Monday, August 15, 2011

Law 8: Devotion - Above and Beyond

Making Monday

In conjunction with last week's example of war posters from the world wars, it may seem that our study of the eighth law of making has taken a decidedly bellicose turn. It is a sad fact that only in such extremes does pure devotion shine.

The Presidential Unit Citation is the highest award in the U.S. military for collective heroism. Of the many worthy units that have received the award, the actions of the Headquarters, Headquarters Battery, and Battery A, 213th Armored Field Artillery Battalion on May 26-27, 1951 is a remarkable illustration of devotion that goes above and beyond.

Here is the narrative portion of the citation, taken from the History of the 222nd Field Artillery:
"During the night, a force of approximately 4,000 enemy soldiers, which had been encircled by the friendly infantry, attempted to break out of its trap and rejoin the main body of the enemy army. The only escape route open to them led directly the the valley occupied by Headquarters and Headquarters Battery and Battery A.

"During the early morning hours of 27 May [1951], the hostile forces suddenly opened fire on these two units. All available men from both batteries were immediately deployed in defensive positions. The enemy fought fiercely to break their way through the valley but, despite the necessity of hand-to-hand combat, the artillerymen held their ground ...

"At dawn, the enemy attacks abated and the men of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery and Battery A organized a combat patrol, using a self-propelled 105mm howitzer as a tank. Driving down the valley, the friendly patrol engaged the enemy, destroying numerous machine-gun emplacements and inflicting many casualties among the hostile troops ...

"The retreating enemy force then attempted to climb the surrounding slopes but they were immediately subjected to an intense artillery barrage. This devastating fire caused the hostile troops to turn back and surrender to the artillery units."
Remember that we're talking about artillery units, which were normally positioned a few miles from the front (105mm howitzers have a maximum range of about seven miles). Artillerymen rarely have to fighting like the infantry, so no one would have been surprised if they had retreated during the night attack. Similarly, many units would have waited for other troops to come the next day and drive the enemy off. Instead, they took the initiative. Using the armored, self-propelled howitzer as a tank was a stroke of brilliance. And the final coordinated barrage enabled the unit to capture about 800 prisoners.

Here's the final portion of the citation:
"Headquarters and Headquarters Battery and Battery A, 213th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, displayed such unshakable determination and gallantry in accomplishing their mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions as to set them apart and above other units participating in the action."
Most remarkable of all, in the course of all that action, only four artillerymen were wounded. It's hard to say what would have happened if they'd only done what was necessary, but there's a strong case to be made that their devotion in going above and beyond saved the lives of many of the members of the units.

Why such devotion when the unit would have been perfectly justified calling in reinforcements?

Captain Ray Cox said, “I knew that if we ever got home, I would be meeting the parents of those boys on the streets in our small town, and I didn’t want to face any of them if their son didn’t make it home because of anything I failed to do as his commander.


Image: Bill Longshaw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net