Michael Meehan of Englewood, Fla. received a Silver Star, the third highest commendation awarded an American soldier for gallantry under enemy fire, when his unit, the 17th Regiment of the 7th Division, was trying to capture a hill held by North Koreans.
It was 1951when Pvt. Meehan and a number of other soldiers in his regiment came under intense enemy small arms fire. This is how the commendation accompanying his silver star reads:
APO 264 US ARMY
GENERAL ORDER 14 MAY, 1952
AWARD OF THE SILVER STAR
By direction of the President, under the provisions of the Act of Congress, approved 9 July 1918 (WD Bul. 43, 1918), and pursuant to authority in AR 600-45, the Silver Star for gallantry in action is awarded to the following-named enlisted man:
Private MICHAEL J. MEEHAN, Infantry, United States Army, while serving as a member of Company “A”, 17th Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy at Chup’a-ri, North Korea on 31 August 1951.
On this date, Company “A” was engaged in the assault of strategic enemy held positions. The unit proceeded smoothly to within 75 yards of the ridge-line, when suddenly they were subjected to intense enemy fire, which forced them to partially withdraw and take positions of safety.
Two grenades were thrown into a hole, where one man was taking cover. Private MEEHAN immediately left his position of safety and dashed through a gauntlet of enemy fire. With no regard for self, he scooped up the two grenades, hurled them at an enemy emplacement and effectively silenced it. Private MEEHAN then returned to his former position and when the order was given to assault, unhesitantly leaped from his hole and stood upright, completely exposed to heavy enemy fire. He utilized his automatic rifle with speed and deadly accuracy, and accounted for many casualties.
Private MEEHAN courageously remained exposed and moved forward aggressively greatly inspiring the men about him. He continued to deliver deadly fire until the strategic position was attained.
The extraordinary heroism displayed by Private MEEHAN reflects great credit on himself and is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service. He entered the Federal service from New Jersey.
BY COMMAND OF MAJOR GENERAL WYMAN:
OFFICIAL: LAWRENCE R. DEWEY
Brigadier General, GS
Chief of Staff
Sixty years later this is what the 82-year-old former soldier recalls about the fire fight that almost took his life on that hill in North Korea so long ago.
“At the time we were trying to take this hill away from the enemy. We didn’t think there was going to be anyone atop it. Then all of a sudden North Koreans started throwing hand grenades down on us,” Meehan said. “We saw the grenades coming and everybody ran back down the hill. The grenades rolled right down the hill after us.
“Since I was the BAR-man (Browning Automatic Rifleman), I was one of the first guys to make it to the top of the hill. With me was another soldier carrying this long colored streamer (we laid out on the hill top) so our aircraft knew which side of the hill we were on,” he explained.
“When I finally reached the top and I was set to sit down and rest, but I looked and there were two hand grenades. They were right beside the guy carrying the streamer,” he said. “I reached over and grabbed the two grenades and threw them as far away from us as I could before they exploded.
“About this time I spotted two or three North Korean soldiers running down the the back side of the hill. I reached over and grabbed my BAR and took a shot at the fleeing North Koreans, but my rifle misfired and jammed. I ejected the unspent shell and started shooting in the direction of the enemy soldiers, but they had gone by then.
“By this time, We were taking intense fire from other enemy troops.”
It had taken Meehan and the men of the 17th Regiment all day to capture the nondescript, no-account hill from the enemy. They took over the foxholes at the peak the enemy dug.
“It wasn’t long after we took the hill a guy came up to me and said, ‘You’re getting sent back to the States. Your time in Korea is up.”
After six months in country, Meehan was trucked back to Pusan, South Korea in a duece-and-a-half truck. A few days later he was on his way by troop transport to San Francisco, Calif.
When he arrived in port 15 days later, he got aboard a slow train headed east and five days later got off in Jersey City, N.J. where he was born and grew up.
Meehan went back to work at Coe Steel Co. where he had worked as a teenager before the Korean War. He spent a decade there before joining the Jersey City Fire Department where he served as a fireman for 31 years until he returned and moved down here.
He and his wife, Diane, have four children: Bouraine, their daughter, and three sons: Michael, Richard and John. The couple retired to Englewood in 1969.
Name: Michael J. Meehan
D.O.B: 25 Nov. 1929
Hometown: Jersey City, NJ.
Currently: Englewood, Fla.
Entered Service: 1948 for one year, then again in 1951 for one year
Unit: 17th Infantry Division
Commendations: Silver Star
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Florida on Monday, Oct. 15, 2012 and is republished with permission.
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