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"I hollered, 'Hey, soldier, can you tell me where the 27th Infantry Regiment is?' I was riding in a jeep. And he jumped up out of the hole, and here was an old friend of mine from Hastings, Minnesota." (Audio Interview, 40:19)

   James Day Merle Holmes
Image of James Day Merle Holmes
Detail from photo of James Holmes, Kumwha Valley, Korea, [circa 1951-1952]
War: World War, 1939-1945; Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Army; Army
Unit: 1st Battalion and 3rd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division
Service Location: Japan; Korea
Rank: First Sergeant
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After serving a two-year hitch in the Army from 1946 to 1948 (part of it in occupied Japan), James Holmes joined the National Guard and in 1950 was called up to serve in the Korean War. He was accepted into a leadership course and decided to marry his sweetheart, figuring he was going to remain stateside. In the spring of 1951, he was reassigned to the Far East Command and became part of the war effort as a platoon sergeant. His stories of life in the field include several touching accounts of good men wounded or killed in action. He also managed to meet up with several pals from Hastings, Minnesota, a little reminder of home halfway around the world.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (10 clips)
»Complete Interview  (79 min.)
»Transcript
  Photos
»Photo Album (7 photos)
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»Korean War
 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (10 items)
Joined the Army in 1946, assigned to occupation forces in Japan; billeting with a man who had survived the Bataan Death March; returning to the States and became an Honor Guard for the returning war dead; explains how the system worked for routing the remains to the respective families. (04:57) In the National Guard after returning home; getting a phone call on December 26, 1950, that he had been activated to serve as part of the buildup for the Korean War; accepted in a leadership program, got married in March 1951, assuming he would stay stateside but was reassigned to an infantry unit headed for Korea; served with a Turkish brigade of capable combat soldiers. (04:23) Made Master Sergeant with Company I of the 35th Regiment; story of a friend he bunked with early in his tour in Korea; taken prisoner after suffering bad shrapnel wounds in his back; they met up after the war back in Minnesota and the ex-POW told Holmes about his experiences; though he seemed to be doing well at that time, his experiences caught up with him and he committed suicide. (06:53)
Made First Sergeant; had to provide daily reports on casualties, enemy encroachment; calculating position of enemy artillery with "flash-to-bang" system; admirable platoon sergeant who was tough but fair, killed in action; writing to his mother and corresponding with her. (06:09) Fighting in the Kumwha Valley; positioned as a buffer force five miles in front of the Main Line of Resistance; Turkish soldiers bringing them roasted nuts one day; sleeping in the open in the rain, huddling together for warmth; looking for several men from back home in Hastings, Minnesota and running into another hometown guy in the process. (06:18) Wearing insulated "bunny" boots, trying to keep their feet dry during the winter; taking the occasional shower; going into Punchbowl area; steep hills made driving trucks difficult; using chains in case the vehicle slipped out of gear. (03:34)
Sergeant cheering up the troops by combining a variety of rations in his helmet, heating them up, adding Tabasco sauce, making a wisecrack about it. (02:21) Accumulating enough points to rotate home, but he had to find a replacement for himself before he could leave; shortage of qualified men; stayed in the National Guard until 1988. (03:02) Training days at Ft. Dix with tough sergeant dishing out punishment for incorrect handling of his rifle; later training at Camp Breckenridge in the leadership program involving a drill with snake bite. (03:52)
What he learned from his experiences in the military: the value of Christianity; how he was wounded and the subsequent pain and discomfort he suffered over the years; importance of people in any endeavor but especially combat. (04:14)  
  
 
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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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