Congress authorized the creation of the Medal of Honor on 12 July 1862
and on 25 March 1863, Private Jacob Parrott, Company K, 33d Ohio
Volunteer Infantry, received the first Medal of Honor ever awarded.
In April 1862 Private Parrott and 23 other volunteers were part of a raid
into Georgia to destroy track and bridges on the railroad line between
Atlanta and Chattanooga. They penetrated nearly 200 miles south and
boarded a train headed north. During a scheduled stop at Big Shanty,
Georgia, the group stayed on the train while the engineer, conductor,
and the rest of the passengers went to get breakfast. Then the Union
Soldiers uncoupled the engine, tender and three boxcars from the rest of
the train. Most of the men got into the rear car, while the raid leader
boarded the engine with Privates Wilson Brown and William Knight,
both engineers, and another Soldier who acted as fireman. The group
steamed out of the station without incident.
The Union Soldiers drove the train north but soon the Confederates began to chase them in another locomotive. The raiders tried to burn bridges, but because they were followed so closely were unable to destroy any. Even dropping off some of the train cars along the way did not slow the pursuers. Eventually, they ran out of fuel north of Ringgold, Georgia and the raiders tried to escape on foot. All were captured, including Private Parrott. He returned to the Union after a prisoner exchange in March 1863. For his part in the undercover mission, Private Jacob Parrott became the first recipient of the Medal of Honor, soon followed by other surviving raiders.
Private First Class West, was a Soldier assigned to L Company, 14th
Infantry Regiment in the 25th Infantry Division. On 12 October 1952,
near Sataeri, Korea, PFC West voluntarily accompanied a contingent to
locate and destroy a reported enemy outpost. Nearing the objective, the
patrol was ambushed and suffered numerous casualties. Observing his
wounded leader lying in an exposed position, Private First Class West
ordered the troops to withdraw and then braved intense fire to reach
and assist him.
While attempting evacuation, he was attacked by three hostile Soldiers employing grenades and small-arms fire. Quickly shifting his body to shelter the officer, he killed the assailants with his rifle and then carried the helpless man to safety. He was critically wounded, losing an eye in this action, but courageously returned through withering fire and bursting shells to assist other wounded Soldiers. While evacuating two comrades, he closed with and killed three more enemy Soldiers. Private First Class West's loyalty to his fellow Soldiers and intrepid actions inspired all who observed him. He received the Medal of Honor.
While still a private first class, Sasser displayed devotion to duty while
assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3d Battalion,
60th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division in Ding Tuong Province of the Republic
of Vietnam on 10 January 1968. He was serving as a medical aidman
with Company A, 3d Battalion, on a reconnaissance in force operation.
His company was making an air assault when suddenly it was taken
under heavy small arms, recoilless rifle, machinegun and rocket fire
from well fortified enemy positions on three sides of the landing zone.
The company sustained over 30 casualties in the first few minutes.
Without hesitation, PFC Sasser ran across an open rice paddy through
a hail of fire to assist the wounded. After helping one Soldier to safety,
PFC Sasser was painfully wounded in the left shoulder by fragments of
an exploding rocket. Refusing medical attention, he ran through a
barrage of rocket and automatic weapons fire to aid casualties of the
initial attack and, after giving them urgently needed treatment, continued
to search for other wounded.
Despite two additional wounds immobilizing his legs, he dragged himself through the mud toward another Soldier 100 meters away. Although in agonizing pain and faint from loss of blood, PFC Sasser reached the man, treated him and proceeded on to encourage another group of Soldiers to crawl 200 meters to relative safety. There he attended their wounds for five hours until they were evacuated. PFC Sasser later received the Medal of Honor.
On 24 June 1898 during the Battle of Las Guasimas, Cuba, Major Bell
of the 1st Cavalry had gone down with a wound to the leg. Another
officer attempted to carry him from the field, but his shattered leg bone
broke through the skin, causing so much pain that he had to let Bell
down. The fire was so intense that in one plot of ground, fifty feet
square, sixteen men were killed or wounded. Still, a fellow American
Soldier was badly hurt and in need of assistance. Private Augustus
Walley of the 10th Cavalry, the “Buffalo Soldiers,” his compassion
overcoming self-preservation, ran to help the wounded Soldier. He and
the officer together dragged Major Bell to safety.
Conspicuous gallantry under fire was not new to Walley. He had received the Medal of Honor while assigned to the 9th Cavalry for his actions on August 16, 1881 in combat against hostile Apaches at the Cuchillo Mountains, New Mexico. During the fight Private Burton’s horse bolted and carried him into enemy fire where Burton fell from his saddle. Assumed dead, the command was given to fall back to another position, but Burton called out for help. Private Walley, under heavy fire went to Private Burton's assistance and brought him to safety.
Walley was recommended for a second Medal of Honor for his role in saving Major Bell at Las Guasimas. Instead he received a Certificate of Merit for his extraordinary exertion in the preservation of human life. In 1918 Congress upgraded Certificates of Merit to the Distinguished Service Medal and in 1934 to the Distinguished Service Cross.
SPC Fitzmaurice, 3d Platoon, Troop D, 2d Squadron, 17th Cavalry
displayed selfless service at Khe Sanh in the Republic of Vietnam on 23
March 1971. SPC Fitzmaurice and three fellow Soldiers were occupying
a bunker when a company of North Vietnamese sappers infiltrated the
area. At the onset of the attack SPC Fitzmaurice observed three
explosive charges which had been thrown into the bunker by the
enemy. Realizing the imminent danger to his comrades, and with
complete disregard for his personal safety, he hurled two of the charges
out of the bunker. He then threw his flak vest and himself over the
remaining charge. By this courageous act he absorbed the blast and
shielded his fellow-Soldiers.
Although suffering from serious multiple wounds and partial loss of sight, he charged out of the bunker, and engaged the enemy until his rifle was damaged by the blast of an enemy hand grenade. While in search of another weapon, SPC Fitzmaurice encountered and overcame an enemy sapper in hand-to-hand combat. Having obtained another weapon, he returned to his original fighting position and inflicted additional casualties on the attacking enemy. Although seriously wounded, SPC Fitzmaurice refused to be medically evacuated, preferring to remain at his post. SPC Fitzmaurice's heroism in action at the risk of his life contributed significantly to the successful defense of the position and resulted in saving the lives of a number of his fellow Soldiers. SPC Fitzmaurice received the Medal of Honor.
The day the draft notice came, Silvestre S. Herrera learned for the first
time that he was not a US citizen. Even more shocking, the man he
thought was his father wasn’t. Herrera was born in Camargo, Mexico.
After his parents died, his uncle brought the infant Silvestre to El Paso,
Texas and raised him as his own son. Because he was a citizen of
Mexico, he didn't owe service to the United States. Besides, he was 27,
married with three kids, and another on the way. But he went anyway
because, in his words, “I didn't want anybody to die in my place."
He joined the 36th Infantry Division of the Texas National Guard.
Months later, on 15 March 1945, Private First Class Herrera was with
his unit, E Company, 142d Infantry Regiment, near Mertzwiller, France.
As his platoon was moving down a road, they came under heavy enemy
fire from the woods, forcing most of the men to seek cover. But PFC
Herrera charged the enemy alone and neutralized the position,
capturing eight enemy Soldiers.
With that threat ended, the platoon continued down the road. They soon came under enemy fire again from a second stronghold, pinning down the platoon. This time a minefield stood between the Soldiers and the enemy gun emplacement. Disregarding the danger, Herrera rose to his feet and entered the minefield to attack the enemy. Mines exploded around him, but he continued to attack the enemy and draw their fire away from his comrades. Then a mine exploded under him, severing his leg below the knee. Still determined to stop the threat to his fellow Soldiers, he struggled back up on his good leg to continue the attack. Another mine exploded, this one severing his other leg below the knee. Despite intense pain and the unchecked bleeding of his wounds he lay in the minefield, firing to suppress the enemy while others of his platoon skirted the minefield to flank the enemy position.
His courage and fighting spirit reflected honor upon his adopted nation and that of his birth. Private First Class Silvestre S. Herrera received the Medal of Honor.
Private First Class Dunn displayed personal courage while assigned to
the 1st Battalion, 312th Infantry Regiment of the 78th Division. On 23
October 1918, near Grand-Pre, France, PFC Dunn’s battalion
commander needed to send a message to a company in the advanced
lines of an attack. Because of the extreme danger due to heavy enemy
fire and limited prospect for survival, he hesitated to order a runner to
make the trip. But PFC Dunn, a member of the intelligence section,
volunteered for the mission.
After advancing only a short distance across a field swept by artillery and machinegun fire, he was wounded but continued on. He was wounded a second time and fell to the ground. Despite his painful wounds he got up again and persistently attempted to carry out his mission until enemy machinegun fire killed him before reaching the advance line. PFC Dunn received the Medal of Honor posthumously.
Corporal Harold W. Roberts was a tank driver in A Company, 344th
Tank Battalion during the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives. His
company was advancing under heavy enemy artillery fire in the
Montrebeau Woods. After about a mile, the tank commander/gunner,
Sergeant Virgil Morgan and Corporal Roberts saw a disabled tank with
a Soldier crouched by it. As Roberts stopped his tank, the Soldier
crawled toward them, opened the door and asked for help. They said
they could not help at the moment but would return after the battle and
render aid and drove off into the heart of the German artillery barrage.
Ahead lay a large mass of bushes that they thought was a machine gun nest and drove the tank into it. In an instant, they found themselves overturned. Recovering from the shock they discovered the tank had fallen into a tank trap with about 10 feet of water in it. The tank had only one hatch and with water rushing in Roberts said to Morgan, "Well, only one of us can get out, and out you go." With this he pushed Sergeant Morgan from the tank. Morgan tried to assist Roberts, but with the heavy gunfire around the area, was unable to do so. After the enemy fire ceased, Sergeant Morgan returned but found Roberts dead.
Corporal Roberts was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the second tanker to receive it. Camp Nacimiento, California, was renamed Camp Roberts in 1941. It was the only Army installation at the time to be named for an enlisted Soldier.
Private First Class Doss was a company medic with the 307th Infantry
Regiment in the 77th Infantry Division near Urasoe Mura, Okinawa. On
29 April 1945, the 1st Battalion assaulted a high escarpment. As our
Soldiers reached the top, enemy artillery, mortar, and machinegun fire
inflicted about 75 casualties and drove the others back. PFC Doss
refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the
wounded, carrying them one by one to the edge of the escarpment.
There he lowered them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff
to friendly hands.
On 4 May PFC Doss treated four men who had been cut down while assaulting a strongly defended cave. He advanced through a shower of grenades to within 8 yards of the enemy in the cave's mouth, where he treated the wounded before making four separate trips under fire to evacuate them to safety.
On 5 May, when an American was severely wounded by fire from a cave, PFC Doss crawled to him where he had fallen 25 feet from the enemy position, rendered aid, and carried him 100 yards to safety while continually exposed to enemy fire.
During a night attack on 21 May, PFC Doss remained exposed while the rest of his company took cover, giving aid to the injured until he was himself seriously wounded in the legs by the explosion of a grenade. Rather than call another medic from cover, he cared for his own injuries and waited 5 hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover. PFC Doss, seeing a more critically wounded man nearby, crawled off the litter and insisted the bearers give their first attention to the other man. Awaiting the litter bearers' return, he was again struck, this time suffering a compound fracture of an arm. He bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint and then crawled 300 yards over rough terrain to the aid station.
PFC Doss received the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman on 12 October 1945.
Corporal Collier was assigned to F Company, 2d Battalion, 223d
Infantry Regiment, 40th Infantry Division. On 20 July 1953, Corporal
Collier was point man and assistant leader of a night combat patrol
when he and his commanding officer slipped and fell from a sixty-foot
cliff. The leader, incapacitated by a badly sprained ankle, ordered the
patrol to return to the safety of friendly lines. Although suffering from a
painful back injury, Corporal Collier voluntarily remained with his leader.
The two managed to crawl over the ridgeline to the next valley, where they waited until the next nightfall to continue toward their company’s position. Shortly after leaving their hideout, they were ambushed and in the ensuring firefight, Corporal Collier killed two of the enemy but was wounded and separated from his companion. Ammunition expended, he closed with four of the enemy, killing, wounding, and routing them with his bayonet. Mortally wounded in this fight, he died while trying to reach and assist his leader. He was posthumously promoted to sergeant and then received the 130th Medal of Honor of the Korean War.
The Armistice that ended the Korean War went into effect 7 days later on 27 July 1953.
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