“It was just whoosh, whoosh, whoosh,” says Hotelling. Then came the torrent of Chinese troops."There were just too many,” says Hotelling as if trying to justify still the overpowering odds he and his men faced. “They were everywhere.”
The image Hotelling describes is like a river of soldiers, pouring out in streams, shooting, shouting, killing amidst complete chaos. And in this melee and mayhem, Barfield grabbed Innocenti. They began fighting their way through the field of Chinese soldiers firing the small but deadly “burp” guns that were murder at close range.He and Innocenti found Hotelling fighting off Chinese with his empty carbine, swinging it like a baseball bat.Hotelling was severely wounded and bleeding. Barfield wrapped his ammo belt around the upper part of the lieutenant's right leg to staunch the bleeding. What was left of the lieutenant's right leg was dangling below the knee.“He was fighting off the Chinese when we got to him.” Barfield says.“I was scared to death,” Hotelling says.“I look up and see Barfield. I asked him if he was scared. He said ‘No, God is with me, and I have a guardian angel.”
God and the angel hovered over them both.“You have to imagine this,” says Hotelling. “We were completely cut off. There was no place to go. No place to hide. The Chinese were firing down into the trenches, running up and down on top of the bunker.”
Then the Chinese grenade went off, Hotelling says he figured that was it for him.“And there was Barfield standing over me.”
Barfield and Innocenti hoisted Hotelling and began dragging him like a sack back through the Chinese.“It was hand-to-hand combat,” says Hotelling.“Barfield was in front, Innocent in the rear. They were fighting Chinese everywhere as they went. It was stick-‘em-in-the-gut close,” he says.Barfield and Innocenti carried the wounded platoon leader to another bunker and left him there. Just before depositing the wounded lieutenant in a temporary aid station, they ran into a clot of Chinese. Barfield shielded Hotelling with his own body while firing at the enemy.Barfield and Innocenti returned to the fighting, and that was the last time either one of them saw Hotelling.
A short while later, Hotelling, who won the Silver Star for his actions that night, was taken to a field hospital. He spent a year in the Army's Walter Reed Hospital in Washington .He wipes another tear and looks at Barfield, a small-boned man, no bigger today than when he was an 18-year-old soldier boy from Philadelphia , Pa.“He saved my life,” he says.Not only did he pull Hotelling to safety, but Barfield also dragged two other wounded soldiers to bunkers that hellish night.Hotelling, 69, remained in the Army after the war and retired as a major, but he never forgot the man who rescued him from certain death.The two old soldiers met in a tearful reunion at Barfield's home in Newport, Aug. 18 for the first time since that night in the North Korean trenches 45 years ago.
“He was wounded so badly, I thought there was no way he could have lived,” says Barfield, 64.“Just call it the saving of Lt. Hotelling,” says Hotelling, still wiping away tears.For his actions, Barfield received the Bronze Star. But that honor wasn't conferred until 1995, when his old company commander, retired Lt. Col. Ricardo Cardenas, raised a ruckus about the Army's neglecting to award Barfield the honor he should have received four decades ago.In the confusion after the battle, one of the fiercest on record during the Korean War, the reports citing Barfield's heroics were lost. It took nearly 45 years for the story to come to light.Cardenas, who lives in California, cited Innocenti, who lives in West Virginia , as well, and both Innocenti and Cardenas wrote to Rep. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) about Barfield's actions that night.Rockefeller then contacted Sen. Bob Graham of Florida , who helped get the medal for both Innocenti and Barfield, who had moved to Orlando, Fla. after leaving the Army. He had recently retired from the U.S. Postal Service and moved to Newport last July.
And now, Cardenas, Hotelling and Innocenti are trying to get the Pentagon to upgrade that Bronze Star to the Medal of Honor.After receiving the Bronze Star, Barfield decided to locate other soldiers of Fox Company, especially Hotelling.He wrote the Veterans Administration, which forwarded the letter to Hotelling in Hamilton, Ohio. He had retired in 1968 and become a fraud investigator for the state.In July, after receiving Barfield's letter, Hotelling phoned Barfield and immediately began making arrangements to visit Barfield in Newport .As Hotelling drove into Barfield's driveway, the little soldier with the brave heart smartly saluted his old platoon leader. Hotelling, fighting back tears, saluted Barfield in return before getting out of the car. On his artificial leg, Hottelling limped slightly up the driveway to the Barfields' kitchen, where they sat and reminisced for hours.
Barfield's military record reads like something perfectly scripted for a movie. He joined the Army in 1951 as a 17-yar-old boy from Philadelphia, Pa. He had tours of duty with the 5th Regiment Combat Team, the 3rd Inf. Division and the 187 th Airborne.By April 1952, Barfield found himself on the front lines in Korea with the 5th Regiment Combat Team. He was a sniper.“The sniper's job was to stay awake during the day. That way the others could sleep. I used to get tracer bullets and incendiary shells and fire them at the North Koreans. That way I could see where they were going.”
It was one of these tracers that got him wounded June 23, 1952 . The trail of the tracer not only told Barfield where his shots were going, but it also informed the North Koreans of the rifleman's position.“It was about daylight. I got hit by a North Korean sniper. Right in the shoulder. I think he was aiming for my head but was off. If felt like someone punched me.”
After a short time at a hospital in Japan , Barfield put in to return to Korea. By 1953, the sergeant was back on the front lines.This time he was in the Kumwha/Chorwan Valley on a hill called Boomerang. It got that name because each time Belgian United Nations soldiers took it, they were repelled by North Koreans and Chinese.On the night of June 24, 1953 , the Chinese flooded down from the high ground above Boomerang and pummeled the weaknesses in the American front.Hotelling, who had been in Korea only two months when he was wounded and shipped home, says he has one more battle to fight now.
“The Medal of Honor for Barfield,” he says.I'm going to do something that is long overdue and that is to see that he is awarded that medal. I never knew how to contact Barfield. In fact, I thought he was killed in Korea.”
”I will write a letter (to the Pentagon) supporting that medal. He deserves it, and my letter will be the heavy because I can say for a fact that if he hadn't been there, I would be dead.”
On Aug. 19, one day after the reunion, Hotelling wrote his letter and had it notarized. One line of Hotelling's letter says it best:
”During the period of hostilities from the previous night, Sgt. Barfield distinguished himself with several acts of heroism and bravery that were way above and beyond the call of duty and reflected great credit and devotion to his unit and country.”
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