~~Seventy-Two~~

Jerry Cunningham

15th Infantry Regiment

3rd Infantry Division

U.S. Army

In August of 1952, there were many young men being processed through the Army reception station at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Some had volunteered, some had been drafted. Waiting in line were two young African Americans who had volunteered; Rudolph Randall and myself.

Rudolph and I began talking to each other. He was from Tampa, Florida and I was from Fort Lawn, South Carolina. This was the first time either of us had been away from our families. On that August day, while standing in line, we became friends.

After everyone had gone through processing, we then were shipped to different army installations across the country. Around 4:30 AM one morning, the processing First Sergeant began calling names of those that were to be shipped out that morning. Rudolph looked at me and said, “I guess this is where we will separate from each other.” Luckily, our names were not called.

Again at 1:00 PM, this procedure was repeated. I told Rudolph, “This might be the time we will say good-bye to each other.” As the sergeant began calling out names, he called my name first, then Rudolph’s; then the names of other soldiers. We were being assigned to Indian Town Gap, in Pennsylvania—we were still together. At 4:00 PM we headed for the train station in Columbia, South Carolina.

The following day, around 5:00 PM, we arrived at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where we were greeted by Army buses waiting to pick us up. After arriving at the base everyone was assigned to companies and barracks. Again Rudolph and I were still together and assigned to the first platoon and the first floor—each barracks had two floors. As we were putting our bags down, I told him, “God must have meant it to be this way.”

He replied, “Yes. It has to be the Lord’s will for us to still be together.”

Our twelve weeks of basic training was ready to begin.

Finally, basic training was over and graduation day was here. For the first time, we got to dress in our Army Khaki uniforms and look like proud soldiers. For me it was a dream come true. Now came time for every graduate to receive orders for their new assignments. Guess what? Rudolph and I got our new assignment—Korea.

I already had a brother there; he was in the Air Force. We both agreed not to tell our mothers, so we decided to tell them we were to be stationed in Japan. I don’t think mom believed me; however, she let on like she did. She said, “I’ll still be praying for you and your friends.”

After a seven day furlough to visit home, we had to report to the main terminal at the train station in Chicago, Illinois. The long troop train, carrying three-or-four thousand soldiers departed Chicago headed for Seattle, Washington.

Upon our arrival in Seattle, we were taken by Army buses to the Debarkation Building and Transport Ship Docks. Once in our barracks, we were put on lock-down and told to remain in the barracks at all times. We stayed at this location for about four days. One day, our barracks sergeant and some MP’s marched us to a chapel for “spirit guiding.” Once inside we held a group funeral service. The chaplain said many of us would not be returning home; Rudolph and myself took those words in stride.

One morning, around 3:00 AM, we were awakened by MP’s telling us to get dressed and to gather all our personal belongings. We were then to go outside and board the waiting buses. As the buses pulled along side of a huge ship, we were ordered to disembark with all our equipment. After we boarded the ship, we were escorted to our pre-assigned ship compartment; this was to be the beginning of a twenty-one day journey.

On some days they would let us go on the top deck for some fresh air, but most of the time us low ranking soldiers would be pulling KP, or other duties aboard ship—sometimes for twelve hours straight. Due to seasickness, I spent seven days in sickbay. Finally, we reached Yokohama, Japan, where we stayed for three or four days. While here, we were taken to a rifle range for continued training. After the ship had refueled, we set sail again; this time for Korea. After about a three or four day voyage, we arrived in Pusan, South Korea.

After disembarking we were loaded onto trucks and taken to a troop-train, on which every window and door was riddled with bullet holes. Once we arrived at our destination, we again loaded onto trucks and headed to a large replacement station. This is where all the Army replacement soldiers were assigned to the different divisions in Korea.

The sergeant in charge had us stand in formation as he called out a name, and serial number. He then would tell that soldier which division he was to report too. I told Rudolph, “Well buddy, this looks like where we might have to depart from each other.” With tears in our eyes, we listened as names were being called. Suddenly, the sergeant said, “The following two soldiers move over here to my right. You’re assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division; Jerry Cunningham and Rudolph M. Randall.”

We loaded into a jeep and were taken to the 3rd Division. Here we were greeted by a captain who told us we would stay there for the night, and to get some rest. The next day, we would join our unit on the front line. With all those big guns blasting away in the distance, we didn’t get much sleep. Later that night, we were informed we both were assigned to Easy Company of the 15th Infantry Regiment.

After arriving in the rear of the front line, we were issued our basic weapons; a new BAR and a new .45 pistol. We had both scored as experts on these weapons during our basic training. Next we were taken to Easy Company and introduced to our platoon and squad leaders, along with the rest of the guys. I was assigned to the second platoon and Rudolph to the third. Shortly afterwards, I met my BAR assistant.

A few days later the second platoon was assigned the task of a night patrol, on the west side of Outpost Harry. Normally when a platoon goes on patrol, the squads go out at different intervals. The first went out at dusk, with the second going out at midnight to relieve the first squad. Out in front were our platoon leader and our point man. As we approached the first squad’s location, which was set up in a horseshoe shape, a soldier in their center opened fire on us. Our platoon leader ordered us to return fire, thinking the Chinese had captured the first squad and was ambushing us. Quickly both leaders contacted each other and ordered us to cease fire. Three soldiers were killed during this incident, including my squad leader—Corporal Frank Loiacono. As everyone was grouped together, crying and yelling at each other, the Chinese fired an artillery shell at us. If it had exploded, it probably would have killed all of us. Lucky for us, it landed in a wet, muddy rice paddy and did not explode. Headquarters ordered both patrols back to the MLR.

On another night a KATUSA and I were sent to a listening post, which consisted of a two-man foxhole with a telephone line running back to company headquarters. The foxhole was roughly three-or-four feet from a trail leading down from Star Hill, which was under Chinese control. While Kim (the KATUSA) and I took turns of rotating positions, one would be kneeling down while the other one was standing and observing the area around our foxhole. It was Kim’s turn to be standing, when around 2:00 AM he said he smelt Chinese coming. I told him that he didn’t and that he was trying to get me to stand up before my turn. It hadn’t been five minutes, when I noticed a large patrol of Chinese coming down the trail—directly towards us. Crouching down in the hole, I peeked from the top of the hole only to notice they were so close I could see their faces. After they passed us, I quickly got on the phone and reported it to our CP. They informed us to lay low, because we would be receiving artillery near our location. Sure enough, here they came. The third or fourth round hit near the patrol, with the rest falling directly on them. After being ordered back to the MLR, Kim and I were shaking so bad they gave us some hot coffee and told us to get some sleep. No one ever told us what a good, or bad, job we had done; nor did anyone say anything about our encounter with the Chinese that night.

In April the weather started warming up and the Chinese became more active. One night they attacked the outpost with four-or-five human waves. They were able to get into the trenches of L Company, resulting in hand-to-hand combat.

At the end of May, the 2nd BN was relieved from the front and taken to the rear for a little R&R and more training. Rudolph and I never missed a day of seeing each other, whether we were on the line or in a rear blocking position. During the two weeks we were in the rear, we made a promise to each other; if either of us didn’t make it home alive, the survivor would place flowers on the others grave. At the end of these two weeks, our battalion was ordered to move to the rear of the front line.

On the night of June 10, around 6:00 PM, all kinds of artillery shells started falling around our position. Roughly three to three-and-a-half hours later, we were told that Outpost Harry was getting hit hard. They told us to grab our weapons, ammo, and to leave our other equipment, and to load onto the trucks. As we headed to the outpost, there were times we had to dismount and run along side of the tanks as enemy shells were landing near us. Arriving at the rear of the outpost, my squad and another squad along with two tanks received orders to move to the southeast of Harry. Our objective was to protect the tanks from the enemy’s ground forces, while the tanks secured the east side. Earlier in the year, Army Combat Engineers had implanted fifty-five gallon drums of napalm five feet apart around the entire hill. Located inside the command bunker on Outpost Harry, was the detonating switch.

Supported by mortar and artillery fire, the Chinese attacked the hill in two human waves, with each wave consisting of about four-hundred troops. From our position we could see and hear soldiers from both sides screaming, hollering, crying, and dying. The Chinese had managed to get into the trenches of K Company, which resulted in hand-to-hand combat. With the aid of our mortars and artillery, the Chinese were beaten back. Company K held the hill for a short period of time.

At 3:00 AM on the morning of the 11th of June, the Chinese launched the largest human wave attack of them all. Like ants, they were crawling all over the hill. As they crawled up the hill the drums of napalm ignited, spreading fire over the Chinese soldiers; the hill lit up like a Christmas tree. The smell of smoke, and human flesh, lingered over Outpost Harry. I was praying, “Dear Lord, there are many souls departing this earth this morning. Please give them a better home in your Kingdom,” the whole time. Around daylight we were ordered to report to the backside of the outpost, near the aid station.

Here, Colonel Akers ordered us to go up on Harry and clear it of the Chinese. As we prepared to go, I knew we would be seeing many dead and wounded soldiers from both sides. To myself, I started repeating Psalms 23, and the nerves of my assistant gunner failed him. He froze up and was sitting in a crouched position with his head between his knees—crying. I took all his ammo and started moving up the hill; that was the last time I saw him.

While advancing through the trenches, over dead and wounded GI’s and Chinese, the Chinese came around a corner on the west side of Harry. With my BAR, in the ready position, I told them to halt! The two in front leaned forward, and the one the back threw a grenade at me. At the same time, I mowed all three down. Luckily for me, the grenade didn’t go off. Continuing to see if there were any more live Chinese, we received word to move off the hill and to bring a wounded GI with us. After taking the wounded soldier to the aid station, I was told to go to a lookout station along a ridge on the southeast side of Harry. I was told to watch for any Chinese movement.

About an hour after arriving, a Chinese artillery shell exploded about twenty yards from my position, but I paid no attention to it. Later on, Rudolph came to where I was and we started talking about what had just happened on Harry. As we talked, he noticed blood coming from my left boot. I looked down and saw the boot was full of blood, and that there was a hole that went all the way through my left leg. I began to feel weak, and thirsty. I asked Rudolph for some water, which he gave me. He then picked me up, placed my arm around his neck, and carried me to the aid station. Due to the amount of blood that I had lost, I was slipping in and out of consciousness.

After the medics stopped the bleeding, they placed me in the front passenger seat of a medic’s jeep. As the jeep faced downhill, they loaded the wounded in the rear. Suddenly, the jeep started rolling down the hill towards a branch, and because of a wound to my leg I was unable to stop it. Rudolph started running along side of the jeep, grabbing the steering wheel and turning it into a dirt bank. He told me to take care of myself and that my wound would send me stateside, and that he would see back in the States. This was the last I saw, or heard from my buddy.

I was taken to a hospital in southern Japan for six months and when I was well enough, I wrote to Rudolph. About a week later, my letter came back.

During my stay here, early one morning the head nurse escorted an Airman to my bedside; it was my brother Willie (W.C.). I thought I was dreaming, or my pain medication was playing tricks with my mind. However, it was really W.C... The Air Force and American Red Cross had rushed him from Korea to Japan after they received word of me being wounded in action. He was able to stay for over a week, and then he had to return to Korea. Shortly after he left, I had a major setback.

It was an August morning; still in the hospital and unable to walk. After the doctors had made their rounds the hospital chaplain came to my bed with a curious look on his face, pushing a wheelchair. After asking me my name, which I told him, he asked if I had a good nights rest. He then informed me that he had come to take me for a ride in the wheelchair. Helping me out of bed and into the wheelchair, out of the hospital we went. As he pushed me down a ramp, he told me that he needed to talk with me. So, he took me to the hospital chapel.

After entering the chapel, he wheeled me along side the front row of seats and began to talk to me about my family. Then he asked some questions about my mother. I asked him, “Is my mother alright?”

He replied, “Yes, she is alright—she is now in Heaven.”

On June 23, 1953, twelve days after I was wounded, my mother passed away.

He told me the reason I had not been informed of my mother’s death, was due to my medical condition. Regardless, I would not have been able to have gone home—I started crying.

I was reassigned to Kokura Army Depot, in Japan, as a wheel vehicle supply specialist for eighteen months. When I returned to the United States, I was again assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Georgia. I was discharged in August of 1955.

After my discharge I wrote to the Department of the Army asking about Rudolph, and how could I get in touch with him. I received a letter from them informing me that on June 14, 1953, Rudolph had been killed in action.

Following years of research, on July 28, 2006, my wife and I departed Columbia, South Carolina in route to Tampa, Florida with one goal in mind—find the final resting place of Rudolph M. Randall.

On the morning of the 29th of June, we arrived at Stones Funeral Home and met with a Ms. Wonder. She was very helpful to us and asked us to follow her to the Rest Haven Cemetery. Upon arriving, we spread out and began our search for Rudolph’s grave. After a couple of hours, the cemetery director, Mr. James McEwen, noticed our search and asked if he could be of assistance.

Taking us back to his office, he gave us a refreshing drink of cold water and did some research on his computer. He found the location where those who died in the 1950’s would have been buried, but we found no headstone with the name—Rudolph M. Randall. I choose a location where Mr. McEwen and I both thought Rudolph might have been buried. Here I placed a flower that I had purchased earlier, and gave a salute to my buddy—Rudolph M. Randall. A promise that had been made some fifty-three years earlier, in the hills of Korea, had been completed.[9]

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