Army Maj. Carl Henry Dodd hadn’t been an officer for long when he led a platoon of soldiers into a lopsided fight on a hillside in Korea. They were outnumbered and at a disadvantage, but Dodd’s resolve pushed his men to give it their all and win the day. For that, he earned the Medal of Honor.
Dodd was born April 21, 1925, in Cote, Kentucky, as the first of a dozen children born to Edward and Ruby Dodd. When Carl was three, the expanding family moved to a farm in the tiny town of Kenvir, Kentucky.
Dodd’s parents described him as a “lone wolf” who was a Boy Scout and an active member of their Baptist church, according to a 1951 interview in the Louisville newspaper, The Courier Journal. When Dodd had to register for the draft after his second year of high school, he dropped out and went to work at the Black Mountain Coal Company.
Dodd then decided to enlist in the Army in 1943 when he turned 18. This was during World War II, but it’s unclear if he served time overseas. He was discharged in March 1946 as a sergeant. However, he decided to reenlist six months later at the same rank, despite a foot issue he’d developed while training troops during his first stint in service.
Dodd married Libbie Rose Anderson in the fall of 1947. They went on to have three children, sons Carl Jr. and David and daughter Lorana.
Over the next few years, Dodd was stationed at Kentucky’s Fort Knox, then Korea and Hawaii before being sent back to Korea in the summer of 1950 when war broke out. In his first few months there, he earned the Silver and Bronze stars, as well as a battlefield commission. He had advanced in rank to first lieutenant just a few days before the actions that earned him the Medal of Honor.
On Jan. 30, 1951, Dodd was in Subuk, Korea, with Company E of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division. He had been tasked with leading an attack against a hill that was well-guarded by a camouflaged enemy that had repulsed several previous attacks. Despite the inherent dangers, Dodd led his platoon forward as it was attacked by heavy small-arms, mortar and artillery fire.
As his men faltered from the onslaught, Dodd disregarded his own safety and moved around to reorganize and encourage them. He then singlehandedly charged a hostile machine-gun nest, taking out all of its occupants. His bravery inspired the other members of the platoon to charge the enemy using their bayonets and grenades. They managed to take out all of the hostile positions in that area.
Dodd reorganized his men again and took them across a narrow ridge onto the targeted hill. Leading the charge, he used his rifle and grenades against the enemy, which was concentrating heavy fire on the small patch of terrain they were moving through. About 200 yards from their objective, Dodd ran ahead and used his last grenade to kill the crew of an enemy mortar.
As night fell, the platoon sheltered in place. When daybreak came, Dodd boldly moved ahead of his unit again. Through a dense fog, the platoon used its bayonets and remaining grenades against the rest of the hostile positions until they won the hill.
Army Col. Lucian Rawls Jr. later said the Americans had been outnumbered three to one and that Dodd had single handedly killed dozens of enemy soldiers. The first lieutenant’s leadership and heroism that day led Rawls to recommend Dodd for the Medal of Honor.
Dodd received the nation’s highest award for valor from President Harry S. Truman during a White House ceremony on May 19, 1951. Two other soldiers, Master Sgt. Ernest Kouma and Sgt. John Pittman, also received the medal.
Dodd remained in the Army until retiring as a major in 1965 after 21 years of service. He then spent several years working for the Department of Agriculture.
Dodd’s wife described him as a humble, soft-spoken man who didn’t talk about his service much. According to The Courier-Journal newspaper, he also devoted a lot of his time to the Shriners Hospital for Children in Lexington.
Dodd lived in Corbin, Kentucky, until he died at a Lexington veteran’s hospital on Oct 13, 1996, at the age of 71. He was buried in Corbin at Cumberland Memorial Gardens.