Saturday, August 12, 2017

2 Marines took first Korean conflict to a whole new level

Epic latrine
      While a real and a wannabe dictator hurl childish, but nuclear, taunts at each other these days, a friend who was there recalled an event that took the first Korean conflict down to a human level.  After all who better to describe war instead of the people at the podiums than a grunt who was there getting shot at and digging holes? My friend Joe May posted this on facebook Aug. 11. You see, he was a kid Marine on the 38th Parallel when the cease-fire was signed ending the last "war" with North Korea, July 27, 1953. His recollection of that episode puts a human face on that situation along with putting a human butt on it as well.

By Joe May
Used by permission
Copyright © Joe May
     This outhouse sits/sat atop a hill almost exactly on the 38th parallel, the dividing line between North and South Korea. It's/was located on the DMZ south of Panmunjom, the place where the armistice that ended hostilities was signed. Part of my regiment, the 1st Marines, was camped there awaiting a home bound troop ship
     Bored, antsy, and untethered, a buddy and I got into some alcohol fueled trouble, were hauled before the Colonel, and rather than chance a court martial accepted an alternative “hard” duty assignment ... to dig a much needed outhouse. Five feet by five feet by thirty five feet deep ... took thirty days ... exactly the length of the punishment detail and the arrival of our ship. It turned out to reputedly be the deepest outhouse in all Korea.
     We took turns up and down, Ski and me, one of us at the bottom of the hole with a short-handled pick and shovel, the other on top with a rope and bucket to haul up the rocks and dirt ... from sun-up until sundown ... every day ... all day. We actually hit water at 35 feet. The result was the finest outhouse in the 1st Marine Division sector, if not the entire United Nations Forces group (Aussies, Kiwis, Turks, French Foreign Legion, UK (Limey), Canadians, et al).
     Our original altercation was over a drunken dispute with the company commander over "democracy & freedom." We were supposedly in a quarantined position with a prohibition against alcohol. Buddy and I got our hands on a couple cases of beer from a motor pool outfit in the rear, and on a nice sunny day got roaring drunk and had the misfortune to be sitting in the middle of a rice paddy road when the Captain came along in his jeep. He asked us to move  and we refused (we were really smashed).  Needless to say, he and his driver took our rifles away from us and "locked" us up in a tent (can you believe that) overnight and hauled us to regiment in the morning. Colonel gave us a choice of a pro-forma summary court martial for "gross" insubordination or 30 days off the record hard labor with nothing going into our record. Ski already had 2 Summaries on his record and stood to end up in Leavenworth or somewhere like it with one more. We took the 30 and thanked the Colonel. I think he was smiling when we left his tent.
   The upside was that the division commander got wind of it, and because hostilities had ended, decided to lift the alcohol ban. A few days later the entire division was given a 2-can per day beer ration. For a few days Skoloski and May were heroes to the entire 1st Marine Division. After the ration went into effect the company supply grunt would bring a can for each of us up the hill to the dig every afternoon. The hauler guy on top would let a can down in the bucket to the digger guy at the bottom. We were literal heroes within the company. 
     Ski was nearly at his discharge date and to complete the 30 day work detail .... last night when we finished work I poured buckets of water over him for a clean-up. A jeep was waiting and took him to the airstrip where he caught a lift  to Seoul and the main air base where he caught a cargo flight to Hawaii and a commercial flight to San Francisco where his discharge was waiting for him when he landed. I had a month to wait for a regular troop movement with a ship. 
     Ski enlisted as a private and was discharged a private after four years of service ... with Bronze Star and Purple Heart. His proudest moment was receipt of a handwritten letter from the Regimental Commander stating that he, the Colonel, would personally like to see Pvt. Skolosky promoted to Private First Class upon discharge “in recognition of valor in combat," however, Pvt. Skolosky's “disciplinary record," regrettably,  prevented any possibility of that ... he said. We opened some beers.
     I had one letter from Ski when he got back to the States....said he had his feet up on a  beer case with a  pretty girl opening cans for him. These things sometimes have happy endings.
     Whether our outhouse is still standing is unknowable, but if it is, I fear it may become a casualty of President Trump's ongoing dither with Kim Jong Un. It lays heavy on my mind tonight.
     Unheard from in years, my digging partner, Pvt. Skoloski, above or below ground in Upper Darby, PA, probably shares that same apprehension. We can only hope.
     Ski was my hero .... in the fullest tradition of Chesty Puller ... loyal as they come and profane to a fault.

     Semper Fi old friend, wherever you are, and don't worry about our outhouse. It's history either way.

1 comment:

Interesting quotations

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeare on Twitter

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My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

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“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

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Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

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One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

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You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

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"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

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