One Man's Opinion


Korean War, (continued) 

Imagine fighting a war in a place so inhospitable that the weather and terrain are every bit as hostile as the enemy. Imagine fighting a war amid towering, snow-clad mountains, deep in enemy territory at the end of a narrow, winding, icy road that is the sole link to your base of supplies more than 70 miles distant. Imagine fighting a war where the thermometer sinks to 35 degrees below zero and a wailing wind drives howling blizzards straight from the polar icecap. Imagine fighting a ruthless, fanatical enemy who outnumbers you by more than five to one and who has orders to annihilate you to the last man. Imagine all these things, and you have the situation confronting the First Marine Division in late 1952.

The Korean war had come down to a stalemate with both sides committing and suffering huge numbers of casualties. One of the most intense battles was that nicknamed “Whitehorse”.  White Horse was the crest of a forested hill mass that extended in a northwest to southeast direction for about two miles (3 km), part of the area controlled by the U.S.IX Corps  and considered an important outpost hill with a good command over the Yokkok-chon Valley, dominating the western approaches to Cheorwon. Loss of the hill would force the IX Corps to withdraw to the high ground south of the Yokkok-chon in the Cheorwon area, would deny the IX Corps use of the Cheorwon road net, and would open up the entire Cheorwon area to enemy attack and penetration.

During ten days of battle, the hill would change hands 24 times after repeated attacks and counterattacks for its possession. It was one of the most intense position-grasping battles for a small hill during the Korean War. Afterwards, the hill looked like a threadbare white horse, thence its name of Baengma, meaning a white horse.

Meanwhile, my contribution to the war effort was to approve emergency loans to members of the 2nd Army and 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and not serve in combat with the high probability of becoming one of the casualties that occurred to my fellow O.C.S. graduates during the intense fighting in the Fall of 1952.  For some reason, known only to God, I was spared the likelihood of being assigned to a combat ready unit that was going to be shipped overseas to fight in North Korea.  No, my contribution to this Police effort was to allocate funds from donations received by the National Army Emergency Relief Foundation.  Well, somebody had to do it (But in fact there was one other person who knew why I was assigned to the 95th.  That person was a fellow O.C.S Candidate who I ran into at Midway Airport, Chicago in 1968 quite by chance.  After all the exchanges about what have you been doing, etc, he asked me a strange question: “Did you ever wonder why you got assigned to the 95th Infantry Battalion at Fort Campbell? But more on that in later chapters”). 

One of the Typical emergencies was for something relating to a soldier’s family or expenses relating to support.  The key word in the regulations was “unforeseen” so I set a standard that required that condition to approve a loan request.  One Sunday evening as a couple of officers and I were playing pool in the rec room of the BOQ, there was a poker game going on concurrently among five or six officers, one of whom had two silver bars on each shoulder indicating his rank to be a Captain.  I noticed some distress in his manner as he was apparently losing money fast.  The following morning, who should show up requesting a $500 emergency relief loan with the explanation that he was about to go on leave and his car broke down and he needed the money for its repair before he could get home to his family.  I don’t believe he realized I watched him lose at least twice that amount playing poker the night before.  Now what should I do?  He obviously was lying on his application and seemed not to care that the funds I was administering were contributed solely for military personnel who had an unforeseen need for help, i.e. emergency.

At about 4:00 PM that afternoon, Colonel Maroney called and asked me to come over to Post Headquarters.  When I arrived, he very graciously invited me to come in and join him and another officer with whom he was having a meeting.  As I sat down I noticed that the other officer was the Captain who had applied that morning for the $500 loan from AER and had been denied by some punk second Lieutenant named Brewer.  The Colonel using very political language asked why I had denied the Captain his seemingly justified request.  “Ute Oh”, I thought, here it comes, the good old boy coverup often seen in political circumstances like this.  While I was comfortable having made my decision on behalf of the AER purpose and consistent with those who contributed to the Fund thinking their contributions would be used for real and justified purposes, I decided to explain the standards on which I was exercising my authority and responsibility.  I added “If the Colonel believes I was being too narrow in those standards by concluding that losing $500 to $1000 in a poker game last night might not be considered an unforeseen emergency, then I would respect his counsel and have an AER check issued upon his written request”.  Colonel Moroney, bless his heart, turned to the Captain, and said “Do you still disagree with the basis for Lieutenant’s decision?”  If not, I suggest you go to your bank and make a commercial loan for the funds you need and in the future, stay out of poker games risking money you cannot afford to lose.  The Colonel and I had a great relationship after that, one that included his letter of recommendation for my application for entrance to the Command and General Staff School (CGSS).  While an honor, this idea was ridiculous for two reasons: I was scheduled to be released from the Army on October 1st, 1953 and more importantly, entrance required the field grade rank of “Major”.  

In early December, a couple of my friends and I decided to go down to the Officer’s Club one Saturday evening and have a few beers.  Many of the young ladies who worked in Civil service on the Post would frequent the Club and we could enjoy music and dancing without any commitment. One of my good friends was an officer in the 101st Airborne Division which was headquartered at Fort Campbell. While I spent most of the evening just listening to Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller music, my “straight leg” friend Ben, who was Jewish, would ask one particular girl, named Dottie, to dance and they would do the Jitterbug to perfection.  Meanwhile I had to wait to dance only when we had slow music because I didn’t know how to Jitterbug. Others got up and asked Dottie to dance and so I did too but only slow beats.  She obviously preferred to dance with my friend who was really good and they would almost cause everyone else to stop and watch.  It appeared that they might be more than just friends.

I was raised under strong Christian Beliefs but never was a member of an organized church.  I will admit that during my Academy days at ANA where church attendance on Sunday morning was mandatory, I quickly noticed that the Protestant cadets, by far the majority, had to march to their church on Sunday mornings and the Christian Scientists and Catholics got to ride in the school’s bus.  So, since my grandmother was a CS, I joined the group heading to that service so I would be driven to and from our mandatory Sunday service participation. 

One thing I noticed while I lingered in my bunk on Sunday morning when I was at Fort Campbell, was the difference in behavior of certain officers in the BOQ when after a hard Saturday night at the Club and maybe one or two too many “Cevecas”, these guys would get out of bed, shave and shower and go off to Church.  It was admirable behavior and not in context with what we who were non-church goers thought made any sense.  One morning about two weeks after my appointment as Post Treasurer, one of my friends asked me if I would like to go down to Clarksville, Tennessee and attend Mass there and then see a movie.  More as a curiosity, since I had never attended Catholic Mass, I said sure and that started a regular weekly habit of going down to a beautiful but small church listening to the service which, except for the Sermon, was all in Latin. It is funny how you begin to develop an understanding of Christianity and it becomes more than a Sunday habit but you feel drawn in by some mystery of faith or a better understanding of Catholicism and its place in the history of Christ.  Anyway, I subsequently joined with my fellow Catholics in the BOQ and attended Mass each Sunday thereafter at one or the other of several Chapels which were located on the Post.

Now here is where all this ties in to something beautiful.  As I mentioned before our Saturday entertainment was typically derived from spending time at the Officer’s Club listening to music  and dancing with one or more of the Civil Service ladies on the Post.  I was feeling something for my friend Ben’s girlfriend but wasn’t sure what it was.  Then quite by accident, my buddy who always woke me up for Mass on Sunday, was on leave and so I missed the early Mass and went to a later one at the Hospital Chapel.  Who do you think I saw lining up to take Communion that morning?  Yes, it was Dottie and I was shocked to realize that she was a Catholic.  After Mass, I spoke with her and invited her to join me sometime for dinner and a movie.  She wasn’t quite sure but I persisted and she said OK and gave me the phone  number at her Civilian Quarters.

This was sometime in early December and while I had no “wheels”, the only place we could go would be the Post Theater and the Officers club for a hamburger.  Well, my plans would not include sitting in the Officer’s Club drinking a beer while some GI would be dancing with my date out on the floor.  So, I had to figure out a way to buy a car.  Fortunately, another friend was going home to Campaign, Illinois for Christmas and invited me to come celebrate with his family.  I was more than interested since he had mentioned several times that his Father owned and operated one of the largest auto dealers in that town.  I found a used car on his father’s car lot which was within my price range and after Christmas, drove back to Fort Campbell.  Now I could keep better control over the situation and prevent all those guys from spending time dancing with Dottie while I sat twiddling my thumbs.  But the real problem was that Dottie loved to dance and the only way I was going to have more time with her was for me to learn how.  Another friend of mine was an excellent jitter bugger and so I asked him if he would teach me the steps and movements.  Just picture two 6’+ guys in a bunk room learning the moves to a Glenn Miller tune called “In The Mood” played over and over.  But I learned and after that I had full control of Dottie’s wish to be out on the dance floor.

About a month later near the end of January of 1953, I had just parked my 1949 Mercury in front of her quarters and took a big breath before asking her the question: “Dottie, what would you say to our getting married?”  Her answer was logically, “Why don’t you ask me and find out.  With that seemingly innocuous response, I took a deeper breath and asked her the real question.  Now sitting with her here in Rancho Mirage sixty four years later, I am pleased to report: She said yes. 

Next time- Back to civilian life

One man and his wife’s Opinions-

Bud and Dottie Brewer 

Leave a Reply