Making Sense of the Insensible

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A hero's hero

In my last column I wrote briefly about what was seemingly an insensible eight-day battle along the 38th Parallel in Korea in June 1953, to put in perspective, the futility of war. More than 10,000 Chinese, 742 Americans, and 72 Greek soldiers were killed, wounded or missing in action, just to test the will of governments and politicians as to who would “blink” first. It was absolute absurdity. Outpost Harry as it was known, was not much more than an advanced listening post…a lone hill in the middle of nowhere, but strategically vital none the less.

Soldiers do the bidding of their superiors who in turn do the bidding of the politicians residing hundreds and often thousands of miles away. Every soldier has to be brave to just face the enemy, but those who fought and survived the eight-day battle at Outpost Harry will long tell tales of the many heroes created in one of the bloodiest battles in military history.

What makes a hero? A hero is one who overcomes great adversity, often disregarding one’s own safety, to accomplish an often difficult feat whose success is against all odds; a person distinguished by exceptional courage, nobility, fortitude, and one who possess superior qualities not found in others. Those who were at Outpost Harry those fateful days in June will speak volumes of those with whom they fought along side, which by definition, were ALL heroes. War historians almost always become entrapped by the body count when gauging the merits of battle. With more than 10 to 1 odds held by the Chinese it was felt they could easily overrun the outpost in relatively short order. The US and Greek troops were given the order “to hold at all costs”

It would be impossible to measure everyone heroics at Outpost Harry, but above all most of the survivors can agree upon two soldiers who were the embodiment of all those who were present and accounted for.

One was Master Sergeant Ole L. Mize, Company K, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. He was there and distinguished himself above and beyond the call of duty. Time and again Sgt. Mize placed himself in extreme danger, moving through artillery barrages and heavy fire to rescue a wound soldier, and then return to his position to establish a defensive position against the non-stop flow of enemy which had infiltrated the trench line within the outpost. He was blown off his feet numerous times by the impact of grenades and artillery, moving from position to position manning a machine gun, and then moving from man to man to distribute ammunition and encourage them to fight on, taking out untold numbers of Chinese soldiers as he moved along the trenches.

As the situation deteriorated, Sgt. Mize somehow found a radio, ordered all his men to hunker down in the trenches and called on his own artillery to fire right on top of them in what is known as “broken arrow”. For his gallantry, he received the Congressional Medal of Honor, though arguably many that day were worthy of such an honor.

Valor was seemingly a trademark of Sgt. Mize. Following the Korean War he joined the Special Forces and served three tours of duty in the Vietnam War. He gained a commission and retired in 1981 as a colonel. Over a thirty-one year career, in addition to the Medal of Honor, he received recognition with the Legion of Merit, Silver Star, Bronze Star, and not surprisingly, the Purple Heart.

On Monday I’ll finish this tribute to those who fought at Outpost Harry, and in summery tell you about Pvt. Charles R. Johnson. God bless those who keep us free.

Meanwhile visit Hold At All Costs for details marking this 60th anniversary of the Korean War.

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Following his service in the Marine Corps Ed Mattson built a diverse career in business in both sales/marketing and management. He is a medical research specialist and published author. His latest book is Down on Main Street: Searching for American Exceptionalism Ed is currently Development Director of the National Guard Bureau of International Affairs-State Partnership Program, Fundraising Coordinator for the Warrior2Citizen Project, and Managing Partner of Center-Point Consultants in North Carolina. Mr. Mattson is a noted speaker and has addressed more than 3000 audiences in 42 states and 5 foreign countries. He has been awarded the Order of the Sword by American Cancer Society, is a Rotarian Paul Harris Fellow and appeared on more than 15 radio and television talk-shows.