We're not lost, Sergeant, We're in … France

Johnson approved by SecDef for Medal of Honor
27 August 2014, 19:03
Filed under: WWI | Tags: ,

As I noted last May, Henry Lincoln Johnson was eventually awarded the DSC, posthumously, for his actions in WWI. Now, the Secretary of Defense has recommended that Johnson be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Henry Lincoln Johnson, DSC WWI

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First session of Colmar seminar

Last night, the seminar began in earnest. General Sullivan opened the seminar by talking about the “world-class soldiers” who fought in the battle, American and French, citing specific Medals of Honor awarded. This same spirit can be seen in the Army through Korea, Vietnam and today. He specifically mentioned SFC Paul R. Smith of the 3rd Infantry Division, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for action on 4 April 2003 in Iraq that recalls Audie Murphy’s action in WWII.

en Francais:

La nuit dernière, la conférence a commencé dans sérieux. Le Général Sullivan a ouvert la conférence en parlant « des soldats world-class » qui combattu dans la bataille, américain et français, citant les médailles de l’honneur spécifiques a attribué. Cet même esprit peut être vu dans l’armée par la Corée, Vietnam et aujourd’hui. Il a spécifiquement mentionné SFC Paul R. Smith de la 3ème Division d’infanterie, qui a été attribuée la médaille de l’honneur pour l’action le 4 avril 2003 en Irak qui rappelle l’action d’Audie Murphy dans WWII.

Weekend Wanderings, 28 years after Beirut

28 years ago today, we had Marines deployed with weapons they could not use, with a barracks that was indefensible, in a location where it was bound to be attacked.

  • Over at One Marine’s View, we are reminded of those brave men, including comments by a Marine whose time was too short to go on that deployment. Semper Fi, Marines.
  • Thankfully, on 28 April 2008, in Ramadi, two Marines were properly armed and prevented a similar tragedy. I’ve linked to the story before, but since it is such a contrast with Beirut and my good friend, Alex Apple, was but 100 yards away, let me re-link: Commander Salamander had posted a speech and video of General Kelly’s speech on the two Navy Crosses awarded to LCPL Jordan Haerter and CPL Jonathan Yale. He linked to his source at American Thinker, who had written about it back in March of 2009 as well.
  • Paul Woodadge, who gives excellent tours in Normandy, passed along a great story of two veterans from the UK who reunited 67 years later, both assuming the other hadn’t survived.
  • The Congressional Medal of Honor Society met in Lousiville, Kentucky this year and Norman Fulkerson wrote a good article about it. (Thanks to Monika for passing it along!)

T5 Robert Dale Maxwell, MOH

Technician Fifth Grade Robert Dale Maxwell was a “wireman” for the 7th Infantry Regiment in the 3rd Infantry Division in World War II. Outside of Besancon, France, Maxwell and a few other wire men*, armed with only their .45 caliber pistols were defending Colonel Ramsey’s battalion command post against a German attack.

Maxwell trained as a machinegunner, so, naturally, when he arrived at the 3rd Infantry Division, he was placed in a role as a communications wire man. Well, it was probably a good thing that the Army assigned Maxwell to a task other than he’d trained for because it put him in position to save the lives of COL Ramsey and several other men in the battalion command post.

On the evening of 7 September 1944, a number of Germans attacked Ramsey’s command post. Maxwell remembers firing his pistol at muzzle flashes in the tree line, as the enemy was closing range. When the enemy had gotten to about 15 yards away, a grenade landed on Maxwell’s side of the wall. Thinking like SFC Petry did in Afghanistan, Maxwell tried to find the grenade on the ground to toss it back. Since he couldn’t find it right away, he covered it with a blanket and his own body. His foot was badly mangled, some shrapnel hit him in the arm and deflected to his head, and somehow, he got tangled up in a bicycle. His platoon leader helped him to his feet and they made their way back to the battalion aid station, getting knocked down together by another grenade blast.

When they met again 66 years and nine days later, Ramsey finally got to thank him. CPT M0nika Stoy had convinced Maxwell to attend the reunion of the 3rd Infantry Division by telling him that General Ramsey would be there. She’d convinced Ramsey to attend because Maxwell would be there. Unfortunately, the General was ill that day, but CPT Stoy was not deterred. She loaded Maxwell, the mayors of Salzburg, Austria and of Ammerschwir, France and others into vehicles early in the morning, drove them down to Roanoke, Virginia and made the reunion a reality.

After the Operation Dragoon event this year, we were able to have dinner at the Stoy’s house with Mr. Maxwell and some others. He was a real pleasure to spend time with and was headed to France the next day to participate in a number of Liberation celebrations along the route of the 3rd ID. After Maxwell was wounded, the Division captured Berchesgarden** and is planning on visiting there for the first time next year to commemorate that event as well.

It was really an honor to meet Maxwell, and I encourage everyone to consider attending our future events. Next year’s event has already been scheduled for 2-5 August 2012.

*My recollection is that Maxwell said he was aided by James Joyce (whose name stuck in my head) and one other soldier in defense of the command post, but MSNBC states that it was 3 other soldiers.

**There is much controversy over who captured Berchesgarden and Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, with the both 3rd ID, 101st ABD and the French claiming to have captured it.

Weekend Wanderings, 24 July 2011

This past week marked a momentous occasion for this blog. It exceeded last year’s hits – 1650. However, since most of last year’s hits were all due to one post that was linked on Ace of Spades, it was basically just luck (and being friendly to the right people!) So, this year’s numbers (slightly over 10 hits a day most of the time) feel much more earned.

Songs for a Hero

Lucas Peerman, who is Leroy Petry’s cousin and the digital editor of the Las Cruces Sun-News, had written one of the articles I’d used in researching for my blog entry on SFC Petry. He has also been blogging about the experience on his own blog, A Week in Washington. When Miguel Estrada posted on comment on my blog entry that he had some songs he’d like to give to SFC Petry on a CD, I passed along his contact information to Lucas. Lucas contacted Miguel and, if you read Lucas’s blog entry, you can learn a bit about Migeul and download his songs. It’s a great tribute to our troops by a patriot who adopted this land, just as all of our own ancestors did over the years.

If you’ve seen “Taking Chance“, with Kevin Bacon, I think you’ll find that though Lucas has several marvelous entries in his blog, but tops on the list must be the story of a Marine who felt honored just to share a beer with Leroy.

SFC Leroy Petry, Medal of Honor

When you walk through the bunkers at Pointe du Hoc, or look down the cliffs, or notice how intact the bunkers are after thousands of bombs and 67 years, you wonder how it could ever have been taken. Colonel Rudder led 225 men of the 2nd Ranger Battalion up the cliffs and into the bunkers. Where do we find men such as these?

In Sante Fe, New Mexico, Steven Drysdale and his cousin, Leroy Petry, were inseperable. As boys do, they fought each other occasionally, but “Everybody liked Leroy. He was always smiling, laughing, bonding with people.” Petry wanted to join the Army since he was seven years old. After Steven joined the Army and became a Ranger, Leroy followed suit.

On Memorial Day, 2008, near Paktia, Afghanistan, Sergeant First Class Leroy Petry, of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, and another Ranger advanced into the courtyard of a compound in Afghanistan and came under fire. During the fight, after Petry had already been shot through both legs, a grenade was tossed near Petry and his comrades. He moved to it and picked it up to toss it away, thinking, “It was probably going to kill all three of us. I had time to visually see the hand grenade. And I figure it’s got about a four-and-half second fuse, depending on how long it has been in the elements and the weather and everything and how long the pin has been pulled. I figure if you have time to see it you have time to kick it, throw it, just get it out there.”

Petry was wrong about the time on the fuse, but right in his instincts. Unfortunately, when the grenade exploded, it amputated his right hand. He put a tourniquet on himself, reported his wound and continued to communicate until they had eliminated the opposition.

Petry has reenlisted and plans a long career in the Army, helping other servicemembers who have lostt limbs readapt to society.

I guess we find these men on playgrounds in New Mexico, in the streets of New York, the hills of Tennessee or just about anywhere you search in this great country of ours.

Pacific Airborne Medal of Honor
27 February 2011, 16:33
Filed under: 511th, Medal of Honor, Paratroopers | Tags: ,

I knew that some airborne units had shipped out to the Pacific and that they’d seen some intense fighting, especially in the Philippines, but I hadn’t realized that they’d made combat jumps. As I was reading about the liberation of Manila, I came across an account of PFC Manuel Perez, Jr’s Medal of Honor in Gerry Devlin’s Paratrooper. PFC Perez was serving as lead scout for A/1/511 during the advance on Fort McKinley on 13 February 1945.

While marching toward the inner ring of the fort’s defensive wall, Perez’s company had managed to knock out eleven of the twelve large bunkers. Perez had shot and killed five enemy soldiers during the preliminary skirmishes.

Now that the smaller bunkers were out of the way, Company A was facing the final and largest bunker blocking the approach to the fort. Inside were two twin-mount .50 caliber machine guns. Paratroopers nearing the big bunker were immediately cut to ribbons by the twin .50s.

In an attempt to take the bunker, Perez ran wide around its flank, killing four more enemy defenders along the way. From his new position, Perez threw a grenade into the bunker. When four Japanese ran out to escape the grenade blasts, he killed them.

Just then, Perez discovered that he had expended his rounds. While reloading, an escaping enemy soldier tried to kill him by <i>throwing a rifle with a fixed bayonet</i>, like javelin. As he tried to parry this thrust, Perez’s rifle was knocked from his hands, causing him to drop his bullets. Reaching down, he snatched the ememy rifle and killed his assailant and another Japanese soldier. Taking advantage of the confused situation, Perez ran toward his objective. On the way he bashed in the skulls of three Japanese who tried to stop him. He then ran inside the bunker and bayoneted the lone survivor of the grenade blasts.

While Perez survived that encounter, he would not survive to be awarded his medal, as was true of many such heroes. He was killed less than a week later, while charging a pillbox alone.

Perez is buried in Fairlawn Cemetery in his hometown of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Perez enlisted in Chicago and there is a plaza named after him in Chicago’s Little Village Square as well as an elementary school.

It’s very easy for the general public when thinking about paratroopers to forget about anyone who wasn’t in Easy Company. Mike Ranney had let Dick Winters know that his grandson had asked if he had been a hero during the war, to which Ranney responded that he wasn’t a hero, but he had served in a company of heroes. With men like Manuel Perez, Jr. in the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment on the other side of the globe, we were blessed with many companies of heroes.

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