Return To Heartbreak RidgeReturn To Heartbreak Ridge is the story of a sons' search for his fathers' past, and a series of letters received from Korean War Veteran SFC Seymour "Hoppy" Harris, a gunner with Company H, 23d Infantry Regiment, 1951. It is a complex story.
Warning: Strong language, pejorative terms, and honesty.
Chip-yong-ni, 14-15 February 1951
Night comes. I have not been in the unit but for a few hours, but somehow I feel a sense of urgency. I feel it. Something is going to happen.
My companion, as he did the night before, is curled up in the corner. Dead to the world. To hell with him. Rather than listen to his bitching, I let him sleep.
I stare up the draw until my eyes feel as if they will burn out of my head. It is bitter cold. Not a cloud in the sky. I can see nearly to the base of the big hill.
The only sounds are firefights taking place in the distance. Off to my left, I can hear the sound of automatic weapons and rifle fire. Green and red tracers arch through the sky like a 4th of July fireworks display at home. It would be beautiful, I think, if it weren't for the fact men were dying over there.
The sound of bugles mixed in with the sound of firing makes me really feel the presence of the enemy, and it makes my blood run cold. I am really afraid, unsure of myself. I wish I had anyone else in the hole with me but him.
O'Shell has told us that if they come, that we are to let them come until their lead man hits the barbed wire.
"Damn!" I think when he tells us this, why don't we just let them come into the bunkers with us?
I admit I must have dozed, because I recall snapping my head up and looking up the draw. I see the gooks coming, but at first it doesn't register on me. I look away.
I thought, God, they look like ghosts. I must be going nuts!
Then I slowly turn my head and look back up the draw. What I see makes my stomach do a backflip. Chinese! My God, the draw is full of them. They are about 100 yards from the wire.
They come silently.
Like little clowns.
There is no chatter. The night is still as death. On and on they come. I wonder if anyone else sees them. My God, am I the only one who sees them?
I kick him in the butt and whisper loudly, "Wake up! They're here!"
"Who's here?" he wants to know, bolting upright.
"The gooks! Who the hell do you think? Get the hell up, the balls going to open!"
He starts to panic. He takes one look out the front of the bunker and says, "Oh, no! Holy Jesus, we've had it! Oh Jesus! Oh Jesus!"
Just as I have figured, he is going to be worthless. Back he goes under the blankets.
The gooks are nearly to the wire. I have been told to keep my carbine on semi-automatic, but I have my sights on three gooks who are rather close together, and without hardly thinking, I slip the selector lever forward, putting the weapon on full automatic.
The first gook hits the wire.
Thump! Comes the sound of O'Shells' M-1. I squeeze my trigger. It is like every weapon is wired together. They all go off at once. Tracers like laser beams streak out and I see them go clean through the gooks. I hear them scream, and go down like stalks of corn before a corn cutter.
It is only seconds and the mortars start to rain in. And right behind them come the 105's, time fuse and point detonated. They turn the draw into an orange-gray hell. The noise is deafening beyond description. I am frozen, spellbound by the sight and sound of it. For a time I just kneel and stare at the horrible sight before me.
Finally, I come to my senses and start to fire, although I cannot see a thing to fire at because of the smoke and flying debris. But the feel of the weapon jumping in my hands makes me feel better. By God, I'm doing something at least. It is 2210 hours.
Slowly the battle subsides. The gooks pull back. From time to time .30 caliber machine guns chatter, picking up small groups going up the draw. Then all is quiet except for the cries and screams of wounded gooks.
One gook keeps crying,"Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!
It is nerve raking, and somebody yells, "Does anybody see that bastard?"
Nobody does, but in a short time the gook apparently dies, and the night again is deathly still.
I sink down in the bunker shaking like a leaf. Christ, I'm scared.
"Look sharp! Here comes them stupid shits again!" I hear someone yell.
I look out the bunker and sure enough, here they come again. the draw is crawling with them. My God, I can't believe it. No one could be that stupid. Again, they are to the wire before O'Shell opens the ball. And it is a repeat performance.
But this time there is an explosion at the wire the like you wouldn't believe. The gooks have managed to push a bangalore torpedo beneath the wire. The explosion blows a hole in the wire four or five feet across. Our machine guns pour their fire into this opening and soon it is clogged with dead gooks.
Just as things begin to quiet down, I see a blue flash that seems to come out of the ground. It is a burp gun. The slugs rip up the dirt right in front of my face. I feel as if someone has stuck a lighted cigarette against my upper lip. I drop my carbine and in panic fall to the back of the bunker, pawing at my mouth. I cannot imagine what has happened. I can feel my lip swelling, but as far as I can see, there is only a little blood. My fingers keep catching onto something. Each time this happens it feels like a bee sting.
A gook has squeezed off a burst from his burp gun, and has almost done me in. The brass from one of his slugs has embedded itself in my lip.
He wants to know what my trouble is and I tell him I have a piece of brass in my lip.
He wants to yell for our medic, but I tell him no.
The damn brass in my lip is the least of my worries. My feet are aching to the point that I can hardly stand it. I am tempted to take off my shoe pace, but think better of it. What if the gooks hit us again. Be just my luck.
It has been a long night, but daylight finally arrives. I crawl out of the bunker and walk on feet that feel like blocks of wood. No feeling at all. Moore sees my lip and calls Doc Roberts over. Doc pulls out a small pair of forceps and removes a piece of brass about a quarter inch long. He completes this piece of major surgery and noticing the way I walk, says, "Your feet are probably frozen.
Back at the aid station, a doctor looks me over. Takes the band-aid off my lip and gives me the once over. Then tells an aid man to put on a fresh band-aid.
I am told to take off my shoe-pace, and my feet look like blocks of marble.
"Frozen." I am given some foot powder and sent back to my section.
Back at our positions, I report to Sergeant Moore, and tell him I have frozen feet. "Welcome to the club," he tells me.
I stand looking out at the dead gooks that litter the mouth of the draw. Moore sees me watching men from our section and riflemen going over the bodies, and says, "Come on Harris, let's go out."
"No thanks. Ain't nothing out there I want to see."
"You might as well get used to it, Harris."
And taking me by the arm, leads me toward the carnage.
My God, what a sight. Some had arms missing. Some had been decapitated, some had guts hanging out. Chinese soldiers lay in every way, shape, and form. On top of one another like corded wood.
A tall captain with a clipboard is using his pen as a pointer, taking a head count of the dead gooks. Slowly he walks up the draw. Counting away. I do a little counting myself, and get up to 50 before I stop. It was the tip of an iceberg.
I really have no idea how many we killed that night. I heard it was 500 and something, but I just can't say. All I know is that the draw was littered with dead nearly up to the base of the high hill.
We are at the fire when we see men moving down the draw toward us. As they get close, we see they are wearing the shoulder patches of the 1st Cavalry Division. They are men of the 5th Cavalry Regiment.
We shake hands with them and do a lot of back slapping.
The next thing we know, their tanks are there and we know we are home free.
I have seen my first combat and I notice the men of the section seem to treat me as more of a member of the family. And that means a whole lot.
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