b. 17/03/1925 Juneau, Alaska. d. 22/05/1986 Ketchikan, Alaska.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 02/11/1950 Sudong, Korea.
Born March 17, 1925 in Juneau, Alaska, Van Winkle attended public school in Darrington, Washington. An ardent athlete, he captained both the boxing and football teams at Darrington High School, where he also played baseball and basketball. He entered the University of Washington in Seattle to study physical education, but left after a few months to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve on December 14, 1942.
During almost three years of active duty, he served as an aviation radioman-gunner and mechanic, participating in the Solomons, Philippines and Emirau operations. On October 22, 1945, he received his honorable discharge. He continued his studies in physical education for two years at Everett Junior College (now Everett Community College) and for another year at the University of Washington. In March 1948, he rejoined the Marine Corps Reserve and became a member of Company A, 11th Infantry Battalion, in Seattle.
The battalion was mobilized and ordered to Camp Pendleton, California, on August 7, 1950. Late that month he arrived in Korea and participated in the Inchon landing. By November 2, 1950, Van Winkle had reached the rank of staff sergeant and was serving as an infantry platoon sergeant. On that night, near Sudong, Korea, he led a charge through withering enemy fire. A bullet shattered his arm and he was seriously wounded in the chest by a direct hit from a hand grenade. He refused to be evacuated and continued to shout orders and encouragement to his men while lying on the ground, weak from loss of blood. His leadership enabled the outnumbered platoon to repulse an enemy attack. For these actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Evacuated to Japan and later to the United States, he subsequently served for several months with the Marine guards at the Naval Base, Bremerton, Washington. He was released from active duty on July 16, 1951 and was attached to the 10th Infantry Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, in Seattle.
President Harry S. Truman presented Van Winkle with the Medal of Honor during ceremonies at the White House on February 6, 1952. The following day he was sworn in as a second lieutenant by General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., Commandant of the Marine Corps, having qualified under the "meritorious noncommissioned officer" program.
Later recalled to active duty, Van Winkle attended Basic School at Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia, from November 1952 to May 1953. First Lieutenant Van Winkle completed Air Observation School at Quantico that November and was assigned as an Air Observer with the 3rd Marine Division then at Camp Pendleton. He was later Assistant G-3 of Force Troops, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, then served as a company executive officer and company commander, respectively, with the 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division. He was promoted to captain on December 31, 1954 and in 1955, he was assigned as regimental liaison officer, 9th Marines.
From November 1955 until April 1958, he served as assistant officer in charge of the Marine Corps Recruiting Station, Indianapolis, Indiana. In May 1958, he was named commanding officer of the marine detachment aboard the USS Newport News (CA-148). Following two years in this assignment, he was assigned to the college degree program at the University of Washington, Seattle, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in history in June 1961.
Transferred to Hawaii that month, Captain Van Winkle was assigned as a company commander with the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marines, 1st Marine Brigade. In April 1962, he became director of the 1st Marine Brigade Schools and was credited with the establishment of a brigade guerilla warfare school. Earlier, as part of a special observer group sent to Vietnam in late February 1962, he was commended by General Paul D. Harkins, U.S. Army, head of the United States Military Assistance Command in Vietnam, and Admirals H.D. Felt and J.H. Sides, CINCPAC, and CINCPAC Fleet commanders, respectively. He was promoted to major in August 1962.
In June 1964, Van Winkle reported to the Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Upon graduation in June 1965, he was assigned duty as manpower analyst and, later, head, Operating Forces Section, Manpower Control Branch, G-1 Division, at Headquarters Marine Corps. While serving in his capacity, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel on July 1, 1967.
Van Winkle's next duty assignment was in the Republic of Vietnam. He served consecutively as commanding officer, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines; G-3 Operations Officer, First Marine Division; and as assistant operations officer, Task Force X-Ray, Sub Unit #1, First Marine Division, from August 1967 to September 1968, and earned the Bronze Star with Combat "V". A gold star in lieu of a second Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V" was awarded him for his actions on July 6, 1968, on Hill 689 near Khe Sanh Combat Base. He also received the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Gold Star.
He was commanding officer of 1st Battalion 1st Marines from June 1968 to September 1968. After his return to the United States, he was again assigned to the G-1 Division at Headquarters Marine Corps, this time as head of the Standards and Utilization Section, Manpower Control Branch. He then served as provost marshal at Camp Pendleton California then provost marshal general of the Marine Corps. He retired from service in February 1974.
In his retirement, Van Winkle lived on a boat in Bar Harbor near Ketchikan, Alaska. He died there on May 22, 1986, and his remains were cremated and scattered at sea in the Tongass Narrows, on which Ketchikan sits.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Platoon Sergeant in Company B, First Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces in the vicinity of Sudong, Korea, on November 2, 1950. Immediately rallying the men in his area after a fanatical and numerically superior enemy force penetrated the center of the line under cover of darkness and pinned down the platoon with a devastating barrage of deadly, automatic weapons and grenade fire, Staff Sergeant Van Winkle boldly spearheaded a determined attack through withering fire against hostile frontal positions and, though he and all the others who charged with him were wounded, succeeded in enabling his platoon to gain the fire superiority and the opportunity to reorganize. Realizing that the left-flank squad was isolated from the rest of the unit, he rushed through forty yards of fierce enemy fire to reunite his troops despite an elbow wound which rendered one of his arms totally useless. Severely wounded a second time when a direct hit in the chest from a hostile hand grenade caused serious and painful wounds, he staunchly refused evacuation and continued to shout orders and words of encouragement to his depleted and battered platoon. Finally carried from his position unconscious from shock and loss of blood, Staff Sergeant Van Winkle served to inspire all who observed him to heroic efforts in successfully repulsing the enemy attack. His superb leadership, valiant fighting spirit and unfaltering devotion to duty in the face of heavy odds reflect the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.
BURIAL LOCATION: CREMATED - ASHES SCATTERED OFF KETCHIKAN, ALASKA.
MEMORIAL AT SITKA NATIONAL CEMETERY, SITKA, ALASKA.
Section Q, Site 10
NO IMAGE AVAILABLE