Louie was kind of absent from our lives in 1968 when the events of this letter took place. Keeping in touch wasn’t easy for a number of reasons. The mail took quite a while to go back and forth from North Dakota to Korea. Visits were rare, as travel was expensive. Telephone conversations were almost impossible. I’ve discussed how much work it was to try calling Korea in a prior post.
I never played cards with Louie, he played Pinochle in the sixties and Cribbage in his sixties. I never learned cribbage (too much arithmetic for me) but his walrus tusk cribbage board is among my most prized possessions. Pinochle was the game of choice in my early college years, possibly at the same time Louie was playing cards with the girls in Japan.
Louie’s cribbage board
Our games never entailed the hi-jinx Louie’s did, but my memories of the game are exceptionally pleasant. The guys I hung with weren’t big into homework, and frequently went home for the weekends. On Sundays we’d try to get back to Fargo early for an evening of Pinochle. My roommate Dean K and I would face off against the likes of Doug, Cliff, and Rick. After more than forty years I’ve almost completely forgotten the rules of play, but I do remember that bidding depended on the content of my hand and my partner Dean’s cards. We played so often and were so well matched that at the start of bidding we’d look each other in the eyes and somehow know what to bid.
Our card games were in the dorm at college. Louie’s game was in a Geisha house in Japan. We had fun, but his evening ended in hilarity, at least in retrospect.
In 1968 I had the honor of performing my military duties in the Republic of Korea once more.
The whole country was rebuilt considerably but still had that stink of human waste throughout. They used that stuff to fertilize their fields to raise their crops.
Back during the war they had what they called “R&R” for the troops, giving them a little break from the war. Those R&R breaks were usually taken in Japan and consisted of 5 days.
Louie in Korea, c. 1952
Louie continues the theme of confounding letters, mixing the fun and excitement with the fear and dread. His description of jets flying overhead brings to mind the times WW II bombers have flown over Rochester on demonstration flights. Even the noise from one of those bombers raises the specter of a hundred of them ready to rain tons of explosives on us unsuspecting civilians.
After talking about the sight of a napalm strike, Louie describes two friendly fire incidents. Sobering thing, war.
During the “Police Action” in 1952 I was with a group of fellas that enjoyed watching the Navy and the Air Force conduct strikes on the North Koreans.
The Air Force had this straight winged Jet that sure made a lot of noise going away from you, letting you know that it had been there to see you.
One of the sights that were unforgettable was the Napalm strikes that were, in a gruesome word, beautiful. They would fly in low and drop the napalm bombs and let go just before the target.
Louie continues … Continue reading
Louie (r) and friend in Korea
For twenty-some years, and even beyond, one of my favorite television shows was M*A*S*H. I still enjoy watching reruns. Some episodes moved me to tears, others have me giggling still. My favorite line is Col. Potter saying “Not enough O’s in ‘smooth’ to describe this” as he describes some Scotch whisky in episode Z-419. The series takes place in the Police Action in Korea that Louie describes in this letter.
One truth of war and the television series is the mixture of pathos and humor. Louie’s story reads like a M*A*S*H script. I laughed at the conclusion, until I realized what had really happened.
Back in 1952 I had the honor of being with, or should I say, a member of the United Nations who were engaged in a “Police Action” against the Communist of North Korea. Continue reading
This was the army job Louie really wanted.
Louie was proud of his military service, he was in the Army for several stints, including two in Korea, one in Europe, and a couple more state side.
I remember the day my big brother Bob came home from the war in late 1944. We met him at the train depot in Jamestown. He hugged everyone he seen except me. I finally walked up to him and asked him if he remembered me. He said that he didn’t seem to know me. When he left I was a 97 lb. weakling and on this day I stood about two inches taller than him and outweighed him about 40 pounds. Kind of surprised him who I was. While in the South Pacific fighting the Japs … Continue reading
Alan K and Louie in January 1951, ready to travel to Alabama.
One of my earliest memories, certainly a planted memory, is of being in the ocean as a baby. As I read this letter, it’s clear that I couldn’t possibly remember something that happened to me at age one. Maybe it’s the pictures from the old photo album, or the stories that Mom and Dad told me as I grew up. The time in Alabama was probably a highlight for the little girl from the Dakota prairie.
Louie remembers the tragi-comedy, not the nostalgic part, of the trip to Alabama.
Back in 1950, when Guy was just one week old, the National Guard outfit I belonged to was activated because of the Korean War or Police action whatever you wanted to call it.
The unit was to go to Camp Rucker, Alabama on the 16th of January by troop train. On this train we had, sleepers, a dining car, a place for cooking the meals and also KP duty (Kitchen Police). I being just a private did my share of the KP duties.
On the first night going through Minnesota you could see out the train window that it was a beautiful moon lit night and very – very cold.