Willard Hamill's Boomerang Remembrances
as Published in Watch on the Rhine
During mid-June 1953 in Korea I was PFC Willard D. Hamill of Company F, 7th Infantry Regiment, and I have
been asked by Major Lewis Hotelling, Retired to write about my experiences on Boomerang and especially about
the June battles. The Watch issue of October 1999, page 19, has background information. Then 2nd Lt.
Hotelling was my platoon leader, and recent conversations with him have reminded me that I was a
member of the first patrol he led into no mans land. Those patrols were always at night, and the leader had
a snooper scope mounted on a carbine for night vision purposes. Nothing eventful happened on this patrol,
but I remember one during which we spotted an enemy patrol and called in mortar fire on them.
Both Ernie Clifford (mentioned in the above article) and I were members of the 3rd Squad, 2nd Platoon of
Fox Company. My assignment was assistant BAR man for William K. Brown, and our fighting position was the
first bunker to the right of the company tank. It was a 5' X 5' prefab bunker with a deep trench leading out
to the main trench running the length of the reverse slope of the MLR.
The night of June 14, 1953 started out quietly, as did most nights up to that point. At around 2300 hours we
received intense artillery fire estimated at 17,000 rounds, according to news accounts in the division
newspaper, The Rock of the Marne. I vividly remember at times the sound was so deafening that it sounded
like one big continuous explosion. The dust was so thick it diminished the effect of our artillery and
airplane flares, which furnished much needed light, about like a high school football stadium of that era.
Some of the Chinese had advanced through their own artillery fire and were in our trenches when the
preparatory firing lifted. Not every enemy soldier had a weapon, usually a burp gun, but had to rely on
grenades until a comrade with a weapon fell. Two grenades were thrown into our bunker, one a small
fragmentation type, the other a large concussion type. Miraculously, neither exploded. Within the last month,
during our reunion in Hamilton, Ohio, I have come to the realization that neither grenade had the "pin"
pulled, or in the case of Chinese grenades, the string. These grenades had a handle for throwing
purposes out of which a string with a metal ring protruded, the ring being slipped over a finger of the
thrower. Had these strings been pulled I would not have lived to know that they existed. For almost fifty
years I had assumed that I was alive because of the poor quality of Chinese weaponry instead of the
incompetence of the enemy soldier. It is obvious that I have tried to put the war out of my life.
My BAR man, Brown, was protecting the aperture of the bunker. Suddenly he fired a burst at something just
outside. I said, "Was that a Chink?" and Brown said, "you'd better believe it". He had crawled within four
feet of us. One of the rounds must have been a tracer because the Chink's clothes ignited, and we watched
him burn for a few minutes. Suddenly, grenades under his belt exploded, hurling the body in two pieces
toward our MLR trench. Among the pictures I made after the battle I have a picture of the chest cavity
with arms and head.
While Brown was handling business through the aperture I was protecting the trench at the back of the bunker.
I saw a Chink getting ready to jump the trench just above me so I stuck my M1 out the doorway and fired
several rounds. Nothing happened, so Brown swung the BAR around and fired a burst before the body fell into
the doorway in a crouching position with his head slumped down inside the doorway of the bunker. I
decided to leave him there as a shield against shrapnel and burp gun fire. As you can imagine, this
was a harrowing experience for a 21 year old in his first major battle. I spent several hours with my face
about a foot from the face of a dead enemy soldier as I protected the rear of our fighting position. This is
the first time I have revealed this incident to anyone who was not in the war, not my parents, my wife of 34
years or my two sons.
As previously mentioned, the company tank was located only 40 to 50 feet from my fighting position. During
the heat of battle the tank motor started and the tank backed down from its position all the way to the
bottom of the hill, crushing the tank commander's new jeep in the process. Years later I learned that one of
the crewmembers went berserk and had to be evacuated off the line. Kind of makes a foot soldier wonder if
the battle is getting too hot for a tank.
Item Company and King Company, I believe, counterattacked (see Watch article December 1999, page
23) and drove the enemy out of our position by daybreak The first GI I saw said he was McIntire of
Item Company. He was obviously wearing a helmet instead of the cheap appearing caps worn by the enemy.
The Second Platoon took 42 casualties out of 56 men, as I recall, in just several days of fighting, and I
became squad leader of the Third Squad. After a week or so off the line for replacements I was assigned
around seven or eight men from the States to go along with the two ROK troops who survived. We spent some
time on Jane Russell Hill and were not attacked, although there was harassment from incoming artillery
fire. Another Watch article concerning Boomerang can be found on page 14 of the December 1998 issue.
Last September my son, John and I visited Korea and the Third Division battle sites conducted by CP Tours.
We saw Boomerang, Papasan, Hill 399, and the Kumhwa Valley from about one mile away at a ROK outpost
called Crush Communism. These areas are all located within the DMZ and no one is allowed beyond the double
fenced line. John is constructing a website made up of pictures and news articles from 1953 as well as many
of the more than one thousand pictures he made last year. The address is, http://johnhamill.tripod.com.
I am a new member of the Society of the Third Infantry Division, and was unaware of its existence until last
year. Now I look forward to each issue of the Watch on the Rhine.
Willard D. Hamill
3121 King Street NE
Roanoke, VA 24012
Telephone (540) 343-9701
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