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.
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.
Melvin 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.
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.
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.
Andrew 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.
Macario 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.
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.
By November 23, 1944, Silk had earned an officer’s commission, and was a First Lieutenant in Company E, 2nd Battalion, 398th Infantry Regiment, 100th Infantry Division, locked in combat against Nazi Germany near St. Pravel, France. Lieutenant Silk, in command of his company’s weapons platoon, single handedly assaulted a house occupied by enemy troops that was blocking his soldiers’ advance. His courage was recognized with the Medal of Honor in November 1945.