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Doyle "Doc" Rowell

Dunedin, Florida
Korean War Veteran of the United States Navy
Platoon Hospital Corpsman, G-1-7

"Korea was hot as Hell in the summer, cold as the Arctic in the winter, and had steep, high mountains to climb.  If you get an invitation to go there, "DON'T GO!"."

- Doyle Marion Rowell

 


[The following is the result of sets of questions and answers between Doyle Rowell and Lynnita Brown in 2002.  Mr. Rowell did not have a computer, so he corresponded by U.S. mail, writing his answers out in long hand.  The KWE is sad to report that Doyle died of pneumonia that led to congestive heart failure on June 7, 2004.  When contacted by the KWE, Doyle's family was surprised to learn that Doyle had left a legacy to the next generation in the form of his memoir about the Korean War.  His brother Rodney Rudd told the KWE that Doyle returned to Korea for a second stint.  There, he received two more Purple Hearts, for a total of three.]

Memoir Contents:


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Pre-Military

My name is Doyle Marion Rowell, the son of Freddie and Minnie Baronton Rowell. I was born February 9, 1932, in Ocala, Florida. I have a sister, Joyce Adel Leazer who is older than I am, and a younger half brother, Rodney Maurice Rudd. Our father worked in a Fernery and Mother was a hairdresser.

I attended school at Panama Park Grade School and Andrew Jackson High School in Jacksonville. I left school in the 11th grade to join the Navy and earned my G.E. D. while in the military. While I was in school, I unloaded boxcars for Railway Express as a part-time job, and I sold shoes at Sears. My stepfather was a Scout leader of Troop 104, and I was involved in scouting. I was chosen to be Panther Patrol Leader and did lots of camping.

World War II was going on when I was in school, but no members of my family were in the service at the time. I helped out with the war effort by buying war bonds and stamps, and I collected scrap aluminum.


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Joining Up

I joined the Junior Bluejackets when I was 15 years old, and I liked it. I left school and joined the Navy to get away from my cruel stepfather.  Although my stepfather was furious, my mother signed for me to join. I was only 17 at the time (April 4, 1949). I loved the Navy from Day One.

From Florida I went by train to attend basics at the U.S. Navy Recruit Training Base in San Diego, California. The Navy paid my train fare. Along the way, I met Leslie Reeder from Tampa, Florida. He still lives in Tampa and I live 20 miles away in Dunedin, Florida. We still get together at least once per month. He is my best friend. Like me, he also became a hospital corpsman, so we went through boot camp, hospital corps school and our first duty station, Portsmouth, Virginia Naval Hospital, together.


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Boot Camp

During the first day that I was in boot camp, my hair was cut off and I was assigned to a senior and junior Drill Instructor. World War II veteran C.P.O. Kelsey was my senior DI and Recruit C.P.O. Frazier was my junior DI Boot camp consisted of 16 weeks learning semaphore, knot-tying, laying out a sea bag in classroom instruction, and outside training through drill, manual of arms, and the rifle range. The entire parade area was flat and covered with black asphalt that was very hot in the warm weather in San Diego. I remember a "Why We Fight" propaganda film on the Axis death camps and Naval warfare in the Pacific.

Reveille was at 6 a.m. with breakfast at 6:30. Drill and marching was from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. The noon meal was from 11 a.m. until 11:30, followed by one hour of free time until 1 p.m. After that, we were in the classroom from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m., then cleaned barracks from 5 p.m. until 6 p.m.  Lights out was at 10 p.m. I remember that in order to teach us hardship, we were awakened in the middle of the night and drilled in the rain for one hour. Church was offered on Sundays, and most of us attended. There were no DIs breathing down our necks when we went. We also had some fun in Navy boot camp on weekends when we played softball or touch football.

Our drill instructors were very strict. They held inspection every morning, and we were required to have our shoes shined, be shaved, and be wearing a clean hat and uniform. Those who did not shave faced the punishment of dry shaving. (I had to dry shave, but only once.) I remember the DIs turning the bed over when it was not made properly. We also had to stand at attention in the hot sun for hours for not knowing semaphore or not passing inspection. These were minor infractions. We had no troublemakers in our platoon and I never saw a collective-type discipline for one individual’s mistake. None in our platoon failed to make it out of boot camp.

Prior to graduation, we had to qualify in proficiency tests. Two courses were offered at the time—electronics or hospital corpsman. I took the corpsman training.  I came to appreciate my drill instructors. They taught us discipline, self-respect, and love of country. Before joining the Navy, I did not have good habits. I feel that I was given excellent training, and I used it in my 20-year career in the Navy. Upon graduation, there was a full battalion parade with Navy band. I left the base proud to wear the Navy uniform.

I returned home on leave after graduation. I was given a 30-day advanced leave. I went to my high school and all my friends were impressed. From there I traveled by Greyhound Bus to the U.S. Naval Hospital Corps School in San Diego. It was HOT! Along the way, the bus lost air conditioning in Texas. I was seated in the back of the bus over the engine, wearing my dress blues. An officer told me to pull my jumper off before I fainted. I gratefully did. Ha!


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Navy Corpsman Training

I was chosen to attend Hospital Corps School based on intelligence tests taken during boot camp. I was delighted to receive this assignment, which was 16 weeks duration. I took classroom studies in anatomy and physiology, laboratory studies in microscopic analysis of disease and how to draw blood, and attended lectures on such topics as shock, different bandages, and medicines. Although I had no pre-med training of any kind before attending the school, I found it very easy. We even had "Cinderella Liberty" (return by midnight) often during the 16 weeks.

From there I was sent to Portsmouth, Virginia Naval Hospital. There I learned to take care of the needs of patients. We were rotated every month to different wards such as orthopedics, EENT, labs, X-ray, etc. I was given liberty every other evening. By the time I finished this training, I felt that my own capabilities for taking care of the sick and wounded were excellent. I could suture, draw blood, set fractures, treat shock, administer immunization shots, read X-rays, etc. I specialized as an E.K.G. technician, medical administrative technician, and in submarine medicine. After my training was completed, I was stationed at the Naval Hospital at Portsmouth from 1949 to 1950. I continued to be rotated to different wards for experience.


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War Breaks Out

When the Korean War broke out, I knew nothing about Korea. I learned about what was happening there through reading newspapers. I considered North Korea the aggressor and it should be punished. I thought we could restore peace within six months. I figured that I would be sent off to war, and that was okay with me. I thought it would be a grand adventure. In 1951, I volunteered for Fleet Marine Force duty. I was sent to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where I attended Combat Corps School.

There, we practiced amphibious training by assaulting Onslow Beach using amphibious tractors and boats. I also remember a Marine DI who gave all of us a lock and key. We had to tie the key around our neck and open a locked locker box with the key, using our teeth only. Most had tied the string too tight. The lesson learned: Think!

Camp Lejeune was a swampy area. There was a paved road about two miles long, but all the rest of the roads were dirt with deep ruts. In spite of dust, our barracks were spotless. My initial reaction to working with Marines was awe. I had heard that they were "the best," and found out that they were! We were issued clean fatigue socks, a shovel, sleeping bag, tent half, and poncho, then they trained us from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. We had simulated combat training with a .45 caliber pistol and .30 caliber M-1 rifle.

While learning how to survive in combat, I also practiced my new skills as a corpsman, treating mosquito bites, snake bites, broken arms, lacerations, and abrasions. We had liberty, but Jacksonville, North Carolina was about ten miles outside of the Main Gate. Most of us just went to "slop chutes" (beer clubs) on the base. I played the piano, which resulted in making a lot of friends and getting a lot of free beer.


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Trip to Korea

I was transferred to the 3rd Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California, and participated in more training there. We went to the rifle range, did amphibious exercises, bivouacked, and went on hikes. I was 19-years old at the time and had no wife and babies. I wrote a lot of letters to my mother in Jox, Florida, but made no other preparations to leave for overseas duty. My parents and friends were very upset that I was going to war, but they were also proud of me.

I left the United States for Korea in April of 1951 on the USS Pickaway (APA-222) Troop Transport. It held about 1,500 Marines, plus the ship’s company. The cargo included lots of ammunition, rifles, clothes, shoes, C-rations, etc., but there were no tanks or artillery pieces onboard. This was the first time I had been on a large ship on the high sea. About 90% of the Marines and I were sea sick for about three days. What a mess! Waves were about 15-20 feet high with deep swells.

The trip took about eight days. The only entertainment was playing cards, writing letters, and holding sick call daily. It was so hot and cramped below deck that I talked four Marines into going with me topside. The deck was covered with sleeping Marines, so we slept in a life boat. We were put on report the next morning and ended up painting for the next three days. I don’t remember the names of the Marines. I didn’t know anybody except some of the men in my same platoon.

The ship stopped at Kobe, Japan, for two days. There, we were issued rifles that were coated in cosmoline. After cleaning them, we were driven to the rifle range to "zero" our weapons. We left the day after and kept our rifles, as we were on our way to Korea.


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Arrival in Korea

We arrived at the port of Pusan in the morning and disembarked at once. My first impression of Korea was, "It stinks." It smelled of human feces that was used for fertilizer. I could tell that I was in a war zone because troops, trucks, tanks, and jeeps were all being unloaded and were moving north. We were transported to a military airport where a sergeant called out names and units that we were to be assigned to. I was placed in the 3rd platoon of "G" Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. The other corpsman assigned to this unit was HM3 Kenneth Johnson.

I was then transported to my unit by truck. It was in reserve waiting for replacements before going back to the line. Along the way, I saw some of the natives. I was impressed by the Papa-sans who wore black robes and tall hats. When I got to my unit, I knew no one. I was assigned to conduct sick call, check all medical supplies, and order morphine syrettes and bandages. I was happy with this job. It was what I had volunteered and trained for when I joined the Navy. While in combat in Korea, I perceived myself to definitely be a Marine. I was trained by the 2nd Marine Division in Jax, North Carolina, shipped out to the 3rd Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California for more amphibious and bivouac training, then on to Korea in the 1st Marine Division FMF.


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Meeting the Enemy

On the second day after I arrived in Korea, I saw my first enemy. They were captured Prisoners of War. They were about our age—19 to 20 years old. Three weeks later, on Communist Day, May 1, 1951, the enemy attacked us. They made banzi charges just like the Japs of World War II. I heard bugles, a lot of clanging, and men screaming. Then mortar shells fell. Our artillery opened up and killed many. I was full of fear, but not paralyzed by it. The Chinese came at us in human waves, and the Marines killed hundreds of them. The first wave only had bamboo sticks and were cannon fodder. The Chinese bodies were black and bloated on our barbed wire. It did not affect me to see the enemy killed, but I had to "tag" eight Marines who were killed, and that hurt deeply.  Korea was nothing but mountain ranges and villages, and I thought that none of it was worth losing a single American life.

Emotionally I, like everyone else, was high strung. We could hit the ground in one second. I knew fear the entire time I was on the line. I started my combat duty personally armed with a .30 caliber M-2 carbine, but I realized that I would leave it beside a wounded man to attend to another, so I got a .45 caliber pistol. In a Chinese night attack in October 1951, I was treating a wounded Marine when a "Chink" soldier with a burp gun suddenly appeared about five yards from me.  I shot him in the head with my pistol.

The only officer I remember was our platoon leader, 2nd Lieutenant Bickell from Texas. I remember when he led us into one of our own mine fields. He taught me the "Limey Fight Song." I saw him hold an unexploded 120mm mortar shell, and then throw it over the forward side of the mountain, where it detonated. Another officer, Gunnery Sergeant Neimeitz, told me to stay in his hip pocket and I would be safe. Other combat Marines gave me advice as well. Neimeitz had been awarded the Silver Star on Pelilu.  Years after Korea, he came to all of our annual conventions.  He died at home on September 25, 2001.


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On the Front Line

In the coming months, I would discover that my boot camp training would not serve me well in Korea, but my training with the Marines in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and Camp Pendleton, California, would. Also, there were things that I did not learn in stateside training that I learned in Korea during that Chinese assault. I learned to never stand up in a fire fight.  I learned how to sort the wounded into three categories: (1) Dying (2) Serious (3) Ambulatory. I also learned what it was like to try to survive in monsoon season in Korea. I got soaked. In summer, temperatures were 115 to 120 degrees. We wore green cotton shorts and undershirt, utilities (jacket, trousers, web belt), boondockers and light socks, and carried a back pack, two canteens, and a summer sleeping bag. With dust covering us, we looked like ghosts. We were above the 38th parallel in high, steep mountains. There was no vegetation because it had been destroyed by the enemy. We dug foxholes and moved forward the next day. We were very mobile. I discovered that every mountain in front of us was higher and steeper than the one we had taken the day before.  The further north we went, the higher the next one was.

When I first got to Korea, the 1st Marine Division was on the east coast. My company repelled numerous Chinese attacks and probes. We were then transferred with the entire 1st Marine Division to the west coast in one day and night. We relieved a South Korean division that was expecting a major campaign the next day. We slaughtered over 2,000 gooks in a three-hour period. The enemy was totally surprised. Ha! We had excellent support from the air and artillery. We especially liked the Marine F4U Corsair. Those pilots were good. The artillery was not quite as accurate, as every now and then they would fire a "short round", wounding and killing Marines.

While on the east coast, tank support for our unit was very limited due to the topography. We operated with four tanks on two occasions, mainly to secure new roads for supply trucks. One of my Marines died while directing a tank to a target. A 76mm tank gun shell ricocheted off the round turret and exploded above him. He died in my arms.

Our right flank was manned by Turkish soldiers. They were excellent troops. They had a tradition that once their sword was withdrawn from its scabbard, it could not be returned without tasting blood, even if it was their own. Thank God we were never flanked by Army troops. They had a reputation of "bugging out" when things got hot. We weren’t around Koreans much, either. Those that we saw were men who were paid to bring us supplies, water, ammo, C-rations, etc., on "A" frames."

A lot of Marines were wounded and killed in the 7th Regiment. Private David Rose and I had gone through training together and we were buddies in Korea.  He told me about his wife of two years and showed me a picture of their newborn son he had never seen.  He was our best "spotter" with binoculars. He would lie on top of his bunker and report pill boxes, trenches, ammo dumps by sound power phone to a tank dug in at the crest of our hill, or to nearby artillery. He was wounded twice before a 76mm mortar shell went off above him and killed him in September of 1951. They named a camp in South Korea "Camp David Rose."

In the Punch Bowl, the entire 7th Regiment conducted a daylight frontal attack, with a flanking attack by the 5th Marine Regiment. I was kept very busy because of the many WIAs and KIAs. Fighting was both daytime and nighttime, but night fighting was terror.  We had outpost line of resistance (OPLR) in the form of barbed wire, trip flares, and 50 percent watch on the Main Line of Resistance to protect ourselves from the enemy. The Chinese and North Koreans had burp guns that could fire 950 rounds per minute, Russian rifles that were two foot longer and accurate to 1,000 yards, grenades, 82 and 120mm mortars, and 76mm anti-tank artillery. They were very effective. In three years of combat, they killed over 33,000 of us.


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One Particular Battle

A three-hour battle at the Punch Bowl above the 38th parallel still stands out in my mind. It happened in September of 1951 when we tried to take an area from the North Koreans. Engineers were building a road that was to be used as a Main Supply Route. It was overlooked by the "Punch Bowl", which was an old volcano whose backside had collapsed. "Howe" and "George" Companies of the 7th Marine Regiment were involved, while "Item" Company was held in reserve. There were about 250 participants on both sides.

At around dawn, we attacked. It was foggy that morning, which gave us cover and the element of surprise. The Marines were issued as many grenades and as much M-1 rifle ammo as they could carry. Corpsmen were issued lots of morphine and as many bandages as we could carry. Positions were assigned for the assault. The officers gave orders to different squads to concentrate their fire against the strong points. They did a very good job in preparing for the attack. Due to the extreme terrain, we had no tank support, but there were two effective air strikes. We made sure our bright orange panels were placed so the Marine pilots knew where we were at all times.

The enemy had to stand up to shoot over the rim of their position. This gave the Marines perfect silhouettes and they picked them off like clay pigeons. Howe Company attacked the enemy’s left flank while we made a frontal attack. The North Koreans fled to the bottom of the hill and we shot them like shooting fish in a barrel. Our BARs were especially effective in that they held the enemy down while the Marines crawled close enough to place satchel charges and grenades. Pvt. Jim Nicholson in particular was deadly accurate with his BAR. Corporal Cronover saved his fire team by returning a grenade to the North Koreans, killing three of them.  I saw hate for North Koreans and Chinese while I was in Korea.

During the battle, I heard a funny sound to my right. This Marine started scream, "Doc, I’m hit." Upon examination, I found that a Gook bullet had creased his canteen and warm water had trickled onto his buttocks. When I told him what had happened, we both laughed during the firefight, proving that humans, even under extreme situations, still have a sense of humor. I can’t remember the exact number, but I think we had three killed and eleven wounded during this battle. As for the enemy, they were all dead. We took no prisoners.

After the battle, we dug in and set up a perimeter defense. We also transported our dead and wounded to the rear area. Because of the steep terrain, we couldn’t evacuate any of our wounded until after the battle. As a result, one Marine bled to death. Those still living were all exhausted—mentally and physically—but we accomplished our objective with total success. I was so full of adrenalin that I could hardly light a cigarette due to shaking.


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Time Marches On

When we went into Reserve, we received replacements. I remember that one time a Marine had just finished cleaning and loading his B.A.R. He had it across his lap when a young Indian Marine came into the tent and started "horse play." When he grabbed the B.A.R. by the barrel, he pulled it towards himself. Three .30 caliber bullets killed him instantly.

Winter was the most miserable time in Korea, with temperatures below zero and a wind chill factor of 50 degrees below zero. We were just miserable. We wore thermal underwear, three pairs of pants, two flannel shirts and a wool sweater with a scarf around the neck, a thick hooded parka, one pair of mittens with trigger finger, two pairs of wool socks, thermal boots, and a steel helmet to try to keep warm. It was so cold that we could fire maybe four rounds from our M-1 rifle, then the bolt would freeze in the chamber. The only way to free it was with our foot. The enemy wore a quilted grey uniform and tennis shoes.

During the winter of 1951, three Marines were overrun by North Korean troops and taken prisoner. We found them three days later, staked out spread eagle on a frozen river, naked. They had frozen to death. They were manning an OPLR. Although we never discussed the issue of possibly being taken a POW among us, I’m sure we all thought about it.

We lived in bunkers and in foxholes.  The bunker was about six feet long, three feet wide, and two feet high.  It was fairly safe and dry, with the only furnishings being our sleeping bags.  In a foxhole, we were cramped, wet when it was raining, and cold when it was snowing.


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Corpsman Duties

I was never temporary ill while I was in Korea. I knew that my 78 platoon members needed me, and sickness would have let them down.  As a line corpsman, the hardest part of my job was watching a man die, and I was helpless to prevent it.  When I came home, I did not attempt to look up the families of these lost buddies.  I could not have stood to see their hurt and broken hearts.

But I had "good moments" too.  I treated a Marine who had suffered a facial wound from shrapnel.  Bone and teeth had blocked his air passage.  I performed an emergency tracheotomy using a scalpel and the bottom of a ballpoint pen to keep his airway open.  He survived.  I know, because he rejoined our platoon two months later while we were in Reserve.  He was the only Marine that I had treated (other than minor wounds) that I ever met up with again.  Later, I taught other corpsmen how to perform a tracheotomy, and how to seal a sucking chest wound with cellophane from a pack of cigarettes.  Both were things that I had learned "on the job" in Korea.

The training I received Stateside helped me deal with the death and dying I saw in Korea.  Rotating corpsmen from ward to ward was invaluable.  I did not appreciate it then, but it paid when saving lives in Korea.  The first time I had to treat a wounded Marine happened about two miles from the MLR when we were dismounting our truck.  The Marines would hand their M-1 rifles to the Marine on the ground and then jump down about four feet.  This Marine jumped and landed on the barrel of his weapon.  The front aperture imbedded in his rectum. I gave him morphine, tied his legs together with his belt, and evacuated him.


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Everyday Life

To keep clean in Korea, I removed my helmet liner, heated water in my steel helmet, and washed my face and hands.  I also shaved, brushed my teeth, and washed my feet.  I put on clean socks daily, and changed my underwear once per week.  I changed utilities once per month.  Lice were everywhere.  I sprayed DDT powder on my Marines and myself once per week.

On the front line, our food consisted of C-rations: canned spaghetti, canned pork patties, canned beans, and fruit cocktail.  Included in the rations were a pack of cigarettes, matches, toilet paper, and a can opener.  Food in the rear area was hot -- and very good.  Thanksgiving Day dinner was the best thing I ever ate while I was in Korea.  We had a turkey dinner complete with dressing, gravy, fresh bread, cranberry sauce, and hot coffee.  It was good, but the food I missed the most was hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, and MILK!  We never had enough water, and I was always thirsty.

Our company had guys who always kept us laughing, including Private Buckoats, Corporal Connor, and 2nd Lt. Bickel, our platoon leader.  One of the three would always make a wisecrack (like, "I wonder how the poor people back home are getting along") when we were in a dangerous situation.

Receiving mail from home depended on our deployment at the time.  Mom and my sister Joyce wrote to me at least once per week.  I asked my mother to send me a camera, which she did, along with three rolls of film, for Christmas of 1951.  Other Marines got packages from home, too, usually with cake or candy in them.

I only saw one American woman while I was in Korea.  She drove a canteen truck (it had doughnuts and coffee) in Pusan and would not give us anything without money.  We had no money, so she drove off.  So much for the American Red Cross.  She left a group of bitter Marines.

In our free time in Reserve, we could go to Catholic Mass.  I went at every opportunity.  In our leisure time, we read paperback books, wrote letters, and SLEPT!  There were USO shows in Korea, and one time Bob Hope brought a troupe of beautiful American girls.  I had an erection for two days thereafter.  There were prostitutes about ten miles behind the lines, and Navy doctors and corpsman were supposed to ensure that they did not transmit any communicable diseases.  On my 20th birthday, I paid $5.00 in script and spent all night with a young Korean girl.  She was terrific and I hadn't felt so good afterwards.  I was a virgin and this Korean girl showed me how to do "it."  She also gave me oral sex, which I thoroughly enjoyed. 

We got cigarettes in our C-ration boxes, so I smoked.  I also drank two bottles of Asahi beer once per week, but I never gambled in my life, including in Korea. 

While in Reserve, our squad "adopted" a nine-year old Korean boy who washed our clothes and cleaned up our tent.  We named him "Joe-San."  All the other natives were mostly evacuated from our area, but a few times I saw a Papa-san dressed in black and wearing a high top hat. 


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Wounded

My unit suffered an extra heavy number of casualties in the Punch Bowl and on Gook’s Castle. Helicopters brought in supplies and evacuated the seriously injured. I was one of those evacuated on March 7, 1952. Those pilots were our heroes and everyone admired their courage.

At dawn on March 7, I was running toward a wounded Marine when suddenly everything went white as I went unconscious from the explosion of a 120mm mortar shell that filled my body with shrapnel. When I awoke, I was in a container attached to a helicopter. I could see clouds in the sky and thought I was in Heaven. Ha! I was given immediate medical assistance at "C" Company, 1st Medical Battalion, where I received two units of whole blood, and was bandaged, tagged, and flown to a hospital ship. I had minor wounds on both legs and arms.

I was flown to Kobe Naval Hospital in Japan, given three more units of blood, then flown to San Diego, California. From there I was transported to the US Naval Hospital in Corona, California. I underwent X-rays to pinpoint where the shrapnel was.  Two pieces were left in me because they were so close to the spinal cord, neurosurgeons did not have the expertise nor the instruments to remove them.  One was in my lower back and the other in my neck.  My family was not able to come and visit me at the hospital.  They couldn't afford to travel 3,000 miles from Florida to California.

I had no idea what had hit me in Korea until one of my platoon members was brought to my ward. He had witnessed the event. Private Buckoatz said that I was thrown up about five feet and didn’t move. He reported it and the helicopter was dispatched to evacuate me. When I got home, my mother told me that when the telegram informing my family that I had been injured arrived at my home in Jacksonville, Florida, she cried all day. But she was also relieved that I had not been killed.  I received a Purple Heart for wounds sustained on March 7, 1952.  I wear it proudly.  The Marines affectionately call it the "Chinese Marksman Medal."

I recovered in three months, but I never returned to Korea. Nurse Wilma Bushue was great and gave me anything that I wanted. The last two weeks of my three-month internment, Nurse Bushue took me in her car to the best steak house in Corona. What a pleasant time.  I finished out my first enlistment in the Navy at the US Navy Submarine Base in Charleston, South Carolina.  My duty there was being the only medical person on board a submarine that had 78 crew members.  I tried to forget what I had been through for ten months in Korea.  I drank every day.

I reenlisted in the Navy when my enlistment was up.  I attended E.K.G. and B.M.R. School, where I was first in my class, and studied Medical Administration Technique for one year.  In 1955, I married Mariea LaCone.  We became parents of Michael, 45; Denise, 44; Mariea, 31; and Laura, 29.  The main job I eventually settled in to was administration in hospitals and dispensaries.


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Civilian Life

On December 9, 1968, I was discharged from the Navy when I retired with 20 years of honorable service.  I had been a Chief Petty Officer for eleven of those years.  Two years later, I received a Bachelor of Science degree in Management from Florida State University.  I held a 3.2 grade average in the Class of 1970.  While continuing my formal education, I noticed that other students' outlook on life differed than mine.  They were there to party.  I was pursuing an education.

I have bilateral tendonitis and arthritis of the entire spinal column as the result of the injuries I received in Korea.  I filed for 100% disability with the Veteran's Administration in 1988.  After four years, my case was sent to Washington, D.C., and I was granted my claim, along with four years' back pay.  In the meantime, I had  shrapnel removed from my lumbar spine in 1989, and shrapnel was removed from my cervical spine in 1991.

"G" Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment veterans hold a reunion annually with the 1st Marine Division in different states, and I attend them.  I found my Gunny Sergeant and 28 men that I served with.  This year it will be in New York, New York, from July 1 through July 7, 2002.


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Final Reflections

I think it was right for the United States to send troops to Korea to stop the spread of communism, but I don't think that MacArthur should have gone north of the 38th parallel.  The objective was to repel enemy troops to the 38th parallel.  Crossing it was a serious mistake that, if not made, might have altered the outcome of the war.  And now, I don't think the United States should still have troops stationed in Korea.  The R.O.K. troops should be able to defend their country without our assistance.

My strongest memories of Korea are of the death, dying, suffering, pain, long hikes, and night patrols.  I believe that all who served there were "heroes."  But when we came home, Americans did not honor us with parades or welcoming crowds.  Instead, some returning troops were presented with bags of dog dung from "hippies" who had no idea of what we had gone through.  I know that it is a fact that World War II veterans are treated with more respect and appreciation than Korean War veterans.  The cause is lack of education and care.

The good that I see coming out of the Korean War is that South Korea is now a prosperous country, converted from an agrarian to an industrial society.  But I never want to see that country again.  I left my heartaches there, and have no desire to revive them.  If some student someday finds a copy of this memoir for use in a term paper or something, I would want him or her to understand that the sacrifice of 53,000 American lives [worldwide Korean War casualty figure] was not in vain.  They were patriots who should always be honored and remembered.  I have told my children and others about all the good and bad times in Korea.  While recovering from my wounds in Corona Naval Hospital, a doctor told me never to keep it inside, because it would eat my soul.


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Once a Marine Corpsman...

There is a saying, "Once a Marine, always a Marine."  The same is true for corpsmen.  "Once a corpsman, always a corpsman."  But there is a distinctive difference when talking about line corpsmen.  Then the saying changes to, "Once a Marine Corpsman, always a Marine Corpsman."  You can easily differentiate a Marine Corpsman from a regular corpsman due to his intensity and loyalty.  When I went to Korea, I was a fun loving boy.  By the time I returned, I had become a disciplined, serious adult.  Korea made me a man who cared very much for life and helping others.

Korea was hot as Hell in the summer, cold as the Arctic in the winter, and had steep, high mountains to climb.  If you get an invitation to go there, "DON'T GO!"


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