This is a Fantastic story about serving in the Korean War.
July 23, 1951
Pottsville Soldier One of 32 Who Survived Ambush
The Republicans own personal interest in the Korean “Police Action” has returned to the United States after spending six months in the cold and muck of Korea adding his own little bit to defend democracy against any aggressor.
Joseph (Joe) T. Cescon from Pottsville, up until nine months ago the rural circulation manger of the “Republican” has returned to Indiantown Gap where he is due for probable separation from the Army.
Right after WW2 Joe spent some 18 months in the American Occupation Forces in Japan. When he was discharged he joined the reserves. When the Chinese Communist began to act up last year. Joe received a letter from the War Department telling him that he was going right back into military service.
On October 15 he recev3ed orders to report to Fort Campbell, Ky. For refresher training. He then embarked for Camp Stoneman, Cal. And in little less than a week was on his way to Japan. And eventually a period of six months in a literal “hell” dodging bullets and always wondering if the next breath he’d take would be his last.
One week of his time was spent at Camp Drake, south of Tokyo, Japan and then he travelled through the central mountains of Japan by train, bound for Sasebo, a former Japanese Naval Base. On December 29, 1950 Cescon arrived in Sasebo and the next day departed for Pusan South Korea, and the beginning of the end of many of his buddies.
For nearly a month Cescon, after reaching Pusan, was sent to Andong, S. Korea where he joined the Second Infantry Division on January 7, this unit was the reserve for the next three weeks and then received orders to the central front on January 28, nears Wonju.
In less than a week Cescon and the patrol of which he was a member had their first taste of action. Advancing toward Wonju with one light tank and two jeeps the patrol ran into an ambush of from 250 to 300 “Reds” in a hill just around a curve. “Hitting the dirt” was the by word for the men in the jeeps while the tank began to blast the Chinese from their ambushed positions in the hills. No casualties resulted from the first bit of action for the men in the group, but they found that it was just criterion of things to come.
It didn’t take long for the Second Reconnaissance Company, with which Crescon was serving to get their first real taste of fighting at the worst. From February 12 to the 17 the company suffered it worst casualties of the war, but also accounted for the death and wounding of nearly 1000 Chinese Communists. Of 110 men who entered into battle with the company only 32 survived the tremendous onslaught of the Commies.
After that terrific pummeling, the second recon group was sent back 30 miles to Chechon for replacement, regrouping and new equipment. During the one mission, the recon group lost six tanks, three personnel carriers, and from 23 to 28 jeeps.
From that time until Crescon began his trip home on June 6, the outfits which he was serving with were engaged in patrol duty the greatest majority of the time. At one time the second recon group was the only protection for the supply route serving the 23rd Infantry Division which was trapped for two days near Wonju. After saving off the second communist offensive in the spring of the year, Crescon and his outfit advanced 10 miles into North Korea, reaching the Hwachon Reservoir. The last action in which he was engaged was at Inje, four miles north of the 38th parallel.
The Division left Inje on June 4 and went into reserve once again at Hoengsong. On June 25, Cescon and his group left Korea with bitter memories, and went to Japan via ferry, landing at Sasebo June 28. Three days later the group departed from Japan and arrived at Seattle, Washington on July 11.
In his battle experiences, Joe found that on many occasions the Chinese Communists were very poorly equipped. On one banzai attack near Chipyong, a horde of Chinese swarmed over a hill. Only one half of the group had rifles, while the others were empty handed. When one of the men with a rifle would be wounded or killed, one of his buddies would take the rifle and continue the suicidal charge.
Others of the fanatical Chinese would carry a long stick on the end of which would be a box filled with ignited dynamite. This box they would hold under the tracks of a tank or Army truck, the explosion blowing up the truck or tank and also killing the fanatical soldier.
During the winter months the temperature averaged zero all day long, according to Cescon. During the night s the mercury would dip to far below zero, but during the days the temperature would climb to a warm “15 or 20” degrees above zero. It snowed practically every day thus adding to the hazards of the fighting in the mountainous central Korean front. At particular time during the winter months the group with which Cescon was serving did not see the sun for more than 21 days in a row.