William E. Barber (MOH)
William Earl Barber (1919-2002) was an officer in the United States Marine Corps awarded with the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War. With only 220 men under his command, Barber held off more than 1,400 Peoples Republic of China soldiers during six days of fighting. Despite the extreme cold weather conditions and himself suffering a bone fracturing wound to the leg, Barber refused an order to leave his position fearing that a retreat would trap 8,000 other Marines. Barber and his limited number of men killed over 1,000 enemy troops; only 82 of his men were able to walk away after eventually being relieved.
William Barber also earned a Purple Heart in the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II and a Legion of Merit citation during Vietnam.
Barber was born in Dehart, Kentucky on November 30, 1919 and was a graduate of Morgan County High School located in West Liberty, Kentucky. He attended Morehead (Kentucky) State Teachers College, Morehead, Kentucky, prior to enlisting in the Marine Corps in March 1940. He retired from active duty, 1 May 1970. Barber died in Irvine, California on 19 April 2002.
MEDAL OF HONOR CITATION
Rank and organization: Captain U.S. Marine Corps, Commanding Officer, Company F, 2d Battalion 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Reinforced). Place and Date: Chosin Reservoir area, Korea, 28 November to 2 December 1950. Entered service at: West Liberty, Ky. Born: 30 November 1919, Dehart, Kentucky. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of Company F in action against enemy aggressor forces. Assigned to defend a 3-mile mountain pass along the division’s main supply line and commanding the only route of approach in the march from Yudam-ni to Hagaru-ri, Capt. Barber took position with his battle-weary troops and, before nightfall, had dug in and set up a defense along the frozen, snow-covered hillside. When a force of estimated regimental strength savagely attacked during the night, inflicting heavy casualties and finally surrounding his position following a bitterly fought 7-hour conflict, Capt. Barber, after repulsing the enemy gave assurance that he could hold if supplied by airdrops and requested permission to stand fast when orders were received by radio to fight his way back to a relieving force after 2 reinforcing units had been driven back under fierce resistance in their attempts to reach the isolated troops. Aware that leaving the position would sever contact with the 8,000 marines trapped at Yudam-ni and jeopardize their chances of joining the 3,000 more awaiting their arrival in Hagaru-ri for the continued drive to the sea, he chose to risk loss of his command rather than sacrifice more men if the enemy seized control and forced a renewed battle to regain the position, or abandon his many wounded who were unable to walk. Although severely wounded in the leg in the early morning of the 29th, Capt. Barber continued to maintain personal control, often moving up and down the lines on a stretcher to direct the defense and consistently encouraging and inspiring his men to supreme efforts despite the staggering opposition. Waging desperate battle throughout 5 days and 6 nights of repeated onslaughts launched by the fanatical aggressors, he and his heroic command accounted for approximately 1,000 enemy dead in this epic stand in bitter subzero weather, and when the company was relieved only 82 of his original 220 men were able to walk away from the position so valiantly defended against insuperable odds. His profound faith and courage, great personal valor, and unwavering fortitude were decisive factors in the successful withdrawal of the division from the deathtrap in the Chosin Reservoir sector and reflect the highest credit upon Capt. Barber, his intrepid officers and men, and the U.S. Naval Service.