Army Col. Ralph Puckett Jr. to receive Medal of Honor

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Retired Army Colonel and Columbus resident, Ralph Puckett Jr., will receive the country’s highest honor for his bravery in combat more than seven decades after leading his soldiers in a bloody battle on a Korean hill.

Puckett, 94, received a phone call around 5 p.m. Friday from President Joe Biden, informing and congratulating him on being the country’s latest Medal of Honor recipient, said retired Lt. Col. JD Lock and Puckett’s wife, Jean, at the Ledger-Enquirer. Monday.

Lock led the push, trying to get the military to reconsider Puckett’s actions for nearly two decades. The White House did not respond to questions from a Ledger-Enquirer reporter prior to publication. Puckett Prize was first reported by WRBL News.

“We are very honored and a little overwhelmed by all of this that is happening,” Jean told the Ledger-Enquirer. “But we can’t wait to be there.”

Puckett, the company commander of the newly designed U.S. Army Eighth Ranger Company, was wounded in a critical battle at Hill 205 on November 25-26, 1950 when Chinese soldiers surrounded Puckett’s company . The Chinese launched human wave attacks on Puckett’s position for more than four hours.

According to an account of the battle from the Office of History of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and from the interviews Puckett has given over the years, the 23-year-old commander of Tifton, Ga, and the Company of 51 Rangers have prepared for a nighttime counter-assault in near zero weather. The Americans had taken the hill earlier in the day.

Bugles announced the first Chinese wave, and the Americans pushed them back. Puckett was injured in the left thigh by a hand grenade in the attack but refused to be evacuated.

The next two Chinese attacks were quickly repelled. Puckett was injured again – this time in the left shoulder – but he reported that his Rangers were still in control of the hill. Throughout the attacks, Puckett exposed himself to enemy fire. Ammunition ran out after the fourth and fifth waves were diverted. A call was made to the Rangers to “repair the bayonets and prepare for the counterattack”.

They waited.

Two mortars landed split second apart and exploded almost over Puckett’s control hole. He now had injuries to both feet, left shoulder and left arm, thighs and buttocks. His right foot was so badly damaged that he later had to persuade the medical staff not to amputate it.

After the barrage, the Chinese launched their sixth and final attack. Leading Chinese soldiers threw hand grenades. Running out of ammo and unable to get artillery, Puckett made his final radio call: “It’s too late.” Tell Colonel Dolvin we’re overwhelmed.

Chinese soldiers moved on top of the Rangers. William L. Judy found Puckett unable to move, and the captain told Judy to leave him behind.

But Judy and Rangers Billy G. Walls and David L. Pollock brought Puckett to medical aid, Walls and Pollock ultimately having to drag Puckett by the wrists down the hill. Puckett received the Distinguished Service Cross for these actions.

“I’m glad Walls and Pollock disobeyed my orders to leave me on the hill,” Puckett said in an oral history interview about the battle.

He will receive the award much later than the other distinguished members of the service. Puckett was one of four Soldiers to benefit from a provision in the last defense budget that waives the five-year limit between acts of bravery and the nomination and approval process for the Medal of honor.

A date for Puckett’s ceremony has not been set. The White House is coordinating with the retired colonel to schedule it. The event is expected to take place at the White House, Jean said.

Nick Wooten is the Southern Trends and Culture reporter for the Southern McClatchy region. He is based in Columbus, Ga at the Ledger-Enquirer, but his work also appears in The (Macon) Telegraph and The Sun Herald in Biloxi. Before joining McClatchy, he worked for The (Shreveport La.) Times covering the city ​​government and surveys. He graduated from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.

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