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Today's Medal of Honor Moment for 24 July

Today is a rare one for the Medal.  There are no posthumous awards.  There was a time, during the Vietnam War and earlier, when we actually awarded the Medal to living people.  Starting with Somalia and moving forward, however, it seems the unwritten policy is that it's the Medal of Posthumous Honor, as yesterday's announcement of the awarding of the Medal to SFC Jared Monti simply reinforces

I simply do not believe that there have been no deserving men or women who managed to survive a Medal-quality action.  Since the timeline seems to be 18 months to two years, perhaps we'll see something percolate up.  One can only hope.  Of course, we've been making awards 40 years after the fact, so there may be some catch-ups later.

[NB: I am pleased to see that with the departure of Secretary of Defense Gates, the "Rumsfeld Rule" of "No one who lives is worthy" has fallen by the wayside. To Secretary Gate's everlasting shame, in his book, he even acknowledges he thought the approach was wrong, yet he did nothing to change it. Asshat.]

Today's Medals bracket the history of the Medal - two for an action at Newby's Crossroads in Virginia in 1863 and one from the war in Vietnam.

The fighting at Newby's Crossroads was part of the readjustment that occurred after Lee's defeat at Gettysburg and his withdrawal back into Virginia.  This fight was part of the limited counterattacks designed to keep the Army of the Potomac at bay while Lee stabilized the situation.  In this case, keeping Custer's Michigan Cavalry at bay.
HASTINGS, SMITH H.

Rank and organization: Captain, Company M, 5th Michigan Cavalry. Place and date: At Newbys Crossroads, Va., 24 July 1863. Entered service at: ------. Birth: Quincy, Mich. Date of issue: 2 August 1897. Citation: While in command of a squadron in rear guard of a cavalry division, then retiring before the advance of a corps of infantry, was attacked by the enemy and, orders having been given to abandon the guns of a section of field artillery with the rear guard that were in imminent danger of capture, he disregarded the orders received and aided in repelling the attack and saving the guns.

WOODRUFF, CARLE A.

Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, 2d U.S. Artillery. Place and date: At Newbys Crossroads, Va., 24 July 1863. Entered service at: Washington, D.C. Born: Buffalo, N.Y. Date of issue: 1 September 1893. Citation: While in command of a section of a battery constituting a portion of the rear guard of a division then retiring before the advance of a corps of Infantry was attacked by the enemy and ordered to abandon his guns. Lt. Woodruff disregarded the orders received and aided in repelling the attack and saving the guns.

Vietnam

PITTMAN, RICHARD A.

Rank and organization: Sergeant (then L/Cpl.), U.S. Marine Corps, Company 1, 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein) FMF. Place and date: near the Demilitarized Zone, Republic of Vietnam, 24 July 1966. Entered service at: Stockton, Calif. Born: 26 May 1945, French Camp, San Joaquin, Calif. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. While Company 1 was conducting an operation along the axis of a narrow jungle trail, the leading company elements suffered numerous casualties when they suddenly came under heavy fire from a well concealed and numerically superior enemy force. Hearing the engaged marines' calls for more firepower, Sgt. Pittman quickly exchanged his rifle for a machinegun and several belts of ammunition, left the relative safety of his platoon, and unhesitatingly rushed forward to aid his comrades. Taken under intense enemy small-arms fire at point blank range during his advance, he returned the fire, silencing the enemy position. As Sgt. Pittman continued to forge forward to aid members of the leading platoon, he again came under heavy fire from 2 automatic weapons which he promptly destroyed. Learning that there were additional wounded marines 50 yards further along the trail, he braved a withering hail of enemy mortar and small-arms fire to continue onward. As he reached the position where the leading marines had fallen, he was suddenly confronted with a bold frontal attack by 30 to 40 enemy. Totally disregarding his safety, he calmly established a position in the middle of the trail and raked the advancing enemy with devastating machinegun fire. His weapon rendered ineffective, he picked up an enemy submachinegun and, together with a pistol seized from a fallen comrade, continued his lethal fire until the enemy force had withdrawn. Having exhausted his ammunition except for a grenade which he hurled at the enemy, he then rejoined his platoon. Sgt. Pittman's daring initiative, bold fighting spirit and selfless devotion to duty inflicted many enemy casualties, disrupted the enemy attack and saved the lives of many of his wounded comrades. His personal valor at grave risk to himself reflects the highest credit upon himself, the Marine Corps, and the U.S. Naval Service.


12 Comments

One guy against 30-40 people? HOLY COW.
 
Today, he might get a Silver Star for this action.
 
Unless he died.  To be charitable to the system, I don't think they could even overlook this one, but if they did, it would probably be a Navy Cross.  They've given a few of those, along with DSCs, to living recipients.
 

The awards system today has completely failed. Deserving soldiers have been denied valor awards for the simple sin of not being of high enough rank. Non-deserving soldiers, NCOs, and Officers have been awarded medals for which they have no business wearing. As a former company commander down range in a FOB facing almost daily combat, I can tell you that the primary problem in the award approval chain is the command sergeant major at the BN, BDE, and DIV level. Even though approval is supposed to go through commander approval and CSMs have no business "pre-approving" these nominations. My experience, and the experience of my peers, was that company level officers were hamstrung by CSMs who recommended denial or downgrade of awards.

 
Cpt-
I am VERY disappointed to learn that MoH's are being held up at the CSM level!  That's crap.  If anything it should be the CSM's cheerleading for their guys to be awarded MoH's.  unreal.
 
I think the Captain was referring to valor awards in general, not the Medal of Honor in particular. I personally think the problem with the Medal is in DoD and the White House. The White House has formal control of the process, with DoD in support - and this is, of course, a problem that predates President Obama.
 
"Dead men tell no tales", and can't embarrass in the future.

As we've discussed in the past on this issue,  I think many in the upper levels of the approval chain are "risk averse", and worry about their personal reputations and career if negative information about a CMOH awardee is exposed later on.

This risk is reduced by posthumous awards.
 
I was referring to valor awards in general. I don't believe the White House would be too involved in downgrading MOH recommendations as staffers there are so removed from the whole "operating environment" that many wouldn't know a FOB from a BCT.

This war has plenty of heroes who have performed well beyond the call. The country needs a cadre of young officers and soldiers with MOHs to be able to represent the bravery and sacrifice beyond the lifespan of our current War on Terrorism.

I saw worthy awards get downgraded due to CSM recommendations AND I saw flagrant hyperbole and award inflation. My CSM personally came down to my FOB the morning after I was shot by a baddie with a handgun. My IBA absorbed the round and left me with only a bruise. The CSM told me I needed to go see the medic and get it documented so I could collect my Purple Heart. I told him my IBA did its job and the round didn't even break the skin. He told me I needed to "set the example" and get my award. I'm proud to say I told my CSM to go pound sand.

 
CPT, why then do you think CSM's were more apt to downgrade other awards, especially for those more junior under their command? Envy?
 
Good on ya, Dai-Uy SC. It was a point of honor in the 162d to never put yourself in for a PH unless you'd been hit so badly you were hospitalized. We saw the PH awarded to so many who lost limbs or paid the ultimate price, we believed that accepting one for minor wounds would cheapen *their* medals.
 
Sgt Pittman's valor was displayed durning Operation Hasting, July 24th 1966. He was part of I company, here is a link to their website describing that day:
http://www.securenet.net/3rdbn5th/india35/joe%27s_hill_362.htm
Sgt Pittman was going forward to help the Marines at the front of the column, one of those was my father, SSgt Hailey. The India company author of the above link also wrote a story about him:
http://www.securenet.net/3rdbn5th/india35/sgt_hailey.htm

Guys thanks for the great site,

Semper Fi
Jerry Hailey - Sgt USAF

PS: I was a denizen at Davis Monthan when they transitioned from the A-7 to the A-10, got to watch an "air show" one morning put on by a Fairchild test pilot. What a plane.



 
Jerry - thanks for piping up.  It's always nice to know when people notice us noticing, so to speak!

Makes it worth it to keep doing it.