View Full Version : Tank killer’ earned MOH battling Russian T-34s

01-08-04, 07:49 AM
Issue Date: January 12, 2004

The Lore of the Corps
‘Tank killer’ earned MOH battling Russian T-34s

By Keith A. Milks
Special to the Times

When North Korea attacked South Korea on June 25, 1950, Soviet-supplied T-34 tanks were at the fore of the invasion force. Lightly armed South Korean forces and their American advisers could do little in the face of the tanks and, for many, a sense of invincibility surrounded the Soviet armored behemoths.
Eventually, however, Marines and soldiers would dispel this myth.

One such Marine was Walter C. Monegan Jr., who earned a reputation as a “tank killer” and who would distinguish himself on two occasions when he turned North Korean tanks into flaming hulks.

A Christmas baby, Monegan was born Dec. 25, 1930, in Melrose, Mass., where he spent his formative years. In November 1947, at age 16, he left school and enlisted in the Army, only to be discharged two months later when his true age came to light. Two months later, at 17, Monegan again enlisted — this time in the Marine Corps, and subsequently went through recruit training at Parris Island, S.C.

After boot camp he sailed to China, where he served with 3rd Marines in Tsingtao. He returned to the United States in June 1949, spending time first at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and later at Marine Barracks at Naval Air Station Seattle. While in Washington, Monegan set up residence and married a local girl named Elizabeth.

In July 1950, a month after North Korean troops pushed into South Korea, Monegan re-enlisted in the Marine Corps. A month after that he was sent to Korea as an anti-tank assault man assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division. He landed at Inchon during the historic amphibious assault and participated in the drive inland against retreating North Korean forces.

On Sept. 17, Monegan’s company was dug in along a ridge overlooking the Seoul Highway when six North Korean tanks slammed into the Marine defensive line. Realizing the key to effective use of his rocket launcher was getting in close, Monegan charged down the hill to confront the armored vehicles. Even as enemy fire tore up the ground around him, Monegan took a knee less than 150 feet from the lead tank.

A single shot

His bazooka shot destroyed the lead tank and blocked the advance of the other T-34s. With his carbine, Monegan killed the tank’s crewmen as they emerged from the smoldering vehicle. He took up the bazooka again and, with two more rounds, caused a second vehicle to erupt in flames. Marine tanks maneuvered in and dispatched the remaining T-34s, blunting the North Korean attack.

Three nights later, on Sept. 20, Monegan’s unit again was in defensive positions when a large infantry-supported tank unit hit their lines. Five enemy tanks threatened to overrun the battalion command post when Monegan and another Marine, Cpl. William Cheek, moved against them, ignoring intense enemy fire.

Monegan hit the lead T-34 with a dead-on bazooka shot, destroying it.

With Cheek reloading, Monegan quickly dispatched a second enemy tank and then stood to engage a third T-34 attempting to retreat. But just as he stood, an illumination shell backlit the 19-year-old, and he instantly was cut down by North Korean machine-gun fire.

For his instrumental role in the defense of his battalion’s position, Monegan was nominated for the Medal of Honor.

He initially was buried at the U.S. military cemetery in Inchon, but on July 19, 1951, his remains were exhumed and he was reburied at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.

On Feb. 8, 1952, Secretary of the Navy Dan Kimball presented Monegan’s widow with her late husband’s posthumous Medal of Honor. In her arms was their infant son, Walter III.

The writer is a gunnery sergeant stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He can be reached at kambtp@aol.com.




01-08-04, 10:47 AM
Jack the Giant Killer. Definition of BALLS: Taking on a platoon of tanks.