Ohio Medal Of Honor Recipient Recounts Combat In Korean War That Led To Award
True patriots live among us.
In fact, there are three living Congressional Medal of Honor recipients who call Ohio home.
Sgt. Ron Rosser is one of them, living out his retirement years in the town of Roseville in Perry County.
Born in Columbus and the second oldest of seventeen children, he joined the army in 1946 as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne.
He left the service after three years.
But he reenlisted after his younger brother, Richard, was killed in action in Korea.
He says he thought about the decision a lot, but finally came to the conclusion he wanted to finish his brother's tour of duty.
He soon found himself on the front lines, trained and ready for his unexpected date with destiny.
During a visit at his home this week, he was glancing through a photo album, reminiscing.
"President Clinton said to me, ‘Sgt. Rosser, it's my understanding you killed a lot of people in hand to hand combat, is it true?’ I said, ‘Yes it is, but it wasn't my idea," he said, stifling a chuckle.
The 84-year-old Korean War veteran says he remembers every second of January 12, 1952, facing heavy fire from a formidable Chinese enemy in Korea's Iron Triangle.
With dozens of men already killed or dying on the battlefield, he volunteered to lead a new charge.
“The captain looked at me and said, ‘how are you going to do it?’ ‘Only one way, captain, go straight in shooting and hit 'em hard and fast, and if we make it to the trench, we got a chance,’” Rosser remembered. “And he said, ‘you know you're not going to make it.’"
But he did.
When he reached the trench of the enemy line, he look back and saw that he was the only one.
"I could have shook their hands I was so close,” he said. “They were jabbering away like hell right in front of me, a whole line of them."
"I was thinking, well, I went to a lot of trouble to get here, so there’s no use wasting a whole day,” he continued. “And I let out a wild whoop and holler, and I jumped in the trench with them."
Singlehandedly, he killed at least a dozen of the enemy, beating them to death with his gun and shooting the rest. He also cleared a machine gun bunker with a grenade.
He then returned to help his fallen comrades, still lying in the battlefield, as enemy fire whizzed by him.
"I was probably the only one between the Chinese and our wounded men,” he said. “They were going to kill them, there’s no question in my mind, they were going to kill them."
"Other people's lives seem to be more valuable then your own," Rosser reflected. “I worried more about the kids I was to take care of than myself."
Rosser went back two more times on his own, pulling more comrades to safety while holding off the enemy.
Miraculously, he sustained just a few minor wounds.
“Bullets were flying through my clothes, but they never hit me,” he said.
"My brother-in-law was talking about that the other day and he said, ‘Ron, you know, God must have been with you,’” Rosser said, responding: “If he was, he was carrying a 30-caliber carbine with him." Another chuckle.
Sgt. Rosser says during his rescue mission, he could have been shot dead numerous times, but one moment sticks in his memory.
He says a Chinese soldier was pointing his gun at him from a bunker, ready to shoot, but Rosser held up his hand as he was dragging a fallen soldier. The soldiers’ eyes met. Rosser turned away and proceeded down the hill, wondering if the Chinese soldier would shoot, but he never did.
Rosser returned up the hill.
“I was going from bunker to bunker, shooting any enemy soldier I could,” he said. “When I got to his, I went right on by. I never did that before – let a guy live – but he let me live, so I let him live. It’s strange what happens on the battlefield.”
This humble soldier does not consider himself a hero.
“I’m not much into this hero stuff,” he said. “You do what you can, what you’ve been trained to do.”
”To me, the real honor is that a handful of young men who were with me, in a difficult time, thought I was worthy of it,” he said. “To me, that's the real honor."
He wishes he could have done more.
“I think of these guys, I still get all choked up a bit about it,” he says, tearing up. “I wish I could have saved them all, but I couldn’t.”
Sgt. Rosser was given the medal of honor later that year in 1952 by President Harry Truman for his actions that day.
You may see his original medal on display in the statehouse rotunda in Columbus.