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Sea Voyage Home - Chris Sarno Memoir

The departing troops boarded the USNS General Walker at Inchon, and sailed to Kobe, Japan, to pick up the 1st Air Wing guys in the 12th Draft. The same—but "different" Marines were at the rail watching them come aboard. "We went through the grinder in Korea," Sarno said. "Now we were picking up Marines who were stationed in Japan. They had it soft; two white sheets, whores, everything. They came up the gangplank carrying aluminum suitcases and wearing custom-made black velvet jackets with the words ‘Been through Hell’ on the back of them. You know, like they were roughing it." There was no sympathy for the Marines who had fought the war from the safety of neighboring Japan. "We knew that they would go home and snow a lot of people about ‘going through hell’ during the war," Sarno said, "so we ragged them all the way home." Combat-experienced Marines had little use for those who had led the Life of Riley as support units while they fought in combat units on the front line.

The front lines of Korea were now far behind the homeward-bound ship, but thoughts of their comrades in arms remained ever-present in the minds of the returning Marines. Sarno read an article in the ship’s newsletter that said that units of the 1st Marine Division were getting heavy enemy resistance, and high casualties were mounting. "I knew I had been spared by God, as the shit really hit the fan until late October 1952 in the combat outpost wars in Korea. I was going home alive. Those who remained behind were getting bumped off with regularity in a hot war again. I was fortunate being in the 12th draft, as my number would have finally come up with the advent of Bunker Hill to East Berlin [another outpost in Korea] in July 1953." For Sarno, his tour of duty in Korea had been all combat—combat, Reserve area, combat. No liberty. No Japan.

As the Walker sailed to the States, Sarno passed the time with mess duty again, but this time he was a buck sergeant and not in the scullery. He said that as the few Army troops they had on the ship passed through the chow line, they were given decent portions. "When they asked me for more," Sarno said, "I just said, ‘Move on, move on. You’re holding up the line.’ But when the Marines came through, we just plastered their trays. We overflowed their trays and thought nothing of it." Nineteen days at sea dragged by slowly. Then, at the end of the boring journey was a golden vision.


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