The 24th Infantry Division Association

Founded August 1945 on a Philippine Island beach


Excerpts from “My Old Box of Memories; Thoughts of the Korean War” by Bill Allen


On July 27,1995 there was the dedication of the Memorial to the Korean War in Washington, DC. It has been a long and very difficult venture in getting this memorial built. The sad part is that so many veterans did not live to see that day. Unable to be with the large group of Korean Veterans that are expected to attend, I know they will be in our thoughts and prayers. As I am writing this, my thoughts go back many years. This is what started me searching through MY OLD BOX OF MEMORIES.

My Old Box of Memories is a box that I have had over the years that I kept throwing things into. Everyone has a box like this. Things that are very important, but never get put in their proper order. There are papers, letters, pictures, a little bit of everything. I can't even remember where some of the things came from.

I thought this would be a good opportunity get my old box of memories in order. Maybe I can put some of the things to rest that have been troubling me through the years. There are many questions for which I wish I had answers. I know some will never be answered. I have learned to accept what I am and do the best I can.


About 2 am on the 16th (July 1950) trip flares went off. Everyone let loose with everything we had. I knew I had to get my head up to see what was going on, or the N. Koreans would come right in my foxhole after me. Once I had my head up, looking around you would not believe what I saw and heard.

The best way to explain it is like this. You are on second base in a large stadium with the lights off. All of a sudden, they turn the lights on and there are 50,000 people yelling and screaming at the top of their lungs. The Korean's were banging on pots and pans blowing bugles in one mass attack. They were across the river and they were after our ass.


Writing about all the things that happened is very difficult for me because it brings back memories of things I do not like to think about. I try to forget, but it will haunt me until the day I die. Everything I write about I am reliving as I write it.


It seemed like everywhere we went we were finding GIs who had been executed. I know from first hand what they do to Americans, dead or alive. They do not take many prisoners and if they do, some are better off dead. This was our biggest fear, getting caught by the North Koreans.


As I slid the door open inside there was a young Korean girl that was covered with blood from the waist down. There lying on a blanket was a baby that was just born. I mean it hadn't even been cleaned up or anything. It had to be born when we walked into the courtyard. That is why the mama-san was going crazy. She must have thought I was going to shoot all of them.

"Well, Allen what in the hell do you do now?" We were ordered to send everyone out of the buildings and south down the road. I looked at the old mama-san and at the young Korean girl and they both looked at me. I took hold of the old woman pushed her in the room with the girl and her baby and closed the door. I reported to squad leader that the building was all clear.

I have often wondered if I did the right thing, you wonder what happened after we left? I may have done them more harm than good. In hindsight, I did what I thought was the right thing at the time.


Taejon was liberated and Charlie Company was given the honor of the liberation. Marching through what was left of the city brought back memories of all the death and misery that went on in July. We stayed in the area over night and moved out at daybreak toward the Kum River.


It is now late October, the UN forces have just about taken all of North Korea and we are in reserve and the rumor is that the 24th we will be in Japan and we will parade in front of General MacArthur. Lt. VanOrman went back to Japan to make arrangements for our return. We also turned in our ammunition and they were taking inventory of our equipment. It looked like the war was over for the 24th. Well we sure were in for a big surprise.


The Division was taken out of reserve and was sent north to support the M.L.R. I think we were in the area of Unsan, but where ever we were the name isn't important. What I am writing about is the main thing that counts, and the story is true to the best of my memory. C Company was to set up a roadblock to hold so the 1st Cavalry could pull back through our lines. They took a hell of a beating in Unsan and they were in bad shape.


We set up a line just south of the Yalu River. Everyone was waiting to see what the Chinese were going to do. We had a good Thanksgiving Dinner thanks to the company cooks. Hot food was a luxury and winter was starting to set in and it was getting cold at night. About Nov. 26 or 27 the Chinese made their move and came storming across the Yalu. They hit the whole front at once. We had about six divisions on the line while the Chinese had their whole army setting on the border.


When we finally stopped withdrawing south and set up a defense on the 38th parallel our moral was at rock bottom. In less than a week the UN was sitting on the Yalu River and when the Chinese came across we lost it all. It took us about three months to get to the border and the amount of casualties were unreal.

The Marines alone had 4,418. The 2nd Division lost 4,940 at the Battle of Kunu-ri. Our company lost a whole platoon plus officers and men. The Chinese just didn't seem like they had anything to live for, or they just didn't give a damn. When they made an attack they would blow their bugles and they would come at you wave after wave the more we would kill the more they would send.


Some of the events I write about may not be in the right order, but they did happen. Writing this is like watching a TV screen. I am seeing everything in my mind as I write it and it is very difficult to relive it. There are a lot of things that I wish I could forget, but it is impossible, even after all these years. It is strange sometimes that I can't remember what I did yesterday, but I can remember in detail what I was doing over 45 years ago.


In a short time the shelling stopped and there was this deadly calm. My heart was pounding so hard I was afraid the Chinese could hear it. After a short time the bugles started and you could hear the Chinese yelling and screaming. They were at some of the positions. The trip flares were going off and you could see them coming towards our positions on the hills. The machine gun on my left flank started firing about the same time I opened up with my B.A.R.

Everyone was trying to get that son of a bitch with the bugle. That is a sound that sends chills up and down your spine. Finally someone got him right in the middle of a toot. You could hear him go down.


He got some guys and started out yelling, "Allen bring up the rear with the AR." We made it down the hill and we were going through a deep ditch, there was a lot of snow and that made it all the more difficult to move very fast. VanOrman and the others were about 30 yards ahead of me while I brought up the rear.

All of a sudden, the Chinese had them surrounded. They were lying in the snow with white sheets covering themselves and we just walked into them. After I saw what had happened I could also see that I had a clear firing zone without hitting my own people. Besides that, I didn't think they saw me.

Just as I was about to open fire the Chinese jumped up and challenged me. They were just lying there waiting. I cannot put into words how I felt. Not knowing what their reaction would be at that time. Would they shoot me on the spot? All I can say is that if there was a course set for me to follow throughout my life it had changed forever at that moment.

Two things I knew for sure. One, I was alive. Two, I was a PRISONER OF WAR!