The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest award for valor in combat. Those who wear the Medal of Honor are held in the highest respect and esteem by the nation but even more so by the men and women who served with those whose acts of courage saved lives and inspired those around them in the midst of battle.
The Medal of Honor was established by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861 during the Civil War. Since its inception, the Medal of Honor has been awarded to 3,515 men. That might seem like a large number until you realize that, since the medal was established, some 40 million people have served in the United States Armed Forces. It is a rare honor in every sense of the word. It is a rare award in terms of its small numbers in reference to the total number of those who have served, but it also represents the rarest, most uncommon levels of courage in battles, where courage is the common reality for all engaged in those battles.
Arlington National Cemetery is almost as old as the Medal of Honor itself. It was established on June 15, 1864, by order of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton as sacred ground that would hold and honor those who served and fell in defense of the nation during the Civil War. It is the final resting place for over 400,000 veterans and eligible family members, with more being interred there every day. Ironically, the land upon which the cemetery was established in 1864 was owned by Confederate General Robert E. Lee. It was originally some 200 acres in size but has grown to 639 acres at this time.
There are some 400 Medal of Honor recipients buried at Arlington National Cemetery. This video will introduce you to four of these MOH recipients who are buried at Arlington. Those you will meet here are among the 19 who have received the Medal of Honor twice.
The first double recipient you will encounter is Maj. Gen. Frank D. Baldwin. Balwin was awarded his first MOH for his actions in battle on July 20, 1864, in the Atlanta Campaign, where he led his company in battle at Peachtree Creek and captured two commissioned officers. He would receive his second MOH for conspicuous bravery in 1874, where his actions resulted in the rescue of two hostages from Native Americans during what was called the Indian Wars.
Lt. Com. John McCloy, a U.S. Navy officer, would be awarded his 1st MOH serving as a coxswain during the Boxer Rebellion. He participated in action during an allied relief mission in China. His second award came during the U.S. Occupation of Vera Cruz, Mexico, on April 14, 1914. By then, he was a captain in the Navy. McCloy sailed his small boat along the waterfront in front of the Mexican Naval Academy and fired a volley from his small one-inch guns on his bow at the Academy. This brought about the hoped-for result of having the Academy’s guns open up on him, which revealed the positions of the Academy’s guns. At that point, the USS Prairie quickly opened up on the Academy’s guns with accurate fire from her own three-inch guns.
The third MOH recipient in this video is Cpl. Johh H. Pruitt. He received Medals of Honor from both the Army and the Navy while serving in WWI with the 78th Company, 6th Regiment, 2nd Division of the United States Marine Corps. He was awarded the Medals of Honor posthumously for his actions during the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge, France, on October 3rd, 1918. During the battle, he single-handedly attacked two machine guns, capturing them and killing two of the enemy. He then captured 40 prisoners that were hiding in a dugout nearby. He was killed soon afterward by shell fire while sniping at the enemy.
Maj. Louis Cukela also received both an Army and a Navy Medal of Honor in WWI. He would receive decorations from France, Italy, and his native Yugoslavia (Croatia) as a result of that one action. He was serving with the United States Marines, in the 66th Company, 5th Regiment, 2nd Division. He was a GySgt. at the time of the award. His unit was advancing through the Forest de Retz when they encountered an enemy strong point. He crawled out alone from the flank and advanced alone toward the German lines. He captured one machine gun by bayoneting its crew. Picking up their hand grenades, he then demolished the remaining portion of the strong point from the shelter of a nearby gun pit. He took four prisoners and captured two undamaged machine guns.
As a side note, the USMC 5th and 6th Regiments that Cukela and Pruitt fought with during WWI would be given the nickname “Teufel Hunden,” or “Devil Dogs,” by the Germans, who were stunned by the bulldog tenacity of these American Marines. The name has been proudly worn by Marines ever since.
These are only 4 of the 400 Medal of Honor recipients buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Their stories are unique in that they took place in different locales during different wars, but they are bound together by the uncommon courage that is common among those who have received this nation’s highest award for conspicuous valor on the field of battle.
Every one of these Medal of Honor recipients knows that they wear the Medal of Honor in honor of those they fought with during those very difficult hours in their own wars. There are some 60 living Medal of Honor recipients still with us today. They represent the highest ideals of service to the nation, of dedication to duty and to their comrades, and of bravery beyond the call of duty. Most of them are common citizens, from farms, towns, and cities across this country. We are humbled and inspired by their character, their love of those who were there with them on the field of battle, and their continuing service to the nation as Medal of Honor recipients.Whizzco