Tuesday, February 14, 2012

TFH 2/14: Sergeant First Class William S. Sitman, USA

William Samuel Sitman was born on August 9, 1923 in Bellwood, PA, a small town near Altoona. His service to our Nation began during the Second World War where he served with the Army in Europe. An account of Sitman's life written by William Summers, a hometown friend four years his junior, appeared in the Orlando Sentinel on May 29, 2000. In 1945 as the allied armies were crossing the Rhine River on their way into Germany, he was decorated with the Bronze Star medal for bravery when he helped extinguish a fire that threatened to detonate a trailer full of mortar ammunition.

After the war, he returned to peaceful life in Bellwood. He was involved with the local Veterans of Foreign Wars softball team, which is where Mr. Summers really got to know him. He married a local girl, Sara Emily Covert, and they had a daughter named Joan, born in 1948. Sitman returned to the Army in 1949. After North Korea invaded South Korea, he returned to war.

On the night of February 14, 1951, Sitman's unit - the 23rd Infantry Regiment, part of the 2nd Infantry Division - faced an intense attack from Chinese Communist forces. He was manning a key machine gun post covering a draw; if the position was overrun, the Chicomms would have a clear path into the town of Chipyong-ni. The enemy assault was relentless. Even though the machine gun and other weapons inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy, they kept coming. An enemy grenade landed among Sitman's fellow soldiers. He did not hesitate...

From Medal of Honor Citations for the Korean War:


Rank and organization: Sergeant First Class, U.S. Army, Company M, 23d Infantry Regiment, 2d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Chipyong-ni, Korea, 14 February 1951. Entered service at: Bellwood, Pa. Birth: Bellwood, Pa. G.O. No.: 20, 1 February 1952. Citation: Sfc. Sitman distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against an armed enemy of the United Nations. Sfc. Sitman, a machine gun section leader of Company M, was attached to Company I, under attack by a numerically superior hostile force. During the encounter when an enemy grenade knocked out his machine gun, a squad from Company I, immediately emplaced a light machine gun and Sfc. Sitman and his men remained to provide security for the crew. In the ensuing action, the enemy lobbed a grenade into the position and Sfc. Sitman, fully aware of the odds against him, selflessly threw himself on it, absorbing the full force of the explosion with his body. Although mortally wounded in this fearless display of valor, his intrepid act saved 5 men from death or serious injury, and enabled them to continue inflicting withering fire on the ruthless foe throughout the attack. Sfc. Sitman's noble self-sacrifice and consummate devotion to duty reflect lasting glory on himself and uphold the honored traditions of the military service. 

When the battle was over, an estimated 10,000 dead Chinese soldiers lay in front of the regiment's positions. William Sitman's courage above and beyond the call of duty and self-sacrifice undoubtedly helped set the course of the battle.

The Altoona Mirror has a wonderful collection of contemporaneous articles on the life of William Sitman (PDF File). A clipping dated June 8, 1993 shows that one of the five men Sitman saved stopped in Bellwood to honor his lost comrade and visit his family. The photos of his widow and child with some of the other clippings are quite moving. As best as I can determine, Sitman's daughter Joan, now age 63 or 64, is still living. I just said a prayer for her and the father she may have little direct memory of. I hope that if she should come across my post here she will be comforted that there are those of us who will never forget the lives of the men and women who have fought and died for the rest of us, and we also will never forget the loss suffered by their loved ones.

Three battalions of the 23rd Infantry are active today, all still with the 2nd Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. 1st Battalion is part of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Battalion is part of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, and the 4th Battalion is part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.