Frogmen in Korea….
BITS AND PIECES FROM THE FORGOTTEN WAR
FROGMEN PREPARING FOR RAID – preparing firing caps, time fuse and prima cord while sitting on 60 pd. packs of TNT - (God, I hope OSHA isn’t watching)
…At this age memories are fleeting at best – as they flash by I keep scribbling them down on paper because somehow I keep thinking they may jog the memory of those who may have forgotten - and pray God will help us and America to remember…
The day APD Diachenko (or it could have been the Wantuck or the Begor- my memory being what it is) was straddled by shells from a communist shore battery was spooky at best. What made it more so was the fact that my UDT Team was aboard with all their blasting paraphernalia, including many pounds of TNT stashed in the bowels of the little ship.
As I remember we were in the middle of a series of raids along the West Coast of Korea. We had gone in that night, via rubber boats, to blow a railroad bridge – The communist opened up on us before we got to the beach, evidently this was an important facility and they had set up an exceptionally stout defensive posture to protect it.
We abandoned the operation, which was standard procedure if we drew fire before reaching the beach, and scurried back to the ship and went to bed, thinking the ship would get underway to our next objective.
At daylight the next morning a loud “Bang” shook us out of bed – on rushing to the fantail in our skivvies we found the little ship was shooting at the bridge. They were trying to knock the bridge out with the ship’s forward 5-inch gun. We understood the ship’s Captain had made the decision to try his luck and had run circles all night approaching the bridge at daylight.
It was a beautiful day with fleece clouds decorating the skies; we were shouting and yelling encouragement to the gun crew as they peppered shell after shell at the bridge (The ship’s bridge was screaming at us, “Get the hell off the deck, we’re at General Quarters”).
Suddenly a geyser of spray erupted just 50 yard short of the ship, we were all thinking our gunners had made a terrible shot, when another geyser blossomed just seaward of the ship. It dawned on all of us at the same time the ship had been bracketed by a shore battery. The wild stampede of a bunch of half-naked Frogs to get inside off the open deck should have been recorded by film. Of course it sure as hell was not funny at the time – but now, looking back on it, it seems hilarious.
The little ship set down in the stern like a scared goose as the below deck guys cranked on flank speed – and we hauled ass out of there like a scalded hound.
After the ship had scrambled out of danger some of us began peeking out the hatch to see what was going on. As we watched, the gun crew swiveled the 5-inch gun and started walking shells up the mountain where the communist battery was located. When they got to the top they put it on full automatic and laid about six rapid rounds right on top of the enemy gun.
The ship’s gun crew had done no damage to the bridge, but knocking the enemy gun out had saved face for them - however we could find no solace for ourselves. Compounding our problems, we received verbal abuse like only a salty old Chief Boats can do it - for going on deck during General Quarters.
In the Japanese port of Yokosuka the U.S. Marines had set up an MP station prior to the Korean War. In those days they had built a furious reputation for being “hard asses”– and the sailors who went ashore in that port had to “Walk On Eggs”, as the saying goes. Many sailors, who went ashore in those days and got a bit out of line, had felt the wrath of that MP aggressiveness.
When the war started, suddenly the Port was filled with sailors and the Marine MP’s added to their staff, determined to keep their “Iron Ass Policy” intact.
UDT Teams arrived early and began using that port as a debarkation point to raid the Korean coastal transportation routes. The Teams would insert from Yokosuka and make from 4 to 6 preplanned raids, then come back to Camp McGill (just out of Yokosuka) to plan and train for the next series. After repeating this action a number of times – and getting shot up on a number of operations, the guys began to question their longevity on this earth. So it’s not surprising that after a while they began letting it all hang out when returning to Yokosuka in one piece.
Of course that put them on a head-on collision course with the iron ass MP’s. As the number of incidences increased we began to hate those MP’s more than the communists and began spending as much time planning operations against them as we did against the communists.
Some of those operations were ingenious, and too many of them occurred to tell here – however, this one operation caused a death and that seemed to curb the violence on both sides.
The guys had planned an operation where they would sucker the MP’s into raiding a certain bar on the outskirts of the city. The plan’s success depended on the MP’s rushing to the location in their vehicles and storming inside. When they did, our guys would steal their vehicles and drive away.
The plan worked like a charm, as the MP’s rushed into the bar, a Frog jumped into one of their vehicles and took off. As the Frog took off, the Sergeant of the MP detail was driving up in a jeep. He saw his vehicle speeding off with a sailor at the wheel and took off after it. The Frog was racing into the foothills outside the city with the jeep in hot pursuit – our Frog did not make a curve and ran off a 200-foot cliff.
With this Frog’s death, the war within a war came to a screeching halt.
I did not include the Frog’s name in this article because driving off a cliff running from Marine MP’s is not the most glorious way to die in a war. However, he will be remembered as a true hero by all of us (the man had previously been awarded the Bronze Star and other awards for heroic action at Wonson).
Even at this late date, if you were a Marine MP in Yokosuka during the early 50’s – walk softly around us….
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