Missing officer’s wife tells of sudden move to war zone - (Task Force Smith)
Submitted by Al Silverstine
By MARY LOU YOUNG, The Standard-Star, New Rochelle, NY, Sept. 1950
Camp Wood, Kumaniato, Japan, was a “madhouse” the night of June 30, 1950, when the 21st Regiment, 24th Division, was alerted to be sent to Korea. The men had no previous warning that they were to be sent to Korea and assembling the troops at the last minute caused much commotion and confusion in the camp.
Events that night were told in an interview with Mrs. Frank J. Cosnahan, wife of Lieut. (Frank J) Cosnahan, who has been reported missing in action since July 12. Mrs. Cosnahan returned recently from Japan with their six months old son, Frank Jr. She is the former Miss Norma Calafati, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Angelo Calafati of 19 Beattie Lane.
The men had no idea they would be sent to Korea, Mrs. Cosnahan reported. The Air Force had gone in the day after the invasion of South Korea, but her husband did not think they would have to go. In fact, she said, he dreamed a few nights before that he was on his way to Korea. Telling her about it, he said, “Now isn’t that ridiculous!”
The couple had retired early that night, and at 11 P. M. the phone rang and a voice announced the ominous news. Lieut. Cosnahan was to report immediately to the camp to leave for Korea. They lived in a house a few miles from the base, and Lieut. Cosnahan told his wife she was to go with him to camp. They packed in “no time at all” and were on their way in 20 minutes. He had on “only his uniform, field pack, heavy helmet and rifle.”
When they arr1ved, it was as she said, “a madhouse.” They went to a friend’s home, and Mrs. Cosnahan and young Frank stayed there. After her husband left, Mrs Cosnahan sat up all night with other officers’ wives, drinking coffee. She recalled the only warning they had that the war in Korea might affect them was a blackout the night before.
Lt. Cosnahan went to a camp a few miles away and while there, “called me about 20 times until it was a ‘standing joke,” she said.
Mrs. Cosnahan is confident her husband is either a prisoner of war or in hiding. For more than the two months she was there after her husband left, reports came in about men reported missing, hiding for several days in the hills, returning to their outfits or being prisoners of war.
She learned later from a sergeant who returned from the fighting and had been with Frank, that “they were surrounded by the North Koreans, ran out of ammunition and were throwing rocks at the Reds.” Then, “they ran in every direction,” and the sergeant fortunately got back.
Mrs. Cosnahan is bitter that so few men were sent in at that time without being fully prepared or knowing what it was all about or why they were sent to Korea.
At about this time, Lt. Cosnahan’s mother, Mrs. Alice Cosnahan of Mount Vernon, put through a call to her daughter-in-law in Japan. Her son’s wife said she couldn’t say then that her husband had left for Korea for safety reasons.
But the interpreter, a woman who also acted as operator, also had been ‘given’ strict orders that she was not to say where the Regiment had gone told the Lieutenant’s mother that he “is in Korea.”
After the call, Mrs. Cosnahan said she grabbed the woman shook her and warned her not to do it again. But she did a few minutes later in a call from another anxious mother in Pennsylvania. Mrs. Cosnahan reported her to the authorities who said she had been under surveillance as a Communist for some time. The operator was later rounded up with several others.
‘Seoul City Sue’
During the days that followed at the camp, the wives listened every night to Seoul City Sue as the GIs call her, and then to later programs on which prisoners of war spoke. This program was authentic said Mrs Cosnahan “because I knew the men and recognized their voices as the other women did.”
Seoul City Sue, however, did not give authoritative information, and the boys “didn’t like her because she was too old and her voice wasn’t ‘sexy,’”
Mrs. Cosnahan related that in articles in Stars and Str1pes it was reported that Seoul City Sue announced that a certain soldier was killed in action and that while she was announcing it, the soldier was listening in with other fellows in his outfit and said “Look at me. The walking dead.”
Since she’s been home, Mrs. Cosnahan has been searching the newspapers for pictures of prisoners of war hoping to find her husband in one of them She say’s she is not going to worry about the atrocities reported because they couldn’t all be cruel.
For example she related that a friend of her husband who had been a prisoner of war in Japan during the last war had three Japanese guards who were very good to him, and since his return there have been his best friends. [end]
I knew Norma Calafati and the Calafati family, and thought Taro Leaf readers would be interested in this clipping from The Standard-Star, New Rochelle, NY, September 1950. It gives one of the few eye-witness accounts of the night of 30 June 1950 when the first orders from 8th Army headquarters in Tokyo had been received at Camp Wood, leading to the formation of Task Force Smith, a reconstituted 1st Battalion of the 21st Infantry Regiment and soon after, containing additional personnel of the 19th and 34th Regiments.
Sadly, Mrs. Cosnahan who narrated this article, did not get her wish regarding the status of her husband, 2nd Lt. Frank J. Cosnahan, who was announced as KIA as of 12 July 1950.
After her return to the US, she was contacted by a close friend of her husband, 2nd Lt. Ollie “O.D.” Connor. Lt. Connor had been awarded the Silver Star medal for his heroic actions at Osan on 5 July 1950 where he fired 22 rounds from his 2.36” rocket launcher at attacking NKA T-34 tanks, disabling two of them and slowing the enemy’s movements.
Eventually Mrs. Cosnahan and Lt. Connor married, moved to Texas where they raised two children and enjoyed a long and happy marriage.
89 Harding Dr.
New Rochelle NY 10801-4641
The Taro Leaf, Vol 64(2) Spring 2010, pg. 14-15.