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WWII, Korea veteran recognized for years of service to country

By GREG JORDAN | Bluefield Daily Telegraph | Published: May 27, 2019

FALLS MILLS, Va. (Tribune News Service) -- It was 1944 and World War II was raging, but 16-year-old Hyland Douglas Bailey decided that he wanted to help his family by joining the military; however, he was too young for the service and too light, but his resourcefulness found a way around these obstacles.

Bailey's parents separated shortly after he was born and later divorced. He went on to live with his mother and his grandparents, who helped raise him. They didn't have much money; so when he was 10-years-old, he helped make ends meet by selling newspapers for a few pennies before going to school. When Bailey turned 16, he decided that he wanted to earn money that he could send to his mother. And he wasn't going to let being too young and not weighing enough stop him.

First, his birth certificate said that he was born on Sept. 17, 1928. Bailey said he got around this problem by turning 1928 into 1927, making him a year older. Determined to get around his weight problem, he ate 15 pounds of bananas. The next day, he returned to the recruiters and was accepted.

Bailey was sent to Fort Knox, Ky. for his basic training, but he became homesick after a few weeks. When Bailey's sergeant asked him what was wrong, he admitted to the ploys he had used so he could enlist. The sergeant told him that he could either "suck it up" and keep quiet or he could be tried for lying to the recruiters and maybe end up in the stockade. Bailey chose to keep quiet, and he said that wanted military pay so he could help his mother.

He went on to serve in the Pacific Theater of Operations.

"I started with the Army," Bailey recalled, adding that he became part of the 5th Air Force, 13th Air Service.

When World War II ended a few months later, he was among those who received an "early out," but his military service wasn't quite over.

"Then I was called back for the Korean War," Bailey said. "It wasn't that far apart (from World War II.)."

Bailey was sent to Japan before being deployed to South Korea. By then he was an Army sergeant and a technician, but the arrival that he and his fellow soldiers experienced was anything but pleasant and organized.

"We were shoved off the barge with an M-1 (rifle) on our backs with not a stick of ammunition," Bailey recalled, adding that they were expected to find their unit, the First Calvary, on their own.

Bailey went on to experience the horrors of war and see how even a honest miscommunication could cost lives. In one incident, American paratroopers were to be dropped by helicopter in front of advancing North Korean and Chinese troopers; however, they were dropped into the enemy's midst and shot as they descended. Bailey was among the soldiers sent to recover their bodies. He can still remember helping place them in "black body bags" and sealing them up.

"We didn't get all of them," he recalled, adding that some of those troopers could still be in Korea to this day.

Bailey's service to his country was recognized May 11 when the Senate of the Commonwealth of Virginia presented him with a commendation. He was the recipient of the Army Service Ribbon, Korean Service Medal with five Bronze Stars, and the United Nations Service Medal. Senator Ben Chafin, Jr. made the presentation.

gjordan@bdtonline.com

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