Medal of Honor earners
Nothing motivates like stories of heroism. Here’s a few to sink your teeth into.
Lewis B. Puller, or as every Marine knows of him, Chesty Puller. A distant cousin of Army General George Patton, Chesty was the recipient of 5 Navy Cross’s, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star with Valor, 2 Legions of Merit with Valor, and a host of other awards and commendations; this is the stuff of legends regarding combat and Marine Corps history. He could easily be highlighted in any of the 14 leadership traits, but I chose “judgment” simply because most of the others were so obvious. “Courage”? Obviously he had that in spades. “Dependability”? Check. Etc, etc, so I wanted to talk about his judgment.
The stories of how he earned his medals are varied and exciting, but let’s talk about how he earned his fourth Navy Cross, as this is a great example of solid judgment in the most trying of times.
In the battle at Cape Gloucester, New Britain during World War II, given temporary command of 3rd ‘Battalion, 7th Marines, he also assumed command of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines when their Commanding Office and the Executive Officer were both wounded and unable to command. Commanding both Battalions, Chesty was able to effectively reorganize the units and move towards their objective. While holding key terrain along a fire swept ridge, Chesty moved from company to company, redirecting fire as needed, reorganizing units to maintain critical positions, all the while being exposed to enemy rifle, machine-gun and mortar fire. On this day, as on many others, Chesty displayed unparalleled courage and determination – he also displayed uncanny judgment in his management of the many companies under his control against a well-entrenched and enemy. His judgment saved many lives in that battle and many others and has served as an example for Marines to follow forever.
William Earl Barber
The story of William Earl Barber, a Marine Corps Captain during the Korean War, is a defining example of decisiveness under extreme pressure. Only 220 men remained under his command and he faced 1,400 communist Chinese soldiers in the frigid Chosin Resevior. With a broken leg and having received orders to leave his position, he refused as he believed such an action would leave another 8,000 Marines cut off and trapped – he refused his orders. After six days of fighting, the Chinese had suffered over 1,000 casualties – Captain Barber had only 82 of his men in walking condition, but his decision to reject the orders and stand fast was proven to be the right move – he was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his decisions and his actions.
Leonard Foster, a Marine Corps Private First Class (PFC), during combat in World War II in Guam, received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions when his patrol came under fire from 2 machine guns at a range of about 15 yards. While others remained pinned down, PFC Foster, of his own initiative, moved out of the gulley his platoon was trapped in and advanced towards the machines guns – getting wounded several times in the process. He was able to kill 5 Japanese soldiers and wounded another, effectively taking out the enemy machine gun nests on his own. He later died of the wounds he received during this action.
An interesting example of integrity in action is the most recent Medal of Honor Recipient for the Marine Corps, Sgt Dakota Meyers. There was a lot of discussion as to whether it was deserved or not – and truthfully Sgt Meyers himself is probably the only one that can answer that. I’m not trying to sort that out. What happened after he left the Marine Corps is interesting though. He went to work for a company that made and sold thermal imaging devices to assist in finding explosive devices. He eventually ended up on a team that was responsible for selling these devices to Pakistan. He voiced his concern about selling the best technology on the market to a country known for having dealings with enemy countries as well as terrorist organizations and was belittled. The company actually reported him as being mentally unstable and claimed drinking issues – an apparent attempt to discredit so the sales of the Thermal Imaging devices could proceed. Sgt Meyers’ actions during this time showed great integrity.
John Bradley (USN Corpsman)
Attached to a Marine Corps unit, John Bradley survived the battle of Iwo Jima and earned the Navy Cross – the nation’s second highest award for bravery. He earned this award for crawling to the aid of a wounded Marine and shielding him with his own body from enemy fire while hanging a bag of blood plasma on an upturned rifle. While waving away others who were trying to assist, he then dragged the wounded Marine 30 yards through enemy fire to safety. All of this happened after “Doc” found himself at the top of Mount Suribachi and was a participant in the famous Iwo Jima Flag Raising which has become a symbol of Marine Corps grit and tenacity. Many years later, after John Bradley died his family found out he had received the Navy Cross – he never told them nor did he talk about the battle itself. It’s been said of the battle for Iwo Jima that it was “America’s Battle” – a battle that had more casualties in one day than the battle for Guadalcanal had in two and a half months – the beaches at Normandy were safe and secure in 24 hours, but at Iwo Jima our boys fought and died for two weeks – one Marine died every 2 seconds at Iwo Jima, for 2 weeks. Just surviving the battle took unimaginable courage.
In addition to what is displayed below, this Marine also fought in World War II and Vietnam, earning a Navy Cross, two Distinguished Service Medals, two Silver Stars, and many other awards. He served for over three decades, commanding every level of combat from Platoon to Division. He fought in fourteen campaigns and has been awarded seven Foreign Awards. Here’s his Medal of Honor citation:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of the First Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in aware that the operation involved breaking through a surrounding enemy and advancing eight miles along primitive icy trails in the bitter cold with every passage disputed by a savage and determined foe, Lieutenant Colonel Davis boldly led his battalion into the attack in a daring attempt to relieve a beleaguered rifle company and to seize, hold and defend a vital mountain pass controlling the only route available for two Marine regiments in danger of being cut off by numerically superior hostile force during their redeployment to the port of Hungnam. When the battalion immediately encountered strong opposition from entrenched enemy forces commanding high ground in the path of the advance, he promptly spearheaded his unit in a fierce attack up the steep, ice-covered slopes in the face of withering fire and, personally leading the assault groups in a hand-to-hand encounter, drove the hostile troops from their positions, rested his mean and reconnoitered the area under enemy fire to determine the best route for continuing the mission. Always in the thick of fighting, Lieutenant Colonel Davis let his battalion over three successive ridges in the deep snow in continuous attacks against the enemy and, constantly inspiring and encouraging his men throughout the night, brought his unit to a point within 1500 yards of the surrounded rifle company by daybreak. Although knocked to the ground when a shell fragment struck his helmet and two bullets pierced this clothing, he arose and fought his way forward at the head of his men until he reached the isolated Marines. On the following morning, he bravely led his battalion in securing the vital mountain pass from a strongly entrenched and numerically superior hostile force, carrying all his wounded with him, including 22 litter cases and held the vital terrain until the two regiments of the division had deployed through the pass and, on the morning of 4 December, led his battalion into Hagaru-ri intact. By his superb leadership, outstanding courage and brilliant tactical ability, Lieutenant Colonel Davis was directly instrumental in saving the beleaguered rifle company from complete annihilation and enabled the two Marine regiments to escape possible destruction. His valiant devotion to duty and unyielding fighting spirit in the face of almost insurmountable odds enhance and sustain the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
I get tired just reading about what Lt. Col Davis did – simply amazing.