Maudie coming through
Editor’s note: Van Harl wrote the following column a year ago about his friend and Korean War hero Bert Maudie. Harl lives a couple of miles from Maudie in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. Harl and his wife, Dawn, frequently visit Maudie.
It was 28 January 1953, it was another frozen Korean night and Bert Maudie had just got back from a night-time patrol trying to make contact with the North Koreans.
The ground was covered with snow and his Infantry squad was inside a sandbagged warming bunker, attempting to revive themselves from hours of silent patrol in sub-zero weather. They never heard the North Koreans until the grenades started dropping down from the top of their bunker, landing at the entrance of that bunker.
The North Koreans had on white, winter camouflage uniforms. They had crept inside the wire of Maudie’s platoon bunkers and started throwing grenades. Maudie was the first one out of his squad bunker and he opened up on the North Koreans with his M1 Grande.
After killing four of the enemy at point blank range his rifle jammed. He had his bayonet fixed to the rifle so he ran out of the bunker entrance and engaged the enemy with a 300 year old technique, called a one-man bayonet charge.
Maudie only recently returned to the front lines of Korea. He had been wounded in a mortar attack and air-evacuated back to Japan. The Army was in need of combat troops and they did not let their wounded sit in the rear area for long. Maudie’s wounds had not completely healed when he was sent back to Korea and the DMZ. In fact some of his wounds were still bandaged because they were yet unhealed the night the North Koreans attacked.
The North Koreans must have been startled to see a single soldier charge them with only his bayonet, but for whatever reason they failed to stop Maudie. A North Korean tried to jump down from the bunker on top of Maudie. He was stopped by a well executed bayonet thrust and then shoved away like a hay bail on the end of a pitch fork.
The North Koreans had sub-machine guns that had high capacity ammo drums. This allowed them to spray the area they were shooting at. The bullets ripped up the sides of the bunker in front and back of Maudie as if staged in a Hollywood movie and still Maudie was not wounded.
He had hand grenades on his web gear so he charged into the North Koreans yelling “Maudie coming through” as he lobbed the explosive devices into the middle of the attacking enemy. He circled around the warming bunker where his squad members were trapped, continuing to throw grenades and engage the North Koreans with his bayonet.
He never did get his rifle action cleared to shoot, until after the attack was over. I asked him why he did not pick up the rifle of a fallen comrade, but he was doing so well with his grenades and bayonet it did not dawn on him to waiver from his course of action.
When the attack was over the North Koreans took their dead and wounded with them as they slipped back into the frozen snowy night. There was no way to determine how many of the enemy that Maudie had engaged that night but there is no doubt that he stopped the attack.
Sadly many of the soldiers of his Infantry Company were dead in their fighting positions, victims of the silent infiltration of the camp. Maudie was not wounded in the attack he was however bleeding from old wounds that had opened up during his intense physical contact with the enemy.
After hearing the story from the former Corporal Maudie, I said “Bert, you were one mean SOB.” His response was “yes I was.” For his quick action and complete disregard of his own safety repelling the enemy and stopping the attack, he was awarded the Army’s Distinguish Service Cross. This is the second highest award a combat engaged American Soldier can receive. Having read many Medal of Honor stories and citations I truly believe with a little more command interest and pressure Bert Maudie should have received the Medal of Honor.
Bert even joked if he had died that night instead of survived un-wounded, his family may have received the Medal of Honor posthumously. With that scenario in mind he did not and is not complaining about his Distinguish Service Cross.
He still has shrapnel in his hip from the mortar attack and he feels it every day, all day. In pictures taken at his medal presentation ceremony he looked like a soldier right off a recruiting poster-sharp.
To an American hero, a combat veteran and a family friend, thank you Bert Maudie.