edition of December 7, 2015
From the Obituary for Glen Warren Gauer Jr.
Glen Gauer, age 82, of Willmar, died Friday afternoon, November 20, 2015 at the St. Cloud Hospital.
Graveside services were held at 2 p.m. Friday, December 4, at Cloverleaf Memorial Park Cemetery in Willmar. Military Honors were provided by Austin F. Hanscom American Legion Post #167 of Willmar.
Glen Warren Gauer, Jr. was born June 15, 1933, in Willmar, Minnesota, the son of Glen and Esther (Anderstrom) Gauer. He grew up in Willmar and graduated from Willmar High School in 1951. He enlisted in the Marine Corps and served during the Korean War. He later enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served as an electronics technician for 26 years, being stationed mainly in Japan. Following his retirement, he returned to Willmar.
Glen was a member of the DAV, the VFW, and the American Legion.
My cousin Glen Warren Gauer Junior wrote this story of his days in the United States Marine Corps and the story has been on these pages since 2011. He was a faithful attender at the annual Gauer Reunions.....
During WWII, Glen Gauer had a next door neighbor who had a daughter in the Marine Corps Among the magazines the neighbors put on the curb for recycling for the war effort, were Leatherneck magazines. Having little other reading matter, Glen (aged 8 to 12 during the war) read many of these magazines. This entered into his decision to join the Corps during the month after his graduation from Willmar High School. The other reason was to avoid polishing uniform brass.
There was not a Marine recruiter stationed in Willmar in those days. He held office twice monthly at the then Willmar Post Office location, at Fourth Street and Litchfield Avenue. I talked to him about six weeks before graduation, took the necessary qualifying test a month later, and took the bus to Minneapolis on the 26th of June. I stayed in an un-air-conditioned hotel, was awoken at 4:30 AM, went down for the free breakfast, and went to the Federal Building next door.
Half the potential inductees took the written tests in the morning, and the physical in the afternoon; the other half did the opposite. Written tests included a long aptitude test, what everyone called a comprehension test, and what was more a mental health screening than a test as such.
Around four o'clock all were sworn in and divided up by service; a leader was appointed and railroad tickets and meal tickets given out as appropriate. Three others and I were in the group going to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California. We had sleeping berths at night, but the trains were strictly "low class".
Arriving at San Diego and being met by a couple of DI s was the beginning of the adventure I expected; some of the others had no inkling of what was to take place. Two days were then spent waiting for a company size group to assemble. During this time we were given the opportunity to send anything we wished back home. Everything else was to be thrown away or donated to charitable organizations; billfold excepted.
When the appropriate size group had assembled, we were bussed to what was to be our Company Area. The area consisted of one building, with a bay on each end, and "HEAD" facilities and drill instructor's quarters in between. Divided into two platoons, we were then met by our lowest ranking instructors,
The remainder of the day was haircut, clothing issue, rifle and equipment issue and rifle cleaning. The junior DI seemed halfway civil, then we met the remaining two DI s, not quite so civil. The last part of the day was "deciding" how to dispose of our civilian clothing, and writing a letter to 'someone' with the admonition "not to send any sweets to me during my boot camp days". Getting an advance pay (in chits) and buying a standard list of allowed shaving and other items, was also on that first day.
San Diego Recruit Depot is not a large place. A drill field (commonly called the Grinder) DOMINATES THE FACILITY. It is about four city block long and two blocks wide. One end and half of one side has an arched wall which hides permanent party activities from recruit "goings-on".
Centered on the side of the Grinder opposite the wall is the huge recruit mess hall. As I look back, I would say there were twelve recruit platoons in training at any given time. Somehow, things were scheduled so there was never a wait for meals. I never heard anyone complain about the food. We had to take everything that was on the serving line, and eat everything taken. I'm sure there was much unexpressed displeasure with the food.
At least half of every day in boot camp (except the week on mess duty, and the two weeks at the rifle camp) was spent on the Grinder. The other half were mostly in Quonset hut classrooms; getting schooled on map reading, first aid, military etiquette, history of the Corps, as well as weapons and other things I can't recall. A couple of hair trims were received to keep us looking like squared away soon-to-be Marines. Laundry was done by hand about once a week. Bayonet training, combat judo, and "cover and evasion" were among the classes held in the "rough" area (no larger than the drill area).
Everyone in the Marine Corps is supposed to be able to swim. The test for this is be¬ing able to swim three lengths of the pool, retrieve an object from the bottom of the deep end of the pool, two "dives" off the upper board. I had no trouble, some in the platoon had considerable trouble, but we all eventually passed.
About in the middle of the eleven week boot camp came a trip to the rifle range. Travel was in windowless semi trailers on hard benches; travel time about an hour. Mornings the first week was largely sight picture, trigger squeeze, and range procedures. Afternoons was practicing what we had learned with "twenty two" rifles and pistols. At least and hour of "snapping in" was also a part of every day. The second week was all M1 Gar-and in the afternoons. Mornings included familiarization firing of automatic rifles, sub-machine guns, and machine guns. The "45" pistol was also fired for record during this time. Thursday, the range was fired from the 100 yard, 200 and 500 distances. Off-hand (standing), kneeling, sitting and prone are the postures used. "Record day" was the last Friday, and awards are given as 'Marksman', 'Sharpshooter', and 'Expert' shooters. I shot Marksman with the rifle; I was just too uncomfortable in the kneeling position. Then back to MCRD.
Thirty days 'Mess duty' is standard for a Marine Corps private each year. One week in boot camp is also 'standard'. I was lucky to be assigned to the permanent party mess, behind the arched wall; lucky because it was about two hours a day shorter. But there was a big 'However'! Our Chief mess man was a Sergeant Bartkowski. He did everything he could to keep us busy on useful as well completely absurd tasks. But that week passed too.
Summer 1951 was a time when the Marine Corps was expanding as fast as it could without a Draft being in effect. Because of this, there was a shortage of trained drill instructors. One of our platoon's instructors was leaving the Corps; the other two were to take on another platoon of recruits on the Monday following our Saturday graduation parade. To give them a couple of extra days off, our training ended early. On Wednesday, we sewed on our PFC stripes, ironed our parade (and leave) uniform, packed our sea bag, and turned in our government gear.
Then we were treated to a San Diego Padres baseball game, under the lights. (They were then a minor league team). The next two days were spent at a supply facility outside of San Diego.
Bussed to MCRD Saturday morning, we were given parade rifles and belts, paid up to date and a travel agent was there to sell transportation tickets. Those not going on leave were either given tickets to their next station; or if it was Pendleton, they would ride those infamous semi-truck busses that 30-35 miles north.
The afternoon parade went without flaw. We stacked our rifles, threw the belts on a table and we were Marines for the first time. Train and bus tickets were amazingly low for those in uniform, so I took a 10 day leave back to Minnesota.
Returning from leave the bus stopped, and the driver said that free transportation to anywhere on Camp Pendleton was available at that stop. I got off, signed in, and-spent couple of days there, matching the bulletin board as instructed. There was my name being assigned to mess duty at 'Sixteen area1. Sixteen area was a training area, I never found out what for, and had a big mess hall. However, I was assigned to a smaller mess hall. We fed permanent party, people on field training, and in-transit personnel. I was one of eight mess men so assigned. All eight of us liked the housing and the duty.
The chief cook made some extra money by charging any mess men who wanted to for trans¬portation down to Tijuana, Mexico. They all had to have bus tickets back to Oceanside, just in case they got separated from the group, as everyone did. I made three trips to Tijuana.
The thirty day point came and went; someone had forgotten our little group. We were happy to spend another 30 days. The 60 day point came and went, but someone ratted on us, so we "only" spent 66 days at this good duty.
So, we finally started infantry training at Tent Camp Two, Camp Pendleton. There were no unit breakdowns within the Infantry training company. The only thing that stayed the same was the five men in the five man tents.
Training was too varied to go through in any detail, but even included an evening learning what the stars could tell us.
Camp Pendleton is in a dry area of the country, subject to grass fires and such. Fire breaks are plowed up many hills to prevent fires from spreading. The fall I was there was part of an unusually wet year. One "night problem" was to be a night compass march. After the other portions of the training was completed, compasses were passed out, we were divided up into teams, and were about to start, when, down comes the rain.
About the same time, some of the trainees start complaining about being sick. It was decided to get down off that hill as fast as possible. The slippery mud of the fire break was the only safe and fast way down. Fast, but oh so many other problems. Some slipped and dig their rifles into the mud; others slid in the darkness, and bowled over others like so many dominoes. The worst off however, was the near majority who had to deal with food poison symptoms along with the mud and the rain. I was one of the lucky ones who stayed on their feet and hadn't eaten the wrong thing at that evening meal.
It being past midnight, cleanup took until the next mid-afternoon; even though another company had been awakened to help us. The Medics came and gave everyone a shot glass of Paregoric. Even healthy me had to swallow it. Word was passed that the mess hall would be open for 'what you want to eat, when you want to eat' service. Who said infantry training wasn't exciting?
During my months at Pendleton, I only went to downtown Oceanside twice. Being the reserved guy I am, I didn't set the town afire.
Christmas was approaching, It was announced that everyone would be charged seven days leave, even if they stayed on Pendleton. A west coast travel agency was offering next to free bus service to all points on "route 66" as far as Chicago, if they bought full fair return tickets through their agency. I bought tickets to and from Des Moines, Iowa.
About six packed busses left Pendleton. We stopped at Long Beach Army Hospital, where other busses joined us. Then at Los Angeles we were joined by still others. A convoy of at least 36 busses left for the east. As people got off, the worst busses were emptied and sent back (Some of the busses were no better than old school busses). I spent all of my time in one of the better busses, near the front of the convoy.
Only one bad thing happened during the trip, It was seeing uniformed patients from the Army Hospital, in bandages and on crutches, be denied entrance to a VFW in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I never had a good feeling about veterans organizations for the next twenty five years; because of that and other things I could mention.
Well, to and from Willmar by bus, and then train to Oceanside. As the train went through Pasadena, California, the Rose Bowl was in progress a quarter mile out my train window; closest I ever got to a national event.
Within hours of signing in off leave, I was being issued cold weather gear, and attend¬ing a class in preparation for seven days of cold weather training at Pickle Meadows training facility in a national forest on the California/Nevada border. The bus trip there was in nice busses with a driver who was nice enough to point out landmarks and such. At our destination were some unheated tents and an aggressor tent higher up on the ridge. Train¬ing started the next morning. What snow was okay to melt for drinking, how to pick a place to pitch shelter halves, and don't(!) cut anything off the national forest trees for fuel or shelter building. Then it started to snow.
It snowed for five or six straight days. Winds were not up to blizzard velocity, but drifting made movement difficult. There was no contact with the outside world. The officers decided we might find ways to help ourselves at a ranger's cottage some miles away. Breaking our way through the snow, a party went looking for that cottage. Others stayed behind to clean snow from a helicopter landing area if it was needed.
Not finding the cottage and not being able to clear an area of sufficient size, we assembled at the now useless tents, and waited. A stove had been set up outside, and a supply of rations had been found. By this time we were almost accustomed to the situation.
Then on the thirteenth day, huge snow blowers were heard, and then seen. Only one lane having been cleared, we thought we would have to walk down the mountain to the busses. But then here come the busses backing up, like they had done it every day for years. Going through drifts higher than the busses, our cold weather training was over.
Losing a week of training meant we did not train as scheduled. That training was to have been Landing net drill in San Diego harbor. Instead we went straight aboard the USNS William Weigel that was to take us to Korea.
Below decks, and in the middle of the ship is the place to avoid seasickness. What is in that place? The Galley. And what company was assigned to work in the galley? George Company, my company, of course.
Fourteen days of mess duty, and feeling fine, we arrived at Kobe, Japan. The next day through the straits of Japan, and there was Korea. We transfer to a LST, and unto the beach we go. We line up, and they count off those going to the various organizations. The five who were in my tent in infantry training were standing together. Three of us went to the Fifth Marines, and the other two were in the "Shore Party" count.
As it turned out, Tommy Kapps was given 4.2 in. mortar crew duty. Davey Lee Hinson went to "E" company, died about six months later. I went to "G" company, also as a Rifleman. Knouse spent his entire time working, sleeping, and eating in the same warehouse at the Inchon facility. The other shore party marine (Collier) was assigned to "riding shotgun" on supply convoys to the front.
The First Marine Division was on the easternmost portion of the Front. Third Battalion, which included George Company, was in Reserve at the time I joined them. After three or four days getting acquainted, I found myself cleaning pots and pans with two Korean Laborers. I was on a week of mess duty again.
A member of our platoon stepped on a mine, and lost a leg about this time. So it was all so very clear that I was in a war zone.
A couple of days after mess duty came the move to the front for the first time. The North Koreans occupied a commanding peak just a quarter mile in front of us. They were content to sit and watch us; for they, like us couldn't supply artillery needs because of the mountain conditions, and didn't shell us in any way. We also wondered why there was so little sniper fire; didn't they have rifles either? I went out on three uneventful patrols, but it was getting quite boring. Having had the cold weather training mentioned above, I had no trouble with the cold.
Then after about 12 days on the line, word came that the division was to be repositioned to what was called the "traditional invasion corridor", north of Seoul.
The appointed day arrived, and with some difficulty, we made it to the western front. The only organization to our left on the line was the Korean Marines. The Panmunjom Peace Corridor separated the United States and the Korean Marines.
Our first MLR (main line of resistance) assignment carried no name known to us. (No out¬posts, the lines were too close). Then short periods at Outpost Marilyn and another unnamed spot, with a week or so reserve in between each. Then a little longer reserve; and we move to an area which gave our company responsibility for Outpost Digger. Digger was to be renamed Outpost Vegas. Vegas and the complex of hills it was a part of was known as the Nevada Complex. We took over the area in June and stayed there for 83 days. We called it the 83 day line after we left that area.
There was a new radar system coming into use during this period that could just about pinpoint where incoming mortar barrages came from. To defeat this, the Chinese would get the range for a late evening barrage by dropping one round into the area during the day. Then after sunset, "walking the trench" with mortar rounds, then quickly moving their mortars before radar crews could direct the return fire. Fortunately, for us the Chinese supply system was a disaster, and we did not get the amount of 'incoming1 we might expect.
Somewhat of a key to the Nevada complex was Outpost "Reno", 400 yard west of 'Vegas'. The Chinese assaulted Reno three times during the 83 days; and on all three occasions, I was on Vegas, with our reinforced squad and another unit of similar size.
Looking over at Reno, all three times, you wondered how anyone could survive; the third time only one Marine did. Machine gunner PFC Alford McLaughlin was the only survivor. He won the Medal of Honor that September night.
Vegas was shelled heavily to keep us from helping Reno Marines. On the first two occasions, I was down in my fighting hole as far as I could get. But, then both times I said to myself 'someone has to look and see if we were under attack by the Chinese1, who were known to attack through there own artillery barrages.
On the first occasion I had a grenade in my right hand, and as I was about to peer over the parapet, a piece of spent shrapnel bounced off my helmet and resulted in five jagged but not deep cuts in my hand holding the grenade. Morning came, Reno still in Marine hands, The Corpsman saw the blood and said I had no choice but to go the Battalion Aid Station, and get that cleaned up. This was the first of my 'clean him up, bandage him up, and send him back to his unit' type of Purple Hearts.
During the second Reno attack, and Vegas pounding, I again thought someone had to look to see if an attack was coming. Again, as I rose to the lip of the fighting hole, a 82 MM mortar round exploded about 10 inches from my face. Fortunately, there was a sand bag between me and the explosion. This was a little more serious, the squad leader and the Corps¬man thought I was dead for up to two minutes. I came to, but couldn't open my eyes, and voices sounded like "Daffy Duck a block away". The Corpsman led me to the outpost command post where he could use a flashlight to look me over. After a while I could open my eyes, and I went back to my hole. The trip to battalion aid saw the same action as before. 'Take this soap, wash the part for ten minutes, come back in and have it looked at1. I couldn't hear clearly with my left ear for over a month, but hearing returned before I left Korea.
During the third attack on Reno, I was given the Browning automatic rifle and put in a covered fighting hole. It was worse then the first two, but none of my blood was shed.
Soon after that our unit went back to Division reserve. We boarded ship during this time and made practice landings on an island 'somewhere'.
Our next MLR position was as the first platoon east of the Peace Corridor. There were no outposts to man, but we put out 'listening posts' in various places to 'keep in touch. Korean Marines from the other side of the corridor came to visit us a number of times. We had great confidence and respect for these Marines.
Our 'water point' was on the peace corridor. A Marine operated Mess Tent was almost within view of my position on the line. This mess facility was for the negotiators and their aids of various sorts. We were not supposed to enter this mess tent, But going right by it after getting water and supplies, and chow was being served, in we would go. "What can they do, send us to the frontline?" I had three meals there during the 30 or so days at that location.
That was the last time for me on the MLR. Our battalion went into reserve for a time; when it went back on the line in February 1953, I only had 10 days to my expected rotation. I was given mess duty in my battalion area, three or four miles back of the line. I got the impression that George Company was again involved with the Nevada complex.
Getting off ship in San Francisco, the first headline I saw mentioned the Nevada Complex. After returning from leave, I hunted up casualty lists, and saw no names I recognized; but could I have missed a list?
I flew TWA Lockheed Constellation on the way to Minnesota, (My first commercial airplane ride). Returning, I also had my first taste of high class train travel from Willmar to Seattle on the Empire Builder. A ferry ride to Bremerton, and I found myself at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
The unit name was Marine Barracks, U.S. Naval Facility, Bremerton. Housing was in a large, ancient, but quite nice five story building (if you count the double basement.). Besides living space, the building had personnel and administration offices, mess hall, the base brig, slop shoot, barbershop and a rec hall in the lower basement., (three bowling lanes yet.). This being 1953, Seattle had but two TV stations; on the air from five to about eleven PM on weekdays.
'Guard Company' was the designation of everyone manning the gates and the brig. Supply, Mess and maintenance people lived on the top floor, and about never mixed with us guards.
It didn't take long to learn that next to everyone in guard company was recently back from a tour in Korea. Purple Hearts were everywhere. I played basketball on the inter-base Marine team, and of the 12 who traveled on the team, 10 had at least one Purple Heart. About five Bronze Stars, and a Silver star were also evident on the team's uniforms. I couldn't then or at later times understand how beautifully this group got along.
In the fifteen months there, most of the time was spent at one of the four gates. For reasons I didn't understand, I did over a month as a (PFC) Corporal of the guard, Marine Barracks. This involved listening to the shipyard police radio, so to be able to alert marines of any thing that might warrant our action. Also passing out and collecting liberty passes, and ringing the "Time Bell" were part of Corporal of Guard duties.
After being Corporal of the guard, the 'Turnkey" of the Brig (from St Cloud area) decided I should become an "inside the cell" brig guard. I lasted only four days. No one said so, but it was obvious, I just wasn't mean enough.
Two thirty day periods on mess duty, (one in a Navy Mess), and two weeks at Camp Smedley Butler Rifle range, also took up my time.
The early months were a day on-day off routine. However the "day off" included an hours drill, maybe a class, and required athletic activities. The last couple of months saw a shortage of guard personnel, and resulted in a manning method called "running shifts". This resulted in about four hours on a gate a day, with no other duties required; good duty. No one knew why we weren't getting assigned people. (Was it because no one was receiving Purple Hearts in 1954)?
I was one of the few who took any of the available correspondence courses. This put me in contact with the two officers who acted as "on-call instructors". They tried to convince me to apply for officer training. My reply was 'How can I be an officer, when I can't make corporal? I sewed on Corporal strips about five weeks later.
My separation date arrived; I went home on the Empire Builder. A Major from a Marine Aircraft Reserve unit contacted me, but I remained inactive reserve. That was the end of my military service, I thought. It didn't turn out that way; but that will have to be covered under another paper.
END: GLEN GAUER AND THE MARINE CORPS.
I was a member of George Company, Fifth Marines late in the Korean War I have difficulty talking about combat experiences, perhaps because of a degree of 'survivor s guilt'. Some 'difficult' events have even disappeared from my memory. But one non-combat week comes back vividly. The history books simply say 'the First Marine Division moved from the mountains of east Korea to the traditional invasion corridor north of Seoul in March of 1952'. Sounds simple, doesn't it.
Our company was to be relieved by the ROK army at 0200, march back a couple of miles, and be helicoptered to the rear. Because of ice fog, actually being up in the clouds, this plan had to be changed. So we marched for hours, pausing long enough to let a trail be broken through the up to four feet of snow. Additional elements of the third battalion were joining this march south.
About three in the afternoon we reached a fairly flat area. The battalion commander decided this was where we would spend the night. Other officers felt we should proceed. But they were told by the commander "I'm not in the Marine Corps to make friends, Pitch shelter halves". So we tamped down the snow as best we could, pitched our two man tents, and stayed. Good thing, too.
Marching (or supply the word) until 1400 the next day, we came to an- area that could accommodate a battalion. Overlooking the area was a peak; and later word came to put a reinforced fire team up there. Our squad was closest, so up we went into the near darkness. The fire team that went the highest realized in the morning that had they gone another ten feet, they would have fallen a distance no one cared to think about. But we kept each other awake, and made it down in the morning, and rejoined our unit.
The ice fog still prevented helicopter movement, but we were on a road. So we waited for the trucks that were to take us the remainder of the way south. The first trucks turned out to be amphibious vehicles (DUKs). Being awake all night, we were to be rewarded by being transported first. Crammed into the DUKs, about half of our platoon was on the move. By this time the temperature was above freezing, and the dirt road was very slippery.' Facing a long steep incline on the narrow road, the lead driver said he could not proceed. The platoon Sergeant agreed, and we were on our feet again. Later, I wondered how the DUKs were able to back out of their predicament, but we had things of more concern to think about.
It was still mid-morning when we came upon an Army engineer camp (curtains in their windows yet). At first we were told they could not provide a meal of any kind. Our platoon sergeant said he would sign for meals to assure reimbursement; still no meal. After being told we were going to stay until we did get something, a scrambled egg mixture and a piece of bread was enjoyed by all in our dirty and disheveled group. As we marched off, we thought maybe they would have to forego breakfast the next morning, but, oh, how they wanted to get rid of us. We didn't tell them the remainder of the battalion might be coming down the road after us. Finally reaching the tent camp that had to be our immediate destination, we found most of the battalion had taken another route, and had occupied all but the worst couple of tents. Stoves didn't work, and there were no light bulbs. But food and good, albeit cold, sleep was so welcome.
I can't recall how many days were spent before being loaded sixteen in a truck, and heading west. We stopped at a British "Black Watch" regimental area. It must have been for fuel, as we didn't have anything to trade for their PX goods. At nightfall we were offloaded at what had been a religious compound. The usable buildings were occupied by headquarters elements. The ground was too hard to pound tent pegs in. But the stars were shining, so we pulled ponchos over our sleeping bags and went to sleep; then a downpour of rain and a miserable night. But we were in the traditional invasion corridor. What appears as a straight forward event in unit history was over.
I am sure that combat vets from all wars can relate the above experiences to so many other "simple" statements in their own unit histories.
Glen W. Gauer, Jr