I am a huge fan of the TV show M*A*S*H. Loved the cast and the way they portrayed the madness of war in an often humorous manner.
But as we all know, TV and reality (especially that craziness called ‘reality TV’) is not reality at all.
This was, once again, brought home to me as I delved into the family history of a cousin who fought in the Korean War. In honor of Memorial Day, this is a small portion of his story.
Everett E. Dillon: Corporal, United States Army
My cousin, Everett Dillon, joined the United States Army and was stationed in Japan with the post-World War II troops there. He was a specialist in communications. Soon, though, he found himself being attached to US Army’s 7th Division, 57th Field Artillery Battalion and sent as part of the forces of the United Nations to fight in Korea.
Cousin Everett became part of what is now better known as Task Force Mac Lean – Faith. They were being sent to a battle high in the mountains of what is now North Korea. About 45 miles north of the famous 40th Parallel, near the ancient Korean village of Hudong-ni. Known only as Hill 1221, in November and December, 1950 they were to be part of what many admit was the worst battle of the entire Korean War. To this day, over 1,000 American and South Korean soldiers bodies remain there. My cousin is one of those United States Army soldiers.
When you study this mostly ignored and forgotten battle in a largely forgotten war you will find two renditions of the battle. One by the US Marines. One by the US Army. The US Army contingent was a force of some 3,000 soldiers hastily brought together to protect the east flank of the Marine Division at Chosin Reservoir.
What you will find is that most agree that somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 Chinese troops that attacked the vastly undermanned US Army force, who fought for 5 days and 4 nights in sub-arctic conditions. Sleep and food deprivation were often spoken of secondary to the terrible weather conditions.
Early in my research, I happened to come across a survivor of the Chosin Reservoir Battle, Ray Vallowe. It turns out, as so often happens in our genealogy work, that Ray was in the same unit as my cousin and knew him personally. He gave me invaluable information. Ray’s website is an excellent resource if you are interested in this battle.
Another excellent resource is the book by Roy E. Applebaum, “East of Chosin: Entrapment and Breakout in Korea, 1950”, 1987, Texas A&M University Press.
Cousin Everett was a member of the Field Artillery. He was charged with communicating the coordinates for the firing team of their heavy gun, a 1o5mm howitzer. He survived all the way to the breakout attempt, when he was, since he was survivor assigned as a sentry for the convey during the breakout.
On or about December 6, 1950, during the slaughter of the retreating convoy, Cousin Everett lost his life in the service to our country.
To this day, he is listed as ‘Died of wounds while missing in action” and his body still lies somewhere in the Chosin Reservoir basin. A place known possibly only to God.
The words posted on a message board by his remaining family haunt me daily. They read:
“Everett was my brother and he is greatly missed and never forgotten. We never got much information about him or his friends over there so if you knew of him let us know.”
On this Memorial Day, please honor and remember all those like my cousin, Everett.
Never forget them nor any others. Especially as genealogists and family historians we must insure that their ultimate sacrifice will have not been in vain!
Onward To Our Past,