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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Harold Updyke, WWII veteran and member of the 328th Infantry Regiment, sits in his Strasburg home, holding a framed display of medals he received in the war. Rich Cooley/Daily


Harold Updyke

  • Hometown: Strasburg
  • Current residence: Strasburg
  • Birth date: Jan. 20, 1923
  • Branch of service: U.S. Army
  • Time period of service:
  • Date enlisted: Feb. 25, 1943
  • Dates overseas: Sept. 7, 1944, 170 days of combat
  • Date service ended: Nov. 30, 1945
  • Rank: Staff sergeant
  • Conflict served in: World War II
  • Locations of military service: France; Belgium; Luxembourg; Germany; Austria; Czechoslovakia
  • Battles/campaigns involved in: Battle of France; Battle of the Bulge; Battle of the Rhineland and Central Europe
  • Medals or service pins: Double cluster Bronze Star; Good Conduct Medal; African, Mideastern Service Ribbon; American Theater Service Ribbon; World War II Victory Ribbon; Occupation of Germany Ribbon; Presidential Citation; Presidential Group Citation
  • Special duties: Observer for 81 mm trench mortar, in charge of 16 men

Updyke looks over WWII memorabilia in his Strasburg home. Rich Cooley/Daily

Veteran Harold R. Updyke holds a copy of the "History of the 328th Infantry Regiment," the unit he was a member of during World War II. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Carolyn Keister Baker -- Daily Staff Writer

STRASBURG--In the fall of 1942, Harold R. Updyke of Strasburg set out for New York City to join the Merchant Marines. The country was embroiled in World War II, and Updyke had high hopes of going to Sheepshead Bay, the U.S. Maritime Service Training Center.

"I knew I would get a good place to sleep and three square meals," says Updyke, now 85.

But Updyke never went to officer training school with the Merchant Marines: The day he received his commission papers, Updyke also was sent his draft papers — a turn of events that would make Updyke's World War II journey anything but comfortable.

Updyke was drafted into the 328th Infantry Regiment of the 26th Yankee Division under Gen. George Patton's celebrated 3rd Army. The unit saw its first battle casualties by enemy fire on Oct. 7, 1944, Updyke recalls.

"Getting out of a hole and walking towards the enemy — it took a lot of courage," Updyke says. "I didn't have to do that very often."

The regiment saw fierce fighting.

On Nov. 11, 1944, the men saw some of their bloodiest combat. For three days, the regiment was under fire in woods outside of Dieuze, France, a place they called the "Woods of Hell."

"The unit received a lot of shell fire," Updyke says. "There was continuous shelling for three days."

Many saved themselves by piling logs over their slit trench and then packing dirt on top, Updyke says.

On Nov. 15, when the infantry reached its objective, they moved on.

"We would take these little towns along the woods. If they put up much resistance, we would stay until we cleaned them out. We kept going until we hit resistance."

First in France then in Belgium and Luxembourg, the infantry eventually moved back into France before advancing on to Germany, south along Czechoslovakia's border with Austria and then north to Czechoslovakia.

The infantry fought in the Battle of France, the Battle of the Bulge, the Battle of the Rhineland and in Central Europe.

Updyke's orders, first as a gunner and later as an 81-mm mortar observer, helped protect him from being mortally wounded by enemy fire, Updyke believes.

As an observer, Updyke and the others would receive orders from the company commander to shell a certain spot. The observers would use maps to figure out the angle, he says. The observers took turns. Updyke was on the front lines with a rifle company about every 48 hours.

"As soon as you opened the radio, they zeroed in on you. If you stayed every day you were bound to get it," Updyke says.

The regiment also fought in heavy combat at the Siegfried line in Germany.

"We lost a battalion commander. My company commander got hit," Updyke says. "I was with him when it happened."

The commander was killed from direct fire from a tank. "He walked into it unexpectedly. I happened to be under a shelf of rock with my radio operator. His radio operator was killed with him."

While in Austria going into Czechoslovakia, the 328th Infantry Regiment was the easternmost infantry going into the European Theater of Operation.

"We were out there by ourselves with the 11th Armored," Updyke says.

The infantry mopped up on the side road as the 11th Armored took the main highway. "We got ahead of our supplies and they cut our rations," Updyke remembers.

There were no cigarettes.

"No cigarettes bothered [the soldiers] more than the [low supply of] food," Updyke recalls. Some backtracked along the road to pick up cigarette butts, he says.

Updyke and other soldiers in the infantry faced harsh weather conditions as they trudged all over Europe.

"You had to stand and stomp all the time. You just had to keep moving," Updyke says.

Whenever Updyke received a new set of clothing, he would put on new clothes and wear the worn clothes over the top. One spare pair of socks was placed in his belt next to his body to dry them, he says.

Updyke, like so many other soldiers, suffered from trench foot. Updyke's right foot became frozen and so infected he was sent to a hospital in Paris in December 1944 for treatment.

Updyke saw many soldiers suffering from trench foot, with one or both feet propped up on pillows. The next day, he saw about half of the same men with stumps, their feet gone.

Updyke feared he would be next, but he was among the lucky.

The horrors of war were never far away.

One of his fellow soldiers picked up an abandoned boot, a boot in good condition and with many more hours of marching left in it.

"[The boot] had a foot in it," Updyke recalls.

In Austria, Updyke's division liberated the concentration camp at Gusen in May 1945.

Prisoners at Gusen were forced to build a complex underground system of tunnels "that connected to mammoth subterranean installations for aircraft production," according to the Web site of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. As U.S. soldiers neared, the SS troops planned to collapse the tunnels with the prisoners inside, but the 26th Infantry and 11th Armored prevented the horror, it reads.

The starving prisoners were overcome by their arrival, Updyke recalls. Sadly, some were so malnourished that they died after eating solid food given to them by the soldiers, he says.

The soldiers were suffering, too.

"You eventually got worn out. You would go to sleep standing up sometimes."

When soldiers could not stand the stress any longer, they would receive treatment for combat fatigue, Updyke says. They were knocked out for three days, and sent back into combat.

Some soldiers shot themselves. Others stole morphine from packs of medics who died in combat. "It was the only dope you ever heard of over there," Updyke says.

"I don't think I had sense enough to let it bother me," Updyke recalls about the stress. "You just steel yourself to do it. You get so worn out you just don't care what happens. You are so worn out and the rain running down your back, it puts you in another frame of mind."

One of Updyke's most vivid memories while he was serving was Patton's arrival to see the famous

Lipizzan horses, which had been

rescued and secretly removed from Vienna to St. Martin.

Updyke was a member of the honor guard formed to greet the general. Many preparations were made for his arrival, and the honor guard practiced its routine.

But when Patton arrived and stepped out to be greeted by the honor guard, the lieutenant in charge, in awe of Patton, froze, and said not a word, Updyke says. Someone else in the honor guard had presence of mind to call out the orders, and the rest of the ceremony went without a hitch, he says. "Three or four old men hollered attention," Updyke explained.

"I wouldn't be able to say anything myself. He finally came out of it," Updyke says.

Updyke only saw Patton one other time during the war. "Patton presented quite a figure," he says.

The 328th Infantry Regiment was in combat for a total of 210 days. Updyke fought in combat for about 170 days because of his hospital stay. He endured two months of straight combat from Oct. 6 to Dec. 14 in 1944.

After the war ended, Updyke headed back to the states, volunteering to board a ship that was overloaded. Even the voyage back home ended up being an eventful trip.

A seam broke in the ship and ruined the food, Updyke says. "We had hard-boiled eggs for two days."

In their sleeping quarters there was nothing but a floor. Updyke, along with a friend, took the floor beneath the stairwell. Good thing they did because a storm hit and tossed the ship. Some soldiers got sick. "It kept debris from falling on us."

When the ship finally arrived, "we bobbed around Boston Harbor for 24 hours," Updyke says. Happily, "a barge came out with a swing band. I was darn glad to get back."

* Contact Carolyn Baker at cbaker@nvdaily.com

Scott holds his Army of Occupation medal. Rich Cooley/Daily


Billy J. Scott

  • Hometown: Marlow, Okla.
  • Current residence: Boyce
  • Birth date: July 5, 1933
  • Branch of service: U.S. Army National Guard
  • Time period of service:
  • Date enlisted: late January 1950
  • Dates overseas: April 1, 1951, to June 11, 1952
  • Date service ended: late January 1953
  • Rank: Sergeant
  • Conflict served in: Korean War
  • Locations of military service: Camp Polk, La.; Island of Hokkaido, Chitose and Camp Crawford, Japan; Jamestown line, Chorwon Valley and Iron Triangle, Korea
  • Medals or service pins: Combat Infantryman's Badge; Korean Service Medal, with two campaign stars; The Army of Occupation Medal -- Japan; National Defense Service Medal; United Nations Service Medal; Army Good Conduct Medal; 50th Korean War Anniversary Year 2000 medallion presented by the Korean ambassador
  • Special duties: Infantry 60 mm mortar squad leader

Korean War Veteran Billy J. Scott, of Boyce, a U.S. Army infantryman, displays an array of medals from his military service. Scott is currently commander of the Shenandoah Valley Chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association. Rich Cooley/Daily

Billy Scott answers questions during an interview. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Carolyn Keister Baker -- Daily Staff Writer

BOYCE--Billy J. "Bill" Scott was only 16 years old when he joined the Oklahoma National Guard.

"I lied about my age," said Scott, now a Boyce resident. "There wasn't much for [us] farm boys to [do to] make money. I joined and then told my folks. My dad raised hell. [My mother] was heartbroken."

Five of his high school classmates joined too. But none of them, including Scott, understood how their decision to join the National Guard would dramatically change their lives or how quickly they would have to develop into young men.

Not longer after, on June 25, 1950, war broke out in Korea and the Oklahoma National Guard was mobilized by President Harry S. Truman.

Because Scott lied about his age and had not received permission from his parents, he could have been relieved of his obligations.

"I talked them into letting me stay in," Scott recalled, noting the country was instituting the draft anyway. "I convinced them I would rather go with the boys that I knew. They finally let me go, and signed the papers."

"Sometimes I wished I hadn't done that," Scott lamented. "[Being in] combat is no place for a young boy to grow up."

As part of the 45th Infantry Division, Scott was in charge of four men as the leader of a 60 mm mortar squad.

"We debarked at Inchon, South Korea. They loaded us on some trucks and took us below Seoul," Scott said.

From there, the soldiers took a train north about 20 miles to south of the war zone. Then they rode on trucks to an assembly area.

"We were there in the staging area for a week, and then went on the front lines," Scott said.

The 45th relieved the 1st Cavalry Division at the Jamestown Line, the main line of resistance between North and South Korea.

"We were all babes in the woods," Scott said. "We knew what to expect but when it actually happened, it was like someone throwing cold water in your face. This is the real thing."

"Sometimes the Chinese penetrated the area and broke the lines and had to be driven out of our line back over to their side," Scott said. "We had trench lines and they had trench lines. A lot of dancing took place in the valley in no man's land."

The hills in the Yokkok River Valley were strategic military positions, Scott explained. Each of these hills was named, each still vivid in Scott's mind, including "Old Baldy," "Pork Chop," "Hill 200," "Hassakol," "Hill 234," "Alligator Jaws," "T-bone" and "Outpost Eerie."

"If we were on patrol, I would be up front with the riflemen," Scott said.

If the soldiers were getting a lot of fire, Scott would direct mortars on the enemy target.

"You have to have a great feel for distance," he explained.

The first mortar would be fired for plotting and then the next round would be adjusted for the target, he says.

"My squad was very lucky. We only lost one man, the assistant gunner, to injury," Scott recalled. "We were on the front lines. We were getting mortars in on us and we were hunkered down. [The assistant gunner] and another guy were hunkered down and were hit right on the bunker. It dazed the other boy."

There were many harrowing moments.

One night in the early spring of 1952, Scott volunteered to go on combat patrol to bring in a prisoner. The ice was melting from winter and the men were moving down an irrigation ditch, with Scott at the rear.

On this particular mission, the soldiers were to engage the Chinese coming off Pork Chop, about 40 yards away.

For hours the soldiers lay in wait in the irrigation ditch with no sounds or signs of the enemy.

Then suddenly, Scott on the left flank heard "water splashing and something in the water. It was getting closer and closer."

Scott tapped his rifle three times with his ammunition clip.

"That meant there was something coming from the left and to be ready," he explained. "I kept listening to the sound and it kept coming closer and closer. I eased off my safety to fire and sort of eased around facing down this irrigation ditch. I kept looking and looking and my heart was about to jump out of my shirt."

Then all at once, in a sudden commotion, something ran up his leg and an owl flew into his face. All he could surmise was that an owl was stalking a rat in the irrigation ditch.

"It was a wonder I didn't fire my rifle. I tapped once that all was clear. It was quite an exciting moment," Scott said.

There was no action that night but when the patrol got back to its quarters, the others asked what "in the heck was going on over there." From then on, the others teased Scott about that night and called him "rat boy."

Scott recalled another night in February 1952 during Operation Chicago when he was involved in an assault on Hassakol.

"We were supporting the assault company. We were on the right flank," Scott said. "We were called in to the fray. When it was time to pull back, we were protecting them while they withdrew. The Chinese came down the trenches and put pressure on us."

When the Chinese started to rush the support company, a soldier named Jack drove them back using a Browning Automatic Rifle, saving the others.

"A mortar hit right beside him, and we lost him," Scott recalled. "A couple of boys went running in and brought him back. He is one of our brothers."

"There is a bond you can't break. We will be brothers for the rest of our lives," Scott said.

Jack was awarded the Silver Star posthumously, Scott said.

"He was from Oklahoma. He was married with two little girls."

Still painful are the images of the bodies of the soldiers who didn't make it, Scott said.

On his trip home, Scott sailed aboard the General Wiegel, which took the troops from Japan to San Francisco, making its way under the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge "was awesome," Scott said.

Scott took the remainder of the trip home by train to Fort Sill, near Lawton, Okla. One of his friends, Joe Hogan, with whom Scott grew up, waited at the station with Scott's family. Scott had sent word home by telegram that he would be aboard the yellow car.

From the train, Scott could see Hogan waiting for him. Scott, waving from the doorway of the train car, tossed his duffel bag at Hogan.

"I knocked him head over heels. I felt so bad," Scott said.

But even the rush of remorse could not dampen the joy of coming home.

ON TUESDAY: A Strasburg man serves under Gen. George Patton.

* Contact Carolyn Keister Baker at cbaker@nvdaily.com


Col. Bill Hammack meets President Ronald Reagan. While working at the Pentagon, Hammack served on Reagan's inaugural committee. COURTESY PHOTO


Bill Hammack

  • Hometown: Front Royal
  • Current residence: Front Royal
  • Birth date: Feb. 18, 1936
  • Branch of service: U.S. Marine Corps
  • Time period of service:
    • Date enlisted: Sept. 1957
    • Dates overseas: 1962, 1967-68, 1971, 1976-80
    • Date service ended: June 1988
  • Rank: Colonel
  • Conflict served in: Vietnam War
  • Locations of military service: Camp Lejeune, N.C.; Trenton, N.J.; Okinawa, Japan; Charleston, S.C.; Fort Sill, Okla.; Camp Carroll, South Vietnam; Hawaii; Marine Corps headquarters, Washington
  • Medals or service pins: Sea Service Deployment Ribbon; Vietnam Service Medal, with two stars; National Defense Service Medal; Defense Superior Service Medal; Joint Service Commendation; Combat Action Ribbon; Navy Commendation Unit; Vietnam Campaign Medal, with one star; Presidential Unit Citation

Ret. Marine Col. Bill Hammack stands in his Front Royal home during a recent interview. Alan Lehman/Daily


Col. Bill Hammack and Sgt. Maj. Ted McClintock met at Camp Lejeune. McClintock died in Vietnam. COURTESY PHOTO

By Jessica Wiant --
Daily Staff Writer

Some things stay with you forever.

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Col. Bill Hammack remembers his fear of ground fire when, as a major with a young family, he arrived in South Vietnam at Da Nang for the first time.

"The first time going in you're thinking about the ground fire and everything. It's just a psychological thing," he said.

He remembers that from Da Nang, in the northernmost region of South Vietnam -- the region deemed I Corps -- he went on to Dong Ha.

It was at Dong Ha, Hammack remembers, that he first realized that he was mortal.

"When I arrived in Dong Ha ... I got off the military airplane and there were body bags, I don't know how many, and I'll never forget," he said.

"You want to survive, you want those close to you to survive, but ... you accept your mortality," he said.

Hammack grew up in the Northern Shenandoah Valley and attended Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock.

"I think I always tended toward the military thing," he said during an interview at his Front Royal home.

Hammack always revered the Marine Corps as the best. In his eyes, the Marines offered the complete package.

After graduating from the College of William and Mary, which he attended on a football scholarship, he started at the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in September 1957.

At times he's wondered if he would have gone the same route if there hadn't been the pressure of the military draft, but today he thinks he would have done it regardless.

"If it were today, I'd be going to OCS next month, I think," he said.

The school was a yearlong strenuous physical and mental challenge, Hammack said. Instructors strip candidates of everything, he explained, and build them back as Marines.

"You emerge as indestructible, some kind of superman," he said.

Even though Hammack had it in mind to become a Marine, it wasn't until he completed Officer Candidate School that he decided to make a career as one. Even then, he tried the civilian side of life in the Reserve for about a year, and after that, he said, he knew.

In the years that followed he served at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and in Okinawa, Japan, where he also was a football coach.

When the United States went to war in Vietnam, Hammack was in Charleston, S.C. He volunteered to go.

As a career officer, it was expected.

"That's what it's all about," he said. "I didn't join to see the world, I joined to be a Marine."

Even after four decades have gone by, Hammack can explain the terrain around Camp Carroll, where he was stationed in the I Corps region of South Vietnam, as well as if he was giving directions to his home.

After stopping first in Da Nang and then at Dong Ha, Camp Carroll was where Hammack would spend first a month, then another month, followed by six consecutive months, during 1967 into 1968.

From Camp Carroll, an area called the Rockpile was located to the west. Further on was Khe Sanh, the site of one of the symbolic battles of the Vietnam War, Hammack said.

Mountains were in front of Camp Carroll, he explained, and the Cam Lo River was not far away.

"Vietnam was hot, humid, but it was beautiful," Hammack recalled. "That was the dichotomy of beauty and death."

During his time in Vietnam, Hammack was one of only a few fire support coordinators. His assignment was with the 3rd Marine Regiment. His job was to coordinate gunfire, flights and other operations between all branches -- artillery, air and naval -- to prevent U.S. troops from hurting each other.

"If there's a mistake, you have a .45 to shoot yourself," he said.

Nevertheless, Hammack didn't face as much danger as those in the infantry. He never saw "eyeball-to-eyeball" combat, he said.

Early in his career, Hammack tried to switch into a military occupational specialty that would put him in more of a combat role, but it never worked.

"I really wanted to be an infantry guy," he said.

He doesn't consider himself a hero, either.

"I thank people I was able to serve," he said. "It was more of a privilege for me to serve. It is a privilege to serve, I think."

Hammack, who only retired from the Marine Corps in 1988, has a sharp mind and body.

He exercises two to three hours a day, he said. He has a scrapbook full of photos and documents, highlights of his career, and other pictures and mementos adorn the walls of his Front Royal home.

Still, some things are lost with time.

He cannot remember the exact date he arrived in Vietnam, or the kind of aircraft he was riding on the journey from Dong Ha to Camp Carroll. He does not remember much about the food he ate, other than it most often came in a can.

But other things stick out in his mind.

Whereas others serving in Vietnam might have gone a month without the luxury of a shower, Hammack and others at Camp Carroll had one rigged up. Tugging on a chain brought a much-appreciated stream of cold water.

Work days lasted 18 to 20 hours, and the time for sleep was usually from 2 or 3 a.m. to 6 a.m., he recalled.

And he remembers the day that there was cottage cheese in the mess hall. It wasn't something common in the less-civilized region where Camp Carroll was located, according to Hammack.

"We were out there," he said. "I'll never forget it."

After his deployment to Vietnam ended, Hammack came home to a different kind of danger.

Returning to the states, Hammack's first destination was San Francisco, where anti-war protesters abounded.

"They were everywhere, they hated us," he said. "It was just a bad, bad time.

"I really felt safer in Vietnam than I did in San Francisco. I was afraid to leave my room."

Hammack spent the next several years stationed in Hawaii. It was there, safely away from the rocket fire, that what was happening in Vietnam affected him the most.

About a year after Hammack left Camp Carroll, a dear friend, Sgt. Maj. Ted McClintock, who he first met at Camp Lejeune, was killed in Vietnam.

It was a hard day, Hammack said, and one of the only events from his military career that is emotional and difficult to talk about.

McClintock took Hammack under his wing when they met, and they became very close, Hammack explained.

Before leaving for Vietnam, McClintock visited Hammack in Hawaii -- and even after saying their goodbyes, McClintock showed back up at Hammack's doorstep so they could spend his last evening together, Hammack remembered.

"Maybe he had a feeling," Hammack said, tears in his eyes.

He was unable to attend McClintock's funeral, and for that reason, he said he's never felt closure about the death of his friend.

"I still don't know he's dead."

Hammack went on to serve in many other areas, in many other roles, after his time in Vietnam.

His career, he said, is not defined by his time at war. It might have been more intense, he said, but it was less than a year of a 31-year career as a Marine.

For a time, he was stationed at Marine Corps headquarters in Washington. He served on the inaugural committee of President Reagan -- a president that, he believes, immediately boosted morale and support for the military.

Today Hammack keeps in touch with many of his comrades, and sees support for a military that he believes is stronger, smarter, more dedicated and more fit.

"I think the people who are presently serving are phenomenal," he said. "I never knew we had that kind of people. I'm a colonel, and I'm still in awe of these guys, and they make me proud, and they make me wish I could be that when I grow up," he said with a laugh.

After a full career, though, the loss of his friend McClintock still haunts Hammack.

"I'm going to have to go out there and go to the grave site ... So my career's not over," he said.

NEXT WEEK: A young farm boy sees action in Korea as a National Guardsman.

* Contact Jessica Wiant at jwiant@nvdaily.com