The men in this picture, those of them who are still alive, are now enjoying their sixth decade of life. But, this picture finds them a lot younger, somewhere along the Han River in Korea, a few days after the assassination of President John Kennedy.
Most of us (I’m behind the camera, not one of the uglies down range) were drafted, or had enlisted during the Berlin Crisis of 1961, thinking there were a lot of Russians about to be in need of killing.
Thinking we were just the guys to do it.
By the time of picture we were a lot less gung-ho. We were getting ‘short’, and most of us had a jaundiced view of the whole US attempt to save the world from itself. The only firing we’d done with those M-14s had been a month earlier, at the Division Honor Guard down in a rice paddy below us one night, while they fired their own M-14s and a .30 caliber machine gun back at us.
A case of mistaken identity following an incursion across the DMZ a few miles north of us by an unknown number of ‘bad guys’.
However, despite our best efforts, nobody killed, nobody injured. A good time was had by all after we changed our underwear.
Today, despite the fact the poverty we saw in Korea is gone, despite the fact the ROK has a healthier economy than the US, along with a fine military force, despite the fact the International Communist Conspiracy died following Vietnam, despite the fact the Russkies packed up their tents and went home to contemplate their navels in peace, young Americans are still over there.
Maybe they’re standing right there where Zeke Rapoza’s squatted, sneering into a camera held by another GI, thinking similar thoughts to those the young old men in that picture were thinking a few days after the world changed.
But today we’re no longer having to save the world from Communism. Instead, the world is trying to think of ways to save itself from us.
Bye, bye Miss American Pie.