Home' Nonahood News : NONA 050116 Contents The term “hero” is thrown around very loosely.
Professional athletes and fictional characters are
given this title many times. Please don’t misunder-
stand, the point of this article is not to argue who
is a hero and who is not. The beauty is probably
in the eye of the beholder, in many cases. If a par-
ticular person receives motivation from a profes-
sional athlete or fictional character to motivate
them or use their story to break free from their own
personal tragedy, then being identified a hero may
be in order. However, the Nonahood Interview for
May highlights a man who is without a doubt the
definition of a hero. A man whom several people
have worked very hard to have the United States
recognize as a hero. This month, we had the abso-
lute honor of speaking to retired infantryman of the
United States Army Robert Barfield, or “Boomerang
Bob” as he is affectionately called. Bob lives close to
the Wycliffe area of the Nonahood.
With the prior knowledge of the fact that you
entered the service at a young age, can you
please tell me a little about your childhood?
My parents broke up early and I didn’t live with
either one of them (for) probably a year of my life. I
was put in an orphanage and different homes. I was
even in reform school for two years. It would hap-
pen, I was with a foster home and they owned a farm
and they were losing money on the farm. My foster
parents (were) real nice, I enjoyed the people. I only
lived with them about a year and a half, and they
decided to sell the farm. I went back under the court
jurisdiction in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. You can
imagine most people don’t want to hire a kid that’s
14. I wasn’t no kid. ... I went back into the court,
they were supposed to find me another foster home,
they said. Instead, they sent me to this place called
Kis-lyn Industrial School for Boys. You’ve read about
this Dozier School here in Florida? Kis-lyn was as
bad, if not worse, than that.
When did you begin service in the Army?
I joined when I was 17 years old from Philadel-
phia, Pennsylvania, in 1951. Right at the heart of the
How long were you in the Army?
I also had four years in the Navy. ... Three years
in the Army and four in the Navy.
How did you make it to the Korean War?
After I went through basic training ... it’s 16
weeks of infantry training. I went through jump
school at Fort Benning, Georgia, as a paratrooper.
As soon as I finished jump school, I got orders to
go overseas. I was sent to an outfit called the Fifth
Regimental Combat Team (5th RTC) ... which was
a regular infantry outfit. They had two regimental
combat teams in Korea and I served with both of
What was your Korean War experience like
In June the 23rd, I was a sniper. We had been
hearing things for the last week, and I had heard
something during the night, well towards the morn-
ing. It was in June, but it was really cold, way up
in the mountains. I kept hearing something like
somebody digging. My squad leader, obviously I was
just a private then, he come up to my hole. He was
checking on the men and he said, ‘Bob, you hear
anything?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I think there’s something
out in front of my position.’ I said, ‘Go ahead and sit
here with me.’ He did, and sure enough it sounded
like hitting the ground with a shovel. I looked over
the barbed wire. The sun was just starting to come
up. I figured now I could see if there was anything
down there. I laid my rifle down by my knees. I
looked over and just as I looked over I seen this or-
ange flame. BAM! It knocked me
right flat. The bullet hit me in the
shoulder. The guys heard it, and
my squad leader come running
up to me and he stuck a couple
bandages on my shoulder. The
to take the wounded off the hill.
Wow! You were shot? How
long did that keep you away
from the fighting?
After I got out of the hospital,
they said I was unfit for front-
line duty. There wasn’t a darn
thing wrong with me. ... I spent
about 6 months ... there were
three of us. We decided we want-
ed to go back to Korea, to the
front line. The way it worked in
Korea, if you had 36 points you could rotate home.
You’d get four points a month for front-line duty,
then so far back (away from the front line), you’d get
three points a month, then clear back to Japan you’d
get two points a month. We decided we’d be there
forever if we had to stay in Japan. All three of us de-
cided to put in a transfer at the same time. I wrote,
‘I feel the Army, as well as myself, will benefit, espe-
cially if I’m utilized in a front line division.’ I got my
transfer just like that.
Where did you go after you received notifica-
tion of the transfer?
They sent us to the 3rd Infantry Division. This
is the 3rd Infantry Division, and we were on a hill
called The Boomerang, like the name implies, it was
shaped like a boomerang. ... The Chinese had (an)
advantage. They could see down on us in 3 positions
(from) the rear slope. There wasn’t that much go-
ing on at first; they would start throwing artillery
at us, you know, and they have a thing called the
bracket method. ... They throw one round, maybe it
hits above the trench. The next one would usually be
in front of the trench, and look out for that third one.
When was the fighting the heaviest?
At the beginning of June (1953), they were brack-
eting our hill. ... We had word that they intercepted
a telephone message that the Chinese were go-
ing to hit us on the 14th (Flag Day). Of course, we
had heard this a few times before but nothing ever
materialized. I was a squad leader then ... 18 years
old, had 5 stripes. My company commander called
all the squad leaders to his bunker and told us to
pass out to each man a double basic load of ammu-
nition, that’s grenades and ammunition, (to) make
sure everybody was on the alert. ... Everything was
quiet that day, every once in a while they’d throw a
round at the hill. About 9:30 at night, just like that,
it went into hell. They threw 17,500 rounds of artil-
lery and mortar, plus used tanks. This was artillery,
mortar, and tanks against our hill. They were hitting
front, back, behind, on top, and every time a round
would hit on top of my bunker, it would suck the air
out of bunker. It was the craziest feeling.
When the artillery rounds decreased, the Chi-
nese soldiers charged the U.S. at Boomerang. Many
details of the events that occurred next, Bob ex-
plained, can be read about in a book he wrote (co-
authored by Captain Mark Musgrave and Dave
Lapham) named Insufficient Evidence.
Chapter 50 of the book describes, “At one point I
saw Chinese in the trench line to my right. The ROKs
(Republic of Korea allied soldiers) had obviously re-
treated. I picked up a BAR (M1918 Browning Auto-
matic Rifle) – can’t remember whose it was, but he
was dead – and charged down the trench line, killing
eight or 10 Chinese. They kept swarming into our
positions, and fighting had deteriorated to hand-to-
hand combat. I ran back and forth screaming at my
guys, shooting every Chinese I came across. Several
times just by sheer numbers, they forced us back,
but just as quickly we waded into them and pushed
them back.” (Insufficient Evidence, page 208)
During this battle, through his own heroics,
Sargeant Robert Barfield personally saved many
lives. In some instances, he carried wounded to a
safe location while under attack, when others re-
fused out of fear of their own lives. One soldier,
Second Lieutenant Lewis Hotelling (retired as Ma-
jor Hotelling), Boomerang Bob’s commanding of-
ficer, was saved by his direct action. From that day
forward, Major Hotelling’s life’s dream was to see
Barfield awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor
(the highest medal of valor in combat).
Boomerang Bob was initially recommended for
the Medal of Honor in 1953. Additionally, he re-
ceived this recommendation on a number of other
separate occasions since then. Due to technicalities
difficult to understand, the government has denied
these repeated requests by eyewitnesses despite
their affidavits and written sworn statements vali-
dating Bob Barfield’s actions on June 14, 1953.
The entire detailed story from when Robert Bar-
field was an orphan child to the repeated attempts
for the United States government to award him the
Medal of Honor is in his book Insufficient Evidence.
Additionally, much of Boomerang Bob’s story can be
found at robertbarfield.com.
Robert “Boomerang Bob” Barfield
Barfield, age 18
12 MAY 2016
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