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Marine Vignettes #78-81  

Down The Hall
By Bert Kortegaard
August 23, 1999
On 9/13/50, when units of 3/5 mounted out for Inchon on the USS Wantuck, APD 125, I was on board with them, but not one of them.  I was Navy, and only went with them to where they left our LCVPs to hit the beach at Wolmi-do.  Therein lies a small tale.
I joined the Merchant Marine at 16 (Coast Guard ticket), in
1946.  On 1/10/48, my buddy Ken Roach and I were happily recovering from a party in San Francisco, when we decided to join the Corps.  It
wasn't a snap decision, we had followed the Pacific war as kids, which was mostly about Marine actions, and had always sort of meant to join up one day.  So, that was the day. Except, the Navy recruiting office was first on the hall.  The Marine recruiting office was further down, in the hall boondocks. Naturally.

Me being in the Merchant Marine, and having kicked all around
the Pacific for about two years,  we stopped in out of curiosity.
We knew the Navy, like the Air Force, was a powerful military
force, but the men in them weren't actually military men.  I mean, what the hell did they know about real war, anyway.  Warm  racks, hot meals, fresh laundry, lots of good liberty ports, easy rates.

What kind of life was that? I mean, a real fighting man should spend his tour hunkered down in foxholes.  Hanging his dirty beard on the rim.  Scratching his mangy butt with one hand while holding his BAR with the other, squinting into the murk for guys trying to sneak up on him. I mean, what could the Navy offer true men like us, the Real

Well, we found out.  The Chief sized us up with no sweat.  After
showing boundless admiration for my Merchant Marine sea duty,
and Ken's incredible brain capacity (him having finished High
School), the Chief gave us something called the Eddy Test.  Ken
missed passing it by a few points, but I was a half-assed Ham
radio operator, and blew the test away.

The Chief obviously had to fight back his manly tears, that Ken
wouldn't get 14 months of free electronics education, make at
least Third Class, and  start on a Begabuck career.  Just because of
those few points.

Once he saw Ken  was becoming very thoughtful about all this,
the Chief started getting poetic  about my own high score.  He said
he wasn't good at math, himself.  He said he wasn't real sure he'd
graded Ken's test right, that if I signed up maybe he'd find Ken had
passed, and could get on track for those big-time bucks after all.

Well, to cut it short, Ken and I both did join the Navy, and
went to ET school at Treasure Island, making Seaman First almost
straight out of Boots.  Ken knocked up a lady early on in the course, and got a  Hardship Discharge.  I made ET2 on graduation, and never
saw Ken again.

At TI, I qualified on basic infantry weapons because I wanted
to go into PHIBPAC (Amphibious Forces, Pacific), not the big-ship
Navy.  I tried out (unsuccessfully) for the 5th Naval District boxing
team, and especially liked fighting the Marines, but  I identified with
them at least as much as my Navy buddies.

But two years later, when I helped pick up the Brigade at Pusan,
I I wished  I had gone the rest of the way down that hall. It may sound dumb, but I wished more than anything in life that I was one of them.

I did my KW combat tour in PHIBPAC, on the Wantuck  We were at Inchon, made two raids with 41 Commando, cleared mines with UDT1, and did other stuff.  After making ET1, I  did a second combat tour on the Union, AKA 106.  After my discharge, I did a third one, as a radar Tech Rep with the Air Force (606th AC&W Squadron).  At least, we were doing radar Air Control Ops for flights over North Korea,  but with the whole 1st MarDiv between us and the CCF.

Eventually, I went to MIT on the GI Bill, and to grad school at UC Berkely, and recently retired after a reasonably successful
electronics engineering career.

But, part of me has always regretted not going the rest of the way down that hall, feeling that I somehow ducked the chance to prove something to myself that was very important.

If I Had, if I had paid for a ticket the only way you can, and been with the 5th in the Brigade and Inchon and Chosin, maybe I would have been sorry.  Most of my ex-Marine friends think I would have been REAL sorry.

So maybe I should thank God I didn't go down that hall,
but am just not smart enough to realize it.

Anyway, at Inchon I wished more than anything in life that I
had, and was going in with them. Sometimes I still feel exactly the same way.   

Bert Kortegaard,  KW Navy ET1, 798 94 66

By Jerry Stroud
August 23, 1999
When we had disembarked the troop ship at Inchon, the Captain had given every Marine two-six-packs of beer. I had directly followed a 1st Lieutenant down the gangway. He had his two six-packs under one arm and his carbine in his other hand. He stumbled! Something had to go! Over the side went the carbine and the beer was held tightly while he caught himself on the hand rail. Very impressive, and lightning quick decision making, and on top of that he made a decision that no brown noser would ever make. It was really what any Marine worth his salt would have done. However that qualified him in my book to represent me. S---birds are sometimes lucky. As it turned out, he had been the legal officer at Pearl Harbor.

It was a dark and stormy night! No kidding, it really was. The seas were pretty heavy and the court-martial was taking place. The room was very stuffy. I wasn't breathing normally. The fact is, I was scared S---less. Anyway, I was acquitted because I was never posted and therefore was not on watch. Justice prevailed! I did my bitching in quieter manner after that.

I have only been sea sick 3 times in my life and I have spent months at a time at sea. We once took a 53 degree roll on a "Tin Can" which was supposed to capsize at 60 degrees.

But when I left that court room I was sea sick. I went directly over to the rail and unloaded over the side. I watched in petrified amazement as all went toward the sea for about 8 feet and the wind picked it up and blew it right back in my face. Then I was really sick. I felt something hairy in my throat and swallowed hard and continued to unload. It was over! I had won! Thanks again Colonel.

(I did do some sleeping on watch before it was over. I don't feel bad about it because I know for a fact everyone in H-3-5 coming back from the Chosin was asleep on 100% watch and 99% of us were asleep. I was awake that night the Chinese walked right through us! Okay, so you don't believe it! I am telling you it is so.)

I was stationed with a few people from H-3-5 at Barbers' Point on Oahu. Now there was a certain Marine named R.E. Williams which I won't name any further without his permission. (He might take the title away from me, but I doubt it). There were three patroll areas at Barbers' Point, patrolled by Marines with jeeps equipped with red lights and sirens. We had pre-determined signals arranged by clicking our radio mikes in a certain manner that would call for a meeting at a given place.

One night on the late watch or early on the mid-watch (I forget) the signal was given and we did group, three of us. It seemed to "We Will" that it would be daring for all three of us to leave our posts and drive into Pearl City with red lights and sirens blasting for a beer. It was agreed it was daring from the start, but to quit one's post for a lousy beer was just a little too much. How ever it wasn't the beer after all, it was to show how brave we were.....wasn't it? Imagine leaving an entire base unguarded! Someone is liable to take a very dim view of such antics! Could even be Treason or maybe worse.

On Oahu it was not allowed for the Military to use red lights and sirens off base, well! We did it! We went right through the gate with the guard looking on and the OD's shack across the street. Red lights shining and sirens blasting and jeeps at full throttle on through Ewa and on to Pearl City and pulled up in front of the bar with all that din. I remember the bar had just closed and we didn't get the beer so we returned to the base, probably a little quieter and no one ever the wiser, until now. (Is there a time limit on such things? I hope so, otherwise I am the biggest liar in the world.)

(There is a bird that doesn't fly in every unit! You know the kind, it is the first word you hear at the receiving Station. The NCO that greeted you informed you that you were one. While I was in the Corps I never thought of myself as being in tat class even though I was assured by many Sergeants that I definitely was. Looking back with more mature understanding removes any doubt I ever had, I was the Company S---bird! If you have any doubt otr think you might be in contest of such a title, then read on my friend,)

The first time I qualified myself for such dishonor with H-3-5 was within hours of being attached to the Company. It was the University of Seoul. I was wandering around by myself and investigating the campus and buildings when I came upon an abandoned "Burp Gun". I had heard many tales about that weapon and never had heard one fired at the time. Curiosity burned deep within me. I thought of booby traps so I inspected the loose dirt around the piece for evidence of any molestation. It was inside of one of the rooms on the dirt floor and the room was open to a rather high hill in the rear of the University. Further, I looked for anyone who might be near enough to foil what little planning I had done. The coast was clear!

I snatched up the piece and unloaded a short burst into the hillside, then dropped it immediately. I ran outside and around the corner of the building away from the troops. I had my own M-1 at port arms and waited about 2 seconds then came back around the corner to meet a dozen Marines looking for the gook that fired that weapon. Someone had already found the "Burp Gun" and as I saw the mistrust in their faces, I ran up the hill as though I was after something. When I arrived at the top of the hill, and of course found nothing, I looked back and there must have been 50 Marines wondering what the hell had happened.

I went back down the hill and asked what the hell was going on. I was told someone fied this "Burp Gun."  I said "I didn't see a soul up over the hill." I casually left the crowd and went back to my duties before anyone asked more questions. I knew what a "Burp Gun' sounded like at the expense to the nerves of my fellow Marines. I had also escaped with my life, which I really didn't consider enough at the time. S---birds never do consider the aspects of what's going on enough.

Later on Chisom got a Deck Court for accidental discharge of his 45. I forget exactly what was done to him to cause him to atone for his mistake, but I felt he needed a friend and began to buddy with him. He was more than a little discouraged by his punishment, what ever it was (I think he got busted one rank) and we made a pact to see who could bitch the most and loudest just to irritate people around us, namely the Lieutenant. Boy! That really worked good and fast. It was just a few nights later that nobody awoke me for my watch. It was middle of the night watch for 1 hour and when ZI awakened the sun was coming up and all the NCOs were around me and so was the Lieutenant. Ah so! Sleeping on watch, Huh!

I was told I would get a Special Court for that one. I thought that was good, at least they can't execute you in a special court. Well the court-martial was to take place on the way to Hungnam on board the ship and I needed an officer to represent me.

That is not half of the shenanigans that qualified this S---bird, but it is all I would think anyone would want to read at one time. No, I am not writing from Postsmith, but had we been caught I am sure I would still be there.

Semper Fi,
Jerry Stroud

H-3-5 News 7/99
Editor, Jim "RATs" Ratliff

Memory Returns
By Marlin Palmer
August 23, 1999
Marlin and I go back to our first days in the Marine Corps. We were in boot camp at P.I. together, Platoon 168 in August 1948. Twenty men out of boot platoon 168 ended up being assigned to H-Company.

We went to Guam, then back to Pendleton and then to Korea. We got to know one another and better friends are not to be found.

I read in the April issue of the News, Bob Estell's story about 'Hill 296', outside Seoul, and Doc Kinzy's story about 'PASSWORDS'. The stories brought back a memory I had about this Hill. I remember most of what happened in Korea but I like to talk about the funny things that happened.

They had sent South Koreans up the hill to take the wounded down to the Battalion Headquarters and instructed me to lead them down to where the wounded could be picked up and taken for medical attention. I was to stay at Battalion Headquarters that night. Yes! I was going to be off that hill that night. Wrong!!! On the way down one of the wounded was Marvin Steele who had been shot through both cheeks of his buttocks and was in quite a bit of pain, he was laying on his stomach on a stretcher griping at these Koreans all dressed in white  who didn't understand a word he was saying. I told him to shut up or I would smack him on his D---A--. You know what? He did shut up. We laughed most of the way down. WE WERE OFF THE HILL!

We got to the bottom of the hill and Johnson, our H-Company supply man from Battalion Headquarters, was waiting with a jeep and trailer. The wounded were loaded but there were stacks of C-rations and ammo to be taken to the top of the hill. They said you got to take this back up there.

"WAIT A-HOLD IT!" I said "I'm supposed to stay at Battalion Headquarters tonight". They said, "they have to have this tonight". "It will be dark by the time I get there, what's the Password??????, " No one knew. I said, "those trees and shrubs that stand there all day move all over the place at night and they don't ask them for passwords, they just blow them away".

"I've got to yell something when I get there to let them know who it is", I said. Still no password. When we got to the top, someone yelled, "what's the password?" OH BOY! I started cursing and they knew no Korean could curse like that, it had to be a Marine. Lucky for me those Koreans were the most noisy people in the world with their talking and yelling on the way up. They paid the Koreans off and sent them on their way, but dammit! I was back on top of that hill again and as long as I live, I will never forget that password I wanted to know so bad, (SANTA-- CLAUS).

It is possible that they were called and knew of my coming, but to this day, no one has told me any different. As far as I am concerned I was on my own and scared to death.

Semper Fi
Marlin Palmer

H-3-5 News 7/99
Editor, Jim "RATs" Ratliff
"What's The Password?"
By Doc Kinzy
August 23, 1999
1950--October. After Seoul, but before Wonson, we had blanket sleeping bags; this was before we got into the cold weather. We still didn't get the feather sleeping bags until November 1950, way after we needed them.

The hill we were dug into overlooked the Battalion Aid Station. As I needed to, I would replenish my first aid kit (I really liked the 4X4 battle dressings, it could cover most wounds and had ample ties--they must have been three feet long on each corner). I asked Platoon Lt. Anderson if we were to stay on this hill until the next day. He stated that we were. Sometimes we dug foxholes and then would get orders to move out. Up another hill, dig in again. One time we moved three times after we had dug in twice. It was getting late afternoon and I felt it wouldn't get dark before I could go to the Battalion Aid Statiion, fill up and get back.

I got permission, away I went. On the path down I noticed communication wire laying on the path. It took a little longer than I had anticipated to fill my first aid pack but it was still light. I got to the base of the hill and started up. It was probably a 30-degree slope, and I was hurrying as fast as I could. I got the idea that if I could follow the communication wire it would be faster. So, I picked it up and began doing the crouch and half run.

Looking up, holding the Com. wire to guide me , I felt confident that all was going well. All of a sudden the Com. wire wasn't in the path any longer and I went over the side and tumbled about ten or twelve feet. I still had the wire. I climbed back onto the path and continues on, reaching the point where I was challenged. "Halt! Who goes there?" The classic challenge! To identify myself, "The dumbest corpsman in Korea. I just fell off this hill."

Next challenge, "What's the password?" Frustrated, tired and hurt, "I don't know the password. I should have gotten it before I left but I didn't."

Another silence. It might have been wishful thinking,  but I thought I heard snickering and chuckling. So, I asked , "Are you going to shoot me or what?" The answer was, "No, Doc. Come on up."

When I was within the perimeter and could talk to my challenger, I asked again if they had thought about shooting me. "Naw, we knew that anybody that clumsy couldn't be Korean."

So you see it pays to be clumsy and optimistic.

P.S. There are obscene answers to the challenge, "What's the password?" it usually worked if you didn't remember or didn't know.

Doc Kinzy 

Editor: What was the most common answer to the challenge of what is the password if you didn't remember or know? Do you remember?

The following letter was written by Doc's Grandson. The type was too large for the News so I copied it exactly as printed by his Grandson. Too cute not to include in the News. The Grandson used all caps, room did not permit all caps.

My Hero is my Grandfather. He was in World War II and the Korean War. He was a Medic in the Navy attached to the Mariens.
In the Korean War he was in the Chosen Resevoir. When he went out to the battle field to help a wounded man he was shot and left for dead. It was two days before another battalion came up and found him after his battalion left. He suffered from frostbite all over his body when they found him. The only why he knew he was alive was when he fely pain. He receives a Purple Heart for his heroic acts. There is a group of soldiers who all fought in the Chosen Resevoir who met once a month two talk about their exsperiences in the war. They call my Grandpa Doc and many of them clam he saved there lives. When returning home from the war he joined the Oklahoma City Fire Department and spent the next 31 years saving peoples lived lives and homes and retired as a Captain. Thanks for listening.

Doc's Comment:
Christopher Mach read this to his English class. I told him correct spelling does not indicate intelligence. His reply, "Thanks Grandpa". 

H-3-5 News 7/99
Editor, Jim "RATs" Ratliff
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