Once in a while I freelance and create bios for people I know who have a connection to a veteran who died during wartime service but not from Norwalk, Connecticut which is the theme of the work on this website. To me, any Medal of Honor recipient is deserving of my time and effort. This is the story of Corporal Champagne. — for Ken Kikta
CORPORAL DAVID B. CHAMPAGNE, U.S. MARINE CORPS
November 13, 1932 (Waterville, Maine) – May 28, 1952; 19 years old
Local address: 24 Newhall Street in Fairfield, Maine 1
Enlisted on March 7, 1951 2
Service number: 1187155
Unit: 1st Marine Division, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Battalion, Company A
Born to Bernard (1909-1996) and Anna Osborne Champagne (1911-1982). Siblings are Brother Carlton – 2 years older (1930-?) and brother Reginald (1938-1953) – 5 years younger, who died at just 14 years old a little over year after Corporal Champagne was killed. 1, 4
South Kingstown High School, Wakefield, Rhode Island; Class of ’51 6
Killed In Action
Location / Battle Zone: Western Outposts
Town / Area: Tumae-Ri, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea
Hill / Outpost: Hill 104 – Yoke
From U.S. Marine Operation In Korea, 1950-1953
Operations in West Korea
By Lieutenant Colonel Pat Meid, USMCR
And Major James M. Yingling, USMC
Historical Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps
Washington, D.C., 1972
Library of Congress Catalogue Number: 55-60727
Page 82: As part of the active defense of its Jamestown line, Lieutenant Colonel Daughtry, commanding 1/7, issued a directive on 26 May intended to deny to the enemy key terrain remaining on the old OPLR. Operation Plan 16-52 called for an attack to seize to parcels of high ground to the regiment’s right front. At the same time, the battalion was to neutralize two Chinese positions west of the main objectives, Hill 104 (Objective 1) and the Tumae-ri Ridge (Objective 2), approximately a half-mile further north. The designated attack force, Captain Earl W. Thomson’s Company A, was heavily reinforced. While Company A pursed its mission to the right, a Company C reinforced platoon under Second lieutenant Howard L. Siers would conduct a feint on a pair of enemy positions to the left. Support for the operation would come from 2/11, two tank platoons, and from air, which was to be on call. H-Hour was set for 0300 on 28 May. Attack and diversionary forces on schedule crossed the line of departure, a half-mile north of the MLR. Captain Thompson’s main force advanced nearly to the base of Hill 104 before the Chinese, in estimated reinforced platoon strength, began to counterattack. The fight came to an abrupt end when Second Lieutenant John J. Donahue led his platoon to the top with bayonets fixed. As the Marines dug in, they came under heavy mortar and artillery fire from CCF strongholds to the north. On the left, meanwhile, Lieutenant Siers had received orders to seize the closer of his two objectives, former OPLR 5, instead of merely placing suppressive fire on it. Moving forward from its base of fire, the platoon soon established contact with the enemy. At 0554 the platoon began its attack on the objective. Despite the close-in, hand-to-hand fighting, when it became apparent the assault could not be stopped, the enemy gave way to Marine persistence in seizing the hill. By 0700 the Company C, 7th Marines platoon had secured its objectives and begun preparations for defense of the positions as well as continued support of the main attack force. Heavy casualties, however, forced Lieutenant Colonel Daughtry to recall the platoon and it returned to the lines by 0930. Up on Hill 104, Company A, 1/7 faced practically the same situation. Taking Objective 1 had been costly and the advance through withering enemy fire was adding to the casualties. A reinforcing platoon was sent from the MLR to help the company disengage and return to friendly lines. Contact with the enemy was broken shortly after noon. With the aid of air and artillery, the company was able to make its way to the MLR by 1405. Advancing only as far as it did, the attack, like the one earlier that month, failed to take all the designated objectives. Casualties to the 1/7 Marines were placed at 9 killed and 107 wounded. Forty-five of the enemy were counted dead and three wounded. Marines estimated another 40 e3nemy killed and 40 more wounded. The action resulted in a casualty toll that was the highest to date for any Marine company in Western Korea. All three Company A rifle platoon leaders – Second Lieutenants Donahue, Jules E. Gerding, and Kenneth A. Seal – were wounded. This battle also became the occasion for another unwelcomed record – 4,053 rounds of enemy incoming during a 24-hour period.
Footnote 63, Page 83: Two Marines killed in the action were later posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Corporal David B. Champagne, A/1/7, was responsible for saving the lives of the three other members of his fire team. When a grenade fell in their midst, Champagne grabbed it to hurl back to CCF positions. Just as it cleared his hand, the grenade exploded, showering lethal shrapnel into the body of the 19-year-old Rhode Islander. One of the C/1/7 reinforcement Marines, Private First Class John D. Kelly, had conducted a one-man assault against a dug-in Chinese machine gun crew. Though painfully wounded during this encounter, he disposed of the enemy, then reduced a second weapons bunker. While firing point-blank into a third position, the brave Marine was fatally wounded. This 1/7 action was the first in the western Korea defense to result in multiple Medal of Honor awards.
Citation to accompany the award of the Medal of Honor
Awarded posthumously. Presented on July 23, 1953, Old Mountain Baseball Field, Wakefield, Rhode Island by Brigadier General R.H. Ridgely Jr., to Corporal Champagne’s brother, Reginald Champagne.
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Corporal David Bernard Champagne (MCSN: 1187155), United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 28 May 1952, while serving as a fire team leader of Company A, First Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces in Korea. Advancing with his platoon in the initial assault of the company against a strongly fortified and heavily defended hill position, Corporal Champagne skillfully led his fire team through a veritable hail of intense enemy machine gun, small-arms, and grenade fire, overrunning trenches and a series of almost impregnable bunker positions before reaching the crest of the hill and placing his men in defensive positions. Suffering a painful leg wound while assisting in repelling the ensuing hostile counterattack, which was launched under cover of a murderous hail of mortar and artillery fire, he steadfastly refused evacuation and fearlessly continued to control his fire team When the enemy counterattack increased in intensity, and a hostile grenade landed in the midst of the fire team, Corporal Champagne unhesitatingly seized the deadly missile and hurled it in the direction of the approaching enemy. As the grenade left his hand, it exploded blowing off his hand and throwing him out of the trench. Mortally wounded by enemy mortar fire while in this exposed position, Corporal Champagne, by his valiant leadership, fortitude, and gallant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of almost certain death, undoubtedly saved the lives of several of his fellow Marines. His heroic actions served to inspire all who observed him and reflect the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Buried in St. Francis Catholic Cemetery, 78 Grove Street, Waterville, Maine; Plot 859, Grave 5. 3
Comment left on the Korean War Project web page; January 20, 2009 5
My name is David Champagne. I was named after my uncle, Cpl David B. Champagne. I served in the USMC from 1975 to 1981. Retired after 30 years of law enforcement. My son, SSGT Champagne, Duane now serving in the USMC and is a career MARINE. I come from a long line of MARINES. I’m proud to be name after my uncle, CPL David Bernard Champagne.