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Harold Cutlip

"Eventually the Korean War will be understood as one of the most destructive and one of the most important wars of the twentieth century."

Bruce Cumings, The Korean War: A History

Harold Cutlip was born on September 24, 1916, in Glade Creek, Nicholas County, West Virginia, to Alvin and Minnie Cutlip. According to the 1920 and 1930 Federal Census records, the family lived in Summersville and were farmers. Harold Cutlip's brothers and sisters included Montie, Mona, Buena, Rina, Vala, Zelda, Blane, Ethel, Irene, and Burl. In 1931, Mona Cutlip died of acute appendicitis and pneumonia. In 1936, Mr. Cutlip passed away suddenly of a heart attack, according to county death records. In 1940, the census records note Mrs. Cutlip as head of the household, with a few of the children still living at home. Her son Montie lived nearby with his wife Kathaline and their son Montie Jr. Harold still lived at home and was a first aid provider at a Civilian Conservation Corps camp.

Harold Cutlip registered for the draft on October 16, 1940. It's not clear when he actually entered the service during World War II, but his first-hand account of another soldier's heroic actions was included in a series of descriptions to support that soldier's Medal of Honor on June 9 and 10 (1944) in Normandy, France. From this account, however, Harold Cutlip�s experiences fighting in hedgerows in Europe are described as well, and it seems likely that Harold Cutlip was part of the beach landing three days earlier.

Harold Cutlip survived World War II and re-entered the military in 1948 in Fort Lawton, Washington, through which soldiers going to and returning from Korea were processed. Harold Cutlip was placed with the Company A, 156th Infantry, 34th Infantry Regiment and attained the rank of sergeant first class. Alternately, the Korean War Project site reports that Sgt. Cutlip served in I Company, 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment. Sources below describe deteriorating resources, which led to reassignments, as the mission progressed. It's possible that Sgt. Cutlip's assignments changed. It seems likely that Sgt. Cutlip was with Company I when he died, given the description of Company I's location on July 29, 1950.

The battle during which Sgt. Cutlip lost his life is documented in complex detail in a video describing his regiment. ("Korean War: Forgotten 24th and 34th Infantry Regiments,", accessed 16 December 2019, During the mission, which was to slow the advance of the North Korean People's Army (NKPA) after it invaded the South on June 25, 1950. The trouble started, according to this account, within hours of deployment as the NKPA flanked the American positions. What happened after that amounted to misjudgments, inadequate equipment, and insufficient support. The mission was to delay the enemy, but with the resources available, the units were left to successively take up fall-back positions. Staying too long in one area could mean being overrun by the superior numbers of enemy, but leaving too soon could mean that other units were left vulnerable. The result was that some units were split apart. There was also confusion regarding chain of command, with conflicting orders received at the frontlines, while poor communications hampered troop movement and coordinated actions. This action happened over a period of weeks.

The events of the day of Sgt. Cutlip's death, July 29, 1950, are described on the site as well as an after-action report for the month. From the reference cited above:

On July 29, the 34th was dug in near Kochang. The regiment had no switchboard and was short of mortars, rocket launchers and machine guns. Its commander, Colonel Charles E. Beauchamp (appointed just before the struggle for Taejon), wanted to pull his regiment back three miles, but the new division commander, Brig. Gen. John H. Church, ordered him to stand fast. Two NKPA attacks at 5 a.m. cut off Company I of the 3/34th and pushed the 1/34th out of position. Beauchamp halted the battalion on the road. The 1st Battalion later rescued all but one platoon of the cut-off unit. That same afternoon the 34th withdrew some 15 miles to the east.

From the after-action report:

On the morning of the 29th of July 1950, the enemy launched a large scale attack on the 3rd Bn, 34th Inf Regt and the 1st Bn, 34th Inf Regt. During the attack, the 3rd Bn was located in and to the west of the town of Kochang. Their Bn CP was located in the south-west part to Kochang. The 1st Bn was located to the east of Kochang. This attack forced the 34th Inf Regt to withdraw south-east on the Kochang-Peaksang-dong road. The 1st Bn setup a defensive position as a delaying action approx 1 mile west of the town of Kwonbin-ni. A fire fight ensued here with the 1st Bn withdrawing towards the town of Ansong-ni.

Since the unit was split up, there was not a surety of where the platoon that was left behind was located when the fire fight broke out. Those that could not be rescued were declared missing in action, Sgt. Cutlip among them. This was announced in the September 18, 1950, edition of the Beckley Post Herald ("Sgt. Herbert Sleeth Is Killed in Korea"). After three years, Sgt. Cutlip was declared dead. In 1964, a newspaper carried the announcement that Sgt. Cutlip's remains were found at Songjong-ni. His remains were returned to the family, and he was interred at Walker Memorial Cemetery and Gardens (then known as Groves Cemetery). ("Burial Set Today for Soldier Killed in 1950," Beckley Post-Herald/Raleigh Register, 22 November 1964.) His mother was not listed among his survivors; she had passed away the year before in 1963.

In 2016, John Zimmerlee, in his newsletter article "Forgotten Cover-up Recently Uncovered," reports that Sgt. Cutlip's remains were found "recently." (Coalition of Families & Cold War POW/MIAs [Fall 2016]: 6.) The writer brings up the possibility that the previously returned remains were not Cutlip's. In the chaos of the fighting that day, and the likelihood that several soldiers from both sides died in the same area, there�s perhaps a possibility that there were additional remains found after the 1964 recovery. According to Zimmerlee's account,

X-6370 is a co-mingling of 3 men found near Sonjong-ni SK at DQ008481. Two were Caucasian; one was Asiatic Mongoloid. ID tags for Frank Di Pino RA11165706 and Harold Cutlip RA15014310 were found with the Caucasian remains. Frank went missing 7/29/1950 from the 34th regiment and is still unaccounted-for.

Harold Cutlip supposedly died on 7/29/1950 and his remains were supposedly shipped home to his family . . . hopefully it was this X-6370 remains . . . or our government has some explaining to do.

Sgt. Cutlip was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster. He is memorialized in the Courts of the Missing in the Honolulu Memorial, where his inscription is marked with a rosette signifying that his remains now rest in a known gravesite. The photo of the headstone was taken in Walker Memorial Cemetery and Gardens in Summersville, West Virginia, where it was found among those of several family members.
Gravestone for Sgt. Harold Cutlip in Walker Memorial Cemetery and Gardens, Summersville. Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

Gravestone for Sgt. Harold Cutlip in Walker Memorial Cemetery and Gardens, Summersville. Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

Article prepared by Cynthia Mullens
December 2019


Harold Cutlip

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