Today is a rare one for the Medal. There are no posthumous awards. There was a time, during the Vietnam War and earlier, when we actually awarded the Medal to living people. Starting with Somalia and moving forward, however, it seems the unwritten policy is that it’s the Medal of Posthumous Honor, as yesterday’s announcement of the awarding of the Medal to SFC Jared Monti simply reinforces
I simply do not believe that there have been no deserving men or women who managed to survive a Medal-quality action. Since the timeline seems to be 18 months to two years, perhaps we’ll see something percolate up. One can only hope. Of course, we’ve been making awards 40 years after the fact, so there may be some catch-ups later.
[NB: I am pleased to see that with the departure of Secretary of Defense Gates, the “Rumsfeld Rule” of “No one who lives is worthy” has fallen by the wayside. To Secretary Gate’s everlasting shame, in his book, he even acknowledges he thought the approach was wrong, yet he did nothing to change it. Asshat.]
Today’s Medals bracket the history of the Medal – two for an action at Newby’s Crossroads in Virginia in 1863 and one from the war in Vietnam.
The fighting at Newby’s Crossroads was part of the readjustment that occurred after Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg and his withdrawal back into Virginia. This fight was part of the limited counterattacks designed to keep the Army of the Potomac at bay while Lee stabilized the situation. In this case, keeping Custer’s Michigan Cavalry at bay.
HASTINGS, SMITH H.
Rank and organization: Captain, Company M, 5th Michigan Cavalry. Place and date: At Newbys Crossroads, Va., 24 July 1863. Entered service at: ——. Birth: Quincy, Mich. Date of issue: 2 August 1897. Citation: While in command of a squadron in rear guard of a cavalry division, then retiring before the advance of a corps of infantry, was attacked by the enemy and, orders having been given to abandon the guns of a section of field artillery with the rear guard that were in imminent danger of capture, he disregarded the orders received and aided in repelling the attack and saving the guns.
WOODRUFF, CARLE A.
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, 2d U.S. Artillery. Place and date: At Newbys Crossroads, Va., 24 July 1863. Entered service at: Washington, D.C. Born: Buffalo, N.Y. Date of issue: 1 September 1893. Citation: While in command of a section of a battery constituting a portion of the rear guard of a division then retiring before the advance of a corps of Infantry was attacked by the enemy and ordered to abandon his guns. Lt. Woodruff disregarded the orders received and aided in repelling the attack and saving the guns.
PITTMAN, RICHARD A.
Rank and organization: Sergeant (then L/Cpl.), U.S. Marine Corps, Company 1, 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein) FMF. Place and date: near the Demilitarized Zone, Republic of Vietnam, 24 July 1966. Entered service at: Stockton, Calif. Born: 26 May 1945, French Camp, San Joaquin, Calif. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. While Company 1 was conducting an operation along the axis of a narrow jungle trail, the leading company elements suffered numerous casualties when they suddenly came under heavy fire from a well concealed and numerically superior enemy force. Hearing the engaged marines’ calls for more firepower
, Sgt. Pittman quickly exchanged his rifle for a machinegun and several belts of ammunition, left the relative safety of his platoon, and unhesitatingly rushed forward to aid his comrades. Taken under intense enemy small-arms fire at point blank range during his advance, he returned the fire, silencing the enemy position. As Sgt. Pittman continued to forge forward to aid members of the leading platoon, he again came under heavy fire from 2 automatic weapons which he promptly destroyed. Learning that there were additional wounded marines 50 yards further along the trail, he braved a withering hail of enemy mortar and small-arms fire to continue onward. As he reached the position where the leading marines had fallen, he was suddenly confronted with a bold frontal attack by 30 to 40 enemy. Totally disregarding his safety, he calmly established a position in the middle of the trail and raked the advancing enemy with devastating machinegun fire. His weapon rendered ineffective, he picked up an enemy submachinegun and, together with a pistol seized from a fallen comrade, continued his lethal fire until the enemy force had withdrawn. Having exhausted his ammunition except for a grenade which he hurled at the enemy, he then rejoined his platoon. Sgt. Pittman’s daring initiative, bold fighting spirit and selfless devotion to duty inflicted many enemy casualties, disrupted the enemy attack and saved the lives of many of his wounded comrades. His personal valor at grave risk to himself reflects the highest credit upon himself, the Marine Corps, and the U.S. Naval Service.
There are seven Medals awarded for actions on this day. The Medal took a break from the Civil War and didn’t stand to until the War with Spain.
HEARD, JOHN W.
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, 3d U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Mouth of Manimani River, west of Bahia Honda, Cuba, 23 July 1898. Entered service at: Mississippi. Birth: Mississippi. Date of issue: 21 June 1899. Citation: After 2 men had been shot down by Spaniards while transmitting orders to the engine-room on the Wanderer, the ship having become disabled, this officer took the position held by them and personally transmitted the orders, remaining at his post until the ship was out of danger.
The Medal is awarded next during WWI, starting with more sailors getting the Medal for what would now be covered by the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism not involving combat.
BRADLEY, WILLIS WINTER, JR.
Rank and organization: Commander, U.S. Navy. Born: 28 June 1884, Ransomville, N.Y. Appointed from: North Dakota. Citation: For extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty while serving on the U.S.S. Pittsburgh, at the time of an accidental explosion of ammunition on that vessel. On 23 July 1917, some saluting cartridge cases were being reloaded in the after casemate: through an accident an explosion occurred. Comdr. Bradley (then Lieutenant), who was about to enter the casemate, was blown back by the explosion and rendered momentarily unconscious, but while still dazed, crawled into the casemate to extinguish burning materials in dangerous proximity to a considerable amount of powder, thus preventing further explosions.
Rank and organization: Seaman, U.S. Navy. Born: 26 July 1896, Los Animas, Colo. Accredited to: Nebraska. G.O. No.: 366, 1918. Citation: For extraordinary heroism on 23 July 1917, while the U.S.S. Pittsburgh was proceeding to Buenos Aires, Argentina. A 3-inch saluting charge exploded, causing the death of C. T. Lyles, seaman. Upon the explosion, Graves was blown to the deck, but soon recovered and discovered burning waste on the deck. He put out the burning waste while the casemate was filled with clouds of smoke, knowing that there was more powder there which might explode.
Rank and organization: Colonel, 63d Ohio Infantry. Place and date: At Decatur, Ga., 22 July 1862 [Sic] [This date should be 1864 and is incorrect in the official source – The Armorer]. Entered service at: Sandusky, Ohio Born: 4 April 1817, White Creek, N.Y. Date of issue: 18 January 1894. Citation: With a small command defeated an overwhelming force of the enemy and saved the trains of the corps.
Rank and organization: Brigadier General, U.S. Volunteers. Place and date: At Atlanta, Ga., 22 July 1864. Entered service at: Cincinnati, Ohio. Born: Washington, D.C. 17 December 1824. Date of issue: 31 March 1892. Citation: Charged upon the enemy’s works, and after their capture defended his position against assaults of the enemy until he was severely wounded.
HANEY, MILTON L.
Rank and organization: Chaplain, 55th Illinois Infantry. Place and date: At Atlanta, Ga., 22 July 1864. Entered service at: Bushnell, Ill. Birth: Ohio. Date of issue: 3 November 1896. Citation: Voluntarily carried a musket in the ranks of his regiment and rendered heroic service in retaking the Federal works which had been captured by the enemy.
SANCRAINTE, CHARLES F.
Rank and organization: Private, Company B, 15th Michigan Infantry. Place and date: At Atlanta, Ga., 22 July 1864. Entered service at: Monroe, Mich. Born: 1840, Monroe, Mich. Date of issue: 25 July 1892. Citation: Voluntarily scaled the enemy’s breastworks and signaled to his commanding officer in charge; also in single combat captured the colors of the 5th Texas Regiment (C.S.A.).
Per usual, we open with the Civil War – 10 Medals for Bull Run and one for the Atlanta Campaign.
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, 5th U.S. Artillery. Place and date: At Bull Run, Va., 21 July 1861. Entered service at: Rockland, Maine. Birth: East Thomaston, Maine. Date of issue: 22 June 1894. Citation: remained upon the field in command of a section of Griffin’s Battery, directing its fire after being severely wounded and refusing to leave the field until too weak to sit upon the caisson where he had been placed by men of his command.
Rank and organization: Captain, Company K, 4th Pennsylvania Infantry Militia. Place and date. At Bull Run, Va., 21 July 1861. Entered service at:——. Birth: Norristown, Pa. Date of issue: 19 May 1887. Citation: Voluntarily served as an aide on the staff of Col. David Hunter and participated in the battle, his term of service having expired on the previous day.
HARTRANFT, JOHN F.
Rank and organization: Colonel, 4th Pennsylvania Militia. Place and date: At Bull Run, Va., 21 July 1861. Entered service at: Norristown, Pa. Born: 16 December 1830, New Hanover Township, Montgomery County, Pa. Date of issue: 26 August 1886. Citation: Voluntarily served as an aide and participated in the battle after expiration of his term of service, distinguishing himself in rallying several regiments which had been thrown into confusion. Continue reading “Today’s Medal of Honor Moment for 21 July”
We open with the Civil War, the Battle of Peachtree Creek, part of the Atlanta Campaign. A flag capture, a flag rescue, some conspicuous coolness (and he wasn’t even a rock star), some reckless bravery, and a touch of “leave no man behind.”
Rank and organization: Private, Company G, 136th New York Infantry. Place and date: At Peach Tree Creek, Ga., 20 July 1864. Entered service at: Avon, N.Y. Birth: Canada. Date of issue: 7 April 1865. Citation: Capture of flag of 31st Mississippi (C.S.A.).
CROSIER, WILLIAM H. H.
Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company G, 149th New York Infantry. Place and date: At Peach Tree Creek, Ga., 20 July 1864. Entered service at: Skaneateles, N.Y. Birth: Skaneateles, N.Y. Date of issue: 12 January 1892. Citation: Severely wounded and ambushed by the enemy, he stripped the colors from the staff and brought them back into the line.
Rank and organization: Lieutenant Colonel, 104th Illinois Infantry. Place and date: At Peach Tree Creek, Ga., 20 July 1864. Entered service at: Ottawa, Ill. Born: 15 January 1839, Ephratah, Fulton County, N.Y. Date of issue: 5 April 1898. Citation: With conspicuous coolness and bravery rallied his men under a severe attack, re-formed the broken ranks, and repulsed the attack.
Rank and organization: Private, Company K, 14th West Virginia Infantry. Place and date: At Carters Farm, Va., 20 July 1864. Entered service at:——. Birth: Monomgalis County, W.Va. Date of issue: 31 January 1896. Citation: Charged upon a Confederate field-piece in advance of his comrades and by his individual exertions silenced the piece.
WILLIAMS, WILLIAM H.
Rank and organization: Private, Company C, 82d Ohio Infantry. Place and date: At Peach Tree Creek, Ga., 20 July 1864. Entered service at: Miami County, Ohio. Birth: Hancock County, Ohio. Date of issue: 19 June 1894. Citation: Voluntarily went beyond the lines to observe the enemy; also aided a wounded comrade.
This pic was taken after I had been fondling our Gew43 and adding a few bits it had lost over the years – barrel nut, dust cover, cleaning rod, and putting in new (shooter) springs because the originals are, well, tired. It has a matching bolt and receiver, but some anomalies. I’m pretty sure it is a parts gun (and was presented and sold as such) but it’s interesting all the same. A August 1944 Berlin-Lubecker-Maschinenfabrik rifle (DUV ’44) with a ’43 dated stock and barrel. I was skeptical of the stock, as it has been roughly handled by bubba in a fashion typical of people counterfeiting new-made stocks, but found proper marks under the buttplate. Oddly, it has a relatively rare “set trigger” usually reserved for sniper/sharpshooter rifles, yet had the mounting rail for the scope ground off – believed to be a factory-done mod when the rifle didn’t shoot well enough to be a sniper, but was still suitable for issue. Things were getting crazy there that last year of the war, so who knows?
She shoots well enough for me in terms of accuracy, and with new springs probably more reliably, now.
That’s our Springfield Armory BM-59 in the background. Built as a “Parachutist” model with a folding stock, she’s unwieldy and uncomfortable to shoot with her folding stock. Since I no longer jump out of airplanes, I put her in a wood stock for bangsticking, and put her back in her fancy furniture for display.