Sometimes it was rather cool

by Carl Hulsman, 2nd Cml Mortar Bn, Korean War

One of the forces with which we had to contend in Korea was the weather, which was with us twenty-four hours a day, every day. Most of us were out in it rain or shine and, during the winter of 1950-51, snow or not.

I had arrived in Korea with the Battalion on October 8. It was still warm but, by the end of the month, it turned rather chilly. In another month it was downright cold and, by Christmas, it was bitter. How cold was it? None of us had a thermometer so we didn't know.

During that winter I was platoon sergeant of Co C's second platoon. Our orders were to start the engines of all our vehicles every four hours, letting each run until the needle of its temperature gauge started to move. During the night of January 11, 1951, we couldn't get any of our vehicles to start. This was terrible. If we had gotten a March Order, we would have been helpless. We might have had to abandon everything and walk out.

In the morning, someone brought up a weapons carrier (I don't know how they got it started) and it was used to pull our jeeps in order to start them. Our orders were then changed to require starting all vehicles every hour.

Because artillery shells in flight are affected by air temperature and humidity, as well as wind direction and velocity, artillery units have meteorological sections to provide such information on a continuing basis. Our own shells' range was so comparatively short that we were not concerned with such data. I think it was our instrument corporal, George Lesser, who, while shooting the breeze over the wire with an artillery telephone operator, learned that it was 47: below zero the previous night.

I recently asked Gene McArdle, Co C motor sergeant at the time, about how low a temperature our engines were protected by anti-freeze back then. He said he didn't know, but could recall no engine damage from freezing.

I received five replacements January 17, two on the 18th, five on the 19th and two on the 20th, always at night. I don't know why they always brought up new men at night. There was nothing for me to do with them in the dark, so I told them to find a comfortable patch of snow to lie down on near me and that we'd get acquainted in the morning and assign them to their squads. I often thought that, rough as it was for those of us who arrived in October, we at least got broken in gradually to the severe weather. These new men probably had been aboard a warm ship just days before having to sleep on snow in that rugged terrain.

This article was originally published in the January 1997 issue of The Red Dragon,
the newsletter of the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion Association.

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