America's Heroes: Medal of Honor Recipients from the Civil War to Afghanistan

By James H. Willbanks | Go to book overview

Pittman, John A.

Born: October 15, 1928

Died: April 8, 1995

Home State: Mississippi

Service: Army

Conflict: Korean War

Age at Time of Award: 22

John Albert Pittman was born on October 15, 1928, at Carrollton, Mississippi. Raised in a rural area of central Mississippi, Pittman learned the meaning of hard work and responsibility. After high school, Pittman enlisted in the US Army in 1947. He was assigned to Company C, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Division. When the North Korean Army crossed the 38th parallel into South Korea on June 25, 1951, the 2nd Division was quickly alerted to prepare for combat. Only a month later, the first elements of the division set sail from Seattle, headed for Pusan. By August 20, the entire division had arrived at the UN bridgehead around Pusan. After a series of defensive battles, the division spearheaded an offensive that broke out of the Pusan perimeter and headed north to join forces landed at Inchon.

By November 1950, the war in Korea seemed to have been won. UN forces had driven into North Korea and were poised to drive to the Yalu. Resistance from the remaining North Korean units was light. Pittman, by this time a sergeant, was a squad leader in the 2nd Platoon of Company C, 23rd Infantry. The 2nd Division held the right flank of IX Corps and was in the middle of the 8th Army line. It was advancing from Kunu-ri towards the Yalu River, with a goal of linking up with X Corps, advancing along the east coast of Korea. The American advance, however, collapsed when Chinese communist forces attacked during the night of November 25. When daylight broke on November 26, the Chinese disappeared, leaving behind their dead.

Company C had advanced to Kujangdong. That night, advanced elements of the regiment were attacked around 8:30 p.m. by large numbers of Chinese soldiers. Two companies of the 23rd were driven off the high ground. Pittman volunteered to lead his squad in an immediate counterattack to regain the lost territory. Despite intense artillery, mortar, and small arms fire being laid down by the Chinese, Pittman led his men forward. He was quickly knocked down by a mortar shell that exploded nearby. Despite being wounded by fragments from the mortar, Pittman struggled to his feet and continued to lead the advance.

The squad reached the crest of the hill they were attacking and drove the Chinese defenders off the summit. One of the retreating enemy soldiers threw a hand grenade back at the Americans. When Pittman saw it land among his squad, he did not hesitate. Th rowing himself on the grenade, Pittman absorbed the explosion and debris with his own body. When a medical aid man reached him, Pittman’s first words were to ask how many of his men had been hurt. His courageous action had in fact prevented the injury or death of his squad members. Pittman was stabilized and evacuated to a hospital in the rear, where his actions became widely known.

Pittman was recommended for the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in volunteering to lead the counterattack and in risking his own life to prevent harm to his men.

Pittman was evacuated to the United States because of his wounds. On June 4, 1951, Pittman received the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman in a ceremony at the White House in which the president also presented the Medal of Honor to 1st Lt. Carl H. Dodd and M.Sgt. Ernest R. Kouma. In recognition of Pittman’s courage, Life put his picture on their July 2, 1951, issue, while Time covered the awards ceremony.

Of the 32 men who received the Medal of Honor in Korea before Pittman, only he and one other man were not dead or missing in action as a result of their actions. He was also the third man in Korea up to that time to receive the Medal of Honor for throwing himself on a grenade, but the first to survive. In comparison, during World War II, 13 men won the same award for covering up a grenade, with only one man surviving.

John Pittman left the Army in 1951 and returned to civilian life in Carrollton. He died there on April 8, 1995, at the age of 66. He is buried in the New Hope Cemetery in Carroll County.

Tim J. Watts


Further Reading

Fehrenbach, T. R. This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness. New York: Macmillan Company, 1963.

Jacobs, Bruce. Korea’s Heroes: The Medal of Honor Story. New York: Berkley Publishing, 1961.

Murphy, Edward F. Korean War Heroes. Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1992.

-264-

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America's Heroes: Medal of Honor Recipients from the Civil War to Afghanistan
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Entries ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Preface xv
  • Introduction xvii
  • Adams, Lucian 1
  • Baca, John P. 2
  • Bacon, Nicky Daniel 4
  • Baker, Vernon 6
  • Baldwin, Frank D. 8
  • Ballard, Donald E. 11
  • Barfoot, Van T. 13
  • Barnum, Harvey C., Jr 14
  • Barrett, Carlton W. 16
  • Basilone, John 18
  • Benavidez, Roy P. 20
  • Birkhimer, William E. 22
  • Blake, Robert 24
  • Bleak, David B. 25
  • Boyington, Gregory 27
  • Brady, Patrick Henry 29
  • Britt, Maurice L. 30
  • Brown, Bobbie E. 32
  • Bucha, Paul William 34
  • Burke, Lloyd L. 36
  • Bush, Robert Eugene 38
  • Butler, Smedley Darlington 40
  • Butterfield, Daniel 42
  • Cafferata, Hector a., Jr 43
  • Carney, William H. 45
  • Cavaiani, Jon R. 48
  • Chamberlain, Joshua L. 49
  • Childers, Ernest 51
  • Cody, William F. 53
  • Cohn, Abraham 55
  • Cole, Robert G. 57
  • Craft, Clarence B. 59
  • Crandall, Bruce P. 61
  • Custer, Thomas W. 63
  • Dahlgren, John Olof 65
  • Daly, Daniel Joseph 67
  • Davila, Rudolph B. 69
  • Davis, Charles W. 70
  • Davis, Raymond G. 73
  • Davis, Sammy L. 74
  • Day, George E. 76
  • Dean, William F. 78
  • Deblanc, Jefferson Joseph 79
  • Dix, Drew Dennis 81
  • Donlon, Roger Hugh C. 84
  • Donovan, William Joseph 85
  • Doolittle, James H. 87
  • Doss, Desmond T. 88
  • Dunham, Jason L. 90
  • Dunham, Russell E. 91
  • Dyess, Aquilla James 93
  • Ehlers, Walter D. 96
  • Evans, Ernest Edwin 98
  • Faith, Don C., Jr 100
  • Finn, John William 102
  • Fletcher, Frank Jack 104
  • Fluckey, Eugene Bennett 105
  • Foley, Robert F. 107
  • Foss, Joseph Jacob 109
  • Fox, John Robert 112
  • Freeman, Ed W. 113
  • Funston, Frederick 115
  • Galer, Robert Edward 117
  • García, Macario 119
  • Gonsalves, Harold 121
  • Gonzalez, Alfredo 123
  • Gordon, Gary I. 125
  • Hagemeister, Charles Chris 126
  • Harmon, Roy W. 128
  • Harrell, William George 130
  • Hatch, John P. 131
  • Hayashi, Shizuya 133
  • Hayes, Webb C. 134
  • Heard, John W. 137
  • Hendrix, James R. 139
  • Hernández, Rodolfo P. 140
  • Herrera, Silvestre S. 142
  • Hooper, Joe R. 144
  • Howard, Oliver O. 146
  • Howard, Robert L. 148
  • Inouye, Daniel K. 150
  • Irwin, Bernard J. D. 154
  • Izac, Edouard Victor Michel 155
  • Jackson, Joe M. 158
  • Jacobs, Jack H. 160
  • Joel, Lawrence 162
  • Kaufman, Benjamin 164
  • Keeble, Woodrow W. 166
  • Kelly, Charles E. 167
  • Kerrey, Joseph R. 169
  • Kisters, Gerry H. 171
  • Kouma, Ernest R. 173
  • Lang, George C. 175
  • Lemon, Peter C. 177
  • Levitow, John L. 178
  • Liteky, Angelo J. 181
  • Livingston, James E. 182
  • Lopez, Jose M. 184
  • Lucas, Jacklyn Harold 186
  • Luke, Frank, Jr 189
  • Mabry, George L., Jr 191
  • Macarthur, Arthur, Jr 193
  • Macarthur, Douglas 195
  • Mackie, John F. 198
  • Mallon, George H. 200
  • Marm, Walter Joseph, Jr 201
  • Martinez, Joe P. 203
  • McCool, Richard Miles, Jr 204
  • McGinnis, Ross A. 206
  • McGinty, John J., III 207
  • McKinney, John R. 209
  • Merli, Gino J. 211
  • Miles, L. Wardlaw 213
  • Miles, Nelson A. 214
  • Millett, Lewis L. 218
  • Miyamura, Hiroshi H. 220
  • Mize, Ola L. 223
  • Moffett, William A. 225
  • Monsoor, Michael A. 226
  • Monti, Jared C. 227
  • Munemori, Sadao S. 229
  • Munro, Douglas Albert 231
  • Murphy, Audie L. 233
  • Murphy, Michael P. 235
  • Murphy, Raymond G. 236
  • Norris, Thomas R. 238
  • Novosel, Michael J. 240
  • O’Hare, Edward Henry 243
  • O’Kane, Richard Hetherington 245
  • Okubo, James K. 246
  • Olive, Milton L., III 248
  • O’Neill, Richard W. 249
  • Page, John U. D. 251
  • Paige, Mitchell 254
  • Parker, Samuel I. 256
  • Pennypacker, Galusha 258
  • Penry, Richard A. 260
  • Pitsenbarger, William H. 262
  • Pittman, John A. 264
  • Pittman, Richard A. 265
  • Pope, Everett Parker 267
  • Pope, Thomas A. 269
  • Rascon, Alfred V. 271
  • Ray, Ronald Eric 273
  • Red Cloud, Mitchell, Jr 275
  • Rickenbacker, Edward V. 278
  • Roberts, Gordon R. 279
  • Rocco, Louis R. 281
  • Rodriguez, Joseph C. 283
  • Roosevelt, Theodore 285
  • Rosser, Ronald E. 287
  • Rubin, Tibor 289
  • Rudolph, Donald E. 291
  • Ruiz, Alejandro R. Renteria 293
  • Sakato, George T. 294
  • Salomon, Ben L. 296
  • Sandlin, Willie 298
  • Sasser, Clarence Eugene 300
  • Schofield, John M. 302
  • Shafter, William R. 303
  • Shoup, David Monroe 305
  • Shughart, Randall D. 307
  • Sickles, Daniel E. 310
  • Sijan, Lance P. 312
  • Simanek, Robert E. 313
  • Sitter, Carl L. 315
  • Smith, Andrew Jackson 317
  • Smith, Paul R. 319
  • Spurrier, Junior J. 320
  • Stockdale, James B. 322
  • Stone, James L. 324
  • Stowers, Freddie 326
  • Thornton, Michael Edwin 327
  • Thorsness, Leo K. 329
  • Titus, Calvin Pearl 332
  • Turner, George B. 333
  • Urban, Matt 335
  • Vandegrift, Alexander Archer 337
  • Vargas, Jay R. 339
  • Versace, Humbert R. 341
  • Wahlen, George Edward 343
  • Wai, Francis B. 345
  • Wainwright, Jonathan M. 347
  • Walker, Dr. Mary E. 349
  • Ware, Keith L. 350
  • Warren, Francis E. 352
  • Watson, George 353
  • Watters, Charles Joseph 354
  • Webb, Alexander S. 358
  • Wetzel, Gary George 360
  • Whiteley, Eli 362
  • Whittington, Hulon B. 363
  • Williams, Hershel Woodrow 365
  • Wilson, Louis Hugh, Jr. 367
  • Wood, Leonard 369
  • Woodfill, Samuel 372
  • York, Alvin C. 373
  • Young, Rodger W. 375
  • Zabitosky, Fred William 377
  • Zeamer, Jay, Jr. 379
  • Recipients of the Medal of Honor 381
  • Double Award Recipients 487
  • Medals of Honor Awarded by Conflict and Service 489
  • Bibliography 493
  • Index 511
  • About the Editor 529
  • Contributors 531
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