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.
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.
Flying for the Korean Military Advisory Group, Joe Estores was assigned to patrol along the DMZ. He spent most of his time in and out of Seoul, bringing supplies and pay to the men across the DMZ, a good experience for a new pilot.
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.
His father was a coal miner in Nova Scotia and it shortened his life, so Ralph McKay did not go into the mines, he joined the army as soon as he was eligible at seventeen. He was assigned to the Royal Canadian Regiment, the oldest unit in Canada, and then to jump school. His first jump was memorable.
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.)
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.
Ralph McKay was at Hill 355 on the front line in Korea. It was during the stalemate period and each side watched the other across the valley between them, occasionally firing artillery or mortars. One mortar shell killed the Canadian unit's cook, their first fatality. McKay was disturbed after he picked up his dead friend, but in those days, you dared not say anything about your feelings.
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.
He was studying for the priesthood, but Jim Walsh enlisted in the Army when the Korean War began. When he arrived in country, entry into combat was immediate for the machine gunner. His weapon was an old design, but it was effective. The only drawback was the large crew required to operate it.
He had been a Radioman for the Navy and when Turner Harris was called to active duty during the Korean War, they sent him to Adak, Alaska, where he monitored Russian Morse Code for Communications Support Activities, a Naval signal intelligence agency. He missed his wife, but the chow was good.
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.
Lawrence Abel was called back into service for the Korean War. The Air Force maintenance technician kept the planes flying over the 38th Parallel, then he was selected for a secret unit based in Japan. He made a career of it and even took his family with him to his favorite post in England.
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.
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.
As soon as the troop ship cleared Seattle and headed for Korea, they hit a storm and Joe Nemastil was seasick the rest of the way. He was on his way to join the 7th Infantry Division at the front. It was only three months before the armistice was signed but it was three months of combat on the static lines. For Joe, the worst enemy was not North Korean or Chinese. It was something in the bunkers.
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.
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.
He wasn't even eighteen, but after seeing The Sands Of Iwo Jima, Archie Parrish and his pals tried and failed to enlist in the Marine Corps. But the Navy recruiter next door told him how to hide his real age and he set off to boot camp. This allowed him to escape his strict brother, who was overcompensating for a missing father.
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.
When the Korean War broke out, Hospital Corpsman Archie Parrish had been training with the Marines for two years at Camp Lejeune. His Warrant Officer discovered that he lied about his age to enlist and implied that all would be well if he volunteered to go to Korea. So off he went with a hastily assembled division that combined seasoned veterans with raw recruits.
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.)
Max Ferguson was arriving in Korea just as the armistice was being signed. Deployed near the 38th Parallel, he flew Korean generals and American Colonels around, but only one at a time. The cabin was a clear bubble with two seats. The biggest danger along the DMZ was simply that is was poorly marked, so you had to be careful.
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.
Hospital Corpsman Archie Parrish did not care for his first assignment following boot camp, helping deliver babies in the Dependents Ward. He was told he could always volunteer for the Fleet Marine Force. Despite not knowing exactly what that was, he was soon integrated with the 2nd Marine Division training at Camp Lejeune. The mission of the Corpsman? To have as many Marines as possible firing as many guns as possible for as many days as possible.