The Graybeards - KWVA - Korean War Veterans Association

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The Graybeards - KWVA - Korean War Veterans Association

Chaplain Lawrence

F. Brunnert,

Roman Catholic,

was the last U.S.

Army chaplain

taken prisoner in

Korea.

The cost in lives caused by the Chinese intervention had been

extremely high. The extent of those casualties can be measured

somewhat by the tragic realization that six U.S. Army

chaplains, nearly half of those who died in Korea, were lost in

that 1-month period — four of them within 3 days.

reports indicated that the wounded from

the 31st continued firing at the enemy

while lying on trucks awaiting evacuation.

In the same action, the day after

Chaplain Conner was lost, Chaplain

Lawrence F. Brunnert, Roman Catholic, in

a sister unit, part of the 32nd Regiment

was taken prisoner near the infamous

Changjin Reservoir. Repatriated prisoners

testified to Brunnert’s devoted, though

brief, service after his capture. He was the

last U.S. Army chaplain taken prisoner in

Korea and, tragically like the three who

preceded him, he also died in captivity.

Returned prisoners indicated that he died

of wounds on 20 December 1950. For 6

days the 1st Marine Div. fought southward

from the Reservoir. Finally, on 9

December, a relief column from the 3rd

Inf. Div. met them outside of Hungnani.

The immense evacuation had already

begun. The Air Force and Navy moved

110,000 troops, 98,000 refugees, 350,000

tons of cargo, and 18,000 vehicles out of

the area by Christmas Eve.

The cost in lives caused by the Chinese

intervention had been extremely high. The

extent of those casualties can be measured

somewhat by the tragic realization that six

U.S. Army chaplains, nearly half of those

who died in Korea, were lost in that 1-

month period — four of them within 3

days.

Mixing Sweat and Blood With

Korean Soil

When Chaplain Frederick H. Ogilvie,

Southern Baptist, reported for duty with

the 7th Infantry Division, it appeared as

though the Division’s Chaplain Section

was preparing for the Olympics. Ogilvie

was a former Baylor University football

star. He joined Chaplains Benton S. Wood,

Christian Science, former captain of the

Harvard swimming team; James M.

Bragan, Baptist, and John W. Betzold,

Orthodox Presbyterian, outstanding baseball

players; Martin Hoehn, a talented

skier, and Division Chaplain Maurice E.

Powers, Roman Catholic, a boxer. For the

moment, however, it appeared as if none

of them were on a winning team.

Chaplain Betzold, like many others,

had once stood on the banks of the Yalu

River, but during the bitter 1950 winter he

was moving south in the rapid “bug out,”

as the soldiers called it. A land mine

destroyed a communications truck near

the head of his column. Betzold rushed

forward with the others, fearing the worst

for the driver. They spotted him, clothes in

tatters, calmly searching the brush by the

road. “I’ve found it!” he suddenly shouted

to the stunned observers, as he held up a

piece of wood with a few strings hanging

limp. They were the shattered remains of

his beloved guitar. “His humor saved the

day for us,” Betzold said; then he added

soulfully, “at least that part of it.”

The incident seemed characteristic of

the winter mood into which scores of

chaplains tried to bring the spirit of

Hanukkah and Christmas like a smile on

the face of tragedy. The victorious had

again become the defeated in a sudden

twist of events. Somewhat symbolic of the

course of the war, General Walker was

suddenly killed in a freak accident. He

died while driving to the front to decorate

a group of soldiers — including his own

son — when his jeep collided with a ROK

Army truck.

U.S. emotions were straining at what

some were beginning to call a “pointless

war.” It was difficult for many to accept

the political expediency of limited action

in which thousands of Americans were

giving their lives. The “U.S. Fighting

Man” was chosen as Time magazine’s

“Man of the Year.” “It was not a role the

American had sought either as an individual

or as a nation,” said the periodical.

The U.S. fighting man was not civilization’s

crusader, but destiny’s draftee.” A

chaplain working in a replacement depot

said that many of the religious conversions

at his station were based on fear —

“Who would not be scared to face those

ruthless and godless communists?”

Meanwhile, General MacArthur’s disagreement

with the policy-makers’ conduct

of the War was becoming increasingly

apparent.

By this time, Chaplain Ivan Bennett, in

his dual capacity as Far East and U.N.

Command Chaplain, was supervising

nearly 270 chaplains representing a variety

of nations. Frank Tobey, as Eighth

Army Chaplain, was the senior cleric in

Korea. Interestingly, 67 of his chaplains

were civilians — seven U.S. auxiliary

chaplains (former missionaries) and 60

ROK chaplain-volunteers. Beginning in

late January and into the spring of 1951,

they joined their men once more in the

regaining of formerly occupied ground.

Lieutenant General Matthew Ridgway,

Walker’s replacement, launched several

attacks and reoccupied Seoul by 16

March. To block an NKA withdrawal

route, the 187th Regimental Combat Team

made another airborne assault — this time

at Munsan, nearly 175 miles below the

area they had captured 6 months earlier. It

was during this operation that Chaplain

Joseph Dunne, whose quiet composure to

pain had influenced Chaplain Sampson’s

Russian friend, was seriously wounded.

Dunne, who was later retired for disability,

received the Silver Star for his heroic

service in the area.

On 5 April near Chunchon, almost due

west of Munsan, Chaplain Leo P. Craig,

Roman Catholic, was vesting for afternoon

Mass at the 99th Field Artillery

Battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division. An

exploding land mine injured a soldier

about 70 yards away and Craig, shedding

his vestments, rushed with some others to

aid the man. As they knelt beside the soldier,

someone stepped on a second mine

and Chaplain Craig, along with seven others,

was killed by the blast. The former

Cincinnati priest had died after less than 2

Page 12

The Graybeards

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