~~Seventy-Eight~~

Wayne Pelkey

180th Infantry Regiment

45th Infantry Division

U.S. Army

I was born in Barre, Vermont on November 6, 1931, the second of three children. Growing up during the depression, we lived in Websterville, Vermont, which was a quarry town where most of the small homes were owned by the granite companies.

After graduating from Spaulding High in1949, I was unable to use my scholarship to the University of Vermont, as my father had a stroke. I felt that my family needed me at home, so I got a job at the quarry. Then on November 11, 1952, (Armistice Day, which is now Veterans Day) I was drafted—what irony.

I was inducted into the U.S. Army at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, and then I was sent to Fort Jackson, South Carolina for my sixteen weeks of basic training. At the end of training I was given four days at home then I took a plane from LaGuardia to Chicago. There I met the troop-train bound for Fort Lewis, Washington.

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After arriving in Korea, in April 1953, I was sent to the replacement center at Chunchon. It was here that I was assigned to Fox Company, 180th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division.

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On July 15, 1953, while on Christmas Hill, we came under heavy fire. Daylight broke the following morning and there in front of my trench laid countless dead Chinese. It was against my moral character to scrounge through the pockets of a dead enemy soldier. However, one of my KATUSA’s—Lee Bong Sun—checked the pockets of a dead Chinese who was almost in our bunker.

He found a coin, and then he removed his watch. As I looked at the watch, which was an Elgin, it had the initials “A.L.” engraved on the back. It had to have belonged to a fallen GI, which made me angry. However, I stopped any further searching of the enemy dead. I was still upset from loosing three of my men during the night, along with my brains still rattling from a concussion I received during a mortar shelling.

While we were still under fire, I remember Father Walsh going down the finger trenches of Outpost Queen, giving communion and last rites. On the sixteenth he gave everyone—Catholic, Protestant, Jew, KATUSA, even the agnostic—communion. When he saw that I had been wounded, he embraced me and said, “Peace to you son, our Lord will always take care of you.” He did, and still is.

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On August 1, 1954, I left Pusan, Korea aboard the troopship General John Pope, which was carrying 3600 troopers home.

I was discharged from service on the 17th of August, 1954.

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