GEORGE C. STEWART JR.
Captain | Infantry
By the end of May 1951, warmer weather prevailed out of a damp spring and the men were now quite comfortable throughout the day in their fatigues. The bitter winter was months behind them and a steamy summer had not developed yet. The land around Inje still remained beautiful – hardly touched by the hands of war and before a time when artillery barrages rained in day and night. The hills were still forested, thick with pine trees and low scrub.
It was four in the afternoon by the time C Company reached Hill 592 and began fighting up the slope. Friendly artillery fire did not seem to be on target, and Craig wanted a better look to direct it. He stood up, walking to where he might be able to view the ridge before him more clearly, when he flinched and keeled over, like he was smacked in the chest and the wind knocked out of him.
He was an easy target for a Chinese soldier hidden under a log in a ditch thirty yards away.
The Captain’s runner, Hank Gonzales, sprinted to Craig’s side and dragged him away behind a low mound. The bullet had passed clean through the center of his chest. Hank summoned a medic who gave Craig a shot of morphine and plugged him up. With the help of another solder who was shot in the neck, Hank carried his Captain down the slope.
Away from the fighting, Stewart lay awaiting evacuation. He was in serious condition and Hank hated to leave him. Before the two parted ways, he took the rosary he always wore and gave it to Craig, who clutched it with a weak hand. It was up to God to help him now – Hank had done all he could. He left the Craig’s side, imagining like many soldiers who part ways on nameless hills in Korea that it would be the last time they saw each other.
A graduate of West Point with the class of 1945, Stewart served first with the 11th Airborne in Japan immediately following his commission. In five years, while at Fort Campbell with the 11th Airborne again, he was assigned to Headquarters, 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team to prepare for movement to the Korean theater.
The transfer came on the last day of August 1950, followed by orders for the regiment to change station to an unknown overseas command and four days and nights traveling nearly 2,500 miles to San Francisco. The troops hung around for a couple days before boarding troopships and were soon underway towards combat. The seas journey was much longer, about two weeks, and it was nice to be on dry land again. Though familiar with the Japanese land and people, Craig had never seen Kyushu at the most southern point of the country. During occupation duties he was much further North.
Headquarters finally moved to Korea in the first days of October, and on the third, Craig transferred to L Company, bivouacked at Kimpo Air Base. This company had been a lead element in Korea and already seen hard fighting against North Korean forces and took almost two weeks as an opportunity to rest before moving to the Han River where they acted as a guarding force for the bridge and river for about two days before new orders came.
As a paratrooper, like the rest of the men, Craig was a two time volunteer - once for enlisting and a second time for the airborne. To get orders for a combat jump was just as much an elation as it was nerve wracking. The latter feelings amplified when the jump was delayed six hours due to inclement weather, which felt like an eternity, but they finally dropped at ten past one in the afternoon on October 20. The landing zone was free of resistance, and only one L Company trooper was injured on the jump. After two days march, Craig entered his first combat near Sukchon.
On the morning of the twenty-fourth, the entire company organized for a patrol to recover killed and wounded of I Company. The previous afternoon, two platoons from L Company attempted the mission into the village of Sena-pa, but it was too much to complete before dark. The company met little resistance, though it did take the entire day to return with nineteen killed and two wounded of their sister company. That evening, they boarded trucks to move again, this time to Pyongyang to quarter in a former North Korean Army training center where the company altered and improved their camp site over the next few days.
In early November the 187th was graced with a luxury not seen by many front line soldiers going into the Korean winter. While maintaining guard duty at Pyongyang, the regiment received a draw of arctic clothing, a blessing for the climate they were beginning to endure, especially by the end of November up around Chisong-ni and Hwang-ju. Craig was also promoted to Captain, presumably taking the position of the company commander. The action at the end of the month consisted mainly of small patrols and guard duties, though there was one attack on the thirtieth where the company faced well dug-in enemies, suffering some light casualties and retrieving many of K Company's wounded.
Suan was the next stop for the ever moving 187th, and on December 3, outposted in the surrounding hills to dispatch normal patrols. Craig moved each day, it seemed, from Suan on to Singye, Sibyon-ni, Choniwa-Dong, Kuhwa-ri, and other villages several miles from each other. There was little enemy action until Pangyo-Dong and Suhyon-Dong on December 12, and more movement followed until the last few days of the month when they bivouacked at Annyong-ni and enjoyed a wonderful Christmas dinner and brought in the new year, 1951.