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Richard Sharp, Marine

Part Of  Bert '53  History

A Journey

Hi Bert,

It is odd that today would be the day that I would start writing about a few of my memories from Korea. On this date, August 16, 1950, the 1st Marine Division sailed for Korea. This is not a story of combat but a history of my journey into the Marine Corps.

When I started writing this it was going to be a very short piece about my experiences at Hungnam and Chosin in North Korea. As I wrote I realized that I needed to leave an account of my life in the Corps. I also realized that future generations of my offspring needed to know something about me. I wish that I had the history of our family dating back to the Revolution. I am extremely proud that our family has served in all of the wars of this great nation.

Our family left Scotland and England in the 1600's and early 1700's and migrated to Virginia and North Carolina. After the Revolution and during the westward movement they settled in Butler, Ohio, and Muhlenberg Counties in Kentucky. Most of my family were farmers and after the Civil War lost their land and wealth.

I grew up in a heavy industrial area just south of Chicago. In those days it was known as the Calumet Region and was comprised of the Northwestern Indiana towns of Whiting, East Chicago, Indiana Harbor, Hammond, and Gary. I was born and raised in Whiting and it was a wonderful place to spend ones youth.

Many Kentuckians in search of jobs left Kentucky to seek work in Chicago and Detroit. I'm sure that many went in other directions, but my family migrated to the Chicago area. Both grandfathers, my Dad, and Uncle were employed by the Standard Oil Refinery in Whiting. The time was 1926, just before the big depression. Dad was only 16 and was a rivet bucker and catcher. Hard work for one so young, but they were accustomed to hard work. My maternal grandfather had been a coal miner in Kentucky, and my paternal grandfather was a mussel fisherman dredging mussels from the Wabash River using a rowboat. The meat was sold for hog feed, the shell for mother-of-pearl. He sometimes found a fresh water pearl that he sold at market. They were hard working, very religious, moral men. Their handshake and their word was all that was needed. I remember that we, as young people, would say "shake", or ask, "On your Mother's honor". To break this pact would have been unthinkable.

I was born on December 23, 1929 in a third story walkup apartment on Sheridan Avenue in Whiting. Both Mom and Dad were 19 years of age and the depression was in its early stages. By all of us living together we weathered the depression. Living in a blue-collar town softened the effects of not having a whole lot. Whiting was a melting pot of Eastern Europeans and Kentuckians all in search of work. No one had much more than their neighbors and sharing was common .

My love affair with the United States Marine Corps began during World War II. My Dad was a 1st Sgt with the Indiana National Guard , 38th Division, and I desperately wanted to be in the Army like my Dad and his friends. I spent many hours at the Armory in Whiting with Dad and the 113th Combat Engineer Troop. With the advent of World War II many of the men in our family joined the United States Marine Corps.

The stories coming back from the Pacific area were mostly about Marines and their bravery. I was only 13 when the war began and I fell in love with the Marine Corps and the men that served. That love and admiration for the Corps remains to this day, 57 years later.

I enlisted in the Marine Corps on February 24, 1948 in Chicago, Illinois and was sent to Parris Island for boot training. I was just barely eighteen years of age. Boot Camp was quite an experience back in the 40s. It was very physical and mental in an attempt to break you. Better that you broke in Boot Camp rather than on the field of battle where your life and those of your friends might be endangered.

I was a squad leader in Platoon 38. The senior D.I. was S/Sgt Jack DeLoach, a World War II veteran. The junior D.I. was Cpl. Walthers. DeLoach was tough as oak but he was fair. I found out years later that S/Sgt DeLoach was at Hagaru-ri with G/3/1. I talked to him a few years ago and told him that I would have felt a lot safer had I known that he was there. It was at Parris Island, that we learned the lessons that would get us through the terrible times that we would face in Korea. It may seem to some that our training was harsh but our training was what got us through Chosin and other battles.

At the end of boot training I was assigned to the Parris Island Marine Band. I was a fairly accomplished musician having studied professionally in Chicago with Layton "Buck" Wells. I played with Chicago area dance bands prior to my enlistment. During World War II we played weekly for the troops at the USO located in South Chicago.

Band duty wasn't what you might think. It was all spit and polish. We spent many hours keeping uniforms spotless, shoes spit shined, and our personal grooming in tip top shape. We were in the public eye more than other Marines. We had open rank inspections every morning and woe be to the young Marine that didn't fit the mold.

In February of 1949 I was reassigned to the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, Ca. The Korean War broke out on June 25th of 1950 and the Division sent a Brigade made up of the 5th Marine Regiment, and supporting troops from the Division. I was a short timer so I didn't get to go even though I volunteered.

Between the outbreak of hostilities and the Division sailing for Korea our enlistments were extended a year by what was called "The Truman Year". This made it possible for the military to keep active duty personnel for an additional year. The military had been stripped to the bone following World War II. There were less than 75,000 in the entire Marine Corps. The 1st Marine Division had a strength of approximately 7,500. That was 18,500 under strength for a full Marine Division. The 2nd and 6th Marine Regiments from the 2nd Marine Division were shipped to the 1st Marine Division to help bring us up to strength.

Many personnel in other than Infantry billets now found themselves in Marine Infantry. That was true in my case. I had been a saxophonist with the 1st Marine Division Band one day, and was a machine gunner the next. All Marine Reserve Units were activated making the old saying "Every Marine a Rifleman" true. At the start of the Korean War I had been in the Marine Corps for 2 1/2 years and I was still a PFC. Rank was extremely hard to make in those days. You could be reduced in rank rather quickly. Military justice in those days in the Naval Service was under what was called "Rocks and Shoals" and you were guilty until proven innocent. Court martials were a Deck Court Martial which usually got the miscreant 5 days piss and punk (bread and water). A Summary Court Martial was next followed by the highest and worst, a General Court Martial which usually got the person a dishonorable discharge.

We still had a tradition called "drumming out". I only saw this once since the old "Rock and Shoals" were soon to be replaced by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The person being drummed out was brought before the entire battalion. He was placed so that the entire group could see his disgrace unfold. His acts causing this treatment were read to the assembled troops. The man was then stripped of all insignia, and adornments. He was told that he had turned his back on the Corps, and that we in turn would turn our backs on him. We were then given about face so that our backs were to him. He would then be drummed to the front gate where he was released. I realize that this tradition of drumming someone out may sound cruel, but I wish that they had never stopped this tradition. I would have died before facing this disgrace. I could never have returned to my family. The disgrace would have been too devastating.

Marine combat success in Korea was due to the strict Marine training that we received and the combat readiness of the Division. Our Officers were mostly veterans of the worst combat of World War II and many of the enlisted men had also been bloodied in World War II. It was not uncommon to serve with a PFC or Corporal that had fought in some of the worst battles in WWII. I knew Marine Raiders that were still PFCs. In short, we had a perfect blend of what was called "Old Corps" or "The Old Breed" in charge of young Marines, "The New Breed", ready to prove themselves. I take great pride in now being part of "The Old Breed".

Our Regimental and Battalion Commanders were all WWII heroes. Names like "Chesty" Puller commanding the 1st Regiment, Ray Murray commanding the 5th Regiment, and Homer "Blitzin" Litzenberg commanding the 7th Regiment. The Division was commanded by Major General Oliver P. Smith and his assistant was Brig. General Edward Craig. Two finer leaders and gentlemen never walked this earth. We were in complete awe of our officers and NCOs and would prove to them that we were also good Marines and could be counted on.

My group departed San Diego on August 16, 1950 aboard the USNS Phoenix (United States Naval Ship). She carried a civilian crew and was not intended to handle as many troops as she did. A good part of our days were spent standing in chow lines. We ate by a series of identifying colors. Each man had a colored tag that he wore which indicated the group to which he had been assigned. You would get out of one chow line and start queueing up for the next chow. The chow hall was tiny and couldn't seat that many men at one time so the lines were long and it took forever to finally make it in for chow. A few days into our trip I was put on mess duty. Generally I hated this duty but this turned out to be very fortunate for me. I no longer had to stand in those long chow lines and in addition ate before all of the colored tag guys.

After sixteen days of boredom aboard the Phoenix we finally arrived in Kobe, Japan. While still at sea I saw a sight that has remained with me for all these years. A volcano was erupting and the sight at night was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.

We debarked from the USNS Phoenix and were transported to Osaka where we were billeted in the barracks that the Wolfhound Regiment of the US Army had vacated. They were already in Korea on the Pusan Perimeter. We were instructed to turn in our .45s and were issued M1 Garands since we were now part of machine gun squads. I was elated for I respected the distance, accuracy, and the fire power of the M1. I don't believe that a finer combat weapon has ever been designed. The gunner and assistant gunner kept their .45s. I had qualified with both the M1 and .45 at Parris Island and Pendleton. We spent most of the next three days field stripping the machine gun and reassembling it. I was assigned duties as an ammo bearer and rifleman.

While billeted at Osaka a violent hurricane hit the area causing much destruction and loss of life. I only mention this since we sailed and rode the tail end of this storm for the invasion of Inchon. We boarded the USS George Clymer in Kobe for the final leg into our journey.

The trip to Korea and Inchon was in very heavy seas. You could hear the screw of the ship leave the water when the fantail would lift completely out of the water. There would then be a tremendous crashing and trembling as the aft section of the ship hit the water. This went on for a couple of days since the trip to Inchon was only a couple of days.

Religious ceremonies were held aboard the USS George Clymer just prior to our landing at Inchon. Division Headquarters was billeted on the USS George Clymer. Our Commanding General, Oliver Prince Smith, and our Chaplains led us in very solemn religious services held in the troop compartment. Communion was offered and for the first and last time in my life I took Communion. I was raised in the Nazarene faith and we did not take Communion unless we were leading an exemplary Christian life. I thought that under the circumstances God would understand and approve. The sight of young Marines going to services before battle is a very moving experience. For some of them this would be their last service.

We were served the traditional breakfast of steak and eggs early on the morning of invasion day which was September 15, 1950. This seems to me to be reminiscent of a condemned man's last meal. There wasn't fear among the troops. They were now going to earn their pay which in my case was the tidy sum of $75.00 a month. Not a whole lot to lay your life on the line, but we were excited that we were going to do what Marines do best....an amphibious assault.

I wish that I could describe the scene at Inchon but for some reason I have very little memory of the events leading up to our landing. I have seen scenes of the bombardment and the noise must have been deafening, but I don't remember much of it. My wife thinks that I was scared to death and have blotted it out of my mind, but I don't think that is the case. I do remember that we cleared the mess area on the USS George Clymer and casualties were being brought back to the ship. I think that this is the first notion I had that this wasn't like the movies. Young men were getting hurt after they landed at Wolmi-do. I remember seeing the planes as they strafed and rocketed the area. I can still see the smoke from the destruction they were causing on a hill overlooking the landing area.

We, Headquarters, 1st Marine Division, were not landed until a day or so after the initial landing. I was afraid that it would all be over before we landed. When we finally did land we were loaded onto trucks for the trip to an area near Kimpo. On the way we passed five or six North Korean tanks that had been taken out by Marine Air. There were dead North Korean tankers sprawled over the tops of the tanks burned by the napalm of the attacking planes. I knew for certain that people were getting more than hurt, they were being killed.

The first day in our perimeter we started getting mortar fire. If you have never been in a mortar barrage you can't know the feeling. Especially those first rounds. There is a noise kind of like a spluttering sound and then.....the explosion. I started to run around in a mad dance of indecision. It was already too late to take cover but I didn't know that at the time. That night we were put out on the perimeter. There was some small arms fire during the night and my eyes must have been the size of saucers for the remainder of the night

I remember crossing the Han River at night on Amtracs. We entered Seoul and the city was in absolute shambles. That first night I and one of my gun mates made a very stupid decision. There was still sporadic fighting in the city but we, I believe it was John Murphy and myself, decided that we would go out and try to find some beer or sake. We started out amid the ruins of the city and it was as if there was not another living soul around. Nothing but demolished buildings. Our foray was unsuccessful and we just about got lost until we came to a South Korean Police Outpost and they helped direct us back to our area.

That was the last time that we made a beer run, but the next day we were offered a bottle of wine to purchase from a Korean civilian. We bought the bottle and during the drinking of the wine we discovered that it was sacramental wine from one of the Catholic Churches. I hope that God forgives us for drinking consecrated wine but at that time Murphy and I needed it.

On our departure from Seoul we again boarded trucks for the trip to Ascom City. As we rounded a curve near Inchon I was struck by a scene that I have firmly fixed in my mind. On the side of a hill there was the American Cemetery with rows of white crosses. I knew for certain that our people were really getting hurt. Unlike the movies there were no beautiful ladies to greet us, no flags waving, no throngs of people cheering our victory. Just those white crosses standing as silent sentinels. I will forever see the scene in my mind.

We boarded the USS George Clymer for the run to Wonsan. There was to be another amphibious assault behind the lines. I had no idea where we were headed. What was to be a short trip turned in to a sixteen day voyage that is now referred to as "Operation Yo Yo". Due to the extensive mines in Wonsan harbor we could not land. Rations were in short supply since the ships were not loaded with enough food for a trip of that duration.

I don't remember being that deprived of meals, but I believe the guys on the LSTs (Landing Ship Tank) were in worse condition than that those of us on APAs (Attack Transports). We finally made an Administrative Landing at Wonsan in October. The weather was beginning to change and with cold wet feet and squishy boondockers we walked to a point where we were met by trucks and taken to our location in Wonsan. I remember the smell of apples after we landed. There was a large apple orchard nearby. I secured some apples and they were very juicy and delicious. This was the first fresh food that I had tasted since leaving the states. Apples were to play a role later while we were in Wonsan.

One scene that I didn't see but that has been reported extensively was a sign stating that Bob Hope welcomed the First Marine Division to Wonsan. The ROK (Republic of Korea Army) had swept through the area before we landed and the resistance here was minimal so his show was already setup. We were not permitted to attend any performances. We had more important work to do. I don't know who he entertained but it certainly wasn't the First Marine Division.

After settling into our new area we were put on outpost duty. This meant that we were again out in the hills. The ROKs had gone through the area a short time before and there had evidently been quite a fight just a couple of hundred yards from our machine gun emplacement. This became evident when the wind was blowing toward our position. The smell of death was overpowering. I have read about "the sweet smell of death". Whoever wrote that had apparently not smelled decaying corpses. I went on a one man recon and found the source of the odor. There were North Korean bodies littering the ground in this area. Their cooking utensils and the rice balls that were their rations were strewn about. Ammunition and grenades were still littering the area. It was here that I saw a soldier that had been decapitated from his shoulders up. Quite a gruesome sight.

One of the most successful raids in the Korean War occurred while we were at our position in the hills. How it became known I have no idea, but my buddies somehow found out that there was an Apple Jack brewery in Wonsan. The brewery was heavily guarded by Marine Corps MPs. If there was booze around and Marines were in the area the stuff was fair game. I was not in on the raid, but will relate what little I know about it. My buddies must have commandeered a jeep and set out for the brewery. They actually held the Marine MPs at bay with weapons. I don't know if this was necessary since the MPs were also part of our group. They were able to load up ten, five gallon water cans for a total of 50 gallons of Apple Jack. Remember the smell of apples that I told about earlier? I guess that the apples from the landing area were destined to be turned into some of the best, sweetest tasting, Apple Jack imaginable. The guys got the load back to our area and up to our gun emplacement. That is a very explosive blend, Apple Jack and armed Marines. Many canteen cups of this drink were consumed without any real injury. One guy fell over a cliff and cut his head open. I awoke the next morning after passing out in a field. There was much groaning and moaning among the guys the next day.

My fox hole mate, Lloyd Lanham, was also a Nazarene and did not take part in our drinking. The main difference was that Lloyd was a good Nazarene and I tended to stray. Drinking alcoholic beverages was not permitted in our faith. Lloyd was a devoted Christian and always followed the ways of our upbringing. This is very hard to do when you are in the midst of so many young men that follow the other path. His faith was to save him in the month to come.

I don't know just when it was but I will assume that it was mid-November when we departed Wonsan to move to Hungnam. We rode railroad flat cars with machine guns and riflemen set up on the cars. We did receive some sniper fire but it was not significant and didn't do any damage. After reaching Hungnam I was assigned to guarding supplies at the railroad yard for the night.

The next day I rejoined my comrades in the Division area. We were positioned in the saddle of a fairly large hill and dug a parapet for the gun that was probably the best that we had ever dug. The weather was starting to get cold and we even found some tin for a roof. It was rumored that Chinese were in the area but I didn't pay a lot of attention to that since the Chinese had not officially entered the war. I thought that it was just some sort of wild rumor circulating. Apparently General MacArthur and his staff also passed it off as a rumor. We were to find out in just a few days that it was a reality.

That first night Lloyd and I had the midnight to four A.M. gun watch. Our relief was quite a way down the hill and Lloyd and I discussed who would go to wake up our relief. I don't remember how we decided but Lloyd left the parapet to get our relief guys up. I made a stupid mistake that night. I left the hole that we were in and was standing on the sky line. I heard a noise behind me and caught the rush of someone as I whirled. The person grabbed my rifle sling as I whirled and I pulled on my rifle with all of my might. The suddenness of this caught me completely by surprise and I exhaled all of my air in an involuntary reaction. My legs went limp and I slumped to the ground. The rush of the person carried him past me...thank God. I am not ashamed to tell you that I was one scared young Marine. When my relief came up the hill we scouted the area but found no one.

A few days later Lloyd and I were in the hole and we had a fire going in one of the kerosene stoves that we had somehow appropriated. Lloyd was on one side of the stove with me on the other. Suddenly there was a bang and the smell of gun powder. My first reaction was that due to our lack of attention we had allowed someone to sneak up and fire into the hole. There were three more loud reports. As we exited the hole I found that the pocket of my parka had been blown out and that an eight round clip of M1 ammo that I carried in that pocket had cooked off and exploded.

I might have become the only person in Korea to unintentionally wound himself. I wonder if I would have received a Purple Heart. I think not since a wound had to be inflicted by enemy fire and I doubt that setting next to a hot stove would qualify. It would have been fun to tell people that "I would rather not talk about my wound since it would be too hard to talk about".

Word spread that the Regiments to the North were taking casualties and volunteers were needed to fill the ranks. I at once ran down from the hill that we were on to volunteer. Some of my buddies tried to talk me out of it but I was adamant that I would go. The next day nothing happened and I thought that my request had fallen on deaf ears. The next day was Thanksgiving Day and the entire Division was fed a Thanksgiving meal. That evening word was passed to my gun crew to prepare to go north on the following morning.

We boarded trucks for the trip to Hagaru-ri. As we started up through Sudong Gorge the signs of previous battles was evident. There were Chinese dead in the gorge. The higher the elevation the colder it became. When we finally reached Hagaru-ri night time was fast approaching. That first evening I walked the perimeter and although 15 degrees below zero I was amazed that I didn't feel that cold. The continual walking with all of the layers of clothing I was wearing kept me fairly comfortable. That was all soon to change.

The next morning we were given our position on the perimeter. We would dig in facing East Mountain. Much of the fighting at Hagaru-ri took place in that area. Soon after digging in for some inexplicable reason we were moved to another position on the perimeter. We would dig in on the right of Wpns/2/7. The next couple of nights things were pretty quiet but on the 28th of November that changed. The regiments had been hit hard at Yudam-ni. It was now our turn. It must have been near midnight when all hell broke loose as the Chinese hit our perimeter. For some strange reason they hit the strongest part of the perimeter. The area where two rifle companies of 3rd Bn., 1st Marines defended.

The battle raged for hours and at dawn there were many dead Chinese around the perimeter. I will not go into the battle since this is all spelled out in books written about the battle. We were usually on 50% alert during the day and at night we were on 100% alert so rest and sleep were precious.

I will never understand the Chinese strategy of hitting the most heavily defended areas at Chosin. If they had funneled all of their strength at Hagaru-ri I feel certain that we would not have been able to contain them. Or if they had taken Koto-ri out that would have left Yudam-ni and Hagaru-ri out to dry. I was only a PFC in the Marine Corps and really didn't know much about what was going on.

The strength of the various forces in the fight at Chosin numbered 120,000 Chinese troops against 12,000 Marines and about 2,500 Army troops. We were told in Marine Boot Camp that one Marine was responsible for taking out 10 enemy. So as you can see the odds were just about right. Hagaru-ri was able to hold thus assuring that the 5th and 7th Marine Regiments and the 7th Army Division 32nd RCT a secure area to regroup for our fight to the sea.

The firing pin in my M1 had snapped due to the cold so I started hanging around the Division Hospital hoping that one of the wounded would have a rifle that I could get. During one of my vigils two young Marines that apparently had been triaged and were placed outside. The hospital was an old Korean building that served this purpose and was a very primitive clearing station for the more seriously wounded. Both young Marines were still alive and one kept calling for his momma. The other was still fighting the battle that was soon to take their lives. I will hear his dying words, "momma, momma", to my dying day. I was twenty at the time and I imagine that these two were about the same age and maybe even younger. We did a lot of growing up real fast..... we had to.

One day as I went to the hospital area a new large tent had been erected next to the hospital building. I thought that possibly a rifle might be in this tent since it had gone up after the 5th and 7th had fought back from Yudam-ni. Upon entering the tent I was momentarily blinded due to the darkness in the tent and I had just come in from a very bright snow packed area. After my eyes became adjusted I was in shock. I was in the tent that had been set up as a temporary morgue for our dead that were to be buried at Hagaru-ri. I can't tell much about the scene since I vacated this area promptly.

I did secure an M2 Carbine right after this encounter with the dead. A truck that came in that had been attacked just outside of town and the wounded and dead still had their rifles. I wanted an M1 but the Carbine would have to do until I could get an M1.

Major General Oliver Prince Smith had the foresight to have a primitive landing strip scraped out in the frozen ground at Hagaru-ri. He was questioned by Tenth Corps commanders concerning his need for a strip. His reply to them was to fly our wounded and killed out of Hagaru-ri. Army brass questioned this by asking "What wounded and dead"? There are many young men that owe their lives to this decision by O.P. Smith. I could not tell you how many wounded men I have talked to that were flown out from this tiny primitive airstrip but it is in the hundreds.

In all there were thousands that were flown out from Hagaru-ri. Our numbers were dwindling fast as the dead and wounded numbers mounted. Of the 2,500 men of the 7th Army Division they could only muster 385 after the pounding they took east of Hagaru-ri. I will not comment on that battle except to say that if they had not be there and taken the full fury of the Chinese east of Chosin, Hagaru-ri would have been in a very difficult situation.

With all the forces from Hagaru-ri and Yudam-ni assembled, the breakout to Koto-ri began on December 6, 1950. The weather was bitterly cold as it had been for weeks. We were told that we would be running a gauntlet of fire between Hagaru-ri and Koto-ri. My group had assembled on the road in the early morning hours of the 6th. From everything that I have been able to verify we were now attached to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines. As is the case with many military operations we spent hours waiting for the advance units to break through the Chinese that had massed against us.

The Chinese held all of the real estate except for the road. Marines that had left the confines of Hagaru-ri earlier were fighting to secure the high ground and to clear enemy road blocks. While waiting one of our Gunny Sgts (Gotczke) was hit in the calf of his leg and was evacuated on one, if not the last, evacuation plane to lift off from our primitive airfield. I felt bad for him but would have traded places with him if I had known what lay ahead. That is probably not really true since I was about to embark on a life changing trip through a "Frozen Hell".

We departed Hagaru-ri as night approached. As I was standing waiting for the column to start moving I saw something that I at first didn't recognize. There is no way that I can fully explain what it looked like. There were frozen, mashed flat Chinese laying in the road. They apparently had been run over by our tanks and truck traffic. I will never forget the sight. I never mentioned this to anyone since I thought that I would not be believed. One day recently a friend of mine, Joe Koliha, 5th Marines, asked me if I had seen the bodies of the smashed Chinese. This validated what I had seen. I had locked that away in my memory thinking that maybe I had imagined it. I had not. The cold at Chosin, ranging to as low as 40 degrees below zero could make your mind play tricks on you. In addition we were frozen, hungry and exhausted.

My gun squad was sent out on the west (right) flank of the road. It was fairly tough going since we had to break through the accumulated snow. At one juncture we found a single set of footprints going into or out of a small stand of scrub. We searched the area but found nothing. As I look back we were fortunate that we were sent out to the west since the Chinese hit us from the east.

I had fallen into a deep sleep before we were hit. Someone stepped on me waking me up from what would have been sure death from the cold. I still marvel that sleep comes so easily when you are freezing to death. In any case, John Murphy and I were standing next to a van when we started hearing thudding noises coming from the van. John and I both wondered what in the devil that sound might be. It soon became very apparent that we were under attack by Chinese on the east side of the road. I immediately ran to the ditch on the east side and Murphy and Lloyd started banging away with our 30 caliber machine gun. It still amazes me that we were all as calm as we were.

A very good friend from back in my Parris Island days, Graydon "Red" Landahl, had taken refuge and was asleep on top of a truck that was loaded with gear. When the attack began "Red" awoke with tracers flying all around his head. Forgetting where he was he began running and ran right off the end of the truck. It must have been at least an eight to ten foot drop. He hit the ground which was frozen solid and injured himself. "Red" was our unit comedian which made his hasty exit even funnier.

The attack was at night and must have started around 12 midnight. We had all been up for quite some time but all weariness and suffering from the cold now seemed to miraculously disappear. I heard a loud groan from the area of the gun and called to Murphy to ask if Lloyd had been hit. He answered back that he had been. Gene Holland apparently got on the gun with Murphy and they kept banging away. Murphy, Holland and myself were very good friends since 1949 back at Pendleton. I had been with some of these guys all the way back to Parris Island back in 1948 so our friendships were of a long duration.

I really don't remember the sequence of the events but I believe that Gene was killed while on the gun with Murphy. Murphy then was wounded very seriously. I continued to fire from the ditch but soon ran out of M1 ammo. I ran back to a truck on the side of the road and encountered M/Sgt William McClung standing next to the truck. I told him that I needed ammo and was told that we didn't have any. I believe that at that time Major Fred "Fearless Freddie" Simpson ordered us to fix bayonets. Those must be the most terrifying two words in the English language, "Fix Bayonets". I had removed my cartridge belt since the weight of the belt hurt my hips. I was slender in those days. On the cartridge belt were 10 clips of M1 ammo, my wound packet, canteen and bayonet. I would have really like to have had the belt on my hips at that moment in time.

A tank got through to us with ammo and after resupplying myself I ran back to the ditch and continued firing at the Chinese. A short time later a grenade or mortar round hit the truck that McClung and I had been standing by. I was now in a very precarious position since all of the able bodied troops had gone to the other side of the road. I yelled to my buddies on the other side telling them that I was caught between them and the Chinese.

My buddies yelled back and said to stay where I was and that they would fire over my head. This didn't seem to be a very good solution to cure the fix I was in so I started crawling to my left in an attempt to get away from the flames and light of the burning truck. As I lay there clinging to the side of the ditch I could actually see bullets striking the ground just inches from my outstretched legs. I knew that I had to make some sort of effort to remove myself from this area so I continued to crawl and eventually came to a severely wounded Chinese that was in the ditch with me. I started banging the bottoms of his shoes trying to get him to move but to no avail...he was too badly wounded. I finally screwed up enough courage and crawled over him. I continued to crawl and came to a tree that had been blown down by the blasts of explosives from the fire fight. I had to make a decision and with much effort I was able to rise and make a mad dash across the road and the relative safety of being with my comrades.

Keep in mind that the temperature was 30 to 40 degrees below zero. We wore layers of clothing making it extremely difficult to move. I have read that a man loses 2 percent of his effectiveness for each degree below zero. If that is true we were fighting with about 30 percent efficiency and probably not at that level since we were also hungry and exhausted.

At dawn the Chinese formed ranks and route marched off the field of combat. Some of my buddies began firing at them and I kept thinking "Don't hack them off". They were out of effective range and they outnumbered us greatly. I'm sure that they realized that our Naval and Marine air would have chewed them up had they not returned to cover.

We picked up our dead and wounded. I helped pick Lloyd Lanham up and his eyes were rolled back in his head. There was frozen vomit on his parka. He had been hit under his right shoulder with the bullet exiting out of his neck. He had sustained shrapnel wounds in addition to suffering extreme cold injury to his extremities. We picked him up and loaded him on to the back of a truck.

We had no other way of removing our dead and wounded. We were still about 5 miles from Koto-ri and still had to fight thru that area that was still in Chinese hands. I would not have given Lloyd any chance of survival. I still believe that his great faith was what got him out. He recovered and never lost the faith that was to see him through this harrowing time. I only saw Lloyd one other time. He was waiting at the gangplank in San Diego to welcome me home one year later.

Murphy was hit real bad. When I got to the other side of the road I saw a Marine down demanding that he be given his rifle. Illuminated by the flames of the truck I didn't recognize him and had to ask who it was. When they said it was Murphy I couldn't believe it. We found the bodies of M/Sgt. McClung and Gene Holland. Cpl. Figg was gut shot and died the next day after we reached Koto-ri. There were others that were wounded and killed. Names that I can remember...Flenner, Conover, and Tinkle.

. While searching the road for our dead and wounded we came across the wounded Chinese soldier that I had shared the ditch with. I was asked if he was still alive and if I had gotten medical aide for him. As I answered no to both questions the Chinese raised his head slightly showing that he still had some life left in him. I was told that he would be taken care of. He was shot by a person wielding a .45. I know that in reading this it sounds inhumane but it was the most humane thing that could be done. I have often thought about him. We must have been close to each other in age. What a tragic way for two young men from such different cultures to meet.

I was to learn 35 years later that M/Sgt William McClung was awarded the Navy Cross for his action in saving Marine wounded that had been hit when the truck exploded. I also found out that he was a Bataan Death March survivor and captive of the Japanese for the remainder of World War II. He gave his all in defending his country and fellow Marines and I will always honor his memory.

Lt. Charles Sullivan was also decorated for his bravery. When five Chinese charged the area that he was defending he stepped out of the flames of the burning truck and heaved his bayoneted Carbine through the chest of one of the Chinese soldiers. The others turned and fled in terror. "Sully" was 6'5" and weighed about 250. He had a beautiful long handle bar moustache and with all of the clothing we wore he must have looked like some demon from hell.

Many years later I was awarded the USMC Commendation Medal with "V" for valor at ceremonies held by the 4th Anti-Tank Company in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. The original commendation was either lost or misplaced causing the long delay. Or it may have been that CWO Parrot purposely stopped the award.

Before reaching Koto-ri we passed through an area that is now known as Hellfire Valley. The scene here was awful. The dead and vehicles were still there. I saw one Marine under a truck frozen in a sitting position with his M1 in his lap. His dead lifeless eyes were staring down that road of death. A silent sentinel as if guarding us as we passed.

There were also wounded Chinese. You could tell the living from the dead by their breath as they exhaled. They were all dispatched in a humane way. I was told to shoot one of the wounded but I passed on by. The officer repeated "I said kill the SOB". The man behind me shot him. I could not shoot a wounded man and I have often wondered what I would have done if the officer had demanded that I shoot him. I probably would have shot him and it would have destroyed me.

After reaching Koto-ri we were fed and bedded down. I was issued a summer sleeping bag and just about froze. All I had in this world was what I had on my back. My sleeping bag was destroyed when the truck burned, along with all of my other possessions. This was true for most of the troops. I remember seeing troops eating their hot meals from a piece of cardboard. That was all they had left, their weapon, ammo, and whatever clothing they were wearing.

The next morning I was "volunteered" for a work detail. The detail was to help the graves registration men in gathering the personal effects and identifying the dead. There was a large pile of dead, frozen in every possible grotesque position imaginable. We would pull a body out of this pile and the graves registration person would look for identifying possessions. He would place everything in a bag, place one of the dog tags with the possessions and one would remain on the body. We would then place the body on a stretcher and lift it to the end of a 6X truck. Two men on the truck bed would take the ends of the stretcher and would bring the end up causing the body to fall forward into the group of dead already in the truck. This was a horrible way to handle these dead Marines. They deserved so much more. After the truck was loaded they would take their cargo to the burial site on the other side of the CP. They say that we buried 120 of them in common graves but I will always think that there were more than that.

I would like to say a word about graves registration. How these men kept their sanity is remarkable. I worked one day with them and I still can see that awful mound of dead, frozen Marines.

I would also like to say thanks to the supply people. I can't imagine the work and management skills that they had to possess. Imagine the enormity of the problem. You are responsible for 25,000 Marines out in the field. They must be fed, ammo must be there for a force that is constantly moving.

Due to the frozen ground three large pits were scraped out of the earth. The dead were put into the pits and bulldozers pushed the frozen soil on top of them. Tanks then ran over the burial ground to carry out the final act of burial. I have often reflected on this since my friends were in that mound of dead. Holland, Figg, McClung and others. But after thinking about it what better burial could there be for men of arms killed in combat.

The next day we prepared to leave Koto-ri for the fight down to relative safety of Chinhung-ni. One major problem still had to be solved. The Chinese had blown the bridge between Koto-ri and Chinhung-ni. I believe that there were eight spans made very quickly in Japan. Expert parachute riggers devised a system permitting the aerial drop of the spans. They delivered twice the number of spans that were needed to span the gorge. It was a good thing that they had the foresight to order more since some were damaged in the drop.

The whole operation was a miracle. The Chinese owned all of the real estate overlooking the site but 1st Battalion, 1st Marines took care of that by successfully driving the Chinese off of the ridges. I have friends that were in 1/1 and as they cleared the high ground of Chinese they could look down from the heights and see the column of the 1st Marine Division just coming to the new tread way bridge spanning the gorge. That must have been a glorious sight to the men of 1/1. I must have crossed the bridge at night since I can not remember the crossing.....thank God for I have a great fear of heights.

For years I cursed the cold that we endured. It wasn't until recently that I realized that our greatest ally was the cold. The Chinese suffered unthinkable hardships.

The only injuries that I had was cold injury to my extremities. I have often wondered how some men came through that terrible ordeal without injury while others paid a horrific price. I know that my family and friends prayed hard for me, but I am sure that my comrades families also prayed hard for their sons. I have always believed that it is pure luck....either you get it or you don't so there is no need to worry about it. In the case of Lanham, Murphy, and Holland they were all hit as they manned our gun. That made them perfect targets for Chinese gunners. McClung willingly gave his life to save our wounded.

We reached Hungnam and safety on about December the 12th. There was a swagger among the troops. They knew that they had survived a terrible ordeal. Many of the events leading up to our departure from Hungnam are a blur in my mind. I think that we were so tired and traumatized that all thought process must have stopped. Other friends tell me that they also experienced loss of memory until we reached Masan.

I boarded the USS Bayfield for the trip to Pusan. I have no memory of these events until we reached Masan for rest and to lick our wounds. New replacements came in and after a few days we were again in combat around Pohang.

I still had eleven months to go in Korea but the worst "Hell" that anyone could imagine was behind us. I am extremely proud of the 1st Marine Division. I don't think that a there has been a finer group of Marines to ever wear the Globe and Anchor.

We, the Chosin Veterans, have a saying that sums it up. "Once upon a time Hell froze over and we were there".

My son is named Gene Holland Sharp in honor of my friend....Francis Eugene (Gene) Holland, KIA.

Time has dimmed my memory but as bet I can remember my squad consisted of:

Sgt.Herb Franking, Los Angeles, Ca.
PFC Gene Holland, Los Angeles, Ca. Killed in Action 12/6/50
PFC Lloyd Lanham, Riverside, Ca. Wounded in Action 12/6/50
PFC John Murphy, Livermore, Ca. Wounded in Action 12/6/50
PFC Richard Sharp, Whiting, In.
PFC Jim Aubry, Baltimore, Md.

Shortly after arriving at Masan a friend, Tom Fortson and I celebrated our 21st birthdays on December 24th, 1950. Tommy was from Red Bluff, Ca. and was born on December 25, 1929. My birth was on December 23, 1929 in Whiting, In. We had received our beer ration of two cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, or we had saved back two cans each from our ration. To celebrate we both took our two cans and hunkered down next to one of the buildings that Division had taken over for Headquarters. We both drank and toasted each other. We were now officially men. Tommy will still not drink a Pabst but I enjoy it, or would if I still drank.

I also had a shock at Masan when I found that I had secured a bad case of body lice. The little buggers were entrenched all over my body. Every seam of clothing was a breeding ground for the next wave. I immediately took my helmet outside and built a fire under it and boiled all of my clothing. We were also issued cans of DDT to dust ourselves with. I also got lice later in the war and used the same procedure to rid myself of these pesky unwanted pest. When we were rotated home the last process was to be showered, deloused and dewormed. More DDT was shot into all of the openings in our clothing while we were wearing the clothing. It is small wonder that we all haven't had cancer from all of the DDT that we were subjected to. I did have bladder cancer about 16 years ago.....who knows what might have caused it.

It was also at Masan that I had the unique experience of sharing a four-holer with a very famous person. For those that don't know what four-holers are, it is an outdoor privy that can accommodate four people at one time.Two facing in one direction and two facing in the other direction. Since we were in a rest area they enclosed the privy with a pyramid tent.

Upon entering there was only one other person using the facility. I sat down next to him and noticed that he wore Naval Officers insignia. I told him that this was the enlisted mens four-holer and that just a few yards away was the location of the officers accommodations. He informed me that he was filming a documentary for the Navy and that he was Admiral John Ford (USN Reserve). At the time the name did not mean a thing to me. I was to find out years later that he was the famous movie producer/director John Ford. I now have a copy of that film. He omitted the sequence from the four-holer in the final production.

I departed Korea aboard the USS Lenawee sometime in the middle of November, 1951 and arrived in San Diego on about December 1. After a 45 day leave I returned to Camp Pendleton and was discharged on 23 February 1952. As I left the barracks, with my friends yelling goodbye to me I was glad that all they could see was my back. Marines don't cry.... or do they?

For my service in Korea I was awarded the following:

USMC Commendation Medal with "V" (for Valor at Chosin)
United States Presidential Unit Citation with 2 bronze stars (3 awards)
Korean Presidential Citation with Oak Leaf Cluster (2 awards)
Korean Service Medal with 1 silver and 1 bronze star (6 awards)
USMC Good Conduct Medal
United Nations Service Medal
National Defense Medal
Korean War Service Medal
Korean War Veterans Medal

I returned to the steel mills in East Chicago, In. and after a few months I left for college at Southeastern Louisiana College located in Hammond, La. There I met and married the prettiest girl on campus...and that is the truth. We, Janet Bozeman and I, eloped to Magnolia, Mississippi on December the 13th after a whirlwind courtship that lasted for one month and 17 days. I asked her to marry me the first time we met, and she said yes. Everyone said that it would not last.

We will soon celebrate our 47th anniversary. We have 3 children, 6 living grandchildren and 1 deceased. We will soon have our first Great-Grandchild. We may beat the odds and make it to our 50th and hopefully beyond.

I would not trade my experiences for anything. I have the honor of being the past President of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Chosin Few. It is a great honor for me to have walked with the heroes from that epic struggle at Chosin. I don't believe that a finer, more courageous group of men will ever come this way again. They were all truly heroes and I was blessed to be with them.

My early dreams of being a Marine had come true. In addition, I wanted to be in the 1st Marine Division since my cousin Carrol Hoffman was with A/1/7 during WWII. That too came to pass. I was afforded the opportunity and the privilege of being one of the best... and one of The Few.

After the presentation of the Commendation Medal my eldest grandson asked if I would do it again. My reply was, "Yes Dylan, in a heartbeat".

In closing I would like to utter those famous words that all true Marines live and die by: "Semper Fidelis......Always Faithful".

Richard H. Sharp (aka "Notso Sharp")
United States Marine Corps
1st Marine Division FMF
24 February 1948...23 February 1952

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