While walking the hallowed ground of the beautiful National Cemetery at Ft Rosecrans earlier this summer, I came upon the final resting place of Lt General Edward Craig, USMC. Searching back to my Marine Corps history lessons of many years ago, I recalled that it was 62 years ago that Eddie Craig, and his 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, added their name to the long list of our nations’ heroes.
It was June of 1950 when President Harry Truman ordered United States forces to come to the aid of our South Korean allies when they were unexpectedly attacked by North Korea. After the initial American troops sent from Japan experienced a series of humiliating defeats at the hands of the invaders, it became clear to Gen MacArthur that the poorly trained, budget constrained post war occupation force was clearly not up to the task of dealing with the professional battle hardened North Korean army. Faced with the real possibility of a humiliating defeat, General MacArthur urgently requested more troops. He also specifically asked that the First Marine Division be assigned to his command.
The First Marine Division had also suffered massive post war budget cuts; however, true to their tradition as America's force in readiness, the "Old Breed" had maintained training standards and equipment at a high level of readiness. They were called the "Old Breed" with good reason, as their ranks included some of our country's finest warriors with service dating back to WW l. One of these warriors was then Brig Gen Eddie Craig, who had seen service in the "Banana Wars" and though out the Pacific during WW2. It was Gen Craig and his 1st Provisional Brigade, hastily assembled at our own Camp Pendleton, that were among the first to respond to Gen MacArthur's call as they arrived in Korea in July 1950.
This heavily armed, experienced air/ground unit was soon put to work as a reaction force to plug holes and put out fires where ever they erupted along the lines in what had become known as the Pusan Perimeter. The "Fire Brigade" as it came to be called, was able to help slow down, and eventually stop, the enemy advances for the first time since the beginning of the war. Before long the brigade was able to spearhead attacks that, along with newly arriving regular Army units, handed the North Korean their first defeats since they crossed the border on July 25, 1950. While the cost had been high in precious lives, and much tough fighting lay ahead, it was the timely arrival of Eddie Craig and his Marines that turned the tide and avoided what could have been a costly and embarrassing defeat to our country and its allies.
Next time you are at Ft Rosecrans you might want to go by and thank this fighting Marine for what he did for all of us.
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