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.
Up and Down
I have my ups and down, as you know by now.
I recall one day up at Heartbreak Ridge, we were giving supporting fire for Easy Company. I believe it must have been 20 September 1951. The distance is nearly 800 yards to the objective, and firing at this distance is nerve racking. You are constantly afraid of hitting your own people. This has been going on for a long time, and I am tight as a banjo string anyway. This added stress makes it rough.
Easy takes their objective, and Lieutenant Riddle of G Company yells from his CP that I can displace forward and to do so as quick as possible. Battalion says we are to hold the objective to the last man.
I saddle up my men and we are out of position in under a minute, and make the steep descent to the valley below. Once in the valley I turn right and lead my section up to the objective. A soon as we get there Lieutenant Van Fradenburg says the orders have been changed. Get back to where we had just left, and cover them when they pull back. I start to question the move, but Lieutenant Van Fradenburg cuts me off and says, " I don't know what the deal is, Corporal Harris, and I don't have time to argue. Battalion, you know? Hurry up and get back up there!"
The look on his face is one of urgency, so my men and I begin to make the long steep climb back to our starting point. The climb back is pure hell as the ridgeline is so steep, it's like trying to climb up a wall. We grunt, we slip and fall, we sweat, we cuss, we nearly bust a gut trying to get back.
Lieutenant Riddle tells us the news that they have changed their minds again, we are ordered to rejoin E Company.
Well, I'm heating up now and am about ready to explode, but I hold it inside and let loose a burst of obscenities at battalion or whoever it is so fucked up.
We head back down the ridge to Van Fradenburg's position. We are nearly there again when my radio man gets a call from Lieutenant Riddle, and I look up to see him waving us back to him. I cannot believe it. "What in Christ's name is going on," I think, and really turn the air blue this time. I turn my sweating, dog tired men around and again struggle up the ballbusting hill.
Our tongues are hanging out, we are stewing in our own juice, and our knees are like jelly. I feel like I want to puke. A combination of the stupid bastards running this operation and sheer weakness has us all feeling this way. I have to help one of my second gunners carry his tripod as he has run the course. As we struggle to get the guns setup to commence firing, I hear Lieutenant Riddle say, "What, OH NO, as if he's talking to himself."
I turn and catch his eye. He holds his hand for me to hold up, and eventually points toward Van Fradenburg. I wait, the anger slowly building up inside me. Riddle finally turns from his radio and says with a disgusted shake of his head, "Hoppy, I don't know boy, but they've changed their minds again. They are going to hold there. You have to go back over, boy."
This is when I went completely out of it. They say I threw a wingding that was a thing of beauty. I mean I just went apeshit. Ran in a circle, kicked the bone dry dirt into great clouds, threw my carbine, ran and picked it up by the stock, and in one lick ruined it by wrapping it around a tree stump. I cursed, I screamed, I did everything but piss my pants. When I spent my fury I ended up on my hands and knees blubbering and drooling like an idiot, gasping for breath. It started to dawn on me that I had just made a damn fool of myself and felt very ashamed.
After making sure I'm back to normal, Ogan starts the section back over to the objective. Most of them were halfway there anyway, having bugged out when I started my wingding, not wanting to be in the same country with me, let alone on the same hill.
Riddle had watched the whole thing with the same coolness he did everything else, finally said, "Hoppy, you'll need another carbine, son. There's another one over there by that tree stump, the guy that it belonged to won't need it anymore. Looks like a new weapon to me. You all right, son?"
"Yeah, I'm all right, Banzai," I say, not wanting to look him in the eyes.
"It's alright, it's alright. Better to get it off your chest. Better go now, they'll need you over there." Old Banzai winks at me like a loving father.
I felt like a sniveling child as I slid down the step ridge to join my section, dreading having to face everyone. When I get there, the guys tried to act as if nothing had happened.
Only Lieutenant Van Fradenburg spoke.
"Are you alright, Hoppy?" he asked softly, with a look of genuine concern.
"Yes, sir," I answered, "I'll be alright, gotta blow off steam once in awhile, you know?"
About the worst thing about the wingding was I'd ruined a carbine that I'd taken off a dead chink. It was one of the first M-2 carbines ever turned out. It had been cleaned so often the bluing was gone and the weapon was silver in color, and the stock was beat up as if someone had batted stones with it. Best carbine I'd ever seen. At 100 yards, I seldom missed, and it would fire magazine after magazine on automatic and never jam. It was like loosing my best friend.
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