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Back to FMF - Chris Sarno Memoir

That same month, Major Snell was in charge of a recruiting drive for Marines in the 8th Tank Battalion who might be interested in shipping over to Korea. Not surprisingly, Sarno was one of the first tankers to volunteer. He agreed to a one-year extension of his original three-year enlistment so that he would qualify for overseas duty to Korea again. On April 4, 1953, Chris Sarno was promoted to Staff Sergeant at Quantico, Virginia. He now enjoyed quarters with just staff NCOs, apart from sergeants and others of lower rank. "I had no guard mounts," he said. "No watches at all. I was in direct contact with the commanding and executive officers every day." But, he remained persistent in his quest to go back to FMF. "I requested to see my battalion commander, who was Col. Ray Murray. He approved my request in July or August of 1953," Sarno said. "One day, Joe Hoplock and I were told to get all our gear together and wait for a truck to pick us up for the 3rd Marine Division." Sarno knew that the 3rd Marine Division had just been formed for active duty in Okinawa, and he was not happy. "I was so dejected to think that Murray had shit-canned me to the 3rd Marine Division," he said. But when the truck pulled up, the NCO asked, "Who’s Sarno?" He said, "You aren’t going with the 3rd Marine Division. You go to the 1st Marine Division in Korea next week." Sarno was elated. "Colonel Murray did keep his word to me. I felt great, because I was finally going home to the 1st Marine Division in the field."

At the time, scuttlebutt had it that the 3rd Marine Division was to replace the 1st Marine Division in Korea so that the 1st Marine Division could go back to the States. "That never happened," Sarno said. "After a short period of time, there was an exchange program set up between the two Marine Divisions there in the Far East. Once an enlisted Marine had three months in his assigned division, one Marine could transfer provided that both time remaining and MOS were exactly the same. I saw five Marines transfer out of AT-7 and we got five new Marines [in MOS] into AT-7. I was almost tempted, but eased off and remained with the 1st Marine Division. I hated to give up all those nice liberties in Nippon and what they had to offer, but I figured I would have gone completely broke financially if I ever had a tour in Japan. As it turned out, the 1st Marine Division departed once and for all from Korea in April 1955." But until their departure that year, 1st Marine Division troops had unfinished business in Korea. Volunteers were still needed in post-war operations, and Chris Sarno was excited that he would be one of them.

Preparations for his second trip to Korea were far different than his first trip. "While I was in the staging regiment at Pendleton, this time there was not three months of rugged Tent Camp intensive training when war was going on. For the love of me I can’t recall anything like it was compared to the first time. I know I had liberty every weekend and I went to LA once. The movie ‘From Here to Eternity’ was playing, and they had street cars two abreast coming and going on Wilshire Boulevard." He said he stayed at Pendleton for 30 days. "We must have done some training at Pendleton," he pondered, "but I can only remember the weekend liberty. It was not at all as demanding as the training of the 12th draft. The 36th draft was ‘tit’ duty."

Then he boarded the USNS General Walker, a huge two-stacker with full complement of 4,000 replacements, and he was on his way back to the Korean peninsula with the 36th Replacement Draft. It was the first draft after the truce was signed—a three-month break from the last draft.


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