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:

https://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675020752_President-Dwight-D-Eisenhower_Medal-of-Honor_Seargent-David-B-Bleak_Naval-officer

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

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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.

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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

15 thoughts on “Paul Bunyan at War”

    1. Thank you, sir. This didn’t require much time and when I read the official MOH citation, I couldn’t resist posting it. How often do you see, “…smacked their heads together…” with regards to a Medal of Honor? 🙂

  1. Koji, a regular reader on my site, Amy, is very interested in the Nisei encampment info and the CA financial reasons for the encampment. I told her I’s look into titles for her to read, but that you are a great source of info and have a better memory than. She might drop by with questions. Hope I didn’t overstep.
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