Cullum No. 17651 • Sep 19, 1951 • Died in Korea
Submitted by Jim Hornstra
“Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die.” On September 19, 1951, Bloody Heartbreak Ridge, Hill 851, Korea, Love Company Commander, Lt. Peter Howland Monfore and many comrades of the 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Division, met their death. These are the facts as told by the one surviving officer of Love Company:
“The morning of September 12, attack orders came. The Battalion was to cross the L.D. with ‘H’, ‘I’, ‘K’, and ‘L’ Company spearheading. Heartbreak Ridge was reached and we managed to fight our way up about two hundred yards before dark. On the days following this move, the push for Hill 851 started and the objective was almost reached. Peter was always up front with the assault platoon. He said the men liked to see their commanding officer around when the chips were down. The night of the 18th, Pete received orders for a night attack on 851. We moved through ‘K’ Co. at 10:00 PM o’clock and made our way right up on the hill. We dug in, everyone was so tired and happy. Four o’clock on the morning of the 19th, the Reds hit Love Company with two battalions. They cut off ‘K’ Company from us and soon had us completely surrounded. Peter had been reading his Bible. Sensing something was wrong, he put it down, picked up his carbine. As soon as we were out of our bunks we knew it was more than just a probing attack. The fight was overwhelming. We used up all our ammunition. Peter grabbed a BAR, then found a machine gun. The fighting became closer and bitter. We were surrounded. At about two PM o’clock I saw Pete coming toward me. An enemy burp gun got him in the chest, one bullet found his heart. Peter died very shortly, conscious all the time and very calm and cool. He smiled at me, tried, but couldn’t speak. We put him on a litter, and I covered him with a blanket. I think he tried to tell me to take care of the remaining men. Finally ‘K’ and ‘I’ companies came up from behind and helped us to pull back. We, of Love Company, had only forty-four (44) men left out of one hundred and sixty-seven (167).”
“On October 12, Love Company was given the mission of retaking Hill 851. We took it. I am sure every man had Peter on his mind when we finally got up there. The battle of September 18th lasted fourteen hours. I have never seen Pete’s equal in or out of the Army. Peter was a Christian man, and lived every minute of his life as such, always saying his daily prayers and blessing his ‘C’ rations whenever he ate, doing for others, constantly bringing hope and encouragement to his men and being very considerate and thoughtful. I shall never forget him as long as I live. The men are putting him in for the Congressional Medal of Honor. We hope he gets it. We all thought so much of him.”
Thus, ended the short but full and glorious life of Lieut. Peter Howland Monfore, oldest of five children of Mr. and Mrs. Howland Swift Monfore of Springfield, South Dakota. Peter was born in South Dakota on August 10, 1927. His childhood and early youth were spent in the ordinary activities of most boys. He was always a good student and very active in all school activities. He loved sports and participated and was a leader in them. Football was his great love. After attending school at Springfield and Tyndall, South Dakota, Peter progressed to graduation with honors from Washington High School, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and immediately enlisted in the Navy, where he remained until 1946, when he received a letter from the Secretary of War, notifying him of an appointment to the United States Military Academy.
While taking Naval training at the University of Wisconsin, Pete became interested in boxing and under the splendid coaching of DeWitt Portal, John Walsh and Julius Memendez, he became very proficient, receiving the Best Contenders trophy award. He followed this sport at U.S.M.A. and Peter “The Rock”, as he was affectionately called, went on to Captain the Army boxing team, and to make many splendid NCAA showings, and to win the Eastern Intercollegiate light-heavy weight title championship for two successive years, 1949 and 1950.
Peter chose for his tour of duty the Far East Command, feeling that there with the Infantry he could best serve his Lord and country. Following graduation from U.S.M.A. in June 1950, he spent a few weeks among friends and at home. In August 1950, with his spiritual and military background so fresh and new, he was shipped to the battle fields of Korea. In three days he received his first wounds while leading a platoon. After three weeks’ hospitalization and convalescence he returned to the 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Division, and served with it in various capacities, such as platoon leader, regimental liaison officer, etc. Twice he turned down opportunities to become “General’s Aide”. That was not for him. He wanted to be with the front line men. Finally, he was given Love Company to command. Now he was supremely happy. He said, “It is the best job in the whole Army.” He was ever looking after, not only the physical needs but the spiritual needs of his men.
“Peter was courageous. He was awarded a French medal and citation by General Monclar, Commander of the French U.N. forces, for great courage, in spite of fierce enemy cross fire in rescuing a French battalion which had been surrounded by the enemy.”
“I cannot think of any boy that has left the Impression that Pete left with me. I can’t count the times that I have talked to my friends and boys in my classes about him. Peter was the model athlete. When you meet a boy in athletics or physical education like Pete, then you know you are in the right business. I shall always try to develop the fine qualities Peter possessed.”
“Your boy was certainly as fine a soldier as West Point has ever produced. He lived up to every part of, ‘Duty, Honor, Country’. Among all the fine men we lost in this grinding battle, it is hard to say who could be the hardest to lose, but Pete had every attribute of greatness, and was potentially one of the Army’s bright young stars. For several hours we couldn’t believe he was really gone, and kept praying for his return. As a soldier there is little in war to recommend itself to me. The only recompense is in the sense of duty performed for our country, and the great comradeship and respect engendered for our fighting brothers. Ernie Pyle could have written of this battle and your son. I cannot. We of the 23rd Infantry share your grief and participate in your fierce pride.”
We who survive him are proud to look back on his accomplishments and let them be examples which he set forth to serve us and inspire us in our attempt to fulfill the tasks that he would have completed. Pete met death pridefully and manfully in the service of his country, and with faith in his devotion to duty and in defense of all that we and the free people of the world hold most dear. Let us hope that it has helped us on the long hard road by which we may expect to reach a just, honorable, and enduring peace.
—The Monfore Family