Donald Eugene Rudolph was born in South Haven, Minnesota on February 21, 1921. He fought as a member of the United States Army‘s 6th Infantry Division against the Japanese in the Pacific during World War II.
As regular readers know, I’ve been blogging every World War II Medal of Honor recipient on their 70th anniversaries, and I have to offer my apologies because it appears I missed one!
Richard Edward Kraus was born on November 24, 1925 in Chicago, Illinois and grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was on his 18th birthday in 1943 that he joined the United States Marine Corps Reserve. His first combat action was during the Marine Corps‘ assault on Peleliu in the fall of 1944 as part of a unit attached to the 1st Marine Division.
Richard Keith Sorenson was born in Anoka, Minnesota on August 28, 1924. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on January 7, 1941, he wanted to enlist in the United States Navy to go to war for his country, but as he was just seventeen years old, he needed his parents’ permission, which they denied.
One year later, now eighteen, Sorenson enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve on December 13, 1942 and after initial training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, was placed on active service with the United States Marine Corps‘ brand-new 4th Marine Division, then forming up and preparing for war at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Sorenson was assigned to Company M, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment as an infantryman.
The 4th Marine Division spent extra time in training as they would depart the United States direct for a landing on an opposed shore. They sailed from California in January 1944. Their destination: Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The attack was codenamed Operation FLINTLOCK, and began on January 31, 1944.
As part of 3/24 Marines, Sorenson landed on the Namur portion of Kwajalein’s Roi-Namur island on February 1. The next day, with victory for the Americans in sight, the Japanese defenders launched desperate counterattacks that if they wouldn’t repel the invaders, they’d cause as much damage as possible.
Sorenson sought cover in a shell hole with five other Marines during one such counterattack. When a Japanese grenade landed in their midst, he selflessly covered the weapon with his own body absorb its blast and save the lives of his five comrades. Miraculously, and largely thanks to quick first aid rendered to him by a Navy Corpsman who tied off a severed artery and stabilized his other massive wounds, Sorenson survived the grenade explosion, and lived to receive the Medal of Honor he so assuredly deserved.
SORENSON, RICHARD KEITH
Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, 4th Marine Division
Place and date: Namur Island, Kwajalein Atoll Marshall Islands, 1-2 February 1944
Entered service at: Minnesota
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with an assault battalion attached to the 4th Marine Division during the battle of Namur Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, on 1-2 February 1944. Putting up a brave defense against a particularly violent counterattack by the enemy during invasion operations, Pvt. Sorenson and 5 other marines occupying a shellhole were endangered by a Japanese grenade thrown into their midst. Unhesitatingly, and with complete disregard for his own safety, Pvt. Sorenson hurled himself upon the deadly weapon, heroically taking the full impact of the explosion. As a result of his gallant action, he was severely wounded, but the lives of his comrades were saved. His great personal valor and exceptional spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of almost certain death were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
Sorenson endured six surgeries over nine months during his recovery. He learned that he would receive the Medal from the commander of the Seattle Naval Hospital, Captain Joel T. Boone, himself a Medal of Honor recipient for World War I.
He remained in the Marine Reserves after the war, was eventually commissioned as an officer, and was recalled to active service during the Korean War, although he served entirely in stateside roles and did not see further action. As a civilian, Sorenson worked in insurance but also spent many years working with the Veterans Administration (today the Department of Veterans Affairs), retiring in 1978 as the Director of veterans’ services for Nevada and several California counties.
Richard K. Sorenson passed away at age 80 on October 9, 2004 in Reno, Nevada. After memorial services there, his remains were transported back to his native Minnesota where he today rests in peace in the Fort Snelling National Cemetery, Minneapolis.
No vessel of the United States Navy has ever been named for this hero from their sister service. This is once again a good time to point out that we will have a USS Gabrielle Giffords in our fleet in the coming years.
The 24th Marine Regiment was deactivated in September 2013 as part of the restructuring of the 4th Marine Division. The Marines of the 24th’s 3rd Battalion were assimilated into the 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marines. Their headquarters, as reservists, are in St. Louis, Missouri.
Bruce Avery Van Voorhis was born on January 29, 1908 in Aberdeen, Washington and spent his childhood years in Nevada. He was appointed to the United States Naval Academy in 1925, and graduated with the class of 1929. His first assignment was to the USS Mississippi (BB-41), but he only spent about one year with the battleship before reporting to Naval Air Station Pensacola for training as a Naval Aviator.
After earning his “Wings of Gold” on September 3, 1931, Van Voorhis flew a variety of carrier-based and other aircraft, and served aboard and flew off off the USS Saratoga (CV-3), USS Ranger (CV-4), USS Yorktown (CV-5), and USS Enterprise (CV-6) before the United States entered World War II.
Robert Joseph Pruden was born on September 9, 1949 in St. Paul, Minnesota. He joined the United States Army in 1967; evidence suggests that based on his selection/volunteering for Non-Commissioned Officer candidacy and Ranger training he was a volunteer and not a draftee.
The Vietnam-era 75th Ranger Infantry Regiment (Airborne) was constituted as a number of separate specialized infantry companies to be trained and delegated to individual divisions or corps for long range patrol and reconnaissance duties. The 75th’s Company G was assigned to the 23rd Infantry Division, better known by its moniker “Americal”, for those duties in Vietnam.