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Today's Medal of Honor Moment for 13 June

Our opening Medal today, from the interim period of 1871-1898, is an award that today would not be a Medal of Honor.  In this case, it would be the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the highest award given in the Naval service for heroism not involving direct combat with an armed enemy.  The Army equivalent is the Soldier's Medal, the Air Force is the Airman's Medal, and the Coast Guard awards the Coast Guard Medal.


FASSEUR, ISAAC L.

Rank and organization: Ordinary Seaman, U.S. Navy. Born: 1860 Holland. Biography not available. Citation: Serving on board the U.S.S. Lackawanna, 13 June 1884, at Callao, Peru, Fasseur rescued William Cruise, who had fallen overboard, from drowning.

We move on to the Phillipine Insurrection - and a battle variously referred to as the 2nd Battle of Zapote Bridge or the Battle of Zapote River (mostly, I think, to distinguish the two, as the fight, both times, was for the bridge - which still exists, in a ruined state, next to it's replacement.


SAGE, WILLIAM H.

Rank and organization: Captain, 23d U.S. Infantry. Place and date: Near Zapote River, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 13 June 1899. Entered service at: Binghamton, N.Y. Birth: Centerville, N.Y. Date of issue: 24 July 1902. Citation: With 9 men volunteered to hold an advanced position and held it against a terrific fire of the enemy estimated at 1,000 strong. Taking a rifle from a wounded man, and cartridges from the belts of others, Capt. Sage himself killed 5 of the enemy.
The first Battle of Zapote Bridge was fought February 16, 1897. It was one of the turning points of the Philippine Revolution against the Spanish of 1896. It was one of the epic battles of the Revolution when Filipino gallantry and martial prowess, embodied in General Edilberto Evangelista and his military engineering skills in trench building. 

The Battle of Zapote River started when Companies F and I of the 21st Infantry (Major Boyle commanding) met 1,000 Filipino soldiers in prepared positions (reprising the first battle, with US Infantry replacing the Spanish Marines).  The Filipinos stoutly defended the bridge and the American infantry started running low on ammunition and started casting around for a maneuver solution to what had been up to that point a musketry battle.  They were aided in this by the US gunboats on the river which silenced at least one Filipino artillery piece.  There was an artillery duel a Filipino artillery battery, possibly firing a Krupp artillery piece, and Light Battery D, 6th Artillery (Lieutenant Scott commanding) with a 3.2-inch field gun. There is an excellent article on the fight, complete with maps, written by then-Brigadier General Scott in the Sept-Oct, 1940 edition of the Field Artillery Journal. It was during this phase of the battle that Captain (later Brigadier General) Sage earned his Medal.

After hours of heavy fighting, the superior firepower of the Americans drove the defenders out of their lines; a Filipino rear guard, however held off the Americans long enough for the main Filipino force to withdraw inland.  It became clear to Aguinaldo that the Philippine Army was not going to be able to stand toe-to-toe with the Americans, and the nature of the war shifted (to the sorrow of both sides, in terms of casualties and damage) to a guerrilla war, which, in the end, was unsuccessful for the Filipinos, and where the Army had to relearn lessons it had learned fighting the Indians, and in so doing further developed a body of knowledge that would have to be dusted off and relearned in Vietnam, and once again in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The New York Times reported at the time that [the Filipino Army was "the largest and best organized body of men which had yet met American troops."  High (and deserved) praise in an era when we had just defeated the rotting shell of the Spanish Empire but were still focused on Europe as the center of all things military.

The Medal took a break, skipping this day until 1968, in Vietnam.  Leave no man behind.


* KEDENBURG, JOHN J.

Rank and organization: Specialist Fifth Class, U.S. Army, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces. place and date: Republic of Vietnam, 13 June 1968. Entered service at: Brooklyn, N.Y. Born: 31 July 1946, Brooklyn, N.Y. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sp5c. Kedenburg, U.S. Army, Command and Control Detachment North, Forward Operating Base 2, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), distinguished himself while serving as advisor to a long-range reconnaissance team of South Vietnamese irregular troops. The team's mission was to conduct counter-guerrilla operations deep within enemy-held territory. prior to reaching the day's objective, the team was attacked and encircled by a battalion-size North Vietnamese Army force. Sp5c. Kedenburg assumed immediate command of the team which succeeded, after a fierce fight, in breaking out of the encirclement. As the team moved through thick jungle to a position from which it could be extracted by helicopter, Sp5c. Kedenburg conducted a gallant rear guard fight against the pursuing enemy and called for tactical air support and rescue helicopters. His withering fire against the enemy permitted the team to reach a preselected landing zone with the loss of only 1 man, who was unaccounted for. Once in the landing zone, Sp5c. Kedenburg deployed the team into a perimeter defense against the numerically superior enemy force. When tactical air support arrived, he skillfully directed air strikes against the enemy, suppressing their fire so that helicopters could hover over the area and drop slings to be used in the extraction of the team. After half of the team was extracted by helicopter, Sp5c. Kedenburg and the remaining 3 members of the team harnessed themselves to the sling on a second hovering helicopter. Just as the helicopter was to lift them out of the area, the South Vietnamese team member who had been unaccounted for after the initial encounter with the enemy appeared in the landing zone. Sp5c. Kedenburg unhesitatingly gave up his place in the sling to the man and directed the helicopter pilot to leave the area. He then continued to engage the enemy who were swarming into the landing zone, killing 6 enemy soldiers before he was overpowered. Sp5c. Kedenburg's inspiring leadership, consummate courage and willing self-sacrifice permitted his small team to inflict heavy casualties on the enemy and escape almost certain annihilation. His actions reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.

There is an eyewitness account in the book Secret Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines, available as an excerpt here.

*Indicates a posthumous award.