Archive for the ‘Medal of Honor’ Category

U.S. Navy Hero, Medal of Honor Man, POW Honored

November 3, 2008

By Naval Academy Public Affairs

The U.S. Naval Academy dedicated a bronze statue of former Vietnam prisoner of war and Medal of Honor recipient Vice Adm. James B. Stockdale, Oct. 31, with the Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable David C. Winter as keynote speaker.

“It would be difficult to imagine a better example of leadership, courage and moral excellence than the example set by Vice Adm. James Stockdale,” said Winter.

Stockdale, a native of Abingdon, Ill., graduated from the Naval Academy in 1947. On Sept. 9, 1965, Stockdale was the commanding officer of Carrier Air Group Commander 16 (CAG-16). He catapulted from the deck of USS Oriskany (CV/CVA-34) for a strike mission over North Vietnam. While returning from the target area, Stockdale’s A-4 Skyhawk was hit by anti-aircraft fire. He ejected, breaking a bone in his back, and upon landing in a small village, he badly dislocated his knee. His injuries went untreated and eventually left him with a fused knee joint and a very distinctive gait.

Stockdale was held in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” where he spent seven years as the highest ranking naval officer and leader of American resistance against North Vietnamese attempts to use prisoners for propaganda purposes. Despite being kept in solitary confinement for four years, in leg irons for two years, physically tortured more than 15 times, denied medical care, and malnourished, Stockdale organized a system of communication and developed a cohesive set of rules governing prisoner behavior.

“Admiral Stockdale was a great leader who built others up and never put them down,” said Ross Perot, a friend of Stockdale and a Class of 1953 Naval Academy graduate who donated the statue.

Stockdale was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Gerald Ford in 1976. A highly decorated naval officer, he wore 26 personal combat decorations, including two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Distinguished Service Medals, two Purple Hearts, and four Silver Star medals in addition to the Medal of Honor.

James Stockdale Formal Portait.jpg

“Nobody wins the Medal of Honor. They earn it. He earned it the hard way,” said Perot, who selected Stockdale as his running mate during the 1992 presidential campaign. “He earned the Medal of Honor for his leadership by example and setting high standards for all the others who served with him in prison.”

Stockdale retired from the Navy in 1978 after serving as the president of the Naval War College. In 1979, the Secretary of the Navy established the Vice Admiral Stockdale Award for Inspirational Leadership, presented annually in both the Pacific and Atlantic fleets.

In 1998, the Secretary of the Navy authorized the founding of the Center for the Study of Professional Military Ethics at the U.S. Naval Academy, later renamed the Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership, with a mission “to promote and enhance the ethical development of current and future military leaders through education, research and reflection.”

Stockdale, a member of the Navy’s Carrier Hall of Fame, was the only vice admiral in the history of the Navy to wear both aviator wings and the Medal of Honor. In 2001, he was awarded the Naval Academy Alumni Association Distinguished Graduate Award.

“If Admiral Stockdale were here with us today, I believe that it would give him immense pride in seeing this gathering, and knowing that this statue will play a role in guiding and inspiring future leaders in the Navy and Marine Corps,” said Winter.

Stockdale passed away in July 2005 and was laid to rest at the Naval Academy Cemetery. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. William Crowe and then Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen delivered the eulogies. In May of this year, USS Stockdale (DDG 106) was christened in his honor.

Stockdale at sea during the war in Vietnam

Admiral Stockdale’s Medal of Honor Citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while senior naval officer in the Prisoner of War camps of North Vietnam. Recognized by his captors as the leader in the Prisoners’ of War resistance to interrogation and in their refusal to participate in propaganda exploitation, Rear Adm. Stockdale was singled out for interrogation and attendant torture after he was detected in a covert communications attempt. Sensing the start of another purge, and aware that his earlier efforts at self-disfiguration to dissuade his captors from exploiting him for propaganda purposes had resulted in cruel and agonizing punishment, Rear Adm. Stockdale resolved to make himself a symbol of resistance regardless of personal sacrifice. He deliberately inflicted a near-mortal wound to his person in order to convince his captors of his willingness to give up his life rather than capitulate. He was subsequently discovered and revived by the North Vietnamese who, convinced of his indomitable spirit, abated in their employment of excessive harassment and torture toward all of the Prisoners of War. By his heroic action, at great peril to himself, he earned the everlasting gratitude of his fellow prisoners and of his country. Rear Adm. Stockdale’s valiant leadership and extraordinary courage in a hostile environment sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Related:
What Kind Of Men Were With John McCain In The Hanoi Hilton? Men of Character….

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America: Freedom Really Matters

November 2, 2008

My son and I are on ground where one of my heroes — the legendary Joe Foss, U.S. Marine, America’s leading ace in aerial combat, Medal of Honor recipient, mentor and friend — once stood beside me. We’re hunting — exercising our Second Amendment right “to keep and bear Arms.” We will be back home in time to vote in hopes that this right of the people won’t be infringed. But I wonder.
TR Buckskin Tiffany Knife.jpg
Above: President Theodore Roosevelt
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By Oliver North
The Washington Times

Last week in Ohio, the Obama campaign suggested that Americans need a “second Bill of Rights.” The idea — not a new one for liberals — came this time from Rep. Marcy Kaptur as she introduced Sen. Obama at a rally in Toledo. Kaptur enthusiastically endorsed the initiative, first proffered by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jan. 11, 1944. Obama said nothing to disabuse his enthusiastic followers of the notion. But it was a bad idea when FDR advocated it, and it is now.

President Roosevelt made the proposal in his State of the Union address — delivered over the radio from the White House instead of in person before Congress. He claimed that he had the flu and that his doctors would not permit him “to go up to the Capitol.” The nation was then — as we are today — at war. And FDR, the “indispensable leader,” already was preparing for his fourth presidential campaign.

In promoting his new “Bill of Rights,” Roosevelt observed that we already enjoyed “certain inalienable political rights — among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.” He then said, “They were our rights to life and liberty.” Notably, FDR used the past tense and omitted the Second Amendment in its entirety — no small lapse when nearly 16 million Americans were under arms.

Unfortunately, the idea that our original Bill of Rights is inadequate — or even archaic — has achieved new currency with liberals. In enumerating his abbreviated version of the first 10 amendments to our Constitution, FDR described our rights as “political” and insufficient. The Framers saw them as God-given and a sacred trust to deliver unabridged to future generations.

Therein is the challenge in next week’s elections. The mainstream media and the polls predict a rout to the left. Does that mean Congress would have free rein to resurrect FDR’s “second Bill of Rights”? And if so, what then happens to the real Bill of Rights, first handed into our care Dec. 15, 1791?

The practitioners of politics — and those who write and speak about it — claim that these matters are secondary to “pocketbook issues.” I was told this week, “Nobody in America cares about that ‘constitutional stuff’ right now with all that’s gone wrong with our economy.” If that’s true, we’re in more serious trouble than my 401(k).

Perhaps I have spent too much of my life with young Americans who sacrificed the comforts of home and the company of loved ones to take on the responsibility of protecting the rest of us. They didn’t sign up to fight for gold or colonial conquest or “the economy.” The soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines I have been covering for Fox News Channel in Mesopotamia, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and the Philippine archipelago volunteered to defend us and protect our liberty from those who had done us grievous harm.

They raised their right hands and took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” They understand what it means to “bear true faith and allegiance.” Most of them have seen parts of the world where there is no freedom, and they know that freedom is an idea worth fighting for, preferably at a great distance from home.

Thanks to the courage and sacrifice of young Americans in uniform and those who preceded them, foreign adversaries do not immediately threaten our liberty. But freedom certainly is at risk here at home if our elected leaders and appointed judges believe that our essential freedoms are “political rights.” If that is true, then politicians and the judges they appoint can abridge, alter or eliminate them.

The extraordinary dedication, commitment and tenacity of American men and women in uniform serving the cause of freedom inspire me. Their bravery and perseverance on battlefields around the world should remind us all that freedom is fragile and must be defended to flourish. The Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment, did not come to us gratis or without obligation.

We are blessed in America that we can fend for freedom with ballots instead of bullets. Our charge is to elect those who will deliver those freedoms intact and undiminished to those who follow us, as my son and I now follow in the footsteps of Joe Foss.
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Medal of Honor recipient Joe Foss

Here is the late Joe Foss’ Medal of Honor CITATION:

For outstanding heroism and courage above and beyond the call of duty as Executive Officer of a Marine Fighting Squadron, at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. Engaging in almost daily combat with the enemy from October 9 to November 19, 1942, Captain Foss personally shot down twenty-three Japanese planes and damaged others so severely that their destruction was extremely probable. In addition, during this period, he successfully led a large number of escort missions, skillfully covering reconnaissance, bombing and photographic planes as well as surface craft. On January 15, 1943, he added three more enemy planes to his already brilliant successes for a record of aerial combat achievement unsurpassed in this war. Boldly searching out an approaching enemy force on January 25, Captain Foss led his eight F4F Marine planes and four Army P-38s into action and, undaunted by tremendously superior numbers, intercepted and struck with such force that four Japanese fighters were shot down and the bombers were turned back without releasing a single bomb. His remarkable flying skill, inspiring leadership and indomitable fighting spirit were distinctive factors in the defense of strategic American positions on Guadalcanal.

What Kind Of Men Were With John McCain In The Hanoi Hilton? Men of Character….

October 17, 2008

One former Prisoner of War (PoW) said of his Hanoi Hilton experience, “We watched John McCain work through torture.  He tormented his communist captors.  We knew he had great character and he’d be O.K……

Meet Fellow POW Bud Day

By John E. Carey

George E. “Bud” Day served the United States through three wars. After quitting High School he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps for World War II. He served 30 months in the South Pacific. After the war, he used his GI Bill benefits to become a lawyer and a pilot.

During the Korean War Bud Day served two tours flying F-84 fighters.


Above: USAF F-84E Thunderjet

During the Vietnam War he was shot down, captured by the Communists, escaped, and lived for two weeks off the land and in the jungle before he was captured again.

Bud’s Medal of Honor Citation reads:“On 26 August 1967, Col. Day was forced to eject from his aircraft over North Vietnam when it was hit by ground fire. His right arm was broken in 3 places, and his left knee was badly sprained. He was immediately captured by hostile forces and taken to a prison camp where he was interrogated and severely tortured. After causing the guards to relax their vigilance, Col. Day escaped into the jungle and began the trek toward South Vietnam. Despite injuries inflicted by fragments of a bomb or rocket, he continued southward surviving only on a few berries and uncooked frogs. He successfully evaded enemy patrols and reached the Ben Hai River, where he encountered U.S. artillery barrages. With the aid of a bamboo log float, Col. Day swam across the river and entered the demilitarized zone. Due to delirium, he lost his sense of direction and wandered aimlessly for several days. After several unsuccessful attempts to signal U.S. aircraft, he was ambushed and recaptured by the Viet Cong, sustaining gunshot wounds to his left hand and thigh. He was returned to the prison from which he had escaped and later was moved to Hanoi after giving his captors false information to questions put before him. Physically, Col. Day was totally debilitated and unable to perform even the simplest task for himself. Despite his many injuries, he continued to offer maximum resistance. His personal bravery in the face of deadly enemy pressure was significant in saving the lives of fellow aviators who were still flying against the enemy. Col. Day’s conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Armed Forces.”

Col. Day in dress uniform.

Bud Day is one of my American heroes. He is among a special class of people some Americans can never understand. To me, Bud Day is one of those Americans we can never thank enough.

We honor every single man and woman who ever wore the uniform of the United States on Veterans’ Day. We honor those now gone and those still living. But in one way, I think of Veterans’ Day as “Bud Day Day!”

But Bud is humble and would never hear of it. In fact, he may be a tad embarrassed by this essay.

But Bud teaches us never to give up. This is a most precious gift to many in life. By telling ones self to “Always Persevere,” the largest challenges in life can be overcome.

Bud is the most highly decorated U.S. serviceman since Douglas MacArthur. Because he always persevered.

I interviewed Bud and his wife of fifty-seven years, Doris, for this Veteran’s Day tribute.

When George Day strapped himself into his F-100 on 26 August 1967 for a mission over Vietnam, he had no idea he was about to start a six year odyssey of a prisoner of war.

F-100A with the original short tail fin.

He was a 41 year old veteran of combat in World War II and Korea.

He was in the Vietnam War by choice: at his age and with his experience he could have retired or taken a desk job.

“I went because it was my duty,” Bud told me. “That’s where I needed to be. I had more flying hours than anyone in Southeast Asia. I needed to be there.”

Doris still recalls that day, the day a chaplain, a U.S. Air Force notification officer and a woman from the base Family Services organization notified her that Bud had been shot down. “They were very nice, very professional.”

Among veterans and military people there are so many Bud Day stories, all of them true, that there isn’t room to publish all of them here. One of my favorites is this.

In February, 1971 Bud and several other prisoners at the Hoa Loa camp gathered for a religious service, which was forbidden. The guards burst into the group, carbines at the ready. Bud Day stood calmly and began to sing “The Star Spangled Banner”, our National Anthem. Commander James Bond Stockdale, the highest ranking prisoner, joined in. The entire camp erupted to the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Later Stockdale would write, “Our minds were now free and we knew it.”

Fittingly, five years later, the President of the United States presented the Medal of Honor to Bud Day and his friend James Stockdale in one ceremony.

Mr. Carey is a retired military officer and the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.

This was first published in:
The Washington Times
Veterans’ Day November 11, 2006


Above: The late Admiral James Stockdale was also with John McCain in Hanoi

Rank and organization: Rear Admiral (then Captain), U.S. Navy. Place and date: Hoa Lo prison, Hanoi, North Vietnam, 4 September 1969. Entered service at: Abingdon, Ill. Born: 23 December 1923, Abingdon, Ill..

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while senior naval officer in the Prisoner of War camps of North Vietnam. Recognized by his captors as the leader in the Prisoners’ of War resistance to interrogation and in their refusal to participate in propaganda exploitation, Rear Adm. Stockdale was singled out for interrogation and attendant torture after he was detected in a covert communications attempt. Sensing the start of another purge, and aware that his earlier efforts at self-disfiguration to dissuade his captors from exploiting him for propaganda purposes had resulted in cruel and agonizing punishment, Rear Adm. Stockdale resolved to make himself a symbol of resistance regardless of personal sacrifice. He deliberately inflicted a near-mortal wound to his person in order to convince his captors of his willingness to give up his life rather than capitulate. He was subsequently discovered and revived by the North Vietnamese who, convinced of his indomitable spirit, abated in their employment of excessive harassment and torture toward all of the Prisoners of War. By his heroic action, at great peril to himself, he earned the everlasting gratitude of his fellow prisoners and of his country. Rear Adm. Stockdale’s valiant leadership and extraordinary courage in a hostile environment sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

F-4 Phantom II in flying.jpg

SEAL Killed in Iraq To Get Medal of Honor

April 1, 2008

 By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 1, 2008; Page A04

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor fought dozens of battles in the streets of Ramadi, shouldering his MK48 machine gun without complaint in the 130-degree heat of Iraq’s violent Anbar province.

In May 2006, only a month into his first deployment to Iraq, the 25-year-old Navy SEAL from Garden Grove, Calif., ran under fire into a street to drag to safety a wounded comrade who was shot in the leg, earning a Silver Star for his courage.
Michael A. Monsoor died saving three fellow SEALs. Michael A. Monsoor died saving three fellow SEALs.

On Sept. 29, 2006, another act of valor would cost Monsoor his life — and save the lives of three comrades. For that act, he will posthumously be awarded a Medal of Honor on April 8, the White House said yesterday.

Monsoor “distinguished himself through conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life,” said an official summary of action. He is the first sailor and the third service member overall to receive a Medal of Honor for actions in the war in Iraq.

That September morning, Monsoor and a group of SEAL snipers took up position on a residential rooftop as part of an operation to push into a dangerous section of southern Ramadi. Four insurgents armed with AK-47 rifles came into view, and the SEAL snipers opened fire, killing one and wounding another. Loudspeakers from a mosque broadcast calls for insurgents to rally, and residents blocked off nearby roads with rocks.

Insurgents shot back at the SEAL position with automatic weapons from a moving vehicle and fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the building. The SEALs knew that more attacks were inevitable but continued their mission of protecting the troops clearing the area below, according to an official account.

Monsoor’s commander repositioned him in a small hidden location between two SEAL snipers on an outcropping of the roof, facing the most likely route of another insurgent attack. As Monsoor manned his gun, an insurgent lobbed up a hand grenade, which hit Monsoor in the chest and bounced onto the roof.

“Grenade!” Monsoor shouted. But the two snipers and another SEAL on the roof had no time to escape, as Monsoor was closest to the only exit. Monsoor dropped onto the grenade, smothering it with his body. It detonated, and Monsoor died about 30 minutes later from his wounds.

“He made an instantaneous decision to save our teammates. I immediately understood what happened, and tragically it made sense to me in keeping with the man I know, Mike Monsoor,” said Lt. Cmdr. Seth Stone, Monsoor’s platoon leader in Ramadi.

Monsoor, the third of four children, played football at Garden Grove High School and joined the Navy in 2001, where he was a top performer in his SEAL training class. He graduated in 2004. Monsoor’s sister Sara, a nurse, said her brother’s e-mails never revealed the dangers he faced, but she knew the SEAL team was like his family. “He already had it in his head — he would be the first one to jump in and protect,” she said.

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.

Citation:

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.

Bruce Crandell: Medal Of Honor

February 24, 2008
By Larry Shaughnessy
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Lt. Col. Bruce Crandall’s heroics in Vietnam were immortalized in a movie and a critically acclaimed book.

More than 40 years after Crandall repeatedly risked his life to rescue American soldiers fighting one of the toughest battles of the Vietnam War, the U.S. military officially recognized his heroism Monday, when he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for military valor.

“For the soldiers rescued, for the men who came home, for the children they had and the lives they made, America is in debt to Bruce Crandall,” President Bush said during the awards ceremony. “It’s a debt our nation can never really fully repay.”

Although it took more than four decades for the military to honor Crandall, he considers himself fortunate. (Watch Crandall recount the battle of la Drang Valley Video)

“Most people get [the Medal of Honor] after they are dead, so I’m one of the lucky ones,” said Crandall, 74, who lives in retirement with his wife, Arlene, in Manchester, Washington.

His heroism was almost unrecognized — when his unit deployed to Vietnam, it was shorthanded in administrative positions so that medal citations weren’t handled promptly, Crandall said. As the regulations were then written, citations could not be filed more than two years after the action took place.

Later the regulations were changed so that there was no limit on when citations could be filed.

Crandall’s story goes back to the early days of the Vietnam War.

On November 15, 1965, a battalion of soldiers was ordered to attack North Vietnamese troops in the Ia Drang Valley in the central highlands of South Vietnam. It would be the first major battle between the U.S. and North Vietnamese armies and one of the first uses of helicopters to insert troops into battle quickly.

Crandall flew the lead helicopter into the attack at Landing Zone X-Ray. The 450 American soldiers soon were surrounded by a much larger force of experienced North Vietnamese troops. During one landing, three men on Crandall’s helicopter were killed and three others were wounded.

“As we came in, across the trees, the enemy was there and in the landing zone. I had my crew chief shot through the throat,” Crandall said recently. “I could see the people shooting at me from, just off the left of my rotor blades.”

But he couldn’t shoot back because his helicopter didn’t have the M60 machine guns that later would become standard equipment on the UH-1 “Huey” that Crandall flew.

In spite of the danger, Crandall flew into X-Ray more than 18 times to bring in ammunition and bring out the wounded.

“It was the longest day I ever experienced in any aircraft,” Crandall said.

He had to switch helicopters several times because of damage from enemy fire.

“When an aircraft got hit in those times, we would use duct tape to cover the holes, and the purpose of covering the holes was so you knew what was a new hole and what was an old one that had been inspected,” he said.

Crandall and his wingman, Ed “Too Tall” Freeman, saved 70 wounded soldiers that day.

The battle and the pilots’ deeds were described in the book “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young” by Gen. Harold Moore, commander of the battalion on the ground, and Joseph Galloway, the only war correspondent there for the entire battle.

It later was made into the 2002 movie “We Were Soldiers,” starring Mel Gibson as Moore and Greg Kinnear as Crandall.

Crandall, a major at the time of the battle, was a consultant on the movie set.

The citation read at the White House ceremony said in part that Crandall’s “bravery and daring courage to land under the most extreme hostile fire instilled in the other pilots the will and spirit to continue.”

Crandall said Freeman defines the word “hero.”

“Freeman didn’t have to volunteer,” Crandall said. “I have to go, I am the commander, so Freeman stepped up and went. I really didn’t want him to. We’d been friends for 10 years.”

Monday’s ceremony represented the third Medal of Honor awarded from that battle. Freeman received the Medal of Honor in 2001.

Walter “Joe” Marm, then a second lieutenant in the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), received the Medal of Honor in 1966 for his gallantry during the battle in the Ia Drang Valley. A retired colonel, Marm now lives in North Carolina.

Veterans Day Tribute: Milt Olive

November 11, 2007

Chicago soldier who saved 4 by falling on grenade to be honored

April 1, 2007

When he was just 18, Milton Lee Olive III joined the Army determined “to do something brave.”And he did — at the cost of his life.

Fighting in Vietnam in October 1965, the West Englewood native and four others were pursuing Viet Cong through the jungle when a grenade was tossed at them.

Olive, in a split-second decision that would save his comrades, grabbed the grenade and fell onto it, absorbing the explosion.

Already honored here with Olive-Harvey College and a park near Navy Pier, Olive will be remembered Saturday in Mississippi, where he spent much of his childhood.

A historical marker will be erected near the Milton L. Olive III Building, a government structure in Holmes County, Miss., said Jim Woodrick of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Olive was born in Chicago in 1946 but moved to the small Mississippi town of Ebenezer to live with his grandparents, said Woodrick.

He attended school in Lexington, Miss., before heading back to Chicago where he enlisted as a paratrooper, said Woodrick. He is buried in Lexington’s West Grove Missionary Baptist Church cemetery.

The Holmes County NAACP and the Holmes County Freedom Democratic Party requested the aluminum marker, one of about 700 in the state, Woodrick said.

The Medal of Honor

For Olive’s sacrifice, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded the Medal of Honor to him posthumously, making Olive the first Vietnam-era African American to win the military’s highest honor. During an April 1966 Rose Garden ceremony, Johnson said that “in dying, Private Milton Olive taught those of us who remain how we ought to live. . . . He put others first and himself last.”In a letter to Johnson, Olive’s father noted that many people asked why his son jumped on the grenade. The answer, the father said, was “too profound for mortal understanding.”

The father also wrote that he looked forward to the day that all people “will sit down together in the common purpose of good will and dedication.”

aherrmann@suntimes.com

George C. Lang: Medal Of Honor

November 10, 2007

CITATION:Rank and organization: Specialist Fourth Class, U.S. Army, Company A, 4th Battalion, 47th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division Place and date: Kien Hoa Province, Republic of Vietnam, 22 February 1969 Entered service at: Brooklyn, New York Born: 20 April 1947, Flushing, New York 

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sp4c. Lang, Company A, was serving as a squad leader when his unit, on a reconnaissance-in-force mission, encountered intense fire from a well fortified enemy bunker complex. Sp4c. Lang observed an emplacement from which heavy fire was coming. Unhesitatingly, he assaulted the position and destroyed it with hand grenades and rifle fire.


Observing another emplacement approximately 15 meters to his front, Sp4c. Lang jumped across a canal, moved through heavy enemy fire to within a few feet of the position, and eliminated it, again using hand grenades and rifle fire. Nearby, he discovered a large cache of enemy ammunition. As he maneuvered his squad forward to secure the cache, they came under fire from yet a third bunker. Sp4c. Lang immediately reacted, assaulted his position, and destroyed it with the remainder of his grenades. After returning to the area of the arms cache, his squad again came under heavy enemy rocket and automatic weapons fire from 3 sides and suffered 6 casualties. Sp4c. Lang was 1 of those seriously wounded.Although immobilized and in great pain, he continued to direct his men until his evacuation was ordered over his protests.

George C. Lang
April 20, 1947March 16, 2005 (aged 57)

The sustained extraordinary courage and selflessness exhibited by this soldier over an extended period of time were an inspiration to his comrades and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.
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Vietnam War Medal of Honor Recipient Sp4c. George C. Lang died Wednesday March 15, 2005 of cancer at the age of 57 at his Seaford, Long Island, New York home. He is survived by his wife Jacqueline.George Lang Dies; Vietnam Veteran Given Medal of Honor

By Adam Bernstein Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 25, 2005

George C. Lang, 57, who received the Medal of Honor for his Army service during the Vietnam War and suffered a severe spinal injury in combat that left him a paraplegic, died March 16 at his home in Seaford on Long Island, N.Y. He had cancer.

Enlisting in the Army after high school, Mr. Lang quickly became seasoned in search-and-destroy missions along the Mekong River. Seeking ambush after ambush, his speedboats would lure enemy forces out of the jungle so they could be fired upon.

After several water attacks, Mr. Lang, a specialist fourth class in the 9th Infantry Division, was made squad leader in his unit. He was ordered to conduct a land-based reconnaissance mission in Kien Hoa province, southeast of Saigon, on Feb. 22, 1969. His actions that day led to his being awarded the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest decoration for valor.

“I was among a lot of guys who’d just arrived a month or two before,” Mr. Lang told Paraplegia News in 2000. “They were still learning. Then there were the guys who were 10 to 11 months into their tours. You didn’t want to put them into the heat of things, because they were ready to go home. After six months, I was in the middle. So I walked point [lead] that day.”

Almost immediately he and his men were inundated with intense fire from an enemy bunker complex. Mr. Lang twice spotted the source of the gunfire and with grenades and rifle fire silenced the emplacements, both times at great personal risk.

He then found a valuable cache of enemy ammunition but found himself again under assault from an enemy bunker. He used the last of his grenades to end the hostile gunfire. But as he stayed near the cache, yet another group of enemy forces discharged rocket and automatic weapons fire from three sides, causing many casualties among his men.

He was seriously wounded in that final clash — a rocket cut his spinal cord — but he continued to direct those under his command until he was ordered evacuated over his protests, according to the Medal of Honor citation.

After a period of rehabilitation at military hospitals, he received the Medal of Honor from President Richard M. Nixon in 1971.

George Charles Lang was born April 20, 1947, in Flushing, N.Y., and raised in Hicksville, N.Y. After his father’s death when he was 7, he spent many years working long hours at a luncheonette to help support his mother.

His tour of duty in Vietnam lasted less than a year. Despite using a wheelchair, he said he was not bitter. He did note, however, a fluke of timing.

“I almost missed it,” he told Paraplegia News about the battle in Kien Hoa province. “I was scheduled for a week of R and R [rest and recreation] beginning Feb. 26. One of the guys in my platoon who was due for a leave on the 16th said he didn’t have enough money to go then.

“I said, ‘Why don’t you take my R and R?’ So we put in for a switch. I was all set to leave on the 16th — I had my new shoes spit-shined and had them on and was ready to go — when they told me they forgot to put in the request. I didn’t even get to change my shoes before I was walking point in the mud.”

After the war, he did bookkeeping work for his brother-in-law’s guitar-string company; fished on the South Shore of Long Island; and helped compile a two-volume history, “Medal of Honor Recipients, 1863-1994” (1995).

Survivors include his wife of 33 years, Jacqueline Barberine Lang, and a stepdaughter, Angela Egan, both of Seaford; and four grandchildren.

Medal of Honor: Oscar Austin

November 10, 2007

AUSTIN, OSCAR P.

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps, Company E, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, (Rein), FMF. Place and date: West of Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam, 23 February 1969. Entered service at: Phoenix, Ariz. Born: 15 January 1948, Nacogdoches, Texas.

Austin OP USMC.jpg

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an assistant machine gunner with Company E, in connection with operations against enemy forces. During the early morning hours Pfc. Austin’s observation post was subjected to a fierce ground attack by a large North Vietnamese Army force supported by a heavy volume of hand grenades, satchel charges, and small arms fire.

Observing that 1 of his wounded companions had fallen unconscious in a position dangerously exposed to the hostile fire, Pfc. Austin unhesitatingly left the relative security of his fighting hole and, with complete disregard for his safety, raced across the fire-swept terrain to assist the marine to a covered location. As he neared the casualty, he observed an enemy grenade land nearby and, reacting instantly, leaped between the injured marine and the lethal object, absorbing the effects of its detonation. As he ignored his painful injuries and turned to examine the wounded man, he saw a North Vietnamese Army soldier aiming a weapon at his unconscious companion. With full knowledge of the probable consequences and thinking only to protect the marine, Pfc. Austin resolutely threw himself between the casualty and the hostile soldier, and, in doing, was mortally wounded.

Pfc. Austin’s indomitable courage, inspiring initiative and selfless devotion to duty upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

David R. Ray, Medal of Honor

November 9, 2007

Ray was born on 14 February 1945 to David F. and Donnie M. Ray of McMinnville, Tennessee. He graduated from City High School in McMinnville in 1963.  He was a University of Tennessee Alumni Scholarship winner and attended classes at the Knoxville campus from 1963 to 1966.  He voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Navy in Nashville, Tennessee on 28 March 1966 and reported to Recruit Training Command, Naval Training Center, San Diego, California.

David Ray’s first assignment was to the Naval Hospital aboard USS Haven (AH-12). Following his tour on the hospital ship, he served at the naval hospital in Long Beach, California.

In May 1968, David Ray requested a tour of duty with the Marines. In July,, after training at Camp Pendleton, he joined Battery D, Second Battalion, Eleventh Marines, U.S. 1st Marine Division (Reinforced), Fleet Marine Force in the Republic of Vietnam.

While defending their fire base at Liberty Bridge, Phu Loc 6, near An Hoa against the intense hostile fire of a determined assault, Petty Officer Ray moved from parapet to parapet rendering emergency medical treatment to the wounded. He battled two enemy soldiers who attacked his position, killing one and wounding another.  Although wounded himself, he refused medical treatment and advanced through the hail of enemy fire to continue his lifesaving efforts.

Medal of Honor

Petty Officer Ray’s final act of heroism was to protect a Marine he was treating.  Out of ammunition and severely wounded, he threw himself upon the injured Marine when a grenade landed nearby, thus saving his life when it exploded. In addition to Petty Officer Ray, ten Marines died in the battle.

Mortally wounded, David R. Ray was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.  He was awarded the Purple Heart Medal for wounds received in action, as well as the Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Medal, Vietnam Service Medal (with star) and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. His father was presented the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony.

His rank at the time of his death was Petty Officer 2nd Class. He was not married.  His name appears on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall at panel 29W, row 082.

CITATION

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life 
above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Corpsman with Battery D, 2nd Battalion at Phu Loc 6, near An Hoa on 19 March 1969. During the early morning hours an estimated battalion sized enemy force launched a determined assault against the battery’s position and succeeded in effecting a penetration of the barbed-wire  perimeter. The initial burst of enemy fire caused numerous casualties
among the Marines who had immediately manned their howitzers during the rocket and mortar attack.

Undaunted by the intense hostile fire,  Petty Officer Ray moved parapet to parapet, rendering emergency medical  treatment to the wounded. 

Although seriously wounded himself while administering 
first aid to a Marine casualty,  he refused medical aid and continued his lifesaving efforts.

While he was bandaging and  attempting to comfort another
wounded Marine, Petty Officer Ray  was forced to battle
two enemy soldiers who attacked his position, personally killing one and wounding the other.

Rapidly losing his strength as a result of his severe wounds, 
he nonetheless managed to move through the hail of enemy fire  to other casualties. Once again, Petty Officer Ray was faced with  the intense fire of oncoming enemy troops and, despite the gravepersonal danger and insurmountable odds, succeeded in treating  the wounded and holding off the enemy until he ran out of ammunition, at which time he sustained fatal wounds.

Petty Officer Ray’s final act of heroism was to protect thepatient he was treating. He threw himself upon the wounded Marine, thus saving the man’s life when an enemy grenade exploded nearby. Through his determined and preserving  actions, courageous spirit, and loyalty to the welfare of his Marine comrades, he served to inspire the men of Battery D to heroic efforts in defeating the enemy. Petty Officer Ray’s  exemplary conduct, steadfast determination, and unwavering  devotion to duty reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions  of the United States Naval Service.

Jay Zeamer Jr., World War II Bomber Pilot, Hero

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