Korean Inspection Tour & the Major’s Revenge
At some point while working for General Griffin at Eighth Army Support Command I became friendly with a Lt. Colonel who when he came down from Division he wanted brick accommodations instead o the tents that he was used to sleep in. I was able to provide the accommodations that he wanted and he became one of the ones that introduced me to those Non Com’s who could get me jeeps and VIP flights. He was also my protector from Major Jaworski who ever since he saw me at the Chosun Hotel with the Korean ambassador, had a real hate for me. The problem now was that his tour was ending and I would have a few months without protection. General Griffin, although friendly, was too preoccupied with his duties. General Decker had 4 stars but after I burst into his office during his staff meeting, after I had gotten word of my son being born I kinda stayed away from him. The Colonel would be spending the next few months at HQ in Seoul and since I was out of assignments he asked if I would be temporarily appointed as his aid, which he was able to arrange. The timing was good because right after that CO left and Major Jaworksi took over as company commander. Oh, Oh. The Col. said not to worry as he was going to take me on an inspection tour of the Korean II corps as a “non spec”. A non spec means that you wear your uniform but show no rank. He had to show that I had some special importance as we were meeting with a well known Korean general who had been a hero during the war. So off we go in our jeep heading Northwest with the Colonel driving since he knew the way. We had our pens and clipboard as this was going to be an inspection tour. We finally got to the Korean HQ base and we were greeted and saluted like celebrities. There was no time for a “Pass in review”, which would have been nice to have a parade in our honor. The inspection seemed to have been going well and it was getting close to “retreat” time which is when the flags are lowered at dusk in a brief ceremony and bugle call. That’s when I am told to inspect the Ammo dump. Upon entering I first notice that there are wooden cases of carbines on one side and on the other side I see rust coated wooden boxes. I don’t know whether to freeze or run. My God there are GRENADES inside those boxes! As my blood drains and I ran outside and tracked down the Col. Not to worry he said. “We will give the general a perfect score but tell him to dispose of the grenades.” Dispose he does. The general has everyone go to the far side of the base. After about 30 minutes we hear pops and explosions. Our illustrious general blew up the Ammo dump and he comes to us smiling and acting like one happy guy. His interpreter tells us that in our honor he is having key personnel from all over the division for a banquet. We were told that we would be honored and given a Korean medal, which I have long since misplaced. Since it is considered a combat zone it is OK to come in fatigues, which of course we did. The Col. being in Army Intelligence knew a lot about this commander as he always did his research before meeting with anyone. We were seated at the head of one end of two long tables where we are in the L on one end and the General at the other end. Along with our uniforms we were required to wear our Hard Hats (helmets). Remember it’s a combat Zone, even though there hasn’t been any combat in a few years. Some of the Korean troops were showing up from the surrounding areas and some of them didn’t know the details of the general’s habits. A few started to remove their hard hats (helmets). The next thing you know the general would take off his helmet and smash the poor fellow across the face. The point was taken very quickly. We were now ready for dinner. The large bottles of Korean beer were on the table but we were served something called Mool first, which was a milky alcohol drink. Then winter Kimchee was served with appetizers and pickled vegetables, which is traditional. Then the BBQ flank steaks which was quite good. There was lots of belching as the dinner was winding down, as this is considered a polite sign telling the host that the food and drinks were good. The Col. then nudges me. “Whatever you do don’t take out a toothpick”. I didn’t have one, don’t use them but couldn’t understand the comment. As I said the Col. knew the general well. The next thing we knew the General stood up, took his helmet off and started smashing people on the side of the head. It didn’t take long for the troops that didn’t know him to realize that toothpicks were verboten. We had a good laugh on the way back to SAC but I thought to myself what kind of honor the Korean general would have given to me if he had found out that I was a non com and not some officer from an Inspector’s General unit. I kind of felt like Danny Kaye in that very funny move: “The Inspector General”.
After the inspection of the Korean II Corps it was a relief to get back to SAC (Seoul Area Command) as that eerie experience seemed to haunt me on the drive back. Just a few months to go and I’d be back home to see my wife and young son, discharge and Reserve training. But I figured it would be a boring few months as most of my friends from JAG, who were in the same building we bunked in had already been shipped home. The Colonel was about to leave, our company commander, who I had gotten on well with, was gone replaced by my nemesis Major Jaworski. My Korean friend; Mr. Ro was in Pusan investigating a large very suspicious fire. Mr. Ro was a short, thin jolly fellow with a twinkle in his eye, had good connections and worked as a translator. I suspect that he may have even become president of South Korea in the 90’s. He’d watch me at work or sometimes when we went to a restaurant in Seoul his comment was “You are Majoring It Again” which meant that I was acting like an officer. Of course I was frustrated that I wasn’t one. Then there was Major Kim. This Korean Marine Major was tall and tough with a chubby smiling face that belied his toughness. No doubt he saved my life. One evening I had decided to walk by myself along the MSR (main supply route), which was the unpaved road to Seoul. As I was walking I overheard a very loud commotion and hollering inside a large Korean MP station. I remember the large doors and the brightly lit interior. As I walk in I was horrified to see a soldier holding his pistol to the head of this kid, maybe 16 years old if even that and the soldier screaming away in Korean (naturally) at this poor young fellow. I’ll never know why I did this because I am anything but the brave type but I pulled out my 45 pistol and told the soldier to put his weapon down. Whether he understood the words I don’t know but he apparently understood the meaning and he lowered his weapon. At this point this giant of a Korean comes out and it turns out that he is the Korean Marine Major Kim. He jerks me outside and pushes me around the corner away from a street light and asks me if I have completely lost my mind. Do I love Communists he screams? No I don’t love Communists, anything but and the army wouldn’t have given me a top security clearance if I had been one. But, this was a young boy and not a combat soldier. OK and he burst out laughing and says “let’s go for a beer”. We went to this Korean bar with the large bottles of beer, which when the beer nears bottom of the bottle they pour it on the ground under the table. Also because I was an American there is no way they will let us pay for anything. Major Kim and I became great friends after that however, but somehow I lost track of him. Since I don’t have a real assignment any more there is little to do except go to the OEC club with few friends left or the library and listen to jazz, show tunes and popular music records and two or three times a week I was teaching my young Korean students. That was always a great joy. One Saturday I check the bulletin board, perhaps not to closely as I didn’t expect any assignment on a Sunday and didn’t notice anything so I go to my teaching class on Sunday. As usual they were bright, fun to be with and quick to learn. After dinner I returned to my bunk and there was a note from the Sergeant Major instructing me to report to his office at 0800 hours. What in the world could this be about? I sensed trouble so I put on my well creased dress uniform, spit shined shoes, shiny buckle and proceeded to his office. “Soldier, you missed your duty assignment yesterday and that means that you were AWOL and that means either a Court Martial or an article 15.” I explained to no avail that I had checked the board on Saturday. I was told to report to (you guessed it), Major Jaworski at 1500 Hours (3:00 PM), which I did with a very sharp salute, “reporting as ordered sir”. My explanation fell on clogged ears. With his piercing eyes he just stared at me for what seemed like an eternity and then blurted out: “I knew that I would finally get you soldier. I always get my man!” He offered me either the court martial or the Article 15 and I had 48 hours to decide. Most of my JAG buddies had gone but I asked one of the attorneys his advice. Article 15 is company punishment he said and you will probably get 30 days restriction to the base. So that’s what I decided to take. I reported back to the Major and without looking up he growled “Loss of 2 grades and loss of pay”. (Wait until my wife gets her next allotment check, which she did and nearly croaked). I was now a PFC! I was obviously set up but there was nothing that I could do.
The Major got his revenge.