Baker County soldier's awards to be displayed at Courthouse

By Jayson Jacoby January 30, 2014 08:57 am

John Noble Holcomb
John Noble Holcomb

By Jayson Jacoby

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The military honors awarded to Army Sgt. John Noble Holcomb, a Richland man who was killed in Vietnam on Dec. 3, 1968, at age 22, will be displayed at the Baker County Courthouse.

The roster of accolades includes America’s highest — the Medal of Honor — which was bestowed on Holcomb posthumously.

Holcomb is one of just 13 Oregonians, and the only Baker County resident, ever to receive the U.S. military’s highest decoration.

Fred Warner Jr., chairman of the Baker County Board of Commissioners, said Holcomb’s family offered the awards to the county for public display.

Bill Holcomb, John’s brother, brought the medals to the Courthouse this week. 

Warner said he will ask Vince Woods, the county’s facilities manager, to come up with a way to display the items in the lobby of the Courthouse, 1995 Third St. 

Holcomb Park, the county park on Brownlee Reservoir near Richland, was named for John Holcomb and dedicated on July 4, 1993.

Holcomb was killed during a firefight in which, according to the citation that accompanied his Medal of Honor, he demonstrated “indomitable will and courage after his unit was attacked from three sides.”

When the machine-gunner in Holcomb’s squad was hurt, Holcomb “seized the weapon, ran to a forward edge of the position, and placed withering fire on the enemy. His gallant actions caused the enemy to withdraw.”

After the first attack, Holcomb carried several of his wounded comrades to a safer spot.

Holcomb manned the machine gun again and repulsed a second enemy attack, but a rocket exploded near his position, destroying the machine gun and wounding Holcomb. The enemy artillery also ignited a grass fire.

Even after he was wounded, Holcomb “crawled through a grass fire and exploding mortar and rocket rounds to move the members of his squad, every one of whom had been wounded, to more secure positions.”

Then Holcomb crawled to a radio and reported the attack. His report allowed other units to pinpoint fire on the area and defeat the third and final attack.

On the occasion of Holcomb Park’s dedication, Baker City Realtor Mike Nelson described Holcomb as “a man who exemplified the ultimate plateau of human behavior.”