Saturday, October 27, 2012

TFH 10/27: Second Lieutenant George H. O'Brien, Jr., USMCR

George Herman O'Brien, Jr. was born in Fort Worth, Texas on September 10, 1926. He grew up in Big Spring, Texas, and after graduating from high school there in 1944, served our Nation during World War II as a seaman in the United States Merchant Marine. He returned to Texas after his wartime service in 1946.

O'Brien enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve in July of 1949 while in college. On November 27, 1951 he was ordered to active duty and Officer Candidates' School. After being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and completing training, he was ordered to join the war in Korea with the 1st Marine Division's 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment in September, 1952.

Only about one month after arriving in the combat zone, Lieutenant O'Brien courageously led his rifle platoon in a desperate charge against an entrenched Communist enemy position, and when they had seized their objective, organized the defense and made sure that no man was left behind - all while refusing aid for his own wounds. This was sixty years ago today: October 27, 1952.

From Medal of Honor Citations for the Korean War:


Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Company H, 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein.). Place and date: Korea, 27 October, 1952. Entered service at: Big Spring, Tex. Born: 10 September 1926, Fort Worth, Tex. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a rifle platoon commander of Company H, in action against enemy aggressor forces. With his platoon subjected to an intense mortar and artillery bombardment while preparing to assault a vitally important hill position on the main line of resistance which had been overrun by a numerically superior enemy force on the preceding night, 2d Lt. O'Brien leaped from his trench when the attack signal was given and, shouting for his men to follow, raced across an exposed saddle and up the enemy-held hill through a virtual hail of deadly small-arms, artillery, and mortar fire. Although shot through the arm and thrown to the ground by hostile automatic-weapons fire as he neared the well-entrenched enemy position, he bravely regained his feet, waved his men onward, and continued to spearhead the assault, pausing only long enough to go to the aid of a wounded marine. Encountering the enemy at close range, he proceeded to hurl handgrenades into the bunkers and, utilizing his carbine to best advantage in savage hand-to-hand combat, succeeded in killing at least 3 of the enemy. Struck down by the concussion of grenades on 3 occasions during the subsequent action, he steadfastly refused to be evacuated for medical treatment and continued to lead his platoon in the assault for a period of nearly 4 hours, repeatedly encouraging his men and maintaining superb direction of the unit. With the attack halted he set up a defense with his remaining forces to prepare for a counterattack, personally checking each position, attending to the wounded and expediting their evacuation. When a relief of the position was effected by another unit, he remained to cover the withdrawal and to assure that no wounded were left behind. By his exceptionally daring and forceful leadership in the face of overwhelming odds, 2d Lt. O'Brien served as a constant source of inspiration to all who observed him and was greatly instrumental in the recapture of a strategic position on the main line of resistance. His indomitable determination and valiant fighting spirit reflect the highest credit upon himself and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Lieutenant O'Brien received his Medal of Honor from President Eisenhower at the White House exactly one year later. He eventually settled in Midland, Texas with his family and worked in the oil & gas industries. He passed away on March 11, 2005 at age 78 and rests in peace in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.

Today's 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines is still part of the 1st Marine Division. Their home station is the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California.

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