Today’s Medal of Honor Moment for 20 June

Medal of Honor recipient William J O’Brien. Courtesy the CMOHS.

There are thirty Medals awarded for actions this day, twenty-eight from the China Relief Expedition (see 55 Days at Peking) bookended by a lifesaving award and a hard-dying battalion commander in WWII.

First up – from the Korean Campaign of 1871.  Today this would be awarded as a Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the naval service’s highest award for heroism not involving armed combat.

BENSON, JAMES

Rank and organization: Seaman, U.S. Navy. Born: 1845, Denmark. Enlisted at: Yokohama, Japan. G.O. No.: 180, 10 October 1872. Citation: On board the U.S.S. Ossipee, 20 June 1872. Risking his life, Benson leaped into the sea while the ship was going at a speed of 4 knots and endeavored to save John K. Smith, landsman, of the same vessel, from drowning.

Next up – another campaign most of our visitors don’t know much, if anything about (like the Korean Campaign of 1871), and many, if they do, know it from Charlton Heston and the movie 55 Days At Peking – the China Relief Expedition, an exercise is pretty classic colonial response on the part of Western nations dealing with China at the beginning of the 20th century.

Here’s what the Naval Historical Center has to say about the Expedition [originally linked page now 404s, ed.], since the Medals on this day from the China Relief Expedition are all to men of the naval services.

The origins of anti-Western attitudes in China are difficult to trace, but widespread dislike by the population at large goes back to at least the Opium War between Britain and China (1839-1842). These feelings worsened over the course of the 19th century as Western colonial powers, as well as Russia and Japan, negotiated for, leased, and even seized portions of the Chinese Empire. Following the 1895 Sino-Japanese War, several European powers secured territorial and commercial concessions from China, including the 1897 seizure of Kiaochow and Tsingtao by Imperial Germany. This intervention precipitated a new wave of even bolder efforts to force concessions from China, further exacerbating tensions.

Anti-foreign sentiment resulted in the rapid growth of a Chinese secret society (which had existed for centuries) known as the I Ho Ch’uan (Righteous Harmonious Fists), but referred to by the Westerners as `Boxers.’ The Boxers called for the expulsion of the `foreign devils’ and their Chinese Christian converts. The society stressed the ritualistic use of the martial arts and traditional Chinese weapons. Anti-foreign incidents, including the burning of homes and businesses, increased dramatically in 1898 and 1899, and was primarily directed at Chinese Christians. The number of killings by the Boxers continued to grow, and on 30 December 1899 included a British missionary. Western governments lodged strong protests with the Chinese Dowager Empress, Tzu Hsi. She responded on 11 January 1900, with a declaration that the Boxers represented a segment of Chinese society, and should not be labeled a criminal organization. Her unenthusiastic support for the Chinese Army’s attempts at quelling the violence and the influence of Boxer sympathizers at the Imperial court, led Western governments to deploy military forces on the Chinese coast to protect their citizens and interests.

By spring 1900, Boxer violence was virtually unchecked by Chinese authorities. On 30 May, the foreign ministers at Peking (today known as Beijing, but at the time referred to as Pekin) called for troops to protect the legations at Peking. Four hundred and thirty Sailors and Marines (including fifty-six Americans from USS Oregon and USS Newark) from eight countries arrived at the legations on 31 May and 4 June. On 9 June, the Boxers began attacking foreign property in Peking, and the senior foreign minister, Great Britain’s Sir Claude MacDonald, requested a sizable relief force just before the telegraph lines were cut.

The first attempt to relieve the foreign legations at Peking consisted of over 2,100 men (mostly Sailors and Marines) from Great Britain, Germany, Russia, France, the United States, Japan, Italy, and Austria. The allied force departed the city of Tientsin on 10 June, under the command of British Admiral Sir Edward Seymour. However, strong Boxer and Imperial Chinese opposition forced Seymour to return his battered column to Tientsin on 22 June. The allied powers worked to assemble a stronger force, and on 5 August 1900, it departed Tientsin with 20,000 men, including 2,000 Americans (over 500 of these were U.S. Navy Sailors and Marines). After fighting two major battles against huge Chinese forces, the relief force reached the foreign legations at Peking on 14 August.

Over the next several months, the forces of the Western powers and Japan in China continued to grow. They completed their occupation of Peking and spread out into the countryside of northern China, breaking up concentrations of Boxers. On 1 February 1901, the Chinese authorities agreed to abolish the Boxer Society, and on 7 September signed the Peace Protocol of Peking with the allied nations, officially ending the Boxer Rebellion.

China suffered a devastating blow to her prestige and power, which allowed foreign nations to consolidate their interests and previous territorial gains. The weakened Chinese state could not interfere in the war (1904-1905) between Russia and Japan that secured Japanese dominance in the Far East.

The United States was able to play a significant role in suppressing the Boxer Rebellion because of the large number of American ships and troops deployed in the Philippines as a result of the US conquest of the islands during the Spanish American War (1898) and subsequent Philippine insurgent activity. In the minds of many American leaders, the Boxer Rebellion reinforced the need to retain control of the Philippines and to maintain a strong presence in the Far East.

Just about everyone is credited with having served on the USS Newark.

We’ll see Cox’n McCloy again in 1914 at Vera Cruz. He’s one of the double-awardees.

APPLETON, Edwin N. RANK: CORPORAL (HIGHEST RANK: CAPTAIN U.S.A.) UNIT/COMMAND: CAPT. NEWT H. HALL’S MARINE DETACHMENT, U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20, 1900 PLACE: TIENTSIN, CHINA
CITATION: In action against the enemy at Tientsin, China, 20 June 1900. Crossing the river in a small boat while under heavy enemy fire, Appleton assisted in destroying buildings occupied by the enemy.

BURNES, James RANK: PRIVATE UNIT/COMMAND: CAPT. NEWT H. HALL’S MARINE DETACHMENT, U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20, 1900 PLACE: TIENTSIN, CHINA
CITATION: In action against the enemy at Tientsin, China, 20 June 1900. Crossing the river in a small boat with three other men while under a heavy fire from the enemy, Burnes assisted in destroying buildings occupied by hostile forces.

CHATHAM John P RANK: GUNNER’S MATE SECOND CLASS UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20 – 22, 1900 PLACE: CHINA
CITATION: In action with the relief expedition of the Allied forces in China, 13, 20, 21, and 22 June 1900. During this period and in the presence of the enemy, Chatham distinguished himself by his conduct.

CLANCY, Joseph RANK: CHIEF BOATSWAIN’S MATE (HIGHEST RANK: LIEUTENANT) UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20 – 22, 1900 PLACE: CHINA
CITATION: In action with the relief expedition of the Allied forces in China, 13, 20, 21, and 22 June 1900. During this period and in the presence of the enemy, Clancy distinguished himself by his conduct.

*FISHER, Harry ALSO KNOWN AS: PHILLIPS, FRANKLIN J. RANK: PRIVATE DATE: JUNE 20 – JULY 16, 1900 PLACE: PEKING, CHINA
CITATION: Served in the presence of the enemy at the battle of Peking, China, 20 June to 16 July 1900. Assisting in the erection of barricades during the action, Fisher was killed by the heavy fire of the enemy.

HAMBERGER, William F RANK: CHIEF CARPENTER’S MATE (HIGHEST RANK: LIEUTENANT COMMANDER) UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20 – 22, 1900 PLACE: CHINA
CITATION: Fighting with the relief expedition of the Allied forces on 13, 20, 21, and 22 June 1900, Hamberger distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

HANFORD, Burke RANK: MACHINIST FIRST CLASS (HIGHEST RANK: CHIEF MACHINIST) UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20 – 22, 1900 PLACE: CHINA
CITATION: Served with the relief expedition of the Allied forces in China on 13, 20, 21, and 22 June 1900. In the presence of the enemy during this period, Hanford distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

HANSEN, Hans A RANK: SEAMAN UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20 – 22, 1900 PLACE: CHINA
CITATION: Served with the relief expedition of the Allied forces in China on 13, 20, 21, and 22 June 1900. In the presence of the enemy during this period, Hansen distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

HEISCH, Henry W. RANK: PRIVATE UNIT/COMMAND: CAPT. NEWT H. HALL’S MARINE DETACHMENT, U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20, 1900 PLACE: TIENTSIN, CHINA
CITATION: In action against the enemy at Tientsin, China, 20 June 1900. Crossing the river in a small boat while under heavy fire, Heisch assisted in destroying buildings occupied by the enemy.

HOLYOKE, William E. RANK: BOATSWAIN’S MATE FIRST CLASS UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20 – 22, 1900 PLACE: CHINA
CITATION: In action with the relief expedition of the Allied forces in China, 13, 20, 21, and 22 June 1900. During this period and in the presence of the enemy, Holyoke distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

HUNT, Martin RANK: PRIVATE (HIGHEST RANK: CORPORAL) DATE: JUNE 20 – JULY 16, 1900 PLACE: PEKING, CHINA
CITATION: In the presence of the enemy during the battle of Peking, China, 20 June to 16 July 1900, Hunt distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

KILLACKEY, Joseph RANK: LANDSMAN (HIGHEST RANK: GUNNER’S MATE THIRD CLASS) UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20 – 22, 1900 PLACE: CHINA
CITATION: In action with the relief expedition of the Allied forces in China, 13, 20, 21, and 22 June 1900. During this period and in the presence of the enemy, Killackey distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

MCALLISTER, Samuel RANK: ORDINARY SEAMAN UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20, 1900 PLACE: TIENTSIN, CHINA
CITATION: In action against the enemy at Tientsin, China, 20 June 1900. Crossing the river in a small boat while under heavy enemy fire, McAllister assisted in destroying buildings occupied by the enemy.

MCCLOY, John RANK: COXSWAIN (HIGHEST RANK: LIEUTENANT COMMANDER) UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20 – 22, 1900 PLACE: WU-TSING-HUNE AND NEAR PEH-TSANG, CHINA
CITATION: First Award: In action with the relief expedition of the Allied forces in China, 13, 20, 21 and 22 June 1900. During this period and in the presence of the enemy, Coxswain McCloy distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

ORNDOFF, Harry W RANK: PRIVATE UNIT/COMMAND: CAPT. NEWT H. HALL’S MARINE DETACHMENT, U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20 – 22, 1900 PLACE: CHINA
CITATION: In action with the relief expedition of the Allied forces in China, 13, 20, 21, and 22 June 1900. During this period and in the presence of the enemy, Orndoff distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

REUBEN Jasper P RANK: CORPORAL (HIGHEST RANK: SERGEANT) UNIT/COMMAND: CAPT. NEWT H. HALL’S MARINE DETACHMENT, U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20 – 22, 1900 PLACE: CHINA
CITATION: In action with the relief expedition of the Allied forces in China during the battles of 13, 20, 21, and 22 June 1900. Throughout this period and in the presence of the enemy, Phillips distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

[N.B. I have no idea why this citation is verbose in comparison. ed.]
ROSE, George h RANK: SEAMAN (HIGHEST RANK: LIEUTENANT COMMANDER) UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20 – 22, 1900 PLACE: PEKING, CHINA
CITATION: In the presence of the enemy during the battles at Peking, China, 13, 20, 21, and 22 June 1900. Throughout this period, Rose distinguished himself by meritorious conduct. While stationed as a crewmember of the U.S.S. Newark, he was part of its landing force that went ashore off Taku, China. On 31 May 1900, he was in a party of six under John McCloy (MH) which took ammunition from the Newark to Tientsin. On 10 June 1900, he was one of a party that carried dispatches from LaFa to Yongstsum at night. On the 13th, he was one of a few who fought off a large force of the enemy, saving the main baggage train from destruction. On the 20th and 21st he was engaged in heavy fighting against the Imperial Army, being always in the first rank. On the 22d he showed gallantry in the capture of the Siku Arsenal. He volunteered to go to the nearby village which was occupied by the enemy to secure medical supplies urgently required. The party brought back the supplies carried by newly taken prisoners.

RYAN, Francis T ALSO KNOWN AS: GALLAGHER, FRANK RANK: COXSWAIN (HIGHEST RANK: SHIP’S COOK FIRST CLASS RETIRED) UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20 – 22, 1900 PLACE: CHINA
CITATION: In action with the relief expediton of the Allied forces in China during the battles of 13, 20 21, and 22 June 1900. Throughout this period and in the presence of the enemy, Ryan distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

SEACH, William RANK: ORDINARY SEAMAN (HIGHEST RANK: LIEUTENANT) UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20 – 22, 1900 PLACE: CHINA
CITATION: In action with the relief expedition of the Allied forces in China during the battles of 13, 20, 21, and 22 June 1900. June 13: Seach and six others were cited for their courage in repulsing an attack by 300 Chinese Imperialist soldiers and Boxer militants with a bayonet charge, thus thwarting a planned massive attack on the entire force. June 20: During a day-long battle, Seach ran across an open clearing, gained cover, and cleaned out nests of Chinese snipers. June 21: During a surprise saber attack by Chinese cavalrymen, Seach was cited for defending gun emplacements. June 22: Seach and others breached the wall of a Chinese fort, fought their way to the enemy’s guns, and turned the cannon upon the defenders of the fort. Throughout this period and in the presence of the enemy, Seach distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

SMITH, Frank E. RANK: Oiler UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20 – 22, 1900 PLACE: CHINA
CITATION: In action with the relief expedition of the Allied forces in China during the battles of 13, 20, 21, and 22 June 1900. Throughout this period and in the presence of the enemy, Smith distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

SMITH, James A RANK: LANDSMAN UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20 – 22, 1900 PLACE: NEAR TIENTSIN, CHINA
CITATION: In action with the relief expedition of the Allied forces in China during the battles of 13, 20, 21, and 22 June 1900. Throughout this period and in the presence of the enemy, Smith distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

STANLEY, Robert H RANK: HOSPITAL APPRENTICE (HIGHEST RANK: CHIEF PHARMACIST) UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20 – 22, 1900 PLACE: PEKING, CHINA
CITATION: For distinguished conduct in the presence of the enemy in volunteering and carrying messages under fire at Peking, China, 12 July 1900.

STEWART, Peter RANK: GUNNERY SERGEANT UNIT/COMMAND: CAPT. NEWT H. HALL’S MARINE DETACHMENT, U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20 – 22, 1900 PLACE: CHINA
CITATION: In action with the relief expedition of the Allied forces in China during the battles of 13, 20, 21, and 22 June 1900. Throughout this period and in the presence of the enemy, Stewart distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

THOMAS, Karl RANK: COXSWAIN UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20 – 22, 1900 PLACE: CHINA
CITATION: In action with the relief expedition of the Allied forces in China, 13, 20, 21, and 22 June 1900. During this period and in the presence of the enemy, Thomas distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

TORGERSON, Martin T RANK: GUNNER’S MATE THIRD CLASS UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20 – 22, 1900 PLACE: CHINA
CITATION: In action with the relief expedition of the Allied forces in China, 13, 20, 21, and 22 June 1900. During this period and in the presence of the enemy, Torgerson distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

WALKER, Edward A. RANK: SERGEANT DATE: JUNE 20 – JULY 16, 1900 PLACE: PEKING, CHINA
CITATION: In the presence of the enemy during the battle of Peking, China, 20 June to 16 July 1900. Throughout this period, Walker distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

WILLIAMS. Jay P RANK: COXSWAIN UNIT/COMMAND: U.S.S. NEWARK DATE: JUNE 20 – 22, 1900 PLACE: CHINA
CITATION: In action with the relief expedition of the Allied forces in China, 13, 20, 21, and 22 June 1900. During this period and in the presence of the enemy, Williams distinguished himself by meritiorious conduct.

YOUNG, Frank A RANK: PRIVATE (HIGHEST RANK: SERGEANT MAJOR) DATE: JUNE 20 – JULY 16, 1900 PLACE: PEKING, CHINA
CITATION: In the presence of the enemy during the battle of Peking, China, 20 June to 16 July 1900. Throughout this period, Young distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

A retired Colonel of Infantry who is a friend of mine provided this commentary on the Medal during  the Boxer Rebellion – especially the differences and quirks of the respective services:

It’s interesting to read American accounts of the Boxer Rebellion. The Navy and War Department were completely separate and showed signs of not liking one another much. The Navy accounts of actions in China do not come close to matching the Army accounts

Kup Priligy bez recepty w Warszawie

, mostly by convenient ommission of the other’s contributions. So it’s hard to reconcile and you learn to take it all with a very large grain of salt. One point that comes across quite strikingly is that the Medal of Honor in the Navy and the Medal of Honor in the Army were two very different decorations with very different standards.

These figures should only be regards as approximate, but close enough to illustrate the point.Troops engaged

Navy – several hundred
Marine – 295
Army – 3,130

Casualties

Navy – 4 KIA, 26 WIA
Marine – 9 KIA, 17 WIA
Army – 30 KIA, 143 WIA

Medals of Honor

Navy – 19
Marine – 30
Army – 4

Also of note is that the Medal of Honor could not be awarded to Marine officers at that time. They could receive the Marine Corps Brevet Medal which was considered the equivilent officer award. Several were awarded for actions in China.

The Medal takes a breather, and surfaces again in WWII, on Saipan.

*O’BRIEN, William J RANK: LIEUTENANT COLONEL UNIT/COMMAND: 1ST BATTALION, 105TH INFANTRY, 27TH INFANTRY DIVISION DATE: JUNE 20 – JULY 7, 1944 PLACE: SAIPAN, MARIANAS ISLANDS
CITATION: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty at Saipan, Marianas Islands, from 20 June through 7 July 1944. When assault elements of his platoon were held up by intense enemy fire, Lt. Col. O’Brien ordered three tanks to precede the assault companies in an attempt to knock out the strongpoint. Due to direct enemy fire the tanks’ turrets were closed, causing the tanks to lose direction and to fire into our own troops. Lt. Col. O’Brien, with complete disregard for his own safety, dashed into full view of the enemy and ran to the leader’s tank and pounded on the tank with his pistol butt to attract two of the tank’s crew and, mounting the tank fully exposed to the enemy fire, Lt. Col. O’Brien personally directed the assault until the enemy strongpoint had been liquidated. On 28 June 1944, while his platoon was attempting to take a bitterly defended high ridge in the vicinity of Donnay, Lt. Col. O’Brien arranged to capture the ridge by a double envelopment movement of two large combat battalions. He personally took control of the maneuver. Lt. Col. O’Brien crossed 1,200 yards of sniper- infested underbrush alone to arrive at a point where one of his platoons was being held up by the enemy. Leaving some men to contain the enemy, he personally led four men into a narrow ravine behind, and killed or drove off all the Japanese manning that strongpoint. In this action he captured five machine guns and one 77-mm fieldpiece. Lt. Col. O’Brien then organized the two platoons for night defense and against repeated counterattacks directed them. Meanwhile he managed to hold ground. On 7 July 1944 his battalion and another battalion were attacked by an overwhelming enemy force estimated at between 3,000 and 5,000 Japanese. With bloody hand-to-hand fighting in progress everywhere, their forward positions were finally overrun by the sheer weight of the enemy numbers. With many casualties and ammunition running low, Lt. Col. O’Brien refused to leave the front lines. Striding up and down the lines, he fired at the enemy with a pistol in each hand and his presence there bolstered the spirits of the men, encouraged them in their fight, and sustained them in their heroic stand. Even after he was seriously wounded, Lt. Col. O’Brien refused to be evacuated and after his pistol ammunition was exhausted, he manned a .50-caliber machine gun, mounted on a jeep, and continued firing. When last seen alive he was standing upright firing into the Jap hordes that were enveloping him. Some time later his body was found surrounded by enemy he had killed. His valor was consistent with the highest traditions of the service.

*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.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.