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An Account of “Incoming Fire” over two Gooks

Two Gooks on a Jeep!
By Chris Sarno

It was mid autumn 1951 on the Eastern Front at the Punchbowl sector. I was basically a boot-ass replacement in “A” Company 1st Tank Battalion (Our Company Commander was Capt. Schnell), and I was anxiously awaiting my baptism of fire any day now, as our tank company was operating practically every other day with direct fire combat missions.

Our CP was located in a dried up rice paddy, and to add to the misery of war, it was literally overrun with paddy rats all night long. There was nothing we could do but put up with it as best we could. This immediate area was south of the carter entrance of the Punchbowl and just below the northern rim of the higher hills of 1052, 1026, and 907.

Adjacent to my tank A-41 was a U.S. Army field artillery unit of “Long Toms”, when they had a fire mission the entire deck would tremble. The rest of this battle scared valley contained the entire 11th Marine Artillery Regiment (105’s and 155’s). It was a reassuring vista to look out on tons and tons of artillery pieces for miles and miles!

One bright chilly morning I noticed this Marine jeep coming over the skyline and towards our area. Upon the jeeps hood were two cruddy North Korean prisoners lashed to the windshield, plus, two Marine MP’s escorting these gooks to Division which was to the rear with the gear.

Suddenly, I heard these loud roaring sounds in the sky above, ending with hellacious explosions. My day of reckoning was at handit was gook incoming.

“I hit the deck and remained there flat as a bastard…” with two other crew members, Sgt. Holler (TC) and Pfc Barr (gunner). We couldn’t get into the dirt deep enough. The “incoming” falling all around us. We could hear the hot shrapnel whizzing from all angles. Other crew members who were inside the tank, Sgt. Burke (driver) and Cpl. Blasi (asst. driver) dropped the escape hatches and we three eventually were able to crawl into the drivers compartments.

Quickly, I squirmed my way up into the gun turret for a better look. We had a grandstand seat viewing hit after exploding hit raining down into Artillery Valley. Huge smoke clouds and fires engulfed the Marine Cannon Cockers. Some gook FO was having one hellava field day on us. Much later, we learned the FO was captured, and word had it, he was a North Korean Major.

Tank A-33 (Bishop’s) was about 25 yards away from my tank, they took a direct hit on top of the engine doors. We even flinched inside our tank from the concussion of that hit. The heavy steel engine and transmission doors flew through the air like empty coffee cans! A-33 was totaled! Two Marine tankers were KIA and another WIA we later found out. With all this din of battle continuing, I decided to check out the two gook prisoners on the jeep. There it was, still out there on the road with the two screaming gooks taking in this “incoming” barrage from goonyland.

The two MP’s were nowhere in sight, probably in the dirt and mud of the nearest rice paddy. We were laughing our asses off at the plight of the two gooks going through purgatory out there still on top of that jeep. No one cared how much shrapnel the gooks had to take. No combat marine gave a rat’sass about our enemies.

It seemed like an eternity when the 122’s stopped splashing into Artillery Valley.

Finally the two MP’s meandered up to the jeep, and again we had to laugh at the two MP’s for getting their starched uniforms all muddy. They stared up the jeep and proceeded to drive off as if nothing at all had happened with the two crazy and frenzied gooks. To this day I can still hear their screams of terror!

On this chilly autumn day the 11th Marine Artillery Regiment took one for the Corps.

My first encounter with lethal good firepower was under my belt with plenty more to come before I was rotated stateside in August 1952; in addition, I realized something else. Our violent marine training and mind set showed ever so clear, our contempt and utter disregard about these oriental aggressors, whom we never gave any quarter to, in and out of the heat of battle. “Lock ‘n load marines” and Semper Fi.

Epilogue: MCTA member Chris Sarno is a former Marine SSgt. who served two tours of duty in the Korean War. He was a tank commander (TC) in “A” Company 1st Tank BN and Anti-Tank Company, 7th Marine Regiment. Also tank instructor at Camp Lejeune Force Troops, 8th Tank Bn and Basic School, Quantico, VA

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