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Norman Ray Osborn Sr.
"The Korean War is titled, "The Forgotten War" because President Truman classified it as a "Police Action." The true "Forgotten War" is the Marines' action in North China from 1945 to 1949 to keep Communism from taking over China. This has never been recognized or publicized. There were Marines killed, wounded, and captured during this period and to this day they refuse to award any kind of citation to those who survived."
- Norman Osborn
My name is Norman Ray Osborn of Oceanside, California. I was born 8 May 1928 in Terre Haute, Indiana, the only child of Frederick V. and Sadie C. Shea Osborn. My father was a career Marine. Mother worked some during World War II at a defense plant.
Since Father was a Marine, most of my schools were at Marine bases. I started first grade at Parris Island, South Carolina in 1934, then to Guam in the Pacific from 1937 to 1939. In the summers of 1937 and 1939, I was in Shanghai for a few days on transport ships with my dad. From 1939 to 1943 I went to school at Quantico, Virginia. My father left for the Iwo Jima campaign and Japan occupation in 1943 and I went to high school from 1943 to 1946 at Plainfield High School, Plainfield, Indiana, graduating June of 1946. The schools I attended were not involved in any particular activities related to war home front efforts. There was not much that I could do to personally support the war effort.
During my high school years I worked one summer for a hardware wholesale and another at a warehouse that I can't remember too much about except that they had a few German POWs working there. I was a Boy Scout during my years in Quantico, Virginia. We were all sons of Marines and a few of the fathers became famous Marines during World War II. I learned the Morse Code and a little first aid, which came in handy in later years.
I was not in the reserves, nor was I drafted. I enlisted because I wanted to be a Marine. I wanted to be a Marine because my father was a career Marine and I had been raised in the Marine Corps and had many friends in it. The friends had joined because they had been raised around the Marine Corps also. My father was in the occupation of Japan at the time I enlisted and had he been home would probably have insisted that I go to West Point or Annapolis, if possible. My mother always expected me to go in the Corps and didn't say a thing when I enlisted. I enlisted 7 June 1946 and traveled by rail to Parris Island, South Carolina by myself.
Frederick V. Osborn - My Dad
My dad was a strict disciplinarian, but not cruel. I knew that he meant whatever he told me to do and I never questioned him or disobeyed. He did not bring his work home as much as he would bring me to his work. I spent time at the barracks with recruits, at the rifle range when he was firing, and even once or twice I drilled recruits. He gave me the commands to say and signaled me when to call them out. The recruits made me a kind of mascot. One platoon even caught a rabbit and gave it to me as a gift when they finished boot camp. None of my friends whose fathers were also DIs ever got to do this, and I will never forget it.
My father was a Marine from head to toe 24 hours a day. I have never regretted the discipline he instilled in me. I have said more than once that I would not be alive today if it were not for that. It's only too bad that the children today have to be handled with kid gloves and never learn respect, obedience, or patriotism.
Dad wrote short notes to me when he could and encouraged me to study harder in school, as I was not a good student. He also wanted me to go to one of the academies and be an officer. When I graduated from high school, all I could think of was going into the Marine Corps. My recruiting officer was an old friend of my dad's who was in Washington, DC. I went to him when my high school class took a trip to Washington upon graduation, as the recruiter in Indiana would not accept me due to eyesight problems and flat feet. When I was in boot camp, I thought once or twice that maybe physically I wasn't going to make it and wondered if I had done the right thing by enlisting. I had no big problems though and retired from the Marine Corps as an expert rifleman and never had to fall out from any physical activities.
When I met my dad for the first time at the train from boot camp, I felt like I was with a DI. All I knew how to say was, "Yes, Sir" and "No, Sir." Of course, that was the only way I ever answered him. I think after three years and what he had been through on Iwo, he really didn't know just what all to talk about, so we just looked at each other. I feel that he had a little pride in my being a Marine, as he always made it a point to introduce me as his son, "who is also a Marine."
When I went into the Corps, my dad suggested that I not give out any information to the DIs regarding being the son of a Captain in the Corps, which he was at that time. He was commissioned an officer shortly after the war began. I did not ever mention to anyone in boot camp, especially the DI, that I was an officer's son. You might say, I "laid low" because of it.
My father did a short tour in Korea in 1950 to fly in two plane loads of a new Belgian-made rifle grenade called the "Energa" to the Pusan Perimeter. He also delivered the grenades to all the Marine units and instructed them on how to use them. This grenade had the penetration capability that stopped the Chinese tanks that the North Koreans had been using so successfully. At the time, my father was a Captain at the Marine Corps Equipment Board in Quantico, Virginia, where they tested new weapons and equipment. He went back to Korea for a normal tour (13 months) in late 1951 just before the 1st Marine Division moved from the east coast to the west just north of Seoul. He was in Korea in 1951-1952 as the Executive Officer of the Division Ordnance Battalion.
The first "moments" at boot camp to the best of my memory consisted of a DI giving commands in a very high voice. I can't remember the first day much, but I believe it consisted mainly of waiting for the rest of the platoon to arrive. We spent the time cleaning the barracks. The senior DI was Corporal Perkins. I don't remember the other names. They were replaced later by other DIs who were all waiting for discharge and just assigned as DIs until they were released from active duty. Since World War II had just ended, things were a little mixed up while the Corps adjusted to a peacetime operation. Our DIs were all veterans of the Pacific who were sent to Parris Island because it was close to their homes. They all did a good job I thought, even though they weren't "professionals."
My tour of boot camp was from 7 June 1946 to 11 August 1946, roughly eight weeks, which wasn't long. The Marines needed replacements overseas in China where we were involved in trying to keep the Communists from taking over China until Chang Kai Shek could take care of Manchuria and return to China. All this was not publicized, as we really had no business trying to control the Communists at that time. I think for political reasons it is still not publicized to this day. In any television history they only show the battle of Okinawa ending World War II in the Pacific and Korea being the next action. In reality, the Marines of the 1st Marine Division were in China from 1945 until 1949 and returned to the United States just in time to turn around and head for Korea.
Our boot camp days were well-regimented with firm commands and regimented activities. A DI woke us each morning by using a "swagger stick" banging on the foot of the bunks. We had exercise before morning chow and our schedule was tight as we had a lot to learn in eight weeks. There wasn't much free time. I do not recall being awakened in the middle of the night.
Our DIs were very firm and I do not recall any corporal punishment being necessary. In those days the recruits were pretty disciplined by their parents, which isn't the case today. I wasn't personally disciplined by the DIs that I can remember. Again, since my father was a DI at Parris Island when I was very young, I had been disciplined and did not question authority. I cannot remember if we had any troublemakers in the platoon, but if there were, it was nothing that created any problems.
I don't remember any proficiency testing. I am sure we did, but I don't know how much. As I have said, eight weeks were spent mostly in learning how to handle the M-1 rifle. We had about one hour of bayonet drill and threw one hand grenade. The rest was all firing and disassembling the rifle.
During boot camp I did have second thoughts about being a Marine once or twice. I thought I wasn't going to be able to make it. I ended up retiring in 20 years as an expert rifleman and was always able to walk and run as far as necessary. I think the hardest thing in boot camp for me was the strict daily schedules and the physical activities.
In later years when I looked back, I really appreciated my DIs as they did a great job since they did not have the training to be DIs that they have today. They were just back from the Pacific war and waiting to be discharged. I think they felt they were "Marines" and they had been assigned as DIs until their discharge came through, so they were going to do their best to make us "Marines" while they could. After what they had been through during the war, they had "esprit des corps" and passed it on to us.
After having spent my life around the Corps, I really didn't feel too much difference after leaving boot camp. When I was a kid, I even had worn the khaki shirt and pants and a small Marine Corps "overseas" cap with the emblem at times. When my parents and I sailed to China in 1936, I boarded the troop ship in formation with the Marines. They carried .03 rifles and I carried a rifle stock with the sling over my shoulder. All this was in fun, but I still felt I had "been there and done that." This all changed, however, when I got to China as an adult and had my first experience at combat with the Chinese Communist forces. When I came through that okay, I could look at myself in the mirror and say, "Damn, you are a real Marine now."
I went back to Indiana on my boot leave and the highlight of that was my father was back from the occupation of Japan and met the train. I had last seen him when I was a freshman in high school and now we met again as Marines. I did wear the uniform a few times on boot leave, and in that little Indiana town, it got attention. I think I spent most of my leave getting reacquainted with my dad and learning about the battle of Iwo Jima which he had been through. Later he and I both ended up in the Korean War, but not at the same time, as I did not have any brothers or sisters and we didn't want something happening to both of us and my mother being left alone. I went to Korea shortly after my dad returned.
We did not have post boot camp training then. I returned to Parris Island by rail after boot leave and was then sent by troop train to Camp Pendleton where we spent about a week getting issued our equipment for China duty and then sailed from San Diego.
I think the closest thing to my "post boot camp training" was going to China, since we did not have the Infantry Training Regiment (ITR) that comes after boot camp today. The reason we were in China at that time was to help get the Japanese out, but we stayed in the hope that the Communists wouldn't do anything. But they saw us as a threat. We Marines were frequently under fire from Communist Chinese, and many Marines were killed or wounded. There were 4,700 Marines in China. At any time within a 15-mile diameter of where we were, there were 25,000 Communist Chinese.
I was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, which was tasked with guarding the Division ammunition supply point (ASP). We were located between Tientsin and the port of Tangku, China at the village of Hsin Ho. The guard of the day consisted of 50 men.
We did not do much more than the guard duty every other day and preparing for guard duty on the off day. We were located out in the country where there was not much sightseeing and we did not get to experience much of the Oriental life except what we saw from our trucks going to and from the ammunition supply point. Our company commanding officer was Captain Henry Van Joslin. His Executive Officer was 1stLt. Mildredge E. Mangum.
At just after midnight on 5 April 1947, we were attacked by 350 Chinese Communist troops of the 8th Route Army who were after the ammunition. At the time of the attack, there was only the 50-man guard of the day from C Company at the ASP. About 95 percent of the Marines on duty there were 17-18 years old and right out of boot camp. We had no non-American Marines with us. At that time there were no black Americans in the Regiment. Most all the "combat" Marines were back in the United States. They did not expect the Chinese to try anything like this since we had just spent World War II as their allies. There was no warming that this attack was eminent. As I said, there were other incidents of Marines being killed and wounded by Communist Chinese during this occupation, but only by sniper fire. This was the only incident of an organized attack by the Communist 8th Route Army on U.S. Marines. When they attacked the ASP, they had the bugles blowing and whistles and shouting as they advanced--the same thing the Marines went through at the Chosin Reservoir five years later.
The Communist Chinese attacked at the northernmost sentry post of the compound. Two Marines on duty returned fire for about ten minutes before they were killed. Two groups of Chinese attacked farther south on the compound, a diversion for a larger group attacking on the eastern side of the dump, aiming for heavy artillery and mortar ammunition and fuses. The Communists set fire to some of the ammunition sheds, which created a lot of explosions and fire and provided some light and a lot of danger.
When the attack took place, I had just been relieved from my guard post at midnight and was in the Quonset hut where we were billeted while on the guard of the day. I was armed with the M-1 Garand .30 caliber rifle, three clips of ammunition, and a bayonet. Being in April just below the Manchurian border and in the middle of the night, it was probably around 40 degrees. It was a clear night.
As the Communists attacked, we left the Quonset huts and ran to the road that ran through the ASP which was close by. The roads were elevated and we laid down behind the berm which the road ran along. We were surrounded by rice paddies and there was no other cover. After the attack, the rest of the company came out, led by a tracked Howitzer which was our only heavy equipment. The Chinese had mined the road into the ASP, which the tracked Howitzer set off. It was stalled on the road blocking the convoy behind it, which came under fire from the Chinese Communist force. 1stLt. Mangum was wounded in the relief convoy that struck the land mine.
The only other weapons besides that tracked Howitzer which hit the land mine and was out of commission was a .30 caliber machine gun on a Jeep and a couple mortars which never were able to be set up due to the heavy fire we had come under. Some men carried Browning Automatic Rifles and the officers and sergeants carried .45 caliber pistols. The machine gun Jeep was hit first, so it was never used. I was not personally involved in hand-to-hand combat during the attack, but some were. One of the men killed was attempting to pass weapons and ammunition from the back of a truck when two Communists came over the side of the truck and choked him to death.
The attack had begun at approximately 1 a.m. It was daylight before any other units of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment could arrive. The Communists withdrew before dawn. The balance of the 350 estimated Chinese in the attacking force dispersed out in the villages and were never found, leaving only five dead Marines behind after a 4 1/2 hour firefight. The following are the names of the Marines killed in action:
Besides our killed in action, eighteen men had been wounded, but we did not give up any ammunition. Those wounded were: Pfc. Athol L. Clark, Pfc. Erie I. Jackson, 1stLt. Mildredge E. Mangum, Pfc. John W. Manuel, Pfc. Paul M. Orley, Cpl. Joseph A. Perkins, Pfc. Harold E. Purvis, Cpl. Arthur L. Wedmore, Pfc. Dale E. Whiteis, Cpl. Fred Harrington, Pfc. Jacob P. Jereb, Pfc. John K. MacKenzie, Sgt. Herbert B. Newman, Pfc. Athanese F. Parsons, Pfc. Raymond Polman; Pfc. Peter R. Stankiewicz, and Sgt. Hobart B. Welsh. The only Navy Corpsman whose name is available was PM2 Joseph B. Szybillo.
After the attack we went on an every-night guard. We got to go back to our main camp every other day to clean up and get a meal in the mess hall. This lasted about two weeks before we were withdrawn and the Chinese Nationalist troops took over the ASP. There wasn't must left for them in the ASP since the Communists had blown up a lot of it. It was expected that the Communists would soon take the ASP as they were the stronger force and many of the Nationalist troops were fighting for both sides. They needed food and clothing, so they got it wherever they could. The Chinese Nationalists lost the ASP to the Communists a week later.
I came down with yellow jaundice at this time and spent one month (2 May to 8 June 1947) on the hospital ship USS Repose at Tsingtao, China. I have never known how I got the yellow jaundice, and I didn't know any other Marines that had it while in China. When I came down with it, I didn't know what was wrong with me. It was "Doc" Joe Szybillo who came to my tent, got me up to the sick bay, found out what was wrong, and got me off to the Naval Hospital in Tientsin. I've often thought about him but didn't know where he was until this month (March 2000), when he was found through this website, the Korean War Educator. A letter from him to me dated March 19, 2000, follows:
I don't really remember that much about life on the Repose. I only remember that after the doctor had released us, we were assigned to a "work ward" for three or four days where we had to "work" our way off the ship, as they put it. I spent time chipping paint, which wasn't too bad as it was on the deck and not hanging over the side of the ship. I had about a week in the hospital in Tientsin before being flown to Tsingtao and I remember that the hospital was across the street from the Chinese Police Academy. Parents back then actually "gave" their boys to the academy to be raised as police. It was probably best, as they couldn't always feed them well and also they were cared for in the academy and had a job when they graduated. It was awesome to us to see six, seven, and eight-year old boys being treated worse than we were in boot camp. They had them marching around with rifles for hours and if they made a mistake, they had to stand with the rifle over their heads until it dropped. Our ward on the second or third floor overlooked the wall around the academy, so we saw what no one else walking by could see. Needless to say, the Chinese police (shimboos) were tough.
While assigned to the 1st Signal Company in Tientsin, awaiting transportation back to the United States, I was on liberty one night. It was starting to rain so I hailed a "soloor" (bicycle rickshaw) to get back to the base. I kept telling the Chinese boy to "quala quala" (hurry up) and we accidentally went through an intersection where a shimboo was directing traffic. He ran over and grabbed his bicycle from the bushes and proceeded to chase us down the street. It was like an old movie scene. Since I was a Marine and thought I didn't have to worry, I just kept telling the Chinese boy to "quala." Eventually the shimboo caught up and knocked the Chinese boy off the soloor, which rolled toward the curb with me in the back. He then dragged the Chinese boy back to the soloor and as I climbed out yelling because he had stopped a Marine, he held the boy up between us and hit him again, knocking him up against me. We both fell back in the soloor. This way he did not actually lay a hand on me. As he pulled the Chinese boy off me, he leaned over and said very kindly, "You will please find another soloor." I said, "Yes, thank you," and walked away. I learned a lesson about the Chinese police from that experience.
As to the yellow jaundice, it never came back to me, but to this day I am not to donate my blood as it is supposed to be in the blood some way. I also never got with any of the wounded again while in China. I think they were all flown back to the United States soon after the attack.
Back to the States
After leaving the hospital ship, I then returned by ship to Camp Pendleton and was subsequently sent to the Marine Corps supply depot at Barstow, California for "temporary" duty to help with the storage of weapons and equipment being returned from the Pacific war. Since my first enlistment was about over and I was about due for discharge, I had to decide what I wanted to do. I decided to re-enlist. Then, since I felt I would be making it a career, with my father's advice I looked for a military specialty that would benefit me someday when I retired. That is when I went into disbursing (payroll department). I was still a PFC when I went into disbursing. I was there from October 1947 to June 1950.
I re-enlisted again in 1950 as a sergeant, and since my father was stationed in Quantico, Virginia, I requested orders to Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, DC so I could be close to my parents for awhile. Since Barstow was out in the desert and it was a long way to any good liberty, plus the fact that the pay wasn't that great, I didn't do much sightseeing. Las Vegas was still in the building stages and didn't offer much, so we never went there. Just walking around the town of Barstow was our main activity. Our only training was our annual rifle qualification. Since this was right after World War II, the training hadn't been organized yet as it is today.
My tour in Washington DC was more exciting. I was a sergeant, there were many single girls in Washington working in government jobs, and I could visit my parents on weekends. Also, Washington DC had a lot of historical sites to visit. I could even afford my first car, which attracted the girls. We didn't have any training there either except for our rifle qualification each year, which was held at Quantico. I was on this tour from July 1950 to December 1952, when I requested duty in Korea.
When my father went to Korea from Quantico, Virginia, my mother stayed in Quantico and I was stationed in Headquarters Marine Corps in DC. I went to see Mother almost every weekend, so my dad included both of us in his letters. When I got my orders that I would be going to Korea shortly after his return, he mentioned some conditions to be prepared for, such as the weather and living conditions. He did not bring up the danger of Chinese forces as he didn't want to alarm my mother. Being a Marine and a little "Gung Ho," I felt I wanted to be in on the action. I had no problem getting the orders. I was now a Technical Sergeant (E-6). My dad's one piece of advice to me when I left for Korea was, "Keep your head down."
I had to go to Camp Pendleton and had cold weather training at Pickle Meadows, California. It was not far from the Donner Pass. I think we were about five days living in shelter half tents and were moved from different areas each day. We had to set up camp each time and provide security as there were "aggressor forces" who were other Marines trained in cold weather procedures that would simulate our being in combat. The aggressor Marines came at us on skis pretending to be the enemy as we trudged through the snow in boots. At night they slipped in and pushed our tents over, putting us on alert. Fortunately for me, I never had to go through anything like that in Korea or since then.
While in Korea I visited my dad's old unit. They were still in the same location and I knew his Commanding Officer, who showed me around and introduced me to some of the men Dad had served with. I even sat on the cot that my dad had used while he was there. I enjoyed telling my dad about all this when I got home. We had both been in the rear areas and did not move around too much or become involved in actual combat, so we didn't have much differences in our conditions there. It was always a strange feeling to me to have served in the same war as my dad. There have been many men who had this experience, but it still gives me a feeling of pride.
We sailed for Korea from San Diego right after Christmas 1952. I don't remember the name of the ship, but it was a troop transport and carried only U.S. Marine replacements. I don't know what the troop capacity was or how many were on for this movement.
During my tour in Washington I had gone from Sergeant to Staff Sergeant to Tech Sergeant. This entitled me to share a cabin with three other staff NCO's on the ship to Korea and not be in a troop compartment. I had not known anyone aboard prior to joining the replacement draft at Camp Pendleton, but in working with the disbursing personnel before we sailed, I had become well acquainted with them. We had to work on the pay accounts together, processing the incoming records when the draft was forming. I also got to know a few of the other Staff NCO's while at Pendleton.
I never had a problem with seasickness, but there were others who did. I don't remember that we had any severely rough weather, but I don't think so. There were some rough days, however. I was with the Replacement Battalion from 9 December to 29 December 1952. I think maybe about 12 days were at sea. (The ship stopped in Honolulu for a day on the way to Korea for a little R&R for the Marines on board.)
The only entertainment aboard the ship was movies on deck at night, weather permitting. Not being a gambler or card player, movies were all I did, plus reading paperback books that were passed around. The only duty I had was in the last two or three days when all the disbursing personnel aboard had to meet in the galley between meals to go through the pay accounts of the Marines. We had to put them together according to the units the men were to be assigned in the 1st Marine Division upon arrival in Korea.
The most memorable event was when we were put through our procedure for disembarkation upon arrival at Inchon and had a couple practice drills a day or two before arrival. We had a time limit for debarkation due to the excessive tide in Inchon that could leave the ship aground if it did not leave on time. We had the timing very satisfactory. However, the morning of the actual debarkation, we wore our packs with blanket rolls on them and helmets, plus the majority of us carried M-1 rifles. This created a problem getting through the small hatches up to the deck and to the cargo net we had to go down to the landing boats. It ended up we had to take off the packs and pass them up the column to the outside deck, where they were thrown down into the landing boats. Since this was not a landing under fire, we were able to find our packs when we went ashore. Needless to say, the captain of the ship was pacing the bridge and checking the time as we debarked. I often wondered how other troop ships handled this situation. We did not encounter this when landing in China as there was no problem with the tide.
We arrived at the port of Inchon, Korea, on 30 December 1952, in the early afternoon as I recall. By the time we located our packs that we had to take off before debarkation, and by the time the transportation arrived to take us to the Division Headquarters, it was early evening. My first impression of Korea was that I was back in China. I didn't consider Korea as a great country, but holding back Communism was a great cause to be there. As you might recall, I got my baptism of fire holding back Communism in China in 1946-47. Since there had not been any fighting recently around Inchon, it did not show much indication of a war zone when we landed. They had pretty well cleaned up the damage from the original "Inchon Landing."
We had all received our assignments in the Division prior to landing at Inchon. I was to report to Headquarters Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, which was the Division artillery regiment. We boarded a train for the trip from Inchon to Seoul, which was the end of the line. There were trucks from the various units waiting to take us on to our respective regiments, which were in the area of Munsan-ni. My unit was located not too far from where the prisoner exchange took place after the cease fire. We traveled from Inchon at night so I didn't see any of the country or people as it was pitch black.
The only people I knew at the unit I reported to were the ones I came with. My duty was primarily with the supervising and the handling of the pay accounts of the various units in the regiment. I was also assigned the duty as driver of the Jeep assigned to our office. The officer in charge, who was responsible for the Jeep, felt that it was safer to have a senior NCO as the driver. This worked out well for me as I got to spend time out of the office traveling the countryside a little, while the other NCOs spent their days in the office.
Being in a rear area, I was fortunate not to see or engage the enemy except some who were prisoners during the prisoner exchange. I also did not view any of our dead or the enemy dead. The job I was initially assigned was the handling of the pay records and payrolls. It was okay, but I got more responsibility later on when I was assigned to drive the office Jeep. That I liked.
I think since I was still single and did not have a family at home to worry about like my fellow Marines, I didn't have any emotional problems except at Christmas. There were some times of fear when we were put on the alert for a possible attack by enemy forces, but it never happened in our particular area. I was armed at all times with the M-1 Garand rifle. I even slept with it lashed to my cot.
The Disbursing Officer when I arrived was Capt. D.D. Raynor, and his deputy was Warrant Officer Edgar Seymour. The Captain was tolerable, but the WO was a "lost cause." The Marines in the office when we arrived were very helpful in explaining how things were to be done in our particular situation. Everything had to be done manually, i.e., manual typewriters, manual adding machines. Phone calls had to go through a switchboard and we had to know the code names of the units we were trying to contact. We worked every day of the week. It was very different than stateside duty.
We arrived in Korea in December 1952, so it was cold. The cold weather training we had at Pickle Meadows, California was very helpful. We had oil stoves in our tents, office, and the mess hall. We had none of this in China in 1946, so I managed very well. We did not get as much snow or severe weather as they went through at the Chosin Reservoir. In winter, if I was to go outside I wore long johns, wool-lined trouser, flannel shirt, sweater or vest, parka, and winter boots. The summer was fairly hot and humid. In summer we wore the utilities and dungaree caps, and sometimes just the undershirt if it was very warm.
During my first week in Korea, all replacements had to be greeted by the Commanding General. At the time we had this meeting, the CG was up in a forward area so we were all sent from our various areas by trucks to his area. He addressed us in the field with hills all around. During this, a couple of enemy artillery rounds hit one of the hillsides, but not close enough to endanger us. That was the closest I came to enemy fire while in Korea. I was fortunately never involved in the close combat, nor did I have immediate friends that I know of who were killed or wounded.
The only corpsman's name that I remember in Korea was ChPM Maddox. He used to come by our tent at night for a little drink before taps. He was really great, as all corpsmen I ever knew were. They were all good Marines.
Being with an artillery regiment, we stayed in the same place our first three months in Korea. My locations in Korea were Division Headquarters (rear) and 11th Regiment Headquarters. These were located in the Munsan area, close to Spoonville Bridge and Freedom Village. We were in three different areas during my tour. At each location my activities were pretty much the same--the office routine and the Jeep runs to different batteries and back and forth to Inchon. All the areas I was in were on hillsides with a view of the surrounding area. There were bunkers available, but we were fortunate enough not to need them.
We had one change in our Disbursing Officer, who was my "immediate CO." He was Maj. George Jones, who replaced Captain Raynor. Major Jones was just about the best officer that I ever worked for in the Marine Corps. His assistant was Warrant Officer Herb Farmer, who also stands out as an excellent leader. These two possessed total leadership ability and will never be forgotten.
At one time we had Turkish troops billeted nearby. They had an excellent reputation for fighting. We couldn't become too attached as there was a language barrier and we couldn't communicate with them. We also frequently had British troops close by that we really had a close relationship with. They would stop at our club for "a bit of brew." I had most contact with South Korean non-military such as laundry women, barbers, and shoeshine boys. We never had a problem with civilians. We had the 25th Army Division relieve the 1st Marine Division for a short time. The 11th Marines stayed in position to provide artillery support, however. We had frequent helicopter flights in and around our areas. At one time we had a MASH unit close by and the helicopters flew casualties into it.
Living in a rear area, we had the big squad tents to live in, and one time we had a Quonset hut as an office, which was a luxury. We had a mess tent to eat in and in winter months had oil stoves everywhere. There were laundry facilities, but we had to go to another area by truck for showers, usually once a week. We bathed in our helmets in between shower runs, filling them with water that we got from the 10-gallon water containers that we had in the tent. It wasn't the greatest, but it was much better than the men up forward had. We had Korean laundry facilities in the area and paid the natives to wash our clothes. We changed underwear daily but the outer clothing would go for two or three days, depending on the weather.
I think the hardest thing for me in Korea was missing the living conditions in the United States. Even though we didn't have the worst conditions, they weren't great either. Being mostly in a rear area, we had mess hall food--chicken, ground beef, spam, and once in a while, steak. A lot of the food was the dehydrated (powdered) type, which we got used to. It was better than "C" rations. A couple of times while in Seoul I had bowls of steamed rice with soya sauce. That was the only thing I was sure I would like. (We used to spend the day in Seoul for a little R&R.) I think the stateside food I missed was probably fresh vegetables and fruit.
The buddy I spent the most time with was T/Sgt. Harrington Clem. Since he and I were both single and all the other Staff NCO's were married, we could afford to go to town once in awhile. We even went on R&R to Japan together. We were both together a few times back in the US after Korea, too. He passed away about three years ago. The only remaining buddy from Korea that I have left is M/Sgt. George Batchelder. We still get together often as he only lives in Palm Springs, California. We slept in the same tents in Korea for a year. The other sergeants that George and I were with have all passed away. We always toast them when we get together.
The war was always serious, but we didn't have the constant threat that the troops on the front line had. We were able to enjoy our club and had movies at night most of the time. It seems like we remember the "lighter moments" more than the serious when it's all over. I guess that's because we liked the lighter moments. I will always remember the morning I woke up and thought I had a snake crawling over my face. We never saw any snakes over there, but I was sure there was one on me. When I got the courage to open my eyes, I found that in the night during an artillery firing not far from us, my cot legs had sunk in the earth on one side. I had rolled out into the drainage ditch beside the tent and the tent rope was blowing across my face.
We had M/Sgt. T.P. Bryant in our tent, who always seemed to be able to have something to drink and would get a little tipsy. He had a favorite expression. Referring to himself he would say, "Who's the best old buddy you ever had?" George and I still kid each other with that expression of his.
I received mail from home, mostly from my mother. My dad always added a few words of advice since he had done his tour in Korea the year before. The few packages that I received were mostly cookies that my mother made. She knew that I would pass them out to the other buddies of mine. I don't recall ever asking for anything in particular to be sent to me. The mail always arrived in good condition and in good time.
There were some times we saw nurses and Red Cross ladies in Seoul. My only contact with the Red Cross in Korea was when going through Pusan where they had the coffee booths. We saw some USO shows in our area that had American women. The only two USO shows that I got to see did not have any well known performers. They were very entertaining with dancers and comedians. We enjoyed them very much and really appreciated what they had to go through to be there.
We always had Catholic mass on Sunday. On Christmas Eve we had midnight mass and it was well-attended. Christmas was the biggest holiday in Korea. It was not a day off, as we had none of those unless we were on R&R in Japan. The best part of it was the evening meal, which was turkey. Usually they had a tape of Christmas music which brought a tear or two to our eyes and a lump in our throat. I had my 25th birthday on May 8, 1953. Little did I know that 47 years later I would be on a computer reviewing my days in Korea in the year 2000. I don't remember anything special about the day. I must have had a drink in the tent that night to celebrate. I don't remember how we celebrated the Marine Corps birthday in Korea, but it must have been with a special party at our Staff NCO club and singing the Marine Hymn.
Prostitution was prevalent all over Korea. For most of them I think it was a means of survival. For any Marines who patronized them, it was a way to forget the hardships that they were going through every day. My contact with the Korean natives was the laundry women, a native barber, plus a young girl and her sister who did a vehicle wash at a stream nearby. I told my mother about my Jeep wash girl and she sent her a package of clothes. It sure made points for me. I had the cleanest Jeep in Korea.
I had two R&R trips to Japan while in Korea. They were five-day trips and started by our stopping in Pusan to go through our sea bags that had been stored there when we arrived. We took out our dress shoes and took them with us when we flew into Japan. Upon arrival, we went through a clothing issue where we were issued three sets of khaki uniforms. The shirts we had were tagged with the stripes we required and we later picked them up after we had showers and went to chow. The stripes were sewed on, our shoes were shined, and everything pressed. At the end of the R&R we returned everything but the shoes. We stayed in an R&R hotel downtown that had dancing girls every night and a band. During the day we did sight-seeing. All the temples and gardens they had kept us occupied. It was a memorable time. Usually we were too occupied to worry about going back to Korea.
I was a light smoker and drank whenever we had a ration, but never went in for gambling. We had a weekly beer ration and a monthly whiskey ration of one bottle. There was a night that I had to drive our Major to an officer's meeting. On the way home it was pitch black and we were following an Army 6x6 truck. It started up a hill and lost some of its cargo out the back. We pulled over to check it as the truck kept going. It turned out to be San Miguel beer. The bottles that hadn't broken were beside the road and in a rice paddy. The Major and I recovered about three cases and upon arriving back at our camp, he instructed me to get all of our personnel into the office. By the time we got back, he had cleaned off all the bottles and had a bottle opener. He then just sat back and watched us enjoy it. I'll never forget that night.
We had the idol of all Marines, General "Chesty" Puller, come into our camp by helicopter one time. All the officers were formed into a reception line at the Officers Club waiting for him. I was with the Regimental Sergeant Major greeting the helicopter. When "Chesty" stepped off, he asked the Sergeant Major where the NCO Club was and started in that direction. The Sergeant Major instructed me to round up all the Staff NCOs and get them to the club ASAP. When I got them all there, "Chesty" and his aide were seated at a table having a beer and he had ordered all the beers on the bar for everyone. He then proceeded to start asking questions about problems and possible solutions. This went on for about two hours. He then got up with his aide and they returned to the helicopter. All the officers were still in formation outside their club, but I guess he was satisfied that he had all the information he needed. He was the enlisted Marines' Marine.
My perception of a "war hero" is one who goes above and beyond the call of duty under extremely hazardous conditions with utter disregard for his own personal safety. I have known Marines who fit this description, but I was not with them when it happened.
The time I felt the most personal danger in Korea was after one of our fighter bombers crashed into a hill a few miles from us and a demolition crew went to set off a bomb that was still on the plane. They did not pass the word to us down below and when the bomb exploded, we happened to all be outside in chow line waiting to go into the mess tent. There was shrapnel falling over the area and we thought we were getting incoming from Communist artillery. Luckily no one was hit. There was a piece of shrapnel outside the door to our tent which I kept and still have today.
We received orders for the States about two months before our date of departure. Since the normal tour at that time was 13 months, we had a good idea about when we would be leaving. My last hours with my unit were spent turning in my rifle and the equipment that I would not be taking back with me, and saying goodbye to my buddies. I was glad to be heading back to the United States and better living conditions, but hated leaving the guys I had been through so much with. I didn't know which of them I would ever see again. Also, I had orders to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York. That was going to be an experience. I had never been to the "Big Apple", but had heard a lot about it from guys who lived there. I was a little uneasy about going there.
We traveled by truck down to Inchon where we boarded the troop ship. We had to go in single file to the landing boat that would take us to the ship. The men relieving us came in single file from the other direction. A team of UN observers counted to make sure that no more came to relieve us than we had leaving. It was one of the agreements in the cease fire.
I left Korea on 4 April 1954 as a Tech Sergeant. I don't remember the name of the ship I returned home on. There was one other buddy on the ship returning with me who had worked in the same office with me. His name was Staff Sgt. Robert Shaffer. He was from Sacramento, California and I have never been able to contact him again. I wish that I could.
The return from Korea to the United States took 19 days. The only entertainment was movies on deck when the weather permitted. Everyone was very relaxed on the trip from Korea. We did not have any duties to perform. We just spent the days on deck watching the ocean go by. As I recall, the weather was good and we didn't have much rough sea. I think we stopped in Hawaii on the way back for two days. We all just went ashore and walked down to the bars and the beach.
It was a great feeling to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge, and there was a cheer from the troops on deck. I had no one greeting me at the ship as I wasn't married and my parents were back in Quantico, Virginia, where I was going for my leave before going to Brooklyn Navy Yard. We left the ship at San Francisco and were bussed from the pier to the Marine Barracks, Treasure Island. There, we got into our sea bags and got our uniform out. As I remember, they had a facility where we could get them pressed and ready to go to town. Some of us got together and went on a bus into San Francisco to see the sights. This was our program for the three or four days we were there before getting our orders. We had to be at the barracks each morning to check in and see if our orders were ready yet. Each day some of the men got their orders. For the remainder of us, if our orders weren't ready yet, we just headed back into San Francisco.
After a couple weeks leave with my parents at Quantico, I reported to Marine Barracks, Naval Shipyard, Brooklyn, New York. I did not have any "wild" tendencies when I returned from Korea. Being in the "Big Apple" was wild enough. It was during this tour that I helped with the 1st Marine Division Association annual reunion at the Astor Hotel on Times Square. I was in charge of five Women Marines who were also helping with registrations. I became acquainted with Cpl. Ruth Kunzelmann, who later made Sergeant and then became Mrs. Osborn. We celebrated our 45th anniversary in April.
I then received orders to Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington DC, where our first two children were born at Bethesda Naval Hospital. In November 1958 I received orders back to the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton. In July 1959 we had our third (and last) child at the Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital. Our children are Norman, Rayanne, and Yvonne. In October 1962 I was ordered to the 3rd Marine Division in Okinawa for one year. I spent the first six months at the Division cold weather training camp on Mount Fuji. My job there was handling the yen exchange where the Marines coming from Okinawa for training could exchange their American money for Japanese yen. This was one of the best tours I had in the Marine Corps.
From March 1963 to October 1963 I was with the Division Headquarters Battalion and was then transferred back to Camp Pendleton and assigned to the Marine Corps Base for duty with the Disbursing Office. On 31 August 1966, I retired from the Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton and ended up working on the base in civil service for another 21 years, retiring again in May 1988. Since I went back to work for the Marine Corps as a civilian after my retirement in 1966, I never had to make any adjustments to civilian life. My post-military life was (and is) the same as being in the Corps--"Once a Marine, always a Marine."
My second retirement has been spent cruising (we have taken 17 cruises). We also keep busy with the social life in a "Couples Club" and western line dancing group. In August of this year, I will be attending the 1st Marine Division Association reunion in San Diego. My wife is in charge of a luncheon for between 350 and 400 spouses attending. This will be held during the men's business meeting. I am coordinating about 30 busloads of veterans visiting Camp Pendleton for a day. The military at Camp Pendleton will be hosting them. We are in a local chapter of the Division Association and participate in many activities with them.
I do not feel that my tour in Korea changed me much. It was an experience and I learned a lot from it. I was proud to have been a part of it. No others ever indicated that I had changed when I returned. My time in Korea was not always as dangerous as a lot of others who were there. I learned how to survive cold weather living in a tent in a sleeping bag. I learned to communicate a little with the Koreans, and I learned to drive a Jeep on rough roads.
My strongest memories of Korea are the men I worked with there and "some" of the officers. The majority of my Korea buddies were career Marines and we got together sometimes after the war. Most have passed on now, though. I was fortunate in that I did not lose any buddies in Korea. I never witnessed any atrocity or heard of any by our troops there. There were some stories of Communist atrocities when they occupied Seoul.
I think that it was necessary to send our troops into Korea to prevent Communism from becoming a world power. If MacArthur had gone north of the 38th parallel, we would not have had to spend 50 years meeting in Panmunjom to talk peace, and taking the harassment from the North Koreans that we have had for all that time. The UN should have settled for nothing less than total surrender. As in Vietnam, we did not gain anything from the sacrifices and deaths we endured there.
I have revisited Korea and would not have recognized it compared to 1952. In flying into Seoul, I thought we had turned around and gone back into Los Angeles. My biggest impression was at Inchon where they now have dry docks where ships can be locked in with water and the 30-foot tide doesn't affect them. They can just sail when the tide comes in and do not have to go in and out with the tide.
At this point, I do not know if there is any good from the Korean War. They are now talking about having peace between the North and South and I feel the Communists will take advantage of this. I do not think we need to keep troops in Korea as they will be in constant danger as the Communists will stir up the Koreans to demonstrate for their removal.
The Korean War is titled, "The Forgotten War" because President Truman classified it as a "Police Action." However, the true "Forgotten War" is the Marines' action in North China from 1945 to 1949 to keep Communism from taking over China. This has never been recognized or publicized. There were Marines killed, wounded, and captured during this period and to this day they refuse to award any kind of citation to those who survived. I think in recent times the Korean War has gained a little more respect than it did in the past. The Vietnam vets got a worse treatment than Korea vets.
It's a known fact that the Vietnamese Communist troops dressed in civilian clothing and walked along with groups of civilians to disguise themselves. They then sneaked out of an area or, if the opportunity presented itself, they tossed a grenade or fire onto our troops. This was why we had to stop the civilians at Nogun-ri, Korea. If they would not heed the warning to stop, then it was them or us. The Japanese in World War II were also noted for this type of action.
If students should someday use my thoughts on the Korean War, I would want them to see that if we do not try to stop Communism or any other hostile government on their ground, then we will be fighting them on our own ground. As the old saying goes, "The best defense is a good offense."