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Marine Vignettes 

H-3-5 KIAs In Korea
By Jim "RATs" Ratliff
August 25, 1998

In 1992 when contacted after all those many years of not once seeing or talking to a single person from the company, I felt feelings that I cannot express. They were great feelings, I hope all of you have or will have the same thing happen.

As time went by and I would ask this one about that one and that one about this one who were in the company, now and then I would get the response, "Rats, he was KIA."
I knew about the men who had been killed when I got hit, the 1st week in Korea, Aug. 8, 1950, the first fire fight, but I did not know, to my sorrow and regret, nor did I try to find out what ever happened to those who came into H-3-5 after I left the company.
It was at the first H-3-5 reunion, Wichita, Kansas in April of 1993 that it dawned upon me, hey! we do not know who survived and who didn't or where this one is and what ever happened to that one.
The thought started to build; find out, find out, just try and find out---Where, When, How!
As you know we have been locating and are still trying to locate those of us who did return, and with a lot of work and effort from most of you we have been able to come together after those many years. We have had four very wonderful get-togethers with the best yet to come as more of us are located.
But with the KIAs and deceased that will never be.
After Wichita I started a project to find out who were the KIAs from How Company, just how many men paid the supreme sacrifice. I cannot and I know we should never forget or let them be forgotten.
The major problem has been to find just who was killed from H-3-5. They have the KIA list but no unit designation, just the names of
4, 267 Marines.
After these past four years of using about every means I knew or could find and having to keep asking myself over and over can it be done? I can now tell you I know it can be done and within the next year we should be able to have an accurate and official account of every H-3-5 that lost his life in the "Forgotten War"
On the next page are the names, ranks, serial numbers, dates KIA and Home towns of those in How Company from August 1950 till November 1951. A little more checking to do. By the next Newsletter the KIAs for that time period should be complete. We play the hand the MAN upstairs deals and as long as he permits me to hang around,
H-3-5 News 12/96
Editor: Jim "RATs" Ratliff

By Richard Roberts
July 9, 1998
               Fellow Marine Melvin "Sparky" Sharp and I had both been wounded in two different deadly battles in the Pacific. Sparky had lost both eyes in the devastating invasion of Iwo Jima. And I had lost my front teeth climbing up a cliff, by a Jap hobnailed boot that kicked my teeth out,  just as I reached the top on an Okinawa cliff. This took place a few weeks after Iwo Jima. The sands of Iwo Jima was Sparky's one and only battle experience in the Marine Corps, and was the single bloodiest engagement of WW2 for the Marines, with 6,821 Marines and attached Navy personnel killed and 19,217 wounded. This means that approximately one out of every three Marines landing on Iwo became a casualty. Sparky was one of them. Full of piss and vinegar and a great desire for action, he had entered the Corps as a teenager like many thousands of others. With the usual fear of the unknown and anticipated adventure, the Attack Transport carried Sparky toward the meat-grinder of Iwo.
I first met Sparky at Sawtell Vets Hospital in Los Angeles after I left the Corps. Sparky was about to have another operation on his face while I had to get a new bridge for my front teeth and a bone splinter removed from my jaw that was driving me crazy. Sparky was still very much beat up but full of determination and spunk. There was no other name for this Marine but Sparky. It fit him perfectly. Even his sightless eyes seemed to sparkle. The moment he came into your presence you could hardly resist his contagious liveliness and humble charm.
Sparky made it through the first  night of deadly horror, in which 566 Marines and Navy Corpsmen lay dead or dying on the invasion beach. Robert Sherwood, combat correspondent, described Iwo "The first night on Iwo can only be described as a nightmare in hell."  Sparky was a 60mm mortar crewman that fought doggedly  inland against fanatical Japanese resistance. An incoming Jap mortar shell accurately and very effectively knocked out the mortar Sparky served.  He and several others were latterly knocked off their feet and blown through the air. Iwo's "nightmare in hell" for Sparky became a
personal agony, as he lay mangled and covered by the now blood-black sand. His whole body from the waist up was one agonizing mass of pitted, bloody wounds. The shock of his extensive wounds caused him to dazedly pass in and out of consciousness.  A Corpsman reached him and at first thought him to be dying and beyond repair. The Corpsman gasped audibly when he saw Sparky's face and upper body. He almost turned away to tend other wounded but something told him to stay. He then went to work.
When I first met Sparky in the hospital, I couldn't take my eyes off his  face. Small black pits pockmarked his face and neck. The bursting shell had driven the black volcanic sand well into his skin. It was as if a drunken tattoo artist hand gone to work indiscriminately making his needle marks. For about a year the surgeons removed as much of the imbedded black sand and shrapnel as possible. The strong will of a determined man that must survive surged in his blood. Through innumerable transfusions and surgeries over the ensuing months he slowly regained strength and emotional confidence in the midst of his dark  world. Both eyes were so badly damaged that they had to be removed in time. He was fitted with two prostheses that looked very natural. The dark brown color of those was so realistic that only his head tipped back to laugh, gave away his secret of darkness. During his long stay in the hospital, and in between operations and the learning of Braille, he attends church. He fell in love  with and made plans to marry a girl named Nancy.
He asked me to be best man. I also had the privlege of making up their wedding rings. The big day came. Sparky and I spent some time reading a portion of the Holy Bible and then prayed together. As I guided him down the aisle to become one with a girl he would never see, I thanked God for the privilege of knowing this physically sightless, but faith-filled, vibrant human being. His hope, courage and enthusiasm were contagious. In 1950 I moved to the Puget Sound Area. I kept track of Sparky through a mutual friend, Bob Carlson, who was also in and out of the Vets hospital for cancer treatment.
One day in1952 a letter came from Bob of Sparky's health slipping badly. Seems his tragic lot was to continue to suffer, but our perspective on suffering is often not the same as God's.  As soon as I could get the funds together and arrange for a few days off I headed back to Los  Angeles. My mother drove me over to the vet's hospital. I wasn't sure of the exact condition of my old buddy Sparky, but geared  myself for the worst. I was not wrong in doing that.  An orderly took us to the ward and led us to the sun porch at the far end. Sparky was in a wheelchair. He made no response to my greeting, just faced blankly straight ahead. The battle of Iwo Jima was slowly finishing its deadly business.
               The slivers of shrapnel and the grains of volcanic sand that had taken out  his eyes and disfigured his skin had also minutely pierced his brain. Spinal meningitis had struck, almost taking his life. In the process it had claimed some of his brain functions, mainly his speech and memory. Could this be the same vibrant, tough, sightless comrade that I once knew so well? He was not wearing his familiar dark brown, plastic eyepieces. There was no need for them now. Sparky was grossly overweight. I was dazed and had  a difficult time accepting the changes that had come into my buddy's life. I felt hopeless and humanly helpless for Sparky. There was no way we could communicate. Could there be any way I could reach this friend who had vegetated to such a pitiful condition?
As I spoke to him again, I took his right hand for a prolonged handshake. Slowly his left hand came over to grasp my hand also. His head started to rise and he tried his best to speak, but only made unintelligible sounds. However I knew behind those layers of darkness there were some shadows of recognition and response. My broken heart both rejoiced and despaired. I knew very possibly I that would never see Sparky again. I opened my Bible and read several passages to him including the 23rd Psalm "Yea, though I walk through the Valley of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me, thy rod thy staff a they comfort me."  Sparky gripped my hand hard. I felt that down in the depths of  his darkness this message had touched his soul.
               As I said goodbye to my old buddy to return home toTacoma, I hugged him again and he squeezed my hand. Sparky's walk through the valley of the shadow of death was a painful, lonely, weary and prolonged one. It led him to face God and accept him, whom he loved despite the darkness in the shadows of the valley.
Today, I can't recall which of the valiant Marine divisions Sparky served in, the 3rd, 4th and 5th that made up the Fifth Amphibious Corps. He represented the uncommon valor of all Marines  who, dead or living, fought  on, in the waters and in the air and land off Iwo Jima.

By Marlin Palmer
August 25, 1998
I sent "RATs" pictures taken on Guam, A page out of a Guam Newspaper and all I hear is write a story, write a story. Alright, already I'll write a story.
A Touch Of Home
Not all was bad in Korea, there were times a touch of home was felt.
We jumped off Hill 296 and headed down to Seoul. The University was being used as a hospital by the enemy and there were about a hundred prisoners there. The rocket section of H-3-5 was ordered to guard them until the Army could take over.
We confiscated a charcoal heater to warm our C-rations and heat our coffee, hospital beds  w/mattresses, clean sheets and blankets. I don't think any high ranking officers had sheets while in Korea to sleep between or at least not until after the Cease Fire; well maybe if they were wounded and in a hospital or aboard ship.
We enjoyed this until we were relieved by the Army several days later. So like I said, all was not bad while there. Yes I would have traded it for a state side bed  and I don't have any desire to return and do it again.
Mess Duty
While in the Pusan Perimeter we were set up in a rest area for a few days. I had just made Corporal in the field and I said to myself, (Self) NO MORE MESS DUTY, Ha! Ha! Ha! I was put in charge of a detail for mess duty. I would have to wake up the guys before dawn and shuffle them off to work.
As most of you know. when on mess you bring loaves of bread , peanut butter, jelly or marmelade back to your tent for late snacks.
One evening I was late getting back to my tent. When I finally arrived I couldn't get to my sack. The tent was full but not with the troops but the Officers and SNCOs. They had raided my bread, peanut butter and jellies and were washing it down with their ration of booze. Needless to say, I didn't want to get up the next morning. My stash of snacks got very low in a very short time. I know now why they put me in charge of the mess-men, to get someone close to their tent so they could get some goodies.
How do you tell an officer to get out of your tent? "Sir out of my tent Sir," I Don't Think So! I don't remember who all was in my tent, but they had a good time except me who had to get up before dawn. I'm sure there were others who have had this problem. I now and still would feel sorry for them, but like always, if we survive we carry only the memories I can't and don't want to forget.
Marlin Palmer
Editor: Marlin and I go back a long way, we were in the same Platoon in boot camp. Plt 168, at PI in August 1948. 
H-3-5 News (1/98)
Editor: Jim "RATs" Ratliff

By Pat Pattison
August 25, 1998
After 44 years, memories tend to be a bit hazy. What do I remember about O. P. Ester was that when you were out on her, you looked up at everything.
I was in the 1st squad of the second platoon. The second platoon's position was on the ridge directly behind Ester.
From our squad's position, we had a clear view of Ester and Dagmar.
When Charlie started the ball, I was in the squad area bull s------- with Dave Moffet, one of the old men left in the squad.  (There were only two of us left in the squad after O. P. Vagus.) From where we were, we could see that Ester and Dagmar were being pounded. The thing that sticks in my memory was looking out and seeing flashes of automatic weapons on the forward slope. At that time I realized that Dagmar and Ester were getting hit by Charlie. I told Moffet to keep his fire team in their fighting holes while I checked on the rest of the squad. I had started down the trench line looking after the squad when Charlie started hitting the MLR with 82 and 122mm mortars. I don't remember how long it took me to get people to where they belonged with that incoming , but I got it done and worked my way down to the Platoon C. P. where I found the Company Exec., 1Lt. Stine.
The second platoon C. P. was also where the gate to O. P. Ester was, so everything going to the O. P. went by the Plt. C. P. When I got there I was  told that they had sent a souped up squad out to help hold the Out Post. At this time Lt. Stine asked me to get some people and lead the evac team to the Out Post.
Looking back all these years, the only person I remember that went out to the O. P. with me was Sgt. Jerry Storrie. I do remember that I didn't use any of my people because the only man in my squad that wasn't green was Dave Moffet, and I felt I needed Dave to look after the boots. I rounded up two fire teams and a dozen K. F. C's; we loaded the stretchers with ammo and grenades and headed out the gate.
The trail out to Ester went out along a rice paddy dike for about 200 yards, then dipped down to a little ditch, (this was an area that had good cover, a good spot to get ambushed). Once you crossed the ditch you turned an easy right and started up the hill that Ester was on. Like I said it wasn't much of a climb, it wasn't much of a hill.

How we all got out to the O. P. without getting a bunch of people hurt with all that incoming , I haven't a clue. The fact was, we did. The Out Post C. P. was just to the right of the back gate when you hit the trench line.  Once I got to the gate I found a crowd. The wounded were laying everywhere, while Marines who could hold a weapon were trying to keep Charlie from coming over the top of the hill. Again, thinking back to something that sticks out in my mind was the wounded laying in the bottom of the trench line and people stepping on them during the fire fight.

At the C. P. I stopped and talked to Mr. Bates. He gave me an idea of what he planned to do about the forward part of the O. P. His big problem at the time was Charlie crawling over the top of the hill and throwing grenades down into the trench line. He was on the radio talking directly to the support tank commander while I was with him.

We unloaded the ammo, loaded the stretchers with the wounded that couldn't walk, gathered up the serious walking wounded and headed for the MLR; mind you, Charlie is still walking those mortar rounds over hell's half acre.

To make a long story short (it's too long now).
We made three rounds with the wounded Marines. When daylight finally broke, Sgt Storrie, myself and four KCS's took one wounded Marine and one dead slopehead across the rice paddies to the MLR--It had been one hell of a long night.

Post Script

Lt. Bates had the tanks firing Willie Peter in their 90's just above the trench line. When it hit, it would splash white phosphorus up over the top of the hill, thus solving his problem of Charlie tossing grenades.

H-3-5 News (1/98)
Editor; Jim "RATs" Ratliff
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