5:54 | 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.
Keywords : Lawrence Snowden Marine Corps HQ Korea Gen MacArthur amphibious Seoul executive officer G4 DMZ
Lawrence Snowden’s family dentist would regale him with tales of his Marine Corps service and invariably finish by telling him that it would be too tough for him. The young Snowden took this as a challenge.
After a stop at Camp Lejeune, newly commissioned Lieutenant Lawrence Snowden was sent to Camp Pendleton to help put together the new 4th Marine Division. His was the first unit to train at Pendleton.
The first operation for the 4th Division was the landing on Roi-Namur. Lawrence Snowden remembers that, though it was an easy victory, valuable combat experience and important lessons were imparted on the Marines.
On Saipan and Tinian, Lawrence Snowden discovered huge green flies and poor use of artillery. He also had a profoundly moving experience when he heard soft crying coming from a pile of bodies.
Marine Captain Lawrence Snowden learned two things made Iwo Jima a valuable prize for the Allies: its position halfway between B-29 bases in Saipan and Tokyo, and the fact that it was, legally, a part of the Japanese mainland.
During the difficult landing at Iwo Jima, company commander Lawrence Snowden dove into a bomb crater for shelter and found Sgt. Leonard Ash there with a gruesome wound.
Lawrence Snowden was told that the campaign for Iwo Jima would take maybe 5 days. Instead it was 36 long, bloody days and when the flag was raised, no one in his unit stood up and cheered. That Marine would have been a dead Marine.
Iwo Jima was a unique battle in that the victors suffered more casualties than the defeated. Marine Captain Lawrence Snowden says that you came to feel that like it wouldn't happen to you, and that spirit enabled the men to reach their objective.
Lawrence Snowden knew that the machine guns on the wings of the Zero could not be aimed at him, so he stood up in the bomb crater he was using for cover and waved to the pilot of the low flying plane.
Lawrence Snowden was wounded on Iwo Jima and discovered that the policy was to not return any wounded troops to the battle. He wanted to return to his men and persevered because he knew there was always someone around who could change policy.
Aboard a troop ship, Lawrence Snowden found out what it means to be a union chef when he had to finish cooking his own eggs. Then he reveals the reason he loves sardines.
Captain Lawrence Snowden was transferred to the 3rd Marine Division on Guam, where he readied for the expected invasion of Japan. The commander was Maj. Gen. Graves B. Erskine, who had a reputation as a “tough cookie.”
Lawrence Snowden points out that the lasting effects of WWII go far beyond the fighting. The makeup of America’s labor force was forever changed, as women stepped up, and provincial attitudes were swept away.
During the Korean War, Lawrence Snowden visited postwar Japan for the first time. During a train ride from Kyoto to Tokyo, he became aware of an essential truth regarding wartime enemies.
In Vietnam, Regimental Commander Lawrence Snowden saw the dirty part of the war operating down in the Delta. Later, working at HQ making bombing assessments, he began to realize the aerial assault on the North was not working.
Lawrence Snowden had a long and varied career as a Marine officer, but the most important lesson on leadership, he learned as a newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant at Camp Lejeune. His men were not there to serve him. He was there to serve them.
There was a private in the outfit who had been busted from corporal more than once. Somehow he got hold of some lieutenant's bars and Jack King reveals how this led to the Marine mortar company getting some free transportation courtesy of the Army motorpool. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
Ron Clark remembers when the Chinese would attack and how the strategies between American and Chinese differed. He also explains one detailed account of an American casualty during battle and his own major injury that permanently disabled his eyesight.
When it was time to act, Bill Minnich came through. On a night watch, as he caught sight of a Chinese patrol, the only question was, rifle or grenade? When the unit was pinned down and no one responded to the order to move out, he cussed them all out and charged forward. And when he fell wounded, it was a sure thing that he would get up and scramble through the bullets landing at his feet.
When the entire division hurriedly departed North Korea from the port of Hungnam, the ships were so full that Jack King had to sleep on deck in the frigid weather. When he was safely back at Pusan, he had an experience with the Red Cross that angered him for the rest of his life. Before they headed back north, Chesty Puller adjusted their weaponry for the better. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
It was called Hill 205. The small Ranger company was told to take and hold the hill. They did that as long as they could but Ralph Puckett and his men had to go through hell to do it. Waves of Chinese attackers had him calling in very close artillery strikes. He lay there, unable to move after three wounds, watching the Chinese bayonet wounded Rangers. Then two figures charged up the hill.
In Korea, there was a gunner in Jack King's mortar platoon who kept making fun of preachers and religion. The lord had a way of making those guys shut up. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
Ben Malcom recalls a mission to infiltrate and destroy a 76mm gun hidden inside a North Korean mountain. During the cover of night on July 14, 1952, Malcom managed to sneak 120 guerilla fighters onto the mountain and into the bunker, and describes the combat that ensued.
They never made it back north to the Chosin Reservoir. The advance of the Marines stalled near the 38th parallel and mortarman Jack King recalls how he was threatened with court martial there, twice. The second time, his refusal to load the weapon actually prevented a fatal error. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
Recalled from the reserve for Korea, engineering officer Bob DeBoo was assigned to LST 803, another amphibious assault ship. The crew's first task was ferrying prisoners, then they performed general duties, sometimes in bone chilling sub-zero weather.
Laying in a foxhole during a mortar barrage, Jack King thought for a moment about sticking a foot up and possibly getting a million dollar wound. That feeling passed. He recalls the story of a young replacement Marine who came into the unit really gung-ho. That also passed. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
As an engineering officer on an LSM, which stands for Landing Ship, Medium, Bob DeBoo was responsible for all mechanical operations on the ship. It was a flat-bottomed vessel, so it rolled mercilessly when the water got rough. While he was in the reserve, between the wars, he got a taste of life on the bigger ships.
From the time he joined the Marine Corps, Jack King had heard of the exploits of Chesty Puller, the most decorated Marine in history. While serving in Korea, he got to meet the man. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
He had evaded Nazis in France and followed the action through Korea, but there was one more adversary for George Starks to overcome, the unfairness of army bureaucracy. He had to defeat, or at least outlast, this final obstacle to return home. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
While serving on an LST off the coast of Korea, engineering officer Bob DeBoo was entertained by a dog someone had smuggled on board as a pet. He was less amused by Inchon Charlie, piloting a North Korean biplane that would harass the ships. What nearly did the ship in, however, was a typhoon.
How was the weather up there? Marine mortarman Jack King will give you an earful about the weather in Korea, especially the freezing cold in the north. He remembers a time when he had on two of everything and it didn't really work. During the retreat from the Chosin Reservoir, it was at least 30 degrees below zero. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
He had been a pilot, but George Starks was now an army dentist. When war broke out in Korea, he had to go, following the action all the way from Inchon up into the north. He was part of the hasty retreat south, as well as the push back northwards after regrouping. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
Jack King was on the rotation list, but he had to saddle up anyway and get up to Horseshoe Ridge. There, the Chinese unleashed a human wave attack and the rear echelon Marine mortarman found himself under direct fire for the first time. It was during a lull in this battle when one of the sergeants opened a Dear John letter. It did not go well. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
Bill Ozmint reflects on the current problems going on in Korea and where he thinks things will go from here. He sees further action needing to be taken in the near future and wonders if his time in Korea was somewhat of a waste.
It was long after his service as an army dentist in Korea that George Starks read an article in the paper about a veteran who described his evacuation and medical care. He was sure he must have done the surgery so he decided to contact him. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
He didn't like the look of the Navy uniform so Jack King joined the Marines. While he was at boot camp, the Korean War broke out and the drill instructor sent them off with a promise about guarding the home front while they were gone. He landed at Inchon after a tense climb down the cargo net and it wasn't long before he saw his first dead Marine. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
There were aphorisms in the Marine Corps that started with, "old gunney says...." Jack King started a new saying while in Korea, and the unit carried it forward after he came home. He stayed in the Corps two more years, but his obstinance kept him from making it a career. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
Bill Ozmint remembers leaving Korea and returning home, which his company was ready to do after their year in-country. After returning home, he was able to find work through a family friend and was able to secure his future career in the pharmaceutical industry.
Moving on after the Inchon landing, Jack King recalls how a liberated brewery supplied the men beverages right in the foxhole. He didn't drink but he did try some well water which led to his new nickname, "Frog." He was a mortarman and, typically, was behind the front lines where the direct fire was minimal. While observing the Korean people, he developed an admiration of their ingenuity. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
While stationed in Korea, Callovi experiences combat bureaucracy, bitter cold and a close call with a stealthy enemy. An attachment of Turkish soldiers proves to be a little too comfortable with the butchery of war.
Bill Ozmint remembers patrolling on the border and the various precautions they had to take to safely navigate his platoon through enemy territory. Seeing friendly casualties as they were ascending a hill put into perspective how dangerous the war really was.
After Seoul was secured, the Marines boarded LST's and went around the peninsula to Wonsan. Jack King was a mortarman who was typically in the rear echelon. He remembers guarding the mountain pass which led to the plateau where the Chosin Reservoir was. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
Growing up during the Depression, Harold Maples decided enlisting in the service would be the best decision for him and his later education. On the way to basic training, he met another trainee named Guy Metcalf, who later went on to be his closest friend.