The Remembrances of:
Louis L. Sullivan
Louis L Sullivan, Loader WU
No. I Cannon A Battery Cannon Co.
289th Infantry Regiment
75th Infantry Division
WWII and Korea - Dec 44
I often hear veterans speak about this time of year being sad for them, and this is true of most veterans I know. For me it's a time of remembrance. The above is in reference to the vets who were in the Belgium Bulge. I spent two Christmases in War, one in the Bulge and one in Korea. My remembrance of Korea is more detailed than that of the Bulge. I suppose it's the fact that I was older by some 5 years and had many more responsibilities.
I do remember the long trip we made to get to the Bulge; however, our trip was much more pleasant than most in our company. Our Sgt. was known as Red Dog but only to us in our section. When we had business with him, it was Sgt. Bill D. White. About the time we got orders to move to the Bulge, David Shapiro and I found a stove in this small village just a few yards from where we were dug in. We told Sgt. White about it. He thought it would be a good idea if we could get some wood for it and take it along in the truck. We didn't know where we were going but we figured it would be cold. Word went out not to let our Platoon Sgt., Vincent Tramontana, know. That might be the end of our stove. If there is such a thing a having a cozy trip in a 2-1/2 ton truck, that was one. We gathered wood and anything that would burn on breaks along the way. We even had a guest to ride with us part of the night, Capt. John F. Dempsey. How he knew that stove was in that truck we never knew. He probably saw the stove pipe sticking out the side. We had to cut a hole in the tarp to put the pipe through. Hopefully, some government official doesn't read this and after all these years charge me for a tarp for a deuce and half.
Three things happened in the Bulge that I vividly remember to this day. The loading and firing of our cannon, a German recon plane, the moon and, of course, the cold.
The second night which, if I remember correctly, was Christmas Eve, David Shapiro woke me for my two hours of guard duty. This was at 1:00 a.m. He told me be believed the weather was clearing. Before my time was up on guard, which would have been close to three, I could see just a little circle in the sky, and it got brighter and brighter until there was a full moon and everything became almost as bright as day. Having been told that if the weather ever cleared we would have air support, I couldn't wait to wake George W. Dodds to tell him the good news.
The first or second night we were there we got a fire mission, as I remember, around midnight. Being the No. 3 man, or loader, I took pride in the fact that day or night I had never missed putting that shell where it was supposed to go with enough force so that George Dodds could close that breach with very little effort. This night was different. There was confusion; there were incoming rounds; it was so dark with the fog and snow. This was combat.
The first two rounds went in perfectly, Dodds locked the breach block and fired. The next round, as I drove it forward into the breach, missed and hit the edge of the breach block with the nose of the round with a bang. Everybody stopped - dead silence around the gun while everybody waited for the explosion. Sgt. White called out, "Let's go", and the round slide into the breach block and George Dodds locked the breach block and fired at White's call, "Fire". I never missed again.
Many people who are not native to Oklahoma often say, "You have the most beautiful moon in Oklahoma'. I think, yes, just like in Belgium on a cold Christmas Eve night a long time ago.
Again on guard duty on the third night at that position, dug in just to our rear, was a battery of 155mm 164 FA Bn. They had been firing off and on all night. At about four in the morning, I heard a plane. At the time I didn't know, but learned later, it was a German Recon. Of course he was looking for the outgoing fire. He kept circling over our platoon. As he banked that plane I could see the swastika on the wing and thought I actually saw the pilot. He was very low. Later I figured that maybe seeing the pilot might have been my imagination. He did finally leave our position; moved back and found his target. It wasn't long after that the unit behind us received a barrage, and we got some of that but luckily not like they did.
These are some of the things I remember about those three days in what they now refer to as the greatest battle of World War 11, the Battle of the Bulge.
On my way back from Europe I never, in my wildest dreams, thought that in two years I would be back in the army.
In the fall of 1947, I enrolled at Northeastern State College in my home town of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, which happens to be the home of the Cherokee Indian Nation. This is where the Trail of Tears ended. Northeastern, at the time, was a teachers' college, and I didn't want to be a teacher, although I did want a college education. In early 1948, I read about USAFE, -United States Armed Forces Education, and re-enlisted in April of 1948. I went to the Second Infantry Division at Ft. Lewis, Washington. In 1949, when the army reverted to peace time status and all the services became unified instead of quarreling and being enemies with one another, all branches started cooperating. This, later in Korea, proved to be one of the greatest moves the services, up to that time, had ever put in operation. Arrived in Korea July 1950, the first fully trained and fully equipped division to land in Korea.
When we arrived in South Korea, there was very little left. We only had one choice, to dig in on the defense with no place to go except the sea.
In September of 1950, the 8th Army went on the attack and drove the North Korean Army all the way to the Yalu River. As far as we were concerned, the war was over. General McArthur, at that time, said so. He was going to have the troops home by Christmas. We only had to make one more attack which shouldn't have lasted more than 72 hours.
We started our final attack at 3:45 p.m. on the 27th of November. At the same time the Chinese counter-attacked. This night was bitterly cold, 37 below zero; however, later on in December, with the north winds blowing at 40 miles per hour, both mobility and visibility were limited by snow squalls. We now had another enemy, the bitter cold. By this time the Chinese kept pouring into North Korea and by December 7th had over one million fully trained and fully equipped troops on the attack.
People who study war, the so-called experts, say it was a miracle the 8th Army wasn't annihilated. The officers, sgts., cpls. and privates, who were there can tell you what the miracle was. It was the American soldier who, against all odds, refused to give up. It's, been called a 'policed action", the "forgotten war". It is an insult to the American soldier who served, fought and died, or were
wounded in it. It can only be described as the bloody Korean War. Almost as many GIs were killed in three years as were killed during the 14 years of fighting in Viet Nam. The division I was in, 2nd Infantry Division, had over 7000 killed in action and over 16,000 wounded. For those of us who managed to survive, we lived to see our day. That happened when Matthew B. Ridgeway, perhaps the greatest Field General the American Army has ever produced, became the Commander of the 8th Army in Korea. Upon arriving, his statement to the press was that he had come to stay. And stay he did. He turned the 8th Army in Korea into one of the best, if not the best, field army America has ever had.
Many times I have thought how did we ever survive Korea, and it goes back to War II. Most of those officers and sergeants who went to Korea had been in World War II. To go into combat with experience is a plus. I had good training. A no-nonsense Platoon Sgt. name Tramontana, who, in time of duty, believed in treating everyone the same, while at the same time expecting you to give your all. Not for him, but for the platoon. I was promoted to 1st Sgt. at the age of 25, the youngest 1st Sgt. at the time in the Division. It was people like Vincent Tramontana, my Platoon Sgt., who gave me the guidance I needed at the time, being 18 years old.
Sometime after War II, the Army dropped the mail call as we came to know it. They just left your mail, if you had any, in the orderly room or day room. Mail was not as important as before. The reason I bring this up is our most important person in our company in Europe was our mail man, Harold Shadday from Indiana, a Hoosier if there ever was one. He was our source of information about any and everything. Some said he had to have read our mail; no one could know everything. He could make you happy or make you sad. Certainly if he brought you a nice package and many letters, that's nice - no package, no letters, that's sad.
And Capt. Dempsey, our Company Commander in Europe, who talked the Brass into getting our company set up on FDC (Fire Direction Control) and using our Cannon Co. as artillery rather than what it was intended for, direct fire against the enemy, was suicide. I learned this after the war from ex-members of Cannon Companies from other units, especially those companies in the Pacific.
And to my Company Commander who was killed in Korea. Nothing is more sad than for a company to lose its Captain. He was always up front where a good officer was supposed to be. I learned much from him as a Platoon Sgt. He wasn't reckless or glory hunting. Like he always said, "Sully, you must be up front in order to know what goes on".
And my radio operator who always carried a little miniature American flag. He was so proud of our flag and was always reminding us how lucky we were to be born in America; and, as I write this, there's tears in my eyes because the last time I saw him he was charging a hill which we never captured. He, along with many others, were found dead three days later. Now, after 44 years, I proudly fly the American flag everyday, weather permitting, for him and all those others who gave their lives that I may live.
Louis L. Sullivan
- Louis Sullivan entered Army on October 7, 1943, at Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
- Arrived Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, on October 8,1943.
- Left Ft. Sill for Camp Roberts, California, on about October 14,
- Seventeen weeks basic training at Camp Roberts
- Left Camp Roberts in April for seven days leave en route to Ft. Ord, California, for assignment to Pacific theatre.
Had volunteered for the Gliders in basic training. Luckily, the day I was to ship out for the Pacific, orders caught up with me to report to Camp Howzie, Texas, for Glider training. At about the time the Advance Glider Training ended, all Gliders' training ceased. The casualty rate was so high, the Army decided to stop all training and those personnel would be sent to other units.
I went to the 75th Inf. Division which at the time was at Camp Breckenridge, Ky. We departed from, Camp Shanks, New York, for England on October 15, 1994, aboard the British Ship Franconia Crossed the channel on the SS Leopoldville which was sunk in December 1944. A friend of mine who was my neighbor and went to school with me, lost his life on this ship. He was in an Inf. Regt in the 66th Div. I knew nothing of this until I returned home after the war. Served with Cn Co 289th Inf. Regt. and after VE Day was reassigned to Camp Detroit, France, as cadre processing troops to the USA for discharge or the Pacific to fight some more.
Returned to the US in April 1946. Was honorably discharged as a Cpl. at Camp Chaffee, Ark., April 6,1946.
Awards and Medals:
Rhine Danube Medaille French, American Campaign, Good Conduct, European African Middle
Eastern Campaign Theater, 3 Battle Stars, Combat Inf. Badge.
Re-enlisted April 1948 at Tahlequah, Oklahoma, for the 2nd Div. at Ft. Lewis, Washington. Upon arriving was assigned to Hq & Hq Co. 23rd Inf. Regt.
Departed for Korea in July 1950 with 0 Co 2nd Bn, 23rd Inf. Regt
In October 1950 reassigned to Hq Co 2nd Bn 23rd Inf. as Battalion Communication Sgt
Evacuated to 35th Sta Hosp in Kyota, Japan, In Jan. 1951. Returned to my unit in Korea in March 1951.
Rotated after 13 months in August 1951 to 3075 Army Service Unit in Osaka, Japan, to which I was assigned 1st Sgt.
Rotated to Japan from Korea in August 1951. Rotated to US in October 1951 and assigned to Hq
& Hq Batt 264th Fld Artillery (Atomic) 280 as lst Sgt. at Ft. Sill until discharge in July 1954.
Total length of military service - 8 years 9 months.
Awards and Medals:
Combat Inf. Badge - 2nd award, 5 battle stars, Bronze Star, Good Conduct, Presidential Unit
Citation, Korean Service Medal, Pacific Theatre of Operations, French Unit Citation, Citation for
the Battle of Breakthrough at Chipyong-Ni.
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Copyright 2001, J. R. Puckett
Email: J. R. Puckett