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Medal of Honor - Recipients Bios

Medal of Honor Recipients
Featured in Medal of Honor

Living

  • George “Bud” Day – Day was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service during the Vietnam War. After serving in WWII and Korea, Air Force Major Day was shot down over North Vietnam on August 26, 1967, and taken a prisoner of war. Pretending he could not walk, Day managed to escape into the jungle and began the trek toward South Vietnam. Despite a broken arm and a dislocated knee, Day continued southward, successfully evading enemy patrols and eventually making it to the demilitarized zone after swimming across the Ben Hai River. However, due to delirium from lack of food, he wandered aimlessly for several days. Just a mile from a U.S. base he was shot and recaptured by the Viet Cong. Day was taken to the “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp where he spent over five years in captivity, enduring countless interrogations, beatings and torture. A native of Sioux City, Iowa, Day resides in Shalimar, Florida.
  • Drew Dix – Dix was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service during the Vietnam War. At the end of January 1968, during a fierce, 56-hour battle during the Tet Offensive, Army Special Forces Staff Sergeant Dix continually risked his life to rescue civilians, including an American nurse, trapped civilian volunteers and family members of a South Vietnamese commander. He then repelled an enemy force, capturing 20 prisoners, including the highest-ranking North Vietnamese general officer ever seized. Dix was the first Medal of Honor recipient of the Vietnam War and the first Green Beret to receive such recognition. Dix was born in West Point, New York, and resides in Mimbres, New Mexico.
  • Walter D. Ehlers – Army Staff Sergeant Ehlers received the Medal of Honor for leading his infantry through a series of deadly clashes at Normandy during World War II. During an intense firefight on June 9, 1944, Ehlers single-handedly killed four enemy soldiers, knocked out two machine gun nests and spearheaded attacks against a pair of mortar pits. The next day Ehlers' squad was ordered to retreat after it found itself dangerously exposed to German fire. Ehlers decided that would get them all killed, so he opened fire on several German positions at once. By drawing their fire, he allowed other Americans to retreat in good order. Shot and wounded and ignoring a steady barrage of enemy fire, Ehlers rescued another wounded GI and carried him to safety. A native of Manhattan, Kansas, Ehlers resides in Buena Park, California.
  • John Finn – Lieutenant Finn received the Medal of Honor for his valor during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the first day of war in the Pacific. A Navy petty officer in charge of guns used in bombers, Finn’s request to make gun mounts to protect the airfield from attack had been denied. Under a barrage of machine-gun fire from Japanese zeros, Finn grabbed a .50-caliber machine gun, placed it on a pile of lumber and shot at enemy planes. Although painfully wounded, he continued to man his gun and return the fire. It was only by specific orders that he was persuaded to leave his post to seek medical attention. Following first aid treatment but still in excruciating pain, he returned to the squadron area and actively supervised the rearming of returning planes. Interviewed at the age of 98, Finn is the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient. He was born in Los Angeles and resides in Pine Valley, California, 70 miles from San Diego.
  • Bob Kerrey – Kerrey, a former governor and senator from Nebraska, received the Medal of Honor for his service during the Vietnam War. On the night of March 14, 1969, Kerrey, a Navy SEAL, led his unit on a daring, pre-dawn operation to capture key Viet Cong political cadre. They were meeting on an island off the coast of Vietnam that was considered virtually unassailable. Lieutenant Kerrey and his unit scaled a 350-foot sheer cliff, taking the enemy by surprise. Kerrey was severely wounded in the ensuing firefight by an enemy grenade that cost him part of his leg. He continued to direct his men in the battle and extraction. The captured prisoners provided key intelligence for the United States. Kerrey was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, and resides in New York City.
  • Charles Liteky – Liteky received the Medal of Honor for his service during the Vietnam War. On December 6, 1967, Liteky, an Army chaplain, and his company were participating in a search and destroy mission when they came under enemy attack. Despite wounds to his neck and foot, Liteky carried 23 wounded comrades to safety during the fierce firefight. At one point, Liteky tried to lift a seriously wounded soldier. Realizing the man was too heavy, the chaplain rolled on his back, placed the man on his chest and crawled backwards to the landing zone using his elbows and heels to push himself along. On July 29, 1986, Liteky laid his medal at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC in protest over U.S. policies in Central America, becoming the only recipient to ever return his medal. Liteky was born in Washington D.C. and resides in San Francisco, California.
  • Hiroshi Miyamura – Miyamura was awarded the Medal of Honor for his valor in the Korean War. On the night of April 24, 1951, Army Corporal Miyamura was occupying a defensive position on a hillside when the enemy unleashed a ferocious attack. Believing his men would be killed, Miyamura, a machine-gun squad leader, ordered their evacuation. He then left his shelter and killed at least 10 enemy soldiers in hand-to-hand combat. He then killed another 50 with his machine-gun before being severely wounded and taken prisoner. Because of Miyamura’s heroism, his fellow U.S. soldiers were able to fall back to safety. In addition, Miyamura spent over two years in captivity. Miyamura was born in Gallup, New Mexico and currently resides there.
  • Alfred Rascon – Specialist Fourth Class Rascon was awarded the Medal of Honor for shielding his fellow soldiers with his own body to protect them against a grenade attack during the Vietnam War. Rascon was a battalion medic with the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade on March 16, 1966, when his unit was attacked by North Vietnamese troops. Three times during the firefight, Rascon braved enemy machine-gun fire and exploding grenades to shield wounded men. Despite being seriously wounded himself, a bloodied Rascon, who refused medical aid, saved the lives of many of his fellow troops. Rascon was born in Mexico and resides in Laurel, Maryland.
  • Ron Rosser – Corporal Rosser was awarded the Medal of Honor for his single-handed attack on enemy bunkers during the Korean War. Rosser served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne from 1947-49 and re-enlisted after his brother Richard was killed in the Korean War. On January 12, 1952, Rosser, a radioman assigned to combat duty, and his company was stopped by enemy fire while assaulting enemy hill positions. Rosser handed his radio to his assistant and charged the enemy positions armed with only carbine and grenades. After exhausting his ammunition, Rosser twice more returned for more ammunition and charged the hill. He was wounded but continued to help remove other wounded soldiers while the platoon was under attack. Rosser was born in Columbus, Ohio, and resides in nearby Roseville.
  • Tibor Rubin – A Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor who enlisted in the Army after being liberated from a concentration camp, Rubin was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic Korean War service during the period from July 23, 1950 to April 20, 1953. Rubin’s anti-Semitic sergeant helped make him a hero. He “volunteered” Corporal Rubin, ordering him to a hill for 24 hours all by himself. To make the enemy believe he was a whole company, Rubin scrambled from foxhole to foxhole, wildly firing weapons and throwing hand grenades. He killed a staggering number of enemy soldiers. During an attack in October 1950, he was severely wounded and captured along with other soldiers. For the next two and a half years, the POW risked his life daily to keep his fellow soldiers alive. But Rubin had to wait 50 years to receive his medal. President George W. Bush awarded it to him at a White House ceremony on September 23, 2005. Rubin resides in Garden Grove, California.
  • Mike Thornton – Thornton received the Medal of Honor for his service during the Vietnam War. On Oct. 31, 1972, Lieutenant Thornton was part of a five-man Navy SEAL patrol that was gathering intelligence near the Cua Viet River Base. However, they had been dropped in the wrong place – inside North Vietnam. After scouting the area, a seven-hour firefight erupted during which Thornton was wounded by a hand grenade. When he learned his squad leader, Lieutenant Thomas R. Norris, was dead, Thornton returned 500 yards through a hail of gunfire to retrieve the body. He carried the wounded and unconscious lieutenant back to the ocean, saved another wounded squad mate and towed both for two hours until they were rescued. A native of Greenville, South Carolina, Thornton resides in Montgomery, Texas.
  • Hershel Williams – Corporal Williams received the Medal of Honor for his heroism on Iwo Jima during WWII. Under heavy enemy fire on February 23, 1945, Williams, a Marine demolition sergeant, daringly knocked out Japanese concrete pillboxes with his flame- thrower to clear a path for his infantry to move forward. At one point, he climbed in top of a pillbox to insert the nozzle of his flamethrower through the air vent. He killed the occupants and silenced the gun. When enemy soldiers from another pillbox fixed their bayonets and charged him, he killed them all with a burst of flame. He repeatedly returned to his own lines to get new flamethrowers. Finally, an opening in the Japanese lines was created, enabling the Marines to advance. Williams was born in Fairmont, West Virginia, and resides in nearby Ona.

Deceased

  • Paul Smith – Army Sergeant 1st Class Paul Smith was the first soldier from the Iraq war to receive the Medal of Honor. On April 4, 2003, early in the war, Smith and his battalion were creating a holding area for prisoners within a courtyard near the airport in Baghdad when they came under attack by as many as 100 enemy soldiers. Smith tossed a grenade over the wall, and then climbed atop an armored vehicle. Disregarding personal danger, he sprayed the attacking troops with a .50-caliber machine gun. After an hour firing the unprotected, primary weapon, Smith was fatally wounded. The career sergeant saved the lives of at least 100 American soldiers and killed more than 20 enemy soldiers. Smith, 33, was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in March 2005. Smith was born in El Paso, Texas, and lived in Tampa, Florida.
  • Alvin York – York received the Medal of Honor for his service during World War I. Deeply religious, York considered accepting Conscientious Objector papers that the War Department had approved. On October 8, 1918, York, an Army corporal, single-handedly killed 25 Germans and captured 132 prisoners during the Battle of Argonne Forest. York is considered America’s most decorated World War I soldier – his life was the subject of the 1941 film, Sergeant York, starring Gary Cooper. York was a native of Pall Mall, Tennessee.
  • Smedley Butler – Major Butler, a Marine, was twice awarded the Medal of Honor, one of only 19 to be so honored. Butler received his first medal for the capture of Veracruz, Mexico, in 1914, where he led the Marines who landed and occupied the city. The following year, he was awarded his second medal for the capture of Fort Riviere, Haiti. After his retirement in 1931, Butler became a pacifist and a staunch critic of American imperialism. Butler was a native of West Chester, Pennsylvania.
  • Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain – Chamberlain, a Union Army lieutenant colonel, received the Medal of Honor for his actions at Gettysburg during the Civil War. On July 2, 1863, Chamberlain, of the 20th Maine, had received orders to defend and hold Little Round Top. In spite of repeated Confederate attacks, he held the position, driving the enemy back each time. With their ammunition gone and the Rebels forming a final attack, Chamberlain launched a fierce bayonet charge that broke the Confederate line for good and saved Little Round Top for the Union. Chamberlain was a native of Brunswick, Maine.
  • Mary Edwards Walker – Walker was the only woman ever awarded the Medal of Honor. A surgeon for the Union Army during the Civil War, Walker treated wounded soldiers both on battlefields and in hospitals. Walker was captured treating Confederates behind enemy lines and was imprisoned. Her captors paraded her through the streets of Richmond to show how depraved the Union was: this woman had the audacity to wear pants. Walker’s Medal of Honor was revoked in 1917 when Congress revised the requirements, but she refused to give it back. President Jimmy Carter restored Walker’s medal in 1977. Walker was a native of Oswego, New York
  • William Harvey Carney – Carney received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Civil War. Born a slave in Virginia, he made it to freedom in Massachusetts on the Underground Railroad. Sergeant Carney was standing next to a flag bearer when the flag bearer was shot and the flag was going to fall. Carney dropped his firearm. Picked up the stars and stripes and assumed the role of the flag bearer. He was shot several times, but protected the flag. Carney was the first African-American to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Other Soldiers Interviewed in the Film

  • Michael Seaman, Harold Delauter and Daniel Medrano – Sergeants Seaman, Delauter and Medrano all served under the command of Iraq war Medal of Honor recipient Paul Smith, fighting in the battle at Baghdad Airport on April, 4, 2003. Seaman was feeding ammunition to Sgt. Smith during the battle which took Smith’s life.

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