Today’s Medal of Honor Moment for 31 May

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.

Medal of Honor Recipient William R Shafter, courtesy the CMOHS.

Civil War

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.

WWII

*SMITH, Furman L RANK: PRIVATE UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY L, 135TH INFANTRY, 34TH INFANTRY DIVISION DATE: MAY 31, 1944 PLACE: NEAR LANUVIO, ITALY
CITATION: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. In its attack on a strongpoint, an infantry company was held up by intense enemy fire. The group to which Pvt. Smith belonged was far in the lead when attacked by a force of 80 Germans. The squad leader and one other man were seriously wounded and other members of the group withdrew to the company position, but Pvt. Smith refused to leave his wounded comrades. He placed them in the shelter of shell craters and then alone faced a strong enemy counterattack, temporarily checking it by his accurate rifle fire at close range, killing and wounding many of the foe. Against overwhelming odds, he stood his ground until shot down and killed, rifle in hand.

CRAFT, Clarence C RANK: PRIVATE FIRST CLASS (HIGHEST RANK: Sergeant First Class) UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY G, 2D BATTALION, 382D INFANTRY, 96TH INFANTRY DIVISION
DATE: MAY 31, 1945 PLACE: HEN HILL, OKINAWA, RYUKYU ISLANDS
CITATION: He was a rifleman when his platoon spearheaded an attack on Hen Hill, the tactical position on which the entire Naha-Shuri-Yonaburu line of Japanese defense on Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands, was hinged. For 12 days our forces had been stalled, and repeated, heavy assaults by one battalion and then another had been thrown back by the enemy with serious casualties. With five comrades, Pfc. Craft was dispatched in advance of Company G to feel out the enemy resistance. The group had proceeded only a short distance up the slope when rifle and machine-gun fire, coupled with a terrific barrage of grenades, wounded three and pinned down the others. Against odds that appeared suicidal, Pfc. Craft launched a remarkable one-man attack. He stood up in full view of the enemy and began shooting with deadly marksmanship wherever he saw a hostile movement. He steadily advanced up the hill, killing Japanese soldiers with rapid fire, driving others to cover in their strongly disposed trenches, unhesitatingly facing alone the strength that had previously beaten back attacks in battalion strength. He reached the crest of the hill, where he stood silhouetted against the sky while quickly throwing grenades at extremely short range into the enemy positions. His extraordinary assault lifted the pressure from his company for the moment, allowing members of his platoon to comply with his motions to advance and pass him more grenades. With a chain of his comrades supplying him while he stood atop the hill, he furiously hurled a total of two cases of grenades into a main trench and other positions on the reverse slope of Hen Hill, meanwhile directing the aim of his fellow soldiers who threw grenades from the slope below him. He left his position, where grenades from both sides were passing over his head and bursting on either slope, to attack the main enemy trench as confusion and panic seized the defenders. Straddling the excavation, he pumped rifle fire into the Japanese at point-blank range, killing many and causing the others to flee down the trench. Pursuing them, he came upon a heavy machine gun which was still creating havoc in the American ranks. With rifle fire and a grenade he wiped out this position. By this time the Japanese were in complete rout and American forces were swarming over the hill. Pfc. Craft continued down the central trench to the mouth of a cave where many of the enemy had taken cover. A satchel charge was brought to him, and he tossed it into the cave. It failed to explode. With great daring, the intrepid fighter retrieved the charge from the cave, relighted the fuse, and threw it back, sealing up the Japs in a tomb. In the local action, against tremendously superior forces heavily armed with rifles, machine guns, mortars, and grenades, Pfc. Craft killed at least 25 of the enemy; but his contribution to the campaign on Okinawa was of much more far-reaching consequence, for Hen Hill was the key to the entire defense line, which rapidly crumbled after his utterly fearless and heroic attack.

Clarence stayed in the Army, and fought in Korea, leaving the service as a Sergeant First Class. He went to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he logged over 9000 hours of volunteer time helping fellow veterans at the Fayetteville VA center. He passed in 2002 at age 80, and is buried in the Fayetteville National Cemtery, and has a Post Office named for him.

At the Castle, we have a connection, of sorts. We hold a Japanese Type 99 rifle, captured on Okinawa by Corporal Frank Huggins, then serving in the 383rd Infantry Regiment of the 96th Infantry Division.

Korea – You can sometimes date/identify services from the citations. The Marines love the (inaccurate) phrase “He gallantly gave his life for his country” when they really mean buddies, and the Korean War citations are full of “ruthless” and “numerically superior/overwhelming fanatical hostile forces”. Rarely “enemy” forces. Regardless, Corporal Hernandez thankfully survived his fight, while rather a lot of the ruthless and fanatical numerically superior opponents did not.

HERNANDEZ, Rodolfo P RANK: CORPORAL UNIT/COMMAND: 3D SQUAD, 3D PLATOON, COMPANY G, 2D BATTALION, 187TH AIRBORNE REGIMENTAL COMBAT TEAM
DATE: MAY 31, 1951 PLACE: NEAR WONTONG-NI, KOREA
CITATION: Cpl. Hernandez, a member of Company G, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. His platoon, in defensive positions on Hill 420, came under ruthless attack by a numerically superior and fanatical hostile force, accompanied by heavy artillery, mortar, and machine-gun fire which inflicted numerous casualties on the platoon. His comrades were forced to withdraw due to lack of ammunition, but Cpl. Hernandez, although wounded in an exchange of grenades, continued to deliver deadly fire into the ranks of the onrushing assailants until a ruptured cartridge rendered his rifle inoperative. Immediately leaving his position, Cpl. Hernandez rushed the enemy armed only with rifle and bayonet. Fearlessly engaging the foe, he killed six of the enemy before falling unconscious from grenade, bayonet, and bullet wounds, but his heroic action momentarily halted the enemy advance and enabled his unit to counterattack and retake the lost ground. The indomitable fighting spirit, outstanding courage, and tenacious devotion to duty clearly demonstrated by Cpl. Hernandez reflect the highest credit upon himself, the infantry, and the U.S. Army.

*Asterisk indicates a 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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