After leaving it virtually untouched for 46 years, Dr. James “Nick” Nicholson, M.D., began to annotate his wartime picture album at the request of his daughters. He immediately decided he needed to validate the story with his former Korean War comrades, for they “were integral to my life, [and] my children could not know me without knowing my friends.” Thus began a 14-year effort of networking, traveling, and writing as he tried to hammer out an accurate and meaningful story of George Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division, focused mainly upon the events of 1951.
I confess that I was slightly dismayed when asked to review a book of war memoirs, for past experience had led me to believe that such things can sometimes be rough sledding: collections of minute details, parochial views, poorly written, and poorly edited. However, much to my delight, Dr. Nicholson’s book is not at all in that category. Sure, it has considerable detail, but the writing is elegant, the organization is logical and facilitates understanding, and overall it “is told as aging warriors would talk among themselves or to their grandchildren.”
And, yes, you get to know the very specific thoughts, fears, and feelings of Nicholson and his comrades and thereby get to know them pretty well. But he also sets things in context, provides overview, and delivers perspective and nuance to enable broader and deeper understanding of what, unfortunately, has become “The Forgotten War.”
Private First Class Nicholson, USMCR, arrived in Korea in March, 1951, and fought almost continuously until being seriously wounded in the following September. This included Operation Killer, Operation Ripper, the incredible Chinese spring offensives, Operation Mousetrap, and the Punchbowl Operations. Tall and strong, Nicholson was assigned to carry his fire-team’s formidable Browning Automatic Rifle, and thus became known as “Nick the BAR-man.”
During the war, George Company suffered some 70 KIAs and over 150 wounded. They also suffered terribly from the harsh climate, incredibly rugged terrain, unreliable supply, and insufficient and often low-quality food. At times they even had insufficient water. The only things they were never short of was the enemy (unfortunately) and ammunition (fortunately).
I was immediately captivated by the story, and had difficulty putting it down. It might sound ridiculous to say, but Dr. Nicholson had me laughing at some points, teary-eyed at others, and at all times mesmerized. I was further captivated by Nicholson himself. As a very young man coming from a rough childhood, now 7,000 miles from home under horrifying circumstances, he was brave, steadfast, and resolute—all the while maintaining a good sense of humor. Returning from the war, he put this terrible experience behind him, addressed civilian life with the same determination and tenacity with which he had faced combat, worked hard for an education, and ultimately served for 50 years as a family-practice physician. The fact that he was recognized with the Silver Star some 60 years after he left Korea is just and fitting, but you don’t need to know that to know he is doubly a hero for a lifetime of remarkable service to his country and to his community. And, to be very clear, Dr. Nicholson never intended this book to be just about himself and he certainly did not write it that way; his voice and his story is but one of many, and when he does talk about himself it is with modesty and with self-deprecating humor.
George - 3 - 7th Marines is a fascinating and gripping book about a subject sorely in need of illumination. As such it deserves the widest possible readership.
Reviewed by: Steve Maffeo (2012)
In the four years of the Korean War, America lost almost 54,000 men, roughly the same number who lost their lives in Vietnam, yet this war has almost disappeared into American history as the "Forgotten War". George-3-7th Marines tells a story of the bloody Marine infantry campaigns fought in the deadly mountain ranges of Korea; it is a story told by the men who fought there-and died anonymously-in an unknown and bloody war.
The never-before-told tales of the battle-hardened Marines of G-3-7 were collected and recorded by one of their own. Described by those who experienced the action firsthand, these accounts blend the shocking details of savage, bloody, killing with gentle, almost heartbreaking prose seldom seen in a chronicle of war. Jim Nicholson paints a brutally accurate picture of America and the Valhalla culture that shaped the toughness of soldiers in the fifties.
He examines the events and mistakes that led to a collision of the free world with the rapidly expanding Communist military machine. He reminds us that history does, in fact, show clearly that the sacrifice of young American boys saved the South Koreans, who now live freely in their beautiful "Land of the Morning Calm".