Books by Charles Hughes

Accordion War: Korea 1951: Life and Death in a Marine Rifle Company


Accordion War: Korea 1951—Life and Death in a Marine Rifle Company

At a time when North Korea has dramatically burst into the news once more as a belligerent nuclear power, Charles Hughes has published a historical memoir of his experiences as a hospital corpsman in a Marine rifle company during the Korean War.  Accordion War: Korea 1951-Life and Death in a Marine Rifle Company  is a detailed personal account of combat in the Korean War during its most violent “blitzkrieg” phase, the first third of the three-year war.  While the descriptions of battles are up close and graphic, the conflict is also viewed from the perspective of the 21st century, from a keen awareness of the wars since—Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terror.  Interwoven into the narrative is a meditation on life, death and war—on the question of why men spend so much treasure and blood fighting one another. 

Hughes’ experiences came six years after those of another corpsman, Jack “Doc” Bradley, whose story was depicted recently in a best-selling book and popular movie, Flags of Our Fathers, which tell the story of the five Marines and one corpsman who were immortalized in Joe Rosenthal’s iconic photograph of the flag raising on Mount Suribachi during the battle for Iwo Jima.  But the men in Korea who fought in what the historian Clay Blair called a war, “often surpassing the toughest battles of any war in American history,” would not be so remembered.  Theirs was a conflict destined to be known as “The Forgotten War.” 

A Fortune Teller's Blessing

 During the depths of the Great Depression a handsome and gifted seventeen-year-old high school athlete saw his future shattered when his neck was broken in a football game. Few at the time thought the honor student, Eagle Scout, editor of his school paper, and president of his class every year since the seventh grade would survive. But John Allen Adams did survive and was able to adapt to his severe handicap and go on to lead a remarkably successful life. His story, woven from important strands of Arkansas and American history, reaches far beyond the community of Arkadelphia in which he lived. But while family history provides a dramatic backdrop for his story it cannot account for the remarkable character of John Allen Adams, a skilled poet and a tireless worker for world peace who found within himself the resources to build a life that made a difference, a difference reflected in the testimonies and memories of those whose lives he touched.

Book Cover

A book of poems by John Allen Adams

I Walk Toward the Sound of My Days: Poems of John Allen Adams
Strength of character is not a necessary qualification for an artist but it’s not likely to detract from the reader’s pleasure to learn that the author of I Walk Toward the Sound of My Days was a man of remarkable intellectual and moral strength. Living as a quadriplegic from a football injury suffered when he was seventeen did not keep John Allen Adams from experiencing a full and creative life nor stop him from becoming a force for good in the world. That force is evident in the poems in this book, poems which reveal not only the poet’s skill with words but also his humanity, his love of life, and his dedication to opposing war and protecting the earth. Like his hero Henry David Thoreau John Allen looked at the world squarely and spoke plainly. No poet was ever more intimate with nature than Thoreau, and John Allen shared that love for the natural world.And like Thoreau he also was sickened by man’s fratricidal tendencies. If the focus in some of these poems seems grim we need to remember the decades in which they were written, the era of the Cold War, the carnage of the Vietnam War with its daily body counts, and the ever-present threat of mutually assured destruction, MAD. Those threats may seem muted today because the Cold War and the war in Vietnam are behind us, but John Allen’s concerns have not disappeared. In fact the daily news reveals to us that the challenges we face today are the very ones he confronted in his poems—caring for our small blue planet and controlling man’s fratricidal impulses. Thankfully John Allen’s love for people, for nature and the earth provide a welcome counterpoint to the darkness in his poetry and pierce the somber clouds sometimes found there with bright and joyful beams of light. 


 Two of the greatest hunting stories in American Literature, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and William Faulkner’s “The Bear,” written not quite a hundred years apart, reflect two different stages in man’s struggle against nature in the New World. In Melville’s novel nature, incarnate in the shape of a great albino whale, is invincible and believed to be immortal just as wild nature was believed to be inexhaustible in America at the middle of the nineteenth century. In Faulkner’s story Old Ben, the legendary Mississippi black bear, also symbolizes nature, but, unlike Melville’s white whale, the bear is mortal. What had seemed inconceivable to many at the middle of the nineteenth century had become all too clear by the middle of the twentieth: Man with his increased numbers, insatiable appetites and technological power had gained the ability to destroy wild nature. These stories by two great American writers are fiction, but they confront the reader with a tragic reality: From the moment Columbus’ three small ships sighted the island of San Salvador in the Caribbean wild nature in America was doomed. The mad captain Ahab’s battle with Moby Dick was only an episode in the epic struggle that followed; the death of Old Ben with the knife of a wild man in his heart was the finale. 

Find out more

About the Author

Through the years Charles Hughes has published poetry and fiction along with works of literary scholarship on various topics, but his two recent books, Accordion War: Korea 1951—Life and Death in a Marine Rifle  Company and A Fortune Teller’s Blessing—The Story of John Allen Adams  explore a common theme—war and courage.  The books, however, approach that theme from different directions.  In the first we see the young Marines Hughes served with face death from an implacable enemy in the rugged mountains of Korea under the harshest weather conditions.  In the second we see a man who has overcome a devastating injury join with anti-war friends to confront their own government and many of their fellow citizens as they speak out against a war they believe immoral and unjust, receiving for their efforts public censure, hostility and sometimes imprisonment.    

Today Hughes is professor emeritus of English at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.  He graduated with a BA in political science from the University of Texas at Austin in 1957 and for the next nine years worked in communication intelligence for the National Security Agency at Ft. Meade, Maryland, and later the Air Force Security Service as a cryptanalyst (Russian), instructor of cryptanalysis, technical writer (cryptanalysis), technical editor, and finally as the Chief of the Editing and Publications Branch of the USAFSS School at Goodfellow AFB, San Angelo, Texas.  

He left that position in 1966 to attend graduate school at Texas Tech University at Lubbock where he received an MA (1968) and a PhD (1971) in literature and linguistics after which he was hired by Henderson State where he taught up to and after his retirement in 1996, serving for five of those years as Chairman of the English and Foreign Languages Department. 

Editorial Reviews

Accordion War: Korea 1951: Life and Death in a Marine Rifle Company

 This book is hard to put down. The writing is terrific, and Hughes tells his story with sprinkles of history, poetry, philosophy and his take on what it all meant. The experiences he writes about took place more than 50 years ago in a war that has for the most part been relegated to the back burner of history.
Korea was a harsh war. Many who fought there, however, came back to lead long and fruitful lives, because Hughes and other corpsmen like him were on the battlefield with them. Well done, Doc.
GySgt John Boring, USMC (Ret) --Leatherneck: Magazine of the Marines

This is one of the rare books that begs to be read in one reading. Hughes s stories of combat and life in Koreaare lively; the reader can smell both the gunpowder and the kimchi. Korea may be a war unknown to the current generation, but books like Accordion War: Korea 1951 will give the reader an appreciation of what young men like Charles Hughes and his Marines endured. Well done, Doc. --Military Writers Society of America 

A Fortune Teller's Blessing

  Wonderful book about a remarkable man!    Through Dr. Charles Hughes' beautifully written book, everyone can know one of America's great personalities and intellects. John Allen Adams led a remarkable life though confined to a wheelchair after a spinal injury at age 16. John was a great writer, progressive thinker, and a kind, though complicated man. Read Fortune Teller's Blessing and learn the story that shaped one of America's great poets and liberal thinkers. --by  


Accordion War: Korea 1951: Life and Death in a Marine Rifle Company

 By way of full disclosure, Doc Hughes is both a longtime HSU colleague of mine and a friend as well. I have known him as a quiet man who does not seek attention, preferring to let it flow naturally from his teaching and writing skills. Further disclosure: since taking my doctorate in 1972, I doubt I have read more than 4 or 5 non-fiction books (though I have read thousands of fictional works). Perhaps it means something, therefore, when I say that Accordion War: Korea 1951 -- Life and Death in a Marine Rifle Company is the only non-fiction book I have read more than once. His rhetoric is such that this book has the feel of a good story, and his approach to the subject of war is so balanced as to offend no one who is half sane on the topic. The mark of excellence in treating sensitive topics like war, death, and life is, so it seems to me, the author's ability to avoid burdening his vehicle with ideology or blatant didacticism. In this book, the great literary themes are subtly interlaced with a "grunt's eye view" of life as a mud-marine walking point, keeping interval, and digging-in. While he doffs his cap in the direction of touchstones like Chesty Puller and the heroes of "Frozen Chosin," the narrative never devolves to simply a "gungy" tribute to the Corps. And his matter-of-fact descriptions of a head half-filled with rain or a marine picking up his severed hand do more to illustrate the horrors of war than all of Hollywood's special effects. If you want a serious, sensible look at Korea from the ground up, told by a wordsmith whose prose I envy and a hero who refuses to "sing" himself, please treat yourself to Accordion War. You will have reason to congratulate yourself on the choice. ~~Charles A. Weiner, Ed. D.