Heroes – Part II

December 2, 2009

He was sitting at the table where I usually plug in my laptop at the Faithful Cup in downtown Sheffield.  His name was Mr. Gober and he has been a barber in downtown Sheffield for 50 years.  He  still works one day a week.  He lost his business partner six years ago, Mr. Holland, who accidently drove his lawnmower off the bluff.

“I was a Marine,” he said.  “In Korea.  Got cut off by the Chinese army.  137,000 of them and 23,000 of us.  Marines and one army unit.  It was 40 degrees below zero.  We had destroyed the Korean Army, but our intelligence didn’t tell us that the Chinese had slipped in between us and our only escape route.”

“How did you get out,” I asked.

“We knocked a hole in it and went through it,” he said.

“Knocked a hole in what,” I asked.

“The Chinese Army, “ he said.

“How many did we lose doing that,” I asked.

“About 11,000,” he said.  “But just about as bad was the frostbite.  Lots of men lost their hands or feet or fingers or nose.

“Did you lose anything,” I asked.

“Nope, I was one of the lucky ones,” he said.  “There were only a few thousand that didn’t lose anything to  frostbite.

“Do you ever see any of the people you fought with,” I asked.

“Yes, I go to reunions,” he said.

“Do you ever see anyone at those reunions who have lost a hand or a foot,” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” he said.  “There were 4000 men who lost both feet and both hands from frostbite.”

“I am sorry to say, that I didn’t really know we ever actually fought the Chinese.  I thought there was only the threat of war.”

“We fought them alright, and that is why General McArthur lost his job.  Truman was afraid that he was going to get us in to a war with the Chinese.  We had destroyed the the North Korean Army, but because the Chinese stepped in we decided to negotiate a cease fire rather than go to war with them. “

“Why do you think you didn’t lose anything to frostbite,” I asked.

“Army did a study on it and they decided us skinny guys didn’t have enough fluid in our bodies to freeze.  It was the bigger guys that usually lost something.”

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