KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A Korean War veteran whose heroic actions in 1951 helped keep an American tank from falling into enemy hands and kept American soldiers from being injured was honored Monday with the Bronze Star Medal with Valor.
Maj. Gen. Max Haston, Tennessee’s Adjutant General, presented Robert H. Marshall the Bronze Star with “V” device for valor at a ceremony in Downtown Knoxville.
“It’s just amazing that we’ve waited this long to recognize this,” Haston said.
Corporal Marshall was serving with Company A, 72nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division in 1951 when he led a small group of soldiers to retrieve an abandoned American tank in a river near enemy lines.
“The captain told me, ‘You know, you might die’. He says, ‘I won’t put anybody into that. I’d like you to do it, but if you don’t I won’t do nothing to you’. I looked at him and I said, ‘I’ll do it!’ And I done it,” said Corporal Marshall.
Marshall waded through the river toward the tank as enemy weapons were fired all around him.
“I got down there on that tank and I looked at it and I said, ‘Gah!’ It’s all water up to my nose. Everything was up. I looked at it and they were still hitting me,” he said.
He was able to enter the tank and start it by reaching underwater to access the controls. Knowing it could easily overturn or become further stuck, Marshall was able to put the tank in reverse, lock the brakes and let out the clutch, causing the tank to lurch backwards and dislodge from the rocks.
He was then able to get the tank out of the river and drive it to a friendly location.
Though Marshall’s actions were mostly forgotten in later years, Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office and others were able to ensure that Marshall, who now lives in Knoxville, was properly recognized for his deeds.
“All those years of service to our country and our military and then service to our community, and then to be able to do this today is pretty special,” said Haston.
“Americans depend every day on the brave men and women of our Armed Services who sacrifice so much to protect our freedom and keep us safe, and Corporal Marshall’s heroic actions on that day in September of 1951 exemplify that bravery,” Alexander said. “I am pleased to congratulate Corporal Marshall on this overdue and well-deserved honor, and I thank him for his dedicated service to our country.”