First Hand Stories (14)

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I’m taking a break from the day-to-day war and will put in some first hand accounts I believe you will all enjoy. They are from Hey Mac, Where Ya Been?, by Henry Berry and published by St. Martin’s Press.

When you have no sewers, the "honeywagons" go to work

When you have no sewers, the “honeywagons” go to work

Pfc Edward McCabe from D Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, enlisted in 1948 from Floral Park, Long Island. On 1 September he arrived in Kobe, Japan and his sergeant saw a Japanese man working on the dock, gave him a hug and the two men talked for a while. McCabe asked what it was all about and the sergeant answered, “That guy was our favorite guard in the prison camp I was in during WWII. He’d always try to get us a little extra food, some smokes, things like that. There are Americans alive today because of that guy.”

Pfc McCabe was the first in his company to go ashore on Blue Beach at Inchon and the first person he met was a Korean woman with a bleeding child from the naval bombing. He couldn’t understand her, but brought them to their doctor who began working on the child and McCabe continued on with his battalion. They moved fast heading for Seoul and after 3 days, who does he meet up with, but the same woman, now carrying a bouquet of flowers. She wanted to thank the doctor for saving her child and she had walked all day to do so.

Chesty Puller

Chesty Puller

18 September, when MacArthur went ashore at Inchon, he said, “The first person I want to see is Lewie Puller… He’s a real fighter.” A message was sent to Colonel Chesty Puller that told him he was to receive the Silver Star, his reply, “Signal that we’re fighting our way for every foot of ground. I can’t leave here. If he wants to decorate me, he’ll have to come up here.” The general did just that. On a steep ridge, the two men, Puller with his WWII raider cap and pipe had a 2 hour meeting with MacArthur and showed him 6 destroyed enemy tanks. The encounter belongs to history with such meetings as Grant and Sherman at Shiloh; at least that’s how the Marines felt about it.

Puller - MacArthur - Smith

Puller – MacArthur – Smith

The Marine Corps (Navy) was the first branch of service to use the helicopter in combat; the first assault was called Summit and the night attack was Black Bird. One chopper story found was from Lt. Col. Ray Murray of the 5th Marines as they attempted to break out of the Pusan perimeter: I was ordered to get aboard a helicopter and get to Army HQ. While I was there, I was told to fly over an area where an artillery unit had been overrun and drop a message telling the survivors where to regroup; this was put in an old 81mm shell with a streamer on it. As we lowered to drop the shell, the North Koreans opened up on us and I yelled “Take evasive action!” We got out in a hurry and the pilot began to laugh, “Jeez, Colonel, if I told the manufacturer of this chopper what I just did with it, they wouldn’t believe me.” I don’t know what the manufacturer would have thought of it, but he scared the crap out of me!

The author mentions the fighting ability of the Turkish troops, fondly called “wild men” for the way they refused to give the enemy an inch and the Princess Pats from Canada, he rated as outstanding. Mick O’Brien of the Independent Commandos, Royal Marines at Chosin Reservoir received the Presidential Unit Citation given to the 1st Marine Division. O’Brien said,”…a young Marine sergeant gave me a Marine emblem. I wore it in my green beret for the rest of my service…”

Captain Theodore Williams, USMC and veteran of WWII was recalled at 34 years of age to go to Korea. He said he felt it was unfair, but he figured they must have been hard up for pilots, so he went without any bellyaching. He said he kept thinking it couldn’t happen, but it did. In the end, he was grateful because he got the chance to fly the jets.

mash002

Corporal Richard Munro, F/2/5, who would go on to become CEO of Time, INC., mentioned the M*A*S*H* unit he was sent to after being up against the CCF, “The doctors’ jobs were not easy. They had to be half medical men and half psychologists. The last thing these guys [wounded] needed was sympathy. The sooner they faced up to their predicaments, the better off they’d be. So the doctors would try to make a joke out of it…Sounds cruel, but it worked.”

One Marine said: They speak of the top name celebrities that went to Korea to entertain the troops, but even the aging singer, Al Jolson went and was a big hit. He literally put all he had into his performances and Korea would be his last. Jolson passed away after returning to the States from exhaustion.

Korean terrain

Korean terrain

“Hills, they called ’em hills. Well, I’m from Rhode Island. They were fuckin’ mountains to me.” __ Dick Burke E/2/7
Burke recalled that his platoon leader had left a pregnant wife back in Arkansas and as they left for Korea aboard the APA Barnfield, he found out the baby had been born. The new father handed out cigars and Burke put his in his seabag. When the seabag finally caught up with him back in the states, the cigar was still there.

So you see, not all memories of war need be of horrific experiences, bravery, medals and death. There are other stories far more humorous than I have sampled for you here and others far more serious. There are tales of being home on leave before combat or friendships made during the tour of duty. No veterans’ story is too small or insignificant and I know some of you have these stories.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Personal note –

I need to send out a special Thank You to Sheri de Grom and her husband, Tom. Despite their own medical concerns, they have brought my web site to the attention of several veterans, the VA hospital and a local restaurant who will be hosting a dinner for the men. For further explanation of this and a chance to read Sheri’s blog (story about the vets is included in the comments), please go to:
http://sheridegrom.wordpress.com/2013/09/13/what-were-they-thinking-the-pentagon-and-same-sex-marriage/
If the veterans are reading this – Thank you All for your service!! Without you, we may not be standing here.

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Farewell Salutes – Aftermath

Joseph Zimmer – Bethesda, MD; WWII Purple Heart

Thomas Tedder – Alaska & W. Palm Bch., FL; USMC, Vietnam

Ronald George McKeown – Walloon, Australia; Royal Australian Air Force, flight sergeant

Timothy Rowe – Hobe Sound, FL; US Navy, Vietnam, translator fluent in Chinese

Warren Scott – NYC, NY & Boynton Bch, FL; US Navy, WWII

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on September 18, 2013, in Korean War, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 53 Comments.

  1. gpcox – I especially liked the story from Pfc. McCabe. People are people, the world over. Some are good and some are bad – it has nothing to do with their race or nationality.

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  2. Besides the informational value of your blog, it is wonderful that you offer a farewell salute to those who gave so much for our country and our freedom. Although the men and women you honor would be humbled by the thought, I’d love for their families to know that you have helped us to remember and appreciate their sacrifices.

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  3. “sheridigrom”‘s comment made me so happy. Can’t think of a better reason to be part of a blogging community, than to bless the lives of others. And you do that “gpcox.”

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  4. First of all… I loved your personal note! Excellent!

    Secondly, this was a nice post as it showed the light side of things as you said. And I did get a chuckle reading about ol’ Chesty getting MacArthur to come up to where he is. To two of my Marine buddies (not young by any means), they thought Chesty was the Marines Marine, along with Sgt. John Basilone… Of course, in honor of Smitty, the general who jumped first, the Jumpin’ General, Lt. Gen. James Gavin. 🙂

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  5. Woof! (wags tail) Thank you so much for a great post. You always put out a fantastic read!

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  6. Loved the story. My Dad was with the 67th Air Police, assigned to the 121st Med Evac as an escort during Korea. In fact he was with the Fifth Marines at Chosin, when Chesty found the ChiComs.

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  7. Scoop Jackson..."News 60"

    What a great informational site! It’s good to know about our great history. Thanks too for the visits to my site. They are much appreciated…

    Scoop

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  8. Great post. I know exactly what you mean. Many of anecdotes in my father’s memoirs are of the positive or funny kind, or even simple (and precise) instructions on how to make a durable mug out of bamboo.

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  9. The hills/mountains quote reminds me a story a friend told me. He was a jeep driver for an American officer and a translator. During a lull in the fighting, they had been sent to specific village in South Korea, and they were lost. An old farmer was working his field, so they stopped and asked him if he knew where it was. He didn’t. They asked him what was over the hill down the road.
    He didn’t know, he explained. He had never been over that hill.

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  10. Nice change of pace. Humor is often what keeps the troops going.

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  11. Love ‘fuckin’ mountans’! As others have said, it is the small details that enchant. The stories of friendship and memory make me weep and wish that such decency and kindness was not just so evident during war. It’s too rare these days.

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  12. Thank you so much for the lovely shout out. And, indeed, if I hadn’t been reading your blog on my iPad when a group of young psychiatrist and psychologist fresh out of residency and in the employee of the VA for three years to pay off medical school that this all came about. The young professionals were brainstorming ways to get the elderly veterans out of their rooms and talking to each other. And what a perfect opportunity to present ‘The Pacific Paratrooper’ as a possible solution. The project has taken on a life of its own. I’ve seen dozens of smiles in the last few days and the men are talking with each other about this and that (and that’s what we wanted all along) to get the patients talking. Thank you GP.

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    • I got chills as I read your reply. To know I have been of any help at all makes everything worthwhile!! Let’s give a thumbs up to those doctors, too. They were willing to try anything!!

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      • Pierre LagacĂ©

        “It never stops.”
        Jack Maclean

        See how this blog you started in September 2012 about your father is touching other people’s lives.

        “It will never stops GP…”
        Pierre

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        • I honestly never thought anything like this would happen to me. I was just happy to find a way to put dad’s scrapbook on line and it kept on growing. (Thanks to friends like you!)

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  13. Thank you! Very interesting like all your posts. It`s the every day personal stories which give an insight of the atmosphere.
    Greetings from sunny coast of Norfolk
    Klausbernd

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  14. I enjoyed this. It is nice to be reminded that even in the midst of tragedy there are good people on both sides. A little humor always helps, too.

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  15. The small, humanitarian gestures during wartime are often forgotten to the mists of time.

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  16. That cartoon says more than entire books …

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  17. You’re right – when you get down to the detail it’s the small, untold personal stories that really inspire.

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  18. Pierre Lagacé

    Quote

    No veterans’ story is too small or insignificant and I know some of you have these stories.

    That’s the reason why I write my blogs. We can’t thank them enough.

    Like

  19. thanks for the post my friend, still getting into this windows 8 think, starting to like it? If it would be OK with you I could use a first name while writing to you? Sachem

    Like

  20. Nice to have a change of pace. Excellent cartoon.

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