Tag Archives: Medal of Honor

Marine Captain earned Medal of Honor fighting communists in North Korea

First, let’s go from the top down to set the context for the profile of William E. Barber.

Map of the Korean War
Map of the Korean War

In the summer of 1950, North Korean communists launch a completely unprovoked attack across the 38th parallel against their peaceful, democratic neighbors, the South Koreans. The Americans immediately sent an invasion force by sea to drive them out. The North Koreans easily manage to take over the capital Seoul, and the allies are left with only one port in the southeast – Pusan. In September of 1950, American forces land an invasion force at Inchon, cutting off the North Korean invasion force surrounding Pusan. The North Koreans retreat, and there is hope that American forces will be home by Christmas. But then, unbeknownst to the Americans, the Chines communists  invade North Korea from the north and surround the American forces near the Chosin reservoir, threatening to annihilate an entire Marine division.

The Marines at Yudam-Ni are surrounded and must retreat to Hagaru-Ri
The Marines at Yudam-Ni are surrounded and must retreat to Hagaru-Ri

As you can see from the map, there are a whole bunch of American troops fighting to the north/east and south/west of the Chosin Reservoir. The marines near Yudam-Ni need to retreat along a road called the MSR (main supply road) back to Hagaru-Ri. But in order to conduct that retreat, they have to hold onto the vital Toktong pass, which is overwatched by Fox company from their position on Fox Hill. Can Charlie company and Fox company hold off the entire Chinese 59th division (10,000 men) with only two companies (about 250 men each)?

U.S. Marines "The Chosin Few", December 1950
U.S. Marines “The Chosin Few”, December 1950

Well, the book I read (which Dina gave me for Christmas), was about Fox company and their defense of the Toktong pass. This is what the leftist New York Times had to say about the man in charge of Fox company (“F company”) in a 2002 article:

Col. William E. Barber, who won the Medal of Honor for his leadership of a vastly outnumbered company under siege on a snowy hilltop in one of the worst defeats in Marine history, the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir in 1950, died on April 19 at his home in Irvine, Calif. He was 82.

The cause was bone-marrow cancer, said Jerry Courtier, a friend who hopes to write Colonel Barber’s biography.

The reservoir is south of the Yalu River, which separates North Korea from China. After the Americans had pushed the North Koreans almost to the Yalu, 150,000 Chinese troops unexpectedly crossed the river into North Korea. Colonel Barber’s unit, Company F of the Second Battalion of the Seventh Marines, First Marine Division, was on a hill that commanded the Toktong Pass, a vital gap between Yudam Ni and Hagaru Ri, two towns separated by 78 miles.

The stakes were huge. If F Company yielded its position, 8,000 marines at Yudam Ni would be cut off from the 3,000 at Haguru Ri by tens of thousands of Chinese troops.

Through five days and six nights in subzero weather and often swirling snow, Colonel Barber, then a captain, inspired his men, outnumbered more than five to one, to cling to their tenuous positions. He was shot in a bone near his groin on the second day but continued to make the rounds of the hill. He likened the wound to a bee sting.

When the unit was ordered to withdraw and fight its way to safety, Captain Barber refused. Three times, the enemy broke through the line, only to be repulsed.

”I knew that we could probably hold, and I knew that if we didn’t hold we could exact a very heavy toll,” he said in an interview in 1976 with The Los Angeles Times.

His citation for the nation’s top medal said that he commanded his men from a stretcher. But Hector A. Cafferata Jr., who as a rifleman won the Medal of Honor in the same battle, insisted that Captain Barber refused the stretcher.

”He walked the line, he kept us together,” said Mr. Cafferata, who was beside Captain Barber when he was shot.

In the mayhem, the Chinese blew whistles, beat cymbals and tooted bugles as they repeatedly attacked. Coffee froze before men could drink it, and some of the wounded died because plasma froze with no way to thaw it.

When the battle was over, more than 1,000 enemy soldiers were dead. Of Captain Barber’s original 240 men, 82 were able to walk away.

Gen. Raymond G. Davis, who was a lieutenant colonel in the Marines, received a Medal of Honor for leading the unit that rescued F Company.

William Earl Barber was born on Nov. 30, 1919, in Dehart, Ky. He attended what is now Morehead State University in Morehead, Ky., for two years and enlisted in the Marines, at the age of 21, in 1940.

He was so good at shooting a rifle that he was made a weapons instructor. After volunteering for parachute training, he demonstrated such proficiency that he became a parachute instructor.

In World War II, he was promoted to sergeant in 1942 and commissioned a second lieutenant in 1943. He was a rifle platoon commander at Camp Pendleton, Calif., when his unit was shipped to the Pacific.

Colonel Barber was in the first wave to hit Iwo Jima, where he was wounded twice. He received the Silver Star for bravery in addition to two Purple Hearts. At a ceremony on the 50th anniversary of the battle in 1995, he said:

”I am older now, as you are, but I can still see the colors of that February morning. The sky. The island. And sometimes I think I can hear the noise of battle.”

He was treated in Japan for his wounds and returned to the United States, where he worked as a recruiter, among other positions. He was promoted to captain in 1949 and was in the force that occupied Japan.

When he joined F Company in Korea, he saw a raggedy unshaven bunch and immediately ordered the the troops to shave, shine their shoes and look like marines. He suggested that his new charges resembled Pancho Villa’s bandits.

”He was one tough guy,” Mr. Cafferata said. ”He was by the book.”

He was by the book. He enlisted in the Marines because he was grateful to his country for allowing him to escape poverty and go into college, and he wanted to give something back.

You can read a review of the book I read about Fox company, and read about some of the details of what it was like for those men. You’ll never look at your own troubles the same way again. You can also read about Barber’s Medal of Honor citation here.

The Medal of Honor, Navy and Marines variant
The Medal of Honor, Navy and Marines variant

So, now that I am done with that book, I have moved on to another Korean War book that Dina gave me, this one about George company. The Korean War might have been our most just war – defending a peaceful democratic ally from a totalitarian communist regime. You just have to compare North Korea and South Korea today to understand the stakes. North Korea is basically a godless concentration camp that tortures and murders its people if they so much as think the wrong thoughts about the atheist state. South Korea is free and prosperous, where the people have human rights, like the right to free speech and freedom of religion.

It’s important for me to read about the hardships that real heroes face, so that I don’t complain too much about my own tiny struggles. When you read about the struggles of great American soldiers, so many good things happen to you. Your own problems get smaller, your humility and gratitude get bigger. And you are reminded about why America is a great country, and what American character is really like. These things are not taught by leftists in the public schools. They are not talked about by leftists in the mainstream media. They are not presented by leftists in the Hollywood film industry. If you want to know the real America, you have to find it yourself.

Let’s celebrate our heroes for Memorial Day

Leslie Sabo
Leslie Sabo

Here’s a story of heroism from Investors Business Daily.

It says:

Leslie Sabo was killed during the Vietnam War’s 1970 Cambodian Campaign. He was nominated for the Medal of Honor, but the records were lost until a veteran rediscovered them in 1999. In 2012, Sabo’s widow received the nation’s highest military award on his behalf, the 249th for Vietnam.

Sabo’s platoon and another had been ambushed from all sides by a large and well-entrenched force of communist soldiers.

He repeatedly attacked and killed enemy soldiers, was wounded by a grenade as he shielded a comrade, and then was fatally shot as he provided covering fire for a medevac helicopter.

“His indomitable courage and complete disregard for his own safety saved the lives of many of his platoon members,” said the Medal of Honor citation. “Spc. 4 Sabo’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness, above and beyond the call of duty, at the cost of his life, are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Company B, 3rd Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, and the United States Army.”

Leslie Jr. was born in 1948 in Kufstein, Austria, where his well-to-do family had moved after the Soviet occupation of Hungary at the end of World War II, leaving almost everything behind.

They moved to America when he was 2. They lived in Youngstown, Ohio, and then Ellwood City, Pa.

Leslie Sr., a lawyer in Hungary, retrained as an engineer, and both parents taught their two remaining sons (another was killed by a bomb during the war) patriotism for their adopted country.

Here are some more details from the Army web site:

4 Leslie H. Sabo Jr. distinguished himself, May 10, 1970, in Se San, Cambodia, while serving as a rifleman in Company B, 3d Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division.

Members of B. Co. were ambushed by a large enemy force. While conducting a reconnaissance patrol, 22-year-old Sabo, charged an enemy position, killing several enemy soldiers. Immediately thereafter, he assaulted an enemy flanking force, successfully drawing their fire away from friendly soldiers and ultimately forcing the enemy to retreat.

When a grenade landed nearby a wounded comrade, Sabo picked up the grenade threw it away while shielding his buddy with his own body, thus absorbing the brunt of the blast and saving the man’s life.

Seriously wounded by the blast, Sabo, nonetheless, retained the initiative and single- handedly charged an enemy bunker that had inflicted severe damage on the platoon. He received several serious wounds from withering automatic weapons fire in the process. Despite being mortally injured, he crawled towards the enemy emplacement and, when in position, threw a grenade into the bunker. The resulting explosion silenced the enemy fire, but also ended Spc. 4 Sabo’s life.

He gave his life to save his friends.

Check out some of my Medal of Honor posts:

God bless our soldiers, airmen and sailors!

Thinking practically about the gospel with an illustration from a war movie

The city of Mogadishu, in Somalia, Africa
The city of Mogadishu, in Somalia, Africa

I decided to re-post one of my favorite posts for Veteran’s Day / Remembrance Day.

First, let’s get an overview that helps us understand the context and goals of the mission we are going to discuss.

The scene is set in Somalia, Africa, in 1992. There a civil war between two warlords: Ali Mahdi and Mohammed Farah Aidid. The war has destroyed agricultural operations, and the people are starving. The United Nations are trying to help, but Aidid hijacks the food from UN aircraft so that he can use the food to gain control of the people. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis are dying of starvation. The UN requests American military forces to secure the air-dropped supplies so they can be distributed to the starving people.

In December 1992, President George H.W. Bush answers the call, sending 25,000 troops to Somalia to protect the food from the Somali warlords. However, in 1993, Bill Clinton is elected. He orders that the number of U.S. troops be reduced to 12,000. Following an attack by Aidid on Pakistani peace-keepers, the U.N. issues a resolution to capture those responsible. The U.S. armed forces have the arms and training to battle evil, so they get the call to capture Aidid and his lieutenants.

In late August 1993, Task Force Ranger is deployed to Mogadishu to capture Aidid and his lieutenants at the Olympic Hotel. The U.S. force consists of 440 troops from the Army Rangers and Army Delta Force special forces, commanded by General William Garrison. Garrison requested light armored units (Bradley Infantry Fighting vehicles) that would offer more protection than the unarmored HMMWV Humvees. Garrison was denied the light armor by the Clinton administration. Garrison requested heavier air support (AC-130 Spectre gunships) that would offer better fire support than the UH-60 Blackhawk miniguns. Garrison was denied the air support by the Clinton administration. The Clinton administration did not want the American forces to appear too heavily armed for the peace-keeping role.

The actual mission turned out to be much harder than it needed to be, because of the resources denied by the Clinton administration. Although the Aidid lieutenants were captured, Aidid himself escaped. Eighty-four American soldiers were wounded. Eighteen American soldiers were killed, and their bodies were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. This was shown over and over by the media, and it undermined American resolve to help the Somali people. As a result, Clinton had the excuse he needed to retreat the American military.

(Source: Nova Online)

Two heroes lost their lives

Today, I want to talk about two of the men who lost their lives in Operation Gothic Serpent. They are Master Sergeant Gary I. Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randall D. Shughart – a Delta Force sniper team.

Here is a clip from the movie Blackhawk Down, which shows what happened to them:

The pilot of the downed Blackhawk was protected by the two men who volunteered to go in after him. They requested that they be inserted at the crash site, even though they knew that reinforcements were likely not going to be there in time to save them. They made the request to go and help the pilot three times before being allowed to go in. Their first two requests were denied by their commanding officer, because the odds against their survival were so overwhelming. The rescued pilot was later released by his captors, and the two heroes were awarded the Medal of Honor for their brave actions.

A Congressional Medal of Honor
A Congressional Medal of Honor

Here is a description of the requirements to be awarded a Medal of Honor:

The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration that may be awarded by the United States government. It is presented by the President of the United States, in the name of Congress, and is conferred only upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty:

  • While engaged in action against an enemy of the United States;
  • While engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
  • While serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

You can read the official details of their actions.

The point of this post

It is important for Christians to be familiar with real-world examples of people giving their lives in order to save the lives of others. When we see real-world examples of self-sacrifice, it helps us to understand what Jesus really achieved for us, and what he must have felt making that hard choice to volunteer to go in and rescue us. In general, my philosophy when it comes to the Bible is to make every effort to connect what the Bible says to the real world. We must not push Christianity into some far-off world of piety and feelings. We must make connections to real evidence and real life, so that what the Bible says becomes practical, and so that we have a deep friendship with and sympathy for God revealed in Jesus Christ. In real life, being willing to give your life to save someone else is hard. Understanding how that really happens will help us to value what Jesus has done for us.

Bible verses

I saw this verse on the ground outside the Airborne & Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, NC, where I went for my summer vacation in 2015. (Thanks to my friend Curby who hosted me)

Isaiah 6:8:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Here is the picture I took (yes, that is my running shoe):

“Here am I, send me” Isaiah 6:8

When confronted with an opportunity to imitate Christ in his self-sacrifice, we should think less about ourselves and our own desires, and take the opportunity to serve others effectively. We do not do what makes us happy, and we do not pursue fun and thrills. We do what heals, we do what helps others. We do not push away our responsibility to imitate Christ by caring for those in danger. Christianity is not just about “not doing bad things”. It’s the good things you do because of your relationship with Jesus that show your real allegiance, and give you the experience of being a Christian in deed.

And here is another good verse:

John 15:13:

13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

If you get a chance to watch the movie Blackhawk Down, then do so. I highly recommend it. You can also read the book that the movie is based on.

I love the Medal of Honor books by Edward F. Murphy. He writes about all the people who have been awarded the Medal of honor in different wars: World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

If you check my reading list, you’ll find that I usually read two military books for every one book on another subject.

Marine Captain earned Medal of Honor fighting communists in North Korea

First, let’s go from the top down to set the context for the profile of William E. Barber.

Map of the Korean War
Map of the Korean War

In the summer of 1950, North Korean communists launch a completely unprovoked attack across the 38th parallel against their peaceful, democratic neighbors, the South Koreans. The Americans immediately sent an invasion force by sea to drive them out. The North Koreans easily manage to take over the capital Seoul, and the allies are left with only one port in the southeast – Pusan. In September of 1950, American forces land an invasion force at Inchon, cutting off the North Korean invasion force surrounding Pusan. The North Koreans retreat, and there is hope that American forces will be home by Christmas. But then, unbeknownst to the Americans, the Chines communists  invade North Korea from the north and surround the American forces near the Chosin reservoir, threatening to annihilate an entire Marine division.

The Marines at Yudam-Ni are surrounded and must retreat to Hagaru-Ri
The Marines at Yudam-Ni are surrounded and must retreat to Hagaru-Ri

As you can see from the map, there are a whole bunch of American troops fighting to the north/east and south/west of the Chosin Reservoir. The marines near Yudam-Ni need to retreat along a road called the MSR (main supply road) back to Hagaru-Ri. But in order to conduct that retreat, they have to hold onto the vital Toktong pass, which is overwatched by Fox company from their position on Fox Hill. Can Charlie company and Fox company hold off the entire Chinese 59th division (10,000 men) with only two companies (about 250 men each)?

U.S. Marines "The Chosin Few", December 1950
U.S. Marines “The Chosin Few”, December 1950

Well, the book I read (which Dina gave me for Christmas), was about Fox company and their defense of the Toktong pass. This is what the leftist New York Times had to say about the man in charge of Fox company (“F company”) in a 2002 article:

Col. William E. Barber, who won the Medal of Honor for his leadership of a vastly outnumbered company under siege on a snowy hilltop in one of the worst defeats in Marine history, the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir in 1950, died on April 19 at his home in Irvine, Calif. He was 82.

The cause was bone-marrow cancer, said Jerry Courtier, a friend who hopes to write Colonel Barber’s biography.

The reservoir is south of the Yalu River, which separates North Korea from China. After the Americans had pushed the North Koreans almost to the Yalu, 150,000 Chinese troops unexpectedly crossed the river into North Korea. Colonel Barber’s unit, Company F of the Second Battalion of the Seventh Marines, First Marine Division, was on a hill that commanded the Toktong Pass, a vital gap between Yudam Ni and Hagaru Ri, two towns separated by 78 miles.

The stakes were huge. If F Company yielded its position, 8,000 marines at Yudam Ni would be cut off from the 3,000 at Haguru Ri by tens of thousands of Chinese troops.

Through five days and six nights in subzero weather and often swirling snow, Colonel Barber, then a captain, inspired his men, outnumbered more than five to one, to cling to their tenuous positions. He was shot in a bone near his groin on the second day but continued to make the rounds of the hill. He likened the wound to a bee sting.

When the unit was ordered to withdraw and fight its way to safety, Captain Barber refused. Three times, the enemy broke through the line, only to be repulsed.

”I knew that we could probably hold, and I knew that if we didn’t hold we could exact a very heavy toll,” he said in an interview in 1976 with The Los Angeles Times.

His citation for the nation’s top medal said that he commanded his men from a stretcher. But Hector A. Cafferata Jr., who as a rifleman won the Medal of Honor in the same battle, insisted that Captain Barber refused the stretcher.

”He walked the line, he kept us together,” said Mr. Cafferata, who was beside Captain Barber when he was shot.

In the mayhem, the Chinese blew whistles, beat cymbals and tooted bugles as they repeatedly attacked. Coffee froze before men could drink it, and some of the wounded died because plasma froze with no way to thaw it.

When the battle was over, more than 1,000 enemy soldiers were dead. Of Captain Barber’s original 240 men, 82 were able to walk away.

Gen. Raymond G. Davis, who was a lieutenant colonel in the Marines, received a Medal of Honor for leading the unit that rescued F Company.

William Earl Barber was born on Nov. 30, 1919, in Dehart, Ky. He attended what is now Morehead State University in Morehead, Ky., for two years and enlisted in the Marines, at the age of 21, in 1940.

He was so good at shooting a rifle that he was made a weapons instructor. After volunteering for parachute training, he demonstrated such proficiency that he became a parachute instructor.

In World War II, he was promoted to sergeant in 1942 and commissioned a second lieutenant in 1943. He was a rifle platoon commander at Camp Pendleton, Calif., when his unit was shipped to the Pacific.

Colonel Barber was in the first wave to hit Iwo Jima, where he was wounded twice. He received the Silver Star for bravery in addition to two Purple Hearts. At a ceremony on the 50th anniversary of the battle in 1995, he said:

”I am older now, as you are, but I can still see the colors of that February morning. The sky. The island. And sometimes I think I can hear the noise of battle.”

He was treated in Japan for his wounds and returned to the United States, where he worked as a recruiter, among other positions. He was promoted to captain in 1949 and was in the force that occupied Japan.

When he joined F Company in Korea, he saw a raggedy unshaven bunch and immediately ordered the the troops to shave, shine their shoes and look like marines. He suggested that his new charges resembled Pancho Villa’s bandits.

”He was one tough guy,” Mr. Cafferata said. ”He was by the book.”

He was by the book. He enlisted in the Marines because he was grateful to his country for allowing him to escape poverty and go into college, and he wanted to give something back.

You can read a review of the book I read about Fox company, and read about some of the details of what it was like for those men. You’ll never look at your own troubles the same way again. You can also read about Barber’s Medal of Honor citation here.

The Medal of Honor, Navy and Marines variant
The Medal of Honor, Navy and Marines variant

So, now that I am done with that book, I have moved on to another Korean War book that Dina gave me, this one about George company. The Korean War might have been our most just war – defending a peaceful democratic ally from a totalitarian communist regime. You just have to compare North Korea and South Korea today to understand the stakes. North Korea is basically a godless concentration camp that tortures and murders its people if they so much as think the wrong thoughts about the atheist state. South Korea is free and prosperous, where the people have human rights, like the right to free speech and freedom of religion.

It’s important for me to read about the hardships that real heroes face, so that I don’t complain too much about my own tiny struggles. When you read about the struggles of great American soldiers, so many good things happen to you. Your own problems get smaller, your humility and gratitude get bigger. And you are reminded about why America is a great country, and what American character is really like. These things are not taught by leftists in the public schools. They are not talked about by leftists in the mainstream media. They are not presented by leftists in the Hollywood film industry. If you want to know the real America, you have to find it yourself.

Let’s celebrate our heroes for Memorial Day

Leslie Sabo
Leslie Sabo

Here’s a story of heroism from Investors Business Daily.

It says:

Leslie Sabo was killed during the Vietnam War’s 1970 Cambodian Campaign. He was nominated for the Medal of Honor, but the records were lost until a veteran rediscovered them in 1999. In 2012, Sabo’s widow received the nation’s highest military award on his behalf, the 249th for Vietnam.

Sabo’s platoon and another had been ambushed from all sides by a large and well-entrenched force of communist soldiers.

He repeatedly attacked and killed enemy soldiers, was wounded by a grenade as he shielded a comrade, and then was fatally shot as he provided covering fire for a medevac helicopter.

“His indomitable courage and complete disregard for his own safety saved the lives of many of his platoon members,” said the Medal of Honor citation. “Spc. 4 Sabo’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness, above and beyond the call of duty, at the cost of his life, are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Company B, 3rd Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, and the United States Army.”

Leslie Jr. was born in 1948 in Kufstein, Austria, where his well-to-do family had moved after the Soviet occupation of Hungary at the end of World War II, leaving almost everything behind.

They moved to America when he was 2. They lived in Youngstown, Ohio, and then Ellwood City, Pa.

Leslie Sr., a lawyer in Hungary, retrained as an engineer, and both parents taught their two remaining sons (another was killed by a bomb during the war) patriotism for their adopted country.

Here are some more details from the Army web site:

4 Leslie H. Sabo Jr. distinguished himself, May 10, 1970, in Se San, Cambodia, while serving as a rifleman in Company B, 3d Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division.

Members of B. Co. were ambushed by a large enemy force. While conducting a reconnaissance patrol, 22-year-old Sabo, charged an enemy position, killing several enemy soldiers. Immediately thereafter, he assaulted an enemy flanking force, successfully drawing their fire away from friendly soldiers and ultimately forcing the enemy to retreat.

When a grenade landed nearby a wounded comrade, Sabo picked up the grenade threw it away while shielding his buddy with his own body, thus absorbing the brunt of the blast and saving the man’s life.

Seriously wounded by the blast, Sabo, nonetheless, retained the initiative and single- handedly charged an enemy bunker that had inflicted severe damage on the platoon. He received several serious wounds from withering automatic weapons fire in the process. Despite being mortally injured, he crawled towards the enemy emplacement and, when in position, threw a grenade into the bunker. The resulting explosion silenced the enemy fire, but also ended Spc. 4 Sabo’s life.

He gave his life to save his friends.

Check out some of my Medal of Honor posts:

God bless our soldiers, airmen and sailors!