Friday, February 16, 2018

Private First Class Theodore Brandow

July 20, 1950.  Taejon-Kuchon, Korea.  Theodore Albert Brandow was barely 19 years old. He was only a couple weeks removed from garrison duty with the 34th Infantry Regiment in Sasebo, Japan.  This had been a cushy billet for Americans during the late 1940s, preceding the Korean War.

Ted Brandow hailed from the Catskills of up-state New York. He grew up during the Great Depression, with a father who spent his meager earnings on alcohol rather than feed his wife and six children. Ted joined the Army at the age of 17, attaining the rank of private first class while becoming a cook. Consequently, he was assigned to a headquarters company that assembled non-combatant radio operators, clerks, bandsmen, and cooks like Ted. Along with Philip Hughes and the rest of the 34th, PFC Ted Brandow was rushed to Korea on July 2, 1950, shortly after the outbreak of war there.

Along with Philip Hughes, Ted Brandow somehow survived the humiliating defeats that the 34th suffered in early July at P’yongt’aek, Ch’onan, and the retreat to the Kum River Line. Deployed on the eastern bank of the Kapch’on River, the 34th Regiment formed the first line of resistance protecting the U.S. Army’s Taejon headquarters.  The North Korean People’s Army bore down on this position with troop strength and weaponry far superior to the American commitment.

Lt. Col. Harold “Red” Ayres, commander of the 34th’s first battalion, knew the odds. Still, he was expected to hold the defensive line at all costs.  He formed a front line by placing two under-strength rifle companies (Alpha and Charlie) along the banks of the Kapch’on.  Behind this, he placed reinforcements.  Ayres’ command post was immediately behind the reinforcements. Theoretically, Ayres could order the reinforcements forward to plug any gaps suffered by the rifle companies.

Who were the reinforcements?  Half of it was Philip Hughes’s rifle (Baker) company.  The balance were the men of the Headquarters company. These men traded their typewriters, trumpets, and soup ladles for carbines and Colt .45 pistols.

When the North Koreans approached the Americans’ position, their T-34 tanks and countless footsteps generated a cloud of dust that only thickened the humid night air. They overran the line companies and advanced directly toward Ayres’ command post.  In so doing, the North Koreans shoved Baker company aside.  As for the headquarters company, history reports that at least half were killed.  The rest were wounded, captured, or scattered to the surrounding hills. Ted Brandow was among those who didn't make it out alive.

Graves Registration recovered his remains several months later, and he was finally interred back home in New York. Ted's parents had split by this time, so when his $10,000 Army-issue life insurance policy was cashed, each parent received a check for $5,000.

No comments:

Post a Comment