‘A veteran remembers’ is the story of Eugene Schmid, an army veteran who served in the Korean War. He is also a brother to Gays Mills resident Virginia Murphy, and was born and raised in Plain, Wisconsin. This is the second of four weekly segments.
I got my first glimpse of the ravages of war. Bombed buildings, damaged vehicles, orphaned children, some with only a shirt on. They crowded the train looking for a handout, tried to barter for cigarettes or sell eggs. Eleven eggs tied in a shaft of rice straw, probably just the shells.
Korean men were trying to chase the children away with clubs. We arrived at battalion headquarters early evening in mid-April 1951.
After the funeral of my army buddy, in November 2015, my wife asked me to record my memories. I never spoke about them because I would dream about them at night. Now after 65 years, I will try.
The battalion commander talked with six or seven of us replacements, stating that the Chinese tried to break through for two previous nights. He had 50 tanks in the valley behind him. He told us to bunk down in a little gully there and we would be assigned to a company in the morning.
Just after midnight, they woke us to quietly take our gear and get on top of a loaded truck. We rode for several hours before dismounting and reorganizing.
While waiting beside the road our fighters were marching in, and low and behold my buddy was among them. He was dirty, sweaty and had a huge boil on the back of his neck. He had already endured a week of combat.
I was assigned to company A, but a different platoon than that of my buddy. As a result, we didn’t see a lot of each other.
We marched south for about six days and then set up a defensive line just across the Han River. This strategy was to lengthen the supply lines and disrupt them. A tank was stationed just behind me on a knoll. I had a foxhole between the tank and a small village. The villagers had been ordered out!
I sat on the edge of my foxhole and observed a man maneuvering a water buffalo. The people in the tank lobbed several rounds of 90-millimeter shells at them.
Suddenly, I heard a whiz and about two feet of sod went flying back past me, just inches from my side. I scrambled down into my foxhole. There was no more activity and I realized that it was a ricochet from the tank. I was very lucky!!!!
Later that night, the Chinese came down the road and our forces ambushed them. They did not get close enough to me to shoot.
In the morning, we had to walk through them, looking for survivors, being wary of booby traps. It was my first encounter dealing in enemy dead.
We began to advance north again. I was made assistant squad leader under a wonderful National Guardsman from Alabama. While advancing toward a hill, we met enemy resistance and so we dug in and called for air support.
The squad leader spread the squad out and said, “Schmid you and I will dig here.” We had a hole partially dug and stopped to watch the planes strike the hill.
“Don’t you think we should dig?” I said.
“If we have to, we can dig,” he replied.
About that time, an artillery shell landed in front of us. By the time the next one landed behind us, we were making like Badgers.
Several weeks later, while canvassing a mine field, someone tripped a mine, which killed my squad leader. I was really shook up and my platoon sergeant escorted me to the rear of the formation.
Things seemed to be moving at a fast pace now. Late one evening, we ascended one hill which had a small flat top. The Chinese had dug a trench around the perimeter. The Air Force had strafed it about a week earlier and the decaying bodies were still there. My buddy and I were both there and we discussed the situation. C rations were dropped in for us but eating was a challenge.
Later on, we occupied a hill which the Chinese had trenches dug around leading back to a bunker.
I pulled a shift of guard and then reclined in the bunker on the luxury of an air mattress. I was just about asleep when I thought the air mattress had sprung a leak. I raised up and couldn’t hear it, but when I laid back down I could hear it. I realized it was a snake crawling on the rubber mattress. I began to kick the hell out of it. When I stopped the commotion the other guard was at the entrance with his rifle drawn.
On the 28thof May 1951, we crossed a river by wading through it. In the deepest part we had to step from rock to rock. The story circulated that one guy took his boots off and carried them. In the middle of the river, he slipped and lost them. I don’t know how he fared then as we were way out in front.
That night, we had more Chinese activity behind us than in front of us. It was decided to leave our equipment with one squad to guard it and the rest to go back and eliminate the menace. They encountered about 80 Chinese sleeping in an old brick factory and took them prisoner. In returning to our equipment, we decided that those left to guard our equipment had been caught sleeping. Two made a ‘run’ for it, one was wounded, and the other seven were taken prisoner.
After advancing a little farther, we came upon them at the base of a cliff with their hands tied behind their backs, and had been executed. After such a turnabout, our forces didn’t take prisoners until ordered to do so.Part one of this story can be found at: https://www.swnews4u.com/local/spotlight/part-one-of-four-a-veteran-remembers/