Bleak was a big man, 6 foot 5 and 250 pounds. If you saw him standing in platoon formation, you might not have readily picked him out as medic material, but the Army saw it that way. In 1952 Bleak found himself in Korea, where he was promoted to sergeant.
Sgt. Bleak was part of a patrol attached to the 2nd Battalion, 223rd Infantry. They were sent north to capture Chinese soldiers for the purpose of interrogation.
The 20-year-old soldier from Idaho and his patrol crept up a hillside where they were met with blistering enemy fire, suffering several casualties. Bleak helped the wounded, then continued to advance with his patrol.
Another man fell near the top of the hill. Three enemy troops laid down gunfire in an effort to keep the big medic from getting to the wounded soldier. That did not stop Bleak. He rushed into the trench where they were hiding and killed two enemies with his bare hands and dispatched the third with a trenching knife.
Moving out of the trench the medic saw an enemy grenade land in front of a companion. Without a thought for his own life he threw himself between the grenade and the soldier. Bleak took shrapnel to his back, but his injuries were minor.
A few minutes later a machine-gun bullet struck the young medic in the leg. Ignoring his injury, Bleak picked up a wounded man and started carrying him to safety. On his way down the hill two enemy soldiers charged with fixed bayonets. In a move that any editor would throw out if the story were fiction, Bleak grabbed the charging soldiers with his bare hands, smashing their heads together.
For his selfless heroism, David Bruce Bleak became the 61st Medal of Honor winner of the Korean War, receiving the honor from President Dwight D. Eisenhower in October, 1953.
Bleak left the Army after the war and returned to Idaho. Later he and his wife, Lois, would move to Wyoming where he would work as a meat cutter, a truck driver, and a rancher. The family-–they had four kids—moved back to Idaho where he ran a dairy farm in Moore for ten years, before taking a job as a janitor at the “site,” today called the Idaho National Laboratory. He would end his career there as chief hot cell technician, responsible for disposing of spent nuclear fuel rods.
David Bleak died in Arco in 2006 at age 74.