Marines & Aussies in Korea

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 casualties. 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.
Aussie Roundup

On 8 July 1953 my company, H37, returned to the MLR. At 0630, 8 Jul, Outpost East Berlin manned by 2-7 was overrun and under enemy control. At 1000, 8 Jul 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 less 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, 2Lt. Richard Vaught. Vaught and I had served in the same company in Tsingtao, China, in 1948-49. Even though my platoon was understrength, we had to man the same amount of ground as a full platoon — in a rifle company you had to do with what you had.

RAR

On 24 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 2nd RAR tied in with my platoon. This section was commanded by Sgt. Brian C. Cooper. H-3-7 was supposed to be relieved by H-3-1 on the night of 24 Jul, but that 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 2nd RAR 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 2nd RAR 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 that 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 2nd RAR had 15 killed and 72 wounded.

Battle honor

Sgt. Brian Cooper was awarded the Military Medal. In the Korean War the 1st RAR and 3rd RAR were given Battle Honors emblazoned on their regimental colors, but the 2nd RAR was inexplicably not awarded this honor. The former CO of H-3-7, Brig. Gen. 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 Honor emblazoned on the Regimental Colors of the 2nd RAR 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.
Aussies Tank

On the 24 July 2003, Brian Cooper arrived in Townsville, Lavarack Barracks, home of the 2nd RAR, 50 years after the Battle of the Hook in Korea. The 2nd RAR will belatedly receive its battle honors when the regiment returns from the Solomon Islands. As of 24 July 2003, the street leading up to Battalion Headquarters has been renamed in honor of Sgt. B.C. Cooper.

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