Wishing “Merry Christmas” to the Communists
In late 1950, a few weeks before Christmas, members of my outfit were thinking of loved ones back home. We were contemplating a dismal Christmas as we held grimly to the bunk support chains and tried to sleep. The submarine had surfaced to charge batteries and was now wallowing in canyon like troughs. A typhoon gale was sweeping the Sea of Japan and the sub was bucking like an East Texas Mossyhorn with one horn knocked off.
The outfit had departed Sasebo, Japan just a week ago. Our transport on this series of raids was a sub – and if memory serves, it was the USS Perch that we had operated from before. Our outfit had been harassing the coastal supply lines (both railway and highway) since shortly after the communist had jumped off in Korea. By now we were a veteran outfit and although we had been blooded, we had been raising bloody hell with the communists in their attempts to get supplies and troops to the front.
We had gone in the last two nights. The targets on both occasions had been railroad tunnels on the East Coast above Wonsan.
It was now 2 PM, and we were running north about 10 miles out. Our next objective lay on the far northeast corner of the peninsula, some miles south of the Yalu River – which was the border between Korea and Manchuria. Our ETA off the objective, another railroad tunnel, was 11 PM, about 9 hours from now.
As the sub slipped back underwater to a cruising depth, we lay listening to the water zipping by just inches from our head. I finally gave up trying to sleep, roused my buddy and we went in search of the ship’s carpenter – I had a plan.
The two of us and the ship’s carpenter busied ourselves the rest of the day in the forward torpedo room. We scrounged wood, nails and paint and secretly finished the project.
At 10 PM, an hour before we were to arrive at out objective, the adrenaline started pumping. In our preparations, sitting in semi darkness to have our eyes night-ready, we were applying dark face paint and worrying. We had never raided this far north before and were apprehensive about what might be awaiting us. To break up the nervousness, my buddy and I decided to reveal our plan. I went to my bunk and brought back a two-foot by three-foot sign with a 2 and a half-foot stake nailed to it. The stake had been sharpened for driving in the ground. When I turned the sign around so it could be read, I have never again heard silence so complete. The tears running down the faces of those hardened veterans of over a dozen raids behind enemy lines, was caused by this: The sign said simply, “Merry Christmas” in bold block letters.
That night, a couple of weeks before Christmas in 1950, we planted that sign on a cold barren coast of North Korea – with one small final addition. At the last minute, using the grease stick with which we had been darkening our faces, we added, “From the Merry Frogmen”.
We loaded the tunnel with a lethal dose of TNT and were sitting in our rubber boat a mile off shore when the blast went off. The topic of conversation for the rest of the way back to the sub – and even the next morning as we steamed back toward Japan, was whether the blast had knocked the sign over.
At noon on that day, “Seoul City Sue” came on the wireless just like she did every day. At the end of her broadcast, almost as an afterthought, she said, “O yes, those Frogmen seem to be raiding our coast again – and “Marry Christmas” to you too, “Merry Frogmen”.
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