Blaze of Glory


I completed numerous patrols and wire checks during my stint with First Provisional Platoon. One, however, stands out as the most frightening but at the same time most satisfying patrol of all.

At this particular time, observers on our three outposts had noticed a sharp increase in activity on Reno and Vegas, the two enemy positions directly across the Korean DMZ. One evening just before dusk, a report came in from outpost Martini that enemy troops could be seen carrying two 76-millimeter mountain guns piece-by-piece up the side of Reno.

Those were deadly weapons of amazing accuracy. Their positioning on Reno meant they would be pointed right down our throats. About that same time, observers on Cherry Herring reported hearing loud noises in the DMZ a short distance in front of their tower. They had turned their searchlight in the direction of the sounds but saw no activity.

We decided to step up our patrols of the area around the outposts. Much of the ground around the towers and back toward our main base was mined. Trails had been marked off with cloth runners to provide safe ingress and egress. These trails were covered by fields of fire so that any enemy units approaching would come under concentrated firepower. When on patrol we traveled these trails to be covered by our guns keep us out of the minefields.

On this day I'd been teamed with two riflemen and a BAR (Browning automatic rifle) man to form a fire team. We went toward Boston as our first line of patrol. Reaching the outpost, we turned left and moved toward Martini. About midway between the two we began to hear crashing sounds coming from the DMZ.

Was it an enemy patrol on a raid? We didn't think so; they were making too much noise. Was it a tank? No, there were no engine or track sounds. We hunkered down and set up a tight defensive position. We waited. More loud crashing, then quiet. What the hell was going on?

The radioman got on the net and called the OPs. They hadn't seen or heard anything. We waited some more. There it was again. Something was coming at us through the brush.

All weapons were locked and loaded, ready for whatever came our way. Silence, then out of the brush, through the minefield, came a horse! Oh shit! It was going to blow all of us up! On it came, carrying what appeared to be rolls of wire. For sure it would set off a "bouncing betty" (a mine that shot a projectile into the air when tripped, triggering a deadly air burst).

Still it came, as if it knew where we were. Someone suggested that we shoot it, but that idea was quickly discarded as too dangerous. The beast could just as easily fall dead on a mine, triggering an explosion that would take us out. We hunkered down some more. We became one with the ground.

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Marine observation position
Colonel Puller, 1950