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Dale Holmes Brown
Tuscola, Illinois -
"I have always been proud of serving my country in the U.S. Marine Corps, and I could never see myself in any other branch of the military. Wearing that uniform was the greatest of honors for me. In my heart I will always be a Marine."
- Dale H. Brown
My name is Dale H. Brown, originally from Monson, Maine. I was born there on 1 April 1933, a son of Guy T. and Isabella M. Bigger Brown. My father worked in a slate quarry, running what was called a rubbing bed. It was a large circular machine turned by pulleys that pieces of slate were laid on. With sand and water it smoothed and sized the slate. I remember watching him working on that and was always amazed that he knew just when to add the sand and the water and was able to move those large pieces of slate that he had to work with. I am sure he had done other jobs in that mill, but that is the one I remember him doing. My mother was a full-time mother and homemaker. Later she cooked in summer camps and was a caregiver for an elderly lady. I have older and younger siblings: Robert (Cameron), who died in August 1997; George, who died in November 1981; Donald, who died in February 2012; Clayton, who died in October 1993; Gilbert, who died in December 1979; and Barbara, Colby and Joyce, all of whom are still living in 2013.
I attended Monson public school for the elementary part of school and then Monson Academy. I received my GED in October 1951 when I went back to 1st Marine Division Headquarters to take the exams for it. I held no jobs while I was in high school other than being paper boy or odd jobs like sawing wood or slab wood to earn enough to pay for my class ring. I was a Boy Scout and achieved the rank of 2nd Class. It was fun for the most part, but it did not hold my interest. The best part about Boy Scouting was when we went fishing at Horseshoe Pond. At that time Horseshoe Pond was a fly fisherman’s paradise. Brook trout could be caught on almost every cast.
When World War II broke out, my brothers Robert (Cameron), George and Gilbert joined the Navy and my brother Clayton joined the Army. (My brother Colby was too young to join the military during World War II, but he later joined the US Marine Corps.) My schoolmates and I collected newspapers, scrap metal and tires, and bought stamps during the bond drives.
I enlisted in the Marine Corps to go to Korea because that is what my brothers did in World War II. It was the way to do things at that time. I joined the Marines because I had a friend who had been in the Corps. His name was Cyril M. “Bud” Leavitt. He went into the Corps in 1945. He was one of the sharpest Marines I ever knew. He would have been an excellent recruiter just by the way he wore his uniform. Bud actually tried to talk me out of enlisting, but it was something I “had” to do. In my mind, it was my obligation to my country.
Convincing My Mother
Along with the fact that my friend Bud had been a Marine, I heard about Marines on the news on the radio. I knew that the United States Marines was the branch of service I wanted to join. I also thought that I would have a better chance of going to Korea if I were a Marine. My parents didn’t want me to join, so it took me from September to December of 1950 to convince my mother to give me permission and to sign the papers. The reason my mother relented and let me quit school and enlist was because of a meeting she had with my teacher, Mr. Cunningham. I was not doing well in school due to the fact that I was a disinterested student at best. At worst I did not like having to go to school. Mr. Cunningham asked me if I wanted him to talk with my mother about my interest in joining the Marines and I said yes. He had a long talk with my mother. I think it was the same evening when he gave my mother and me a ride home. The next day I pressed my mother and father on their decision on my enlisting. My father said whatever my mother decided, he would go along with it. She told me that I could enlist, but wanted me to wait until after Christmas. Christmas vacation from school was soon coming up, so I agreed to do as my mother wanted.
I have always been happy that I did wait as my mother wanted. Christmas 1950 was the last Christmas I was to spend at home in Monson, Maine with my mother and father and my sisters and brothers. One thing I remember so clearly about that Christmas was Christmas Eve when I walked up to the Stanchfields with my sister Barbara. It was lightly snowing and when we left to walk home down Water Street, I had never seen at that time nor in all the years that have passed, a scene as beautiful as that night. The soft, large, powder snowflakes were just floating to the ground, and in the old-fashioned incandescent street lights it was a picture that has always stayed in my mind. To this day I can bring up that picture to my mind.
However, Christmas at home and beautiful snowstorms not withstanding, I could not wait to head for Bangor, Maine, to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. On 27 December 1950, I was able to do that. On that day I hitched a ride to Bangor with Mrs. Donahue from my hometown. She was going there to do after-Christmas shopping, I think. It had been snowing through the night and was still snowing that morning, with quite a bit on the ground. Nevertheless, Mrs. Donahue did not let that stop her from driving the 60 miles to Bangor. I was happy that she didn’t, as my one purpose at that time was to enlist in the Marine Corps and I did not want to waste time until I could do that.
Processing My Enlistment
The first thing I did when I got to Bangor was find the Recruiting Station. After talking to the Marine recruiters and listening to their sea stories about the Corps, I was convinced that I had chosen correctly as to the military organization to serve in. Of course, I had already made up my mind to be a U.S. Marine if I could pass all the tests that were required, so the recruiters did not have to try hard at all to convince me. And as for the tests I had to take, I had no doubts at all about being able to pass them.
Mrs. Donahue picked me up at the railroad station in Bangor later that day, and on the way home she asked me what I did in Bangor all day. Upon learning that I had enlisted in the Marine Corps, she told me that had she known that I was going to do that, she would have refused to give me a ride to Bangor. She thought that I was too young to go in the military and should stay home and go to school.
About a week later I received orders to report to the Recruiting Office in Portland, Maine, on January 8, 1951 for processing my enlistment. My father arranged a ride with his friend, Al Nasberg, to my brother Cameron’s home in Pittsfield so I could take the train to Portland on the 8th.
All of this taking place was all new to me. The farthest I had ever been away from home was to Norwood, Massachusetts. When I was 15 years old, aa buddy of mine from Pittsfield and I hitchhiked out there to see his sister on Patriots Day weekend. We had good rides with truck drivers, so it was an exciting time for me and there was never any danger or worry for us. Of course, my parents did not know I had done this until I got back to my sister’s house in Vassalboro, Maine. My older brother Donald was there and he went home and told my mother. I did get a talking to about that from my mother.
In Portland I stayed at a hotel (I forget which one) with a few other guys that were enlisting in the Corps and the Navy. The next day we all took the physicals and other tests for our entering into the chosen outfits. As I had figured, I passed all the exams they gave me and on that day, 9 January 1951, I became a Marine recruit. It was a happy day for me.
Two other guys that had enlisted chose the Marine Corps Reserve for their enlistment, but I had chosen to enlist for three years in the regular Marine Corps, so they put me in charge of the other two guys because of that choice while on our way by train to Parris Island, South Carolina. In other words, I was responsible for carrying the typed orders we had and that’s about all.
We had a stop and layover in Washington, D.C., and it gave us enough time to sightsee some of the historical sites. I went to the Smithsonian Museum and was amazed at all the things they had there. If I am not mistaken, at that time they had only the one building as the museum. All that I saw in D.C. was a wonder to this country boy’s eyes. Union Station was huge compared to the railroad station in Bangor.
Boot camp was at Parris Island, South Carolina. I have been trying to remember things that I haven’t thought about in a long time. I’m afraid that my memory of boot camp is very thin. I volunteered for the Marine Corps and was never sorry that I enlisted. I had asked for whatever came about. It was an experience that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss, but would not want to go through again. It was totally different than anything I had ever known.
Parris Island was a sandy island with a lot of blacktop for parade grounds. Some of the island had tropical vegetation. I remember that when we first got off the train a corporal started yelling at us to square away and fall in, and being a civilian with no real knowledge of the Marine Corps, I wondered to myself why he was yelling as he was. He had only two stripes. Well, I can tell you it was not long before I found out just how much authority those two stripes gave him at Parris Island. I remember being loaded in a small peanut roaster train and going across tracks that I could look out and see the water underneath with no land on either side. I don’t remember how we got to the building where we were assigned platoons and DIs. I was assigned to Platoon 24, 2nd Recruit Battalion.
My Senior Drill Instructor was Sergeant Allen, who I think was a World War II veteran. The Junior DI was Private First Class Love. Later on, Private First Class Jennings became one of our DIs also. I don’t think I came to really appreciate them, but I did come to understand why they were training us as they did.
Our days were controlled by the DIs and the schedule set out for them. We had reveille at 0500, I believe. Sometimes the DI would bang on the rack or the trash can to wake us up. Other times it was just yelling. We had time for head calls in the morning, then were marched to chow by the DI “Free” time was at night—I think it was about an hour (2100-2200) for showers, mail call, writing letters, and working on gear.
Our DIs were strict, but I never saw corporal punishment used. It was all part of training us to be “Marines.” It was and is a big part of the Marine Corps. I remember that I got in trouble once when I brushed an insect off my face while drilling. Sergeant Allen stopped the platoon and asked me my name. I turned my head to answer (mistake!) and he slapped me on the side of the head. No problem really—I learned. Usually punishment was individual, but there were times the platoon was disciplined for what one Boot did. Group punishment was usually holding a field day, which meant cleaning the barracks. I believe that punishing the group was a way to teach us that we were a team and that we depended on each other.
At the time I was there, I heard of a drill instructor at Parris Island that they called, "Lockerbox Jones." The boots gave him that name because he used to have his platoon doing the Manual of Arms with their locker boxes. Besides being pretty damned hard to hold because of the shape and size of the foot lockers, they were filled with most of the gear and clothes issued to each recruit. I heard that Lockerbox got caught during one of those drills and was later reduced in rank. I think he was a Staff Sergeant at the time and lost that rank, but I don't know how many stripes he lost. I never knew him personally.
Boot camp was ten weeks, and during that time we learned Marine Corps history and traditions and how to perform as a team. We were taught weapons—especially the M-1 rifle. (No matter what MOS, every Marine is a rifleman.) We were taught trooping and stomping (close order drill) and bayonet drill. We also saw films—mostly about weapons and personal hygiene.
Food in the chow hall was the usual food that everyone has. At one meal we had steak, and the reason I remember it as I do is because I had a piece of the steak stuck in my throat. I couldn’t swallow it or get it back up. I was choking and from what I was told afterwards by one of the recruits at the table, I was turning blue. One of the guys at the table noticed my problem and then the recruit sitting next to me gave me a huge whack on my back and that popped the piece of steak out of my throat--and all of the other food I had eaten also, all over the table. But the rest of the recruits kept on eating. Also the reason I remember it so well is that it was the only time I saw a DI show concern in the way he did. Sergeant Allen must have seen what happened because he came over and brought a piece of white cake and a glass of milk for me. He told me, "Eat that. It will make you feel better." That was what I had for that meal that day. I appreciated the concern that Sergeant Allen showed to me.
We went to church, but the DIs left us alone until we were outside. Some of the other recruits and I went to Bible classes at the Chapel with whoever the Chaplain was at that time. The DI, Sergeant Allen, told me that I was not getting out of any training by going to Bible classes and I didn't. He and Pfc. Love always had something for me to do to make up for the time. At that time in the military no one could stop a man from going to see the Chaplain or going to church. Actually, I believe they encouraged it. The Bible classes led to me being baptized, as I was not sure if I had been when I was a kid. It was full emersion by the Baptist chaplain in the swimming pool at Parris Island.
We played organized sports (we called it "grabass"), which was playing football with a makeshift football made from a boxing glove. We got to see a couple of movies during boot camp. We sat on outside benches to watch the movies. What they were, I don't remember. We also got to go to the PX--one time, I think it was. But all we could buy was essentials like toothpaste, shaving cream, razors, writing paper, and that sort of items. No candy or ice cream. The next time we got to see the PX was after we had finished boot training.
During boot camp I met a Marine that to this day has been and is my closest buddy, Neil A. Sigler from Lucy, Tennessee (Memphis area). He joined Platoon 24 after it had been formed, but I don’t remember what week it was. He had been injured in December, had been in the hospital, and had been given leave over Christmas. When he came back off leave, they assigned him to Platoon 24 to finish his boot camp training. Actually, considering the time required at that time to complete boot camp, he did double the time required. I found out he was a Reservist called to active duty, but had not gone through boot camp. I don’t remember why we became friends there, but we did--which was something in itself, as he was a Southerner and I was a Yankee. He once told me that he was 13 years old before he knew Damn and Yankee were two different words.
When I was in boot camp it was the usual thing for recruits who lived east of the Mississippi River to take their initial training at Parris Island and for those living west of the Mississippi to be trained in San Diego, California. There was only one black recruit in boot camp at Parris Island. I did not notice prejudice against him.
There were some that didn’t make it through boot camp, but I don’t know why. I think one guy was sent home because his brother had been killed in action in Korea. That’s what I heard, but I don’t know if it was true or untrue. For those of us who made it, there was a graduation ceremony on the parade ground at the end of boot camp. I did not participate because I was on fire watch in the barracks that day.
Home on Leave
After we graduated boot we were transferred to another barracks to wait for our orders and leave papers. Sergeant Allen brought all the candy and whatever else had been sent to the members of Platoon 24, and if we donated $1.00 to the Red Cross we could have the candy and the rest. He also brought in a sewing machine so we could sew up the top of our piss-cutters (our caps), even though I found out later that it was against the rules. I got a ten-day leave—three days travel each way and four days at home.
I think I left boot camp feeling like a Marine. For one thing, I had gained about 20 pounds and it was not fat. But everything was so new to me that I don’t think I really felt it until I got home and some of the people at home called me “Marine.” I think then was when I realized that I had changed in a few short weeks and was no longer the person I was before I enlisted. I saw many things differently—even myself. Strange as it seems, I felt free—even though I still was only 17, I began feeling like an adult. I was no longer a schoolboy. I wore my uniform. I was proud as hell to wear it. Some of the people in my hometown commented on the fact that I was a Marine. It was a good thing to be recognized as a “Marine” and not as just one of the school kids!
The Principal of Monson Academy at that time was Mr. Blood, and when I visited school while on boot leave, he had a chat with me. He asked me why I hadn't told him I was enlisting in the Marine Corps when I quit school at Christmas vacation. I told him that I knew he would try to talk me out of enlisting, and he agreed that he would have. Mr. Blood had been a Marine Aviator during World War II and I knew that, so he would have had knowledge of what I was volunteering for. Miss Gott, my typing/bookkeeping teacher, tried to talk me out of quitting and would not accept my books that I wanted to turn in before I left. She wanted me to return to school after the vacation as she did not know that I was going to enlist either.
Tent Camp 2
After my leave I went back to Parris Island by bus. The Corps then flew us to Camp Pendleton at Oceanside, California. I remember the airplane trip because the plane lost an engine. When it quit we had to stop at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. We had three days of open gate liberty. The Air Force guys were pretty good to us. The food was great there, too. At that time, sitting at tables that would accommodate only four people and being able to go through the chow line more than once and taking extra ice cream was a real good thing for Marines who had just finished boot camp. At chow in boot camp, we were told to take all we wanted, but eat all we took because there was no seconds and no waste of food from throwing it in the garbage.
At Camp Pendleton we were assigned to companies, platoons, and tent camps. I was assigned to Tent Camp 2 and began training. Some of our instructors were World War II veterans who had been called back with the Reserves when the Korean War broke out. They taught us infantry tactics in daytime, as well as night problems. It was too long ago for me to remember our schedules, but I remember that we learned infantry tactics, both in the classroom and by doing it in the field using weapons, etc.
I think infantry training was eight weeks. All training was on the base and we had most weekends and some nights free. One Saturday I had to climb Ol’ Smoky, a hill next to the company area, because my Platoon Sergeant didn’t think I had washed my mess gear clean enough. In order to do that, he made me climb that hill and wash my mess gear in the sand at the top. It was another learning experience for this young country boy. I missed cold weather training. Being from Maine, I don’t think I needed it anyway!
During the infantry training at Pendleton, I knew my mother had relatives that lived in San Pedro, so the first weekend I had liberty I asked my buddy Neil Sigler to go with me to see if we could find them. After getting to Long Beach we found the right bus to San Pedro and we walked some also to find the address. When I knocked on the door I noticed it was barred and had a small eye hole for the residents to see out. We sure had to prove who we were before the door was opened. After they found out who we were, Walter and Jessie Stevenson were very gracious and seemed happy to meet us. They welcomed us with open arms. Jessie was a cousin of my mother, and they had not seen each other since they were kids. Also on Sunday another cousin of my mother, Eva, came down from Alhambra to meet us. She brought me a prayer book for the military and I appreciated that.
Sunday night Neil and I headed back to Long Beach to catch a bus back to Camp Pendleton. While waiting for the bus we went to explore what they called, “The Pike” there in Long Beach. The Pike was like the main fairway at a country fair—shooting galleries, baseball throwing at metal bottles and that sort of thing. After checking out all that, I spotted the Majestic Ballroom. Back in those days I always enjoyed dancing, although I was not very good at it. I did not follow my buddy Neil’s advice and stay out of the place. It was at that time that I met my future children’s mother. We danced a few times and I enjoyed her company, so on weekends when I went to San Pedro I stopped at the Ballroom and dance with her until I had to get on the bus for the base. Neil at that time found other places to explore and I do not know where he spent his liberty hours.
During Advanced Infantry Training at Tent Camp 2 in 1951, we went to 15 Area, I think it was called, to do some training over a pool of water. It was a big swimming pool with a 30 or 40-foot tower at one end and from the tower there was a heavy rope strung to the other end of the pool. I think it was an Olympic-sized pool. We had to move down that rope using our arms, hands and feet while wearing full field transport pack--which, of course, included our M1 rifles. The objective was to get to the other end of the rope and pool without dropping in the water. I was able to complete the move down that rope without falling into the pool. A few of the Marines didn't. It was matter of having enough strength in your arms and legs to hang off that rope as you slid your body down the angle of it. It was a lot of weight your arms and legs were holding up with the pack and rifle hanging off your shoulders.
Not too long after getting to Tent camp 2 we were taken on a forced march in the boonies. We were allowed one canteen of water. The reason for the hike was teaching water conservation. They marched us up a small brook that was running over rocks and gravel and sand. They told us that the brook was contaminated, so we were not to drink any of the water. I kept looking at the water in that brook and saw how clear it was, so being a country boy from Maine and having used water from brooks and streams many times when thirsty, I knew that water was not contaminated. It ran over too much gravel and sand to be contaminated. When we had a break in the hike, I emptied the bad water from my canteen and after tasting the brook water I filled my canteen. Yes, I went against orders and there was no excuse for it. I should have had my butt kicked. But luckily nothing came of it and the water was good. It took me awhile to accept the changes in my life that being in the Marine Corps forced on me at that time, but I do not remember any other orders I failed to follow during that training.
At another time frame at Tent Camp 2, we were out in the field holding day and night problems. They always brought our food and water out to us. The water was in big metal tank--I think their name for it was a Water Buffalo. The water was always warm and had a bad taste to it. One evening we had no infantry problems to run so we were just enjoying not having to be snooping and pooping through the area. We were close to a dry river bed. Beautiful white sand covered that river bed and someone got the idea to dig for fresh water in it. Probably a half dozen of us began digging with our entrenching tools. It was easy digging, but the sand kept sliding back in. When we got down to about three feet, we did hit some water. We let the hole fill a while and then figured a way to strain the sand from the water by using some netting we had. It did have a better taste and was cooler, but it was not the best water I ever had.
Trip to Korea
We were shipped to Korea aboard the USNS General William Weigal APA. I think I was in King Company of the 10th Replacement Draft. We left San Diego on 18 June 1951. I did not get seasick, but spent the first three days above deck as much as I could. The chow did not seem that great at all. During the trip someone got hold of big cans of pears. I never did know who had been able to do that, but I was given, I think, a # 10 can of pears and I ate most of them. I got to feeling pretty bad after eating so many pears. Most of the Marines in my area also had their own, so that was why I was able to not share them. I really don’t care for canned pears much even now.
We stopped at Yokohama to disembark the Army troops and then went to Yokosuka. Japan. There we had liberty. We were there two days, I think. The first day on inspection by the Company 1st Sergeant I was restricted to the ship because I hadn’t shaved that morning. I guess that even though I did not need to, he figured I should have. Staying aboard ship while some of my buddies went on liberty was a real depressing thing to have to do. I was given liberty the next day though, and I thoroughly enjoyed my first time on the shores of Japan. It was an education on many things that I had never known existed when I was back home in Maine. And it was good thing that I had a couple buddies who I went on liberty with because we all got each other back to the ship on time after we stopped at the Enlisted Men's Club to get something to eat after having too much to drink.
First Weeks in Korea
I think the next day we left for Pusan, Korea, and, if I remember correctly, we pulled in to the dock in Pusan on the fourth day (July 4th, I think). I saw the hill--I think it was on the port side of the dock above the town, and I thought then, "I wonder if they get higher up north?" Later on I found out that they sure did.
We spent a couple days in Pusan, waiting for assignment to our outfits that were up north fighting the enemy. The best thing I saw in Pusan was the Red Cross club. I heard the Marines were not supposed to go there, but we would sneak through the fence and go to have coffee and freshly-made doughnuts. The time I went there I never saw anyone make any Marine leave. They had a book there to sign, so I did. Looking through it I saw a Marine’s name from Guilford, Maine. He was Dick Hussy, who I knew. I heard he had fought at the Chosen.
I was flown north along with other Marines on a DC-3 or a C47. I am not sure which it was, but it had canvas seats that ran on each side of the fuselage. I believe I joined my new outfit. Charley Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, on line on the 7th of July. I don’t remember the platoon leader’s name, as he transferred about a week later due to an emergency at home in the USA. My squad leader was Sergeant Andrews. The guys in the squad told me that he had been at the Pusan Perimeter and the Chosen. They referred to him as an “Original”, so I figured he had come to Korea with the Brigade. He was a World War II veteran. My fire team leader was Cpl. Dale Foland from Ohio, and one other guy I remember, Buddy Powell from Alabama, was in that fire team.
I was a new man so I was assigned the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR). It was not unexpected--it was just the way things were done, so I accepted that and kept my mouth shut simply because who was I to say anything to these Marines that had been through combat from the Chosen, through the winter of 1950-51, the Spring Offensive, and summer combat (June) operations of 1951? I was just a Boot Marine, and knew it.
I think it was a week or so after I joined Charley Company that we were pulled off line and went back in Reserve, but I do not know the name of that area. We were set up in some old rice paddies that were dry and had five or six-foot walls between them. Paths were on top of these walls, and there was also a river that we were allowed to swim in.
One night around 0200 or so I was awakened by the weather. We were in shelter halves, and the rain was beating down on the tent. I realized that my air mattress was floating when I put my hand out to lift myself up to get off the mattress. It seemed like there was about six inches of water already on the ground in that old rice paddy. I got my gear together and headed for the Korean house that I knew was not far away to get out of the flooded paddy. I got there, but a lot of Marines ahead of me had the same idea. I managed to find a place to lay down and get back to sleep.
During that time in Reserve I had my first mail call since I left the States, I received a letter from a friend I had gone to school with, telling me of the marriage of the girl I left behind. Strange as it may seem, a week before I received that letter I had had a dream that that event had taken place. In that dream I saw everyone who attended that wedding. The only face I could not see was the bridegroom. I was not surprised, as she had sent me a Dear John while I was in boot camp. And even though we had written to each other after I went to Camp Pendleton, the letters changed nothing from the letter I had received at Parris Island.
I don’t remember a lot about that time in that Reserve area. I know we had training and also recreation time. We were able to swim in the river in that area, but I have no idea of the name of that river or what the area was called.
I don’t remember how long we stayed in Reserve. It might have been until around the middle of August. S/Sgt. William Noe joined our Company and became our Platoon Sergeant just before we made the move to a new location, I think. 1st Lieutenant Guy Reed Cassell Sr. became our Platoon Leader sometime just before that. Lieutenant Cassell (1923-2001) was a World War II veteran from West Virginia. I think he was a Reserve officer that got activated before he came to Charley Company.
I remember that when we left that area to relieve a Korean Army outfit on line, it was rainy, miserable weather. It was a long hike on a muddy road and over swollen rivers, and my field transport pack, the BAR and the BAR ammo, helmet and whatever other gear I had became even heavier with all the rain soaking it. It was an all-day hike as I remember it, and it was slow going. I think we got to the new area around 1600 or 1700 that day, but by the time we had moved into our new positions on the hill it was around midnight. It was a miserable day and night of rain, wet clothes, and no fires. In the morning we were out patrolling the area to make sure the area was secure. Wet clothes, wet boots, and everything damp from the rain of the past few days made it very uncomfortable. The sun was a welcome sight that day. I didn’t know it at the time, but the hills out to our front across that valley and river were 673 and 749--hills that we were to assault and occupy in the first part of September.
I am not sure how long Charley Company stayed in that location, but we did patrols into the valley in front of our positions. Some patrols got hit in that valley, but we never did. I think also at the time, we went out on Company outpost in front of the MLR. I remember some Koreans came out there to search for the buried dead from other combat that must have happened before, and all week long that’s all I could smell. Even my food tasted of that terrible smell.
I am not sure of the date now, but the Company was replaced and we moved off the hill down to the road at the roadblock location. The enemy had that road block zeroed in, as we soon began receiving incoming rounds from their 76s. I remember watching a Marine driver of a jeep coming up the road jump out and try to get cover under his jeep. The jeep kept rolling back down the incline of the road, and he crawled with it. It did look funny, but it was not really a laughing matter. Somehow the jeep and the driver got around the corner and out of danger.
Another thing that has stayed in my mind is watching from behind one of the bunkers of the roadblock where I was taking cover as a Marine came walking up that road. There was an explosion and he had just disappeared. He was hit by an incoming round from the North Koreans. Even then I wondered if I actually saw that happen, for it was instantaneous. All these years later I still wonder.
I don’t remember where Charley Company went after that, as I am not sure of the date that took place. We had patrolled the valley out in front of us and other outfits had sent out patrols also. The patrols I was on did not get hit by the enemy, but other patrols did receive enemy fire.
Charley Company's Turn
It was on September 11, 1951 that Charley Company moved out to join Able and Baker Companies in assaulting Hill 673. Most of that day Charley Company sat down beside the river that ran through the valley. Around 1500 we moved out, crossed the river, and moved up the trail to 673. We were stopped on the trail that lead to 673 waiting for orders as to where we were going. Standing there my position got uncomfortable, so I moved up the trail a step to take the weight off my left foot. Just as I moved, the small tree that I had been standing next to was cut off. If I had not moved, I would have been hit in my right leg just below my hip, so it was a lucky day for me.
That night S/Sgt. Noe and some of the squad members (Don Arnett was one of them and maybe Ackerman, too) got hit by a shrapnel from a land mine. The others were behind Noe when they hit a trip wire. Noe's left leg was hit and Arnett had small shrapnel up and down his front. I was further back, but got up there and with another Marine of our squad helped S/Sgt. Noe back to where the Corpsman could give him medical treatment. I don’t remember who the other Marine was and have always wished I could remember. It was a hectic time there on that hill that night. My fire team leader at that time was Cpl. Dale Foland from Ohio. Corporal Powell had left to be 1st Lieutenant Cassell's runner. Every platoon leader had what they called a runner back then. He was supposed to carry messages back and forth for the platoon leader.
Coming back up the trail after helping Noe, I saw two or three Charley Company Marines on the trail taking care of a Marine laying beside the trail. He had lost his left foot and I think it was from the same action that had wounded S/Sgt. Noe and Arnett. I talked to the wounded Marine and found out that he was Steve Milinac from New Jersey. Around 1999 I saw his name on a veteran’s website and recognized it. I called him and found out that he was living in Vermont at the time. We had a nice chat and he was surprised that I remembered him. I had planned on going to see him, but just never got to do that. There was no real reason I didn’t--it was something I didn’t do. When I went to the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine reunion in Branson, Missouri in 2001, I found out that he had died from cancer. I was saddened to learn of his death.
Charley Company's Turn Part 2
The next day, September 12, 1951, Charley Company had its turn securing 673. Lieutenant Cassell was talking with a 2nd Lieutenant that had come up from Division a few days before, and Corporal Foland was standing just to the right and a little behind them. I was standing to the left and a little behind Foland when I saw his canteen get hit. Foland thought he had been hit, as the water in his canteen wet his backside and the strike of the slug probably made it feel like he had been hit. But the bullet hit his canteen and went around the seam on it and out the bottom, and did not touch him. It was a lucky thing for Foland.
Lieutenant Cassell sent Corporal Foland and his fire team (I was one of the men) out on the right flank to check the enemy bunkers to make sure they were not occupied. We found no enemy in them, so came back to our lines. While on the way back, we stopped in the middle of the front slope of the hill and a Marine from Weapons Platoon with a rocket launcher fired a round through the aperture of the top enemy bunker. Our fire team was suddenly caught in the middle of a crossfire from our automatic weapons and the enemy's. It didn’t last long, but it seemed like a long time to me. I remember wishing that I could pull my helmet down over my body. Then the firing stopped suddenly and Foland ordered us back to our lines. Even with the BAR and BAR ammo belt I was carrying I was not far behind Foland getting back to the safety of our lines and fighting holes.
The hole in the ground I found was very shallow, but I could lay down full length in it, so I began digging it deeper as I lay there watching branches of the trees that had escaped the artillery and bombing of the hill being broken off by the firing of weapons from the enemy at the top of the hill. I also watched a Marine Corsair as it dove on the hill dropping a bomb on the ridgeline. It looked like it was coming straight down on top of me and the other Marines in my outfit. I have never forgotten the sight of that Corsair diving for the strike on that hill. That pilot was a good one, as he gave us close air support--a Marine Corps special ability. Later on in my time in Korea I watched the Corsairs as they made airstrikes against the enemy lines, so I could imagine what the enemy was feeling watching those planes strafing and dropping rockets on them.
The word was passed to move out because we were going into the assault to secure the hill. I kept telling myself that I was not going anywhere--I was going to stay in that hole. But I got up, got my gear (ammo belt and ammo) on, and proceeded to move with the other Marines in the fire team up the trail to do my job as BARman in the fire team. I don’t remember the names of the guys from that time , and wish I could , but I can still see their faces and I do not have to close my eyes, their faces are etched in my memory for all time, they were Marines and I was proud to be one of them.
Lieutenant Cassell and Corporal Powell were ahead of Corporal Foland and the fire team on the trail. Powell had a slug go through his trouser leg at the knee, but it did not hit his leg. A lucky day for him. Lieutenant Cassell told us to move across to the center and right flank of the hill, which we did. We then proceeded to fire on the gooks in the bunkers at the top of the hill. A Marine from Connecticut was hit in the wrist when he pointed out one of the gooks at the top. Foland was also hit that afternoon and was sent back to the rear. I was hit by a piece of fallen shrapnel in the leg, but not bad enough to be sent back to the rear. I tried to pick that shrapnel up, but it burned my fingers it was so hot. As a matter of fact, no one would have known I got hit had it not been for a kid from Indiana who saw it happen. The next day when we were moving off the hill, he told Lieutenant Cassell.
We secured the hill that afternoon around 1500, I think. About the time we secured 673, we heard weapons firing to our left. We were told it was 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines assaulting Hill 749. I believe they secured their objective that afternoon also. I remember seeing Lt. Eddie Le Baron (quarterback for Washington Red Skins 1952-59 and the Dallas Cowboys in Texas) as we moved up the trail. He was a platoon leader in either Able or Baker Company. He was to our left, walking back and forth upright and in full view, encouraging his Marines. He was hit twice while in Korea and received the Bronze Star. I knew who he was because back in reserve I had been on a detail he had been in charge of, setting up a boxing ring and other recreation areas for the Battalion.
I remember that as we were moving up the hill after it was secured, on the ground near the top, facing the bottom of the hill, was a Marine who had been killed in action during the firefight. I remember seeing small holes in his ears, figuring it to be caused by the shrapnel from the grenades that the gooks had thrown at him. I believe the Marine was Sgt. Frederick W. Mausert from Baker Company, but I do not know that for sure. Sergeant Mausert was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on 673.
Lieutenant Cassell sent four of us out to check the bunkers that ran along the ridgeline to make sure they were clear of gooks. At the point where the ridgeline began to run up to the higher ridgeline that ran from left to right of the one we were on, one of the guys spotted some gooks on the ridgeline setting up a machine gun. We laid down some rifle fire on them, chasing them back up over the ridgeline. They did get off a couple rounds, so I sent one of the guys in to see if Lieutenant Cassell wanted us to stay out there. We were supposed to set up a listening post, but Lieutenant Cassell told us to come back to the position we had on 673--which we did. Around 0300 the morning of September 13, we were relieved by the 1st Marines. I am not sure what Company or Battalion we were relieved by, but I was happy to get off that hill. It was daylight before we really got off the hill and we were sent back in Regimental Reserve.
There were 14 Marines left in the 1st Platoon, including one sergeant who was in the rear during the action and our Platoon Leader, Lieutenant Cassel. We had a rifle inspection that day, but it was more of Marines following orders than a real inspection. We had not had time to clean the weapons. Of course they were in real need of being cleaned, and they did get cleaned. That evening Lieutenant Cassell and Lieutenant Dixon of the Weapons Platoon came to our squad tent and brought their whiskey ration to share it with us. Lieutenant Cassell was the finest officer I ever had the privilege to serve under during my years in the Marine Corps. He always took care of his Marines, even after he had left us as Platoon Leader.
Remainder of 1951
During that time in reserve, Corporal Powell became fire team leader, and he was a good one. On the road coming down to the reserve area there was a pass between where the hills on either side of the road met, and we had a roadblock at that pass. I spent quite a few days up there on guard duty, especially at night, in case the gooks tried to infiltrate behind the MLR. A Marine from Maine by the name of Bill McLaughlin was in Charley Company also, and he stood duty there at the roadblock, too. This was in September after Hill 673.
I am not sure the date that we went back on line. I think it was the first part of October, but that is not for sure. I believe we went back up in the Punchbowl area to the MLR. Korea was beginning to have cool nights--typical fall nights, and we could sit up on the hill and watch some of the enemy moving along the bottom of the hill as they began coming in to surrender. One night one of the Marines at the end of the MLR that tied in with the next outfit across that valley went out in front of the wire and brought a North Korean soldier into his bunker. He kept him there until daylight, forgetting to take his weapon from him. At daylight he brought the North Korean up to the Company CP.
It was during this time that we were sent into the valley to plant landmines. We got hit with incoming--mortars mostly, and they were quite accurate. We also some small arms fire. Cpt. J.F. McMahon was wounded, but stayed with the Company. He was awarded a Silver Star for his actions later on in March before we moved to the west of Korea.
I never had a problem with mail. My mother always wrote to me and my father wrote three letters to me while I was in Korea. To me, that was a lot of mail from him. He wrote more serious than my mother. She always wrote a lot of silly stuff to me as she had done to my brothers in World War II. I know that she was trying to write me words that would keep me thinking positive and did not ever tell me any of the problems they had at home. Before I went to Baker Company as a fill-in for a machine gun squad, I got a package from my mother. In it she included some Bangor Daily News, a paper published in Bangor, Maine, and distributed throughout Maine. At one time or another most of my brothers and sisters and I had delivered the Bangor Daily News in our hometown of Monson, Maine. I wrote back to my mother, thanking her for the goodies and telling her it was good to make a cup of coffee in the morning and then read the Bangor Daily News. too. I guess she gave that bit of news to the writer for the paper from our area, and that got printed in the paper, too.
One of the Marines in Charley Company, Andrews, was from Florida, I think. (I don't remember his first name.) I heard he received a Silver Star for his actions on Hill 673. He received a box of cigars every week from his father back in the States and he shared them with the other men. They were HavaTampa cigars and the bigger Havana cigars as well.
A bunch of us Marines in Charley Company wrote to a Hollywood studio to get some pictures of the stars. I was sent a picture of Janet Leigh, the one I asked for. I still have that picture in my gear somewhere. Back in those days, I thought she was one of the prettiest women in movies. But my all-time favorite movie star was (and still is) Joan Leslie. I saw her in the movie, Hollywood Canteen, and fell in love with her. That was in 1944, and I was 11 years old.
Some of us in Charley Company also wrote to the Los Angeles Mirror asking for pen pals to write to us. We did receive mail from our request to the LA paper. I received a whole bunch of letters from a lot of different folks in California. Every mail call after our request appeared in that paper, I always received 15 or more letters. Another Marine from New Jersey was in the same category with the mail he received also. I answered every letter that I received and, of course, I got more mail. Some only wrote that one time, but many of them kept writing all the time I was in Korea. I don't remember all that I heard from, but I was thankful to those folks that took the time to write. It made the time so much easier.
A pair of brothers, Dennis and Walter Winchell, wrote to me. I think they were about 9 or 10. They lived in California, but I forget the town. Their mother often wrote a note on their letters, and eventually I was writing to her along with the boys. They were some nice letters and I enjoyed them. At Christmas time 1951, I received a full box of Powerhouse Candy Bars from them. It was really appreciated.
I also heard from an older lady from Lawndale, California. She saw that I was from Maine and she told me she also was from Maine originally. I received many letters from her. I also wrote to and received letters from a lady in Alhambra, California. By chance, one day I met her brother, who was in the Army. He was the Lieutenant in charge of the rocket section that was set up the day I came back from the showers in January 1952.
Replacement in Baker Company
Later after that action they needed replacements over at Baker Company, so I volunteered to go there. They assigned me to a light .30 machine gun with three other Marines. The machine gun was set up on a path that ran down to the valley. While filling in for Baker Company, we did not have to go on patrols. On day one of the patrols of Baker Company Marines came up that path and had a North Korean Army lieutenant colonel with them. We were told they had captured him. He walked up there like he was just observing the area as if he was in his own area. Maybe he got tired of war and as cold weather was coming and maybe food was going to be scarce for them, he decided to just give it up. I don’t know that to be true though. Just my thoughts about it.
One night I was in the bunker in my sleeping bag after getting off watch when some dirt began falling on me from above my head. Lighting the candle, I turned my head to the bunker roof behind my head and I was face to face with a medium-sized Korean rat. We stared at each other for few seconds and then the dirt gave way and he landed right in the middle of my sleeping bag. I grabbed my .45 and swung at him with it, but he was faster. He jumped to the bottom of the bunker space and ran up on the shelter half we had strung on the inside of the roof in case of leaks during rainy weather. I tried hitting him with the .45, as I was sure not going to try to shoot him. It would have busted my eardrums and scared the hell out of the men on watch. I missed that rat--he was too fast. He found his way outside through the side aperture of the bunker. We had it blocked off with a board, but he got out beside it. I was very happy to see him gone.
Marine Corps Birthday
While being a replacement for Baker Company I spent the Marine Corps Birthday there. They brought birthday cake up to us on line. Marines never forgot their birthday (when the Corps was founded) and where they came from. Also there I met a Marine from Spokane, Washington. His last name was Erickson (perhaps spelled Ericson). I don’t remember his first name. I wish I did because we became good friends. When I got home in September of 1952, I had a letter from a few of the guys in Charley Company. To my everlasting regret I did not follow up on the letters. I still regret that so very much.
We went back in Battalion Reserve the first part of November I believe, and finally got to shower and shave. It took me a full package of blades to get my beard off, as they had let us grow our beards while on line. Ericson came looking for me at the tent and when he saw me he said I looked ten years younger. At the time I was only 18, so that was funny. We also got a beer ration while in reserve. I think it was eight cans per week. Of course, some men didn’t drink and some bought the other men’s ration. It was $1 per ration. We had an Irish kid in our outfit. He was born in Ireland and was still fighting the war in Ireland. I know that he was against the Black and the Tan as he used to say, “To Hell with the Black and Tan.” He also said that he joined the Marine Corps so he could wear his greens on St. Patrick’s Day. He bought a few of the rations from the other men, got drunk, and began throwing rocks at the Colonel’s tent. So from then on while in reserve we got two cans of beer per day. We were no longer able to buy more than our own ration, and there was no hiding any for later.
That was the time we were told to fall out in formation and were issued Purple Hearts and other medals to be awarded. I sent my Purple Heart home to my parents later on with the help of my buddy Neil Sigler.
I am not positive about when we went back on line at that time, but I know we did. Then in December we were back in Regimental Reserve at Camp Tripoli. We were there for Christmas of 1951. We saw Paul Douglas, Jan Sterling, Keith Andes, and some other Hollywood folks for our USO Christmas show. It was a good show and I enjoyed it.
We had to do patrolling while at Tripoli, and during one patrol I made we waded in snow close to knee deep. It was not any fun and I was glad we didn’t find any of the enemy. When I came back from the patrol I was going to play some blackjack with some of the other guys in the tent, although normally I did not play card games. I never knew how actually. I had left my wallet rolled up in my sleeping bag when I went on patrol because I didn’t want to carry it with me as I had drawn $100 from my pay, planning on sending $85 home for Christmas to my parents. My wallet was still there, but the money was gone. I was some pissed off and let it be known that if I found the thief I would beat the shit out of him, but I never did find that person. Even worse was a Marine stealing from another Marine. It was not a good day after that. I took that as an omen and never played cards during the time I was in the Corps.
We went back on line in January, but I am not sure of the exact date. We were up there for quite some time until one day in February the gooks decided to wake up, I guess . We got quite a barrage of mortars. Our side had brought a tank up on line further down the line on the lower part of the hill, and we were told they were trying to hit that tank. It was quite a distance from my position, so I figured they wanted to hit us all, not just the tank.
One night we were told to head for cover as we were in the target area of an airstrike, a bombing run by planes. A little earlier we had seen a plane flying in a circle around the area dropping flares and we wondered what was going on. The word was passed that we were about to get bombed. It was not too long after that when the word was passed that they had contacted whoever was in command of the flight and it was aborted. I was happy about that, as I didn’t think any of our bunkers would withstand American bombs.
While occupying those hills at that time, members of my platoon were sent on a patrol at night to place food close enough to the enemy lines to entice them to surrender. It was a hard patrol--knee deep snow all the way and cold. We did what we were sent to do and got back to our lines without any problems. I don’t know if any of the enemy surrendered or not. I never saw any of them while on that MLR.
At one point they set up showers back in the rear and a certain number of us at a time were able to go back there for a shower and clean clothes. It was a real gift to be able to do that, as we had been on line quite some time and were pretty grungy. Coming back from my time to shower, we had to wait to get up our positions because an Army unit was setting to fire rockets. That was quite a display to watch from behind them, but then the gooks fired back with mortars, as I remember it.
In February we were sent back in Battalion Reserve. We were set up at the head of a valley to the left side. There was Army artillery set up in that valley and they used tanks set on bulldozed dirt ramps for the artillery, so at times it was not too quiet there. We had training as usual, as all Marine Corps outfits did. The training was never done. I found out that the Marine engineers were set up back of the Army unit and that it was my buddy Neil Sigler’s outfit. So one sunny day I decided to go see him. I made one mistake on that. I did not get permission from my Platoon Leader, 2nd Lieutenant Butler. I made a second mistake by bunking overnight at my buddy's outfit. I missed roll call in the morning, and when I got back to my outfit Lieutenant Butler let me know he was not happy with me. I ended up on a detail of burning out the heads that were used, along with other small details that were punishment for failing to follow the rules. Lieutenant Butler took me off those details after three days though because he thought I was enjoying them too much. So I went back to regular training with the platoon.
I think that it was also in February that they moved us up to behind the MLR and then made a big deal about moving off the lines trying to convince the gooks we were pulling back in an operation called "Operation Clam-up." On page 242 of Volume 4 of the official account of Marine Operations in Korea, East Central front, it describes the operation in detail. But for me, as I remember it was the fact that they moved us up to the MLR and made a big show of the troops moving off line , trying to make the enemy believe we were pulling all troops offline. That was my idea of it. According to the official account, it was done all along the complete MLR and it happened over a five-day period. I think it just gave the enemy five days to rebuild and resupply, but then I am not an authority on the results of any action in Korea. This took place around the 10th of February 1952, according to the official account.
I forget how long we stayed in Battalion Reserve after that, but we did go back up on line. I think that was the time we were flown up to occupy our positions by helicopter. It sure beat walking. If I remember correctly, they took eight Marines and our gear at a time. Of course, there was more than one helicopter. On page 241 of the same volume of Marine Operations in Korea, the official account of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines being airlifted by helicopters of the HMR 161 to Hill 884 to relieve the 2nd Battalion of the 7th Marines is described as "Operation Rotate". I mentioned this operation before in my memoir, although I did not know it had an official name. This Hill 884 is the same hill we had to hike off in March after waiting all day until 1900 for helicopters to fly us off. The book says they were having mechanical troubles with the choppers at that time also, so maybe that was why they could not fly us off the hill.
In March we were notified that we were going back to Camp Tripoli and we were to be taken off the hill by chopper. It never happened. We waited until about 1900 that evening for the choppers, but they never came so we walked off the hill. We hadn’t been issued C-rations for that day, so we were all hungry. I swapped a wristwatch for a couple of small bags of Korean crackers with one of the KSC workers that brought our supplies up to us. They tasted very good and it was enough to stop me from being hungry for a while.
It was about midnight or close to 0100 that the Platoon leader and Platoon Sergeant left our right guide in charge of us. He was a Buck Sergeant. They went to find out where we were supposed to go to pick up transportation. We kept moving off the hill, but then we got out our sleeping bags and tried to get some rest. I did get some sleep, but not much, as I wanted to stay aware of what was going on around me. It was when I saw the Platoon Sergeant booting some of the guys sound asleep in their sleeping bags that I figured we were in trouble. I had already rolled up my sleeping bag before and I was wide awake. The Platoon Sergeant moved us off the hill and we finally got to where we got on trucks, but not before we got our butts chewed by the Platoon Leader, Lieutenant Roberts.
Back at Camp Tripoli we found out the whole Division was being moved to the western sector of Korea. I am not sure how long we stayed at Tripoli--a week or two maybe. I really don’t remember. Then one day I found myself riding in that amphibious vehicle, the DUK. It was not a comfortable ride, but they let us get down under the hatch in the front to get some warmth from the engine, I think it was. During the ride we passed an Army convoy going the opposite direction. A couple of the guys jumped on one of the trucks and lifted a couple boxes off the truck. It was C-rations, and we all enjoyed some of that.
Pak Yon Mo
During the time we went back in Reserve at Camp Tripoli back in December of 1951, I met a young Korean boy, about 16, by the name of Pak Yon Mo. He used to take our clothes to the women at the river to be washed. He was one of the Korean Service Corps (KSC) workers--the South Koreans that used to bring our supplies up to us on line. He and I got to be friends as we were not far apart in age. Whenever he brought back the clothes, I always made sure he got paid--at least from me, and I kept him in cigarettes and other things like candy if I had it. I have a picture of him that he gave me at the time, and I have always wondered what happened in his future. I met up with him again when we returned to Camp Tripoli in 1952, just before the 1st Marine Division moved to the western sector of Korea.
Final Weeks in Korea
I am not sure where we ended up setting up the new area. Most of the time I did not know the names of any places, if they had a name at all. But it was here that John D. Kelly joined Charley Company. He ended up in the same platoon that I was in. He was a good guy--a big tall man. He told me that he had a professional basketball contract back in the States before he was drafted. I never did know which team he was going to play for. The reason I mention Kelly is because he borrowed my writing tablet for some letters one time, and on the cover he wrote his name and then, “I got f-----."
It was at this area that three of us who had come over in the 10th Replacement Draft (Ackerman, Arnett, and Brown) asked for a transfer out of the Company to the rear. The 1st Sergeant said that he would see what he could do. At that time he also told us that it took him 27 months to make Corporal and it was going to take us the same. I don’t know about Arnett and Ackerman, but he was right about me on that.
Sometime in April we were transferred back to Battalion on mess duty. I didn’t care--I was just happy to get out of the line company. We had a pretty good schedule. We did most of our work in the mornings, and in the afternoons we were able to take a Jeep and go swimming in the Imjin River. I peeled a lot of potatoes during that time. We heard scuttlebutt about when the 10th Replacement Draft would be going home, but we didn’t believe much of the scuttlebutt. It seemed at that time that we would be there forever, at least it felt that way to me.
On the 28th of May, I believe, the line companies of the Battalion were involved in more combat. I know that Charley Company was for sure. The mess hall tent was set up on a hill just above the area where Graves Registration was set up. We were able to see them whenever they brought in the KIA. One day I saw them bring one in and later on I heard it was Kelly. He really did get screwed--drafted and then KIA. At that time the Leatherneck Magazine had a list of casualties, both killed and wounded in action, plus medals awarded and the citations showing how they had earned those medals, on the back of the magazine. In the October 1953 issue of Leatherneck I saw that Kelly had been awarded the Medal of Honor. According to his citation, he certainly earned that medal.
Finally the scuttlebutt of going home came true. I turned in my rifle and all my gear and was sent to an area with a whole bunch of Marines also going home. They put us on a train and took us to Ascom City, where they commenced to dust us with some kind of white powder. I guess it was DDT—getting rid of any bugs we had picked up.
We stayed at a building that I was told had been a Japanese barracks when they controlled Korea. I was issued some new khakis and a few days later we went to Inchon to go aboard ship for the ride home. It was the General William Weigel, the same ship I had come to Korea on a year before. We left Korea and went to Kobe, Japan, to pick up the seabags and gear we had left the year before. We were not allowed off the ship. We heard that it was because the last draft of Marines before us had a real celebration and caused some damage and problems in that city. I do not know if that was true, but it is possible.
I think it was an 11-day trip across the Pacific to San Franciso. We arrived on the 18th of June 1952, exactly a year to the day that I had left San Diego for Korea. Going under the Golden Gate Bridge was a great feeling. I thought of the World War II veterans that had done the same thing, and wondered if they had the same feeling as I did. It was home-–the USA.
There were some folks on the dock, but not many. It was not like the movies you see about the troops coming home. I don’t even remember seeing a military band there to welcome us. But the Red Cross had some of their ladies there with coffee and doughnuts, so I guess that was all we needed. We were soon on busses and on our way to Treasure Island for processing for the next duty station and leave time.
I had a good time in Frisco. I think we were there about a week. I got to go to the Top of the Mark at the Mark Hopkins Hotel to have a few drinks. I also went to the Marine Memorial Club and had a big party at the Kubla Khan Restaurant, which was an after-hours BYB-type club. I met a few other military personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, and we all shared whatever kind of booze we had brought.
The next day wasn’t so much fun, though. My orders and leave papers came through and I headed south to stop at San Pedro to visit my mother’s cousins there. What I should have done was just jump on a train or bus and head back to home in Maine, but I did not. It is something I have regretted all my life. When I went to San Pedro and visited Jessie and Walter Stevenson and their daughter Roselle, I also called the woman I had met at the Majestic Ballroom in Long Beach the year before. I met a Marine from San Pedro, so we rode around with him for awhile and celebrated being home. His name was Frank. We had some fun for a few days.
My future kids' mother, Martha Gallego, and I took a bus to Yuma, Arizona to get married, but because of my age (19), the authorities required me to have a telegram from my father or my mother giving me permission to marry. I called my father and he sent his permission, but due to the license office not getting an answer to their telegram, they would not let us get married. It was not anyone's fault. My father had sent the telegram I had asked him for, so he thought he had done what he had to do and did not return answer to the authorities' telegram. Back in those days there was no instant communication like today. Western Union was the nearest thing to that.
Martha and I went back to California to spend the rest of my leave. I tried to check in at Marine Barracks at Terminal Island before my leave was up, but the 1st Sergeant there told me he was tired of all of us Marines running out of money and leave time, so he would not let me check in. I am sure he had a point. At that time in my life I did not use a lot of common sense. I went AWOL for three days, and then went back to Terminal Island and they let me check in. I received new orders and a train ticket with food chits to ride the train to Washington, DC.
Martha went to a relative's house to stay in Northern California, and I got on the train to go east. It was a good trip. I met a couple of sailors and a sailor's pregnant wife going east also, and we hung together looking out for each other. I also met an older lady from Chicago when I went to the dining car the first morning. She asked me to sit at her table. I never found out her name (again, no use of my brain for common sense), but she asked me to sit with her because she had had a son who was a Marine in World War II. He had been killed in action on Guadalcanal. At each meal I went to the dining car, I sat at her table. It really made the trip a good one. I have never forgotten her kindness.
In August of 1952 I got to my duty station at the Gun Factory in DC. I earned a 30-day restriction for going absent without leave those three days, and was then put on Mess Duty. We had great food there, and all we wanted. We even had pitchers of ice cold milk on the table. After having powdered milk in Korea, for me that ice cold real milk was like having ice cream every day.
While stationed there I went on a money run to the Treasury Building to pick up payroll money for North Africa embassies. There were three carryall-type vehicles with a Lieutenant in charge. I forget how many enlisted Marines there were, but we entered the Treasury Building in the vehicle through a large door down a ramp from the outside street. We exited the vehicle and got on an elevator with no markings as to what floor we were on or what floor we went to. We walked down a long hallway with no visible outlets--just blank walls, made a right turn down another long corridor, and came to a glassed-in area where civilians were working. There was a barrier in the form of a counter such as in a bank with a glass area above and the counter had a couple of teller windows. There was money in stacks piled up behind that counter.
I will never again see as much money as I did on that day. I saw the clerk hand the Lieutenant five packs of twenty dollar bills and was told later that each pack was worth $20,000. We left that area and went back to the vehicle, never knowing what floor we had actually been on. All we knew was that we had been in the Treasury Building. We escorted that money back to the Gun Factory, but what happened to it after that, I do not know.
I went on one other money run while there at the Gun Factory, but it was to a bank in D.C. We just stayed outside while the officer picked up the money at the bank. We were never told what that was for. In both instances we were armed with .45 caliber semi-automatic handguns.
I am not sure of the time frame when the following took place, but I do remember it had to be hot weather as we were still in summer khaki uniforms and pith helmets for head gear--so probably it was sometime late August or September of 1952.
Marines from the barracks were stationed a few feet apart from the Main Gate at 8th St SE to the dock where the President's yacht was tied up. I was one of the Marines that were called "Road Guards". We were told that President Truman was coming aboard to go to the yacht. About an hour after we were posted, President Truman arrived in his limousine. Maybe a half hour later Mrs. Truman came aboard, and then about another half hour later, their daughter Margaret came aboard the base in her car.
They did not stay very long at the yacht--possibly a half hour, and then each in turn exited the base. During that time frame, we Marines stood road guard for the Truman family. We did have weapons, so in my opinion it was more of an Honor Guard for the Truman family than anything else. I guess as President he rated an Honor Guard, but it was not a comfortable position for the Marines. It was hot and the humidity was high at that time. It took most of the day for that short visit to the yacht, but then we did get to see the President and his family, as I did later on at Eisenhower's parade when he was elected President.
My Father's Passing
In September of 1952, the 1st Sergeant passed the word to me that the Red Cross had sent a request for me to come home as my father was very ill and not expected to survive. It was just before pay day, but on pay day I had NPD (No Pay Due). I got my gear together to go home, and as I was walking out the gate the Commander of the Guard asked me how I was going to get home. He was a staff sergeant and a Korean War Veteran also, and I got along with him pretty well. I can see his face, but can’t remember his name. I told him that I was going to hitchhike and he said, "No, you are not." He took me back to the transportation office and spoke to the Lieutenant in charge there. The Lieutenant got a vehicle and driver, called the Navy Relief, and told them that he was sending me there as I needed some money for emergency leave. I never knew any of that even existed. The Lieutenant told the Marine driving me to wait for me and then take me to Union Station so I could get home. The lady at the Navy Relief Society asked me how much I needed. I borrowed $50, and in no time I was at Union Station catching the train to Boston. The Staff Sergeant, Lieutenant, and the Marine Driver had taken care of a fellow Marine very well and I was grateful.
My CO at the Gun Factory let me have ten days emergency leave to go home. I took a Greyhound Bus from Boston to Bangor, Maine, and then rode a Hasy's Maine Stages bus from Bangor to Monson. I got home on the afternoon of 6 September, and got to see my father for a short while that afternoon. He knew that I had finally come home, as I should have done back in June. That evening I rode to the hospital in the ambulance with him and my mother. My father passed away the next day at around 1100 in the morning on 7 September 1952. I have always felt that it was a mistake to go to the Greenville Hospital as there were no doctors there who could have saved him. He would have at least had a chance in Bangor.
Because of my father’s death, I got to see all my brothers and sisters for the first time in about a year and a half or more, and I got to meet some of my relatives from Massachusetts. I had been home five days, I think. It was a sad place to be, especially for my mother, but being the selfish kid I was, I bummed a ride to Boston with the Massachusetts relatives and took the train back to DC from Boston.
In May of 2013, I was able to read a letter that my father wrote to my mother while she was working at a summer camp on Moosehead Lake as the cook for the guests. My father was at home and not feeling well, although at the time I did not know it. I never knew until I read that letter how much my father and my mother were looking forward to me coming home. Reading his letter made me feel so selfish for not thinking more about them than I did back in June 1952 when I arrived back in the States. I did not use any common sense during that time. Reading that letter made me ashamed of myself, and I could not stop from crying. That information hit me very hard.
I was assigned to 2nd and M Street gate to stand gate duty. I enjoyed that duty a lot. The liberty was very good in DC. Because you only had to 18 years old to drink beer in a bar there, other Marines from the Barracks and I used to go up to Guy’s Place on 8th Street SE, just up the street from the Gun Factory. I also stood guard duty at the Hydrographic Building out in Maryland, where one night as I walked the post I saw a cart of maps that had been left out. The legend said, “bombing points of USSR”. I called the civilian guard at the entrance and he came down and wheeled that cart into a locked room in a hurry. He asked me if I had seen what the maps were and I told him no--I had just seen the full cart and figured they should not be there. There were four Marines standing that duty each night. We guarded that one room only.
I also stood crowd control duty at President Eisenhower's inauguration parade from 0800 to 1900 that night, with a half hour out for a box lunch at the Treasury Building. I think it was at New York Avenue and 15th Street NW, but I am not sure of that now. Another time a train went through the back of Union Station and I was assigned duty there to keep the crowd from getting too near the hole in the floor that the train made when it went through.
Martha came to DC in October. We got a room at 1448 Rhode Island Avenue NW and she got a job in a drug store a short way from where we lived. Some very nice older folks lived at 1448 Rhode Island also, and we became friends with all of them. The ones I remember the most are Mr. and Mrs. Hall. He was English and she was a Scot, and I really liked them. We visited back and forth. They were a couple in their 60’s, I believe. I used to call my mother and let Mrs. Hall talk with her as my mother could speak the same Scottish dialect, as my grandparents were also Scots from Scotland and Prince Edward Island, Canada.
While stationed in DC, a detail including me was sent to Quantico to fire the rifle range. One morning the Master Sergeant, NCOIC, brought our paychecks. At the time I was getting paid about $20 a pay day, but that morning they paid me the combat pay I had qualified for in Korea. I received $405 on top of my usual $20. I was rich! That was $45 per month for nine months. It was okay by me.
In November , we were on Running Guard at the Gun Factory, meaning that we stood Gate Duty as usual, but one section stood the duty while the other section did not and had leave and time off during the length of the Running Guard. On the weekend that came just before the Marine Corps Birthday and Veterans Day in 1952, I had liberty from Friday at 1600 to the following Wednesday morning. So, having my Combat Pay, I decided to go home to Maine. I got as far as Boston and went to see my brother Gib in Malden before I took a bus to Maine. I did not get to Maine as I stayed in Malden, but did go Christmas shopping and bought my brother Colby some ski boots and my sister Joyce something, but do not remember what. I got something for all that were home that year, I am sure. I had a good time there over the weekend with my brother and then went back to DC. Martha could not go with me because she had to work at the drug store.
Back to Pendleton
I was stationed at the Gun Factory until April 1953. I had asked for orders to return to Korea, even though I only had ten months to do on my enlistment. Things were not going so good at home, so I figured it would be better to leave. By the time my request was approved and I got word from the 1st Sergeant, I had decided it was pretty dumb to go back to Korea. To get my orders changed I re-enlisted for six years, and then got a transfer back to Camp Pendleton.
We went to Maine on my 30-day re-enlistment leave, and on 19 April 1953 Martha and I got legally married in Monson. That made my mother happy. On Easter Sunday I went to church wearing my Blues. I was really proud to be able to wear that uniform, and received a few compliments of looking very good. But the best compliment I received was from a World War II Marine Corps veteran. I was told that he had been a Captain of Marines during the war and had lost a leg on Guadalcanal. He married a girl from my home town. For me, to have him come over to talk with me was the greatest of compliments, for I have the highest respect and admiration for World War II Marines and all who served in the military during World War II.
I had a great time on that leave. I had bought myself a new baseball glove and one for my brother Colby, along with spikes for him and a bat, I think, so I spent a lot of time on the baseball field behind the school, supplying baseballs from Pullen’s store so the kids would play ball. I even had Martha hitting me fly balls, and she could hit pretty well, too. I had not played any ball since I left home, and it was wonderful just to be chasing fly balls and grounders again. My dreams of playing baseball for a living had ended when I enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1951. Maybe I would not have been good enough to play ball like that anyway. I still love baseball today and would like to play another game sometime, but the old body probably wouldn’t let me for very long.
I think at the end of May we rode a Greyhound Bus for five days and nights from Bangor, Maine to Oceanside, California. We spent a couple days at a hotel in Oceanside to get some sleep, as sleep was hard to get on that bus. When I checked in at Pendleton , I was assigned to Weapons Company, 9th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. I don’t remember the Battalion, though. My stay with the 9th Marines was very short. The 1st Sergeant of Weapons Company at morning roll call one morning passed the word that the Corps was looking for volunteers for Security Forces Far East. I volunteered!
The day I reported to the 9th Marines we ran infantry actions and the next two nights we did the same. After doing Gate Duty for eight months in DC, I was not in top physical condition for that, but did get through it okay. But after one month and eleven days I was transferred to Treasure Island for further assignment to Security Forces Far East. Corporal Welch form Ukiah, California was also sent to Treasure Island for further transfer. We had become friends during my time there in Weapons Company.
The Company had formed a softball team and I went out for it. One of the Staff NCo’s was the manager and it was okay, but then the Company Commander, a Major, and one of the Lieutenants decided to play. After that, in my opinion the team went downhill because the rank was not left off the ball field. So I decided to not play at all.
Security Forces Far East
I was assigned to Navy #3912, which meant Marine Barracks, U.S. Naval Base, Sasebo, Japan. Corporal Welch got Guam. Soon I was on my way to Japan aboard an APA, where I met a few other Marines heading for new duty stations. I met a Sergeant McConnell, who told me that he was going to Sasebo to replace the Provost Sergeant there. I didn’t think anything about that--just that we were going to the same duty station.
After I had been at Saebo maybe a week, Sergeant McConnell came looking for me and asked me if I wanted to work for him in the Pass Office. I jumped at the chance to do something besides guard duty. My duty there consisted of calling whoever on the base to get permission for Japanese civilians and other folks, such as a salesman to come aboard the base to see that particular person. It was good duty. I had two Japanese girls that took care of all the paperwork. June and Michiko nice kids and fun to work with.
I think that lasted about six months, but then the Navy took over the Provost duties form the CO of Marine Barracks and I went back to standing Guard Duty. During the time in the Pass Office I had been promoted to Corporal, so I served as Corporal of the Guard when I stood duty. I was also assigned for a month of MP duty with the Army MP’s out-in-town. I rode around with Corporal Davidson when on that duty . The out-in-town MP duty was a rotational type of duty for the Marines so each Marine had a month only. I enjoyed it very much.
Oakland Naval Supply Center
I stayed in Sasebo for either 13 or 14 months, and during that time, on December 30, 1953, my first daughter Marta Kay was born. Thanks to my CO, I was able to be there on leave when she was born, but had to travel back to Sasebo in February. I transferred back to the States in August or the first of September 1954 with orders for Marine Barracks, Bremerton, Washington, but the orders were changed to the Marine Barracks, Oakland Naval Supply Center, Oakland California due to personal problems in my marriage.
In November of 1954 I was promoted to Sergeant and also was assigned the Port Section of the Marines there. It was a good duty station. Most of the Marines there were good Marines, It is where I started bowling and got on a team. It was great. I used to take Marta Kay with me and all the guys there would buy her ice cream and candy and treat her like she was a princess. She really bought into that. While at Oakland I bought my first car. It was a white Chevrolet business coupe, and it was perfect for us. I put a lot of miles on that car. I went to Texas on a long weekend and brought my brother back with me to see Frisco and the area. I never did get to take him anywhere, but our neighbor did, so he lucked out on that. On 17 November 1955, my son Dale Jr. was born at the Oak Knoll U.S. Naval Hospital. He almost got there for the Marine Corps Birthday. (He later became a Marine.)
In early 1956, I took an aptitude test at the MRI unit in San Francisco, in order to get on-the-job training on IBM machines. The Captain that gave me the test wanted me to stay there to train, but I asked to go to Barstow to get out of the Bay Area. I think I would have been smarter to stay in Frisco, but that’s hindsight. I did do some training in Barstow and Corporal Blake was a good instructor. However, one night a report came out messed up and, being senior man there due to the fact that the Staff Sergeant was allowed to go home, I took the shaft for Tech Sergeant Serafino and Staff Sergeant Platnico, even though I was still on-the-job training. After chewing me out, Captain Dugan had me transferred out of his MRI unit, but I also know he got chewed out by the Battalion Commander for how he had shafted me. I ended up on the rifle range, working in the Butts for Tech Sergeant Smith. It was good duty, and even though I was not an expert shooter or a team shooter, it worked out great for me. I guess I was back in my own element with weapons and that sort of thing rather than an office duty. Gunner Wright was the CO, and he was a fair Marine officer. All the Staff NCOs were good Marines, and everyone got along very well. It was not at all like the Marines at MRI.
My conduct and proficiency marks improved drastically, and I was getting 5.0 in both areas. That was as high as I could get. Later on when I transferred to Quantico in 1958, my range officer, Gunner Dye, gave me the same marks as he said I rated the marks from my job performance on his range. He also said that if Gunner Wright had not figured I rated those marks, he would not have given them. Dye knew Wright personally.
Transfer to Quantico
While stationed at Barstow, my second son, Cameron Stephan, was born on 28 October 1956. I stayed on working at the rifle range until April of 1958, when I was notified that my mother had acute leukemia. I asked to re-enlist in order to have enough money to travel to Maine to see her. I forget the date of that re-enlistment and receiving a transfer to a new duty station. I found out while home on leave that my new duty station would be Quantico, Virginia. It was not happy leave time due to my mother’s illness, of course. I drove back to Barstow to move furniture, etc., and then went to Artesia to visit Martha’s sister and nieces for a week before driving back to Quantico. Those three cross-country trips were all in a month and half. The kids loved the last trip. As we were going back east we bought fresh food from grocery stores along the way and stopped at rest stops where I got out my Coleman stove and did some real cooking. We had a picnic every day.
I don’t remember the date I reported in to Quantico, but it was in June 1958. At first the Staff NCO in charge of assigning me duty wasn't sure where to send me, so I suggested the rifle range, as I had just spent a couple years on one in Barstow. He agreed and I was assigned to the rifle range and school range. The school range was where the instructors stood with a microphone, telling the shooters on the detail about shooting the M-1 rifle and how to do that. We had maybe 500 shooters or less on three ranges, although most of the time we only used Two and Three Range. There was also a pistol range. The school range was not the best place for me, so I asked my CO for a transfer to instruct on one of the big ranges. He granted my request and I went to Range 3 as a Marksman Instructor. Gunner Dye was the Range Officer and Gunny Nowden was the Range Staff NCO. S/Sgt Issacs was his assistant. They were all good men and good Marines.
When I was promoted to Sergeant E5 in November of 1959, my duties changed some. But I was still a Marksman Instructor, Block NCO, and in charge of some details on the range. I had the opportunity to instruct many different ranks of Marines, both officer and enlisted. At one point Gunny Nowden assigned me to help a Brigadier General who came out to qualify. It was the first time in my Marine Corps career that I fully enjoyed handling the M-1 rifle. I was never, and still am not, a hard core gun lover. I like them, but they are not that important to me.
At Quantico my daughter, Kathy Ann, was born at the Naval Hospital on 28 June 1959, and on 3 April 1961 my son Patrick Wade was born in the same hospital.
While stationed at Quantico, a Major who was a Aviator came out to the range on temporary duty. I got to talk with him and found out that he had flown in the same outfit as Ted Williams. For me that was a subject that was most interesting as Ted Williams had been my idol since he came up to the Boston Red Sox in 1939. I enjoyed those chats with that Major, whose name I cannot remember.
Also in that same time frame (1960, I think, was the year), I noticed one day that three or four civilians were wandering about behind the firing line and seemed to be just looking around. When we changed firing details so that the Marines that had been pulling targets came up out of the Butts to fire their rounds, I was called to the center of the line and was handed the telephone. I was told it was Major Worster, the CO of the range. He told me that I had been picked to participate in the recruiting movie that those civilians were going to be filming at Mainside. A few days later I was at Mainside with other Marines--one a Lieutenant whose father was Commanding General at Marine Corps Supply Center, Barstow, California, and a Major who I didn't know at all. It was an interesting few days and, although I never saw the film, my friend Bud Leavitt saw it on television as a commercial for the Marine Corps at his home in Monson, Maine.
Life After the Corps
On 21 July 1961 I received my discharge from the Marine Corps. I packed up my kids and wife and whatever else we had and moved back to Maine, where my mother lost her fight with leukemia and died four months later in November. I had spent a little over ten years in the Marine Corps. It was the only thing I knew and being away from it was a pretty big lost feeling. However, I did go to school at CMVTI in Auburn, Maine, and qualified for a Journeyman Electrician license. Later on I also qualified for a Maine Master Electrician license, and I still retain both licenses to this day. I then worked in construction in New England and a few other places. On September 18, 1962, my youngest child, Terri Lynn, was born.
Connecting With Neil
Back in 1957, I saw on the schedule board that a Reserve outfit from Memphis was supposed to be firing the range soon. Knowing the dates at that time, I went out to the area where they were set up. The 1st Sergeant told me that Neil Sigler was a member of this Reserve Unit and where I could find him. So I got to see my boot camp buddy after more than five years. He came up to the house for supper one evening and that was a great time seeing him again. Over the years I had looked for his town (Lucy, Tennessee) on a map, but never could find it. He explained later on when I got to talk with him that the address changed at one point to Memphis.
In the middle 1980’s, I gave his name to Bob Speights, a former 1st Brigade Marine living in Texas who did searches for Marines. I asked him to try to find where Neil was. He sent back Neil’s address and phone number, and the same day I got that information I called him. We had a great chat after all the years.
In 1998 I was asked to accompany my sister-in-law Rita to fly to visit her son Bob (my nephew) and his wife Judy in Cherokee Village, Arkansas. She didn’t want to travel alone. I looked on the map and saw that it was close to Memphis. I thought that maybe this was my chance to get to see my buddy, so I accepted the offer and we flew to Arkansas. I told Bob about wanting to got to Memphis and asked about a Greyhound Bus schedule. He said no bus. He drove me to Neil’s home in his car and then left it for me to come back to his home after my visit. Judy and Rita drove in her car and picked up Bob at Neil’s home, and they went on to Mississippi to visit the gambling casinos.
After 41 years, Neil and I were able to sit and shoot the breeze in person. His wife Evelyn is a very nice lady, and they both couldn’t have been more welcoming than they were. Since then I have been to their home many times, and I have made quite a few trips to the White River in Arkansas to fish for rainbow trout--all thanks to Neil’s generous nature.
On one of my trips to Neil and Ms. Daisy's home, I got to meet her stepfather, Warren G. Bettis. Cpl. Warren G. Bettis, USMC, was a Marine that landed on Iwo Jima in 1945. I was told that he was in the third wave of the landing, and I believe he was wounded during that terrible battle. I am not sure what year it was, but he went back to visit Iwo Jima with his daughter Jackie accompanying him. He brought back some sand from the beach he had landed on in 1945, and he gave me a small container of that sand. I do treasure that sand, for to me it represents the bravery and determination of Corporal Bettis and all the Marines that fought on that island so many years ago. Just the idea that Warren would even think of giving me any of that sand that he and his buddies paid such a high price for means something special to me.
As to Neil Sigler, he is much more to me than just a boot camp buddy or Marine buddy. He is a brother to me, and I love both him and "Ms. Daisy" (Evelyn) as family. To Neil and Ms. Daisy, thank you for your treasured friendship. It is one of the great things in my life.
When I came home on emergency leave in September of 1952 due to my father being ill and ultimately his death, I was told that my Platoon Sergeant, S/Sergeant Noe, had been to Monson to visit with my father in the summer. Evidently Sergeant Noe thought that I would be home from Korea by that time. And I should have been there. As I mentioned in another area of this memoir, in 2013 I was able to read a letter that my father wrote to my mother while waiting for me to come home that summer. It confirmed the fact that S/Sergeant Noe had been to the house to visit.
I always intended to look S/Sergeant Noe up to visit with him, and at different times when I had been in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, I could have, as I knew he had a cottage in Southport, not far from Boothbay. I even lived for a while in West Boothbay while working on the Maine Yankee Nuclear Powerhouse in Wiscasset in 1972. But for whatever reason, I did not go to Southport to find him. While living at Seton Village in Waterville, Maine, I did go to Southport finally in late summer of 1999.
I got in contact with Harold C. "Pete" Noe through information I found on my trip to Southport. He lived in Wiscasset and was a brother to S/Sergeant Noe. I explained why I was looking for S/Sergeant Noe and Pete gave me his brother's phone number and where he lived. I asked if he thought it would be okay for me to call his brother. He told me definitely yes, as S/Sergeant Noe had cancer and was running out of time. That same evening I called my old Platoon Sergeant. He was getting treatment from a nurse when I called, but in about a half hour he called me back. He seemed happy to hear from me and we talked for a while. I asked if it was okay for me to go to visit him in Massachusetts at his home and said he would be happy to see me.
That weekend, 27 July 1999, I drove to his home in Winchester and spent most of the afternoon with him. It was good to be able to sit and talk with him about some of the Marines we had served with in Charley Company and the Platoon. I met most of his family at that first visit and they all welcomed me as if they had always known me. S/Sergeant Noe told me in that first phone call that he knew he was limited in time, so I used the next few weekends to visit with him and his wife Hope. It was something I should have done many years prior to when I finally did look for him. I found out his nickname was Duke, but for me he was always S/ Sergeant Noe. I had written a letter to him after he was sent back to the States due to his wounds received on Hill 673. On one of my visits, his wife Hope showed me that letter. He had saved it all those years.
On 3 September 1999, S/Sergeant William B. Noe passed away. I had asked Hope to let me know when he passed, and she called me that day. I had said that I would like to be a pallbearer for him, and I performed that duty for my friend and Platoon Sergeant at his funeral. I have from time to time kept in touch with Hope Noe via phone calls and email, and have stopped once or twice to visit her and her daughter at their home on my trips back to Maine. They are nice folks and I am glad to have met them.
I know that Army guys think that the Marines are too cocky, but the training and leadership that the Corps has makes us that way. I think it has had a lot to do with the success that the Marines have had in combat.
I have a copy of the official history of the Marines in Korea, five volumes. In that volume that covers the jump-off in September 1951, the information is not correct. I know it was taken from unit records, but I was there and had a front row seat. The war did not end because they started the peace talks. Those guys that were in the operations on the western front after the Division moved to the west of Korea had just as tough going as anyone, and a lot rougher than I did.
Lynnita Brown of the Korean War Educator (who is now my wife) is the only person that ever asked me about Korea for any other purpose than just a curiosity about it. No one really seemed to want to hear anything. I think some people still have the idea like I did when I enlisted—the World War II thinking that military life and war was a glamorous way of life. I soon found out that it was not that way. It was a damned tough way of life—and I had it easy compared to many other guys. I have always felt that I went to Korea at the right time and came home at the right time. I know I lucked out compared to many Korean War veterans.
Most people don’t really care what happened in Korea 60 years ago. I can understand that, but they should have cared back when it was happening. There were American servicemen being killed, wounded, tortured, and executed because Harry Truman and the government of that time said they had to do that. The men that were doing that FOR THIS COUNTRY didn’t protest and cry about it or go to Canada or any other place. I had a letter from someone when I was in Korea, asking me how I liked San Francisco, simply because of the address I had—FPO San Francisco. A lot of folks didn’t know where our troops really were!
Oh well, it is now 60 years since the start of that WAR (never just a conflict—I hate it when it is referred to as a conflict). As it was not so important back when it was going on, I guess it is even less important today. I really don’t know why they are going to celebrate the start of the Korean War. They should celebrate the END of the Korean War instead.
Once a Marine
I have always been proud of serving my country in the U.S. Marine Corps, and I could never see myself in any other branch of the military. Wearing that uniform was the greatest of honors for me. In my heart I will always be a Marine.