CANDY COMBATANTS AND BEER BOMBARDIERS.
I get my hair cut at a local unisex barber shop in town where my husband and son also get their hair cut. On this particular day, my husband had an appointment before me and watched a DVD of Venice, Italy, while locks of his hair fell to their death, cut down in the prime of life.
As I waited, I chatted with a gentlemen seated to my right on the bench we shared. The affable fellow, named Carl, was a veteran of the Korean war and harbinger of great anecdotes from his tour there.
I discovered this after making an innocuous remark about the frigid temperatures outside, which is usually followed with an, “I hate the cold, too,” or some other vacuous tripe.
This time my comment elicited the response, “Not as cold as Korea.”
This piqued my interest, of course, since I thought Korea was hot. I know. We Americans are so directionally dysfunctional. Duh! Korea has winter, too, which brings me back to my lame response of, “It’s cold in Korea?”
“Damn cold,” said Carl. “Back, during the Korean war, I used to drive a truck with a cargo of beer.”
“Beer?” I gasped, while raising my eyebrows. That can’t be a good thing, I thought, giving alcoholic beverages to the troops. We’re not talking about dance troupes or Shakespearean troupes. We’re talking about machine gun slinging, grenade flinging, weapon-bearing troops, with swords stuck at the end of rifles. Hence the redundant echoing of the word, “Beer?”
To which Carl nodded and said, “Yes, beer,” then continued. “I used to drive truck loads of beer to the front line on a dangerous road that ran through enemy territory. On one such beer run, on a day the temperature fell well below zero, suddenly I heard the sound, pop, pop, pop. Christ. I thought. I’m under attack, taking in enemy fire from both sides of the road. So, I radioed the base for help. Minutes later, a U.S. plane swooped in and battered the perimeter of the roads with rounds of artillery.”
Unbeknown to Carl, another evil was brewing around him.
“They saved my ass,” said Carl. “Man, I was so relieved to make it out of there in one piece. As soon as I arrived to the front line, I opened the back of the truck to unload the cargo and saw hundreds of bottles of beer (a hundred bottles of beer) burst open, glass scattered everywhere. It was so cold the bottles exploded while I was on the road.”
Get it! Carl wasn’t under attack. His cargo of beer burst open from the cold, likely costing American taxpayers thousands of dollars that day by radioing for help for protection from the bottle blasting bombardiers.
It seems that during the Korean war, Schlitz and Reingold regularly supplied beer to the troops, a fact I found quite disturbing and led to the question, “Carl, do you think that giving beer to the troops was such a good idea? I mean. Do you think it might have contributed to the early withdrawal of U.S. troops?”
Carl just hunched his shoulders and shook his head.
Come on. Really! Supplying beer to the troops. Whose bright idea was that, serving alcohol to 18 and 22 year old’s on the front line? The heavy breathers at Schlitz and Reingold probably thought it would be great publicity, or something.
Another interesting Carl story that you won’t find in the history books, involved candy, specifically, chocolate from the manufacturers of Hershey candy bars.
Hershey was another huge supplier of goods, or no goods, to the troops. Yep. They gave our boys in Korea, a major sugar rush, at the same time they underwent an adrenaline rush. The Corporate office shipped thousand of Hershey bars to Korea to give our troops in harms way chocolate bars containing trace amounts of caffeine and 24 grams of sugar, what many considered to be a nutritious snack at the time.
The corporate geniuses at Hershey’s were also unaware of their other contribution to the Korean war effort, beside a quick trigger finger. After the American troops were ordered to withdraw from Seoul and subsequently left the region, the Chinese moved in, confiscated 1000 Hershey candy bars (apparently no beer remained), and then handed them out to the Korean children.
Now, this may sound like an act of benevolence and a sweet end to a horrific story, however, on life’s road of ironic twists and cul-de-sacs, that was not the end to be. Instead of ingesting the tasty snack, the innocent children took the Hershey candy bars bestowed upon them and poured gasoline over those 1000 candy bars, using them as kindling, and then extinguished the remnants of the American occupation in Seoul, Korea in a blaze of fire.
You’ll never hear about that in an American History class. I can only shudder at the thousand other war tales left untold.
Have you heard any bizarre historical anecdotes or had any experiences of your own?