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Today's Medal of Honor Moment for 26 May

There are two Medals for this day. WWII, and Afghanistan.

*MARTINEZ, JOE P .

Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Army, Company K, 32d Infantry, 7th Infantry Division. Place and date: On Attu, Aleutians, 26 May 1943. Entered service at: Ault, Colo. Birth: Taos, N. Mex. G.O. No.: 71, 27 October 1943. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy. Over a period of several days, repeated efforts to drive the enemy from a key defensive position high in the snow-covered precipitous mountains between East Arm Holtz Bay and Chichagof Harbor had failed. On 26 May 1943, troop dispositions were readjusted and a trial coordinated attack on this position by a reinforced battalion was launched. Initially successful, the attack hesitated. In the face of severe hostile machinegun, rifle, and mortar fire, Pvt. Martinez, an automatic rifleman, rose to his feet and resumed his advance. Occasionally he stopped to urge his comrades on. His example inspired others to follow. After a most difficult climb, Pvt. Martinez eliminated resistance from part of the enemy position by BAR fire and hand grenades, thus assisting the advance of other attacking elements. This success only partially completed the action. The main Holtz-Chichagof Pass rose about 150 feet higher, flanked by steep rocky ridges and reached by a snow-filled defile. Passage was barred by enemy fire from either flank and from tiers of snow trenches in front. Despite these obstacles, and knowing of their existence, Pvt. Martinez again led the troops on and up, personally silencing several trenches with BAR fire and ultimately reaching the pass itself. Here, just below the knifelike rim of the pass, Pvt. Martinez encountered a final enemy-occupied trench and as he was engaged in firing into it he was mortally wounded. The pass, however, was taken, and its capture was an important preliminary to the end of organized hostile resistance on the island.
 

From an eyewitness account:

Finally we got to the top of the pass. We discovered that just at the high point there was a cliff about 15 feet high that dropped down the other side and it was a slight overhang The Japs had a trench at the bottom of this overhang and we had a pretty hot little fight right there for a few minutes. Then Joe Martinez, all of a sudden, ran up the crest and put one foot out on a rock that jutted out beyond the edge a ways and started blasting the trench with his BAR. He stood there it seemed like an hour, exposed wide open and loaded and fired until the magazine was empty. Then he slammed in a new magazine and fired again, He loaded two or three times and then we heard it, a kind of crack and thoomp! Martinez fell backwards toward us. Before we could help him the Japs began tossing grenades at us, and we began tossing grenades back at them. We almost lost another BAR man when a grenade went off right beside him, but he wound up with a tiny fragment in his hip and a big bruise. And I thought for a second we had lost the whole outfit when a grenade went off in a box of Jap TNT that Staff Sergeant Vola C. Mounce was lying behind. It just scattered yellow powder all over him. Corporal Lester L. Hildebrand was creased and Leroy C. Strand was hit in his trigger finger. It was all over in a couple of minutes: six or eight grenades each way.
Private Martinez was the first Hispanic-American awarded the Medal during WWII, and was the only Medal of Honor awarded during WWII for actions on US territory outside of Pearl Harbor.

Afghanistan.  A harder-than-woodpecker-lips Ranger.

PETRY, LEROY A.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty: Staff Sergeant Leroy A. Petry distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy in the vicinity of Paktya Province, Afghanistan, on May 26, 2008. As a Weapons Squad Leader with D Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Staff Sergeant Petry moved to clear the courtyard of a house that potentially contained high-value combatants. While crossing the courtyard, Staff Sergeant Petry and another Ranger were engaged and wounded by automatic weapons fire from enemy fighters. Still under enemy fire, and wounded in both legs, Staff Sergeant Petry led the other Ranger to cover. He then reported the situation and engaged the enemy with a hand grenade, providing suppression as another Ranger moved to his position. The enemy quickly responded by maneuvering closer and throwing grenades. The first grenade explosion knocked his two fellow Rangers to the ground and wounded both with shrapnel. A second grenade then landed only a few feet away from them. Instantly realizing the danger, Staff Sergeant Petry, unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his safety, deliberately and selflessly moved forward, picked up the grenade, and in an effort to clear the immediate threat, threw the grenade away from his fellow Rangers. As he was releasing the grenade it detonated, amputating his right hand at the wrist and further injuring him with multiple shrapnel wounds. Although picking up and throwing the live grenade grievously wounded Staff Sergeant Petry, his gallant act undeniably saved his fellow Rangers from being severely wounded or killed. Despite the severity of his wounds, Staff Sergeant Petry continued to maintain the presence of mind to place a tourniquet on his right wrist before communicating the situation by radio in order to coordinate support for himself and his fellow wounded Rangers. Staff Sergeant Petry's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service, and reflect great credit upon himself, 75th Ranger Regiment, and the United States Army.

*Indicates a posthumous award.