Authored By Capt. James A. Brettell C.O. Company A 13th
Engineer (C) Bn. Reprinted From The Association Newsletter,
By the end of the 4th of July 1953, it had been raining for 24 hours. Summer
rains there are devastating to the roads and create enourmous maintanence
problems for the supporting Engineer troops. It doesn't just rain it pours very hard
for long periods of time. It was not uncommon to schedule around the clock road
maintanence operations because the roads would wash out over night if left
unattended. The rains also created serious problems for the infantry units
defending positions all along the MLR and especially at such outposts such as
Pork Chop hill because the rain masked noises that could alert our troops of the
approach of the Chinese. Another aspect of the road maintanence problem is the
swelling of streams which normally flow at depths of only a few inches, but
which during these rains rapidly rise to depths far too deep to ford with a wheeled
or even a tracked vehicle. M-46 tanks and APCs were no match for the swift
currents of a swollen stream in the summer Korean rains.
On July 6, the Chinese, launched their last attack of the Korean War at Pork
Chop Hill under the cover of darkness and the rains. It was ferocious and
unrelenting. The 17th infantry suffered heavy casualties in the initial onslaught.
Pre-arranged counter attack plans were implemented immediately. Each of these
plans included use of "A" Company supporting engineers. A squad of engineers
were assigned to each company of the 17th and regularly practiced counter attack
procedures. The engineer troops had pre-arranged basic loads of ammunition,
satchel charges, bangalore torpedoes. mines, radios and rations that each
individual carried with him for use in the counter attack.
During these counter attacks the continuous rains complicated our routine road
maintenance operation so much that we considered the need for a Bailey bridge
over one particular stream. Normally small and fordable, this stream flowed
diagonally to the northwest crossing the only supply route to Pork Chop and on
out into "no man's land" just west of the Chop.
The 17th Infantry Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division was defending Pork
Chop and being supported by A-Company of the 13th Engineer (C) Battalion.
Early on the morning of July 7th, M/Sgt. Goudy and I conducted a
reconniassance to determine whether a Bailey bridge could be used to span the
stream. Our affirmative report to battalion headquarters set the wheels in motion.
The remainder of the story is an example of Murphy's Law in action.
Battalion quickly informed us that an engineer bridge unit normally assigned for
such a task from I Corps was not available. That meant the job would fall to "A"
Company to do in addition to their other duties. This assignment might not have
been so difficult had there been time for even a brief refresher training period of
the details of a Bailey bridge and the construction sequences so neccessary for the
job to proceed smoothly. Every engineer soldier has training in Bailey bridge
construction, but no one in Able company had even thought of a Bailey for a very
long time. However the job had to be done and the fact that our troops were
rusty on the details of the Bailey was only one of the many handicaps that would
present itself in the next 36 hours.
We all knew that a bridge panel was 5 feet by 10 feet and weighed 560 pounds,
but in a matter of minutes M/Sgt. Goudy came up with a tech manual to provide
the rest of us with the bridge details that we needed. The bridge construction had
to begin right away because the stream was rising rapidly and soon would cut off
the only re-supply capability of the 17th Infantry to move Troops,ammunition
and food to the Chop and to evacuate the wounded.
The first order of business was a recon to determine how much bridge was
needed and select the exact location. M/Sgt. Goudy and I during day light hours
moved by jeep to a location out of sight of the Chinese occupying "Old Baldy"
and prepared to move from there on foot to an area exposed to anyone who
wanted to watch us. We realized we were in sight of the Chinese on "Old Baldy"
but we hoped the rain would disguise our presence long enough for us to get our
As we approached the general location for the bridge, M/Sgt. Goudy stepped on
something that emitted a very loud "CLICK"! We both knew immediately that he
had stepped on a pressure release mine, but Goudy had the presence of mind and
the courage to stand still with his weight on his left foot so as not to release the
pressure on the switch that would detonate the mine. We stood there for what
seemed an eternity but after we caught our breath, he asked "What do I do now?"
I said "Stand still and let me think a minute." Murphy was alive and well!
It didn't take long to realize we had very few options. By this time it occurred to
me that we had been out there for a very long time. The probability of being
observed increased each minute and we were well within range of small arms fire
of the Chinese on "Old Baldy".
As I looked around I saw no resources except some boulders strewn around the
area. I thought must be something we could do with them to solve our dilemma. I
told M/Sgt. Goudy to be patient, and soldier that he was he mustered the courage
to stand perfectly still while I maneuvered loose boulders to his leg and fashioned
a parapet wall right against it. When I finished I told him I couldn't do anything
more. I said "I'll get behind that big boulder over there. Whenever you're ready ,
fall over that wall and drop to the ground as quickly as you can." In a voice
typical of his calm and confident nature, he merely said "OK". Knowing that he
was standing on an explosive charge that could take off his leg or even his life
didn't seem to faze Sgt. Goudy at all. His voice never wavered a bit! This man
We both knew this type of mine was designed to be propelled upward with a two
or three second delay before exploding, spraying fragments downward in a fan
shaped pattern. After assuring that I was in place, he took a deep breath and
jumped toward the outside of the boulders. It seemed like an eternity before we
realized that the initial explosion had propelled the mine diagonally up and away
from M/Sgt. Goudy and me so that when the mine exploded its force was nearly
horizontal in one direction and straight down in the other. Neither of us had more
then a few scratches! We assumed the mine was an M-2 Bouncing Betty. We
knew of no Chinese mine of that sort. This mine must have been planted by our
own forces at some earlier time. After recovering our breath, we realized all of
Murphy's pronouncements were bad!
In retrospect' it is difficult to understand why the Chinese didn't fire at us or
attempt to capture us from their positions on "Old Baldy". Perhaps they didn't fire
because they knew the area was mined. Perhaps they were just amusing
themselves watching and waiting for us to blow ourselves up. Perhaps they didn't
try to capture us because they had only several days earlier captured the
Columbian battalion Commander with enough documentation to cause the
burning of midnight oil at division headquarters.
What a way to start construction of a Bailey bridge!
In spite of this difficult beginning we remembered our mission. We had come to
select a site and determine the lenght required for a Bailey bridge that would
provide a life line to the troops defending Pork Chop Hill. As it turned out, it was
a good thing we performed that chore when we did because only a few hours
later the continuing rains would have made it impossible to do on foot.
Bridge trucks arrived late that afternoon with the bridging materials and we began
immediately to move components to a staging area near the bridge site. It was
here that the next example of Murphy's law confronted us. The space in the
staging area was very limited because the road to the bridge was on a side hill cut
and we had to stay behind a nose of the hill to mask our activity from a line of
sight to the Chinese. It was difficult and time consuming to maneuver the huge
trucks in such a limited space.
By dark we began the construction. We had Korean Army Soldiers, known as
KATUSA's integrated into our company. In addition we were fortunate enough to
have Korean Service Corps (KSC) personnel to assist in labor tasks. The
darkness and rain were serious handicaps for the project but soon the Chinese
started firing mortars directly into the bridge site. As if we didn't have enough
trouble, it quickly became apparent that due to the language barrier
communication with the KATUSAs and the KSC laborers was extremely
difficult.Nevertheless the unloading and assembling of the bridge continued.
Actual construction of the bridge was under way.
After constructing the first three sections of the bridge, we found that we could
no longer push the joined sections of the bridge towards the far shore with the
personnel we had available due to the rain, slick footing and intense incoming fire.
We moved a Caterpillar D-7 to the site and as sections were added to the bridge
they were rapidly pushed toward the far shore. Work halted frequently when it
was neccessary to direct the men to take cover from the intense and unrelenting
ennemy fire, which continued all night through the entire project. In one instance,
M/Sgt. Goudy ran out to the suspended end of the bridge to pick up a wounded
KATUSA and carry him back to safety. The men performed heroically time after
time, exposing themselves to deadly mortar fire and small arms fire to assemble
the bridge that was so essential to the success of the infantry mission. Casualties
occured one after the other. Yet the members of Company A as well as the
KATUSAs and KSC persisted in assembling section after section until a 60 foot
span bridged a rain swollen stream. The vital supply route was reopened by 0600
on the 7th of July.
During the night there were many trips to the Infantry Battalion aid station, not
far from the bridge site and to the rear, and we made that trip many times. On
one trip M/Sgt. Goudy himself wounded drove another soldier with him to the aid
station. After the Medics treated Goudy, they told him the other man was very
seriously wounded and would have to be moved to division level immediately.
The Doctor said that all of the ambulances were gone and ordered Goudy to take
the wounded man to Division. By the time Goudy returned, his platoon leader
was pretty grumpy about the delay until he realized Goudy was wearing a new
By the next morning July 8th, the rising stream was threatening the abutments of
the bridge, so we decided to extend the lenght of the bridge to 90 feet.
Fortunately the bridging materials were on the site and we were able to begin
work right away. Although the in coming mortar fire was threatening every
minute, we were able to reassemble the launching nose on the far shore and then
assemble additional sections on the near shore without delaying traffic for more
then two hours.
When we finally finished the additional 30 feet, we heaved a huge sigh of relief
and took stock of our assets. We had suffered 38 casualties during the previous
36 hours! There were 21 valor awards on this single operation. The job was done
in spite of Mr. Murphy and his law!
NOTE: M/Sgt. James Goudy traveled from his home in Wisconsin to Texas to
collaborate with Capt. James A. Brettell on the writing of this historical record of
the 13th Engineers. In addition Lt. Edward Larkin, also a member of A Company
at the time of this event came from Louisville to assist in preparation of this
BRONZE STAR FOR VALOR AWARDS
The Following 21 Men Of A-and H&S CO. were awarded the
Bronze Star For Valor. In addition 38 Purple Hearts were
awarded to men of A-Company who worked on this bridge.
***** CAPT. JAMES A. BRETTELL ***** LT. JOSEPH M.
McMAHON **** LT. JAMES J. DIETZ (First Oak Leaf
Cluster) ****2ND. LT. RICHARD W. WHITE **** M/SGT.
JAMES R. GOUDY **** M/SGT. JAMES SILER ****
M/SGT. HOUSTON LONG **** M/SGT. RICHARD J.
ASTRUP **** SGT. KENNETH KELLY **** SGT.
NICHOLAS TOMASINI **** CPL. WILLIAM J. WEST ****
CPL. KENNETH B. THOMAS **** PFC. JOHN KIMMEL
(First Oak Leaf Cluster) **** PFC. CHARLES A. AUSTIN
**** PFC. CHARLES DOUILLETTEE **** PFC. ARTHUR J.
LaFRANCE **** PFC. J. JONES **** PFC. JAMES B.
YORK ****PFC. MARVIN C. WARD **** PVT. TOM V.
HOWARD **** SGT. ROBERT L. HARRIS (H&S-Co).