Sports Heroes Who Served:
Sports Heroes Who Served is a series that highlights the accomplishments of athletes who served in the U.S. military.
In 1946, Blocker played football at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. In 1947, he transferred to what was then known as Sul Ross State Teachers College in Alpine, Texas. There, he was a star football player and graduated in 1950.
Blocker was drafted into the Army during the Korean War in late 1950, receiving basic training at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and nine more months of training in Sapporo, Japan. He then was assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division in Korea from December 1951 to August 1952 and attained the rank of sergeant.
Blocker's unit occupied the sector of the Jamestown Line near Chorwon, which is now part of North Korea. In March, his unit was involved in heavy fighting 10 miles west of Chorwon at Outpost Eerie. On May 25, Blocker's company manned Hill 200 where six were killed in action and 21 were wounded; 132 Chinese soldiers were killed.
From June 16 to 26, the 179th fought a series of outpost battles at Eerie, Old Baldy and Pork Chop Hill. On June 26 and beyond, F Company defended Hill 223. The 45th Division was withdrawn from the front in July after 209 days on the line. The 179th then went into reserve at Yanggu, South Korea.
Blocker, who was the acting company first sergeant, was hospitalized for wounds received during one of the battles. He is credited with saving the lives of unit members in combat and was rotated home in August 1952.
Gordon Abts, who received a Silver Star Medal for gallantry on May 7, 1952, said he served under Sgt. Blocker in Korea. He told Steve Cahalan, a reporter for the La Crosse Tribune newspaper in Wisconsin, that the Chinese would usually attack at night, so the soldiers slept during the day.
“[Blocker] was a great guy,” Abts said. “He was very strong. He could take a beer can between two fingers and crush it. He was very athletic. He was loud, but very friendly and got along with everybody. He was a great leader.”
Abts and Blocker became friends, and, after the war, they stayed in touch with each other.
In 1959, Blocker was cast as one of the leads in "Bonanza," playing the middle of three brothers in a family of Nevada ranchers.
He often had to extricate younger brother Little Joe, played by Michael Landon, from trouble. Hoss was a beloved character on the popular show, which ran an extraordinary 14 seasons.
Unfortunately, Blocker only made it to season 13. He died from a pulmonary embolism following gallbladder surgery in 1972. He is buried near his hometown of De Kalb, Texas.