A One-Man Army – Major Benjamin F. Wilson, U.S. Army (1921-1988)

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Major Benjamin F. Wilson, Medal of Honor, U.S.Army

BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D.  Little did Wilson’s parents know on June 2, 1921 that their son would grow up to become a one-man army.  Benjamin F.  Wilson was born and spent his youth in the small sleepy coastal town of Vashon, Washington.

When Wilson was 18 and anxious to see the world beyond the shores of Vashon Island, he enlisted in the United States Army.


Ironically he was to find himself on another island, albeit a lot bigger one.  In the summer of 1940 Wilson was stationed at Schofield Barracks on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.  Wilson was woken from a rare sleep-in on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

In 1942 Wilson attended Officer Candidate School and was commissioned in the infantry as a 2nd Lieutenant. When the war was over, he thought he had all of the Army he wanted for one lifetime. Resigning his commission he returned home to Vashon Island.

After a very short time as a civilian he decided the Army wasn’t all that bad compared to lumber mills in Washington.

Because the war had ended, the Army was thinning its ranks and had no need for a lieutenant, even an experienced one.  Wilson started at the beginning again as a private recruit.  Because of his experience, he moved quickly through the ranks and by the summer of 1951 had become a First Sergeant.

On June 4, 1951, Wilson’s company was ordered to take the largest hill overlooking the Hwachon Reservoir in South Korea..

On June 5, Wilson led a charge against the far superior force and was responsible for 27 enemy dead.  The North Koreans launched a counter attack and Wilson single handedly killed seven North Koreans.  Wilson ordered his platoon to withdraw, and even though he was severely wounded he stayed behind to cover the withdrawal of his men.

The wounded Wilson was being carried down the hill on a stretcher as the battle was coming to an end.  About half way down the hill the fellows carrying the stretcher Wilson was on put him down to rest.  Wilson, not being one to give in easily and clearly in pain, never the less got up from the stretcher and made his way back up the hill.

On June 6, just one day after the exploit that earned him the Medal of Honor, First Sergeant Wilson killed 33 more Chinese soldiers with his rifle, bayonet, and hand grenades in another one-man assault. In the process, he reopened the wounds he suffered the day before and was finally evacuated to a hospital. He was again recommended for the Medal of Honor, but Army policy prohibited any man from being awarded more than one. Wilson received the Distinguished Service Cross instead and was commissioned when he returned to the States. He retired from the Army as a major in 1960 and died in Hawaii in 1988.

Medal of Honor citation

Rank and organization: First Lieutenant (then M/Sgt.), U.S. Army Company I, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division

Place and date: Near Hwach’on-Myon, Korea, June 5, 1951

Entered service at: Vashon, Wash. Birth: Vashon, Washington

G.O. No.: 69, September 23, 1954


1st Lt. Wilson distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and indomitable courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. Company I was committed to attack and secure commanding terrain stubbornly defended by a numerically superior hostile force emplaced in well-fortified positions. When the spearheading element was pinned down by withering hostile fire, he dashed forward and, firing his rifle and throwing grenades, neutralized the position denying the advance and killed 4 enemy soldiers manning submachineguns. After the assault platoon moved up, occupied the position, and a base of fire was established, he led a bayonet attack which reduced the objective and killed approximately 27 hostile soldiers. While friendly forces were consolidating the newly won gain, the enemy launched a counterattack and 1st Lt. Wilson, realizing the imminent threat of being overrun, made a determined lone-man charge, killing 7 and wounding 2 of the enemy, and routing the remainder in disorder. After the position was organized, he led an assault carrying to approximately 15 yards of the final objective, when enemy fire halted the advance. He ordered the platoon to withdraw and, although painfully wounded in this action, remained to provide covering fire. During an ensuing counterattack, the commanding officer and 1st Platoon leader became casualties. Unhesitatingly, 1st Lt. Wilson charged the enemy ranks and fought valiantly, killing 3 enemy soldiers with his rifle before it was wrested from his hands, and annihilating 4 others with his entrenching tool. His courageous delaying action enabled his comrades to reorganize and effect an orderly withdrawal. While directing evacuation of the wounded, he suffered a second wound, but elected to remain on the position until assured that all of the men had reached safety. 1st Lt. Wilson’s sustained valor and intrepid actions reflect utmost credit upon himself and uphold the honored traditions of the military service.

Wilson is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific Honolulu Hawaii, USA
Plot: Section A, Grave 1060-A

In an article about Medal of Honor Recipient Richard B Anderson that originally appeared in June 2011 in the Hawaii Reporter,  I failed to acknowledge that a portion of that article was from an interview with Harry Pearce that had appeared in the Peninsula Daily News.   I apologize for any distress that this unintentional oversight has caused Mr. Pearce and the Peninsula Daily News.  These articles are meant to honor the men they are written about and this oversight on my part should in no way detract from the honor due to these brave men.






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