Letter to Mother
by Beryl G.Smith, 26th AAA "A" Btry
This is a letter that I wrote and sent to my Mother after I got out of the hospital from my wounds. It tells how I got out of the battle zone and back to where I got medical help.
Forty years later we located sixty men from our Battery and began having Reunions and continued them for over ten years. We stopped due to the fact that we had lost many of our members due to death and health reasons.
Saturday, October 21, 1950
This is what happened when I was wounded in Korea on July 16.
On the day I got shot, July 16, 1950, I was in the 26th AAA Bty A attached to the 24th Division. We were at the Kum river north of Taejon. There were two roads that we were fighting on. The 21st Inf was on the road to the right. The 34th Inf and 19th Inf were on the left road.
My Battery had halftracks on both sides. We only had eight halftracks up there. Eight more were back at O.P. We had four halftracks on each side. I was on the side that the 34th Inf was on. I was a radio operator on a M-39 Personnel Carrier. My platoon leader Lt. Grimes from GA told PFC William Earley from Connecticut, a good friend of mine, to go to the other side where the 21st Inf was. We were to see if our halftracks needed any gas or anything. Earley requested that I ride shotgun for him.
We left in Earley’s jeep about 7:30 that morning. We reached the first halftrack about 8:30. It had anM-16 with four 50 cal machine guns on it. There were lots of North Korean artillery shells hitting all around, about 50 yards from where we were supposed to pass. Later we saw another one of our halftracks. It had a M-15 with a 37 mm, and two 50 cal machine gun on it, and it was on fire.
We were supposed to report to Lt. Mikuiski who was in charge of the four halftracks. But there were too many shells hitting around us so we didn’t try it. We asked the Sgt. in charge of the M-16 if there was anything that he needed. He said no, so we started back.
We had gone about a half a mile when we saw about three trucks stopped on the side of the road. When we got about 20 yards from the trucks we heard machine gun and rifle fire. There was a mountain on the left of us. When we looked at the mountain we could see the bullets hitting the side of the mountain. They were going right over our heads.
The North Koreans had set up a road block, so we couldn’t get out. Earley turned the jeep around and we went back about half way to where the halftracks were. There was an aid station there, so we stopped and ate our breakfast (C rations).
Then a US tank with an ambulance following it passed us heading for the road block, so we followed it. The tank reached the road block and one of its tracks came off. Then the ambulance hit the back corner of the tank blocking the road so we couldn’t get by. The North Koreans started shooting the ambulance full of holes. There were 6 or 7 men in it. They jumped out of the ambulance into the ditch on the side of the road. They then started shooting at us, so we jumped out of the jeep and into the ditch. The ditch was about a half foot deep and full of mud. It was a hot day and the cold mud felt pretty good to us.
All Earley and I had was a 45 cal. sub-machine gun and it wouldn't shoot very far. Then someone said there was a radio in a jeep only about ten yards from me, so they told me to get to the jeep and call the airfield at Taejon, and to have them send another ambulance from the other way. But when I got to the jeep the radio was dead.
I found a carbine in the jeep. I went back to the ditch and told them that the radio was dead. I then shot at a few North Koreans, they were all over the mountain in front of us, but you couldn't see many of them. Some GIs got into the tank and drove it into a rice patty.
Earley and I started to get into the jeep and go for some help, but when we looked at the jeep’s tires they were full of holes, so that was out.
Then about ten trucks and jeeps came down the road and as soon as they got in front of us the North Koreans started shooting at them. They jumped out of the trucks with the trucks still moving. Some of them rolled into the rice patties. All together there were about a 100 to 150 men in the ditch. Earley and I looked up to see a full Colonel walking down the middle of the road and we yelled for him to get down, but he just kept walking.
There was a 50 cal machine gun on the tank in the rice patty. Everyone there said that they didn't know how to shoot one. Since I had shot one before, I gave Earley my rifle and we ran across the road behind the ambulance then over to the tank. I climbed inside the M-24 tank and went up to the 50 cal machine gun.
I tried to fire it, but it wouldn't fire, it was jammed. I then pulled the bolt back and this un-jammed it. I tried it again and it fired OK.
I stayed there shooting for about an hour. Then I heard a shot and felt something hit me in the chest. I turned around and told Earley that I had been shot. The bullet went in the center of my chest and came out the side of my back.
I turned back around and started firing again. I fired about 10 to 15 more shots, then the gun jammed again. I reached up to pull the bolt back and fell down through the tank.
When I fell I hit my head and hurt my ribs and back. The bullet must have hit my lung. I lay there about five minutes gasping for breath. I couldn't feel a thing, then I passed out.
When l woke up l was still in the tank. I tried to get out of the tank but l couldn't move. This was about 4:30 pm.
About 30 minutes later I heard GI's up over me where the 50 cal was. I called to them for a long time, they finally heard me and came down into the tank and got me out. They laid me down beside the tank and gave me a very small drink of water. A Medic bandaged me up, gave me a shot and left me there.
I laid there until about 6:3o pm. I could see one of our halftracks stopped up the road, I tried to get up to get to the halftrack but couldn't move. I then tried to get to a rice patty to get some water, but I still couldn't move.
About 7:30 two GIs came down to where I lay. They put me on a stretcher and took me to a truck. There were about ten GIs on the truck, one had also been shot. The truck wouldn't run so they all jumped out and left me and the other guy that had been shot.
Then there was another shot, it hit my little finger and hit the other guy in the head. He fell over on me, I guess he was dead. I was a little out of my head and didn't have the sense to see if he was dead or not.
I knew I was going to get left there if I didn't do something. So this time I tried hard to get up, when I was setting up I looked down the road and I saw about 20 Koreans coming toward me. The guy that had gotten shot had a 45 pistol. I reached over and got it. I tried to shoot the pistol but I didn't have enough sense.
The Koreans went on by me. Then I saw about 20 more coming and I said to myself that I guess this is it, but they went on by also.
Then I got out of the truck some way. I wandered over to the ditch where Earley was before, but he was not there.
I fell into the ditch when my pants fell around my legs, I did not know that they had loosed my belt when they put me on the stretcher.
I finally got out and back on the road. There was a Colonel about 20 yards down the road. He was yelling “I am shot in the arm, help me,” and I yelled “go to hell.”
There were about six trucks that passed me, but they wouldn't stop. I guess they were afraid they would get shot at. The bullets were still coming and hitting all around me, but by then I didn't give a damn.
After awhile another truck came by and stopped. I got on the side of the truck and fell into the bed of the truck. I stood and tried to pull up my pants and machine gun bullets started hitting all around us. The driver of the truck yelled to a South Korean to hold me down. I would hit him and get back up to pull my pants up. Then this truck wouldn't start.
I guess I passed out and when I woke up I was in a trailer being pulled by a jeep. We had about 40 miles to go. We picked up some more guys that were shot up.
I passed out about every five or so minutes. Every time I woke up they would be stepping all over me. I would get up and then pass out again.
As they were loading me on a train going to Pusan at Taejon I asked the Medic where my 45 Pistol was and he said that I would not need it any more.
At Pusan they put me on a British Hospital Ship (The SS Maine) to Japan.
We got to Yokohama Japan July 24th, where they unload the wounded on stretchers on the dock. A man came over to my stretcher and asked the nurse where I was wounded. I looked up at the person and it was General MacArthur.
I hadn't anything to eat for eight days, because of where I was wounded, so when I got to Japan, I weighed about 104 lbs.
I stayed in the hospital till the last of August and then returned to Korea and to my Battery. I was glad to get back.
It was there that I found out that Lt. Grimes, Platoon Sgt. Jorgenson had been wounded and that Earley had been shot in both legs. And also that Lt. Mikuiski had been killed. And they were all in the same hospital that I was in and I didn't know it.
I stayed with the Battery about two weeks when it was determined that I was not fit for combat duty. I was sent back to the hospital in Pusan and was checked out and then sent to work in the Troop Movement Office.
Beryl G.Smith, 14659 NE 207 Pl. Fort McCoy FL 32134-4874 352-546-2908 26th AAA A Btry
The Taro Leaf, Vol 64(2) Spring 2010, pg.