Scott holds his Army of Occupation medal. Rich Cooley/Daily
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."
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org