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 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 coordinate 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 Seoul was secured, the Marines boarded LST's and went around the peninsula to Wonsan. Jack King was a mortarman who was typically in the rear echelon. He remembers guarding the mountain pass which led to the plateau where the Chosin Reservoir was. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
The first thing he noticed was the smell. Bob Brockish was still on the ship at Pusan when he caught a whiff of the local fertilizer. The Marine's first assignment was driving an ambulance, but before he even got to that, he had two run-ins with the regimental commander.
Jack King was on the rotation list, but he had to saddle up anyway and get up to Horseshoe Ridge. There, the Chinese unleashed a human wave attack and the rear echelon Marine mortarman found himself under direct fire for the first time. It was during a lull in this battle when one of the sergeants opened a Dear John letter. It did not go well. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
When Marine Bob Brockish shipped out for Korea, he had no idea what an experience it would be just getting there. From the indignities suffered when he crossed the International Date Line to dealing with the sketchy black market in Japan, it was an adventure before he even saw the war.
How was the weather up there? Marine mortarman Jack King will give you an earful about the weather in Korea, especially the freezing cold in the north. He remembers a time when he had on two of everything and it didn't really work. During the retreat from the Chosin Reservoir, it was at least 30 degrees below zero. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
From the rear at the Battle of Pork Chop Hill, Sgt. Gilbert Howland sent in the worst casualty report of his life. The tenacious enemy would not let go, even though the territory being fought over had no real tactical value. His unit was relieved and then, to the relief of everyone, came the armistice. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
In Korea, there was a gunner in Jack King's mortar platoon who kept making fun of preachers and religion. The lord had a way of making those guys shut up. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
The Corps put out a call to NCO's in Korea asking for applicants to become commissioned officers. Bob Brockish applied and was interviewed and then heard nothing about it. So it was back to moving hill to hill, dodging enemy mortar fire.
There were celebrities in Gilbert Howland's training unit at Fort Dix, including Eddie Fisher. They were preparing to go to Korea and it wasn't long before Howland found himself there in the frigid winter; dodging artillery and trying to capture prisoners for interrogation. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
From the time he joined the Marine Corps, Jack King had heard of the exploits of Chesty Puller, the most decorated Marine in history. While serving in Korea, he got to meet the man. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
When the sun rose after the first night at Horseshoe Ridge, the Marines could see they were surrounded so they prepared to attack back the way they came. Bob Brockish remembers the rolling, leapfrogging battle back to rejoin the regiment, during which he lost friends as well as his weapon. Part 2 of 3.
He didn't like the look of the Navy uniform so Jack King joined the Marines. While he was at boot camp, the Korean War broke out and the drill instructor sent them off with a promise about guarding the home front while they were gone. He landed at Inchon after a tense climb down the cargo net and it wasn't long before he saw his first dead Marine. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
He was pulled from the line and sent to division for Sergeant's School. That was big living after a long line of foxholes. When he finished that and got his stripes, Marine Bob Brockish got even better news. He was going to Quantico as an officer candidate.
There were aphorisms in the Marine Corps that started with, "old gunney says...." Jack King started a new saying while in Korea, and the unit carried it forward after he came home. He stayed in the Corps two more years, but his obstinance kept him from making it a career. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
As an engineering officer on an LSM, which stands for Landing Ship, Medium, Bob DeBoo was responsible for all mechanical operations on the ship. It was a flat-bottomed vessel, so it rolled mercilessly when the water got rough. While he was in the reserve, between the wars, he got a taste of life on the bigger ships.
It was like sandlot baseball. The replacement Marines were divvied up by the platoons and fire teams and Bob Brockish was the last guy to go. He had been driving an ambulance in the rear, but now he would be in a foxhole on the front line.
When the entire division hurriedly departed North Korea from the port of Hungnam, the ships were so full that Jack King had to sleep on deck in the frigid weather. When he was safely back at Pusan, he had an experience with the Red Cross that angered him for the rest of his life. Before they headed back north, Chesty Puller adjusted their weaponry for the better. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
After successfully completing his training and studying up in radar school, Bob Owen was finally ready to go aboard the USS Rupertus. On board, he was always kept busy. His main duty was to monitor the destroyer's radar, but was also instructed to join his team in shore bombardment on San Clemente Island. His first assignment was to make a trip to China, where the ship encountered a chaotic typhoon and much of the equipment on the ship was lost as a result.
There was a private in the outfit who had been busted from corporal more than once. Somehow he got hold of some lieutenant's bars and Jack King reveals how this led to the Marine mortar company getting some free transportation courtesy of the Army motorpool. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
Recalled from the reserve for Korea, engineering officer Bob DeBoo was assigned to LST 803, another amphibious assault ship. The crew's first task was ferrying prisoners, then they performed general duties, sometimes in bone chilling sub-zero weather.
They never made it back north to the Chosin Reservoir. The advance of the Marines stalled near the 38th parallel and mortarman Jack King recalls how he was threatened with court martial there, twice. The second time, his refusal to load the weapon actually prevented a fatal error. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
When he was stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia, Bill Ozmint was stationed on the 38th Parallel in Korea for a year. Being along the DMZ was difficult as you had to act carefully to remain safe from enemy fire.
While serving on an LST off the coast of Korea, engineering officer Bob DeBoo was entertained by a dog someone had smuggled on board as a pet. He was less amused by Inchon Charlie, piloting a North Korean biplane that would harass the ships. What nearly did the ship in, however, was a typhoon.
Laying in a foxhole during a mortar barrage, Jack King thought for a moment about sticking a foot up and possibly getting a million dollar wound. That feeling passed. He recalls the story of a young replacement Marine who came into the unit really gung-ho. That also passed. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
He had evaded Nazis in France and followed the action through Korea, but there was one more adversary for George Starks to overcome, the unfairness of army bureaucracy. He had to defeat, or at least outlast, this final obstacle to return home. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
Bill Ozmint reflects on the current problems going on in Korea and where he thinks things will go from here. He sees further action needing to be taken in the near future and wonders if his time in Korea was somewhat of a waste.
Moving on after the Inchon landing, Jack King recalls how a liberated brewery supplied the men beverages right in the foxhole. He didn't drink but he did try some well water which led to his new nickname, "Frog." He was a mortarman and, typically, was behind the front lines where the direct fire was minimal. While observing the Korean people, he developed an admiration of their ingenuity. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
It was long after his service as an army dentist in Korea that George Starks read an article in the paper about a veteran who described his evacuation and medical care. He was sure he must have done the surgery so he decided to contact him. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)