GI 'Casey Jones' saves pals from Taejon trap

By PETER KALISCHER  |  July 21 1950
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WITH AMERICAN FORCES AT THE TAEJON FRONT, July 21, 1950 (UP) - Staff Sgt. Elmo Smallwood got himself a new name - Casey Jones - on his first run at the throttle of the old 219.

Five American soldiers owe their lives to Smallwood. He stepped over the riddled bodies of a Korean fireman and a critically wounded engineer to deliver a rescue train out of blazing Taejon.

Smallwood headed a quartermaster rescue train into Taejon, which was already reported in enemy hands. He wanted to bring out the wounded of the embattled 34th Regiment, of which he was a veteran throughout World War II.

When the train, with the Korean engineer at the controls, nosed into the Taejon yard, the engineer saw that the track was ripped up 100 yards ahead. He started the train back.

"Then all hell broke loose," Smallwood said. "The North Koreans had been lying in ambush on both sides of the track. They opened up on us with two machine guns and mortar fire."

Smallwood climbed into the cab and found the fireman riddled with bullets. The engineer had been critically wounded.

Smallwood, who is in the bantamweight class, pulled the dead fireman aside and grabbed the throttle.

"It was the first time I ever ran a train, but no one else was there to do it," he said.

A Korean interpreter was cowering under the box in the cab, too terrified even to get out of the way. To make matters worse, the train's 50-caliber machine guns, manned by Corp. James McCallum of Albion, Mich., atop the cars, were jammed. McCallum lay flat with four other GIs, one of them covering with Smallwood's carbine.

Smallwood got going in reverse. He headed the three-car train for a tunnel.

Mortar shells fell 25 feet behind as he picked up speed. But he drove old 219 through the tunnel and south to safety.

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