Medal of Honor Citation

Corporal Joseph Vittori, 22, of Beverly, Massachusetts, earned the Medal of Honor the night of 15-16 September 1951, near Songnae-dong, Korea, where he was fatally wounded while fighting off an enemy break-through at a gap in his battalion’s lines. He was the 19th Marine to earn the Nation’s highest decoration for heroism in Korea.

The action occurred on Hill 749, where Cpl Vittori’s company was assaulting well-entrenched Chinese Communist positions. A vicious enemy counter-attack drove back a forward platoon with heavy casualties, and Cpl Vittori, with two other volunteers from his reserve platoon, dashed into hand-to-hand combat in the midst of the swarming enemy to give the Marine company time to consolidate its positions.

Later, when a call went up for an automatic rifleman to defend an isolated heavy machine gun position on the flank of his company’s sector, Cpl Vittori again volunteered.

With heavy casualties leaving a 100-yard gap in the Marine lines at the position, he fought a single-handed battle to prevent an enemy break-through. Leaping from one side of the position to the other, he kept up a withering fire of over 1,000 rounds in three hours. He made repeated trips through heavy shellfire to replenish his ammunition, manned a machine gun after its gunner fell, and despite enemy penetration to within feet of his position, kept the enemy out of the breech in his company’s lines until he was mortally wounded. The next morning the Marines counted almost 200 enemy dead in the area.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Cpl Vittori was posthumously awarded his second Purple Heart Medal for wounds received in the action. He was previously wounded on 9 June 1951, near Yang-gu, Korea, and had been a property sergeant after leaving the field hospital. After a week at the job, he asked to rejoin his buddies in his old infantry platoon, and was allowed to do so.

Joseph Vittori was born 1 August 1929 in Beverly, Massachusetts, where he attended high schools and worked on his father’s farm until 4 October 1946, when he began a three-year enlistment in the Marine Corps.

He completed recruit training at Parris Island, South Carolina, in December 1946, served briefly at the Norfolk, Virginia, and Brooklyn, New York, Navy Yards and was a member of the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Portsmouth from April to June 1947. He was then stationed at the Philadelphia Navy Yard until May 1948, when he joined the 2d Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. From January to May 1949, he served with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean area. He again served at Camp Lejeune, until 3 October 1949, when he was discharged.

Returning to Beverly, Massachusetts, he worked for a year as a plasterer and bricklayer until enlisting in the Marine Corps Reserve on 26 September 1950 for an indefinite tour of active duty. He was trained at Camp Lejeune until January 1951, when he arrived in Korea to join the company with which he was serving when killed. He had participated in the South and Central Korean campaign, receiving his promotion to corporal on 15 June 1951.

Corporal Vittori was originally buried at the United Nations Military Cemetery, Tanggok, Korea. His body was returned to the United States in January 1952 for reburial in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Beverly, Massachusetts.

The Medal of Honor was presented to his parents on 7 September 1952.

In addition to the Medal of Honor and Purple Heart Medal with Gold Star in lieu of a second award, his medals and decorations included the World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal with Europe Clasp; Korean Service Medal with one bronze star; and United Nations Service Medal.

Korean War 1950-1953  Medal of Honor

Marine Corps University