Born in Pierre, South Dakota on November 15, 1902. He graduated from the US Military Academy in June 1924 and was commissioned a 2 Lt. of Infantry. From 1924 to 1941 he served in various company grades in the 7th, 19th, 25th, 31st, 23rd, and 53rd Infantry Regiments. During World War II he served in grades from Major through Colonel, participating in the Normandy, Northern Europe, Central Europe, Ardennes and the Rhineland campaigns. Following WW II he served as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, III Corps, Chief of Staff of the 2d Armored Division,
Commanding Officer of the 21st Inf. regiment and 24th Inf. Division in Japan and Korea. He participated in the UN Defensive, UN Offensive, CCF Intervention and UN Counter Offensive campaigns in Korea. He served as Special Service Officer, Far Eastern Command, and Commanding General, HQ and Service Command, General HQ, Far Eastern Command. He was promoted Brigadier General October 3, 1951 and Major General on Dec. 18, 1952. He assumed command of the 3d Armored Division on Dec. 19, 1952
Col. Richard W. Stephens, CO 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division
* In 1955 Stephens was assigned to be chief of the Army's military history division and, as such, significantly influenced the Army's official history of the first six months of the Korean War.
June 30, 1950
For all these reasons, and more, on June 30, 1950, the 34th Infantry was still in poor shape. One of Dean's senior officers put it this way: "The morale and spirit of that regiment was
[4-sic] not good."[4-16]
The other regiment at hand, the 21st Infantry, was commanded by West Pointer (1924) Richard ("Dick") W. Stephens. At forty-seven, he, too, exceeded George Marshall's recommended age limit for regimental commanders. Stephens had not before led troops in battle; in World War II he had been chief of staff of the 30th Infantry Division in the ETO. His exec remembered that Stephens was "built like a bull and getting heavy around the middle" and losing his hair. He was "unconventional in many respects" and a "real character" who was "certainly outspoken in his relations with seniors" and who "loved his evening martinis." Between Lovless and Stephens, Bill Dean much preferred Stephens.[4-17]
July 12, 1950
Even so, Bill Dean was pleased by the fighting spirit the regiment had demonstrated by comparison with the 34th, and he awarded Stephens a DSC [for period 7/9-7/13] for his brave front-line, foxhole leadership. Moreover, war correspondents who witnessed the action showered praise on Stephens and made him temporarily famous. One, Keyes Beech, wrote that notwithstanding Stephens's age, girth, and lack of charisma, he
"fought with grace and ease under the most trying conditions."[4-84]
July 15, 1940 1640
Nevertheless, Dean tried to bolster the morale of the defeated units. After he had received reports of the disaster, he sent a message at 1640 in the afternoon saying,
"Hold everything we have until we find where we stand-might not be too bad-may be able to hold-make reconnaissance-may be able to knock those people out and reconsolidate. Am on my way out there now."
Informing Colonel Stephens that the 34th Infantry was in trouble, he ordered him to put the 21st Infantry Regiment in position on selected ground east of Taejŏn. Something of Dean's future intentions on operations at Taejŏn was reflected in his comment,
"We must coordinate so that the 19th and 34th come out together."
General Dean closed his message by asking Stephens to come to his command post
that night for a discussion of plans.
Although an aerial observer saw two tanks on the south side of the Kum River southwest of Kongju early in the morning of the 15th, enemy armor did not cross in force that day. Other parts of the 4th Division continued to cross, however, in the Kongju area. Air strikes destroyed some of their boats and strafed their soldiers. By nightfall of 15 July some small groups of North Korean soldiers had pressed south from the river and were in Nonsan.
August 2, 1950
At 09:45 2 August, Colonel Stephens received Eighth Army's order to withdraw. He at once sent the 34th Infantry across the Naktong to the Yongsan area. During the day, while the 21st Infantry and the ROK 17th Regiment fended off enemy probing attacks, he made plans to complete the withdrawal that night to the east side of the Naktong. [15-11]
August 3, 1950
The ROK 17th Regiment, covering the withdrawal of the other units (Colonel Stephens remained with it), crossed the river at 06:30, 3 August.
The visitors closely scrutinized Eighth Army's senior field commanders. Ridgway had nothing to say about the division commanders, but he judged that "some" regimental commanders were "very poor." They were too old and lacked "combat experience and aggressiveness." He named no names, but undoubtedly he was referring to the three regimental commanders in the 1st Cav (Rohsenberger, Nist, and Palmer) and the 24th Infantry's Horton White. Although both Dick Stephens (21st Infantry) and Hank Fisher (35th Infantry) were considerably overage for regimental command, they were doing well, as were the "youngsters," Michaelis (27th Infantry), Beauchamp (34th Infantry), and Moore (19th Infantry). Replacements being sent by the Pentagon didn't help. "Three out of five were over fifty," Ridgway wrote.*
AWARDS AND CITATIONS
The President of the United States of America, under the provisions of the Act of Congress approved July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Colonel (Infantry) Richard W. Stephens (ASN: 0-15569), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving as Commanding Officer, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division. Colonel Stephens distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces near Chochiwon, Korea, during the period from 9 through 13 July 1950. During the early stages of the Korean conflict, Colonel Stephens was assigned the mission of delaying the advance of the North Korean People's Army pending the buildup of United Nations forces for a counteroffensive. Making a personal reconnaissance of the area, he chose a delaying site in the hills north of Chochiwon where he personally directed the construction of defensive positions and emplacement of automatic weapons, mortars and supporting artillery. When the enemy assault on the delaying position began, he, seemingly oblivious of the intense enemy fire, moved forward of the regiment's main line of resistance and established an observation post from which he directed the defense of his regiment's positions. When the observation post was encircled by the enemy, he organized a few men into a combat group and personally led them in an audacious attack on an enemy of overwhelming strength, successfully breaking out of the encirclement and reaching friendly lines. During the entire engagement, he exploited every possible means of stemming the enemy advance and his courage, fearless bearing, and aggressive leadership were largely responsible for the magnificent delaying action fought by his hopelessly outnumbered troops.General Orders: Headquarters, Eighth U.S. Army, Korea: General Orders No. 114 (March 4, 1951), as amended by General Orders No. 189 (1951)
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Colonel (Infantry) Richard Warburton Stephens (ASN: 0-15569), United States Army, for gallantry in action against the enemy as Commanding Officer, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, in action near Waegwan, Korea, on 18 and 19 September 1950. When instructions were received for his regiment to cross the Naktong River and break through the Pusan perimeter, Colonel Stephens personally led the reconnaissance party to the vicinity of the proposed river crossing site. Continuously exposed to concentrated enemy fire and observation, he voluntarily went forward alone to a vantage point from which he could better observe the proposed river crossing area. From his visual observation the attack was planned and launched during the early morning hours. Again with complete disregard for his own safety he established his command post at the river crossing. Although under heavy enemy artillery, machine gun and small arms fire, he moved among his men giving last minute instructions and encouragement where necessary. His courage and superior leadership influenced materially the success of the river crossing by his command. His gallant actions and unhesitant devotion to duty reflect the greatest credit upon himself and the United States Infantry.General Orders: Headquarters, 24th Infantry Division, General Orders No. 179 (October 13, 1950)
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Silver Star to Colonel (Infantry) Richard Warburton Stephens (ASN: 0-15569), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action against the enemy as Commanding Officer, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, in action in the vicinity of Kyongju, Korea, during the period 28 August 1950 to 7 September 1950. When Colonel Stephens was assigned the mission of halting the North Korean Army's drive down Korea's east coast, which threatened Pusan, the United Nations' last remaining seaport in Korea, he immediately made a personal reconnaissance of the front line areas, braving enemy mortar and sniper fire, to confer with the Republic of Korea front line Commanders. After making an estimate of the situation, Colonel Stephens made a decision to commit battalion sized combat teams to strengthen the weak United Nations line and to contain any enemy breakthrough which might develop by aggressive counter-attacks. Throughout this period, Colonel Stephens, exhibiting unsurpassed professional knowledge and ability, made accurate, rapid estimates of each situation confronted, and moved his troops rapidly from area to area, wherever the enemy pressure was the greatest. By his great knowledge of the enemy's tactics and his maneuvering of troops, he succeeded in blunting and then hurling back the vastly numerically superior enemy's advance, through a series of successful aggressive counter-attacks. A battalion sized combat team engaged the enemy force and hurled them back in a disorganized retreat at Angang-ni, Pohang-dong, and Kyongju. Throughout the period he went long hours without sleep or food, moving from area to area, always where the fighting was the most fierce. On one occasion, when a strong enemy force struck at the United Nations lines, he moved forward and with complete disregard for personal safety, moved up and down the front line, completely exposed to the enemy fire, directing his troops to continue to place an extremely heavy volume of fire on the attacking enemy. His extreme calmness under enemy fire served as an outstanding example to the men of his command and inspired them to the highest possible degree of determination and efficiency. His superb leadership, during this critical period, was directly responsible for halting the enemy's advance and establishing a firm United Nations' Defense line in the sector. Colonel Stephens' heroic action, above and beyond the call of duty, reflects great credit on himself and is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.General Orders: Headquarters, IX Corps, General Orders No. 19 (February 7, 1951)
(Citation Needed) - SYNOPSIS: Lieutenant Colonel Richard Warburton Stephens (ASN: 0-15569), United States Army, was awarded the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States as Chief of Staff, 30th Infantry Division, during World War II.Action Date: World War II
(Citation Needed) - SYNOPSIS: Colonel (Infantry) Richard Warburton Stephens (ASN: 0-15569), United States Army, was awarded a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States as Commanding Officer, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, in Korea.Action Date: Korean War
(Citation Needed) - SYNOPSIS: Colonel (Infantry) Richard Warburton Stephens (ASN: 0-15569), United States Army, was awarded a Second Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Third Award of the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States as Commanding Officer, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, in Korea.Action Date: Korean War
(Citation Needed) - SYNOPSIS: Major General Richard Warburton Stephens (ASN: 0-15569), United States Army, was awarded a Third Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Fourth Award of the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States from December 1952 to 30 June 1958, culminating as Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, from 1956 to 1958.General Orders: Department of the Army, General Orders No. 24 (July 10, 1958)