It seems like Almost Yesterday that Richard G. Wilson became the only resident of Cape Girardeau to ever receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military honor.
Wilson was born August 19, 1931, in Marion, Ill., but grew up in Cape Girardeau in a family of seven children. On August 19, 1948 – his 17th birthday – he enlisted in the army and reported to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where he was trained as a medic.
He volunteered for Airborne School and was assigned to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, as a medic in the 11th Airborne Division.
When the Korean War began in June of 1950, Wilson’s unit was informed they would soon be moving in that direction. He received a final weekend home – over the Fourth of July – returned to Fort Campbell and was soon in Korea.
On Oct. 20, 1950, Private Wilson participated in one of the largest airdrops in American military history. He was part of the 187th Regimental Combat Team which was dropped behind enemy lines, north of Pyongyang, to cut off retreating North Korean units.
On the morning after the air drop, Wilson’s unit moved into a narrow valley, flanked on three sides by high hills. They were soon hit with an intense ambush and forced to withdraw. But there had been many casualties. As a medic, Wilson moved among the wounded, administered aid, and constantly exposed himself to hostile fire.
His company commander ordered a withdrawal to avoid complete encirclement. Wilson assisted wounded men to safety, and then learned that a comrade, previously thought dead, had been seen moving and attempting to crawl to safety. Unarmed and in an open field, Wilson raced through a hail of gunfire to reach the side of the injured soldier.
Two days later, a patrol found the body of 19-year-old Richard Wilson laying by the side of the man he returned to aid.
It seems like Almost Yesterday that we had such heroes.