George Herman O’Brien Jnr MOH

b. 10/09/1926 Fort Worth, Texas. d. 11/03/2005 Midland, Texas.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 27/10/1952 The Hook, Korea.

George H O’Brien MOH

O’Brien was born September 10, 1926, in Fort Worth, Texas. His father, George, was a traveling salesman, and his mother, Della, was a minister.

O’Brien’s parents eventually moved him and his younger brother, Larry, to Big Spring, Texas, where they grew up. O’Brien — a self-described problem child — said he went to a few different schools because he was disruptive in class. He said he was finally given a wartime diploma from Big Spring High School in 1944.  O’Brien then spent about a year and a half as a Merchant Marine on a gas tanker, which included a stint in the Pacific Ocean during the end of World War II. He eventually swapped that for college, attending Texas Tech University and graduating in 1950 with a degree in geology. During his college days, he also joined the Marine Corps Reserve.

In November 1951, O’Brien was called to active duty. He was commissioned as an officer at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, and then trained at Camp Pendleton, California, before being sent to fight in the Korean War with the 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division in September 1952. There, he became the commander of 1st Platoon, Company H of the 3rd Battalion. Less than two months later, the then-2nd lieutenant would take part in the fight of his life.

On October 27, 1952, O’Brien’s unit was one of many defending the 38th Parallel, the main line of resistance, when they learned that another company that was holding a vital hill in an area known as The Hook was overrun by a huge Chinese force. O’Brien’s company had been waiting in reserve for hours but was soon told to retake the hill.

“They moved us up as far as they could with the trucks. We marched the rest of the way,” O’Brien said, referring to the area where the other Marines had been overrun. “There was no trench line there. It had been completely wiped out with bombs and mortars and artillery, and there were several straggling troops there.”

As his platoon prepared to make their assault, the enemy bombarded them with mortars and artillery. That didn’t stop O’Brien, though. When he got the signal, he leapt from his trench and shouted for his men to follow, then raced across an exposed area and up the enemy-entrenched hill through a hail of gunfire. As he got within range of the Chinese soldiers, he was shot in the arm and thrown to the ground. But he got back on his feet and waved his men on as he continued to spearhead the assault, even as he stopped to help a wounded Marine.

O’Brien hurled hand grenades into enemy bunkers and killed at least three enemy soldiers in hand-to-hand combat. He was knocked down three times by concussion grenades, but each time, he got back up, refusing medical treatment. For four hours, O’Brien continued to keep up the assault and encouraged his platoonmates to push forward, too.

When a lull came in the attack, O’Brien organized his remaining men in a defensive position just in case the enemy returned. He personally checked each spot, then helped the wounded while expediting their evacuation. When another unit eventually came to their relief, O’Brien stayed behind to cover the withdrawal of his platoon to make sure no one was left behind. Thanks to his efforts, U.S. forces recaptured the hill. However, it came at a cost he would never forget.  “We moved in on our objective, and we took it. [But we] left a lot of good kids [behind],”

A year to the day after his actions in Korea, President Dwight D. Eisenhower presented O’Brien with the nation’s highest medal for valor during a White House ceremony.  Seven other service members received the honor that day, too. O’Brien said he and three of the other recipients – Marine Corps Capt. Ray Murphy, Army Cpl. Hiroshi Miyamura and Marine Corps Pfc. Bob Simanek — grew very close afterward and met every year for many years after that.

O’Brien said the Medal of Honor represents the immense sacrifices made by the Marines he led in war — those who came home and those who didn’t. “This medal’s not mine. It belongs to those kids who never grew up to be grandfathers,” he said through tears. “It’s in trust, and I hope I wear it well.”

After the war, O’Brien returned to West Texas to work in the oil and gas industry as a petroleum geologist. The state historical association said he also operated wells in southeastern New Mexico. O’Brien stayed in the Marine Corps Reserve, retiring as a major in 1963. He married twice and had two sons and a daughter. One son, Mike O’Brien, said his father rarely talked about his war days or the accolades he received. Those who knew him said he was humble and gracious.  O’Brien died on March 11, 2005, in Midland, Texas. He was buried in Texas State Cemetery in Austin.



For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a rifle platoon commander of Company H, in action against enemy aggressor forces. With his platoon subjected to an intense mortar and artillery bombardment while preparing to assault a vitally important hill position on the main line of resistance which had been overrun by a numerically superior enemy force on the preceding night, 2d Lt. O’Brien leaped from his trench when the attack signal was given and, shouting for his men to follow, raced across an exposed saddle and up the enemy-held hill through a virtual hail of deadly small-arms, artillery, and mortar fire. Although shot through the arm and thrown to the ground by hostile automatic-weapons fire as he neared the well-entrenched enemy position, he bravely regained his feet, waved his men onward, and continued to spearhead the assault, pausing only long enough to go to the aid of a wounded marine. Encountering the enemy at close-range, he proceeded to hurl hand grenades into the bunkers and, utilizing his carbine to best advantage in savage hand-to-hand combat, succeeded in killing at least three of the enemy. Struck down by the concussion of grenades on three occasions during the subsequent action, he steadfastly refused to be evacuated for medical treatment and continued to lead his platoon in the assault for a period of nearly four hours, repeatedly encouraging his men and maintaining superb direction of the unit. With the attack halted, he set up a defense with his remaining forces to prepare for a counterattack, personally checking each position, attending to the wounded and expediting their evacuation. When a relief of the position was effected by another unit, he remained to cover the withdrawal and to assure that no wounded were left behind. By his exceptionally daring and forceful leadership in the face of overwhelming odds, 2d Lt. O’Brien served as a constant source of inspiration to all who observed him and was greatly instrumental in the recapture of a strategic position on the main line of resistance. His indomitable determination and valiant fighting spirit reflect the highest credit upon himself and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.