Archive for the ‘Heroism’ Category

Medal of Honor awarded to Sioux soldier for heroism in Korea

March 4, 2008

WASHINGTON — President Bush apologized Monday that the country waited decades to honor Master Sgt. Woodrow Wilson Keeble for his military valor in Korea, giving him the Medal of Honor more than 25 years after he died.

Keeble is the first full-blooded Sioux to receive the nation’s highest military award. But it came almost six decades after he saved the lives of fellow soldiers. Keeble died in 1982.

“On behalf of our grateful nation, I deeply regret that this tribute comes decades too late,” Bush said at the White House medal ceremony. “Woody will never hold this medal in his hands or wear it on his uniform. He will never hear a president thank him for his heroism. He will never stand here to see the pride of his friends and loved ones, as I see in their eyes now.”

However, Bush said, there are things the nation can still do for Keeble, even all these years later.

“We can tell his story. We can honor his memory. And we can follow his lead, by showing all those who have followed him on the battlefield the same love and generosity of spirit that Woody showed his country every day,” the president said before a somber East Room audience that included three rows of Keeble’s family members.

Fellow soldiers, family members and others have been pushing Congress and the White House for years to award Keeble the medal. They said the man known as “Chief,” a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux tribe, deserves the medal for his actions in Korea in 1951, when he saved the lives of other soldiers by taking out more than a dozen of their enemies on a steep hill, even though he himself was wounded.

“Soldiers watched in awe as Woody single-handedly took out one machine gun nest, and then another,” Bush said. “When Woody was through, all 16 enemy soldiers were dead, the hill was taken, and the Allies won the day.”

Pentagon officials had said the legal deadline had passed to award the medal to Keeble unless Congress specifically authorized it. Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad, D-N.D.; Tim Johnson, D-S.D.; and John Thune, R-S.D., introduced legislation to award Keeble the medal, and it was signed by Bush last year.

Keeble was recommended twice for the medal in the 1950s but the applications were lost both times. He instead received the Distinguished Service Cross.

“Some blamed the bureaucracy for a shameful blunder,” Bush said. “Others suspected racism — Woody was a full-blooded Sioux Indian. Whatever the reason, the first Sioux to ever receive the Medal of Honor died without knowing it was his.”

His friends felt he was cheated, Bush said, “Yet Woody never complained. See, he believed America was the greatest nation on earth — even when it made mistakes.”

Seventeen members of Keeble’s family, along with soldiers who served with him, attended the ceremony. Keeble’s stepson, Russell Hawkins, accepted the award along with Keeble’s nephew. He said after the ceremony that he does not believe it was racism that delayed the honor.

“I think it was truly lost,” he said of the original recommendations. “I don’t think Woodrow would say it was discrimination. He didn’t see racial colors, he didn’t see racial barriers.”

Hawkins said the family has been pushing for the medal since the early 1970s.

Keeble, who was born in Waubay, S.D., moved to North Dakota as a child. He was also a veteran of World War II and received more than 30 citations, including four Purple Hearts.

Bush saluted Keeble for his military heroism, but also for his conduct in his personal life — pursuing a woman he loved, becoming “an everyday hero” in his community and maintaining cheerfulness — despite his own grief and physical suffering. The wounds he suffered in Korea would “haunt him the rest of his life” and strokes paralyzed his right side and took away his ability to speak, but he mowed lawns and gave money to down-and-out strangers.

“Those who knew Woody can tell countless stories like this — one of a great soldier who became a Good Samaritan,” the president said.

Both Conrad and Dorgan attended the ceremony.

“This day is long overdue,” said Conrad. “Master Sgt. Keeble is finally getting the public recognition he deserves for his loyalty, devotion and sacrifice for our country.”

Dorgan said Keeble is worthy of the nation’s highest military honor.

“His bravery on the battlefield saved a lot of American lives, and today’s ceremony finally brought him the recognition he deserves,” Dorgan said. “That should be a source of pride for his family, the state of North Dakota, and all American Indians.”

North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven also traveled to Washington to attend. He noted Keeble’s service with the North Dakota National Guard.

“This is a great day for North Dakota, a great day for the Sioux nation, and a great day for the North Dakota National Guard,” Hoeven said.


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Master Sergeant Woodrow W. Keeble distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy near Sangsan-ni, Korea, on October 20, 1951. On that day, Master Sergeant Keeble was an acting platoon leader for the support platoon in Company G, 19th Infantry, in the attack on Hill 765, a steep and rugged position that was well defended by the enemy. Leading the support platoon, Master Sergeant Keeble saw that the attacking elements had become pinned down on the slope by heavy enemy fire from three well-fortified and strategically placed enemy positions. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Master Sergeant Keeble dashed forward and joined the pinned-down platoon. Then, hugging the ground, Master Sergeant Keeble crawled forward alone until he was in close proximity to one of the hostile machine-gun emplacements. Ignoring the heavy fire that the crew trained on him, Master Sergeant Keeble activated a grenade and threw it with great accuracy, successfully destroying the position. Continuing his one-man assault, he moved to the second enemy position and destroyed it with another grenade. Despite the fact that the enemy troops were now directing their firepower against him and unleashing a shower of grenades in a frantic attempt to stop his advance, he moved forward against the third hostile emplacement, and skillfully neutralized the remaining enemy position. As his comrades moved forward to join him, Master Sergeant Keeble continued to direct accurate fire against nearby trenches, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. Inspired by his courage, Company G successfully moved forward and seized its important objective. The extraordinary courage, selfless service, and devotion to duty displayed that day by Master Sergeant Keeble was an inspiration to all around him and reflected great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.


Bhutto’s husband calls for UN probe

January 5, 2008
By RAVI NESSMAN, Associated Press Writer

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Benazir Bhutto‘s widowed husband accused members of Pakistan‘s ruling regime of involvement in his wife’s killing and called Saturday for a U.N. investigation, as British officers aiding Pakistan’s own probe pored over the crime scene.

“An investigation conducted by the government of Pakistan will have no credibility, in my country or anywhere else,” Asif Ali Zardari, the effective leader of Bhutto’s opposition party, said in a commentary published in The Washington Post. “One does not put the fox in charge of the hen house.”

Calls for an independent, international investigation have intensified since the former prime minister was killed Dec. 27 in a shooting and bombing attack….

Read the rest:

Read the Washington Post Commentary:

“My Wife Died For Pakistan”

“My Wife Died For Pakistan”

January 5, 2008

By Asif Ali Zardari
The Washington Post
Saturday, January 5, 2008; Page A17

KARACHI, Pakistan — Last week the world was shocked, and my life was shattered, by the murder of my beloved wife, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.  Benazir was willing to lay down her life for what she believed in — for the future of a democratic, moderate, progressive Pakistan.  She stood up to dictators and fanatics, those who would distort and defy our constitution and those who would defame the Muslim holy book by violence and terrorism. My pain and the pain of our children is unimaginable.  But I feel even worse for a world that will have to move forward without this extraordinary bridge between cultures, religions and traditions.

During the years of my wife’s governments, she was constrained by a hostile establishment; an interventionist military leadership; a treacherous intelligence network; a fragile coalition government; and a presidential sword of Damocles, constantly threatening to dismiss Parliament. Despite all of this, she was able to introduce free media, make Pakistan one of the 10 most important emerging capital markets in the world, build over 46,000 schools and bring electricity to many villages in our large country. She changed the lives of women in Pakistan and drew attention to the cause of women’s rights in the Islamic world. It was a record that she was rightly proud of.

Read the rest:

Simple Act Of Heroism

November 11, 2007

By WAYNE PARRY, Associated Press Writer
From July 3, 2007
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Stanley Jones recalls standing outside his home in England, watching open-mouthed as an American warplane arced toward the ground behind a plume of smoke, its engine alternately sputtering and roaring.

P-51 Mustang

North American P-51D Mustang Tika IV of the 361st Fighter Group, marked with D-day (”invasion”) stripes

The plane was one of thousands of American aircraft swarming over Britain in July 1944 to fight World War II. It passed out of sight, and seconds later an explosion shook the town of Stafford.

Jones ran to the crash site and found a wheat field strewn with smoldering wreckage. He wondered: Who was the pilot? What happened to him? And why didn’t he parachute to safety?

On Wednesday, Air Force Capt. John Pershing Perrin will be honored in Britain for saving the town by staying with his crippled P-51 Mustang rather than abandoning the fuel-laden plane to crash into homes and schools.

Because it was wartime, “nothing was reported of the crash,” said Jones, now 70 and living in Oregon.

“Years went by and every now and again we’d talk about it, my brothers and I and family and neighbors,” he added. The accident was mostly forgotten, “but it stayed in me.”

Before enlisting, Perrin lived with his parents in Atlantic City. At age 25, he was already certified as an ace pilot, having destroyed at least five enemy aircraft. He was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters.

In a February 1942 letter, Perrin described the hazards of wartime flying and mentioned a fellow pilot who was killed after bailing out: “He tangled with another plane and didn’t have enough altitude for his chute to crack after bailing out.”

On the day he died, Perrin had been assigned to fly the Mustang from an air base in Warton, Lancashire, to another one about 160 miles away. It should have been a routine 40-minute flight.

Although he was experienced, Perrin had never before flown a Mustang P-51-D, with an extra 85-gallon fuel tank that could make it tricky to maneuver.

Sometime after takeoff, the plane began leaking fuel from the right side of the engine, in front of the cockpit, according to Air Force reports obtained by The Associated Press.

The cockpit began to fill with smoke and fuel vapor. But Perrin apparently chose to stay with the stricken plane in an effort to reach the nearest landing strip or crash-land in a field, Air Force officials said.

Perrin had “ample time to get out,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Jeff Price, the assistant air attache at the U.S. Embassy in London and a veteran pilot who will speak at Perrin’s memorial service. “But the initial inclination of an aviator is to stay with the aircraft. If you still think it’s in landable shape, that’s what you try to do.”

What finally doomed Perrin was an explosion of fuel vapor that shattered the cockpit canopy, either killing him immediately or knocking him unconscious before the plane crashed a few moments later, the investigation revealed.

“It was a very courageous decision to stay with his craft, to accept the worsening risk of an explosion in the cockpit rather than bail out,” Jones said. “He was skimming over houses and schools, people — untold others in the town, going about their daily business, kids walking home from school, and this then-pilotless plane, fuel-laden, would be crashing among them.

“I think it was a true moment of valor,” Jones said.

The countryside around the crash site was eventually developed into homes, businesses and industrial parks.

“It was not good for public morale to publicize accidents like this,” said Tom Doubtfire, 67, administrator of the local government in Creswell, the section of Stafford where Perrin’s plane crashed. After the war, the British “wanted to get up and get on with their lives.”

At Wednesday’s ceremony, representatives of the British and American governments, as well as several of Perrin’s relatives, will gather at the crash site to dedicate an 8-foot stone monument etched with the image of a Mustang.

Among those in attendance will be Helen Perrin of Brownwood, Texas, whose late husband, Donald, was Jack Perrin’s first cousin.

“The heroes we kids had growing up during World War II were politicians and soldiers, people like Jack, who in a split second decided to give his own life and save that town,” she said. “Courage and sacrifice were the ideal. We’re all proud of him.”