WILLIAM E. WIMMER
Corporal | Ordnance Corps
Once the war in the Pacific was over a period of rapid demobilization swept through the islands where men across the services were tasked with the disposal and destruction of equipment and supplies. At the largest Naval base for PT Boats, over a hundred of the wooden hulled craft were dragged onto the beaches and burned to eliminate the need for continuous maintenance and consumption of high-octane gasoline. It was far too expensive to keep them running in a peacetime Navy and from the beaches of Bobon Point seated among the base’s sailors, William Wimmer watched the hulls reduce into brittle blackened husks.
He spent roughly a year and a half working on PT Base #17 which had developed into a neighborhood of Quonset huts and a few docks to service boats. Though it was the most developed of its kind, it was a rather small institution dwarfed by dense greenery of the Philippine jungle. As long as boats needed serving work was consistent on the island and life was otherwise comfortable with plenty of activities and sandy beaches to enjoy.
After discharge from the Navy and brief year as a civilian, Wimmer enlisted in the Army for desirable duty in occupied Japan with the 24th Division. His life of relaxation and indulgence changed when war in Korea broke out and with the Division, his 724th Ordnance Maintenance Company collected their vehicles and equipment and followed the combat units into the defense of South Korea. The first month was frantic as the North Korean Army obliterated the American and Korean defenses to the Naktong River where the 24th was bolstered by additional Army divisions and a Marine brigade, ultimately repelling the North Korean forces and allowing the battered 24th to take a well needed break. Throughout July and much of August, most vehicles and equipment were either abandoned, destroyed, or in dire need by the line troops, so the 724th never saw them until after weeks of constant abuse. Much of the period was lost to memory, but the Korean winters were unforgettable.
Posted within fifty miles of the Chinese border, William lived in a sixteen-man tent with outdoor heating sources across the company area of 55-gallon drums stuffed with scavenged rags and wood with a drip can of motor oil above that provided only minor relief against the piercing sub-zero climate. When the Chinese crossed the Yalu river, the ordnance company wasted no time turning south as the noncombatants could not face multiple Chinese divisions. They were forced to leave materiel behind and – as Wimmer was used to in the workings of the military – it was necessary to burn it all. On the movement south, the company found a Korean child, likely an orphan, about three-years-old and nearly frozen at a railway depot. After a hot bath to revive her, the company eagerly adopted the girl they even tailored a custom uniform for her. She stayed with the 724th until the company passed a monastery and passed her over to the nuns with some sadness, but there was no way she could continue life in the Army.
When the Chinese launched their spring offensive in 1951, it was such a massacre that the 724th heard the American tanks and halftracks had to drive out of the holes they were dug into in order to keep shooting over the dead bodies piling up. The report did not make papers and seemed like an exaggeration, but when the ordnance company set up on a river bank in April and May there were frequently bodies floating downstream and their pungent stench was permeating. Once the war stabilized, so did life for the 724th and for his remaining time in Korea, Wimmer passed the routine days fulfilling his duties awaiting his day to return home.
Mackowiak, Robert C, and Ronald Hanson. “724th Ord Co Korea.” Dec. 2015.
United States, Command Reports – 24th Infantry Division, July 1950. Record Group 407: Army-AG Command Reports, 1949-54. National Archives at College Park, MD