Ron Kocher of Arcadia, Fla. started out to join the Navy in 1951, but ended up in the Marines because the Navy recruiter wasn’t there when he showed to sign up.
“The next thing I knew I was in Parris Island, S.C. taking boot camp,” the old Marine said with a grin 60 years later. “I got out of boot camp and they sent me to San Diego to become a Teletype operator. Six weeks later I was an operator.
“In December 1952 I got shipped to Japan and ended up in Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Division headed for Korea,” Kocher said. “I became a squad leader after two months on the front line.
“About a month later we were out on patrol and ran into a Chinese patrol and got into a gun battle for maybe 30 to 45 minutes. We hunkered down until it was all over.”
By then they found themselves over-run by enemy forces.
“It was March 1953 and we were fighting in slit trenches, like the first World War when we were over-run.
“During the battle a buddy of mine fighting beside me got shot in the shoulder. I rolled him over and then he got shot in the neck. I knew he was going to die so I held him in my arms until he did.
“It’s something that’s haunted me for a long, long time.
“After I got out of the service I went to see my dead Marine friend’s family in Conshokan, Pa., not to far from where I lived in Camden, at the time. He had an older brother and a younger sister.
“I drove over to their house and told them about his final moments. However, I didn’t tell them he died in my arms. They were most concerned about his nickname–’Mouse.’ I explained to them we called him ‘Mouse’ because he was the smallest guy in our company.
“After I told them his story I went back to my car and on the trip home I cried,” Kocher said. “I don’t like to dwell on things like that.”
When his friend was killed in Korea he was a sergeant and squad leader.
“Shortly after we were over-run by Chinese this brash, young lieutenant said, ‘Saddle up, we’re going back to Check Point Three.’ I said, ‘Lieutenant the Chinese over-ran Check Point Three.
‘”Are you refusing to go?’ the lieutenant asked me. Then he said, ‘You’re court martialed.’
“The next morning the captain, our company commander, called me in and said, ‘What’s this all about?’ I told him and he shrugged his shoulders. Then the captain said, ‘I’m going to do you a favor. I’m going to transfer you out of here.’”
Kocher was taken by Jeep to another Marine Corps unit about 45 minutes away.
“I became an artillery spotter and forward observer for the Navy. I learned to be a spotter in a hurry. I was given a big scope mounted on a tripod. I sat up on a ridge looking for any enemy movement to call in,” he said.
“I spotted for the Battleship Iowa. Her 16-inch main guns could throw a 2,200 pound projectile 24 miles,” Kocher explained. “I’d call in the coordinates and they could put a 16-inch shell on target in two minutes or less.
“One time I caught four tanks and a lot of enemy troops out in the open. I called in the Corsairs. The pilot told me, ‘We’ll be there in two minutes. He dropped Napalm on the first tank as he screamed overhead fast and low.
“On the second pass the Navy fighter took out the rest of the tanks and dropped white phosphorus on the troops. At the time, when I saw what happened to the enemy, I didn’t feel bad about it.
“But many years after the war I started thinking about that air strike I called in on those enemy troops and what happened to them. I’m sure they wanted to be fighting the Korean War about as much as I did. They had families and kids, just like I did. It’s bothered me over the years what happen to these soldiers. But it was war.”
While all this fighting was taking place, both sides were holding meetings in Panmunjom, North Korea to reach a peace settlement. They talked for months without success. Finally, on July 27 1953 a peace treaty was signed between UN Forces and the North Koreans.
By then Kocher and the 1st Marine Division was based near Wong Song Harbor.
“We had a weather station there. We lived in a Quonset hut, had a house boy who maintained our barracks and a mama-son to do our laundry and provide us with three hot meals a day,” he said. “I lived there for three months until I sailed back to the States. I spent the rest of my time in the Marines working at Camp Pendleton, Calif. as a file clerk. It was good duty.”
He was discharged from the Corps in 1954 and went to work for Campbell Soup Co. in his home own of Camden. Then he took a position in public service in 1955 and stayed with it until 1969 when he went to obtained a city job as registrar and worked until 1976 when he came to Florida.
He has two grown children: Cheryl and Ron, Jr.
Name: Ronad F. Kocher
D.O.B: 4 Dec. 1932
Hometown: Camden, Nj.
Currently: Arcadia, Fla.
Entered Service: 9 Aug. 1951
Discharged: 8 Aug. 1954
Unit: 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Divison
Commendations: National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal w/1 Star, UN Service Medal, Korean Presidential Unit Citation, Good Conduct Medal
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 and is republished with permission.
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