Today’s Medal of Honor Moment for 26 May

There are six Medals for this day.  The Civil War, WWII, and Afghanistan.

Medal of Honor recipient Joe P Martinez, who earned the only non-Pearl Harbor Medal on US soil during WWII. Courtesy the CMOHS

Civil War

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.

Commander Dealey was a hell of a submariner.

*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.

From an eyewitness account:

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.

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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