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Today's Medal of Honor Moment for 29 June

There are seven Medals awarded for actions on this day. We open, as we often do, with the Civil War, and three Medals, all awarded well after the war was over.

HICKEY, DENNIS W.

Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company E, 2d New York Cavalry
Place and date: At Stony Creek Bridge, Va., 29 June 1864
Date of issue: 18 April 1891
Citation: With a detachment of 3 men, tore up the bridge at Stony Creek being the last man on the bridge and covering the retreat until he was shot down.

QUINLAN, JAMES

Rank and organization: Major, 88th New York Infantry
Place and date: At Savage Station, Va., 29 June 1862
Entered service at: New York, N.Y.
Date of issue: 18 February 1891
Citation: Led his regiment on the enemy's battery, silenced the guns, held the position against overwhelming numbers, and covered the retreat of the 2d Army Corps.

WHITAKER, EDWARD W.

Rank and organization: Captain, Company E, 1st Connecticut Cavalry
Place and date: At Reams Station, Va., 29 June 1864
Entered service at: Ashford, Conn.
Date of issue: 2 April 1898
Citation: While acting as an aide voluntarily carried dispatches from the commanding general to Gen. Meade, forcing his way with a single troop of Cavalry, through an Infantry division of the enemy in the most distinguished manner, though he lost half his escort.

Indian Campaigns.  With no more detail than this, one would suspect in the modern era, this would be more along the lines of a Bronze Star with V, but that may be unfair.  Regardless, the action stood out, and the Medal of Honor was the only option in this era.

SALE, ALBERT

Rank and organization: Private, Company F, 8th U.S. Cavalry
Place and date: At Santa Maria River, Ariz., 29 June 1869
Date of issue: 3 March 1870
Citation: Gallantry in killing an Indian warrior and capturing pony and effects.
 

The Medal takes a long break, and doesn't make an appearance until Vietnam.
 

*BENNETT, STEVEN L.

Rank and Organization: Captain, U.S. Air Force. 20th Tactical Air Support Squadron, Pacific Air Forces
Place and Date: Quang Tri, Republic of Vietnam, 29 June 1972

Citation: Capt. Bennett was the pilot of a light aircraft flying an artillery adjustment mission along a heavily defended segment of route structure. A large concentration of enemy troops was massing for an attack on a friendly unit. Capt. Bennett requested tactical air support but was advised that none was available. He also requested artillery support but this too was denied due to the close proximity of friendly troops to the target. Capt. Bennett was determined to aid the endangered unit and elected to strafe the hostile positions. After 4 such passes, the enemy force began to retreat. Capt. Bennett continued the attack, but, as he completed his fifth strafing pass, his aircraft was struck by a surface-to-air missile, which severely damaged the left engine and the left main landing gear. As fire spread in the left engine, Capt. Bennett realized that recovery at a friendly airfield was impossible. He instructed his observer to prepare for an ejection, but was informed by the observer that his parachute had been shredded by the force of the impacting missile. Although Capt. Bennett had a good parachute, he knew that if he ejected, the observer would have no chance of survival. With complete disregard for his own life, Capt. Bennett elected to ditch the aircraft into the Gulf of Tonkin, even though he realized that a pilot of this type aircraft had never survived a ditching. The ensuing impact upon the water caused the aircraft to cartwheel and severely damaged the front cockpit, making escape for Capt. Bennett impossible. The observer successfully made his way out of the aircraft and was rescued. Capt. Bennett's unparalleled concern for his companion, extraordinary heroism and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty, at the cost of his life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Air Force.

HERDA, FRANK A.

Rank and Organization: Specialist Fourth Class, U.S. Army, Company A, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile)
Place and date: Near Dak To, Quang Trang Province, Republic of Vietnam, 29 June 1968
Date of Issue: 05/14/1970
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sp4c. Herda (then Pfc.) distinguished himself while serving as a grenadier with Company A. Company A was part of a battalion-size night defensive perimeter when a large enemy force initiated an attack on the friendly units. While other enemy elements provided diversionary fire and indirect weapons fire to the west, a sapper force of approximately 30 men armed with hand grenades and small charges attacked Company A's perimeter from the east. As the sappers were making a last, violent assault, 5 of them charged the position defended by Sp4c. Herda and 2 comrades, 1 of whom was wounded and lay helpless in the bottom of the foxhole. Sp4c. Herda fired at the aggressors until they were within 10 feet of his position and 1 of their grenades landed in the foxhole. He fired 1 last round from his grenade launcher, hitting 1 of the enemy soldiers in the head, and then, with no concern for his safety, Sp4c. Herda immediately covered the blast of the grenade with his body. The explosion wounded him grievously, but his selfless action prevented his 2 comrades from being seriously injured or killed and enabled the remaining defender to kill the other sappers. By his gallantry at the risk of his life in the highest traditions of the military service, Sp4c. Herda has reflected great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

MORRIS, CHARLES B.

Rank and Organization: Staff Sergeant (then Sgt.), U.S. Army, Company A, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry, 173d Airborne Brigade (Separate)
Place and Date: Republic of Vietnam, 29 June 1966
Date of Issue: 12/14/1967

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Seeing indications of the enemy's presence in the area, S/Sgt. Morris deployed his squad and continued forward alone to make a reconnaissance. He unknowingly crawled within 20 meters of an enemy machinegun, whereupon the gunner fired, wounding him in the chest. S/Sgt. Morris instantly returned the fire and killed the gunner. Continuing to crawl within a few feet of the gun, he hurled a grenade and killed the remainder of the enemy crew. Although in pain and bleeding profusely, S/Sgt. Morris continued his reconnaissance. Returning to the platoon area, he reported the results of his reconnaissance to the platoon leader. As he spoke, the platoon came under heavy fire. Refusing medical attention for himself, he deployed his men in better firing positions confronting the entrenched enemy to his front. Then for 8 hours the platoon engaged the numerically superior enemy force. Withdrawal was impossible without abandoning many wounded and dead. Finding the platoon medic dead, S/Sgt. Morris administered first aid to himself and was returning to treat the wounded members of his squad with the medic's first aid kit when he was again wounded. Knocked down and stunned, he regained consciousness and continued to treat the wounded, reposition his men, and inspire and encourage their efforts. Wounded again when an enemy grenade shattered his left hand, nonetheless he personally took up the fight and armed and threw several grenades which killed a number of enemy soldiers. Seeing that an enemy machinegun had maneuvered behind his platoon and was delivering the fire upon his men, S/Sgt. Morris and another man crawled toward the gun to knock it out. His comrade was killed and S/Sgt. Morris sustained another wound, but, firing his rifle with 1 hand, he silenced the enemy machinegun. Returning to the platoon, he courageously exposed himself to the devastating enemy fire to drag the wounded to a protected area, and with utter disregard for his personal safety and the pain he suffered, he continued to lead and direct the efforts of his men until relief arrived. Upon termination of the battle, important documents were found among the enemy dead revealing a planned ambush of a Republic of Vietnam battalion. Use of this information prevented the ambush and saved many lives. S/Sgt. Morris' gallantry was instrumental in the successful defeat of the enemy, saved many lives, and was in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.

*Indicates a posthumous award.

2 Comments

Reading the accounts of these MOH winners for the Civil War raises a question.

There were (as far as I know) no Confederate States of America awards for heroism. As we read of the heroic deeds of our northern born ancestors, we should not lose sight of the considerable heroism from the military forces from the southern part of our now re-united nation.

We must remember their deeds as well, as many military members today have long family histories of military service in the U.S. (and a few with C.S.) service to be proud of.

We rightly honor the Union soldiers who manned the guns and delivered withering fire from Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg. But what of USMA graduate, BGEN Lewis Armistead who led his troops with his cap on the tip of his sword in Pickett’s Charge until he was mortally wounded when he reached the Yankee gun positions? That was inspirational leadership by example and bravery, and many others were close in their performance that day.

Or, the previous day, when the resolute men of the 20th Maine under COL Joshua Chamberlain saved the Union flank by their heroic stand on Little Round Top. But, the deeds of the parched Alabama soldiers who attacked the Mainers after marching 20 miles on a hot day were no less heroic.

Surely during the four years of war, hundreds (or more) of Southern troops qualified for recognition by an award equal to the then relatively low threshold for the Medal of Honor,, and certainly dozens or more met even today’s high standards.

Given the recent “upgrading” of awards which may have been less than what was truly deserved on account of race or ethnicity, it would seem fair and just that some of the most valorous deeds of the troops from our southern states deserve more recognition that they ever received.  I am sure that even the brave soldiers who fought to preserve the Union would agree that many of their opponents exhibited “…conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their own lived above and beyond the call of duty…reflecting great credit upon themselves and upholding the highest traditions of the United States military service.”
 
 I realize that posting these MOH posts is a lot of work, so I just wanted to let you know that they are read and appreciated. Thank you!