My War Memories
Charles Julius Stockhausen
Saint Louis Missouri
5th MARINE DIVISION
It was sixty four years ago – September 27th , 1943. I had just been sworn into the United States Marine Corps . We were located inside the Federal Building , downtown St. Louis, Missouri . There were a total of eight recruits in my group .
We left on a train for San Diego. No frills, it was the ‘chair-car’ (sitting room only), for us. Once we got to Denver , Colorado , they straightened things out and we were able to get a Pullman car. That meant that for the rest of the trip we could finally lay down and get some real sleep .
We stood on the last car and watched as the countryside went by and we could hear gun shots. Someone told us they were shooting at deer but back then there were not very many deer around .
The Marines only had 2 training bases , west of the Mississippi, in San Diego, California and East of the Mississippi , at Paris Island , South Carolina . Since we were in California, we were called the “Hollywood Marines “.
We lived in barracks that were about two feet above the ground. The streets were sand and the barracks were set up on top of the sand. These barracks are not like the Quonset huts (oval style), like you would see in the movies or on “Gomer Pile”.
There were sixty men in our platoon which was number 879. Our drill instructor was a Platoon Sergeant and his assistant was a Corporal and a Private First Class.
Every day we had to wash our clothes and the Sergeant would inspect them . If they were dirty, he would slam them down onto the sandy ground . Then, he would give us a “Right Face and Forward March”. We would try to step over the bundles of limp clothing , but someone always tripped .
All day we would do “close order” drill on the parade grounds . When we came in for chow, from marching all day, we would think “ahhhh”, a steak dinner . It was liver ; I hate liver, still do . What we thought was coffee was creamy tea.
We spent three weeks at Camp Matthews , on the rifle range. The target that I fired at was number 94. We fired for record on Thanksgiving Day, this would go on our file and I shot a 303 out of a possible 340, not too shabby . It qualified me as a sharp shooter. If I had made 306, I would have been classified an expert. We fired from 200, 300 and 500 yards. We performed “off-hand , prone , kneeling and sitting” . I also mastered the bayonet and hand grenade.
We graduated from boot camp right after the Battle of Tarawa. You know, in my opinion that was the worst one ever. Our drill instructor told us that we would have to avenge our fellow Marine ‘s . A lot of good men died there .
Next , it was on to number two tent camp. There were no elevated gravel roads and our tents were set up in the middle of a field. Our cots sank down to the middle of the cross member. We had the old kerosene lanterns and every night we had to clean the chimneys, trim the wicks and refill the kerosene. Right down the road from us, were the Paratroopers, Marine Raiders, and the Dog Platoon. While on ground duty, we carried live ammunition , which was unheard of in the United States.
We were sent to Hawaii (The Big Island), on the old ship, The George F Elliot. It was built in Mississippi , before the war . Aboard the ship, the food was terrible , the showers were salt water and the heat was intense.
We landed in Hilo, Hawaii. We spent the first night in a warehouse off the bay. The next day we were sent by narrow gauge train up to camp Tarawa which was located on the Parker Ranch, at that time the second largest ranch in the world, next only to the King Ranch , in Texas. We were right between Mauna Loa and Monika: we could see lava all over the place.
The 2nd Marine division built this camp when they came back from Tarawa. We had cold showers and outside toilets. The weather there was ideal but it was a little on the dry side. When we walked guard duty at night , we could really see all the falling stars or meteorites.
Also, we could hear the roosters crowing. They say the rooster s only crow at sun up, but that isn’t true .
We practiced quite a few landings. This one in particular was on Maui and the water was very rough. A lot of men almost got caught going down the landing, between the ship and the landing crafts.
Church services were held in a tent and I remember a man singing “Fairest Lord Jesus”. He was killed in Iwo Jima . Every time I hear that song, I think of him .
The front of one of the landing crafts was painted “Too late to worry”. How true it was as we headed into Iwo Jima .
The first night we sat up on airstrip number one as our artillery was firing at Mt. Suribachi. The Japanese would shoot back about 10 times to each one of our rounds. While still aboard the ship, I saw one plane bombing Mt . Suribachi and the Japanese shot at him and I saw something fall off the plane. It wobbled in the sky, while heading directly for our ship, but managed to straighten out at the last second. While we were in the foxholes, the Japanese would open up with anti-aircraft artillery and they would explode right above us .
On February 23rd, 1945, someone said “look down at the mountain” and we could see Old Glory flying, on the island of Iwo Jima. The battle was not over, but it was a good start, and it sure helped our morale. On the beach was volcanic sand. It was really loose and hard to walk on. The vehicles could not get off and were stuck on the water line, a perfect target for the artillery and mortar shells .
One night, when the moon was full, we had an air raid alert. As we waited , we heard a plane approaching . Right before it got to the island, the moon went behind a cloud. Everyone started firing their rifles, machine guns , artillery and the ships in the harbor opened up. There was so much flack in the sky we could almost walk on it. The plane kept flying and we never did find out what happened to it.
We left Iwo Jima on the same ship that brought us from the states, the George F Elliot , an old banana boat. It took us back to Hawaii to Camp Tarawa .
We went on long hikes and operated our communications all night. We had Navajo “code talkers” with us. This is what the movie “Wind Talkers” was based on.
We were given a demolition course in the use of dynamite . Our instructor tied 10 sticks of dynamite together with primer cord and threw it into a small pond . He then shot the dynamite with his rifle. All of the fellows rushed forward to see what happened to the water in the pond , which had disappeared . I was in the rear of the group and happened to look up and see a mist. Within an instant, all of the water came down and gave all of the guys a good shower. We were each given a stick of dynamite with primer cord, in our foxholes, which were about 20 feet apart. The instructors said “when I say ready , strike the match and light the primer cord” . I had my match already going and lit the primer cord . I was the first fellow out of the hole and I fell down. I quickly crawled away while the dynamite was going off all around me. My friend couldn’t get his lit and the other guys were going off on both sides of him. It lifted his helmet about 10 feet in the air.
On Apr il 1, 1945, Easter morning , we were on our way back from Iwo Jima, when Okinawa was invaded. We were supposed to go there but were too shot up, so we went back to Camp Tarawa. We were given gas masks and shown how to use them We were getting ready to invade Japan.
On August 6th, the Unites States dropped the Atomic Bomb.
I was sent to NAS (Naval Air Station) #24 on Hilo, Hawaii and became a switchboard operator. I was then sent to Great Lake, Illinois, where I was discharged on April 10th, 1946.
I went back to school, under the GI Bill. A friend of mine, who was in the Marines Reserves, said “why don’t you join the Reserves? You would get your rank back . You would attend a meeting every week for 2 hours, get $3 in pay and go for 2 weeks to Camp Lejeune, in South Carolina. ” So, I did .
We were transported by train and we were flown back from Cherry Point Marine Base , so they could get their flight training and pay. At that time, the pay for Private was $50, Private First Class $54, Corporal $66 and Buck Sergeant $78 per month. You should have seen those planes. We sat along the walls of the plane, on benches.
I signed up for 4 years and President Truman extended us for another year. . During our final muster, on June 24th at Camp Lejeune, before coming home, they read us a bulletin, or dispatch, that the North Koreans had crossed the 38th parallel, we didn’t think too much about that , but one week later , we were activated. A friend of mine said that we shouldn’t worry about it, the United Nations would get in there and have everything settled within a month. Look at the United Nations now, what a mess!
We arrived at Pusan, on the southern edge of Korea. While traveling overseas aboard ship, we did our daily exercises and had rifle practice. The Navy filled balloons with helium and released them. The rifle squad shot at and destroyed them . We played cards . One of the guys was a hypnotist and he constantly kept us entertained.
September 15th, 1950, we made the landing at Inchon, close to the capital of Korea, Seoul. The landing was quite a feat because of the high tide, which was about 30 feet. We were doing such a good job that General Macarthur complimented the Marines , and he didn’t do that often.
Our job was to cut across to the coast , while the Army was coming up from the South. We trapped the Koreans.
After the capital fell, most of the enemy was scattered and there was not too much resistance . We sent out patrols every day. We loaded up our ships and went north up to Wan San. We had to patrol for about 30 days, waiting for the harbor to be cleaned of the mines. We were transported up north on a train that was all shot up. We could see where the planes had strafed them. (Attacked them with a machine gun or cannon from a low flying aircraft) All the windows had been shot out. This was November and we did not have any cold weather gear. Only combat boots, not snow packs. We were at the southern end of Chosin Reservoir. The 5th Marines went up one side of the reservoir and the 7th Marines went up the other side .
One night I drove the Sergeant up to the CP. It was so cold that when I walked across the road it was like getting up in the middle of the night and walking barefoot on the cold bathroom tile floor.
On Thanksgiving Day, we had turkey and all the trimmings. Some of the guys got sick from eating the rich food, as we had been eating rations for so long.
Every night when we went to sleep, we would pray “now I lay me down to freeze”. We tried to stay warm during the day by getting close to the fires of the burnt out huts and equipment. At night we had blackout and we would stand in the hot ashes to keep our feet warm. One night I got in a haystack to get warm until a firefight started. I got out , for protection . As we moved further north, we started taking some Chinese prisoners. They were poorly dressed in tennis shoes and high on drugs. The first night we were under attack, it was 6 degrees below zero. Our intelligence told us we were cut off by 6-10 divisions. The air force dropped food, ammunition and supplies by parachutes. The parachutes were all different colors: green, blue, yellow and red, very pretty. We used the parachutes for protection against the cold. On the way down from the Chosin reservoir, at an elevation of about 4,000 feet, there was snow on the ground. The temperature ranged to a low of 20 degrees below zero. When we got to Hagaru-ri, at the sea, it really started snowing. The temperature was 28 degrees. On the way down we had troops on both sides of the road, high on the ridges. Our troops flushed out a company of Chinese and our guys started shooting at them. They finally got the Air Force on the radio and they started bombing them with Napalm and strafing. (Napalm sticks to you like hot grease and creates quite a burn) Quite a field day .
We were evacuated by all the ships available. I was on an LST (Landing Ship Tank). We slept on the top deck. One of the fellows next to me was from St. Louis and I would see him at the reunions . He has since passed away .
After we came back down below the 38th parallel, most of our outfit was split up and I was a Jeep Driver, for the Headquarters. I would be two days on the line and one in reserve. At the time I was a Jeep Driver, I would take orders out every night to the battalions, which would be on the line . There were two battalions on the line and one in reserve. We always drove blackout, no lights. We would go out every night and look for tracks where the troops had moved up. I had 2 riders with shotguns, just like the old stagecoaches. One night I started across a small creek and the front end of the Jeep plunged underneath the water. We climbed to the back while one guard walked back to the motor patrol, got a truck and pulled us out. It was spring and the rainy season. We were out on patrol and we tried to cross this shallow and wide. We started across and the fan was throwing water on the spark plugs of the Jeep. The Jeep was only hitting on two cylinders but we kept moving and praying and finally made it across. Of my two guards, one was a Texan and he was really afraid, don’t get me wrong… we all were , but cautious. One night we came back to the Jeep, the Texan was supposed to be guarding and no one was there. We hollered and he came out from behind a bush . We asked him what he was doing and he said he was watching the Jeep from a distance. That was my last night on guard duty. I was sent back to Pusan, Korea and from there I was flown back to Japan. That was only the second time, while in service, that I was flown in a plane.
We were put on an aircraft carrier, The Bennington, and we sailed to the West Coast of the United States, San Francisco. During WWII, we always said “The Golden Gate and 48”, that is when we expected to get to the states but during the Korean conflict, I said “Back Alive in 55”. We were given a 30 day furlough and were asked where we wanted to be assigned. The closest base to my home where there were Marine guards, was Memphis, Tennessee, butmy orders came through for Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. When I arrived there, they said I would be ·relieved from active duty as soon as they could process my papers. I had taken my car with me to Camp Lejeune and drove up to Washington DC and visited with my cousin, who was at Fort Meyer.
After arriving home in St. Louis, I attended several meetings and was honorably discharged in July, 1952.
All of my family is VERY GLAD that I made it home alive !!
So am I….
Summary of Sgt. Stockhausen’s Marine Service
- Lifetime Resident of the Crestwood and Sunset Hills Areas.
- Born July 6th 1925. Now 90 years of age.
- Father of 5
- Grandfather of 8
- Charley is an active member of the VFW, America Legion, Masons, Local Chosin Few Chapter, St. Lucas Church and is a quarterly guest of honor at the Focus Marines retreat.
- He served in the Pacific Area Campaign from August 12th, 1944 through March 28th, 1946.
- Iwo Jima – February 19th, 1945 through March 16th, 1945
- Japan and Korea campaigns August 16th, 1950 through May 26th, 1950
- Inchon, Korea – September 15th, 1950 through September 16th, 1950
- Seoul, Korea – September 17th, 1950 through October 7th, 1950
- (Wonsan-Hungnam-Chosin) – Chosin, North Korea – October 29th, 1950 through December 12th, 1950
Medals and Ribbons received:
- Combat Action Ribbon – Awarded to Marine Corps service members who have actively participated in bona-fide ground or naval surface combat with hostile enemy forces.
- Navy Presidential Unit Citation – Awarded to Marine Corps units for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy on or after December 7, 1941.
- Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon – Awarded to any ship, aircraft, detachment or other unit of the Marine Corps which has since December 6, 1941 distinguished itself in action against the enemy with outstanding heroism.
- Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal – Good Conduct Medal.
- America Campaign Medal -WW11 – Awarded for consecutive duty 1941 – 1946.
- Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal – Awarded to any member of the United States military who served in the Pacific Theater from 1941 to 1945.
- World War 11 Victory Medal – Awarded to any member of the United States military who served on active duty, or as a reservist, between December 7, 1941 and December 31, 1946.
- World War 11 Occupation Medal – Awarded for 30 days consecutive service.
- National Defense Service Medal – Awarded for service for the Korean War.
- Korean Service Medal – Inchon Landing.
- Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon with Navy Frame – Decoration issued by the government of South Korea to both Korean military and foreign units.
- United Nations Korean Service Medal – Awarded to any military member, of an Armed Force allied with South Korea, who participated in the defense of Korea from North Korean aggression between June 27th, 1950 and July 27th, 1954.
- Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal – Awarded to all military personnel who served 30 consecutive days in Korea.
- Rifle Sharp Shooter Badge.