It's called the "forgotten war"--but it's really the "unknown" war because for nearly 50 years Korean War veterans have seldom talked about it to their family, neighbors, or friends. Americans and the people of the world need to be educated about one of the coldest, bloodiest wars in world history, but they're sure not reading about it in the school history books. Come on, all you Korean War vets...tell Americans why they should always remember the Korean War and the men and women who served in it. (You'd be surprised how many young people will be interested in what you have to say--the Korean War Veterans National Museum & Library gets inquiries nearly every day from students interested in knowing more about the Korean War.) Share a memory or two (or ten!) of what it was personally like for you to be in Korea during the war years. Be sure to state what division or unit you were assigned to and the years you served there. Send your comments to Sharon Corum and we'll post it here so you can "Tell America"!
This is long story that was ran in the New Albany, IN Tribune on June 8th, 1994; prior to his receipt of the POW medal at Fort Knox.: "The scars of war" Veteran battling vivid memories of massacre by Ken Hardin
Tribune Staff Writer
Roy Manring carries painful reminders of the day he somehow survived a nightmare most people couldn't imagine. He has 12 scars from bullet wounds that riddled his torso, legs and arms, plus one on his head from a grazing bullet fired by an American GI who mistook him for the North Korean enemy. He also suffered two bayonet wounds when North Koreans waded through their victims, stabbing them to make sure they were dead.
Most of all, he remembers lying among 45 or 46 or his dead comrades, and knowing that the North Koreans were coming back. "I had a psychiatrist tell me I shouldn't let it bother me no more. I quit going to see her," said Manring, 62, one of only three living survivors of a Korean War atrocity that became known as the Hill 303 Massacre. "I said, 'How can you tell me that this shouldn't bother me no more? It's never happened to you,'" he said with tears in his eyes. Manring, who settled in New Albany after his wedding in 1953, and the other two massacred survivors will be honored in a public ceremony on July 4 at Fort Knox, Ky., where they took their basic training 44 years ago. An 18-year-old who went into the Army on $500 bet with his hometown buddies from Chicago, Manring was shipped straight to Japan as part of the post-World War II occupying force there. By July 1950, the Korean War had broken out, and-his 1st Calvary Regiment H Company found itself in the heat of battle.
His regiment lost several men when it first hit the beach, Manring said, and in the 31 days of fighting from hill to hill that followed, H Company's ranks dwindled from about 65 to 26 men.
During that time, Manring and a buddy blocked a roadway with a jeep to ward off sniper fire, an act of bravery that his commander, Lt. Cecil Neuman Jr., said probable would earn them the Silver Star.
Neuman didn't live long enough to put Manring's name in for the medal. On Aug. 14, 1950, the company got word that a group of South Koreans was coming to help them hold their position in enemy territory.
Manring later testified before Sen. Joseph McCarthy's hearings on Korean War atrocities that the company thought it was odd the South Koreans were coming up from deeper in enemy territory. The Americans opened fire. But Neuman ordered them to stop shooting, and the group-actually walked up and shook the Americans' hands and then took away their weapons. They were taken prisoner and forced for three days and four nights to march through gullies and ravines. They laid low as American artillery bombarded their positions.
Manring said none of the prisoners were hit by mortar fire, but occasionally they would hear the screams of a captor who had been walking outside a gully.
The North Koreans had told them they were taking them across the Noktog River to a POW camp, where they "would be taken care of,' Manring said. Daily rations on the march consisted of one apple for every three men, and water was scarce.
Along the march, the North Koreans picked up some other POWs, making the ranks about 48 men, Manring said. One American was able to slip out of the bonds that tied him to other prisoners. The North Koreans caught him, and beat his neck with a trenching tool until they decapitated him, Manring said. Others would be taken off to the side and never return.
Then, on the morning of Aug. 18, at the foot of Hill 303, the POWs were lined up like they were going to be moved out again. But the North Korean commander shouted a different command, and the POWs were machine-gunned down. "They didn't say why they were doing it-they just started shooting," Manring said.
He was hit 10 times, and was bleeding heavily. But somehow he stayed rational enough to realize the North Koreans, who had momentarily left the scene of the massacre, would be back. His hands were still tied, but the bonds to the other POWs had slipped off, so he crawled under the dead body of a man he took basic training with and hoped he would be mistaken for dead. "Of all the things I remembered, lying under him is the thing that sticks with me the most," he said. "Those guys were my buddies, and I watched them get shot.
"When the North Koreans came back, they stuck bayonets into the mound of corpses, checking for survivors. Manring was stabbed in the leg and he grunted, but they mistook the sound as coming from the man above him, and shot throught his dead body twice striking Manring both times.
As he lay there Manring said he saw his grandfather, who had died four years earlier, come to him and tell him to get up and crawl over a nearby hill. "I said, 'Grandpa, I can't,' but he said, 'Yes you can,'" he said tearfully. Hands still bound, he struggled for about a mile or two until he ran into an American patrol, which believing him to be the enemy fired at him. He was hit in the head, and fell to the ground. The soldier who hit him began to celebrate, and Manring yelled, "I'm GI, You son-of-a-bitch. "The patrol took him to a field hospital. "The doctors said I shouldn't be alive, and I said, 'Well, I am, so patch me up,'" he recalled.
He spent the next 18 months in hospitals recovering from his wounds. News of the massacre spread, and among Manring's visitors was Gen. Douglas MacArthur, a "swell man" who played checkers with the injured 19-year-old and eventually pinned on Manring's Purple Heart medal. Manring's 1953 marriage to his wife Shirley, a New Albany native, was covered on NBC's "Today" television program, and 12 days later he was in Washington testifying before McCarthy's hearings.
But despite his fleeting clebrity, Manring still felt the sting of coming home from what is often called "the forgetten war."
"There was no big party waiting for me when I got off the plane," he said. Today, he's dismayed that his grandson isn't studying the Korean War at Floyd Central High School, and that he's having to fight the Veterans' Administration for the full disablility benefits he believes he deserves. And as he sees news report about the ongoing tension between the United States and North Korea, he wonders if things couldn't have turned out differently four decades ago.
"There's going to be another war over there," he said with resignation. "If they would have let MacArthur do what he wanted to do, they (the communists) wouldn't be over there right now." The July 4 public ceremony will honor Manring, and fellow survivors Fred Ryan of Cincinnati and James Rudd of Kentucky. Two other men survived the massacre, but have since died. Manring was contacted about a year ago by a sergeant who wanted to know if he had ever received his POW medal, which usually delivered by mail. "I told him that if it was going to be presented by the postman, I didn't want it," Manring said.
One phone call led to another, and eventually a general decided the
survivors of Hill 303 deserved a full ceremony. The recognition will be nice,
Manring said, but he's more excited to have re-established contact with Ryan and Mudd last
Christmas. For 43 years, he had believed himself to be the sole survivor of the
massacre. "It was the best Christmas present I ever had," he said
My father received his 100% disability last year. Thank you for your time. My Mother and Father have never seen the coverage of their wedding that was shown on the TODAY show, no television sets in the Rocky Mountains where they had their honeymoon. Do you know how I could obtain a copy of the show?
When a Veteran Cries
I am visiting your website for the first time.
My father was a master Sergeant when discharged from the Army during
the Korean War Conflict. Although he returned home in one piece, he suffered for most of
his life because of the memory of Korea.
During the Thanksgiving Holidays of 1997 my brother was visiting from Florida. While staying with my father he spent a little time showing him how to use the internet. To spark his interest he was demonstrating how it can be used for a topic of great interest to our father....his Korean war experience. While "surfing the net" they came upon a message attached to a veterans group web page. The message was from a woman seeking information about her father who was killed during the Korean War. Her father was Lieutenant William M. Millar.
My father immediately recognized the name as that of his platoon leader who was killed in action on October 9, 1950. My brother Gary and my father immediately sent a message to the anonymous person seeking the information. Recognizing that she may be skeptical of the response, they sent specific information that would confirm that my father was in fact present when her father made the supreme sacrifice. On the following morning the anonymous daughter called my father. The emotion of this telephone meeting was evident. Within a couple of days she sent a letter expressing her thanks for sharing his experience and information about her father who she never knew. Lieutenant William M. Millar's daughter was only about one year old when he was killed.
He died on October 9, 1950 while as a platoon commander he was leading F Company of the Fifth Cavalry Regiment, U.S. First Cavalry Division across the 38th parallel into North Korea. The Company came under attack from North Koreans on a hill to the left of their column. Lt. Millar ordered and led an attack on the hill. The platoon had only 2 or 3 men wounded until they neared the top of the hill when Lt. Millar was killed instantly by a single round from a North Korean rifleman. The platoon secured the hill with no survivors among the enemy.
Lt. Millar's daughter, Debbie and my father had the opportunity to meet personally on July 18, 1998. Debbie's father left for Korea from his home in Putnam Valley ,New York, while my father left his home in Perryton, Texas for service in Korea. The incredible chance meeting resulting from a demonstration of the internet revealed another surprise. ...Debbie now lives only a 40 minute drive from my parents home outside of Baltimore, Maryland. Another twist is that the maiden name of the wife (Debbie's mother) of Lt. Millar is Robinson. So far we have not determined any relationship. However the relationship formed by this chance meeting is very strong. As Debbie said in another letter to my father, the questions he was able to answer brought "peace of mind that I needed... and his death to a closure ...full circle".
Prior to their meeting in July I exchanged e-mail with Debbie and responded to her request for an idea of a gift that my father might appreciate. Upon learning that she was an artist I suggested that he would enjoy a painting of the Korean War Memorial in Washington D.C. Debbie presented my father with the painting which included a depiction of her father etched into the granite wall. No other gift would have been more meaningful to my father. While he was not able to be close to his Lieutenant who was his platoon leader for only three weeks before he was killed he was able to bring one of the many tragedies of this war to a closure. This chance meeting was as meaningful to him as it is to Debbie. Which brings me to another coincidence. My parents have six sons and only one daughter....her name is also Debbie. The death of Debbie's father within feet of our father forms a connection that will " never be forgotten".
One final aspect of this story is that while my ten year old son Christopher and I were sharing a story about heroes I read the portion where the author implied that there are no more heroes left. My son interrupted me to say that "dad, yes there are ..pop-pop is one" . How right he is.
This story is dedicated to Lieutenant William Millar, and to my father and hero....Sergeant Dennis G. Robinson, F Company, Fifth Cavalry Regiment, U.S. First Cavalry Division.
I was in Heavy Mortar Co., 32nd Inf. Regt., 7th Inf. Div. during the last few months of the war. I especially remember the Battle of Pork Chop Hill. Enemy artillery was raining down on our convoy while we were moving into position for that battle. I will never forget the first night when artillery shells were whizzing by overhead so thick and fast I couldn't count them. I remember how awesome it was and how I felt there were not sufficient words in the English vocabulary to describe it. I also remember wishing I had a wire recorder to capture the whole event. I also remember medics carrying casualties down the hill near our position. They were trying to lay communications wire when they got hit.
We were firing our 4.2 mortars fast and furious that first night. Ah, it was so long ago but some things that happened over there seem like it was just a short time ago.
Excerpt from an interview with Paul Mason, Decatur, Illinois*
*Paul was stationed stateside during the Korean War. His company was ordered to participate in a government atomic bomb experiment. See Oral History Project page - Mason.
"In the spring of 1952, the 278th Infantry Regimental Combat Team stationed at Ft. Evans, Massachusetts received orders to go to Nevada and watch an atomic bomb go off. They took practically the whole company--about 200 or 300 people. The bomb we were to see go off was even larger than the ones we dropped on Japan to end World War II. We were six miles away from ground zero in a trench that came up to my chin when I stood up in it. When the bomb went off we were kneeling in the bottom of it. When the bomb went off, that light lit up the bottom of that trench just like a huge flashbulb went off. A few seconds later I heard the awfullest sound that I'd ever heard. I've fired a lot of weapons, but I never heard an explosion like that in my life. It was awful. It was devastating. We didn't have anything to protect our ears or any other part of our body.
After it went off, we were ordered to stand up. We could see the shock wave coming in a line toward us. We stood there and felt the shock wave pass over us as it came by. After the shock wave passed, we left the trenches. We had M-1 rifles and we started up through the area toward the bomb site. The mushroom cloud did not form until after we stood up and felt the shock wave. Then we saw that mushroom cloud. It was kind of a purplish color and then it faded out to white. It was a pretty thing.
What we saw was supposed to be confidential. At first when we started through the area it didn't look like anything had happened, but the further we went, here and there you would see fires in the green cactus due to the terrific heat of the bomb. This was a long way from ground zero yet. Then we got up closer and there were sheep out there.
Some had banks of dirt to protect them from the blast, and they looked okay yet. There was one that was staked out in the open, and it looked like it was cooked on the spot. The thing was laying there dead. Some sheep had wool burns. Some were blinded. It was quite an experience to see. They also had trucks, jeeps, and drums of oil near ground zero.
Smoke was coming from the drums -- it appeared it was burning inside the drums. The trucks and jeeps had all the paint burned off of them. One truck was kind of standing up on its nose. Upholstering was burnt out of everything. And this was quite a piece away.
We went up to 5,000 yards of ground zero. There was not cactus or anything on that desert. It was clear. Everything was burned off. The ground was melted together. You couldn't even raise any dust. The ground was black like a blacktop road. It wouldn't give under us. We could tell the direction of the blast because of the way the cactus had been blown -- kind of like the way snow is blown to the wind. We knew we were walking into radiation, but they claimed we stopped before we got enough to hurt us. I had a little battery-powered meter with a hand on it. Where we stopped off, that hand started to move, but they still claimed we weren't close enough to get anything to hurt us. We didn't stay there very long. We took a broom and brushed each other off and then went over each other with a geiger counter. And they loaded us onto trucks and drove us out of there. That was the end of it."
After the bombing,
(We found dead civilians mostly, the CCF (Chinese Communist Forces) would be in conceal bunker,, waiting) .
For the first two years after my return to the states, about every night I would relive some horrible frontline experience in a nightmare. One night, I saw people dressed in white coming out of a cave. They were covered with blood. Some carried what must have been little babies. Then there was the little girl sitting by the side of a road eating grasshoppers that she roasted in a tin can over a fire that had once been her home. There were dead, burned, and decapitated bodies all around her. They were everywhere. I glimpsed in the direction of some of my squad members. They appeared to be indifferent like they saw but didn't see. Occasionally a sniper would aim a shot in our direction, or there would be a long burst from a concealed machine gun somewhere near, at which time we would dive for cover among the dead bodies and commence firing in the direction we suspected the enemy gunner to be concealed.
Looking back in the direction that the little girl had been, I saw that she was still sitting there eating the grasshoppers, seemingly undisturbed. There were other small children about, crying as they crawled over dead bodies, searching for their mothers or family members... Then would come the command "Ok Let's go, soldier, let's go!" and I would run to catch up with my squad that was following behind the tanks...
If I could ask the president one question, it wouldnt be will we send American soldiers into Serbia.. But then again, I am a former combat-infantryman, that fought in, and survived the Korean war. We, veterans know that you always sent in ground troops after the bombing.. And by the Mr. President, weve maintained (peace keeping) troops there for 49 years sofar...
I am now the author of a just released Korean war memoir, the title,
WHATS A COMMIE EVER DONE TO BLACK PEOPLE?
An Essay on Toilets
written by Ray Walker, USMC, Korean War
I used to think that whoever invented the flush toilet ought to get a Nobel Prize. It is a fact of life in the West, but a fact that we so take for granted that one immediately feels isolated from civilization when suddenly confronted with a populated area that lacks this fundamental tool of the West. One such locale is the Amazon area of Peru and Brazil.
My youngest daughter, a rather strange child, decided she and a friend would take a trip down into the Peruvian outback. My good fortune is that she returned in good health and brought pictures and videotape so that I could share her adventures from the comfort of my easy chair, and in close proximity to a fully functioning, air conditioned, toilet area.
My daughter's recounting of the trip focused on the warmth and humanity of the people she met, mostly Peruvian Indians. They seemed universally happy, though by our standards living in poverty. The videotaping of a local toilet convinced me that I would not soon follow my daughter's adventures in the area with any of my own.
After my adventurous daughter returned to her home in Chicago, I got to thinking about all I had seen. The people all seemed adequately dressed against the elements, were reasonably well fed and willing to share whatever they had with these Gringo strangers that appeared in their backyards. They all had big smiles, and the children were fetchingly adorable, and well behaved. Given that the only thing of importance they lacked, a flush toilet, it occurred to me that there might be a connection -- though I am strained to reason why--between their very civilized attitudes and the West's increasing lack of same.
That took me back almost 50 years to my 5 month's experience in the Korean War of 1950. The very first thing one noticed in Korea at that time was the ever present smell of manure, mostly human. The farm houses were constructed with dirt floors, but underneath that was a tunneled area wherein they added firewood so they could warm the floors in the cold winters. And to one side was an area where they kept their toilet, the droppings accumulating in a large space that could easily be accessed with a "honey pot," a hand-held device with which they transferred the manure from home to their fields and rice paddies. We, of course, added to the general stench by using an entrenching tool and digging a shallow hole into which we placed our manure. I can distinctly recall the practice: dig a little hole near a tree, hang your rear over the hole and hang onto the tree.
You I am sure have heard of military latrines in the outback, or boondocks as we called it. This is a well constructed set of non-flush toilets akin to what one will find in our wilderness parks; quite sanitary and filled at times with lye to disperse odor and dimish bacterial growth. Well, during my 5 months in Korea we never stopped long enough to construct such a latrine. So for us it was dig, squat, hang onto the tree, and recover your dignity as best you can.
One Sgt. Cotton was taking care of business that way one day, when a sniper placed a shot between his legs as he squatted. Poor Sgt. Cotton suffered from constipation for quite awhile afterwards. I do recall he changed positions very rapidly and with bare bottom in plain view proceeded to clear the area, grabbing hold of his pants as best he could and trying not to trip over them as he ran for cover. A very undignified exit. The sniper didn't fire another shot. I'm sure he spent the rest of the day in uncontrollable laughter, unable to sight his rifle.
My memories of those toiletless days is filled with remembrances of the camaraderie, the good humor and warmth we all felt toward one another, even given the absence of this most important piece of civilized living. Then we have these native peoples of the mountains and rivers of Peru and Brazil, all exhibiting much the same attitude towards one another and toward the strangers in their midst. My question: Is there a cause and effect at work here?
I've always thought that the curse of Western civilization was television and the now ubiquitous telephone. A ring-ring here, a ring-ring there, a ring-ring everywhere. And that constant inescapable ringing and constant blaring from the TV I was sure made all of us a bit testy and unpleasant with each other.
It's no secret that the bucolic attracts us all. Maybe if we did away with the flush toilet we could return to those yesterdays when mankind was more considerate of his neighbors and more at peace with himself. I wonder.
The enlisted man's latrine at Koji-do was damaged by a typhoon that hit the area during the Korean War. This photograph was loaned to the Korean War Museum courtesy of John W. "Bill" Huff, Naperville, IL. Huff was with HQ 60th General Dept under the 8th.
They evacuated from Chinnampo on the west coast, then he served with HQMP Group 8137th Army in supply when the POW camp at Koji-do was being set up. Huff served in Korea October 15, 1950 to January 30, 1952.
Copyright © 1998 Korean War Veterans National Museum and Library
Copyright © 1998 Korean War Veterans National Museum and Library