Poem: The Death Of A Friend

At an Army camp in JapanI first met my friend We were just boys not oldenough to be called men I never met a fellaquite like Paul beforeWe did everything togetherwe were always active and never bored We both loved the Armyand were proud to be a p...

Korean War veterans
A memorial museum opening soon in South Korea includes a display with part of a poem Joe Langone wrote about his friend, Paul Larson of Duluth (left). Larson was one of the first Americans to die in the Korean War, on July 5, 1950. (Submitted photo)

At an Army camp in Japan
I first met my friend

We were just boys not old
enough to be called men

I never met a fella
quite like Paul before
We did everything together
we were always active and never bored

We both loved the Army
and were proud to be a part

We were both regular Army
and proud that in the draft
we were never caught


We both loved our uniform
and proudly served the Flag
And when it came time to shooting
both of us had room to brag

A peace time Army
is full of fun
For never once in anger
did we ever fire our gun

We trained hard in the day
to learn how an Army fights
But then when off duty
we headed to town to spend our night

We drank and laughed and had a really good time
We drank Japanese beer and whiskey
but never touched their Saki wine

I knew Paul better than anyone else in Japan
He was tall and handsome and a very sensitive man

He loved to smile and talk of home
But he,
like I,
got the yearning and started to roam

We became inseparable,
Paul and I
The bond between us,
man or woman could not untie

But on a warm summer night late in June
Our carefree attitude was soon to turn to gloom


Our unit was ordered to Korea as the communists wanted a fight
And our outfit moved out of Japan in the dead of night

In a matter of days we sat on two hills outside a town called Osan
Our beautiful Japan was gone and so were our pretty little Josans

Paul was on the high hill and I was to his flank
No matter where we were
we both were able to see their infantry led by Russian tanks

The battle started to escalate around 8 in the morning
Little did I know that by 10
I would be in deepest mourning

The Sergeant told us to leave as we could no longer hold
We made a dash to Paul's hill our movements were fast and bold

As we climbed the hill under fire looking for a route to escape
I spied a soldier in a foxhole
and he was wearing Paul's smiling face

We smiled and shook hands and in the ribs we gave each other a poke
I had one Phillip Morris cigarette that I broke in half for us to smoke

But soon we saw the mortar shells getting closer with each round
We leaped from that foxhole to seek safety on higher ground


We started shooting immediately as we saw the enemy reach the crest
In the flash of a moment Paul was mortally wounded in the head and in the chest

What a nightmare to see my friend dying such a horrible death
Oh Father,
why did I have to suffer through this awful gruesome test

For I was there from the start to his dying and tearful end
I hugged my dearest buddy
my companion
and closest friend

His ashen face took on the mask of death
I was there when my dearest friend took his final dying breath

Why you my friend?
and why not I?
Why were you chosen over me to die?

Oh how strong you were when you left with death
You my friend were really one of the best

My life ended too on that hill that hot July day
But I was thankful you had the chance to talk to God and pray

Oh Paul,
my dearest friend,
if I could sit down with you and drink a toast
I would touch your glass
and know that never again
to a man would I ever be as close


But one thing I'll do for you that I promised after that fight,
I'll pray for you forever my friend as long as God gives me the nights

Written in June 1995 in memory of my dearest friend Paul Larson, who died in our first combat on July 05, 1950.

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