When my dad came home from the war in Korea, my mom says words spilled out of him, stories she—a young wife of barely 20—had a hard time processing. She says she listened to him talk for days and then it was over. When I was young, my dad never talked about the horrors of war to us.
A natural storyteller, he made it sound like they spent the time playing jokes on each other and exploring the countryside and just every now and again getting shot at.
While helping my dad to prepare to participate in the dedication of a Korean War Memorial in his hometown, my brother found this in his papers:
"Distinguished Unit Citation...
As authorized by Executive Order 9396, the following units are cited... in the name of the President of the United States as public evidence of deserved honor and distinction. The citation reads as follows:
"The Second Infantry Division and the following attached units ******* 300th ARMORED FIELD ARTILLERY BATTALION (less Battery "B") ******* are cited for extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance of duty in action against the armed enemy in the vicinity of Hongchon, Korea, during the period of 16 to 22 May 1951.
Defending the critical sector of the Eighth Army battle front, the Second Division and attached units faced a hostile force of 12 Chinese Communist divisions with an estimated strength of 120,000 troops. The Third Chinese Army Group drove the full force of its savage assault against the Second Division with the specific mission of annihilation of the units.
The right flank of the Unit was completely exposed when enemy pressure broke through adjacent United Nations elements. Pressure increased and each night enemy forces bypassed staunch defenders and occupied positions to their rear. Tactical units of the Second Division launched fierce counterattacks which destroyed enemy penetrations, successfully extricating themselves, and through readjustment of positions, stopped the onslaught of the Chinese Communist forces.
Executing planned withdrawals and extending their flank eastward over extremely rugged, mountainous terrain, the Second Division and attached units provided critically required time for other Eighth Army units to regroup and block the attempted enemy envelopment.
Without thought of defeat, this heroic Unit demonstrated superb battlefield courage, knowledge, and discipline and esprit de corps in accomplishing this extremely difficult and hazardous mission as to set it apart and above other units participating in similar operations.
Its sustained brilliance in battle, resolution, and extraordinary heroism reflect unsurpassed credit on those courageous soldiers who participated and are in keeping with the finest traditions of the United States Army, the United Nations Forces, and their own homelands."
History records this about the 300th:
“In all, the 300th fired 514,036 105mm howitzer rounds in 805 days of combat. The soldiers of the 300th earned 12 Silver Stars, 63 Bronze Stars, and numerous other medals. In addition to two Presidential Unit Citations, the battalion also earned a Meritorious Unit Citation and two Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citations. Eight soldiers from the 300th were killed-in-action and another 175 wounded.”
And yes, I cry each time I read it.
Back then, people knew about PTSD, though they I believe they called it shell shock. My dad was one of the lucky ones. He was able to get it all out and move forward with his life—though looking back I suspect he hid more than we realized.
He passed away last year and his buddies from his unit showed up to honor him one last time—just as he had for the buddies that went before.
For my dad—for all who have been in harm’s way, for those who came home and for those who didn’t—Happy Memorial Day.
Pauline Baird Jones never liked reality, so she writes books. She likes to wander among the genres, rampaging like Godzilla, because she does love peril mixed in her romance. She found out on Twitter that Goodreads says she died in 1999. She’s a bit miffed no one told her. And since she’s dead, but not gone, you can see her as the Dead Author Live on Facebook or her YouTube Channel.
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