Copyright 2003. Dick Olson. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be copied, faxed, electronically transmitted, or in any other manner duplicated without express written permission of the author. firstname.lastname@example.org
August 17, 1950
by Dick Olson
I joined the corps in July 1948. After boot I went to Hawthorne, Nevada where I served in guard Company at the Naval Ammunition Depot until the Korean War broke out. I made Corporal in April 1950 while there. I was approaching my 20th birthday in July. Late in April 1950 about 27 of us from Hawthorne were dispatched to Camp Pendleton and dispersed into the Brigade. Most of us were scattered. One or two to MPs, One to artillery, and a few to weapons Company, but most of us were placed in the first battalion, that is Able or Baker Companies. There were but two companies to each battalion. At first I was assigned to the third platoon of Able. I boarded the Henrico with them. During the course of the trip to Korea I was placed in the first platoon with Lt Sebilian as platoon leader and Gunny Orville McMullen as platoon sergeant. The trip over aboard the Henrico could best be described as chaos. It was very crowded with long chow lines. It was a good idea when you finished breakfast to get back in the chow line for the noon meal. The wait was that long. The same after the noon meal -back in line for the evening meal. Therefore there wasn't much unit identity going over. Occasionally the platoon got together for a session of PT, but not often. Also
there was an occasional class conducted for the company by one of the officers.
One of those classes closely tied in (at least in my opinion) to what happened when Lt Sebilian was wounded on the Naktong. The class was conducted by Lt. Johnston of the second platoon. The gist of the class concerned how to react when taken under fire by a machine gun. Lt Johnston expressed the theory that when a machine gunner opens fire on a column of troops, the troops will react by hitting the deck and the gunner will therefore lower his trajectory. At that point, if the troops under fire remain prone they will be less likely to be hit than if standing. But if they are hit, then the wound will probably be fatal because it will strike the head or shoulders and be penetrating at an angle into the body that will likely be deadly. However, if the troops were to stand and charge, then, though much more likely to be hit, their wound would most likely be in the legs because of the lowered trajectory of the gun. You can imagine the amount of speculation that brought among the troops. Lots of it was skeptical.
We landed in Pusan on the 2nd of August 1950. My memory of the next two
weeks is sketchy. We did a lot of hiking over dirt roads in the heat of August
in pursuit of a retreating North Korean armored division which had been
pulverized by Marine Corsairs. The heat was so bad that our sweating soaked
through our dungarees and with the truck and tank traffic on the road raising a
cloud of dust, we looked like apparitions because we were covered with mud even
though it hadn't rained the entire time we had been there. Our objective was a
town called Chinju, but we never made it there. On direct orders of Gen.
MacArthur we were diverted to the Naktong River where the Army had bugged out
from dug in positions on Ubongni Ridge overlooking the Naktong. The North
Koreans had crossed the river and driven the army from their defensive
positions. The breach threatened the entire perimeter and Pusan.
On the afternoon of August 17th the 1st battalion Passed through the 2nd battalion in assaulting Obongi ridge. The 2nd battalion had valiantly assaulted the hill and made the top, but their casualties were so heavy we had to continue the assault.
As we left the road and entered the rice paddy we had to cross to get to the base of the hill, I came face to face with Gen. Craig. He was there shaking our hands and wishing us well. Tears were streaming down his face. (Obviously, the losses of the 2nd Battalion weighed heavily on him and now he was sending us to possibly the same fate. I was barely 20 years old. Up to this point any officer represented almost a form of deity to me. To meet a general under these conditions showing such compassion - I can tell you I developed an immediate admiration of that man which holds to this day.)
We started up the hill and weren't halfway up when a machine gun opened up on
us about 20 yards on our front. We all hit the deck. My fire team was in the
second squad under Sgt Miller. As I was holding my breath, Lt. Sebilian motioned
to Sgt Forsythe and the first squad and he rose and led them in a charge on the
gun. They overran it and knocked it out. And would you believe, Lt Johnston
seemed to be proven correct. I'm not sure of the exact casualties, but no more
than three effectives in the first squad reached that gun. Everyone else was
wounded. And all but Lt Sebilian were hit below the knee. The Lt. was hit in the
thigh. An ugly looking wound that appeared to have penetrated his thigh bone. I
helped Gunny Mac place him on a stretcher. He screamed in pain when we lifted
him and I have felt guilty about that all these years. (I have no knowledge of
Lt Sebilian being recommended for a medal for his action. In my opinion it
certainly warranted one. Plenty of medals have been awarded for far less.) At
that point Gunny took over the platoon and we continued the attack. We made the
top of the hill without further resistance and dug in for the night.
After a while 3 T-34 tanks came down the road on our right front. There was a
junction at the base of the hill. One of the tanks turned right at the junction
and came right toward us along the base of the hill. He stopped and sat rotating
his turret and occasionally cranking off a round at us. None hit right among us but he did have us pretty shook up for a while. The Corsairs were apparently back aboard the carrier as some P-51s came in to attack the tank. They weren't very aggressive as they didn't seem to want to go below a thousand feet or so. And they made their runs perpendicular to our lines instead of parallel and after the third pass or so one fired his machine guns right on up the hill and hit someone over in the third platoons area. The P-51's were vehemently asked to leave the area. The tank finally backtracked to the junction and followed the first two tanks. I heard much later that a kid in weapons company named Alvarez knocked it out with a rocket launcher.
That night we tied in with Baker Company on our right and what was left of the second platoon on our left. They were in a kind of saddle that went over to a knoll where the third platoons line started. C.J. Reynolds and I were in a hole together and the machine gunner named Spino was set up in the hole next to us. We were in a 50% watch and I took the first watch until about midnight when I woke C.J. and went to sleep. The next thing I knew C.J. was waking me and all hell was breaking loose on our front. The Koreans were coming up the hill in force right into the second platoon. Someone threw out a flare grenade of some kind and the hill lit up and showed a slew of them coming up the hill. We started firing into them until the flare went out. The Koreans burst right through the second platoon and Gunny passed the word for us to fall back and form a perimeter to protect Baker Companies flank.
There was no moon and it was pitch dark. The koreans were in front of us, behind us and among us. They were throwing grenades and the grenade primers would arc as they came toward you. In the black of nite each one looked like it was going to land right at our feet, even the ones that were actually a long way away. Obviously we were very excited and like a couple of damn fools we were whispering as we approached Baker Company. Suddenly there was an explosion and a blinding flash in my face. C.J. and I were shoulder to shoulder and he screamed "Ole I'm hit". The kid from Baker company who shot him started screaming "I shot a marine. My god I shot a marine" or something a lot like that. Again it was so dark. I got down on my knees and found C.J.'s belt and worked my hands up to his neck where it turns out he was hit. By then he was gone. Gunny got me calmed down and put me in a hole among Baker company. It was starting to get light. There was a sergeant (I think his name was Licheski) from Baker in the hole just above me on the hill. The Koreans had turned one of our machine guns on us and Licheski and I started firing up into the area where the machine gun fire was coming from. I stayed there for I guess about an hour and Ski and I were doing pretty good. He'd come up and crank off a round and yell a target down to me and I'd come up and fire. We got a pretty good rhythm going and I'm sure we got a few hits. Then one of the officers yelled down for us to quit firing on that area as Able company was going to be coming through there. I thought Gunny was taking off and had forgotten me, so I jumped up at high port like a big stupid gooney bird and started running to catch up. Next thing I knew I was on my back with a corpsman in my face telling me I wasn't going to die. Then he turned and told someone I wasn't to have morphine as I had been shot in the stomach. Then I figured I was going to die. At Bn aid some Navy doctor said they wouldn't be able to do anything there so I was put in a 4x4 ambulance with about six other guys. One of them died before we hardly got underway and shortly I passed out. When I came to an Army doctor was standing over me and he said I would recover OK, but he couldn't have put a scalpel where that bullet penetrated without doing major damage. I ended up on a British hospital ship, the HMS Main, which took me to Osaka where I ended up in an army hospital. in Japan for a few months.
When you are in combat you are only aware of what happens in your immediate area. A peripheral of about 20 degrees on each side and what is directly to your front. I didn't learn for a long while that at almost the same time Lt Sebilian was assaulting that machine gun, Lt Johnston was killed leading the second platoon assault on that hill.
An aside you may find interesting. My Dad went to France with the 5th Marines in 1917. He was wounded twice. Once at Chateau Theory and again at Belleau Wood. When I came home in 1951 wearing my greens with the purple heart ribbon, Dad wanted to know what I got it for. When I said it was for being wounded his reaction was "how come I never got one." He wrote the Marine Corps and they sent him his purple heart. So even though he was wounded some 33 years before me, he didn't receive his purple heart till after I had mine. Also, as history will show, Dad was serving with the 5th which was part of the second army division in WWI. I was serving with the 5th when I was wounded and we were working in conjunction with the 2nd Army division.