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.
After enlisting for a second time, Corporal Joseph Vittori was sent to the Republic of Korea at the beginning of the Korean War. Alone in a position of his company’s defense, Vittori held off hundreds of enemy fighters to the death, and was awarded the Medal of Honor.
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.
Corporal Joseph Vittori was born on August 1st, 1929 in Beverly, Massachusetts.
In 1946 at 17 years old, Vittori enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. He served for three years before being honorably discharged and returning home to work as a plasterer and bricklayer. Vittori then re-enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve for an indefinite tour of active duty.
He was sent to the Republic of Korea in 1950 at the beginning of the Korean War. The U.S. and United Nations entry into the war had saved South Korean forces from the brink of destruction. The North, however, was bolstered by China’s intervention in late 1950.
On September 16th, 1951, Vittori and his company took part in the Battle of the Punchbowl, an engagement that was part of a United Nations offensive to gain better terrain for their defensive lines. The day before, Vittori’s company had cleared Hill 749 of Korean People’s Army forces. At midnight, the KPA’s 91st Regiment counterattacked the hill, using heavy indirect fire. Seeing the forward platoon taking heavy casualties, Vittori and two Marines voluntarily left the reserve platoon to reinforce the line, immediately jumping into hand to hand combat with KPA soldiers. When a Marine called for aid manning an isolated machine gun position, Vittori ran to help. During the KPA attacks, Vittori ran from foxhole to foxhole, covering each flank, and then manning the machine gun when the gunner was hit. He repeatedly ran through heavy enemy fire from his position to the company for more ammunition. As the enemy pressed the attack, Vittori was alone and isolated from the company, but continued to repel the KPA from his position until he was mortally wounded by enemy machine gun and small arms fire. When the Marines returned to his position the next day, they found Vittori’s body surrounded by approximately 200 dead enemies.
On September 7th, 1952, Vittori was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on Hill 749. The award was presented by Secretary of the Navy Dan Kimball to his family at the Pentagon. Vittori’s other awards include two Purple Hearts, the Navy Occupation Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal, and the United Nations Service Medal. He was originally buried at the UN military cemetery in Busan, before being reburied at St. Mary’s Cemetery, in his hometown.
The Medal of Honor Podcast is a production of Evergreen Podcasts.
Nathan Corson is our producer and engineer, León Pescador is our script writer, Declan Rohrs is our script editor and recording engineer, and I’m Ken Harbaugh.
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