I had a bad night last night, one filled with dreams and memories of my time in combat – six months of front line duty with the 15th Infantry Regiment, four of them as a scout for which I foolishly volunteered. Tomorrow is the 10th of June. Sixty years ago, on the 10th, I was on a daytime patrol. I never enjoyed those, you always got shot at by someone and if you have once heard a bullet go past your head from a sniper, you would just as soon not have another one. Anyway, after returning safely, I was looking forward to a night of sleep but that didn’t work out either. After dark all hell broke loose with a mass attack by the Chinese, which didn’t let up until mid-morning. It was the start of an eight day battle which featured five nights of mass attacks. I was there for all of the mass attacks and came out of it alive as a result of luck on one occasion and "combat smarts" on two other occasions.
It may interest family and friends that my lowest moments occurred at the time of the truce, which took event at 10:00 O’clock Korean time, I was on the front line in the mountains east of the Chowan valley. The artillery fire was heavy that night – going both ways. I and those around me stuck deep in our holes, not wishing to be the last ones killed in the Korean conflict. Towards 9:00 our artillery tapered off, stopping completely at 9, but the Chinese artillery continued to be heavy, then as 10:00 approached it also tapered off, stopping completely at 10. I remember climbing out of my hole and looking down in the valley behind us, surprised by the heavy traffic on the road, as one vehicle after another turned on it’s lights – I had had no idea as to the amount of traffic on the road in the valley. I simply sat and watched it. The reader who has never been in such a situation might be surprised by the emptiness I felt. My life no longer had any purpose, any meaning. I felt completely alone. Others must have felt the same as they climbed from their holes, as there was no talk among us, simply a silence, an emptiness.
When morning light came, I was equally surprised by the Chinese traffic in front of us – not vehicles but donkeys or similar animals carrying heavy packs on their backs in the trenches in front of us. Those trenches had to be much deeper than we had suspected, be caused we had never had any suspicion of that traffic. I remember lying there and sighting in my rifle and wondering how many I could shoot before they got into cover, but deciding I didn’t want to restart the war. Anyway, that is what I woke up remembering – sixty years later. It was an unpleasant awakening. I think I’ll stop writing this and begin re-reading an old Nero Wolf mystery; perhaps it will take my mind away from those thoughts.
One of the cats must have attacked the wren nest that was on the shelf on the back porch. I’m sorry about that, but not completely sorry that it is empty – one featherless infant body lying on the shelf next to the nest. Because of its proximity to where I sat, I had quit having my morning coffee and pipe on the back porch before getting dressed and moved to the front porch. That didn’t bother me when Joyce visited, as she is practically a member of the family and has caught me in my underwear before, but it was a shade embarrassing to be sitting there and wave to members of the church as they arrived on Sunday morning.
I see that retired professional football players are suing the league for injuries they suffered while playing football. Reading it, I wondered if they suffered those injuries while playing professional football or while playing little league, junior high school, high school and college football, of course professional football has more money than little league parents. Sorry, but football is a violent sport. A former student, fishing partner and current friend was a successful football coach at the junior high school level. When he quit, I asked "Why?" He said every year he had coached, he had at least one child with a serious injury and that he could not continue doing that to children. Parents should be asked, "Is the risk worth it?"