By Ed Baranosky
Chet Mc Donough is a jolly fun-loving fellow and when you meet him you can’t help but like him.
In Fairfield, CT on any morning in 1944 at 7:30 a.m. on the corner of Knapps Highway and Black Rock Turnpike, if you were a high school student on the school bus, you would be sitting waiting for Chet.
Invariably he would be running toward the bus with his untied tie around his neck and his shirt tails out of his pants. It was amazing to see how he held onto his books and lunch bag without dropping anything.
Chet would never be there on time. The bus driver must have liked him because he never drove off without him. Chet was late for the bus his entire four years of high school.
Graduating in 1947, Chet joined the Marines and signed up for three years. He was stationed at various posts around the world. His last assignment was in the Pacific on the island of Guam.
In the second week of June, 1950 he was on a ship bringing him home with other Marines whose enlistments were also about to be up. On June 25, 1950 North Korea attacked South Korea. The UN passed a resolution to intervene to drive North Korea out of South Korea. The ship Chet was on was ordered to turn around and head for Japan. Destiny was pointing its finger at Chet.
The North Korean forces were pushing into South Korea with surprising speed against South Korean and what small American army units that were there. These forces retreated into a defense perimeter around the port of Pusan.
Arriving in Korea in early July, the Marines were thrown into the Pusan perimeter with the South Korean and U.S. divisions, assigned to holding the perimeter against repeated attacks by far superior numbers of North Korean forces. Through extraordinary efforts they held on.
The world finally got its act together and forces of the U.N. began to arrive to help. The fighting around the perimeter went on through the summer.
On September 15, 1950 in a brilliant stroke General MacArthur, the commander of the U.N. forces, invaded North Korea at the port of Inchon. The intention was to cut across the peninsula and isolate all North Korean forces in the south. The move succeeded.
In another stroke of genius, an amphibious landing was made on the eastern shore of the Korean Peninsula at Wonsan. Chet was with the Marines that went ashore. The Republic of Korea and American army divisions advanced along the eastern side of the Chosen Reservoir and the U.S Marines advanced along the western shore to a place called Haguri, heading toward the Yalu River, the Korean border with China.
It was late November. The troops were saying they would be home by Christmas. Then the Chinese struck with 300,000 troops. MacArthur’s ego kicked in. He said “We’ll bloody their nose.” Against this onslaught all Allied forces on each side of the Chosen reservoir were forced to retreat. It was a fighting retreat during one of the worst winters recorded in Korea. On Christmas Eve, 1950 the Marines, the ROK and U.S. army divisions were evacuated at the port of Wonsan. Chet was not late for that ship.