Cafferata distinguished himself during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, single-handedly holding off a regimental-sized enemy force and "annihilating two enemy platoons" after most of his comrades had fallen.
His actions in contact with the enemy started in the early morning and lasted over five hours. During the battle, Cafferata fought the enemy without either his coat or his boots, neither of which he could locate in the early morning darkness.
Hector said: "For the rest of the night I was batting hand grenades away with my entrenching tool while firing my rifle at them. I must have whacked a dozen grenades that night with my tool. And you know what? I was the world’s worst baseball player.”
When a live grenade fell into the shallow entrenchment occupied by his wounded fellow Marines, he grabbed the grenade and hurled it away — saving the lives of many, but suffering severe wounds.