|Luther May Harless
Before I entered the armed forces, I lived in South Gap in Bland County, Virginia. I voluntarily went into the military August 1, 1950. At the time of my enlisting, I had never been farther from home than Richmond, Virginia. I had four brothers, Everett, George, Paul, and Orville in the service, and I had no problem with carrying on the tradition.
My basic training was at Fort Knox in Kentucky. Training wasn’t bad. There were a lot of different people and food than what I was used to, but it really wasn’t a bad experience for a farm boy. My sargeant wasn’t nice, but he didn’t give me any more grief than he gave anyone else. I only had a ten day leave before I was deported, so I just came home to be with my family during that time.
When I entered the military, the war had already begun. I took a ship and railroad to get there. We caught a troop train out of Fort Knox to Chicago, then we got aboard another troop train and headed to Needles, California. We then went to Pittsburgh, California and stayed there for three days until they processed us. We then boarded ferry to Pier 91 in San Francisco. After that, we boarded the General Ship Hissleman, and it took us eighteen days to get across. From there, we went into Pu’san Harbor and they took us back to Tokyo to process out of Cape Drake, Japan.
I don’t really remember when I first stepped out in Korea. I had already made up my mind about it. I could already see it and smell it from the people that we let off at Pu’san Harbor. We went back to Japan to process and they gave us new orders, but I had already made up my mind that Korea was a stinking place. The appearance of Korea is hard to describe. It wasn’t much of a country to start with, and when we got through with it there wasn’t much left.
I was in the First Calvary, 8th Regiment. I was trained in heavy weapons. They made me the forward observer. I called the fire for the mortemen. I think that the military was highly beneficial to me. It helped me take orders, do what I was told to do, and things like that.
I served with the Thailanders, with the British, the Greeks, and the Philipino scouts for one day. I made plenty of friends in the army. Everyone is your friend when you’re on the front line. I made friends from all over the United States. It would take me a day to go through all of the people that I met and liked in service. Infact, I have kept in touch with a few of them to this day.
I don’t know the exact dates that I was in Korea, but I do know that we went back to Japan as a unit sometime around December 21st in 1951. In Korea, I joined the unit for four or five months when I got there, somewhere near Tagus. We were still going backwards at that point, but just a few days later, we reversed it and started North again.
I faught in 1951. I’m not sure what day I got over there. I had enough time in November to go home for Thanksgiving dinner at home. The guerillas hit us behind the lines and they pulled us out of reseve. We were getting ready to go back to Northern Japan. They pulled us out of reserve, and we had to fight guerillas for two or three more weeks. It knocked me out of rotation. Me and a Sergeant Baber from West Virginia already had our orders to come home and they held
us up to fight guerillas, and then we had to go back to Japan with them.
They were crazy, they were doped up. I have know idea exactly what they were on, but I know that the Chinese carried opium. If I wanted to be a rich man, all I would have had to have done would to get those opium bags and get them back to America. I could have been a millionaire today. I have searched a lot of them, and they all had opium bags. But I liked the Chinese people. They weren’t bad people. They were just doing the same thing that we were doing. It was a matter of survival.
I was over there for a whole year and experienced all kinds of weather. I know one night my squad set up after dark in the direction we were supposed to fire. That was before I became a forward observer and there was nine of us and were each had about an hour and fifteen minutes guard duty. We took the canvas off of the 3/4 ton trailer we used and layed it down over our sleeping bags. Everytime a guard would finish his hour, he was supposed to wake the next man. Somewhere during the night, the guard didn’t get relieved and when we got up the next morning, there was about a foot of snow over that tarpoline and we liked to never got out from under it. So the winters in Korea, I would say, are worse than they are up in the northern part of Korea up around the 38th parallel.
The winters in Japan were also rough. I was stationed in Alaska after I was in nothern Japan, and I didn’t see as much snow in Alaska as I did in nothern Japan. Snow was half way up the mess hall windows the morning that I left Japan up on the island of Hokeito.
I got the credit for taking a prisoner, but I had no more to do with it than anyone else did. I just happened to spot him coming in with his hands up. I was serving with the Thailanders at the time and we needed information. I was there when he crossed the barbed wire apron. I got credit for it from the Thailanders, but I didn’t have more to dow with it than anyone else did. The prisoners were just like we would be if it were us. They were meek and mild, but we had taken them by the thousands or hundreds anyway.
My patoon leader was Captain Brinkman, most of the time. I was in Korea but he got prompted to Major and he wound up as our Company Commander.The conditions there were not ideal. You didn’t have any houses to live in. You made your bed wherever you were at. As far as I’m concerned MacArthur got a raw deal. Things never were right after they relieved MacArthur.
Being so far from home didn’t bother me. I had gotten used to it by that time. I just let each day take care of itself. And the only reason for being over in Korea was because I was sent over there. I don’t think we should have been there, but that’s besides the point. I don’t that Korea was America’s “Forgotten War.”
Things were different when I got home. Well, home was still the same, but I wasn’t. After I got out of the war, I went to Cleveland, Ohio and went to work. I worked some for Tadco products a few days, then I quit and went to work for New York Central Railroad.. I stayed there for a while then I came back. I pitaled around here for about six or eight months and went back in service. I went back in to Fort Jackson, South Carolina. From there on in to Fort Bening, Georgia for jump training. They sent me back to North Carolina to Fort Bragg, and there I joined the special forces and we took different training and what not, and did our jumping and our manuvering out of Fort Bragg. Long about that time Shirley and I got married and we lived off post. It was just like another job.
I didn’t see any action on my second term, but I never regretted going back in. I liked the servicie but I knew if I reinlisted I would wind up in Vietenam. Things were getting kind of hot in Vietnam, that’s when the French got over ran and Korea was clear in my mind and I got out.
I personally think that every boy should spend at least one year in service to help him take orders and to meet people and so forth.