In the latest installment of “Medal of Honor,” a graphic series produced by the Association of the U.S. Army, the story of Cpl. Mitchell Red Cloud — the Marine-turned-soldier — is spotlighted.
A member of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, also known Carlson’s Raiders, Red Cloud saw action on Guadalcanal and Okinawa, receiving a Purple Heart in the last campaign in the Pacific as a result of a “round to the shoulder,” according to the graphic novel.
It was in Korea, however, that the combat veteran and Wisconsin native gave his last full measure of devotion.
Reenlisting in 1948 as an infantryman in E Company, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, several months after the U.S. entry into the Korean War, Red Cloud found himself stationed along the north bank of the Chongchon River in North Korea.
The banks, held by the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade and the 19th Infantry Regiment of the 24th Division, were supposedly patrolled constantly. Separated by a five-mile gap, “the Chinese began probing the U.N. forces’ defensive line, evading patrols and moving freely through the gap” on November 5, writes Dana Benner.
Although cautioned about the Chinese habit of infiltrating the lines at night, many within E Company did not heed the warning — except Red Cloud.
According to the graphic novel, Red Cloud, armed with a Browning Automatic Rifle, was manning a listening post on the night of the 5th as 1,000 infantrymen of the Chinese 355th Regiment infiltrated behind U.N. lines.
From his post Red Cloud, under the light of a nearly full moon, was able to detect the onrushing enemy troops. As the Chinese charged within 100 feet from him, Red Cloud released a torrent of bullets, emptying magazine after magazine into the charging Chinese troops at point-blank range.
“His accurate and intense fire checked this assault and gained time for the company to consolidate its defense,” his citation read. Suffering from two gunshot wounds to the chest, Red Cloud, “with utter fearlessness he maintained his firing position until severely wounded by enemy fire.”
Despite his injuries and being hopelessly outnumbered, Red Cloud stayed at his post. Refusing medical assistance, Red Cloud “pulled himself to his feet and wrapping his arm around a tree continued his deadly fire again, until he was fatally wounded.”
Red Cloud’s furious counter-attack on the Chinese brought a stop to their initial assault and provided enough cover to allow his fellow soldiers to withdraw. His “heroic act stopped the enemy from overrunning his company’s position and gained time for reorganization and evacuation of the wounded,” according to his citation.
The following day, after the din of battle had subsided, the soldiers of E Company went back to look for Red Cloud. The men found him dead, shot eight times. The bodies of enemies Red Cloud had killed littered the area around the outpost.
In April 1951, in recognition of his selfless heroism, Red Cloud was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Presented by General Omar Bradley, Red Cloud’s mother received the medal on her son’s behalf.
In 1999, Red Cloud was further honored by the launching of USNS Red Cloud, the fourth of seven Strategic Sealift Ships built since 1993.
Present at the launch was Kenneth Kershaw, a member of E Company, 19th Infantry, who was present along the bank of the Chongchon River that morning.
“If it were not for the alarm sounded by Mitchell Red Cloud,” Kershaw simply stated, “I would not be here today.”