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.
A ferocious firefight in the Iron Triangle, as the 3rd Infantry holds the line in a broad front-line offensive. The battle becomes a textbook example of the effectiveness of intense firepower against overwhelming forces.
They were a little short of funds to continue in college so Joe Nemastil and his cousin talked to a recruiter to see what they could get in the Army. Promised a place in Officer Candidate School, he went off to basic training. The conditions were rough and the Kentucky winter came blowing right through the wall boards of the old barracks. Then, surprise! No OCS and orders for Korea.
President Truman had long ago given the order, but it was in 1951 that integration finally came to 35th Regiment in Korea. Two black GI's were assigned to Jim Walsh's squad and they proved to be tremendous assets. They were both miners and they taught the men how to better perform one of their primary tasks.
When Bill Camper arrived in Korea in command of an engineer company, the peace talks were going on so they were able to do their work on roads and bridges without getting shot. Mines were a threat, though, left by the retreating Communists. After tours in Japan and Germany, he was training paratroopers at Fort Benning when the Vietnam War began to heat up.
The day he received his master's degree from Texas A&M, Roy Dugger found orders in his mailbox recalling him from the reserve to active duty. North Korea had moved on the South. Assigned as a forward observer, he had to go ashore and spot targets for the big naval guns. His career at this was very short. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Records clerk Lou Pardy had always been just behind the front lines with Headquarters Company, but after the rapid retreat from North Korea, all HQ personnel were moved back to Seoul. As his rotation date neared, and with a savvy replacement already in place, he took an unofficial job as a courier, which carried him back to the front on a daily basis.
It was on Hill 440 that Jim Walsh nearly got hit by an incoming round. It killed the two men next to him and completely deafened him for a while. Sent back to the MASH unit, he felt guilty for being there as he walked among the bloody wounded.
Roy Dugger, blessed with a long career in the Navy and as an educator, reveals his thoughts on the three wars of his lifetime. He laments that we ever got involved in Vietnam and he greatly regrets not winning the Korean War. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
While fighting in the Chosin Reservoir, Martin Overholt and his regiment faced steady fire from the Chinese. Facing combat brings out the toughest instincts in a soldier, which Overholt experienced firsthand.
After a training operation in the Caribbean, Lou Pardy was settling in to a routine as a clerk in a tank battalion when the Korean War broke out. They were given seven days to get ready to leave and, after that hectic week, they were shipped to a slightly more hectic location, the Pusan Perimeter.
After arriving in Koto-ri, Martin Overholt and his regiment were forced to bury a large group of their fellow soldiers after they become too difficult transport. After a long stint out in combat, they left there to their evacuation point of Hungnam. After getting new replacements, the 1st Marine Division was sent back out into the fighting. (Part 2)
George Bruzgis received a non-combat injury in Korea when his platoon sergeant, who had a grudge because George was a Yankee from New York City, assigned him to midnight refueling duty. He fell in a slit trench in the dark and couldn't walk for several weeks. That wasn't the end of it.
When the snow finally melted along the front line in Korea, there was a grisly discovery along the supply path. There were also rats. Lots of them, big ones. Jim Walsh talks about the rats and other, little known aspects of life on the line.
The stuttering truce talks in Korea were incredibly demoralizing for the troops, says Jim Walsh. Repeatedly, it seemed as if they would be going home and then, invariably, their hopes would be dashed. When he finally did return to America, everyone expected to see a festive hero's welcome. It was not quite that.
New Yorker George Bruzgis opted for the draft instead of enlistment because it required a year less, just in case he didn't like the Army. Trained in armor, he was deployed to Korea where he was unnerved by the destruction he saw on his way to the front. There, the tanks were dug in and essentially acted as artillery pieces.
After moving around South Korea, Records Clerk Lou Pardy prepared to head into North Korea to Hungnam. The unit was in relief of Marines, whose tanks were not winterized. It was bitterly cold and there was a constant stream of refugees to screen in addition to regular duties. Finally, as the Allies lost ground, the city was evacuated in almost disastrous fashion.
After his recovery from a serious wound, Roy Dugger spent the rest of the Korean War ashore in Pearl Harbor. His education background made him perfect for the administrative job with the 14th Naval District. He had to decline a commission because he would have made less money than he did as a Chief Petty Officer. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Growing up splitting time between China and the United States, Martin Overholt decided to join the Marine Corps in the hoped of being able to travel more. While fighting in Korea, he sometimes had to fight against the Chinese, which felt strange since he had grown up with them.
Lou Pardy remembers the daily grind of Korea, the constant moving around and making do wherever you were. He also reflects on his long tenure as a Corporal, and why that was, and on his ill-fated attempt to reenter the military years after the war.
Gene Owen wakes up alone in his foxhole to discover the Chinese Army marching into a hot zone where they faced an awesome display of US firepower. The scene is reminiscent of a Basic Training exercise known as The Mad Minute.
The area where Joe Nemastil was sent as a replacement had seen plenty of action. Old Baldy and Pork Chop Hill had been hard fought over and then abandoned. Sent to reinforce an outpost on the next hill over which had been attacked, he saw the aftermath of the worst of war.
They got the word that the Armistice had been signed and to cease all firing. That gave Joe Nemastil a chance to find out what was actually in the no man's land below his position. Checking his weapons, he made his way down the hill and very soon, spotted a Chinese soldier walking right toward him.