Col. Puckett on the radio in Vietnam (Image courtesy of the Puckett Loved ones).

Col. Ralph Puckett, who commanded Army Rangers and Airborne paratroopers through desperate defensive battles in two distinctive wars, died Monday. He was 97.

Just one of the most revered figures in Army Ranger lore, Puckett led the defense of a placement dubbed Hill 205 early in the Korean War against a force of Chinese soldiers numerous times bigger than his 51-guy Ranger device. A lot more than a ten years later, he commanded 101st Airborne paratroopers in an eerily comparable defensive stand in Vietnam.

He was awarded the Distinguished Company Cross for equally battles. In Could 2021, his DSC for the defense of Hill 205 was upgraded to the Medal of Honor soon after several years of lobbying from the Ranger local community.

“He is an icon of the Army Ranger,” Jeff Mellinger, stated when Pucket’s Medal of Honor was awarded. “Those who have fulfilled, listened to, or talked with Col. Ralph Puckett are remaining not only in awe of him and his considerable and undaunted braveness, but also of his humility and authentic heat.”

Immediately after retiring in 1971, Puckett remained a fixture in the shut-knit Ranger group and his impact and legacy keep on being seen throughout the 75th Ranger Regiment. An award bearing his identify is presented to the top rated officer in every Ranger Faculty class. Puckett presented the award himself at graduation ceremonies perfectly into his 90s. Inside the 75th Ranger Regiment, his identify is also utilised for an annual leadership award for junior officers. Puckett was also the honorary colonel of the regiment for a dozens a long time, a ceremonial submit in which he frequently spoke to new Rangers and represented the regiment in public. 

Hill 205

In November of 1950, Puckett was a to start with lieutenant commanding the 8th Ranger Company of the 8th Military Rangers. Compared with contemporary Ranger units, which belong to the 75th Ranger Regiment, Rangers in the Korean conflict have been connected to larger sized standard fighting units and had been often used in reconnaissance or assaults. Also compared with today’s Rangers, Puckett and all of his soldiers had arrived in Korea as common infantry soldiers and were being put via Ranger training near Kijang, South Korea the present-day Ranger college in Fort Benning welcomed its inaugural course that exact thirty day period.

In November 1950, Chinese forces poured south, turning back again early US and United Nations gains. It was versus this very first Chinese offensive that Puckett was ordered to get and hold Hill 205, around Unsan.

After getting the hill, Puckett was injured three times in an right away preventing. Nonetheless, he moved involving Ranger positions, bringing supplies and shifting positons. 5 periods Puckett referred to as in pre-prepared artillery to repel waves of Chinese soldiers. A sixth wave proved way too substantially.

“At about 0230, we listened to the Chinese blowing their whistles and bugles, often the exact same matter,” Puckett instructed an interviewer at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum. “I ran back to my foxhole, got on the radio all over again to simply call for artillery.”

This time, artillery wasn’t obtainable, previously firing one more mission.

Puckett produced a single previous radio call. “We’re crumbling, we’re currently being overrun,” he stated. “I gave my unit the term to withdraw.”

Wounded 3 times in the fighting, Puckett collapsed in a foxhole as Chinese soldiers overran Hill 205. Two of his males discovered him, 1 inquiring, “Sir, are you harm?”

“I assumed that was the dumbest issue I ever heard in my lifetime,” Puckett recalled. “But I didn’t say that.”

He ordered his adult men to depart him driving so they could retreat. As an alternative, the two Rangers initially carried, then dragged their commander by his wrists, bouncing Puckett down sheer rock faces and steep slopes to security as the Chinese fired on them.

At the base, Puckett made use of a tank radio to get in touch with in a “Willie Pete” artillery strike — or white phosphorus shells — on the overrun placement.

For the Hill 205 battle, Puckett was awarded the Distinguished Company Cross, the Army’s 2nd-optimum overcome award. 

His second DSC came in the early many years of Vietnam and barred putting resemblance to his first.

Struggle of Duc Pho and second DSC

In August 1967, then-Lt. Col. Puckett was a battalion commander in the 101st Airborne, overseeing operations near Duc Pho. Dealing with a massive Viet Cong force, the quotation says, “Puckett landed in the battle zone to coordinate defenses and to evaluate the battlefield predicament. Disregarding his individual protection, he moved across a greatly mined area to the issue of the most ferocious combating to direct and inspire his men in opposition to the hostile drive.”

Puckett dispersed his command factor to stay clear of artillery fireplace, getting up a place in a foxhole. From there — as he’d finished on Hill 205 — he bounced in between foxholes, checking on his men, bringing ammunition and encouragement.

“When rescue helicopters came in,” the citation reads, “he frequently refused extraction for himself and directed that the casualties be evacuated. With bullets putting all all-around him, he remained in the open up to rally his fatigued men through the prolonged evening by sharing just about every section of the fight with them.”

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