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Private First Class | Infantry


The hill was numbered 1090, but those defending it referred to it as 'Christmas Hill' with some contempt.  For four days between July 14th and 18th, the 180th Infantry repulsed hordes of Chinese scaling the steep slopes day and night in what was the largest offensive by the Chinese since 1951.  Six Chinese divisions threw nearly 80,000 men and thousands of rounds of artillery into the 180th Infantry Regiment holding the right flank of the main line of resistance.

Bunkers and trench lines laced the thin spine of a ridge that miraculously maintained some vegetation and thin, sparse trees.  Most of these were pulverized in the violent shelling beginning on the night of the 13th to 14th.  Aside from scattered patrols, it was the only combat Nelson found himself in since arriving in Korea earlier that summer.  He was still young at 21, a sandy haired Mainer of French descent, and had answered the call when he was drafted last December in the midst of a New England winter.

Shells began whistling in under a midnight sky and trumpets blared as the first wave of Chinese stormed from the valley below.  A Company scrambled to defend the line, hoping their own artillery would decimate the enemy before they saw them.  But they kept coming, throughout the night and into morning.  Through the next day, night, and after that for a total of four days until 6:30 on the morning of the 18th when a searing shard careened into Nelson's left elbow, sending excruciating pains through his entire body.

He could not muster the strength to bend his elbow and clutched it against his flak vest.  He could see some bone poking through his torn and bloody skin.  The battle was over for him.


He was evacuated to the 46th Surgical Hospital where the doctors picked out shrapnel and wrapped the wound before sending him off to the 279th General Hospital on July 23d.  They found the shell had broken his humerus into several small pieces, but it would heal with time and rest.  The end of hostilities on July 27th was joyous for all the soldiers in the hospital, and Nelson was happy to return to duty in September knowing that he would not be shot or shelled this time.

A view of Chinese lines from Christmas Hill and a view of the rear slope taken from perspective of the evac hospital,  July 1953.

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