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Wed June 1, 2011
Greenville Marine veteran to receive Silver Star
By Scott Harvey
Greenville – A Greenville physician and Marine veteran will be awarded the Silver Star for his efforts during the Korean War.
Dr. James Nicholson's actions on April 22, 1951 have been dubbed daring and courageous, as he and his team were able to fend off enemy forces despite being severely outnumbered.
Nicholson's platoon was sent about 20 miles outside their main line of resistance to probe the area and determine exactly where the Chinese Red Army was, who were poised to strike the Marine Corps lines.
"They [the Chinese army] bumped into us about midnight one night, and a regiment stumbled into my platoon; which is 39 men," Nicholson said. "So we killed the first one and that started the fight. We fired all night long, about six hours, and at daylight we charged on up the hill and took the crest."
Years later Nicholson learned his platoon had killed approximately 450 men.
"We don't know how many there were total, probably somewhere close to 1,000... It was 39 men against a regiment, so it was a bigger deal than Custer's Last Stand by some little bit."
Nicholson said the Marines were saved by the fact that it was pitch dark, and the Chinese didn't know exactly where the platoon was. In the middle of the ordeal, Nicholson's Gunnery Sergeant was shot down behind enemy lines, prompting Nicholson to come to his aid.
"So I threw down my rifle and went out about 40 yards into the middle of the Chinese to drag him back. But it was very rugged terrain and he was a heavy, muscular guy so I couldn't drag him, so I just picked him up in my arms and carried him back and handed him to somebody at the foot of the hill."
After taking the hill the next morning, the men were still not in the clear, some 20 miles from their main line. Nicholson said the platoon played hide and seek, traveling through gullies and canyons for five days, before finding their way back.
Although entitled to a Silver Star, Nicholson never pursued one, indicating that it got lost in the shuffle of trying to elude Chinese forces for days following their victorious battle. But former Texas A&M University-Commerce Dean of Students Joe Webber, after hearing his friend's story 46 years later, began to secure affidavits from all the survivors who described Nicholson's actions. The late application for the award seemed impossible at first, but Dr. Webber's resilience eventually paid off.
A date for the formal Silver Star presentation to Corporal Nicholson will most likely be held this summer.
Nicholson added, "This is on behalf of all of my friends from George Company dead and alive. That's what this medal is for. It is for them."