Category Archives: Finest Hour

Regular posts chronicling stories of human greatness.

Second Lieutenant Walter J. “Joe” Marm, USA (November 14, 1965)

Today – November 14, 2015 – marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Ia Drang, November 14-18, 1965. This was the first major action of the Vietnam War which saw American forces fighting the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN), also known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) rather than the Viet Cong guerillas.

1st Cavalry Division patch

Ia Drang was the first time the United States Army‘s new air assault tactics as implemented in the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) were really put to the test, and tested they were. The fighting during the first three days of the battle ultimately produced three Medal of Honor recipients and three recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross. At a critical juncture of the first day of fighting at landing zone (LZ) “X-Ray” in the Ia Drang Valley on November 14, 1965, a platoon leader in Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry rose up and attacked alone in front of his pinned-down troopers.

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Major Bruce P. Crandall & Captain Ed W. Freeman, USA (November 14, 1965)

Today – November 14, 2015 – marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Ia Drang, November 14-18, 1965. This was the first major action of the Vietnam War which saw American forces fighting the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN), also known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) rather than the Viet Cong guerillas.

1st Cavalry Division patch

Ia Drang was the first time the United States Army‘s new air assault tactics as implemented in the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) were really put to the test, and tested they were. The fighting during the first three days of the battle ultimately produced three Medal of Honor recipients and three recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross. Two of the Medal of Honor recipients were helicopter pilots who maintained the critical airborne lifeline between the soldiers fighting on the ground and their bases to the rear. Their names were Major Bruce P. Crandall and Captain Ed W. Freeman.

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Corporal Melvin Mayfield, USA #MedalOfHonor (July 29, 1945)

MayfieldMelvinMelvin Mayfield was born in Salem, West Virginia on March 24, 1919. He later moved to Ohio, and was living in Nashport when he was drafted into the United States Army on February 11, 1941. What would have been a single year’s service was extended indefinitely with America’s entry into World War II the following December.

Mayfield was a member of Company D, 2nd Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 6th Infantry Division. The division deployed for service in the Pacific in July of 1943 and kept training until they first saw combat in the New Guinea campaign during June of 1944. After that campaign, they were sent to the Philippines.

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Technical Sergeant John W. Meagher, USA (June 19, 1945)

MeagherJohnJohn William Meagher was born on December 5, 1917 in Jersey City, New Jersey. He was still living there when he was drafted at age 24 into the United States Army for service in World War II on March 21, 1942.

Meagher was an infantryman with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 305th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division. The 77th, known as the “Statue of Liberty Division” for their shoulder patch, was activated just four days after Meagher’s draft date and trained extensively in the United States before heading for war in the Pacific in March, 1944. They fought in the campaigns on Guam and Leyte before joining the forces for the attack on Okinawa.

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HA1c. Fred Faulkner Lester, USNR (June 8, 1945)

LesterFredFFred Faulkner Lester was born in Downers Grove, Illinois on April 29, 1926. He joined the United States Naval Reserve on November 1, 1943 when he was just 17 years old. He was placed on active service with the United States Navy, trained as a medical corpsman, and assigned to the 1st Battalion, 22nd Marine Regiment, 6th Marine Division.

Seventy years ago today during the Battle of Okinawa, then 19-year-old Lester, now a Hospitalman Apprentice 1st Class, rescued one wounded Marine from under heavy enemy fire, ignored his own grievous wounds, and instructed his comrades in care for the injured until he perished.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (A-F):

Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon (background)
Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon (background)

*LESTER, FRED FAULKNER

Rank and organization: Hospital Apprentice First Class, U.S. Navy

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Medical Corpsman with an Assault Rifle Platoon, attached to the 1st Battalion, 22d Marines, 6th Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on Okinawa Shima in the Ryukyu Chain, 8 June 1945. Quick to spot a wounded marine Iying in an open field beyond the front lines following the relentless assault against a strategic Japanese hill position, Lester unhesitatingly crawled toward the casualty under a concentrated barrage from hostile machineguns, rifles, and grenades. Torn by enemy rifle bullets as he inched forward, he stoically disregarded the mounting fury of Japanese fire and his own pain to pull the wounded man toward a covered position. Struck by enemy fire a second time before he reached cover, he exerted tremendous effort and succeeded in pulling his comrade to safety where, too seriously wounded himself to administer aid, he instructed 2 of his squad in proper medical treatment of the rescued marine. Realizing that his own wounds were fatal, he staunchly refused medical attention for himself and, gathering his fast-waning strength with calm determination, coolly and expertly directed his men in the treatment of 2 other wounded marines, succumbing shortly thereafter. Completely selfless in his concern for the welfare of his fighting comrades, Lester, by his indomitable spirit, outstanding valor, and competent direction of others, had saved the life of 1 who otherwise must have perished and had contributed to the safety of countless others. Lester’s fortitude in the face of certain death sustains and enhances the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

As is usual for members of the Naval Service awarded the Medal of Honor, a warship carried the young hero’s name. The USS Lester (DE-1022), a Dealey-class destroyer escort, served with our Navy from June 14, 1957 through December 14, 1973. The vessel was scrapped in 1974.

Lester today rests in peace in the Clarendon Hills Cemetery, Darien, Illinois.

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Lieutenant Colonel Edward H. White II, USAF (June 3, 1965)

white-eEdward Higgins White II was born on November 14, 1930 in San Antonio, Texas. He graduated with the United States Military Academy Class of 1952 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. He was a fighter pilot and test pilot, and on September 17, 1962 was selected as a member of NASA Astronaut Group 2, the “New Nine”.

In the early days of the Space Race, NASA had been upstaged by our Soviet enemies regularly, including the first ever “extra-vehicular activity” – an EVA or “spacewalk” – by cosmonaut Alexey Leonov on March 18, 1965. NASA hadn’t planned to do an EVA for some time, but it then became a priority. The next flight – Gemini 4 – would feature the first free man walking in space. It would be Ed White.

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Staff Sergeant Andrew Miller, USA (November 16-29, 1944)

MillerAndrewAndrew Miller was born in Manitowoc, Wisconsin on August 11, 1916. He was employed in dairy farming when, on June 27, 1942, he was drafted into the United States Army for service in World War II. He was a member of the 95th Infantry Division, which spent over two years in training preparing for combat in Europe. Miller went overseas with the division, which joined the fight in France on October 19, 1944.

Over a two week period from November 16-29, 1944 in both France and Germany, then-Staff Sergeant Miller was both a squad leader and a one-man army as part of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 377th Infantry Regiment. He repeatedly led his men in the attack, and when the circumstances of battle required, attacked alone. His incredible courage and leadership inspired his men from victory to victory and was recognized the following fall with the Medal of Honor.

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Private Macario (Marcario) García, USA (November 27, 1944)

GarciaMarcarioMacario García (some sources say “Marcario”; the former is on his tombstone) was born on January 20, 1920 in Villa de Castaño, Mexico. He immigrated to the United States with his family in 1924 and they settled in Sugar Land, Texas.

García was working as a farm hand and held only a grade-school education when he was drafted for service in the United States Army on November 11, 1942. He was not yet an American citizen. He was trained as an infantryman, and went to war with Company B, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.

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Private First Class Carl V. Sheridan, USA (November 26, 1944)

SheridanCarlVCarl Vernon Sheridan was born in Baltimore, Maryland on January 5, 1925. He was still living there and working as a sales clerk when, at just age 18, he was drafted into the United States Army for combat service during World War II on May 1, 1943.

Sheridan was trained as an infantryman and bazooka gunner, and it was in that capacity that he went to war against Nazi Germany as a member of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division. He likely joined the unit as it was preparing to join in the invasion of Europe in England, or shortly after the 9th Division entered combat in France on June 10, 1944.

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Private First Class Clarence B. Craft, USA (May 31, 1945)

CraftClarenceB
Photo: Remember the Deadeyes

Clarence Byrle Craft was born on September 23, 1921 in San Bernardino, California. He was working as a “bus, taxi, truck, [or] tractor” driver when he was drafted into the United States Army on September 16, 1944, just one week before his 23rd birthday.

Craft was trained as an infantryman and was sent to the Pacific as a replacement soldier for the 96th Infantry Division. The 96th, known as the “Deadeyes”, had just completed their first combat assignments in late 1944 and early 1945 in the Philippines. Craft would join them for the Battle of Okinawa as a member of the division’s 382nd Infantry Regiment in the regiment’s 2nd Battalion, Company G.

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