MoH Recipient Singlehandedly Destroyed A Tiger Tank And Captured 17 Germans

R.I.P.  Van Thomas Barfoot A true hero.

Van T. Barfoot was a true war hero, whose exploits saved many of his comrades’ lives and even those of the enemies he captured. He continued on in the military after WWII and eventually fought in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War, retiring at the rank of colonel. For his extraordinary acts of valor during WWII, he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest award.

 

Barfoot was born as Van Thurman Barfoot on the 15th of June 1919 in Edinburg, Mississippi. He would later change his name to Van Thomas Barfoot. Raised on a farm alongside eight siblings, Barfoot’s beginnings were rather humble.

As his grandmother was Choctaw (a Native American people), he was eligible to join the nation, but his parents did not enroll him.

Barfoot’s early military career

A lifelong patriot, Barfoot enlisted into the U.S. Army in 1940, before the U.S. had even entered the war, and before conscription began. He completed his training and first served in the 1st Infantry Division. By the time the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, Barfoot had already reached the rank of sergeant.

Lt. Van Thomas Barfoot (right) bafter being awarded the Medal of Honor by Lt. General Alexander Patch on 22 September 1944 in Epinal, France
Barfoot poses after having been awarded the Medal of Honor. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

He was moved to the Amphibious Force Atlantic Fleet in Quantico, Virginia, until 1943, when the unit was decommissioned. Barfoot was then transferred to the 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division.

Barfoot and the 45th Infantry Division were shipped to Europe in June of 1943 and began preparations for the invasion of Sicily. The division was part of the spearhead in the assault on the island, supported by the 505th Parachute Regiment. Around this time, Adolf Hitler decided to reduce activities at the Battle of Kursk in part to divert forces to reinforce Italy.

By early August, the 45th Infantry Division was withdrawn from frontline duties for rest, having fought valiantly through Sicily. In September 1943, the 45th Infantry Division was involved in Operation Avalanche, the invasion of Salerno, Italy. After Salerno, they once again fought a tough, slow, and difficult fight at Anzio.

Here, Barfoot would display immense feats of courage and bravery.

Barfoot’s Medal of Honor

After he and his comrades reached the Italian town of Carano, they set up defenses. While he was here, Barfoot had patrolled the area to assess German lines and their defenses. Soon after, he and his unit were involved in an attack against the German lines.

Barfoot (bottom left) poses with six other Medal of Honor recipients in 2008.
Barfoot (bottom left) poses with six other Medal of Honor recipients in 2008. (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy)

Barfoot, who knew the area and its defenses well thanks to his patrols, requested to lead his own squad into battle. Aware of a minefield ahead, Barfoot proceeded alone. He crawled past the minefield and up to a German machine-gun position, which he attacked with a hand grenade.

According to Barfoot’s Medal of Honor citation, he “crawled to the proximity of one machine-gun nest and made a direct hit on it with a hand grenade, killing two and wounding three Germans.”

After this he made his way to a second machine gun, which he also attacked, killing two with his Thompson submachine gun and capturing a further three. The next machine gun nest surrendered to Barfoot immediately, as well as other enemy troops nearby.

“Members of another enemy machinegun crew then abandoned their position and gave themselves up to Sgt. Barfoot. Leaving the prisoners for his support squad to pick up, he proceeded to mop up positions in the immediate area, capturing more prisoners and bringing his total count to 17.”

In these actions, he captured 17 and killed eight of his enemy.

A while later on the same day, after Barfoot had regrouped with his men, the Germans launched a counterattack aided by fearsome Tiger I tanks.

His citation said: “Securing a bazooka, Sgt. Barfoot took up an exposed position directly in front of three advancing Mark VI tanks. From a distance of 75 yards his first shot destroyed the track of the leading tank, effectively disabling it, while the other two changed direction toward the flank. As the crew of the disabled tank dismounted, Sgt. Barfoot killed three of them with his tommy gun.”

As if this weren’t enough, Barfoot then ran behind enemy lines and disabled an enemy field gun with explosives. On his way back, the exhausted Barfoot encountered two severely wounded comrades. He helped them both back to his position, which was 1,700 feet away.

For these actions, Barfoot was awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony held in France, with his fellow soldiers in attendance.

After WWII

After fighting through the Korean War and Vietnam War, Barfoot returned home and moved to Virginia, where he would live a relatively quiet life.

WWII veteran and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Van Barfoot is greeted by a soldier as he heads to Soldier Field for the opening ceremony for the Medal of Honor Society Convention September 15, 2009
Van Barfoot is greeted by a soldier as he heads to Soldier Field for the opening ceremony for the Medal of Honor Society Convention September 15, 2009. (Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

He sprung into the media in 2009 when the homeowners’ association (HOA) where he lived ordered him to remove a 21-foot flagpole he used to fly the American flag from. The HOA threatened to take Barfoot to court if their order was not obeyed.

The situation went viral on news outlets and across social media, with large numbers of people outraged by the demands. After a huge amount of backlash, the HOA dropped their order, settling the dispute.

The Medal of Honor recipient died in 2012 after a fall in his home in Henrico County, Virginia. He was aged 92.

Legendary MoH Marine Hershel W. Williams Welcomes Great-Grandson Into The Corps

H/T War History OnLine.

Semper Fi  Pfc. Cedar Ross.

Pfc. Cedar Ross, left, exchanged a challenge coin with his great-grandfather, retired Marine Hershel ''Woody'' Williams, right, the last living recipient of the Medal of Honor from World War II, after Ross graduated from Marine Corps boot camp Friday, June 18, 2021, in Parris Island, S.C.

Pfc. Cedar Ross, left, exchanged a challenge coin with his great-grandfather, retired Marine Hershel ”Woody” Williams, right, the last living recipient of the Medal of Honor from World War II, after Ross graduated from Marine Corps boot camp Friday, June 18, 2021, in Parris Island, S.C. (Brent Casey)

The great-grandson of legendary U.S. Marine Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams has been welcomed into the Corps by his granddad. Williams was awarded the Medal of Honor for extreme heroism during the vicious Battle of Iwo Jima and is now the last living Medal of Honor recipient from WWII.

 

Williams’ great-grandson, Pfc. Cedar Ross, has recently graduated from the Marine Corps boot camp and has been given some useful words of advice from his decorated family member. Williams said, “The only advice I think I gave him was to do the very best that he could and then do a little more.”

The graduation ceremony is the first that family members have been able to attend since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing Williams to watch his great-grandson and 350 fresh Marines cross the parade area at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

Hershel W. Williams

Williams was once in Ross’s shoes back in 1943, when he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. He first attempted to enlist in 1942, motivated by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but he was turned down for being too short (5 foot 6). In 1943, the U.S. reduced the height limit and he successfully enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was trained in demolitions and using the flamethrower.

On February 21, 1945, Williams arrived on the beaches of Iwo Jima, an island that was host to one of the most brutal battles of the entire war.

Hershel Williams at the commissioning of the Navy warship USS Hershel "Woody" Williams
Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. Fernando Moreno / U.S. Marine Corps

During the battle, U.S. tanks were attempting to clear a way through the island’s defenses for the infantry, but came up against a series of Japanese bunkers unleashing deadly fire on the following troops. Williams was ordered to take his flamethrower and assist a fellow soldier armed with explosives to neutralize the Japanese bunkers. They would be covered by a group of riflemen.

All of the men with Williams were cut down by enemy fire before they could reach the bunkers. Williams remained unscathed, however, and made his way to a bunker, where he inserted his flamethrower into an opening of the bunker, killing the occupants inside.

Williams moved to another bunker and placed “the nozzle of his flamethrower through the air vent, killing the occupants, and silencing the gun,” as quoted from his Medal of Honor citation.

His citation also said that “he fought desperately for four hours under terrific enemy small-arms fire and repeatedly returned to his own lines to prepare demolition charges and obtain serviced flamethrowers, struggling back, frequently to the rear of hostile emplacements, to wipe out one position after another.”

Harry Truman, president of the United States, congratulates Hershel "Woody" Williams, a Marine reservist and survivor of the battle of Iwo Jima, on being awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the battle of Iwo Jima October 5, 1945 at the White House in Washington.
Harry S Truman congratulates Williams on being awarded the Medal of Honor. (Photo Credit: U.S. Marines)

For these actions, Williams was awarded the Medal of Honor personally by U.S. President Harry S. Truman and became a legend of the Marine Corps. The U.S. has since named a Navy vessel, a National Guard facility, and a VA Medical Center after him.

A tough legacy to beat

So, Ross certainly has big boots to fill. Until about halfway through boot camp, the drill instructors had no idea he was the great-grandson of the decorated Marine. During the tough 13-week training process the new Marines went through, Ross received a promotion to private first class.

 

Ross was interviewed beside Williams. “The chief drill instructor told me, ‘Ross, you’re going to have big shoes to fill,’” Ross said. “I said, ‘Yes, sir. Thankfully, I wear size 15.’”

At the ceremony, commanding officer of the 2nd Recruit Training Battalion Lt. Col. Robert M. Groceman, told the new Marines to take pride in their achievements, “but tomorrow is no longer about you,” he said. “Tomorrow is about those Marines who came before us, whose legacy you are now a part of. Tomorrow is about those Marines to your left and to your right who are depending on you.”

70 Years After Service, Ralph Puckett Receives The Medal of Honor

H/T War History OnLine.

Thank you for your service Retired Army Ranger legend Col. Ralph Puckett.

Retired Army Ranger legend Col. Ralph Puckett has been presented the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award, by U.S. President Joe Biden. After waiting 70 years for the award, Puckett was slightly less wowed than expected by the invitation to the White House.

 

“I understand that your first response to us hosting this event was to ask ‘why all the fuss … can’t they just mail it to me?’” Joe Biden jokingly remarked.

Puckett’s heroism on Hill 205

As a 1st Lieutenant, Puckett showed extreme bravery in the midst of battle on November 25th, 1950, during the Korean War. On that day, he commanded his men of the 8th Army Ranger Company on Hill 205, against a major Chinese assault of hundreds of troops. Puckett and his men faced odds of 10 to 1, freezing temperatures, and limited food, ammunition and supplies.

“The intelligence briefing indicated that there were 25,000 Chinese troops in the area,” Biden explained during the ceremony. “[Puckett] believed in the fundamentals. It was how he trained his men, and how he had handpicked them, chosen from the ranks of cooks, clerks, and mechanics to [become] the first Ranger company since World War II.”

He repeatedly left his foxhole despite the danger, using himself as bait to reveal the enemy’s positions.

Meanwhile, he was directing friendly artillery fire, with some barrages even called near to himself to hold off the attack. These actions led to him being wounded three times, with a mortar injuring him so severely he couldn’t move. Realizing their position was going to be overrun, Puckett gave the order to retreat and for his men to leave him behind so they could escape, but two privates bravely ignored the order and retrieved Puckett.

At the time, Puckett was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions, which itself is the next award down from the Medal of Honor.

While he was recovering, he was offered a medical discharge, which he refused, and met his future wife Jeannie while he was in the hospital.

Retired Col. Ralph Puckett with wife Jeannie celebrating his 90th birthday, December 2016.
Photo Credit: U.S. Army / 75th Ranger Regiment

After Korea, Puckett continued on and fought in Vietnam, earning another Distinguished Service Cross and two Silver Stars. Over his military career, he also earned five Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars. He retired in 1971 at the rank of colonel.

In 1992, Puckett was inducted into the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame. Four years later in 1996, he became the first honorary colonel for the 75th Ranger Regiment, a role he stayed in for 10 years. He passed on his vast amount of knowledge to the regiment.

Retired Col. Ralph Puckett places the hard-earned 75th Ranger Regiment scroll on Pfc. Nathan Lively at the Ranger Assessment and Selection 1 graduation, March 5, 2010.
Retired Col. Ralph Puckett places the hard-earned 75th Ranger Regiment scroll on Pfc. Nathan Lively at the Ranger Assessment and Selection 1 graduation. (Photo Credit: 75th Ranger Regiment Public Affairs)

Puckett receives the Medal of Honor

At the ceremony, Biden said, “I’m incredibly proud to give Col. Ralph Puckett’s acts of valor the full recognition they have always deserved.”

“This is an honor that was long overdue,” Biden added. “More than 70 years overdue.”

Photo Credit: U.S. Army Graphic
Photo Credit: U.S. Army Graphic

Puckett’s Medal of Honor presentation ceremony sets itself apart from any others previous to it, as it is the only one where a foreign world leader was present. South Korean President Moon Jae-in attended the ceremony as a show of solidarity between the two allies.

“Col. Puckett is a true hero of the Korean War,” Moon said. “Without the sacrifice of veterans including Col. Puckett, [the] freedom and democracy we enjoy today couldn’t have blossomed in Korea.”

Moon also stated that it was a true honor to attend the ceremony.

Other attendees included Puckett’s wife, children, grandchildren, and a former technical sergeant who also fought in Korea, Master Sgt. Merle Simpson.

Simpson said about serving with Puckett: “Puckett impressed me. If you made a mistake, you would do 50 pushups, and he would do 50 with you. There is no telling how many a day he did.”

Puckett entered the room in a wheelchair, standing with the assistance of two young officers on either side of him. For Biden’s citation, Puckett stood up on his own, pushing away a walker offered to him.

Medal of Honor Monday: Navy Corpsman William Halyburton Jr.

H/T AmmoLand.

R.I.P.  William Halyburton Jr.

Read more: https://www.ammoland.com/2021/05/medal-of-honor-navy-corpsman-william-halyburton-jr/#ixzz6vk5UK1XV
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USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- Actions worthy of the Medal of Honor don’t always come from a compilation of courageous deeds; they can happen in the shortest window of time. That was likely the case for Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class William Halyburton Jr., a corpsman who died on his first day in combat toward the end of World War II.

Halyburton was born on Aug. 2, 1924, in Canton, North Carolina, to parents Mae and William Halyburton. He had two brothers, Bob and Joe. In 1940, the family moved to Miami, but Halyburton only stayed for a short while before moving back to North Carolina to live with his aunt and uncle in Wilmington, according to newspaper reports from the 1940s.

Halyburton played sports and was a devout Christian during his time at New Hanover High School, from which he graduated in 1943. He entered the seminary at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina; however, those plans had to be put on hold when he was drafted to serve in World War II.

According to a 2010 Asheville Citizen-Times article, Halyburton was a conscientious objector, meaning he would serve but would not bear arms. So, in August 1943, he was allowed to choose the Naval Reserve, where he joined the hospital corps and spent more than a year in training.

Medal of Honor Recipient Navy Corpsman William Halyburton Jr. Navy Blues
Medal of Honor Recipient Navy Corpsman William Halyburton Jr.

By January 1945, Halyburton had reached the rank of pharmacist’s mate 2nd class and was sent overseas as a medic for the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. The division had pushed its way across the Pacific and was preparing to battle for Okinawa, an island near Japan’s home shores.

On May 10, 1945 — Halyburton’s first day in combat, according to his mother — the 1st Marine Division was on the island and preparing to move across the Awacha Draw, a strategically important ravine that was heavily fortified by the Japanese. Americans dubbed it “Death Valley” since many soldiers and Marines fell as they tried to cross it.

Halyburton was serving with a rifle company that day, and he watched a lot of Marines fall. They weren’t able to be carried away to safety, so the wounded were treated where they fell or would have to be retrieved later.

Enemy fire on his unit was intense, but, as they crossed the draw, the young medic didn’t hesitate. He ran across the ravine, up a hill, and into a fire-swept field where his company’s advance squad was pinned down. Despite a nonstop barrage of mortar, machine gun, and sniper fire, Halyburton ran until he reached the furthest wounded Marine.

As he started to give that Marine aid, the wounded man was struck a second time by a Japanese bullet. Halyburton quickly put his own body between the wounded man and the line of fire, continuing to give aid until he was also gravely wounded. The 20-year-old collapsed and died while trying to save his comrade.

Halyburton’s outstanding devotion to duty amid such a terrifying situation led to his immediate nomination for the Medal of Honor. On May 8, 1946 — nearly a full year after he died — Halyburton’s family was presented the nation’s highest honor for valor on his behalf. During a ceremony at Bayfront Park in Miami, Navy Rear Adm. John F. Shafroth Jr. bestowed the medal to Halyburton’s brothers, who had also served in the Navy during the war. Halyburton was buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.

While he only spent one day in combat, his legacy has lived on. In 1984, the guided-missile frigate USS Halyburton was commissioned in his honor. Several other military structures were also named for him, including Halyburton Naval Health Clinic in Cherry Point, North Carolina; a barracks at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida; and a road at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

This article is part of a weekly series called “Medal of Honor Monday,” in which we highlight one of the more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military’s highest medal for valor.

 

Charles Coolidge, Oldest Medal of Honor Recipient, Dies at Age 99

H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Charles Coolidge.

The U.S. has lost its oldest Medal of Honor recipient. Charles Coolidge has passed away at the age of 99. He died April 6, 2021, at the Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

 

Out of 473 Medal of Honor recipients who received the award for actions during World War II, there is now only one still living, Marine Cpl. Hershel “Woody” Williams, who was presented his award for his actions at Iwo Jima.

Charles Coolidge, ca. 1945
Charles Coolidge, circa 1945. (Photo Credit: Congressional Medal of Honor Society)

Coolidge was born in Tennessee in 1921. He worked as a bookbinder at the business his father started, Chattanooga Printing & Engraving.

When the war started, Coolidge joined the Army. He trained in Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina before deploying for the European front in the spring of 1943.

He was in the first American division to invade Europe in the war. He was part of the failed attempt to cross the Rapido River and fought in the Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944.

In May of 1944, he was part of the division that opened up Rome for the 5th Army to invade. He received the Silver Star for his actions in that battle.

Heroism in France

His division was then pulled from Italy and sent to Southern France where they advanced on the Siegfried Line — the German defensive line guarded by thousands of bunkers and pillboxes.

During a four-day battle near the French village of Belmont-sur-Buttant, he performed the actions that won him the Medal of Honor.

Coolidge was leading a section of heavy machine guns with support from a platoon from Company K. They were moving to cover the right flank in support of the 3rd Battalion.

In the woods, Coolidge and a sergeant were scouting positions when they stumbled on a large force of enemy infantry, possibly an entire company.

Coolidge tried to bluff in spite of the vast numbers in favor of the Germans. He called for them to surrender. They countered his offer by opening fire.

Since there was no officer present, Coolidge assumed command and led his troops to direct their fire at the enemy. Many of the soldiers in his group were experiencing enemy fire for the first time, but Coolidge moved up and down the line to offer encouragement, calm the men’s nerves, and direct their fire.

They managed to repel that first attack, but the German’s returned the next day. They continued wave after wave of attacks, but the Americans kept holding them at bay.

On the fourth day, the Germans attacked with support from two tanks. Coolidge calmly took a bazooka and moved to within 25 yards of the tanks. Unfortunately for Coolidge, the bazooka failed to fire.

So Coolidge rounded up all the hand grenades he could and crawled forward throwing one after another and inflicting heavy casualties on the Germans.

When it was clear that the Americans could not hold out against the superior numbers and firepower of the Germans, Coolidge called for an orderly withdrawal. Coolidge himself did not leave the position until he was certain all his men had withdrawn.

Later life and awards

When the war ended, Coolidge went home, married, and started a family. He worked for the Veterans Administration for a while after the war and then returned to his family’s business where he worked until he retired at the age of 95.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Coolidge received the Bronze Star and the Silver Star. In 2006, France awarded him their Legion of Honor, their highest honor. The Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center in Chattanooga was named after him. A highway and a park have also been named after him.

He was one of 12 Medal of Honor recipients to appear on the cover of the U.S. Postal Service’s Medal of Honor stamp sheet. In March 2021, he received the 2021 George Marshall Award by the State Funeral for World War II Veterans.

 

Vietnam Vets to Biden: Firebase Kate Hero Deserves Medal of Honor

H/T The Washington Free Beacon.

There is no doubt that Captain Bill ‘Hawk’ Albracht deserves the Medal of Honor.

Captain Bill ‘Hawk’ Albracht saved more than 150 allied soldiers in daring escape

Special forces soldier Bill Albracht with a South Vietnamese soldier (Credit: pritzkermilitary.org)

In October 1969, Army Captain Bill “Hawk” Albracht found himself posted at a base in Vietnamese jungle widely considered to be a backwater to the war. Surrounded by thousands of North Vietnamese soldiers, strapped for ammo and water, and with no hope of rescue, Albracht and his team of more than 150 American and South Vietnamese soldiers stared down communist forces armed to the teeth—with a slim chance of survival.

“My heart sunk,” Albracht said recalling a message from command saying there would be no reinforcements. “I knew right then: We’ve got to get out of here, and we have to do it ourselves.”

After multiple days of brutal firefights with North Vietnamese soldiers, Albracht led an exhausted gang of American artillery troops and pro-American Vietnamese tribesmen to safety in the dead of night. In the process, the U.S. Army crew lost only one man in battle and only one more missing in action. Twenty-four Americans under Albracht’s command would live to fight another day.

The heroic actions of that week led to multiple commendations for Albracht, a Silver Star and Purple Heart not least among them. Now his peers and friends want their captain to receive the highest honor.

First Lieutenant John Kerr, who also served at Firebase Kate, told the Washington Free Beacon that Albracht’s heroism merits every honor in the book.

“Bill deserves all the credit and the upgrade of his medals that are possible. He was responsible for saving 24 American lives, that’s all there is to it,” Kerr said. “He took charge and put himself in harm’s way time and time again.”

Special forces soldier Bill Albracht with a South Vietnamese soldier (Credit: pritzkermilitary.org)

It was by no means clear that Albracht and his fellow Americans would come out of Firebase Kate unscathed. Many of the captain’s peers had only been stationed at the base—which was poorly defended and in a location vulnerable to attack—for about a month. Though Albracht was trained as a special forces officer, his comrades belonged to an artillery grouping, meaning they had little experience in the direct line of fire. Albracht himself was only 21 years old at the time, and on his first command assignment. To make matters worse, by the time the North Vietnamese attacked, the base’s artillery equipment was all but out of commission.

The policy of Vietnamization also complicated the safety of those at Firebase Kate. Adopted by President Richard Nixon in the waning days of the Vietnam War, Vietnamization meant the anti-communist South Vietnamese would take the primary role in fighting and American troops would return to a support role. The policy halted American commanders from sending supporting troops to the firebase. So did antiaircraft weapons from North Vietnamese forces.

“The bottom line was that we were stuck there on this little hilltop along the Cambodian border, and there was no way out,” Kerr said. “We were just sitting ducks.”

It was in this desperate hour that Albracht took charge. Even after suffering a wound and receiving heavy fire from the North Vietnamese, the captain rallied his troops for an exit strategy. After coordinating via radio with air support and commanding officers, Albracht decided his band of survivors would make their escape under cover of nightfall. In a single-file line, he and the Vietnamese tribesmen trekked miles to rendezvous with the “MIKE Force,” American special operators tasked with retrieving the men posted at Firebase Kate. As Albracht and his crew inched closer to freedom, they at one point only stood 12 feet away from a patrol of North Vietnamese troops.

“I called the MIKE Force on the radio to say, ‘I hear you coming; I’m on your immediate left,'” Albracht said. “They told me they weren’t out; it was the enemy. If the [enemy] made any degree of movement to the left, they would have come right up on us, and we would have been in a pitched battle we would have very much lost. But they moved right on by.”

In the aftermath of the escape, Firebase Kate was destroyed. After retrieval by U.S. forces, Albracht did not return home. Instead he re-upped and joined the same corps that found him and his soldiers—the MIKE Force. Albracht was wounded again months later, which eventually marked the end of his frontline service in Vietnam.

Firebase Kate in the aftermath of the escape (Credit: gifilmfestivalsd.org)

Besides Kerr, several other veterans and advocates champion Albracht’s bid for a Medal of Honor. The written testimony of two other officers—Col. John Beckenhauer and Lt. Gen. Michael Tucker—praises Albracht for his extraordinary heroism in orchestrating the escape from Firebase Kate. The Vietnam Veterans of America also drafted a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin recommending Albracht for the nation’s highest award for servicemen.

“Never have I witnessed a more heroic feat than what he pulled off getting those men off that firebase that night alive,” Beckenhauer, a member of the Army aviation team supporting Albracht’s mission, wrote in his testimony.

“The fact that any of them got off that base, walked through enemy lines in the pitch black dark, and got out to safety with all but one, was nothing short of miraculous. What a testament to the American soldier and to Hawk’s leadership. A braver man doing anything that crazy and living to tell about it would be hard to find…. One day I hope to meet him under better circumstances.”

Albracht receiving a plaque for his heroics at Firebase Kate (Credit: army.mil)

Albracht served his country in a different way after Vietnam. Over the course of five presidencies, the Vietnam veteran served as a Secret Service agent, protecting U.S. presidents and foreign dignitaries. He said his experience as a special operator in Vietnam prepared him for the challenge of such a high-stakes position.

The Vietnam veteran later coauthored a book about his experience at Firebase Kate, which was also adapted into a documentary—efforts Albracht said are meant to honor the sacrifice of his comrades in arms. For Albracht, the ultimate lesson of his experience was the team effort and sacrifice it took to return himself and 24 other Americans home safely.

“I needed to be at Kate, and therefore by divine providence, or whatever you want to call it, I performed correctly and I did my job to the best of my ability,” Albracht said. “And we got out. It wasn’t just me; everybody did their job.”

The Army declined to comment on Albracht’s appeal for a Medal of Honor.

President Clears Way to Present Medal of Honor to Alwyn Cashe for His Heroic Actions

H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Sgt Alwyn Cashe, A true hero in every sense of the word.

President Donald Trump has signed a bipartisan bill which clears the way for US Army Sgt Alwyn Cashe to posthumously receive the nation’s highest military honor.

 

Cashe had previously been awarded the Silver Star for Valor. Many US veterans believed that Cashe’s actions deserved the Medal of Honor since they occurred after being attacked in Iraq. This qualified the incident as active combat and made it eligible for the Medal of Honor.

The story gained popularity when NFL player and former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva wore Cashe’s name on the back of his helmet during the first game of the season this year. An estimated 10.8 million viewers saw that game and learned about Cashe’s actions.

US Representatives Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla), Michael Waltz (R-Fla) and Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex) introduced the bill authorizing the Medal of Honor for Cashe just two days after that game. The bill unanimously passed the Senate last month and was given to the president for his signature last week.

The Medal of Honor is the US’s highest and most-prestigious military decoration.
The Medal of Honor is the US’s highest and most-prestigious military decoration.

With the president’s signature now on the bill, the Department of Defense is now cleared to formally recommend that the president award the Medal of Honor to Cashe. The president is the only one authorized to present the award.

In 2005, Cashe rescued several men from a burning vehicle in Iraq after it had been attacked by an explosive device. Cashe repeatedly entered the burning vehicle to pull his men to safety despite receiving second and third degree burns over three-quarters of his body.

According to Leo Shane III, witnesses described Alwyn Cashe returning time and time again to the burning vehicle even his own uniform was burning and his body armor was melting from the heat.

Villanueva said that his decision to honor Cashe was a personal one because of the effort among veterans to get Cashe the Medal of Honor. He said that the team’s head coach, Mike Tomlin, had approved of his decision.

But the decision caused some controversy. When the NFL announced that players would be allowed to wear the name of someone who was the victim of police brutality or a phrase that was associated with the protest movement regarding such brutality the Pittsburgh Steelers team web site published a story that the entire team would be wearing the name of Antwon Rose, Jr. Villanueva was the only player wearing a different name on his helmet.

Alwyn Cashe. Image credit: US Army
Alwyn Cashe. Image credit: US Army

Rose was killed by a Pittsburgh police officer while running away on foot. He had been in a vehicle that was involved in a drive-by shooting just minutes before he was killed. Many saw the incident as another example of police officers using excessive force against a black man. The officer who killed Rose, Michael Rosfield, shot Rose three times in the back. Rosfield was cleared of wrongdoing by a jury.

Rose’s mother was initially critical of Villanueva’s decision to wear a different name. She has since deleted the social media post in which she criticized the Steeler player for not wearing her son’s name on his helmet as the rest of his team was doing.

Villanueva is the starting left tackle for the Steelers. He is in his sixth season in the NFL.

He was 35 years old when he died after his heroic actions.

41 Year Old Medal of Honor Recipient, was Laid to Rest at Arlington

H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer.

Medal of Honor recipient and former Army Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer passed away in May 2020 at the age of 41. He was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.

 

Shurer received the Medal of Honor for his actions in treating wounded soldiers while braving “withering enemy fire.” He was presented the award by President Donald Trump on October 1, 2018, in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

Shurer was originally scheduled to receive the Silver Star for his actions but a military-wide medals review led to the upgrade.

The Battle of Shok Valley occurred on April 6, 2008. Two Special Forces detachments set out to attack a mountain fortress in the Shok Valley along with over 100 Afghan commandos. The mission was to kill or capture Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. He was the leader of Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin – a militia group that had taken control of the valley decades earlier.

Members of Operational Detachment Alpha 3336, 3rd Special Forces Group in the remote Shok Valley of Afghanistan.
Members of Operational Detachment Alpha 3336, 3rd Special Forces Group in the remote Shok Valley of Afghanistan.

A surprise attack was planned but was scrapped when a suitable landing spot could not be located. The commandos were dropped in a nearby river and had to climb to the castle from there. This gave the militia time to prepare an ambush from higher ground.

It wasn’t long before the Special Forces units found themselves surrounded and being fired on from all directions.

Ronald Shurer
Ronald Shurer

Everyone on the team was injured in the fighting. The interpreter was killed almost immediately when the shooting began. With reports of reinforcements arriving for the insurgents, the team knew they needed to retreat.

The team then retreated back down the mountain still under enemy fire. They managed to hold the extraction zone until they could be evacuated by helicopter.

In the end, two team members were killed and nine received serious wounds. It is estimated that 100 of the enemy fighters were killed in the battle.

In an interview about the actions that led to him receiving the Medal of Honor, Shurer spent more talking about his team members than himself.

At his funeral, his colleagues spoke about his selfless giving. During the battle at Shok Valley, Sgt. Maj. Matt Williams said he saw Shurer repeatedly expose himself to enemy fire in order to treat wounded soldiers. He lowered several down the hill, using his own body to shield them from fire. A bullet passed through his helmet and lodged in his arm while he did this.

U.S. Army Master Sgt. Matthew O. Williams also received the Medal of Honor from his actions during the battle.
U.S. Army Master Sgt. Matthew O. Williams also received the Medal of Honor from his actions during the battle.

Once Shurer had tended to the wounded, he “regained control of his commando squad and rejoined the fight,” according to the citation he received for the Medal of Honor.

Shurer left the military in 2009 and joined the Secret Service. He eventually became part of the counter-assault team assigned to protect the president at the White House.

In 2017, Shurer was diagnosed with lung cancer. He continued to report for work at the White House when his treatments allowed.

Shurer in Afghanistan around 2006.
Shurer in Afghanistan around 2006.

His priest, Father Bob Cilinski, was invited to the ceremony when Shurer received the Medal of Honor. He said that he had known Shurer for a couple of years before that and had never heard about the battle. He said that he asked Shurer how he found the strength to do what he did in that moment. Shurer replied that he prayed, “Dear God, watch over Miranda (his wife) and my family and give me the strength to help others.”

According to his wife and all who knew him, he lived exactly that way – helping others before thinking of himself.

Secret Service Director James Murray said that Shurer dedicated his life to his country and that he was a valued member of the Secret Service. He said that Shurer’s “impact, memory, and legacy will live with us forever.”

Trump Announces Medal of Honor for Sgt’s Actions in Bloodiest Battle of Iraq War: ‘He Just Took Over’

H/T Western Journal.

 Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, Hand Salute.          

In a ceremony at the White House on Tuesday, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia became the first living individual to be awarded a Medal of Honor for the Iraq War.

When you look at his actions, he’s certainly deserving.

According to Fox News, Bellavia was a squad leader during the Battle of Fallujah when he saved the lives of his entire squad during Operation Phantom Fury.

President Trump described what happened as he awarded Bellavia the nation’s highest honor on Tuesday.

“In November of 2004, after nearly a year of intense enemy combat in Iraq, David led his squad into battle to liberate the city of Fallujah and anti-Iraqi forces,” Trump said.

“That was a tough place. This operation was the bloodiest battle of the Iraq War.”

U.S. Army

@USArmy

Happening Now: @POTUS will present Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, @FightingFirst, with the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions taken, November 2004, during , during a ceremony at the @WhiteHouse. https://twitter.com/i/broadcasts/1MYxNdjnMqvGw 

Staff Sgt. David Bellavia receives Medal of Honor

U.S. Army @USArmy

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“For three days straight, David and his men kicked down doors, searched houses, and destroyed enemy weapons, never knowing where they would find a terrorist lurking next. And there were plenty of them.

“The third day of battle was November 10th, David’s 29th birthday. That night, his squad was tasked with clearing 12 houses occupied by insurgents. A very dangerous operation. They entered house after house, and secured nine of the buildings.”

The 10th house, however, was where the problem was. That’s where, according to a White House statement, “his platoon became pinned down.”

Bellavia “quickly exchanged an M16 rifle for an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, entered the house where his squad was trapped, and engaged insurgents, providing cover fire so that he and his fellow soldiers could exit safely. A Bradley Fighting Vehicle arrived to help suppress the enemy, but it could not fire directly into the house.

“Then-Staff Sgt. Bellavia re-entered the house, armed with an M16, and assaulted insurgents who were firing rocket-propelled grenades.”

“Knowing that he would face almost certain death, David decided to go back inside the house and make sure that not a single terrorist escaped alive, or escaped in any way,” the president said Tuesday.

“He quickly encountered an insurgent who was about to fire a rocket-propelled grenade at his squad.  David once again jumped into danger and killed him before he had a chance to launch that grenade.

“Next, two more insurgents came out of hiding and fired at David. He returned fire, killing them both. Then, a third assailant burst out of a wardrobe …  and opened fire. David shot and wounded the man, but he escaped up the stairs. Racing after him, David engaged in hand-to-hand combat and killed him too.”

As the president put it succinctly: “He just took over. David took over.”

“Bleeding and badly wounded, David single-handedly defeated the forces who attacked his unit and would have killed them all had it not been for the bravery of David,” Trump said.

It’s the kind of patriotism that’s enough to bring a tear to your eye.

Bellavia was joined at the ceremony by 12 of the men from his platoon and family members from five who didn’t survive.

That number alone should be a reminder that the Iraq War was a grueling slog through a brutal counter-insurgency. Men and women like Bellavia fought bravely for their country. Some of them didn’t make it back. Others came back with permanent scars, both physical and psychological.

Yes, this is one of the most conspicuous acts of bravery during that conflict. It was hardly the only one. When we celebrate heroes like Bellavia, let’s not forget the others.

God bless them, and God bless the United States of America.

Nation’s oldest Medal of Honor recipient, who fell on German grenade, dies at 98

H/T Fox News.

R.I.P. Robert Maxwell.

Robert Maxwell, awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for selflessly throwing himself on an exploding German hand grenade — saving the lives of a battalion commander and several other soldiers in World War II — has died in Bend, Oregon. He was 98.

At the time of his death, announced Monday by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, Maxwell was the oldest living recipient of the nation’s highest military honor.

“He was a very humble, quiet person,” close friend Dick Tobiason told the Bend Bulletin. “He smiled whenever he talked about veterans, the flag, country, and patriotism. He loved being an American.” Tobiason said his friend died of natural causes.

Robert Maxwell in his official Army photo.

Robert Maxwell in his official Army photo. (Congressional Medal of Honor Society.)

Maxwell was a 24-year-old communication platoon lineman in 1944 when he dived onto the grenade, using an Army blanket as protection.

His split-second act of heroism left him with permanent injuries.

Maxwell and six to eight other members of his platoon were jammed in a small courtyard defending a battalion observation post in a house near Besancon, France, when the Germans launched a heavy attack.

A low wall protected them against machine-gun fire but the Germans worked their way to within 10 yards of the group and began hurling grenades, according to the Associated Press.

Robert Maxwell's Medal of Honor is fastened by Mary Spilde, president of Lane Community College, at a ceremony dedicating the Maxwell Student Veteran Center in his in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/The Register-Guard, Paul Carter)

Robert Maxwell’s Medal of Honor is fastened by Mary Spilde, president of Lane Community College, at a ceremony dedicating the Maxwell Student Veteran Center in his in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/The Register-Guard, Paul Carter)

“I could hear it fall right near my feet,” Maxwell said long afterward in an interview with a local cable TV station, The New York Times reported Monday. “I didn’t know for sure where it was. This was between 1 and 2 in the morning. I groped to find it and throw it back, but I knew it was too late to do that. I was already crouched down, but I did have my blanket, shoved it down on my chest and dropped where I was.”

The grenade explosion knocked Maxwell unconscious, tore away part of one foot and peppered his head and left arm with shrapnel, the paper reported.

One of those in the courtyard was Cyril McColl who told Collier’s magazine in 1945 that, while the other soldiers were knocked off their feet, they got up without a scratch, according to the Times.

“We started to pick him up and beat it, but he made us leave him and keep on fighting,” McColl said. “Only when the battalion commander and his staff had moved out of the house would he let us hustle him back to an aid station.”

Another who was there was retired Maj. Gen. Lloyd Ramsey.

“Bob, I’d like to say thank you a million times for all you did for us,” Ramsey told Maxwell when they were reunited in 2010, the Roanoke Times reported. “You’re a true soldier.”

“I didn’t think about any of that at the time,” Maxwell replied.

“I’m sure you didn’t,” said Ramsey.

Maxwell was also awarded two Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars and a Bronze Star while serving as a communication specialist with the 7th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division.

Gen. Lloyd Ramsey, right, reunites with Robert Maxwell, left, at the Brandon Oaks Assistant Living Center in Roanoke, Va. The two had not seen each other since Maxwell threw his body on to a grenade during WWII, saving the lives of Ramsey and several others. (AP Photo/The Roanoke Times, Matt Chittum)

Gen. Lloyd Ramsey, right, reunites with Robert Maxwell, left, at the Brandon Oaks Assistant Living Center in Roanoke, Va. The two had not seen each other since Maxwell threw his body on to a grenade during WWII, saving the lives of Ramsey and several others. (AP Photo/The Roanoke Times, Matt Chittum)

Maxwell was a longtime auto shop teacher in Bend with four daughters, seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, the Bulletin reported.

Just three Medal of Honor recipients from World War II are still living.

The oldest Medal of Honor recipient is now 97-year-old Charles Coolidge of Tennessee, the Bulletin reported.