Springfield Model 1835 (percussion conversion) – William Meriwether, 5th Regiment of Tennessee Volunteers, War with Mexico
Enfield “Three band” rifle, Stephen and William Meriwether (a different William), and Alfred “Pappy” Hays, my great-great grandfather – a member of the Orphan Brigade.
Springfield M1873 “Trapdoor” – Thomas Meriwether, USV, Cuba (his actual rifle)
US Model of 1898, “Krag” – Thomas Meriwether, USV, Philippines (again, his actual weapon).
US Model of 1917, the Auld Soldier’s father, Daddy Jack, WWI.
Thompson Submachinegun – Colonel William Meriwether, Korea, Lieutenant and Lieutenant Colonel Tim Donovan, Korea, Vietnam.
US Rifle, M14, Captain and Major Tim Donovan, peacetime. Me, peacetime.
M3 “Grease Gun” – LTC Tim Donovan, Vietnam, me, peacetime.
M16, LTC Tim Donovan, Vietnam, and me.
There are eight Medals awarded for actions on this day. Five from the Civil War, including two Lieutenants who would go on to be Major Generals, two from WWII, and we close with the Korean War. Only one award is posthumous.
FORMAN, Alexander A RANK: CORPORAL UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANYC, 7TH MICHIGAN INFANTRY DATE: MAY 31, 1862 PLACE: FAIR OAKS, VIRGINIA, USA
CITATION: Although wounded, he continued fighting until, fainting from loss of blood, he was carried off the field.
FRENCH, Samuel S RANK: PRIVATE UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY E, 7TH MICHIGAN INFANTRY DATE: MAY 31, 1862 PLACE: FAIR OAKS, VIRGINIA, USA
CITATION: Continued fighting, although wounded, until he fainted from loss of blood.
PURCELL. Hiram W RANK: SERGEANT UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY G, 104TH PENNSYLVANIA INFANTRY DATE: MAY 31, 1862 PLACE: FAIR OAKS, VIRGINIA, USA
CITATION: While carrying the regimental colors on the retreat he returned to face the advancing enemy, flag in hand, and saved the other color, which would otherwise have been captured.
SHAFTER, William R RANK: FIRST LIEUTENANT (HIGHEST RANK: MAJOR GENERAL U.S. ARMY) UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY I, 7TH MICHIGAN INFANTRY DATE: MAY 31, 1862 PLACE: FAIR OAKS, VIRGINIA, USA
CITATION: Lt. Shafter was engaged in bridge construction and not being needed there returned with his men to engage the enemy participating in a charge across an open field that resulted in casualties to 18 of the 22 men. At the close of the battle his horse was shot from under him and he was severely flesh wounded. He remained on the field that day and stayed to fight the next day only by concealing his wounds. In order not to be sent home with the wounded he kept his wounds concealed for another three days until other wounded had left the area.
GILLESPIE JR., George L RANK: FIRST LIEUTENANT (HIGHEST RANK: MAJOR GENERAL) UNIT/COMMAND: U.S. ENGINEERS DATE: MAY 31, 1864 PLACE: NEAR BETHESDA CHURCH, VIRGINIA, USA
CITATION: Exposed himself to great danger by voluntarily making his way through the enemy’s lines to communicate with Gen. Sheridan. While rendering this service he was captured, but escaped; again came in contact with the enemy, was again ordered to surrender, but escaped by dashing away under fire.
MG Shafter had an interesting career. I was born too late. He was given command of V Corps for the Span-Am campaign in Cuba despite being fat (300lbs) and suffering from gout. And he gets a city in California and a fort in Hawaii named after him. I was in the Army at the wrong time, clearly.
Continue reading “Today’s Medal of Honor Moment for 31 May”
I miss the Auld Soldier, and wish I had asked so many more questions. Same is true for Mom. Hell, all of them.
The Medal takes a breather today – only two awards, both from the same fight with Native Americans in Arizona.
ASTON, EDGAR R.
Rank and organization: Private, Company L, 8th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At San Carlos, Ariz., 30 May 1868. Entered service at: ——. Birth: Clermont County, Ohio. Date of issue: 28 July 1868. Citation: With 2 other men he volunteered to search for a wagon passage out of a 4,000-foot valley wherein an infantry column was immobile. This small group passed 6 miles among hostile Apache terrain finding the sought passage. On their return trip down the canyon they were attacked by Apaches who were successfully held at bay.
CUBBERLY, WILLIAM G.
Rank and organization: Private, Company L, 8th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At San Carlos, Ariz., 30 May 1868. Entered service at: ——. Birth: Butler County, Ohio. Date of issue: 28 July 1868. Citation: With 2 other men he volunteered to search for a wagon passage out of a 4,000-foot valley wherein an infantry column was immobile. This small group passed 6 miles among hostile Apache terrain finding the sought passage. On their return trip down the canyon they were attacked by Apache who were successfully held at bay.
The Medal opens for us today during the Philippine Insurrection, and then into the Interim Awards 1899-1910 where we find a sailor earning his first of *two* Medals. Today, this Medal would be a Navy and Marine Corps Medal, which is the highest award for sailors for heroism not involving combat. We will see Watertender King again on 13 September. During WWII, 40 Germans learned that when the staff weenie with the .50 cal machinegun calls on you to surrender, you probably should have surrendered. And in Korea, PFC Moreland gives his life for his comrades, rather than what the citation-writer asserts.
NOLAN, Joseph A RANK: ARTIFICER COMPANY B, 45TH INFANTRY, U.S. VOLUNTEERS DATE: MAY 29, 1900 PLACE: LABO, LUZON, PHILIPPINE ISLANDS
CITATION: Voluntarily left shelter and at great personal risk passed the enemy’s lines and brought relief to besieged comrades.
Interim Awards 1899 – 1910
KING, John RANK: WATERTENDER (HIGHEST RANK: CHIEF WATERTENDER) UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. VICKSBURG DATE: MAY 29, 1901 PLACE: U.S.S. VICKSBURG, PHILIPPINE ISLANDS
CITATION: On board the U.S.S. Vicksburg, for heroism in the line of his profession at the time of the accident to the boiler, 29 May 1901.
Moving along to WWII…
Continue reading “Today’s Medal of Honor Moment for 29 May”
The are eight Medals awarded for actions on this day. Two during the Civil War, two during the Spanish-American War (one to a dashing fellow and his doggo, who could be Gunner’s who-knows-how-many-great-granddoggo). There’s a lifesaving award from the 20’s, a record-correction award to a very brave soldier breaking out of Anzio, and two braver-than-brave Marines during the Korean War. Theirs are sadly posthumous.
CHRISTIANCY, James I RANK: FIRST LIEUTENANT UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY D, 9TH MICHIGAN CAVALRY DATE: MAY 28, 1864 PLACE: HAWES SHOPS, VIRGINIA, USA
CITATION: While acting as aide, voluntarily led a part of the line into the fight, and was twice wounded.
STOREY, John H RANK: SERGEANT UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY F, 109TH PENNSYLVANIA INFANTRY DATE: MAY 28, 1864 PLACE: DALLAS, GEORGIA, USA
CITATION: While bringing in a wounded comrade, under a destructive fire, he was himself wounded in the right leg, which was amputated on the same day.
JOHNSON, Peter RANK: FIREMAN FIRST CLASS UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. VIXEN DATE: MAY 28, 1898 PLACE: SANTIAGO DE CUBA
CITATION: On board the U.S.S. Vixen on the night of 28 May 1898. Following the explosion of the lower front manhole gasket of boiler A of the vessel, Johnson displayed great coolness and self-possession in entering the fireroom.
MAHONEY, George RANK: FIREMAN FIRST CLASS UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. VIXEN DATE: MAY 28, 1898 PLACE: SANTIAGO DE CUBA
CITATION: On board the U.S.S. Vixen on the night of 28 May 1898. Following the explosion of the lower front manhole gasket of boiler A of the vessel, Mahoney displayed great coolness and self-possession in entering the fireroom.
There are 17 Medals awarded for actions on this day, with volunteers, bad days in the Navy, an overlooked hero, two iconic jump-on-the-grenade events, and a Corporal who probably lost a bet or something.
This Memorial Day, reserve a small bit of time to offer up a resounding hymn, as in, “Him, him, *F*CK* him!” to George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and the encouragers, enablers, including subsequent Presidents, SECDEFs, and sundry cabinet members, congresses and pundits who initiated and/or supported-when-politically-convenient the “nation-building” chimeras of Iraq and Afghanistan. All the while doing it on the cheap, without commitment except by the troops, all the while having no real skin in the game. A waste of lives and treasure, ours, Iraqi, Afghan. The giving of hope, only to say “Fukkit, we’re outta here, ya screwed up, ya trusted us.”
As I watch *another* generation of military folk go through what the Auld Soldier did in 1975, watching the end of an unwinnable war that they dedicated their lives, prospects and honor to fight, directed by venal asswipes who acted on political calculation and soaring ego yet with no real personal threat but mildly reputational, and who are revered when they should be ignored, except as bad examples.
I’ve beat this drum since 2003.
Fuck all y’all.
There are six Medals for this day. The Civil War, WWII, and Afghanistan.
SAXTON JR., Rufus RANK: BRIGADIER GENERAL (HIGHEST RANK: BREVET MAJOR GENERAL) UNIT/COMMAND: U.S. VOLUNTEERS DATE: MAY 26 – 30, 1862 PLACE: HARPERS FERRY, WEST VIRGINIA, USA
CITATION: Distinguished gallantry and good conduct in the defense.
BARRICK, Jesse T RANK: CORPORAL (HIGHEST RANK: SECOND LIEUTENANT) UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY H, 3D MINNESOTA INFANTRY DATE: MAY 26 – JUNE 2, 1863 PLACE: DUCK RIVER, TENNESSEE
CITATION: While on a scout singlehandedly captured two desperate Confederate guerrilla officers who were together and well-armed at the time.
Brigadier General Saxton was an interesting man. As the war progressed Saxton was later appointed military governor of the Department of the South. In that position, he directed the recruiting of the early regiments of black soldiers who fought in the Union army. Saxton was actually known as an ardent abolitionist, offering this tesitmony In 1866 to the Joint Committee on Reconstruction in the Congress, saying “I think if the Negro is put in possession of all his rights as a citizen and as a man, he will be peaceful, orderly, and self-sustaining as any other man or class of men, and that he will rapidly advance.”
It took a whlie to get to “all his rights as a citizen and as a man” and one wonders where our politics would be today if we’d managed to get it done – and make it stick – during the Reconstruction Period, before the rise of Jim Crow.
World War II.
NEWMAN, Beryl R RANK: FIRST LIEUTENANT (HIGHEST RANK: CAPTAIN) UNIT/COMMAND: 1ST PLATOON, COMPANY F, 2D BATTALION, 133D INFANTRY, 34TH INFANTRY DIVISION
DATE: MAY 26, 1944 PLACE: NEAR CISTERNA, ITALY
CITATION: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on 26 May 1944. Attacking the strongly held German Anzio-Nettuno defense line near Cisterna, Italy, 1st Lt. Newman, in the lead of his platoon, was suddenly fired upon by two enemy machine guns located on the crest of a hill about 100 yards to his front. The four scouts with him immediately hit the ground, but 1st Lt. Newman remained standing in order to see the enemy positions and his platoon then about 100 yards behind. Locating the enemy nests, 1st Lt. Newman called back to his platoon and ordered one squad to advance to him and the other to flank the enemy to the right. Then, still standing upright in the face of enemy machine-gun fire, 1st Lt. Newman opened up with his tommy gun on the enemy nests. From this range, his fire was not effective in covering the advance of his squads, and one squad was pinned down by the enemy fire. Seeing that his squad was unable to advance, 1st Lt. Newman, in full view of the enemy gunners and in the face of their continuous fire, advanced alone on the enemy nests. He returned their fire with his tommy gun and succeeded in wounding a German in each of the nests. The remaining two Germans fled from the position into a nearby house. Three more enemy soldiers then came out of the house and ran toward a third machine gun. First Lt. Newman, still relentlessly advancing toward them, killed one before he reached the gun, the second before he could fire it. The third fled for his life back into the house. Covering his assault by firing into the doors and windows of the house, 1st Lt. Newman, boldly attacking by himself, called for the occupants to surrender to him. Gaining the house, he kicked in the door and went inside. Although armed with rifles and machine pistols, the 11 Germans there, apparently intimidated, surrendered to the lieutenant without further resistance. 1st Lt. Newman, singlehandedly, had silenced three enemy machine guns, wounded two Germans, killed two more, and taken 11 prisoners. This demonstration of sheer courage, bravery, and willingness to close with the enemy even in the face of such heavy odds, instilled into these green troops the confidence of veterans and reflect the highest traditions of the U.S. Armed Forces.
**DEALEY, Samuel D RANK: COMMANDER UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. HARDER DATE: MAY 26 – JULY 3, 1944 PLACE: OFF TAWI TAWI, SULU ARCHIPELAGO, PHILIPPINE ISLANDS
CITATION: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Harder during her 5th war patrol in Japanese-controlled waters. Floodlighted by a bright moon and disclosed to an enemy destroyer escort which bore down with intent to attack. Comdr. Dealey quickly dived to periscope depth and waited for the pursuer to close range, then opened fire, sending the target and all aboard down in flames with his third torpedo. Plunging deep to avoid fierce depth charges, he again surfaced and, within nine minutes after sighting another destroyer, had sent the enemy down tail first with a hit directly amidship. Evading detection, he penetrated the confined waters off Tawi Tawi with the Japanese Fleet base six miles away and scored death blows on two patrolling destroyers in quick succession. With his ship heeled over by concussion from the first exploding target and the second vessel nose-diving in a blinding detonation, he cleared the area at high speed. Sighted by a large hostile fleet force on the following day, he swung his bow toward the lead destroyer for another “down-the-throat” shot, fired three bow tubes, and promptly crash-dived to be terrifically rocked seconds later by the exploding ship as the Harder passed beneath. This remarkable record of five vital Japanese destroyers sunk in five short-range torpedo attacks attests the valiant fighting spirit of Comdr. Dealey and his indomitable command.
*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.
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.
**Commander Dealey survived his Medal action, but died on his next patrol before receiving the award.