E-T Community Columnist
In celebration of Thanksgiving, let me share a story about my Uncle J.M.
Uncle J.M. was only 17 when the Korean War began on June 25, 1950. He immediately enlisted in the United States Army.
His Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) called for a mastery of the ancient arts of killing from the inside out. During his first military engagement, Uncle J.M. took the lives of 31 men. Because of this feat, he was quickly feared by all.
And with good reason; the ancient arts Uncle J.M. had mastered were culinary in nature. Uncle J.M. was a cook, the aforementioned military engagement was breakfast, and the 31 men were American soldiers.
But instead of a court-martial, General Douglas MacArthur, in his infinite wisdom, hatched a plan that called for Uncle J.M. to be dropped behind enemy lines into North Korea, where he would be taken prisoner. Never one to question authority and anxious to avoid a court-martial, Uncle J.M. agreed.
His capture occurred in the bitterly-cold third week of November 1950. A week later, while awaiting further orders from General MacArthur, Uncle J.M.- in the spirit of the upcoming holiday season - offered to cook Thanksgiving dinner for the prison guards.
Imprisoned in a freezing P.O.W. camp near the small North Korean village of Sum Flung Dung, Uncle J.M. prepared a Thanksgiving meal under the watchful eyes of his captors. Because of the war, there were no turkeys in Korea that year, so Uncle J.M. obtained several cans of confiscated Spam and made a delicious pot of soup, an old family recipe he had committed to memory. He fed the hot meal to the North Korean prison guards, all of whom became violently ill. A surprised and shocked Uncle J.M. quickly gained control of their weapons and freed the remaining P.O.W.s.
The men headed south, crossed the frozen Yalu River and the 38th parallel, and were rescued by American forces.
Uncle J.M was subsequently awarded the Army’s version of the Medal of Honor for mess sergeants by General MacArthur. This award - the only such award ever given - now hangs proudly in the Smithsonian Institute. It consists of a gold star surrounded by a wreath, topped by an eagle holding a knife and fork in its talons, perched on a bar inscribed with the words, “Spam Soup-No one should EVER be THAT hungry.” The medal is attached to a piece of Uncle J.M’s apron, upon which are 13 hand-drawn stars.
On a sad note, the story of Uncle J.M.’s heroism is missing from the pages of history books. This is no doubt due to the covert nature of the operation, which is now being disclosed for the first time.
After the war, Uncle J.M. was transferred to the maximum security prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and appointed to the position of head chef. In his first year, he was credited with halting a bloody prison riot by simply threatening to serve dessert.
Now retired, Uncle J.M., a life-long bachelor resides in north Texas.
Happy Thanksgiving, Erath County!
Jonathan Hutson is a member of the Empire-Tribune's community columnists. His column appears on the second Sunday every month in Lifestyles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.