Letter to the Editor

On June 23, 1951 the Saturday Evening Post, a popular news magazine, ran a story with this photo attached.  A few months later on September 15, they posted this Letter to the Editor from Captain Jerome Dolan giving more description on the happenings surrounding the photo.  Those who are familiar with the Korean War will understand how fierce the fighting was while UN forces made a last-hope defense of the Pusan Perimeter against the North Koreans near the beginning of the war in August and September 1950.  Father Kapaun and the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Division had been fighting to stem the Communist onslaught since July of that year.  After the war and the POWs were released, the Saturday Evening Post featured the same picture with Mike Dowe's article "The Ordeal of Chaplain Kapaun."  Captain Dolan's letter follows the picture.

Saturday Evening Post Vol. 224, No. 11, September 15, 1951
Letter to the Editor by Captain Jerome Dolan

 “The Medics”

    For various reasons, chief among them being the distance from Philadelphia to Tokyo, I did not see your issue of June 23rd till today.  Reading Lt. Col. Blair’s article [I Send Your Son Into Battle] on Page 26 of that issue brought back the terror and glory of the first six months of the Korea fighting to me.  However, what brought back the smoke and smell of my small part in the war more acutely was your lead picture [see cut] captioned: “The exhausted soldier being helped to the rear has just been fighting a savage enemy.  A short time ago he was a boy in T shirt and blue jeans.” 

    Your readers might be interested in some of the incidents surrounding that picture and something about those portrayed….The North Koreans had thrown a banzai charge through the valley at Tabu-dong, between the 8th Cavalry’s 2nd Battalion and 1st Battalion, of which I was battalion surgeon.  They were a force of 4500 and we were about 100, including Headquarters Co. and my aid-station crew, and we were isolated from our line companies….At the time that photo was made, the North Koreans had command of a rise 350 yds. from us and also had captured the road to our rear, effectively cutting our escape route….For nine days we fought the elements and the Koreans and finally beat both to bring our wounded out to safety.  Incidentally, by the grace of God, all ten of our wounded made it….

    The GI on the extreme left, I don’t recognize, nor do I remember the name of the kid who had fought through hell from July 20th till that day, with little sleep, too little food, and that cold C rations, no chance to bathe, without a day away from the firing line, always against an enemy that outnumbered him by at least ten to one.  This boy had finally reached his limit, but we had to practically drag him out of action.  After a few days’ rest when we reached friendly lines, he was ready to go back again to “his team.”

    Supporting the kid by the left arm, the GI in the field jacket is Father (Capt.) Emile [sic.] J. Kapaun, of Marion, Kansas, our battalion Catholic chaplain and one of the finest men it has been my privilege to meet….He received the Silver Star [note: Kapaun was actually awarded the Distinguished Service Cross] for his heroism at Unsan, when the 8th Cavalry Regiment was decimated by the Chinese.  He and the battalion surgeon of the 3rd Battalion, Capt. Clarence L. Anderson, home unknown, volunteered to stay with the wounded, whom it was impossible to evacuate.  Since the North Koreans treated wounded prisoners with lead, they knew they faced certain death.  Luckily, the Chinese took them prisoners and at last account they were still serving nobly in a Chinese POW hospital.

    The sad-faced GI walking behind Father Kapaun, wrapped in a blanket because he had used his poncho to cover one of our wounded, is Sgt. Floyd W. Johns, of Tampa, Florida, my assistant platoon sergeant, and a braver boy I don’t expect to see….Just the night before that picture was taken, he had broken a roadblock singlehanded to get a jeepful of wounded out.  A Navy veteran of WWII, his physical disabilities could have kept him out of the Korean fighting, but he “didn’t want to let the gang down.”…

    The less said about the fellow in the poncho the better; he just happened to be in the wrong place at the right time, and besides, the Geneva Convention says that I’m a non-combatant, so I can’t admit that I was carrying a gun!...

    Capt. Jerome A. Dolan, MC Tokyo, Japan

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