FOR CONSPICUOUS GALLANTRY:
THE MEDAL OF HONOR
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Josh Mann, Ohio National Guard Historian
In 1990, Congress designated March 25 as “National Medal of Honor Day.” The date for the holiday was chosen to honor the anniversary of six Ohio Soldiers who were the first to receive the Medal of Honor from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton in 1863 during the American Civil War.
Stanton presented the new medal to William Bensinger, Robert Buffum, Elihu Mason, Jacob Parrott, William Pittenge and William Reddick for their participation in an April 1862 offensive known as “Andrews’ Raid.” Parrott, a member of Company K, 33rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, is recognized as the first recipient of the award.
Here are some facts about the Medal of Honor
254 Ohioans have been awarded the Medal of Honor
Since first being awarded, 3,526 Medals of Honor have been presented to American service members, with 254 being credited to Ohioans.
Battle of New Market Heights, Virginia on Sept. 29, 1864
During the battle, four Black Ohioans serving in the 5th United States Colored Troops earned the Medal of Honor. The four men, Powhatan Beaty, James Bronson, Milton Holland and Robert Pinn, were serving as noncommissioned officers near Chaffin’s Farm when they took command of their companies during an attack, after all of the unit’s officers had been killed. In 1974, the new armory in Stow, Ohio was dedicated to Pinn.
Lt. Col. Webb Hayes
Lt. Col. Webb Hayes, the second son of President Rutherford B. Hayes and former quartermaster sergeant of the First Cleveland Troop, was awarded the Medal of Honor in the Philippines as a member of the 31st Infantry, U.S. Volunteers during the War with Spain.
Lt. Col. Addison Baker
Lt. Col. Addison Baker earned the Medal of Honor during Operation Tidal Wave over Ploesti, Romania on Aug. 1, 1943. Baker was a pilot in the 112th Observation Squadron, 37th Division Aviation when the unit was inducted into federal service in 1940. While in command of the 93rd Bombardment Group, Baker’s B-24 bomber, nicknamed “Hell’s Wench,” was hit as he approached the target, but he continued to lead his formation and bombed the objective with devastating effect. Baker tried unsuccessfully to gain enough altitude so he and his crew could bail out but the plane was too badly damaged and soon crashed, killing all on board.
Eight members of the 37th Infantry Division earned the Medal of Honor
During World War I and II, eight members of the 37th Infantry Division earned the Medal of Honor. Berea, Ohio native 2nd Lt. Albert Baesel posthumously earned the medal in September 1918 near Ivoiry, France. During World War II, Pfc. Frank Petrarca of the 145th Infantry, and Pvt. Rodger Young, 2nd Lt. Robert Viale, Pfc. Joseph Cicchetti, Tech. Sgt. Cleto Rodriguez, Pfc. John Reese Jr. and Pfc. Anthony Krotiak, all of the 148th Infantry, earned the award. All of the medals were awarded posthumously with the exception of Rodriguez, who returned to the United States after the war and lived until 1990. In 1954, all of the ranges and a number of buildings at Camp Perry, Ohio were dedicated to the eight men.
Gordon R. Roberts
Gordon R. Roberts earned the Medal of Honor in 1969 while serving as an infantryman with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. A native of Lebanon, Ohio, Roberts joined the Ohio Army National Guard in 1989 and was commissioned as a medical service officer in the 112th Medical Brigade. He returned to the Regular Army in 1991 and was the only recipient on active duty until 2010, when Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta was awarded the medal.
Photos from Ohio National Guard Heritage Center and Library of Congress