Dutch Volunteers fighting in the Korean War

written by Elie van Schilt, veteran NDVN soldier

Chapter XIII :

Lying Severely Wounded in Enemy-held Hoengsong for 18 days

A corporal feared less well, although he is lucky to have survived. He is the only one among those missing at Hoengsong who was found alive 18 days later. Here his story. He lay for 18 days in the snow, exposed to the cold, in the ruins of Hoengsong. The Chinese came along daily, and, hard to believe, provided him with a little food and tobacco. During the great attack he had been wounded in the leg, could not stand, collapsed, from now began the most horrible period of his life.
Around him hell had broken out. Dutchmen, Americans and Chinese ran around shooting in all directions. "A little later a bunch of Chinese stood near by, and around me cars were on fire. Mortar granades hit the little church, probably also phosphor granades, it caught fire immediately. All artound me mortars and handgranades exploded again and again, Chinese must have been hit by their own fire, it was as chaotic for them as for us. The shooting increased in intensity. Later a couple of Chinese came, took my wristwatch, thought I was dead. In the distance I heard tanks rattle, hoped the Americans would undertake a counterattack, but the sounds became weaker and weaker. Then I hoped for my comrades to launch an attack and free me. Tried to crawl to a place less in sight, it did not work, my leg was completely stiff, the wound hurt horribly. This condition lasted for hours, I lived under an unbearable nervous strain. What would the troops do. Retreat and leave me behind ? I did not know at all what was going on and how serious the situation was. When it gets bright, the Chinese will find me, I can not do anything, I lie here, powerless. In the light of burning fires I see Chinese soldiers running, a bad sign for me, our troops have left Hoengsong, I was on my own here, between all those dead, completely helpless. The night passed slowly, the wound hurt, I suffered under the cold, finally daybreak came and the Chinese moved on, fearing the attack of our aircraft. The cold was unbearable, and I suffered intense thirst. Then, among the smoking ruins, I saw a sole person walking, it was a South Korean soldier, also wounded, but lightly, I signalled him to come over. I was lying in open terrain, should the Chinese come back, they could see me lying there from the road, on the opposite side of the road stood our motor vehicle fleet, burnt out, if I could lie under one of these vehicles I was less visible and somewhat protected against snow or rain. With the aid of this South Korean soldier and thanks to uttermost exertion we managed to reach the motor vehicles, completely exhausted I moved under a 3 ton truck, crawled under the loading platform. After darkness set in the Koreans left me, but left a roll of sour drops behind, never in my life had anything been that valuable to me than this roll of sour drops. The producer had christened them "lifesavers", and that is what they have been to me. Later that day, when evening set in, the Chinese returned, attempted to get some of the cars started to take them with them. Tens of them walked between the cars, I did not dare to move, fearing they might find me. They tried to start cars and drive off with them, some came so close that I could have touched them. I feared most that someone might succeed in starting the truck under which I lay, running me over and me then lying openly exposed. What I feared happened, after a couple of failed attempts a Chinese managed to start the engine, the fumes blew into my face, he drove a little forward and backward to drive the car out, every time I saw the car's bottom move over me, with all my energy I tried to get away from the wheels. Then the car moved forward. I felt a crack in my leg and severe pain, he had driven over my wounded left leg with the left back wheel. I wanted to yell because of the pain, but had to constrain myself not to alarm the other Chinese. It could have been worse if the truck had run over my breast or head. Luckily the Chinese did not dare to make a light, fearing our airplanes. Afterwards I must have lost consciousness. When I regained consciousness, most cars had disappeared, and so did the Chinese. The following days were horrible, I suffered hunger and thirst, not to mention the cold. But thirst was the worst. After 4 or 5 days rain set in, next to me there was a considerable puddle, with my hands I took water out and could drink as much as I wanted. But the hunger worsened, at times so severe that I put sand in my mouth, but I spit it out again immediately.
At times aircraft flew over, I waved with a neckerchief, hoping they would see me. On the 7th day snow set in, this was a relief, I could eat snow to fight hunger and thirst.
But the cold was the worst, especially at night. I lost feeling in my legs, I feared they were both frozen. I also saw Chinese patrols approach, and sometimes felt the urge to call them, then they could end my suffering. But there was always something preventing me from calling. I still had hope that our troops would return to Hoengsong, should find me. I had a feeling that I should come out of this alive. On the ninth day I could not take it any longer. My wound hurt horribly, also my broken leg, I feared that it might be infected. I decided to call the next Chinese patrol and see what would happen then. To be a P.O.W. would be better than to die here of starvation and dehydration, if lucky I might even be exchanged. At noon I saw the first Chinese, I yelled as loud as I could. The patrol stopped and looked into my direction, I waved with my neckerchief. The Chinese came over circled around me, looked at me from all angles, while they spoke to each other. My impression was that they meant no harm. When I told them to be hungry and thirsty, one of them gave me a drink from his canteen, another gave me something looking like birdseed, it helped against the hunger. I also was given some tobacco, they cared for my wounds and bandaged it. Then they carried me to a Korean house where I was protected somehow, at least against the weather. In any case I owe my life to these Chinese. At times they came back and gave me a little to eat and drink, they never were hostile. What puzzled me, they did not transport me off to a prison camp, but I assume they did not know how to get me there.
I believe it was on the 16th day that I heard tanks on the road southward. There was heavy firing in the area. I had renewed hope that our troops would come back. But it was only an armed patrol, assisted by a few tanks, which retreated after having made contact with the Chinese. Only two days later did the Americans come back, and I was found. I still see them coming, to marines with bayonet, they slowly proceeded among the ruins, approached the house where I lay. I heard them talk, but was too weak to move, to crawl out of the house. I yelled with all the energy I had left. The marines listened and came in. I don't know how and what. The marines later told that I had embraced them like a mother her children. But everybody will understand."
Corporal Goosens, that's one of the few who can tell the story, many others can not.

This page is part of World History at KMLA
Last revised on February 15th 2002

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