Peter Howland Monfore

17661 10 August 1927 – 19 September 1951
Killed in Action 19 September 1951, in Korea, aged 24 Years

“Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die.” – On September 19, 1951, Bloody Heartbreak Ridge, Hill 851, Korea, Love Company Commander, Lt. Peter Howland Monfore, and many comrades of the 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Division, met their death. These are the facts as told by the one surviving officer of Love Company.

“The morning of September 12, attack orders came. The Battalion was to cross the L.D. with ‘H’, ‘I’, ‘K’, and ‘L’ Company spearheading. Heartbreak Ridge was reached and we managed to fight our way up about two hundred yards before dark. On the days following this move, the push for HiII 851 started and the objective was almost reached. Peter was always up front with the assault platoon. He said the men liked to see their commanding officer around when the chips were down. The night of the 18th, Pete received orders for a night attack on 851. We moved through ‘K’ Co. at 10:00 PM o’clock and made our way right up on the hill. We dug in, everyone was so tired and happy. Four o’clock on the mornIng of the 19th, the Reds hit Love Company with two battalions. They cut off ‘K’ Company from us and soon had us completely surrounded. Peter had been reading his Bible. Sensing something was wrong, he put it down, picked up his carbine. As soon as we were out of our bunks we knew it was more than just a probing attack. The fight was overwhelming. We used up all our ammunition. Peter grabbed a BAR, then found a machine gun. The fighting became closer and bitter. We were surrounded. At about two PM o’clock I saw Pete coming toward me. An enemy burp gun got him in the chest, one bullet found his heart. Peter died very shortly, conscious all the time, and very calm and cool. He smiled at me, tried, but couldn’t speak. We put him on a litter, and I covered him with a blanket. I think he tried to tell me to take care of the remaining men. Finally ‘K’ and ‘I’ companies came up from behind and helped us to pull back. We, of Love Company, had only forty-four (44) men left out of one hundred and sixty-seven (167).”

“On October 12, Love Company was given the mission of retaking Hill 851. We took it. I am sure every man had Peter on his mind when we finally got up there. The battle of September 18th lasted fourteen hours. I have never seen Pete’s equal in or out of the Army. Peter was a Christian man, and lived every minute of his life as such, always saying his daily prayers and blessing his ‘C’ rations whenever he ate, doing for others, constantly bringing hope and encouragement to his men and being very considerate and thoughtful. I shall never forget him as long as I live. The men are putting him in for the Congressional Medal of Honor. We hope he gets it. We all thought so much of him.”

Thus, ended the short but full und glorious life of Lieut. Peter Howland Monfore, oldest of five children of Mr. and Mrs. Howland Swift Monfore of Springfield, South Dakota.

Peter was born in South Dakota on August 10, 1927. His childhood and early youth were spent in the ordinary activities of most boys. He was always a good student and very active in all school activities. He loved sports and participated and was a leader in them. Football was his great love.

Peter was baptized and confirmed in the Ascension Episcopal Church of Springfield, South Dakota.

After attending school at Springfield and Tyndall, South Dakota, Peter progressed to graduation with honors from Washington High School, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and immediately enlisted in the Navy, where he remained until 1946, when he received a letter from the Secretary of War, notifying him of an appointment to the United States Military Academy.

After much deliberation, he decided to accept and was given an honorable discharge from the Navy and entered West Point July 1st, 1946.

While taking Naval training at the University of Wisconsin, Pete became interested in boxing and under the splendid coaching of Dewitt Portal, John Walsh, and Julius Menendez, he became very proficient, receiving the Best Contenders trophy award. He followed this sport at U.S.M.A, and Peter “The Rock”, as he was affectionately called, went on to Captain the Army boxing team, and to make many splendid NCAA showings, and to win the Eastern Intercollegiate lightheavy weight title championship for two successive years, 1949 and 1950.

Peter’s character expanded and increased in strength, and he became a proud aud worthy cadet, meeting and encountering the new ways of life, with a serious and business-like attitude. He truly abided by the West Point code of “Duty, Honor, Country”, but added to it, love of God.

Peter was well known and respected by the cadets, and was a bulwark to which any in need could turn; perhaps this is made clearer by the facts that he was chosen a member of the Honor Committee and Cadet CO of “E-2” Company, besides remaining well up in his class scholastically, teaching Sunday School, playing football and boxing. Peter was a good student, a Christian, a fine athlete, a capable leader, and an outstandIng cadet, but he was never too busy to help. He was admired and loved by all who knew or came in contact with him, and they were many, for when the news of his tragic death became known, hundreds of letters of sympathy, praise and comfort came pouring in from all over the nation and abroad. We marveled at how many had been affected by his personality, unselfishness, kindness, helpfulness, sportsmanship, leadership, honesty, integrity, thoughtfulness, love of God, and love for his fellow men, which were all displayed with modesty and humility,
Peter developed and devoted much time to growth in spirit. He adopted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and wished for all his friends to find his own firm belief and comfort in the knowledge of God, wherein lies our salvation. The will of God was of great importance to Pete. He was active in many religious groups and was constantly trying to give others the strength and comfort received from his belief.

Peter chose for his tour of duty the Far East Command, feeling that there with the Infantry he could best serve his Lord and country. Following graduation from U.S.M.A. in June 1950, he spent a few weeks among friends and at home. In August 1950, with his spiritual and military background so fresh and new, he was shipped to the battlefield of Korea. In three days he received his first wounds while leading a platoon. After three weeks’ hospitalization and convalesence he returned to the 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Division, and served with it in various capacities, such as platoon leader, regimental liaison officer, etc. Twice he turned down opportunities to become “General’s Aide”. That was not for him. He wanted to be with the front line men. Finally, he was given Love Company to command. Now he was supremely happy. He said, “It is the best job in the whole Army”. He was ever looking after, not only the physical needs but the spiritual needs of his men.

Peter was a member of the Christian Military Men’s Committee, and their first member to be killed. This is the spiritual report of his life as written by a member:

“Several months previous to his death, Lieut. Monfore had sent us the names of his friends and military associates who were either unsaved or needing the Lord Jesus Christ, or Christians in need of spiritual encouragement. From that time on a regular prayer program for the men has been begun and Gospel messages designed to meet their individual needs sent to them, that witness shall result in their salvation. ‘For none of us liveth to himself, and no mail dieth unto himself, for whether we live, we live unto the Lord and whether we die, we die unto the Lord, whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lords.’ Romans 14:7-8. The eternal truth of this statement of God’s word is beautifully illustrated in the life and death of Lieut. Peter Howland Monfore. How gloriously true are God’s words, ‘He being dead, yet Speaketh.’

“Peter was courageous. He was awarded a French medal and citation by General Monclar, Commander of the French U.N. forces, for great courage, in spite of fierce enemy cross fire, in rescuing a French battalion which had been surrounded by the enemy”.

Great comfort and pride were found in these excerpts from letters which paid tribute to his character:

“My loss could not have been greater had it been my own family. As fine a man as ever walked the face of the earth. What a fiercely precious thing this freedom must be when it is bought and paid for with the lives of young men such as Pete. May God give us the sense of values to appreciate what it means.”

“I cannot think of any boy that has left the impression that Pete left with me. I can’t count the times that I have talked to my friends and boys in my classes about him. Peter was the model athlete. When you meet a boy in athletics or physical education like Pete, then you know you are in the right business. I shall always try to develop the fine qualities Peter possessed.”

“Your boy was certainly as fine a soldier as West Point has ever produced. He lived up to every part of, ‘Duty, Honor, Country’, Among all the the men we lost in this grinding battle, it is hard to say who could be the hardest to lose, but Pete had every attribute of greatness, and was potentially one of the Army’s bright young stars. For several hours we couldn’t believe he was really gone, and kept praying for his return. As a soldier, there is little in war to recommend itself to me. The only recompense is in the sense of duty performed for our country, and the great comradeship and respect engendered for our fighting brothers. Ernie Pyle could have written of this battle and your son. I cannot. We of the 23rd lnfantry share your grief and participate in your fierce pride.”

“Peter was an exceptionally fine young officer and was on my staff until he took over Love Company in August, and he immediately established it as a top outfit. The night preceding his death he executed a brilliant attack on a dominant hill of Heartbreak Ridge of unparalleled success and daring. We all predicted a shining future for your son and his men had a deep affection for him. Only a few days before, I signed a recommendation for his promotion to Captain. We are asking one of the country’s highest awards for your son, the highest decoration our government can give.”

“Pete was one of my best friends. I feel it a genuine privilege to have been his friend and feel that I am a better man today for having known him. Pete had many friends, probably as many as any man that ever graduated from the Point. Ours was a special friendship, a little stronger than ordinary. Peter and I had a common understanding of each other. I understood his religious views, his strict adherence to physical conditioning, his unflinching honesty. I respected him for it and he knew It. He never failed to make me laugh when I was down. The news of Peter’s death left me more stunned and grieved than I have ever been in my entire life. I last had seen Peter in Korea in April, 1951, near the IittIe town of Hong Chon. He hadn’t changed a bit, but looked like he did when he entered the boxing ring, grim and ready for the job ahead, yet ready with a smile.”

“As a member of my battalion, Pete, as he was affectionately called, was highly respected and beloved by all the officers and men of the unit. He was an outstanding officer, considerate, kind, gentle, yet firm. His regular attendance at church service was an indication of his true character in the spirit of love of God. This was a form of his duty, and with Pete the word duty was but another name for the will of the Almighty and to perform this was the sole aim of his life. News of his death stunned every member of this unit, and his loss will be felt keenly in the organization.”

These are just a few of the many, many tributes paid to Lieut. Peter Howland Monfore, no longer present on this earth.

We who survive him are proud to look back on his accomplishments and let them be examples which he set forth to serve us and inspire us in our attempt to fulfill the tasks that he would have completed. Pete met death pridefully and manfully in the service of his country, and with faith in his devotion to duty and in defense of all that we and the free people of the world hold most dear. Let us hope that it has helped us on the long hard road by which we may expect to reach a just, honorable, and enduring peace.

The Monfore Family

JOHN P. LAVELLE on February 20, 2005 –


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