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.
After having the angiogram test in Buffalo, I'm back here in Batavia. I really believe I had a close call and the doctors are mum on the issue.
When I took the test the technicians tried to tell the doctor he was going to use too much dye. Said something about me being slender and didn't require nearly that much. But he insisted he was using the right amount and went ahead, and damn near ruined me. My blood pressure has not been right since. This morning it was 99-50, and as long as I take my medications it stays around 120-80 or thereabout. Right after the test it was 74-50.
I'm telling you one thing. I had them running from what I hear. I wouldn't really know, I was out like a light. When they finally woke me on the floor, the doctor asked me if I was alright. Said how the hell would I know, you're the doctor. I started to go back to sleep, and the jerk started slapping my face. I yell, "Cut that out, you SOB."
He left, and the nurse poured ice water into me until I thought I'd burst. Got an IV running and told me to try to stay calm. Sure, stay calm, and my right leg is jerking and I feel like upchucking.
I'm still not right by a long shot, and the doctor comes back asking more questions. I wasn't talking loud enough to suit him and he yelled to talk louder. I yelled back, "Quit yelling at me, you dumb ass!"
He took a powder and the nurse took over, got me calmed down enough so she could keep getting accurate blood pressures. When she was satisfied it was staying put, she let me go to sleep.
The next day the doctor came around and while talking to me, he admitted he probably used too much dye. I'm surprised the SOB admitted it. "You'll be alright," he said.
I felt like saying, "How the hell would you know, you dumb SOB, you don't even have brains to beat a cow." The nitwit is from India, and as far as I'm concerned, he ought to go back there.
What they found is an artery that is being pinched off as my heart beats. About 40% blockage in the arteries. Along with a leaking aorta, things don't look too good in there. But they have such a backlog of heart surgery it's pathetic. So they take the worst ones first. So it looks like I'm going to have to live with my condition, and do the best I can.
If I can just get out of this place it will be a step in the right direction. It's depressing around here. We have what we call death row. For all the guys heading for the last roundup.
I really hate to be in these VA Hospitals. Makes me feel like a freeloader, and you'd be surprised how many time I've been called that. Most of the time I chalk it up to ignorance, but it gets to me sometimes and I have to sound off. Lot of good it does, but it's better than keeping it inside.
You may not believe this, but being able to write down some of the things that went on in Korea has helped me a lot. To know there is someone out there with the decency to try to get at and write the truth about what went on over there makes me feel just a whole lot better.
It's getting like Korea never happened. It's like someone out there wants the whole rotten mess forgotten. The quicker the better.
Have I ever told you how I came to be a gunner?
In every group, there is one man who is the only one cold, the only one hot, the only one tired. I was assigned to his gun. It was because of him that I became first gunner.
One day we were pinned down. I was his second gunner, and yelled for him to fire, but he wouldn't do it. Covered up his head and whimpered like a puppy. To hell with this I said, and pulled the gun over, fed the belt with one hand, fired with the other. I had the weapon on free traverse and really hosed down the area where the firing was coming from. Right off the incoming fire let up.
The gooks were real playful that day, and from a trench kept waving a maggies drawers. I'm firing at about 300 yards and a lucky shot knocks the pole from the wavers hand. The he threw about 3 feet of pole and the drawers down the hill. Guys would ask me every so often if I'd got any maggies drawers lately. That gook never knew how much good he did for our moral that day.
Well, we have to pull out of there anyway, and as usual H Company machine guns pull out first to set up a blocking force to cover the riflemen as they pull out. Our blocking positions are about 100 yards back, and the riflemen are pulling back through us when I look back up in the pines we had just left and see a man moving and shouting. I tell the riflemen but they pay no attention to me. We are not getting much fire as the distance now is pretty far for rifles at moving targets. I turn the gun over to someone else and barrel back up the ridgeline and into the woods. Lieutenant Simmering is our platoon leader and he yells for me to come back, but I pay him no attention and keep running.
Well, as you might expect, the gooks spot me and start popping away. All the bullets do is tear a lot of bark off the trees around me, and make me wonder what the hell I've gotten myself into.
When I get to the guy, he's slobbering all over the hill, and his eyes look like he's having a nightmare. He must have been hit with a .51 caliber Buffalo gun, because one foot is a mess. He is rather tall but slender, so I quiet him down, get him to lay on his back, and I begin to pull him across the pine needles.
Our machine guns have been cutting loose in good shape or I would never have made it. As it was, I'm winded a couple of times and have to stop and rest. But thinking about that Buffalo gun made my rest periods damn short, I can tell you.
Simmering has managed to get a medic and a litter. We get the guy on it, and down to the road.
We are trudging along the road and I hear Vern Bush say to Lieutenant Simmering, "I think someone up there earned a Silver Star, don't you lieutenant?"
Simmering said, "Yeah, I think so, write him up. And as of right now, Harris here is first gunner."
I protested and said, "Wait a minute, Lieutenant, I don't want some SOB second gunning for me. I want somebody I can trust. Phil Ogan ends up being my second, and if I do say so, we made quite a team. One hadn't got any more sense than the other.
And by the way, that Silver Star somehow turned into a Bronze Star, thanks to General Ruffner's policy of kicking down all decorations a notch.
I don't know if I told you, but anyway I wrote to the Governor of Idaho asking for help finding Phil Ogan. Wish me luck.
Hal, it is a real friend who has tears in his eyes when you shake hands and part for the last time. Phil and I did, and their was a lump in my throat big as a baseball.
Well, you went and called tonight, and ruined my whole letter. I'll fix you, I'll send it anyway.
Well, I'm feeling the strain of this day so I believe I'll kiss the pillow and call it a day.
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