I’ve known for many years that my grandfather fought in the Korean War but until recently I didn’t know much about his service. My grandfather never talked about his time in the Army and I had gotten the impression that it was a difficult subject that he didn’t want to relive, but with my upcoming visit to Korea I thought I ought to take a chance and gently probe him for some details. A few days ago I called my grandfather on the phone and after talking about how we were both doing and my trip to Asia I posed some general questions to him. To my surprise he didn’t seem to have any issue with answering my inquiries. It may be because I avoided any questions about specific combat experiences, or maybe this whole time I’ve misjudged his feelings towards discussing the war. Whatever the case, I’m glad I got what few details I did. Being in his late 80s, my grandfather’s memory is starting to fail him, and the little bit of military paperwork he has stored at his house doesn’t say much, but I got just enough to start reconstructing the basics of his time in Korea.
My grandfather wasn’t sure which Army division his unit was in, but he remembered that he was part of the 27th Infantry Regiment, which is known as the Wolfhounds. Going online, I found that the Wolfhounds were (and still are) part of the US Army’s 25th Infantry Division, and that they have a fairly interesting origin story. The Wolfhounds got their name in 1918 during the Russian Civil War when they were part of the American Expeditionary Force deployed to Siberia. Although nothing much politically came of the expedition, the 27th Infantry Regiment gained a reputation for their relentless pursuit of the Bolsheviks and thus the Wolfhounds name came about. The Wolfhounds insignia is a Wolf’s head and has the Latin phrase Nec Aspera Torrent, which translates to something along the lines of “Frightened by no difficulties” or “No fear on Earth.” The latter translation sounds a bit cooler, so I’ll take that one. In 1950, during the early parts of the Korean War, they saw heavy action defending the perimeter around Pusan, and over the course of the war the Wolfhounds took part in all ten of the campaigns undertaken by the 25th Division. My grandfather entered the Korean War sometime in 1951, and it must have been late 1951 because he said at that time the war had become a stalemate near the 38th Parallel. As a Staff Sergeant he had a squad of men under his command and his platoon used a combination of 57mm rifles and mortars. He thinks it was the regiment’s 4th Platoon but he’s not certain. His area of the war was somewhere near what today is the DMZ, with no major towns nearby. That doesn’t help me narrow down his unit’s location but I guess that means he wasn’t anywhere near Seoul. Speaking of Seoul, he did get to visit the city sometime in either 1952 or 1953 and he said there wasn’t much left of it at the time, which isn’t surprising given that it changed hands four times during the war. The Seoul I’m going to see in a few weeks will be a whole world apart from what he saw. I told my grandfather that I would be visiting the Korean War Memorial in Seoul and if there was any sort of plaque or monument to either the 25th Division or the 27th Regiment I’d get a photo of it.
At that point our conversation started to wrap up and I soon said goodbye to my grandfather. Our chat had lasted about 23 minutes, but in those 23 minutes I had gotten more information on my grandfather’s time in the Army than the past 23 years. I’m hopeful that after I get back from Korea I’ll be able to follow up with my grandfather and maybe dive a little deeper into his experience, though if I hit the limit of what he wants to talk about I’ll have to respect his wishes. Regardless, I now have another little piece of my family’s history that I didn’t previously know about, and should for some reason anyone ever ask me about my grandfather’s time in the Korean War, I can tell them that he was a Wolfhound.