Has Our Puppy Gone Astray?

Wayne Caton

Wayne Caton

Has Our Puppy Gone Astray?

Maybe he is lost? Night plays tricks on our orientation. But the Chorwon Valley in Korea was wide, and the moon shone brightly. I definitely saw Wayne and Flaherty on my left when we reached the crest of Hill 121. But then there was a blast from a Chinese concussion grenade in that area. Flaherty’s jaw was shattered. The KATUSAS (Koreans Attached to the US Army) placed him on a litter and carried him back to be evacuated. Was Wayne, our platoon medic also hit?

Wayne knew that the Noris (our mountain outposts) were to our right. He knew he could climb up to this friendly position. Maybe he was wounded and is slowly returning to our position on the MLR (frontline)? Where the hell is he? After our withdrawal, the platoon spent the rest of the night outside battalion headquarters waiting for Wayne’s return. No news. I returned to the trench outside our bunker, and sat in a daze wondering where Company L’s puppy could be.

Word came that Sid (Lt. Sidney, company commander) ordered our cooks to bring a hot breakfast to the line. With Wayne missing, food was not on my agenda, but the odor of broiled sausages whet my appetite. The accompanying powdered eggs tasted like white bread baked in rice paddy water.

I mingled among the men in my platoon.

“Hey guys, when we were ordered to withdraw last night, did any of you see Wayne?”    No reply,

All of us, numb from last night’s chaos, plodded back to our bunkers.

Sid knew we needed a pacifier. He had our cooks return with hot lunch, but my appetite must have gone wherever my bunker buddy Wayne was.

It was too soon to ask Lt. Theiss if there was any news about Wayne, so I got around it by asking how many casualties we had from the raid. He knew what was on my mind,

“Wayne is still missing,” he replied.

Fifty-one years later, I contacted Ed Heister from my platoon. He recalled that night when he brought a severely wounded Truman Bastin to a jon boat in order to cross the Imjin River and be evacuated to a hospital. He recalled Wayne on that night of August 12, 1952. Ed went on,

“The GI in charge of the jon boats did not allow the hemorrhaging Truman Bastin to be pulled across the river until two more wounded were brought to the boat. Wayne then removed his .45 caliber pistol, stuck into the gut of the GI and told him if he didn’t get that boat across, he’s a dead man. Truman was quickly brought across the river. With that settled, Wayne left the boats and returned to Hill 121 to look for any more wounded. That was the last I saw of him.”

It has been sixty-two years since Wayne’s disappearance. His niece, Holly hasn’t given up the search. She scoured through satellite photos of Hill 121 at The Department of the Army in Washington D.C. with no  result. The family provided DNA samples to be matched with parts supplied by the North Korean government. It seems that our puppy has gone astray.

For a detailed story of this event read,

Cold Ground’s Been My Bed: A Korean War Memoir by Daniel Wolfe