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
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.
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
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
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
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
Bon Homme Richard
Fights Sept. 16 & 18, 1951
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
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
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.
Jim "RATs" Ratliff
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
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
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.
Jim "RATs" Ratliff
I would like to make
sort of a post script to the story by Ed Flynn in the March 1997 H-3-5
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
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."