Robert Dale Reem – Second Lieutenant, United States Marine Corps

Born at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, June 4, 1928,  Robert Dale Reem was a 1948 graduate of the United States Naval Academy.


He was awarded the Medal of Honor during the Korean War, where he served in Company H, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Reinforced), in the vicinity of Chinhung-ni, Korea, on November 6, 1950.

He was killed in action and subsequently returned to the United States for burial in Section 6 of Arlington National Cemetery.

Marine Second Lieutenant Robert Dale Reem earned the Medal of Honor in Korea when he threw himself on an enemy grenade, sacrificing his own life to save his men.

The 26-year-old Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, Marine was commanding an infantry platoon near Chinhung-ni, North Korea, on December 26, 1950. He was preparing his men for an assault on an enemy position when the grenade landed among them. Without hesitation he smothered the grenade’s explosion with his own body to save the rest of the group from death or serious injury.

The medal was presented to the lieutenant’s widow, Mrs. Donna Z. Reem, by Secretary of the Navy Dan Kimball, in ceremonies February 8, 1952, at Washington, D.C. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Harvey E. Reem, Jr., of Mount Joy, Pennsylvania.

Lieutenant Reem was a former page in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He was born October 20, 1925, at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, served as a page from January to May 1943, and graduated from Elizabethtown High School that June.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1943, completed his recruit training at Parris Island, South Carolina, in October and was selected for appointment to the Naval Academy at that time. He attended the Naval Academy Preparatory School at the Naval Training Center, Bainbridge, Maryland, before entering the Academy in June 1944.

Lieutenant Reem was commissioned a Marine second lieutenant June 4, 1948, upon his graduation from Annapolis. In June 1949, he completed the Basic School at Quantico, Virginia, where he remained with the Special Training Regiment until that August. In December 1949, after several months at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, with the 3d Battalion, 6th Marines, 2d Marine Division, he was assigned with the battalion to duty with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean.

In August 1950, the battalion was ordered to Korea, where it joined the 7th Marines of the 1st Marine Division. Lieutenant Reem fought with his battalion in the Inchon landing, the capture of Seoul, and the fighting in North Korea. He was buried in the United Nations Cemetery near Hamhung, North Korea.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, his decorations include: the Purple Heart Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation with one Bronze Star, the Korean Service Medal with two Bronze Stars, the American Area Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.



Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps, Company H, 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein.). Place and date: Vicinity Chinhung-ni, Korea, 6 November 1950. Entered service at: Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. Born: 20 October 1925, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a platoon commander in Company H, in action against enemy aggressor forces. Grimly determined to dislodge a group of heavy enemy infantry units occupying well-concealed and strongly fortified positions on commanding ground overlooking unprotected terrain. 2d Lt. Reem moved slowly forward up the side of the ridge with his platoon in the face of a veritable hail of shattering hostile machine gun, grenade, and rifle fire. Three times repulsed by a resolute enemy force in achieving his objective, and pinned down by the continuing fury of hostile fire, he rallied and regrouped the heroic men in his depleted and disorganized platoon in preparation for a fourth attack. Issuing last-minute orders to his noncommissioned officers when an enemy grenade landed in a depression of the rocky ground in which the group was standing, 2d Lt. Reem unhesitatingly chose to sacrifice himself and, springing upon the deadly missile, absorbed the full impact of the explosion in his body, thus protecting others from serious injury and possible death. Stouthearted and indomitable, he readily yielded his own chance of survival that his subordinate leaders might live to carry on the fight against a fanatic enemy. His superb courage, cool decisiveness, and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of certain death reflect the highest credit upon 2d Lt. Reem and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country .



Robert Dale Reem

Born at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, October 20, 1925. Second Lieutenant, US Marine Corps. Killed in Action November 6, 1950 in Korea. Second Lieutenant Reem was a platoon leader with Company H, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division. On November 6, 1950, he led his platoon in an attack on a heavily fortified position near Chinhung-ni, North Korea. After being repulsed three times, he regrouped his men and led a fourth attack. When an enemy hand grenade fell nearby, he fell upon it to protect his comrades. For his leadership and great valor, Second Lieutenant Reem was awarded the  Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart posthumously.

May 28, 2001:

On November 6, 1950, Second Lieutenant Robert Dale Reem was rallying his platoon for a fourth attempt to take a heavily fortified North Korean position near Chinhung-ni. His enemy threw a grenade, which landed on the ground just a few feet away from his men. Without thinking, Lieutenant Reem dove on the grenade, absorbed its blast, and died.

Robert Reem was from Lancaster County. He was born in Lancaster City, and grew up in Elizabethtown. It seems he was determined to serve in the Marines from a young age. He signed up for the Naval Academy Preparatory School before going on to attend the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, where he graduated in 1943.

He was a Second Lieutenant by the time he got to Korea with the 7th Marines in September of 1950. Their first task was to secure the port of Inchon. That done, they led the drive to Seoul where they engaged in bitter house-to-house fighting. They won quickly, and pushed the communists north out of the city.

In October, Reem and his comrades landed at the port of Wonsan. After securing the town, they began a drive to the Chosin Reservoir to capture or destroy a hydroelectric plant. It was on the way there that Reem led his platoon in an attack on a heavily fortified enemy position near Chinhung-ni.

The enemy were entrenched in well-concealed positions overlooking unprotected terrain below. Reem led his men slowly up the side of the ridge, facing a hail of machine gun fire, rifle fire and grenades. The enemy fire was too strong, and they were repulsed. Undaunted, they moved forward again, and again.

Pinned down, Reem was nevertheless preparing his tired men for a fourth attack when a grenade landed in the gully where they were standing. Immediately, maybe operating on instinct alone, Reem flung himself on the grenade. His body absorbed the entire blast, saving his men’s lives.

Lieutenant Reem’s final act of heroism was made more than 50 years ago. He was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor for “his superb courage, cool decisiveness, and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of certain death.”

For most, it is hard to imagine having to make the choice that Reem made and few can honestly say they know what they would do. No one knows until the moment happens.

In all the wars our country has fought, from the Revolution to Desert Storm, thousands of similar acts of gallantry have been performed. In all, 1,140,139 American men and women have died in battle.

Memorial Day, once called “Decoration Day,” first cropped up in several towns across America as a day to remember our war dead. It was made a national event for the first time when Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic (a Union veterans organization), proclaimed May 30, 1868 as a day to place flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate dead at Arlington National Cemetery.

Southern states refused to celebrate the day, remembering their own fallen soldiers on other days, like Jefferson Davis’ birthday. After World War I, though, the South joined the rest of the country in celebrating the day as it was redefined as a day to honor those who died in all of America’s wars.

In 1968, Congress moved Memorial Day from May 30 to the last Monday in May in order to ensure a three-day weekend.

It is hard to imagine what this country might be like were it not for men like Robert Reem. We might never have gained our independence from Britain. We might now be two nations, divided by the Mason-Dixon line. We might be Nazi or Communist

On Monday, millions of charcoal grills will be lit in back yards all over America. While we’re grilling hamburgers and preparing potato salad, let’s all take a few moments to remember Lieutenant Robert Dale Reem and the other 1,140,138 men and women who died so that the rest of us might live in freedom.

Joe Pitts represents the 16th Congressional District, including parts of Lancaster and Chester counties.


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