A description of what infantrymen in Korea endured is told in "Look" magazine's article by Eric Downton, the clipping sent by Charles Porterfield. No dates were given.

There's Always a Hill for Infantry — and Each One a Calvary

Central Front, Korea — (By Radio) So winter is behind us. The cold that made men weep, the frost that hit the rookie replacements like glacial fire and turned young, fresh flesh into black shriveled leather; the treacherous snow and blizzard-laden nights. These things are memories now to the plodding, profane infantry.

So now it's spring. There's green tracery on the bleak willows and in the persimmon orchards. Green in the malodorous paddy fields. Patches of green on that hill ahead (there's always one more hill just ahead for the infantry). Rivers are brown and wide and angry. So, if your battalion engineers aren't good, the pontoon bridge gets washed away and you go on half-rations and watch with hungry eyes for the flying boxcars that drone over (weather permitting) and from the gaping rears between the double fuselage spew out the precious boxes that float down under gaudy parachutes.


That sleek pilot, you think with envy as you watch, will be back in Japan in a few hours for a shave, shower and steak dinner that would cost 10 bucks back home and which will cost him only $1.25 at the club. And maybe he'll drink martinis with an American woman there tonight. And we are going up that hill tonight. Why did anyone ever join the infantry? Anyway, thanks for the cans.

So, it's spring and the troops have shed their parkas, pile jackets and earflapped winter headgear. You don't see so many men now wearing those big rubber boots that are waterproof and warm and fine for riding in a jeep, but awkward and sweaty and hard on the feet if you have to march.

One More Hill

We had the worst of the mud back a few weeks when the sudden thaw came. That was another nightmare. Now it's well into spring but in this country there's always something. There's the rainy season ahead and maybe another hot, dusty, itching, smell-cured summer.

Already, spring is bringing out afresh the odor of what the army educational pamphets on Korea refer to politely as nightsoil. Yes, there's always something in this campaign: Like that ONE MORE HILL that's always ahead for the infantry. Spring — if you're on what in G.I. parlance is "the sharp end" in this war, it means just another set of problems.


Yet, there's a big difference in the 8th army these days although it's nothing to do with the season. United Nations troops in Korea are feeling different. Almost a something tangible, you can sense it as you move among the Turks, French, Dutch, Greeks, Thailanders, Filipinos, among the stoical South Koreans (who inevitably have developed a poor-relation complex). The creeping defeatism is gone. Discipline is better, A calm-faced 56 year old American soldier has infused a new spirit into this international army.

The Man

Lt. Gen. Matthew Ridgway has worked this change in an astonishingly short time since he assumed command at the end of December after the death in a jeep crash of Lt. Gen. Walton Walker. The indisputable fact is that Ridgway came to a discouraged retreat-minded army and now it is aggressive and tauter in all departments. By jeep, helicopter and light plane he moves constantly along the front supervising his field staff deliberately showing himself to the troops.

Won a Round

Ridgway knocked the Asian heavyweight back across the ring with a brisk one-two. First a stinging left jab — in the form of what the communiques called a "limited objective offensive" up the west coast through Suwon to the gates of Seoul. Then, a hefty swing with the right — our all-out central front offensive. We have won a round. No one in our corner, however, under­estimates the Asian heavyweight. We know he may come back swinging. This round has taught us how our science can do a lot of damage to his brawn. Especially, that means skillful use of our superior fire power and our domination of Korean skies and coastal waters to offset Communist preponderance in man power. Those familiar old criticisms of the 8th Army being road-bound and over-mechanized don't apply anymore. They used to, but not now.

Ridgway, as his staff and aides know all too well, is a great walker himself, and he makes his infantry use their feet. We haven't cleared these hills in central Korea by sticking to the crumbling tracks that masquerade as roads. I was out the other day with a patrol of U.S. 1st cavalry in the hills near Hongchon waiting for an attack on a ridge across the valley to jump off. Someone made a fire from bits of charred wood that were about all that was left of a farmhouse back down the road which had been hit by a napalm bomb.

On the reluctant flames, we warmed some cans. I found a three-day-old Stars and Stripes in my pocket and it made the rounds. Naturally, everybody read Li'l Abner and Blondie and the other comics before they looked at the front page. Then, a sergeant lapsed into the effortless, unheated profanity which is one of the hallmarks of your sterling combat G.I. He held forth upon a headline over the main news story, "Allies Roll Ahead," it said in part.


Roll ahead! I could understand the sergeant's feelings. What do the headline writers think this country is? Westchester county? The sergeant spat into the fire and turned to the sports page. I looked across the valley toward the next hill (there's always a next hill in this country), that was the immediate objective for one of the 1st cavalry's battalions.

We didn't roll ahead on the central front. The troops slogged along from ridge to ridge, with each height a Calvary anew. The artillery had got the range of that hill across the valley and were landing their stuff around the crest. Watching the bursts of the dirty-gray smoke drifting slatternly against the clean robins'-egg blue sky, you wondered what the Chinese up there were thinking and what were the thoughts of the gun crews several miles back.

The guns were American 105's and 155's and the New Zealander's 25 pounders. Driving up, we had seen them in the churned paddy fields killing from a distance with that air of impersonal precision acquired by gunners and airmen.


The air strike was accurate. Four Mustangs dove in low to plant their high explosives and napalm. The napalm drums went off with great flashes. And there, suddenly, before us like some evil genii magically produced, were writing pillars of thick liquid-like smoke. Dark and threatening, they twisted and grimaced unhurriedly back along the ridge.

The sight of those firebombs tripped a mental reflect and I thought of all the burning and searing — by fire hurled down from the air and by flames set by soldiers' hands — that I had seen back and forth across this ill-starred peninsula.

Hundreds of towns, villages, hamlets, farmhouses reduced to foul-smelling cinders; black spots that stand out starkly when you fly over the land, as though Korea wore great mourning beads. And the bodies of man and beast quick-roasted by the napalm flash into grotesque attitudes of terrified flight that you find when the infantry moves in afterwards. You wonder sometimes if the civilian defense groups back home have been told all about napalm and its effects and what to do — just in case.

Chinese Reply

After the napalm on the next hill, the mortars resumed their pounding. Several tanks crunched along the valley. Turrets swung round with robot lack of haste. The cannon elevated and opened fire. Now, machine guns from our side of the valley. The Chinese reply with mortars and automatic weapons. The sergeant says, "There they go," and points. Guided by the grimed index finger with its broken nail, you pick out the troops moving up the hill. A shorter explosion from a hand grenade.

Thank You

When they had counted the Chinese who died on that ridge by bomb shell, burning, bullet and bayonet, when they had sent back their own casualties (stiff under the old blankets and groaning on the stretchers) the infantry, you knew, would look across the darkling valley toward the next hill . . . Spring (I suppose it can be called) is in these dismal mountains and the 8th Army, although it detests every next hill and every reeking paddy field, is feeling better than it did a while back, thank you.

Merle Klein remarked, as he closed his story, "So I left Korea about as I found it, divided at the 38th parallel, which was the division before the war began." What has happened since?


Michael (Mike) is the older of the two sons of Vernon and Glendola Binning. In their life story in Recipes for Living, Volume 2, the parents tell that Mike was born in 1947, Mark in 1953. Mike was drafted into the Army in 1970, stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland, working in Walter Reed Hospital. Mike was in the Medical Corps, and worked primarily in ophthalmology— research in corneal transplants and the care of the eyes, attending to veterans, both American and Vietnamese, who came back from Vietnam. He was discharged in 1972.

In 1996, Mike went to teach in Korea and continues to live there. He tells, "There are several reasons I chose to live in Korea. I love to travel and I find the culture of Asia very interesting. Korea is kind of its hub. It is between Japan and China and I like to visit both those places. I've been there many times. Additionally, Southeast Asia is not far. It is easy to go to Cambodia, Laos, and other islands. Thailand, particularly, is incredibly beautiful.

"When I first arrived there, propaganda leaflets, dropped from North Korean balloons, depicted the South Korean president as an evil person. There were lots of kidnapings of South Koreans and Japanese after the war — the Japanese to teach North Korean spies how to speak Japanese, and South Koreans to teach them about their culture. South Korean women were kidnaped to "service" the Japanese soldiers during WWII, and South Korean fishermen, who were too far north, were taken prisoner. I know people whose fathers in their little boats were taken by the big gun boats in the 1960s or '70s and haven't been heard from since. This continues to happen all the time now, and they're just gone. There are lots of those stories.

"Knowing the country makes several aspects of the Korean war more significant. (1) It is intensely cold because the north wind comes from Siberia. I don't know how the soldiers stood it in the clothing they were supplied at that time. (2) The invasion at Inchon directed by MacArthur seems incredible. Inchon is a large port city on the west coast of South Korea, a metropolitan area with a population of six to eight million — a size similar to New York. What makes the landing seem so impossible are the huge tide surges. Between high and low tide there is a tremendous shift in the water level. "Chun" means running water in Korean, and the ocean literally runs out when the tide recedes. There is a huge park honoring MacArthur for this successful amphibious landing.

"Evidence of the war still lingers 52 years later. Along the sides of the highways, there is razor-wire and there are manned guard stations along all the rivers, with search lights going at night. The DMZ (de-militarized zone) is still there. There remain 34,000 peace-keeping troops, but even though the South Korean soldiers are at their posts, they probably do not view North Korea as much of a threat as the rest of the world does. Generally speaking, the South Koreans are not much concerned about a North Korean attack.

"The biggest difference in South Korea has been the huge economic development, due primarily to President Park Chun he. He was sort of a dictator, very controversial, who eventually was assassinated. There have been presidents who followed, some good, some bad. The good ones have contributed to the development which had great impetus under President Kim Daejun. The result is that Korea now is the leading ship building country of the world, the first or second world's leading steel producer, so all in all, the economic development has been remarkable from where it was 52 years ago. This is due in part to the culture of the people. They want to succeed, and the war gave them an opportunity to do that.

"North Korea's economic development is devoid of any modernization. The people have no economic power at all. There are little pockets of capitalization. Gaesong is a city that is being sponsored by some South Korean companies to do basic factory work — pots, pans, and clothes —using North Korean labor with South Korean investment. It is a joint effort but the location of the factory is in North Korea. There is a little cooperation there. It is an interesting situation. Something happens that seems positive toward unification but then there will be a gun battle with a North Korean ship being fired on for crossing a line in the ocean. There is this disparity with apparent growth toward unification in some areas and a conflict in others.

"Before the war, North Korea was more advanced economically than South Korea but now North Korea is suffering from widespread famine, and a lot of refugees are trying to escape through China to get back to South Korea. The border between North Korea and China is porous, people can easily go back and forth, contrary to the DMZ, which is heavily patrolled, but to get to China, they can just cross the river.

"I believe most of the older generation views the war as having accomplished something positive. Even though there were bad things that happened during the war — like the massacres of innocent civilians, some of that was because the United Nations troops didn't know if North Koreans had infiltrated South Korea. It was impossible to distinguish North Koreans from South Koreans. Older Korean people have no ill feelings about that. They recognize all of that happened during the time of war. It isn't a problem for them. The younger generation doesn't view it the same way. There is some anti-American sentiment and the current president, Roh Moohyun, was elected because of his anti-American stance. He certainly was not the most qualified candidate, and has proven to be one of the poorest presidents South Korea has ever had.

KOREA IN 2006, through the eyes of a visitor:

Neil Blair of the Development Department of St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, visited Korea from March 24 to April 6, 2006. A number of Korean students attend the seminary. He wrote: I am a guest of Korean born Professor Young Ho Chun, on a two-week venture to explore immersion sites for our students. We spent two days in each Vietnam and Cambodia with Methodist missionaries and their respective ministry projects. We visited the city dump in Phnom Phen where we have a Methodist school literally next to the city dump, which covers several acres. Over 10,000 people live around the dump and sift through fresh loads to find something to sell, or in some cases, something to eat. I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't visited it myself, It broke my heart to see men, women and children doing this. We also visited their slums, also unbelievable — sick children, rats in the streets, dogs tied up that will be used for food in a few days, filth, no running water or decent sewer facilities — and yet, smiles and greetings to us visitors.

Our church has some amazing people investing their lives everyday to make a difference with, as the Bible says, "the least of these." I also have hope to think some of our grads will go and have gone into the mission field at the hands-on level. It takes a special kind of person.

We also visited the killing fields, the result of a crazed leader in the mid- to late 70s, Pol Pot, truly a genocide of the population where some three million were slaughtered over a six year period. This story is not a part of our history as it should be — the nightmare of all tragedies in recent history as I understand it, It compares no less than what happened to the Jews in WW 2.

Next, we flew to Siem Reap, Cambodia, the 7th Wonder of the World, the location of the Angkor Wat Temple cities, the largest and most modern city of Temples in the World, Buddhist and Royal in background, unbelievable! It covers over 77 square miles. This was discovered in the jungle perhaps a half century ago, and was a highly advanced civilization — much more so than Europe, with several large Temples, ornate and so artistic — carved stone, thousands of square feet, literally a small country of temples in one area. The date of building began over 1,000 years ago.

Last night we flew out of Cambodia for Seoul, Korea and met with Bishop Chong Bok Lee, a Doctorate graduate of Saint Paul School of Theology. Professor Chun and I will be attending the largest Methodist church in the world tomorrow, around 85,000 members. I will be preaching the 2:30 p.m., the young adult service. I am learning much, and hope to make the trip more than worthwhile for Saint Paul in many ways.

In summary, Korea's political system is a democracy. They have an Assembly, mostly democratic, but with it's own brand of corruption just like the U.S. It seems to get the job done and people are free and happy. They are always concerned with the threat of North Korea, better sometimes than others.


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Last Revised April 10, 2015