On Sept. 14, 1951, in Korea, Cpl. Salvatore Naimo was dug into a hill just north of the 38th parallel in an area called the punchbowl.
He was with the rest of Howe Company 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, when they suddenly came up fire from Chinese mortars and cannons.
On that day, the company was bombarded by Chinese mortar and cannon fire and assaulted by Chinese infantrymen.
On Wednesday Naimo was awarded the Silver Star, nearly 70 years after his heroic actions on that battlefield in Korea, where he dragged two comrades to safety and played a key part in repelling the Chinese assault, a Marine Corps press release said.
The Marine was manning his M240 machine gun on top of his AAV when his right forearm was hit with an enemy bullet.
During the shelling, a round landed a direct hit on a nearby fighting hole severely injuring two Marines in Naimo’s company, according to the press release.
As soon as he heard the cries for help the young corporal sprang into action.
Ignoring the artillery shells landing around him, he picked up the first injured Marine and started to carry him back to the company’s corpsman toward the rear of the position, according to the release.
As he was carrying the Marine, both were knocked down by the blast of an artillery shell that landed nearby, wounding Naimo.
Despite the injuries Naimo eventually was able to reach the corpsman with the injured Marines.
Naimo stayed with the Corpsman just long enough to stop his own bleeding before running back into danger to rescue the second Marine hit by the shell, the press release said.
After successfully carrying the second Marine to the corpsman, Naimo saw Chinese troops advancing on his company’s position.
Jumping into a nearby fighting hole, Naimo “began to fire his own rifle, throw grenades, and other weapons stashed until nearly out of ammunition,” the release said.
“His efforts successfully fought back the enemy, and Howe Company retained the hill.”
The Marine’s platoon commander said he would put Naimo in for a medal in recognition of his bravery in the fight, but the officer was killed two days as the battle continued.
Naimo’s company commander also was injured before he could submit Naimo for any award.
To make up for the oversight, Col. John Polidoro, chief of staff, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Central Command, awarded Naimo the Silver Star during a celebration of the Korean war veteran’s 89th birthday.
“The normal reaction when under fire is fear; that is the reaction,” Polidoro said in the release. “It’s a very difficult and deliberate decision to act, especially to put yourself at risk to save or protect your fellow Marine. It doesn’t matter if the Marine’s actions took place yesterday, or 70 years ago, we will always ensure our Marines are recognized for their performance.”
Naimo said he was “very proud” of the award, but he remained humble.
“I earned this for something I was trained to do,” Naimo said in the press release.