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Private First Class Lloyd Beltz

K Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment

Machine gun and mortar fire rain down on the platoon of cavalrymen, pinning them down as they tried to take Hill 347. Bullets fall like rain and the mortar rounds gnaw at the earth like rabid dogs on a fresh piece of meat. Private First Class Lloyd Beltz, with a M1919 Browning .30 machine gun advanced towards their objective: a crest on the hill guarded by two Chinese machine gun bunkers. The young Virginian, cradling his weapon in his arms, advances alone in the face of danger. As he reached the first bunker, seemingly all of the enemy fire directed solely at him, Beltz silenced it and a trench line nearby, his machinegun ablaze. As the first Chinese machine gun fell silent, the rest of Beltz's platoon moves up to support him, though he was already moving towards the next bunker. Despite being low on ammunition and again acting alone, Beltz successfully routing the Chinese bunker and nearby Chinese solders, securing the platoon's objective. However, before his comrades could reach him to congratulate him, he crumples to the ground, having been mortally wounded by another machine gun on another hill. For his valor, he posthumously received the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award for valor the United States can bestow. However, his awarding of the medal almost didn't happen, due to circumstances beyond his control a few months following his death in the frozen hills of Korea.

Private First Class Lloyd Eugene Beltz was born on January 21st, 1931 in Newport News, VA to Ira and Margaret Beltz. He attended Hampton High School, graduating in 1949. However, before he could enjoy his time out of high school, he was sent to Korea to fight the North Korean and Chinese armies in the aid of South Korea. Before he left for war, he came into possession of a Case 'Pig Sticker,' a type of fighting knife made by the Case Knife Company. The Pig Sticker got its name from its intended use to 'stick' livestock in the neck during the butchering process. However, the name got a second meaning during World War II as a stiletto and fighting knife utilized by airborne, ranger, and other special forces units. Never officially used by the US Military, these knives were ordered on a company and regimental level by certain units, like elements of the 82nd Airborne during their campaign in Holland. Beltz's pig sticker was likely purchased out of a catalog prior to shipping out, though whether it was a gift from his father or something he got for himself is unknown.

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Red Clay & Yellow Shields: Crossing the Lines

Beltz arrived in Korea in April of 1951 amid a wave of uncertainty. Just a few months prior, the 1st Cavalry Division was routed from North Korea, being forced to retreat from Sinchang-ni and (catastrophically) from Unsan. The division, due to the losses at these battles, was put into strategic reserve on the northern outskirts of Seoul. However, the division was forced back into combat upon the beginning of the Chinese Spring Offensive. 250,000 Chinese soldiers slammed into the United Nations forces along the front line, with a generous amount of those troops advancing towards Seoul itself. In order to allow the rest of the 1st Cavalry Division to prepare for immediate movement to the frontline, the 5th Cavalry Regiment, assisted by the 61st Field Artillery Battalion and A Company, 70th Tank Battalion, went ahead of the rest of the First Team to halt the enemy. Around April 26th, the 7th Cavalry Regiment, supported by the 77th and 82nd Field Artillery Battalions, was sent to support the 3rd Infantry Division, relieving the battle-weary men. Two days later, the 7th Cavalry returned to the authority of the 1st Cavalry Division as the First Team saddled up to defend Seoul, manning Line Goldie, a mere 15 miles north of Seoul. As April began to turn into May, troopers in the division were issued three days worth of ammunition and companies were issued extra machine guns, all of this in preparation for a grueling march north, driving the North Koreans out of the south.

To push the Chinese back north, General Matthew Ridgway, the theatre commander in Korea, established phase lines, pushing his troops to take each phase line one at a time. These lines were little more than lines on a map, but acted as rungs of a ladder to once again be on the offensive. Beltz fought with the 7th Cavalry Regiment from its patrol base just south of Uijongbu to Line Topeka north of Tokchong and Line Kansas north of Sochon-ni. The cavalry took those lines by the end of May and in June they took Line Wyoming, the jump-off point for Operation Commando in October, 1951.

On July 7th, 60 Chinese soldiers descended on 3rd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment's patrol outpost. Beltz engaged the enemy with his machine gun but rapidly, the situation deteriorated into a whirlwind of hand-to-hand combat. Troopers swung entrenching tools, jabbed bayonets, and smashed helmets, finally driving the enemy off. Throughout the first two weeks of July, the Chinese engaged in these hit-and-run assaults on isolated or thin sections of the line. Prior to the assault on 3rd Battalion, the Chinese attacked a group of combat engineers doing road construction and the day after it, two companies of Chinese troops assaulted the 5th Cavalry Regiment's positions. Despite these furious small engagements, Beltz and his comrades survived. On July 15th, the division moved into 8th Army reserve, celebrating the anniversary of the division's arrival into Korea with a few weeks of training and rest without the constant harassment of the enemy. The division returned to the front line on August 1st, ready to once again fight to protect South Korea. 

Two combat engagements were conducted by K Company between August 1st and Operation Commando. On August 19th, 3rd Battalion, 7th Cavalry engaged the Chinese in a limited objective attack, sending Beltz and the rest of K Company along with L Company and a platoon of tanks from C Company, 70th Tank Battalion, taking two of three objectives before encountering well entrenched enemy positions, forcing them to end the operation. The following month in the night of September 21-22, 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 7th Cavalry Regiment came under intense artillery fire, shells screaming overhead, slamming into the earth around the troopers. This was followed up by an entire Chinese battalion. The assault was unusual for the Chinese, as they favored platoon or company sized engagements, sending small units to sneak through American lines before engaging from all sides with limited artillery and mortar fire. This time, they send an entire battalion with extensive artillery support to try and destroy Beltz and 3rd Battalion. They almost succeeded, having completely enveloped the battalion and broken through the perimeter in multiple places. However, a courageous counterattack by I Company prevented 3rd Battalion from being completely overrun.

Red Clay & Yellow Shields: Operation Commando

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