Archive for May 27, 2021


The Army Ranger.

In recent weeks, the heroics of two men, one a soldier, the other a sailor, have come to our attention at 4GWAR Blog. To give each their due, we’ve decided to tell their stories separately in a two-part posting starting today May 27, 2020.

Korean War Hero Receives Medal of Honor 71 Years Later

President Joe Biden presents the Medal of Honor to retired Army Col. Ralph Puckett Jr. for conspicuous gallantry during the Korean War at a White House ceremony, May 21, 2021.

More than 70 years after he led a company-sized Army Ranger unit in an attack and holding action against hundreds of Chinese troops on a frozen Korean hilltop, retired Army Colonel Ralph Puckett Jr. was awarded the highest U.S. military decoration for bravery at a White House ceremony May 21.

President Joe Biden placed the Medal of Honor around the neck of Colonel Puckett for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty during combat actions at Hill 205 in the vicinity of Unsan, Korea, on November 25th and 26th, 1950.

“Today, we are hosting a true American hero and awarding an honor that is long overdue — more than 70 years overdue,” Biden said. After decades of lobbying by retired military — including soldiers in Puckett’s company — aware of what the young lieutenant did in Korea — the U.S. Army awarded him the Medal of Honor.

“Colonel, I’m humbled to have you here today,” Biden said. Noting — that when Puckett first learned of the award he said “Why all the fuss? Can’t they just mail it to me?” — the president said: “Colonel Puckett, after 70 years, rather than mail it to you, I would’ve walked it to you. You know, your lifetime of service to our nation, I think, deserves a little bit of fuss.”

In Korea, Puckett served as an infantryman and company commander with the Eighth Army Ranger Company, which he led during a daylight attack of Hill 205. While his men were pinned down and under enemy mortar, machine-gun and small-arms fire, he ran across an open area — three times — to draw enemy fire, thereby allowing his Rangers to locate and destroy the enemy machine gun, and to seize the hill, according to the Army.

Puckett inspired and motivated his 57-man company, in zero-degree weather at night, to repulse five assaults by a 500-man battalion supported by intense mortar barrages. Puckett called for artillery support, which decimated attacking enemy formations.

Puckett was initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on Hill 205 in 1951. He served in Vietnam in 1967, where he received a second Distinguished Service Cross. Throughout his career, he received two Silver Star medals (the nation’s third-highest award for bravery in combat); two Legion of Merit honors; two Bronze Star medals with V device for valor and five Purple Heart medals for wounds suffered in action. Then there’s ten Air Medals; the Army Commendation Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal, among other citations and awards.

Then an Army 1st lieutenant, Ralph Puckett Jr. went above and beyond the call of duty as the Eighth Army Ranger Company’s commanding officer during a multi-day operation in North Korea that started on November 25, 1950. He received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for military valor, 71 years later.

During his career, Puckett qualified as a master parachutist and glider trooper. He also earned the coveted U.S. Army Ranger Tab, the Army Combat Infantryman Badge and the Lancero Badge from Colombia.

As a recent graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, then-1st Lt. Puckett had limited infantry training and no combat experience when he was tasked with forming and leading a provisional Ranger company at Camp Drake, Japan, in August 1950. Ranger units were a fixture in American armies in the 18th and 19th centuries. The modern Rangers created as a special operations force during World War II, were disbanded after the war. However, 15 Ranger companies, including Puckett’s, were created during Korea.

Hundreds of soldiers volunteered for the unit, which allowed Puckett to select his men based on their weapons qualification scores, duty performance, athletic ability and personal desire to serve as an Army Ranger.

Puckett included several soldiers of color, just a few years after the long racially-segregated U.S. military began to integrate, according to the Washington Post.

The Eighth Army Ranger Company relocated to then-Pusan, Korea, where they began what was expected to be seven weeks of specialized training at the Eighth Army Ranger Training Center. Soldiers who could not meet the standard were cut from the company and replaced with allied Korean soldiers, known as KATUSAs.

After taking Hill 205, the Rangers came under heavy mortar and machine-gun fire as Chinese forces entered the Korean conflict against U.S. and United Nations forces. It would be the first of six battalion-sized attacks against Puckett’s unit.

For details on the battle, click here. Severely wounded, Puckett ordered his Rangers to leave him behind to ensure their safety. Two Rangers ignored that order, fought back against the Chinese force as they crested the hill and dragged Puckett down to safety. Privates First Class Billy G. Walls and David L. Pollock were each awarded the Silver Star medal for their own heroism in saving Puckett, the Post reported.

Tomorrow: TWO WARS, TWO HEROES Part II: The Navy Hospitalcorpsman

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SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress, or parade, uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York

May 27, 2021 at 5:40 pm Leave a comment


May 2021


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