7 Days in Hell
PFC GEORGE WASELINKO
5TH MARINE REGIMENT, 1ST MARINE DIVISION
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
Seen here is the uniform of Private 1st Class George Waselinko. He joined the Marines in 1950 to do his part in Korea, originally hailing from the Bronx in New York. He served with C Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. His first taste of action would come on September 1950. Coincidentally, it would also be his last. Though he would spend only seven days in Korea, they would result in several months in hospital.
He was busted from Private 1st Class down to Private for going AWOL after he was discharged from the hospital in Japan, likely drinking and carousing with loose women before returning to duty like any good Marine would. This uniform is from that period of time, as you can see where the stripes have been removed. Pfc. Waselinko would return home having regained his previous rank before discharging to civilian life. It's uncertain when he died, although more research may help to uncover this.
Operation Chromite 1950
The Battle of Inchon (Operation Chromite) was an amphibious invasion that took place over the course of four days, from the 15th to the 19th of September. Allied forces numbered some 75,000 troops and 261 ships. As a result of this surprise attack, just two weeks later the allies were able to recapture the South Korean capital Seoul, partially severing the North Korean supply lines. Up until this point in the war, the North Korean Army had been concerned with crushing the UN forces far south at the Port of Pusan, and the invasion caught them completely off guard. The battle marked the end of a string of victories for the North Korean invaders.
Late on the afternoon of September 15, Pfc. Waselinko and the rest of the Marines in C Company of the 5th Regiment were on board their LSTs as they approached Red Beach. The lead ships came under heavy mortar and machine gun fire from KPA defenders on Cemetery Hill. Despite the concentrated fire, they disembarked assault troops and unloaded vital support equipment. In addition, their guns wiped out KPA batteries on the right flank of Red Beach. Three of the eight LSTs took some hits from mortar and machine gun fire, which killed a sailor and injured a few others.
After neutralizing KPA defenses at Inchon on the night of September 15, units from Red Beach opened the causeway to Wolmi-do, allowing the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines and the tanks from Green Beach to enter the battle for Inchon. Red Beach Forces suffered 8 dead and 28 wounded.
Pfc. Waselinko and Sgt. Theodore Heckelman landed on the same beach, each on different LST's. These are Sgt. Theodore Heckelman's recollections on the Inchon landings:
"We climbed over the side of the Clymer and down a rope to get onto the landing craft, which was a small, flat-bottom boat with a big diesel engine and one machine gun. . .
We hit Red Beach, Green Beach and Blue Beach all at the same time. I thought it was a beautiful invasion. I remember looking over the top of the landing craft and seeing this one barge that had the rockets on it. It was firing them in a series: "Choo." "Choo." "Choo." I thought how beautiful, but how devastating, and wondered how many it was knocking off on the shoreline. [The pilot purposefully crashed the landing craft into the wall, revving the engines to hold it to where we could get the ladder over the wall and proceed into town] . . . As I went over the wall on the beach, guys were being hit. I was lucky.
. . . I can remember looking up at Cemetery Hill and seeing the firing going on and the grenades exploding . . . So I ran over by the railroad track and behind some railroad ties. I no more got my guys laid down there when all of a sudden toothpicks started flying all over. There was a gook in a big tower who saw us running and aimed a machine gun at us. In the meantime, somebody had called the Air Force in and they took care of the tower. They knocked him out and the tower too, so he had a long fall down. I then decided this wasn't the place to be . . .
[During the battle, North Korean troops] were laying up there [on Cemetery Hill] behind the tombstones firing at us . . . They had a beautiful view of us coming in and . . . going up over the wall . . .
It was a wet night for us and that drainage ditch that we hit kind of smelled a little bit, too, but there was nothing I could do about it. We had all hit at the same time, so we all smelled the same. It was a safe place though. We slept very, very lightly. I had my guys set up a watch and every two hours we changed. Everybody took a shot at it but heck, we were all awake anyway."
Marching to Seoul
Early morning on September 16, the 5th Marines started east along the Inchon-Seoul road, intending to link up with the left of the 1st Marine Regiment, so both regiments could move on Seoul.
Suddenly, six solitary North Korean T-34 tanks moving west towards Inchon appeared as the advancing 5th Marines reached the village of Kansong-ni. A strike force of eight Marine F4U Corsairs from VMF-214 attacked the tanks, destroying two and driving the others off. M26 Pershing tanks of the 1st Tank Battalion destroyed the three more KPA tanks shortly thereafter.
Just before dawn on September 17, two companies of the 5th Marines, supported by artillery and M-26 tanks, defeated a counterattack by a column of six T-34 tanks and two hundred infantry, inflicting heavy casualties on the North Koreans. Following this successful action the Marines continued their advance. This is where after less than a week Pfc. Waselinko's war would come to an end. I will let the words of someone who was there tell this part of the story, as Sgt, Theodore Heckelman shares what he remembers of the events following the landings, and Pfc. Waselinko's wounding.
“The Major came by the next morning and got us, and we started heading towards Seoul. The trip to Seoul was a slow, leapfrog type of deal. We walked, although I remember riding shotgun for the company Jeep on September 18. I sat next to the driver and was his protector . . . That day there was a sniper. We got word to get off the road and go across some fields to behind a big hill or mound. I'm not sure what it was; all I can tell you is that it looked like a thumb.
As we were going through the field we could see rifle bullets hitting in front of us and off to the side of us. Nothing hit the Jeep itself, but since it was carrying ammo I figured that if anything hit it, that wouldn't be a good place to be. I got out of the Jeep and laid down on the other side of an Amtrak or halftrack. I no more got over there and got out of the Jeep when all of a sudden a mortar hit on the other side of the hill. It just kept coming, [creeping] closer in until it landed and took out 18 guys. It also took out the Jeep driver that I was with.
. . . There was a mixture of troops. Our casualties included MSgt. James O'Sullivan, Pfc. George Waselinko, and Manuel "Lee" Moreno. I think that Gabe Terrantino got it there, too. O'Sullivan was shot in the ankle and recovered. Waselinko was hurt the worst. He spent about a year and a half in different hospitals in and out of Japan. Moreno was in the hospital for several months.”
This was the end of Pfc. Waselinko's war. He would spend months in Japan recovering and getting into trouble, before returning home to civilian life.
Knocked out North Korean T-34
Supplies and Troops coming ashore at Red Beach
Marines climb the seawall at Inchon