Marine Memoirs of Korea

by Burl W. Waits

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Marines are trained to fight in wars or "Police Actions". In World War II they did their job in the pacific. In the Korean conflict the Inchon landing turned the tide of the war. A few months later 20,000 marines were put in "harms way" by egotistic American leaders. In narrow mountain passes they fought and froze when Communist China committed several hundred thousand "Volunteer" troops to the war effort. In November 1950 McArthur had boasted that the Army and Marine units would be "home for Christmas".

Communist leaders were desperate to trap and destroy the marines. Over 4000 marines paid with death or wounds, thousands of other had various stages of frostbite. Tough as it was on the Americans the marine escape was a major defeat for the Chinese Generals. The fact that they brought out their dead, their wounded and their equipment added one more glory to a long list.

As a Marine guard at Barbers Point naval air station I followed the activities with interest. Beautiful beaches and hula dancers tend to relieve the  concern until you get the order to report for duty in South Korea.

January 1999,--Forty seven years ago this month I landed in Tokyo. It was snowing. After two years in the tropics it was rather cold. A few days later it was even colder in a makeshift tent in South Korea. I was a marine  corporal brought in to rebuilt the fighting teams destroyed in North Korea by cold weather and the Chinese army.

A marine squad has three fire teams of four men each and a leader. Out of the thirteen only three or four had survived the invasion of North Korea and the Chinese war machine. Normally a Corporal would lead a fire team. I was assigned a rifleman position because other Corporals were already assigned as fire team leaders. That was OK with me. Two years of guard duty in Hawaii was not exactly the training needed to start a "kill or be killed" leadership role.

Some history writers say we started the campaign to retake Korea on January 25, 1951. All I remember is that we broke camp on January 22, 1951, and I was wounded the first time on February 22, 1951. By that time as my buddies were killed or wounded I moved up to Fire Team Leader then to Squad Leader. After 30 days of intense combat only about half the original squad was still able to fight.

You job is to kill the enemy before he kills you-we keep score with the body count.

A few days after we "jumped off" (meaning we started a drive north) I was introduced to death. As I remember it was late afternoon, we had engaged the enemy most of the day. Our planes had kept them retreating. Napalm burns everything. Burning flesh smells bad.

We moved into an area where deep trenches had been dug. Underground passages leading from one side of the knoll to the other. There must have been twenty-five dead bodies laying around. Some on top of others. We poked them  with a bayonet to make sure they were dead. (Sounds gruesome now-but night was coming and marines have been killed by enemy fighters who pretended to be dead.)

In the entrance to one tunnel there was five or six dead soldiers legs and arms intertwined. Blood started flowing from a young Chinese fighter. (dead bodies don't usually bleed) We took our first prisoner. No, we didn't shot him. A few of those who had lost many buddies up north thought about it.

That prisoner was one of the lucky ones. A half million Chinese soldiers did not make it home.  And the grim reaper takes marines also.

A young marine, with bright red hair, dies quickly when a bullet goes through his heart.

A few days after the prisoner incident we were moving up a hill. A young guy from North Carolina was two feet to my left. Between us was a small tree. The tree was about 10 inches tall. The trunk no bigger that a finger. A bullet cut the tree off two inches above the frozen ground. This could be dangerous.


An hour later we were almost to the top of the hill. ( In marine language it is called the military crest)

Red and I were still close together. I heard a loud gasp. He tried to move. I moved quickly toward him. As I slipped his head on my lap he looked bad. I yelled for a Corpsman. Blood was gushing through the many layers of clothing.

His eyes rolled back and he was gone. (A year later I cried, again, as I wrote his parents that he did not suffer) He was only eighteen years old. I  was twenty. Seven months later a bartender in a San Francisco Chinese restaurant would refuse to serve me a drink because I a was a few months shy of twenty-one.

A full moon- a might patrol Two weeks into the offensive the routine has been established. We move a few miles most days. We stop in the early afternoon. We dig us a hole for the night. Everything we need to survive is carried on our back. Food is in a can. It tastes better if you can find a way to get it warm. Not many chances to build a fire. The daily ration contains a little can of stern.

Digging a hole is a chore. The ground is frozen for several inches. If the demolition team is near a little plastic explosive helps. Two marines to a hole. One sleeps while the other watches. Usually we do two hours shifts. By the time it is your turn to sleep you are ready. If something moves out there your heart sinks a little. Sometimes a flare will go up, wakeful alertness replaces the desire to sleep. Some nights are long.loading shells Our layers of clothing kept out most of the cold.

Night patrols are common. Especially if they don't know exactly where the enemy is located. One midnight patrol is burned into my memory, not because it was bad, just because it was so beautiful. The moon was full, the snow was only about 6 inches deep, my buddy and I had a good hole, no enemy activity that day, so we were looking forward to a restful night. The Platoon lieutenant came by and asked us to volunteer for a patrol. Volunteer is probably not the right word. Marines are trained to just say yes.

Our mission was to move through the company lines then travel northwest for three miles. We had to cross a creek half way to our assigned destination.

The creek was only about a foot deep and maybe 30 yards wide. It was moving fast enough that the ice had formed only on the edges. We rested a few minutes before getting our feet wet. It really was a beautiful setting. Easy to forget that one was engaged in a life or death struggle.

Wet feet in good boots are not bad as long as you keep moving. By the time we retraced our tracks two hours later we were in no mood to enjoy the scenery.

How good it felt to dry the feet and put on that extra pair of socks that had been warming next to the body.

A tank ride speeds up the advance and brings back the wounded Riding the outside of a tank over a rice paddy is like being on a bucking

horse. I remember holding on for dear life. We were moving north, we had the Chinese on the run. They had moved to far south and they had no supply lines.

We got our supplies every afternoon, unless the weather was so bad the flying boxcars couldn't find us.

On February 22, 1951, I took my last tank ride. I was strapped on a stretcher tied to the tank. I remember grinning at the tank commander and feeling like we were floating across those water barriers. I was full of morphine. (My one and only time to be high on drugs)

Clever Chinese set bobby traps for advancing marines. It was midday we had been moving fast up another of the millions of hills. I was the squad leader, I motioned the fire team on the right to move up. I heard what I thought was a shot. I looked around to see who might be hitting the dirt. A bigger bang.

One of the guys had tripped a primer that set off a bobby trap. A numb felling in the center of my left calf, blood running through the three layers of clothing into my boot. Concern, yes, I yelled for the corpsman. I could move my leg I could even feel my toes in the bloody boot. Was it really one of those happy wounds that earned you a trip to Japan? Something warm on my neck, a hand checks it out, the hand is coated with blood. Now I am really shook, legs we can live without necks are dangerous. The two corpsman get there as I am about to pass out. They stop the blood flow from the neck. They cut through the three lays of clothing. The then bare left leg is bound, the blood stops the morphine starts working and I am taken down the hill where they put my stretcher on the tank. I was starting to float and grin. (The reason people get addicted to drugs is that they work, but only for a little while).

The field hospital I remember was not quite as glamorous as shown in the TV series MASH. It must have been two or three hours after the hit when I arrived at the hospital. They cleaned me up, somewhat, remember we had been fighting for 30 days, no shower, no shave, several layers of clothing. The only thing that had been changed was socks, always keep a fresh pair of socks next to your body. Wet feet freeze easily.

The Doctor was pleasant enough, he says, " Boy can you talk" I said, "Yeah" he says "Your are very lucky those neck wounds are very close to your vocal cords" One more reason for a "thank you lord."

Next day I'm feeling good, By the time I get back from Japan it will be spring and we will not need the plastic explosive to break the permafrost to dig us a hole for the night. But alas, it was not to be, the marines stopped fighting. No more fighting, no more wounded, no need to send anyone not seriously wounded to Japan.

Two weeks later I'm getting bored. Limping around a big tent with one leg  bare is not my idea of fun. Plenty of beer and cigarettes, and the hot food is welcome, but if you can't party then lets go back to the war. One memory  of that hospital stay is watching the daily delivery of supplies. Big slow moving airplanes with openings in the back go by and the guys inside pushes out loaded pallets with parachutes attached. Some reckless airman must have made a mistake because he was hanging onto the package as it floated down.

Word was that he wasn't hurt bad. Probably taught him to be more careful it the way he delivered supplies.

My unit had been relieved from front line duty a few days after I got hit.

Someone told me they were camped two miles for the hospital. When I managed to hitch a ride to the camp they were surprised, that I was alive, and that I was still in Korea. I was still limping, but the neck had healed and I knew it would not be long until they would send me back to the unit.

The main reassignment area was one hundred miles south. Big Marine troop trucks are not the most pleasant way to see the country. A hundred miles down, then a hundred miles back. Two hundred miles to get two miles? On one of my visits I talked the Company clerk into pulling some strings so that I could rejoin the unit without the travel. I was still limping so they gave me light duty, reading, writing letters, drinking beer and keeping the tent clean. I managed to get some long johns and pants with both legs intact. I picked a new weapon and made sure it would hit the target.


It is now mid April. The weather is getting warmer. We are close to the dividing line between north and south.

In part one of this article we remembered the first 30 days of combat. Our first experience of enemy dead. Our first prisoner of war. Death of a buddy.

Getting wounded. The drug induced tank ride. Cheated out of trip to Japan.

And the short cut to returning to the combat unit.

It is now mid April 1951. The 3rd platoon of Howe Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, is rested. The missing men have been replaced, my wounded leg is almost healed, and we are ready to start north. (incidentally the foreign material in my left leg is still there, they would have had to cut away too much muscle to get it out)

Other units have been pushing the enemy while we were in reserve. The first few day are easy going. A lot of marching and a few truck rides. At night we can sleep. Who would suspect that in a few days thousands of lives will be saved as our unit adds one more small contribution to Marine fighting history.

There are not so many hills now. Small villages still exist, but there are not many civilians. Most of their homes have been destroyed. Once in a while we see a Papason and maybe his elderly wife scrounging for something to eat.

We marines throw away more food than is available to them. This part of the country has now been invaded three times. Once by the North Korean sneak attack, then by the allied forces in the summer and fall of 1950, then again by the Chinese army a few weeks ago. And now we are going through for the fourth time. Not much left in the way of a civilian life style.


One of the sustaining factors for a person engaged in life or death activities is memories of people and places back home. Mail call is more  important than mess call. (for the lucky ones) Letters from family and friends lift the spirit. I had more. The best looking girl in my home town  had been writing to me for almost three years. We had dated a few times, but nothing serious just friendly letters. Those letters during the Korean tour gave hope for a life after the fight. I know that writing is not her favorite activity because I have been married to her for forty-six wonderful years.

By letter dated April 30, 1951, I wrote her more details than usual. I asked her to save the letter so I could always remember how someone was watching over me for one more hellish week. Many things have happened in the 47 years since that letter was written. Four children, eleven grandchildren and a couple of great grandchildren add to the wonder of a life that could have been cut short at any time during this hellish week.

Eight dog eared pages are now yellow with age. The grammar and spelling show signs that the writer is a high school dropout. The facts related tell only a small part of the total story. The letter revives vivid memories of narrow escapes. Looking back it would almost seem as if there was a grand plan that I should survive. Again, I give thanks for the opportunity to have lived a  good life. A life after Korea.

We now move to the actual words of the letter. I will quote a few lines then relate details of how it really was. 


April 30, 1951

Dear Joan,

Well, I have had a very eventful week. Six longest nights I have ever spent in my life.

Last Sunday night the Chinese broke through the ROK lines. The next day the third Battalion went up to plug up the lines. We climbed the 3rd highest mountain in Korea and set up for the night. That night the Chinese came, we lost quite a few men, but we held them off.

How it really was

As we got closer to the front it was obvious that something big was going on. Army units and ROK (Republic of Korea) units were also moving north. Artillery units were up and moving. Trucks, Jeeps and high brass were everywhere. At one time we even had a visit from the most famous marine of all times. "Chesty" Puller.

Most of the generals avoided having their star or other identification on the jeep or the collar. They knew, that the enemy knew, that leaders were fair game. Puller had a number of "purple hearts" to prove that he was not afraid  (his courage and leadership added to rank and file motivation when the going gets tough).

The letter is dated April 30, 1951-so the activities must have started for my unit about April 23.

We got orders to pack up fast. A ROK unit had been overran by the enemy and there was a big hole in the line. (During the Korean police action we still used tactics similar to the American Civil war- Line up the men-move forward  shooting- survivors regroup and do it again) (In Vietnam there were no clearly defined lines and war changed forever) (In the gulf war we try to get away from using men and women as targets for the enemy)

In "line combat" big holes are to be avoided. Now that the Chinese were counter attacking and several Army and ROK units were threatened on three sides it would not be good war tactics to allow the Chinese to get on all four sides. So they need a few good marines to hold an area around the only bridge out of the trap.

HILL 902

We crossed the bridge in the morning. We started climbing the third highest mountain in Korea. A meter is 39.37 American Inches. Nine hundred of them makes for a pretty high hill. Climbing 902 was a chore when you had all your equipment, your weapons of war, and extra ammunition. I don't know how high we were when we crossed the river. I don't even know how near we were to the top. All I remember was it was one hell of a climb.

Chinese troops tend to fight at night so they can to hide from our airplanes during daylight. Even before the sun went down this day we could hear shooting and explosive devises "up the hill." Looking back over the forty-seven year it was probably the lead unit of our battalion routing out the forward observers for what turned out to be a lot of "volunteer Chinese  fighters living their last two days, on this earth." At the time it was enough to know the bullets were not close. The climb consumed us. Out of breath, and bone tired, we were prodded to keep moving up the hill.

It was dark when we finally stopped. The weather is good, the ground is no longer frozen. We start digging a hole. War sounds were intensifying up the ridge. Flares and an occasional tracer bullet add stress. Wounded marines being carried off the hill behind you make you even more nervous.

Before we can get a good hole dug, we get orders to move up a few yards. We take the hole someone else started. One watches while the other sleeps. Good theory, but no one really sleeps on this the longest night of my young life.

The sounds of rifle fire is now continuous. Chinese troops continue to move over the bodies of those who tried earlier. Many hand grenades are now being used by the marines. This is a major assault. They want this hill. Minutes seem like hours. you try to think about home or a girl, but the mind always returns to "what if I die this night" I really did not want to die. (By dawn we have moved several time, enemy fire now comes our way often. The foxhole is never deep enough for comfort. We can hear them working on the wounded behind the ridge. Soon the Chinese will start digging in for the day and maybe, just maybe, someone with some authority will let us get to hell off this hill. It was a long night.


We were about out of ammunition and had no chow, so we had to come down the mountain. We had to take turns carrying the wounded so it took us most all day. We were all so dry by the time we got to the bottom that we just ducked our head in the water and drank. We got our rations and started back up this little hill to set up a defense.

What the letter did not mention about the trip down the hill.

The North Korean's started the War ten months before I wrote this letter. At first they had the advantage. America had been afraid to give South Korea tanks and Airplanes. The ROK troops were not trained to perfection. When UN troops and equipment was finally committed it was necessary to retake most of South Korea.

Most of the North Korean equipment, tanks and airplanes, were long gone. The Chinese depended on ground troops. They moved fast and traveled light. Most of their food and ammunition they got from allied units they were able to destroy.

As American troops the Marines had equipment, supplies, and those wonderful airplanes. Tanks and artillery cannot provide much help on steep hills like 902. Especially when there is no time to get things in place.

So, our advantage with day light and good weather would be our air support.

In 1951 US armed forces were converting their air weapons. We saw a few jets, but most of our support was provided by the older prop jobs left over from the big war.

We had now been fighting for three months. Most of South Korea was in Allied hands. Several times we had witnesses the destructive power of our Marine fighter pilots. Machine guns, bombs and Napalm spelled death for any enemy troops caught in the open.

Going back down hill 902 was easier. Bringing out buddies on stretchers or body bags slowed us down. Apparently the Chinese were following and someone called in for air support. At first we were glad to see them.

It was mid morning. We were a mile or so from where we had spent the night.

Looking either up or down the ridge you could see a steady stream of humans.

From the air Marines must look the same as Chinese.

The airplanes are often controlled by a ground observer. These guys carried big heavy radio equipment. One of the observers had been talking to me as we moved down the hill.

Four Marines planes buzzed us. We thought they were going for the Chinese up the hill. Suddenly the scene changes. The lead plane is heading straight for us. The way they work is that one plane comes in and drops a test bomb. Then the others know where to direct their fire power. The marker bomb landed 25 yards away. Some fragments buzz by. We hit the dirt. The Observer is yelling into his radio. " You bastards you are hitting marines" (or something like that)  Looking up we can see the other three planes lining up for the kill. They come closer. I can see the opening where the machine guns bullets will start any second. And he has bombs on the wings. I had no time for prayer. I knew I was a goner, my only thought was that I hoped it was not napalm.

A few seconds later I can see the pilot, he dips his wings as if to say hello boys. We move on down the hill.

We were about out of ammunition and had no chow, so we had to come down the mountain. We had to take turns carrying the wounded so it took us most all day. We were all so dry by the time we got to the bottom that we just ducked our head in the water and drank. We got our rations and started back up this little hill to set up a defense.

The Chinese had swung around to our side and they wanted the hill also. So we flipped a few bullets to see who got the hill. The Marines won. We set up a defense. The enemy were in front and on both sides, but they didn't attack.

We had artillery and mortars going on them all night. We also had our airplanes dropping flares so we could see. My Battalion was the only one left in North Korea, H company was the point. The next night was about the same, the enemy tried a small attack, but we pushed them back.


The hill where we would make our stand was a half mile from a bridge. The bridge was the only way out for thousands of Allied forces. The area had changed hands before. Someone had dug trenches and build dirt mounds to  provide protection.

After loading our wounded on Ambulances, trucks or helicopters we drank our fill, washed our faces and headed back up the ridge to set up a defense.

Normally our Rifle Platoon would be out in front leading the way. We had not participated in long term defensive tactics. This time the big Mortars and the Rocket Launchers would be a part of the defense team instead of being a few hundred yards behind dropping explosives on the enemy in front of us.

The orders this day was that we were to hold the line at all costs. Our big mortars, our little mortars, the Bazookas and the Water Cooled Machine Guns were all a part of the defensive line.

Our V shaped defense perimeter started with the point several hundred yards up the ridge and opened up on each side all the way back to the river. The Bridge would have been in the center of the open part of the V. My Platoon was at the point of the V looking up the ridge.

In the letter I tell Joan the fighting is rather light. That was a little white lie. The Chinese wanted us out of there in the worst way. Fortunately we were dug in and setup, before they made their move. I remember stopping long enough to enjoy a can of peaches, some crackers and a couple of candy bars.

And then they came down the ridge. They came in force. We mowed them down.

For those of us with Rifles or Carbines we fired a few shots, but most of the river of bullets was provided by our automatic weapons. The BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle), the light machine guns and those heavy duty water cooled jobs.

We had plenty of ammunition. Down by the river were trucks filled with supplies. The first night the attack started just before dusk and lasted for about three hours. For those of us foolish enough to occasionally look over the dirt mound in front of us we could see dead bodies a few yards in front of our position. Many brave Chinese soldiers were killed trying to get through our line. A bugle call from up the hill signaled them to regroup.

Through the rest of the night we could hear sounds far up the hill and occasional burst of gunfire. The big mortars sent up flares and a few time our airplanes flew over with bigger flares that would light up the whole area.

One memory that is very clear is the sound made by the trailer drawn rocket launchers. There are about two dozen weapons lined up in several rows. As they are fired it sounds like a machine gun, just bigger and much louder.


We were not going anyplace. We had food and water. As long as you keep your  head down you were reasonably safe. The Chinese were not so lucky. They had probably improved the trenches, but we had the big guns on our side.

Artillery shells from across the river, the mortars, and bombs for the airplanes.

We cleaned our weapons and relaxed. A few times during the day bullets would buzz over the head of someone. As the sun went down we could hear movement up the ridge and down the sides. They were going to try again. Once more our  superior firepower killed many and they again pulled back to their deep trenches. Most of us were able to get some sleep during the two hours periods when we were off watch.


The next morning at 800 O'clock, my squad, 10 men were left in it was sent out on a patrol, to see if the enemy were still on the hill to our  front. They were. A machine gun fired at up. We went over the hill so it couldn't hit us. At this time I was the furthest man north, of all the U.N. troops. Our heavy machine guns started firing over our heads, to keep them down while we came back to the line.

We started back, and we were, and we were moving any thing but slow.

I looked back once, and saw a artillery shell hit right in the trench, where the chink machine gun was. that made feel much better. On the way back I stopped long enough to pick up a shovel, I had lost mine the day before, and this guy didn't need this one anyway. He was in no shape to use it. We got back to the lines O.K., nobody hit.

Now let me tell you how close I came to dying that day .

After the sounds of war stopped on night two the whole area was quiet. After a couple of hours most of us were at peace. We had survived three full days and three harrowing nights. A calm spread over the hill. Some of us got the first good sleep in four nights.

Daylight brought more comfort. Hot coffee or chocolate, a half decent breakfast.(Still C rations, but not bad) Nothing moving anywhere outside our secure lines. No shots could be heard.

Our then Platoon Leader was a big guy. At 800 a.m. he ambled over to where I was leaning on my pack. Waits, he says, we don't know if the enemy is still up that ridge. I want you to take your squad and move up the ridge toward the trenches where they were when we last observed firing. The minute you draw fire get low and come back. We will have all our fire power standing by to cover your return.


Marines survive in combat because they do whatever is necessary, and whatever they are told. Today's Marine Corps would probably have some type of heat seeking surveillance that would tell them how many live bodies were still in those trenches. They could launch a missile from a plane or a ship that would go right into the trenches.

Those things were not available in late April 1951 so Burl and his men are going to find out the hard way if enemy is still there.

Dozens of Marines watched as eleven of us moved away from the safe battle line.The front-line mortar platoon had stacks of rounds ready to go. The big guns across the river were ready. It was a beautiful day for a leisurely  stroll up the ridge.

We formed a V as we moved away from our security line. I was the point. The others to the right and left and slightly behind. The ridge was narrow so the marines on either end were slightly lower than me.

A few yards out we started seeing dead bodies. Most of them had been killed that first night. The weather was warm during the day. Dead bodies are not pretty after a few days. The silence was scary. No sounds of fighting, no Airplanes, nothing but a few marines moving gingerly up a deserted ridge.

Time stands still, progress is measured in distance from the safe environment. I relaxed a little as we continued to move without activity. I was about 150 yards out when I spotted a body that was obviously a Chinese Officer. (Through the years I have said he was a Colonel, but I'm really not sure) Even in death he looked different. Better uniform, different type of  head gear and boots. Strapped to his side was a pearl handed pistol.

When I stopped my squad stopped. As I looked down at that pistol I could picture other marines admiring it as I told the war story. The thought that  it might be a bobby trap crossed my mind. I had experience with tripped wires that set off explosives-but, I remember thinking, this could not be, we are still in view of our troops, surely no one would stop long enough to rig an explosive to a pistol.

I decided to get that pistol. That decision saved my life. As I bent down the bullets started flying at the spot where my head had been. Bullets make a distinctive sound. After a few weeks of combat you can tell by the sound how close they are. Those bullets were, close, very close, some chinaman had my head in his sights. My bending down at the right time foiled his plan.

All hell broke loose from our side. I hit the dirt crawling. Dozens of my buddies were firing at the ridge. The machine guns were non-stop. Thousands of bullets were going over our head. All we had to do was keep crawling, keep our head down and thank someone for that trigger happy chinaman that couldn't wait for us to get closer.

As I mentioned in the letter to Joan, I did pick up a shovel on the way back.

I did not get the pistol, and I have never spent one minute regretting it.

Thanks to that pearl handled pistol I have enjoyed a great life.

One of the rules of the Korean War was that two wounds bought you a ticket  home. On June 6, 1951, while I was trembling in a shallow ditch my left leg was again injured.

Most of June and July was spent playing cards and touring Southern Japan while I waited for a boat ride home.

As we finished Part Three we had stopped a major Chinese offensive long enough for the Allied troops to get out of a potential trap. As we finally crossed that bridge we watched from the Southern side as they prepared to blow up the bridge.

We pick up now with the final few pages of that April 30, 1951, letter to the girl who later become the mother of my four children. Until I starting writing these memories none of the children would have know how close they came to not being.


That afternoon the first Marine Division had to pull back. The Army had pulled back all along the line and both our flanks were exposed. We had tanks covering us and the airplanes were giving them hell on all sides, so we had no trouble pulling back. We went across a 200 foot high bridge, when we were all across they blew up the bridge. From 5 that afternoon we walked. We got to a town Chonchan and sit up another defense. We all got some much needed rest. There was Marines in front of us so we didn't worry that night.

All night long trucks and men pulled back through our lines, by noon the next day we were again the defense line, but the Chines were still a few miles up.

That night was uneventful. The next day we spotted Chinese in the hills to our front. We could see across the Hon River and a big valley. They could not get close to us. We had tanks set up so they could fire clear across the valley. We were supposed to pull back that day, but the roads were jammed with traffic so we had to stay the night to protect the truck movement, and to give them time to get all the other troops out.

That night about 0130, a few of them slipped half way across the Valley, to the other side of the river, and fired at us. We never even fired back, we called in artillery. Those few Chinese were brave but sort of stupid. The rest of the night went by slow, but without anymore trouble.

Our men blew up the bridge early the next morning, and we started moving back. We would move back a couple of miles then sit up a defense and wait for the others battalions to move through our lines. They would do the same for us.

About dark last night we sit up our last defense, on a narrow mountain pass.

Every body else moved through our line, and then we moved down the mountain pass to a valley. Where we got on a truck a started back. I went to sleep, I was in a dump truck and the roads were rough as heck, but I slept like a log.

Now I will tell you why we were staying up there. While the "First Marines" were holding them back all the other outfits were pulling back to sit up a line clear across the central front. We moved back behind this line, and now we are sit up in a nice valley, just resting. We are in reserve and the front line is 5 miles away from here.

I think I forgot to mention that all the time the planes were helping us.

Except one day when it rained. The artillery and planes were what gave us such a good advantage. We also captured about a dozen prisoners. They were dressed in civilian clothes.


But not the end of the letter -- Again I remind the reader that the story was written by a high school dropout.

Looking back these 48 years it really was quite an experience, but compared to what the First Marines and others had to experience when McArthur forced them into North Korea six months before the time frame of this letter, my experience was rather mild.

The last couple of pages of this letter is rather personal, but since I have been married to the wonderful girl for almost 47 years I guess I can take the chance.

 Well, that is about all I've did in the last week. how is everything with you?

Joan, I don't know if I should have wrote all that to you. Most of the guys just write that they are O.K. and doing fine. I was just as scared as any of them, if not more so, but it is over and until we have another week like that, which I hope I never do, I just figure that it had to be someone up there, and I am not afraid to tell anyone how it happened. It was an experience that I will never forget, but it is over for now. And I am happy now, mail came in today, I got some of your letters you wrote to that other address. I don't mind telling you that they sure helped my moral. Of course I am not in the hospital anymore, but thanks for sending the card. And thanks for the little picture. Have I told you lately that you are a beautiful human? nice looking legs also.

I wonder if you are blushing right now, you look so cute when you blush. If I remember right, but it has been so long, it is getting hard to  remember.

Well, I hope it isn't too much longer, but I'm afraid this latest offensive of the Chinese will sit back the date a few weeks, but I still have hopes.

I'm sorry I disobeyed your orders and got wounded. I'll be more careful from now own, just for you. If I knew I wouldn't get hit no worse than the last time I wouldn't mind, one more and I go home right away, but I believe that I would rather wait for rotation.

They just brought my Purple heart award around to me. It is pretty nice metal, but I'd just as soon not have any more of them. I guess I will have to find something to wrap it up with, and send it home.

Well, Joan, I have to write a few more letters so I'd better close for now.



P.S. Please save the first pages of this letter, one of these days I want to get a copy of it. Every once in a while I will read it over and think how lucky I was then, and how long those nights were.

I always say though "it could have been much worse."

Sunday, February 7, 1999

There it is done. For all these years I have thought about rereading this letter and reliving that week. I have mentioned briefly over the years some of the incidents, but my granddaughter provided the spark when she mentioned that her high school class might like to hear how it was in Korea.



The envelope shows that I could mail it FREE it was postmarked May 3, 1951.  One year and one day later, May 4, 1952, Joan and I were married. The marriage took place in a small mountain town in Northern California. I was still in the Marines. My duty station was, China Lake Naval Ordnance testing station, near Ridgecrest, California. All the men in the wedding were in Marine dress blues.

After a brief visit to Reno, Nevada Joan and I returned to the desert to finish my tour of duty. The only available housing was very primitive, but she survived.

In August 1952 we traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Years before the Korean experience I had enrolled in a correspondence course for refrigeration and Air Conditioning from the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

By the time I finished the first year we had to return to California because she was not agreeable to having a child born out of state.

While we were in Milwaukee the Veterans Administration sent me a letter dated March 24, 1953. I was awarded $15.72 per month as 10% disabled. The letter states in part

This award has been made to you for residuals of the gunshot wound of your left thigh, rated at 10% disabling. Service connection was also established for the gunshot wounds to your lower leg and neck; however these conditions were not found to be disabling to a degree for whack compensation may be paid.

The $15.72 award is now worth about $100.00 per month. In spendable value they are still about the same.

Over the years I have often thought of those narrow escapes. It has been a good life and I have been able to live it my way. At age 68 I am still thankful for the opportunity and I look forward to finding ways to pay back who ever was watching over me in the Korean experience.


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