Salvatore Naimo, local Sarasota veteran, received the Silver Star Wednesday morning for his actions in September, 1951 in the mountains of Korea as a rifleman in Howe Company 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.
Nearly 70 years ago, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines regained the area north of the 38th parallel called the “Punchbowl” in a battle against the Chinese Army covered by heavy enemy mortar and artillery fire. The company dug-in to a defensive position on a key hill top; Corporal Naimo’s platoon occupied the left flank.
On the 14th of September, the Chinese Army began another barrage of mortar fire on the Marines in an attempt to once again control the terrain. Howe Company was effectively suppressed. A direct hit critically injured two Marines in the fighting hole next to Cpl Naimo and shouts for emergency medical attention rang out. Immediately, he charged from his position to the casualties, picked up the first Marine, and ran to the Navy Corpsmen at the back of the Company’s formation.
Naimo and the Marine he was carrying were struck to the ground by another close round. Now injured himself, Naimo again picked up his fellow Marine and pressed on to the Corpsmen’s position. After receiving blood stoppage to his own wounds, Naimo told the group he needed to go back and get the second Marine in critical condition. Despite pressure to stay in place, Naimo successfully retrieved him.
Among the indirect fire and saving the lives of his two fellow Marines, Naimo observed Chinese forces advancing up the hill. He took up a fighting hole and began to fire his own rifle, throw grenades, and other weapons stashed until nearly out of ammunition. His efforts successfully fought back the enemy, and Howe Company retained the hill.
Corporal Naimo’s Platoon Commander immediately recognized him for his bravery and said that he would be putting Naimo in for a medal. He was killed in action two days later. The Howe Company Commander had also heard of Naimo’s actions, but was injured on the same day.
Years later, Colonel John Polidoro, Chief of Staff, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Central Command, awarded the Silver Star on behalf of the Commandant of the Marine Corps at a ceremony on Naimo’s 89th birthday, surrounded by family and friends.
“I earned this for something I was trained to do,” said Naimo.
“The normal reaction when under fire is fear; that is the reaction. It’s a very difficult and deliberate decision to act, especially to put yourself at risk to save or protect your fellow Marine.” said Polidoro.
Colonel Polidoro went on to speak on the significance of the Silver Star, and the adamant belief the Marine Corps has in recognizing it’s Marines and their actions in combat.
“It doesn’t matter if the Marine’s actions took place yesterday, or 70 years ago, we will always ensure our Marines are recognized for their performance.”
“I am very proud of this,” said Corporal Naimo.
The Silver Star is the 3rd highest award for valor given across all Armed Services after the Congressional Medal of Honor, and the Navy Cross.
Article by Gunnery Sgt. Eric Alabiso II and 1st Lt. John Coppola, Marine Corps Forces Central Command