Notes from a Marine

Every now and then, it is a treat to share a little of my daddy’s memories of being in Korea.  Today is Veteran’s Day, a good day to honor him.

From John Allen Black, Reflections of a Marine (Korea 1951-1953)

 

Boot Camp…

The second day at Boot Camp, I happened to overhear a conversation between Corporal Cardinali and one of the Boots in our platoon.  It went something like this:  Boot: “I want out!” Cardinali: “What in the blankety-blank did you say you miserable hunk of —?”  Boot” “I want out.  My daddy is a Commander in the Coast Guard, and he will get me out!”  I didn’t hear much more, but from that moment on, that kid lived in pure hell.  He could do nothing right and paid the price.  He did not graduate from Boot Camp with the rest of us, and it is possible that he is still there, 44 years later, still a recruit.  I imagine that it was Daddy who got him into the Marines in the first place, hoping to make something out of him.”

Judging a Book by its Cover…

“Funny things did happen though during training.  One weekend I and several others were on guard duty at the tank park.  This was located probably one half mile east of Highway 101.  The other guard and I, pleas the sergeant of the guard, were in the guard shack enjoying a cup of coffee when we spotted an old car coming up the dirt road from 101 toward us.  When it got to the shack, it stopped and a small, meek looking, “elderly” man got out and came into the shack.  The sergeant had his feet on his desk at that time.  The visitor asked if he could use our telephone and the sergeant replied “we don’t let civilians use our telephone.”  With that, the old man pulled out his billfold and handed the sergeant his ID card.  It identified him as a Brigadier General in the U.S. Army.  The sergeant exploded out of his chair and somehow landed on his feet at attention.  Since he did that, the other guard and I did the same thing.  The sergeant apologized profusely and the General took it in good grace.  He acknowledged that there was no way for anyone to know his rank dressed the way that he was.  I imagine he got quite a chuckle out of the whole thing.  He got to use the phone.”

Casualties…

“There were some unfortunate casualties (they are all unfortunate) the first day I arrived at the front.  I say they were unfortunate because they were caused the Marines themselves.  As near as anyone could piece together what happened, two newcomers to the platoon were playing around by tossing a live hand grenade to each other.  you can guess what happened.  It certainly had to be an accident, but an any rate, the pin got pulled on the grenade and it exploded.  One was killed, and the other was severely burned.  They had been tossing a white phosphorus grenade.  This WP burns through anything including steel.  Water will not extinguish it and in most cases it continues to burn until it either burns itself out or the item to which it is stuck is burned through.  It is bad stuff.  Several days after that , some infantrymen whom I assume were also newcomers were having their pictures taken next to a tank that was parked on top of the hill above the spring.  I guess that it was too tempting for the Chinese because they fired a couple of mortar rounds, and both men were wounded.  In front of our bunker, and about 150 yards away, was the wreckage of a Marine airplane which had been hit by anti-aircraft fire about a week before I joined the platoon.  There were no survivors from that crash.  These things tend to have a sobering effect on anyone around.”

John A. Black, Marine in Korea

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