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Congressional Medal of Honor

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As you are well aware, your ever lovable Grey Beard Biker respects all of those who serve our great country. It takes a very special patriot to sign their name, in blood, with the U.S. military. This contract can become “due and payable,” with that soldier’s life, at any time or place. A soldier’s loyalty to our great country is one of tradition, passed on from generation to generation, since we fought the British Crown in the Revolutionary War. And while this hard-charging biker respects all soldiers, active and retired, he has a very special place in his heart for those who have been awarded the Medal of Honor – the highest military award our country bestows on its heroes.

A regular feature of The Grey Beard Biker is the Profile of Courage. This is dedicated to a soldier who has shown bravery above the call and duty. Today’s Profile of Courage post is about Marine Corps Corporal, Anthony Casamento. He was awarded his Medal of Honor some forty years after his actions on the island of Guadalcanal.

Corporal, Anthony Casamento – Profile of Courage

Casamento awarded the MoH

Unit: Company D, First Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Date of Birth: November 16, 1920
Date of Death: July 18, 1987
Place of Death: Northport, New York
Final Resting Place: Long Island National Cemetery

Medal of Honor Citation

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company “D” First Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division on Guadalcanal, British Solomon Islands in action against the enemy Japanese forces on 1 November 1942. Serving as leader of a machine gun section, Corporal Casamento directed his unit to advance along a ridge near the Mantanikau River where they engaged the enemy. He positioned his section to provide covering fire for two flanking units and to provide direct support for the main force of his company which was behind him. During the course of this engagement, all members of his section were either killed or severely wounded and he himself suffered multiple, grievous wounds. Nonetheless, Corporal Casamento continued to provide critical supporting fire for the attack and in defense of his position. Following the loss of all effective personnel, he set up, loaded, and manned his unit’s machine gun, tenaciously holding the enemy forces at bay. Corporal Casamento single-handedly engaged and destroyed one machine gun emplacement on the flank. Despite the heat of ferocity of the engagement, he continued to man his weapon and repeatedly repulsed multiple assaults by the enemy forces, thereby protecting the flanks of the adjoining companies and holding his position until the arrival of the main attacking force. Corporal Casamento’s courageous fighting spirit, heroic conduct, and unwavering dedication to duty reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps of the United States Naval Service.

The United States Marine Corps Medal of Honor

Thank you Corporal Casamento! Your bravery, intrepidity and devotion to country are an inspiration to the people of this great country. May you rest forever more along peaceful shores with the a warm sun at your back. You have done your duty, to the highest level, and this Grey Beard Biker salutes you, sir!

ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ,
The Grey Beard Biker
@gbb@thegreybeardbiker.com
@GreyBeard_Biker on the Twitter

As you are well aware, your ever lovable Grey Beard Biker respects all of those who serve our great country. It takes a very special patriot to sign their name, in blood, with the U.S. Military. This contract can become “due and payable,” with that soldier’s life, at any time or place. A soldier’s loyalty to our great country is one of tradition, passed on from generation to generation, since we fought the British Crown in the Revolutionary War. And while this Grey Beard respects all soldiers, active and retired, he has a very special place in his heart for those who have been awarded the Medal of Honor – the highest military award our country bestows on its heroes.

A regular feature of The Grey Beard Biker is the Profile of Courage. This is dedicated to a soldier who has shown bravery, above the call and duty. Today’s Profile of Courage post is about Sergeant 1st Class, Paul Ray Smith. Smith was the first soldier awarded the Medal of Honor for service in the Iraq War.

Sgt. 1st Class, Paul Ray Smith – Profile of Courage

Unit: Company B, 11th Engineer Battalion, 3rd I.D.
Hometown: El Paso, Texas
Date of Birth: September 24, 1969
Date of Death: April 4, 2003
Place of Death: Baghdad Airport, Baghdad, Iraq
Final Resting Place: Arlington National Cemetery

U.S. Army – Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor Citation:

Sgt. 1st Class – Paul Ray Smith Headstone
Arlington National Cemetery

Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy near Baghdad International Airport, Baghdad, Iraq on 4 April 2003. On that day, Sergeant First Class Smith was engaged in the construction of a prisoner of war holding area when his Task Force was violently attacked by a company-sized enemy force. Realizing the vulnerability of over 100 fellow soldiers, Sergeant First Class Smith quickly organized a hasty defense consisting of two platoons of soldiers, one Bradley Fighting Vehicle and three armored personnel carriers. As the fight developed, Sergeant First Class Smith braved hostile enemy fire to personally engage the enemy with hand grenades and anti-tank weapons, and organized the evacuation of three wounded soldiers from an armored personnel carrier struck by a rocket propelled grenade and 60mm mortar round. Fearing the enemy would overrun their defenses, Sergeant First Class Smith moved under withering enemy fire to man a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on damaged armored personnel carrier. In total disregard for his own life, he maintained his exposed position in order to engage the attacking enemy force. During this action, he was mortally wounded. His courageous actions helped defeat the enemy attack, and resulted in as many as 50 enemy soldiers killed, while allowing the safe withdrawal of numerous wounded soldiers. Sergeant First Class Smith’s extraordinary heroism and uncommon valor are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the Third Infantry Division “Rock of Marne,” and the United States Army.

Thank you Sergeant 1st Class Smith! Your bravery, intrepidity and devotion to country are an inspiration to the people of this great country. May you rest forever more along peaceful shores with the a warm sun at your back. You have done your duty, to the highest level, and this Grey Beard Biker salutes you, sir!

Grey Beard Biker

The United States has survived over two centuries because we have had men and women who signed a contract with our government. A contract to protect and defend their country from all enemies – foreign and domestic. While your ever lovable Grey Beard Biker has the greatest respect for all members of our armed services, active duty and retired, there is a very special place in his heart for those who have been awarded the Medal of Honor. So today, he shares a story of heroism from the Second World War.

Pfc. Frederick C. Murphy – Profile of Courage

Unit: Medical Detachment, 259th Infantry, 65th Infantry Division
Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts
Date of Birth: July 27, 1918
Date of Death: March 19, 1945
Place of Death: Saarlautern, Germany (Siegfried Line)
Final Resting Place: Saint Laurent, France

U.S. Army Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor Citation:

An aid man, he was wounded in the right shoulder soon after his comrades had jumped off in a dawn attack 18 March 1945, against the Siegfried Line at Saarlautern, Germany. He refused to withdraw for treatment and continued forward, administering first aid under heavy machinegun, mortar and artillery fire. When the company ran into a thickly sown antipersonnel minefield and began to suffer more and more casualties, he continued to disregard his own wound and unhesitatingly braved the danger of exploding mines, moving about through heavy fire and helping the injured until he stepped on a mine which severed one of his feet. In spite of his grievous wounds, he struggled on with his work, refusing to be evacuated and bleeding profusely. He was killed by the blast of another mine which he had dragged himself across in an effort to reach still another casualty. With indomitable courage, and unquenchable spirit of self-sacrifice and supreme devotion to duty which made it possible for him to continue performing his tasks, while barely able to move, Pfc. Murphy saved many of his fellow soldiers at the cost of his own life.

Thank you Pfc. Murphy for your courage and intrepidity on the Siegfried Line in World War II. Your actions went far above the call of duty. Today, there are children and grandchildren who would have never known the freedom of the United States without your actions. The Grey Beard Biker salutes you, sir!

Grey Beard Biker

Many of you have seen the movie, Lone Survivor. It was based on retired Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell‘s gripping story as the actual “Lone Survivor.” In the movie, Mark Wahlberg was cast as Marcus, and Luttrell actually had a small supporting role. The movie was very well done with superb cinematography, acting and stunts. Watching the movie, your lovable Grey Beard Biker could feel the pain of all four Navy SEALs as they literally fell down the mountain in Afghanistan, to get away from the Taliban fighters. That was make believe – a movie adaption of actual events.

Operation Red Wings

In real life, Navy SEALs Michael P. Murphy, Danny Dietz, Matthew Axelson and Luttrell would all inserted into a remote section of Afghani mountains to perform an overwatch of a village believed to harbor a known Taliban leader. Codenamed Operation Red Wings, after the Detroit NHL team, it would become symbolic of the War on Terror. Ultimately, their hiding place would be discovered by a group of Afghan goat herders, and their position would be compromised when the squad commander, Murphy, ordered that the innocents be released, unharmed. This accidental event would bring dozens of Taliban fighters to a position of strength over the four SEALs. After a prolonged small arms battle, only Luttrell would remain alive, to be rescued several days later.

Death on the Mountainside

On this day, 28 June 2005, Lieutenant Michael Murphy would ultimately die on the side of that remote mountain in Afghanistan – far away from his Long Island, New York home. With no direct way to communicate with his superiors, and needing support from AC-130 gunships, Murphy was forced to climb into an exposed position to use a satellite phone. Many other SEALs and Night Stalkers would also perish trying to rescue their Special Forces brothers (which I will write about later).

For his actions there, “Murph” was awarded our Country’s highest military award – the Medal of Honor. He would also have an Arleigh Burke class U.S. Navy destroyer named in his honor.

The United States Navy – Medal of Honor

Murphy’s Medal of Honor citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as the leader of a special reconnaissance element with Naval Special Warfare Task Unit Afghanistan on 27 and 28 June 2005. While leading a mission to locate a high-level anti-coalition militia leader, Lieutenant Murphy demonstrated extraordinary heroism in the face of grave danger in the vicinity of Asadabad, Konar Province, Afghanistan.

Navy Seal – Lt. Michael P. Murphy

On 28 June 2005, operating in an extremely rugged enemy-controlled area, Lieutenant Murphy’s team was discovered by anti-coalition militia sympathizers, who revealed their position to Taliban fighters. As a result, between 30 and 40 enemy fighters besieged his four-member team. Demonstrating exceptional resolve, Lieutenant Murphy valiantly led his men in engaging the large enemy force. The ensuing firefight resulted in numerous enemy casualties, as well as the wounding of all four members of the team. Ignoring his own wounds and demonstrating exceptional composure, Lieutenant Murphy continued to lead and encourage his men. When the primary communicator fell mortally wounded, Lieutenant Murphy repeatedly attempted to call for assistance for his beleaguered teammates. Realizing the impossibility of communicating in the extreme terrain, and in the face of almost certain death, he fought his way into open terrain to gain a better position to transmit a call.

This deliberate heroic act deprived him of cover, exposing him to direct enemy fire. Finally achieving contact with his headquarters, Lieutenant Murphy maintained his exposed position while he provided his location and requested immediate support for his team. In his final act of bravery, he continued to engage the enemy until he was mortally wounded, gallantly giving his life for his country and for the cause of freedom. By his selfless leadership, courageous actions, and extraordinary devotion to duty, Lieutenant Murphy reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

USS Michael Murphy

USS Michael Murphy

The USS Michael Murphy (DDG-112), an Arleigh Burke Class destroyer, would have her keel laid down on June 18, 2010. Less than one year later, on May 7, 2011, the ship would be christened by Murphy’s mother, Maureen Murphy – on Murph’s birthday. The Michael Murphy would be commissioned in New York City on October 1, 2012 and would arrive in her home port, Naval Station Pearl Harbor, on November 21.

On this, the fourteenth anniversary of your untimely death, the Grey Beard Biker salutes you, “Murph!” Your heroism, leadership and tenacity are a tribute to you and the United States military. May you forever rest-in-peace, knowing a grateful nation honors your memory!

Grey Beard Biker

Staff Sgt. David Bellavia

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant (Ret.) David Bellavia was awarded our country’s highest military honor, by President Donald Trump, on June 25, 2019. This is the first time a living Iraq War veteran has received this prestigious award. There have been five others who have received the award for actions in Iraq – all posthumously. By comparison, there are 13 living Medal of Honor recipients from the Afghanistan War with another four receiving their medal posthumously. Since the United States entered the War on Terror, in 2001, nearly 2.8 million soldiers have served in either Iraq or Afghanistan – with a total of 5.4 million total deployments (source RAND Corporation). The Grey Beard Biker is pleased to see a living Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq War.

David Bellavia – Profile of Courage

David Bellavia, U.S Army Staff Sergeant
Unit: Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One)
Hometown: Lyndonville, New York
Date of Birth: November 10, 1975
Awards: Medal of Honor, Silver Star Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal (3), Army Achievement Medal (2), Overseas Service Bars (2)

Battle and Mission

Ballavia was deployed to Iraq, as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), in February 2004. Just days into the Second Battle of Fallujah, his 3rd Platoon was tasked with a pre-dawn mission to clear a block of 12 buildings in support of other soldiers fighting door-to-door. Intelligence believed there were significant al-Qaida forces holed up in the buildings. In order to take the city back, these buildings would need to be cleared, one at a time. Having cleared the first nine buildings, Ballavia’s platoon found itself caught in an ambush when it entered the tenth structure.

Bellavia’s Medal of Honor Citation

The President of the United States of America, authorized by an Act of Congress, March 3rd, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant David G. Bellavia, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty.

Staff Sergeant David G. Ballavia distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on November 10, 2004, while serving as a squad leader in support of Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq.

While clearing a house, a squad from Staff Sergeant Ballavia’s platoon became trapped within a room by intense enemy fire coming from a fortified position under the stairs leading to the second floor. Recognizing the immediate severity of the situation, and with disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Bellavia retrieved an automatic weapon and entered the doorway of the house to engage the insurgents.

With enemy rounds impacting around him, Staff Sergeant Bellavia fired at the enemy position at a cyclic rate, providing covering fire that allowed the squad to break contact and exit the house.

A Bradley Fighting Vehicle was brought forward to suppress the enemy; however, due to high walls surrounding the house, it could not fire directly at the enemy position. Staff Sergeant Bellavia then re-entered the house and again came under intense enemy fire. He observed an enemy insurgent preparing to launch a rocket-propelled grenade at his platoon. Recognizing the grave danger the grenade posed to his fellow soldiers, Staff Sergeant Bellavia assaulted the enemy position, killing one insurgent and wounding another who ran to a different part of the house.

Staff Sergeant Bellavia, realizing he had an un-cleared, darkened room to his back, moved to clear it. As he entered, an insurgent came down the stairs firing at him. Simultaneously, the previously wounded insurgent reemerged and engaged Staff Sergeant Bellavia. Staff Sergeant Bellavia, entering further into the darkened room, returned fire and eliminated both insurgents. Staff Sergeant Bellavia then received enemy fire from another insurgent emerging from a closet in the darkened room.

Exchanging gunfire, Staff Sergeant Bellavia pursued the enemy up the stairs and eliminated him. Now on the second floor, Staff Sergeant Bellavia moved to a door that opened onto the roof. At this point, a fifth insurgent leapt from the third floor roof onto the second floor roof. Staff Sergeant Bellavia engaged the insurgent through a window, wounding him in the back and legs, and caused him to fall from the roof.

Acting on instinct to save the members of his platoon from an imminent threat, Staff Sergeant Bellavia ultimately cleared an entire enemy-filled house, destroyed four insurgents, and badly wounded a fifth. Staff Sergeant Bellavia’s bravery, complete disregard for his own safety, and unselfish and courageous actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.

Since the Second Battle of Fallujah

Bellavia would remain in the U.S. Army for six years, retiring in 2005. He would co-found Vets for Freedom, serving as their Vice Chairman. In 2007, Bellavia published, House to House: An Epic Memoir of War, co-written with John R. Bruning. Today, Bellavia is president of EMPact America.

The Grey Beard Biker proudly salutes Staff Sergeant David Bellavia! Thank you for your service to our country, your bravery and leadership. Myself, and your great country, will always be proud of what you did in the streets of Fallujah!

Grey Beard Biker

The Grey Beard Biker loves sharing stories about members of our Armed Forces. He considers all who have served to be heroes. Today’s Profile of Courage tells the story of Private First Class (Pfc.), Joe E. Mann. Mann was killed in action during World War II and is one of only two 101st Airborne Division soldiers to be awarded the Medal of Honor during that terrible conflict.

Pfc. Joe E. Mann

Your lovable Grey Beard Biker reads a great deal of military history. Living in Clarksville, Tennessee – home of the 101st Airborne Division – he has read a great deal about this unit. Having just finished reading Band of Brothers, by Stephen Ambrose (for probably the 10th time), Grey Beard remains amazed that only two 101st Airborne Division paratroopers were awarded the Medal of Honor for service in Europe during WW II. This being the division which heaped glory upon itself behind the lines during D-Day, in Operation Market Garden and at Bastogne (Battle of the Bulge) – makes it that much more surprising this unit had only two Medal of Honor recipients in its ranks.

Joe E. Mann – Profile of Courage

Joe E. Mann, Private First Class (Pfc.)
Unit: Company H, 502nd PIR, 101st Airborne Division
Hometown: Reardan, Washington
Date of Birth: 8 July 1922
Date of Death: 19 September 1944
Place of Death: Best, the Netherlands
Final Resting Place: Spokane, Washington

Early Life and Military Service

Joe E. Mann was born in Reardan, Washington on July 22, 1922, to John and Anna Mann. Mann would grow up on a farm with eight siblings. Shortly after graduating from Reardan High School, he would enlist in the U.S. Army at Seattle, Washington, in August 1942. After basic training at Fort Lewis, he would be assigned to Company G, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne Division. Like most of the 101st Airborne Division, he would receive his jump wings after training at Camp Toccoa, Georgia. Prior to embarking for England, to prepare for Operation Overlord, Mann would be reassigned to Company H, 502nd PIR. While he would miss his first combat jump at Normandy, due to back issues, he would be reassigned to his unit in time to participate in Operation Market Garden, parachuting behind German lines in the Netherlands. The 502nd (5 O-deuce) PIR would fight on the southern flank at Best – just north of Eindhoven. It was here that Mann would wrap himself in glory, giving his last full measure, for his teammates, his regiment, his division and the United States Army.

U.S. Army – Medal of Honor

Joe E. Mann – Medal of Honor Citation

He distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty. On 18 September 1944, in the vicinity of Best, Holland, his platoon, attempting to seize a bridge across the Wilhelmina Canal, was surrounded and isolated by an enemy force greatly superior in personnel and firepower. Acting as lead scout, Pfc. Mann boldly crept to within rocket-launcher range of an enemy artillery position and, in the face of heavy enemy fire, destroyed an 88-mm. gun and ammunition dump. Completely disregarding the danger involved, he remained in his exposed position, and, with his M 1 rifle, killed the enemy one by one until he was wounded 4 times. Taken to a covered position, he insisted on returning to a forward position to stand guard during the night. On the following morning the enemy launched a concerted attack and advanced to within a few yards of the position, throwing hand grenades as they approached. One of these landed within a few feet of Pfc. Mann. Unable to raise his arms, which were bandaged to his body, he yelled “grenade” and threw his body over the grenade, and as it exploded, died. His outstanding gallantry above and beyond the call of duty and his magnificent conduct were an everlasting inspiration to comrades for whom he gave his life.

Besides earning the Medal of Honor, Private First Class Mann earned many other honors:

  • Bronze Star with “V” device
  • Purple Heart (5 times – 4 with bronze oak leaves)
  • Army Good Conduct Medal
  • American Campaign Medal
  • Europe-Africa ME Medal (with bronze arrow and star)
  • WW II Victory Medal
  • French Croix de Guerre medal (with bronze star)

Legacy and Memorial

Joe E. Mann Memorial
Best, the Netherlands

After the war, a memorial would be placed at the site of Mann’s mortal wounding, between Best and Son, the Netherlands. In addition to the the statue, an open air theater there was named in his honor. It is still in use today. The plaque on his memorial reads:

The American paratrooper Joe Mann was involved with the capture of the bridge over the Wilhelminakanaal. He saved the lives of his comrades, by intercepting a grenade with his back. For this act he posthumously received the highest American military distinction: the Medal of Honor.

The Grey Beard Biker salutes PFC Mann! Your unselfish service to your brothers-in-arms, your company, your battalion, your regiment, your division and your country knew no bounds. May you forever rest in peace, knowing a loving country still remembers what you did for our freedom – and the freedom from Nazi tyranny for the people of Europe!

Grey Beard Biker

Your lovable Grey Beard Biker loves military history. You know this, because you are in the know. To the Grey Beard it doesn’t matter if a soldier was given any specific award, they are still a hero because they signed their name in blood on a contract with the United States government – a contract which is due-and-payable, if necessary, with their life. But those brave souls who have been awarded the Medal of Honor have a very special place in my heart. You see, less than 3,500 soldiers have been given this award since its inception during the Civil War. Until World War II, the vast majority of MoH recipients received their award while still alive. Since WW II, greater than 60% received the medal posthumously.

The basis for receiving our country’s highest military award is stringent, according to the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation:

Awarded by the President of the United States, in the name of Congress, to a member of the armed forces who “distinguishes himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:”

  • while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;
  • while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
  • while serving with friendly forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

Grey Beard Biker’s Medal of Honor Profile:

Gunnery Sergeant, John Basilone, United States Marine Corps

Gunnery Sergeant, John Basilone, USMC

John Basilone
Hometown: Buffalo, New York
Date of Birth: November 4, 1916
Died: February 19, 1945, Iwo Jima, Japan
Age at Death: 28
Final Resting Place: Arlington National Cemetery

John Basilone was the sixth of ten children born to Salvator and Colle Basilone (nee Sannita). Although he was born in Buffalo, Basilone moved to Raritan, New Jersey as a toddler. Before joining the armed forces, Basilone worked as a golf caddy at a local country club.

In 1934 Basilone entered the United States Army, completing his enlistment in the Philippines after a three year stint. He may have been best known at that time as a champion caliber boxer. Leaving the military, he returned to the U.S. and a short career as a truck driver in Maryland.

In 1940, Basilone enlisted in the Marine Corps at Baltimore, Maryland. After training at Marine Corps Base Quantico, he would be assigned to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba until the United States declared war on Japan, after the sneak attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Assigned to Dog “D” Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, Sergeant Basilone’s first duty assignment would be to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, South Pacific. It would be here that young Basilone would display undaunted courage, through his actions, at the Battle of Henderson Field, earning him the Medal of Honor.

Official Medal of Honor Citation:

For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action against enemy Japanese forces, above and beyond the call of duty, while serving with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division in the Lunga Area, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on 24 and 25 October 1942. While the enemy was hammering at the Marines’ defensive positions, Sgt. Basilone, in charge of 2 sections of heavy machineguns, fought valiantly to check the savage and determined assault. In a fierce frontal attack with the Japanese blasting his guns with grenades and mortar fire, one of Sgt. Basilone’s sections, with its guncrews, was put out of action, leaving only two men able to carry on. Moving an extra gun into position, he placed it in action, then, under continual fire, repaired another and personally manned it, gallantly holding his line until replacements arrived. A little later, with ammunition critically low and supply lines cut off, Sgt. Basilone, at great risk of his life and in the face of continued enemy attack, battled his way through hostile lines with urgently needed shells for his gunners, thereby contributing in large measure to the virtual annihilation of a Japanese regiment. His great personal valor and courageous initiative were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

1943 would mark a homecoming for Basilone. He would be brought home to tour the United States on a War Bonds Tour – essentially urging civilians to purchase war bonds to fund the ongoing hostilities around the world. Feeling uncomfortable in the limelight, he would request to return to action, twice, before being approved to return to the Pacific Theater.

On 19 February 1945, assigned to “C” Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division, Basilone would storm the beaches of Iwo Jima, Japan, fighting his way inland to Airfield Number 1. Assisting a Marine tank, which was stuck in an enemy minefield, Basilone was killed by enemy mortar shrapnel. His gallant actions greatly assisted the Marines in expanding their beachhead at Iwo Jimo on that D-Day. His actions at Iwo Jimo would lead him to receive the Navy Cross, the Marine Corps’ second highest decoration for valor, posthumously.

Gunnery Sergeant, John Basilone, thank you for your courage, intrepidity and valor in the Pacific Theater during World War II. You remain, to this day, an inspiration to so many.

Semper Fi, Marine!
Grey Beard Biker

Note: John Basilone was portrayed in the HBO’s miniseries, The Pacific, by Jon Seda. While not as inspiring as Band of Brothers, this program is still highly recommend by The Grey Beard Biker.

Medal of Honor, United States Navy

The Medal of Honor, is the highest award given to a member of our military for valor on the battlefield – whether on land, sea or air. Originally designated the Congressional Medal of Honor, today it is referred to simply as the Medal of Honor.

Never having served in the U.S. Military, I am in awe of those who signed a contract with our government – a contract which can become due-and-payable with the service member’s life. But awe does not properly express how I feel when I see a soldier, sailor or airman receive this award in person. Most receive the honor posthumously. I have always been enamored with MoH recipients since I was in seventh grade and my English teacher, Mr. Hutton, used to read MoH citations at the start of class.

On October 17, 2018, President Donald J. Trump awarded Sergeant Major (Ret.), John L. Canley, of the United States Marine Corps, the Medal of Honor for his service during the Battle of Hue, Vietnam.

Citation:

The President of the United States, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in awarding the Congressional Medal of Honor to Gunnery Sergeant John L. Canley, United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy while serving as Company Gunnery Sergeant, Alpha Company, First Battalion, First Marines, First Marine Division, from 31 January to 6 February 1968, in the Republic of Vietnam. Alpha Company fought off multiple vicious attacks as it rapidly moved along the highway toward Hue City to relieve friendly forces that were surrounded by the enemy. Despite being wounded in these engagements, Gunnery Sergeant Canley repeatedly rushed across fire-swept terrain to carry his wounded marines to safety. After his commanding officer was severely wounded, Gunnery Sergeant Canley took command and led the company into Hue City. At Hue City, caught in a deadly crossfire from enemy machine gun positions, he set up a base of fire and maneuvered with a platoon in a flanking attack that eliminated several enemy positions. Retaining command of the company for three days, he led attacks against multiple enemy fortified positions while routinely braving enemy fire to carry wounded marines to safety. On 4 February, he led a group of marines into an enemy occupied building in Hue City. He moved into the open to draw fire, located the enemy, eliminated the threat, and expanded the company’s hold on the building room by room. Gunnery Sergeant Canley then gained position above the enemy strongpoint and dropped in a large satchel charge that forced the enemy to withdraw. On 6 February, during a fierce fire fight at a hospital compound, Gunnery Sergeant Canley twice scaled a wall, in full view of the enemy, to carry wounded marines to safety. By his undaunted courage, selfless sacrifice, and unwavering devotion to duty, Gunnery Sergeant Canley reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the U.S. Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Semper Fi, Gunney! Your courage will not be forgotten!

The Grey Beard Biker

https://www.marines.mil/News/Press-Releases/Press-Release-Display/Article/1644927/medal-of-honor-sgt-maj-john-canley/