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Leaving For Korea

March 2023
1min read

It is curious that I dreamed of Don Dollison the other night. Don, who is now deceased, was a member of my high school graduating class in 1948, merely a face with a name in those days. But, with one of the quirks of life’s flow, he and I seemed to have been struck simultaneously with the same muse of adventure, because separately and unbeknownst to each other we enlisted for the llth Airborne Division two days apart in August of that year, found ourselves in the same basic-training company, went to jump school together, and were then both assigned to the 511th Airborne Infantry Regiment, he to a line company, I to the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon.

Two years later came the Korean War. The 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team was formed, and we were transferred to its ranks and soon were sent to join the fight.

Here I’ll cut the history short to relate just one paradigmatic incident. Not long after the Chinese came into the war, the rifle platoon of which Don was a member came under heavy night attack by a greatly superior force and was chased off the hill it held. Regrouping, the platoon went back up that hill, was again repulsed, counterattacked again, was repulsed, et cetera, until after eight more attempts it resecured the hill just as day was breaking.

The platoon, which had numbered twenty-seven men when the sun went down, had been reduced to nine by morning. When full daylight came, it revealed 125 dead Chinese soldiers lying around.

Dreaming of Don that night was a curious thing. Was he trying to tell me something? A voice from the grave? For in the morning following that dream, I sat at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee and proceeded to read James Brady’s “Leaving for Korea” and was regaled by Brady’s calm assertion that the Marines were the “best men MacArthur had that first winter.” And then of course he enlightened me with the information that a mere brigade of Marines had brought the North Korean juggernaut to a halt at Pusan, thus saving the day for the whole American Army.

To coin a word from an old confrere of sorts: Nuts!

Truman commented that the Marine Corps had the best public relations program in the world; he was right.

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