There are seven Medals awarded for actions on this day. As is common in the Modern Era of the Medal, the absence of Civil War, Indian Campaign, Span-Am and lifesaving awards can dramatically change the ratio of living to posthumous recipients. Prior to WWI, it was unusual, though it happened, to award Medals to people who died during their Medal actions. Today, six of our seven recipients died earning the Medal, and two had to wait more than 50 years to be recognized. I rather like Sergeant Kobashigawa’s attitude.
WWII – It was a tough day during the Italian Campaign.
*CHRISTIAN, Herbert F RANK: PRIVATE UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY E, 15TH INFANTRY, 3D INFANTRY DIVISION DATE: JUNE 2 – 3, 1944 PLACE: NEAR VALMONTONE, ITALY
CITATION: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. On 2-3 June 1944, at 1:00 A.M., Pvt. Christian elected to sacrifice his life in order that his comrades might extricate themselves from an ambush. Braving massed fire of about 60 riflemen, three machine guns, and three tanks from positions only 30 yards distant, he stood erect and signaled to the patrol to withdraw. The whole area was brightly illuminated by enemy flares. Although his right leg was severed above the knee by cannon fire, Pvt. Christian advanced on his left knee and the bloody stump of his right thigh, firing his submachine gun. Despite excruciating pain, Pvt. Christian continued on his self-assigned mission. He succeeded in distracting the enemy and enabled his 12 comrades to escape. He killed three enemy soldiers almost at once. Leaving a trail of blood behind him, he made his way forward 20 yards, halted at a point within 10 yards of the enemy, and despite intense fire killed a machine-pistol man. Reloading his weapon, he fired directly into the enemy position. The enemy appeared enraged at the success of his ruse, concentrated 20-mm machine-gun, machine-pistol and rifle fire on him, yet he refused to seek cover. Maintaining his erect position, Pvt. Christian fired his weapon to the very last. Just as he emptied his submachine gun, the enemy bullets found their mark and Pvt. Christian slumped forward dead. The courage and spirit of self-sacrifice displayed by this soldier were an inspiration to his comrades and are keeping with the highest traditions of the Armed Forces.
KOBASHIGAWA, Yeiki RANK: TECHNICAL SERGEANT UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY B, 100TH INFANTRY BATTALION (SEPARATE) DATE: JUNE 2, 1944 PLACE: IN THE VICINITY OF LANUVIO, ITALY
Citation: Technical Sergeant Yeiki Kobashigawa distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 2 June 1944, in the vicinity of Lanuvio, Italy. During an attack, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa’s platoon encountered strong enemy resistance from a series of machine guns providing supporting fire. Observing a machine gun nest 50 yards from his position, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa crawled forward with one of his men, threw a grenade and then charged the enemy with his submachine gun while a fellow soldier provided covering fire. He killed one enemy soldier and captured two prisoners. Meanwhile, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa and his comrade were fired upon by another machine gun 50 yards ahead. Directing a squad to advance to his first position, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa again moved forward with a fellow soldier to subdue the second machine gun nest. After throwing grenades into the position, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa provided close supporting fire while a fellow soldier charged, capturing four prisoners. On the alert for other machine gun nests, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa discovered four more, and skillfully led a squad in neutralizing two of them. Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.
I rather suspect I would have liked Sergeant (later Lieutenant) Kobashigawa. One of the 22 Asian-Americans who had wartime decorations reviewed and upgraded, he took a measured view of things as his son relates his father’s telephone chat with the Secretary of the Army when speaking to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin after his father’s passing:
His father told the then Secretary of the Army, “It’s so long ago, just send it in the mail,” Merle Kobashigawa said.
Kobashigawa was a member of the storied 100th Infantry battalion, of the famous 442nd Infantry Regiment, the Nisei unit which was assigned to 34th Infantry Division, the Red Bulls, in the Italian Campaign during WWII. The 100th has the distinction of being the only combat arms unit left in the Army Reserve. After the first Gulf War all the combat units (vice combat support and combat service support) in the Reserve were dis-established as a part of the post-Cold War reorganization of the Army. The only exception was the 100th, due to it’s unique and medal-bedecked history – which Yeiki Kobashigawa helped write.
But Kobashigawa was not alone in writing that history. On that day, in the same general fight, Private Shinyei Yakamine was doing his bit to make the 100th’s reputation shine – though he, too, was recognized belatedly, as a part of the 22 men whose awards were upgraded in 2000. Private Yakamine never knew of the controversy, as he was killed in another fight shortly after the one that earned him the Medal of Honor.
*NAKAMINE, Shinyei RANK: PRIVATE UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY B, 100TH INFANTRY BATTALION (SEPARATE) DATE: JUNE 2, 1944 PLACE: NEAR LA TORRETO, ITALY
Citation: Private Shinyei Nakamine distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 2 June 1944, near La Torreto, Italy. During an attack, Private Nakamine’s platoon became pinned down by intense machine gun crossfire from a small knoll 200 yards to the front. On his own initiative, Private Nakamine crawled toward one of the hostile weapons. Reaching a point 25 yards from the enemy, he charged the machine gun nest, firing his submachine gun, and killed three enemy soldiers and captured two. Later that afternoon, Private Nakamine discovered an enemy soldier on the right flank of his platoon’s position. Crawling 25 yards from his position, Private Nakamine opened fire and killed the soldier. Then, seeing a machine gun nest to his front approximately 75 yards away, he returned to his platoon and led an automatic rifle team toward the enemy. Under covering fire from his team, Private Nakamine crawled to a point 25 yards from the nest and threw hand grenades at the enemy soldiers, wounding one and capturing four. Spotting another machine gun nest 100 yards to his right flank, he led the automatic rifle team toward the hostile position but was killed by a burst of machine gun fire. Private Nakamine’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.
Korea. Another day, another Chinese offensive, and another UN Counteroffensive…
*CHARLTON, Cornelius H RANK: SERGEANT UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY C, 24TH INFANTRY REGIMENT, 25TH INFANTRY DIVISION DATE: JUNE 2, 1951 PLACE: CHIPO-RI, KOREA
CITATION: Sgt. Charlton, a member of Company C, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. His platoon was attacking heavily defended hostile positions on commanding ground when the leader was wounded and evacuated. Sgt. Charlton assumed command, rallied the men, and spearheaded the assault against the hill. Personally eliminating two hostile positions and killing six of the enemy with his rifle fire and grenades, he continued up the slope until the unit suffered heavy casualties and became pinned down. Regrouping the men, he led them forward only to be again hurled back by a shower of grenades. Despite a severe chest wound, Sgt. Charlton refused medical attention and led a third daring charge which carried to the crest of the ridge. Observing that the remaining emplacement which had retarded the advance was situated on the reverse slope, he charged it alone, was again hit by a grenade but raked the position with a devastating fire which eliminated it and routed the defenders. The wounds received during his daring exploits resulted in his death, but his indomitable courage, superb leadership, and gallant self-sacrifice reflect the highest credit upon himself, the infantry, and the military service.
Vietnam Three fighters, fighting for their comrades.
*GRAHAM, James A RANK: CAPTAIN UNIT/COMMAND: COMPANY F, 2D BATTALION, 5TH MARINES, 1ST MARINE DIVISION (REIN) FMF DATE: JUNE 2, 1967 PLACE: QUANG TIN PROVINCE, REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM
CITATION: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. During Operation Union II, the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, consisting of Companies A and D, with Capt. Graham’s company attached, launched an attack against an enemy-occupied position with two companies assaulting and one in reserve. Company F, a leading company, was proceeding across a clear paddy area 1,000 meters wide, attacking toward the assigned objective, when it came under fire from mortars and small arms which immediately inflicted a large number of casualties. Hardest hit by the enemy fire was the 2d platoon of Company F, which was pinned down in the open paddy area by intense fire from two concealed machine guns. Forming an assault unit from members of his small company headquarters, Capt. Graham boldly led a fierce assault through the second platoon’s position, forcing the enemy to abandon the first machine-gun position, thereby relieving some of the pressure on his second platoon, and enabling evacuation of the wounded to a more secure area. Resolute to silence the second machine gun, which continued its devastating fire, Capt. Graham’s small force stood steadfast in its hard-won enclave. Subsequently, during the afternoon’s fierce fighting, he suffered two minor wounds while personally accounting for an estimated 15 enemy killed. With the enemy position remaining invincible upon each attempt to withdraw to friendly lines, and although knowing that he had no chance of survival, he chose to remain with one man who could not be moved due to the seriousness of his wounds. The last radio transmission from Capt. Graham reported that he was being assaulted by a force of 25 enemy soldiers; he died while protecting himself and the wounded man he chose not to abandon. Capt. Graham’s actions throughout the day were a series of heroic achievements. His outstanding courage, superb leadership, and indomitable fighting spirit undoubtedly saved the second platoon from annihilation and reflected great credit upon himself, the Marine Corps, and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
*LAPOINTE JR., Joseph G RANK: SPECIALIST FOURTH CLASS UNIT/COMMAND: HEADQUARTERS & HEADQUARTERS TROOP, 2D SQUADRON, 17TH CAVALRY, 101ST AIRBORNE DIVISION
DATE: JUNE 2, 1969 PLACE: QUANG TIN 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. Sp4c. LaPointe, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2d Squadron, distinguished himself while serving as a medical aidman during a combat helicopter assault mission. Sp4c. LaPointe’s patrol was advancing from the landing zone through an adjoining valley when it suddenly encountered heavy automatic-weapons fire from a large enemy force entrenched in well-fortified bunker positions. In the initial hail of fire, two soldiers in the formation vanguard were seriously wounded. Hearing a call for aid from one of the wounded, Sp4c. LaPointe ran forward through heavy fire to assist his fallen comrades. To reach the wounded men, he was forced to crawl directly in view of an enemy bunker. As members of his unit attempted to provide covering fire, he administered first aid to one man, shielding the other with his body. He was hit by a burst of fire from the bunker while attending the wounded soldier. In spite of his painful wounds, Sp4c. LaPointe continued his lifesaving duties until he was again wounded and knocked to the ground. Making strenuous efforts, he moved back again into a shielding position to continue administering first aid. An exploding enemy grenade mortally wounded all three men. Sp4c. LaPointe’s courageous actions at the cost of his life were an inspiration to his comrades. His gallantry and selflessness are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
*POXON, Robert L RANK: FIRST LIEUTENANT UNIT/COMMAND: TROOP B, 1ST SQUADRON, 9TH CAVALRY, 1ST CAVALRY DIVISION DATE: JUNE 2, 1969 PLACE: TAY NINH 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. 1st Lt. Poxon, Armor, Troop B, distinguished himself while serving as a platoon leader on a reconnaissance mission. Landing by helicopter in a area suspected of being occupied by the enemy, the platoon came under intense fire from enemy soldiers in concealed positions and fortifications around the landing zone. A soldier fell, hit by the first burst of fire. 1st Lt. Poxon dashed to his aid, drawing the majority of the enemy fire as he crossed 20 meters of open ground. The fallen soldier was beyond help and 1st Lt. Poxon was seriously and painfully wounded. 1st Lt. Poxon, with indomitable courage, refused medical aid and evacuation and turned his attention to seizing the initiative from the enemy. With sure instinct he marked a central enemy bunker as the key to success. Quickly instructing his men to concentrate their fire on the bunker, and in spite of his wound, 1st Lt. Poxon crawled toward the bunker, readied a hand grenade, and charged. He was hit again but continued his assault. After succeeding in silencing the enemy guns in the bunker he was struck once again by enemy fire and fell, mortally wounded. 1st Lt. Poxon’s comrades followed their leader, pressed the attack, and drove the enemy from their positions. 1st Lt. Poxon’s gallantry, indomitable will, and courage are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
*Indicates a posthumous award.