Memorable hill in Stoddard County

Sunday, August 2, 2009
Jimmy Teets stands in his yard which he named Hill 513 in memory of the way soldiers in Korea plotted the land: by numbers. (The Daily Statesman photo)

Nestled atop a hill on Center St. in Bloomfield sits Jimmy's Hill 513.

Jimmy Teets, a resident of Bloomfield since 1940, named his hill in memory of the way soldiers in Korea knew where they were: by hill numbers.

That tribute doesn't end in his yard though. Over the years, he has filled his house with memorabilia from his tour of duty in the Korean War.

As soon as you enter the door, his devotion to that period in time is obvious.

With decorations ranging from medals he received, to framed Korean records and even the belt he took off a dead Korean soldier, he certainly has it all.

He even has the very rifle he carried while in Korea.

"It never jammed on me once," Teets said last week as he pointed out a framed copy of the Rifleman's Creed. "On the front that rifle is your best friend."

A story from his time in Korea that recently took an interesting turn involves a battle at Heartbreak Ridge. Teets and his fellow soldiers had a round dropped into their foxhole.

Shrapnel went everywhere, he said, injuring his arm. A short while later, a medic arrived and began tending to Teets who then told him there was another injured soldier nearby in worse shape than he was.

When the medic, Pvt. Irvin Reitz, began treating his brother, he didn't immediately realize who he was helping. Only after he and two other soldiers lifted him to carry him away did he finally see the soldier's face and realize it was his twin brother.

Teets remembers the incident like it was yesterday and that's why a letter he received in April caught him by surprise.

It came from a man named Don Hathaway of Florida who had served with Teets in Korea.

The letter included a copy of a story on the incident as it appeared in the Stars & Stripes Military Newspaper and a photo of Teets in uniform in his foxhole on Heartbreak Ridge.

According to the story in the Stars & Stripes, the twins had been in the service exactly one year to the day and had never been separated. They had been assigned, by request, to the same company when they arrived in Korea two months earlier.

Rietz was immediately taken off the front line and was allowed to accompany his brother's body back to the United States.

Teets said that for years, people who had served alongside him argued that there were no twins in their division, but this letter and story proves otherwise.

"It's nice to finally have some closure on this," he said of the event that took place 59 years ago.

Teets is planning in August to make the trip to the final gathering of the 40th Infantry Division in Nebraska and is looking forward to showing them what he has received.

He added that this will be the final gathering because, just like World War II veterans, Korean veterans are dying off.

As Teets nears his own 80th birthday this fall, he said he takes great pride and joy in telling people about his service and showing off some of the treasures he's held on to over the years.

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