By Stephen Bye, U. S. Army Military History InstituteJanuary 24, 2008
The legacy of the United States Army has been built upon the uncommon valor displayed by the common soldier in times of extreme trial. For these soldiers an award was created to recognize their undying devotion to our country. The Congressional Medal of Honor is the ultimate tribute for heroism against an enemy force that can be awarded to an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. Some recipients become instant celebrities, such as Audie Murphy and Alvin York. Most, however, are relegated to obscurity with their deeds of heroism forgotten over time by all except just a few.
Technician 5th Grade (T-5) Forrest E. Peden of the 10th Field Artillery Battalion/3rd Infantry Division was a valiant soldier whose deeds seem to have drifted into that obscurity. On February 13, 1946, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroics performed in eastern France barely a year previously. On February 3, 1945, he was serving as a forward observer when his unit was ambushed with heavy artillery and machine gun fire on a dimly moonlit night. He immediately went to the aid of two wounded soldiers and administered first aid. Peden realized that with the communication lines now inoperable he would need to run approximately one half mile to request tank support from the rear. To secure this much needed help, Peden ran through a hail of gunfire, taking a shot through his jacket. Knowing that the tank would not be able to maneuver through the dark, Forrest Peden climbed onto the front of it and directed it into the battle, exposing himself to intense enemy fire. Just as the tank was about to aim and fire upon the enemy, it received a direct hit and turned into a flaming mass of metal. That round also took the life of T-5 Peden. However, his death was not in vain. The light from the burning tank shone as a beacon in the dark for arriving reinforcements who drove off the enemy and rescued the remaining soldiers.
Forrest E. Peden returned home to Troy, Kansas, to be laid to rest in the Peden family lot in the Mt. Olive Cemetery. There he joined his brother, Levern, who was killed in action in 1944. Winston Churchill once said, Aca,!A"A people that have forgotten their heritage, are a people who have lost faith in themselves.Aca,!A? Remembering the sacrifices of heroes like T-5 Peden is a way to bolster that faith.
Editor's Note: A special note of appreciation is given to Mr. Ken Kooi and the volunteer members of the "Medal of Honor Historical Society"(MoHHS). Their assistance in locating and obtaining photographs of T-5 Peden's final resting place is deeply appreciated. This small group searches the remote, lonely cemeteries of America, locating, identifying and ensuring CMOH recipients are properly recognized. Thank you, MoHHS, for going "above and beyond the call...."