September 9, 2011
FORT LEE, Va. - Heroes of the Ordnance, Transportation and Quartermaster Corps were honored Sept. 9 as a display recognizing the six logisticians who have received the Medal of Honor since World War II was unveiled.
"They were truck drivers and logisticians on resupply missions," explained Maj. Gen. James L. Hodge, Combined Arms Support Command and Sustainment Center of Excellence commanding general. "They were privates, sergeants and a lieutenant colonel; ordinary individuals who answered the call and faced extraordinary circumstances with courage and selflessness.
"When facing death, these six logisticians summoned the courage to save others. They did this not because a commander said to, but because of their own sense of duty."
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Medal of Honor, the nations' highest decoration that can be bestowed on an American Soldier. In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln established the medal originally as a Navy medal of valor. One year later, July 12, 1862, he signed into law legislation expanding the medal to Army acts of valor.
"To be able to have a display like this at the CASCOM headquarters is a powerful thing," said Command Sgt. Maj. Sultan Muhammad, Ordnance School regimental command sergeant major. "To be able to show the sacrifices that have been made by heroes in the Ordnance, Transportation and Quartermaster Corps will inspire future generations of logisticians and sustainers."
CASCOM is a multifunctional command which oversees Army combat and doctrine development, initial military training and leader development for logistics, human resources and finance. Its leaders train and educate Soldiers and Civilians, develop and integrate capabilities, concepts and doctrine, and execute functional proponency to enable the Army's Sustainment Warfighting Function.
"To see we have members of our branches and Corps honored in this way is inspirational," Muhammad said. "This speaks to the professionalism, courage and valor of our Soldiers."
Although it was created for the Civil War, Congress made the Medal of Honor a permanent decoration in 1863.
Millions of Americans have served in the military and in its 150 year history, the medal has been awarded to just 3,456 of those in uniform. "Half of those did not survive the act for which it was awarded," Hodge said. Since World War II, there have been just 860 recipients.
The display, designed by the Army Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G4 and fabricated by the Aberdeen Proving Ground Multimedia and Visual Information Services Center, can be found on the first floor of Mifflin Hall, the headquarters of the Combined Arms Support Command and Sustainment Center of Excellence. This display is a duplicate of one that hangs on the first floor of the Pentagon.
Three of the honorees received the medal for service during World War II:
Pvt. George Watson, a member of the 29th Quartermaster Regiment, was on a ship attacked by Japanese bombers off the coast of New Guinea on March 8, 1943. When the ship had to be abandoned, instead of saving himself, he stayed in the water for a prolonged time to courageously help others, eventually becoming so weakened by his efforts that he was dragged down by the suction of the sinking ship and was drowned.
Watson's medal is on display in the History and Heritage Exhibit at the Quartermaster Museum. Also on display with the medal is a painting by artist Gary Schofield, and a scale model of the USNS Watson (T-AKR 310), a medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ship named in honor of Watson in 1997.
Sgt. Hulon B. Whittington, an Ordnance Corps Soldier, assigned to the 41st Armored Infantry, 2nd Armored Division, stationed near Grimesnil, France. After his platoon leader and platoon sergeant went missing, he mounted a tank, fired point blank and destroyed the leading German tank, which blocked all movement of the 100-vehicle enemy convoy.
Tech. 5th Eric G. Gibson, a Quartermaster Corps Solider, based near Isola Bella, Italy with the 3rd Infantry Division. He was killed in action, but only after he led a squad of replacements through enemy fire, killing five Germans and capturing two others.
During the Korean War, a Transportation Corps officer, Lt. Col. John U.D. Page, attached to the 52nd Transportation Truck Battalion, near Chosin Reservoir, Korea, received the medal. Having completed his mission, Page was free to return to the safety of Hamhung but chose to remain on the plateau to aid an isolated signal station, thus being cut off with elements of the Marine division. It was then that he rescued his driver by breaking up an ambush, exposed himself to enemy fire so casualties could be evacuated, and then charged the enemies ahead of a convoy, only to be mortally wounded during hand-to-hand combat.
In Vietnam, there were two medals given to logisticians:
Sgt. William W. Seay, a Transportation Corps Soldier, 7th Transportation Battalion, Republic of Vietnam. He was on a resupply mission, when his convoy was struck, he took up a defensive position and killed 10 North Vietnamese soldiers, leaving his protective position twice to pick up a grenade and throw it back at the enemy, saving the lives of many Soldiers. Although he was seriously wounded, and one hand was immobilized, he still had the bravery to stand up, fire his rifle, killing three North Vietnamese, before he was killed by a sniper's bullet.
The parade field on Fort Lee is named in honor of this recipient.
Spc. 4th Class Larry G. Dahl, a Transportation Corps Soldier, assigned to the 27th Transportation Battalion, Republic of Vietnam. He had been sent into assist in defending a convoy that had been ambushed. The enemy threw a grenade into his gun truck. Instantly realizing the great danger, he called a warning to his companions, and then threw himself directly onto the grenade.
"All six in their defining hours were not overcome by fear, but reached deep within and rose to the call of duty without hesitation," Hodge said. "It is indeed very important that we share their story of service and sacrifice.
"So everyone who walks into this headquarters now will be inspired by our courageous logisticians who paid the ultimate sacrifice. They each represent our nation at its best. For destiny carved a signature of their lives onto this wall, and these gallant heroes who preserved our freedom deserve our gratitude and appreciation and nothing less."