FALLING DOWN UMBRELLA MEN & THE 187TH INFANTRY REGIMENT OF THE 101ST AIRBORNE DIVISION — THE RAKKASANS!
My name is Thomas Galloway, and I was born in Oswego, New York in April, 1931.
The nickname “Rakkasans” is derived from the Japanese word for umbrella which translated to “falling down umbrella men” and was given to the 187th during its tour in occupied Japan following World War II. I know that the Korean Conflict is often referred to as “the forgotten war” but not to me orthe thousands of young men that were there. Let’s not forget that around 36,000 Americans lost their lives during the 37 months in Korea. More than 100,000 were wounded with 8,177 MIA.
There were lots of scary and harassing night patrols. We came under heavy artillery shelling and mortar fire. After several of our troops were killed and wounded, we would see them in the body bags waiting to be shipped home. But we never really talked much about it. It seemed like if we did not mention it, we would be safe! Now I wonder, why?
The worst part for me was when I was in a Mash Hospital Tent and had to tell the Red Cross Lady what to say when notifying my parents that I was wounded but would be okay. Around that same time, I received a “Dear John” letter from my old High School girlfriend. That was a pretty low time for me, lying in bed thinking about all of this. I was also trying not to think about how the news of my Sgt, Andy Leon getting killed after 12 years in the Airborne , would affect his wife and two kids back home. It was a pretty sad time!
General William Westmoreland, our leader, came to the MASH Hospital Tent to visit the wounded and actually sat on my bed and asked me to tell him what had happened. He told me that he was putting me in for the Soldier’s Medal for Heroism! I did receive the Medal, authorized by President Eisenhower and later received the NYS Conspicuous Service Cross.
I honestly believe that the military service greatly enhanced my life, for the better. The discipline stayed with me right to this day. For those who protest the war, I say that it’s because of what we and the veterans ahead of us did and continue to do today that allows you to think and act the way you do. That’s America, and I’m damn proud of her!
In honor of Veterans of all wars and together with another retired Veteran of the Air Force, we presented to the Oswego, N.Y. City Council and Mayor, a program to re-tree the main street of Oswego, for about 5 miles. They agreed and we now have several hundred trees purchased by citizens with a bronze plaque at the base of the tree recognizing a veteran. This program is very popular, and called “Trees for Vets.”
On Memorial Day, yellow ribbons decorate the trees.
~ Thomas R. Galloway, 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team and Infantry/Military Police Detachment
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