After 58 years, Rotarian receives his Bronze Star
Wright Hollingsworth hurdling for the U.S. Navy in 1948 before his injury ending his athletic career.
For more than half a century, Wright Hollingsworth wondered who had pulled him to safety after he was shot in the leg during a Korean War firefight outside Seoul.
The answer came in 2005, after one of his rescuers found Hollingsworth’s name in a logbook at a military reunion. That fellow U.S. marine, retired Lieutenant Colonel Marvin Gardner, set in motion Hollingsworth’s long-overdue recognition for bravery on the 1950 march from the seaport of Inchon to Seoul. Hollingsworth received the Bronze Star with valor device at his Rotary club meeting on 26 November.
The 86-year-old member of the Rotary Club of West Jacksonville, Fla., was a first lieutenant in B Company, First Battalion, First Marine Regiment, First Marine Division, who led a platoon of about 50 riflemen toward the Han River during Operation Chromite. “I remember it was really cold,” he says. “It was an unsettled, barren country. There were small villages around, and I think there were fields. They [North Korean forces] were out in trenches and behind mounds.” He was shot on 21 September, six days after the offensive began.
“He was leading the assault,” says Gardner, who, with Leon Davis and Michael Rigsby, evacuated Hollingsworth in the face of enemy fire. “He was an inspiring leader, heroic – showed no fear. I figured he should have received some award, but he was overlooked by the leadership at that time.”
More than 150 people attended the November medal presentation. Hollingsworth’s daughter Lorraine Hollingsworth Dajani, also a West Jacksonville club member, says her father was thrilled to see Gardner, Davis, and Rigsby. “Finding out who had saved his life had been haunting him ever since he recovered.”
Before his service in Korea, Hollingsworth had been a star athlete, playing basketball at Duke University and finishing eighth in the 1948 Olympic decathlon trials. He has walked with a limp ever since he was hurt during the offensive.
“We all thought it was a shame that a track star had such a terrific injury,” says his son Lee, a member of the Rotary Club of Roswell East, Ga. “My dad is an unusually reserved man; he doesn’t brag. He put all his track and basketball trophies away when we were born.”
“He was shot, and his world suddenly changed,” says Dajani. “Not only was his military life gone, but the sports too.”
After a yearlong recuperation in hospitals in Tokyo and Florida, Hollingsworth married, earned a master’s degree from Florida State University, and embarked on a career with the State of Florida, retiring in 1984. “He’s been a pillar of character – of honesty, integrity, and education – that I’ve always been able to refer to,” says his son.