Monday, May 26, 2008

Col. William E. Barber Morgan County Medal Of Honor Winner

Garysworld 'Appalachia' proudly salutes Col. Barber from West Liberty, Kentucky on this Memorial Day 2008. He is Morgan County's Medal Of Honor winner. I had the pleasure of meeting this remarkable hero twice in my lifetime. I can tell you he would not want me to brag about him. He would probably tell me to mention all the other boys from Morgan County and the sacrifices they made. So Colonel Barber this tribute is to you and all those from our county who served our country proudly, including my dad and brother.
William T. Barber was born in Morgan County, Kentucky on November 30, 1919. He attended Morehead State College and enlisted in the Marines at the age of twenty in 1939. After spending the first part of World War II as a weapons' instructor, he was shipped to the Pacific Theater in 1944 as a First Lieutenant, leading a platoon. He had to take charge of the entire company when his commander was wounded. He himself was wounded while rescuing two comrades on Iwo Jima, for which he received the Purple Heart and a Silver Star.
By 1950, William Barber had been made a Captain in the Marine Corps. Assigned to the 1st Marine Division, he took charge of Company F, 2nd Battalion, of the 7th Marine Regiment in October. In November, as the battle of Chosin Reservoir began, Barber and 220 of his men from Fox Company were among a group of Marines ambushed by the Communist Chinese. At the time, Barber had been given orders to defend a three mile long mountain pass that was vital to his division's main supply line and the only escape route for other divisions of Marines in the region. On November 28th, the first night of the Chinese ambush, Barber was wounded, shot by a bullet that fractured a bone in his groin. Leading his men from a stretcher, he would not obey orders to abandon his position, believing that it would cause the nearly 8,000 Marines nearby to be cut off by the Chinese. He told his superiors that if they could drop supplies, his men could hold out. The temperatures were a torturous twenty below zero; coffee would freeze before it could be consumed. Despite overwhelming odds, Barber implored his men daily from the stretcher. After five days and six nights of intense fighting, one thousand Chinese lay dead. Reinforcements finally made it to Barber and his men on their third attempt. When the company was finally relieved, only 82 of the original 220 Marines were able to walk away. Many had been killed; the rest were too frostbitten to stand. Barber's actions were credited in allowing the division to escape the Chinese deathtrap at Chosin reservoir. On August 20, 1952, Truman presented him with his Medal of Honor. He told the group of reporters that questioned him about his wound, that he was now fully recovered from, that, "One bullet doesn't stop a man." William Barber would remain in the Marines and was awarded the Legion of Merit for his service in Vietnam. He retired in 1970 as a full Colonel. He died in 2002, survived by his wife of 60 years, Ione, and son, John, and daughter, Sharon. He was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.
When news of Colonel William Barber's death made it to the Associated Press wire reports, a marine that had served under him was upset about how it was worded. The report stated that Barber was a hero of one of the worst Marine defeats in their storied history. The marine took great exception to the word "defeat' and went on to explain how it was the Chinese that had suffered huge casualties, and the Marines that had faced impossible odds but had escaped. William Barber would have been proud.
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Tags: William E. Barber, Medal Of Honor, Famous Appalachians

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