A Hero on Hill 430
By Fred Frankville, USMC

On about the last week in March 1951, our platoon leader 1st Lt. Richard Humphries asked me to be his Runner. A Runner would carry dispatches from one unit to another under combat conditions and could be a very necessary and dangerous job. We now have other means of communications and this job is mostly being the fox holes buddy. I did not want this job because I was bonded with my buddies in my fire team, a fire team is a four-man unit. There are three of these units per squad if you are up to full strength and you become bonded with your buddies in the fire team, this is your family and to leave it is like leaving home.

I had to take the job of runner and some other Marine took my place in my fire team, I was not happy. On April 1st we were told that our regiment, the 7th Marines was to be placed under the operational control of the commanding General of the first Calvary Division. We are now in the Army, we told our Medical Corpsman Richard DeWert, that we would now have to call him "The Medic", like in the Army and not "The Corpsman", like in the Marines. He said that would be OK and wanted to know if we would now get cherry pie with our C Rations! This was a standing joke, the Army had civilian work parties who carried supplies to the troops online including food in big canisters. We said the canisters had steak and cherry pie in them. Richard said he really liked cherry pie.

On April 5th, we crossed the 38th parallel, the dividing line between North and South Korea. It was a joint operation between Easy and Dog Companies. We took the ridge toward the South and Easy Company took the ridge toward the West, both going up to the same objective, Hill 430. A piece of ground about 1300-1400 feet high, an easy climb. The day was bright to partly cloudy. As we climbed the hill the cloud formation turned into fog, that made visibility at times very limited. Then the fog would clear and the hill would be very bright. Where the ridges meet at the top of the hill is where it is usually defended. This way all approaches could be covered be enemy gunners. My old fire team was in the point and had reached the top and that was when the heavy machine gun fire and grenade explosions could be heard.

I was about 40 yards from the point with our Platoon leader, as I was his Runner. We went up the ridges almost single file in most cases because of the narrow paths on the ridges. The fog had moved in and visibility was again very limited. Bullets from the almost invisible enemy were clipping tree branches. The fog works both ways and we could not see each other so we got very close to each other. I had moved next to the Marines who were being sheltered by a small ridge not more than two feet high.

The machine gun fire was heavy and continuous, along with the noise, we could hear someone screaming obscenities like "you dirty sons of bitches" over and over. Suddenly the fog shifted and it was very bright. It was like a movie, I could see Richard DeWert almost fall on top of the Marine doing the cussing. He was going to aid this Marine who was shot in the knees and was in great pain and shock. A short way from the fallen DeWert, was a bunker with the enemy machine gunners.

It had a large aperture and was covering all approaches. Without thinking, I ran up to the bunker slid on my knees and shot into the faces that I could plainly see and than I checked on DeWert who was dead. Then I went to the still cussing wounded Marine, I dragged him behind some rock formation and out of harms way. He called me every cuss word he could think of. A tough, no nonsense Corpsman by the name of Fred Hardy told this wounded Marine, if he didn't shut his dirty mouth that he was going to drag his ass back up the hill and leave him there!

We as a group, charged up the hill past the now silent bunkers and up the trail that led to a group of Chinese rifleman, these Chinese, who were protecting the bunker and shooting at us had to be the world's worst marksmen and they bugged out before we could get to them. When we gathered up our dead and wounded I saw Chuck Curly, one of our machine gunners, now a stretcher bearer, lift Richard DeWert's body onto a stretcher, water was running out of his canteen from the bullet holes in it.

I also remember the dead from my old fire team being placed on stretchers. I looked at the Marine who took my place and is now dead. Fate had traded his life for mine, I have mixed emotions about this trade to this day. I feel some consolation in the fact that if I had been killed, the possibility is not remote that the Chinese would have killed more Marines that day.

Checking the guns in the bunker, they were two water-cooled 30 caliber Browning's made at the Rock Island Arsenal, with a brass tag that also said US ARMY. In an ironic turn of fate, Rock Island is my hometown, the
Chinese were shooting at me with weapons my friends and neighbors made.

The possibility is the guns were taken near Hoensong about a month earlier when the Army 2nd Division and supporting troops were sent to support ROC Troops, who, by the way had left and told no one, were overrun and massacred by divisions of Chinese Communists. The Easy Company Commander, who was on the West Ridge, radioed our platoon leader and thanked him for taking out the machine guns that had pinned down his Company. Some time later Richard DeWert was awarded the Medal of Honor for giving his life trying to save another.
-Fred Frankville, USMC

(Courtesy of Fred Frankville USMC)
© Fred Frankville all rights reserved

*Note: Fred neglected to mention that he received the Silver Star for single handedly taking out the Chinese
machine gun position at the risk of his own life. He told me in a telephone interview that after seeing Richard
fall he just "did it without thinking." His action saved the lives of many a Marine coming up the hill, and it was
a decoration well earned.
-Michael W. Pocock
Oct. 12, 2017

PFC RICHARD DURHAM was my uncle who DeWert found KIA and pulled his body back after DeWert received his shoulder wound. I'm trying to find anyone who was in Dog company on April 5, 1951 who is still alive and knew my uncle PFC RICHARD DURHAM.

Terry Durham

Page published Apr. 24, 2009