For God, Honor, and Country



Michael Aragón enlisted in the United States Marine Corps for the second time in his life.  He wasn’t alone.  Many thousands had heard the call to arms and answered.  Most of these men knew what was at stake.  These men had fought an earlier war they thought would end all wars.  But that hadn’t been the case.  Reporting to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California Michael’s training began.  Now that he was older, exercise didn't come as easy.  Still he gave it his best.  He knew the drill; it was a repeat of earlier times.  The three-mile hikes and weapons target practice were familiar to him.  

While Michael was gearing up for the horrors of war many others were already entrenched in a difficult and bloody fight.  Among these was his comrade in arms, Peter Wellington.  Shortly after Marine hero, Chesty Puller, and his marines entered Seoul and freed South Korea, Wellington was assigned to Seoul.  Captain Peter Wellington was honored to be stationed in Seoul and proud to be a Marine.  But he was even prouder to be in Chesty Puller's regiment.  When he arrived at the command tent, it was a beehive of activity.  A thick cloud of cigarette smoke hung in the air as he sat listening to the junior officers in the background rehashing their heroic tales of the capture of Seoul.  The tales seemed to become bolder with each telling.  

The sergeant major walked into the tent and announced in a loud voice. “Captain Peter Wellington USMCR 010189.  Colonel Puller will see you now.”  The words were made to sound official and to the point.  Wellington’s palms began to sweat at the thought of meeting America’s greatest soldier.  Wanting to make the right impression, he stood at attention and saluted stiffly.  He then followed the sergeant outside and walked over to the Colonel's tent to present himself.  Standing at attention, he held his shoulders back and stomach sucked in.  His salute was as crisp as a new dollar bill.  “At ease Captain,” Came Puller's commanding response.  “Yes Sir.”  Wellington responded respectfully still standing as tall and erect as possible.  Having been warned that Puller never engaged in idle chatter Wellington stood and waited for the Colonel’s directives.  To Wellington’s surprise Puller began to talk about home.  Then he spoke of Wellington's World War II combat experience and the Raiders.  Having fought along side Raiders in the Pacific Theater, Puller knew and respected them.  As he reminisced about those days at Guadalcanal he commended their courage.  It was apparent that Puller had thoroughly reviewed Wellington’s file.  

After Puller and Wellington had spoken for some ten minutes the Colonel finally gave Wellington his orders.  He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines.  Lieutenant Colonel Jack Hawkins was the commanding officer.  “That’s all Captain.”  With those words Puller had brought the interview to an end.  The Colonel saluted and handed him his file.  Wellington returned the salute to his hero and left the tent.  The Battalion’s destination was Wonsam.  On the east coast north of the 38th parallel, it was a desolate place.

Grabbing his gear Wellington caught a ride on a jeep headed to Inchon Harbor.  After being dropped off with two other officers at the dock he waited for over an hour before being taken aboard a Higgins Boat.  Once on board the small personnel carrier he was ferried out into the harbor.  A few minutes later the Higgens made its way along side the Battalion's ship.  A long and barrel-shaped LST, it was designed to carry men, trucks and other vehicles for unloading directly on the beach.  By the time he reached the ship Wellington had been traveling for three days straight.  Tired and unable to sleep, he spent the night smoking cigarettes and drinking day old coffee from the boat’s galley.  He was anxious to get started with the war.  

The next morning, Wellington met Lieutenant Colonel Jack Hawkins his new commanding officer.  Hawkins a Naval Academy graduate from Texas was soft-spoken and not much of a talker.  When the Lieutenant spoke he was efficient and to the point.  Of medium height and very thin he was youthful looking for his thirty-two years.  The Lieutenant’s high cheekbones and coffee brown eyes reminded Wellington of his own father.  His close-cropped, light brown hair was slightly graying.  Hawkins had lost a great deal of weight during the battle at Inchon-Seoul and his dungaree jacket was baggy on him.  The battle had left little time to be concerned about food.  They were too busy trying to stay alive.  He didn’t mince words when it came to company discipline and he quickly outlined the do’s and don’ts of his command.  The enemy was too good to be taken for granted.  The tough, well-trained, and well-entrenched Communist enemy had put up one hell of a fight.  The Americans learned quickly that the North Koreans were rough customers who would give them a run for their money.  They were as good as the Japs.  For this reason the Colonel demanded total conformity and control of command.  He expected his officers to be prepared for any possible outcome.  Hawkins’ Americans would have to be ready for action at all times and be prepared to move out at a moment’s notice.  Tolerating no sloppiness or laziness, he demanded his Marines and their gear be kept shipshape.  

Once Hawkins felt that Wellington had gotten the message, he assigned him as company commander of Headquarters and Service or H&S Company A.  After giving Wellington all of the necessary paperwork Hawkins discussed the following day’s activities, assignments and personnel.  Fortunately, all of Wellington’s men were aboard ship and being transported with him.  The files had everything the Captain needed to understand his men and their needs.  It was late in the morning when Hawkins finally dismissed Wellington to his bunk instructing him to get some rest.  Having first learned about A Company in August of 1950, Wellington was pleased with his assignment.  Within a few minutes he found his bunk and fell asleep.  He would need his rest.  The North Koreans were on the move.

“A” Company was the first company to plant the American flag at the capital of South Korea.  All the Company’s officers and NCOs had World War II combat experience.  These men had survived the Japs, hunger, thirst, fear, and disease.  They’d been to hell and back in the previous war and had held up well under fire at Seoul.  Wellington was honored to be given command of the H&S.  Under normal conditions he would have served the rifle battalion in one of three capacities executive officer, operations officer, or weapons company commander.  But serving as an H&S Company commander would allow Wellington to learn all three jobs.  His duties would include selecting, establishing, and defending the Command Post or CP.  A controlled beehive of activity, the CP was the nerve center of the battalion.  Given its mission the H&S was made up of a diverse group of units comprising the intelligence section, administrative unit, operations section, motor transportation and supply, a guard platoon, medical unit, and communications platoon.  

Many of the CP’s activities were Standard Operating Procedure or SOP.  No part of his command meant less then any other.  Areas such as motor transport and supply or the administration unit were easily managed until the command ran out of essential supplies such as gasoline or oil.  If transportation became a problem, the shit would hit the fan.  Even an excellent officer could forget the importance of these less glamorous areas of command.  They were essential parts of a giant well-oiled fighting machine; they needed to be attended to.  Each had a distinct job to do and everyone had to coordinate flawlessly.  This meant that Wellington’s job carried with it the need to maintain a delicate balance.  

Many times he and his men would have little time to establish the CP and its communications.  Often they would do so under fire.  Under great pressure, particularly during battle, it would be necessary to keep things operating smoothly.  Here his experience would serve him well.  The Tactical Air Control Party or TACP was also under Wellington’s command.  The TACP was a new unit developed by the Corps after World War II.  Reading about it in the papers back home Wellington collected more complete information on it when he reported for duty.  This was Yankee know-how at its best, heavy firepower coordinated and directed for maximum effect.  The enemy was surgically removed from the battlefront through strikes meant to deliver a decisive blow.  Given the superiority of enemy numbers the TACP was America’s best hope for winning the conflict.  It was designed to give the Marines their edge in Korea.  And Peter Wellington intended to take full advantage of this tactical weapon.  He would learn it inside and out.  

After requesting a roster of the Marines under his command Wellington prepared to meet the members of the guard platoon.  Listed in alphabetical order the first name he recognized was Corporal Michael Aragón.  Wellington couldn't resist.  He asked the first sergeant to have Corporal Aragón brought to him.  Ten minutes later, there stood twenty-seven year old Corporal Michael Aragón.  The young man had changed.  He was no longer the tall, skinny kid that Wellington remembered from the Pacific.  Aragón had a mature presence about him now.  Gone was the look of the childish adolescent from his eyes.  It was replaced by the colder more knowing gaze of a battle hardened soldier who had seen death too many times.  

After his presence was announced Michael stood at attention.  “At ease Corporal,” Wellington shouted while looking down at the Michael's personnel file.  As Wellington looked up, the two smiled and immediately shook hands.  “Well, what do you have to say for yourself, Corporal?” Captain Wellington demanded.  Unable to restrain himself, the Captain walked around the desk and stood in front of Michael.  “Damn it's good to see you Sir!” Michael responded sincerely.  The two hugged and began to laugh, their affections genuine.  It was like old times.  Neither had forgotten their days as Raiders together.  Knowing Michael’s worth as a Marine, Wellington was relieved to have him there at his side once again.  

The war was on.  When they reached their destination the Marines would land in a hot bed of killing and death.  Both Michael and Wellington knew that this might be their last opportunity to enjoy informal time together so they spent the next several hours catching up on old times reminiscing about the war in the Pacific and friends they’d lost.  When they had said all they had to say, Michael was dismissed to rejoin his unit and prepare for Wosan.  

It was October 26th, and Chesty Puller was waiting for A Company when it finally arrived and disembarked at its destination, Wosan.  He welcomed his men in his usually to the point, gruff manner and then dismissed them.  Puller wished them well and told them to go out and kill the enemy wherever they found them.  He then immediately ordered Wellington’s company to Kojo, a small fishing village flanked by white beaches and the sparkling blue waters of a bay.  It appeared tranquil with its quiet village and hanging fishing nets blowing in the cool breeze.  Its inhabitants were tucked safely in their humble shelters.  In another time it would have made an excellent subject for a painting.  But this wasn’t the time or the place for creating beauty.  This was war.  Located on the east coast, forty miles to the south, Kojo was an important military supply depot where supplies for the Republic of Korea or ROK were stored.  Storehouses filled to the brim with rice, ammunition, and other badly needed materials had to be protected.  

On arriving at Kojo, Colonel Hawkins and Wellington were assured by ROK officers that this was a tame assignment.  The ROK officers had scouted the hills that day and found no North Korean soldiers.  Later, the same officers admitted that the North Korean People's Army or NKPA soldiers sometimes raided villages in the area.  But they assured the Americans that this hadn’t happened for several days.  This was no comfort to Wellington.  

After a thorough survey of the landscape the Colonel ordered the CP to be established on a large hill located fifteen hundred yards northwest of the village.  Wellington deployed the H&S on the hillside to avoid concentrating the men in a prime mortar target area.  He then located the battalion aid station on a piece of flat ground two hundred yards east of the CP near the railroad station.  Later, the battalion cooks dug in near the aid station providing added security.  Knowing that battalion communications were vital to survival, Wellington situated the battalion switchboard in a secluded ravine near Hawkins’ foxhole.  This gave it maximum protection from incoming rounds.  Once incoming shelling stopped, access would be easy for Hawkins.  Concerned with a frontal attack Wellington took extra precautions to ensure maximum CP protection.  He understood that in the heat of battle it would not be wise to have the rifle companies committed on two fronts.  The Captain was forced to rely on his guard platoon.  

Reasoning that the rifle companies would have their hands full when the NK hit them in force, he placed Michael Aragón’s guard platoon in a half-circle on the West Side of the CP.  This way the CP wouldn’t have to rely on the rifle companies for defense.  The CP was to be held at all costs.  Failure was not acceptable.  He shared his concerns with the men.  Wellington told the CP platoon that they would hold their position to the last man.  They were expected to die before giving it up to the enemy.  

Companies B, C, and D, with parts of the Weapons Company attached to each were deployed at varying distances from the CP.  The younger men prodded by veterans of World War II had dug in deep.  Professional Marines understood that foxholes were meant as cover.  Once deployment was completed the Marines were ready to turn in.  Hawkins was satisfied that his battalion was ready for the death and suffering to come.  

At dusk, Lieutenant Paul Vnenchak, the communications officer, reported that his driver had been shot and killed by NKPA.  This meant that the ROK officers had been wrong or worse, they had lied.  Wellington now felt uneasy.  There could be hundreds if not thousands of NKPA in the surrounding hills.   Within an hour, B Company reported being fired on.  On hearing the news Wellington moved quickly to prepare his H&S.  He passed the word along that the enemy might try to infiltrate.  The Captain then put his entire command on alert.  Even the cooks had weapons close by.  Wellington then assigned extra personnel to the aid station, just in case.  

The following day brought more disturbing news.  As night fell, B Company was being fired on again.  Then all hell broke loose.  Both C and D companies began to report NK soldiers moving forward in mass.  The attack was on.  The TACP was doing its job.  Their concentrated air strikes had found their mark.  This command was fortunate.  Its officers and NCOs were seasoned veterans who knew how to respond and react.  The younger men sensing the confidence of their commanders held the line.  Wave after wave of NKPA soldiers were stopped dead in their tracks.  But this success was not to last.  The American perimeter was being compromised.  In the black moonless night the enemy had broken through and infiltrated Marine lines.  The Americans fought hard sweeping the area for NK.  Several that were within grenade throwing distance were caught and killed near the aid station.  Then a truck exploded at the motor pool.  The Marines were now fighting on the front lines and engaged in hand-to-hand combat inside their own perimeter.  

The main body of NK troops continued attacking what was left of the American perimeter at will.  They had found several weak points and were exploiting them.  As the Marines fought on through the night more infiltrators were killed within the perimeter.  They tried hard to control the ground and fought valiantly through the early morning hours.  Just before daybreak, the determined NK got as far as twenty feet from the CP before being stopped by Aragón’s men.  The night’s intense fighting left Michael and his squad dead tired.  The exhausted men could barely make out figures in the dawn’s grayish light.  Challenging them after they hadn’t responded to the password, Michael and two other Marines instinctively charged the NK soldiers.  Firing his weapon while attacking, he killed three with his first burst of weapons fire.  

Still, more NK moved forward firing on the Americans.  Aragón and his men dropped to the ground and belly crawled to intercept the enemy soldiers.  Once close enough, the Marines opened fire on them.  At such close range they were able to kill two of the NK.  Several minutes passed as the Marines waited for another NK charge.  With no more shots being fired Michael’s tense squad strained to hear any noise that might give away the enemy positions.  Two of the frightened young marines crawled close to Michael.  As he thought back to his first firefight with the Japs, Michael remembered how terrified he’d been.  He knew instinctively that fear would eventually erode the confidence of these young men.  Michael reached out and patted each on the back.  Wellington had been there for him in the Pacific, he wanted to return the favor here for these kids.  

When enough time had passed Michael signaled his boys.  On the count of three they would charge the foxhole where five of their Marine brothers now lay dead.  At the finish of the count the three men came up from the ground and onto their feet.  Michael shouted, “Gung Ho” as he fired a volley of automatic weapons fire into the foxhole ahead.  As the Americans reached the foxhole the NK were waiting and ready to engage them in hand-to-hand combat.  With weapons ready the badly out numbered Marines rushed the foxhole and were met by a volley of NK bullets.  The charging men lunged into the foxhole.  Fighting hand-to-hand against the battle hardened NK soldiers was tough.  They wouldn’t give an inch.  

An oncoming NK hit Michael squarely in the forehead with the butt of his rifle.  The force of the blow dropped him to his knees.  The searing pain caused Michael to instinctively move his hands to his forehead where he’d received the blow.  As he did, he glimpsed the NK’s bayonet being thrust at his belly.  He moved slightly to the left as the NK drove his rifle forward.  The Korean missed his mark, planting the bayonet in the dirt.  Grabbing the rifle barrel in his hands, Michael used the oncoming soldier’s momentum to pull him down to the ground beside him.  Within seconds, he buried his knife blade in the NK’s exposed throat killing him instantly.  

Shaken, Michael tried to stand but a second NK was on him.  Before he could get to his weapon the NK kicked him hard in the left leg dropping him to the ground.  Now in great pain, Michael reached for a rifle that lay on the ground next to him.  He used it as a club to hammer the oncoming NK soldier.  His first blow was a solid one to the face.  The second was to the neck.  It stunned the NK causing him to fall to Michael’s right.  Michael then unloaded the full ammo clip into him.  In the darkness of the early morning hours flames of the shots could be seen as they escaped the rifle barrel killing the Korean.  

Beside him fighting for their lives the other two Marines were engaging the enemy.  It was too close to call the fight; they were all fighting savagely for their lives.  Groans and shouts could be heard everywhere at once.  Confusion filled the air.  The NK were experienced soldiers and the young Marines weren’t.  One of the boys, Levin, caught a bayonet in the stomach.  He managed to kill his NK attacker with a shot to the head and then collapsed onto the mud of the foxhole in agony.  The disemboweled Levin lay bleeding and moaning in the mud as the killing continued.  The second Marine, a farm boy from Iowa, faired just as poorly.  Before blowing off the top an attacking NK’s head, the boy took a round to the chest.  He traded his life for that of the NK’s.  When it was over the three Marines had overcome ten NK regulars killing them all.  The farm boy and Levin had proven themselves worthy of the name, Marine.  

The Americans had proven themselves that day.  But something had gone terribly wrong.  A Marine on watch duty wasn’t awake when the NK probed the marine lines.  At daybreak, as the sun’s rays cast themselves on the battlefield, B Company had been overrun.  An undetected enemy had broken through bayoneting many to death as they slept.  An entire platoon had been wiped out while in their sleeping bags.  Many others were found dead or dying.  With the rising of the sun it was over.  The H&S had held.

The attacking NK force estimated at fifteen hundred troops had launched an attack from the, south, north, and west.  Of their numbers, the enemy suffered over a thousand dead and hundreds wounded.  Many NK prisoners were taken.  But it was clear that Puller and his officers had forgotten the lessons they’d learned in the Pacific.  He would not make the same mistake twice.  Puller would never again underestimate his opponents.  That night’s losses reminded him that his new enemy was both tough and smart.  His battalion had suffered too many losses, twenty-nine killed, thirty-eight wounded, and thirty-four missing in action.  The Battalion's strength was now estimated at seven hundred and twenty shaken officers and men.  But they would be ready next time.  

No one really knew the enemy’s true strength.  Under intense interrogation the eighty-three NK prisoners informed Intelligence that they were a part of the North Korean 5th Division which had estimated troop strength of seven to eight thousand.  The prisoners had also provided information about the North Korean 5th Division command post.  It was reported to be located a few miles south near the town of Ton chon.  Local civilians in the surrounding hills and towns were then thoroughly questioned.  They reported estimated enemy troop strength of three thousand.  

Later, HQ Intelligence sent word that Colonel Cho Il Kwon, the former director of the Communist Party in Wosan, was the commander of the 5th.  A seasoned veteran, Kwon was an experienced officer, tactician, and formidable opponent.  Colonel Hawkins then radioed his situation to Division and Corps.  The Battalion’s unproven and inexperienced Marines had not performed well.  The situation was now critical.  Puller was facing an enemy of superior numbers, strength, and experience.  The enemy had received combat training in China against the Japanese during World War II.  They were well-armed and equipped.  Colonel Cho Il Kwon’s forces were a worthy foe.  Chesty Puller received Hawkins’ radio dispatches at his Division and Corps HQ.  He reviewed the severity of the situation and immediately ordered the 2nd Battalion to Kojo.  Unfortunately, the 2nd couldn’t break through to Kojo until midnight leaving Hawkins’ men in peril.  

Kwon’s calculated sacrifice of over a thousand soldiers had been worth it.  He now understood his adversary’s weaknesses.  After carefully watching the American responses of the day before, Colonel Cho IL Kwon now counted on their inexperience.  The Americans had displayed a lack of discipline and courage.  His men would have never fallen asleep before a battle.  The Colonel’s intelligence had exposed an American force composed primarily of young inexperienced soldiers.  Kwon preparing to exploit their weaknesses was willing to sacrifice another thousand men to prepare the Americans psychologically for defeat.  Once properly prepared, he planned to annihilate the entire enemy force.  

Wellington was getting his Marines ready for the attack that he knew would come that night.  Word was passed that the NKs would probably attack in full strength again that night.  Extra ammo and grenades were issued to the men.  Hawkins’ rifle companies were also preparing for the worst.  Michael and the others spent the morning digging foxholes around the CP.  They dug deep and wide, the result was more a cupped trench than a hole.  The marines needed better maneuverability.  Filling as many sandbags as possible they stacked them three to four high around their holes.  This time they would be ready to receive their guests.  

In the late afternoon, Wellington walked the perimeter to gauge command readiness.  His men were up to the challenge.  Several were cleaning their weapons and stacking ammo so it would be at the ready.  Others were filling sandbags and stacking them even higher around their foxholes.  NCOs were walking between rifle companies pacing off the field of fire and reviewing triangulation.  This time they would leave nothing to chance.  The Marines would catch the enemy in a planned, coordinated crossfire.  The killing field was being prepared.  The NCOs ordered barbed wire to be strung with tin cans hanging by thin wires.  This would alert the Americans to belly crawling sapper’s intent on infiltration.  Knowing the NK sappers would probe for weaknesses this time a break in the perimeter was planned for.  The Marines would invite the NK into a wedged trap of fire hoping to concentrate the first wave into the killing field early.  Hawkins and his officers estimated that the field of fire would accommodate at least five hundred of the enemy.  Land mines were set along the edges of the trap to drive the NK into the center once they broke through the line.  In this way the first attack could be blunted.  Once the NK were stopped, the Marines would close the perimeter and cut-off any trapped enemy.  

Americans were viewed by the NK as big, lazy, spoiled, and foolish.  Fortunately for the Americans their NCOs were veterans of Japanese attacks and understood the Asian mind well.  Their enemy’s beliefs had been proven correct during the early weeks of the war.  This had also been proven the night before.  And these battle hardened NCOs knew the Korean enemy could only be beaten if their will was broken.  They understood that the tide would turn once the confident NK had been decisively blunted and broken through superior battlefield tactics.  But they also understood that it would take a series of crushing blows.  

When Wellington returned to the CP he was looking for Michael.  When he found him, the Captain offered Michael a cigarette.  Then the two made small talk about past memories.  They smoked a couple of cigarettes and laughed about their good times together in Hawaii.  Then the conversation suddenly turned serious.  Wellington shared with Michael that his wife had died of cancer only three months before.  He spoke fondly of his twin sons and of his dead wife.  Then he spoke of their days together and how happy she’d made him.  Wellington was shaken by what he had just said.  He remained silent for a moment and then told Michael that he and his wife had no other family between them except for the children.  It was at that point that Wellington turned to Michael.  Looking him straight in the eyes, Wellington then asked if he would be the legal guardian for his sons if anything happened to him.  He explained to Michael that his last will and testament had been drafted the previous night naming him executor.  Wellington hoped that Michael would say yes.  He shared with Michael his respect and admiration for him.  In the event of his death he knew Michael would care for his sons.  The whole thing left Michael both shocked and honored.  In the end, Michael agreed to do it.  Uncomfortable, the men shook hands and said little else.  To Michael’s relief Wellington was then summoned by Hawkins and left to report.  

As Wellington walked to meet Hawkins he saw helmets on every head.  The men were dug in deep and wide, ready for the night’s festivities.  They understood that trouble could come at any time.  Each was ready to do his duty.  The preparations of the day had gone well.  Knowing that silence could be their enemy, the young marines chatted quietly as they checked and rechecked their weapons and ammo stocks.  The talk was superficial, the laughter forced.  Some stacked and then restacked sand bags.  Each hoped the bags would catch that one stray bullet with their name on it.  

Then as night fell the NCOs walked the line smoking cigarettes with the younger men.  Each assured his men that they would make the grade.  The older, tougher NCOs alternated between teasing and barking orders.  They too had the “before-battle” jitters.  Fear and dread came and went as they walked confidently among their young pups.  Marine veterans had seen it all, the killing and the maiming.  To their merit none gave way to it.  Too much was at stake.  If they broke, their men would falter.  No, they were Marines first and men second.  And Marines knew no fear.  

The CP was alive with the issuing of orders and confirming of manpower strength in strategic locations.  Wellington’s communications lines were checked and rechecked.  Reserve ammo caches were counted and recounted.  Ammo runners were briefed on signals for moving their precious cargo up and down the line when needed.  The aid station was preparing for the estimated first wave of casualties.  The number was set at twenty percent of Hawkins’ command.  Medics and nurses were ready for the riot to come.  Their mettle had been tested the night before.  Yesterday’s casualties had been flown to Pusan earlier in the day.  Plasma stocks were counted and linen stacked.  Cots and gurneys were ready.  Emergency generators were checked for fuel.  The last preparation was the Lord’s Prayer.  But it had already been muttered.  

Intelligence had sent tactical briefing books on Kwon that day.  Wellington read the briefing papers twice.  He believed that for once Intelligence was right.  The HQ had estimated that Colonel Cho Il Kwon would commit at least fifty percent of his command in the first assault attempting to break through the Marine lines and cutting their command in half.  His divide and conquer strategies were well known.  Puller believed that Kwon would follow with a two or three pronged attack isolating the weaker half of the American command.  Once isolated, he would move in for the kill.  Finally, Kwon would surround the stronger units and attempt to cut them up piece-by-piece.  

As night fell, Hawkins’ one and only hope was that reinforcements would arrive before his command was completely decimated by a superior force.  In his heart of hearts Hawkins knew his men couldn’t hold if the trap didn’t blunt the first NK charge.  The confidence of the seasoned NK had to be broken.  If not, the smell of American fear and blood would drive them over the line and through the Marine positions.  As he went over his troop placement and reserves Hawkins despaired.  He had only enough of a force to hold back two, maybe three, assaults.  If everything worked as planned his men might hold out until reinforcements arrived.  If not, his command would be shattered and their honor lost.  His name would be relegated to that part of Marine Corps history that no one talks about.  Success has a thousand fathers.  Failure is a bastard.  

Though the moonless night was pitch black, the Marines could feel the NK inching toward them.  There was fear among the young men.  They’d only been tested once in battle the day before.  None dared wonder if they could hold the line.  They had to hold the line.  Each promised his brother Marine his life.  None would dishonor the Corps.  The NCOs did their best to reassure the younger men as they worked the line patting backs and giving out cigarettes.  Fear and pain was not part of the Marine lexicon.  These veterans understood what Hawkins was thinking.  Having lived battle after battle, they knew both their strengths and weaknesses.  Victory was often a matter of superior fire power and position.  But war was never sure or certain.  In the final analysis it was the man on the line and his will to prevail that would make the difference.  These men were United States Marines the best of the best.  Each would do his duty to the Corps or die trying.  

It was 10:22 that night when the first NK’s hit the wire.  When they hit their positions were given away by the clanking of the tin cans swaying back and forth and banging against each other.  They had begun probing a half-hour earlier.  The tin cans confirmed exactly where they were.  The Marines had been given specific orders not to fire until the flares ignited in the air above the perimeter.  The noises were faint but were a dead giveaway.  The NK had made it past the cut lines.  Belly crawling toward the Marine positions the NK stopped, massing fifty yards from the closest line of American foxholes.  They were packed closely together.  Their bodies touched as they huddled awaiting the signal to attack.  As their numbers swelled to several hundred, the Marines waited anxiously to empty their ammo clips and toss grenades into the oncoming yellow horde.  

A tense Hawkins accompanied by his officers walked over to Communications at the ravine near his foxhole.  Receiving confirmation from the line that the NK were massed along it, units were advised that flares would be above their heads in one minute.  Unless attacked, fire would be held until then.  Then Hawkins waited.  With their helmets pulled down as close to their eyes as possible all along the line the men prepared for the assault.  Last minute weapons checks were occurring up and down the line.  Extra magazines were placed close by.  Sweaty palms held weapons at the ready.  Drops of sweat ran down their trigger fingers.  Sandbags were again being readjusted as the men anticipated heavy fire.  Then it happened.  Lighting up the skies, the flares went off on the dot.  As the Marines saw their enemy they began pouring every bit of firepower they had into a solid wall of oncoming NK soldiers.  

Hawkins was cool and calm as he barked orders to CP personnel.  Michael stood by Wellington in the CP viewing the battle through field glasses.  The CP was an excellent vantage point on the large hill.  It allowed for maximum viewing of the enemy line then under heavy fire.  They watched as the once confident NK fell into the trap set by the Americans.  NK were being blown to bits as they rushed toward the landmine edged trap.  Then NK artillery began to ring out placing Marine lines under heavy incoming fire.  The incoming rounds began raining down on all several areas along the line.  Next, came the mortar shells landing close to the CP.  The men went for cover.  On the line, Marines began to toss grenades as the heavy concentration of NK rushed toward them.  American mortars began doing their job and devastating the oncoming NK.  What the mortars didn’t do the automatic weapons and machine gun fire did.  It cut the enemy force to ribbons.  But still they came.  Wellington was now estimating that at least six hundred were caught in the trap.  Within minutes of the flares being launched half were dead or dying.  

Before leaving the CP for Communications at the ravine, a confident Hawkins gave the order to close the opening in the line.  His men moved forward in a scissor action attacking the NK from both flanks.  As the hole in the line closed, NK forces rallied.  Countering the American attempt to close the trap door, Kwon sent in a second wave of five hundred more.  Wellington watched intently through his field glasses and counted a third wave of at least two thousand NK closing on the exposed perimeter.  Kwon had seen the trap and was attempting to keep the Marine lines under stress.  Throwing everything he had at the Marines, he hoped to keep that line from closing.  By this bold move Kwon was committing his honor to the fight.  From the communications area Hawkins now deployed badly needed air support.  The NK positions, troop descriptions and concentrations along the lines were passed on.  The time to strike was now.  Call signs and frequencies were specified and it was a go.  The requested aircraft were in the skies above, concentrating fire on the identified targets along the front lines.  Hawkins’ TACP officer was directing the heavy firepower with precision coordination for maximum effect.  The NK were being pounded out of existence.  The Americans were winning.

Then it happened.  A lucky incoming NK round took out the TACP.  A second explosion knocked Wellington and Michael to the ground.  The CP had taken a direct hit.  Wellington had done well to deploy the H&S on the hillside.  It had avoided making the place a prime mortar target area.  But even he couldn’t have anticipated a lucky incoming shell.  The NK artillery emplacement was taken out soon after it had lobbed that one lucky round into the CP.  But it was too late.  The damage was done.  Kwon moved instinctively to commit another two thousand NK.  Moving along the ridge toward the crippled CP, he intended to assault it before it could recover.  

The unsupported American aircraft broke off.  Returning to base they couldn’t risk hitting American positions.  Without TACP coordination they were useless.  Hawkins was now on his own and forced to redeploy part of C Company to counter the NK troop movements along the ridge below the CP.  The Marines had established a line five hundred yards from the NK.  From that position they began to rain down mortar fire on the NK’s attempting to come up the ridge.  After a half-hour of steady fire, the Marines were successful.  The NK assault on the CP was smashed.  But Hawkins problems had only just begun.  NK had broken through along the lines and were now threatening the battalion aid station near the railroad.  Hawkins was now forced to deploy part of the already undermanned B Company to support the aid station.  There the ground was flat and the entire area was exposed for some two hundred yards east of the CP.  Kwon was now attempting to assault the CP from two points along the ridge and from the aid station.  Michael’s platoon was holding down any NK that moved against the CP.  Only A Company was left to defend the CP from a frontal assault.  

By this time the battle had raged for an hour and a half.  Hawkins’ men were close to finished unless reinforcements arrived soon.  Just in time the 2nd Battalion arrived, assaulting Kwon’s rear.  The NK were now facing a reinforced Marine battalion.  Having lost twenty-five hundred men Kwon was feeling the heat.  He was faced with the possibility of defeat so he decided to go all out.  Countering the 2nd’s advance, Kwon committed his reserves, the last fifteen hundred soldiers left in his command.  The 2nd was now under severe stress and its Marines began falling back.  The NK were meeting the American challenge.  As the 2nd’s line broke, the NK began pouring through.  For the first time during the battle Hawkins’ command was no longer able to hold its line.  Without support from the 2nd, he had to order A Company to fall back and try to reestablish a perimeter five hundred yards from the CP.  Then he ordered B and C companies to withdraw back to areas on either side of A Company.  Meanwhile, the NK had broken through along the ridge and were working their way toward the battalion switchboard.  They’d gotten as far as the ravine.  Hawkins was now forced to take cover in his foxhole to seek protection from the relentless incoming NK shelling.  With the 2nd Battalion unable to come to his aid the command was in a fight for its life.  Everywhere the Marines were under siege.  With Hawkins pinned down Wellington assumed command of the supply unit that was near the railroad.  He secured the supply unit and took two squads to relieve trapped Marines approximately one hundred yards north at the aid station.  At the same time, the 2nd was in a massive firefight of their own.  Kwon was determined to destroy them.  Within two hours of their assault, the 2nd had lost over one hundred Marines and scores were wounded.  It was now five in the morning.  But daylight hadn’t yet broken through.  The CP was under heavy attack from more NK who had broken through along the ridge.  Heavy incoming NK shelling was also taking its toll.  Wellington could see his Marines holding on for dear life.  

As the light finally began to break through the darkened cloudy skies the enemy could be seen more clearly.  Michael and the other Marines were killing as many NK as would engage them.  The fighting inside the CP perimeter was now hand-to-hand.  Young inexperienced Marines were fairing well against their more seasoned foe.  It was then that Captain Peter Wellington was about to make a decisive move.  He had been successful in blunting the NK attack on the aid station.  Taking four squads to relieve Hawkins, they attacked the NK emplacements from behind, killing many of the NK where they stood.  The totally surprised NK broke off their attack on Hawkins’ position.  They were slaughtered as they retreated to their own jagged line.  

Hawkins once again in command of his forces ordered Wellington to sweep the railroad and then proceed to reinforce the CP, which was now under attack.  Wellington then ordered mortar fire to be directed at the area in front of the railroad catching the NK on open ground.  The mortar shells found their mark.  The tide of battle was back on the side of the Americans.  

The bright sun was now shining overhead.  It was seven in the morning and the dead lay everywhere.  Hawkins moved to the ravine and the Communications area and directed traffic.  A, B, and C companies were holding the new line against an NK force which was now under duress.  The cooks had held but his CP was still under attack.  All three new lines were holding although his Marines were exhausted.  C Company began redirecting mortar fire from the railroad to the CP perimeter.  The enemy was getting it from two sides.  As Wellington’s squads closed in on the NK, Michael’s men were barley able to hold their own.  Finally, the mortar rounds found their mark.  The NK began breaking off as Wellington swept the railroad.  Within five minutes there were no more NK.  The Captain was now determined not to lose the Command Post.  Taking two additional squads of Marines Wellington’s six squads advanced on the CP.  He made it just in time.  Michael and the few remaining Marines had nothing left.  Out of ammo and exhausted the Captain had to save the day.  And he did.  

The NK put up a good fight, but surprised by Wellington’s assault they had panicked.  As his men broke through the confused enemy forces it became hand-to-hand.  The killing at close quarters lasted for ten minutes leaving twenty-five NK dead and dying.  The Marines had lost five.  As the Captain’s men made it to the CP he surveyed the damage.  The Marines had killed over two hundred NK regulars around the CP.  Putting his men to the task of re-establishing communications, within minutes, Wellington reclaimed the CP and surrounding areas.  He had rallied his men against impossible odds and prevailed; this had been his finest moment.  He’d earned his stripes as a leader that night.  

Kwon was now desperate.  His losses had been heavy.  While the Captain was restoring his CP, an angry Colonel Kwon decided to make one last desperate push to capture it.  Redirecting all of his artillery toward the CP, Kwon was intent on breaking American morale.  He ordered all of his forces to concentrate on the CP.  Kwon was gambling everything.  As a smiling, jubilant Captain Peter Wellington turned toward Michael an incoming NK round hit the CP.  The massive explosion rocked the tent bringing the world around them to a halt.  Smoke and dust filled the tent as shouts and cries of wounded men could be heard everywhere.  The Captain was hit and so was Michael.  Michael dragged himself across the CP making his way to Wellington.  But before Michael could reach his wounded captain several NK made their way into the CP bayoneting the wounded, including Wellington.  Two badly wounded Marines were able to return fire, eliminating the attackers.  

By the time Michael finally dragged himself to the Captain, his friend lay bleeding from a gaping shrapnel wound in his chest and several stab wounds from bayonets.  Michael checked Wellington’s pulse.  He found none.  Peter Wellington was gone.  The vacant look in his eyes said it all.  Michael Aragón said his last goodbye as he gently stroked Wellington’s hair.  He then closed the Captain’s eyes forever.  Realizing that his right hand was bloody, Michael looked down to find his fatigues crimson.  The blood loss was great.  It was at that moment that he knew he had bought it.  Michael had sustained massive injuries and went into shock as he lay next to Wellington.   He collapsed next to his captain on the dirt floor.  His life was pouring out of his body.  The Angel of Death hovered nearby.  

The Marines had held and defeated the best the North Koreans had.  Kwon was beaten and Hawkins a hero.  Elements of Chesty Puller’s command had been decimated but he had held.  Puller made sure that Captain Peter Wellington was buried with honors.  Many other Marines received medals and citations for those selfless acts of courage.  They’d all fought bravely and many had given their lives for their country.  The Corps would never forget that little fishing village.


04/23/2015 08:42 AM