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First Name: William

Last Name: Barber

Birthplace: Dehart, KY, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: Earl

Date of Birth: 30 November 1919

Date of Death: 19 April 2002

Rank: Colonel

Years Served: 1942 - 1970
William Earl Barber

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)
•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


William Earl Barber
Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps
Medal of Honor Recipient
Korean War

William Earl Barber was born on 30 November 1919, in Dehart, KY. He completed Morgan County High School in West Liberty, KY, and then attended Morehead State Teachers College.

Marine Corps Career

Barber enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in March 1940 and completed his recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, SC. He then attended parachute training at the Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, NJ, and was designated a Para Marine and assigned as a parachute instructor at the newly activated Parachute Training School at New River, NC. In May 1943, he entered Officer Candidates School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA, and was commissioned a second lieutenant on 11 August 1943.

World War II

Second Lieutenant Barber served with the 1st Parachute Regiment on the West Coast until 1944. Assigned as a platoon commander with the 26th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, CA, he embarked for the Pacific area and later took part in the Battle of Iwo Jima. After being wounded, he was evacuated and later returned to his unit, serving as company commander during the last two weeks of the operation. Shortly after, he was promoted to first lieutenant and again commanded the company during the initial occupation of Japan. He was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart for his actions on Iwo Jima in which "he disregarded his own wounds and directed enemy fire to rescue two wounded Marines from enemy territory."

Barber returned to the U.S. in 1946 and served on recruiting duty in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After that, he served as a rifle company commander with the 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC; and as Inspector-Instructor of the Marine Corps Reserve's Company D, 6th Infantry Battalion, in Altoona and Philadelphia, respectively.

Korean War

Captain Barber was ordered to Korea in October 1950 and assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division. During the period 28 November - 2 December, he took part in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart. He led his company in a desperate five-day defense of a frozen mountain pass vital to the 1st Marine Division's breakout to the sea. Fighting in sub-zero temperatures against overwhelming odds, he was wounded on the first night of the action (28 November 1950), but refused evacuation and remained in action in command of his company. He was evacuated on 8 December, and hospitalized at the United States Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, until his return to the U.S. in March 1951.

In April 1951, he joined Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego as a company commander and later as Executive Officer, of the 1st Recruit Training Battalion. He was promoted to major in July 1952.

On 20 August 1952, Major Barber was presented the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman in ceremonies at the White House.

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to


for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of Company F, Second Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces in Korea from November 28, to December 2, 1950. Assigned to defend a three-mile mountain pass along the division's main supply line and commanding the only route of approach in the march from Yudam-Ni to Hagaru-ri, Captain Barber took position with his battle weary troops and, before nightfall, had dug in and set up a defense along the frozen snow-covered hillside. When a force of estimated regimental strength savagely attacked during the night, inflicting heavy casualties and finally surrounding his position following a bitterly fought seven-hour conflict, Captain Barber, after repulsing the enemy, gave assurance that he could hold if supplied by air drops and requested permission to stand fast when orders were received by radio to fight his way back to a relieving force after two reinforcing units had been driven back under fierce resistance in their attempts to reach the isolated troops. Aware that leaving the position would sever contact with the 8,000 Marines trapped at Yudam-ni and jeopardize their chances of joining the 3,000 more awaiting their arrival in Hagaru-ri for the continued drive to the sea, he chose to risk loss of his command rather than sacrifice more men if the enemy seized control and forced a renewed battle to regain the position, or abandon his many wounded who were unable to walk. Although severely wounded in the leg the early morning of the 29th, Captain Barber continued to maintain personal control, often moving up and down the lines on a stretcher to direct the defense and consistently encouraging and inspiring his men to supreme efforts despite the staggering opposition. Waging desperate battle throughout five days and six nights of repeated onslaughts launched by the fanatical aggressors, he and his heroic command accounted for approximately 1,000 enemy dead in this epic stand in bitter sub-zero weather, and when the company was relieved, only 82 of his original 220 men were able to walk away from the position so valiantly defended against insuperable odds. His profound faith and courage, great personal valor and unwavering fortitude were decisive factors in the successful withdrawal of the division from the deathtrap in the Chosin Reservoir sector and reflect the highest credit upon Captain Barber, his intrepid officers and men and the United States Naval Service.

Major Barber completed the Advanced Infantry Course, Fort Benning, GA, in March 1954, then served as Operations and Training Officer, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines at MCB Camp Lejeune. From 1956 to 1958, he served in Thailand as Assistant Naval Attache and Assistant Naval Attache for Air at the American Embassy in Bangkok. During the next four years he was assigned to Marine Corps Schools at MCB Quantico, and served as Assistant Chief Instructor of the Junior School. While there, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in April 1960.

Again ordered overseas, Lt. Col Barber joined the 3rd Marine Division at Okinawa, Japan in July 1962 as Commanding Officer of 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion. Following his return to the U.S., he served at Headquarters Marine Corps as Head, Combat Requirements Section, until January 1966 when he became Head, Marksmanship Branch, G-3 Division, and served in this capacity until July 1967. He was promoted to Colonel on September 22, 1965.

Transferred to the 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division, Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, NC, Col. Barber served consecutively as Division Plans Officer, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 (Intelligence), and Commanding Officer of the 2nd Marines, until May 1969.

Vietnam War

In 1969, he was ordered to Vietnam where he served his last tour of active duty as Psychological Operations Officer, III Marine Amphibious Force, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. For his service in this capacity, he was awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat "V."

Military Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Silver Star Medal
Legion of Merit with Valor Device
Purple Heart with 1 Award Star
Navy Presidential Unit Citation with 1 Service Star
Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 1 Service Star
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal with "Asia" Clasp
National Defense Service Medal with 1 Service Star
Korean Service Medal with 3 Service Stars
Vietnam Service Medal with 1 Service Star
Korean Presidential Unit Citation
United Nations Korea Medal
Vietnam Campaign Medal


Colonel Barber retired from active duty on 1 May 1970. He then returned to Morehead University and completed his degree upon completion of which he became a civilian military analyst for the Northrop Corporations.

Barber died at his home in Irvine, CA, on 19 April 2002 of bone marrow cancer and he was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. His wife, Ione, died four years later and her ashes were interred in his grave.


The following have been named in honor of Medal of Honor recipient William Barber:

• Barber Fitness Center, Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA.

• Colonel Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park, Irvine, CA.

• Camp Barber, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Honoree ID: 1127   Created by: MHOH




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