9:52 | As the Battle of Chosin Reservoir got underway, Marine PFC Marty Letellier found himself trying to tend to some personal business, alone in the dark with tracers flying overhead. Back at Hagaru-ri, his commanding general was ignoring suggestions to move his HQ further up. He knew how badly they were outnumbered by the Chinese and was already preparing for evacuations. Part 2 of 4.
Keywords : Martin Marty Letellier Korea diarrhea tracers mortar Hagaru-ri Edward M. Almond Douglas MacArthur Chinese Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) cold frostbite Chosin Few Veterans Administration (VA)
High school fullback Marty Letellier was sidelined by a injury and had to leave the team. What good was high school without football? So, he joined the Marines. That would have pleased his great-grandfather.
Marine boot camp was a shock. The DI wasn't nice. Nothing he did was right. To Marty Letellier, the rigors were all mental and the physical part of it was no big deal. At his next stop, Camp Pendleton, he became a gunner on a 60 mm mortar crew.
Marty Letellier describes the 60 mm mortar that he fired. He was assigned to a mortar crew after basic training and led the crew as the gunner. He would be set up just behind the line to fire at the enemy.
Marty Letellier was at Camp Pendleton for two years after basic training and actually got to fire his mortar up in the hills. The rattlesnakes were not pleased. Suddenly, there was a war to fight. North Korea had invaded the South. What did he know about Korea? Nothing.
The USS Henrico was an old tub that ferried Marty Letellier and the 7th Marines to Korea. The nights were beautiful on the way, ablaze with stars. He thought the country was beautiful, too, when he got to Pusan, but there was one problem.
The North Koreans were closing on Pusan when the Marines arrived to turn the tide. Mortarman Marty Letellier recalls that when other units failed to take a hill, his company was given the task. It was their turn in the meat grinder and they succeeded where the others had failed. Then they faced a grim task.
It had been a hard battle and the Marines were stripping down to get in the Miryang River for a much needed bath. That's when a lady journalist happened along. After a short rest, they were sent right back to the place on the Pusan Perimeter they'd just left. Another hill to take.
All they said was to get on the boat. Marine PFC Marty Letellier had no clue where he was going, as usual. It turned out to be Inchon, where Gen MacArthur planned to turn the war around. It wasn't a normal landing, but there was, thankfully, not much resistance.
A Marine and a North Korean were both approaching the corner of a building from opposite directions. What could happen? Marty Letellier laughed when he saw it. He and a buddy liberated some swords from a factory in Inchon, just before they were sent into the demolished city of Seoul.
Again, Marty Letellier was on a ship going around the coast of Korea. From Pusan to Inchon and now back around to Hungnam. As if those two battles weren't enough, the Marine mortarman was now headed to the Chosin Reservoir. It was beautiful country and nice fall weather, which soon changed to brutal winter. Part 1 of 4.
At the Chosin Reservoir, the Marines had close air support from Marine pilots flying Corsairs. Night after night, waves of Chinese came and, in waves, they died. Young mortarman Marty Letellier was in a position below the crest of the hill and took shots at Chinese who had overrun the top and were now on their way down the other side. There were so damn many of them! Part 3 of 4.
You couldn't kill them fast enough. The Marines received the order to withdraw from the Chosin Reservoir when it became obvious there were just too many Chinese and they started down the long road to Hagaru-ri. There was plenty of fighting along the way and more casualties. When mortarman Marty Letellier finally got there, he devoured some flapjacks and got some real sleep for the first time in weeks. Part 4 of 4.
Nearly everyone in his unit had frostbite to some degree, Marty Letellier had been very careful to take care of his feet, so he avoided the misery that many were feeling. As the Marines withdrew to the coast after the retreat from Chosin, they were followed by thousands of refugees, who were also evacuated to the South.
Marine Marty Letellier knew better. Never volunteer, but he did anyway and went out on a patrol which almost went awry. His unit was chasing down stragglers left in South Korea after the Inchon landing dispersed the North Korean forces.
He had fought at the Pusan Perimeter, Inchon, and the Chosin Reservoir and was nearly ready to board the ship home. Marty Letellier asked a Red Cross worker for some coffee and was told it would cost a dime. You've got to be kidding.
President Truman extended his three year commitment to four years, so Marine Marty Letellier had a little more service to go. He served at Great Lakes and Camp LeJeune. He didn't care for the latter but he did discover that he could take academic tests while there, which helped him greatly.
Marty Letellier pays tribute to his platoon leader, a Marine who led by example. The hardships of Korea were all worth it, especially when he looks at his adopted Korean grandchild. He does have some worries about the future of the military as fewer people volunteer or are even qualified to serve.