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Korean Marine Tankers - Chris Sarno Memoir

Prior to that May fire mission, Able company spent the remainder of the month of April helping out the 1st Korean Marine Corps Tank Company. The KMCs had World War II Sherman tanks with a 75mm weapon. Behind the MLR, the Korean Marine tankers were trained by US Marine Tankers who were in Reserve. "The only day I saw the KMCs in action," said Sarno, "they failed miserably in fire discipline and improper radio communications. Captain Raphael was tank commander that day, and I was his gunner. Twenty Sherman tanks manned by Korean Marine Corps tankers were taken out to the revetment line that day for a direct fire mission into goonyland. It was the KMC tankers’ first fire mission. The KMC, like all other Koreans, were very exuberant and highly motivated, but needed to be reined in as well. Raphael told me to lay a willie peter round way off to the left as a marker, and then traverse 180 degrees to send out another wp round on the right for the field of fire. A willie peter round looked lovely--it would burst into a huge white on white cloud of toxic acid. It exploded, just as I described, on the left marker. Before I could traverse to get the right marker, the KMCs opened up with their 75mm, .30 and .50 caliber machine guns. All hell broke loose. Which targets they were clobbering was anybody’s guess. Raphael got on the horn for them to cease fire, but now the KMCs chatter cluttered up all tank radio frequencies. It was total chaos, and a terrible waste of ammo. The KMCs were totally undisciplined in fire control and radio communications. It was a nut house! After the KMCs finally ran out of ammo, Raphael ordered a withdrawal to have a post-battle action critique with KMC officers. He was very dejected at the miserable showing of the KMC tankers. I had no faith in them at that point of time, and besides, I had much more important things to worry about with my own crew’s performances day to day on the western front."

Besides his lack of faith in their combat and communications abilities, Sarno did not completely trust the Korean Marines simply because they were Koreans. "North Koreans would fight to the death," he recalled. "They would just as soon put a bullet in the head of their prisoners after beating on them, and think nothing of it. That’s why I never trusted any slant eye. Never. Not even the Korean Marines. If they were around us, I always kept an eye on them. We all did. We just had that instinct within us. You know, we weren’t comfortable around them. We would pigeon English around them, but I know I always kept a third eye on them."


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