By Baltazar SotoOctober 9, 2008
The following is the conclusion of 1st Lt. Walt B. Clark's mission as platoon leader of Company C, 65th Infantry Regiment's 2nd platoon "Borinqueneers. In the Oct. 3 edition of the Sentinel, Clark, with orders to "raid Chinese outpost positions on Hill 167," guided his platoon into a heated battle.
Cpl. Jose Otero-Gonzalez, in an effort to save the wounded platoon leader, ran firing and throwing grenades at the Chinese when, suddenly, Pfc. Maximino Paoli, a comrade, was knocked down with a head wound. Clark thought Paoli was dead.
Paoli jumped back up, furious, and bayoneted the two Chinese who were throwing grenades directly at Clark. Later, Paoli discovered a bullet wedged in his helmet between the liner and the steel pot. Otero-Gonzalez spotted another NCO and rescued him, risking his own life through the rain of enemy bullets, grenades, mortars and artillery.
Enemy fire was intense and did not allow the other two rifle platoons of Co. C, to its east, to provide support. Following the example of their leaders, the platoon fought hand to hand in the trenches. As they blew up small Chinese bunkers several hours into the brutal fight, they realized the enemy "half squad" of three or four riflemen was a lot more, possibly 100. Perhaps the bravest man Clark witnessed that day was the medic, Pfc. Demetrio Villalobos-Melendez. With all the death and maiming during the bloody brawl, Villalobos-Melendez calmly continued to save lives, moving through the fire and attending to the wounded. He eventually received the Bronze Star.
Second platoon was already intermingled with the Chinese on the hill and the tankers could not risk firing and killing their own troops. On its own and outnumbered at least two-to-one, the platoon still managed to chase the enemy from the position, then machine-gun down the Chinese who were running back to their lines. The mostly Spanish-speaking Soldiers succeeded in capturing two Chinese prisoners.
Clark and his platoon of Puerto Rican infantry owned Hill 167 until they received orders to withdraw from the position.
The lieutenant refused medical aid and, with disregard for his personal safety, he moved through the heavy hostile fire, evacuating the wounded. By this time, the two captured enemy prisoners had already been killed by the intense Chinese fire.
Clark was the last member of 2nd Platoon to leave the enemy position. No one was left behind. The platoon took its wounded and dead back with them, including the upper half of one of its Soldiers.
During the retreat, the Chinese fired about 3,000 rounds of mortar and artillery at the retreating platoon. Clark was unable to keep up with his men. During his lonely walk back, he was lifted off the ground three times by the 122mm mortar shelling along the withdrawal route. Miraculously, he eventually reached the battalion aid station.
Co. C Soldiers received nine Bronze Stars and two Silver Stars for their heroism that day. Otero-Gonzalez received the Bronze Star and Capt. Enrique A. Vicens, a medical officer of the 65th Infantry, received the Bronze Star for risking his life to aid the wounded as they reached the main line of resistance. The company first sergeant, Master Sgt. Rafael E. Balzac, assisted in evacuating a wounded comrade and refused medical aid for his wounds. He was carrying a fallen comrade to safety on his shoulders when a barrage of enemy mortar fire killed him. Balzac was awarded the Silver Star posthumously. His body was not recovered until a couple days after the battle.
There were seven killed and 24 wounded that day ... or more than 50 percent of the platoon.
Clark received the Silver Star and two Purple Hearts for six separate grenade wounds and the bullet wound he received. During his long recovery from his wounds at the hospital, he learned that his troops had named that vicious fight as the "Mambo of Hill 167." When the men of the 65th were going to "rumble" in combat, they would refer to it as "going to the Mambo."
Today, Hill 167 is deep inside the Demilitarized Zone near North Korea.
Editor's note: Baltazar (Bart) Soto is a retired U.S. Army Reserve lieutenant colonel.