The Bronze Star for valor with seven battle stars on Ed Boucher's hallway wall in Estherville could mean different things to different people. To someone just passing by, it looks like a beautiful medal. To his relatives, it represents over a year in Korea, fighting in impossible conditions. To Boucher, well what follows is what it means to Boucher.
When he lived in Elk Point, S.D., Boucher enlisted in the Army in Sioux City June 29, 1949. The Korean Conflict had not yet started.
He went to Fort Riley, Kan., then Fort Bliss, Texas where he saw raw recruits who hadn't fired a rifle or driven a car. Since Boucher was a country boy who had hunted squirrels and rabbits since he was big enough to hold a rifle and driving when he was big enough to look over the steering wheel, the Army made him a tank driver.
Ed Boucher of Estherville with the medals he was awarded for his service in the Korean Conflict.
EDN photo by Michael Tidemann
Sept. 15, 1950, Boucher landed at Inchon where the Army armor attached to the Marines. He drove a halftrack with quad .50s, or four .50-caliber machine guns. He also drove a tank with a pair of 40-millimeter guns backed up by a pair of .50-caliber machine guns.
While some called the conflict between the U.S. and Russia and China the Cold War, the only thing cold about Korea was the temperature that plunged to -30 in the high, granite, mountains of the North. The Chinese troops and Russian weapons made it plenty hot for UN troops.
Boucher and his armored unit found themselves hunkered down at the battle of Chosin Reservoir, when 15,000 Allied troops were surrounded by 120,000 Chinese. The Allies suffered 12,000 casualties and the Chinese 45,000. The battled started in minus 30-degree weather on Nov. 27, 1950 and ended on Christmas Eve when the Allied forces were evacuated to South Korea by the U.S. Navy and Air Force.
(From the U.S. Army citation awarding the Bronze Star for valor to Corporal Edward O. Boucher)
Corporal Edward O. Boucher, RA 172699977, Artillery, United States Army, Battery "A", 50th AAA AW Battalion (SP), On 8 December 1950, between Chinhung-ni and Koto-Ri, North Korea; while his unit was guarding the main supply route between those villages, in conjunction with the 1st Battalion of the 1st Marine Regiment, Corporal Boucher heard from a Marine aid man that there were nine wounded Marines on Hill 1081, a distance of about one mile. Through his own initiative and in the absence of orders, Corporal Boucher organized a detail of approximately 10 men, consisting of Marines and Army personnel, and embarked upon the mission of evacuating these wounded to a medical aid station. The group's progress was impeded by rugged, mountainous terrain, a foot of snow, sub-zero temperatures, darkness and an aggressive enemy force. On several occasions during the return trips to the top of Hill 1081, it was necessary to detour from the selected routes due to enemy fire, Corporal Boucher reconnoitering the alternate routes. On one occasion, after obtaining the wounded and during the descent, the group came under heavy enemy small arms fire. Corporal Boucher again disregarded his personal safety and reconnoitered for a route which would not subject the group to the then heavy volume of fire. With determination, he hastily instructed the other members of the group in the manner in which the wounded would be handed down the cliff, although it necessitated digging foothold into the cliff, and holding the cliff with one hand while lifting the wounded with the other. Three trips were made until the last of the wounded was delivered to safety at approximately 2400 hours. Through the entire ordeal, Corporal Boucher never wavered in his determination to save the wounded men, regardless of the sacrifices and dangers to himself and to his men. Corporal Boucher's courage, self-sacrifice and complete disregard for personal safety reflects great credit upon himself and the military service.
One day during the Chosin battle, a wounded Navy corpsman told Boucher about nine wounded Marines on a hill about a mile away. Boucher gathered together a patrol to go rescue them. As they approached the top of the hill, they were challenged by a Marine who couldn't believe Boucher and his patrol had somehow made their way through several thousand Chinese.
Under Boucher's direction, the patrol brought the Marines back. The one Boucher carried had seven wounds from a .25 caliber Russian burp gun.
Boucher's memories of the violence of war are endless. One particularly vivid encounter was when he pulled a Korean girl, about 17, dead and face-down in the water, to shore.
He also recalls a Lieutenant Moon in the Republic of Korean (South Korean) Army who had witnessed the North Koreans killing his wife and family. Boucher said whenever they took prisoners, they gave them to Lt. Moon. "There weren't many prisoners," he explained.
Korea claimed 54,236 American lives and 103,000 wounded.There were 8,177 missing in action and 7,000 prisoners of war, 3,450 of whom returned alive while 51 percent died in prison camps.There are 389 Korean Conflict POWs that still remain unaccounted for.
"We might be a forgotten war but I'm still telling people about it," said Boucher who had nightmares about it for years, the last in 1963 when he dreamed the Chinese were coming toward him.
After his return to the States, Boucher worked for Armour Packing Company in Sioux City then later in Minnesota at Armour's South St. Paul and Worthington plants.
While a lot of veterans of World War II and Vietnam have returned to those countries where they fought, some to renew old acquaintances, some to see how the country has changed, some to dig up and face old ghosts and come to terms with something deep within themselves, Boucher doubts that he'll do that.
"It wouldn't be the same Korea that I saw."