SFC John Taylor Jones
Mortar Forward Observer
Mortar Platoon Sergeant
Field First Sergeant
17th Infantry Regimental Combat Team
Seventh Infantry Division
Lieutenant Keith Abbot
A retread who was in New Guinea during World War II. Keith was leader of the Mortar Platoon. He kept us in perfect condition (which I found not to be good enough in combat).He was a great friend.
He left me to run the platoon without an officer in the Punch Bowl. I found him in the Social Security Death Index last year. May he rest in peace.
Kawalsky was in Hitler’s youth movement. He was strafed by our planes while playing in a boat on a river as a youth. He was very excited about getting into combat when he joined the company. The guys took him to the MASH unit to watch the choppers come in. He was less anxious then, but he was a great gunner. When we found Russian arms, etc., he would read the Russian to us.
Andy is a dear friend. I visited his great family in the late 1950’s. He visited me at Iowa State University when I was an engineering professor there (1966-1974). He was a great gunner.
Louis, one of the ROK soldiers assigned to us, is dropping the mortar into the shell here in this shot taken at Heartbreak Ridge. We had five Korean boys in our platoon. Two of these young Korean soldiers were serving in our machine gun platoon in the Punch Bowl. Our own artillery blasted us with 105 howitzers three times the second night we were on the line in the Punch Bowl. A shell went into their laps.
We also had a machine gun sergeant severely wounded. I could see his clavical in the open wound.
One rifleman with in eight to ten feet of me had his leg blown off and he perished despite the heroic service given by our medics.
The Chinese were shelling us hard that night too. We were all out in the open because the ROK army was holding the mountain as we took position. I wasn’t sure which side of the mountain to hide on. The mountain was Hill 1243 (meters), the highest hill on the line.
Avery “Probe” Dieter and my second radioman.
Avery lives in Ancramdale, New York and was Postmaster there. Probe is on the right. The soldier on the left was my radioman and we lived for six weeks together in the same hole on Hill 1243 in the Punch Bowl, yet I can’t remember his name. How sad! A great guy from the deep south who told me everyday that he was going to get killed. I told him that if he didn’t shut up I would kill him myself.
Probe was Gunnery Sergeant and I was the platoon sergeant of the 81mm mortars when this picture was taken in the Punch Bowl.
After six weeks of messing our pants (from diarrhea, not fear–we sometimes peed our pants when we tried to get our do-dads out in freezing weather too. Let’s see. We had shorts, longjohns, wool pants, fatigue pants, under shirt, longjohns top, wool shirt, fatique top, field jacket, parka, etc. By the time got through all that, anything could happen!) and generally living in a pig stay, we asked for showers.
John Bowhams from Illinois, the platoon sergeant before me, came up to relieve us with Sergeant Jacobson from Minnesota and two radio men.
One became a forward observer later. His name was Chick (in the pic to the left) and he was from Tucson. I’d give my left ear to see him.
The four of us, Ted Olean and I and our two radiomen, “the untouchables” went down for showers. John was hit while I was in the shower below. I never saw him again.
I became Platoon Sergeant that day and did not go back up on the hill, but stayed with the mortars. I always worried about John’s wounds. His wife is an invalid and he had her to take care of. Probe got me in touch with John in the fall of 2001. He said that getting hit was the best thing that happened to him in Korea. The wound healed completely and he went home.
I stopped filling so guilty about coming down for a shower. I think that my radio man and I were in the shower for over an hour. We scrubbed each other down from top to bottom.
Sergeant Jacobson hated the shelling at my forward observer position. In fact he was so nervous that he dove on top of me in my hoochie (hole in the ground) when some of our shells went overhead. He must of “hit the deck” at least a dozen times as we walked along the line. I don’t blame him. His wife had a new baby girl the day before.
When the tanks were in position, things got a lot worse for Jake and Chick, his radioman.
The commander of “B” Company finally asked me to bring him back down to the mortar position because he was “making everybody nervous”.
I brought him back down to his mortar squad.
Jake was a very fun guy to have around and a good soldier. He didn’t ask to come down from Hill 1243 himself, and I know that if he stayed, he would have done his best up there under the horrible conditions. Hill 1243, according to the Stars and Stripes, had the heaviest Chinese artillery bombardment of the Korean War.
That is one story I believed!
Lieutenant Keith Abbot left for home, he signed a card to me as shown to the right. Keith was an attorney. He had a rebellion one day before we went up to the Punch Bowl. He completely exhausted the platoon, running them from hell to breakfast, and tons of push-ups, etc. It didn’t bother me that much because I was only nineteen, but all of the other men were older draftees, and it was very hard on them.
I remember him coming to my tend and apologizing to the men. As good as shape as we were in, it wasn’t good enough for combat conditions.
John Bowhans on the pot! The Chinese knew our mortar position because they spotted it from the air. Avery Dieter took this shot while I was up on Hill 1243 in the Punch Bowl. Nobody wanted to sit out there on the can for long, as I learned when I came back down to take over the platoon. Those huge 240mm shells came in all day long.
John Bowhans and Avery Dieter. John is on the right. You can see the “C” ration cases. We used gasoline down at the mortar position in our homemade stoves. Some of the men burned C-3 plastic explosive in their hoochies. You might think that dangerous. Actually, it takes a detonator to make it go BOOM!
Coleman from Dallas. He was a tremendous gunner. He had to be turned loose once in a while, and the CO let him go into Seoul one time. He came back to camp with a big jug of Korean brew. He was dead drunk. The guys said the stuff tasted “like piss.” That’s probably what it was. When I first took over the platoon, he came back from R & R, also as drunk as a hoot owl. He was in the back of a 3/4 ton and was firing his 45 caliber into the air. The guys were concerned when he threatened to shoot somebody. I went to him and he had the gun pointed at my belly. He said that nobody liked him because he was black. I told him that was a crock of shit and to give me the gun and go to bed, which he did. Coleman was the fastest gunner in the platoon. A really good and often funny guy, even when he got some booze.
Our Commo Sergeant. There are a couple of poems about him in the poetry section. A very brave man in constant danger. On Hill 1243, I had four telephone lines coming into my hole. Each morning, they were all out from mortar and artillery fire. My radio man and I repaired the long line back to Battalion Headquarters. The Commo Sergeant and his assistance repaired the other four. We always had breakfast together after repairing the lines. I remember walking along the trail each morning and finding Chinese mortar shells buried up to their fins on the trail. We weren’t the only ones who had bad ammo. Some of it was our ammo, captured by the Chinese. The Chinese mortars were 82mm, so they could fire our 81mm shells. Their shells were too large for our guns. Their mortars were also rifled and you could rotate them 360 degrees. Clever people, those Chinese! I asked for new mortars as ours were all worn out. They gave me two of the needed four. They were still 81mm, but other than that, they were just like the Chinese mortars. The new guns would fire 200 yards further at charge 6 than my old guns. The Battalion Commander tried to get our communications sergeant the Silver Star. Regiment never approved it, yet they were giving Bronze stars to communication people all the time just for repairing lines below the line with an occasional artillery shell lobbing down into the valley below. I lost my little red book with all the names. I wish I could remember his.
A Cook, as I remember. The Mortar guys were closer to the cooks then the others in our heavy weapons company. Except for th forward observers and radiomen, they were most likely to get served a hot meal everyday. Up on the hill in the Punch Bowl, they tried to get us a sandwich at about 4:00 P.M. Some days we got it. I traded my camera to this guy to get his 45 caliber pistol. One night on Hill 1243, Chinese infiltrators came up and attacked bunkers by tossing in grenades and then coming in with knives. We were alerted by a sergeant from Company “B.” Our carbines were tied to the top of the bunker for the night, and it took us a lot longer to get them down than we thought. At Heartbreak Ridge, I had both the 45 cal. and the carbine. I never used either there, but when the new Regimental Commander walked into our bunker at midnight, he nearly got it! I told him that it would be better to inspect the line in the day time. On the night that the infiltration occurred, we heard of an attack to our left. My friend, Bud Glade, was injured while serving as a Flash Observer for the First Field Artillery Observation Battalion. I knew the guys over their because I also had the MOS of platoon sergeant, Sound Ranging, and platoon sergeant, Survey. I was mis-directed to the 7th Division at Camp Drake in Japan. When I got home, Bud Glade told me the same story that I heard. Four Chinese came up, wiped out one position with grenades and knives and then attacked his. He was hit while in his bunker, out bleeding on the head, killed four chinese with his carbine. He got the Silver Star. I started the University of Utah with Bud Glade. The plate in the head gave him horrible headaches and he could not concentrate on studies. He was running a gas station the last time I talked to him. I would have been serving with the First FOB, but the day after I got to the company, the CO asked me if I would stay. He needed a field first sergeant because all of the noncoms had battlefield promotions and knew little about mundane things like marching troops. I was acting field first during the day and I guess he liked what he saw. I cancelled my transfer to the First FOB. I’m glad I did. I would have been over there with Bud Glade.
Donnelin, Phil., showing off at Heartbreak Ridge. We had time on our hands there.
Frank Butash, Scranton. Frank was a great gunner. I tried to contact him several times when I traveled through Scranton. I talked to his wife, but never saw Frank.
We always played Tackle Football, hoping to break a leg or something. They tried to make us stop because they didn’t want anybody to get hurt. But we always went back to it. Sergeant LaCroix, Florida, right below, is at center. Phil. Boy to his right, as I remember. A lot of our guys were from the Northeasternn United States.
Giendety, Eastern Seaboard, to the left. He was always joking and having a good time.
“The Net.” The rode was open to Chinese view at Heartbreak Ridge. I remember my head on the floor of the jeep as we left when the 14th Regiment relieved us. I could hear the ballistic wave of the shells passing over us. The Regimental Commander put tanks at this position. A company of 4.2 inch mortars was not far away. A few hundred yards down the road passed the net, I was flagged down by a major leading a convoy of the 14th Regiment. He asked, “Where am I, Sergeant?” I told him that he was on the right road to relieve the 17th RCT, but that he better spread the convoy out and move fast through the net, as he would be under fire. The turned purple, as I remember. He thanked me and gave out the orders. When I got back to our new camp, I waited for the rest of our company to get down. They told me it was like a boy scout jamboree up there. You can read more details in my Poetry. The 14th Regiment got kicked of Heartbreak Ridge and our 32nd Regiment had to re-take the hill. We were sent to the MLR to back them up.
Punch Bowl from where we were sitting. Notice the lines up in the trees rather than on the ground. We could find them easier in the snow that way, for repairs. We were not properly equipped for cold weather when we got to the top of Hill 1243. First, they got shoe packs up, which we found to be quite worthless for the conditions. We were the first army unit, after the marines, to get the new “Mickey Mouse boots” which were insulated for the weather and okay as long as you didn’t stay idle with wet stocks. We carried an extra pair of socks under our armpits to get them dry. We ran out of socks and could not get them. Finally, our supply sergeant notified the “powers that be” that our sock supply had been wiped out by a white phosphorus shell. We got the socks.
My Home on Hill 1243. The Chinese had a recoilless rifle that they fired over our heads. Fragments hit our pants and burned little holes without burning us. The tent shelter over the bunker was full of small holes from the hot fragments. I tried to knock the recoilless rifle out, but froze my knees trying. When the tanks came up, that was that. Point blank. See my Poetry. I remember the pic below right as being looking up to Hill 1243 from the mortar position.
Below, Heartbreak mortar position.
To the right below, Sergeant “Jake” from Minnesota is to the left. The tall younger man is a new replacement. When we came down from Hill 1243, Service Company dumped us on an abandoned airstrip. Our trucks rear-ends and transmissions were all frozen in the Punch Bowl, so we had to beg for transportation. We had two good captured Russian trucks, but the brass took them away from us because they were not issue. They were the only good trucks we had. The road down from the Punch Bowl was very icy and the driver was not all that great, but we made it. We laid our sleeping bags out in the open and went to sleep. In the morning, it still seemed to be dark. Then I pushed back the top of my bag and got a face-full of snow. That prompted me to drag everyone out into the snow. We had a great snow ball fight in our underwear! Below left: Joe, Far Hills, NJ
Don’t let anyone tell you that Danny Kaye and Marilyn Monroe never entertained in Korea. The experts are wrong.
This shot was taken in the Spring of 1952 as I remember. You can faintly see some hills in the background. These hills were being strafed by our air power just before the show. I think they were P-51s but I don’t remember for sure. I had three guesses, Jets, P-51s, or Navy Corsairs. That is the line.
A rumor spread through the audience that Danny Kaye had just come down from the line where he had some fun calling in artillery. This was within hours of the event so I’m sure that is what Danny Kaye did. Would you expect anything else.
If you scroll down the home page you will find hundreds of my article titles and abstracts. There is an article about Marilyn and her visit to Korea. We use to listen to Marilyn every night on the radio. We did this with a phone to our ear if we were on the line.
Now, some mug shots of me and others..
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