- Historic Sites
Winter Of The Yalu
A soldier remembers the freezing, fearful retreat down the Korean Peninsula after the Chinese armies smashed across the border
December 1982 | Volume 34, Issue 1
This day we were advised that the war was almost over, and that we should prepare for a return to Japan. The advisory also included an example of how forms should be made up for returning our ROKs to their own army. We were told to tell them that most would soon be discharged and sent home. An unofficial note was added to brush up on close-order drill since the 7th Division would be expected to take part in a grand victory parade as soon as we reached Japan. I wondered just what the battery would look like thawed out, scrubbed up, and in Class A uniforms. Parades in fatigues such as are held now were unthinkable. In our archaic minds parade and dress were always coupled.
Meanwhile various administrative matters had piled up, and they wanted Captain Klaniecki to come back to headquarters to take care of them. Also they could brief him on the plans for the return to Japan. As an afterthought they added something like: “Tell Dill he won’t have to do anything while you’re gone. Nothing is going to happen in the next few days. He will just sit there in position until you get back.”
I saw the captain off early on the morning of the twenty-fifth. His last remark before leaving was to make certain everyone shaved, since he did not want any visitors on the way to the Yalu to think his battery was part of Coxey’s army. The present generation probably cannot understand it, but we made every effort to keep clean shaven and our hair close cropped. Those who had served in Japan regaled the rest with vivid descriptions of the pleasures available in the fleshpots there. I wondered if I could justify a reconnaissance to the Yalu by the acting battery commander but decided against it. There was a legend that General Patton had celebrated his arrival on the Rhine River by performing a certain bodily function in the waters thereof. Everyone wanted to do the same in the waters of the Yalu. I did allow a truckload of men, one from each section, to drive up and desecrate the waters or, to be more exact, ice, since the river was frozen over. They were somewhat disappointed; I am not sure just what they expected to see, but one of them said China looked the same as Korea.
G-3 : Is this the battery commander?
ME : No, sir. Lieutenant Dill, executive and acting battery commander.
G-3 : Well, are you in command?
ME : Yes, sir.
G-3 : You are to move your battery to So-dong-ni at once. Get moving.
We had a message brought in by relays of Korean runners: Thousands and thousands of Chinese are crossing the Yalu.
ME : Where is So-dong-ni? I’ve never heard of it.
G-3 : It’s south of division headquarters at Pungsan. Stop by on the way for further orders.
ME : Good God, sir! That’s over eighty miles! Can’t I wait until morning? I’m not sure the gun tractors can make it down the road at night. The mountains are covered with ice.
G-3 : Stop arguing and get moving, Lieutenant! Leave with your advance party at once and have your guns follow as soon as they can march-order. If something cannot be moved, blow it up.
ME : Blow it up?
G-3 : You heard me. I’ll tell you more when you get to Pungsan, but those howitzers of yours have got to start long before daybreak.
ME : Yes, sir. March order at once.
By this time I was fully awake and climbing out of the sleeping bag. So was everyone else in the exec post.
Lieutenant Moon spoke up: “Did I hear you say march order, or am I having a nightmare?”