Belleville vet recounts Korea: 'It was a crappy war'

News-DemocratAugust 5, 2013 

Sixty years ago, when the armistice between South Korea and North Korea stopped the fighting and troops withdrew to designated areas to create a demilitarized zone, Art Hock of Belleville was one of those men moving back.

He was a 19-year-old sergeant in the U.S. Marines, a machine gun section leader who spent about a year in Korea. As he was carrying his machine gun, a photographer for the Navy Times shot his picture and it appeared in an August issue of the newspaper.

The photo caption mentioned that there was little cheering as the men withdrew from ground they had defended.

"We were leaving the main line of resistance," Hock said. "We moved back about 1,000 meters or so and began digging new emplacements."

Hock said they didn't see much of the press up at the front lines. It just happened that a photographer was taking pictures of the withdrawal.

"He took my name and outfit and sent me the paper," Hock said.

The men were glad the fighting was over, but they certainly weren't excited about moving backward. After all, they spent so much time fighting their way up and down hills in the rugged terrain that moving backward didn't seem right.

And they might have been a little uneasy about how effective the stop to the fighting was going to be.

"The bad part about it is that 10 to 15 minutes before the truce began, a buddy next to me got killed." Hock said. "It was a crappy war."

He came home where no one really knew how to react to their returning soldiers. It was not like World War II with big victory parades.

"It took everyone a long time to realize it was a war, not a police action," he said. "A heck of a lot of men got killed over there."

The U.S. Department of Defense lists more than 36,000 killed with more than 8,000 missing in action.

Hock said not only was the terrain terrible, but the weather was awful. Temperatures would range from way below zero to 115 degrees Fahrenheit, and that was during monsoon season when it rained and rained, he said.

"Sometimes the heat was worse than the cold," he said.

He came home around the first of February in 1954 with cold weather. By the middle of the summer it was 115 in St. Louis.

"I brought the crappy weather home with me," he said.

Have a column idea? Call Wally at 239-2506 or 800-642-3878; or email: wspiers@bnd.com

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