With President Obama paying honor to two of our soldiers this past month with the Medal of Honor, I thought it would be interesting to remind people to the stories behind five of our best soldiers throughout the years. These soldiers did something that only nineteen people in the history of the United States have accomplished. They won the Medal of Honor – America’s highest military award – not once, but twice. You may not have heard of these five men, but they put their lives ahead of the men they served with and gave America everything they had. Here are there stories.
Frank Baldwin, Army (Civil War and Indian Wars)
This Michigan-native received his reward for actions during the Atlanta Campaign (1864) where he led his company to battle at Peachtree Creek and captured two commissioned officers in the American Civil War. According to his accommodation, Baldwin moved out farther ahead of his men under heavy fire. He breached the Confederate lines by himself and captured the two officers – who were fully armed – and brought them back to the Union side along with the regimental flag. He received his second Medal of Honor ten years later for conspicuous bravery in 1874 during the Indian Wars. This time, he attacked a superior force of Indians in Texas who had kidnapped two young girls. With two regiments under his command, he attacked the Indians disregarding personal safety and rescued the two girls. He retired as an Adjutant General and is interred in Arlington National Cemetery. Frank Baldwin is the first soldier to be awarded two Medals of Honor in U.S. history.
Smedley Butler, Marine Corps (Veracruz and Haiti)
Possibly one of the best-known of the Medal of Honor recipients, “Old Gimlet Eye”, as he was known, was the most decorated U.S. Marine in history at the time of his death. During his 34-year career as a Marine, he participated in military actions in the Philippines, China, in Central America during the Banana Wars, the Caribbean and during World War I, he served in France. By the end of his career he had received 16 medals, five of which were for heroism. He is the only person to be awarded the Marine Corps Brevet Medal and two Medals of Honor, all for separate actions. His first Medal of Honor was acquired in 1914 when Butler was sent to Mexico to with a small contingent to stop an arms shipment. The result ended in deadly hand-to-hand fighting with only 17 American dead, but well over 300 Mexican casualties. The actions proved that an invasion of Mexico was unnecessary and Butler’s leadership saved hundreds of American lives. The second Medal of Honor, and possibly his most famous, came during the rebellion of Haiti one year later. Butler’s patrol of 44 marines were attacked by over 400 enemy soldiers. Throughout the night, the marines fought back and in the morning they charged the much-larger force. The startled Haitians fled. Later, Butler convinced his commanding officer to allow him to attack a fort with only 100 men and two machine guns. He was given permission and they attacked by sneaking into the fort and attacking the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. It was such a successful raid that only one U.S. Marine was wounded in the assault. The fort fell and Butler received his second Medal of Honor for bravery. As an interesting side note, Butler would be involved in an assassination plot on Franklin D. Roosevelt years later. You can read more about this here from myFiveBest.
Daniel Daly, Marine Corps (Boxer Rebellion and Haiti)
Sergeant Major Daniel Daly was a United States Marine. Of the Marines, he and Major General Smedley Butler (see above) received their Medals of Honor for two, separate actions. In fact, Butler was quoted as saying, “The fightenist Marine I ever knew!” Daly reportedly was offered an officer’s commission twice to which he responded that he would rather be, “…an outstanding sergeant than just another officer.“ Daly received his first CoH when, in 1900, he single-handedly held off and killed 200 Chinese in the Boxer Rebellion (can you say “bad-ass”?). He did it again in Haiti, when, fighting alongside Butler, they held off 400 Haitian insurgents. One of the coolest things about Daly is that he is credited for saying the words, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?” during the Battle of Belleau Wood, in World War 1. Daly later told a Marine Corps historian that he actually yelled, “For Christ’s sake men—come on! Do you want to live forever?“ Those words (or at least a variation of them) have been used in literature. Once, in Robert Heinlein’s book (and later movie), Starship Troopers and in Stephen King’s novel, The Long Walk (1979), which he wrote under the pseudonym, Richard Bachman.
John Lafferty, Navy (Civil War and Peacetime)
Also known as John Laverty, this U.S. Sailor from New York was stationed on the U.S.S. Wyalusing. He participated in a plan to destroy the rebel ram CSS Albemarle in the Roanoke River, in May of 1864. Volunteering for the hazardous mission, Lafferty participated in the transfer of two torpedoes across an island swamp and then served as sentry to keep guard of clothes and arms left by other members of the party. After being rejoined by others of the party who had been discovered before the plan could be completed, Lafferty succeeded in returning to the mother ship after spending 24 hours of discomfort in the rain and swamp. Unfortunately, they weren’t successful, but it was an act of bravery. His second citation was under his other name, John Laverty (it might have been a misprint at the time). He was serving as a fireman on the U.S.S. Alaska at this point and time, which was stationed off-shore in Peru in 1881. A fire erupted on board the ship after a stop-valve had ruptured. Lafferty risked life and limb to remove the fires from the ship and saved almost everyone on board.
John C. McCloy, Navy (Boxer Rebellion and Veracruz)
Our second Naval member on this list is John McCloy was a Coxswain (person in charge of navigation and steering). Not a lot is given on the particulars of his heroic actions in 1900, but his citation states that “In action with the relief expedition of the Allied forces in China, 13, 20, 21, and 22 June 1900. During this period and in the presence of the enemy, Coxswain McCloy distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.” The second citation came in 1904 when McCloy led three picket launches against the enemy at Veracruz. From these launches, he drew fire from the Mexicans from shore and was wounded in action. Not letting something little, like an injury, stop him, he remained at his post and continued to be fired upon, while cruisers made it to shore and rescued American Marines. Besides receiving the two Medal of Honor citations, McCloy has had two Bronstein-class Destroyer Escorts named in his honor (DE-1038 and FF-1038) and was turned into a character in the Mission Impossible movie series where he was portrayed by Brendon Gleeson (Hamish, from the movie Braveheart).