The guards came, and they were very considerate

Saturday, January 2nd, 2021

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachOn Christmas night 1950, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), some of the American POWs marching over the longest highest mountains in Korea started to break down:

Worn out, miserable, hopeless now, several of the American POW’s started to cry. One young boy gave up completely. He told Schlichter, “Sergeant, I can’t go on.”

Schlichter tried to argue him into continuing. But the boy refused to move. The guards came — and they were very considerate. They did not shoot or bayonet the boy, but brought a sled.

All night long, up the mountain and down its far side, other men took turns dragging the man who refused to march.

In the dawn, when the stooped, limping party halted under the harsh command of their guards, the face of the man who had been pulled on the sled was white with frost. He had frozen to death during the night.


As the long, bedraggled, stubble-faced column weaved its way into the mining valley, men falling out at each hut a lean collie dog ran up and down the column, barking happily. As the dog came up to sniff the strange Americans, Charles Schlichter held out a hand to the friendly animal, soothing it.

That night, Schlichter and the men in his hut ate roast dog. The other men let Schlichter, who did the honors, have the largest piece.


  1. Altitude Zero says:

    Not necessarily apropos of anything above, but a reading of numerous WWII and Korean War memoirs convinces me that our troops in Vietnam have gotten a bad rap. Until the US Government pulled the plug on any hope of victory, our troops in Vietnam fought as well or better than any US troops have fought anywhere, and as a general rule, pace the Left, the war was fought far more “morally” that was either World War, or Korea, at least by our side. The drug-addled fraggers of legend only appeared (insofar as they appeared at all) in the very last stages of the war, when it it had simply become a “decent interval” holding action, and with regard to such a farce, who wouldn’t want a joint and some smack? As Christopher Caldwell has pointed out in his revolutionary new book “The Age of Entitlement”, the “Greatest Generation”, while genuinely accomplished, wasn’t as great as advertised, and the Boomers weren’t as bad, at least not until the early ’70′s rot set in. The failure in Vietnam was at the top, not at the bottom, it was the older “elite” that lost faith, not the young working class.

  2. Sam J. says:

    “…troops in Vietnam have gotten a bad rap…”

    YES. Our troops destroyed the Viet Cong, fought the North Vietnamese to a standstill then backed them up. In the 73 attack, from Jerry Pournelle

    “And in Viet Nam the North sent 150,000 men south with as much armor as the Wehrmacht had in many WW II engagements. That was in 1973, and of that 150,000 fewer than 50,000 men and no armor returned to the North, at a cost of under 1,000 American casualties. Most would count that an outstanding victory. (Alas, in 1975 North Viet Nam had another army of over 100,000 and sent it South; the Democratic Congress voted our South Vietnamese 20 cartridges and 2 hand grenades per man, but refused naval and air support; Saigon predictably became Ho Chi Minh city as we pushed helicopters off the decks of out carriers in our frantic evacuation; but that is hardly the fault of the US military)…”

    The war was thrown by the Democrats. They had told everyone so often that the war was unwinnable that the first chance they got they made it so.

    As is the case in most wars there was not a clear victory but by fighting the commies in Vietnam millions upon millions of other Asians were spared the fate of the Cambodians. At the time Vietnam was going on there were insurgencies all over Asia and the American troops kept them occupied so that many of the insurgencies in Asian could be defeated. The fine Men and Women of the USA fought off not only the enemy overseas but the enemy at home and saved millions.

  3. Altitude Zero says:

    There is a lot of truth in what you say, Sam J. The biggest problem was, the Vietnam vets had very few people willing to stand up for them, right or left. The Left of course tarred them with every crime imaginable because they had the temerity to fight, and beat, the Communists, while the Right needed them to be inferior to the “Greatest Generation” to display the decline of American in the 1960′s. So they had very few champions. Sure, there were plenty of bad apples in Vietnam, as there are anywhere, but they compare very favorably to other American fighting men in other wars. They most certainly deserved better.

  4. David Whitewolf says:

    On page 369, Fehrenbach states “to fully load a round into the chamber of a light machine gun, the bolt must be pulled to the rear and released twice,” and mentions a machine gunner who in preparing for battle pulled the bolt back once and thought the gun loaded and ready to fire, but just got a click.

    I’m curious why this would be so. Is this something inherent to guns firing from an open bolt? Figure somebody here has a clue.

  5. Isegoria says:

    You rack the charging handle once to get a cartridge into the the feedway, twice to get that cartridge into the chamber and the next cartridge into the feedway.

  6. David Whitewolf says:

    Ah. Thanks!

  7. Kirk says:

    Retired Sergeant Picky demands that I interject with the following, somewhat more complete description of it all:

    “Loading was accomplished by inserting the pull tab on the ammunition belt from the left side of the gun – either metal links or metal tab on cloth belts – until the feeding pawl at the entrance of the feed way engaged the first round in the belt and held it in place. The cocking handle was then pulled back with the palm of the hand facing up (to protect the thumb from injury if the weapon fired unexpectedly, which could happen if the barrel was very hot), and then released. This advanced the first round of the belt in front of the bolt for the extractor/ejector on the bolt to grab the first cartridge. The cocking handle was pulled and released a second time. This caused the extractor to remove the first cartridge from the belt; the feeding pawl advanced the next round into position to be extracted. and then the first round was chambered (loaded into the barrel ready to fire) when the bolt slide forwards again.

    As the bolt went into battery, the extractor engaged the next round on the advanced belt resting in the feedway, preparing to draw it from the belt n the next firing cycle. Every time the gun fired a shot, the gun performed the sequence of extracting the spent round from the chamber and extracting the following round from the belt as the bolt came rearward, the fresh round ejecting the spent one when the bolt was to the rear and the fresh round was cycled in front of the bolt, then on the forward stroke chambering the next round to be fired, advancing the belt, and engaging the next round in preparation for loading. Once the bolt closed, the firing pin dropped and the round was fired, and the sequence was repeated (at a rate of roughly ten cycles per second) until the trigger was released or the ammunition belt was exhausted.”

    That’s for the M1919, the .30 caliber Browning that would have been most commonly used in Korea by US forces.

    The basic difference here between this generation of MG and the ones most of us are used to in this sadly diminished age of wonders, is that the old-school guns mostly had feed systems that pulled the cartridge out of the rear of the belt. The majority of modern guns, on the other hand, push the cartridge forward, through the belt link. Plus that, there’s the difference in mechanism, with old-school guns having multi-stage feed systems to get the rounds into the chamber–On many older guns, you have the gun firing from the open bolt just like modern guns, but you have to “load” the bolt with a live round first, which is why you have to “charge” it twice. You’re really not, but that’s what a lot of people think they’re doing.

    The .50 caliber M2 works like this, as well as the Mk19 Grenade Machine Gun, both of which are notorious for blowing the minds of tyro gunners with this requirement. Many of them fail to listen during the preliminary training, and do not grasp the essentials of the mechanism, even when you spend hours going over it beforehand with copious resources like animations and working models you’ve gone to great effort to resource for their benefit. What’s even more frustrating is to listen in on them, as they try to explain to others what they’ve experienced, and hear the magical thinking they use when trying to comprehend the entire series of events they’ve gone through. By the end of the day, the trainer is often thinking fondly of the idea of shock collars and operant conditioning a la Pavlov or Skinner, in order to get the fucking point across to some of these untrainable morons. The fucking mechanism is often right there in front of them to observe, and yet they’re incapable of treating it as anything other than some sort of magical black-box affair, one that you have to propitiate and do magical things with, in order to get it to work…

    The average human being is a fucking idiot. And, that’s all I’ve got to say about it all.

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