Homecoming

HOMECOMING

By Sam Garfield

May 7, 1955

(Chicago) –In all likelihood Mrs. Margaret Kelly Clark will arrive at the train station early, well before Bud. You see, five years ago her son left for Korea, and today he’s coming home.

Nov. 27, 1950

(Chosin Reservoir) –A Chicago soldier sits in the frozen snow in northeastern Korea, eight thousand miles from home. There’s one last letter to write. Corporal Bud Clark, 21, mortar man, Fox Company, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, writes his mother.

He describes this desolate, ice-covered place called Chosin Reservoir, including the brittle weather, the cold from Siberia that freezes the rugged ground, and the frostbite that blisters the skin black. He writes about some of the guys from the 7th Marine, kids like Chester and Al from Chicago, and how he dreams of coming home.

But he doesn’t write about the 10 infantry divisions of the Red Chinese Ninth Army that are poised to attack. Corporal Clark and the 1st Marine Division, along with U.N. forces, become surrounded by Chinese troops and begin to fight their way south, over snow- covered hills, across frozen rivers, in temperatures 35-degress below zero. They fight their way along a 76-mile icy mountain road that leads to the safe port of Hungnam, their only retreat route. Corporal Clark’s Fox Company becomes trapped at Toktong Pass, a vital pass that controls the road. Many American soldiers are alive today because of Bud Clark’s heroics, some mothers of Marines would tell Margaret Clark. During the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, Corporal Clark repeatedly rushes through Chinese rifle fire to help the wounded. Seventeen times he carries a man to safety. He is awarded two Purple Hearts. 

On the sixth of December, with air support from Marine, Navy and Air Force fliers, Corporal Clark starts an 11-mile hike to the 1st Marine position at Koto-ri. More than 10,000 Marines move 1,000 vehicles along the rugged road; they suffer 600 casualties. As he tries to come to the aid of a fallen Marine, Bud Clark is cut down by Chinese rifle fire. Bud would never leave any of his men behind when they got hit, soldiers from Corporal Clark’s 7th Regiment would tell his mother. A week after Corporal Clark is killed the Marines make their way to the safe port of Hungnam. The Battle of Chosin Reservoir, the longest withdrawal in Marine Corps history, is over. Corporal Clark is buried in a temporary U.N. military site in Hungnam.

On December 24, the massive evacuation is being completed. Ships carry 105,000 Americans and South Korean soldiers, 91,000 civilian refugees, 17,000 vehicles and 350,000 tons of cargo. The exhausted soldiers of Fox Company and the 7th Regiment rest and look forward to Christmas turkey dinners. In Chicago, Bud Clark’s mother is told of her son’s death.

May 7, 1955

(La Salle St. Station) –What goes through a mother’s mind as she waits? During that brutal Korean winter of ’50, he wanted so badly to come home, she remembers, to be with his family again, to see the city he loved. This is why she waits for the train that is bringing her son home. Donald Clark, a World War II veteran, will be with his brother, as his official military escort.  (Under the armistice agreement, Marines are now able to retrieve the bodies of their dead from Hungnam.) Corporal Bud Clark, who would never leave any of his men behind, will be back home for Mother’s Day…when all Moms and their Buds should be together.

 Copyright © 2011. John Theodore — All Rights Reserved. Text may not be reproduced without permission.

 

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