The “citizen soldiers” of the National Guard and Reserve have a long history of stepping up when America needed them.
Here are 8 heroes who left their civilian jobs to kick the enemy in the teeth:
1. The general who waded ashore with the first wave on D-Day
The son of the popular president, Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. served in both World Wars. In the first one, he was a reserve officer who received a Distinguished Service Cross for rescuing a wounded man under fire, a Silver Star for leading his men while blinded by a gas attack, and an Army Distinguished Service Medal for his leadership in battalion command, along with another Silver Star for valor.
It was in World War II that the reservist really shone. He was decorated for valor in the Tunisian Campaign three times, twice for leading his own men into heavy fire and once for taking command of 3,000 Frenchmen and leading them. He received a Medal of Honor for his actions on D-Day when he landed on the beaches with the first wave and personally led waves of men through the deadly surf.
2. The private first class who took out an enemy pillbox with just a bomb and a knife
Pfc. Michael J. Perkins was in Belleu Bois, France Oct. 27, 1918 with his Massachusetts National Guard infantry company when Germans started throwing grenades at his unit from a pillbox. Perkins crawled up to the pillbox door and, when the Germans opened it to throw out more grenades, he threw his own bomb inside.
Immediately after the explosion, Perkins rushed in with his trench knife and began stabbing people until the 25 survivors surrendered, giving the Americans a new pillbox and 7 functioning machineguns, according to Perkins’ Medal of Honor citation.
3. A convicted deserter who received the Medal of Honor and other medals for valor
Lewis L. Millett joined the Massachusetts National Guard in 1938. He deserted to Canada in 1941 to get to war faster, then re-joined the U.S. Army in Africa. There, he received a Silver Star for driving a half-track of burning ammunition away from exposed troops, a conviction for his earlier desertion, and a battlefield commission to second lieutenant.
In the Korean War, he received a Medal of Honor and a Distinguished Service Cross. Each was for a daring bayonet charge and the two fights took place within four days of each other. It was after he was sent home to receive his Medal of Honor that he switched to the Regular Army.
4. The leader of the 2nd Ranger Battalion and the most daring mission on D-Day
Lt. Col. Earl Rudder led one of the most dangerous missions of D-Day, the assault up the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc. Rudder and his 2nd Ranger Battalion climbed sheer cliffs with tiny rope ladders while under fire from German defenders.
The battalion’s losses were over 50 percent and Rudder was shot twice in the assault, but the Rangers were successful. Rudder received a Distinguished Service Cross and was later sent to the 109th Infantry Regiment. During the Battle of the Bulge he led the destruction of key bridges while under heavy fire, stopping a German attack.
5. The only president to order an atomic strike
President Harry S. Truman was an artillery colonel in the Army Reserve when the war broke out. While most reservists were called to active duty, Truman was exempted for something about “Senate duties” and “Vice-something or another.”
In 1945, he became president and the only reservist to order an atomic strike, something he did twice. He also led America for most of the Korean War and the start of the Cold War.
6. The corporal who assumed command of a platoon attack in World War I
The Alabama National Guard’s Company G of the 167th Infantry was just starting its assault on a fortified, elevated position in Jul. 1918 when the platoon commander and platoon sergeant were both killed. Cpl. Sidney E. Manning was also severely wounded but rallied the 35 surviving members of the platoon and continued the assault.
He took the objective with only seven of his men still alive and, despite his own wounds, provided cover for the rest of the platoon with an automatic rifle until his company was fully deployed on the hill. He survived the battle and was awarded the Medal of Honor.
7. The human mortar tube of Okinawa
Staff Sgt. Beauford T. Anderson was repelling a Japanese assault with the 96th Infantry Regiment (Organized Reserves) when a Japanese assault hit his unit’s flank. He and his men fell back into an old tomb and tried to fight off the attack.
When he ran low on ammo, he grabbed a dud mortar round and threw it at the Japanese. The resulting explosion tore a hole in the attacking force, so Anderson armed and threw more mortar rounds. He was credited with single-handedly defeating the attack and received a Medal of Honor. He also received a Bronze Star with Valor for rescuing two wounded soldiers under fire on Leyte.
8. The private who tried to take a machinegun nest with a bayonet
Pfc. George Dilboy was walking with his platoon leader in the 103rd Infantry Regiment on a railroad track when they were attacked by an enemy machinegun only 100 yards away. Dilboy immediately returned fire while standing in the open. When that didn’t work, he sprinted at the gun with his bayonet fixed until the gunners nearly amputated his right leg and hit him multiple times in the body.
Twenty-five yards from the gun, he lined up his rifle sights and began picking the crew off, killing two men and forcing the rest to flee before dying himself. Gen. John J. Pershing later called Dilboy one of the ten greatest heroes of World War I.