Valor Friday

| July 26, 2019

DSC

This Valor Friday, Mason brings us the remarkable story of Master Sergeant Pascal Poolaw, USA, and the valor he displayed in three wars. Mason has done his usual excellent research on the Sergeant, showcasing his fearless devotion to his troops when under fire. Here’s Mason:

Mason

A career US Army man, First Sergeant Pascal Poolaw served his country through three wars. Along the way he became America’s most highly decorated Native soldier. A full-blooded Kiowa from Oklahoma, Poolaw’s warrior spirit is absolutely incredible. He’s one of the rare US Army infantrymen to have received the Combat Infantry Badge three times. He also had the ignominious distinction of being wounded in combat in three separate wars.

Born in 1922, he enlisted in the Army in 1942 to serve during World War II. He enlisted with two of his brothers, his father, and two uncles. One of his uncles, Horace Poolaw was a very talented photographer during and after the war. If you get a chance, Google Horace’s photography.

After training, Pascal was assigned to Company M of the 8th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division. The 8th Infantry participated in the D-Day landings at Utah Beach. They were the first “leg” infantry unit of the US Army to hit the shore.

I’m unable to find if Pooler was with the 8th Infantry from 6 June, but I have found records that he has an arrowhead on his Europe-Africa-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (indicating he participated in an amphibious landing), along with five battle stars, so it’s likely that he was. If not, he was an early replacement into the unit. He was a staff sergeant by 8 September, so I’m of the belief that he was probably with the 8th Infantry from when they left CONUS.

The 4th Infantry Division fought through Paris (where Ernest Hemingway, a civilian war correspondent, famously made himself a combatant and acted as a scout for the unit). The 4th ID then moved to Belgium, where they attacked the Siegfried Line, and finally into Bastogne, Belgium in September, 1944. Liberating the city, the American forces were met with a vicious German counterattack in what became the Battle of the Bulge a short time later.

On 8 September, 1944, near Bastogne, 22 year old Staff Sergeant Poolaw was attacking the enemy in support of a rifle company. He directed and placed his machine gun squad across an open field in such a deft manner as to limit friendly casualties. Once emplaced, Poolaw could see the enemy preparing a strong counterattack. Refusing to give up the ground he’d gained, he stood in the face of withering enemy machine gun fire for a full five minutes, hurling grenades into the advancing enemy, until the Germans’ sustained so many casualties that they broke off the assault. With the enemy broken and his own men emboldened by Sgt Poolaw’s bravery, the company pressed the attack and captured several enemy positions.

Poolaw received the Silver Star for his actions that day. He was also wounded in September, 1944, receiving his first Purple Heart.

It looks as if Poolaw remained with the 8th Infantry through the remainder of the war in Europe, and was with them as they transitioned into occupation duties after VE Day.

Remaining in the Army after the war, Poolaw was promoted to Sergeant First Class in 1950, by which time he was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division (Tropic Lightning). Now one will remember what happened on a small South Asian peninsula in June 1950, namely the invasion of South Korea by the Communist North Korea. The 25th ID, being stationed in Hawaii was one of the closest major Army formations and thus thrust into action early in the war.

As a platoon sergeant with the 27th Infantry Regiment of the 25th ID, Poolaw volunteered to take his squad on 19 September, 1950 (just a few days past the fifth anniversary of his Silver Star earning actions in Bastogne) into the breach when his company was stalled by heavy enemy resistance.

Poolaw personally led his men in an uphill charge into the enemy lines, engaging the North Koreans in hand-to-hand combat. His men, following his lead, held their position against the numerically superior enemy long enough for the rest of the company to relieve them and secure the position.

Poolaw received another Silver Star for his leadership and bravery that day.

On 4 April, 1951, now a master sergeant, Poolaw was still with C Company, 27th Infantry near Chongong-ni, Korea when his company was attacking heavily fortified enemy positions. One squad of his platoon was pinned down by heavy automatic weapons fire and mortar barrages. Poolaw went out into open terrain, armed with only his rifle, in a distractionary measure. Advancing across the field of battle, he fired his rifle when able. This distracted the enemy long enough for his men to get into a better position to continue the fight.

Poolaw’s third award of the Silver Star was earned that day. Since he was using himself as a bullet magnet to protect his men, it shouldn’t be surprising that he was wounded in this action as well. Thus earning his second Purple Heart in as many wars.

Poolaw returned to the states in 1952, and the 25th ID remained in Korea until 1954. After the war, the 27th Infantry had logged five recipients of the Medal of Honor, bafflingly Poolaw was not among them. It does appear as if he received two Bronze Star Medals, one for valor and one for meritorious service during the war.

Though I can’t find the award documentation, there is consensus in my research that Poolaw was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for actions in 1952. Judging by what he did in the two years prior, I’m sure his award citation is a gripping read. I’ve ordered copies of his records, and will update the article once I receive them and can confirm he did receive a DSC.

Poolaw also received a battlefield commission during the Korean War, which he relinquished after the war. I’m unable to find a reason why he reverted to enlisted status, but this is somewhat common for those who want to remain on active duty during post-war demobilization. His highest rank held was first lieutenant.

Poolaw retired from the Army in 1962. Poolaw’s four sons followed in the family warrior tradition and enlisted in the Army. Poolaw reenlisted in an attempt to try to keep his boys from seeing combat. Regulations at the time prohibited two members of the same family from serving in a combat zone together. His son Pascal Jr was sent to Vietnam and returned home in February, 1967 missing his right leg below the knee after being hit by a landmine.

Poolaw’s youngest son Lindy had been drafted into the Army and shortly after Pascal Jr’s return home was given orders to Vietnam. The elder Poolaw, wanting to protect his children with the same veracity he protected his troops, immediately volunteered to go to Vietnam himself. According to the regulation, if he went, then his son would be spared.

When Poolaw went to his port of embarkation, he discovered Lindy had shipped out the day before. Poolaw voluntarily joined his son in Vietnam, serving as First Sergeant Company C, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. He deployed 31 May, 1967.

On 7 November, 1967, First Sergeant Poolaw was with his company and another one on a search and destroy mission near Loc Ninh. As the companies moved through a rubber plantation they came under sniper fire. Quickly they found themselves in a well coordinated ambush. The men found themselves being hit with claymore, rocket, small arms, and automatic weapons fire from a numerically larger enemy.

Poolaw ran to the lead squad, which was under the brunt of the enemy attack. Exposing himself to the heavy enemy fire, he moved from position to position among the men to ensure they were properly deployed and maintaining a solid base of fire. Once set up to defend the attack, Poolaw continued to expose himself to hostile fire to move among his men, giving them encouragement and removing casualties.

Even once wounded, he refused to leave the field and continued to encourage his men and pulled wounded soldiers to the rear. It was while pulling a casualty away from the front that First Sergeant Poolaw was mortally wounded by Vietcong fire.

For his final battle, Poolaw received a fourth Silver Star and his third Purple Heart. Unfortunately both awards were posthumous. He was only 45 years old when he fell, but had served across the world in three wars. In the short time he was in Vietnam, I can find reference to Poolaw receiving two Bronze Star Medals, an Air Medal, and an Army Commendation Medal with “V”.

Writing home shortly before his final battle, Poolaw said he “rated his job there as being more important than his life.” Through his words and his actions, it’s obvious Poolaw was one to lead from the front and not ask of his men anything he wouldn’t do himself. In three wars Poolaw would repeatedly and fearlessly put himself ahead of his men, ultimately at the cost of his life.

At his funeral service in Oklahoma, Poolaw’s wife of 25 years Irene said, “He has followed the trail of the great chiefs. His people hold him in honor and highest esteem. He has given his life for the people and the country he loved so much.”

Poolaw’s Impressive Array of Awards and Decorations

poolaw awards

Sergeant Lindy Poolaw was with the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) during his tour in Vietnam. He came out of the war, but perished in 1968 in a car accident in Germany while there with the 3rd Infantry Division.

The Poolaw family legacy of service is impressive. Take a stroll through here Poolaw Family Memorial Link and you’ll see that virtually every male relative connected to Pascal Poolaw served in the US military. From the 19th century through the Vietnam War, the Poolaw family is well represented. Of course, Pascal Poolaw Sr. raises the bar significantly for future generations to aspire to.

Hand Salute. Ready, two!

Category: America, Army, Guest Post, The Warrior Code, Valor

Comments (20)

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  1. Harry says:

    Meanwhile, Navy SEALs are drinking in combat…they sure as hell don’t make men like they used to.

    • Retired Grunt says:

      To be fair,

      This is the 1st time in my limited knowledge troops have not been permitted to drink during off hours out Of respect for the moooslim countries we are fighting in, Even though when I was assigned coordinating the Afghan national police their Colonels would routinely Bring me unopened bottles of Jack Daniel’s Which as a responsible officer I immediately gave to my senior in ceos to dispose of properly. When I was in Iraq the local shops had lots of beer. Very strange very strange

    • AW1Ed says:

      Not the place for this, Harry.

    • mr. sharkman says:

      I’d call you an ignorant motherfvcker, but that would be an insult to ignorant motherfvckers.

      If you know you are going to be in SoCal or VaBeach, let me know and I’ll give you a list of bars where you should go and say what you’re implying- ‘loud and proud’.

      Before doing so, buy your Mama a Black Dress.

      GFY.

  2. Just Lurkin says:

    There is an error in the article: it says that the action for his second Silver Star occurred just a few days past the fifth anniversary of his first, but that should be six years (1944-50).

  3. The kind of man we need more of, it looks like.

    Thanks for the info, AW1Ed.

  4. 5th/77th FA says:

    “…no greater love…” The kind of man you’d follow thru the gates of hell, fight til hell froze over, and then fight ’em on the ice.

    Ready on the right, ready on the left, the gun line is ready. Fire by the piece from right to left…COMMENCE FIRING!

    Secure the guns…Honors Rendered

  5. 5th/77th FA says:

    “…no greater love…” The kind of man you’d follow thru the gates of hell, fight till hell froze over, and then fight them on the ice.

    Not just a Hand Salute…All Batteries prepare to render Honors. Ready on the right, ready on the left…The Gun Line is ready. Fire by the piece from right to left… PREPARE…COMMENCE FIRING!

    Great job Mason. Keep ’em coming.

  6. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    Well that was an amazing guy, as 5th/77th FA said this was the kind of guy you’d follow anywhere because he led…numerous studies have indicated the importance of morale that men like this bring their units. A leader like this can turn the tide of any tactical conflict simply based on their ability to generate that confidence of spirit in their troops that those troops will succeed. History has illuminated that the reverse is equally true, a piss poor leader can quickly turn what should have been an easily successful encounter into a disaster.

    Great article, and a great read. Thank you.

  7. Toxic Deplorable B Woodman says:

    Damned dust and allergies………….

  8. Mason says:

    I’m disappointed nobody has called me out for forgetting the bronze service star on his NDSM. I realized the error late and didn’t want to re-build the graphic.

    • Claw says:

      I saw that right away, but have too much respect for the man and his accomplishments to make the call.

      Hand Salute and RIP to the 1SG.

  9. Steve Weeks says:

    The man deserves the Medal Of Honor.

  10. SgtBob says:

    “… ignominious distinction of being wounded…” Ignominious means humiliating or disgraceful. Other than that, a good story.

    • AW1Ed says:

      That’s on me, SgtBob. I proof Mason’s offerings before posting, and that slipped by me. The fact I’ve corrected exactly two typos in all the offerings Mason has provided may have let me lapse into a false sense of security.

      That being said, I eagerly await your offerings to post up, for others to snipe at.

  11. RLS says:

    Excellent article. Just wanted to bring something to your attention. Even though it is online in quite a few places, Poolaw was actually never awarded the DSC. This can be confirmed with the DOD medal lists at https://valor.defense.gov/Recipients/Army-Distinguished-Service-Cross-Recipients/.

    Plus his bio on the Army website makes no mention of the DSC. https://www.army.mil/americanindians/poolaw.html

  12. mr. sharkman says:

    ‘It was while pulling a casualty away from the front that First Sergeant Poolaw was mortally wounded by Vietcong fire.’

    ==========

    “For every 100 men, ten should never be found in battle. Eighty are targets, Nine are the Fighters, and it is fortunate we have them. But one is a Warrior, and he will bring the others back.”

    -Hericletus, circa 500 BC