Clifford crawled from his covered position into an open area to more effectively direct his platoon, all the while returning fire on his own.  He finally received the order to withdraw and remained in his exposed position to cover his men as they moved back.  He declined all offers for medical attention to prevent anyone from risking exposure for his benefit and made sure to see all other wounded personnel evacuated before he withdrew himself, finally working his way back by crawling.


When he finally reached the aid station after four hours of heated combat, he continued to refuse medical attention until all other men had been treated.  Though quite stubborn, his actions are undoubtedly selfless and an inspiring example of loyalty.  Through his extreme gallantry, concern for the safety of his men above his own, and success in preventing the enemy from overrunning his unit, M/Sgt Rodriguez was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on the afternoon of September 27.


Master Sergeant | Airborne Infantry


Bright sun washed over the rice paddies and scattered hills of the rural Kumpo peninsula in late September 1950.  Troopers of L Company, 187th Airborne RCT kicked up dust in 2 1/2 ton trucks as they traveled toward the rural village of Yanggong-ni, intending to set up combat positions down the road.  It was just past noon; clear, warm, and quiet throughout the valley except for the rumble of vehicles as they passed rice paddies and low hills on either side.  The 3d Battalion was the first unit of the 187th deployed to Korea, arriving at Kimpo airfield just days earlier on September 23.


As the first truck - which Clifford was riding in - entered an area flanked by these hills, an enemy ambush opened up on the Americans with a crippling crossfire, immediately wounding five men as others rushed to leap over the sides of the trucks.  The concealed enemy had allowed the first few trucks to pass through safely before unleashing their barrage.  As soon as the men in the third vehicle unloaded, M/Sgt Rodriguez took command of what was left of his platoon and deployed all but the few critically wounded into defensive positions on the edge of village.


They succeeded in silencing a few of the enemy automatic weapons and Rodriguez quickly ordered his men to reorganize on the higher ground behind the village.  While moving his troops to this position, a mortar shell landed at Clifford's side, hurling shrapnel into his right shoulder, leg and foot.  He ignored the severity of wounds and continued to organize his troops though he could only crawl without the use of his leg.  He intended to reinforce the left flank of L Company and thwart further enemy action.  M/Sgt Rodriguez continued to lead his small number of men and direct fire against the numerically superior enemy force.  He refused medical attention a number of times, insisting on remaining in his position to protect a sweep from the left flank.


His platoon succeded in killing forty enemies. at least fifty more who were carried away from the battlefield, and wounded over 200 more - impressive statistics for a unit of under 50 men, even less considering the initial casualties.


Clifford's wounds were considered to be of "such compelling consequence that immediate medical attention should have been paramount without further thought of either participating or directing the fire fight."  However, the Master Sergeant was back in combat within a few weeks, perhaps due to his own strength or simply his devotion to duty and the anxiety of being away from the men who needed his outstanding care and leadership.


It's unclear if Clifford made the combat jump with the 187th on October 20 as he is listed as returning to duty on October 21, but he certainly participated in the 187th RCT's next combat during the Battle of Yongju.


The next and last jump was March 23, kicking off Operation Tomohawk.  Rodriguez continued to fight hard with the Rakkasans, until May 28, 1951.  Just a month before the regiment would return to Japan, they were fighting near Inje when M/Sgt Rodriguez was shot and killed.  


He had two boys not yet ten years old, and a wife of four years.  It is hard to imagine that a man with so much spirit could be killed so quickly.  "I can't believe it's true after all these years in the Army.  I am the boy's mother and he has no father, so this has cut my heart through as I had only he and his sister," wrote his mother in a letter to MG William E. Bergin.




Thank you to Robin Ray for passing on these medals and being so patient with me.


Photo Credit:

(1) Dave Schwind


(3) mpkane189 via ancestry

(4) Bob West Korean War Photo Collection