James W. Gormley - Field Artillery Observer
US Army - Korea - 1950/1951

James W. Gormley

James W. Gormley was born on October 31, 1931 to Jeanne (Zitelli) and John W. Gormley. He was the oldest of three brothers, James, Joseph and John. The Gormley family made their home in East Brookline, at 1305 Brookline Boulevard.

Jim attended Resurrection Elementary School, graduating in May 1945. He then enrolled at the Connelley Vocational High School. While in high school, Jim worked evenings as a baker at Benvenutti's Bakery in Carnegie.

The Gormleys - 1940    The Gormleys - 1940
Joe, John and James Gormley with their father John, and mother Jeanne, in 1940.

On August 18, 1949, two months after completing his secondary education at Connelley, Jim enlisted in the United States Army. He finished basic training and was stationed with the Third Infantry Division, 7th Infantry Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia. His Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) was "Baker." While stationed at Fort Benning, Jim became engaged to his high school sweetheart, Rosemary Doyle, another Brookline resident.

Rosemary Doyle and James Gormley in 1949.
Rosemary Doyle and James Gormley in 1949.

When the Korean War began in June of 1950, the 7th Regiment, known as the Cottonbalers, was located at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. The regiment set sail for the Far East from San Francisco, California, on August 20. They landed in Japan on September 16, one day after the start of the Battle of Inchon.

The Division spent two months near the port of Moji, Japan, in preparation for their deployment to the Korean Peninsula. During this time, James Gormley volunteered to change his military specialty from 017-Baker to 3705-Field Artillery Liaison Specialist.

After completing his artillery training and receiving a promotion to the rank of Corporal, Jim became a Forward Observer in Battery A of the Third Infantry Division's 39th Field Artillery Battalion. His Forward Observer Team was assigned to the 7th Regiment.

As the tide of the war turned in favor of the United Nations, the Third Infantry Division, known as the "Rock Of The Marne" for it's exploits during World War I, was assigned to the Far Eastern Command Reserve, earmarked for post-conflict occupation duty in North Korea. Soon, their intended mission was to be dramatically altered.

When the Peoples Republic of China entered the war in November 1950, the 7th Regiment was quickly dispatched to Wonsan on North Korea's eastern coast. They landed on November 21, and joined with the Division's 15th and 65th Infantry Regiments. The men were transported to positions northwest of Hungnam.

At Majon-dong, Third Division established a defensive position and began fighting. They helped cover the withdrawal of the Army's X Corps rearguard elements (1st Marine Division and 7th Infantry Division) during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. Elements of the 7th Infantry Regiment formed the nucleus of Task Force Dog, a relief force that advanced forward to create a corridor for the approaching columns.

Units head to the Hungnam harbor
for evacuation - December 1950.    The Port of Hungnam destroyed on December 24, 1950.
The Hungnam harbor during the evacuation (left) and the port being destroyed on December 24, 1950.

Once the withdrawing units had reached the safety of the Port of Hungnam, the 7th Regiment helped form a collapsing perimeter around the area. Skirmishes broke out between the Cottonbalers and the pursuing PVA 27th Corps. With strong naval fire support provided by an offshore task force, the badly mauled enemy units never breached the Hungnam perimeter.

In what U.S. historians called the "greatest evacuation movement by sea in U.S. military history", a 193-ship armada assembled at the port and evacuated not only the U.N. troops, but also their heavy equipment and roughly a third of the Korean refugees. Gormley's regiment was the last unit to disembark before the harbor facilities were destroyed. The 7th Infantry Regiment left Hungnam by sea on December 24, 1950.

James W. Gormley
James Gormley in January 1951.

From January 25 through February 9, after the fall of Seoul, the Third Division was engaged in Operation Thunderbolt, the initial phase of the Eighth Army counteroffensive to recapture the South Korean capital.

In March, the Division saw action during Operation Ripper, or the Fourth Battle of Seoul. On the evening of March 15, elements of the Third Division entered the city. Threatened with encirclement, the enemy abandoned their positions and retreated north into the mountains.

A limited Eighth Army offensive aimed at seizing the Chorwon-Kumhwa-Pyonggang area, an important enemy communication and supply zone called "The Iron Triangle," began in April. The Division crossed the Sinchon River and attacked north towards Chorwon and Pyonggang along the road running from Seoul.

On the 25th of April, 1951, Gormley and his Forward Observer Team were assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Regiment. The unit was holding positions in the rear of the Division's advanced units, along a ridge line next to Hill 283.

With forward elements of the Third Division only ten miles from their Chorwon objective, the enemy counterattacked in force, not just at Chorwon but along the entire United Nations front line. This was the start of the Chinese Spring Offensive. The breadth and severity of the attack caught the Eighth Army by surprise.

Map of Battle near Chorwon - April 25, 1951.
Map showing the Chinese attack on Company A and Hill 283 near Chorwon.

Near Chorwon, the Third Battalion was forced to retreat back to the ridge line near Hill 283, where Gormley and his observation team were dug in with Able Company. Plans were immediately put in place to withdraw the regiment to defensive positions on the opposite bank of the river.

During the evacuation, Company A was ordered to hold their hilltop position, which straddled the only path off the hill, until all other units had passed through. When a key outpost along the ridge was overrun, the Company's left flank was threatened. Soon the enemy were also active on the right flank and the situation became dire. Despite ferocious enemy pressure from both sides, the soldiers stood their ground and held off several waves of attackers.

At the height of the battle, the Sergeant and others in the Forward Observation Team were wounded and being evacuated. Instead of withdrawing with the rest of his team, Corporal Gormley volunteered to stay behind with Company A and continue spotting for the artillery.

The accurate and formidable barrage laid upon the attacking force was devastating. The curtain of fire provided by the heavy field guns succeeded in keeping the route of retreat open. Gormley's efforts provided the men of First and Third Battalion the necessary time to gather their equipment, evacuate the wounded and abandon the hilltop in good order.

Exposed and under heavy enemy fire, James and the remaining soldiers of the Company A covering force held their position as long as possible before making a hasty retreat. A final barrage of smoke and explosive shells covered their withdrawal.

As Chinese soldiers finally began to overrun the position, Jim and the remaining men in the covering force successfully managed to navigate their way unharmed to the safety of the river crossing. For his selfless actions on that desperate day, Corporal James Gormley was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry.

For a Detailed Report on the Battle at Hill 283 from the
U.S. Army Center of Military History:

"Combat Action In Korea - A Rifle Company As A Covering Force"

Note: Lt. Harley F. Mooney, MSgt. Joseph J. Lock, SFC Thomas R. Teti and Lt. Colonel Fred D. Weyand,
all mentioned in the Hill 283 engagement report, were also awarded Silver Stars for their actions.

Forward Observer team of the
39th Field Artillery Battalion
A Forward Observer team of the 39th Artillery Battalion in 1951.

James Gormley's official Silver Star citation reads:

Corporal Gormley distinguished himself by gallantry in action while serving with Battery A, 39th Field Artillery Battalion, 3d Infantry Division, in Korea on 25 April 1951. On that date, near Hill 283, Korea, Company A, 7th Infantry, was attacked by an enemy force of estimated regimental strength. Corporal Gormley, a member of the artillery forward observer team attached to Company A, voluntarily remained in the position and continued to call for and adjust artillery fire on the enemy after the forward observer officer of the team had been wounded and evacuated. Despite his exposed position and the hail of enemy fire, he continued to initiate fire missions until the radio was put out of action by enemy fire. The gallantry and exemplary courage displayed by Corporal Gormley reflect great credit on him and are in keeping with the high traditions of the military service."

For their efforts in helping to stem the tide of the red onslaught during those first desperate days of the enemy offensive, the 7th Infantry Regiment was issued a Distinguished Unit Citation "... for outstanding performance of duty and extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy (Chinese Communist Army) near Choksong, Korea during the period 23 April to 25 April 1951.”

During the following month of heavy fighting, the weight of the Chinese Spring Offensive continued to gradually push back the United Nations front lines. By the middle of May, the 7th Infantry Regiment had moved to positions seventy-five miles to the east, defending hilltop strongholds near the village of Habae Jae.

May 24, 1951 marked the start of the United Nations Summer/Fall Counteroffensive. While units in other sectors of the front were beginning their move against enemy positions, the 7th Regiment near Habae Jae was still in a defensive posture and under determined pressure from a combined force of Chinese and North Koreans.

Forward Observer team of the
39th Field Artillery Battalion
Members of the 7th Infantry Regiment on a hilltop position on May 24, 1951.

On this day, under circumstances similar to those a month earlier near Choksong, James once again volunteered to remain behind and call in artillery fire to cover his company's withdrawal. His heroic actions helped blunt the enemy assault, and aided in another successful evacuation.

When it came time to abandon his position, Gormley began to work his way back towards the American lines. On the way, Corporal James W. Gormley was struck by mortar fire and killed.

Jim's remains were temporarily interred in a military cemetery in South Korea. His casket arrived in the United States in October 1951. Jim's remains were buried in his final resting place by his family at Pittsburgh's Calvary Catholic Cemetery on October 31, 1951. This sad occasion would have been the date of his 20th birthday.

In addition to his Silver Star and the Distinguished Unit Citation, James Gormley was awarded the following ribbons and medals for his service during the Korean War: Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Korean Service Medal and Korean Presidential Unit Citation.

After Jim's death, the Third Division went on to support combat missions of the Eighth Army until 1953 when it was withdrawn. Most notably, the Division distinguished itself at the Chorwon-Kumwha area, Jackson Heights and Arrowhead outposts, and blocked a determined Chinese push in the Kumsong Area in July 1953.

Known as the "Fire Brigade" for its rapid response to crisis, the Third Infantry Division received a total of ten Battle Stars during the Korean Campaign. Casualties during the war included 2,160 killed in action and 7,939 wounded.

3rd Infantry Division Coat of Arms          101st Airborne Insignia          39th Field Artillery Insignia

Return To Korea - 1992

After the war, the circumstances of James' death remained somewhat of a mystery to the Gormley family. Years later, with the help of his brother-in-law, Lieutenant Colonel R. Michael Shuler, James Gormley's younger brother John, who now makes his home in Castle Rock, Colorado, learned the specifics of his older brother's heroic actions.

In November 1992, John visited South Korea on a business mission with the Colorado International Trade Office. While in country, John took a couple of days off to travel from Seoul on the northwest coast to the little village of Habae Jae on the northeast coast. The trip was arranged by the South Korean trade office.

Corporal James W. Gormley's military citations at
the U.S. Military Memorial in South Korea.    The village of Habae Jae near the northeast
coast of South Korea in November 1992.

Along the way, John visited a number of memorials to the men and women of the U.S. and U.N. militaries who defended the South Koreans during the war. He was accompanied by, and an honored guest of, local and provincial government officials on these visits. As an American, John was treated with the utmost respect by the South Koreans.

John Gormley and South Korean officials at the
official U.S. Military Memorial in November 1992.

When he reached Habae Jae, John was introduced to an elderly gentleman who, as a young man during the war, had the assignment of going into the forested mountains surrounding the village to recover the dead after a battle. He guided John to the top of a high hill, where there were remnants of a U.S. Army artillery emplacement. From there, John Gormley was able to gaze upon the forested mountains to the north where James fell in battle.

Joe, John and James Gormley in 1949.
Looking towards the hills north of an old U.S. Army artillery emplacement near Habae Jae, South Korea.
It was near this ridge line that Corporal James Gormley lost his life on May 24, 1951.

In his notes, John also mentioned the McKennas, a Brookline family who lived on Bellaire Place, just a stone's throw away from the Gormley residence. John went to Resurrection Elementary School with Mickey McKenna, the younger sister of James E. McKenna.

As a member of the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, James McKenna fell while fighting the enemy near Kunu-Ri, North Korea, on November 30, 1950. The two neighboring families shared in the grief of their sorrowful losses.

Joe, John and James Gormley in 1949.
Brothers Joe, John and James Gormley in 1949.

A Long-Overdue Recognition

In April of 2013, the Brookline Connection began an initiative to seek James Gormley's nomination for induction into the Hall of Valor at the Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial, located in Oakland. By virtue of his Silver Star citation, James qualified for admittance to this prestigious community of wartime veterans. After contacting the Gormley family, James' military credentials were prepared and presented to the nomination committee for review.

The induction ceremony - March 23, 2014.    Larry Meyers, John Gormley and
Brookline Connection's Clint Burton.
John Gormley's family (left) with the commemorative plaque that will hang in the James A. Dugan Jr. Hall of Valor;
Larry Meyers, who served on the Honor Guard, John Gormley and Brookline Connection's Clint Burton.

James Gormley's commemorative plaque.    Entrance to the James A. Dugan Hall of Valor.

On March 29, 2015, Corporal James Gormley of Brookline was formally inducted into the Hall of Valor. It was a wonderful day for the Gormley family and everyone who was blessed to have known James. It was also a great day for the Brookline community. One of our native sons, a courageous young man who made the ultimate sacrifice so that others might return home to their loved ones, has finally received the recognition he so rightfully deserved.

James Gormley joins fellow Brookliners Thomas J. Cullison and Bruno P. Riccardi, both World War II veterans, in the ranks of Pennsylvania soldiers immortalized in the hallowed hall.

James Gormley Silver Star Citation

James Gormley Purple Heart    James Gormley Silver Star

* Thanks to John Gormley, younger brother of James, for contributing this information. *
Written by Clint Burton - September 10, 2014 (Updated March 2015)




The Brookline War Memorial

The Brookline Veteran's Memorial.

Listed below are many of the sons of Brookline who gave their
lives to preserve freedom and contain aggression during
World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”
General George S. Patton
 

United States Army (1775-present)  United States Army Air Services (1907-1947)  United States Navy (1775-present)  United States Marine Corps (1775-present)  United States Coast Guards (1790-present)  United States Air Force (1947-present)

World War I (1917-1919)


Cronin, Raymond P.
Berkshire Avenue
USMC


Luppe, Charles
Ferncliff Avenue
Army

WW1 Memorial - Washington D.C.
The World War I Memorial - Washington D.C.

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World War II (1941-1945)


Alm William H.
Pioneer Avenue
Army


Arensberg, Roy T.
Fernhill Avenue
Army


Brickley, Edward G.
Woodward Avenue
Army


Bruni, Lawrence A.
Berkshire Avenue
Army


Capogreca, James J.
Bellaire Avenue
Navy


Copeland, Clarence R.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy


Cullison, Thomas J.
Birtley Avenue
Army


Dempsey, Howard F.
Berkshire Avenue
Army


Dempsey, Walter F.
Milan Avenue
Navy


Diegelman, Edward R. Jr
Norwich Avenue
Army


Dornetto, Frank P.
Jacob Street
Navy


Fagan, Gerald B.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army


Falk, Harold E.
Pioneer Avenue
Army


Fehring, Robert M.
Fernhill Avenue
Army


Hynes, Richard E.
Waddington Avenue
Army


Jackson, Robert E.
Brookline
Army


Kestler, Paul C.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy


Ketters, Robert
Berkshire Avenue
Army


Mahoney, Michael J.
Oakridge Street
Army


Majestic, Arthur B.
Starkamp Avenue
Army


Mayberry, Alexander G.
Breining Street
Army


Mazza, John
Alwyn Street
Army


McCann, Robert F.
Edgebrook Avenue
Navy


McFarland, Hugh R.
McNeilly Road
Army


Miller, William J.
Norwich Avenue
Army


Napier, Edward J.
Brookline Boulevard
Army


Nicholson, John D.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army


O'Day, John R.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy


Orient, Andrew D.
Fordham Avenue
Army


Pisiecki, Raymond A.
Wolford Avenue
Army


Reeves, Alfred M.
Brookline Boulevard
Army


Reitmeyer, John P.
Bellaire Avenue
Navy


Rhing, Bern M.
Berkshire Avenue
Army


Shannon, Harry C.
Brookline
Army


Simpson, James D.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army


Spack, Harry
Linial Avenue
Army


Vierling, Howard F.
Fordham Avenue
Army


Wagner, Ralph G.
Shawhan Avenue
Army


Wentz, Walter L. Jr
Woodbourne Avenue
Army


Zeiler, Harold V.
West Liberty Avenue
Army

WW2 Memorial - Washington D.C.
The World War II Memorial - Washington D.C.

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Korean War (1950-1953)

Patrick Gallagher

Gallagher, Patrick J.
Bodkin Street
Army

Details

James Gormley

Gormley, James W.
Brookline Boulevard
Army

Details

Gerald Hilliard

Hilliard, Gerald G.
Edgebrook Avenue
Army

Details

James McKenna

McKenna, James E.
Bellaire Place
Army

Details

Korean War Memorial - Washington D.C.
Korean War Memorial - Washington D.C.

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Vietnam War (1965-1973)

James Robert Bodish

Bodish, James R.
Plainview Avenue
Army

Virtual Wall
Additional Details

James Gilbert Collins

Collins, James G.
Dunster Street
Army

Virtual Wall
 

James Charles Wonn

Wonn, James C.
Mayville Avenue
Navy

Virtual Wall
Additional Details

Vietnam War Memorial - Washington D.C.
Vietnam War Memorial - Washington D.C.




The Brookline Monument - The Cannon

Brookline Veteran's Park - April 26, 2014.

<Brookline War Memorial> <> <Brookline History>