It was the start of the Korean War. President Harry S. Truman called the U.S. involvement in Korea a “police action.” It was America responding to communist North Korea’s surprising invasion of South Korea.
But it soon became obvious. The United States was very much in a war. No matter what it was called. We came to the aid of South Korea, along with help from the United Nations. But China and the Soviet Union supported North Korea.
July 27 Is Korean War Stalemate Anniversary
Next week will mark the 64th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. The war cost approximately 2.5 million lives – including more than 55,000 Americans. It wounded hundreds of thousands.
The war ended in a virtual stalemate. Both countries repelled the others’ invasions. That’s what I call a very expensive chess match.
One thing did come out of it, other than tragic losses of life and property. The Korean Demilitarized Zone.
Of course, now this part of the world is heating up again. Thanks to the madman in charge of North Korea’s government.
And China appears to be doing precious little to keep him in check.
But with the anniversary of the end of the war in view, today I want to focus on something incredible that occurred in Korea in 1951.
Wounded But Not Discouraged
Have you ever heard of Joseph Vittori? Many people haven’t. But the men whose lives he saved – as well as their families – know exactly who he was. And they are eternally grateful to him.
Joseph was born in Beverly, Massachusetts in 1929. He was too young to be involved in World War II. So he enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school in 1946.
He served stateside over the next three years. This included stints at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and the Philadelphia Navy Yard. He also spent time at sea on the USS Portsmouth.
Vittori was discharged in 1949. He came home to work as a bricklayer and plasterer. Then war broke out on the Korean Peninsula in the fall of 1950. Still in love with his country, Vittori enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve.
After training he joined Company F, 2nd Battalion First Marines in Korea. He was wounded and promoted to corporal. Afterward Vittori was assigned property sergeant duties far behind the front.
But he wasn’t happy in his “safer” position. He begged his superiors to join his friends in the fighting units on the Korean hills.
Vittori’s wish was granted. Today, there are Marines who are still alive because of it.
Heroically Defending His Fellow Soldiers
During the Battle of Punchbowl in September 1951, Company F charged at the enemy on Hill 749. A counterattack pushed them back.
As most of his unit backtracked, Vittori grabbed two volunteers and counterattacked the North Koreans. They gave Company F enough time to regroup and prepare for additional attacks.
Vittori then volunteered to defend a machine gun position on the northern point of the line. He was isolated from most of his unit. But he fired upon the enemy all the night.
With the North Koreans only 15 feet away, Vittori was killed. The next day, they found him and more than 200 bodies of enemy soldiers lying lifeless near him.
A Well-Deserved Medal of Honor
President Truman presented the Medal of Honor to Vittori’s parents in 1952. The medal read that Vittori prevented the entire battalion from collapsing.
It’s impossible to determine exactly how many lives Joseph Vittori saved with his heroic actions. But we know that his sacrifice made a huge difference to the men of Company F.
He is a true American hero… even if many today don’t remember him by name.
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