Today’s Medal of Honor Moment for 24 May

There are eleven Medals awarded for actions on this day. From the earliest Medals earned, in May of 1861, to a Lieutenant and his boat-full of volunteers, to a soldier in Italy who has an amazing first day of combat, to two Medals earned in Vietnam. There is one posthumous award in Italy during WWII.

The deceptively innocent looking Medal of Honor recipient James H Mills. Courtesy CMOHS

Civil War

BROWNELL, Francis E RANK: PRIVATE (HIGHEST RANK: FIRST LIEUTENANT) UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY A, 11TH NEW YORK INFANTRY (ELLSWORTH’S ZOUAVES) DATE: MAY 24, 1861 PLACE: ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA, USA
CITATION: Killed the murderer of Col. Ellsworth at the Marshall House, Alexandria, Va.

BRUSH, George W RANK: SECOND LIEUTENANT (HIGHEST RANK: CAPTAIN) UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY B, 34TH U.S. COLORED INFANTRY DATE: MAY 24, 1864 PLACE: ASHEPOO RIVER, SOUTH CAROLINA, USA
CITATION: Voluntarily commanded a boat crew, which went to the rescue of a large number of Union soldiers on board the stranded steamer Boston, and with great gallantry succeeded in conveying them to shore, being exposed during the entire time to heavy fire from a Confederate battery.

The following soldiers crewed LT Brush’s boat and were all awarded the Medal with him.

DOWNEY, William, RANK: PRIVATE UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY B, 4TH MASSACHUSETTS CAVALRY
DUFFEY, John RANK: PRIVATE (HIGHEST RANK: FARRIER) UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY B, 4TH MASSACHUSETTS CAVALRY
GIFFORD, David L RANK: PRIVATE UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY B, 4TH MASSACHUSETTS CAVALRY
SCANLAN, Patrick RANK: PRIVATE (HIGHEST RANK: SERGEANT) UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY A, 4TH MASSACHUSETTS CAVALRY

MURPHY, Michael C RANK: LIEUTENANT COLONEL (HIGHEST RANK: COLONEL) UNIT/COMMAND: 170TH NEW YORK INFANTRY DATE: MAY 24, 1864 PLACE: NORTH ANNA RIVER, VIRGINIA, USA
CITATION: This officer, commanding the regiment, kept it on the field exposed to the fire of the enemy for three hours without being able to fire one shot in return because of the ammunition being exhausted.

WWII. A tough day near Cisterna for the 15th Infantry. This day would be Private Mills’ *first* day in combat. Aside from being a relatively humane fellow (he took a lot of prisoners) he also was apparently a damn good shot, and conserved his ammunition while depleting the german army’s “fit for duty” list.

*ANTOLAK, Sylvester RANK: SERGEANT UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY B, 15TH INFANTRY, 3D INFANTRY DIVISION DATE: MAY 24, 1944 PLACE: NEAR CISTERNA DI LITTORIA, ITALY
CITATION: Near Cisterna di Littoria, Italy, he charged 200 yards over flat, coverless terrain to destroy an enemy machine-gun nest during the second day of the offensive which broke through the German cordon of steel around the Anzio beachhead. Fully 30 yards in advance of his squad, he ran into withering enemy machine-gun, machine-pistol and rifle fire. Three times he was struck by bullets and knocked to the ground, but each time he struggled to his feet to continue his relentless advance. With one shoulder deeply gashed and his right arm shattered, he continued to rush directly into the enemy fire concentration with his submachine gun wedged under his uninjured arm until within 15 yards of the enemy strongpoint, where he opened fire at deadly close range, killing two Germans and forcing the remaining 10 to surrender. He reorganized his men and, refusing to seek medical attention so badly needed, chose to lead the way toward another strongpoint 100 yards distant. Utterly disregarding the hail of bullets concentrated upon him, he had stormed ahead nearly three-fourths of the space between strongpoints when he was instantly killed by hostile enemy fire. Inspired by his example, his squad went on to overwhelm the enemy troops. By his supreme sacrifice, superb fighting courage, and heroic devotion to the attack, Sgt. Antolak was directly responsible for eliminating 20 Germans, capturing an enemy machine gun, and clearing the path for his company to advance.

MILLS, James H RANK: PRIVATE UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY F, 15TH INFANTRY, 3D INFANTRY DIVISION DATE: MAY 24, 1944 PLACE: NEAR CISTERNA DI LITTORIA, ITALY
CITATION: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. Pvt. Mills, undergoing his baptism of fire, preceded his platoon down a draw to reach a position from which an attack could be launched against a heavily fortified strongpoint. After advancing about 300 yards, Pvt. Mills was fired on by a machine gun only five yards distant. He killed the gunner with one shot and forced the surrender of the assistant gunner. Continuing his advance, he saw a German soldier in a camouflaged position behind a large bush pulling the pin of a potato-masher grenade. Covering the German with his rifle, Pvt. Mills forced him to drop the grenade and captured him. When another enemy soldier attempted to throw a hand grenade into the draw, Pvt. Mills killed him with one shot. Brought under fire by a machine gun, two machine pistols, and three rifles at a range of only 50 feet, he charged headlong into the furious chain of automatic fire, shooting his M1 from the hip. The enemy was completely demoralized by Pvt. Mills’ daring charge, and when he reached a point within 10 feet of their position, all six surrendered. As he neared the end of the draw, Pvt. Mills was brought under fire by a machine gunner 20 yards distant. Despite the fact that he had absolutely no cover, Pvt. Mills killed the gunner with one shot. Two enemy soldiers near the machine gunner fired wildly at Pvt. Mills and then fled. Pvt. Mills fired twice, killing one of the enemy. Continuing on to the position, he captured a fourth soldier. When it became apparent that an assault on the strongpoint would in all probability cause heavy casualties on the platoon, Pvt. Mills volunteered to cover the advance down a shallow ditch to a point within 50 yards of the objective. Standing on the bank in full view of the enemy less than 100 yards away, he shouted and fired his rifle directly into the position. His ruse worked exactly as planned. The enemy centered his fire on Pvt. Mills. Tracers passed within inches of his body, rifle and machine-pistol bullets ricocheted off the rocks at his feet. Yet he stood there firing until his rifle was empty. Intent on covering the movement of his platoon, Pvt. Mills jumped into the draw, reloaded his weapon, climbed out again, and continued to lay down a base of fire. Repeating this action four times, he enabled his platoon to reach the designated spot undiscovered, from which position it assaulted and overwhelmed the enemy, capturing 22 Germans and taking the objective without casualties.

Vietnam

BONDSTEEL, James L RANK: STAFF SERGEANT (HIGHEST RANK: MASTER SERGEANT) UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY A, 2D BATTALION, 2D INFANTRY, 1ST INFANTRY DIVISION DATE: MAY 24, 1969
PLACE: NEAR THE VILLAGE OF LANG SAU, AN LOC PROVINCE, REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM
CITATION: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. S/Sgt. Bondsteel distinguished himself while serving as a platoon sergeant with Company A, near the village of Lang Sau. Company A was directed to assist a friendly unit which was endangered by intense fire from a North Vietnamese battalion located in a heavily fortified base camp. S/Sgt. Bondsteel quickly organized the men of his platoon into effective combat teams and spearheaded the attack by destroying four enemy- occupied bunkers. He then raced some 200 meters under heavy enemy fire to reach an adjoining platoon which had begun to falter. After rallying this unit and assisting their wounded, S/Sgt. Bondsteel returned to his own sector with critically needed munitions. Without pausing he moved to the forefront and destroyed four enemy-occupied bunkers and a machine gun which had threatened his advancing platoon. Although painfully wounded by an enemy grenade, S/Sgt. Bondsteel refused medical attention and continued his assault by neutralizing two more enemy bunkers nearby. While searching one of these emplacements, S/Sgt. Bondsteel narrowly escaped death when an enemy soldier detonated a grenade at close range. Shortly thereafter, he ran to the aid of a seriously wounded officer and struck down an enemy soldier who was threatening the officer’s life. S/Sgt. Bondsteel then continued to rally his men and lead them through the entrenched enemy until his company was relieved. His exemplary leadership and great personal courage throughout the four-hour battle ensured the success of his own and nearby units, and resulted in the saving of numerous lives of his fellow soldiers. By individual acts of bravery he destroyed 10 enemy bunkers and accounted for a large toll of the enemy, including two key enemy commanders. His extraordinary heroism at the risk of his life was in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon him, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

ROCCO, Louis R RANK: WARRANT OFFICER (RANK AT TIME OF ACTION: SERGEANT FIRST CLASS) UNIT/COMMAND: ADVISORY TEAM 162, U.S. MILITARY ASSISTANCE COMMAND DATE: MAY 24, 1970
MEDAL OF HONOR ACTION PLACE: NORTHEAST OF KATUM, REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM
CITATION: WO Rocco distinguished himself when he volunteered to accompany a medical evacuation team on an urgent mission to evacuate eight critically wounded Army of the Republic of Vietnam personnel. As the helicopter approached the landing zone, it became the target for intense enemy automatic-weapons fire. Disregarding his own safety, WO Rocco identified and placed accurate suppressive fire on the enemy positions as the aircraft descended toward the landing zone. Sustaining major damage from the enemy fire, the aircraft was forced to crash land, causing WO Rocco to sustain a fractured wrist and hip and severely bruised back. Ignoring his injuries, he extracted the survivors from the burning wreckage, sustaining burns to his own body. Despite intense enemy fire, WO Rocco carried each unconscious man across approximately 20 meters of exposed terrain to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam perimeter. On each trip, his severely burned hands and broken wrist caused excruciating pain, but the lives of the unconscious crash survivors were more important than his personal discomfort, and he continued his rescue efforts. Once inside the friendly position, WO Rocco helped administer first aid to his wounded comrades until his wounds and burns caused him to collapse and lose consciousness. His bravery under fire and intense devotion to duty were directly responsible for saving three of his fellow soldiers from certain death. His unparalleled bravery in the face of enemy fire, his complete disregard for his own pain and injuries, and his performance were far above and beyond the call of duty and were in keeping with the highest traditions of self-sacrifice and courage of the military service.

*Asterisk indicates posthumous award.

Published by The Armorer

A grumpy old Cincinnatus who feeds goats, dogs, cats, ducks, peafowl, a horse, and sundry avians, especially in the winter. From time to time you will see guns. Until such time as the Progressives repeal the 2nd Amendment, everything you see is legal, Federal, State, Local, where I live. Your progressive paradise may have different rules. Don't project them onto me. Federalism still exists, even if it is but a shadow of what the Framers intended.

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2 Comments

  1. One wonders if Pvt Mills was able to do what he did simply because it *was* his first day. A bit more seasoning, and he’d have known the risks he was taking.

  2. L’audace, tojours l’audace!

    But, yeah.

    He survived the war, so he either learned what he needed to, or drove his Guardian Angel to a PTSD-fueled breakdown.

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