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Archive for Friday, July 18, 2003

Dedication events bring together Medal of Honor Citation recipients

July 18, 2003

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Fifteen of the 52 surviving World War II Congressional Medal of Honor Citation recipients are scheduled to be at the Dole Institute of Politics dedication ceremonies.

The gathering is thought to be the largest of World War II Medal of Honor recipients since the war's end. A total of 464 veterans earned the honor during the war -- 324 in the Army, 57 in the Navy, 82 in the Marines and one in the Coast Guard.

Of the 464, 266 were awarded posthumously.

A total of 3,459 veterans from all wars have received the award since it was established in 1782.

Here's a look at the medal recipients planning to attend, their hometowns, place and date of their heroic actions, and excerpts from the citations when they were issued:

Robert Eugene Bush

Home: Olympia, Wash.

Rank and organization: Hospital Apprentice First Class, U.S. Naval Reserve, serving as Medical Corpsman with a rifle company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division.

Place and date: Okinawa Jima, Ryukyu Islands, May 2, 1945.

Fearlessly braving the fury of artillery, mortar and machine-gun fire from strongly entrenched hostile positions, Hospital Apprentice First Class Bush constantly and unhesitatingly moved from one casualty to another to attend the wounded falling under the enemy's murderous barrages.

As the attack passed over a ridge top, Hospital Apprentice First Class Bush was advancing to administer blood plasma to a Marine officer lying wounded on the skyline when the Japanese launched a savage counterattack. In this perilously exposed position, he resolutely maintained the flow of life-giving plasma. With the bottle held high in one hand, Bush drew his pistol with the other and fired into the enemy's ranks until his ammunition was expended.

World War II veteran Desmond Doss, left, a conscientious objector
who served as a medic during the war, jokes with fellow
Congressional Medal of Honor recipient John Finn during a mayor's
banquet honoring the medal recipients in Shreveport, La., Sept. 10,
2002. Doss is scheduled to attend this weekend's dedication of the
Dole Institute of Politics.

World War II veteran Desmond Doss, left, a conscientious objector who served as a medic during the war, jokes with fellow Congressional Medal of Honor recipient John Finn during a mayor's banquet honoring the medal recipients in Shreveport, La., Sept. 10, 2002. Doss is scheduled to attend this weekend's dedication of the Dole Institute of Politics.

Quickly seizing a discarded carbine, he trained his fire on the Japanese charging point-blank over the hill, accounting for six of the enemy despite his own serious wounds and the loss of one eye suffered during his desperate battle in defense of the helpless man.

Mike Colalillo

Home: Duluth, Minn.

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company C, 398th Infantry, 100th Infantry Division.

Place and date: Near Untergriesheim, Germany, April 7, 1945.

Pfc. Colalillo was pinned down with other members of his company during an attack against strong enemy positions in the vicinity of Untergriesheim, Germany. Heavy artillery, mortar and machine-gun fire made any move hazardous when he stood up. He shouted to the company to follow and ran forward in the wake of a supporting tank, firing his machine pistol. Inspired by his example, his comrades advanced in the face of savage enemy fire.

When his weapon was struck by shrapnel and rendered useless, Pfc. Colalillo climbed to the deck of a friendly tank, manned an exposed machine gun on the turret of the vehicle, and, while bullets rattled about him, fired at an enemy emplacement with such devastating accuracy that he killed or wounded at least 10 hostile soldiers and destroyed their machine gun.

Desmond T. Doss

Home: Rising Fawn, Ga.

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Medical Detachment, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division.

Place and date: Near Urasoe Mura, Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands, April 29-May 21, 1945.

Pfc. Doss was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet high. As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machine-gun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Pfc. Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying them one by one to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands.

On May 21, in a night attack on high ground near Shuri, he remained in exposed territory while the rest of his company took cover, fearlessly risking the chance that he would be mistaken for an infiltrating Japanese and giving aid to the injured until he was himself seriously wounded in the legs by the explosion of a grenade. Rather than call another aid man from cover, he cared for his own injuries and waited five hours before litter-bearers carried him to cover.

Walter D. Ehlers

Home: Buena Park, Calif.

Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, 18th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division.

Place and date: Near Goville, France, June 9-10, 1944.

Staff Sgt. Ehlers, always acting as the spearhead of the attack, repeatedly led his men against heavily defended enemy strong points, exposing himself to deadly hostile fire whenever the situation required heroic and courageous leadership. Without waiting for an order, Staff Sgt. Ehlers, far ahead of his men, led his squad against a strongly defended enemy strong point, personally killing four of an enemy patrol who attacked him en route.

Then, crawling forward under withering machine-gun fire, he pounced upon the gun crew and put it out of action. Turning his attention to two mortars protected by the crossfire of two machine guns, Staff Sgt. Ehlers led his men through this hail of bullets to kill or put to flight the enemy of the mortar section, killing three men himself.

Joe Hayashi

Home: Pearl City, Hawaii

Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Army

Place and date: Tendola, Italy, April 20-22, 1945

On April 20, 1945, ordered to attack a strongly defended hill that commanded all approaches to the village of Tendola, Pvt. Hayashi skillfully led his men to a point within 75 yards of enemy positions before they were detected and fired upon. After dragging his wounded comrades to safety, he returned alone and exposed himself to small arms fire in order to direct and adjust mortar fire against hostile emplacements.

Boldly attacking the hill with the remaining men of his squad, Pvt. Hayashi attained his objective and discovered that the mortars had neutralized three machine guns, killed 27 men, and wounded many others.

Jack H. Lucas

Home: Hattiesburg, Miss.

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division.

Place and date: Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, Feb. 20, 1945.

While creeping through a treacherous, twisting ravine that ran in close proximity to a fluid and uncertain frontline on D-plus-1 day, Pfc. Lucas and three other men were suddenly ambushed by a hostile patrol, which savagely attacked with rifle fire and grenades.

Quick to act when the lives of the small group were endangered by two grenades that landed directly in front of them, Pfc. Lucas unhesitatingly hurled himself over his comrades upon one grenade and pulled the other under him, absorbing the whole blasting forces of the explosions in his own body in order to shield his companions from the concussion and murderous flying fragments.

Robert D. Maxwell

Home: Bend, Ore.

Rank and organization: Technician Fifth Grade, U.S. Army, 7th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division.

Place and date: Near Besancon, France, Sept. 7, 1944.

Technician 5th Grade Maxwell and three other soldiers, armed only with .45-caliber automatic pistols, defended the battalion observation post against an overwhelming onslaught by enemy infantrymen in approximately platoon strength, supported by 20 mm flak and machine-gun fire, who had infiltrated through the battalion's forward companies and were attacking the observation post with machine-gun, machine-pistol, and grenade fire at ranges as close as 10 yards.

When an enemy hand grenade was thrown in the midst of his squad, Technician 5th Grade Maxwell unhesitatingly hurled himself squarely upon it, using his blanket and his unprotected body to absorb the full force of the explosion.

Charles P. Murray Jr.

Home: Columbia, S.C.

Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Company C, 30th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division.

Place and date: Near Kaysersberg, France, Dec. 16, 1944.

Descending into a valley beneath hilltop positions held by our troops, 1st Lt. Murray 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.

Medal of Honor winner Jack H. Lucas, left, waves to the crowd
during halftime ceremonies at the Southern Mississippi football
game against Army, Oct. 16, 1999, in Hattiesburg, Miss. Lucas, a
private first class during World War II when he received the medal,
was presented with a plaque by USM President Horace Fleming, right,
and Hattiesburg Mayor Ed Morgan, background center. Lucas is
scheduled to attend the dedication of the Dole Institute and speak
at the Memory Tent.

Medal of Honor winner Jack H. Lucas, left, waves to the crowd during halftime ceremonies at the Southern Mississippi football game against Army, Oct. 16, 1999, in Hattiesburg, Miss. Lucas, a private first class during World War II when he received the medal, was presented with a plaque by USM President Horace Fleming, right, and Hattiesburg Mayor Ed Morgan, background center. Lucas is scheduled to attend the dedication of the Dole Institute and speak at the Memory Tent.

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 three German mortars by knocking out a truck.

He captured 10 Germans in foxholes. An 11th, while pretending to surrender, threw a grenade that knocked him to the ground, inflicting eight wounds. Though suffering and bleeding profusely, 1st Lt. Murray refused to return to the rear until he had chosen the spot for the block and had seen his men correctly deployed.

Nicholas Oresko

Home: Tenafly, N.J.

Rank and organization: Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company C, 302d Infantry, 94th Infantry Division.

Place and date: Near Tettington, Germany, Jan. 23, 1945.

Master Sgt. Oresko was a platoon leader with Company C in an attack against strong enemy positions. Deadly automatic fire from the flanks pinned down his unit. Realizing that a machine gun in a nearby bunker must be eliminated, he swiftly worked ahead alone, braving bullets that struck about him until close enough to throw a grenade into the German position. He rushed the bunker and, with point-blank rifle fire, killed all the hostile occupants who survived the grenade blast.

With a grenade, he crippled the dug-in machine gun defending this position and then wiped out the troops manning it with his rifle, completing his second self-imposed, one-man attack. Although weak from loss of blood, Master Sgt. Oresko refused to be evacuated until assured the mission was successfully accomplished.

Mitchell Paige

Home: Palm Desert, Calif.

Rank and organization: Platoon Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps.

Place and date: Solomon Islands, Oct. 26, 1942.

When the enemy broke through the line directly in front of his position, Platoon Sgt. Paige, commanding a machine-gun section with fearless determination, continued to direct the fire of his gunners until all his men were either killed or wounded.

Alone, against the deadly hail of Japanese shells, he fought with his gun and when it was destroyed, took over another, moving from gun to gun, never ceasing his withering fire against the advancing hordes until reinforcements finally arrived. Then, forming a new line, he dauntlessly and aggressively led a bayonet charge, driving the enemy back and preventing a breakthrough in our lines.

Everett P. Pope

Home: Amelia Island, Fla.

Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Marine Corps, Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division.

Place and date: Peleliu Island, Palau group, Sept. 19-20, 1944.

Subjected to point-blank cannon fire that caused heavy casualties and badly disorganized his company while assaulting a steep coral hill, Capt. Pope rallied his men and gallantly led them to the summit in the face of machine-gun, mortar and sniper fire. Forced by widespread hostile attack to deploy the remnants of his company thinly in order to hold the ground won, and with his machine guns out of order and insufficient water and ammunition, he remained on the exposed hill with 12 men and one wounded officer determined to hold through the night.

Attacked continuously with grenades, machine guns and rifles from three sides, Capt. Pope and his valiant men fiercely beat back or destroyed the enemy, resorting to hand-to-hand combat as the supply of ammunition dwindled, and still maintaining his lines with his eight remaining riflemen when daylight brought more deadly fire and he was ordered to withdraw.

Wilburn K. Ross

Home: Duport, Wash.

Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Army, Company G, 350th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division.

Place and date: Near St. Jacques, France, Oct. 30, 1944.

At 11:30 a.m. Oct. 30, 1944, after his company had lost 55 out of 88 men in an attack on an entrenched, full-strength German company of elite mountain troops, Pvt. Ross placed his light machine gun 10 yards in advance of the foremost supporting riflemen in order to absorb the initial impact of an enemy counterattack. ... Despite the hail of automatic fire and the explosion of rifle grenades within a stone's throw of his position, he continued to man his machine gun alone, holding off six more German attacks.

The Germans launched their last all-out attack, converging their fire on Pvt. Ross in a desperate attempt to destroy the machine gun that stood between them and a decisive breakthrough. ... He opened murderous fire on the oncoming enemy; killed 40 and wounded 10 of the attacking force; broke the assault single-handedly, and forced the Germans to withdraw.

Having killed or wounded at least 58 Germans in more than five hours of continuous combat and saved the remnants of his company from destruction, Pvt. Ross remained at his post that night and the following day for a total of 36 hours.

Alejandro R. Ruiz

Home: Emeryville, Calif.

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, 165th Infantry, 27th Infantry Division.

Place and date: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands, April 28, 1945.

Pfc. Ruiz's squad, suddenly brought under a hail of machine-gun fire and a vicious grenade attack, was pinned down. Jumping to his feet, Pfc. Ruiz seized an automatic rifle and lunged through the flying grenades and rifle and automatic fire for the top of the emplacement. When an enemy soldier charged him, his rifle jammed. Undaunted, Pfc. Ruiz whirled on his assailant and clubbed him down.

Then he ran back through bullets and grenades, seized more ammunition and another automatic rifle, and again made for the pillbox. Enemy fire now was concentrated on him, but he charged on, miraculously reaching the position, and in plain view he climbed to the top. Leaping from one opening to another, he sent burst after burst into the pillbox, killing 12 of the enemy and completely destroying the position.

George E. Wahlen

Home: Roy, Utah

Rank and organization: Pharmacist's Mate Second Class, U.S. Navy, serving with 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division.

Place and date: Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands group, March 3, 1945.

Painfully wounded in the bitter action Feb. 26, Pharmacist's Mate Second Class Wahlen remained on the battlefield, advancing well forward of the frontlines to aid a wounded Marine and carrying him back to safety despite a terrific concentration of fire. ... When an adjacent platoon suffered heavy casualties, he defied the continuous pounding of heavy mortars and deadly fire of enemy rifles to care for the wounded, working rapidly in an area swept by constant fire and treating 14 casualties before returning to his own platoon.

Wounded again March 2, he gallantly refused evacuation, moving out with his company the following day in a furious assault across 600 yards of open terrain and repeatedly rendering medical aid while exposed to the blasting fury of powerful Japanese guns.

Hershel W. Williams

Home: Ona, W.Va.

Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, 21st Marines, 3rd Marine Division.

Place and date: Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, Feb. 23, 1945.

Quick to volunteer his services when our tanks were maneuvering vainly to open a lane for the infantry through the network of reinforced concrete pillboxes, buried mines and black volcanic sands, Cpl. Williams daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction of devastating machine-gun fire from the unyielding positions.

On one occasion, he daringly mounted a pillbox to insert the nozzle of his flame-thrower through the air vent, killing the occupants and silencing the gun; on another he grimly charged enemy riflemen who attempted to stop him with bayonets and destroyed them with a burst of flame from his weapon.

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