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.
I have been bugged about you saying you were having trouble finding out the true number of KIA's on Heartbreak. And about not being able to look at the morning reports. Their not letting you see them tells me their hiding something, and it would take a pretty stupid person to realize what it is.
This is nothing new. If you believe 33,000 KIA's are all l we had in Korea, you'd believe in the Tooth Fairy.
You may think I'm out in left field, but I'd bet my bottom dollar there were ------ KIA's. now that may sound pretty far-etched, but it's what I believe, and I'll be saying that the day I die.
I wish you could have seen the KIA's we had in the valley we attacked across in our first action after Chip-yong-ni. Phil can tell you. We got butchered that day. Dead were lined up shoulder to shoulder like logs along a rice paddy dike.
My machine gun section was lucky that day, we only lost Doc Roberts. He was taking out a WIA using korean litter bearers. He is on the right side of the litter next to the wounded man's head. A 60mm mortar round lands right at his feet. Blew most of Doc head off and his left hand. Killed the man on the litter, and two of the Koreans outright. The third Korean was in bad shape.
Most of the ammo bearers in our section got bullet or shrapnel wounds. Some serious, some minor. Ogan got shrapnel needles through his helmet. A kid named Gray also got some the same way. Their wounds looked more serious than they were. Blood down their faces make them look like they were bleeding to death. As I recall, I was about the only ammo bearer to come out of that attack without a scratch.
One round (a 60mm) landed not more than 7 feet behind me, down slope, and not a piece of shrapnel touched me.
It's funny how those things work. But it was the ammo bearers who fared the worst that day. Squad leader, gun crews, and section leader all came through A-OK.
Well, I've been wondering what the Korean newspaper article will have to say about the war. I'm almost afraid to look. I don't have any idea what our relations are with them now. Good, bad, or indifferent. I would hope they are reasonably good.
Really, I wouldn't blame the Korean people if they hated the sight of an American, the way some GI's treated them. Like they were something less than human. Like it was their fault they had to be over there.
As for myself, I'd been around Asian people before, and can honestly say I have nothing but respect for them. They are hardworking, honest people who want the same thing everyone else wants. A family, enough to eat, and a warm bed to sleep in.
I'll tell you one thing, Hal, and I'm not bragging, but no one misused a Korean while I was around. I don't care who they were. I simply would not put up with it. The had enough misery to put up with without us adding to it.
I really feel washed out today. Both physically and mentally. I'm in one of those depressed moods I slide into every so often without really knowing why.
To put it plainly, I guess I'm lonely. I'm a person with very few friends and too many memories.
I feel like life has cheated me. Never having known my grandparents, and my dad being so secretive and dying at 53, it's been rough on all us Harris's. We feel as if we have been robbed of things others take for granted.
Then I get to thinking about all I've seen and done for this country and my fellow Americans, and feel like, "Who the hell cares?"
To feel unwanted, forsaken, by someone who should love you at least as a fellow human being is not a very nice feeling. All my life I have felt lost, like a visitor who has overstayed his welcome. I always had the feeling I didn't belong, didn't fit in, that somehow I was different from others.
I guess if I'd been born around 1800 I'd have been a mountain man. Back then you could find solitude. Where do you find it today? But then you could find a lot of things back then I'll wager you can't find now.
You know, Memorial Day is what really burned me up. Started watching the Rochester parade on the tube and all you could hear was World War II and Vietnam. Nothing ever was said about Korean Veterans.
Do you know the 2nd spent 103 days on line without a break? Went on latter part of June or early July and stayed until the middle part of October. I went on 7 days R&R but was there for just about the whole of that 103 days.
Nobody I ever heard of in Nam ever spent that much time without a break.
Oh, but what the hell, that nothing. Korea was a Sunday School picnic. Christ. It's so sad.
You know, the sad thing is that we Korean Vets let it happen to us. We let ourselves be pushed into the shadows. We never organized like the Nam vets did. We never cried like they did. We never refused to fight like they did. We never refused to go. We went, came home, tried to pick up the pieces, and go on with our live. For the most part, kept quiet.
Now what have we got? Nothing but our memories.
You know, Bob Shelden used to kid me about my pride. From the first time I ever stood and watched troops moving up to jump off on an attack. I was deep in thought and Bob put his hand on my shoulder and said, "What are you thinking about, Hoppy?"
I said, "What makes them go, Bob? Why don't more of them say to hell with you, I'm not going up there. What makes a man go into battle when he knows there is a good chance he will go west? It's fantastic. Jesus, in a few minutes a lot of these guys will be dead, and they are just kids. Their putting their lives up be- cause somebody tells them to do it. I don't understand."
But I did it too. And therein lies the mystery. Why did I do it? Pride? It's the only reason I can come up with.
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