The December 1996 H-3-5
Newsletter carried the personal account by Col. Williamson of the 1st Division"s
march from Yudam-ni to the sea. This brought back memories for me of this
bloody battle, and my first fire fight.
Col. Williamson mentioned
a machine-gunner getting hit across the helmet by a Chinese on the night
of November 28 to the 29, 1950. I was an ammo carrier with that machine
gun squad and was in the fox hole to the immediate left of the machine
gun position. My squad leader was Cpl. Cletus Munie and my section leader
was Sgt. Ken Partlow. Since I was the newest guy just having arrived in
Korea November 7, Cpl. Munie took me under his wing, and I was with him
in the fox-hole next to the machine gun. We were sure we were coming under
attack that night, so our fox-holes were very close together, no more than
ten feet apart. We started out with 100% alert, and this went between 50%
and 100% all night long. The previous night we hadn"t gotten any sleep
at all. This night we were trying to sleep in sitting positions, with our
boots and helmets on, weapons cocked and ready, and sleeping bags pulled
up to the chest. The temperature was almost 50 degrees below.
We had been told that
there was one of our listening posts to the front, down the draw, which
would be the most logical approach for the enemy to attack us. For hours
we stared through the moonless night down the snow covered hill to detect
enemy movement. To keep the men on watch awake we would occasionally throw
small rocks from fox-hole to fox-hole so the rocks bounced off the helmets
and the noise kept us from falling asleep.
At about 3 or 4:am I was
startled to see a Chnese soldier looming up in front of me not more than
15 to 20 feet to my right. I hollered "Look Out! They're Here! " The enemy
soldier was shouting a command in Chinese and sprayed the area with his
weapon. Closely behind him came many more enemy troops. In a matter of
seconds the enemy point man was on top of our machine gun position and
in hand-to-hand combat with our gunner. Fortunately our gunner was able
to push the attacker backwards and the assistant gunner shot the Chinese
with his 45. Then all machine guns opened fire.
At daybreak we inspected
the front. There were 17 dead Chinese within 40 to 50 feet of our position;
further down the hill we counted 25 more. We saw that the dead Chinese
soldiers wore one quilted layer of clothing and on their feet shoes that
looked like tennis shoes to us. Each soldier carried a seven-day supply
of food in the form of mixed grains encased in compartmentalized cloth
tubing tied to the waist. Then we began to understand how the Chinese Army
could move so furtively and undetected without the massive amount of supplies
we normally consider essential.
How did the Chinese get
so close to us? Our listening post had been withdrawn and had taken a different
route back to our lines. Unfortunately we did not get the word! I sometimes
wonder how close we came to losing our entire unit that night if the enemy
had succeeded in pushing through our position and getting to the center
of our perimeter. This night was for me, the raw recruit, baptism by fire.
With the exuberance
of youth, tempered by the realities of the past two months of combat with
H-3-5 on the perimeter, we lads which make up five of the seven-men FO
team were excited about making an honest to god combat landing just like
the Marines of WWII had done so many times in our memories of the recent
I'm not really sure,
but in retrospect. I would doubt that either Lt. Fly or S/Sgt Bill Conley,
both of whom had made similar invasions during WWII, were sharing our enthusiasm
for the forthcoming event. One of our major topics of conversation as we
made 1-2 trip aboard the Japanese LST from Pusan to Inchon was the expectation
of that legendary Invasion breakfasts of steak and eggs.
Come September 15th
our gear was all prepared and laid out ready for fast retrieval when our
turn to load on the boats came. We hurried to the small mess hall for that
eagerly awaited invasion breakfast, and were summarily served two cold
hard boiled-eggs and semi-warm fried potatoes (aka, fried gravel.) We were
more than a tad disappointed, but in the finest Marine Corps tradition,
we accepted it as just anther shafting by our beloved Corps.
This was our first
inkling that the day may not prove to be nearly as memorable and exciting
as we had anticipated. Following our invasion breakfast, we gathered up
and donned our 782 gear plus all that ancillary equipment needed to make
our FO team operate effectively, then hurried to our appointed gathering
place on the top deck.
Fly and Conely were
already on station. Landing craft from some of the ships were beginning
to load and form up in little circles. There may have been some naval gunfire
and air strikes hitting the Wolmi-do beaches, but I have no memory of them.
Time passed and we continued to stand there waiting for the word for Charlie
FO#1 to load up. More and more loaded landing craft were joining the circles.
Two LSMR's moved in along the beach and began giving it the dampest pounding
I have ever witnessed. I knew this had to be the final stage before the
circles fonmed into waves and would be moving toward the beach.
Finally I had to
ask. Lieutenant, it must be time for them to hit the beach, when do we
load up and join them.?"Mac", he said, We won't go in until later. We don't
land with How Company. I couldn't believe my ears.
The Company had never
before gone on an assault, or defense without us being with them to give
artillery support. So we asked, what to me was the obvious question.- -
- Why not?
Fly just stood there
for several seconds looking at me like I'd just dropped in from the planet
Pluto. Finally he said What the hell are we going to use to give them fire
support? All the 105's are in the holes of these two LST's.. Damn, somehow
I hadn't thought about that.
Over the preceding
weeks we'd more or less set aside the fact that we were members of an artillery
FO team who would double in brass as riflemen. We had become so enmeshed
into the How Company mystique that we now had the attitude we were valued
How Company riflemen who also had the side-line of adjusting artillery
fire when it was necessary and needed.
Late that day Charlie
FO#1 was finally given a call to board a landing craft. We motored in and
landed on a beachhead, long since secured, on an island which was also
long since secured. We kind of felt like men who'd gone over the wall at
the Alamo then returned after the battle was over to rejoin our friends.
I don't recall us
ever again discussing the Inchon landing during the long days and longer
nights which took us from Wolmi-do to Hill 296. There was nothing to discuss.
The initial disappointments had been supplanted by an emotion much akin
- - - We were learning
to live with the fact that when the balloon went up, we had not been called
to join our company when they hit the beach. - - To hell with the good
tactics and sound reasoning, we'd been left behind!