A Korean War Christmas Carol

A Korean Christmas Carol
Forwarded by Kathleen Hatch and others:

T'was the night before Christmas and all through the tent,
Was the smell of fuel oil, the stove pipe was bent.
Their shoe pacs were hung by the stove with care,
In the hopes that they'd issue each guy a new pair.

The weary GI's were sacked out in their beds
As visions of sugar babies danced in their heads.
When up on the ridge line there rose such a clatter,
A Chinese machine gun had started to chatter.

I rushed for my rifle and thru back the bolt,
The rest of my tent mates awoke with a jolt.

Outside we could hear our platoon Sgt. Kelly,
A hard little man with a little fat belly.

"Come Yancy, come Clancey, come Conners and Dodson,
Up Shiller, up Miller, up Burgess and Watson.
Get up on that hill top and silence that Red,
And don't you come back until you are sure he is dead."

We tumbled outside in a swirl of confusion;
So cold the guys could have used a transfusion.

So putting his thumbs up beside of his nose,
Sgt. Kelly took leave of us shivering Joes.

But we all heard him say in a voice soft and light,
"Merry Christmas to all, may you live through the night."
Here's one of my dads favourites from Korea where he spent two christmas's,

Korean Christmas,1950.

Just what are we doing here?
Ice cold on a ridge in a foreign land,
Chilled by winds from the ends of the earth,
Far, very far from the homes we love,
Just what are we doing here?

The Korean peasant ,gentle and strong,
Is swept up in a desperate fight,
His livelihood smashed by land engines of war,
Whilst death seeks him out from the skies,
Just what are we doing here?

Refugees trudge southwqards below us,
With faltering , shuffling steps,
Do they know we are here to protect them,
That we hope they've the strength to survive?
Just what are we doing here?

In a Muscovite palace a tired tyrant sits,
Whose words mean these people must die.
A few hours more and their breath will be stilled,
But he'll never know, never care.
Just what are we doing here?

Someone,someday,must face up to his power
And say 'no' to that tyrant's greed.
Then peasant and wife can enjoy their old age;
Those of us who survive can go home,
That's what we are doing here!

A.E. Younger,
Major, RE.

A well written poem!

The one I posted appeared in the Stars & Stripes newspaper, while I was in Korea circa 1951. I also spent two Christmas seasons in the 'Land of the Morning Calm,' during the war. :roll: :wink:
This poem was taken from a book published in 1988 by the British Korean Veterans Association - 'The British Forces in the Korean War', out of print now and quite rare. The Korean war is a forgotten war and there are few books dealing with it.
A good book written a few years ago now about the British infantrymans war in Korea is 'One mans war in Korea' by Lofty Large. It concerns mainly the battle of the Imjin and the stand of the 'Glorious Glosters'. My dad often complained about them getting all the "bloody glory" when the other mobs there got none! He spoke of the Cav quite alot and had alot of respect for the General (was it Middleton?) who got killed stepping on a landmine?
Thanks for the links, Trip.
Yes I meant the 1 st Cav - dad always referred to them as the 'cav'. I'll do some checking and get back to you on the General - I don't know why Middleton comes to mind. I do remember my father commenting on him though. Sadly, he's been deceased 7 years so I can't double check!!
trackbasher said:
Thanks for the links, Trip.
Yes I meant the 1 st Cav - dad always referred to them as the 'cav'. I'll do some checking and get back to you on the General - I don't know why Middleton comes to mind. I do remember my father commenting on him though. Sadly, he's been deceased 7 years so I can't double check!!
Here is another Korean War era, story that I thought was interesting from a an Officer in the 1st Cavalry Division, 7th Cavalry Regiment (Custer's Old Regiment,) in Korea in 1950 about a fellow Officer.:

Shanks Bootees

It was during the dark days of the December retreat when I first
saw them. They were hanging from the cold muzzle of an old, battered,
Springfield rifle - a pair of tiny blue baby bootees. Their pale silk
ribbons ended in a neat bow behind the front sight, and each little
boot hung down separately, one slightly above the other, swinging
silently in the wind. They reminded me of tiny bells, and even though
one had a smudge of dirt on its soft surface, and part of the ribbon
that touched the barrel had lost color from scorching heat, they seemed
to me to be the freshest, cleanest objects in all of drab Korea.

At first the bootees had fixed my attention, but after the surprise of
seeing these symbols of home in such an incongruous place had worn off,
I let my eyes drift, unobserved, to their owner.

He was a lieutenant, young, I could see, and tired; not so much from
the exertion of the trudging march, but with the wear of long days and
nights in combat. He was talking to men from his platoon, all of them
together watching the core of a little blaze in their center, and I
could tell that he was answering some of their disturbing questions
about the war. There was a tone of hopelessness in the men's voices,
but the lieutenant sounded cheerful; there was a glint in his eye, and
a squint that melted into an easy smile when he spoke.

As my companions moved on, I glanced back briefly to the blue bootees
still fresh, still swinging. Often in the next few weeks I saw the
lieutenant and his bootees while we moved southward before the Chinese
armies. Around the ever-present warming fires I heard the simple story
of the officer and his boots.

The lieutenant was named Shank, and he, twenty-two years old, led a
rifle platoon. He had come over from Okinawa while the Army was clamped
in the vise of the Pusan perimeter, short on manpower. Shank had his
baptism of fire on the hills outside Taegu. His youth and fire helped
keep his decimated platoon intact, while the North Koreans frantically
tried to crack the American lines. Then came the breakthrough, and
Shank's company, rode on the record-breaking tank and truck dash
northward. He picked up the Springfield rifle then, and kept it because
of its renowned accuracy and apparent immunity to the cold weather. A
violent day south of Pyongyang won Shank a Silver Star for gallantry,
as he led his flesh-and-blood infantrymen against T-34 tanks and
destroyed three of them. The Chinese intervention and beginning of the
American retreat brought him up to where I met him, south of Kunari.

The bootees? That was simple. He was an expectant father, and the
little boots sent by his young wife in the States reflected his whole
optimistic attitude while the battle was the darkest. I also learned
that when the baby came it would be announced by a new piece of ribbon
on the boots - blue for a boy, pink for a girl.

Then I forgot about him as we prepared to defend Seoul from above the
frozen Han River. We were hit hard by the Chinese. They streamed down
from the hills and charged the barbed wire. They charged again and
again, piling up before our smoking guns. The days were but frantic
preparation for the nights. Companies dwindled, and my platoon was
halved as cold, sickness, and the enemy took their toll. I neared the
end of my mental reserves. Names of casualties were rumored, and I
heard Shank's among them. I wondered where Shank's bootees were now.

Then the endless night of the retreat from Seoul came. When we got the
word my few men were too dulled to show any emotion at the
announcement. Most were too miserable to want to retreat again for
twenty-five miles, Chinese or no. But we did, and the temperature
dropped to 30 degrees below zero as our silent column stumbled along
the hard ground. It was the most depressing night I had ever endured -
pushed by the uncompromising cold, the pursuing enemy and the chaotic
memory of the bloody nights before. I, as a leader, was close to that
mental chasm. Only the numbness prevented thinking myself into mute

We plodded across the cracking ice of the Han River at four-thirty in
the morning, and marched on south at an ever-slowing pace. Finally the
last five mile stretch was ahead. We rested briefly, and as the men
dropped to the roadside they fell asleep immediately. I wondered if I
could get them going again. Worse yet, I didn't think I could go myself
so tired, numb, and raw was my body.

Then in the black despair of uselessness in a second-page war I looked
up as a passing figure brushed against my inert shoe pacs.

There walked young Lieutenant Shank up the Korean road, whistling
softly, while every waking eye followed him to see the muzzle of his
battered Springfield rifle. Swinging gaily in the first rays of the
morning sun were Shank's bootees, and fluttering below them was the
brightest, bluest, piece of ribbon I have ever seen.

Lt David Hughes
Seoul, Korea, Dec 1950
7th Cav Inf Rgt 1 Cav Div


David Hughes was a 1st Lt., with K Co of the 7th (Infantry) Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, during the first year of the war. He retired from the US Army as a Colonel. He taught at the US Military Academy. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for action during the attack on Hill 347 in Korea in October 1951.
Thanks for that Trip.

The General was Walker who was killed in a road accident, not by a landmine. I got Middleton mixed up with Ridgeway - both WW2 para generals.
Anyway, HAPPY NEW YEAR Trip.........I'm off to the pub!!
BTW: Shank survived the Korean War and the child had a daughter

Quote from website:

"On December 23, 1950, one day before the closure of the Hungnam evacuation, while UN forces were continuing to withdraw southward before the flood of CCF manpower, Lieutenant General Walton H. "Johnnie" Walker (West Point class of 1912), the Eighth Army commander, was killed in a jeep accident north of Seoul.

His replacement was Lieutenant General Matthew B. Ridgway (WP class of April 1917), reassigned from his position as the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Administration. On January 4, 1951, Seoul changed hands for the third time."

COL David Hughes, USA (Ret.) has a website where his has listed many korean war stories about his time in combat in Korea with the 7th Cav. RGT 1st Cavalry. Div. I enjoyed them! I hope you and all others interested in the Korean war take the time to read them, as there are lessons that can be learned!

Korean War Stories.:


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