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Thumbnail The Korean Trench War
A Corpsman's Random Memories

History  Bert '53  On Line

Herb Renner, Master Chief, USN, Retired (Jan 1971)
August 25, 2000

Never heard anything about the "world" until Vietnam. I guess returning to the "world" expressed what we all privately wanted to return to from Korea---family, friends, our good old car and open highways.

THE KOREAN TRENCH WAR -- A Corpsman's Perspective (If you detect a certain lack of detail in the following vignettes it is because this was written over 48 years after the events took place.)

I'll never forget my tour of duty with the Marine Infantry. Some of the best friends I ever had, that took me to the most frightening places I'd ever experienced, during the last six months of the war with the 5th Marines, 2nd Bn, Easy Co.

I still remember my first casualty. A Marine was putting up a blanket over the bunker door, using a .30 round for a nail and a grenade for a hammer. He was lucky. The round went off and not the grenade. He lost a few small pieces of his left thumb and forefinger, but went on patrol that night. His right trigger finger was in good shape.

In January 1953 the strength of the whole Marine Corps was about 18,700 officers and about 230,400 men. The Commandant was General Shepherd. General Taylor had command of the Eighth Army in Korea. Major General Pollock commanded the Marines in Korea.

In the field, in Korea, we (USN Corpsmen) never wore red crosses, or carried any visible gear that the gooks might use to identify us as Corpsmen. If that surprises you, understand that 1,170 corpsmen lost their lives in WWII, in Korea 108, in Vietnam, 638. We obviously needed weapons. Our job was one of mercy, we cared for all injured, friend or captured foe, warrior or civilian, but we also went on combat patrols and all ordinary Marine missions. We went through Boot Camp like regular Marines, and then through Medical training, and when we were assigned to Fleet Marines we not only adequately armed, but also competent in their use.

In the field, we were issued 782 Gear1, .45 automatic pistol model 1911A1 with two extra magazines, holster and a box of ammo. Thermo boots, field boots and all the other clothing and foul weather gear a Marine had. An M-1 Rifle, with ammo and a bayonet, and a K-Bar knife. Web belt and all the stuff you can hang on it, but always a canteen, containing chlorinated water for washing wounds. Sometimes, rifle grenades and launchers could be had. The first aid kit was carried out of sight in the rear, never any serum albumin cans (a blood volume expander) taped to the helmet, as you might see in the movies. Grenades, we kept in our pockets, or hung by a spoon on an outside strap (I never hung them on a strap). We liked concussion grenades, for tossing into trenches and bunkers, and they weren't as dangerous as fragmentation grenades.

782 Gear1--LtCol Curt Bruce, USMC, Retired, dug most of the following from the Guidebook for Marines, 1945 Edition: The 782 gear consisted of a "haversack, knapsack, belt suspenders (better looking than Larry Kings), cartridge belt, bayonet with scabbard, oil and thong, meat can with cover, knife-fork-spoon, canteen with cup and cover, first aid packet and pouch (sulfa dressing?), poncho, shelter half with pole-five pins-and guy wire, steel helmet with liner, helmet cover (camo), gas mask with cover, entrenching tool (combination shovel/pick), and grenade pouch."

Added to this was cold weather gear: a parka with fur trimmed hood, mittens with trigger fingers, mitten inserts, water proof trousers, thermo boots, heavy socks, and other assorted cold weather needs like chemical heaters, etc. By 1953 leggings were no longer issued. (Trousers were tied and rolled over at boot top or just flapped in the wind. I never knew how the odd man with a shelter half got out of the wet and cold. I guess he tacked down the corners and crawled under it. In the trench warfare they were used as doors for the bunkers, to cover the dead or used to carry wounded)

On patrol, a Thompson submachine or a Grease gun was great if you could get one (they used .45 cal. ammo) The M-1 was kept in the bunker and usually only used to defend our static position. Because I was assigned to a fire team and one of my buddies was a BARman, I carried an extra harness of .30 Cal. magazines when we fought on Vegas. And, at times we were in blocking positions in that area, in March of 1953, with the 5th Marines, 2nd Bn, Easy Co.

If nothing was going on, about every two weeks we could go back to a field shower unit, bathe and exchange our clothes for clean ones. If a field mess was found, the cooks would give you some meat, cheese, onions, butter and bread for sandwiches. They weren't stingy and loaded us up, especially if we had a souvenir to trade.

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Quiet times were used to build up fortifications. Sand bagging, digging trenches, bringing up supplies. The wire out front of the MLR had tin cans with stones in them, hung on the wire, and 55 gallon drums of napalm* with TNT in the bottom wired to a detonator, dug into the slope at about a 45 degree angle. Mine fields were everywhere, especially "bouncing bettys"**. Going out past the outposts at night you had to step carefully to avoid getting tangled in all the com wire. I always thought the Gooks had a sure path, just to follow the com wire in, if they found it. Bunkers were built by digging through the side of a deep reverse slope trench at a 45 degree angle about three feet wide and about 8 feet long, as an entrance way. Then, at the end, digging a room about 12' by 12'. This was all covered with logs, then sand bags, up to about 3 feet thick, then covered with about a foot of earth. A fake chimney was a piece of stove pipe that stopped beneath the earth. The real chimney, for the Yukon stove, came up under the earth, went about 12' horizontal and came out near a bush. This was to prevent the gooks dropping grenades down our smoke stack. The 45 degree entrance prevented the enemy shooting in or grenading the bunker. The door was a shelter-half or blanket.

(*) Napalm--An acronym derived from naphthenic and palmitic acids whose salts are used in its manufacture. It is a jellied gasoline used in flame throwers, fougasses (a name for the imbedded drums mentioned above) and aerial bombs.

(**) Bouncing Betty--An anti-personnel mine that discharged a 75mm shell to about a head height explosion.

Outside, about twenty feet from the bunker door was a "piss tube". An ammo sleeve of impregnated card board stuck in a small soakage pit, it was used instead of going all the way to the head. One night a Corpsman from our bunker stepped out to use it, just as a mortar round came in, and caught a shell fragment in the buttocks (same as Forrest Gump). An ambulance jeep came up and took him back to a medical battalion. He spent a few weeks sleeping on his belly. He was one of two Corpsmen that were sent to relieve me that got hit, before they had spent enough indoctrination time on the MLR to take over on patrols.

I remember when a Gook 82mm mortar found our "4 Holer" head. No one was in it at the time, but it certainly made a mess. Turds and slime everywhere. It took hours to find it all and cover it with dirt. Field sanitation went to hell that day. Worm pills and DDT powder had to be distributed when the lice and worms started to itch. You could tell when someone was bothered with them. Scratching their head, their butt, or both. They said malaria and hemorrhagic fevers were present in Korea, but I never saw a case.

Our bunker was big enough for a six of us. It was almost water proof. Bunks were made of barb wire stakes laced with com wire to hold the air mattress and mountain sleeping bag. Ammo crates made side tables with a lantern or candle, stools and a card table. A Yukon stove (similar to a metal box on legs) completed the furnishings, fueled with a jerry-can of diesel, a hose and a drip valve.

That stove could get cherry red and damn near run you out of the bunker. When on the bunk reading, rats in the overhead logs read along with you and helped themselves to the chow. We had a mutual understanding. Stay off our face when we were sleeping and we won't throw a concussion grenade in the bunker to kill you. I swear to this day that Korean rats could read English and loved their gourmet C-rations. Otherwise, with all the shooting going on they probably wouldn't have stayed around, unless they also enjoyed chewing on a Chinese carcass.

Unless something was going on, we slept during the day and patrolled at night. Patrols were called Cadillacs, Chevrolets, Buicks and some other names. I can't remember which were which, but they were combat, ambush, recon, etc., patrols. I liked the ambush patrol in the spring because we could lay out under the stars and wait for the gooks to find us (which they seldom did)

In winter the recon patrols were the best. You could keep warm moving around. Combat patrols involved getting into the Gooks trenches and blowing up their outpost bunkers. These weren't fun, because the Gooks would get mad as hell and shoot back or you had to break your butt getting away from a satchel charge blast. Moon lit nights were double dangerous for obvious reasons.

Sometimes we didn't have to go out very far, if it was too bright, just hang around an outpost or stay close in. No sense getting slaughtered by the Gook mortars. The story was, every Gook had a mortar and a hundred ammo carriers. They were good shots! Every now and then, we would find a couple of their lookouts in a shell hole not far from our lines. Usually half frozen in the winter. The G-men liked to get them for questioning before they were sent back to a prisoner compound. Our Company commander dearly loved prisoners. I think he got a bonus for everyone captured. Small patrols were lead by a sergeant, or better, and platoon size by an officer The larger the number on patrol the more the danger. I could never hear very well, but it seemed to me I could hear every foot step of everyone around me. The patrol leader usually put me one man forward of the tail gunner. Because we had good leaders, we took very few casualties and none of them serious on the patrols I accompanied, and I went on a lot of them. We took more casualties in blocking actions from incoming artillery.

One night we got trapped in a small bowl with low ridges on both sides and the front. The Gooks were on the other side of the front ridge and must have thought we had crossed it and were heading for them. They were pounding the area with small 61mm mortars and spraying it with machine gun fire. We were in platoon strength. The lieutenant called in machine gun fire just over our heads toward the front ridge and had a mortar barrage box us in on three sides so we could escape from the rear of the bowl. Our machine gunners fired so low that a man with a spool of com wire on his back, who was trapped near the top of the front ridge, got some rounds through the spool. We got out of the bowl and tried to flank the Gooks, but they were wise to us and started to walk mortars toward us. The patrol was aborted and we went back to the MLR. No casualties that night.

Somewhere near the Nevada Cities we got smashed by what someone said was our own artillery 105mm. I never found out for sure. Guess I really didn't want to know. We lost about a dozen Marines, many killed. The "chiggy bearers" came up to take out the bodies and the non-walking wounded. Those were brave little old guys from South Korean labor battalions. I had heard the shells exploding as they walked toward us up the gully we were in, and got up under a washed out tree root beside a dry stream bed. I pulled my helmet down so hard it probably covered my feet. The blast of a shell hitting above me bounced me around, covered me with debris from the tree roots and I couldn't hear for awhile.

Artillerymen considered themselves the "King of the Battlefield" because their massed fire could cause such destruction. The steel rain from their guns could destroy the fighting ability of whole companies of Chinese. If they were king, the mud Marines were the Knights that met the enemy in the field.

Another time, we were positioned in a field, below some of our tanks that were sitting on a ridge. Resting and eating what we had gotten from a field mess, on a reverse slope, near the front. I guess the Gooks saw the tanks and started shooting at them. The short rounds fell on us. It was broad daylight. Huge pieces of shell fragments got some of the guys. I finally got to a guy that had caught one in the head. It took off most of the right side. I put an abdominal battle dressing over the wound and gave him a shot of morphine. Neither, of course, did any good. I just stayed with him until he expired. I didn't recognize him because of the size of the wound and I long ago forgot the name on his dog tags.

I was 6'2", about 190 lbs, when I arrived at Camp Pendleton. When I boarded the troop ship, going home from the "Land of the Morning Calm", I weighed about 165 lbs. I had started my unexpected military career in the "week end warriors", while in High School. After I graduated, I went to a Navy/Marine recruiting station to join the Marines. They were out to lunch on the Marine side. A Navy Chief grabbed me and talked me into joining the regular Navy. I went to boot camp at Great Lakes (seems I didn't have enough "week end warrioring" to escape boot camp) Immediately got pneumonia. The Corpsmen in sickbay pulled me through and I got back to "butts and muzzles", because I was always screwing up. When it was time to leave boot camp, it was detected that I had been a soda jerk in a drug store. The Personnelman looked up "soda jerk" in his book and found that "soda jerks" memorized formulas for making ice cream dishes and was suitable as a Corpsman trainee. Off I went to Corps School, where I did well enough to get two stripes with a Caduceus patch. Off I went by train to Beaufort Naval Hospital, near Parris Island.

I was now close to real Marines. We had loads of boot Marine patients and Marines wounded in Korea at the hospital. Parris Island in those days was very close to being a kin to Devils Island. I drove an ambulance over to Parris Island, sometimes, and watched the poor souls getting their ass kicked by a D.I. One kid told me that the best job was to be assigned to the garbage detail because the mess halls threw out some pretty good stuff to eat. Some of the boot patients I saw on the "dirty" surgery ward had the soles of their feet torn and blistered from being forced to run barefoot on hot macadam roads in the South Carolina summer heat.

When those kids got out of boot camp, they could eat nails. Many times I got my lumps in a barroom brawl from a "just graduated monster" who thought us boys in our nice, neat, little Navy suits were put on earth solely as punching bags. They probably thought the Caduceus on our left arm meant we healed fast. I left that duty station, with a front tooth missing, as an HM3, heading for Camp Pendleton and God knows what! Field Med School, amphibs, combat in towns, obstacle courses, cold weather training at Pickle Meadows, shooting ranges and close order drill were the Whats!

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I remember the M-1 had a muzzle velocity of 2300 feet per second and the effective range of 1000 yards. There ain't much to see at 1000 yards when you spend most of your time crawling on your belly. And, I almost got run over by an amtrac doing just that, near Delmar. When the D.I.s were through with us, I could climb a rope on the "No-Name", hand over hand, with a full field transport pack. We really needed more Field Med Schooling than we got, looking back, but a war was on and somebody had to carry the bandaids. Matter of fact, we were needed in hurry enough to warrant a Flight Draft, on PanAm Clipper "Red Rover". That was the name of the first hospital ship, used in the Civil War, an old side-wheeler river boat type.

We fueled in Hawaii, landing in Itami Japan and then on to Kimpo Airport in Korea. We boarded a troop train that had most of the floor and windows blown out. I think we stopped before every bridge while someone went ahead to see if it was safe to cross. Finally reaching the rail end at Munsun-ni. We were assigned units and left for the front by trucks. We got out and straggled up to the front line unit. (I mean "straggled" because you don't do a Parade March where the Gooks might see you) It was a bright winter day that was about to turn to doom and gloom a few months later.

I remember three Marines by name now, One was a patrol-leading Sergeant nick-named "Trigger Jack" Williams, Leo Kelly a BARman, and Bill Sterns a radioman. Its funny, but I can't remember all the names of the other Corpsmen in our Company, except "Pappy" Grisham who blew up a "Yukon" stove by inadvertently getting gasoline at the fuel dump, and Jim Garrison, a good friend. One side of Pappy's face was black for weeks. What a chuckle we all got out of that! Later it was my turn to get dusted by a back-fire. My "Eatie Wa" spoon still rests in a kitchen drawer. The only spoon in the drawer that has been to war. Made from a shell casing by an old Korean grandpa and traded for a pack of Luckys.

Next best thing to boarding a troop ship headed for home was the mail and packages. They could really raise your spirits. I still have most of the letters that I wrote home, that my folks saved. Return addressed: Co. E, 2-5, 1st Mar.Div., c/o FPO, San Francisco, California (no zip code in those days)

From what was heard, you would have thought the Army was fighting the whole war, but the 1st Marine Division, Reinforced, was there and when it came to the fight for the Nevada Cities, on the ground, they were alone. The major part of the conflict, from March 26th to 30th, was a determined effort by the Chinese to take Reno, Carson and Vegas, the Marine Outposts, and just as determined Marines to prevent their success.

Everything we ate, with the exception of mess tent hand outs, come in cans called C-rations. Most of the cans contain two things like; Meat & Spaghetti, Meat & Noodles, Ham & Lima Beans, Chicken & Vegetables, etc. Another can will have crackers left over from the Civil War, and another has toilet paper, cigarettes, matches, etc. What we didn't like, we dug a hole and buried it so a future generation can get a taste of the junk. One thing was excellent. That was the C-ration can opener. A little piece of metal about an inch and a half long with a fold out hook-like cutter. One of the best inventions ever made.

The only good thing about being in on an attack or counter-attack, was the food. We were issued assault rations. Little cans of concentrated food and delicious chocolate bars. One I especially liked was the scrambled eggs with ham chunks.

When I dreamed, it wasn't about the war. It was about food. Steamed crabs and beer. Pizza pie (it was just catching on). Roasted turkey with all the trimmings. Big slabs of baked ham. Home made pies and ice cream. I heard the Army had ice cream!

When patrols are out we sat up and waited to see if they got back OK. We took turns on patrol. Two go out on a pair of patrols and one Corpsman stays put in the bunker. We got one full night's sleep out of three. Some nights, the Army on the right flank made such a noise that it was hard to sleep, with them shooting at the shadows. When not working on fortifications we could write letters, cook some chow, wash clothes or ourselves, or clean a weapon. Some nights, when not on patrol we were assigned duty on the sound powered phones logging the watches and outposts checking-in. That was a welcome change, with hot coffee all night.

On the MLR, we had a fifty caliber machine gun mounted in a covered firing position and the gunner was very good at snapping off one round when the situation called for it. With nothing much to do, I just happened at the firing position while he was watching a Gook digging in a trench, through a telescopic sight mounted on the gun. The Gook would go down in the trench, get a basket of dirt, come up a ladder and throw the dirt over the edge of the trench. The gunner told me to take a pair of binoculars he had and watch the Gook the next time he came up the ladder. He came up again. A fifty caliber slug hit him and threw him on the back of the trench. The gunner said he had been tweaking the gun in on the Gook for the last ten minutes, or so.

The worst weapon of war, in my opinion, was the napalm. We were on patrol at night and came across a group of Gooks that had been hit with the stuff. They were fried in grotesque positions. Some sitting, some kneeling and some on their face in the dirt. Some still holding their weapons. The smell of burned flesh still lingered.

Should you want to remember the smell of a battlefield, just smell the opening of a cartridge case that has recently been fired. That's the smell that permeates the haze.

Air observers flew in small aircraft that looked like a Piper Cub from a distance. One afternoon one crashed landed between us and the Gooks. Someone from the plane got out and started to run in the direction of the Gook lines. Everyone, all along the line, that saw it, yelled at the guy to turn around. The guy saw the Marines and quickly ran back to a bunch of Marines that would guide him through the mines and barb wire. That event broke the monotony of a dull day on the MLR.

I was helping a Bill Sterns, a radioman, string some com wire along the trench. He got up on the edge to put some dirt over the wire, to hold it down, when "crack" a bullet snapped right by his head. I wasn't more than a couple feet from him and heard the sound like a whip crack. Needless to say, we kept our heads down, and tried to spot the sniper, to no avail.

Artillery shells and mortar rounds that the Chinese shot at us was called "in-coming" and the shells going toward them was called "out-going". The in-coming had an eery whistle. The outgoing, big shells, "chugged" like a train on a hill.

Mortar crews had a pit lined around the sides with sand bags and a small shelf where they planted aiming stakes. Depending on the distance the projectile was to be fired, they put "increments" on the fins to give the shot a boost.

The Chinese had the best trench works. Some were so deep and wide you could drive a truck through them. If you ever fell into the deep ones you would need a ladder to get out. They also dug out the hills to make bomb proof hide outs.

The only enemy planes that flew over were at night, called "Midnight Charlie", headed south to bomb a supply depot. One night he made a hit and half the sky lit up. We never saw the plane. He only flew on the dark of the moon. The plane sounded like it was old and needed the engine overhauled.

Tanks had 90mm guns that could fire a shot and put another in the same spot. I believe it was called a "floating gun-sight". They would come up on the MLR and fire from revetments. I happened to run afoul of one. Walking down a trench line, I didn't see the muzzle sticking over the trench. It went off and a blast from the sides of the muzzle-brake hit me, knocked me down and my helmet was in the trench a dozen feet away. My hearing was lost for hours. At first I thought in-coming had killed me!

On a five hour patrol you come back tired and ready for some chow and coffee. Usually those waiting up for you had some ready and were waiting to hear any interesting stories of the patrol.

Out on patrol, if you were down wind of the Gooks you could smell them because they ate a lot of garlic and pickled cabbage called KimChee. Sometimes we got close enough to hear them chatter while they dug fortifications. If there was a good fix on their location a fire mission could be called down on the poor unfortunate souls.

The searchlight at Panmunjom stayed on all night pointed straight up so no one would shell or bomb them. We used to think of stealing the light and bringing it over to our hill so we wouldn't get shelled or bombed.

A map I saw indicated we were on hill 126. Three enemy hills were in front of us called Betty Grable, because it had a long leg, hill 98 and Frisco or Garry. They were napalmed, bombed and rocketed by our airplanes quite often. I don't know if they were in range of naval gunfire, but I heard the Missouri sometimes fired on hills with delayed action fuzed shells to blast the hill top off. I remember that an armor piercing 16" shell weighed 2500 pounds and took 6 or 8 hundred pounds of powder to lob it 20 miles.

Going back to the showers and getting clean clothes can be dangerous. Once, a plane bombed us and we had to jump into a rice paddy to get cover behind a retaining wall. A piece of shell fragment, larger than my hand and as thick, slid in the mud, right in front of my eyes, turning iridescent colors as it cooled. The plane looked like one of ours. They get confused sometimes. No one caught a piece of the bomb, so we went on our way, when the plane left.

When it's cold we patched up holes in the bunker to keep out the wind. When it rains the water runs from the trench into the bunker and a drainage ditch has to be dug to get it out. One day it snowed about an inch with the sun shining. At night, with a moon out and its reflection on the snow, it is bright as day. There is no patrol on a night like that. You could see everything that moved. When the ground is thawed and it rains the mud seemed to have no bottom.

On patrol we found plenty of "safe conduct passes", ours and theirs. I don't remember a Gook ever using one. The Gook would have been shot long before we knew what he had in his hand.

Sometimes we could find a mess tent in the rear serving cube steak and powered eggs with reconstituted milk. The king of all meals. It didn't take long for the word to get around.

On a platoon night raid on Frisco, a Corpsman got hit by a mortar fragment in the knee and had to be relieved of duty. That same night Benny Hudson was killed by a mortar shell landing between his legs. He was a real good buddy of mine. He was from Lorton Virginia. When that happens, you sit around all day and try to think of a reason why a guy should die for a hill that we don't even keep. Then, we go out again and fight on the same hill another night.

When there is a bombing raid going on, it shakes the bunker and dirt falls in from the sides and roof, which have to be repaired.

The Army leaves a lot of stuff lying around to be "liberated." One time we lifted a tommy gun and a case of rifle grenades. At the railhead, the Army got their fresh vegetables in refrigerated freight cars. The refrigeration was blocks of ice in bins that could be entered through hatches on top of the cars. Under the floor boards of our strong backed tents we dug holes lined with burlap to use as our refrigerator with the ice supplied by the Army. The ice went well with our drinks.

On a big raid, like one that was planned for hill 98, which was later cancelled, there would be 180 men, 9 flame throwers, 6 machine guns, 6 bazookas, with others having carbines and BAR's. Four Corpsmen would go on a raid this size. The hill would be "softened-up" by aircraft attacks and artillery fire.

One of our patrols got ambushed when they went out to ambush the Gooks. The patrol came in missing one man. A new patrol was organized to find him, but he was never found. He was listed as missing in action. The new patrol got some grenades flung at them, but a mortar barrage called-in, took care of that.

When in reserve, a stay is about 40 days. When the beer comes in everyone gets three cans. Movies are on a make-shift screen and the seats are sand bags. One time, the beer tent caught fire. The strong-backed tent was a total loss, but not a can of beer was lost. There were times that a USO show showed up for an evening of entertainment that was really enjoyed. The girls looked fantastic in their dance costumes. It was a problem getting a sand bag seat near the stage.

During the Nevada Cities battles we were called up from reserve to be thrown into a blocking action and later into an attack on Vegas. A few things happened that are vivid to this day. We were passing an aid station, slightly wounded and dead were outside. I went in to look for some replacement medical supplies. I never got much. Medical officers and Corpsmen were working on the seriously wounded. The stench, gore and foul air in that dark bunker with the cries and groans of the wounded was just too much to bear. I had to get out into the fresh air and see what I could do for those outside. Another, was a run along a rice paddy wall when a 76mm opened up on us. A Marine far in front, jumped into a shell hole for cover. A shell fell right into the same hole with him. There was little left. I continued to run, when I heard a round whiz by, toward the end of the wall for cover, I fell, and sticking up from the dirt were the three prongs of a "bouncing betty" anti-personnel mine. After I got up and ran into a shallow ravine, there was a Marine who had an emotional breakdown being sent back to the rear. The first and last one I ever saw. He was a sergeant from my platoon. Sometime during the fight I remember the word being passed that Major Lee and Captain Walz were killed.

We were headed up a lower slope of Vegas when an enemy mortar barrage came in. I had flopped down beside a radioman who had one of those big radios with the long whip antenna. He may have been a forward observer. When the barrage lifted I got up to run and the radioman didn't move. I checked him out and discovered something had gone through his helmet and destroyed the top of his head. There weren't many wounded because there weren't many of us left. I still remember the eyes of the dead Marines, that were open, seemed to be staring blankly into the haze of the battlefield. Those with eyes closed appeared to be asleep. The bodies of the recent dead, that hadn't yet been moved and covered, were sometimes in the strangest positions. Probably running when they caught a shell fragment.

Shells that hit frozen ground are the greater danger than those that hit in the mud. More of the former's fragments fly on the horizontal. Direct fire is much more dangerous than indirect fire. Indirect fire is a potluck type of hit, where direct fire is coming from someone looking directly at you with plans to take you out. VT fuzing is a radio proximity that causes the shell to explode a few feet before it hits the ground and is especially lethal against exposed infantry.

If you take some Marine bravado, mix it with being scared, than angry and throw in a determination to take the fight to the enemy, you end up with courage. Courage is what makes the Marines a great fighting force. What seems an impossible task, courage carries them through. Marine veteran officers and NCO's are extremely good leaders and exhibit a strength of character that causes us to follow where ever they lead. They are always out front with the troops, exposed to the murderous fire and that is why so many of them get killed or seriously wounded. Even in civilian life, military officers and NCO's that have seen their share of combat with front line troops make excellent people with which to work. Trifling things don't bother them.

Something that you see or hear in war movies or books is a lot of profanity. That is not the way it is. Profanity is only used when a certain situation calls for it, like when scared or angry. Certain substances are described using profane language, such as morning chow that is a red or white sauce with hamburger served over toast. Everyone calls it SOS, meaning shit on a shingle. Sunday evenings cold cuts are usually served and called horse cock. A mattress cover is a fart sack. A garbage can is a shit can. Navy and Marine profanity is mutually understood. There is no learning curve to contend with when a Marine goes aboard ship or a sailor is stationed with the Marines, except a small bit of jargon has to be picked up. The Navy has no H&S Company (Headquarters and Service) and a Marine would think a 4 by 4 was a wooden beam instead of a wound dressing.

What was left of the trenches was plastered with mud. What had been trees or bushes were stumps with twigs sticking out. The barbed wire aprons were all snarled and blown apart. The com wire strands were everywhere and probably going nowhere now. During an attack on an enemy position, you start out with basically the whole unit all around you. Then you stop to treat a wounded man and look around and there are few, if anyone, around. It's a stop and catch-up situation. I had a tendency to get disoriented except for the fact that the usual direction was "up" the hill. I never had a map or compass. When I did get lost there usually came along a Marine that knew the proper direction.

When I first reached the upper reverse slope of Vegas there was a Chinese prisoner coming back with a leg wound that I dressed. Much later, I found out he was a 21 year old litter-bearer that had been dug out of a collapsed bunker. We spent the night fitfully sleeping in trenches that were no more than 2 feet deep, having been blown-in by artillery and mortar fire. The next morning, very early, before the morning mist had cleared, we were attacked by the Chinese, after a barrage of artillery fire from them was lifted. Leo Kelly had his BAR working and was cutting them down as they came out of the mist and smoke. They fell like rag dolls. They were too far away to see their features. I was carrying ammo for him and squatted beside him and handed him magazines when he ran out of his supply. The Gooks left, and the remainder of the day was without much disturbance. When we were relieved I carried a bazooka tube back down the hill. The hill was littered with personal weapons, both ours and the Chinese. We broke what we couldn't carry in case the Chinese were to overrun the hill again. I can't remember what the weather was like except there was mud. Maybe it was clear above the battlefield haze which could obscure the sky or there could have been low clouds scudding over. There had been full moons that could be seen sometimes at night, whose light shown through the clouds and haze.

I don't remember going back to the MLR or anything else after leaving that hill. It seems to be a blank. I usually thought about getting some chow or catching some shut-eye. I never got a scratch. I guess the closest to getting hit was the time in the winter, on patrol, when a shell fragment cut the ski cleat off one of my thermo boots, the tug on my foot almost knocked me down. I did get plenty of dings on my flack jacket and helmet. The battles of the Nevada Cities had raged for five days before the Chinese gave up the attack. Vegas remained ours, Reno was lost forever, and Carson was never completely overrun to my knowledge or if it was it was immediately retaken.

After the cease-fire on 27 July 1953, at 1000, there was still plenty to do taking care of the sick and wounded from mishaps. I got transferred to the 1st Engineer Battalion and worked in a quonset hut, turned sickbay. We had a shell shocked dog we adopted and called him Tiger. A backfire would send him under a cot hiding for hours. He had a mineral deficiency, we thought, and he ate gravel until he got a prolapse of the rectum from the compaction. We had to put him to sleep. He had eaten the food and vitamins we had given him, but he would never give up the gravel. That dog was really missed. He was everyone's friend. We couldn't shoot him. We put a hose from a jeep exhaust into a large box, gave him sedatives, and when he was asleep we put him in the box. He was buried on a hill side with a big rock as a headstone, with "Tiger" painted on it.

Not long after Tiger's death, some of us were sent to an Army supply depot to get diesel fuel. Fourteen drums were on the requisition. We were loading the fuel when someone spotted drums of 190 proof ethanol on some pallets near by. We loaded 13 drums of fuel and hid a drum of ethanol among then. When we got back to the battalion the Colonel found out about it and sent an orderly down to the sickbay to get a coffee pot full. Grapefruit juice and 190 makes a wonderful drink that has some real body. The grapefruit juice ran out long before the alcohol.

The tank trucks had to go to a water point to get the sanitized water from a stream. We dammed up the stream below the water point and had one fine swimming hole. We had plenty of heavy equipment to help build the dam.

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The Engineers were given the assignment to clear some mines and I tagged along far to the rear of the Marines that hunted for and dug up the mines. I had to be available in case one exploded. "One" never did in this operation. On patrol once, a Marine had stepped on a wooden box mine that knocked him down and put splinters in his legs. He was able to walk back to the MLR and I picked the splinters out of his legs. We decided he was one lucky Marine. I hung out with the guys in Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) when not in the sickbay and they taught me a lot about disarming shells and mines. I even had the opportunity to watch a huge pile of shells, mines, and other explosives destroyed, from about a quarter mile away, in a bunker with a small slit to view it through. It was a tremendous explosion with streamers of white phosphorous and a huge cloud of smoke and debris. The crater was large enough to topple a small mountain into. Some of the fragments fell on and past the bunker. The Engineers had rigged the munitions with C-3 strung with primer cord so it all went off in one big bang.

When I was a kid, I was pretty good with guns and went hunting near the Blue Ridge mountains in Maryland, where my grandfather had a farm. Long before I got to the FMF, I was a good shot with both a rifle and a shotgun. My father was a Washington, D.C. policeman. He made me join the NRA and take their training course before he would take me hunting. The NRA had an indoor shooting range downtown and they supplied the rifles and ammo for training. After shooting, we all headed for a hotel where there was an indoor swimming pool.

Getting home from Korea was a lot easier than getting there. After being dusted with DDT powder and getting worm pills, we boarded a troop ship and headed for Treasure Island, near San Francisco, California. We drew our pay, had some fine meals. I got discharged and was given an airline ticket home to D.C. Eighty-nine days later I was back in the Navy assigned to the Atlantic SeaBees. Before retiring my final tour of actual sea duty was aboard the nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine the Theodore Roosevelt (SSBN 600-Gold Crew). I qualified on the first patrol and was assigned a section as Chief of the Watch, followed by a two year tour of duty at NAMRU#2 (a medical research unit in Taiwan) doing business in Vietnam on disease studies, with my final duty station being the U.S. Naval Dispensary, Fiscal and Supply in Washington, D.C., at Arlington Annex (Headquarters Marine Corps), and going out to the Fleet Reserve with 22 years active service.


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