E-Company Marines Remembered


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Darwin Aycock, circa 1950 in Marines
Darwin Aycock

I was three months old when my parents moved from the west Texas area to Phoenix, Arizona. Growing up in a family of seven boys and two girls in the Great Depression wasn't the best of times, but as kids, we adjusted well and had our fun times. I had a particularly happy childhood. I had a lot of friends and summers were great for swimming in the canals and the pool at the comer of Van Buren and 3 5th Street. We went barefoot a lot, even to school. It saved our shoes for Sundays and special occasions.

My father, Roy Fredrish Aycock, Sr. was a farmer in west Texas. He tried his hand at it again in the west Phoenix area near Tolleson. Then' he worked in the produce sheds in West Phoenix. He was disabled in a terrible accident in 1934 but was denied his permanent workers compensation. He was never able to work again, so we all went on welfare. I was six years old at the time.

I was serving an apprenticeship as a stereo-typer at Tucson Newspapers, Inc., after my four-year hitch in the Marines. I don't know why the government didn't think my four years in the regular Marines wasn't enough, but they kept sending me threatening letters saying I had to register for the draft. So, instead, I went and joined the stand-by Reserves. Then I was told I could make corporal if I joined "E" Company, 1st Infantry Battalion. I was pretty sure we were going to be called up for the Korean War so, around July 15, 1950, I went to the Alvernon Armory and got my clothing issue. On the 31st, we were on the train headed for Camp Pendleton.

"C" Company, 1st Motor Transport, 1st Marine Division, my outfit, was on board the "Miggs" headed for Kobe, Japan on August 17, 1950. (Al Felix says we left the 21st of August. He said his birthday is the 17th.) In Kobe, we were hit by a typhoon. And 'what an experience that was! We were lucky not to have lost any people there.

I joined the Marines at the age of seventeen and did a four-year hitch from February 12, 1945 to February 11, 1949. Since the Marines didn't send seventeen-year-olds into combat, I didn't see action in World War II but I was sent to China where I served with the Sixth-Motor Transport Division Service Battalion. a "Duck" (amphibious landing craft) Company. Right after that, I was assigned to a service battalion in the 3rd Marine Brigade and later to the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines. In 1947, I was transferred to Tientsin. Around June, I went down the Pei-Hao River and boarded a ship leaving for San Diego. I held the permanent rank of corporal at that time.

Back in Tucson, I joined the active reserves of "E" Company, 13th Infantry Battalion, which was activated for the Korean War.

I wound up in 1st Lt. Stow's 1st Platoon, along with Tom Price and Albert Felix when we landed in Inchon. They turned out to be my best friends out there. We were always looking out for each other. Tom was a real gung-ho, Marine, always volunteering and hot-to-trot. Of course, that was his nature even after we got back. Al Felix, on the other hand, was more cautious, like me. I wouldn't volunteer to watch a Marine bulldog hike his leg on Judas Iscariot!

A Marine is basically an infantryman first, no matter what your next billet may be. The fact that I was assigned to motor transport did not exempt me. We were thrown into this war so fast that we didn't have a chance to zero-in our rifles. At Inchon, Lt. Stow took us south of Blue, Beach where "Chesty" Puller's 1st Regiment had landed and each Marine put his own elevation and windage on his rifle. My previous training paid off that day, even though I didn't qualify as "expert," I did qualify as "sharpshooter."

There was a lot of empty M-1 clips laying around when we had finished, so we gathered them up, threw them in the air and shot at them with our rifles, like skeet shooting. Our platoon had a contest to see who could hit the most clips in a row. While some Marines didn't hit any of them, I was hot when I hit five or six clips in a row and won the contest, hands down! I felt like a show-off but that advance infantry training I had, helped. I had been taught to take my trigger finger and point at the target with the joint of my finger that is closest to my hand. I was also, taught to put my forearm as level as possible on the stock of my rifle and to squeeze the trigger. I would wait until the M-1 clip reached the top of its arc, point and fire. I had to admit that I also had a little luck, but nobody took that into account! I'm sure my performance that day had a lot to do with Lt. Stow designating me as his jeep driver. A distinction I was honored with but which placed me in harm's way as Lt. Stow and his jeep were usually leading the convoy. I had more fear leading the convoy at night than one can imagine, but as it turned out, we were never hit at night.

While Colonel Puller's regiment was in Yongdungpo, waiting to cross the Hun River into Seoul, Lt. Stow had me drive him there. We were nosing around when we started receiving small arms fire.Jeeps are great for drawing fire because the enemy figures'there must be an officer on board. The firing increased and when the mortar shells started coming in, we pulled out of there fast!

On November 28, 1950, we started to convoy north out of Koto-ri. We were just a couple of miles out when we were stopped by enemy fire. We were ordered out of the vehicles onto the road ditch to lay a base of fire into the hills. There was a quad-fifty machine-gun-mounted truck shooting up the hill. A Chinese soldier was making a run for it. Tracers were kicking up dirt at his heels, but he made it over the top. It just wasn't his day to die!

Our part of the convoy was pulled back into the Koto-ri perimeter and the next day, Colonel Drysdale led another convoy with tanks to Hagaru. They had to fight all their way through. Sad to say, quite a few were killed or wounded and some were taken prisoners. It was war at its worse! We were fighting two enemies, the Chinese and the cold weather.

It was our last trip to Koto-ri. It wasn't too long after we had come up that the Chinese closed our way out by blowing up the bridge at the penstocks (large steel pipes which descended sharply down the mountainside to the turbines of the power plant in the valley below). It was just three and a half miles south of Koto-ri. Four sections of steel treadway bridge were air-dropped from Air Force C-119's to span the sheer drop down the mountainside. After the Chinese were cleared away from the area, the engineers did their stuff and gave us a way out.

Lt. Stow had gotten himself another jeep driver and I was assigned to ride shot-gun with PFC Thien. In the cab was a young kid whom we called "Chicken," so I rode in the back of the truck with the gear. I was responsible for "Chicken," so I had to take good care of him. There was a lot of stop-and-go on the convoy and when we moved, it was snail pace. The slow down was probably due to the Chinese roadblocks at the head of the convoy. I got very cold in the back of the truck so I took my rifle and walked alongside until we picked up speed and then I jumped on the running board. Along the way I spotted Bobby Fisher ("E" Company, Tucson Marine Reserves) who was a machinegun section leader with the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines. They had come up from Ching Hung-ni to clear the Chinese off Hill 1081 so that the convoy could get through. Bobby had a brother, Jimmy, who was a corpsman with the 5th Marines. Both were held in high esteem by the members of "E' Company Reserves.

On my way back from Korea in May of 1951, I met a young Marine with a bright red scar on his face. He said he was wounded going into Yongdungpo. He was laying in the middle of the street, half dazed, when he saw Bobby pick him up and take him into a house out of the line of fire. When he recovered from his wounds, he was sent back to his company where he was told that Sgt. Fisher. had bullet holes in his dungarees from that episode.

It was dark by the time we reached Majon-dong. Along the way, as we started to pick up speed, the Royal Marines, who were walking along the road, were ordered to get in the trucks. The one that hopped in the back with me introduced himself to me then made himself comfortable among some blankets we were carrying. Our truck driver slowed down when we got to a place where the Royal Marines were forming up. True to Marine tradition, our Marine got off the truck with an armful of blankets. I never made a move to stop him. The Royal Marines had earned more than they got.

When we got to where our company was reforming, we found out we had had a few wounded and two killed. Kenneth Dvorak and Colin Schultz were killed between Chinhung-ni and Sudong. They had operated the gasoline truck for the company. They complained that they had been at this billet too long and they were thinking that they should be relieved of this duty and stop stretching their luck. It's ironic that the gasoline truck got through and they didn't!

Keeping this narration to a short story leaves a lot about Korea unsaid but I have to expound on the brutal cold. The fox hole is no place to keep warm. I sometimes think I feared the cold more than I did the Chinese.

I've worked as a stereotyper, realtor and labor representative and have made a good living. Being a labor representative was rewarding; I guess because I remember the injustice my father went through. I'm hoping the union-busting started by Ronald Reagan will soon run its course and that the working man can again make a decent living.

My wife and I have been able to travel to the British Isles, France, Belgium, Holland. Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Israel. I feel I've, lived a rewarding life.

Darwin Aycock now

Having done my part in Korea was also an experience that I'm glad I lived through. It makes up for the combat I missed in World War II. I think we were in the right, fighting the communists. A government that doesn't believe in God could never be a good government.

 

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