This was the question on my mind for a number of decades. I knew some of my Vandiver family had been buried in Hood Cemetery and had spent considerable time researching for it. I had the information that included Hood Cemetery, near Warren. It was quite the goose chase.
I finally found it when I asked Aunt Gene Murray Slaton where her grandparents were buried. She was a little over ninety years of age at the time. She was alert and sassy. She still drove and she liked speed. I admired her. Aunt Gene died in April of 2008 at the age of 98.
Alrighty then, it was Hood Cemetery also known as Feathers Chapel Cemetery, near Warren. But this Warren was in Tennessee.
Tyree Glass and Mary Vandiver Glass moved to Somerville, Tennessee as he was a railroad man and he went there to work at the railway station or on the railroad trains. He had worked at the Tuscumbia railway station and then at the Decatur railway station before moving to Somerville to work on the railway station in Memphis. You just must read the article about Tyree Glass and his first wife; a link to this article is at the end of this writing. It is a fascinating read. Mary Vandiver was his second wife.
They took my great-great-grandparents on my father’s side with them. The family had lived at Stouts and Saints Crossroads in what was Franklin County but is now Colbert County for almost forever. Ryland O’Bannon Vandiver was known as Riley Vandiver and his name is sometimes given as Ryland Bannon Vandiver. Matilda Clementine Allen Vandiver was called Clemmie. Along with the Glasses came Riley and Clemmie Vandiver’s youngest daughter Walker Vandiver. They resided in Somerville, Fayette County, Tennessee, not far from Memphis where the railroad was located.
I had always felt a lonley twinge in my heart about Miss Walker Vandiver and Miss Evaline Casey. Walker Vandiver was on my paternal side of the family and Evaline Casey was on my maternal side. Neither ever married, and that would seem to make for a very lonely life. Neither have a marked grave. Neither have much to document that they ever lived and breathed the air God provides to everyone.
There were three daughters born to Riley and Clemmie Vandiver. There was daughter Mary E Vandiver who married Robert TYREE Glass as his second wife. There was daughter Minnie E Vandiver who married Sidney NEWT Hunter. [Newt Hunter’s father Ambrose D Hunter served in Co K of the 35th Alabama Regiment during the War Between the States] And there was Lou Ella Vandiver, beautiful Lou Ella Vandiver who married Levi Murray. They were my paternal great-grandparents.
There is one photo of Evaline Casey and mother gave me a good description of her before she left us in 2007. But no one ever shared any information about Miss Walker Vandiver. Walker Riley Vandiver, the youngest daughter of Riley and Clemmie Vandiver lived with her parents all her life and removed to Somerville, Tennessee with them and her sister and brother-in-law. There she lived. There she died. It was just this day that I discovered a tidbit of information about her.
That information came in the form of her death certificate. A copy will follow below. It gave her whole name as Walker Riley Vandiver. It could be supposed that they gave her the Riley name after her father and that there were no sons, but there is no way to know where the Walker name originated. There was a mistake on the death certificate as it states that her mother was Matilda Hurst. Well, it is just a little mistaken since that was not her maiden name. Her maiden name was Matilda Clementine Allen. Her first marriage was to a Hurst. It has not been ascertained what his first name may have been as there are several who could fit in that spot as far as the little information goes to date. It is believed that he was killed during the War Between the States or died shortly after. She had two sons by the Hurst husband, John H Hurst and Arthur Hurst. Matilda or Clemmie as family called her, secondly married to Riley Vandiver.
Rest in peace Miss Walker Riley Vandiver. She died in Somerville, Tennessee and lies at rest at the head of the gravemarker for her parents at the Feathers Chapel Cemetery near Warren in Fayette County, Tennessee. The cemetery is just a pleasant drive from the Shoals area. There is not even a bump now where her body was placed. It is like she never existed. No pictures. No stories. No memories except for those like me who are willing to turn over heaven and earth to know their family. But, wait, the saddest part will come at the end with the photos of Riley and Clemmie Vandiver’s gravemarkers that are the only thing that would indicate where Miss Walker Riley Vandiver is buried.
Walker Vandiver was born in Franklin, now Colbert County, Alabama in the Saints Crossroads community in January of 1880. She moved with her parents and sister’s family to Somerville, Fayette County, Tennessee after 1910. She never married. She died 9 April 1946 in the community of Warren in Fayette County, Tennessee. She is buried on the ‘Vandiver” side of her parents’ gravemarker in Hood Cemetery in the Feathers Chapel community of Fayette County, Tennessee. She lies in an unmarked grave.The following photos are of the gravemarkers for Riley and Clemmie Vandiver at Feathers Chapel aka Hood Cemetery near Warren, Tennessee. The first time I visited there was with my aunt Alice Murray Thompson and Sue Murray Burden. The markers were in very bad shape at that time. The material they were made from was not granite as it may have been sold as, and was crumbling from the bottom in the elements. The second time I visited there and took these photos, the deterioration was even more concerning. Chunks of the gravemarkers were gone. And all those who would have cared and taken care of repair or replacement are gone now. Sad. Sigh.
Miss Walker Riley Vandiver who died 9 April 1946 is buried on this side of her parents’ gravemarker in an unmarked grave.
Related articles: A tragedy, a tragedy… https://rememberingtheshoals.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/a-tragedy-a-tragedy/
documents goes with the previous writing about the two Samuel Pleasant Boxes entitled “It is a small world…”.
and who in the world would have thought that the Peebles and Box connected families would both have had at least one relative to venture to Siloam Springs, Benton County, Arkansas?
Below is a Family Group Chart for the family of Samuel Pleasant Box, Jr. He was the son of Samuel Pleasant Box, Sr (and Mary “Polly” Pannell) who was a son of John Hatters M Box.
Husband: Samuel Pleasant BOX
Born: 18 AUG 1789 at: ,Anson Co.,NC Married: 9 JUN 1814 at: ,Grainger Co.,TN Died: 19 FEB 1873 at: ,Polk Co.,MO Father: Mother: Other Spouses:
Wife: Jemima MURPHY
Born: ABT 1797 at: TN,or,NC Died: 12 JUL 1869 at: ,Polk Co.,MO Father:William MURPHY Mother:Nancy HORNBECK Other Spouses:
Name: Pleasant Miles BOX Born: ABT 1818 at: ,Grainger Co.,TN Married: at: Died: 30 JUN 1896 at: ,Christian Co.,MO Spouses: Rebecca NORTHERN
Name: Elizabeth Ann BOX Born: 16 APR 1820 at: ,,TN Married: 28 MAR 1841 at: ,Polk Co.,MO Died: 2 AUG 1888 at: ,Polk Co.,MO Spouses: David BROCKUS
Name: Daniel Renfro BOX Born: 9 OCT 1821 at: ,Jefferson Co.,TN Married: 11 SEP 1838 at: Died: 14 JAN 1909 at: Eudora,Polk Co.,MO Spouses: Parthena MCGEE
Name: William Pinckney BOX Born: 1 AUG 1825 at: ,,TN Married: 24 MAR 1844 at: ,Polk Co.,MO Died: 2 JAN 1905 at: Siloam Springs,Benton Co.,AR Spouses: Hannah CANTWELL
Name: Nancy BOX Born: ABT 1831 at: ,,IN Married: 2 JUN 1850 at: ,Polk Co.,MO Died: at: Spouses: Caswell BOX
Name: Jane BOX Born: 19 JUN 1833 at: ,,TN Married: BEF 1860 at: ,Polk Co.,MO Died: 5 DEC 1915 at: ,Polk Co.,MO Spouses: James Van WAGNOR
Name: Margaret Adeline BOX Born: ABT 1838 at: ,,TN Married: at: Died: 1 JUL 1862 at: Polk Co.,MO Spouses: __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Samuel Pleasant Box, Sr served in some of the most important battles, and it would seem served under the “Swamp Fox”: Gen. Francis Marion, during the Revolutionary War. His service was noted in the South Carolina roster on page 89. The entry documenting his service reads as follows:
Box, Samuel S3015
B. 1745, Orange District, S. C. While residing in Orange District, he was drafted during 1776 under Capt. Sanders and Col. Moultrie and was in the battle at Fort Moultrie. In 1779, he was drafted under Col. Moultrie and Gen. Lincoln. He was taken prisoner in the fall of Charleston and held twenty-two days. Afterwards, he was drafted under Col. Maitland and was in the battle at Stono. Thereafter, he was under Capt. Elliott and Gen. Marion and was in several skirmishes. (Moved to N. C. and Tenn.)
Samuel Pleaseant Box, Jr’s father-in-law has a storied past in service to his country as well. William Murphy (DANIEL RICHARD2, WILLIAM1) was born March 31, 1760 in Warsborough, North Carolina, and died August 15, 1850 in Polk County, Missouri. He married Nancy Ann Hornbeak, daughter of John and Jane Hornbeak. She was born February 28, 1765 in Anson County, North Carolina, and died March 10, 1833 in Jefferson County, Tennessee.William Murphy has a Commemorative Plaque placed by the DAR at his grave in the Enon Cemetery southwest of Bolivar, Missouri. He was the son of Daniel Murphy and nephew of the famous “Murphy Boys of Virginia.” The famed Murphy Boys were Joseph and William Murphy who were jailed in Virginia for preaching the Gospel without the sanction of the Church of England. William Murphy served in the Revolutionary War, He resided in East Tennessee in 1782 with wife’s parents and in 1841 In lived in Missouri with Samuel Box (Jr). William received a Pension for his service in the Revolutionary War. He can be found on the TN Pension Roll of 1835. His pension was transferred from Tennessee and he can be found on the Missouri Agency Rolls 27 October 1841.
Samuel Pleasant, Jr’s father served with with great valor during the Revolutionary War. Samuel Pleasant Box, Sr was like most plantation owners in South Carolina. They fought in the Revolutionary War when needed and went back home to work their farms, until needed again.
Samuel Box was first drafted in June 28, 1776 to serve under Captain Sanders and Colonel William Moultrie. Colonel Moultrie had built a fort on Sullivan Island in front on the harbor at Charleston, South Carolina. British Commodore Sir Peter Parker’s flagship led the attack with nine other warships. Under heavy attack from the South Carolina troops the British finally gave up and left the action. General William Moultrie later became a governor of the state of South Carolina.
Samuel Pleasant Box, Sr’s next enlistment was in early 1779, again under Colonel Moultrie and General Lincoln. This battle was a raid by the British troops to test the defenses for the City of Charleston. The British troops retreated but Samuel Box was captured and held as a prisoner of war for 22 days.
Samuel’s next battle took place during a British retreat from an abortive raid on Charleston. Samuel was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Maitland and their orders were to cover the rear guard at Stono Ferry. General Benjamin Lincoln lead the main attack and Colonel Moultrie led a smaller secondary attack to stop British troops coming in from Johns Island.
The British troops also included Scottish Highlanders and German Hessian troops, but the battle began well for the Americans. The Scottish Highlander’s two companies resisted until only 11 men were left standing. A German Hessian battalion finally broke and fled. Maitland shifted his forces in an attempt to counter a larger British threat, when the Hessians rallied and returned to the fight. The British then sent up more reserves and General Lincoln chose at this time to withdraw. The American loss was 146 men killed and wounded with 150 men captured. Among the dead was Hugh Jackson, brother of Andrew Jackson.
The balance of the war Samuel served mostly under Captain Elliott who was under General Francis Marion ” The Swamp Fox “. General Marion’s lighting fast raids drove the British Army crazy. Marion’s men were the most feared and the most hunted by the British in South Carolina.
Samuel Pleasant Box, Jr. was born 18 August 1789 in Orange County, North Carolina. In 1814 he married Jemima Murphy as the first marriage bond in the photo above indicates. The 1818 marriage bond is to Catherine , but Jemima Box did not die until 1869, so it is uncertain who the Samuel Box may have been on that bond. He died 19 February 1873 in Polk County, Missouri. Samuel Pleasant Box, Jr. is buried at Mount Gilead Cemetery, Bolivar, Polk County, Missouri. His wife, Jemima Murphy Box and a number of his close relatives are also laid to rest there.
but they do not seem to be but few of them there now.
Chepultepec, located less than forty-five miles northeast of Birmingham, was in Blount, County, Alabama. The name has long since been changed to Allgood and is less than five miles from Oneonta, Alabama.
This story article will give a little information on one of the sons of John Hatter M Box. This son, Milton Asbury Box, was born on 9 Mar 1841 and died 11 Feb 1918 in Chepultepec, Blount, Alabama. His obituary reads:
Co I 49 AL Inf, CSA Milton Asbury Box first entered the service as a private 22 Aug 1862 at Chepultepec, Alabama. Continued until 15 May 1865. Milton Box, one of Blount’s oldest citizens, died at his home near Allgood, Monday. Mr. Box was 76 years of age and was a member of the Methodist Church. He spent nearly all his life in the community where he died. The deceased is survived by one son L. W. Box. The funeral was held Monday and was conducted by Rev. W. L. Hendrix. [Southern Democrat, Thursday, February 14, 1918] Burial: Shiloh Cemetery Chepultepec, Blount County, Alabama, USA
Milton did not marry until age 44. He married a Mary Margaret whose maiden name is not yet known. He was a widower at the time of his death. He was a farmer by trade. His father, John Hatters Box was born in South Carolina and his mother Jennie Stovall Box was born in Virginia. The son mentioned in his obituary was Luther Worth Box.
Luther Worth Box lived to be 89 years old. He was born 18 Sep 1886 and died 30 July 1976 in Oneonta, Blount County, Alabama. Luther W Box married Nancy C Vaughan 1886 – 1976, and they had the following children: Leonard Leroy Box 1915 – 1952, Clarence Milton Box 1919-1981 , Clyde E Box 1920 – 1997 and Gordon Luther Box 1922
Luther and Nancy Box’s youngest son, Gordon Luther Box, entered service in the Army during World War II at age 20 on 3 October 1942 at Fort McClellan, Alabama. By age twenty-two he was killed in action. His death occurred 18 Nov 1944. He had only completed grammar school at the time of enlistment. He was single without dependents. He was 5’6″ tall and weighed 115 pounds. He served in the European Effort and was ranked as Private First Class at the time of his death. His gravemarker at Oak Hill Cemetery, in Oneonta has an inscription: “Killed in Service”.
Luther and Nancy Box’s son Clyde Earcy Box, Sr. served as a S2 in the U S Navy during World War II. He is also buried at Oak Hill Cemetery.
Son Clarence Milton Box died 17 December 1981 in Maylene, Jefferson County, Alabama. He, too, served in the Army during World War II having enlisted 12 Feb 1942. His release date was 20 September 1945.
were the kitchens of the plantations in our area of northern Alabama. Or at least the Pond Springs Plantation and the Cunningham Plantation seemed very far from each other in the horse and buggy days. One commonalty of the two plantation homes were their kitchens.
Pond Springs Plantation, also known as the Joseph Wheeler Home, Hillsboro, Lawrence County, Alabama
The three houses now on the property include a dogtrot or double log cabin possibly built before 1818, a somewhat later two-story Federal-style house (1830’s), and the main wing built around 1872.
This photograph by Alex Bush, 1935 shows the kitchen at Pond Springs located in Lawrence County, Alabama in the Wheeler Basin community was typical of the kitchens of many plantations. Pond Springs originally was owned by the Hickmans who apparently sold their interest in the plantation, known as Pond Spring, to Colonel Benjamin Sherrod, partner in the initial purchase of the property.
Colonel Sherrod was born in Halifax County, NC, migrated first to Georgia, then about 1818 settled in Alabama where he established several cotton plantations throughout the Tennessee River Valley. Sherrod’s own home, Cotton Garden, was located north of the nearby town of Courtland, and it appears that his eldest son, Felix, and his family lived at the Pond Spring place.
The owner of more than 300 slaves, Benjamin Sherrod was an early Alabama tycoon, with extensive and varied business interests. He also served as chief promoter and stockholder of the Tuscumbia, Courtland, and Decatur Railroad, one of the earliest west of the Appalachians.
The Pond Spring plantation passed from Sherrod’s son, Felix, to a grandson, also named Benjamin Sherrod. In 1859, Benjamin married Daniella Jones of nearby Caledonia plantation, and at the time of his premature death in 1861, the plantation became Daniella’s. Daniella (known as Ella) Jones Sherrod, born in 1841, was the daughter of Richard Harrison Jones and his wife, Lucy Early, who was the daughter of Georgia Governor Peter Early. The Jones family had moved from Georgia to Alabama in 1822.
After Benjamin Sherrod’s death, Daniella returned to her parents’ home. Caledonia, where in the fall of 1863, she met General Joseph Wheeler while he and his troops camped near the Jones home. They were married following the War in 1866. Wheeler moved his family to New Orleans after the War Between the States for four years, then relocated back at Pond Springs where they raised their family of children.
Cunningham Plantation, now known as Barton Hall, located near Cherokee in Colbert County, Alabama
This reproduction of a drawing by Harry J. Frahn, 1937 of the plan of the kitchen at the Cunningham Plantation in Colbert County, Alabama seems typical of plantation kitchens of that day.
These kitchens both, at Pond Springs and at the Cunningham Plantation, include a bedroom, presumably for the cook and her family. Thus confined, the cook was never relieved from work as she faced constant demands from the main house. John White, a former slave from Texas who lived in a kitchen- quarter, remembered that his proximity to the Big House made him a frequent target of his owner’s temper.
the building in Sheffield, Alabama. The Sheffield Jaycees put on a show that featured Elvis Presley, Jim Ed and Maxine Brown and a two hour Louisiana Hayride Show at 8:00 pm on 19 January 1959. The Sheffield Community Center was the venue. Advance admission was a seventy-five cents for adults at the door, and fifty cents for children. Add a quarter to those admission prices for tickets at the door. Tickets went on sale at Palace Drugs in Tuscumbia, Smoke Shop Drugs in Sheffield, and Anderson News Stand in Florence.
and sometimes pictures say it best. There is a group that is trying to restore the neon signs that were atop the Coca-Cola Bottling Company during my generations youth, before, and beyond. The Coca-Cola Bottling Company was as the crest of the hill just past O’Neal Bridge on Court Street in Florence for decades. It was across the street from the Holiday Inn. The Coca-Cola Bottling Company had a pair of neon signs that were the colors of their logo, red and white. The red bars on the neon signs would go up and down. The sequence of the lights caught the eye of those stopped at the nearby red light. They were memorable. Fragments of the memories of childhood, both the signs and the WOWL-TV owl sign across the street on the corner of the embankment at the Holiday Inn.
The neon signs were taken down and stored in 2004; as late as last year there were hopes that they could be restored and placed again on the streets of Florence, Alabama. It is not known when the WOWL owl sign was taken down. One eye was a red light that signaled caution as there had been a fatality in the area; while the green light meant all was safe for the present. Both building have been torn down now. They were both iconic. Florence just is not the same.
Below are some of the photos of the signs and buildings:
this good buddy and fellow in combat is not forgotten.
His name was William Roy Porter. Make that Sergeant William Roy Porter. He was born 13 July 1949 in New York state, likely in the city of Oneida in the county of Madison. His parents were Stanley H and Rosemary Porter. His siblings were: Sharon, Scott, and Kyle D Porter. Sharon L Porter married James H Wylie. They live in Penfield, Monroe County, New York. Their children are Mark and Susan. Kyle D Porter, the younger sister, married Michael Richard Comstedt. They lived in Colorado in 2011.
The last of the two brothers, Scott Stanley Porter was born 11 November 1951 in New York. Likely he was born in Oneida, New York. His death occurred 17 May 2011. He died in Sacramento, California but is buried in the same cemetery as his brother, Saint Helenas Cemetery in Oneida, Madison County, New York. The bulk of the text of his obituary published in The Oneida Daily Dispatch on 15 June 2011 reads:
Scott Stanley Porter, age 59, died peacefully on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 in Sacramento, Calif. after a long illness.
Scott graduated from V.V.S. Central School in 1969 and from Cobleskill Community College in 1971 where he received an associate’s degree.
He worked for Pan Am and United Airlines his entire life and retired in 2008.
Scott enjoyed traveling, cooking and drawing.
Surviving are his parents, Stanley and Rosemary Porter of Oneida; sisters, Sharon (James) Wylie, of Penfield, Kyle (Michael) Comstedt of Louisville, Colo.; nephews, Mark (Jen) Wylie, Christopher Wood and Chad Porter; nieces, Susan (Bryan) Gardner and Stacy Wood; one great-niece, Kailey Gardner and one great-nephew, Andrew Gardner; several uncles, aunts and many cousins.
Scott was predeceased by his brother, Sergeant William (Bill) Porter.
Family and friends are invited to attend a Mass of Christian burial to be held on Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 10 a.m. in St. Helena’s Church, Primo Ave., Sherrill. Burial will follow in St. Helena’s Cemetery, Middle Road, Oneida, N Y.
There is no further information on the eldest child, Sharon Wylie. The youngest sister, Kyle D Porter married Michael Richard Comstedt. Michael is a rather talented and renown chef.
MICHAEL COMSTEDT EXECUTIVE CHEF , SCHOOL DIRECTOR COOK STREET SCHOOL OF FINE COOKING Denver , CO
Michael Comstedt is executive chef and school director of the Cook Street School of Fine Cooking , located in Denver’s charming lower downtown area.
At an early age , Comstedt was inspired to focus on the culinary arts by his grandfather , publisher of Restaurant News.He supplemented his high school experience with food service courses while working part time in the William Penn Hotel in Whittier, California. Comstedt studied food and beverage management , business , French , and art at Rio Hondo Junior College and Los Angeles City College.In addition to his college studies, Comstedt mastered his culinary skills at Café Figaro’s in West Hollywood.Through the American Culinary Federation, Comstedt was awarded a formal apprenticeship at the Westin Hotel’s flagship property ( The Century Plaza Hotel in Century City , California ) studying under Executive Chef Walter Roth.…
As a team , Comstedt and Reynolds founded the Professional Culinary Arts Program at The Cooking School of the Rockies, which includes local schooling as well as international study in France.
William Roy Porter’s Unit was 3RD PLT, A CO, 5TH BN, 60TH INFANTRY, 9TH INF DIV, USARV. His life was cut short on the Incident and Casualty Date of 2 June 1970. His Age at Loss was a mere 20 years. The Incident Location was in Cambodia, Province not reported. His death was considered a ground casualty under gun or small arms fire. He died outright in a Hostile environment. His body recovered.
Source: URL: www.VirtualWall.org/dp/PorterWR02a.htm Data accessed:5/30/2013
He was just a young boy when he met his demise. He and Bill Presley knew each other only a few short weeks, but Bill has not forgotten his friend yet. The online rubbing of his name on the Virtual Wall is to the left.
Sgt Porter’s final resting place would also become the same cemetery that his brother Scott would be laid to rest at in Oneida, Madison County, New York. The cemetery name is Saint Helenas.
Bill and Nelda Holloway Presley have made attempts to find Sgt Porter’s family. They thought they had come across the family in Georgia, but that was another Porter boy. This my friend, Bill, is the family of that young boy that died so needlessly so long ago. Enjoy.
And this is as close to a photo of Sgt Porter as I could get. It is a photo of the marker for his grave. But for the brave, we would not be free.
would be nice this Memorial Day weekend. The men listed below are just some of the brave men from the Shoals area and surrounding areas that gave so that we and others might be free. They are among the many of:
ALABAMA – KOREAN WAR KIA – MIA –
DIED AS POW – DIED OF WOUNDS – NON-BATTLE
|BAIN||ODOM CARL||MARINES||11TH MARINE REGIMENT||TOWN CREEK|
|BARRIER||JAMES F||ARMY||27TH INFANTRY REGIMENT||LAUDERDALE COUNTY|
|BRUCE||RALPH TALMADGE||ARMY||9TH INFANTRY REGIMENT||FLORENCE|
|BURGETT||ALFRED T||ARMY||7TH INFANTRY REGIMENT||FRANKLIN COUNTY|
|BURNS JR||BUFORD LEE||MARINES||1ST MARINE DIVISION HEADQUARTERS BATTALION||FLORENCE|
|COCHRAN||L G||ARMY||5TH CAVALRY REGIMENT||HACKLEBURG|
|COUNTS||GEORGE WILLIAM||ARMY||279TH INFANTRY REGIMENT||TUSCUMBIA|
|CRUMPTON||FLOYD THOMAS||ARMY||8TH CAVALRY REGIMENT||MORGAN COUNTY|
|DEASON||CHARLES LEO||ARMY||38TH INFANTRY REGIMENT||MARION|
|EVANS||CORBIT||ARMY||35TH INFANTRY REGIMENT||HAMILTON|
|GRAY||LEO HOWARD||ARMY||15TH INFANTRY REGIMENT||ATHENS|
|GREENE JR||CLAUD DEWEY||ARMY||187TH AIRBORNE REGIMENTAL COMBAT TEAM||MOULTON|
|GRIFFIS||WILLIE D||ARMY||38TH INFANTRY REGIMENT||LIMESTONE COUNTY|
|GUTHRIE||MARVIN LEE||AIR FORCE||8TH BOMBARDMENT SQUADRON||ELKMONT|
|GUTHRIE||ROBERT HARVEY||ARMY||82ND ANTIAIRCRAFT ARTILLERY AW BATTALION||FLORENCE|
|HENRY JR||KENNETH||ARMY||32ND INFANTRY REGIMENT||LAWRENCE COUNTY|
|HUGHES||MORRIS E||ARMY||179TH INFANTRY REGIMENT||LAUDERDALE COUNTY|
|HUTCHINS||JOHNNIE R||ARMY||780TH FIELD ARTILLERY BATTALION (8-INCH TOWED)||RUSSELLVILLE|
|HYDE||DANIEL T||ARMY||7TH CAVALRY REGIMENT||FRANKLIN COUNTY|
|JONES||MACK DONALD||ARMY||19TH INFANTRY REGIMENT||HALEYVILLE|
|MCCLURE||John Slater||ARMY||19TH INFANTRY REGIMENT||COLBERT COUNTY|
|MCGEE||WILLIAM REEDER||ARMY||35TH INFANTRY REGIMENT||LAUDERDALE COUNTY|
|MCGHEE||RICHARD D||ARMY||19TH INFANTRY REGIMENT||MORGAN COUNTY|
|OAKLEY||JAMES||ARMY||1ST RANGER INFANTRY COMPANY (AIRBORNE)||FLORENCE|
|OLIVE||JAMES GRADY||ARMY||9TH INFANTRY REGIMENT||LAUDERDALE COUNTY|
|RAY||ALTON G||MARINES||7TH MARINE REGIMENT||COURTLAND|
|RINER JR||CLAUDE LOYD||ARMY||38TH INFANTRY REGIMENT||COLBERT COUNTY|
|SLOAN||CARL TOMMY||ARMY||21ST INFANTRY REGIMENT||LAUDERDALE COUNTY|
|SMITH||MOSES||ARMY||24TH INFANTRY REGIMENT||LAUDERDALE COUNTY|
|SPENCE JR||GROVER C||ARMY||7TH CAVALRY REGIMENT||LAUDERDALE COUNTY|
|SPRINGER||MARVIN R||ARMY||9TH INFANTRY REGIMENT||LAUDERDALE COUNTY|
|STANPHILL||DOCK L||ARMY||145TH FIELD ARTILLERY BATTALION (155MM)||FRANKLIN COUNTY|
|STEEN||GERALD DEE||ARMY||19TH INFANTRY REGIMENT||LAUDERDALE COUNTY|
|TRENT||JAMES O||ARMY||19TH INFANTRY REGIMENT||LAUDERDALE COUNTY|
|WILKINS||JOSEPH MURRAY||NAVY||VP-871 PATROL SQUADRON||CHICKASAW|
and often they live a quiet life without fanfare. Sometimes they get upset at using the term ‘hero’ in connection with their names, but how better to honor them?
On this Memorial Day weekend, we need to take time to reflect on those who have served our nation is valiantly. And to give credit where it is due. Have you ever heard of the surname Cottingham? My mother said they always pronounced it Cotten-gim, as opposed to how I have heard it spoken all my life. The Cottingham’s of our family lines have a long and storied history. But a couple of generations ago they were located in Lawrence County, Alabama. Many of them and their kin remain in Lawrence County, Alabama. My Peebles’ family line is intertwined with the Cottingham family on many levels, but one will be highlighted in this writing and that will be the family of Edgar and Lena Cottingham.
We are double kin to that family. Edgar Cottingham was the son of Pearlie C and Roman Cottingham. Pearlie Catherine Cottingham nee Tolbert was my grandmother’s sister. Lena Cottingham nee Peebles and was my grandfather’s sister. It is confusing I know and a family chart would have to be consulted regularly to keep the family lines straight. So this hero is especially interesting because family ties to him are through both our Tolbert and our Peebles lines.
Our hero of mention here, is J B Levert Cottingham. You have never heard of him you say? Perhaps you have heard of the actor Gregory Peck? Well in the war movie Pork Chop Hill, Gregory Peck
portrayed the role of J B Levert Cottingham and he did a wonderful job through the visual arts of showing us just what a hero our J B Levert Cottingham was. It is very fitting to document him on this day to honor the fallen and dead heroes of our wars.
J B Cottingham was born 22 April 1929 to Edgar and Lena Cottingham in Lawrence County, Alabama. He died without fanfare on 28 February 1998. His obituary stated simply, “He was a US Army veteran of the Korean War, where he received the Purple Heart Medals for his service in the Battle of Porkchop Hill, and he was a retired sheetmetal worker.” That is not much fanfare for someone so brave, so heroic, and so famous that he would be portrayed in a famous war movie by Gregory Peck.
Pork Chop Hill was based on the eyewitness essays of ex-soldier S. L. A. Marshall. The film is set during the Korean “police action.” While diplomats argue pointlessly over the shape of the negotiation tables at Panmunjon, United Nations troops bleed and die. Lieutenant Gregory Peck leads a 135-man unit on the attack of the Chinese-held Pork Chop Hill. When reinforcements finally arrive, only 25 of Peck’s men survive. There is a three and half hour documentary on some of the heroes of Porkchop Hill entitled “Men of Truth and Courage in a Forgotten War: The 17th Infantry in Korea,” produced by Legal Eagle Productions; there are excerpts from that documentary on YouTube.
An account of the battle in Military Magazine reads as follows:
Korean War: Battle on Pork Chop Hill
Officially it was designated Hill 255, but its contour lines on a map of Korea and a 1959 film made it world famous as Pork Chop Hill. Based on a book by military historian S.L.A. Marshall, the movie dealt only with the penultimate, two-day battle for Pork Chop Hill in April 1953. In actuality, that hill claimed the lives of soldiers from the United States, Thailand, Colombia, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and China in an ongoing struggle that lasted longer than on any other single battlefield in Korea.
After Communist North Korean forces invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, the war raged up and down the peninsula several times as the United States, the United Nations (U.N.) and finally Communist China sent ground forces there. By July 1952, however, both sides had constructed such strong defensive lines that neither could undertake a major offensive without suffering unacceptable losses. In 1952, North Korea and China had 290,000 men on the front lines and another 600,000 in reserve. The U.N. countered with 250,000 troops on the line, backed by 450,000 reserves.
While the two sides engaged in tedious, often exasperating truce negotiations at Panmunjom, their soldiers huddled in trench systems resembling those of World War I. The constant patrolling and artillery duels seldom made headlines at home. But occasionally battles for outposts such as Heartbreak Ridge, the Punchbowl, Capitol Hill and the Hook drew media attention, giving them propaganda value at the talks.
Much of the focus on Pork Chop Hill was a result of Communist political structure. At that time, Marshal Peng Dehuai commanded the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces in Korea, taking his orders from the Central Military Commission (CMC), of which Mao Tse-tung was chairman, and Mao’s foreign minister, Zhou Enlai, vice chairman. Peng’s lieutenants often had multiple responsibilities. For example, Peng’s deputy, General Deng Hua, was also commander of the 13th Field Army and a delegate at the peace talks. Li Kenong, chief of military intelligence for the CMC, was also vice minister of foreign affairs, chief of the Military Intelligence Department of the People’s Liberation Army, and headed the Chinese delegation at Panmunjom. Because of Li’s ministry and intelligence positions, he had his government’s authority to coordinate armistice talks and battlefield strategy. Consequently, whenever negotiations reached critical stages, the Chinese military was used to test the U.N.’s will on the battlefield. As the action raged around relatively unimportant outposts, the battles themselves took on political and propaganda significance far beyond their military value.
In May 1952, Maj. Gen. David Ruffner took command of the 45th Infantry Division, holding the right flank of the I Corps’ line in west-central Korea, facing the 39th Army of the Chinese 13th Field Army. Wishing to take the high ground in front of his division’s main line of resistance (MLR), Ruffner and his staff developed a plan to seize a dozen forward hills, stretching from northeast to southwest. The last two in the southwest, Pork Chop and Old Baldy (Hill 266), were held by the Chinese 116th Division.
On June 6 and 7, the 279th Infantry Regiment seized the six northern hills, while the 180th Infantry advanced on the six southern ones. Company I of the 180th took Pork Chop after a one-hour firefight and immediately fortified the position. The Chinese 346th, 347th and 348th regiments counterattacked over the next several days, but I Company, with artillery support, held them off. Ruffner had extended the 45th Division’s line to provide a breakwater for his MLR, with Port Chop Hill, partially protected from Old Baldy, providing a vital part of the buffer.
The 2nd Infantry Division replaced the 45th in the fall of 1952, and its 9th Regiment was assigned to Pork Chop and Old Baldy. In October the Thai 21st Infantry Regiment occupied Pork Chop and managed to beat back assaults by elements of the Chinese 39th Army in November. When the 7th Infantry Division replaced the 2nd, troops of its 31st Regiment occupying Hill 255 found words written on the bunker walls by the departing Thais: ‘Take good care of our Pork Chop.’
In the late winter of 1953, General Deng argued that Chinese forces should adopt a retaliatory (zhenfeng xiangdui) strategy rather than remain on the defensive. The CMC endorsed his idea, and Marshal Peng moved the 23rd and 47th armies into line near Pork Chop Hill. On March 1, 1953, Chinese artillery opened an 8,000-round artillery barrage. Then, on the night of March 23, elements of the Chinese 67th Division of the 23rd Army and the 47th Army’s 141st Division launched simultaneous ground assaults on Old Baldy, Pork Chop and Hill 191.
‘On March 23rd, we ran a 50-man patrol along the perimeter of Pork Chop,’ recalled Corporal Joe Scheuber of I Company, 31st Infantry. ‘We just got into our foxholes on the finger of Pork Chop when enemy mortar and artillery hit us. To our right, more incoming rounds. Then we saw Chinese behind us and realized we were surrounded. We fell back to the trench line at the top of the hill, but the Chinese had reached it first. Hand-to-hand fighting broke out. There was a tremendous amount of noise. I got nicked in the arm and my helmet got shot off. I worked my way down the hill, killing a Chinese soldier with a grenade. I ended up in a shell hole the remainder of the night, as the enemy artillery lasted most of the night. When dawn broke, I was found by another unit from I Company as they pushed the Chinese off the hill.’ The Chinese drove the defenders back 800 yards. Just after midnight, however, two companies from the 7th Division reserve counterattacked and recovered Pork Chop by morning.
The 1st Battalion of the Chinese 141st Division, commanded by Hou Yung-chun, was selected to assault Old Baldy. The unit’s political officer hand picked the 3rd Company to lead the attack and plant the ‘Victory Flag’ on the hill. Facing the Chinese was the recently arrived and inexperienced Colombian 3rd Battalion. Supported by heavy artillery fire, the Chinese penetrated the U.N. position at about 2100 hours. Although the Colombians were reinforced by an American company, it was not enough to prevent them from having to fall back. Kao Yung-ho, a young soldier in the 3rd Company, declared, ‘This victory is to our company commander’s credit.’
‘When the Chinese seized Old Baldy there was good military logic to abandon Pork Chop,’ S.L.A. Marshall wrote. ‘That concession would have been in the interest of line-straightening without sacrifice of a dependable anchor. But national pride, bruised by the loss of Old Baldy, asserted itself, and Pork Chop was held.’
A lull fell over the area while the Chinese 47th Army was resupplied for its next objective — Pork Chop. Back in the United States, the press lambasted the 7th Division for the loss of Old Baldy and described the division as weary, slipshod and demoralized. Unwittingly, the American press supplied the Chinese with a propaganda tool — during the April and July fighting, 7th Division troops would hear those same caustic criticisms loosed at them from Chinese loudspeakers.
In April 1953, two platoons of E Company, 31st Regiment of the 7th Division, both under the command of 1st Lt. Thomas V. Harrold, garrisoned Pork Chop. The total strength within the perimeter came to 96 men, including attached artillery, engineer and medical personnel. The 1st and 3rd platoons mustered only 76 riflemen, and 20 of them were stationed at listening points outside the perimeter. Easy Company normally had twice that many, but it had begun its rotation out of the sector.
The bunkers and trenches had been engineered according to the then-conventional pattern of the Eighth Army. As Marshall described it: ‘A solidly revetted rifle trench encircled it at the military crest, providing wall and some roof cover, which served for defense in any direction. Sandbagged and heavily timbered, fire-slotted bunkers were tied into the trench line at approximately 30-yard intervals. They gave troops protection while affording observation and command of the slope.’ The natural terrain, however, divided the two platoons, because Pork Chop was pushed in like the dent in a hat.
General Deng’s plan to assault Pork Chop had been endorsed by the CMC on April 3, but Mao intervened, delaying the operation until the peace talks stalled. In that same month, the negotiators at Panmunjom agreed to exchange their sickest POWs, an operation called Little Switch. At that point, however, the Chinese political leadership wanted to show the U.N. that its cooperation did not reflect an unwillingness to fight. Deng was therefore authorized to attack Pork Chop Hill before April 20, when Little Switch was slated to begin.
At 2000 hours on April 16 a patrol from the 31st Infantry, consisting of 10 soldiers from Fox Company and five from Easy, advanced to within 100 yards of the shallow stream at the valley bottom and set up an ambush. At about 2300, some 50 Chinese soldiers approached from Hasakkol. Sergeant Henry W. Pidgeon of Fox Company flung grenades at them, thereby striking the first blow in the Battle of Pork Chop Hill. He then ordered the patrol back, but Easy Company’s mortars, firing at the advancing Chinese, cut off the American patrol. A few individuals filtered back into the trenches at 0445, but most of the patrol remained on the slope until 1900 the next evening.
The advance patrol’s encounter failed to raise alarm among Pork Chop’s defenders, and two full companies of Chinese infantry reached the ramparts before anyone knew of their presence. Slipping past the listening posts, the Chinese assaulted the 1st Platoon’s sector on the Pork Chop’s left flank. Sergeant 1st Class Carl Pratt and his 1st Platoon troops could hear the enemy but remained in their bunkers because of Chinese shelling. The 3rd Platoon, separated from it by terrain, was unaware of the 1st Platoon’s situation or of the growing danger it was in.
At his command post (CP) at the far end of the perimeter, Lieutenant Harrold evaluated the situation. There had been increased Chinese shelling, contact had been lost with the outposts and 1st Platoon, and the volume of submachine gun fire had increased in the 1st Platoon’s sector. Sensing that Easy Company was in big trouble, he fired a red star rocket, signifying ‘We are under full attack,’ and a red star cluster, signaling ‘Give us flash Pork Chop.’ At 2305, the lights came on all over the hill, and two minutes later American artillery opened fire, to be answered by the Chinese batteries. Twenty minutes later, the firing ceased and members of Easy Company emerged from their bunkers. They found the Chinese in the trenches, and firefights broke out throughout the perimeter.
Although the Chinese had infiltrated the defensive works, the command post, then held by Harrold, two other officers and two NCOs, prevented them from securing the rear slope or barring reinforcements from coming up. Other than the CP blocking Pork Chop’s back door, the hill’s defense was without a linchpin. The 3rd Platoon was pinned in the bunkers, while only six wounded soldiers remained of the 1st Platoon. By systematically killing the occupants and capturing the bunkers, the Chinese, aided by additional reinforcements, secured most of the hill by two hours after midnight.
Harrold relayed what he knew through his battalion command to the 31st Infantry’s commander, Colonel William B. Kern. One hour after the fighting began, three rifle platoons of L Company had been trucked forward, in case the Chinese overran Pork Chop. Shortly after 0200, Kern ordered one platoon from Fox Company and one from Love Company to reinforce Easy Company. The Fox platoon became lost and never arrived. Second Lieutenant Earle L. Denton was leading Love’s 3rd Platoon from Hill 200 to Pork Chop when, about 50 yards from the chow bunker, two machine guns opened fire and brought down six of his men. After a second burst of Chinese gunfire, Denton decided to pull back.
Returning to Love’s CP with only 12 men, Denton reported to the company commander, 1st Lt. Forrest James Crittendon, that the 3rd Platoon’s attack had failed. The battalion commander, Lt. Col. John N. Davis, ordered King and Love companies to counterattack at dawn. Love would launch its second assault with only two platoons and, incredibly, never learned that it was to be part of a joint operation with King.
King Company’s 135 troops were stationed behind Hill 347. At 0330, they were ordered into an attack position behind Hill 200. Minus the weapons platoon, each soldier carried a full belt, extra bandolier and three more grenades than usual. The six Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) men in each platoon carried 12 magazines, and each light machine-gun team carried five boxes of ammunition. Each platoon also carried a flame-thrower and a heavy rocket launcher. Colonel Davis suggested that King attack Pork Chop’s rear slope with two platoons abreast and hold one in reserve. King Company’s commander, 1st Lt. Joseph G. Clemons, Jr., understood that King would receive support from Love, which would attack up the ridge finger on Pork Chop’s right. ‘Hit the hill hard and get to the top as fast as the men can go,’ Clemons told his platoons’ leaders. ‘Success depends on speed; we must close before daylight.’
With the 2nd Platoon deployed on the right, the 1st on the left and the 3rd in reserve, King Company reached the assault line. At 0430 the artillery barrage lifted and King stepped off. Although they were not fired on, it took King’s men 29 minutes to travel the 170 yards to the nearest bunker. ‘We managed to get over the first line of barbed wire through holes cut by shellfire and by walking on bodies of men lying on the wire to hold it down,’ said Sergeant Samuel K. Maxwell, a K Company medic who had been on the hill back on March 23. ‘Pork Chop was steep. We were heavily loaded with ammo for our weapons and the MGs, as well as the boxes of grenades. The steep climb had us pooped. We got within grenade range in small groups to begin grenading our way down the main trench, clearing out the Chinese.’ Just as the first man entered the defensive works at 0500, the Chinese artillery struck.
As the battle entered its second round, Love Company had launched its second attack about the same time as King, but met a Chinese barrage more intense than the earlier one. Both of its platoons were crushed and sent tumbling back to Hill 200, leaving King Company on its own.
Sergeant 1st Class Walter Kuzmick’s squad of King Company’s 2nd Platoon encountered its first fire at the chow bunker just below the main trench. Kuzmick reached the main trench at 0520 and pushed his men along it toward the CP. Second Lieutenant Robert S. Cook, the 2nd Platoon’s commander, reached the CP first and called Kuzmick forward. As Kuzmick rushed the bunker, grenade in hand, a lieutenant of Easy Company sprang out the door, also brandishing a grenade. Both men froze. Just then, Clemons appeared, stunned to find any Easy Company men left on the hill. Before anyone could move, three shells of undetermined origin hit the bunker. Cook, the Easy Company officer and several King Company men were wounded, but the Easy Company survivors inside were unharmed.
While weary King Company settled into the trenches and Love regrouped on Hill 200, fresh forces from the Chinese 141st Division moved toward Pork Chop. ‘Pork Chop was a maze, a rat’s nest of bunkers, line and commo trenches, shell holes and rock clumps,’ Sergeant Maxwell said. ‘The Chinese kept feeding fresh troops into their counterattacks. The survivors of the previous attacks would then come out of cover and join them. We fought with the men we had. Every hour, we numbered less.’
Clemons did not have enough men to take the hill by storm, so he and his executive officer, 1st Lt. Tsugi O’Hashi, returned to the chow bunker to sort things out. Clemons, guessing that he had lost half of his men and that the rest were low on ammunition, decided to bring up the 3rd Platoon.
By 0745, King Company had not advanced more than 200 yards in two hours, and the Chinese still held bunkers along two-thirds of the trench line. Feeling that his men were stretched to the breaking point, Clemons waited for help. It came in the form of 12 men from Love Company.
Crittendon had pushed 62 men of the regrouped Love Company back up the right-hand finger. On the way up, Crittendon was hit, along with the next company commander, 2nd Lt. Homer F. Bechtel. Command fell to 2nd Lt. Arthur Marshall, who led Love on through a buzz saw of artillery and machine-gun fire. By the time Marshall reached Clemons’ position, he had 12 men left, including Lieutenant Denton.
The total of 65 Americans on Pork Chop — survivors of Easy, King and Love companies — was about the same number as Easy Company had had at the start of the battle. At 0814, more reinforcements arrived in the form of G Company, 17th Infantry, commanded by Clemons’ brother-in-law, 1st Lt. Walter B. Russell. At the same time, however, a fresh Chinese company arrived at the other side of the hill’s ridge and fighting blazed anew. At 1100 Clemons radioed his battalion, ‘I must have water, plasma, more medical assistance, flamethrowers, litter, ammunition, several radios.’ Only a little water and C rations arrived.
At noon, 1st Lt. James Blake, the battalion intelligence officer, entered Clemons’ CP with a message from Colonel Davis, ordering him to send survivors of Easy and Fox to the rear, and for George Company to withdraw at 1500. ‘When they go out,’ Clemons told Blake, ‘it is not reasonable to expect that we can hold the hill.’ Battalion did not respond to his message. Clemons’ and Russell’s men held on for the next few hours, but at 1445 Clemons sent another message to Battalion: ‘We must have help or we can’t hold the hill.’ This time Colonel Kern responded by calling division headquarters and urging either relief or reinforcements for Pork Chop.
The 7th Division faced a more complex issue regarding the hill. If it fell, the Chinese could strike next at Hill 347, which could turn into a bloody, battalion-per-day meat grinder like Triangle Hill, an objective that had ended up in Chinese hands by the end of October 1952. The division asked for a decision from I Corps, which asked the Eighth Army, which asked Far East Command. The Eighth Army wanted to weigh how many men it was prepared to lose against the importance of preventing the Chinese from flaunting a victory at Panmunjom. While the high command debated the issue, the 7th Division commander, Maj. Gen. Arthur G. Trudeau, and his aide-de-camp, Brig. Gen. Derrill M. Daniel, helicoptered to Davis’ regimental CP to get a clearer view of King. They arrived at 1500, just as George Company withdrew from the hill.
By then, King Company had suffered 18 men killed and 71 wounded. ‘We were down to 25 men, including a few men from Love Company,’ Sergeant Maxwell recalled. ‘With no reinforcements in sight, Lt. Clemons grouped us onto a high hill knob on Pork Chop where we might hold out. Somehow we held the rest of the day into the night.’ Troops also manned two bunkers at the top of the crest, and Clemons remained in the CP with the radio while O’Hashi and Kuzmick directed the troops. In preparation for a night attack, the Chinese shelled the American positions for four hours.
At 1640, Clemons reported to the regiment: ‘We have about 20 men left still unhurt. If we can’t be relieved, we should be withdrawn.’ General Trudeau, who was present when the message came in, decided to hold the hill. He got official backing from the Eighth Army, because of its linkage to the talks at Panmunjom. Trudeau attached the 17th Infantry Regiment’s 2nd Battalion to the 31st Infantry and moved the 17th’s 1st Battalion into the support area of Pork Chop Hill.
Colonel Kern immediately ordered Captain King of Fox Company to move onto Pork Chop and relieve Clemons’ force as soon as possible. Fox’s troops arrived at 2130 and deployed into the trenches with the remnants of King and Love companies. At the same time, a Chinese force attacked from Hasakkol. American artillery scattered the Chinese, but they responded with a barrage of their own, killing 19 men of Fox Company.
With Fox Company bloodied and exhausted, Kern committed Easy Company of the 17th Infantry, while Trudeau released that regiment’s 1st Battalion to Kern, just in case. Easy’s commander, 1st Lt. Gorman Smith, moved his company around the right finger of Pork Chop and marched directly up its face — the Chinese side — hoping to catch them off guard.
Inside the American CP on the hill were Clemons, Denton, King and 14 enlisted men. At midnight, when Chinese fire let up, Clemons pulled his survivors off the hill. ‘About 2200, Fox Company of the 31st counterattacked and reached us,’ Maxwell said. “King’ was relieved at 2400. We made our way one by one in the gaps between Chinese artillery salvos to the foot of Pork Chop. Here, 20 hours earlier were 135 men in nine 6-by-6 trucks. Now, the seven of us sat in a one-ton weapons carrier. On leaving Fox Company, one of their medics had asked me to leave my med kit with him. I showed him it was empty. I had used every item I had carried up that hill. King Company would need 150 replacements before it could fight again as a full-strength rifle company.’ Denton remained at the CP, because Captain King requested further help.
About 0130, the Chinese attacked again, swarming around the CP and lobbing grenades into the bunkers. The Americans were wounded, but held on. Denton called for fire directly onto the bunker’s roof. Fire from quadruple .50-caliber machine gun mounts swept the roof of Chinese. As the enemy launched another assault, Denton and his men knew that this time they would be overwhelmed. Chinese fire intensified. Then, suddenly, there was silence, followed by the crack of rifle fire as Easy Company of the 17th Infantry arrived. Driven from the crest, some Chinese scampered back across the valley, while others took refuge in the outline trench works. Evaluating Gorman Smith’s risky maneuver in retrospect, S.L.A. Marshall wrote that ‘For the embattled group within the Pork Chop CP, the minutes thus saved by one man’s intuition and hard work were as decisive as a last-minute reprieve to the condemned.’
Easy Company’s assault was the pivotal event in the battle for Pork Chop, but it did not end the fighting. By 0230, Easy was deployed over the trench works, and the Chinese launched company-size assaults at 0320 and 0429. At dawn, Kern committed A Company of the 17th to the struggle, and throughout April 17 the three American companies reoccupied the trench system, using small arms, grenades and bayonets, finally crisscrossing the peak and taking control of the hill. Denton and a few diehards of Love Company remained on the hill until midafternoon.
In the early morning of April 18, more troops from the Chinese 141st Division assaulted the hill again, but after a bloody close-quarters fight they were driven back by an arriving company of American reinforcements. At dusk, the Chinese finally conceded the fight and withdrew to their side of the valley.
Marshall called Pork Chop Hill ‘an artillery duel,’ noting that the nine artillery battalions of the 2nd and 7th divisions had fired 37,655 rounds on the first day and 77,349 rounds on the second. ‘Never at Verdun were guns worked at any such rate as this,’ he wrote. ‘The battle of Kwajalein, our most intense shoot during World War II, was still a lesser thing when measured in terms of artillery expenditure per hour, weight of metal against yards of earth and the grand output of the guns. For this at least the operation deserves a place in history. It set the all-time mark for artillery effort.’
Pork Chop became a well-publicized battle and therefore an important bargaining chip at the peace table. In June 1953, Marshal Peng provided General Deng with a fresh unit, the First Army, consisting of the 1st, 2nd and 7th divisions, to relieve the 47th Army. On July 6, the Chinese command decided to make another attempt to take Hill 255. A few days earlier, the Communist and U.N. delegates had reached a tentative ceasefire agreement, but South Korean leader Syngman Rhee had balked at the settlement. The Chinese meant the attack on Pork Chop to chastise the Americans for failing to keep Rhee reined in.
‘The Chinese were on their loudspeakers telling us to surrender,’ recalled Angelo Palermo, a 21-year-old private in Able Company, 17th Infantry. ‘If we did not, they said, we were all going to die. They announced that they were going to take Porkchop and that they would take no prisoners. On the night of July 6, as it started to get dark, the Chinese attacked in force. I was on a .50-caliber machine gun when they started to swarm up the hill. I could have sworn that all of China was on that slope. With enough firepower, we could have killed a thousand gooks, but we hadn’t nearly enough ammunition to turn back this kind of attack. We fired the .50 until we ran out of ammo, and by that time the Chinese were in our trenchline, so we fought them with rifle butts, bayonets, and even fists and helmets. They were pushing us back, but before we were driven off the hill, Baker Company came up to help us. However, the sheer numbers of Chinese drove us off the top of Porkchop.’
The Americans sent in successive companies of reinforcements, and the Chinese matched each one with an additional battalion. The 17th Infantry gained and lost Pork Chop twice in four days.
‘General Trudeau came up on an inspection and told us that Porkchop had to be held at all costs,’ wrote Private Palermo.’I thought generals only talked like that in movies, but apparently I was mistaken.’
Trudeau organized a counterattack force from the reconnaissance battalion and personally led it up the hill. For that exemplary action, he was awarded the Silver Star. S.L.A. Marshall also noted that the much-maligned 7th, the only U.S. Army division to fight a major battle in 1953, ‘acquitted itself with the highest credit.’
By July 11, five American battalions held a company-size outpost against a full Chinese division. On that same day, however, General Taylor, I Corps and the 7th Division ordered the hill abandoned. Taylor wrote in his book Swords and Plowshares, ‘The cost of continuing to defend Pork Chop became so prohibitive under the massed Chinese attacks that I authorized its evacuation.’
Korea and Vietnam War veteran Colonel Harry G. Summers wrote more critically of his rationale: ‘Ever the politician (as he would prove to be again in the Vietnam War), General Taylor had made his decision based on his perception of American public and political reactions to the high number of U.S. casualties.’ Marshal Peng praised the outcome as ‘an example of how Chinese forces effectively employed the ‘new tactic’ of active defense in positional warfare.’
The British, who fought a similar battle at the Hook, thought the struggle for Pork Chop was foolish. Asked what he would have done to recapture Hill 255, Maj. Gen. Mike West, commander of the Commonwealth Division, answered: ‘Nothing. It was only an outpost.’
With the final signing of the armistice agreement at Panmunjom on July 27, 1953, Pork Chop Hill became part of the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. It has since become a symbol, both positive and negative, of a controversial war. In his book The Korean War, Max Hastings summed up both by writing: ‘The struggle for Pork Chop became part of the legend of the U.S. Army in Korea, reflecting the courage of the defenders and the tactical futility of so many small-unit actions of the kind that dominated the last two years of the war.’
This article was written by James I. Marino and originally published in the April 2003 issue of Military History magazine.
A comment attached to the article above is written thusly:
On 11 July 1953, a mission was organized to “booby trap and mine” the bunker complex on Pork Chop Hill, after a decision by Eight Army Command in Seoul to withdraw from the outpost. This mission was carried out by a twenty-two man detail led by 1st Lt. David L Bills, who was then considered a “booby trap” expert. The detail was comprised of men from “D” and “H&S” Company 13th Combat Engineers.
Based on a coversation I had with A Company Commander, 13th Combat Engineers, Capt. James Brettell, he told me that “he never expected to see these men again” because of the overwhelming enemy presence on the hill. In addition, the book “On Hallowed Ground, The last battles for Pork Chop Hill” by Bill McWilliams, it stated that this was considered a \suicide mission\ by others in command at the time.
The goal was to move out on this besieged hill, to place nuisance mines and booby traps throughout the fortifications that would inflict causalities and harass the enemy as he moved about the trenches and bunkers. This work was done while under direct enemy small arms fire and exploding enemy hand grenades. They were continually under intense artillery and mortar fire throughout their job, and much of the work was done in total darkness. They worked until the last group of friendly forces evacuated the position. This heroic action took place between 1630 and 1930 hours.
All these men returned back to their lines without any casualties. They accomplished their mission and on the next morning according to officers attending a meeting with the Commanding General of the 7th Inf. Div., one of the chemical delayed high explosive devices could be heard exploding in the area of the command bunker on Pork Chop Hill as planned.
The men listed below all received the Bronze Star w/ V Device for valor during this mission.
1st Lt Thoralf M. Sundt
1st Lt David L. Bills
1st Lt Harry H Gordon
Sgt John D. Davin
Sgt James L. Halter
Cpl John E Sheppard Jr
Pfc Dennis F. Koudelka
Pfc Gene N. Siefken
Pvt Curtis L. Mcgee Jr.
Cpl Clyde Collingsworth
Pfc Francis S. Grems
Sgt Anthony F. Novak
Pfc William (Unknown, last name not legible)
Cpl Hilton A. Guzman
Cpl Ivan S.C. James Jr.
Pvt Donald W. Johnstone
Pfc Willie Doonkeen
Pfc Sigifredo Ortiz
Pvt J.B. Cottingham
Pfc Donald G. McElroy
Pfc Donald G. McElroy
Pfc Orville J. Leigh
I have shared this information in order to give recognition to these men and their act of heroism, which sometimes seems to get lost in the larger scheme of things.
Any corrections or additions to this article would be appreciated. If I recall correctly, some of J B’s family lives in the Grassy community of Lauderdale County. There is still a lot of family in Lawrence County, Alabama including siblings. J B Levert Cottingham’s obituary text follows:
J. B. Levert Cottingham Funeral for J B Levert Cottingham, 68, of Courtland will be Tuesday at 2 p.m. at Courtland Baptist Church with the Rev A G Simmons and the Rev Homer Jones officiating. Burial will be in Courtland Cemetery with Parkway Funeral Home directing. The family will receive friends tonight from 6 to 9 at the funeral home. The body will be at the church one hour before the service.Mr Cottingham died Saturday, Feb 28, 1998, at Huntsville Hospital East. He was born April 22, 1929, in Lawrence County to Edgar and Lena Cottingham. He was a US Army veteran of the Korean War, where he received the Purple Heart Medals for his service in the Battle of Porkchop Hill, and he was a retired sheetmetal worker. He was the widower of Shirley Cottingham.He is survived by three sons, Tony Cottingham of Decatur, Gary Cottingham of Louisville, Ky and Keith Cottingham of Courtland; four daughters, Terry Ann Goodwin of Hillsboro, Gerry Nell Cottingham and G G Goodwin, both of Courtland, and Scarlet Givens of Moulton; four brothers, Jimmy Cottingham of Hillsboro, William Cottingham of Decatur and Paul Cottingham and Kenneth Cottingham, both of Courtland; five sisters, Lillian Terry, Jewel Krout, Dimple Todaro and Doris Cottingham, all of Courtland, and Maggie Harris of Stockton, Calif; and 10 grandchildren.Pallbearers will be Randy Williams, Charles Krout, Donnie Cottingham, Jimmy Gwen Cottingham, Judson Pitt and Anthony Hutto.
DECATUR DAILY – March 2, 1998