Johnny Green War on ice: a veteran’s story

Courtesy photo Courtesy photo Johnny Green in Korea in early 1950s in early 1950sJohnny Green, longtime Granbury resident,reflects on Korean War

from The Hood County News, VETERANS DAY • SUNDAY, 11 NOV 2007

Staff Writer

Every day is Veterans Day to Johnny Green. Every day the longtime Granbury resident takes a step, he’s reminded of frostbite he suffered in the Korean War. Green was a member of the 52-man

8221st Army Unit, whose duties included the topographic and meteorological survey of North Korean hills controlled by Red Chinese.

“We surveyed everything in the world, where they wanted to put the guns, where the forward observer wanted to be. I was with the topographical survey.” When Green arrived in North Korea in the   summer of 1951, the weather was hot and dusty. Not so by January of 1952, with the temperature minus-22 degrees. That was only part of a three-day nightmare.” We got in the middle of the Chinese army, and we couldn’t build fires in our helmets because that would give away our

location,” Green said.” We stayed one night, all day one day, then the next day. Then the Marines broke through and got us out. I was glad to be out, but that was such an embarrassment to be rescued by the Marines.”

The event is remembered by participants as The Battle of the Punchbowl.“ The punchbowl was a huge valley, and there were three or four hills inside the punchbowl. We surveyed those hills,” Green said.

“We tried to dig into the hill and keep warm, but that was hard to do in the ice and snow. We had on our long-johns and fatigues. I never did get warm.

“The reason I had so much trouble with my feet is that they sweat. As cold as it was,(the sweat) would deep-freeze my feet. I was taken to a M*A*S*H* hospital. As my feet thawed out, they started to bleed and some of the skin came off  .“Frostbite hurts when you’re coming back (thawing). Toes will turn black. Some guys lost their toes, noses and ears.”

Danger lurked behind every hill in North Korea, Green said. He was never directly hit. “A mortar round landed on top of our bunker,” he said. “Three were three of us in there. The two others got concussions. That was the closest call I had. I didn’t have to shoot my rifle at all.” During the Battle of the Punchbowl, he was shot at frequently.“ The Chinese were all over. We had the radio, so we knew what was going on with them,” Green said. “They got within half a mile of us.

“Our“ My duties were to go out with the survey crew,” Green said. “All the information went back to the artillery and the Air Force so they could drop the napalm.

“Also, I would lay out the parameters, so if infantry wanted to take a hill, they would tell us what they wanted and when they were going to do it. Then we’d survey it.”

He was back home in approximately nine months.

“I was wanting out,” Green said. “My feet had cleared up except for huge blisters on the bottoms. I got arthritis later.“ I would say the frostbite weakened the bone structure50 percent. I go to the Veterans Hospital in Dallas now. They check my feet for circulation.“ I get cold real easy now. Some people are wanting the air-conditioner when I’m wanting the heater.”

When asked about war in general, Green answers bluntly. “I hate war, and I do not understand how one man I do not know can try to kill me while I’m trying to kill him. I see no sense in it.”

He witnessed death with enough frequency to know he’s against it.“ They died because of somebody’s foolishness.” Green achieved the rank of corporal during the war. He could have made sergeant, he was told.

“I was scheduled to put in for sergeant,” he said, “but before it went through, the 45thNational Guard came over, and you could only have so many sergeants.

“My commanding officer said, ‘Johnny, you’re fixing to go home. I can’t get that (sergeant) rating for you. But if you stay about 30 days, I will.’

“I said, ‘Sir, if you send me home today, I’ll give you these two stripes right here.’ He grinned and said okay.”