Following the coordinates I was given, I turned onto the sacred grounds of Logan Valley Cemetery in Bellwood. As many times I had traveled East Pleasant Valley Boulevard – known locally as Old 220 – I never realized this cemetery existed. I entered the cemetery, wishing I had more time to wander among the stones and study the histories of those buried here, but on this trip I was searching for one particular grave. Within a couple minutes of entering the cemetery, I came to a stop at the grave of a local man whose selfless sacrifice during the Korean War, not only saved the lives of the men around him, but whose actions would be honored with the Medal of Honor.
Getting out of the vehicle, I walked over and paused at the grave of William S. Sitman. His memorial lists his rank, unit, and his involvement in the Korean War, but it is the flat stone placed in front of it that recognizes him as a Medal of Honor recipient.
William Samuel Sitman was born in Bellwood on August 9, 1923 to Harry and Esther Sitman. In February 1943, Sitman entered the US Army and served during World War Two. He would reenlist in 1949 and would rise to Sergeant First Class in Company M, Twenty-third Infantry Regiment, Second Infantry Division.
The unit was sent to Korea in August 1950 and on February 14, 1951, – only six months after arriving there – Sitman would give the ultimate sacrifice for the lives of his men.
On that date, the unit was fighting an enemy force near Chipyong-Ni, Korea. The machine gun crew Sitman led that day had their heavy machine gun destroyed by a grenade during an attack by enemy forces. Sitman called for light machine guns and the men continued to fire upon the advancing enemy. During the attack, another grenade was tossed into the machine gun nest. Sitman called out an alarm and immediately jumped on the grenade, absorbing the blast which mortally wounded him. His actions saved the other five men with him.
Sitman was just twenty- seven years old and left behind a wife and daughter. His body would be returned stateside and buried in his hometown of Bellwood.
On January 16, 1952, he would be posthumously presented with the Medal of Honor, which was presented to his widow. Sitman was also honored with the Purple Heart.
The citation for his Medal of Honor reads: “Sfc. Sitman distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against an armed enemy of the United Nations. Sfc. Sitman, a machine-gun section leader of Company M, was attached to Company I, under attack by a numerically superior hostile force. During the encounter when an enemy grenade knocked out his machine gun, a squad from Company I immediately emplaced a light machine gun, and Sfc. Sitman and his men remained to provide security for the crew. In the ensuing action, the enemy lobbed a grenade into the position and Sfc. Sitman, fully aware of the odds against him, selflessly threw himself on it, absorbing the full force of the explosion with his body. Although mortally wounded in this fearless display of valor, his intrepid act saved five men from death or serious injury, and enabled them to continue inflicting withering fire on the ruthless foe throughout the attack. Sfc. Sitman’s noble self-sacrifice and consummate devotion to duty reflect lasting glory on himself and uphold the honored traditions of the military service.”
In 1966, the US Army would name an advanced training camp in South Korea, Camp Sitman in his honor.
I silently remembered the sacrifice that saved his companions as I stood before his memorial. I finished paying my respecrs, thanking him for his bravery and service, before leaving his resting place knowing his sacrifice was not forgotten.