When I finished this year-long series for the first time, back in 2010, there were no Medals awarded for actions on solely 8 August. In 2012, that changed.
GROBERG, FLORENT A
Rank and Organization: Captain, Personal Security Detachment Commander, Task Force Mountain Warrior, 4th Inf Bde Combat Team, 4th ID. Place and Date: 8 August 2012, Asadabad, Afghanistan.
Citation: Captain Florent A. Groberg distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Personal Security Detachment Commander for Task Force Mountain Warrior, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, during combat operations against an armed enemy in Asadbad, Kunar Province, Afghanistan on August 8, 2012. On that day, Captain Groberg was leading a dismounted movement consisting of several senior leaders to include two brigade commanders, two battalion commanders, two command sergeants major, and an Afghanistan National Army brigade commander. As they approached the Provincial Governor’s compound, Captain Groberg observed an individual walking close to the formation. When the individual made an abrupt turn towards the formation, he noticed an abnormal bulge underneath the individual’s clothing. Selflessly placing himself in front of one of the brigade commanders, Captain Groberg rushed forward, using his body to push the suspect away from the formation. Simultaneously, he ordered another member of the security detail to assist with removing the suspect. At this time, Captain Groberg confirmed the bulge was a suicide vest and with complete disregard for his life, Captain Groberg again with the assistance of the other member of the security detail, physically pushed the suicide bomber away from the formation. Upon falling, the suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest outside the perimeter of the formation, killing four members of the formation and wounding numerous others. The blast from the first suicide bomber caused the suicide vest of a previously unnoticed second suicide bomber to detonate prematurely with minimal impact on the formation. Captain Groberg’s immediate actions push the first suicide bomber away from the formation significantly minimized the impact of the coordinated suicide bombers’ attack on the formation, saving the lives of his comrades and several senior leaders. Captain Groberg’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty at the risk of life are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect credit upon himself, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division and the United States Army.
6 August We open with the Civil War and the Battle of Malvern Hill, followed by the battle of Atlanta. The first Medal is the first I’ve seen for essentially doing your job while very ill. In the second, Private Grimshaw took an alternative approach to throwing himself on a grenade.
WILSON, JOHN M.
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Engineers. Place and date: At Malvern Hill, Va., 6 August 1862. Entered service at: Washington Territory. Birth: Olympia, Washington Territory. Date of issue: 3 July 1897. Citation: Remained on duty, while suffering from an acute illness and very weak, and participated in the action of that date. A few days previous he had been transferred to a staff corps, but preferred to remain until the close of the campaign, taking part in several actions.
Rank and organization: Private, Company B, 52d Ohio Infantry. Place and date: At Atlanta. Ga., 6 August 1864. Entered service at: ——. Birth: Jefferson County, Ohio. Date of issue: 5 April 1894. Citation: Saved the lives of some of his comrades, and greatly imperiled his own by picking up and throwing away a lighted shell which had fallen in the midst of the company.
Then we skip forward until we find ourselves in the barren hills and desperate fighting of Korea, 1950
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, 24th Company M, 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Haman, Korea, 6 August 1950. Entered service at: Bronx, N.Y. Birth: New York, N.Y. G.O. No.: 63, 2 August 1951. Citation: Pfc. Thompson, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. While his platoon was reorganizing under cover of darkness, fanatical enemy forces in overwhelming strength launched a surprise attack on the unit. Pfc. Thompson set up his machine gun in the path of the onslaught and swept the enemy with withering fire, pinning them down momentarily thus permitting the remainder of his platoon to withdraw to a more tenable position. Although hit repeatedly by grenade fragments and small-arms fire, he resisted all efforts of his comrades to induce him to withdraw, steadfastly remained at his machine gun and continued to deliver deadly, accurate fire until mortally wounded by an enemy grenade. Pfc. Thompson’s dauntless courage and gallant self-sacrifice reflect the highest credit on himself and uphold the esteemed traditions of military service.
5 August – We make up for the 8 Medals in the past four days as we open with the Civil War with a Medal for Baton Rouge in 1862 and then a huge number of Medals for the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864. I would note that Yeoman Atkinson had an interesting career. The Battle of Mobile Bay is the second-most be-Medalled battle in the history of the Medal – with 97 awards. Only Vicksburg on 22 May surpasses it with a total of 102 awards.
4 August has one award. This day in history has thus far generated 101 total awards. Almost 3 percent of the total awards of the Medal stem from this one day of the year – and the bulk of that from one battle in 1864. This didn’t occur often, and after the Spanish-American War didn’t happen at all.
Today, these actions would be covered by Navy Commendation Medals, Bronze Stars, Silver Stars, and Navy Crosses, in addition to the Medal. But only the Medal existed in this era. By contrast, Operation Tidal Wave, the air attack on the refineries at Ploesti, Romania in August of 1943 was every bit as desperate as Mobile Bay, but only (if “only” is an apt word) resulted in 5 awards of the Medal – which is a singular event in what could be termed the modern era for the Medal of Honor. This first week in August is a fascinating week, including as it does the greatest single day for the Medal and a day for which, as yet, no Medals have been awarded.
This is an unusual day for the Medal. 1 August was unmarked by specific Medal actions until World War II. However… there are two Civil War Medals and one during the Indian Campaigns that cover the entire month – or, in the case of the flag capture, do not specify a day. So, I’m including them here, rather than just embedding them randomly throughout the month.
CUMPSTON, JAMES M
Rank and Organization: Private, Company D, 91st Ohio Infantry. Place and date: Shenandoah Valley Campaign, Virginia, August 1864.
Citation: Capture of flag.
HART, WILLIAM E
Rank and Organization: Private (Highest rank, Corporal) Company B, 8th New York Cavalry. Place and Date: Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, August 1864
Citation: Gallant conduct and services as scout in connection with capture of the guerrilla Harry Gilmore, and other daring acts.
Rank and Organization: Private, Company K, 8th US Cavalry Place and Date: Arizona Territory, August 1868-1869
Citation: Bravery in scouts and actions against Indians.
While they are all important, some Holders resonate beyond their eras and their Medals. Whether by personal character or subsequent events in their lives, their impact is felt beyond the event, and that’s usually only for those who survive the action that earns them the Medal. Today we have a posthumous WWII Holder who’s fame has lasted many many years beyond our current time. In literature, anyway. “On the bounce, troopers!”
The first Medal awarded for this day was awarded for an action in the Civil War, and is iconic of Civil War Medals – a flag capture.
MARSH, CHARLES H.
Rank and organization: Private, Company D, 1st Connecticut Cavalry. Place and date: At Back Creek Valley, Va., 31 July 1864. Entered service at: New Milford, Conn.. Birth: Milford, Conn. Date of issue: 23 January 1865. Citation: Capture of flag and its bearer.
The Medal then took a long break, before surfacing again in WWII Sicily, New Georgia, torpedoing ships in the Pacific, and our very famous Holder – storied in song and literature.
KISTERS, GERRY H.
Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant (then Sergeant), U.S. Army, 2d Armored Division. Place and date: Near Gagliano, Sicily, 31 July 1943. Entered service at: Bloomington, Ind. Birth: Salt Lake City, Utah. G.O. No.: 13, 18 February 1944. Citation: On 31 July 1943, near Gagliano, Sicily, a detachment of 1 officer and 9 enlisted men, including Sgt. Kisters, advancing ahead of the leading elements of U.S. troops to fill a large crater in the only available vehicle route through Gagliano, was taken under fire by 2 enemy machineguns. Sgt. Kisters and the officer, unaided and in the face of intense small arms fire, advanced on the nearest machinegun emplacement and succeeded in capturing the gun and its crew of 4. Although the greater part of the remaining small arms fire was now directed on the captured machinegun position, Sgt. Kisters voluntarily advanced alone toward the second gun emplacement. While creeping forward, he was struck 5 times by enemy bullets, receiving wounds in both legs and his right arm. Despite the wounds, he continued to advance on the enemy, and captured the second machinegun after killing 3 of its crew and forcing the fourth member to flee. The courage of this soldier and his unhesitating willingness to sacrifice his life, if necessary, served as an inspiration to the command.
RAMAGE, LAWSON PATERSON
Rank and organization: Commander, U.S. Navy, U.S.S. Parche. Place and date: Pacific, 31 July 1944. Entered service at: Vermont. Born: 19 January 1920, Monroe Bridge, Mass. 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. Parche in a predawn attack on a Japanese convoy, 31 July 1944. Boldly penetrating the screen of a heavily escorted convoy, Comdr. Ramage launched a perilous surface attack by delivering a crippling stern shot into a freighter and quickly following up with a series of bow and stern torpedoes to sink the leading tanker and damage the second one. Exposed by the light of bursting flares and bravely defiant of terrific shellfire passing close overhead, he struck again, sinking a transport by two forward reloads. In the mounting fury of fire from the damaged and sinking tanker, he calmly ordered his men below, remaining on the bridge to fight it out with an enemy now disorganized and confused. Swift to act as a fast transport closed in to ram, Comdr. Ramage daringly swung the stern of the speeding Parche as she crossed the bow of the onrushing ship, clearing by less than 50 feet but placing his submarine in a deadly crossfire from escorts on all sides and with the transport dead ahead. Undaunted, he sent 3 smashing “down the throat” bow shots to stop the target, then scored a killing hit as a climax to 46 minutes of violent action with the Parche and her valiant fighting company retiring victorious and unscathed.
Now for the futuristically famous Holder. Who shows what men and women of letters can achieve if they wish. Sadly, few among the mainstream these days have an interest in lifting up a common man who had an uncommon moment, and make him a hero. Today, at least, the money comes in either making him a victim, or, if he won’t fit that niche properly, show him to be nothing special, just someone who stumbled into fame, but I digress.
Oh, they’ve got no time for glory in the Infantry.
Oh, they’ve got no use for praises loudly sung.
But in every soldier’s heart in all the Infantry
Shines the name, shines the name of Rodger Young.
How many among us have read this phrase, over and over again… “Shines the name, shines the name of Rodger Young!” Finally – if you click this link, you can hear the song that sent the Mobile Infantry of Rasczak’s Roughnecks out the drop tubes – and more importantly, meet Rodger Young. On the bounce, Mr. Rico!
*YOUNG, RODGER W.
Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Army, 148th Infantry, 37th Infantry Division. Place and date: On New Georgia, Solomon Islands, 31 July 1943. Entered service at: Clyde, Ohio. Birth: Tiffin, Ohio. G.O. No.: 3, 6 January 1944. Citation: On 31 July 1943, the infantry company of which Pvt. Young was a member, was ordered to make a limited withdrawal from the battle line in order to adjust the battalion’s position for the night. At this time, Pvt. Young’s platoon was engaged with the enemy in a dense jungle where observation was very limited. The platoon suddenly was pinned down by intense fire from a Japanese machinegun concealed on higher ground only 75 yards away. The initial burst wounded Pvt. Young. As the platoon started to obey the order to withdraw, Pvt. Young called out that he could see the enemy emplacement, whereupon he started creeping toward it. Another burst from the machinegun wounded him the second time. Despite the wounds, he continued his heroic advance, attracting enemy fire and answering with rifle fire. When he was close enough to his objective, he began throwing handgrenades, and while doing so was hit again and killed. Pvt. Young’s bold action in closing with this Japanese pillbox and thus diverting its fire, permitted his platoon to disengage itself, without loss, and was responsible for several enemy casualties.
We start with the Civil War, and 23 Medals for the Battle of the Crater (warning – turn your sound down, annoying music). , plus two others for other fights. There are two more Medals for actions at The Crater, which were awarded for multiple actions. I will list those on the day of the last action the Medal was issued for.
The Civil War has several battles where a large number of Medals are awarded – because not only was the Medal new (it was established in 1863) it was the *only* award of it’s type. So, today, many of these Medals would be covered by the Bronze Star with V, Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross. There is another thing to consider, especially when comparing to the current environment of the Global War On Terror/Contingency Operations – in the Civil War, the big fights had tens of thousands of people closing, or attempting to close, to hand-to-hand combat. In the post-invasion-of-Iraq fighting rarely do you have a thousand combatants in a fight (2nd Fallujah is a good example) the fights are usually small unit actions, involving fewer than 100 troops combined. There are both fewer people engaged and fewer people observing the engagements. There are simply many Medal moments that… no one noticed. Continue reading “Today’s Medal of Honor Moment for 30 July”