Prologue

WELCOME TO MY WORLD


I n my mind it will always be August 1950 on the Pusan Perimeter.

It happens that the Marines above are those of "D" Company, 2d Battalion 5th Marines, 1st Provisional Marine Brigade (-) (Rein.). The time was about 1000 local, and the "local" was the railroad yard at Pusan, South Korea.

The day was August 3d, 1950. Please note the (-) in the first sentence. It means just what it indicates that the Brigade was short a significant number of units who were normally organic to it. Regiments supposedly contain nine rifle companies, three in each battalion.

The Brigade was dispatched to Korea with only two rifle companies in each battalion. The Marine Corps could not form those important third companies for each rifle battalion. Those third rifle companies for each battalion would not enter the fray until after the 1st Battle of the Naktong, 17/18 August 1950. A Rifle Company in that day and age numbered some 255 enlisted Marines and seven officers.... These were dangerous instruments with which to make war.

This Company had sailed to Korea after embarking on the USS George Clymer, APA 27. An APA is an attack transport. They left San Diego on 13 July for a destination in southern Japan. When the situation in Korea turned rotten, and as it appeared that US forces in Korea might just have to swim for Japan, the destination changed to Pusan, South Korea. There they were to join US Army troops who were hanging on to the peninsula by their teeth. The North Koreans who opposed us and who had chased us into a tiny corner of the peninsula were as good as soldiers as I have ever encountered.

 

 

Clymer had docked at Pusan the afternoon of August 2nd. Bands were playing. Salutes and pleasantries were exchanged. Then the work began. Clymer had to unload all the gear 2/5 had stashed in her holds in San Diego. I was hotter than the hinges of hell in those holds. In the midst of all this, someone determined that all the new arrivals receive vaccinations for "Japanese B Encephalitis."

Some of us had been vaccinated against this disease while serving in North China in 1946, and taking the vaccination twice was supposed to be a no-no. Quibble not; we had to take it again. What is it? It was two cc's of infected rat brain suspended in formaldehyde. That shot brought many a strong man to his knees. It hurt like hell.

Unloading continued apace. All night long. Everyone was exhausted come the dawn.

May I introduce you to two of the Marines in this picture? Leading on your right with the papers in his hand is the Company First Sergeant. I remember his name was Vissert. When our Company Commander Captain, John Finn, was hit between the horns by what probably was a machine gun bullet, Vissert was one of two Marines who helped him down to the Battalion Aid Station. Finn's forehead looked as if he had a soup spoon gouge out his skull. You could see the frontal lobe of his brain throbbing. He was on his feet and cogent while being assisted to the rear.

This was on the 342 Massif at Ching Dong Ni. Finn received a hit while trying to drag to the rear the body of his Second Platoon Commander. Not a wise move but gutsy. The Platoon Commander was, without much doubt, killed instantly by a burst of machine-gun fire that struck him in the upper chest and face. Vissert did not return to 342 after he had deposited Finn.

The other Marine leading the charge on your left is Master Gunnery Sergeant "Nigger" Reeves. Now don't go a'gettin your skivvies all knotted up. Reeves was as white as any other Marine in the company. The intervening variable was that he had spent years in such places as Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The skin on his face and any other area of his body exposed to the sun had turned a dark mahogany color. Such affliction was common among the old timers in the Corps. Striding along in the picture, with his map case, he looks like what he is-a professional Marine.

The afternoon of August 10th, 1950, I was sitting in the right-hand front seat of a jeep. Someone had thoughtfully mounted a machine gun so that anyone in my position could sweep the countryside with it. When our Recon Point was ambushed, and the firing began, I cranked a round in the chamber and gleefully looked for a target to eliminate. Alas, that was not to be. Our jeep was hit first by a burst of fire, and the driver and two Marines sitting in the back were killed. "Nigger" received wounds in both knees. The war was over for him. I didn't get a scratch. First thing I did was give up the thought of being a machine gunner. I hit the ditch and burrowed into the dirt. It would be another half hour before I was laid low, and for me, the fight on the Pusan Perimeter was over.

Now, how about all of those troopers in the long ranks pictured? Fourteen of them were KIA on the 342 Massif. I guess that 2/3 of those left would have been killed or wounded during the First Battle of the Naktong. A number of the remaining would have been killed or wounded during the Second Battle of the Naktong. Comparatively few of them would see Inchon on the 15th of September.

And so you have visited my world as it was in August, 1950. It was a world full of death, blood, pain and considerable confusion. I never enjoyed the war after that.

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