OF THE MEDALS, AWARDS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICES YOU RECEIVED, WHAT IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
The Silver Star Medal. It is an honor I value above any in my life. But it is not my honor alone. I share it with every Marine who was with me that day. We were a team doing what Marines are trained to do: kill the enemy before he kills you and to take whatever action is necessary to protect your buddies from death or injuries.
Photo on the right is of three men I served with during the Korean War: Left is Mel Rasmussen, who stayed in the Marine Corps with a combat tour in Vietnam; Center is Bobby Joe, my best friend who died of cancer; Right is Blackie Cahill, my platoon leader who retired a colonel. Not sure who the guy in the background is.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
After we captured Kimpo airfield from the North Koreans, Bobby Joe and I settled down for the night in a foxhole we had dug earlier near the runway. We’d been told to expect a North Korean counter attack that night. We were both a little nervous because our view in the direction in which the enemy was expected to attack was blocked by bushes 4 to 5 feet tall.
My watch was the first half of the night and almost the whole time a steady wind kept blowing the bushes. Every time the wind would gust, I thought the enemy were sneaking up on us. I was super alert and especially watchful when illumination flares fired by Naval guns off shore went off overhead. In addition to constant watching for the enemy, I fought pesky mosquitoes all night. They had gotten so bad, I rolled down the camouflage netting from my helmet and tied in under my chin.
When my watch was finally up, I went back to our foxhole where Bobby Joe was sleeping and shook him awake. He was sleeping soundly and when he finally opened his eyes, fear spread across his face. He instinctively kicked my legs out from under me and jumped up with his K-Bar combat knife in his hand, ready to do battle. I grabbed his knife arm as the two of us wrestled to the ground, me yelling for him to stop and that it was me. When he realized it was me, he yelled, “How the hell could I know it was you? You had that rag wrapped around your face, damn it! ” Every time we thought of it after that, we’d laugh.
But I’ve always wondered what if he had stuck me with that K-Bar? He was barely awake, scared out of his wits and had every intention of killing the unidentified person he thought was about to kill him. Had he succeeded, I would not have been alive for these past sixty-odd years.
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE THAT WAS FUNNY AT THE TIME AND STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
When I was stationed at Parris Island, S.C., me and this other DI were at a run-down bar somewhere near Walterboro. We’d been drinking quite a bit and were not totally in control of our good senses, when Woody spotted an attractive woman sitting at the bar. He got up, walked over and began flirting with her. This guy on the other side of her stands up from his stool, levels his eyes and in a menacing voice says, “Hey bud, this is my wife, do you mind?” Unflinching, Woody says, “No, I don’t mind.” I jumped up, grabbed Woody, saying something about his not meaning anything and got him out before a fight broke out.
Now, I don’t know if this conversation originated with Woody in the Walterboro bar or if he had heard it before and decided this was a good time to try it out. Either way, I’ve heard this story as a “joke” many times since.