Sunday, November 25, 2012

TFH 11/25: HM3 William B. Barber, USNR

The United States Marine Corps relies on sailors from the United States Navy to provide their medical care - both in and out of combat. After recruit training, men and women who want to become US Navy Hospital Corpsmen learn their medical trade at the Military Education & Training Campus, Fort Sam Houston, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.

After their base Navy training, the Hospitalmen (to include women) who will serve with the Marines then go to one of the Field Medical Training Battalions, located at either Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune (East) or Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. At the FMTB, they learn the battlefield skills necessary to support Marines in the field, as well as the additional medical skills needed to care for those with the grievous injuries inflicted by modern weapons.

On November 25, 1968, a Navy Corpsman serving with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment in combat in Vietnam charged into danger four times to save four different Marines from the enemy and cared for them until they could be evacuated. Hospitalman William B. Barber - promoted to Hospitalman 3rd Class by the time of the award - received the Navy Cross (our Nation's second-highest award for valor) for his courage under fire and risking his life to save others.

From Military Times' Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Hospitalman Third Class [then Hospitalman] William B. Barber, United States Naval Reserve, for extraordinary heroism on 25 November 1968 while serving as a Corpsman with Company I, Third Battalion, Fourth Marines, THIRD Marine Division (Reinforced), Fleet Marine Force, in connection with combat operations against enemy aggressor forces in the Republic of Vietnam. During the afternoon hours, Petty Officer Barber was accompanying a platoon engaged in patrol activities in Quang Tri Province. While crossing an abandoned landing zone, the unit was attacked by a well-entrenched North Vietnamese army force employing command-detonated mines, rocket-propelled grenades, and automatic weapons which wounded four Marines and forced the others to seek cover in a nearby wooded area. Observing that the four casualties were lying dangerously exposed to hostile fire, Petty Officer Barber disregarded his own safety to reach one of the fallen men. After administering first aid, Petty Officer Barber moved the man to a safer position and, undaunted by the extremely heavy volume of enemy fire, boldly maneuvered across the area on two more occasions to provide medical care and assist the second and third casualties to covered positions. He then braved the intense fire for a fourth time, placing himself between the last of the wounded Marines and the enemy fire during the fifteen minutes required to administer first aid. With the supporting fire of helicopters on station and the concentrated fire of his platoon, Petty Officer Barber was able to remove the wounded Marine to the relative safety of the wooded area. He then skillfully rendered medical aid and comforted all four casualties, directing their movement to a medical evacuation helicopter for embarkation and extraction. By his superb professional skill, outstanding valor, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of great personal danger, Petty Officer Barber inspired all who observed him and was instrumental in saving four lives. His daring initiative was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Barber was still living as of 2005, and I have no information that says this American hero isn't still with us. He may have served aboard the USS Kiska (AE-25) during the 1970s after his Vietnam Service.

3rd Battalion, 4th Marines is currently attached to the 7th Marine Regiment and the 1st Marine Division. These Marines, and the brave Hospital Corpsmen who care for them in peace and war, are stationed at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California.

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