Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 21, 2012
Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor

December 21, 1861: President Abraham Lincoln signs Public Resolution 82 into law. Those who serve in the military are at risk and their bravery is often tested. In order to acknowledge the heroism, bravery, and dedication of those who go beyond the call of duty, awards have been created. In 1780, the Fidelity Medallion was created. It was awarded to three militiamen from New York who captured spy General Benedict Arnold and saved West Point from capture. The Badge of Military Merit honored those in the Continental Army and ceased to exist after the Revolutionary War. The Certificate of Merit was used for those who went beyond the call of duty during the Mexican-American War. At the beginning of the US Civil War, there were no awards or medals in use.

Winfield Scott was the general-in-chief of the US Army during the fall of 1861. Lt. Colonel Edward D. Townsend was Scott’s chief of staff and he sent a memo to Scott mentioning the idea of a medal to honor bravery in the field. Scott was against it, but he retired in October and Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles adopted the idea. It was presented as Senate Bill 82 by Senator (Iowa) James W. Grimes “to promote the efficiency of the Navy” and included a provision for the Navy Medal of Valor. President Lincoln signed it into law on this date and the medal was printed at the Philadelphia Mint.

The next year, the Army Medal of Honor was approved by Congress and signed into law on July 12. It was not until 1956 that the US Air Force was given a separate design for their branch of the service. It took until 1960 for that medal to be authorized and it was officially adopted in 1965. Prior to their own design, they received the Army version of the medal. Today, members of the US Marine Corps and the Coast Guard are eligible to receive the Navy version of the Medal of Honor. Medals are awarded by the President only after a Citation is passed through Congress. Some mistaken call it the Congressional Medal of Honor as it is awarded “in the name of Congress” but the adjective is not part of the official name.

Today, it is a five pointed star with a neck ribbon. Only military personnel are eligible for this award. It is given for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.” It is often awarded posthumously and more than half of those awarded since 1941 have been given to those brave men who died. Only one medal has been awarded to a woman, Mary Edwards Walker, who was a surgeon during the Civil War. There are 3,459 recipients of the Medal of Honor with 81 of them still living. The first time the award was given was to Private Jacob Parrott on March 25, 1863. The last Medal of Honor was bestowed upon Specialist Fourth Class Leslie H. Sabo, Jr. on May 16 2012. It was awarded posthumously as Sabo was killed in action on May 10, 1970.

The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. – Douglas MacArthur

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checked by failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt

I’m certainly overwhelmed. I don’t know about you guys. – Leonard Wood

Hopefully, we can beat up on them like they did to us. Instead of being down, we need to let (the loss) improve us. – Mike Pariso

Also on this day:

Can You Use Ink? – In 1913, Arthur Wynn invented the crossword puzzle.
Norway – In 1962, Norway established its first national park.
Four in One Year – In 69 AD, Vespasian became Emperor of Rome.