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.
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.
Mar. 2, 1943: Elements of the U.S. Army Air Forces and Royal Australian Air Force intercept and all-but-destroy an entire Japanese troop-transport convoy in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. Several enemy ships, scores of enemy aircraft, and thousands of enemy soldiers will be sent to the bottom. Gen. Douglas MacArthur will remark that Bismarck Sea “cannot fail to go down in history as one of the most complete and annihilating combats of all time.” Japanese Navy Capt. Tameichi Hara will refer to the battle as “shocking” and “unbelievable.”
Mar. 3, 1776: A force of 250 Continental Marines and sailors under the command of Marine Capt. (future major) Samuel Nicholas land on New Providence in the British-held Bahamas and quickly seize Fort Montague in the first amphibious operation in American military history. The landing – largely unopposed (the British garrison spiking their own guns and fleeing) – nets for the Americans much-needed powder, shot, nearly 50 serviceable cannon, and a few mortars.
An avid foxhunter and the highest-ranking leatherneck in the American Revolution, Nicholas will lead Marines alongside Army forces in the future battles of (second) Trenton and Princeton. He is considered to be the first commandant of the Marine Corps.
If there is a picture of someone next to the word “warrior” in the dictionary, it would be Lewis Millett.
The man joined the Army in 1940 to fight the fascists in Europe, but left the service when he figured out that the U.S. wouldn’t enter the war. But instead of deserting to run from battle, Millett did so to run to battle, joining the Canadian armed forces, where he fought in England.
When the U.S. joined the war in 1942, Millet was able to transfer back to the American Army. Joining the 1st Armored Division, Millett earned the Silver Star – the nation’s third-highest award for valor – for his actions in North Africa. He also fought at Salerno and Anzio, but paperwork suggesting he had “deserted” in 1940 (by going to Canada) caught up to Millett. He was court-martialed, demoted to private, and fined $52.
However following his punishment, Millett received a battlefield promotion to second lieutenant and a Bronze Star.
In his second war, Millett was the Company Commander in the 27th Infantry Regiment during the Korean War. On February 7, 1951 on Hill 180 (present-day Osan Air Base in South Korea), he led an incredibly daring assault in what is believed to be the last bayonet charge in American military history. And it is worth noting that the CO that Millett replaced also was awarded the Medal of Honor, but posthumously.
After the Korean War, Gen. William Westmoreland picked Millett to command the Recondo school, which produced some of the world’s finest jungle warriors.
The man took something as tame as retirement and kicked it up a notch: Millett retired in 1971 because he felt the U.S. no longer wanted to win in Vietnam. He took up work as a sheriff’s deputy.
There is so much more to the warrior, who unfortunately passed away in November. Please read the other posts about Col. Millett here.
Today in Medal of Honor history:
Feb. 6, 1968: While on a reconnaisance-in-force mission near Vinh Long, Vietnam, Army Private First Class Thomas J. Kinsman dove on a grenade to shield his comrades from the blast. His actions saved seven of his teammates, and he was able to recover from his injuries.
Multiple servicemen have used their bodies to shield comrades from injuries in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and hardly any have been recognized with the Medal of Honor.
Feb. 6, 1951: When enemy fire pinned down the two leading squads of the company’s assault platoon in Maltari, Korea, Army Corporal Einar H. Ingman, Jr. reorganized the squads and led them on a charge against the enemy. He single-handedly charged two enemy machine gun positions, killing the enemy with grenades, rifle fire, and his bayonet before collapsing from his severe wounds. Ingman’s actions resulted in over 100 enemy troops fleeing the battle, and his squad went on to secure the objective.
Links to the Medal of Honor citations for both men are found by clicking their names above.
42 years ago on 6 December, 1967, Captain Liteky – the chaplain for the 199th Infantry Brigade – accompanied a company on a search and destroy mission in Phuoc-Lac, Vietnam. When the company was attacked by a battalion-sized enemy force, Chaplain Liteky moved multiple times through heavy enemy fire to deliver last rights to dying soldiers and to aid wounded soldiers. Despite incoming small arms and rocket fire, Liteky stood up multiple times in order to direct the incoming helicopters to the landing zone.
Through the course of the battle, the chaplain carried 20 wounded soldiers to the landing zone for evacuation.
You can read Chaplain Liteky’s citation here.