Biden awards Medal of Honor to Korean War Army Ranger, 94, who ran into Chinese enemy fire to help his platoon and refused to leave his men when he was seriously injured by a grenade
- President Joe Biden awarded the first Medal of Honor of his presidency to Army Colonel Ralph Puckett Jr.
- Puckett, 94, was honored with for his Korean War service in a ceremony with South Korean President Moon
- Puckett and Moon hugged after the South Korean president spoke and paid tribute to his heroism
- Jill Biden, Kamala Harris and Puckett’s family then joined him on stage after he was awarded the medal
- Puckett was wounded in 1950 while leading US and Korean soldiers in the desperate defense of a hill against an overwhelming force of Chinese troops
- He ran into enemy fire without cover three times to divert an attack by enemy forces
- Puckett then refused to be evacuated when he was hit by grenade shrapnel and continued to lead his troops
President Joe Biden awarded the first Medal of Honor of his presidency to Army Colonel Ralph Puckett Jr., on Friday.
Puckett, 94, was honored with his service in the Korean War. South Korean President Moon Jae-in attended the ceremony in the East Room of the White House.
Puckett was just 24 when he was wounded in 1950 while leading US and Korean soldiers in the desperate defense of a hill against an overwhelming force of 20,000 Chinese troops.
He ran into enemy fire without cover three times to divert an attack by enemy forces and then refused to be evacuated when he was hit by grenade shrapnel in a gruelling attempt to keep Hill 205 in a battle that lasted days.
Biden and Puckett hugged on stage after Moon spoke about Puckett being awarded the highest US military honor.
Biden said in his remarks that, when being informed of the honor, Puckett asked ‘why all the fuss’ and asked if medal could be mailed to him.
‘I was going to make a joke about the Post Office but decided not to do that,’ Biden said. ‘I think you deserve a little bit of fuss.’
President Joe Biden presents the Medal of Honor to 94-year-old retired Army colonel Ralph Puckett, Jr., for conspicuous gallantry while serving during the Korean War
President Joe Biden, retired U.S. Army Col. Ralph Puckett and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, pose for a photo with first lady Jill Biden and the Puckett family
President Joe Biden presents the Medal of Honor to retired U.S. Army Col. Ralph Puckett
The president brought Puckett’s family, Moon and first lady Jill Biden on stage after the medal was bestowed.
Kamala Harris also stood up from the front row and hugged Puckett.
There were a few chuckles and gasps when Biden and Moon knelt down on either side of a seated Puckett for the group photo.
Colonel Ralph Puckett was wounded in 1950 while leading US and Korean soldiers in the desperate defense of a hill against an overwhelming force of Chinese troops – an early episode in Beijing’s decisive entry into the war
The White House said this was the first time a foreign leader has taken part in a Medal of Honor ceremony.
Puckett’s Medal of Honor was made possible under the 2020 defense policy bill, which lifted a requirement that such awards be made within five years of the commission of the act of valor for which the individual is being recognized. The five-year limit was waived for Puckett and three other U.S. service members. Puckett’s nomination still had to be approved by the defense secretary and president.
Puckett, 94 and living in Columbus, Georgia, was a first lieutenant and commander of the 8th U.S. Army Ranger Company during those two days in late November 1950 when his unit launched a daytime offensive on Hill 205.
Enemy forces directed mortar, machine gun and small arms fire against Puckett and his men in return. At one point, Puckett intentionally ran across an open area multiple times to draw enemy fire to allow his Rangers to find and destroy enemy positions and seize Hill 205, the White House said.
Puckett was seriously wounded when mortar rounds landed in his foxhole, limiting his mobility. He ordered his men to evacuate and leave him behind, but they refused. While under enemy fire, the Rangers retrieved Puckett from the foxhole and brought him to the bottom of the hill, where he directed operations against the enemy.’
‘First Lieutenant Puckett´s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of military service,’ the White House said in its announcement.
Puckett later spent about a year in combat in Vietnam as a member of the 101st Airborne Division.
In 1992, he was an inaugural inductee into the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame.
Puckett lives in Columbus, Georgia, with Jean, his wife of 68 years.
Col. Ralph Puckett Jr risked his life for his platoon during the Korean War when he held a strategic position while under heavy mortar and machine gun fire for two days.
The 94-year-old Medal of Honor recipient was 24 and an Army Ranger in November 1950 when his unit started coming under heavy fire during an attack in broad daylight in Unsan.
The recent graduate of the U.S. Military Academy had very limited training and no combat experience, but was tasked to lead a provisional unit.
In the days leading up to the operation his men were pursuing North Korean forces as they retreated toward the Yalu River and the border with China.
On little sleep, in freezing temperatures and with several casualties in his unit, on the morning of November 25 he was tasked with securing and defending a critical position. That was when he was hit with heavy artillery.
Puckett is seen in a hospital bed during his heroic service. He ran onto an open hillside, known as Hill 205 (right), three times to try and draw Chinese enemy fire away from the Eighth Army Ranger company and help them identify where the shooting was coming from during the intense battle in 1950
He ran onto an open hillside, known as Hill 205, three times to try and draw Chinese enemy fire away from the Eighth Army Ranger company and help them identify where the shooting was coming from.
On the same day, he showed his leadership again during a four-hour firefight.
He was injured first by grenade fragments and then was more seriously hurt when an enemy mortar landed beside him in his foxhole.
With his mobility seriously impacted, he asked the men in his unit to leave him behind for their own safety.
But they disobeyed orders, dragged him from the battlefield and took him to a position where he still managed to direct his platoon to counter the Chinese onslaught.
Of the Rangers on the mission, 10 were either killed or missing with another 31 wounded. Puckett was initially awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for his heroic actions and devotion to duty that day.
Puckett then spent a year in Vietnam as a member of the 101st Airborne Division.
He received a second Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in the Vietnam War and later retired from the Army in 1971.
In 1992 was inducted into the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame.
He now lives in Georgia.
The 94-year-old Medal of Honor recipient was 24 and an Army Ranger in November 1950 when his unit started coming under heavy fire during an attack in broad daylight in Unsan
Source: US Army
Biden arrives with retired U.S. Army Col. Puckett before the Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room
Puckett listens to President Biden’s speech on stage during the medal ceremony
Before the speech, Kamala Harris and Jill Biden embraced following reports the first lady said the VP should ‘go f*** herself’ for attacking husband Joe’s history of racist policies during the 2019 Democratic debate
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