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.
Sergeant David Bruce Bleak served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, and was assigned to the Army Medical Service. As he and a patrol of 20 men attempted to capture Hill 499, Sergeant Bleak continuously administered aid while killing four enemies with his bare hands and one with a trench knife, protecting a fellow soldier from a grenade blast, and carrying another down the hill down to safety.
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.
David Bruce Bleak was born on February 27th, 1932 in Idaho Falls, Idaho. At 18 years old, five months after the start of the Korean War, he joined the Army, and was assigned to the Army Medical Service. Bleak was later deployed to Korea with the 223rd Infantry Regiment of the 40th Infantry division.
On June 14th, 1952, near Minari-gol, the 223rd sent a 20-man reconnaissance patrol to capture Hill 499. Knowing Chinese soldiers were operating there, they aimed to engage the enemy and capture prisoners to obtain information. Sergeant Bleak volunteered to accompany the patrol.
As they attempted to climb the rugged slope of Hill 499, they came under intense small-arms and automatic weapon fire. Bleak continuously administered aid to the patrol, allowing them to continue their advance. Approaching their objective, Bleak attempted to reach wounded soldiers through the flame-scarred terrain, but was stopped by fire from a small group of enemies in a nearby trench. Bleak charged the trench, and at 6 foot 5 and 250 pounds, he towered over the enemy. He snapped one soldier's neck and crushed the other's windpipe before killing a third with his trench knife. As he left the trench, an enemy grenade flew in and hit the helmet of a nearby friendly soldier. Bleak instinctively shielded the man, protecting him from the blast. Sergeant Bleak continued to administer aid and was later shot in the leg, but ignored his injury to evacuate a wounded comrade. They began descending down the hill, but were stopped by two enemies with fixed bayonets. Bleak grabbed them both and smacked their heads together before picking up his wounded comrade and carrying him the rest of the way down the hill to safety.
One year later on October 27th, 1953, President Eisenhower presented Sergeant David Bruce Bleak with the Medal of Honor for the courage he displayed on Hill 499. He also received the Purple Heart.
Bleak passed away on March 23rd, 2006, the same day as another Medal of Honor recipient, Desmond Doss.
The Medal of Honor podcast is a production of Evergreen Podcasts.
Nathan Corson is our executive producer and mixing engineer, Declan Rohrs is our associate producer, scriptwriter, and recording engineer, 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.