Category Archives: This Month in NCO History

July 1996: U.S. Navy honors Army NCO


Compiled by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Stadel
NCO Journal

During a ceremony in July 1996, the United States Navy became part of U.S. Army noncommissioned officer history by paying homage to a decorated U.S. Army NCO.

Medal of Honor recipient Master Sgt. Gary Gordon was honored by the Navy on Independence Day in Newport News, Va., when a Navy roll-on/roll-off ship was christened the USNS Gordon.

USNS Gordon (Photo by U.S. Navy)
USNS Gordon (U.S. Navy photo)

During the naming ceremony, Gordon’s widow, Carmen, smashed a champagne bottle against the hull of the ship to officially name the vessel after her husband.

“This ship gives us faith that Gary’s spirit will go forward,” Carmen Gordon said to the more than 6,000 who attended the ceremony.  Then Army Chief of Staff Gen. Dennis Reimer was among those in attendance.

The USNS Gordon is still in service today.

Gordon, a member of the U.S. Army’s elite 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, colloquially know as “Delta Force,” was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Mogadishu in October 1993.

His actions were famously told in the book Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War and in the movie Black Hawk Down.

Gordon and Sgt. 1st Class Randall Shughart were providing sniper cover to a downed UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the air. They requested to be inserted near the downed helicopter to provide ground support to any surviving crew members. Both Gordon and Shughart were killed in action and were each posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

The Navy also honored Shughart by naming a ship after him.

Some information for this story was taken from the Daily Press article “USNS Gordon Good to Go,” written by Daily Press staff writer L.A. Finneran, July 5, 1996.

This Month in NCO History: June 10, 1953


Compiled by PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

Sgt. Ola Lee Mize wasn’t the most imposing figure. At 120 pounds, he was initially rejected by the Army for being too light before ultimately being allowed to enlist in 1950. His actions the evening of June 10, 1953, near Surang-ni, Korea, during the Korean War proved he had ample heart.

Ola L. Mize, United States Army, Korean War Medal of Honor recipient.
Ola L. Mize, United States Army, Korean War Medal of Honor recipient.

Mize was part of K Company, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, while it defended a position known as Outpost Harry. Chinese soldiers had swarmed the company’s stronghold, killing or wounding all of its officers. The hail of gunfire was deafening and rattled the encampment with a menacing clatter. The situation was bleak.

But Mize wasn’t shaken. Upon learning that a comrade at a nearby listening post was wounded, Mize made his way through heavy fire to rescue him. He returned to the main position and began moving from bunker to bunker at a furious pace, firing through apertures and tossing grenades to stave off the enemy. At one point, Mize shot a Chinese soldier whose weapon was aimed squarely at a fellow American. Later, Mize charged a machine gun position that had been overrun, killing 10 of the enemy and forcing the rest to flee. During the fight, the concussive blast of grenades and artillery fire knocked Mize down three times. But he kept fighting and managed to escape serious injury.

Around midnight, Mize worked his way to his command post, which had also been overrun. He directed friendly artillery fire along the enemy’s routes of approach. The next morning, he joined American counterattack forces to help take back the outpost.

For his actions, Mize was promoted to master sergeant and was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on Sept. 7, 1954.

After the Korean War, Mize joined the Special Forces and did three tours of duty in the Vietnam War. He retired as a colonel in 1981. Mize died March 12, 2014, in Gadsden, Ala. He was 82.

 

Citation

The President of the United States
in the name of The Congress
takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor
to

MIZE, OLA L.

Rank and organization: Master Sergeant (then Sgt.), U.S. Army, Company K, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Surang-ni, Korea, 10 to 11 June 1953. Entered service at: Gadsden, Ala. Born: 28 August 1931, Marshall County, Ala. G.O. No.: 70, 24 September 1954.

Citation:
M/Sgt. Mize, a member of Company K, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and outstanding courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. Company K was committed to the defense of “Outpost Harry”, a strategically valuable position, when the enemy launched a heavy attack. Learning that a comrade on a friendly listening post had been wounded he moved through the intense barrage, accompanied by a medical aid man, and rescued the wounded soldier. On returning to the main position he established an effective defense system and inflicted heavy casualties against attacks from determined enemy assault forces which had penetrated into trenches within the outpost area. During his fearless actions he was blown down by artillery and grenade blasts 3 times but each time he dauntlessly returned to his position, tenaciously fighting and successfully repelling hostile attacks. When enemy onslaughts ceased he took his few men and moved from bunker to bunker, firing through apertures and throwing grenades at the foe, neutralizing their positions. When an enemy soldier stepped out behind a comrade, prepared to fire, M/Sgt. Mize killed him, saving the life of his fellow soldier. After rejoining the platoon, moving from man to man, distributing ammunition, and shouting words of encouragement he observed a friendly machinegun position overrun. He immediately fought his way to the position, killing 10 of the enemy and dispersing the remainder. Fighting back to the command post, and finding several friendly wounded there, he took a position to protect them. Later, securing a radio, he directed friendly artillery fire upon the attacking enemy’s routes of approach. At dawn he helped regroup for a counterattack which successfully drove the enemy from the outpost. M/Sgt. Mize’s valorous conduct and unflinching courage reflect lasting glory upon himself and uphold the noble traditions of the military service.

This Month in NCO History: February 7, 1968


By MICHAEL L. LEWIS
NCO Journal

Originally from Wilmington, N.C., Eugene Ashley Jr. grew up in New York City. It was there he joined the Army in December 1950 to serve in Korea.

By 1968, Ashley was a 36-year-old sergeant first class serving in Detachment A-101, C Company, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), as the senior Special Forces advisor in a camp in Lang Vei, Vietnam. With a mission of training and equipping locals, the camp became a target of North Vietnamese forces, who began their attempts to capture it in January 1968.

Artist’s depiction of Ashley with his Medal of Honor
Artist’s depiction of Ashley with his Medal of Honor

Early in the morning Feb. 7, North Vietnamese tanks rolled into the base. Finding themselves quickly overwhelmed, most American and Vietnamese survivors managed to escape the camp. However, a small force became trapped in a bunker and was relentlessly harassed with grenades and tear gas.

At dawn, Ashley organized a force of about 100 Laotian soldiers, who had escaped their own overrun camp, to mount a rescue attempt. Despite the Laotians’ reluctance to fight against the North Vietnamese, Ashley led five “vigorous assaults against the enemy, continuously exposing himself to a voluminous hail of enemy grenades, machine gun and automatic weapons fire,” his award citation later said. During the fifth charge, Ashley was shot in the chest, yet continued until he became unconscious. He was killed when an enemy artillery round landed nearby. However, because of his efforts, those in the bunker were soon after rescued by a 50-man force of Marines.

For his “resolute valor” and “critical diversionary pressure,” Ashley was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in December 1969.

This month in NCO History: January 16, 1942


By MICHAEL L. LEWIS
NCO Journal

Jose Calugas Sr., born in the Philippines when it was a territory of the United States, joined the Philippine Scouts of the U.S. Army in 1930. Trained as an artilleryman, he was serving as a mess sergeant in B Battery, 88th Field Artillery, as U.S. troops were withdrawing from the Bataan Peninsula in January 1942.

web-Jose_Calugas_Medal_of_HonorWhile preparing a meal, he realized that one of the batteries’ guns had fallen silent. Discovering that Japanese shelling had killed or wounded its entire crew, Calugas dashed across more than a half-mile of shell-swept terrain to the gun’s position, where he organized a volunteer squad of 16 to return it to action. After combating an hours-long onslaught of Japanese artillery fire, Calugas returned to his kitchen duty.

Though he was recommended for the Medal of Honor, he had not been awarded it by the time American troops in the Philippines surrendered to the Japanese in April 1942. Calugas, along with 15,000 American and 60,000 Filipino prisoners of war, were forcibly marched to POW camps — the infamous Bataan Death March in which thousands died under brutal mistreatment by Japanese troops.

Calugas remained imprisoned until January 1943 when he was released to work at a rice mill. There, he secretly set up a guerrilla spy network until the Philippines were liberated in 1945, when he finally was presented with the Medal of Honor by Gen. of the Army George Marshall. He was the only Filipino to receive the award for actions during World War II.

After receiving the award, he was offered U.S. citizenship and accepted a direct commission. He retired as a captain in 1957 and died in Tacoma, Wash., in 1998 at the age of 90.