William Earl Barber MOH

b. 30/11/1919 Dehart, Kentucky. d. 19/04/2002 Irvine, California.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 28/11 – 06/12/1950 Choisin Reservoir, Korea.

William E Barber MOH

William Earl Barber was born on November 30, 1919, in Dehart, Kentucky. He completed Morgan County High School in West Liberty, Kentucky, and attended Morehead State Teachers College for two years, prior to enlisting in the Marine Corps at age 21. Barber was married to his wife Ione for 60 years. He had two children, John and Sharon, and three granddaughters.

Barber enlisted in the Marine Corps in March 1940 and completed his recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, followed by parachute training at the Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey. After parachute training, Barber was designated a paramarine and assigned as a parachute instructor at the newly activated Parachute Training School at New River, North Carolina. In May 1943, he entered Officer Candidates School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, and was commissioned a second lieutenant on August 11, 1943

Second Lieutenant Barber served with the 1st Parachute Regiment on the West Coast until 1944. Assigned as a platoon commander with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, he embarked for the Pacific area and later took part in the Battle of Iwo Jima. After being wounded, twice, 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 Medal and two Purple Heart Medals 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.

In October 1950, Barber (captain) was ordered to Korea and took part in the action for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart Medal — the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in November and December 1950. He was presented with his Medal of Honor on 20 August 1952 at the White House from President Harry S Truman. 

Major Barber completed the Advanced Infantry Course, Fort Benning, Georgia, 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.

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.”

Colonel Barber retired from active duty on May 1, 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, California, on April 19, 2002, of bone marrow cancer and he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.



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.