Friday, November 9, 2018

Buddy Sizemore and the Grand Ole Cavalry

From left; Ashland and Little Jimmie Sizemore; Buddy Sizemore, fresh out of basic; Buddy in Ike jacket with 1st Cav Division shoulder patch.
November 2, 1950 found Corporal Charles “Buddy Sizemore” in the cold and hilly environs of Unsan, North Korea.  The 20-year-old from Ashland, Kentucky served with the headquarters company of the U.S. Army’s  8th Cavalry Regiment as a scout, probably with the regiment’s Intelligence and Reconnaissance platoon. Cpl. Sizemore’s unit was part of U.S. Eighth Army’s push deep into North Korea to the Yalu River.  General MacArthur promised that this maneuver would bring the four-month old Korean War to a conclusion, allowing Buddy and the others to return home by Christmas.

That plan did not come to fruition, due to the sudden arrival in North Korea of foot soldiers under the flag of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army (PVA). The Chinese advanced in numbers that were several orders of magnitude greater than the opposing American and South Korean forces. Using effective tactics already proven by their North Korean allies, the PVA forces stealthily marched cross-country to encircle the road-bound American units.  The PVA systematically struck the gaps between U.S. units, attacking battalion and regimental command posts. 

Buddy Sizemore was in the midst of this debacle.  No setting could be farther removed from the rural music hall circuit travelled by his country and western band.  Billed as “Asher and Little Jimmie,” the family act featured Buddy’s father and brother.  Other family members were added over time. Buddy played bass fiddle while displaying keen timing as a comedian. Stage acts like this blended a variety of music and comedy, a forerunner to television’s “Hee Haw” program.

There is limited evidence to account for Buddy Sizemore’s fate. The 8th Cavalry was shattered at Unsan, leading to the death or capture of most of its ranks. With unit cohesion shattered, the rifle companies on the line fought until ammunition ran low. Disintegrating into small groups, the Americans had no choice but to retreat as best they could through enemy lines. They had to abandon many of their vehicles and heavy weapons.  Roll calls after November 4, 1950 revealed the tremendous loss of personnel. Buddy would not be accounted for until 2006, when his remains were identified among a batch returned from North Korea in 2000. Forensics allowed investigators to ascertain a snippet of Buddy’s fate.  His remains were part of a small group exhumed in the vicinity of Hwaong-Ri, a village south of Unsan and near a documented escape route used by elements of the 8th Cav.

Little Jimmie (not to be confused with “Little Jimmy Dickens”) grew up to some renown as a country music personality. The Sizemore Family were among the first Kentuckians nominated to the Grand Ole Opry’s Hall of Fame.  At best, Buddy joined the family in spirit to receive the accolades. His remains rest in the East Hill Cemetery of Rushville, Indiana.

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