David B. Bleak
David B. Bleak was a staff sergeant in the United States Army during the Korean War and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on June 14, 1952.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army on November 1, 1950, hoping to see the world. He went through basic combat training at Fort Riley, Kansas, where he was selected for medical duty. He was assigned to a medical company attached to the 223rd Infantry Regiment, 40th Infantry Division, of the California Army National Guard. The unit was selected for deployment to the Korean War and consequently, Bleak was moved to Camp Cooke in Lompoc, California, for advanced medical training. His division shipped out to Korea in January 1952. His unit was assigned to Minari-gol, a mountainous area along the 38th Parallel. He served as a field medic assisting troops on the front lines.
According to Wikipedia:
- On 14 June 1952, Bleak was part of a patrol of the 2nd Battalion, 223rd Infantry, sent north to probe Chinese forward positions and attempt to capture Chinese soldiers for interrogation. Bleak volunteered to accompany the 20-man patrol of an I&R Platoon on this mission, which was to send them to a sparsely vegetated feature called Hill 499, where Chinese forces were known to be operating. The patrol left United Nations lines at 04:30 Korea Standard Time on 14 June, under cover of darkness. It was preceded by an attack by F Company, 223rd Infantry, to the west which was intended as a distraction. However, as the patrol ascended the hill, it came under heavy Chinese automatic weapons fire which struck the lead elements, injuring several soldiers. Bleak, at the rear of the formation, rushed forward and treated and stabilized several soldiers hit in the initial volley, then followed the remainder of the patrol as it continued its mission.
- As they attempted to continue up the hill, several Chinese soldiers from a nearby trench opened fire, injuring another soldier. According to eyewitness reports, Bleak rushed the trench and dove into it, tackling one Chinese soldier and breaking the man's neck with only his hands, killing him. Bleak was then confronted by a second soldier, whom he reportedly grabbed by the neck, fatally crushing his windpipe. A third Chinese soldier then approached, and in the ensuing scuffle, Bleak used his combat knife to kill him.
- Bleak then returned to the patrol and attempted to treat more wounded members, but soon thereafter a Chinese hand grenade bounced off the helmet of the soldier standing next to him and landed nearby. Bleak tackled the soldier and covered him with his larger frame to protect him from the grenade, but neither was injured in the ensuing blast. The patrol then continued on its mission and was successful in capturing several Chinese prisoners. However, as it descended Hill 499 to return to UN lines, they were ambushed by another group of Chinese hidden in a trench with an automatic weapon. Three soldiers were wounded in the attack, and as Bleak attempted to run to them, he was hit in the leg. Bleak dressed all four wounds, but one of the men was so badly wounded he could not move. In spite of continued Chinese fire and his own injury, Bleak picked up the wounded soldier and began to carry him down the hill. As he attempted to withdraw with the wounded soldier, Bleak was confronted by two more Chinese. Putting down the soldier, Bleak reportedly surprised the Chinese soldiers by charging them and smashing their heads together with such force that he may have fractured the skulls of one or both of the assailants before pushing them out of his way. Eventually, all 20 men of the patrol returned to the UN lines, but a third of them were wounded. Bleak was credited with saving the patrol, both by promptly treating the wounded and by aggressively attacking and killing or neutralizing five Chinese soldiers.
Bleak suffered nerve damage from his leg wound. He was hospitalized but was able to return to duty on July 9, 1952. His tour of Korea ended soon after and he finished his enlistment in Japan. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on October 27, 1953, during a ceremony with President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the White House. His other awards include the Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal with service star, United Nations Service Medal for Korea, and Korean War Service Medal.
Bleak was born on February 27, 1932, in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He dropped out of high school and worked as a farmer and rancher and on the railroad. He was tall—6 foot 5 inches—and weighed 250 pounds.
After the Korean War, he returned to Idaho and lived for a time in Wyoming, working in various jobs. In 1966, he moved to Moore, Idaho and ran a dairy farm for 10 years. He was also a janitor at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory and worked at first as a janitor, then eventually as chief hot cell technician, disposing of spent nuclear fuel rods. He retired in the mid-1990s. He and his wife, Lois, had four children. He died on March 23, 2006, in Arco, Idaho, from Parkinson’s disease and emphysema. He was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
On June 14, 2006, his family presented his Medal of Honor to the Idaho Military History Museum. In 1995 a medical clinic at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, was named for Bleak, and following his death, the Governor of Oklahoma declared June 14, 2007 "Sergeant David Bruce Bleak Day" for the 55th anniversary of Bleak's accomplishments.