Ken Harbaugh tells the stories of service members who have distinguished themselves through an act of valor. These stories feature recipients from the Civil War to present day, including a few who were originally overlooked for the medal.
2ndLt O’Brien fought in the Korean War’s First Battle of the Hook. After the PVA seized a key hill near the 38th Parallel, O’Brien led an attack through mortar and artillery fire to win it back. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions, during a ceremony at the White House in 1953.
Welcome to the Medal of Honor podcast, brought to you in partnership with the National Medal of Honor Museum. I’m Ken Harbaugh. In each episode, we’ll learn about a different service member who has distinguished him or herself through an act of valor.
Second Lieutenant George O’Brien Jr. was born on September 10th, 1926 in Fort Worth, Texas. He graduated from high school in 1944 and enlisted in the United States Merchant Marine, where he served for two years.
After leaving the Merchant Marine, O’Brien attended Texas Tech and graduated with a BS in Geology in 1950.
O’Brien had enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve in ‘49, and in late 1951, he received active duty orders to Officer Candidate School. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant a year later.
O’Brien then deployed to Korea with the 1st Marine Division, and was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines. There, O’Brien was thrust into the First Battle of the Hook.
By this time, the Korean War had reached a stalemate, with neither side gaining an upper hand. That did not diminish the vicious fighting for O’Brien, who was on an outpost at the United Nations’ Main Line of Resistance.
In early October of 1952, China’s People’s Volunteer Army steadily gained ground, taking numerous outposts from the Marines. On October 27th, O’Brien and his platoon were preparing to assault a key hill that the PVA had won the night before. As they prepared to launch the attack, they came under intense mortar and artillery fire. O’Brien jumped out of the trench and signaled the attack as his Marines came under small arms fire. An automatic weapon wounded O’Brien in the arm and knocked him down, but O’Brien got up and continued to lead the attack. He stopped to help a wounded Marine, then threw grenades into enemy bunkers and fought hand to hand. O’Brien was knocked down three more times from grenades, but continued the nearly four-hour attack and refused treatment for his wounds. When the attack finally stopped, he established a hasty defense and evacuated the wounded. O’Brien was the last man to leave the hill when relief finally arrived.
A year later on October 27th, 1953, O’Brien received the Medal of Honor from President Eisenhower at the White House. O’Brien was also awarded two Purple Hearts, the Korean Service Medal with two Bronze Stars, and the United Nations Service Medal. He stayed in the Marine Corps Reserve for another decade, leaving as a Major.
When O’Brien returned to Texas, he raised a family and volunteered at the Big Springs VA hospital. About the Medal of Honor he received, O’brien said this: “The Medal of Honor is not mine; I hold it in trust for so many young people who didn’t become grandfathers.”
George O’Brian Jr. passed away on March 11th, 2005.
The Medal of Honor podcast is a production of Evergreen Podcasts.
Nathan Corson is our producer and engineer, León Pescador is our associate producer, and I’m Ken Harbaugh.
We are proud to support the National Medal of Honor Museum. To learn more, and to support their mission, go to mohmuseum.org. Thanks for listening.