The 24th in Korea July 1955 to October 1956
by Glenn Richardson, “F” 34th Infantry
Thank you for the history of the 24th Infantry Division. I found it very interesting, but I wanted to let you know the 24ID was on station in South Korea until late in the year 1956 or perhaps early 1957.
While at Ft Lewis the only thing I knew was that I was going to South Korea, but no idea what unit or where I would be. We left Seattle aboard the USS General Mann on 2 July 1955 and arrived off shore at Inchon after a brief stop in Yokohama to drop off dependents.
Inchon still didn't have docks due to the high tides so we made our way ashore via LCT's. As we approached shore, I tried to imagine what it must have been like during the war when the Inchon Landing was executed and how lucky we were that the cease fire took effect in 1953. We were loaded onto "cattle trucks" and taken to the “I” Corp reception center.
I remember seeing my first Korean female and thought “16 months is going to be a long time here.” But, they began to look better and better as time went by.
After a few days doing the usual Army "wait and see" in Inchon, I arrived at Foxtrot Company, 34th Infantry Regiment, 24th ID. I arrived in mid July of 1955 on the DMZ by way of the 24th Repo Depot at Munsan-Ni.
I was lucky enough to draw guard duty at the Repo Depot, where they gave me a German Sheppard to patrol the fences to watch for Korean “Slicky” Boys (thieves). When that dog heard tin cans rattle it was all I could do to hold him back.
The 34th’s mission on the DMZ on the North side of the Imjin River was to create a delaying action in the event the NKA decided to end the cease fire. They briefed us by saying the bridges would be blown in the event of an attack and that if we weren't able to hold the line our way back across the river was via DUCKS.
Our being ordered to the front-line bunkers a couple days prior to the anniversary of the cease fire was an exciting, and somewhat scary experience. The daily routine consisted of around the clock daily patrols (vehicular and on foot), guard details, work details to repair and improve the fortifications along our side of the DMZ, improvements to our company and battalion areas, and of course, thinking about winter coming on because we were still living in squad tents.
When we were really feeling sorry for ourselves, it only took remembering what those before us had done to bring the war to a cease fire to get us back to reality.
Like all GI's throughout the history of our country we all wished we were back home, and Christmas 1955 was a day I will never forget.
We sat around singing Christmas carols and sharing gift boxes of goodies from home.
Every company in the 34th was under strength when I arrived. They had arrived that way after having been deployed from Japan to replace the 1st Cavalry in late 1954 or early 1955.
The only officer assigned to our unit was a 1st Lt who was our CO. We had a very capable Field First in MSGT Julian McGee, Durham, NC and a First Sgt, MSGT Robert Cosby, Aliquippa, PA. (Cosby was my platoon leader when I first arrived but was later promoted to First Sgt.) Most of the platoon leaders were SFC's.
I was assigned to the 1st Platoon and issued a BAR. I only weighed in at 140 pounds and it didn't take me long to decide there had to be a better job than lugging around a 20 pound weapon.
So, I volunteered (yes volunteered) to replace the company clerk when his drop came to rotate home. What I didn't know when I volunteered was that when we went into the field or to the DMZ, I became the CO's radio operator!
Capt Heard liked to run. On road marches we would start at the head of the column but he liked to stop and let the entire company go by to check out the men. Then we would run back to the head of the column.
There was a lot of interesting reading in the old morning reports. Now I wish I had a copy machine.
At one point during the war Foxtrot's manpower included a Captain, one MSGT and 4 enlisted men. Everyone else had been KIA, wounded or captured.
We had 40 plus KATUSA's (Koreans Attached to the United States Army) assigned to our company to bring the platoon up nearer full strength. But, even with these guys my rifle platoon only had 7- man squads and four of the 7 were KATUSA's.
Later, the units were brought up to full strength and we had a full contingent of officers including Captain Richard T. Heard, San Antonio, TX as the CO.
I'll never forget one young ROTC 2d Lt (I think his name was Riser) that joined us, prior to Capt Heard’s assignment. He had the idea that he was going to shape the company up. He wanted to have full dress company formations twice a month with all our patches properly applied.
The NCO's had previously told us to turn in our Class A's to supply for storage because we wouldn't need them until we were lucky enough to draw R&R in Japan.
Prior to the initial dress formation some of us paid one of the house boys to sew the Taro Leaf patch on the Lt's uniform "up side down." The LT showed up at the formation all decked out and immediately knew how he was out of uniform. No more dress uniforms until Capt Heard came on the scene.
Another memorable event was the first USO show I went to. Because we were classified as being in a war zone we were armed, but after a few guys shot off some rounds, the brass said no more ammo at USO shows.
In the Spring of 1956 we moved to the rear area near Paju-Ri having switched positions with either the 19th or 21st, I don't remember which.
The daily training continued which involved maneuvers with some other units doing simulated war games. On the plus side we moved into metal buildings that were a lot more comfortable as they had electricity all the time. And we could occasionally get a weekend pass to Seoul.
We also had a Community Center nearby that included a theater and snack bar run by the USO. A group of my friends, 12 in total, converged on the snack bar and placed our order for 36 hamburgers, 12 milkshakes and 24 orders of French fries. We had a great time.
We were still getting a monthly ration of 2 six-packs of 3.2 beer and 2 cartons of cigarettes, but since I didn't smoke or drink, I made some extra money selling or trading my ration to others.
We were still issued military script on paydays so when we had the opportunity to go on R&R we were able to exchange the script for Yen at Camp Drake in Japan.
I rotated home in October 1956 with a seven-day delay in route in Honolulu where I had a great time meeting up with a couple guys I'd graduated high school with as their ships were in port.
The rumor was we were going to be reassigned somewhere in Europe as this was the time of the Hungarian Revolt.
I believe the 24th ID did finally rotate to Europe because one of my friends from Hawaii still had time before his enlistment was up and went with the unit.
I've been back to South Korea twice since 1956. Once was a pleasure trip (my wife said I wanted to find my foxhole) and we did have an opportunity to visit the old Regimental area near Paju-Ri. ROK forces had taken over the entire area and while we were able to make it up to Libby Bridge (Named for Medal of Honor winner, Sgt Libby) we weren't permitted to cross the Imjin.
In 2001 I returned to South Korea with my brother, Bernard R. Richardson who was with the 2nd Division. He had gone into Korea via Pusan just after the war started in 1950. He was with the 2nd ID Quartermaster in charge of fuel distribution all the way to the Yalu and back to Seoul.
He passed away last year but we talked many times about our trip back. It was a highlight for him as well as me.
We made the trip as part of the three year celebration of the end of the war in 1953 at the invitation of the ROK Veteran's Association.
When we arrived at the Seoul International Airport (formerly K-19) there was a thirty man Honor Guard of Korean Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines lined up to greet us. We were treated like royalty and toured the country from Pusan to Panmunjom including the opportunity to go into one of the many caves the NKA had dug under the DMZ. Other than a small contingent of a US Army outfit at Panmunjom the entire sector had been turned over to the ROKA.
This is probably more than you have space for but it did me good to remember the many guys I served with; I wonder where they are now.
I've been able to keep in touch with a few guys that live in Hawaii and interestingly enough, I was walking down the street in Lima, Ohio several years ago and saw a man coming toward me. I said, “is that you Gamble?” It was Oscar Gamble, one of the guys from Foxtrot. I've tried unsuccessfully to find others. One of the reasons I joined the Association was to find others.
I keep in touch with Jim Long from Huntington, IN; he and I grew up together and joined the army together under the buddy system. We were together through basic at Ft Bliss, Ft Carson and Ft Lewis until we rotated home from Korea in 1956.
I mustered out as an E-5 at Ft Hayes in Columbus, OH on 25 Jan 1958 having spent three great and important years growing up with the Army. Since becoming a member of the 24th IDA I, unfortunately haven't become active. My plan was to attend the annual reunion in South Dakota but due to my wife's illness I had to forgo those plans. Unfortunately my wife, Ellen E. Van De Walle passed away on 31 Dec 2009. I'm planning to attend the next reunion in Niagara Falls.
Another dream I have, as a regular volunteer with Habitat for Humanity here in Hendersonville, NC is to lead or join a Habitat Global Village team to South Korea.
My wife and I served as team leaders with Habitat GV to Gliwice, Poland in 2006 and 2007. We were scheduled lead another team back to Poland in 2008 but her illness prevented us from doing so.
Glenn Richardson, 34th Inf, F
128 Eagle Rock Trail
Hendersonville, NC 28739
The Taro Leaf, Vol 64(3) Summer 2010, pg. 7-9.