Merle Degler enlisted in the Coast Guard in September 1951 as an 18 year old and he attended Camp Polk, Louisiana for basic training. After his arrival in Pusan, Korea, Merle Degler’s heavy mortar unit was stationed primarily at Kumhwa, although they moved around to help out when needed. While there, Marines had been run off a hill, so Merle Degler’s unit supplied the firepower the Marines needed to get back up on that hill. His military occupation specialty (MOS) as a member of the 147th Infantry Battalion 37th Division Headquarters Company known as the “Buckeye Division, was a mechanic. In the Battle of Kumsong, Merle Degler and the nearest artillery unit were overrun by the Chinese, who had used our own equipment to fire back at us while wounding and killing many of our soldiers. After 7 months on the front line, he would return to the states just before the armistice was signed in July 1953.
Jincheng Campaign- Battle at Kumsong "All Hell Broke Loose"
Merle Degler always carried in his pocket rolls of film he had taken during his time in Korea. One day, he found an empty ammo box and decided to put the film in the ammo box, and the next thing you knew, "All Hell Broke Loose." He recalls the ROK and his unit were overrun by the Chinese, so they were told to retreat. Merle Degler learned just a few months ago, that the the US artillery regiment left their equipment when they retreated, so the Chinese used the equipment against our own people. They reorganized before the next morning to create a new front line, but with a lot less equipment since they had lost it while retreating.
Enlisting, Training, and Preparing for the Korean War
Merle Degler enlisted in the National Guard as an 18 year old in 1951. After attending Fort Polk for basic training, he was shipped to Yokohama and Tokyo, Japan to get equipment for the war. Soon after that, Merle Degler took a ship to Pusan in Jan. 1953 and he was sent right to Yeongdeungpo, Korea. After being picked up by his regiment, he was brought to his duty station in the Iron Triangle (Kumwa Valley).
Fighting in the Iron Triangle in Jan. 1953
Merle Degler was stationed in the Iron Triangle and he fought along with the US Marines who had be run off an important hill by fighting the Chinese. He went to White Horse Hill right after a battle like WWI trenches right at the front line. After he had been in a bunker for a while, a soldier took him out of the trench towards no-man's-land, and he was taken to a field full of dead Chinese soldiers.
The Troubles with Traveling by a Truck
Merle Degler's job was to work on military trucks at the front lines in North Korea in early 1953. After being told that he had to move out, Merle Degler drove a truck up into the mountains with his regiment until the engine blew. Because he was not able to fix the truck on the side of the mountain, he was towed down the hill and back to a ROK camp where he had to stay until meeting up with additional soldiers willing to lead him back to his regiment.