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.
He was a good football player, having played semi-pro while still in high school. JIm Bolan didn't stop there, he played once he was in the Army and went to the 82nd Airborne to do just that. Someone else got that slot, though, so he went to Korea, where it was bunker battles on static lines.
Fighter pilot Charles Cleveland was flying cover high over an air-to-ground operation below when three MiG-15's flew right through his formation. He maneuvered until he was behind the leader and let him have it until the MiG crashed into a hillside.
Charles Cleveland was flying F-84's out of Turner AFB in Albany GA when the Korean War broke out. The third time he volunteered to go, he was accepted. Upon arrival, he learned that some of the new pilots had to switch to F-86 Sabre's.
Radio technician Norman Kling came ashore in Korea, briefly looked over a battered city, and hit the road in a truck. He began following the front as it moved around the peninsula. He wasn't in a combat role but he did singe off his eyebrows at one point.
Army brat Charles Cleveland entered West Point in 1945 between VE Day and VJ Day. He chose the Air Force after graduation for the chance to become a fighter pilot and this he did. The early Air Force had a club atmosphere, but the pilots were not slacking. They drilled for dogfighting on their own.
Fred Culbreth had a great office for part of his time in Korea. He was snug in a cave carved out of solid rock. The combat engineer was good friends with the chaplain and they had a little routine that ensured they got plenty of steak dinners.
All flights were grounded because the F-86 was not an all-weather fighter. Pilot Charles Cleveland and his wing man got cleared for a weather recon flight and flew up to the Yalu River, where the weather had cleared. They heard from their radar site that bandits were coming in. As he encountered them, he maneuvered behind the leader and thought, I'm about to get my first MiG.
Fighter pilot Charles Cleveland had two probable kills to go with four confirmed kills in Korea. He describes one of the probables, during which he had to break off pursuit at the last minute just as it looked like the enemy MiG was going down. Fifty years later, a friend of his set the record straight.
The terrain out in front of the main line of resistance seemed like ten thousands yards of emptiness. Jim Larkin was waiting on his relief after five days at his post. The Marine who relieved him was an upbeat guy who would laugh at the Chinese machine guns. Part 1 of 2.
The lines were static during Fred Culbreth's time in Korea. There wasn't much movement in battle but the combat engineer was kept busy building and maintaining the many temporary bridges necessary to move men and materials around a country full of hills and rivers.
Fighter Pilot Charles Cleveland compares the aircraft he flew, the F-86 Sabre, to the aircraft flown by the enemy, the MiG-15. The plane flown by the Communists had the edge in armament but they had lousy gun sights. By the end of the war, the victory in combat ratio was not in their favor.
Aircraft mechanic Walt Richardson was based in Okinawa when the Korean War started. The general's personal B-17 was used for supply runs but he couldn't go because he had no combat or survival training. When he was transferred to Eglin Air Force Base, he found that President Truman's integration order had not yet filtered down, but he persevered.
Jake Jacobson was just getting discharged when war broke out in Korea. His paratrooper buddies shamed him into returning to the fold, even though he would have to come back in as a private. When he got to Korea, peace talks had stalled the fighting and he was sent to Japan, where he attended intelligence school. He did get some action quelling a riot at a POW camp.
When Ed Price went for his first guard duty in Korea, he was surprised that some men had nicely pressed uniforms at the inspection. Why? This was a war zone. Then he found out that, each night, one man was selected to be the supernumerary, who got to stay inside where it was warm. He now had a new goal.
Ed Price was stuck in Seattle. While other troops boarded ships for Korea, he and several others had to wait for records to catch up with them. After a couple of false starts, he was finally headed across the Pacific. When he got to his anti-aircraft unit, he was asked a fateful question. Can you type?
The 155 mm rounds were coming. You could hear them. Paul Deverick and his buddy dove for a hole by the stream on a cold Koren mountainside. He was in the hole first, and that saved him from getting hit, but it was his friend who was really lucky.
Chinese artillery was zeroed in on the road. The only way you could make it was to floor it and not stop. Sinclair Stickle was in a truck barreling down that road when the shells started. What happened next made him think he'd had it, but the closest he ever came to dying in Korea occurred in a jeep and he wasn't even in combat.
Sinclair Stickle shares his method for making sure his gun did not jam in a firefight. A little drop of oil. He barely noticed the weather since the winter of 1953 was nothing like the winter of 1950 in the mountains of Korea. Food was a big deal and everybody gathered around when someone got a package from home, hopefully with something nice to offset the WWII era rations.
Marines in Korea had a special relationship with Tootsie Rolls. William Alli missed out on that but he does have something to say about the chow when he was up on the line. When you were opening up the boxes and pulling out the cans, you had what you called The Deadly Three.
It took a while for Dan Wussler to talk to anyone about the war. After the crazy dreams had stopped and his kids were asking questions, he began to open up about his experience in Korea. He joined the family business for a few years, then he found a good career in banking.
WWII veteran Jack Wold reentered the Army with a commission out of ROTC in 1951. He then served in Korea as an S3 managing the evacuations of wounded. He nearly got hit himself, but fate intervened on his side. At that point in the war, the Chinese were using huge human wave attacks.