Story of a New Infantryman—April 1951
By Harold G. Palmer edited & submitted by Larry Gay, Historian
Private Harold G. Palmer joined Company “L” of the 19th Infantry online just east of the town of Chip’ro-ri, NK, which was located about nine miles above the 38th Parallel on Apr 21, 1951. Palmer, and another replacement named Kline (see footnote) were assigned as ammo bearers in a light machine gun squad of the 4th Platoon. Their Squad Leader, Sgt. Schmith, positioned them down-slope from the crest of Hill 543. They were to dig-in and not to fire their M-1’s to the their front because King Company was located about 100 yards in front of their position.
The Chinese began the 1st Phase of the 5th Campaign the night of April 22 across the central front. They hit the 24th Infantry Division across their entire front with a focus on regimental boundaries located on the ridge lines. King Company was on the 19th’s right flank and joined the 2nd Battalion of the 5th RCT on the ridge leading to Hill 795. The north-south ridge on which Hill 795 was located was one of the routes the Chinese used to try to attack the 24th.
Palmer and Kline began receiving enemy mortar and artillery on the nights of April 22-23, and they were ordered to move to the reverse slope and dig-in. But even there, enemy artillery rounds were hitting the tops of the trees and wood splinters and metal shards were hitting all around them. Kline could not take it any longer; he ran to the top of the ridge and threw a grenade toward the enemy. But the grenade hit one of the men from “K” Company, and Palmer remembered the man cussing Kline and Palmer as he was placed on a litter.
The Chinese overran King Company, which pulled back through Love Company positions during the early morning of April 23.
Palmer picks up the story from there. Sgt. Schmith came up to our hole and said: “I’ll see you in the morning,” and threw something on the ground. It got quiet about this time and Kline and I relaxed some before daylight. Kline got out of our fox-hole and said: “Here comes a carrying party.” We knew they used Koreans to carry supplies. He hollers at them and they started to shoot at us. They were Chinese! If they could shoot as good as GI’s, we would be dead. The bullets kicked up dirt all around us and I jumped back in the foxhole; Kline ran up the trail to the top of the mountain.
I told myself: “Hell, if he can make it up there so can I.” When I ran from the foxhole, I saw the two boxes that Sgt. Schmith had thrown down. I picked them up and ran to the top of the hill. But there was no one there, so I picked the trail to my right. Luck was still with me as I came off the ridge a ways and a GI hollered at me and asked what I was carrying. I told him I didn’t know for sure. He told me to come over. I did and he told me it was ammo for their gun. He was glad to get the ammo, and told me to stay there and put me on the machine gun. He told me the Chinese would be coming through the gap between the mountains in a little while.
Hell, he had no more finished saying that when the Chinese came. He told me not to fire until he told me to fire. I figured that I had about 300 rounds and I thought he was letting too many of enemy through. Looked like 50 or more.
He said open fire! And told me to run when I ran out of ammo. Well, I shot the hell out of them as they were marching and running about four abreast. But, they did not stop. They just continued to come forward even though the bullets were hitting them. Those that got through ran up the mountain.
Later the Major told me that although it was my first combat it came natural to me.
The two men from Love Company’s machine gun were named Singleton and Pendleton. If you go to war, these are the kind of men you want with you in battle.
Harold G. Palmer, “L” Company, 19th Inf. Regiment
2216 Glenraven Avenue
Gastonia, NC 28052
Footnote. A Pfc. Donald G. Kline was wounded on 27 Jun 51. This was the day after Sgt. Roberts was wounded. Could Donald G. Kline be the one who joined “L”/19th with Harold Palmer on 21 Apr 51? Edited by Larry Gay, Historian, 30 Sep 08.
The Taro Leaf, Vol 63(2) Spring 2009, pg.