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.
After describing the different enemy mines used in Korea, William Alli gives a spirited account of two battles in which he was involved. During the first, he heard the order fix bayonets and charge! It worked. At the Punch Bowl, it was four days of intense action.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
William Alli had wanted to forget about the Korean War once he was out of it. Over time, however, he was called to write a book about it. Just one problem, how to pay tribute to the Marines in his division before him, the ones who went through Frozen Chosin.
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.
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.