[Charlie Morningstar] had his face all blackened up and he looked up at me. He said, ‘Hi, Griff, how’s it going’? So I said, ‘Take it easy’. And he said, ‘Who are you’? He told me who he was - I said, ‘Take it easy now, we’ll get you out into the hospital, get you straightened out’. But he died.
Mr. Kenneth Griffith is a Korean War veteran who enlisted in December 1951 and was discharged in 1954. He was sent overseas with the 1st Battalion of The Royal Canadian Regiment and did a full tour. He recalls the events surrounding the Battle of Hill 187 of May 2-3 1953 where his battalion’s positions were severely attacked.
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[In Korea, with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment]
Everybody looked at each other and was wondering what the hell we got ourselves in for, you know. But they assigned us - I think there were probably 50 or 60 of us on the draft, all RCRs [Royal Canadian Regiment], and we had a choice of whatever Company we wanted to belong to. So some guys went to Dog [D] Company, some guys went to Charlie [C] and Baker [B Company]. I stayed in Able [A] Company mostly because I couldn’t write anymore. If I didn’t want to write Baker Company on my letters so Able Company - this is what I was used to doing.
But anyway, I think that was the smartest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I went to Able Company, like I said, so I reported in, got checked out and assigned to a platoon, and that was fine. I stayed there for roughly two or three weeks - I really can’t remember how long I was there - but then they rotate the companies; every 30 days they rotate. So Able Company went from reserve to the front; right up front. We were looking right down the enemy’s throat; we were so close you could throw rocks on the enemy position, and I don’t know where the rest of the guys went.
We travelled at night mostly because for obvious reasons and I found a bunker on the forward slope of the hill, which is a stupid place to be actually. And I was sleeping - we got there somewhere around during the night - I don’t know what time it was; I have no idea. I called into the bunker, laid on what the beds were at the time, just mostly wire and sticks. So I was asleep; I went to sleep, right to sleep - can’t believe this.
And then in a dreamy-like way I could hear somebody calling my name and I’m thinking, ‘What’s somebody calling me for’? I didn’t hear any explosions or nothing but I could hear my name. Finally I woke up. Then I could... so I could hear the explosions; they were shelling our position and they’re telling me to get the hell out of that bunker because you’re in a bad spot. So I got out, ran up the crawl trench and got into a real deep crawl trench which is not quite as deep as this room, and we just stood there for, I don’t know, 20 minutes or so. Then we got a call for stretcher bearers.
I volunteered and a whole bunch of other guys volunteered too; I didn’t know most of the guys; I didn’t know any of the actually. We got up to Company headquarters, one shell came in, killed a Lieutenant who was had just come back from R&R [Rest and Recuperation] in Tokyo, wounded the Company Commander, killed a Pioneer Corporal and I think there were three or four other guys that were wounded but not seriously.
I was on one corner, the Company Commander carrying him down the hill, it took six guys to carry the Corporal down because he was a big man, and the Lieutenant, I don’t know who carried him down but he was dead. By the time we got down there and got them all in the ambulance and off to... wherever they take them, and back up to where we were standing. They never fired another shot and this really amazed me - I’ve been thinking this for years.
Then we went back to our hole and they kept on shelling - it stopped around six o’clock - and then the next day it started. Well, it started at roughly noon on the first day; the second day it started at 11 o’clock, and on the next day it started at 10 o’clock. And it worked its way around until they were shelling us all through the day and all through the night - all day and all night and they were pounding the hell out of us.
Out of the 33 guys that were in my platoon 13 survived. They weren’t all killed; most of them were just wounded and a lot of them came back to the front afterwards. Then we got the word we’ve got to shift, so they shifted our companies around again. We went up top. We had to move out in a hurry so I walked, I guess it would have been five about miles, from [Hill] 355 to where we were stationed back to reserve position, which is probably about five miles.
I carried a backpack full of Bren Gun magazines, loaded, and a Bren Gun [a British light machine gun] which weighs about 25 pounds. But you’ve got to remember, I’m only 19 years old and I’m in pretty good shape. And we had a party; and did we ever have a party - I almost ended up in the jug. Stupidity; I’ll leave all that out though.
And they moved us back into position. We went up top, Baker Company went out front and they started shelling them; the same thing again over and over. They were getting it, not us, although some of the shells swayed over to where we were. We had a few causalities. One hero-type I was told, I’ve seen him afterwards; he ran out of the kitchen, he was cooking for the guys because we had to cook our food up on top. He stepped out of the bunker and a shell landed right in front of him. Killed him instantly; he was the first casualty on that day. That’s when they hit us; they hit Baker Company.
This was around six o’clock at night and the fire went on, oh, I guess until midnight - it may be less, it may be before, it may be after; I can’t remember. And they were flying some kind of an aeroplane over the top of us dropping flares, and these flares would lighten a place just like this room. They were all special flares and they would last probably half an hour but they kept firing around in circles over the top of our position.
Meanwhile, they’re still shelling. For every shell the Chinese shipped on us we must have fired ten. One of our platoons ran out of ammunition; they couldn’t fire anymore because the barrels of the guns were so hot it was firing the shells before they even went to the bottom to be fired.
I represent a small portion of the guys that did serve over there, that didn’t come back. We had three guys that were killed that I knew - one officer; he was a nice guy. Then a friend of... well, the brother of a friend of mine - that’s a story by itself. And then one, Charlie Morningstar [from Niagara Falls], I carried him out of the July, or the May 3rd attack . He was wounded.
What happened on that date, his story of it is bull. They had a fighting patrol from our Company out in front, and about 12 o’clock I was standing beside my platoon commander’s bunker and I looked out over the enemy, out over the position, and I reported to the platoon commander, Mr Scullion, that there was a lot of small arms fire out front.
The fighting patrol bumped the main assault of the Chinese coming across, and that spoilt the attack and there were three guys killed. I don’t know whether there were any prisoners or not, I don’t remember; I never heard that. But Charlie Morningstar, I remember that - I carried him out. He took a machine gun blast, crushed his stomach; he died about four days later.
He had his face all blackened up and he looked up at me. He said, ‘Hi, Griff, how’s it going’? So I said, ‘Take it easy’. And he said, ‘Who are you’? He told me who he was - I said, ‘Take it easy now, we’ll get you out into the hospital, get you straightened out’. But he died. A whole bunch of young guys, no cares in the world, just a memory.