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

· " “Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” — Ernest Hemingway

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth. Kurt Vonnegut

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque, if you cashed the cheque and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Stephen King

The thing about ignornance is, you don't have to remain ignorant. — me again"

Never debate with someone who gets ink by the barrel" — George Hayes, former Alaska Attorney General who died recently

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

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

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

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

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

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

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”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

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

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

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

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

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

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

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

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

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