The North Korean invaded the South in June of 1950. The 24th, the 25th and the 1st Calvalry Divisions were immediately sent over only because these units were located in southern Japan. They were all miles and miles closer to Korea than we were so it turned out, we were the last to go. Knowing that we too will soon find ourselves joining in this conflict, I immediatley wanted to know what my duties as a clerk in combat was going to be. Company commander informed me that I will play a vital part by being a runner and a messenger betweeen him and all his platoon leaders and since I had no desire being a messenger, I requested a transfer back into my old rifle squad. He must have been P.O.'d cause I ended up in the 4th platoon, the weapon's platoon as a gunner on the new 57 recoilless rifle.
Once we left Camp Crawford in July of 1950 to a staging area at the foot of Mt. Fuji, I saw less and less of Smitty and Takahashi. In the same company but different platoon made alot of difference in where we were located. We could be located here and they could have been somewhere over there--- only a few yards down the road. we trained at the bottom of Mt Fuji with a whole bunch of ROK'S (Republic Of Korea) soldiers and these were difficult times since none of the ROKS spoke English at all. In our squad, I had 3 of them as my ammo carriers. We finally left Mt. fuji and in September finally set foot on Korean soil when we landed in Inchon. No shots fired from our Regiment that I know of and after spending 5 nights on the outskirts of Seoul we travelled by trucks all the way down to Pusan. More training followed with the ROK's.
In early November, we landed in North Korea on the beaches of Wonsan(wrong city, should be Iwon) and still yet, no rounds fired from any of our weapons. We have still yet to see our first enemy. (comment: Most I Co Men agree that this statement is incorrect)It seems they all took off North to the Manchurian border. Now my aches and pains began to start. Carrying this recoilless rifle on my shoulder and five minutes on my left, back and forth carrying it over mountain tops and valleys.
Somewhere up there in those mountains, we had our last hot meal, our Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving Day.
On November 28th, we dug fox-hiles on the bottom of a snow covered hill with pine trees 300 to 400 yards to the top and pasture lands to our rear. Communications from top brass to the guys in the fox holes was stupidly poor. No one ever informed us what to expect but I am sure all the officers knew what was soon to come. Yes Karen, THEY CAME AND I FOR ONE, WAS NOT READY FOR THEM.
ON THIS SNOW COVERED AND BARE MOUNTAIN HILL WHERE OUR ENEMIES ARE EASILY SEEN, IN THE WEE HOURS ON THE MORNING OF NOVEMBER 29TH, THEY CAME. BUGLES BLOWING AND BY THE THOUSANDS---THEY CAME. My recoilless rifle was useless cause my ammo bearers were no where to be found. Can you imagine me carrying this heavy weapon on my shoulders for days and I never got to fire it at the enemies---ONCE. All I had was a little .45 pistol and I just kept firing away. Lucky for me that these Chinese soldiers were using burp guns with 25 calibers bullets cause one entered through my right wrist without blowing my hand away. Yes Karen, at long last, we finally got our first glimpse of our enemies and instead of them being Koreans, our enemies turned out to be chinese. And yes Karen, my very first encounter with the enemies and here I go---GETTING MYSELF SHOT.
I had no idea of how many in our outfit we had lost that morning but in the next few days, I assumed we lost many---wounded or gone.
Upon learning that I had taken a bullet that morning, Takahashi came to see me at the aide station and that was the last time I laid eyes on him. To this day, I've ne idea what actually had happened to him and all I know is, HE NEVER RETURNED HOME TO HIS FAMILY.
On December 2nd, with all the wounded in a huge convoy of trucks, IT WAS A RETREAT FROM HELL FOR THE 7TH INFANTRY DIVISION. It was a slow moving convoy and just a few miles down the road with darkness approaching the convoy completely stopped AND THEN ALL HELL CUT LOOSE. We were open targets to all the rounds of bullets that came flying into the trucks. I could hear the wounded besides me crying in pain of being hit again and again and lucky for me, being so close to the tail-gate of the truck, I jumped off and took off. Fifty yards from the truck, I got shot again. Once again and lucky for me, that bullet tore through my right forearm only 6 inches away from that first one, the one from 3 days ago. YES I WAS LUCKY, AND ALL THESE YEARS I KNEW HOW I WAS. If that 2nd gunshot had hit me in the head, my chest, my abdomen or even my legs, I would have been just another MIA or another KIA.
As I laid there in the snow with hands and feet now frozen, they came out of the hills in amazing numbers and started overturning our trucks. My mind is trying to block the owrst that I had experienced up there at the Chosin Reservoir and that was seeing and hearing our wounded yelling in pain, as they set afire to our trucks.I PRAYED AND OR HOW I PRAYED. I knew my life would end here and I'll never see my mom, my sister and my 3 brothers and all those dear to me---EVER AGAIN. Crazy as it seems, I wondered how my relatives can hold a funeral service for me, when my body is lost somewhere in this forsaken place. Yes Karen, I really did pray.
I crawled and crawled through frozen fields and over frozen reservoir and with the few lucky stragglers like me, trying to escape from where we came from. Once again, we were all lucky that instead of heading toward enemy lines, we made it to the 1st Marine Division. From there it was a plane ride back to Pusan.
Surgery in Pusan for my wrist and forearm and on to Tokyo by way of a hospital ship. Overnight in Tokyo and long enough to receive my Purple Heart and off for Hawaii the following morning.
With tears in my eyes, on December 12, 1950, we landed at Hickam AF Base in Hawaii. That night after my family was informed that I had returned home, I must have cried like a baby when they came to see me. They cried too cause I returned home---ALIVE and they cried upon learning that I would be facing amputations of both feet at the ankles and both hands at the wrist. Doctor informed me and my family that I will never climb a coconut tree---EVER AGAIN. There I was now in a warm hospital bed, just thinking that just a few days ago as I laid in the frozen landscapes of North Korea near the Chosin reservoir, see no hope of survival, cried and cried just to be alive....
see 3 drawings of Fukumae's hands and feet after frostbite and amputation.
Click to view the < href=http"//31rct.tripod.com/japamervet.html">Japanese American Veteran site and to read another letter by George about the friends that George had lost In Korea.
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