Korea, 1951: Hill 854
by Don Schyberg, 1st Marine Division, Korea
The view from Hill 854 into the valley below and across to the mountain on the other side was breathtaking. Until you remembered where you were.
Pfc. Donald Schyberg, a young Marine fresh from Camp Pendleton, California, was watching the men in his new squad go through his backpack, taking what they wanted. More than once I heard, “Hey Schyberg! You really don’t need this, do you?” “Hell no!” I’d say.
Then the first round came in, landing on the reverse slope of the mountain. I knew it was North Korean mortar fire. It landed one hundred yards to my right. Immediately six or seven more rounds came in. They were 120 millimeter mortars fired from the mountain across from us. The second round hit one of our machine gun bunkers. The guys nearby began calling for stretcher–bearers.
“I’ll go!” I volunteered. Lou Weber said, “Me, too.” The sarge sent Lou and me, along with two other guys whom I had just met down into hell! This would not be the last time.
Rounds were still coming in when we got there. I looked inside the bunker. All were dead. A tech sergeant, whom I had just met coming up the hill, was dead. had a wonderful head of red hair, now matted with blood. I saw the wedding ring on his finger and ached for his family.
I wasn’t scared, but my heart was pounding so hard I thought it would come out of my chest. All this took place in a matter of seconds. As other rounds hit, you could hear the shrapnel whine through the air, but the ones you could hear would not kill you.
Lou and I saw two other Marines trying to keep a wounded Marine on a stretcher. The hill was so steep he kept sliding down until his legs hung off at his knees. We ran over, pulled him back on and saw that the corpsman had tied his hands to his belt with gauze. He kept trying to reach up and feel the left side of his face, but it was gone.
Lou and I grabbed the stretcher on one end. We were on the downside of the mountain and had to hold the stretcher over our heads to keep it level. We finally reached a flat trail where we could run with him. A ‘copter was coming in; the old bubble-type, so we began to run as fast as we could. Then the corpsman said, “Take it easy, guys. He’s gone.”
I knew then that I was not the same young man who had left Porter Corners, New York, six months earlier, and that I would never be the same. They say it helps you to relive these kinds of things. I have relived this in my mind hundreds of times. But I still cry. Still heartsick.