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Stars and Stripes
John Sonley's recollection of reading the Stars and Stripes from
light supplied by the searchlights jarred my memory of various
recollections that involved the Stars and Stripes.
During the relatively few times I was in action as an FO,
Fox Oboe Charley 987 FAB, I don't recall a single case of meeting any
reporter or media person anywhere near the front.
The only exception were Stars and Stripes reporters who generally
travelled near the FO team- back of the point platoons of infantry-
usually in close proximity to the infantry Company commander.
They were the real heroes of the press coverage of that war in my opinion.
I understand they took quite a few casulaties along with the infantry.
I'm not sure that everything they saw or heard was reported in any
detail in the Stars and Stripes.
I think their ediors chose material that was most appropriate for
troops to read.
I recall one mission where I walked along with a S@S reporter
during an attack on a hill in 1951.
He was carrying a speed graphic and a notebook, snapping pictures and
We talked briefly when the action allowed and he said he had been on
many such operations as part of his assignmewnt.
At one point the advance stalled and we heard the Captain talking to his
lead Platoon officer leader.
The coversation was something like this.
Lt- We are pinned down up here and can't move.
note :an ROK unit was on our flank and they were moving (unusual for
an ROK unit)
Capt- You are holding us up- get out of these holes and move up.
Lt. I can't - the men won't budge.
Capt- Get your ass out of that hole and lead them forward.
He didn't- the Captain turned to us and explained that he didn't want
to get them killed but that there would be fewer casualties in the
operation if they did move and get that hill quickly- )
He then told then to stay put for a little and called in fire from
the infantry mortar team supporting the attack - we couldn't safely
call in fire just ahead of them but were firing further out on enemy
positions on the top. We were in a difficul position to reach that
spot as our shells were going fairly close overhead and if we lowered
the trajectory even slightly we would have taken some hits on our
ridge. The mortars with a higher trajectory could get the position.
The ROK unit took the hill moving up, passing us on our left.
Earlier we had supported an ROK division that completely dissolved
and went south in a rout during a Chinese advance. This was probably
not the same outfit.
Later I read the reporters story in the Stars and Stripes- It simply
gave the general story of taking the hill and had a feature about the
Sounds of Battle- which was very accurate.
Later the war slowed somewhat and we were sent back about 15 miles to
get new tubes for the howitzers (quite worn now after heavy firing)
and general rest, training, and repair.
There was an infanyrt outfit next to us doing the same thing and I
recall a brief discussion one day with a doggie I met on a beer
cooling expediton up to the Hwachon reservoir.
He was pissed becaues his outfit had been ordered to train by
simulating the taking of a hill the next day in as realitstic a way
as they could.
It was all for the benefit of a newsreel team that was "at the front
filming battle action".
I left in August of 51 so I don't know if the media coverage improved
or changed after that.
Earlier when I was stationed in Seoul in 1945 as part of occupation
forces I met another S@S reporter who had been (at least he said so)
present at the famous MacArthur "I have returned" landing in the
He claimed the event had been elaborately staged and there was really
no need for wading ashore as MacArthur did.
His report of the incident to the S@S was heavly edited.
But I always looked to the Stars and Stropes for at least relatively accurate
Back home my wife wrote that based on my letters and accounts of
events the "U.S. News and World Reports" was the most accurate of the
news magazines in reporting the war.
Time was the worst.
Eau Claire, Wisconsin, USA