RIP: Joseph Clemons, Jr. Hero of Pork Chop Hill

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RIP: Joseph Clemons, Jr. Hero of Pork Chop Hill

Another hero lost:

On the official records it was Hill 255. The mountainous Korean outpost, nicknamed Pork Chop Hill for its vague resemblance to the loin cut, had been the site of frequent skirmishes since the conflict began in 1950. The land itself, like many of the hills just beyond the Allies’ main line of resistance, had no inherent tactical value.

But in spring 1953, it became one of the bloodiest and most controversial combat operations of the Korean War and a defining moment in the life of Joseph G. Clemons Jr., a 25-year-old first lieutenant and U.S. Military Academy at West Point graduate who commanded King company in the 7th Infantry Division.

His actions, defending the crest of the hill with a small, beleaguered unit, would result in his immortalization in a best-selling book by eminent military historian S.L.A. Marshall and a Hollywood film in which he was portrayed by Gregory Peck. He died May 15 at 90, after a long and highly decorated military career in which he rose to the rank of colonel.

For the attack on Hill 255 he would receive the Silver Star, but on another assault he would earn an even rarer medal.

The citation for his Distinguished Service Cross:

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 First Lieutenant (Infantry) Joseph Gordon Clemons, Jr., United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving as a Platoon Leader in Company K, 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. First Lieutenant Clemons distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces in the vicinity of Kumhwa, Korea, on 28 October 1952. On that date, Lieutenant Clemons, a platoon leader, led the attack platoon in a counterattack on a vital position which had been overrun earlier that night by the enemy. As the platoon neared the first enemy bunker, Lieutenant Clemons silenced its occupants with accurate and deadly fire and then led the men up the trenches, neutralizing each bunker they encountered. Upon nearing the crest of the objective, the group encountered heavy fire and was forced to withdraw. Discovering that their ammunition was almost exhausted, Lieutenant Clemons divided the remaining supply between the men and then led a volunteer group back into the trenches in a fierce charge, only to be repulsed by the enemy. Displaying superior leadership and aggressiveness, he reorganized the men and urged them into another assault. Constantly exposing himself to hostiles fire, he shouted words of encouragement and engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat, fighting viciously until the numerical superiority of the foe again forced the platoon to withdraw. Lieutenant Clemons superior devotion to duty in leading his men time and again into hand-to-hand combat in the face of overwhelming odds was an inspiration to all those with whom he served.

He'll be most remembered no doubt for what someone else did, namely Gregory Peck playing him in the movie based on the battle:

RIP Colonel.  /Salute

[Note: Image above features Clemons with Gregory Peck on location shooting the movie.]

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.