5:20 | The Marines leaving Japan finally found out on the ship where they were headed, the port of Inchon. The air was full of gunsmoke when Charles Vicari boarded the landing craft. Once ashore, he moved inland and on the fourth day, faced his first enemy attack.
Keywords : Charles Vicari Korea Wolmido Island Inchon Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT) Landing Ship Tank (LST) gunsmoke Han River Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) tank
While walking past a recruiting office, Charles Vicari made a spur of the moment decision to join the Marine Corps. When the Korean War broke out, he volunteered for duty on the west coast to replace Marines that had been sent there. He was told the duty may be a little further than the west coast.
There was stiff resistance at Yeongdeungpo as the Marines pushed toward Seoul. While crossing a large plaza at a crossroads, Charles Vicari was sure he was going to get it right there. When it was his turn to move out, he froze. After a not so gentle nudge, he ran across. After surviving that, he survived a North Korean counter attack.
After Seoul was liberated, Charles Vicari was sent back to Inchon. The Marines in his unit thought it was over and they were going home. Instead they were shipped around to the east coast to land at Wonsan. Pushing further and further north, they started up a long winding mountain road toward the Chosin Reservoir.
It was quiet at Koto-ri when Charles Vicari got there, but then the Chinese struck. The Marines got on trucks to head up to Hagaru-ri, but they were soon cut off. They repelled all attacks, but they had to withdraw down that same little mountain road they had ascended. The retreat from Chosin had begun.
It was a fighting withdrawal, all the way down from the Chosin Reservoir. The Marines went to Pusan to lick their wounds and refit. Once ready, they moved out to Andong, where they patrolled and cleared the area. It was on one of these patrols to clear a ridge line that Charles Vicari shot a man at point blank range for the first time. What he saw had a profound effect on him.
The Marines had to take a large ridge line and it was a tough one. They started taking rifle fire and then mortar fire. Charles Vicari heard a loud crack and then felt like someone hit him in the back with a hot poker.
In 1951, Charles Vicari returned to duty after recovering from the wound he received in Korea. His enlistment was up in a matter of months, but he didn't find civilian life to his liking so he re-enlisted. When 1965 rolled around, he had a plum post, but President Johnson decided he was needed in Vietnam.
As he waited to step foot in Vietnam for the first time, Charles Vicari was obsessed with the thought of stepping in a punji pit. Then he jumped off the helicopter and...no punji pit. Once he was over that, he settled into his role as mortar platoon sergeant.
It was different from any other war in Vietnam. There were no front lines and the enemy could be anywhere. That's what Charles Vicari had to deal with as a Marine gunnery sergeant. He was also perplexed by the people he was there to help, like the Vietnamese militia member who wanted compensation for something that the Viet Cong did.
Charles Vicari already had experience in a Headquarters and Service company, so when he was offered the job as H&S gunnery sergeant while he was in Vietnam, he jumped at the chance. If they wanted him to not get shot at, it was fine with him.
When he got near the end of his Vietnam tour, Charles Vicari could not sleep, so the medical officer gave him some medication. This became a problem one night, when a mortar barrage came in. When his time was up, he finished up a career in the Marines in a much less dangerous North Carolina.
A Marine and a North Korean were both approaching the corner of a building from opposite directions. What could happen? Marty Letellier laughed when he saw it. He and a buddy liberated some swords from a factory in Inchon, just before they were sent into the demolished city of Seoul.
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.
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.
President Truman extended his three year commitment to four years, so Marine Marty Letellier had a little more service to go. He served at Great Lakes and Camp LeJeune. He didn't care for the latter but he did discover that he could take academic tests while there, which helped him greatly.
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.
All they said was to get on the boat. Marine PFC Marty Letellier had no clue where he was going, as usual. It turned out to be Inchon, where Gen MacArthur planned to turn the war around. It wasn't a normal landing, but there was, thankfully, not much resistance.
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.
He had fought at the Pusan Perimeter, Inchon, and the Chosin Reservoir and was nearly ready to board the ship home. Marty Letellier asked a Red Cross worker for some coffee and was told it would cost a dime. You've got to be kidding.
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.
Marty Letellier pays tribute to his platoon leader, a Marine who led by example. The hardships of Korea were all worth it, especially when he looks at his adopted Korean grandchild. He does have some worries about the future of the military as fewer people volunteer or are even qualified to serve.
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.
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.
It had been a hard battle and the Marines were stripping down to get in the Miryang River for a much needed bath. That's when a lady journalist happened along. After a short rest, they were sent right back to the place on the Pusan Perimeter they'd just left. Another hill to take.
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.
The North Koreans were closing on Pusan when the Marines arrived to turn the tide. Mortarman Marty Letellier recalls that when other units failed to take a hill, his company was given the task. It was their turn in the meat grinder and they succeeded where the others had failed. Then they faced a grim task.
Marine boot camp was a shock. The DI wasn't nice. Nothing he did was right. To Marty Letellier, the rigors were all mental and the physical part of it was no big deal. At his next stop, Camp Pendleton, he became a gunner on a 60 mm mortar crew.
Again, Marty Letellier was on a ship going around the coast of Korea. From Pusan to Inchon and now back around to Hungnam. As if those two battles weren't enough, the Marine mortarman was now headed to the Chosin Reservoir. It was beautiful country and nice fall weather, which soon changed to brutal winter. Part 1 of 4.
At the Chosin Reservoir, the Marines had close air support from Marine pilots flying Corsairs. Night after night, waves of Chinese came and, in waves, they died. Young mortarman Marty Letellier was in a position below the crest of the hill and took shots at Chinese who had overrun the top and were now on their way down the other side. There were so damn many of them! Part 3 of 4.
You couldn't kill them fast enough. The Marines received the order to withdraw from the Chosin Reservoir when it became obvious there were just too many Chinese and they started down the long road to Hagaru-ri. There was plenty of fighting along the way and more casualties. When mortarman Marty Letellier finally got there, he devoured some flapjacks and got some real sleep for the first time in weeks. Part 4 of 4.
As the Battle of Chosin Reservoir got underway, Marine PFC Marty Letellier found himself trying to tend to some personal business, alone in the dark with tracers flying overhead. Back at Hagaru-ri, his commanding general was ignoring suggestions to move his HQ further up. He knew how badly they were outnumbered by the Chinese and was already preparing for evacuations. Part 2 of 4.
Nearly everyone in his unit had frostbite to some degree, Marty Letellier had been very careful to take care of his feet, so he avoided the misery that many were feeling. As the Marines withdrew to the coast after the retreat from Chosin, they were followed by thousands of refugees, who were also evacuated to the South.
Marty Letellier was at Camp Pendleton for two years after basic training and actually got to fire his mortar up in the hills. The rattlesnakes were not pleased. Suddenly, there was a war to fight. North Korea had invaded the South. What did he know about Korea? Nothing.
Marine Marty Letellier knew better. Never volunteer, but he did anyway and went out on a patrol which almost went awry. His unit was chasing down stragglers left in South Korea after the Inchon landing dispersed the North Korean forces.
The USS Henrico was an old tub that ferried Marty Letellier and the 7th Marines to Korea. The nights were beautiful on the way, ablaze with stars. He thought the country was beautiful, too, when he got to Pusan, but there was one problem.