Retired Col. Ralph Puckett will become one of the most highly decorated soldiers in U.S. history
From The Washington Post
Shivering in freezing temperatures, about 50 U.S. soldiers braced for the worst. Hundreds of Chinese soldiers were about to launch a series of bloody attacks on the hill the Americans had just taken under fire, and no reinforcements were within a mile.
The clash that then-1st Lt. Ralph Puckett and his soldiers experienced that night on “Hill 205” came at the outset of the Battle of the Chongchon River, a pivotal moment in which senior U.S. commanders were surprised by China’s full-scale entry into the Korean War.
Thousands of U.S. soldiers died in following days as they withdrew hundreds of miles back into South Korea in what the Army now describes as the longest retreat in U.S. military history.
Puckett, who commanded the Eighth Army Ranger Company, was wounded by a hand grenade in the first attack on the hill on Nov. 25, 1950, but stayed in command. American and South Korean soldiers absorbed five more chaotic, armed assaults through the night before Puckett ordered his soldiers to withdraw the following morning as the Chinese threatened to overrun them.
“I had been wounded three times by then, and I was lying there in my foxhole unable to do anything,” Puckett would later recall for an oral history project. “I could see three Chinese about 15 yards away from me, and they were bayoneting or shooting some of my wounded Rangers who were in the foxholes.”
More than 70 years later, Puckett, 94, will receive the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor in combat, for his actions. President Biden called Puckett at home in Columbus, Ga., on Friday to inform him of his decision to approve the award, said John Lock, a retired Army officer who began petitioning the Army for reconsideration of Puckett’s actions in 2003.