From: 20 yrs ago - SDO -> med down, w/BC glasses on
Here are my ideas on the award, but read the first paragraph of this:
The key words that pertain to only one medal in the arm forces is:
". . .above and beyond the call of duty."
This isn't just critical to the medal - it is literally everything to it being awarded. You have other awards for valor, gallantry, meritorious, extraordinary heroism, etc etc. Only this medal talks about duty and going above and beyond.
So what is this "duty" concept? Clearly you must define that before you can decide whether this award is appropriate. And while the whole process of awarding one can turn into a joke or at least get very political, (as current events clearly demonstrate), yet if you pay critical attention to the "above and beyond the call of duty" part you will start to understand what this medal was suppose to be all about. It also gives you a good perspective of how some might be deserving and others might not.
Let me examine just two awards:
General Archer Vandegrift:
"For outstanding and heroic accomplishment above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the 1st Marine Division in operations against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands during the period August 7, to December 9, 1942. With the adverse factors of weather, terrain, and disease making his task a difficult and hazardous undertaking, and with his command eventually including sea, land, and air forces of Army, Navy and Marine Corps, Major General Vandegrift achieved marked success in commanding the initial landings of the United States forces in the Solomon Islands and in their subsequent occupation. His tenacity, courage, and resourcefulness prevailed against a strong, determined, and experienced enemy, and the gallant fighting spirit of the men under his inspiring leadership enabled them to withstand aerial, land, and sea bombardment, to surmount all obstacles, and leave a disorganized and ravaged enemy. This dangerous but vital mission, accomplished at the constant risk of his life, resulted in securing a valuable base for further operations of our forces against the enemy, and its successful completion reflects great credit upon Major General Vandegrift, his command, and the United States Naval Service."
What was General Vandergrift's duty? What were his orders? Did he exceed his true call of duty. Questionable IMHO. The guy was a great man. I couldn't carry his bed pan. Yet his duties were clear and I don't feel he exceeded them. He was told to hold the place and to do what had to be done. That is the role of a commander. When your orders are clear and you are doing what you have been told to do, it becomes very difficult to justify the "above and beyond the call of duty" part of the award. Putting up a stout defense of Guadalcanal was his duty. Hold the place or get sacked or die. That is the military way. It's a tough nut, but that's was his job, let alone his duty, and that is why his MOH runs into question. The quality of his defense is more a reflection of his leadership skills than any valor on his part. IMHO, reward him with rank or two, and some other medal than the one reserved for those who go above and beyond the call of duty.
Brig General Theodore Roosevelt Jr
"For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, in France. After 2 verbal requests to accompany the leading assault elements in the Normandy invasion had been denied, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt's written request for this mission was approved and he landed with the first wave of the forces assaulting the enemy-held beaches. He repeatedly led groups from the beach, over the seawall and established them inland. His valor, courage, and presence in the very front of the attack and his complete unconcern at being under heavy fire inspired the troops to heights of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice. Although the enemy had the beach under constant direct fire, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt moved from one locality to another, rallying men around him, directed and personally led them against the enemy. Under his seasoned, precise, calm, and unfaltering leadership, assault troops reduced beach strong points and rapidly moved inland with minimum casualties. He thus contributed substantially to the successful establishment of the beachhead in France."
This is a clear cut MOH award. So much so that he was put in for only a DSC. The chain of command knew immediately that he was so far beyond his duties that there was no need to even put a package together to make it official. Roosevelt was a well healed business man a politician and the son of a former POTUS. He had amazing leadership skills. Out of OCS they gave him the rank of major. While not totally unheard of, it is enough to say that his brother was in the same class and they gave him 2nd LT. During his off and on military career he served well. It was pretty nuts for him to even be there since this wasn't a job for him. This is in stark contrast to my previous example of General Vandegrift, a career soldier. Roosevelt's sense of duty would not let him go home and enjoy the good life. On D-day - his DUTY was to be supporting Maj Gen Barton as a member of his staff. Instead he insisted on being on the leading landing craft. He had no official role other than to support the men landing on the beach. He was told he would probably die. He said at least the men next to him can use his corpse to hide behind. He felt it was far more important for someone to be with the men. You can bet the men in his landing craft weren't peeing in there pants as they looked across at an 1-star general holding a cane that he actually used to walk with. He couldn't run so he was going to be walking up the beach. Every single thing a soldier must do gets easier when he knows that there is always someone around who can suck up the blame for what goes wrong. It's like children being with a parent. The brigadier knew this. If the landing failed - he was right there to soak up the blame for thousands who would be doing their duty in trying to take the beach. The history books could forever use him as the reason why D-Day went bad at least on his beach. A staggering proposition. In General Omar Bradley's words, what Roosevelt did was "the single most heroic action he had ever seen in combat."
This is a MOH - open and shut. He went way behind his call of duty and that is what it's all about.
The MOH is NOT about taking a hill, or holding a position or doing some other brave and selfless act. You have stars and crosses for that stuff. If it was your duty, if that was what you were ordered to do, then you are pretty ruling out a MOH. Yet as soon as you go beyond that, then you start to see why they came up with the medal in the first place.
Those are my ideas about the Medal of Honor. Thanks for reading.
Gary S (USN 1320, 1985-1993)
AOCS 1985, VT10 1985-86, VT86 1986, VS41 1986-87
VS32 1987-90 (NSO/NWTO, deployed w/CV-66, CVN-71)
VS27 1990-91 (NATOPS/Safety)
SFWSLANT 1991-93 (AGM-84 All platforms, S-3 A/B systems)