1st Marine Regiment
1st Marine Division
U.S. Marine Corps
My younger brother, Avery, and I joined the U.S. Marine Corps on December 17, 1950, making us the first Marines in the family. We had sixteen brothers and sisters, and lived in El Paso, Texas, which was home to an Army and Air Force Base.
Our brother James was in the Second World War, along with brothers John and Donald, who were also in Korea. Amory joined the Air Force and was stationed in England during the Korean War. Our younger brother, Richard, joined the Marines during the Vietnam War; where he lost an arm.
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I arrived in Korea during October of 1952, where I was assigned to Item Company, 3rd BN, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. I was a corporal in the third platoon.
When I joined the company they were on the MLR. It wasn’t bad there, except when they shot mortars at us. I would yell “incoming,” and everyone would take cover.
It was extremely cold there, and I had just left Pearl Harbor where it was warm all the time. Sometimes I wished I was in Hell, so I could warm up. Come to think of it, I was in Hell. We would wrap paper, or plastic, around our uniforms to help keep our body heat in—this was our cold weather gear.
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In March of 1953, we were sent to Outpost Dagmar. Our first day there we set up, then later the next day all hell broke loose; we fought all through the night. They came over the top of the hill, and were able to get into our trenches; we now had to fight hand-to-hand combat, and I had fired my M-1 rifle until it wouldn’t fire any more. A “gook” came at me and I had to use my bayonet on him. To this day I don’t know why, but for some reason I was unable to pull the bayonet out of his body. Finally, I just had to release it from my rifle.
We were able to run them out of the trenches and off the hill, with the help of V.T. This is where an artillery shell detonates in the air about twenty-to-forty feet above the ground, scattering shrapnel in a wide area. After the shelling it had became deathly quiet, as if I had gone deaf.
I thought I was the only one left living on Dagmar. I wanted to get off the hill, but there may have been wounded men that needed my help. As I crawled around the hill, I noticed movement in one of the bunkers and I thought it was a “gook.” After having pulled the pin from a hand grenade, I wondered if it was one of us. So, I yelled, “Friend or foe?” A voice yelled back, “Hale, is that you?” I sure was glad to hear Harvey Harriott’s voice; he was my fire team leader.
Continuing on around the hill, I came upon a machine gun nest and all the Marines looked to be dead. As we moved on, I saw a hand move and told Harriott one was still alive. We dug him out, then the three of us headed for the CP. Our leader, Lt. John Peeler, was a fantastic Marine, and fighter.
By now it was beginning to get daylight, so we went back to look for any wounded or dead. Only four or five men had not been wounded, so the corpsman got busy taking care of the rest. We were lucky to have found a few of our dead. Apparently I had been wounded when a grenade went off between my legs. Thank God I was lying on the ground, and I was skinny; most of the shrapnel went over me.
We placed our dead in a row and the dead “gooks” in a pile, so when night came and we were relieved, we could easily take our dead with us. We were pretty sure the “gooks” wouldn’t be back that night, for they had lost too many. Lt. Peeler couldn’t believe we had killed so many. Our replacements arrived right at dusk.
Our replacements were our company’s second platoon. Except for me, what was left of our platoon was able to go back to the MLR. I had to stay behind to show the second platoon their firing positions. Since I had stayed awake all day, it had been at least thirty-six hours since I had been to sleep.
When dusk arrived, I went to my firing position and fell asleep. Suddenly, the “gooks” were all over the hill and had gotten into our trenches. When I woke up, I found myself being carried by some Marines. I asked them, “What’s going on?” They thought I was dead and they were going to put me with the other dead.
A patrol came by the hill, so I went back with them to rejoin my platoon. From here we went to another hill, Outpost 2 (OP2), at Panmunjom—where the peace talks were being held. On one side of the hill we could shoot the enemy, but they couldn’t shoot back. However, the opposite held true for the other side of the hill. The reason for this; it was a death penalty offense to shoot toward the peace talks.
We really enjoyed being at OP2. The “gooks” would bring us gifts and leave notes behind asking us to surrender. They said we would be treated very well, and would not die, that we would be able to see our loved ones when the war was over. Yeah, right!
After about a month, we left OP2 and went into reserve where we stayed for ninety days. Some of the men even received three days of R&R in Japan—lucky guys.
The CO wanted a squad of men to go outside of the fence line, to clean up the area. I said my men would do it. After we got outside, and no one else was around, I let the men go to a Korean village while I stayed behind. Roughly two hours had passed and the CO came by, and wanted to know where the men were—I pointed towards the village. He instructed me to get them inside the fence and for me to be at his office at 0800 hours the following morning. I said, “Yes, sir.”
Promptly at 0800 I met with the CO and he busted me to PFC. Big deal! I left and went back to my tent. On the way back I saw new replacements coming in, which we really needed. Our platoon was only about half the size it needed to be. I heard my name called, and as I walked towards the voice, there stood Avery. Boy was I happy! I hadn’t seen him since we joined together. Immediately, I took him to meet my platoon leader, Lt. Peeler. The lieutenant asked if we were related, to which I replied, “No.” So, my brother ended up being my platoon sergeant.
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In July we had been in reserve for about fifty days when all hell broke loose—the “gooks” were hitting every hill.
We were going to Boulder City and Lt. Peeler was taking an advance party that included four others and myself. All outposts were in front of the MLR, and Boulder City was about a mile away. Still riding in a 4 x 4 truck, we had to go through 76 Alley (76 are anti-tank guns) and I didn’t think we were going to make it, but we did. We quickly disembarked and began fighting—it was a mess. Soon, everyone had become separated and on their own.
As I was fighting my way around the hill, I picked up three men; enough for a fire team. We were on a road, or a big trail, I don’t know which since it was so dark. Apparently, a “gook” spotter must have noticed us and called in 76’s on us. We continued on, but the shells were getting closer. There was a cut-out in the road, and as soon as we got in it a shell hit just past us. We had made it to safety—wrong! The soldier closest to the shell was unscratched. I, being next, received a wound to my right knee. The soldier next to me, lost both legs, and the soldier at the end—lost his life.
The guy who lost his legs was screaming loudly, and the “gooks” zeroed in on us. I tried to get to him, but when I tried to stand—I couldn’t. That’s when I realized I had been wounded. As I started to crawl to the road, the shelling became heavier, so, I hopped on one leg to the aid bunker. After telling the corpsman about the other Marines, I blacked out.
The next thing I remembered, I was on the hospital ship USS Haven, awakening to the voice of the doctor saying, “This Hale isn’t going to make it.” I told him I wasn’t hurt that bad. He replied, “Not you, this Hale.” I looked over at the bunk next to me, and there laid Avery. I started screaming that they had better save my brother. The doctors could not believe that as big as the Haven was, and as many wounded that were aboard that they had put two brothers next to each other.
Knowing the War Department would be sending telegrams to our parents, I yelled for the Red Cross to send one saying that we were not hurt that bad. They wouldn’t do it unless I paid for it. I had nothing of my own—much less money. A chaplain heard me yelling, and he said that he would send it for me. I knew it would help our parents to hear from us.
We were sent to Japan for nearly a month. Our brother Donald was in Japan, and he came by every other day to visit us; that sure was nice.
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After boot camp, I thought I knew what the Marines were all about. How wrong was I? One must go into combat with them to fully understand them. They truly are brothers-in-arms.