- Excerpt from Brothers Under a Same Sky
Around 1422 the North Koreans attacked, running over several small hills. George Company was forced to retreat into a narrow valley. There was no other place to go. George Company was trapped. Fierce fighting ensued, with American losses mounting. The company was pushed against a cliff. Here they dug in, hoping for a miracle. The North Koreans were persistent in their unflinching assault. Air power was radioed in, and for a short while the friendly forces were successful in stopping the advance of the North Korean front. Then the North Korean army sent another attack, this time cutting off George Company from the rest of the U.S. forces. By 2000 hours, the main brunt of the attacks ceased, and though sporadic shelling and gunfire continued through the night, nightfall became a savior for George Company, letting the men recuperate temporarily until the break of dawn.
They had climbed a narrow trail up a steep side of the valley to where the trail widened but was covered with a large boulder and other rubble, loosened from above by the heavy bombardment. Thoreau was killed below while trying to retreat with the Browning. The only other survivors of the attack that Han knew were Jenkins and Pirelli, but he had lost track of Jenkins. Perhaps he was dead, too. [End Page 27]
Pirelli was leaning against the boulder, his eyes wide and surprisingly, Han thought, scared. Han wanted to get away from him, but it would be stupid, he told himself, to move from a relatively safe place. And they were still on the same side. So he stayed next to Pirelli, crouching, with his back too against the granite boulder, the coldness of the rock seeping into his spine as he listened to the bombardments and their echoes off the valley walls. Perhaps the others in the squad were scattered on the hillside nearby, but he did not know. Most of them, he was sure, were dead. He decided to pray. Halfway through the prayer he was interrupted by Pirelli.
“Han . . . hey, you there?”
“Yes? What is it?”
“You know, I don’t think we’re going to make it out of here. This is it. This is my last night. Yours.”
“You have to have faith.”
“Don’t give me that Jesus talk. I had enough of that bullcrap.”
“God will help those who help himself.”
“I said shut the crap up! You’re preaching to the Pope. I had enough of that religious talk. I had that ever since I was born. Don’t talk to me about this.”
“But if you pray, you will have faith.”
“That’s bullshit, man. Bullshit. God listens to people who have money, not the poor guy who has nothing. He’s not looking down at me and feeling sorry for me. If he was, I wouldn’t be here in the first place. I’m here in this God-forsaken place because I don’t have a father and a mama, and anyway if I did they would be too poor to make a political contribution.”
“Why are you full of hate?”
“What? What you fucking talking about, Chink?”
“I’m not Chinese. I’m Korean.”
“Then mind your own business, gook.”
“That’s not my name.”
“Fuck you.” He pointed his rifle at Han’s head, his eyes bloodshot and his hands shaking. “I’ll blow your head off in a [End Page 28] second, you gook fuck! Fuck off! I should do it. You’re not worth the shit you shit. You’re a fucking gook. That’s what you are. A fucking gook. You’re no American. Damn, of all people to be stuck with at the end of my life. Don’t bother me with your Jesus talk.”
Pirelli lowered his rifle.
Han crawled to the other side of the boulder, away from Pirelli’s wild eyes, his heart beating hard and steady. Now he was exposed to any incoming fire, but he had no other choice. He quieted himself, closing his eyes and praying, but he saw the faceless child searching for him. Gripping his rifle...