Meridian Star

Local News

November 10, 2013

Local Marines remember ‘The Forgotten War’

MERIDIAN —     Falling between the global conflict of World War II and the controversial involvement of the United States in Vietnam, the Korean War is often referred to as "The Forgotten War."

    But to those who fought on the Korean peninsula between 1950 and 1953, there was nothing to forget. The war, which garnered scant coverage in America with a populace who was weary of war news after the difficulty of World War II, has become a footnote in history that ended with no clear victor. A declaration of war was never made and since the armistice was signed in 1953, a fragile peace has been in place.

    Three Meridian men would find themselves in the thick of the fighting as members of a Marine Corps artillery crew attached to the 4th Battalion, 11th Marine Division. As was the case with all wars as far back in history as can be seen, the ground troops rarely knew the real reason why they were fighting. Those decisions were left up to the commanders and politicians. What mattered to Jimmie Walker, Hoot Gipson, and Leroy Morse was the fact they were together in an unforgiving foreign land just trying to make sure each of them made it back home alive.

    "It was only by the grace of God we all made it back," said Gipson. "It was a comfort having Jimmie and Leroy there. We got into a lot of trouble but we also helped each other get through it."

    The three Marines will be in attendance for the Veteran's Day festivities in Meridian Monday. The theme of this year's events will be the veterans of the Korean War. A ceremony at the Doughboy Monument in downtown Meridian will begin at 10:30 a.m. with a luncheon for veteran's and their families to follow at noon at VFW Post 79 located on Highway 80 West. The third event will be the annual Veteran's Day Parade. Line up will begin at 2 p.m. and march off at 3 p.m. The theme of the parade is “Korean War Veterans, Many served, Few Remembered.”

    It has been six decades since the singing of the documents to end the fighting. In those years that have passed, Gipson said his memories of the 11 months he, Morse and Walker spent moving and firing the 155mm Howitzer with Mike Battery, are still vivid.

    "We would get in artillery duels with the Chinese almost on a daily basis," Gipson said. "We would lob a 155 shell their way and they would lob back 76mm shells. There were times when we would be the only guys above ground shooting while others were in foxholes trying to dodge the shrapnel."

    During one of these exchanges, Gipson said he and Walker looked around for Morse but couldn't find him. After a couple of minutes Gipson said Morse came crawling out of a foxhole. He had been hit in the leg by some shrapnel but he came back to help his two friends man the big gun.

    "I got wounded a couple of times," Morse said. "Turns out Hoot was keeping a diary of our little escapades. We were young and thought we were bullet proof. Most young men think that."

    The lessons and impressions the war left on Gipson have stayed with him throughout the years. He said the Marine Corps taught him many lessons that would serve him well later in life such as dedication and discipline.

    "I got a great deal more out of the Marine Corps than they did me," Gipson said laughing.

    Morse said he didn't get out all he should have in the war. As it is known now, Morse was a pretty good poker player and he said if he'd have gotten paid all that was owed to him he might be set financially right now.

    "One of the guys saw Hoot recently and paid him the five bucks he owed Hoot," Morse said. "Hoot asked him about the interest of going several decades without paying him. The guy told him this was all he was getting. We have a big laugh about it."

    Walker, Morse said, wore a Confederate cap most of the time and flew a Rebel battle flag from the gun. He was known around the battalion as "Mississippi Walker."

    "One of the officers who happened to be from Grenada found out about us and helped us to get together on one of the gun crews," Morse said. "That's how we got together and we've been together ever since."

    Together to remember the old times, the hard times, the fun times, and to remember a war that many others have forgotten.

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