James Haney Memories of Camp Beavers 1962-1963
Supply Sergeant for Bravo Company, 40th Armor 1962-1963
On this particular night I was hanging out in Korea with a bunch of Army buddies enjoying a five day bivouac at the behest
of our Army masters. For the readers not familiar with the word bivouac the dictionary says it is a temporary encampment often
in an unsheltered area. I think that is a fair and accurate description. We had been happily enjoying our unsheltered existence
for maybe three or four days and my days had so far been filled with wonderful new experiences. Things like how one could
be so cold for so long and not perish from the overwhelming sensory input from your body. Cold fingers, numb feet, shivering
uncontrollably for long periods, these were quite an eye-opener to me. I suppose that's why my skinny little frozen butt was
out there in the first place. My Army masters thought it would be a good thing if I knew in advance what I would experience
should the need arrive for me to rush out in the snow for a few months to repel any foreign enemy combatants. Maybe they didn't
realize that the foreknowledge of what it would be like out there waiting to be killed or maimed in the cold might just make
me a bit hesitant to join the fun. Perhaps it would be best to keep it as a surprise. I never want us forget to be humbled
at the thought of our troops that fought in the war through these kinds of conditions both in Europe and Korea. Here I am
out there only for a five day taste of what it's like and I am thinking I have it rough.
Still were times when I wondered if my group was wired tight. Just the night before I had been ordered to move my truck
away from the center of the encampment and into an open field. This was because in case of an attack it would tend to attract
the hostile forces. I should mention said truck was one of those ubiquitous so called deuce and halfs.
It was filled to the max with everything but a kitchen sink since the orders were to bring everything that we could possibly
need. Toilet paper is the only thing I remember ever handing out. When I brought up the point that being out in that field
made all our supplies vulnerable to theft or whatever, slicky boys being by far the biggest threat we were facing at that
time since actual hostilities had been over for a decade or so, I was told not to worry because I was going to sleep in the
truck to keep it safe. Surprisingly I was told I could sleep while supposedly on guard since they weren't going to post any
other guards and couldn't expect me to stay up all night. If you are starting to think this sounds like a bit of a hairball
idea, well join the club, I thought the same thing at the time. Being a good little soldier boy I dutifully moved my truck
out where the sergeant wanted it parked. Now you should know I was unarmed and was being put out like cheese in a trap and
told it is fine if I wanted to sleep. I wonder if sacrificial lambs manage to sleep. The truck had a lot of things that would
attract a thief and these slicky boys didn't want to be caught, Korean prisons being rather grim places to call home.
I finally decided that wandering around in the snow while watching the truck was boring and decided to see if I could
get comfortable in the cab. I should point out that all the canvas covering the cab was removed by orders, something about
it being a tactical operation simulation. How this computes is and was beyond my ability to understand but I had given up
on trying to figure out the military mind set by then. We were allowed to leave the rear cargo area covered, got to keep the
precious cargo out of the elements. I was dressed in every piece of winter gear I had been issued, long johns, fatigue pants,
thermal boots, parka etc. You get the idea, I was still cold though and that was the main reason I had kept walking around
the truck. Still a man has got to sleep eventually so into the cab I went.
I got myself wedged in with my feet under the steering wheel and my back against the passenger side door. In a flash of
brilliance I had decided to put my lower half into a mummy bag and managed to get it pulled up to my waist what with all the
winter gear I was wearing, yes boots and all. Did I mention how cold it was? I still was far from toasty but at least I was
sort of laying on something soft and could watch the softly falling snowflakes quietly covering my supine form. Eventually
I fell asleep.
The next thing I knew was that I realized I was hearing a weird metallic clicking sound. I opened my eyes and realized
it was starting to get light again, morning was coming. But what was this noise? Coming more to my senses I realized I was
shivering so hard that something was rattling. Probably it was something loose in the truck door. My instinct was to get up
and move around and try and warm myself before fatality set in. I started to pull my leg out of the sleeping bag and immediately
suffered a charlie horse in my lower thigh. This was a really, really serious pain, the worst I ever have had. My frozen condition
probably amped up the sensation of course but I jammed my leg against the far side of the driver foot well to mimic standing
up, standing being the cure we all know works. Sure enough that worked and the pain subsided.
Well gee, fine; here I am stuffed in a sleeping bag, covered with snow, shivering like a Waring Blender, wedged into
a truck cab and afraid to move my legs to escape. What to do, what to do? The obvious solution was to lie there and die and
hope when they finally get around to looking for me they will feel some sense of remorse at my demise in the line of duty.
Medal of Honor candidate? More likely the joke of the week. Wanting to cut the waiting to die time to a minimum I managed
to get the door open behind me and being careful not to bend my legs I managed to extract myself from under the dash and around
the gearshift. I slid off the seat and onto the snow below the door. Having managed this Houdini worthy trick I proceeded
to pull myself around on the ground, thanks mainly to being lucky enough to be born with elbows. Eventually like a butterfly
emerging from a chrysalis freedom was attained once more. When I had finally managed to manage an upright posture with the
aid of my faithful truck I took stock of the situation. I was still shivering, it was getting brighter out, I knew the slicky
boys usually work in the dark. The lights were on in the cook tent across the field on the edge of the trees, I could smell
hot coffee, I was not happy with my command structure. I figured if anything went missing now it was because of the decision
to put the supplies in harm's way. I could smell coffee, no one was looking and I could smell ...okay, ...okay, I went to
the cook tent and over several delightful cups of coffee I shared my recent trials and tribulations with the cooks. Along
with many a good laugh at the Army's methods and mentalities I finally stopped shivering.