“A nation reveals itself not only by the the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers…”
– President John F. Kennedy
Last week, America lost two outstanding warriors. Ola L. Mize, veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars and Medal of Honor recipient, and William J. Guarnere, from the legendary “Band of Brothers” unit of World War II.
Alabama native Ola Mize tried repeatedly to enlist in the Army, but at 120 pounds was told he was too small. He also had to trick his way past a vision test as he was also blind in one eye from a childhood accident. Eventually, the Army relented and he served in the 82nd Airborne, re-enlisting once the Korean War broke out.
On June 10, 1953, a battalion-sized force of Chinese troops attacked and overran Mize’s outpost. With his company officers dead or wounded, Mize organized a defense, dragged wounded to safety, and formed a patrol to fight the Chinese bunker to bunker – despite having been hit by grenade and artillery blasts multiple times. Fighting for hours – hand-to-hand at times – Mize killed several dozen enemy soldiers with his carbine and many more by calling in American artillery fire. His full citation can be read here.
Mize was one of only eight Americans of the original 56 to survive the attack on the outpost. Initially, he refused the Medal of Honor, but eventually accepted it on behalf of his men.
Following the Korean War, Mize earned his commission and served multiple tours in Vietnam with the 5th Special Forces Group. He later founded the Combat Diver Qualification Course in Key West, Fla. and commanded the Special Forces School at Fort Bragg.
Col. Mize retired in 1981, having earned the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, five Bronze Stars, and the Purple Heart. He passed away in his Gadsden, Ala. home on March 12 of lung cancer.
When the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor, William Guarnere dropped out of high school and went to work building Sherman tanks. His job was considered essential to the war effort, which allowed him to stay stateside. But he enlisted in the Army, and trained for the newly formed parachute infantry. He would be assigned to Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, which would be immortalized by historian Stephen Ambrose in the book “Band of Brothers.”
Guarnere’s oldest brother Harry was killed fighting the Germans at Monte Cassino, Italy, and William couldn’t wait to kill every German he could. His fierce fighting earned him the nickname “Wild Bill.” Guarnere parachuted into France prior to the D-Day invasion, and was platoon sergeant during a June 6 assault on German artillery at Brecourt Manor featured on “Band of Brothers” miniseries, for which he earned the Silver Star.