Buddy Bounds — The Korean War and a boy called “Chiko”

Published 11:28 pm Saturday, April 5, 2008

Serving 16 years in the Mississippi National guard, Poplarville resident Hyrem “Buddy” Bounds is a Korean War Veteran.

Training with the Combat engineers, Bounds was processed through Stoneman in California and shipped off to Korea to stand with the 7th infantry division, 31st regiment in 1951. “We were called the Polar Bears,” said Bounds. He was sent with a number of men to replace the dead, and men who were fortunate enough to rotate off duty and be sent home.

“I got there in time to see a good part of the summer and most of the winter, and get into some scary places,” said Bounds. Spending most of his time in Korea on the front line, Bounds found himself having to face hot summers, 40 below winters, and the combat zone. In fact, Bounds was woken up at approximately 1 a.m. the very first morning after his arrival to big roaring sounds and flashes of light, and spent the next 24 hours under fire. “That qualified me for the combat infantry badge the first week I was in Korea,” he said.

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Bounds also recalled an evening when he had pitched a pup tent in the snow and threw some dirt around the sides of the tent so wind wouldn’t rush through while he was trying to sleep. Another soldier came along and pitched his pup tent, not 10 feet away from Bounds’ tent. During that night, incoming artillery from a night attack hit the neighboring soldier who was taken away shortly after. “I never did see him again,” said Bounds.

The fighting continued as Bounds was picked to be a demolition man and go out on patrol. Forced to cross a valley, the enemy could see the troops coming, and vice versa. Going up the side of a mountain to gain the advantage of higher ground, Bounds and his group laid down a “field of fire” behind them as they went in an effort to keep the enemy from “sticking their heads up”. Finally making it up to where the enemy was entrenched, the enemy combated their efforts with a pre-planned escape route. Bounds’ patrol found themselves “pinned”. “That’s where all you can do is lay there and get more nervous and more scared. That lasted for three to four hours,” he said.

Fortunately, the situation was resolved when an air strike was called in. “That’s a beautiful sight to a soldier in combat – an air strike. The planes were quite a bit older than they are now, but of course they were beautiful to us,” said Bounds. The troops were able to watch the bombs leaving the wings of the circling planes while retreating back to their units.

Bounds, who made Sergeant in the 7th infantry division, certainly saw his fair share of combat in the Korean war during his tour of duty between 1951-1952, but he also had some pleasant memories to share along with poignant moments of humanity. He was able to visit his brother, Irvin Bounds, for several days. Irvin was also stationed in Korea with the Marines.

He was able to frequently correspond with his newlywed wife, Ann, who was living in Poplarville and providing motivation for his safe return home.

He also made a little friend named “Chiko”.

Chiko was one of several orphaned Korean children who took up residence near Bounds’ platoon, which eventually “adopted” him and another boy the men called “Jimmy”. “They needed food, they needed attention and they needed love more than anything else, I believe,” he said.

While both boys received these much needed elements from the men, Chiko, holds a special place in Bounds’ heart. “My wife and I considered seriously about adopting him, but we backed out of it because by the time he would be in college, we would have been in college ourselves had we gone.” He estimated his age at the time to be around eight.

Chiko, an intelligent, natural artist, according to Bounds, took a liking to Ann, and often sent her letters in English and some of his artwork. In the letters he addressed her as “mother”. Chiko worked his way into the couple’s heart, and became a big part of the Bounds’ family long after contact was lost with the young man.

Buddy Bounds truly believes the U.S. government was able to take care of all the “Chikos” left in the wake of the war through an orphanage that was set up in Seoul, not long after Bounds’ homecoming.

After his 10 months in Korea, Bounds returned to his wife in Poplarville, who had already found him a job. Over the years the couple raised four children, 12 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren, but “Chiko” was the one child most of the family never actually met, but will always remember. Sadly, Ann Bounds, who passed away six months ago, will never get to meet her Korean “son”.

When asked why they chose to call Kim Mansu “Chiko”, Bounds said, “It was easy to say.”