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Murdo Alexander MacLennan
Highlands Ranch, CO -
"I was very down after Dutch was hit and Albring was killed. They were the first serious casualties in our group since landing at Inchon. This was the first time I was personally affected and made very aware of how vulnerable we all were. We had been in other firefights north of Seoul with North Koreans but had not suffered any serious injuries. The fact that the Chinese were now our enemy seemed to hit everyone that the situation had definitely changed and there was no more talk of being home for Christmas."
- Murdo MacLennan
My name is Murdo Alexander MacLennan of Highlands Ranch, Colorado. I was born on August 26, 1929, in Casper, Wyoming, the son of Alexander Macintosh and Christina MacDonald MacLennan. I was named after my grandfather on my mother's side, Murdo MacDonald. My middle name is after my dad, Alexander Macintosh MacLennan. Murdo is a common name in Scotland, but not very often heard here in the United States.
Both of my parents were born and raised in the northwest coast of Scotland. One of my dad's older brothers, Kenneth MacLennan, emigrated in 1909 to Casper and worked on a ranch. Many of the ranches in Wyoming at that time were owned by Scottish or Irish who came over to the States in the 1800's when there was no work at home. My dad emigrated in 1912 to Casper and also went to work on a ranch. My mother came over in 1928 to Casper to marry my dad. At the time there was a quota for the number of UK citizens given permission to emigrate to the United States. When my mother applied she was put on a waiting list. My parents were engaged for two and a half years before Mother made the quota to join Father in Casper.
My dad left ranch work after he and my mother were married. He worked as a carpenter in construction before the Depression. He worked in dam construction in Wyoming and Colorado. At that time the Bureau of Reclamation was constructing a number of dams in the Rocky Mountains. When the Depression came he found what work there was in building houses and repairing existing homes. He also worked on the ranch during lambing and branding times.
Times were tough finding work, but I don't think we ever thought of ourselves as being poor because everyone we knew and went to school with was also having a tough time making ends meet. My mother sewed clothes for me and my sisters into the 1940s. My dad took part-time work whenever available. Deer and antelope were plentiful around Casper. Both my mom and dad got hunting licenses every year and we lived on wild meat. We also had a good-sized garden (called a Victory Garden during World War II) and had fresh vegetables. My mom canned fruit and vegetables for the winter. She also loved to bake so she made all our bread and rolls. It was something to have "store-bought bread." We never had a lot, but we were healthy and never went hungry.
I have two sisters who, like me, were born in Casper. There were nine years between me and my youngest sister and five years between my oldest sister. As a result I was probably closer to my oldest sister before leaving home. The three of us now are very close. Growing up, my siblings and I were very active, but I don't believe we were ever considered rowdy. My parents were not unduly strict, but they insisted on good behavior and respect for our elders and teachers.
While I was in Korea my mother started working part-time baking pies and cinnamon rolls for a restaurant. (My dad was injured in a work accident and was unable to work for some time.) When my father died in 1955, she began working full time and continued until she retired at age 65. She continued to do a lot of baking for family and friends and stayed active until she passed away at age 95.
I was in Boy Scouts and Explorer Scouts until high school. It was a very active troop and we had many camping trips both in the summer and winter on Casper Mountain. I was a senior patrol leader, but only reached the rank of First Class and received four merit badges. I remember that one was called Pathfinder and the other one was for Health. I needed five badges to advance to the Star rank. I think Scouting experience instilled team work and depending on each other to accomplish tasks--which was a good start for Marine Corps duty.
We moved to Toronto, Canada in the late 1930s where Dad was able to find work in the construction of POW camps. He was a World War I veteran in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces and still a UK citizen, which helped. We children were not allowed to go near the POW camp. It was built to hold Italian prisoners and more were arriving as additions were made to the stockade.
We heard the news of Pearl Harbor on Sunday after church. We spent a lot of time listening to the reports on the radio. My folks were shocked and very concerned. They both remembered World War I. At school all the talk was about friends and family members who were planning on enlisting in the service right away. When the United States declared war in 1941, we moved back to Casper and then to San Diego, California, where my dad worked in the San Diego Ship Yard building forms for holding parts in place during fabrication. We returned to Casper in 1943 when work picked up there. In Casper, Dad worked as a carpenter for a building contractor in new home construction.
Rationing was more of an inconvenience than a major problem in our family, except for obtaining the necessary items for my mom to do all the baking. Sugar was rationed and butter was seldom available. We used white margarine and colored it to look like butter. Gas and tires were rationed, but we did not have a car so that was not a problem. Everyone was in the same boat. Collecting scrap and having paper drives was a Scouting project. The scrap was small items made of metal, such as old pots and pans, copper wire and tubing, and balls of tin foil people collected. We brought it to Scout meetings and the Scout Master delivered it to gathering sites.
I attended Jefferson Elementary School while living in Casper. I attended school in both San Diego and Toronto during our time there. (While in Toronto, I had a problem with singing, "God Save the Queen" at school instead of saying the Pledge of Allegiance.) I enjoyed the time in San Diego and remember the air raid drills in school and the complete blackouts at night. After Pearl Harbor there was concern that the next Japanese attack would be on the west coast because of the military bases and many ship yards. Japanese submarines were spotted off the coast and one actually surfaced and fired on the beach. That was why a black-out was imposed and the air raid drills. The drill consisted of an alarm and then all the students were to get under their desks until the all clear.
There was an Army Air Force base west of Casper during the war and I was in the Civil Air Patrol. It was formed for private pilots to perform civilian duties normally done by the military, such as search and rescue operations. My age group was Cadet. We traveled to the base for sessions on navigation and basic flight familiarization in a link trainer. A link trainer was a flight simulator that, when the canopy closed, we relied on the instruments to "fly." The trainer was mounted on a swivel so the motion responded to the controls. We did not have specific duties in the Civil Air Patrol. The older Cadets flew as observers on search missions. The Civil Air Patrol is still very active today in search and rescue operations.
The summer between my freshman and sophomore years I set pins at the Maple Leaf Bowling Alley in downtown Casper, where the airmen had league bowling. The owner was a Canadian and he and my father were acquainted, so I got the job. It was the only bowling alley in Casper and was in a basement of a large office building. When the pins were knocked down, we manually picked them up and laid them in a rack. To reset them, the rack was pushed down, the pins set up, and the rack returned. The money I earned was mainly spending money for school supplies and the show on Saturdays. I think I got less than ten cents a line. When the soldiers for the Air Base bowled in their leagues, they would roll a silver dollar down the alley if we did a good job.
I attended Natrona County High School in Casper all four years. I was an average student and graduated at age 17 in 1947 with a college prep diploma. I did not like English literature classes, but enjoyed history and science classes. I liked school and always had very good teachers. All of my teachers were women except one, and all were dedicated to teaching. Many were never married and remained so when they retired. The one male teacher was an outstanding American History teacher.
I was in Troop D of the Wyoming State Guard in Casper during my sophomore year while the National Guard unit was gone to war. We had to be 16 to join. The instructors were older National Guard members who had not been activated. We had training in close order drill, map reading, guard duty, first aid, and rifle and pistol firing. There was a firing range in the Armory. The National Guard unit was deployed to Ft. Lewis, Washington. Some of the members stayed at Ft. Lewis all during the war on guard duty, but a large number transferred to the regular Army and served overseas in Europe. Some were killed in action and wounded, but I don't know who or how many. The Wyoming State Guard was disbanded when the war ended and those members who stayed with the Guard returned.
In high school, ROTC was compulsory for boys only during the freshman year and optional after that. There were no girls in ROTC at that time. I was ROTC all four years and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant my senior year. During that time I was on the Silent Drill team and we performed at football and basketball games during half times and at various business clubs around town. I was on the rifle team until I started working after school. The shooting range was in the basement of the high school and we fired .22 caliber rifles. This was before the scare about lead in the air.
I do not recall any veterans visiting school during the war years. Many of our neighbors were in the service but did not get home until after the war. There were no recruiters visiting school. In fact, everyone had to go to Denver to enlist in the service. One of our neighbor's sons was in the Marine Corps and was killed on Wake Island in the South Pacific. Most all of the draft age men were in the service. I knew five in the Marine Corps, including one who was taken prisoner on Bataan. They all survived. I'm sure they had some impact on my joining the Marines.
The news of the end of the war came on the radio and extra editions of the paper. There was no television back then. Everyone was thankful and relieved it was over. I remember the celebrations were subdued.
I delivered the Casper paper my freshman year and then worked at the Casper Malt Shop. It was in the same building as the Casper Dairy. I kept the ice cream cabinets stocked by carrying in five-gallon containers from the dairy. I also made malts, milkshakes, cones and sundaes for the girls working as "car hops." I hand-packed pints and quarts of ice cream. There was no such thing as pre-packed then. I also worked in a grocery and meat market all during high school and summer. (When I returned from the Marine Corps I went back to work there.) It was a good job because it was open from 7 a.m. until midnight and I could work as many hours as I wanted. After I started classes at Casper Junior College after high school, I remained at this job. I worked the counter, ordered stock and produce, and trained with the butcher when we were not busy. I learned how to cut steaks, roasts and chops, and dress poultry. We also made our own hamburger and sausage. I delivered orders to customers who called in their orders. The owner had a contract with the Burlington Railroad to supply items for the dining car. They would call from Nebraska the evening before arriving in Casper and I would deliver to the dining car at 6:30 the next morning. The store had a good reputation for meat, so we had a number of cafes and clubs that ordered all the steaks from there. It was all good experience and helped me get a job arranged in Laramie before I transferred there for the last two years. Again it was a good job because I could work whenever I was not in class. The store there closed at 6 p.m. and was closed on Sundays, so that was homework time.
After one quarter at junior college, I decided I really did not know what I wanted to major in. I had a good after school and weekend job, but knew there had to be more than that. The only other available jobs were with the Standard Refinery (later Amoco). The refinery was the largest of three in Casper at the time. The other two were Mobil and Texaco. I did not apply there for work as there was no part-time employment. Most of those who went to work there after high school retired there.
I thought if I went in the military for three years it would be a good experience, I would figure out what I wanted to do, and I would also be able to save some money for college. I went all through elementary and high school with twin brothers Earnest and Earl McCrary. Both enlisted in the Marine Corps in June right after graduation and came home on boot leave. (Their three-year enlistment was up just before the Korean War broke out.) Neither one had joined the reserves, so were not called to go to Korea after war broke out there in 1950. I was very impressed how sharp they looked in their Dress Blues, and after talking with them and listening to the stories from World War II veterans, I decided the Marine Corps was where I should go. A number of others I was in school with had joined the Navy after graduation, but I wanted to be a Marine.
My father understood my wanting to join the service, getting to see some of the rest of the world, and saving some money. My mother was not enthused about the idea, but did not try to talk me out of joining. I signed up with a visiting recruiter in Casper and I took the Burlington Trailways bus on the morning of January 28 to Denver for a physical and to be sworn in. The Navy recruiting office was in the same building as the Marine Corps and the physical was done by the Navy doctors there. I passed everything but had two wisdom teeth that were in bad shape. They said the Marine Corps would not accept me the way they were, but the Navy would and they would take care of the teeth in boot camp. I went back to the Marine office and told them the story. They said if I had them pulled, the Navy would have to pass me.
I left there and went to see a high school friend, John Chapman, who was working at Walgreens while attending pharmacy school. He told me there was a dentist just in the next block, so I headed for there. The dentist took me in right away and pulled both teeth. He packed them to stop the bleeding and said I had to see him again in the morning to make sure there were no problems. I stayed over night with my friend, went back to the dentist, and he repacked my mouth. I went back to the recruiting office, where the Navy signed off on the physical. I was sworn in that afternoon and was on the train that evening for San Diego. This was the first time I had been away from home on my own other than a week at scout camp.
Two others had arrived that morning, so there were three of us leaving together. One was from a small town near Casper and the other one was from Pueblo, Colorado. The one from Wyoming was Melvin Eye. We went home on boot leave together. He was KIA a couple of days after landing at Inchon. The other one was William Pacheco and I lost touch with him after boot camp.
After the three of us were sworn in, I was given the train tickets and meal vouchers because I was senior in time to the other two. The train left in the morning and we arrived in San Diego the next afternoon. We ate lunch, dinner, and breakfast in the dining car. We slept in our seats on the train. It was not full, so we each had a full seat to stretch out. I had traveled by train previously when we moved to Toronto, Canada and to San Diego, so it was not a new experience. I don't remember meeting other passengers, but when we got off the train in San Diego, there were about ten recruits that came off the train gathered on the platform where a Marine Sergeant was waiting. Most of them were from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
It was a short ride in a bus from the depot to the base. I have no particular memories before entering. Boot camp was located at the San Diego Marine base adjacent to the San Diego airport and close to the ocean. (Pests were not a problem there like the sand fleas at the East Coast boot camp at Parris Island.) We went to what was called receiving barracks where we were told that we were in Casual Platoon and would be until there were enough recruits to form a full platoon. We were not issued uniforms until the next day and were told to wrap any clothes we wanted to send home or place everything in a bin for donation to the Salvation Army. I had a winter jacket that I sent home and donated everything else. The next few days were spent scrubbing the barracks, getting hair cuts and toilet articles, and marching from place to place with many derogatory statements about how sorry we looked, about our lack of military bearing, and questioning how we were ever allowed to join the Marine Corps. We also each had to write a letter home saying we had arrived okay and everything was fine.
Boot camp was ten weeks back then. We arrived at the camp on January 30 and started training February 10. Graduation was April 19. We were in Casual Platoon for about ten days before there were enough to form a full platoon of 52. We were in Platoon 13, an all-white platoon. There were no black recruits at San Diego at that time because the military was still segregated. Black Marines were trained at Montford Point near Camp LeJeune, North Carolina.
We met our drill instructors and the grind began. The senior DI was T/Sgt. J. L. Pounder, and there were two junior DIs, Corporal G. V. Owens and Pfc. E. F. Newbeck. Sergeant Pounder and Pfc. Newbeck were both World War II combat veterans. I don't know about Corporal Owens. Sergeant Pounder had twelve-plus years in the Marine Corps. Corporal Owens had four or five years and was just off sea duty. Pfc. Newbeck had served in the Pacific, gotten out after the war, and just recently re-enlisted. I did not know any other recruits before boot camp except the two that traveled to San Diego with me.
Training consisted of learning to march ( close order drill), the manual of arms with M-1 rifles, bayonet training, swimming, gas mask use and experiencing tear gas, daily calisthenics and, most important, immediately responding to commands. Things that had to be memorized were our serial number, rifle serial number, and General Orders. We were each issued a Marine Corps Manual and were told to read and learn everything in it.
Our days started at 5:00 a.m. and went until lights out at 10:00 p.m. There was little, if any, free time and everything was regimented. We were awakened every morning by one of the DIs banging the lid of the trash can. Everyone had to shave whether it was needed or not, and this was the first time that many of us had shaved. Bedding was aired out each week and our dungarees were washed at least once a week using a bucket and scrub brush on a wash rack. The barracks was cleaned as often as the DI wanted it done--which was often. We were awaked in the middle of the night at times by the DI to give us a chewing out about the day's performance. The DIs were very strict and punishment was doled out on both an individual and group level for any miscues during marching or manual of arms. Sunday was like any other day during boot camp. There were no church services for boots.
We were all issued rifles and learned to disassemble, clean, and reassemble them. We went to the rifle range for one week at Camp Mathews north of San Diego near Camp Pendleton. There we learned marksmanship with the rifle and fired familiarization courses with other small arms. I fired Expert with the rifle and as a result got a $5.00 a month raise from $75 to $80. There were three levels of qualification: Expert, Sharpshooter, and Marksman. Those few who did not qualify were given the toughest jobs and lots of static when we returned to San Diego.
I learned marksmanship while in ROTC. In addition to rifle marksmanship, in ROTC we learned how to disassemble all the same weapons that we had to disassemble and reassemble in boot camp. I also had been on the ROTC drill squad, so I knew the close order drill and the manual of arms. I also did well on all the written tests on military history and other subjects because of my four years in ROTC. One of the things my friends that joined earlier cautioned me about was not to tell the DIs I had ROTC training because they would expect perfection and also insist the Marine way was the only way to perform certain tasks. I followed their advice.
Most everyone took the training seriously even though we were not at war, primarily because everyone wanted to be the best they could. We were continually told how important all the training was and why discipline was required. There were at least three that did not make it through boot camp. I believe it was due to physical problems.
In Boot Camp five of us from Wyoming--Melvin Eye, Norman Foote, Russell Smith, Robert Applebee and I, were good friends and stuck together. Two of the fellows from St. Paul, Sterling McKusick and Larry Kozeny, were also good friends. Both Smith and Eye were killed in Korea and the only ones I was in touch with after I got out were McKusick and Foote. I have lost contact with them over the years,
Probably the funniest thing that happened to me in boot camp was in the way of punishment. We were doing close order drill on the drill field when a large, low-flying plane that had just taken off from the airport came directly over us. Being from Wyoming and not having seen many such planes, I glanced up to have a look. The platoon was immediately halted and I was called forward. The DI then addressed the platoon saying, "Private MacLennan enjoys watching planes." So that none of us would miss knowing about planes flying close, the DI made me run around the platoon as they were doing close order drill, calling out, "There goes one," and pointing to the plane. It was difficult to look up and try to stay out of the way as the platoon was doing left and right flank, to the rear, and oblique maneuvers. It was not funny at the time, but was good for laughs later.
Chance of a Lifetime
Sometime during the fifth week of boot camp I was told to report to a captain in the headquarters office. I immediately thought the worst, but could not think of anything I had done or not done to warrant a visit to the office. When I reported in, the Captain told me to sit down because he had an important subject to discuss with me. He said that I had scored high on the overall test given the first week. I was also a high school graduate and had performed well so far in boot camp. Therefore I was considered for application to the Naval Academy at Annapolis. If I was accepted, I would be discharged from the Marine Corps on the completion of boot camp, and then I would have to re-enlist for four years in the Navy and be committed to extend another four years after graduating from Annapolis. I would also be required to attend a preparatory school prior to entering Annapolis.
I was in shock and totally surprised. I had graduated from high school when I was only 17 and was barely 18 when going through boot camp. I was not given any time to talk to my folks about it. I had to make a decision right then. I really wanted to be a Marine and the combination of having to join the Navy and sign up for a possible eight years did not appeal to me. At my young age then, the three-year enlistment seemed like a lifetime. I declined the offer and I did not regret it, though later I realized it was a chance of a lifetime.
End of Boot Camp
While in boot camp I was never sorry I had joined the Marine Corps. I appreciated how hard my DIs worked to make Marines out of us when we finished. As the years went by, I appreciated them more and admired them for their dedication. I think the hardest part of boot camp was being homesick at times. It was the first time I had been away from home and I missed my family.
The graduation ceremony was held on a Saturday. We had all been issued dress blues and marched wearing them for the first time. We were presented with our emblems showing we were now Marines. We passed in review with the base band. There were very few civilian observers.
I left boot camp feeling very proud to be a Marine. I was in much better physical shape after boot camp than before. I had gained five pounds, going from 136 to 141. We did not have any civilian clothes and the regulations at that time required that to go on leave we had to wear our dress blues. Going out the gate in dress blues definitely made me feel like I was now a Marine. We were given a ten-day leave and left the next day. I returned to Casper for my leave, traveling on a Burlington Trailways Bus. The trip took a day and a half, so that left only six days at home.
Radio Operators School
After I returned to San Diego I was again in casual platoon awaiting orders. I think we were there two weeks or longer before we all got our orders. Most of the platoon was assigned to the infantry or tanks. Three of us went to Radio Operators School at Camp Delmar. The other two were Larry Kozeny and Kozeny and Hank Gudino. Camp Delmar was north of San Diego across the highway from Camp Pendleton near Oceanside.
All of the buildings at that time were erected during World War II. The barracks were one-story wooden buildings. Other buildings were Quonset huts. The camp included Radio Operators school and Wireman School. There was also an amtrac training facility. There was direct access to the ocean for amtrac operations.
I had no knowledge of radios prior to attending radio school, although I had learned Morse Code while in the Boy Scouts, which helped. Radio School was 19 weeks and was taught by Marine instructors from the Signal Battalion. The class I was in was Radio Operators Course Number 41 and included Marines just out of boot camp from both San Diego and Parris Island.
The subjects taken were sending and receiving Morse Code, naval procedures, operating procedures, message center operation, radio equipment, typing and teletype operations, and field operations. Upon graduation we were qualified as Radio Operator (776), Message Center Man (667), and Teletype Operator (237). The numbers were called Spec Numbers for specialty and were before MOS numbers were implemented. After the change was made in late 1949 to MOS, my number was 2531.
We were trained on a number of radios, including the SCR, which was a one-man backpack voice radio and an Angr 9, which was used for both voice and Morse Code. The latter consisted of a transmitter, receiver, hand-cranked generator, and an antenna assembly. The SCR (Signal Corps Radio) was battery operated. The ANGR 9 (Army/Navy Ground Radio) was powered by the hand-cranked generator to send and a battery when receiving. The ANGR 9 required four men to carry and set it up. There were also longer range radios that were Jeep mounted and could use voice and code.
I thought radio school was interesting and had no other assignment preference. No one had a choice of which field they preferred. Training included both classroom and field setups. Prior to everyone learning to type, we had to print all messages in capital letters so they would be legible. No script was allowed. That took some getting used to, but I still use that method today. About the only thing I can write in cursive that is legible is my signature.
A typical training day included at least a half a day learning code and copying it on a typewriter. The code was received on headphones and came from a tape machine. The speed could be increased by the instructor for tests. Afternoons were spent either taking code or classes on the other subjects described above. Every other weekend the class was on Fire Watch and restricted to the barracks area. This was in case of forest fires in the Camp Pendleton area. We were called out only once during the time I was there.
There were written tests on all subjects except the field work, and that was graded by the instructors. The score on code was determined from tests for speed and accuracy in receiving and sending. There were 43 students that graduated and my standing was 13 out of 43. After graduation the class received orders to duty stations. The majority of the class was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division FMF, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Everyone got a 30-day leave and five days travel time. My leave began October 22, 1948 and I had to report in to Camp Lejeune by 0800 on November 27, 1948.
Signal Company to Anglico
It took five days on the bus to go from Casper to Camp LeJeune and it was on this trip that I experienced my first encounter with discrimination. Another Marine and I were asleep on the last row of seats in the bus on the third day when the bus pulled over on the highway and stopped. The driver came back and told us we would have to move up towards the front of the bus before the next stop. The bus was less than half full and we knew we had done nothing to cause him to ask us to move. At the next stop we got off to use the restroom and saw there were signs on one door saying 'White" and one that said "Colored". The same signs were on the water fountains also. There was another sign saying "White Only" on the door going into the restaurant. When we boarded the bus again we sat near the front and the last three rows were filled with black people sitting and standing in the aisle. There were still seats in front of the last three rows, but they were not allowed to use those. This was a shock to me because there were three black families in Casper when I was growing up and one of the kids was in my high school class. He was treated no different than anyone else.
When I got to Camp LeJeune I was in Casual Platoon again awaiting assignment along with the rest of the group from radio school. It was ten days before we all got assignments to various units. I was assigned to the Signal Company, 16th Marines, Shore Party Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. During the time with the 16th Marines, we made several practice amphibious landings on Onslow Beach near Camp LeJeune. In April we went on fleet maneuvers to the Caribbean and made a landing on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. After ten days on shore, the fleet broke up and the ship I was on made liberty port in Kingston, Jamaica. On October 10 we sailed to Labrador for a cold weather amphibious landing and maneuvers on shore for ten days. We set up tents in the snow and were equipped with cold weather gear such as boots, parkas and water repellant pants. Following that our ship sailed for New York and we docked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for liberty. We took in all the tourist sights in New York and arrived back at Camp LeJeune on November 11, 1949.
In 1949 a new company was formed called the Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company or Anglico. I was with the Signal Company of the 16th Marines until shortly after Anglico was formed by transferring radio operators from other units. The communications section in the 16th Marines was fairly large, so about half of its personnel was transferred to Anglico, including me. I was transferred on December 5, 1949. The only ones I knew in Anglico were the ones transferred with me.
The forerunner of Anglico was formed during World War II as Jasco or the Joint Assault Signal Company. Its purpose was to coordinate naval and air control for both the Army and Marines. Jasco was disbanded at the end of the Second World War and its equipment went into storage. Most of the radio equipment that we used in Korea was stenciled "JASCO" on the side.
Anglico was unique in that organizationally it was in the 1st Signal Battalion, but we were very seldom physically located with the Signal Battalion. Teams were always attached to infantry battalions and then down to the company level. Anglico was composed of enlisted radio operators, Marine officers with forward observer and/or communications backgrounds, Marine pilots, and Naval officers. There were 80 to 90 in a full strength Anglico company attached to each battalion.
There were two different teams in Anglico at that time--an air control team and a naval gunfire team. All of us from the 16th Marines were assigned to Naval gun fire teams. The air teams received training in air operations and control for close air support. There were two pilots from the 2nd Marine Air Wing as instructors. There were two Navy gunnery officers with the gunfire teams.
We had classes on the size and range of guns on different ships as well as the various types of ammunition available and when they should be used. There were also classes on what information had to be given when requesting fire support and how to adjust fire onto the target. During maneuvers, simulated fire missions were called. Maneuvers were held on the beach at Camp LeJeune and in Puerto Rico. All three types of radios mentioned earlier in my memoir were used, plus we also learned to operate the air to ground radio used by the air teams. This was a line of site radio that was used to communicate with the pilots.
In April of 1950 I was with Anglico for the maneuvers again on Vieques Island. Following the maneuvers we sailed for Barbados, British West Indies for liberty. Other training was done at Little Creek, Virginia and Quantico, Virginia.
War Breaks Out
When the war broke out in Korea, I knew nothing about Korea except I thought it was someplace near Japan. We had to get a world map to find it and none us had any idea of what it was like. The strength of the Marine Corps at the time the war broke out was only 70,000. On paper there were two divisions--the 1st Division at Camp Pendleton on the west coast and the 2nd Division at Camp LeJeune on the east coast. In order to put together a combat division of three regiments, the majority of Marines in the 1st Division made up the 5th Marine Regiment. Marines from Lejeune formed the 1st Marine Regiment. The 7th was made up of remaining Marines from both camps, the first group of reservists, and a battalion of Marines that were on float in the Mediterranean. A full strength division included 26,300 officers and enlisted men. Col. Ray Davis was the commanding officer of the 1st Battalion 7th Marines from the time the Battalion was formed at Camp Pendleton until after Chosin. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Chosin. He retired as a four-star general and Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps.
I don't believe any of us wanted to go to war, but we knew all the training we had was for that purpose. Also, we were of the generation that grew up during World War II and knew why we were Marines. We did not know if we would even be involved in the war. We followed the news on the radio and the reports in the local paper. There was not any television in North Carolina at that time. When the first reports came in that a brigade was being formed at Pendleton for duty in Korea, we realized the possibility of being involved had increased.
The Brigade left for Korea on July 14, 1950. We were told the situation in Korea was grim and looked like it could get worse. We were put on wartime footing around the time the Brigade left. This meant all leaves were canceled and no one was to be discharged. My three-year enlistment was to be up in January 1951, but was extended one year just prior to that because of the Korean War. The one-year extension (at the convenience of the government) affected the majority of the Anglico members. There were some complaints, but it was pretty well accepted as necessary due to the increase in the fighting in Korea and the shortage of Marines. None of us below the rank of Staff Sergeant were married, so that was not a problem when our enlistment was extended. I was planning on finding work and starting school, but that was put on hold. I think we all felt that this was what we had been training for over the last couple of years, and we were ready to go. My family and friends all thought the war would not last long and we would be back soon. My dad had served in World War I and he was aware of what the situation was. He just said to be careful and take care of myself. My mother was concerned and hoped it would be over before we got involved.
Individual units were already being transferred to Camp Pendleton and every day reservists were coming in. Training exercises were held every day and equipment was checked out to see that it was all in good working order. There were rumors about Anglico being transferred to Camp Pendleton in late July. We all knew we would be going to Korea sooner or later. We were told on Friday, August 11, to pack our sea bags and packs and be ready to board the train at noon on Sunday. Civilian clothes, items of uniforms such as dress blues, overcoats and khakis that we were not taking were to be packed in a footlocker and readied to be sent home. The footlockers would be sent COD after we left.
The few fellows that had cars called home to have someone in the family come to get their vehicles. Everyone was lined up to call home and let the folks know we were moving out to Pendleton. I did not have a wife or steady girlfriend, but I tried to call my parents. When my turn came I called, but got no answer. The only telephones were pay phones at the PX. On Saturday we were all restricted to the base and were told that we were going to reinforce the Anglico teams that were in Japan at the time.
We boarded a troop train on Sunday, August 13 and arrived at Camp Pendleton on August 18. There were 25 men to each car. We took the southern route and it took five days to get to Pendleton. The train made a number of stops each day, but no one was allowed off. Most of the time was spent playing cards and writing letters. Upon arrival at Pendleton, our unit of Anglico (five officers and 80 enlisted) reported to the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment that was located at Tent Camp 3 or 4. The unit was made of an equal number of naval gunfire control teams and air control teams. I was in a naval gunfire team. I was assigned to an Able Company team which was commanded by Captain Banks. We checked out all of our radio gear and hiked the hills to get in shape after five days on the train.
The morning of September 1, 1950, we went by truck to the docks in San Diego and boarded the USS Okanogan APA220. (An APA is a Navy Attack transport--the type we had been on for all the practice amphibious maneuvers.) When we were approaching the ship I thought I heard bagpipes and thought I must be hearing things. When we got to the gangplank there was a Marine piping us aboard. He was in the 7th Marines and his name was Timmy Killeen, an Irishman from Boston. He played aboard ship often and also piped us ashore in Kobe, Japan.
We sailed that evening along with an AKA, which is an Attack Cargo ship the same size as an APA. An APA carries 80 officers and 1200 enlisted (one battalion). There were about 20 landing craft on board. Twelve of these were LCVPs which carried troops ashore. Access to the boats was made by going overboard and climbing down a cargo net to the boat. This was not much of a problem in calm weather, but could be very dangerous in rough sea. The troop compartments were below deck. The bunks were made of a metal frame covered with canvas. They were four and five high. We spent most of our time on deck.
The only people on board were Navy and Marine personnel, although there were cargo holds as well. The two ships took the northern route up the US coast near Alaska and then sailed on to Japan. We were at sea 16 days. We ran into the tail-end of a typhoon on the fourth day, so we were restricted below deck due to the rough seas and wind. For entertainment we read books and played cards--mostly pinochle, hearts or bridge. There was also a lot of letter writing. We had no duties aboard ship, but had calisthenics every day and received information on Korea. We did not have any additional training. There was not anything unusual about the trip other than the typhoon.
Our destination was Kobe, Japan, where we were to get in shape after being that long at sea, and then repack for an amphibious landing in Korea. We docked in Kobe the afternoon of Sept 16, all packed and ready to go ashore. There was no movement of disembarking and finally an announcement was made that we would not be staying in Kobe. There would be liberty for half the battalion from 5:00 until midnight. Three of us in Anglico got liberty, so we unpacked our summer uniforms and went ashore. We only had $15 between the three of us but the dollar was worth a lot of yen so we had a good meal and a few beers, then gave a rickshaw driver what we had left to give us a ride back to the ship. Although parts of the city had been rebuilt, we were amazed that there was a lot of damage still evident of the heavy bombings the city suffered during World War II. We were only in Kobe for a few hours and did not see any other part of Japan. We were told about the Inchon Landing soon to take place when we arrived in Kobe. That was why we did not stay there but instead headed for Inchon.
The ship sailed just after midnight for Inchon. There were two naval officers with us when we landed at Inchon. They were Lieutenant Jarboe and Lieutenant Nimcheck. The two pilots were Lieutenants Dan Holland and John Theros. We were identified by the unit we were attached to, which was Anglico, Able Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. The Anglico team I was in participated in every major engagement during the year I was in Korea. During that time I served in teams with 7th Marines and 5th Marines of the 1st Marine Division and teams attached to the Korean Marine Regiment and the 65th Infantry Division of the 3rd Army. By the time I came home there were only two of us together that landed in Korea at Inchon.
We arrived at Inchon on the morning of September 21, and the unit was divided into smaller teams assigned to each company (3). The beach had been secured by the time we landed, so there was not any problem off-loading. It was evident that we were in a war zone because of the destruction from naval bombardment and the activity and large stocks of supplies. We moved out immediately after getting organized and headed towards Kimpo airfield.
There were many World War II veterans in Korea. A lot of them had joined the reserves after the war and had been recalled. One of the replacements we got had been on Iwo Jima as a radio operator and had a Purple Heart. The first Naval officer we had was a history teacher and was in the Navy reserves after serving in World War II for four years. Most all of our senior enlisted Marines were World War II veterans, as were most of the officers. As mentioned earlier, the CO of the 7th Marines was Ray Davis. He had earned the Navy Cross on Pelileu in World War II and later received the Medal of Honor at the Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War.
There was a terrible stench when we got in the countryside and the rice paddies. They were fertilized with human waste that was gathered from the homes and villages by a fellow with an ox cart. There was a barrel-type container on the cart and the waste was gathered in that. The fellow who gathered it was called the "honey dipper" and the wagon the "honey wagon." I don't know how that came about. Also, the civilians we saw were all either old men, women, or young children. We seldom, if ever, saw any young men.
We were on the move north of Seoul to block North Koreans retreating from the south until October 2. After that the naval gunfire teams were pulled back to Seoul because the regiment was operating beyond naval gunfire range. Seoul was badly damaged. The buildings in the downtown area were damaged but still standing, Beyond that area, where people lived was mostly a pile of rubble. The civilians were the ones who suffered the most being caught between the North Koreans and us. All the civilians were dressed in white clothes and were in poor condition. They had been badly treated by the North Koreans and now most of their homes were damaged or destroyed, as were most of the businesses. I did not personally see any atrocities committed, but we were aware of more than one situation where soldiers were captured and then executed. The North Koreans were also responsible for murdering many civilians as they retreated from Seoul and other areas. The North Koreans did not honor any part of the Geneva Convention with respect to treatment of POW’s.
On October 8 the entire division was pulled back to Inchon. The division boarded ships again in preparation for an amphibious landing in North Korea. The 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment was to be the first wave, so we loaded on LSTs while the other two regiments loaded aboard APAs. We were to go ashore in amtracs carried in the LSTs. The trip from Inchon to Wonsan was supposed to take four days and the landing was to take place on October 20. However, the ROK army troops had entered Wonsan on October 8 and secured the area by October 11. A few days before that it was discovered that the North Koreans had heavily mined the approach to the harbor. A fleet of mine sweeper ships was dispatched to clear the area of the mines. There were United States and Korean mine sweepers involved, and at least four were sunk during that activity. As a result, we did not land until October 26. There was a total of 250 ships involved in the landing, including APAs, AKAs, commercial cargo ships and 36 LSTs. Prior to the landing there were four carriers, one cruiser, and twenty-four destroyers involved in bombing and shelling the target area.
As I said, the 7th Marine Regiment was to be the first wave ashore so we were all in LSTs. The LST I was on was manned by a Japanese crew and most of them spoke very little English, so we had very little contact. The ship did not have a name--only a number, and I don't recall what it was. An LST was not designed to carry troops for an extended period of time, so it was very crowded and there was very little room to move around. In addition to our packs we also had all of our radio gear with us and little space to store it. It turned out to be a good deal because we were able to set up one of the radios in our compartment and put the antenna up through a hatch. During the day we could pick up a station in Sydney, Australia that broadcast music and news until five in the afternoon, and then we were able to get the Armed Forces radio from Tokyo.
On the third day we noticed the entire convoy had turned around 160 degrees and we were sailing south. Immediately the rumor spread that since the ROKs had taken Wonsan, we were returning to South Korea and then possibly back to the States. The rumor lost some strength when the next day we awoke and we were headed back north. We continued changing course every 12 hours. After that the term "Yo Yo" was used to describe our cruise. We then heard the rumors about the mines and that was why the landing was delayed. The ship only had provisions for five or six days, so we soon ran out of hot meals and started eating C-rations we had in our packs. The Japanese crew had a large supply of rice on board, so we also had rice some days.
Due to the ship being so crowded, we had no duties except we tried to exercise on any deck space available. There were no training exercises because of the limited space. We did not encounter any rough weather, but an LST is a flat-bottom ship so it did not take much wave action to cause the ship to roll. During the last few days aboard ship, the weather turned much colder and it was necessary to wear heavy sweaters underneath our jackets when going on deck. This was just a sample of what was to come. Most of the time was spent playing cards, reading whatever we could find, and listening to the news on the radio. There was no other type of entertainment. We knew the war was going well in the South and that the Army and ROKs had pushed north beyond Seoul. We were told before we left Inchon that the landing would be unopposed, so it was not a surprise. The convoy had been loaded and assembled for a combat landing and it would have been difficult to change that since we were going to be going into North Korea anyway.
LST was the designation for a "tank landing ship". The bow of the ship had two large doors that opened and a ramp that lowered when the ship reached the beach. The ship was flat-bottomed so it went as far ashore as it could. Sometimes it beached before it was clear of the water and the vehicles went down the ramp and into the water towards the shore. It was then necessary to wade ashore. For assault landings the ship carried amphibious tractors and/or tanks. The ship also carried other vehicles and supplies secured on the main deck. The troop compartments had bunks for up to 16 officers and 147 enlisted men. The ship was not designed to carry a full load for an extended period of time, so all available space was utilized.
Chosin Reservoir Campaign
We landed at Wonsan on October 26, 1950. The ROK Army and the 1st Marine Air Wing were already there. Bob Hope put on a show two days before we landed with a lot of jokes about being there before the 1st Marine Division landed. With the success of the ROKs and the North Koreans retreating, we heard about MacArthur saying the war would be over by Christmas.
After disembarking we moved on foot north through Wonsan and waited for the other battalions of the 7th Regiment. The weather was cold but there was no snow. We had no cold weather gear yet except sleeping bags. As we moved north we started wearing long johns, two pair of pants, dungaree jackets and field jackets. From Wonsan to Hamhung I think we went by truck, but I am not sure. On November 1 we boarded trucks and moved north about 20 miles, then unloaded and went by foot to a village called Majon-dong. There we relieved ROK troops. We had heard rumors of Chinese troops operating in the area and it was confirmed when we learned that the ROKs had taken some Chinese prisoners. The ROKs were very anxious to head south and left immediately.
On November 1 we were with the 1st Battalion south of the village of Sudong along the road between hills. The Battalion CP was set up just off the road and our unit was dug in above the CP on the slope. Don Klemmer, nicknamed “Dutch”, and I dug a foxhole together as we had done ever since landing. The companies moving up to the ridges on either side of the valley encountered heavy fire from the Chinese position and called for air strikes. Marine Corsairs flying off the carriers provided close air support. They responded and blasted both ridges with bombs and rockets. The Chinese then started firing mortars and small artillery. Some of the mortar fire was also on us in the valley. By late afternoon the firing had lessened. We settled in for the night, alternating every two hours staying awake. There was no moon and everything was pitch black. Around midnight we saw flares on the hills to the left and right. Bugles followed this on both sides, and then firing. After that we heard what we thought was a bulldozer coming down the road from the north. It stopped just short of the CP and turned on a headlight. Someone yelled that it was a tank. It was a Russian T-34 manned by Chinese. The tank started firing, with most of the shots hitting the slope just above the Anglico foxholes. We were not hit, but were showered by dirt from the explosions. By then there were Chinese troops running through the CP area and firing in every direction. The units above on either side the hills were heavily engaged. We could see the tank being hit by anti-tank fire, but it did not seem to do any damage. The tank finally turned around and headed back north. The rumor then was that we did not have a weapon powerful enough to stop a T-34 tank. Later the tank was found damaged and abandoned. It had sand bags strapped all around it that apparently helped deflect the anti-tank rounds. The battle continued until dawn when the Chinese withdrew. After that there were only shots by snipers left behind. The Chinese had overrun roadblocks and surrounded the Battalion.
On the afternoon of November 3, Dutch was on his way to the OP when a sniper hit him. Then the Chinese began firing mortars. When things calmed down, I went down to the aid station to find Dutch. He was on a stretcher among a number of other wounded and some dead Marines. I did not know at the time, but one of the dead was Tech Sergeant Albring, our senior NCO. The dead were covered with ponchos and only their shoes and leggings showed. Dutch was conscious and asked me if I could get back to the foxhole and get a package of letters from his girlfriend. I did and put them inside his jacket. I did not see him after that, even though it was a couple days before they were able to evacuate the wounded to the division and then out to the hospital ship. From there he went to a hospital in Japan.
I was very down after Dutch was hit and Albring was killed. They were the first serious casualties in our group since landing at Inchon. This was the first time I was personally affected and made very aware of how vulnerable we all were. We had been in other firefights north of Seoul with North Koreans but had not suffered any serious injuries. The fact that the Chinese were now our enemy seemed to hit everyone that the situation had definitely changed and there was no more talk of being home for Christmas.
The Chinese held positions on the road both ahead and behind us, so we were cut off from the other battalions. Cargo planes from Japan dropped supplies and the majority of them landed in the perimeter. Corsairs escorted the cargo planes and any chutes that drifted out of the perimeter were strafed to keep them from the Chinese. The advantage we had over the Chinese was the close air support. Without that against the overwhelming number of troops they had, the results would have been different.
The Chinese were wearing brown, padded uniforms and fur hats with earflaps. The surprising part was that they were all wearing just rubber-soled, low-cut shoes and were suffering frostbite. The only food they were carrying was a small bag of rice. Many of those killed were well-armed with American-made Thompson sub machine guns and Russian sub machine guns known as burp guns. Some of the prisoners taken thought they were still in Manchuria and were protecting China.
The Chinese attack continued for several days and nights until November 7, when they vanished. There was no contact with them on any side. Marine Corsairs furnishing close air support reported no signs of the Chinese. Just before reaching Kotori, word came down to pull the naval gunfire teams back to the Division, as we were way beyond naval gunfire range. All the teams were withdrawn and moved back to Hamhung as the 1st Battalion was moving up to Kotori. We were very fortunate to have withdrawn at that time. Although it was very cold and snowy in Hungnam, the temperature did not reach 29 degrees below zero as it did at the reservoir. The 1st Battalion continued north and was the furthest one north of the reservoir.
When the Division made it back to Hamhung, we were loaded to go aboard ship when an Army major and a Marine officer came looking for the naval gunfire teams. The Third Army was to hold a perimeter to protect the evacuation. As artillery was being moved back for loading, they would rely on naval gunfire. There was one problem in that they did not have any trained fire control personnel. Therefore, the Marine teams were to move back north and be attached to the Third Army to provide naval gunfire support. Our team was assigned to the 65th Infantry Division. We turned around and headed north of Hamhung where we met a guide to take us to the CP of the 65th. We were a five-man team with one officer and only the radio jeep and trailer for transportation. On the way through Hamhung, we were able to “requisition” another jeep and trailer. We stopped on the outskirts of Hamhung to transfer some of our radios and gear to the second trailer. There was a footlocker in the trailer we had requisitioned. When we opened it, there was an Army Major’s full dress uniform. We carefully set it alongside the road and took off to meet our guide. The 65th Infantry Division was made up primarily of soldiers from Puerto Rico and a few ROKs. It was quite a mix of Spanish, Korean and English conversations, but we got along fine and they were very happy to have us.
There was some snow on the ground and it was very cold, but we now had shoepacs along with the parkas. The shoepacs had rubber soles. The feet would sweat during the day while we were on the move and then at night when the temperature dropped and we were not on the move, the moisture would freeze. We tried to change socks and the felt insoles every time we stopped, but we still had a coating of ice inside the shoe. This led to a lot of frostbite cases and frozen feet. With the time spent in November and December and later in the mountains during January and February of the next year, I had frostbite on both my feet and hands.
We were on the move every day or every other day until we reached the outskirts of Hamhung. During this time the roads were clogged with civilians trying to stay ahead of the Chinese. There were a number of destroyers close offshore, then two cruisers and the battleship Missouri for naval gunfire support. We were to only request the use of the 16-inch guns on the Missouri in the case of large troop concentrations. We moved back to another position every other day, closing the perimeter around Hamhung. The Chinese did not make any major assaults on the line. They only made some probing attacks at night to locate our position. Late one afternoon we spotted groups of two or three Chinese at a time moving out of the hills and gathering in and behind a large concrete building. We observed the action for the rest of the afternoon. It was then decided that they might be assembling for another night attack. We assumed they thought they were out of range of naval gunfire. The structure was well within the range of the 16-inch guns on the Missouri, so we requested them for a firing mission. It was approved and we were patched through to the Missouri. When we gave them the coordinates, they told us that it appeared our position was in a direct line of fire from them to the target so we were to beware. When they commenced firing, it sounded like a freight train going over. After adjusting after the first round, the target was completely destroyed. There were no probing attacks that night.
We reached the outskirts of Hamhung on the evening of December 23. The next morning we moved down to the docks behind the last of the Third Army troops. When we arrived, all the larger ships like LSTs were gone and there were only landing craft (LCVPs) waiting to take us to the transports. The only other personnel still ashore were a few Marines from Shore Party and demolition teams. Shortly before boarding an LCVP, there was a premature explosion of stored ammunition further down the beach. That shook everybody up. We were aboard the USS General Freeman at 2:00 p.m., and had a ringside view of the explosions rigged by the demolition teams.
When we got onboard the ship, a Navy Chief came over and said, “Aren’t you guys Marines?” He had identified us as Marines due to the camouflage covers on our helmets. Everyone was bundled up in parkas and looked the same otherwise. We answered yes and he said, "Follow me." He took us down three or four decks and unlocked the door of one of the heads that was used by the crew. He said that only one wash basin worked and that no showers worked, so it was not in use. He said he would bring five mattress pads for us to sleep on. The troop quarters were jam-packed and two men were assigned to each bunk. We felt like we were in a hotel! Even though we did not have a change of clothes, we were all able to wash up and shave with hot water for the first time in over two weeks. We also got hot meals on the ship. C-rations had been our only meals during the Chosin Reservoir campaign, and they were often frozen solid.
We landed at Pusan on December 28 and were trucked to Masan, where the 1st Division was in reserve. All of the units in the 1st Marine Division were in the tent camp at Masan, along with the detachment of British Commandos. We got along fine with them and we had a lot of respect for them. I visited with them thinking there might be some Scots among them, but they were all English.
When we arrived at Masan, Anglico had a tent with cots set up for us and there were two bags of mail. I had six or seven letters and one package--letters from my mom and dad, sister, cousin, one of the twins that was discharged just before the war started, and a couple from Scottish friends of the family. The package was from Mom and included homemade Scottish shortbread, which disappeared rapidly. There were five packages and we opened them all and put all the goodies together for a party. There was a can labeled "Peaches" and it made the party. One of the fellow's dad worked at a canning factory. He took a bottle of Scotch to work in his lunch pail and filled an empty can. The can was marked on the bottom, then put back on the line with the cans filled with peaches. The lid was put on, along with the label, then taken off before the cans were boxed. Another package had two bottles of maraschino cherries. The bottles had been opened, the juice drained off, and then filled with Bourbon. The postal authorities would not have been pleased.
The overall mood among the Marines at Masan was that we were all thankful that we were out of North Korea, had a place to sleep, showers, clean clothes and hot meals. We had church service on Sundays and Chaplains were always available to talk with. The only wounded were those with minor wounds and our regular Corpsmen were available. The weather was cold and rainy, but we had the luxury of warm tents and hot meals--much better than frozen C-rations. Our days were mainly devoted to cleaning up equipment, inspections of equipment, and organizing teams so that replacements were put in teams with veterans.
We were able to catch up on the war news, too. The news of the Chinese retaking Seoul and Kimpo was very discouraging. The Chinese were pushing south rapidly and the thought of another “Pusan Perimeter” battle was not good. It would be much more difficult holding it against the Chinese hordes than it was against the North Koreans. There was also news of the bickering at the United Nations and we all thought it would be a good idea for the United States to get out of it. The fact that we were not allowed to attack the Chinese supply depots or supply lines across the border in Manchuria was ridiculous and made it a one-sided war.
The Division was in reserve for the Eighth Army and we assumed we would be in Masan for a month to get back in shape and bring in replacements. There was even a rumor that there was a plan to rotate Marines home after six months based on a point system. It turned out to be just that, a rumor.
A casualty report was published identifying all the Marine KIAs since Inchon. It was then I learned that the two fellows I went through boot camp with that were from Wyoming had been killed. I had seen one of them before leaving Camp Pendleton and he told me he had gotten married while home on leave the month before we shipped out.
Our assumed stay of a month at Masan was cut short when the Division was ordered to deploy north to Pohang to search for guerrilla bands that had been disrupting trains carrying supplies north to Taegu. The guerrillas were composed of North Korean soldiers, some of whom had been left behind when the Army retreated, and others of whom were trained by the Chinese as guerrillas that infiltrated from the north. We packed up and boarded an LST on January 15 and landed the next day further up the coast at Pohang. We set up tents and prepared to operate from Pohang. On January 18 we left on a four-day patrol to search for a small band in the mountains. We found them and it turned out not to be a small band. Our four days turned into 15 days and we covered 60 miles on foot. The weather was cold with the temperature below freezing at night and light snow. We were able to use many foxholes left from previous battles between the Army and the North Koreans earlier in the war. I slept with my feet in the sleeping bag and wearing everything but my shoe pacs. The mountains reminded me of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming where my dad and I used to hunt and fish. Naval gunfire was available off the coast, but we were used mostly as communicators for the Battalion and filling in with the Air Control teams. Our team was still attached to Able Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines commanded by Lieutenant Hovatter. We took some casualties during this time period, but fortunately none were in the Anglico team.
As we were on the move constantly, there was not much opportunity to clean up or put on clean clothes. We did not have any problems getting supplies, although we were almost constantly on the move. C-rations were the meals. We were able to get mail every four or five days, including some packages. I wrote asking for any packages to include stationery and some handkerchiefs, also cans of sardines, which were easy to carry. We saw very few civilians, although there were small rice paddies in the valleys.
We were at Pohang until early March, when the Division moved further north and inland and the naval gunfire teams all returned to Masan. There had been a big change since we left. It was now a permanent base and all replacements arrived there for orientation before being assigned to a unit. Larger tents with wooden flooring had been put up.
We began standing radio watch and waiting to hear more about a rotation plan. It was no longer just a rumor. The first ones to be rotated were those who had come over in July of 1950 with the Brigade. Rotation stateside was to be based on points. (A total of 75 points was required to get on the rotation list.) Points were given for time in Korea, medals, campaigns, and wounds. Ten points were given for each month served. Later on there were significant changes in that certain specialties could be classified as “essential” regardless of the number of points.
We stayed in Masan until April. Our time was spent training new replacements who were radio operators who had not had training in naval gunfire or artillery fire control. When our group of radio operators from the 16th Marines joined Anglico back at Camp Lejeune, we had classes on naval gunfire from the Navy officers and classes on forward air control from the pilots. We learned the size of guns on the various ships and the range and type of ammo available via destroyers, cruisers, and battle ships. For the air control, we learned about the types of Marine and Navy aircraft used and the types of ordnance available--mainly Corsairs and TBFs, two 250-pound bombs or one 500-pound bomb, napalm and rockets. We also had to learn how to identify a target, describe a fire mission, and how to make adjustments on the target. The officer in charge of the team did this but in case he was a casualty, we needed to be able to take over.
My best friends in Korea were ones who were together with me at Camp Lejeune. They were Ed Straight, John Nehila, Dutch Klemmer, Al Gurney and Stojan Maravich, all in Anglico. Another friend, Ira Turner, stayed in the 16th Marines and whenever the division was in reserve we tried to get together. Dutch was wounded and evacuated at Sudong. John and Al Gurney were in another Anglico team with the Korean Marines when wounded June 8 and evacuated to Japan. Shorty Burns was in a third team when killed in action the same time. I have kept in touch with them all except Al Gurney. Al went through Radio School the same time I did and then we were both in Lejeune in Anglico. He played guitar well and we used to gather around and have a sing song. No one heard from him after he was wounded and evacuated. I don't remember where he was from originally. I have never seen his name in any of the rosters of Marine organizations. Ed Straight and Maravich both died in the last several years. Dutch, Ira, Ed's wife, and I have tried to make it to the 1st Marine Division Reunion every year since 1989. There was another Marine, Kenneth Lytle from Casper, who I knew. I saw him only once when we were on trucks moving through the 5th Marines. He was sitting alongside the road. We were moving slowly and recognized each other. We only had time to wave and yell hello.
There were always lighter moments in Korea when we could laugh about something. We usually always saw the funny side of situations. When we were on the guerrilla hunt we were moving through an abandoned village when we were fired on. Everyone ran for cover and one of the team stepped in a "honey pit" (where the Koreans collected human excrement for fertilizer). It was covered over with dust and he did not know it was there. Only one leg went in, but it was up to his knee. We helped him scrape off his pant leg with our knives as best we could, but it was the next day before we found water to wash it off. We jokingly told him he had to stay down-wind of us. He was not injured and even he saw the humor of his accident.
On another occasion, we were sent to the 11th Marine Regiment to join the KMCs. We spent the night there and were told a KMC would be there before dawn to lead us to where they were dug in. Just before daylight he showed up and we started waking everyone. Maravich was sound asleep in his sleeping bag and without thinking we told the Korean to shake him. Maravich opened his eyes and all he saw was an Oriental face looking at him. He started rolling around in his sleeping bag trying to grab the .45 that he kept in the top of the bag. Someone yelled at him that it was okay--the Korean was our guide and we were moving out. The story was told over and over again how he was rolling all over trying to get his weapon.
One day the company we were with was pulled back in reserve. We set up in an abandoned village and there was a frame building still standing that had been a store house for rice. Three sides and the roof were intact so we thought that would be a good place to spend the night. There were no bags of rice left but there was quite a lot on the floor. The five of us rolled out our sleeping bags and settled in for the night. One of the guys had picked up a lost puppy several days before. Shortly after we went to sleep one of the guys started swearing and yelled at the dog owner to stop letting the dog run around because he was running back and forth across his sleeping bag. The owner said the dog was with him in his sleeping bag. A flashlight came on and revealed two rats in the corner that were almost as big as the puppy. Two flashlights were left on the rest of the night!
During our time with the KMCs, many of them asked our interpreter if we would help teach them some English. We did and it was hilarious seeing their expressions when trying to pronounce the word. They were trying so hard to say an unfamiliar word, but we could not help laughing. The interpreter would explain to them why we were laughing and they joined in. Maybe we had a strange sense of humor at that time, but it was never malicious.
I don’t recall any of us getting really bad news from home. I believe if there was bad news it was not passed on. I got a letter from my mother telling me my dad was in the hospital, but did not think it was serious. The chaplain told me to talk to the Red Cross representative and ask him to find out what the situation was. The letter had taken two weeks to get to me and it took another two weeks to get an answer. By then my dad had had surgery for a ruptured ulcer and was home doing okay. I did not have any other contact with the Red Cross or Salvation Army.
Church services were always held when we were in reserve. When we were with Division, one of the chaplains held services when possible. The chaplain with the 1st Battalion 7th Marines was Catholic, but he also held Protestant services. As to the availability of vices in Korea, Masan was inside the Pusan Perimeter and did not suffer any battle damage. There were several bars in town that served beer and Japanese whiskey and there were prostitutes hanging around. Some of the bars were put off limits because of so many prostitutes, but there were still ones on the street. We had a beer ration early in the war. Whenever one of our officers went back to Division headquarters, he usually brought back a fifth of Canadian Club to share. I drank beer before going to Korea, but did not smoke.
Most of our leisure time was spent writing letters, playing cards, and just visiting. R&R to Japan did not exist while I was in Korea. The only holiday I celebrated was Easter Sunrise Service in Masan. The pastor from the Masan Presbyterian Church gave the sermon in Korean and the pastor from the Masan Methodist Church translated. Both Presbyterian and Methodist choirs sang familiar hymns in Korean. Chaplain G.C. Bingham gave the invocation and the benediction. I sent the order of service home and my oldest sister kept in a scrapbook. Christmas of 1950 was aboard ship leaving Hamhung. It was very crowded and there was no celebrating. We were just thankful that we were on our way south. The 1950 Marine Corps Birthday was celebrated in North Korea with a piece of cake.
I saw American women just once while I was in Korea. There were no female nurses in the aid stations. The women were on tour with a USO show. There were not any stars in the show, but it was good to see females and hear them sing and dance.
I was TAD to the Korean Marine Corps for four months beginning in April--three on the front line and one in Division reserve. There were four NGF teams from 1/7 that trucked from Masan to Dog Patch airfield. It was an Air Force base not a long distance from Masan. The name came from Al Capp's comic strip "Lil Abner." The plane we were to fly out on was supposed to be waiting for us but it did not show up. The next day the field was closed down because of heavy rain and near zero visibility. It was three days before we were able to fly out. We did not mind because the Air Force had all the comforts of home. There was a large enlisted men's club decorated with drawings from Al Capp. They served hamburgers, hot dogs, chili, and beer. It was the first time we had seen hamburger since leaving the States. The mess hall served extra good meals and there were movies every evening. The Air Force personnel had rough duty! Along with the US planes there was a squadron of South African P-51's based there. They all spoke English when speaking to us, but spoke Dutch the rest of the time. They were all very friendly and interesting to visit with. They talked about how many times they had provided close air support for the 1st Marine Division.
After four days the weather cleared and we boarded a C-47 transport--a military version of the DC3--and flew to an airstrip between Wonju and Hoengsong. We had to circle a number of times before landing because the KMCs were holding the strip against a Chinese attack. When the plane landed, the pilot taxied to the end of the runway, shut down one engine while we deplaned, then took off immediately. We were directed to the 3rd Battalion of the 11th Marine's CP and were then assigned to KMC battalions as forward observer teams for artillery. I do not know the names of the hills we were on as they were only identified as numbers at that time.
The Korean Marines were well-trained and very gung ho. They were all proud to be Marines. A few of the officers spoke English, but very few of the enlisted men did. We were assigned an interpreter who spoke excellent English and was with us constantly. Whenever there was a lull in the fighting, the Korean Marines would ask us to sing the Marine Hymn and they tried to learn it. They also tried to teach us their hymn. Our interpreter was anxious to learn about our culture and taught us enough Korean words to get along.
The Chinese launched a Spring Offensive at the end of April to recapture Seoul by May 1. From then until the 1st Marine Division was relieved on June 20, the fighting was almost continuous. They attacked mostly at night and used flares and yelling to signal the assault. By mid-May we were advancing to the Punch Bowl and meeting strong resistance from North Korean troops.
The closest call I had in Korea was when we were moving up under small arms fire and a large mortar shell landed behind me. There were two KMC Marines directly behind me and they took most of the blast. I was knocked down by the concussion, dazed, and unable to hear anything. I did not suffer any wounds, but later when I took off my pack there was a hole in it, along with a piece of shrapnel about an inch in size that did not go all the way through to my back.
As we were high in the mountains and the Division was in the valley, it was difficult getting to us with supplies. We ran out of C-rations and ate the Korean rations. In the evening if there was a break in the action, Korean laborers would use a large kettle to boil rice with some red beans mixed in. This was done behind and down below. When it was ready, one of us would take a helmet down and fill it. Sometimes there was also dried fish in the rice that I usually put to the side. (I had worms, as I think everyone did at one time or another--especially during this time spent with the KMC.) The only Korean food I tried was kimchi, which is fermented cabbage with garlic and a lot of red pepper. The smell was enough to put me off eating it before even tasting it. I tried it once and that was enough.
When we were in reserve with the Division we had hot meals prepared by Marine cooks. Much of it was powdered such as milk and eggs. We also ate C-rations. They came in a box containing three meals, a can of crackers, jelly, coffee and cocoa. There was one can of fruit and two cans of either pork and beans, ham and lima beans, sausage and others I don't remember. There was also a pack of four cigarettes, matches, and a package of toilet paper.
Although laborers were reaching us about every five or six days, the main supplies were ammunition and batteries. C-rations were not as important as these items. When a file of laborers was on their way to us, we used the field glasses to see what all they were bringing. Occasionally we spotted one with a case of beer and we made sure we were the ones to get it. This was a regular beer ration donated by the beer companies until the Women’s Temperance Union put a stop to it. Since we were always on the move, we shared the case with some of the Korean Marines and had to drink it all because we could not carry it.
The cold was more severe in North Korea, but the three months of fighting with the KMCs seemed to be more intense and did not seem to let up. The enemy was well-entrenched and was also using mortars. The KMCs were involved in some of the fiercest fighting from June 5 through June 10, and then we launched a surprise night attack. I believe the hill designation was 112, but I am not positive. June 10 was not a significant date in my mind at the time because every day the action was much the same. Whoever had the radio had to stay as close as possible to the forward observer to relay the firing mission. On that day we were on a ridge and the lead patrol was caught in crossfire. The observer and I moved as far forward as we could to locate the source of the firing. It was a steady stream of small arms and machine gun fire whenever we moved. We stayed in what cover was available in the rocks to call in artillery fire. Close air support was called for, but did not show up. As we were high on a ridge, there were no tanks near our location.
We did not have a corpsman with us during the three-month period we were with the KMCs. Before we left Division we were given extra compresses and two syrettes of morphine to use if wounded until we could be evacuated. If wounded we had to rely on a Korean first aid man. A number of the KMCs around us were killed or wounded--including several that I knew. It was almost impossible for aid to get to them due to the intensity of the firing. The artillery kept up a steady barrage and finally the North Koreans withdrew. It was only then that the wounded and dead were removed. The observer and I were very fortunate in that neither of us was wounded. I was acquainted with a number of the dead and wounded KMCs. None in our Anglico team were injured. After it was over we were surprised how many casualties both the KMCs and the Division had incurred.
The last month with the KMCs we were pulled back in reserve. We rested and relaxed most of the time. At the end of the month we reported back to the 1st Marine Division at Inje. There our team was divided up again and two of us joined the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines. All the talk was about rotation and wondering if and when any of us would be going home. All of us that had landed at Inchon with the 7th Marines had more than enough points, but we were told that we were considered "critical" and there were just enough replacements arriving to replace casualties. To make us feel better, we were told that none of us would spend a second winter in Korea.
Time continued to be spent working with the new arrivals. There were many rumors on just how many would be in the next draft home. No names were announced until September 1 and then five of us that came over with the 7th Marines were on the list! None of us could believe it after recently being told that we had critical skills. The five of us were Maravich, Kennedy, Nicholeta, Littleton, and me. Knowing the weather would be turning cold again soon, it was a wonderful feeling knowing that we were going home. There was disappointment, though, that Ed Straight and Dutch Klemmer were not on the list. Dutch had returned to Anglico in April after spending the time in Japan after being wounded in November. At that time those whose wounds were healing sufficiently were sent back to Korea because of the shortage of Marines. Dutch had a limp but was doing okay otherwise. Both Dutch and Ed had remained in Masan on radio watch when the rest of us went to the KMCs.
Our CO read the names on the list and then told us to turn in our gear and get back to the Division CP. From there we were trucked to Honchon and flew to Pusan. We were in Pusan until September 10 getting deloused, fresh dungarees, shots, and some back pay. We then boarded the General Mitchell for Japan. When I left Korea my rank was Sergeant. I had been promoted from Corporal on April 13, 1951.
I believe there were only Marines on board the General Mitchell. It was a large transport and was not crowded. We arrived in Kobe on the afternoon of September 11 and picked up our sea bags that were stacked on the dock and had been in a warehouse for a year. We went back aboard and the ship left early the next morning, so it was a short stop in Kobe. We never left the dock. The mood on the ship was very relaxed. Everyone was happy to be going home. We did not have any duties and just unwound. There were movies in the evening for entertainment and lots of card games. The weather was good all the way and, being a larger ship, I don't remember anyone getting seasick. We sailed directly from Kobe to Treasure Island with no stops, arrived back at the States on the afternoon of September 26. There was a Navy band at the dock and a small group of people. I don't remember any of them being family. It was very emotional to see the coast and especially when we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge. One of the Anglico group was a reserve that had been in World War II and was then recalled for Korea. It was five years to the day he had sailed under the bridge coming home from the South Pacific.
We embarked from the ship by decks and formed up on the dock. We then proceeded to barracks at the naval base. We were processed and given $100 each of our pay. Then we changed into our green uniforms and headed into San Francisco on liberty. Everyone had to be back before midnight. The first stop we made was at a barbershop for haircut and shampoo. Next stop was a restaurant where we had a steak dinner and lots of milk. Following dinner we went to the Silver Dollar Lounge and celebrated.
The next day we were given physical exams and questioned if we had any injuries or health problems that needed to be addressed. If anyone did, he was held over for a week for further exams and testing. Amazingly, no one I know of had any problems! Following the exams we filled out forms showing our home addresses and were then given papers for a 30-day leave. They told us that while we were on leave a letter would be sent to us stating our next duty station. We supposedly had a first and second choice of duty stations. Since I only had three more months to do, I selected duty at Great Lakes first and an ammo depot in Nebraska second.
I received my letter stating my new duty station and it was a surprise. I was to report to the 3rd Marine Brigade at Camp Pendleton, Tent Camp 4. It turned out that the 3rd Marine Brigade was in the process of being formed under the command of General "Chesty" Puller. The Marine Corps had been authorized to have a third Division along with the 1st and 2nd. The majority of the 1st Marine Division was in Korea, so the third was taking its place at Camp Pendleton. The brigade was designated the 3rd Marine Division in January 1952.
I reported to the Brigade and was assigned to Signal Company as leader of the radio section. During the first week, all the Marines recently back from Korea were assembled in formation and addressed by General Puller. He said he understood that most of us were disappointed to be at Camp Pendleton instead of our choice duty stations. However, he said that he had the responsibility to form the Brigade into a well-trained outfit and as such he needed combat-experienced NCOs to do the job. He then came down each row, shook hands, and asked each of us what outfit we were with in Korea and how long we were there. That was the beginning of long days of training in field. There was not much chance of going wild.
I went home to Casper on my 30-day leave. I took a train for San Francisco to Rawlins, Wyoming, and then a bus from there to Casper. I spent a lot of time with my family and also with friends. I bought new civilian clothes and talked to the owner of the grocery store about going back to work for him while I attended Junior College. He said no problem and he would be happy to have me back. My dad and I went shopping for a car and I bought a new 1951 Chevy Coupe. I had sent home $40 a month and had been paid all my back pay while at Treasure Island, so I had more than enough for a good down payment. I also got my driver’s license. One of the twins that had been in the Marine Corps and was discharged just before the war broke out was dating a girl who had a friend they thought I should meet and go out with on a blind date. I met Jerry Sellers and we had a number of dates before I returned to Camp Pendleton. We exchanged a couple of letters, but it was nothing serious.
When I was notified I would be reporting to Pendleton I was not very happy, but I was not concerned about having to go back to Korea. I only had three months left on my enlistment, so that did not seem to be a possibility. When my leave was over, my dad and I drove to Camp Pendleton. He thought it was a good idea if he went along and he also wanted to spend some time visiting friends in San Diego. He took the bus back to Casper.
I believe the 3rd Division was being trained to replace the 1st Marine Division if the truce talks did not come to fruition. The combat veterans stressed the importance of the training and everyone understanding exactly what their job was. We also told them how important working as a team was and having an understanding of what each member was responsible for. There was no one else from Anglico sent to Pendleton. Most of the others I knew went to Camp Lejeune.
We had liberty every other weekend. Three of us would drive up to Los Angeles and take in some of the television shows. We also attended one Los Angeles football game. I had a ten-day leave over Christmas and took two other Marines from Colorado as far as Cheyenne where they caught a bus home. We then met again in Cheyenne to return. During my leave, Jerry and I dated again.
I did not have any further direct contact with General Puller during the remaining time, although he was always around and observing the training. I was impressed by his concern for enlisted men and the importance of intense training. The fact he was the holder of five Navy Crosses was also very impressive.
When my enlistment was almost up, I had my discharge interview with the captain of Signal Company. When he asked me about re-enlisting, I told him no--I was planning on going to school. He then said I was in for promotion to Staff Sergeant in March if I re-enlisted. It was tempting, but I declined. I was discharged on January 28, 1952. I had enlisted for three years but served four because of Korea.
I returned to Casper after my discharge and resumed working at the Blue Bird Grocery. I enrolled in the Engineering Department of Casper Junior College for the fall semester. I did not use the GI Bill because I wanted to save it for use when I would have to transfer to the University of Wyoming in Laramie. Although I served four years, I was only credited for 18 months of service for the GI Bill because it was not effective prior to June 25, 1950.
I was only 17 years old when I graduated from high school and looked about 15. Joining the Marine Corps had been the best decision I ever made. By the time I returned from Korea, I had matured a lot and was much more serious about getting an education and a good job. Others noticed I was not the young student they knew in high school. I had some problems when I got home at first. I was disappointed that there were so few folks who had any knowledge of or interest in the Korean War. I got into more arguments than I should have, and it took time to settle down, but I had much more self confidence in myself and had a good idea of what I wanted to accomplish.
The first year at junior college was difficult because of being away from school for four years and attending school with students who had just graduated from high school. There were five veterans enrolled in engineering. The math professor was not interested in our problem and started the calculus class with only a one-day review of the high school senior year. The five of us were trying to play catch-up from then on. Finally another math teacher became aware of our difficulties and she offered to tutor us three nights a week after hours in the evening. Without her help none of us would have passed the course.
Jerry Sellers was also enrolled in the freshman class at junior college and I started dating her again. We were engaged in October 1952 and married in the Presbyterian Church in Casper on June 27, 1953. My second year I continued to work at the Blue Bird and Jerry worked full-time as a secretary. Four of the five of us veterans enrolled in engineering were married and we all worked part-time, so there was not much time for socializing with other students.
Upon graduating from junior college I transferred to the University of Wyoming in the fall of 1954. I enrolled in the general engineering class with a petroleum engineering option. I graduated in 1956 with a Bachelor of Science degree in petroleum engineering.
I was fortunate in knowing most of the salesmen who called on the store in Casper. When they found out I was going to Laramie and would be looking for part-time work, they lined up an interview for me with the owner of Vet's Village Grocery. This was the only store in what was called Vet’s Village. The village was made up of World War II Butler huts for rent to veterans. I was able to work there both my junior and senior year. The summer between my junior and senior year I was able to get a summer job with an oil company working in the field as a roustabout. We had to move to Thermopolis, Wyoming, where we rented a furnished apartment for the summer and rented out our Butler hut.
The Butler huts at Laramie were for two families. There was a small kitchen, living room, and one bedroom on each end. The bathroom was shared between the families. We had a different family each year, but we got along fine and had some good times together. Jerry cared for their kids because one worked as a nurse and the other one was a legal stenographer. We had a running joke that we would go together and buy a copy of the Sunday Denver Post to celebrate the weekend. During the two years in Laramie, Jerry babysat for other families in Vet Village where both parents were working too. Our daughter Colleen was only one year old at that time. I only had the GI bill for one and a half years of school and had saved it for the time in Laramie. Without working at the store and Jerry’s babysitting, I still had to borrow money to finish the last quarter to graduate. The starting salary with Conoco was $425 a month, which was a good salary at the time. I was making a dollar an hour at the store and got ten percent off our groceries.
The mid-fifties was a good time to be graduating with a degree in Petroleum Engineering or Geology. The oil companies scheduled interviews with all seniors. I had five offers to go to work and accepted the one from Continental Oil Company. I started in Sussex, Wyoming, on a one-year training program as an engineering trainee. After one year I was promoted to Production Engineer. During the first year I worked in the field as a roustabout, pumper, test engineer, and in drilling operations for six months. We then moved to Denver for one month in the Regional Office; to Ponca City, Oklahoma in the research lab for two months; Houston, Texas in Reservoir Engineering School for six weeks; and finally to Fort Morgan, Colorado for a month in a natural gas processing plant. Our oldest son Ron was born just prior to our moving to Fort Morgan, where I was assigned as Production Engineer upon completion of the trainee program. During the next 12 years I worked in drilling and production operations in Durango, Colorado, Billings, Montana, Houston, Texas, and Lake Charles, Louisiana. All of the moves were promotions and to give experience in all types of oil fields.
In 1967 I joined TRW Controls Corporation as Manager of Petroleum Systems. The company was in the business of designing automatic and computer control systems for oilfield and pipeline operations. The company was later bought out by Ferranti Subsea Systems headquartered in London, with engineering and manufacturing offices in Scotland and Houston. I retired in 1986 as General Manager of the UK Company in London and President of the US Company in Houston, Texas. I served as a consultant for the company for two years after retirement. During my time with TRW and Ferranti, I traveled to Canada, Mexico, Norway, France, Brazil, England and Scotland working with engineers in both U.S. major oil companies and the foreign companies. I often wished I had learned more in my high school Spanish class and also taken other language courses. The most difficult languages were the Portugese spoken in Brazil and the Norwegian language. We worked with United States oil companies and foreign companies in Mexico, the United Kingdom, Norway, and France.
During our married life Jerry put up with 18 moves and always found the good about each new location. We had four children: Colleen born in 1954, Ronald in 1957, Annette in 1963, and Kevin in 1970. When I was transferred to London, Kevin attended the American High School there. Annette was able to do her student teaching in London on an exchange program with her university. We lived there for three years and it was a wonderful experience for the entire family. We also had the opportunity to meet and visit a number of aunts, uncles, and cousins on both sides of my family. In addition to the countries mentioned before, I also traveled to Brazil and worked with the national oil company Petrobras.
Jerry passed away in June 2006 after we had 53 good years together. Besides our children, I now have eight grandchildren.
I think the hardest part of being in Korea was seeing the suffering of the civilians and also knowing how worried my folks were when they did not hear from me for long periods. My strongest memories of Korea are the close and lasting friendships that were made. We all worked together and depended on each other to do what was necessary. The other memories are of the drastic temperature changes from terrific heat in the summer to brutal cold in the winter. We had a saying that it was the only place we knew where you could catch malaria in the summer and freeze to death in the winter.
During the time I was in Korea I do not believe any of us really thought the country was worth fighting for. We felt sorry for the South Koreans, but when the Chinese came in we were trying to fight a war that the United States considered a Police Action and China was untouchable because of politics. (I did not meet or see any "important" officials in Korea.) I believe we had to send troops to Korea to make sure the rest of the world knew we would not stand for aggression by any other nation. Had we not, I think communism would have overtaken the rest of the Far East in a short time and then spread further.
Going north of the 38th parallel was a good idea at the time to push North Korea back into its own territory. The big mistake MacArthur made was insisting on continuing north to the Yalu River. The only thing that accomplished was to bring the Chinese into the war and spread out the United Nations forces over the length of the peninsula. China had warned diplomats from India that they would react to any UN forces approaching that far north, especially the dam at the Chosin Reservoir that provided hydroelectric power. We had already taken Chinese prisoners at Sudong in early November, but it was ignored by MacArthur’s command. Had we not gone that far north, I believe we could have stabilized South Korea and China would not have intervened. Before the Chinese attack, the North Korean forces were in complete disarray and essentially defeated. Without China’s support, I do not believe North Korea had the resources or manpower to regroup.
There is only a small presence of US troops in South Korea now, and they are all located far south of the DMZ. I think their presence is good, if for no other reason than to show North Korea that we would come to the aid of South Korea again.
I was never seriously injured or wounded in Korea, and my only problems have been the effects of frostbite and hearing loss. I was not aware for a long time that I was eligible for disability compensation. It was only when the Chosin Few organization pushed the issue of frostbite that I applied for compensation three years ago and am now in the system. It took almost a year to get into the system.
Missing in Action
I believe my training in the Corps gave me a strong sense of discipline, responsibility, and self confidence. Had I not had that training, I doubt if I would have ever succeeded as an engineer and a manager. Having served in the Marine Corps definitely shaped my post-military life. I came home with a clear understanding of what I wanted to accomplish and a determination to do just that. Without the discipline I had learned in the Marine Corps, I don’t think I would ever have made it through the four years of college. I believe I have used that thinking throughout my career as an engineer and a manager.
Once a Marine, always a Marine is true. Anyone who has completed boot camp and felt the pride when his emblems were put on carries that memory forever, along with the strong respect and fellowship with all Marines. I belong to the 1st Marine Division Association and am active in the local Chapter. I serve on the Color Guard we provide for all Marine funerals at Ft. Logan National Cemetery in Denver, regardless of whether they served in the 1st Marine Division or other Divisions. I try to attend the annual Association meeting each year and have since 1989. The reunion held this year in Nashville was great because one of the fellows the rest of us had not seen since 1950 was able to attend. I was in touch with ten individuals that I served with in Korea, but over the years it has dwindled down to five. We are all life members of the First Marine Division Association.
Korea in a Nutshell
My time in Korea was an experience I think you only need once. I saw a world much different than what I was used to and gained an appreciation of how well off we are in the United States. The suffering of the civilians and the brutality of the North Korean soldiers had to be seen to be believed. I developed life-long friendships during this time stronger than that I have with any other friends I have met.
I don’t think Korean War veterans were treated badly when we returned home. We were just ignored. There were not any welcome home gatherings at the dock when we landed and none when we got to our homes. Other than my relatives, many of the people I met after coming home knew very little--if anything, about Korea or the war. If anything they thought it was not a war but rather, a "Police Action". Still today the Korean War is usually left out of the media when they speak about war. World War I, World War II, and Vietnam are the ones that are mentioned.
I have only started discussing some of my time in Korea with a couple of my family members who have expressed an interest as they have gotten older. Writing this memoir definitely brought back a lot of memories that have been buried in the back of my mind--some good, some bad. I would hope if any student reads this memoir that they will get an understanding of the fact that it was a war. It was fought initially with a poorly-trained, under-strength army. The dramatic cutback of the military following World War II made it very difficult to put a well-trained force of sufficient size to defend US interests. It is a lesson I don’t believe most politicians have learned yet today. We are headed in the same direction now as back then. We can never negotiate from weakness--only with strength.
[The table below was created with the use of letters from home and my service record. - Murdo]
Bronze Star Citation
United States Marine Corps
In the name of the President of the United States, the Commanding General, 1st Marine Division (Reinf) FMF, takes pleasure in awarding the Bronze Star Medal to SERGEANT MURDO A. MACLENNAN, United States Marine Corps, for service as set forth in the following CITATION: