Barry Baskin

Remembering The Ones Memorial Day Honors

Here are stories of five who received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for bravery, for making the ultimate sacrifice.

The United States has fought twelve major wars and a countless number of smaller skirmishes in its history. Memorial Day is how we honor the soldiers, sailors, airmen, airwomen, and marines who did not return home. The holiday dates back to the months immediately following the Civil War when a few towns and cities began honoring their dead. In 1868, General John A. Logan designated May 30 as “Decoration Day,” the purpose of which would be “strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” The holiday was renamed Memorial Day after World War I, and its purpose became to honor the more than 600,000 Americans who have died fighting for their country. Here are the stories of five who were awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for bravery, for making the ultimate sacrifice:

Corporal John Henry Pruitt was born on October 4, 1896 in Fayettesville, Arkansas, and grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. In May 1917, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corpsand went to Parris Island, South Carolina for basic training. During the summer of 1918 he fought in some of the biggest American battles of World War IChateau-Thierry and Belleau Wood. He was exposed to gas when his mask came off during hand-to-hand combat with a German soldier. He recovered and returned to the front. On October 3, 1918, at Blanc Mont, Corporal Pruitt single-handedly took out two enemy machineguns, killed their operators, and captured forty prisoners hiding nearby. Later that day, while on sniper detail, he was hit by intense enemy shell fire. He died the next day. It was his twenty-second birthday. Pruitt was initially awarded an Army Medal of Honor for his sacrifice, followed by a Navy Medal of Honor (the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard share a medal). The practice of awarding two medals for the same act ended after World War I. A Navy destroyer—the USS Pruitt was named after Corporal Pruitt.

Lieutenant John Robert Fox was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on May 18, 1915. He studied biology at Wilberforce University and enrolled in the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC). He graduated in 1940 with the rank of second lieutenant. During World War II, he went to Europe with the 366th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Infantry Division—the African-American division known as the “Buffalo Soldiers.” On December 26, 1944, German troops tried retake the town of Sommocolonia, Italy, which the Buffalo Soldiers were defending. Lieutenant Fox was an artillery spotter, radioing artillery units situated outside of the town with the coordinates of enemy positions. When American troops retreated under heavy fire from the Germans, he stayed behind to direct artillery fire that would provide defensive cover. At one point, he radioed to “Bring it in 60 yards.” The artillery officer warned Fox that firing on that location would kill him. Fox replied, “Fire it.” The action that cost Lieutenant Fox his life killed roughly one hundred German soldiers. President Bill Clinton posthumously awarded Lieutenant Fox the Medal of Honor on January 13, 1997. His widow, Arlene, received the medal.

Captain John Springer Walmsley Jr., was born on January 7, 1920, in Baltimore, Maryland. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1944 and acted as a flight instructor during World War II. He later served in occupied Japan as a pilot flying B-26 Marauders before returning stateside to attend the Air Tactical School at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. In June 1951, Captain Walmsley went to Korea as an all-weather fighter pilot with the 3rd Bomb Group’s 8th Bomb Squadron, flying B-26 Night Intruders. On September 14, 1951, he was flying his twenty-sixth missionnear Yangdok, when he spotted an enemy supply train. He attacked the train, but ran out of ammunition. He then used the searchlight mounted on his plane to guide another B-26 to the target. In doing so he exposed himself to enemy fire. The train was destroyed, but Captain Walmsley’s plane was hit and crashed into the nearby mountains. He was killed, along with the plane’s navigator and the photographer. The plane’s gunner, however, survived. Captain Walmsley was one of four airmen, and the only bomber pilot, awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously from the U.S. Air Force for service during the Korean War. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Construction Mechanic Third Class Marvin Glenn Shields was born on December 30, 1939, in Port Townsend, Washington, and grew up in nearby Discovery Bay. After graduating from high school, he moved to Alaska to work on a gold mining project for the Alaska Mineral Basin Mining Company. He returned home to Washington in 1962 and joined the U.S. Navy as a Seebee. In February 1965, he was deployed to South Vietnam and attached to Seabee Team 1104 of the Mobile Construction Battalion 1. Its job was to construct a camp at Dong Xoai in the Phuoc Long Province, South Vietnam—strategically located on a Viet Cong supply route from Cambodia. On June 9, 1965, Viet Cong forces attacked the camp. For three hours, Construction Mechanic Shields carried ammunition to GIs defending the camp.  He was wounded twice, but still rescued an injured comrade. When the camp’s commanding officer asked for help to take out an enemy machine gun, Construction Mechanic Shields immediately volunteered. The two men destroyed the machine gun, but Shields was killed while returning to American lines. He is the only Seabee to receive the Medal of Honor. He was also the first sailor to be awarded the Medal of Honor for service in Vietnam. He left behind his wife, Joan, and daughter, Barbara Diane.

Sergeant First Class Randall David Shughart was born August 13, 1958, in Lincoln, Nebraska, into a U.S. Air Force family. The Schugharts later moved to Newville, Pennsylvania, where they owned and operated a dairy farm. Sergeant First Class Shughart joined the U.S. Army when he was a senior in high school and went to basic training after graduation. In 1980, he joined to the reserves, but returned to active duty in 1983. After Special Forces training, he joined “Delta Force” and was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He deployed to Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993. On October 3, Sergeant First Class Shughart was a sniper onboard a Black Hawk helicopter during Operation Gothic Serpent—a mission to capture lieutenants of Somali warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed. But the mission went awry. Two Black Hawks were shot down. Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader, Master Sergeant Gary Gordon, volunteered to go to one of the crash sites to aid four critically wounded crew members. Sergeant First Class Shughart and Master Sergeant Gordon made their way to the crash site under intense enemy fire. Once they reached the site, Sergeant First Class Shughart pulled the crew from the downed helicopter. He used his long-range rifle and sidearm to fend off attackers and protect the crew until he ran out of ammunition. Both he and Master Sergeant Gordon were fatally wounded, but their sacrifice saved the pilot’s life. This act of heroism is retold in Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down

You can read about other Americans who were awarded the Medal of Honor for their bravery and supreme sacrifice herehereherehere, and here.  

Corey Cooper co-wrote this post.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.