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Casual Company - Chris Sarno Memoir


Street scene in Seoul 1952

Now at the end of his mission in Korea, Sarno waited in a Casual Company at Ascom City for his orders to ship out. Sea bags arrived with the Marines’ personal belongings and dress green uniform and accessories. Sometime during the year that they had just served on the eastern and western coasts of Korea, the Marine Corps had eliminated the old World War I-designed green woolen overcoat, replacing it with a new nylon raincoat. "We were told to throw out the old overcoat in the company area," Sarno recalled. "When the supply sergeant asked if we had anything missing from our sea bags, we told him that our wool overcoat was missing. He replaced it with the new nylon one. That’s how easy it was at Ascom City."

Life was so casual there; one could even take in an evening movie. But having missed the movie one night, Sarno decided to stroll through the complex. He went down to an area that was cordoned off with barbed wire. The area was reserved for incoming replacement troops. "I was milling around talking to the new guys coming in on the 25th draft," Sarno said. "They all wanted to know what it was like in the front. I couldn’t describe it for them, so I just told them to obey their commanding officer and platoon sergeants. I told them that I hoped that all would work out well for them." A passing tech sergeant thought that Sarno had somehow gotten out of the barbed wire area, and he ordered him back inside the area under threat of "running him up" for disobeying orders. Sarno’s just-issued uniform didn’t show the chevrons of a sergeant, and he looked pretty young in spite of his combat experience. Although he tried to tell the Tech Sergeant that he was heading home with the other members of the 12th draft, the angry officer refused to buy Sarno’s story.

"He was right in my face, cursing me like I was a boot at Parris Island," Sarno recalled. "I wasn’t going to take his shit, so I decided I would play his game." Into the barbed wire area Sarno went, and the Tech Sergeant informed the sergeant of the guard that he was placing Sarno on report for being outside the fence. The officer of the day was called, and discovered that the name Chris Sarno was not on their roster of replacements. Sarno told them again that he wasn’t lying, but the Tech Sergeant was still angry at him anyway. He told him that if he didn’t get on the other side of the wire, he wouldn’t be going home. Sarno went back outside of the fence, but before he moved away from it, he stared down the Tech Sergeant. "I was at a stage in my life when I wasn’t going to take anything from anybody," Sarno said. "I made that martinet Tech Sergeant look down, and he knew I’d tear him apart, one on one, if he wanted to duke it out with me. That’s the one thing I don’t like about the Marine Corps—rank lords it over the lower ranks regardless."

Chris Sarno never had to worry about that Tech Sergeant again, because within hours he was on his way back to the States. "That stateside pogue was probably killed by one of his own men when the shit hit the fan," he said. Sarno was homeward bound along with the other survivors of the 12th Draft—one up on the cocky Tech Sergeant who was still on assignment in the smelly, muddy, dirty Korea, labeled by Chris Sarno as "the asshole of the world."


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