8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HEROES

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts

In the United States military, the Purple Heart is a revered, if unwanted, military accolade bestowed upon those individuals who have been wounded in action with the enemy. The Military Order of the Purple Heart describes it as “awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those killed in action or die of wounds received in action. It is specifically a combat decoration.”

The Purple Heart traces its lineage all the way back to the Revolutionary War when it was called the Badge of Military Merit. After World War I, renewed interest in reviving the Badge of Military Merit led to the establishment of the modern Purple Heart. When the new Purple Heart was authorized in 1932, it superseded the short-lived Army Wound Ribbon and the wear of Wound Chevrons – devices on the sleeve that denoted the number of times someone had been wounded in combat.

Two million Purple Hearts have been awarded since it was created. The men below earned more of them per individual than any others.

1. Staff Sgt. Albert L. Ireland – Marine Corps

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
Four Marines man a machine gun in Korea, where they are serving with the 1st Marine Division. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Staff Sergeant Albert Ireland has the distinction of being awarded the most Purple Hearts of any individual across all branches of service. During his 12 years of service – spanning two wars from 1941 to 1953 – Ireland was wounded a total of nine times. Albert fought his way across the Pacific with the Marines during World War II, during which time he was wounded five times. During the Korean War, he was wounded four more times, and the last one was severe enough that he was medically discharged.

2. Lt. Col. Richard J. Buck – Army

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
Dressed in parkas (Overcoat, parka type, with pile liner), Missouri infantrymen pose for a New Year greeting, 19th Infantry Regiment, Kumsong front, Korea, 14 December 1951. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Richard Buck graduated from West Point in 1951 before being shipped to the Korean peninsula. During his service in the Korean War, Buck was wounded a total of four times. After the Korean War, Buck stayed in the Army and eventually joined Special Forces before being deployed to Vietnam. There, Buck was again wounded four times, bringing his Purple Heart total to eight for his career. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1970. 

3. Maj. Gen. Robert T. Frederick – Army

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
(Photo: U.S. Army)

Major General Frederick began World War II as a Lieutenant Colonel tasked with raising the 1st Special Service Force.  With this force he would fight in the Aleutian Islands, North Africa, and Italy before being promoted to Brigadier General and taking charge of the 1st Allied Airborne Task Force. During his time with 1st Special Service Force, he was wounded numerous times. At Anzio he was wounded twice in the same day. Frederick was once again promoted and took command of the 45th Infantry Division until the end of the war. Major General Frederick ended WWII with eight Purple Hearts, two Distinguished Service Crosses, and a Silver Star. He retired in 1952.

4. Col. David H. Hackworth – Army

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
(Photo: U.S. Army)

Colonel Hackworth was awarded eight purple hearts over the course of the Korean and Vietnam wars. During the Korean War, Hackworth served with several elite units – 8th Ranger Company, 25th Recon Company, and the 27th Wolfhound Raiders – before earning a battlefield commission and volunteering to serve another tour, which he completed with the 40th Infantry Division. During his time in Korea he was awarded three Purple Hearts. During the Vietnam War, Hackworth served multiple tours in Vietnam in multiple capacities but was well known for creating the Tiger Force with the 101st Airborne and revitalizing the demoralized 4/39th into the ‘Hardcore Recondo’ Battalion. There he received another five Purple Hearts. Col. Hackworth also holds the record for the most Silver Stars with ten awards.

5. Capt. Joe Hooper – Army

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
(Photo: U.S. Army)

Joe Hooper enlisted in the U.S. Army as an Airborne Infantryman in 1960. He was stationed at a number of locations before being assigned to D Co., 2nd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment just prior to that unit’s deployment to Vietnam. On February 21, 1968, Hooper’s actions outside of Hue earned him the Medal of Honor as well as one of his Purple Hearts. Hooper would serve a second tour in Vietnam from 1970-71, during which time he received a direct commission to 2nd Lieutenant. During his tours, Lt. Cooper received eight Purple Hearts, the Medal of Honor, and two Silver Stars as well as numerous other awards.

6. Col. Robert L. Howard – Army

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
(Photo: U.S. Army)

 

Robert Howard enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1956 and by 1967 found himself assigned to Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) in Vietnam.  Howard served a total of 54 months in Vietnam. During one thirteen month tour, he was recommended for the Medal of Honor on three separate occasions, but due to the covert nature of the operations, two were reduced – to the Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross. He was awarded the Medal of Honor and a Purple Heart for actions in December 1968. In the remainder of his time in Vietnam, Howard was given a commission to 2nd Lieutenant and wounded a further seven times giving him a total of eight Purple Hearts for his career. He retired as a Colonel in 1992.

7. Col. William L. Russell – Army

William Russell first enlisted in the 153rd Infantry Regiment of the Arkansas National Guard during World War II, seeing action in the Aleutian Islands before being given a direct commission. After Advanced Infantry Officer Training, he was assigned to I Co., 330th Infantry Regiment, 83rd Infantry Division. During his time with the 83rd Infantry Division, he earned a Silver Star, was nominated for the Medal of Honor, and was wounded seven times, earning him the nickname ‘The King of the Purple Hearts.” After WWII, Russell returned to Arkansas before being called up to participate in the Korean War where he led the 937th Field Artillery Battalion into combat. Russell retired from the military in 1965 with the rank of Colonel, having been awarded eightPurple Hearts.

8. Sgt. Maj. William Waugh – Army

 

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
(Photo: U.S. Army)

William Waugh enlisted in the Army in 1948 and was briefly assigned to the 187th Parachute Regimental Combat Team in Korea before earning his Green Beret in 1954. Waugh deployed to Vietnam with Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha team in 1961. During numerous tours in Vietnam, Waugh was involved in many different operations including multiple combat High Altitude Low Opening insertions. During the Battle of Bong Son, Waugh was grievously wounded and was later awarded the Silver Star and his sixth Purple Heart. By the time Sgt. Maj. Waugh retired in 1972, he had been wounded two more times for a total of eight Purple Hearts. After his illustrious Special Forces career, Waugh continued on working for the CIA during which time, at the age of 71, he participated in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

MIGHTY HEROES

This Navy SEAL knew how to have fun and get to work

Navy SEALs have dominated the battlefields they’ve stepped on since the concept of their existence was developed during WWII.


The Navy SEALs were officially declared in 1962 when former President John F. Kennedy had them established to conduct Unconventional Warfare — and they’ve been kicking a** ever since.

Related: This is why the Navy SEAL swim challenge is not for just anyone

There’s a cast of characters that pop up in any military unit: you have the “grandpa,” the “fighter,” and the “smiley-jokester” that everyone loves immediately.

For SEAL Team five, Rob Guzzo was the “smiley jokester” — everyone who encountered him loved him right away.

“As soon as Rob checked in and he was going to be a comms guy, I mean we just hit it off right off the bat,” one Navy SEAL states. “We were just laughing all the time.”

Rob’s teammates commonly remember him as being a “walking holiday.” Sadly, Rob passed away in 2012, but this popular and fun-natured SEAL will live on through the memories in which he made with family and the SEAL community.

“Rob was a total jokester, which is awesome but at the same time was serious,” another SEAL admits. “His parents were both military, and he had that sense of pride.”

Also Read: Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats

Check out the HISTORY channel’s video below hear what exactly brings a SEAL platoon together.

YouTube, HISTORY

MIGHTY HEROES

WATCH: Dragonman’s Military Museum is unlike anything you’ve ever seen

Dragonman’s Military Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is not your average military museum. You quickly figure that out when you first arrive. The entryway leads you through cars full of bullet holes that have bloody human dummies inside. The signs that accompany the cars say things like, “STAY ON THE ROAD. This family just hit a LANDMINE.” That makes it super clear: This museum experience is going to go the distance.  

Nothing says authentic like working military weapons in a museum

The owner of Dragonman’s Military Museum is a Vietnam Vet known as “Dragon Man.” That’s a way cooler name than his real name, Mel Bernstein. His museum does not mess around. It has 1,200 mannequins in authentic military uniforms. In addition, there are also more than 5,000 helmets and over 2,500 weapons on display. Many of the mannequins are holding weapons. The sheer quantity of military memorabilia at this place is simply awe-inspiring. 

As a matter of fact, all of the restorable items, including the guns and vehicles, have been restored to working condition. While the US government does not allow real bullets in their museums, that certainly is not the case for Dragonman’s Military Museum. 

Military history is not all uniforms and army tanks

Equally important are some of the specific and strange items Dragonman’s Military Museum houses. He showcases every model of Army Jeep, land mine, and German belt buckle from both World War I and World War II. In face, he’s even made a pyramid constructed of 500-pound Vietnam War bombs and even has gas masks for babies. 

Then again, some of the most disturbing items in the museum come straight from the Nazis. In fact, there’s an entire room dedicated to Nazis. Of course, the Swastika flags are off-putting, and Hitler’s original mustard yellow uniform is unsettling as well. However, those are nothing compared to the corpse tongs from Dachau. Or the soap made from human fat. The Dragon Man even has an empty gas chamber complete with Zyklon B cans, the trademarked gas used by the Nazis in their extermination camps. Not a lot of military museums in the world dare to show history with this level of honesty, including the Holocaust Museum in Washington. Dragon Man is doing his part to ensure the world never forgets.

Ambiance is everything

On top of the actual historical pieces in the museum is its atmosphere. Gunfire and explosions sound from the walls, coming straight from the adjacent firing range, also owned by the Dragon Man. Plus, he’s done things to show the history with more than just artifacts. 

For instance, he’s recreated a whole Gulf War field hospital, and he’s got a photo of a suicide bomber who was beheaded by a US sniper bullet from the Iraq War, plus pictures of Saddam Hussein himself captured by soldiers. Dragonman’s Military Museum is a gutsy and genuine display of military history, to say the least—there’s no question about that. 

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The second man on the moon wants you to know that Tang sucks

Tang, the orange-flavored drink mix that intrepid American astronauts took into space, wasn’t selling so well until it famously went into orbit. And there’s at least one astronaut who wishes it never left the ground.

Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, the second person to step foot on the moon, told the audience of the 2013 Spike TV Guys Choice awards that “Tang sucks.”

For those unfamiliar with Tang, it’s the orange-flavored breakfast drink that has somehow managed to stick around grocery store shelves for the past 60-plus years, as if there wasn’t already an orange beverage closely associated with mornings. Except the only thing Tang has in common with oranges is its color.

Aldrin, the famous West Point graduate and Air Force astronaut, was not only the second man on the moon, he was a combat pilot in the Korean War. After notching two MiG kills in 66 combat missions, he earned a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and joined NASA. So if Buzz Aldrin says Tang sucks, he’s probably right.

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Prime Crew pilot of the Gemini XII space flight, undergoes zero-gravity ingress and egress training aboard an Air Force KC-135 aircraft. He practices using camera equipment. (NASA)

Much of the Twitterverse agreed with him. An informal poll conducted by NPR following his controversial statement found that more than 57.1% of respondents agreed. Another 29.43% disagreed and 13.47% didn’t know what Tang is — and their lives are better off for it.

If you disagree with Aldrin, that’s fine. Just keep in mind that old-school astronauts don’t take guff from laymen. The one time someone tried getting into his face about how the moon landing was faked ended with Aldrin punching that person in the face.

Because NASA took this orange-like beverage on space flights, sales of the drink took off, too. It was so closely linked with the United States’ space program that people came to believe NASA developed the powdered beverage especially for astronauts. That built-in marketing gave it the lift it needed to stay on shelves ever since.

For this American hero’s sake, let’s be clear about Tang. If orange-scented furniture polish tasted exactly how it smelled, it would taste like Tang. The closest Tang powder ever gets to an orange is the picture of an orange on the label. Although it provides 100% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C, that’s about all the benefit you’ll get from it.

Tang also contains two artificial yellow dyes, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6, which studies by the Center for Science in the Public Interest say can cause allergic reactions, contain possible carcinogens and may cause hyperactivity in children. It also contains BHA, which the label says is used to “protect flavor,” as if that was something we wanted. Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health says BHA “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.“

Two good reasons to ditch BHA altogether.

For real food, NASA created dehydrated edibles for the astronauts to consume while in space, including scrambled eggs, curried chicken and raisin rice pudding, all packed in sealed plastic bags.

It’s no wonder U.S. Navy astronaut John Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich aboard a Gemini mission.


This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Feature image courtesy of NASA.

MIGHTY HEROES

The 7 greatest animal war heroes

War heroes can emerge from plenty of unexpected places, and that includes kennels, lofts, and stables. Here are seven awesome war heroes who didn’t let being an animal get in the way of winning human conflicts.


1. The pigeon who saved 194 American lives after being shot through the chest.

 

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
Cher Ami as she is displayed at the Smithsonian Museum. Photo: US Army Signal Corps

Cher Ami was a messaging pigeon serving in the Argonne Forest with the 77th Infantry Division when the battalion of 550 soldiers she was with was completely cut off by German forces. After four days of heavy fighting, friendly artillery decided the battalion must have surrendered already and began firing on the 77th.

Since the 77th just refused an offer to surrender and was very much still in the position, this was a problem. Maj. Charles Whittlesey ordered a message sent back to headquarters, but the group’s three pigeons were quickly shot down. Cher Ami, despite a hole in her chest and a nearly amputated leg, got back into the air and delivered her message. 194 soldiers made it out alive thanks to her actions.

2. Sgt. Stubby

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
Photo: Public Domain via Wikipedia

In 1917, Stubby joined a group of American soldiers training for the trenches of World War I. He deployed with the men overseas and proved himself in battle multiple times, waking soldiers as he sensed incoming artillery attacks and infantry assaults that human sentries hadn’t yet detected.

His most heroic moment came when he found and seized a German spy moving near the American position. He bit into the German’s pants and raised a ruckus, holding the spy in place until the infantrymen could relieve him of his prisoner.

Despite being caught in multiple gas attacks, Sgt. Stubby survived the war and the supreme commander of American Forces in World War I, Gen. John Pershing, personally awarded him a gold medal in 1921 for his efforts.

3. Wojtek

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
Photo: imgur coveredinksauce

Wojtek the bear was bought and adopted by Polish soldiers making their way back east after they were released from a prison camp in Siberia in 1942.

When the unit re-entered the war in Egypt, they had to make Wojtek a soldier since pets weren’t allowed. As an official member of the unit, the 440-pound bear became an ammo carrier that ferried heavy artillery rounds to the guns. He survived the war and lived out his days in a zoo in Edinburgh.

4. The horse that ferried ammunition and wounded Marines despite two wounds from enemy fire.

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
Photo: US Marine Corps

Sgt. Reckless was a Marine in an anti-rifle platoon during the Korean War. She served in a few battles as an ammo carrier and evacuated wounded troops when necessary. In the Battle of Vegas in early 1953, Reckless carried rounds for three days straight.

Moving over difficult terrain, she moved 386 rounds and traveled 35 miles despite suffering two wounds on the fiercest day of fighting. The first injury occurred when a piece of shrapnel struck her above her eye and the second was a cut to her flank.

5. Simon continues catching rats during a siege after nearly dying of injuries from artillery fire.

In April 1949, the HMS Amethyst was ordered up the Yangtse to guard the British embassy in Nanking during the war between Communists and Nationalists in China. As the Amethyst moved up the river, it came under heavy fire from a Communist shore battery and ran aground.

Besieged by Communist forces, the Amethyst was trapped for a total of 101 days. The ship’s cat, Simon, was riddled by shrapnel and partially burnt by artillery fire in the initial attack but forced himself back into service to combat a surge of rats that were damaging the limited rations in the ship. His efforts allowed the men to just barely survive the siege as rations nearly ran out. He was the first member of the Royal Navy to receive the Dickin Medal for animal valor.

6. The duck that fought the Japanese at Tarawa.

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
Photo: US Marine Corps Lt. Col. Presley M. Rixey

When the U.S. invaded the island of Tarawa, thousands of Marines clashed with thousands of Japanese soldiers in an effort to control the two-mile wide speck of land. Amidst the fierce fighting on the beach, an American duck flew from ship to shore to attack a Japanese rooster.

Despite suffering multiple pecks to the head, Siwash the Duck of the 1st Battalion, 10th Marines continued her assault and eventually overcame her adversary, according to her Marine Corps citation published in Life magazine. She refused medical aid until the rest of her gun section was cared for. She later saw action at Saipan and Tinian.

7. Nemo the dog fights off attackers after being blinded.

Nemo and his handler, Airman 2nd Class Bob Thorneburg, were patrolling a cemetery near their base in Vietnam on Dec. 4, 1966 when they were attacked by the Viet Cong. Nemo was shot in the eye while Throneburg took a round to the shoulder.

Throneburg was able to kill two of the guerrilla attackers but would have fallen to the rest if Nemo hadn’t ignored his own injuries to attack the remaining guerrillas while guarding his handler. Nemo bought enough time for reinforcements to find and rescue the pair. He was allowed to retire to a personal kennel after the firefight.

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How one Soviet agent single-handedly changed the course of World War II

When Richard Sorge was born, his German parents were living in what is now Azerbaijan, working for the Russian government. He moved with his family to Berlin at a very young age. He was raised in a typical upper-middle-class family, supporters of the German Empire and the Kaiser.

Like many Europeans, he became disillusioned with the state of affairs during and after World War I, and his political views changed. If Richard Sorge hadn’t become a Communist, World War II might have lasted much longer – or ended differently. 

At age 18, Sorge enlisted in the German Army and was sent to the Western Front. As a member of a reasonably wealthy family, he was supportive of the Kaiser and the war – at first. As the war dragged on, his views on war not only changed, his entire political point of view changed along with it. 

Sorge was wounded in his hands and both legs and was discharged in 1916. By the time he left the army, he was no longer a German nationalist. As he recovered from his wounds, he read the works of Karl Marx and became a Communist. After earning a doctorate degree, he joined the Communist Party and moved to the Soviet Union.

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
Sorge (left) in uniform in 1915 (German Federal Archive)

It was in the USSR that he was recruited to work for the Red Army’s intelligence directorate. He was sent back to Germany posing as a journalist. He would spend years in Germany, China, and Great Britain, reporting back to the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) on the development of communist parties in those countries and the outbreaks of violence in China. 

Once Japan had taken parts of China in 1931, the Soviet Union was worried that the Japanese Empire would invade the Soviet Far East. Sorge was sent to Germany to join the Nazi Party, get a job as a correspondent in Japan, and set up an intelligence gathering ring there.

That’s exactly what he did. After reading Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf, he became adept at creating Nazi propaganda and began attending beer hall meetings. He was so good at his work in Germany that three publications commissioned his work in Japan. Sorge’s farewell dinner was attended by Joseph Goebbels himself. 

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
He was so good at peddling fake Nazi bullsh*t that he had this guy buying in (German Federal Archive)

By 1933, Sorge was working in Japan as a correspondent for Germany’s top newspaper. His real job, from his Soviet handlers, was to determine if Japan was planning an attack on the USSR. He recruited a team of communist informants and by 1935 had contacts in both the German military presence in Japan, as well as the Japanese military and government. 

Sorge was, soon after he was established, committed to the role of the hard-drinking playboy and ladies man, a typical Nazi diplomat in Japan at the time. He was so trusted by the German delegation in Japan that they weren’t just sharing information with the Soviet spy, Sorge was actively writing diplomatic cables back to Berlin.

After some Japanese officers started a border clash with the USSR near Manchuria, Sorge learned that it was an isolated incident and that Japan had no intentions of an all-out invasion of the USSR. 

By far, the two most important intelligence findings of Sorge’s time in Japan came after World War II had started in earnest. He learned that Nazi Germany was planning its invasion of the USSR in 1941, but Soviet leader Joseph Stalin wrote off Sorge as a drunkard. Sorge’s next intelligence coup would not be ignored.

In September 1941, Sorge learned that the Japanese military command was resisting German pressure to go to war with the USSR and wanted to attack the United States’ possessions in the Pacific instead. He reported to Moscow that the Japanese would not invade the Soviet Union until the Nazis captured Moscow, the Japanese had enough troops to invade Siberia, and a civil uprising could be started there.

After receiving this intelligence and seeing the Germans halted before Moscow, Stalin felt he could move Soviet Far East divisions to counter the Nazi invasion and turn the tide against the Germans. 

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
This intel was crucial to the Soviets driving the Germans out of Stalingrad and turning the tide on the Eastern Front (Wikimedia Commons)

Sorge was eventually arrested under the suspicion of espionage. He confessed under torture and was hanged as a spy in November 1944.


Feature image: German Federal Archive

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A Medal of Honor recipient’s remains were identified after 70 years

When Emil Kapaun entered seminary school to become a Catholic priest in 1936, he probably didn’t foresee himself being declared a Servant of God by the Pope some 80 years later. He also probably didn’t foresee how he would end up there. 

Kapaun was called to serve as a U.S. Army chaplain during World War II and he answered that call. As the war ended and the United States entered a conflict in Korea, he stayed in the Army to shepherd his soldiers through their most trying times. 

He was with them until the end, but what exactly happened to him wasn’t really known until an entirely new century had turned.

As a new chaplain, Kapaun didn’t make it to World War II until 1945, when he arrived in the China-India-Burma theater of the war. But he didn’t turn around and go home. He crossed thousands of miles in little more than a year to go wherever there were GIs in the theater. He went home in 1946 and briefly left the Army to continue his education. 

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
Then-2nd Lt. Emil Kapaun, U.S. Army chaplain, circa 1943. (U.S. Army photo)

By 1948, however, he was back in a chaplain’s uniform, spending time at Fort Bliss before shipping off to occupied Japan in 1950. This was the year everything would change. North Korean tanks invaded South Korea that same year, and the war nearly pushed the South and its American allies into the Sea of Japan. 

Emil Kapaun was in Korea a month after the Korean War started. Kapaun and his assistant did more than tend to the spiritual needs of the men in their care. They picked up stretchers and became litter bearers during combat as the Battle of the Pusan Perimeter raged around them. 

When United Nations forces managed a breakout and Gen. Douglas MacArthur landed a significant western force at Inchon, Capt. Kapaun marched north with the rest of the United Nations. He was there when they crossed the 38th parallel into North Korea, when they captured Pyongyang. He helped rescue the wounded and retrieve the dead and dying. 

When Kapaun and the 1st Cavalry came within 50 miles of North Korea’s border with China, the Chinese intervened in the war. His unit was surrounded by 20,000 Chinese soldiers and Kapaun stayed with 800 men who were cut off from the main force, despite pleas for his own escape. Braving the enemy’s unending heavy fire, he rescued 40 of his comrades in arms. 

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
U.S. Army

His daring rescues in the face of hostile fire earned Emil Kapaun the Medal of Honor. He would never live to receive the award, however. He and other members of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment were captured by the Chinese and marched more than 80 miles to a North Korean prisoner of war camp. 

While a prisoner, Kapaun did everything he could to improve the lives of the men held there. As they fought hunger, disease and lice, their chaplain dug latrines for them, stole food and smuggled necessary drugs into the camp. But even he was feeling the harshness of prison camp life and eventually succumbed to malnutrition and pneumonia. His remains were left in a mass grave near the Yalu River, along North Korea’s border with China.

After the armistice that ended the fighting on the Korean Peninsula went into effect, Kapaun’s remains, along with the others interred at the mass grave site were repatriated to the United States. Since his were unidentifiable, they were buried in Hawaii’s National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. 

In 2018, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency launched the Korean War Disinterment Project, an all-out effort to identify the remains of Korean War remains in a seven-phase plan. On March 4, 2021, Capt. Emil. Kapaun, Medal of Honor recipient and future Catholic saint, was positively identified.


Feature image: U.S. Army photo by Col. Raymond Skeehan

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‘Not just a box’ — 9 unclaimed veterans to be laid to rest

Nine unclaimed veterans and two spouses will be laid to rest Friday in Iowa, thanks to the tireless efforts of a woman who treats every urn as if it contains the remains of her own family. 

Funeral director Lanae Strovers has been working on the upcoming ceremony for more than two years, but her passion and reputation for honoring veterans goes back much further in her career at Hamilton’s Funeral Home

Having been put on bed rest for three months because of surgery, Strovers was looking for a way to keep busy when she discovered Hamilton’s had about 300 urns sitting in storage. She made it her mission to follow up with families to see whether they could claim the urns or still needed them stored.

After the arduous process of tracking down relatives or guardians for all the urns, Strover said the funeral home ended up with the remains of three unclaimed veterans and organized a service for them.

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
Law enforcement in attendance at the 2018 ceremony for unclaimed veterans at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Hamilton’s Funeral Home.

“Since then, people are aware that Hamilton’s makes sure veterans get buried whether they have family or not,” Strovers said. “Local law enforcement has turned in urns, and storage unit owners have turned some in to us, which is an amazing thing because they know that we will hold the ceremony when it’s necessary.”

Strovers was adopted as a child and only recently learned anything about her biological family. Her background made her look at unclaimed remains differently.

“I felt that every person was a possible brother, dad, grandfather, uncle, or family member to me,” she said. “It’s not just a box with cremated remains in it. It’s someone’s family member. For whatever reason, they got separated — that’s not our place to judge those stories at all, but to be respectful that it’s someone’s loved one.”

One of the veterans to be honored Friday is Robert Glen Baumgardner, who served in the Army during the Korean War. He died in 2000. Burglars stole his urn from his sister’s house in 2020 after she died. Police later discovered it in the middle of an intersection and took it to the funeral home.

World War II Army veteran Calvin Dean Sours died in May 2012 at age 93. His urn was later found in the office of an administrator who had failed to bury him.

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
Funeral director Lanae Strovers, left, watches as Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds receives a flag on behalf of an unclaimed veteran at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery in 2018. Photo courtesy of Hamilton’s Funeral Home.

Knowing that a person’s remains could be forgotten on a shelf doesn’t sit right with Strovers. While the ultimate goal is reuniting remains with the person’s family, giving the person a proper send-off is the next best option.

Friday’s ceremony – the third Strovers has organized – will begin with a 12:30 p.m. service at Hamilton’s in West Des Moines, Iowa. Law enforcement personnel, Patriot Guard Riders, and Iowa combat veterans will lead a procession to the Iowa Veterans Cemetery, where Iowa-based country singer Cody Hicks will perform the national anthem. Military honors will be rendered, and local representatives and notable community members will receive the flags on behalf of each veteran.

Rich Shipley, assistant state captain of the Iowa Patriot Guard Riders and a Marine Corps veteran, said the riders would be there to ensure the veterans would be “laid to rest with as many brothers present as possible.”

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
Nine unclaimed veterans and two spouses will be laid to rest Friday, June 18, 2021, at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery. Photos courtesy of Hamilton’s Funeral Home.

“Our nation’s heroes should never be unclaimed, discarded, or interred with no family present,” Shipley wrote in an email to Coffee or Die Magazine.

“It’s really a great community event where tons of people come together to honor these veterans,” Strovers said. She strongly encourages the public to attend, especially families with children.

“To teach those kids respect for people who served our country is huge,” Strovers said. “And just to see so many people coming to pay respects to people they never knew simply because they served our country is a pretty amazing thing.”


This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Feature image: US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson, Texas Military Forces Public Affairs.

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This American Olympic gold medalist also fought in the Battle of Britain

William Meade Lindsley Fiske III was born in Chicago in 1911. The son of a wealthy New England banker, Fiske attended school in Chicago before moving to France in 1924. It was there that he developed his love of winter sports; especially bobsled.

At the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland, 16-year-old Fiske drove the five-man U.S. bobsled team to its first Olympic win and became the youngest gold medalist in any winter sport, a record that stood until 1992. In the following years, he also took up European motorsport and participated in the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in 1931. At the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, Fiske earned his second gold medal for bobsledding as the driver of the U.S. four-man team.


He was invited to lead the U.S. bobsled team at the 1936 Winter Olympics in Germany, but declined. It is speculated that Fiske declined because of his disapproval of German politics at the time. This sentiment towards Hitler’s Nazi regime would explain Fiske’s determination to join the war effort in the coming years.

At the outbreak of WWII, Fiske was working as a banker at the London office of the New York-based bank, Dillon, Reed Co. With an interest in his safety, the bank recalled Fiske to their New York headquarters. However, on August 30, 1939, Fiske returned to England with a colleague in order to join the war effort. Fiske’s colleague was a member of No. 61 (County of London) Auxiliary Air Force Squadron and inspired him to join the RAF.

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
Fiske’s passport. (Scanned copy from the Royal Air Force Museum)

 

Because of America’s declared neutrality at the time, Fiske pretended to be Canadian in order to join the Royal Air Force Reserve. Having “duly pledged his life and loyalty to the King, George VI,” Fiske wrote in his diary, “I believe I can lay claim to being the first U.S. citizen to join the RAF in England after the outbreak of hostilities.” He was promoted to Pilot Officer on March 23, 1940 and began his flight training, after which he joined No. 601 Squadron RAF on July 12.

Flying the Hawker Hurricane, Fiske flew his first patrols with the squadron on July 20. As the Battle of Britain raged on, Fiske continued to fly combat missions against the onslaught of German bombers. On August 16, No. 601 Squadron was scrambled to intercept a formation of Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive-bombers. Although the squadron shot down eight of the enemy bombers, Fiske’s Hurricane was hit in its fuel tank and caught fire.

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
Fiske’s official RAF Reserve portrait. (US Air Force archived photo)

 

Despite his aircraft being damaged and his hands and ankles being burned, Fiske refused to bail out of his aircraft. Instead, he nursed his knackered Hurricane back to the airfield and landed safely. Ambulance attendants rushed out and extracted Fiske from his plane shortly before its fuel tank exploded. He was taken to Royal West Sussex Hospital where he was treated for his wounds. Tragically, Fiske died 2 days later from surgical shock. He was buried on August 20 with both a Union Jack and Stars and Stripes draped over his coffin.

On July 4, 1941, a plaque honoring Fiske was unveiled at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London which reads, “An American citizen who died that England might live.” Additionally, in 2008, a stained glass window depicting Fiske’s Hurricane and an American flag was dedicated at Boxgrove Priory where he is buried. Fiske’s legacy is not forgotten, however, in his home country.

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
The stained glass tribute to Fiske’s memory. (Photo by the Boxgrove Priory/ Wikimedia Commons)

 

The United States Bobsled and Skeleton Foundation created the Billy Fiske Memorial Trophy as a tribute to the fallen pilot. The trophy is awarded to the national champion four-man bobsled team each year. Additionally, a line in the 2001 film Pearl Harbor is rumored to be a reference to Fiske. In it, U.S. Army Air Corps pilot Capt. Rafe McCawley (played by Ben Affleck), travels to England to fly with the RAF prior to America’s entry into the war. Showing McCawley the plane that he’ll be flying, the RAF commander remarks on the bravery of the plane’s previous pilot. “Good chap. Didn’t die till he’d landed and shut down his engine.” Finally, Fiske can be credited with the development of the popular Aspen Ski Resort. Along with his friend, Ted Ryan, Fiske opened up a ski lodge and built the first ski lift in Aspen in 1937. After the war, others would continue their work and develop Aspen into the world-famous skiing destination it is today.

Although Fiske didn’t shoot down any enemy planes, his determination to fight against the Nazis served as an inspiration for other Americans to join the RAF and eventually form the famous Eagle Squadrons. Despite his privileged upbringing and successful life in sports and banking, Fiske’s unwavering conviction led him to fight and die for the sake of freedom. Echoing the words of Winston Churchill, Fiske is one of the few who was owed so much by so many during the Battle of Britain.

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Watch: Chicago police survive 6-second, point-blank shootout

It all happens in 6 seconds.

Two police officers jump from their car as a man is walking — slowly, almost casually — toward them in an alley. The cops yells at him to stop.

In a flash almost too quick to see, a gun appears. Everything is point-blank. A spray of shots ring out.

Both officers — Julio Garcia, 28, and Mark Nakayama, 25 — are hit. As one cop falls, he returns fire and hits the shooter.

This officer body camera video includes graphic images of two shootings including the shooting of a police officer and bullet wound injuries.

The Chicago Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) released gripping body-worn camera footage Wednesday showing an early morning shooting in an alleyway on May 16, 2021. The footage shows just how quickly police have to make split-second decisions in lethal situations. 

Two calls to 911 had reported a man firing shots, and a police-run listening system had located the sound of gunfire in Chicago’s West Douglas Boulevard, about 5 miles west of downtown. Within minutes, officers found a man matching caller descriptions in a nearby alleyway. As two officers followed the man, identified as 45-year-old Bruce Lua, on foot, Garcia and Nakayama pull into the alley ahead of him, cutting him off and leaving him surrounded.

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
A screengrab from Chicago Police officer Julio Garcia’s body-worn camera shows the moment Bruce Lua fired, and captures the brass casing of Garcia’s bullet as it ejects from his pistol on May 16, 2021. Lua’s shot hit Garcia in the right hand within a split-second of this image. Screengrab from COPA Vimeo video.

Garcia and Lua are a few feet apart as they fire at each other, almost simultaneously. One frame from Garcia’s camera appears to capture the exact moment that he both fires his weapon and is hit by Lua’s shot. In the frame, a brass casing is ejecting from Garcia’s weapon as he fires, but his hand appears to be deflected by Lua’s bullet.

Following the shooting, Garcia can be seen with blood dripping down his right arm and hand. He then almost immediately switches his weapon from his right hand to his left, covering Lua.

This officer body camera video includes graphic images of three shootings including the shooting of two police officers.

Nakayama — who on his body camera footage can be heard telling other officers he is shot in the leg — falls but appears to fire at least one shot that strikes Lua, causing him to fall as well.

Garcia covers Lua until other officers arrive who disarm and cuff Lua and begin to treat Nakayama.

At one point, a fellow officer can be heard yelling, “Where the f*ck is that ambulance?”

Both officers and Lua were transported to the hospital and released. The CPD Case Incident Report lists the officers’ injuries as “serious,” with Garcia shot once and Nakayama shot twice. Lua is being held on $10 million bail and charged with two counts of attempted murder.


This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Feature image: Screen grab from COPA Vimeo video

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Apollo 11 astronaut and Air Force General Michael Collins passes away at 90

American hero Michael Collins passed away on April 28, 2021 at the age of 90 after a battle with cancer. Along with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Collins was one of the Apollo 11 astronauts who made the legendary trip to the moon in 1969. He also served as an Air Force test pilot and reached the rank of Major General in the Air Force Reserves.

Collins was born on October 31, 1930 in Rome, Italy. He was the son of a U.S. Army officer serving as the U.S. military attaché. As a military child, Collins spent his youth in a number of locations including New York, Texas and Puerto Rico. It was in Puerto Rico that Collins first flew a plane. During a flight aboard a Grumman Widgeon, the pilot allowed Collins to take the controls. Though this ignited Collins’ passion for flight, the start of WWII prevented him from pursuing it.

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
West Point Cadet Michael Collins (U.S. Army)

When the U.S. entered WWII, Collins’ family moved to Washington, D.C. where he attended St. Albans School and graduated in 1948. He decided to follow his father and older brother into the service and received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. His father and brother were also West Point graduates. Collins graduated in 1952. In his graduating class was fellow future astronaut Ed White who tragically perished in the Apollo 1 disaster.

Collins’ family was famous in the Army. His older brother was already a Colonel, his father had reached the rank of Major General, and his uncle was the Chief of Staff of the Army. To avoid accusations of nepotism, he opted to commission into the newly formed Air Force instead.

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
Michael Collins as an Air Force pilot (U.S. Air Force)

Collins received flight training in Mississippi and Texas and learned to fly jets. He was a natural pilot with little fear of failure. After earning his wings in 1953, he was selected for day-fighter training at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada where he learned to fly the F-86 Sabre. Although 11 pilots were killed in accidents during the 22-week course, Collins was unfazed.

After training, Collins was stationed at George Air Force Base, California until 1954. He moved to Chambley-Bussières Air Base in France where he won first place in a 1956 gunnery competition. He met his future wife, Patricia Mary Finnegan, in an officer’s club. A trained social worker, Finnegan joined the Air Force service club to see more of the world. Their wedding was delayed by Collins’ redeployment to West Germany during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. However, they were married the next year in 1957. Their first daughter, future All My Children actress Kate Collins, was born in 1959. The Collins’ had a second daughter, Ann, in 1961 and a son, Michael, in 1963.

In 1957, Collins returned to the states to attend the aircraft maintenance officer course at Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois. In his autobiography, Collins described the course as “dismal” and boring. He preferred to fly planes rather than maintain them. Afterward, he commanded a Mobile Training Detachment and a Field Training Detachment training mechanics on servicing new aircraft and teaching students to fly them.

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
ARPS Class III graduates (L-R) Front row: Ed Givens, Tommie Benefield, Charlie Bassett, Greg Neubeck & Mike Collins. Back row: Al Atwell, Neil Garland, Jim Roman, Al Uhalt and Joe Engle. Missing: Ernst Volgenau (U.S. Air Force)

Eager to get back into the cockpit, Collins applied to the Air Force Experimental Flight Test Pilot School. He was accepted to Class 60C in 1960. His classmates included fellow future Apollo astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Irwinn and Tom Stafford. The test pilot school put Collins at the controls of the T-28 Trojan, F-86 Sabre, B-57 Canberra, T-33 Shooting Star and F-104 Starfighter. Notably, Collins quit smoking in 1962 after a suffering bad hangover. The next day, he flew four hours as the co-pilot of a B-52 Stratofortess. Going through the initial stages of nicotine withdrawal, Collins described the flight as the worst four hours of his life.

Following the historic Mercury Atlas 6 flight of John Glenn in 1962, Collins was inspired to become an astronaut. However, NASA rejected his first application. Undeterred, Collins flew for the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School. He later applied and was accepted to the Air Force’s postgraduate course on the basics of spaceflight. He was joined by future astronauts Charles Bassett, Edward Givens, and Joe Engle.

In June 1963, Collins applied to the astronaut program again and was accepted. After basic training, Collins received his first choice in specialization: pressure suits and extravehicular activities. In June 1965, he was received his first crew assignment as the backup pilot on Gemini 7. Following the system of NASA crew rotation, this slated Collins as the primary pilot for Gemini 10.

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
Gemini 10 prime crew portrait (NASA)

Along with John Young, Collins lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 0520 on July 18, 1966. Gemini 10 took them to a new altitude record of 475 miles above the Earth. Collins later said that he felt like a Roman god riding the skies in his chariot. On Gemini 10, Collins also became the first person to perform two spacewalks on the same mission. At 0406 on July 21, Young and Collins splashed into the Atlantic and were safely recovered by the USS Guadalcanal.

After Gemini 10, Collins was reassigned to the Apollo program. He was slated as the backup pilot on Apollo 2 along with Frank Borman and Tom Stafford. However, Collins’ future in Apollo was put on hold when he began experiencing leg problems in 1968. He was diagnosed with cervical disc herniation and had to have two vertebrae surgically fused. Originally slotted as the primary pilot for Apollo 9, Collins was replaced by Jim Lovell while he recovered.

Following the success of Apollo 8, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins were announced as the crew of Apollo 11. While training for the mission, Collins compiled a book of different scenarios and schemes during the lunar module rendezvous. The book ended up being 117 pages.

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
Collins goes through the checklist in the command module simulator (NASA)

Collins also created the mission patch for Apollo 11. Backup commander Jim Lovell mentioned the idea of eagles which inspired Collins. He found a painting in a National Geographic book, traced it, and added the lunar surface and the Earth. The idea of the olive branch was pitched by a computer expert at the simulators.

At 0932 on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 lifted off. Collins docked the Command Module Columbia with the Lunar Module Eagle without issue and the combined spacecraft continued on to the Moon. Apollo 11 orbited the Moon thirty times before Aldrin and Armstrong entered the Eagle and prepared for their descent to the lunar surface. At 1744 UTC, Eagle separated from Columbia, leaving Collins alone in the command module.

While Aldrin and Armstrong performed their mission on the Moon, Collins orbited solo. During each orbit, he was out of radio contact with the Earth for 48 minutes. During that time, he became the most solitary human being alive. Despite that, Collins did not feel scared or alone. He later recalled that he felt, “awareness, anticipation, satisfaction, confidence, almost exultation.”

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
The Apollo 11 mission patch designed by Collins (NASA)

Collins orbited the Moon a further 30 times in the command module. After spending so much time in the spacecraft, he decided to leave his mark in the lower equipment bay. There, he wrote, “Spacecraft 107 – alias Apollo 11 – alias Columbia. The best ship to come down the line. God Bless Her. Michael Collins, CMP.”

At 1754 UTC on July 21, Eagle lifted off from the Moon and rejoined Columbia for the trip back to Earth. Columbia splashed into the Pacific at 1650 UTC on July 24. The crew was safely recovered by USS Hornet. As the first humans to go to the Moon, Collins, Aldrin, and Armstrong became worldwide celebrities. They embarked on a 38-day world tour of 22 foreign countries.

Satisfied with his legendary space flight, Collins retired from NASA after Apollo 11. He was urged by President Nixon to serve as the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. However, the Vietnam War, the invasion of Cambodia, and the Kent State shootings, sent waves of protests and unrest across the country. Collins did not enjoy the job and requested to become the Director of the National Air and Space Museum. Nixon approved and Collins changed jobs in 1971.

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
The Apollo 11 crew (L-R) Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin (NASA)

Along with Senator and former Air Force Major General Barry Goldwater, Collins lobbied Congress to fund the building of the National Air and Space Museum. In 1972, Congress approved a budget of $40 million. With a smaller budget than what Collins had hoped for, he also had a short suspense to meet. The museum was scheduled to open on July 4, 1976 for the country’s bicentennial. Not one to back away from a challenge, Collins got to work hiring staff, overseeing the creation of exhibits, and monitoring construction. Not only was the museum completed under budget, but it opened three days ahead of schedule on July 1, 1976.

Still a member of the Air Force Reserve, Collins reached the rank of Major General in 1976 and retired in 1982. He served as the museum’s director until 1978 when he became undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution. In 1985, he started his own consulting firm. He has also wrote books on spaceflight, including a children’s book on his experiences. Collins enjoyed painting watercolors of the Florida Evergreens or aircraft that he flew. He lived with his wife in Marco Island, Florida and Avon, North Carolina until her death in April 2014.

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
Collins’ Command Module Columbia at the National Air and Space Museum (Smithsonian Institute)

Following Collins’ passing, NASA released a statement. “NASA mourns the loss of this accomplished pilot and astronaut, a friend of all who seek to push the envelope of human potential,” the release said. “Whether his work was behind the scenes or on full view, his legacy will always be as one of the leaders who took America’s first steps into the cosmos. And his spirit will go with us as we venture toward farther horizons.” Michael Collins will forever be remembered as an American hero and a champion for humanity on its quest into space.

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
Collins meets with President Trump in 2019 for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing (The White House)
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The first Medal of Honor in modern Army aviation history came in Vietnam

On January 21, 1968, North Vietnam achieved an impossible feat. With its Viet Cong counterparts, it managed to launch a large-scale, coordinated assault on American and South Vietnamese military bases and cities across South Vietnam, and they caught their capitalist enemy completely by surprise. 

Nowhere was this surprise felt stronger by the Americans and South Vietnamese than in the ancient city of Hue, which was situated near the demilitarized zone between North and South. The communists caught the city completely unprepared. The U.S. response in its wake was so piecemeal because military planners couldn’t believe they could capture the city. 

When a division of North Vietnamese soldiers attacked the city in the early morning hours, the defenses were minimal. Much of the force from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) was away for the Tet holiday. No matter what the remaining forces could muster, it would not be enough to repel the communists. 

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
Marines patrolling the streets in Hue after Tet Offensive (U.S. Army)

The Americans, at first, didn’t fare much better. United States Marines responded with a counterattack but had no idea what they were actually walking into. In fact, in the immediate aftermath, almost no one in the U.S. Army command knew the extent of the losses or of the enemy’s real strength in the city. 

But those inside the city knew. Defenders of a small Military Assistance Command – Vietnam compound and a South Vietnamese Army Base were under heavy assault from the Viet Cong and had taken many casualties. Inside of Hue, they were fighting for their lives. The enemy quickly took control of the old citadel and were assaulting the ARVN base. 

U.S. troops in an American UH-1 Huey helicopter were shot down over the ARVN installation. Once on the ground, they were surrounded by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers. Luckily for them Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson was flying nearby in a Huey of his own. 

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
U.S. Army

The Americans knew Hue was under attack. While they may not have known yet the full scope of the situation, they knew it was bad. Ferguson was advised not to try to assist the survivors of the crash but he wasn’t going to let them just die. 

He immediately disregarded his resupply mission and made his way to Hue, where he also started taking anti-aircraft fire. He took his bird on a low-level flight along the Perfume River at maximum airspeed as he flew to the city and found the isolated ARVN compound where the remains of the downed helicopter still lay. 

Under heavy small arms fire, he landed his aircraft in a space so tight it was almost impossible to operate the helicopter. The bird kicked up a storm cloud of dust as it landed and CWO Ferguson began to jettison everything aboard the airship that wasn’t necessary or nailed down. 

As they loaded the wounded and exhausted survivors of the crash, the Huey began to take an enormous amount of small arms and mortar fire, nearly crippling it where it sat. Somehow, though, Ferguson skillfully got the ship airborne in spite of the damage and flew it and the survivors to safety. He flew back at the same speed and altitude at which he came in, taking even more damage to the aircraft. 

His swift decision and cool head under fire saved the lives of five fellow soldiers, safely returning them to Phu Bai.

On Flag Day, 1969, Frederick Ferguson was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon. It was the first one presented to an Army aviator in the Vietnam War. That was far from the end for Ferguson, though. Over the course of his career he was awarded two Silver Stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star Medal, and 39 Air Medals. He is even one of a handful of Americans to appear on a postage stamp while still living.  

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Why this French nobleman’s Paris gravesite is filled with dirt from Massachusetts

The United States owes its success in the Revolutionary War to help from France. The chief architect of that help was Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette. In America, we simply call him “Lafayette.”

When France needed help during World War I, a squadron of American airmen volunteered their skills to fight against Germany. They called themselves the Lafayette Escadrille. When American troops finally arrived in France years later, their leaders walked into the tomb of the nobleman and announced, “Lafayette, we are here.”

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
The Escadrille Lafayette in July 1917 (U.S. Air Force photo)

The relationship between the Marquis and the United States has endured for many centuries because of his admiration and service to a country that was not his own. That admiration runs so deep, that the nobleman is buried in American soil – in Paris. 

When the Marquis de Lafayette came to the United States to fight the British in the Revolution, he was so committed to the cause that he volunteered to serve without pay. Unlike other French officers volunteering, Lafayette had the military pedigree to be of use and soon came to be the right hand man to Gen. George Washington himself. 

That pedigree didn’t come with much experience. Lafayette would be learning as he served the American cause. Luckily, as a wealthy man, his personal contributions more than made up for what he lacked in military experience. But as he gained that valuable experience, he proved himself an able commander.

A dedicated Enlightenment thinker, his devotion to the cause of American ideals led him to fight in several battles, to be wounded at the battle of Brandywine, and encourage France to recognize American independence. Most crucially, it was Lafayette’s forces that harassed Cornwallis on his way to Yorktown.

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts
John Ward Dunsmore’s 1907 depiction of Lafayette (right) and Washington at Valley Forge (Wikimedia Commons)

This forced the British to move across the James River, where they were eventually trapped by Washington, Lafayette and Comte de Rochambeau  by land and the French fleet by sea. He was forced to surrender his army after an almost three-week siege. It was the beginning of the end of the war, and the start of the American experiment.

Lafayette fought in the Continental Army all over the colonies, from New England to the Mid-Atlantic to the South, and was one of the few things that all the new states of the United States had in common. He so loved the ideals of the American Revolution that he tried to export them to France when he returned home. 

His advocacy for American liberty would serve him and his wife well in the coming years of the French Revolution. The French admiration for American values saved the lives of the noble and his wife. 

Lafayette would return to the United States many times in the years following the revolution. His visits would confirm the idea that the Founding Fathers had created a functioning democracy, based on the egalitarian values of the Enlightenment. He came to love the United States and proclaimed that he wanted to be buried in American soil.

Marquis de Lafayette
Lafayette’s grave (Wikimedia Commons)

On his final visit to the United States, Lafayette filled a trunk full of earth from the land near Boston’s Bunker Hill. When the noble died in 1834, his son interred him in the dirt from America. The American flag has flown over his grave continuously since 1850, a simple site behind an innocuous high stone wall.

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