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Pete Rendina

Selbyville, Delaware-
Korean War Veteran of the United States Marine Corps

"Korea was nothing like I expected.  There was no John Wayne and no Sands of Iwo Jima.  Instead, it was a sad, harrowing experience."

- Pete Rendina

 


[KWE Note: The following is the end result of an online interview between Pete Rendina and Lynnita Brown that took place in 2001. He died April 10, 2013.]

Memoir Contents:


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Pre-Military

My name is Pete Eugene Rendina. I was born on February 8, 1934 in Maple Sterling, Pennsylvania. My father was Riccardo Rendina. He was born in Pescara del Tronto, Italy, and came to America in 1908 with his father, Pietro. They settled in western Pennsylvania near Uniontown. I never knew my grandfather Pietro, since he died in a mine accident in1 917.

After becoming a citizen and serving in World War I, Riccardo met my mother, Rose Eppolito. Rose was divorced with three daughters when she and Richard (my father’s American name) married. Rose was born in the United States but her parents were from Italy. My grandparents ran a boarding house in that area. My father worked as a coalminer. My mother never worked outside the home until I left to go in the service at age 16. At that time, she went to work at Philco on the assembly line.

My father Richard and mother Rose had my sister Teresa in 1932. I came along two years later. My older sisters from my mother’s first marriage lived with us as well. Their last name was Intorre. Carmela was born in 1924, Sandy in 1926, and Ace in 1928. My parents got divorced when I was about 5 and my mother left the area and went to Philadelphia, where she remarried. My sister Teresa and I remained in Masontown with my father. My mother had a boy, my brother Steven Fuchich, from that marriage. He was born in 1941. She later divorced that husband and remarried and gave me another sister, Julia Klanoski, born in 1954. Just incidentally, my mother got married the first time at age 13 with the marriage arranged by her parents. Her first husband was 25 years older than she.

I went to five different grade schools—Grade 1 at All Saints in Masontown; Grades 2 & 3 at Masontown Elementary; Grade 4 at Bessmer Elementary, Grade 5 at Masontown Elementary again, and Grade 6 at St. George’s Elementary. I was living with my mother in Philadelphia when I attended St. George’s. In 7th grade I went to Jones Junior High, and 8th & 9th grades to Stetson Junior High School. Tenth grade was my last grade, and I attended it at Northeast High School in Philadelphia.

While in school, I was a delivery boy for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin for a while. Later I worked in a butcher shop with Teresa’s husband, but did general work like stocking shelves. I was never a Boy Scout.

My father, Riccardo had a brother, Alesio, who came to America in 1913 and settled in the same area as Riccardo and his father Pietro. Alesio had three sons who served in World War II. My cousin Alex was in the Army; cousin Pete was in the Navy; and cousin Lloyd was in the Army Air Corps. During World War II, I can remember that our school sold war bonds and stamps. I personally collected newspapers and took them to the junkyard. I guess they were recycled.


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Joining Up

I was never in the Marine Corps Reserves before boot camp. I was not drafted, either. I was excited about a John Wayne movie entitled, "The Sands of Iwo Jima." John Wayne portrayed a Marine named Sergeant Striker, so as a 16-year old, I was very impressed. I thought the Marines were the best branch of the service, so I signed up.

I went down to the recruiter with three friends, but for some reason or other they could not get in. I was only 16 when I enlisted, and I remember going in on the day I turned 17. The recruiter was mad at me because I lied about my age upon enlisting, and he had to write up all the papers all over again.

My stepfather had no opinion about me going into the Marines. My mother did not want me to go, so I told her I’d just get my girlfriend to sign the papers if she didn’t. She did sign them reluctantly.

I joined the Marine Corps on February 8, 1951. I went to Parris Island for boot camp. I did not know anyone on the train ride there. However, I met one guy who I have been friends with all of these 50 years since. We both were from the Philadelphia area, and now he lives across the road from me near the ocean in Delaware. His name is Bob Jowder. He was 22 and everyone else was 17, so he sort of took charge. I looked up to him during that trip and at boot camp. There was also a Polish guy named Bill Marchenko who laid on the floor and let anybody jump from the top bunk of the Pullman onto his stomach for $1.00. He had quite a few takers.


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Parris Island

We were all excited to finally reach Parris Island. We were welcomed to Boot Camp and told that no one had ever escaped from there. I remember thinking why would anyone want to escape? I signed up and was ready and willing to be there. I could not imagine anyone not wanting to be there. I was never sorry I joined the Marine Corps.

My senior Drill Instructor (DI) was Sgt. D.D. Lowell. My junior DIs were Cpl. A. Kezlos and Cpl. C.C. Richardson Jr. They were all in their mid twenties, so were mature to me at 17, but were not old enough to have been in World War II. My platoon number was Platoon 149.

We were in Boot Camp for 11 weeks. We didn’t spend much time in the classroom, but when we did we were taught the Ten General Orders and personal hygiene. I still remember, "Never leave your post unless properly relieved in a military fashion." That was General Order #5 or Faithful Fifth. Hygiene films were of the sort teaching us of venereal disease, and birthing a baby. But most of our training was outside. Discipline, marching technique, firing weapons (M-1 and .45 pistol) and the Manual of Arms were drilled.

Boot camp was regimented. At 5 a.m. the Fire Watch Assignee would bang on a bucket to wake everyone. We dressed, made our beds, washed and shaved. We were in tents, not in a barracks, and there were six guys in a tent. It was our responsibility to sweep out the tent every day with a broom. There were tent inspections every day.

Roll call was at 5:30 a.m. We marched to the mess hall when it was still dark. By the way, if we were not marching we had to run everywhere. There was no walking. After breakfast, we’d fall out and march to classes in the field. We also had classes indoors. In boot camp, we saw a lot of films about venereal disease. They were gross. I never knew what could happen to you for having unprotected sex until then.

We had three meals a day. After supper we had free time to write letters, clean our rifles (which had to be done every day) or sew our torn clothes. Lights were out at 2100 hours. Unless you had fire watch, you could sleep through the night. Fire watch was a two-hour shift to watch the whole platoon, and we probably got it every other week. I can still remember the drill instructor waking us up at 2 a.m., telling us to fall out with our locker boxes. There was roll call and then he yelled, "Shit Birds, get back to bed." I think the reason was just harassment to let us know that they could do what they wanted with us. The hardest thing about boot camp for me was not having enough sleep and the physical endurance it took.

The drill instructors were not excessively strict now that I think back, and I came to appreciate the DIs because later on in combat I knew how to take orders without question. It saved my life on more than one occasion. They did do a lot of mental stuff to us in boot camp, though. If you got mail or packages from home they didn’t like it because it was an inconvenience to them to give it to you. You were ordered to go to the DI’s tent. Things he thought you shouldn't have, he confiscated. No gum allowed. He took a lot of things from the men. Richardson was mainly the one who did this. He made you give cookies or whatever you got to him and Kezlos.

Smoking was a big problem. You could only smoke when they told you that you could. It was always at an inconvenient time, you had to stand with the cigarette and put it out immediately when the "smoking light" went out. Afterward you had to field strip your cigarette butt—take all the tobacco out of the paper and let it float away, and then put the paper in a little ball in your pocket.

I did not witness corporal punishment, but I heard they loaded a barbell with 300 pounds and Kezlos made the recruit hold his hands up near his shoulders. They put the barbell on the kid and he collapsed. Another time, a guy was smoking at a time when he shouldn’t have been. He had to put four cigarettes in his mouth. They lit them and made another guy hold a bucket over his head and then a blanket. The man had to puff until he dropped.

Personally, I did not get into much trouble at boot camp. One time, though, I called my rifle a gun. The DI made me run to the next platoon with my rifle and tell that DI this rhyme: "This is my rifle, this is my gun (grabbing my cock). This is for fighting (the rifle), this is for fun."

When we were at attention, we were not supposed to move. One guy smacked a sand flea during this time. The DI went crazy. He made the whole platoon stand while the guilty guy had to dig a grave and conduct a funeral for the sand flea. When we were marching, if one guy got out of step, the whole platoon was halted. We all were then made to run until we could drop over. This happened quite a few times.

There were no major troublemakers in the platoon that I know of. Some guys got in trouble for smoking when the lamp was not lit and we all then had to run around the parade field several times. I think the DIs believed in mass punishment so we would kick the guilty guy’s ass for not following the rules.

Food was good and we were always hungry. We had a lot of SOS (shit on a shingle—bits of meat and gravy on toast) and fruit cocktail. Saturday we were served horse cock (cold cuts). Dinner was usually meat loaf, potatoes, and salad.

Sunday was the only "fun" day at boot camp. That is, if you can call it that. You could clean your gear, wash your clothes by hand, and write letters home. But we did play grab ass, wrestled, and boxed. I know I could go to my Catholic Church every Sunday if I wished. It was at mainside, which was a little distance away. Since we had to run everywhere, many guys just didn’t go to church all of the time. But it was there if we wanted it and the DI didn’t stop us.

Boot camp was in a swampy area. We lived in tents for ten weeks and Quonset huts on the rifle range for one week. The biggest pest there was probably the sand flea. They would bite and crawl in your ear. If you were caught killing one while at attention, you and the whole platoon would have to run laps.

We had all kinds of tests in boot camp, but mostly on hygiene and on the Ten General Orders. There were firing tests in which I scored marksman. We had to test our knowledge of tear gas by going into a Quonset hut full of tear gas. Then we took off the gas mask and sang the Marine Corps Hymn. We had to stay in there that long. I lost my hat and when we came out the DI made me go back in on my hands and knees and look for it. I crawled around until I found it.

I know of a few guys who didn’t make it through boot camp. One guy, Tiny Littlefoot, was nuts. Another guy sprained his ankle and even though he had gone through six weeks of camp, he had to start all over when his ankle healed. There was only one black recruit that I knew of, and he was not picked on that I noticed. I had forgotten about him until I saw our boot camp picture just recently.

When boot camp ended, there was a parade at mainside. Families were in the bleachers, but I had nobody there. I felt a little sad about that, but I was proud of myself. When we left boot camp, I felt like I was a Marine. Our DIs told us that we weren’t marines until we tasted combat. That made us all want to go to Korea. I felt like a man when I left boot camp. I feared nobody. I was ready to take on the world.


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Advanced Infantry Training

After boot camp, I got a ten-day leave. I went home to see my family and my buddies. I wore my uniform for two or three days just to show off. I know some of the guys envied me in my uniform. After my leave, I took a bus back to Paris Island. I could not wait to see my new "family." I grew closer to these guys than I was to my friends and neighbors.

After waiting about a week, we boarded a train for California. About 1500 Marines headed out to Camp Pendleton for advanced infantry training. It was five days out. We had two stops for calisthenics. We ate in a boxcar. They nailed a 1"x6" board to orange crates standing on their end to make a table. We walked through the mess hall with a tray and then into the boxcar. We had to stand up eating while the car was rocking and rolling. More than one guy spilled their drinks or their food. When we stopped in El Paso, there was a liquor store about 300 yards away. A few guys made a run for it and got back with some liquor while the train was pulling out. They made quite a few dollars selling shots. The trip was a good time with my buddies from boot camp—Bob (Bones) Jowder, Vince Quattrone, Jim Kelleher, and Joe Palladino. We played cards and just talked a lot about what we expected at Pendleton.

After we got to Pendleton, they ran us into the ground. We had thirty-mile forced marches with full equipment and no water. We practiced amphibious landings on San Clemente Island. With that we’d go out on a troop transport (APA) and then debark down the side of the ship by net into the LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle for Personnel). We got into a rendezvous circle until all troops were offloaded, and then the circle became a straight line and advanced to the beachhead. The time at Pendleton was the hardest time of my life, even though we had liberty every Saturday from 12 noon until 0600 Monday. I was there one year and five months from May 1951 until October 1952.

We learned all kinds of things, like judo, use of all kinds of small arms, use of rocket launchers (2.3 and 3.5), use of 60mm mortars, map reading, helicopter training, amphibious landing, training on an infiltration course (live ammo being fired two feet above our head), bayonet practice and obstacle course. All this was in conjunction with grueling long marches and running. We learned all this hands-on in the field, as well as some things indoor on film.

Most of the training took place at the base, with the exception of the amphibious training at San Clemente Island and cold weather training in the Sierra Madre Mountains. This cold weather training consisted of simulated attacks. There were guys who were stationed in the mountains for the purpose of being aggressors to the platoons going through training. They took the role of the communist aggression we were soon going to face in Korea. We were up in the mountains for five days.

Chesty Puller was our Commanding Officer. I don’t remember the names of any other officer, except the squad leader was Sergeant Malloy. Most of the others were NCO’s from World War II. Chesty Puller was hard-nosed. After one 30-mile forced march with no water, we ascended to the top of a hill. About twenty yards ahead of us we sighted a water buffalo. We started to trot pulling our canteens out. Chesty Puller had his foot resting on the wheel, tapping his swagger stick against his leg. He shouted, "No water until I give the word." We briefly thought of killing him, and then had second thoughts. After about five minutes we got water.

I learned quickly that the difference between boot camp and Pendleton was that Pendleton was much more detailed and we encountered live ammo. Besides the skills we were being taught there were 11 classes in judo. There were no tests in that or anything else—you either passed or failed. The biggest challenge of infantry training for me personally was the hand-to-hand combat with a bayonet, as well as judo. In the last judo class, I broke my collarbone, which delayed my trip to Korea. Some of my buddies left for Korea while I healed.


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Trip to Korea

In October of 1952, I left the United States for Korea. We went over on the General Pope, a vessel that appeared to be a cargo-type ship. It held 5000 Marines for this trip. There were just Marines on this voyage, as well as some cargo. There were three decks on the ship—A, B, and C. I was on C deck.

The canvas bunks were stacked nine deep. I was on the top bunk and six inches above my face were the steam pipes that went through the ship. I had never been on a large ship before, and I was sick on the entire trip. Many other guys were sick, too. The bottom deck in the center was the only place you could lay down without getting dizzy. If you had no duties, you were free to do as you wished on the ship. I had no duties, so I could throw up to my heart’s content.

During the voyage, we hit a storm. The storm diverted us from a direct route to Japan. We took an alternate route that came within 20 miles of the northernmost part of the Hawaiian Islands. It took 19 days for us to reach Korea.

During that time, we tried to entertain ourselves (when we weren’t sick) by playing pinochle. I can remember Schmidt, Riffenburg, and Rickman being there. Besides them, I knew about thirty other guys, including Sammy Viola, George Kiernan, and Dixie and Frank Rachou. When we were on the ship we seemed to be in alphabetical order by our surnames. My best buddies from Pendleton: Bones Jowder, Vince Quattrone, and Ben Placencia, were already over in Korea.

Because of our large number of crew and passengers, water was rationed. There were only certain hours to take a shower or shave. We had to do laundry by running a clothesline through the pant leg and through the jacket sleeve and throwing them overboard, dragging both in the ocean for about 20 minutes.

The ship stopped in Kobe, Japan, for a one-day liberty before we went to Korea. We went to three whorehouses. There was a big shock as we stopped in the railroad station to go to the bathroom. As we were urinating, a woman walked in alongside of us, squatted, and peed in a hole in the floor.


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New to Korea

I arrived in Korea on November 10, 1952. We landed at Inchon early in the morning. We got off of the Pope immediately. I thought Korea was a drab place with flat land. We did not get a taste of war immediately, since Inchon was a secured area at that point. I was not assigned orders until we debarked. At that time I became part of the First Fire Team, Third Squad, 1st Platoon, Charley Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division.

We took a train from Inchon to Munson-ni, where my regiment was located. I first saw natives of Korea when we were on the train. Kids ran alongside the train begging. Practically everyone threw their sea rations out to the kids, one at a time. The kids never tired and ran the whole way. It was a sorry sight. I felt that Korea was a terrible place to be fighting for.  The soil was like rock.  There were no forests.  There was nothing but rice paddies and hills.  Still, I was young and never discouraged over the tide of the war.

My unit was located just off of the Hook. (Later I heard stories about the Hook.  I believe they were asked to do the impossible.)  The men in my company were at Camp Rose when I first got there. I found someone I knew--a guy named Elmer Rhoats. He and I went to junior high school together in Philadelphia. He managed to almost have me killed later. I also knew a kid named Johnson who I had trained with at Pendleton.

There were only 20 men left in Charley Company out of the usual 120 fighting Marines when I joined the company.  The only experienced men in my squad were Squad Leader Sergeant Goyer, and our fire team leader, Corporal John Kane.  They were able to tell us common sense things based on their experience--like what to look for.  They told us to use our sense of smell.  The scent of garlic meant either the Chinese had just left the area, or if the scent was real strong, it meant they were still there.  They taught us the importance of having dry feet and to change our socks to protect against frost bite.  We learned not to keep any bare skin exposed.

My duty when I was first assigned to my unit and all the days thereafter was that of BAR man. I operated a Browning Automatic Rifle. Around November 20, we moved up to the front. We went straight through the front lines out to Bunker Hill. I was getting ready to get some sleep when Elmer Rhoats told me that we had to go out on a two-man patrol. The patrol was unauthorized, but I listened to Rhoats because he was there before me and I thought that he knew what he was doing. We went to the forward slope of Bunker Hill and down where we encountered many Chinese bodies. No one ever knew we saw this. We got lost because we could barely see ten yards in front of us. There was thick fog. Eventually we found our way back to the trench line. Regarding the dead Chinese, I thought nothing of them since I was there to fight the Communists, and at the time was happy they were dead.

On the first day before we even got to Bunker Hill, I had seen my first dead Marine. As we climbed the reverse slope of Hill 229, we took a break to eat sea rations. We heard a screeching sound. We looked up and a mortar round exploded. Two Marines flew up in the air. I did not know them, but they were from my platoon. I ran down to see if I could help. The first one I saw was laying face down, lifeless. His back looked split open as with an axe. His flak jacket was blown apart. Someone said it was a 421mm mortar. That was the only round sent in—probably harassment fire. I felt sick when I saw that Marine. I thought it was a tragedy that he didn’t ever get to the front lines and was already killed in action. This has always remained my strongest memory of Korea.

We arrived at night in single file down the trench on Bunker Hill, which was the outpost in front of Hill 229 (the Main Line of Resistance). Soon after, I heard a grenade explode. One of the machine gunners did not answer a challenge from a fellow Marine and he threw a grenade on him. I volunteered to carry the wounded Marine back to the MLR (the aid station on the reverse slope). There was ice on the ground and we stumbled a few times and dropped him. His body slid down the hill and we had to go get him. He cried in pain every time we dropped him. He cried for his father, which I thought was odd. He was alive when we got him to the aid station, but I don’t know what happened to him. He was in Heavy Weapons.

That next morning was a revelation. We found out that we stood watch with our back to the enemy. No one told us that we were holding down the reverse slope. We stood watch facing downhill. At daylight, I saw movement on a large hill in front of me. I called the platoon leader for permission to start sniping. When he came down, he told us it was Hill 229 and was our own MLR that we were looking at. It was then that we realized we were watching the wrong way.

The following day the sun was out and I sat in the doorway of the bunker, trying to get some sun. I heard a loud cracking sound and rolled inside. Then I realized it was a sniper who missed me. The bullet went under my leg and hit PFC Richardson, killing him. I sat with him all day in a small bunker 2’x4’ until night, when the KSC got him and took him to the MLR.

On the third or fourth night, the word was passed down that they thought the Chinese would attack that night. I got in my fighting hole, lined up my grenades, and stretched out my magazines with my BAR ammo. I was ready! Straining to see in the dark, my knees started shaking, followed by my teeth chattering. About that time, Gunny White was checking everybody’s position. He hollered, "Rendina, are you okay?" I said, "No. I am shaking like hell." He slapped me on the back and said, "That’s good. You are excited!" With that, I calmed down. The attack never came that night.

I said many private prayers while on the front line.  The hardest thing of my whole time in Korea was the fear of being hit.


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BAR Man

I was proud of my job as a BAR man. I think I held up well emotionally compared to everybody else. I was personally armed with my BAR and with hand grenades. I was the man. I had the most important position as everyone else had only a rifle and I had the automatic weapon. When in trouble, everybody looked for the BAR man.

After relieving the 5th marines on Outpost Bunker Hill , we stayed at 100% alert throughout the night expecting an attack since there had been heavy sniper fire. At first light we went to 50% alert at which time my assistant gunner volunteered to stay up for the first watch. I closed my eyes at daylight and John Kane, my Fire Team leader, came in the bunker and told me my buddy, Richard Riffenburg got shot by a sniper. The corpsman could not stop the bleeding, so Riffenberg had to go back to the MLR immediately or bleed to death. John said he needed a volunteer to help him carry Riffenberg back to the MLR . I grabbed my helmet and borrowed the rifle of my assistant gunner and took off down the trench line to squad CP.

When John and I arrived at the CP bunker, we were told that we would receive a smoke cover through the rice paddy. Anyone who dared come out in the daylight was in essence on a suicide mission. We started carrying Riffenberg over the open rice paddy down the trail, but to our horror, the wind was carrying the smoke away.  We were exposed to the same position that the sniper had been firing from.

That was a time when all hell broke out. The route from our position southeast back to the MLR was about a mile, and we were carrying a wounded Marine over a rice paddy that was exposed to enemy rifle, mortar and artillery fire. Besides the fire power that we drew, we also had the mines and booby traps embedded in the rice field to worry about, causing us to take a longer route. I tried to pray, but couldn’t concentrate because with every step we took, Riffenberg was screaming out in pain. After a while, I needed to stop and rest but John kept pushing us along saying it was just a little further. I was relieved when we got to the barbed wire gate at the base of Hill 229. It was a miracle that we made it alive.

We thought Riffenberg would not be able to return to Korea, since he was hit in the abdomen about two inches above his penis. To our surprise, Riffenberg returned to the trench line after six months in the hospital in Japan. A postscript to this is that I learned that Richard Riffenberg lived a full life after Korea. He just died a few years ago.

Captain Paul Byrum was the company commander when I first arrived in Korea. Later our commander was Captain Adolph Schwenk. He inherited the nickname, "Captain Marvel" on the Hook. I don't know how he got that nickname, but it was something he did on the Hook. About a month after I was in Korea, a Red Cross worker came down the trench line looking for me. He took me down the reverse slope of Hill 229 to the company CP. There, Captain Schwenk chewed me out for not writing home. My mother told the Red Cross that she hadn't heard from me for months. Captain Schwenk made me sit down and write to my mother right there in front of him and the Red Cross worker. He sealed the letter himself and gave it to the Red Cross worker to mail. Captain Schwenk went on to become a 3 Star General. He just died in April of 2004.

Lieutenant Fisher was a green officer leading mostly green men.  He took us out on his first combat patrol.  We weren't out more than 45 minutes when word came down the line to hit the deck.  We were lost in a minefield.  One of the first things they teach you in the States is never to silhouette yourself on the skyline.  I looked up from my prone position to find Lieutenant Fisher silhouetted against the skyline with his hands above his eyes looking like an Indian scout.  I couldn't help but chuckle.  He couldn't see anything because it was as dark as hell.  Our squad leader, Sergeant Goyer, took the point and we found our way back to the MLR without setting off any mines.  The patrol was a failure.

All of the officers rotated to the rear about every 60 to 90 days.  I really never got to know them or their names except for Lieutenant Fisher.  It seems like the NCO ran the everyday operations.  They were quite able and had combat experience from World War II.


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Baptism of Fire

My "Baptism of Fire" was when we left Bunker Hill and went back to the MLR and took up our position.  I felt like we were in Corps reserve because on Bunker Hill from our listening post to their listening post was not more than 20 yards.  The second day on the MLR, we drew up plans to go after the sniper who killed Richardson and wounded Riffenburg.  We rehearsed it on the reverse slope of Hill 229 in the afternoon.  We were issued white outer shells with hoods on them because of the snow.  We put them on and a few of us laughed because we looked like the KKK.  We had one black kid in our squad and he laughed, too.  The laughter stopped when we stepped out in front of barbed wire.

As we approached the crest of the hill, a single shot rang out. We all hit the ground.  The squad leader gave the command to spread out to the right and move up.  With that we heard the sound of quite a few burp guns.  We engaged the enemy for about five minutes.  Then a red flare exploded in front of me, blinding me temporarily.  As soon as I regained my night vision, I continued firing.  The BAR man next to me rolled in to me.  His BAR was jammed.  I put another magazine in his weapon and gave it back to him.  I resumed firing at flashes because I could see no Chinese.

When I stopped firing to reload my own weapon, I heard no sound of friendly fire. I looked around and everyone was gone!  I assumed that they gave the word to pull back, but I never heard it.  At the bottom of the hill, I saw white hoods bobbing up and down.  I started running.  I fell, slid, and rolled almost halfway down the hill.  By the time I regained my feet, I had a short distance to go to catch up.  My heart was pounding in my throat, but it was a good feeling, as I felt safe again.

We got back on Bunker Hill and lit a candle.  I took off my gloves and saw that my hand was bloody.  I had a shrapnel fragment wound which I bandaged myself.  About three days later, I took off my shirt to wash myself off with a helmet bath.  My fire team leader, John Kane, noticed that the veins in my arms were red.  He said he thought it was blood poisoning.  I ran to the corpsman, who noticed that I had another wound in the back of my right arm.  He administered penicillin for about four days to clear the infection.  They were the only wounds I received in Korea, except for my loss of hearing.


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Where We Were

On my first trip to the MLR, we went up Hill 229.  Our usual routine was to wait for darkness and then advance to Outpost Bunker Hill.  This began in November of 1952, and we stayed in that area until February 8, 1953--going back and forth between Bunker Hill, 229, and Outpost Hedy.  We stood watch all night long from dark until dawn on Outpost Bunker Hill.  Because fighting took place 98 percent of the time at night, we slept in the daytime.  The reason for the night fighting was that there was a better chance to sneak up on the enemy. Our unit was not "dug in" for the night.  We were in a trench line and in a bunker.

The enemy was so alert to our every move that, when we had to crap, we did it in the sea ration box and then threw the whole thing over the trench line.  It looked like a city dump.  Outpost Hedy was pretty much the same.  We had more than three or four guys get rounds through their helmets.  We could not raise our head above that listening post without getting a round through the helmet because the enemy was no more than 20 yards away.  Hill 229 was the MLR and overlooked Hedy and Bunker Hill.  The Chinese stronghold was called Yoke.  Our trench line was on Hill 229.  All of these places were north of the 38th parallel.


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Brits, Turks & Koreans

We had the British on our right flank for a while, but we never made contact with them.  They did a good job, as I don't recall them ever losing their positions.  When we went into Corps Reserve, the Turkish Brigade relieved us and the advance came up early.  One guy stayed in our bunker.  We took him out on patrol every night to teach him the trails and how to get to the outposts.  His name was Amet Bashkian from Istanbul.

The Turks were a danger to us, as they would light up cigarettes in the night anywhere and draw attention to us.  I heard a story where they lit a fire in the middle of a rice paddy with one man sitting there waiting for the Chinese to try and snatch him.  Then they would spring the trap as the rest were waiting for them.  I don't know how successful this was.

The only time I saw the South Korean Marines was when we were in corps reserves and they took us back by truck to Inchon.  We boarded the ship and simulated an amphibious landing on an island not too far from Inchon.  They wanted us to be ready if we went behind enemy lines for an invasion in the future.

There were old Korean guys too old to fight.  They were KSC's.  We took turns going on the reverse slope of the MLR with these old guys and loading them up with supplies for the outpost.  This took all night and was hairy because when I went, I was the only one with a weapon.  The old guys carried supplies.  If we got ambushed, I was the only protection.  Every night they came out with supplies and water, and picked up the dead and wounded.

I had a one-day liberty in Seoul (which I will mention later) where I spent time with a Korean woman, but the only other contact I had with the natives was with the KSC's.  From what I had seen, they were dirt poor.  They had nothing.  The children were ragged and always were begging for anything you could give them.


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Tanks

There was a tank pit to the right of my bunker, in fact, only 20 yards away.  The tanks came up daily for a firing mission.  We heard the rumbling of the engines at the base of our hill and knew they were coming.  We knew that we'd better batten down the hatches.  Within a minute of pulling up and stopping along the side of us, they started firing.  They fired 6 to 9 rounds and then immediately withdrew.  They had a prearranged target given by a forward observer.

They would no sooner leave but then the Chinese started fighting where the tank was.  The rounds then came in on us.  One hit the corner of our bunker and caved it in.  I was the only one there at the time.  That is when I lost my hearing.  For a few weeks, you had to scream in my face for me to hear.  No one on my fire team from that day forward wanted to go on listening post with me.  I never reported this because in those days, you didn't like to admit that you were hurt.  You never wanted to be sent to the rear to nurse an injury.


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Survival

Candles were invaluable as they were the only light we had.  We learned to guard them and whenever a guy was wounded or killed, we kept their candles.  Another valuable necessity was our P38 tool, because it opened our sea rations.

We were taught to make mental notes of the terrain when going out on a patrol in the event that we were separated from the rest of the patrol.  There were times when we took a roll of toilet paper on patrol on moonless nights.  This was because you could not see your hand in front of your face.  It is amazing that toilet paper was like a fluorescent light.  We'd use it to mark checkpoints.

The winters in Korea were brutal.  It was extremely cold and very windy, although there was not a lot of snow.  The temperatures did not affect my BAR, but it was so cold that the M2 carbines froze up in the winter.  When I arrived in Korea in November of 1952, the temperature was in the 30's.  Our company was in the rear so we had not yet received our cold weather gear, but we had a pot-bellied stove to keep warm.  When a few days passed, we went to the front lines and were issued cold weather gear that was sufficient except for hands and face.  I had two hand warmers that worked similar to cigarette lighters.  We carried one in each pocket, and when we could, we warmed our hands.  For our face, we were issued a muffler (scarf).  We wrapped this around our face and the only thing exposed was our eyes.  On one occasion, we laid out on a snatching party (ambush patrol) for five hours.  My breath turned to ice on the muffler.  Needless to say, I took the muffler off and jammed it in my pocket.  The thermal boots worked fine as long as we kept moving.  But with an ambush patrol, we had to lie still, so our feet got real cold.  I was never ill in Korea, but I had a cold the whole winter.  This added to other discomforts.

Our winter uniform consisted of boxer shorts, long underwear, fatigues, vest, parka, wool socks, thermal boots, muffler, parka hood under which I wore a helmet, Mongolian piss cutter (hat), two pair of gloves, a shell and wool mittens.  This all kept us warm to a degree as long as we were moving.  The enemy, as far as I know, wore a quilted suit and underwear in the winter.  In the summer, we wore boxer shorts and fatigues.

During our time on the front lines, we ate C-rations.  Some of the items I remember getting with C-rations were hot dogs and baked beans, corned beef hash, sausage patties, and pork and applesauce.  When in Reserve, we had hot meals like powdered egg omelets, meat loaf, S.O.S., and also milk and baked bread.  Only one time did I eat Korean food.  I went to the reverse slope to pick up a group of KCF's.  We used them as mules.  I forgot my C-rations, so I ate with the Koreans.  We had boiled lumpy rice.  I did not have any problems digesting it, though.  The best memory of good food while in Korea was on Thanksgiving.  The cooks brought cooked turkey to the front line on the reverse slope.  It was real good, but I missed spaghetti, meatballs, and all the good Italian food my mom cooked.

When I was in the bunker on the front lines, I knew it was not safe.  It was about 5' wide by 6' long and consisted of three rows of sandbags for protection, along with whatever rocks we could find.  There were no furnishings except a yukon stove that ran on kerosene.  In the winter, everything was frozen, so the bunker was not wet.  There were rats the size of cats that crawled on top of you at night.  They jumped on you with the force of a person.  In the trench line, there was no protection over your head.  Each man had a "fighting hole" step dug in the dirt.  Here you could step up to fire over the top.


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The Enemy

My own experience taught me on more than one occasion that the Chinese were worthy adversaries and excellent mortarmen.  They would chase us back to the MLR over a path through the rice paddies.  When the path turned, the mortars turned, and all this was in the dark.  I did not learn how to deal with this until I was actually there in Korea experiencing it.

Our first position when I arrived in Korea was on Outpost Bunker Hill.  The trench line was four feet deep and the roof of the bunker had three rows of sandbags that would not withstand a direct hit from a 4.2 mortar.  Luckily, it never happened.  We did take a 60mm mortar one morning.  We foolishly left a juice can sitting on the parapet of our bunker.  When the first round came in, we all dove one on top of the other into the furthest corner of the bunker.  I don't remember where I was in the pile, and I don't know about the others, but I prayed silently.  After the third or fourth round, the mortars hit the edge of the bunker.  We all held our breath waiting, feeling the next one would be it -- but it never came!  The juice can got blown away and he retreated.  I believe that this was the most personal danger I was in while serving in Korea.

The enemy also had burp guns and hand grenades.  Their weapons were very effective.  They had a lot of firepower--even more than us.  We had some automatic weapons, but all of theirs was automatic.  My unit was steadily engaged with the enemy, but there was no one time it was worse or better than the others.

The closest I observed the enemy was the two that our corpsman captured.  They looked to be about 15 or 16, and were very small.  They were not, it seems, very well trained, but they rushed at us unafraid.  I think this was because if they did not, they would be shot by their own officers.  The corpsman was urinating and heard "snip, snip."  It was the two Chinese snipping the wire.  He instinctively shouted at them even though he didn't have his weapon.  Not knowing this, they were afraid and put up their hands.  So he captured them without his weapon!

A guy named Nosey was captured by the Chinese, but I don't know what happened to him.  We didn't think about being captured, and I don't know anybody else who was captured.


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Casualties

There were many guys who got killed, but I don't know all their names.  Two that I did know were Indian boys from out west that we nicknamed Big Bear and Little Bear. We were out on combat patrol and Little Bear squeezed the carter pin on the two grenades he carried and put them in his field jacket pocket so it would be easy to pull out when he needed them.  While running, the pin worked its way loose and blew up in his pocket.

With Big Bear, we were on Hill 229 and he was going to walk over the top to take a crap.  It was just breaking daylight and a 76 round came in and blew his head off.  Two unnecessary deaths!

Frank Rachou got killed soon after he arrived in Korea. I knew Frank real well at Pendleton.  He had been assigned to Charley Company for a while.  He was out on patrol as the machine gunner ammo carrier.  They got into a fire fight and a mortar round came in, killing him, the gunner, and the squad leader.  He and Ben Placencia, who was assigned to another company in Korea, were my two best friends from Pendleton who got killed in Korea.

Sergeant Walker was one of our squad leaders that we lost.  We were on patrol and a fire fight began.  A Chink threw a grenade at him and a piece of shrapnel hit under his armpit.  We got him back to the MLR and the corpsman could not stop the bleeding.  We called for a helicopter to take him back to the hospital ship, but it was too foggy for the helicopter to fly, so he bled to death.

I wish I knew the names of the corpsmen.  We called them all Doc.  I felt that they were Marines, just like I was.  When the shit hit the fan, they picked up their carbines and used them.  I observed the skills of a corpsman first hand when I was wounded with shrapnel.  They seemed to block out the battle and were concerned with taking care of the wounded.

We used helicopters to evacuate the wounded.  If we could get the wounded to the rear of the MLR, the helicopters would fly the severely wounded to the hospital ship.  If they weren't that bad off, we put them on a stretcher and the jeep would take them to battalion aid.

Events such as all those that I have described in my memoir became almost routine.  Each night was just like the night before.


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Buddies & Old Salts

There were two guys that I considered my very good buddies.  Bob Jowder was in boot camp and Pendleton with me, and Ben Placencia was a buddy I met at Pendleton.  We three went on liberty together while at Pendleton.  Ben and Bob went to Korea on the flying draft in August of 1952.  I came over in October of 1952.  When I got there, I found out that Ben got killed on the Hook.  Bob was in a different company, so I didn't see him in Korea.  But he was from the Philly area and we hooked up a few times after the war.  Now Bob lives across the road from me by the ocean in Delaware.

I was not with any one person more than a few months in Korea except a guy named Kaylor.  He was in my squad.  He was from Missouri and his mom used to send him the local newspaper.  It was so hokey the big news on the front page was that a pig was lost.  I lost track of Kaylor after the war, but tried to call him about six months ago after we found his name on the computer.  His wife answered and told me he had died three months earlier.

I served with several World War II salts.  Gunny White was one.  Another was Sergeant Sineri.  When we got off the ship, he was calling the roll.  He happened to be from where I was born in western Pennsylvania, and he had dated my cousin.  We had the same last name so he asked if I was related to her.  He made a career out of the Corps.  I called him last year for the first time since we were in Korea.  He did not remember me or my cousin he had dated.


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Reserve Antics

In thinking of crazy things that happened, once while in Reserve in Korea, three of us (Francisco Burruel from California, Tatsuo Kimoto from Hawaii, and I) went to the nearby village.  The farmer had three daughters who he offered to us for C-rations.  We all went into a hut about seven feet wide and had sex with them shoulder to shoulder.  I guess this was a lighter side of war, because normally no one would do such a thing.

Another time in Reserve, we were drinking.  Someone said that if you put someone's hand in warm water while they are sleeping, they will pee.  A guy named Kaylor just happened to be sleeping.  We slid the zipper down on his sleeping bag real slow not to wake him.  What a surprise to find him holding his pecker with a tissue!

Like I said, both of these incidents happened in Reserve.  While on the front line, guys were not comedians.  It was not a situation where you could think of something funny.

I also remember that there was one USO that came to the Reserve area while I was in Korea, but no big names were in the show.  Big names that appeared in shows with someone like Bob Hope did so back a Division Headquarters.


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Holidays and Wild Days

I was like most of the young men in Korea and took opportunities to be with a woman if such an occasion arose.  I never saw any American women in Korea except at the USO shows, but we found Korean women from time to time.  One time on liberty in Seoul, we walked into a building the size of a basketball gym.  It was petitioned off with white sheets making sections about 4'x8'.  There was a girl in every section.  The girls talked to each other in Korean and laughed while they were having sex with us.

When I first arrived, a guy came into our tent and yelled, "Anybody here from Philly?"  It was Elmer Rhoats.  I knew Elmer from Stetson Junior High School in Philadelphia.  He went to my Sergeant and got transferred into my fire team. Later I was sorry. He and I went to the Division dentist once.  We met a farmer along the way who had his daughter with him.  We paid him military script to be with his daughter.  He walked to the side of the road and waited while we both had sex with her.  It was about 18 degrees, so it was all over quickly.  Many of the young girls in Korea were prostitutes to survive during that time.

After six months on the line, they flew us to Kyoto, Japan, for a five-day liberty.  We drank, danced, and had sex with different women every day.  The worst part of the liberty was knowing that we had to go back.  One of the guys said, "Let's not go back."  I thought about it for about five seconds and said, "No way."

We spent Thanksgiving on Hill 229, Christmas on Hill 229, and New Year's on Hill 229.  Besides the turkey we got on Thanksgiving, nothing else much happened then or on Christmas.  On New Year's, there was a little excitement.  At midnight, we called in an air strike.  They dropped a 500-pound phosphorus bomb on a hill called Yoke.  All the machine guns had red and green tracers and fired on Yoke for a few minutes.  To me, it was a beautiful sight. On the Marine Corps birthday, I was in Reserves and was served a hot special dinner for the occasion.

My birthday was February 8.  In 1953, we had just came off of Bunker Hill into Reserves.  It was 20 degrees below zero.  We were sitting in a tent around a pot-bellied stove.  Someone got a fifth of liquor.  Besides my 19th birthday, it was also John Kane's 21st birthday, so we had some reasons to celebrate.  We were passing the bottle around and all drinking out of the same bottle.  A black Marine named Rummage was standing fire watch.  He stepped inside the tent to get warm.  He got between Gunny Sergeant White, who was from Texas, and me.  As the bottle passed Rummage, he put it in his mouth to take a drink.  Gunny White delivered a right to his jaw and knocked him backwards.  We thought that was the end of it, but ten minutes later we heard a yell, "Gunny White, I'm going to talk to you in the only language you understand."  With that he opened up with a BAR.  Bullets came ripping through the tent and we all hit the deck.  One of the guys slipped under the tent and grabbed Rummage from behind.  Then Gunny White thumped him again.  It wound up that Rummage, Gunny White, and Sergeant Goyer were all court-martialed and sent to the rear.  We never saw them again. That was the only time I saw prejudice in Korea.

I drank and smoked in Korea, but did not gamble.  Some of the guys were sent liquor from home, but every man got a case of beer in Reserves.  Cigarettes were in our C-rations.  I did drink and smoke a little before I went to Korea.

We had no leisure time on the front.  In Reserve, we played touch football, cleaned and repaired our gear, wrote letters, and watched movies. I am Catholic and Mass was held outdoors in Korea only in Reserve areas.


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Cold Hot Chocolate

Something happened while I was on a Listening Post once.  It was freezing cold about 5 below zero with a fierce wind blowing about 45 miles per hour.  We were on top of the hill at the last bunker on the right flank of the listening post.  My partner on the post (I believe it was Elmer Rhoats) said he could sneak back to the MLR to our bunker and get hot chocolate for us.  I was as dumb as he was, as I believed he could do it.  I was so cold I thought hot chocolate would be great.

There were sandbags there to hide us, and I propped up a poncho on them to keep the wind out.  I hid behind this with my BAR cocked. Elmer was gone what seemed like forever.  All of a sudden, everything went black.  I was scared silly.  Then I realized it was just that the wind had blown the poncho down over my head.  After a few minutes, Rhoats came back with ice cold hot chocolate.  I was pissed that he took so long and that the chocolate was cold. Funny that I never was interested in trying to find Elmer Rhoats after Korea.


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News from Home

I was not much of a writer, so I did not write to people much.  While I was stationed at Pendleton, I married a girl I only knew a short time.  She wrote to me while I was in Korea, as did my mother, my sister Theresa, my sister Ace, and my cousin Josephine.  My mom sent me cookies once in a while.  I asked her to send me hand warmers and cough syrup, and she did.  I got everything delivered okay.  I can remember that John Kane used to get whiskey, so he was very popular. Another guy from Massachusetts got a letter that his dad had a heart attack, and a few guys got Dear John letters.

My wife was pregnant when I left for Korea.  I received bad news in a radiogram from the Red Cross that my infant son had died after only living ten days.  After that, I didn't hear from my wife much, and I didn't write to her.  I did not know what to say.  I only knew her a month or two before we got married.  I was homesick and she had a family.  I was only 18 years old.  She got pregnant right away and I was shipped out.  When I came home from Korea, we were together long enough for her to get pregnant again.  I could not live in California and she could not live in Philadelphia, even though she tried for a few months.  We broke up before my daughter was born.  The war played a role in our split, but I think we would have broken up anyway because of our youth and love for different parts of the country.


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Military Police

I was a Military Police during Operation Big Switch from approximately May 15 to June 15, 1953.  We were on duty for four hours and off for eight hours, with a day off every other day.  I had to guard the gate to make sure everyone had proper papers of identification to enter Freedom Village.  The most important dignitary I met in Korea was President Sigmund Rhee, who shook my hand while I was on duty at Panmunjom.

I saw American prisoners as they returned to the Allied side during the exchange.  They appeared gaunt with a wild stare in their eyes.  Many fell out of the truck and kissed the ground crying.  The most unusual thing I witnessed during Operation Big Switch was something that bothered me greatly.  There were about 150 reporters interrogating the returning prisoners immediately as they arrived at Freedom Village.  The only question I heard was, "How does it feel to be able to go home."  I don't know what the reporters expected them to say.  Most of them broke down at this interrogation.  I do not recall any reporter in particular who was more insensitive to the prisoners than others, but I do know that the reporters were there before the prisoners were debriefed.

Other Marines were guarding the prisoners and escorting them away from the reporters.  It was in the officers' hands to protect these prisoners, so I do not know why they even let the prisoners talk to reporters.  Most of these reporters were collecting material for newsreels in the movies or for newspapers.  There were a lot of foreign officials there as well who were collecting prisoners from their countries.  After being interrogated by the reporters, the prisoners boarded trucks. Some of the prisoners needed medical attention, and ambulances were waiting for them.  I do not know the destination of the returning prisoners.  Since I was on special duty at the gate, I did not speak to the returning prisoners.

I did not observe non-American prisoners being repatriated, nor did I see UNCREG officials working with prisoners.


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Going Home

I was informed by my Platoon Sergeant the week before that I was to be rotated home.  The thing I remember most about my last week in Korea was scurrying around the area trying to find another blanket.  You could not rotate unless all of your gear was turned in. I only had one blanket left since someone stole one of mine--probably for the same reason.  I wound up cutting my one blanket in half and folding it neatly to look as if there were two.  It worked!

Guys were giving me messages for others in the States.  I promised to write to all of them but, of course, never did.  I told the guys I'd look up Sergeant Walters' parents.  He was our squad leader who was KIA and was from Philly.  I never did look them up, but thought of it a lot.  As usual, I didn't know what I would say to them and dreaded what I would have to talk about with them.

I was glad to leave my unit in Korea.  I had had enough of Korea.  The truck came finally and took me to Ascom City.  We spent two days getting new clothes, getting deloused, and eating deworming pills. I don't believe I had parasites while I was in Korea.  However, we were sprayed for them and had to take the deworming pills before we left there.  We took the pills for 13 days.

After all of this, we boarded our ship, the General Walker, at Inchon Harbor.  The replacement troops for us got off the General Walker when we got on.  It was a huge dock, so we didn't have a chance to talk.  We left Korea on November 10, 1953.  I left there as a PFC.  Some of the guys I remember from the ship were Sammy Viola, whom I met up with again in the 1980s, Harold Schmidt, and lots of others.  It is funny, but we were all happy on the return trip and nobody got seasick.  I had no duties on the ship, so it was all fun.  We played pinochle and poker.  I had $50 in my pocket and lost it within ten minutes.  The weather was good on the return trip and so it took us 13 days.  We did have one stop in Yokohama to pick up some more troops.

We arrived at Treasure Island, California, in the San Francisco Bay.  There were hundreds of people there, and the Navy Band was playing the Marine Corps Hymn.  No one was waiting specifically for me.  It made me feel great, though, to see a red convertible Buick racing down the block.  I hadn't seen a car like that for over a year.  The wounded got off of the General Walker first.  The officers followed and then the rest of us debarked.  We went to the barracks, where we were assigned a bed.  We stayed there for three days while they did our paperwork.

We had liberty every night for those three nights.  On each of those nights I went with Schmidt and Viola.  We got in a cab and told the driver to take us to a cat house.  We hit all of the bars afterwards and then headed back to base.

I finished out my time in the Marine Corps at the Marine Air Wing in El Toro, California.  There I served as an MP on the gate.  I was pretty calm then and proud of my service in Korea.  I thought about reenlisting.  I asked for a two-year tour in Japan.  The recruiter said there was a good chance I'd get that assignment, but he couldn't put it in writing.  I took the discharge.  I was discharged on February 15, 1954.


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Post-Military Life

After I was discharged, I tried to make amends with my first wife.  She came with me to Philadelphia, but it did not work out.  She went back to California and I never saw her again.  I did not try to see our daughter who was born after the break up because I felt I would not be able to see her or be a real father to her.  Luckily, I had one sister who wrote to my ex-wife and did get some pictures and information about my daughter.

I did not go back to school when I got home, but did use my GI Bill for on-the-job training to become a sheet metal mechanic.  Before I used the GI Bill, I tried out a job at Crown Cork and Seal as a fork lift operator.  I did this for about six months before I became a sheet metal mechanic at S&S Metal.  I only lasted a year with this job as I didn't like it.  I had several jobs after that: as a warehouseman at Penn Fruit, manager of a school bus company, and as a milkman.  In the early 1970s, I went to work for Oscar Mayer as a driver.  I got my tractor trailer license and worked as a driver for them and for Penn Jersey Paper Company until 1996, when I retired.

I had two children in a second marriage, a girl and a boy.  It was not a good marriage and broke up also.  We were in the middle of a custody battle for my son when he was killed by a car.  My daughter is married and living in Philadelphia.  I married a third time and this one lasted for over 30 years and is still going strong.  We have a son together who is married and is living in the Philadelphia area also.  In 1973, my daughter from California came out to meet all of us, and we have all visited back and forth several times over the years and are in contact.

I am enjoying my retirement.  I play senior softball and have been in three National Senior Olympic Games.  I am on a traveling softball team that is ranked third nationwide, as well as play with the local guys in Delaware.  I enjoy my activities at the VFW, such as being a member of the Honor Guard.  In the summer, I have had jobs since we live in a resort area.  My wife and I travel a lot.  Recently, we have gone to Florida, the Poconos, Branson, Baton Rouge, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. We travel up to Philadelphia a lot to see our son and his family.


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Awards

Our unit did not receive any citations except the Presidential Unit Citation from the Secretary of the Navy on two different occasions. All of us received the following medals: the Combat Action Ribbon that shows that we were in combat; the Korean Service Medal with three bronze stars for being in Korea; the National Defense Medal for defending our country; the United Nations Ribbon because we were under UN command; and the Korean Presidential Ribbon, issued as a personal thank you from the Korean government.

 


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War-related Disabilities

I have been hard of hearing since Korea.  This began when my bunker was hit by mortars aiming at the tanks next to us.  The mortar hit and caved in the bunker.  I lost my hearing totally at that time but it gradually started to come back. I thought it was temporary and so didn't go to Battalion Aid.  I was only 18 with no one to give me advice.  Kaylor and some of the other guys in my fire team did not want to go out on listening post with me because they had to yell at me in order to hear them. I followed up on the hearing loss in civilian life in 1984 when I went to the VA about it.  I applied for service connected disability.  They confirmed that I had hearing loss, but was entitled to 0 percent disability since I never reported it when it happened. After re-applying in 2001, I am now getting 10% disability for my hearing loss.

I also suffer from Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder.  I didn't know that was what it was, but recently went to the VA and talked to a doctor there.  My symptoms include stress in mentally reliving the time I was in Korea.  I am now getting disability as well for my PTSD.


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Final Reflections

Korea changed me in that I became completely independent.  Others may have noticed this, but I did not associate with the same people when I returned from Korea.  Everyone I knew as a boy had moved on.  My mother remarried and moved out of Philadelphia, so I didn't see her very much.  If I wasn't working, I was in a bar drinking and playing shuffleboard.  I drank a lot in those days.

I have always thought that troops should have been sent to Korea in order to help stop Communism from spreading. Change sentence to this-- I feel we should have gone beyond the Yalu River and defeated the Chinese completely. The big mistake in my opinion that the United States made was not being prepared. The lesson of Pearl Harbor was not learned. We knew that North Korea was building up their troops and arsenals at the 38th parallel. Our first guys over suffered shortages of food, ammunition, and medicine. They were pushed back to Pusan--almost to the sea because of being unprepared.

I have never revisited Korea.  I would like to so that I could see what progress they made, as I feel I had a hand in it.  The Korean War had a good effect in that in a way we went forward with stopping Communism around the world.  I think troops should still be stationed in Korea.  The same thing could happen 50 years later with the Communists trying to take over.  North Korea is still a threat and they have proven it over and over again with violations of the cease fire agreement.

Regarding the stories of the military brutalization of civilians at Nogun-ri or other atrocities supposedly committed by the military, I feel that until there is proof positive, I do not believe these things happened as reported. Knowing myself and fellow Marines, we would do everything in our power to help the civilians.  We gave them our rations many times to relieve their hunger.

I feel that boot camp gave me the discipline I needed to be in a war.  The rest of it I don't believe you could be prepared for unless you experience it.  After my military service was over, I had trouble adjusting to civilian life after I was discharged.  I drank a lot daily and did things that I would never have done normally.  After I got home I didn't want to think about Korea, and I drank to get it out of my mind.  I had the opportunity to talk to at least Sergeant Walter's family, but I didn't because I didn't want to talk about it and didn't know what to say to them. I have never discussed Korea with any of my three children.  I didn't think that they would be interested, however, all have expressed interest to read this interview. I find the only ones I really want to talk about these things with are other guys who were there.

I think that the government is trying to find the MIA personnel. It is easy to sit and criticize, but they have recovery teams in southeast Asia.  They are paying North Koreans and the government of Vietnam for information and any remains recovered and returned to the United States.

Meanwhile, I am looking for a few guys I served with in Korea. Robert Rickman was from Madison, Wisconsin. Richard Riffenberg was from Detroit, Michigan—but now I know he is deceased. I am looking especially for a corpsman whose name I can't remember. He could help me if I could find him. He was attached to the 1st Platoon of Charley Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines from December 1952 to January 1953. This corpsman treated me for blood poisoning I received as a result of being hit by shrapnel. Since we were right there with the action, it was never written up.

 I don't know why the Korean War is called the "Forgotten War."  It certainly hasn't been forgotten by myself or the other guys who were on the front lines.  Korea was nothing like I expected.  There was no John Wayne and no Sands of Iwo Jima.  Instead, it was a sad, harrowing experience.  This interview was very difficult for me.  It brought back things that I had repressed and didn't want to think about.  It is hard to remember things from over 50 years ago, but I was surprised that I remembered so much detail.

I agree that World War II veterans are treated differently than we Korea veterans.  I think that is because World War II affected everyone in the country.  The Korean War was a smaller war and America did not feel a threat since the war was fought totally in Korea.  I would hope that educators teach students that the Korean War was a stepping stone to stopping Communism worldwide and that many fought bravely and proudly to accomplish this goal. 


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Once a Marine


Pete and his fire team leader John Kane when they met for the first time after Korea in 2000.
(Click picture for a larger view)

I attended my first reunion in Branson, Missouri, in May of 2001. It was a 1st Battalion, 7th Marine reunion. I am proud to announce that we have our own website now. I also attended the Battalion reunion at Parris Island in 2003, the Charley Company reunions in Pittsburgh in September of 2002, and in Albuquerque in 2004. I went to the reunion to see if there was anyone I would remember, and to talk about some of the horrors with those who would understand. I met some guys I served with in Korea: John Kane (Colorado), George Kiernan (PA - who I didn't remember, but he remembered me), Charles Kingsland (Kentucky), Jack Nettles (Texas), Ken Weaver (Florida), and Chuck Roan (PA).

The Marine Corps caused me to be very disciplined.  I believe in regimentation and order.  I believe the saying, "Once a Marine, always a Marine" is 100% accurate.  You can take a man out of the Corps, but can't take the Corps out of the man.  You are instant friends when you meet up with another Marine.  Every one I know who served in the Corps are proud that they were in the United States Marine Corps.


Obituary

Pete E. Rendina, 79, of Selbyville and Venice, Florida and formerly of Northeast Philadelphia, died Wednesday April 10, 2013, with his beloved wife and son by his side. Born in Masontown, Pennsylvania, he was the son of the late Riccardo and Rose (Eppolito) Rendina.

Pete had been a truck driver for the Oscar Meyer Company prior to his retirement. He was a member of the Marine Corps League, First State Detachment.  During the Korean War he joined the Marine Corps in Philadelphia and saw combat with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. He was a member of the Olde Tymers Softball League and had been a player/manager with the Delaware Diamonds. He was a member of St. Luke Catholic Church in Ocean City, Maryland, and had been active in youth sports and in high school sports at Archbishop Ryan High School in Philadelphia, touching the lives of hundreds of young people.

Pete is survived by his wife, Barbara M. (Scherer) Rendina; three children, Peter R. Rendina (Rebecca), Kathryn Rolle (Walt), and Geraldine Nielson (Terry); seven grandchildren, Tyler, Tessa and Tayah Rendina, Stephanie Johnson, Walter Rolle, Holly Rosten and Eric Nielson; two sisters, Theresa Childs and Julia DiLella and many beloved family members.

Mass of Christian Burial will be on Friday April 19, 2013 at 11 AM at St. Luke Catholic Church in Ocean City where friends may call after 10AM. Burial, with Marine Corps Honors, will be at Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Millsboro.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Marine Corps League, First State Detachment, PO Box 434, Ocean View, DE 19970.

 

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