William Sharp - Private First Class
- Purple Heart
- Korean Service Medal
William Ward Sharp was born on July 16, 1931 to Ward and Hazel Sharp. His first year was lived on his Grandfather Sharp's farm 3 miles south of Plover, Iowa and ¼ mile east, on the south side of the road where the house was sheltered by big evergreen trees. Bill was child number five in the family of six kids. There was one brother, Charles, who was seven years older, and four sisters, Bonnie, Marjorie, Betty and Donna Lea.
When Bill wasn't quite one year old, the family moved to an acreage east of Plover that had a two-room house on the south side and a garage on the north side. A floor covered the south half of the upstairs and all the kids in the family slept there. A ladder was put up by nailing 1" x 4" boards between two studs until Mr. Sharp could build a stairway. They put all their trunks and big boxes down the middle of the house so they wouldn't accidentally fall down into the garage!
One day, when the family still lived on the acreage, they were all sitting around the dinner table and Bill was in his high chair. One of the girls had finished eating and went outside. She left the door open and Mrs. Sharp called, "Shut the door." The first sentence the family heard out of Bill’s mouth was, "Shut the door!" They all had a great laugh over that and he laughed right back!
One funny thing happened to Bill when he was about four years old. The kids were playing Hide the Egg. It was rainy and cold, so they stayed indoors. Their first cousin, Louise, was there and they played in the wash room off of the kitchen. Brother Charles said, “My sister Marjorie hid the egg in her cupped hands. Everybody knew where it was except our cousin. Bill was sitting on the sink platform by the cistern pump. Louise came through the door and accidentally bumped Marge's elbow. The egg yolk squirted through Marge's thumbs, shot through the air, and landed on the side of Bill's head. We had a good laugh, except Bill started to cry, so Louise picked him up and wiped the egg out of his hair and cuddled him until he stopped crying. Then she gave him a dime.”
The Sharps moved back to their Granddad's farm west and north of Plover and lived there for four years. Mr. Sharp was in poor health and needed help from Bill’s 13 year-old brother, Charles, who would drive the B John Deere and do field work, getting the ground ready to plant corn. Charles remembers that when they came in from working, Bill would want to go out in the front yard and have him hold a broomstick while he practiced doing a hand stand from his knees. Bill was small but could out run any kids playing tag.
They all enjoyed the little part-terrier, part-Daschund pup that they got from their cousin. The dog weighed about 1 ½ pounds and the kids played with her in the front yard that was fenced in so no chickens could get in. They would tease her and she would chase them all over the yard. Eventually, the dog caught on, so she would grab the boys’ pant legs and trip them up, then lick their necks and faces.
Like all farm kids, as Bill grew up, he took on more and more work, adding responsibilities as he got older. Although there wasn’t a lot of time for extra activities, he enjoyed singing in a mixed quartet in high school. There’s a great picture of him with three other singers, the two girls in fashionable saddle shoes and bobby sox, the guys in classic 1940’s pleated slacks. Looking at that snapshot, you can almost hear the sweet harmony.
He graduated from Plover High School in 1949 and came to Iowa State in the winter of 1951 to study agricultural education. He planned to pursue his studies and then go into farming with his brother Charles. These plans changed when he was drafted to serve after the outbreak of the war in Korea.
Bill left Pocahontas with others from the area in October 1952 to go into the Army, and trained at Camp Roberts, CA. He held the rank of Private First Class in Company A, 1st battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division.
Bill shipped from Camp Stoneman, CA to Japan in April 1953 and was sent to Korea in May. He was listed as missing in action in the Battle of Pork Chop Hill on July 6, 1953, barely two months after he arrived.
Pork Chop Hill was the nickname for a United Nations military outpost in the "Iron Triangle" sector of the Korean Peninsula along the 38th parallel. The hill, 300 meters high, was contested over and over again by combatants. Pork Chop Hill was one of several exposed hill outposts in front of the main line of resistance. It was defended by a single company or platoon positioned in sand-bagged bunkers connected with trenches.
The Battle of Pork Chop Hill was actually a pair of related Korean War infantry battles that occurred during the spring and summer of 1953. These were fought while the U.S. and the Communist Chinese and Koreans negotiated an armistice. In the U.S., the battles were controversial because of the many soldiers killed for terrain of little strategic value.
The United Nations won the first battle in April when the Chinese broke contact and withdrew after two days of fighting. The second battle in July involved many more troops on both sides and was bitterly contested for five days.
On the night of July 6, the Chinese attacked Pork Chop. The hill was held by Bill’s Company A, 17th Infantry. Company B of the same regiment was in ready reserve behind the adjacent Hill 200 and was immediately ordered to assist, but within an hour, Company A reported hand-to-hand combat in the trenches. It is assumed that Bill died in that first assault. He was 21 years old.
The battle was fought in a persistent monsoon rain for the first three days, making both resupply and evacuation of casualties difficult. Parts of four companies defended Pork Chop under a storm of artillery fire from both sides. After five days, United Nations Command conceded Pork Chop Hill to the Chinese by withdrawing behind the main battle line.
The armistice was finally negotiated and went into effect on July 27, 1953, just 21 days after Bill died. Bill’s status as missing in action was changed to presumed dead one year later on July 7, 1954. His body has not been recovered, though a stone marker was placed near his mother’s grave in the Powhatan Cemetery east of Plover, Iowa, just five miles from where big brother Charles and younger sister Betty now live.
Bill was awarded a Purple Heart and Korean War Service Medal. A special box engraved with his name was given to the family by the State of Iowa.
PFC Sharp is one of over 8000 American servicemen missing at the cessation of hostilities in Korea that has never been returned or accounted for.
POW-MIA Day is held annually on the 3rd Friday of September to remember all those that have never returned. Each year, ISU’s ROTC cadets stand an honor guard in Gold Star Hall in memory of those soldiers. Now, they will stand guard for Bill Sharp.