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Marine Vignettes  

Ahoy Marine
By Richard Roberts
June 14, 1998
Joined the Corps in '43. Tarawa, Saipan with Weapons 2/8 (60mm mortars.) Landed on Tarawa at 7am, only one in the squad left. All I had was a mortar site and a satchel of ammo and no way to shoot it. They made me a Company runner then; runners were very common in those days. I lasted till 3pm, got 3 Jap .25 calibres in my leg.
Was glad to see New Zealand again.
Made it back to Division a few weeks later. Went on to Saipan, got a bad case of concussion there, lost my sense of balance, (and maybe some marbles too.) Was reassigned to the Engineers in time for Okinawa. Lost my front teeth there. Jap kicked me in the mouth with his hob-nailed boot just as I reached the top of a cliff. Actually, he did me a favor, I had a mild case of buck teeth. Made me a lot better looking, of course (grin).
Made it to N. China from there. Had the time of my young life. Was discharged Feb. '46.
My daughter tells me you had an uncle in the 2nd Marine division. I would like to contact your uncle if he is still with us, and find out what outfit he was with. My daughter has been encouraging me to write of my experiences. A little hard for me to do, but fun, never the less.
Here's a short one for you, hope you like it.
Best regards,
Richard Roberts, Seattle
Speaking of going to war, sometime in 1944 we were invited to the Marines version of the Marianas Turkey Shoot. We, of course, didn't want to be the turkeys. Our accommodations were the usual the Navy had to offer in those days. The food wasn't that bad; but it would be illegal to feed it to a convict today. This really didn't matter that much, as we had some time ago given up thinking about good food, a cool bunk and linen sheets, it was only a distant dream.
The idea of speed in those days was to keep ahead of the slowest boat, and that wasn't much better than 6 knots an hour. Knot's Eddy is a Navy term for a little faster than one mile an hour. One of the passengers had enough time to compose that great tune " A Slow Boat To China."
About ten days out, we were invited to rehearse our landing a couple of times at Kwajelein or Enewetak Atoll. I can't remember which one, so take your pick. They were in the Marshall Islands, though. When we finished up the second day, the Navy said, "Well Done" you Marines can now have a nice beer party. In those days the Navy felt rather strongly about mixing Marines and beer in such close proximity to one another. So we each received two cans of open, warm beer, with the appropriate "Atta-Boys" from the local Admiral.
Our local Commander-in-Chief then thought it would be a great idea if my Company would stay ashore and keep a liberty party of a battalion of Sea-Bees off the old invasion beach, simply because their skills were too valuable to lose while looking for old Jap ammo cans and bayonets. The 4th Marine Division had left a lot of litter some 3 months earlier.
So, Privates McKinney and Roberts squared off at one end of the beach to assume this great honor and post of so much responsibility. An hour or so later, the Sea-Bees came eagerly ashore. For some reason, the Navy stores gives its own kind all the beer it could drink, unopened to boot. This, of course, didn't go un-noticed by any of us "Leatherneck" highly trained, efficient guards. But we were too tired by that time to care, being softened up by our luxury accommodations and great food on this ocean cruise-liner we were aboard.
But, low and behold, along comes two sailors with a whole case full of beer. They buried it pretty close to the shade of our shelter-half that we had rigged up to a shot-up old palm tree. No foliage on the tree, though, as the 4th Marine Division had used it as part of their disagreement with the Japs. But, they must have thought it would be safe and cool there. After they had buried their traesure, they then went back to look for more beer. This of course was a bonus to from Heaven to us thirsty warriors, so we went and dug up their beer and re-buried it in a much cooler spot in the near tide water.
Now, as these sailors came back to unearth their beer, digging took on a whole new meaning. Those Sea-Bees could really dig, I mean really dig. It gave us a whole new respect for their skill and ability. They lasted quite a while, and dug like a bunch of mad, wet monkeys, digging up much of that atoll. But they eventually gave up and went away to look for some more beer.
So Private McKinney and myself, when our shift was up, dug up our new treasure and carried it back aboard our LST. We had a fine time drinking that beer and laughing about those poor, sober sailors. But alas, the beer was too soon gone and we, of course, thought of ourselves as being mighty drunk.
The next morning, the LST Skipper wanted to know where had all those empty beer cans come from that were rolling around on his clean deck. No one knew, naturally. He couldn't have been too mad, though, as he left the bow doors open so we could dive off the ship and go swimming. There were some schools of barracuda swimming around. Maybe he thought those fish would get rid of us.
At any rate, we had to go swimming as skinny -dippers, as there were no women or bathing suits for miles around. What a place to get sunburned though, on your tender buns.
Managed to recover by the time Saipan came looming in over the horizon. The modern tanning salons do this tanning in a far better and in a more efficient manner.
When our Cane and Crutch Brigade meets every morning for coffee, this guy in short, short pants  comes in with this great super tan. It seems he runs the local tanning salon. Also, he gives the name of the "Bremerton Ferry" a whole new meaning.
Semper Fi
Bon Homme Richard

Fire Fights Sept. 16 & 18, 1951
By Samuel Bellestri
August 26, 1998
I do not know the number of the hill we were on when the first fire fight occurred on Sept. 16, but we were SE of hill 812, 980 and 1052. I recall that we jumped off relatively late in the afternoon of the day.
 We went out on a spine and before we went very far we received fire from the sides as well as from ahead. We had recently come out of reserve and this was Sharpe's and Wheeler's first action, as they were replacements received in August. I didn't see Wheeler get hit, but I did see Sharpe get hit in the leg.
I thought Sharpe had a million dollar wound, but after going down the slope a short way, I was informed that Sharpe was hit in the head and killed while a Corpsman was treating his leg wound. I helped carry either Sharpe or Wheeler, I don't know which, on a poncho back to the CP. There were four H-3-5 men under ponchos that afternoon. I don't know the names of the other two.
On the 18th, we went on a combat patrol to better determine the enemy positions. It was early in the morning and so foggy we could only see a few feet in front of us. All at once the fog lifted, just as if someone raised a window blind, and we were immediately in front of their positions.  All Hell broke loose.
We were really pinned down and it is my opinion that it was only through the heroic efforts of several men that we were able to return to our positions. It was during this action that Tauzell was killed. We had stretchers with us that day and I helped carry him back part of the way.
This is only an assumption on my part, but the "peace" talks were underway at that time and it appeared that both sides were attempting to secure the best strategic positions in the event a truce was called.
However, that didn't occur for almost two more years.
H-3-5 Samuel Bellestri
(Record shows three H-3-5 men killed on Sept 16, 1951: Becker, Sharpe and Wheeler.    -Editor) 
H-3-5 News (12/96)
Editor: Jim "RATs" Ratliff

By Chuck Imbilli
August 27, 1998
The U. S. S. Breckinridge anchored off-shore on February 15, 1951 at Pohang Dong, South Korea. The 5th Replacement Draft was aboard which consisted of somewhere between 3,500 & 4,000 Marines. One of the largest drafts to date. Starting at 0530 on Februaru 16th, L. S. Ts. startted bringing the troops to shore. The assignments to fill in the under T. O. of the 1st marine division were now taking place and at that time it was close to 2300 and too late to get any hot chow.
I was assigned to machine guns as an ammo carrier with How Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. Tired and weary, I snuggled into my sleeping bag in a very dark tent and was almost asleep when I was shaken by one of the men telling me to get up as I had guard duty. I couldn't believe what he was telling me but naturally, I did as I was told. I could have been walking around the compound area for a couple of hours or so before I was relieved.
I climbed back into my sleeping bag thinking ah! now for some good rest and warmth only to hear the following. "Up and at em, breaking camp  and moving out!"
At daybreak we were boarding 6-bys and heading north. After moving us up so far in trucks, we continued on by foot. I remember passing out from heat exhaustion, if you can believe that . Anyhow, by March 1st we were now 4 miles north of Wonju.
I didn't care much for being an ammo carrier and as soon as I got know my way around, I managed to get out machine guns and become BAR man with the 3rd squad, 1st Plt. I traded my BAR off for a good trusty M-1 some time later.
After the Peace Talks were faltering, we moved up on line once again where we took over some Army positions. We were in a precarious position as a machine gun bunker was situated on higher ground and looking down our throats.
We lost Lt. Sharpe there as well as L. L. Lewis and others that I can't qiuite recall. Al Lemieux got hit there as well as Sal Polti and myself.
We had numerous casualties on that hill. I named it CHECKERBOARD HILL, cause every time we made a move, they jumped us. Man, they were good with mortars, you've heard the expression, "they could put them in your hip pocket, " I'm sure.
Some time later after returning to How Company from the Hospital ship USS Constitution, I was given the opportunity to become the company clerk. "I went for it in a heartbeat," as the kids say today. Which meant, I didn't have to go on patrols anymore.
The holdays are approaching and I am now a short timer and also getting a little apprehensive about being on line. The holidays were rather quiet as I remember and you could look across the valley and see the GOOKs' position in the next mountain range  in front of us. Patrols went out almost daily.
Counting the days now and finally, those sweet words were passed down , "5th Replacement  draft, saddle up, you're going home."  Never did I ever hear such beautiful words in all my life. We left our outfit at 0400 on the morning of the 20th of February 1952. I believe it was the 17th Replacement draft that replaced us.We boarded the "Willie Weigel" right after they disembarked.
Boy, did I feel sorry for those guys. It was a very happy day for me, perhaps the happiest day of my life. What a celebration, seeing so many of the original guys you went over with. Mahoney, Valetta, ingalls, and the list goes on.
No, we didn't forget those who would not be able to join us. There were many, too many for that matter. They are the real heroes and I for one will never forget that.
Chuck Imbilli

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

By Samuel Bellestri
August 27, 1998
I would like to make sort of a post script to the story by Ed Flynn in the March 1997 H-3-5 News.
I remember the encounter very much the way Ed described, even though I was in the First Platoon and on the ridge line to the right. That entire evening, "members" of the 2nd (Indian Head) Division of the Army, passed through us on the road in the valley. They wern't going high port because I didn't see any of them carrying weapons, but they were certainly moving at a rapid rate. They kept coming through us till after dark. All at once I heard someone to my left yell out "Hey, thems Gooks," and from then on it was about the way Ed related it.
Now let me describe how the incident is reported on page 886 of "The Forgotten War, " by Clay Blair, and I quote, "By late afternoon of May 19 CCF pressure on the new X Corps line at Hangye remained light or nonexistent. Almond took the advantage of the lull to complete the realignment of the line. The Fifth Marines coming from the Divisions left to right sectors, repalaced the First Marines and tied in on right with the 23rd Infantry. Wallace Hanes' proud 3/38, still staunchily holding its fortress on Hill 880, was finally ordered to pull back through the Fifth marines to join the 38th  in reserve. Owing to the possible connotations that the Marines had 'saved' the Battalion, the decision to withdraw was not happily received by Hanes and his men. They came out "proud and cocky and confident." End of quote.
That is really rewriting history. If their action was orderly, I would have hated to see them in retreat.
After we jumped off, we recovered most of the supplies abandoned by the 2nd Division , including the base plate of a 4.2 mortar. We picked up a wounded soldier and he wanted to stay with the Marines and not return to the Army. There were dead Army and Gooks in and along a considerable length of the river. It reminded me of "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death."
We had a Barker and a Barber in our platoon. I don't remember which one it was , but one of them was scooping up some river water into a canteen cup when he was told that there were more bodies in the river farther upstream. His reply was "that's O.K., I'll put a pill in it."
Samuel A. Bellestri

H-3-5 News (9/97)
Editor: Jim "RATs" Ratliff

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