“Operation X”: Top-Secret Trucker Tune

Dave Dudley’s earliest recordings go back to King Records, interestingly — six sides altogether, with three written by Dudley and one co-written with Louis Innis.  Dudley would record for a handful of small labels before being signed to Mercury in the wake of “Six Days on the Road” and its breakout success (in retrospect, his first & last Top 40 pop hit).

Dudley, of course, recorded other material besides truck-driving tunes, such as these back-to-back singles released in 1965/66 – “What We’re Fighting For” & “Vietnam Blues” – the first written by Tom T. Hall and the second by up-and-comer, Kris Kristofferson.  But within the world of trucker music, “Operation X” stands apart in one important respect:  this is the only truck driving song (at least, that I know of) written about the Korean War:

“Operation X” from 1965 Mercury LP, Truck Drivin’ Son-of-a-Gun

Those famously percussive guitar riffs are being popped off by Jimmy Colvard, no doubt — and yet nowhere is his name in these credits from the indispensable LP Discography:

Jerry Kennedy:  Guitar & Dobro
Harold Bradley & Ray Edenton:  Guitar
Pete Drake:  Steel Guitar
Bob Moore:  Bass
Buddy Harman:  Drums
HargusPigRobbins:  Piano
Recorded:  March, 1965 – Columbia Studios – Nashville

Well as long as there’s a truck I won’t forget
Korea and Operation X.

I won’t forget the year of ’54
I drove a truck in that Korean war.
Haulin’ GI’s to the front and back
In a truck they called Deuce and a half.
The others called it Operation X
We had to move in just an hour or less.

First ethanol and maintenance that was all
And there were twenty men I had to haul.
That south Korean sky was smoky black
I was third in convoy from the back.
But twenty minutes out they hit the nail
It was mortar they were sendin’ in the mail.

We’ll scatter out and find a hole they said
Cause Operation X is catchin’ lead.
I wheeled into a side road to the left
Drivin’ to an almost certain death.
I heard the steady screepin’ of the shells
The burnin’ powder sent a deadly smell.

And it happened as I pulled into a stop
They hit us and I blacked out from the shock.
Somehow I got back to the States alive
And now I got another rig to drive.
My bumper sign says “Operation X”
It’s there ’cause I’m the only one that’s left.

“Operation X” was written by – who else? – Tom T. Hall.  Is it wrong of me to point out that by 1954, the United States had ceased combat in the Korean War (says the State of New Jersey’s website:  “On July 27, 1953, the Armistice was signed, and all fighting stopped”)?