12:28 | It was called Hill 205. The small Ranger company was told to take and hold the hill. They did that as long as they could but Ralph Puckett and his men had to go through hell to do it. Waves of Chinese attackers had him calling in very close artillery strikes. He lay there, unable to move after three wounds, watching the Chinese bayonet wounded Rangers. Then two figures charged up the hill.
Keywords : Ralph Puckett Korea Ranger Hill 205 Pusan Inchon 8th Army Yalu River Task Force Dolvin Douglas MacArthur Harry Truman Republic of Korea (ROK) Korean Augmentation To the United States Army (KATUSA) Barnard Barney Cummings artillery grenade Chinese whistle bugle mortar concentration flare bayonet Billy G. Walls David L. Pollack esprit de corps
After twenty two years of service, Ralph Puckett retired and had a successful private life, but it was inevitable that he would reconnect with his beloved Rangers. His talent at building confidence is put to very good use at the Ranger school.
What do men need in a leader? Ralph Puckett draws on his long experience to answer that and then relate it to today's challenges for the military. He notes that some mistakes are repeated and that perhaps, "What we learned is that we don't learn anything from our wars."
He wanted to be a military aviator, but West Point had no aviation program. Impressed by the infantry leaders he encountered, Ralph Puckett decided there would be no truer test of himself than to become a combat infantry officer.
He was at jump school when he heard about the North Koreans invading the South. Determined to get in the war, young 2nd Lieutenant Ralph Puckett was at a stopover in Japan when he was told to report for possible selection for a special Ranger unit. He found out that the officers were already selected but he made a pitch to get on the team as a rifleman if nothing else. Come back tomorrow, he was told.
We were totally unprepared for war when we had to fight one in Korea. Ralph Puckett should know because his job was to take a small unit of new Rangers into the country for dangerous missions. They arrived at Pusan where the American forces had just barely avoided being pushed into the sea.
Piano wire? Those Rangers want everything, groused the supply officer. When the volunteer company got into Korea, though, they only had the most basic cold weather gear. The first mission for company commander Ralph Puckett and his men was to rout North Korean stragglers and units left behind when they retreated Northward.
Both feet were severely injured so Ralph Puckett had some serious hospital time coming up. Evacuated from Korea to Japan, then back to Fort Benning, he could, at least, see his family. Then came a knock on the door and two pretty girls walked in. If only they knew what he had just told his father.
He already had a pretty significant career, but Ralph Puckett went to Vietnam as a battalion commander and didn't waste any time getting into the field. His first matter of business was to assure his unit commanders that he had their backs.
Battalion commander Ralph Puckett recounts the story of a night long attack by Viet Cong and NVA Regulars on a position held by one of his companies. He was grateful they had a Forward Observer to co-ordinate artillery support and helicopters for resupply, things he lacked in Korea. For his leadership during this attack, Puckett was awarded a second Distinguished Service Cross.
It was better to put men in the field and leave them there. That was the philosophy of Battalion commander Ralph Puckett in Vietnam, where some commanders inserted and then quickly withdrew their troops. When the operation was over, the reward was beer and steak and ice cream. Being prepared was very important to him and he illustrates that principle with a story about some soldiers who were not.
It was nearly time to go home and Ralph Puckett was trying to rally his successor's spirits while showing him around the battalion's operations. Rely on your experienced men, that was his key point. His homecoming was bittersweet because his father was very ill but he was joyous to be reunited with his wife and children.
Ralph Puckett had two homecomings, from Korea and Vietnam. The first was all joyous, the second bittersweet. Despite the anti-war feelings so prevalent at the time, he experienced gratitude and respect in public.
After suffering severe wounds in Korea, Ralph Puckett spent two years at the Ranger Department in various training assignments. Then he went to a command assignment in Puerto Rico, a "go to war" company. He was given the job of setting up a short orientation school, experience that would help him on his next assignment.
It was an interesting assignment. Help the Columbian Army establish a Ranger training school and get it going. Ralph Puckett built up the program from nothing and he knew it was going to be very good, but he did have one problem, what to call the Columbian Rangers?
Ralph Puckett's favorite tour was the three years he spent in Germany with a Special Forces Group. He had his family there and the Ranger learned a lot from the assignment. It was early on for Vietnam, but he heard stories and began reading up on it. Back in the States in a Pentagon job, he asked to be put on the list to go.
Robert Weisbrodt thought he would join the Army, serve his time, see the world and get out, but it didn’t work out that way. Before he got to Korea, he proved valuable to his unit using a skill learned growing up, jumping from car to car on a train.
The call came soon after Alan Lertzman targeted his first strike as a new Forward Observer on the Korean front lines. The shells were hitting around U.S. tanks. Just before he was transferred to a radar station, he heard bugles and heavy artillery in the middle of the night. The battle of Pork Chop Hill was on.
On a mission to gather intelligence on North Korean land targets including a hydroelectric plant, Ben Malcom's B-26 was hit nine times by anti-aircraft fire. Having narrowly survived that excursion, Malcom devised a plan to team his guerrilla fighters on the ground with Army airborne assets to take out that hydroelectric plant.
After the war became a stalemate with a static front, Bob Moore's unit moved across most of the major hilltop battlefields including Old Baldy and the Punchbowl. They were surprisingly close together as he moved eastward.
Hearing tales of adventure and travel from his veteran older brothers, Robert Weisbrodt enlisted for some of the same. But they did not tell him about Agony Hill at boot camp. He goes on to talk about what else he remembers from basic training.
Gene Sullivan says it took a long time to get over the fear and the noise of combat in Korea. Sometimes at night he can still hear the screaming of the wounded and still see the grenade that wounded him coming in.
Bill Minnich recovered from a bullet to the shoulder and returned to action in Korea. It was a lot less action, but he learned that the Army radios must weigh at least three hundred pounds. He learned what fertilizer was used on the rice paddies, and he learned a lot about the spirit of the Korean people when he was sent to stop a POW riot.
Walt Russell’s uncle secured him an appointment to West Point, where he met his best friend and future brother-in-law Joe Clemons. After graduation and basic, he went to jump school because paratrooper pay meant an extra $110.
After the war ended in the Pacific, Eugene Whitfield decide to make a career of it and served aboard many different carriers. A visit to Hiroshima was a sobering experience, and a search for a missionary led to an amazing coincidence.
Ben Malcom comments on the disappointment many of his North Korean guerrilla fighters felt that the United States didn't press further into North Korea, and instead negotiated a compromise to end the war. Some of his fighters settled in South Korea, but many stayed behind in the North, some of those even continued to report on their operations after the war.
After long preparation, the complex Inchon landing was finally underway. Going ashore with his heavy weapons company, Marine Bill Bates joined the fighting in and around Seoul. The men were urged on by the most decorated Marine in history, Chesty Puller.
Just before his time in Korea was up, Robert Weisbrodt saw the aftermath of the North Korean retreat when his unit came upon a POW camp where they had just massacred the prisoners instead of leaving them. He remembers finding out that he was coming home.
Albert Cianfichi couldn't believe what he heard. The order came to fix bayonets as they charged up Old Baldy. UN troops had lost the hill and when Cianfichi heard what happened, he never used a sleeping bag again.
Life expectancy was short on the Korean front lines. Gene Sullivan recalls seeing green replacements killed almost instantly as they arrived at the front. He was wounded at T-Bone Hill when shrapnel penetrated the separate plates of his body armor.
Ben Malcom explains how his Special Forces unit controlled several small islands off the coast of North Korea, where he helped command a guerrilla unit of Korean fighters, along with a guerrilla leader named Pak Chol, to disrupt North Korean military and economic actions as much as possible. His missions were Top Secret and even other Army leaders in the area knew little or nothing of his activities.
The mission was photo reconnaissance and Clyde Burnette maintained the modified F-51's that flew the daily flights over North Korea. It was a miserable place to work, he recalls, as they had to maintain the aircraft with no hangars or sheds, just tents for shelter.
Ron Clark explains the bunkers they used when fighting in Korea. He remembers being in these bunkers during guard duty and the strategic mental games the Chinese and Americans would try on one another when fighting on Bunker Hill.