Carl L. Sitter, 77, Ex-Marine Honored for Bravery in Korea

By William Honan,, April 8, 2000


Carl L. Sitter, a former colonel in the United States Marines who won the Medal of Honor for bravery and valiant leadership during 36 hours of hellish hand-to-hand fighting in Korea, died on April 4 at a hospital in Richmond, Va. He was 77.

Colonel Sitter's gallantry at the risk of his own life was demonstrated on Nov. 29 and 30, 1950.

The fighting between the two Koreas had broken out the previous June, when North Korean troops invaded the south and captured the capital city, Seoul. In short order, the defenders of South Korea found themselves huddled in a small enclave surrounding the southern port of Pusan.

Resistance by the south stiffened with the intervention of the American Eighth Army, and with Gen. Douglas MacArthur's daring amphibious landing at Inchon. But on Nov. 25 China entered the fray, with forces greatly outnumbering those of the United Nations.

Within a few days, the situation was desperate at Hagaru-ri, where Company G, commanded by Colonel Sitter, had come face to face with a much larger force of Chinese recruits on a snow-covered hill. Ordered on the morning of Nov. 29 to smash through enemy positions in order to reinforce his battalion, Colonel Sitter continuously exposed himself to enemy fire as he led his company forward.

Despite suffering heavy casualties, Company G reached its objective. Colonel Sitter was wounded in the face, arms and chest.

That night, when the enemy started a sudden counterattack, setting Company G's position ablaze with mortar, machine-gun and automatic-weapons fire, according to his Medal of Honor citation, Colonel Sitter visited each foxhole and gun position, "instilling in every man the will and determination to hold his position at all costs."

More than half of his company was killed, wounded or captured, but, the citation reads, "a successful defense of the area was assured."

Colonel Sitter was given the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman. He is scheduled to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on April 18.

Born on Dec. 2, 1922, in Syracuse, Mo., Carl Leonard Sitter moved with his family to Pueblo, Colo., when he was about 6. He joined the Marines at 17 and was soon in combat during World War II, winning the first of four Purple Hearts.

After the war, while stationed in England, Colonel Sitter earned a bachelor's degree through the extension program run by the University of Maryland.

After 30 years in military service, Colonel Sitter was discharged in 1970. He then worked for the Virginia department of social services.

Colonel Sitter is survived by his wife, Ruth; three children, Mark of Stephens City, Va., Mike of Bremerton, Wash., and Sherrie Torrey of Richmond; and six grandchildren.

At the time of his death, Colonel Sitter was completing a course of study at the Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond that was to have prepared him for the ministry.


Medal of Honor




Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Marine Corps, Company G, 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein.).


Place and date: Hagaru-ri, Korea, 29 and 30 November 1950.


Entered service at: Pueblo, Colo.


Born: 2 December 1921, Syracuse, Mo.




For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of Company G, in action against enemy aggressor forces. Ordered to break through enemy-infested territory to reinforce his battalion the morning of 29 November, Capt. Sitter continuously exposed himself to enemy fire as he led his company forward and, despite 25 percent casualties suffered m the furious action, succeeded in driving through to his objective. Assuming the responsibility of attempting to seize and occupy a strategic area occupied by a hostile force of regiment strength deeply entrenched on a snow-covered hill commanding the entire valley southeast of the town, as well as the line of march of friendly troops withdrawing to the south, he reorganized his depleted units the following morning and boldly led them up the steep, frozen hillside under blistering fire, encouraging and redeploying his troops as casualties occurred and directing forward platoons as they continued the drive to the top of the ridge. During the night when a vastly outnumbering enemy launched a sudden, vicious counterattack, setting the hill ablaze with mortar, machine gun, and automatic-weapons fire and taking a heavy toll in troops, Capt. Sitter visited each foxhole and gun position, coolly deploying and integrating reinforcing units consisting of service personnel unfamiliar with infantry tactics into a coordinated combat team and instilling in every man the will and determination to hold his position at all costs. With the enemy penetrating his lines in repeated counterattacks which often required hand-to-hand combat, and, on one occasion infiltrating to the command post with handgrenades, he fought gallantly with his men in repulsing and killing the fanatic attackers in each encounter. Painfully wounded in the face, arms, and chest by bursting grenades, he staunchly refused to be evacuated and continued to fight on until a successful defense of the area was assured with a loss to the enemy of more than 50 percent dead, wounded, and captured. His valiant leadership, superb tactics, and great personal valor throughout 36 hours of bitter combat reflect the highest credit upon Capt. Sitter and the U.S. Naval Service.

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© 2000 by Neil Mishalov