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Jack Dennis Vaughn, Killed in Korean War…Contributed by Otis Vaughn

Posted by Pete | Posted in Downloads | Posted on 05-03-2016

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In memoriam to

Jack Dennis Vaughn

Family Hero, Patriot, U.S. Marine, Christian.

Jack Dennis Vaughn was born on August 9, 1931 in Wahalak, MS.  Dennis’ parents were Jack Penn Vaughn, and Lillie Mae Vaughn.  Jack’s parents were Warren Philip Vaughn and Alice Carnelia Hallford Vaughn, and Lillie Mae’s parents were John Rufus Vaughn and Minnie Lee Eaves Vaughn.  Dennis was survived by his sister Earlene Alice Vaughn Clark, and four brothers:  Virgil V., Otis K., Lee Penn, and Warren Curtis.

While he was still a baby, Dennis’ parents cut a lock of hair from his head and preserved and kept it in a special place.  When he was seventeen months old, Lillie Mae wrote a note and put it with the lock of hair:  “17 months old and so smart and sweet.  He is talking and saying everything so plain.  He understands so well when spoken to and is so precious to us.”  Jack wrote a much simpler note:  “Small twig.  A piece of Jack Dennis’ hair when he was at the age of twenty-four days.”

When Dennis was 3 years old, Jack and Lillie Mae moved the family from Wahalak to Mobile, AL.

Dennis learned to read at an early age, and he became an avid reader.  By the time he reached his teen years, he had read dozens if not hundreds of books.  Books such as:  Johnny Tremain (of the Revolutionary War), John Paul Jones (some say he was the father of the U.S. Navy), a number of the Zane Grey books, and classics like Les Misérables.  He developed a special fondness for the Mark Twain books “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”.

From the Mark Twain books, he adopted the concept that life is a continuing adventure.  He liked a good joke, laughed a lot, and played practical jokes on his older sister Earlene.  Dennis was a class comedian in high school at Semmes, AL.  And he led his younger brothers into adventures that sometimes got everyone in trouble with Jack and Lillie Mae.  Tom Sawyer had an adventure in a cave, but there was no cave where Dennis lived and he wanted to have a cave adventure.  He came up with a “practical” solution – he and his brothers would dig their own cave.

There was a 20’ clay cliff in a nearby sink hole.  Dennis thought this was an ideal site and the clay walls of the cliff made it perfect for a cave.  Jack said he didn’t think digging this cave was a good idea because it was too dangerous – snakes might even take up residence in a cave.  Contrary to this advice, Dennis and his brothers started work on digging the cave.  The work digging the cave went on for several weeks, a very nice cave about 4’ high and 3’ wide and 8’ or so deep was progressing very nicely.  That is before the cave was discovered by Jack.  Jack instructed that the cave digging cease.

After pondering this discouraging development, the brothers decided that by working on a room that would be angled at 90 degrees from the back of the cave they could still have a sizable cave.  One looking at the entrance of the cave would never know that the cave continued on to the side at a 90 degree angle.  So work continued on digging the cave until it was eventually again discovered by Jack.  Jack demanded that the cave digging cease.  The cave digging adventure ended.  However, the story ends on a good note because Lillie Mae kept her large potted plants in the cave during the winter months safe from cold weather.  Besides there were other adventures to be experienced like exploring the large swamp that was nearby, and additional adventures.

Several of Dennis’ uncles (Prentice, Herman, Curtis, and Mertis) told enthusiastic stories of how he could make money trapping and selling the pelts of various animals.  He accumulated a collection of pelts, but there was no market for them in the Mobile area.

When he was fifteen years old, his efforts to make extra income were rewarded when he was hired by a local electrician.  He learned the electrical skills required to wire a house, and when Jack built a new house, Dennis installed the electrical wiring for the entire house.

He had a love for sports and his special love was football.  He was a quarterback on the Semmes High School, Semmes AL, football team.  Semmes High School had a number of very good football teams and were the champions of Mobile County.  But he faced an uphill battle for playing time as a number of the other players had just returned from World War II service in the U.S. Merchant Marines and were several years older than Dennis.

Dennis graduated from Semmes High School, when he was sixteen.  Many months before graduation, he had decided that upon graduation he would join the U.S. Marines.  However, there was one slight problem with his plan.  The U.S. Marines required that he be seventeen before he could enlist, and even at the age of seventeen, both of his parents had to sign the enlistment papers.  Jack readily agreed to sign the papers saying being a Marine would be good for him, but Lillie Mae balked saying that would put him in danger and her position was that she would never sign.  Every day in the evening the debate went on for weeks with Dennis and Lillie Mae discussing the issue but she would not agree to sign.  The debate went on past his 17th birthday on August 9 until she finally relented and signed the enlistment papers on August 24, 1948.

Off he went to Parris Island, South Carolina for boot camp in the Marines.  Probably because of his training in electronics, his next assignment was to the U.S. Marines Communications School at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.  Still only seventeen years old he finished in the top of the class of 25 graduates from Communications School.  Much of the remainder of his training consisted of battlefield training maneuvers including amphibious assault landings from the sea.

He was assigned to the Carrier Platoon, Signal Company, First Marine Division.  In those days all telephone communication was wired as wireless communication had not yet been invented.  The Signal Company was responsible for establishing communication between the front line, command posts, and headquarters by laying communication wires.  This made them very vulnerable to enemy fire because their job required them to be in open areas and thus exposed to the enemy.

In the autumn of 1949, Dennis came home on leave.  During his time in the Marines, his family had moved from Mobile to Bellamy, Alabama.  The Sucarnoochee River flows close to Bellamy and this gave Jack and Lillie Mae a feeling that being in Bellamy was a touch of being home in Kemper County, Mississippi.  One day Dennis mentioned that he would like to go hunting on the old Vaughan home place near the Stonewall Community in Kemper County.  The old home place was where Jim and Mary Vaughan built the original log cabin in 1834.

Early the next day, Jack and Dennis drove from Bellamy to the Stonewall Community and to Jim & Mary’s old home place.  Dennis spent the entire day walking over the land and reflecting on what life must have been like in the 1830s, 40s and fifties.  He likely thought about his two great grandfathers, John Albert and Warren Joseph, who were born and raised on this place.  He may have wondered how Lisianna fared after she moved to Brazil after the Civil War.  He thought about the miracle of the four brothers (Bill, John Albert, Dick, and Cap) fighting for the South and returning home alive after the Civil War ended.

On June 25, 1950 North Korea, supported by the Soviet Union and China, invaded South Korea.  South Korea supported by the United States fought to defend South Korea.  North Korean forces drove rapidly south and in only two months South Korean forces were left holding only the Pusan Perimeter.  The situation for the South Korean and U.S. forces was very precarious.

The United States under the command of General Douglas McArthur made secret plans to invade the northern part of South Korea in an amphibious landing at Inchon. Inchon is located slightly southwest of Seoul.

Dennis was on leave at this time and was ordered to report back immediately.  He very likely spent his 19th birthday on August 9, 1950 onboard a troop ship bound for Japan.  Some Japanese cities were used as staging areas to house U. S. troops waiting for the invasion.  Seventy-five to eighty thousand U.S. troops mostly Marines were assembled for the invasion.  These brave Marines were well aware that their lives were about to be put at risk to defend democracy in South Korea and American values and interest.

As the invasion day approached, the Marines boarded large troop transport ships again and headed for Inchon.  Several sailors onboard Dennis’ ship were former classmates at Semmes High School and they visited and talked about times in high school and the sailors wished him well.  It was good to see old friends just before the invasion.  Dennis had been a regular attending church member at First Baptist Church in Semmes, and he carried a small pocket Bible.  It is likely that he found comfort reading his Bible while he waited for the order to board the landing craft.

The plan for the invasion called for three areas on the beaches at Inchon to be invaded.  These three areas were designated Green Beach, Red Beach, and Blue Beach.  The 1st wave of the invasion targeted Green Beach, and the 2nd wave targeted Red Beach and Blue Beach.  At 06:30 on September 15, 1950, the lead elements of the invasion hit “Green Beach” on the northern side of Wolmido.

Dennis’ landing craft was very likely assigned to make the landing at “Blue Beach”, and his division the 1st Marines had the mission to take the beachhead, and the road to Yongdung-po and Seoul.  In preparation for the landing, each Marine had to have well over 100 lbs. of equipment including his rifle and ammunition, several days of rations of food and water fastened to his back, and some carried extra ammunition for machine gunners so their load was heavier.  Since Dennis was in a Signal Company, he very likely had to carry an additional 50 lbs. of communication wire and/or equipment.  He boarded the landing craft by climbing down a cargo net hung from the side of his troop transport ship – with his full load on his back.  Then those on the landing craft waited for the command to head for and take the beach.  A fuller description of the battle can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Inchon.  The North Korean army was completely defeated at the Inchon Invasion and subsequent military action until China entered the war.

At http://www.marines.com/history-heritage/timeline/-/timeline/decade/4#1950  the USMC summarize the Inchon action:

 “In a surprise attack, Marines landed behind enemy lines on the heavily defended shores of Inchon. Moving from landing craft, they climbed the seawall with close air support from warplanes above.

Within hours, the Marines cleared the beach and began moving toward Seoul. In two weeks, they reclaimed the capital and put the North Korean army on the run.

More than a battle victory, the landing at Inchon is considered one of the most spectacular amphibious assaults in history. The planning and landing became the model for the Marine Corps’ Operational Maneuver from the Sea doctrine.”

Jack and Lillie Mae and the family except for Earlene moved to Pickens County, Alabama in early September of 1950.  Later in October, the family received a letter from Dennis that said, “We landed at Inchon today and have pushed almost to Seoul”.  It was late in September that Earlene received the telegram at the last family residence that stated that PFC Jack Dennis Vaughn had been killed in action on September 20, 1950.  It was a sad message Earlene had to personally deliver to the family in Pickens County.  Lillie Mae was never able to forgive herself for signing the enlistment papers.

The commanding officer, Major R. A. Glasser, wrote a letter to Lillie Mae that was dated September 25, 1950.  “It is with heavy heart that I write concerning the death of your son …  On the afternoon of September 20, 1950, in the Yongdung-po area of Korea, Jack (Dennis) with four other Marines were establishing communications with front line units.  While laying wire, Jack and the others were ambushed by a North Korean Patrol.  Although he and his companions put up a valiant fight, the overwhelming number of the enemy took its toll.  Jack and two other Marines were killed in this action.  The bodies were recovered and then buried with full Christian Ritual and Military Honors in the First Marine Division Cemetery at Inchon, Korea. …”

Lillie Mae wrote a letter back to Major Glasser and she asked questions she had concerning Dennis’ death.  On November 12, Major Glasser wrote:  “… when we found your son’s body he had clenched in his hand a small pocket edition of the Bible.  He had been shot in the legs and in the head.  It is possible that when he was first hit (in the legs) he took the Bible from his pocket.  The death dealing bullet must have come moments later.  Surely he did not suffer long.  … I’m sure you will find some comfort in the thought, that your son was safe in the hands of his God at the last. …”

In June 1951, his body was shipped to Pickens County, Alabama for the final burial in the Graham Memorial Cemetery in Reform, AL.  The body was accompanied by a Marine honor guard who remained until the funeral service was complete.  The relatives Dennis loved so much came to the full military and Christian funeral:  his family, Grandparents John Rufus and Minnie Lee Vaughn, Uncles and Aunts: Prentis Vaughn and Minnie Pearl; Curtis and Doris Vaughn; Herman and Mary Ella Vaughn; Mertis and Nita Vaughn; Tim Vaughn; Willie Bea and Frank Lee as well as many other relatives, and hundreds of friends.  The Marine who was present as honor guard, with the help of a member of the local militia, folded the American flag into a triangle with three stars showing on a blue background (as was the correct folding of the flag with 48 states) and presented the flag to Lillie Mae.

Thus we honor the memory of Jack Dennis Vaughn born August 9, 1931 at Wahalak, Mississippi; died September 20, 1950 near Yongdung-po, Korea.

Loved by his family, Hero, Patriot, U.S. Marine, Christian.

Awards (reference): http://www.abmc.gov/search-korean-war-veterans-memorial-honor-roll/detail/Korea_32828#.VSXgcvnF_1g

Purple Heart

National Defense Service Medal

Korean Service Medal

Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation

United Nations Service Medal

Republic of Korea War Service Medal

Combat Action Ribbon (Navy)

Comments (2)

Thank you, Otis, for honoring your brother. It was a privilege for me to honor one of America’s fallen hero’s on this web site. Thank you for submitting this tribute. Pete Hester

I thank you too, Otis, for honoring your brother. Of all the Americans who were killed or wounded in the Korean War, I believe your brother is the only one whom I knew anything about. Of course, I never knew your brother, but I did know you as a friend and classmate of Pete. Your remembrance of your brother was a very interesting read. It reminded me of how much times have changed. In your brother’s day, signal corpsmen had to manually run their telephone lines through very dangerous enemy territory. Now, they just bounce a signal off a satellite.

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