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. For his actions in this battle, he would be awarded the Medal of Honor.
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 Marine and a North Korean were both approaching the corner of a building from opposite directions. What could happen? Marty Letellier laughed when he saw it. He and a buddy liberated some swords from a factory in Inchon, just before they were sent into the demolished city of Seoul.
During his second tour in Korea, the goal was to take a prisoner for intelligence gathering. Jake Jacobson recalls that they didn't get a single one. He did encounter a Pathfinder unit and they encouraged him to transfer in. This he did, but, unfortunately, he got in some trouble and General Westmoreland made sure he was left with only one stripe.
As company clerk, John Meyers had several responsibilities, the captain's morning report, letters home to parents of men killed in action and writing up awards recommendations. He wrote up the recommendation for Charles Gilliland, a seventeen year old, whose heroic actions made him the youngest soldier to receive the Medal Of Honor in the Korean War.
President Truman extended his three year commitment to four years, so Marine Marty Letellier had a little more service to go. He served at Great Lakes and Camp LeJeune. He didn't care for the latter but he did discover that he could take academic tests while there, which helped him greatly.
Ron Clark remembers when the Chinese would attack and how the strategies between American and Chinese differed. He also explains one detailed account of an American casualty during battle and his own major injury that permanently disabled his eyesight.
When it was time to act, Bill Minnich came through. On a night watch, as he caught sight of a Chinese patrol, the only question was, rifle or grenade? When the unit was pinned down and no one responded to the order to move out, he cussed them all out and charged forward. And when he fell wounded, it was a sure thing that he would get up and scramble through the bullets landing at his feet.
All they said was to get on the boat. Marine PFC Marty Letellier had no clue where he was going, as usual. It turned out to be Inchon, where Gen MacArthur planned to turn the war around. It wasn't a normal landing, but there was, thankfully, not much resistance.
Ben Malcom recalls a mission to infiltrate and destroy a 76mm gun hidden inside a North Korean mountain. During the cover of night on July 14, 1952, Malcom managed to sneak 120 guerilla fighters onto the mountain and into the bunker, and describes the combat that ensued.
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. For his actions in this battle, he would be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Nearly everyone in his unit had frostbite to some degree, Marty Letellier had been very careful to take care of his feet, so he avoided the misery that many were feeling. As the Marines withdrew to the coast after the retreat from Chosin, they were followed by thousands of refugees, who were also evacuated to the South.
Born in the Bronx but raised in Rhode Island, Jake Jacobson enlisted in the late forties to get money for college. When he saw some guys from the 82nd Airborne, he knew he had to get into that outfit. He hadn't even been to basic training, yet, so they let him go. When he did get to Fort Dix, he was disgusted. Hang in there, his platoon sergeant told him. It gets better in Airborne.
Marty Letellier pays tribute to his platoon leader, a Marine who led by example. The hardships of Korea were all worth it, especially when he looks at his adopted Korean grandchild. He does have some worries about the future of the military as fewer people volunteer or are even qualified to serve.
The severity of the winter weather during the Korean War was over exaggerated, according to Jim Larkin. He suffered from it at times but combat keeps your mind on more immediate concerns. He also scoffs at criticism of the weapon he carried, the M-1 rifle.
A bridge was washed out on his route, but Fred Culbreth didn't want to waste hours on the detour. He knew that there were rocks and a hand cable at a certain point, so he plotted a route on the map and headed for the spot. When he saw that the ford was flooded, he decided to go for it, anyway.
It had been a hard battle and the Marines were stripping down to get in the Miryang River for a much needed bath. That's when a lady journalist happened along. After a short rest, they were sent right back to the place on the Pusan Perimeter they'd just left. Another hill to take.
For seventeen year old Jim Larkin, what he found after he came ashore at Inchon was fascinating. The novelty of Asia soon wore off since there was a war to fight, but he discovered that the Koreans are a humble and polite people. It's not a bad way to be.
The North Koreans were closing on Pusan when the Marines arrived to turn the tide. Mortarman Marty Letellier recalls that when other units failed to take a hill, his company was given the task. It was their turn in the meat grinder and they succeeded where the others had failed. Then they faced a grim task.
Marine boot camp was a shock. The DI wasn't nice. Nothing he did was right. To Marty Letellier, the rigors were all mental and the physical part of it was no big deal. At his next stop, Camp Pendleton, he became a gunner on a 60 mm mortar crew.
At the Chosin Reservoir, the Marines had close air support from Marine pilots flying Corsairs. Night after night, waves of Chinese came and, in waves, they died. Young mortarman Marty Letellier was in a position below the crest of the hill and took shots at Chinese who had overrun the top and were now on their way down the other side. There were so damn many of them! Part 3 of 4.
You couldn't kill them fast enough. The Marines received the order to withdraw from the Chosin Reservoir when it became obvious there were just too many Chinese and they started down the long road to Hagaru-ri. There was plenty of fighting along the way and more casualties. When mortarman Marty Letellier finally got there, he devoured some flapjacks and got some real sleep for the first time in weeks. Part 4 of 4.
Again, Marty Letellier was on a ship going around the coast of Korea. From Pusan to Inchon and now back around to Hungnam. As if those two battles weren't enough, the Marine mortarman was now headed to the Chosin Reservoir. It was beautiful country and nice fall weather, which soon changed to brutal winter. Part 1 of 4.
As the Battle of Chosin Reservoir got underway, Marine PFC Marty Letellier found himself trying to tend to some personal business, alone in the dark with tracers flying overhead. Back at Hagaru-ri, his commanding general was ignoring suggestions to move his HQ further up. He knew how badly they were outnumbered by the Chinese and was already preparing for evacuations. Part 2 of 4.
He had fought at the Pusan Perimeter, Inchon, and the Chosin Reservoir and was nearly ready to board the ship home. Marty Letellier asked a Red Cross worker for some coffee and was told it would cost a dime. You've got to be kidding.
Marty Letellier was at Camp Pendleton for two years after basic training and actually got to fire his mortar up in the hills. The rattlesnakes were not pleased. Suddenly, there was a war to fight. North Korea had invaded the South. What did he know about Korea? Nothing.
Marine Marty Letellier knew better. Never volunteer, but he did anyway and went out on a patrol which almost went awry. His unit was chasing down stragglers left in South Korea after the Inchon landing dispersed the North Korean forces.
The USS Henrico was an old tub that ferried Marty Letellier and the 7th Marines to Korea. The nights were beautiful on the way, ablaze with stars. He thought the country was beautiful, too, when he got to Pusan, but there was one problem.