Today in Medal of Honor history

On Oct. 2, 1969, Chief Warrant Officer Michael J. Novosel gets the call that a team of South Vietnamese are pinned down in Vietnam’s Kien Tuong Province, and the medevac pilot heads to the rescue. As he circles overhead to rally the beleaguered troops while they prepared to be lifted out, enemy fire is so intense that his helicopter is driven away six times. Undeterred, Novosel – who would be wounded by close-range automatic weapons fire during the daring mission – performed 15 extractions under fire, saving 29 soldiers.

This was Novosel’s second tour flying medevac helicopters in Vietnam. The “Dean of the Dust-Offers” flew an amazing 2,543 missions, rescuing 5,589 personnel. He had flown B-29s during World War II, and also served during Korea. By the time Novosel retired in 1985, he was the last World War II aviator still on active duty. His son also flew medevac choppers, and both father and son would take turns rescuing each other during the Vietnam War.

Novosel’s full Medal of Honor citation can be read here

On Oct. 2, 1952, Private First Class Jack W. Kelso’s platoon is hit by a heavy enemy assault that takes both the platoon commander and platoon sergeant out of action. Kelso exposes himself to enemy small arms and mortar fire, attempting to rally his fellow Marines. Met by a hail of fire, he seeks cover in a bunker, which is quickly targeted by an enemy grenade. Kelso picks up the grenade and moves to an exposed position to throw it back at the enemy when it goes off after leaving his hand – peppering Kelso with shrapnel. Instead of remaining in the bunker, the mortally wounded Kelso opts to expose himself to the withering fire and provide cover fire while his men move to another position.

Kelso’s full Medal of Honor citation can be read here

On this date 73 years ago, as the 85th Infantry Division fights their way across Italy, Sgt. Christos H. Karaberis’ platoon was pinned down by enemy fire. Karaberis – who changed his name to Chris Carr following the war – crept to the rear of an enemy machine gun position. Leaping forward and shooting his submachine gun into the position, he caught the occupants by surprise – capturing eight enemy soldiers. Carr moved on to the next position – this time maneuvering to avoid enemy fire – killing four soldiers and capturing another. Carr then moved against a third machine gun position, forcing the enemy troops to surrender. Incredibly, Carr would charge two more positions, bringing his total to five machine gun nests, killing eight enemy soldiers, and capturing 22.

Carr’s full Medal of Honor citation can be read here

Posted on October 2, 2017 at 10:28 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Arthur Jackson’s one man assault at Pelelieu

Pres. Harry S. Truman presents the Medal of Honor to Jackson at the White House on Oct. 5, 1945.

Pres. Harry S. Truman presents the Medal of Honor to Jackson at the White House on Oct. 5, 1945.[/caption]Today we honor the memory of recently departed Medal of Honor recipient Arthur J. Jackson. On Sept. 18, 1944 on Pelelieu, Private First Class Jackson charged towards a large enemy pillbox containing 35 Japanese soldiers. Facing an intensive barrage, he suppressed the enemy with automatic weapons fire and then destroyed the fortification with grenades and explosives, killing all of the occupants. Despite incoming fire from all sides, Jackson single-handedly moved on another 11 positions, killing 15 more of the enemy.

For his incredible one-man assault, Jackson is awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation can be viewed here.

Jackson was wounded on Pelelieu and again at Okinawa, where he served as a platoon sergeant. He received a commission from the Marine Corps in August, 1945 and would serve in the Army during the Korean War. He returned to the Marines in 1952 and while serving at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Jackson killed an alleged Cuban spy that attacked him. Fearing an international incident, the military silently discharged Jackson after the event. He entered the Army Reserves and ultimately reached the rank of Captain in 1954.

Jackson, one of the few surviving recipients of the Medal of Honor from World War II, passed away on June 14, 2017.

Posted on June 17, 2017 at 12:24 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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May 26 in U.S. military history

1917: U.S. Army Gen. John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing is named commander-in-chief of the American Expeditionary Force, which is destined for European combat the following year.

1942: The Northrop P-61 “Black Widow” night fighter makes its first flight. The twin-boom P-61 is the first aircraft to carry radar and the U.S. military’s first night fighter. The warplane saw service in both the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters, and is widely believed to be credited with the last “kill” of an enemy aircraft in World War II, when a Japanese “Tojo” fighter pilot flies into the water while attempting to evade a Black Widow. Another P-61 flew over the Cabanatuan prison camp, with the pilot performing acrobatic maneuvers to distract the guards while Rangers infiltrated the camp and rescued 500 American prisoners of war.

1958: Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class William R. Charette selects which remains of unidentifiable service members from World War II will be interred at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from four identical caskets in a ceremony on the deck of the cruiser USS Canberra (CAG-2). Charette is the only enlisted sailor and recipient of the Medal of Honor still on active service. The “unknowns” were disinterred from cemeteries in Europe, Africa, Hawaii, and the Philippines.

1961: An Air Force B-58 “Hustler” bomber – the first operational bomber capable of sustaining Mach 2 – flies from New York to Paris in three hours and 19 minutes, setting a new record and averaging 1,386 miles per hour.

Leroy A. Petry

2008: Staff Sergeant Leroy A. Petry and his fellow Rangers come under enemy fire while attempting to capture a high-value Taliban target in Paktia Province, Afghanistan. Petry, already wounded in both legs by an enemy bullet, sees an enemy grenade land near his team’s position and throws it back. But the grenade explodes just after being thrown, severing Petry’s hand and spraying him with sharpnel. He applies a tourniquet and coordinates support for his soldiers on the radio. Petry will receive an advanced prosthetic hand and rejoin the Rangers, returning to Afghanistan for his eighth deployment before becoming the second living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.

Posted on May 26, 2017 at 08:26 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Remembering our heroes: Mize and Guarnere

“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.

Mize-obit-superJumboAlabama 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.

“Wild Bill”

Bill-GuarnereWhen 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.

Posted on March 17, 2014 at 15:10 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Medal of Honor recipient Walter Ehlers passes

Ehlers speaks at the 63rd anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, 2007. (Source Defense Visual Information Center)

Ehlers speaks at the 63rd anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, 2007. (Source Defense Visual Information Center)

Walter D. Ehlers, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient for the Normandy campaign, was laid to rest March 10 at Riverside (Calif.) National Cemetery.

Ehlers was born in Junction City, Ks. on May 7, 1921. He enlisted in the Army with his brother Roland and the two served together throughout the North Africa and Sicily campaigns, but anticipating high casualties, their company commander separated the brothers for the Normandy invasion due to fears that the two would perish together. Walter learned on June 14 that his brother perished when a mortar struck his landing craft at Omaha Beach on D-Day.

As Walter’s reconnaissance squad fought through France on June 9 and 10, he repeatedly moved far forward of his men, leading a bayonet charge and assaulting multiple heavily defended strongpoints – at times, single-handedly. While covering the withdrawal of his platoon from heavy fire, and despite being wounded himself, Ehlers crossed a killzone to retrieve his wounded automatic rifleman. Once his man was secured, he returned for the soldier’s weapon. His full citation can be read here.

He was wounded three more times as the First Infantry Division fought across Europe. In addition to his Medal of Honor and Purple Hearts, he also earned the Silver Star and Bronze Star. He served as a counselor for the Veterans Administration, and his son Walter Jr. retired as a lieutenant colonel, also having served with the First Infantry Division. Ehlers spoke at the 50th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day invasion in 1994 and walked alongside President Bill Clinton on Omaha Beach.

Many who worked alongside Ehlers never knew he was a Medal of Honor recipient. “This was a man who was a warrior,” recalled former California governor Pete Wilson. “There’s no doubt about that, but this was also one of the most gentle, kindest, most modest human beings I’ve ever encountered.” Hundreds attended his funeral.

Of the 12 Medals of Honor awarded for Normandy, all but three were posthumous. With Ehlers’ passing, only 75 surviving Medal of Honor recipients remain. However, the Marine Corps Times reports that former Marine Corporal Kyle Carpenter will receive the award for shielding his comrades from a grenade blast in Afghanistan back in 2010.

Posted on March 11, 2014 at 16:25 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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SFC Alwyn C. Cashe

Since being part of the 2010 Medal of Honor Convention, I have read and published scores of narratives for valor medals. While the actions of these men are all truly incredible, the actions of Sergeant First Class Alwyn C. Cashe in Iraq on Oct. 17, 2005 are astonishing. Especially considering he was only awarded the Silver Star.

Cashe occupied the gunner’s turret of a Bradley fighting vehicle when it was hit by an IED. Cashe managed to escape the vehicle, but the vehicle’s fuel cell had ruptured and ignited, setting fire to the men stuck inside. Cashe was covered in fuel, and insurgent small-arms fire was targeting the Bradley. Cashe rescued the driver, who was on fire, and opened the hatch to rescue the burning soldiers still inside. His uniform caught fire, but he continued his rescue efforts – even running into the inferno to pull out the medic.

Of those wounded in the attack, Cashe’s burns were the most severe. He succumbed to his wounds on Nov. 8, 2005. I run into burning buildings for a living as a fireman. But I cannot imagine running into a burning vehicle while soaked in fuel and on fire myself to rescue multiple victims. This man did, he died doing so, and was only awarded the military’s third-highest medal for valor. Lyndon Johnson got a Silver Star for just riding on an airplane.

Cashe’s Silver Star citation can be read in full here.

Blackfive has more on SFC Cashe here, here, and here.

Not to take away from the honor and tradition of our military decorations, but sometimes cloth and metal don’t quite seem sufficient to recognize people like Sergeant First Class Alwyn C. Cashe. I expect that his medal will be upgraded. If not, it is time to overhaul the awards process.

Posted on September 25, 2011 at 09:30 by Chris Carter · Permalink · One Comment
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Medal of Honor history: Howard and Yano

42 years ago, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Howard was on a joint patrol of U.S. and South Vietnamese troops when the unit was attacked by 250 North Vietnamese soldiers. After regaining consciousness from an explosion which riddled his body with shrapnel, Howard killed an enemy soldier who was wielding a flamethrower before dragging his commanding officer to safety. Howard then shoots several enemies with his pistol before being wounded once more in the foot, preventing him from walking. He then sets up a defensive position, repelling numerous attacks.

Howard, who retired in 1992 as a Colonel was believed to be the most decorated soldier since Vietnam. He was nominated for the Medal of Honor three times in just over a year. Due to the covert nature of his operations, the other actions were downgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross (he was awarded two) and the Silver Star. He received eight Purple Hearts – tied with four other soldiers for the record – and was wounded 14 times in his 54 months of combat during the Vietnam War. He was one of only two soldiers to be awarded both the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross. He also was awarded four Bronze Stars, in addition to numerous other awards for valor. Read his citation here.

One year later, Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Yano was a crewmember aboard a command-and-control helicopter that was engaged with enemy forces near Bien Hoa. As Yano fired smoke and white phosphorous marking rounds to identify enemy positions for artillery strikes, a grenade detonated prematurely in the helicopter’s cabin, covering Yano with burning phosphorous and igniting the remaining ammunition. Despite his serious wounds, he began throwing the exploding ammunition overboard, causing further injuries – and ultimately his life – but sparing the helicopter and crew. Read his citation here.

Posted on December 30, 2010 at 23:01 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Medal of Honor: Biddle and Wiedorfer

66 years years ago,Privates Melvin Biddle and Paul Wiedorfer earned the Medal of Honor for actions during the Battle of the Bulge.

On Dec. 23, 1944, Private Melvin Biddle and his unit set out on a mission to rescue a stranded company in Belgium. Biddle was selected to lead the force when two scouts were injured by a land mine. He shot three German snipers, then killed eight more soldiers and destroyed three machine gun nests. The next day, Biddle came across 13 German soldiers and killed them all with his M-1 rifle. Amazingly, Biddle was not injured during his actions, but his uniform sleeves were riddled with bullet holes. Biddle passed away in his home almost two weeks ago. His citation can be read here.

On Dec. 25, 1944, near Chaumont, Belgium, Private Paul Wiedorfer and his unit were clearing an area of German snipers when two machine gun emplacements opened fire. Although the emplacements were dug-in and flanked by riflemen, Wiedorfer charged the positions. Miraculously, none of the enemy fire hit him, and he reached the first machine gun, destroying it with a grenade and killing the soldiers with his rifle. When he threw another grenade at the next position, the remaining Germans surrendered to him. As he recovered from a serious mortar blast at Walter Reed hospital in February, Wiedorfer learned that he was awarded the Medal of Honor from a sergeant in the hospital bed next to his who read the news in Stars and Stripes. His citation can be read here.

Posted on December 27, 2010 at 12:37 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Medal of Honor history: Allen J. Lynch

43 years ago, Private Allen J. Lynch crossed a kill zone multiple times and killed numerous enemies in order to rescue three wounded comrades. He appeared at the Pritzker Military Library in 2007 and the video of his appearance is worth watching. Read his citation here.

Posted on December 14, 2010 at 10:23 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Medal of Honor recipient Vernon Baker dies at 90

(St. Maries, Idaho)—In Italy’s Apennine Mountains 65 years ago, the men of Company C, 370th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division fought through enemy machine gun nests and bunkers in order to capture the German stronghold of Castle Aghinolfi.

The small castle overlooking a coastal highway was used by the Germans as an artillery observation post. Although three previous assaults on the objective had failed, Second Lt. Vernon J. Baker’s segregated company was ordered to attack again – using a similar approach as the previous assaults. To make matters worse, nearly three-quarters of Baker’s undermanned platoon were replacements, and had seen little or no combat.

At 5 a.m. on April 5, artillery pounded the German position and Charlie Company headed to their objective. Initially, they encountered little resistance, and within about two hours, Baker and his men were within 250 yards of the castle. As they looked for a suitable position to set up their machine gun, Baker saw an enemy telescope pointing out of a slit in the hill. He crawled up to the position and emptied the clip of his M1 Garand rifle into the hole, killing the observation post’s two occupants.