22 Facts You May Not Know About the Medal of Honor

H/T War History OnLine.

I learned several new things about the Medal of Honor.

If you have read the stories of just a few out of all the 3,522 Medal of Honor recipients, you may have noticed one similarity: the actions from these stories read like stuff from the movies. They may seem impossible.

But then, that is why the Medal of Honor has been received by only a tiny fraction of the millions who have ventured onto battlefields in the service of the United States.

It is quite common for the award to be awarded posthumously, due to its nature.

Medal of Honor recipients, and other visitors, watch an Army full honors wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, March 25, 2016, Arlington, Va. The wreath laying for Medal of Honor Day

Having been in existence for about 155 years, the Medal of Honor, being the highest military decoration of the United States, continues to recognize and reward U.S servicemembers for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life.”

Below are 22 things you probably don’t know about the Medal of Honor:

Medal of Honor recipient retired Army Capt. Florent “Flo” Groberg places his medal on fire hose transformed into the American Flag during a troop engagement with airmen assigned to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Dhafra Air Base Dec. 23, 2017

The Medal of Honor has only had one female recipient

Her name was Dr. Mary Edwards Walker. At the outbreak of the Civil War, she volunteered with the Union Army, serving temporarily as a nurse before going on to become the first female surgeon of the Army.

Notably, her award was revoked in 1917 because she was a civilian and the updated criteria of the award strictly focused on combat service.

However, in 1977, five decades after her death, her Medal of Honor was restored.

Mary Edwards Walker in around 1911

The youngest recipient of the award was only 13 years old

Drummer boy Willie Johnston received the prestigious award at the age of 13 for his commendable composure during the Civil War.

Some may argue that the recognition for the youngest recipient should go to the indestructible Jack Lucas–who got the award at 17 for jumping over two grenades to save his comrades–owing to the fact that the medal in the modern sense is dedicated to combat service.

But the Medal of Honor of the Civil War days is still the Medal of Honor of today, and although he was not a combatant, Willie’s medal was never revoked.

It is safe, though, to say that Jack Lucas is the youngest man to receive the Medal of Honor for combat service.

Young boy wearing Union Army uniform holds drum, circa 1861

It can be awarded to non-citizens

In fact, sixty-five recipients of the Medal of Honor have been Canadians who served with the US armed forces.

Altogether, more than eight hundred non-citizens have been decorated with the Medal of Honor.

Although you needn’t be a U.S citizen, you have to be serving with the US military in order to be eligible for the award.

Laszlo Rabel, born in Hungary, killed in Vietnam

Recipients have the rare privilege of getting saluted by senior officers, including the President

Alongside this, a Medal of Honor recipient is by default invited to all Presidential inaugurations for life.

Admiral Eric T. Olson salutes Sergeant First Class Leroy Petry at a ceremony at The Pentagon.

Nine hundred and eleven Medals of Honor have been revoked

It must be a terrible experience to have your Medal of Honor revoked after celebrating the achievement of such a status. But In 1916, it was decided that some Medals of Honor had been awarded for reasons other than distinguished service, and consequently, about 911 recipients lost the decoration.

This affected soldiers of the 27th Maine Regiment who had served during the Civil War, servicemen who served as Abraham Lincoln’s funeral guards, and several civilians including “Buffalo Bill” Cody and Mary Walker.

Cody and Walker’s medals, as well as those of four other people, were restored many years later.

“Buffalo Bill,” nicknamed after his contract to supply Kansas Pacific Railroad workers with buffalo meat

Medal of Honor recipients have many distinct benefits

Just to mention a few, recipients get a 10 percent pension bonus alongside a monthly allowance worth $1,259 (US dollars). There is a burial plot reserved for them at Arlington National Cemetery.

In their lifetime, they are covered by the DOD Regulation 4515.13-R to travel anywhere they like by air for free. Their family members are allowed the same travel privilege as long as they accompany the Medal of Honor recipient.

President Lyndon B. Johnson presents Medal of Honor to Major Merlyn Dethlefsen, United States Air Force.

Wearing someone else’s medal is against the law

US law is particularly unfriendly to those who wear military decorations without authorization, and in the Stolen Valor Act it specifies heavier punishment for display of Medals of Honor by persons other than the rightful owners.

Funnily, though, it is not illegal to falsely claim that you own a Medal of Honor. You can say it, but dare not show it.

The highest military decoration awarded by the United States government

Only one U.S President received the Medal of Honor

President Theodore Roosevelt is the only president in US history to have received the Medal of Honor. His son, Theodore Roosevelt Jr., also received the decoration during World War II.

Colonel Theodore Roosevelt in 1898

The Medal of Honor has three variants

There is one for the Army, one for the Navy, and one for the Air Force.

Army, Navy, and Air Force versions of the Medal of Honor

On 25th March 1863, the first Medal of Honor was presented to Private Jacob Parrott, a member of the Andrew Raiders, for his voluntary participation in the raid of a Confederate train during the Civil War.il War.

Jacob Parrott

There are men who have two Medals of Honor

This is quite outstanding, and if you think a new medal should be made specifically for those who go as far as to earn such a rare honor twice, you’re not alone.

There are 19 men who have had the honor twice. Fourteen earned it in two different actions, while the others earned it in one action which was recognized and endorsed for the Medal of Honor by both the Army and the Navy.

Louis Cukela was awarded the Medal by both the US Army and the US Navy for the same action during the Battle of Soissons in World War I

Congressional Medal of Honor?

Well, contrary to popular belief, it is simply called Medal of Honor, nothing more, nothing less.

But it is quite understandable how this came about, because the Medal of Honor is presented to recipients “in the name of the Congress.”

However, it is not the “Congressional Medal of Honor.”

Leo K. Thorsness (centre), president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society

The Medal of Honor has just two pairs of father-son recipients

The first pair was Arthur and Douglas MacArthur, and as previously mentioned the second pair was President Theodore Roosevelt and his son Theodore Roosevelt Jr.

General Douglas MacArthur, UN Command CiC (seated), observes the naval shelling of Incheon from USS Mount McKinley, 15 September 1950

Five pairs of brothers have earned the Medal of Honor

They are: John and William Black, Henry and Charles Capehart, Harry and Willard Miller, Allen and James Thompson, and Antoine and Julien Gaujot.

Julien E. Gaujot

The Medal of Honor was once investigated for racism

This first happened in 1993, and sprang from the fact that no African-American who had served in World War II had been decorated with the award.

The investigation resulted in the upgrading of ten recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor.

Another investigation occurred in 1998 regarding Asian-Americans, and ended in twenty-two awards going to deserving Asian-Americans.

President Dwight Eisenhower congratulates Korean War veteran Army Staff Sergeant Hiroshi H. Miyamura after presenting him the Medal of Honor. Miyamura earned the medal as a corporal during an April 1951 battle that resulted in his capture by Chinese soldiers. His award was kept secret for his safety until after his repatriation in August 1953.

More than 50 percent of the Medals of Honor awarded since 1941 have been presented posthumously.

The idea of a Medal of Honor was initially disregarded when first proposed.

Before it became America’s most prestigious award, it had its fair share of debates, with General Winfield Scott giving it a resounding “Nay” and saying it was just too European.

Lieut. Gen. Winfield Scott age of 75, 1861

Earning a Medal for saving a Medal recipient

That is the story of Michael Thornton. He risked his life to save his comrade, Thomas Norris, who had been approved for the Medal of Honor six months earlier.

This was the only time since the 1871 Korean Expedition that a Medal was awarded to someone for saving another recipient.

Medal of Honor recipient Thomas Norris second from left.

The first African-American recipient

In 1864, Robert Blake became the first African-American to receive the award. William Carney was actually the first to come under the spotlight for his actions at Fort Wagner, South Carolina on 18 July 1863, but he received his Medal years after Blake did.

U.S. Navy poster featuring Medal of Honor recipient Robert Blake.

Only one African-American has earned it twice

His name was Robert Augustus Sweeney, and he is one of the previously mentioned nineteen men in history to have won two Medals of Honor.

The Navy was the first to adopt the Medal of Honor

The US Navy was the first to adopt the Medal of Honor. It was followed almost immediately by the US Army, which came up with its own version.

Medal of Honor awarded to Seaman John Ortega in 1864 (back view)

The Medal of Honor has been awarded to Unknown Soldiers

The award was first issued posthumously to unknown British, French, American, Italian, Belgian and Romanian soldiers who died in service during World War I.

After World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Congress approved the posthumous decoration of unknown American soldiers from those wars.

Four Americans were chosen for this decoration, and their medals are kept at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.


Author: deplorablesunite

I am a divorced father of two daughters. I am a Deplorable. The cat in my profile is my buddy Ronnie Whiskers

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