BUD BREWER

One Man's Opinion

LIFE IN THE 20TH CENTURY-CHAPTER 6

Korean War.

For those of us who survived World War II, it was quite natural to live in the belief that the Political leaders of America knew what was best for American citizens and most certainly those citizens of the rest of the World.  Half of the World’s population, or even more, survived the experience only to come to realize that life was going to be significantly different in the future.  European, Russian, North African cities were in shambles with survivors barely able to live day to day.  It was the same in Asia, especially Japan where surviving day to day was an extraordinary challenge.  The United States was the only source of capital available to invest in industries returning to fundamental needs of the population. Our cities were undamaged, communication lines were in updated condition due to the war as well as our manufacturing industries were rapidly turning back to peacefully producing the pent up needs of the civilian sector and returning military forces. People living in European countries whose productive capacity had been obliterated by the destructive forces of war, were just hanging on living from day to day.  Into this developing economic disaster, came the brilliance of the American Congress with legislation passed in 1947 called the Marshall Plan, designed to invest today’s equivalent of $150 Billion in rebuilding the European economies. The plan looked to the future, and did not focus on the destruction caused by the war. Much more important were efforts to modernize European industrial and business practices using high-efficiency American models, reducing artificial trade barriers, and instilling a sense of hope and self-reliance.  The purpose of the Marshall Plan was to aid in the economic recovery of nations after World War II as well as to antagonize the Soviet Union. To combat the effects of the Marshall Plan, the USSR developed its own economic plan, known as the Molotov Plan. It was not as effective as the Marshall Plan, and in some ways contradictory to Eastern Bloc countries that served alongside the Axis powers in WWII. The reconstruction plan, developed at a meeting of the participating European states, was drafted on June 5, 1947. It offered the same aid to the Soviet Union and its allies, but they refused to accept it as doing so would allow a degree of US control over the communist economies.  In fact, the Soviet Union prevented its Satellite countries (i.e., East Germany, Poland, etc.) from accepting any funds. Secretary of State George Marshall became convinced Stalin had no interest in helping restore economic health in Western Europe. Thus, began the Cold War in which America and Russia began a period in which each Nation pursued a global plan for competing influence in the form of democratic free enterprise governments versus communistic government and its form of socialized command economic systems. As a part of this strategy, the United Nations was formed and led by the United States assumed responsibility for the survival of those member countries if invaded by a nonmember force. 

In June of 1950, North Korea allied with Communist China and supported by Russia, invaded South Korea which claimed alliance with the United Nations and as a new developing nation employing the American form of government and democratic free market economic system, qualified as a nation coming under the protection of the United Nations.  As the strongest member, America would provide assurances that it would support any proposal for military help submitted to and approved by the United Nations Security Council for military assistance in case of invasion by a nonmember nation. The action required unanimous agreement by the Council so since Russia was boycotting the UN at that time, President Truman proposed that the UN nations initiate a “police Action” to resist North Korean armies when they crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded South Korea.

As reported in Chapter 5, I was now an employee of Dean Witter and Company and well along my rookie days of a career in the Financial Services industry as a Tube Jockey, when the U.S. Congress passed a conscription law of all qualified men under the age of 30.  My draft notice came instructing me to report for duty on January 10, 1951.  Contrary to attitudes of the 1960s during the Vietnam conflict, the obligation was met with a sense of pride to serve the country that offered me and my fellow 20-year-old boys such an exciting and challenging life of opportunity (Time may have changed that attitude about serving a country run by political hacks in Washington, but the honor of being a part of that military force that saved the World from evil countries like Germany and Japan did not change).  So, I said my goodbyes to my Dad and Mom and had a friend drive me down to Union Station in Los Angeles where about 200 of us draftees boarded a troop train headed for Fort Ord, California.

The art of Military Basic Training is structured to put emotional and disciplinary pressures upon the draftee to separate those that were likely to be trainable and those that were not.  To this end, my experience with the typical text book program of hazing one who up until now enjoyed freedom of action to resist verbally or physically and normally would, came in very useful. 

We lived in 2 story wood barracks with personal space outlined by an iron spring bed, a 2-3-inch cotton mattress with a footlocker for personal items and a 2-foot wood rod mounted on the wall behind the bed to hold the new fatigues and wool uniforms we had been given at our indoctrination.  We ate uncommon epicurean delights of creamed beef on toast for breakfast, unremarkable chopped chicken mixed with pasta for lunch (usually served in the field) and something fried for dinner, if we got back from training in time.  We ran (jogged) everywhere we went and over the 6-week course, the ranks thinned out as some were deemed unfit for combat.  After Basic, I was attached to what was called “The Aggressor force”.  This was good duty as we had little ongoing personal training requirements but were supposed to take the role of the enemy when new batches of recruits came on Post for their basic in the field training.  Looking back on it, I think with the “United Nation” troops in Korea now seemingly in full command having pushed the North Koreans back almost to the Yalu River, I think the Defense Dept. was trying to figure out what they were going to do with all us draftees now that the war was almost over.

It was early October and the weather in North Korea was turning cold. Unexpectedly 300,000 Chinese troops crossed the Yalu and all hell broke loose as they over ran American Marine, Army other allied military positions in the high mountains of North Korea. I believe this development was a huge surprise and the DOD moved quickly to expand Office Candidate School in the attempt to replace the casualties developing in the War zone.  I was offered the opportunity to go to OCS if I would sign up for another two years duty.  That seemed a small price to pay for what should be an interesting experience and I had learned that officers have a better life than the dog-faced soldier.

The eight-hour flight to Fort Benning Georgia in a two engine DC3 twenty-one passenger cargo plane was not the exciting experience I expected when given my orders.  But if I thought that was bad, my first two weeks in Officer Candidate school were much worse.  It wasn’t the training, after all I was well tuned foot soldier having learned disciplines necessary to get along with spirited Tact Officers.  It was the weather, hot grubby, intensely humid air that was something I had never experienced before. Then the 1, 2, then 3, and finally 4 mile jogs before breakfast each morning were killers.  But not surprisingly by the time we got to the 4-mile run, it didn’t seem so bad.  It was bad but just not as bad as that first morning.  Even though I was in good shape that first run was made worse by not knowing just how far we were going to run.  It was on and on and on!

By Christmas, things had settled down to learning how to lead a Platoon in combat conditions.  While stimulating, this was serious business and in the role of a candidate, you better pay attention or someone is going to get killed.  By the end of training and during the last two weeks, Candidates were given Blue helmets which were evidence to other trainees that we were complete in our training and were deserved of the respect shown by the salute to an officer.  It is an odd but gratifying feeling to be in that position.  In April, I received notice that I had been selected to be one of five who would receive the designation of “Distinguished Military Graduate” in my class.  As such, I was given an option, should I choose to take it, to be appointed a “regular 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S Army with all the rights and benefits there-of. I was sure that with the appointment, I was likely to receive my first request for new station of duty at the Presidio in San Francisco.  After the graduation ceremony attended by my parents, my Dad told me that when they got a copy of the ceremony program with all the 100 or so graduates listed, my mother said to him. “Look, Buddy is not listed in the names of the graduates”, what do you suppose that means? after a moment or two they discovered my name at the top of the program with the designation of Honor Graduate.

The last thing each of us had to do before departing was to go by the Duty Office and pick up our orders for our next assignment.  It was with mixed emotions that when I received my orders, I read that I was to report in two weeks to Fort Campbell, Kentucky with the 95th Infantry Battalion.  It was mixed because while I had hoped to be assigned to some base on the Pacific Coast, the fact that I was going to join a combat unit was good since that was what I had been trained for.

On May 17, 1952, I boarded a four-engine Lockheed Constellation at Burbank Airport and began my air flight to the Nashville Tennessee airport where soon I was to make a discovery that pretty much changed any thought of becoming “real Army”.  Carrying my duffel bag, I was walking across the Tarmac toward the Terminal, when an olive drab army sedan stopped and asked me if I was going to Fort Campbell.  When I said yes, the officer, a Major in the back seat said, “toss your bag in the trunk and join us. We are going there too.”  This was a break since I was thinking I would have to take a public bus or something and the ride was about 20 miles.  After exchanging pleasantries, and explaining that I had just completed OCS, the Major asked me “What is your Unit? I proudly responded “the 95th Infantry Battalion with the emphasis on Infantry. There was an awkward moment and then the major stated, “Boy, you’re the wrong color.  That outfit is all Black!”

Living in Southern California, one rarely saw let alone spent any time working or socializing with Black people.  They were referred to as Negroes and whether you liked it or not they were thought of as a different class and treated as such routinely.  It wasn’t a sense of absolute prejudice as it was just the way things were.  Not right necessarily but truly as it was.  It never would occur to me to befriend a black man let alone a black woman but I really didn’t have a prejudicial attitude toward them as a race or group. Since I rarely saw or associated with a black person even in school, my attitude was sort of individually impartial but collectively bias.  Therefore, I must explain the shock and disappointment I was feeling at that moment and how different it was than what I expected joining my new assignment would be.

When I reported to Battalion Headquarters, I was received by a Captain who happened to be white and after some routine discussion asked me about my background, schooling, and business interests.  He explained that the 95th had been withdrawn from Korea after a mixed record and were mostly awaiting discharge from the service. At the time, he said nothing about their combat record but I learned later that the battalion had been in two or three unsuccessful defenses against the Chinese having withdrawn from positions leaving their weapons and equipment more than once.  I reported to the “A” Company Commander who was black and as a young draftee, had received battlefield promotions to his current rank.  I could feel some negative attitude operative but otherwise he was courteous and clear about what he expected. We became pretty good friends after we both had time to appreciate each other’s problems.  This job was not going to be easy as the troops had been though some uncommon experiences and I quickly realized their respect for me was limited to my staying out of their hair so to speak. (In a later chapter, I will cover some interesting information regarding how it happened that I was selected to be assigned to the 95th Infantry Battalion.)

As I still had interests in the Stock Markets, I had my subscription to the Wall Street Journal changed to my address at Fort Campbell and one day the Captain called me in and asked if after I read my copy of the Journal would I mind giving it to him.  No problem, but interestingly after that day I noticed a slight elevation of respect for me at Battalion Headquarters.  This apparently led to his empathizing with me somewhat in my position as an apparently overqualified person serving in my role as platoon leader of a soon to be discharged group of black soldiers.  At least that is one reason that I could give for the wonderful opportunity thrust upon me shortly thereafter.

It was just after Mess Call that I was told to report to the Bn. CO.  Wondering what this was all about, I walked over to Bn. Headquarters and he waived me into his office.  He reported that Post HQ had put out a call for someone thought qualified to take over the role of Post Treasurer for Unappropriated Fund Services.  He thought I would be able to handle that position and had recommended me for the job.  In that I had had little or no advanced training in that area, except for a three-month period during which I worked as a bookkeeper for a contractor, I was dubious that this would be anything but I accepted the request and went to the interview anyway.  Well, if I was dubious before arriving at the Post Treasurer’s office, I was more so after seeing that there were seven of eight civilians and one staff sergeant who acted as administrative assistant to the Post Treasurer.  The Post Treasurer had a private office with all the paraphernalia needed to do his job.  There also were numerous army manuals on the responsibility of the Office as it related to some six or seven different entities, the largest being the Post Exchange (sort of a Costco like entity).  These were organizations that operated various activities that were self-funded or funded by charitable donations. Each had a Board of Directors staffed with senior officers and one or two civilians.  The Post Commander, Colonel Moroney (a diligent man who became a good friend), served as Chairman of all the entities.  The Post Treasurer’s Office was responsible for financial administration of all these entities.  Notwithstanding my doubts about my knowledge or experience as a 21-year-old assuming this responsibility, the Captain who was interviewing me kept assuring me I would do nicely and the staff would provide any info or guidance I would need. What I found out was that the guy was due for discharge but the Post Commander was holding up signing the order until he got a satisfactory replacement. So, all my training, two years at the Army and Navy Academy, one year of ROTC at Berkeley, one year of Army Basic training and 6 months in Officer Candidate School, learning how to be a combat soldier capable of killing the enemy was put on hold and I assumed the Position of Post Treasurer along with all the responsibilities or benefits that went with it.

For all of you Brewer family members who are reading these historical tidbits of our lives in the 20th Century, the next chapter will cover the extraordinary chance occurrence that lead to the union begun 64 years ago between Dottie and me from which you are a branch, twig or leaf.  I hope you are and will always be excited about growing in the support of that tree, the shade it gives and the opportunities you have to achieve greatness in your own right.

Next time: Learning how to jitterbug.

 

One Man and woman’s opinion—Bud and Dottie Brewer



One Response to “LIFE IN THE 20TH CENTURY-CHAPTER 6”

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