5:02 | He was working as a staff officer at Camp Lejeune when he got a surprise assignment. Curtis James was to be one of two officers on a shipboard Marine detachment. The ship was the USS Princeton, an aircraft carrier supporting troops in the Korean War.
Keywords : Curtis James Camp Lejeune USS Princeton (CV-37) Bremerton WA Korea aircraft carrier USS Missouri (BB-63) Hungnam evacuation
He wanted to choose his service instead of getting drafted, so Curtis James went for the Marine Corps in 1943. As part of the V-12 program, he attended college for a year, then had his training and got his commission. Assigned to the occupation forces in Japan, the friendliness of the Japanese was a big surprise to him.
Stationed in Japan after the war, Curtis James had the opportunity to see the devastation at both atomic bomb sites. It was hard to believe. Marines went into occupation duty with a lot of animosity for the Japanese people, but were surprised to find out how friendly they were.
Curtis James was the first officer in charge of a Pentagon effort to manage crises during the Cold War. It was a brand new office inside the giant headquarters and, after running that for a while, he served in Vietnam at MACV in Saigon, managing the logistics of the war effort.
Curtis James returned from Vietnam to an assignment as director of personnel at Parris Island. This was the last post for the Marine Corps staff officer. His favorite was the Pentagon, where he initiated a brand new office to coordinate military crisis response.
Working as a Marine staff officer at Quantico, Curtis James was in attendance at some pretty high level meetings. During one of these, he was the lunch guest of the most powerful man in the world.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.