~~Eighteen~~

Forrest O’Neal

1st Marine Regiment

1st Marine Division

U.S. Marine Corps

I had three brothers who served in the military during World War II; one in Europe, two in the Pacific. After graduating high school I had planned on attending college, instead on September 19, 1949 I enlisted in the Marine Corps.

Living in Mexico, Missouri, I traveled by train to Camp Lejuene, North Carolina, where I did my basic training. From here I traveled to Camp Pendleton. In August I boarded a troop carrier, in San Diego, bound for Kobe, Japan, where we docked in late August or early September.

I was assigned to the S-1 Section (Personnel Section) of the 1st Marine Regiment. When we received messages, it was our duty to take them to other section leaders. We were also responsible for security around the regimental CP.

On the 15th of September, we took part in the Inchon Invasion. Before the invasion could take place, there was an island—Wolmi-do—in the Bay of Inchon that had to be taken. The North Koreans had shore batteries located there that needed to be knocked-out—this fell to the 5th Regiment.

When the invasion started, it became chaotic and plans were not going as scheduled. So, Colonel Puller wanted to get things back on track and running smoother. We had been scheduled to go in on the third wave. Instead we moved up to the second wave—landing on Blue Beach at 4:00 or 4:30 PM. When we landed the tide was at thirty feet and we had to climb up a hill, but to the right of us was a seawall. Many Marines were killed going over that wall. At Inchon we lost twenty to twenty-five troops, and approximately one-hundred were wounded.

After Inchon, we headed south to Seoul. As we crossed the Han River, we had to ride in DUKW’s. While we were going up the beach, we hit a land-mine which blew the front end off the DUKW. Luckily, no one was killed, but one guy did have both of his eardrums bust.

Before taking Seoul, another soldier and myself were outside the CP—Col. Puller always wanted his CP on a hillside—taking ammo from a truck and loading them onto tanks. Suddenly, we came under mortar fire. A round hit five feet from where I was standing. Fortunately for me, it was a dud.

After we had taken Seoul, we were to head north. We returned to Inchon and boarded ships. We sailed around the east coast of the Korean Peninsula, and landed at Wonsan, North Korea, on the 26th of October. After disembarking, we headed north leap froggin with the 5th and 7th Marines.

When we were about twelve miles south of the Chosin Reservoir, we—1st Marines—stopped at Koto-ri. Here we set up the regimental CP.

The 31st and 32nd Regiments of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division were north of the reservoir, with the 5th and 7th Marines on the west side. On the 27th of November, between 120,000-to-125,000 Chinese soldiers swarmed down on us with the purpose of wiping us out. The Chinese attacked from the front, and tried to go around our flanks. This was a maneuver they had used during the Chinese Civil War.

The 31st and 32nd Regiments had been chewed up pretty bad, but instead of telling them to get out, General Almond told them to stay and hold. The 5th and 7th Marines were also hit hard. As wounded members of the 7th Infantry Division were lying on the frozen reservoir, a Marine sergeant, along with others, went to retrieve them. They used trucks and even sleds to bring them back to safety.

Finally, General MacArthur gave orders to pull out. Fighting our way out was just as rough as fighting our way in. When pulling out, the 5th and 7th Marines went through us at Koto-ri. We were the last to leave; only seven tanks were behind us.

* * * * * *

While we were at the Chosin Reservoir it was bitterly cold, with temperatures reaching forty below zero and the wind-chill hitting eighty below. If your fingers, or toes, turned black, it was time to seek medical treatment. My hands got frostbitten once, when another soldier and I were loading supplies that had been airdropped—we were outside all day.

At the Chosin, we inflicted a 70 percent casualty rate against the Chinese Forces.

* * * * * *

It was around 4:30 PM when we left Koto-ri. However, we had to stop around midnight to put in a bridge. We continued on until 8:00 AM, the following morning, when we were able to catch a ride—on a truck—to the port of Hungnam.

We sailed to Pusan, where we disembarked and were taken by train to Masan. Here I stayed for the rest of my time in Korea, never returning to the front lines.

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