Today's Medal of Honor Moment for 11 October
October 11th, 2009 by John Donovan
Celluloid legend John Wayne meets real legend, Medal of Honor recipient Colonel Neel Kearby, who scored six in one day. There are no Medals awarded for actions on this day in history until WWI.
The last Medal thus for for this date was for an action during WWII, near New Guinea in 1943. There is another Medal which will cover this date, which will surface in November. It, too, will go to an aviator.*BLACKWELL, ROBERT L.Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Army, Company K, 119th Infantry, 30th Division. Place and date: Near St. Souplet, France, 11 October 1918. Entered service at: Hurdle Mills, N.C. Birth: Person County, N.C. G.O. No.: 13, W.D., 1919. Citation: When his platoon was almost surrounded by the enemy and his platoon commander asked for volunteers to carry a message calling for reinforcements, Pvt. Blackwell volunteered for this mission, well knowing the extreme danger connected with it. In attempting to get through the heavy shell and machinegun fire this gallant soldier was killed. HILTON, RICHMOND H. Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company M, 118th Infantry, 30th Division. Place and date: At Brancourt, France, 11 October 1918. Entered service at: Westville, S.C. Born: 8 October 1898, Westville, S.C. G.O. No.: 16, W.D., 1919. Citation: While Sgt. Hilton's company was advancing through the village of Brancourt it was held up by intense enfilading fire from a machinegun. Discovering that this fire came from a machinegun nest among shell holes at the edge of the town, Sgt. Hilton, accompanied by a few other soldiers, but well in advance of them, pressed on toward this position, firing with his rifle until his ammunition was exhausted, and then with his pistol, killing 6 of the enemy and capturing 10. In the course of this daring exploit he received a wound from a bursting shell, which resulted in the loss of his arm.
Since today is also a light day for the Medal, let's continue the Medal trivia from yesterday. Who was the youngest recipient of the Medal at the time the action for which the award took place? That spot is currently held (based on current research) by Drummer Boy Willie Johnson, who is believed to have been between 11-12 years old (he was born in 1850, but no one has figured out which day) when he performed heroically in the Seven Days and the Peninsular Campaign of 1862. Among other things, young Willie was cited for keeping his drum and other equipment during the retreat from the Seven Days battles - something many older soldiers were unable to accomplish, as they dumped what the could to lighten their load. As noted in a contemporary newspaper clipping:KEARBY, NEEL E. (Air Mission)Rank and organization: Colonel, U.S. Army Air Corps. Place and date: Near Wewak, New Guinea, 11 October 1943. Entered service at: Dallas, Tex. Birth: Wichita Falls, Tex. G.O. No.: 3, 6 January 1944. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy, Col. Kearby volunteered to lead a flight of 4 fighters to reconnoiter the strongly defended enemy base at Wewak. Having observed enemy installations and reinforcements at 4 airfields, and secured important tactical information, he saw an enemy fighter below him, made a diving attack and shot it down in flames. The small formation then sighted approximately 12 enemy bombers accompanied by 36 fighters. Although his mission had been completed, his fuel was running low, and the numerical odds were 12 to 1, he gave the signal to attack. Diving into the midst of the enemy airplanes he shot down 3 in quick succession. Observing 1 of his comrades with 2 enemy fighters in pursuit, he destroyed both enemy aircraft. The enemy broke off in large numbers to make a multiple attack on his airplane but despite his peril he made one more pass before seeking cloud protection. Coming into the clear, he called his flight together and led them to a friendly base. Col. Kearby brought down 6 enemy aircraft in this action, undertaken with superb daring after his mission was completed.
*Asterisk indicates posthumous award.The "Caledonian" relates the following:"Willie Johnston, aged thirteen years, a drummer boy in Company D, 3d Vermont Regiment, has received a medal for his heroic conduct in the seven days fight before Richmond. On the retreat when strong men threw away their guns, knapsacks and blankets that they might have less weight to carry, this little fellow kept his drum and brought it safely to Harrison's Landing, where he had the honor of drumming for division parade, he being the only drummer who brought his drum from the field. Upon these facts being reported to the War Department by the division commander, Willie was presented with the Star Medal of Honor by Secretary Stanton in person. Young Johnston's parents reside in this town. His father is a member of the 3d Vermont Regiment."
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