Brothers-In-Arms and Life
The Maxwell brothers, Johnny Clark and Terry, are from my hometown, Georgetown, Louisiana. If Terry wasn't two years younger than me, I could claim, with remarkable honesty, to have known both all my life. Each man served our country, but in different wars.
To commemorate Veterans Day, here are two short biographical sketches of the brothers written by long-time columnist Jack Willis for The Jena Times. He can be contacted at jbucktwo(at)hotmail.com (note: replace (at) with @)
JOHNNY CLARK MAXWELL
Johnny Clark Maxwell, Jr. could hardly wait to graduate Georgetown High School so he could join the U. S. Army. His uncle Phillip Maxwell, only three years his senior, was in service stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, and according to him, he was having one more high-heeled good time. He would have probably changed his mind had he known what lay ahead of him in June 1950 and months to follow.
Johnny Clark, as he was always known by friends and relatives, was born on December 27,1930, and was the eldest of six children born to Clark and Ernestine Miles Maxwell. He began his schooling in 1937, graduating Georgetown High School in the last of the 11-year classes in 1948. On July 20,1948 at the tender age of 17 he boarded a train in Alexandria headed for Ft. Jackson, South Carolina for Basic Training. This took a little over two months, then a short furlough home, and it was off to Ft. Dix, New Jersey, and from there he was sent to Landshut, Germany serving in the 51st Constabulary in the U.S. Army Occupation of post WWII Germany. In June of 1949 he returned home for a two- week leave and then reported to Ft. Hood, TX where he remained for a year in Advanced Individual Training. Then it was back home one more time for two weeks, prior to shipping out on a troop train bound for San Francisco, California.
Meanwhile, on the morning of June 25th, 1950 North Korean troops swarmed across the Han River, plunging southward through South Korea bent on capturing the whole peninsula. On June 27th President Truman declared a police action, not war, and sent American troops ashore on July 1 to begin defense of the Republic of South Korea.
During the month of August 1950 Johnny Clark was in Japan training in amphibious landings. He was assigned to the 7th Division, 32nd Infantry Regiment, and Company B. In September at the age of 19, participated in the landings at Inchon Harbor, which was considered one of the most hazardous sites in the whole world to attempt to stage an amphibious landing because of the tremendous fluctuation between tidal elevations at high and low tides. The success of the invasion was a feather in Gen. Douglas Mac Arthur’s cap. Johnny Clark and his comrades in the 7th Division of the Army called the X Corps, along with the 1st Marine Division landed at Inchon and fought their way inland capturing Seoul, the capital of South Korea.
After this action they returned to shipboard in the Sea of Japan awaiting further orders. First indications were that they would to invade at Wonsan, North Korea but instead Allied forces were sent to Iwon, Korea because the North Koreans were retreating too rapidly. When they waded ashore there was no resistance as the North Koreans had bypassed the coastal route in their retreat. The 7th Division turned north and surged towards the Chosin Reservoir area where they were met and overwhelmed by the Chinese Communist Army in force.
At this particular season, in the dead of winter, temperatures were hovering at 40 degrees below zero. It was a constant battle to maintain dry socks, and to wear gloves to avoid frostbite. The weary group that limped southward was often referred to later as the “Chosin frozen”, and for good reason. The parcels of food and supplies air-dropped to the desperate men was frozen so hard in a short time after landing that they were almost impossible to open.
They had to temporarily stop and dig in after the breakout and it was a constant battle to avoid the debilitating effects of frostbite. Johnny happened to be sharing his foxhole with lad raised in the city that knew nothing about survival or realized that even rubbing your hands together would help maintain circulation. When the group moved out they would march for 50 minutes, then take a 10-minute break. This would give Johnny Clark the opportunity to go back and retrieve the young man’s back pack and bring it and him ahead to join the rest of the troop.
The weather continued to worsen, temperatures dropped, and more and more of his comrades were dying from different causes with dead men stacked everywhere like cordwood. They were traveling along a rail line that ran around the perimeter of the mountain, with ditches along the rights-of-way full of dead Chinese Communist soldiers. The two regiments were dug in awaiting air support, surrounded by bugle-blowing troops that kept up a nerve-wracking clamor day and night. The survivors of what had once been over 750 troops were reduced to just over a hundred men. Running low on food, ammo and medications, the men made up their mind on the morning of the 11th day that they were going to attempt a breakout even if the weather didn’t clear.
At daylight there was a break in the clouds and in comes two Sabre jets loaded with napalm, and one inadvertently dropped his deadly jellied gasoline cargo on the edge of the huddled troops, with some of the men suffering horrible deaths. What saved Johnny Maxwell was that he was on the back edge of the perimeter they had been defending, dropping phosphorous grenades into the barrels of abandoned mortars, burning the guts out of them, so they couldn’t be used against them later.
What men were left of the two regiments taking all their surplus gasoline burned and destroyed all the equipment and supplies they were going to have to leave behind.
As they left the perimeter they had been striving to defend, the convoy was faced with one Chinese Communist roadblock after another. They had about 20 truckloads of wounded men, but men who were able to walk tried to defend the convoy on the right and left flanks and to the rear with Johnny Clark ending up on the left flank. As the defenders were wounded and incapacitated they were thrown up on the top of the wounded already on the trucks, and if a truck stalled, and other trucks couldn’t get around, they had no choice but to push that stalled truck off down the side of the mountain with its load of wounded cargo. The remaining two partial regiments hit the final roadblock where it seemed there would be no passage. The Communists had machine guns on both sides of the road and the Americans had to pick a lull in the deadly fire to run through the gauntlet. Many of the men made it through and they were back to Chosin once more, looking for friendly forces, going into several villages to attempt to find a warm place to sleep, but the Chinese had gotten there ahead of them and were lying in ambush. More casualties! Survivors got word out to the others to avoid the villages at all costs.
At this time a particular verse from the Scriptures comes to mind where it says, “Greater love hath no man than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends”, and this came abundantly true when Johnny Clark and his buddy Clarence Stuckey from Redding, Pennsylvania pulled and drug another frozen member of their company southward in a sleeping bag trying to save his life, and to add to their misery, it began to snow only making matters worse. The trio would hide in gullies and thickets during the day and travel at night and several times Johnny Clark saw pairs of Chinese quilt-uniformed legs pass by within five feet of where they lay concealed.
Finally making contact with a 1st Marine Division outpost, the first question asked by the sentry was how they had made it across the minefields? In reflection the men realized what had happened was that the ground and the triggers of the mines were frozen and wouldn’t detonate like they were designed to.
They were escorted to a first aide station, immediately flown to a hospital ship off the east coast of Korea in the Sea of Japan where Johnny was treated for double pneumonia and put on antibiotics every four hours. His hands and feet were so frozen and he could clap his hands together and it sounded like the banging of two chunks of ice together. When the ship filled up with wounded they sailed for a hospital in Yokohama, Japan, and then it was to another hospital in Tokyo for another 30 days.
After recovery Johnny Clark was sent back to Korea, because the Armistice wouldn’t be signed for another two years and from January 1951 until October 1951 his new company seesawed back and forth up and down the peninsula. It was actually a new company because they had to bring in replacements three different times.
Finally, his tour was up and he was sent to Ft. Chaffee, Ark. where he was finally released from service on April, 28,1952 at the age of 22. The Korean Police Action wouldn’t end until July 27,1953.
Johnny Clark took time back home to recover from his ordeal, and would work a variety of jobs, mostly in the oil patch until September 20,1955 when he went to work as a Roadway Inspector for the Louisiana Department of Highways. He was employed in this meritorious capacity for 40 years retiring on September 5, 1995.
At the tender age of 30 he married Bertie Marie Floyd and they had two sons, and now have five grandchildren.
Johnny Clark isn’t in the best of health these days; he’s been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, but he hasn’t let it get him down. He fights it with the same tenacity he did against the Communist hordes in Korea.
Author’s Note: I have personally had the pleasure of knowing and working with Johnny Clark Maxwell for over 40 years. He is the very best friend I’ve ever had or could ask for. I’ve never met anyone that possesses a servant’s heart to match his. There is no doubt in my mind, that when Jesus decides enough is enough, and it’s time for Johnny Clark to be ushered home, it will be one of the largest homecoming celebrations ever witnessed in heaven. And the Words Jesus Christ will utter should be what every saint should seek to hear, but are especially appropriate concerning this man. “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou has been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of the lord.”
When Terry Maxwell was only three years old, his older brother Johnny Clark Maxwell, Jr. was in Korea participating in a still undeclared war fighting the North Koreans, and later the Chinese Communist hordes. Little did Terry know that 17 years later he would be fighting the North Viet Nam swarms, which were also sponsored and supplied by the same evil source-Red China.
Terry Maxwell was born in Georgetown, LA on August 20th, 1948, attending schools there, graduating from Georgetown High School in 1966. Upon the receipt of his diploma, he immediately went to work for Kansas City Southern Railroads as a Signals Maintenance Tech. He stayed with the railroad until he was drafted for Military Service on June 4th, 1968. He took Basic Training and A.I.T. at Fort Polk at Leesville, LA and arrived in South Viet Nam on December 10,1968. He was stationed at 4th Division, 1st and 8th Battalion Brigade Infantry, Bravo Company.
Upon arrival he was integrated into a Helicopter Air Assault Team and was immediately shipped out by “chopper” transport with stops at Pleiku, Kartoum, Dactau and then on to Firebase 30. The North Vietnamese were famous for beginning offensives on their significant holidays like Tet, Ho Chi Minh’s birthday and the beginning of the Lunar New Year. Firebase 30 was located in the central highlands, and featured some of the most inhospitable mountainous terrain in the world. It was covered in lush rain forests, with bamboo forests featuring some species eight inches in diameter and growing 80 feet tall. They began conducting SLERPS (Short Range Reconnaissance Patrols), which consisted of going out for four days and nights. Their task was to stay hidden and spy on enemy troop movements along the Ho Chi Mign Trail. Their enemies were mostly made up of the North Vietnamese Army, and not the Viet Cong, which were stationed mostly further south. They would stay in one area from two weeks up to 30 days conducting patrols. The Army’s Logistical Command would ferry into the field all supplies needed by chopper. Food, clothing, medicines and potable water were brought in every day, and sometimes the re-supply was conducted through intense enemy ground fire. During military operations at least a half-dozen different varieties of helicopters were utilized at one time or another. The two main workhorses were the Huey for transport, which were ably guarded by the Cobra gun ships.
A whole new vocabulary came into being during the ‘Nam campaign featuring names like “Puff the Magic Dragon.” This was a huge C-47 aircraft bristling with Gattling guns and cannon and used for close support of infantry operations. When they were utilized at night, their firepower lit up the sky much like a Christmas fireworks display.
Meanwhile the NVA discovered their presence and attacked them. The Americans called in two battalions to a small, temporary base camp with a runway constructed out of portable metal mats. The landing ports were laid out on roads already in place, and built at night by the NVA. The clandestine roads had bamboo woven together over them as camouflage that made them undetectable from air reconnaissance.
Allied forces, principally Americans, captured a number of “deuce-and-a-half trucks loaded with howitzer ammunition. Red Chinese were driving the trucks and the munitions and trucks were manufactured in Red China. This gave a new meaning to the phrase often seen in the USA on manufactured goods, “Made in China.”
The Air Assault team set up camp on “high ground” and left a squad to guard the captured trucks over night. The NVA personnel attacked that night and recaptured the trucks. At daylight the next morning the Air Assault Team left their high ground camp and recaptured the trucks. They lost one man it the operation but killed several Red Chinese. They stayed in the area patrolling the roads built by the NVA.
They were relegated to the role of sacrificial lamb, as they summarily drew the fire of some entrenched members of the North Vietnamese Army, and four men in the patrol were killed, and all the rest were wounded. The survivors got on a radio and called in all available firepower that could be mustered. Meanwhile they withdrew to nearby hill, where they spent one day licking their wounds and recovering. This was near Polly Clane Fire Base, and next day they resumed patrols. Instead of a one-man point, they had three men up front and Maxwell was the middleman. About this time they got word that Delta Co. was under fire, so their group did a left flank and walked right into the middle of a NVA base camp. They immediately came under intense enemy fire and were told to pull back and artillery would be called in. They had just settled into fresh foxholes when suddenly a shot came from out of nowhere that severely wounded Maxwell. The round entered his abdomen, penetrating his liver, pancreas and shattered his left kidney.
About the time they got him back to Polly Cline Fire Base, a Colonel’s helicopter jarred the ground on a “look-see” mission. It was quickly commandeered for this Emergency Medical Evacuation mission. He was first taken to Fire Base Mary Lou, then forwarded to the 71st Evacuation Hospital, where he was experiencing massive bleeding, and had to have several surgeries, and all this was complicated by a resumption of stress ulcers during recovery. Maxwell stayed there for 30 days, and then ferried to Camron Bay for seven days, and on to Tokyo General Hospital. Then it was a succession of hospital until he eventually arrived back at where it all began at Fort Polk Army Hospital at Leesville, La.
After partial recovery, Terry Maxwell was given 30 days of medical leave and allowed to travel the 80 miles home. He came back and finished his tour of duty at Ft. Polk, assisting with Basic Training for new draftees.
Upon discharge, he went to work for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development where he’s been steadily employed for over 30 years, and contemplating retirement.
In commenting on his wartime experiences, he said, “I was born and raised to be patriotic, and to help defend this wonderful country if need be. Some people refer to it as the forgotten war; I believe we helped break the evil influence of Communism in the world culminating with the eventual destruction of the Berlin Wall, and the Iron Curtain. I didn’t really want to go to war but I felt it was my duty to serve. I established a relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ during that time of duress that has not diminished until this day. I felt if it was my time to go be with Him, I was ready to go, and still am!”