I love history, tales of daring escapes, and any time communism and oppression loses. This is one of my favorite Christmas stories. I thought I would share it with you. Thank God for your blessings and pray for Christmas Miracles.
From Catholic Digest Christmas Book edited By: Father Kenneth Ryan published in 1977.
ON CHRISTMAS EVE
a true story found among the effects of a American soldier killed in action twenty-five years ago [BACK IN THE 1970’s]
By: James Wolfgram
It began as a trickle: A occasional papasan with a tall hat and crooked cane leading wailing women and children down the slippery mountain trails that led to the beach at Wonsan, North Korea.
Behind them sounded the dull thunder of artillery. With each muffled burst came a bitter memory of their ruined villages, whose younger men had been systematically slaughtered by the Chinese communist army advancing south from Chosin Reservoir. Before them lay a vast fleet waiting to pick up retreating U. S. Marine and Army units.
Soon the trickle became a flood, a stream of humanity that poured from the mountains six days and nights, intermingled at times with gaunt, bearded Americans, heads down and faces immobile.
Little by little the boats were loaded. The 100,000 weak refugees begged to be put aboard. They had been subsisting on C-rations and whatever else they could forage.
Amid the embarkation came four American soldiers of the Tenth Engineer Battalion of the Third Infantry Division. They had been fighting a rear-guard action for a Marine regiment that had arrived on the beach the previous day. One, a corporal named King, told the beach commander that the rest of his unit had been captured or killed. The four men boarded a ship already filled with civilians.
His men secured, King set out to find a medic to treat his frostbitten fingers. He stumbled through the crowd of huddled refugees, and suddenly tripped. To a cacophony of Korean chatter, he screamed a obscenity. The past month of combat, carnage, and misery swiftly combined with the pain in his fingers, and his feeling of futility was finally unleased. He fell.
A wrinkled hand touched his face and he looked up to see a yellow-toothed grin. A old man was saying something to him, but King’s gaze was fixed on the beard, about ten long strands that flowed from his chin, the mark of a village elder. The old man took King’s good hand in his and in sign language asked if he could borrow the mitten to cover the mitten to cover the feet of a shivering child nearby. Why not? King thought.
A South Korean soldier came up to them and, in his best pidjin English, told King that the old man was grateful and would like to offer something in return for the mitten. The elder, he said, had heard King yell the word God before he fell to the floor, and that was why he felt bold enough to ask for the mitten, for the old man was a Christian too. He had not understood the rest of King’s curse.
The old man removed his back sack, and King wondered how anyone so skinny could be so agile. He used only one flowing motion of his left hand; the right remained tucked in his shirt. He rummaged for a while and gently removed a small plaster statue of the Christ Child, Joseph, and Mary.
“He wants you to have it,” the Korean soldier said. “A missionary gave it to him many years ago. He says that now he is like Joseph and he welcomes the pain.”
King studied the man as he slowly pulled his right arm from his shirt. There was only a bloody cloth-covered stump. “The communists cut the hand off when they came to his village,” the soldier said.
King looked at the statue. The right hand of Joseph had been chipped off, too.
“He wishes you a most joyous Christmas,” the Korean soldier continued. “He wants to know if it is today or tomorrow that is the traditional eve of Christ’s birth.”
“Today,” King told the interpreter, just realizing that it was December 24, 1950.
Merry Christmas and may you and the whole of creation be deeply blessed by the angels, saints, and by the Christ Child