A sword never jams

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021

In Glory Road Robert Heinlein makes the case for his hero to carry a sword:

A properly balanced sword is the most versatile weapon for close quarters ever devised. Pistols and guns are all offense, no defense; close on him fast and a man with a gun can’t shoot, he has to stop you before you reach him. Close on a man carrying a blade and you’ll be spitted like a roast pigeon — unless you have a blade and can use it better than he can.

A sword never jams, never has to be reloaded, is always ready. Its worst shortcoming is that it takes great skill and patient, loving practice to gain that skill; it can’t be taught to raw recruits in weeks, nor even months.

Heinlein also reiterates S.L.A. Marshall’s famous point from Men Against Fire:

Do you know how many men in a platoon actually shoot in combat? Maybe six. More likely three. The rest freeze up.

Marshall infamously fabricated much of his research — but other sources do corroborate this.

During the American Civil War they would have been shot

Monday, March 1st, 2021

One night, as the temperature dropped to near zero, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), a lieutenant called Busbey’s command post:

“Captain, I have a fully armed NKPA here who has turned himself in —”

Quite a few North Koreans, from time to time, when they could slip past their officers, came voluntarily into U.N. lines. This was nothing new.

But Sadler continued. “He surrendered to the tanks back of me —”

“By God, I hadn’t thought of that — I don’t know, Captain.”

“Well, think about it!” Busbey told him, hanging up.

Sadler roused his platoon sergeant, Trexler, and they got a ROK to query the enemy soldier. He had walked down the road in the valley — right through an area where Sadler had two standing patrols, two foxholes containing three men, with absolute orders that one man remain awake at all times. Sadler and Trexler looked at each other, and went out into the night.

Jack Sadler went up one side of the trail. Trexler the other. On both sides they found all men zipped up in their bags, sound asleep.

If the Inmun Gun had probed that night, they could have walked to Seoul for the weekend, as Busbey said.

After listening to the lame, stumbling stories, Busbey, furious, preferred charges against four enlisted men.

And two night later, while the four were awaiting trial, the NKPA attacked down through the same valley. The outposts were alert; they were repulsed at the main line.

A 76mm artillery round killed Sergeant Trexler, however; and the Division Judge Advocate General said he would have to drop the case against the two men Trexler had caught sleeping on outpost — there was now no witness against them. The two were released.

But the remaining two, with Sadler’s testimony, were convicted by a general court-martial at Division HQ. Each was given ten years at hard labor, and dishonorable discharge.

Because of their stupidity, and their lack of responsibility, hundreds of their comrades might have died. During the American Civil War they would have been shot.

The verdict was reversed:

But inevitably, sooner or later, a people will get the kind of justice and military service they deserve.

The instructor who tasked this assignment will look at you funny

Sunday, February 28th, 2021

In The Targeter, Nada Bakos explains that she had to take the CIA’s 16-week CAP (Career Analyst Program) course when she switched over to an Analyst role — but she and some of the others who weren’t new to the Agency had trouble taking it seriously:

We also made up our own fake assignment on official letterhead, then dropped it into the bowl from which class teams drew their morning exercises.

The first one read: “A leading radical Islamic cleric is being recruited by the CIA.” Then came the pièce de résistance: “Write a bottom-line assessment of his value to the Agency. Then fold the paper three times, walk to the room with the instructors, stop at their table, and pull on your ear. The instructor who tasked this assignment will look at you funny. Hand said instructor the paper; he will confirm receipt by saying, ‘What’s this?’ To complete the exercise, wink at him and respond, ‘My phone number.’” Soon enough, we watched another analyst fold his paper three times and march straight out of the classroom.

We laughed hysterically — which is how the poor analyst knew whom to yell at when he came back four minutes later looking ready to break things.

It was a weird war now

Saturday, February 27th, 2021

T. R. Fehrenbach (in This Kind of War) tells the story of a company given the mission of covering the valley beyond Heartbreak Ridge:

By day Busbey could cover the valley by fire, but at night it was a matter of setting up ambush patrols near the stream and on the fingers of the covering ridge to prevent the enemy from mining the valley floor and stream bed.


Several of his men with a light machine gun manned by an assistant gunner who had never fired in combat were sitting close by the stream. They heard the stealthy noises of approaching men, and through the dark were able to make out a mining patrol, 2 NKPA officers, and half a dozen enlisted men carrying AT mines.

“Wait till they’re closer,” the machine gunner whispered.

To fully load a round into the chamber of a light machine gun, the bolt must be pulled to the rear and released twice. The assistant gunner, who had pulled the bolt back once, thought the gun full loaded — until the pressure on the trigger produced only a terrifyingly loud click.

By the time the patrol figured out what was wrong, the North Koreans were six feet away. The first shot tore off the top of an NKPA lieutenant’s head. Swiveling the gun rapidly, the blond young man who had waited just a bit longer than he had intended cut down all of the surprised unfortunates before they could escape.

Next morning Major General Claude Ferenbaugh, the division commander, who visited front positions regularly, was shown the stiff and blasted Korean corpses. “By God,” Ferenbaugh said, “I get these reports all the time, but this is the first time anyone has had the bodies to prove it!”

He decorated the blond gunner before he left.

Now there was no offensive action taken against the enemy — but an army could not sit still. It had to patrol, even as the enemy had to patrol, to keep contact, to see what the other side was doing, and to attempt to keep the other side honest.

It was this patrol action, this continual flirting with danger and death, for reasons many of the enlisted men thought flimsy, that soldiers all across the Eighth Army’s line came to hate. But there was no help for it.

And while the front was still, except for patrols, there was the shelling. The enemy, who had to bring his precious ammunition under air attack over many miles, did not care to waste it. But he was not loath to shoot it, if he had a target.

One of Busbey’s platoon leaders, Jack Sadler, was restive at the inactivity. “How about letting me snipe at them over there with my 75mm recoilless?”

“Hell, you’ll make ’em mad, Jack,” Busbey told him.

“Aw, just one round, anyway —”

Sadler fired one round at the enemy lines, with indeterminate effect.

Then, immediately, the enemy shelled his platoon, heavily. Two of Sadler’s men were killed — and forever afterward Sadler held himself responsible. After that, a sort of gentlemen’s agreement held — each side left the other alone during the day.

It was a weird war now, not so dangerous, but more frustrating than ever.

Fight the war, but don’t get anyone killed

Thursday, February 25th, 2021

The losses at Bloody Ridge, Heartbreak, and elsewhere had some result, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War):

On 22 October the enemy offered to meet in full plenary session once again, and to accept the U.N. preferred site of Panmunjom for future discussions.


What the enemy wanted was to fix the armistice line irrevocably before the remainder of the agenda was solved. This, of course, would effectively relieve the Communist powers of any further military pressure while the negotiations continued; the United Nations Command could hardly launch an offensive for ground it had already agreed to relinquish.

It would enable the Communists, as Admiral Joy saw and mentioned, to talk forever if they chose, with freedom from the grinding pressure they had been experiencing at Bloody and Heartbreak ridges.


The limited attacks of the Eighth Army during August, September, and October 1951 had unquestionably improved its military stance, and had unquestionably inflicted deep wounds on the enemy forces.

But as Boatner said, “Everybody was sick to death of the casualties.”

Men die to make others free, or to protect their homeland. They do not willingly die for a piece of real estate ten thousand miles from home, which they know their government will eventually surrender. Nor do the generals appointed over them, nor the governments they elect, willingly spend them so.


Now field commanders writhed under a new restriction: Fight the war, but don’t get anyone killed. Such orders were never issued — but they were clearly understood.


The Communists had a great part of what they had wanted from the first hour they had requested peace talks. They had dissipated the danger of a U.N. march to the Yalu, or a disastrous defeat in the field.


At the end of thirty days the enemy was no nearer signing the armistice than he had been in July. He now felt free to delay as long as he pleased, and it was soon apparent he intended to do so, reaping whatever propaganda coups he could.


It was now, not openly, but in mess tents and private gatherings along the brooding lines of entrenchments, that some men began to say, “MacArthur was right.”

The United Nations did not want military victory

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

A new pattern, the one that would characterize most of the following hill battles, was being set on Heartbreak Ridge, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War):

On the disputed terrain, generally a small area, the fighting was hell itself. Artillery fire such as the world had never seen was massed against single hills, day after day. Because of the limitation of the fighting area, units were committed piecemeal, and the committed units were generally quickly cut to pieces, and replaced.

A few miles to either side of the disputed hill, the front lay quiet and brooding, without more than routine activity. And behind regimental headquarters, few men even knew there was a war on.

Action of this kind was contrary to all American military doctrine. The solution to success on Heartbreak, as later on Baldy, Pork Chop, Arrowhead, T-Bone, and a dozen others, would have been to hit the enemy elsewhere, knock him off balance in a dozen places, punch through.

But the United Nations Command had no authority to put massive pressure on the enemy along the whole line. They had no authority to reopen the wholesale fighting; the United Nations did not want military victory; they wanted truce.

And the enemy was perfectly willing to fight to the death over a small piece of ground, seemingly forever. The fought-over hills assumed propaganda and political values out of all proportion to their military worth.

Nobody knows where it comes from but it can’t be ignored

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

When I read a friend’s copy of Robert Heinlein’s Glory Road back in high school, only a couple things stuck with me: (1) dueling scars, and (2) methane-burning dragons. When I recently re-read it, it was chock-full of Heinlein-isms. Here’s what jumped out at me in the first few dozen pages:

It was an election year with the customary theme of anything you can do I can do better, to a background of beeping sputniks. I was twenty-one but couldn’t figure out which party to vote against.

I object to conscription the way a lobster objects to boiling water: it may be his finest hour but it’s not his choice.

Nevertheless I love my country. Yes, I do, despite propaganda all through school about how patriotism is obsolete. One of my great-grandfathers died at Gettysburg and my father made that long walk back from Inchon Reservoir, so I didn’t buy this new idea. I argued against it in class—until it got me a “D” in Social Studies, then I shut up and passed the course.

After you’ve spent years and years trying to knock the patriotism out of a boy, don’t expect him to cheer when he gets a notice reading: Greeting: You are hereby ordered for induction into the Armed Forces of the United States—

Sure, they had Hitler and the Depression ahead of them. But they didn’t know that. We had Khrushchev and the H-bomb and we certainly did know. But we were not a “Lost Generation.” We were worse; we were the “Safe Generation.”

Oh, we talked beatnik jive and dug cool sounds in stereo and disagreed with Playboy’s poll of jazz musicians just as earnestly as if it mattered. We read Salinger and Kerouac and used language that shocked our parents and dressed (sometimes) in beatnik fashion. But we didn’t think that bongo drums and a beard compared with money in the bank. We weren’t rebels. We were as conformist as army worms. “Security” was our unspoken watchword.

Short of a pregnant wife with well-to-do parents the greatest security lay in being 4-F. Punctured eardrums were good but an allergy was best. One of my neighbors had a terrible asthma that lasted till his twenty-sixth birthday. No fake—he was allergic to draft boards.

More than half of my generation were “unfit for military service.”

I was no better off financially as my uncle-in-law was supporting a first wife—under California law much like being an Alabama field hand before the Civil War.

Ever been in Southeast Asia? It makes Florida look like a desert. Wherever you step it squishes. Instead of tractors they use water buffaloes. The bushes are filled with insects and natives who shoot at you. It wasn’t a war—not even a “Police Action.” We were “Military Advisers.” But a Military Adviser who has been dead four days in that heat smells the same way a corpse does in a real war.

I was promoted to corporal. I was promoted seven times. To corporal.

Military policy is like cancer: Nobody knows where it comes from but it can’t be ignored.

In Asia every cab driver speaks enough English to take you to the Red Light district and to shops where you buy “bargains.” But he is never able to find your dock or boat landing.

Do you know how much tax a bachelor pays on $140,000 in the Land of the Brave and the Home of the Fee? $103,000, that’s what he pays.

I wouldn’t be “cheating” Uncle Sugar; the USA had no more moral claim on that money (if I won) than I had on the Holy Roman Empire. What had Uncle Sugar done for me? He had clobbered my father’s life with two wars, one of which we weren’t allowed to win—and thereby made it tough for me to get through college quite aside from what a father may be worth in spiritual intangibles to his son (I didn’t know, I never would know!)—then he had grabbed me out of college and had sent me to fight another unWar and damned near killed me and lost me my sweet girlish laughter.

About then I made a horrible discovery. I didn’t want to go back to school, win, lose, or draw. I no longer gave a damn about three-car garages and swimming pools, nor any other status symbol or “security.” There was no security in this world and only damn fools and mice thought there could be.

Somewhere back in the jungle I had shucked off all ambition of that sort. I had been shot at too many times and had lost interest in supermarkets and exurban subdivisions and tonight is the PTA supper don’t forget dear you promised.

They never quite understood why they were taken

Sunday, February 21st, 2021

The Judge Advocate General had ruled, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), that any man who had once held a commission, whether he had kept it active or not, could be legally recalled to fight in Korea:

And the Pentagon, when the Chinese poured across the Yalu, had made an incalculable error, one that would damage the Army Reserve Program for a decade. Never certain that a big war would not start any minute, the Pentagon called, not the officers and men in Table of Organization units, receiving pay and training, but the bulk of the inactive reservists, men who had received neither, and whose interest was less. The inactive individuals could be called up for fillers; the units were kept in reserve for a bigger war, which never came.

Most of the forty thousand Reserve officers recalled involuntarily and sent to Korea had never expected service short of all-out war. They never quite understood why they were taken, when hundreds of thousands of National Guardsmen and others, organized in units, were kept at home.


Hundreds of thousands of officers and men were sent as individual replacements. They arrived in their new divisions friendless and alone. Most of them never developed any feeling for a division in which they had not trained, in which they merely put in their time, until they could rotate out once more, again as individuals.

There have been few reunions of veterans of the Korean War.

And there was a final tragedy, affecting many of the recallees. Reserve officers, recalled from jobs and businesses for two years, on top of the loss of time during 1941–1945, often had no career to return to. Many elected to remain in the Army. But when Korea ended, and Washington, determined once again never to fight a ground war, shrank the Army back below a million men, the Army had no place for these men.

Thousands would have to return to civilian life, short of qualifying for pensions, to seek new jobs after the age of thirty-five or forty.

The social problems, of course, were not solved

Friday, February 19th, 2021

There had been continual difficulty with the all-Negro units sent into Korea, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War):

The problem is not one of race or color, but of a minority group, anywhere, which has had much of its essential pride as human beings stripped from it. The strongest urge of any minority group, Armenians, French-Canadians, or Untouchables, is to survive. They have no other effective way of fighting.

The old jokes about the military courage of certain minority groups has some basis in fact. Turks joke about the fighting ability of Turkish Christians. The indigenous Christians that Turks know are submerged, wily folk, sharp with money, slyly sticking together against the Moslem world, absolutely uninterested in going out to fight and die for the Turkish State. They see absolutely nothing to be gained by it — nor is there.

A diplomat from Istanbul, several centuries ago, remarked it was odd that Franks in the Western kingdoms were much more like Turks than like Christians. If this Turkish gentleman had visited the medieval ghettos, he might have begun to understand.

Jews in Eastern Europe often went to the gas chambers without a protest, without lifting a hand. The young men of the same human stock raised in Israel are among the toughest, hardiest folk in the world.


The Columbia professor, and others, discussed practical means of ending the Army’s trouble. They saw only one solution: desegregation.

In front of white men, the sociologists claimed, colored soldiers would feel an urge to prove themselves, and have a chance to develop pride they could never achieve in a segregated unit. They recommended one per squad, or two, no more — because the tendencies of the persecuted are to group together against the world.


And the United States Army’s combat problem with colored troops was largely ended. Filtered through the white units, they did well. Three weeks after its fiasco on Bloody Ridge, 3/9 performed with excellence.

The social problems, of course, were not solved. A solution to these can be anticipated only when all men look alike, hold the same views, or are so apathetic that it no longer matters.

Men new from the States were often soft

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

At Bloody Ridge, a new pattern of Korean warfare emerged, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War) — one that resembled the Western Front in World War I:

They needed flamethrowers to reduce the deep enemy bunkers, and they didn’t have them. Worse, few if any men knew how to use them. Boatner set up a school in the use of the flamethrower, and ran men through, quickly. Now, deep in hitherto safe bunkers, soldiers of the Inmun Gun died shrieking in searing flame, as American infantrymen crawled close under fire and sprayed them with newly issued weapons.

Replacements were wandering up to engaged units, and getting killed the first hour, before they could report in. Boatner ordered replacements to be kept in the replacement company at least one day, and to have five or six days’ special training before being sent into combat. Men new from the States were often soft. They were to get conditioning exercises, and it was mandatory that they zero their weapons.


“Let there be no question: it will be tough. You had better do what your N.C.O.’s tell you, if you want to stay alive. And remember three things: when you’re on the hill, if you stand up you’ll get your ass shot off; if you get off the paths, or roam, you’ll get your ass blown off by mines; and when you take a hill, you’ll be tired as hell, you’ll want to poop out, slap your buddies on the back, and take it easy — but remember, as soon as you take a hill, just as water comes out of a spigot, the mortars come in on you, and blooey! — it’s too goddam late then!”

What neither Korea nor America could furnish was leadership

Monday, February 15th, 2021

Washington had authorized MacArthur to arm and train hundreds of thousands more ROKs, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War):

Men — tough, patient, hill-padding Korean peasants — there were in plenty. Surplus weapons from the big war, food, and money to pay them, America could easily furnish.

What neither Korea nor America could furnish was leadership.


The politicians in primitive societies want no generals they cannot trust. They prefer a politically reliable man at the head of a division to a competent one who may happen to belong to the wrong family or team.


Frequently when the transport of a ROK division was vitally needed to haul ammunition at the front, the trucks were back in the interior carrying firewood for soldiers’ dependents, or on private hire to build the divisional welfare fund. Gasoline disappeared regularly into the civilian economy.

KMAG fought a losing battle against five thousand years of Oriental custom. Most of them, it must be admitted, developed a frustrated respect for the Chinese Reds who overnight destroyed the “silver bullets” tradition of the Chinese Army — the old situation when Chinese generals fought not with bullets of lead, but silver, meaning they could be bought — and who delivered supplies from Canton to Mukden, and from Mukden to Korea without pilfering, tampering, or diversion to private use according to sacred custom. But the Chinese Communists, puritan like all human revolutionists, had means not available to KMAG.

In the CCF it was very easy to have a man shot.

In the Communist armies there was no rotation

Saturday, February 13th, 2021

By the summer of 1951, the American Army had changed, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), as battle-hardened troops rotated out, and green troops replaced them:

The CCF and the Inmun Gun had changed, too.

The cream of the Communist armies had been destroyed, from the Naktong to the Imjin, and from the Imjin to the Soyang.

Replacements coming down the mountains were recent inductees, impressed from rice field and village, untrained, in some cases unarmed and badly clothed.

But though they might not be expert at war, these men were used to hard work and hardship all their young lives. Their leaders set them to work, digging. From the Sea of Japan, on the east, to the Yellow Sea on the west, they burrowed into the earth. They entered mountains from the rear slope, tunneling through to make gun positions opening on the front. They dug bunkers in which a company could safely and warmly bivouac. They dug so deeply into the earth that no conventional gun or cannon could reach them.

They dug bunkers and trenches and firing steps.

And when they had dug these, they went backward and dug a new defensive line, and one beyond that, stretching into the north. They dug a line such as the world had never seen — ten times the depth of any in World War I.

They dug positions that could — and might have to, their leaders reasoned — stand against nuclear explosion.

With their mountains, hollowed out, the training of the new CCF and Inmun Gun could begin. They were taught all the tricks the older men had learned: to move and attack by night, when the terrible American air was impotent; not to rush down valleys, as the CCF had learned to its sorrow on the Imjin and across the Soyang, but again to become phantoms, lurking in the hills, never letting the enemy see them until they chose.

They learned to use their bright new weapons, carried laboriously down from the Yalu, and to load, aim, and fire the huge numbers of cannon with Cyrillic inscriptions on their tubes, now coming into Korea for the first time.

They were sent on patrol, to learn to move quietly and effectively, and to learn the taste of blood.

Over the months, beginning in the summer of 1951, the tough, squat peasant boys from China and Korea learned well.

In the Communist armies there was no rotation.

The kind of lessons troops needed to fight this kind of war could be learned only in Korea

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

R&R was only a stopgap measure, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), and soon there rose talk of Big R, rotation out of Korea and back to the United States:

A point system was set up. It took thirty-six points to rotate.


The point system had great merits — and great disadvantages. No man liked to risk his neck — and thirty points. The handling of high-point men was a continuing problem of commanders from this time on.

Some men, with enough points, did not rotate. James Mount, who had come to Korea a corporal, was made second lieutenant in the medical service. The promotion delayed him till November.

One colonel, who had had long and arduous service since the beginning, was ready to leave. On the eve of his departure he received his brigadier’s single star. He felt it a crowning accomplishment to his service in Korea — until he was informed that as a general officer he was on a new rotation list; he was now the general officer with the least overseas service in the Far East. Dedicated man that he was, the new brigadier’s remarks were pungent and heartfelt.

After the beginning of truce talks, the primary interest of every man in Korea was going home. It could hardly have been otherwise.

And with rotation, the complexion of the Army changed. Now the men and officers coming in were largely reservists, National Guardsmen, draftees. The percentage of regulars in most line units sank to forty or less, as more and more men were recalled from business and farm to man the line.


Worse than lack of enthusiasm, the new troops were green. The kind of lessons troops needed to fight this kind of war could be learned only in Korea.

R&R came to be known as I&I

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021

In any democratic society, equality of sacrifice is a cherished ideal, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), yet in war nothing is more difficult to attain:

Soldiers know that it is never possible to share the load completely. One man went to Korea; another — who equally served — never went west of San Francisco. While American units were decimated in the Far East, others went through training in the European Command, without hearing a shot fired in anger.


R&R at first worked wonders. Men came off line, away from incessant danger and hardship, for a flight to Tokyo, Yokohama, or Kyoto. They boarded planes at Seoul and elsewhere, gaunt, unshaven, some with the thousand-yard stare. Five days later they returned, new men, rested, bathed, refreshed. R&R gave the troops something to look forward to; it was a morale factor without equal.

It was only later, when the pressure in Korea was not so great, that men going to Japan turned R&R into the great debauch that came to be known as I&I — intercourse and intoxication. Men coming out of weeks and months of hard combat are too tired and beaten down to seek trouble.

Men leaving months of filthy living and screaming monotony tend to seek something else again.

The only thing that would not be limited were the casualties

Sunday, February 7th, 2021

For all practical purposes, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), the Korean War ended when Ridgway offered to discuss truce terms:

Having eschewed the goal of victory, the United States had nothing further to gain from continued fighting. It had accomplished its original purpose in going into Korea, the salvation of the Taehan Minkuk.

The Communist World had gained no territory, wealth, or peoples — but by opposing American arms, by defying the United Nations, with some success, Red China had undoubtedly neared great-power status. Her prestige among Asian peoples, still smarting from Western humiliations, was enhanced, whatever moral questions were involved.

A nation that had been continually harassed and humiliated by all powers since 1840 had actually defied the world, and fought it to a standstill. It was this Asian feeling of solidarity with China that Americans found so hard to understand, as typified by the statement of one Captain Weh, of the Nationalist Chinese Army on Taiwan:

“We listened to the radio, and the Communists were defeating the Americans. All of us in this room were officers who had fought with the Generalissimo for many years. Most of us had fought the Communists all our adult lives. One officer had been captured and tortured by them. In a world the Communists won, there could be no place for any of us, or our families.

“It was very bad for us to have the Communists win. But we had very queer feelings, listening to the news of disaster in Korea. It was almost like a certain exaltation. I do not know how to explain it to you Americans.

“For our Colonel, who hated Communists with all his soul, kept saying: ‘The Americans are being beaten by Chinese. The Americans are being beaten by Chinese.’”


As long as China could hold a U.N. Army at bay, she stood to gain enormous prestige in Asia.

And because the United States Government took a certain naïveté and almost total lack of understanding of Asian Communism to the conference table, the Korean War, stalemated June 1951, would go on for two more years, and half as many men again as were maimed and killed in its first twelve months had yet to suffer and die.


An army in the field, in contact with the enemy, can remain idle only at its peril. Deterioration — of training, physical fitness, and morale — is immediate and progressive, despite the strongest command measures. The Frenchman who said that the one thing that cannot be done with bayonets is to sit on them spoke an eternal truth.


Their new orders seemed to read: Fight on, but don’t fight too hard. Don’t lose — but don’t win, either. Hold the line, while the diplomats muddle through.


But it was harder still for the riflemen and tankers and weapons squads dug in along the scarred, dirty hills. Now they knew less than ever why they dug their holes or why they died. Hoping for the war to end at any moment, they kept one eye on Kaesong or on Panmunjom. When they were ordered to defend a hill or to take one, they knew the action was a limited one, and they knew in their hearts, whatever brave words were said, that such action probably would not affect the outcome of the war at all.

No man likes to give up his life for an inconsequential reason, and there is no honor — only irony — to being the last man killed in a war.


As the talks droned on at Kaesong, the U.N. Command became more convinced the enemy was stalling. And U.N. commanders agreed that a little pressure, judiciously applied, might have wholesome effect. The decision was made in FECOM, but approved by Washington.


It was not an ambitious program, or an unreasonable one, in the situation. Policy was guided by restraint, and limited.

The only thing that would not be limited were the casualties.