2:56 | Fred Fletcher tells the story of his surprising meeting with the parents of Ray Fairchild, who was killed next to him at the Chosin Reservoir. It took a couple of amazing coincidences to make it happen.
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He always wanted to be a Marine. Ever since he followed the daily news through World War II, Fred Fletcher had that deep desire. He survived the abrasive Drill Instructor at Parris Island and was assigned to Subic Bay on routine station duty when the Communists from the North attacked South Korea. Soon he was in a different climate.
The Marines were heading North when they found out that China had joined the North Koreans. Fred Fletcher was one of the men on the high plateau at the Chosin Reservoir. One of the patrols from his unit got to a ridge top and when they looked over, there were "many, many, many Chinese."
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 They had not noticed that everyone else had withdrawn.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.
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.
It took a while for the doctors to figure out what had happened when Fred Fletcher was knocked out by a projectile which hit him in the back of the head at the Chosin Reservoir. He recovered and made the Marine Corps a career, although he feels the Corps pulled a fast one on his last assignment. At least the deal made him a Captain.
During his second tour in Korea, the goal was to take a prisoner for intelligence gathering. Jake Jacobson recalls that they didn't get a single one. He did encounter a Pathfinder unit and they encouraged him to transfer in. This he did, but, unfortunately, he got in some trouble and General Westmoreland made sure he was left with only one stripe.
In an engineering unit, you had access to all kinds of things that other units needed and couldn't really get. Combat engineer Fred Culbreth made sure to collect plenty of plywood from his supply depots. You could get almost anything for plywood, including warmer boots, which were a big deal in Korea.
As company clerk, John Meyers had several responsibilities, the captain's morning report, letters home to parents of men killed in action and writing up awards recommendations. He wrote up the recommendation for Charles Gilliland, a seventeen year old, whose heroic actions made him the youngest soldier to receive the Medal Of Honor in the Korean War.
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.
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.
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. For his actions in this battle, he would be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Born in the Bronx but raised in Rhode Island, Jake Jacobson enlisted in the late forties to get money for college. When he saw some guys from the 82nd Airborne, he knew he had to get into that outfit. He hadn't even been to basic training, yet, so they let him go. When he did get to Fort Dix, he was disgusted. Hang in there, his platoon sergeant told him. It gets better in Airborne.
Jim Bolan was attached to the Marines for a while as a sniper. He used an M-1 for the closer stuff but for anything really distant, he used his own rifle that his father had sent to him. Then a general got a look at it. Son, that's an illegal weapon.
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.
For seventeen year old Jim Larkin, what he found after he came ashore at Inchon was fascinating. The novelty of Asia soon wore off since there was a war to fight, but he discovered that the Koreans are a humble and polite people. It's not a bad way to be.
Chesty Puller was already a legend when Jim Bolan met him in Korea. It wasn't long after that that he stood on the bank of the Yalu River and it wasn't long after that there was a long retreat back down the peninsula. He had some good friends there, including one who earned the Medal of Honor and one who maybe should have.
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.
Two interesting things happened to Jim Bolan in Korea. One night, after his shift in the command post ended, he was walking on a slippery steep hill when he lost his footing and down he went. What happened then was memorable. The other thing involved the failure to capture a Chinese soldier after two weeks of trying. He and his buddy decided to give it a try on their own. (Caution: rough language.)
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.
He never had to engage the enemy, but combat engineer Fred Culbreth did experience artillery barrages while working on gun emplacements in the Korean hills. He didn't know it at the time, but it damaged his hearing, as did his own rock blasting work.
The severity of the winter weather during the Korean War was over exaggerated, according to Jim Larkin. He suffered from it at times but combat keeps your mind on more immediate concerns. He also scoffs at criticism of the weapon he carried, the M-1 rifle.
His father fought in WWI and he was too young for service in WWII. That may be why Fred Culbreth felt determined to attend a military school like the Citadel. He wanted the military experience but he didn't have a war. Then he got one in 1950.
Korean civilians were filtering back into areas which had recently seen combat. Engineering officer Fred Culbreth engaged in a strange interplay with one farmer. Every day, his men would have to move a homemade irrigation line to work on a bridge and, every night, the farmer would rebuild it.
Jim Larkin had one overriding thought during Marine boot camp at Parris Island. He couldn't get out of there fast enough. One drill instructor in particular seemed to embody the obstacles to doing so. Later on, he understood the importance of the lessons learned there.
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.
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.
A bridge was washed out on his route, but Fred Culbreth didn't want to waste hours on the detour. He knew that there were rocks and a hand cable at a certain point, so he plotted a route on the map and headed for the spot. When he saw that the ford was flooded, he decided to go for it, anyway.