Tag Archives: Medal of Honor

This Month in NCO History: May 2, 1968 — A daring rescue that risked everything

Staff Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez had a feeble grip on consciousness when he was pulled out of a rescue helicopter May 2, 1968.

He had just been through a harrowing six-hour firefight, and the danger wasn’t over. Benavidez arrived at his forward operating base just west of Loc Ninh, Vietnam, and was placed on the ground amid other bodies that had been retrieved from a battle just miles beyond the Cambodian border. His eyes were caked in blood and tightly shut. He couldn’t speak as his jaw had been dislodged by the butt of a North Vietnamese rifle. The rigors of combat left him exhausted and motionless. A doctor pronounced him dead.

Benavidez felt a body bag envelop him. The zipper began its raspy trek up his legs. He couldn’t get the doctor’s attention. A fellow Soldier who recognized Benavidez interrupted the doctor, imploring him to check for a heartbeat. The doctor placed his hand on the wounded Soldier’s chest. The slight pressure gurgled forth a bit of fortitude from Benavidez’s waning strength, and he uncorked what he later called “the luckiest shot” he ever took. He spit in the doctor’s face.

Benavidez was rushed into surgery immediately, his ordeal concluded. It was one that involved so many feats of gallantry that nearly 13 years later, before awarding Benavidez — who retired as a master sergeant —the nation’s highest military honor, President Ronald Reagan told White House reporters, “you are going to hear something you would not believe if it were a script.”

Benavidez’s astonishing saga began during his second tour in Vietnam. He was part of Detachment B-56, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, which began operations in the country in February 1965.

On that fateful March day, the 33-year-old Benavidez was in a church service when he heard frantic radio chatter from the front. When helicopters from the 240th Assault Helicopter Company returned to the FOB’s flight line, their pilots revealed the cause of the frenzied voices. A 12-man reconnaissance team of Green Berets were pinned down by up to 1,500 North Vietnamese infantry soldiers in dense jungle terrain. The enemy had successfully forced the helicopters to abandon an initial rescue effort.

Benavidez immediately acted. He grabbed as many medical supplies as he could and hopped on a helicopter to assist in another extraction attempt. The scene he surveyed from the air was grim — the entire team was wounded, most of them beyond the ability to fight. They were surrounded on all sides by enemy forces that occasionally shot at the chopper Benavidez was riding in. Benavidez directed the pilot to hover over a nearby clearing where he jumped 10 feet into a muggy thicket with the intention of recovering the men.

When he landed on the ground, according to his Medal of Honor citation, Benavidez sprinted 75 meters toward his fellow Soldiers’ position as small arms fire pierced the foliage around him. By the time he reached them, Benavidez was wounded in the leg, face and head. Despite his injuries, he took charge, repositioning the Soldiers and directing their fire to facilitate the landing of a rescue helicopter. Benavidez drew the helicopter in with smoke canisters. When it arrived, he carried and dragged half of the wounded team members to the aircraft. He then provided protective fire by running alongside the helicopter as it moved to pick up the remaining team members. With the enemy’s fire intensifying, he hurried to recover classified documents on the dead team leader.

When he reached the leader’s body, the citation states, Benavidez was severely wounded by enemy fire in the abdomen and grenade fragments in his back. At the same time, the helicopter pilot was mortally wounded, and his aircraft crashed. Although in critical condition because of his multiple wounds, Benavidez secured the classified documents and made his way back to the wreckage, where he pulled his fellow wounded Soldiers out of the overturned aircraft. He positioned the stunned survivors into a defensive perimeter. Under increasing enemy automatic weapons and grenade fire, he moved around the perimeter distributing water and ammunition to the weary men. With the beleaguered group facing a buildup of enemy opposition, Benavidez began calling in tactical air strikes and directed the fire from supporting gunships to suppress the enemy and allow another extraction attempt.

By the time another helicopter was able to land, Benavidez had been directing the fight non-stop for nearly six hours. But the battle still wasn’t finished. In fact, it moved closer. After ferrying one group of wounded Soldiers to the helicopter, Benavidez was returning for the others when he was clubbed from behind by an enemy soldier. In the ensuing hand-to-hand combat, Benavidez sustained bayonet wounds to his head and arms before killing his adversary. Enemy fire intensified as he continued carrying the wounded to safety. He killed two enemy soldiers who rushed the craft before returning a third time to the perimeter of the fallen helicopter to secure classified material and bring in the last of the wounded.

Benavidez mustered the last of his strength to board the helicopter, the last man to leave the battlefield. The aircraft was riddled with bullet holes, covered in blood and without any functioning instruments, but the pilot somehow lifted off. Benavidez lost consciousness as soon as it cleared the jungle canopy.

He was awarded the Medal of Honor on Feb. 24, 1981. According to his citation, his efforts “saved the lives of eight men. His fearless personal leadership, tenacious devotion to duty, and extremely valorous actions in the face of overwhelming odds were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect the utmost credit on him and the United States Army.”

Benavidez was born in Lindenau near Cuero, Texas. He was orphaned at age 7 after his parents died from tuberculosis. Benavidez and his younger brother, Roger, were raised by a grandfather, uncle and aunt in El Campo, Texas.

He attended school sporadically before dropping out at age 15 to work full time to help support the family. Benavidez enlisted in the Texas Army National Guard in 1952 during the Korean War. In June 1955, he switched to active duty. He completed airborne training and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he eventually became a member of the 5th Special Forces Group. He was sent to Vietnam in 1965 as an advisor. During a patrol, he stepped on a land mine. Doctors told Benavidez he would never walk again. After a year in the hospital — and following an unsanctioned rehabilitation regimen — Benavidez walked out of the facility determined to return to Vietnam to help his fellow Soldiers.

Little did he know he would enter the annals of U.S. Army history.

In 1976, Benavidez retired with the rank of master sergeant. He returned to El Campo with his wife and their three children. He devoted his remaining years to the youth of America, speaking to them about the importance of getting an education. His message was simple: “An education is the key to success. Bad habits and bad company will ruin you.”

Benavidez died Nov. 29, 1998, at age 63. He was buried with full honors at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.

— Compiled with Pablo Villa

This Month in NCO History: March 27, 1945 — Storming the castle at Lembeck

Technical Sgt. Clinton M. Hedrick knew firsthand that victories in war sometimes came at a high cost. He learned that during one of the most iconic battles of World War II and rode that lesson to the nation’s highest military honor.

For most of the conflict, Hedrick fought with the 550th Infantry Airborne Division. In December 1944, the division was part of the Allied contingent that resisted a massive enemy force during the Battle of the Bulge, the German offensive in the Ardennes region in Belgium, France and Luxembourg on the war’s Western Front that killed 19,000 Americans. The casualties inflicted on Hedrick’s unit were so heavy that the 550th Infantry Airborne Division was disbanded, its Soldiers were parceled out to other infantry units for the remainder of the war.

Hedrick joined I Company, 194th Glider Infantry Regiment, 17th Airborne Division where he was promoted to technical sergeant, E-7. Two months after the Battle of the Bulge, the 17th AD joined the British 6th Airborne Division for Operation Varsity — the last full-scale airborne operation of the war. The two divisions supported amphibious assaults on the Rhine River as the Allies looked to gain a foothold on the North German Plain for an advance to Berlin and other northern cities.

Operation Varsity was the 194th Glider Infantry Regiment’s first glider landing. Its objective was to land north of Wesel, Germany, in a large flat area, where the Issel River and the Issel Canal merged, and seize the crossing over the Rhine River to protect the rest of the division’s right flank.

By the evening of March 24, 1945, the 194th overran the German positions, destroying 42 artillery pieces and 10 tanks. More than 1,000 enemy soldiers were captured. By March 26, the Allies massed enough forces on the German side of the Rhine to begin an eastward advance, which the 194th began the following day. Hedrick’s I Company was assigned as the assault platoon for an advance on the town of Lembeck, about 20 miles east of Wesel.

As the unit approached, it was met by intense automatic weapons fire three times from strongly defended positions. Each time, Hedrick charged through the fire, shooting his Browning Automatic Rifle from the hip, according to his Medal of Honor citation. His courageous action so galvanized his men that they quickly overran the enemy positions in rapid succession. When six German soldiers attempted a surprise flanking movement, Hedrick quickly turned and killed the entire party with a burst of fire.

The Americans’ advance continued into the following day. Eventually, they forced the enemy to withdraw across a moat into Lembeck Castle. According to the citation, Hedrick disregarded his safety and plunged across the drawbridge alone in pursuit. A German soldier, with hands upraised, declared the garrison wished to surrender. Hendrick entered the castle yard with four of his men to accept the capitulation. The group moved through a sally port, and was met by fire from a German self-propelled gun. Hedrick was mortally wounded, but he managed to fire at the enemy gun, allowing his comrades to retreat. Hedrick died while being evacuated after the castle was taken. His great personal courage and heroic leadership contributed in large measure to the speedy capture of Lembeck and provided an inspiring example to his fellow Soldiers.

Hedrick was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on Oct. 19, 1945. His body was returned to the United States after the war. He was originally interred at the Cherry Grove Cemetery in Cherry Grove, West Virginia. His body was moved to North Fork Memorial Cemetery in Riverton, West Virginia, on Memorial Day 1991. A grand monument, which showcases his selfless actions during the war was erected at the site.

Hedrick was born May 1, 1918, in Cherry Grove. He enlisted in the Army in September 1940. His name graces the football stadium at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and a tree in the Medal of Honor Grove at Freedoms Foundation in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. In 2011, the West Virginia legislature named a section of U.S. Route 33 the Sergeant Clinton M. Hedrick and World War II Veterans Memorial Highway.

— Compiled by Pablo Villa

This Month in NCO History: Feb. 7, 1945 — Taking the lead and saving lives at Luzon

For Master Sgt. Charles L. McGaha, the lessons on remaining calm and collect under fire came quickly.

McGaha was part of the 35th Infantry Regiment when it joined the newly formed 25th Infantry Division. The Tropic Lightning division stood up Oct. 1, 1941, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Ten weeks after its formation, the division earned the distinction of being one of the first U.S. military units to be embroiled in World War II when Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7.

McGaha, like the other Soldiers stationed at Schofield Barracks, less than 20 miles from Pearl Harbor, were caught completely by surprise when the bombing commenced. The men scrambled to defend their base as it was strafed by fire from planes that were primarily targeting nearby Wheeler Field. McGaha was part of the effort that evacuated the wounded and relocated civilians that had been caught up in the devastation. Then he and other elements of the 25th took up positions throughout Oahu in anticipation of another attack.

The bombing ended, the United States declared war and American leaders eager to retake the Pacific crafted a plan for an offensive. The 25th ID was part of those plans and the wisdom McGaha gleaned from his baptism by fire would not only prove to be significant, it would vault him into the lofty ranks of Soldiers who have earned the nation’s highest military honor.

McGaha was serving as master sergeant of G Company, 35th Infantry Regiment during the Battle of Luzon, which lasted from January to August 1945. The Allied offensive’s objective was to gain control of strategically and economically important locations on the northernmost island of the Philippines from Japanese forces. The 35th was part of the task force charged with moving east from its landing point at Lingayen Gulf and securing the island’s central plains.

On Feb. 7, 1945, two platoons from G Company — including McGaha’s — were conducting operations on a road near the town of Lupao when a deafening boom halted their progress. The rumble was the opening salvo of a Japanese attack led by five tanks. The tanks were joined by 10 machine guns and a platoon of riflemen. The enemy successfully achieved the element of surprise and sent the Americans scrambling off the road. Now pinned down in a ditch, the Soldiers could only listen as a hail of bullets and tank fire rained down around them. Through the smoke, the men could see one of their own on the ground writhing in pain about 40 yards away. McGaha did the same thing he did at Schofield Barracks against seemingly insurmountable circumstances — he coolly rose to the occasion.

According to his Medal of Honor citation, McGaha sprang from his position and crossed the road to retrieve the wounded Soldier, dragging him 75 yards to safety. During the effort, a bullet pierced McGaha’s upper arm, boring a deep wound that bled profusely. McGaha returned to his post, where he found his platoon leader seriously wounded and McGaha assumed command. Once more, he crossed the occupied road through a volley of bullets to help others attempting to save another Soldier. A tank shell exploded in their midst, killing two and further wounding McGaha. He got up, picked up the remaining man and carried him to cover.

With their situation bleak, McGaha ordered his men to retreat into the rainforest surrounding them. To aid their withdrawal, McGaha, “displaying conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity,” deliberately moved to the front of the line to draw the enemy fire. The Americans scampered to safety while McGaha attracted the Japanese forces’ attention. When he saw the last of his men get to safety, he followed suit. He rejoined his command before collapsing from loss of blood and exhaustion.

For these actions, McGaha received a battlefield commission to second lieutenant and was nominated for the nation’s highest military honor. He was presented with the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House on March 27, 1946. By then, McGaha had been discharged from the Army and had re-enlisted as a master sergeant.

McGaha was born Feb. 26, 1914, in Cosby, Tennessee. His family had a long history of service, prompting McGaha to attempt to enlist in the U.S. Navy at age 23. The recruiter turned him away as he had reached his enlistment quota, and McGaha turned to the Army, arriving in Hawaii in 1941. After the Battle of Luzon and his re-enlistment, he was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. He married Jeanette Large in December 1949. McGaha was later commissioned again and reached the rank of major before retiring from the Army in 1962. Along with the Medal of Honor, he was awarded the Silver Star and four Purple Hearts.

He died Aug. 8, 1984, after being stabbed during a robbery attempt in Columbus, Georgia. He was 70. McGaha is buried in Union Cemetery in Newport, Tennessee.

– Compiled by Pablo Villa

 

NCO at forefront of new Army technology

By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCO Journal

Official visits to the Army Research Laboratory-Human Research and Engineering Directorate Advanced Training and Simulation Division, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Center University of Central Florida begin at the memorial out front for the building’s namesake, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2005 for his actions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Smith’s personal artifacts, donated by his family, as well as his Medal of Honor greet visitors who enter the building. The memorial instills the importance of the mission for the center’s scientists and engineers ─ to sustain and enhance the modern Soldier.

Sgt. 1st Class John C. Hardwick, senior enlisted advisor at the center, understands exactly how important developing technologies is to enhancing Soldiers’ readiness. As one of the few military personnel at the center, Hardwick works with more than 100 scientists and engineers in Orlando, Florida, advising and offering the Soldier’s perspective on projects.

Sgt. 1st Class John C. Hardwick, center, tells NCOs about Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith before the start of the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions in October at the Army Research Laboratory-Human Research and Engineering Directorate Advanced Training and Simulation Division, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Center University of Central Florida. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Sgt. 1st Class John C. Hardwick, center, tells NCOs about Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith before the start of the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions in October at the Army Research Laboratory-Human Research and Engineering Directorate Advanced Training and Simulation Division, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Center University of Central Florida. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

“The scientists and engineers have all been very welcoming and very receptive to any suggestions I might have,” Hardwick said. “It doesn’t really feel like I’m in the minority here. Everyone has treated me like we’re one big team, all working toward the same goals ─ developing better products for the young Soldiers and the future of the Army.”

Important role

The ARL-HRED Advanced Training and Simulation Division, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Center is housed under the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command. NCOs play an integral role within RDECOM to maintain Army readiness.

“[NCOs] provide user-level input to our scientists and engineers so they can develop the best product possible to get to our Soldiers the first time,” said James P. Snyder, command sergeant major and senior enlisted advisor for RDECOM. “Sometimes our civilians are a little bit intimidated by a Soldier coming into the process because they are not used to working with Soldiers. [NCOs] have to show them the benefit that [they] can be to them in that [development] process.”

“It’s the NCOs who train Soldiers and deal with Soldiers on a daily basis,” Hardwick said. “We are the ones who train Soldiers on all the equipment they receive. The NCOs know how Soldiers are going to use a piece of equipment and they can help the scientist in the early stages of development, which in the long run saves money.”

Sgt. 1st Class John C. Hardwick, senior enlisted advisor for the Army Research Laboratory-Human Research and Engineering Directorate Advanced Training and Simulation Division, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Center University of Central Florida, explains what ARL and STTC contribute to the U.S. Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command and to the Army during the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development training sessions in October. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Sgt. 1st Class John C. Hardwick, senior enlisted advisor for the Army Research Laboratory-Human Research and Engineering Directorate Advanced Training and Simulation Division, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Center University of Central Florida, explains what ARL and STTC contribute to the U.S. Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command and to the Army during the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development training sessions in October. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

The scientists and engineers can handle the technical side of product development, but it’s the NCO who provides his or her input on its usability, Snyder said.

“I bring all the technical and tactical expertise that I have learned over the past 20 years through all my deployments and duty assignments,” Hardwick said. “I bring that end-user expertise. I know what the Soldiers on the ground want. I know what they need. I know what they are going to use things for. I know how they are going to use them. I can translate that to the scientists when they are building their products and their simulators, so they have a better understanding of how stuff is going to be used and by whom.”

Contributing to the team

Skills gained as a drill instructor as well as training in Germany have served Hardwick well at the center.

“Being on the operational side for most of my career, I learned what the equipment is used for,” he said. “In Germany, I learned a lot about training Soldiers, so I also know what tools are good for training and ways to train so that Soldiers get the most out of it.

“A lot of the simulations that we’re using [at the center] are going to help reduce costs and training for the Army,” Hardwick said. “For example, the Engagement Skills Trainer [virtual skills training system] is a tool to help marksmanship. You can work on a lot of small skills on the computer simulator before you get to an actual range and start using real bullets. The time you save in the simulator working on your skills will translate into less time and fewer bullets wasted out on the range. I think all of those things and my knowledge and experience will translate into building better products for Soldiers.”

Hardwick said the scientists and engineers first had to get used to seeing him around the center because they were not accustomed to having a noncommissioned officer on staff.

Sgt. 1st Class John C. Hardwick, far right, senior enlisted advisor at the Army Research Laboratory-Human Research and Engineering Directorate Advanced Training and Simulation Division, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Center University of Central Florida, demonstrates an Engagement Skills Trainer prototype for Gen. Dennis Via, commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command during Via’s visit in September to the center. The center is working in collaboration with PEO-STRI on adaptive marksmanship research training using the small arms trainer system, donated by Meggitt. (Photo courtesy of Army Research Laboratory-Human Research and Engineering Directorate Advanced Training and Simulation Division, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Center University of Central Florida)
Sgt. 1st Class John C. Hardwick, far right, senior enlisted advisor at the Army Research Laboratory-Human Research and Engineering Directorate Advanced Training and Simulation Division, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Center University of Central Florida, demonstrates an Engagement Skills Trainer prototype for Gen. Dennis Via, commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command during Via’s visit in September to the center. The center is working in collaboration with PEO-STRI on adaptive marksmanship research training using the small arms trainer system, donated by Meggitt. (Photo courtesy of Army Research Laboratory-Human Research and Engineering Directorate Advanced Training and Simulation Division, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Center University of Central Florida)

“The job was created right before I got there, so I am the first one to really do this job on a permanent level,” he said. “Before me, they would occasionally get NCOs there on a temporary basis.”

Once Hardwick arrived, he quickly got to work, offering project feedback and serving as the liaison between the scientists and engineers and Soldiers during testing. He reached out to nearby Army Reserve units as well as the ROTC department at the University of Central Florida in Orlando when testing subjects were needed at the center.

“I can translate what the Soldiers are trying to say to the scientists and [vice versa],” he said. “Every culture has its own terminology.”

Not that he doesn’t miss the military environment he is accustomed to. Hardwick sees RDECOM’s NCOs during Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions, such as the most recent one in October at the center.

“For me, it’s good to be around this many NCOs,” he said. “It’s a familiar culture. It’s one of the things that I miss in this job ─ that I don’t have other NCOs and a lot of other Soldiers to hang out or socialize with. With these NCOs, we get to talking and we learn about different projects.”

Valuable commodity

It’s at the center that scientists and engineers are forging new paths in live and virtual training for the future Army force, and Hardwick has a front-row seat.

“Sgt. 1st Class Hardwick’s tactical expertise and operational insight were critical in the development of a next-generation prototype sand table known as the Augmented Reality Sandtable,” said retired Lt. Col. Joe Lisella, former military deputy. “ARES integrates the traditional sand table with new, low-cost technologies in image generation and machine vision that will enhance realism and provide a more immersive and interactive experience over the traditional sand table.”

During a September visit to the center, Gen. Dennis Via, commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, said NCOs like Hardwick are an essential component in research to help evaluate and provide no-nonsense feedback for projects that will advance Army readiness.

“As a drill sergeant, you learn to spot the common issues, but you don’t see the details, especially when you are monitoring a group of trainees,” Hardwick told Via. “This research gives the drill sergeant, instructor or even the trainee immediate feedback … allowing adjustments to be made rapidly.”

The skills learned during his stint at the center have given him an appreciation for RDECOM and a broader understanding of how the Army works, Hardwick said.

“Being on the operational side of the Army meant basically getting the equipment and using it but nothing about how it was developed,” he said.

For his successor at the center and NCOs new to RDECOM’s units who are unsure of their duties, he has some advice.

“Learn as much as you can about everything that [RDECOM and the ARL-HRED Advanced Training and Simulation Division, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Center] do and to remember that they have connections throughout the Army,” Hardwick said. “Reach out to your buddies wherever they are and help educate them on RDECOM and the things that they do. And reach out and ask them for advice.”

This Month in NCO History: Jan. 11, 1945 — Into the teeth of the Tiger

Despite the bitter cold, there was something serene about the waning winter storm system that left nearly three feet of snow on the ground a few weeks after Christmas in January 1945 northeast of Bastogne, Belgium.

The 6th Armored Division had been heavily engaged in the Siege of Bastogne as part of the storied Battle of the Bulge during World War II. When the offensive concluded Dec. 27, the “Super Sixth” began what would be a month-long process to drive the enemy back across the Our River into Germany. On Jan. 11, 1945, Staff Sgt. Archer T. Gammon was part of A Company, 9th Armored Infantry Battalion, 6th Armored Division, as the platoon began its advance through an open field near Bastogne while light snow softly glided to the ground. The crunching of the Soldiers’ boots in the deep snow provided a rhythmic cadence to the otherwise quiet winter day.

The calm was violently disrupted by the boom of a German Royal Tiger tank. The iron behemoth let loose a screaming flurry of 88mm shells on the Americans’ left flank. With it came machine-gun fire supported by riflemen. A Company’s progress was immediately halted as it scrambled to return fire.

Gammon was unfazed. He was near the front of the American advance when the engagement began. When he saw the German tank near the rear of his unit, Gammon immediately ran toward it — and into history as a recipient of the nation’s highest military honor.

Gammon scrambled quickly through the deep snow, rushing forward then crossing the width of his unit’s skirmish line to get within grenade range of the tank and the foot troops guarding it. The enemy took note of his movement as the automatic fire began humming toward his position. According to his Medal of Honor citation, Gammon was unperturbed, charging forward 30 yards and wiping out the machine-gun crew with four grenades before getting within 25 yards of the tank. With its prime cover fire eliminated, the tank and remaining riflemen began to withdraw, firing as they went. Gammon killed two more enemy soldiers, successfully putting “the ponderous machine on the defensive” as it “started to withdraw, backing a short distance, then firing, backing some more, and then stopping to blast out another round.”

Before Gammon could make one last advance at the tank, one of its rounds struck him, killing him instantly. He was 26. The tank continued to withdraw, leaving open the path for Gammon’s platoon to find safety in the woods.

Gammon was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on Feb. 13, 1946, in part for his “intrepidity and extreme devotion to the task of driving the enemy back no matter what the odds.”

Gammon was born Sept. 11, 1918, in Chatham, Virginia. He enlisted in the Army in nearby Roanoke in March 1942. After his death, he was buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Danville, Virginia. A Boulder Victory-class cargo ship built near the end of World War II was transferred to the Army and renamed the USAT Sgt. Archer T. Gammon. It served with the Army from 1946 to 1950. In 1950, the ship was acquired by the U.S. Navy and it was decommissioned in 1973.

Compiled by Pablo Villa