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Taro Leaf Trooper

May 11th, 2005 by jomo

I was in the Army just before Vietnam. The career soldiers (“lifers”) then were WWII and Korean vets and they told stories of those wars. One story that I found myself thinking about just now was that of a fellow who joined the Army right after high school graduation in 1950.

North Korea invaded the South in June, 1950, just as this guy was starting basic training. His training was speeded up, cut short, and before he had been in the Army 4 weeks he was on a boat bound for a place he had never heard of to do something he wasn’t trained for…sounds kind of familiar, eh?

When the boat docked in Korea, my friend moved in single file down the gangway with all of the other replacements, carrying their Personnel Folders (201 file?) in one hand, their duffle bags in the other. At the bottom of the ramp a Sgt. marked on each guy’s helmet in chalk either “24” or “25” – 24s to the left, 25s to the right. The lines on either hand led to the back of a 2.5 ton truck. There, they handed over their records, threw their duffles in a pile, were handed a rifle and a sling of ammo, and climbed on the truck. As soon as that truck was filled, it moved out and another pulled foward.

Six weeks after enlisting, one hour and 15 minutes after landing, this 17-year-old untrained, really scared guy was hunkered in a shallow hole in the muddy dark, part of the US 24th Infantry Division (a “Taro Leaf Trooper”) waiting to stem the North Korean advance.

I’m glad he lived through it: he was a nice guy. I don’t remember his name, just his face and this story.

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