Don's own words sum it up best: "I remember all that happened to me in my 14 months and 20 days in the far East. I also remember faces, but few names. There were so many I never got to know, many of them younger than my 19 years. The faces whose names I will never forget are Toth, LT Wilson, Higa, Jaime, Peoples, CPT Joy, Merchant, Bilecki, Jamerino and Jordan. I am 64 now and a semi-invalid, but in my mind I am forever that 19 year old infantryman, humping the hills and mountains of Korea with a pack on my back and a rifle in my hand. I came home 44 years ago, but a part of me will always be in Korea. Some nights I still fight the battles, climb the hills, hunch over fires, wonder how I made it home and shed tears for those who didn't."
Passed away December 28th 1999
Here is an excerpt on an article about Don from the Pro Patria Press, the 31st Regiment Assciation Newsletter, originally published in October 1995.
In September, Don found himself on a C-47 leaving from McChord Field, Washington, with stop overs at Nome and Shemya, Alaska before landing at Haneda Air base in Tokyo. He was assigned to the 7th Division at Camp Zama and the next day was on a train to Yokohama where he went to sea in the middle of Typhoon Zenia aboad the USNS Buckner. Half the troops on board were Koreans who spoke no English. Don slept in a gun turret because there were too few bunks. At sea, he was assigned to I Company 31st Infantry. On 19 September, he landed at Inchon and was awarded the CIB a week later at Osan. In just two weeks, he had for the first time in his life ridden a plane, been at sea, gone overseas, and gone into battle among men he hardly knew. He was just 19 years old.
While the Eighth Army was pushing north from Pusan, the 7th Division headed south to Pusan. There, the 31st Infantry boarded the USNS Patrick and landed at Iwon, North Korea. Don was east of the Chosin Reservoir when the Chinese entered the war and was among the very few who managed to fight their way out via Hagaru-ri and down the Sinhung Valley to Hamhung in weather that reached -42 degrees. After the 31st Infantry was evacuated to Pusan aboard the USNS Mitchell, Don was reassigned to A Company because I Company had been nearly annihilated.
Don's company met the Chinese again at Tonyang in central Korea in January 1951. On 5 June, they helped repel a fierce Chinese assault at Hwachon. There, a bullet passed through his squad leader's head as Don looked him in the face. He was CPL J.C. Toth of Atwood, KS, a reservist who had fought in the Pacific during World War II. After being hit in the leg by mortar fire, Don was transferred to Osaka Army Hospital in Japan. After three operations and 6 weeks in the hospital, he was back on the line. In October 1951, Don rotated back to the States, one of the few men remaining who had gone ashore at Inchon just over a year earlier. He was discharged at Ft Ord, CA in March 1953.
The following is a poem submitted by Don to the 31st Newsletter. The poem was found on a body of a soldier killed in Korea.
Do not stand by my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush.
Of quiet birds in circled flight,
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand by my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die.
Note: Some of the pictures in the Chosin Few album are copies from Don's pictures that were sent to other I Company survivors.
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