Soldier believes war was fruitless


Monday, June 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


A Corona veteran remains bitter at the loss of his twin brother to gain "half a country."

CORONA, CA - Clynton Arrowwood would see the back of a blond, curly-headed guy walking down the street long after the Korean War ended and see his twin brother, Clayton.

"Then the guy would turn around and it would be a different person's face," Arrowwood recalled.

But in a flash, Oct. 16, 1951, would come into focus.

The Army's 1st Cavalry Division had a faster form of communication than the official Pentagon channels for alerting family by telegram about those killed in action. A buddy gave Arrowwood the news as they were taking the elevator to the chow hall in a military hospital where Arrowwood was recovering from a shrapnel wound.

" `You're brother was killed,' " he said. "He told me Clayton got shot in the throat and strangled on his own blood. All hell broke loose for me."

Clynton and Clayton, identical twins born 10 minutes apart, hunted, hiked and fished together in the prairie town of Jamestown, N.D., that was named after their pioneer grandfather, James Arrowwood.

They moved to Riverside at age 10, and ran track in Riverside and Corona high schools. They joined the California National Guard together in Corona out of a sense of patriotism, although Clayton hated to say goodbye to his girlfriend.

Their five older brothers had served in World War II. Only one, a Marine, was wounded.

"Two young persons who grew up and never were separated and the reality sets in that you're never going to see that person again. For years, I was in denial," said the 68-year-old Corona resident.

But in another way, the twins still are close.

Clayton is buried at Sunnyslope Cemetery on Rimpau Avenue, just 1 ½ blocks from where Clynton and his wife, Dora, have lived for 43 years. Arrowwood has purchased a plot there, not far from his twin.

"The choices we make are forever," he says now.

Like the choice to volunteer, a choice he doubts he would make today. He is bitter the war ended in a stalemate with the Korean peninsula divided into two nations, one democratic and the other communist.

"Would you give up your brother so that we have half of a Korea? I don't think so."

But nearly 50 years ago, he and his brother volunteered without reservation.

They spent 21 inseparable days on a troop ship joking and playing poker. Invincible 19-year-olds, they were ready to test themselves in combat. They landed at Pusan, South Korea, around Christmas 1950. It was very cold, Arrowwood remembers, just like North Dakota winters.

The pair, whom not even their mother could tell apart, slept in the same tent and requested duty together in the same division.

For 9 ½ months, Clynton served as a rifleman in the heavy mechanized division, walking the point on patrol in front of armored track vehicles. Clayton was a radioman with a headquarters company, walking farther back from the action, but still a prime target for snipers who aimed to knock out a key communications link.

"I felt better thinking Clayton was further back, but that was my inexperience at the time. A radioman is the most vulunerable. He's the first one the enemy wants to take out. He wasn't experiencing all the patrols I was, and I thought at the time he had a pretty good job."

The brothers' units were not that far apart in combat, but when small squads dug in for days and weeks, the two saw each other infrequently.

"I knew I could get in touch with him if I needed to," Arrowwood said.

Fighting around Seoul became intense. Arrowwood's patrols came across body parts and blood-soaked paths where Chinese soldiers fought and died. His squad would fight up one hill, then withdraw the next day.

"We were on a big offensive push," he said. "So much mortar fire was falling . . . I got hit from behind, but there was no pain. I was wiggling my toes and they felt wet. My first sensation was blood in my shoes. And then I'm passing out from shock."

The battle raged north of Seoul, near Uijongbu where the Demilitarized Zone now separates the two Koreas.

Arrowwood dismisses the severity of the wounds that left him partially paralyzed for a short time. Clayton's death hurt far more. It left him emotionally numb and until recently unable to talk about his twin.

"I requested to go back to Korea and accompany his body home," he said.

The family of 15 children, of which only Arrowwood and a sister now survive, "never talked about Clayton" after getting news of his death.

"I drank a lot," he said of the years that followed.

He married Dora 44 years ago, worked as an auto mechanic and carpenter, and still does a some locksmith work on the side during his retirement. He and Dora raised three children in the comfortable home that Arrowwood found, not coincidentally, just down the street from Sunnyslope Cemetery. They have five grandchildren and a great-grandson.

A conservative patriot since the war who flies the American flag every day, Arrowwood has no use for politicians who left the Korean War unfinished, and later gave up on Vietnam.

"All the time I was there, I said, `Let's win this war. Let's get rid of this pipsqueak, butt-head North Korean.' I can't see what we won. A half a country? If Korea becomes a united, democratic country, then we won the war."

Marlowe Churchill can be reached by e-mail at mchurchill@pe.com or by phone at (909) 656-3339.