On Friday I wrote about an eight-day battle along the 38th Parallel in Korea in June 1953, and about Sgt. Ola Mize who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in this, one of the bloodiest battles in the history of the US military. More than 10,000 Chinese, 742 Americans, and 72 Greek soldiers were killed, wounded or missing in action, as I noted on Friday. In retrospect it looked to be a test of will between the government of China and the bureaucrats of the United Nations who were negotiating an armistice about a hundred miles away in Panmunjom that would bring an end to the war.
There’s an old saying that no one wants to be the last to die in a war, particularly a war like the Korean “Conflict”. With so many casualties it was obviously a test of wills to see who would blink first.
Let me introduce you to Charles R. Jackson. Private First Class Jackson was born in 1932 in Millbrook, NY, and graduated from Arlington High School where he spent his senior year. Johnson was an all around individual who excelled at just about everything he tried whether it was sports, music, or school, he always gave his all. He became class vice president and co-captain of the basketball team and earned the “Babe Ruth” award for outstanding citizenship. He also participated in church and community affairs.
In 1953, he entered the army and ended up like thousands of others in Korea. For those of us who have served in the military, occasionally we might be lucky enough to run into someone we know from home. PFC Johnson was no different, and while on a menial garbage detail he ran into Donald Dingee, a classmate from Arlington High School, who would play a key role in detailing Johnson’s heroism in the forgotten battle of Outpost Harry.
The chance meeting in May actually bonded the two men together, and for the next month, their company of riflemen was called upon to defend the outpost along the 38th Parallel. Because only about 150 soldiers could occupy the outpost at any one time, several different companies were rotated in and out in defense of the position during the months of May and June until it was overrun by the Chinese army on June 10. This would mark the beginning of an eight-day, bloody struggle that would lead to an armistice to end the Korean War.
As fate would have it, Charles Johnson and Donald Dingee would become part of a band of US Army and Greek soldiers ordered retake Outpost Harry and to “defend this vital observation post and hold at all costs”. To understand what was being asked, one must understand that the Chinese were given the same order and had a force of more than 10,000 troops. Fortunately, the observation post was so small and laced with trenches and bunkers which limited the number of personnel that could man the position at any one time.
The battle which ensued to retake the outpost was a remarkable feat, but the battle to hold at all costs for the following seven days, made heroes out of all who were there.
I’ll conclude with part 2 on Wednesday