William E. Barber served in three wars: World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He enlisted in 1940, becoming a Marine parachutist instructor, then attended Officer Candidate School. After graduation, Barber deployed to the Pacific Theater as a platoon leader. He earned the Silver Star at Iwo Jima for the daring rescuing of two wounded Marines and the Medal of Honor during the Chosin River Campaign of the Korean War. He served as Commander of Third Reconnaissance Battalion in Okinawa, then deployed to Vietnam to run a psychological operations campaign, for which he was awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat "V."
His Medal of Honor citation is a must-read:
For The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Captain William Earl Barber (MCSN: 0-28331), United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty and without detriment to the mission of his command in combat with the enemy in Korea., from 28 November to 2 December 1950, as Company Commander of Company F, Second Battalion, Seventh Marines, FIRST Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces near the Chosin Reservoir, in North Korea. Assigned to defend a three-mile mountain pass along the division’s main supply line and commanding the only route of approach in the march from Yudam-ni to Hagaru-ri, Captain Barber took position with his battle-weary troops and, before nightfall, had dug in and set up a defense along the frozen, snow-covered hillside. When a force of estimated regimental strength savagely attacked during the night, inflicting heavy casualties and finally surrounding his position following a bitterly fought seven-hour conflict, Captain Barber, after repulsing the enemy gave assurance that he could hold if supplied by airdrops and requested permission to stand fast when orders were received by radio to fight his way back to a relieving force after two reinforcing units had been driven back under fierce resistance in their attempts to reach the isolated troops. Aware that leaving the position would sever contact with the 8,000 Marines trapped at Yudam-ni and jeopardize their chances of joining the 3,000 more awaiting their arrival in Hagaru-ri for the continued drive to the sea, he chose to risk loss of his command rather than sacrifice more men if the enemy seized control and forced a renewed battle to regain the position, or abandon his many wounded who were unable to walk. Although severely wounded in the leg in the early morning of the 29th, Captain Barber continued to maintain personal control, often moving up and down the lines on a stretcher to direct the defense and consistently encouraging and inspiring his men to supreme efforts despite the staggering opposition. Waging desperate battle throughout five days and six nights of repeated onslaughts launched by the fanatical aggressors, he and his heroic command accounted for approximately 1,000 enemy dead in this epic stand in bitter subzero weather, and when the company was relieved only two of his original 220 men were able to walk away from the position so valiantly defended against insuperable odds. His profound faith and courage, great personal valor, and unwavering fortitude were decisive factors in the successful withdrawal of the division from the deathtrap in the Chosin Reservoir sector and reflect the highest credit upon Captain Barber, his intrepid officers and men, and the United States Naval Service.
Col. Barbler passed away in 2002, but he is someone we must remember. For a nation that doesn't honor its veterans is a nation that doesn't deserve them.