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After suffering horrendous wounds, Rodolfo Hernandez eventually woke up with the Medal of Honor

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Corporal Rodolfo Pérez “Rudy” Hernández April 14, 1931 – December 21, 2013.

Left: Rudy Hernandez, U.S. Army Medal of Honor recipient, outside the Hangar at NASA Langley in 2009. Right: US 187 RCT airdrop near Sunchon.

Left for dead, it was only when placing Rodolfo Hernandez into a body bag that a fellow soldier noticed his fingers twitching. Covered in blood and officially pronounced dead by those present, this story of resurrection to the Nation’s highest military honor is one for the halls of history.

In 1951 Korea, Hernandez and his platoon were in defensive positions on Hill 420. When the enemy came surging across the lines in numerically superior groups backed by heavy artillery and mortar fire, Hernandez’s platoon was forced to withdraw. Refusing to give ground, Hernandez continued to exchange grenade fire with the enemy. Despite already being wounded, when his stash of grenades ran empty, he charged headlong into the enemy with nothing but a rifle and fixed bayonet. Slicing and dicing he killed six enemy soldiers, disrupting their attack until he eventually collapsed due to extensive grenade, bayonet and bullet wounds. He woke up a month later and had to learn how to walk, write and talk again. However, he did so as the newest recipient of America’s highest military honor.

Ready for His Turn

Rodolfo P. Hernandez was born in 1931 rural California into a family of Mexican American farmworkers. Not content for a life of work on the farm for himself, Hernandez sought service to his country at an early age. Having watched the WWII generation fight in that brutal war, as soon as he was able he insisted on doing his part. In 1948 at the age of 17 and with the consent of his parents, he joined the United States Army. Unsure what the post war era would bring, Hernandez wanted to put himself in the middle of the action, whatever may come.

Volunteering for the airborne, Hernandez joined the ranks of the famed paratroopers and was stationed in Germany until fate intervened. In 1950, hundreds of thousands of North Korean soldiers poured across their border into South Korea and Hernandez, along with the rest of the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment, headed for Korea.

By 1951, Hernandez was with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 167th Airborne Regimental Combat Team standing their ground on Hill 420. The enemy had previously occupied Hill 420 and on May 31, they decided they wanted it back. Launching an attack in overwhelmingly superior numbers, they were on the verge of breaking through and Company G were receiving heavy casualties and quickly running out of ammunition. Unfortunately for the North Koreans, Hernandez had no plans to give ground easily.

Hernández in uniform

Fight Until the End

As the enemy began to surge up the hill and with American casualties mounting, the order for the men of Company G to withdraw was given. At that point, the fighting was close quarters and in many cases, hand to hand. Choosing to hold his ground as his fellow soldiers attempted to withdraw, Hernandez engaged in an exchange of grenades with the enemy resulting in devastation to the foe but also injuries to himself. He then took to the enemy with his rifle. Firing at such a rapid pace, a cartridge in his rifle erupted giving Hernandez a choice. He could withdraw with his men or continue to take the fight to the enemy.

Hernandez chose the latter and with his rifle out of commission, he emerged with his bayonet and charged the assaulting enemy. Slicing and dicing as best he could, his aggression disrupted the enemy attack causing a halt in their momentum. It gave the Americans an opportunity to plan and reorganize an attack to take back the hill.

Hernandez had taken out six additional enemy soldiers with his gallant last stand, but a combination of grenade, bullet and bayonet wounds caused him to collapse. Yet, his stand had proved vital to the American effort to retake the hill. Soon, the Americans were collecting the bodies of their gallant few who had refused to withdraw. Upon initial observation, Hernandez was dead. With a gaping wound to his head and covered in blood there was certainly no chance he had survived. However, Rodolfo Hernandez had one last fight still in him.

U.S. Army paratroopers of the 187th Regimental Combat Team jump out of U.S. Air Force C-119 Flying Boxcars of the 403rd Troop Carrier Wing during a maneuver near Taegu, Korea, on 1 November 1952.

From Death to Life

As soldiers were loading Hernandez into a body bag, one of them noticed finger movements in their fallen hero. Immediately calling for medical aid, against all odds it turned out Hernandez had survived. He had just made a gallant stand on Hill 420 worthy of the nation’s highest military honor but his award would have to wait. Hernandez spent the next month unconscious only to wake up in a military hospital unaware of the honor he had earned.

Hernandez had to relearn how to walk, write and even talk in the years ahead. However, it did not stop him from receiving the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman in 1952. After a long recovery, he eventually regained the ability to speak, use of his right arm and the respect of every soldier who witnessed his actions on Hill 420 that day.

He married, had three children and served with the Veteran’s Administration in North Carolina. Despite the waves of North Koreans who had tried to end his life early, it was illness that he eventually succumbed to. At the age of 82, some 60 years after Hill 420, Rodolfo Hernandez died – a father, grandfather and gallant legend in the halls of military history.

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With 8 Silver Stars and 2 Distinguished Service Crosses, General John Corley Was Born To Lead

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Brigadier General John Thomas Corley August 4, 1914 – April 16, 1977.

To say Brigadier John Corley had an amazing career would be an unserstatement.

His awards would span two wars, and when it was all said and done, General John Corley would retire as one of the most highly decorated officers in the United States Army.

Most of his combat action would occur while he wore the ranks of Major through Colonel, but it became clear from the first time he heard the crack of a bullet fly overhead that this was an officer who felt most comfortable near the front with his men.  When the war in Korea broke out, Corley was one of a handful of Army officers personally requested for action by General Douglas MacArthur.

Corley had already established himself in World War 2 with one Distinguished Service Cross and 5 Silver Stars and would prove MacArthur’s faith in him true has he picked an additional Distinguished Service Cross and three more Silver Stars in Korea.  It would appear that leading in combat was his calling and this Army Officer was born at just the right time in history to put it all on full display.

A Hard Fought War

John Corley was born in 1914 Brooklyn, New York.  A short time after graduating from High School in 1932, he received an appointment to attend the United States Military Academy.  He proved early on that he was capable of a fight as he showed himself to be quite a force to be reckoned with in the boxing ring while in West Point.

He graduated in 1938 where an unconfirmed report continues to float around to this day that after being initially assigned to the Army Air Corps, a flight under the Brooklyn Bridge got him a quick reassignment to the Infantry.

BG John T. Corley
BG John T. Corley

Whether that lingering report is true or not, it would appear that the infantry is where such a man belonged and whatever it took to get him there was good for the men he would lead.  Corley would fight in World War 2 as a Major and then Lieutenant Colonel with the 1stInfantry Division.  Within days of storming onto the beaches of North Africa in late 1942, Corley would pick up the first of his 8 Silver Stars when he braved heavy small arms fire to scout out observation points for artillery observers.

Acting completely on his own initiative, as the battlefield dictated, his actions helped sway the battle in the favor of the Americans.  He wouldn’t leave North Africa without a Distinguished Service Cross as when a well-entrenched machine gun nest halted the advance of his battalion in Tunisia, Corley crawled to its rear under heavy fire and personally threw the grenade that silenced the gun.

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D-Day – Normandy landings.

As the 1st Division pushed through North Africa and eventually invading Sicily, Corley picked up his second Silver Star in July of 1943 when he remained at the front of an assault force to maneuver his men in an attack against heavy resistance when other units had faltered and held back.

A theme was quickly developing that if you need to find Lieutenant Colonel Corley in the middle of a fight, just go look at the front which was not as common for other higher ranking officers.  After the fight in Italy, Corley would earn three additional Silver Stars for actions in Normandy on through to Germany by despising the rear with all the gear and feeling at home where the bullets would fly and the shells would rain down.

He also accepted the first unconditional surrender of the first German city to fall into American hands during the war, when he accepted the surrender of Aachen by Col. Gerhard Wilck.

The war would end with Corley as one of the most highly decorated officers of the conflict, but the outbreak of hostilities in Korea meant that Corley would have to make addition room on his uniform for a few more awards.

Military Insignia

Leading Best When the Bullets Fly

Just as soon as Corley jumped back into the action, it became quickly apparent that he had not forgotten the location of the front lines.  Colonel Corley would command the 24thInfantry Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division which, as a segregated regiment consisted of black enlisted men lead by mostly white officers.

And while there is an accusation against Colonel Corley that he downgraded a Medal of Honor nomination for a black soldier to a Silver Star, it appears that Corley’s willingness to lead from the front gained the respect of the mostly segregated unit.

By August 10th of 1950, He had picked up Silver Star number 6 when he again pressed to the front to coordinate the attack under heavy small-arms and mortar fire.  When a radio man was injured, he personally administered first aid and carried him back for evacuation.

24th Infantry Regiment advancing in Korea via commons.wikimedia.org
24th Infantry Regiment advancing in Korea

But as if Silver Stars were becoming a little boring to him, he would add another Distinguished Service Cross to his resume just a few weeks later.  Near Haman, Korea, his battalion was fighting to take hilly and mountainous terrain when they came under a withering North Korean counter-attack.

On multiple occasions when his company was beaten back by superior numbers, Corley rushed to the front and personally reorganized the retreating men to halt the enemy advance.  Under heavy fire, he personally called for fire missions with devastating effect on the enemy and brutal accuracy.

It just so happens that after this action Corley would go on to pick up two additional Silver Stars in Korea for you guessed it, leading from the front.  His later Silver Star citations would note that Corley would only return from the front when the Division Commander ordered him to do so.

Born to Lead

As one might imagine, Corley did pick up a Purple Heart as well due to constantly subjecting himself to enemy fire, but how this man walked away from battle after battle unscathed is remarkable.  When the men fighting at the front see a higher ranking officer side by side with them, it inspires confidence and gallantry in the soul of each man fighting.  When the battle seemed to be at its most grim moment, they could always count on John Corley coming along to inspire them to victory.

After the wars, Corley would go on to pin on his first star as a Brigadier General and serve in a variety of functions to include Director of the Infantry School’s Ranger Department.  He retired from the Army in 1962 and passed away in 1977 at the relatively young age of 62.  His children would go on to continue his military legacy and Corley lost a son in Vietnam.

The history of war would prove that some men just seem to thrive under the pressure of combat and the evidence would suggest that the calm of the rear command didn’t suit such a man like General John Corley.

Last Seen Punching With One Hand & His Trench Knife In The Other – They Found His Body Surrounded By 40 Dead Koreans

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. P.F.C.Herbert K. Pililaau October 10, 1928 – September 17, 1951.

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Often in war it is difficult to the measure the impact of one man, but when that man is making his last stand on Heartbreak Ridge the impact becomes clear.

The first couple of years of the Korean War can easily be described as a seesaw strategic battle for control of the peninsula. However, the same was very much true at the tactical level where control for every field, hill, and ridge would often see a back and forth game of attack and counter-attack. Often changing hands multiple times in one evening, these strategic points became the center of intense fighting.

Herbert K. Pilila’au, a U.S. Army PFC in the Korean War, died covering his comrades’ withdraw, trench knife in hand. He took 40 North Koreans with him

For Herbert K. Pililaau, this would result in him being the last man standing on hill 931 of Heartbreak Ridge as he covered the retreat for the rest of his squad. He fired his Browning Automatic Rifle until he ran out of bullets. He then threw grenades until his supply was exhausted.

Moving to rocks, he hurled them as projectiles until there were none within reach. It was at this point he pulled out his trench knife and led a one-man charge. Punching with one hand and swinging his knife with the other was how the members of his squad report last seeing him.

And when his platoon retook the position the next day they found Pilila’au fallen, but surrounded by 40 dead North Korean Soldiers. For his exceptional bravery that day, Herbert K. Pilila’au was awarded the Medal of Honor and the admiration of every soldier he saved on Heartbreak Ridge.

From Paradise to War

Herbert K. Pilila’au was born a native Hawaiian in Honolulu in 1928. Just a teen when the Japanese attacked in 1941, he was unable to contribute to the war effort in World War 2. Growing up, he demonstrated a unique musical ability as he sang and played the ukulele for any who would listen.

After graduating High School in 1948, he studied accounting at Cannon Business School until war came calling again. Shortly after war broke out in North Korea, he was drafted into the army. He initially considered declaring conscientious objector status due to this Christian beliefs, but eventually relented and threw himself into the fight.

By March of 1951, he was sent to Korea to serve with Company C, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. It wouldn’t take long for him to see action as he was thrust into combat at the vicious fight known as the Battle of Bloody Ridge. However, it would be a different ridge that would earn him this hallowed place in military history, and for the men of Company C, there is no one else they would want in the fight with them than the once conscientious objector.

Soldiers crossing the 38th parallel via commons.wikimedia.org Public Domain
Soldiers crossing the 38th parallel.

The Battle of Heartbreak Ridge would take place just a few miles north of the 38th parallel and last for over a month. The back and forth engagement would focus on several key hills and strategic locations deemed necessary to control the battlefield.

The after effects of this costly battle would change the way the Americans fought the North Koreans, but for Pilila’au, he was destined for greatness on a hill simply indicated by its number, 931.

Battle for Heartbreak Ridge

By the morning of September 17th, 1951, the battle to take Hill 931 from the North Koreans was joined. Fighting throughout the day to dislodge the enemy from the strategic position, Company C finally succeeded by early afternoon. However, victory was rarely celebrated for long in the Korean War as the American soldiers knew the counter-attack was inevitable.

Pilila’au and the rest of his platoon were instructed to set up a defensive perimeter ahead of the platoon to detect and repel such an attack. Throughout the afternoon, the North Koreans conducted a series of probing attacks to assess for weaknesses in the American lines. As night began to fall, the Americans dug in for a long for what was sure to be a long night.

Photo of Heartbreak Ridge via US Army Public Domain
Photo of Heartbreak Ridge

At approximately 10:00 pm, two battalions from the North Korean 13th Infantry Regiment attacked in full force. Combined with a massive barrage of North Korean artillery, Pilila’au’s platoon began to pay a heavy price for their advanced position and were given permission to rejoin the main body.

However, retreating across a rice paddy riddled with enemy fire was no small feat. For the platoon to pull back, one squad would have to remain in place to cover the retreating soldiers. Successfully covering the retreat while taking their own casualties, eventually only Pilila’au and his squad leader remained.

The Americans began to call in close artillery support to cover Pilia’au’s withdrawal, but the strikes came in so close to Pilia’au they were worried about inadvertently striking their own man. Meanwhile, Pilia’au was giving the North Koreas everything he had.

Firing his BAR with deadly precision he held off the North Koreans until his ammunition was completely expended. It was at this point that he turned to his supply of grenades. Hurling them one after the other, he continued to hold off the enemy and inflict a heavy toll.

M1918 Trench Knife

It was at this point that his supply of grenades ran out and he did what any resourceful soldier would do. He started picking up the rocks around him and began hurling them as projectiles. And whether he ran out of suitable rocks or perhaps had just had enough, Pilila’au would embark one more mission during his gallant last stand.

Swinging Until the End

Exhausted and out of ammunition, Pilila’au decided to take the fight to the enemy. Grabbing his trench knife, Pilila’au decided to close with and destroy the enemy by hand if he had to. Leaping from his semi-covered position, he charged the attacking North Koreans and began to do his worst upon them.

Punching with one hand and swinging his knife with the other, he began to remind the North Koreans just what kind of fight they had on their hands. However, as the numbers became overwhelming Pilila’au was last seen alive completely surrounded by the enemy and fighting until the bitter end.

USNS Herbert K. Pililaau via commons.wikimedia.org Public Domain
USNS Herbert K. Pililaau

The next morning, the rest of Company C was able to retake the strategic position, and there they found their fallen comrade with knife in hand. But as well as Pilila’au, they found over 40 dead North Korean soldiers at his feet. For his actions that day, Herbert K. Pilila’au was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and a hallowed place in Military History.

He would become the first Hawaiian to receive the Medal of Honor, and in January of 2000, the United States Navy would christen the USNS Pililaau in his honor. Gallantry was on full display through the battle of Heartbreak Ridge but the story simply cannot be told in full without the contribution of Herbert K. Pilila’au.

The Man who Lead the Last American Bayonet Charge

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Colonel Lewis Lee Millet Sr.December 15, 1920-November 14,2009.

He was one Hell of a brave man.

The grizzled-looking redhead, complete with a handlebar mustache, charged with his men. Their enemy did not stand a chance as they had very sophisticated weapons – the bayonet.

Lewis Lee Millett Sr. was born on December 15, 1920, in Mechanic Falls, Maine. His grandfather had served in the American Civil War, while an uncle had fought with the 101stField Artillery Regiment of the Massachusetts Army National Guard during WWI. Millett joined the Massachusetts National Guard in 1938 while he was still in High School, enlisting in his uncle’s regiment.

The following year, Germany invaded Poland, ushering in WWII. By 1940 Millett was in gunnery school with the US Army Air Corps. In 1941, frustrated by America’s reluctance to enter the war and eager to fight, he deserted. He and a friend hitchhiked across the border and joined the Canadian Army. They assigned him to the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery where the training was quite unlike any he had in the US.

“The Canadian infantry was always doing bayonet training,” he later recalled. “Stabbing straw-filled dummies, parry, thrust, shouting. It made an impression on me.”

Sent to Britain Millett underwent commando training. He was also trained as an anti-aircraft radar operator and was stationed in London during the Blitz – the German carpet bombing of British cities between September 1940 and May 1941.

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, America entered the war. No longer stimulated by radar work, Millett went to the US Embassy in London and rejoined the US Army. He became an anti-tank gunner with the 27th Armored Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Division.

Shermans disembarking from LST at Anzio.

Millett served in Tunisia in North Africa where he became a hero when his group came under fire, and a half-track truck filled with ammunition burst into flames. He jumped into the vehicle and drove it away from Allied soldiers then leaped off before it exploded. He was awarded the Silver Star – the third highest military decoration.

He later shot down a German Messerschmitt Me-109 fighter plane with a half-track mounted machine gun. Millett, by then a sergeant, took part in the Allied invasion of Italy and saw combat at the Battle of Anzio (January – June 1944) that led to the capture of Rome.

While he was serving in Italy, the Army found out about his desertion. Despite Millett’s achievements, heroism, and medals, the army did not take kindly to deserters. He was court martialed, convicted, ordered to pay a fine of $52 ($810 in 2017 values), and denied leave.

Just a few weeks later he was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant and given a battlefield commission. Fortunately, he survived the war and returned home to a hero’s welcome. Millett then went to college. In June 1950 while in his third year, the Korean War broke out and he was called up.

By 1951 Millett was in Korea as a captain and commander of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment.

On February 7, his company was in the province of Chungchongbuk-Do, South Korea near the village of Soam-ni. Their goal was the top of Hill 180 where today the Osan Air Base is located.

US troops near the Kum River in Korea in July 1950.

Captain Millett ordered his men to attach their bayonets and attack. He shouted encouragement to his men throughout the hand to hand fight. When they reached the top, they stormed the enemy position despite heavy fire.

Millett was in the lead when they charged an anti-tank rifle crew. The gunner did not stand a chance as Millett’s bayonet dove into his stomach. Another enemy soldier reached for a machine pistol just as Millett’s blade sliced through his throat. The third was another matter. In his hands was a cocked and loaded submachine gun which he aimed at the crazy redhead making a beeline toward him.

Millett’s face matched the color of his red handlebar mustache as he screamed and hurtled toward the enemy soldier who stood frozen with shock – possibly wondering what a Viking was doing so far from home. Millett’s bayonet claimed its third victim.

“The bayonet went into his forehead,” Millett later said. “With the adrenaline flowing you’re strong as a bull. It was like going into a watermelon.”

The battle continued, and although Millett sustained grenade fragments to his leg, he refused to be evacuated. They routed the Chinese and secured the hill.

“I never forgot the Canadian training,” he proudly said. “We didn’t do much bayonet drill in those days, but I gotta say, those Chinese didn’t know what hit them when we charged.”

He was right. In the aftermath of their attack, some 50 enemy soldiers lay dead – 20 from bayonets. Military historian, Samuel Lyman Atwood Marshall, described it as “the most complete bayonet charge by American troops since Cold Harbor” – which happened during the American Civil War in 1864.

Millett’s impressive military awards include the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, two Legions of Merit, three Bronze Star Medals, four Purple Hearts, and three Air Medals. In 1973 he retired from the military as a colonel.

 

Master Sergeant Travis Watkins: MOH for Refusing to Give Up in Korea

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H/T War History OnLine

R.I.P.Master Sergeant Travis Watkins  September 5, 1920-September 3, 1950. 

.Master Sergeant Travis Watkins

How a soldier reacts when he is wounded in war varies from man to man. Some wither and fade away, some fall and await help, and some thrive finding the strength to continue the fight until the bitter end. In the case of Master Sergeant Travis Watkins near the Pusan Perimeter in Korea, not even a paralyzing wound stopped him. A brave act of conspicuous gallantry that earned him the nation’s highest military honor.

Guadalcanal to Korea

Travis Earl Watkins was born on September 5, 1920, in Waldo, Arkansas. He came of age as the world was entering the greatest conflict ever known and so he enlisted in the United States Army in June 1939. In WWII Watkins served in the Guadalcanal Campaign and was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions. By 1950 he was an experienced Master Sergeant at the age of 29.

His decision to rejoin the US Military after the war resulted in him having to lead an inexperienced and under equipped Army during the Korean War. When the North Koreans crossed the border into South Korea in 1950 the military forces stationed there were ill-prepared for the intensity of the battle to come. Despite brave attempts to hold the line and defend South Korea, the UN forces were pushed back to a small stretch of land known as the Pusan Perimeter.

It was in the extended battle for the survival of the UN forces that Watkins engaged with a determined enemy. The North Koreans had already broken the UN stand at Taejon and were rapidly approaching the defenses of the Pusan Perimeter.

American troops await North Korean attacks.

One Final Stand

As the numerically superior enemy forces quickly advanced the US 2nd Infantry Division was tasked with setting up a defensive line along the Naktong River. The overwhelming North Korean soldiers penetrated the line threatening the entire Pusan Perimeter. Additional forces were sent to reinforce the beleaguered troops. The battle for the region was fierce and fluid, resulting in multiple US units being surrounded and entrapped during the fight.

On August 31, 1950, Watkins was with a group of 30 men from Company H, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division isolated and cut off from American support. Due to his rank and experience, Watkins took command organizing their defense and directing their firepower which repelled constant, frenzied enemy assaults.

Despite overwhelming odds, Watkins continually exposed himself to heavy gunfire, moving from foxhole to foxhole giving instructions and encouraging the men. When the need for ammunition and grenades became crucial, he shot and killed two enemy soldiers just outside their perimeter. Watkins then ran out alone to collect their weapons but was attacked by two others and wounded. Returning fire he killed all three, gathered their weapons and ammo and returned to his astonished comrades.

Master Sergeant Travis E. Watkins.

Fighting to the End

Shortly after his brave act six North Koreans gained a strategically superior position and began to throw grenades among them. Realizing the situation was becoming desperate and disregarding his injury he left his cover. Although immediately hit by a burst from an enemy machine-gun he fired his rifle until he had killed all the grenade throwers.

Despite now being paralyzed from the waist down, he continued to direct and encourage his men. He refused food and medical aid in favor of those who could survive. After several days of hard fighting, he ordered his men to withdraw giving one last command; that they leave him behind to cover their retreat.

Due to his leadership and courage over 500 enemy soldiers were destroyed by the small force. Master Sergeant Watkins’ sustained personal bravery and noble self-sacrifice posthumously earned him the Medal of Honor and the eternal gratitude of the men he saved with his sacrifice.

With An Amazing Record of Service, US Flying Ace George Davis Died When He Took On 12 MiGs

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H/T War History OnLine. 

R.I.P.Major George A. Davis Jr. December 1, 1920 -February 10, 1952.

In all the airspace in all the world, there was no other place Major George Davis would rather be than “MiG Alley.”  Bordering the Yalu river over the Northwest part of North Korea, this slice of the sky would be the scene of numerous dogfightsBETWEEN North Korean MiGs, often piloted by Chinese and Soviet pilots and UN aircraft.

Streaking in from across the Chinese border, these MiGs would wreak havoc on American bombers conducting ground operations requiring a steady supply of pilots willing to brave the airspace in their defense.  For World War 2 fighting Ace George Davis, such audacity was nothingNEW.  Downing seven aircraft in the previous war, Davis would add 14 more kills to his count in Korea – including his last.

Taking on 12 Chinese MiG-15s to save a sortie of American bombers, this engagement would send Davis to the ground in a fiery crash. But for his actions, he picked up the nation’s highest military honor for inexplicable gallantry against indomitable odds.

Born to Fly and Born to Fight

George Davis was born on December 1st, 1920, in Dublin, Texas.  Always described as a cool and calm character, Davis took this professional demeanor to the United States Army Air Corps in 1942.  After the standard tour ofTRAINING stateside, he eventually found himself with the 342nd Fighter Squadron of the 5th US Air Force.  He didn’t drinkALCOHOL or smoke tobacco as was the case many other pilots and this straight-laced future ace would pick up the nickname “Curly” for – as only military humor would – his straight black hair.

Flying the P-47 Thunderbolt out of New Guinea, Davis’ first air to air kill would come on December 31st, 1943 courtesy of a Japanese D3A Val bomber that had just completed a run over allied naval vessels.  Over the next year, Davis would continue to gather a reputation as a skilled and aggressive pilot.  Contrary to his calm demeanor, when it came time to hit the sky Davis seemed to be another man.

George Andrew Davis, Jr., United States Air Force, Korean War Medal of Honor recipient.
George Andrew Davis, Jr., United States Air Force, Korean War Medal of Honor recipient.

 

By December of 1944, he had picked up his fifth kill earning him the legendary title of Ace. He picked up two more kills a few days later as his time in combat would soon come to an end.  He was sent back statesideTO BEGIN training on the P-51 Mustang and by the time he returned to theater most of the aerial combat had ended.

The P-47 Thunderbolt, the type of aircraft Davis flew during World War II.
The P-47 Thunderbolt, the type of aircraft George Davis flewDURINGWorld War II.

 

After the war, Davis opted to stay in the Army and eventually the newly formed Air Force.  He served in various training commands while making the transition to jet aircraft.  For Davis, this meant being trained to fly the F-86 Sabre before being sent to Korea at the outbreak of the war in October of 1951.  And true to form, it didn’t take long for Davis toSTART racking up the kills again.

MiG-15 delivered by the defecting North Korean pilot No Kum-Sok to the US Air Force.
MiG-15 delivered by the defecting North Korean pilot No Kum-Sok to the US Air Force.

By November 4th, he scored his first victory over a MiG-15.  And while the rest of the month was fairly uneventful, on November 30th Davis would pull a “hat-trick” plus one, downing four Chinese aircraft in one engagement.  The man who was an Ace with a propeller seemed to have noPROBLEM doing so on the back of a jet engine.

Staying in the Fight

George Davis in Korea via commons.wikimedia.org
George Davis in Korea.

Now an Ace, Davis believed he would be sent home by Christmas per standard policy for Aces in that war. Despite this, Davis still found himself flying combat missions over Korea racking upRECORD after record.  The Air Force claimed they had no suitable commander to replace him and his efforts were needed in Korea.  However, this stall would prove fatal as on February 10th, 1952 Davis would fly his last mission.

On this particular day, Davis was leading aFLIGHT of 4 F-86s on a patrol through the infamous “MiG Alley.”  Unfortunately, one of his fellow pilots reported running out of oxygen which forced Davis to order both he and his wingman back to base.  Leaving only Davis and his wingman, they continued to search the skies for enemy targets.

It was at that point he noticed a flight of 12 Chinese MiG-15s heading directly in the direction of a group of US F-84 Thunderjets conducting a series of bombing missions.  Realizing the threat to the bomber group and recognizing they had the element of surprise, Davis swooped in behind them.

With the first burst of fire, Davis instantly scored a direct hit bringing his kill count in Korea to 13.  In mere seconds he veered to theNEXT closest MiG and elevated his count to 14 before the enemy plane could outmaneuver him.  Davis and his co-pilot flew through the formation and the aerial acrobatics began in full force.

Zhang Jihui, the Chinese pilot who was one of two claiming to be responsible for Davis' death.
Zhang Jihui, the Chinese pilot who was one of two claiming to be responsible for Davis’ death.

Coming back down for aRUN on the lead MiG, Davis’ plane then took a direct hit to the fuselage.  Perhaps the greatest American pilot of the Korean War wasNOW spinning out of control and spiraling to the ground.  His wing man hung around long enough to look for a parachute and defend the falling plane until it crashed.

No parachute was reported and the fighting Ace was now lost.

Aerial searches conducted in the area revealed no signs he had survived and his body was later found still in the cockpit by Chinese troops.  His body would never return home.  For his actions that day, the man who was now an Ace in two separate wars would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor.

A Little Controversy

Film from the gun camera of Major Davis’ F-86E Sabre 51-2752 shows a MiG 15 smoking after being hit, 13 December 1951.
Film from the gun camera of Major George Davis’ F-86E Sabre 51-2752 shows a MiG 15SMOKING after being hit, 13 December 1951.

Despite the obvious talent of this fighting Ace, Davis’ Medal of Honor would not come without controversy.  Due to the policy at the time to rotate a pilot backHOME for stateside duty after they had become an Ace, there would be questions surrounding the nature of his death.

Davis was not the only to whom this had happened, but he was perhaps the most high-profile. Davis’ wife and a US Congressman took up the issue in the public arena and may saw the awarding of this Medal of Honor as a PR stunt to quiet the uproar.

However, few could possibly deny Davis’s gallantry and fighting skill which spanned two wars.  And few will even know the feeling of flying into a formation of 12 Chinese MiGs ready to doYOUR worst to them without regard for your own life.

When George Davis fell that day over the skies of North Korea, the US lost one of its greatest pilots as he entered into the hallowed halls of posthumous Medal of Honor recipients.

10 Facts About the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

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H/T Mental Floss.

I do not recall hearing about how the first unknown soldier was chosen.

Then I might have and had forgotten.

LIBRARY OF CONGR

On Veterans Day, 1921, President Warren G. Harding presided over an interment ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery for an unknown soldier who died during World War I. Since then, three more soldiers have been added to the Tomb of the Unknowns (also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) memorial—and one has been disinterred. Below, a few things you might not know about the historic site and the rituals that surround it.

1. THERE WERE FOUR UNKNOWN SOLDIER CANDIDATES FOR THE WWI CRYPT.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

To ensure a truly random selection, four unknown soldiers were exhumed from four different WWI American cemeteries in France. U.S. Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger, who was wounded in combat and received the Distinguished Service Medal, was chosen to select a soldier for burial at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington. After the four identical caskets were lined up for his inspection, Younger chose the third casket from the left by placing a spray of white roses on it. The chosen soldier was transported to the U.S. on the USS Olympia, while the other three were reburied at Meuse Argonne American Cemetery in France.

2. SIMILARLY, TWO UNKNOWN SOLDIERS WERE SELECTED AS POTENTIAL REPRESENTATIVES OF WWII.

One had served in the European Theater and the other served in the Pacific Theater. The Navy’s only active-duty Medal of Honor recipient, Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette, chose one of the identical caskets to go on to Arlington. The other was given a burial at sea.

3. THERE WERE FOUR POTENTIAL KOREAN WAR REPRESENTATIVES.

WikimediaCommons // Public Domain

 

The soldiers were disinterred from the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. This time, Army Master Sgt. Ned Lyle was the one to choose the casket. Along with the unknown soldier from WWII, the unknown Korean War soldier lay in the Capitol Rotunda from May 28 to May 30, 1958.

4. THE VIETNAM WAR UNKNOWN WAS SELECTED ON MAY 17, 1984.

Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Allan Jay Kellogg, Jr., selected the Vietnam War representative during a ceremony at Pearl Harbor.

5. BUT THE VIETNAM VETERAN WASN’T UNKNOWN FOR LONG.

Wikipedia // Public Domain

Thanks to advances in mitochondrial DNA testing, scientists were eventually able to identify the remains of the Vietnam War soldier. On May 14, 1998, the remains were exhumed and tested, revealing the “unknown” soldier to be Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie (pictured). Blassie was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972. After his identification, Blassie’s family had him moved to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis. Instead of adding another unknown soldier to the Vietnam War crypt, the crypt cover has been replaced with one bearing the inscription, “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958-1975.”

6. THE MARBLE SCULPTORS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR MANY OTHER U.S. MONUMENTS.

The Tomb was designed by architect Lorimer Rich and sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones, but the actual carving was done by the Piccirilli Brothers. Even if you don’t know them, you know their work: The brothers carved the 19-foot statue of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial, the lions outside of the New York Public Library, the Maine Monument in Central Park, the DuPont Circle Fountain in D.C., and much more.

7. THE TOMB HAS BEEN GUARDED 24/7 SINCE 1937.

Tomb Guards come from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment “The Old Guard“. Serving the U.S. since 1784, the Old Guard is the oldest active infantry unit in the military. They keep watch over the memorial every minute of every day, including when the cemetery is closed and in inclement weather.

8. BECOMING A TOMB GUARD IS INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT.

Members of the Old Guard must apply for the position. If chosen, the applicant goes through an intense training period, in which they must pass tests on weapons, ceremonial steps, cadence, military bearing, uniform preparation, and orders. Although military members are known for their neat uniforms, it’s said that the Tomb Guards have the highest standards of them all. A knowledge test quizzes applicants on their memorization—including punctuation—of 35 pages on the history of the Tomb. Once they’re selected, Guards “walk the mat” in front of the Tomb for anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the time of year and time of day. They work in 24-hour shifts, however, and when they aren’t walking the mat, they’re in the living quarters beneath it. This gives the sentinels time to complete training and prepare their uniforms, which can take up to eight hours.

9. THE HONOR IS ALSO INCREDIBLY RARE.

The Tomb Guard badge is the least awarded badge in the Army, and the second least awarded badge in the overall military. (The first is the astronaut badge.) Tomb Guards are held to the highest standards of behavior, and can have their badge taken away for any action on or off duty that could bring disrespect to the Tomb. And that’s for the entire lifetime of the Tomb Guard, even well after his or her guarding duty is over. For the record, it seems that Tomb Guards are rarely female—only three women have held the post.

10. THE STEPS THE GUARDS PERFORM HAVE SPECIFIC MEANING.

Everything the guards do is a series of 21, which alludes to the 21-gun salute. According to TombGuard.org:

The Sentinel does not execute an about face, rather they stop on the 21st step, then turn and face the Tomb for 21 seconds. They then turn to face back down the mat, change the weapon to the outside shoulder, mentally count off 21 seconds, then step off for another 21 step walk down the mat. They face the Tomb at each end of the 21 step walk for 21 seconds. The Sentinel then repeats this over and over until the Guard Change ceremony begins.

MOH: Shot In The Face & Wounded by Grenade, Charged Machine Gun Nest But Can’t Remember Doing It

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P.Sergeant Einar Harold Ingman Jr.       October 6,1929-September 9,2015

When there is no personal account of the valor it takes to receive a Medal of Honor it is most often because the gallant have fallen in combat. But in the case of Medal of Honor recipient Einar Ingman, it would be because his wounds during the action were so significant that he had no recollection of the action that earned him the honor.

On a treacherous ridge in Korea, Ingman organized a group of soldiers after the officers had been killed and pressed on with an attack on this key position. During this time, he would personally take out two machine gun positions which resulted in direct hits to his face and neck from shrapnel and machine gun fire.

Despite these devastating wounds, Ingman rose back up and cleared the two gun positions before passing out due to his wounds. Despite the experience that would define some men for a lifetime, he would have no memories of the battle and the accounts of his gallantry would have to come from his fellow soldiers.

For the actions witnessed by these men, this soldier would earn the nation’s highest military honor and the respect of every man he served with that day.

From the Farm to Korea

The life of Einar Ingman began  on  a Wisconsin farm.  Born in 1929, he initially enlisted in the Army in 1948 with the desire to work with heavy machinery.  However, in what would be a stroke of luck for the men he would eventually lead in combat, Ingman was assigned to the Infantry.  As war broke out in Korea in 1950, Ingman would find himself thrust into the action far from a farm and with all the pleasantries a grunt might hope to expect in combat.

By the time of action that won him his Medal of Honor, Ingman had already been wounded once in the fighting and was a battle hardened soldier.  By February of 1951, the 7th Infantry Division would find itself pushing towards the Korean town of Malta-ri. Ingman was part of a two squad group assigned with taking a treacherous ridge raining fire down up any advancing allied troops.

A Burned out Ridge in Korea

The Korean War was, in the first year, very dynamic and territory was lost and gained, for the men on the ground, it became a battle for every hill and ridge one at a time.  Manning this particular ridge were a group of Chinese who were determined to hold it at all costs.

Can’t Keep a Good Man Down

On February 26th, 1951, Corporal Einar Ingman would, through circumstances of combat, find himself in charge of two squads when their officers were killed or wounded.  Their objective was a fortified ridge-top position manned by a resilient enemy who would not give ground easily.  Once Ingman realized the two squad leaders had gone down, he reorganized the men into one assault group under his command.

This might seem like a given, but considering the daunting task ahead of them for any man to assume responsibility requires exceptional courage and leadership.  Straight away, he began to direct the men from one position to the other. They leaped through heavy enemy fire, as Ingman called in fire support.

As they approached the ridge, they became pinned down by heavy enemy fire from a series of two fortified positions.  Upon identifying the first, Ingman charged it alone as he realized the heavy toll this machine gun position was taking on his men.  With precision aim, he threw a grenade into the position killing most of its occupants, while he finished the rest off with his rifle.

It was at this point that the second machine gun position opened fire from only 15 yards away.  Without hesitation, Ingman charged this second position alone.

Chinese infantrymen firing from a ridge in Korea

Just then, a grenade exploded sending shrapnel directly to his head and taking off part of his left ear as it knocked him to the ground.  Undeterred, he rose again to his feet and pressed the attack when he was shot directly in the face just below the nose with the round exiting behind what remained of his left ear.

This would be the last thing Ingman would remember, but what his fellow soldiers recalled would be remarkable.  Partially blinded and missing a good number of his teeth, Ingman rose to his feet again and continued the charge.

He fired his rifle until he was out of rounds and then finished off the rest of the Chinese machine-gun position with his bayonet, before finally passing out from his wounds.

An Action to Remember

The enemy in front of Ingman broke and fled at the sight of his gallantry, but the next thing Ingman would recall was waking up in a Tokyo hospital about a week later, with no recollection of his actions in Korea.  In fact, for a period of time Ingman could not even recall his own name due to the severity of the injuries.

It would take over 20 surgeries for Ingman to slowly begin to recover any memories. He was eventually flown to a hospital in Washington D.C.

In 1951, Einar Ingman would receive the Medal of Honor for the actions he could barely remember from President Harry Truman.  Upon returning home to Wisconsin, the people of his hometown treated him to a new house, boat, and a hero’s welcome.

After exiting the Army in 1951, he would retain enough of his memory to marry his hometown sweetheart and raise seven kids.  For 32 years, this gallant warrior would serve in the inconspicuous role as a mail clerk in Tomahawk, Wisconsin.

Despite his struggles with memory, he would forever retain the gratitude of a nation and the respect of all the men who witnessed on his behalf a conspicuous act of gallantry that deserves a hallowed place in the halls of history.

Einar Ingman might not remember all of his actions, but the history of war most certainly will.

 

 

Vermont Serviceman Killed In Korean War To Be Buried With Full Military Honors

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Army Corporal George A. Perreault.

Cpl. George A. Perreault

Army Corporal George A. Perreault, of Burlington, Vermont, was 20 years old when he was killed in fighting during the Korean War.

A member of Support Force 21, assigned to Headquarters Battery, 15th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, he was participating in support for the Republic of Korean Army (ROKA) attacks on units of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces (CPVF) in the Central Corridor of South Korea.

On February 11, 1951, the CPVF launched a counterattack against the ROKA regiment which forced the Koreans to withdraw, leaving the Americans to fight alone at Changbong-ni until they withdrew as well.

After a prolonged attack from the Chinese, the Support Force had to abandon Hoengsong and move toward Wonju. Perreault was unaccounted for at Wonju and was declared to be missing in action on February 13, 1951.

According to a list received from the CPVF and Korean People’s Army on December 26, 1951, Perreault died as a prisoner of war. That information was not able to be confirmed. None of the American prisoners of war that returned home could provide any information on Perreault. With no information on his whereabouts, the US Army declared him deceased on January 18, 1954.

Between 1990 and 1994, North Korea sent 208 boxes to the US filled with commingled human remains. When combined with remains that were recovered during joint recovery options in North Korea, they account for at least 600 US servicemen. According to North Korean documents included with the remains, some of them were recovered near where Perreault was thought to have died.

The Defense POW\MIA Accountability Agency (DPAA) and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) and autosomal (auSTR) DNA analysis to match Perreault’s remains to a sister and two nieces. They also used anthropological analysis and circumstantial evidence to positively identify Perreault’s remains.

His remains are being sent to his family for burial with full military honors.

There are 7,751 Americans still unaccounted for from the Korean War. DPAA continues to analyze recovered remains with the latest technology in order to make identifications.

 

              

Decades After His Death, A Young Soldier Who Gave His Life In The Korean War Returns Home In Honor

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Army Corporal Louis A. Damewood.

I took the liberty of correcting the headline it read A young Airman when he was a soldier.

Louis A. Damewood

Army Corporal Louis A. Damewood, of Carroll County, Maryland, was 21 when he was taken prisoner during the Korean War and subsequently died in a prisoner of war camp.

He was a member of Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, on February 13, 1951 when he was declared missing.

In 1953, an American prisoner of war reported that Damewood had passed away in the Changsong prisoner of war camp in June 1951. The US Army declared him dead as of June 15, 1951.

In 1954, the United Nations and communist forces exchanged the remains of those who died in the war. The exchange was known as Operation Glory. All of the remains received from the exchange were sent to the Army’s Central Identification Unit to be analyzed.

The remains that could not be identified were interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. “Unknown X-14160” was the designation of one set of those remains.

“Unknown X-14160” was sent to the central identification laboratory on November 6, 2013 to be analyzed. DPAA scientists used dental, chest radiograph comparison and anthropological analysis to match the remains to Damewood’s records. They also used circumstantial evidence to help positively identify his remains, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency reported.

Damewood’s remains will be returned to his family for a burial with full military honors.

There are 7,751 Americans still unaccounted for from the Korean War. Analysis continues on the remains returned by the North Korean government and on those recovered by American recovery teams.

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