Battle of Pork Chop Hill

More than 50 years after the rifles fell silent and the cannon fire ceased in the hills north of the 38th Parallel dividing North and South Korea, no one who was there seems to know why both sides put so much stock in controlling Pork Chop Hill during the closing months of the Korean War.

It was a nondescript knob of dirt not much more than 675 feet above sea level. Because of the pounding the hill received from American and Chinese forces that bled rivers of blood in their attempt to control the turf, there was hardly a single blade of grass on the mound of clay.

As a member of the 48th Field Artillery Battalion attached to the 7th Infantry Division, 2nd Lt. Ron Freedman, now living in Punta Gorda, Fla., arrived in the Pork Chop Hill area during the summer of 1953. In early July he was assigned as the regimental forward artillery observer.

The 22-year-old college graduate had recently completed Officers’ Candidate School. He was paired with 1st Lt. Ray Barry, a West Pointer, acting as liaison between Freedman’s artillery outfit and the 7th Division’s infantry units.

On July 10, Freedman was sent to Hill 347 that overlooked Pork Chop Hill and towered 400 feet over the contested real estate. It was his job to select an observation post of his liking atop the taller hill. He chose OP-13. It had two windows with unobstructed views of Pork Chop Hill to the north.

Directly in front of him was the Chorwon Valley that provided easy access for Chinese soldiers on their march south to Seoul. On the far side of that hill, not visible from where he observed, was the Rat’s Nest. This was a staging area at the base of the hill that enemy forces used just before they attacked American troops dug in on Pork Chop Hill.

Freedman and Barry moved into their observation post atop Hill 347 in early July. It was also inhabited by a half-dozen or so other soldiers including Maj. Billy Fritts, executive officer of the 1st Battalion 17 Infantry Regiment.

Gen. Maxwell Taylor, commander of the 7th Division, decided to pull his men off Pork Chop Hill the same day Freedman and Barry arrived at their observation post. It was a heartbreaking experience in many ways for the soldiers in the trenches who defended the badly scared hunk of scorched earth so valiantly for so many moths to leave the hill without a fight.

2nd Lt. Ron Freedman was still back in the states when this picture was taken. Photo provided

This was a hill held by 12 infantry companies from the 17th and 32nd Regiments. This was the hill in which 243 Americans gave their lives for their country and 916 more were wounded trying to hold it during the fighting in July alone, according to Bill McWilliams’ book, On Hallowed Ground.

This is the hill where an incredible 115,000 rounds of artillery were fired in support of the outposts during a five-day battle in July. The volume of fire was much greater than the amount of firepower used during the April battle, which was the basis for the 1950 Gregory Peck movie Pork Chop Hill.

It was at this hill that Cpl. Dan Schoonover and Lt. Richard T. Shea Jr. fought and died and received Medals of Honor posthumously, and 10 other American soldiers were awarded Distinguished Service Crosses, the second-highest decoration for valor under fire a soldier can receive.

The battle for Pork Chop Hill resulted in more than 6,000 Chinese soldiers killed or wounded, McWilliams notes in his book.

The day Freedman and Barry moved into OP-13, they could see American forces leaving the hill in armored personnel carriers. Change was in the wind, but all the two young lieutenants knew was that they had been detailed as artillery spotters atop Hill 347.

Several 7th Division soldiers inspect what’s left of his observation post after it was hit with a 120 millimeter enemy mortar shell during the last attack on Pork Chop Hill in July 1953. Photo provided by Ron Freedman

“What I was told to do was keep artillery fire on the Rat’s Nest,” Freedman, who is now 74, said. “I kept pounding the Rat’s Nest every minute or two with artillery rounds from my 105 millimeter battery.

“Things began to heat up later in the afternoon on our hill. More and more incoming rounds kept hitting around our observation post. Nothing we could see seemed to be happening on Pork Chop Hill.”

By radio, Freedman told his artillery controller back at the fire base that they were really beginning to take a lot of incoming 120 millimeter enemy mortar fire. By this time, 30 of these projectiles a minute were hitting near their OP.

“About 4 p.m. I was looking out the front window of our OP and Ray was standing at the other window. The pounding we were taking was so loud I couldn’t hear my radio. So I crouched down below the window with my back to the wall so I could hear better, but hearing the radio was no better down there than it was standing.

“As I started to get up, the next thing I knew I was lying on a pile of dirt with both my legs pinned down. I was apparently unconscious for a while. When I woke up I said to myself, ‘I don’t think I’m dead.’

“As I lay there, I noticed Maj. Fritts was on his back in the dirt. He had been decapitated.”

The OP was in shambles. The roof had caved in from the concussion of the exploding enemy mortar. There were nine people in the bunker before the direct hit. Freedman wasn’t sure where anyone else was now.

“I heard this moaning. I didn’t know where it was coming from, but I turned to my right, Ray was lying there. He had been standing at the window and got hit in the face with shrapnel.

Col Ray Barry is pictured about the time he retired from the U.S. Army. When the West Pointer was sharing a bunker with Freedman, they were both young lieutenants. Photo provided by Ron Freedman

“I wiggled my legs out from under his body and said, ‘Ray I’ll be right back.’ I ran out of our damaged bunker screaming for a medic. I ran around the box trench outside our OP, but found no one. When I returned to Ray, a medic was working on him. He had apparently heard me screaming for help.”

Eventually Barry and Freedman were taken down to an aid station at the base of Hill 347 in a personnel carrier, where doctors worked on both of them.

“Ray was on an operating table. I watched them cut his flak jacket off him. The next thing I knew they had him on a stretcher and they were taking him out somewhere.

“They started working on me, pulling out the little splinters of shrapnel that had penetrated my leg and arm. I wasn’t seriously hurt, but they put me in an ambulance with a bunch of seriously wound guys.”

Freedman ended up in a regimental clearing station with dozens of injured and dying soldiers. A corporal was going around getting names to send telegrams home to let parents know their sons had had been injured in battle.

“I didn’t want my folks to find out I had been injured. I rolled off the stretcher when the corporal wasn’t looking and crawled to the front entrance,” he said. “Using my carbine as a crutch, I got out of there and thumbed a ride back to regimental headquarters.”

After a few days off to recover from injuries, Freedman was made assistant executive officer of the artillery battery. He was in charge of seeing that the 105 millimeter cannons were fired on command at enemy positions located by map coordinates.

“One afternoon I got a call from Lt. Armour in K-Company. He wanted me to go with him up to the front for morale purposes.

“’Why should I go up there and get killed?’” I said to myself. I knew the war was about to end, so why should I go up there?

“They lined us all up, started handing out ammo and then began putting us in trucks. When you got ammo, you knew you were going to the front,” Freedman said.

“Then we heard a whistle. We all got off the trucks. The Chinese had pulled off the hill. The war was over. That was it. I never went back to the front.”

Freedman’s File

Name: Ron Freedman
Age: 75 (at time of interview in January 2004)
Hometown: Newton Center, Mass.
Currently: Punta Gorda, Fla.
Entered Service: May 1951
Discharged: November 1953
Rank: 1st Lieutenant
Unit: 48th Field Artillery Battalion, 7th Infantry Division
Commendations: Purple Heart, Silver Star, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Medal, National Defense Medal, Korean Medal
Married: Nancy Smith
Children: Bruce Freedman and Lynn Byrnes

This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Florida on Monday, February 2, 2004 and is republished with permission.

All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be republished without permission. Links are encouraged.

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Comments

  1. Does anyone know anything about Joe Johnson killed on pork chop hill somewhere in July of 1953 around the 27th to the 28th or 29th his son was born two days after his death any pictures or stories would be appreciated thank you very kindly when the. Sister of his son

      • For those whose fathers & brothers fought on Pork Chop Hill, there is an outstanding book, “On Hallowed Ground” by Bill McWilliams. The book covers the last series of battles for Pork Chop Hill by the 17th and 32nd Regiments of the 7th Division. The book is 494 pages and worth every cent. Read page 417 for the last action on July 11, 1953.
        Lloyd (Bill) Hitt, 7th Division, 32nd Regiment, King Co,

  2. I am trying to locate a list of survivors from The LAST battle for Pork Chop Hill. From what I understand hundreds of men went up but less than 25 walked out. I have a dear friend who has been like a Grandfather and he was one of the few who survived.
    He was in the7th Division APO 17Th Regiment 3rd Battalion M company. I’m not military so I’m sure my wording is off.
    I am going to leave out his name. He has asked me for my help in this project and don’t feel comfortable doing that.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated

    Spring

    • My father was in the last battle, he’s deceased now but was a machine gunner…he was one of the few that walked out that day in July 53.

      • The last battle on Porkchop was July 10th & 11th. We were King Co, 32nd Reg & I was wounded on the 10th but my partner, on the machine gun, was Richard White who was mortally wounded later that night & died a day or two later. All of our troops were pulled of on the 11th. Richard was my first Black Friend & I still think about him.

      • My dad was in G company. I didn’t realize that there were several different companies on the hill durine those battles, so when it’s said that “x” amount of men walked off the hill ( in my dad’s case, 16 men) it’s only for that particular company.

    • I can tell you my father, Theodis Strickland, was one of those 25 survivors..Sadly he passed away July 2 of this year at age 85. He was in 7th division, 17th infantry regiment Love company and HQ. He was in Korea from 1951-until right after Pork Chop hill. He got his bronze star for bravery on the hill itself right after the battle…

  3. My fathers’ older brother, J. Leroy Rader was one of the last soldiers alive on Pork Chop Hill. I have his thunderbird patches, the rest of his medals, honors and comendations, etc. are in the care of his grandson.
    My Moms’ cousin, Cmdr. Robert Maxwell Neighbors was flying his last mission home from Korea and his plane was shot down. He was listed as MIA until his remains were turned over by the Koreans a short time ago. My family gave so much. Could I be directed to a site where I could track these heroes for myself? Thank you and God be all those who served and are serving today in the name of freedom.

  4. Does anyone have a list of the 12 men that survived Pork Chop Hill? I have heard stories and have been told my father was one of those 12?

    • I know of one survivor. His name is Tom O’dell and lives in Hot Springs, SD. He was only 15 when he was fighting that battle… He’s got a pretty amazing story

    • My dad, John Fortier was a survivor of that battle. In his letters home, he states there were 16 survivors. He has a lighter that was given to him by his commanding Lt. It has an inscription on it with the date, place, platoon, etc. My dad is now deceased.

      • There were different companies that were in that battle. What company was he in? My dad also was a survivor of that battle.

    • My dad was one of those survivors.. Theodis Strickland, 7th division, 17th inf reg, Love company and HQ. He passed away this past July sadly..

      • What company was he in? Different companies had different amounts of survivors. For example, my dad was in G company and 17 of them survived.

      • For Beth Sanford: He was with 11th AB , 187th RCT… I don’t know the company.

    • My father was a survivor Ernest D Casarez I’ve been trying to find an official list of the survivors . My father was from Goleta California and lived his life after the war in Riverside California married 8 children

      • First you need to post what unit, such as Regiment & Company he was in. There were multiple units on Porkchop multiple times. over several months. The question is when was he on the hill. Was he part of the 7th Division?.

  5. I was part of the last company, King Co, 32nd Reg who took over from the 17th on July 10th. I was hit by two 60’s on the drop off point & pulled off and the Company was pulled off on the 11th. The Engineers set mines and explosives and bobby traps. The enemy never noticed that King Co had left until the next day when they found no one home but lots of fireworks.

    • If I remember right, there were many Regiments and Companies involved with heavy losses on Porkchop. I think the 17th, 31st, & 32nd Regiments of the 7th Div. with multiple Companies taking losses. I think you need to know the Regiment and Company before you can compare notes because they were involved at different times from April through July 11, 1953.

  6. I would like to pass along a bit of information. I live in Hot Springs, SD and there was a gentleman looking for Korean War veterans. He is gathering information for a digital museum, of sorts. For the life of me I can’t find his info but if you are a Korean War veteran the Hot Springs, SD VA should have his contact info.

    And yes my previous reply was “saving face”

    Thank you

  7. I am looking for my father’s military records. He served as a medic on Pork Chop Hill. That is all I know because he refuses to speak about it and got rid of all his documents. I have found that a fire destroyed the paper documents in Ky. Can anyone tell me where to go to get information? My father’s name is Garlan Haarer. I

  8. I know it’s a stab in the dark, but does anyone remember Robert Tremblay? He was a cook and I have photos with dates on them that would indicate he was on the hill. I am working on getting a copy of his DD214. He was a Sgt.

  9. my dad was on pork chop hill. he will not talk about it much at all. I never knew this until a couple of weeks ago. received two purple hearts while serving. one of the injuries I believe came from the battle on pork chop hill. he is now 84 yoa and is failing in health very very quickly. I want to find out more about his serving. please please if anyone has anything please let me know. his name is Leland Earl Miley. may have gone by nickname of Bud Miley. please let me know

  10. My grandfather Leon Fuller is one of the survivors. I wish I knew what company he was in. I would love any information that anyone might have on him.

    • Lisa, we will never know. The enemy controlled hills on three sides of this small 750′ hill at the time my Company,, King CO, 32ng Regiment, replaced companies of the 31st Reg. Our machine gun squad moved up on the hill at dawn on July 10th under constant shelling.I took two mortar rounds at the drop off point and later that night our machine gun position was destroyed by enemy artillery and my best friend was gone, July 11th it was decided that the outpost was not that important & they withdrew our troops and the engineers blew up the hill.

      Perhaps its just a mater of principal as in ‘King of the Hill’ played by children. Lloyd

  11. looking for information pfc chester George streeter was with the 38th infantry regiment 2nd id 2nd engineers battalion 1951 1953 old baldy and I believe pork chop hill please this would be great reciecived3 purple hearts 2 silver stars and tons more

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