The American Legion Magazine
Alan W. Dowd
IN MARCH 1953, Sgt. George Linker Jr. came face to face with the enemy, but this meeting of two battlefield opponents ended with an exchange of smiles rather than gunfire.
"We had been attacked on the crest of Pork Chop Hill," Linker recalled, referring to an area that lies in what is today the demilitarized zone. Linker's Company L of the 31st Infantry Regiment repulsed the attack.
When the guns quieted, Linker heard moaning just beyond his unit's position. The cries were coming from a wounded Chinese soldier, who lay in the no-man's land between the two fronts.
Linker crawled out to the wounded soldier, opened his first-aid kit and treated the man's leg. The surprised Chinese soldier responded without a trace of hostility. "He couldn't have been more than 15," said Linker, who himself was only 19.
After Linker finished patching up his enemy, he offered the soldier a cigarette. "They were Lucky Strikes," said Linker, who now resides in Matthews, N.C., where he is a member of the Paw Creek Legion Post 353. The Chinese soldier responded in kind, offering Linker a cigarette from his own PRC-issued pack.
Linker admits that he was motivated not so much by goodwill as by the chance to take a vacation, at least initially. "They gave us $50 and an extra day's R&R in Tokyo for catching a POW," Linker recalled, laughing as he reflected on the unusual circumstances of that moment in the war.
Linker tried to gesture to the enemy soldier that he could carry him back to the allied positions, but the message never seemed to get through.
"We sat for just a few minutes, smiling at each other," Linker noted. "And then mortar shells started coming in, and I jumped into my trench and he jumped into his."
Their cigarette break was over.