American Hero, Carmine Moliterno's story is a MUST read; especially for the younger generations who have forgotten the purpose of what it means to be a real man.
In June of 1950 on the heels of World War II, the Korean Peninsula exploded into yet another conflict, this time fueled by the brutal regime of Stalin’s Communist Russia.
When North Korea invaded the South, the United Nations stepped in to aid the besieged South Korean army. Of course America was a key player in the UN coalition and as such, the United States Military was once again, front and center on the battlefield.
While the Korean War lasted only three years, it was nonetheless a ruthless conflict complete with millions of casualties, dark political objectives, civilian sacrifice, destruction, and unassuming heroes.
One of those heroes was Carmine Moliterno, the son of immigrant parents from the Bronx. Drafted at 20 years of age, Carmine served with the famed 25th Infantry and rose to the rank of sergeant and platoon leader.
On January 11, 1953 in the vicinity of Kumhwa Korea, Sergeant Moliterno was the point-man for a reconnaissance patrol ordered into enemy held territory 200 yards beyond the main line of resistance.
Moliterno was to take one squad of six to eight men and work his way up an enemy hill. His squad included one canine but did not include any type of communication which meant that he and his men were essentially alone.
On the way to their objective, Sergeant Moliterno’s squad was to cross an area suspected to be an enemy minefield, although there was no definitive intelligence to confirm its existence. Unfortunately, that intelligence would come at a very high cost.
Sergeant Moliterno cautiously moved his men into enemy territory, entering into the area that Headquarters believed was mined. As fate would have it, they were right. The third man in the column set off the first mine and the men scattered as all hell broke loose.
When the column split, three more mines were tripped, wounding all of the squad except Sergeant Moliterno. The mines were nicknamed “Bouncing Bettys” as a way to describe how the device would trip and eject approximately two feet in the air before detonating.
The goal was to cause maximum destruction near a soldier’s torso resulting in either death or severe lower body damage.
During the chaos, Sergeant Moliterno hit the ground as was standard practice. While on the ground Moliterno lifted his head and was immediately spray with frozen dirt. He instinctively raised his arm to protect his face from the flying debris only to find shrapnel had penetrated his extended forearm.
What really happened was the German Sheppard that accompanied the patrol had tripped a “Bouncing Betty” in from of the sergeant’s position. The flying dirt was from the mine ejecting out of the ground.
Luckily that twist of fate caused Moliterno to protect himself or otherwise he would have taken the full impact of the blast to his face and head, likely killing him. With his guard dog dead and all of his men seriously wounded, Sergeant Moliterno was in a precarious position where he needed to act to save himself and his squad.
To make matters worse, all of the activity identified their location and the North Koreans lit the night sky with flares and began to rain down mortars on the American position.
With no means of communication, they were sitting ducks for sure. Sergeant Moliterno jumped into action and began returning fire from multiple areas to confuse the enemy and convince them that the squad was intact and combat ready.
Still, his men were gravely injured and continued to moan and scream in pain as the enemy fire was relentless. At this point Sergeant Carmine Moliterno had to make a command decision – stay and fight with the very high probability of losing his life and his entire squad or try to make it back with medical assistance and reinforcements. He chose the latter.
As Sergeant Moliterno worked his way back through the minefield he crawled in a prone position carefully scouring the ground in front of him with his bayonet to try locate additional “Bouncing Bettys”.
He quickly realized this was too slow. In the heat of the moment and with no regard for his own safety, the young Catholic boy from the Bronx stood up in the middle of the minefield, made the sign of the cross, and took off running towards his outfit. He returned shortly thereafter with medics and two platoons.
His dog did not survive, but all of his men did! In the tradition of all true heroes, Sergeant Moliterno never sought help for his own injuries until all of his men received treatment.
For his bravery on that night, the United States Military awarded Sergeant Moliterno the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart; however from his family and friends he received a lifetime of love and devotion well deserved for a man that humbly did his part for his country and his buddies.
Carmine passed away in 2012 but not before his wife and three children formally recognized his medals and achievements 50 plus years after they were earned at his 74th birthday party. In the words of his son, Stephen, the tribute was not to brag about their father, but rather to honor his quiet contribution.
Carmine, like so many of his fellow veterans lives on in the memories of his family, friends, and a grateful nation that only exists because of their sacrifice!