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Feb-16-2011 13:03printcomments

Marine's Encounter with an Angel

Mom. Something happened to me that I don’t dare tell anyone else for fear of their disbelief... - Marine's letter home

1st Provisional Brigade standing by to board ship in San Diego for Korea, Augus
1st Provisional Brigade standing by to board ship in San Diego for Korea, Augus

(SALEM, Ore.) - I don’t know if you believe in angels.  I’ve never met one but when I’ve been in a tight spot and asked for help from my guardian angel, he always came through.

Does this prove that angels exist?  No.  But, if you need proof, you wouldn’t believe this story no matter what I said.

I was only seven when the Korean War broke out in June 1950. We were out of school and the weather was warm. I remember my buddy’s father who was in the Navy reserves going off to war. Too young to really understand the meaning of what was happening, I was spell bound as his father, a WW II veteran, picked up his sea bag, kissed his family good-bye and left for duty in Korea.  I have a vivid memory of his dad dressed in whites with the colorful ribbons over his left breast  and his mother crying as the taxi pulled awar.

The Korean War was a touch and go situation for some months.  Elements of the 8th Army were pinned down by North Korean forces in the Pusan Perimeter in the summer of 1950 with their backs to the sea.

The 1st Provisional Marine Brigade composed of WW II veterans recalled to active duty and youngsters; many only a few weeks out of boot camp arrived in Korea on August 3, 1950.  The 4,725 man brigade joined the U.S. 25th Infantry Division and the 5th Regimental Combat Team, under Major General William B. Kean. The three units together formed Task Force Kean and fought several bitter battles.

Against the protest of Army MG Walker, the Brigade was released from his command, deactivated and reassigned to the newly formed 1st Marine Division.  MacArthur needed the Marines for the landing at Inchon and the recapture of Seoul. Although all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were against the landing at Inchon, it was successful and caught the North Korean army by surprised and together with the breakout from Pusan succeeded in breaking the back of the North Korean army.

As the UN forces moved far into North Korea and closed on the Manchurian boarder, the Chinese decided to enter the war.

The story of the Marine and St. Michael took may have taken place near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea, where Marines first  encountered Chinese troops.

Father Walter Muldy, a Navy chaplain who spoke to the young Marine and his mother as well as to the outfit commander, always affirmed the veracity of this narrative.

Writing to his mother, the Marine told her of a fascinating encounter he experienced in the war.

Someone who read the Marine’s original letter retold the story to others and in the first person to better convey some of the impact it must have had when first told by the son to his mother.

Dear Mom,

I am writing to you from a hospital bed. Don’t worry, Mom, I am okay. I was wounded, but the doctor says that I will be up in no time.

But that’s not what I have to tell you, Mom. Something happened to me that I don’t dare tell anyone else for fear of their disbelief. But I have to tell you, the one person I can confide in, though even you may find it hard to believe.

You remember the prayer to Saint Michael that you taught me to pray when I was little:

“Michael, Michael, of the morning,

Fresh chord of Heaven adorning,

Keep me safe today

And in time of temptation,

Drive the devil away.”

Before I left home for Korea, you urged me to remember this prayer before any confrontation with the enemy. But you really didn’t have to remind me, Mom. I have always prayed it, and when I got to Korea, I sometimes said it a couple of times a day while marching or resting.

Well, one day, we were told to move forward to scout for Commies. It was a really cold day. As I was walking along, I perceived another fellow walking beside me, and I looked to see who it was.

He was a big fellow, a Marine about 6’4” and built proportionally. Funny, but I didn’t know him, and I thought I knew everyone in my unit. I was glad to have the company and broke the silence between us:

“Chilly today, isn’t it?” Then I chuckled because suddenly it seemed absurd to talk about the weather when we were advancing to meet the enemy.

He chuckled too, softly.

“I thought I knew everyone in my outfit,” I continued, “but I have never seen you before.”

“No,” he agreed, “I have just joined. The name is Michael.”

“Really! That’s mine, too.”

“I know,” the Marine said, “Michael, Michael of the morning….”

Mom, I was really surprised that he knew about my prayer, but I had taught it to many of the other guys, so I supposed that the newcomer must have picked it up from someone else. As a matter of fact, it had gotten around to the extent that some of the fellows were calling me “Saint Michael.”

Then, out of the blue, Michael said, “There’s going to be trouble ahead.”

I wondered how he could know that. I was breathing hard from the march, and my breath hit the cold air like dense clouds of fog. Michael seemed to be in top shape because I couldn’t see his breath at all. Just then, it started to snow heavily, and soon it was so dense I could no longer hear or see the rest of my outfit. I got a little scared and yelled, “Michael!” Then I felt his strong hand on my shoulder and heard his voice in my ear, “It’s going to clear up soon.”

It did clear up, suddenly. And then, just short distances ahead of us, like so many dreadful realities, were seven Commies, looking rather comical in their funny hats. But there was nothing funny about them now; their guns were steady and pointed straight in our direction.

“Down, Michael!!” I yelled as I dove for cover. Even as I was hitting the ground, I looked up and saw Michael still standing, as if paralyzed by fear, or so I thought at the time. Bullets were spurting all over the place, and Mom, there was no way those Commies could have missed at that short distance. I jumped up to pull him down, and then I was hit. The pain was like a hot fire in my chest, and as I fell, my head swooned and I remember thinking, “I must be dying…” Someone was laying me down; strong arms were holding me and laying me gently on the snow. Through the daze, I opened my eyes, and the sun seemed to blaze in my eyes. Michael was standing still, and there was a terrible splendor in his face. Suddenly, he seemed to grow, like the sun, the splendor increasing intensely around him like the wings of an angel. As I slipped into unconsciousness, I saw that Michael held a sword in his hand, and it flashed like a million lights.

Later on, when I woke up, the rest of the guys came to see me with the sergeant.

“How did you do it, son?” he asked me.

“Where’s Michael?” I asked in reply.

“Michael who?” The sergeant seemed puzzled.

“Michael, the big Marine walking with me, right up to the last moment. I saw him there as I fell.”

“Son,” the sergeant said gravely, “you’re the only Michael in my unit. I hand-picked all you fellows, and there’s only one Michael. You. And son, you weren’t walking with anyone. I was watching you because you were too far off from us, and I was worried.

Now tell me, son,” he repeated, “how did you do it?”

It was the second time he had asked me that, and I found it irritating.

“How did I do what?”

“How did you kill those seven Commies? There wasn’t a single bullet fired from your rifle.”


“Come on, son. They were strewn all around you, each one killed by a sword stroke.”

And that, Mom, is the end of my story. It may have been the pain, or the blazing sun, or the chilling cold. I don’t know, Mom, but there is one thing I am sure about. It happened.

Love your son,



Bob O’Dowd is a former U.S. Marine with thirty years of experience on the east coast as an auditor, accountant, and financial manager with the Federal government. Half of that time was spent with the Defense Logistics Agency in Philadelphia. Originally from Pennsylvania, he enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 19, served in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Marine Aircraft Wings in 52 months of active duty in the 1960s. A graduate of Temple University, Bob has been married to Grace for 31 years. He is the father of two adult children and the grandfather of two boys. Bob has a blog site on former MCAS El Toro at This subject is where Bob intersected with Bob served in the exact same Marine Aviation Squadron that Salem-News founder Tim King served in, twenty years earlier. With their combined on-site knowledge and research ability, Bob and Tim and a handful of other ex-Marines, have put the contamination of MCAS El Toro on the map. The base is highly contaminated with TCE, trichloroethelyne

You can email Bob O’Dowd, Environmental and Military Reporter, at this address:

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