Nine U.S. Army Soldiers who served in the Korean War will be posthumously awarded the nation’s highest military award — the Medal of Honor – on March 18.
Among those nine Soldiers is Cpl. Joe R. Baldonado, who joined the U.S. Army as a light weapons infantryman (parachutist).
Baldonado’s unit, Co. B, 187th Airborne Infantry Reg. Combat Team, was in North Korea in the hills near Kangdeng, when they came under heavy attack at 4 a.m., Nov. 25, 1950.
Within two hours, his platoon had used up most of their ammunition and their position was in imminent danger of being overrun.
Baldonado placed his machine gun in an exposed position at great risk to himself where he could get a clear shot at the advancing enemy. His plan was effective, ultimately causing the enemy to fall back in disorder.
Realizing that this one stubborn machine gunner was causing them to lose their momentum, the communists concentrated all their firepower on Baldonado. Despite the grenades exploding all around him, Baldonado wouldn’t accept defeat and he continued to fire.
For about an hour, the enemy made repeated attempts to storm his position, but they endured casualties each time. The enemy finally withdrew at daylight, but not before a grenade landed near Baldonado, killing him instantly.
Baldonado and other brave Soldiers like him helped slow the enemy’s advance and by the beginning of 1951, the battle lines were in the general proximity of the present-day demilitarized zone, where they’d pretty much be for the remainder of the war.
Here are five additional facts about Baldonado:
- For his military service, Baldonado received several medals, awards and badges, including the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Republic of Korea War Service Medal, Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, Combat Infantryman Badge and Parachutist Badge
- Baldonado attended jump school in Japan.
- His name is inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial.
- His acts of bravery are briefly described in a book called, “Disaster in Korea: The Chinese Confront MacArthur.”
- The 187th Infantry Regiment, Baldonado’s unit at the time of action for which he will receive the Medal of Honor, is the only airborne regiment in the history of the U.S. Army to fight in every war since the inception of airborne tactics.
- Baldonado’s remains were not recovered.
To learn about the other #Valor24 Soldiers who served in the Korean War, visit www.army.mil/article/106128/.