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Christmas memories from the battlefield

Korean veteran Ira Anderson, Jr. spent two Christmases in Korea after receiving his draft card March 13, 1951. Joining the Army, hoping to be a paratrooper, Ira ended up at Schofield Barracks in Honolulu, Hawaii for basic training. After being sent to Korea, he was told, “We need infantry soldiers,” and the paratrooper hopes vanished.
“Christmas reminds me of the two times that I spent in Korea, the winter of 1951-52,” Ira began.
“I was in E Co., 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Platoon, 4th Squad, and I was a 30 caliber machine gunner. We had only a foxhole, with a top on it of logs and whatever we could find to put on top of the logs,” he said. “ It was so cold.”
“We were on Heartbreak Ridge. There was only one mountain taller than Heartbreak Ridge, and it was right in front of us. We called it ‘Papa Son,’ Mountain and it was loaded with Chinese soldiers.”
“Papa Son” was called Hill1062, one of the highest points in Kumwha, Korea and the only place higher than Hearbreak Ridge. The Chinese had their soldiers all over it, shooting down on the Americans. This ‘hill’ was one of many that went down in history alongside such Korean battlegrounds as the Naktong river, Kunu-ri, Heartbreak Ridge, Old Baldy and Arrowhead Ridge.
Heartbreak Ridge was a steep mountain . Ira said in an interview last year (he was the Community Spotlight Aug.17 and Aug. 24), it was so steep that when the G.I.s were fighting to take it, “My weapon wasn’t doing its job, because you can’t shoot straight up.” It took over three weeks to take the ridge, his company losing over 2,300 men in order to do so. It was finally taken Oct. 25, 1951.
That winter was bitter. “We had the same clothes that we brought with us from basic training in Hawaii – no winter clothing. We had summer blankets. Most of us would take two of the blankets and tie them together with communication wire to make a sleeping bag. Our bodies would tremor and our teeth would clatter but we slept during the daytime when the sun was shining. Nighttime, especially early morning hours, is when the Chinese would start blowing their bugles and attack us and leave back to their caves before daylight. My machine gun helped keep me a little warmer. The barrel would be so hot, you dare not touch it.”
“Then, on Chinese New Year, it was either in January or February, I forget. It’s been 57 years ago, but I will never forget the cold wind or snow. On their New Year’s night, they would shoot in the air with flares and had loud speakers set up in the mountain. They would scream and act like they were torturing a G.I. and tell us to go home to our moms or we would all die tomorrow. Of course we would yell back and cuss them.”
My second Christmas, 1952-53, was better. We had the best of warm clothing and better foxholes. This was my second tour in Korea as a volunteer. The American people can’t realize what the G.I.s went through and as Pres. Truman called it only a “police action,” yet in 30 months there were 54,000 Americans killed and we are still missing 8,000 men. American G.I.s are still in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think about them every day. Do you?”
PHOTO: Ira Anderson Jr. (arrow pointing at him) was a machine gunner during the Korean War in December of 1951. Anderson spent Christmas of 1951 and 1952 in Korea. (Submitted Photo)

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