Arco Medal of Honor recipient featured by Historical Society
 
 
David Bleak, Arco’s Congressional Medal of Honor winner, was featured in the September 2000 issue of “Pass in
Review” published by ,the Idaho Historical Society. 

The account follows:


Rank and Organization Sergeant Medical Company, 2d Battalion, 223d Infantry Regiment, 40th Infantry Division:
Service: U.S. Army
Born:27February 1932,Idaho Falls, Bonneville County, Idaho.
Entered Service at Shelley, Bingham County, and Idaho.
Served as: Medical Aid man. 

Battle and, of  Action: Minarigol, Korea, 14 June 1952.

Citation :Sgt. Bleak, a member of the medical company, distinguished himself conspicuous  gallantry ;and indomitable courage  above and beyond the call of duty: in action  against the enemy. As a Medical Aidman.
volunteered to accompany a reconnaissance patrol committed to engage the enemy and capture a prisoner  for interrogation. Forging up the rugged Slope of the key .terrain, the group was subjected to intense automatic weapons and’ small arms fire and suffered several casualties. After administering to the wounded he, continued to advance with the patrol.  Nearing the military crest of the hill, while attempting to cross the fire swept area to attend the wounded, he came under hostile fire from a small group of the enemy concealed in a trench. Entering the trench he closed with the enemy, killed  two with bare hands and a third with his trench knife.  Moving from the emplacement, he saw a concussion grenade fall in front of a companion, and, quickly sifting his position, shielded the man from the impact of the blast. Later, while ministering to the wounded, he was struck by a hostile bullet but, despite the wound he undertook to evacuate a wounded comrade. As he moved down the hill with his heavy burden, he was attacked by two enemy soldiers with fixed. bayonets. Closing with the aggressors, he grabbed !hem and smacked their heads together, then carried his helpless comrade down the hill to safety. Sgt. Bleak’s dauntless courage and intrepid  actions reflect utmost credit upon himself and are in keeping with the honored traditions  of :the military service. (End of Citation)

The story continues . .
“A couple of em got too close”
In a war the infantry gets mixed up in a lot of things that people don’t understand. Yes, they carry rifles and other weapons around, jump up and run, slide on their bellies to a prone position and start firing at something. You’ve seen all that stuff maybe even done some of it. Sure, it’s mostly a drill or maybe a scrimmage. But infantry in the line, the grunt” life, is much more demanding than that. They get all kinds of tough missions. Take this outfit in Korea, back in ‘52. It was the 22nd Infantry Regiment, 40th Division, a California Guard outfit, that ran this caper. We want to go back to that time and place because they ad a medic in the 223rd, an Idaho boy, who showed ‘em how a man fights when he has to. A medic fighting? Sure, but maybe we had better begin at the beginning.


Born in 1932, David B. Bleak grew up in the high farm country of Eastern Idaho. That’s important since it says he knew hard work that breathes self-determination and innovation, into he growing young. Bleak pretty much followed farming all of his life, It kind of naturally followed in those days  that on November 1, 1950 , at the ripe old age of eighteen.  David Bleak joined the U. S Army. He took his basic training at Fort Riley, Kansas, the famous old horse cavalry post.  Before long he was assigned to a Medical Cornpany that  became organic to the 2nd Battalion, 223 infantry Regiment of California’s 40th  Infantry Division.  He then received more advanced special-ized medical aid training Camp Cook in California.

 
After several months Bleak was made Corporal, and as January 1952 dawned, the 40th Division was on its way to ‘the Korean  Conflict via Japan. Somewhere north of the 38th parallel, before long, Bleak was promoted to Sergeant filling the shoes of an-other NCO aid man who had recently been  killed. The 40th Division assignment was largely a holding action near the 38th parallel. It was mountain country where the trees had been cut down and used to reinforce entrenched enemy positions in the area. The only cover was a scattering of brush three of four feet high and the rugged contour of the land itself.  In. this holding action both side set up fields of fire, logged in. artillery concentrations  and then probed from time to time to see if the enemy was planning any surprises. The irony of it is that such situations are usually carried as “quiet times” by . the media. Yeah; quiet.


It was one of those probes that called :down .all the chaos and violence that is anyone’s share of hell in this life. The I & R Platoon (Intelligence and Reconnaissance)  of the 2nd Battalion drew the mission to go into enemy . territory, capture a couple of North .Koreans and/or Chinese and bring them out for interrogation.

 
Of course, the assignment is easy--it’s the execution that's not so easy. The enemy  does what we do. They set up trip flares, plant mines, establish out-posts (listening posts at night), set up fields of fire and all those nefarious stratagems of man that mike infiltrators such poor  insurance risks. In spite of that fact, Bleak volunteered as the medic for the incursion. Well, when the recon patrol set out it was as black as the proverbial ace of spades. The patrol was made up of twenty men and commanded by a senior Tech Sergeant---no officers on this detail.
The hour was about 0430 in the morning and Bleak took up his position at the end of the file moving off into the darkness. The tail end is the assigned position for medics. From that point (when light) they can observe everyone in the team and move quickly to their aid if needed. That “if needed" would soon become the reality of this mission.
The recon patrol pushed quietly on through the darkness, while well of on their flank, Fox Company from the same battalion moved out in a larger incursion. It would serve to draw attention away from the I & R patrol. But "the die" had been cast otherwise.

 
A short time later, in the grayness of a Korean dawn, the patrol was snooping around an enemy entrenchment and took their first fire of the mission. It was intense automatic weapons and small arms fire and several in the patrol were wounded. Bleak moved up and took care of them, making them as comfortable as the situation permitted. He then con-tinued the advance with the patrol that soon came under heavy fire again. The ensuing action is described in the text of Sergeant Bleak's Congressional Medal of Honor award, (as printed above).
Perhaps we should tell you that Bleak was over six foot tall and weighed about 250 pounds. He did all that in order to get at wounded comrades. He tended to dismiss the facts by skipping over the action and saying something to the effect "...a couple of ,em got too close".. (the enemy).


The article continues...
Yes, they brought prisoners' backm and all of the patrol came in---even though a third of them were walking wounded.
And on 27 October 1953, with his family proudly looking on, Set. David B. Bleak received the Medal of Honor from President Dwight D, Eisenhower at the White House.


Bleak's wound has had a long-term effect. When he was shot in the leg, it severed a nerve. He dismisses that as "no big deal". But I guess when you survive an 'eyeball to eyeball' firefight such as that one was, wounded, out -numbered, in enemy territory on the far side of a Korean ridge, just coming out alive tends to give one a different--a more tolerant perspective on life. After he got out of the Army, he married, Lois is her name, and they had four children, three boys and a girl. Their youngest son now has the farm, south of Moore, Idaho. Today, the Bleaks live in Arco, Idaho since he retired about five years ago.
Then, in 1995, Major General John A. Dubia, Commanding General of Fort Sill, Oklahoma bestowed another.  Gen. Dubia owes his life to a combat Medic in Viet Nam and to express his gratitude decided to flame the lat. Sill Troop Clinic in honor of a combat medic. Special permission was ob-tained; April 20, 1995 was designated as Sgt. David B. Bleak day; and the new medical facility at Ft. Sill was named the Sgt. David B. Bleak Troop Medical Clinic. David Bleak's medal is one of the 9 accredited to Idaho.


(The Arco Advertiser is indebted to the Idaho Historical Society for this special Veterans Day story about our friend, neighbor, and unassuming Idaho  and American hero).

 

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