Korean War Veteran

The Sharp Family Story

By Ms. Nicole Ruiz, KDVA Research Intern

Photo Caption: Gen. (Ret.) Walter Sharp is holding a picture of his father, then-Lieutenant Earl “Bill” Sharp (who is on the right), with the 40th Infantry Division during the Korean War in 1952 to 1953.  Bill Sharp ended his 28-year military career, retiring as a Cavalry Colonel and inspiring his son to follow in his footsteps. General Sharp started his Army career at West Point and ended in 2011 as the 4-star commander of United Nations Command (UNC), Combined Forces Command (CFC), and U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).

General (Retired) Walter “Skip” Sharp

President and Chairman, Korea Defense Veterans Association

Former Commander United Nations Command / Combined Forces Command / U.S. Forces Korea

Son of Korean War Veteran, Colonel (Retired) Earl “Bill” Sharp


Shortly after graduating from the University of West Virginia and receiving his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant, Earl “Bill” Sharp joined the 40th Infantry Division during the Korean War in 1952. In 1953, Lieutenant Sharp returned home to his wife and his new son, Walter “Skip” Sharp, who had been born while he was fighting in Korea. Then-Lieutenant Sharp would pursue a 28-year military career, retiring as a Cavalry Colonel and inspiring his son to follow in his footsteps. Skip Sharp entered West Point and graduated in 1974, launching what would become a 37-year military career and ultimately retiring as a 4-star General in 2011. When General Sharp was set to deploy for Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s, his father emphasized the importance of taking care of his troops thru tough realistic training and trusting his subordinates. Still, his father did not fully breach the topic of his wartime experiences.

General Sharp was first stationed in Korea between 1996 and 1998. General Sharp received his promotion from Colonel to Brigadier General and his parents, who had attended every promotion since West Point, joined him for a short visit in Korea. The trip held special meaning for his father because it was the first time he set foot on Korean soil since the Korean War. General Sharp reflected, “He really was amazed and pleased to see how much Korea has progressed and said several times ‘The sacrifices of the Korean War were worth it’.” Unfortunately, Colonel Sharp passed away in 2006 before he could see his son earn his fourth star and return to Korea for his dream final job in the Army as the commander of United Nations Command (UNC), Combined Forces Command (CFC), and U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) from 2008 until his retirement in 2011.

This tour as the 4-star commander in Korea gave General Sharp the opportunity to visit the location where his father fought, an experience he wishes he could have shared with him. His Deputy CFC Commander, General Jung, Seong Jo, mobilized Korean historians to help identify the locations where his father served in the Heartbreak Ridge-to-Punchbowl area in late 1952 and early 1953. General Jung also arranged for General Sharp and his wife to visit the battlefield as well as receive a briefing from the unit stationed in that area. Even though his father could not join him to revisit the battlefield, being able to do so was still a special moment for General Sharp, especially because his father never talked about his experiences in any detail. General Sharp remembered, “There were times when he would talk about how cold it was, the coldest he was ever in his life.” Besides these little snippets of information, much of Co lonel Sharp’s service was shrouded in mystery.

It wasn’t until several years after his father passed away that General Sharp would learn more about his father’s experiences in Korea and Vietnam. When the family stumbled across a cedar chest containing photos and military records, General Sharp described finding such a chest as “pretty emotional.” Like many veterans from the Korean War, his father closely guarded his experiences and never really divulged any details. General Sharp reflected, “I wish I had a better understanding on how things went and how he was able to prepare, lead, and fight in a war at such a young age.” He went on to say, “When I retired, I vowed that I was going to continue to do everything I could … to strengthen the ROK-U.S. Alliance and honor those who had served in Korea.”

True to his word, General Sharp honored the legacy of his father and other Korean War veterans after his retirement by speaking on their behalf. He also played a crucial role in forming the Korean Defense Veterans Association (KDVA), becoming the first chairman and president of the organization. These organizations are important because they provide a platform for the importance of the ROK-U.S. Alliance and for veterans to share their experiences and others to learn from them


Photo Caption: This bayonet was presented to General Sharp by the 3rd ROK Corps during his visit to where his father fought in the Korean War.


Photo Caption: Pictures of General Sharp’s father, then-Lieutenant Earl “Bill” Sharp, with the 40th Infantry Division during the Korean War in 1952 to 1953.

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The Champoux Family Story

By Ms. Nicole Ruiz, KDVA Research Intern

Growing up, Korea was an important part of the Champoux family. It came in the form of traditional Korean masks hanging on the living room walls and his father occasionally talking about Korea, although rarely mentioning the war. One of eight siblings, General Champoux was the only one to follow his father’s footsteps into the Army. General Champoux was commissioned a Second Lieutenant by his father on October 21, 1977. Now with his son as a fellow Soldier, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Francis L. Champoux began to share more experiences, finally broaching the topic of his war experiences in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. One such story was when then-Captain Champoux was first assigned to the 65th Infantry Regiment during the Korean War. Upon being assigned to the unit, there were some initial difficulties in terms of connecting with his troops. However, he eventually earned their respect when he made it clear that he would share the dangers of combat with his men, even gaining the nickname “El Toro” (Spanish for “The Bull”). Colonel Champoux expressed great pride in his son’s decision to serve. Unfortunately, he passed away at the age of 65, before seeing his son become a general.

During a deployment to Iraq, General Champoux received the news he would be assigned to Korea. Following an emotional plane ride to his new duty station with his wife, he settled into his new role as the Eighth Army Commanding General. During his time in Korea, he was able to enlist the help of a Korean aide-to-camp and use the book Honor and Fidelity to find the exact location where his father fought. Over sixty years later, General Champoux made a sort of pilgrimage with some family and staff. He was able to follow his father onto the grounds near Cheorwon, where then-Captain Champoux was part of the Battle of Jackson Heights. Regarding the experience, General Champoux explained, “To get the chance to serve where he had served, where he had fought, was really, really precious to me. Even now, I’m so proud of that. I’m so grateful that I had that opportunity. Although I didn’t need to be any closer… I felt that much closer to him.” Reflecting on his initial assignment to Korea, General Champoux believes it was partially due to divine providence. His father had often called Korea the “Land of the Morning Calm” and after living there, General Champoux can attest that, “there is something about when you’re out in the field. [When the sun is rising above the mountainous terrain,] there is a sense of quiet and calm.” Although their experiences in Korea were vastly different, both General Champoux and his father are and will remain Soldiers for life.

There are some things only those who have experienced war will understand. To many, there is a comfort in believing in such a place as Valhalla, a place for only the souls of warriors. General Champoux pronounces, “There’ll be a time when I’ll sit around a fire with my dad at Valhalla and we’ll talk about our combat service and we’ll talk about our time in Korea… [but] I can wait. There’s a lot that I still want to live for.” General Champoux’s commitment to the ROK-U.S. Alliance remains strong through his volunteer efforts with KDVA as a Board member and his current position as Senior Vice President of Hanwha Defense International, a South Korean defense company in the Washington, DC area. He believes that strengthening the Alliance through various channels can further solidify the bonds forged during the Korean War.

Hanging on Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Bernard Champoux’s office wall is a photo of the surviving members of the 65th Infantry Regiment “Borinqueneers,” the unit where his father, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Francis L. Champoux, was a company commander during the Korean War. A copy of Honor and Fidelity, originally presented by the author, Gilberto Villahermosa, to General Champoux’s mother, now sits in a place of honor in this library. These physical mementos serve as a reminder of the ties that bind. General Champoux never met the Soldiers with whom his father served, but their faces are still proudly displayed. Villanueva’s research helped bring General Champoux that much closer to his father.

Read more “I Know a Korean War Veteran” Campaign Stories.

“I Know A Korean War Veteran Campaign”

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General Paek Sun Yup

Submitted By: James Pierce 

My favorite Korean War veteran is General Paek Sun Yup, perhaps Korea’s greatest modern military leader.

I initially met General Paek probably in the 1970s, when I was first assigned to the American Embassy in Seoul. (I had been introduced to Korea a decade earlier, serving in 8th Army.) Over the years, with repeated assignments to Korea, I had the opportunity to meet General Paek a number of times. The last time I saw him was about 25 years ago at a reception held at the residence of the Korean Ambassador to the U.S. on Korean Armed Forces Day, October 1.

General Paek was the senior-ranking guest and, as such, was to give the featured remarks. I met up with him during the initial mix and mingle, reintroduced myself and, after mentioning that I had just re-read a history of the Korean War, asked General Paek if he could recall for me one particular event during the war that stood out most clearly in his memory. He paused and said, “Yes, there was such a moment, and I remember it very clearly.” He related how, on June 29, he had been directed to go to Suwon Airfield to meet a “high-ranking U.S. military officer.” The officer turned out to be General MacArthur, who flew in from Japan that day to assess the situation on the ground. After going up to the south bank of the Han River (Seoul had fallen by that time), MacArthur declared that he would direct U.S. ground troops to come to Korea and enter the war.

At that moment, General Paek related to me some 45 years later, “I knew Korea would be saved.” General Paek and I parted, said hello to other guests, and several minutes later, General Paek was called to the front of the room to deliver his remarks. He reached into his suit jacket pocket and took out a page of written remarks. Pausing a moment, he said, “I have these prepared remarks, but I’m not going to use them.” Putting them back into his pocket, he continued, “Instead, I’m going to tell you about June 29, 1950.” When he finished a few minutes later, the applause was thunderous.

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Captain Sung Gon Kim

Submitted By: MinShik Kim 

Freedom is not free.

April 19, 2020 is the 11th anniversary of my grandfather’s death.

He was laid to rest at Daejeon National Cemetery.

My grandfather, Captain Sung Gon Kim is a Korean War Veteran, and has served in the ROK Army during the Korean war as an infantry officer.

CPT Kim took part in the war for 2 years and 6 months, especially from January 1, 1951 to July 1, 1953.

When the war broke on June 25th, 1950, new recruits received initial entry training at Moseulpo in Jeju Island (1st training center, later, 2nd training center opened up in Nonsan).

My grandfather was assigned to the 1st training center to train soldiers. Most of the graduates were placed at the front line at that time.

Later, he fought bravely at 351 front line battle near Wolbi Mountain which is remembered as one of the most intense battles during the Korean War. He was wounded from that battle and honorably discharged.

He truly sacrificed himself to protect and defend our people and nation.

Thank you for your service and we will remember you.

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By: Ned Forney
U.S. Marine Corps veteran, career educator, and grandson of a Korean War veteran

For 19-year-old Pat Finn, a Minnesota Marine with Item Co, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, the night seemed colder and darker than any of the others he’d experienced since landing in Korea. His battalion had just arrived at a desolate, frozen lake he would remember for the rest of his life: the Chosin Reservoir.

PFC Pat Finn, USMC, before leaving for Korea. (Photo courtesy of Pat Finn)

Home By Christmas

As the sun went down on November 27, 1950, and temperatures sank to 20 degrees below zero, U.S. Marines at Yudam-ni, a small village on the west side of the Chosin Reservoir, hunkered down for what they hoped would be a quiet, uneventful night.

“The war was all but over,” Finn recalled in his diary written weeks later from a hospital bed in Japan. “You’ll be home by Christmas,” he’d been told.

But his buddy, Eddie Reilly, wasn’t buying it. In his usual pessimistic tone, he told Finn, “Pat, I don’t like the look of all this, it sounds too good.”

For the next four hours, the two Marines scraped and dug into the frozen, rocky ground, Reilly constantly reminding his friend that if something went wrong a fighting hole would save them from flying bullets and shrapnel.

When the hole was finally finished, Finn and Reilly, both exhausted, squeezed into what they believed would be a safe haven for the night. Minutes later their lieutenant yelled, “Saddle up!”Their platoon was heading to higher ground.

They Just Kept Coming

Nothing, not even a foxhole, would save them from the horror that unfolded over the next eight hours. Finn, Reilly, and hundreds of their fellow Marines were attacked by thousands of Chinese.

In the first onslaught of a major Communist offensive that would alter the course of the war, Chinese soldiers, under direct orders from Mao, had launched a vicious attack to annihilate the 1st Marine Division. Wave after wave of Chinese descended on the Marines.

Overwhelmed and outmanned, Finn and his buddies were overrun by the Chinese. With enemy soldiers breaking through their defenses, close-in fighting, sometimes hand-to-hand, erupted.

“They were mixed in right with us,” Finn remembers. Hundreds of white-clad Chinese, oozing a pungent garlic smell, swarmed over Finn and Reilly’s position.

“About that time, Pat Garvin from Detroit threw an illumination round,” Finn recalled. The Chinese “with their white jackets looked like ducks in a shooting gallery.” Silhouetted against the lit sky, they were mowed down by machine gun fire, but as soon as they fell, men running behind them grabbed their fallen comrades’ weapons and charged ahead.

“They just kept coming,” Finn remembers.

Silence on the Hill

In the chaos of the attack, the young Marine ran straight into a Chinese soldier. “I went to shoot him and ‘click’ my rifle was frozen.” Stunned and realizing he was about to get hit, Finn yelled, “He got me!” A Marine heard Finn scream and fired a round at the Chinese fighter. The soldier died instantly.

When the sun came up the next morning, an estimated 300 frozen, grotesquely twisted Chinese corpses littered the snowy North Korean hillside. Famed Korean War historian Roy Appleman, in his seminal work on Chosin, Escaping The Trap, wrote, “Silence prevailed on the hill.”

In a bloody, 24-hour period, the Korean War had changed. General Douglas MacArthur, the supreme commander of UN Forces in Korea, was shocked. He had previously told President Truman and the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the Chinese would not enter the war. They wouldn’t dare, he had boasted. With “135 [American] dead, 725 wounded, and 60 missing” in just one day and thousands more dying over the next month, the American public was also stunned.

Finn and his buddies would eventually fight their way 14 miles to Hagaru-ri, where they would link up with remaining American units in the area and then “attack in another direction” to the port of Hungnam nearly 70 miles away.

The Long Road to Hungnam

On the first night of the breakout from Yudam-ni, the Chinese attacked again. When the fighting ended the next morning on Hill 1520, only 20 Marines out of a company of nearly 250 were still standing. The rest were dead, wounded, or missing. Finn was amongst the survivors.

He had lived through one of the most terrifying nights at Chosin. In a brief lull in the fighting that night, he had tried to save a group of Marines hit by mortar fire.

“They were all close to death,” he remembered. “One was still conscious. He asked me to give him a cigarette and cover his legs because they felt frozen. He didn’t have enough legs to cover.” There was nothing Finn could do. The man died minutes later.

Before daybreak, another mortar attack took place. A round landed “about four feet” from Finn’s foxhole. “I was protected from all the shrapnel,” he told his father, “but the blast threw me right out of the hole.” The Marines behind him, mortally wounded, lying on the ground, and begging for help, were instantly killed.

“It was good in a way, it put the four boys behind me out of their misery. They were really in misery, believe me,” he wrote.

All My Buddies Were Killed

“All of my buddies were killed,” Finn continued in a letter to his father dated December 10, 1950. “Remember me telling you about Eddie Reilly? He was killed. That really hurt. He treated me like a big brother. All night long he would keep coming out of his foxhole to see that I wasn’t wounded or anything.”

That was the last time he saw his friend. PFC Edmund H. Reilly was listed as “Killed In Action” on December 2, 1950.

He also lost his buddy, Jerry “Peanuts” Caldwell, a 17-year-old high-school football standout. “He was a great guy. He would stay in the barracks writing and reading the Bible while we were at the slop shoot,” Finn recalled.

Another good friend, David Flood, went missing, and three days later a Chinese soldier was killed wearing the Marine’s jacket.“It was one of the eeriest feelings I had during the entire war,” Finn explained. “Knowing my buddy had died and his body had been stripped of its clothes was hard to take.”

By December 9, Finn was in Japan. He had made it down the MSR and had been evacuated by air to a U.S. military hospital where he was being treated for severe frostbite. In typical Marine bravado, he said, “You and mother will never know how close you came to collecting that $10,000 I used to joke about.”

Looking back on his Chosin odyssey, Finn realizes the epic ten-day breakout to the coast was a defining moment of the Korean War and his life.

Coming Home

After recovering in Japan and returning to the U.S., Finn married, started his career, and had five sons. He worked for the same company for 48 years and retired as its CEO in 2000. After a divorce from his first wife, he remarried. His second wife, Arlene, was with him when we met in Seoul last month. During my interview with the couple, I asked Pat how he coped with what he’d been through at Chosin. “I drank,” he answered matter-of-factly.

“For so long,” he told me, “I tried to put the war out of my mind, lock it away, or erase it. But it was always there.” His life eventually changed, and he has been sober now for 45 years.

As I talked with his wife, it was obvious how empathetic she is towards her husband and how knowledgeable she is of what happened to him during his time in Korea. She’s a psychologist, and her understanding of what he experienced at Chosin and how to deal with it shines through in her words and actions.

“For so many years,” Arlene explained, “he coped by avoiding memories, thoughts, and feelings related to his war experience.”

Thankfully, Pat can now talk about the war with his family and friends, go to Chosin Few reunions, and even allow complete strangers who sit next to him during a bus tour to interview him. “He can actually enjoy the present,” Arlene said enthusiastically.

Pat and Arlene, thank you for your friendship and for sharing this remarkable story of sacrifice and survival. Mr. Finn, I salute you, your Marine buddies who never came home, and all the servicemen who fought in the Korean War.

Pat and Arlene Finn on a 2018 “Revisit Korea” trip sponsored by the MPVA (Photo credit: Ned Forney).


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By: Matt Segal, Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired), Cary, NC

I was commissioned in 1971 through Temple University’s ROTC program and went on active duty in 1972 as a 2nd Lieutenant reporting to Ft. Ben Harrison for the Adjutant General Officer Basic Course (AGOBC), followed by six weeks at the Defense Information School (DINFOS also at Ft. Ben at that time) for the Broadcast Officer course. During a career that spanned 28 years retiring as a colonel in 1999, I had many assignments, but most were in branch immaterial slots. So beyond year five, I had few AG assignments, working mostly in Public Affairs, Civil Affairs, or in an IG position.

In 1973, I was the deputy PAO at Ft. Dix and called the AG assignments branch and asked to go on a short tour. Branch told me the only available short tours were to South Korea or Thailand as we were sending no one to Vietnam at that time. I told them I would prefer Thailand … so a few days later I got orders to Korea! I guess that’s why they call it a dream sheet.

I would be going as the Administrative Officer to Armed Forces Korea Network (AFKN). That was a perfect job for someone with my background, and I got a letter from my sponsor, LTC Myrick, welcoming me. I got off the plane in Korea in September 1973. My name was called out with a bunch of others at Camp Coiner, and I was told we were all going to the 2nd Division! I was told I would be taking command of the 10th Army Postal Unit at Camp Red Cloud. Surprise, surprise.

I had no postal knowledge (obviously I had not attended the course) and here I was as a 2LT commanding a unit that should have been commanded by a Captain, but what does not kill you makes you stronger. Long story short, it was a great assignment as anyone who has done postal knows, because of (among other things) the smiles you see on soldier’s faces when the unit does its job. And I had some great soldiers and in this little unit of less the 20 soldiers. We actually had an 8th Army Soldier of the Quarter who was presented an Army Commendation Medal by the Commander of 8th Army/USFK/UNC, General Stilwell.

In 1973, about 20 years after the Korean War, Korea was still recovering, as you can imagine, but I loved the Korean people. They were resourceful, polite to a fault, and just great to work with. And their soldiers were as tough as they come. I always knew they would become a positive force for good in the world once they recovered from the horrors of the Korean War. Little did I know how significant a force they would become.

Fast forward to 2016. As a member of the 2nd ID Association, I was informed of the Korea Revisit tour program which was conducted a number of times each year primarily in the warmer months. I always wanted to see South Korea again to see how far they had come in the 42 years since I left. Every October, my wife and I attend the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) annual meeting in DC and throughout the meeting, we saw just how far the country had progressed, but I wanted to see it live in the country. The Korea Revisit tour provided that opportunity for my wife and me in July 2016.

My wonderful wife, Meg, and I have been married over 36 years and she has never set foot in Korea but based on the tour structure and all I had told her from my memory, she was on board for the trip. We also added the optional tour to Korean War sites. Our tour had 121 people in it from pay grades E-3 (just got assigned during a 3-year active duty stint) to several retired GOs. We also had people on our tour who had served or were descendants of military personnel who had served in Korea during the Korean War as well as people who had served from other UN countries such as Sweden, Canada, Australia, The Philippines, Colombia, India, South Africa, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom, and others.

At our farewell dinner, General Brooks was with us along with CSM Payton. Imagine a large group of young Korean schoolgirls singing “You are My Sunshine” and giving all veterans a red rose and a kiss on the cheek. Imagine being applauded everywhere you went by a thankful group of people, who you never met. The high from the trip just never stopped, and I urge you to take the opportunity to go on this trip. How many of our allies go this far over the top to say thanks?!

When you are a soldier serving overseas you think of yourself as just doing your job. When you see appreciation like this, you know you were not just doing your job, but fulfilling your calling!

As an AG, you are often the person behind the curtain, but nobody comes into the Army or leaves the Army without seeing you first and last respectively. And if they stay in, your fingerprint is on them, even if they do not know it, at every career milestone, so you really serve as the cornerstone of their military lives.

The South Korean people are really special. If you read Korean history, they have made lemonade out of lemons and not just to their benefit, but to the benefit of the world. That is a legacy that should make us all proud, and I am certainly glad to have been a very small part of it as I was given the honor to serve there.

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The Cashman Family

Submitted by Guy Cashman

My father (Cletus Cashman) fought in Korea with the 1st Marine Division, 1st Battalion. He received a Purple Heart for being wounded at Bunker Hill. We celebrated his 92nd birthday on February 29, 2020.

Dad married my mom in June of 1956, and they were married 62 years until mom passed a couple of years ago. They had six children. My younger brother passed in 2016. He was also a Marine which my father is very proud of.

Dad everyday puts out his American flag and pulls it back in before dark. I was honored to be able to fly with him for his honor flight to Washington, D.C. It was an amazing day for my dad … one he will never forget. Neither will I.

My father also has wrote down quite a few war time stories from his time in Korea. A friend of his has made a small book of it. It’s called the Greenest Marine.

He is going strong and says Semper Fi!

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Capt. Raymond Murphy

Marine Corps Capt. Raymond Murphy, a Medal of Honor recipient who honorably served his fellow Marines during war, then spent the rest of his life serving them, as well.

Murphy was born Jan. 14, 1930, in Pueblo, Colorado. He had three brothers and a sister and said he loved to play sports growing up. He was finishing his bachelor’s degree in 1950 when the Korean War broke out.

A Marine wearing a dress uniform and a Medal of Honor around his neck looks at the camera.

Toward the end of his senior year, the draft was becoming more of a concern, so Murphy got advice from two of his older brothers — both of whom had already served. He decided he would try to become an officer, so he joined the Marine Corps after graduation and earned his commission.

Murphy was placed in Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. It wasn’t long before he was sent to Korea, where he earned the Silver Star while commanding an infantry platoon in Seoul in late 1952.

On Feb. 3, 1953, Murphy earned the Medal of Honor by taking charge when several of his superiors went down. On that day, Murphy’s company was positioned near the Imjin River, and their mission was to keep Chinese communist troops from getting a foothold on the hill. Murphy, a second lieutenant at the time, was commanding a reserve platoon that was positioned to help wounded men from the two forward-fighting platoons.

Quickly, Murphy realized something was wrong when there were no wounded men coming back to them. He decided to move his platoon up to see what was going on. As they got closer to the front line, he realized that all of the forward platoons’ officers and noncommissioned officers were dead or seriously wounded. The lack of leadership caused mass confusion among the remaining ranks.

Several Marines wade through thigh-high water carrying weapons on their backs, walking toward a hill in the distance.
Murphy immediately took command, ordering his platoon to find their comrades and evacuate the area despite the heavy machine-gun fire raging around them. Murphy himself was seriously wounded by fragments from a mortar shell, but he refused help and continued to lead his men up the hill to find more pinned-down Marines. Murphy made several trips up and down the hill as it was blanketed by enemy fire, directing evacuation teams to the wounded and carrying several injured men to safety.

Murphy ordered part of his unit to help the attack platoons when they needed reinforcements. He took out two enemy combatants with his own pistol.

When all the wounded were evacuated, the assault platoons started to move down the hill. Although injured, Murphy stayed behind to cover their backs, fending off enemies who reappeared in the trenches with a carbine and an automatic rifle.

Military vehicles follow zig-zagged muddy roads up a hill.

Once Murphy got to the hill’s base, he organized a search party and went back up one more time to make sure no one had been left behind. During that search, they found the bodies of a machine-gun crew, which they carried down.

But they weren’t in the clear. Enemy guns, artillery and mortar fire continued to cascade on them from above, and Murphy was wounded a second time while trying to get the company to the main line of departure. He refused to get help for himself until everyone else made it through to safety.

Years later, Murphy explained his thinking.

“That’s one of the big things you’re trained for in the Marine Corps. You get casualties, and even men you didn’t know, whether they were alive or not — you get them out of the front line and get them back to where the medical people could look at them,” he said in a Veterans History Project interview. “This is the purpose of the war — to save your men and take care of the enemy.”

Murphy returned to the states shortly after that battle and was promoted to captain. He later left the service and enrolled in graduate school, where he was when he learned that his actions in war had earned him the Medal of Honor. He received the medal from President Dwight D. Eisenhower in a While House ceremony on Oct. 27, 1953. It went well with the Silver Star, Purple Heart, Korean Service Medal with two bronze stars, and the United Nations Service Medal he also earned during his short military career.

An older gentleman wearing a Medal of Honor looks into a camera.

Murphy went on to marry and have four children, and he spent most of his civilian career in service to other veterans after settling in New Mexico. He served as the director of veteran services at what is now the Department of Veterans Affairs center in Albuquerque from 1974 to 1997. When he retired, he continued to serve the center as a volunteer, pushing veterans in wheelchairs to their medical appointments.

Murphy died on April 6, 2007, at the age of 77. He was buried in Santa Fe National Cemetery wearing his VA hospital volunteer smock.

Murphy’s love for his fellow veterans was so well-known that, in 2008, the VA hospital where he worked was renamed the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center.

Former New Mexico Rep. Stevan Pearce praised Murphy during the renaming process. “Many of us too often believe that heroism can only be exhibited in those extreme circumstances. But I would say that it takes more courage to live a life of service that he chose to live after his heroic exploits. He wasn’t faced with multimillion-dollar book-signing deals, no movie contracts — just a quiet life serving other veterans who are often overlooked.”

A life that is well worth honoring.


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Submitted by Janice Extrom Sheridan

We (his four children) were not born yet while he was in Korea. In fact, he met our mother after his service ended in 1952. We didn’t know much of his story until later in life … we knew he was a U.S. Marine, but didn’t know about his time in the war because he didn’t talk about it much. We are very proud of his service, and in time we learned so much about his time spent in Korea. However, it’s really hard to imagine the horrific things he saw and endured. He keeps his memories private except for a few details.

How it affected us … in retrospect we didn’t know he was a war hero. We knew he’d been a combat vet. We knew how proud he was to be a U.S. Marine. But, we had no clue what he’d endured because he was so reticent to talk about it.

We also didn’t know that his obsession with perfection was unusual. HA! From the time we were little, his conversations were peppered with military jargon — “Spit-shine those shoes,” “Use some elbow grease,” “Quit crying. You got nothing to cry about,” and things like, “When you’re in the military, you learn to obey orders.”

He loved a good parade and from his admiration and respect for other veterans, we learned to respect and honor veterans from every war. Heroes return home from war as ordinary citizens with a laudable secret past that lives inside their memory. We knew he relived the war in his mind while trying to be an ordinary model citizen — which he was — but we also knew he had his secrets, and we needed to respect those. Our brother also proudly served as a U.S. Marine.

Dad told us once many, many years ago that he didn’t talk about his Korean War experiences because he didn’t want to glorify war.

As for Dad’s family of origin … his mother posted three flags in her front window to show support for three of her five sons. Two in WWII and one in the Korean War. She was proud of her boys. She would clip articles from the newspapers and save them for each son. She wrote to each one regularly and prayed for their safety as well as the others who served. One served with the 82nd Airborne (508th) paratroopers. He was shot in the jaw and received shrapnel in his leg. We’re sure she was devastated, yet thankful. No doubt, she worried that any day she might hear the knock on the door. By God’s grace, all three sons returned home. (Dad’s mother and father and nine siblings are all gone now.)

The following is a short biographical sketch written for an awards ceremony in our father’s hometown when he was awarded the Heroic Hearts of Gold Award.


As a child of the Depression, Robert Extrom never realized his family’s poverty would give him the perseverance, courage, and loyalty he would need in the service of his country.

At 18, when tensions were escalating between North and South Korea, Bob enlisted in the Marine Corps. After completing boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, he was trained in radio/communications at Camp Pendleton in California. The Marines’ motto, Semper Fidelis—“Always Faithful”—took root in Bob’s heart when the 1st Marine Division received orders to ship off to Korea for war.

On September 15, 1950, Marine forces landed at the strategic port of Inchon and pushed inland to recapture Seoul. Trudging through rice paddies, Bob detected erratic bubbles in the water and his captain urged him to fall back—the radio equipment on his back was drawing North Korean sniper fire. By November, the 1st Marines were fighting for survival in the Chosin Reservoir, where temperatures dipped to -45° F. The Chinese outnumbered the Marines 8-1, completely surrounding them. During fierce engagement, Bob was blown off his feet by mortar shells, sustaining a concussion and a back injury. Large chunks of shrapnel embedded in his spare battery thus saving his life.

Bob became one of the courageous “Frozen Chosin,” or “The Chosin Few,” who made it out of the Chosin Reservoir alive. For heroically putting himself in harm’s way and persevering to keep lines of communication open, Bob received two combat “V” awards and was later promoted to Staff Sergeant. OOHRAH!!

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Robert Extrom

Excerpt from Robert Extrom’s Biography as a radio operator, 1st Marines, 3rd Battalion, H Company to be published on the Korean War Educator Website. 

Submitted by Janice Extrom Sheridan

“There are so many tanks going through the mountains in North Korea and so many dead bodies on the side of the road that they didn’t stop and pick them up to clear the roadway. They checked for IDs and filed a report, but kept moving. If you wanted to get shot, you stopped … so if we were following some tanks, when the tanks moved, we moved. We didn’t have time to put two and two together.

We were following a tank when we came to an area that was kind of an intersection near Hagaru-ri. I remember that there was a dead body in the middle of the gravel roadway. I was shocked. He was a North Korean or Chinese enemy that had been flattened on the road, having been run over and over by tanks and other vehicles. He was only about six inches thick at this point and looked to be about eight feet tall. He was just like almost make-believe and something that I never expected. Flat. He had been run over so many times by tanks that his body was like a pancake, and there we were walking right over on top of him.

It was the first time I had been that close to a body that had been run over by a tank. I knew he was dead, but still it affected me. He was probably a father and had kids at home. You don’t get over that very easily. I had to just close my eyes, push it out of my mind, and keep going. You can’t imagine how that is when you haven’t been exposed to something like that. I still can’t get that image out of my mind.

I remember thinking that anybody who thinks war is good has something wrong in the head — I don’t care what outfit he’s with. All that could be done with the dead bodies was to get them out of the way by pushing them off the side of the road and down in the gullies. I also thought, ‘That’s going to stink in the springtime when their bodies start thawing out.’”


Dear Mom and Dad,

Received your letter of the 16th yesterday. We are now 3/4 of Seoul secured. Our Regiment/1st Marine had the privilege and hard task of going through the heart of the city and it was hard with resistance heavy. Our casualties were not too bad though. Yesterday and last night our Battalion was given a rest, much needed. As ROK forces came into Seoul to relieve us for a spell.

Sept. 25th almost spelled doom for this company I’m with. We made a big push the 24th and our flank companies were pinned down by the enemy. Only our H Company could advance. We lost communication with everyone and got lost behind enemy lines and Emplacements. For 16 hours straight we were seeing heavy fire from every side.

Believe me we prayed a lot and someone else must have been praying hard too. For with God’s will did we finally gained communication and fought our way out of the trap back to our lines. But it’s over with now and with yesterday’s rest we’re ready to take the rest of the city. It’s much harder in a city than out in the hills and mountains.

We receive very little, if any, news at all pertaining to the armies down south. But we do believe it won’t be long before this is over. I believe I’ve lost close to 25 lbs so far. But some good meats (not rations) and some sleep would

put that back on. Hope you write often. You don’t know how good it is to receive mail over here especially after the past two weeks. I wish I had time to write to everyone individually but that’s impossible.

Hope they write though. The days are warm and the nights very cold. Sure hope we don’t have to fight during the winter months. In another week or so we should be taken off the line and return to a rest camp known as de lousing camp. It sure will be good and get new clothes. If you’d like to send a box, I could use some heavy socks and a muffler. You could add some goodies.

Thinking of you mother and dad and everyone. God bless you all.

All my love, Bob

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