Ham in the sandwich

R. K. Cashman, 3 RAR

Can't remember the date as usual, except it was November 1951 which for meis an excellent beginning. The drama of winning then losing hill 317 was over,and everyone was quite browned off about the wholeaffair. Thus it did not come as any great surprise, to learn that we in Bcoy. 3RAR were to move positions. This period held few shocks for the Digsfrom Oz, nothing new could happen. That is what we thought at least!

However we were somewhat startled, to find ourselves carted to the foot ofa very big mountain and along with our gear, dumped. Probably moresurprising to us Commonwealth Division chaps, was to discover we were toshare this bleak and rocky monolith, with none other than the famousCuster's regiment.

To this day nobody seems to have any idea what the hell we were doingthere, I mean B coy. wasn't adjoining the 7th. Cavalry, Lord no we werepractically riding their horses. So there we are under the command of ourfearless leader, the ever green 'Wings' Nicholls,and what a fine body ofshell-shocked lads were the men of B, many hadn't gotten over the thumpingreceived from The Hinge battle. This feature now is occupied by a SouthKorean observation post, titled Typhun, and looks quite a pleasant spot.Not so when we intrepid GIs.and Diggers tried to carve a hole in itsflanks. The weather was miserable, the Chinese angry, the ground rocky andso on.

The place was one of the rare spots that was covered with trees, thisdidn't help for digging either, because of the tree roots. Nor were they agreat comfort when a Chinese shell hit a tree, and gave us an airburst forour troubles. We did have one moment of excitement though when 'Thanksgiving day'arrived. Lucky us got to share the Turkey and trimmings, withour generous comrades, I seem to recall icecream also.

Thus we misplaced mob of B coy. shared the hill and duties with by now,the3rd.Inf.Div. as I recall; the 7th. having packed their saddle bags andmoved on. The task of patrolling seemed to have become our regular job,that was no great drama except that it was necessary to cross the Imjimriver first. Being Autumn and getting cold, it was no fun prowling aboutthe rather large valley to our front, in cold,wet, gear. Meanwhile knowing'Charlie' was dry on his side, and could likely hear us sloshing aroundlike a school of fish.

More adventures lay in our path though, like the night we bid theoutpost crew good evening as we passed through, I took my boots off thisnight, to keep them dry of course. Lo and behold we no sooner do our waterballet, and 'Charles' arrives to greet us on the other side.Well it wasn't what you could call a strategic retreat, rather a madscramble to get back across the river, boots wet and all. During thisdeparture from the North bank to the South,we all did our best to alertour allies manning the outpost, that it was indeed the blokes they hadmoments before wished a safe night; returning home under duress. Most werewearing Slouch hats, and we were calling out in decidedly un Chinesefashion, but no, this wasn't enough to stop some itchy finger from lettingloose with the .30 cal. Luckily the lad hosing us and the river, was asfrightened as were we, thus none were hit but we did emerge from the riverquite angry. Pretty damn wet as well, seeing as most of us swam at least100 yards down-stream to avoid the .30 cal. projectiles coming our way.

This still wasn't enough for we lucky few in 6 platoon, there was asweeping bend in the river right in front of our hill. Still on thesouthern side but north and further along, were a few features someAmerican General wanted, and as a result the lads from 3 id.were having ahell of a job trying to oblige him.

Now without a sketch map this is hard to picture, so you will just have todo you best and not blame me. Where the river turned, and opposite whereall 3 divs. drama was going on, was a long but low three hilled feature.This must have looked somehow untidy to a man of greater rank, than wecould muster in 6 platoon. Resultingly we unhappy few found ourselvesloaded to the hilt,and making our way to occupy portion of the ridge. Hardto say if it was a good guess, or someone knew what was going on. Thething was that we crept on to the middle bump, found it empty of soldiersof an unfriendly persuasion, and promptly set up a defence perimeter. Ibelieve it was the very next night when we found all was not well, Charliecame calling on us with a smallish probe, and at the same time set up acouple of largish mortars.

These items were positioned at the base of our little hill, and proceededto hammer the daylights out of our GI buddies across the river. Thisunhappy group had spent much of the day, dashing up this large bald hill,and with great bravery taken it off Charlie. Now they were on the wrongend of the stick,and when the artillery and mortars hammered them, thenlarge numbers of determined enemy attacked en-mass, they could not hold.

That began our less than happy few weeks on the middle knoll, we were soonto learn that our Asian cousins owned the other two, we were the meat inthe middle without doubt. The largest feature was occupied by a well dugin infantry force, the smaller one which had both a cemetery and minefieldon it,well that was home to the mortar battery. Charlie had not finishedwith his little shocks yet, very soon after we took up residence, he cameup with the trick of the SP gun.

Now this was a doozy, the lad who thought this up should have been atleast a corporal, he was too clever by half to waste a commission on inthe PLA, the Commissar would have had him shot. This clever fellow bringshis SP gun to the base of our hill, gives us a few rounds at point blank,I don't think they had time to explode when we got them! They did howeverkeep our heads down, whilst said gun battered our yanky cobbers across theriver.

You can of course see that this is brains in warfare, at the very bestlevel. What can the Americans on the receiving end do, not a damn thingbecause we are in the way. The same applied with the mortar crews, afterthe nightly frolick with the probing party, we were in no mood norsituation to go tank busting. You may not believe it possible, but we wereover there without a bazooka, nor anything better than our couple ofBrens. I think we got our rations on a bit of a shuttle service, TheHussars wandered over with a Centurionloaded up with goodies now andthen.

This began to wear a bit thin after a while,and tempers were short,more so when we could see the foot marks in the frost each morning.Everyone was blaming the others for letting Charlie almost creep into ourtrenches, we nailed a few now and then but not enough to stop him.Meanwhile the SP is still using us for cover when need be, thenwithdrawing during the day to Lord knows what safe spot.

One night the mortar lads got a bit cheeky, and let Bluey, one of our Brengunners, get a decent burst into them. I said nothing next AM but followedthe marks through the frost, pretty stupid thing to do. They led methrough a re-entrant and to the side of the minefield, there was astretcher made from two wiring piquets, a poncho, and some c rationcartons. One quilted jacket lay there as well, and it had three neat holesright about where the owner's navel would be.

These tracks led into the cemetery and were easy to follow, but I wasdissuaded from doing so by the sight of the jumping jack mines. Those daysI knew nothing about mines, and for some unknown reason kept my mouthshut. Thought of taking the jacket back to Bluey for a trophy, or at leastprove his kill, but the platoon boss (Mr.B.Falvey SIR) was touchy aboutthings like that. If you read this Skipper,I'm sorry I didn't tell you, wecould have got that mortar mob.

So the poor bloody infantry are taking then losing this damn hill over theriver, it was like being at the movies for us. We could sit and watch themcharge up, get beaten back, then up again until they had it. Within anight or two, Charlie has the thing back again, compliments of our mortarsand SP gun no doubt! Watched a truck drive along the dirt track onemorning, on the occasion when it was in US hands. Next thing the front ofthe truck leaps in the air like a piece of paper, Charlie has mined theroad behind US lines.

One thing I can be sure about was the guts of the units fighting, I am notso sure about the brains that were ordering.You can only send men to theirdoom so often, before you call it quits.

What brought on the next bit of high drama, I have no idea! perhaps it wasthought that the SP was hiding inside the large hill adjoining ours, andit certainly was occupied by a strong force of infantry. Shooting from usto them would have been maximum 200 yards, with a saddle joining our twohigh points.

Anyway this bright and sunny morning, we are treated to the sight offour American jet planes circling overhead, perhaps the boss knew theywere coming, I didn't! So off peels the leader and dives at the enemy hillbeside us, the poor bugger let fly with his rockets at the same time a .50cal. cuts his tail clean off. He was carrying napalm as well,and I doubthe had the chance to let it go on purpose, but go it did and narrowlymissed our forward trench the occupants of which had the air sucked awayfrom them, as well as almost wearing the plane in their midst.

The pilot would never have had a clue I'm sure, he was flat out in attackmode one moment, the next he is part of a large crater that appeared justto our front. I inspected the crater that day and the only thing of anysize in side was the breach blocks,of his cannons barely showing in thebottom of the hole. That ended that attack, and the other planes flewhome, and if a plane can look sad, they did!

This never ending affair just went on and on, we had a 50% stand-to everynight, which more often than not became 100%, I actually went to sleepstanding in my pit one night. Should anyone tell you this is B/S. well Iam here to swear otherwise.

What the rest of the battalion was doing, we had no idea, in fact we baggyass Diggers didn't know where the rest of the company was. We certainlyknew where Charlie was most of the time, and we had the US army radiochecks on us every hour on the hour, to be sure we still owned the hill nodoubt!

All sorts of minor dramas took place in the weeks we were there, and tothis day that position is only a map reference in the battalion war diary;plus some mention of an outpost. Some bloody outpost. Like all good thingsit had to end, and our Irish tank pals came over the river early onemorning, and escorted us back to the bosom of 3 div. I wish that it waspossible to end the story on that happy note, but it isn't. We werereplaced by a company of Phillipinos, and Charlie wiped themout before they had time to settle in. That hill is now part of the NKcountry, and sports a very large propaganda sign, also plays terriblemusic at visiting tourists.

Ham Sandwich Hills - Big and Little Nori

That little ridge-line across the river is Ham Sandwich, nearest and smallest being where the mine field and graveyard were located and where Chinese mortars dug in. Next portion further along being the middle size hill was our possie, andlater known as Little Nori. Final and northern hill was where the main Chinese were dug in. It was known to 3 Id as Big Nori and the site of much drama. The plane came down between those two features. All was finally lost to Chinese lads.

I am a member of an American outfit called Imjin Buddies, they are mainly vets from 3 Id and as happened had a lot of service on the 'ham' hills. They knew them as Big and Little Nori and after the Philippine outfit had the cleaners put through them, various other units from 3 occupied and fought over our little set of hills. They were eventually lost to the Chinese for good by a Puerto Rican unit, 65th. Infantry Regiment I think. Anyway the Americans had those hills until about July 52 I believe and the Imjin Buddies sent me this photo of our position, taken many years afterwards.

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