The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
by Monte Geddes - Mediapolis, Iowa, formerly of La Harpe
It was the last few month before the cease fire in Korea in the spring of
1953 and C Battery of the 780th Field Artillery Battalion was located on the north end of a valley called Kajon-Ni. From west to east the MLR â"Main Line of Resistance" ran fairly close to the 38th Parallel until it reached the east side of the Punch Bowl and then it went in a northeastern direction to the Sea of Japan. Charlie Battery was the northern most artillery battery in Korea and was located approximately thirty miles north of the 38th parallel and twelve miles from the east coast. Northwest of us, less than a mile, was the MLR.
The Korean War has been compared to World War One because the last few months it was trench warfare with only minor movement of the MLR.
Our eight inch howitzers were the most accurate artillery pieces in Korea and could shoot a two hundred pound projectile ten and a half miles. The 780th came to Korea in 1951 for the purpose of knocking out enemy gun position in caves and hard to reach areas.
They were very successful at this but by early spring of 1953 the Chinese and North Koreans were building up in areas just beyond our maximum range. To counter this Charlie Battery started taking one howitzer forward northeast a couple of miles and surprise the enemy by firing into areas not before reached.
I was Ammo Cpl in the 4th gun section and we moved forward several time to fire in areas not fired on before. This was a long day as we would move our howitzer out of our battery area and forward under darkness so as not to be observed and fired on. Coming back was the same story as we could not leave our forward positions until dark and return to our battery area between ten and eleven o'clock. This made a long day of about 22 hours for us.
One day we moved forward into a position we had never been to and as we set up and daylight begin to break we found ourselves one hundred feet back of the MLR and to our right was a tank company with their tanks parked in parapets and their 90 mm guns pointing toward enemy territory.
We continued to dig in, unload our ammo and other work in preparation for a fire mission. The men of the tank company were waking up and watching what we were doing. Before long they start making remarks to us such as â"You d--- artillery people will fire today and get out of here and we will catch hell tonight because of you."
Our fourteen man gun crew, very outnumbered, began talking back saying something like we heard you guy were sitting on your butts and drawing your pay and not doing anything and the taxpayers wanted more for their money. The shouting became more heated and our Lt. Schmidt ordered us to shut up and get ready for our fire mission. This we did and the first mission was soon under way.
I do not remember what the first target was but we fired about twenty rounds and just before the end of the fire mission one round fired lost the rotating band. This brass band around the projectile seals the projectile when rammed into the howitzer tube so that the powder explosion does not leak.
This is a defect and with thousands of projectiles we fired while I was there only about ten times did we ever have a rotating band come off.
It sounds like a freight train coming though the hills and just keeps echoing back and is scary as hell.
The first time I heard it I hit the ground thinking the darn thing was coming back to us. Our gun crew had heard it before and did not react to it but the tanker all fell under their tanks which gave all of us artillery men a good laugh. A couple of more rounds and we got a cease fire, end of mission.
We started cleaning up after the mission and getting ready for the next one when a tall rawboned Captain, the CO, of the tank company came over to us and he was not happy.
I will not try to spell all the cuss words he used on us because he thought we had caused the rotating band to come off and scare his men.
Lt. Harlan Schmidt, Sgt John Russell our chief of section and myself tried to explain to him it was a defect and we didn't have anything to do with it happening.
It took the Captain several minutes to calm down and listen to our explanation of what happened. Finally he said that he thought we were all feeding him bull crap and it had better not happen again.
I told him we could not guarantee it but it would be unusual if it did. I had been noticing his name tag â"Patton" while all this was going on and as he started to leave I ask him if he was any relation to the famous WW-II General.
He said, â"That was his Dad." and he turned and walked away.
We fired several more missions that day but darkness finally came and we moved back down to our home Charlie Battery. It had been a long day, we had fired many rounds and our bunker and cot looked real good. Now we are going to jump forward about forty two years.
It was December 1994 my wife Erma and I were leaving the next day for Carrollton, TX for Christmas with our sons and then on to Kerrville, TX for a couple of months. John Russell called from Columbus, Ohio to wish us a safe trip and we talked for some time as we have done over the years. John asked me if I remembered all of us getting chewed out by a Captain who said he was General George Patton's son. I told him yes I did remember it and he wondered if he was telling the truth. I told John that this is something we will probably never know for sure. How wrong I was with that remark.
Three days later I was in a sports bar in Addison, TX having a beer with seven other guys I had met the year before. All these guys were WW-II and Korean vets and we were having a good time joking with each other and giving the lady behind the bar a bad time. She was in her mid thirties, I would guess, and finally after taking a lot of flak from us she finally spoke up, â"You guys just don't bother me a bit as I am used to your type. I happen to be a military brat." She told us her Dad was a retired Colonel from the Tank Corp and now lives in Florida. I at once thought about my conversation with John Russell, so I ask her if her Dad ever served with a son of General George Patton. She looked at me and said â"Yes, I was in school with two of his children." I started asking many questions and she told me she was going to call her father that night and for me to come back tomorrow and she would have some answers.
The next day I was at the bar again more interested in information than beer but I got both. She told me that the first George Patton was a Confederate Cavalry General in the Civil War. George Patton II was never in the military.
George S. Patton III was in WW-I and we all know about his famous record in WW-II in North Africa and leading the 3rd Army in Europe.
George S. Patton IV was the Captain who we ran into in Korea in 1953. At that time he was serving as Company Commander of Company A, 140th Tank Battalion of the 40th Infantry Division. He later earned his stars in Vietnam. He retired as a Major General and now lives in Massachusetts. I was told he had two children one a daughter who became a Nun and a son George Patton V who was a Major in the Tank Corp. Needless to say I called John Russell as soon as possible to finish this story.
Later I found out through the internet, that he married Joanne Holbrock and they had five children. They are Mother Margaret Georgina Patton OSB, George S. Patton V, Robert H. Patton, Helen Patton-Plusczyk, and Benjamin Wilson Patton.
Sadly Major General George S. Patton IV died on June 30, 2004 at the age of 80.