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Edwin Anthony DeDeaux

Hayward, CA -
Korean War Veteran of the United States Marine Corps

"Being in the Marine Corps was a very special time in my life.  I was very pleased to have been associated with a great bunch of guys.  I'm not knocking any of our other service branches, but there's only one Marine Corps, and it consists of only one breed of man.  There is a reason for our motto, "Semper Fidelis."  The "always faithful" is self explanatory."

- Ed DeDeaux

 


[The following is the result of an online interview between Ed DeDeaux and Lynnita (Sommer) Brown that took place in 2000 and was added to in 2007.]

Memoir Contents:


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Pre-Military

My name is Edwin Anthony DeDeaux of Hayward, California.  I was born June 8, 1930, in New Orleans, Louisiana, a son of Eugene Walter and Anita Marie Remy DeDeaux.  My father was a mixture of French and other nationalities.  My mother had French, Spanish, Indian, and French Creole--or a mixture similar to Hawaiians.  I spent the first twelve years of my life in New Orleans, where the neighborhood was a mixture of many cultures and everybody knew everyone by first name.  We never did see a policeman in all the twelve years I lived in that neighborhood.  I remember going out to play with one of my good friends, Kearney, who lived around the corner and down to the end of a very long block from one of the many houses I lived in.  I was eight or nine years old at the time.  All of the homes I lived in were rentals.  They were all we could afford, considering the family situation.  Kearney's grampa lived in the middle of that block and, although he was legally blind, he could tell what the hell was going on around him.  But he was a good ol' boy who gave us cigarettes and let us go under his house and smoke up a storm.  Hee, hee!  We used to have a lot of fun just smoking under his house, and nobody else knew the difference.  We could smoke under the house because most of the homes in New Orleans were built on high foundations.  Other than a two-story home, they could be anywhere from one to five feet high off the found, just in case there were high floods coming in.  It didn't bother us, though.  We played in it anyway.  It was like another toy to play with.  As long as the weather was not and humid, we loved it.  Of course, when we had to walk to school in the cold and rain, it wasn't fun at all.  But as most of us had no cars, most of us had to walk--but we survived.  My other good buddy's name was Herbert.  He looked out for me at school just in case any so-called "tough guy" was looking for some easy prey to pick on.  I wasn't the toughest guy in school, but as long as Herbert was close by, I didn't have to be.  We both walked home from school together because we only lived a few houses apart.

I remember living in three different locations not more than a mile apart.  All of my relatives and friends lived no more than a mile and a half away.  I had no father living with us during my first twelve years.  My father died when I was about six or seven years old.  He had worked for the railroad and died in a train accident.  My grandmother (Mom's mother) died before I knew her, so my Grandpa moved in with us.  This all took place between 1930 and 1942.  Mom had a rough life raising seven kids and her father, too.  But she did the best that she could as a seamstress and with a little help from the rest of the family--except me.  I was the "baby" of the family and too young to earn any money.  Yes, you could say we were poor.  We didn't have any money, but we did have clothes on our backs, food in our tummies, and a roof over our heads.  I got to go to a movie once in a while (even at five cents admission, too).

I really dreaded going to school and dealing with all those nuns (Sister Annunciata--what a name), and my "favorite" fourth grade teacher, Miss Hickey.  I remember all the times going to parochial school and having to hand the principal (a nun, of course) a note from my mama making excuses why we couldn't pay the tuition that week.  After all, it was a big 15 cents a week, and who the hell had that kind of money (not us, so there).  Maybe that's why they made me stay back two years in the 4th grade.  I didn't mind the two years so much, but it was that teacher, Mrs. Hickey.  They didn't get the tuition money out of me, so she beat it out of me with her blackboard pointer--my head and my hands mostly.  That old white-haired lady should have been retired from that school long before I was even born.  Well, God bless Mrs. Hickey.  Take the nuns and Miss Hickey out of the picture (and old Grumpy Father Casserly) and I would have been a model Catholic student.  I used to be a model altar boy, too, and the best singer in the church choir.  I could out-sing any girl with my great high singing voice.  During my school years I joined the boys' glee club and the mixed (girls and boys) choir.  Because I had a good singing voice and I loved to sing, I sang in the choir in grammar school and high school, as well as in talent shows.

I wasn't really a hard to handle kid.  Everyone was older and bigger than me and my brothers and good old Grandpa (bless his soul) kept me in line but good.  There were times when they got through disciplining me that I could not sit down on my butt for four or five hours, and to this day I still say I did not deserve that much.  Now I'm not saying I ran away from home like today's kids do, but I sure watched myself from then on.  Things got a little easier when I was about nine or ten years old.  Grandpa passed away at 89 years old and I really do miss him a lot.  We had his wake in our living room.  That was quite a ritual in those days in New Orleans for all the relatives and friends.

One other thing I remember about living in New Orleans was that since we didn't have a car, we walked.  When I was growing up, guys my age walked all the time and had been ever since we could learn to walk.  In New Orleans we all walked to school, to church, to the theater, and even to Canal Street where all the stores and big movie theaters were.  That was a nice four or five mile walk, and sometimes if we felt rich enough we even rode the street car (yeah, even the one named Desire).

Except for school, I enjoyed myself to no end living in New Orleans.  Why, I didn't even know anyplace else existed beyond New Orleans.  I didn't wear shoes in the spring or summer, and I played in the streets from sunup to sundown.  My buddies and I walked in the streets after breakfast.  "Breakfast" consisted of a glass of water and a peanut butter sandwich, and I was glad to get that.  I left the house with a "just going around the corner, Ma", not knowing where we were going just as long as we were free to go.  We didn't go to any place special--we just explored where we hadn't been before, trying to get home before it got dark--or else!  I got something to eat from anybody who felt a little sorry for me and I was grateful, too.  Our neighborhoods were just huge and friendly, like a huge family.  We loved and respected each other, and we didn't fight or cuss each other out.  We weren't angels by any means.  We just lived by our own unwritten rules.  But after two years with Mrs. Hickey. I was ready for my California adventure.

I don't remember a damn thing about the outbreak of World War II.  My brother Norman went to Guam with the Marines and brother Pete later went to OCS Army in New Jersey, but we really didn't understand what the hell was going on.  My oldest sister Elaine was living in California and pregnant with her fifth child out of her total of eight girls and one boy (the boy was last).  She needed Mom's help, so she sent the train fare for Mom and my sisters Gloria (now deceased), Inez and Anita and me to make the trip to California.  We rode the train (crowded with servicemen) all the way to Los Angeles, transferred to another train headed north to Oakland, California, then went through an adjoining tunnel to a little Navy town (about 50,000 population then) called Alameda.  We weren't the first ones to move there from out of state.  We had mucho company.  We got stuck in a crowded little community called "the Projects."  There were eight apartments to a building, and ours was a three-bedroom apartment.  Don't even ask me to describe it.  It just happened.  Now that I think back on it, I think my sister Elaine had it a hell of a lot worse than my mom.  Damn near all the men worked at the Alameda Naval Air Station in one capacity or another, and they all came home every night just a little bit inebriated.

I think the move to California kind of took a little excitement off the war.  All I remember is that I was living in a military hotbed of a town and didn't even know it.  I just remember having a good time with my friends and enjoying school like any other teenager.  War was something on the other side of the world--where, we really didn't know.  Brother Norman came home to his family in New Orleans and brother Pete started his Army career, mostly traveling to peacetime posts.  Later on, Pete took his wife Gloria and kids with him to Europe and Japan.  He had a "tough life."  (Ho! Ho! Ho!)

After moving to California, I made friends with a few kids, had a paper route, and made a little pocket change.  I didn't have a bike, so I walked to deliver about 80 papers.  I started in the 6th grade class at a public school until there was an opening at the local parochial school.  There was an opening for the next year in the 7th grade, and I was headed for my first Catholic parochial school in California.  It was named St. Joseph Grammar School.  (I just couldn't seem to get away from those nuns, darn it!)  While attending St. Joe's, we (Mom, my youngest sister Anita, and I) moved to three different homes, renting one or two large rooms and using the landlord's phone, though not very much.  I graduated from St. Joe in 1945.

I made some lasting friends and with half of them started our freshman year at Alameda High School.  What a school!  We had about 3,000 kids in our school, all different nationalities, and everybody got along great.  I wasn't the smartest kid in school, but I wasn't the dumbest either.  I liked all the teachers and even the coaches, too.  I played football in my sophomore year as a quarterback, but I realized it was taking up too much of my time with the girls, so my one year of football was enough.  I really didn't meet my true love until my senior year--and then, boy!  Did I fall hard.  Her name was Yvonne.  She was very pretty and young.  I was a senior and she was a freshman.  Wow!  How far apart can you get, huh?  We went together for a while and couldn't stand to be apart--but we did.  I don't know what it was, but it happened.  After a good while I met up with another lil' beauty named Bobbie.  She was still in school, too, but that didn't matter to us.  We started dating kind of slowly, feeling each other out and trying not to get too serious too soon.  We kind of felt that maybe we had a future together.  She even made a summer shirt for me to match a dress of hers and invited me over to meet her parents and have a nice spaghetti dinner with them.


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Joining Up

Some of buddies and I joined the Marine Reserves in Oakland, California, at 17 years old while I was still in high school.  It was sometime in 1947.  We joined just for the hell of it.  We liked the Marines as a "gung ho" outfit and a branch of service that we knew we would be very proud of when we joined it.  My buddies were Tony Castaldo, Mario and Sal Carrara, "Frenchy" Villuerme, and Robert Finnegan.  Our reserve unit was called the 12th Signal Company, based in Oakland, California.  At the time I joined up, I had no idea what a signal outfit meant.  All I knew was that it was a United States Marine Corps outfit and I wanted to be a part of it.  It didn't hurt that my oldest brother Norman had also been a Marine in the South Pacific, but also I wasn't doing anything important that particular summer.  I had no job and no money, I was just loafing around doing nothing with my buddies.  We weren't a gang-type of buddies looking for trouble.  We were just the type of guys who didn't know what to do with all of our spare time until school started again in the fall.  Because of all that spare time and inactivity, someone mentioned to me about the Reserves and making money at the same time, so I gave it some thought and then decided to join.  Let me tell you, our folks weren't very happy with us at all.  I don't remember exactly how we managed to stay in, but we did.  That was just the beginning.

We started attending reserve meetings every other weekend and making a little pocket money.  We also felt a little important in our Marine uniforms.  We did a lot of close order drills and started learning what the Signal Company was about.  Some of us learned how to string out wiring, others learned how to climb a telephone pole, and others worked with our SCR-300 communication radios.  The radios were very much like a walkie-talkie.  One had to push a button to talk and release the same button to listen.  I don't remember the name of the base radio, but that one I didn't much care for because to communicate and send messages, one guy had to sit on a little bench and turn a small two-handed generator.  It didn't take us long to get tired of doing that.  Those were free workouts for our arm muscles.  (Smile)  I was very fortunate not to have to turn the "muscle-maker" very often.  I spent more time trying to learn more about the SCR-300.  I'm sorry to say this, but until this day (61 years later), I still don't know one end of a SCR-300 from another, and believe me, it's not something that I'm proud to admit.  I blame it all on my youth and ignorance.

Reservists didn't go to boot camp.  We just had two weeks of active duty in the summertime at Camp Pendleton, California, and four hours every other Sunday afternoon at our hometown training center, which was in Oakland, California at that time.  We were later switched to a base in Alameda, California.  We took a train from Oakland to Camp Pendleton and made the same ride back to Oakland when we finished our summer training.  Camp Joseph H. Pendleton is one huge Marine base.  You could start at the main gate and never find the back gate (no kidding).  Its main gate sits right on the shoulders of Interstate 5, which runs north/south from Tijuana, Mexico to the Canadian border at Vancouver, Washington.  Pendleton is about 30 miles north of San Diego and 80 miles south of Los Angeles.

Our summer active training was nothing like boot camp.  Although our days were regimented (rising in the a.m.--ugh!), we still had a lot of free time at the end of our work day.  We spent some time on the rifle range to qualify for marksmanship.  After dinner chow, our time was our very own to do whatever we so desired.  We could spend time in the base "slop-shute" (beer hall, pool room, snack room).  We did put away a few beers in there.  We could go to a base movie or go on liberty in the town of Oceanside.  We could even go to Los Angeles or San Diego, as long as we were back in time to answer roll call in the morning.  It would be hell if we didn't (extra duty).  We had no troublemakers.  As reservists we had a hell of a lot of fun.  Besides being with our own personal friends, we also knew most of the other guys in our company.  Can you just imagine a bunch of 17 and 18-year olds away from home and their parents for two weeks?  Just having a ball, that's all.  We had all kinds of minorities in our outfit, but racism didn't exist.  We were all family.

We had no DIs.  We had platoon leaders (usually a lieutenant), a platoon sergeant (usually a staff sergeant), and squad leaders (a corporal or sergeant).  We were never singled out for any type of punishment other than the normal duties of floor scrubbing, toilet cleaning, policing the outside area of our barracks, K.P. duty (which was okay for the chowhounds), etc.  We all had our turn at it.  We were fed well and had good food.  The Marine Corps saying was, "Take all you want--eat all you take."  We had religious services for all.

At the time we completed our two-week training period, we felt that we had learned a great deal of what being a Marine was all about, as well as learning about our main objective, which was mainly learning about radio operating procedures.  I came to appreciate and respect every instructor who had a hand in shaping not only my military experience, but also my private life.  It was a priceless lesson I'll never forget.

I honestly don't remember what civilian job I held while I was in the reserves.  Whatever it was or whatever I was doing was not permanent.  I think I was in the "thinking process" of what might be my future employment when I was rescued by the Korean War.  Before the war news broke out, we were being teased (by higher-ranking veteran Marine instructors) that we had better start growing up and saying our goodbyes to our mamas and girlfriends because we were going to take a lil' ol' boat ride compliments of Uncle Sam--and we might not be home for Christmas.  This went on for quite a while until one weekend our commanding officer received his orders about the activation of our company.  He informed us that we would be activated in a very short time, so we had better get our affairs in order and start saying all of our goodbyes.

I didn't even know what a Korea was, let alone a Korean War.  It really upset my mother to see her "baby son" going off to war.  The fact that I was only 20 years didn't make her feel any better.  Two of her oldest sons had come back safely from a war, but now she was losing her youngest son to another "stupid" war.  Bobbie was still my girlfriend at the time, and we really thought that we had something special between us.  I was just starting to lead us into a more fruitful relationship and we had promised ourselves to each other.  You've seen this scene in a million war movies, right?  We weren't together long enough to really get to know each other, so it just didn't work out.  The spaghetti supper with her parents was as far as our relationship got.  I'm sure things would have been a lot different had it not been for Korea.  We communicated through the U.S. mail, but that didn't help.  The same feeling just wasn't there when I got back from Korea.  We parted friends and said good luck to each other.  She got married to someone else, and I hung out with my buddies.  We'll never know how it would have turned out if the Korean War had not put the skids on our future plans.  It was just meant to be, I guess.

After taking the train from Oakland, California, we headed down south to Camp Del Mar, which is a small Marine base just across the I-5 freeway from Camp Joseph H. Pendleton, the largest Marine base there is.  I should mention that Camp Del Mar was an amphibian base where the 1st Marine Division's Amtrac Battalion was based.  We--meaning the 12th Signal Company and I--were bunkered at Del Mar awaiting our shipping orders.  I didn't know what to think.  I felt at ease with my friends still around me, but once they started calling out names with our shipping orders and where they were dispersing us to, things got a little queasy, if you know what I mean.  We were all sitting outside the CO waiting for our names to be called when a sergeant came out of the CO office and rattled off a few names.  Then he said, "DeDeaux, you're now with 1st Amtrac Battalion.  Report to "B" Company."  I said to myself, "What the hell is an amtrac?"

All of my 12th Signal Company friends were assigned to other outfits, yet I was the only one assigned to the 1st Amtracs.  Quite a few of the guys hanging around gave me encouraging words like, "Hey, man.  You're going to a good outfit."  Others said, "Hey, man.  You're real lucky.  At least you won't be walking."  They gave me lots of encouragement, so that made me feel a little better.  Little did I know that a company of reserves from the 12th Amtrac Battalion stationed in San Francisco would be going with me.  These reserves were just about a half hour car drive from my 12th Signal Company in Oakland, and I didn't even know they existed.  Strange things do happen for the better.  Lucky me.


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Trip to Korea

We didn't have time to receive any additional training or boot camp, as they were pressed for time to get us to Japan.  I had the privilege of learning about the Marine Corps from the many vets who I surrounded myself with.  They were all older than I was, and much more experienced and smarter, so instead of one or two drill instructors, I had damn near a whole battalion of them with me 24/7.  I couldn't ask for anything more than that.

We were only at Del Mar for about a week before we were told that we would be shipping out any day.  None of us knew where in the hell we were going.  A good buddy and I were the only ones from the 12th to ship out.  I went to amtracs and Bob went to the 5th Marines (infantry).  The rest of the 12th stayed behind and were scattered all over, mostly to bases in southern California in MP companies, etc.

In the early part of August 1950, we went to San Diego (about 50 miles south of Del Mar) and proceeded to board a large troop ship.  I'm not too sure, but I think the name of it was the USS General Meigs.  It was a General Class transport out of mothballs from Washington state.  It had about 5,000 Marines onboard, with a civilian crew.  Little did we know that we were going on a nice two-week cruise and that when we landed or docked in Japan, we would be about ten pounds lighter.  That was due to all the nice food and cooking we had onboard going over. (Ha! Ha!)

The largest boat I had ever been on before this one was a ferry boat that cruised across the Mighty Mississippi river on daily runs from New Orleans to Algiers and back.  I would say that quite a few of us (including me) got both sea sick and sea legs.  This happened about a week out to sea.  We experienced a few days of rough weather, rolling seas and high winds.  It was so bad that one day we had to literally sit on the deck in the chow hall to eat, and if we didn't hold on to our tray full of food, it would and did slide on the deck from left to right and right to left.  It was a little annoying to say the least.  When we figured we had enough, we got up and emptied our tray in the garbage and left the galley.  I probably lost about 10 or 15 pounds on our "love boat."  We were a bunch of skinny Marines by the time we got to Japan.  Never again a bad word about mamma's home cooking.

Our time wasn't completely wasted sailing over, as we had classes on just about everything pertaining to military.  I got my first taste of what an amtrac was--by the book, that is, not the real thing until Japan.  Onboard ship we had many book lessons on how to disassemble and assemble a .45 pistol and an M-1 carbine.  Then we learned the General Orders of the Marine Corps as well as how to get along with each other. (Ha!  Being on a ship loaded with at least 5000 Marines on board wasn't easy.)  We had bunks stacked about four or five high and it was no picnic.  We couldn't breathe.  We either walked around a lot or slept on deck in the fresh air. We lay around and counted the stars and sang songs.  There was lots of singing.  Our favorite was "Goodnight Irene, Goodnight".  We sang it so many times that we could sing it backwards.  We looked at movies, played cards, and sat around on the deck at night among billions of stars.  We told lies and bragged about our girlfriends and showed photos.  I'm not pulling your leg when I say that a lot of those guys kept asking me, "Hey, Eddie.  Let's see that picture of Bobbie one more time, huh?"  We had night watch duty and then there was KP duty.  That was no fun either.  It was bad enough when we had to do it on dry land, but this land was moving!

Since I was separated from my original friends from the 12th Signal Company back at Del Mar, I had to make new ones real quick.  As I mentioned earlier, I was the only one out of our old outfit who transferred into amtracs.  All the others stayed back in Camp Del Mar.  I did meet new friends quickly, and good ones, too.  A lot of them were from my area in the San Francisco bay area.  It took me a while to meet them and learn all about them, but it all came together.  I knew them better than my own group in the 12th Signal Company.

After two weeks of sailing on the Meigs, we were ready to hit Japan.  Unfortunately, a typhoon hit Japan the same time as we did.  As soon as we docked in Kobe, Japan, we had to hurry up and debark the ship and get shelter in a huge warehouse on the dock to weather out the storm.  Outside, the ships bobbed around like toys in a bathtub.  That was a storm to remember.  We were scared as hell when it was happening, but after it passed us by, we felt a lot better.  We managed to weather out the storm and everyone that was cooped up in that warehouse had quite a story to bring home.  The next day everything was calmed down and we started getting organized.  There wasn't too much destruction outside because we were between two loading docks with just two ships and water, so we didn't have any cleaning up to do.  Local people did the clean up work.  There was no military involvement.

During the next two weeks I learned how to operate an amtrac and to service the same.  We had lessons in field-stripping our .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, as well as our standard issue .45 caliber pistol.  All amtrac personnel wore .45's, and although we had a crash course in two weeks, it wasn't long enough.  But it did help.  Our amtrac training was, "Do what you're told, when you're told.  Don't be a smartass, and don't f--k up, because if you do, then give your soul to God, because your a-- is mine."

I forgot to say that there were about 35 percent regulars to 65 percent reservists in our company.  We needed a lot of veterans to teach us what we needed to know and people we could depend on.  And don't think we didn't believe everything they taught us, because we did.  The next day we started learning all about the amtrac. We practiced loading and unloading our tractors on a long ship with a big wide mouth in the front called an LST.  It was long and wide and could hold about 10 or 20 amtracs.  In turn, the amtracs could hold about 15 or 20 Marines.

An amtrac is a big iron boat that was hollow in the middle.  The hollow space between the steel deck and the bottom of the tractor, as well as the hollow walls on each side of the amtrac, was what kept the amtrac afloat.  If water had gotten into any of those places, we would have sank.  Otherwise, in spite of the fact that it was big and heavy, it still floated.  It was used for the transportation of troops and for hauling supplies during any type of military action against any enemy of our country.  The amtracs were definitely used in World War II, and used in the same fashion in Korea.  I think there were about 12 amtracs to a platoon, three platoons in a company, and four companies in a battalion, so I would roughly guess there were about 150 to 300 amtracs in use in Korea during the Korean War.  I was assigned to 1-B-30--"the Bobbie V."

The amtracs usually had a three-man crew and were equipped with a .30 and .50 caliber machine gun.  The crew men were equipped with a .45 pistol and M-1 carbine.  It only took one man to drive the amtrac, but each man was qualified to perform any and all duties involved with the operation of said amtrac.  The crew chief (a sergeant or a corporal) was in charge of the amtrac, while the other two crewmen took turns driving or seeing that all parts were on board, cleaned, oiled, and in their proper places.  When parked on land, we had to make sure that all the tracks were clean and free of any and all debris to prevent any chance of throwing a track and being inactive for any length of time (not to mention avoiding an ass-chewing).  Throwing a track off of its roller was not too hard to do.  It was lining it back up on the rollers that took time, teamwork, and muscles.  But whenever all things were okay, it was nice to be riding on or in an amtrac.  Sometimes riding in them got a little "rough," but we just had to hold on.

An amtrac was transported to its departure point by a landing ship tank or LST.  After leaving the LST, there were possibilities of the amtrac sinking if the bilge plug was not secured in the bilge.  Also, if the back ramp was not secured and dogged down properly, it would take on water and sink.  The bilge plug was a round, thick plug about the size of an automobile gas tank cap (maybe a little wider).  It was about two or three inches thick with a threaded neck that screwed in a hole in the bottom of the tractor deck to prevent any water from entering the tractor by way of the bilge compartment.  The bilge compartment had an opening of about a square foot and was situated in the bottom of the hull.  About a one-foot square screen covered the hole.  The hull was the steel deck of the amtrac with a couple of drain vents in it.  We always crawled beneath the tractor and made sure the bilge plug was closed tight before we went into the water.  We used that opening to drain out any sediment or water that may have seeped in since our last excursion.  We had to keep those bilge plugs well-greased (two on each side of the tractor), otherwise they would rust.

A picture in the photo album of this memoir shows me cleaning out one of the four bilge traps in the tractor deck.  There is even a grease gun next to me and the tool which we used to open and close the bilge plug.  That picture can provide better details about the amtrac for the readers of this memoir than I can.  In the picture, there is a .30 caliber machine gun lying on the deck waiting to be cleaned.  The two panels on the side compartments were to protect and hide the two Cadillac engines, and were used by the mechanics to service them when needed.  The huge plug on the ramp near the bucket was the size of the bilge plug.

Once on land, it was easy to throw a track if the driver turned a corner wrong.  By "wrong" I mean turning a corner at a high speed when going into a sharp turn, or driving on soft, muggy mud or sand.  The track could slip off the roller which it was riding on and have a snowball effect on the whole length of track.  When that happened, there was nothing "quick" about correcting it.  The track had to be stretched out on the ground, held up as it was slowly threaded back up onto the rollers, and then hooked up with a new trac-spike to connect both ends together.  Whola!!  Nothing to it!


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Inchon Invasion

We spent about two weeks in Kobe, Japan, had a little liberty at night, then boarded the LSTs for Korea.  I was on the American LST Number 1138 (no name).  Like the others, I was in the dark about what was going on.  What was I doing there?  Where was I going?  I really didn't know a damn thing about the whole war situation.  I also didn't know a damn thing about Korea until we awoke on the morning of September 15 and went topside to see what was going on.  We were flabbergasted to see so many ships in one harbor at the same time.  I would say there were roughly about 200 ships.  There was noise mostly from the big guns of the battle cruisers and machine gun and rocket noises from supporting Marine aircraft.  There were all kinds of Marine and Navy fighter jets filling the skies.

It was late afternoon when we disembarked from the LST.  Before we were told to head below and man our tractors, we received what was more like fatherly advice than a briefing from our officers.  We were just told to keep our eyes and ears open and obey orders without any hesitation.  We were then told, "God bless you all and we'll be looking forward to seeing all of you on the beach."  We went below, then those two big bulkhead doors opened up and we started our engines.  We could breathe the fresh air coming in and out through those doors, plus we could see other ships and tractors.  We heard big Navy guns making a hell of a lot of noise and U.S. fighter planes raising hell.  I was about as scared as a 20-year-old could get under the circumstances, but I kept my wits about me and felt a little secure in knowing I had a lot of seasoned veterans around me who knew what to do.  They were like big brothers to me.

The Marines on board my tractor didn't look any older than me and were kind of quiet.  Nobody said much, but I could see it in their faces.  We disembarked our LST with an amtrac loaded with about 12 Marine infantrymen with all their gear.  I believe we were in the 5th wave.  Blue Beach was our original destination, but we pulled up to a seawall before Blue Beach, backed up to it, and let the Marines climb up our back ramp and out on top.   The Marines left our amtrac, then climbed the wooden ladders up to the top of the seawall and disappeared.  That was the last I saw of them, with the exception of one trooper who came back to retrieve something he had dropped.  In the few seconds he was gone and came back, he had a bullet hole in his forehead, but he was still walking.

We then traveled on to the right of where we left the troops off, about 300 or 400 yards away.  There was lots of small arms action, but it was too dark for any heavy stuff.  It was almost nighttime and getting darker by the minute.  The weather at Inchon that day was very gloomy, overcast and cloudy.  It was miserable--not a good day for a picnic.  We skirted down the seawall until we found an opening where we could come ashore.  It was getting pretty dark by then and we just started moving down the road towards the Kimpo Airfield.  To my knowledge, no one in or near my company got hurt during the Inchon Invasion.  The nearest confrontation we encountered with the enemy was at the seawall when we were off-loading the Marine troops.  We had a little sniper fire after we left the beach area, but nothing damaging as it was dark as hell and no lights on anywhere around.  We met no resistance whatsoever.  All I can remember about Inchon, which was 24 hours worth, is utter confusion with a lot of men and equipment, vehicles and ships going in all possible directions.  It looked exactly like the invasion of Normandy on D-Day.

The tide had no impact on the invasion, but the next morning found all the ships in the harbor stuck in mud.  There were just a few small rivers of water for small launches to operate through to certain big ships.  Even our little amtracs couldn't maneuver out there in that muck.  We observed all of this safely from the beach.  They would have to wait for a long time before the tide returned.

We usually had a three-man crew per amtrac, and the other two guys on my tractor were regular Marines so I had a lot of help and encouragement from each of them.  (The one crewmate that I can recall on my tractor was Michael "Mike" Cerminaro.)  I drove the tractor and did as I was told.  Although it was about 15 miles from Inchon to Kimpo, I don't remember exactly how long it took us to get there from the beach.  Traveling at night and as slow as we had to move, I would have to say it took us about an hour or so to get there.  When moving along, there really wasn't much to do except view the scenery or keep our eyes and ears open for hostile people or machinery of any kind on the road ahead and to the rear.  We sometimes changed drivers when the situation dictated.  We didn't stop moving until we got to the Kimpo airfield, where we stayed in foxholes that we were instructed to dig as soon as we got there.  It was dark and confusion still existed at the Kimpo campsite, but I don't remember any other troops there besides our own.

I remember that as we came up on a squad of Marines who were walking on the side of the road, I noticed a Marine I knew.  His name was Robert "Bob" Finnegan.  He was one of the guys I had been separated from back at Del Mar.  He had gotten assigned to the 5th Marine Regiment.  We waved a happy hello to each other.  As he walked away, he waved to me and said, "See ya back in Alameda, Eddie."  He never made it back.  He was killed on November 28, 1950, about two and a half months after Inchon.

Kimpo airfield consisted of just some old bombed out steel buildings which were being hand-stripped piece by piece by the local refugees.  I imagine they were going to rebuild their little shacks with whatever they could get their hands on.  The runway looked like some of the freeways out here in California with all the big potholes made by trucks.  It looked like our amtracs had used it for practice runs.  There were no airplanes at that airport, nor did I see any come in or go out.  Other than our own tractors and a few trucks and jeeps, there were just a few disabled and burned out trucks and military vehicles of the enemy troops.  The only tank support we saw was as they were driving by us heading for the Han River on their way to Seoul.

We stayed close to Kimpo for a while.  We did not have any free or spare time while we were there, but as for my company seeing or being close to any action, it never happened.  The only fighting we saw was often in the far oft distance of Seoul and surroundings.  We were so far off that we could not see any enemy troops.  We heard the "whistling" sounds of the big Navy guns that were sailing ammunition over our heads all the way from Inchon, and we watched the big fiery blast as they hit the ground.  It was scary as hell hearing those shells sailing overhead, but it was also comforting to know they were on our side.  It was the feeling of having our big brother backing us up while we were fighting a bigger guy.  The only tank support we saw was as they were driving by us heading for the Han River on their way to Seoul.  It seemed like the President of the USA drafted a special proclamation that said, "In no way is the 'B' Company of the 1st Marine Amtrac Battalion to be involved in or near any action of any kind--no where, no how, with anybody.  Period."  We were like the "protected" company in reserve.

The Han River was the main crossing point (where we camped) between Inchon and Seoul.  And since most of the vehicles and foot traffic couldn't cross without getting wet, that's where we came in.  We were like "steel alligators" where we crawled on ground and glided into water.  We could haul a lot of people and a lot of supplies.  We also had the very sad task of transporting many full body bags from one side of the river to the other, where they were escorted to the area cemetery near Seoul.  There was a large cemetery with many neat rows of white wooden crosses.  A full working party of fellow Marines was assigned to the body-bag detail.  They were guys from non-amtrac outfits.  I had mostly sad feelings about all those young Marines laying there in all those black body bags.  I really did feel like crying when I pictured them alive a short time ago.  I thought that maybe one of them could have been on the same amtrac as I when coming to the seawall at the Inchon invasion.  While staring at those closed up bags, I could just picture the scene at their homes when their families were notified of their death.  I wasn't very comfortable for a while, but I eventually got over it.

We saw many refugees walking in many different directions on the roads and in the fields, but they didn't seem to be in any hurry or worried about what was going on.  They must have been "California refugees" (very laid back).  I felt a lot of pity and compassion for all those poor Korean people having to experience what they were going through, even though I really didn't understand what the hell we were doing over there.  They sure have recovered since then, however.

As we awaited new orders, we performed maintenance on our amtracs, cleaned our guns, and checked all of our gear.  We were still eating C-rations at the time.  As I said, we did a lot of ferrying people, troops, supplies (replacement uniforms, cases of food, medical supplies, tents and cots, ammo, vehicle parts and water refill tanks), and war correspondents across the Han River on their way to Seoul.  I had the privilege of ferrying across Marguerite Higgins, a female war correspondent.  All I can evaluate from seeing Ms. Higgins for just a very short time was that she seemed to know what she was doing and seemed to handle herself very well.

By this time I was just getting the hang of operating my amtrac and learning how to use all onboard gear.  I was also getting acclimated with my fellow Marines.  By using on board gear, I mean such things as keeping our two machine guns--a .30 caliber and a .50 caliber--as squeaky clean as possible at all times.  Our own personal weapons included a carbine light semi-automatic rifle and a .45 caliber hand gun, which we carried in a leather holster on our web belt.  We had to learn how to use certain tools to re-couple a trac-link should we accidentally have the misfortune of throwing one.  It was time-consuming to fix it and it took more than two guys to do the job.  We also had "grease guns" to grease the grease fittings all over the tractor, inside and out and underneath as well.  That was time-consuming, too.

The amtrac is--or at least was (I don't know what they have now) powered by two Cadillac diesel engines in huge compartments, one on each side of the hull.  We had to keep up the daily maintenance on them, such as gassing up, keeping the oil level up and all other fluids involved, plus keep the engine clean.  Any mechanical work was done by our maintenance platoon, the mechanics.  Those twin "Caddy" engines were like wall heaters in the winter time.  They were lifesavers because they threw off a lot of heat when we had all the hatches closed.  If we had to be outside, we would lie on top of them, the width being about 20 inches wide, and warmed ourselves pretty good.  In fact, we even put cans of C-rations on them and warmed up our food.  They served us well.  (Big smile)  There was nothing wrong about riding in or on an amtrac.  I thought it was great.  At the beaches of Masan and Wonsan, where we were way behind the lines, we took the tractors out in the water, cleaned the tracs, and then did a little swimming while we were out there (in the summer, of course).  The only time we ever had trouble with our amtracs was when one threw a track.  We had plenty of parts and plenty of mechanics to make repairs when that happened.


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Club Med

We received orders to move to southern Korea.  We packed up all of our gear, said goodbyes to other troops who weren't leaving just then, and headed south to our "summer resort villa" of Masan, South Korea.  It was like a very long Rest and Recuperation (R&R) period of time.  We were called the rear echelon, where there was no action and no fear of any action.  Other than our daily duties we had to perform and standing a lot of inspections, we had a hell of a lot of free time to go on liberty in Masan and to just try to forget where in the hell we were.  Remember the part about the 'President's Proclamation' to keep B Company out of action?  Well, this is where it came in.  Compared to the action taking place further north, being in Masan was like "Club Med."

While in reserve, our duties were just everyday routines.  We had classes and demonstrations on different subjects, such as how to conduct ourselves when in the town of Masan--or suffer the consequences.  We had maneuvers and practiced with the tractors in and out of water on the beaches.  We did clean up and maintenance work also.  We took turns doing K.P. duty, guard duty around the camp perimeter and up on the hillside overlooking camp and the main road leading to Masan.  Our work days were over about 5 p.m. and then we were free to spend our time as we saw fit.

Masan was just a small little town made up of dilapidated stores and shacks, with bald-headed, half-dressed kids with snotty noses, bare feet, and scabs on their faces.  Their hands were out and they said, "Candy--you got?"  All the people looked the same.  Some were dressed okay, some not.  The bars were doing the best business.  That's because they had dance girls who were dressed to kill and who gave company to anyone with money.  There were a few little places to eat, but nothing to rave over.

We received orders to sail on up the east coast of Korea to another city by the beach called Wonsan.  I remember my B Company amtracs going down to the loading docks in Masan and loading up in a smelly old Japanese LST.  There were two other LSTs in the convoy as well.  Between the exhaust fumes of our tractors and the crew cooking Japanese-type foods, it was smelly.  We used the Japanese LSTs on more than one occasion over there.

After leaving Masan, we headed east to the Yellow Sea and then north to Wonsan.  I don't remember how long the trip was or how much time it took to get there.  It couldn't have taken more than a day or two, but we did cross over the 38th parallel to arrive at Wonsan.  I didn't see any welcoming party as we unloaded into the water from our LSTs, so after we were all unloaded we proceeded towards the beach, which was empty.  We drove in about four or five miles until we came upon a Marine encampment with an airstrip nearby.  I don't remember the air wing it was, but they were friendly.  We proceeded to get comfortable by setting up our tents and everything else that went with establishing a base of operation.  We then made a few extra trips back out to the LSTs to get what gear we left behind, and then drove back to our base.

At Wonsan, we weren't near any town so to speak, but that's about all we didn't have compared to Masan.  It was still a resort.  As I mentioned, when we arrived there was already a Marine Fighter Wing stationed there.  During the days we were there, we watched the air wing take off on their missions.  It gave us a feeling of security knowing that we were protected from the air and didn't have to worry about anything coming from that way.  We didn't see any type of destruction of Wonsan before we got there, so whatever or wherever it was done was probably done by the local natives who were quite good at cleaning out any mass debris of any kind that wasn't nailed down.  We had gotten a taste of that when we were back at Kimpo airfield.  There was destruction of that airfield all around, and before we knew it all the hangars were stripped clean down to the ground.  We remained at Wonsan in reserve while the fighter boys flew their sorties in and out, day and night.  For us it was like Masan, without the town in walking distance.

During our stay at Wonsan it was hot, so it was a chore to do our duties of tractor maintenance, such as keeping the tracks cleaned and well greased.  We also kept our .30 and .50 caliber machine guns well cleaned, as well as our Colt .45 sidearm, and did maintenance work on our twin Cadillac engines.  Like at Masan, we didn't do the mechanical work on the amtracs because we had mechanics to do the actual mechanical work.  Our job was to make sure that our machines were well cleaned, greased, and gassed up to go on a moment's notice.

For relaxation during the day, we hopped on a tractor and drove down to the beach.  There we either swam off the beach or drove out a few hundred yards, turned off the motors, and dove off the tractor while it was bobbing in the water.  That was a treat.  At night, if we didn't have anything special lined up for us, we got a few beers (which were rationed to us) and indulged.  Then the next day (with a slight hangover) we had a few classroom lessons about something pertaining to the military.  It sure wasn't easy staying awake either.  After lunch we had a short half-hour break, then we did a little drilling so (as the Sergeant said) "we wouldn't forget how."

As the cold weather started to set in around the last of October or early November, we were ordered to pack up and get ready to board some LSTs off the beachhead.  We went north to a place called Hungnam, where we later rescued some Marines coming down in the snow from a place called the Chosin Reservoir.  When we got to Hungnam, it was cold and dreary.  There was a little snow falling, but not like that which was falling on the Marines who were fighting in it at the Chosin Reservoir.  All we could do for them was have a nice warm tent and warm food ready for them when they made it down to where we were.

After the last Marine and his platoon had made it back to Hungnam, we loaded everyone on amtracs, boarded them on waiting ships, and then started to sail out of the harbor.  When we looked back at the docks in that harbor, it was like the Fourth of July seeing all that harbor and docks and equipment we couldn't bring back with us just exploding into mid air and damaging everything in sight.  It was a sight to behold.  If there was anyone in that vicinity, they never lived to tell about it.  It was just like in the movies.  BOOM!!


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Daily Life

On board all ships we had showers, and most of the time at Masan and Wonsan we had enough talented and experienced men who could rig up shower stalls to fill our needs.  Of course, when there were no showers around, we used our helmets and the waters at the beaches.  We couldn't miss a day without shaving, as we stood inspections every day--and rightfully so, because we were no where near the war zone and there was no reason not to practice personal hygiene every day.  We had the facilities, the time, and the luxury of clean clothes every day.  There were a few times we slept in our clothes in sleeping bags, even with our shoes on, as we were too cold to move much.  We had cold and snow in Masan during the winter--and plenty of rain, too--and cold and snow in Hungnam.  I do not ('til this day) miss any Korean winters.  The summers I could handle okay.

The first few days we depended on C-rations, but then (while at Kimpo and the Han River) we started getting containers of hot food trucked in from the seawall by way of the ships in the harbor.  We were very fortunate in that respect.  In reserve areas such as Masan and Wonsan, it was like being on a base in the states.  Those two campsites actually had mess halls with kitchens fully loaded with everything the cooks needed to cook for over 1,000 men or more.  There were tables and benches and even a private room for the "officers' mess."  Tuff luck!  We had good, hot food--and plenty of it, especially at Marine Corps anniversary, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, too.  It was a sin to experience those conditions knowing what our own front line troops must have been going through.  Although I myself didn't make a damn difference one way or another, my conscience did let me know one way or the other.  I'm a very sensitive type person and my conscience has been with me all of my life.  I did not eat the Korean food, although I did eat a few times in a Korean restaurant.  I always ate deep-fried pawns and fries.  The stateside food I missed the most while I was in Korea was hamburgers.

I became friends with a fellow Marine who just happened to come from Oakland, California, just on the other end of the tunnel that connects Oakland to Alameda.  Small world.  I met him at Del Mar before we shipped to Japan.  He was with the amtrac reserve outfit stationed on Treasure Island in San Francisco bay, which is about halfway between San Francisco and Oakland.  He was a little closer to his girlfriend than I was to mine.  His name is Fred Boyd.  We're about the same age and we only live about a 12-minute drive apart today.  In fact, we don't even have to use the freeway to get to each other's house.  We were always so damn jealous of Fred because he always got mail and packages from his girlfriend Shirley.  We would say, "How can your girlfriend find so many things to write about every day?"  But she did.  Every mail call was, "Boyd - Boyd - Boyd," etc.  We said to him, "Let us read some, Fred.  That way it won't take you so long."  He replied, "I got plenty of time.  Suffer, dogs."

There was another guy I met who turned out to be another very good friend.  His name was T.A. Thompson.  He was a regular Marine from the east coast and just happened to be in my platoon, along with Fred Boyd and a host of others.  Those guys were like friends you pal'd around with in school and in your neighborhood.  We were always laughing, kidding around, teasing each other, playing practical jokes, telling stories both true and false--just a continuous act of brotherly love for one another.  They were all the "gung-ho" type of "always faithful" to each other.

I usually got one or two letters a month and a package about every three or four months.  I didn't ask for much because I didn't need anything.  Most packages were received in pretty good condition and the contents were mostly cookies and candies, toilet articles, gum, cigarettes, and writing paper and envelopes.  Fortunately we had no bad news from home, but there came a time when we were all tired of not receiving very much mail, so I casually mentioned in front of a few sad souls, "Hey guys.  Why don't we write off a letter with our addresses included to some of the Y.W.C.A.'s and tell them how 'lonely' we are and the lack of mail we're receiving?  That ought to do something, huh?"  In a few weeks time we were getting mail from girls in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Chicago, etc.  You name it.  We got it.  Everybody was happy but T.A.  He received no mail, and he was sad because his girlfriend in Utica, New York had been neglecting him.  So I said, "Let me write her a few lines and let her know how down in the dumps you are.  She'll come around."  Well, one thing led to another, and the next thing I knew she was writing letters to me.  Poor ol' T.A. said that he didn't give a damn and the hell with her attitude.  All the guys teased both of us about it.  It didn't last long and T.A. and I still parted good friends.  He was always good for many laughs and had a good sense of humor.  I really miss him.  I would love to see him just one more time.  He stands out in my mind as my buddy, my clown jester, and my shoulder to lean on when I was laughing so hard by whatever he said.  His facial expressions when he was conversing were so innocent and not put on that I couldn't help but love the guy, even when I was laughing at or with him.  Sometimes he seemed like a relative of Jed Clampett of the Beverly Hillbillies, and sometimes he reminded me of a character out of Lil' Abner.  I could go on, but you get the idea why I think he's the one guy who stands out in my mind, even though I haven't seen him for over 50 years.

As far as religion goes, the only time we could attend church services on a regular basis was when we were in Masan and Wonsan.  In either place we had a tent or small building, or church was held in the chow hall.  We also got to attend church services on religious holidays such as Easter and Christmas, but other than that the holidays were just big feast days.  I celebrated my 21st birthday in Masan on June 8 of 1951, and it was no different than any other day, except my mother sent me a very nice wristwatch.  On November 10, 1950, we celebrated the Marine Corps birthday in Masan with a food feast like we would expect at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The only guys who worked that day were the KP crew, cooks, and the guys on guard duty.  The rest of us had a holiday.

I saw a USO show while I was in Korea.  It was an entertainment group with a slight Western style motif, a nice band, and very pretty girl singers, too.  There were also a few men who joked around like in the old burlesque days.  They were pretty good and we enjoyed them very much.  That happened in Masan.

I didn't exactly "shake hands" with any high ranking, important people while I was in Korea, but I did get a close-up view of General O.P. Smith, who was the highest ranking Marine officer in Korea at that time.  One day we both just happened to be at the military cemetery just outside of Seoul.  He was with a group of high ranking officers and I was with a group of low-ranking "peons."

I drank alcohol and smoked, but did very little gambling.  We were supplied with rations of beer and cigarettes whenever they were available, and in towns like Masan and villages like Wonsan, we could buy almost anything we wanted--smokes and beer (even American beers and brand name cigarettes), liquor, cameras and film (even development service), souvenirs, and sex.  In Masan there were prostitutes who were met in town and taken to various places, but in Wonsan there was no town close by--just small villages, so the women came out at night and met the men among the tractors, away from the main body of the camp.

We were in contact with the natives from Kimpo to Masan and Wonsan.  It was all military troops up at Hungnam.  Practically all the South Koreans that we came in contact with were very friendly.  We trusted them to launder a lot of our uniforms and to return them in a reasonable amount of time, clean and folded neatly as if they were pressed with a hot iron.  We paid them a lot more than they expected, and in turn they were very honest and friendly towards us.  They weren't all living in poverty.  Some families were living fairly comfortable, and people and kids were dressed fairly neat.  Some begged with their hands out and others with their eyes only.  We gave what we could, as we knew what the old saying, "Do unto others" meant.

Was Korea a country worth fighting for?  I really didn't look at it as such.  Instead, I felt that we were more or less fighting to stay alive and return home.  We understood that by us fighting over there meant that our country was safe from them being over here.  My strongest memories of Korea are the whole ball of wax--from sailing out of San Diego to Japan and all the time spent in Korea from Inchon to Masan, Wonsan, Hungnam, back down to Masan, and home.

In my leisure time I sometimes thought about how far I was from home and wondered if I would ever get back.  The picture was even gloomier in the winter time, when it was cold and snowing.  Also, by being a Reservist and not a regular Marine, not having the experience of a boot camp really had an effect on my not responding as quickly and effectively as a regular Marine would have.  One example of that was when I was making the rounds on guard duty one Sunday morning.  The other men had sleep-in privileges that day.  When the Officer of the Day approached me, I didn't recognize him properly.  He must have sensed that I was a green reserve, and proceeded to roast me over the coals, so to speak.  It was cold outside, but I was sweating my buns off.  He asked me a few of my general orders and I didn't answer them very correctly.  You can guess what happened after that.  Not only did I get a little extra duty to perform, but I knew my general orders the next meeting I had with that particular officer. (Ha! Ha! Ha!)


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Going Home

After returning to Masan from Hungnam, B Company amtracs remained at Masan until we got orders that we would be going home.  I don't remember the exact date, but I left Korea to go back to the states in early November 1951.  We were the last contingent of single guys who had landed at Inchon, along with guys from "A" Company, "C" Company, and "H&S" Company.  All the married guys went home first.  It was kind of sad to leave the guys who had joined us in Korea and who we had made some very good friends with, but we were still very happy knowing we were heading home with a capital "H".  We were transported to the docks with Marine Corps trucks.  It was all a group effort (besides the other Marines from the 1st Amtrac Battalion's "A", "C", and "H&S" Companies there were Marines from other outfits), so there was nothing difficult as far as processing us out.

By then I had finally made the rank of sergeant (called a buck sergeant in the Corps).  I had three stripes, and let me tell you, that promotion didn't come easy.  The Marine Corps didn't hand out sergeant stripes to anyone with only 15 months of duty (active or otherwise).  It was more of an incentive move on their part to try and get me to re-enlist for another tour of duty.  Ha, ha.  Fat chance.

After we left Korea, we stopped over in Kobe, Japan, the same port as when we arrived from San Diego.  We spent a few days there filling up on hamburgers and milkshakes, picked up a few more Marines, and then headed straight to San Diego, California, USA.  It was a very happy and pleasant mood on board the ship coming home.  Even the staff, gunnys, and top sergeants were a little more pleasant to deal with.  Ditto with the officers, too.  We had no duties except a little KP duty and we hit no rough weather, so it was a more pleasant trip coming home than going over.  We were on a Navy ship, which was much faster than the troop ship going over.  The trip took about 11 or 12 days.

The ship docked near the Marine Corps depot in San Diego.  Besides the usual dignitaries and brass, there was a Marine band and lots of Marine families, including my own mother and sister, who I managed to find in the crowd on the dock from my viewpoint on the railing.  It was a choking experience to say the least.  Seeing the mainland was indeed beautiful and tear-jerking, especially when the Marine band started playing our own Marine Corps Hymn.  It raised the hairs on my back and arms.  To exit the ship, they just started one company after another, "A" Company first, then "B" Company, "C" Company, and so on.  The first thing I did when I got off the ship was kiss and hug my mom and sister.

The very first day back in the states, we ate and slept.  The second day, a good buddy of mine named MacManus and I went on liberty, sightseeing around San Diego (it was nighttime), bar hopping, and night clubbing.  We stopped at one out of the way small night club because we saw a photo of a good-looking female singer on the marquee board outside the club.  We decided to go in and check the girl out.  The place wasn't too big inside and there wasn't too big of an audience.  Either we were there at the wrong time of night or the wrong night of the week.  We were just sitting there sipping on our drinks when we heard this very nice voice starting to sing behind our backs.  We turned around to see where it was coming from and we both said "Wow" under our breaths.  We feasted our eyes on a very beautiful African American woman who was dressed to kill.  And she could sing, too.  She was just starting with her singing career (don't forget, that was December of 1951), when I was just old enough to get into a bar.  That fine young woman turned out to be none other than Nancy Wilson, a jazz diva who has been singing ever since then and is still belting them out today.

I finished out my enlistment at Camp Del Mar, just across the road from Camp Pendleton.  My "duty" at the base was to stay out of their way and stay out of trouble.  I was very reserved and really didn't celebrate my return from Korea one way or another.  I was a hardened Marine who was 21 going on 41.  I received my discharge sometime in February of 1952.

One of the first things I did when I got discharged was to go and visit with my good friend Bob Finnegan's mother and family, who lived just a short distance away from my home in Alameda.  It was very hard for me to sit and visit with them knowing they were thinking of their son while looking at me.  I couldn't tell them too much about Bob because I saw him for just a little while at Inchon before we separated, but they were still very happy to see me and talk to me, even for just a short time.  That was my last contact with them.

Adjusting to civilian life was not too much of a problem, as it only took me a couple of months to get a job.  I kind of took it easy for a couple of months and got reacquainted with a few people.  I got a job through a friend of mine, and with a paycheck coming in every week I was on easy street.  After a few paychecks I used my mustering out pay to buy my first car.  It was a nice (used) 1950 Ford convertible.  I had to get a new top for it, but it was my "baby."  I loved it.  I got rid of it, though, when I got married.  Oh well.

There was a girl at my place of business who worked in the office, but I really didn't notice her until after working there about three and a half years.  I took her to a wedding, we started going out more often together, got engaged, and were married about six months later.  We were blessed with four sons and one daughter.  My sons in order of their ages, are Brian, David (who died of an aneurism just after turning 18 years old and a month before his high school graduation in 1979), Michael, and Christopher.  My daughter's name is Stacy.  We also have seven granddaughters and one grandson.

I really didn't stop singing until I was about 60 years old.  After that length of time I just kind of got tired.  Although I'm 77 now, I bet I can still sing with the best of them.  Ha! Ha!  (Just ask the congregation at St. Bedes Catholic Church, where all my kids graduated from parochial school.)  I directed the church choir for 30 years, and Stacy accompanied me on her guitar about the last 10 or 12 years.  She also was a cheerleader at St. Bedes and played on many of their sports teams, as did all her brothers.  They played on all the sports teams through the 8th grade.  Brian was the only one who managed to graduate from a Catholic High School (Moreau Catholic) because he worked for his school tuition.  Even in those days private school tuition was like going to college.

I retired at 60 1/2 years of age in January 1990, and have not regretted one minute of it.  I golf three times a week and it's not enough for me.  I'd really like to do it every day--believe it.  I discovered golf at age 65, and am mad about it.  The rest of my time is split eight equal per grandchild.  I have to pinch myself to stop and think that I'm really my age.  I still can't believe it.  I sure as hell don't feel like I'm 70 years old.  (How is a 70 year old supposed to feel like, anyhow?)  I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.


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Final Reflections

Going to Korea was definitely an experience I could have lived without, but it matured me in more ways than I can remember.  I seemed to have gotten more serious and more laid back.  I took things in stride and didn't jump to any quick conclusions or decisions.  I wasn't as young as I used to be, and I didn't see most people in the same way as I did before going to Korea.  It seemed as though some people didn't know how to take me, and therefore weren't as friendly as before, but I survived.

I think the war was definitely good for the South Koreans, as well as South Korea.  There is nothing like a short little war financed by the good ol' USA to rebuild a country into a showplace that outshines the USA.  That's the good ol' USA for you.  I know that America sure forgot the Korean War real fast.  It was just swept under the rug real quick.  I hope those reading this memoir will try to read between the lines of my story and understand my bitterness (if any) about being taken away from my youth before it had a chance to develop and grow in a natural way as nature intended.  I think I aged 10 years in 18 months, but at least I came back.  Not so for many others.

To this day, I still have no idea why I was the only one who got chosen out of my 12th Signal Company to be transferred into the 1st Amtrac Battalion.  The rest of the company stayed stateside all the time I was in Korea.  After looking back on everything I have experienced, I'm glad it happened to me.  I have no complaints whatsoever of knowing each and every Marine I have been associated with.  I would go to hell and back with them all.  They are my distant silent brothers.  Even without boot camp experience we were still drilled and instructed about what being a Marine is all about.  It's about brotherhood and taking care of one another, living or dead.  The brotherhood of Marines is stronger than the mafia.

I've lost contact with those I served with in Korea--T.A. Thompson, James Kresge, Jim Sponeybarger, Mike Cerminaro, Boyd Dowdell, Paul Commeaux, James Hillary Menting, Robert Ashcraft, Paycheck, Harper (an Alabama boy), etc.  Being in the Marine Corps was a very special time in my life.  I was very pleased to have been associated with a great bunch of guys.  I'm not knocking any of our other service branches, but there's only one Marine Corps, and it consists of only one breed of man.  There is a reason for our motto, "Semper Fidelis."  The "always faithful" is self explanatory.

 

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