Battle for the Punchbowl: The U. S. 1st Marine Division 1951 Fall Offensive of the Korean War

Up the hill about 200 feet were some engineers clearing mines. I shouted
to them to come down and give me a hand. They glanced at me and continued
their work. I knew they had to be rear echelon types. A corpsman named Hoover
and another guy carrying a stretcher ran up. The three of us went over to McGee
and lifted him onto the litter. We took a few steps and the man with Hoover
stepped on a mine. The blast hit Hoover in the arm and eyes, and rattled me. I
shouted again to the engineers to come down and help us. They didn't budge. I
tried something that usually works in combat: I ordered them down to me. They
never moved. Now I was really pissed! I fired my rifle; the round hit between
them. That was a real mistake; they just took off running in the opposite direction.
I was caught now between being very angry and scared stiff. I told Hoover
and McGee to wait until I returned. I walked to the path, making marks in the
earth which told me how to get back without stepping on a mine. Then I made
several trips back until I got all the men out. Eventually, stretcher bearers arrived
and carried the six men down the hill.30
As much as the actions of one individual could inspire those around him and lead
them to accomplish their objective with determination despite previously faltering
advancements, the actions of one man could tear down the will of those around him to
fight. Lyle Conaway described the attack on Hill 749 that day by 2/1 and one of the
reasons the attack failed:
Around 5:00 P. M. there was an air strike on our objectives. We were
ordered to move forward. The fight the gooks put up was really fierce. I was up
with Joe Vittori. The enemy pounded us with machinegun and artillery fire. Then
two Corsairs made a pass right on us. One guy stood up and waved an air panel.
He was hit and went down. Vittori yelled, "Whose side are those bastards on?"
One of the aircraft was so low I actually saw the bomb shackle open to release
the bomb. That bomb sailed over our heads and exploded in a shallow ravine. It
was too hot to wonder where the Corsairs went, but they did stop strafing us.
Then a lieutenant was hit in the thigh and began to yell, "Pull back! Pull
back!" Here we were, nearly to the crest, and we were ordered back. We pulled
back to our previous positions. It was still light. Everyone was confused. I saw
our captain [Frederick A. Hale, Jr.] going from person to person. "What
happened? What went wrong?" He had an anguished look on his face. "Why did
you come back?"31
Fox Company would resume the assault with the Battalion CO, LtCol Franklin B.
Nihart "personally coordinating the attack." When the attack commenced that evening at

160

30Ibid., 301.
31 Ibid., 302.

Montandon, Joshua W. Battle for the Punchbowl: The U. S. 1st Marine Division 1951 Fall Offensive of the Korean War. Denton, Texas. UNT Digital Library. http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc3938/. Accessed October 21, 2014.