Showing posts with label Marines. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marines. Show all posts

05 October 2018

The Korean War

by O'Neil De Noux

In the early morning hours of Wednesday, November 29, 1950, the Chinese army attacked and overran paratroopers of the 187th Regimental Combat Team. My father, along with all the men in his squad were shot, as were most of the men in the platoon. Chinese soldiers finished off the wounded by bayoneting them. My father was bayoneted in the lower back. He stuffed snow in the wound and passed out.

The following day, My mother, in the hospital after delivering me on the day my father was shot, received a telegram from the army notifying her that her husband was missing in action and presumed dead. My mother named me after my father, instead of naming me Daniel as my father desired. A day afer the telegram arrived, an excited nurse rushed into my mother's hospital room with a telephone. There was an emergency phone call. It was my father calling from a hospital in Japan. He'd been wounded but was recovering. He asked if she'd delievered the baby and she told him he had a son.

"How is Daniel?"
"Fine. But I named him after you."
"What? Oh, no." My father hung up on her, telling me later he did not want to saddle me with two last names as he'd been saddled.

My mother thought she'd hallucinated the call until later when she received another telegram notifying her how her husband was severly wounded and recovering in a hospital in Japan.

O'Neil P. De Noux, Sr. back in Korea after the Korean War

My father returned to action in Korea and was wounded again. He received three purple hearts for his service in the Korean War. He remained in the army, serving in the Vietnam War with the 1st Infantry Division before retiring to become a police officer. He retired from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office after 20-years service. When he was buried in Saint Vincent de Paul Cemetery in New Orleans, he was buried in his army uniform. Active duty US Army paratroopers served as pall bearers. I saw tears on the faces of two of the young paratroopers as their 21-gun salute echoed loudly off the concrete and cement crypts of the above-ground cemetery and Taps bounced along the rooftops of the lower Ninth Ward.

I just finished reading a excellent novel about the Korean War – THE FROZEN HOURS by Jeff Shaara. It tells the harrowing tale of the US Marines at the Chosin Reservoir in 1950. Marines and US Army soldiers surrounded by a huge Chinese army hell bent on killing all of them, ramming massive human-wave assaults against hungry, exhausted and freezing men in -30˚ temperatures. This was one of the finest hours of the US Marine Corps. When trying to break out of the encirclement, Marine General O. P. Smith was asked by reporters if this was a retreat and gave the infamous quote, "Retreat, hell! We're not retreating, we're just advancing in a different direction."

This is a damn good book.

While the Korean War fades in our memories, most Americans today have never heard of the conflict where over 33,000 Americans were killed in battle with nearly 3,000 non-battle deaths.

Shaara's book is not a celebration of war but a heart-felt telling of bravery, suffering, neglect and death of Americans sent across the world to fight in horrific conditions.

That's all for now.

22 June 2015

The Marine and the Game Warden

by Robert Lopresti 

You could say this column is a sequel to a piece I wrote called "The Ranger And The Sheriff's Wife."  That was a report on two non-fiction books that seemed to be chock full of ideas for crime stories.  So is this.

Thieves of Baghdad, by Matthew Bogdanos, Bloomsbury Books, 2005.

Matthew Bogdanos planned to go into his family's restaurant business but one day, on a whim, he decided to enlist in the Marines.  The recruiter took one look at his test scores and said he was doing no such thing.  He was going to enlist in college and then the Marines would accept him for officer's school.

So Bogdanos became the first person in his family to attend college, and on 9/11 he was a federal prosecutor in New York City, and a member of the Marine Reserves.

After the famous looting of the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad, Bogdanos was able to convince his superiors that he was the perfect person to head the squad assigned to search for the missing antiquities. After all, how many Marine officers could there be with law degrees and knowledge of classical art and literature?

As you can imagine, the job was extremely complicated.  For example, consider the difficulty of simply reporting accurately how much was stolen.  If thieves took five pieces  of an old jar, did they take one item or five?

More importantly he discovered that a lot of the material hadn't been stolen at all; but was placed in safe-keeping to protect it from the U.S. troops who were no doubt planning to confiscate the art and take it back home.  So Bogdanos and his men had a diplomatic task to do, convincing people that all they wanted  was to get the art safely back into the museum.  Inevitably this involved drinking many cups of tea with interested parties.

Which is not to say the marines didn't deal with actual thieves or terrorists.  Both were encountered in big numbers.  I highly recommend this book.

  Shell Games, by Craig Welch, William Morrow Books, 2010. 

It was like a Walt Disney movie that turned into Stephen King. 

So says one of the main characters in this book, summarizing his career.  But the protagonist is Ed Volz, a cop with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.  HIs job was to catch people like the Disney-to-King gentleman above.

You see, Puget Sound has a poaching problem.  The main target of these "clam rustlers" is the geoduck (gooeyduck), a bizarre-looking bivalve that can live well over one hundred years.

Because they take so long to develop they are considered the "old growth forest" of the sea and no one knows for sure how long it takes to replenish a field that has been harvested.  One of the nasty parts of the trade is that until you dig the clam out of the sand (sometimes two feet down) you can't tell if it is valuable or  relatively worthless..  Since pulling it out of the sand kills it, that counts as part of your fishing quota, whatever quality it turns out to be.

As you can guess, nasty poachers find all kinds of ways around the quotas, so both state and federal agents keep busy trying to keep people from stealing the things to sell, mostly to Asia.  One problem for the good guys is getting the legal system to take the crime seriously (clam rustling!), although the occasional arson or attempted murder helps with that.

This non-fiction book is full of remarkable, larger-than-life characters, like the Native American sculptor/fisher, a twice-convicted felon, who volunteered to go undercover to catch the poachers.  Or the alleged hit man who travelled with a teddy bear.  Or Seattle's legendary Ivar Haglund, "P.T. Barnum of the Sea," who, when a truck full of syrup spilled on the highway, showed up with a plate of pancakes and a fork.  Or, well, take this fellow, a real lateral thinker:

He'd been experimenting with planting geoducks much like shellfish companies farmed oysters and had leased forty-seven acres of public tidelands just off a county park near Purdy Spit.  Since the land was underwater and not suited for building, the county charged just twenty-five hundred dollars.  But in readying his farm for planting baby clams... [he] set about removing obstacles -- namely an entire colony of wild geoducks.  [He} dug up and sold $2 million worth of clams.

A wild story.