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Medal of Honor Recipient
Korean War

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Ralph Puckett Jr.

Medal of Honor Recipient Ralph Puckett Jr.

Citation...

The President of the United States, in the name of the Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Ralph Puckett Jr. for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving as Commanding Officer of the 8th Ranger Company, 8213th Army Unit, 8th U.S. Army.

First Lieutenant Puckett distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces near Unsan, Korea, on 25 and 26 November 1950. With complete disregard for his personal safety, First Lieutenant Puckett led his company across eight hundred yards of open terrain under heavy enemy small-arms fire and captured the company's objective.

During this operation he deliberately exposed himself to enemy machine-gun fire to enable his men to spot locations of the machine guns. After capturing the objective, he directed preparation of defensive positions against an expected enemy counterattack. At 2200 hours on 25 November 1950, while directing the defense of his position against a heavy counterattack, he was wounded in the right shoulder.

Refusing evacuation, he continued to direct his company through four more counterattacks by a numerically superior force who advanced to within grenade range before being driven back. During these attacks, he left the safety of his foxhole in order to observe movements of the enemy and to direct artillery fire. In so doing, he repeatedly exposed himself to heavy small-arms and mortar fire. In the sixth counterattack, at 0300 hours on 26 November 1950, he was wounded again, so seriously that he was unable to move.

Detecting that his company was about to be overrun and forced to withdraw, he ordered his men to leave him behind so as not to endanger their withdrawal. Despite his protests, he was dragged from the hill to a position of safety. First Lieutenant Puckett's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

THE BATTLE
Hill 205 | Nov. 25-26, 1950 | In the vicinity of Unsan, Korea

1st Lt. Ralph Puckett, United States Army, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 25-26 November 1950 while serving as Commander, Eighth Army Ranger Company, Task Force Dolvin. As the Rangers commenced the daylight attack of Hill 205, the enemy directed mortar, machinegun and small arms fire against the advancing force. To obtain supporting fire, 1st Lt. Puckett mounted the closest tank exposing himself to the deadly enemy fire. Leaping from the tank, he yelled, "Let's go!" and began to lead his Rangers in the attack. ​

Almost immediately, enemy machinegun fire threatened the success of the attack by pinning down one platoon. Leaving the safety of his position with full knowledge of the danger; 1st Lt. Puckett intentionally ran across an open area three times to draw enemy fire thereby allowing his Rangers to locate and destroy the enemy machinegun and enabling the company to seize Hill 205. Later that night, the enemy counter-attacked in the near zero degree weather. During the next four hours the 57-man company, inspired and motivated by the extraordinary leadership and courageous example exhibited by Lt. Puckett, repulsed five human wave attacks by a 500-man battalion assaulting behind intense mortar barrages. Continually directing 'danger ­close' artillery support that decimated attacking enemy formations, repeatedly abandoning positions of relative safety to make his way from foxhole to foxhole to check the perimeter, interceding at each point of decision in the battle, redistributing ammunition and keeping only one eight-round clip for his own rifle, 1st Lt. Puckett's encouragement and dauntless will instilled in his men an unfailing desire and perseverance to resist. ​

Although wounded in the thigh by a grenade fragment during the first assault, 1st Lt. Puckett refused evacuation. During the course of battle, 1st Lt. Puckett once again intentionally exposed himself three more times to an enemy sniper before the sniper was killed. Unable to obtain artillery support to repel the sixth enemy assault, 1st Lt. Puckett and his command were overrun by the fanatical enemy. Two mortar rounds detonated in 1st Lt. Puckett's foxhole inflicting severe wounds to his feet, buttocks, and left arm. Though the wounds to his right foot were so severe the doctors considered amputation for several months, 1st Lt. Puckett maintained the presence of mind to report that his command was being overrun by the enemy. Grievously wounded and unable to move on his own, 1st Lt. Puckett ordered his men to leave him behind. ​

Later two of his Rangers fought their way to his position killing three enemy who were only 10 yards from where 1st Lt. Puckett lay defenseless. Although 1st Lt. Puckett ordered his Rangers to leave him behind, they refused. Later as the enemy fired at the rescuers Puckett again ordered his men to leave him to ensure their safety. Finally secure at the bottom of Hill 205 and despite the seriousness and pain of his wounds, 1st Lt. Puckett maintained the presence of mind to direct a heavy concentration of artillery fire on the enemy now on top of the hill. 1st Lt. Puckett's extraordinary courage and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.​

PERSONAL BACKGROUND

Colonel Puckett enlisted in the Army Enlisted Reserve Corps on December 23, 1943 as a Private. He was subsequently discharged on June 22, 1945 to attend the U.S. Military Academy. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on June 3, 1949. Colonel Puckett served in combat from August 26, 1950 to November 26, 1950, as a member of the 8th Army Ranger Company during the Korean War and from July 31, 1967 to July 3, 1968, as a member of the 101st Airborne Division during the Vietnam War. Retiring from active duty in 1971, he became the National Programs Coordinator of Outward Bound, Inc., and subsequently established Discovery, Inc., a leadership and teamwork development program that focused on “Personal Growth through Safe Adventure.” In 1992, he was an inaugural inductee into the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame and, from 1996 to 2006, he served as the first Honorary Colonel of the 75th Ranger Regiment. Other honors followed to include an appointment as an Ambassador of Goodwill by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, selection as a 2004 Distinguished Graduate of the United States Military Academy, and a 2007 recipient of the Infantry’s Doughboy Award.

Ralph Puckett Jr. Medal of Honor Ceremony Video

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