LEWISBURG — As Memorial Day approaches, Americans will pause to remember those killed in action.
Many from the area have been killed in service to their country and it’s important to remember all of them, from Col.
Wallace Fetzer, Milton, World War I, to Frank Cooper, New Columbia, the first area man killed in action in World War II (Pearl Harbor) to Carl Stitely, Milton, and Ray Ulrich, Montandon, Vietnam War, and Zachariah Long, Milton, Iraq and Thomas Baysore Jr., Milton, Afghanistan.
The lone area Medal of Honor recipient is George H. Ramer, a Lewisburg High School and Bucknell University graduate who lost his life while fighting to protect his troops in Korea.
A 1944 graduate of Lewisburg, Ramer enlisted in the Navy in 1944 (World War II) and served until 1946. He graduated from Bucknell in 1950 with a degree in political science and history, and taught civics and history at Lewisburg High School.
Ramer was called to active duty, at his request, in January 1951. He had attended Marine Corps Reserve training and was sent to Korea with the Marines in May 1951.
Ramer was leader of third platoon, Company I, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division when he was killed in action Sept. 12, 1951, in the Battle of the Punchbowl, Kanmubong Ridge near Soyang River, in Korea.
Combat in Korea is often overlooked, but was some of the most brutal of any recent war. Over 39,000 Americans lost their lives in the three years the US fought in Korea and the rate of civilian casualties was higher than in World War II or Vietnam. Nearly 5 million people were killed during the war.
On Sept. 11-12, Marines from several battalions were battling on Hill 673 before it was secured at 2 p.m. Sept. 12. Sixteen were killed and 35 wounded.
North Korean forces outnumbered the Marines and had more artillery.
Ramer’s platoon was ordered to attack a ridgeline on Yoke Ridge at dawn, Sept. 12. A major reportedly ordered the platoon up the wrong side of the hill and Ramer and his men became engaged in fierce fighting. Ramer was among a group of nine men who achieved the objective, but were forced to retreat after being overwhelmed by advancing North Korean troops.
Ramer stayed behind to cover his men’s retreat when he was overwhelmed and killed in action.
His Medal of Honor citation, in part, reads:
“Ordered to attack and seize hostile positions atop a hill, vigorously defended by well-entrenched enemy forces delivering massed small-arms mortar, and machinegun fire, Second Lieutenant Ramer fearlessly led his men up the steep slopes and although he and the majority of his unit were wounded during the ascent, boldly continued to spearhead the assault. With the terrain becoming more precipitous near the summit and the climb more perilous as the hostile forces added grenades to the devastating hail of fire, he staunchly carried the attack to the top, personally annihilated one enemy bunker with grenade and carbine fire and captured the objective with his remaining eight men. Unable to hold the position against an immediate, overwhelming hostile counterattack, he ordered his group to withdraw and single-handedly fought the enemy to furnish cover for his men and for the evacuation of three fatally wounded Marines. Severely wounded a second time, Second Lieutenant Ramer refused aid when his men returned to help him and, after ordering them to seek shelter, courageously manned his post until the hostile troops overran his position and he fell mortally wounded. His indomitable fighting spirit, inspiring leadership and unselfish concern for others in the face of death, reflect the highest credit upon Second Lieutenant Ramer and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.”
Ramer is one of only 131 Medal of Honor recipients from the Korean War. His wife, Jeanne, received the honor in January 1953.
Ramer is honored in the lobby of the Union County Courthouse and at Bucknell University, where a bronze bust sits in the lobby to the Langone Recreation Center.
The 1st Marine Division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its actions in September 1951. Sgt. Frederick W. Mausert III (1st Battalion, 7th Marines) was also posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Hill 673. Therer were three Navy Crosses and eight Silver Stars awarded in the wake of battle at Hill 673.
Chris Brady is managing editor at The Standard-Journal and author of three Vietnam-based books, “Remembering Firebase Ripcord,” “A War We Can’t Forget” and the novel, “We Answered the Call.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.