Distinguishing between the bravery of warfighters like these is tough. After all, what’s the exchange rate between five Navy Crosses and two Medals of Honor? These men cannot be ranked, but they can and should be commemorated. And in that spirit WATM presents this lineup:
1. Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly
Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly was called the “fightenest Marine I ever knew” by the famed Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler. In perhaps his most famous action, he encouraged the Marine advance at Belleau Wood in 1918 by turning to his men and yelling, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”
Daly was recommended for the Medal of Honor for his actions at Belleau Wood, but received the Distinguished Service Cross. He also received two Medals of Honor, a Navy Cross, and a Silver Star in addition to a number of foreign awards for other battles during his career.
2. Maj. Audie Murphy
Commonly called the most decorated soldier of World War II, Maj. Audie Murphy received the Medal of Honor, a Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, a Legion of Merit with Combat V, and two Bronze Stars with Combat V.
Murphy’s foreign awards were especially impressive. He received the French Forrager, Legion of Honor, and Croix de Guerre with Palm and Silver Star and the Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 with Palm. He also received the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor.
3. Col. Edward V. Rickenbacker
When America entered World War I in 1917, race car driver Edward Rickenbacker volunteered for service. He started off as a staff driver but a chance meeting with Col. Billy Mitchell, an aviation pioneer, saw him reassigned to the new Army Air Corps where he became an “Ace of Aces” with 26 kills in only nine months.
During his military service, he received the Medal of Honor and the French Croix de Guerre for single-handedly engaging a flight of seven German planes and downing two. He also received seven Distinguished Service Crosses.
4. Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller
Marine Corps legend Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller holds a record-tying 5 Navy Crosses as well as an Army Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, and two Legions of Merit.
The Distinguished Service Cross and one Navy Cross were received for actions Puller took at the Chosin Reservoir where he personally oversaw the Marine and Army defenses while under withering machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire over five days of fighting.
5. Boatswain’s Mate First Class James Williams
Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class James Williams holds every level of valor award with a Medal of Honor, a Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, a Legion of Merit with Combat V, two Navy and Marine Corps Medals, three Bronze Stars with Combat V, and two Navy Commendation Medals with Combat V.
In his Medal of Honor action, Williams was commanding a river patrol boat when he took fire from two enemy Sampans in Vietnam and gave chase. He was lured into an ambush but fought against overwhelming odds for three hours, leading a fight that saw 65 enemy ships destroyed by Williams’ crew and a detachment of helicopters that eventually reinforced him.