Samuel Streit Coursen MOH

b. 04/08/1926 Madison, New Jersey. d. 12/10/1950 near Kaesong, Korea.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 12/10/1950 near Kaesong, Korea.

Samuel S Coursen MOH

Samuel S. Coursen was born August 4, 1926 in Madison, New Jersey. His father, Wallace Melville Coursen, was a principal in the New York accounting firm of Haskins & Sells; his mother was the former Kathleen Howell. Coursen graduated in 1945 from the Newark (New Jersey) Academy where he was an accomplished athlete.

He was awarded an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy in 1945 and graduated with the class of 1949. After graduation, Coursen married Evangeline Joy Sprague of Virginia Beach, Virginia and the daughter of U.S. Navy Captain Albert Sprague, then commander of the Navy Ammunition Depot at Lake Denmark, New Jersey.

Coursen was commissioned a second lieutenant of infantry in the Regular Army upon graduation from West Point. In August 1950, he attended the Officer’s Basic Course of the Ground General School at Fort Riley, Kansas. By January 1950, Coursen was going through the Infantry Officer’s Basic and Basic Airborne courses at Fort Benning, Georgia. In July 1950, he was en route to Far East Command. Promoted to first lieutenant in the Army of the United States, Coursen took command of a platoon of Company C, 5th Cavalry Regiment (United States), 1st Cavalry Division (United States) on October 6, 1950. The 5th Cavalry fought in the Pacific theater during World War II and in the post-war years posted in Japan. The regiment was transferred to Korea in July 1950, weeks after the North Korean invasion that prompted the Korean War.

At 09:00 on October 9, 1950, the 1st Cavalry Division as part of the Eighth United States Army struck out across the 38th Parallel. Initially, the advance was slow. Along the main highway the 8th Cavalry stopped repeatedly and waited for engineer troops to clear mines from the road. Halfway to Kumch’on the twelfth the regiment was halted by a KPA strongpoint, defended by tanks, self-propelled guns, and antiaircraft weapons. In spite of a sixteen-plane air strike and a 155-mm. howitzer barrage, the strongpoint held.

The 5th Cavalry Regiment, which also ran into trouble at the start, failed to cross the parallel until October 10, 1950. The next day the regiment’s 1st Battalion encountered a KPA force holding a long ridge with several knobs—Hills 179, 175, and 174—that dominated a pass 15 miles (24 km) northeast of Kaesong. The infantrymen drove the defenders from the ridge during the afternoon of October 12, but the fight was fierce.

In the battle for Hill 174, Coursen observed that one of the men of his platoon had entered a well-hidden gun emplacement, thought to be unoccupied, and had been shot. Coursen ran to his aid and without regard for his personal safety, Coursen engaged the KPA in hand-to-hand combat in an effort to protect the wounded soldier until he himself was killed. When his body was recovered after the battle, seven KPA dead were found within the emplacement. Coursen’s actions saved the wounded soldier’s life and eliminated the main position of the enemy roadblock. For his actions, Lieutenant Coursen was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

On June 15, 1951, it was announced by The Pentagon that Coursen would be awarded the Medal of Honor. On June 21, 1951, Coursen’s 14-month-old son, Samuel, Jr., of Morristown, New Jersey, was presented the award in a Pentagon ceremony by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman and General of the Army Omar N. Bradley.



1st Lt. Coursen distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action. While Company C was attacking Hill 174 under heavy enemy small-arms fire, his platoon received enemy fire from close range. The platoon returned the fire and continued to advance. During this phase 1 his men moved into a well-camouflaged emplacement, which was thought to be unoccupied, and was wounded by the enemy who were hidden within the emplacement. Seeing the soldier in difficulty he rushed to the man’s aid and, without regard for his personal safety, engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat in an effort to protect his wounded comrade until he himself was killed. When his body was recovered after the battle 7 enemy dead were found in the emplacement. As the result of 1st Lt. Coursen’s violent struggle several of the enemies’ heads had been crushed with his rifle. His aggressive and intrepid actions saved the life of the wounded man, eliminated the main position of the enemy roadblock, and greatly inspired the men in his command.