Share This Article

By the summer of 1952 the Korean War had bogged down into a stalemate with static defenses reminiscent of World War I becoming the norm. UN Forces held a main line of resistance across the Korean Peninsula, near the 38th parallel, broken into the sectors of Jamestown, Wyoming, Kansas, and Missouri. In the no man’s land between the two forces stood numerous outposts varying in size from squad to company levels. Manning crucial outposts and positions along the Jamestown Line, just 30 miles north of Seoul, were the men of the 1st Marine Division.

In August 1952 the Chinese army launched an assault on Hill 110, known to the Marines as Bunker Hill, and its surrounding outposts. Beginning on September 5th particularly intense fighting took place at Outpost Bruce where Marines held off three Chinese attempts to take the hill. In the process two Marines and a Navy Corpsman were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions.

As was standard practice for Chinese assaults on United Nations outposts, a massive artillery and mortar barrage began to rain down on Outpost Bruce announcing to the occupants, I Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, that the Chinese would be attacking soon. The steady shelling continued for an hour, until the first wave of enemy infantry began to scramble up the sides of Bruce.

Although the barrage was brutal, the Marines held their positions. Among those was Private First Class Alford McLaughlin. As the Chinese advanced through their own artillery McLaughlin was waiting for them with two machine guns, his carbine, and a stack of grenades.

As the Chinese onslaught approached Outpost Bruce, PFC McLaughlin poured withering enfilade into the attackers, alternating machine guns to keep them from overheating. As the enemy drew closer seeking defilade from the torrent of fire, McLaughlin stood up in full view of the enemy and fired his machine guns from the hip until the heat from the weapons blistered his hands.

Undaunted and ignoring the painful wounds, McLaughlin set aside the machine guns to cool, picked up his carbine and grenades and continued to fight. Battling like a madman and shouting words of encouragement to his comrades, McLaughlin was instrumental in the defense of the outpost that night. All told, McLaughlin accounted for some 150 enemy killed and another 50 wounded. For his actions McLaughlin was awarded the Medal of Honor.

While McLaughlin kept the Chinese from gaining the trenches near his sector, others in the outpost weren’t as successful. In another zone, Private First Class Fernando Garcia and his platoon were fighting off the Chinese with a steady supply of hand grenades. Although wounded in the artillery barrage, Garcia continued to fight. When his platoon began to run short on grenades Garcia accompanied his platoon sergeant to retrieve more through a hail of gunfire and explosions. When a Chinese grenade landed between the two men Garcia unhesitatingly threw himself upon it, absorbing the blast, and saving the life of his platoon sergeant. For his sacrifice he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Elsewhere along the perimeter Hospital Corpsman Third Class Edward Benfold was moving among the Marines of his platoon treating wounds and giving much needed words of encouragement. As Benfold’s platoon was attacked from two sides, he left his covered position to render aid to wounded Marines. As  Benfold moved forward, his citation reads, “to an exposed ridge line [he] observed two marines in a large crater. As he approached the two men to determine their condition, an enemy soldier threw two grenades into the crater while two other enemy charged the position. Picking up a grenade in each hand, Benfold leaped out of the crater and hurled himself against the on-rushing hostile soldiers, pushing the grenades against their chests and killing both the attackers.” Mortally wounded himself in his valiant attack Benfold was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.

The valiant actions of these three Marines as well as many others kept Outpost Bruce from being overrun. In the last eight hours alone,  vicious, close-in fighting at Bruce left approximately another 200 enemy wounded. The Chinese had attempted four abortive attacks upon the contested hill, with splintered bunker timbers and caved-in trenches marking the landscape. The next morning, only two fighting positions were still standing–facing the main line of resistance–the rest had been destroyed. The Marines, refused to give ground, however. Despite nearly every 3/5 defender becoming a casualty, they fended off the Chinese assault for 51 hours until the Chinese relented and withdrew.