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View from the foxhole.
You folks asked for this. As I true Irishman, I never use one word where 6 will do!
In order to fill in the blanks caused by the passage of 52 years, I have occasionally had to resort to a historical record. therefore, whenever I have found my memory to be faulty, I have corrected my impression with the more accurate account and marked it with an (h).
Before I begin, I would like to explain that I was a member of an artillery Forward Observer team, we were attached to the 5th Marines regiment. The infantry often views (accurately) the Artillery as guys who have it pretty 'cushy,' eating hot food sleeping in heated tents, etc. This view completely overlooks the Forward Observers. The FO's suffer the same conditions and experience the same hardships as do our infantry counterparts-and more so.
A team consists of an FO Officer (2nd Lieutenant), A Scout Sgt. ( can be any rank under S/Sgt.- I was a PFC), a radio operator (PFC), a Communications Chief (usually a Cpl.), and two Wiremen (PFC). The team will be assigned to an infantry company, to be used at the discretion of the Company Commander. The CO would always station the FO where he thought the fighting would be the heaviest. Keep in mind that it only takes one man to call in a Fire Mission. Therefore can any rational human believe that the CO would let five men stand around as spectators when the s--t was hitting the fan?
The five guys became a reserve fireteam, that would be sent on the line to bolster the defenses of the squad/platoon that was being hit the hardest. Therefore, the FO would never catch a break, if the 3rd platoon was getting hit, the 1st platoon would get a breather, never so with the FO.
Speaking of not catching a break, In the Marine Corps the artillery never goes into reserve (unless the whole division does). When an infantry company goes into reserve, the FO's get transferred to another company. As such, from Inchon to the battle of the Chosin Reservoir, I was with the fifth Marines. In January of 51, when the 5th went into reserve, my team was sent to serve with the KMC. In May, we were reassigned to Item Company, 3rd Battalion 1st Marines, stayed with them until rotation home in November of 51.
On to 'the View From The Foxhole' during the battle for Yongdongpo:
We (Fifth Marines) were moving up to occupy an area between the 1st Marines on our right and Kimpo airfield on our left. We were at the convergence of the Han and Kalchon rivers (h). The morning just before the jumpoff, the Platoon leader (from Ohio) was briefing out team. He said, "We are going to jumpoff and take that mountain over there" pointing to hill 118 on out maps. Being from Brooklyn, where a speed bump is considered a hill, I saw nothing to disagree with. On the other hand, our Comm Chief, whose hometown is nestled in the Rockies, and our radio operator, who used to wake up every morning to the view of the Grand Tetons looming high above his home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, seemed to have a different opinion. They looked quizzically at each other, one said,"mountain?" they shook their heads and as they walked away, I heard one of the say ,"Easterners!"
Just before dawn on Sept. 19th we jumped off. Out team was positioned immediately behind the skirmish line formed by the 2nd platoon. The grass was knee high, there were still many trees left standing. In the dim light of dawn, I envisioned a NK behind every tree and he had me in his crosshairs. This was only my 4th day of combat, I hadn't yet learned how to deal with my fears. I remember looking at the Lt. on my left and the radio operator on my right and thinking, "I'm crapping in my pants, why don't they look scared?" I had the feeling I was less than they. I later found out that they were just as frightened as I was. I was trying so hard to focus my eyes behind and up in the trees (I remembered the W W 2 movies of the Japanese snipers in the trees), and in the tall grass, that my eyes began to water. I was desperately afraid that one of my buddies would see and think I was crying- I would rather get shot!
As we moved forward, the NK's opened up with a barrage of mortar and machine gun fire. All hell was breaking loose. There were explosions all around us, I could hear bullets whizzing by-it scared the hell out of me. It wasn't until later that I found out that you never hear the bullet that kills you, so hearing them is a good thing. The skirmish line slowed to where we were now on the line. Amid the chaos and explosions, the platoon Sgt. was yelling," Keep moving, keep moving, fire and movement!"
I thought back to my boot camp training,"Whoever attains fire supremacy will win the battle."
I was firing at puffs of smoke, I didn't see any enemy until one NK stood and began to run. I took him in my sights and cranked off there quick rounds, he went down. there was so much firing going on that I don't know if I got him, or one of the twenty other guys who may have been firing at him.<BR>
By 11AM, we had secured the "Mountain" with the cost of 2 Marine KIA's and six wounded. They say that we killed 300 NK's and captured another 100 (h). it sounds like a lot, but who am I to argue, I didn't do a body count, I was too busy counting my fingers and toes to make sure I didn't lose anything.
Just before dawn on the 20th, forward listening posts heard the rumbling of tanks coming down the Inchon- Seoul Highway. In the dim light, through my binoculars I thought I saw 6 tanks (5 tanks- 'h'),followed by a company (battalion- 'h') of infantry, and a lot of trucks. They were headed directly at the 1st Marines on our right. I like to tell anyone who will listen, that they attacked the 1st Marines because the NK's knew I was with the 5th Marines! So much for Irish modesty.
>From my vantage point, I could see the 1st Marines taking the tanks under attack. Tracers, artillery, mortar shells lit up the predawn sky. One of our shells hit a truck that apparently was carrying ammo, it went up like a 4th of July pyrotechnic display, it continued to light up the entire area. Artillery shells began hitting close, the tanks began jerking back and forth like a wounded animal. the infantry scattered, seeking protection from the steel that was raining down on them. All except one tank and a platoon of infantry which was headed directly at our position. It was the last remaining tank. Pfc. Monagan of the 1st Marines had already knocked out two tanks (h) I had mistakenly said it was five tanks. The tank and the infantry had broken thru the 5th Marine line, just at the interface of the 5th and the 1st. The CO, called out team to the CP and ordered our LT to take his team and anyone else he could find in the CP area and plug the break in the line. We 'drafted' nine men, cooks, communicators, supply people, and ammo truck drivers. Before we went 50 feet the Lt. was killed with a burst of machine gun fire from the tank. The rest of us hit the dirt, wondering what to do. I saw PFC Monagan and his assistant charge across the battlefield and jump into a shell crater 100 feet in front of me. After a minute, Monagan and his assistant stood up to fire the rocket launcher-both were cut down by the tanks machine-gun. One of our make shift squad members ran to Monagan's hole and took the launcher, while sighting it in he took a ricochet round which cut a swarth across his back. After a moment of unconsciencness, he rose, fired and knocked the tracks off the tank. The still operable turret and machine-gun continued to spray the area with bullets. then our Comm. Chief took a five gallon gas can from a nearby truck, he jumped on top and began pouring gas over the tank. He stood on top trying to get his zippo to work, while the rest of us were shouting,"Get off the tank!" He jumped off, lit his zippo and threw it on the tank, making it go up in flames. He must have cooked the tank crew, because we never saw anyone try to escape. We had to listen to him bitch for the next year over the loss of his beloved lighter. One of our members took charge and organized our ad hoc squad into a skirmish line and led us up the hill. The platoon of NK's who had broken thru were in small groups of three or four. They seemed to have any objective and didn't know what to do. In the dim light it was hard to tell friend from foe, on many occasions the NK's were on top of us before we knew who they were. That closeness often resulted in fighting with bayonets, rifle butts, and fists. We killed 30-35, with a cost of 8KIA's and 4 wounded from our little squad. Shortly after retaking the hill, and holding the position, with what was left of our squad, we were relieved by the infantry.
PFC, Monagan was posthumously awarded the MOH.
the man who took command of the squad was awarded a Navy Cross.
The Comm Chief was given a Silver Star.
And every other members of the squad was awarded a Bronze Star with Combat V for valor (most posthumously).
So when you are living in Yongdongpo, I hope you will be aware that the ground you stand on has been consecrated with the blood of both heroic Americans and North Koreans.
I'm sorry that the young people of South Korea seem to have no idea how much Americans suffered in order that they have the freedom to dislike us.