MSgt Charles H. Owens, USMC (Ret)

2nd Platoon, "H" Company, 3rd Bttn, 7th Marines,
just before return to front lines & Battle of the Hook.
Author standing in front of platoon.

For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother...

In the last month of the Korean War, July 1953, the 1st Marine Division lost 186 Marines killed and 1,798 listed as casualities. We were told the War was winding down, but if you were a member of a rifle company in the 1st Marine Division, the feeling you had at that time was that your life was winding down.

On July 8,1953 my Company, "H"-3-7, returned to the MLR (Front Lines). At 0630 8 July Outpost East Berlin manned by 2-7 was over run and under enemy control. At 1000 8 July a reinforced two-platoon unit from Companies "G" and "H" was launched to retake East Berlin. My 2nd Platoon from "H" was in the lead; we got caught between the Chinese Artillery and the protective wire. In fewer than 15 minutes the 2nd Platoon was reduced to 20 "effectives". A platoon from "G' Company passed through what was left of my platoon. Among the wounded was my platoon commander, 2nd Lt. Richard Vaught. 2nd Lt. Vaught and I had served in the same company in Tsingtao, China, in 1948-49. My platoon was under strength, but we had to man the same amout of ground as a full platoon.. In a rifle company you had to do with what you had.

On the 24th of July, "H"-3-7 was in the area called the "Hook" on Hill 111. My 2nd Platoon was on the right flank of the company and tied in with the 2nd Royal Australian Regiment. A machinegun section from 2RAR tied in with my platoon. This section was commanded by Sgt. Brien C. Cooper. (Photo to right shows Sgt Cooper in Korea on the front lines, holding a Chinese burp gun). "H"3-7 was suppose to be relieved by "H"-3-1 on the night of 24 July, but this was made impossible by heavy incoming from Chinese artillery and by enemy troops probing our positions. Before midnight we had enemy troops in our trench line.

Sgt Cooper of the 2RAR gave the 2nd Platoon machinegun fire in front of our position and courageously called in artillery fire on top of my position and his own because of the enemy in my trench line. He also sent a British tank to my position to carry out my wounded. In the 2RAR, company and platoon level action was commanded by sergeants and corporals.

.A Chinese Division was ordered to fight to the last man on the night of 24/25 July 1953, an engagement which finally left the enemy barely hanging on. At 2200 on 27 July the truce was signed. The enemy dead were estimated to be 3,000. The 2RAR had 15 killed and 72 wounded.

Sgt Brian Cooper was awarded the Military Medal. In the Korean War the 1RAR and 3RAR were given Battle Honours emblazoned on their regimental colours, but the 2RAR was inexplicably not awarded this honor. The former CO of "H"-3-7, BrigGen.Bill McCulloch USMC Ret, Sgt Maj. Bill Parks USMC Ret, Company Gysgt. of "H" 3-7, and myself, wrote a submission to Lt. Gen. P. Cosgrove, the Chief of Staff of the Australian Army, to consider having the Battle Honour emblazoned on the Regimental Colours of the 2RAR, for their courageous action in the Battle of the Hook, and we expressed our surprise that Sgt Cooper had not received the Victoria Cross for his extraordinary heroism on the night of 24 July.

On the 24 July 2003, Brian Cooper arrived in Townsville, Lavarack Barracks, which is home for the 2RAR, fifty years after the Battles of the Hook in Korea. The 2RAR will belatedly receive its battle honours when the Regiment returns from the Solomon Islands. The street leading up to Battalion Headquaters has been named "Sgt. B.C. Cooper" as of the 24 July 2003.

I would like to think that our letters had something to do with the honors bestowed on Sgt Cooper and the 2RAR.

Photos show Cooper with his wife Meg, and with two highly decorated veterans of the 2nd Royal Australian Regiment.

Charles H. Owens, M/Sgt. USMC (Ret)
MSgt USMC Ret.

(Charles H. Owens enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on 7 Oct. 1942 at the age of 14. He retired on 20 years active service 1962, returned to active duty 1966 because of the buildup of U.S. Marine forces in Vietnam, and retired again in 1968. He now resides in LaFayette, Georgia).

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