~~Fifty-Four~~

Marvin Totland

7th Cavalry Regiment

1st Cavalry Division

U.S. Army

On December 27, 1950 at the age of twenty, I entered the U.S. Army. I’m from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.

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From September 3 through November 7, 1951, I served with Company D, 7th Cavalry Regiment. After being assigned to the mortar section, one of the first men I met was SFC [Delbert] Rice. He was a soft-spoken man and he made sure I met every man in the platoon.

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Our entire company was relocating and one evening, around dusk, we were all in line waiting for chow. We were spaced out about five yards apart, in an irregular line. Suddenly, a flight of jets flew over and the last one circled back, apparently to identify us. He circled again and began strafing us; everyone scattered for cover. We had four half-tracks, with quad .50 caliber machine guns. Our CO ordered the crews to fire at the plane. The pilot soon realized he was firing on friendly troops. However, several men were wounded.

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It was early morning on the 3rd of October; jump off day for Operation Commando. I was with Sgt. [Delbert] Rice at his duty station, which was located close to the mortars. It was equipped with a telephone for his use. He told me that he had to leave for awhile and for me to answer the phone if it rang. Sure enough, a call came in from a ranking officer, probably our platoon commander—a second lieutenant.

He wanted to speak to Sarge, so I told him he was away for the moment and would be back shortly. He said, “Get him, now!” I found him at the slit trench—answering the call of nature. The call was from the fire direction center and the conversation probably involved the gun settings to use when the attack began.

The gunners on the mortars never saw their targets—especially in the mountainous terrain of Korea. So, the use of forward observers was essential. They were assigned to front line rifle companies, and placed under their command. The Company commander tells the FO where he wants the shells to land. Then the FO calls in the coordinates to the FDC (fire direct center), who plots them on a map and comes up with elevation readings for the guns. A call was then placed to men, like the sarge and he would shout out the readings, sight settings, the number of mortars to fire, and how many rounds.

Operation Commando was a fierce battle. When our battalion was relieved, and gathered in a clearing for roll call, only three men were left in Charlie Company. Our company lost several FO’s and I was on deck waiting for a jeep to take me to the front lines as a replacement for a FO that had been killed. Fortunately for me, word came down that the battalion was being relieved.

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I was an FO on November 6th and 7th during fighting on Hill 200. During a night attack on the seventh, I was wounded; ending the war for me. I was sent to Japan, then on to the States where I was hospitalized at Percy Jones Army Hospital, in Battle Creek, Michigan.

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On November 7, 1952, I was discharged from the Army.

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