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Tour Through Time: First Carlisle Army War College class included a Distinguished Service Cross recipient
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Tour Through Time: First Carlisle Army War College class included a Distinguished Service Cross recipient

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Lt. Gen. Joseph M. Swing, left, has just pinned the Distinguished Service Cross on Col. William "Wild Bill" Harris, a Korean War veteran who was a member of the first class of students to study at the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks. 

It looked like the end for the unit of mounted artillerymen ambushed by hostile forces near Hambung-ni, Korea, on Sept. 26-27, 1950.

Lt. Col. William Harris knew quick action was needed to prevent his men from being destroyed by the 10 enemy tanks backed by infantry.

“The tanks moved directly into the friendly column, firing rapidly, smashing vehicles and equipment and disorganizing friendly troops,” the citation reads. “Harris, realizing the perilous situation of his unit, immediately went toward the head of the column, completely disregarding the intense enemy fire.”

Visitors offered insight upon outbreak of Korean War

That moment of bravery proved decisive. Harris rallied his men, reorganized their ranks and led them in a counterattack that knocked out the tanks, destroyed five artillery pieces and captured a dozen enemy trucks.

Almost a year later, on Aug. 1, 1951, Harris, now a colonel, received the Distinguished Service Cross for his courage that day in Korea. Also known as “Wild Bill,” Harris was in the first class of students to study at the Army War College after it moved to Carlisle Barracks in the spring of 1951.

The first Carlisle commandant, Lt. Gen. Joseph M. Swing, presented Harris with the medal during a ceremony on the post. For his service in Korea, Harris also received the Silver Star for gallantry and the Oak Leaf Cluster to the Bronze Star.

“Harris returned on rotation from Korea this past May,” The Sentinel reported on Aug. 1. “As leader of the famed Seventh Cavalry Regiment of the First Cavalry Division, he helped write many more pages of history to the regiment’s archives which trace back to the days of General Custer. He [Harris] commanded the regiment from early July of last year through April 1951, and saw most of the heaviest fighting in Korea.”

Tour Through Time runs Saturday in The Sentinel print edition. Reporter Joseph Cress will work with the Cumberland County Historical Society each week to look at the county through the years. Send any questions, future ideas or tips to jcress@cumberlink.com.

Email Joseph Cress at jcress@cumberlink.com.

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