Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
U.S. Marine Corps
SGT, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division
06/26/2013, Seattle, Washington, USA
My name is Earl Boyce Clark. I was born February 24, 1927, in Salt Lake City, Utah, a son of Alonzo Benjamin and Blanche Ruth Redman Clark. My father was a telegrapher with the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company, and my mother was a beautician. I have a brother Boyd who is nine years older than me (born April 22, 1918) and a sister who was born June 13, 1922. Both are now deceased.
I went to several grade schools, graduating from the 8th grade from Briscoe School in 1942. I graduated from O’Dea High School in Seattle. I was in the service at the time, but graduated with my class in May of 1946. While in school, I had a variety of summer jobs, including working on a farm at Briscoe School, laying irrigation pipes, raking hay, cleaning dairy barns, and digging up sugar beets. I also worked for the City of Seattle with a work crew cleaning up parks. We called ourselves “sanitary engineers.”
In high school, we were active in savings stamps and war bonds programs, seeing which class could outdo the other in monies raised for the war effort. I was also in the Boy Scouts when I was younger, although I only went as far as First Class Scout. I was a bugler for our troop. We scouts also collected newspapers, old rubber tires, metals of all kinds, etc, for the war effort during World War II.
I was draft age when I was in high school, but received deferments in April and August 1945 in order to try to finish high school. I was finally called up and joined the United States Marine Corps in September of 1945. I enlisted in the Marine Corps because several of my friends went in before me. My best friend wrote me from boot camp to “join the Army, Navy, or Air Corps, but don’t ever join the damned Marine Corps!” I guess I had to prove a point—if he could do it, then so could I. It was the best move I ever made, other than marrying my wife. Also, my dad was in the Army in World War I and my brother was in the Navy in World War II, so I figured we needed a Marine to bring the family full circle.
My mother was very upset that I had joined, especially the Marine Corps. She said that if I had to join, make it the Navy. My father died when I was seven years old so I didn’t have his input about my decision to join the Corps. My brother and sister thought it was just fine. I joined on 15 September 1945, and went to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California, for boot camp training. I traveled by train, along with my friend, Wayne Olmscheid.
Boot Camp was eight weeks. We lived in Quonset huts lined on the outside with white rock that we always kept clean with white wash. We had the usual ants and some roaches, but nothing of any particular grief. We woke at 0500. Reveille was sounded by bugle, followed by personal hygiene, exercise, chow time, squaring away the barracks, close order drills, more exercises, and classes.
Most of all we learned that our rifle was our best friend. This was discussed both in the classroom and on the various rifle ranges. We all had to qualify in firing the M-1 rifle, M-1 carbine, the Browning Automatic Rifle, the bayonet range, as well as the grenade range.
In September of 1948, I enrolled in what was then Seattle College (now Seattle University). I turned out for the freshman basketball team, and in the spring of 1949, the baseball team. Money was in short supply, even with the G.I. Bill, so I opted to seek employment and I dropped out of school.
I first found work at the Sears & Roebuck Department Store. Then the best thing that ever happened to me took place, and Charlotte Lou Lumbert agreed to be my wife. We had met at a dance at a place called Angle Lake where I proposed to her in the parking lot. This happened in the Fall of 1949 and on 04 March 1950, we became man and wife. We were married at Glendale Lutheran Church in her hometown of Burien, Washington. Most of my friends from school joined in this happy occasion.
We had been married nearly four months when the Korean War broke out. I had known about Korea because several of my school friends had joined the Army and were assigned to duty in Korea, two having been discharged after serving there for two years.
When the North Koreans invaded the South, we, of course, listened to the news and read the papers, so we had an idea what was going on. My wife Charlotte asked me if I would have to go and I assured her that I was in the inactive reserves and that it was unlikely. At the time, I was employed as the Assistant Manager of Standard Stations, Inc. I came home from work one evening to find a large manila envelope directing me to report to Camp Pendleton, California. I was to take the train from Union Station in Seattle and be at Camp Pendleton by 19 September 1950. This was not what I had in mind when I “joined” the inactive reserves, and in no way was I prepared to leave my wife. While I objected mainly to myself in having to go, deep down I felt the time would come and all reserves would eventually be recalled. Did I want to be in the war? Hell no! As for minding being recalled to duty, you bet I minded, as did most of the people heading off for this “Police Action.”
My preparation for leaving the country for combat consisted of two things. The toughest part of leaving was saying goodbye to my lovely wife, mother, brother, and sister, as well as my friends. Beyond that, I tried to remember the lessons taught to me by my DIs, and I took great interest in my new assignment at Camp Pendleton, where I was in a Fire Direction Center for the artillery. Our duties were to receive information from Forward Observers and plot the course of artillery fire. All this would change when I got to Korea! In the meantime, I tried to listen to or read as much as I could about what was going on in the Land of the Morning Calm. I would find out first hand in a very short time.
My first firefight came in the early evening in January 1951. Our platoon was on patrol as usual and all of a sudden, whistles blew and loud yelling took place. A small group of NKPA initiated a firefight and yelled out, “Marines you die” and “We’re gong to burn your parkas.” I happened to be next to “Pop” Burkett, my squad leader. We hunkered down right where we were. I remember putting my pack board in front of me thinking that was going to help. Being as close as they were and not knowing if they were going to attack, at this point I reached back and put my bayonet on my M-1. “Pop” looked at me and said, “What the hell are you doing?” I said, “We better get ready in case they come our way.” “Pop” agreed it was a good idea. We only spotted about three or four enemy, but it sounded like many more. They fired off a few rounds, threw some concussion grenades, and that was about it. We spread out a little more, fired off some rounds, and that was our initiation. It ended after no more than twenty minutes, but it seemed much longer.
The Chinese were good fighters, although they would rather put up delaying tactics, booby-trapping objects, including their dead, as opposed to mixing it up hand to hand. You bet we were close enough to see the enemy, and the ones I remember seemed to be on the young side, although later on we took a couple of prisoners who appeared to be in their fifties. Only on one occasion were we alongside troops from another nation other than ROK forces. That was when we took over positions from the Turks, and then only briefly.
Our platoon was involved in hand-to-hand combat on three separate occasions, including once in February and twice in early March 1951. In February while on patrol, our platoon encountered a small group of CCF who appeared to be resting and were not aware of our presence. We approached with fixed bayonets, yelling and firing our weapon, which totally freaked them out. Four were killed outright and two died later from wounds suffered by the bayonet. Four threw down their weapons and were taken to the rear as prisoners. This was the first time we actually had the opportunity to pull off our own bayonet charge. The next two times we experienced any hand-to-hand combat was in the snow of March 1951. The circumstances were similar both times, as we were overrun late at night by a small group of infiltrators who had evidently laid all day under a blanket of snow watching us dig in. On March 5 or 6, after securing Hill 505, the Chinese counter attacked in the early morning. A light snow was coming down and they started throwing concussion and fragmentation grenades. This was much more startling than effective. 1st Lt. Dively killed one of the attackers with a bayonet that he kept in his sleeping bag, while most of the others were shot at close range. We had one KIA (Robert Raspanti), and twelve others with shrapnel wounds (WIA). Within two days and with Hill 505 now secured, we pulled a bayonet charge of our own on a nearby ridge just north of Hill 505. We totally routed a small force, killing five who were probably left behind to delay us. Their big mistake was to bunch up. They were met with machinegun fire as well as small arms fire.
In addition to the heavy casualties that we suffered in March, we lost three Marines KIA in April of 1951. They were Bill Bowden, George Kennedy, and Billie Medlin. Also during this period we had 34 WIAs. These losses were due to frontal assaults of two objectives against well-dug-in Chinese troops. It was here on 6 April 1951 that I suffered my first wound, having received a blast concussion and fragments from Chinese mortars. My best friend, J.D. Hargrove, was also wounded at this time. The day before, during an extensive firefight, seven Marines were wounded, two being unable to find good cover and were out in the open and exposed to CCF. JD Hargrove and I were in a position whereby we felt we could get to these two Marines. JD, along with others who saw what we were up to, laid down a field of fire on the Chinese while I was able to reach one (James Blackburn) and pull him to a relatively safe position. I then went back to help the other (can’t remember his name). I then put Blackburn on my back and carried him up an incline to the trail and then to a makeshift aid station. The other Marine was ambulatory and he waited until I returned and together we went to the aid station.
Then, as mentioned above, I was wounded (6 April) and spent the next ten days at a field hospital. When I returned to the Company, someone told me that I had been recommended for the Silver Star for getting Blackburn and the other Marine to safety, but that it had been reduced to a Bronze Star. I never really thought much about this award until years later, as there was no mention of this citation in my service record. I did contact HQMC and personnel regarding this matter in 1988, but nothing came of it. By the time I tried to verify this with my Platoon Leader, Lt. Gil Westa (an attorney from Denver), he had passed away. When I did challenge this matter upon my separation, the Navy Yeoman who was putting together information for my DD-214 said there was nothing he could do as my records were not available. After I lost my arm (2 June 1951), I didn’t feel much like making a fuss, as I just wanted to get home and get on with my life. Now, I wish I had made waves as the award would be something to share with my kids and grandkids, but such is life.
I was awarded two Purple Heart medals for wounds received on 06 April 1951 and 02 June 1951. The only significance the medals have for me is that I served with brave men who also fought and bled for country and Corps. The first time I was wounded was on 6 April, during an assault on CCF forces on the East Central front. Our first platoon had advanced steadily during the morning hours until we came under heavy mortar and artillery fire, which brought us to a standstill. We waited until tanks that had been called upon for support came into view. After receiving the go ahead to advance, it seemed as though all hell broke loose. CCF mortars and artillery were brought to bear on our position. At the same time, our own tanks opened fire with their 90 mm guns. The next thing I can recall was flying through the air and landing against a tree that had toppled due to the heavy barrage.
Although I could still stand up and move about, it was like I was in a sound proof room. I couldn’t hear a damn thing, but knew we were in one hell of a fight. My nose started to bleed as did my ears, and my eyes felt like they would pop out. Some fragments hit my left hand and I remember trying to find my rifle, which was down the hillside. Someone from my Fire Team (I think it was Larry Chino) had picked up my rifle and brought it to me. About the same time, a corpsman came by, propped me up against a tree, tagged me, and took off to help someone else who had been hit. To this day I can’t honestly say if the blast concussion I received was from enemy or friendly fire, as our own tanks had rounds that hit trees around us.
The corpsman returned and had someone with him that took me to an area where I was later picked up by jeep and transported to a field hospital operated by the Army. While I did feel some pain, it was not so bad that I couldn’t function. The scary part was having someone talk to me and I couldn’t hear what they were saying. The ringing in my ears lasted for five or six days, and at times was quite painful whenever I laid down. It seems as though I spent most of my time sitting up during my stay at the hospital.
After a couple of days, the swelling around my eyes disappeared, but looked as though I had gone a couple of rounds with Joe Louis. The doctors and nurses at the field hospital were most caring and I’ll always be grateful for their concern while in their care. I only wished I had sense enough to remember some of the doctors, nurses, and aides who looked after me.
I was conscious all the time after being wounded and remember bouncing around after being escorted to the jeep along with two other severely wounded Marines who were strapped to the back of the vehicle. It seemed we reached the field hospital in no time at all, but I have no idea just how long it actually took. I do remember having good food, a nice bed, and best of all, a hot shower. No one likes to leave their friends behind, but circumstances like being wounded leave little or no room for guilt when confronted with this reality.
Both my mother and wife were notified by telegram of my being wounded. Fortunately, my Platoon Leader, Lt. Gil Westa sent off a letter to both that my wounds were not life threatening and that they would hear from me shortly. As for others being taken care of at the field hospital, mostly they were Army personnel, myself, and two other Marines from a different platoon than mine. Both Marines had severe leg wounds and were eventually evacuated to Japan. After ten days, the doctors felt that I could return to my Company and old first squad, first platoon. Personally, I felt good enough to return and take over my Fire Team. Would I have preferred to be elsewhere? What do you think! When I returned to my Company, it was the 17th of April and we were preparing to head north for what soon would be one of the fiercest battles we would engage in involving the CCF Spring Offensive.
The weather had improved and was getting rather nice in late May and into June. We had experienced some very difficult fighting from mid April and all through May. We definitely had the Chinese on the run, and they were leaving their wounded and lots of equipment behind. On one occasion we overran an enemy ammunition supply and in the end took 25 Chinese prisoners. We captured thousands of rounds of small arms, mortar, artillery, and ammunition, as well as grenades and explosives. We went into the month of June 1951 feeling that we were going to push the CCF right back over the 38th parallel.
By now we were at Yanggu and overlooking the Hwachon Reservoir. We were to be relieved on 2 June by the 1st Marines and looked forward to going back in reserve. It had rained the day before (01 June) and we were airing out our sleeping bags and gear when all hell broke loose. The CCF had no doubt zeroed in on this hill top in months past, and their mortar fire was just deadly. Several of the people who were to relieve us from the 1st Marines were killed instantly. I found out later that eleven from my Company were seriously wounded.
As soon as the mortars came in, we sought what cover was available. I remember laying as flat as possible and went to reach for my pack board to place in front of me (like that was going to help). As I looked back, a Marine from the 1st was crouched down on all fours and half of his face was blown away by shrapnel. Not long after, a piece of shrapnel tore into my left arm at the elbow. The pain was intense. As I looked around, I didn’t see my arm as it was knocked almost in back of me. I reached around and pulled it back and rolled over, placing my arm across my chest. After what seemed like a long, long time, I knew something had to be done to stop the bleeding. Two pack straps were attached to my pack board, one of which I used as a tourniquet. The mortars kept coming and were the large 120mm type, which made one hell of a noise. Not too longer after I was hit, a corpsman came by and released the tourniquet. He bandaged me as best he could, gave me a shot of morphine, tagged me, and left to help other wounded.
The mortar barrage lasted what seemed like an eternity. Their attack was so devastating and deadly that we were unable to mount our proposed attack on the enemy the following day. A total of thirty-six Marines were either killed or wounded on that 02 June 1951 attack. After I was wounded, I thought it was all over, but the shelling just kept going on and on. Later in the morning, I was being taken off the hill by stretcher and someone had placed an old shirt over my face. While going down the hill, someone asked who was hit. When they said it was Clark, they asked if he was dead. I pulled the shirt off my face so they could see I was okay.
Once down the hill, I was placed aboard a Jeep with three others who had also been wounded. We ended up at a field hospital where the doctors examined my arm and placed it in a cast of sorts. After two days at the field hospital, I was taken to Pusan and placed aboard the Hospital Ship Haven. On 05 June 1951, the doctors informed me that gangrene had set in and that they would have to amputate my arm just above the elbow. Two days later I was on my way to Hawaii via Wake and Midway Islands.
Naturally, I felt lousy that the arm would be gone, but felt relieved just to be alive. I wondered how my wife, mother, brother, sister and friends would react when they saw me, but there was not much I could do about that. Sure I felt sorry for myself, especially when I woke up after surgery and the arm was gone. At first I didn’t even want to look over at where my arm should have been. One of the guys bunking above me said, “I’m glad they took that arm off. You were starting to stink up the place.” Now that kind of sympathy is just what the doctor ordered. As I looked around the ward, I saw two beds down from me a Marine that had lost both legs and one arm. From that point on, I didn’t feel overly sorry for myself.
The first time I saw my wife upon returning home, she greeted me with open arms and held me close as if to say, so you lost an arm. So what. We were caught up with each other and the loss didn’t seem to enter into our time together. My reaction in returning to the USA was one of joy and happiness. So much had happened since leaving the US for Korea that I felt fortunate just to be alive and home with family and friends.
Once having two arms, then losing one, I believe it is the simple things you used to handle, you can no longer accomplish–like tying your shoes, playing catch, holding the faces of your loved ones in your hands. The most difficult aspect of having one artificial arm is the ability to have the arm function properly. Just learning to manipulate the plastic and aluminum arm, along with opening and closing the hook device, can be a sobering experience. Once that is overcome, it’s just a matter of getting used to it–like having two left feet.
There were hundreds of wounded at the field hospital and aboard the Haven. As I was feeling sorry for myself, all I had to do was look around me aboard the Haven and later at Oak Knoll Hospital to realize that many Marines were far worse off than I was. At Oak Knoll, the Marine in the bed next to me had lost both of his legs. Another was missing an arm and leg. One Marine aboard the Haven had a promising football career at the University of California, but had lost both legs and part of one arm.
The only liberty we went on while in Oakland at Oak Knoll Hospital was to a couple of football games, USC versus Cal, and the University of Washington versus Cal. I really had no time to go “a little wild” when getting back to the States. The only time we went wild was on the amputee ward, giving the nurses such a bad time, but we loved them all dearly.
My wife Charlotte finally came down to Oak Knoll in July of 1951 and we found a rooming house to stay near the hospital so we could be together. I still had to go through physical and occupational therapy for several months, so it was nice we could be close to the hospital. We’d just go out to dinner and look around town. My family took the loss of my arm probably better than I did. As for those outside my family and especially when I went back to work wearing an artificial arm with a hook attached, there was some staring, etc. It’s difficult to answer about how the loss of an arm changed my life, but I’d be a fool to say it didn’t. You just have to feel that you must get on with your life and feeling sorry is an option you’d better soon discard.
I was given a medically retired discharge from Oak Knoll Naval Hospital on 31 October 1951. I then returned to school, attending an accounting/business school program. My formal education was limited. Other students in my classes were oblivious to the Korean War and what it meant to those involved.
I also worked. My first job upon returning was with Standard Stations, Inc. They were my employer when I was recalled. In fact, they subsidized my wages, sending a check each month to my wife. The check was the difference in my military pay and what I would have received at SSI. My main life’s employment was with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. I retired after 27 years working on behalf of people with Developmental Disabilities. In retirement, I have worked for a 2nd District Congressman (John Miller). Now I am active in USMC-related activities. My children are Michael Leslie (47), Dennis Boyce (44) and Diane Marie Angus (37). I also have grandchildren Taylor and Spencer Clark, and Eilea and Daydra Angus.
I don’t believe I had too much trouble adjusting to civilian life after leaving the Marine Corps. Now, if you were to ask my dear wife about that, she may have a different opinion. I don’t care for people who always have excuses or overly complain when things don’t go their way.
Certainly I changed after returning from Korea. Most of my friends did not go to Korea for one reason or another. In fact, one of my friends hadn’t even realized I had gone to Korea and was wounded twice. He said that he wondered where I was keeping myself. So much for the awareness of the Korean War. This was true for most people.
I believe that the United States was right to enter the war. Someone had to step in and stop the communists from taking over running the South. Their expansionist goals could have eventually involved Japan, who they hate with a passion.
The only good thing to come out of the Korean War is that we stopped communism and helped the South become an economic power. We have to maintain our troops in Korea. You can never trust a dictator and his policies. The North still wants to encompass the South.
The “Forgotten War” is now at last being remembered. However, for years after our victory in World War II, people just wanted to forget any unpleasantness, and “just get on with their lives.” Korea? Where the hell is that, and who really cares what happens over there.
I want some future reader of this memoir to know that Americans took a stand in the Far East and stopped communism in its tracks. History will one day show the world that communism, fascism in any form, must be eradicated if people are to remain free and independent. As Americans, we should all be proud of the sacrifices made in order to preserve democracy in South Korea. If there are any doubts, just ask the South Koreans.
As my children grew older, we sometimes spoke of the Korean War, but did not dwell on the subject. As a family, we have attended gatherings and reunions with my comrades from World War II and Korea. Naturally, the discussions relate to our experiences, etc. They have a good understanding of what we all went through as U.S. Marines.
I lost a number of close friends in Korea, but to be perfectly honest, I never really made attempts to look up their families. I did, however, in later years try to locate those I knew survived. Now at reunions we talk about how we located one another and reminisce about those who never came home. In past years I searched for buddies from Korea. We made contacts through the internet, our Old Breed News publication, and other friends. At our last reunion, 4-8 July 2001, we had ten members of our 1st platoon, including two Platoon Leaders. We attempt to attend each reunion of the 1st Marine Division. It is here that our squads, platoons, companies, and regiments gather together and share experiences. It is our lifeline.
It is my belief that the Marine Corps has helped shape my life, while both in the Corps and after my discharge. The values learned in the Corps will last a lifetime, as well as the countless friends met along the way. These values and these men are treasures that can never be bought, sold or taken away until we answer our final muster.
Once a Marine – Always a Marine. You bet it’s true. Maybe this will better explain:
“Civilians cannot and will not understand us because they are not one of us–The Corps–we love it, live it, and shall die for it. If you have never been in it, you shall never understand it.”