In my own words… The sharpest shovel in Korea, Pat 2
May 23, 2001
Editor's note: In honor of Memorial Day, The Meridian Star is pleased to publish personal recollections from some area veterans. Part 1 of Arthur J. King's story ran on Sunday, May 20. Tomorrow: Veteran Bill Stinson (Chief Petty Officer, USN, Retired) files a story on Pfc. A.D. Daniels of Bailey.
Digging in, going someplace else and digging in again is what honed my shovel so sharp. But we didn't do that without orders from the officers over us. One of the meanest, and I hated him, was Capt. Peeples, from Welborn, Fla. I think he was an
academy man from West Point. But he would issue commands and orders that made us hate him worse than we did the enemy.
If a trooper lit a cigarette when he wasn't supposed to, the captain would take out his pistol and shoot at the guy. That happened to more than one GI and each one of them gave up smoking. He hated to see us break any rules that put us all in jeopardy.
He didn't want to lose anybody. Now, I wish I could tell him how much I love him for his care and concern for us. They don't make better men than that.
Another thing I really didn't like was having to fight our way north to a new position, then withdraw. I mentioned before that it was strategy used to spread out the enemy so they wouldn't have hordes to over-run our positions after the Air Force cleaned their clocks.
It worked. It also ran me up and down the Korean
peninsula like a waterboy for a football team. Everywhere I went, I dug a fox hole, officers' latrines, and enlisted latrines. If I'd had enough nerve, I'd shaved with the edge of my shovel. But I was working my way to stronger legs.
But the real best officer was my Platoon Commander, 1st Lt. Marion T. Woods, from West Palm Beach, Fla.
Early one morning, we were on patrol entering a small village. As daylight edged the sky, I noticed that trees were moving along the ridge. I pointed this out to my Platoon Officer and a bullet hit me in the skull.
Down I went and Lt. Woods ordered the men to lay down a base of fire. As I lay in pain on the snow and flat ground, I prayed that my life was acceptable to God. The other men had taken cover. I was out in the open. Lt. Woods ran out and picked me up. As he was hoisting me onto his back, machine gun bullets walked up between his legs and splattered dirt and snow.
I could see them coming at us. He never stopped moving. On a dead run he carried me back to the ditch that was giving us cover. How he got me there was a miracle. We stayed in that ditch until relief came.
I don't know how long we were in that ditch, but the most beautiful sight in the world came along with a white star painted on its side.
Two of them, in fact. One was a tank. The other was a half-track to carry us wounded back to an Aid Station. As bloody as I was, a nurse cleaned my head and cut my hair. Then, she sewed up the hole with a big needle and cat-gut as long as my arm.
It wasn't long before I was back on my feet. Then I was told that I was re-assigned to the 25th Division. Oh, no, they couldn't have anyone as good as Lt. Woods was to me.
So I went looking for a ride back to my own outfit. I talked to a truck driver and he said, yeah, he knew where the Third Division was located. I told him that my shovel was out there waiting for me. He laughed at me and said hop in. I did and he took me out for a few miles to where we were dug in. I thanked him, got out and looked up my Platoon Sergeant. I told him that I'd been transferred to the 25th Division but he said "forget it."
I was back where I belonged, but guess what I couldn't find my sharp shovel. I had plenty of offers from the other guys to use their shovels. Some of them were broken in pretty good, too.
Would you believe that I had to start all over with a brand new dull-edged shovel? I hope that whoever got my sharpy knows how to use it. Maybe it's being used to plant gardens. That would be nice. Maybe it's all the way up in China digging cabbages. I hope so.
I belong to the Frank Foster VFW Post 3996. We meet in the Kendallwood Building at Highland Park. When the meeting's over, we open our secret canteen and tell each other stories.
I love my country and I'd do it all over again if I had the same two officers I had before. They have my respect from the bottom of my heart. If any of you are interested, I'll tell you about the fighting in the Iron Triangle … yes sir, if The Meridian Star will let me.
Arthur J. King is a veteran of Korea and Vietnam. He lives in Meridian.