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Stories of American Heroes - Brought to you from the "Home of Heroes" - Pueblo, Colorado

Above & Beyond

These pages are the results of a Medal of Honor research project by Eighth Graders at Sacred Heart Elementary School in Ville Platte, Louisiana.  Each student in the class adopted a Medal of Honor recipient from our Nation's history, researched his life, and then wrote the story you see here.

 World War II

Van T. Barfoot


Van T. Barfoot was a Technical Sergeant, during World War II.  Lieutenant General Alexander M. Patch, III, presented him the Congressional Medal of Honor on September 28, 1944, in Epinal, France. He was born in Edinburgh, Mississippi. Barfoot received his Medal for going above and beyond the call of duty for the well being of his country and his fellow Americans. 

On May 23, 1944, near Carano, Italy, with his platoon heavily engaged in an assault against forces well entrenched on commanding ground, Sgt. Barfoot moved off alone towards the enemy left flank. He crawled to the proximity of one machine-gun nest and made a direct hit upon it with a hand grenade, killing two and wounding three Germans. Barfoot continued along the German defense line to another machine- gun emplacement, and with his Tommy gun, killed two and captured three soldiers. Members of another machinegun crew abandoned their gun and surrendered to Sgt. Barfoot. Leaving the prisoners for his support squad to pick up, he proceeded to capture more enemy positions in the immediate area, capturing more prisoners to bring his total count to seventeen. 

Later that day, after he had reorganized his men over the newly acquired ground, the enemy released a powerful counterattack directly at Barfoot’s platoon. Securing a bazooka, he took up an exposed position directly in front of three advancing Mark IV tanks. At seventy-five yards away, his first shot destroyed the first tank’s track while the other two changed course and headed towards the left flank. As the defeated crew came out of the tank, Sgt. Barfoot killed three of them with his Tommy gun. He then continued forward into enemy ground and destroyed an abandoned German field piece with a demolition charge. When he returned to his platoon, he helped two badly wounded men to safety. 

I believe that Sgt. Barfoot is a true American hero because he risked his life many times to learn about the enemy’s movements in the area to protect his men and the American position. He displayed extreme heroism and valor that earned him the Medal of Honor and a place in his soldiers’ hearts.

 

John Duncan Bulkeley


John Bulkeley was a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy. He was born on August 19, 1911, in New York, New York. He was the Commander of Motor ’ Torpedo Boat Squadron 3, spending most of his time in the Philippine waters fighting in World War ll. 

In the predawn hours in January, 1942 right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, two of his Us Navy patrol boats crept into Subic Bay off one of the Philippine Islands. Inside the bay, Lt. Bulkeley’s small boats slid through the night. Suddenly, the men aboard the boats spied the light of a Japanese ship about five hundred yards ahead. It was an enemy vessel! Lieutenant John Bulkeley, the boats’ skipper, ordered them to ease their boats closer to the Japanese ship. Just when they were about to strike, the Japanese flashed a light on them and ordered them to identify themselves. Lieutenant John Bulkeley answered them back with ”two torpedoes.” A huge explosion sent fireballs rolling into the sky. The ship was badly damaged. This was the first American blow to the Japanese after their bombing of Pearl Harbor. The United States had not been completely crippled by their attack. Our fighting, daring spirit was quick to strike a return blow. Lt. Bulkeley had been the man to do it. 

His feat encouraged Americans as they dug in on all levels to fight a grim two-front war. This act of striking a Japanese ship in its own backyard symbolized America’s determined spirit in WWII. For his daring courage to take a group of small boats into enemy waters in the dark days following Pearl Harbor, to strike a blow for freedom, makes me greatly admire Lt. John Bulkeley. He most deservingly should be a recipient of the Medal of Honor.

 

Demas Thurlow Craw


Born in 1900, Colonel Demas Craw earned his Medal of Honor in the US Army Air Corps during World War II in November, 1942. As the Allies began to invade Africa at this early point in the war, Colonel Craw volunteered to accompany the leading wave of assault boats to the shores of French Morocco, planning to pass through the enemy lines to locate the French commander with a view of suspending hostilities. His request to lead this dangerous mission was at first refused as being too dangerous but eventually, at his insistence that he was qualified to undertake and accomplish this perilous mission, permission from the high command was given. There was heavy fire at the main landing point and being unable to disembark there, Colonel Craw along with one other officer and a soldier, succeeded in landing on the beach at Mehdia Plage under constant low-level strafing from three enemy aircrafts. Riding in a truck toward the French headquarters, the progress of the trio was hindered by fire from our own naval guns. Nearing Port Lyautey, Colonel Craw was instantly killed by a sustained burst of machine-gun fire at point-blank range from a concealed position near the road. 

I admire Colonel Demas Craw because he volunteered for a very dangerous mission, which he believed vital to the cause of the war at that place and time. Even when others questioned the success of the mission, he maintained that it could be done knowing that it was very important that it be done. He gave his life trying to carry out that mission. Concerns for his own life were secondary to the accomplishment of his duty. I do not believe that many people achieve that degree of excellence in their lives. Colonel Craw was a true hero. 

 

Michael Joseph Daly


Captain Michael Joseph Daly served as a company commander in Nuremberg, Germany. His day of heroism was on April 18, 1945, when he led his company through the wreckage of Nuremberg. As guns were being fired at his unit, Capt. Daly ordered the men to take cover. Alone, he went on his mission. Dodging the bullets, he spotted an enemy patrol armed with rocket launchers. He opened fire on the Germans.  Capt. Daly was the target of the machine pistol, but calmly continued to keep shooting. Captain Daly killed six enemy infantry- men. When a machine gun opened fire on him, he killed the gunner. From an unusual position Captain Michael Daly directed an American machine gun emplacement. He engaged himself in four singled-headed fire fights. Taking all risk himself and protecting his men, he killed fifteen Germans, and wiped out an entire enemy patrol. Captain Michael Daly’s action was an inspiration to all the men. He received the medal on August 23,1945. President Harry S. Truman gave it to him. 

I consider this man a hero, because he was willing to give up his life in order to save his men. He also put his life in the hands of God when he went alone to kill the enemy soldiers. Some people might think of him as a bad person for killing the Germans, but not me, this is the nature of war. I am sure that he did not think of being rewarded with the medal for his action. I am sure that he did it out of his heart. So in my eyes he is a true American Hero. 

 

Henry Eugene Erwin


Henry Eugene Erwin was a Staff Sergeant in World War II. He was a member of the United States Air Corps, Twenty-ninth Bombardment Group, Twentieth Air Force. Staff Sergeant Erwin was the operator of a B-29 air- plane. He was leading a group formation to attack Koriyama, Japan, and he had the additional duty of dropping phosphoresce smoke bombs down a pipe out of the plane signal to the assembling group. As they encountered aircraft fire and enemy fighter opposition, one of Staff Sergeant Erwin’s signaling bombs proved to be faulty. The, bomb exploded and shot back into the interior of the air- craft causing him temporary blindness. Realizing that all would be lost if nothing was done, Staff Sergeant Erwin, without regard for his own personal safety, picked the bomb up with his bare hands and threw it out of the pilot’s window. In fact he was completely engulfed in flames and he fell to the floor. Since the temperature of the glowing bomb was very high, his hands were badly burned. 

Staff Sergeant Erwin received his Medal of Honor the day after his heroic actions because the doctors thought that he was not going to live much longer. However, he did not die as he underwent many extensive surgeries. After recovering, he devoted his life to helping handicapped people. Staff Sergeant Henry Erwin is an inspiration to me because when the bomb exploded and caused him temporary blindness and third degree burns over most of his body, he did not give up. He put his life on the line to save his crew members. 

 

David M. Gonzales


On April 25, 1945, David Gonzales was a Private First Class in the U.S. Army, Company A, 127th Infantry, 32nd Infantry Division, serving in the Philippine Islands. When the enemy had pinned his company down, his services were needed when a 550 pound bomb smashed into the company’s perimeter, burying five men with its explosion.  He then took an entrenching tool and dug out the men while enemy sniper and machine-gun bullets struck all about his body.  

For these tremendous actions of saving the men above and beyond the call of duty, David Gonzales received the Medal of Honor. Private Gonzales inspired me because I know that if that were me out there, I would not have had the courage to do what this man did. The danger around him must have been terrifying. He forgot himself and thought only of the trapped men, when he stood up in order to dig faster. Anyone with that amount of courage that would risk their life for the life of someone else, should be awarded something as great as the Medal of Honor. 

 

Isadore Jachman


Isadore Jachman, a Jewish Medal of Honor recipient, served in World War II as a Staff Sergeant in Company B. On the morning of January 4, 1945, his company was surrounded by enemy snipers. Two hostile tanks attacked the unit inflicting heavy casualties.  Although his comrades were falling all around him, Staff Sgt. Jachman refused to surrender and strived onward through the bloody battlefield. Seeing the desperate predicament of his comrades, Sergeant Jachman realized something had to be done or they would all be killed. Spying a wounded comrade on the ground, he left his place of cover with total disregard for his own safety, dashed across open ground through a hail of fire, and brought him to safety. Then taking the bazooka from his wounded comrade, he advanced upon the tanks, which concentrated their firearms on him. Firing the weapon alone, he damaged one tank forcing both of them to retire. Sergeant Jachman’s heroic action, in which he suffered fatal wounds, disrupted the entire enemy attack proving one person can make a difference. Due to his wounds he died shortly after receiving the Medal of Honor. 

Although his actions cost him his life, they saved his Company from being defeated and losing their lives. His constant valor earned him the Medal of Honor. I consider him a true hero because he gave up his life so that others might live. He did not have to risk his life but he did, and I greatly admire him for the courage he had. 

 


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