On the Templar Mystique or, The Rambling Reminiscences of a Templar

NOTE: In the early days around Thelema Lodge it seems to have been a running joke that listening to “Grady stories” about the Caliph’s war-time accomplishments and adventures was practically a “Minerval obligation.” During the years that he contributed monthly essays to the Magickal Link, Grady frequently wove his military memories into the discourse whenever he could use them to make a relevant point regarding the operations of Thelema. But when he actually sat down one day to discuss his army career directly, the resulting essay was never used.

On the Templar Mystique or, The Rambling Reminiscences of a Templar
by Hymenaeus Alpha 777

“A strong partisan of the Templars was the theologian Bernard of Clairvaux. He described the order enthusiastically, saying its members did not hunt or hawk, despised jugglers and wandering minstrels, avoided the theatre, wore their hair short, washed seldom and were always tanned and covered with dust” (H. R. Hays, The Dangerous Sex: The Myth of Feminine Evil, Pocket Book 75103, New York, 1965).

Well now, the “always tanned and covered with dust” was certainly Korea. The hottest place this side of Hell I’ve ever been in the summer. Rolling a convoy up those silt-laden slopes was to die of dust poisoning until you learned to wrap a loose sock around your nose so you could die properly of heat prostration while you dripped grimy sweat. In the winter Korea becomes a part of Siberia, and at night it gets so cold you can hear the air crack. But I never found those South Korean sentries asleep at their post on my OD (Officer of the Day) inspections, even in the middle of the night.

As for “hunting or hawking,” one day between actions I got restless. The Army is always “Hurry up and wait.” Hurry up to get yourself killed, and if you don’t, just wait. So I checked out a pump shotgun and went pheasant hunting up over those old Chinese mine fields up on the slopes of Kwaneksan (the big range north of Chunchon) in the fall when the leaves were turning red just after the first touch of that searing Siberian wind came fanning down over the frost-fingered ridges of Korea. I was so surprised when the German Shepherd I had with me finally flushed one, I laid three rounds of buckshot into its rear end before it had a chance to flop to the ground. We were spitting buckshot for a week. Guess I flunked on that one.

But the “washed seldom” was something else. At Chunchon, which is up in the center of the peninsula just south of 38, we drilled a shower pipe right straight down through the gravel into the underground river that permeates that whole valley, and when I came in from patrol about sunset, “hot, sweaty, and covered with dust” — which was more like it. (I never saw an air conditioner in Korea, even in Army headquarters.) Our only luxury was to crawl into that cold shower one inch at a time, to keep from dying of shock; but it was the only way we could get “20 Cooler Inside” and clean at the same time. And to drink we had Scotch & Chlorinated Water. That’s a Soldier’s Drink. Grow hair on your butt.

In France during War II it was mostly rain and mud in the summer — tracked armored vehicles can throw an awful lot of mud if you get too close — and ungodly cold in the winter. We may have come from European stock but we had forgotten that high humidity “wet” cold that sucks every particle of heat from your body. It was the Battle of the Bulge that changed us. The ghastly cold of the Hurtgen Forest where our Infantry was so cold they cried in their icy slit trenches. If you ever catch a flick The Big Red One, that it what it was like when we spent the rest of the winter taking back Belgium after we had already taken it once. But it proved valuable to me in Korea.

When I took over as Ammo Supply for the Central Front in May-June 1952 e.v., technically by TO&E (Table of Organization and Equipment) I was “S-3, Operations Officer, 68th Ordnance Ammunition Supply Battalion.” We had 9 Corps American on our left, 10 Corps American on our right, and II (2nd) Corps ROK (Republic of Korea) troops right up the slot in front of us, Hwachon, Chorwon, Khmhwa and the Iron Triangle straight ahead, Heartbreak Ridge over on the right in 10 Corps. We really didn’t expect much action. The ROK troops — Tiger ROK, Lion ROK — were in training. The Central Front was considered to be a “quiet” sector. The ROKs wouldn’t even get their own artillery (105 Howitzer) until later, and in the meantime were getting back-up support from our own 105th, 155 Howitzer, 8″ Howitzer (counter-sunk on tank treads in their own open “cellars” so they could take anything but a direct hit) right alongside the road the last time I buzzed along Highway 3 from Uijongbu to Kumhwa in an open jeep. At sunset looking north past Chunchon Hill they looked like miniature red volcanoes sprouting as they fired a mission left to right across the darkling horizon. So stable on their mounts they could drop 500 pounds of TNT and pig iron into a pickle barrel at 20 miles. Reminded me of that battlewagon we saw laying in broadsides off the Coteton Peninsula as we were standing into Utah Beachead (Beach Blue by naval parlance) on the LST. We hadn’t yet cut the Peninsula on June 17. She was saying in naval “covering fire at 20 miles.” Those naval rifles can range. Especially when she is laying on her side from the recoil of the last salvo and is firing at maximum elevation.

But all that would change when the Chinese gave me a birthday present in October of 1952 e.v. and threw a human wave offensive at the Kumwha Ridges that went on for a solid week. The first day they cleaned out Division Artillery on the Line (MLR = Main Line of Resistance), north of 38. The second day they cleaned out my forward Ammo Supply Point at Hwachon. On the third day they cleaned out my backup Supply Point at Chunchon. By then I had been on the powerphone and had the rolling railhead at Suesak humping. That saved our ass the fourth day and by then I had the ammo trains humping up from Pusan and that took care of days five and six. We were flying in VT fuzes from the States. A Variable Time fuze mini radar set in the nose of a round of 105 artillery bursting twenty feet off the ground will give a forward frag splash of 20-30 feet and when fired by ranked artillery nothing living can walk through it. As long as you don’t run out of ammunition.

Fortunately the Chinese were not using APC (Armored Personnel Carriers). When I saw two lines of Division Artillery trucks with trailers snaking in from both directions — having come down the winding Pukangang on the west and down the jumbled slopes of Kwaeuksan on our right one evening at sunset I knew just how deep the trouble we were in had been. When Div Arty has to send its dynamite wagons all the way back to the railhead, that’s the crunch. Mao had sacrificed 100,000 Chinese in a single week just to break the Central Front. For why? Because by then the Peace Talks were on at Panmunjom and he needed leverage. Besides he was just getting rid of the opposition. When the Nationalist armies had surrendered to the 8th Route Army on the way south he had simply incorporated them into the Red Army. No point in sending them back to the farm to foment Chiang’s Nationalism. So he just used them to divert our attention. No point in looking up the Battle of the Kumwha Ridges in any standard history of the Korean War. By then all the reporters were over at Panmunjong being “this is what’s his face reporting from so and so” and becoming famous while we were only fighting for our lives.

And what would have happened if they had broken the Central Front? We would have been thrown all the way back to the Pusan Perimeter and there certainly was not going to be another Inchon to get us back into the war. The Peace Talks would have gone down the drain and today we would have a Communist Korea aimed right straight at Tokyo. Why didn’t they? Because we never ran out of ammo. They kept sending them and we kept killing them. Because I remembered the Bulge. A little experience never hurt an officer on the Line. Things were too quiet. When that happens the experienced soldier starts checking. Check everything. One day in June I turned my Ammo Supply tent over to the Sargent of detail, grabbed my S-3 jeep, and started touring the front, busting my ass over those chuck holes they called roads. All the way from I Corps on our left to 10 Corps on our right. I knew where everything was — and wasn’t.

One day I came in from the field to my Operations Tent, saw the Sargent had all inventory levels at optimum, and said “That’s great. Couldn’t have done better myself. But after this every time you put in an order to Pusan, add two extra box-cars of 105 howitzer. Don’t worry about where we are going to put them. I’ve got the dozers working up at Hwachon.” For this my men took me out and got me laid, the highest complement an officer on the Line can get. I was obviously working too hard and not paying attention to essentials. That’s when I found out about the Korean “hot floor.” Nothing like it. But the reason I had the bulldozers working was I remembered Rhine-Main. We hit the Rhine at Frankfurt-am-Main and set up at Rhein-Main. The old Grad Zeppelin base still had the old “Eiffle Tower” mooring mast when I was there, about twenty miles south of the Autobahn. Only problem was the Germans had been flying Messerschmidts off it, and our P-47 Republic Thunderbolts with their two 500 pound bombs and eight .50 calibers couldn’t lift off over that stand of pine trees at the end of the runway. I remember leaning back against a stack of open 500 pounders one day writing a letter to Crowley while looking at the red “Eiffle Tower” pylon across the Autobann. So we called in the dozers and you’ve never seen a pine forest fall so fast. I had stacks of 105 up at Hwachon leaning at an angle of 30 on a sidehill. But it saved our ass in October.

At the time I was wearing the shoulder patch of the 8th Army. As you can see, it is the Templar cross. Only the colors are reversed. White on red instead of red on white like in the Old Aeon.

And this is what a Templar looks like in the field.


Note: Originally published in Thelema Lodge Calendar, August 2003.