1st Marine Regiment
1st Marine Division
U.S. Marine Corps
I was a sixteen year old high school student living in the South Bronx, which was a ghetto. One of my teachers was a major in the Marine Corps Reserves. He told us that in the reserves you get uniforms, get to go to a paid meeting once a month, and during the summer school break you went to camp for two weeks of training; that sounded good to me. In April 1950, I turned seventeen and my parents signed for me to enlist in May—the Korean War broke out in June.
The first two weeks of July, our 1st Infantry Reserve Battalion went to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina for training. In August, while still on summer break, our reserve battalion was activated. We went back to Camp Lejeune, where the battalion was split up, sending the reserves to different duty stations to relieve the regular Marines that were going to Korea. Along with twenty others, I was sent to the Marine barracks at the Naval Air Station at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, for guard duty.
On the 5th of June, 1951, while at Quonset Point, I re-enlisted in the Regular Marine Corps—and volunteered to go to Korea. On the 1st of July, I arrived at Camp Pendleton, California, for advanced infantry training.
I departed San Diego on October 16, 1951, aboard the USS Noble, and arrived in Kobe, Japan on the 2nd of November. Two days later, I was headed to Korea where I arrived at Socho-Ko-Ri on the 6th of November.
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As a corporal in the second squad, first platoon of G Company, 3rd BN, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, around September 7, 1952 it was our turn to occupy Outpost Bunker Hill.
First squad was on the extreme right flank of Outpost Bunker Hill, almost within hand grenade range of the closest Chinese trench. The second was to their left, with the third squad to our left. Behind Bunker Hill was Hill 229, where our company had located its mortars.
Bunker Hill reminded me of a garbage dump. It was littered with stretchers, empty C-ration cans and boxes, barbed wire and communication wire as well as Chinese bodies—still armed with rifles and Bangalore torpedoes; and the wounded. The wounded were usually evacuated during the night, because it was almost impossible to move about in daylight, without attracting incoming mortar fire.
Our sleeping bunkers, which were located on the reverse side of the hill, were very small. The one I shared with three other guys was approximately three feet high, four feet wide and five-or-six feet deep. When all four of us were in it during the day, you had to sit scrunched up and try to get some shut-eye. At night when we were on 50 percent watch, it was easier to sleep with only two of us in the bunker; that is if you could sleep with mortars, artillery, and gun fire going on during most of the night.
On the forward slope was where our fighting holes—foxholes—were located. The hole I shared with another Marine was equipped with a sound powered phone that I used to call in artillery on Chinese positions. They were about one-hundred yards to our front.
Every now and then, a Chinese soldier would pop up and spray our area with burp gun fire. Their mortar tubes were so close, I could see the flashes when they fired. The flashes were coming from three different tubes; they must have been in fixed positions. Based on which of the three that fired, I could pretty much tell where the round was going to hit.
I called in artillery to knock out their mortars and when the first round hit, it shook the whole area. I asked the guys on the other end of the phone, “What the hell was that?” Expecting to hear that it was a 16 inch shell from a battleship, instead I was told that it was an 8 inch shell from an Army Artillery Battery. (The Marines didn’t have 8 inch artillery in Korea). The shells were hitting beyond the Chinese positions. I called back to give corrections and they dropped the range, but not enough. Finally, they told me that they couldn’t drop the range any further without hitting our position. Even though I wasn’t able to knock out those three mortars, I’m sure I must have gotten several Chinese soldiers with those 8 inch shells.
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On the 4th of October, 1952 I left Inchon aboard the USNS Marine Serpent—bound for home. I arrived in San Francisco on the twenty-first.
I was stationed at Camp Lejeune, as a sergeant, until I was discharged on June 4, 1955. I then returned home to the South Bronx.