this is close to Christmas I will try to tell what sticks in my mind About
the Chosin Resevoir!
don't remember the dates, as each day ran into another. We had come into
Hagaru. I believe it was about dusk. I saw a Corsair crash land in a rice
paddy. The plane bounced over each dike, and the pilot finally brought
it to a stop. He climbed out and was okay.
gathered at some huts that were warm and quickly fell asleep. After what
seemed like a few minutes, we were back on the road to Koto-ri and it was
pitch black. The column moved at a snail's pace and it was stop and go.
When daylight came, we were still quite a ways from Koto-ri and about noon
we met a road block. The road followed a riverand had high banks along
the side of it. As we came to the bend in the road, the call came out for
How Co. Sitting in the corner of the bend was a Marine with the thousand
yard stare, just shaking in a crouched position, I don't believe he was
with How Co.
crawled over the banks to a hail of small arms fire. Our gun was set up
between some small huts, and I believe Crockerwas on the gun and he still
had his leggings on. He let out a yell, because a bullet had hit the buckle
on his legging.
his right behind the huts was the C.O. Captain Williamson, and Lt. Preston
(60mmMortars) To our left in front of a small hut, a group of Chinese Prisoners.
Some had bare feet that were frozen solid. Lt. preston kept hollering for
me to fire my M-1. I could not see a target, and for fear of hitting our
guys in front, I fired a clip into the hills in front of us.
we had them on the run, we picked up and ran to the front. Peter Coraci
was next to me, and we uncovered a cave that had a straw mat over it. We
pulled the mat back, and there were 3 Chinese in the hole. Peter hollered,
E T WA! and they pulled the pin on a grenade and killed themselves rather
than surrender. We again went back to the main column on the road. In the
early afternoon we walked thru Hell Fire Valley. No one said a word--we
didn't have to. It was a sight that must be burned in the minds of all
who saw it. Dead Marines were everywhere., in trucks and on the road, frozen
like statues where they died. The word went out not to touch them for fear
they were booby trapped. There was a jeep in the ditch with a poncho es
say we brought out our dead. I have often wondered about the ones in Hell
Fire Valley. I never knew what happened there until I read the book "Chosin."
No one ever talked about this. We reached Koto-ri at dusk. We went into
a secure area and set up camp. We found some parachutes from air dropsand
made tents out of them. I believe that Watts, Watson and I were in a tent.
We crawled into our sleeping bags with all the clothes we had on, and shivered
until we fell asleep.
were awakened at daybreak. It had snowed during the night, and there were
a couple of inches of the snow on the tents, which were also full of bullet
holes. I don't know if they were from the air drop or during the bnight,
but we slept too soundly to know the difference. Fires were built and we
tried to heat some V-Rations. Fires were also built under the crank cases
of the jeeps and 6x6 trucks to get them started. (They were filled with
our dead). This had to be one of the coldest nights so far.
again the column of men and equipment started out toward Hungnam. When
we reached the spot where the bridge had been blown and they had
installed a tread bridge that had been air dropped, we were in a ditch
by the road and were receiving incoming fire on the road. Off to our right
about a thousand yards, a tank was firing into the hills at the Chinese.
We had to climb up to the road and hi-tail it to the bridge. Small arms
fire was kicking into our feet on the road. When we reached the bridge,
there was a Col Tapplet waving us on. What an uplift that was.
it was walk, walk, walk with the straps from the ammo cans cutting into
our necks. I think it was 55 miles from Koto-ri to Hungnam. We did this
in a day wearing shoe packs. Our feet turned into a solid mass of blisters.
As we got closer to Hungnam you could smell the salt air. It felt so much
warmer. A flare came sailing out of the hills, and we had a two minute
fire fight with the US Army that was guarding the road. It was in the middle
of the night.
we reached Hungnamand the division headquarters had tents set up for us.
e slept till dawn, and someone came in with a razor and a helmet full of
water. We all had to shave because we were joined by the British Royal
Marines, who were always clean shaven and sharp looking. We loaded up into
a landing carft and went out to the harbour to the Navy ships waiting for
us. We crawled up the rope ladders with the assistance of the sailors,
as we were totallyexhausted. We were each assigned a place to bunk, however
most stayed on deck.
we reached Pusan, we disembarked to the 'Bean Patch' where they had tents
for us. We got hot food for the first time in weeks, and everyone got sick.
You would take a few bites and run to the head. We kept the Corpsmen busy
handing out anti-diarrhea medicine. we set up a makeshift Christmas
tree and decorated it with cans and whatever we could find.
went to different areas to try and find out about friends in other
units. We were saddened to learn of those that did not make it out. As
I recall there were about 35 Marines from How Co that walked out of the
Chosin Resevoir. In the book "Chosin" they say we rode trucks back from
the rail head. I know I walked every inch of th way. After seeing what
was left of hell Fire Valley, I didn't wish to ride in a truck again.
the 'Bean Patch' we got replacements, and some of the ones who had been
wounded came back to the Company. We received gear to replace what had
been destroyed at the Resevoir.
This is the last
of three stories contributed by Rod McDonald.
The first two
were "Wolmi-Do To Kimpo" (Apr'98 News)
and "Kimpo To
The Han River" (Sept '98 News)
journey from the Han until we were to assault 296 is once again, a major
blank in my memory. What we did, how we got there or what happened enroute
between these battles is, to me, totally lost and forgotten.
recall the morning of the assault. We were not dug in on high ground, we
were located on flat, low lying ground which faced the southerly end of
296. I recall it was very early and I felt very tired and had some problems
bringing myself to some degree of mental alertness. My dungarees were so
caked with dirt, sweat and dried mud they felt like they were made of
aluminium foil as I moved within them. I ate a can of c-rations, chicken
and vegetables as I recall--my most least favorite c-ration. I finished
walked through a tiny Korean settlement with several houses and across
the rice paddy dikes to the base of hill 296 and began our ascent. The
slope of the hill was quite steep and my backpack SCR-610 artillery radio
with its wet-cell battery pack began to slow my progress up the slope.
Most of How Company and the rest of the FO team were soon well out in front
of Roderick. As we got higher in-coming small arms fire picked up at an
alrming degree. It seemed to be the Naktong re-visited.
hundred or so yards from what appeared to be the top of the hill, the slope
changed from dirt and grass to crumbled slate or shale. In the midst sat
another radio operator with an infantry SCR-300 strapped to his back. He,
like myself, was totally out of gas. I dropped down beside him to catch
my wind and we chatted briefly about the lousy footing and the gosh awfuk
amount of small arms fire going just over our heads due to the lay
of the land between us and the Seoul-side of the hill. Shortly he announced
he thought he could now make it to the top, and left heading for the high
rested for another 1-2 minutes then followed suit. The higher I got the
closer the overhead small arms fire became. Stay low and move fast was
definitely the order of the day. I crested the hill, moved aboyt 15 yards
inland, and there was my SCR-300-carrying friend leaning against a rock,
obviously resting once again. I sat beside him, rested my radio on the
rock to take the weight off me, and offered him a cigarette. Getting no
response, I lighted one, rested and looked around for anyone from my FO
team--A corpsman, running low came up, pulled my SCR-300 acquaintance by
the feet laying him straight and covered him with a poncho. That rather
rattled me. I left.
minutes our FO team was together and Lt. Jerry Fly moved to the Seoul-view
slope and we began calling in fire missions. In minutes he was hit. Thankfully
he'd just put the glasses up to his eyes to site the strike of a round.
The bullet pierced his left hand, went through the glasses, and clipped
off parts of two fingers on the other hand. Had his glasses been down it'd
have gone throughhis head. Jerry was evacuated from 296 that evening, stayed
in the Corps, made the Viet Nam war, retired a Major and now lives in Carlsbad,
Jerry Fly gone and S/Sgt Conley having been transferred to another FO,
this left H-3-5 with two 1948 Corporals, Brosnan and myself, as its senior
members. We wern't much, but we were all you had. Since Brosnan was a wireman
and unfamiliar with the radio, he took over the spotting duties and I continued
to call in our missions. We fired missions and laid in defense fires and
dug in together that night. I don't recall if we both stayed alert, or
took turns in out two man foxhole. However, come dawn we were both awake
and all was quiet. Since the NK mode of operation was night attacks the
men, including Brosnan, lay back and dozed off. Being a mite hungry I elected
to open a can of c-rations, eat and then catch some sleep.
was cutting open the can with my trusty P-38, just glancing around, when
6-7 mencrested the draw from 80-90 yards to our left. I ignored them and
returned to my can-cutting duties when it suddenly impacted on me--they
were wearing the wrong uniforms! Not wanting to start a fire fight with
no more than my carbine I attempted to arouse a BAE man just to my left
front--No response. Same-o, same-o with other men in the area.
the NK patrol had moved to within about our 60 yard lineand were signaled
by their leader to hit the dirt. At that point in time I'd lost my appetite,
put my partially opened can on the dge of our foxhole , shouldered my carbine,
and took the patrol leader out of the picture. My very first shot was all
the reveille the H-3-5 troops needed, and for that matter ended the stealth
of the patrol. It was a brief battle. One round passes between Brosnan
and me during the exchange blowing my can of c-rations to smithereens.
There were more of us than them and we had a whole bunch more firepower,
so H-3-5 prevailed. The bodies of their ill-fated patrol were still there
when I left 296 a few days later.
one point in time that day I crossed over to the Seoul-side of the hill
to converse with Capt Wildman about bringing in an air strike to take out
some Maxim emplacements which the NK's were setting upon the hog-back hill
to our rear. As I first entered the draw where he had his CP, I experienced
my first shelling by the high-velocity guns used by their T-34 tanks.
disconcerting to say the least. Where normal artillery or mortar shells
go "wheeee-bang," this high-velocity stuff went "bang-wheeee." The darn
things hit and exploded before you heard them coming in. We suffered about
three rapid rounds and then hauled butt and moved our discussion into the
protection of the little cave at the head of the draw. While this offered
som psychological comfort, I entertained some serious doubts about its
actual protection since the mouth of the cave faced the direction which
they were shooting from. Oh well, any port in a storm.
no longer recall when my radio got hit. It was just sometime during that
checkerboard of days and nights on 296. But I guess it was the night before
H-3-5 jumped off to our left to secure the remainder of 296 leaving Gunny
McHugh, one squad, an interpreter and myself behind to hold the ground
sooner had the rest of the Company gotten about a mile away and engaged
in a fire fight than the NK's launched what seemed to me to be a company-strength
attack against our rather undermanned position. Talk about small arms fire.
Every NK must have been carrying a couple of thousand rounds with him and
under strict orders to shoot all of it at us. I was busily thanking God
for our BAR men and pleading for their safe keeping.
tiny perimeter hung-tough. They were gaining ground, but not fast enough
to prevent the company from dis-engaging from its fire fight and returning
to pull our well toasted fannies out of the fire. I loved everyone of you
men when your weapons suddenly joined into the fracus and turned the tide.
The NK's left the scene.
that afternoon I loaded up my WIA radio and prepared to help carry some
of our casualties down from 296 to the aid station located in the area
from which we'd launched our attack. Carrying an SCR-610 down a hill is
not nearly as getting that bastard up a hill, so I was able to act as an
armed guard and as a stretcher bearer.
brief remembrances of 296 only touch a few small areas of our days in that
hell hole. Like Guadalcanal, Tarawa, or Tinian the constant shooting, shelling
and cries for "Corpsma" can can not be passed along by the written word.
For full impact 296 had to be lived through, not read about.
did not know when I left Hill 296 to help with our wounded, to get a new
radio and a band-aid for a blister on y heel that I would never again rejoin
Charlie FO#1 and H-3-5.
Somewhere by Panmunjon
by outpost Ester. That afternoon I was advised I had volunteered for an
ambush at the base of the Chinese lines. I spent all afternoon trying to
get rid of the butterflies in my stomach, test fired my BAR in the pit
and got ready.
Just as evening
started to fall the twelve of us left the main line and, trying to be quiet,
started for the enemy lines. Even after taping down our dogtags and any
loose equipment on our bodies, it was my contention that we sounded like
a garbage truck coming down the street.
There were twelve
of us from H-3-5 and all had automatic weapons. After a long time in the
night heat and humidity we arrived at the base of the Chinese lines and
were to wait for the enemy to leave on patrol.
After laying in
the rice paddy with our heads and weapons on the dike to keep them dry,
we attempted to get comfortable for what could be a long wait. I recall
that fog had set in, making visibility poor. The sweat just poured off
us as it was so hot and humid. After a long long time waiting and trying
to fight off going to sleep, I must have finally succumbed.
Suddenly I was
awakened by the most God awful sound that could have been similar to the
zoo at feeding time. I realized that all twelve of us were sleeping and
each of us snoring to a different tune. I immediately hit the guy next
to me and said "wake up, pass it on." One by one the snarls, wheezes, groans
and other gutteral sounds subsided and it got quieter.
I guess we were
lucky but then too, we did have company and they heard the sounds of the
twelve tired Marines snoring like elephants with sore throats and decided
that something evil and nasty lay ahead of them and went back. We will
never know. In relating this story to H-3-5 Jim Dixon lately, he says he
remembers that patrol as he was on it.
H-3-5 Editor's Comment:
"Been there, done that, 'ain't no fun." However
it's nice to be
I enlisted in
the United States Army in 1983 as a Military Police Officer, going through
Boot Camp at Ft. McClellan, Alabama. Initially, I was going to go into
the USMC with some high school buddies, but I quickly changed my mind when
I learned they they were getting guaranteed assignments there in our home
state as part of an enlistment incentive, (they were of Hawaiian descent,
I was a "Haole," a white guy) and that I would go "where the Corps deemed
best," which at that time was Beirut, Lebanon. So off I went to the United
States Army for the next 9 years, but I didn't know then that my paths
would would cross several more times with these Brothers In Arms of mine,
even to the point that on one occasion I can say that a Marine once saved
me from serious bodily harm or worse.
My first encounter
with the United States Marine Corps officially came in 1988 at Lackland
AFB, Texas, where I was going thru the Traffic Accident Investigators school
taught there. Of my three primary instructors, one was a USMC E-6. I'll
never forget the first day of class when we were formed-up outside to be
marched to the skid-pad, and our instructor began cadence with that familiar
"Marine-esque" sound we'd all heard in the movies. At first, I got this
big stupid "Gomer Pyle"-looking grin because he sounded so, well , Marine-like.
For a joint-service formation, we looked pretty good, and there's no doubt
in my mind it was because we had him leading us there. Just about anyone
else and we probably would've looked like the proverbial Chinese fire-drill
team. He was a great instructor, totally proficient at what he did, yet
human and approachable at the same time.
My next encounter
w/the Marines was at Ft Lewis, Washingtonin 1989. A battalion of Marines
had come up from Southern California to train with some of our combat units
(2/75th Ranger Bn and elements of the 9th Inf Div). There was a policy
in effect that said that Battalion or larger sized units that came there
had to bring their own MP support, so they brought a platoon of MP's with
them. These MP's were then partnered-up with us, to do ride-alongs and
to handle any Marines that were picked up, either by the US Army or local
law enforcement officials. I was the duty Traffic Accident Investigator
one evening and stopped by the PMO to see if anyone wanted to go for a
patrol. A young Lance Corporal jumped up and said "Let's go get 'em, Sarge!",
so off we went. This kid was a real tiger. MP duty for him back at Pendleton
wasn't what he expected it to be (gate duty, gate duty, and more gate duty),
so he really amped while he helped me cite some speeders and process a
drunk driver. Once that was done, I took him back out and and decided to
do a "walk thru" of the NCO club, which was Friday-nite packed. Once inside,
we made our way to the bar, where I told him we would back up the wall
and just watch people for a little bit. We hadn't been standing there for
more than 5 minutes when this couple began arguing at the bar. He says
something to her that she doesn't like, so she tosses her drink in his
face. He was half way to smacking her when I came up from behind him and
put a Full Nelson on him, pulling him off his stool. We drug him backwards
all the way out of the club and got outside on the front lawn, where I
let go of the guy and asked for his ID. At about this time I notice that
my Marine partner and I are now surrounded by about 12 of this guy's buddies,
and they're not too happy about him going off to jail. Again I asked for
the ID, and this time the guy pushes my hand away, so I jumped him and
got him to the ground. This totally incensed his buddies to the point that
they began yelling racial slurs at us (they were black, the two of us were
white). I only had one hand cuffed, and was beginning to get worried, when
out of nowhere, my partner jumps over beside me w/his PR-24 (their policy
was "clubs only" on these deployments) club out in front of him, and he's
screaming "Come on you (expletive,,not a racial one)'s,,,I'll kick everyone
of your asses!!!!!" These soldiers either decided discretion was the better
part of valor, or they thought my partner was gonna do an "Iwo Jima" on
them with that nasty club of his, so they backed off and let us be on our
way w/ our prisoner.
I got in the car
and thanked him for jumping in like he did. I've seen others choke-up
in such situations, but this Marine was ready for anything. It must be
the Pugil Stick training Marines go through in boot camp!
Finally, I can
say I served with pride alongside the USMC during Desert Storm, where our
unit (7th Corps, 3rd Ar Div SPEARHEAD) was to the west of the Marines'
drive up-thru the middle of Kuwait.
rivalries have always existed and that's not necessarily a bad thing, but
at least I can say from my own experiences that when it gets right down
to it, we all pull together, like the Brothers In Arms that we are.