A Korean War Odyssey tells the true story of Cpl. Donald Matney – his exploits and sudden disappearance during the war, and the author’s efforts to locate and bring him home many years later. A small-town Missouri boy, Donnie joins the army at the age of 17 to see the world during peace time and is posted to the good life performing occupational duties in Japan. When the North Koreans attack, he is suddenly thrust into violent combat fighting a better armed and better prepared enemy. A mortarman who never fired a live round, he finds himself lobbing shells at the enemy across the Kum River. He disappears during the battle for Taejon. Over sixty years later, the author’s family sets out to retrace his journeys and possibly bring him home. Their efforts take them to Washington, DC, Korea and many places in between. But slowly, carefully they reconstruct the short life of Donald Matney and bring him home to be buried by his mother. A Korean War Odyssey tells the story of the forgotten war from a participant’s perspective and adds the twist of a family who didn’t give up the search for their missing loved one.
Targeted Age Group:: Anyone interested in history
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The picture of the young soldier with the sticky-out ears graced my mother-in-law’s kitchen forever. When asked, she replied that her younger brother, Donnie, disappeared during the Korean War at the tender age of eighteen. In 2010, my wife, Sandy, and I set out to discover what happened to Cpl. Donald Matney and bring him home. Our journey would take us to Washington, DC, Seoul, Korea and many places in between. But slowly, carefully, step-by-step, we reconstructed the short life of Sandy’s Uncle Donnie, identified his remains, and returned him to rest by his mother’s side in Missouri.
Daybreak 25 June 1950, Camp Chickamauga, Beppu Kyushu, Japan
For Donnie Matney, Sunday mornings in the Army were the best. Unless deployed on maneuvers, Sundays were always relaxed. Sure, he still had to get up for reveille. But, here in occupied Japan, Army life was different. Since the dropping of the atom bombs and the total dismantling of the Japanese military economy, the Japanese people had nothing. And the US government (and thus the Army) didn’t worry about Japan and Asia. The world powers believed the Soviet Union was now the enemy and they would soon attack West Germany and take over Europe. Japan was beaten. China wasn’t a threat. Europe was much more important to protect than any country in Asia. So, the 19th Regiment of the 24th Infantry Division performing occupation duties in Japan received few supplies and new equipment from the States. They had to improvise. And the easiest way to improvise to everyone’s benefit was to employ the Japanese civilians to do things. By January 1950 when Donnie arrived, the Army employed the Japanese to do just about EVERYTHING – cooking, cleaning, gardening, even guard duty was performed by Japanese on base.
Donnie couldn’t believe Army life at Camp Chickamauga. Being fresh from boot camp at Ft. Riley, Kansas, and only passing through Ft. Lawton in Seattle, Washington, Japan was his first real posting. The many days spent on the troop ship traveling from Seattle to Japan were horrible. Most of the soldiers in transit spent the entire trip hugging the rails, seasick. Everyone on board thought that they would be assigned a tough billet in the real army upon arrival in Japan. They expected to end up working their butts off – more so than during their eight weeks of basic training. That thinking could not have been more misguided. When Donnie finally arrived on January 4, 1950, he reported to base and was assigned to Company H (Howe) to become part of a four-man 81mm Mortar squad. When he checked in with First Sergeant Szito at 15:00 that Wednesday, the Sergeant told him to go find a bunk, settle in and meet at the mess hall at 18:00. So, he walked into the barracks expecting it to be empty in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon. Instead, he found most of the bunks full of snoozing GIs. When he asked what was going on, he was told welcome to the life of a Chick. As the Japanese did everything, there wasn’t much to do most afternoons, except sleep, write letters and listen to the Armed Forces radio station.
Donnie soon learned the glorious history of the 19th Regiment. Formed in 1861, the 19th is known as the Rock of Chickamauga, due to the strength and courage of its enlisted men, who successfully defended their position during the Civil War battle at the Chickamauga River in Georgia. Over three days in September 1863, 65,000 Confederates battled 60,000 Union soldiers, resulting in over 34,600 combined casualties. Near the battle’s end, a lowly Second Lieutenant assumed command of the remains of the 19th Regiment when the other officers were killed or wounded. Under his command, they held their position at Horseshoe Ridge, providing enough time for the rest of the Union Army to form new defensive positions in Chattanooga thus earning them their moniker. The regiment later fought valiantly in the Indian Wars, World War I and in World War II, where they deployed from Hawaii and Australia to help liberate the Philippines.
Colonel Guy S. Meloy, Jr commands the 19th Regiment in Japan in 1950. Along with the 21st and 34th Regiments, the 19th Regiment is part of the 24th Infantry Division, the “Big Green” Victory Division, symbolized by a Taro leaf insignia worn on every soldier’s shoulder. The 24th Infantry Division is commanded by Major General William F. Dean. General Dean reports to Lieutenant General Walton H. Walker, 8th Army Commander, who in turn reports to General Douglas MacArthur, Commander in Chief, Far East Command. Howe Company morning reports that Sunday in June listed 120 GIs assigned with 115 on active duty. Though companies are typically led by a Captain, Howe Company is commanded by First Lieutenant Paul F. Reagan. Sergeant First Class (SFC) Joseph S. Szito commands the Mortar platoon and is Donnie’s direct superior non-commissioned officer. Donnie was pleased to learn that General Dean served as a Captain in the 19th Infantry fourteen years previously and that the General always took an interest in the activities of the Chicks.
This late June Sunday, Donnie planned to go to church services at the base chapel and then go fishing. That is, unless one of his buddies could hook him up. Then he would either go roller skating, dancing or to the movies to entertain a local girl. Most of the Privates First Class and service men with higher ranks had a “moose”. In Japan at this time, families were so poor that they could not afford to feed their children once they became teenagers. So certain arrangements were made. The boys got apprenticeships or jobs on base and the girls set up apartments with the GIs footing the bill. The servicemen then “shacked-up” with the "musime" girl and attended other events with them when they could get off base. And, with no regular duties, getting permission to stay off base was easy. But Donnie’s pay as a Buck Private wasn’t enough to make ends meet and support a “moose.” Besides, Donnie had heard the lectures from the Chaplin about the evils of sex with the natives and seen the VD slide shows. So, Donnie just entertained when one of his troop mates needed a friend for a friend.
Links to Purchase Print Books
Buy A Korean War Odyssey Print Edition at Amazon
Buy A Korean War Odyssey Print Edition at Barnes and Noble
Buy A Korean War Odyssey Print book for sale at Trafford Publishing
Links to Purchase eBooks – Click links for book samples and reviews
Buy A Korean War Odyssey On Amazon
Buy A Korean War Odyssey on Barnes and Noble/Nook
Buy A Korean War Odyssey on iBooks
Buy A Korean War Odyssey on Google Play
Buy A Korean War Odyssey on Kobo
Have you read this book? Tell us what you thought! All information was provided by the author and not edited by us. This is so you get to know the author better.