First of all I
can remember coming down off the hill in the Pusan Perimeter, they told
us we were going aboard ship. So we came down looking for some good chow
from the Navy because they told us we were going to eat there. When we
got there, nothing to eat but tapioca, so tapioca it was.
We got aboard
DE's (Destroyer Escorts), they were small ships. Basically our whole company
got on one there and it was better to sleep on the deck of the DE than
to sleep in a foxhole on the front line. We pulled out of Pusan and the
ship took us off the coast of Inchon and dropped anchor for the night.
We woke up the next morning and rocket ships and planes were firing onto
the beaches of Wolmi-do island and the planes were dropping napalm and
bombs. The Battleship Missouri was behind us laying down good barrage and
it wasn't long till they told us to hit the nets.
We went down the
nets and loaded into the LCVP's. We pulled away from the ship and the LCVP's
circled, then straightened out and the wave headed to the beach of Wolmi-do.
We went in, ran up on the beach and out we went.
There was a chain
link fence about 8' high, but it looked much higher and the barrages had
pretty well taken care of it. When we hit the fence one of the fire team
leaders said to follow him; we rolled over the fence and followed him.
I remember I lost my helmet. You know how you always kept your letters
and pictures in your helmet liner underneath the webbing? Well I
lost all my pictures and letters and everything. I got another helmet later
on, but I never did find my original helmet
We moved inland
and came upon a cave. On our way past the cave we kept hearing noises so
we stopped and decided to fire into the cave. After a brief burst of fire,
no one came out, so we threw some fragmentation grenades in, still no one
came out. So then we threw some WP grenades in and all of a sudden seven
NK's came out. They were beating their clothing as a lot of smoke was coming
off them. Three of them were badly hurt so the fire team took all but one
back to the beaches as prisoners. They were going to bring up a stretcher
to take the other one back. I stayed there with the prisoner and while
I was guarding him I looked down and saw a watch on his wrist.
I motioned for
him to give me the watch and he just jabbered something and ignored
me. I took the BAR and put it down on his wrist. He got the hint real fast
and took his watch off and gave it to me. I carried that watch all the
way through Korea and even brought it home. They finally came up
with the stretcher and a couple of fellows came with them and they took
the prisoner back.
We then went on
up and finally took the hill that was on Wolmi-do. We sat on top of the
hill and watched the rest of the invasion of Inchon. It was a beautiful
sight and I'd never seen anything like it before. After the invasion we
moved us out that night and we went across a causeway and over to the city
of Inchon on our way to Seoul. Of course there were several skirmishes
before we got to Seoul.
One fight was
right outside of Seoul and a lot of fellows are real familiar with a hill
called 296! We took the hill but paid a price.John Eccles and I were dug
in together over toward the right hand side of the hill and when we looked
to the right side of where we were digging in , we saw the ROK's down there.
They had a Sergeabt running around kicking, hitting and beating them, trying
to make them stay where they were. They didn't want to stay there, they
wanted to get back. Anyhow, they stayed there until dark.
That night the
North Koreans hit us pretty hard and the ROK's pulled back and of course
you know what happened then. They pretty much had us surrounded and trapped
right on top of that hill. They pulled banzai attacks on us early in the
morning and at night and laid artillery fire and mortar fire on us all
during the day. That went on for three days. the banzai attacksearly in
the morning and at night and mortar and artillery all day. I am sure a
lot of the fellows remember that.
One day I went
out on the front and picked up a couple of their weapons. One was a burp
gun and I had always wanted to fire one of them, so that night when they
pulled a banzai on us, I jumped up from the foxhole and started firing
that burp gun. Flames started coming out of it and it lit up the whole
hillside. I threw the damn thing down and grabbed my trusty BAR and continued
to use it because it had a flash adapter on it.
One morning after
a banzai, Sgt Root came down over the hill. He hollered for Eccles and
me to go down the hill and make sure all the NK's were dead. We started
down the hill through them, kicking them to see if they would groan or
move or show any other signs of life.We were down on the side of the hill
about forty yards from our foxhole and below Root, when all of a sudden
we heard three shots ring out.
The next thing
we heard was Root yelling for us to get back to our foxhole, so Eccles
and I scampered back. There were three NK's that had jumped up behind us
and Root had been following us though we didn't know it.He took all three
of them down. I give him the credit for saving my and Eccles llife that
day. Sgt Root is a great man; he took care of his men and didn't let anything
happen to them if he could help it.
Later on we moved
from the foxholes and started down the hill, moving forward. We got about
half-way down the hill and the North Koreans came in behind us somehow.
We had to fight our way back up the hill and take our foxholes back. I
can always remember a Corporal that came running up after I had jumped
into a foxhole with another fellow that was with me. I don't know who he
was. This Corporal that was behind was a stutterer. I had just heard a
shell go between me and the head of the fellow in the hole with me.
The Corporal had
been running right smack behind us when all of a sudden he sat down and
shoved his finger through a hole in his pants leg.Stuttering, he said,
"well I'll be a SOB." He got up and away he went, getting the hell out
of there. You had to have heard his stuttering; it was really funny at
the time. The good thing. Not a scratch, but a very close call.
Later they decided
we should leave. They left a platoon on the hill and the rest of us moved
down the hill to join the company to move forward. We got pinned down at
the foot of the hill. A S/Sgt, don't know his name, turned to me. He said,
"Estell, run back up the hill and tell those guys not to come down until
tonight." I thought, damn, I have the BAR. He took my BAR and handed me
I started up the
hill, running as fast as I could. It seemed like there were so many dead
on the hill and every time I went by one of them he appeared to moved so
I would try to run a little faster. By the time I reached the top of the
hill and got to the first foxhole, I dropped and told the fellow in the
hole to tell the Lieutenant not to move down until tonight. Then I passed
The next thing
I remember it was dark and they woke me up and said we were moving out.
We moved down the hill and I went back to the Sgt and got my BAR.
From the hill
we went into Seoul and of course we had to fight our way out of that predicament
also. I can remember we were going through the town and we had to take
this big building. We didn't know what the building was until we went through
it. It was the University of Seoul. I don't know whether it was the women's
or the men's University. All I know it was called the University of Seoul;
from room to room anyway.
There are a lot
of other things I could tell but Rats, it's like I say. Some things come
back and some things don't. Maybe I will think of some things later on
and let you know.
During the Sept/Oct
1952 time frame, an H-3-5 Corpsman paid the Supreme Sacrifice for his country
under unusual circumstances.
At the time of
this unfortunate incident H-3-5 was on the MLR in the Panmunjon area.
Some of the company elements were actually in the so called no fire zone
which enabled us to come off the MLR from time to time for a hot meal.
I recall making
the trek from my bunker on the MLR down to the mess area. After finishing
my hot meal, I started back up the hill to our position. Another Corpsman
was coming down for his hot meal. We spoke to each other and continued
on our respective ways.
A short time lateron
that fateful day, the word was passed that one of our Corpsman had been
shot and killed while in the no fire zone. Ken Thebert, whom I met at the
Orlando reunion, remembers the incident and some of the details.
The Corpsman was
sitting in a tent at the time he was hit. He gave no indication that he
had been shot. He simply stood up , took a few steps and collapsed. Nobody
knew what had happened to him at the moment. However, it was determined
he had been shot in the chest.
was made involving military authorities on both sides. Although I have
no first hand knowledge of their findings, we were told that the same calibre
used by the Chinese. A sniper fired at the tent, the bullet piercing the
side flap of the tent and fatally striking the Corpsman in the chest.
I have often thought
of him over the years, frustrating myself to no end trying to remember
his name. I believe he was married and with small children. The uncanny
circumstances of his untimely death are still hard to believe. MAY HE REST
If anyone remembers
his name or can add to the details surrounding this incident, please let
me know. Maybe we can pay tribute to him in a fitting way.
A few weeks ago
I received a phone call from Don Mahaffy. Don and I joined the 1st platoon
of H-3-5 in February, 1953 and he is the first member of the platoon
I have talked to since July, 1953. Previously, as a result of you and the
Newsletter, I have heard from Jim Dixon, Frank Bartlett, Ed Murray,and
Pat Pattison who were with me on OP Ester.
My platoon was
responsible for the squad size O P Ginger so none of them were with me
on the 20 man O P Ester. The 1st platoon (minus the mplatoon leader--me)
did participate in the counter attack and cleanup on the 26th and 27th
of March on the Out Post led by Capt Stine, Co. XO. By the way, the out
post with female names, ie, Dagmar, Hedy, Ester and Ginger were named after
movie and television actresses, their comparative bust sizes determining
which elevation would carry the name, (Dagmar was the highest in elevation).
In a picture of Vegas taken on March 29, 1953 during a lull in the incoming,
can be seen the two fingers leading to Vegas and a company moving out under
cover of the right finger at the edge of the paddy.
On March 26, '53,
the Chinese overran O P Vegas (along with reno, Carson, Berlin and East
Berlin) attacking through their own artillery barrage just after dark.
Contact with the O P was lost immediately and Lt. Taft (promoted to Captain
posthumously) and 40 Marines were killed or taken prisoner.
At the time of
the attack I was to lead a squad on a combat patrol out in front of Vegas
with the objective of capturing an enemy listening post. All the
men were equipped with automatic weapons and grenades, and had the Chinese
attack been an hour later we would have been in position in front of Vegas
with a lot of fire power--assuming we would have survived the artillery.
Attempts were made to restore communication with Vegas, but failed, resulting
in cancellation of our patrol.
For the next four
days, H Company was responsible for guiding assault units and bringing
back the dead and wounded. Lt. Fred Larivee and myself were assigned the
responsibility to coordinate the assault forces moving out the "gate" and
the supply and casualty teams. On the second dayFred had just relieved
me when an incoming fragment severed his arm . He turned to a Corpsman
and requested a tourniquet on his stump--helicoptered out , he expired
on the hospital ship. For the remainder of the action I had a 24 hour/day
job . The platoon took 12 casualties and the company a total of 97. Vegas
was the major action of 1953 and was referred to as "the highest damn beach
head in Korea" (page 311, Vol V, U.S. Marine Operations In Korea).
When I first arrived
in Korea and was assigned to H-3-5, the company had just gone back into
reserve after some serious fighting on Outposts reno, Vegas, and Carson.
As I recall, we stayed in reserve for at least a month after my arrival
which was more than enough time for a "new guy" to be totally snowed under
with horror stories about what it's like up on the line.
When the time
came and we moved back up on the line, I think it was in the middle of
the night, I had all sorts of thoughts running through about this fierce,
formidable enemy that we were going to face very shortly. When we got to
our position there were quite a few K.M.C. or R.O.K. troops who had apparently
been in the position before us and were going to stay on for a short time
until we were familiar with the area. At least that's my recollection.
At any rate, I
spent my first night at the M.L.R. in a bunker with a Korean Marine who
spoke very little English and that was much more than the Korean I spoke.
As I recall, it was a warm, dark and damp night with only a quarter moon
that created some very eerie shadows and reflections.
After an hour
or two during which I was sure I heard all kinds of movement out in front
of us, this Korean, through sign language and what little English he knew
, made it clear to me that he was going out in front of our bunker
for some reason. Before I could even let him know whether or not I understood,
he squirmed through the aperture of the bunker and disappeared into a little
growth that was left on the forward slope of the hill we were on. After
a period of time that seemed like hours, I heard some movement in front
of the bunker, I think I was about two grams of trigger squeeze away from
building him a new orifice when he said something to me, and even though
I didn't understand him, I did recognize the tone of his voice so I held
When he crawled
back into the bunker he was holding his helmet in front of him like a basin
or bowl. Then he started eating something out of his helmet as though it
were full of popcorn. I figured he had probably picked up some nuts or
berries out there in no man's land. He kept pushing his helmet at me and
making sign that I should eat some.
I finally realized
there was no way I was going to change his mind so I took the helmet he
was offering me into an area where there was a little light from the moon
shining in and that's when I realized I was holding a helmet full
The worst part
was that I now knew where the other half of previously live snails were!
I remember thinking that if I was ever going to wander around out in front
of the M.L.R. and risk drawing Chinese fire it would have to be for something
a lot more valuable than 'SCUNGILI.'