July 28, 2018

Korean war vet's heroic story ‘worth learning'

The story of the Korean War’s “one-man army” began in 1932 in the tiny northwestern New Mexican town of Cabezón.

Roy Tachias, 86, was born there on Jan. 25 of that year, the oldest of 10 children.

Their home had an earthen floor and no electricity or indoor plumbing. The family moved to Bernalillo while Tachias was still young.

When he was 16, Tachias hitchhiked to Albuquerque to enlist in the United States Army and was posted in Japan at just 17 years old.

But when the U.S. military was to enter Korea in 1950, Tachias volunteered to be one of the first troops to deploy there, making him a member of Task Force Smith.

“They didn’t pick me,” Tachias said. “So I went over there and I raised hell. I said, ‘I want to go to Korea.’ They said, ‘OK.'”

Conditions in Korea were rough; Tachias and the other men had been deployed at a moment’s notice at the behest of President Harry S. Truman.

“They thought as soon as the American troops got on the ground out there, just by the presence of the U.S. Army it would deter the North Koreans from engaging,” said Brian Tachias Sr., one of Tachias’ four children and a retired Army colonel. “And it did not.”

Task Force Smith suffered extremely high casualty rates; around 40 percent were killed. They were often ill-supplied and hungry. Tachias remembers coming across a field of sweet potatoes and cooking them up in their helmets.

“Wherever we were, that was the front line,” he said.

After the unit pushed the North Koreans across the Chinese border, the Chinese fought back.

It was on a winter night in 1950 when Tachias was posted several thousand feet ahead of his unit on the front line to keep an eye out for any attacking troops.

Soon, he heard something: the sound of approaching footsteps.

He estimates there were around 50 Chinese troops heading straight for him.

“So I grabbed some hand grenades and started slinging them,” he said.

He also peppered the men with rifle fire.

By the end of his singular assault, 33 were dead and he’d even taken a prisoner.

The remaining troops fled in disarray.

Tachias was awarded the Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry and heroism after the incident.

The Stars and Stripes newspaper proclaimed him “the one man army,” a title picked up by the Albuquerque Tribune upon his return to the states in September 1951.

He was just 19 at the time and already a staff sergeant.

“Sgt. Tachias … told his family how he routed the enemy single-handed, commenting that he “didn’t know any other way to get rid of them,'” the article reads.

Tachias also received a Bronze Star with Valor and the Purple Heart during the war.

Tachias’ story is now an official part of U.S. history, as Rep. Ben Ray Luján read a proclamation on the floor of the House of Representatives on April 16.

Unfortunately, Tachias was unable attend the proclamation in person, but Luján attended a small ceremony for Tachias in Albuquerque on Friday, when he presented him with a copy of the proclamation and a U.S. flag that flew over the Capitol in his honor.

“This is not only a story worth learning, it’s a story worth preserving,” Luján said. “Today is a reflection of a great American hero we are here to honor.”

To read this article on the Albuquerque Journal website, click here.

Source: Albuquerque Journal