medal of honor

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In one of the most iconic images of the Korean War, if not the history of the United States Marine Corps, 2nd Lt. Baldomero López scales the seawall at Inchon on Sept. 15th, 1950. Mere minutes after the photo was taken however, Lopez would be killed in action, jumping on a grenade that he had dropped, after being struck by North Korean fire, in the act of throwing it. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

(National Archives)

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African American soldiers of the 16th Training Battalion, Camp Wheeler, GA (December, 1941).

Members of this training battalion went on to serve with honor and distinction in the 92nd Infantry (Buffalo Soldier) Division. Spike Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna (2008) from the book by James McBride was a fictional account of the 92nd, but it was based on real interviews with members of this unit.

The 92nd Infantry Division was a part of the 5th Army that served in the Italian Theater during World War II.  It was also the only infantry unit comprised entirely of African Americans to see combat in Europe.  During their time in Italy, from August of 1944 through May 1945, the 92nd advanced over 3,000 square miles and captured 20,000 German prisoners.  They also suffered heavy casualties with a quarter of the unit killed or wounded in action. The 92nd went on to earn more than 12,000 decorations and citations including two Medals of Honor.

(original US Army photos from our private collection)

The son of a Texas sharecropper and was part Yaqui Native American and part Mexican, young Benavidez grew up an orphan, poor, and dropped out of school in the 7th grade. He was labeled a ‘dumb Mexican’ through his early years.

He enlisted in the Army National Guard in 1952 and 3 years later moved to the Regular Army. He married, joined the 82nd Airborne Division and was jump qualified. He later went into Special Forces training and was accepted into the 5th Special Forces Group and Studies and Observation Group SOG.

In '65 he was sent to South Vietnam serving as an advisor to the South Vietnamese Army and stepped on a land mine during a patrol and medical evacuated to the States. The doctors there determined that he would never walk again, but Benavidez showed them by conducting his own physical therapy at night to regain his ability to walk by crawling on his elbows and chin to a wall beside his bed, he would prop himself up against the wall and try to lift himself without physical assistance, but was cheered on by his fellow patients. It took a year of painful exercise, but in July '66 Benavidez walked out of the hospital, yes-walked, with his wife beside him and requested to be sent back to Vietnam.

It was granted in January '68.

On 2 May of that year, a 12-man Special Forces patrol comprised of 9 loyal Montagnards and 3 American leaders were engaged and quickly surrounded by an estimated 1,000 North Vietnamese Army soldiers. Hearing their frantic calls on the radio for help Benavidez ran for the helicopter and climbed on board armed only with a knife.

The landing zone was hot, but he’ realized that all the patrol members were either dead or wounded and unable to make it to the helicopter and ordered his helicopter to a nearby opening and jumped into it with a medical bag to take care of the wounded. So began a six-hour firefight. In his run to make it to the casualties Benavidez was wounded in the leg, face and head by enemy fire, but he doggedly continued, found the team members and rallied them to keep fighting to hold the enemy at bay to allow a medevac to occur.

He took smoke grenades and hurled them at the enemy in the tree line to direct close air support. When a helicopter came in, Benavidez picked up and carried off 6 of the patrol one by one to the helicopter. When they were on board he took a rifle and ran with the helicopter as it flew along towards where the other members were giving protecting fire from the NVA. When the patrol leader was killed, Benavidez managed to reach his body and recover classified materials, but was wounded again by enemy fire in the abdomen and shrapnel in his back. At that moment, the helicopter that was about to save them all was hit, the pilot killed, and it crashed into the LZ.

Benavidez ran back to the wreckage and pulled the dead and wounded and the others from it and set up a perimeter giving them hope with encouraging words and distributing ammo and water. The enemy fire was intense with automatic weapons and grenades coming from all sides. Using a radio, Benavidez began calling in close air support with gunship runs to allow another rescue attempt. He was hit again by a bullet through his thigh while dressing a wounded man.

A second helicopter came in to take them and the sergeant began taking them onboard, after taking one man and was carrying another, an NVA popped out and clubbed the sergeant in the head. Benavidez grappled with the enemy soldier and stabbed him in the head with his knife with enough force that it became stuck in the soldier’s head and couldn’t be removed.

When the last of the wounded were on board the sergeant saw two NVA rushing the helicopter, but the door gunners couldn’t engage them. Taking a rifle he gunned them both down. He made one last run around to gather and destroy the last of the classified material before boarding the helicopter. It was here when his adrenaline stopped and the serious nature of his wounds became known.

He received 37 puncture wounds, his intestines were out of his body, blinded by blood, a broken jaw, and shrapnel in his back he was thought to be dead with the helicopter touched down at base. He was pronounced dead by a doctor when he couldn’t feel a heartbeat, but the sergeant showed him by spitting in the doctor’s face. He recovered from his many injuries, but he wasn’t awarded the Medal of Honor. Instead, he was given the Distinguished Service Cross.

His friends clambered for this to be addressed, but Congress declared that too much time had passed and they needed eye witnesses to his actions. In 1980, Benavidez’s radioman, Brian O'Conner, provided a 10 page testimony about the firefight and was severely wounded in the same fight and thought to have died from his wounds, but he was alive and saw the news report on the news while vacationing in Australia. With his testimony the Review Board upgraded the Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor. On 24 February 1981 President Ronald Reagan bestowed the Medal of Honor to Master Sergeant Roy P. Benavidez to go with his other medals including;

5 Purple Hearts
Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Meritorious Service Medal
Army Commendation Medal
Good Conduct Medal with one silver and one bronze service loop
Army of Occupation Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Vietnam Service Medal with four campaign stars
Vietnam Campaign Medal
Presidential Unit Citation
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm
Texas Legislative Medal of Honor
Combat Infantry Badge
Master Parachutist Badge
Army Special Forces Tab.

Not bad for a 'Dumb Mexican’.

Dedicated to the “Cactus Air Force”, this painting pays tribute to the USMC ace Joe Foss. Joe’s 20th air combat victory was an Imperial Japanese Navy G4M Betty Bomber, claimed on 12th November 1942 during the fight for Guadalcanal, whilst he was flying an F4F Wildcat. 

 The Japanese sent in 16 Betty Bombers and 30 covering Zeroes to attack American transports full of infantry.  Joe Foss and his Wildcats were flying a combat air patrol as top cover and dived headlong into the attackers, flying right down to the Betty Bombers on the deck.

 Showing his aggressive close-in fighter tactics and uncanny gunnery skills, Joe Foss hauled to within 100 yards of the nearest bomber and fired at the starboard engine, which spouted flame. 

 The G4M tried a water landing, caught a wingtip and tumbled into the sea. 

The painting captures the moment that the stricken Betty Bomber struggled to keep airborne and the Wildcat soared away, victory assured. This makes a wonderfully striking composition. Captain Joe Foss was later credited with 26 aerial victories and became the first Marine Corps fighter pilot to win the Medal of Honor

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Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th US Cavalry (USCT) in Philadelphia, 1898.

To celebrate the close of the Spanish American War, twenty-five thousand regular and volunteer troops of the Federal Army were reviewed by President William McKinley in Philadelphia on Thursday, October 17, 1898. This photo was taken at 13th and Market Streets.

The 10th Cavalry fought with distinction and honor in the Battle of Las Guasimas, the Battle of Tayacoba (where four members were awarded the Medal of Honor), with Colonel Theodore Roosevelt at the Battle of San Juan Hill and the Siege of Santiago de Cuba.

Photographic image made by Williams, Brown & Earle, dealers in stereoscopic views, 918 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia and is from our private collection.

The First Female U.S. Army Surgeon- Dr. Mary Edwards Walker is the sole woman to have been awarded the Medal of Honor 

At the beginning of the Civil War, she volunteered for the Union Army as a civilian. The U.S. Army had no female surgeons, and at first she was only allowed to practice as a nurse. 

During this period, she served at the First Battle Of Bull Run (Manassas), July 21, 1861, and at the Patent Office Hospital in Washington, She worked as an unpaid field surgeon near the Union front lines, including at the Battle of Fredericksburg and in Chattanooga after the Battle of Chickamauga. 

As a suffragette, she was happy to see women serving as soldiers and alerted the press to the case of Frances Hook in Ward 2 of the Chattanooga hospital, a woman who served in the Union forces disguised as a man.  In September 1862, Walker wrote to the War Department requesting employment as a spy, but her proposal was declined.

In September 1863, she was employed as a “Contract Acting Assistant Surgeon (civilian)" becoming the first female surgeon employed by the U.S. Army Surgeon. She was later appointed assistant surgeon of the 52nd Ohio Infantry. During her service, she frequently crossed battle lines and treated civilians.

On April 10, 1864, she was captured by Confederate troops and arrested as a spy, just after she finished helping a Confederate doctor perform an amputation. She was sent to Castle Thunder in Richmond, Virginia, and remained there until August 12, 1864, when she was released as part of a prisoner exchange. While she was imprisoned, she refused to wear the clothes provided because they were more "becoming of her sex”. Walker was exchanged for a Confederate surgeon from Tennessee on August 12, 1864.
She went on to serve during the Battle of Atlanta and later as supervisor of a female prison in Kentuck, and as the head of an orphanage in Tennessee.

Walker was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2000.