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.
Inchon was a great victory for Douglas MacArthur, but the Chosin Reservoir waited for him just a few months away. After moving the Marine field hospital from Inchon Harbor to Seoul, Corpsman Archie Parrish began operating with different detachments in the area. Soon, he would be a pawn in a game between MacArthur and Harry Truman, which led to the absurdity of men dying to take same territory repeatedly.
The landing at Inchon was anything but typical and was the brainchild of Douglas MacArthur, who was determined to counter the surprise push by the invading North Koreans. Hospital Corpsman Archie Parrish was part of the massive effort and describes how his friend got a million dollar wound while taking out a machine gun nest.
Helicopter pilot Max Ferguson had a MASH unit down the road from his air strip in Korea. Seen the TV show? Then you've met the doctors and nurses there. In an escapade worthy of an episode from the show, he chased down a fox at weed level in his helicopter.
Val Archer received a wartime assignment in Korea, but was diverted to the Marshall Islands to take part in a nuclear weapons test. He flew drones with test instruments through the blast area, and with the end of the war, he tried his luck at civilian life. After several "interesting" jobs, he reenlisted and was offered a chance at a new direction.
They were not hurting for supplies. The problem was being outnumbered ten to one by the Chinese. When they began "advancing in a different direction," Corpsman Archie Parrish remembers destroying a lot of material so the enemy would not get it. As they approached Koto-ri, he had to dive from an exploding ambulance onto the frozen ground, where he had a chance encounter that would change his life. Part 4 of 4.
After serving as a steward on several ships, including an oiler in the frigid winds of the Korean coast, Salvador Sarmiento felt blessed to move into the disbursement office. He had his family with him during shore duty in Subic Bay and Long Beach.
When the Korean War broke out, Max Ferguson was receiving an Army commission out of ROTC. Training as a combat engineer, he found out there was a need for engineer pilots, and he succeeded in becoming one. Then he switched from fixed wing to helicopters, which are more difficult to fly and a greater challenge.
At first, the field hospital at Hagaru-ri was getting fire from the surrounding hills as the Chinese Army swarmed into the Chosin Reservoir area. Eventually, those hills were retaken, but Corpsman Archie Parrish felt so targeted that he removed the Red Cross from his uniform. He recalls the agony of a Marine with a severe head wound and reveals why he could not be given morphine. Part 3 of 4.
Bob Moore's first night on Old Baldy was memorable. The lines had become static, but there were still attacks, and he was tested that night in his new position on a machine gun squad when the Chinese launched a massive attack against the Americans on Old Baldy. The greater test was after the combat when he dealt with the wounded for the first time.
Jack Robinson joined the Marine Reserves while at college. Three months later, the Korean War broke out and he found himself at Camp Pendleton getting combat training and loading equipment into a troop ship. After a rough crossing, he was looking at the roof of a creaky Korean train car wondering why it was all shot up.
One day they were having a quiet Thanksgiving meal and the next day all Hell broke loose with waves of Chinese coming at them. The Marines had set up three bases at the Chosin Reservoir and all three were surrounded. Helping them resist the overwhelming odds were the 41st Royal Commandos, the most professional warriors that Hospital Corpsman Archie Parrish had ever seen. Part 2 of 4.
From Long Island, Bob Moore was "invited" by the government to join the Army. He remembers the cold weather training in Pennsylvania and the words of the tough sergeant, words he would often appreciate later in Korea.
After a wild first night at the front, everyone else was headed back up the hill to the bunkers but Bob Moore remained behind with his platoon sergeant on the flank of Old Baldy. He was about to find out what a listening post was and how a still night can play tricks on your senses.
On his first day at the front in Korea, Jack Robinson was sent on patrol and had to hit the deck in a rice paddy. That's when he discovered what they were using for fertilizer. At least he had a great company commander who knew how to use air support. And when there were wounded to be rescued, he learned about a neat trick the tankers could use.
A portion of the line manned by Republic of Korea (ROK) troops was overrun. Bob Moore's unit was sent to plug the hole and as they struggled, help came in the form of a forward observer from the battleship USS Missouri. The Mighty Mo was anchored within range of the hill and it's barrage turned the tide of the battle, but the noise of the shells and gunfire had a lasting effect on Moore.
Before Al Carter could reach the front lines in Korea, he had to go through a hurricane at sea which made everyone sick. Then he had to ride underpowered Korean trains, which would often not make it up a hill, roll back and have to build up more steam for another try.
On guard duty one night, Bob Moore heard the Chinese loudspeakers broadcasting a propaganda appeal. It did get to him a a little when they said his supporting units had left them alone. Bugles and drums were another psychological weapon and the Americans countered with huge spotlights to light up the advancing enemy.
Colonel Andy Smith talks about his time in the Korean War as a Marine pilot. As a pilot of the AU-1 Corsair, Colonel Smith's job was to observe the movements of North Korean and Chinese soldiers crossing the border. Colonel Smith retired from the Marines after 30 years of service.
As he prepared to leave for Korea, Bob Moore found out his wife was expecting a child. This was a sobering thought as he headed for a replacement center near the front. There he heard an unusual motivational speech that stuck with him.
It was cold in Korea but Al Carter says that a body gets used to it and that he was prepared from the tough basic training. His unit moved a lot on the front, but he never saw Korean towns or cities, only the lonely front, where all the civilians had been evacuated. During this time, a Korean friend he met after the war was fleeing the North.
The North Koreans had retreated northward and Bill Bates and his Marines were finally able to take hot showers under the curious watch of a local crowd. They returned to the fight, pushing toward the Yalu River when reports of Chinese units started coming in.
His last post was Sandbag Castle, another barren Korean hill, where the soldiers had hoisted an American flag and then got rid of it as the artillery zeroed in. A new commander surveyed the situation and decided what he needed was modified depth charges that could be catapulted at the enemy.
The Marines had spent months on line and had just settled into hot showers and new clothes when the order came, "Saddle Up!" The Chinese Spring Offensive had begun and a hole in the line had to be plugged. Jack Robinson's unit did just that, holding their own with rifles, machine guns and grenades.