The Graybeards - KWVA - Korean War Veterans Association

The Graybeards - KWVA - Korean War Veterans Association

It was the end of November,

1950, when the elements of

the victorious Hour Glass

Division moved up to the Pujon

Plateau, deep inland from the

North Korean east coast. The

rugged terrain added to its

severe conditions with the help

of freezing wind and bitter coldness.

The day before when we

left Hamheung a soft wind was

blowing, but we were now 2400

feet above sea level and it

snowed four times that day.

All pine trees and even the grass was

stacked white with snow and frost. The

morning frost was as visible as snow fall.

This sudden unpredicted change of

weather gave us real hazard but not

enough to stop our advancement. Besides,

all the GIs were looking forward to being

back home by Christmas. This might have

cheered them up. Anyhow, we continued

to advance to the north as scheduled.

Marines, well equipped with winter gear,

greeted us at Hagaru-ri where the

Changjin Reservoir¹ stretched northward.

I was no longer with the Korean Army.

I had been seconded to the First Battalion,

32nd Regiment of the U. S. Army. Finally

we bivouacked at the north tip of the

Reservoir on the afternoon of 27

November. So far we had passed the (soto-speak)

no-man’s land except for

encountering a few Chinese. The battalion

aid station was set up promptly by GI

medics and ROKAs. Individual pup tents

were also set up by 2200. I crawled into

my sleeping bag, prayed for my family,

and fell asleep for another night.

“Dr. Lee, wake up! Dr. Lee!” A voice

interrupted my sleep. It was a ROK medic

named Chisai. I automatically (Ed. --

immediately?) heard “rat-a-tat.”

“Chinese,” Chisai told me. “How and

why are they here?” I asked myself.

I hurried down to the Aid Station,

where I found Captain (Dr.) Navarre and

other aid men dressing wounded GIs and

ROKAs. Everybody was working as

usual even though strained. The fighting

was getting fierce rapidly.

A lieutenant was seriously wounded

and he was hopeless by the time Dr.

Navarre and I rushed to his place. A

Catholic Father was soon taking our

Dr. Yong Kak Lee

at the

Chosin Reservoir

By Dr. Lee

(As told to Dr. Birney Dibble)

This story was told to me by Dr. Lee Yong Kak

in the summer of 1952. We were both stationed

with Easy Medical Company of the

First Marine Division near Munsan-ni. He had

just shown me -- in Seoul -- where his fatherin-law

and cousin had been assassinated in

the courtyard of the almost new Presbyterian

church. We sat in a cool spot while he told me

about his experiences at the Chosin

Reservoir, which, incidentally, he always

called the Changjin Reservoir.

The story was so riveting that I asked him to

write it down, which he did several weeks

later. I kept that original crudely written manuscript

until I got back to the States, then transcribed

it word for word.

So what you have here are the exact words of

a Korean doctor assigned to an American

Battalion Aid Station in November and

December of 1950.

In a postscript that might also be interesting to

your readers, after the war Dr. Lee came to

the States for a four-year surgical residency at

the U. of Colorado. I was in surgical residency

at Cook County Hospital in Chicago and he

visited me there twice. I still remember taking

him to a White Sox ball game and the many

puzzled looks and questions he had about the


He returned to Korea and became one of the

most prominent surgeons in Korea. For

instance, he did the very first kidney transplant

in Korea.

I visited him there in 1981 and received the


Korea in 2001 and was able to talk to him on

the phone but his health did not allow a personal


J. Birney Dibble, M.D.,

W 4290 Jene Road,

Eau Claire, WI 54701


Tel: 715-1832-0709


The night was passing

very slowly. It was 0300 of

the 28th when we realized

the increasing casualties

were filling up all spaces in

the tent and we had to put

them in a mess tent. A part

of Able company was wiped

out. One of the wounded

told me, “We killed and

repulsed the first wave.

Hand to hand fighting was

started and we were finally

completely outnumbered.”

Suddenly the artillery support ceased.

What happened with them at this utmost

urgent period?

But I could hear the mortar officer

clearly shouting, “Fire!” Then the continuous

firing lasted till dawn. An ROK

stretcher bearer was killed while he was

picking up a wounded. The first victim

from our Aid Station.

Meanwhile we had to evacuate those

wounded back. But there was no way out.

The sole route was blocked by the enemy.

All available space was then to be used

for a ward. After the long wait for daylight

the day broke.

The roaring sound on the sky was of

our fighter-bombers. A big smoke went

up over the bill which was only seven

hundred yards away. The Chinese had

infiltrated so close. The fighting was getting

fierce rapidly. The first day of

defense was successful. No line was completely

broken through. We dug in deeper

and prepared for the coming night. The

Aid Station was busy all day dressing the

newly brought GIs and ROKA casualties.

The dressing material was running short.

But there was no way to get another supply!

Several CCF were brought in. They

looked funny. They were all so young to

be a soldier. I treated a wounded CCF

with a leg wound. I asked in Chinese,

“How many battalions attacked us?” He

answered, “Three regiments attacked this

unit. The rest of them I don’t know anything


Three regiments attacking one battalion!

What kind of tactic is this, I thought.

Brother, we are gonna have another big

fight tonight.

Page 58

The Graybeards

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