Korean vets couldn't cancel their war
An acquaintance asked me to help him write the story of his experiences in the Korean War for his family. He served in the U.S. Army and participated in the amphibious landing at Inchon, near Seoul, South Korea, and shortly thereafter was in another amphibious operation landing at Iwon, North Korea, on his way to the Chosin Reservoir.
In helping him write his story, I did a lot of research and I have been mentally comparing the recent arctic blasts of cold air in our part of the world to what occurred in Korea in November and December of 1950. Many of the soldiers and Marines who fought at the Chosin Reservoir did not have anything close to the cold weather gear we all wear today. They endured temperatures that remained constant day and night along with Siberian winds. And 30 degrees below zero or much lower was often the norm rather than an exception. In that environment they fought the invading Chinese Army “volunteers,” who outnumbered our men at a ratio of 10 to 1. During the battles around the reservoir and the fighting retreat we lost one-third of the force. And virtually everyone had some cold weather injury ranging from mild to severe.
Canceling school classes and other activities today is certainly the right thing to do but these men couldn’t cancel their war. So, if you think you’re really cold, picture yourself in a foxhole on a snow-covered mountain wearing just long johns, a cotton uniform, a field jacket and liner, uninsulated leather boots, a hat with thin earflaps and gloves that hardly keep your hands warm at all. And then understand that you have to stay awake because if you sleep, you will freeze to death. Doesn’t seem quite as cold, does it?
So, the next time you meet a Korean vet, please show them you haven’t forgotten.
PETE ABLER is a Crosslake resident who writes a column for the Echo Journal.