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GREATEST GENERATION: First Marine Division Breakout survivor speaks

September 20, 2012

Gunnery Sergeant Carl Greenwood, USMC, Retired.

 

Main Speaker

Gunnery Sergeant Carl Greenwood, USMC, Retired

Excerpted from the March 2012 issue of GunNews.

The charismatic Korean War Veteran Gunnery Sergeant Carl Greenwood, USMC, Retired took the microphone as our main speaker.

He started with a bit about himself.  “I got my first .22 rifle at three years of age.  My first shotgun at seven and my first machinegun at 19.”

“You know, you guys are probably the most educated group on the Korean War,” he joked, citing last month’s presentation by Col. Robert Henderson, also a Korean War vet.  He also presented GSL’s President John Boch with a plaque to say thanks for the work Guns Save Life does for civil rights and supporting our troops.

Today, Greenwood serves as President of the Korean Memorial Association out of Springfield.  He noted that the Korean War is often thought of as the “Forgotten War” even though there were 55,000KIA, three times as many POWs and over twice as many Missing In Action as during the entire Viet Nam War.

The war began on June 25, 1950 when the North Koreans invaded the South.

Within roughly a month, the North had pushed the south all the way to the southeast corner of South Korea at the Pusan Perimeter.

Greenwood’s First Marine Division was tasked with an attack in September to retake Seoul and cut off the North’s supply lines.

The invasion at Inchon Harbor was treacherous as there was a 44’ high seawall.  The tide there varied as much as 32’ and at high tide on September 15th, they climbed that wall and the invasion was on.

Greenwood says he distinctly remembers coming into a courtyard in Seoul and finding freshly murdered civilians – including women and children.  Mothers with babies strapped to their backs were apparently made to kneel and the Communist North Korean soldiers bayoneted both baby and mother with a single thrust.

“Communists are not nice people,” Greenwood said.

He cited a difference of opinions between the Army High Command and the leadership of the Marines.  For example the Army folks wanted to limit damage to buildings and infrastructure.  Then-Col. Chesty Puller, the commander of the First Marine Division saw things differently, Greenwood said, telling his men no building is worth a Marine’s life, so they burned and blew up lots of buildings.

After re-taking Seoul, the Marines were re-tasked with landing deep into North Korea to put an end to the war.

When the Marines started taking the Chinese soldiers captive, the Army HQ ignored the intelligence they were getting, claiming the captured Chinese were merely “advisers”.

The Army folks also told the Marines that there weren’t large numbers of Chinese to worry about.  “There’s only one bridge and we’re watching it,” they said.

“At forty below, you don’t need a bridge,” Greenwood said.

The Marines were soon overwhelmed with up to 150,000 Chinese and North Korean troops surrounding their positions.  The Army HQ told them to “take off on foot” and head south.

Greenwood didn’t have a lot of good things to say about the Army High Command.

Chesty Puller came up with a plan to make an organized withdrawal to the south and fight like Marines all the way.  They fought almost eighty miles to the port at Hungnam.

It was a long and brutal fight to get to Hungnam.  Along the way, Greenwood said, the Marines liberated a bunch of Army trucks that were full of fuel and had the keys in them.  “After it was over, the Army guys asked if they could have their trucks back,” Greenwood said.

A massive armada was awaiting the troops to ferry their equipment, the troops, and almost 100,000 fleeing civilians out of harm’s way.

He mentioned that he had copies of his book, “Once Upon a Lifetime” as well as a book the Korean Memorial Association is sending to all of the schools in Illinois entitled, “Korea:  The Forgotten War.  A brief history of the Korean War” for sale to members.  All proceeds from both go to printing more of the “Forgotten War” books to schools.

Greenwood received a pair of standing ovations at the end of his for his service and his amazing presentation.