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Medal of Honor Monday: Army Cpl. Clair Goodblood

Army Cpl. Clair Goodblood came from a big family and was known to help others when he could, so sadly, no one was surprised to learn that he’d given his life to save his comrades as they were swarmed by the enemy in Korea. His sacrifice earned him the nation’s highest military award for valor.

Goodblood was born Sept. 18, 1929, in Fort Kent, Maine, near the Canadian border. He was one of the 14 children of Percy and Emily Goodblood, who moved their family to a farm in Burnham in central Maine when Goodblood was 6 years old.

Army Cpl. Clair Goodblood, Medal of Honor recipient. (Army photograph)

According to an article in the Bangor Daily News, Goodblood graduated from Reynolds Corner School in 1944 and enlisted in the Army three years later. He spent two of his three years of service in Alaska as a chaplain’s assistant.

Goodblood reenlisted in June 1950, just as the Korean War was beginning. He was sent to Korea that October as part of the 1st Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division.

By the spring of 1951, U.S. and allied troops had begun to push north over the 38th Parallel, which separated North Korea from South Korea, to secure more defensible positions. The move was in preparation for a suspected spring offensive by enemy forces who wanted to recapture the southern capital, Seoul.

Late that April, Chinese forces began that offensive before U.S. troops were in position.

Goodblood was a machine gunner for Company B in one the key defensive positions when they were attacked the night of April 24, 1951, in the area of Popsu-dong. Bitter fighting ensued, and a swarm of enemy soldiers breached the position’s perimeter.

Company B was ordered to withdraw, but Goodblood volunteered to stay behind to cover his fleeing comrades. At one point, when a live grenade was hurled in his direction, he shoved a fellow soldier to the ground and jumped on top of him to try to shield him from the blast. Both men were wounded, but Goodblood refused to get treatment and instead ordered the evacuation of the other wounded soldier.

From that point on, Goodblood faced the enemy alone. He fearlessly held his ground and laid heavy fire on the incoming Chinese until their charge overwhelmed him, and his gun fell silent.

Goodblood sacrificed his life to allow time for his comrades to get away. His unit was able to regroup elsewhere and return to resecure the position the next day.

Soldiers of the Heavy Mortar Company, 7th Infantry Regiment, cook rice in their foxhole in the Kagae-dong area of North Korea, Dec. 7, 1950. (Army photograph)

According to his Medal of Honor citation, when friendly forces returned to the scene, the 21-year-old’s body was found lying beside his gun. About 100 dead enemy soldiers lay fanned out in the wake of his field of fire.

During a three-day period of that offensive’s bitter fighting, three other American soldiers earned the Medal of Honor alongside Goodblood: Cpl. John Essebagger Jr., Pfc. Charles L. Gilliland and Cpl. Hiroshi Miyamura.

According to the Bangor Daily News, Goodblood’s family said he was a kind person and always looked out for other people, so they weren’t shocked to hear that he’d lost his life protecting others.

On Jan. 16, 1952, Goodblood’s mother received the Medal of Honor on her son’s behalf from Defense Secretary Robert A. Lovett during a Pentagon ceremony. Nine other men received the honor that day.

Goodblood was buried in Chandler Cemetery in his hometown, where his name has not been forgotten. The Cpl. Clair Goodblood Medal of Honor Memorial was dedicated to him on Memorial Day in 1998. It’s located along a highway that’s also named for him in Burnham, where a chapter of the Maine Korean War Veterans Association also bears his name.

Editor’s note: Medal of Honor Monday highlights Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military’s highest medal for valor.

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