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.
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.
Even without any college, Bob Brockish passed all the tests at Officer Basic School, where even college graduates were taking remedial courses. He wanted to go to artillery or armor school, but the captain had other ideas, so he decided to go inactive and entered the Marine Reserves.
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.
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.
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.
There were celebrities in Gilbert Howland's training unit at Fort Dix, including Eddie Fisher. They were preparing to go to Korea and it wasn't long before Howland found himself there in the frigid winter; dodging artillery and trying to capture prisoners for interrogation. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
When Marine Bob Brockish shipped out for Korea, he had no idea what an experience it would be just getting there. From the indignities suffered when he crossed the International Date Line to dealing with the sketchy black market in Japan, it was an adventure before he even saw the war.
From the rear at the Battle of Pork Chop Hill, Sgt. Gilbert Howland sent in the worst casualty report of his life. The tenacious enemy would not let go, even though the territory being fought over had no real tactical value. His unit was relieved and then, to the relief of everyone, came the armistice. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
It was a historic day for the Marines, the first air assault with Marines placed at the front with helicopters. Bob Brockish didn't make that ride but his unit relieved those troops and he couldn't believe what they were complaining about. As he looked around the terrain, he wondered why there was apparent road construction on the top of a ridge.
Every Marine knows about inspections. Bob Brockish prepared well and got duty at the front gate as a reward. That did not last but he got other duty which he liked, something which was preferable to guard duty in the cold desert lookout towers.
Just as the Marine Corps was releasing Bob Brockish from active duty, North Korea invaded the South. Soon he was at a newly bustling Camp Pendleton, training for deployment to the peninsula. His new cold weather gear proved to be a problem on exercises in Southern California.
It was like sandlot baseball. The replacement Marines were divvied up by the platoons and fire teams and Bob Brockish was the last guy to go. He had been driving an ambulance in the rear, but now he would be in a foxhole on the front line.
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.)
The first thing he noticed was the smell. Bob Brockish was still on the ship at Pusan when he caught a whiff of the local fertilizer. The Marine's first assignment was driving an ambulance, but before he even got to that, he had two run-ins with the regimental commander.
They knew the Chinese spring offensive was coming. The untrained Communist prisoners would just blab everything they knew. So the Marines hurried to the hill that became known as Horseshoe Ridge and dug in to block the way. It was the first combat for Bob Brockish and he recalls his part in the battle. Part 1 of 3.
After the Battle of Horseshoe Ridge, Bob Brockish stayed on the move, taking and retaking hills as both sides jockeyed for position. He lived in foxholes, where the sleeping arrangements could be described as tense.
After the push to get to the Punch Bowl area, Bob Brockish went into reserve with his battalion and it was around this time that he became squad leader. The Marine was nineteen years old and suddenly he was responsible for twelve men.
The Corps put out a call to NCO's in Korea asking for applicants to become commissioned officers. Bob Brockish applied and was interviewed and then heard nothing about it. So it was back to moving hill to hill, dodging enemy mortar fire.
He was pulled from the line and sent to division for Sergeant's School. That was big living after a long line of foxholes. When he finished that and got his stripes, Marine Bob Brockish got even better news. He was going to Quantico as an officer candidate.
His flight home had to circle around after an aborted landing and Bob Brockish thought for a moment, am I going to survive Korea and then die here? He was on his way home for Christmas and then on to Quantico, where hoped to become a commissioned Marine officer.
His memories of the Battle of Horseshoe Ridge are noise, light and smell. There was so much ordnance and so many flares that you didn't need lights. Bob Brockish relates these impressions and remembers the men lost. Decades later, there are still expeditions to locate the remains of the missing. Part 3 of 3.
When the sun rose after the first night at Horseshoe Ridge, the Marines could see they were surrounded so they prepared to attack back the way they came. Bob Brockish remembers the rolling, leapfrogging battle back to rejoin the regiment, during which he lost friends as well as his weapon. Part 2 of 3.