Col. Walter B. Clark (Ret.)
Colonel Walter Ballard Clark, USA (Ret.), entered into eternal rest on the evening of May 29, 2010, in Charleston, South Carolina. He will be buried in Beaufort National Cemetery.
Walter B. Clark was born in Atlanta, GA, on August 22, 1930, the son of Walter Benjamin Clark and Eleanor Verdery Clark. He was of the Protestant faith. He retired as an infantry officer from the United States Army and was a veteran of Korea and Vietnam.
His distinguished Army career spanned more than twenty-seven years. In 1952, Clark, then a lieutenant, served with the 65th Infantry Regiment in Company “C” where he received a Silver Star. In the early morning hours of 19 July 1952 the company of which Lt. Clark was a platoon leader was advancing against the enemy in the vicinity of Yu-hyon, Korea, when the foe directed an intense barrage of small arms and mortar fire against the friendly troops. Realizing that his men were becoming disorganized, Lt. Clark, shouting words of encouragement, reorganized them and fearlessly led them in the attack on the enemy positions. As he was nearing the enemy trenches, he was wounded by an enemy grenade but continued to lead his men, killing or wounding several of the foe. When his carbine refused to function, he threw away the weapon, drew his pistol and continued in the attack. Upon reaching the enemy trenches, and while hurling grenades into their positions, he again was wounded by enemy small arms fire. At last enemy fire of ever increasing intensity forced the friendly unit to move back. When the order to withdraw was given, he refused medical aid and with complete disregard for his personal safety, he moved through the heavy hostile fire assisting in the evacuation of the wounded. Only after all his men had withdrawn and all the wounded had been evacuated did he except treatment for his own wounds. The gallantry and selfless actions exhibited by Lt. Clark throughout this action reflect the highest credit upon himself and the military service. Entered the Federal service from Georgia. Entered the Federal service from Georgia. For a detailed accounting of Col. Clark’s heroic deed, please read MAMBO ON HILL 167 written by LTC Baltazar Soto (see below).
Following the Korean Conflict, Col. Clark served as the Aide-de-Camp to the Commanding General at Fort Benning, General Joseph H. Harper. He served as an advisor to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) and was assigned to the Army Staff in the Operations Center for the Chief of Staff of the Army. Col. Clark was Aide-de-Camp to the Commanding General, US Forces Korea, serving under General Bonesteel. He commanded the 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, at Fort Carson, Colorado. He was the Province Senior Advisor in Vinh Binh Province, South Vietnam. Following his service in Vietnam, Col. Clark was assigned as Professor of Military Science at The Citadel, where he was later appointed Commandant of Cadets.
Col. Clark was a graduate of The Citadel, Class of 1951. He graduated from the Armed Forces Staff College and the United States Army War College. His numerous decorations include the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart with two oak leaf clusters, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, three Army Commendation Medals, Korea and Vietnam service medals, and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.
Walter B. Clark is survived by Ellen Perry Clark, his wife of fifty-seven years, of Charleston, SC; a daughter, Marion Clark, and her husband Michael McGhee of Greenwood, SC; two sons: Col. Benjamin Ravenel Clark and his wife Kimberly of Alexandria, VA, and David Ballard Clark of Kidder, MO; five grandchildren: Colleen McGhee and Sarah McGhee; McKenzie Clark; Andrew Clark and Kevin Clark and their mother, Melissa F. Clark. Additionally surviving is a niece, Patricia Conner.
MAMBO ON HILL 167
By ©LTC Baltazar (Bart) Soto (Retired, US Army Reserve)
First Lieutenant Walt B. Clark was Platoon Leader of the 2nd Platoon of “C” Company “Borinqueneers”. He had recently graduated from the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina and Infantry Officer Basic Course. The young 21-year old Clark looked at his assignment as a challenge in leadership, since he was selected to lead these mostly Spanish- speaking soldiers from the tropical island of Puerto Rico. Many officers at the time thought it was the kiss of death to be assigned to the Puerto Rican Regiment. The critics mockingly called the regiment the “seeeexty feeeeth” trying to imitate the Spanish accent of most of the unit’s Puerto Rican soldiers.
Ever since he had first taken command of the 2nd Platoon, in March 1952, Lt. Clark wanted to instill in his men aggressiveness – “the spirit of the bayonet”. He always had a kitchen grinding stone present so his men could sharpen the 10 inch blade of their bayonets and insisted they carry their bayonets with them at all times. He even ordered his men to sleep with their bayonets affixed to their M-1 rifles. Finally after months of outpost duty he and his platoon would get the chance to attack. The mission was conceived on short notice. The orders were to: “raid Chinese outpost positions on Hill 167 in stealth and darkness, capture prisoners and leave a squad of volunteers on 167 to observe Chinese Main Line of Resistance (MLR) area – squad to remain for 48 hours”.
Clark’s Platoon mission would be to actually go into the objective, seize the hill, and take the prisoners. The rest of the company would provide suppression, security, and support. Third Division had taken no Prisoners of War for a number of weeks. The Company Commander, Captain Henry E. Hutcheson, explained that the S-2 (Intelligence) estimated half an enemy squad was occupying the objective as an outpost. So his platoon should have no problem overwhelming the Chinese. A tank section on the MLR would provide support by fire. After assembling in darkness near the steep slopes of Hill 250, along the Outpost Line of Resistance, the Company moved out 18 July 1952 and crossed the Line of Departure (LD) at 24:00, so contact with the enemy would occur on 19 July. The company became lost in the dark. Noise discipline was very poor, undoubtedly alerting the enemy very early. It was not until the sun began to rise that they found the objective, negating the “stealth” part of the mission. The 2nd Platoon began the assault moving to the objective from the north.
The Chinese allowed the 2nd Platoon scouts to move within a few feet before opening up with a murderous fire of four Soviet Maxim Heavy Machine Guns, small arms, and grenades. The infantrymen instinctively threw themselves down to hug the earth and take cover. A Chinese soldier on top of the hill signaled with a large red flag. Lt. Clark and the 2nd Platoon quickly found out what that signal meant. The Chinese, with complete disregard for their own soldiers, fired mortar and artillery shells into their battle position as 2nd Platoon advanced. Clark immediately charged into the enemy position leading his platoon of infantry with fixed bayonets shouting “Arriba Muchachos!” Platoon Sergeant, Master Sgt. Santos Candelario, helped to rally the rest of the platoon following their Lieutenant.
The Lieutenant fearlessly led his men into the position which consisted of three concentric trench lines on the hill. Lt. Clark was wounded by an enemy grenade but continued his charge. He hurled grenades and shot several enemy soldiers while charging the hill. As he entered a trench and turned a corner he came face to face with a Chinese soldier. Several things happened instantaneously within split seconds. They both raised their weapons and fired at each other. Clark’s M2 Carbine jammed but the enemy fired a burst from his Soviet Model PPSh41 “Burp Gun” hitting Clark in the thigh. Clark threw his carbine away and instinctively jumped on the soldier. At the same time he took his steel pot off and began beating him senseless. When the soldier moved Clark remembered he still had his Smith & Wesson 45 revolver and shot him. The remaining Chinese nearby hurled several grenades at Lt. Clark wounding him in the legs, knee, and face.
Cpl. Jose Otero-Gonzalez ran thru the hail of fire, following his Lieutenant, firing his rifle, and throwing hand grenades at the Chinese. Near one of the enemy trenches, he found his platoon leader injured and stretched out on the ground. Otero told his Lieutenant, “I’ll save you”. Private First Class (PFC) Maximino Paoli had also run up with Otero when suddenly Paoli was knocked down wounded in the head. Clark thought Paoli was dead. Paoli jumped back up furious and bayoneted the two Chinese who were throwing grenades directly at Lt. Clark. Later Paoli discovered a bullet wedged in his helmet between the liner and the steel pot. Cpl. Otero spotted another Non-Commissioned Officer and rescued him also, risking his own life thru the rain of enemy bullets, grenades, mortars and artillery.
The intensity of the enemy fire was so severe, it did not allow the other two rifle platoons of “C” Company to the east to provide any support. The entire 2nd Platoon, following the example of their leaders, fought in the trenches hand to hand. Small Chinese bunkers were blown up by a 57mm recoilless rifle team accompanying the platoon or were directly assaulted by the infantryman. As the brutal fight progressed for several hours, it turned out the enemy “half squad” of 3-4 riflemen was a lot more, instead possibly an enemy Company of a hundred. Perhaps the bravest man Lt. Clark witnessed that day was the Medic, PFC Demetrio Villalobos-Melendez. With all the death and maiming going on in the bloody brawl, he calmly went about the business of saving lives, moving thru the fire and attending to the wounded. For this he would eventually receive the Bronze Star.
The 2nd Platoon was already intermingled with the Chinese on the hill and our tanks could not risk firing and killing their own troops. On its own and outnumbered at least two to one, 2nd Platoon still managed to chase the enemy from the position, then machine gun the Chinese who were running away back to their lines. The 2nd Platoon succeeded in capturing two Chinese Prisoners in the gruesome melee.
Clark and his Platoon of Puerto Rican infantry owned Hill 167 until they received orders to withdraw from the position. The Lieutenant refused medical aid and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, he moved through the heavy hostile fire assisting in the evacuation of the wounded. By this time, the two enemy prisoners they had captured had already been killed by the intense Chinese fire.
Lt. Clark was the last member of 2nd Platoon to leave the enemy position. The platoon took all their wounded and dead back with them, including the upper half of one of its soldiers. No one was left behind. During the retreat to the MLR the Chinese fired an estimated 3,000 rounds of mortar and artillery at the retreating platoon. Clark was unable to keep up with his men. During his lonely walk back, he was lifted off the ground three times by the 122mm mortar shelling along the withdrawal route. Miraculously, he eventually reached the Battalion Aid Station at approximately 11:00 hours.
Nine Bronze Stars and two Silver Stars were awarded to “C” Company for their heroism that day, mostly to the soldiers of 2nd Platoon. Cpl. Otero received the Bronze Star and Captain Enrique A. Vicens, a Medical Officer of the 65th Infantry, received the Bronze Star for risking his life to aid the wounded as they reached the MLR. C Company First Sergeant, Master Sgt. Rafael E. Balzac, also assisted in evacuating a wounded comrade. Upon reaching friendly positions, he refused medical aid for his wounds, and after calling for volunteers to accompany him, left his position of relative safety to further assist in evacuating the wounded. As he was carrying a fallen comrade to safety on his shoulders, the entire area was brought under a devastating barrage of enemy mortar fire, which killed him. 1st Sgt. Balzac was awarded the Silver Star, posthumously. His body was not recovered until a couple of days after the battle. The casualties that day were 7 killed and 24 wounded… or over 50% of the Platoon.
Lieutenant Clark was awarded the Silver Star and two Purple Hearts for six separate grenade wounds and the bullet wound he received. During his long recovery from his wounds at the hospital, Clark learned that his troops had named that vicious fight as the “Mambo of Hill 167” (when the men of the 65th were going to “rumble” in combat, they would refer to it as “going to the Mambo”).
Today Hill 167 is deep inside the Demilitarized Zone near North Korea.
Writer Bart Soto is interested in finding any of the individuals who participated in the above mentioned battle. Please contact us if you have any information. April, 2004.
Copyright owner LTC Baltazar (Bart) Soto (Retired, US Army Reserve). This article cannot be published or reproduced without permission or authorization. To be used for educational purposes only.