Marines who patrolled the icy hills near Korea's Chosin reervoir often sustained weather-related injuries that still nag at them today. Richard Hoefs of Elizabeth City still can't escape the pain from his frostbite injuries. Effects of frostbite linger for vets; VA to inform its centers and doctors on related injuries and their treatments.
It was around the first of December 195D, barely five months into the Korean Warand Hoefs and his fellow Marines in rifle Company How were weary, numbed by days of icy wind and their tangles with a gnarled enemy.
Several nights before, when the Chinese first signaled their attack at the Chosin reservoir with bugle calls. whistles and banshee cries. Hoefs had been flooded with terror. The cold had frozen fast the river beside him, but sweat streamed down his back so thickly he was certain he'd been ripped open by a gunshot.
Now, less than a week later, his feet deadened by frostbite, his spirit ravaged by near-ceaseless combat, the unthinkable came to the 21vear-old. He'd had enough of the Marines rugged road of retreat, enough of the Frozen Chosin, as this bitter, tide-turning battle of war would later be known.
"What the hell?" Hoefs murmured, after tumbling heaplike onto the cold, hard field. "This is as good a place as any to die."
The life he once was willing to lose has been a good one. He came home to marry, father and help rear three children, and work as a photographer and firefighter in Cleveland. Later, he divorced, remarried and moved to Elizabeth City, N. C.
At 67, the bearded Hoefs now makes stained glass, collects clocks, and travels to places like Nashville, Tenn., and Myrtle Beach, S.C., with his wife, Augusta. He rarely mentions Korea.
But those days beside the Chosin reservoir nearly a half-century ago sneak up on him still. Some days his toes and knees throb "like a toothache" �the remnant of a Korean "cold injury" that turned his toes dark blue and so deadened his legs that he couldn't feel shrapnel lacerate his skin.
The Department of Veterans Affairs compensates about 29,00 vets, mostly from Korea and World War II, for such injuries. Some symptoms, however� among them night pain, stiffness, and skin cancer in frostbite scars�often don't appear until decades later and may be wrongly attributed to something else.
To educate its doctors and claims reviewers, the VA today will convene a nationwide video teleconference on cold injuries.
"Most of the physicians in our hospitals today have not seen veterans with cold injuries," says Dr. Susan Mather, the VA's chief public health and environmental hazards of ricer.
"What complicates things is that Korea is sort of the forgotten war, so patients coming in complaining of cold injury symptoms meet up with folks who don't know much or anything about their experience.
For Hoefs, that experience began in 1947, when the stringy 6-footer joined the Marines straight out of high school. He did his time at Parris Island, S.C., a spell at Camp Lejeune, N.C., then moved to Camp Pendleton, Calif. There, along with a couple thousand other Marines, he played a supporting role to John Wayne in the World War II classic "Sands of Iwo Jima." During one scene, Hoefs stumbled across a body-strewn field to deliver a message to the Duke's legendary character, Sgt. Stryker.
Real war soon followed. The call in the summer of 1950 to Japan, the jumping -off point to Korea, was unexpected, prompted by communist North Korea's sudden invasion of the South.
That Sept. 15, in a daring landing amid fast-moving tides, battalions of the 1 st Marine Division put ashore near the South Korean harbor of Inchon. Joined within days by the Army's 7th Infantry Division, the Marines soon liberated South Korea's capital, Seoul, and so shattered the surprised communist invaders that the commander of U.S. forces in the Far East, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, predicted the war would all but be over by Thanksgiving.
In their tents and foxholes, America's fighting men envisioned ticker-tape victory parades ba~ck.home. The gung-ho Hoefs, an expert shot with the M-1 Garand rifle, was~ready for his share of the glory.
Emboldened by the victory, MacArthur's forces chased the North Koreans toward the Yalu River, North Korea's border with the People's Republic of China.
The Chinese had been aiding the North Koreans, and were massing troops along the Yalu's Manchurian banks. In late October and early November, Chinese troops tangled with the first Americans and South Koreans to approach the river.
But MacArthur discounted the Chinese threat. So just before Thanksgiving, Hoefs was one of tens of thousands of American and British marching up the sides of North Korea's Chosin reservoir. They were to deliver the knock-out punch.
Until then, the weather had been mostly warm. But in he mountains, Hoefs says, the temperature dropped sharply "and I was putting on all the clothes I could get on."
By nightfall that Nov. 27, he wore long underwear, a wool dress uniform, fatigues, a ribbed wool sweater, a field jacket and a vest under his hooded Parka. His thick leather mittens ran nearly up to his elbows. He had on two pairs of socks under his boots.
Still he was freezing.
And nervous. He and others in Company How watched low-flying Marine Corsairs roar ahead of them up the mountain valleys all day, dropping bombs and firing machine guns. "They're not out there practicing," Hoefs recalls saying.
Yet when he and others in his fire team asked about digging foxholes, he says they were told not to bother. "There's no enemy closer than a hundred miles from here," their lieutenant assured them.
In reality, Hoefs and his comrades had marched into a noose. An estimated 120,000 Chinese soldiers had slipped into the frigid mountains around the Chosin.
The allied forces would spend the next two weeks wriggling out of this choke hold in the fiercest fighting of the war. Tens of thousands of men�Americans, Britons, Chinese and Koreans from both the North and South�would perish before the baKle was over.
The allied defeat would shaker the UN's aspirations for a full victory in Korea and subject MacArthur, President Harry S. Truman and other allied leaders to widespread second-guessing about their conduct of the war.
It would also mark the last time two major superpowers locked horns in a large-scale confrontation. Many historians say it help set the stage for the disastrous miasma of Vietnam.
Within a few hours, as the temperature sank below zero and the winds whipped up, Hoefs " was really kicking myself in the ass for not digging in."
Real war was turning out to be nothing like the movies. At about 9 p.m. the nightmare started: "Bugles, whistles and a lot of shooting," he says, "and before you knew it, guys were running back, wounded."
Hoefs and his fire team were ordered along with two machinegunners to a position along a small river. They crouched there all night, periodically firing across at the heckling Chinese. At daybreak, they peered over to see dead enemy soldiers lining the bank.
"It was strange," he says, "because when it started to get daylight, the Chinese disappeared."
That would be the pattern throughout the allied pullback. The heaviest fighting was at night, and often up close�so close, for Hoefs, it still evokes painful memories.
"We got into hand-to hand combat one night," he says matter-of-factly, setting down a glass of Diet Coke on his clothed dining-room table. Then he breaks into tears, quietly stammering; "I killed a guy . . . a Chinese with a knife."
More than anything else, Hoefs and other Chosin vets remember the cold.
A front sweeping down the Siberian steppes eventually plunged temperatures to 30 below�so cold that he and other Marines were ordered not to grease their rifles, for fear it would jam them. They learned to eat frozen C-rations.
Within a few days he'd lost all feeling in his feet and knees, and his fingers weren't much better.
All along the march back the men were allowed into "warming tents," to stand around oil-burning stoves for 10 or 15 minutes at a time. But "after a couple of times," Hoefs says, "you realized all you were doing was torturing yourself." He stopped going in.
More than once, he and fellow Marines wondered how the Chinese stayed warm when all most of them wore were a single layer of quilted clothing and canvas shoes. They pondered a more frightening question, as well: Why, rather than attacking in mostly small groups, didn't the Chinese use their superior numbers to swarm down and "annihilate every one of us?"
Hoefs doesn't remember exactly when he gave up hope and collapsed into the frozen field�or how he mustered the will to drag himself back up. He trudged on for several more days before staggering into an aid station at Hagaru-ri south of the Chosin. A corpsman looked him over, then tied an evacuation tag on his parka. Within hours he was aboard a C-47, bound for Japan.
His clearest memory of his time back in Japan is sending a corpsman at the military hospital to buy a carton of Butterfingers candy bars.
"I ate every one of them, all 24, one right after the other," he says. But I knew it was food and it wasn't frozen."
He also learned he'd taken shrapnel in his legs. The cold had numbed the pain. Meanwhile, his big toes were turning deep blue.
When Hoefs reached the Philadelphia Naval Hospital about a week later, the weather was cold and snowy. That didn't bother Hoefs, though. He was home.
In the several months he spent there, one morning stands out.
That was when the hospital's chief physician, a Navy captain, walked into his ward and announced to the 60 frostbitten Marines, all vets of the Chosin, that he'd come to do some "clipping."
"He started down one side then worked his way up the other, with something that looked like a big pair of wire clippers," Hoefs recalls. "A couple of the guys said, 'Bullshit.' And he said, "you know that's insubordination, but we'll ignore it".
The deadened toes and fingers flew off "like fingernails," Hoefs says.
When he got to me, I said "I swear if there's no improvement in two or three weeks, I'll let you do it," he remembers. The doctor agreed. And miraculously, Hoefs' big toes did improve. The now black scabs on them began cracking, and pain seeped in where before there was no feeling at all.
Though now it's hard to live with, right then it was the most welcome pain in the world.
All these years later, Hoefs has mixed feelings about the war. He is proud to have done his part, "however small it was, to help curtail the communist takeover." yet he's troubled that after all the blood spilled. Korea is still divided. He holds little hope for upcoming peace talks between North and South.
He's happy that the VA is paying more attention to the late onset of coldinjury symptoms, and hopeful that today's teleconference will improve his chances for more compensation. He now receives $179 a month.
Hoefs won no medals or decorations for his war experience. About that, he'll never complain.
"I was not a hero," he says. "I was just one of the Marines who was there. The real heroes were all killed in action."
I enlisted in the Marine Corps on May 12, 1942 during WW II, 3 month's after my l7th birthday. I went to "Boot Camp" at Parris Island, South Carolina.While there I had the honor of meeting "Lou Diamond", one of the Marine Corps' most memorable Marines. After bayonet practice, he blessed each and everyone!
I often wondered if I would serve Honorable in the Marines, also for God, Country, and Family, Though I'm not extra religious, I did have a personal Faith and Belief . So one night I looked Skyward and said; LORD: Please,...Let me serve "WELL" while in the Marine Corps.
After "Boot" training, (Shorter than Today) I was sent to form I Co./21stMarines/3rd Div., New River, North Carolina. I was one of the first in the company, and it was the first HALF of our division. The second half was at Camp Pendelton, (Known Then as "Tent City".)
Dress uniform was Olive Greens-Khaki Shirts and Ties; (Called - Fieldscarves) Web Cord belts for the pants, with a brass buckle & highly polished! "Outside Jacket" had a wide leather belt, that had a large buckle and kept HIGHLY polished! ! With a matching pair of black dress shoes.
Most times we wore Utilities of whipcord, and the jackets were worn on the outside, with the pocket having - USMC & Emblem on them. "Boondocks" shoes. Tan-whipcord belt & buckle.....highly polished ALWAYS! ! Always looking sharp! Being a MARINE! !
Once In a while "Liberty" - in San Diego, California, before leaving for New Zealand, where we were held due to possible Jap invasion. And of course, more training and their wonderful gift of "Steel Tipped" combat shoes.(leather covered) and most useful.
Then on to Guadalcannal "Clean Up" and relieving our 1st & 2nd Marine Divisions. Afterwards, I was transferred to - A Co./4th Field Depot 5th Amphibs, and going to Vella La Vella. Back to Guadalacanal, leaving there for Guam.. And finally, Purita Island off Bougainville. That was where I last saw the 3rd Marine Division.
In their honor, and the Iwo Jima invasion, I received the presidency of the GOD given "Busting Attitude Barriers thru Involvement, Inc." corporation. "The People's" - and First - in American history (501 /cl 3 Not For Profit -Org.'s (Fla IDS 1261 & IRS IDS 59-2391046) - Under Education & Religion.
And now in the Marine Corps - Archives and Database Computer.
Web Sites, Marine Link, Gunny G's, Gunny Hiles'-Military Network, and many others. This site is dedicated to promote Unity between Able and Disabled. Bringing the Disabled to the forefront of Mainstream America. Abolishing the secondary status of disabled persons, allowing them to speak freely and enjoy the freedoms of America. Promoting a better unity and interaction of America's Able and Disabled - for a "Better America"!
After joining the Marine Corps in WW II, I made a "Life Time" commitment of service to my God, Country, and People. And to do my very best - while in the Marine Corps. During the War years,. ..I felt protected, humble, grateful, and being trained Well!! Earning the right to be called "MARINE".
I came home Safe and Whole, and often wondered,. ..Did the Supreme Commandant hear me in "Boot Camp" or did I do something wrong? WELL,. . . I found the answer to my question, at the VA hospital in Lyons, New Jersey / my home state. It was the beginning of my service Again, ONLY: as a wheelchair Marine.
I spent approx. 3-4 months there, and they helped me out of the Dark, and on my Unknown journey. The long, hard journey Uniting America's able and disabled. Finally,. . . on Feb. 7, 1984 Busting Attitude Barriers thru Involvement became a Florida corporation, and IRS became a temporary-(1985) "Official" on Aug. 18, 1986.
Yes, I died and was sent BACK, Yes, I was saved and Re-Born, Yes, I had a Vision and given a Mission. A mission of protecting America's Freedom, and Restoring it's Pride and Patriotism. Giving the Able and Disabled their very own ""Not For Profit" corporations.
Mainstreaming them for a "Better America"! People Helping People, Sharing & Caring One nation under GOD - with Liberty, and Justice for ALL! ! ! TRULY,. . . a first in American history, and by a United States Marine!
One who believes in the USA's "Bill of Rights"-"Constitution"-"Declaration"- "Americans Creed", and "The Pledge of Allegiance". And where the American citizens; Fought, Died, and were Maimed,. . . defending the United States of AMERICA!
Early in the morning of "Veterans Day" I was awakened by a calling of my name, I awoke with a shock to see my Lord of Lords! ! He appeared in the Right hand corner of a Mural that is behind the Be-Board of our bed . It's a Mural of Sky, Water, Beach, & Rocks. AND: giving me B.A.B.I. that later became the "TWO" corporations.
As I stood shocked but amazed, He than said; "Go forth my son and bring my flocks TOGETHER" / The Able and Disabled. I then replied,. . . Why me Lord? I lack knowledge and am limited. "His" reply was; You can do it - and I'll help.. And Help he did,. ..Answering many prayers, and graciously - Giving me so called "Hidden Rewards".
Rev. Jack Kelly of Holiday FL drew a picture for me because of what I Saw, Three crosses in Baron Land. #1. I Love You - #2. Keep The Faith & #3. Able and Disabled! I have it hanging above my #2 honor wall. #1 is in the Marine Corps-Archives, Washington, D. C. - #2 is on my Home wall, and our beloved Commandant: C.C. Krulak with past Commandants: C. E. Munday, and Al Gray. (With Photo of#1)
I wrote former marine Charles W. Lindberg about the VFW-magazine's article on Iwo Jima etc., and we were writing ever since. (As of 1981, He was the LAST survivor of the "2" flag railings on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima /Feb. 23, 1945.) B.A.B.I. completed the the history of the Iwo Jima invasion. From Charles W. Lindberg,...I received photo's etc., now in & Owned�By the USMC historical center. Another strange happening to me was at the "Bay Pines"-VA hospital, FL Rev. Richard L.Behringer and the pastor of"CHAPEL ON THE HILL"/, Seminole, FL came to visit me. On my first set of Decals there was a Blue/Star on the bottom of each corner. I told him of my wonderment.
Point #1 Conceive - #2 Receive - #3 Believe - #4 Relieve - #5 Achieve. "The Star of Joy". Also in the five pointed star I saw; faceless figure WALKING down between the Points. Tho I don't have the answer Today,. . . I can only quote him - "I WILL". I DO KNOW; I was Legally Blind,...No Longer after 19 years! Maybe: some day after being wheelchair bound for 33 years--I'll walk again???
First I would like to thank the peopIe who~with out their help these pages would not be possible. For personal instruction and website construction Cherie Collins M.Ed. She has given above and beyond the norm for an educator. The web site would not be possible without her assistance. Richard Gaines (Gunny) for his space on his site for the vignettes and his assistance in linking my site to his. Last but not least are my son Douglas and my son-in-law Lonny for the purchase and the forethought to push me from a typewriter to word processor and finally to this computer. But the most important person is my wife Doris, Who has put up with this Marine for over 50 years. She has earned the Medal of Honor several times over.
BASICS OF FREEDOM
It's a God given thing for Everyone, Mind, Body, and Soul. When one has Freedom,...they should Protect it, or Lose it. Freedom comes in many Colors and many Ethnics in AMERICA! A (Spirit) that will never Die,. . . nor will Anyone or Anything "Kill It". America is full of Freedom loving people, Rich-Poor�Doers and Watchers A real mixture but, UNITED in Heart and Soul.
Monetary and years of Human cost, from the Pioneer days to the Modern days. Suffering: Dismemberment, Pain, and....Death. EVERYONE: Has a definite stake in America, and Just cause to be Proud.
SHOWING: Their Patriotism Our "Flag" is of the Human Spirit of this mighty nation. EARNED: For ALL,. . . and fly "Freely" in Peace.
We: The People, Stand UNITED, or - Divided we'll Fall!! The price of Freedom is Unknown,. . .But - "Well worth the PRICE!
God Bless AMERICA
John Blanchard stood up from the bench, straightened his Army uniform, and studied the crowd of people making their way through Grand Central Station. He looked for the girl whose heart he knew, but whose face he didn't, the girl with the rose.
His interest in her had begun thirteen months before in a Florida library. Taking a book off the shelf he found himself intrigued, not with the words of the book, but with the notes penciled in the margin. The soft handwriting reflected a thoughtful soul and insightful mind.
In the front of the book, he discovered the previous owner's name, Miss Hollis Maynell. With time and effort he located her address. She now lived in New York City. He wrote her a letter introducing himself and inviting her to correspond. The next day he was shipped overseas for service in World War II.
During the next year and one month the two grew to know each other through the mail. Each letter was a seed falling on a fertile heart. A romance was budding.
Blanchard requested a photograph, but she refused. She felt that if he really cared, it wouldn't matter what she looked like.
When the day finally came for him to return from Europe, they scheduled their first meeting - 7:00 PM at the Grand Central Station in New York.
"You'll recognize me," she wrote, "by the red rose I'll be wearing on my lapel."
So at 7:00 he was in the station looking for a girl whose heart he loved, but whose face he'd never seen.
I'll let Mr. Blanchard tell you what happened:
A young woman was coming toward me, her figure long and slim. Her blonde hair lay back in curls from her delicate ears; her eyes were blue as flowers. Her lips and chin had a gentle firmness, and in her pale green suit she was like springtime come alive.
I started toward her, entirely forgetting to notice that she was not wearing a rose. As I moved, a small, provocative smile curved her lips. "Going my way, sailor?" she murmured.
Almost uncontrollably I made one step closer to her, and then I saw Hollis Maynell. She was standing almost directly behind the girl. A woman well past 40, she had graying hair tucked under a worn hat...She was more than plump, her thick-ankled feet thrust into low- heeled shoes.
The girl in the green suit was walking quickly away. I felt as though I was split in two, so keen was my desire to follow her, and yet so deep was my longing for the woman whose spirit had truly companioned me and upheld my own.
And there she stood. Her pale, plump face was gentle and sensible, her gray eyes had a warm and kindly twinkle. I did not hesitate. My fingers gripped the small worn blue leather copy of the book that was to identify me to her.
This would not be love, but it would be something precious, something perhaps even better than love, a friendship for which I had been and must ever be grateful.
I squared my shoulders and saluted and held out the book to the woman, even though while I spoke I felt choked by the bitterness of my disappointment.
"I'm Lieutenant John Blanchard, and you must be Miss Maynell. I am so glad you could meet me; may I take you to dinner?"
The woman's face broadened into a tolerant smile. "I don't know what this is about, son," she answered, "but the young lady in the green suit who just went by, she begged me to wear this rose on my coat. And she said if you were to ask me out to dinner, I should go and tell you that she is waiting for you in the big restaurant across the street. She said it was some kind of test!"
It's not difficult to understand and admire Miss Maynell's wisdom. The true nature of a heart is seen in its response to the attractive.
"Tell me whom you love," Houssaye wrote, "And I will tell you who you are."