Opinion

Bob Mitchell: Lasting memories of past Decembers

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

There are a number of memories of Decembers past that will always stay with me so long as I live.

This is probably surprising to some people, but none of them include quail hunting, although they could easily have been.

First was the early grade school days when we owned a 20-acre place on First Street, always known as Old Exeter Road in those days. The west boundary of our land was the city limits at that time. Just over the fence was the Chappell home. To the north was the eventual common fence with Sunset Heights.

Although, these were not the best of times for the area or our family, but my folks made things better by milking five cows, raising some hogs and mom bottled milk for a route and made cottage cheese on our clothesline in a white sugar sack.

Milking one of the cows, feeding them and cleaning their loafing shed was my job, which in wet times wasn’t all that enjoyable! They needed a clean area so straw needed to be put down when the cleaning was finished.

Most of the time, Ray Correll took me on the milk route since dad had already gone to work.

Day of infamy

Then there was Dec. 7, l94l, after which President Roosevelt declared the “day of infamy” as this country declared war against Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Conditions then didn’t improve much as many efforts of the country were directed at the war effort. Young men were either becoming volunteers or being called by the Military Draft to serve our country.

Many consumer items were not available during the four years of WWII because they were rationed. A number of Cassville residents were caught with excesses of items and threatened with jail time, and some even left the community rather than face punishment or embarrassment. Still there were those who profited considerably through their violations.

Many food items were rationed by stamps out of a booklet issued periodically. If you ran out of toothpaste, you would need to take the empty tube with you to the store to get a new one.

Christmas eve 1949

The most lasting memory was the evacuation of Hungnam, Korea, on Christmas Eve 1949, which resulted in obvious ego decisions by military high commands in the Far East. With the First Marine Division ordered to pursue North Korean Forces to near the Yalu River border with Manchuria, it was only a matter of time before Chinese forces entered the conflict.

While bridges over the river had been destroyed, it never dawned on U.S. forces that the extreme cold weather had frozen the river to permit the Chinese to cross with equipment for a buildup, and then cover their tracts until the process was completed and they could attack the Marines.

And, attack they did, overwhelming the Marines and forcing pullout of their flanks, leaving them surrounded in the Chosen Reservoir area. Thus was provided the greatest “fighting in a different direction” to reach an evacuation point being held by other forces and the Navy at Hungnam.

Armada held perimeter

A large number of Navy forces were in the area for two weeks, protecting the perimeter and allowing amassment of material, weapons and vehicles that were to be destroyed by demolition. Any day of high movement by the Chinese along the held area would draw heavy fire from line ships, including the USS Missouri, which stood off in deep water.

When the final Marine and support troops were lifted off the beach, all the material and breakwater warehouses were destroyed by UDT charges.

Food items, that it was believed the Korean people could hide in great quantities, were given to them.

Flagship departed

Last to leave the area was our flagship, the USS Mt. McKinley (AGC 7), which departed the area firing her five-inch guns. Underway over night, she found a calm, safe harbor south where we spent Christmas Day with a large contingent of Marines.

It was a miracle we had sufficient ships in the area to take the troops off the beach. Many had been refurbished as hospital ships to take care of the wounded and those with frostbite injuries.

This didn’t need to be the case in this phase of the Korean War, but it did, and as I have stated before, because of an ego in the military!

Remember

Can you believe it? There are only nine days before Christmas 2020.

This doesn’t mean that we permit the holiday to lessen our efforts to follow directions of reducing the COVID virus. The same cautions are in place, even though a vaccine is on the way.

Do your part in protecting you, your family and many others by using the guides in place. It’s about the best present you can give anyone at this time.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.,/em>