It certainly was not reassuring to go into combat with men carrying rifles that have a tag affixed that read “combat unserviceable”; or with men wearing tennis shoes into a combat zone where rice paddies are prevalent. General MacArthur knew the rifle and shoe situation and he had promised in early 1950 to immediately take appropriate actions – but 6 months later, no action had been taken. We went to war with left-over supplies and equipment from 1945 and the end of WW II. Throughout the months of July and August 1950, many of our men subsisted primarily on scrounged Korean food because our Army could not supply food to them on a timely basis. In August, one of our units was issued baby food instead of the usual Army food. When you are hungry, almost anything tastes good.The 540 men of Task Force Smith had their battle for a period of seven hours on 5 July, resulting in about 150 casualties. My 34th Infantry Regiment had its first battle during the afternoon of 5 July. As a member of Medical Company, I saw most of the killed and wounded.
During the remainder of July and August, we endured the continuous onslaught of the superior North Korean forces.
It still amazes me as to how any of us survived the summer of 1950. By the end of August 50, the 34th Regiment was in terrible shape. We had entered Korea with 1,981 men and the official history states that by the end of August, there were only 184 of us still in Korea. The regiment was reduced to zero strength on 1 September 50 and those of us remaining in Korea, were reassigned to other infantry units.
In late November 1950, my unit, the 19th Infantry Regiment, was within 21 miles of the Manchurian border in North Korea. The Chinese entered Korea and it became a new ballgame. We retreated back into South Korea in December and the Chinese caught up with us on 31 December 50 – that is one New Year’s Eve that I will never forget – an abundant “fireworks” display by both sides. Then in January 1951, I was evacuated back to Japan for treatment of a kidney ailment. Fortunately, I did not have to go back to Korea and I spent the next several months on duty at Camp Zama, Japan.
In December 1951, I was promoted to Sergeant First Class (E-6) and was reassigned to Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Denver. In June 1952, I reported for duty at Fort McClellan, Alabama. In May 1953, at the urging of several people, I applied for a direct commission as a Second Lieutenant. In July 1953, while serving as enlisted aide to a three star general in Atlanta, I was sworn in as a 2d LT, Medical Service Corps. Upon call to active duty in October 1953, I departed for a tour of duty at Fort Sam Houston (San Antonio), Texas. Then in September 1954, I reported for duty at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Also serving there was Ellis Hill (Creeltown) who had graduated from Dora High in 1938 or 1939 – he graduated from Auburn University in 1942 and became an Army aviator. In 1955 I was promoted to 1st LT. In early 1956, I received orders for assignment to Tokyo Army Hospital. The hospital was near the Ginza and was also near the largest fish market in the world.
While in Tokyo, I attended night classes at the University of Maryland, Far East Branch. In 1958, I was reassigned to the island of Okinawa where I was able to continue with the University of Maryland classes. In 1959, I was able to take a trip with the Navy to Bangkok, Manila, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. In March 60, I was promoted to Captain.
In early 1960, I only needed 25 semester hours for my BA degree. The Army permitted me to go to University of Nebraska, Omaha, on a full-time basis from July 1960 to January 1961. After graduation from Omaha in January 1961, I reported for duty at William Beaumont Army Hospital, El Paso, Texas. That assignment was cut short and I was reassigned to Okinawa in September 1961 for a medical planning job. This involved medical planning for potential combat operations in Southeast Asia, with a primary planning focus on Thailand. We went on maneuvers to the Philippines in Feb 1962 and another maneuver to Thailand in April 62.
In Oct 62, I was given a Regular Army commission. At that time, the Pentagon informed me that I would attend an Army Service School in 1964 and then attend the Hospital Administration Course in 1966.
The latter would result in me getting a Masters in hospital administration from Baylor University.
In January 1963, with only a 3 day notice, I was sent to Vietnam to serve as the head of the first medical civic action program there. By then, we had a son that was 12 and a daughter that was 10. The family remained on Okinawa while I was in Vietnam.
In Vietnam, I had nine medical teams under my supervision and our mission was to go out to the remote areas to treat Vietnamese civilians. These teams were all over South Vietnam and I had to travel extensively to supervise them. In many ways, it was a successful program. However, President Diem would not let his Army medics assist our teams. He was fearful that the Army would play a part in a coup against him by winning the hearts and minds of the peasant people. My teams operated in Viet Cong areas but were never bothered. There is no doubt that we treated a lot of Viet Cong – we never attempted to ascertain between friend or foe – maybe that is why my medical teams were never bothered. While in Vietnam, I was able to take a week-end trip to Angkor Wat, Cambodia. It is a shame that the 12th Century buildings were almost destroyed later.
After Vietnam, I attended the Army Medical Service Advanced Course at Fort Sam Houston, Texas in 1964. Then it was back to Okinawa to be the Chief, Medical Plans and Operations of the Medical Center. Our main mission was to support the buildup in Vietnam. I made liaison visits to Vietnam in Dec 1964 and again in May 1965. In June 1965, I had to visit Manila to ascertain whether or not there were adequate civilian facilities to position 2,000 hospital beds. There was nothing in Manila suitable because all hotels there had narrow hallways and the elevators were too small. Then I developed detailed plans to utilize empty barracks on Okinawa for the hospital facilities. It was a beautiful plan but the Pentagon gave the Army barracks to the Marines. The hospitals were sent to the Yokohama-Tokyo area, in less than ideal conditions. In Dec 1964, I was promoted to Major.
In December 1965, I received orders to attend the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, beginning in 1966. The Pentagon informed me that my service from 1961 to 1965 in medical plans and operations had been outstanding – and they wanted me to remain in that field rather than switch to hospital administration. This was not acceptable to me so I declined the orders to Fort Leavenworth. In early 1966, I had 20 years of military service and I decided that I would retire. I served at Fort Devens, MA (near Boston) until early 1967. By that time, I was within 18 months of being in the zone of consideration for promotion to LT Colonel. This was not adequate incentive for me to remain in the Army at that time. I have never regretted giving up the promising career.
My retirement application was approved, effective 1 April 1967 as a Major, when I was still 39 years of age. Resumes were sent out and the best job offer was here in Indiana as the administrator of the local civilian hospital.
I began work here 3 weeks before the effective date of my Army retirement. It was a highly successful civilian career but it ended on my 48th birthday in 1975 when I had a heart attack. I have been retired since 1975.
In 1973, I received a Masters in Health Science from Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana. When I had the heart attack in 1975, I only needed two more courses to get a second Masters in Social Psychology.
Since 1976 we have traveled extensively throughout the U.S., Canada, and Alaska. Starting in 1978, we made several trips to Europe: Italy, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Yugoslavia, and Russia. Two trips were made to the Far East (Japan, Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan). I think our last trip was in 1992 and now I do not have any desire to travel.
The last 17 years have been spent researching the early days of the Korean War. A lot of new and unpublished information has been uncovered in official documents at the National Archives and through the interview of key people that were in Korea in 1950.
My manuscript is essentially completed and I plan to publish a book in the near future. It will be about 500 pages with a lot of maps and photographs. One of my best supporters on the project is a retired three star general and he provided me with a lengthy narrative. He was a Lieutenant in my regiment in 1950. Several Colonels have been supportive. Numerous enlisted men have provided narratives to me that cover their Korean War experiences. A retired one star general has written one of the chapters for my book. A retired Colonel is writing another chapter for me. These two chapters greatly enhance the story that I am attempting to relate.
We have been blessed with a son and a daughter. He is a mechanical engineer and she is a Ph.D. Accounting professor at Ball State University. There are 4 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. We play duplicate bridge at least once a week and Alice spends one day each week as a volunteer at the Animal Rescue Fund in Muncie. Alice was born in China – her father was French and her mother Japanese. One month after birth, her father was transferred to Hanoi, North Vietnam. Alice grew up in Hanoi and attended French school. Her father died when she was 4 and her mother remained in Hanoi. Alice was fluent in French and Vietnamese. When the fighting began in 1946, between the French and Vietnamese, Alice and her mother moved to Japan. By 1948, Alice had learned to speak Japanese and English but did not learn how to read and write Japanese, except at a very basic level. She worked for the U.S. Army as a clerk-interpreter. We met in 1949, working in the same office, and the rest is history.
At the age of 75, I feel blessed to be alive and in good health. Fortunately, I only take one medication daily and that is for burning feet – probably caused by the extremely cold temperatures in Korea in 1950 – 20 to 30 degrees below zero days were frequently prevalent – and we were not issued winter boots and clothing until late December 1950. Only through the Grace of God did I survive Korea, Vietnam, and other dangers, both mental and physical. And only through the Grace of God am I retired with an adequate income for a comfortable living. I certainly did not plan my life and career – I am thankful to God that it has been a good life and I have had a good career.
Each day I read the on-line editions of the Jasper Mountain Eagle and the Birmingham News.
It would make me extremely happy to hear from anyone within the Dora-Sumiton-Empire-Creeltown-Coon Creek area. Questions in reference to the content of this narrative, or in reference to any subject, will be welcomed.
Lacy Clayton Barnett
PO Box 167
Winchester, IN 47394