Tuesday, June 05, 2012

TFH 6/5: 1LT Benjamin F. Wilson, USA

Benjamin F. Wilson was born on June 2, 1922 in Vaston, Washington. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1940 and was stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. He had reached the rank of Corporal in the infantry when the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Wilson volunteered to go to Officer Candidates' School and received his commission. For the duration of World War II, he repeatedly volunteered to be transferred to a combat unit, but the Army kept him stateside in training roles. That could have been a very poor decision on their part. Benjamin Wilson was a tiger straining at the leash.

After the war, Wilson returned to civilian life working in Washington lumber mills but he knew that the Army was his place. As the post-war drawdown of the Army was still under way and the officer roles were being purged, he reenlisted as a mere private.

He quickly rose through the ranks and when war broke out in Korea, he was a senior enlisted man with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment - part of the 7th Infantry Division. In combat on June 5, 1951, then Master Sergeant Wilson ignored his own wounds and with complete disregard for his own safety, repeatedly charged enemy positions with his rifle and grenades. When the combat became hand-to-hand, he used his entrenching tool as a weapon and continued the charge. His unbelievable courage and fighting spirit was recognized with our Nation's highest honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for the Korean War:


Rank and organization: First Lieutenant (then M/Sgt.), U.S. Army Company I, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Hwach'on-Myon, Korea, 5 June 1951. Entered service at: Vashon, Wash. Birth: Vashon, Wash. G.O. No.: 69, 23 September 1954. Citation: 1st Lt. Wilson distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and indomitable courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. Company I was committed to attack and secure commanding terrain stubbornly defended by a numerically superior hostile force emplaced in well-fortified positions. When the spearheading element was pinned down by withering hostile fire, he dashed forward and, firing his rifle and throwing grenades, neutralized the position denying the advance and killed 4 enemy soldiers manning submachineguns. After the assault platoon moved up, occupied the position, and a base of fire was established, he led a bayonet attack which reduced the objective and killed approximately 27 hostile soldiers. While friendly forces were consolidating the newly won gain, the enemy launched a counterattack and 1st Lt. Wilson, realizing the imminent threat of being overrun, made a determined lone-man charge, killing 7 and wounding 2 of the enemy, and routing the remainder in disorder. After the position was organized, he led an assault carrying to approximately 15 yards of the final objective, when enemy fire halted the advance. He ordered the platoon to withdraw and, although painfully wounded in this action, remained to provide covering fire. During an ensuing counterattack, the commanding officer and 1st Platoon leader became casualties. Unhesitatingly, 1st Lt. Wilson charged the enemy ranks and fought valiantly, killing 3 enemy soldiers with his rifle before it was wrested from his hands, and annihilating 4 others with his entrenching tool. His courageous delaying action enabled his comrades to reorganize and effect an orderly withdrawal. While directing evacuation of the wounded, he suffered a second wound, but elected to remain on the position until assured that all of the men had reached safety. 1st Lt. Wilson's sustained valor and intrepid actions reflect utmost credit upon himself and uphold the honored traditions of the military service.

Amazingly, the story of Benjamin Wilson doesn't end there. Just a few days later, he arose from a stretcher to rejoin his company in another attack. Once again, he single-handedly charged enemy positions to inspire his men to victory. Army regulations forbade the Medal of Honor from being awarded twice to the same soldier. His nomination for the Medal again was rescinded since he had already been recommended for the June 5 action, so instead he received the Distinguished Service Cross.

From Military Times' Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America, under the provisions of the Act of Congress approved July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Master Sergeant Benjamin F. Wilson, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving with Company I, 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. Master Sergeant Wilson distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces in the vicinity of Nodong-ni, Korea, on 9 June 1951. On that date, Sergeant Wilson's company was advancing against heavily fortified enemy hill positions when a sudden and heavy volume of small-arms and automatic-weapons fire forced the men to seek cover. Sergeant Wilson, realizing the need for immediate and aggressive action so that the men could extricate themselves from their untenable positions, charged forward against the enemy emplacements single-handedly, firing his rifle rapidly and pitching grenades. Completely exposed to the concentrated fire of the enemy, he nevertheless succeeded in killing four of the enemy and in neutralizing a hostile bunker. His heroic actions so inspired his men that they renewed their assault and secured the objective. Immediately, the enemy launched a fierce counterattack against the newly gained positions and Sergeant Wilson once more left his position and engaged them at extremely close range. He personally killed five of the attacking enemy and laid down such a devastating volume of fire that the remainder were forced to withdraw after suffering heavy losses.

Wilson returned home and was recommissioned as an officer. He retired from the Army in 1950 as a Major. He passed away on March 1, 1988 in his adopted Hawaiian home and rests in peace at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

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