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

Joe began firing over my head; I ducked as low as I could. The muzzle of
the BAR was only inches from my ears, and the muzzle blasts felt like my
eardrums were being pierced. About then, I was overjoyed to find my Thompson
at the bottom of the hole; I'd clear forgotten about it. Joe shouted, "I'm gonna go
get the machine gun." He crawled over Blankenship's gun. I began firing the
Thompson. Joe pulled the body off the gun, but when he yanked the gun toward
him it fell into the hole. I'm not sure, but I think about then, Vittori got hit again.
He doubled up. I knew if he went down, we'd be overrun. It would then be just a
matter of time. I saw to my right everything had been knocked out, even the
heavy machine gun. I think the guy's in the FO's hole held out for a while, but
then they, too, were silenced.53
The deluge of enemy fire lasted for what seemed an eternity, but Conaway was
eventually able to make it to the top of the ridge. He and other Marines who had fought
there would receive reinforcement, but for too many, the fight had been their last:
Suddenly, everything grew quiet. No more noise. A few whistles, but no
more firing. It was totally unreal. Joe said, "We can't hold 'em-have to get back.
I'll cover you, go ahead. I'll cover you." I could hear many sounds now; the gooks
were giving commands and trying to pick up their wounded. I heard moans.
A group of about eight gooks came out of somewhere and walked up the
hill. I believe they thought we were all dead. I hoped Joe would begin firing soon.
If he waited too long he'd be in my line of fire. Joe opened up. Then I did. My
shoulder hurt and was still numb. We really splattered them. Another group
behind the first opened fire on us, then faded into the night. Joe got into a
kneeling position. He said again, "Gotta get back to the ridgeline. You go, I'll
cover for you." A rifle cracked. Splat. Joe's head snapped back. He grabbed his
face and fell over. When I got to him, I saw steam coming from the blood running
down his face. I fired one more clip, then scrambled up the hill toward the
ridgeline. Looking back once, I saw my canteen glinting in the moonlight. I did not
know then how much I was going to miss that water; if I had, I might have gone
back for it.
I stumbled over the top of the ridge and fell into a foxhole. When I looked
up I was facing the business end of a .45. My face was so swollen and bloody,
they didn't know who I was.
Reinforcements arrived. I showed them where our positions were. This
done, I started walking south.54
The third Marine to receive a Navy Cross for his actions the day before and in the
fight that night was Lt Col Franklin B. Nihart, the CO of 2/1. On September 15, when the

171

53Ibid., 305.
54Ibid., 302-306.

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 December 28, 2014.