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On 25 June 1950, I was a second lieutenant, Field artillery, posted to B Battery of the 49th Field Artillery Battalion, 7th Division, Eighth Army. The station was Jinmachi, northern Honshu. This was at the time of the U.S. occupation of Japan and its "reconstruction." The post was quite remote, situated in the mountains about twenty miles northwest of Yamagata. It had been an Imperial Japanese Cavalry post. I had arrived in January, fresh from the campus of the University of Florida, where I had earned a master's in economics. The source of my commission was the ROTC at Purdue. I had experienced not a single day of active duty or training since the ROTC days at Purdue in 1948. The 49th Field Artillery was my First posting. I had been shipped directly to Japan upon being sworn in as a regular army officer, an appointment offered on the basis of a graduate degree. To assume that I was green, and at the bottom of the competency ladder, would be accurate.
Nevertheless, I attacked the military career with vigor and managed to overcome my lack of competence with enthusiasm and a great deal of instruction from the seasoned officers in the outfit. Of particular help was Lt. Bill Plummer. He was a senior First lieutenant and had served in the ETO (European theater of operations) in World War II.
The First section of this chapter was written in 1999, after the manuscript was lost for forty-seven years. It is not my purpose to relate the details of the First six months of duty. However, it is important to identify Plummer, Nurse "X," and "Jeb Stuart" as they play an important part in the saga that follows. Plummer was from St. Louis. He had played catcher on a St. Louis Cardinals farm baseball team and had aspirations of being a major league regular. These plans were changed on 7 December 1941. For some reason, we called each other "Hood" (like gangster hoods. Don't remember how this got started). He was a great teacher.
Nurse "X" was a large woman who made up one-half of the medical team at the post. I am embarrassed that I cannot recall her name. The other half of the medical team was Nurse "Y" who was a tall, lean woman. Both nurses were in their middle thirties and had been in the army since the early forties. The nurses were officers and were present at the officers' mess for most meals. Their quarters were next door to mine. The BOQs (bachelor officers' quarters) were one-story structures with a hall down the middle and about six rooms on either side. There was one latrine and one shower in the middle of the building.
Now, why is this important to the story that follows?
It developed that my mess sergeant had stolen an Akita puppy that was from a litter belonging to Gen. Billy Gilmore, commander of 7th Division artillery. When the heat was on to recover the dog, the sergeant generously "gave" the puppy to me. Being the only (and dumbest) second lieutenant on the post, it is clear why I was the logical choice.
I was totally swept off my feet by this little dog. He was the cutest thing in Japan and he absolutely took to me. I named him "Jeb Stuart" after my favorite Confederate general. Jeb was a quick learner, and soon was my constant shadow. He accompanied me as I made my rounds on the post, and, of course, got the attention of the general.
I was called to the CG's office without any idea of the purpose of the summons. I was ushered into the general's office by his aide. I stood at attention before his desk, saluted, and stated, "Lieutenant Terry reporting as ordered, sir." In short order, General Gilmore accused me of dog theft and suggested this might be a court-martial offense. This blew me out of the tub. I had no idea Jeb had come from the general's bitch. I explained the circumstances of my "gift" of the dog. The general stated flatly that he didn't believe me. Boy, was I sweating. General Gilmore allowed that he would have given me the dog if he had known how much I wanted him. Further, that I had possessed him (the dog) long enough to ruin him, and that he wouldn't be good for anything now, anyway. (I think I saw a trace of a little smile here.) I was dismissed and told that I could keep the dog.
Through the late winter and spring, Jeb and I bonded and he became a real army dog. He knew all the bugle calls and participated in all the battalion parades. Everyone knew him and he flourished with all the attention. Nurse "X" was especially drawn to Jeb and coaxed him into her quarters at every opportunity. I discovered that she was purchasing his affection with chocolate candy and this really upset me. I absolutely did not allow junk food in my dog. We had a few words about this situation and Nurse "X" would always promise that she would not feed him candy again, but she did. When I had to go to the field for a few days for training, she would always volunteer to take care of Jeb. I think he probably liked her second to me.
Now, back to Sunday, 25 June 1950. The North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded South Korea with great force. Dean Acheson, secretary of state, had stated that Korea was beyond the strategic interest of the United States, as was Formosa. President Harry S. Truman had made no statement about protecting South Korea. General Douglas MacArthur had no plans for the defense of South Korea that we were aware of. No one in the 49th thought that we would be involved.
The 24th Division, which occupied Kyushu, was committed first. The 25th, occupying southern Honshu, was committed second. (I would be assigned to the 25th.) The folks assigned to the 1st Cav and the 7th Division were drawn from to "fill up the ranks" of the 24th and 25th. (Remember, there are three regiments to a division. In the Eighth Army in 1950, there were only two regiments in each division.) I was ordered out on 2 July. My most pressing question was what to do with Jeb. Nurse "X" solved that problem. She was beating on my door as I was trying to get my combat pack together and report to the RTO (rail transport office). She begged me to let her keep Jeb. She said he would never even smell chocolate and that he would be as smart and sweet as ever when I got back in a few months. So, that's what happened to Jeb.
Plummer was on the roster with me and we were bound for APO 25, Osaka, Japan.
On 2 July we had an order from the Eighth Army in Jinmachi for seven lieutenants, two captains, one major, and 500 enlisted men to be sent to APO 25, Osaka. We boarded a special train of four cars that took us, with blinds down, to Sendai. There our train was connected with cars from Sapporo and several other 7th Division posts. We were speeded south through the night, perhaps 5,000 officers and men all told. We arrived at Osaka the following day at 1700 hours. We were taken to the 25th Division headquarters and told to prepare for air transportation to Korea. We were deposited in the lobby of a hotel that was the 25th Division's BOQ and we proceeded to wait nervously. After much waiting and urinating, we were told that the airport was all socked in--that we would draw quarters and have one more night's sleep between sheets. This was heartening news, because the wooden benches of the Japanese trains had not been too comfortable or clean the night before, and most of us felt as though our part of the so-called police action (which is what President Truman called the Korean War) could be postponed another day.
The following morning we were told that we were to go by train to Fukuoka. We boarded around noon, along with the same enlisted men who had been on the train with us from the north. We pulled out of Osaka for another twenty-hours' ride to the southernmost island of the Japanese group. The men were greatly fatigued at this point, and the ordeal of the trip was beginning to show on everyone. The blessing was that the fatigue relieved the tension, and most of us slept that night in spite of the many tunnels that funneled the smoke into the cars through the open windows.
The train toilets consisted of oblong holes in the floor of the car. It took considerable skill to squat, hold your pants, balance yourself, and hit the hole from both ends at the same time. Many of the "old soldiers" who had taken part in the occupation for several years were quite skilled at it but for those of us who had been on this "island paradise" for only a few months it added considerably to the discomfort of the trip due to our lack of coordination and skill. Finally, it was decided that a latrine orderly would be assigned in every car to see that each individual scraped, kicked, or pushed his own droppings through the hole. This abated the menace considerably.
Outside of a few hundred Japanese casualties, due to flying C ration cans from the speeding trains, the trip was uneventful. We arrived at Fukuoka at 0600 the following morning and found only the Japanese station agents there to meet us. The little colonel who had taken command of the train in Osaka was considerably upset at the lack of a transportation and reception committee. He promised those of us close to his elbows that there would be some hell-raising when we got to the 24th Division headquarters. After a telephone call, GI trucks began to pour into the courtyard at the station, and a part of what was to become "the famous 27th Wolfhound Regiment" piled into the trucks.
Not knowing what outfit we were, or were to become, we were carried to the evacuated 24th Division headquarters, an old Japanese industrial plant. We were quartered in the barracks that had so hastily been abandoned by that now-famous division. We took baths, ate C rations, and waited. By noon, trucks were lining up to take us to the port to embark for Pusan. The young lieutenant with a siren on his jeep led our fifty- or sixty-truck convoy on a fifty-miles-per-hour trek to the docks at Sasebo. Upon arrival, he received a thorough chewing out by a colonel whom I did not know. But if the troops felt the way I did, the speed and recklessness of the truck ride had relieved some of the tension and made us feel as though we were at least going somewhere. We dismounted on the docks near a very large and formidable-looking transport, stood around for about twenty or thirty minutes, and then learned that this was the wrong boat. We climbed back into the trucks, went about two miles down the dock area to where two small Japanese inter-island ferries were making a head of steam, obviously preparing for a voyage. These little ships had three decks, the lower A deck being only two or three feet above the water and measuring from stem to stern only 100 or perhaps 110 feet. On the first ship we packed 465 men and nine officers, including one doctor. We had C rations for three days and a magazine of ammunition for each individual weapon. These were carbines, .45s, and M1s.
A very tough-speaking lieutenant colonel, whom I had never seen before and was never to see again, took command of the ship. The captain was Japanese and his crew was Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Philippine. The crew was made up of no more than eight or nine men. We waited until dark and made our way out of the harbor across the Sea of Japan. Watches were organized and the strictest blackout orders enforced. The troops were assigned to decks and simply collapsed there. There was no panic, very little tension, and just simple fatigue. My watch was from 0300 to 0500, and was uneventful. I was relieved at 0500 by Lieutenant Howard, went back to B deck where my gear had been deposited, and passed out into a most restful sleep. The next morning Lieutenant Plummer got a wrestling hold on my foot and shouted, "Get up, Hood, we have reached the wild, picturesque, and romantic continent of Asia."
In spite of my weariness, I eagerly jumped to my feet, stuck my head out the porthole: there was Pusan! We were entering the bay and could see the Korean fishing boats passing into the bay carrying on business as usual.
Around the bay were steep and rugged hills, completely naked of trees, and boasting only a kind of scrub grass, red soil, and brown rocks. At the end of the bay was a chaos of gray that materialized into mud-and-stick houses and mud-and-tile business establishments. It looked as though Pusan had simply slipped from the sides of the hills into a pile of confusion at the end of the bay. It completely lacked color. As I think back on Pusan, I can remember only gray.
After about an hour of waiting we took on a pilot and were docked at one of the lesser piers. While waiting to disembark we heard carbine fire. I looked over to where a South Korean sentry was pulling guard over supplies. He was firing at some children who had gotten too close, in his estimation, to the dock area. The children dispersed.
Briefly, and with a minimum of confusion, we performed the miracle of getting the same number of troops off that we had put on and assembled them on a railroad siding near the dock. Here we were assigned to our units. Four of us from Jinmachi were to go to the 8th Field Artillery. We were directed to a building that sat on the railroad tracks about a quarter of a mile up the road. As we trudged up the railroad tracks, we noted that there were three other transports docking and two more were visible on the horizon. It made me feel strong.
We reached the building, which had boarded windows, and on the shady side I met Lt. Col. August T. Terry, Jr. (no relation) from New Orleans. He was to be my CO and commander of the 8th Field Artillery. A lieutenant asked for my 201 file and told me to make myself comfortable while I was being assigned. I slumped down with Plummer (from Illinois) against the building. We talked about the other
From the Paperback edition.