Reader's Comments

RaNae Vaughn     Iuka, MS
Thank you, Sgt. Cornwell.  Your sacrifice is very much appreciated.

Neil     Oxford, MS
Thank you for your acts of service and for the selflessness which you displayed.

Pam Presley Cousar     New Albany MS
Thank you so much Mr. Karl for sharing your stories with us ! I'm so honored to hear stories of our heroes here In Mississippi!

Brandon Dement    Summerville, SC
WOW, what a great story of courage and sacrifice!  I am honored to be a part of your family.  I will always remember this story.  Thank you for your service and your dedication to family and God.

Sahara     Pontotoc MS
Mr Karl is my Father-in-Law,and lemme tell you,he is one of the greatest men I have ever known. He and his wife are a pleasure to be around and I love hearing all their stories. I am blessed to have the privilege to call them family.

Beverly Mackey     Corinth, MS
WOW. Hist story needs to be made into a movie. This is really amazing right here.

Joe Lane Scott     Blue Springs MS
I have admired Mr. Cornwell since I was a teenager.  In my twenties, I owned a small diner in Sherman MS.  Mr. Cornwell would eat with us fairly often on Saturdays.  He impressed me then, and now, having read this I am a bit awe struck.   Thank you sir.

Bill Crutchfield     Red Bay, AL
My Dad served in WW l and two brothers served in WW ll. I have a great respect and admiration for all veterans. Enjoyed your story in the Journal and thanks for your service for our country.

Carolyn McCraw     Pontotoc MS
Hi Mr.C,  Enjoyed reading the write up in todays Journal.  Still think you are the best boss I ever had. (Barclay)


Ann Karoly     Tupelo, MS
Thank you for sharing your wartime experiences, and thank you for your Service.

Merrill Scott     Tupelo MS
I came in contact with Mr. Cornwell 38 years after his war experience.  He was then one of the founders and owners of Barclay Furniture Co. in Sherman, MS.  I worked several years for Mr. Cornwell in the accounting department. I have oft quoted him as having said, "The only person that does not make a mistake is a person that does not do anything".  It was a great priviledge to have known Mr. Cornwell and his wife he won in a poker game.

Jill Self     Pontotoc MS
Thank you Mr.Karl for keeping me free.

Tyki Jurney    Brandon MS
Good story. Thank you to all veterans and their sacrifices

SGT First Class Karl Cornwell
Tupelo, MS
Tank Commander in Korean War

Some men are born lucky. It just seems that life has a way of turning out in their favor. The hand they get dealt somehow always turns up aces. In Karl Cornwell’s case, it turned up with four queens. Karl was in the Army, stationed near West Point, NY. A group of GI’s were playing poker at a nearby table when one of them offered Karl his seat at the table. The man was down to just a few dollars and let Karl take over. Karl sat down, a couple of dollars to play with, and proceeded to run the table with hand after hand after hand. His luck hit its peak on the last hand when Karl was dealt two queens, then added two more queens on the draw. He steadily raised the pot, then rolled his hand when the dealer called. He started with just a few dollars but ended up with well over $100.

With the cash in his lap, Karl knew exactly what he wanted to do. He was about to take the cash the four queens won him and find the one lady he wanted to hold onto for good, a young lady named Geraldine from Goshen, NY. Karl, who never had much money growing up in West Virginia or as a soldier, took the money and treated Miss Geraldine to a very nice evening. The rest as they say is history. To hear Karl tell the story, he sometimes adds the line, “I won my wife in a poker game.”

Even lucky men, however, have their luck run out sometimes. Sergeant First Class Karl Cornwell pressed his luck numerous times as an M46 tank commander during the Korean War. His first few months in Korea were relatively inactive, but he saw the effects of war all around him. There was the time he found a pile of Korean bodies half-buried in a town where the Communists executed just about everyone. Then there was the day he was eating lunch by the road and a truck passed by with soldiers’ bodies piled so high, the sight and stench quenched his appetite. The sights, sounds, and smells of war were all around him.

In February 1951, war itself came to Karl. Positioned about 50 miles east of Seoul, Karl would take part in the Battle of Chipyong-ni. It has been called “the Gettysburg of the Korean War”. Karl’s 5th regimental combat team drove straight through the Chinese Army, in an effort to support and salvage another regiment that had been surrounded by the enemy. As commander, Karl’s head peeked out of the top of his tank, calling out orders to the men inside. His gunner, Paul Campbell, threw a steady stream of 50-caliber machine gun fire on the enemy lining the road. Karl’s regiment decimated the Chinese along the road, ultimately helping extract the trapped American unit. They received numerous awards and commendations as a result. It would not be the last time, however, that Karl and his crew faced the odds.

The second occasion did not turn out nearly as well. In April 1951, a platoon of tanks, seven total, were engaged in a fierce battle as the Chinese Communist Forces made a strong push southward. As his M46 crawled forward, a radio call came through requesting Karl to take his tank and locate the First Sergeant who was in a vulnerable position. Karl did as he was ordered, establishing contact with the First Sergeant who had already withdrawn in a Jeep. Karl then found an ammunition truck that was burning, and warned the rest of his platoon to withdraw knowing that if the ammo truck exploded, his platoon’s exit would be blocked. His message never got through and not a single one of the other six tanks made it out. Seeing that the situation was deteriorating quickly, Karl loaded wounded men all over his tank and began pulling back to the American line. Of the seven tanks that went into battle that day, Karl’s was the only one to survive, carrying with it dozens of injured American soldiers.

Just a few days later, a letter arrived from Miss Geraldine back in New York. The date on the letter matched the day of his tank battle.  In the letter, Miss Geraldine confessed to feeling very worried for him on that particular date. She prayed for him every day, but on this day she felt compelled to pray that God would somehow protect him even more, not knowing what was happening on the other side of the world. After he read the letter the first time, obviously shaken, he handed it to one of his officers sitting nearby. The words the officer gave to Karl that day were simple and straightforward: “Keep her.” 

When Karl tells the story today, his eyes fill with tears and his normally strong voice begins to tremble. He does not credit luck at all with saving his life in Korea that day. He credits the woman he was lucky enough to win in a poker game.  More specifically, he credits the God that she was praying to with saving him. Karl spent several more months in Korea as the war came to an end. But when he made his way back to the United States, his first assignment was to find the woman his officer told him to keep. As usual, Karl followed orders. Luck may have played a small part in bringing Karl and Geraldine Cornwell together, but it is faith that has carried them through.

Karl has never returned to Korea, although he has been invited to do so on many occasions. It carries him back to what was truly a biitersweet time in his life. In the words of Charles Dickens, "it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times." The best thing Karl would ever experience, finding the love of his life, would always be mixed with the hardest thing he ever went through, the loss of life in his platoon.

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SGT First Class Karl Cornwell served as a tank commander in the Korean War.

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