Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Veterans History Project

Raymond E. Little, Private First Class, US Army 1950-1953

 


Raymond Little (Ray) spent most of his growing-up years in Fort Collins, CO. He was a scrappy kid, whose household could have been a little warmer. When he was seventeen, he had quit high school. His mother sent him to the Post Office in Fort Collins and Ray was soon taken by a recruiting poster. It was a large picture of Uncle Sam pointing one of his fingers at the reader. The quote on the paper was “I want You in the US Army”.

Ray inquired of the recruiter about joining and the recruiter made it easy… just have your parents sign the form and you can join. So…Ray got a friend to sign for his parents. The recruiter sent Ray to get the induction physical the next day.

The people conducting the physical were ready to pass Ray except that he was too light. The dejected young man walked out of the building. A nearby man had seen the sorrowful look on the kid’s face and asked Ray what the matter was? Ray told him that he was too light. The new best friend told him to go to the grocery store and get a bunch of bananas, eat them, then go re-weigh. Ray got inducted into the Army.

After a couple of weeks of waiting, the official notice of time and place arrived in the mail. Ray had to be in Denver in early April 1950. Ray’s mother drove him to Denver. She was curious so Ray just told her he was going into the Army. That was good enough for her.

Ray and many other young men boarded a train for Fort Ord, California. The trip didn’t seem to take all that long. A bus picked the group up and delivered the new recruits through the front gates of Fort Ord to the reception station. Suddenly they were being yelled at as if the people doing the yelling owned the busses. Like “get out of my bus”! On first impressions, Ray thought this was the “hellhole” of the United States.

Quickly the trainees got off the bus and into some arrangement of a formation. They began the process of becoming soldiers. They were marched from place to place, figuring out where their new housing was to be, where they were to eat most of their meals, etc.

Ray didn’t have any difficulties getting through training. They added additional time to get them infantry qualified. The training altogether lasted about thirteen weeks. Towards the end of this training, soldiers want to know what the next step is, where they are going next. The training cadre couldn’t tell the young men. “Just keep your head down and keep moving!”

After graduation from the training, the men were allowed two weeks leave to go where they wished but be at the Port of Oakland on a date late in July 1950. The ship had a large number of freshly-graduated recruits and seasoned soldiers aboard. After departing the port, the men found out they were going to Korea. The troop ship arrived at Puson, Korea. It is in the southeast part of South Korea.

Once there, Ray found out he was in the 1st Cavalry Division, 5th Regiment, 1st Battalion, George Company. There were others going to the same unit so they were marched to their new Headquarters to await further assignment. Ray thought he was going to be in a unit that did their fighting on horseback. He asked a nearby soldier where all the horses were? “we ate them all in the Second World War” was the response.

Very soon, the men were taken to their tenting areas. Ray noticed what looked like logs on the hill side. He inquired of a senior soldier about the logs. The forms were dead bodies, not yet recovered. There were other displays of death and dismemberment.

Ray said the cold was formidable. He made sure he had plenty of dry socks and changed them regularly. He didn’t suffer frostbite, but plenty of others did. The men ate C rations mostly. Ray kept his small “P-38” can opener on the same chain that held his dog tags. The thing would sometimes unfold and stick him in the chest.

Ray asked his First Sergeant how one can tell the difference between North Koreans and South Koreans. The First Sergeant told him that the North Koreans ate a lot of garlic and a soldier should be able to smell them….

The men in George Company went on several patrols. He was at Pork Chop Hill, in combat. Many times, at night, the men were told to dig in. They made their foxholes and prepared to sleep. Often, the leaders would come by and order them to move out. It was easiest to not dig in, if you were going to go right away. As soon as the bullets started flying though, the value of a living in a foxhole was high. On one occasion, the forces of nature and the human body got together. Ray went beside a tree and was taking care of business when he was shot in the rear. The tree wasn’t as wide as he thought.

Ray was tended to by medics and returned to duty soon. In a few days, the soldiers were moving along the front lines. They could hop onto a tank and save a few steps. As the tank moved forward, an enemy mortar struck the tank. Ray was injured again, this time an ear drum was lost to an explosion. Ray slid off the tank and injured his back in so doing. He was taken back to the MASH tent for more treatment.

Ray used an M-1 rifle. The .45 cal pistol kicked too much and the machine gun left too much of a “flame” signature telling the enemy where they were.

Ray asked the First Sergeant why they were fighting there. The reply was that they were “fighting for themselves. If you want to get home, keep fighting”. The unit went as far north as the Yalu River and back south. The North Koreans weren’t good at night fighting so battles at night were infrequent. However, when the Chinese joined the battle, fighting tactics changed.

The men were given three cans of beer a week. If one didn’t care for the beer, it was trading material. In the C rations, there was a small package of cigarettes –Lucky Strike, Chesterfield, etc. Ray had saved up several packs but they always got wet and useless. One of Ray’s battle buddies had managed to go on leave for a few days. When the man returned, he recognized Ray and waved and yelled to him. In the process, the man came into contact with a mine and was killed.

Ray knew that he had signed up to be there for a year. President Truman extended that time by one year. Ray said that he was glad to come out of it alive. There were USO shows including Bob Hope and others.

When it was time to redeploy, Ray and several others were able to fly home. He went to Camp Chafee, AR then on to Camp Polk, LA. Ray collected his back pay and waved good-bye to the Army.

Ray went back to civilian life. He won several medals and a head full of memories. The war changed him forever. Ray became involved with the VFW and became an officer. He didn’t keep in touch with his buddies, nor did they keep in touch with him.

Good job Private First Class Ray Little. Thank you for your service!

 

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