Cpl Salvatore Naimo Finally Receives Silver Star For Actions During the Korean War 70 Years Ago

By Faye Higbee

On Wednesday, Marine Corps Col. John Polidoro, chief of staff, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command, awarded a Silver Star to Cpl Salvatore Naimo for valorous actions taken on Sept. 14, 1951 in Korea. The US Marines were entrenched in what was Called “the Punchbowl”-Haean Basin. As part of the 1st Marine Division, 3rd Batallion 5th Marines, Cpl Naimo was part of Howe Company when he dragged two Marines to safety while under fire from Chinese mortars and artillery.

We wrote about Cpl Naimo back in 2017 while he was waiting for a medal that seemed to fall through the cracks several times.

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Nearly 70 years ago, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines regained the area north of the 38th parallel called the “Punchbowl” in a battle against the Chinese Army covered by heavy enemy mortar and artillery fire. The company dug-in to a defensive position on a key hill top; Corporal (Cpl) Naimo’s platoon occupied the left flank.

On the 14th of September, the Chinese Army began another barrage of mortar fire on the Marines in an attempt to once again control the terrain. Howe Company was effectively suppressed. A direct hit critically injured two Marines in the fighting hole next to Cpl Naimo and shouts for emergency medical attention rang out. Immediately, he charged from his position to the casualties, picked up the first Marine, and ran to the Navy Corpsmen at the back of the Company’s formation. Naimo and the Marine he was carrying were struck to the ground by another close round. Now injured himself, Naimo again picked up his fellow Marine and pressed on to the Corpsmen’s position. After receiving blood stoppage to his own wounds, Naimo told the group he needed to go back and get the second Marine in critical condition. Despite pressure to stay in place, Naimo successfully retrieved him.

Among the indirect fire and saving the lives of his two fellow Marines, Naimo observed Chinese forces advancing up the hill. He took up a fighting hole and began to fire his own rifle, throw grenades, and other weapons stashed until nearly out of ammunition. His efforts successfully fought back the enemy, and Howe Company retained the hill.

(Dvidshub) Gunnery Sgt. Eric Alabiso II and 1st Lt. John Coppola

He was the “hero of Hill 1052” and he waited a long time for the honor. Why didn’t he get his Silver Star 70 years ago? Two days after his Platoon commander said he would put Naimo in for a medal, he was killed in action. The Company Commander, who knew of his actions, was also injured on the same day. Since them the medal literally fell through the cracks until Wednesday.

So on Wednesday morning, March 17, 2021, Cpl Salvatore Naimo finally received his Silver Star on his 89th Birthday. Naimo said he was very proud of the medal, but that he received it for “something I was trained to do.”

“The normal reaction when under fire is fear; that is the reaction. It’s a very difficult and deliberate decision to act, especially to put yourself at risk to save or protect your fellow Marine…It doesn’t matter if the Marine’s actions took place yesterday, or 70 years ago, we will always ensure our Marines are recognized for their performance.”

Colonel John Polidoro, Chief of Staff, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Central Command

Semper Fi, Salvatore Naimo, you earned it.


Featured photo: Marine Corps Col. John Polidoro, chief of staff, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command, awards the Silver Star on Cpl. Salvatore Naimo, a Korean War Veteran in Sarasota, Florida, on March 17. (Gunnery Sgt. Eric Alabiso II/ Marine Corps)

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