No rifle, no problem — soldier single-handedly killed dozens of enemies

| October 13, 2018

Military Times brings us this week’s Valor Friday

Benjamin Wilson was in Hawaii when the Japanese unleashed their infamous attack on Pearl Harbor during the morning hours of Dec. 7, 1941.

The Washington state native had enlisted in the Army as an infantryman only a year before the attack and found himself stationed at Oahu’s Schofield Barracks, watching as Japanese planes devastated the unsuspecting naval base.

Despite the timing of his enlistment, however, Wilson would miss combat entirely during World War II, attending Officer Candidate School in 1942 and getting subsequently assigned to stateside training roles despite multiple requests by the young officer to lead men into combat.

Ben WilsonBenjamin Wilson received both the Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service Cross for actions that took place within a week of each other. (Army)

At the war’s conclusion, Wilson would go back to Washington to work in a lumbar mill, but the life didn’t agree with him, and the desire to serve called Wilson back to the Army.

Because the service was drawing down its officer ranks, Wilson signed back up as a private, but quickly rose through the ranks due to his previous experience.

It didn’t take long before he found himself as a first sergeant on the front lines of the Korean War, where he would become a legend among his men.

In June 1951, the men from I Company, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment were tasked with taking the largest hill overlooking the Hwachon Reservoir in what is now the northeastern region of South Korea. The hill would later become known as “Hell Hill.”

A higher ranking soldier, Wilson could have easily directed the charge up the hill from a safer position, but after missing combat in WWII, he was practically salivating for battle.

Wilson’s men quickly became pinned down by heavy machine gun fire as they made their way up the hill. Seemingly unfazed, the incensed first sergeant charged one of the machine gun bunkers and killed all four of its occupants with his rifle and grenades.

He then rallied his men for a bayonet charge of the entrenched Chinese soldiers, an assault that killed 27. But as more men caught up and rejoined the forward line following the charge, the enemy launched a counterattack to retake the position.

Sensing his men could be overrun, Wilson left cover and took off on a one-man charge across open ground against the oncoming enemy, killing seven and wounding two more as the rest scattered.

With his men now organized, Wilson led another assault that reached within 15 yards of the objective before a wave of enemy fire stonewalled the advance.

Wilson was wounded in the advance, but remained to provide cover fire after ordering his men to withdraw from the vulnerable position.

When the company’s commanding officer and another platoon leader were hit by enemy fire, Wilson charged — alone once again — on the enemy trenches, killing three with his rifle before it was wrested from his hands in fierce hand-to-hand combat.

Without hesitation, Wilson grabbed his entrenching tool and beat four more Chinese soldiers to death.

His mad scramble provided the time necessary for his unit to arrange an orderly withdrawal, during which time Wilson was wounded once again. Despite his mounting injuries, he continued to provide cover fire as his men moved down the hill.

Wilson would go on to receive the Medal of Honor for his herculean feats that day, but his story doesn’t end there.

With his men safely evacuated, the injured Wilson finally vacated his forward position when he was carried down the hill on a stretcher by two soldiers. Half way down the hill, the soldiers set Wilson down so he could get patched up and rest.

Rest evidently didn’t go over well with Wilson.

Without saying a word, he ditched the stretcher and quietly made his way back up the hill to rejoin the most forward detachment, where only days later, he’d once again engage in ferocious combat.

With his men pinned down once more while trying to take a separate hill, Wilson, with fresh wounds, again charged the enemy emplacements alone and personally repelled a counterattack over open terrain, killing a total of nine enemies and sending the rest into retreat.

Only when his days-old wounds reopened did Wilson finally acquiesce to requests by his men to leave the battlefield and receive medical care.

Once again, he was recommended for the Medal of Honor, but having already been put in for one for actions just days before, he received the Distinguished Service Cross instead.

In the end, the man who regretted missing combat in World War II despite being present for the conflict’s opening shots retired from the Army a combat-hardened major in 1960 — he was commissioned once again upon returning to the U.S. from Korea.

He passed away in 1988 at the age of 66.

Where do we get such men? Fair winds and following seas, Major Wilson.

(a little late this week, apologies)

Category: The Warrior Code, War Stories

Comments (24)

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  1. 26Limabeans says:

    “Wilson grabbed his entrenching tool and beat four more Chinese soldiers to death”

    Pearl Harbor must have pissed him off bad.
    Glad he was able to realize his dream to lead in combat. Died in 1988. Hope they saved his DNA, with all due respect.

  2. Roh-Dog says:

    How the hell did this guy drag those stones up the hill!
    Rest In Peace, Dear Sir.

  3. LIright47 says:

    This is the first time I read this story and am glad I this morning.

    AW1Ed…thanks for posting this important and powerful history lesson.

  4. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    It is my understanding that as Wilson charged across the field to stop the Chinese counterattack, the Chinese troops were last heard to say, “Dafuq?”

    Some men are made for certain missions in life. For Wilson, it was to lead other men in battle. He succeeded.

  5. Doc (FMF) says:

    Lead from the front. Something all good leaders have in common.

    • rgr769 says:

      Yup, rule one of leadership: Don’t expect your men to do things you cannot or won’t do. Lead by example.

  6. Ex-PH2 says:

    Holy crap.

  7. Steve1371 says:

    Strange, he doesn’t look like Conan the barbarian. Looks can be decieving !
    Thats one hell of a resume !.

  8. The Other Whitey says:

    Sounds like he could be Audie Murphy’s long-lost brother!

  9. STSC(SW/SS) says:

    Army, what Army. We don’t need no stinking Army we have Wilson.

    Thus the ended all hostilities.

  10. RGR 4-78 says:

    Rest in Peace.

  11. Sparks says:

    Rest in peace, Sir. You truly deserve it.

  12. Mason says:

    What an impressive man. The no two medals of honor rule is stupid. If you do the deeds to earn a second, you damn well better get two.

  13. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    The man who regretted missing WW II combat had his CMOH put around his neck by the former Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe. There is something very cool and just in that.

    • 2/17 Air Cav says:

      After he returned from war, he tried his hand as an insurance agent. That didn’t cut it for him so he took a job with the VA, which he liked and stuck with. Eventually, he bought a sailboat and lived in Hawaii before checking out.

  14. Karl says:

    He worked in a “lumbar” mill? A place that mills the lower back? “Lumber” might be a better spelling.

    • AW1Ed says:

      The Military Times and I have an understanding, Karl. I can repost articles I think will be of interest to TAH denizens if I give credit where credit is due, and if I don’t critique their editing. Not to your liking?

      Please feel free to send any comments or complaints to AW1Ed.doesn’

  15. OmegaPaladin says:

    Holy hell, that man was a warrior. If you made a movie about him, people would say he was unreal. It read like an action movie – surviving multiple solo charges.

  16. JacktheJarhead says:

    Wow, just wow! Funny how a lot of the guys who win the CMOH look very mundane. He looks like a guy who would do your tax return. As has been said, guy had a BIG pair!

  17. Dinotanker says:


    My new Wilson inspired thought: ALWAYS bring your e-tool to a gun fight!

    Hope you all are well.