Today's Medal of Honor Moment for 1 September

 
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WilliamJones William A. Jones, MOH Recipient, Vietnam Today is an interesting day in the history of the Medal, with classic memes, a variation on a theme, and some damn hard fighting and desperate valor, and one very tough aviator. We open with the Civil War, where we find ourselves with the army of General Sherman, facing off against General Hardee and a good chunk of General Hood's troops defending Atlanta, with a fight at Jonesboro, Georgia, that catches a lot of Victorian-era war memes - leading an assault on the works, leaping into the enemy's position and demanding his surrender (vice just running him through and moving on to kill everything you see), and, of course, two iterations of Capture the Flag. Oh, and by winning this fight, Sherman forced Hood to abandon Atlanta, a not inconsequential outcome.
“BAIRD, ABSALOM Rank and organization: Brigadier General, U.S. Volunteers. Place and date: At Jonesboro, Ga., 1 September 1864. Entered service at: Washington, Pa. Birth: Washington, Pa. Date of issue: 22 April 1896. Citation: Voluntarily led a detached brigade in an assault upon the enemy's works.
IRWIN, PATRICK Rank and organization: First Sergeant, Company H, 14th Michigan Infantry. Place and date: At Jonesboro, Ga., 1 September 1864. Entered service at: Ann Arbor, Mich. Born: 1839, Ireland. Date of issue: 28 April 1896. Citation: In a charge by the 14th Michigan Infantry against the entrenched enemy was the first man over the line of works of the enemy, and demanded and received the surrender of Confederate Gen. Daviel Govan and his command.
KUDER, JEREMIAH Rank and organization: Lieutenant, Company A, 74th Indiana Infantry. Place and date: At Jonesboro, Ga., 1 September 1864. Entered service at: Warsaw, Ind. Birth: Seneca County, Ohio. Date of issue: 7 April 1865. Citation: Capture of flag of 8th and 19th Arkansas (C.S.A.).
MATTINGLY, HENRY B. Rank and organization: Private, Company B, 10th Kentucky Infantry. Place and date: At Jonesboro, Ga., 1 September 1864. Entered service at: ------. Birth: Marion County, Ky. Date of issue: 7 April 1865. Citation: Capture of flag of 6th and 7th Arkansas Infantry (C.S.A.).
Interim Awards, 1920-1940. As I've noted before, most of the awards of the Medal that fall into the "Interim Period" designation are Navy Medals, and are usually for actions that today would result in the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism not involving combat. Most of those Medals for are sailors rescuing drowning sailors or civilians, and some have been for members of the Engineering Department for staying by their boilers and engines when the ships were in great distress. This one is in that mold, but just a little different, as it doesn't involve the ocean at all. But there's a sailor at the heart of it.
RYAN, THOMAS JOHN Rank and organization: Ensign, U.S. Navy. Place and date: Yokohama, Japan, 1 September 1923. Entered service at: Louisiana. Born: 5 August 1901, New Orleans, La. Citation: For heroism in effecting the rescue of a woman from the burning Grand Hotel, Yokohama, Japan, on 1 September 1923. Following the earthquake and fire which occurred in Yokohama on 1 September, Ens. Ryan, with complete disregard for his own life, extricated a woman from the Grand Hotel, thus saving her life. His heroic conduct upon this occasion reflects the greatest credit on himself and on the U.S. Navy, of which he is a part. (Medal presented by President Coolidge at the White House on 15 March 1924.)
The Medal next appears during the desperate early days of the Korean War. This is an unusual day for the modern era - five Medals for the same period, which just shows how desperate the fighting was at that moment, as UN forces were being pushed back into the Pusan Perimeter.
*HENRY, FREDERICK F. Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Company F, 38th Infantry Regiment. Place and date: Vicinity of Am-Dong, Korea, 1 September 1950. Entered service at: Clinton, Okla. Birth: Vian, Okla. G.O. No.: 8, 16 February 1951. Citation: 1st Lt. Henry, Company F, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action. His platoon was holding a strategic ridge near the town when they were attacked by a superior enemy force, supported by heavy mortar and artillery fire. Seeing his platoon disorganized by this fanatical assault, he left his foxhole and moving along the line ordered his men to stay in place and keep firing. Encouraged by this heroic action the platoon reformed a defensive line and rained devastating fire on the enemy, checking its advance. Enemy fire had knocked out all communications and 1st Lt. Henry was unable to determine whether or not the main line of resistance was altered to this heavy attack. On his own initiative, although severely wounded, he decided to hold his position as long as possible and ordered the wounded evacuated and their weapons and ammunition brought to him. Establishing a l-man defensive position, he ordered the platoon's withdrawal and despite his wound and with complete disregard for himself remained behind to cover the movement. When last seen he was single-handedly firing all available weapons so effectively that he caused an estimated 50 enemy casualties. His ammunition was soon expended and his position overrun, but this intrepid action saved the platoon and halted the enemy's advance until the main line of resistance was prepared to throw back the attack. 1st Lt. Henry's outstanding gallantry and noble self-sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty reflect the highest honor on him and are in keeping with the esteemed traditions of the U.S. Army.
KOUMA, ERNEST R. Rank and organization: Master Sergeant (then Sfc.) U.S. Army, Company A, 72d Tank Battalion. Place and date: Vicinity of Agok, Korea, 31 August and 1 September 1950. Entered service at: Dwight, Nebr. Born: 23 November 1919, Dwight, Nebr. G.O. No.: 38, 4 June 1951. Citation: M/Sgt. Kouma, a tank commander in Company A, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. His unit was engaged in supporting infantry elements on the Naktong River front. Near midnight on 31 August, a hostile force estimated at 500 crossed the river and launched a fierce attack against the infantry positions, inflicting heavy casualties. A withdrawal was ordered and his armored unit was given the mission of covering the movement until a secondary position could be established. The enemy assault overran 2 tanks, destroyed 1 and forced another to withdraw. Suddenly M/Sgt. Kouma discovered that his tank was the only obstacle in the path of the hostile onslaught. Holding his ground, he gave fire orders to his crew and remained in position throughout the night, fighting off repeated enemy attacks. During 1 fierce assault, the enemy surrounded his tank and he leaped from the armored turret, exposing himself to a hail of hostile fire, manned the .50 caliber machine gun mounted on the rear deck, and delivered pointblank fire into the fanatical foe. His machine gun emptied, he fired his pistol and threw grenades to keep the enemy from his tank. After more than 9 hours of constant combat and close-in fighting, he withdrew his vehicle to friendly lines. During the withdrawal through 8 miles of hostile territory, M/Sgt. Kouma continued to inflict casualties upon the enemy and exhausted his ammunition in destroying 3 hostile machine gun positions. During this action, M/Sgt. Kouma killed an estimated 250 enemy soldiers. His magnificent stand allowed the infantry sufficient time to reestablish defensive positions. Rejoining his company, although suffering intensely from his wounds, he attempted to resupply his tank and return to the battle area. While being evacuated for medical treatment, his courage was again displayed when he requested to return to the front. M/Sgt. Kouma's superb leadership, heroism, and intense devotion to duty reflect the highest credit on himself and uphold the esteemed traditions of the U.S. Army.
*SMITH, DAVID M. Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company E, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Yongsan, Korea, 1 September 1950. Entered service at: Livingston, Ky. Born: 10 November 1926, Livingston, Ky. G.O. No.: 78, 21 August 1952. Citation: Pfc. Smith, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and outstanding courage above and beyond the call of duty in action. Pfc. Smith was a gunner in the mortar section of Company E, emplaced in rugged mountainous terrain and under attack by a numerically superior hostile force. Bitter fighting ensued and the enemy overran forward elements, infiltrated the perimeter, and rendered friendly positions untenable. The mortar section was ordered to withdraw, but the enemy had encircled and closed in on the position. Observing a grenade lobbed at his emplacement, Pfc. Smith shouted a warning to his comrades and, fully aware of the odds against him, flung himself upon it and smothered the explosion with his body. Although mortally wounded in this display of valor, his intrepid act saved 5 men from death or serious injury. Pfc. Smith's inspirational conduct and supreme sacrifice reflect lasting glory on himself and are in keeping with the noble traditions of the infantry of the U.S. Army.
*STORY, LUTHER H. Rank and organization Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company A, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Agok, Korea, 1 September 1950. Entered service at: Georgia. Born: 20 July 1931, Buena Vista, Ga. G.O. No.: 70, 2 August 1951. Citation: Pfc. Story, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action. A savage daylight attack by elements of 3 enemy divisions penetrated the thinly held lines of the 9th Infantry. Company A beat off several banzai attacks but was bypassed and in danger of being cut off and surrounded. Pfc. Story, a weapons squad leader, was heavily engaged in stopping the early attacks and had just moved his squad to a position overlooking the Naktong River when he observed a large group of the enemy crossing the river to attack Company A. Seizing a machine gun from his wounded gunner he placed deadly fire on the hostile column killing or wounding an estimated 100 enemy soldiers. Facing certain encirclement the company commander ordered a withdrawal. During the move Pfc. Story noticed the approach of an enemy truck loaded with troops and towing an ammunition trailer. Alerting his comrades to take cover he fearlessly stood in the middle of the road, throwing grenades into the truck. Out of grenades he crawled to his squad, gathered up additional grenades and again attacked the vehicle. During the withdrawal the company was attacked by such superior numbers that it was forced to deploy in a rice field. Pfc. Story was wounded in this action, but, disregarding his wounds, rallied the men about him and repelled the attack. Realizing that his wounds would hamper his comrades he refused to retire to the next position but remained to cover the company's withdrawal. When last seen he was firing every weapon available and fighting off another hostile assault. Private Story's extraordinary heroism, aggressive leadership, and supreme devotion to duty reflect the highest credit upon himself and were in keeping with the esteemed traditions of the military service.
*TURNER, CHARLES W. Rank and organization: Sergeant First Class, U.S. Army, 2d Reconnaissance Company, 2d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Yongsan, Korea, 1 September 1950. Entered service at: Massachusetts. Birth: Boston, Mass. G.O. No.: 10, 16 February 1951. Citation: Sfc. Turner distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. A large enemy force launched a mortar and automatic weapon supported assault against his platoon. Sfc. Turner, a section leader, quickly organized his unit for defense and then observed that the attack was directed at the tank section 100 yards away. Leaving his secured section he dashed through a hail of fire to the threatened position and, mounting a tank, manned the exposed turret machine gun. Disregarding the intense enemy fire he calmly held this position delivering deadly accurate fire and pointing out targets for the tank's 75mm. gun. His action resulted in the destruction of 7 enemy machine gun nests. Although severely wounded he remained at the gun shouting encouragement to his comrades. During the action the tank received over 50 direct hits; the periscopes and antenna were shot away and 3 rounds hit the machine gun mount. Despite this fire he remained at his post until a burst of enemy fire cost him his life. This intrepid and heroic performance enabled the platoon to withdraw and later launch an attack which routed the enemy. Sfc. Turner's valor and example reflect the highest credit upon himself and are in keeping with the esteemed traditions of the U.S. Army.
We end the saga thus far in Vietnam, and one tough pilot.
*JONES, WILLIAM A., III Rank and organization: Colonel, U.S. Air Force, 602d Special Operations Squadron, Nakon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. Place and date: Near Dong Hoi, North Vietnam, 1 September 1968. Entered service at: Charlottesville, Va. Born: 31 May 1922, Norfolk, Va. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Col. Jones distinguished himself as the pilot of an A-1H Skyraider aircraft near Dong Hoi, North Vietnam. On that day, as the on-scene commander in the attempted rescue of a downed U.S. pilot, Col. Jones' aircraft was repeatedly hit by heavy and accurate antiaircraft fire. On one of his low passes, Col. Jones felt an explosion beneath his aircraft and his cockpit rapidly filled with smoke. With complete disregard of the possibility that his aircraft might still be burning, he unhesitatingly continued his search for the downed pilot. On this pass, he sighted the survivor and a multiple-barrel gun position firing at him from near the top of a karst formation. He could not attack the gun position on that pass for fear he would endanger the downed pilot. Leaving himself exposed to the gun position, Col. Jones attacked the position with cannon and rocket fire on 2 successive passes. On his second pass, the aircraft was hit with multiple rounds of automatic weapons fire. One round impacted the Yankee Extraction System rocket mounted directly behind the headrest, igniting the rocket. His aircraft was observed to burst into flames in the center fuselage section, with flames engulfing the cockpit area. He pulled the extraction handle, jettisoning the canopy. The influx of fresh air made the fire burn with greater intensity for a few moments, but since the rocket motor had already burned, the extraction system did not pull Col. Jones from the aircraft. Despite searing pains from severe burns sustained on his arms, hands, neck, shoulders, and face, Col. Jones pulled his aircraft into a climb and attempted to transmit the location of the downed pilot and the enemy gun position to the other aircraft in the area. His calls were blocked by other aircraft transmissions repeatedly directing him to bail out and within seconds his transmitters were disabled and he could receive only on 1 channel. Completely disregarding his injuries, he elected to fly his crippled aircraft back to his base and pass on essential information for the rescue rather than bail out. Col. Jones successfully landed his heavily damaged aircraft and passed the information to a debriefing officer while on the operating table. As a result of his heroic actions and complete disregard for his personal safety, the downed pilot was rescued later in the day. Col. Jones' profound concern for his fellow man at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.
*Asterisks indicate posthumous awards. In Colonel Jones' case, it's a touch misleading. Colonel Jones survived his burns, but died later in a aircraft accident in the United States - before his Medal was awarded to him. Therefore, even though he survived the event that earned him the Medal, he is technically carried as a posthumous award. (John Donovan is a Legionnaire with the Department of Kansas with service in the U.S. Army. He blogs at his own website The Castle Argghhh!)
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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.