Colonel (Ret.) Ralph Puckett Jr.

born

December 8, 1926

hometown

Tifton, Georgia

Commissioned

West Point, 1949

Military Occupation (MOS)

Infantryman (11A)

unit

8th Ranger Company, 8213th Army Unit, 8th U.S. Army

Deployments

Korea 1950, Vietnam 1967

Born in Tifton, Georgia, Ralph Puckett Jr. graduated from the United States Military Academy, West Point and received his commission as an Infantry Officer in 1949. Assigned to occupation duty in Okinawa, he volunteered for the Eighth Army Ranger Company, which was formed shortly after the Korean Conflict began in 1950.​

Selected as the company’s commander, 1st Lt. Puckett had five-and-a-half weeks to train his Rangers before being committed to combat operations. While attached to Task Force Dolvin and leading the advance of the 25th Infantry Division on Nov. 25, 1950, Puckett and his Rangers attacked and secured Hill 205 in the vicinity of Unsan, Korea. Though outnumbered ten to one, Puckett and his Rangers defeated five successive Chinese counterattacks over four hours that night and into the early morning hours of Nov. 26. Finally, on the sixth assault, with supporting artillery fires unavailable, the Ranger company was overrun in hand-to-hand combat. Having suffered multiple serious wounds, Puckett was unable to move. Despite orders to abandon him, fellow Rangers fought their way to his side and evacuated him to safety. For his actions, Puckett was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.​

Though offered a medical discharge for his wounds, Puckett refused and continued to serve on active duty at assignments that included the U.S. Army Ranger School and West Point. As a Ranger advisor to the Columbian Army, Puckett established the prestigious Escuela de Lanceros program. Later, after completing Special Forces training in 1960, Puckett commanded B and C teams in the 10th Special Forces Group in Bad Tolz, Germany.​

“He feared no man, he feared no situation and he feared no enemy. Clearly a unique, courageous Soldier in combat and even more importantly, in my opinion, Col. Puckett was an ultimate Infantry leader.”

Retired General Jay Hendrix

Retiring in 1971, he became the national programs coordinator of Outward Bound, Inc., and subsequently established Discovery, Inc., a leadership and teamwork development program that focused on “Personal Growth through Safe Adventure.” In 1992, he was an inaugural inductee into the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame and, from 1996 to 2006, he served as the first honorary colonel of the 75th Ranger Regiment. Other honors followed, including an appointment as an ambassador of goodwill by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, selection as a 2004 distinguished graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, and being chosen as a 2007 recipient of the Infantry’s Doughboy Award.

Col. Puckett on the radio in Vietnam (Photo courtesy of the Puckett Family)

Retired Col. Ralph Puckett Jr. poses for a photo with then-Lt. Col. Jeff Bannister, 75th Ranger Regiment, and a local national friend, Afghanistan, 2005. Puckett was an honorary colonel of the 75th RR. (Photo courtesy of the Puckett Family)

Col Puckett with his family (Photo courtesy of the Puckett Family)

Still very active in military affairs and his local community, Puckett lives in Columbus, Georgia, with his wife of 68 years. They have two daughters, one of whom is deceased, a son and six grandchildren. His awards include two Distinguished Service Crosses (one to be upgraded to the Medal of Honor); two Silver Stars; two Legions of Merit; two Bronze Stars with V device for valor; five Purple Hearts; ten Air Medals; the Army Commendation Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal, among others. In addition, he earned the Combat Infantryman’s Badge with star, Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Master Parachutist Wings, Glider Badge and Columbian Lancero Ranger Badge.​

"Col. Puckett receiving his second Distinguished Service Cross from President Lyndon B. Johnson “To the family of Col. Ralph Puckett Jr. – Who distinguished himself in very exceptional service to his country – a proud son of Georgia – a great national patriot.” (Photo courtesy of the Puckett Family)"

Bravery in the Face of Danger

Bravery in the Face of Danger

THE BATTLE

Hill 205 | Nov. 25-26, 1950 | In the vicinity of Unsan, Korea

U.S. Army Eighth Army Ranger Company

Eighth Army History

Read Unit History

1st Lt. Ralph Puckett, United States Army, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 25-26 November 1950 while serving as Commander, Eighth Army Ranger Company, Task Force Dolvin. As the Rangers commenced the daylight attack of Hill 205, the enemy directed mortar, machinegun and small arms fire against the advancing force. To obtain supporting fire, 1st Lt. Puckett mounted the closest tank exposing himself to the deadly enemy fire. Leaping from the tank, he yelled, "Let's go!" and began to lead his Rangers in the attack. ​

Almost immediately, enemy machinegun fire threatened the success of the attack by pinning down one platoon. Leaving the safety of his position with full knowledge of the danger; 1st Lt. Puckett intentionally ran across an open area three times to draw enemy fire thereby allowing his Rangers to locate and destroy the enemy machinegun and enabling the company to seize Hill 205. Later that night, the enemy counter-attacked in the near zero degree weather. During the next four hours the 57-man company, inspired and motivated by the extraordinary leadership and courageous example exhibited by Lt. Puckett, repulsed five human wave attacks by a 500-man battalion assaulting behind intense mortar barrages. Continually directing 'danger ­close' artillery support that decimated attacking enemy formations, repeatedly abandoning positions of relative safety to make his way from foxhole to foxhole to check the perimeter, interceding at each point of decision in the battle, redistributing ammunition and keeping only one eight-round clip for his own rifle, 1st Lt. Puckett's encouragement and dauntless will instilled in his men an unfailing desire and perseverance to resist. ​

Hill 205 Battlemap

Although wounded in the thigh by a grenade fragment during the first assault, 1st Lt. Puckett refused evacuation. During the course of battle, 1st Lt. Puckett once again intentionally exposed himself three more times to an enemy sniper before the sniper was killed. Unable to obtain artillery support to repel the sixth enemy assault, 1st Lt. Puckett and his command were overrun by the enemy. Two mortar rounds detonated in 1st Lt. Puckett's foxhole inflicting severe wounds to his feet, buttocks, and left arm. Though the wounds to his right foot were so severe the doctors considered amputation for several months, 1st Lt. Puckett maintained the presence of mind to report that his command was being overrun by the enemy. Grievously wounded and unable to move on his own, 1st Lt. Puckett ordered his men to leave him behind. ​

Later two of his Rangers fought their way to his position killing three enemy who were only 10 yards from where 1st Lt. Puckett lay defenseless. Although 1st Lt. Puckett ordered his Rangers to leave him behind, they refused. Later as the enemy fired at the rescuers Puckett again ordered his men to leave him to ensure their safety. Finally secure at the bottom of Hill 205 and despite the seriousness and pain of his wounds, 1st Lt. Puckett maintained the presence of mind to direct a heavy concentration of artillery fire on the enemy now on top of the hill. 1st Lt. Puckett's extraordinary courage and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.​

Ranger

Rangers Lead the Way

The 75th Ranger Regiment is the U.S. Army's premier large-scale special operations force, and it is made up of some of the most elite Soldiers in the world. The Rangers specialize in joint special operations raids and joint forcible entry operations.

President Joseph Biden presents the Medal of Honor to retired Col. Ralph Puckett Jr. during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., May 21, 2021. Puckett was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions while serving then as commander of the Eighth Army Ranger Company when his company of 57 Rangers was attacked by Chinese forces at Hill 205 near the Chongchon River, during the Korean Conflict on November 25-26, 1950. (Spc. XaViera Masline)

Show Caption +

President Joseph Biden presents the Medal of Honor to retired Col. Ralph Puckett Jr. during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., May 21, 2021. Puckett was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions while serving then as commander of the Eighth Army Ranger Company when his company of 57 Rangers was attacked by Chinese forces at Hill 205 near the Chongchon River, during the Korean Conflict on November 25-26, 1950. (Spc. XaViera Masline)

President Joseph Biden presents the Medal of Honor to retired Col. Ralph Puckett Jr. during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., May 21, 2021. Puckett was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions while serving then as commander of the Eighth Army Ranger Company when his company of 57 Rangers was attacked by Chinese forces at Hill 205 near the Chongchon River, during the Korean Conflict on November 25-26, 1950. (Spc. XaViera Masline)

Show Caption +

President Joseph Biden presents the Medal of Honor to retired Col. Ralph Puckett Jr. during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., May 21, 2021. Puckett was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions while serving then as commander of the Eighth Army Ranger Company when his company of 57 Rangers was attacked by Chinese forces at Hill 205 near the Chongchon River, during the Korean Conflict on November 25-26, 1950. (Spc. XaViera Masline)

President Joseph Biden presents the Medal of Honor to retired Col. Ralph Puckett Jr. during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., May 21, 2021. Puckett was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions while serving then as commander of the Eighth Army Ranger Company when his company of 57 Rangers was attacked by Chinese forces at Hill 205 near the Chongchon River, during the Korean Conflict on November 25-26, 1950. (Spc. XaViera Masline)

Show Caption +

President Joseph Biden presents the Medal of Honor to retired Col. Ralph Puckett Jr. during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., May 21, 2021. Puckett was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions while serving then as commander of the Eighth Army Ranger Company when his company of 57 Rangers was attacked by Chinese forces at Hill 205 near the Chongchon River, during the Korean Conflict on November 25-26, 1950. (Spc. XaViera Masline)

“He leads from the front. He leads by example. He leads with heart. He is a Ranger, and that’s how Rangers lead — that’s how you lead.”

PRESIDENT JOSEPH R BIDEN

White House Ceremony, May 21, 2021

“Colonel Puckett is a true hero of the Korean War. With extraordinary valor and leadership, he completed missions until the very end, defending Hill 205 and fighting many more battles requiring equal valiance. Without the sacrifice of veterans, including Colonel Puckett and the Eighth Army Ranger Company, freedom and democracy we enjoy today couldn’t have blossomed in Korea.”

SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT MOON JAE-IN

White House Ceremony, May 21, 2021

Col. Puckett with his company (Photo courtesy of the Puckett Family)

Col. Puckett with his company (Photo courtesy of the Puckett Family)