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Today Is Memorial Day

By Wyatt Earp | May 25, 2009

And as such, I thought you might like to read about some of the exceptional individuals of the United States armed forces who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

Who can forget the brave men of Easy Company, made famous by Stephen Ambrose’s novel, Band of Brothers? Many of them never returned home from Europe.

A lot of people still believe that Major Richard Winters (a resident of Pennsylvania and my personal hero) should have been awarded the Medal of Honor for taking these gun positions on D-Day.

cmohSpeaking of the Congressional Medal of Honor, here are a few brave soldiers who earned the award by their actions in combat.

Lieutenant Charles P. Murray, Jr, United States Army (World War II)

For commanding Company C, 30th Infantry, displaying supreme courage and heroic initiative near Kaysersberg, France, on 16 December 1944, while leading a reinforced platoon into enemy territory. Descending into a valley beneath hilltop positions held by our troops, he observed a force of 200 Germans pouring deadly mortar, bazooka, machine gun, and small arms fire into an American battalion occupying the crest of the ridge. The enemy’s position in a sunken road, though hidden from the ridge, was open to a flank attack by 1st Lt. Murray’s patrol but he hesitated to commit so small a force to battle with the superior and strongly disposed enemy.

Crawling out ahead of his troops to a vantage point, he called by radio for artillery fire. His shells bracketed the German force, but when he was about to correct the range his radio went dead. He returned to his patrol, secured grenades and a rifle to launch them and went back to his self-appointed outpost. His first shots disclosed his position; the enemy directed heavy fire against him as he methodically fired his missiles into the narrow defile. Again he returned to his patrol.

With an automatic rifle and ammunition, he once more moved to his exposed position. Burst after burst he fired into the enemy, killing 20, wounding many others, and completely disorganizing its ranks, which began to withdraw. He prevented the removal of 3 German mortars by knocking out a truck. By that time a mortar had been brought to his support. 1st Lt. Murray directed fire of this weapon, causing further casualties and confusion in the German ranks. Calling on his patrol to follow, he then moved out toward his original objective, possession of a bridge and construction of a roadblock.

He captured 10 Germans in foxholes. An eleventh, while pretending to surrender, threw a grenade which knocked him to the ground, inflicting 8 wounds. Though suffering and bleeding profusely, he refused to return to the rear until he had chosen the spot for the block and had seen his men correctly deployed. By his single-handed attack on an overwhelming force and by his intrepid and heroic fighting, 1st Lt. Murray stopped a counterattack, established an advance position against formidable odds, and provided an inspiring example for the men of his command.

Incredible. However, did you know that there are a few men who won the CMOH twice? Men like Louis Cukela:

Sergeant Louis Cukela, United States Marine Corps (A Double Recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor - World War I)

When his company, advancing through a wood, met with strong resistance from an enemy strong point, Sgt. Cukela crawled out from the flank and made his way toward the German lines in the face of heavy fire, disregarding the warnings of his comrades. He succeeded in getting behind the enemy position and rushed a machinegun emplacement, killing or driving off the crew with his bayonet. With German hand grenades he then bombed out the remaining portion of the strong point, capturing 4 men and 2 damaged machineguns.

SECOND AWARD For extraordinary heroism while serving with the 66th Company, 5th Regiment, during action in the Forest de Retz, near Viller-Cottertes, France, 18 July 1918. Sgt. Cukela advanced alone against an enemy strong point that was holding up his line. Disregarding the warnings of his comrades, he crawled out from the flank in the face of heavy fire and worked his way to the rear of the enemy position. Rushing a machine gun emplacement, he killed or drove off the crew with his bayonet, bombed out the remaining part of the strong point with German hand grenades and captured 2 machine guns and 4 men.

Amazing. Thank you all for your service. Please remember these brave Americans and all of the members of our armed forces today.

Topics: The Troops |

8 Responses to “Today Is Memorial Day”

  1. Rick Says:
    May 25th, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    I have been doing a Medal Of Honor series on my blog. There were 19 double recipients. Of that group 14 received the medal as result of separate actions. There has been one female recipient of The Medal Of Honor.

  2. s.p.e.c.t.r.e. Says:
    May 25th, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Everyone owes these heroes a debt of gratitude. Also, the BoB marathon on the History channel the other day was awesome. I have the BD set and I could watch that everyday. In other news, there has been a letter-writing campaign to change Maj. Winters’ Distinguished Service Cross for the Brécourt Manor assault to the CMoH, as it was originally considered before it was downgraded. To date, it has unfortunately been unsuccessful.

  3. RT Says:
    May 25th, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Well said.

  4. Mike47 Says:
    May 25th, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    Wyatt, it is the Medal of Honor. Congress no longer has honor.

  5. Sully Says:
    May 26th, 2009 at 7:58 am

    Excellent Post.

  6. Alan B Says:
    May 26th, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    I note 2 things:

    The British Unknown Warrior from WWI was awarded the Medal of Honour (and the Amercian Unknown Warrior was awarded The Commonwealth’s highest honour - The Victoria Cross).
    RESPECT between UK/Commonwealth and USA.

    No Medal of Honour has been awarded to any living person for service in Iraq or Afghanistan. Also, that the proportion of soldiers who have received the Medal of honour is 10 smaller than in other wars. Will President Hope ‘n’ Change change this?
    DISrespect, it would appear, from Congress to US service men and women.

  7. Wyatt Earp Says:
    May 26th, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    Rick - Didn’t see the story about the female. Wow.

    s.p.e.c.t.r.e. - That’s a shame, because he deserves it, in my opinion.

    RT - Thank you.

    Mike47 - Terrific point there.

    Sully - Thanks, sir!

    Alan B - These are not popular wars. World Wars I and II were. I think therein lies the difference. It is not fair, but I think that is why the discrepancy.

  8. Alan B Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 4:11 am

    Wyatt: I’m sure you are right but what has that got to do with honouring those who give unstinting service to the Nation and to their brothers and sisters in arms?

    I am delighted to be able to say that the Victoria Cross and its Commonwealth equivalents has been awarded “For Valour” in Iraq and Afghanistan:

    “The two awards given in the 21st century to British personnel have been for actions in the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War. On 18 March 2005, Lance Corporal (then Private) Johnson Beharry of the 1st Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment became the first recipient of the VC since Sergeant Ian McKay in 1982.[16] The most recent award of the Victoria Cross to a British service person was the posthumous award on 14 December 2006 to Corporal Bryan Budd of 3 Para. It was awarded for two separate acts of “inspirational leadership and the greatest valour” which led to his death, during actions against the Taliban in Afghanistan in July and August 2006.[65]

    “It was announced on 2 July 2007 that Corporal Bill Apiata of the Special Air Service of New Zealand (NZ SAS) was awarded the Victoria Cross for New Zealand for carrying a severely wounded comrade 70 metres over rocky ground while under heavy machine-gun and Rocket propelled grenade fire during the Afghanistan War in 2004.[66][67]

    “On 16 January 2009, Trooper Mark Donaldson of the Australian Special Air Service was the first recipient of the Victoria Cross for Australia for deliberately drawing enemy fire to allow comrades to escape and then rescuing a wounded interpreter during the Afghanistan War in 2008.[68]”
    [source Wiki: Victoria Cross]

    (I note only one was posthumous)

    Are British and Commonwealth service men more brave or valorous then their American counterparts? An American general would have said, “Hell NO!”