Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Valor.

Some medals are handed out for making your bed right every day. This isn't one of them.

Reading Medal of Honor citations can leave you awestruck. Witness the one for Henry "Red" Erwin:
He was the radio operator of a B-29 airplane leading a group formation to attack Koriyama, Japan. He was charged with the additional duty of dropping phosphoresce smoke bombs to aid in assembling the group when the launching point was reached. Upon entering the assembly area, aircraft fire and enemy fighter opposition was encountered. Among the phosphoresce bombs launched by S/Sgt. Erwin, 1 proved faulty, exploding in the launching chute, and shot back into the interior of the aircraft, striking him in the face. The burning phosphoresce obliterated his nose and completely blinded him. Smoke filled the plane, obscuring the vision of the pilot. S/Sgt. Erwin realized that the aircraft and crew would be lost if the burning bomb remained in the plane. Without regard for his own safety, he picked it up and feeling his way, instinctively, crawled around the gun turret and headed for the copilot's window. He found the navigator's table obstructing his passage. Grasping the burning bomb between his forearm and body, he unleashed the spring lock and raised the table. Struggling through the narrow passage he stumbled forward into the smoke-filled pilot's compartment. Groping with his burning hands, he located the window and threw the bomb out. Completely aflame, he fell back upon the floor. The smoke cleared, the pilot, at 300 feet, pulled the plane out of its dive. S/Sgt. Erwin's gallantry and heroism above and beyond the call of duty saved the lives of his comrades.

35 comments:

Kevin said...

That was a helluva story, but if you want to see a MoH winner who didn't do just one act of incredible selflessness, but did it over and over and over again, read the story of Desmond T. Doss, or see the documentary about him, The Conscientious Objector

Turk Turon said...

The Indianapolis Military Museum contains some similar awe-inspiring accounts of Hoosier Heroism, along with some of the men's personal accoutrement. Including one primo Sauer 38H!

And an Allison V-12 dual blower aircraft engine...with Stromberg carbs, no less.

Craig S. Miller said...

Awesome inspiring story. Today in the Sand box, officers and senior enlisted fobbits receive the Bronze Star like they are giving out candy for doing paperwork and never leaving the F.O.B. Meanwhile the guys and girls that go outside the wire usually are lucky to get an Army commendation medal (thanks for showing up award). Even when soldiers do something amazing they get zilch as officers are too busy filling out each others awards to get around to their soldiers. Its great to see someone actually get what they deserve. Those old timers were a much tougher bunch.

Divemedic said...

Craig: Maybe so, but this CMOH was well deserved:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life and above and beyond the call of duty as the leader of a special reconnaissance element with Naval Special Warfare task unit Afghanistan on 27 and 28 June 2005. While leading a mission to locate a high-level anti-coalition militia leader, Lieutenant Murphy demonstrated extraordinary heroism in the face of grave danger in the vicinity of Asadabad, Konar Province, Afghanistan. On 28 June 2005, operating in an extremely rugged enemy-controlled area, Lieutenant Murphy's team was discovered by anti-coalition militia sympathizers, who revealed their position to Taliban fighters. As a result, between 100 and 160 enemy fighters besieged his four member team. Demonstrating exceptional resolve, Lieutenant Murphy valiantly led his men in engaging the large enemy force. The ensuing fierce firefight resulted in numerous enemy casualties, as well as the wounding of all four members of the team. Ignoring his own wounds and demonstrating exceptional composure, Lieutenant Murphy continued to lead and encourage his men. When the primary communicator fell mortally wounded, Lieutenant Murphy repeatedly attempted to call for assistance for his beleaguered teammates. Realizing the impossibility of communicating in the extreme terrain, and in the face of almost certain death, he fought his way into open terrain to gain a better position to transmit a call. This deliberate, heroic act deprived him of cover, exposing him to direct enemy fire. Finally achieving contact with his headquarters, Lieutenant Murphy maintained his exposed position while he provided his location and requested immediate support for his team. In his final act of bravery, he continued to engage the enemy until he was mortally wounded, gallantly giving his life for his country and for the cause of freedom. By his selfless leadership, Lieutenant Murphy reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Read Lone Survivor by Marcus Lattrel for the rest of the story, and see how heroes behave. This was an excellent book, and while reading it I was angered at how our troops are being treated by the Government.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Whoa. And sometimes I think I have problems and tribulations.

Anonymous said...

"old timers were a much tougher
bunch"

Disagree. Not taking anything away from the greatest generation, but we've got some fine young people out there nowadays. The challenge isn't as great. Conquer a 3rd world country isn't quite the same as "Liberate Europe" and drop kick Japan while your at it. In addition, the leadership today is much better than in WWII. Well run campaigns tend to produce fewer heroes.

FYI, there are no MSMs awarded in a combat zone - it's the Bronze Star for meritorious service. The Bronze Star with the "V" (valor) is the award for bravery. Don't know where you were, but I witnessed field grade officers rotate home with a lessor award than a Bronze Star. Interestingly enough, the ARCOM can be awarded with the "V" device as well.

Al T.

Bram said...

Craig: I won't take away anything from the old-timers or this generation.

The current generation is often envious of the old-timers who didn't have to fight with one-hand tied behind their backs and JAG's looking over their shoulders.

The old-timers also got deployed to places with beer, wine, and women.

John Stephens said...

What every MOH narrative has in common is that something has gone horribly wrong, and someone had to step up and do something extraordinary to set things right. The standard is very high: not only that the action be not part of your ordinary duty, but that if you hadn't done it no one could fault you for it. There's a reason most of these things are awarded posthumously.

Cowboy Blob said...

If I correctly remember Enlisted Folklore from my PME days, General Curtis LeMay had them pull a Medal out of a display case so he could pin it on Erwin while he was still alive (they didn't expect him to survive).

Oh, here it is....

http://www.homeofheroes.com/wings/erwin.html

Themadlemming said...

I'm not sure if anybody here is familiar with the site www.badassoftheweek.com, but in it's archives there are several CMOH recipients mentioned (along with other historical badasses).

AM said...

In the Army there are no medals for "making your bed every day" or "having the shiniest shoes". Of course a LTC or high could award someone a medal for having the best made bed or shiniest shoes, but in 12 years I've never seen it.

Everything that goes on your chest is a part of your service record. This is the reason that Soldiers work so hard to get Airborne wings and Ranger tabs, if they were easy to get everyone would do it.

And yes, we hand out a lot more awards for service than we do for valor. Not that our men and women are not valorous, just that a week in WWII produced more casualties than seven years in the "War on Terror".

reflectoscope said...

It is fitting then that all ranks salute members who earn one of these.

Jim

Tam said...

AM,

"In the Army there are no medals for "making your bed every day" or "having the shiniest shoes"."

I was being a bit sardonic, Good Conduct Medal notwithstanding...

Laughingdog said...

But they, like the other brances, still have the "boot camp" medal.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Defense_Service_Medal

Laughingdog said...

The biggest thing worth noting of living recipients of the CMoH is that few, if any, of them think they deserve it.

Rule number 1 on being a hero: If you think you are one, you're not.

I actually wrote a little rant about this last year after hearing some group of sailors, who had never even been underway yet, going on about what big heroes they were simply because they enlisted.
http://laughingdogevolves.blogspot.com/2009/11/heroes.html

Anonymous said...

AM,
I think your confusing awards. When we get tabbed out we put ourselves in a crappy situation that we know will come to an end in a few weeks or months, and we come out with bragging rights.
Commendations for valor are earned when your thrown into a crappy situation, and often there isn't a way out, but you do the right thing.

Oh, and anyone who thinks today's jump school is challenging is obviously a leg at heart:-)

Divemedic said...

The Navy has the NAM (Naval Asskissing Medal), although the official name is the Naval Achievement Medal. In my day, it awarded to those Navy Personnel who puckered up above and beyond the call of duty.

The NAM is given away for some of the dumbest reasons.

AM said...

Tam,

The Good Conduct Medal, and it's Reserve equivalint, the Reserve Component Achievement Medal, are awards that a commander can deny with the stroke of a pen.

When the GCM was created it was a way to recognize service that would otherwise have been overlooked. Much like the Combat Infantryman Badge or Combat Action Badge.

Those are "I was there, I did my duty" decorations. Just like the right shoulder patch means you went to a warzone with a unit, it is just a part of your history.

And when someone has quite a few years in, and no GCM? It tells you something about their past.

But like every other decoration, the GCM means something because not everyone earns it. I know, I've denied a couple this last year.

Justthisguy said...

My Dad was present at Saipan when that happened. When I was a kid, there was a TV show (about aerial exploits) which showed that. I asked my Dad about it, and he kinda avoided talking about it. I think he might have been present when Erwin was carried out of the airplane. When you are badly burned, you tend to look kinda revolting, and Godawful, and all.

Anonymous said...

http://www.cmohs.org/recipient-archive.php

Days and days of good reading.

Tam said...

AM,

I am not trying to diminish your service in any way. Although, in the words of a friend who tried to give his father his NDSM, there are medals and then there are medals. I can't think of a troop I know who'd disagree with that statement...

Gewehr98 said...

My NDSM with Bronze Star is right there on the rack in my shadow box, third row up from the bottom, next to my Southwest Asia Service Medal and Humanitarian Service Medal. It's not as pretty as my Air Medal two rows further up, but oh, well. The Global War on Terrorism Medal one row down has some nice colors, as far as chest trash goes. All my fruit salad garnered over 20+ years pales in comparison to that light blue medal with white stars earned by a select few.

BTW, the National Defense Service Medal is NOT the same as the "Boot Camp Medal", regardless of what armchair internet military wannabees tell you. There are separate medals for completing Basic Training/OTS/Academy/ROTC.

http://www.afpc.randolph.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=7803

Tam said...

G98,

"BTW, the National Defense Service Medal is NOT the same as the "Boot Camp Medal", regardless of what armchair internet military wannabees tell you."

I don't believe it is, nor did the E-7 in question imply that it was. He just humble wanted to recognize his father's service in the early '60s that our .gov did not deem as medal-worthy as conning a keyboard in '05.

RHT447 said...

"Reading Medal of Honor citations can leave you awestruck."

Indeed. Here's another:
http://www.327th.org/Morgan%20MOH.htm

Some years back, a partner and I ran an auto-electric re-build shop. The first time Fred Rabo (see link) came in, he spotted a 20mm round on the shelf above my work bench and commented dryly "I've had a few of them shot at me." Fred said he came to while falling after the B-17 exploded, pulled the rip cord, and landed in a lake, where the Germans fished him out.

My father was a B-17 pilot with the 447th Bomb Group, and survived 35 missions over Europe.

Heros all.

rickn8or said...

Roger that, Divemedic. I was pretty proud of my first NAM, awarded in '79. My second, third and fourth, notsomuch.

Somebody noticed that the Navy wasn't giving out as many medals as say the Air Force, and thus quotas were born, with "use'em or lose 'em". And some of the awards were for pretty ridiculous things. The only bone I really have to pick is flying the same recon tracks as RC-135's, ten thousand feet lower and a hundred knots slower and not collecting the Air Medals like the Zoomies did.

Matt G said...

Read more about "Red" Erwin here, and find out the amazing story of his survival!!!!

Anonymous said...

As long as this is so very off topic, following these threads is like chasing butterflies in a whirlwind, I offer this. It's SARCASTIC! but i reserve the right as I think we have WAY too many BS ribbons in today's .mil

http://www.strategypage.com/humor/articles/20020504.asp

Gewehr98 said...

Tam,

Understood - but I was responding to Laughingdog's specific post above where he equated (tongue-in-cheek, perhaps?)the NDSM with a "boot camp" medal. The two are conspicuously separate, at least in Army and Air Force uniform regs.

Rickn8or, hope your tracks weren't lower than our WC-135 sorties, where we had to pull up during a turn to avoid dragging a wingtip in the water. The majority of the original WC-135 fleet is now at Davis-Monthan due to saltwater corrosion issues - our last airframe was converted from an EC-135C Looking Glass with much more robust aluminum underneath.

Anonymous said...

"It is fitting then that all ranks salute members who earn one of these."

Does the President also salute members who earn a MOH?

Well, you know, when we actually have a President, that is.

Will said...

If you read enough of those MOH stories, you realize one of the reqs for being awarded one appears to be that you accomplish whatever endeavor you have set yourself. I don't recall ever reading about an award given for a failed attempt, no matter how spectacular. Approximately 2/3 die as a result of the action.

Laughingdog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laughingdog said...

I've got the NDSM, and it's a boot camp medal.

"Created in 1953, the National Defense Service Medal was intended to be a "blanket campaign medal" awarded to any member of the United States military who served honorably during a designated time period of which a "national emergency" had been declared."

It's like a gold star for attendance. You get it for simply showing up. At least the Good Conduct Medal requires you to stay out of trouble for three years. Even the NAM, as much of a joke as they can be at times, required you to do something. Not much, but it was still something.

[side note: I wish Blogger let you edit a comment for a misspelling, instead of having to delete and repost.)

Gewehr98 said...

So if the NDSM is a boot camp medal, what are the boot camp medals?

(Never mind the USAF Longevity Awards, bestowed every 4 years...)

My NDSM has a bronze star, for service during two auspicious periods per Dwight Eisenhower's intent. It's considered a Blanket Campaign Award, in all honesty. Granted, it sits pretty low on the chest trash totem pole, but not everybody gets to be an Army Ranger, Marine Force Recon, or Fighter Ace, either.

(Sorry, retired Chief of Stan/Eval here. We never called it pedantics, but I suppose it is what it is...)

RM1(SS) (ret) said...

VC citations can be pretty intense reading, too - these three chaps, for instance....

Cowboy Blob said...

The USAF Longevity Service Ribbon serves the same function as the service hash marks on the sleeves of the other services' dress uniforms.

Happy Birthday, Air Force!