Articles

This is how one Marine earned a Navy Cross fighting in the 'Punchbowl'

Intense firefights, mortar attacks, and rough terrain were just some of the many threats the Marines faced as they battled their way across the 38th Parallel of the Korean War.


In the fall of 1951, the infantrymen of 3rd Battalion 5th Marines dealt with overwhelming odds as they occupied an extinct volcano known as the "Punchbowl" located in the Taebaek Mountains.

While taking enemy contact, a Chinese mortar struck a Marine bunker near where replacement Marine Cpl. Salvatore Naimo was engaging opposing forces. From this position, he heard the screams of his wounded comrades coming from inside the newly-damaged area.

Salvatore Naimo's boot camp graduation photo. (Source: Salvatore Naimo)

Naimo, who joined the Marines to avoid being drafted into the Army, dashed over to aid his brothers, exposing himself to enemy fire.

Related: These ax murders along the DMZ almost started another Korean War

As mortars continued to destroy the surrounding area, Naimo spotted two severely wounded Marines and scooped up one of them up, protecting him with his own body. Soon after, Naimo dropped off the first injured Marine at the aid station and headed right back for the second man as waves of incoming enemy fire blanketed their position.

After returning to the aid station with the second wounded Marine, Naimo informed the corpsmen that he was going to head back to the bunker and continue to fight.

Salvatore Naimo in Korea. (Source: Salvatore Naimo)

Upon his arrival at the unmanned bunker, he was lucky to discover the Marines before him had stockpiled it with machine guns, ammo, and extra grenades. As the next wave of Chinese attacks throttled, Naimo fired the arsenal of weapons into the enemy — who closed within 15 yards of his position.

Also Read: The 'Chosin Few' gather to dedicate a monument to Korean War battle

Hours later, Marine Lt. Walter Sharpe came across Naimo's bunker, where he found 36 dead soldiers from the 65th Army Group of Mongolian laid out. Sharpe decided to recommend Naimo for the Navy Cross but sadly was killed in action two days later. He never filed the proper paperwork to get Naimo his Navy Cross.

More than six decades after his heroic efforts, then-Lt. Bruce F. Meyers (who was injured in that same battle) filed the necessary paperwork to award Cpl. Salvatore Naimo the well-deserved Navy Cross.

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