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Stars and Stripes, May 20, 1952

Airmen Care For Korean Lad 

By M/Sgt. Bill FitzGerald

SEOUL (Pac. S&S)-State side, sure thing, a boy and his pup are as much of a combo as ham 'n eggs!  But why, in Seoul in May 1952, did a boy named Charlie scream hysterically when a friendly puppy ambled over to pay his respects?

Simple-our lad Charlie, aged eight, hasn't known the normal joys of boyhood.  The amiable pooch might, to Charlie, have been a fanged monster who eats orphans alive.  Youngsters back home have nightmares, maybe, after closing their picture books about dragons or other wriggly things.  But it was highly pathetic-and deeply typical of Korea rounding out its second year of war-to see this eloquent eyed kid paralyzed with fright because a grinning little mongrel came too close.

ALL THIS happened recently in the Airmen's club of the Fifth Air Force when Sgt. Mike O'Shaughnessy, Keego Harbor, Mich., and Cpl. Ronnie Edwards, Los Angeles, both assigned to the Seoul press billets, dropped in with their irrepressible pup, "Babbo," who loves everybody and dotes especially on children.  But Charlie was not amused.  Charlie got the screaming horrors when he say Babbo frisking close to his feet.

"Last January," said A2/c Kenneth B. Tomblin, Winchester, Va., "we found Charlie huddled up all by himself in the snow near the Han river water point.  We'd driven out there to fill up and there he was.  All dressed in rags, and you couldn't even call it all dressed-not for that kind of weather!

"WELL, NATCH, we took him back with us.  Are you going to leave a starving kid to die in a ditch?"  So that was Charlie's introduction to the famed hospitality of American troops in Korea.  Tomblin-along with A1/c Donald L. Hassenplug, Vallejo, Calif., and other Fifth Air Force men-have the poor tot a good meal and a sound scrubbing in short order.  They gave him a place to sleep in their barracks, letting him do small cleanup jobs that wouldn't tax his scant strength.  They checked into his background and found he had a relative in nearby Yongdungpo-a grandfather-who had woes enough and didn't want another mouth to feed.

ONE OF THE most amiable qualities of American soldiers in Korea since the war began has been their unaffected sentimental concern for the welfare of kids left homeless to scrounge for themselves.  Tomblin, Hassenplug and their buddies were no exceptions to this rule.  They made a pet of Charlie.  They lavished on him the same affection that O'Shaughnessy and Edwards gave to Babe.  Charlie was taught rudimentary use of English.  He was decked out in a tiny green shirt and cut-down fatigue trousers.  His benefactors topped off this with an OD cap sporting the bar of a first lieutenant.

Good food and kind treatment did miracles for Charlie in five months, but his screaming aversion to the bobbing antics of Babbo was a throwback to earlier months of misery.  It's good to report that Charlie and Babbo finally got together-with the kid tugging bravely at the pup's tawny neck scruff, and Babbo adoringly licking his hand.

Tomblin, Hassenplug and their gang want to adopt Charlie and take him back to the States.  Failing that, they're determined to get him a good spot in an orphanage where he'll recover from the mental scars of war-a place, they hope, where he'll pull the ears of every puppy within reach.  What does Charlie say?  He guzzled a Pepsi-Cola that night and stammered politely, "To U.S. I want to go."  Just within snapping distance of Charlie's ankle-but not snapping-Babbo mouthed an authoritative first endorsement.



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