Tag Archives: Medal of Honor

TFH 8/19: The Most Decorated Aircrew of the Vietnam War

Marine Observation Squadron Six (VMO-6) was first formed in the 1920s. The squadron was inactive from 1933 until November, 1944 when it was reconstituted to join the 6th Marine Division for combat in the last days of World War II in the Pacific, and saw combat on Okinawa.

During the Korean War, VMO-6 was the first Marine Corps helicopter squadron to enter combat and was instrumental in evacuating wounded Marines during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in November, 1950.

The squadron and its UH-1E Huey helicopters was dispatched to Vietnam in 1965. On August 19, 1967, one of VMO-6’s helicopters was flying on escort duty for medical evacuation missions. The helicopter, commanded by Captain Steven W. Pless and with co-pilot Captain Rupert E. Fairfield, Jr., crew chief Lance Corporal John G. Phelps, and door gunner Gunnery Sergeant Leroy N. Poulson, overheard on the radio about a downed Army helicopter crew on a beach nearby. Continue reading TFH 8/19: The Most Decorated Aircrew of the Vietnam War

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TFH 5/7 Edition 1: General Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright IV, USA

Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright IV was born into a military family on August 23, 1883 at Fort Walla Walla, Washington. His father, Robert Powell Page Wainwright, was a United States Army officer who was killed in 1902 while serving in the Philippines. His grandfather, Jonathan M. Wainwright II, was a United States Navy officer killed in action during the American Civil War’s Battle of Galveston on January 1, 1863.

His military service began after graduating from high school in 1901 when he began studies at the United States Military Academy, West Point. He graduated with the class of 1906. Wainwright served in combat in France during World War I with the then-82nd Infantry Division.

Like his father before him, he was dispatched to the Philippines where he arrived in September 1940. He held the temporary rank of Major General as the commander of the Philippine Department and was the senior field commander of American and Filipino forces defending the islands under General Douglas MacArthur. When MacArthur withdrew from the Philippines in March 1942, Wainwright remained as the commander.

Ultimately, the defense of the Philippines was futile. The Japanese invaders were too numerous and too well equipped. Wainwright commanded the defense from the fortress island of Corregidor at the mouth of Manila Bay. The troops defending the Bataan Peninsula surrendered on April 9, 1942. The survivors in captivity then had to endure the torment of the Bataan Death March and the horrors of Japanese captivity.

The Japanese had to take Corregidor, otherwise the vital port provided by Manila Bay would be denied to them. They landed on the island on May 5, 1942. The next day, in the face of insurmountable odds and crushing casualties, General Wainwright ordered a surrender. Throughout the entire battle for the Philippines, Jonathan Wainwright IV was a stalwart presence amongst his men. The fight would have been lost much sooner were it not for his leadership and courage. In defeat, he was still nonetheless judged worthy of our Nation’s highest honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (T-Z):

WAINWRIGHT, JONATHAN M.


Rank and organization: General, Commanding U.S. Army Forces in the Philippines. Place and date: Philippine Islands, 12 March to 7 May 1942. Entered service at: Skaneateles, N.Y. Birth: Walla Walla, Wash. G.O. No.: 80, 19 September 1945. Citation: Distinguished himself by intrepid and determined leadership against greatly superior enemy forces. At the repeated risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in his position, he frequented the firing line of his troops where his presence provided the example and incentive that helped make the gallant efforts of these men possible. The final stand on beleaguered Corregidor, for which he was in an important measure personally responsible, commanded the admiration of the Nation’s allies. It reflected the high morale of American arms in the face of overwhelming odds. His courage and resolution were a vitally needed inspiration to the then sorely pressed freedom-loving peoples of the world.

In addition to his Medal of Honor, Wainwright also received the Distinguished Service Cross for his service in defending the Philippines from December 21, 1941 to January 1, 1942 and was also a two-time recipient of the Army Distinguished Service Medal.

Wainwright was held by the Japanese as a prisoner of war until August 1945. He was the most senior officer taken prisoner during the war and despite his rank, was kept in deplorable conditions and regularly mistreated by his Japanese captors.

General Wainwright survived captivity and ended the war with his presence at the final victory. He stood next to General MacArthur on the foredeck of the USS Missouri (BB-63) on September 2, 1945 for the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender in Tokyo Bay. He then returned to the Philippines to accept the surrender of the last remaining Japanese occupiers there.

Wainwright passed away on September 2, 1953 at age 70. He rests in peace at Arlington National Cemetery. In the early 1960s, the United States Army ensured that Wainwright’s service to our Nation would be remembered in an enduring fashion. On January 1, 1961 the United States Air Force transferred Ladd Field outside Fairbanks, Alaska to the Army. The Army renamed the post Fort Wainwright. Today, Fort Wainwright is a key post hosting much of US Army Alaska.

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TFH 4/30: CDR Richard N. Antrim, USN

Richard Nott Antrim was born on December 17, 1907 in Peru, Indiana. His service to our Nation began in 1927 when he entered the United States Naval Academy, graduating with the class of 1931 and receiving his officer’s commission as an Ensign in the United States Navy. His early service days saw him posted as a fire control officer on the battleship USS New York (BB-34) after which he received flight training as a Naval Aviator.

Continue reading TFH 4/30: CDR Richard N. Antrim, USN

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TFH 4/26: LCDR Michael J. Estocin, USN

Michael John Estocin was born on April 27, 1931 in Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania and grew up in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania – both near where I live today outside Pittsburgh. After graduating from Slippery Rock University, he joined the United States Navy in 1954 and obtained his “Wings of Gold” as a Naval Aviator.

In April of 1967, he had reached the rank of Lieutenant Commander and was a Douglas A-4E Skyhawk pilot with Attack Squadron 192 (VA-192), the “Golden Dragons”, flying off the USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) from “Yankee Station” off North Vietnam. During two raids over Communist North Vietnam on April 20 and 26, 1967 he lived up to VA-192’s motto – Be Ready, our Enemy Must Lose – flying the suppression of enemy air defenses role. Their primary weapon was the AGM-45 Shrike anti-radiation missile; it would home in on the emissions from enemy surface-to-air missile radars. His tenacity, courage, and devotion to duty in escorting attacking aircraft to their targets earned him our Nation’s highest honor. Continue reading TFH 4/26: LCDR Michael J. Estocin, USN

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TFH 2/9: Lance Corporal William R. Prom, USMC

Operation TAYLOR COMMON was launched by elements of the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam on December 6, 1968 against the North Vietnamese Army in the An Hoa Basin. They were reinforced by Leathernecks from the 3rd Marine Division as well. One of the Marines was William Prom, born November 17, 1948, and who hailed from my adopted home town of Pittsburgh, PA.

On this day in 1969, Lance Corporal Prom’s unit was ambushed by the NVA as they returned from a reconnaissance mission. Prom, leading a machine gun team, realized that without quick and decisive action the enemy would carry the day. His resolve and courage did not falter, and for his heroism, he was decorated with our Nation’s highest honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for the Vietnam War (M-Z):

*PROM, WILLIAM R.
 
Rank and organization: Lance Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps, Company 1, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, 3d Marine Division (Rein), FMF. Place and date: Near An Hoa, Republic of Vietnam. 9 February 1969. Entered service at: Pittsburgh, Pa. Born: 17 November 1948, Pittsburgh, Pa. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a machinegun squad leader with Company 1, in action against the enemy. While returning from a reconnaissance operation during Operation TAYLOR COMMON, 2 platoons of Company 1 came under an intense automatic weapons fire and grenade attack from a well concealed North Vietnamese Army force in fortified positions. The leading. element of the platoon was isolated and several marines were wounded. L/Cpl. Prom immediately assumed control of 1 of his machineguns and began to deliver return fire. Disregarding his safety he advanced to a position from which he could more effectively deliver covering fire while first aid was administered to the wounded men. Realizing that the enemy would have to be destroyed before the injured marines could be evacuated, L/Cpl. Prom again moved forward and delivered a heavy volume of fire with such accuracy that he was instrumental in routing the enemy, thus permitting his men to regroup and resume their march. Shortly thereafter, the platoon again came under heavy fire in which 1 man was critically wounded. Reacting instantly, L/Cpl. Prom moved forward to protect his injured comrade. Unable to continue his fire because of his severe wounds, he continued to advance to within a few yards to the enemy positions. There, standing in full view of the enemy, he accurately directed the fire of his support elements until he was mortally wounded. Inspired by his heroic actions, the marines launched an assault that destroyed the enemy. L/Cpl. Prom’s indomitable courage, inspiring initiative and selfless devotion to duty upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country. 
Today, the 1st Marine Division is the ground combat element of the I Marine Expeditionary Force. 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines still serves with the 3rd Marine Division as part of the III Marine Expeditionary Force.
William Raymond Prom rests not far from my home in Allegheny Memorial Park, Allison Park, PA. This upcoming Memorial Day, I’m going to make it a point to visit his grave in honor and thanksgiving for the life and courage of this great American. He appears on Panel 32W, Line 2 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
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TFH: January 31, 1970 in Vietnam – Two Heroes

On January 31, 1970 during the Vietnam War, two heroic Americans – one Marine, one Soldier – went above and beyond the call of duty to save the lives of their wounded comrades in separate actions. Both were decorated with the United States’ highest honor. Continue reading TFH: January 31, 1970 in Vietnam – Two Heroes

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