Saturday, August 25, 2012

TFH 8/25-26: Master Sergeant Melvin O. Handrich, USA

Melvin O. Handrich was born on January 26, 1919 in Manawa, Wisconsin. He first began service to our Nation in 1942 in the United States Army and participated in both the recapture of Kiska during the Aleutians Campaign and in Europe seeing combat in Italy, France, Belgium, and Germany before being discharged at the end of the war in September, 1945.

After several years back in civilian life, Handrich reenlisted in the Army in January of 1949. He was a member of the 5th Regimental Combat Team, then an independent combat formation in the Pacific. The 5th RCT was one of the first units committed to war on the Korean peninsula in 1950.

During the Battle of Pusan Perimeter, the 5th RCT was attached to the 25th Infantry Division. On August 25-26, 1950, then Master Sergeant Handrich as part of the 1st Battalion/5th Infantry, occupied an observation position all by himself to properly direct fires on the enemy. When he was wounded and his company withdrew, he remained behind to continue the vital work of directing the artillery and mortar fires even though it meant that his life would be lost. He posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his display of valor, one truly above and beyond the normal call of duty.

From Medal of Honor Citations for the Korean War:


Rank and organization: Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company C, 5th Infantry Regiment. Place and date: Near Sobuk San Mountain, Korea, 25 and 26 August 1950. Entered service at: Manawa, Wis. Born: 26 January 1919, Manawa, Wis. G.O. No.: 60, 2 August 1951. Citation: M/Sgt. Handrich, Company C, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action. His company was engaged in repulsing an estimated 150 enemy who were threatening to overrun its position. Near midnight on 25 August, a hostile group over 100 strong attempted to infiltrate the company perimeter. M/Sgt. Handrich, despite the heavy enemy fire, voluntarily left the comparative safety of the defensive area and moved to a forward position where he could direct mortar and artillery fire upon the advancing enemy. He remained at this post for 8 hours directing fire against the enemy who often approached to within 50 feet of his position. Again, on the morning of 26 August, another strong hostile force made an attempt to overrun the company's position. With complete disregard for his safety, M/Sgt. Handrich rose to his feet and from this exposed position fired his rifle and directed mortar and artillery fire on the attackers. At the peak of this action he observed elements of his company preparing to withdraw. He perilously made his way across fire-swept terrain to the defense area where, by example and forceful leadership, he reorganized the men to continue the fight. During the action M/Sgt. Handrich was severely wounded. Refusing to take cover or be evacuated, he returned to his forward position and continued to direct the company's fire. Later a determined enemy attack overran M/Sgt. Handrich's position and he was mortally wounded. When the position was retaken, over 70 enemy dead were counted in the area he had so intrepidly defended. M/Sgt. Handrich's sustained personal bravery, consummate courage, and gallant self-sacrifice reflect untold glory upon himself and the heroic traditions of the military service.

Master Sergeant Handrich rests in peace in Manawa, Wisconsin's Little Wolf Cemetery.

The 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment is today part of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team "Arctic Wolves", 25th Infantry Division. They are part of US Army Alaska and are based at Fort Wainwright outside Fairbanks.

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