Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Trench Art of Randy Rabenold

(This is a companion post to "Randy Rabenold and the Bulldogs Who Went to War," Part 1 of 3.  Part 2 will be posted soon.)

(Incidentally, fellow blogger Terry Clark, professor of journalism at the University of Central Oklahoma, posted his take on the Korean War and memories of his uncle who landed at Inchon.)

Korea was an unforgiving place.  Though its latitude and summertime weather is comparable from the North to the South as Richmond Virginia to Charlotte North Carolina, the winters there are bitterly cold due to incessant winds from the North Pole.  To make matters worse, the winter of 1950-51 was a record breaker, colder than any in a thirty year period.
Here is a Randy Rabenold original drawn in a fellow
Korean War veteran's greetings card he sent in the
late 1990s.

No manner of cold-weather training in Labrador could have prepared our men for what they endured there.  Little things like the military concept of "warming tents" were improvised in the field.  The shoepac "Mickey Mouse" boats with their wool liner were effective, but when on the march, foot sweat had no place to go.  This had a devastating effect.  Frostbite accounted for up to a half of all casualties   If they hadn't a change of dry socks, the soles of their feet would freeze to the wool liner.  A few astute leaders helped educate their soldiers how to survive in the field.
Sunnier Days in Korea, On an Outpost - Frenchie LeBeau from New Orleans on far right; "Greenie" from Massachusetts second from right.

Randy, his cousin Ray "Nuny" Rabenold, and the rest of their classmates Bob Kipp, Richard "Dick" Carrigan, Bill Kulha and Don "Duke" Blauch only signed up for three years and that spring would have been their last in the Marines.  However, everyone had an extra year, known as the "Truman Year," added to their enlistment. 

They suffered through the coldest winter of their lives in addition to battling incessant waves of Chinese in quilted field coats who seemed impervious to it.  As spring slowly revealed itself on the barren Korean landscape, the warming air and the prospect of peace begin to arrive to boost the spirits of our troops.

By May of 1951, lines of demarcation had evolved, the battle lines had became more static.  Routine had come to  Randy's battalion which provided outpost security for the First Marine Division Command.  Though the war went on for another bloody two years, with the "one-winter" policy, Randy knew his time in Korea would soon come to an end.  

It was during this time of hope amid the bleakness of war, perhaps the first time he had peace of mind enough to create.  Below are the eight sketches that he produced.  He had not taken an art class while at Lehighton High.  But upon his discharge in June of 1952 he used the GI Bill to earn his Art Education degree at Kutztown State College.

These sketches show an untrained hand with potential.

It could be said that Randy found his calling in life in those barren hills of Korea.  

"Our Nest at Hong Chong - 28 May 1951"  First evidence of Randy's signature "R.R." though not yet in the
stencil-style that would become his hallmark.  Each out post was composed of a six-man squad with one 30-caliber BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) assigned to it.  There was a total of ten squads that provided security to the Division Command Post.

Compare this actual photo taken by Tom Fortson of the view
overlooking the First Division Command Post at Hongchong with
Rabenold's sketch below.  By March of 1951, Rabenold and Fortson were
posted at the same outpost.  Note Fortson's .30 cal machine-gun nest bottom right
and one of the command's tents at left.  

"From Our Gun to C.P. at Hong Chong 28 May 1951" by Randy Rabenold.  This could be the location of what was
known as "The Bean Patch," headquarters for the First Marine Division.  It was where Gen Craig received a visit from Korean President Syngman Rhee in the fall of 1950.  The brigade band played for his reception, the only time they officially played while in Korea.  The Bean Patch was also the site of another memorable Marine event: the bon fire of clothes in December.  The men had just completed 13 straight days of blisteringly incessant attacks from the Chinese and North Koreans.  Some men like machine-gunner Corporal Florain Kovaleski hadn't had their cloths off since October.  "Did we ever stink," he recalled.  "I had to have help getting my long johns off.  They stuck to me."  The fire was ordered by Marine Commander O.P. Smith to prevent scurvy.  As men burned their clothes a complete new set from head to toe was issued on the spot.  More on the Bean Patch will be included in segment #2 of this story.
"After a Wet Ride to Chang Ni - 30 May 1951" by Randy Rabenold.
"Around the Tent Pole - Chuan-Ni" by Randy Rabenold.

"Zaccone's Shelter half at Hongchon - 28 May 1951" by Randy Rabenold.
"Red Detrick Takes a Break with a Book - 1 June 1951" by Randy Rabenold.  Darrol "Red" Detrick at one time lived
in Oklahoma and most recently in Wahiawa, Hawaii.
"Zaccone cleaning the Gun at Chuan-Ni 29 May 1951" by Randy Rabenold.  This is Charles Zaccone who lived
on the outskirts of Chicago in the 1950s cleaning the squad's 30-cal light-machine gun.  His last known address was Grayslake, Illinois.
Several students of my Dad had told me how he would display these sketches from time to time in his classroom.  Had it not been for them, I may have never known about them.  These treasures led me to attempt to find the two subjects: Zaccone and Detrick.  Letters to their last known address have been returned.  It appears the opportunity to meet them is gone.

You can compare the sketch of Zaccone with the picture below, sent courtesy of Tom Fortson.

From one of First Division Command's security outposts on a warm day in Korea, are from left:
Tom Fortson, currently of California, an unknown Marine, and Charles Zaccone, gunner
of this squad.  Attempts to reach Zaccone up to this time have failed.  Though Rabenold and Fortson recall their friendship back at Camp Pendleton, neither has a memory of the other while in Korea.
This picture confirms that their paths at least came close to crossing as evidenced by Zaccone.
  Tom Fortson has been an invaluable contributor to this project.  I am grateful for his help and friendship.
Though they only look like boys here,  they don't make men like these anymore.
Tom Fortson at the Marine Corps
Musicians Reunion in 2001.

Besides shooting machine, Charles Zaccone also blew a mean Sax.  That's him front row left marked "ZAC."  This
was a rehearsal in Korea for the "Stars without Bars" group most likely in Masan after the bitter winter of 1950-51, after  the Chosin Reservoir campaign, possibly in the warmer months of 1951.   

"View from O.P. Chang Ni -14 June 1951" by Randy Rabenold.

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