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.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Remarks by the President at White House Presentation of the Medal of Honor

11:27 A.M. EDT    (Click here to see Video of Presentation)

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Please be seated.

Welcome to the White House.

Nearly 100 years ago, a 16-year-old kid from the Midwest named Frank Buckles headed to Europe’s Western Front.  An ambulance driver, he carried the wounded to safety.  He lived to see our troops ship off to another war in Europe.  And one in Korea.  Vietnam.  Iraq.  Afghanistan.  And Frank Buckles became a quietly powerful advocate for our veterans, and remained that way until he passed away four years ago -- America’s last surviving veteran of World War I.

On the day Frank was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, Vice President Biden and I went to pay our respects.  And we weren’t alone.  Americans from across the country came out to express their gratitude as well.  They were of different ages, different races, some military, some not.  Most had never met Frank.  But all of them braved a cold winter’s day to offer a final tribute to a man with whom they shared a powerful conviction -- that no one who serves our country should ever be forgotten.

We are a nation -- a people -- who remember our heroes.  We take seriously our responsibility to only send them when war is necessary.  We strive to care for them and their families when they come home.  We never forget their sacrifice.  And we believe that it’s never too late to say thank you. That’s why we’re here this morning.

Today, America honors two of her sons who served in World War I, nearly a century ago.  These two soldiers were roughly the same age, dropped into the battlefields of France at roughly the same time. They both risked their own lives to save the lives of others.  They both left us decades ago, before we could give them the full recognition that they deserved.  But it’s never too late to say thank you. Today, we present America’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, to Private Henry Johnson and Sergeant William Shemin.

I want to begin by welcoming and thanking everyone who made this day possible -- family, friends, admirers. Some of you have worked for years to honor these heroes, to give them the honor they should have received a long time ago.  We are grateful that you never gave up. We are appreciative of your efforts.

As a young man, Henry Johnson joined millions of other African-Americans on the Great Migration from the rural South to the industrial North -- a people in search of a better life. He landed in Albany, where he mixed sodas at a pharmacy, worked in a coal yard and as a porter at a train station.  And
when the United States entered World War I, Henry enlisted.  He joined one of only a few units that he could: the all-black 369th Infantry Regiment. The Harlem Hellfighters.  And soon, he was headed overseas.

At the time, our military was segregated.  Most black soldiers served in labor battalions, not combat units. But General Pershing sent the 369th to fight with the French Army, which accepted them as their own.  Quickly, the Hellfighters lived up to their name.  And in the early hours of May 15, 1918, Henry Johnson became a legend.

His battalion was in Northern France, tucked into a trench. Some slept -- but he couldn’t. Henry and another soldier, Needham Roberts, stood sentry along No Man’s Land.  In the pre-dawn, it was pitch black, and silent.  And then -- a click -- the sound of wire cutters.

A German raiding party -- at least a dozen soldiers, maybe more -- fired a hail of bullets. Henry fired back until his rifle was empty. Then he and Needham threw grenades. Both of them were hit. Needham lost consciousness. Two enemy soldiers began to carry him away while another provided
cover, firing at Henry. But Henry refused to let them take his brother in arms. He shoved another
magazine into his rifle. It jammed. He turned the gun around and swung it at one of the enemy, knocking him down. Then he grabbed the only weapon he had left -- his Bolo knife -- and went to
rescue Needham. Henry took down one enemy soldier, then the other. The soldier he’d knocked down with his rifle recovered, and Henry was wounded again. But armed with just his knife, Henry took him down, too.

And finally, reinforcements arrived and the last enemy soldier fled. As the sun rose, the scale of what happened became clear. In just a few minutes of fighting, two Americans had defeated an entire raiding party. And Henry Johnson saved his fellow soldier from being taken prisoner.

Henry became one of our most famous soldiers of the war. His picture was printed on recruitment
posters and ads for Victory War Stamps. Former President Teddy Roosevelt wrote that he was one of the bravest men in the war. In 1919, Henry rode triumphantly in a victory parade. Crowds lined Fifth Avenue for miles, cheering this American soldier.

Henry was one of the first Americans to receive France’s highest award for valor.  But his own nation didn’t award him anything –- not even the Purple Heart, though he had been wounded 21 times. Nothing for his bravery, though he had saved a fellow solder at great risk to himself.  His injuries left him crippled. He couldn’t find work. His marriage fell apart. And in his early 30s, he passed away.

Now, America can’t change what happened to Henry Johnson.  We can’t change what happened to too many soldiers like him, who went uncelebrated because our nation judged them by the color of
their skin and not the content of their character.  But we can do our best to make it right.  In 1996, President Clinton awarded Henry Johnson a Purple Heart.  And today, 97 years after his extraordinary acts of courage and selflessness, I’m proud to award him the Medal of Honor.

We are honored to be joined today by some very special guests –- veterans of Henry’s regiment, the 369th.  Thank you, to each of you, for your service.  And I would ask Command Sergeant Major Louis Wilson of the New York National Guard to come forward and accept this medal on Private Johnson’s behalf.  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  The President of the United States of America authorized buy Act of Congress,
March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Private Henry Johnson, United States Army.  Private Henry Johnson distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of heroism at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a member of Company C, 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Infantry Division, American Expeditionary Forces, on May 15, 1918, during combat operations against the enemy on the front lines of the Western Front in France.

In the early morning hours, Private Johnson and another soldier were on sentry duty at a forward
outpost when they received a surprise attack from the German raiding party consisting of at least 12 soldiers.  While under intense enemy fire and despite receiving significant wounds, Private Johnson mounted a brave retaliation, resulting in several enemy casualties.  When his fellow soldier was badly wounded and being carried away by the enemy, Private Johnson exposed himself to great danger by advancing from his position to engage the two enemy captors in hand-to-hand combat.  Wielding only a knife and gravely wounded himself, Private Johnson continued fighting, defeating the two captors and rescuing the wounded soldier.  Displaying great courage, he continued to hold back the larger enemy force until the defeated enemy retreated, leaving behind a large cache of weapons and equipment and providing valuable intelligence.

Without Private Johnson’s quick actions and continued fighting, even in the face of almost certain
death, the enemy might have succeeded in capturing prisoners in the outpost and abandoning
valuable intelligence.  Private Johnson’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond
the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Company C, 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Infantry Division, and the United States Army.
(The Medal of Honor is presented.)  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Growing up in Bayonne, New Jersey, William Shemin loved sports -- football,
wrestling, boxing, swimming.  If it required physical and mental toughness, and it made your heart pump, your muscles ache, he was all in.  As a teenager, he even played semi-pro baseball.  So when
America entered the war, and posters asked if he was tough enough, there was no question about it --
he was going to serve.  Too young to enlist?  No problem.  He puffed his chest and lied about his age (Laughter.)  And that’s how William Shemin joined the 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, and shipped out for France.

On August 7th, 1918, on the Western Front, the Allies were hunkered down in one trench, the Germans in another, separated by about 150 yards of open space -- just a football field and a half.  But that open space was a bloodbath.  Soldier after soldier ventured out, and soldier after soldier was mowed down.  So those still in the trenches were left with a terrible choice: die trying to rescue your fellow soldier, or watch him die, knowing that part of you will die along with him.

William Shemin couldn’t stand to watch.  He ran out into the hell of No Man’s Land and dragged a
wounded comrade to safety.  Then he did it again, and again.  Three times he raced through heavy
machine gunfire.  Three times he carried his fellow soldiers to safety.

The battle stretched on for days.  Eventually, the platoon’s leadership broke down.  Too many officers had become casualties. So William stepped up and took command.  He reorganized the depleted squads.  Every time there was a lull in combat, he led rescues of the wounded.  As a lieutenant later described it, William was “cool, calm, intelligent, and personally utterly fearless.” That young kid who lied about his age grew up fast in war.  And he received accolades for his valor, including the Distinguished Service Cross.

When he came home, William went to school for forestry and began a nursery business in the Bronx.  It was hard work, lots of physical labor -- just like he liked it.  He married a red-head, blue-eyed woman named Bertha Schiffer, and they had three children who gave them 14 grandchildren.  He bought a house upstate, where the grandkids spent their summers swimming and riding horses.  He taught them how to salute.  He taught them the correct way to raise the flag every morning and lower and fold it every night.  He taught them how to be Americans.

William stayed in touch with his fellow veterans, too.  And when World War II came, William went and talked to the Army about signing up again.  By then, his war injuries had given him a terrible limp.  But he treated that limp just like he treated his age all those years ago -- pay no attention to that, he said. He knew how to build roads, he knew camouflage -- maybe there was a place for him in this war, too. To Bertha’s great relief, the Army said that the best thing William could do for his country was to keep running his business and take care of his family.  (Laughter.)

His daughter, Elsie -- who’s here today with what seems like a platoon of Shemins -- (laughter) -- has a theory about what drove her father to serve.  He was the son of Russian immigrants, and he was devoted to his Jewish faith.  “His family lived through the pogroms,” she says.  “They saw towns
destroyed and children killed.  And then they came to America.  And here they found a haven -- a home -- success -- and my father and his sister both went to college.  All that, in one generation! That’s what America meant to him.  And that’s why he’d do anything for this country.”

Well, Elsie, as much as America meant to your father, he means even more to America.  It takes our nation too long sometimes to say so -- because Sergeant Shemin served at a time when the
contributions and heroism of Jewish Americans in uniform were too often overlooked.  But William Shemin saved American lives.  He represented our nation with honor.   And so it is my privilege, on behalf of the American people, to make this right and finally award the Medal of Honor to Sergeant William Shemin. I want to invite his daughters -- Elsie and Ina -- 86 and 83, and gorgeous -- (laughter) -- to accept this medal on their father’s behalf.  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Sergeant William Shemin,United States Army.

Sergeant William Shemin distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of heroism at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a rifleman with G Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, American Expeditionary Forces, in connection with combat operations against an armed enemy on the Vesle River, near Bazoches, France from August 7th to August 9th, 1918.

Sergeant Shemin upon three different occasions left cover and crossed an open space of 150 yards,
repeatedly exposing himself to heavy machine gun and rifle fire to rescue wounded.  After officers and seniors noncommissioned officers had become casualties, Sergeant Shemin took command of the platoon and displayed great initiative under fire until wounded on August 9th.

Sergeant Shemin’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself with G Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, American Expeditionary Forces, and the United States Army.

(The Medal of Honor is presented.) (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it has taken a long time for Henry Johnson and William Shemin to receive the recognition they deserve.  And there are surely others whose heroism is still unacknowledged and uncelebrated.  So we have work to do, as a nation, to make sure that all of our heroes’ stories are told.  And we’ll keep at it, no matter how long it takes.  America is the country we are today because of
people like Henry and William -- Americans who signed up to serve, and rose to meet their
responsibilities -- and then went beyond.  The least we can do is to say:  We know who you are.  We know what you did for us.  We are forever grateful.

May God bless the fallen of all of our wars.  May He watch over our veterans and their families and all those who serve today.  May God bless the United States of America.

With that, I'd ask the Chaplain to return to the podium for a benediction.

(The benediction is given.)

THE PRESIDENT:  With that, we conclude the formal ceremony.  But I welcome everybody to join in a wonderful reception.  And let’s give our Medal of Honor winners one big round of applause (Applause.)

Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

11:48 A.M. EDT

Monday, June 1, 2015

On June 2, 2015, President Barack Obama will award the Medal of Honor to Army Sergeant William Shemin and to Army Private Henry Johnson

We will publish the  full transcript of the White House Medal of Honor Ceremony  to be held on Tuesday, June 2, 2015 once it  is released by the White House.  The ceremony can be watched live (time to be announced  on Tuesday morning by the White House) on or on the Pentagon Channel.