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.
Again A Proud Soldier
The last few days I've been pondering the fighting on Heartbreak Ridge. And the more I think about it, the more proud I am of the American soldier. Taking everything he had to endure there, it amazes me to this day that we ever succeeded in taking our ultimate objective, Hill 931. With the terrain the way it was, the heat, the difficulties we had in getting in our supplies. Getting out our wounded and dead was by far worse than anything I'd seen in Korea. The horrible stench we endured day after day was indescribable. It came from North Korean and American dead alike, and is the only odor in the world I know you can't get used to.
To see the enemy rotting, bloated, and being devoured in the heat is one thing, but to see your fellow Americans, especially someone you have known, is something only the most calloused can become accustomed to.
I never came under fire from our own people as often as I did on Heartbreak. I've always blamed that on the fact that we were so bunched up. Artillery fire was brought in closer up there than I'd seen before. And when you try to bring in artillery that is being fired from a considerable distance, and your hills are close together, you are asking for disaster. But the chance had to be taken and was taken, thus we had to pay the price.
I saw many acts of gallantry while in Korea, but never like those I witnessed at Heartbreak. Feats of incredible bravery were an everyday occurrence. Heroism came to be taken for granted. Men got so used to being under fire, when bullets were flying they acted like it was raining. They commenced to hold the enemy in contempt as if to say, "To hell with you. You can kill me, but you can't eat me."
Heartbreak was the ultimate in frustration. Take a hill or ridge today, and loose it tomorrow, or even in an hour. Have an objective practically in the palm of your hand, then be ordered to pull back. It always seemed to us grunts that things were constantly being done without rhyme or reason. I can't think of a more frustrating feeling than to take your objective, see friends killed, and be ordered to pull back. But that was Heartbreak Ridge, time and again.
Maybe there was a reason for these moves, but for the little guy who scratches and claws his way to the top of a blood spattered and gut strewn hill only to be told when he eventually makes it to pull back, no explanation is ever going to be good enough.
Infiltration was always a problem we had to deal with in Korea, but we learned to deal with it and more often than not bagged the enemy foolish enough to try it.
But Heartbreak was a new ballgame. The terrain features, the shadows, the ungodly darkness at times made it virtually impossible to hear people wearing sneakers pussy-footing it past you in the dark.
In the fall of the year, fog is a nightly problem that has to be dealt with, along with ground mist. When it rained as it did some days and nights, we could not get air support. The enemy took full advantage of this to maneuver, improve positions, infiltrate, and raise hell in general.
That was Heartbreak Ridge. Everything seemed to work against us. Like we were up against a stacked deck.
I believe beyond the shadow of a doubt the star of the American Soldier has never shown brighter that it did on Heartbreak Ridge. No country on the face of the earth could ask for finer fighting men than we had up there. They were truly magnificent.
We Americans have taken a bum rap for generations, and sadly enough by our own countrymen, that we make poor soldiers. But I say this. Given good leadership, and the equipment to do the job, the American soldier will get the job done. Even when he has his back to the wall and the situation is seemingly hopeless, he has more than once used his ingenuity to pull out a victory. And I believe that this is what we did on Heartbreak Ridge.
Supplies were difficult to get up as supply trains were constantly being ambushed, and we fought without the best equipment. But we got the job done. Yes, we got the job done, but we payed a terrible price. And it is hard for me to believe that it was worth it. Perhaps it was, perhaps not, that is not for me to say. I could not see, and if I could, probably would not have had the intelligence to understand it.
I am proud to say that I have served with the best. When I came down from Heartbreak Ridge, I left something behind. Hal, I think I've found it now. Thanks for caring.
Your Friend, Hoppy Harris
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