The Art of Tetman Callis

Some of the stories and poems may be inappropriate for persons under 16

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Advancing in the other direction

February 21st, 2017 · No Comments

“In the morning casualties lay all over the place. We dragged the dead down the slope like you would deer—slipped a rope around their boots and dragged. At the road the bodies were stacked in six-bys. Word was passed we were going to fall back. I believe those were the orders—‘fall back,’ not ‘retreat.’ Marines were dependable. God-damn, you want something done, you send the Marines. They got it done. All of a sudden we learned we were going to fall back. I cried. I cried. I couldn’t believe it.” – Private First Class Doug Michaud, Headquarters & Service Company, First Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment (quoted by Donald Knox in The Korean War: Pusan to Chosin – An Oral History)

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Praise the Lord and pass the frozen gravy

February 20th, 2017 · No Comments

“It was very, very late when we got back to the company and found the field kitchen there preparing Thanksgiving dinner. It was actually the day after Thanksgiving, but no one minded. We were served turkey and all the things that go with it on tin trays, just like aboard ship. Darker than pitch. We turned on the lights of jeeps and stood or sat on the hoods of the vehicles and ate our meal. I didn’t give a good-sized damn because it was food and we hadn’t had honest-to-God food in a long, long time. You had to eat fast because everything was turning cold. The gravy and then the mashed potatoes froze first. The inside of the turkey was still warm. Boy, you ate fast. And all the time the snipers were shooting at us.” – Hospitalman Third Class William Davis, Company B, Seventh Marine Regiment (quoted by Donald Knox in The Korean War: Pusan to Chosin – An Oral History)

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There were no re-takes, either

February 15th, 2017 · No Comments

“Believe me, sleeping in foxholes in a drizzling rain, cold and waiting to attack, dodging bullets, and going for three or four days with one small meal is not as romantic as the movies make out.” – Private First Class James Cardinal, I Company, 5th Cavalry Regiment (quoted by Donald Knox in The Korean War: Pusan to Chosin – An Oral History)

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How to make an anti-communist

February 14th, 2017 · No Comments

“The Communists gathered together all the opposition leaders, those friendly to America, and beat them terribly. Then they tied their hands behind their backs and shot them. More than fifty lay all over a small field in front of a school. When I got there relatives were claiming the dead and washing and cleaning and wrapping the bodies. That was the saddest part of it, mothers, wives, and children crying and screaming. The sight of death doesn’t bother me anymore, but to see the women crying made me feel very bad. You can believe everything you read in American papers about how miserable the Communist leaders treat the people behind the Iron Curtain. If any American Communist ever tells me when I get home that America was the aggressor in this war I think I’ll kill him on the spot.” – Private First Class James Cardinal, I Company, 5th Cavalry Regiment (quoted by Donald Knox in The Korean War: Pusan to Chosin – An Oral History)

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February 13th, 2017 · No Comments

“Much time was spent bullshitting. Talk was of home. We did not have any idea what [General] MacArthur was going to do next and we didn’t care. Food had top priority in our bull sessions. We smoked like fiends. Surprisingly, some of the conversations turned to sex. Up to then the only sexual references I’d heard were those obscenities hurled at the enemy. Everyone was too drained emotionally and physically to have a sex drive, much less talk about it. On the [38th] Parallel, with prospects of Japan, home, and safety, came the stories—stories of seductions, conquests, Japanese girlfriends, hometown sweethearts. While we waited to find out what would happen next, some wonderful events reminded us of home: sleeping in a bed with sheets, having a roof overhead, sitting on a stool, and defecating in a bathroom. I thought to myself, When I get home I’ll never bitch about another thing for the rest of my life. Whatever years my Creator has left for me I will consider bonus time. Never again will I ever be afraid.” Private First Class Leonard Korgie, G Company, 21st Infantry Regiment (quoted by Donald Knox in The Korean War: Pusan to Chosin – An Oral History)

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Mr. Fix-It

February 12th, 2017 · No Comments

“Gender roles are often a predominant factor during fire and explosion incidents. Research indicates, for example, that women are more likely to report a fire or explosion immediately, while their male counterparts may delay reporting the incident, opting rather to engage in suppression or other mitigation efforts.” – “Roles and Norms,” Sec., NFPA 921 Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations (2011 Edition)

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Les fleurs du mal

February 11th, 2017 · No Comments

“The scene was in a wild ravine. First I saw piles of brightly colored silk gowns and black conical hats. Many of the corpses also appeared to wear Western-style clothing. In these mounds of ruffled clothing, I could also see parts of bodies, a head here, an arm there. While the company was somewhere between Seoul and Munsan-ni, word had been passed that we should divert several miles east of the main highway and check out reports of a massacre. The company had entered a hilly wilderness area. Even before we arrived at the designated location, we knew something terrible had taken place from the horrible stench of decaying human bodies that polluted the breeze. I learned later that an estimated 200 civilians were executed at this site. Someone found out many of the murdered were professional and business people, educators, artists, politicians, civil servants. The dead appeared to include entire families, from children to the very aged.” – Private First Class Victor Fox, I Company, 5th Cavalry Regiment (quoted by Donald Knox in The Korean War: Pusan to Chosin – An Oral History)

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Suffer the children

February 10th, 2017 · No Comments

“I recall one day finding this little girl who couldn’t have been more than eight, trodding down the road crying hard. In her hands she carried a rusty tin of water. We tried to stop her because she was entering a dangerous area. She tried to get away from us; her screaming broke our hearts. . . . Everyone in war suffers. Children, however, suffer the most. They don’t understand. Try explaining it to a child. They are terrified, dirty, and hungry. . . . Mile after mile, the convoy drove north. . . . I remembered how anxious I was to get to Korea. I was eighteen and couldn’t wait to see combat. That lasted until the first firefight. Afterward it was, Please, God, don’t let me get hurt. If I do, please let it be small, something that will get me home in one piece.” – Corporal Mario Sorrentino, 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion (quoted by Donald Knox in The Korean War: Pusan to Chosin – An Oral History)

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The answer is, ‘Because.’

February 9th, 2017 · No Comments

“We begged the wounded lad to our front to hang on until morning when we’d be able to take him off the hill. With the first gray light the man lay quiet, then he was still. I lay there helpless, numb, sick clear through. I asked God in his infinite mercy, ‘Why so long?’ The man died a little boy, wanting his mother, crying for her, asking for his God. That night has left a long, deep scar.” – Captain Norman Allen, I Company, 5th Cavalry Regiment (quoted by Donald Knox in The Korean War: Pusan to Chosin – An Oral History)

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A face of battle

February 8th, 2017 · No Comments

“Within a few moments I, too, was hit, first in the right arm, then in the chest. It felt as though I’d been hit in the chest by a sledgehammer. I could not breathe. Somehow, I gasped for air and lay panting until the initial shock wore off. To this day I remember the pain and horror of those moments. Our squad was pinned down and couldn’t move. The gunner and I kept screaming for the corpsman, but he couldn’t get through. Both of us lay in an exposed position. The North Koreans who shot us knew that we were alive and that they could pick off any Marine coming to our aid. We lay there for what seemed like an eternity. My breathing became more difficult because my chest was filling with blood. After what must have been a few hours, Cpl. Frank Brennan and Pfc. Mark Valetta from one of the rifle platoons crawled to us with a blanket. The gunner was bleeding heavily from the mouth but still hanging on. Using the blanket as a stretcher, they moved him first, and came under heavy fire. The gunner was hit again, this time a round grazed his head. I passed out. The next thing I knew, it was night. I was still out in the open. At this point I went through my second horror of the day [and] came under heavy artillery bombardment. . . . I was right in the middle of it. The pain was unbearable and I couldn’t move. I passed out. When I came to, the ground around me was erupting, and bricks and steel were falling around me. Miraculously, I was not hit. I passed out again. When I came to again, the sun was up, and staring at me in disbelief were four South Korean boys. Around me I noticed several dead North Korean soldiers. The boys gently placed me on a straw mat and carried me back to the company CP.” – Private First Class Joseph Saluzzi, D Company, 7th Marine Regiment (quoted by Donald Knox in The Korean War: Pusan to Chosin – An Oral History)

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The Wrath of God

February 7th, 2017 · No Comments

“I was up on a hill that day at a machine-gun position with a master sergeant named Barber. We saw this long procession of people coming toward our line. I said to Barber, ‘What the devil is happening here?’ He said, ‘I don’t know.’ So I said, ‘I’ll go and see.’ I went down and found that this was a group of about 100 civilians, all carrying shovels and picks, being escorted by South Korean officers and men. They were being taken to some place where, after digging their own graves, they were going to be executed. They were people who were alleged to have supported the enemy in the city. This was civil war, which is very unlike any other war. There were kids there, some no older than eight, who were going to be shot because they had carried messages for the North Koreans for a stick of gum. Pregnant women were going to be shot; so were old men, ignorant of the issues. All these people were going to be murdered. When the South Korean in charge of the group saw me come down, he stopped—probably thought I was a Marine line officer. Anyway, they soon saw the cross and knew I was a chaplain. I said, ‘You cannot advance any farther until the Marine CO comes down and authorizes it. You must stay here.’ The South Korean captain in charge said, ‘I operate under my own orders, and we are planning to execute these people.’ I pointed out Sergeant Barber’s machine gun and said, ‘Do not move. It is very dangerous if you do.’ ” – Chaplain Glyn Jones, United States Navy (quoted by Donald Knox in The Korean War: Pusan to Chosin – An Oral History)

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Last rites

February 6th, 2017 · No Comments

“At this time the kid next to me got hit in the chest. I rolled him over and cut open his jacket looking for the bullet wound. A slug had gone right through his lung, in the front, out the back. There were no corpsmen up to us yet. The kid began to wheeze and I knew his lung had collapsed. I spat on both my hands, then placed one on the entry wound and the other on the exit hole. After a few minutes of holding him like this, he started breathing better. He was still conscious. I asked him if I could do anything more for him. A corpsman came up and began bandaging his wounds. ‘I don’t know whether he’s gonna make it.’ The sun began to go down and the shadows grew longer. The kid whispered, ‘Would you read to me out of my Bible?’ Fox Company was still fighting across the road. We were pinned down. I read to him from his Bible.” – Private First Class Doug Koch, D Company, 5th Marine Regiment (quoted by Donald Knox in The Korean War: Pusan to Chosin – An Oral History)

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Death and transfiguration

February 5th, 2017 · No Comments

“I motioned for him to get up and put on his shirt. He gestured he would like his cigarettes. I nodded. After he lit one I marched him to the rear where I met the South Korean police detachment that was assigned to the brigade. To a police sergeant I explained I had orders to have the old man shot and that I needed someone to do the job. The sergeant selected a young man not much older than I who spoke English. The young policeman, the old man, and I walked along the road. I was looking for a suitable place to hold the execution. I noticed the policeman was unarmed. I figured I’d let him use my carbine. I found a spot by a shallow river that afforded the privacy I was looking for. We moved down off the road and walked to the near-dry riverbed. The old man asked if he could wash his hands. The policeman translated. I nodded. The old man stood up. He shook his wet hands to dry them. He still didn’t know he was going to be shot. I motioned for him to walk on. About twenty-five feet away he stopped and turned. Why weren’t we behind him? Was he free to go? I offered my carbine to the policeman. He pushed the weapon away and backed off. In broken English he told me he didn’t know how to use it. His voice was shrill. I yelled at him to take it. At this, the old mean realized what was going to happen. ‘No! No!’ he pleaded in Korean. The policeman backed away. I shouted some more. The old man began to cry. Falling to his knees he clasped his hands as if he was praying. Between sobs he continued to plead for his life. Something had to be done. I ordered the old man to stand up. He did. I shot him twice. He fell like a stone.” – Unidentified American corporal, 1st Provisional Marine Brigade (quoted by Donald Knox in The Korean War: Pusan to Chosin – An Oral History)

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Alternative facts

February 4th, 2017 · No Comments

“In the late fall of 1961, [President] Kennedy decided to up the ante in the ongoing but still relatively low-key guerilla war in Vietnam. At the time there were only six hundred American advisers in South Vietnam. His was the most dangerous of moves geopolitically. even if at first it was a limited commitment of advisory and support troops, totaling perhaps some seventeen thousand additional Americans by early 1963. The Kennedy escalation meant that even if the commitment was in the beginning relatively small, nonetheless the flag had been planted ever more deeply and planted in a country and a war where the United States did not by itself control the dynamic and where the forces gathering against the American proxy were driven by a deep historic dynamic. . . . In addition, the Kennedy administration had done something extremely dangerous when it increased the larger mission to Vietnam; it corrupted the truth to suit its political needs . . .  it needed ever greater results, for appearances were everything, and it needed them faster. But those results were not forthcoming, because the policy never worked. Never. Therefore, to compensate for the failure to produce the desired results in the field, the Kennedy administration soon created something quite extraordinary—a giant lying machine . . . that not only systematically rejected all pessimistic reports from the field, and punished those who tried to tell the truth, but created its own illusion of victories and successes, victories and successes that never existed.” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

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Just wait until the next one

February 3rd, 2017 · No Comments

“Perhaps all wars are in some way or another the product of miscalculations. But Korea was a place where almost every key decision on both sides turned on a miscalculation . . . . in the single greatest miscalculation of the war, MacArthur decided to go all the way to the Yalu because he was sure the Chinese would not come in . . . . Mao believed that the political purity and revolutionary spirit of his men greatly outweighed America’s superior weaponry (and its corrupt capitalist soul) and so, after an initial great triumph in the far North, had pushed his troops too far south, taking horrendous losses in the process. . . . Chinese entry into the war had a profound and long-lasting effect on how Americans looked at the issue of national security. It gave the utmost push forward to the vision embodied in NSC 68. It greatly increased the Pentagon’s influence and helped convert the country toward far more of a national security state than it had previously been, so increasing the forces driving that dynamic that in ten years Dwight Eisenhower, in his farewell speech as president, would warn of a ‘military-industrial complex.’ ” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

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From here to eternity

February 2nd, 2017 · No Comments

“People say that life is short, but it isn’t short, it’s very long. When you make a mistake, you have to live with it for the rest of your life.” – Frank Abagnale (author of Catch Me If You Can)

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Getting it straight

February 1st, 2017 · No Comments

“The presence or absence of profit opportunities, not the presence or absence of freedom, is what has traditionally determined American policy toward other regimes.” – George Scialabba, “Gag Rule”

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The blood is always red

January 31st, 2017 · No Comments

“At the most forward edge of Love Company was the Second Platoon, commanded by Lieutenant Gene Takahashi of Cleveland, Ohio. Takahashi—Tak, not Gene, to his men— had, as a Japanese-American, spent part of his World War II boyhood in an internment camp in California. Impressed by the exploits of the famed, highly-decorated all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team in Europe—many of whom had come out of the internment camps—and, like them, eager to prove his devotion to his country, he had in 1945 at seventeen volunteered for the United States Army. The only rule given him by his parents when he asked their permission was that he was to do nothing that might disgrace the Takahashi name. He was an unusual officer in an unusual unit—a Japanese-American commanding a platoon of all-black troops. For though the Army was technically desegregated, there were still some all-black units in the early months of the Korean War. The performance of all-black units at that moment, as the Army was changing so quickly, was often uneven, based on who their officers were, whether they were white, and whether they tried to hardass their troops. Takahashi thought his troops were good men and good soldiers. A few were resistant to direct orders, and tone was always important, but if anything, commanding them made him aware of the nuances involved, a sense on occasion that some orders needed to be explained, and he was sure that this had made him a better officer.” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

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It hurts so good

January 30th, 2017 · No Comments

“All of us living in Judeo-Christian or Islamic cultures have imbibed from infancy a conception of sexuality—and desire more generally—as dangerous and destructive unless strictly controlled, of repression and self-sacrifice as indispensable virtues. Movements that  encourage us to fulfill our desires are bound to arouse conflicting emotions, to intensify people’s yearnings for freedom and pleasure, but also their anxiety and guilt about such primal rebellion. An outpouring of social experiment and innovation liberates creative energies, but also rage—at oppression, at losses of status and privilege, at the sources of anxiety and confusion. Cultural radical demands immediately question and disrupt existing social institutions, yet building democratic alternatives is a long-term affair: this leaves painful gaps in which men and women don’t know how to behave with each other, in which marriage can no longer provide a stable environment for children but it’s not clear what to do instead. Is it really surprising that cultural revolution should cause conflict?” – Ellen Willis, “Escape from Freedom”

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January 22nd, 2017 · No Comments

“To be a hero, you only had to be brave for a moment … But to be a coward was to embark on a career that lasted a lifetime … Being a coward required pertinacity, persistence, a refusal to change – which made it, in a way, a kind of courage.” – Julian Barnes, The Noise of Time

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They’d’ve seen it coming if they’d’ve looked

January 21st, 2017 · No Comments

“It was on the night of November 25 [1950] that the Chinese finally struck. Rarely has so large an army had such an element of surprise against its adversary. The Chinese had precise intelligence on the Americans, and the Americans on the [Korean] west coast—the Marines on the east were shrewder and better led—were essentially blind to the trap they had walked into. When the Chinese hit, it became clear that what had driven MacArthur’s forces was not so much a strategy as a bet—that the Chinese would not come in. The bet had been called, and other men would now have to pay for that terrible arrogance and vainglory.” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

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They warned us but we wouldn’t listen

January 20th, 2017 · No Comments

“Of the American military miscalculations of the twentieth century, Douglas MacArthur’s decision to send his troops all the way to the Yalu stands alone. (Vietnam was a political miscalculation and the chief architects of it were civilians.) All sorts of red flags were there for him, flags that he chose not to see. So it was that his troops, their command split, their communications often dangerously weak, the weather worsening by the day, pushed north, while the Chinese watched and patiently waited for them on the high hills, already preparing to block the narrow arteries of retreat or escape. . . . Of the many professional sins of which Douglas MacArthur was guilty at that moment, including hubris and vanity, none was greater than his complete underestimation of his enemy.” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter (emphasis in original)

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Nobody’s fool

January 19th, 2017 · No Comments

“In 1949, Josef Stalin was the dominant figure in the entire Communist world. He had controlled Russia for more than a quarter of a century. Of the leading architects of the Russian Revolution, he was the last one standing. Others might have been more brilliant, more charismatic, better speakers, more original strategists, but he was the greatest apparatchik of them all, the man who seemed to understand best the single enduring truth of that particular revolution: that when it came to the consolidation of power—sustaining it, and making sure that no one did to you what you had just done to your enemies—ideas did not matter much, but police power did. In the world as Stalin knew it, you were either the hunter or the hunted. He survived and succeeded because he was the one with the fewest illusions (and perhaps the greatest paranoia), the man who understood best when stage one of the revolution was over and stage two—the consolidation of power—had begun. He was the one who broke the system down to its most elemental truth: there were enemies everywhere, and you removed them not only before they struck at you, but before they even grasped that they were your enemy. It was his greatest strength, the sheer darkness of his soul, that he understood this more quickly than others, and pursued it more cold-bloodedly, with fewer restraints.” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

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One of a kind love affair

January 18th, 2017 · No Comments

“In World War I [General Douglas MacArthur] had worn riding breeches, a turtleneck sweater, and a four-foot scarf—‘the fighting dude,’ his men called him. He did not merely seek the limelight, he had an addiction to it. He was aware of camera positioning, always making sure that his famous jaw jutted at just the right angle for photographs. Indeed, as he grew older, not only did his staff censor all news photos, ensuring that nothing insufficiently heroic went out, but they tried to impose certain ground rules for camera angles. Not only was he to be shot, if at all possible, from the right side, but one Stars and Stripes photographer had been under orders to shoot the general while kneeling himself, in order to make him look more majestic. He always wore his battered old campaign hat. It was his trademark, and no photographer was ever allowed to show that he was partially bald, and working on what would be known eventually as a major comb-over.” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

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The place to be

January 17th, 2017 · No Comments

“The artist believes in the future because he lives in the future.” – Modest Mussorgsky (quoted by David Dubal in The Essential Canon of Classical Music)

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Look behind you

January 16th, 2017 · No Comments

“I’m always more intrigued with the story no one is telling than the story everyone is telling.” – Liz Ann Sonders, Senior Vice President, Chief Investment Strategist, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.

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No trespassing

January 15th, 2017 · No Comments

“In the premodern world, control reached to points and the lines connecting them; there simply was not enough prevention of motion to go around to cover an entire plane and bring it all under control. In the modern world, this changed, and the topology was inverted: control reached everywhere, and only isolated points were left for motion, that is, not controlled from a center.” – Reviel Netz, Barbed Wire

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No pasaran

January 14th, 2017 · No Comments

“Define, on the two-dimensional surface of the earth, lines across which motion is to be prevented, and you have one of the key themes of history.” – Reviel Netz, Barbed Wire

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The one right thing

January 13th, 2017 · No Comments

“Inchon was to be Douglas MacArthur’s last great success, and his alone. It was a brilliant, daring gamble. It surely saved thousands of America lives just as he predicted. He had fought for it almost alone against the doubts of the principal Navy planners and very much against the wishes of the Joint Chiefs. Inchon was Douglas MacArthur at his best: audacious, original, unpredictable, thinking outside the conventional mode, and of course, it would turn out, very lucky as well. It was why two presidents, who had grave personal and professional reservations about him, had held on to him nonetheless. ‘There was one day in MacArthur’s life when he was a military genius: September 15, 1950,’ wrote his biographer Geoffrey Perret. ‘In the life of every great Commander there is one battle that stands out above all the rest, the supreme test of generalship that places him among the other military immortals. For MacArthur that battle was Inchon.’ ” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

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The power of persuasion

January 12th, 2017 · No Comments

“The battle had been hard on his platoon, and [Sergeant] Piazza had fought in a rage . . . . There had been a young man named Ronnie Taylor, barely eighteen, an enlistee from Oakland, Mississippi, whom Piazza felt it was his sacred duty to protect because he was so young, and here he was with a gaping wound in his chest, pleading with Piazza, ‘Don’t let me die! Don’t let me die! You’ve got to get me out of here!’ Piazza had assured him they were trying, but he knew that no one was going to make it off the hill during that fight, and so Piazza had fired and fired while cradling Taylor in his arms, listening to his last gasps of life. In his own words, he snapped at that point, grabbed his M-1 and charged down at some advancing North Koreans, screaming out the name of one of the men in his squad who had died with each burst of fire. How men—himself included—reacted to combat like this, how some were overwhelmed by it and some could handle it, fascinated him. One of his men had received what to Piazza’s eye seemed like a rather minor wound, only a flesh wound really, but he had unraveled and kept insisting, ‘I’m going to die’—and he did. Such was the strange psychology of war, Piazza thought. The soldier had talked himself into dying.” – David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter

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