Paul Bunyan at War

Yes, Paul Bunyan went to war for the U.S.

Well, that was his stage name.  You can see him without his stage makeup above.  His real name was David B. Bleak. He stood about 6′ 6″ and weighed 250 pounds… and he was a Medic.

In short, Sgt Bleak killed four Chinese soldiers with his hands; a fifth with his trench knife.  He smashed the last two Chinese heads together like cymbals after alluding their bayonet charge.  He did all this while treating the wounded; he himself took a round to his leg.

Due to his unswerving devotion to duty, all 20 soldiers – including the wounded of which he carried one – made it back.

He was bestowed the Medal of Honor. Ike presented the decoration:

He passed away at the age of 74, the exact same day that another medic MOH recipient from WWII passed away – Desmond Doss.


From the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation:

David Bleak was 18, living in Wyoming and “shaking the trees” to make something happen in his life early in 1950.  Dissatisfied with his other options, he decided to volunteer for the Army.  He was surprised when the recruiting sergeant told him that there was not much need for soldiers right then.  But a few months later, after war broke out in Korea, the sergeant called him back and told him that things had changed and that the Army needed him and needed him now.  Bleak joined up.

He started his basic training and was slated to be a tanker.  Then one day his sergeant gave him an appraising look and said, “You look like a medical aide man to me.” Bleak understood that he had just
been volunteered.  He was soon transferred to a medical company and, in the Spring of 1951, was sent to Japan as part of the 40th Infantry Division.

Early the next year, Bleak was sent to Korea where he was promoted to sergeant and experienced a brutal winter of constant fighting.  By June his infantry unit was in the vicinity of Minari-gol, North Korea, facing a large force of Chinese dug into a mountain. While the bulk of the U.S. force prepared for a frontal assault, Bleak volunteered to join a reconnaissance patrol assigned to circle around to the rear of the Chinese position to capture prisoners for interrogation.

The patrol stealthily advanced up a hill, captured three isolated enemy soldiers in the enemy trench line, and was starting to withdraw when Bleak and his fellow soldiers were discovered by the enemy. Large numbers of Chinese appeared and opened fire. Several Americans went down almost immediately and Bleak went to help them. Jumping into a trench to tend one wounded soldier, he was charged by three of the enemy. He killed two of them with his bare hands by smashing their heads against rocks.  He killed the third Chinese soldier with his trench knife. After treating his comrade he saw a Chinese concussion grenade hit the ground.  Bleak used his body to shield the man from the impact of the blast.  He continued to treat his wounded comrades despite his injuries from the grenade. The heavy fighting continued and he was shot in the leg.

As the patrol withdrew with its prisoners, Bleak, despite his wounds, grabbed another wounded American and began carrying him to safety.

As he was limping down the hill two more Chinese soldiers came at him with fixed bayonets. Bleak dropped his comrade and managed to evade the bayonet thrusts. He grabbed both men, smashing their heads together and killing one of them. Then he picked up the wounded American again and made it back to safety.

Bleak’s neck was so big that Ike struggled to fasten the ribbon and whispered to him, “You have a damned big neck.”

Bleak went on to raise four children with his wife on a small farm he owned and operated. Later, he went to work for Argonne National Laboratory in the nuclear industry, developing electricity from nuclear energy.


The official U.S. Army Medal of Honor Citation reads:

Sgt. Bleak, a member of the medical company, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and indomitable courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. As a medical aidman, he volunteered to accompany a reconnaissance patrol committed to engage the enemy and capture a prisoner for interrogation. Forging up the rugged slope of the key terrain, the group was subjected to intense automatic weapons and small arms fire and suffered several casualties. After administering to the wounded, he continued to advance with the patrol. Nearing the military crest of the hill, while attempting to cross the fire-swept area to attend the wounded, he came under hostile fire from a small group of the enemy concealed in a trench. Entering the trench he closed with the enemy, killed 2 with bare hands and a third with his trench knife. Moving from the emplacement, he saw a concussion grenade fall in front of a companion and, quickly shifting his position, shielded the man from the impact of the blast. Later, while ministering to the wounded, he was struck by a hostile bullet but, despite the wound, he undertook to evacuate a wounded comrade. As he moved down the hill with his heavy burden, he was attacked by 2 enemy soldiers with fixed bayonets. Closing with the aggressors, he grabbed them and smacked their heads together, then carried his helpless comrade down the hill to safety. Sgt. Bleak’s dauntless courage and intrepid actions reflect utmost credit upon himself and are in keeping with the honored traditions of the military service.

BORN: February 27, 1932
Idaho Falls, Idaho
DIED: March 23, 2006
Arco, Idaho


September 15, 1944.

MacArthur demanded this wretched island be taken… That’s all I want to say about that. So many violent deaths.

This is just a Hollywood movie (“The Pacific” by Hanks/Spielberg). No Hollywood movie can ever “show” war.  I cannot imagine what it truly must have been like.

(Editor’s Note: My apologies but when I try and post with my phone Word App like here, things get “messed up”.)

The Truly Reluctant Admiral Yamamoto – Part X \ Epilogue

“In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain I will run wild and win victory upon victory. But then, if the war continues after that, I have no expectation of success.” – Admiral Yamamoto to Japanese prime minister Fumimaro Konoe.

One of the Doolittle bombers taking off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, April 18, 1942. US Navy.

The date of Admiral Yamamoto’s death was ironic.

Admiral Yamamoto was killed exactly one year after the famous Doolittle Raid on Tokyo on April 18, 1942.

It was like an omen.


The Japanese military and government did not disclose his death for about a month.  When they did, they conducted a grand state funeral.

Here is a link to a Japanese video of his funeral.  At the beginning, it shows the last known movie footage of him on Rabaul, waving to the pilots as they take off to attack Guadalcanal in Operation I boosting morale tremendously.  There is also a glimpse of the only memorial statue of Admiral Yamamoto and a look inside his small home that is now in disrepair.  During the funeral procession, it is very important to note you see Tokyo as it once looked before being leveled. I wonder if my grandparents, mom and aunt were in the crowds:

While his ashes were met in Tokyo by his widow (1), one half of his ashes remained in Tokyo, the other half taken back to his home town of Nagaoka.  There, an unremarkable crypt of about three feet tall entombs one-half of his remains in a small family plot that is visited much more so by history nuts and the curious than by family and relatives.

Admiral Yamamoto’s crypt on a small family plot in Nagaoka.

In a bit of lost history, the funeral procession passed in front of his favorite geisha Chiyoko’s residence.



Similar to how WWII history has become to being taught here in America (meaning forgotten), Japan had chosen post-war to teach very little of WWII if anything.  Because of this, many Japanese younger than say 55 years of age know very little about the war with America… except for the atomic and fire bombings.

For instance, my second wife and her mother never even heard of Iwo Jima.  When I told them it was an island and part of the Tokyo prefecture, they were in disbelief.  They didn’t even know there was a horrendous battle that took 30,000 young Japanese and American lives.  Imagine that… but “the forgetting” is happening here in America too because of misguided emotional beliefs and attitudes of the teachers and school administrations.

GySgt John Basilone, MOH, N/C was KIA on Iwo Jima on the first day. Source unknown.

Here in America, we have ships, airfields and streets named after heroes.  Aircraft carriers USS Chester Nimitz, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, USS George H. W. Bush, O’Hare International Airport, or John Basilone Road near Camp Pendleton.

Piece of the wing from Admiral Yamamoto’s Betty bomber in which he died. Source unknown.

Yamamoto has nothing.  He is rarely even mentioned in Japanese textbooks.  There are no ships, airfields or streets named after him.  Just two unassuming crypts and they are rarely visited by offspring or family.  There is a small museum I was able to see back around 2001 soon after it opened during a business trip but it was hard to find.  Even the train conductor whom I asked for directions didn’t even know who Yamamoto was.  He told me to go to the police kiosk and luckily, one of the officers heard of it and gave me directions – about a 15 minute walk.  It does house a piece of the wing that was part of the Betty bomber he was shot down in.  Oh, there is a small statue of him in his hometown near his crypt.

The lack of honorariums is an insult, in my opinion, as he gave his life to a war he knew he couldn’t win.  He was simply loyal to his emperor. I also believe from my civilian’s chair that Yamamoto was one of the greatest prophetic naval minds in history – so much so that Nimitz viewed him as his greatest threat.

In his time, those in the Japanese military who wanted to see him assassinated believed he was “pro-American” or just a cowardly “dove”.  I don’t see it that way.  I believe he was a patriot, loved his country and was the consummate military man wearing the uniform of his country – just like Patton, Ike, and Nimitz.  He simply did what he thought best for his country given his orders and conditions – that the pompous Army-led government wanted a war that Yamamoto knew they could not win.  He therefore believed the only way to achieve this haughty vision of victory against the US and England was to execute a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and disabling the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet.(2)  He may have succeeded if Nagumo had indeed attempted to carry out Yamamoto’s full orders and battle plan.  Nagumo failed to do so.

(Note: As an American, I fully accept that any attack on a country should be preceded by a declaration of war.  However, just as I/we believe a declaration of war is necessary before hostilities, the samurai roots of Japan totally accepted surprise attacks as the norm.  Just a fact.)

…but as a military leader, I feel for him.  He knew Japan could not win.  What was he to do?  Step aside and let others lead the young men to their deaths under less competent leadership?  Or lead them himself into a war they could not win and should not fight?  Of course, he chose the latter and appropriately so.  In my opinion, he should not be condemned because he did.

But it cost him his life.

The man whose name was his samurai father’s age at birth, the man who did handstands to break the thick air and bring laughter, the man who was a winner at gambling around the globe, the man who was nicknamed “Eighty Sen” by geishas… died fighting for the country who would then quickly bury him in their lost history.


If he was not killed in the daring and risky attack hastily put together by the USAAF, what would have happened to him if he was alive on the day of surrender?

Would he have killed himself?  Many did.  He was the son of a respected samurai.

Or would he have surrendered like General Yamashita did in the Philippines only to be hung shortly thereafter as a war criminal in a hasty trial?

Would MacArthur have spared Yamamoto to be used as a liaison with his understanding of America and his fluent English during the Occupation?  After all, he was revered in Japan as was Ike and Patton here.  That may have been ideal but unlikely due to the immense hatred bred onto him by American propaganda.

We will never know.

Perhaps it was best he died a warrior while leading his troops.



(1) In the first video, Admiral Yamamoto’s ashes disembark from the train after its arrival in Tokyo on May 23, 1943.

This second video is the “official” national footage of the state funeral procession.  You can glimpse the infamous General Tojo at about the 3:10 mark and his widow and three children at about the 3:20 mark:

(2) Against Admiral RIchardson’s stern advice to FDR for which he was fired, the US Seventh Fleet was moved out of San Diego to Pearl Harbor by FDR.  Yamamoto, just like Richardson, saw it as a dumb military move.  They were both right.  This is one reason why I firmly believe FDR wanted Japan to attack the US and get us into a war which he campaigned against.