The Congressional Medal of Honor

Tomorrow, March 25, is National Medal of Honor Day, so it’s appropriate that we consider the history of this distinguished award and honor those who have won it throughout our nation’s history.

The first Medal of Honor was awarded on March 25, 1863, to Private Jacob Parrott of Ohio for his involvement in the great Andrews Raid, the Union theft of a railroad locomotive in an attempt to destroy Confederate railroad bridges between Chattanooga and Atlanta. More than 1,420 other Civil War soldiers (all Union, of course) went on to win the Medal of Honor during that terrible conflict.

There have been a total of 3,498 recipients of the Medal of Honor, most of which have been awarded posthumously. In addition to those awarded in the Civil War, the following major conflicts had their share:

  • Boxer Rebellion, 58
  • Mexican War, 55
  • Philippine Insurrection, 84
  • Spanish-American War, 110
  • World War I, 127
  • World War II, 472 (16 of those at Pearl Harbor, 27 at Iwo Jima)
  • Vietnam War, 260
  • Afghanistan, 14
  • Iraq, 4

Three notable recipients were Arthur MacArthur of Wisconsin, father of General Douglas MacArthur, who won the MOH for his actions during the Battle of Missionary Ridge in 1863. Alvin C. York of Tennessee won his during World War I and was the subject of a famous movie starring Gary Cooper. And John Basilone won his for courageous fighting on Guadalcanal in World War II.

Every recipient of the nation’s highest award deserves our recognition and remembrance. For more information on the award and the stories of each recipient, check these web sites: http://www.cmohs.org and http://www.cmohfoundation.org (e-mail info@cmohedu.org).

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