Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Finally Finished: Medal of Honor text by Peter Collier.

Finally Finished: Medal of Honor: portraits of valor beyond the call of duty text by Peter Collier, photographs by Nick Del Calzo, 2006, 9781579653149 (2nd edition).

This is a big format book (10" x 11") and not easy to hold and read the way I usually do so it took a while for me to finish it. The book's focus is on living honorees with a large black and white portrait, a smaller black and white portrait of the man at about the time of the action, a precis of the citation, extra biographical information, and maybe an extra anecdote or two.

After reading all these stories I wonder "How are they still alive?"

So many continue on as career Army and Marine members. One guy was awarded for action in Vietnam and continued serving with a tour in Iraq in 2005. Many others are discharged and get notice a year or so later that the award will be presented.

Some amazing stories like Rubin who was in a Concentration camp as a kid, then emigrated to the States, joined the Army, went to Korea, was captured and spent two years in a North Korean prison camp. I wonder if North Korea seemed like summer camp after WWII; especially since Rubin's knowledge from WWII enabled him to keep a few dozen other prisoners alive. I looked Rubin up online and found a newspaper article from a couple years ago. Rubin did not get the award until 55 years later because he was Jewish. Rubin said his Sergeant was an anti-Semite and would always 'volunteer' Rubin for tough jobs. Rubin told an audience at the VA in Prescott, AZ that he was put up for multiple times for the MOH, DSC, and other awards because of this.

Several stories are familiar to me. The mustached Scotsman in Korea who led a bayonet attack against a hilltop position. Senators Kerry and Inouye. The defense of Guadalcanal's Henderson Field by a machine gunner. The Navy guy who was a SEAL, lost an eye, and then joined the FBI.

Inouye's was one of many awards that were given after formal re-evaluation by Defense for people who may have gotten shafted for being Asian, black, Jewish, etc.

The stories got depressing after a while. Each individual story can be inspiring, but the guys who are honored are usually the first to point out all the dead comrades that preceded the action. All the stories are so similar too. Honorees with multiple wounds during action, attacking multiple enemy bunkers, falling on a grenade and surviving, multiple trips into enemy fire to rescue or treat wounded comrades.

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