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Remembering the Forgotten War: Korea, 1950-1953

Though some insist it should be referred to as the "Korean Conflict" or a police action because the participants never officially declared "war," there are few veterans who would disagree that the fighting in Korea between 1950 and 1953 was as bitter as any war. In recent years, the Korean War has been called "The Forgotten War," because it has been overshadowed by the more immediate memories of Vietnam, Desert Storm and the fiftieth anniversary commemorations of World War II. With four million casualties, however, the war that President Truman declared a testing ground in the conflict between communism and democracy has left an indelible imprint on the history of the twentieth century.

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LtGen. Lewis B."Chesty" Puller, my Hero, our Leader in Korea!

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Vittori, Joseph

Rank:> Corporal
Organization: U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Company Fox, 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division (Reinforced).
Place and date: Hill 749, Korea, Sept. 15-16, 1951.
Entered service at: Beverly, Mass.
Birth: 1929, Beverly, Mass.

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For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an Automatic Rifleman in Company F, Second Battalion, First Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in actions against enemy aggressor forces in Korea on 15 and 16 September 1951. With a forward platoon suffering heavy casualties and forced to withdraw under a vicious enemy counterattack as his company assaulted strong hostile forces entrenched on Hill 749, Corporal Vittori boldly rushed through the withdrawing troops with two other volunteers from his reserve platoon and plunged directly into the midst of the enemy. Overwhelming them in a fierce hand-to-hand struggle, he enabled his company to consolidate its positions to meet further imminent onslaughts. Quick to respond to an urgent call for a rifleman to defend a heavy machine gun positioned on the extreme point of the northern flank and virtually isolated from the remainder of the unit when the enemy again struck in force during the night, he assumed position under the devastating barrage and, fighting a single-handed battle, leaped from one flank to the other, covering each foxhole in turn as casualties continued to mount, manning a machine gun when the gunner was struck down and making repeated trips through the heaviest shellfire to replenish ammunition. With the situation becoming extremely critical, reinforcing units to the rear pinned down under the blistering attack and foxholes left practically void by dead and wounded for a distance of 100 yards, Corporal Vittori continued his valiant stand, refusing to give ground as the enemy penetrated to within feet of his position, simulating strength in the line and denying the foe physical occupation of the ground. Mortally wounded by enemy machine-gun and rifle bullets while persisting in his magnificent defense of the sector where approximately 200 enemy dead were found the following morning, Corporal Vittori, by his fortitude, stouthearted courage and great personal valor, had kept the point position intact despite the tremendous odds and undoubtedly prevented the entire battalion position from collapsing. His extraordinary heroism throughout the furious night-long battle reflects the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Notice that almost all of my Military Web pages are on free webservers. The reason is that when I go to Frog Heaven, they should remain there as long as those servers do not go broke. www.mi-vida-loca.com, is only there as long as i pay them their monthly fee.

My friend and Warrior brother, Corporal Henry Gutierrez USMC (Ret); from Laredo TX was one of the survivors of that battle. He was very seriously wounded on the West Coast of KOREA, I believe it was at either "Reno" or Vegas" Hills. Please go to the picture link below to see our photo.

                Field Medical Service School (FMSS) that we attended was in Camp Jejune NC. We were transferred to Camp Pendleton, Camp Pulgas, where we underwent USMC combat training. After that we went to Pickle Meadows for Winter Training.  We had a two day liberty after that and were flown to Korea directly to Battalion Reserve, and Regimental Reserve.

                                       This article from the USMC Leatherneck Magazine,  large graphics, click on each to ENLARGE.



KOREA Pictures

Hospital Corpsman 3d Class, Erasmo Riojas',(aka: "Doc Rio") adventures with the USMC's First Marine Division, First Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Fox Co., 2nd Platoon in Korean Police Action. If it was a Police Action, I'll kiss your ass!The other HM3 in my platoon was "Moose" Mc Gee, from Tennessee. I think he made it too. I was evacuated to "Charlie Medical Company" and never saw the "moose" again. We did nothave to like it, we just did 13 months of it!If living without sleep, food, being cold, living in frozen holes in the ground and having thousands of the Chinese Peoples' Republic messin with your life and your mind 24 hours a day ain't HELL, Then I had NO HELLs! WEEKs! Hospital Corpsman 3d Class, Erasmo Riojas',(aka: "Doc Rio") adventures with the USMC's First Marine Division, First Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Fox Co., 2nd Platoon in Korean Police Action. If it was a Police Action, I'll kiss your ass! The other HM3 in my platoon was "Moose" Mc Gee, from Tennessee. I think he made it too. I was evacuated to "Charlie Medical Company" and never saw the "moose" again. We did not have to like it, we just did 13 months of it! If living without sleep, food, being cold, living in frozen holes in the ground and having thousands of the Chinese Peoples' Republic messin with your life and your mind 24 hours a day ain't HELL, Then I had NO HELLs! WEEKs!

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Before Christmas, a chinese peoples volunteer soldier dressed in the white pajama like quilted uniform and sneakers delivered two bags full of these Christmas messages.
He was not armed. He tripped a flare at the first line of concertina wire and was gunned down by our guys.
These souvenirs could be exchanged to the rear echelon troops(in the rear with the whiskey, women, and beer) for as much as one bottle of whiskey, or a case of beer (which during winter was of no value because it was frozen solid).

" I have been in war, and I have been in Eleonor. I prefer war." who said that?

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The Inchon Korea landing.
The invasion of Inchon, Korea, 15 September 1950.
The marines that made the landing said that the tide was way out and that they had to walk thru the mud a very long distance before getting to the beach. All their gear got wet and muddy. They said that they encountered a small korean band playing and resistance was very sporatic. Even at that, marines died during that landing.

Notice that the four large LSTs -(Landing Ship, Tank) - are resting on the mud flats, entirely free of the water, which is at low tide. The extreme tidal range of the western coast of the Korean Peninsula had made the invasion not only difficult- but unlikely to many people - on both sides of the conflict. Three of the four LSTs are identifiable. From right to left, they are: LST-715, LST-845, and LST-611.
Official U. S. Navy photograph, courtesy U. S. Naval Historical Center.
U. S. Naval photograph no. 420027

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Infantry patrols in the snow. A long file of infantrymen, clad in white as camouflage, march along a curving, snow-packed railroad bed toward rugged hills strewn with more snow.

We walked days and nights thru mud snow and below zero temperatures. Home was where you parked it and ate your assault ration per day. I saw and also experienced frostbite. My hands and feet to this day have pain and burning.
Official U.S. Army photograph. Copyright 1997 Army Times Publishing Company
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Seen on 29 November 1950, 5th and 7th Marines take their wounded and equipment reorganize at Yudam-ni after fighting off three Chinese divisions. The action began a five-day battle over 15 icy miles as the Marines pulled back to Hagaru-ri. Marines burned surplus gear to leave nothing for the enemy. Temperatures fell to 25 degrees below zero. Marines had to throw water cans into fire to thaw them out.
That round dark spot in front of the marine on the right side of the picture looks like a small mortar crater. Some marines are wearing bown side out and others green on their steel pots.
U.S. Department of Defense photograph

Feb. 1953 Weary Marines aboard an APC.
Weary Marines of the First Marine Division riding an armored personnel carrier after carrying out a dawn attack on a Chinese Communist outpost on 28 February 1953, "somewhere in Korea."

In the summer of 1951, the US Army was being pushed back towards Seoul Korea. I was with the USMC and other U.N. Forces on the east coast. General Mac Arthur ordered all the USMC
to cross Korea to the Eastern Front north of X-Ray bridge to contain the Chinese Offensive.
It was an experience to behold. The enemy had tanks and MIGs. We held the high ground at night, and they pushed us off in the morning. The chinese had an extremely large number of troops. USMC lost a lot of good men in the Korean Western coast over a very small piece of real estate. Looking back at the conflict, it was a waste of lives and money.
Official U. S. Marine Corps photograph, courtesy U. S. Naval Historical Center

Sikorsky HO3S Medevac helo in Korea
Navy corpsmen carry a wounded man on a stretcher to a field hospital in Korea, 3 October 1950. The Korean conflict saw the first large-scale usage of helicopters for evacuating wounded from the battlefield. Three of the Navy corpsmen carrying the stretcher are Herald B. Williams of Fresno, California; James E. Carr of Lakewood Village, California; and William N. Skipwith of Birmingham, Alabama; the fourth corpsman and the wounded man are unidentified. The helicopter is a Sikorsky HO3S of VMO-6.

In 1951 I got wounded in the Eastern Korean Front on Hill-812 during the Chinese Fall Offensive. After about three days and nights, I believe that less than 30% of my USMC company remained at their pearpits, most of them not seriously wounded. The 7th Marines had very recently gone into battalion reserve, and were sent back to the front lines to re-enforce the 1st and collect the dead. I remember the chopper med evac was a Sikorsy, glass bubble dome and two stretchers on each side of it. Exactly like the ones that that use in the TV series "Mash."
Official U. S. Navy photograph, courtesy U. S. Naval Historical Center.

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These souveniers were delivered to the our first barbwire perimeter by an unarmed chinese soldier. He tripped a flare and went immediate multiple injections of lead poison. The North Koreans and Chinese People Republic were always trying to have the U.N. forces to surrender.

Hospital Corpsman's

I solemnly pledge myself before God and these
witnesses to practice faithfully all of my
duties as a member of the Hospital Corps.

I hold the care of the sick and injured to be a
privilege and a sacred trust and will assist
the Medical Department Officer with loyalty
and honesty.

I will not knowingly permit harm to come
to any patient.

I will not partake of nor administer any
unauthorized medication.

I will hold all personal matters pertaining
to the private lives of patients in strict

I dedicate my heart, mind and strength to
the work before me.

I shall do all within my power to show
in myself an example of all that is
honorable and good throughout my
naval career.

A Sampler of Marine Recruiting Slogans Since 1775

First to Fight

A Few Good Men

Tell it to the Marines

Let's go, U.S. Marines

An Opportunity to see the world

The, Few, The Proud, The Marines

Semper Fi!

You all,

My exposure to General Douglas MacArthur was the same as some of you older
ones. Reading of his exploits and statements during WWII was tempered a bit
by the Marine Corps' attempts to keep their own place in the sun. Typical:
"With the help of God (and a few Marines) MacArthur got back to the
Philippines." My clerk's job in the headquarters of the 7th Marines in Hopei
Province in North China stuck many things about him in my mind. Going back
to Japan in 1949 made him the big chief, hence in the consciousness of all of
us. Korea was disconcerting to any soldier as innocent as me.

And this intellectual baggage is what I carried during all my military
service, particularly in Laos and Vietnam. My positive reaction to
Weintraub's tale of the first ten months of Korea owes much to the
reflections that had never left me tranquil. The personal remarks about me,
Hugh Brown, and Mike Lynch contained in the book are not the only reasons all
of you should read carefully this "Undoing of an American Hero."


Carl F. Bernard

MACARTHUR'S WAR, Korea and the Undoing of an American Hero
by Stanley Weintraub

Vietnam happened, in large part, because we learned the wrong lessons from
Korea. The enormous human, social and monetary costs of those two
misadventures demand that we never again commit the same errors. What
missteps allowed those disasters to ambush us? Ignoring history is often
proclaimed to be the certain way to repeat it. Misunderstanding history will
have the same effect. Weintraub's contribution may enable us to hear what
history has long been screaming at us by clearly showing how General
MacArthur wasted his resources and ruined his own reputation. Will such
inanities recur? MacArthur's primary advisors in Korea-Ignorance, Innocence
and Arrogance-are Siamese triplets who still decree repeated military
blunders. The mere passage of time (fifty years now!) does not cure folly, as
Somalia and Kosovo demonstrate.

An unconscious betrayal of MacArthur by the uniformed sycophants cultivated
by and attracted to him, was almost inevitable. Few persons had the courage,
conviction or capability to contest the hasty, illogical decisions made by
the Army's famous five-star general. That obviated any application of a
Hegelian process to ameliorate or even validate MacArthur's hasty decisions.
Moreover, MacArthur's ego, bolstered by his demonstrated potency during
W.W.II, forbade his stooping to serious consideration of advice or counsel
from underlings. Pity. A reasoned examination of his extemporaneous
directives in Korea could have prevented the loss of many young soldiers.

In the five years between W.W.II and the North Korean attack on the South,
our military had become seriously unprepared to manage exigent events. The
War was over! Focused on peace, we were disarming. Our intelligence services
were woefully ignorant of the plans and ambitions of other governments. They
were far more concerned with Soviet activities than anything in Asia, thus
made little effort to trace policy evolutions in the two Koreas and China.
Had they better assessed the behavior of those countries, it is still
unlikely that they could have conveyed its significance to policy makers in
Washington or Tokyo. Senator Joseph McCarthy's shocking accusations early in
February, 1950, significantly disrupted the State Department as well as
Congress, and absorbed their attention from the events that led to open
hostilities in Korea five months later. McCarthy's charges had much greater
consequences than the reduction of knowledgeable Asian specialists. The
courage of many persons at policy levels sank noticeably when they noticed
the Senator had turned his attention toward them.

Merely innocent within the American public, but dangerously ignorant at high
military and political levels, a general attitude prevailed that future
conflicts would certainly be fought with nuclear weapons. We believed that
awe of our massive nuclear superiority would hold most aggressive nations in
check. Further, the Army chiefs assumed that the psychological and
operational impact of the two nuclear weapons we had used earlier, and the
more than 300 others available to us, trivialized any offensive threat of
only ten in the Soviet's possession. Most deplorable, the Army chiefs
accepted that infantry fighting skills developed during W.W.II were made
irrelevant by nuclear weapons.

This unexamined acceptance of a nuclear weapon defense was extended to an
excessive confidence in our air power, despite its failures in W.W.II.
(Hollywood, intending to promote preteen movie attendance, unconsciously
prompted an unwarranted faith in aircraft by portraying them in B-movies as
invincible. Lesson yet to be learned: Ban movie producers from the Pentagon.)
Contrarily, our reorientation to nuclear and air warfare gave low priority to
the readiness of infantry units. This, and a lamentable personnel policy that
readily transferred individuals from unit to unit before they became well
acquainted with one another, or even with their jobs, made the tragic fate of
my first unit, Task Force Smith, understandable. One shameful aspect of this:
our Army adopted General Sullivan's "No More Task Force Smith's" as a motto
and then did nothing to eliminate the chronic causes of such calamities.

Now, half century after Korea, we are still preparing to refight W.W.II.
Compounding the errors in Korea, Vietnam and all the other failed military
escapades since, the highest ranks of our military still pattern their
strategy after forms developed in W.W.II. None of the engagements since that
time have been nuclear. None are analogous to Pacific island hopping or
European air warfare. We have paid scant attention to covert "peoples' war"
even though this is likely to be the form of conflict most common in
tomorrow's world. t

Other lessons to be learned from MacArthur's War:

Washington and FECOM (Far Eastern Command) suspected the Soviets were
trying to get us committed in an area extraneous to our (and their) real
interest-Europe. They succeeded in swaying our highest commands because it
justified what we wanted to believe. Our focus on Europe obscured our
ignorance about the reality and significance of U.S./Chinese relations, thus
insuring that critical problems we faced would be ignored.

We failed to understand our personnel failures from W.W.II (see Stouffer's
The American Soldier), causing far higher than necessary casualties in Korea
(and succeeding conflicts) as a consequence.

We were hobbled by our "Bible Belt" mentality, i.e. "GOD is on our side."
Under this perspective the existence of "evil kummunism" becomes proof (not
mere evidence) of an active devil, boosting our natural belief in the
justness of our cause.

U.S. military staff officers distrusted Syngman Rhee with a passion
bordering on racism. That led to a pre-hostilities policy of keeping
essential "offensive" weapons from him. Perhaps this kept Rhee from
initiating attacks, but it guaranteed the failure of South Korea's response
to the initial North Korean assault, a defeat that sapped SK morale during
the entire "Police Action."

Our near total unawareness of the Chinese Army's provisions for attack was
an unacceptable intelligence gaffe far superseding the naivete that pervaded
most of our data gathering. We ignored what little we knew about the
psychological integration and arming of veteran forces captured from Chiang,
i.e., "speak bitterness" and "auto critique" programs (techniques we usually
refer to as "brainwashing"). American intelligence also discounted the
possibility of Chinese intervention in Korea despite the Chinese alert of
their intentions to the Indians.

The inability of JCS to confront/control MacArthur before Inchon, and
their abject obeisance to his perceptions and intentions afterward,
demonstrate clearly that the selection process for staff officers (seniority)
had failed.

Despite Ridgway's best efforts, command of the 10th Corps from the Dai Ichi
building-resulting in the continued division of our committed forces-lasted
until MacArthur's actual departure.

The Army's attempts to control the media's reportage of happenings in the
field were unsuccessful.

At the Wake Island conference with President Truman, MacArthur misled the
President in several areas, including the potential effectiveness of a
Chinese intervention in the war. His prognosis for success: "It will be over
by Thanksgiving."

The UN (illogically, then) called for reunification of the two Koreas
despite the paucity of forces available for this. The upcoming meeting of
their two chiefs fifty years later (June 12-14, 2000) may be different.

Chiang Kai Shek's blunders certainly led to his defeat by Mao Zedong's
army, but the psychological, military, and political strength of the Red Army
should not have been discounted. They had beaten the Nationalist forces, as
they would do with us north of the 38th parallel.

Our projection of the "Fulda Gap" mentality to Vietnam points up our lack
of intellectual preparation for both. Korea, only 5 years after W.W.II, was
strikingly different from that conflict. Vietnam was a quantum leap from both
previous wars. We seem not to have learned that we must depart from the
strategies and tactics that served earlier. Covert "Peoples' Wars" require
altogether different methodologies.

from my shipmate: Captain Bud Hoff USN (Ret)

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