believe that anyone that joined the Marine Corps has a strong desire to
look "Salty." The epitome was the Marine with one stripe up and a
hashmark down, wearing a China occupation Ribbon.
spent endless hours with Brasso and steel wool rubbing ever so carefully
the black enamel from the emblem, shining belt tips and buckles. Going
to a local tailor to have the center cloth cut out of the garrison cap
and spit polishing boondockers.
the period of 48--49 they issued the cheapest, non-descript utilities,
not the herringbone of yesteryear. We would press on the globe and anchor
and USMC on the left pocket, also the utility cap. You just had to look
left San Diego aboard the USS Montrose. The Montrose was a troop transport
from WWII or WWI, whichever came first. This ship was a Communist secret
weapon. There were so many Marines aboard that you would stand in the chow
line for breakfast. After breakfast, you would get back in the same line
for lunch, then repeat the process for dinner. The cooks delighted in serving
green pea soup at all meals. Seasickness started with some of the guys
before we left San Diego Harbour. You know what followed after they looked
at the green pea soup.
heard from rumor control that if you left your clothes in salt water they
would really look "Salty."
Floyd Finch, myself and a few others took our ugly utilities, tied a line
around them and had them drag behind the ship. Obviously we left them in
the water too long, because when we retrieved them all that was left
were the seams, belt loops and the waist band. Oh well!
24 days we finally landed at Kobe, Japan. Our feelings were, let's get
to Korea because it couldn't be worse than life on the Montrose. Little
did we know.
The squad Ed Flynn
and I were in was set up across a trail, along a small creek, directly
down the hill from the enemy position and we were to intercept any
traffic using that trail. We dug in and trip wired grenades, etc., and
the first morning we picked up two of the enemy who were more than happy
their war was over.
That night, Ed
was releiving me on watch at 2am, and we thought we heard and saw something.
After a few minutes I told Ed if he thought he had a target, squeeze off
a round, and he did so. The rest of the night was quiet.
At first light,
we crawled out to see and found a body about thirty feet from our position,
shot right through the pump. We went through the pockets, found epaulets
of a Lt. Chinese. We also found a wallet with some odds and ends, among
which was a snapshot of a family man, wife and two little ones, indicating
he was the father of that unit.
Our training had
taught us that the enemy was just that, the enemy, not a real person. We
both looked long at the picture, saying little to each other.
I wondered for
many years about the family as I know Ed probably did also, but the years
passed and the memory faded. Some things your training just cannot equip
you for, and I guess that would be one.
Ed carried a burp
gun we had taken off the body for many months but finally tired of lugging
it, gave it to someone a little more Gung-Ho than we were. We were just
interested in getting back to the states.
The incident I
referred to happened, I believe, in late September of '51. How Co was dug
in on a hill, I don't remember even where, and we had taken a lot of casualties
in a short time we had been there. 3rd Squad, 2nd Platoon was assigned
an outpost duty stint to the right of our company perimeter, in a valley
leading West by North West up to the enemy position.
whole family had been Army before me and I wanted to be a tank driver.
I had been 16 years old for 27 days on the 2nd day of September, 1948 and
I had a scheme to enlist even though I was too young and looked even younger.
There was a civilian woman who saw right through my scheme, much to the
dismay of the Army recruiter who was trying to make his quota for the month.,
and they sent me away when I was exposed.
had been urged to join the Army by my father and brother, but my first
choice was Navy all the way. I never knew the Marine Corps existed.
I walked into the Navy recruiter's office about 10:30 am and the CPO had
gone to an early lunch. The next thing happened was as close to a modern
shanghai as anything you can imagine. The Marine recruiting Sergeant was
all over me like a mother hen. He appealed to all my senses, had me so
damned proud to be a Marine, I couldn't wait to put on the uniform. He
had me signed, sealed and delivered before the old Chief ever got back
from lunch. At one o'clock that afternoon I was on my way to San Diego.
Of course we were met by a smart talking NCO of some sort who scared us
a little, and herded us onto a bus. He made me wonder if I was in
trouble or if he was just in a bad mood. You know it didn't take long to
find out that this was a real nice guy in comparison and people were going
to be much worse as time went on. It was the next morning (before dawn)
that I was to find out exactly what I was into.
a very rude awakening, we were lined up outside and a buck sergeant named
"Tiny" was calling roll in no uncertain yells. As you might suspect, this
guy named "Tiny" was about 6'2" and the only thing tiny about him was his
waistline. The guy directly in front of me answered in a surly, disrespectful
manner and didn't say "Sir" as we had been instructed. Tiny didn't hesitate
at all. He was in front of this guy as quick as a cat and was clearly put
out at his attitude. He knew from experience that this young fellow had
been in the service before and further knew that that he had been discharged
under less than honorable terms and had enlisted with fraudulent information.
A quick jab to the stomach lifted the guy off the asphalt. There were a
couple of more punches before he crumpled to the ground. By that time "Tiny"
had found out the kid had a BCD and was trying to get back in the Marines
to rectify it. He continued to stomp the fellow into the asphalt until
he no longer moved and you can damn well bet I didn't either. I saw
all this with peripheral vision because I was completely frozen to the
eyeballs, thinking I was next, reflecting on my own fraudulent enlistment.
ambulance was called and came to pick the guy up. No one attended him in
the meantime, he just lay there. I stood at rigid attention, and "Tiny"
went on with the roll call with no problems what so ever. I had had a baptism
of fire and was a Marine from that moment on, with a strong fear of sergeants
and everyone else that wore green. In the lapsed time of a heartbeat The
Marine Corps had my full attention and 100% cooperation.
boot days were not without a couple of kicks in the shins with built-up
shoe soles and metal taps and a judo chop to the adam's apple once that
put me in tears and mute, but I made it through. Some people didn't make
it. One guy was sent home for lying about his age, but I was mum and even
though it was suspected that I was under age, it was never discovered.
of us "Old Jarheads" have boot camp stories and all of them seem to get
our attention. Now we can sit around and laugh about them, but when they
were happening no one was laughing. One thing a Marine learns quickly
is when to be serious. Catch you all at the San Diego Reunion in 2,000.
Fi and as "Rats" always warns us, "Stay off the skyline"
wish to express my appreciation for having the opportunity to be a part
of the best and most renown Company, "H-3-5" in the Marine Corps.
remember being packed into LVP's and circling around and around our transport,
the USS General Black. We made a mock landing at the beach in Inchon, and
after all the men landed, we were escorted to a huge tent compound called
tent city. We spent the night here and the next morning we were loaded
into cattle trucks and taken through what was supposed to be Inchon City,
I guess. Whatever buildings were left were all burned like charcoal and
very little was left standing. We continued on our journey all day long,
leaving Marines off at different areas assigned to outfits of the 1st Marine
began to wonder where I would end up, because as these men were being dropped
off, everything around us was bare; no buildings, just hills and more hills.
The sun was beginning to go down and finally we (me and five others) were
let off at this "Moon-Sun-E."
were met by the Battalion C.O., the Company C.O. and Sergeant Major. At
this time we were introduced to the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines. The Company
C.O. was the was "How" Company's C.O. and the Sergeant Major was the top
for "H" Co. We were taken for a hell of a march through rice paddies, hills
and countryside. I guess three or four miles till we came to a large compound
divided into tent areas. The Sergeant Major escorted us to an area on on
the side of a big hill which was to be our home "H" Company. All the men
from "H" Co. were lined up waiting for us new replacements. Our names were
called off and we were made aware that we now belonged to "Horrible Hogs,"
H-3-5, the best damn outfit in the Marines. They gave us a great welcome
and soon we were assigned to our platoons.
at this point of my story, I would like to mention that also along with
me was a brand new 2ndLt., red hair, freckles and all, right out of Officers
School at Quantico, "a ninety day wonder!"
the 'H' Company tent was a piece of wood which was to be knocked on if
one wanted to go inside. No one told us we were supposed to knock and the
2nd Lt. just opened the flap and walked in. BAD NEWS! The Top picked him
up and threw him out of the tent yelling at the top of his voice, "If you
want to come into my office, you better damn well knock."
know John Wayne was good in the "Sands of Iwo Jima," but he was nothing
compared to the Sergeant Major. This man was a giant of a man; he stood
about 6'3" and weighed about 250 pounds; crew cut, gray hair and looked
to be in his forties. He was what you call an
was put into the third platoon only for a few weeks because the Company's
radio man was sent back to the states for reasons unknown. I was
to be the new radio operator, evn if I didn't know anything about radios,
except they played music. It didn't take me long to be educated in the
Prick 9 and Angle 6 radios, the Top made sure of that.
Co's duty along with other companies in the 3rd Battalion, was to patrol
the D.M.Z. We would march from the tent compound about six miles to our
bunkers on the D.M.Z. where we would live while patrolling the area day
in and day out for thirty days and then we would go back to the tent compound.
I became experienced with the radio, the skippers man, as he would say.
with the gear I had with me, I had brought my old beat up trumpet which
I loved to play, having palyed in bands back home. I would sit alone
in the tent when not busy and just paly old tunes from the forties. You
could hear my trumpet for miles around the valleys and countryside. All
the men seemed to enjoy my music, especially the Top Brass. I was the How
Company radio man and now was also the Field Music, which is one thing
they do not have. I was also made the 3rd Battalion Field Music. So between
running up and down the hills with the radio, I also woke all the damn
countryside with my trumpet at morning hours. Now how is this for a man
that never went through communication school or field music? My duties
during my nine month tour kept me so busy that I only heard of men
going on R&R but never going myself. It didn't matter beacause I was
growing in Espirit De Corps in mind and body. I became a member in the
Brotherhood of H-3-5, of which all the men I met, I will always remember.
a month or so a member of How Co would be sent back stateside having completed
his tour of duty. We had men that were going through their second tour
of duty in Korea. Gunny Sgt. McCorkle, Sgt Major Gamboa, and the most unforgettable
man I ever met, Sgt Lugo. This man was here for the second time, having
been here as a paratrooper in the Army. He had been awarded many citations
and was a real gentle person. Sgt Lugo did not quite finish his second
tour. He became ill with mental problems and was shipped to the hospital
in Japan and later back stateside. We never heard of him again. Another
Marine I met was Sgt Pacheco. Sgt Pacheco had also experienced combat in
Korea. I only spent three months working with him before his tour was over.
Marines, I could go on and on writing of all the events I experienced while
with H-3-5. I hope that I can meet you all in person.I feel that I have
known you for many years, reading about your tours in Korea and all about
your fellow Marines that were left behind. I am proud to say that you became
a part of my life after many years, although we never met.
me tell you who I am. I grew up in a small farming community in Imperial
Valley. A town named Calexico on the border of Mexicali, Mexico, about
125 miles from San Diego. I was a boy 17 years of age when I arrived in
Korea. We were told that the action had ended. Yet while patrolling the
D.M.Z. two fellow Marines from How Company lost their lives to sniper fire.
Another Marine lost his leg while we were going through a mine field. Sgt
Lugo lost his mind because of extended duty. Another buddy lost his mind
after receiving a Dear John letter from his wife of seven years. In the
nine months that I spent with H-3-5, I became a man in mind and body but
most of all I grew in spirit.
had the honor (November 1954) of becoming Leatherneck of the month in the
Leatherneck magazine when correspondents were doing articles on on the
Fifth Marine Regiment in Korea. I happened to get involved with helping
and caring for Korean orphans. These children were abandoned by their mothers
because they were half breeds fathered by U.S. Military men, and were considered
outcasts. Six nuns were sent from France to set up and run a make shift
compound of tents to house these kids. There were 118 boys and girls ages
2 to 5 years old. I just happened to be there and Father Victor Ivers asked
me to help out.
was the beginning of my working with and becoming involved in helping kids.
I have been active and continue to be working with Boy Scouts of America.
I have been in scouting for the last 32 years, ever since my sons were
old enough to join the scouts. I love it and enjoy working with young boys,
helping to mold them and to become good productive citizens, especially
with so many single parents in today's society. The Lord has been good
to my wife and me. We are blessed with 5 sons, 3 daughters-in-law and 5
nine short months in Korea I became a man. I was drilled day after day
by the older Salts in being a good Marine, a tough Marine, and the main
thing they taught me was to take no S--- from anyone. Well, that's how
I went from Sgt to Private and I don't regret any of it. I was discharged
in 1956, stayed in San Diego, got married here and we have lived here ever
past year I attended the 5th Marine Regiment Anniversary at Camp Pendleton.
Meeting all those fellow Marines, young and old, especially those in wheelchairs
and those left crippled from combat was a moving and emotional for all
of us attending. Brother Marines I hope that I willbe able to meet most
of you if possibe. You are my heroes.