This Day in History: Korean War hero Stanley Adams

On this day in 1951, a hero receives the Medal of Honor. Then-Sergeant First Class Stanley Adams was a veteran of World War II, but he’d kept serving, even after that war was over. Indeed, he was still serving in occupied Japan when North Korea invaded South Korea during June 1950.


His regiment was dispatched to Korea almost immediately.


The months that followed were rough, but Adams was near Seoul by February 1951. Communist forces had captured the city, and Adams’s company was then just south of the area. He and his platoon were holding an outpost about 200 yards in front of the rest of his company.

Unfortunately, about 250 of the enemy attacked at 1:00 a.m. on February 4. The soldiers in Adams’s platoon were badly outnumbered, but our soldiers fought gallantly for about 45 minutes before starting a retreat towards the main company.


Adams knew that more was needed.


“'The only way to remove the enemy from their hilltop positions was to dig them out,” historian Edward F. Murphy describes. “Men like Sergeant Adams knew this, and effectively used the almost obsolete bayonet to accomplish their missions.”


Adams could see the enemy advancing towards his platoon. He grabbed his bayonet and urged his men to join him. Thirteen men did exactly that, and the small group soon charged towards the larger enemy force.


Adams had traveled only about 50 yards when he was hit in the leg by a bullet. He kept running, seemingly oblivious to the injury. One by one, four grenades bounced off him and exploded nearby. Still, he seemed unfazed and kept running toward the enemy. Before too long, he was engaged in hand-to-hand combat, which his Medal citation describes as “man after man [falling] before his terrific onslaught with bayonet and rifle butt.”


Finally, a defeated enemy force turned and fled, leaving 50 of their dead behind. Adams’s action, his citation concluded, had “completely thwarted” the enemy attack and “sav[ed] his battalion from possible disaster.”


Adams returned home to his wife and son just a few months later, and they were present when he received his Medal.


“I am fighting for my kid so he won’t have to fight the Communists,” he told a reporter at the time. “You have to fight them sometime and I’d rather do it than have my son do it.”


“[A]s long as there are Americans like Sergeant Adams,” a congressman from his home state concurred, “and those men who fought by his side, this will always be the land of the free, because it is the home of the brave.”

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