Sep 5

HM3 Edward C. Benfold

Monday, September 5, 2011 12:01 AM


Hospital Corpsman Third Class Edward Clyde Benfold hailed from Staten Island, New York, and enlisted as a hospital recruit in the U.S. Navy in June 1949. Following additional medical training, and previous duty with the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific (FMFPac), HM3 Benfold rejoined FMFPac in late July 1952 for duty with the 1st Marine Division in Korea.

On 5 September 1952, just a few weeks after his arrival in Korea, HM3 Benfold was killed in action while treating two Marines. He was serving with Company E, 2d Battalion, 1st Marines in operations against enemy aggressor forces during the battle of “Bunker Hill.” When his company was subjected to heavy artillery fire, and an assault by a battalion-sized enemy force, he moved from casualty to casualty under intense enemy fire, administering aid. As Benfold approached a crater where two Marines lay wounded, he saw two grenades land inside, while two enemy soldiers charged the position. He rushed in, grabbing the grenades, and, according to his award citation, “leaped out of the crater and hurled himself against the onrushing hostile soldiers, pushing the grenades against their chests and killing both the attackers. Mortally wounded while carrying out this heroic act, Benfold, by his great personal valor and resolute spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of almost certain death, was directly responsible for saving the lives of his two comrades.” 

Rear Admiral John H. Brown, Jr., Commandant of the 4th Naval District, presented the Medal of Honor to HM3 Benfold’s young son, who was just over a year old at the time, on 16 July 1953. The guided missile destroyer USS Benfold, named in honor of the hospital corpsman, was launched on 12 November 1994. In December 2004, more than 50 years after the Korean War, 300 members of the Arleigh Burke class destroyer bearing his name provided humanitarian relief to tens of thousands survivors of the tsunami in Indonesia.

  • William George, Jr.

    My father, Willian T.George, was the corpsman replaced by Edward Benfold in Korea. I don’t believe my father witnessed Corpsman Benfold’s heroic action, but he mentioned him in a letter he wrote to a friend of his who had been wounded and was recovering back at Great Lakes.

    “The corpsman that relieved me, a kid named Benfold, was with the company about 2 weeks, and he got killed. He is up for the congressional medal, because a gook threw a few grenades in a bunker that he was treating casualties[in] and he scooped them up in his hands running out with them and they went off.”

    That is all he says about the “kid.” My dad was 21 when he wrote the letter. The corpsman my father replaced had also been killed in action. My father was wounded twice in combat and was awarded the Bronze Star for his heroic actions on August 9, 1952. According to his medal citation, a Marine platoon on patrol “suffered numerous casualties from intense enemy mortar and artillery fire. GEORGE constantly exposed himself to devastating hostile fire in an effort to administer medical aid to the stricken men and, in one occasion, bravely advanced into an active enemy mine field to assist one of the wounded Marines.” He was able to reorganize the men and “led them to a safe position in the rear area.”

    In his letter he mentions several other combat incidents, including one where the company went out on a raid, and “it turned into a mess, there were 12 men missing, and the next morning they found them all staked out on a hill.” He told me the enemy would capture Marines, torture them, mutilate their bodies and stake them into the hillsides.

    What heroic men. I guess they were chosen as corpsmen in part because they put the lives of others ahead of their own. My father died at age 72, and always remembered the sacrifices made by the Navy corpsmen. I read where Corpsman Benfold’s son received the Medal of Honor. I believe his son would be about my age, and it would certainly be an honor to be in touch with him.