5:50 | The first thing William Moncus encountered at Parris Island was a screaming drill instructor who got his attention right away. He responded well to the discipline. At his first post, the movie operator went on leave, so the men were told there would be no movies. What? No movies?
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When North Korea invaded the South, a train pulled out of Brooklyn with William Moncus on board. It picked up more Marines as it traveled across the country, arriving finally in San Diego. After shipping across the Pacific, they landed at Pusan and went straight into battle. The tide was turned.
William Moncus was high up in the mountains at the Chinese border, where it was extremely cold. The Marines had just stopped to eat when they took fire from one direction, then another and another. By the next day, it was obvious they were surrounded and the great retreat from the Chosin Reservoir had begun.
It was eleven days retreating down that narrow dirt road from the Chosin Reservoir. William Moncus had two wounds and frozen feet and was airlifted to Japan after a runway was improvised. He began a long journey through several hospitals until he was able to walk again.
The enemy in Korea were not very good fighters, according to Marine William Moncus. The Chinese never could deal with squad tactics and, instead, relied on mass force. The weather was also an enemy, living in the open in the frigid cold.
He needed a new MOS because of his wounds, so Marine William Moncus became a communications specialist. He went to Vietnam with a secretive new unit called the Marine Support Battalion. That innocuous name shielded a secret intelligence gathering operation.
It was at Camp Lejeune that William Moncus, now a gunnery sergeant, finished his career, training young Marines. He taught them to love their weapon and care for it, among other things. There was an airlift unit at the base, and he recalls the fiery aftermath of a training accident.
After recovering from wounds received in Korea, William Moncus had a few stateside posts before it was time to re-up, or not. He fancied a tour in Japan and they gave it to him. He had a fondness for the Japanese kids and helped build an orphanage while he was there.
Photographs from William Moncus taken in Korea
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.