I remember Hill 1157
by Eugene Ames, “A” 21st Regiment
I remember Hill 1157.
We could see it the day before, looming up in the distance. We were told that we were going to move up to where the North Koreans held the top.
It was March 7, 1951.
They said it had snowed up there the night before. But it was thought there was no more than a platoon up there. And it was our job to take it from them. Piece of cake. Sure.
We picked up our gear and during the night hours they boarded us on trucks and then unloaded us just below the mountain.
We began the arduous ascent along a long twisting finger on the right side of the mountain. In single file, with very little banter and just the sound of tromping feet and the equipment rubbing against us.
Day began to break as we neared the crest. We were loaded down with bandoliers and ammo cans for the machine guns. The iced over, encrusted snow became a real problem. In the saddle of the mountain, with the weight of all the equipment, the icy crust would give way and we would find ourselves deep in snow right up to the crotch. We would have to lay prone on the snow and pull our legs out and try to get back on our feet.
It was extremely tiring and cold. The slow progress finally brought us to the high promontory. There was only a narrow place to get around to where the enemy was dug in. And only room enough for a squad or two to get in position.
Two men were sent out on point to locate the enemy. One was Donald Fortner, the other was a Greek kid named James Tsitsinos. They weren’t gone long when we heard some muffled explosions. One was shot and the other had his throat slit, a hand grenade put down his field jacket and both were thrown off the cliff. From time to time, I had to pull point. It could have been me.
We began to receive rifle and machine gun fire. The day began to wane and there was little place to get a foot hold. We would slide down after firing shots and would have to re-position ourselves. It was a hell of a place to be. There was an enemy machine gun nest at the bottom of the rocky knoll and also fire coming from the top. The enemy had us contained. No place to dig in that rocky ground! Only the cover of darkness protected us.
We fought all night, returning enemy fire. My field gloves had three digits worn through and my fingers were exposed to the bitter cold. The receiver on my Ml rifle was very cold and working the bolt and securing 8 round ammo clips was extremely difficult. After a while I put the clips in with my knuckles and then tried to put them in with my left hand. But I managed.
As day break came, we heard a wimp, wimp, whup and didn’t know what the sound was at first. (Sometimes incoming artillery shells sound like that.) But then, here comes a helicopter.
Over the trees, sideways! Never had seen a helicopter before then. It was very close to us and with its sides open, it fired on the enemy with a recoilless rifle. Man, what a sight! How elated we were to see that!
Shows of disbelief and excitement! It fired on the enemy and knocked them off the knoll. Later a flame thrower was moved up and that took care of the rest. A couple of the enemy came out, waving white flags. But our guys were so incensed and infuriated about Fortner and Tsitsinos, that they all opened fire. No prisoners that day (that I know of).
I believe that this was the first time a helicopter had been used in this fashion. Prior to this, they had been used to transport casualties. This is just one of many incidents burned into my memory that fifty-eight years hasn’t faded away.
Eugene Ames, A Company, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2711 39th Ave. W, Bradenton, FL, 205-3540,
The Taro Leaf, Vol 64(1) Winter 2010, pg. 37.