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The Man in This Image: Refusing To Abandon The Wounded, Chaplain Emil Kapaun Remained Behind to Care for His Men & Died in a Korean POW Camp

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H/T War History OnLine.

  Captain Chaplain Emil Joseph Kapaun April 20,1916-May 23,1951 was the ninth Chaplin to become a Medal Of Honor recipient.            

Capt. Emil Kapaun (right), former chaplain with Headquarters Company, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, helps another soldier carry an exhausted Soldier off the battlefield early in the Korean War.

 

He didn’t carry a weapon, he wasn’t there to fight, but that didn’t stop chaplain Emil Kapaun from earning the nation’s highest military honor for gallantry. When over 20,000 Chinese soldiers surprised a few thousand men of the 8th Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of Unsan, one of the worst military routs of the war was about to take place.

Casualties were high as bullets, mortars, and rockets tore through the air before the order for every able-bodied man to withdraw was given. Having already braved the heavy fire to offer services and first-aid to the wounded, this chaplain refused to leave.  The enemy broke through, and combat was hand-to-hand, and yet Kapaun continued to serve faithfully and his time as a POW wouldn’t be any different.

He continually encouraged the men and willingly gave up his own food and medicine on their behalf until he passed away from his own medical conditions.

In 2013, President Obama posthumously awarded Kapaun the Medal of Honor after an extensive review of his record was conducted. As a result, we now have new knowledge of a story that had been long lost to history and yet is worthy of remembrance.

A Life of Service

Emil Kapaun was born on April 20th, 1916 on a farm just south of Pilsen, Kansas.  Knowing early on he wanted to be in service to the Church, he attended seminary and was ordained a Catholic priest on June 9th, 1940.

US Marines disembark at Pusan on their way to the front lines.
US Marines disembark at Pusan on their way to the front lines.

However, he was not beyond service to his country as he joined the US Army chaplains in 1944 seeing service in the Burma theater of operations.  He briefly returned home in 1946, but in September of 1949, he resumed his duties as a Chaplain and headed for Japan.

He would be assigned to the 8th Calvary Regiment, which was one of the first to hit the beaches when the United States pushed back from the Pusan Perimeter in 1950.  Working his way North with the men, he continued to serve with inexplicable gallantry and was awarded a Bronze Star with a “V” for rescuing the wounded under fire.

He would write home about the progress they were making as they closed in on the Chinese border and had hoped he would be home soon.  However, the war had other plans, and more gallantry would be required of the Chaplain.

Father Emil Kapaun celebrating Mass using the hood of a jeep as his altar, October 7, 1950.
Father Emil Kapaun celebrating Mass using the hood of a jeep as his altar, October 7, 1950.

With hopes that the war would soon be over as the United Nations forces were well north of Pyongyang, the 8th Calvary Regiment dug in around the North Korean town of Unsan.  Unfortunately for the 8th, approximately 20,000 Chinese soldiers had set their sights on the town in the hopes of destroying multiple ROK Divisions.

On the afternoon of November 1, 1950, the Chinese unleashed their surprise assault taking the American troops completely by surprise. Before midnight, the entire ROK 15th Infantry Regiment had been destroyed and 1st and 2nd Battalion of the 8th Calvary were running dangerously low on ammunition.

Troops of the U.S. 27th Infantry await North Korean attacks across the Naktong River from positions on the Pusan Perimeter, September 4, 1950.
Troops of the U.S. 27th Infantry await North Korean attacks across the Naktong River from positions on the Pusan Perimeter, September 4, 1950.

Disaster at Unsan

The 3rd Battalion had initially been left alone in the fighting and by using tactics of infiltration the North Korean forces had caused chaos and confusion in the middle of the night and the 3rd Battalion was virtually surrounded.  Casualties through the 8th were soaring and entire ROK regiments virtually ceased to exist.

The order to retreat was given as every able bodied man was given orders to withdraw while leaving heavy equipment behind.  It was a rout, and the Americans were on their way south.  It was in the context of this scene that Chaplain Emil Kapaun calmly walked the battlefield caring for the wounded and it was in the face onslaught that he willingly remained behind with the wounded to be captured.

Battle Map of Unsan via commons.wikimedia.org
Battle Map of Unsan

When the Chinese arrived, the fight continued, leading to the certain death of every American soldier left behind.  During the chaos of the battle, Kapaun noticed a wounded Chinese officer and ran through the fire to render aid and hopefully negotiate a peaceful surrender.

Kapaun’s gallantry worked, and the Chinese officer called out to his men to cease the killing.  At one point, a Chinese soldier drew down on an American First Sergeant preparing to shoot when with no regard for his own life, Kapaun pushed him out of the way.  They were now POWs and their ordeal in the war was far from over.

Once in the prison camp, Kapaun continued to serve the men whom he regarded as his congregation.  During the brutal winter of 1950, while men were freezing to death in their sleep, Kapaun would offer them his own clothes.

American POWs captured after the Battle of Unsan.
American POWs captured after the Battle of Unsan.

As they starved on tiny rations, it was common for Kapaun to be seen giving his food to the needy.  He would even forage food from the fields around the camp and sneak it past the guards not for himself, but for others.

A Final Service

As the men were ravaged by dysentery and disease, he boiled their water, washed their clothes, and treated their wounds.  The guards would often mock him for his faith and force him to stand in the cold naked for hours.

He never lost his faith and he never ceased to serve the men.  On Easter of 1951, he led a service using twigs put together as a cross and a small prayer missal he had hidden.

However, disease began to take its toll on Kapaun.  He developed a limp from a blood clot which was followed by dysentery and pneumonia. Once the North Koreas realized his condition, they sought their chance to rid the camp of the man who inspired so much hope in the men.

He was taken to a “death house” against the pleadings of the men where he would be left without food or water to die.  Kapaun’s words to his men were simply, “I’m going where I’ve always wanted to go.”  He died on May 23rd, 1951 and while he was initially honored with the Distinguished Service Cross, subsequent accounts would result in upgrading to the Medal of Honor.

He inspired the men in battle with his gallantry, he inspired the men in the POW camp with his mercy, and he can know continue to inspire us all with his dedication to service and sacrifice.

 

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The Man Who Bought – And Wore – A Medal of Honor Which Was Not His

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H/T War History OnLine.

As a Gold Star family member this story outrages me beyond words.

Stolen Valor or whatever you want to call it is a slap in the face to all veterans.

As far as I am concerned the penalty for this can not be harsh enough. 

Part of the Cold War and the inter-Korean conflict

Military stories vary widely: some are the moments that make history, secure victories or result in resounding losses. Others are merely moments of day to day life. Still others are incredible stories of heroism, saving lives and greatly impacting others.

The men and women who are awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest distinction that the U.S. military can bestow, are real heroes. The Medal itself is meant to honor the heroism of those individuals, to remember and celebrate their bravery in the face of uncertain and terrifying situations. Yet for one 67-year-old Florida veteran, the Medal of Honor came to signify pettiness, lies, and total embarrassment.

Jackie Stern, an Army veteran from the Korean War, was known for his Medal of Honor. A resident of Florida’s Broward County, Stern’s neighbors and surrounding community knew him as their local hero. He often marched in patriotic parades, shared stories with local veterans’ organizations and schools, and spoke about his heroic, medal-worthy military history before large groups at police stations, wearing his medal at each and every event. In fact, Stern wore his Medal of Honor every time he walked out of his home. He was synonymous with his story and his medal, becoming a local public figure.

Everyone believed that Stern was a hero – after all, he constantly talked about that fateful day in Korea when he risked his own life to save his unit. For an entire decade, Stern traveled through southern Florida to share his story.

As Sargent Dan Ciacciarelli of the Broward County Sheriff’s Department told reporters, “He marched around in parades. He came around reviewing ROTC troops, even coming in here to get photographed wearing the medal. He’s pretty brazen.” The local sheriffs knew Stern by sight: his car bore a POW tag on its front bumper and a purple heart license plate on the back.

Yet everything Stern said – everything his community believed – was a lie.

Image by: D. Myles Cullen / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Medal of Honor.

 

Tall Tales and Public Parades Draw Police Attention

Of course, a hero who was brave enough and selfless enough to earn the highest military distinction in the nation wouldn’t mind sharing his story with others. That’s exactly how Stern was found out to be a phony – his public displays and attention-grabbing stories garnered the attention of his local Broward sheriff’s department. Officers, like so many others in the community, had listened to and watched Stern use his medal to impress. The sheriffs began to grow suspicious of a veteran and medal-winner who was so vocal, so visible, and they decided to question Stern.

Officers, like so many others in the community, had listened to and watched Stern use his medal to impress. The sheriffs began to grow suspicious of a veteran and medal-winner who was so vocal, so visible, and they decided to question Stern.

Image by: Tim Evanston / Flickr / Creative Commons
WWII Unknown medal of honor citation. By Tim Evanson – CC BY-SA 2.0

When the Broward County Sheriff’s Department began questioning Stern about his military career and his path to the Medal of Honor, Stern fessed up, and his entire story fell apart. Not only did Stern not earn an official medal and its recognition, but the former soldier admitted that he’d never even left the U.S. during a conflict. He was a military man stationed at home as a bread truck driver and polygraph operator, safe from danger.

The Sheriffs questioning Stern arrested him. Stern appeared before the U.S. District Court and pleaded guilty to federal charges, apologizing to veterans in the courtroom. He admitted that his behavior was pitiful, a sad and stupid attempt to falsify greater honor. By confessing his guilt, Stern faced a potential sentence of six months in jail. Lucky for him, the judge instead chose one year of probation, 171 letters of apology to the living Medal of Honor recipients, and to volunteer in a way that would give back to veterans.

How Did an Average Man Get His Hands on a Medal of Honor?

Perhaps the most surprising fact in the story of Jackie Stern is how a Medal of Honor fell into his hands in the first place. When Congress awards a military member the Medal of Honor, the veteran is awarded the medal during an official ceremony. So, if Stern was truly awarded the Medal of Honor, there would be official records of the event.

Yet no such proof existed – and that’s because Stern’s medal was purchased and not earned. He bought the medal at a New Jersey military show. He paid just $800 and discovered that the medal was authentic. However, it had never been officially issued or awarded to any veteran. Stern believed he was in the clear. With an official medal, he expected to wow other veterans and his entire community without any suspicions.

Stern Serves His Sentence and Completes His Apology

Unsurprisingly, a man like Stern who openly discussed, emphasized, and even advertised his Medal of Honor drew attention to himself from his local police department. Stern earned himself both a legal sentence and punishment. As mentioned previously, the U.S. District Court ordered Stern to publish an apology in regional newspapers on Memorial Day and to write personal letters of apology to all living recipients of the Medal of Honor.

Image by: D. Myles Cullen / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Medal of Honor Recipient.

Stern’s apology included the following acknowledgments of the brave men and women who rightfully earned their Medals of Honor, as well as acceptance of his grave crime. “I know that my actions have cheapened the honor of those who have received this valiant award and my pitiful attempt and selfish quest for family recognition has tarnished the dignity of all the brave men and women on whom this medal was legitimately bestowed.”

Once he had apologized, Stern focused on the second half of his sentence: volunteering for a total of 250 hours at a Veterans Administration Hospital. Though Jackie Stern completed his punishment, he never did win back the affection he’d garnered from his community. In fact, after his trial, Stern faced an entire town against him. Local citizens and veterans believed Stern should face an even greater retribution.

 

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 T. Corley August 4, 1914-April 16, 1977.

 

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.

pd
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.

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.

Thomas Hudner: Medal of Honor Recipient – He Crashed His Plane To Save His Comrade

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H/T War History OnLine.

Thomas Hudner is a great example of American exceptionalism and bravery. 

Left: Hudner receives the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman on 13 April 1951. Right: Vought F4U-4 Corsair fighters during the Korean War.

It is common in combat for valiant men to risk their lives to help their buddies. Some incredibly courageous people do so in the knowledge they risk certain death. In several instances, a soldier has jumped on a grenade to save his friends. Soldiers have charged across fields of fire to retrieve the wounded. In the case of Thomas Hudner, he intentionally crashed his F4U Corsair into a frozen mountain 15 miles behind enemy lives to save his comrade.

A Career Navy Man

Thomas J Hudner Jr was born on August 31, 1924, in Fall River, Massachusetts into a typical middle-class family. In 1939 he attended the prestigious Phillips Academy where he excelled with interests in athletics and leadership abilities. When the United States entered WWII, his headmaster gave such an inspiring speech that Hudner joined the military. In 1943 he entered the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. Hudner was in good company with such fellow cadets as James Stockdale and future President Jimmy Carter. However, when he graduated in 1946 WWII had ended.

Although Hudner would earn his Medal of Honor as a pilot, he originally had no plans to pursue aviation. He did a short stint on board the USS Helena. Then, after another year in Pearl Harbor as a communications officer, his interest in aviation began to surface. Having completed basic and advanced flight training, Hudner qualified as a Naval Aviator in August 1949. He was assigned to the USS Leyte flying an F4U Corsair. His wingman was none other than the first African-American US Naval Aviator, Jesse Brown.

Hudner shortly after becoming a naval aviator in 1950.

Take Care of Your Wingman

While Brown was blazing a trail through a military structure that typically omitted African-Americans he encountered the type of vitriol associated with that period. Multiple attempts had been made to flunk Brown in training. He had received threats against his life, and resistance at every step. On board the USS Leyte, however, Brown found the environment more accepting. He was well liked by his fellow pilots and was regarded as an effective and respected pilot.

Hudner was to prove the mantra that a pilot takes care of his wingman at all costs.

On June 25, 1950, ten divisions of North Koreans poured across the border into South Korea whose forces were unable to repel the invasion. The United Nations voted to send military assistance to the area. At the time Hudner’s ship was in the Mediterranean. In August they were ordered to proceed to the theater of war immediately as the pilots on board the USS Leyte were regarded as having more experience than other aircraft carriers.

Arriving in October, Hudner and his pilots set to work. Wracking up sortie after sortie, Hudner and Brown did their worst upon the enemy, destroying communication lines and attacking troops and military installations.

The Chinese joined the fray in November to assist the North Koreans. 100,000 Chinese troops surrounded approx 15,000 American Marines. The pilots were flying dozens of close air support missions every day to protect the area.

Along with four other aircraft, Hudner and Brown were on a search-and-destroy mission near the Chosin Reservoir in harsh winter conditions. Chinese presence was light in the vicinity, but due to the low altitude required for the job, the planes were susceptible to small arms ground fire. One of the pilots contacted Brown by radio advising he could see a trail of fuel and oil leaking from the wingman’s aircraft. For Brown, it was his 20th mission; but it looked like it could be his last.

Truman congratulates Hudner after presenting him with the Medal of Honor.

A Gallant Effort

Unable to control his plane due to the loss of oil pressure, Brown descended into the frozen fields of North Korea crash landing. Helpless as they watched their friend go down, the other pilots could do nothing but keep on the lookout for Chinese entering the area.

Initially, they assumed Brown had perished in the crash, but then they saw him waving from below. His leg had been crushed, and he was trapped underneath the burning fuselage, unable to escape. After attempting to radio instructions to help free his friend, Hudner realized he needed to get on the ground if he was to have any effect in trying to rescue his wingman. Hudner then did the inexplicable. He intentionally crashed his plane nearby and ran to help Brown.

Hudner tried, unsuccessfully, to free Brown from the wreck and then attempted to fill the cockpit by hand with snow to quench the fire. In intense pain and losing blood, Brown was falling in and out of consciousness. A rescue chopper had been deployed and arrived at the scene, but they were still unable to free the wingman. Brown asked them to amputate his leg before he lost consciousness for the last time. His last words were “tell Daisy I love her.” As darkness fell, they were compelled to leave as the helicopter could not fly at night.

Hudner at the U.S. Naval Academy in December 2008.

Hudner begged the next day to go back and retrieve his friend’s remains, but the threat of a Chinese ambush on the position was high. Commanders could not allow them to lose more pilots or aircraft. Not wanting the body or plane to fall into enemy hands, the US Navy dropped napalm on the position of their fallen comrade. Brown was the first African-American US Navy officer killed in the war.

Hudner served for 27 years in the US Navy and for his actions that day he was awarded the Medal of Honor. When the USS Jesse Brown was commissioned in Brown’s honor in 1973, Hudner was there to give one last dedication to the friend he could not save.

 

 

James E. Williams, Medal of Honor: The Most Decorated Enlisted Sailor in the US Navy

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P.Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class James E. Williams.

Left: Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class James E. Williams, U.S. Navy. Right: The US Navy Ship named in his honor.

The greats of the United States Navy are usually champions of the oceans. Rear Admiral Richard O’Kane and famous submarine Commander Rear Admiral Eugene Fluckey picked up their Medals of Honor for service in WWII in the Pacific. For the most decorated enlisted man in the history of the Navy, he earned his a little further upstream.

An Early Start to Navy Life

James E. Williams was born on November 13, 1930, in Darlington, South Carolina to Cherokee Indian parents. Graduating from St John’s High School, he enlisted in the US Navy in August 1947 at the age of 16.

Following basic training, Williams served on board the USS Douglas H. Fox from late 1950 until June 1952. Between March and June 1952 he took raiding parties from the destroyer into North Korea on small boats. He received multiple commendations for his service.

In April 1966 Williams was sent to Vietnam as a Petty Officer First Class with the rating of Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class. In May he was assigned to the River Patrol Force, in command of River Patrol Boat 105. There his job was to patrol and intercept supplies intended for the North Vietnamese Army and protect local people on the dangerous Mekong River Delta.

James Elliot Williams

A Surprise Encounter

On October 31, 1966, Williams and another patrol boat were searching for Viet-Cong in a remote area of the delta. Two sampan boats containing hidden enemy soldiers suddenly opened fire on the patrol. Williams and his crew immediately destroyed one sampan with return fire. The other sampan fled into a small river inlet, and the patrol boats followed in hot pursuit.

There they encountered rocket propelled grenades and heavy small arms fire at close range from all along the river bank. They were greatly outnumbered by the Viet-Cong who were in fortified concealed positions. Eight more enemy sampans and two larger enemy junks joined the fight. It was evident they had stumbled upon a large enemy base, and a battle was inevitable. Evading the gunfire, Williams maneuvered his boats into the best position he could and radioed for assistance.

At that point, Williams discovered an even larger contingent of enemy sampans and junks. Without waiting for the arrival of air cover, he and his men again engaged with the enemy. When they had finished over 50 sampans had been damaged or destroyed along with seven junks.

The USS James E. Williams, named in the sailor’s honor.

A Storied Career

When the helicopters arrived, Williams continued to attack the remaining enemy forces along the shore. As darkness fell after the three-hour battle, Williams still did not relent. He ordered the search lights turned on to help locate the fleeing enemy despite knowing they would make the boats a sitting target.

In the end, it was a rout. Over 65 enemy boats were destroyed and numerous Viet-Cong guerillas killed. Under his leadership and exceptional heroism, what could have been a disaster for the US Navy was a decisive victory. For his actions that day, Williams was awarded the Medal of Honor.

James Williams ended his career in the US Navy with an impressive list of awards: the Medal of Honor; Navy Cross; 2 Silver Stars; Legion of Merit with a Combat “V”; 2 Navy and Marine Corps Medals; 3 Bronze Stars with a Combat “V”; 3 Purple Hearts; 2 Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals with a Combat “V”; 2 Combat Action Ribbons, and the respect of every man to ever wear a uniform.

His incredible heroism and excellent fighting spirit in the face of a numerically superior enemy force inspired the efforts of his men. The most decorated enlisted man in the US Navy lived up to the finest traditions of the US Naval Service.

 

Major Charles J. Loring Jr: Dived Into a Korean Artillery Battery

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P.Major Charles J. Loring Jr.

Left: Maj. Charles Joseph Loring Jr., United States Air Force. Right: Crew of an M-24 tank along the Nakdong River front, August 1950

 

When people speak of a plane recklessly and intentionally diving into an enemy, the word Kamikaze comes to mind. A desperate tactic deployed by the Japanese in WWII; it struck fear into the hearts of those in its path. In the Korean War, it was an American WWII veteran and fighter pilot who used the tactic. Chinese troops in Korea had amassed a heavy artillery barrage on a ridge and were pinning down United Nations forces, and pilot Charles Loring was called to assist.

From WWII POW to Korean Hero

Charles J. Loring Jr was born on October 2, 1918, in Portland, Maine to a typical American family. Shortly after America entered WWII, Loring enlisted in the US Army. In March 1942 he joined the Army Air Corps and by May was a cadet. After extensive training, he graduated with a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Reserve.

In December 1942, he was assigned to 22nd Fighter Squadron, 36th Fighter Group, Ninth Air Force based in Puerto Rico. He flew anti-submarine aircraft defending the Panama Canal and areas of the Caribbean. In April 1944, as the war progressed, Loring and the 36th Fighter Group were sent to England in preparation for the greatest amphibious invasion ever. They were involved in reconnaissance, fighter escort and bombing missions to strike strategic targets in Europe.

Following the success of D-Day, Loring continued to fly sorties in support of the advancing Allies. By December 1944, he had flown 55 combat missions and had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions in destroying ten German armored vehicles. However, his war experience came to an abrupt end when he was shot down over Belgium. He spent the following six months as a POW until he was liberated on May 5, 1945.  However, his experience with war was far from over.

Maj. Charles Joseph Loring Jr., United States Air Force.

A Final Flight

Despite his harrowing experience of being shot down and time as a POW, Loring remained in the renamed US Air Force and was promoted to Captain. Although the Korean War broke out in June 1950, he continued working at Air University until February 1952 when he was assigned to 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing, Fifth Air Force, to supervise pilot training in South Korea.

In July he returned to combat missions as Operations Officer for the 36th Fighter-Bomber Squadron. There he flew an F-80 Shooting Star jet aircraft conducting close air support missions for UN ground troops. In just four months, Loring completed over 50 combat missions as the war in Korea dragged to a stalemate along the 38th Parallel.

In November the focus of the UN targets revolved around two locations known as Triangle Hill and Sniper Ridge. The Chinese had assembled a large artillery battery on the hill including 133 large caliber guns and 24 BM-13 rocket launchers which were wreaking havoc on the UN ground forces. Adding to the peril, they had also amassed a contingent of 47 anti-aircraft weapons to defend their artillery. It was the largest Chinese artillery operation during the Korean War.

When the mass of weaponry had been spotted Loring, and three other F-80s were called in to bomb them. As usual, Loring took the lead on the bombing run lining up the artillery in his path. However, the Chinese troops manning the anti-aircraft guns had been exceptionally well-trained, and their firing was extremely accurate even at a distance. Loring’s plane sustained significant damage to its fuselage which disabled the aircraft. The pilots of the other F-80 planes radioed to Loring to turn back and abort his mission.

A group of P-47 Thunderbolts of the 22nd Fighter Squadron at Le Culot, Belgium in late 1944, as evidenced by the modified fuselage invasion stripes (removed from fuselage & wing upper surfaces). Loring was flying aircraft 44-19864 (left) when he was shot down over Belgium and made a Prisoner of War.

Giving All for Others

Instead, Loring ceased radio contact and continued on his bombing run. As he approached the artillery batteries, he was continuing to take significant fire. At 4,000 feet Loring deliberately accelerated and then took a 40-degree angle directly towards the ground batteries as his wingmen looked on in horror. Speeding up with what little control he had of his damaged aircraft, Loring dived straight into the enemy battery position exploding on impact and completely destroying it.

Loring was killed instantly in a blaze of glory. His wingmen could not believe what they had witnessed and when they reported his conspicuous gallantry it was clear the nation’s highest military honor had been earned. His action that day saved countless numbers of UN troops.

In 1954, President Eisenhower presented Loring’s widow with his Medal of Honor while announcing a new Air Force Base in Maine would be named in honor of her husband’s noble spirit, superlative courage, and conspicuous self-sacrifice.

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