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Gene Dixon - 2004

Gene Dixon

Traverse City, Michigan-
Korean War Veteran of the United States Marine Corps

"Going into combat is never a pleasant outlook and I can say that my feelings were one of apprehension, yes and fear. I know others have said that they had no fear, but I would be suspicious of that statement. Combat is an unknown until you face the enemy and know he wants to take your life. Then and only then do your true feelings appear."

- Gene Dixon

 


[KWE Note: Gene served in the United States Marine Corps from 1946 until 1966. During the Korean War, he served with the First Provisional Marine Brigade, 1st Marine Division, and the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. He was in Korea from August 2, 1950 to June 10, 1951, seeing action in the Pusan Perimeter, Inchon Landing, Chosin Reservoir, and the Spring Offensive of 1951.]

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Gene Dixon recalls Korea 1950-1951


The local American Legion honored local Korean War Veterans at a special ceremony with a great luncheon and program with gifts.
Gene Dixon is center seated with KWVA Uniform on.

(Click picture for a larger view)

The following is from web pages that I have created on my recollections of my participation in the Korean War from July 1950 to July 1951, as well as from question/answer sessions with Lynnita Brown of the Korean War Educator. From the Pusan Perimeter, Naktong River, and Seoul in the south of Korea to Yudam-ni and the Chosin Reservoir in the north of Korea, memories still abide. My life and outlook changed from my experiences in this one year in a country that few Americans had heard of, KOREA. I have learned what it is like to be in a position where someone out there is trying to take your life and you have to fight back. And to come to the conclusion that our fragile life is in the hands of Almighty God and that He and He alone will be with us, if we allow. I was fortunate, my hurt was only a slight case of frostbite, but I must pay tribute to those that paid the ultimate price. We must honor them and never forget the price they paid. I would invite all to visit my web pages, which covers a lot of the material here and also my twenty years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps.

You may view the entire career at: http://webpages.charter.net/gdixon/.


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Pre-Military Background


Eugene Dixon circa 1936/37
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I was born on December 10, 1929 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, one of the six children of Floyd Harlon and Flossie Mae Whisamore Dixon.  They named me Eugene Walter Lee Dixon.  My family resided in Tulsa until the early 1930s, when we moved to Vinita, Oklahoma.  My father worked as a machinist at Gaso Pump and Burner Manufacturing Company.  From the carbon monoxide fumes that he inhaled while working, his health was affected and he eventually became paralyzed from the waist down.  My mother did not work out of the home.  She had a full time job taking care of six children: Myrl and Fredda, my two older siblings, me, and my three younger siblings, Ramona, Marilyn, and Bob.

My school experiences started when I was enrolled at Dixon Elementary School, located about nine miles north of Vinita.  When I was in the first grade we moved to Timber Hill (Bluejacket, OK school district) where I attended Timber Hill Elementary School until graduating from the eighth grade as class valedictorian.  Our family then moved to Bluejacket, Oklahoma, and I attended Bluejacket High School.  During the period of 1929 to 1941, our family suffered along with much of the nation with the "hard times" of the depression.  As mentioned earlier, my father's health began to deteriorate due to his exposure to harmful fumes.  First he walked with a cane, then crutches.  He went into a wheelchair and was finally bedridden.  After my father's illness set in, we moved to homes with farmland.  We were able to survive with the various produce from farming, chickens for meat and eggs, and hogs for our meat.  I guess we didn't know how poor we were because most of our neighbors were in a similar condition.  My father, though disabled, somehow managed to get us all through the real rough times.

While attending high school, I worked intermittently at baling hay, carrying out groceries at the local grocery store, working for the Craig County Road Commission, and doing various hand work tasks.  Prior to that, I had joined the Boy Scout's unit which held weekly meetings at the local Baptist Church's basement.  While in this I feel I developed a bit of respect for God and Country, as well as respect for the American flag.


My brother, Myrl Louis Dixon
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The 1940s were critical years in our nation's history with World War II taking place.  My older brother Myrl joined the Marine Corps and participated in the Guam and Iwo Jima battle campaigns.  He returned to the States at the end of World War II and was discharged December 1945.  Most people during that time period were touched by World War II.  With Myrl in the South Pacific, our family followed the war news mostly via radio and newspapers.  We also learned about it in the letters from my brother.  At school, we recited the "Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag" daily.  As for me personally, I can remember that we did not have much money in those days, but out of what little I had, I started buying "defense stamps" that you could put into a book.  When you got enough stamps in the book, you could trade them in for a "defense bond."

I can also very vividly recall those years when trains and buses were crowded with servicemen and women on leave or transferring around the nation--in fact, around the world.  I remember how I admired each one of them in their uniforms and dreamed often of being one of them.  The military appealed to me as a way of life that I wanted to follow, so much so that on December 20, 1946, I quit high school and joined the U.S. Marine Corps.

My class was due to graduate in June 1947, but I had 14 of the required credits by December 1946. The school board and superintendent granted me the remaining two credits (for military service). Their thoughts on my early graduation were that what I would learn in the military would be sufficient, so they granted my diploma early. I think this may have happened in other schools, too, since World War II was just ending and a lot of high school students were going in the service around that time.  I am not sure, but I think this was their adopted policy. I think it was limited to only two credits, however.


High School Senior 1946
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I had told one of my teachers that I planned on enlisting in the Marines, and her comment was that I probably could not even get into the Army.  I was not a big person.  I was only 5 foot 4 inches tall and weighed only 115 pounds.  The Marines requirement at that time was that a recruit had to be weigh at least 113 pounds.  My folks were not too happy with the idea of seeing yet another son join the military, but I was persistent.  I needed their signature to enlist since I had only turned seventeen.  I had hoped to enlist on my birthday December 10, 1946, but when I was examined at the Marine Corps Recruiting Sub-Station at Tulsa, OK, I had a decayed tooth that had to be filled before I could enlist.  This delayed my enlistment to December 20, 1946.

I joined at the Marine Corps Recruiting Station in Oklahoma City.  Traveling to Oklahoma City (alone) for enlistment started a whole new experience for me and I wasn't quite sure about what lay ahead.  Up until then, I had never been that far from home.  I was the only one who enlisted that day, so it was even more scary when I discovered that I had to travel all the way to the Recruit Depot in San Diego, California, by myself.  Being young and never having been away from the security of my home, family and friends brought about a little anxiety.  In those days, our family had very little money.  My Dad being disabled, our trips had never been very far away.  Remember, our country and our family had endured the "big depression" that started the year I was born (1929) and was still affecting our economy, so most of our friends were in the same position.  We all stayed close to home.

I was pretty much a loner all the way to San Diego.  The train was crowded with strangers to me, and that alone made me uncomfortable.  I was quite green to a lot of things.  In Oklahoma City, I was given vouchers for meals aboard the train. There was no one with me to answer any of the questions that I had about how to do the simplest of things.  For instance, I had never eaten in the "dining car" and was shy about trying it out. I had very little money, so I was unable to buy any snack items that were sold throughout the cars.  As a result, I finally got hungry enough to try the meal in the dining car.  I was not sure just how much I could get for the meal vouchers, and I knew I that I did not have the money to pay if I went over the allowance. In view of this, I ordered only what I thought the voucher would cover.  As a result of my hesitancy of going to the dining car, I had a few meal vouchers left over by the time I got to San Diego.  These I turned back to the Marine Corps.  After I had tried the dining car, I could have kicked myself for not taking advantage of it all the way.

The two-day trip to San Diego, California, was the longest trip I had made to date, but a few months later I would make an even longer one as I traveled to Korea.


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Boot Camp Memories

Upon arriving in San Diego, I was met by a Marine Sergeant who, in my mind, was about seven feet tall and would have probably scared the devil if they should ever meet.  (I had just turned 17 and was only 5'4" tall and weighed only 115 pounds.)  With a gruff Marine voice, he asked me if I was sure that I was as old as seventeen.  With a lump in my throat I got out "yeah."  I was immediately informed that when addressing him I was ALWAYS supposed to use "SIR!!!"  He "escorted" me to the recruit training center.  As we arrived at the main gate, I heard a lot of voices yelling, "You'll be sorry."  Well, that only convinced me that I had really made a big mistake.  I thought how I would like to get back on the train and go back home.  Yeah, as if that was about to happen!

I arrived late at night, about 11 p.m., and things seemed quiet.  I was escorted to a barracks and given a bunk to sleep in.  It took a while to go to sleep as I kept wondering what kind of mess I had gotten myself into.  But sleep did come.  I was abruptly awakened, however, by the loud sound of a bugle over a loudspeaker and with some big sergeant yelling for us all to hit the deck.  We quickly had to fall out for a roll call.

It was just before Christmas and the recruit depot seemed to be in a holiday spirit, all except for our three drill instructors.  Our platoon No. 246, the last platoon that started training in the year 1946, was composed of about 45 "green" individuals who soon learned that we were not "individuals" after all and that we had "no mind of our own."  The boot haircut further convinced us that we were less than human and that with shaved heads, we all looked alike.  We were issued clothing, rifle, and other necessities of a Marine, even though we were told in no uncertain terms that we were not Marines yet.  We were not even allowed to wear the emblem on our uniforms until after graduation.

We had to do everything as a group.  All decisions were made for us.  To think was out of the question, and anyone trying it was immediately enlightened when the DIs made clear that they would be our "father and mother" for the next eight weeks.  Our World War II combat veteran drill instructors--TSgt T.W. Finley (senior DI), SSgt. J.H. Dunn (DI), and Sgt. W.D. Doty (Junior DI)--were with us day and night until the completion of boot camp.  Our DIs were very strict, and we were expected to ask their permission to do anything that wasn't on their agenda.

Our living quarters at San Diego Recruit Depot were better than I had expected.  Sea School, the Band, and other depot units were there, too, but my world revolved around Platoon No. 246 and the DIs who totally controlled our lives.  Lights out and all quiet came at 10:00 p.m.  Reveille came at least by 5:00 a.m., and the loud bugle on the loud speakers was always followed by drill instructors yelling all kinds of expletives at us.  Every moment of our day was mapped out for us by the DIs for eight long weeks.  Time was allowed for shaving (whether we needed it or not).  We learned to eat Marine food at chow, even if we didn't like what we ate, just to survive.  (I went from 115 pounds to 135 pounds by the end of boot camp.)

Military bearing and discipline was instilled in us from morning to night through Close Order Drill (learning to march together as a unit) several hours each day.  This was supplemented by classroom training by lecture and training films on all military subjects.  Handling of the M-1 rifle, carbine, BAR, and machine guns--how to take them apart and, hopefully, how to get them back together--were taught for many hours.  We learned that our rifle was almost sacred and that we should treat it with utmost care, even if it meant sleeping with it.  We underwent countless rifle inspections in the next few weeks.  Fire drills and roll calls were an integral part of every day, too.

We were expected to take long hikes with packs and weapons.  We had to memorize our General Orders and we were expected to be able to answer enough questions on our classroom training to indicate that we had retained an acceptable amount of knowledge.  There was rifle range qualification training on the rifle range.  We learned the history and traditions of the Marine Corps.  We had hours of Calisthenics (exercises), double timing, and running the obstacle courses.  We had to meet the swimming requirement.  There were times we might be required to go without a smoking break or have to do extra exercises when we did not perform properly.  (I remember the gas episode training, where it was self-evident if we did not perform properly.  The tear gas was our punishment.)  Rifle range qualification was a test of how the individual had learned and mastered marksmanship.  Those who did not qualify were made note of and the rest of the platoon would know their score.

We had housekeeping chores to do as well, and there were times when we were forced to hold an extra field day (cleaning the barracks) when it did not pass inspection.  We did our own laundry.  I remember we did not have an iron to iron our ties, so most of us straightened our ties out by wrapping them around the radiator heating pipes.  This helped make them lay flatter.  Once when issued our clothing, I lost track of one pair of my shoes and had to go to the DI to get them back.  They were size 7 1/2EE.  When asked what size they were, I responded with 7 1/2EE.  He handed the pair to me and told me to get out of there before I got a 10EE "up my ass."

At first, I was sorry that I had joined the Marine Corps.  But I did come to realize that all discipline was to impress all of us that what and how we performed individually might affect the platoon as a whole.  And I did realize that I had better learn good there, because if I didn't I might pay the price in case of combat in the future.  Since I was only 5 foot, 4 inches tall, for me the hardest thing in boot camp was keeping up with the platoon while marching and doing close order drill. It seemed that the taller men were in the lead and I had to take longer than normal steps to keep up.  Those of us who were short were referred to as "feather merchants" by the DIs.  After graduation was in sight, I realized that all that the DIs had done and put us through had been for a reason, and that was to make Marines out of all of us.  They did their job well and I would have been glad to follow them anywhere they would lead.

Graduation day--the day we could add our emblems to our uniforms--came.  There was a graduating parade where all were in step with each other, marching in review with base officers and civilians observing.  The Marine band played the Marine Corps hymn while platoons of graduates, with our head and shoulders straight, marched with military precision.  Upon graduation, we could call ourselves MARINES, and we could then demand that non-marines (those recruits who had not finished boot camp) refer to us as SIR while standing at attention.  I was more mature, more disciplined, and twenty pounds heavier by the time I graduated.  I was also very proud--not only of being a Marine, but also for having achieved graduation.


Platoon 232 U.S. Marine Corps - San Diego, 1946
(Click picture for a larger view)
Click HERE for Roster
  (PDF File)

After graduation our platoon was "fortunate" enough to be assigned thirty days of "mess duty."  Mess duty was working in the Marine Corps dining facilities, preparing and serving food to recruits, washing dishes, cleaning tables and floors, etc.  While on mess duty, several members of the platoon (including myself) came down with the mumps and had to be admitted to the Naval Hospital at Balboa.  After that was over, orders to our new duty station were issued.

While in boot camp, we were given a series of aptitude and other tests, including the GCT or General Classification Test.  These tests were supposed to accurately determine what we might be suited for in the Corps, but in my opinion I am sure they did not.  Apparently according to their guidelines, my scores on this battery of tests indicated that I would be a candidate for Field Telephone School.  That was a school to teach and train students how to install telephone communication in the field or in combat.  Although I was not really familiar with all of the military job specialties available, I had indicated in a previous interview that my skill preferences were (1) Marine Air Wing duty serving with Marine Corps aviation units or (2) Engineers, building roads, structures, bridges, etc.  I was not happy with the assignment, but hoped to make the best of what I had been dealt

I was assigned to Field Telephone Course No. 24 at Camp Delmar, California, but not before making a lasting friend in boot camp.  His name was Gene Loveall.  Our paths crossed several times during our careers in the Marine Corps.  We were the only two from our platoon to go on to make the Marine Corps our career.  We still correspond occasionally today.


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Field Telephone Course No. 24


Field Telephone Class 24
graduation June 1947

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I had no leave after boot camp.  Instead, I went straight to Field Telephone School.  Camp Delmar was actually a sort of sub-camp of Camp Pendleton, California.  Our quarters and classrooms were mostly World War II prefab buildings, but we spent a lot of our time taking instruction out in the field as opposed to indoor training.  After all the joy of completion of boot camp, we had thought that now we were "real" Marines who would be treated with respect.  But Class 24 soon found out that there were hard days ahead, and that we would be subjected to even harder training in the field.  In my mind, I felt that this was much harder than my boot camp experience.  Our instructors (Sergeant Marcincwicz and Corporal Jarnigan in particular) seemed to be filled with great joy in having us double time (semi-running) everywhere we had to go.  And besides that, we were expected to carry heavy rolls of telephone wire, telephones, switchboards, and other field telephone equipment on top of our field packs (used to carry extra clothing and personal items)--yes, and even our rifles.


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For about six weeks during the months of May and June 1947, we learned all there was to know about message writing, field telephones, field switchboards, and all associated field telephone equipment such as drums (DR4) of wire containing about a half mile of heavy telephone wire that could be reeled off of a RL27 hand held axle, or RL31 (an H frame for holding the reel of wire).  We were taught how to lay telephone wire in combat situations, how to install a field central switchboard (as I recall BD72), and how to lay telephone lines between the switchboard and a local telephone.  While there was some classroom instruction films, lectures, and tests, most of the instructions were on the job training in the field, simulating a typical Company to Battalion to Regiment combat field telephone hookup.  Everyone, regardless of his size, was expected and did carry even the heaviest of equipment--weight from 25 to 70 pounds, along with our rifles, on top of the field packs that were on our backs.

We also received training on how to climb telephone poles with the usual telephone climbing equipment such as a tool belt and climbers with gaffs that would spike into the side of the pole and let you sort of climb/walk up the pole.  I remember that the equipment we trained on was World War II vintage and in fair shape, but it was extremely heavy.  We had the usual electronic types of failures, and sometimes had to repair the telephone before it would work.  In the classroom, we were tested with paper and pencil.  But we also had to perform in the field to show that we could apply in action what we had been taught in the class and on the job training.  The school had its own testing system, which seemed to satisfy the instructors and gave them a fairly accurate evaluation of how well and what we had learned.

Communications was (and is) the key for any military unit during times of war.  If commanders cannot communicate, they cannot lead and direct their unit on their mission.  The communication system that we learned at Delmar had been tried and tested over the years and was the best they had in those days.  Still, I recall that we did have our fair share of problems with the equipment in Korea.  Wear, dirt, weather, and rain took a toll on it.

At the time I was taking training at Delmar, there was no war going on.  Still, we learned that we should take the training seriously as it would probably save lives in actual combat situations.  Our training in Field Telephone Course was all based on combat situations, and we trained as if we were a normal unit actually in combat.  Free time was at a premium.  Most of it would be spent cleaning equipment and clothing, and getting rested up for the next onslaught of field training, but on occasion we could go to the PX or slop shute (for a beer or two).

Four weeks after my training at Delmar began, I received my first promotion to Private First Class after passing a test on military proficiency.  I then was placed in charge of the head detail (head = Marine Corps word for toilet/bathroom) sometime in June.  It was more work than just being a worker.  If it did not pass inspection, I heard about it and had to get it in better shape to pass inspection.  This, too, eventually passed after a couple of weeks.  The jobs rotated and I was placed in charge of another area of the barracks.  After graduation from Telephone School came, I was only at Camp Delmar about a month before I got my orders to transfer to Base Communications at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.


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A Very Itchy Ride

Enroute to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, we were joined by a group of more Marines heading to the same destination.  We traveled on a "troop train" of about six rail cars full of Marines.  This was in August and 1947 and we were going the southern route.  Remember -- this was a train (air conditioning wasn't heard of then, especially on troop trains) going through Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.  You can imagine the temperatures in those states at the time.  On top of it all, on our last days of school at Camp Delmar, our class was on a field trip (where we played war games).  I got into some poison ivy and it had made its appearance all up and down my legs.  I don't know if you can imagine that or not, but I can assure you, it was not fun.  There were no Navy corpsmen (Navy medical personnel assigned to Marine Corps units) among our group, so I was miserable during the entire trip.  I think it was a five or six day trip, but since I was in misery the whole way, it seemed a lot longer.  I finally received attention and got some relief from the poison ivy upon arriving at Camp Lejeune.


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Base Communications at Lejeune
 


Issued first set of dress blues
while at Base communication
Camp Lejeune 1948

(Click for a larger view)

At Camp Lejeune, I was assigned to the base telephone exchange as a telephone operator.  I continued as a telephone operator until January 1948.  At that time, a need for a telephone installer/repairman developed, and the job was mine.  In March of 1948, I was promoted to Corporal and got my own telephone installer truck.  My job consisted of installing and repairing telephones throughout the camp offices and residential areas.  I had a lot of spare time and started taking the Airpilot's Course (a correspondence course) through the Marine Corps Institute, Washington DC.


Gene and jeep Base communication
Camp Lejeune 1948

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I was able to spend a lot of time on this course, which was about a 1000 hours of study on all the sub courses a pilot was required to take.  This included such sub courses as mathematics, meteorology, radio, aircraft engines, and navigation.  Mainly, I was preparing for return to civilian life.  My plans were to enter Spartan Air University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I had dreams of becoming a civilian commercial pilot.  I proceeded rapidly through the course and was about to complete it (July 1949) when I got orders from Washington, DC to report to the Marine Corps Institute as an instructor in the course I was completing.


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Airpilot Instructor


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I reported to the Marine Corps Institute, Marine Barracks, at 8th and I Streets, Washington, DC, where I assumed the position of instructor.  A few weeks later, I received my diploma on the Airpilot's course, and in September of 1949 I was promoted to Sergeant.

In addition to my duties as instructor at the Marine Corps Institute, the MCI detachment of which I was a part would also participate in funeral ceremonies at Arlington Cemetery.  This included ceremonies interring some bodies that were being returned to the states from World War II action.  Some of us from the barracks were called upon to provide security for the Presidential retreat at Thurmont, Maryland.  I believe this is what is now referred to as Camp David.

We also participated each Friday in the "Sunset Parade" ceremony.  This entailed forming the parade and marching in review of high civilian and military dignitaries.  The home of the Commandant of the Marine Corps was also located there.  The parade ended with the lowering of the colors as the sun set.  It was a special thrill to me to be able to march to the music of the Real Main Marine Corps Band. This was on the 8th and I Street Barracks parade ground.  In addition to the MCI Detachment and Security Detachment, the Marine Corps Band was billeted there also.

My enlistment was due to expire on December 19, 1949, so I re-enlisted and requested assignment to the Marine Corps Security Unit at the Naval Ammunition Depot in McAlester, Oklahoma.  By that time, I had dropped the idea of becoming a commercial pilot.  I found that to attend the Spartan University, I would have to come up with quite a bundle of money.  Training under the GI bill was a possibility, but still there were expenses that I could not cover.


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Transfer to McAlester

My request for assignment to McAlester was granted, and I arrived there in December of 1949.  This was a Naval Ammunition Depot that had a lot of ammunition storage igloos (semi underground quonset hut shaped).  Fire was the main enemy on the Depot.  In fact, any vehicles driving on the station were required to have a screen muzzle over their exhaust pipe to cut down fire possibilities.  My main duties there were with the Main Gate Security, allowing only authorized people to come and go.  The Main Gate security was around the clock 24 hours a day.  As I recall, three other Marines and I were on 24 hour period and off 48 hours, then back on a 24 hour shift.

It was just great to be stationed so close to home.  McAlester was only about 44-50 miles from my hometown and I made frequent weekend trips home while stationed in that area.  My family was living in Adair, Oklahoma at the time, which was about 40 miles away.  McAlester was a small town and there was not a lot places to go locally.  While it was great to visit my family and friends, I must say that the friends whom I had grown up with--at least those still around our home--seemed to be so immature.  Apparently the Marine Corps had caused me to grow up.  I had little in common now with my previous friends in high school.

I enjoyed the duty at McAlester, but sadly it was only for about six months.  I knew that I probably would not be at McAlester for very long, since communications jobs were considered critical.  I guess that a lot of communicators were needed since every commander had to have his communicators.  Apparently the system did not allow communicators to be trained in large numbers.  Certain tests have to be passed with a certain level of a grade to be eligible for communications training.  Apparently that was why the job was critical.

I also knew that it was not Marine Corps policy to allow communicators to work too long outside of their specialty. Consequently, I was not surprised when I received orders to report to the First Marine Division, Shore Party Battalion, at Camp Delmar in June of 1950.  I took a train from McAlester to Camp Pendleton, and I had just gotten settled in after the transfer when the Korean War started.


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Preparing for War

The first part of July 1950, a combat review (full division parade) was held by 1st Marine Division units at Camp Pendleton, California. It was after this combat review that the word went out that General MacArthur had requested the Marines be sent to Korea and President Truman issued the order. What happened after that was put on a fast track.  The First Provisional Marine Brigade was formed and then beefed up with Marines from other units.  Since I had just arrived, I was re-transferred from the Shore Party Battalion to a company, battalion, and regiment.  I was assigned to the Communication Platoon, H&S Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, as a communicator.

We had heard via radio and newspaper about the war starting.  I did not want to go to war, but being trained as a Marine, I knew that this was always a possibility someday somewhere.  I accepted my orders to Korea as another job for the Marines.  With the new transfer to the Brigade, things were quite in a turmoil in my case.  I knew no one in the unit to which I was assigned.  I had not trained with them, and therefore I felt like an outsider in the unit.  In order to be a cohesive unit, Marines must train and bond together.  I did not have that opportunity.  Instead, I had to do the best I could and hopefully do my job the best I could.  I was a Sergeant and communicator, but prior to this time most of my duties had been with non-Combat units.  I had a lot to learn in such a short time. My previous service had been limited to boot camp, Field Telephone School, and Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune, NC. From there I was Instructor in the MCI’s Air Pilot’s Course, and security at McAlester, OK. Suddenly, with the outbreak of war in Korea, I was well on my way to overseas duty under combat conditions.

My family was apprehensive and concerned, but never voiced any of their thoughts in this regard.  I really did not know what to expect.  Korea being sort of a small nation, I felt it would not take long to get it all over with.  I was kept busy being hustled around joining the new unit, and signing and making preparations to go aboard ship.  Administrative records had to be maintained and weapons were issued.  The Marine Corps had to make sure that our medical records were up to date with necessary vaccinations and shots. The entire battalion was involved in getting prepared to depart for Korea.  Lt. Col George Newton was the 1st Battalion commander.  Captain Godenius (sp) was the H&S Company commander.  They took care of last minute administrative details as the time to depart for Korea neared.

There was no opportunity to say goodbye to anyone back home.  I was single at the time and my family lived half way across the country in Oklahoma.  Being single and having no car or other business to take care of made it less worrisome for me.


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The Henrico Heads for Korea


The USS Henrico
(Click for a larger view)

As I recall, I was part of the advance team to go aboard ship about July 12, 1950.  The rest of our unit came aboard over the next two days and we sailed July 15, 1950.  Our ship, the USS Henrico, was an old troop transport ship that had been around for many ears.  I don't know its exact capacity, but our Battalion consisted of probably just under 1000 troops, including supporting units.  U.S. Navy personnel manned the ship.

I had never been on a ship before.  This was all new to me and in some ways confusing.  But I adjusted.  I found it wasn't a good idea to lean off the side of the ship and watch the waves.  I started to get a queasy feeling and stopped doing it, but sea sickness was just around the corner.  I managed to get it not too bad, but I spent a lot of the time laying in my bunk.

The Henrico was an older troop transport ship.  Shortly after leaving San Diego, the ship developed engine trouble.  We pulled into Oakland Naval ship yard at Oakland, California for repairs.  After several attempts, the repairs were made and we were on our way.  This delayed us about 24 to 36 hours.  We had a couple of good days after we set sail, but then the weather became stormy and the sea rough.  After a few hours, this subsided.

Prior to getting to Pusan, we were told to pack our seabags and they would be stored some place while we were ashore.  The seabags contained everything we owned (including a lot of my personal items such as photos and the like)--everything that we could not carry in our field transport packs when we went ashore.  Some seabags were never seen again.  It seems they were put in storage either in Japan or Korea.  As a result, I lost any personal items that I had packed along with the extra clothing.  I don't recall ever getting any kind of an explanation on what happened to them. 

As I recall, it took about 14 to 15 days to sail to Korea.  Our only entertainment was perhaps a movie or two.  During the trip, I was in the Communication center, handling messages to and from unit commanders on the ship and to other ships.  There was no further training, although we did get some lectures on what to expect when we got to Korea.  The ship had no stopovers once we left California.  It was a straight shot to Pusan, South Korea, where we landed on August 2, 1950.


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A Sunset Arrival


(Click for a larger view)

We arrived in the evening around sunset. Rumor had it that some of the North Korean Army had broken through the defense lines and might cause havoc on us and the ship.  That did not happen.  Instead, natives were helping on the dock and unloading the Henrico.

I can still remember as we pulled into the port at Pusan. It was late evening and the smell of the harbor was new to me. The odor was unpleasant and had a fishy/garlic smell. I recall a band playing on the docks. We were rushed off the USS Henrico, and issued live ammunition.  When this happened, we knew this was going to be serious.  We then boarded a South Korean civilian train that transported us to what we perceived to be the front lines.  In reality, we spent our first night some distance back.

I can still recall that two to three hour train trip. The ride, which I think started about 6:00 a.m.,  was nothing like those in the USA.  The shrill of the whistle was sharp.  There were windows on the train so we were able to view the country side consisting of a lot of rice paddies and hills.  The tracks were in poor shape, therefore the train had to go slower.  In the short distance we traveled, there was a lot of stopping and starting along the way.  Certainly since we had just arrived in country and with dozens of rumors flying around, there was a considerable amount of uneasiness.  On my rank level, very little knowledge of what was really going on ever got down to us.  For the most part, we were just following orders.  We knew very little about what might be ahead.


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Organizational Setup

I should explain the set up of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines.  The Battalion consisted of the following:

  1. Headquarters and Service Company which was composed of section or platoons that performed services for administration, supply, and communications.  (I was in the communications platoon. Teams of communications personnel were attached to the rifle companies and weapons company for operations.)
  2. Weapons Company, composed of an anti-tank section, machine gun section, and mortar platoon (81mm).
  3. Three rifle companies (A Company, B Company, and C Company).

The brigade battalions did not have the 3rd company, and in our case we did not have C Company until the landing at Inchon.  A rifle company was composed of about 200+ men into maybe three platoons (40+ men each).  To support the company personnel from H&S or other units they supplemented the company with artillery observers and spotters, air spotting items, and communications teams.


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The Pusan Perimeter

Our destination that day was Changwon.  There, our battalion--1st Battalion 5th Marines--took up defensive positions along the Changwon-Masan road.  We were put into this position as protection, for the rest of the Brigade was to arrive later in the day.  This appeared to be some sort of an assembly area for the Brigade prior to going on the offensive.  It was hot and humid. On that first day in country, we did not know how Korea's summer climate would affect us.  But later we found that the heat caused many cases of heat exhaustion.  We also found out that keeping supplies of water would prove to be a problem.


Left to right:
Lt Col George Newton, Bn Cmdr 1/5, 1st Provisional Marine Brigade
Maj. John Russell, CO Weapons Co.
Capt John Stevens, CO Able Co.
Capt Ike Fenton, CO Baker Co.
Capt Walter Godenius, CO H&S Co.
(Photo courtesy of John Stevens, Dixon's former commander,
used with permission)

(Click for a larger view)

Army troops were in the perimeter when we arrived.  To me, they appeared to be exhausted yet glad to see the Marines.  Of course, you heard jiving comments about each other (which is normal), but remember these Army guys had been there mostly as occupation forces in peacetime.  I don't know, but feel that they were not prepared for the combat that they had unexpectedly encountered.  A lot could be said here, but I feel that under the circumstances they did the best they could when faced with the overpowering onslaught of the North Korean People's Army.  I suppose there was a bit of animosity between Army and Marine over gained/lost ground in the Pusan Perimeter; however, I think that this was only expressed internally and was not a big thing at the time.

I carried a Carbine rifle with ammunitions.  Let me make a point here.  Communicators were trained to do communication things in combat.  Normally this is what communicators do.  We were expected to be involved in carrying out those duties, and not engage in actual fire fights with the enemy.  In Korea, there were occasions when it was necessary for communicators to assist in fire fight engagements, but for the most part we were busy doing our thing, even with bullets flying around us.  We knew that maintaining communications was just as important.

On August 3rd, we had some episodes of Marines firing into the night.  The targets, however, were revealed later to farm animals-- not unusual error by a unit all " pumped up" for action.  We began to see that action on August 6 and 7, when the Brigade went on the offensive in advancing to Kosong.  The 2nd and 3rd Battalions engaged the enemy and found quite stiff resistance by NKPA.  The Marines of those units started obtaining casualties within their own units.  Sometime on the 7th of August, our battalion (1st Battalion, 5th Marines) relieved the 2nd Battalion and took up positions.  As I recall, our first big encounter was August 7.  During these two days, I saw the first dead enemy and saw several of our wounded.  I cannot recall when I saw the first Marine KIA.

I was involved in the advance to Kosong, Sachon, and the Naktong River Bulge.  We were engaged with the enemy at the Naktong twice. The entire Brigade was involved in the Sachon offensive until August 11-12.  However, when victory was within sight, our battalion (1st Battalion, 5th Marines) was ordered to break off the action there and proceed via trucks to another location where the Army had run into a difficult situation.  We were to reinforce them as soon as possible.  The Marines were not happy to stop the offensive just when victory was in sight, but orders had come down and had to be obeyed.

At this time, each of the Marine infantry battalions only had two rifle companies, rather than the three they normally had.  So when we speak of a battalion at that time, our 1st Battalion, 5th Marines only had "Able" Company and "Baker" Company along with Headquarters and Service company and Weapons Company.  That was 1950, and the Marine Corps had been reduced in size to about 75,000.  They tried to maintain as much combat capabilities as possible, and I guess the big guys up the chain had decided to cut the infantry battalions down to only the two rifle companies.  This was okay in peacetime, but in wartime it wasn't.  Missing that normal third company put a strain on the only two rifle companies.  I am not a tactician, but it seems to me that the ideal situation would have been to have two companies on the line with the third company in reserve, making them available to relieve one of the companies on the line or to reinforce the line in some spot or location.


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Obong-ni Ridge and the Naktong

Around August 16-19, the name of Obong-ni Ridge became familiar to us.  Fierce fighting took place in this vicinity.  As I recall, A Company and B Company were in defensive positions holding off a fierce attack by the NPKA.  Several enemy tanks had approached and cut through the lines.  They were within a very short distance of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines Command Post.  However, an anti-tank section faced the enemy tanks with 3.5 rocket launchers.  After considerable anxiety on the part of all, the Marines with 3.5s did their job well and stopped the four or five enemy tanks in their tracks.  The enemy tanks were destroyed and rendered useless.

This action caused many Marine casualties, causing them to be evacuated.  That became an additional problem to overcome  [shortage of manpower].  The helicopter was a relatively new thing to combat at that time, but the Marines put them to good use in observation, evacuation of casualties, and bringing supplies.  We had our own artillery and mortar support, along with the life-saving Marine Air Wing.  Our Marine tank support proved to be a valuable asset when encountering those enemy tanks, as did our anti-tank section with hand weapons.

I can recall the hills of 102, 109, and 117.  After several attacks and counterattacks, Company A and Company B had each taken control of their areas by August 19.  The climate was hot and humid, causing one of the biggest problems at the time to be heat exhaustion.  The supply of water was a top priority, so South Korean civilians were pressed into getting the water to the front lines.  Marines felt the heat because they were wearing Marine utility clothing and boondockers (shoes) with canvas leggings.  As I understand from others who were in charge of North Korean prisoners, enemy troops were afraid of units whose men wore those leggings.  Marines had their concerns about the enemy, too.  None of us wanted to be taken prisoner, however, most felt confident that this would not happen.  To my knowledge, it never happened in my company.

Marines, wherever they are, take care of their own security and deploy as if in defensive positions.  Most of the fighting was at night in the Naktong River campaign.  I have no idea of the number of enemy involved.  As I recall, they wore cheap uniforms in bad shape.  Some were also dressed in civilian clothing, so it was hard to tell the good from the bad.  We had to use good judgment and restraint when dealing with them because refugees were there constantly.  The natives of Korea lived a very simple life just to provide food and protection for themselves for the day.

The enemy fought differently than Americans because they depended on their numbers for intimidation.  They did not have the air power that we did, but they were stubborn fighters who could just live off the land, taking from the natives to provide for their army.  What they did have was effective weapons, as indicated by the number of casualties that we had. The first units were apparently fast moving ones, as one unit was a motorcycle unit which allowed it to move more rapidly.

The Naktong River area was of vital importance, for if the enemy broke through here, other units would be put into an untenable situation.  During the days of this campaign, it was scary and we felt fright and the fear of the unknown.  Nevertheless, most Marines tried to show no fear or anxiety, and many kept their true feelings to themselves.  We learned the true meaning of combat through "on the job training" in Korea.  We found out that our lives were very fragile, and we found out that someone out there was trying to kill us.  None of the war movies we had seen in theaters back home portrayed what war is really like.  As time went by, we got used to it and learned more of what to do to protect ourselves.  There were a few World War II veterans with us, and they showed us how it was done.  We learned much from their previous experience.

We were in the Naktong River area twice.  As best as I can recall, we first left the area in the hands of Army forces around August 19, but they were overcome once again by the enemy.  The Marines then had to return to regain lost territory on the 3rd of September 1950 in a slightly different section.  This time, the action appeared to be less intensive and our casualties were quite a bit less, as I recall.  The second Naktong action lasted to about September 5th.

After the battles were over, there was little time to think about it as so much was going on at the time.  Also, on my rank level, we did not know the big picture.  When we left the Pusan Perimeter, we went back aboard the Henrico--the same transport that had brought us to Korea.  We knew that something big was about to happen, but we were not sure just what.  The planners had not revealed to us lower peons that the "something big" would be the historic landing at Inchon, South Korea.  The 1st Provisional Marine Brigade was absorbed into the First Marine Division for the landing.  After this, the Brigade would be no more.  Its members became part of one of three infantry regiments.


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Anticipating Inchon

During the Pusan Perimeter activities, Marine units had suffered a good number of casualties and had no replacements for them.  Shortly after the Korean War started, the Marine Corps stated calling some Marine Corps Reserves to active duty.  Hence, when we went aboard ship to go to Inchon, these replacements had arrived.  In the meantime, I was sent from H&S Company to be attached to Company A for the landing at Inchon and retaking of Seoul campaigns.  My wire team consisted of myself, Pfc Mojean, and Cpl Matke (who was one of the reserves who had been activated).

The attack force assembled off shore on the day of the landing.  There were all kinds of ships in and near the Inchon harbor.  The transports were to wait offshore, and the Marines were to be offloaded into the landing craft.  The LCVP landing craft then were to go to a designated area in the bay and assemble in a circle to await the orders to land.  We landed at high tide, and when the tide went out, the landing craft were stuck on the muddy bottom.  They were there until high tide came in again for them to re-float and leave.

Previous to landing, we had been briefed on what our mission was, the timing, and what to expect.  We knew there was a seawall built around Inchon, so we knew we would not be landing on sandy beach. Most military strategists indicated at the time that this was a high question move [due to the tidal conditions at Inchon].  But if it worked, it would be really a great military move.  Each landing craft had a ladder that we used to climb over the sea wall while the Navy coxswain kept the landing craft up against the seawall.


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Inchon Landing

All around us were the noises that one hears during an invasion such as this.  There were big naval guns, rockets, and bombs coming from the aircraft.  The sky was full of Navy and Marine aircraft, and they were working the beach over.  Despite all the preparatory fire from naval ships aircraft, however, there still were some of the enemy that had survived.  They put up with a fair amount of resistance, so once we landed on the shore, there was small arms fire.  The landing craft brought us to shore in waves.

The sea was a little choppy that day, which caused the landing craft to bob up and down.  But for the most part, as long as a person remembered how to go down the cargo net (from the Henrico to the LCVP), there weren't too many problems in the transition from big ship to smaller craft.  Of course, the Marines had their packs on and their weapons, and in many cases were also carrying other items.  In my team's case, we were also carrying field telephones and wire.  But all in all, we encountered no problems going down the cargo net, down the LCVP ladders,  or up the seawall ladders.

Since the tide that comes in and goes out at Inchon is quite pronounced, a seawall had been built many years before (made up, as I recall, from concrete and stone). This allowed the actual beach area to be useable with buildings, etc., while at the same time holding back the sea water.  When the first waves were ashore, they made their way over the seawall and on toward their assigned objective.  I landed in the third wave.  As soon as we went over the seawall, a trench that the NPKA had dug faced us.  It was heavy overcast with mist in the air that day.  Smoke from the preparatory fire added to the poor visibility.


The Inchon Landing
Sept. 15, 1950

(Click for a larger view)

I was attached to "A" Company.  Our job was to provide communications from the Battalion and Company "A."  The company commander was Capt. John Stevens and the battalion commander was Lt. Col. George Newton.  We were under the command of Captain Stevens.  Our first objective was to take Cemetery Hill from the North Korean defenders.  We landed along side of the 2nd Bn 5th Marines on Red Beach at 5:30PM. The 3rd Bn 5th Marines had landed on Wolmi-do island (Green Beach) earlier that morning and had secured the island and the causeway leading to Inchon. The first Marines landed on Blue Beach. See map at right.

Inchon would become ours in short order, and the liberation of Seoul would soon began, but not before a number of Marines had died. I have been told that our company (A Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines), received the most casualties. One of the first was Lt. Baldomero Lopez , who received the Medal of Honor posthumously. There were also casualties--or the potential for them--when one of the landing craft that had 50 caliber guns and cannons started firing their guns in the confusion. Their fire was on our own troops, but that lasted only a short time.

As we went up the ladders, we did not know what we would see, so we were ready for just about anything.  My wire team assembled quickly, and shortly thereafter, we located where we were supposed to drop our wire line.  It was at that time that Corporal Matke from our wire team was hit in the shoulder/arm with small arms fire.  I don't know how the fire got to him, as I was between him and what we thought was the direction the fire came from.  This was just one of those peculiar happenings in war, I guess. A Navy corpsman attended to his wound and had him evacuated.  Pfc. Mojean and I continued to advance up Cemetery Hill with our company.  Cemetery Hill was a relatively small hill as hills go.  Just guessing, I would say it was maybe 500 feet in height.  It was probably about 200-plus yards from the seawall beach, so it gave a commanding look down on the beach area.

Our company took some prisoners during the landing.  When our "A" company obtained its objective of Cemetery Hill, the infantry went through and cleared the enemy from the area.  However, when Pfc Mojean and I were inspecting a bunker on top of Cemetery Hill, we looked inside and noticed movement.  There was a "shocked" North Korean soldier there.  It was not normally our job to deal with prisoners, but since we came across him, it was our duty to take him into custody and turn him over to the people who handled POWs.


2003 Photo of Korean War Memorial Hall for veterans of the Inchon landing operations erected where Red Beach was and with
Cemetery Hill in the background.
(Photo by Capt. Leonard Shifflette, USMC, Retired)

(Click picture for a larger view)

Red Beach became crowded with all the follow-on units coming ashore.  This was really a small area, so it didn't take long for it to become overcrowded.  On this narrow beach, the 2nd Battalion would also be coming ashore, so we had a lot of Marines coming ashore within that first hour.  Also, the landing crafts were beached in the mud when the tide went out.

My memories of post-landing Inchon also include a recollection of how much damage had been inflicted. There was very little left standing in the area of the beach that we landed on.  The Naval guns and aircraft rockets and bombs had done a pretty good job of destroying obstacles. There was a brewery located there, and it was burning.  One could hear a bottle exploding now and then. Our wire team was supposed to drop a field telephone wire line near a structure that once was there, but was no longer standing after the invasion.  The wire was needed because, when Battalion Headquarters came ashore, they would hook it up to a switchboard and telephone communications would be established.  However, things moved so fast that telephone communications were never established.  The unit had to rely on radio communications alone.

Although I don't recall the details, I remember that our unit moved to more forward positions during the night.  We and everyone else had been through a hectic day with a lot of activity taking place. Almost immediately we left the Inchon area and headed toward Seoul, which was our next objective.  Our mode of travel was by walking, and our company fought its way along the path to that new objective.


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On to Kimpo

We remained attached to "A" Company until the capture of Seoul.  Along the way, the 5th Marines advanced to the vicinity of Kimpo Airfield around September 17, 1950.  We only had intermittent contact with the enemy because they were in a vulnerable position.

The taking of Kimpo was important as it would allow aircraft to use it and therefore take less time getting to and from the front line action.  All three battalions were involved.  1st Battalion along with the 2nd Battalion took up positions on each side of the airfield, as I recall.  Our 1st Battalion encountered light resistance.  I recall that the NPKA did attempt a later counterattack, but with our heavy tank and artillery support, it was a put down easily.  We were actually facing a retreating enemy.

We were on the edge of the airfield area, but I do not recall any buildings.  There was an airstrip, and as I recall, the Marine aircraft were using it almost immediately as soon as it was clear enough to do so.  The Marines used the F4-U Corsair a lot, but they had other aircraft as well.  I am not aware of the type.  I saw no UN planes ever, but on occasion some of the British aircraft would be around.  I was some distance from the airfield, so I didn't see any vehicles.  There probably were some there, but probably were damaged enemy vehicles.


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Objective: Seoul

Company "A" then turned its attention to its next objective:  Seoul, the capitol of South Korea. As I recall, it did not take very long to get there.  Kimpo is not a great distance from Seoul and the Han River.  About September 19, our company advanced to the south side of the Han.  We knew that fighting was always a possibility around the corner, but it was light and sporadic.  Sniper fire was also always a possibility.  Each encounter with the enemy was a separate experience.  One can never predict how combat situations might occur or how they might be dealt with.  I cannot say that I ever got used to combat, but after awhile, one becomes less anxious.  We originally got help from the "old salts" who were a moral booster for us. But in short order, we became "old salts" ourselves.

We crossed the Han on September 20th in Landing Vehicle Tracks and whatever else floated.  Since the crossing took place at night, there was some confusion and anxiety because it was a new area and it was dark.  I remember that some of the LVTs got stuck in the mud.  We had the support of our normal support teams such as mortars, 4.2 rockets, and the like, but as I recall, there was very little resistance until landing on the other side.  Once the crossing was made, considerable resistance was encountered in taking Hill 125.  The NPKA must have decided that that's where they would make their stand.  They failed.

We moved on to Seoul, which was quite a large city.  We saw citizens, including women in children, as we moved toward our assigned area.  The part of Seoul that I saw showed quite a bit of damage.  Our company was to take the high ground around Seoul, and that objective was achieved without much difficulty.  The enemy knew that they were in a losing situation.  Still, we had to remain alert.  The enemy could be anywhere.  Our company had some casualties at Seoul, but they were light.

I did not have the opportunity to see the fanfare after the Marines took Seoul back from the enemy.  In the main part of Seoul, General MacArthur and Sygman Rhee, the Korean president, were celebrating.  My company held its ground on the outskirts of Seoul until we received orders to return to our ship.


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Operation Yo Yo


USS Bayfield
(Click for a larger view)

After the liberation of Seoul, the South Korea Army quickly advanced to and beyond the 38th parallel. However, UN authority was needed for American forces to go beyond the 38th.  It eventually came, and the Marines were on the move again.  The Division embarked aboard ships and make its way to Wonsan on the east coast of North Korea. The harbor there had been mined and needed to be cleared. Several ships that carried the landing forces with their equipment had to wait offshore while the harbor was cleared of mines.  There was no duty for the Marines during the wait. 

They played card games and just gazed over the waters as the ships traveled north, south, and then north again, waiting for the Navy demolition teams and mine clearing teams to clear the area for a safe landing.

Our unit embarked at Inchon on October 10, 1950, on the USS Bayfield (APA33) and disembarked at Wonsan on October 29th.  When we embarked, I had rejoined H&S company, but later (after Wonsan), I was attached to Weapons Company.  On the 29th, we landed unopposed at Wonsan. In fact, a sign was on the beach welcoming us, courtesy of the ROK (Republic of Korean Army).


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Chosin Reservoir Campaign Begins

I don't recall a lot about our time at Wonsan because things were fast moving at that time.  I recall maybe two or three days at Wonsan, but we were soon deployed northward toward Hamhung.  The weather was overcast and it was getting cooler, but it was not yet "really cold."  We did not go directly to the Reservoir area.  Instead, we spent a few days north of Wonsan in the Hamhung area.  At this time, I was attached to the 81mm mortar platoon Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, as a communicator. Lt. H.L. Alderman was the platoon commander, and Major Russell was the Weapons Company commander.

The Wonsan/Hamhung area was low level country, but from there northward, we went to higher elevation up a narrow mountain roadway.  I don't recall the exact elevations, but it was considerable.  As we traveled further north, the weather became much, much colder.  Snow and wind was upon us very shortly.  At first, we were on the eastern side of the Reservoir.  In fact, Thanksgiving Day found our unit deep into North Korea, where we were treated to a special big Thanksgiving Dinner with all the trimmings.  It was the best thing I ever ate while I was in Korea.  The food was hot when we got it, but we had to eat it rapidly before it froze.  Prior to that and after that, our meals were good old C rations.  All the time there were rumors that we would all be home in time for Christmas dinner.

Shortly after the Thanksgiving meal, our unit was ordered to relocate to the west of the Chosin. Apparently units of the 7th Marines were already in place and were encountering stiff opposition, so the 5th Marines were relocated to prepare for advance to the north.  Meanwhile units of the 1st Marines were at Hagaru and elsewhere along the main route north.  This movement was by truck, and it was one cold ride.  Along the way, we saw a lot of Korean civilian refugees heading south to escape the action.  We also heard that some of the Marine units that had gone on before us had reported taking some Chinese as prisoners.


(Click for a larger vie

We pulled into the Chosin area I think after dark on November 27th.  As the 5th Marines moved into position and we had barely dismounted the trucks, it seemed as if "all hell broke loose" and the  Chinese were coming at us from all directions. Units of our battalion had barely gotten organized before bullets started flying in all directions.  Needless to say, there was not rest.

The planned attack to the north was quickly abandoned and units along the line were just holding on. Attempting to go on the offensive the next day would have been a fruitless thing.  We had all we could do just to hold the ground we had in the vicinity of Hill 1240.

The night of November 27-28, 1950, was a bitter cold night with fighting in all directions. The fighting was fierce, with hoards of Chinese blowing bugles and yelling throughout the night.  Casualties were taken, but I cannot tell you how many.  I also don't know how many enemy troops there were.  All I can say is that there were thousands.  I heard later there were several Chinese divisions.  They were dressed with what seemed to be quilted material.  I understand that many of them did not have weapons, but when one Chinese fell, the one without a weapon picked it up and continued the attack.

I think it became apparent probably December 1 or 2 that our situation was untenable, and that we had to do something different.  Supplies were dropped to us by cargo planes and our artillery was pointed in all directions. It was obvious that we were surrounded, so the decision was made to "attack in a different direction" toward Hagaru.  [See above map at right.]  The reaction of most may have been relief that we were breaking off the action, but also there was apprehension about what lay ahead of us.  Would we make it?  What ordeals would we face?  We were at Yudam-ni, and the relative safety of Hamhung was many miles and several days away.

We were told that we were going to start and not stop along the way out, and that we were free to get rid of any "excess" items that would only weigh us down.  Rumors were passed that this included our sleeping bags, since we were not going to have a chance to use them.  Some of us threw them on the fire prior to departing the Reservoir area. It wasn't too long until the unit suffered KIAs and then another sleeping bag became available to us when the bag was re-issued later through our unit supply.  I am writing this memoir in the Year 2004.  Even to me, the words that I just penned now seem harsh, cruel, and unreal.  But in 1950, war was very real to me because I was in the thick of it.  That poor soul who lost his life in Korea was dead and had already gone on to a better, safer world.  I was still fighting for survival in the cold reality of the Korean War.  I desperately needed a sleeping bag.  That heroic fallen Marine no longer did.


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Southern Attack

When Yudam-ni was abandoned, a long train of vehicles and troops started on a 35-mile journey to the south.  First it would be Hagaru, then Koto-ri, and the trek down a treacherous mountain road.  I  didn't have a thermometer, but was told by others (and it was documented in later reports), that it got as cold as 35 degrees below zero, made even more intense by a strong north wind.  It got so cold that some of the vehicles could not be started without a tow. There was plenty of snow, so dry that you could melt a cup of it and get very little water from it.  I don't recall it being very deep.  I think it was the kind of snow you get with strong winds--the kind that drifted in places.

It was so cold some of the weapons did not function well.  It was also so cold that our canned C rations froze.  I can recall chipping away at a can of frozen franks and beans, one bean at a time.  For the most part, I took the little round cakes of dried cocoa furnished in the C rations and ate that along with whatever candy might be among the box of rations for the day.  Heating them up was next to impossible, besides the fact that no one wanted to draw the enemy's attention with smoke from a fire.  Using a sterno can (lighting a match to it) was not sufficient to thaw the food.  This only served to burn the food before thawing the entire contents.

We were always cold and hesitated to expose our bare body to the elements even to cope with our bodily functions.  While at Chosin, I don't recall shaving at all, and bathing was just face and hands for the most part.  In 35 degrees below zero--no way.  Also, we did not have the opportunity.  We wore several layers of clothing to try to keep warm.  It was hard to keep our clothes dry, but at times we took the chance and lit a fire, until we had to put it out for fear of the enemy seeing it.  We had also been issued a type of boot called a "Shoe-Pac."  They caused feet to sweat when walking, and when you stopped, if you stood still for very long the sweat started to freeze.  I understand that this caused a lot of frost bite.  I had previously switched to my boondockers (shoes), and because of that, I think that I faired much better than many others.  I came out with only a slight case of frost bite.  The bitter cold made me appreciate heat when it finally became available to me.  Living in northern Michigan, I now notice how sensitive my feet are to the cold.  There is no doubt this will forever be a lasting reminder of my involvement in the Chosin Reservoir campaign.

There were many obstacles to overcome in our southerly movement.  Not the least of these was the enemy.  As we were withdrawing from the Reservoir, we were in a sort of convoy with the rifle companies clearing the hills on each side of the road.  Several times we were halted along the way when the hills ahead were occupied with Chinese.  I understand that their orders were to kill the entire First Marine Division.  At times, air strikes were called in if necessary to help the rifle companies clear the high ground and allow us to pass. 

With the snow, wind, and overcast, air support was naturally hindered at times.  Notwithstanding the visibility problems, those pilots braved some of the obstacles to support us.  When it was available, fighter air support included strafing and bombing.  Cargo planes dropped supplies and evacuated casualties.  The helicopters were always a big help.  Ammunitions, food, water, etc., were supplied to us by air.  When we retrieved water and rations dropped in our area, if they were not already frozen, they would be in quick order.  Sometimes airdropped supplies inadvertently fell into enemy territory. Otherwise, we left nothing behind for the enemy.  If we could not take it out, it was destroyed so as not to give any aid to the Chinese.

Along the way, a bridge on the pass coming out of Koto-ri had to be replaced.  The Chinese had blown it up knowing that without that bridge, our convoy could go no where.  But the engineers did one terrific job under very unstable conditions getting it repaired.  While we were held up at Koto-ri, a bridge was dropped unassembled by air and the engineers then proceeded to get it into place so the convoy could move on.  They did this under real combat conditions and adverse weather.

During the entire journey, we Marines (as well as some Army personnel who had crossed over the frozen Chosin Reservoir and joined up with Marine units) simultaneously fought the bitterly cold weather and the Chinese enemy that had surrounded us.  All along the way the enemy occupied the high ground on each side of the road.  This high ground had to be taken by our rifle companies before the convoy could proceed.  Being with the 81mm mortars, I had no direct confrontation with the enemy.  Instead, we gave supporting fires to the rifle companies that were on the ridge lines.  Mortars were usually set up a short distance behind the rifle companies, whenever possible at the bottom of a hill.

The hills and rough terrain were also an obstacle, hindering getting supplies and the evacuation of wounded and KIA Marines.  Although I did not personally witness it, I was later told that some Marines were buried at the Reservoir, but we evacuated the wounded and dead by air whenever possible.  (I recall that our communications officer was one of the wounded who was evacuated.)  As we departed the Reservoir, some of the KIAs were aboard trucks.  They came out with our unit.  At one time, the 5th Marines were flooded with the wounded and dead.  I give those corpsmen GREAT respect.  They were Navy -- but they were really MARINES ALSO. 

I think that the leadership found within the Marine regiments at Chosin was as it should have been: good -- and great.  I also think that anyone who was there in whatever capacity had to be something of a hero.  As Marines, our advantages in the Chosin Reservoir were our good leadership and our thorough training.  Our disadvantage was inadequate clothing for the climate.

On December 10, 1950 I "celebrated" my 21st birthday by walking out of the Chosin Reservoir alive.  At the time, I was not a Christian, although I had gone to church from time to time.  During the hard journey out of the Chosin, I had said a prayer to God.  "Just let me get through this and out of this situation, and I will lead my life as a Christian."  I cannot explain why I survived the ordeal.  I made it through what so many did not complete because of wounds, etc.  I have to believe it was God and good leadership that prevailed. It was a miracle that so many Marines and their equipment survived the ordeal and that they managed to bring so many KIAs out with them.


USS G.M. Randall
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As we came into the lower terrain, the temperature rose considerably, and freedom was ahead.  When I saw all those ships waiting at Hungnam, I felt relieved and "safe."  Our unit embarked aboard the USS G.M. Randall at Hungnam on December 12, 1950, departing on December 13.  The ships were packed with cold, tired Marines and a lot of refugees who simply could not just be left behind. As I recall it now, shipboard life in any fashion was a pleasant relief. The US Navy took good care of us.

Again, we soon found ourselves back in South Korea and familiar names began to reappear.  We arrived at Pusan, Korea, on December 15, 1950 and disembarked.  We were later directed to a flat assembly area at Masan, Korea, known as "the Bean Patch".  The 1st Marine Division now had a few days to regroup and get ready to face the fast moving enemy that was coming south. In January the Marines were back in action, stopping the advancing enemy and turning the tide.  Several encounters with the enemy occurred in the coming weeks, and new names such as "Hoengsong", "Hwachon", "Operation Killer", "Operation Ripper", "Peace Talks", and "Kaesong" appeared before us.


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The Next Six Months

Guerilla Hunt

As we got out of the Chosin Reservoir and while our unit was reorganizing at Masan, I received word that my disabled father had taken a turn for the worse.  I received an emergency leave to return to the States and see him, but I was able to return in time to join my unit when they again went into action.  The leave was short and my father's health remained the same.  I had to return to Korea knowing that at least I had a chance to see him.  I knew that I had no choice but to go back to Korea.  My father survived until 1953, when he passed away.

I was now back with H&S Company.  I suppose to some extent I was war-weary after my experiences at the Chosin Reservoir, but I guess that my previous training in boot camp helped me through those times.  Knowing that our unit had to regroup and reorganize to some extent kept us all busy and took our minds off our past experiences.  As I recall, our company stayed in the Bean Patch (a place where we had been before during the Pusan Perimeter action) until the end of December of 1950 and the first part of January 1951.  Like all Marine companies who gathered at the Bean Patch after the Chosin Reservoir campaign, we evaluated our situation with regard to troop strength and equipment needs.  Replacements and reinforcements also arrived at this time.

Probably around the middle of January, we were assigned guerilla hunt missions around the Pohang area.  The guerillas were remnants of the North Korean/Chinese forces that had been in southern Korea during the Communist effort to take over the entire peninsula when the war first broke out.  The main mission of the Marines now was to keep the Main Supply Route between Pohang and Andong open.  We continued in that mission until sometime in February, now and then getting a short-lived lull in the action and a little time just to relax. 

Even though we were now back in the south, it still was cold.  For the most part, we lived in foxholes and pup tents.  We got our mail fairly regularly, and whenever we got a breather we took advantage of the opportunity for personal cleanliness.  We also noticed that the civilians always seemed present.  They took anything left behind or thrown away by the Marines and in some way made use of it.  The kids always stole the heart of the Marines.

Operation Killer & Ripper

We moved to another area--I think Chungju--soon after the middle of February.  From there we began our participation in "Operation Killer" and "Operation Ripper."  The objectives of these two offensive actions was to weed out and take care of as many of the enemy as possible.  It was still winter, but by this time it was a little warmer.  The enemy tried to give us a hard time and we did receive some casualties, but I think that one of the biggest problems as I recall were the hills.  They were everywhere.  My memory on participating in "Operation Ripper" is somewhat faded, but it was probably pretty much the same type of action as Operation Killer.  Around that time, the opposing forces began to discuss the possibility of peace.  '

During these months with my unit and all through my time in Korea, I always considered war serious business.  I suppose there were lighter moments, but I cannot recall any at this time.  All units normally had a unit clown, but I think for the most part everyone was usually in the serious mode.  Our routine after Chosin included eating C rations on the front lines (I missed those stateside hamburgers and french fries) and hot food on occasion in the reserve area.  We had been warned not to eat the native food, so we didn't.  I got letters and packages from my parents and a couple of my sisters.  I had asked my sister to send me a bottle of whiskey, and she shipped it to me in one of her packages.  I shared with some of the others around me, only finding out later that it was prohibited to mail liquor by US mail.

I cannot recall any real close relationship with any of the others in my unit.  As stated before, I had previously joined a unit where everyone was a stranger to me.  I recall a few people that I worked closely with, but I never considered them close buddies.  Lieutenant Alderman, our 81mm platoon leader, stands out in my memory as a fair-minded person who cared for his men.

I saw Maggie Higgins, a reporter, just in passing.  She was the only American woman I saw during my tour of duty in Korea.  On some occasions I know there were USO shows--Bob Hope and some others--but I don't recall them being in our particular unit area.  I did not have R&R.  I also don't recall having much leisure time, as there was always something that needed attention  I smoked a cigarette now and then in what little "leisure" time I had.

The First Marine Division received a total of four Presidential Unit Citations in Korea.  We Marines helped turn the tide in that country, and still abiding in my mind and heart are memories from the Pusan Perimeter, Naktong River, and Seoul in the south of Korea, to Yudam-ni and the Chosin Reservoir in the north of Korea. For me, the hardest thing and the time over all other times when I felt I was in the most personal danger in Korea was at the Chosin Reservoir.

I remember occasionally seeing Marines cry, especially when someone was killed or badly wounded.  That was difficult to witness.  But I also know that the people of South Korea needed our help, and I am glad we were able to provide it.  I do wish, however, that more pressure would be exerted by our government on the efforts to locate and return Missing in Action personnel from Korea to the United States.

My time in Korea was a miserable experience, but worthwhile for the South Korean people.  It was also worthwhile for me personally, because it helped me define in my own life, "just what is important in this life."  My one regret is that it was not always possible for me to keep wire communications up and running since our units moved in most cases so rapidly.  We had to depend almost entirely on our radio communications.  Recalling much of the pain and suffering that went on during that time also makes one wonder, "Could I have done things differently?"


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Road to the Peace Talks

Following is the time table for January - July 1951.

1951

  • January 3 - Red Chinese Forces and North Korean Forces begin New Year's Offensive. General Ridgeway orders the evacuation of Seoul.
  • January 4 - Seoul captured by the Chinese Communist Forces.
  • January 14 - United Nations Forces establish lines along the 37th parallel in South Korea.
  • January 25 - United Nations Forces reassume offensive.
  • February 1 - United Nations resolution votes to end Korean conflict and Red China was labeled an "aggressor."
  • February 11 to 12 - Communist Chinese Forces counteroffensive begins north of Hoengsong.
  • February 14 - Communist Chinese Forces stopped at Chipyong-ni by the 23rd RCT and French Battalion.
  • February 18 to March 17 - General Ridgeway orders offensive code-named "Killer".
  • March 1 - The U.N. line reaches between the 37th and 38th Parallels. The U.N. is involved in multiple attacks and withdrawals.
  • March 7 - U.N. troops launch operation "Ripper." Eighth Army recrosses Han River.
  • March 18 - Seoul retaken.
  • April 11 - General Mac Arthur recalled. General Ridgway given command of the FECOM.
  • April 15 - General James Van Fleet is given command of the Eighth Army to replace General Ridgeway.
  • April 19 - General Douglas Mac Arthur appears before Congress in hearings on his removal.
  • April 22 - Communist Chinese Forces begin their Spring Offensive.
  • April 30 - Communist Chinese Forces and North Korean Forces withdraw for resupply and replacements.
  • May 10 - Communist Chinese Forces and North Korean Forces begin May offensive operation designated "The Second Chinese Communist Forces Spring Offensive," also known as the Battle of Soyang or the May Massacre.
  • May 20 - U.S. forces halt Communist Chinese Forces and North Korean Forces Soyang Offensive.
  • May 23 to June 1 - United Nations Forces drive north.
  • June 13 - United Nations Forces dig in on the 38th parallel.
  • June 23 - Soviet Delegate Jacob Malik proposes truce in United Nations.
  • July 10 - Truce talks begin at Kaesong.

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Going home

My name appeared on the rotation list to return to the States in June of 1951.  I was glad, and was kept busy in my last hours with the unit checking out to go home by turning in all of my equipment and weapons.  I left Korea on June 10, 1951, on the USNS Sgt. Sylvester Antolak.  There was happiness and anxiety on the ship as we made the seventeen day trip home.  There was not much to do other than watch movies and wait out the voyage.  On June 27, 1951, we disembarked at the port of San Diego.  A Marine band was waiting for us, and Red Cross ladies were there to pass out juice and milk as we processed off the ship and boarded waiting buses.  That day I was promoted to Staff Sergeant, and within 24 hours I had purchased the new tropical worsted Marine summer uniforms and had Staff Sergeant Chevrons sewn on them.


Gene Dixon - July 1951
Returned to States

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USNS Sgt. Sylvester Antolak
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Post-Korea Military Career

Pre-marriage


Recruiting Stockton, CA 1953
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After returning from Korea in July 1951, I went on leave to visit a family that was happy that I was safely back home.  I was assigned to the Naval Communications Station from July to December of that year as a security guard.  I didn't particularly enjoy the duty there, and spent my liberty time  doing normal things like going to the movies and drinking a little.  My assignment at the Naval Communications Station was cut short when I went to Recruiter's School and subsequently was assigned to San Mateo and Stockton, CA.  I had always requested to be a recruiter on my fitness reports and was finally selected.

The instructors there were several Marines who taught us how to keep ourselves sharp in dress and appearance.  We also learned public speaking and the techniques of recruiting, typing up applications, etc.  There wasn't much leisure time, since available free hours were spent pressing uniforms, shining shoes, etc.  Our schedule was from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. in March and April of 1952.  After graduating, I had recruiting duty at San Mateo for about two months.  Then Stockton became my permanent assignment.

My duties were to locate and interview prospective Marine applicants and to prepare papers to send them to San Francisco for final processing.  I went to a work place, schools, and private homes to find potential applicants.  While I knew there was a war going on, I felt comfortable recruiting these young men for the Marine Corps.  I felt that if they were going to have to go to war (there was a draft going on), they would best be prepared for it in the Marines.

In 1953, I was with the 3rd Marine Division stationed in Japan as a battalion wire chief.  Captain Edward Driscoll was my communications officer.  I liked him real well, and we worked together well.  During the 14 months I was there, we had several field exercises in Japan, and we made one amphibious landing on Iwo Jima  It was real neat to be on Iwo Jima.  A lot of battlefield remnants were still around such as blown-up bunkers, half sunken boats off shore, and destroyed vehicles.  I also appreciated the fact that I was on an island where my brother had previously engaged the Japanese forces of World War II.  During this time I was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, 3rd Marine Division.

I stayed in Japan until I returned to the States in 1954 and was assigned to the 6th Marines, 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, NC as the regimental wire chief.  My duties there were to oversee training on the regimental level of a wire team consisting of about 25 Marines.  It was a good duty station.  I had good people to work with and got to go the beaches in the area and have a few drinks.  I was only there for about 6 to 8 months before I was recalled to recruiting duty at the Marine Corps Recruiting Sub Station in Traverse City, Michigan.  I was quite happy with the recall and looked forward to the move.


U.S. Marine Corps Recruiting Sub-station, Traverse City, Michigan
Instructions to
prospective Marines

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Presenting to Traverse City Library 1958
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On Becoming a Christian

During my early days in the Marine Corps and especially after Korea, I had developed a habit of drinking, and it progressively got worse. In 1956, I realized that I needed to take care of this problem.  I recalled my days in Korea when I prayed to God that if He got me through this experience, I would turn my life over to him.  I started going to the Emmanuel United Brethren Church in Traverse City, Michigan while I was on recruiting duty there. I guess I was ready to turn my life around. After going there for awhile, in 1957 I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior and became a Christian. Since then I have tried to live the Christian life the best I could. This step was the best thing that could have happened to me. My life did completely turn around, and since 1957 I have not even thought of taking another drink. Since that time, I have served in several offices on Church boards and other positions in churches over the years and taken part in what ever Church I attended. My only regret is that I wasted such a lot of my early life.

While at Traverse City, I met a girl by the name of Verna Orcutt. She attended the church I started going to in 1956.  She was involved in church activities, including playing the church organ.  She caught my eye, and I later asked her to marry me.  She accepted, and we were married on September 28, 1957.  Meeting the people in the church, especially Verna, convinced me that becoming a Christian was the right decision.  Verna has been a big influence on me (she is the one who encouraged me in writing my "memoirs"), and we have been happily married ever since our wedding day.  We have come a long way together and have enjoyed it through bad times as well as good times.


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A Married Marine


Communications Chief's Class
June 1959

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Our son, Steven was born on December 2, 1958. Shortly after Steven’s arrival, I was ordered to attend Communications Chief’s School at San Diego, CA.  This was the first time I had been transferred as a married person, and it involved a lot of planning to move the family (Steven was only two weeks old), move furniture, and find a place to live in San Diego while attending the school.  I knew the school only lasted about six months, and that I would have to go through all this again when I completed the school. Our son Steven kept both Verna and I busy during his waking hours.

In June of 1959, I completed the school and received orders to report to the 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune. During this period, the Marine Corps underwent a "revised" rank structure. I had waited seven years for promotion to Master Sergeant. Well, guess what.  I was promoted to Gunnery Sergeant E7 rather than Master Sergeant E7.  Master Sergeant was then in the E8 and Master Gunnery Sergeant was E9.

During my tour with 2nd Marine Division, I was assigned to a control input battalion (which meant that no one in the battalion could be transferred out for the next three years).  I was with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines. During this three-year tour, Verna was left alone a lot of the time as I was on maneuvers several times in the Caribbean area.  Our son Brian was born in 1960, and our son Alan was born in 1961. So now I had wife and thee boys to take care of.  When moving time came a little later, it was all the more chaotic, but we managed.


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A Career Marine


Last reenlistment - 1962
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On July 2 1962, I was ordered to 1st Engineer Battalion, 3rd Marine Division on Okinawa.  This meant leaving Verna and the three boys in Traverse City, Michigan, while I was overseas. This proved to be quite a move.  Verna was hospitalized with back trouble for a couple of weeks, which delayed my departure.  It was hard to leave her and the boys, but orders were orders, so I had to do it.

The next year my family was separated by the many miles across the States and Pacific Ocean to the island of Okinawa. I thought the days would never end until I could go home, but they did. In September 1963, I received orders to report to Marine Corps Reserve Training Center at Rochester, NY. My duties there were to help train the Marine Corps reserves.  One of my choices of duty on my fitness reports was Instructor-Inspector duty. Well, I got it.  I got busy getting my family ready for another move. I thought that moving would, fortunately, be easier because my family would be there with me.  We settled in a little town outside Rochester, NY by the name of Hilton. It was for the most part a quiet country village--about a couple of blocks in size--but growing. Winter came upon us, and I found out that they had more snow in New York than they had in Michigan.

As I said, my duties there were to train Marine Corps reserves. And believe me, this was quite an experience. For a regular Marine to be teaching reserve Marines sometimes became frustrating. You had a reserve officer who worked for a reserve private in the civilian world. Well, with this situation sometimes I wondered how discipline could be maintained.

The Vietnam War was in full swing and the Marines suffered quite a few casualties. One of our duties there was to provide support and any desired military honors the family of deceased Marines might want. In the course of three years, our I & I staff provide these services to more than 30 Marine KIA’S.


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In 1964, during my time at this duty station, we became parents of another son, Wesley.  When I came to Rochester I knew that this probably would be my last duty station, and I had made plans to retire from the Marine Corps.

I had waited for about seven years for my next promotion, and in the summer of 1966, I was selected for promotion to Master Sergeant E-8.  However, this required that I would guarantee to stay on active duty for two more years. I now had a family of wife and four boys and they were getting to be school age.  Since my plans for retirement had been fully planned, I declined the promotion.


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Retirement
 


GySgt. Gene Dixon
Retires June 30, 1966

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After retiring GySgt Dixon learned that he was authorized to wear  two additional ribbons:
  -Combat Action Ribbon
  -Republic of Korea Medal
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On June 30, 1966, my military career ended, and I began an adjustment to civilian life.  The only problem that I encountered in making the adjustment was that as a Marine one always wears a hat when going outside.  It took quite some time for me to break that habit.

I moved back to Traverse City, Michigan, with Verna and our four boys: Steven, Brian, Alan, and Wesley.  This was quite a chore, but one that we as a family had looked forward to doing.  After the move was over, the hunt for a civilian job commenced.  In about two weeks I started employment as Assistant Manager at Tower Finance Corporation office in Traverse City.  The pay was not all that great, but I knew that I had to probably start at the bottom in whatever job I took.  In the meantime, I took the examination for postal employee, passed it, and was put on their call list.

In June 1967, I started work at the Traverse City post office.  The pay was better, and there were additional benefits.  After about seven months of all night shift duty and on my nights off I was being called in for extra time, this did not go over very well with either me or my family.  I put an application in at the Grand Traverse County Road Commission, and was accepted to start work January 22, 1968.

My work at the Road Commission started off as Payroll Clerk.  When I first started to work at the road commission all payroll, personnel, all financial data and inventory data was done by hand.  It was a cumbersome system that required hours of calculations on a hand or electronic adding machine/calculator. Keeping payroll data on about 60 employees alone required a lot of time. Computers were in their early years and a lot of employers as well as employees were hesitant to turn over their total control of facts and figures to a "mere machine" that a lot of the people in those days could not comprehend.  After much discussion--and I must say, at my  "pushing", the commission finally took this giant leap and started putting all their data on a newly purchased computer. It was quickly realized that this was a good move and even more immediate data was available to the decision-makers.  After a short time, a second system was purchased to handle specialized data such as accident reports, road inventory, and other related items.


A copy of my promotion to Master Sergeant on June 1, 1966. However, since I had made retirement plans to retire on July 1, 1966, I declined the promotion as it would have required me to postpone my retirement for 2 more years since the was Marine Corps policy at that time.
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Normally in the Marine Corps you do not "retire" after 20 years, you are transferred to the Fleet Marine Corps Reserve and receive "retainer pay". You are then obligated to stay on the Fleet Marine Corps Reserve for an additional 10 years or until you have hit the 30 year mark. Hence my retirement certificate came after my additional 10 years in the FMCR was up on January 1, 1977. Prior to that time I received a certificate transferring me to the Fleet Marine Corps Reserve in 1966.
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Over a period of time, my duties with the Road Commission expanded to handing all personnel matters.  In 1969, we adopted our daughter, Brenda.  Now we had four boys and a girl, and that was enough.  In 1972, the job of Clerk of the Board was added to my plate.  By this time I was kept pretty busy keeping up, but managed to handle it without much problem.  I remained at the Road Commission for twenty years, retiring in January of 1988.


This picture was taken about 1972 and shows the three Commissioners, The Engineer-Manager and my self at one of our several board meetings.
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Verna started working at a part-time job at first, but then things worked out where she got a job full time.  She continued working after my retirement.  I maintained normal household chores, housecleaning, laundry, and all those good things.  This worked out pretty well as Verna did not have to try to keep working and keep house at the same time.  In 1997, Verna retired.

Since then, we both have enjoyed our retirements.  (That is what you are supposed to do, isn't it?)  We try to lead a "normal retiree's" life, doing only the things we want to do when we want to do them.  We are thankful for our health, our children, our grandchildren, and each other.  Verna has always enjoyed reading books and she has a lot of time for that now.  But she is also involved in teaching the Senior Adult Sunday School Class in our church.  She is also involved in our Church activities.  As for me, I try to exercise regularly by walking about two miles a day.  I keep up with my yard work, church activities, and, yes -- computers and the internet.

I have found a lot of friends on the internet who are eager to help me out.  I have created about 75 web pages and they are all linked to my main web hub, "Gene's Web Spinning Hub". I  finally got around to joining the local Marine Corps League, Yagle Brother Detachment 165 in Traverse City, Michigan, and am now a life member.  I later joined the Korean War Veterans Association Chapter 38 in Traverse City.


Gene Dixon - Feb. 2011
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Gene Dixon - Traverse City Northwestern Michigan Chapter 38
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Sunday December 2nd 2012.  The local American Legion honored local Korean War Veterans at a special ceremony with a great luncheon and program with gifts. When you look at the faces in this photo, you can see the aging veterans who will one day pass on. I am center seated with KWVA uniform on.
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Final Reflections on Korea

I have not discussed my time in Korea, particularly that at the Chosin Reservoir, with anyone except in passing.  First, I don't know if they could or would believe my account.  It sounds so incredible.  I have not discussed it with my kids because they are in a different world and don't seem interested.

If North Korea ever opens the Chosin area to foreign visitors, I would like to go back there just to see what it really looks like without all the snow and combat and death.  In the meantime, I sometimes think back on the Chosin I experienced in November/December of 1950.  Thoughts about it are triggered when I hear folks today complaining about how hard things are for them and what they have to endure.  The people living today should thank God that a few Marines a half century ago fought and died so that they might have what they have today.

Serving in the Korean War definitely had an impact on my life.  It made me realize that we have a precious liberty in this country, and that we should do everything we can to protect and preserve our way of life, even if it means going to war when necessary.  It made me realize how fragile our life is and that it can be taken from us at any time.  I further realized that we have a God who will see us through this life on earth.  As I mentioned earlier, in 1957, I committed my life to Jesus Christ and I have tried to do His will as best as I can.  I admit that I don't measure up at times, but I know that I have a loving and forgiving God.

I definitely think that the United States was right in sending troops to Korea in the first place.  When I saw and came to know the Korean people, I knew that they were important in God's eyes.  If we had the means, it was right that we help them overcome the communist North.  I also think that it was right for MacArthur to have gone north of the 38th parallel.  This was the only way that the North Korean People's Army could be defeated  If they had not been defeated, they would have been more of a problem than they are today.  The biggest mistake that our government and the United Nations made with regards to the Korean War was to let politicians have a say in the way it was waged.  War is to be fought by armies, not politicians.  When politics get in the way, the military is handcuffed and unable to perform its tasks.

I would like to see the places I was during the war, but I have never gone back to Korea.  A friend of mine did visit and shared his photos with me.  I now have them up for others to see on the internet.  Did any good come out of the Korean War?  Seeing how the South Korean nation and people have thrived in freedom, and comparing that to North Korea, the difference is obvious.  I think that at some point in time, the South Koreans should be able to protect themselves.  Until then, they need our support, especially now that it has been discovered that North Korea has nuclear capabilities.  I am troubled by the recent crisis regarding the threat of atomic weapons because I know what their previous intentions were, as well as their present ones.  Seoul is very close to North Korea's "million man army."

The Korean War has been sort of downgraded because its returning veterans didn't make a big fuss.  But that particular war has an important place in American/World History.  America responded to a friendly nation's crisis, even at the risk of losing American lives in order to help Korea's people remain FREE.

The training that I received as a Marine enabled me to appreciate being the best that I can be.  It taught me to do my job--whatever it was or is--to the best of my ability.  Being a Marine made me more disciplined, and a better and more mature person with the ability to be thankful for what I have.  I remain  interested in the Marine Corps, but now I am on the sidelines as new Marines carry on the Marine Corps traditions.  Since I retired from the Marine Corps, many changes have taken place and I doubt if I would recognized the Marine Corps today. But I know the discipline, respect and military bearing of the Marine will never change.  A new breed is serving today and they are the best-trained, best-equipped Marines ever.

I guess there will always be a little of Marine in my blood. I am retired yes, but still a Marine!

Semper Fi!! - Gene Dixon


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Appendix/Reflections

Let us take a brief moment to thank God for his care in watching over us. I have been
blessed having a Christian home and five children since returning from Korea. It is
hoped those who visit here will sense Pride in God, Country & Corps



TOP: Ribbons & Medals - Good Conduct w/1 silver service star for 6th award; WWII Victory; National Defense w/1 bronze service star for 2nd award; Korean Service w/1 silver service star for 5 Engagements; United Nations; ROK War Service.

BOTTOM: Ribbons - Combat Action Ribbon; Presidential Unit Citation w/3 bronze
service stars for 4th award; Korean Presidential Unit Citation.


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LEATHERNECK ARTICLES

This was my indoctrination to combat. I was a Sergeant and communicator with 1st Bn 5th Marines. Thanks to the author for recording this action, so that others may know. This was a time of "growing up" for me and a lot of others. Thanks, to those WWII veterans that were among us, for they showed us the way.

These articles are used with the permission of Leatherneck Magazine and the author, Major A.C. Bevilacqua, USMC Retired.  This is a copyrighted article and all rights are reserved.

Gene Dixon

Send in the "Fire Brigade" PART ONE
Allan C Bevilacqua. Leatherneck. Quantico: Jul 2000.Vol. 83, Iss. 7; pg. 14, 8 pgs
Photos courtesy of Marine Corps Historical Center
Copyright Marine Corps Association Jul 2000
 

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Send in the "Fire Brigade" PART TWO
Story by Maj Allan C. Bevilacqua, USMC (Ret)
Photos courtesy of Marine Corps Historical Center
Copyright Marine Corps Association Aug 2000
 


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Inchon, Korea, 1950--the landing that couldn't be done
Allan C Bevilacqua. Leatherneck. Quantico: Sep 2000.Vol. 83, Iss. 9; pg. 18, 7 pgs
Photos courtesy of Marine Corps Historical Center
Copyright Marine Corps Association Sep 2000
 


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"Korea, 1950: In the cold of far-off northern lands--Chosin" PART ONE
Allan C Bevilacqua. Leatherneck. Quantico: Nov 2000.Vol. 83, Iss. 11; pg. 38, 7 pgs
Photos courtesy of Marine Corps Historical Center
Copyright Marine Corps Association Nov 2000
 


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"Korea, 1950: In the cold of far-off northern lands--Chosin" PART TWO
Allan C Bevilacqua. Leatherneck. Quantico: Quantico: Dec 2000.Vol. 83, Iss. 12; pg. 18, 8 pgs
Photos courtesy of Marine Corps Historical Center
Copyright Marine Corps Association Dec 2000
 


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Record of Service

Sworn into the United States Marines on 20 Dec 1946. To Marine Corps Depot, San Diego for recruit training. Graduated from recruit training and assigned to Field Telephone Course #24 graduating 20 June 1947, promoted to PFC. Assigned to Communications, Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, NC. Promoted to Corporal in 1948. Performed duties as Telephone Installer-Repairman until June 1949. Assigned to Marine Corps Institute as instructor, Air Pilot's Course. Promoted to Sergeant in September 1949. Reenlisted on 20 Dec 1949 and assigned to security at the U. S. Naval Ammunition Depot, McAlester, Oklahoma. June 1950 was assigned to 1st Bn 5th Mar 1st Prov Mar Brig, embarking in July 1950 for Korea. Arrived Pusan, Korea 2 Aug 50 and leaving Korea 21 Jun 51.

ENGAGEMENTS: Combat operations against North Korean Forces, 3 Aug 50 to 6 Sep 50; Assault & Seizure of Inchon, Korea, 15 Sep 50 to 16 Sep 50;Capture & Seizure of Seoul, Korea, 17 Sep 50 to 7 Oct 50; Wonsan-Hungnam-Chosin Campaign 29 Oct 50 to 12 Dec 50;Operations against enemy forces in South and Central Korea 12 Dec 50 to 10 Jun 51. Returned to the States July 1951 and promoted to SSgt., assigned to Naval Communication Station, Washington, DC. In March 1952 to Recruiters School, Parris Island, SC. Then assigned to Recruiting Duty in the San Mateo and Stockton, CA sub-stations. Promoted to T/Sgt. Mar 52. In Summer of 1953 assigned to 1st Bn 3rd Mar 3 Mar Div in Japan. In 1954 assigned to 6th Mar 2nd Mar Div, Camp Lejeune, NC. December 1955 assigned to Recruiting Duty, Traverse City, MI. December 1958 to Communications Chief's School, San Diego, CA. Promoted GySgt. July 1959 assigned to 2nd Bn 6th Mar 2 Mar Div, Camp Lejeune, NC. Sept 1961 assigned to 1st Eng Bn 3rd Mar Div, Okinawa. Sept 1962 assigned to I & I Staff Marine Corps Reserve Center, Rochester, NY. Selected for MSgt (not accepted due to 2 year requirement, Retirement plans made) July 1, 1966 retired after 20 years of active duty.


1st Bn 5th Marines, 1st Provisional Marine Brigade
Officers and position
July 1950

NAME RANK SERVICE NO. MOS DUTIES
NEWTON, George R. LtCol. 05786 0302 Battalion Commander
OLSON, Merlin R. Major 08163 0302 Battalion Ex-Officer
S-1
FRITZ, Martin F. 2ndLt. 028390 0130 Bn. Adj. & S-1
RABE, Leroy D. 2ndLt. 032059 0105 Bn. Pers. Classification & Assignment Off. & RO; Custodian Registered Pubs; 4-Aug to 5 Sep O in C Bn Rear Echelon.
S-2
HANSEN, Dean B. 2nd Lt. 049626 0302 Battalion S-2
S-3
SMITH, Loren R. 1st Lt. 040624 0302 7-July - 8-Aug & 13-Aug - 5-Sep Bn S-3; 9-12-Aug Sk
YOUNG, James R. 2nd Lt. 049647 0302 13-Jul - 8-Aug & 14-Aug - 5-Sep Ass't S-3; 9-12-Aug, S-3; 5-Sep, WIA, Evac.
S-4
MARROW, Clark D. Capt. 018480 0302 7-Jul to 3-Sep, Bn S4; 3-Sep, WIA, Evac.
DAVIS, Warren A. WO 042207 3010 Bn Supply Officer
H&S Co.
GODENIUS, Walter E.G. Capt. 027175 4960 Commanding Officer
PETER, William J. Jr. 1st Lt. 033632 2502 Bn. Comm. Officer
NELSON, Bentlley G. Lt. (jg)(USN) 523633   Bn. Surgeon
SMITH, James W. 1st Lt. 037073 7302 FAC
GREWE, Carl O. Lt. (USN) 202185   NGLO
ALLEN, Merle W. 2nd Lt. 049793 0301 NG Spotter; 3-5-Sep, Bn S-4
ABLE COMPANY
STEVENS, John R. Capt. 014231 0302 Commanding Officer
EUBANKS, Fred F. Jr. 1st Lt. 036407 0302 Exec. Officer
SEBILIAN, Robert C. 1st Lt. 049292 0302 7-July - 17-Aug, Plt Ldr. 1st Platoon; 17-Aug, WIA, Evac; 20-Aug Hospitalized; 20-Aug Detached.
JOHNSTON, Thomas H. 2nd Lt. 049718 0302 7-Jul - 18-Aug Platoon Leader, 2nd Platoon. 18-Aug 1950, KIA
FOX, George C. 1st Lt. 047459 0302 7-Jul - 3-Sep Platoon Leader, 3rd Platoon; 3-Sep 1950 WIA Evac.
MUETZEL, Francis W. 2nd Lt. 049792 0302 7-Jul - 17-Aug Platoon Leader, Weapons Platoon; 18-Aug - 6-Sep Platoon Leader 2nd Platoon.
BLANK, Howard G. 2nd Lt. 043444 0302 30-Aug - 6-Sep, 60mm Mortar Section Leader.
BAKER COMPANY
TOBIN, John L. Capt. 011730 0302 7-July - 17-Aug, Commanding Officer; 17-Aug WIA, Evac; 17-24-Aug Hospt; 24-Aug Detached
FENTON, Francis I. Jr. Capt. 015170 0302 7-July - 17-Aug, Exec. Officer; 17-Aug - 6-Sep Commanding Officer
SCHRYVER, Hugh C. Jr. 2nd Lt. 049849 0302 Platoon Leader, 1st Platoon
TAYLOR, David. S. 1st Lt. 048493 0302 Platoon Leader, 2nd Platoon, 17-Aug WIA, Evac.
TAYLOR, David. S. 1st Lt. 048493 0302 Platoon Leader, 2nd Platoon, 17-Aug WIA, Evac.
COWLING, David R. 2nd Lt. 049804 0302 7-July - 12-Aug Platoon Leader; 12-Aug WIA, Evac.; 12-15-Aug Hospt.; 15-Aug Detached
HALL, Edward C. Jr. 2nd Lt. 049867 0302 7-July - 12-Aug, Platoon Leader Machine Gun Plat.; 12-Aug WIA, Evac.; 12-15-Aug Hospt.; 15-Aug Detached
CLEMENT, Robert AA@ WO 048589 0310 7-Aug - 14-Aug 60mm Mortar Sect. Leader; 14-Aug Sick, Evac.; 14-15-Aug Hospt.; 15-Aug Detached.
MORRIS, Edward C. 2nd Lt. 050033 0302 20-Aug - 6-Sep Platoon Leader, 3rd Platoon
CHRISTOLOS, Nick 2nd Lt. 049920 0302 20-Aug - 6-Sep. 60mm Mortar Sec Ldr.
WEAPONS COMPANY
RUSSELL, John W. Major 07098_ 0302 Commanding Officer
SOLLOM, Almond H. Capt. 024382 0302 Exec. Officer
ALDERMAN, Harry L. 2nd Lt. 049788 0302 81mm Mortar Platoon Leader
TULEY, Ralph J. 2nd Lt. 049907 0302 Asst. 81mm Mortar Platoon Leader
BROWN, Dale L. 2nd Lt. 050020 0302 Anti-Tank Assault Platoon Leader

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MY COUNTRY, MY FLAG

There are those in the world that would like to see this flag fade away forever. There are also those in this country that would like to remove it from our way of life. They burn it, they trample on it and desecrate it in many other ways. They call it "Freedom of Speech". To those that have this attitude, I would remind them that in some countries they would be "done away with" in short order. Their "Freedom of Speech" would be over!

A tear of pride falls down my cheek when I recall the battles of the past but within memory of many of us today: The many battles of WWII; The Korean Conflict, Pusan Perimeter, Naktong, Inchon, and of course the Chosin. In more recent memory: Vietnam, first Gulf War, War on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq, today. These are but a few, there are other skirmishes that bear remembering. In all of these, our brave men, and now our brave women answered their country’s call and fought for our country and yes for our FLAG. Yes, the FLAG for them is precious and something to be respected, and I know it hurts each one of them when they see our national flag desecrated in any way in the name of "Freedom of Speech".
 


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Readers' Comments

From Gene Ciliberti

"I just finished reading all of your memoir. It is really good and I thoroughly enjoyed it. You certainly answered a lot of my questions about the war. Honestly, most of the time I didn't know where I was or what was going on around us. I remain amazed at your ability to recall all the details. I got a chuckle out of the "cold feet" syndrome that we share. I wouldn't leave the warmth of Florida if you hit me with a stick. I wish I had a nickel for every time my dear wife Sophia would say, "Ooh! Your feet are so cold". You and I were so close to each other that night on Red Beach! I was in Communication Platoon, H&S Co., 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines. There you were in the same position in the 1st Battalion. You worked hard (and quickly) on the memoir and it shows. I'm proud to be your buddy.

- Semper Fidelis and God bless you and Verna."
- Gene C.

[KWE Note: Gene Ciliberti has a book out entitled, "Recollections of a Boy Marine."]


From Tena Wilbanks

"Hi Lynnita.  Thank you for sending me the information.  I do have my brother's service record.  The Korean Project has also been a big help.  I am trying to find out as much information as I can about my brother.  We were separated at birth.  I found out about him 5 years after he was killed.  He was wounded Aug. 13, 1950,  went back into action Sep 25, and was killed Sep 27, 1950.  Thank you for the information about the memoir.  I read Gene Dixon's story.  What a Marine he was.  We had a lot of good ones back in those days.  It helped me to find out just what my dear brother had to go through.  Also, I read the one about Chris Sarno.  His story was both sad and funny, but it also gave me a good insight of what my brother went through to become a Marine.  I will read all the others. Keep up the good work. We need people like you.  Thanks again."

- Tena Wilbanks


From Brian Dixon

Dad - The web site looks very professional. Looks like a good way to record events and real-life stories for the future. It's going to take a while to read it all. I'm going to forward it to Stephanie [Gene’s granddaughter]. She seems to be interested in stuff like this... I think because she actually knows someone who was there and part of history (history is one of her more favorite subjects in school). - Brian


From Stewart Portela

Dear Mr. Dixon;

Thought I would send you a note and tell you that the chapter on some of your information is complete. We used a few photos from the National Archive Web Site with your story. We are very pleased with it and consider your inclusion in our book a real honor and a real plus.

Few students of today know very much, if any, about the Korean War. The impact of that war and the people involved are still affecting the decisions that we make concerning foreign policy today. The men involved need to be respected, honored and educated about. Thank You for your time and willingness to let us include you in the book.

When my co-author is finished fixing my mistakes I will e-mail you the story for you to look over and to add suggestions. Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

I have already had 34 of my students use your web pages for research in preparing electronic presentations and in written reports. One of my students has given his presentation concerning Korea, specifically the Pusan Perimeter, to the local VFW chapter and is possibly going to present to the state association in March if selected. I cannot tell you how much my students are benefiting from your work behind the computer screen.

Sincerely, Your friend in Idaho; Stewart Portela (author of "Heroes Among Us")

P.S. Your chapter is titled, "Precious Liberty", taken as a quote from one of your web sites.


From Marty O'Brien

Gene's Pohang guerrilla hunt page is interesting. When I landed on July 18, we went west. 20th (I believe) we passed thru a small village.  We saw the aftermath of a massacre--bodies of men, women and children on both sides of the road.  The bodies were pretty ripe with flies all over. I don't believe it could have happened by any of our infantry as we don't kill women and children, so I must assume that whoever did the deed must have been guerillas as the NKPA troops were miles away to the north.

 

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