before reaching L Company, the driver was having a hard time navigating in the knee deep snow. After dark, we stopped at the forward supply. The following morning a jeep came by that was loaded with supplies for L Company, so I crawled on top of them. The driver took off up the ridge line until he came to the end of the trail, then we had to walk the rest of the way up to Anchor Hill where the company was located. It was 1100 meters high and seventy miles north of the 38th parallel and just three miles from the east coast. On a clear night, we could see muzzle flashes from the Navy’s big guns as they fired into North Korea.

* * * * * *

It was around the 28th of December, 1952, when we were relieved by the 51st Regiment of the ROK’s 12th Division. We moved to a reserve area at the western end of Hwachon Reservoir. It was an all night trip in the back of a two-and-a-half ton truck—with no cover. It was bitterly cold, and the only way we could stay warm was to get into our sleeping bags.

After several days of training, we moved up on the line at Heartbreak Ridge. We were there until February 18, 1953 when the 179th Regiment relieved us and we went into division reserve. A few days later we received orders to go to Koje-do to replace the 23rd Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Infantry Division—to guard the POW camps. We received several hours of training on the proper way to handle the POW’s. A buddy of mine and I were sent in advance to the east coast arriving at night. We laid out our sleeping bags on the beach. When we woke the next morning I thought it had snowed, but it was just a heavy frost. Later in the day, the 279th vehicles began to arrive and we loaded onto the waiting ships. The vehicles were loaded first, then the troops; we had to climb boarding nets in the rough sea. Several GI’s, fell in the water with some receiving injuries. My buddy and I were the last two to board the ship.

We arrived at Koje-do the next day, with the 279th setting up in tents, in a cleared out area. One night a storm with strong winds and hard rain hit. When morning arrived there were only two tents left standing, and the mud was boot-top deep. We then moved into metal buildings that had cement floors, electric lights, and showers; we were living the good life.

Now that we had taken over guard duty, we took shifts of four hours on and eight hours off—the eight hours off were during the day. We either trained in the hills or took ten prisoners on work details, which was a very demanding job; they had to be closely watched.

The truce talks seemed to be going smoothly, so a decision was made to switch sick and wounded prisoners; on the 11th of April, Little Switch took place. Our company was assigned the task of escorting the sick and wounded to Panmunjom; we traveled by train from Pusan. We accompanied fourteen train loads of prisoners, and I was a Quarters Guard on three trips. During each trip we were on guard for twenty-eight to thirty hours. After the prisoners were unloaded, each train car was cleaned. Needless to say, we slept on the return trip to Pusan. Our last load was on May 3, 1953, and then we returned to Koje-do—for more guard duty.

On the 1st of June, the 279th was relieved of it’s duties of guarding the POW’s and rejoined the division, which was in reserve near Inje. While we were in reserve, they put us through ten, eighteen hour days of training; this was to get us ready for combat—again. We moved to Sandbag Castle, where I was assigned to a .50 caliber machine gun.

We remained here until the 3rd of July, when the 224th Infantry Regiment of the 40th Infantry Division relieved us. The following day we moved up to the MLR, which was located on Christmas Hill. As we marched by an ammo truck, every man was given a box of ammo. With the rain, and carrying our weapons and full gear, several of the guys had set their boxes along side of the road. It was a good thing the Chinese didn’t attack us during the night, so back down the hill I went to collect the ammo boxes.

The Chinese hit us every night and because K Company had lost so many men, L Company swapped positions with them. We held our ground until the 27th of July, 1953—the day the truce was signed.

The cease-fire took effect at 10:00 PM and it was so quiet, it was scary.

* * * * * *

I had the needed thirty-six points to rotate home, but the list that came down a few days after the truce just missed me. All rotations home were canceled so American POW’s could go home. Needless to say, I wanted to go home, but I was happier knowing these GI’s were getting out of those North Korean prison camps.

During the last of August, I received my orders to go home—what a happy day that was.[8]

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