May 19 (UPI) — President Joe Biden will award the Medal of Honor to a retired colonel for acts of “conspicuous gallantry” during the Korean War, the White House announced Wednesday.
Biden will present the award, the highest military decoration that can be awarded in the United States, for the first time in his presidency to Col. Ralph Puckett Jr. in a ceremony at the White House on Friday.
“Then-First Lieutenant Ralph Puckett Jr. distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty, while serving as the commander, 8th U.S. Army Ranger Company during the period of Nov. 25 and 26, 1950, in Korea,” the Whtie House said.
Puckett’s unit faced mortar, machine gun and small arms fire as it carried out a daylight attack on Hill 205, prompting Puckett to expose himself to deadly fire in order to mount the closest tank as he shouted words of encouragement to his men and led the Rangers in the attack.
As enemy fire successfully pinned down one platoon, Puckett intentionally ran across an open area three times in order to draw enemy fire and allow Rangers to locate and destroy the enemy positions and seize Hill 205.
During a 4-hour counterattack that night, Rangers successfully repulsed five human wave attacks by an enemy battalion “inspired and motivated by the extraordinary leadership and courageous example exhibited by First Lieutenant Puckett.”
During the attack, Puckett was wounded by grenade fragments but continued to abandon positions of safety to travel between foxholes in order to check the company’s perimeter and distribute ammunition.
He later sustained “grievous wounds” after two enemy mortar rounds landed in his foxhole and instructed the Rangers to leave him behind and evacuate the area, but “feeling a sense of duty to aid him” the Rangers refused the order and successfully retrieved him from the foxhole.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who will be in Washington, D.C., for a summit with Biden, will attend the ceremony, the White House said.