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.
His flight home had to circle around after an aborted landing and Bob Brockish thought for a moment, am I going to survive Korea and then die here? He was on his way home for Christmas and then on to Quantico, where hoped to become a commissioned Marine officer.
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.)
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.
Just as the Marine Corps was releasing Bob Brockish from active duty, North Korea invaded the South. Soon he was at a newly bustling Camp Pendleton, training for deployment to the peninsula. His new cold weather gear proved to be a problem on exercises in Southern California.
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.
After the push to get to the Punch Bowl area, Bob Brockish went into reserve with his battalion and it was around this time that he became squad leader. The Marine was nineteen years old and suddenly he was responsible for twelve men.
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 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 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.
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 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.
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.)
They knew the Chinese spring offensive was coming. The untrained Communist prisoners would just blab everything they knew. So the Marines hurried to the hill that became known as Horseshoe Ridge and dug in to block the way. It was the first combat for Bob Brockish and he recalls his part in the battle. Part 1 of 3.
His memories of the Battle of Horseshoe Ridge are noise, light and smell. There was so much ordnance and so many flares that you didn't need lights. Bob Brockish relates these impressions and remembers the men lost. Decades later, there are still expeditions to locate the remains of the missing. Part 3 of 3.
After the Battle of Horseshoe Ridge, Bob Brockish stayed on the move, taking and retaking hills as both sides jockeyed for position. He lived in foxholes, where the sleeping arrangements could be described as tense.
It was a historic day for the Marines, the first air assault with Marines placed at the front with helicopters. Bob Brockish didn't make that ride but his unit relieved those troops and he couldn't believe what they were complaining about. As he looked around the terrain, he wondered why there was apparent road construction on the top of a ridge.
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.
Even without any college, Bob Brockish passed all the tests at Officer Basic School, where even college graduates were taking remedial courses. He wanted to go to artillery or armor school, but the captain had other ideas, so he decided to go inactive and entered the Marine Reserves.
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.
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.
Every Marine knows about inspections. Bob Brockish prepared well and got duty at the front gate as a reward. That did not last but he got other duty which he liked, something which was preferable to guard duty in the cold desert lookout towers.