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Robert Donald Taplett
File:Robert Taplett.jpg
Col. Robert Taplett
Born (1918-12-10)December 10, 1918
Died December 17, 2004(2004-12-17)
Place of birth Tyndall, South Dakota
Place of death Falls Church, Virginia
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1940–1960
Rank Colonel
Commands held 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines
MCRD Parris Island

World War II

Korean War

Awards Navy Cross
Silver Star (2)
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star

Robert Donald Taplett (December 10, 1918 – December 17, 2004) was a highly decorated United States Marine who was most notable for commanding 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War for which he was awarded the Navy Cross — the second highest medal for valor in the United States Armed Forces.

Taplett served with distinction in the Marine Corps for 20 years. He served aboard ship in the Pacific Theater during World War II. During the Korean War, he served as commander of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. After retiring from the Marine Corps, he authored a book that chronicled his experiences during the Korean War.


Taplett was born in Tyndall, South Dakota on December 10, 1918. He attended the University of South Dakota where he joined the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. He graduated with honors in 1940. Although he was a member of the Army ROTC, he resigned his commission and joined the Marine Corps as a Second Lieutenant.

World War IIEdit

During the attack on Pearl Harbor, Taplett was aboard the USS Salt Lake City which was not damaged during the assault. The Salt Lake City was one of only a handful of ships able to pursue the Japanese fleet. Taplett served on the ship for three years and participated in numerous campaigns in the Pacific Theater, including the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of the Aleutian Islands in 1943. After the war, Taplett, now a Colonel, was assigned as the commanding officer of the Navy supply barracks first at Clearview, Utah, and subsequently at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay and at the Naval Air Station Alameda, California.

Korean WarEdit

Taplett was dispatched to Korea immediately after the outbreak of hostilities. He was assigned to be the commanding officer of 3rd Battalion 5th Marines and participated in numerous battles. His unit held the perimeter at Pusan and led the Inchon landing taking Wolmi-do Island(Battle of Inchon), which was the gateway to Inchon. He led the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines through the gates of Seoul to liberate the South Korean State House. During the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, Taplett distinguished himself. From November 27, to December 10, 1950, he supported the strategic fall back of United States forces who were outnumbered by Chinese forces nearly 5 to 1. Despite the severe cold and harsh weather which was inflicted on him and his men, they fought desperately to clear the road which allowed for escape from the reservoir. Of the roughly 1,300 men in his unit who began the fight, only 326 able bodied Marines were left. For his leadership during the battle, Taplett was awarded the Navy Cross.

After the warEdit

After the Korean War, he became the academic director of The Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico in 1951 and 1952. In 1957 through 1959, he was based in Marine Corps Base Hawaii, although most of his time was spent training troops in Okinawa and the Philippines. Taplett was also a guest lecturer to various military units throughout the country speaking on the importance of close air support for ground troops. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1960, citing his displeasure with not being able to work directly with his troops and his military pay, which was not enough to support six children.

In retirementEdit

After retiring from the Marine Corps, Taplett and his family moved to Arlington, Virginia where he spent the rest of his life. He earned his Masters Degree for George Washington University in 1974.[1] He joined the U.S. Postal Service and fully retired in 1993. He went back to visit Korea twice and eventually wrote a book, Darkhorse Six (2003), which chronicled his experiences in Korea. He and wife Patricia Kingston Taplett had six children: Claire Ross Taplett, Robert Howard Taplett, Christine Kingston Taplett, Marty Kingston Taplett, Martin Ross Taplett, and Margot Barbara Taplett. He had nine grandchildren: Amanda Kingston Taplett, John Cawley Taplett, Lydia Ross Taplett, Mary Breen Taplett, Lindsey Marie Sallada, Liane Ross Sallada, Robert Matthew Sallada, Robert Ian Taplett, and Sean Robert Taplett.

Colonel Robert Taplett died on December 17, 2004 of congestive heart failure and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.



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