Pickens County, South Carolina lies in the northwest corner of the state on the border of North Carolina. The rural county has only a few hundred people per square mile and a total population of 120,000. Surprisingly, this small county has produced four Medal of Honor recipients, which makes it the county with the most Medals of Honor per capita in the nation, according to a report in Patch.
Here are the four recipients:
1. Pfc. Charles Barker slowed an enemy advance with hand-to-hand fighting.
Army Pfc. Charles Barker was part of a platoon in Korea that came upon enemy soldiers digging emplacements on a slope June 4, 1953. The patrol engaged the diggers but found itself facing heavy enemy resistance. As mortars began to fall on the platoon, the platoon leader ordered a withdrawal. Barker volunteered to cover the platoon move and was last seen engaged in hand-to-hand combat.
2. Pfc. William McWhorter absorbed an explosive blast to save his assistant gunner.
Army Pfc. William McWhorter was manning a heavy machine gunner in combat on Leyte Island in the Philippines on Dec. 5, 1944 when an enemy demolitions squad rushed his position. McWhorter and his assistant gunner successfully killed some of the attackers, but one managed to throw a fused demolition charge into the trench. McWhorter grabbed it and pulled it into his body just before it exploded. His actions saved the life of the assistant gunner who was able to continue fighting.
3. Lance Cpl. James “Donnie” Howe jumped on a grenade to save another Marine.
Marine Lance Cpl. James “Donnie” Howe was in a defensive position on a beach bordering bamboo thickets in Vietnam on May 6, 1970. A group of enemy sappers crept unnoticed to the position in the dark of early morning and launched a grenade attack. Howe and two others moved to a better position and began suppressing the enemy. When another grenade landed in the middle of the group, Howe jumped on it and saved the others.
4. Pvt. Furman Smith single-handedly held off an enemy counterattack.
During the Allied advance in Italy in World War II, Army Pvt. Furman Smith was part of an infantry company attack on a strong point. Smith was in the lead element when an attack by 80 Germans succeeded in wounding two men. While the rest of the lead element pulled back to the company’s position, Smith rushed forward. He recovered the wounded and placed them in shell craters that provided some cover. He then took a position nearby and held off the Germans with rifle fire until he was ultimately overrun.