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Donald Joseph Loraine

Hoover, Alabama
Korean War Veteran of the United States Marine Corps

"I would say that being a Marine in the Korean War was the greatest experience in my life. I felt every emotion known to man: hate, love, fear, joy, pain, sorrow, etc. I have absolutely no regrets. "

- Don Loraine

 


[KWE Note: The following memoir is the result of an online interview I conducted with Don Loraine of Birmingham, Alabama in January and February 2000. To my great sorrow, Don is now deceased.  He was a fine Marine. – Lynnita Brown]

Memoir Contents:


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Pre-Military


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My name is Donald Joseph Loraine, and I was born on April 12, 1932 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. My parents were Floyd D. and Martha Elizabeth Meihls Loraine. My father was a factory worked for General Electric for 46 years. Mother was a homemaker. I have four younger siblings, Ann Marie, James, Jennine, and Michael.  All are deceased with the exception of Jennine.

I attended Precious Blood Grade School and Central Catholic High School, graduating in June of 1950. During school, I participated in football, basketball, and ran track in high school. Because I was so busy with these activities, I only worked a summer job as a Gandy Dancer on the Penn Railroad. A Gandy Dancer tamps ties and straightens rails. Where the name came from, I’ll never know. It was hot, tough work, but paid good money, and we really had some good times. We were all high school kids—mostly athletes—trying to make enough money during the summer to survive the school year (dates, the malt shop, etc.). There were also the odd jobs such as cutting grass, shoveling snow, and a Sunday paper route. Sounds kind of boring compared to today’s youth.

I was a Boy Scout and really enjoyed it. I was with Troop 17, the "Flaming Arrows." I particularly remember the overnight camping trips and the week we spent at Big Island. That was an actual island on a lake in Indiana. It gave me my first exposure with other kids throughout the state. I also remember the feeling of pride with each new merit badge and the advancement in grade (rank).

I grew up during World War II. My great grandfather on my mother’s side had been in the Union Army during the Civil War, but to my knowledge that was it. No one in my family served in the military during World War II. We served our country a different way on the home front. The only activity I can remember are the Saturday morning paper drives. I am not sure if they were school or Boy Scout organized. Then, of course, I bought Savings Stamps with whatever extra money I had, which was very little. I honestly can’t recall if I ever filled a book up in order to get a Savings Bond. Looking back like this, I was a boring kid.


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Joining Up

I was not in the Reserves and I was not drafted. I was being recruited by a few colleges to play football during my senior year. But when the Korean War erupted and with the impending involvement of the Marine Corps, college football seemed unimportant. At that time, four years did not seem that long, so I enlisted on August 17, 1950. Surprising enough, my dad was very supportive of my decision. My mother quietly opposed it.

I really can’t answer why I enlisted in the Marine Corps. There was no choice in my mind. I did not consider any other branch of the service. It was as if it were predestined that I was to be a Marine. Four of my high school friends joined in 1950 at different times. They were Louie Momper, Jim Kramer, Bob Rowe, and Roy Stephen. None of them saw combat and I have not seen Louie, Jim, or Bob since their enlistment. Roy and I played football for the Camp Lejeune Marines, but with my departure for Korea, we drifted apart.

I enlisted in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and completed all the preliminary paperwork there. From then on, I was known as Devil Dog Don. That moniker has stuck with me all of these years, but shortened to DDD. After I filled the paperwork out, I was bused to Indianapolis, Indiana for the official physical and processing. We were put on a train to Parris Island. We were all strangers with one thing in common—we were all scared, but thought we were now Marines [the key word being, "thought"]. Were we mistaken! Let the hell begin!


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Sand Flea Marine

We were met at the train by a scrawny little blond. I don’t remember if he was a PFC or Corporal. He just kept screaming we were now POWs, shit birds, etc. I actually thought he was funny, but I knew better than to laugh. We somehow managed to get into somewhat of a formation and march off to the Supply Depot, where we were issued our gear. From there we went to the Chow Hall for lunch, and it was actually good. We then proceeded to our Quonset Hut area and was greeted by the DIs who were assigned to us. I was a sand flea Marine (boot) in Platoon 107, Fourth Recruit Battalion, MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina, from August 18, 1950 to November 6, 1950.

My drill instructors were Sgt. G. F. Altman and Cpl R. H. Epple. Sergeant Altman was a World War II veteran and Corporal Epple was a Reservist called up. He looked as if he had just gotten out of Boot Camp. He was a real Gooney Bird. They took us to have our heads shaved, then we spent the rest of the day doing sack drills until the DI could bounce a quarter off of the blanket. We also swabbed down every nook and cranny of that hut and cleaned the cosmoline off of our M-1 rifles.

In the next seven weeks, we did a lot of weapons training, learning about and field stripping the M-1, carbine, BAR, and .45. We had to qualify on the range. Those who didn’t had to repeat boot camp again. I thoroughly enjoyed the rifle range.

In addition, we had a lot of close order drill, some hand to hand combat training, and the dreaded gas mask drill (in a hut full of tear gas). Classroom junk included a lecture on the "Uniform Code of Military Justice" and, of course, VD films. The VD films were so poorly done they were actually funny.

Lights out was at 2100, maybe 2200. I just don’t remember. Then, I think we were awakened at 05:30 by a screaming, hung over DI. We shaved, showered, etc., then hit the chow hall and began the day’s agenda by 0700. Free time was cleaning your weapon and the hut and on Sunday washing clothes. Church was offered on Sunday, too, and I sure as hell went, just to get away for a while. We were pretty much on our own getting there and back. There was nothing formal, and the DI did not breathe down our neck.  Free time was rare. If I recall, we had two football games, but that was it.

Occasionally (too often) after spending a few hours at the Slop Shute, one of the DIs would pull a sack drill on us. The reason? Hell, he was loaded. I feel our DIs were very strict in different ways. Corporal Epple did not know what he was doing and was the brunt of a lot of jokes (in private). Sergeant Altman was tough, and could really get in your face—almost to the point of being a perfectionist. He was the ultimate DI, hated and respected at the same time. And we always listened to him.

The DIs used corporal punishment for boots’ various infractions. The only trouble I was personally in was at a rifle inspection after learning my M-1. I had put an internal part over instead of under this pin, which caused the operating rod not to function. The piece (M-1) was hit by the DI into my face, requiring me to go to sick bay for stitches. I was delighted because it gave me a couple of hours off.

I saw others being disciplined for reasons such as having a dirty rifle or mess gear, not shaving, smoking a cigarette, being a smart mouth (very few), showing up late for formation, talking in ranks, etc. The punishment varied. It could be holding your rifle at parade rest with the butt off the deck until you felt that your wrist would break. Sometimes it was holding your M-1 over your head or directly in front of you (outstretched) until you felt your arms would fall off. Perhaps it was burying your bayonet in the sand and then digging it out with your mess gear spoon between your teeth. It could also be smoking a pack of cigarettes with your bucket over your head. (Thank God I did not smoke.) Dry shaving was another. Punishment was also having to do pushups or jogging for long periods of time.

Parris Island is sand and more sand surrounded by water, with drill fields of hot asphalt. We lived in Quonset huts and, if I remember correctly, there were 12 men to the hut. The worst of all on Parris Island was the dreaded sand flea. We were made to do stationary double time, then stand at attention while the damn sand fleas bit us and the DIs screamed, "Don’t touch them. They have to eat, too." It was enough to put you in the Psycho Ward. Sometimes there was platoon discipline. If there was a constant repeat offender, the platoon suffered. But that did not occur that often because we took care of it after hours. We really did not have any troublemakers in our platoon, and everyone made it through boot camp.

The physical part of boot camp did not bother me. It was hard to adjust to the regimentation, but fortunately as an athlete in high school, I was accustomed to a lot of it, though not as intense or every day as boot camp. The mental harassment was tough, but I kept my mouth shut and it helped me immensely in my tour of duty, especially in Korea. I have thought about Sergeant Altman many times over the years. He was tougher than hell, but as fair as he could be. I remember one night on a combat patrol in Korea, I had to make a quick decision as to the safety yet effectiveness of the mission, and for some reason he popped into my mind—not what he would do, but he just flashed across my mind.

Boot camp was the toughest thing in my life, but the reward of knowing you made it outweighed the negative. Sometimes I thought, "What the hell am I doing here?" But you had to dismiss those thoughts and go on from there. I for one have never been a quitter and the humiliation of quitting to me would have been worse than the sticking it out.

At the end of boot camp, there was a ceremony, parade, and review of the troops, plus the selection of the Honor Platoon. I felt sorry for Sergeant Altman because we finished second.

When I graduated from boot camp, I felt different. I guess you could say I felt like a Marine, yet I knew there was a lot more to come. But I felt the worst was over and from now on it was uphill. I just think I had more confidence. I was cocky, if you will. At that point in my life, it was by far the toughest accomplishment I had ever completed. High school football two-a-days seemed like child’s play.

I had a ten day leave after boot camp and spent most of my time with my girlfriend and some friends who were not in college. I did not wear my uniform that much. I had not had the time to have it tailored and my shirts cut down, etc. From what I remember there were not that many comments about my joining the Marine Corps, other than some people thought I was stupid because I gave up a football scholarship.

After my leave, I reported to Camp Lejeune, traveling there by train. The trip was uneventful. There was just a lot of speculating about the next four years. At that time, they were forming the Second Marine Division, and I was assigned to F-2-8. The First Marine Division, of course, had been deployed to Korea.


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Med Cruise

All training at Camp Lejeune was pretty standard, but nothing related to Korea. We practiced the standard war games and did some amphibious landings at Onslo Beach, North Carolina. We also went aboard ship and made another landing in Puerto Rico and returned. We then made a Mediterranean Cruise, going over on the APA Chilton. We had war games involving the Royal British Marines. We landed on Crete, Gibraltar, had liberty in Niece, Cannes France, and Athens, Greece.

The return trip was great. Fox Company was transferred to the USS Coral Sea. E had no specific duties except a little guard duty here and there. We had a lot of free time. The food was great. There was a basketball court, weight room and it was very interesting watching the F-4-U Corsairs and Banshee Jets launched for their training missions. It peaked my interest in flying, which I pursued in later years. We stopped again in Niece and Cannes and had extended liberty. It was a great experience (vacation) for an 18-year old kid.

The Med Cruise lasted about three months. Everything (our training) was World War II related maneuvers with no real instructors. We learned it by doing it over and over. Boot Camp was more just military procedure, protocol, discipline, weapons orientation, and pure hell. I’m sure that we were judged on this training to some extent, but there were no written tests. I did not find it particularly challenging. It was more like 9 to 5 hours with liberty on weekends, unless there was an overnight field trip. As a rule, the 2nd Division was a permanent assignment.


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Football Team

I was given a break upon our return from the Med Cruise. I was invited by the camp football coach (Major Donahue) to try out for the Camp Team. I made the team and was transferred to Regimental H&S, along with another football player named Eugene "Pop Eye" Wisnieski, with the title of Police Sergeant. I was a PFC. This duty consisted of picking up the mail and passing it out. We did not have to report to anyone and had open liberty. During the season we were transferred to the athletic dorm. All officers and enlisted men were billeted in the same barracks. There was no military protocol, just normal athletic training rules. We played a college schedule, had our own chow hall, and were served by women Marines. The only time we had to wear uniforms was on road trips to play colleges.

After the 1952 season, I wanted to go to Korea. That is why I joined the Marine Corps in the first place. However, to be assigned to a combat replacement draft was far more difficult than I ever imagined. With the help of a Warrant Officer in Regimental H&S, I finally was assigned to a draft and was sent to Tent Camp Two in Camp Pendleton, California. There was no cold weather training. It was more of a staging area than training. Two weeks later and after a lot of liberty in Los Angeles, we boarded busses to San Diego, then an MSTS (General Pope or the General Black, I don’t remember which) for Korea with a great stop in Japan before going on to the real world.


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Arriving in Korea

I believe the date I arrived in Korea was June 17, 1953; at least that is what is on my discharge papers. We arrived at Inchon the night before debarkation. We stayed aboard that evening and the next morning we used the cargo nets to board LCVPs for the landing.

Inchon was not surprising to me. It was what I expected—a dirty port city. From what I remember, it did not show many of the ravages of war. Of course, there had been very little fighting there in 1950. You knew you were in a war zone because you could smell it. You also could hear very distant artillery fire.

We were grouped in different alphabetical groups. Someone just called your name, rank, serial number, and the outfit you were assigned. I was assigned to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, as the first fire team leader, 1st squad, 1st platoon. This basically meant that I was in charge of three men: a rifleman, a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) man, and the Assistant BAR man. We then boarded trucks to Camp Indian Head where the Regiment (Division) was in Corps reserve. We saw natives when we were en route to Indian Head, but did not see any in the Reserve area. I also saw an old friend that I had been stateside with. Sgt. Tim McCarthy was in the machine gun section of Fox Company. He had been there since March of 1953. It was great seeing a friend. Tim was hit real bad on Boulder city and I never saw him again. He died of cancer a few years ago.


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Reality of War

The area to which I was assigned was rice paddies and mountains, with no vegetation to speak of. To me, the geographical location where I served in Korea is not clear. My discharge reads, "Participated in operations against enemy forces in South and Central Korea." The newspaper states it was on the western front. I think we were just this side (south) of the 38th. The outposts were East Berlin, then Boulder City (Hill 119).  We stayed basically in the same area. Even our Reserve area was the same, but just a little way further back from the front line.

When we came out of Reserve, we replaced the Turks on East Berlin. I have no idea about their fighting ability, but I do know they were filthy, leaving the bunkers littered with feces, bread, and other rotting food—a rat’s delight. And rats were there, oblivious of the war going on around them. The Aussies were nearby and I heard they were an excellent combat unit. I do know that when we were in Reserve, we visited their camp on a regular basis. They were great guys and very generous with their booze, which was all top shelf.

We took the same route called 76 Alley to get to both of our assigned outposts (East Berlin and Boulder City).  76 Alley was a road we had to take to the OP's. The Chinese controlled the high ground on each side of the Alley, and when they felt like it, would pot shot us with their 76 recoilless rifle (very accurate). Hence the name "76 Alley." There is a good picture of it in the August 10, 1953 issue of LIFE magazine on page 21. We took trucks to the entrance of 76 Alley, then boarded APCs (???) to the top, then on foot to the outpost. We were actually sitting ducks when aboard the APC. Once in position on the hilltop, we fought out of trenches and used bunkers for cover when the incoming was heavy. As soon as the incoming stopped, you existed the bunkers because that meant that the Chinese were coming.

When we were in a combat area, most of the intense combat was at night. The only protection from the enemy was the trench line and bunkers. You did not want to be in a bunker when they attacked. If we were overrun, a bunker was a casket. During the day there were sporadic artillery and small arms fire, and, of course, our air strikes which were conducted for the most part in the daylight hours. We hated tank support. The tank crews set up in a tank slot just behind us, delivered their salvo, then the Chinese keyed in on them and retaliated with 76s and made our life miserable with incoming.

I saw my first dead enemy slightly less than three weeks after arriving in Korea. I also saw my first dead Marine the same day. I think it was around July 5, 1953. It had a profound effect on me. The eager anticipation of combat had become a reality. No more games. It was now life and death and I had the responsibility for my fire team’s lives. I had to overcome my own fears and somehow show leadership. I don’t mean to give the impression I was not frightened, because I was scared to death. But I had to show some manner of control.

I will never forget my first time in combat. I was nervous, anxious, and scared to death. Naturally we were under heavy artillery fire and to my surprise it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. (Later on, the artillery was getting to me and everyone else. It never seemed to let up. Boulder City may have been the worst.) When it lifted and the Chinese started coming, that was a different story. I felt real fear. They were real people and they were trying to kill me. I was shaking so hard I fired my first round into the side of the trench line. Then for some reason I calmed down, still frightened out of my gourd, but an alert, calm fear. From that time on I was okay—as okay as you can be under those conditions. While competing in sports, I learned that you could turn fear into an asset. I liked my assignment as a Fire Team Leader. It gave me some responsibility and decision-making authority, as well as the experience to move into a more responsible position when needed. The first few days on line, I was at a position on the front line called East Berlin. Those days were ugly. The incoming artillery from the Chinese was constant. The fireworks I saw on the Fourth of July in 1953 in Korea were not pleasant.

Emotionally at this time I was okay. Somehow you get hardened to the fact that you’re in a war and people—maybe even you—are going to die. You never stop being scared, but you learn to live with it. In most cases, your survival rate is sharpened, which is also an asset for your subordinates. As a Fire Team Leader, I was armed with an M-1. I was promoted to Squad Leader and was still armed with an M-1. When I was later promoted to a Platoon Sergeant, I still carried an M-1.

I only remember officers Lt. J.V. Smith, Lt. Raymond O’Leary, and Lt. William Rogers. They were good Marines and good guys. The rest were non-descript and from what I remember, not ones I wanted to go into combat with. All three of the "good guys" were wounded. I have kept in touch with Smith and O’Leary. I have no idea where Rogers is. Officers (a few) were somehow hard to find in combat. There was no time for anyone to "teach me the ropes" when I got to Korea. When you went into combat, you learned on your own or you didn’t survive. You depended on the leadership and just prayed to God that they knew what they were doing. (Unfortunately, that was not always the case.)  Nothing in Korea related to boot camp or pre-war training other than firing a rifle, discipline, and knowing what a fire team, squad, and platoon was and the chain of command.


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East Berlin

East Berlin was an impossible situation and a disaster. We were expected to hold the outpost with approximately 200 men against an onslaught of approximately 1,500-plus enemy. On July 5th and 6th, we lost 100 plus men. Only 84 in our Company survived. Looking back, I don’t know how anyone survived either this outpost war or the next one at Boulder City. The Chinese attacked us with two battalions (approximately 1500 men). They overran us with superior numbers and we had to withdraw. The incoming was never ending, plus when we were overrun, we had to call in our own artillery (boxing us in) fire in an effort to stop the violent onslaught.

Hand to hand combat was the last resort. Using East Berlin as an example, we were trying to hold the hill with less than a company. The Chinese attacked us with two reinforced battalions. We had orders to hold the Outpost at all costs. They hit us with heavy artillery fire, then assaulted us with overwhelming ground troops. They just overran us and were in our trench lines. We held them off enough to get off the hill. They suffered extremely high casualties. PFC Kenneth Nevill and PFC Harold Richards were to cover our withdrawal with BARs. They both were captured before they could get off the outpost, but survived and were released after the cease fire. It was an impossible situation. If we would not have withdrawn, there would have been no survivors.

Nevill now lives in Texas, but I don’t know about Richards. Their capture was a strange incident, as we were never informed that they were missing in action. In fact, no one in the platoon remembers them, and when we were in Reserve it was never discussed. That in itself was not unusual. Because of the high number of casualties, it was just assumed that there were KIA, WIA, or MIA, and the war went on.

Once we returned to our Reserve area, we regrouped, re-staffing with the "Pots and Pans" (cooks and bakers) Platoon who were forced into combat because of our heavy losses. There were also some unfortunate Marines who had served their time and were in a Casual Company waiting to be rotated home. The fact that they now had to face yet more battles so close to being shipped home--and many never made it--was sad. Many of these casualties were never officially listed as F-2-7 personnel.

We made an effort to retake East Berlin around July 18. I was then squad leader. The results were the same. We were completely outmanned and again suffered devastating casualties, including a Platoon Leader named Lt. J.V. Smith. We had to call in our own artillery on top of us to try and stop the violent onslaught. It was estimated that 3,500 Chinese attacked the hill during that battle. When we were forced to withdraw to Camp Matthews, the enemy then had full control of outposts Reno, Vegas, Carson, Berlin, and East Berlin. This time we were brought up to platoon standards with the 34th Replacement Draft.

One of the Marines wounded on East Berlin was Kenny Seabert (Illinois). He was evacuated, but later returned to the Company after the cease fire, as did Lt. Jean Val Smith (Indiana). Val Smith was an excellent officer. He was a Naval Academy graduate whose only fault was trying to do too much. The only World War II vets I remember were Lt. Raymond O’Leary, an enlisted man in World War II, and Sgt. Carlos Cavazos ( his second tour in Korea). They were both great guys and excellent combat Marines. O’Leary did not last long. He was wounded on 76 Alley. After Lieutenant Smith was wounded, we received Lt. William Rogers in the 34th Draft, and he replaced Val while we were in Reserve. Rogers lasted about 24 hours before being wounded on Boulder City. We never saw him again. I liked Rogers, but his presence was very short. He appeared to be a top-notch officer.

Although we had very little contact with Army troops, I do remember that one morning when we came off of East Berlin, they had a mess line set up for us. They served real eggs, and it was great. As far as our impression of their combat skills, we held them in contempt. That was mostly because of the stories we had heard from the "Marine Chosin Few".


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Boulder City

After East Berlin we went into reserve again in an effort to bring the company up to strength. This was done with the arrival of the 34th Draft. With little rest and green replacements, we were sent back on line to Hill 119 (Boulder City). Lt. Raymond J. O’Leary of Wyoming was wounded on 76 Alley en route to Boulder City, and was returned to the States.

On Boulder City, the outcome was the same as East Berlin, with incoming that was beyond belief. It was estimated that over 30,000 rounds hit us. Again, our own artillery was called in on top of us because were overrun. This "friendly fire" resulted in a lot of our own casualties. One of my most vivid memories of Korea is getting my squad out of the bunkers because the Chinese were coming. A kid in my squad, PFC Richard Fitzgerald from New York, came out of his bunker and started to smoke a cigarette. I told him that burning ash is like a bull’s eye to a sniper. He then uttered "OH SHIT!" Those were his last words. A sniper’s bullet hit squarely between his eyes. He had been in combat less than 24 hours.

The night of July 25th, word came down from the CP that I was to take my squad on a recon patrol in an effort to find the Chinese (which was stupid). It had been rather quiet up to that point. In order to run a patrol, we had to go through what we called the Gate. That was another trench line leading from the main trench line that led to the rice paddies. D. E. Barney (MA) and Denford "Smitty" Smith (TN) asked me if they could take the point. I agreed. They were great kids. About five minutes into the patrol, we were still in the trench line leading to the rice paddy. One of them yelled, "Grenade." That was it. All hell broke loose and we were trapped in the trench line. A BAR man, Moose Murzyn, was on a small knoll at the entrance to the gate. He covered our withdrawal. Barney and Smitty were killed, but we were able to get out without further casualties thanks to Moose.  We could not get Barney and Smitty's bodies back until the next morning because the Chinese again attacked in superior forces and overran us. When we finally were able to get back to them, they were riddled with bullets and hung over barb wire that was strung at the exit of the gate. It made me sick. There was no need for that patrol.

I was hit with small pieces of shrapnel, one small piece in my leg, a piece grazed my neck, and two small pieces in my left shoulder. Thank God for flak jackets. Mine was full of fragments. If it had not been for that jacket, I probably would not be here. I was conscious at all times. I had very little pain. It was more like a bee sting. I was not sure I was hit at the time, but then felt the blood. We had a bunker set up as an on line aid station. I walked down there and was treated by a corpsman, Darrell McCullough (not sure of the spelling). He later was awarded the Silver Star and deserved it. In about 15 minutes I was back with my squad. (After the cease fire, somehow the shoulder became infected and I was sent back to Baker Med and had the fragments removed.)

Sgt. Paul A. Smith (W-2-7 attached to Fox) had a flame thrower and burned a lot of the enemy trying to come in through the Gate that night. I will never forget the stench of burning flesh. One somehow got through and started screaming while running at Cpl. W. D. McIntyre (my first Fire Team Leader) and me. W. D. emptied his M-1 into him, then reloaded and emptied another clip in him. I yelled at W. D. and said, "STOP IT. HE’S DEAD." W. D. just looked at me and said very calmly, "That SOB was trying to kill us." I said, "No shit, W. D." We both fell into the trench line laughing. That was the end of our laughter, however, as the Chinese were coming in hoards.

I threw grenades until my arm was ready to fall off, and I don’t know how many M-1 clips I went through that night. The next morning we were relieved. Again, the KIA and WIA figures were staggering. As we tried to get off the hill, we were pinned down for over an hour by one Chinese sniper. Finally, Moose Murrzyn starched (killed) him. I thought how stupid—one Gook has a platoon pinned down. As we came down 76 Alley, the APCs were full of the dead. We pulled off of Boulder City on the 26th of July, and thank God the cease fire went into effect on the 27th.

The month of July 1953 was recorded as having the highest casualty rate of the Korean War. Marine OP’s Berlin, East Berlin and Boulder City were very similar in unusually high casualty rates, with Boulder City being the lesser of the three only because the cease fire went into effect the morning of July 27, 1953. I don’t know the figures for July 25, 1953 for Boulder City. Also, at that time I knew very few men in the CO. There were so many KIA/MIA, you actually did not know that many in the platoon. I do remember when Tim McCarthy was hit. Blood was gushing from his throat. I thought he would never make it. He did survive, but died of cancer about 5 or 6 years ago. I found out he made it out of Korea through the F-2-7 Association.

I can tell you that I lost 3 KIA and 3 WIA out of my squad of 12 men plus myself. I was also WIA, but never evacuated. It was estimated that over 300 rounds a minute were hitting East Berlin, and a total of 30,000 rounds fell on Boulder City, plus our own shells because of the need to call for a "box me in" when we were overran. Tanks were not that much help in a static situation such as East Berlin and Boulder City. They would pull in to a tank slot behind our lines and blast away. The Chinese would zero in on them and blast away with return fire, and our tanks would get the hell out of there. Incoming is devastating physically and mentally. I would prefer "hand to hand" combat over that. At least you can see your enemy.

As I said, I was hit on the night of the 25th, but not enough to be evacuated. I always felt that it was shrapnel from our own "box me in" artillery fire that hit me. My flak jacket saved my life. It was full of shrapnel. Boulder City was as horrible as East Berlin, and because we had so many new replacements after East Berlin, it is impossible to remember the faces, let alone the names, of the KIA/WIA/MIA. I know that S/Sgt. Ambrosio (Squeaky) Gullen of Texas received the Medal of Honor when he was killed on Boulder City from what I think was our own "box-me-in" shrapnel.  He was considered a "hero" when he called down our own artillery on us when we were overrun. He was KIA along with many more KIA/WIA in F-2-7. Was this a war hero or someone who made a bad decision?

A "war hero" is not necessarily the person who gets the decoration. At times that could be political or a personality contest. The real heroes are the kids like Eddie Basham, the little back woods Marine from Kentucky (later KIA in Vietnam) who crawled out of the bunkers after heavy incoming, knowing that the Chinese were coming. They are scared to death, and yet do their job. The ones who accept going on patrol, especially on the point knowing they may not return, but never question the order and just do it. PFC D. E. Barney and PFC Denford Smith were perfect examples of a "war hero." They took the point in a situation that was doomed from the start. They lost their lives but saved the rest of the patrol. Were they decorated?? No. They were just doing their job. Sgt. Paul A. Smith (Columbia, SC) who stood his ground covering my Squad and used a flame thrower to burn a large number of attacking Chinese as they overran our position. There are so many more heroic young Marines whose stories will never be told. These are the real heroes.


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Not Worth It

The physical appearance of both hills was close to identical. They were approximately 300 meters high. There was very little vegetation on them because of the constant shelling. I personally believe they were used as a bargaining point at the truce talks. The Chinese were trying to acquire as much real estate as possible before the cease fire went into effect, plus they were good observation points. It was always a mystery to us why we did not let the Chinese have them. I understand the orders came down from I Corps (Army). We lost over a hundred men KIA, WIA, and MI on East Berlin from the period of July 5th to July 20th. Not all of that time was spent in combat. We had to pull back into the reserve area and attempt to bring the Company up to strength. The hills were not worth the casualties. We were in an impossible situation, totally out-manned. I honestly think it was some sort of ego trip with the people in Command. Boulder City was just as bad. It was estimated 33,000 rounds of incoming pounded us until you thought you were going crazy. Then they would come. They looked like ants swarming on a dead bird. The first time is the worst. I was shaking so hard I fired my M-1 into the side of the trench line and then I calmed down (as much as you can). I don’t remember if I said a prayer or not. I probably made the sign of the cross. I did not see my life flash before my eyes. I seemed to go into a trance. I don’t know how many rounds I fired or how many grenades I threw. I do know the next day I couldn’t lift my right arm.

I never thought how the war was progressing. I was disgusted at the senseless taking and losing of an OP and then being ordered to retake it. We were always hopelessly outnumbered. So many lives were needlessly lost because of "military tacticians" who I felt were being driven by ego.


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The Enemy

The Chinese were fearless, with no regard for life. They all looked to be in their early teens. Their reckless abandon made them good combat troops. We were more disciplined, and fought in somewhat of a controlled manner. When they assaulted our lines, they came in waves—the first being armed with small concussion grenades; the second with Burp Guns; and the third one I could never figure out. They set up ambushes when we ran patrols, and tried to split the patrol. It was as if they could read our minds, but looking back, I think we were somewhat predictable. When we left the reserve area we boarded trucks to the foot of 76 Alley, then walked to East Berlin and later Boulder City. Like clock work we ran a Recon patrol, basically the same route. Then we came back and waited for the Chinese to attack.

They used a burp gun as their main weapon. It was named for its unique sound when it was fired. It was a very effective automatic weapon at close range. They also used a standard rifle, artillery, and the dreaded 76, which was a very accurate piece of stationary firepower.


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Navy Corpsmen

I read an article written by a Navy Anesthesiologist recently. He raved on about the Marine lives that were saved by them and the Navy surgeons. (This is all true.) But Marines gave Navy corpsmen the credit. It appears to me that his ego and a little jealousy came through very clearly.

He talked about the heavy casualties that were sustained in July of 1953 (the heaviest of the war) and how doctors worked 8 on and 4 off. All of this is true, but one fact that he did not bring out was that a lot of those young men would have never gotten to Baker Med if it were not for a Navy corpsman.

Corpsmen were as brave, if not more so, than any Marine I knew. I saw total disregard for their own life in an effort to save one of us. Navy Corpsmen were Marines of the highest standard, and their medical skills were beyond reproach. Two that I remember (Charette – Medal of Honor and Darryl McCuliffe – Silver Star) are still alive and as humble as they were brave. I also remember Doc Lukefur, who was undecorated but never the less as courageous as his decorated comrades.


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Daily Life

I spent as little time in a bunker as possible. I never felt they fit my psyche. They were relatively safe other than a direct hit, but you sure would want to be out of them when the incoming stopped because the Chinese were on the way. You did not want to get caught in one when you were being overrun. Bunker furnishings consisted of "sand bag" chairs, some a ledge to sit on, weapon apertures, and yes, a lot of non-humans (rats). Some of the bunkers were large, such as First Aid and the CP bunker, and could be quite comfortable. But they were constantly damp (and wet) in the spring and summer. They were a good wind break in the winter. A foxhole was carved out in the side of the trench line. We referred to them as Bunny Holes. I preferred them to a bunker during income. You were less likely to get trapped if overrun.

In the later stages of war, it was not too difficult to keep reasonably clean. We normally were on line about three or four days, and then rotated back into a reserve area to regroup, the reason being the casualty rate on Vegas, East Berlin and Boulder City was so high it was necessary. There was very little shaving (if any) done on line, and a little water splashed on the face was a bath. From what I remember, we did not have a change of clothes.

We ate C rations on line, trading the type of ration a lot. My favorite was sausage patties and gravy, but I personally missed a good old cheeseburger, fries, and a chocolate malt from the States. In the Reserve area, the food was edible. We had the Marine Corps version of chicken, liver and onions (a lot), powdered eggs, SOS (bits of meat and gravy), powdered milk, something that looked like hamburger, and, of course, potatoes and gravy. We never ate the native food. The best thing I ever had in Korea was fresh eggs, as many as we wanted and how we wanted them cooked. That was when we came off line one morning and the Army had a mess line set up at the foot of 76 Alley. It was great. I gulped them down so fast that I burned the roof of my mouth and tongue so bad after the first mouthful that I could not taste them. That was okay. The first taste was pure heaven.

There were some lighter moments in Korea, but I suppose if we told the story to someone who was not there, it would not be funny. I remember that I had a kid from the back woods of Kentucky in my squad. After an extremely heavy artillery barrage, I had to get the men out of the bunkers because I knew the Chinese were going to come in waves. I rooted him (Eddie Basham) out. He just looked at me and in his back woods Kentucky accent just said, "SHIT, SHIT, SHIT." I started laughing and couldn’t quit. Eddie was later killed in Vietnam. Eddie kept me in stitches, not so much with jokes but just his manner and way of speaking, using a lot of good old Kentucky back woods phrases. I have never forgotten him. When I heard that he was killed in Vietnam, it hurt me, although I had not seen or heard from him since 1953. The time when W.D. McIntyre emptied an M-1 clip into an enemy and then said, "That SOB was trying to kill us" was another one of the lighter moments in Korea.

I received mail pretty much on a regular basis. I heard from my mother and sister, and got a "Dear John" letter from my high school sweetheart. Naturally the letters from her stopped after that one. I did not receive or ask for a lot of packages from home, although I did ask my mother to send a bottle of vitamins and canned sardines. Both came in good shape. Thinking back, I have no idea why I asked my mother to send vitamins. I guess it was because I felt C rations did not appear to have much nutritional value or maybe I thought they would give me more energy—who knows. One thing, since then I have taken vitamins every day of my life. I don’t remember any "real bad" news letters other than the normal "Dear Johns." The reaction was mostly anger, a few more beers, and with a few—crying. We had a Catholic priest as a chaplain. He was a great guy. We had mass in the movie area when we were in reserve. I am Catholic so I did attend. A lot of all faiths attended. I guess we all had Fox Hole Religion.

In our leisure time we played a lot of horseshoes, volley ball, poker, smokers (boxing matches), once a track meet, and of course, the over consumption of booze. I also did my share of drinking, smoking, and gambling in the Reserve area. Prior to the Marine Corps, I was "Johnny Jock Strap." I did not smoke and drank very little. I had no money, so I did not gamble. Cigarettes were part of our C rations, and during the war we were given a beer ration. When we went on line, each Squad put their beer into one sea bag, the reason being that when someone from the Squad was WIA, KIA, or MIA, the beer did not disappear. It remained in the Squad. After the cease fire went into effect, we set up a tent used as a slop chute. We procured the beer from a supply depot and sold it for 25 MPC. We took turns bartending, and a good time was had by all. There were times we drifted over to the Aussie area and worked out a deal for "hard liquor." They were great friends and fearless combat veterans.

When we were in the Reserve area, there were prostitutes who came to the outskirts of our area. A lot had VD and getting VD was like being wounded. You were out of action. When we were in reserve, some of the guys went to Seoul where "the girls" were less likely to be infected. I personally waited for R&R (Intercourse and Intoxication) in Kyoto, Japan. I selected my business girl, paid her $125 American MPC (that took care of everything for five days—hotel, food, booze, her, etc.).  The girls were beautiful, catered to your every wish, and did not consider themselves prostitutes. We lived the life of Riley that week, eating, drinking, making love, and doing some shopping. It was a great experience. I loved Japan. This may not make sense, but it was not tough going back to Korea when R&R was over. Leaving Japan was what was difficult. To this day it left me with great, positive memories.

The only Korean natives I came in contact with were the civilian ammo bearers. We also used them as stretcher bearers. I did not see how the natives lived when I was in Korea. The only children I saw was leaving Korea. We boarded a train at Munsan-ni (the rail head) and kids were all along the tracks begging for food. We threw them any extra C-rations we had. I did not think that much about Korea as a country worth fighting for. I’m sure the Koreans thought it was. I was just doing my job.

I honestly cannot say that I ever saw prejudice against other races. We had a kid from Macon, Georgia, a real red neck. He hated Yankees and made it very clear, but treated blacks and American Indians okay. It was honestly extremely humorous.


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Post Truce

The weather conditions went from one extreme to the other in Korea. The weather in Korea was miserably hot when I got there and when I was in combat in the summer of 1953. The helmets and flak jackets were uncomfortable at first, but you sure as hell learned to live with that. They were lifesavers. We also wore boxer shorts, dungaree pants, jacket and cap, and, of course, the ever present flak jacket and helmet. The enemy summer wear was an off white uniform. Some wore shorts. They wore a dungaree type cap and surprisingly enough, most did not wear helmets. They did not have flak jackets.

In contrast to the heat of a Korean summer, winter was extremely cold and just plain miserable. This was post truce. I cannot imagine winter in a combat situation. I understand that there were problems with weapons in the winter of 1950 and 51, but we did not experience any difficulties with them in the summer.

Our cold weather gear was adequate. We had insulated foot wear (Mickey Mouse boots), wool socks, long johns (long underwear), dungarees, cold weather pants worn over your dungarees, field jacket, cold weather parka, and a cold weather cap with flap type ear coverings. The enemy wore a quilted type uniform, with the same type cap with ear flaps.

On November 10, 1953 we celebrated the Marine Corps birthday. If I recall, there was a battalion formation and medals were given out, including my Purple Heart. Then a lot of booze was consumed. OUCH!!  I spent Christmas and New Years in Korea, too, but at least it was a lot better than the Fourth of July had been now that the cease fire was in effect. I remember that a lot of us went to Midnight Mass. There was a light snow and it was beautiful. Naturally we drank a lot, but we had a lot of fun. There were no fights. Everyone was a little melancholy but in a good mood.

I missed my family, playing football, my girl, real food. The winters, we constantly ran out of oil and regular showers. It seemed something was always wrong in the shower area. I also missed an honest to goodness bathroom.

In the cold of winter, I also saw my only USO show. It was Bob Hope, and I could have cared less about him. Marilyn Monroe was with him. It was cold—real cold. She came out in a Parka and sang a song, then said, "Oh, this thing is warm." She took it off and had a skimpy purple cocktail dress on. She was out there for over an hour. She was fantastic. When Bob Hope came back out, he was almost booed. Everyone wanted Marilyn back. I still have the pictures.


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W. D. McIntyre

There is one person I served with in Korea who clearly stands out in my mind and is still part of my life. He is W. D. McIntyre, who was in my squad. He was a great combat Marine, but the biggest foul-up in non-combat situations that I had ever seen in my four years in the Corps. He looked like a big Humphrey Bogart, but acted like Dennis the Menace. Yet he had a very high IQ. I actually had to have him court martialed twice. Both times he was reduced (busted in rank). One time we had just gotten a new 2nd Lieutenant as a platoon leader. He had never seen combat. We were sitting around the Reserve Area on a non combat OP. This green lieutenant was mouthing off how Salty he was. W. D. looked at him and said, "Lieutenant, I’ve pissed more salt than you have seen." The cocky little officer made some smart remark. I thought, "Oh God. Here we go." W. D. picked up his M-1 and fired a round into the ground next to the Lieutenant and said, "Now, Lieutenant. You can tell everyone you were under fire." Needless to say, I had to run him up. We never saw that little 2nd Lieutenant again. W. D. was busted from corporal to PFC, with no brig time. Then, when his enlistment was up, W. D. (ten years in the Corps) enlisted in the Army as a sergeant and spent two tours in Vietnam. He retired from the Army.

There was a period of about 25 years where we lost contact. In the last 12 months we have seen each other twice. He and his wife drove down from San Diego to Birmingham. It was like no time had passed and we had a great time. Our five year old granddaughter adopted him and Cathy as her uncle and aunt. We flew out to San Diego to see them and had a better time. We plan to go to the 1st Marine Division reunion this August in San Diego, so we will get together again. It’s strange. We consider each other best friends despite my "running him up" twice. I remember the morning I left Korea. We both had tears in our eyes.


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Shadow Box


(Click picture for a larger view)

To my knowledge we as a unit did not receive any specific citations. There were individual medals—Max Reynolds, Darryll McCullough (Navy Corpsman) Silver Star. My platoon sergeant, S/Sgt. Ambrosio (Squeaky) Guillen was the last person in Korea to receive the Medal of Honor. That was July 25, 1953.  The only medal of any significance I received was the "Chinese Marksmanship Badge" (Purple Heart). I was hit with shrapnel during incoming on Boulder City. It very well could have been our own. We were overrun and had to call our own artillery in on top of us. I am still very proud of it because I survived. My daughter and son-in-law just had all of my medals put into a shadow box. It’s beautiful.


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Going Home

I did not know what day I was going to be rotated. Our Gunny came up to me about a week before I was to leave and informed me I was on my way. My last night with the outfit was spent drinking and reminiscing (good and bad) about the past ten months. A lot of tearful toasts to our fellow platoon comrades who did not make it. I was feeling both glad and sad. I was grateful and happy that I was going home, but extremely sad knowing I probably would never again see some of the greatest guys I had ever met. That holds true to this day. W. D. McIntyre got up with me and helped me carry my gear to the truck. I do remember it was cold and very early in the morning.

We went by truck to Munsan-ni (the rail head), then went by train to Inchon. I don’t remember doing any paper work. I’m sure there was some, but it couldn’t have been much or I would have remembered. We did see replacements coming in as we were leaving. I ran into Bob Howe whom I played football with on the camp team at Lejeune. We had very little time to talk. I left Korea in April of 1954. I was a buck sergeant when I left Korea. I had gone before the promotion board prior to leaving Korea, but I knew there would be no promotion to staff sergeant. It made it very clear I was getting out and going to college on a football scholarship.

As we loaded onboard at Inchon, the Red Cross was passing out doughnuts and coffee. (The only other time I saw them in Korea was when they gave us doughnuts when we arrived in Korea the year before.)  I think we came back on the General Black (or was it the General Pope?). I could have cared less. I was more interested in where we were going. I never saw the Salvation Army. As far as I remember, it was all Marine and Army personnel being rotated home. I didn’t talk to any Army personnel, but my mood was good, though anxious. It seemed to take forever. We didn’t have any duty. Another Marine from Indiana and I found two guys from Ohio and we played Euchre (a card game) all the way to San Francisco. It was too crowded to do anything else on the ship. It was pretty clear sailing all the way back. I have never gotten sea sick, and I didn’t see anyone get sick (thank God). We had no layovers. It was a straight shot home. I think it was about 20 days, but honestly, I don’t remember.

We sailed into San Francisco, where only one person was waiting on the dock. He had a guitar and of all things, he was playing "Back Home Again in Indiana." We pulled into San Francisco very early in the morning. I think everyone was on deck when we passed under the Golden Gate Bridge. I do have to admit I had a lump in my throat and a tear in my eyes.

We just disembarked, but again I don’t remember any processing. We then boarded buses and drove to Treasure Island. That was about it. Then in the first 24 hours after we arrived Stateside, we did what every good Marine before us did. We ate the biggest steak we could find and drank a ton of booze. They sent me to Casual Company at Quantico to await discharge. That was my last duty station. That was a joke, because I had no duty. I just laid around and went to DC on liberty. I also tried to get in some type of shape for football.

I did not re-enlist. I thought about it, but only if I could have gone to OCS and flight training. I am very proud of my four years in the Corps and to have been a former combat Marine. I have no regrets. But as a career – no. I was discharged August 16, 1954, and I did feel an emptiness, but that disappeared when I reported to football camp and enrolled in college.


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Post-Military

It was a very quick transition from Marine Sergeant to Rookie Student/Athlete. I was discharged on August 16, 1954 and had to report to football camp at Southern MS (Hattiesburg, Mississippi) around the 20th of August. Our first game was with Alabama on September 21, 1954 at Crampton Bowl, Montgomery, Alabama.

Those who knew me before I went to Korea noticed a change in me after I came back. Combat did change me, but I honestly think for the better. As far as "normal", I was probably different from some of my friends who did not enter the service or did not serve in combat. I was a former Marine who served in combat (damn proud of it). It does change you. There had to be a change in all of us. Unfortunately, there were some bad apples, but I feel the majority of Korean vets came back and contributed to society in a positive way. Whether it was in continuing their education or getting a job, marrying and raising a family, and never felt the world owed them a living such as was the case with many Vietnam vets. I personally felt more confident and never had a doubt about my future.

Former High School classmates and team mates that had not seen combat or even attempted to go into any branch of the service were somewhat intimidated by me. I don’t mean this in an arrogant way, but to me and other vets attending college, they seemed immature. The ones who had already graduated college I had nothing in common with and really wasn’t interested in their stories about how they had a blast partying and all of their many sexual conquests.  When I was in school, the other students (non vets) were there more for a party than an education. That is not to say we didn’t party, but it wasn’t our main purpose in life. To a lot of students (not all), classes were an interruption to their main goal in life of the "almighty Beer Blasts." 


(Click picture for a larger view)

After college, I briefly worked for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company as a Store Manager in Peru, Indiana.  Retail was not my cup of tea so I decided to take a little vacation before getting another job.  I met my wife (on that vacation), Shirley Ann Willegalle from Madison, Minnesota, in Ft. Lauderdale, FL on "Spring Break" in 1958. We were married the following year.

I then went to work for 3-M Company out of St. Paul, MN; our first move was to Roanoke, Virginia with our 3-month old son, Jeff. In 1964, we transferred to Richmond, Virginia, where our daughter Kelly was born. From there we moved to Rochester, New York, then to Kalamazoo (Gull Lake), Michigan, and then finally to Birmingham, Alabama. Fortunately, it worked out so the children attended one school system as we lived in Michigan for 14 years. While in Michigan, I worked as a volunteer football coach at Gull Lake High School, along with my job. I retired from 3-M Company in 1991 after 32 long years, but not many regrets. It was a good company to work for. I have a small marketing business that I run out of our home and limit it to doing business with the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trails (8 courses in Alabama) and the School of Medicine.

Tragedy befell us in December 1980 when our son Jeff, who was attending flight school at American Flyers in Ardmore, Oklahoma, was killed in an untimely car accident right on the base. He had turned 21 on November 17th and was killed on December 3rd. There are no words to describe the horror of losing one’s child – there is not a day goes by that you don’t think of them. Kelly was 16 at the time and in high school. The loss of her brother was devastating. She went on to become a CPA, CVA and works as a fraud examiner for a firm in Birmingham. She is married to Monty C. Todd and they have a daughter Morgan, who is the light of our lives. My wife is employed at the University of Alabama School of Medicine going on 17 years.


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Final Reflections

Korea has been in the past, but about three years ago for some reason, there was a renewed interest. I joined the 1st Marine Division Association and registered with the Korean War Project. I have been contacted by some I served with and I contacted who I could find. It’s been very rewarding. Last year was the first year I attended the 1st Mar Div reunion. I fully intend (God willing) to be in San Diego in August. I wish I had started this years ago. We tend to put things off until we are starting our downside of life. There were always excuses, family, career, and of course, "I’ll go next year," which never happens.

This last year has been very special. I was able to see four former Marines I served with, and have corresponded with three more. It was great. There are not many of us left from F-2-7 (Vegas, East Berlin and Boulder City). The ones the Chinese or later on the Vietnamese did not get, Father time did. In the past year or so I have been fortunate to find—and in some cases they found me—W. D. McIntyre, Phillip Lynaugh, Eddie Brandstadter, Clay Stinson, Forrest Shaw, Dick Allen, Lt. Jean Van Smith, Lt. Raymond J. O’Leary and Guy Soland, all F-2-7. I have been looking for, without success, Paul A. Smith (W-2-7). Paul was from Columbia, South Carolina, but seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth. There are others, including Joe Ford and Ken Seabert, who were both from Chicago. There are a few more, but I have basically given up trying to find them.

It is very obvious to me why we are considered the "Forgotten War." My graduating class was in the area of 300. Two of us saw combat. Very few even went into the service, and tot his day they know very little about the "conflict." When your own generation ignored it, how can you expect others to care? I know it’s wrong, but I feel a deep resentment about the people who did everything possible to avoid the military. I will attend the 1st Marine Division reunion in San Diego, but will not attend my 50th High School reunion. I returned the invitation stating a high school reunion was not high on my priority list. I briefly stated in declining that in the 1950s I had more to worry about than who my next date was going to be or where the next party or panty raid was going to take place.

Now I feel that we did the right thing sending troops to Korea. I never gave it much thought at the time. Although I have never been back to Korea and really have little desire to see it, look at Korea today. There has been some good come out of the war. There was a revitalization of a country to a point where it is an important part of the world economy. You have to ask the question, would it have prospered as it has or would it have remained stagnant? I doubt it would be the country that it is today if we (the UN) had not intervened. I also believe that is right for us to have troops stationed there today. It’s still an unstable country and the USA has vital industrial interests there. My former company (3M) has plants in Korea.

The tragedy of Korea was the static war. When it became a trench line warfare, what was there to gain? An MLR was established and it became a game, jumping off to take a hill (out post), then being completely outnumbered by the Chinese when they launched a counter attack to retake the outpost. Hundreds of Marine lives were lost due to stupid decisions made by Army and Marine Brass playing war games and anticipating their next promotion. This is all hindsight. At the time, we did not question. We just did our job. There is some wisdom that comes with time. My opinion of the Army at that time was that they were a group of untrained, undisciplined kids who panicked at the drop of a hat. Also, the intelligence level left a lot to be desired.

MacArthur was an egotist of the highest degree trying to recapture his glory days of World War II. His strategy to move north across the 38th parallel and into Manchuria was a disaster. It would have been total annihilation of our troops. The Chinese intervention prior to crossing into Manchuria was a blessing in disguise. I really believe that nothing would have changed the outcome of the war. We were totally outnumbered. Logistically we had no idea what the effect of winter would have on us and our clothing and equipment. Fortunately, we adjusted logistically, but manpower wise we were always at a disadvantage.

As in all wars, "Freedom is not Free." Over 34,000 young men were KIA, and another 100,000 plus were WIA/MIA doing what they thought was right in Korea because our country asked us to do it. The Korean War should lose the stigma of the "Forgotten War" and be considered an important part of history, ranking as a restricted and delayed part of World War II. Vietnam was a conflict of politics, drugs, dissention, and for some reason, immature kids of a total different personality than the young heroes of World War II and Korea.  It is true that most World War II vets are treated with more respect and deserve it. I admire and still hold in awe every Marine who stormed a beach and fought his way through the steaming jungles of the South Pacific.  I would also say that being a Marine in the Korean War was the greatest experience in my life. I felt every emotion known to man: hate, love, fear, joy, pain, sorrow, etc. As most of us know, as time goes by a lot of the bad memories fade and we remember only the good times. I have absolutely no regrets.

I have told my children about Korea, at least what I thought they could understand. When my friend and former Corporal in my Squad came down from San Diego, we had dinner with my son-in-law and daughter. Kelly made the comment, "Gosh Dad. The stories you told us all of these years were true." I had not thought that much about Korea and finding my Marine Corps buddies until the past few years. Since my retirement in 1991, I have been extremely drawn to the past (USMC/Korea) and have made some definite searches using the KWP/SSSDI and was able to secure a Company roster through Marine Corps Research. It listed the KIAs and the seriously wounded who were removed from F-2-7. In fact, I will be visiting the sister and brother of a very special kid who was killed when we were on patrol on Boulder city in July of 1953.

It’s hard to say what I would have been if not for the Marine Corps. I honestly feel it was more of a benefit to me than four years of college. There are so many intangible aspects that you cannot put your finger on, but you know that they were the result of the Marine Corps. I have got to say it affected my life in a very positive way.  Once a Marine, always a Marine. There are no "ex Marines", only former Marines. That is very clear when you are talking to someone and they mention that they were in the service.  A former Marine always says with pride and a touch of arrogance, "When I was in the Marine Corps…"

My strongest memories of Korea are definitely of the Marines I served with. There will always be a bond that nothing can duplicate. I played college football and it was claimed to be the strongest bond one can experience. Not true. It is strong, but nothing can be as strong as the one formed in combat with fellow Marines. The Army does not seem to have this. I do remember the horror of combat. Nothing will erase that. But over the years you have a tendency to remember the humorous times--and there were some funny times that happened in combat.

The incoming probably is implanted as much as anything else in my memory. Incoming was pure hell. It was estimated that 33,000 rounds hit us on Boulder City and there was nothing you could do about it but pray. It’s called foxhole religion. I think these were the times when I felt I was in the most personal danger. I was helpless. There was nothing we could do about it but crawl into a bunker or a bunny hole. I prayed, I cussed, but mostly I shook like a leaf in the wind. I tried to divert my mind from it, scoring a touchdown in high school, kissing my girl, anything. But it was impossible to do so. I knew the Chinese were coming when it let up, and I looked forward to it. Confronting the enemy face to face was actually a relief. At least you could see them.  I also remember the screaming and yelling of the Chinese troops as they overran us. They seemed almost inhuman.


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KWE Postscript

I was able to locate Kenny Seabert for Don Loraine during this interview. Although the two former Marines are now deceased, they reunited with each other in person in 2000. On April 29, 2000, Don sent the following message to Lynnita after receiving a surprise phone call from the found Kenny Seabert:

If you were here, I would hug you to death. I cannot believe you did what you did. That was so great. You will never know. All I can say is thank you, and that will never be enough. Kenny was a very special kid. (Weren’t we all kids.) He was hit so bad on East Berlin we thought he was a goner. Another point about him. He did come back to Fox after his stay in the hospital in Japan. When he left Korea, he borrowed $20.00 from me. When he was discharged I was already home. He found me and paid me back the $20.00. Money is not the point. It’s character. How many people would do that?

I just don’t know what to say. YOU have got to be a very special person. I wish there were appropriate words to express my feelings.

– Don Loraine

Because Don is no longer living, the text of his memoir was reviewed for content and chronology of combat events by another one of Don's Korean War buddies, Jim Putnam.  The KWE appreciates his assistance, as well as that of Shirley Loraine, who provided photographs for the following Photo Album, and who edited some of the Post-Military information in this memoir.  - Lynnita Brown


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Obituary

In Loving Memory
December 2, 2001
Donald J. Loraine

Age 69, of Birmingham, Alabama passed away Sunday, December 2, 2001. The Funeral Mass was held at 10:00 AM on Thursday, December 6th at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Hoover, Alabama with Military graveside services following at Elmwood Cemetery. He is preceded in death by his son, Jeffrey J. Loraine. Mr. Loraine was a Korean War Veteran and Purple Heart recipient. He retired from 3-M Company in 1991 after 32 years of service. He is survived by his wife, Shirley, daughter, Kelly Jo Todd, son-in-law Monty C. Todd, and granddaughter Morgan Todd, all of Birmingham and a sister, Jennine of Fort Wayne, IN. Services are under the direction of Ridout’s Valley Chapel in Homewood, Alabama.


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Addendum

Guy Soland Letter

Preston, MN
October 3, 1999

Hi, Don,

I returned home this evening and the wife said you had called.  I must be getting old.  I don't remember you.  Ha!  No, it sure is funny or should I say, fun, to hear from guys from way back when.

I enlisted January 16, 1952, and went to San Diego Boot Camp, then to Camp Pendleton for infantry training.  Then they started the 3rd Marine Division there, so I never left for Korea until May 1953.  I joined Fox Company at Camp Indian Head.  They were in Corps Reserve.  I was in the 33rd Draft.  I was in 3rd Section of Machine Guns, so was attached to Third Platoon Fox.  O'Leary was my Platoon Leader.

I guess you told Pat of Clayton Stinson.  I have met different guys at reunions.  One was a James Marah.  He was company runner for Fox on Boulder City. I also met a guy from Weapons Company who was attached to Fox.

I belong to F-2-7 Association.  In 1995 we went to San Antonio.  We sure had a good time.  Most of the guys were from the 1950 and 1951 time, but everyone treated us like Kings and Queens.  Then in 1997 we went to San Diego.  We were guests of MC Recruit Depot for a graduation ceremony and we spent one day at Camp Pendleton, even fired weapons on the range.  We were guests of F-2-7 who were at 29 Palms.

In San Antonio, I looked at this guy for about a day and finally asked him when he was in Fox as he looked familiar.  He was Lt. Val Smith.  He was a Platoon Leader, 3rd Platoon--a real tall guy.  Also saw him in San Diego, in fact, there were seven of us in San Diego from Minnesota, or at least had been from there.  Captain Barber, the MOH from Fox Hill in 1950 was there with his wife Ione.  She was from South Dakota, so always has to visit and ask about this country.  You said your wife was from Madison, Minnesota.  I knew guys from Canhy, MN and Chandler, MN.  We also go to a reunion every other year in Iowa.  It's a USMC Korean vets reunion.  We see lots of different guys there.

After Boulder City, we were at Camp Mathews.  I got sent back to 1st Division Machine Gun School, then I came back to Fox and then got transferred to DMZ Police Company.  Gunny Sgt. Shaw, who had been in Fox, was there.  He had made Master Sergeant.  Also Capt. Sam Goich.  He must have been Company Commander after Captain Estes in Fox?  I stayed there till I came home on the 45th Rotation Draft and spent my last days at Camp Pendleton again.

Clayton Stinson said you can get copies of company rosters.  Would be fun to see if I could remember anyone from it.  I remember a Reese from Webster, Wisconsin.  I have always wanted to try to look him up, but don't even have his first name.  I was in a Machine Gun bunker with this colored guy.  Can't remember his name.  He got hit in the arm.  I saw him in the States when I got back.  I don't even have pictures of anyone from Fox except a few after the cease fire.  I usually remember names and dates real good, but I guess Korea did funny things to our minds.

As you can tell by my spelling, I'm a plain old country boy.  Ha!  I was raised on a farm here in Minnesota.  We live 50 miles from Wisconsin and about 12 miles from Iowa.  We are 36 miles from Rochester or the Mayo Clinic as more people hear of it.

I spent 27 years in an auto body shop here in Preston.  The last seven I managed it, but finally said it was enough.  Then I went to work for Fillmore County Highway Department here in Preston.  I retired at 62 in 1995.  I had my voice box removed in 1988 because of cancer.  I have learned to talk without it.  My biggest problem is I'm so short of breath, a little asthma and emphysema, and too big a gut.  Ha!  Also have gotten rather lazy since I quit work.  We have seven acres of land where we live.  It's in the city limits, but it's actually in the country.  I usually have had a larger garden and large lawn.  In fact, it takes a good three hours to mow with a riding mower, so you know it's large.  This year we have had lots of rain so the grass really has grown.  Couldn't hardly go a week, but know it will quit and turn white before long.  Brrr.  Ha!  Minnesota.

The wife said you had a nice visit.  We have three children and eight grandchildren.  We are all within about 30 miles of each other, in fact, my family was seven of us children, me being the youngest.  My two brothers are both dead, but I've got four sisters within about 15 miles of me.  The wife's family is close by also.

I'm sure you're sick of my scribbling, so will close for now.  Drop me a line and let me know more about you and F Company.  The Association is having a reunion this month and are leaving Miami, Florida on a cruise.  The wife wasn't too thrilled about it, so we aren't going.  They will have another one in 2001.  I don't know where yet.  Tell the family hello and I am very sorry to have missed your phone call.

Take care and as they all say, Semper Fi.
Guy Soland


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Letters from the War Zone

Letters that Don Loraine sent home to his parents appear on the Letters from the War Zone page of the Korean War Educator.  Click HERE to view his letters.

 

 

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