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.
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.
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.
It was good incentive to survive. Bill Minnich received his GED while in basic, and as soon as he returned from Korea, he could get the diploma. Right away it was tough as he faced challenges from monsoons to mortar fire.
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.
Ron Clark explains how he began in the Navy, but as soon as he decided the Navy was not a good fit and wanted to go to college, the Korean War was just beginning. Clark later joined the Marines and discusses his duties and journeys during training.
It was in Korea that Bo Blasingame decided on the Army as a career, but it wasn’t his experience as a platoon leader that convinced him. It was becoming a personnel officer that made him interested in the organizational side of the military.
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.
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.
Ron Clark remembers the steps taken to avoid critical injuries due to cold weather, including the boots that were worn during combat. He also explains a funny story about how he got the nickname One Boot Clark.
Robert Weisbrodt says that to get an idea of what it was like in Korea, look at the flimsy clothes on the statues of soldiers in the Korean War Memorial, and imagine having only that to wear in minus forty degrees with a foot of snow and a thirty mile per hour wind. He also discusses providing support for the peace talks and hitting a mine.
When The Korean War ended, Ben Gross had to leave Japan and move to Korea to guard Chinese prisoners. On a Navy ship taking him there, he remarked to the sailors that they “had it made…bacon and eggs for breakfast.” Infantry had to make do.
Lawrence Snowden was one of only 95,000 active Marines when war broke out in Korea, drawn down from a force of over 500,000. His superiors wanted him to stay in his planning role, but he pushed for a transfer to the action.
Their second night at Chosin Reservoir, they were nearly overrun. The Marines were pushed off Hill 1240 by a horde of Chinese and they regrouped and retook the hill, twice. After the enemy scattered, Fred Fletcher and his buddy Ray Fairchild were at the end of the line keeping watch over a ridge line. They had not noticed that everyone else had withdrawn. Then, a mortar shell exploded.
Robert Weisbrodt went right into the fray of battle when he arrived in Korea, moving North from Pusan. Enjoying some rare beer in his rations, he had to take cover under his tank and watched as the beer spilled from the shrapnel pierced cans.
How close was Fred Fletcher to the enemy in the firefight? He was hitting them with his rifle butt. The Chinese had entered the war and the Marines at Chosin Reservoir were finding out just how many there were. He made it through the initial attacks but there was fighting all the way down the long steep road to the South. At Hagaru-Ri, he nearly froze his feet just before he ran out of luck dodging enemy fire.
Landing at Inchon, Robert Weisbrodt’s tank crew saw fierce fighting at Suwon. For the first time, he knew the pain of seeing friends injured before his eyes. Moving as far as the Yalu River, he learned how to advance to the rear when the Chinese attacked.