George Herman O’Brien Jr. (September 10, 1926 – March 11, 2005) exemplified courage and selflessness as a United States Marine Corps officer during the Korean War. His unwavering bravery and leadership in the face of overwhelming odds earned him the prestigious Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration in the United States.

The defining moment of O’Brien’s valor came during the First Battle of the Hook on October 27, 1952. Stationed at the 38th Parallel, the main line of resistance, O’Brien’s unit received urgent orders to retake a vital hill known as The Hook, which had been overrun by a massive Chinese force. Despite hours of waiting in reserve, O’Brien’s determination remained resolute.

When the command to assault was given, O’Brien fearlessly led his platoon through a barrage of enemy mortars and artillery. Undeterred by gunfire and despite being wounded in the arm, he charged up the hill, rallying his men to follow. In the midst of the chaos, O’Brien displayed extraordinary acts of heroism.

He engaged in hand-to-hand combat with enemy soldiers, neutralizing threats with grenades and sheer determination. Despite being knocked down multiple times by concussion grenades, O’Brien refused medical aid, insisting on pressing forward. His relentless courage and leadership spurred his platoonmates to continue the assault.

After hours of intense fighting, O’Brien’s unit successfully recaptured the hill, a testament to their unwavering resolve. However, the victory came with a heavy toll, and O’Brien, deeply moved by the sacrifice of his comrades, reflected on the emotional cost of war.

In a poignant moment captured during a Veterans History Project interview, O’Brien tearfully acknowledged the loss of “good kids” in the battle, a testament to his enduring empathy and sense of duty to his fellow Marines.

Lieutenant O’Brien is the subject of the Texas Medal of Honor Memorial, which I and Scott Boyer created in 2008. The Memorial depicts Medal of Honor recipient O’Brien as he would appear on the day he earned the Medal of Honor for his service during the Korean War. Perched on a rock, the heroic-sized bronze figure rises above a granite base, which displays the names of most recipients of the medal from Texas.

Further reading:

Medal of Honor Monday on the DOD website

Living history interview with George O’Brien, Medal of Honor Recipient for the Korean War