Chilling tales: Korean War vets recount battles, encourage leaders to know their Marines

3 Dec 2002 | Lance Cpl. G. Lane Miley

"When people ask me how it felt to kill one of the enemy soldiers, I tell them it was a feeling of pride," retired Gunnery Sgt. Gary O. Gigg, a member of the Chosin Few, told the Marines from 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment during a recent period of professional military education at W.P.T. Hill Field here. "I wasn't proud that I had taken another man's life. I was proud that I saved the life of the man next to me." Gigg, retired Lt. Col. Pete Stapleton and Chief Warrant Officer Don P. Ivers, all Korean War veterans, spoke to the Marines on the 52nd anniversary of the bloody fighting in Korea. They recounted their experiences, spoke about the extreme temperatures they endured and stressed the importance of remembering the sacrifices Marines have made. "You are one of us and we are one of you," Gigg, a Detroit native, told the infantry warriors. "We will not be here 50 years from now, so pass on your history."To help set the scene, retired Gunnery Sgt. Thomas E. Williams, director of the Marine Corps' Historical Company, had an array of gear and weapons used during the 1950s on hand for the Marines to not only look at, but to also hold and see how much lighter today's weaponry is.Williams and others wore the early utility uniforms to give the Marines a better understanding of how little protection the veterans had from the elements.As the Marines marched out of World War II-era tents, wearing the Marine Corps' early utility uniforms, Williams, a Frederick, Md., native, explained how the platoons were broken down. He said the squad leaders had up to 13 men under their charge, so other noncommissioned officers became fire-team leaders to cope with the "fog of war."Gigg affirmed his faith in the Corps when he asked a fire team leader from the audience to stand up. Gigg asked the Marine about his men's family members, to which he quickly replied with accurate and in depth responses. "Never forget that man next to you," Gigg, a Fairfield Glade, Tenn., resident urged the Marines from the 2nd Marines' "Betio Battalion."Next, Stapleton stepped up to the lectern. He recounted being a private first class and a typist for an artillery battery before volunteering for an assignment with an infantry unit. He described propaganda used against the Marines."The cold was as much an enemy as the Chinese," the Yakima, Wash., native detailed. "But when they faced us, they knew they'd be in for a fight. It was said that to even join the Marines you had to kill your mother."Using language, most of which was only suitable for smoky bars and dark alleys, Ivers conveyed his side of the war. "We faced rank on rank of Chinese soldiers and we were poppin' and knockin', using anything we could to kill them - rifle butts, bayonets and entrenching tools," the Jacksonville resident described. "Hell, we even strangled them."The commotion that filled the bleachers, made the PME seem more enjoyable than educational, but Cpl. Chris A. Rocha, a team leader for Lima Company, 3/2, said he got a lot of experience from the day. "I liked how there was a lot of hands on with the gear instead of it being in a case," the Bellevue, Neb., native, explained. He added the PME was a good change of pace, and hopes he and his Marines will have more that are as interesting.Gigg concluded the day's events by thanking all the corpsmen in attendance and told the Marines to appreciate their shipmates too. Gigg told the crowd it was a thrill for him to convey part of his life at the Chosin.He encouraged the Marines to utilize everything they have learned in their careers - even back to basic training."The things you learned at boot camp: teamwork, trust, and discipline, those are the staples for us, remember that," he said.