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In Reserve - Chris Sarno Memoir

True to Lieutenant Corson’s word, when the company went into Reserve, Sarno was among the seasoned combat Marines teaching the new replacements. He was assigned to give gunnery classes on the 90mm. "When you were in Reserve, you went to classes again," Sarno explained. "Classes about weapons, classes about tank tactics - you didn’t just go there to sleep and eat. You got warm, hot chow, but you were always thinking of combat, even in the rear area." After Sarno’s Sergeant York-like blasting of the two machine gun emplacements, he became something of a celebrity among the tankers, especially catching the attention of flame throwers who were itching for a direct fire mission.

My tank crew in daily preventative maintenance replacing two [2] track sprockets.
(Click Picture for a Larger View)

While Sarno was lecturing one day on the functioning of the 90mm, Lieutenant Corson came in and stood at the back of the tent. "He didn’t say a word," recalled Sarno. "I went through the whole damn spiel about how that 90mm functioned. I was only 20 years old, and I was holding court. Lieutenant Corson was silent, but beaming. He came up to me after the lecture was over and told me that our tank commander had been assigned to H&S Company. He would be with all the officers who didn’t go out on fire missions. That was the last we saw of him. Morale soared on Tank A-41." Lieutenant Corson had come through for his men as he had promised.

Generally, when the Marines were on line doing direct fire missions for extended periods of time, all the commanding officers were competent, Sarno noted. "Some were more competent than others, but they were all competent commanding officers in combat, and we had faith in them." But when the company went into Reserve, he said, the whole picture tended to change with regards to the commanding officers. "An officer changed his spots in Reserve," he said. "They could be the worst guys in the world when they got into Reserve," he recalled. "Chicken shit. Shine your boots. Stand pistol inspection. I mean, we did it—we were ordered to do it and we did it. But it killed us to do it. ‘Why are we doing this bullshit when we know we’re going up to kill the enemy again,’ we wondered. If we were in the States, we could handle it because that’s all we would see. You know—we were not getting shot at. But to go back to Reserve and play Boy Scout after being in combat, the guys rose up against that, and we got into trouble. We pulled pranks—like firing that machine gun before boarding the LSTs on the east coast. We did it just to make confusion for the officers and the new replacements."

One night in Reserve, the tankers went paddy-hopping to the hooch of some Korean prostitutes. "I think the insects made out the best," Sarno recalled. "The next day, a flame-thrower tank went out and burned down the two hooches. I recall we all razzed the flame tank crew for ‘combat action.’ I guess we couldn’t blame the officers for ordering them burned. The VD rate would have been astronomical if the rice-paddy queens hadn’t been run out of town."


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