The 2013 Spirit of America Audie Murphy Patriotism Award will be presented to
Lieutenant Colonel Elliott Cecil Chandler
The Korean War has sadly, often been referred to as “The Forgotten War.” In 2013, the Spirit of America Festival Committee has chosen to make sure that the veterans of this war are given the honor they are due by honoring one of their own, Lieutenant Colonel Elliott Cecil Chandler as the recipient of the 2013 Audie Murphy Patriotism Award. (The award will be given posthumously to his family.) Inscribed on the Korean War Memorial are words, “Freedom is not Free. Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a county they never knew and a people they never met.” This idea of “Freedom is not Free” has been adopted as the 2013 Spirit of America Festival theme as we remember, honor and celebrate all those who have served.
(The following information was written and provided from Charles B. Riley, who was a squad leader in Company A of the 1343rd Engineer Combat Battalion. )
Decatur’s Unknown/Unsung Hero Elliott Cecil Chandler
From May 23, 1951, until July 3, 2000 Decatur’s hero was unknown. We learned of his heroic actions at the 1343rd Engineer Combat Battalion’s 59th anniversary of Korean War service.
The Southern gentleman and officer is a quiet, compassionate, Christian man. Today, We know we owe our lives to his heroic actions that could have ruined his military career. His name is Lt. Col. Elliott Cecil Chandler, deceased, retired U. S. Army, of Decatur, Alabama.
I was a squad leader (Sergeant First Class) in Company A of the 1343rd Engineer Combat Battalion. Our major function was to build and maintain the main supply route (MSR) leading to our front line soldiers.
On May 23, 1951, Company A was building an MSR in support of a South Korean infantry division that was defending the line north of the 38th parallel in an area called Pangma-Ni. North Korean and Chinese infantry divisions penetrated the South Korean defense leaving no friendly forces between us (150 men) and the enemy, which consisted of hardened infantry soldiers.
We observed the South Koreans retreating from their positions, but we were under orders to build and maintain the MSR.
The Captain Fred Adams contacted headquarters three times, requesting permission to retreat because of the impossible situation his men were in. Each request was denied by the Battalion Commander because Corps headquarters had ordered us to hold or advance. At that time, our Battalion Commander was indisposed. We would soon be surrounded and in danger of being killed or captured.
Enter OUR unknown hero, then – Major Cecil Chandler; Battalion Executive Officer, who recognized the urgency of Company A’s last request to retreat. He gave orders, risking his military career, to advance to grid coordinates that were, in fact, to the rear.
Due to his leadership ability, alertness of mind, ability to act under pressure, and compassion for his men, while fully understanding the military risk, he saved all 150 men. No one was harmed. His brilliant action saved all men and equipment of Company A, of which I was a member.
These events have not been revealed before because Major Chandler did not want anyone to know of his actions. He never looked for recognition, but he always delighted in knowing that he made a difference in the lives of 150 men in Decatur.
He saved the lives of men, not with cannon and saber, but with love, compassion, intelligence, and alertness. Today, we salute Lieutenant Colonel Elliott Cecil Chandler as a friend and fellow veteran.