WILLIAM “BILL” BAUCOM« Back to Honorees
William Baucom joined the 12th Marine Corps reserve district on February 21, 1948, while attending Clovis Union High School. Following high school, he was recruited to be a quarterback for Fresno State College. However, his college career was cut short when he was called to active duty on July 26, 1950.
Baucom was assigned to the 1st Marine Division, 5th Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Fox Company. The unit was inserted into the 2/5 near Wonsan, north of the 38th parallel in Korea. They fought from that location to the south end of Chosin (Changjin) Reservoir. His primary military occupational specialty was as a mortarman, but he also served as a machine gunner before he was selected to be a sniper in Korea.
During one mission, Baucom and his spotter learned the importance of following the sniper rule: after two shots, change position. On this day, Baucom shot one man and the officer who went to check on him. Before they knew it, they were being taken prisoner by the Chinese. As they were about to be shot, one of the Chinese officers saw that Baucom and his spotter were carrying a map. The Chinese wanted them to explain what it showed. However, neither Baucom nor his spotter could speak Chinese, and the Chinese officer couldn’t speak English, so they were taken to the outskirts of a POW camp. One morning the Chinese loaded up their gear and started taking Baucom and his spotter back to the main part of the POW camp where the map could be interpreted. About halfway through the journey, two of the guards decided to go into a village while the other three guards kept Baucom and his spotter walking. When the two that left did not come back, Baucom and his spotter decided to try to escape. “Three Chinese were no match for two US Marines,” Baucom recalled thinking.
As a Chinese guard went to fill canteens at a river, he slipped on some gravel, affording Baucom an opportunity to escape. When the other two guards went to see what happened, Baucom and his spotter jumped the guards and killed them. They grabbed the gear that the guards had been carrying and started to run. With only maps to guide them, they ran in what they thought was the correct direction all night until they finally came to friendly territory.
In another incident, Baucom was just north of Taegu on the northwest edge of the Pusan area. His unit was about a mile out in front of the company when Baucom stepped down and a land mine went off behind him, tearing off his clothes and the boot on his left foot. He was evacuated to Japan and then to a hospital in San Francisco. For this incident, Baucom was awarded the Purple Heart—his second received during his service.
After he was released from active duty, Baucom played semi-professional football for five years. He also attended the University of California at Berkley and became an x-ray technician. Baucom later moved to Provo, Utah, where he started a portable radiology business traveling from St. George to Logan. Although he is now retired, Baucom keeps busy at the VA hospital where he works with veterans who suffer from PTSD.
When asked how his experiences affected him, Baucom said that at times he recalls the horrors of war. Still, he said he would do it again because it’s worth fighting for. “The sacrifices that have been made by those who died and those who came back—their sacrifice continues,” he said. “It’s up to us as a nation to recognize the sacrifice made by our veterans.”