Tag: Medal of Honor

Boys, The Old Flag Never Touched the Ground

 

When I’ve thought about the kind of person who could legitimately be described as a hero, my mind creates the image of a larger-than-life man, someone who stands above others as an inspiration and role model. And yet my imagination doesn’t do justice to the ordinary people who are suddenly called to take action at the risk of their very lives and don’t hesitate to step up to the moment.

William Harvey Carney was one of those men:

Member Post

 

2021 marks the 150th anniversary of the Congressional Medal of Honor (MOH). Over time, the Medal of Honor changed in its meaning, moving from the only United States military award to America’s most prestigious military award. To accommodate degrees of recognition, for accomplishment or merit, Congress and the military services added a variety of medals, […]

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Honoring a Fallen Hero: Staff Sergeant Travis Atkins

 

On Wednesday, 27 March 2019, President Trump honored Staff Sergeant Travis Atkins‘ supreme sacrifice for our country. He presented the Medal of Honor, in the name of the Congress, to Staff Sgt. Atkins’ son, Trevor. This family’s members present in the room, embodied a long tradition of answering the nation’s call to arms. As is customary, previous Medal of Honor recipients were present to honor their latest member.

The president gave a heartfelt address, telling Sergeant Atkins‘ story from childhood to the moment he wrapped his arms around a suicide-bomb-vest wearing enemy, throwing himself on top of the bomber, saving his three squad members in 2007. These men all stood in testimony to Sergeant Atkins, as did another 50 members of the 10th Mountain Division.

Photo of a MoH Action

 

Gumby Mark wrote this comment to a 21 November 2018 post by Nanda Panjandrum:

“Four Marines received the Medal of Honor for their actions on Tarawa, one of whom was 1st Lt Sandy Bonnyman, still the only MOH recipient to be photographed during the action for which he received the medal (see below for photo). The Japanese bunker on which Bonnyman died can be seen starting at about 8:50 in the second video in the post above.”

Father O’Callahan and Sailors Who Fought to Live

 

Father Joseph Timothy O’Callahan was called Padre Joe by the Protestant sailors, and Rabbi Tim by the Jewish sailors aboard the USS Franklin. A Jesuit priest who taught cosmology, mathematics, and physics at Boston College and Holy Cross College felt that he had a calling to serve his country as a Navy Chaplain.

Chaplain O’Callahan was aboard the USS Franklin on her darkest day and earned a Medal of Honor for heroism on that day. On March 19, 1945, St. Joseph’s Day:

Suddenly, at 7:07 am, a Japanese Yokosuka D4Y Judy bomber flashed out of a cloudbank and hurtled down toward the Franklin at 360 miles an hour. The carrier’s 5-inch and 40mm guns opened up on the plane as it released two 500-pound armor-piercing bombs, pulled up, and turned away only 50 feet above the flight deck.

A Zeal for Glory

 

Tom was young when the war broke out, too young to legally enlist. He lied about his age and enlisted as a private soldier anyway. He spent the first years of the war as a private, and then mustered out after three years as a corporal. By that time, Tom was old enough to join the army legally.

His eldest brother had gone to the United States Military Academy at West Point and managed to graduate just as the war was heating up and get a commission as an officer. The eldest brother had done fairly well for himself, well enough and with enough promotions that he could have an aide-de-camp. Tom was commissioned a second lieutenant and became one of his brother’s aides. By this time, it was 1864. Lincoln had finally gotten a general who fights, and some of the hardest fighting of the war was still before them.

Retired Marine Sergeant Major John Canley: Our Latest Medal of Honor Recipient

 

Wednesday afternoon, retired Sergeant Major John Canley became the 300th Marine to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. President Trump presented the award to the 80-year-old Marine, who is still straight of back and clear-voiced, standing tall in his sharp dress uniform. Sergeant Major Canley was belatedly recognized for one especially noteworthy episode in a long career.

Canley, who spent 28 years in the service, left El Dorado, Arkansas, at the age of 15 to join the Marines. [He used his brother’s documents to enlist two years below the youngest recruiting age!]

He was deployed to Vietnam several times from 1965 to 1970 and his efforts saved the lives of many men, earning him the Navy Cross.

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. Selfless Service: D-Day

 

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., was the first American general to wade ashore at Normandy, cane in one hand, pistol in the other. The eldest son of President Teddy Roosevelt, he was 56 in 1944. He had crippling arthritis and heart disease. But, he used all his political pull to get back in uniform, after Pearl Harbor, and back to the front lines. So it was that he landed on the beaches of Normandy.

He was in the first wave, saw they were a mile off course, and started marching up and down the beach barking useful orders. Men got moving inland off the beach and the Navy and Army brass were informed of the glitch, so they could adjust execution of the plan. For this action, Brigadier General Roosevelt was awarded the Medal of Honor—posthumously. He died of heart disease  a few weeks and a number of miles after the beaches. Consider that he had already “done his duty” in World War I, and that his son was also on the beach, a son named after another Roosevelt brother who had died as an aviator over France in the Great War. With all that in mind, consider this:

For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, in France. After 2 verbal requests to accompany the leading assault elements in the Normandy invasion had been denied, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt’s written request for this mission was approved and he landed with the first wave of the forces assaulting the enemy-held beaches. He repeatedly led groups from the beach, over the seawall and established them inland. His valor, courage, and presence in the very front of the attack and his complete unconcern at being under heavy fire inspired the troops to heights of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice. Although the enemy had the beach under constant direct fire, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt moved from one locality to another, rallying men around him, directed and personally led them against the enemy. Under his seasoned, precise, calm, and unfaltering leadership, assault troops reduced beach strong points and rapidly moved inland with minimum casualties. He thus contributed substantially to the successful establishment of the beachhead in France.

Never Forget

 

shutterstock_146659976I had soldiers on my mind this morning as I went for a brisk walk in the cemetery across from my house. Victor Davis Hanson is partially to blame. I read his fine NRO piece this week about the upcoming 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion and it stuck with me.

But that’s not the only reason my thoughts have been full of marines, sailors, and infantrymen. I’ve also been working my way through the HBO miniseries The Pacific about Raritan, New Jersey’s own John Basilone, who won both the Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Battle for Henderson Field on Guadalcanal in 1942 and (posthumously) the Navy Cross for his valor at Iwo Jima in 1945. The series is not great, but Basilone is undoubtedly a true American hero and it is right and proper that somebody should make a movie about his life. (My dad would want you to know that Raritan is just 20 miles down Rt. 287 from my hometown of Morristown.)

In the cemetery this morning, I came across some yet-to-be-cleared wreaths from my town’s Memorial Day commemoration. I want to share one of them with you: