5th Marine Regiment
1st Marine Division
U.S. Marine Corps
I turned seventeen on August 5, 1949, while living in Bridgeport, Connecticut. A month later, on the 27th of September, I was sworn into the U.S. Marine Corps.
After completing basic training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, I boarded a troop ship that I believe was the USS Boxer—and journeyed to Japan. Upon arriving in Japan we went through processing, where I was assigned as a cook in the H & S Company, 1st BN, 5th Marines.
From here we flew to Korea, which was in mid-October of 1950. I was among a group of thirty-five assorted cooks and bakers. As our plane, a C-47 transport, landed at Kimpo airfield we quickly moved off the plane. We were equipped with M-1’s, but we had no ammo. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a shot rang out and they told us to get behind a pile of sand; we didn’t have to be told twice.
As a cook, I volunteered to go on several patrols. These are some of my experiences.
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One day as we were moving along a road we moved into a field, and standing there were what looked like soldiers, so several of the guys took some shots at them. However, these figures never moved, or returned fire. After further investigation they turned out to be bundles of straw. All of the sudden, I heard moans coming from underneath a house that had collapsed. Frightened that it may be an enemy soldier, I cautiously pulled out an elderly man—he looked to be one-hundred years old. Since I had helped him, he must have bowed to me at least two dozen times.
A friend named Parker, another guy, and I volunteered to climb up a hill and retrieve an abandoned .50 caliber machine gun. We were told to be careful, because that area could be zeroed in by a sniper. Finally, we made it to the site and retrieved the gun, tripod, and a box of ammo, along with a box of grenades. A sniper did take some shots at us, but he missed us by at least thirty feet, or more. We yelled obscenities at him, and told him he must be blind. We then slipped off the hill with all our goodies.
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One morning around 3:00 AM, with a light snow falling, I noticed someone walking stooped over about thirty-five feet from our two-man foxhole. I told my foxhole buddy, who was a staff sergeant, what I saw. He told me not to shoot the civilian—then he laughed. I shot anyway only to learn the next morning he was a Chinese soldier. He was stooped over because he was dragging a burlap bag full of sulfur. I learned that the Chinese stuffed the sulfur into the tracks of our tanks.
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I was with four or five other cooks gathered together on a road along the waters edge of the Chosin Reservoir. Suddenly, a jeep came by and stopped, and I believe it was Lt. Col. Murray that climbed out of it. There were approximately two-hundred Chinese soldiers who were wounded and their hands and feet were frozen; they could only hobble along. The colonel pointed across the frozen reservoir and told them their units were in that direction.
He went on to tell them we had no food or medicine to give them. So, the Chinese soldiers began to hobble across the frozen water. After watching for several minutes, some of the men dropped to the prone position and started to shoot at them. None of them were hit, but several slipped and fell on the ice.
As I walked down the road, it was full of trucks, jeeps, tanks, and personnel carriers. It had been extremely cold and my feet were in bad shape. A corpsman had been watching me and asked me why I was hobbling. I told him that my feet hurt and that I also had dysentery. He put a tag on my parka and told me to report to the aid station.
The tag was to let others know you were hurt. It was hard to catch a ride on any of the trucks, because I was always running to the edge of the road with a five gallon coffee can—my portable potty. Finally, I was able to catch a ride in a jeep; when nightfall came, the driver fell asleep waking up in time to yank the steering wheel to the left—saving us from going off the edge.
We came to a river where the bridge had been blown-up. Lt. Denning helped reconstruct a bridge made from parts that had been airdropped. This bridge was vital in saving our tanks and vehicles, along with getting out our dead and wounded Marines. The bridge was located near a power plant.
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It was getting close for me to rotate home, when my new boss kicked me telling me to get up and go to work. While I was still in my sleeping bag, I explained to him that my relief was doing the job, and that I was packed and ready to leave for the stateside in two days. However, he was surprised when I got out of my sleeping bag and punched him in the nose. Needless to say, I was put on report and did not get my promotion to sergeant for another six months.
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I was in Korea until I shipped home on November 30, 1951. After arriving stateside, I went home for Christmas, and then I was transferred to Barstow, California on the 8th of January, 1952.
I retired from the Marine Corps in 1970.