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William J. "Bill" Huebner, Jr.
Watertown, MA -
"I was one of the first US army correspondents in the retaken city of Seoul. But unlike the other correspondents, who went in search of news stories in the battered city, I headed straight for the Korean Press plant to see what war had done to the city’s largest newspaper."
- William J. Huebner, Jr.
[This memoir was made
possible by a grant from the
William (Bill) J. Huebner, Jr. was a proud veteran of World War II (WWII) and the Korean War (Conflict). During the Korean War he was in the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division as the Training, Information & Education (TI&E), Public Information Officer. He soon became the US Army Correspondent reporting on the operations of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. His articles were published in the Stars and Stripes, the Army Frontline newspaper, The Providence Journal (Rhode Island), The Publishers’ Auxiliary, and other local newspapers. This book is a collection of 1951 letters home to his wife from Korea, Korean battle reports written to relatives, and miscellaneous soldiers’ stories sent to local newspapers. These 1951 letters home are the typed words of William J. Huebner, Jr. and are not “politically correct” for the time. They were typed on a manual typewriter he lugged around Korea to capture stories from the soldiers as they came off the battlefields. Being a soldier first, he continued to participate in the fighting, which added to the authenticity of the stories. Some of the writings are humorous, some heart wrenching, and others are stated matter-of-fact as seen in the battle reports to relatives. The collection provides the insight as to what the soldiers endured in battle, bravery, terrain, and extreme weather conditions.
Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) interviewed Bill as part of the Library of Congress/American Folklife Center/Veterans History Project. The interview and transcript can be viewed at https://memory.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/story/loc.natlib.afc2001001.18710. In addition to his letters home, some stories were taken from this oral interview and others were documented in the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3372, Avon, Connecticut Military Service History. Most of the letters did not name any fellow soldiers but other United States (US) and United Nations (UN) forces were mentioned. Where possible, a list of referenced divisions, soldiers’ names, etc. are listed in the index for anyone searching for such information.
Here is a brief history about William J. Huebner, Jr.:
Bill grew up in Watertown, Massachusetts. He was inducted into the Army in September 1943 and honorably discharged February 1946 for service in WWII as a member of the 595th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion in the South Pacific. Some of the WWII and Korean War decorations and citations Bill received were: Philippine Liberation Ribbon and Medal, Bronze Star with cluster for second Bronze Star earned in Korea, Army Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four Battle Stars, WWII Victory medal, WWII Occupation medal, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, and Occupation Medal (Japan), Korean Campaign Medal with two battle stars, U.S. Victory Medal. After Bill was released from the Army in 1946, he signed up for Army Reserves to keep rank and stay in long enough to get a pension. Bill attended Suffolk University College of Journalism in Boston, Massachusetts on the GI bill. At Suffolk University he was approached by Massachusetts Senator Harry Harbor to run the Harwich Independent during the summer. The Harwich Independent is a weekly newspaper in Harwich, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. Bill also worked for the Newton Daily Transcript (MA) and was a Linotype machinist operator for the Rockland Standard (MA). Bill married his wife, Janice Moore, in June 1950. Shortly thereafter he was recalled for service in Korea and entered active duty in October 1950. At the age of twenty-five, Bill was put on a train to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. This is where Bill’s stories begin.
Chapter 1 - Training and Arrival at the 3rd Infantry Division
The following stories are excerpts taken from the oral transcript of the Veterans History Project.
I was getting fat, smoking too much, drinking too much, and out of shape. We (Reserves) started getting trained by these eighteen-year-old paratroopers in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Double-timing here, double-timing there, doing pushups and everything else. Well, they got us into shape, but just about killed us. As a matter of fact, it got so bad I quit smoking. Basic training was thirty days (shorter time) since we were all veterans anyway. We all had it before, but we had to get trained in the new Well rifle, the recoilless rifle, which I didn't operate because I was still a basic rifleman. I used the M1 Garand Rifle, the same one I used in World War II.
December 1950 to January 1951
From basic training we went to San Francisco and then to Pusan, Korea. It was cold and raining and we were put into a replacements camp on the side of a hill outside of Pusan. We were given new clothes, new fatigues, and a new pair of boots because our boots were not combat boots. In addition, we were supplied with sort of a winter jacket, a bandolier of ammunition, cartridge belt, canteen, and all the other things. They got us geared up for combat.
I think a week later I was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division. The 3rd Infantry Division was an old-line division dating back to World War I. It's also called The Rock of Marne. It had all young kids, young draftees, that never experienced combat. We (Reserves replacements) were veterans of World War II and went through a war.
We were put in charge of these kids and they didn't know enough to duck. A lot of them got their heads blown off because they weren't trained (properly). They were quickly trained and then sent over there (Korea) as cannon fodder. We were sent to shape them up. The problem we had, I was a corporal at that time, they made me a platoon leader. Now, why would they make a corporal a platoon leader? Number one, I had experience of combat in World War II and there were no second lieutenants. Normally, there would be platoon leaders. So, for this reason the graduating West Point Class of 1949/1950 were wiped out in Korea. They were all young second lieutenants. They trained platoon leaders. Why? And I saw it happen, they were all gun ho. They'd stand up and say, "Follow me". As soon as they did that, they got mowed down. Now, the more experienced people like myself and others say, the hell with that. Duck and shoot, then duck again, and then shoot again. Never mind standing up and being a hero because you're going to get killed. So, wait until you got a good target in sight. We brought a leveling influence to the youngsters in the platoon. Soon they realized the squad leaders and platoon leaders were concerned about their welfare. We didn't want to lose them because they would leave a hole in the platoon. Our job was to hold at that time and we didn't want to lose our men through heroics. Therefore, our job was to straighten them up.
The living conditions in Korea were terrible. We didn't have the bugs from WWII in the South Pacific. In Korea we were either retreating or advancing. You never set up any permanent facilities. Once again, you're sleeping outside on the ground. One of the troubles during the winter of 1950 and into 1951 was that we were there with summer sleeping bags, summer clothes, summer boots, no gloves and no winter hats. We were freezing. It wasn't until about two months later up around a place called Yong Dong Po that we got a shipment of winter sleeping bags. Believe me, that's the first time I got a good night’s sleep in my winter sleeping bag. We got the heavier uniforms, boots and gloves but we weren't prepared for Korean weather.
The Korean War experience did not differ from the World War II experience. You're being shot at so it's all the same thing. Either shoot them or they'll shoot you. It was war. Different conditions and different terrain. There were cold mountains in Korea.
I've got to say one thing though. In Korea, I was with the 3rd Infantry Division which was a good combat division. [At this point in time Bill was in the infantry and part of the Training, Information & Education unit, TI&E].
Chapter 2 - Press Correspondent starts
Sometime in February 1951 Bill started as a Press Correspondent. His first typed letters started in the beginning of March 1951 indicating he had access to a typewriter. The story continues from Bill’s oral interview. Below is a map of Korea found in the letters.
I got a message when I was up in the (front) line to report back to company headquarters. The company first sergeant said, “You're to report to the battalion headquarters.” I said, “What for?” He didn’t know. I reported to battalion headquarters to a Major and he said, “Well you've got to report to regimental headquarters.” He said he didn't know why. Regiment said report to division headquarters. I got down to division headquarters and the division sergeant major had my records. He said, “I understand you were a reporter, a newspaper man.” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “What are you doing carrying a rifle?” I replied that they gave it to me and I had to go. He said that the General wants to see you. I said, “The General? I'm just a lowly sergeant.” He said “Oh, no. We're going to talk to you.” So, they took me into an old school house that wasn't blown down and they put me in a room with a guy with two big stars on his uniform. It was Major General Robert Soule. He says, "Young man, I understand you were a reporter." I said, "Yes, sir." He said, "Do you like this division?" I said, "Yes, sir." He said, "Do you got anything to say about this division?" I replied, "No, sir." Everything was "sir," you know. He said, “Do you know why you're here?” I said, “No, sir. I'd like to know, sir.” He said, “Well, I'll tell you. We've got the Marines on our flank and all I see in the daily newspaper, the State Newspaper, the Marines did this and the Marines did that. We're (3rd Infantry Division) doing more than they did. I want you to run a public information operation and report on what the 3rd Infantry Division is doing and let's show the American public that the 3rd Infantry Division is doing its part in Korea. There's one thing about these damn Marines, they've got one of them fighting, another writing, and the other rotating.”
I got carte blanche from a Major General to do what I wanted to do as a staff sergeant. He gave me a Jeep, a driver, a tent, and the ability to go to Tokyo or have somebody to go to Tokyo to get liquor, bring it back and set up a press tent for the civilian press, Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, New York Times, and whatever. I set up a press tent and I also had good food shipped in such as canned food and caviar. I passed the word around to the civilian correspondents that the 3rd Division Press Tent has got good booze, no cheap stuff, good food, no cheap stuff. Plus, we got cots with air mattresses and blankets. They started coming in. Then I would say, "You want to go out on a mission?" They say, "Yeah". The 555th Heavy Tank Battalion had the new Patton tanks with the 90-millimeter cannon. They carried a five-man crew. One of the front crewmen was a machine gunner. We could remove the gunner and put a civilian correspondent in the tank. The correspondent could look through the scope and see what's happening. We sent the correspondents on missions with the tanks. Of course, after they got shot at, the correspondents came back and wrote a hell of a story on it, for example, "I got attacked, I'm on the hill" and so on.
We started getting good publicity because the correspondents would mention a tank from the 3rd Infantry Division. The Major General called to let me know he was very happy with the progress of my work and the ability to get his name and the division in the newspaper. He said to keep it up, so I did.
Everything week they used to have a "fat cat flight", a C-47 plane from Seoul airbase or another airbase in Korea to Tokyo or Yokohama. This is an airplane where the high-ranking people would put in fresh meat, fresh milk, fresh eggs. I could take so many cubic feet in that aircraft and have it marked "Supplies: 3rd Infantry Division". I had a representative over in Tokyo buy the liquor and food. As a matter of fact, they used to accuse me of running a booze and broads operation. The only thing I didn't supply was prostitutes but it worked. It got to a point that I got some extra help from the States. I got these young kids that went to journalism school, and they told me to train them. Major General Soule said, "These are your people." I would have four guys working on the stories and one driver. The young journalists did pretty well. I was twenty-five at that time and they thought I was an old man. I got more and more publicity with these young kids going out all gun ho writing this and writing that and interviewing and everything else. The 3rd Infantry Division got more and more space in the paper. Of course, Major General Soule recognized that. I used to do a mass of press releases. We used to have our daily K.I.A., W.I.A., M.I.A. killed in action, wounded in action, missing in action. I used to take the one thousand Chinese killed in action and the five hundred we wounded and I put out press releases. Well, the 3rd Infantry Division is knocking all these enemies down. One time a guy came up to me, he says, “Bill, you know what you're doing? You're killing more of the enemy on paper than we're killing in the field”. Which was true. This was what the General wanted. We killed one, I said ten. We killed ten, I said twenty. That was my job. That's what he wanted me to do and I was a good soldier. I obeyed orders.
Chapter 3 - March 1951 Letters Home & Articles for Newspapers
The following stories sent home were postmarked March 1 and March 8, 1951. Specific articles were directed to the hometown newspapers of the soldiers identified. It cannot be determined if they were published as not all newspapers have online archives available.
March 1, 1951
Below is an original copy of Story One that was submitted to the Providence Journal. See the red initials WJH on the top and the “30” at the end of the article. The “30” has been used by journalists to indicate the end of a story that has been submitted for editing and typesetting.
Story One -- THE KID IS STARTING HIS OWN GROCERY STORE
“Chop chop Joe?” hollers the little ragged kid standing on the side of the road to the G.I.’s passing by in Jeeps trucks and tanks. Chop chop in "Gook" (Universal understandable slang) means food--canned food, fresh food, and even hot and cold garbage from mess kits. Noticed by a correspondent from the 3rd Division newspaper, "The Front Line," early one morning while on his way to a forward position—the little moppet was at the roadside yelling for chop chop to be tossed from the vehicles passing. Seven hours later, on his way back the correspondent again noticed the little lad yelling at the vehicles passing by. He stopped his Jeep and walked up to the boy and took a look around inside the torn-down shack behind the lad. You can imagine his surprise when he saw enough chop chop to last a squad a week. For the past seven hours this little kid had C rations, candy bars and every type of food imaginable thrown at him by sympathetic drivers and passengers. Doing a bit of fast calculation, the correspondent figured that the boy would have enough to start a grocery store of his own within seven days, that is if he only worked eight hours a day.
Story Two – Unnamed
“When I was a kid, I was always playing soldiers and got a big kick out of it," says one soldier in the 15th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. "I used to make wooden swords and guns and join up with the rest of the kids in my neighborhood and we would attack an imaginary enemy along the banks of a quiet stream in my hometown. Now that I am a real soldier and looking across at the Han River at the Chinks, I have changed my mind about the glory of war and found out that there is no quiet stream, no beautiful blonde to rescue from the enemy---just mud, cold, danger and Chinks.”
"Seems kind of funny,” he told a correspondent, "what the real thing is from the imagined. When I used to play war, I never thought of where real soldiers sleep in battle; where they got their food or any such thing. Chow call was when my mother called and I used to go in and wash up with warm water and sit down to a hot meal. Bedtime meant a nice soft bed with no fear of being pounded with artillery or attacked by the enemy I used to fight along that quiet little stream. Quite different from the real thing—isn’t it Mac?”
"Oh yes,” he asked the correspondent, “don’t mention my name if you write a story about what I told you. The guys in the platoon think I'm a good combat soldier."
Story Three (used February 28, 1951 but name of paper omitted) --DIGGING UP THE FLAG FOR THE LAST TIME – HE HOPES
When the North Korean gang came whooping down across the 38th (parallel) last summer, one South Korean who flies a flag of the Republic of Korea outside his straw-thatched hut, had to haul it down and bury it so the North Korean People's Army wouldn't shoot him for showing patriotism to his country. But when the United Nation forces stifled the whooping hordes of North Koreans and stuffed their invasion down their throats, the old man dug up his Republic of Korea flag and flew it from the highest pole he could find when the first UN tank and infantryman poked their noses into his village.
The old man had to haul it down and bury it again when the Chinese volunteers came pushing into South Korea. He knew by now that all he had to do was sit and wait, for he knew that the Americans in his sector weren't going to be pushed back for long.
And he was right about the Americans, for the first muddy infantryman to cross the rice paddy was met with a Republic of Korea flag being quickly raised high above the housetops and a bearded old man was there to meet him with a smile and a handshake.
Story Four -- MONDAY IS MONDAY TO WOMEN EVEN DURING A WAR
Roaring tanks, splattering mud for yards on either side of their digging tracks; the long line of infantrymen; the incoming mortar rounds throwing up mud and water for twenty yards are all things of another world to the women of Korea when the Monday wash is in process.
You can see them squatting beside a small stream beating the patched clothes with a smooth paddle, then dipping them in the icy water of the stream. Only the fortunate have anything resembling soap. Hot water too is scarce for wood is used to rebuild the bomb-torn houses or used to keep life in a frail infant's body during the sub-zero nights. The clothes are hung on trees and bushes and a watchful eye kept on them for even though what may be called a pair of pants resembles a tattered rag with pockets, it still keeps out a certain amount of cold. The clothes that an American civilian would consider worn-out, could be considered as brand-new to one of these Korean refugees.
Story Five -- THE WILL TO CROSS THE HAN RIVER
Although he has tried five times to cross the Han River, Sergeant Salvador Garcia of the 1st platoon of “Love” Company, 65th Infantry, still isn’t discouraged. When asked by a correspondent if he will attempt it again, Garcia said, "You bet I will and when I do get across, I'll get that so-and-so that’s been slinging lead at me every time I try to get across.”
Sergeant Garcia and his patrol have been having trouble with a few machine gun positions that have been trying to discourage his crossing of the Han River. Sergeant Garcia, a member of Lieutenant Richard Durkee’s platoon, said all the men in the 2nd platoon are just itching to get across that creek and clean out those commie machine gun nests.
Lieutenant Durkee, platoon leader, was recently commended by Lieutenant Colonel Edward G. Allen, 3rd Battalion Commander, for his aggressive action in attempting to cross the Han River and obtaining information concerning the suitability of the river bed to support tanks for a crossing. Lieutenant Durkee was met with machine gun fire while halfway across the Han River. Both Lieutenant Durkee and Sergeant Garcia are waiting to get at that machine gun position that has been blocking their crossing.
Story Six--TESTING THE STRENGTH OF THE CHINESE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HAN RIVER
Seeking information on the strength of the enemy across the Han River by way of nightly patrols, Sergeant Heman Quinones of “E” Co., 65th Infantry, and members of his patrol have developed it into an easy milk run.
Penetrating at one time to a depth of one mile, the patrol met with small fire from the enemy, but Sergeant Quinones said the fire was very ineffective. The patrol, made up of Corporal Valentine Dieppa, Private First Class (PFC) Ismael Dabila, Private (Pvt), Felix Figueroa, PFC Gil Cintron, Pvt. Ramon Mercado, and PFC Miguel Hernandes has little respect for the enemy’s ability to disrupt their patrol activities. “They seem to be very nervous when they know we are on their side of the river,” says second-in-command Corporal Valentine.
Members of the patrol, like other men of the 65th, are sure they will cross the Han and stay there one of these days and chase the Chinese back to where they came from.
Story Seven- Unnamed
There is nothing like being damn certain of a thing, especially when you are liable to get killed if you are not careful. One aged South Korean has been noticed walking along the muddy roads carrying a twelve-foot pole with a small South Korean flag tied to the top.
Another civilian who is making sure of not being mistaken for the enemy is a middle-aged woman carrying a large bundle on top of her head and perched on top of the bundle is a stick flying the South Korean flag. Nothing like being sure is there?
Story Eight – 64th TANKERS AIM TO PLEASE WITH HIGH EXPLOSIVES
(Note: Other articles were published in the Boston Globe about 1st Lieutenant Theodore E. McClain on March 31, 1951 and July 23, 1951. 1st Lieutenant McClain was a highly decorated black
soldier in WWII and Korea.)
Chinese and North Korean troops have learned to have respect for 1st Lieutenant Theodore E. McClain and his Patton tank crew, of Co. “A”, 64th Tank Battalion.
Recently, when Lieutenant McClain and his crew were firing at targets of opportunity across the Han River southeast of Seoul, the enemy started throwing mortar and anti-tank shells from across the river at his tank. The shells started getting close and Lieutenant McClain grabbed his field glasses, and searched the opposite river bank trying to spot the gun flashes of the enemy.
For fifteen minutes he probed every straw-thatched hut with his field glasses until he finally spotted the well-camouflaged gun emplacement. He turned to his tank gunner, Sergeant Jack Neison, and called out the position. Neison, assisted by loader PFC Donald Corley, loaded the 90mm gun and let go with a high explosive blast that settled directly on the gun emplacement.
Through the field glasses, Master Sergeant Henry Strong, tank NCO, spotted some of the enemy fleeing to another house, carrying a small ‘buffalo” gun. He called for the gunner to blast the surrounding area and get the remaining gun crew. Sergeant Neison and PFC Corley let go with ten rounds that knocked every house flat in the immediate area. After the tenth round all was quiet on the other side of the river.
Lieutenant McClain credits his tank crew with doing an excellent job in hitting the target he picked squarely on the nose. “When we aim, we aim to hit the first time,” said the husky tank platoon commander.
Story Nine – 1st LIEUTENANT LYNDALL C. WILLIAMSON
Hometown: Marshfield, Missouri
Tuesday morning, February 13, was an important date to 1st Lieutenant Lyndall C. Williamson, platoon leader, 2nd platoon tank company, 65th Infantry, when he spotted a North Korean company Commanding Officer coming up on the right side of his tank. Lieutenant Williamson wheeled around in his gun turret and whipped out his two pearl-handled 45's and made a “good” North Korean Commanding Officer out of the would-be tank assailant. Then later in the morning he was told that he had just become the father of an eight and one-half pound baby girl.
Lieutenant Williamson took a batch of medals off the lead-punctured North Korean commander and sent them home to his baby daughter who he has named, Kathy Lyanne Williamson, as her first birthday present from her tank-commanding daddy.
Story Ten – CHINK IS WALKING PX
“Things made in America belong to Americans,” said PFC Joseph A. DeRienzo, a rifleman with company “B” of the 7th Infantry Regiment as he ate a chocolate bar.
The Brooklyn GI said he and his buddy, Corporal Andrew E. Gilbert, found a dozen Hershey bars tied together and sticking out of a wounded Chinese soldier’s pocket after a recent fight.
"Besides, they got almonds in them,” he added.
Story Eleven -- “CAN DO” MEDIC AWARDED BRONZE STAR MEDAL
At a Company formation Thursday, March 1st, Corporal James E. Brooks of the 15th Medical Company was awarded the Bronze Star by Captain Lamb, Executive Officer of the Medical Company.
Corporal Brooks was awarded the Bronze Star for heroic action against the enemy near Majon-Ni last November. Brooks was a litter Jeep driver and was accompanying a combat patrol when the patrol was ambushed by screaming hoard of enemy troops. Noticing many men of the patrol were wounded after the ambush, Corporal (then Private) Brooks drove his litter Jeep over exposed roads and cross country in a curtain of enemy fire in order to evacuate the wounded. He loaded two wounded men in his Jeep and successfully evacuated them to safety through heavy fire over the same route. For this action, and exposing himself to murderous enemy fire, Corporal Brooks received the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device.
Story Twelve – WALKING SLEEPING BAG WANTED BY SOLDIERS
“A walking sleeping bag is what we need,” say PFC Alex Adkins of the 3rd platoon of “G” Company, 2nd Battalion, 15th Infantry.
“The army should make such sleeping bag out of the same material that the mountain bag is made from and shape it like a pair of coveralls. Then we could put on the walking sleeping bag and have no fear of being caught in the middle of an attack all zippered up. Instead we could jump up and start shooting instead of looking for that damn zipper.”
Also agreeing with the idea of a walking sleeping bag, First Lieutenant Roy Lewis, a Forward Observer with the 15th said that the knees, elbows, and other parts that tend to become worn first could be made of leather. “It would also be a good uniform for guard duty on a cold night for once those feathers are warm, they usually stay warm”, said the Lieutenant.
The typed letters home continue.
March 10, 1951
This is the only letter to his father that was found among family picture albums.
Just got back from another assignment. I went out with a Psychological Warfare team that had a tank equipped with a loudspeaker. I have been out with them once before and had quite a time. Here is how psychological warfare works:
First, we pick out an enemy position in some town and then blast the hell out of it with aircraft and artillery. We make sure to hit food supplies. Next, we zero in on certain buildings in town with our artillery. We take a tank equipped with a loudspeaker and pull up as close to the town as possible. Our Chinese interrupter starts speaking on the loudspeaker, “Attention soldiers of Communist China. You have been sent to Korea to fight for a lost cause. Where are the guns and supplies you were promised? Where are the food supplies that have been promised? Where are the tanks you have been promised? How many of your buddies have been killed by American artillery and airplanes? Just to show you how much power we have we will ask our artillery to drop a shell into the red-roofed school house.” (At this time Chinks are running out of the school house and we are being shot at with anti-tank weapons and mortars. The four inches of armor on the tank just lets the stuff bounce off.) Our artillery then blasts the house down with the first shell. The interrupter continues on the loudspeaker, “Now watch our airplanes fire rockets at that gun emplacement you think you have hidden.” (We now radio a jet plane that knows of the machine gun emplacement to come in and fire a rocket at the gun. The jet first makes a pass over the gun emplacement and climbs high in the sky, turns over on its back and starts its dive. The jet fires the rocket and knocks out the gun. The interrupter is on the loudspeaker again saying, “See what we can do when we want too. Why don’t you surrender now, drop your guns and run across the river? We will give you protection from your officers.”
One time we got sixteen prisoners. When the Chink officers see their men trying to surrender, they shoot them. They also try to knock out the loudspeaker but we have that fairly covered. We went out the last time and the tank got stuck in a rice paddy right in enemy view. They plastered us with small arms fire. Our artillery started giving them hell so they couldn’t shoot at us. We stayed there all night and did we sweat it out. A tank retriever came in the early morning and pulled us out of the deep mud hole.
Another psychological warfare assignment was writing a letter to the commanding general of the North Koreans in Seoul. We told him that we have not been shelling a certain building in Seoul because we want to keep it in one piece to use as a headquarters when we get Seoul. If he destroys the plumbing in that building when he retreats, we will hold him personally responsible. We dropped about two hundred copies of this letter on Seoul so I imagine he got it.
We went to a brewery in Yongdongpo, below Seoul. We had some beer but what a hell of a time we had getting it. The brewery is right across the river from the Chinks and they have it zeroed in with mortars. When they see anyone in the brewery, they drop a shell in it. To get in without being seen, the G.I.s have dug a tunnel under the street from a house to the brewery. As the walls are battered down, the Chinks try to spot those inside with binoculars. The beer was flat and we had to lay on our backs to drink it. It was wet so we drank it. The place really smells like a brewery. Sometimes a shell opens a vat full of beer and spills it all over the floor. I brought back a five gallon can of beer for the boys and they gave me a tin medal for outstanding heroism in getting beer under mortar fire.
The mail is beginning to come through a little better now. Have been getting a few letters. Seven tons of mail is reported on its way to the front so I imagine I will get a stack. That’s one thing about mail over here, when you get some you get a stack of it.
Just got my next assignment which is easy. I have to write a personal history of a Chinese prisoner of war for the Division. Will let you know the guy’s history when I get through with him. I have been sending Janice some of the stories I have been writing so you ask her to let you see them.
Well, that’s it for now.
The letters to his wife continue.
Just got back from a psychological warfare mission. Tank got stuck in a rice paddy and we were fired at by Chinese mortar. We couldn’t move. When it got dark, we decided to stay with the tank and protect it from the Chinks. It started to snow and visibility was cut down to zero, which was a break for us. We took turns on guard with the .50 caliber machine gun and when my turn came, I asked this young kid, who was out on his first mission in enemy land, if the gun was ready to fire or half-cocked. He turned to me and said, “I don’t know, I don’t even know how to fire a machine gun.” He spent two hours protecting us while we slept. I shudder when I thought of what would have happened if we were attacked and he didn’t know how to operate the machine gun, but your ever-loving hubby took over the gun and all was safe while I was shooting. They figured that a correspondent couldn’t know how to fire a machine gun but I showed them. It was cold in that rice paddy all night and our artillery were firing right over our heads. The Chinks were throwing shells at us and our positions so you can imagine how much sleep we got. We were glad when daylight came and another tank pulled us out. These rice paddies over here are OK for tanks when the ground is frozen but when it begins to thaw it is nothing but a batch of mud.
Enclosed is a flag to sew on our jacket. “We returned from hell.”
Love you baby,
March 15, 1951
Here is a form letter I write to all your relatives and mine also. Have very little time to write to them. About power of attorney, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts doesn't recognize the signature of an army officer so they have the state laws cover the signature as you are my lawful wife. You can sign my name on anything you want and it is OK as you are my wife. Your letters coming OK. Got number twenty-eight when I got back today. Haven’t slept for two days and am tired. Have to get up early tomorrow. Am going back to the front. Will write when I get time.
Love you baby, Bill
Letters to my relatives 3/15/1951
How are things going? Just got back from a tank attack and caught a bit of sleep so I have a few minutes to write a letter.
We are in a different location now. The headquarters are in a large university and it is like a castle. I have a room with a beautiful view but I never sleep there as I am at the front all the time. Got a batch of letters from you when I got back. Forgot where I put them so don’t know the questions you asked. Didn’t have time to get the platoons as when you are in a tank attack you don’t have any time to look around for platoons that are in low on writing paper. Oh yes, stop sending me paper and envelopes. As a correspondent I have all I want. Paper such as this is for writing news. We just got back from Uijongbu which is held by the Chinese. We roared into the town at daybreak with sixty tanks and blasted the Chinks. You should see them run and try to put hand grenades in the tank’s track. We killed about fifty trying to do it. They tried to stop us but the four-inch armor on the tanks bounced the bullets off. A few land mines gave us some trouble though. I was assigned to one tank to cover the attack and I operated the .50 Caliber machine gun. Honey it felt good to get a machine gun back into my hands and mow those gooks down. For a while I thought I was back in the infantry line. Those .50 caliber guns really spit out lead and stops anything trying to get through. I caught one chink looking out a window with his rifle in his hand and started shooting. The line of bullets tore up the plaster in the house and I missed on the first burst but saw him run into another room. I raked the room with fire. He jumped out the window and I kept firing at him until I hit him. He cost me about 90 rounds of ammo but it was worth it. We didn’t run into any Chinese or Russian tanks so we had just about everything our own way in that town. At night we started back because a tank in useless at night unless you have riflemen to act as forward scouts. We killed about five hundred Chinese and blew up a lot of their ammo. Tomorrow I fly over enemy territory on a bombing mission to get a story on that. Then I go back to the infantry and will get the platoons names that need writing paper. A couple of days and I’ll get them. You want nine platoons from what you say. About those stories I sent, if the Providence Journal wants to use them, let them and tell them if they want more copy to let me know.
I am getting some of my films developed so will send you the results. Won’t be for a while though. I sent them to Japan to get developed. How are my relatives taking their battle reports? Do you think I should write more or let the thing drop? Tell your folks I am busy, too busy to write letters. War is Hell isn’t it Honey? Tell your father to give you some tetanus shots before I get back because I’m a bit rusty…Yak, Yak. (Note: Bill’s father-in-law, Dr. James S. Moore, was a medical doctor in East Providence, R.I.)
Love from your big handsome blue-eyed husband…..Bill
SOUTH KOREA IS OURS--After four months of battles, the Chinese have been driven from South Korea and we have now reached the 38th parallel--the same parallel that we chased the North Korean communists over last October. But unlike the last time we crossed the parallel, we are taking it slow and easy and not a head-long dash to the Manchurian border. Now we send our tanks forward and blast every Chinese position and kill every communist we find. We are making sure that what happened last time, when four thousand North Koreans we had by-passed, came swooping down from the hills and caused a great deal of trouble, won’t happen again.
As a war correspondent for Stars and Stripes and the 3rd Infantry Division, I flew over the 38th parallel in a light plane and watched the tanks blast the Chinese from smoking hills. The Chinese, in their retreat, had mined the roads with anti-tanks mines consisting of fifty pounds of trinitrotoluene (TNT) each. When a tank hit these mines, they would throw a track and become sitting ducks for anti-tank gunners. But our tankers were not to be fooled by these tactics. They left early one morning and drove their big tanks up a river bed that contained only four feet of water, and caught the Chinese from the rear. The unexpected had worked again and we isolated, a group of Chinese and killed them all.
FROM THE AIR---one can see the elaborate Chinese trenches. Trenches that are dug for miles and encircle complete mountains. From the air it looks like one long snake crawling over the rough Korean hills and peaks. The only two weapons that can be used successfully against these trenches are jellied gasoline bombs dropped from airplanes or the cold steel of the bayonet. Here is where coordination counts in ground-air support. The planes come in first dropping the jellied gasoline bombs that mushroom into a huge ball of flame and spreads sticking gasoline for a half acre. Then the infantrymen creep up the steep hills and dig the stubborn Chinese from their positions with their bayonets. One thing about an Oriental is that he fears a knife. We have taken full advantage of the fear and use the bayonet whenever possible.
ALONG THE BATTLE FRONT lines of Korean civilians can be seen going back to their liberated farms. The people who have been staying behind the UN lines carry all their belongings on their back. As much as we try to keep them off the road, they are a traffic hazard by slowing down our supply trucks. But war is war and many are killed when hit by a truck. Every refugee is searched for weapons and times are not few when a group of so-called “refugees” turned out to be North Korean and Chinese soldiers dressed as civilians. In their belongings they carry machine guns, mortar and hand grenades. A seven-year-old North Korean child was found carrying mortar shells recently. Trouble comes in every style in this war-torn land of Korea.
THERE WAS ONCE A TOWN CALLED UIJONGBU and it had a population of five thousand people which is large for a Korean town. Houses, streets, and stores were once in the town but now all that remains of UIJONGBU is a flat, burnt plain. The Chinese decided to hold this town and our artillery sent ten thousand rounds screaming into the town, and burnt every standing building. We have now erected a sign reading, “This was UIJONGBU”….. another case of the devastation of war.
BUT NOW ALL MEMBERS OF THE UNITED NATIONS forces here in Korea are awaiting the expected Chinese offensive that is suppose to start with the coming of the rainy season when we can’t use our tanks to full advantage. An estimated six hundred thousand communists are poised above the 38th parallel waiting for the right time. If this attack comes in the above-mentioned force and we can beat it back, we might be able to break the back of Chinese armies in Korea. But the Chinese are beginning to be a bit cautious because they have seen, felt, and died under our combined firepower. The majority of troops in Korea want to see a show-down battle with the Chinks. Many an infantryman wants to meet the communist in a toe-to-toe battle because in such an out-and-out battle we are sure to beat the communist.
WHO ARE THE BEST FIGHTING MEN IN THE UN forces in Korea? Without a doubt, the men over here will say the Turkish troops are the best all-around fighting men. And brave men they are. In the time they have spent in Korea, the Turks have put the word fear into the hearts of the Chinese. It is an honor for a Turk to die in battle and they think nothing of charging up a hill against machine gun emplacements. Their favorite weapon is the knife and bayonet. Their bayonet charges are a thing to behold to see the mustachioed Turks racing up a hill, their country’s flag flying from a long pole, and their bright bayonets pointed in the direction of the enemy. But the Turks are few over here. At one time they numbered six thousand, but casualties have taken their toll. The Turks have retreated only once and that was when we all retreated from North Korea. Next in fighting power is the American. The American needs all comforts he can get, best of food, best of clothing, plenty of air and artillery support. The American loves his luxury, even in battle, and as many nations says, “The American never began to fight until they are half beaten,” which is rather correct when you look at the history of our country. We can be pushed just so far and after we have turned both cheeks we strike back hard. The British rate next as fighters but they seem to lack that extra little spark in attacks that make them third rate fighters in Korea. Next in line are the Belgians, most of which are former German army men who after being beaten in Africa, joined the French Foreign Legion, and then the Belgian Volunteer forces in Korea. Their numbers are low over here. Then the French who are always taken as poor fighters and often turn tail when things get too hot. Then the Dutch, only a token force in Korea, the Philippines, of which there is only a battalion, and the Thailanders, native troops from French Indochina who are good for night fighting. The Greeks, I shall rate as the 3rd best fighting man in Korea. Like the Turks they have no personnel fear and to die in battle is an honor. Korea could use more Turks and Greeks for they are superb fighters. The South Koreans, the majority of which, are worth the powder to blow them up. They have come to rely too much on the Americans and during the retreat up north, they pulled out and ran away from the enemy leaving the Turks to fight five hundred thousand Chinese. The Turks did and held them back until all the UN forces could get away safely.
That’s all the news for now.
I should stay around headquarters more often. Got back today and learned I was promoted to Corporal. Just a genius you know.
Heard good news that the Reserves may get out sooner than twenty-one months if they get the kids drafted or the war ends sooner. Another day now and we will be above the 38th parallel. I was two miles from it today in a Jeep but the Chinks are in the hills and the artillery was having a field day blasting them out. The air force was also active with jellied gasoline bombs. There are plenty of Chinks in our section but a few days will tell the story. If we cross the 38th I figure that the war will last another six months only if we take it slow and easy as we have been doing in retaking South Korea.
I saw General McArthur today. He came up to the front and inspected the area. He says things are going along OK.
Well, that is it for now. Today is the day before Easter, I think.
NOW THAT WE CROSSED THE HAN RIVER, WE HAD THE 3RD CHINESE FIELD ARMY TO face and that meant about thirty thousand fur-jacketed soldiers waiting for us along the vital supply road leading to the 38th parallel. We sent our tank patrols to “feel” out the enemy and blast any armor they might have in the way of tanks or field guns. The tanks would roar into a small village in the early morning and the battle was on. Chinese soldiers would make suicide charges at the huge tanks and try to place a grenade in the tracks but the every-ready tank crews were alert and cut them down as they ran toward the tanks. There were always the land mines and every so often a huge tank would hit a mine and shudder and stop. Land mines are buried in the ground and contain fifty pounds of TNT that will blast a track off a tank. When a tank hit a mine the men inside the four-inch armor plated tank would get a severe bouncing around, but the tankers wear sponge rubber helmets and are strapped into their seats. The shock is not too great. But they must leave the tank for a disabled tank is a sitting duck for enemy grenades and mortars. Other tanks in the attack form a ring around the disabled tank and provide protective fire for the men coming from the tank. If it is at all possible the men will stay with the tank until the infantry can come and keep the communists away from the tank. A tank task force of sixty tanks left one morning to take the town of Uijongbu, north of Seoul, and after a six hour battle the town was ours. The tanks did their job.
My next assignment was with the paratroopers. The mission was to jump behind the enemy lines and cut supply routes and encircle the enemy. The jump was made about fifteen miles behind the lines and the mission was to link up with an infantry and tank attack twenty-four hours after the jump. Paratroopers boarded huge cargo planes at an airfield, with a full regiment of the 187th Regimental Airborne Combat Team, made of tough, battle-hardened paratroopers who are trained in quick killing strikes at an enemy. The jump came off with few casualties and the battle was on. The Chinese never expected a jump behind their lines and were now being hit from both the front and rear. In twenty-four hours the first tank came lumbering over a hillside to link up with a paratrooper patrol. The enemy had run to the high hills and now the artillery and aircraft would hit them with white phosphorus and jellied gasoline. All day long the artillery and aircraft hit the high mountain. When the Infantry went up the hill to rout out the estimated three thousand Chinese still alive, they counted two thousand dead Chinks, some still smoking from the jellied gasoline which they have named “hellfire”.
NOW REMAINED THE STRIKE TOWARD THE 38TH and this meant only a trip of fifteen miles. At the present time we are about three miles from the 38th and some of our patrols have crossed during the night. The remaining force of the original thirty thousand Reds are blocking our path but every day we are going ahead.
The start of the rainy season has turned the road into muddy ditches and supply trucks have tough going. Cargo planes are being used to drop vital food and ammunition to the fighting troops on the front. Today is March 30th and I estimate that when this letter reaches you people, we WILL HAVE CROSSED THE 38TH and start on the battle of North Korea. In my opinion this will be the hardest battle of all because we are not at war with China and cannot bomb their supply lines and factories across the Yalu River, which is foolish but politics are politics. In the opinion of ninety percent of the fighting men over here we should bomb the China mainland so they cannot make any weapons thus cut off the forces in Korea. Still they call this a police action and not a war.
OF THE WAR
The once proud city of Seoul is now a gutted wreck but the people are still coming back to the capital city. As in all wars, some people start in business no matter what the situation is. Fishermen have started bringing their fish to market. You can see them on a war-torn street, straw baskets full of smelly fish. During a hot day the city smells because there is no sanitation. The oldest profession is again flourishing. Prostitutes open their haunts. All they need is a few pieces of furniture and a scout to tell the troops where they can be located. But business is bad among the prostitutes as all troops have been shown a movie concerning venereal disease (VD) and after seeing the movie no soldier has any desire to visit such a place. Also, the Military Police raid any place that tries to start up.
The black market is also going strong. Stolen American equipment, smokes, food, anything can be sold or bought on the black market, but here too, the military police are on the alert. Stolen equipment is confiscated and the owners are questioned by the Korean police who often times use the well-known third degree in treating people who hinder the war effort by stealing equipment. A good beating often stops any young black-marketeer who has thoughts of making quick money.
Shoe shine boys have also taken over the city. A soldier cannot walk down a street without being questioned, “Number One shine Joe?” A great many soldiers now have boots that are shined each day. I had mine shined by a young dirty faced Korean boy and the shine was one to marvel at, when you consider the shoe shine boy had only one arm.
I went into the Korean Times building, the former largest newspaper in Korea. The Chinese had blown up the press and left the place a wreck. About three million dollars’ worth of printing equipment was destroyed. A loss that means a lot to a country. (Note: See related article on Seoul Press under August 14, 1951)
The army has sent in three thousand tons of rice, enough to feed the people of Seoul for one month and daily one can see lines of people waiting for their rice ration. An American, unfamiliar with the ways of the Orient, often wonders how these people can live on nothing but rice. It has been that way for centuries and no doubt will never change. The life span of an Oriental however is only forty years. At forty a man is old, bent with age, disease, and is wanted by nobody, even relatives. It is quite a change from American where “Life begins at forty” for many people. Here, death starts its relentless search for victims.
At the present time I am stationed in a large university on the outskirts of Seoul . I report back to this university after every assignment and enjoy the spoils that belong to the victors. For here I sleep in a large room, have houseboys heat my wash water, wash and iron my muddy clothes and make my bed. But this lasts only a day, sometimes only a few hours as my captain always has another assignment ready for me and a Jeep waiting to take me to some hell-hole or even behind the lines to write a story on some thing or other. The captain is a good person to work for however. I was with him only a month when he sent in a promotion to make me a corporal. It was approved so now I have to sew another stripe on my arm.
That’s it for now. My next report will be concerning the situation in North Korea and what I see there. I hope it will be from the capital of North Korea or even better the Manchurian border.
As ever, Bill
THIS LETTER IS TO MY WIFE AND NOT FOR PUBLICATION…..(Note: Too funny not to include.)
Korea – April 1st – Reports indicate that the wife of Corporal William Huebner, now serving in Korea, is slightly mad at him for not writing letters. Indication of this came from a postal clerk in the 3rd Division who said that one of letters addressed to Huebner bit him in the hand as he was sorting the mail. The letter came from Rhode Island. Huebner said that he will now attempt to write a letter a day even if he had to be captured by the Chinese.
Now don’t think that I am trying to soft-soap you, but I try to write every day but I am not near a typewriter or a light. During the day I am at the front getting stories and at night if I stay at the front, you cannot light a candle because the Chinks will zero you in with a mortar shell or a rifle bullet. When I do get back to headquarters and have time after I write the stories then I sit and write you. Believe me Honey, I am tired when I get through after an assignment. Some assignments mean no sleep for two or three days. Like the tank patrol behind the lines. How can one sleep in a tank in a crouched position with Chinks shooting at you? That’s part of war Honey. You know the old story, “Men must fight and women must wait.” Don’t worry though, when I get out I won’t stay in the Reserves. You and I will settle down in some small town and I’ll work as a linotype operator without any responsibilities. We’ll just live, and live, and live. How does that sound to you?
Your letters have been coming in fine. Every time I get back there are three or four letters waiting for me. DON’T YOU EVER STOP WRITING. That is one thing the people back in the States fail to realize. It is hard for a frontline soldier to write letters. Where in the hell is there a mail box to mail them. You have to wait with the letter in your pocket until you get relieved from the line for a week’s rest before you can mail it. Believe me Honey, a pencil and pad of writing paper are hard to carry when in combat. You have enough for ammunition and food. Don’t forget that a soldier must carry all his ammo and food on him for a least a day’s ration. Often times he will shoot two hundred rounds of ammo in a small fight. Of course, the guys in the rear areas that sleep in tents and don’t see combat at all have plenty of time to write, and have lights all the time.
I am enclosing an article that appeared in (Pacific) Stars and Stripes (April 2, 1951, page 2) about what your mother is doing for the troops. I will send the remaining list of platoons soon. Just hang on. The war comes first. Your mother and whatever clubs are sponsoring the paper have the distinction of being the first outfit to adopt nine platoons in the 3rd Infantry Division and that also appeared in the 3rd Division newspaper. I also had many articles in the Stars and Stripes and am keeping a scrapbook of them. Your hubby is getting to be known as the “Ernie Pyle” of the 3rd Division, in fact some of the men are already calling me “Ernie”.
As you can see from the news, we are slightly above the 38th parallel and now that long battle for North Korea starts. I figure if we continue to take it easy and smash this supposed Chinese counterattack that will stop half a million men against the American forces. One thing we are afraid of is the rainy season when our tanks and trucks will no longer aid us with ammo and food. Everything will have to be moved on our backs and that is a way the Chinese fight. Don’t forget to send me some film. 127 Super X.
I will send some complete copies of Stars and Stripes to your mother so she can see her article, or mine, in the paper. One thing I was worried about and that is her first name. Is it Fanny or Fannie? Bet I got it the wrong way.
Well, baby, is this letter OK for you? Don’t worry about my letters being slow because often times it is impossible for me to write letters.
I Love You, Bill
I have enough time for about a page of writing. I have been across the 38th parallel in a plane. The Chinese have a good defense line at the 38th but with heavy artillery pounding we should be able to crack it in a week. Also have been on patrol near Imjin River which runs through the 38th parallel.
Have been getting your letters every time I get back to headquarters. I get back every three days or so.
Don’t forget to send some 127 film. Airmail it to me so it will get here faster. I have some film that I am going to send to you. It contains pictures of dead civilians that were lined up along a ditch and shot and then rolled into the ditch. The army frowns on such pictures as these going back to the states so they censor them when you have the films developed by the army. I am having fourteen exposures being developed now and will mail in another thirty-two to Tokyo when I get around to it, but I am running out of film. Be sure to send super XX which is fast film and requires little light.
Oh, Oh, just got word that we are moving forward and I have to get packed. Believe it or not it is early in the morning and what a hell of a time to move. The worst part is that we have to travel in a convoy with no lights on the trucks. Well, that’s the Damn war for you. Will write later.
Just got a batch of letters from you and some pictures in the letters. Your long hair looked good! Also got a letter you mailed from New York. How was the trip? Did you get to see all the stage plays and HOW MUCH MONEY DID YOU SPEND? I also got an April Fool’s card from my old friend ZIPPY, the mongrel. How is he doing? Is he still going out every so often to see his old girl friends?
As you may know by now, we are all waiting for the big Chinese push that is suppose to be building up. The Chinese are suppose to have six hundred thousand men to start their spring offensive, which is a lot of men. If we can beat off this attack, we may be able to break the back of the Chinese army in North Korea but if they run through our lines it will be another long battle through South Korea. At the present time we have just about taken all of South Korea and at places we are sixteen miles into North Korea.
Have you sent me any 127 Super XX film yet? Send it by airmail as I am very low on film. Will send you the prints of some I am having developed now. They should be done soon. I hope that little camera works or all the pictures I took will be for vain.
You should see the foxhole I had a Korean dig for me. It is like a regular apartment house. It goes down into the ground for nine feet and then into a room. I told him to dig one for me and then went away for two days. When I came back he showed me my new foxhole and was very proud of his work.
All night long the artillery has been pounding the enemy. The big guns shake the ground and the new men in the outfit have trouble trying to sleep but we old veterans are used to it. YAK YAK
I had a big can of pineapple given to me tonight and I ate it all by my lonesome. Now I have diarrhea from too much pineapple, but it really tasted good. I think it was worth it. That’s the trouble with getting big cans of stuff like that, you can’t put it into an icebox for another day but you must eat it all at once. As a result, it acts like a laxative.
The weather is getting to be warm here in the day time and I have turned my long underwear in along with my heavy parka and mittens. It was funny to wear only shorts instead of the long winter underwear. Speaking of underwear, I still have the ones you sent me at Camp Stoneman. Don’t know what to do with them. It still is a bit chilly at nights and I still sleep in my winter mountain sleeping bag. I have not yet used my summer sleeping bag which is a lot lighter.
The rainy season is not yet in full swing. We have had two days of rain but that is all. The roads are dusty and after a ride in a Jeep we all look like chocolate soldiers. The dust hangs to our eyebrows and clogs up our noses. We are starting to wear bandanas when we ride in the Jeep and every one looks like outlaws with them over their faces.
Well, that is it for now,
Love you baby, Bill
Bill with goggles and reporter’s pad in his pocket. Picture taken at headquarters.
(Click picture for a larger view)
Note: The following propaganda Chinese leaflet was found in a separate envelope. No explanation was in any of the letters. Google translate did not make sense. These leaflets were used in psychological warfare.
Just got back from Japan. Was on R&R leave. R&R is Rest and Recuperation leave. Bought some stuff for you and your parents. Tried like hell to find a jacket like we saw on that babe but couldn't find any. The jacket that I did send you is a smoking jacket. Your father gets one like it too. You keep the blue one. If your father doesn't want it keep it for me. Got a batch of your letters today when I got back. The boys here are jealous of me because you send me so many letters. They all wish they had a lonesome wife and such a beautiful wife.
Let me know when you get the packages. Sent your mother one also. Your letter #100 came today. If its news to you, keep them coming.
Will type another relative battle report soon. Glad to see your Aunt Annie liked them. Also sent them to Moriarty and what’s his name on the farm.
Well that is it for now.
Love you baby,
(Note: Only a few of the mentioned pictures in the letters have been found. The others were permanently lost or destroyed.)
Weighed myself today and am now down to 150 pounds. You will have a lot of cooking to do when I get back. No more double chin. (Note: Bill was 6 feet 3 inches tall so he must have been skin and bones!)
Well that’s it for now,
Just a short note to tell you that I am OK. Was caught in the Chinese attack but just got out. Have been sent back to Division reserve. Will tell all in letter after I sleep. Been going for four days. I am tired.
THE LULL BEFORE THE STORM
We were across the 38th and the Chinese would not stand up and fight. We were expecting the big Spring offensive that was reported building up in Manchuria where our planes could not bomb the communists. Tank and infantry patrols met little resistance as they probed deeper into North Korea. The Chinese were waiting for the rains.
My job as army correspondent was going rather smooth and I was just getting a bit of time to myself to write my wife and other relatives. Also getting back to headquarters for hot food every night. On April 22nd I was given the assignment to visit the British 29th Brigade along the Imjin River to write a story on St. George’s Day which was the 23rd of April. I arrived in the British area about 6 p.m. on the night of the 22nd. I had a late supper with a few British officers of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers and took a few notes on St. George’s Day. To the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, St. George’s Day is the founding day of the 250-year-old regiment of Fusiliers. As the sun went down and darkness came all hell broke loose. Six hundred thousand Chinese came across the river. Chinese that seemingly came from nowhere. Chinese that had traveled during the night and hid during the day to avoid air observation. From our high ground vantage point, they looked like ants attacking a picnic basket. We were the picnic basket.
HELL AND CONFUSION. SHOOT FIRST, ASK QUESTIONS AFTER was the order of the night. The Northumberland Fusiliers knew they were cut off. So were the Royal Ulster Rifle Regiment and the Gloustershire Regiment. On our left we had the Belgians, our right we had the 1st Republic of Korea Division. On our far right we had my outfit, the 3rd Infantry Division. The Fusiliers moved to the mountain tops and the Chinese by passed us. But we had to fight ten thousand Chinese who were trying to climb the mountain after us. Before climbing the mountain I had to shoot holes in the gas tank of my Jeep to prevent the Chinese from using it. The British also had to put the torch to their vehicles. I and another army correspondent had to go with the Fusiliers, as there was no way out until daylight. (Note: Bill Huebner’s newspaper articles collection included an excellent article in The Providence Sunday Journal, dated June 3, 1951, titled “39 of 622 Men in Bloody Struggle to Halt Red Drive Answer Roll Call 3 Days Later”. It was an in-depth description of this battle and written by E. J. Kahn Jr. The article was reprinted in the Providence Sunday Journal and numerous other newspapers by permission from the New Yorker Magazine, Inc. E. J. Kahn Jr. was also a war correspondent for the Army and an acclaimed writer for the New Yorker Magazine. Do not know if E. J. Kahn, Jr. was the army correspondent with Bill as part of this battle or the reason why Bill had the article in his collection.)
HELP FROM THE ARTILLERY. Actually we were not the first group hit. The small Filipino Battalion was along the river bed when the Chinese came. They were hit hard and the remains of their battalion joined us on the mountain top. Then with the use of our radios that we carried on our backs we called for 3rd Division artillery to be placed in the draws and valleys. The first round landed and killed about one hundred Chinese but they kept coming. That was the start. During the night twenty thousand rounds of artillery plastered the Chinese as they came screaming down the valley. Moonrise was due at 10:17 p.m. and the Chinese wanted to get on high ground and the reverse slopes of the hills to get away from the artillery. Moonlight would aid the spotters immensely. We had formed a perimeter around the crest of the mountain top and set up every machine gun position we had. The British Tommies poured lead into every Chink trying to get up the hill. The other correspondent and I had American Garand rifles. Since the British ammunition wouldn’t fit into the GI rifle, we had to carry three thousand rounds up the mountain on our backs. During the night we used it all up. From our high vantage point we could see the whole front ablaze. I could see my division area lit up with flares and exploding artillery shells. And above it all, the screams of the Chinese.
THE BEST SCENE I EVER WITNESSED was the sun coming up over the mountains and the attack slowed down. With the first rays of the sun, F-80 jet planes came roaring over our mountain to see if we were still alive. I was near one radio that had contact with a jet plane in the air. The pilot asked us if we had any “pressure” that we wanted relieved. The British commanding officer, in typical British fashion said, “I say old man, it would be decent of you if you will drop a few fire bombs on our right as we are having a little “go” in that area.” The pilot did just that, he dropped a fire bomb in the middle of a group of Chinese who were attacking a machine gun emplacement. One hundred Chinese went up in flames. Then welcome relief came. The radio said that one battalion of my 3rd Division will try to open up the road to us so that we could fall back. Tanks were going to come up the valley road and arrive at our old location in thirty minutes. That meant we must come down the mountain, fighting, and as soon as we saw the tank, to start an attack. The tanks were on schedule and we started for them. But the going was not easy. From every mountain top, even the one we had just left, came rifle fire aimed at us. The tanks called for air support and the jet planes came in with fire bombs on either side of us. We ran down a mile-long road with scorching heat on both sides. We finally hooked up with the battalion of American infantrymen and started to withdraw still further. It was 8 a.m. by the time we stopped walking. The British lost over one thousand men in the trap and my friend was wounded alongside of me in the battle. No matter what some people say of the British, these men held off ten thousand Chinese in their sector and allowed the rest of the UN troops to set up a defense in depth front to meet the oncoming Chinese.
WHEN I GOT DOWN TO THE RIVER BED and looked for 3rd Division headquarters I found they had moved back. In its place were tanks and an observation point. But there was a message for me. “Tell Bill Huebner to get story on Belgians when he gets back.” It seems, at that time, that my boss considered me a lucky person to get out at all. However, the Belgians were really badly trapped and were being attacked from all sides and they didn’t have the high mountain slopes that we had. I jumped into a tank that was going to try to get near the Belgians to open a road to them as the tanks had done to us. It was impossible, we couldn’t get near them. The lines were being pulled back steadily. To rescue eight hundred Belgians meant sending two thousand men after them.
THE BELGIANS COME OUT FIGHTING! It was a miracle but it happened. The Belgians fought their way out. They had to swim under icy waters to do it however. (The Belgians for your information, are not all Belgian, some are Luxembourg troops, and the majority of the “Belgians” are former German Afrika Korps troops who were with General Erwin Rommel. When the Germans were beaten in Africa during World War II some Germans went across the desert to join up with the Foreign Legion. After serving with the French Foreign Legion, they volunteered to go to Korea with a Belgian battalion.) The Belgians were professional troops and swam the icy Imjin River to reach safety with only twenty of their number killed and one hundred forty-five wounded. Seeing the Belgians were safe, I went back to my 3rd Division.
I found out where the headquarters was set up, but when I got there, they had again moved. The Chinese were encircling my 3rd Division. It seemed the Korean troops on our right had “bugged-out” (turn and ran) thus letting the Chinese get over the hills and look down our throats. I found an artillery battalion and took my first sleep in two days. The big guns were booming about fifty yards from where I was sleeping but I never slept sounder. The sleep did me good. It also gave me time to write a few stories which I sent back to headquarters on a supply truck. I then joined up with another correspondent and we borrowed a Jeep and went forward again. On this trip we ran into a story of heroism that exceeds all other tales I have written.
The story concerns a tank crew who were told to put up a road block and stop the Chinese coming down the road. Eight tanks were set up alongside the road and they opened fire. For six hours the tanks held back the Chinese coming down the road. But six hours is a long time and the Chinese came across the mountain tops where the Korean troops broke and ran under the enemy attack. Before the tanks knew it, twenty thousand Chinese came running through the open rice paddies to charge the tanks. The tanks started up and pulled back with machine guns blazing and 90-millimeter guns firing point blank into the waves of Chinese. The tanks reached a point in the road that was flanked by two high rock cliffs. One tank could hold off the Chinese for a long time here. Every tanker knew that one tank had to stay and protect this narrow gap so that the Chinese could be held off while the infantrymen could get on high ground. It was fast but here is what happened.
THE TANKERS HAD RADIO COMMUNICATION WITH each other and the call for volunteers went out. Who was going to stay and hold the Chinks? Five men were needed. Suddenly one tank’s hatch opened and a man ran to a certain tank. A man came out and he went in. Then another man ran toward this first tank and another came to take his place. Then another man. Then another. The first tank had a new crew with the exception of one man who stayed. From what I gathered, the men in the first tank, which was nearest the Chinese, said they would stay, but one tanker said, “Don’t be crazy, you got a wife and kid. Get out of the tank I’m coming over.” So it was, four single men with no dependents volunteered to replace those in the first tank that had dependents. Then the tank took its position while the rest pulled away. Although they don’t like to talk about it, here is what I learned what happened. The volunteer tank killed two thousand five hundred Chinese before the Chinese swarmed over the tanks like ants. They hurled their bodies on the top of the tank. Smashed the periscope and fired their rifles into the slit holes. They finally found an exposed place in the armor and set the gasoline afire. The fire spread all over the tank. Five men roasted. Five men who mean nothing to you or me, but five men who died for us. Five men who will no doubt get the Congressional Medal of Honor (or their mothers will). Five men who will never be forgotten by six hundred American infantrymen that had time to get on a hill and get away from the twenty thousand Chinese. They will remember those five charred men until they too die, even though they didn’t know their names. The five men were all Negros (black), but their blood was red, a damn sight redder than yours or mine. Would you have done the same?????
ALL ALONG THE FRONT WE WERE PULLING BACK. General Soule, commander of the 3rd Division said, in an order of the day, “Never mind losing territory, kill those bastards and keep killing them. Every time we pull back, get on the high ground and kill all you can.” And he meant what he said for at this time we have killed seventy-three thousand Chinese. Just a little over half a million to go and there will be no more. Two hundred fifty thousand of us against six hundred thousand Chinese and more on the way. Of the two hundred fifty thousand men we have, only one hundred thousand are combat troops. The others are non-combat service and supply troops.
On the fourth day of the attack it began to rain. But credit must be given to the engineers and quartermaster truck drivers. The engineers were out repairing the road and bridges with rifle fire hitting them from the hills. Quartermaster truck drivers drove ammunition and food to the front lines. One truck driver ran over three Chinese who sneaked up to the road at night and tried to set his truck afire. The trucks behind him ground the three Chinese to a pulp with their heavy loaded trucks. Another driver had a hand grenade thrown into the cab of his truck but he threw it back out at the Chinese who threw it. One driver held the wheel of his truck with one hand and fired his pistol with the other. Everybody got into the fight.
ALSO DESERVING A LOT OF CREDIT are the ambulance drivers. With their litter Jeeps with two stretchers on the back, they drove often times behind the lines to pick up the wounded. The helicopter crews, who drop from the sky in enemy held ground to pick up a stray American from under the noses of the communists, also deserve credit.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW? I don’t know. At the present time I am in a building in Seoul. We may defend the battered city. All the civilians have left. If we stay here to fight, it will be a big fight. And I am going to stay and join the fight. I was a rifleman in the last war and I came over here to fight. Although my wife may not agree with me, I am glad to be over here. Because if I was home and not doing my part to lick this damn Chink, I wouldn’t consider myself worthy of being an American. These men over here are out-numbered ten to one and the fight they put up is wonderful to see. Every bearded, dirty-faced infantryman is your personal “policeman” in this so-called Police Action. And I am proud to be one of them.
So, until next time I write, I won’t ask you to buy bonds or any other such foolish thing. Just keep your fingers crossed for us and we’ll stuff their counter-attack down their throats.
Dear Jan: Just a little note to you. Hope this story isn’t too hard on the ears of your people. But I’m tired and often times get burnt up at the lack of interest shown by the American people concerning this war. I miss you Honey, very much, and you can be sure that I’m doing my part in this show. I’ve got sixteen Chinese to my credit in this one action with the British. We’ll have a great time when this is over. Love and kisses wifey dear. You’re the grandest gal in the world and I’m the luckiest guy.
Your sentimental husband,
Everybody here is on their toes waiting for the Chinese to try to take the city of Seoul. You may not read of the 3rd Division for a while as we have been taken off the frontlines and put into Army reserve for an indefinite time. We were hard hit as you know because we were right on the Imjin River where six hundred thousand Chinese came across. I tell you Honey, I fought the Japs but I have never seen anything like the Chinese. Thousands of them come running right at us and right into our machine gun positions. They fall over the barbed wire and let those in back of them run over them. Ours guns get white hot and jam trying to keep them firing at all the Chinks. The first group that hit us when I was trapped with the British were all doped up and young kids. I stuck my knife into one kid about fourteen years old and he just wouldn't die. I just about had to cut his head off so he would stop jumping. I don't think they even knew they were in a battle. What got me was after we retreated to another hill and I jumped into a hole and tried to get my breath a Chink came right up to the hole and started firing into it. He ran all the way up the hill after us and caught up to us. The bullets went between my legs and ripped my pants but didn’t hit me at all. I was so damn tired and breathing so hard that I couldn't move so he thought I was dead and left to another hole. The blood was pounding in my head and my lungs were aching after that running retreat. Too much smoking I guess. While I was in that condition, I said to myself that I was going to quit smoking for good, but when daylight came, I couldn't wait to light up a butt.
Well enough of the retreat. As I said, we are now off the line and after I got a good sleep after going steady for three days, I found that I had a package from you. You are a lulu kiddo, just in time with that package. Oh yes, I lost your pictures that you had taken with Jim and Vin and of yourself. Also, I lost my camera that your mother sent. I emptied my pockets when I was trapped and filled them with hand grenades so the Chinks are no doubt looking at your picture and whistling. How about sending me your small camera by airmail. If it uses a different size film send some of the film across too. I lost every damn thing that I had, sleeping bag, towels, clothes but will get them all back from supply.
I also got a load of papers. As you know I get The Monitor, The Providence Journal, The Boston Globe and The Boston Traveler. The mail clerk was swamped with papers for me.
From what I hear, I am to be given the Bronze Star as one captain in the British forces put me in for it for carrying a wounded man from behind the enemy lines when the Chinese overran us. I picked up this British soldier who was badly wounded and couldn’t walk, and took him to a sheltered area behind a rock, and patched him up. From what I hear he is still alive today and told his captain what I did. As you know I got the Bronze Star in the last war so if I get another one this time it will mean I get a little wreath to put on my ribbon. BIG DEAL.
I took a shower today and did the mud flow off of me. I was caked thick.
I am eating shrimp right now. I got a Korean to get me some Gohung (rice) and he fried it. You should see the pile of rice I have before me.
Well, sleep tight Honey. Love, Bill
P.S. Why all the bibles and prayer books in the package? My bible is my gun and it does me good and never fails. Just kidding Sunday School teacher.
Today is May 5th and the Chinese have not attempted to retake the war battered city of Seoul. Every infantryman is asking, “why not?” Many others are also asking the same question. Let’s look at the facts and see some of the reasons why the Chinese have failed to sweep down on the city.
First, the Chinese came across the Imjin River line during the night of April 22nd and kept going for four days while we rolled with the attack and withdrew. The Chinese tried in vain to “catch” us but we would hold one hill for an hour and leave it. When we left it, the artillery would open up on the Chinese taking the hill and kill fifty percent of them. We did this all the way from the Imjin River to the outskirts of Seoul. Our planes flew every day with their deadly load of napalm and rockets. Our artillery in a nine-day period fired over seventy thousand rounds of ammunition at a cost of about $40 per round. (You are the taxpayer so figure this cost yourself.) As a result of our tremendous firepower, we have killed eighty-three thousand Chinese at the last count. So, in that figure we have a very good reason why the Chinese have not taken Seoul. A tank patrol that went into enemy lines say that the complete valley where ten thousand Chinese were caught by our artillery smells to high heaven. The bodies lay on the ground until the sun expands the gases in the body and the body blows up. That is actually blows up from the pressure of the gas within it. The Chinese tried to take Seoul by May Day (the big day in the Communist Party) and all they received was a bloody nose. BUT ANYTHING CAN STILL HAPPEN.
WHAT ABOUT THE CIVILIANS? When this attack started, the civilians knew the only thing they could do was to again move south. This was the third time for most of them and after questioning on old man, he said, “When will you people defeat the communists?” Mile long lines of people carrying all their belongings on their backs filled the roads leading south. They crossed the Han River on logs, homemade boats, and some swam. Men, women, and children knew the route this being the third time they travelled it.
THE TURKS AGAIN. For the second time in this “police action” the Turks were surrounded when the South Korean soldiers ran before the Chinese attack. The Turks were outnumbered twenty to one and everyone considered them lost. But what happened, the Turks did it again. They held their territory and killed three thousand Chinese. It is unthinkable for a Turk to retreat in the face of battle as their religion points out. I say again, the Turks are the best fighting men in Korea.
Our Division, the 3rd, is now in a reserve role. We too have to lick our wounds and be resupplied with items we lost. Myself, I lost my sleeping bag, helmet, and bag containing personal items. Right now, the Chinese are no doubt looking at pictures of my wife. I emptied my pockets and filled them grenades and ammo. I hate to lose the pictures but I still have the subject.
THAT’S IT FOR NOW. If the rain holds off for a while, we may be able to keep the Chinese right where they are and then push them back. I think we can hold them unless another million slant eyes decided to come down.
Col Bill Huebner
Well, the weather had turned hot and now the flies, mosquitoes, etc. start bothering us. As you have may read the Chinese didn’t quite make it to Seoul. Everyone was waiting for it and it would have been quite a battle. Right now, our tanks are keeping contact with the Chinks and the air force kept hitting them all day. Of course, they may try it all over again when they get more troops.
This typewriter is on the blink, it skips a lot so you may notice. Did I write you that I got another package from you? That’s two packages so far.
I had a haircut today. Needed one. Had all my hair cut off so the bugs don’t get into it. Kept my mustache. Will try to keep it until I get home. Still no word on when the Reserves will get out. Send something to my mother from me for Mother’s Day as I don’t have anything to send.
Am tired. Going to sleep tonight. Also take a shower if I can find a barrel.
Well, the second part of the Chinese offensive is on and we are in army reserve below Chorwon, in the central part of Korea. We are about thirty miles below the 38th but no doubt we will be back on the lines soon. I have been getting your letters OK. Got number 128 yesterday. Did you get my pictures I sent?
Glad your folks liked the stuff I sent. Did your mother get that music box?
If your father doesn't want the jacket save it for me. Will try to get you a kimono from Japan. One of the boys may go to Japan in a week or so.
I understand my father has gone into the brush business. What does my mother think of it? I thought he was going to go to Cuba and be a beachcomber, or did my mother decide on the lesser of two evils, and let him go into the brush business? I may become a beachcomber when I get back. It seems to be the best life.
Got my Jeep back from the repair shop. It took two weeks to get another one. Tomorrow I'm off from what the news looks like. Now I have to look all over hell for my steel helmet and other stuff. You see, I still need a wife over here to pick up after me. Want the job?
Am busy again, out for reserve. Am giving the Chinese a good going over. The 3rd Division has been killing many. We are now in the East-Central front and not the West front any more.
Will write long letter soon. Your letters have been coming good. Also got the camera you sent. THANKS A LOT, YOU GREAT BIG BEAUTIFUL DOLL.
I Love you, Hubby
Well I have some time to write. We are now again back on the line and tearing hell out of the Chinese attacks as you may have been reading.
Today I received six shots. I have always been away from the headquarters when they gave shots. Today the medics came after me and used me for a pin cushion.
As I said in my last letter we are now on the Eastern-Central front instead of the Western front. We are now under the 10th Corps. We were under I Corps over on the western front.
From the look of things I imagine we will be away from each other on our anniversary. Our first anniversary too. Who would ever thought it when we first got married. If the war goes good and the Chinese don’t send more attacks down and don’t use air power, I may be home by Christmas of 1951. It may be cold down on Cape Cod for a honeymoon at that time but don’t worry about it.
So your father thinks that I asked to be brought back in the army to go to Korea. He is off his trolley again no doubt. What does he think of some of the pictures I sent back? Be sure to keep them as I want them all.
Did you read where we ambushed two thousand five hundred Chinks in the paper? We were sitting high on a hillside taking it easy when down in the valley two thousand five hundred Chinks started walking down the road. They didn’t know we were there so we let them all pass through and then came whooping and hollering down the hillside and killed every one. What a massacre. My gun was so hot I couldn’t hold it after I got through. The Chinks didn’t know what was going on. There was only four hundred and fifty of us but we caught them by surprise.
Well, take it easy baby, keep those letters coming. You don’t have to number them but if you want to OK.
WELL IT HAS BEEN A WHILE SINCE I LAST WROTE but during the past month things have been happening and fast. With the start of the Chinese Spring offensive on April 22nd, and the second round of the offensive on May 10th, the UN forces have turned the tide of war with massed firepower. The communists are now on the run and we are once again in North Korea. Here is how the battle went.
The Chinese came down, about five hundred thousand strong and we had to give way. We went back about forty miles to the Han River defense line and set up machine guns and artillery all along the line from sea to sea. Over every hill we put up barbed wire entanglements and waited. The Chinese started to come again but got nowhere. We piled them high as they tried to cross the barbed wire and artillery range. But in one sector of the defense line, the line broke. That was on the east coast where South Korean troops broke and ran under attack. An encirclement of American troops was in danger. The gap in the line had to be filled. So, the 3rd Division, my outfit, was pulled out of the battle on the west coast, put into trucks and rode sixty-five miles to the east coast. The move took three days. We gave our troops a rest for a few days and then went up to do a tough job. The Chinese and North Koreans, still thinking the scared South Korean troops were on the east coast, started another drive but they ran into the battle-hardened 3rd Division. From the period of May 15th to May 27th we pounded the enemy with artillery and counter-attacks. We sent our heavy tanks deep into their territory to shoot up their communication lines and supply dumps. We regained the ground lost by the South Koreans in only two days. When we reached the original defense line we didn’t stop there. Instead we rounded up the South Korean troops, put them in trucks, gave them a much needed pat on the back and had them join us. At times we gained up to two and three miles a day leaving behind dead Chinese along the roads. By May 26th we had our first tanks over into North Korea. Now that our job was done, we are again going back to the west coast and try to reach the North Korean capital.
From all estimates (and the smell of dead Chinese and North Koreans) we must have killed about one hundred and twenty-five thousand communists along the defense line. All one has to do is drive over some of the mountain roads and see the dead Chinese lying in the ditches and along the hillsides. The smell of these dead bodies often times makes one sick if he has just eaten. The prisoners are a different matter. They are wide-eyed from the experience they have just been through. They tell of the days and nights of our artillery and airplanes and infantry attacks. Their food ran out, we attacked during the rain and one important thing, when we attacked during the night, we also blew bugles and yelled, “Banzai Banzai”. In other words, we used their tactic and they didn’t like it.
Our tanks and their crews deserve much credit for the behind the lines attacks they made upon the Chinese. One tank task force left at midnight and roared into an enemy held camp and shot everything that moved. About fifty Chinese ran into a Korean house to escape the tanks, but the tankers just drove their heavy tanks through the house killing all within. The Chinese tried to throw gas on the tanks but the tankers fired tracer bullets into the cans of gas the Chinese were holding and the flaming gas poured down over their heads. Such fighting as this by the American troops broke the back of the Chinese offensive.
HOW DOES AN INFANTRY DIVISION BEAT OFF OUTNUMBERED attacks such as they have? How do they attack the enemy and best them? I will tell you how, by every man doing his part in the battle. Take one little battle that I was assigned to cover. The men belonged to the 3rd RANGER company. The Rangers are a group of hard-hitting combat troops. They are the elite, the SS troops the Germans had or like the Commandos the British had. This one mission assigned to the Rangers was to take a mountain that was held by the Chinese. The enemy had dug a series of trenches around the mountain tops. From this lofty position they fired down on American troops in the valley. An estimated three hundred enemy held the hilltop. If we sent up three hundred or more men to take the mountain our causalities would be heavy. This mission called for a job to be done by about one hundred men and it was to be started at night. The type of men needed for the mission would be hard-hitting combat-wise troops who were experienced in night fighting and shock action. This mission fell to the Rangers.
We left about three in the morning and reached the base of the mountain at about four a.m. We were halfway up when the dawn broke and the enemy knew of our presence. Right away they started tossing grenades at us from their uphill position. The Rangers however dispersed and split up into little groups to provide less of a target. When we were within fifty feet of the first line of trenches, we started throwing our grenades. At a prearranged signal, the Rangers stormed the first line of trenches yelling “Die Bastard Die”, their battle cry, and leaped from behind bushes, rocks, and defiles to jump into the trenches. It wasn’t a one-point attack. We hit them from all points along the trenches. The confusion was with us. The Chinese suddenly realized that the Rangers were hitting them from all points. The enemy in the trenches above didn’t dare throw grenades for fear of hitting their own men. The Rangers killed every communist in the lower trench. The bayonet was the most used weapon because the Rangers often had ten to twenty Chinese caught in the middle of a trench and if they fired, they might hit a comrade coming from the other end of the trench. After the trench was taken, we left it because now the Chinese above started hurling grenades at us. We had two more trenches to go. It was a tough job. We used our radio to call in a jet plane to drop a fire bomb on the top of the hill at our signal. The call went out, the signal given. The large tank of jellied gasoline floated down and exploded twenty feet over the top of the hill. A half-acre of flaming gas covered the mountain top. The Chinese saw the tank come floating down and raced from their mountain top position right down into our waiting guns. As they did, we cut them apart. It was either burn to death or take a chance of shooting their way out. Immediately after the fire bomb left the plane, we were on our way up with guns blazing and were in the second trench before the enemy. The enemy that remained alive feared to go back to the mountain top as the plane was making passes at the top of the mountain and they thought it was going to release the second gas bomb under its wing. But we told the plane only to pretend so the enemy would not go back to the top. That was all we needed. The Rangers rose from the second trench and met the remaining enemy on the hillside. The fight lasted for fifteen minutes and lead filled the air. When it was over, we walked to the smoking top of the hill and radioed the plane that its job was done. The mountain was ours and the valley below was safe for troops and convoys. The Rangers killed three hundred enemy and lost only six of their one hundred men. Rangers continued to fight after being wounded. Just a small battle in a big war.
AFTER WE HAD ABSORBED THE CHINESE ATTACK, we started our own attack. The Chinese had stretched their lines a long way in the deep penetration they had made. As we moved from west to east coast to plug the gap left by the retreating South Korean, the 3rd Division’s 65th Infantry Regiment made up of Puerto Ricans sent out a battalion across a steep mountain pass that even the Chinese didn’t use because of its steepness. The Puerto Ricans took three days to get up that pass and behind the enemy lines. They had command of the valley below them and just in time too. The Chinese attempted to reinforce their troops by sending a regiment of North Koreans to the line. They selected the valley pass as the quickest way to get the troops there. But what they didn’t know was that the battalion of Puerto Ricans were sitting on the hills overlooking the valley and equipped with mortars and machine guns. The commander of the battalion saw the North Korean regiment start down the valley. He told his men “NOT TO SHOOT” until he gave the word. For three hours the Puerto Ricans watched as the full regiment walked along the narrow valley path with a small stream flowing by its side. The battalion commander gave the word and the battalion opened up on the regiment with every weapon at its disposal. Some of the Puerto Ricans swooped down the mountain to the head of the enemy regiment thus blocking their forward advance. Another group cut them off from the rear as they set up machine guns along the path. The fight lasted four hours as one thousand men attacked three thousand. When it was all over the battalion left the dead in the valley and went back to friendly lines. They were anxious to tell the rest of their comrades the good news of the ambush. But the men had already known. HOW? They said the stream stopped flowing water and turned to blood. By that sign they knew their buddies had caught a large group of enemy in the open.
FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THIS WAR THE CHINESE were surrendering in large numbers. One Division had one thousand surrender at one time. An unheard-of thing for the communist to do. One thing they wanted to know was where did we ever get so much ammunition to fire at them, especially artillery shells which cost about $95 apiece. At one time we fired twenty thousand shells altogether. We have fired over two million shells. Multiply that by $95 and you will know where your taxes are going. But believe me it is worth it. If one artillery shell will save one American it is worth it.
The unsung heroes of the counter attack were the rear troops. They too worked day and night loading supplies on trucks and bringing them over the steep mountain roads. Truck drivers, two to a truck, worked around the clock. While one slept in the cab the other drove. Ammunition and food were forever on the move forward.
The medical men were also on the ball. When a man was wounded, they went into the face of fire to drag him from danger to a place behind a rock where the wounds were inspected. Many times, a soldier could see a medic giving a wounded man a blood transfusion as the medic held high a bottle of the precious blood amid the firing of guns. If the wounded man was in bad shape, the medic would set off a purple smoke grenade. Up in the air a helicopter pilot would see the purple smoke and bring his flying ambulance down to earth and place the wounded man on a special litter on the side of the helicopter. In a matter of minutes, the man was twenty miles to the rear and on an operating table. If this had to be done without the aid of helicopter, the trip would take ten hours by road. The matter of life or death is a few minutes. Men of the infantry know that the whirling thing up in the sky means the best service in evacuating him to a rear area hospital. A helicopter can carry two wounded men, each on a side of the copter. At times, the man who is placed in the windproof litter, has a bottle of blood dripping into his veins even while being flown to the hospital. Many times Death has been cheated by the helicopters and the men of the medical corps.
STORIES OF HEROISM DURING THE COUNTER ATTACK ARE NOT RARE, instead they are the rule. Stories such as the soldier that held a position which the Chinese were trying to capture. The enemy kept throwing grenades at the man and he would catch them in midair and throw them back before they exploded. And the men who used a limb from a small tree as a baseball bat to bat the grenades back at the throwers. Americans are great baseball players and at this time proved valuable. There’s the story of the soldier who played dead after his position was overrun. The Chinese set a machine gun position up using his body as a sand bag. Later during the night, the dead man rose and killed the machine gun crew and turned the gun on the other Chinese sleeping near the gun. It takes a lot of good American guts to do things such as these.
All the United Nation troops did well in beating back the Chinese. The Turks, as usual, did the unexpected and attacked when the rest of us were retreating. The Chinese now seem to fear any soldier wearing a black mustache and speaking anything that sounds like Turkish. The Turks, it seems, never take any prisoners. To them, retreat is dishonorable and fighting to a death is honorable. Thus, they have become just what countless other nations who have fought the Turks in years past, “THE TERRIBLE TURKS”. Added to the ranks of the United Nation forces in Korea are the Ethiopians. They have not yet been sent into battle but they are supposed to be excellent night mountain fighters. It seems that I may yet learn to speak a bit of Ethiopian. I can ask for food in just about every different language of the troops over here. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a battalion of Eskimos join us in the fight. I imagine they wouldn’t mind the cold weather as much as we did during last winter.
Now about the South Koreans. It just seems that the South Koreans have little discipline and are subject to fear when the enemy starts blowing bugles and screaming in the middle of the night. They have disgraced themselves in the eyes of the other United Nation soldiers and they realize it. They have often times turned and ran from their positions leaving open the flanks of American troops. The only cure seems to be in the way the Turks handle the situation. When they saw the Koreans start to run, they pointed their guns at them and threatened to shoot them. The South Koreans are good fighters when things are going their way. Of course, one must realize that the Chinese aim for the South Korean lines because they realize the fear that can be imposed on their minds. As a result of one South Korean commander turning and running during a battle with the enemy, he has been court martialed, and given fifteen years at hard labor in a prison camp.
WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE? Here are my predictions. If the Chinese continue to fight, we will push them back to the 39th Parallel, but to push them back any further means that we will have to have more men on our side because North Korean widens above the 39th. However, if the Chinese Nationalists invade the mainland it will create a second front giving Korea a breathing spell. Then again, if internal unrest in China (we understand there is a famine going on) turns into a revolt, the Chinese troops may throw down their arms and desert. But whatever happens the men in Korea hope it happens soon. The month of June means the war has been going a year and an American soldier doesn’t mind fighting as long as he can get it over with quick instead of dragging it out for years.
Well, that is it for now. Hope this will enlighten you a bit as to what is going on over here. See you before Christmas, I hope.
Cpl. Bill Huebner
After writing this four-page letter I am about through for the night. Will write you a nice long letter soon. Miss you Honey,
It's me again. It’s raining like hell outside and I don't know if the Chinese like the rain or not. Been getting your letters whenever mail comes in. See you asked about increased allotment as a corporal. Just hold on tight because the government is slow about such things. It will eventually come through. You should get about $125 dollars per month for support and the extra $40 I send from my pay. All in all, I only get about $20 a month for pay. You get $125 now so the next check will be for about $165 or thereabouts.
Don't know if I can get you a kimono or not as I don't think I will be going to Japan again, unless I get hit and sent to a hospital. However, if I get to stop in Tokyo on my way back home l will pick them up at some store.
l understand that we reservists will be civilians by December 31st of this year. Sound good to you?
I am now in North Korea and it seems that every time we got in North Korea the communists try like hell to push us out. Between you and me Honey, I think we are here to stay this time as we gave them a beating during the past few weeks. Wait until you see some of the pictures I took. The Chinese were piled deep in the roads with millions of flies on their bodies.
Got a letter from my father today. He wants me to get some Chinese pig bristle for his brush business. No doubt he expects me to sneak into China and get five tons of pig bristle and bring it back. From your point, how is he doing in the brush business? I understand that my brother may take a cruise soon. Is he still taking his food from the bottle? (Note: Bill’s brother, Richard Huebner, served with the United States Army Air Corps during World War II as a radio operator. During the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War he served as a Senior Electronics Officer in the Merchant Marines.)
Sorry to hear your mother had the accident. Women and cars never did get along.
Don’t know what to do about our anniversary as I cannot send you anything but a bag of rice from Korea, so why don’t you buy yourself something and charge it to me. Or something like that. At least I didn’t forget the anniversary.
How do my relatives like the pictures I sent? You may not know it but my mustache measures four inches from side to side. Now wouldn’t that just tickle you to death?
I have slept all day today. As you know we are back on the West Central front. That East front was full of mountains and no railroad so we had rations all the time.
Your chop suey, or did my mother send it, came in handy at that time. On well, that is all I can think about now. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY HONEY. Our second one will be better than this. I wonder where we will be on our 50th anniversary. I can see us, both wearing false teeth, clacking to each other and taking care of grandchildren. Tempus Fugit.
Love from Me.
Got you letter today saying you don’t understand how we could be on the eastern front when we were on the western front. Now Dear, I realize that you skip over the newspaper reports, BUT as I said before, we were on the western front when the Chinese attacked April 22nd and drove us back 30 miles. Then we fought for about two weeks on the western front just holding them back from the city of Seoul. Then we went into reserve for three days to lick our wounds and get re-equipped. We got the midnight order to plug up the gap on the eastern front made by the ROKs (Republic of Korea) when they ran from the Chinks. We traveled about ninety miles with our tanks and all and went right into battle. We then beat the hell out of the Chinks and pushed them back to the 38th on the eastern front and then went back to the western central front where we are now. Now do you get it through your pretty little head? It meant a lot of traveling through bad roads and no sleep and then into battle but the 3rd Division is a good outfit. That’s because I’m in it!
Well, got your letters today. Also, the one with a letter from Mimi to you. Tell her we don’t want somebody like Jim over here. This place needs fighters, not bullshitters. I’d like to see him on some of these night patrols behind the Chinese lines. He’d drop dead from fright alone.
Had an interesting experience the other day and wrote a little story on it. The boys in the section thought it funny so they got a cartoonist to draw a picture for it. It is enclosed. It appeared in Frontline, the daily 3rd Division newspaper. They put a big mustache on me and a goatee. It really was funny and after I picked myself up, I had to laugh.
Today I was operated upon. Yep, a full-scale operation. You know that lump that I had behind my ear. Well, I went into the medical tent and asked the medics what could be done about it. They said it would have to be operated on. So instead of going back to a rear area, I asked them if they could operate in the medical tent. The captain said he could and he told me to lay down on a stretcher and went to work. It was bloody and took about thirty minutes but now the lump is gone. In its place I have a huge bandage on one side of my face. Will take about three weeks to heal. That was fast.
That’s it for now.
Have one print made of each of these negatives and have them made the same size as the other. They are jumbo prints. Be sure we have a print apiece for my own use.
Well, time to write a letter again. Have been busy the past week and no chance to write you a letter. Have been in Seoul working on printing press for the colonel. Spent a week putting bombed out presses together. Quite a job but I got them working. (Note: See August 14th for articles and pictures.) On our way back we towed a big generator on a trailer behind a truck and the generator got loose and fell off. It weighed four tons. We had to get a wrecker and have it put back on the trailer. The thing fell off right on the main street in Seoul and blocked traffic. Just another headache. I am now back near the front. You sent me a questionnaire to answer but I’ll be damned if I didn’t lose it.
Anyway, we are near Chorwon, just on the outskirts. It’s not safe to be in town as the Chinese use planes to bomb at night. We have had four air raids but the Chinese planes fly high and are not a bit accurate. We expect heavier attacks soon. Tomorrow I leave for the front for a week. You should see the refugees coming down from North Korea. Just think, the North Korean people, who are suppose to be communists, want to get behind our lines for protection. In three days the 3rd Division has evacuated over thirty thousand refugees.
Your mail has been coming in good. Keep it up.
Well, another long overdue letter to you. Have been busy covering this attack against the Iron Triangle and further north. But just last night the Chinese got mad and gave us a counter attack that pushed us off a hill and suffered about two hundred causalities. I knew it was due to happen.
Also, today we heard that Jacob Malik (Note: Jacob Malik was the Soviet delegate to the UN.) wants to have us go back to the 38th and talk peace. I say to hell with him. We will talk right where we are now and not go back an inch. Also, every time the Reds say something about peace there is usually a big attack in the wind and I believe that the first anniversary of the Korean War will start it. However, we are ready for them and if they’d attack, we will fall back to the 38th and fight from there.
Also, our first anniversary is due isn’t it kiddo? Happy Anniversary to you. How does it seem to married? Not a bit like what married life should be like, eh? But don’t worry, nobody can say your husband is not doing his part in this battle in Korea.
From the looks of things, the ERs (enlisted reserves) will be out by November 30th or sooner. Hope they get more draftees over here to replace us experienced battle combat veterans who plugged up the lines with our brawn and experience much against most of our wills.
Well, that’s it for now.
More pictures for you. I should have plenty of them home by now. Keep them all. Everybody over here is waiting for what Malik and the Chinese have to say about calling off the war. Still giving the Chinese hell.
Well, I may be saving some money in the army on operations alone. Yesterday, June 28th, I had my wisdom tooth taken out by the dentist and now I find that when I arrived back at headquarters that a package was awaiting me from you. What a situation. I have to wait until the gum heals until I can eat the cookies. Oh well, that’s life.
I also have to have another wisdom tooth taken out in a month or so. They seem to be too big and are pushing all my other back teeth out of place. You should see the one he took out. It was the size of a walnut.
We are now located in Chorwon in North Korea which was the lower end of the communist triangle. The town is blasted to pieces. We are waiting for another big push.
I just found a letter that I wrote to you a week ago in my pocket so instead of mailing it I will write another and send them both to you. We are having trouble with the Chinese again. They are really dug in at the tip of the Iron Triangle and we can’t dig them out of their holes. You should see the battle that took place. We were pushed back about a mile when they counter attacked.
Everyone is waiting for the cease fire reply of the Chinese but they are not answering. Don’t think that they will.
From all I figure I should now be out around the first of September. Maybe sooner if all goes well.
Well this is silent Huebner once again. I just had another wisdom tooth pulled and can’t say a word. This is the second one that has been pulled. One more to go. They say my wisdom teeth are like horse teeth they are so large. I also have to get some teeth filled but the army has a habit of drilling right down to the nerve and then throwing cement into the hole and calling it quits. I need some drilling work on my front teeth but would like to have plastic fillings that match the teeth. The army has no plastic fillings.
The peace talks are on again and I am glad that Ridgway got rough with the Chinks and called it off when they wouldn’t allow newsmen in. I think I may have a chance to attend the meetings in a few days if all goes well. I have been chosen as top I&E correspondent in the Division.
Say kiddo, remember the check you gave me to sign about four months ago, well here it is signed. I put it in my bag and forgot all about it. Right on the ball ain’t I?
As you know, I will be out of the army by December 31st. That’s only six more months.
The rainy season is here. Every day we get a bit of rain. It helps to keep the dust down and you don’t know how dusty it gets over here.
Well, that’s it for now.
Well, I just got back from Kaesong Peace Camp but didn’t get a chance to get to the meetings. Saw the Chinese guards and offered one a smoke but he wouldn’t budge. I went with the colonel and he couldn’t get himself in, so we sat around the camp and had a few drinks, and then Jeeped (drove in a Jeep) back fifty miles to the 3rd Division command post. We had hopes that maybe our general, Robert H. (Rawhide) Soule would get to the meeting but he is considered dynamite. The Chinese hate him because the 3rd Division has killed thirty thousand Chinese during the Spring offensive when we took that midnight ride and slaughtered all the Chinese on the east coast. They hate the 3rd Division.
Got your birthday cards today. Thanks kiddo. A few more months and I should be home.
The official word is that half a million Chinese are about thirty miles in front of the 3rd Division above Pyonggang, so if the peace talks fail we can expect a hell of a big fight on our hands. The only thing that worries me is the 9th ROK (Republic of Korea) division on our left. On our right we have the 1st Cavalry Division which is tops. Wish we had the Turks on our left.
You may not believe it but this division has just evacuated forty thousand North Korean civilians from our area. Also included were one thousand head of cattle. Some of these women are tough. A few gave birth to children on the trucks that were hauling them to the rear.
My jaw is going down now. It was swollen after they pulled my tooth.
When you sent the birthday cards I didn’t realize until then that my birthday was due. Will be twenty-six years old and over three years in the army, and over two years overseas in the Orient. I should be an expert on it by now. Maybe during the war with Russia I’ll go to Europe to see what it is like.
The extra pay for corporal should get to you sooner or later. Don’t worry about it.
Just got back from behind the Chinese lines. Was out on a patrol with the Rangers and we were to get information on the buildup of Chinese above our positions. Spent three days behind the lines and moved only at night. We snuck up on four Chinese guards and cut their throats with our knives. We saw plenty of Chinks. At night we watched them eat their rice and play games. We were so deep into their lines. None of their guards found us but they must have known we were there after the guards disappeared. We stuffed one guard under a house floor and the other three we threw into a pond with rocks in their pockets. There are about four hundred thousand Chinese in front of the 3rd Division so if the peace talks don’t go through you can expect to see the 3rd Division in action and in the middle of it.
Got three letters from you today and also package of film. Thanks a lot kiddo. Also got your pictures. Honey you still freeze when someone points a camera at you. You take a good picture when I take the picture but when someone else takes it, I think it stinks. Glad to see the pictures anyway. Always remember that when you take a picture NEVER stand flat footed as all the fat (excuse the expression) shows in your legs and tummy. Stand on your toes, put your hands behind your hair. LOOK AWAY from the camera. Put you best points out front (you know what I mean). On side shots, put one foot in front of the other, keep the other straight and the other bent. Keep your body tightened. Never allow the bulges to show (all women have bulges). Watch what your background is. A poor background will take away from the subject. Never wear glasses when taking a picture. Hey, this is turning into a book. In a week or so I may have a surprise for you.
Peace talks postponed as you may know. Everybody waiting until July 25th but personally I think the Chinese will counterattack on my birthday, July 27th. Wait and see.
Have been trying to find time to write another relative letter but things keep coming up. Met Tom Dewey (Governor of New York and presidential candidate) and talked to him or did I tell you.
Well, that’s it for now.
Well, I guess I owe you a letter. I just missed out on the cease fire talks. There were sixteen newsmen to go along and that included photographers. We thought for a while that the 3rd Division Commanding General Robert H. Soule would go to the talks as he speaks Chinese but the high command decided against it. If he could have gone, I would have gone with him. General Soule was one of those imprisoned in the American Embassy building in China for six months by the communists and the high command figured that it wouldn’t be wise to send the general along as the Chinese might not like it.
Everyone in the frontlines are just keeping their heads a bit low and have been relying on artillery fire. There has been very little action, only some patrols and short fights between fifteen to thirty men in the patrols. The Chinese haven’t the will to attack. BUT, during this time of the cease fire talks they are building up and if the talks don’t bring about a cease fire you can expect a hell of a counter-attack by the Chinese. It will be about the biggest thing yet. We are in the Iron Triangle and it will be the first place they hit when they do.
This is July 27th, my birthday. Will be six months that I am in Korea. This makes me ready for rotation but there are men here that have been here for the past eight months. Not enough replacements coming over.
Been getting your letters ok. Will let you know of any change in the war next letter, meanwhile all is quiet and everyone is keeping their fingers crossed.
This typewriter doesn’t work too well. Caps don’t work so it will be all in lower case.
I have been with the Turks for the past three days and will be with them for a week more. Everything is unusually quiet along the front. In fact, I went on a tank patrol thirty miles into the enemy lines and we saw a few Chinese. They actually waved to us. It was a hell of a predicament as to whether we should shoot or not but we realized that there were about two thousand in the hills overlooking the tank, so we just threw some cans of food to the ones we saw and left. The Chinese seem to want to quit fighting and I don’t blame them after all the damage we have done to them. This is the second day that no American soldier has been killed in Korea which is a record. Of course, if things don’t go well at the cease fire meeting then all hell will break loose around here.
I just called headquarters and they say there is a lot of mail for me and will send it up. Also, two cases of beer ration that is due to me.
The Turks eat different type of food than we do, except of course when in combat they eat C rations. Their food is highly spiced and cooked oddly. They make meat cakes with half meat and half onions, and plenty of garlic. Their type of whisky is good but I got mucho stinko on it the other day and burped onions and garlic all day. However, the Turks are very good fighters who believe that it is an honor to die in battle and to run away is a disgrace that Allah will not look favorably upon.
In one of your letters you say you want to dye your hair blonde. I don’t know about it. Blondes look good and are always appealing. If you think you will like to dye your hair go ahead but not platinum. What does your mother think about it?
I checked about the increased allotment and they said to just hang on and it will come.
From the look of things, I think I should be leaving this place in a month or so if the cease fire goes through. I have been here six months now. When I do leave Korea, I want you to get the car registered and might as well use my father’s address when you register it. Get the car all greased up. Get my brother to do it if you can or my father. Tell your relatives that the war has slowed down and there is not much to write about.
Don’t know what I’ll do when I get back. No doubt Alger will squawk like hell to take me back at $1.75 an hour as when I left. Might take another crack at reporting again even if the hours are always uncertain. I did enjoy the steady hours as a linotype operator and the pay.
Today, I am twenty-six years old and I’m on my way to fifty. Just got to the half way mark. Wonder if I’ll make it.
Well that’s it for now.
As you can see this is still my old typewriter that has been bounced around in my Jeep for the past six months. It has gone through two retreats and three offensives, and at times it has some trouble working right. I am now back at headquarters and got my mail, etc. Think I will be going to the Greeks next. My poor stomach. Turks were very very good to me, especially since I had a mustache that was as long as theirs.
Wrote a letter to your mother and father when I was with the Turks. Right now it is raining like HELL. It is coming down in sheets and all the rice paddies are beginning to fill up. Of course the tankers are starting to yell about their tanks getting bogged down in the mud. I have been in tanks when it rains and it’s like being inside a metal shower room.
No word yet about the release of the Reserves but we all have to be home by December 30th so don’t worry. Tomorrow is August 1st so only five more months at the most. Think I will go back to news reporting when I get back. Met a guy from the Manila Times and he said the paper was hiring American newsmen every so often. They were looking for linotype machinists and operators very bad. The pay is about two hundred pesos a week which is about $100 but 100 bucks in the Orient is a lot of money which means many servants, etc. The living conditions are rough however, and the Orient is always a hot spot for revolutions and uprising that usually means a fight on the white man’s hands every year. How would you like that? I can just see you firing a machine gun from your bedroom window at a bunch of rebels down in the streets.
Well, I have a choice when I get back either me work or let you work. How about that? Wouldn’t you like to support delicate little old me? Wouldn’t that go well with the family. Good thing I can operate a linotype. There is always a job open for linotype operators.
So you are not getting along with your sister. Tch tch. Don’t let it worry you. She will get over it sooner or later.
I mailed that questionnaire you sent. One of the guys looked at it and then went into his bag and brought one from his wife. So don’t think you are alone.
Still can’t get into Kaesong. Just as far as the peace train and no further. Wish the 3rd Division could get its hand into the peace talk so I could go but our general might shoot the Chinese from across the table. He is a tough baby.
When I left the Turks they all passed around a lot of Turkish whisky and when I got through, I was really drunk. They drove me and my photographer fifty-six miles to headquarters, which is only one and a half hours. Those Turks drive like the fight, like all hell broke loose.
Well that’s it for now.
Second week of rain and high winds. Little action on the front but if peace talks fail, we are in for a big attack by the Chinese.
No mail for the past week. Mail has been held up because the bridges were washed out. Expect a lot soon.
We are now eating C rations but as soon as Quartermaster trucks can get through, we will be back to eating Class A rations.
We have a 155mm Long Tom artillery battalion right next to us and they fire all night long. What a racket. They make sleeping rough. When they fire you bounce a foot off the ground and the concussion gets under the blanket and blows it off. But we are always glad to hear our artillery firing. Especially a 155mm cannon.
Hope this mail will get out OK. Did you get the picture I sent?
Things are the same at the front. The war is still a matter of patrols into the enemy lines and they send patrols against us during the night. I don’t think the peace will go through or at least I don’t hope it does because the only way to beat the communist is to kill them all. Just before the peace talks we had them on the run and killing about a one thousand per day, but now the Chinese have had a good piece of time to build up in the front of us. We are going to be in a lot of trouble if they attack with a million men. We still will be outnumbered ten to one but as long as Bill Huebner and his rifle are up front, they won’t get far.
Your letters have been piling up and I get a bunch at a time when I go back to headquarters. Nothing new on rotation. Very few men going and almost no ER’s going out. Seems Congress has fouled up on the ER’s again. Anyway, I have to be out of Korea by November 30th and out of the army by December 31st. Maybe sooner, who knows.
The rain continues over here and slows down our tanks which I don’t like a bit. Also, low-flying clouds prevent close air support of ground troops during attack. When the Chinese attack I hope it stays clear and dry so we can use tanks and airplanes. If it rains the full job will fall to the infantryman at ten-to-one odds. At the present time I am above the city of Chorwon in North Korea. If the newspaper maps show that the city of Pyonggang is within our lines it is wrong. The town does not belong to either the Chinese nor us. It is in the middle of a long flat plain subject to accurate artillery fire from both sides.
Never did get the package from Howard. If it was chocolates and not in a metal box they are ruined by now.
I have had a bunch of pictures developed and will send them as soon as I can package them and get to an army post office when back at headquarters. I have plenty of film at the present time. I got the boxful you sent. Thanks.
That’s it for now,
Jeep is getting greased and fixed up after the rough treatment that I give it. Should be ready in a day so I have time to write to you. Now ain’t that nice. Nothing much to report except I just finished off the rest of my beer. I got hold of some ice, which is very rare over here and the cold beer was great.
Enclosed are some pictures taken of a recent action before the cease fire talks. I have numbered them one to seven. Number one shows what is called a quad fifty machine guns section, four machine guns that fire at the same time mounted on a halftrack. The four barrels are gun barrels. The armor plate behind them and the boxes that are curved on the top are ammunition magazines. These guns are very fast and do a lot of killing. Number two shows a white phosphorous burst hitting the Chinese on a little ridge top. The Chinese prevented us from coming across the flat land, which our tanks could not cross because they are rice paddies and are very soft. So, we threw the shells at them. The white phosphorous sends little particles of phosphorous in a one hundred twenty-five-meter yard radius and burns into the skin and sets fire to the Chinese clothing. Number three is what we call a litter Jeep. It is taking one of our wounded back to an aid station. You can see how dusty the roads are by the dust being kicked up by the Jeep. Number four shows a good action shot of a tank firing its guns so fast that the blast kicks up the dust in the roads. The Chinese are in front of the tank trying to put Molotov cocktails near the hatches. That’s my Jeep in the background. Number five shows a Filipino machine gunner firing at the Chinese from atop a light tank. The Filipinos have done a good job over here. Number six shows the men advancing toward the hill after it was hit with white phosphorous. Number seven shows the same hill but we are going after its flank. We finally took the hill and killed about two hundred Chinese.
Good pictures aren’t they Honey. Your Hubby has seen plenty of action in this war and caught all the action with his Brownie camera. Good camera those Brownies.
That’s it for now,
Back at headquarters and I am typing on a typewriter that is brand new. It’s an Underwood and what a beauty. Of course, it belongs to the section and not to me. I still have the battered, war-weary portable. Am sending you some pictures that I have taken over here. Very few action pictures because of the lack of action. Some pictures of refugees however are good. Also, some of the Jack Benny show when it appeared here.
Last night it rained here at headquarters and what a night. Headquarters is in a sort of tent city that is dug in against air raids. Each tent has a high mound of earth around it and is about five feet below the level of the ground. Well it rained and rained like hell. The rain came down in sheets and the wind blew. The pit filled with water and in one hour the water was five feet deep and every bit of clothing and records got wet. What a time we had with shovels, sandbags, etc. trying to stop the water from coming in. It was no use. We gave up and tried to evacuate everything important to high ground.
Also, the main Army Post Office (APO) was situated near a river bank and a twelve-foot wall of water came rushing down. Result, all being washed as far as five miles away. The engineers had two bridges washed away and had to cut the other bridges when the wall of water came down from the mountains. The air force, I understand, dropped food and ammunition to front line troops where I was yesterday. The rain did more damage in two hours than the Chinese did in two days.
Well, that’s it. Oh yes, you may have heard about the new rotation policy. We Reserves still have to be out by December 31st.
My typewriter is again acting up. It will now only work on capital letters.
Here is the surprise that I was telling you about. I am now Sergeant Huebner and have been given a Bronze Star for Gallantry. This time I didn’t get the star but a cluster to the star as I got the star in the last war for gallantry. It is just the same as another star though. Can’t wear two stars that are the same so we wear a cluster. I am a four-stripe sergeant. Three stripes up and one stripe down. Didn’t I tell you your husband was a soldier of the best caliber? I was notified of the award as soon as I got back from a task force into Pyonggang, North Korea. Nothing much doing except the Chinese failed to put up a fight when we entered the town.
Rain has raised hell with the supplies. We are back to eating C rations as the supply trucks can’t get across the streams. Water will go down in a week though.
Well, that’s it for now.
Got my picture on the front page of the Seoul paper. I fixed their press for them. The item says:
“Introducing Sgt. William Huebner, a war correspondent for the army who wrote an article about the Seoul Press in an American paper and has worked on the newspaper presses of Seoul to repair them. The people of Korea are glad that such a talented man gave his time to aid in the reconstruction of the South Korean capital city newspaper. The Americans are a very generous people. He is 26 years old, has a wife, etc.”
Enclosed is the UN Correspondent
Staff Sergeant Huebner with Mr. Kim of the Seoul Press. Huebner was ordered to get the paper back in print.
(Click picture for a larger view)
Note: On May 12, 1951 Bill wrote an article in The Publishers’ Auxiliary on page 4 about his visit to the Seoul Press after the city of Seoul was re-taken by the UN forces. The Publishers’ Auxiliary is the only national publication serving America's community newspapers. First published in 1865, The Publishers' Auxiliary is also the oldest newspaper serving the newspaper industry. Bill’s last name was spelled incorrectly as Heubner. With permission from Publishers’ Auxiliary here is a transcript of the article he wrote:
(Publishers’ Auxiliary) EDITOR’S NOTE: Cpl. Bill Heubner, recently called into the US army as a reservist, is a subscriber to The Publishers’ Auxiliary. He was sent to Korea where he now serves with the 3rd infantry division as a combat correspondent for the division troop information and education section. Cpl. Heubner, who has worked as editor, reporter, Linotype operator and feature writer for many papers throughout the US, sends the following account of what war has done to one of Korea’s largest newspapers—the Seoul Press.
By Cpl. Bill Heubner
I was one of the first US army correspondents in the retaken city of Seoul. But unlike the other correspondents, who went in search of news stories in the battered city, I headed straight for the Korean Press plant to see what war had done to the city’s largest newspaper. Finding the building, I was met at the gates to the newspaper yard by a dirty, baggy-pants man about 45 years old. I found out, through an interpreter, that he was a Mr. Kim who was once the master pressman for the Seoul Press and was told, by this publisher, to stay behind and “watch out for the equipment.”
Mr. Kim told me that he had buried all the vital parts of the huge double-decker Hoe press that turned out the newspaper. Upon learning that I was a newspaperman and printer back in the states, he offered to take me through the shell-torn building. But he warned me, the communist has mined parts of the building with booby traps.
He took me through a side door and down into the dark pressroom. There stood the once-proud Hoe press, silent and beaten. Its huge, towering form pock-marked with shell holes.
We climbed along the handrails of the iron stairs to keep away from the steps that contained the deadly charge of TNT. Mr. Kim showed me one charge that was neatly concealed in the paper hoist of the big press. One pull of the chain and the puller would no longer be around.
Next, Mr. Kim took me up to the composing room. It looked as if a violent hurricane had hit it. Korean handset type was piled high throughout the half-acre, long room. Racks were smashed, type galleys bent, every usable thing had been damaged in one way or another.
We next slid down the banister, still keeping off the stairs, to the editorial office. Here, damage was not too great. Desks and chairs were still in order. The slot desk remained intact. The city editor’s desk was very obvious as were the rewrite and ‘phone-in desk. A few telephones were smashed and some typewriters looked as though they received a blow from a rifle butt. The communists knew that the heart of the editorial room had fled before they arrived. They were after the newspaperman, not his desk.
On the third floor we found the morgue, business office, files and other departments. Here, too, the communists had done very little damage since they could not reach the “brains.”
Looking around in the composing room, I noticed the surprising lack of English type. When I asked Mr. Kim about this, he said the communists had boxed all of it and shipped it north when they pulled out of Seoul. The communists used the type to print propaganda leaflets which were a source of amusement to the American troops when they read the awkward statements and noticed the 6-, 8- and 10-point type mixed together in single sentences. The printing job was just as bad.
The next thing Mr. Kim showed me were his job presses. They were in a separate building. From under the floor boards, which he pried up, he uncovered a supply of precious rubber rollers, inks and Old English type which he had hidden. Under another floor board were chases, keys, rules, make-up rules and a rusty pair of printers’ tweezers.
When I asked him about the possibility of getting the big press going once again, Mr. Kim said: “If our people want to have a newspaper, I will make the press run, even if I have to turn the wheels by my own strength.”
As much as I hated to leave Mr. Kim, it was necessary. Night was coming on the blackened city of Seoul and the city was in the middle of “no man’s land.” I gave him a pack of cigarettes and some rations I had in my pocket.
When I looked back at the one-time master pressman of the Seoul Press, I wondered how many publisher-editors or master-pressmen who read The Publishers’ Auxiliary each week would stay behind with their equipment while an enemy who feared the use of private enterprise newspapers searched out the owners and employees to shoot them on sight---hoping against hope that the voice of a free press could be stilled by a rifle bullet.
To Mr. Kim and all others like him, who choose to stick it out against the communist enemy, I believe the members of the Fourth Estate should lend their support--to the last bit of copy, the last stick of type and the final ‘30”
Well, not much to report. Still relatively quiet all along the Division front. Extended patrol activities during the night cause some concern as the Chinese continue to probe our lines looking for weak spots, but they can find none. At night some enemy artillery rounds come into the Division but we send out ten times the number that comes in.
Next time I get to the rear I will check on the allotment. They told me to wait awhile but will get them on the ball when I get down there.
From what I hear, just a rumor, I will be leaving about the end of September for the States. Seeing that it is still a rumor I will say it will be October.
Got a batch of your letters today. Number 127 or thereabouts. Can’t read some of your writing. You are about as bad as your mother’s hen scratching. Got a letter from my Dad up in Alton, N.H. He said you may go up there. Wish I was there. When is he going to get his factory going?
Now that they got the bridges back up again, we are eating good food. The high water left us in a bad position for four days. Good thing the Chinks didn’t attack.
(Note: This typed letter was very difficult to read. Ribbon barely worked and letters were light in spots. Most letters did not have the ink but just the key strike.)
Well this typewriter is even worse than my old one. The old one is getting fixed at long last. For the past four days I have been sitting behind a desk in headquarters and my replacement finally came in. He is a jolly faced young private. Now all I have to wait for is a quatro to go home on. Should be sometime in September or early October if all goes well. I have asked the colonel to release me from the desk and send me back to the front. He said OK and now I am Chief Correspondent for the 3rd Division. Am taking my replacement with me to teach him the working of a war correspondent. He is a Private. Will keep him out of danger until I go. Will write when I get my other typewriter back. This ain’t worth a good f…in hell.
Got your letter from Canada. Also, the story of how your father wore one of my shirts. I can just picture him. How does he feel travelling with all those women?
War is beginning to pep up over here. Chinese ambushed one our companies last night and beat the hell out of them. Now we are going out to beat the hell out of them while we still have a chance.
Understand my brother got the call of the wild waves again and is on his way to India. Hope he stops over here if he gets a chance. Now I wonder when my father will get the urge to travel and volunteer for the Army or Navy.
Not much to report. Still expect to leave here about October if all goes well. OCS (Officer Candidate School) applications are again out and they want me to let them know if I want to sign up four years and go to OCS. I told them NO! A Sergeant is a big wheel in this man’s army.
Well that’s it for now.
NORTH KOREA – Well, it has been a month or two since I have written a report to you people. One reason is that very little has been happening since the Kaesong Cease Fire Talks. Let me start this report from two days before the cease fire talks. We had just come back from the east coast of Korea where the 3rd Infantry Division had given the communists a bloody nose and drove them back across the 38th. Now our heavy tanks were rolling up into the once-vaunted Chinese “Iron Triangle” and the enemy was on the run. Then like a bolt out of the blue, the cease fire talks started and to show good faith we stopped our ruthless attack against the Chinese. The Chinese stopped running too and the 3rd Division was told to take it easy by the high command.
For almost two months the only action has been patrols. Day and night, small groups from the 3rd Division met small groups of Chinese and conducted a cowboy and Indian type of war by shooting from behind rocks and waiting in ambush. The past week something else has happened. The Chinese started to throw artillery rounds at our positions. Artillery that they never had before, but because of the lull in battle they had a chance to reinforce. Now we have a fresh Chinese army in front of us where we once had a beaten and disheartened enemy. TODAY we have learned that the cease fire talks have been called off by the Chinese for our “bombing of the cease fire sites” which is out-and-out frame up. Tonight, we are expecting an attack.
LET’S LOOK AT WHAT HAPPENED DURING THE PAST TWO MONTHS. Before the cease fire talks, we lost an average of one hundred men a day. But now the days went by with only an occasional man killed and some wounded. Fresh food was seen more in the mess kits. The infantry began sleeping off the ground on rubber air mattresses brought from Japan. More PX rations arrived and more beer came up front. Movies were shown every night near the frontlines. Mail was a daily item and not a weekly event. Replacements were beginning to arrive and the experienced combat men trained them in the ways of fighting the Chinese. Some men had faith in the cease fire talks. BUT NOW THE LAND of Morning Calm has turned into and land readied for another human sea of Chinese with today’s announcement of the braking off of the talks. BUT---it has been raining for the past two weeks. Our tanks sink deep on the muddy roads. Our air force cannot be used to full advantage in infantry support. The time is perfect for the communists. The kill or be killed law of the jungle now is upper most in every man’s thought. The new men, who have never seen combat, are nervous. They clean their guns twice a day wondering if they will work. Wondering what type of soldier they will make when the chips are down. They have heard plenty of the banzai attacks, and the human sea of Chinese that come sweeping across the plains like ants and other Chinese getting high up in the mountains to fire down on them. The new men have been told that they are equal to five Chinese in combat. They have been told that the American rifle is the best in the world and can fire and hit harder than the enemy’s rifle, but the men must learn for themselves. Some will cry at first, some run, some wet their pants, but after they realize that is kill or be killed, they will turn into hardened combat men over night. Their language will change. Their face will change. Eventually they will develop a self-assured attitude and wonder if the new men that arrive will be worth much. For here in the battle, the men are separated from the boys. Mama’s boys have thrown away the skirt they have hidden behind for the past years.
Rain again. Rain is tough on the soldier as it makes him uncomfortable even though he may need a bath. Laying in a muddy hole, or a leaky pup tent is no fun.
They fixed this typewriter but from the way it types I think they should repair the repairer, or it could be the typist.
Cease fire talks are off. Your guess is good as mine when the slant eyed will come down to try to push us out of Korea.
We now have two new photographers in the section. Both are from German parents. This makes five Germans in this section, photographers and correspondents, and it sounds like little Germany.
Artillery goes all night long and it just about keeps us awake but most of us have gotten used to it being veterans and all. Still waiting for the three thousand plane Chinese air force to hit us. That will be a big one if they ever try to come down at us.
That’s it for now.
More rain today. This is the second week. Artillery has been pounding all night long and we expect a counter-attack by half a million any day or night now. I knew the cease fire talks wouldn’t go through. Chinese are getting more aggressive every day now.
Your mail has been coming up here at forward OK. They have a new system that gets my mail up quicker and doesn’t let it pile up at headquarters. Wish the rain would stop so we could use our tanks in battle. In about a week the month of August will be over and September starts. If this damn cease fire didn’t come up, we may have been further north in Korea than we are now. We should never have given them the break in the fighting so they could build up again.
How did you like your vacation in Canada? Who did most of the driving? Got a letter from my folks from Alton Bay, New Hampshire. Dad is having a good time from what I understand. When is he going to start making brushes? Max Factor sent all the GI’s in Korea instruction on how to prevent dropping mustaches. Mine is getting so big I can’t control it anymore. It’s more of a walrus mustache than a handlebar mustache. I understand the best thing for it is to have a permanent wave put in it. Can’t you just see me going into a beauty parlor and asking for a permanent wave for my mustache?
Did you ever get that increased allotment from the army? Will check on it if you haven’t. Allotment doesn’t increase for sergeant. Just a bit more pay. All non coms (noncommissioned) get the same allotment but every step you go up you get a few bucks more, plus more responsibility.
Well that’s it for now.
Well, I have some time to write a letter. I fell out of a tank, rolled down a cliff about one hundred feet, and landed into a rain swollen river. I was washed down stream before I could grab a rock and hang on until some engineers got a truck, and worked a steel cable out to me. I was just about half unconscious after I hit the water from the long drop along the rocks. I had just enough strength to keep my head above the water and ride the rapids down the gorge. I saw stars for about 10 minutes after I hit the water until my head cleared. Final result, no broken bones, plenty of bruises and a sprained ankle. Am taking it easy for a week or so. Didn’t want to be evacuated to the hospital so they said that I could stay up forward. Personally, I feel OK except when I bend over. Tough husband you got Honey.
The mail is very slow for some reason. Hope the mailman didn’t get washed out again like last time.
Still raining like hell here. We expect an attack at any time. Also got a few rumors that there are Hungarian troops on the way down to fight us. I understand the Balkan soldiers aren’t the best fighters in the world. Intelligence thinks they are going to be used to sight artillery or radar sighters. The Chinks are piss-poor artillery men.
The cease fire talks are still off. Hope Ridgway doesn’t give in to the Chinese communists. I still think we can beat the hell out of them any time. Only hope more replacements get over here. Understand the draft call is due to go up.
Glad you got the pictures. Have been wondering if they got there alright. I sent about five envelopes of them when I did. Do you show many of the pictures to relatives? What do they think of them?
Got a package of candy from your mother. Wrote her a thank you note. Ain’t that sweet of me?
What did your folks say about me making sergeant? Or does your mother doubt it and is having someone check up on me? Yak Yak Yuk.
Well, the end of the paper. See you in a month or two. I hope.
Well, the old soldier has been taking it easy for the past two days. I feel good. A few aches and pains but that’s all. Been raining like hell and the bridges are washed out again. To add to that little bit of bad news, we have just found out that the Chinese have four hundred Russian tanks above our positions. This means trouble as soon as the rain stops. These peace talks gave them plenty of opportunity to bring down all this armor and supplies. Also got word that there are Hungarian troops supposed to drive these tanks. Happy Day. This place called Korea is going to turn into a slaughter house for every nation. One thing for sure, they’ll never drive us out of the country.
Last night we were attacked by four thousand ants. The rain had seeped down into their holes and forced them out, so they marched into our tent and crawled into bed with us. It ended up with us sleeping in the rain and the ants undercover. We got rid of them this morning with gasoline. Must have been a million of them.
Well, one more month and I will have been in this time for a year. That makes about four years combined service for me on active duty and five years on inactive duty which totals nine years. Gives me a hash mark plus two more overseas bars. That added to my World War II bars will be a sleeve full. Also got four more ribbons over here. Maybe one more if we win this fracas. If you stay in the army long enough you are bound to get plenty of ribbons if there is a war on. Sooner or later you’ll have more ribbons than brains.
Well, if I get home in October, I guess we’ll have Cape Cod to ourselves. Yak Yak Yak. How much dough have we got in the bank?
That’s it for now.
Love and quickies, Bill
Well, still waiting for the Chinese attack. Am feeling good. Today is September 2nd. The mail has been slow in coming for some reason. Must be ganging up someplace.
Not much to write about. Started to write a letter to relatives but didn’t finish it. Really not much to say. It had been getting a bit chilly here in the mountains at night. Hope we get our cold weather sleeping bags back again.
No rotation quota has been announced for this month. We are all expecting a quota of some kind but General Van Fleet wants to keep the 8th Army up to strength, and more so, in case the Chinese attack. I understand they have plenty of tanks and three thousand airplanes. Things may pop hot and heavy soon.
Well, that’s it for now.
Just a short note. Got your letter today. OK to register car in R.I. Expect to leave here in October for sure, if no attack comes that drives U.S. out of North Korea. Am very busy at the moment. Feeling good. We attack tomorrow and I am going. Chinese are using tanks but we have beat the hell out of everyone we see. Good hunting the past week.
Will Write Later, Love Bill
Haven’t written to you for a week. Have been away putting a 3rd Division yearbook together. It should be finished in a week or so. Today is September 27th and only a few more days left of the month. I should be going home sometime in October if all goes well. Will write you when I leave.
Haven’t been to headquarters for a week and I heard that I have some mail waiting for me. Will write a long letter when I get the mail and see what you have to say.
Be good kiddo, Love Bill
Well, I have some time to write a letter. Have been to Japan for six days getting a printer lined up to print the 3rd Division yearbook and I am back in Korea now. Didn’t have any money in Japan so I couldn’t get your mother the silk or other stuff she asked for. They sent me over so quick I couldn’t make any arrangements for partial pay.
I had a good time in Japan. Plenty of beer in the GI hotel I was staying and didn’t cost me a thing. Good thing too.
Tomorrow is September 30th and then comes October when I should be going on my way home between the first and the 31st if all goes well. If you see that the Chinese are attacking or we are attacking then it will slow down the rotation.
It has started on another rainy spell again and the roads are mud. Rough going. Also, the weather is getting a bit cold and we got the first issue of winter clothing.
I went to rear while on my way to Japan and checked on the allotment check. They will write St. Louis, Missouri Finance Center and find out what the story is. They suggested that you also write a letter to US Army Finance Center, Allotment Section, St. Louis, Missouri and ask them about the increased allotment for your husband. Give them my serial number, tell them I made corporal in March of 1951 and that I filled out the increase of allotment slip in March. From all I could learn it was sent out from Korea after I filed it. I made sergeant in August but that makes no difference to the allotment.
Well, that is it for now. Will write later.
October 1, 1951
Well, back to the frontlines but not on them. Today is October 1st and this is the month that the Reserves should be getting out. As of the first of this month I am all through with task forces, etc. unless of course there is an all-out effort to drive the communist from Korea. But, if all remains in the static situation that has been the case for the past three months, then October will be the month for the Reserves.
Your mail has been coming in good shape including those jokes of yours. I told the boys the one about the community chest and they thought it good. It got quite a laugh. Of course, sex is the number one topic during bull sessions especially when we get a beer ration.
We are still located in Chorwon, North Korea and pull daily cowboy and Indian patrols into the Chinese territory. At times it is just like a western movie except we use tanks instead of horses.
The replacements are doing fine but they need a bit of shushing from the old sergeant. At times they get in my hair with all their noise, staying up till the small hours of the morning, and asking a thousand questions.
It got real cold last night and we nearly froze. To top it off the tent blew down about three in the morning. We just let the thing fall until we put it back up in the morning. The rain has made the ground so soft that the tent pins won’t stay in. A good wind will lift the tent up and down it comes on our heads. The replacements thought it was a big joke when it fell but I had them put it up the next morning in the rain.
Well, that’s it for now. Love, Bill
(Note: An October 7, 1951 article in The Delta Democrat-Times, Greenville, Mississippi, by Sergeant David Brown describes in detail and with humor, the flooding of the tent and its falling. This is the first time any names were mentioned of the 3rd Division’s Public Information Office correspondents including Bill’s. The names included in the article were: Sergeant Neil Meliblom of Havre, Montana, Hy Crandall from Stars & Stripes, Sergeant Alan Herbert, Sergeant Joe Simmons of Daytona Beach, Florida, Bob Gibson from UP correspondent, Lieutenant Raymond J. Cochran of San Francisco, California, Major W. K. “Ripcord” Walker a former parachuter from Denver, Colorado, Jim Becker from AP, Ed Hoffman from Acme, and Alfred Smoular of French Press.)
Well, today is October 2nd and all the Reservists are keeping their fingers crossed hoping that we will be sent home before any big push comes off either on our part or the Chinese. Things can’t stay this way without one side taking the advantage and going on the offensive. We hear very little of the cease fire talks nowadays, and only look forth to the Winter and the cold weather. Winter clothing is coming in every day and it is a welcomed item. Long Johns are now being worn to sleep in and they are needed to keep warm. Sweaters and extra blankets are also arriving. This year the troops won’t be caught with summer clothes like they were last year.
If I leave here by the 15th of October, I should be home by the 30th of November. It takes about six days to get processed to go to Japan and about a week in Japan to get the records straightened up before boarding the boat. Then a two week or more boat trip across the Pacific and then a week in some camp in the States. Then to Fort Devens no doubt for discharge.
Still don’t know what I will do when I get back. It will be either going back to linotype work or looking for a job as a reporter. Of course, other things may come up but I doubt it. I suppose I will have to buy new clothes. Might as well get them a bit too big so when I gain weight, I can wear them. Do you think my old clothes will fit me? I lost about thirty pounds over here but with your cooking I should get it back quick.
In your last letter you said that the Chief sold his part of the business. What is he going to do now? Buy a junk yard? That’s what he always wanted to do, be a junk dealer. Or is he finally going to be a beachcomber which is his heart’s desire? I might join him.
I hope I fly home like I did in the last war. A boat trip is for the birds. I get seasick too easily. A plane trip is a lot faster. Played pinochle all the way back during the last war and after one hundred games we were in California. We went home by Army bomber, which is a B-24 that carried ten men plus crew. We were a select crew. This time I imagine we will take a boat home.
The new men are calling me grandpa as I never leave the forward CP (Command Post) and I take a snooze every afternoon while they work. I check their stories while waiting.
This letter should reach you in a week and I hope I am on my way by the time it gets to you. If I were you, I would cut down your writing to me because it is almost definite that I will be on my way home this month. No packages as they take too long. Will write you when I leave. Write about once a week.
Well, that’s it for now. Will drop you a line when I leave for home.
Here is your questionnaire and my answers. It is like filling out a police report. We are still waiting for the rotation quota. Any day now.
I got another new replacement to train. The other replacements are still as dumb as ever. Last night at two in the morning as I was sound asleep in my sleeping bag, they woke me up and said they were cold. They wanted to know what to do about it? Jerks. So, I had to get up and show them how to make a warm sleeping roll out of a poncho and three blankets, and to stuff newspapers between them to stop the cold air from getting in and the warm air from getting out. Never the less today I got a small GI stove for the tent so they should be happy.
One replacement had the habit of never awakening when I called him in the morning. When I called him this morning and he didn’t get up I pulled all the blankets off him and you should see him hop to. The other men are doing OK in a slow way but I have one eight ball who seems to never do things right. One day he said, “Sergeant, do I have to carry ammunition in my rifle all the time, can’t I just carry the rifle?” I told him he had an ugly face but not ugly to scare Chinese so he might as well shoot them instead of trying to scare them. He is so helpless I thought he would have trouble wiping his rear rend when he went to the john. Just a mama’s boy who can’t get used to being a man. I am expecting a letter from his mother any time now asking me to be sure he wears his rubbers.
Well, that’s it for now.
Well, today I got a rumor that I will leave before the 15th of October. Korea that is. Don’t know how long I will stay in Japan to be processed. You had better stop writing letters when you get this one. I will write and let you know when I leave.
The letters you wrote before getting this one will or should reach me by the time you get this one. So, no more letters. The quota for me should be out between now and the 15th. I have a hunch that it will be out by the 10th of October.
See you soon, Bill
Well, today is October 7th and all the Reserves are just waiting for the rotation orders but none have seemed to be coming.
As you may have heard we jumped off on a limited objective attack which of course resulted in killed and wounded men. That will leave the Division understrength according to the ten percent overstrength ruling put into effect before any men can leave the Division. It was just a bit too quiet to suit me. Only hope the Chinese hold off long enough to get us out. We have been getting a few replacements but not in the amount that I would like to see them come in. Hope this UMT (Universal Military Training) will go through and get the men over here.
That’s it for now. Will write again tomorrow if I have a chance.
Well, today is the 8th of October and still no rotation quota. The rumor that we leave before the 15th of October still is going around and we are all waiting.
Still getting a bit colder every night around here but the stove I got makes things OK. We burn gasoline in it and the stoves growls when it gets too hot. For the past two nights we have been roasting chestnuts on the top of it and sit around until they pop open. We catch them in midair when they hop off the stove. Quite a game catching red hot chestnuts in midair.
Been getting your letters saying that you have not received mail from me. I realize that I didn’t write for about a week when I was in Japan but you should be getting plenty now.
Did you write to St. Louis like I told you too? That’s all you have to do. I also told the administrative section at rear to check up on the allotment increase.
Well, that’s it for now. Got my bags all packed just waiting for the word to get on the truck and head to the rear. Then to Japan and the boat. Hope I can fly home.
Well, still no rotation quota but the 15th is drawing near and a quota is due. No use you writing any letters until I am in the States. I should be leaving Korea about the 15th of this month. Of course, it may be delayed a day or two but this is the month. Well, I will keep writing and you keep your fingers crossed.
Got the word today we leave here on the 19th of October. Only five more days. Typewriter is broken so I have to use a pen.
Got some more men in the 3rd Infantry Division yesterday. One thousand three hundred sixty-nine in all and so we got the word that ER’s will leave the 19th. Will write every other day until we get on a boat to USA. From Korea we go to Japan for a few days to get disinfected and a bunch of shots. Then the stateside trip.
Today is October 15th. Five more days and I leave Korea. Don’t write anymore letters.
October 17th and only a few days left. Nothing concerning rotation today but we are all waiting.
Am Leaving Korea tomorrow, Oct 24th. Was to leave before but typhoon held us up for four days. This is my last letter from Korea. Will write when I get to Japan.
I am now in Japan at the port of Sasebo on the west coast of Japan. We stay here for a few days to get processed and no doubt a few shots and a good delousing. We should be landing either at San Francisco or Seattle about November 15 to 22 if all goes well. Hope we don’t get a slow ship back to the States. Will not have a chance to go to Tokyo or do any shopping that your mother wanted me to do. We are all restricted to camp here until we board the boat.
Well, that’s it for now. Expect to hear from me sometime around the 22nd of November. If your father wants to go to Florida with you it’s OK and am willing to drive down but not stay longer than a week. Anyway, we’ll do whatever you want to do.
It won’t be long.
Love, Bill, your husband. Sounds odd doesn’t it.
Still in Japan waiting for a boat. Here is some extra money I had on me. $30 of it is your mother’s. We can’t get out of camp.
Note: Per special order number 327 Bill arrived in the continental United States on November 26, 1951 aboard USNS Weigel and then directed to Camp Stoneman, CA. After Camp Stoneman Bill boarded a train to Fort Devens, MA and released to inactive service until 1953 when he was released to civilian status.
Bill and Janice moved to Connecticut where he worked for the Hartford Times (a Connecticut newspaper) as a reporter and editor for 24 years. As a reporter he covered the development of the Apollo Project and rocket development in California and other states. He covered the advent of commercial and military jet aviation in the U.S. and Europe.
He received several writing awards as a reporter. He then took a position as the Director of Public Affairs for the Connecticut Construction Industries Association for 18 years before retiring. Bill passed away on January 18, 2010 in Avon, CT.
Bill’s love of writing continued after retirement as a Ghost Writer for several organizations. Bill left more typed fascinating stories of his experiences in WWII and Korea but due to the secrecy of some of his missions and his work with Psyops and Intelligence they cannot be fully verified by his family as all names were in code. Bill and “His Honey”, Janice, had two daughters and two grandchildren. They divorced after 25 years of marriage. Bill remarried several years later. He was active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3272 in Avon, CT.
[KWE Note: The page numbers listed below correspond to the page in the original printed memoir. This index was posted on the KWE to simply give readers an idea about what is mentioned in Bill Huebner's letters and text.]
G Company 2nd Battalion....14
15th Medical Company....14
187th Regimental Airborne Combat Team....28
1st Cavalry Division....60
3rd Infantry Division....2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 17, 25, 30, 37, 38, 39, 40, 42, 47, 49, 53, 56, 59, 60, 61, 63, 73, 74, 79, 80, 81, 85
3rd Ranger company....48, 49, 60
555th Heavy Tank Battalion....7
64th Tank Battalion....12
65th Infantry....11, 12, 13, 49
1st platoon of “Love” Company....11
2nd platoon tank company....13
7th Infantry Regiment
B Co 13
8th Army....21, 79
Adkins, Alex PFC....14
Allen, Edward G., Lieutenant Colonel....11
American....7, 11, 17, 18, 19, 20, 26, 29, 31, 38, 40, 41, 47, 48, 50, 51, 61, 62, 63, 67, 72, 75
Belgians....26, 37, 38, 39
Black soldiers....12, 40
Boston Globe....12, 42
British....26, 37, 38, 41, 42, 48
British 29th Brigade....37
Brooks, James E. Corporal....14
Brown, David Sergeant....81
Camp Stoneman....33, 88
Chinese Spring offensive....26, 37, 44, 47, 48, 59
Chorwon....44, 56, 57, 65, 81
Cintron, Gil PFC....12
Cochran, Raymond J. Lieutenant....81
Corley, Donald PFC....13
Correspondent....2, 6, 7, 46, 68, 73
Dabila, Ismael PFC....12
DeRienzo, Joseph A. PFC....13
Dewey, Tom Governor....61
Dieppa, Valentine Corporal....12
Durkee, Richard Lieutenant....11
Figueroa, Felix Private....12
Fort Campbell....3, 4
Fort Devens....82, 88
Frontline....2, 10, 53
Garcia, Salvador Sergeant....11
General Erwin Rommel....39
General Van Fleet....79
German....26, 39, 75
Gilbert, Andrew E. Corporal....13
Han River....10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, 27, 43, 47
Herbert, Alan Sergeant....81
Hernandes, Miguel PFC....12
Heroism and bravery....39, 50
Imjin River....32, 37, 39, 42, 43
Iron Triangle....56, 58, 61, 74
Kaesong Peace Camp....59, 63, 74
Korean Combat Report....17, 19, 24, 27, 37, 43, 47, 74
Lamb, Captain Executive Officer....14
Letters to my relatives....17, 19, 24, 27, 37, 43, 47, 74
Lewis, Roy First Lieutenant....14
M1 Garand Rifle....4
Malik, Jacob....56, 57
McClain, Theodore E. 1st Lieutenant....12
Meliblom, Neil Sergeant....81
Mercado, Ramon Private....12
Neison, Jack Sergeant....13
Newton Daily Transcript....2
North Korean....10, 12, 13, 19, 25, 48, 49, 51, 56, 60
North Korean People's Army....10
Philippine Combat Battalion....21
Providence Journal....2, 8, 24, 42
Publishers’ Auxiliary....2, 21, 71, 72
Pyonggang....59, 65, 67
Quinones, Heman Sergeant....12
Republic of Korea....10, 11, 18, 37, 53, 60
Reserves....2, 4, 21, 27, 30, 44, 52, 57, 63, 64, 66, 81, 82, 84, 85
Ridgway, Matthew General....21, 59, 77
Royal Northumberland Fusiliers....37
Royal Ulster Rifle Regiment....37
Senator Harry Harbor....2
Seoul....7, 12, 17, 18, 19, 27, 28, 29, 40, 42, 43, 44, 53, 56, 67, 71, 72
Seoul Press....29, 67, 69, 70, 71, 72
Simmons, Joe Sergeant....81
Soule, Robert Major General....6, 7, 40, 59, 61
South Korean....10, 12, 43, 47, 49, 51
St. George’s Day....37
Stars and Stripes....2, 25, 30, 31
Strong, Henry Master Sergeant....13
The Delta Democrat-Times....81
Turks....26, 43, 44, 51, 60, 61, 62, 63
Uijongbu....24, 25, 27
UN forces....19, 26, 47, 71
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post....2, 88
Walker, W. K.“Ripcord”....81
Williamson, Lyndall C. 1st Lieutenant....13
World War II....2, 4, 5, 12, 39, 52, 78, 88
Yong Dong Po....5
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