Commander, 160th Infantry Regiment
During The Korean War
E. Benoit: Career of Fighting Man End
by Julian Hartt, Los Angeles Examiner
The following artical originally appeared
in the January-Febuary issue of the 40th Armored Division's magazine,
Col. Warren E. (Ben) Benoit, 36, Korean War commander
of "Los Angeles' Own"-the 160th Infantry Regiment of
the pre-armored 40th Division -was buried with full military
honors on December 1, 1955
Comrades of the young colonel frequently had predicted he either
would "be killed or win the Medal of Honor."
With fate's accustomed irony, however, he died when his station
wagon left a freeway on U. S. 40 and crashed into all overhead
structure near Sacramento on November 25.
Tragically, the accident also left his wife, Ja Marilyn, with
a fractured neck vertebra which will keep her in traction for
weeks. His son. John Warren' just six years old on Christmas
Day, suffered compound fractures of both legs, a broken right
arm and other grievous injuries, but at last reports his eventual
recovery was anticipated. His daughter, Kathy Jo, four, was less
Whatever the cause of the smashup, it cut all too short one of
the most promising military careers in the "hell for leather"
Patton school of aggressive warfare to be furthered by the California
Colonel Benoit's distinguished career in two wars twice won him
the Silver Star, the Bronze Star three times. the Combat Infantryman
Badge twice; and the Legion of Merit and, perhaps even more important,
the respect of his fellow fighting men as a fearless soldier.
Knew No Fear
A much-senior officer to the colonel once told this writer:
"I like to feel I am a brave man. but I feel fear. Ben
is fearless. He just doesn't know the meaning of the word."
There were many facets to the character of this officer of less
than average stature but stock build, hose dusty, skull-cropped
hair, piercing eyes, and the jaunty but businesslike swing of
the .45 at his hip-all were familiar "trademarks".
His career with the 40th brought the knowledge to thousands of
Southern California's citizen-soldiers that they were serving
with an officer who was affable but firm, both tough and devout.
Colonel Benoit's insistence on soldierly conduct and discipline,
in quiet or combat, was unquestioned. Yet his troops could count
on the fact that at any company "Shemozzle," sooner
or later, the colonel would be up in the bandstand tooting away
on the clarinet or some other instrument.
Ready To Lead
And, while the semi-static Korean warfrout where the 40th was
deployed above the 38th parallel offered little opportunity for
Colonel Benoit to display his aggressive approach to combat,
the troops knew instinctively that when the going was the roughest,
their commander would lead the way.
And this writer knows from personal observation that nightly,
no matter the exigiencies of the situation, Colonel Benoit would
find some moment to read quietly from the Bible that was as much
a part of his combat gear as his weapon.
At this period, one sergeant summed it up to me:
"Colonel Benoit is tough-but just. We're glad he's our
And he was able to say that just minutes after the Commanding
General had arrived at the 160th's training area in Japan, it
was noted pointedly that the Intelligence and Reconnaissance
Platoon which greeted him-it "doubled in brass" as
the honor unit-was minus its dis1956 distinctive white bootlaces.
The Colonel, despite the impending arrival of the General, had
literally snatched them away because the platoon, in which he
took inordinate pride as the unofficial competition to the General's
own Headquarters Defense Platoon, had fouled up a drill.
At the time of his death Colonel Benoit had moved up to Guard
headquarters in Sacramento, and was due for a tour of duty at
the Pentagon on with the new year.
Drafted in 1941
That meteoric career began in January, 1941, back in "Ben's"
home town of Gary, Indiana.
His number was drawn there in the first "fish bowl"
Colonel Benoit swiftly qualified for Officers Candidate School,
was commissioned a second lieutenant and assigned to the 14th
Armored Division when it was activated in 1942. When the division
was sent to Europe in 1944, then Captain Benoit commanded Company
A, 68th Armored Infantry Battalion.
At war's end, three bloody campaigns later for the 14th Armored
he was the only original company commander remaining with the
organization. His decorations and his legend came in these campaigns.
One oft-retold story was of Captain Benoit leading his men across
a major rIver bank under cover of darkness, to take a village
far in the German rear, then return and overwhelm the Wehrmacht
riverbank pillboxes at dawn to open the way for a general assault.
Unexpectedly, in the village he took prisoner most of the local
German officer corps. Without waiting for dawn he returned personally
and stealthily to the pillboxes, measured their apertures and
thickness quietly, then radioed for heavy weapons fire on them.
His request was turned down because fire control officers didn't
want to do what "Ben" apparently had disregarded-bring
the fire· down on himself as well. So he scurried around
to find a jerry can of gasoline, dribbled fuel unnoticed into
the pillboxes, touched it off with a match, and blew them up
These exploits won the attention of then Col. Daniel H. Hudelson.
who later was to command the 40th in Korea. In 1946, after World
War II, he induced Benoit, by then a major, to join the California
National Guard as G-3 (operations officer) of the 40th.
As a lieutenant colonel, Benoit succeeded to command of the 160th
when the Division was called up for the Korean emergency. He
took his organization through the prescribed training cycles-absorbing
"draft fillers" in the process-at Camp Cooke and continued
the arduous training mission in northern Honshu, Japan.
He rejoined the 40th, in the post Korean War reorganization,
as G-3, later going to the Office of the Adjutant General of
California in Sacramento as intelligence officer. He was reassigned
to the post of G-4 (logistical officer) and promoted to the rank
Such was the career of Col. Warren E. Benoit, whose body now
lies in Inglewood Park Cemetery, but whose spirit will live on
in the memory of his countless comrades so long as they survive.
About the author: Julian Hartt, a member of The Los Angeles
Examiner staff, served with the Navy in the Pacific as a
correspondent with International News Service during World War
II. He was the only newspaper correspondent to serve with the
40th in the Land of the Rising Sun and in the Land of the Morning
Calm during the Korean War. His efforts, in behalf of the Division
have been "above and beyond the call of duty".
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