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Portal man becomes an unlikely hero in Korean War incident
Bulloch History
roger allen
Roger Allen

Note: The following is one of a series of articles looking at events in the history of Bulloch County.

You know you’ve done something special when a foreign newspaper headlines your exploits while you’re overseas. In this case, it discussed the heroic exploits of a U.S. serviceman fighting in the Korean War.

The Singapore Free Press issue for July 3, 1951 printed an interesting article about a most unusual set of circumstances, which arose when an American patrol realized an enemy convoy was on the move.

A pair of white under shorts were used as a guide for mortar fire in the destruction of a Communist ammunition wagon train. “They had belonged to Private 1st Class Roi B. Knight, son of Mrs. Tabitha Knight of Portal.”

The entire story is well worth the telling. The U.S. First Cavalry Division served with great honor in the Korean War, in which hundreds of thousands of Americans were killed and injured.

The Bulloch Herald issue for July 5, 1951 picked up the story, which was "delayed," and ran under the banner "White Underpants Aid in Bagging Communists."

One of their heroes was none other than 21-year-old Roi B. Knight of Portal. Knight was a mortar gunner in the Third Battalion of the Eighth Cavalry regiment.

The First Cavalry was deployed in an area that was known to have a lot of Communist troops. His squad was to dig in on the top of a rugged hilltop with orders to secure the area in front of them.

On one particularly dark night, Knight was sentry. He heard what he recognized as the clop-clop-clop of horses’ hooves. Knight descended into the dark valley below them to get a visual on what he knew he had heard.

Once he reached the dirt road below, he followed tracks around the bend and found himself approaching the river’s edge. Here he saw North Korean soldiers feeding teams of horses.

As the Herald put it, "Some 200 yards from where he started, Knight came upon a juncture of the road and a stream. Here, Communist soldiers had brought more than a dozen ammunition wagons and were watering them."

Always a quick thinker, Knight realized he needed something which could be seen from above, in order to accurately mark the enemy's position. The Herald explained what happened next.

"Knight (was) wearing white shorts and undershirt. He stripped off his outer garments and underwear. The latter he tied in conspicuous places on nearby bushes facing the friendly positions on the hill."

Then, "Satisfied that the white garments would be visible in the darkness he scrambled back up the hillside. Breathlessly he told his platoon leader what he had discovered."

To his dismay, "It was only when the officer pointed out the obvious fact, that (Knight) noticed that in his haste he had forgotten to dress himself and was still stark naked."

His buddies thought him quite a sight. Quickly sighting their mortars in on the unsuspecting enemy's position, his mortar squad dropped endless rounds onto the enemy.

They simply aimed between the bright white "flags" that now surrounded their position. Screams of the enemy forces soon filled the valley. In the morning a reinforced patrol was sent down to the river.

Once they had searched "the target area, (they) came back with a report that eight wagons, 20 horses, and five 'Red' soldiers had been blasted. The Patrol also came back with Knight s pants and jacket."

The Bulloch Herald of Oct. 25, 1951, reported that Roy B. Knight, of Portal, was promoted to sergeant while serving with the 1st Cavalry Division’s 8th Cavalry Regiment.

Roger Allen is a local lover of history who provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email him at

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