8:05 | 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.
Keywords : Martin Marty Letellier Korea Hungnam Bob Hope Chosin Reservoir Funchilin Pass Koto-ri cold parka Boots frostbite Yudam-ni tracers North Koreans
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.
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.
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.
How close was Fred Fletcher to the enemy in the firefight? He was hitting them with his rifle butt. The Chinese had entered the war and the Marines at Chosin Reservoir were finding out just how many there were. He made it through the initial attacks but there was fighting all the way down the long steep road to the South. At Hagaru-Ri, he nearly froze his feet just before he ran out of luck dodging enemy fire.
He was at jump school when he heard about the North Koreans invading the South. Determined to get in the war, young 2nd Lieutenant Ralph Puckett was at a stopover in Japan when he was told to report for possible selection for a special Ranger unit. He found out that the officers were already selected but he made a pitch to get on the team as a rifleman if nothing else. Come back tomorrow, he was told.
Bill Minnich recovered from a bullet to the shoulder and returned to action in Korea. It was a lot less action, but he learned that the Army radios must weigh at least three hundred pounds. He learned what fertilizer was used on the rice paddies, and he learned a lot about the spirit of the Korean people when he was sent to stop a POW riot.
Their second night at Chosin Reservoir, they were nearly overrun. The Marines were pushed off Hill 1240 by a horde of Chinese and they regrouped and retook the hill, twice. After the enemy scattered, Fred Fletcher and his buddy Ray Fairchild were at the end of the line keeping watch over a ridge line. They had not noticed that everyone else had withdrawn. Then, a mortar shell exploded.
Walt Russell’s brother-in-law and best friend, Joe Clemons, was in trouble on Pork Chop Hill and he led his own company to the outpost to relieve him. In the famous movie about this battle, Gregory Peck portrayed Clemons and Rip Torn portrayed Russell. During the intense and bloody battle, Mr. Russell's reinforcements helped save the Americans that were defending the hill, and he was awarded the Silver Star for his heroic actions and leadership.
His last post was Sandbag Castle, another barren Korean hill, where the soldiers had hoisted an American flag and then got rid of it as the artillery zeroed in. A new commander surveyed the situation and decided what he needed was modified depth charges that could be catapulted at the enemy.
Ron Clark remembers the steps taken to avoid critical injuries due to cold weather, including the boots that were worn during combat. He also explains a funny story about how he got the nickname One Boot Clark.
It was good incentive to survive. Bill Minnich received his GED while in basic, and as soon as he returned from Korea, he could get the diploma. Right away it was tough as he faced challenges from monsoons to mortar fire.
When Joe Nemastil arrived at the front in Korea, his platoon leader gave him a short talk, then disappeared, not to be seen very often again. Joe was assistant gunner on the 75 mm recoilless rifle and quickly learned how to use it in combat. That was just one heavy weapon on the line, and it was really something when they were all firing at once.
Lawrence Snowden was one of only 95,000 active Marines when war broke out in Korea, drawn down from a force of over 500,000. His superiors wanted him to stay in his planning role, but he pushed for a transfer to the action.
Both feet were severely injured so Ralph Puckett had some serious hospital time coming up. Evacuated from Korea to Japan, then back to Fort Benning, he could, at least, see his family. Then came a knock on the door and two pretty girls walked in. If only they knew what he had just told his father.
If you need to pick off a target at 1500 yards, the heavy M-1 is perfect, says Bob Moore. But if you need to crawl around in the dark on patrol, the carbine is a much better weapon. Especially after the maintenance guys modified it.
After liberating Seoul, Martin Overholt and his regiment departed for Koto-ri in North Korea to try and push back enemy troops. Moving through that region, they faced heavy casualties from the Chinese troops. (Part 1)
On a mission to gather intelligence on North Korean land targets including a hydroelectric plant, Ben Malcom's B-26 was hit nine times by anti-aircraft fire. Having narrowly survived that excursion, Malcom devised a plan to team his guerrilla fighters on the ground with Army airborne assets to take out that hydroelectric plant.
Life expectancy was short on the Korean front lines. Gene Sullivan recalls seeing green replacements killed almost instantly as they arrived at the front. He was wounded at T-Bone Hill when shrapnel penetrated the separate plates of his body armor.