Day by Day

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Way back when

When I was a "yout", so to speak, I was helping a landscaping guy put in a sprinkler system.  I must have been about 14 or 15, just doing this to make some side cash.  Anyways, this guy was a Korean War vet.  Infantry.  And as we're laying the tubing for the system out, he regales me with some tales of HIS youth marching up and down the Korean coastline.  The Chinese had made a big push, and his platoon was part of a unit that was performing a tactical movement to the rear.  They've got the ChiComs coming down on them like a million pissed-off hornets, and they're screaming for help on just about every radio channel they've got.  Artillery from the Army is occupied elsewhere, and air support wasn't even close to an option, no help from them.  But the Navy has a destroyer close enough to lob some shells their way, and obliges to do so.

This guy relates to how they would get the call for incoming rounds, and they'd hunker down until the rounds landed.  While the dust was still in the air, they'd haul ass down the exit route until the dirty commies would start popping rounds at them again.  Then they'd hunker down and relay another set of coordinates to the destroyer, who would oblige with another barrage.

Unbeknownst to them, a battleship (he claimed it was the Missouri) had picked up the radio chatter, and the Captain decided that he was going to do the landlubbers a solid.  So they steam on over and politely tell the destroyer "Hey, we've got this."  The destroyer dips it's flag and continues on it's way. But nobody tells the Army guys on coast.  Somehow they got left out of the loop, and in the pause between the destroyer launching shells, and the battleship taking over, all the grunts know is that the firing stopped.  And they don't know why.

So they're radioing coordinates, and screaming for help, and wondering where the hell their fire support went, and thinking they were all gonna die.  And as this guy put it, "I was saying my final prayers when the entire ridge-line the commies had infested just disappeared.  Gone.  Turned into dust."  Anybody who was on their feet got flattened by the shockwave.  "We don't know how many of those bastards they took out, but not a single shot was fired in our direction for the rest of the day."  His platoon got on their feet, shook the dust out of their hair, and calmly walked back to the rendezvous point unmolested from that time on.

And apparently he bought a drink for every Sailor he met after that.

I have been privileged to meet many veterans in my life.  I've been able to shake the hands of men who were at Normandy during WWII.  I've had dinner with the men who liberated Italy in that war.  I've known and worked alongside men who fought in Korea, and Viet Nam, and Desert Storm.  And obviously I know and work with people from the current conflict.  I've known Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and even a Coastie or two.

In almost every case, I have been awed by the quality of men who wear that title, who have served, and continue to serve.  I'm going to spend a bit of time today making sure that I thank those people appropriately.  I suggest that you do the same.

2 comments:

Drumwaster said...

Yeah, there is a MAJOR difference between the 5" guns used by Destroyers and the 16" broadsides fired by the battleships. The 5" shells are good for point targets and illumination, but the 16" shells are the size and weight of a VW Beetle, and if fused for VT (variable time) anti-personnel use, they explode before they impact the ground, so that the shrapnel rains down in an inverted cone several hundred feet wide at ground level. They can definitely upset the plans of hostile ground-pounders. If they do a mix-and-match of VT and impact fuse, they can collapse underground shelters, while simultaneously turning any living thing exposed above ground into hamburger.

I wonder how you say "Go back into THAT? Are you crazy?" in Chinese? I imagine there were several repetitions of the phrase that day...

Ragin' Dave said...

I wish I could duplicate this guy's story the way he told it. He made me laugh my ass off.

And yeah, a battleship measures their target area in grid squares. You want a portion of earth wiped off the map? The Missouri could do it.