5:52 | 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.)
Keywords : Jack King Korea mortarman rotation coward Horseshoe Ridge Chinese human wave attack direct fire machine gun Dear John letter helicopter John Savona JJ Barash
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.)
In a story told publicly for the first time, Lloyd Glasson reveals how he single-handedly preserved the Korean cease fire by the way he reported a casualty. When an AP reporter showed up three weeks later looking to find the name of the last man killed in Korea, he had to remain silent.
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.
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.
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.
Seven months into his tour in Korea, William Alli was put in charge of the local unit of Korean laborers. The nineteen year old Marine was now an Asian despot, according to his friends. He didn't mind the ribbing. After all, he wasn't carrying that heavy machine gun ammo any more.
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.
Sinclair Stickle had convinced himself that the Chinese artillery fire would never zero in fast enough to get him, then he saw a first round take out several GIs. His new outlook became one of fatalism. He had no great fear, but he thought he wouldn't make it out alive. One surprising thing, the draftees in his unit did not shirk at all. They got the job done, even though they didn't want to be there.
On his first day in the Army, Lloyd Glasson picked up athlete's foot in the shower. A few days later he asked to go on sick call for treatment. No one paid him any heed until he was a medical oddity. When he was finally through with training, he had a plum assignment to guided missile school, but he had to get a security clearance.
He was studying aerospace engineering at Virginia Tech when he met an Air Force recruiter who offered him admission to flight training. Bob Titus was told he was too tall to be a fighter pilot but he became one anyway. He wanted to fly combat missions and he persisted until he was assigned to Korea.
The whole division was pulled off the line and in reserve when William Alli read a letter from a cousin in Turkey. Why don't you go visit the Turkish troops serving in Korea, tell them your father is from Turkey and you are all brothers fighting Communism together? Great idea, until he got there.
Beside night patrols, the I&R platoon also maintained a listening post on high ground. Sinclair Stickle sometimes manned this post, observing and reporting and acting as a forward observer for artillery, as well. There were other tasks, like the grim job of picking up the enemy dead. There came a time when he and his buddy were laughing while doing this, an amazing juxtaposition of humor and horror. (Caution: Graphic Material)
His first mission in Korea was nerve wracking. William Alli was put in a listening post all alone in front of the line. There wasn't much combat until the Chinese launched their spring offensive. Then it was time for advancing in a different direction, that is to say, a retreat.
It was his job to determine which award a soldier recommended for decoration should apply to receive. There was one young soldier who should have got a higher award and there was one captain who demanded a Silver Star for basically nothing.
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.
William Alli joined the Marine Reserve while still in high school. By the time he was in boot camp, the training was geared toward a possible fight in Korea. As an ammo bearer, what he needed most was not the training.
It was back and forth on Pork Chop Hill. After the Communists overran one company's position, American units immediately counter-attacked. When Don Wussler's turn came, he scrambled up the hill with his machine gun, bullets just inches away. He was helping two medics with a casualty when a mortar round slammed in with deadly result.
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.
When he rotated home from Korea, Lloyd Glasson asked to be assigned to 5th Army HQ in Chicago so he could be close to home. He missed the camaraderie he experienced with his buddies in Korea, but he did not miss the horrifying aspects of war and he reveals a grisly experience which changed his path in life.
With an eye toward the GI Bill, Sinclair Stickle decided to enlist, but he found out that if he volunteered for the draft, it would be a two year commitment instead of four. He entered the Army as a draftee and figured he would have a nice easy tour in Germany because surely the Korean War will be over soon. The drill instructors didn't think so.
The Marines reversed their retreat in the face of the Chinese spring offensive and began to advance to the north, once again. Ammo bearer William Alli had to hit the deck when the enemy fire started and his load scattered across a dry rice paddy. Leave it, came the shout. Later, very high up in the mountains near the coast, he was serving last watch when daylight revealed a surreal scene.
As he approached the shore at Inchon, Lloyd Glasson thought he would be on the attack, but he had no ammunition. He then spent the coldest night of his life in an exposed tent. It was so cold, he got up and wandered around and saw a sentry firing at something. When he found out what it was, he couldn't believe it. Oh, well. This is Korea.
After seeing action off the coast of Korea, the USS Cowell resumed its around the world cruise, which had begun in Norfolk. From Korea, the ship headed south. Charles Kelly recalls the delightful liberties he had in many ports on his trek from Singapore to Ceylon and up through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean.