Saturday, August 22, 2015

How The First African-American Marine Received The Medal Of Honor 47 Years Ago

This article originally appeared on Task & Purpose, a news and culture forum dedicated to military and veterans affairs.

Pfc. James Anderson Jr. was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for using his body to shield his platoon from an enemy grenade blast.

On Feb. 28, 1967, while on patrol outside of a village in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam, Marine Pfc. James Anderson’s platoon was ambushed and came under heavy enemy fire. In the ensuing battle, an enemy grenade landed near Anderson and his fellow Marines. Without hesitation, Anderson pulled the grenade to his chest, curled his body around it, and absorbed the majority of the blast, giving his life to save his brothers-in-arms.

He turned 20 years old one month before he died.

For his heroism and selfless sacrifice, Anderson was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on Aug. 21, 1968, making him the first African-American Marine to receive the nation’s highest honor. The fact that Anderson was the first black Marine to receive the award, though certainly not the first to show bravery or heroism in combat, may have been due to the military’s history of racial segregation, which officially ended when all of the armed services were forced to desegregate in 1948. However, full integration and racial equality within the ranks would take much longer. Racial tensions within the military would remain high for years to come, especially during the Vietnam War, which coincided with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
At a time when race is once again at the center of national debate and controversy, it’s important to remember men like James Anderson, whose actions show that courage and sacrifice are not a matter of race, but are in fact black and white.

Anderson’s parents were presented the award by then-Secretary of the Navy Paul R. Ignatius, who was acting on behalf of President Lyndon B. Johnson, and the citation was read by the then-commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Leonard F. Chapman.

Born Jan. 22, 1947, in Los Angeles, California, Anderson attended junior college briefly before enlisting in the Marines in 1966. According to a profile of Anderson on, after completing recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, and follow-on training as a Marine rifleman at Camp Pendleton, San Diego, Anderson was attached to 2nd Platoon, Company F, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines.

He arrived in Vietnam December 1966, and was killed in action just two months later.

Nearly a half-century later, his legacy continues.

In 1983, the U.S. Navy renamed an acquired Danish merchant ship, the Emma Maersk, in honor of Anderson, which carried equipment in support of Marine Corps operations until 2009, when it was sold for scrapping. The James Anderson Jr. memorial park in Carson, California, was also named in his honor.

It seems an ill-fitting way to treat the memory of a Marine who kept with the highest traditions of his service: placing the safety of his brothers above his own survival. However, his selfless example lives on to this day.

In total, 89 African-American service members have been awarded the Medal of Honor, with the most recent being Henry Johnson, who posthumously received the award on June 2, for his bravery in close-quarters battle against German soldiers during World War I. According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, four other black Marines received the award during the Vietnam War: Pfc. Oscar Austin, Sgt. Rodney Davis, Pfc. Robert Jenkins, and Pfc. Ralph Johnson.

CORRECTION: This article incorrectly listed Henry Lincoln Anderson as the most recent African-American to be awarded the Medal of Honor, it was Henry Johnson. (8/21/2015; 7:48 am) 

The above article by James Clark originally appeared on Task and Purpose, a military and veterans news and culture site and is reprinted with their permission

Medal of Honor Citation   James Anderson, Jr.   Cam Lo Vietnam   February 28, 1967

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Company F was advancing in dense jungle northwest of Cam Lo in an effort to extract a heavily besieged reconnaissance patrol. Pfc. Anderson's platoon was the lead element and had advanced only about 200 meters when they were brought under extremely intense enemy small-arms and automatic weapons fire. The platoon reacted swiftly, getting on line as best they could in the thick terrain, and began returning fire. Pfc. Anderson found himself tightly bunched together with the other members of the platoon only 20 meters from the enemy positions. As the fire fight continued several of the men were wounded by the deadly enemy assault. Suddenly, an enemy grenade landed in the midst of the marines and rolled alongside Pfc. Anderson's head. Unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his personal safety, he reached out, grasped the grenade, pulled it to his chest and curled around it as it went off. Although several marines received shrapnel from the grenade, his body absorbed the major force of the explosion. In this singularly heroic act, Pfc. Anderson saved his comrades from serious injury and possible death. His personal heroism, extraordinary valor, and inspirational supreme self-sacrifice reflected great credit upon himself and the Marine Corps and upheld the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

This article originally appeared at Task & Purpose. Follow Task & Purpose on Twitter.

Monday, August 17, 2015

COMMENTARY: Plan to renovate Veterans Park in Stamford, CT raises questions

Stamford,CT Advocate Report Reveals Controversial  $7 Million Expenditure Proposed

The article, by Angela Carella, one of country’s most respected journalists, reports on a plan to renovate Veterans Park in Stamford.  The plan is vague as to detail.  Those quoted include one veteran. According the advocate the idea to renovate the park “was spurred by the death of Brian Bill, a local veteran who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.

The park was created in 1975 to honor those who served and died during World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The park includes a statue of unnamed doughboy from World War I, seated Lincoln statue and a bronze statue of World War II Medal of Honor recipient Homer L. Wise.  Wise came to Stamford in 1942 as a soldier while in training, to visit Madolyn Disesa from one  of Stamford’s most prominent families, to whom he became engaged. Wise survived the war though wounded three times.

Following military protocol the statue of Master Sergeant Homer L. Wise faces the memorials of those gave their lives to preserve our democracy.

The sponsors of the project expect to raise $7 million to cover the cost of the entire renovation.

The article said that an amphitheater that would seat 300 to 1000 people will be built for concerts.

The article does not mention how rock concerts would fit in with memorials to those killed in action during recent wars.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Remains of 36 Marines killed on Tarawa during World War II Found

"I was very pleased to learn of the discovery of the remains of our Marines on the island of
Tarawa — one of our most significant and contested battles” of the Pacific campaign in World
War II, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford said in a news release.
Among the remains returned to the United States were those of Medal of Honor recipient Lt.
Alexander Bonnyman, Jr

View portion of Gen. Dunford's speech

Medal of Honor Citation (for Alexander Bonnyman, Jr.)

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty
as Executive Officer of the 2d Battalion Shore Party, 8th Marines, 2d Marine Division, during the
assault against enemy Japanese-held Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, 20-22 November 1943.
Acting on his own initiative when assault troops were pinned down at the far end of Betio Pier by
the overwhelming fire of Japanese shore batteries, 1st Lt. Bonnyman repeatedly defied the
blasting fury of the enemy bombardment to organize and lead the besieged men over the long,
open pier to the beach and then, voluntarily obtaining flame throwers and demolitions,
organized his pioneer shore party into assault demolitionists and directed the blowing of several
hostile installations before the close of D-day. Determined to effect an opening in the enemy's
strongly organized defense line the following day, he voluntarily crawled approximately 40 yards
forward of our lines and placed demolitions in the entrance of a large Japanese emplacement
as the initial move in his planned attack against the heavily garrisoned, bombproof installation
which was stubbornly resisting despite the destruction early in the action of a large number of
Japanese who had been inflicting heavy casualties on our forces and holding up our advance.
Withdrawing only to replenish his ammunition, he led his men in a renewed assault, fearlessly
exposing himself to the merciless slash of hostile fire as he stormed the formidable bastion,
directed the placement of demolition charges in both entrances and seized the top of the
bombproof position, flushing more than 100 of the enemy who were instantly cut down, and
effecting the annihilation of approximately 150 troops inside the emplacement. Assailed by
additional Japanese after he had gained his objective, he made a heroic stand on the edge of
the structure, defending his strategic position with indomitable determination in the face of the
desperate charge and killing 3 of the enemy before he fell, mortally wounded. By his dauntless
fighting spirit, unrelenting aggressiveness and forceful leadership throughout 3 days of
unremitting, violent battle, 1st Lt. Bonnyman had inspired his men to heroic effort, enabling
them to beat off the counterattack and break the back of hostile resistance in that sector for an
immediate gain of 400 yards with no further casualties to our forces in this zone. He gallantly
gave his life for his country.

View Current Marines News Link

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

South Carolina Governor Vetoes Funds for Medal of Honor Museum. Calls it "old- fashioned pork"

Governor Haley of South Carolina vetoed a key budget item last month that included $1 million dollars toward a new Medal of Honor Museum in  South Carolina's Charleston Harbor.  Her message to all Medal of Honor recipients.

"... the budget sent to my desk contains far too many earmarks for local pork."

Local elected officials claimed the money sought was to preserve and  expand the museum currently located in the famed World War II aircraft the USS Yorktown.

Timothy Nelson Joins Medal Of Honor Museum Foundation As Vice President For Development; Will Direct $100 Million Fund Raising Campaign For New Museum

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C., July 1, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation has appointed Timothy Nelson of West Columbia, SC, as its first Vice President for Development, effective July 1.

Nelson joins the Museum Foundation from Midlands Technical College in Columbia, where he served as Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation and Associate Vice President of Advancement. He will be responsible for directing the $100 million campaign to raise funds to design, build and operate the new museum and education center, to be built at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, SC.

"Members of the Museum Foundation's Board Executive Committee all were impressed by Tim's understanding of, appreciation for, and commitment to our mission," Robert C. Wilburn, President and CEO of the Museum Foundation, said. "Equally important, he brings to us a strong record of successful fund raising initiatives."

"It is an honor to be a part of this effort to create the nation's Medal of Honor Museum here in South Carolina," Nelson said. "The men and women who have received the Medal represent our country's bravest and best. To be a part of this effort to preserve their stories and to use them to inspire the nation – especially our youth – to place service above self is a once in a lifetime opportunity."

He joined Midlands Technical College in 2012; raising record donations, including the largest single gift ever received. Previously, he spent five years at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, as Associate and then Interim Director of Development, and two years as Executive Director of Advancement at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA. The Army veteran also has significant experience in management consulting and financial planning.

He received his bachelor's degree in organizational leadership at Nyack College in New York and his MBA from Regent University.

The National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation is a non-profit educational organization established to preserve and present the stories of the nation's Medal of Honor recipients; to help visitors understand what it means to put service above self; and to inspire current and future generations about the Medal's ideals of patriotism, leadership and courage.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Touch the Names of Those Who Never Came Home

By Jerry Cianciolo

World War II memorials-who notices them anymore They blend into the background like telephone poles.

Chances are your community has a tribute to local men and women who served but it’s
likely you’ve never stopped to visit. Those who fought the Axis powers are out of mind now. “ In three words I can sum up everything  I have learned about life,” said Robert Frost. “It goes on.”
Still, it’s unbefitting that as we pass their chiseled names we fail to acknowledge these patriots for even an instant-especially on Memorial Day 2015, the 70th year after the end of World War II. From high- school history, were all familiar with the vast number. More than 400,000 Americans were killed during the war. Another were maimed or wounded.

They came from nearly every city and town.  And they fell by the tens of thousands at Luzon, Normandy, Anzio, Guadalcanal and Okinawa.“Deeply regret to inform you that your son Sgt.John S-lost his life on March 5th 1943, as a result of aircraft accident. Letter follows. Please accept my profound sympathy.”

Mothers and fathers receiving a telegram like that felt they couldn’t go on-but they did.
The remains of many loved ones were never returned home. Instead they were laid to rest at cemeteries in Manila, Normandy, Luxembourg and elsewhere.

It wasn’t long after V-E and V-J Days in 1945 that thousands of tributes sprang –up in bronze plaques, streaming fountains and granite obelisks. But seven decades have passed since commemorations of these memorials and to most of us now their simply the flag-festooned backdrop for long parades and political speeches in late May and early July.

When the occasion calls for it, we solemnly remove our hats and pay homage to the “ultimate sacrifice” these country-men.  That is a hollow abstraction until put in everyday terms.
Many young combatants who, as the English poet Laurance Binyon wrote, “fell with their faces to the foes” never set foot on campus.  They never straighten a tie and headed to a first real job. They never slipped a ring on a sweetheart’s finger.They never swelled with hope turning the key to a starter home. They never nestled an infant against a bare chest.  They never roughhoused in living room with an exasperated wife looking on. They never tiptoed to layout Santa’s toys.  They  never dabbed a tear while walking their princess down the aisle. They never toasted their son’s promotion. They never rekindled their love as empty nesters.They never heard a new generation cry out, “I love you grand pa.” A lifetime of big and little moments never happened because of a bullet to the body one day in far-off land. For those who crumpled to the ground, the tapestry of life was left unknit. Early on after the war we bowed our heads on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Their loss was raw then. But as years have passed all that’s left are memorials know one notices-rolling credit we ignore as we go about our lives.

But on Memorial Day, we can make a different choice. A moment’s reflection is all it takes to realize that every name on your town’s monument was a real person. One who bicycled the same streets as you, who sleepily delivered the morning Gazette, who was kept after school for cutting up, who sneaked a smoke out back, in the dog days of summer.With just a little imagination, it’s easy to picture yourself as one of those fresh faced-youngsters only you’ve been blessed with a additional 15,000 or 20,000 mornings, afternoons and evenings of life, and a warehouse  of experiences they were denied.

It’s some consolation that a majestic memorial to those who fought the good fight now stands in Washington. But most of us don’t visit the capital often. There’s simpler, more personal way we can show our gratitude to those whose lives were cut short. On Memorial Day with your smart phone turned off-pay a visit to your local monument. Quietly stand before the honor roll of the dead, whisper a word of thanks, and gently rub your finger across their name. The touch would be comforting.

Jerry Cianciolo chief editor at Emerson & Church, Publishers in Medfield, Mass.
Reach him at 
This article originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal on May 22, 2015.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Hershel W. Williams, hero of Iwo Jima, Medal of Honor recipient, Honored at Ohio Veterans Park

Published on Jun 15, 2015
Medal of Honor recipient Hershel Woody Williams was the featured speaker at the Ohio Veterans Memorial Park Monday when the Medal of Honor memorial was unveiled.

View VIDEO      Video - Akron Ohio Daily Record
                               provided to Medal of Honor News
                               by Medal of Honor Society

Hershel W. Williams Medal of Honor Citation

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as demolition sergeant serving with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 23 February 1945. Quick to volunteer his services when our tanks were maneuvering vainly to open a lane for the infantry through the network of reinforced concrete pillboxes, buried mines, and black volcanic sands, Cpl. Williams daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction of devastating machine gun fire from the unyielding positions. Covered only by 4 riflemen, he fought desperately for 4 hours under terrific enemy small-arms fire and repeatedly returned to his own lines to prepare demolition charges and obtain serviced flamethrowers, struggling back, frequently to the rear of hostile emplacements, to wipe out 1 position after another. On 1 occasion, he daringly mounted a pillbox to insert the nozzle of his flamethrower through the air vent, killing the occupants and silencing the gun; on another he grimly charged enemy riflemen who attempted to stop him with bayonets and destroyed them with a burst of flame from his weapon. His unyielding determination and extraordinary heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance were directly instrumental in neutralizing one of the most fanatically defended Japanese strong points encountered by his regiment and aided vitally in enabling his company to reach its objective. Cpl. Williams' aggressive fighting spirit and valiant devotion to duty throughout this fiercely contested action sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.