Distinguished Soldiers (2000)
Audie L. Murphy
Audie Leon Murphy was born on a sharecropper's farm in northeast Texas on June 20, 1924. Murphy enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 and served in the 3rd Infantry Division. On January 26, 1945, Murphy saved his company by single-handedly stopping a German attack during the reduction of the Colmar Pocket in Alsace-Lorraine. For his bravery, he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for gallantry in action. Murphy, the most decorated U.S. combat soldier of World War II, was also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the French Legion of Honor, and the Belgian Croix de Guerre with Palm. He also received a battlefield commission promoting him to 2nd lieutenant. After World War II, Murphy appeared in numerous films, most notably The Red Badge of Courage (1951) and To Hell and Back (1955), which was based on Murphy's autobiography and featured his experiences in the war. Audie Murphy died in a plane crash near Roanoke, Virginia, on May 28, 1971.
John L. Hines
John Leonard Hines was born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, on May 21, 1868. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1891. After the United States entered World War I, General John J. Pershing assigned Hines to the American Expeditionary Forces in France. An effective battle leader, Hines commanded the 4th Division in September 1918 during the American operations at St. Mihiel and in the Meuse-Argonne. During World War I, Hines experienced a meteoric rise in rank as he was promoted from major to lieutenant colonel in May 1917, then to colonel, brigadier general, and, in August 1918, to major general—four grades in 16 months. He assumed successively larger commands—from regiment to brigade, division, and finally, corps. Hines served the U.S. Army with distinction for more than forty years in a full range of line, staff, and combat positions, advancing to the highest position in the Army when he succeeded General Pershing as Chief of Staff in 1924. He died on October 13, 1968, at the age of 100.
Alvin C. York
Alvin Cullum York was born on December 13, 1887, in the rural Tennessee community of Pall Mall. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, York was drafted into the Army. York was awarded the Medal of Honor and promoted from corporal to sergeant for his single-handed capture of German soldiers and their battery of machine guns in the Argonne forest on October 8, 1918. At that time, he was serving in the 82nd Division. Sergeant York, a movie based on York’s life, was released in 1941. Gary Cooper won an Academy Award® for his portrayal of this famous doughboy. Sergeant York died in Nashville, Tennessee, on September 2, 1964.
Omar N. Bradley
Omar Nelson Bradley was born near Clark, Missouri, on February 12, 1893. Bradley graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1915. He was the first in his class to receive a general's star (1941). After serving stateside, Bradley, then a major general, was assigned to the European forces under Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. After successfully leading troops in North Africa and during the invasion of Sicily, Bradley was given command of the First Army in September 1943. He led the First Army during the Allied landing in Normandy in June 1944. A few months later, Bradley became commanding general of the Twelfth Army Group, at 1.3 million strong, the largest American field command in history. In 1948, Bradley was named Army Chief of Staff. He became the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1949. Bradley received his fifth star in September 1950. He died in New York City on April 8, 1981.
Distinguished Marines (2005)
John Basilone was born in Buffalo, New York, and enlisted in the Army when he was 18, serving from 1934 until 1937 in the Philippines. In July 1940, Basilone enlisted in the Marine Corps and by October 1942, while serving as a sergeant at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, he was in charge of two sections of heavy machine guns during a fierce assault by a Japanese regiment. With one of his gun crews out of action, he helped repel and defeat the Japanese forces. Following the grueling battle, Basilone was awarded the Medal of Honor "for extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action against enemy forces, above and beyond the call of duty."
Basilone returned to the home front, where he was hailed as a hero and appeared at hugely successful war-bond rallies. However, he asked to return to combat, and as a gunnery sergeant, he participated in the invasion of Iwo Jima. After distinguishing himself by single-handedly destroying an enemy blockhouse and helping to guide a friendly tank out of a minefield, he was killed in action there on February 19, 1945, at the age of 28. For his heroism at Iwo Jima, Basilone was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.
Daniel J. Daly
Born in Glen Cove, New York, Daniel J. Daly enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1899. In 1900 he was sent to China, where he earned the Medal of Honor after defending the American legation during the Boxer Rebellion. Daly later served aboard several ships and in places such as Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Mexico. In 1915 he was sent to Haiti, where he earned a second Medal of Honor for helping to defend 38 Marines against approximately 400 bandits. Daly saw combat as a gunnery sergeant throughout France during World War I, and numerous stories of his heroism have been documented. He is best remembered for rallying his men at Belleau Wood in June 1918 during a bleak moment when they were facing heavy German machine-gun fire. According to the Marine Corps Gazette, Daly’s battle cry and subsequent heroism "seemed to illustrate a certain facet of American fighting spirit." For his bravery in 1918, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, and he received prominent decorations from the French government as well, including the Croix de Guerre with Palm. Daly officially retired as a sergeant major in 1929 and died in 1937 as one of only two Marines to be awarded two Medals of Honor for separate acts of heroism. The Historical Dictionary of the United States Marine Corps states that "his record as a fighting man remains unequalled in the annals of Marine Corps history."
John A. Lejeune
Born in Pointe Coupée Parish, Louisiana, John A. Lejeune attended Louisiana State University and the U.S. Naval Academy. After serving in the South Pacific as a naval cadet from 1888 to 1890, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. In 1914 he was promoted to colonel and in 1916 he became a brigadier general. Lejeune made history during World War I as the first Marine to command an Army division. Beginning in July 1918, he led the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, which included the 4th Marine Brigade, through victories at St. Mihiel and Blanc Mont and through the Meuse-Argonne offensive, which helped to end the war. For his service, Lejeune was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal from both the Army and the Navy; the French Legion of Honor; and the Croix de Guerre with Palm. From his retirement from the Marine Corps in 1929 until 1937, Lejeune served as superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute; he was promoted to lieutenant general in 1942. Following his death later that year, a major training base in North Carolina was renamed Camp Lejeune in his honor. Remembered for his professionalism and dedication, Lejeune is often referred to as "the greatest of all leathernecks," and his leadership and foresight helped prepare the Marine Corps for the amphibious assaults of World War II.
Lewis B. Puller
Born in West Point, Virginia, Lewis “Chesty” Puller attended the Virginia Military Institute in 1917 and enlisted in the Marine Corps the following year. After being placed on an inactive list following World War I cutbacks, he reenlisted in the Marine Corps and distinguished himself in fighting against rebels in Haiti from 1919 until 1924, when he again became a second lieutenant. Between 1928 and 1933 he fought in Nicaragua, where he earned two Navy Crosses. During World War II, Puller played a key role in the Pacific. In 1942, he led his battalion through fierce combat against the Japanese at Guadalcanal, where the Marines’ defense of the airstrip at Henderson Field earned Puller a third Navy Cross. In late 1943 and early 1944, the 7th Marines also took part in the invasion of the island of New Britain, where Puller received a fourth Navy Cross following combat at Cape Gloucester. During the Korean War, Puller again commanded the 1st Marines during the risky U.S. landing at Inchon in 1950. In December of that year, when U.S. forces were surrounded by Chinese troops, Puller’s 1st Marines tenaciously held the village of Koto-ri. For his service in Korea, Puller earned a fifth Navy Cross and a promotion to brigadier general. He retired as a lieutenant general in 1955 and died in 1971. Puller became one of the most highly decorated Marines, rising through the ranks from private to general and receiving the Navy Cross five times.
Distinguished Sailors (2010)
William S. Sims
William S. Sims was born in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada, where his father, an American citizen, was a railroad engineer. Sims graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1880 and he spent most of the next two decades at sea. Soon after America entered the war in 1917, he was appointed commander of U.S. naval forces operating near Europe. Sims made a major contribution to the Allied victory in World War I by promoting and coordinating a system of convoys that protected merchant ships and transports against German submarine warfare. After the war, Sims returned to the same position he had held previously at the Naval War College, serving as president until his retirement in 1922. He also wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about the war, Victory at Sea (1920). Sims continued to write and lecture about naval reform until his death in 1936, at which time the New York Herald Tribune declared that he had “influenced our naval course more than any man who ever wore the uniform.”
Arleigh A. Burke
Arleigh A. Burke was born and raised on a farm near Boulder, Colorado, and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1923. At the outset of World War II, Burke’s repeated requests for sea duty went unheeded until he was given command in early 1943 of a destroyer division in the South Pacific. He soon gained a reputation for brilliance and innovation, especially after taking command that fall of Destroyer Squadron 23. Under Burke, the squadron fought in 22 separate actions in a four-month period, sinking or helping to sink 9 Japanese destroyers and downing some 30 of their airplanes. With the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, Burke was sent to Japan to serve as deputy chief of staff to the commander of U.S. naval forces in the Far East. In 1955, while still a rear admiral, he reached the pinnacle of his profession when President Eisenhower appointed him Chief of Naval Operations, promoting him ahead of nearly 100 more senior officers. Burke retired from the Navy in 1961 after nearly forty years of service. In 1977, Burke was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. When Burke died in 1996, he was hailed as a “sailor’s sailor” who defined what it meant to be a naval officer: “relentless in combat, resourceful in command, and revered by his crews.”
Born in Brewster, New York, John McCloy went to sea as an adolescent, by some accounts joining the U.S. Merchant Marine when he was 15. In March 1898, at age 22, he enlisted in the Navy on the eve of the Spanish-American War. During the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, McCloy earned the Medal of Honor—“for distinguished conduct in the presence of the enemy”—while participating in a relief expedition to rescue members of the foreign community under siege at eleven ministries in Peking (now Beijing), China. McCloy earned a second Medal of Honor for his heroism in 1914 when American forces landed at Veracruz, Mexico. On April 21, Chief Boatswain McCloy was in charge of three picket boats unloading men and supplies at a pier when his detachment came under fire from the nearby Mexican Naval Academy. To expose enemy positions, he took his boat away from the pier and directed fire at the building. His action drew retaliatory fire that allowed cruisers to locate and shell sniper positions, thus protecting the men on shore. In 1919, now a lieutenant, he was awarded the Navy Cross for “distinguished service” as commander of USS Curlew, which engaged in the “difficult and hazardous duty” of sweeping mines in the North Sea in the aftermath of World War I. McCloy retired from active duty in 1928 after a thirty-year career in the Navy and “a lifetime of service on all the seven seas,” as the Kansas City Star put it. McCloy died in 1945.
Doris Miller was born into a family of sharecroppers and raised near Waco, Texas. On September 16, 1939, at age 19, Miller enlisted in the Navy as a mess attendant, the only job rating open to Blacks at the time. Miller was serving aboard the USS West Virginia when the Japanese attacked while the battleship was moored at Pearl Harbor. When damage to the ship prevented him from reaching his regular battle station, Miller helped with efforts to rescue his shipmates and then took over an unattended 50-caliber machine gun nearby. Though never trained in its operation, he maintained fire on Japanese aircraft until ordered to abandon the bridge as fires raged out of control. After the attack, the West Virginia’s senior surviving officer wrote in his report that Miller’s contributions as a rescuer were crucial, “unquestionably saving the lives of a number of people who might otherwise have been lost.” Thanks to press coverage and the tremendous interest of the Black community, Miller, became, arguably, the best known enlisted sailor of World War II. On May 27, 1942, Miller was awarded the Navy Cross “for distinguished devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and disregard for his own personal safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor.” On November 24, 1943, he was killed in action along with more than 600 shipmates when a Japanese submarine torpedoed and sank Liscome Bay during Operation Galvanic. Although he was only the first of a number of African Americans to be recognized for their heroism in World War II, Miller is singularly remembered for providing inspiration to a campaign for equal recognition and opportunity for Blacks in the military, a campaign that bore fruit in 1948 when President Truman ordered “that there shall be equality and opportunity for all persons in the armed forces.”