Friday, October 12, 2018

Sergeant Warren Clyde Christiansen

Trout Creek boasts the smallest secondary school district in the state of Utah.  It's nestled in arid farm country in the far, far west portion of the state, just a stone's throw from the Nevada state line. When compiling data for the 1940 population census, the census-taker's last stop in this remote district was the farm of Fred Christiansen and his wife Clara. The census shows two sons in the household at the time: John and Frank.

There was a third son, Warren, age 19 in 1940, who had already departed the farm after attaining an eighth-grade education. Warren was by then billeted at Fort Winfred Scott, the beautiful headquarters for the artillery defense of San Francisco and its adjacent coastline.

Warren would serve in the Army throughout World War II.  He got married during the war prior to his being shipped overseas. His combat resume included a Bronze Star for his participation in the retaking of Bougainille from the Japanese in the Solomon Islands. Meanwhile, his wife bore him a first daughter in 1943, and a second after the war in 1946. 

Warren stayed in the Army after World War II.  When the Korean War began, he was a sergeant, rushed to Korea along with other American troops stationed in occupied Japan. Less than three weeks into the war, on July 20, Warren stood with Pvt. Philip Hughes and the rest of the already depleted B Company, 34th Infantry Regiment. There, on the slopes above the Kapch'on River, they formed a defensive line against the North Korean Army's advance. In the pre-dawn rain of July 20, Warren Christiansen's squad of riflemen attempted to hold off enemy troops in numbers far superior to their own, advancing uphill from the darkness below. The position of B Company was summarily overrun, as the Americans were scattered, killed or captured. Their retreat was too disorganized to allow for an accounting of dead and wounded. Many, like Warren, would be listed as missing in action. But there was apparently an officer with presence of mind to record heroic deeds of the some of soldiers under his command. Citations included a second Bronze Star for Christiansen.

In late 1950, American forces regained the territory surrendered during the early days of the war.  Graves Registrations units performed the gruesome task of recovering remains of troops lost during the summer 1950. Some remained where they fell, while others were hastily buried by the few civilians who had remained in the area through the see-saw battles. The bulk of the recovery would take months. Warren Christiansen would not be officially accounted for until October 1951. Additional finds would continue in decreasing numbers for many years to come, as the once-open countryside of Warren's last battle was methodically developed with new construction fueled by South Korea's booming economy.

While he was still listed as missing in action, Warren Christiansen's second Bronze Star was presented to his five-year-old daughter Mary Ellen during an April 1951 ceremony at Fort Douglas, Utah.  

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