The story that follows is based on the actual experiences of a brave soldier, Frederick B. Hudon, Sergeant in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. His term of service began after the draft on April 1, 1952 in his hometown of Canton, Connecticut. Earlier he had joined the Marines and served from 1948-1950, receiving a discharge just 10 days before the Marines were called to action. Following the draft, Sergeant Hudon became a member of the United States Army 40th Division and served from 1952-1954.
In the beginning he assumed various positions, such as riflemen and platoon leader, and then eventually became assistant platoon leader in Korea due to the unfortunate death of the previous assistant platoon leader. Strongly affected by life on the front lines, Sgt. Hudon accepted a transfer into the Eighth Army Honor Guard where he chauffeured such famous people as Vice President Nixon and Mrs. Sigmund Rhee, the wife of the President of Korea.
One of the most memorable moments during Sergeant Hudon’s military experience was when he took part at the signing of the peace treaties at Panmun Jon and the repatriation. During the repatriation, the Sergeant returned captured prisoners of war on both the American and Korean side. He was discharged, at the age of 21 on March 13, 1954, a changed man. After the Korean War, Sergeant Hudon went to work for Pratt and Whitney for 30-plus years and then retired. During his retirement, he has traveled to Indonesia where he resided for six months in 1990. Bravely, he also traveled down familiar paths by revisiting Korea for six months in 1991, exactly 40 years after the war.
Sergeant Hudon had just heard the news that the assistant platoon leader in Korea had been killed. Being on the front lines of the 38th parallel did not seem appealing, but he had to accept his call to duty. Unlike many naïve young adults, Sgt. Hudon realized the aftermath of war as it engulfed people from the battered soil like quicksand. Specifically, one of his friends during training was wounded. Ironically, the man was shot the first day; but it proved a blessing, since it kept him from entering the great chasm of war.
Burdensome feelings hung over Sergeant Hudon’s head as he battled between reality and imagination. He longed to feel his wife’s embrace, something more than a letter, and ultimately he longed to no longer fight a war to preserve peace. With a field of death ahead and Chinese forces only one mile away, anything could happen. Collaboratively, the American troops needed to anticipate the Communists’ next move, which proved impossible since the Chinese waged war with no rules in mind.
Sitting in the trench, huddled around a fire, it hardly seemed possible there was a war going on. However, the trampled corpses of lives that were never lived and the disabled first Calvary tanks and war vehicles served as reminders. Life was silent, as if things were muted; but then, with sudden bursts of splashing soil and the sound of metal echoing from machine guns, men would drop as if strangulated. Immediately after, Reds yelled and bloodcurdling screams rang out like bells in the night. The only way to describe war in Korea was as a cold hell. The incessant smell of gunpowder lingered in Hudon’s nose, and if that was not discomforting enough, he could always intoxicate himself with the smell of the honey wagons, which carried human waste that was used as fertilizer. But, Sgt. Hudon could not take his mind off the war since that would increase his chance of death.
Without a shower or anything more than meager rations, the 19-year-old Sergeant could only think. Horrors numbed the Sergeant’s soul; he could not even begin to understand war. The only freedom he had was to think, and even thinking was pre-determined with images of confusion. How could you ever explain “waking up alive as people around you are dying”?