February 7, 1952: A summons to the bridge interrupted my mid-morning coffee in CPO Quarters. Ens. Hollis had flown to Nan-Do, the island alongside the reef from which we had rescued the helicopter, and returned with the officer-in-charge of the US Army unit which was based there. That unit was involved with direction and supply of guerilla agents operating in enemy territory of North Korea.
US Army Captain Ulatoski had sufficient of ribbons on his tunic to indicate considerable of combat service. I was introduced to him as the ship's singular expert on helicopter rescue operations. The purpose of Ulatoski's visit was to propose such a mission. Captain Chillingsworth had instructed him to await my arrival on the bridge before presenting it. Hollis, of course, remained on hand to participate.
For several weeks, as Ulatoski described it, one of their agent teams in North Korea had been harboring a US Navy pilot whom they had found shortly after he was shot down in December. They had brought him near to the coast intending to bring him by boat out to Nan-Do. But they had been unable to find a way to safely move him through the populated and fortified area on the coast. Now his physical condition was such frostbitten feet and apparent pneumonia that they were afraid he might not survive much longer of waiting. So they wanted to arrange a helicopter pickup.
Together with his agents, Ulatoski had devised a plan for doing so, He said the idea had been "approved" by Adm. Martin (Com 7th Fleet). Using a chart of the area which he had brought with him, he began at once to outline his plan. He pointed to a location on the chart and said: "Under cover of darkness, the helicopter is to fly in to this ridge where our men will have lighted three fires. The helicopter is to hover by the center fire, where the man will be waiting for pickup...."
Having said that, the Army captain looked at me awaiting reaction. It was similarly brief: " I gather, captain, that you've had little experience with helicopters, or acquaintance with their capabilities ?"
"No, I haven't," was his reply.
"There are several reasons why night pickup is not feasible,"* I told him. "If you will give us details of the situation, we can determine if helicopter pickup is possible, and how best to go about it."
[ * It would have been waste of time to explain. The HO3S was not instrumented for night flying. Even if it had been, darkness might provide cover for his men but not for the helicopter; and the flare of its exhaust port would make fine target if enemy troops were also covered by the darkness. ]
Ulatoski accepted that rejoinder without question or sign of disturbance. He proceeded at once to provide such information as I asked for. Together we studied charts and recent aerial photos of the area. Several sites appeared well suited for helicopter pickup. His agents could pick the one best suited for them. Ulatoski would contact his men that night to discuss it.
Meanwhile, Capt Chillingsworth had contacted Adm Martin. Com 7th had been receiving reports for several weeks of a downed Navy pilot said to be in the hands of friendly agents. Task Force 77 confirmed that a "Lt. Ettinger," flying an Able Dog, had been lost in that area in December. Chillingsworth took me aside to advise that Admiral Martin's "approval" of a helicopter mission to bring him out was contingent on the helicopter pilot's judgment of the risks involved. He emphasized the decision was mine to make. If I decided to go, they would order whatever was needed of air cover and other support.
Chillingsworth was especially concerned over possibility of a "trap." Ulatoski had mentioned that his agents might have been caught by the enemy, in which case they could be used to such purpose. The army captain's assurance that he had ways to further check on that, and was now doing so, did not fully satisfy my new skipper's concerns, nor my own. But the decision would not be dependent solely, nor even primarily, on Ulatoski's assurances in that regard. Far more dependable would be observation by the covering aircraft and myself as we approached the site. If any suspicious signs or activity was seen, we would simply turn back from the mission. A blanket of new-fallen snow over the area would enhance our view of it.
Ulatoski was concerned that his agents might be endangered after the pickup, if enemy investigators of the scene realized what had happened. He quickly agreed to my offer to drop an item or two of "used" aviator gear, to give the impression that we had picked up someone who had just come down by parachute.
Early morning would be the best time for such pickup. Tentative arrangement was made for covering aircraft from TF 77. Ulatoski would check with his agents that night, if one of the designated sites was suitable to them. If he found no substantial indication that his agents were captured and being used to set up a trap, rescue attempt would be made.
At that point, Ulatoski said he had a good man ready to go with me on the mission. Told that was unnecessary because we had our own crewmen, he said he'd like for his man to go in addition to my crewman. That was impossible due to weight limits. In that case, he'd like for his man to go in place of my crewman. My crewman's training and expertise were much too important to take an untrained man, instead.
There seemed some disappointment in Ulatoski's expression as he paused for a moment, then said there were a couple of reasons why he'd really like for his man to go on the mission. One of these was for the morale of his unit to demonstrate to his agents who must endure constant risk in enemy territory that men on the island base were willing to take risks, as well. "In fact," he said, "I'd really like to go myself, for that reason...." but was stepping aside because the other man was "better qualified" than himself. And because of "his man's" wide-ranging experience in behind the lines operations during world war 2, he was confident the fellow could handle the crewman's job well enough after being introduced to the equipment.
There was no inclination on my part to accept the idea; but it seemed important to avoid rejecting it in manner which might discourage Ulatoski and his man from future efforts along these same lines. So I explained that the crewman's part in a hoist pickup required much more than just knowing how to operate the equipment. Teamwork was involved, in which the crewman's skill was often more critical than the pilot's. Still showing disappointment, Ulatoski accepted that explanation. But he wanted to tell me something of his man's background and qualifications for me to consider.
It was an impressive list. His man had "parachuted into Japanese held territory in China several times to locate downed pilots and lead them out." With regard to the mission we were now contemplating, Ulatoski said: "He's been in the area where you'll be going ... flown over it ... studied it thoroughly ... knows it like the back of his hand. He knows all of our people in there ... the safe areas ... locations of our supply caches ... the 'ratline system; he helped set that up." And as a final touch Ulatoski said: "...And he's worked on this for a long time, from its very beginning. Done more of it, really, than I have myself. So naturally, kind of a man he is, he'd like to be in on it see it through to the end." Which was part of the reason, Ulatoski explained, that he had pressed so hard to get me to take his man. He thought the fellow deserved it.
But it was also further reason why I should not take his man. With all the effort that had gone into it, it would be wrong to jeopardize success of the mission by taking an untrained crewman. It was at the same time further reason to avoid offending Ulatoski or "his man" in any way. Access to information about the "ratline system, safe areas, supply caches, " etc., which he had mentioned would be beneficial not only to myself but to any flyers at risk of going down in that region. With that in mind, and still no intention or expectation of taking his man, I told Ulatoski that if it was to be a hoist pickup I would not in any case take anyone other than a trained crewman. But if perchance Ettinger was so sick and weak that we must land to pick him up, I would consider taking his man instead.
The conference aboard Rochester ended on that note. Preparations for support of the mission would proceed. Final decision was contingent upon further information which Ulatoski was to get from his agents that night. During the flight returning him to Nan-Do we reviewed details of what further information was needed. I was favorably impressed with the army captain. No matter his unacquaintance with helicopter operations he had acknowledged that at once; and seemed thoroughly acquainted with his own operations. His man, as yet unnamed, was to return with me to the ship to be at hand for direct communication with the island base and would have a portable transceiver for that purpose.
Several people were at the landing area when we arrived, including one on a stretcher receiving blood plasma. Ulatoski left the helicopter quickly to join them. After brief discussion with them he returned with his special man whom he introduced as 1st Lt Naylor-Foote. The man on the stretcher had shot himself in a foot while we were enroute to the island. Arrangements had been made with the Rochester that I should bring him along for medical treatment there.
Average of height, ordinary of appearance except for heavy beard and thick-lensed spectacles, Naylor-Foote would have stood little chance of Hollywood casting for the kind of role Ulatoski had said he was eminently qualified to fill. But photogenocity is not one of the requirements for stellar performance in the real world. And in this instance, all that was expected of him was to relay to myself such information as Ulatoski would obtain from the agents that night. The statement that I would "consider" taking him in place of my crewman if Ettinger was too weak for hoist pickup had been made to soften rejection of Ulatoski's proposal.
The self-wounded man was introduced as he was loaded aboard. But there were more important things on my mind than registering the name of an evacuee whom I suspected had wounded himself deliberately in order to get off the island and possibly sent home. It did cross my mind that there might be substantial reasons why the agents
in enemy territory needed assurance that at least some of the Americans on the island were willing also to take some risks. [A year and a half later I would learn the name of the evacuee, and that he had a more complicated reason nor shooting himself in the foot.]
Aboard Rochester that evening the ship's officers provided complete details of the support plan. Departure would be shortly after daybreak, allowing time for aircraft to arrive from TF 77. All that remained was my decision; which was dependent on word from Ulatoski after contacting his agents. Naylor-Foote was on the afterdeck with his transceiver awaiting that.
Ulatoski made contact with the agents in early evening, instructing them to choose one of the designated pickup sites and to have Ettinger with them when they called back so he could answer some questions personally. It was well past midnight when he again contacted Naylor-foote, who began his report to me saying: "The man's a stretcher case. The reason it took so long to get word from them is because they had to carry him out to where they set up the radio to contact the island...." They would also have to carry him to the pickup site. He would be put in an open area where we could land beside him. The agents would remain nearby to keep an eye on him, but out of sight in case somebody else showed up. They would set a signal fire when they heard planes approaching to guide us in to the site.
After locating on the chart the site they had chosen, I asked Naylor-Foote about hideaways which Ulatoski had mentioned were in the area. He said there were many caves and old mineshafts which their agents used for such purposes. Could he provide grid coordinates, or show locations of some of them on the chart? He said he couldn't do that because he had brought none of their charts with him. However, he said he could easily find them himself because he had been in the area several times. That, he added, was one of the reasons himself and Ulatoski thought I should take him along on the mission instead of the regular crewman in case of mishap, his knowledge of the area
could enable us to avoid capture.
But my question on that had not been borne of concern about just this mission. Ulatoski had mentioned a "ratline" which he said Naylor-Foote had helped to set up. Could information on that be made available in briefing of flyers operating in the area?
"Oh, that!" the fellow responded, "Yes...." he had been developing a system involving agents and some friendly natives in the area. It wasn't complete yet, but once it was set up it should be more readily possible to bring downed flyers out.
Back then in regard to the current mission, I asked if we could expect any warning signal from his agents if they saw someone else in the area after they deposited Ettinger at the pickup site. He said that was another reason it would be best if himself was along. With his transceiver he could communicate with them even if they had to remain out of sight. He then reiterated Ulatoski's mention of benefit to their overall operation if the agents knew that someone from the island was along on the mission.
"But they wouldn't really see you, anyway," I said, "if they're out of sight after leaving the man at the spot."
"Oh they'll see me," Naylor-Foote responded. "They'll be watching, probably with binoculars. And they'll recognize me. I've been in there enough tomes, they know this beard. Or otherwise they'll recognize my voice on the radio."
"How much does that thing weigh?" I indicated the transceiver as I asked.
"Oh I don't know " He looked puzzled. "It's not very heavy. Why?"
"Because if I should decide to take you along I'm not sure we could take it. Weight is very critical in this machine; especially in this kind of operation."
All in all, I was not favorably impressed with the fellow. And I would not have considered taking him if the pickup could be made by hoist. Only in case of mishap, if the helicopter was forced down by malfunction or enemy fire, might Naylor-Foote's knowledge of the area and its potential hiding places be of value. Which was also the aspect of his units operations which could be benefit far beyond this particular mission. Might that be more readily coordinated if I took him along?
Since the man was apparently in too weak condition for hoist pickup, the next consideration was whether there would be any disadvantage in taking Naylor-Foote in place of my regular crewman. With all the wide-ranging experience Ulatoski had ascribed to him, he should certainly be capable of such action as would be required in this instance. That, then, was the deciding factor it appeared he would not be a handicap in doing the kind of pickup we would have to make. In the interest of further cooperation's with Ulatoski and his agents I would take "his man" along. They had evidently worked very hard to bring one of our pilots this far. Letting them have a part in the grand finale would surely pave the way for further such cooperation's.
Crawford demonstrated and explained to Naylor-Foote the operation of the crewman's equipment, including the hoist. I described to him the general plan of the overall operation, including what he would have to do as we moved in for the pickup. Although the pickup site was only a few miles inland, we would cross the coastline inbound .at about 10,000 feet. That would put us above small arms fire, give the impression that we were going farther inland, and provide excellent view of surroundings as we spiraled down to watch for signs of a trap. We would carry with us a somewhat soiled "mae west" lifejacket and a couple of other items to leave at the scene, to give the impression the man we picked up had recently parachuted, rather than having been brought there by friendly agents....
At that point Naylor-Foote interrupted, saying quite sharply: "That's not the plan at all We want to leave off some suppliers for our agents!"
In addition to the fact that such a thing had not even been mentioned to me before, his manner was quite irritating. My response was appropriately blunt: "Well, now, that's the first I've heard of that. Your boss was quite emphatic about wanting to do something to obscure the fact that your agents were involved. And that's what we agreed to...."
The fellow's manner was sufficiently offensive that I was intending to abandon the idea of taking him on the mission and perhaps scrubbing the mission itself; or at least reviewing it with Ulatoski. But before I could say more he waxed apologetic, saying: "Oh yes yes I'm sorry. I forgot that you weren't in on that discussion. When Ulatoski told the agents we would do that, they said they didn't feel that was necessary.
They want us to drop some supplies. They're quite desperate for some supplies."
"What kind of supplies?"
"Medicines," he said. "They need medicines badly; and some food canned goods cigarets and a couple of bottles of whiskey...."
Medicines made sense; as perhaps might some food. But men operating in enemy territory wanting American-made cigarets and whiskey ? That, it seemed to me, would be akin to carrying around their own death warrants addressed "to whom it may concern." I told Naylor-Foote my thoughts along those lines.
Oh, there's lots of American stuff floating around all over North Korea," he said. The agents would keep it stashed away in one of their hide-outs, and bring it out when needed for barter or bribes and payoffs of cooperating natives.
Though still skeptical of the wisdom of it, I deferred on the issue; assuming that the two army officers knew best how to deal with their own agents. But I told him we could carry very little, no more than 150 pounds including his transceiver. And it was stressed that it must all be out of the helicopter before we brought the man aboard. Possibly I would order him to dump it out before we landed, in which case he must do so at once, no matter what might happen to it as result.
Ensign Hollis and one of our crew would assist Naylor-Foote into flight gear. We were all to be on deck at least 15 minutes before scheduled departure. Hollis and the crew were there when I arrived, but not Naylor-Foote. He had been there and left his transceiver and a cardboard box containing a variety of items. Then he had left by himself saying he had something more to pick up.
The box was put aboard in the passenger compartment readily at hand for Nsylor-Foote to unload. A glance at its content showed them to be the sort of things he had mentioned. The engine was started, warmed up and checked. We were ready for launch but Naylor-Foote had not yet returned.. Cdr Copeland was at hand, worried that we might not launch on schedule. I shared that concerns the covering aircraft approach for rendezvous.
Only a few seconds before scheduled launch time, Naylor-Foote arrived accompanied by two sailors, each carrying a large box. He directed them toward the helicopter. They stopped at my signal as I called to him: "What the hell is all that stuff?"
"Why it's the rest of the stuff we're going to take along," he replied with tone of innocent surprise.
I realized at that moment the fellow was something of a faker. My explanation of our weight limitations had obviously not registered with him. Had it been possible, I would have canceled him from the mission right then. But none of the crewmen were properly suited and there was insufficient time to have one get ready. Disgustedly I called to him: "I said we could take a few supplies not a truckload! We've got all we can carry! Get aboard you've already caused us to be late!
He still didn't move to get in, but asked if he could take just one of the additional boxes. I told him "No!' and again to get aboard. Still he did not comply but started to rummage in one of the new boxes and called that he wanted to switch some things.
What manner of fool was this? Apparently none of the things he had been told in our briefing on the mission had registered in his mind. He seemed oblivious to realities of the situation. And this was the fellow whom Ulatoski had assured me was much experienced in "behind the lines" operations.
The situation was frustrating. The only alternative to taking the fellow with me was to scrub the mission. For despite the peculiarity of Naylor-Foote's behavior, and some wonderment's now about Ulatoski's dependability in some respects, I felt certain there was a Navy pilot over on the peninsula waiting to be picked up.
I yelled at Naylor-Foote to get in the helicopter; probably with some appropriate expletives. He looked around then at the several persons watching, including Cdr Copeland, then wordlessly climbed in. As Crawford strapped the fellow into his seat I looked back at him and shouted. "And by God when I tell you to dump that stuff out, you dump it! No matter where or how high we are! You got that?"
In response, Naylor-Foote only stared at me through his thick lenses. There was no time for further word with him, nor any point in belaboring the issue. I called my readiness to the ship and was cleared to launch. Once airborne, contact was made with the flight leader overhead to tell him my intentions. We would cross the coastline at ten thousand feet and maintain that until over the pickup site. Descent would be a tight spiral. After pickup we would go out "on the deck" (meaning very low). The exact route of exit would be decided after viewing the terrain on the way in.
After that I set to the task I set to the task of explaining to Naylor-Foote what we would likely have to do to most quickly get Ettinger aboard and on our way back out. From aerial photos and charts the field terraces at the pickup site might be quite narrow. If there was not room to put the machine down alongside the man, we would do so on the adjacent paddy downslope. Now without rancor I repeated that if ordered to dump the supplies he must do so at once. They had to be out before bringing the man aboard. If not done before he must put them out after we landed as he himself got out to get Ettinger. No time should be wasted looking for a sheltered place to put them
Naylor-Foote had mentioned that the agents might come out of hiding to help put Ettinger aboard. If they did so, I now stressed, there was no time for "chit-chat" with them. The mere fact that they saw him should satisfy Ulatoski's desire that they would know someone from the island was along on the mission. Ettinger must be brought aboard as quickly as possible. And as soon as he was aboard, Naylor-Foote should get himself back aboard "unless...," I said seriously but in manner to at least sound friendly "...you want to spend the night with your buddies out there in those nice cool mountains."
The scene as we flew in was like a "Currier and Ives" painting. A blanket of fresh snow accentuated the terrain pattern seen in photos. Hence our destination was at once located. It was opportunity to test one of the expert qualifications Ulatoski had attributed to his "good man." When I looked back to speak to Naylor-Foote he was rummaging in the box of supplies; having put some on the floor and others on the seat beside him. I asked if he could pick out the spot where we should find our man. He peered out for a moment and said, "I think it'll be just beyond that farthest ridge."
So much for Ulatoski's assurance that "his man" knew the area "like the back of his hand." I would have some things to say to that army captain when we got back from this mission. To Naylor-Foote I said right then, "For your information that farthest ridge is fifty miles away the center of the peninsula. Where we're going is right down there ." and pointed at the spot.
There was no point in dwelling on a situation about which nothing could now be done. But there was reason now to doubt if Naylor-Foote could even be counted on to perform the simple tasks assigned to him when we reached the pickup site. If the agents came out of hiding, they quite probably could handle it well enough as a matter of course.
Otherwise, it might be necessary to lock down the controls and fetch him myself. A bad situation; yet the location was sufficiently isolated that there should be time enough before troops might arrive from the settlements which were visible downslope from the site.
Momentarily, a column of heavy black smoke began to rise from the site. Naylor-Foote excitedly pointed out the obvious fact that it was the signal fire the agents said they would light. Ignoring him, I awaited the flight leader's reports as flew down to investigate. After his first pass he reported three people on the paddy adjacent to the fire. Only one figure remained when he made the second pass. A thatch-roofed building was the fuel of the signal fire much more smoke than fire. And much more than was necessary. In less than a minute the smoke column towered several thousand feet high. It would no doubt be noted in the settlements miles away.
Otherwise, all things were much as they should be. Further reassuring, the flight leader had seen no tracks in the snow except those of the persons he had seen. Most assuring of all as we began descent, three small groups of figures emerged from the settlement moving upslope toward the fire. If there had been troops positioned in the area where the pickup was to be made, there would be no reason for troops to be sent to investigate. And the distance was such that those now coming would not reach the place in less than 20 or 30 minutes.
The flight leader was informed of my intended exit route. Over a ridge less than a mile south of the pickup site began a narrow valley which extended to the sea. There appeared to be little, if any, habitation. The covering aircraft could sweep ahead of me and if necessary apply some firepower to discourage potential trouble makers as I crossed the beach area. The spiral descent provided excellent view of the area surrounding the pickup site. There was now no point in depending on Naylor-Foote for much of anything But there would be time enough before the troops could arrive from the village to get the man aboard even if I had to do it all myself.
With but about 3 hundred feet yet to drop, I spotted Ettinger, standing erect, on the terrace adjacent to the burning building. "Stretcher case?" Naylor-Foote obviously had lied to me about that; Ulatoski no doubt having told him that was the only condition under which I take him on the mission in place of my crewman. I called back over my shoulder: "There's our man, and he's standing up!"
"Yeah I see he is," was Naylor-Foote response.
"Dump that stuff out!" I then shouted back; followed even more emphatically with "Right now!"
Weakly came response "Okay go on in." At about the same moment there was sound of a burpgun burst some distance away and not in our direction; probably at one of our escorting aircraft. Rather than worrisome, it was further indication that we were not coming down into a trap.
A zigzag descent was necessary to avoid over-shooting the intended landing spot. And even though he was not in fact a stretcher case, it would now be necessary to land to pick up the man because my worse-than-worthless substitute crewman could not be relied upon to operate the hoist. The terrace on which Ettinger was standing was not wide enough to land there beside him. The one next adjacent was only a few feet wider than my main landing gear. Without a dependable crewman to check it for me, I had to look for myself to make certain the starboard wheel was not extended beyond the edge of that terrace. While I was doing so and thus could not keep Ettinger in view, he hobbled on his frostbitten feet to the passenger door of the helicopter and at the very moment at which I reduced power to set the machine down he tried to climb in.
That sudden addition of weight caused the nose to drop down so sharply that had I allowed it to continue downward the rotor tips would have struck the ledge in front of us. There was no choice but to pull it back up. As I did so, I realized that Naylor-Foote had not thrown out the supplies. The machine was now so nose-heavy I could not bring it up to a level position. Also, having already reduced power for landing, the sudden pull-up caused loss of rotor RPM to near the "coning" point.* [* That is the point at which centrifugal force in the rotor system is insufficient to keep it flattened in its rotation. The blades then "cone" upwards and cannot produce enough lift to keep the machine airborne.]
To regain rotor and engine speed from that condition required a quick pumping action of the collective (up and down) pitch control and can be helped by allowing the body of the machine to turn with the torque of the rotor. Overloaded though we were, rotor speed was being regained by that process. But because of the nose-down condition I could not hold the machine over the flat area of the terraces. We drifted over the edge of an adjacent ravine, thus losing the ground cushion effect. The machine then settled into the ravine, the rotor blades shattering against its bank.
When I looked back after the crash, Ettinger was lying on the floor midst the clutter of supplies which Naylor-Foote had failed to throw out. Naylor-Foote struggling with his parachute harness said to Ettinger, "Help me out of this damn' thing." Despite all else that was on my mind at the moment that struck me as grimly humorous. This fellow whom Ulatoski had told me was a much experienced parachutist during World War 2 needed help to get out of a harness equipped with "quick release" device.
After being helped out of the harness Naylor-Foote said to Ettinger, "This is what happens because you rushed us." Exactly what he may have meant by that is unclear. He may have been referring to Ettinger's attempt to get himself into the helicopter; or he may have meant hurrying of arrangements for the pickup. In either case, it struck me as an effort to blame someone else for the debacle which he had himself caused.* [*Ettinger would later inform me that as he had approached the helicopter Naylor-Foote was staring out as if in a trance, and made no sign nor movement until after Ettinger was struggling to get himself inside. Quite probably the distant burpgun burst had shocked him into such a state since, as was subsequently learned for certain, Naylor-Foote had in fact never previously been in combat circumstance either in Korea or in WW2.]
Even as I observed that "sideshow" behind me, I was informing the flight leader of the circumstance. The helicopter was inoperative, but none of us injured. We would be leaving the site as quickly as possible heading upward into the wooded area, with or without help of the agents who were probably still in the vicinity.... At that point in my report to the flight leader, Naylor-Foote as he started to get out of the helicopter placed a hand on my shoulder and said, "Did you forget your driver's license?"
Was the fellow actually oblivious of his own responsibility for what had happened a total psychopath? No response was made to the fool, but continuing to the flight leader I asked him to "pour it on" to the troops coming up from the village area to pin them down and give us some time to get some distance away. Naylor-Foote, apparently hearing part of what I had said, stopped and yelled back, "Hey! Cancel that! I've got men around here someplace. Tell them they're not to fire at anything until I find my men!"
That from him was also undeserving of response. I told the flight leader we would try to make contact later if we made into some hideout in the mountains.
By the time communication with the flight leader had ended, Naylor-Foote had moved onto a barren knoll about 30 yards away and was repeatedly shouting "Darby!" (the code name of the team which had set up the mission). Ettinger had also left the helicopter and disappeared from my view. As I was about to leave the helicopter through the passenger door a short burpgun burst (3 or 4 rounds) sounded from close behind the machine. Naylor-Foote dropped his carbine and raised his hands. A quick peek revealed three men must emerged from the woods about 40 yards behind the helicopter. Ettinger was now moving toward Naylor-Foote on the knoll. The newcomers did not seem aware of my presence in the helicopter.
Although the starboard side of the helicopter rested against the bank of the ravine, there appeared to be room to slip out that side if I could get the door open. But as
I started to work on that, Naylor-Foote called out toward the helicopter "ordering" me to come out and join him. Ettinger was already there and the three Koreans now standing a few yards from them. Their attention had been drawn to the helicopter by Naylor-Foote's call to me. Assuming that they must be the agent team, I went at once to join them. That assumption was not diminished by the fact that Naylor-Foote kept his hands upraised. If they were friendly agents it would be unwise to show it while in an open area where it might be observed by others. It was logical that they should pretend, as it were, to capture us before taking us to some hideaway.
Puzzling, however, when I joined them was the fact that Naylor-Foote was trying to talk with the Koreans in a sort of "pigeon english." And there was no sign that any of them recognized this bearded fellow who had told me that any of his agents would recognize him because of that beard. But of course, I then realized, none of the things which Naylor-Foote had told me could be depended upon as truthful. So the fact that they didn't recognize him did not preclude that they could be part of the friendly elements involved in setting up the mission. For certain it now was this had not been set up as a trap. But for Naylor-Foote's lies about the circumstance, or even if he had just dumped out the supplies when I told him to, we would have by then been well on our way back out to the Rochester.
Nor was there anything really hostile in the actions of the Koreans. The burpgun burst had not been directed at Naylor-Foote, but to cause him to drop his carbine. And although one of the soldiers had now picked that up, they had not sought to remove the pistol he was wearing.
Two of the Koreans were quite young; probably in their teens. The man in charge was mature, well built and of good bearing. He wore sergeant's insignia. He seemed to be pondering what to do and shortly motioned for us to move into the woods from which he had come. Once there, he indicated for us to sit down, did so himself, appearing still to be pondering what to do. I asked Ettinger if these were the men who had brought him here. He had never seem them before. I asked Naylor-Foote if he knew them. He looked at me oddly and said, "How could I know them?" [So much for Ulatoski's statement that his "good man" knew all of their people in the area.]
Even though Ettinger had not seen them, it seemed probable for several reasons that the sergeant and his men were acting under orders of whoever had set up the mission. The fact that they had still not sought to remove either Naylor-Foote's revolver or mine so suggested. They may have been positioned in these woods to protect Ettinger until he was picked up. Probably no orders had been given as to what he should do in a case such as this. So for the moment it appeared he had brought us into the woods, out of sight, to await arrival of whoever had set the deal up.
Naylor-Foote brought out a "blood chit" and handed it to the sergeant. [*That is a leaflet promising reward to anyone who would help a man out of enemy territory.] The sergeant looked at it briefly and handed it back wordlessly, with a trace of a smile as he did so. In another effort a grim humor Naylor-Foote then said, "I think I've just become very interested in the philosophy of Karl Marx."
After a while the sergeant arose and indicated for us to follow him. He led us alongside the winding stream, under cover of the woods between it and the cutbank of the ravine. It troubled me that we were moving downstream, instead of upward into the mountains. But perhaps we would only follow downstream for a way, and then into a more heavily wooded are upslope to westward which I had noticed while descending to the pickup site. But that didn't happen. We continued downstream until we were about to emerge from the woods onto the barren slope leading down toward the village.
What kind of "friend" would be taking us in that direction? But there was a more immediate concern. A call of "Ha-ee," gained the sergeants attention and he stopped at the very edge of the woods. By hand signals I indicated that if we moved out into the open area the planes overhead would see and strafe us. A flick of his eyebrows indicated understanding . He spoke briefly to his two soldiers and motioned for all of us to move a short way back upstream. There he indicated for the rest of us to stay close to the cutbank and seated himself on a rock about 15 yards out in the woods. Naylor-Foote and Ettinger seated themselves on the ground. I chose to remain standing as did also, for a time, the two soldiers.
Within but a minute or so, a Corsair punctuated my warning to the sergeant by lacing a burst of 20 mm cannon fire across the landscape a short way downslope from us. Evidently the troops from the village had arrived and the covering aircraft were fulfilling my request that they interfere with further upslope progress of such unfriendly persons. The explosive rounds sounded like popping corn. There flashed the ridiculous thought of the call sometimes heard while passing through the lobby of a theater lobby: "You can't enjoy the show without popcorn!" A glance at the sergeant caught him looking at me in a manner which seemed appreciative of my warning.
A burpgun burst and a few rifle shots presaged arrival of a second Corsair. I peeked over top edge of the cutbank to see if I could spot any of the troops, or determine how close they were to our position. No troops were in sight, but the shells from the Corsair struck much closer than expected. Shrapnel from the explosive rounds sizzled through the trees above us, close enough that I felt the breeze from some of it as I ducked down. The sergeant motioned that I should keep my head down, but in a manner as though concerned for my well being, rather than disturbed by my observance of what was happening around us. It had already occurred to me that keeping my head down below the top of the cutbank was a quite good idea.
Despite the fact that he was evidently intending to take us down toward the village, I was still inclined to think the sergeant must be working with whoever had set this mission up. For one thing, because he still had not relieved either Naylor-Foote or myself of our revolvers. I asked Ettinger where he had been kept before being brought to the pickup site. "Down there," he said, pointing in direction of the village.
In that case it was possible that the sergeant, having been given no instructions covering such event as our crash, had no other place to take us. But what then of the other troops now nearby but pinned down by our air cover? They certainly were not in on the scheme. And some of them might yet move in where we were now in a sense pinned down as well. If they found us already "captured" by these three they would probably take up scattered positions from which to continue sniping at the planes. But if they noticed that Naylor-Foote and I still had weapons, they might have some embarrassing questions to ask of our "captors."
More hand signals seemed to be in order. A wave of my hand brought the sergeant's attention. After pointing up and over the ledge above me I wiggled fingers to indicate troops moving from there to our own location. Then I pointed to the revolver in my holster and looked at him questioningly. The sergeant's reaction might well be described as indicating "I'm sure glad you reminded me of that." Quickly he arose and came over to remove my weapon and Naylor-Foote's. Naylor-Foote looked at me glumly and said, "What'd you remind him of that for? Now he'll probably search me and find my grenades."
The sergeant promptly did so. [Indicating on the one hand that he probably understood at least some english and, on the other, that Naylor-Foote didn't have sense enough to realize the fact that the Korean hadn't yet spoken in our language did not mean he understood none of it.] The grenades were in the lower leg pockets of the summer flight suit into which my substitute crewman had been fitted. After removing them, the sergeant looked at the bulging lower pockets of my suit and then questioningly at myself,. I shook my head negatively and he didn't bother to check them, but moved back to his previous seat in the woods. The bulges in my pockets were rolled up spare socks.
A glance down at Naylor-Foote caught him looking at me as though about to say something more. But he quickly resumed looking at the ground between his feet. He should have himself realized the importance of not having weapons on us if other troops arrived. Besides which I felt it was in everyone's best interests that he be disarmed. His overall previous performance had convinced me that this "real good man" of Ulatoski's was something of a mental case and needed in any case to be deprived of the grenades. As for the Korean sergeant whether he turned out to be friend or foe, he had shown himself to be a respectful and respectable soldier. And I had come to realize that kind of an enemy was safer company than the pitiful creature whom I'd been so foolish as to bring with me on this mission.
Except for an occasional strafing run by one of the covering aircraft to keep the troops pinned down, it was amazingly quiet in our hideaway. There was no talking between the Koreans and very little between the three of us. Naylor-Foote sat with head bowed most of the time staring at the ground between his feet. Ettinger, disappointment added to his several ailments, rested his head on arms folded across his knees. Once he raised his head to say, very sadly. "I'm sorry I got you guys into this mess."
"It wasn't any fault of yours," I told him. I followed that with a few questions about his condition, how long he'd been down, and so on; more to assure him that I didn't blame him for my misfortune than in quest of information. Then from him came a very significant question:
"Was your hoist broken?"
"No," I said, and quickly added, "I'll explain that later." A flick of my eyes toward the sergeant was attempt to convey that we should not discuss such things within his hearing. Naylor-Foote meanwhile continued staring at the ground between his feet. He could hardly not realize that this was proof to me that he had deliberately lied about Ettinger's condition. I judged that he was now trying to think of some way either to deny or justify it. Silence resumed as Ettinger and I settled back into the company of our own thoughts.
The "flop-flop" sound of a helicopter roused all of us from whatever we may have been thinking of. When it appeared in our view it was close enough to recognize both the machine and one of its crew. The machine was the one which Crawford and I had helped to "rescue" from the reef at Nan-do. Peering out from its passenger compartment was its crew chief who had stood on the rock to replace its tail rotor. It was not at all surprising that he would come on a mission trying to rescue me. It was doubtful because of the covering woods that they could see us; but through the opening of our cover they were clearly in view.
The young soldier standing beside me charged his burpgun and lifted it to fire. The distance was greater than effective range of his weapon. But for different reason I touched his arm and "Unh-uh" to stop him from squeezing the trigger. He looked at me, somewhat disturbed, then called to his sergeant probably asking what he should do about it. The sergeant in turn looked at me, it seemed as though asking for explanation. I made signs to indicate that if the soldier fired at the helicopter, the men in the helicopter would tell the planes overhead where the fire was coming from, after which the planes would strafe us.
Again the sergeant seemed to understand what I sought to convey..He said something to the soldier, who then glanced at me without animosity, flicked the safety on his weapon, and resumed relaxed position with the gun hanging loosely from his shoulder. There was indeed likelihood that the helicopter crew would have seen the flashes if the burpgun had been fired, pinpointing us as a target for the covering aircraft. The cutbank had sheltered us from the strafing runs on the area just beyond it. But we would have had no such protection if our location was the target.
There was some firing at the helicopter by the troops above the cutbank, and the distinctive "splat" of one round striking it. Moments later one of the planes strafed the area from which that firing had come. I looked then at the sergeant in manner intended as question: "see what I mean?" Whether or not he so interpreted it, his next actions were appropriate response. He first spoke to his soldiers in Korean, after which they both sat down and leaned back against the cutbank. Then he said to the three of us in quite clear English: "We stay here until planes go home."
There were covering aircraft overhead throughout the day. And they succeeded in doing what I had asked them to do. Most or all of the troops who had come up from the village seemed to stay put after the strafing of them began. At least none were seen moving on past us toward the crash site or toward the higher ground to which I had told the first strike leader we would be going.
As the day dragged on, the mid-day sun warmed our sheltered area. Ettinger and Naylor-Foote sometimes dozed in that warmth, as did also the two young soldiers. I remained standing, close against the cutbank, watching for any activity around us. The sergeant remained sitting on his rock about 15 yards away, relaxed but ever alert. More often than not when I looked in his direction he was placidly looking at me. Then once, When I Looked his way, he drew my direct attention by holding up the revolver he had take from me and asking: "This good gun?"
Naylor-Foote and Ettinger both raised their heads in response to that. I simply replied: "Yes good gun."
The sergeant then drew a Soviet made pistol from his holster, held it up and asked: "This good gun?"
"I don't know," was my honest reply.
The sergeant then held both weapons aloft and asked: 'Which you think is best...This?... (he waved my gun:) ... or this?" He waved his own.
From Naylor-Foote, seated with head down beside me, came stage-whispered instruction: "Tell him his is best! His is best!"
Quietly, with appropriate gestures, I said to the sergeant: "Give me my gun I go there...You take your gun there....and we see which is best."
There may or may not have been a flickering trace of a smile. But the sergeant's calmness of manner and steady look as he holstered his own weapon and put mine back down beside him assured that he was satisfied by my answer. We now understood and appreciated each other quite well; regardless whether we were otherwise friend or foe.
Some time after noon a Marine Helicopter came looking for us, moving upslope over the open area about 200 yards outside of our hideaway. An HO4S, it had capability of taking all three of us. And amazingly, the circumstance was such that there was reasonable chance for me to gain control of our three captors.* [*The fact that the soldier beside me had prepared to fire at the previous helicopter was convincing that they were not "friends," despite the considerate behavior of the sergeant. Now the young soldier beside me was dozing with his charged burpgun lying loosely on his lap. The other one, seated beyond Ettinger, was also asleep with his own rifle and Naylor-Foote's carbine on the ground beside him.. The sergeant, though not asleep, was very relaxed; his own pistol holstered and the other two lying on the ground more than arms length away. A quick grab the burp gun would have put me in charge of the situation in the immediate area.
But what then? There was no firing at the helicopter by the troops beyond the cutbank. That could be because they did not want to bring further strafing of themselves as happened after firing at the first helicopter, plus they were probably getting short on ammunition and the fact that the crewman visible in the open doorway of this helicopter was holding an automatic weapon with which he could at once fire back. But if we were to break out into the open area where this helicopter could pick us up, both it and ourselves would be a well-centered target for all of the troops in the vicinity. All things considered, it seemed best to let the Marine helicopter pass on by. Which it did, without awakening any of the four dozers seated there beside me.
I looked again at their sergeant. He appeared just then to have shifted his own attention directly at me. There was the feeling that he would like as much to fathom my thoughts as I wished that I could for certain know his. Because the one of his soldiers had prepared to fire at the first helicopter he must now for certain be regarded as a foe. But there had been nothing at all in his actions which could be called personally unfriendly.
Late in the afternoon a Korean draped in a white sheet for camouflage came down from the woods upslope to join us. Ettinger recognized the fellow (whom he had nicknamed "banjo eyes") as one he had seen in company of the people who had brought him here. "Banjo eyes" spoke briefly with the sergeant, then went back in the direction from whence he had come.
The sun was well behind the mountains when the last flight of covering aircraft departed. As soon as the planes were headed seaward, the sergeant arose and beckoned us to follow him. When we emerged from the woods onto the open space, the soldiers who had come up to the area were already moving back down toward the village. Shortly we were joined by a uniformed North Korean officer and another man well dressed in civilian clothes Ettinger told me as they approached that it was they who brought him to the pickup site and set the building afire. The uniformed man wore insignia of a general. The civilian, who had told Ettinger his name was Chun, spoke very good english.
We paused for a short while at the point of meeting. Chun expressed to Ettinger, for himself and the general, their regrets that the pickup attempt had failed and concern for his well being. My self-introduction to Chun was acknowledged by himself and the general in a matter-of-fact manner. Naylor-Foote, introducing himself, made quite a display of saluting the general.* [* He would subsequently complain during imprisonment and in his debriefing after return from captivity, because the general did not return his salute.} After brief conversation with the sergeant, apparently giving instructions, the general and his interpreter aide preceded us toward the village.
A few irate citizens appeared along the way, brandishing clubs and shouting things we were probably as well off not understanding. Probably some of the air cover strafing of the troops had affected them, as well. A few shouted words from the sergeant who was leading our procession behind the general and his aide, kept them distant from us.
Ettinger's poor physical condition caused him to lag behind as we trudged single file behind the sergeant. Naylor-Foote moved up alongside myself and said, "If they should happen to take you where you can talk with the island on the radio, tell them Doctor Foote says if his patient Arnold calls in sick again they must not give him any more of the same medicine."
Although I realized full well what he meant to imply by that, I said in response, "And what the hell is that supposed to mean?"
With a toss of his head back at Ettinger he said, "That no good sunuvabitch back there is a traitor! He lured us into a trap."
There was tremendous impulse to backhand the fool. And certainly he deserved it. But the circumstance forbid it. And it was necessary to keep my own voice low as I said: "What the hell are you trying to pull now? That was no trap and you damn' well know it. If you hadn't lied to me about his condition he'd be aboard the Rochester now, getting some of the medical attention he needs! Even of you'd thrown that garbage of yours out when I told you to...." It was necessary to stop myself from saying more right then to keep from bashing him. After a self-calming pause I added, "...And don't ever say a thing like that to me again, no matter where we are!"
Apparently sufficient emphasis was managed despite the inhibiting circumstance. Naylor-Foote said nothing more and dropped back behind me. Yet very shortly he came alongside again. As though our previous conversation had not even happened, he said he had finally figured out a "cover story" to conceal his own true identity and the fact that he was from the intelligence unit on Nan-do. It was absolutely essential, he said, that I remember what he was going to tell me so I could back up his story and not "blow his cover."
I said nothing. It would be useful in any case to know what kind of story he was planning to tell the enemy. He said he would tell them he was from an outfit called "Air-Ground Aid Service," based somewhere in South Korea. He would represent himself to be a "paramedic," sent on this mission because of report that Ettinger was quite sick. He stressed that it was most important that the enemy should not know he came from Nan-do.* [* They of course already knew that.] That was so important, he said, that I could myself be in great trouble if I revealed that fact to the enemy.
That was enough to hear. I interrupted to tell him that if I was asked any questions about him I would simply say that I didn't know anything about him. After all, I had never met him until I was "ordered" to go on this mission and "told" to take him along.
Still he persisted in trying to give me detailed instructions as to what I should say to back up his "cover story." Finally, I interrupted to say: "Look! If they ask me any questions about you I'll simply tell them the truth that I never met you until you arrived to come with me on this mission!" The impulse to bash him was growing toward irresistible. So I closed off by saying, "...and it's a damn cinch if I had known you what you really are I sure as hell wouldn't have brought you along on this mission!"
I dropped behind him, then, and waited for Ettinger to see if he needed assistance. He didn't, but couldn't keep up the pace. The sergeant looked back and slowed his own pace. As we walked together there was time for Ettinger to tell some of his own story. He had been captured immediately after he was shot down in December. The general and Chun had removed him from an interrogation center near Pyongyang only a few days previously, told him they were arranging his release and brought him here for that purpose. He had spent the last two nights in a house near the village toward which we were now headed. He had been taken out late last night to talk on radio with someone who identified himself as "Ski" at the "other end." [Ulatoski, talking from Nan-do.]
"Ski" had asked Ettinger specifically if he was in good enough physical condition to be picked up by hoist. Assured that was so, "Ski" had told him the helicopter would arrive early in the morning, including the mention that some items would be dropped from the helicopter when it picked him up to give appearance that he had arrived there by himself rather than having been brought there "by our friends."
Expecting, therefore, to be picked up by hoist, Ettinger was puzzled that the helicopter seemed to be just hovering nearby. The man he could see sitting in the crew compartment gave no signal, but sat with a carbine across his knees staring out as if in a trance.* [* Having never actually been in combat before, Naylor-Foote was probably so stricken by the distant burpgun burst heard during our descent.] So Ettinger decided on his own to come to the helicopter. Only after he had bumped into Naylor-Foote's legs did the fellow come out of the trance and help him crawl into the helicopter.
There was not time right then to explain anything to Ettinger; nor was it the proper time to do so. More important was to reassure him that the situation was not his fault. He in turn told further details of how he had been treated by the general and Chun. He felt certain we were in no danger of mistreatment so long as we were in their company or under their control.
The sergeant stopped and waited for us near the edge of the village. Chun and the general had previously left the procession and disappeared from view. One of the soldiers was directed to escort Ettinger somewhere. The sergeant then led Naylor-Foote and myself further into the village. We were ushered into a building which seemed to be some kind of local headquarters. There were no soldiers or guards identifiable as such. A fellow at a desk did some paper shuffling now and again, and spoke with some of the people as they entered or left the building. A few people came in to look at us; out of curiosity, it seemed, with no great signs of hostility.
Mere curiosity can be bothersome, however. There was interest in my attire the frogman suit covered by a summer flight suit. Most bothersome was their interest in the contents of the lower leg pockets. No one seemed to cherish the soap, toothbrush, tooth paste, or spare socks. But the bottle of multi-vitamins which I always carried in case I might miss a meal evoked much interest. Especially interested was a somewhat aggressive young man who spoke passable english. He demanded to know what was in the bottle. I said it was medicine. He wanted to know what kind. I told him a doctor had prescribed it. He told me to take some of it. I told him it was not the proper time. He insisted I must take some of it to prove it was not poison.
It occurred to me that probably propaganda was spread that we carried poison with us. So I popped one of the tablets in my mouth and swallowed it. But my antagonist came close, demanding that I open my mouth and saying I had not swallowed it. I opened my mouth and showed all around that it had been swallowed. The brash fellow seemed disappointed. Several others began laughing, and pointing as though chiding him. He quickly departed. Probably he had told the others that it was poison and was embarrassed by being proven wrong.
But from this came another problem. Since it wasn't poison and must be medicine, others in the room began asking for one of the pills. I put the bottle back in my pocket and swung a hand at the small crowd as if telling them to go away. To my considerable surprise, they did.
At nightfall, two new soldiers arrived and escorted us to a house just outside the village. We were ushered to an upstairs room. Chun and the general were there, seated on the floor (as is customary). Ettinger was there, also, lying curled up on the floor. The warmth of the room was no doubt most welcome to his weakened body. In addition to his physical illness, this had been for him a long and disappointing day.
Chun indicated for us to be seated, said some food was being prepared for us, after which we would have many things to discuss. While waiting for the food, we could become acquainted. There was one immediate question for me: "What happened?" They of course wanted to know what went wrong to cause the crash. It was imperative in this circumstance not to tell them the real reason. No matter that Naylor-Foote fully deserved condemnation by anyone who wanted the mission to succeed, it would not do here in enemy territory to expose his gross misdeeds or my feelings toward him. Certainly the Koreans knew we were not shot down. So I told them something went wrong with the engine perhaps a broken piston causing enough loss of power that it could not handle the extra weight.
The Koreans accepted that without further question. (Probably their knowledge of helicopters was not much greater than Naylor-Foote's.) There was no doubt whatsoever that they regretted the mission's failure; no matter that their reason for arranging it was as yet unclear. They were in fact obviously troubled by it. Clearly they were operating as "double agents;" having used captured infiltrators from Nan-do, their code name, and their portable radio to arrange the mission. Whether they were doing it for political reasons, or for the substantial monetary reward which our side had offered for return of downed American pilots, was at least for the moment insignificant to me.
Chun's rather bland opening question to Naylor-Foote brought from the latter a flood of words about himself. First, his "cover story" that he was from an outfit based in South Korea called Air-Ground Aid Service; including considerable detail of what that imaginary outfit did. Then, without being asked, he launched into resume of his personal history (which was probably as imaginary as his Air Ground Aid Service). "Four years in the British army in South Asia another four in the US Army went to college in Rio de Janeiro where he majored in medicine hoping some day to become a doctor...."
At that point Chun asked if he had actual experience in the medical field. Of course he said that he had .. working closely with doctors ... one of the reasons he was in the AGAS .... Chun then asked him to examine Ettinger. That he did to the extent of thumping his chest a few times after which he announced there was congestion there and that Ettinger needed medicine, badly.
A tapping on the door heralded arrival of three steaming bowls of soup borne by the lady of the house who had prepared them. She put the tray down gracefully and departed. Chun mentioned but made no apology for the modest character of the fare, expressing hope that we would find it satisfactory. He urged that we take our time in the eating of it, after which we would have further discussion. Naylor-Foote refused to accept his portion, in manner clearly intended to convey he didn't think it was good enough for him. Chun noted that display but said nothing. Ettinger, roused from his half-sleep, accepted his eagerly. He was in need of nourishment as much as he needed medication.
It was an excellent soup of fresh fish, seaweed, peppers and several other things which I didn't bother trying to identify. When we had finished our portions, we both urged Naylor-Foote to eat his. To my delight, and probably Ettinger's, he repeated his previous childish performance and still refused. I spooned a small amount from the third bowl into mine and handed the rest to Ettinger. He objected, saying that I should take more of it. I reminded him that I had breakfasted that morning in the CPO mess ..."where
you know we eat better than you guys do in the wardroom." Then I told him that I would eat mine very slowly "... so you'll not feel badly about having to dine alone sir." A trace of a smile appeared on Ettinger's face, and gratitude shown from his eyes He was beginning to rise out of the despair which he had suffered that day. Which assured me that this bedraggled young Naval officer with whom I was "dining" was a man well worth the effort I had made for him.
When we had finished eating, Ettinger lay down again and was quickly asleep. Chun asked if I had liked the soup " or perhaps it was an unaccustomed flavor."
In all sincerity I could tell him that I liked it very much. Some different than I had experienced before but the more enjoyable because of that. I asked if he might know the kind of fish it was; obviously fresh and from the sea. We discussed that for a while and decided it must be of the catfish species. He mentioned that this was a fishing village which provided fish for many other places and always had good supply for itself. From that beginning we proceeded to discuss a variety of things. It was necessary to be cautious, but he asked no personal or otherwise prying questions as an interrogator might. Whether he was friend or foe, it would be beneficial to establish mutually respectful acquaintance with him.
Naylor-Foote tried several times to enter into the conversation. I realized from his manner that he was disturbed by the fact that Chun was talking with me instead of himself. And the more so when Chun, after listening to whatever Naylor-Foote said, often did not respond to him but resumed conversation with me.
The sergeant who had taken us into custody arrived, reporting to the general. Chun excused himself from further conversation with me to join in the discussion with the sergeant. A glance at Naylor-Foote caught him looking at me but he shifted his eyes to the floor at once. I positioned myself so I could observe the Koreans without looking at them directly. Their expressions might be of value to observe, even though I could not understand their words. The sergeant's occasional glances toward Naylor-Foote and myself were at least somewhat understandable. Now and again Chun would turn to me with a question, but none seemed of great significance. There was not even a question if I had communications with the covering aircraft after the helicopter crashed.
. Their conference with the sergeant lasted for more than an hour. Meanwhile I pondered the circumstance of the general and his interpreter aide more than I at the moment thought about my own. Whether friend or foe, this turn of events confronted them with a serious problem. If they were in fact working for our side, while pretending loyalty to North Korea, they might be called upon by someone to explain the presence of the three of us with them. If, on the other hand, they were loyal to the North Korean regime, then arrangements for Ettinger's release (which was unquestionably their intent) must have been part of a scheme to infiltrate our intelligence network by pretending to be working for our side. In which case there was some solace in the thought that my misfortune would have disrupted that scheme.
When the sergeant arose to leave, he paused at the door and said something to Chun with a glance and nod in my direction. Chun translated to me: "Our sergeant tells us that you are a very good soldier."
Though surprised to be told that, I realized there had been a number of things which would have caused him to regard me well. There was the call that kept him from leading us out into the open space and subsequent stopping of his man from firing at the helicopter, both of which kept us from being targets of strafing. Reminder to disarm Naylor-Foote and myself was sensible for both of us under the circumstance. The fact that I remained observant throughout the day he would view as "soldierly." His little by-play with the pistols was unquestionably a test.
To Chun I said, "It is an honor to be so regarded by a soldier of his caliber." There was no change of expression in the sergeant's face as he listened to Chun's translation. He just looked at me steadily for a moment and departed. Was he friend or foe? To this day I do not know, so far as national or political allegiance are concerned.
But in human terms, there was a man worth knowing; dependable if a friend, respectable even if an enemy. There was a twinge of regret that it was unlikely we would ever meet again. And I wondered if he might be feeling the same.
The irony of the situation was sharp even painful.. I had just exchanged respectful though unspoken farewells with a man who must be regarded as one of the enemy. Meanwhile beside me was a despicable (even though in some ways pitiable) creature whom I must pretend was a friend simply because he was a countryman and we were in enemy territory.
In some of war's circumstance the company of a respectable foe is better than that of an undependable "friend."
After a brief discussion with the general, Chun informed me that Ettinger and I would remain there that night. Then the two of them departed taking NaylorFoote with them.
Despite the uncertainties now confronting, I rested quite well that night. Not that I slept very much. There was much thinking to do. But it was possible to relax and rest while doing it.
The general and Chun seemed still to be searching for a way to get Ettinger out; and probably Naylor-Foote and myself also. But they obviously had difficult problems in that regard. So it would not do to rely solely on that possibility. The mind insisted on considering possibility of a "do-it' myself" exit. This was a fishing village; so there would be boats. But getting to the sore through the village undetected was unlikely. The river a short way north had appeared to have few building along its banks before reaching the sea. Perhaps there would be chance to study that by daylight in the morning
.What of the possibility of slipping out and heading back into the mountains? Both Ulatoski and Naylor-Foote had spoken of hideaways and supply caches in that area. But that was reminder that both Ulatoski and Naylor-Foote were liars. It was no more likely that those things existed than that Naylor-Foote was the much experienced, behind the lines, parachutist and guerilla warfare expert that Ulatoski had said he was.
Recollection of that generated a delightful fantasy: Slip away to the shore, steal a boat, sail it to Nan-do and punch Ulatoski in the face without a word of warning or explanation. Bitterness and disgust felt toward Naylor-Foote was some ameliorated by realization that he was some manner of psychopath. Ulatoski had no such excuse, so far as I knew; which generated puzzlement as to why he would tell me Naylor-Foote was so experienced and knowledgeable when it had become evident to me in short order that he was neither of those.
Those thoughts compelled acknowledgment of my own considerable fault in bringing Naylor-Foote in place of my crewman. There had been several things in his behavior aboard the Rochester, prior to his last minute performance delaying our launch, which should have told me he was not dependable. But there again it was Ulatoski's fine sounding recommendations of his "good man" that caused me to disregard those signs.
After running that and a few more thoughts of escape possibilities through my mind I decided I should go to sleep. Which I did, quite readily and very well, to awaken at daybreak very much refreshed.
A young man brought us some rice gruel for breakfast; not as tasty as last night's soup but quite satisfactory. We went outside afterward to bask in the morning sun. It seemed opportunity to learn more from Ettinger. But that was prevented by the arrival of Chun in a jeep. He told Ettinger to get in to go to Wonsan and said he would be back to get me later. Meanwhile I should just "be at ease" and needed only to stay in vicinity of the house.
Well, so much for all the escape planning from this place which had been in my thoughts during the night. Still it wasn't a waste of time. Better that the mind be busy thinking of even remote possibilities, than abuse itself with worries or self-pity. I would mostly bask in the sun until Chun returned. It was welcome chance to rest from the stresses of the previous day, full knowing that there might be greater trials ahead. There was reason still to hope for quick extraction or exit from this predicament, but it would be foolish to count on it. So n case they might be more ;useful later, I cut a small slit in the leg seam of my flight suit, stuffed the remaining 99 vitamin pills into it, and threw away the bottle.
Chun and the general arrived back from Wonsan in late afternoon. I climbed into the back of the jeep, amidst and atop an assortment of gear including a one man life-raft from the helicopter. We departed at once. Chun seemed quite competent as a jeep driver, though he made little effort to avoid bumps and chuckholes. We reached the southern shore of Wonsan harbor shortly after nightfall. We were traveling along an open stretch of beach; with no other traffic, and no soldiers in view along the road. The life raft was right beside me. If I could roll out of the jeep unnoticed, I could make it to the water in less than a minute; and some of our ships or the island, Yo-do, were within reasonable swimming distance..
The situation was tempting, but with several drawbacks. At the speed we were going the odds were against my rolling out without getting some bad lumps (at very least). Nor was it likely I could do so without either Chun or the general noticing. Plus which the zipper on back of my frogman suit was now undone (for convenience since I had to squirm out of the thing to answer calls of nature). Closing it myself was possible, but could not be done quickly. In any case, the opportunity soon vanished. The open stretch of beach ended as suddenly as it had appeared.
Shortly the jeep was winding its way upslope through the city west of the harbor. Some landmarks were recognized; I had several times directed ship's gunfire onto targets at the outskirts of the city. This night I observed some from a different perspective. We came to an intersection where an MP was directing traffic from atop a raised platform in the center of it. He had no other traffic to direct at the moment except us. Even so, with a flamboyant sweep of his white-gloved hand (quite as any good American MP would do) he indicated for the jeep to swing around him and pointed in the direction Chun had signaled that he wanted to go. Then suddenly he tucked in his arm and dove headlong into a hole beside the platform, as a five-inch round from one of the ships in the harbor passed over to strike near the top of the ridge beyond. Without slowing, Chun swung the jeep around the turn and laughingly said something to the MP as he climbed back out of the hole.
A few minutes later we pulled up beside a long building on the west side of that ridge. Tight against the western slope, it was well sheltered from guns of the ships in the harbor. A dozen or more soldiers were inside the building, including one of feminine gender. Also present were Ettinger and Naylor-Foote. There was no exchange of greetings as I joined them. It was hardly occasion for back-slapping reunion. The soldiers seemed to be off-duty and paid little attention to our presence.
Three bowls of soup were brought to us. This time, Naylor-Foote took his without complaint or comment. There was some amusement in the fact that this serving was not nearly so good as that which he had refused the night before. The soldier who came to retrieve the bowls beckoned for me to follow him. He led me to a spacious and barren room; the entrance to underground spaces which were probably command headquarters of the region. Chun and the general were the only persons in the space, in conversation beside the entrance to underground. Chun came at once to meet me. The general stayed put, arms folded and head down as if in deep thought.
Without preface, Chun said, "The general would still like very much to get Ettinger out so he might receive good medical treatment. We wonder if you might have some idea how that could still be done."
It wasn't necessary to study about it. The answer had been provided, in a sense, while we were passing the open area of beach on the harbor's south side. "Yes," I said, "I believe I can. I am wearing a waterproof suit ..(I pointed to it) ... and Naylor-Foote the same. In these suits we can be in the water for a long time without being wet or cold. You have brought with you a life-raft from my helicopter. If you can arrange to take us to the harbor's edge at night, Ettinger can be put in the raft and Naylor-Foote and myself swimming alongside can take him to one of our ships in the harbor or even to Yo-do."
Chun studied for a short while, then said, "That is very interesting. I will tell this to the general and he will consider it. We will talk with you again n the morning. I hope you sleep well."
Back with the others, I told them of my conversation with Chun and asked Ettinger if he thought himself up to that kind of a "voyage." With no hesitation he said that he certainly was. I stressed then that none of us should try to press the idea, but await the general's next move. Ettinger agreed; Naylor-Foote said nothing. There was uneasy feeling that the fellow resented the fact that Chun had sought ideas from me instead of from himself, and that if he had opportunity to speak with Chun or the general he would broach the subject at once. Naylor-Foote moved apart then and when he was out of earshot Ettinger asked: "Is that guy really a doctor/"
I replied simply with "No," withholding to myself the thought that Naylor-Foote wasn't really anything but a faker and a blowhard. Ettinger appeared irritated about something in that regard, but said nothing more at the time. Several weeks later I would learn that after Ettinger arrived in Wonsan, Naylor-Foote had again "examined" him and "prescribed" some out-dated antibiotics which the Korean doctors had at hand and offered to administer it. Ettinger had refused because he had already received several such injections with no alleviation of his illness and his posterior was so sore that he could not sit or lie on his back comfortably. Just prior to my return from the discussion with Chun, Naylor-Foote had been berating Ettinger for "blowing his cover" by refusing the injections and thus "jeopardizing" the Army unit on Nan-do which had "tried so hard" to get him out.
We bedded down that night on a bed of straw at the end of a line of soldieries already bedded in. A few coarse blankets were at hand to be drawn up over the line of bodies. The only source of heat was the bodies. I got myself once removed from Naylor-Foote by suggesting that Ettinger would be warmer between us. Which put me at the very end where one side would be exposed to the chill; but there was consolation in the thought that this put Naylor-Foote in body contact with a Korean, whom he would probably regard as practically an "untouchable" for such a "high-born" person as himself.
My end-of-the-line exposure to chill was short-lived. Another Korean soldier arrived to lie down beside me. As I lifted the blanket to let him under it I realized it wasn't a "him." It was the girl soldier noted earlier. I didn't presume when she pressed against me that it was in quest of anything from my body other than warmth. But it occurred to me that with only slight embellishment it would make a good sea story at such time as I might again be someplace where sea stories were in vogue When I called Ettinger's attention in the morning to the still sleeping girl soldier, he said he now understood why I volunteered for the end of the line space.
Chun appeared shortly after our breakfast of soup and rice, accompanied by a barber who he said would give Ettinger a much needed haircut. Naylor-Foote moved to say something to Chun but before he could speak Chun said to him, "And he will also shave off your beard." Naylor-Foote was clearly taken aback. But again, before he could say anything, Chun spoke to the barber while pointing at the beard and quickly departed. After recovering from that, Naylor-Foote said to me: "The reason they want to cut off my beard is to try to find out who I really am." I resisted the impulse to say in response that if they did I hoped they would tell him.
Probably it was a sense of pity, borne of realization that he was something of a mental case, which kept me from developing a vicious hatred for Naylor-Foote. Also there was the fact that I had disregarded several warning signs in his behavior when I decided to bring him along on the mission. There would be times, however, when I would come close to punching him out despite the facts that we were in enemy hands. And one of those times was just about to occur. Chun returned with the general while Ettinger was getting his haircut. Some distant apart from all others in the area he said to me:: "The general wishes to know, if only one of you can be allowed to go to take Ettinger in the raft, which one should it be?"
The appropriate answer was obvious. The general could choose But before I could say it Naylor-Foote stepped forward and said, "In that case it should be me because I'm an officer and can go directly to Admiral Martin and arrange your payment."
The combination of surprise, disgust and anger rendered me momentarily speechless. Plus which, Chun had immediately translated that to the general, who softly spoke one word (probably an expletive) and with a quick glance at Naylor-Foote turned and walked away. Chun looked back at me after the general had disappeared into the building; perhaps expecting and hoping for me to say something. Unquestionably in this instance I should have disregarded the basic rule of showing no disagreement or discord with a countryman in the presence of the enemy. But I was still dumbstruck by such a blatant violation of common sense and human decency. After a moment Chun said he would be back later and also departed.
Nor did I say anything to Naylor-Foote after Chun had left. Not that I was still unable to speak But anything from him trying to justify what he had just done would have overcome my self-restraint. and I would have bashed him in full view of the considerable number of troops who were awaiting haircuts.
Almost certainly Naylor-Foote expected the general's choice would have been me, hence moved so quickly to prevent me from saying that the general should choose. His mention of arranging payoff revealed that he had tried to "bribe" his own way out during his ride to Wonsan with Chun and the general, probably with no concern for Ettinger or myself. He obviously had mentioned Admiral Martin during his discussion with them, which was tantamount to "blowing" his own "cover story."
When I looked at Naylor-Foote after Chun had departed, he was looking at me. But he quickly looked away and also moved a few yards away, probably realizing what he fully deserved and fearful that. I might provide it.
The barber finished with Ettinger's haircut and summoned Naylor-Foote for his shave. It seemed best not to tell Ettinger what had just happened to the idea of taking him to freedom in the life-raft. Perhaps also it was best not to talk about it at all. A soldier messenger appeared shortly and escorted Ettinger away. After Naylor-Foote had been shaved he made no approach toward me, and I certainly made none towards him. He sat on a bench, sometimes along side some Korean soldiers, avoiding direct eye contact but at the same time watching me.
Late in the afternoon Chun returned by himself and beckoned me to join him
in a place apart from any others. "A jeep will be here soon," he said, "to take you and Naylor-Foote to Pyongyang. I am very sorry other arrangements could not be made...."He went on to say that though there would likely be unpleasant times , he was confident that I could endure them.
There being no point in asking further about the life-raft idea, I said, "May I ask what is now in store for Ettinger?"
He replied without hesitation: "We will get for him as good medical treatment as our limited resources can provide. After that...." words trailed away, it seemed a bit sadly. Fortunes of war would determine the future for all of us, including Chun and his general. I had no illusion that after leaving their custody I could expect anything even close to the considerate treatment they had afforded. Nothing could be done about that now, so there was no point in mentioning it. We stood together in silence for the several minutes that passed before the jeep arrived. Naylor-Foote was watching us intently during that while. He quite probably thought when Chun first beckoned me aside that it was for further discussion of the life-raft idea. Perhaps by now he would be thinking that it had been decided for me to take Ettinger out in the raft; and I wondered if Chun might be handling it this way deliberately.
Was he a friend or was he foe? I was again struck by the irony of the situation. For the second time within a few days I was exchanging respectful farewells with someone whom I must regard as an enemy. Meanwhile but a few steps away, watching us with a baleful stare, was a totally despicable fellow whom I must pretend was a friend. His willful and deliberate deceitfulness had caused both him and myself to be in this dire circumstance. The "foe" now standing beside me had tried to arrange to get one or both of us out of it. But that "friend" by combination of selfishness and gross stupidity had prevented it from being done.
The jeep arrived, stopping close beside us, engine still running. "Goodbye to you...," said Chun, "...and good luck."
"I would wish you the same, sir," I said in all sincerity.
A handclasp would have been inappropriate. It was also unnecessary.
Chun turned away as I climbed aboard the jeep. He walked briskly past Naylor-Foote and said as he passed, "You go in the jeep also;" accompanied by a "get going" signal with his thumb over his shoulder. Naylor-Foote's mouth opened as though to ask a question, and hung that way for a while as Chun walked on without backward glance. The now beardless "great warrior" then came to the jeep and asked as he was climbing aboard, "What did he tell you?"
"He told me goodbye."
There was a moment of stunned silence. The jeep began moving before he had settled onto his seat, mainly because he took so long in doing it. The mild jolt seemed to shake his tongue loose again.
"Did he say where we are going?"
There was no reason to deny him the knowledge. There was also no reason to elaborate. But there were several reasons to terminate the conversation. So I did that with just one word:
[* Pronounced "pengyang."]
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©2002, 2003 by Lynn Waterman; used by permission of the author, Duane Thorin.