Remembering Ronald E. Rosser

Corporal, U.S. Army, Korean War

Corporal Ronald Rosser earned his Medal of Honor while serving in the 38th Regiment of the 2nd Infantry Division during the Korean War. Rosser enlisted in Army at the age of 17 and served from 1946 until 1949. After his younger brother was killed in Korea in February of 1951, Rosser re-enlisted to “finish his [brother’s] tour.” In January of 1952, Rosser and the regiment’s L Company were dispatched to capture an enemy-occupied hill. Fierce enemy resistance caused heavy casualties. After being reduced to 35 men from the initial 170 sent out, the party was ordered to make one more attempt to take the hill. Rosser rallied the remaining men and charged the hill. Despite the heavy fire, Rosser attacked the enemy position three times, killed 13 enemy soldiers, and carried several men to safety. On June 27, 1952, he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman at the White House for his heroism. Ronald Rosser passed away at the age of 90, on August 26, 2020.

  • Branch of Service: US Army
  • Conflict: Korean War
  • Action Location: Ponggilli, Korea
  • Action Rank: Corporal
  • Division: 2nd Infantry Division
  • Unit: Headquarters Company (Heavy Mortar), 38th Infantry Regiment
  • Action Date: January 12, 1952
  • Medal of Honor Awarded: June 27, 1952
  • Date of Birth: October 24, 1929
  • Place of Birth: Columbus, Ohio
  • Date of Death: August 26, 2020

Active Defense

The action which earned Ronald Rosser the Medal of Honor took place near the “Iron Triangle” during the “active defense” phase of the Korean War conflict. Starting on November 12, 1951, Allied forces sought to seize the best defensible terrain near their lines but were not to commit more than a single division at a time. The change in posture was due to active armistice negotiations, which began in late October 1951 and were on-going. During the six months of “active defense,” US losses diminished, but there were brief flare-ups of combat. The main sources of action were patrols and ambushes, but even these encounters were limited and small scale. This low-intensity fighting continued until June of 1952.

The Attack on Hill 472

On the morning of January 12, 1952, Ronald Rosser and the L Company of the 38th Regiment received orders to destroy enemy emplacements on Hill 472. Rosser estimated that his company-sized force would be attacking a battalion-sized force of Chinese troops. An estimation he made after he participated in a previous attempt to take the hill, with a different company, had failed. Despite his objection, L company received orders to take the position. After intense fighting to reach their assaulting position, the company had been reduced from 170 men down to 35 effectives, with most of the officers as casualties. Low on ammunition and men, Rosser called for orders. He brought his radio to the company commander, who had a facial wound, and their colonel ordered them to reorganize and make one more attempt to take the hill.

Corporal Rosser volunteered to lead the men on the assault. He rallied the remaining men and led them in a charge on the hill. Within minutes, Rosser found himself alone, the men he was leading either behind cover or wounded. Firing at the opposition at point-blank range, Rosser fought his way to a machine gun bunker that he destroyed with a grenade. He continued fighting his way along the enemy trenches and forced the enemy back into their bunkers. Out of ammunition, Rosser grabbed a wounded man on his way to retrieve more and brought the man to relative safety. With fresh ammunition, Rosser attacked the hill again. Once more, he fought at close range with his rifle and grenades until he ran out of ammo.Again, Rosser picked up a wounded comrade and walked down the hill with him while moving to retrieve more supplies. Now wounded twice, Rosser gathered more ammunition and assaulted the hill a third time with grenades that scattered the Chinese forces that were organizing to charge the American position. Rosser helped organize what remained of the men, virtually all wounded, to gather the worst injured and the dead for a retreat as Air Force support began bombing the area.

I reenlisted for combat duty in Korea. The Army couldn’t believe that’s what I wanted, but I made up my mind that you can’t kill my brother and get away with it.

Sergeant First Class (ret.) Ronald Rosser

Later Life

Rosser remained in the Army until 1968 and attained the rank of Sergeant First Class. Rosser retired from the Army after they denied his request to be deployed to Vietnam. Just as had sadly happened in Korea, Rosser lost another brother in the Vietnam War. The Army denied his request, unwilling to risk a Medal of Honor recipient and third brother. He was told, “If something happened to you, even by accident, it would be hard to explain.” Unwilling to tolerate not being treated like any other soldier, Rosser retired. After retirement, Rosser served as the chief of police of the City of Haverhill and at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, assisting veterans filing claims.

Medal of Honor Citation

Cpl. Rosser distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty. While assaulting heavily fortified enemy hill positions, Company L, 38th Infantry Regiment, was stopped by fierce automatic-weapons, small-arms, artillery, and mortar fire. Cpl. Rosser, a forward observer was with the lead platoon of Company L, when it came under fire from two directions. Cpl. Rosser turned his radio over to his assistant and, disregarding the enemy fire, charged the enemy positions armed with only carbine and a grenade. At the first bunker, he silenced its occupants with a burst from his weapon. Gaining the top of the hill, he killed two enemy soldiers, and then went down the trench, killing five more as he advanced. He then hurled his grenade into a bunker and shot two other soldiers as they emerged. Having exhausted his ammunition, he returned through the enemy fire to obtain more ammunition and grenades and charged the enemy bunkers. Although those who attempted to join him became casualties, Cpl. Rosser once again exhausted his ammunition, obtained a new supply, and returning to the hilltop a third time hurled grenades into the enemy positions. During this heroic action Cpl. Rosser singlehandedly killed at least 13 of the enemy. After exhausting his ammunition he accompanied the withdrawing platoon, and though himself wounded, made several trips across open terrain still under enemy fire to help remove other men injured more seriously than himself. This outstanding soldier’s courageous and selfless devotion to duty is worthy of emulation by all men. He has contributed magnificently to the high traditions of the military service.

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Interview with Ronald Rosser

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