A photograph of Donald Dalke taken at the Korean Veteran Association's "Last Hurrah" in August, 2011.Donald Dalke
"Unfortunately, we got a direct hit on the observation post and my signaler was underneath me so he was unfortunately killed, I just got blown out of the OP [observation post] and had to get back to the headquarters to get another radio and then move forward to a flank position and climbed in a slit trench with the infantry and carried out the rest of the battle from there."
First of all, when we first arrived, I was a Regimental Survey Officer and I operated under the concept, as I was telling you earlier, that every gun that deployed had to be deployed on theatre grid. That gives the maximum accuracy of fire. And so that regardless if it was a troop of guns that had moved forward to support an infantry patrol, I ensured that they immediately were put onto theatre grid so that if additional supporting fire was needed, all of that fire could be brought to bear immediately with limited or no corrections at all. And that meant the support that was needed for the infantry was very swift and very accurate.
Well, there’s operations like the, when I was a Forward Observation Officer and on Hill 227, and there as a major assault coming in and we were able to bring down the fire very quickly and the thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that the Chinese outnumbered us by huge numbers and when they attacked, they generally attacked anywhere within eight to ten to one advantage in numbers. And so it was very critical to be able to stop or cut down those numbers to the point where they were down to maybe two or three to one advantage by the time they were able to get over the wire and start hitting our infantry positions. And our infantry has no trouble knocking off two to three to one advantage.
So that being able to have that fire coming that accurately and that quickly made it very simple to stop or even if the enemy decided that they were going to put a counter attack from another direction, we had either another target or it was very simple to move fire across and instantaneously put that fire where it needed to be.
Oh no, as forward observation area, you’re actually physically right up at the front line watching that. On that particular battle, that’s one where they had obviously been watching us and knew exactly where we were located because a major part of their fire power was right on my observation post. And unfortunately finally we got a direct hit on the observation post and my signaler was underneath me so he was unfortunately killed, I just got blown out of the OP [observation post] and had to get back to the headquarters to get another radio and then move forward to a flank position and climbed in a slit trench with the infantry and carried out the rest of the battle from there.
I guess on our gun position for example, we had children that were on the gun position and they were running, doing chores and one thing or another for us. And so there was a close relationship with them. But with the civilian population, we did not have a lot of involvement. As a matter of fact, we were, argues sometimes that we were a little too rigid. Like the Americans, they tended to scoot down a road whereas we would move forward on anybody that we ran into was immediately taken into custody and put into a compound and it was up to the South Koreans to decide whether they were good, bad or indifferent. And the Americans with that concept of moving forward the way they did, in actual fact, left close to 40,000 behind them that acted as guerillas for many years after the war was over.
When you’re looking at people that you don’t know whether they’re an enemy or not, you have to take some action to make sure that they’re not going to kill somebody behind you. Or, kill you from behind. I can remember one occasion where there was a group of them coming down the road and the Americans were at the checkpoint and I said to them, I said, “You’re going to have to stop that group.” And they said, “Well, no, no, they’re just civilians.” I said, “You stop them,” I said, “or I’m going to shoot that one in the middle.” And they said, “This is ridiculous” and I said, “Take your choice.” And so finally they stopped and I made them open up the garment on the person in the middle and here it was, just loaded with weapons tied around them. And they would have just allowed them to scoot right on through and I just couldn’t accept that.
Now, I think there’s a difference between mistreating people and securing them. I guess some people when they say, well, I was in taking people who weren’t enemy and putting them into confinement, but we didn’t abuse them, we didn’t beat them or anything of that nature, we just made them, ensured that they went into a wire compound and then it was up to a South Korean who knew the people, could talk their language and everything else, and was able to go through them and decide who was a civilian and who was a soldier.
I would have to say that there is a feeling between us [veterans] that exists to this day. I mean, as soon as I walk into a room and a veteran identifies, there’s immediately a feeling, a comradeship there that doesn’t exist in civilian life. And I don’t know how else to express it other than the fact that you were so pleased with the fact that there was always somebody that was protecting your back. You never had to be concerned. And that is a form of comradeship, brotherhood, that doesn’t exist in normal living.