With the U.S. having been at war for over a year, countless Americans have shown their heroism. Some, however, have earned special recognition.

The highest award a member of the military can receive is the Congressional Medal of Honor. This medal is awarded to men who act with conspicuous gallantry in action beyond the call of duty. Last March this medal was given 14 men for their exceptional service during the Pearl Harbor attack and the battle of Wake Island. During the awards ceremony, the Navy department applauded these men saying, “In recognition of the courage, devotion to duty, gallant conduct, and disregard of personal safety which on every hand characterized… their operation.”

One of these brave men was Commander Cassin Young. During the explosion of the USS Arizona, he was blown over from his auxiliary craft. Critically injured, he swam back to the Arizona to help his shipmates. Once back aboard the Arizona, he helped the limited crew guide the ship to safety. During the awards ceremony, the Navy department said of Captain Young’s service: “despite his stunning experience of having been blown overboard. Quickly estimated the situation and maneuvered his ship to a point of safety.”

Fighting abroad, Sergeant Jose Calugas of the 88th Field Artillery was awarded the Medal of Honor this past February. Calugas, a 12-year army man and expert artillery gunner, was serving as sergeant of an artillery battle on the front line of Bataan this past January. While under heavy enemy fire, the unit’s field gun was damaged. Seeing this, Calugas ran over 1000 yards to the damaged gun. “Although the position remained under constant and heavy Japanese artillery fire, he organized a volunteer squad which placed the gun back into commission and fired effectively against the enemy,” The Department of War explained.  During the awards ceremony, General MacArthur, who represented the President, applauded Calugas for his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action”.

Sgt. Jose Calugas, wearing the Congressional Medal of Honor that he was awarded for his heroism in the Philippines.

Major General James A. Ulio, is another man to receive a national medal for his service, as Adjutant General of the Army. This past September he was awarded the American Legion’s Distinguished Service Medal, as a tribute for great contributions to veterans. In a letter from General Douglas A. MacArthur after hearing the news of this award, he was overwhelmed with joy and hoped that someone would be able to receive the award for him, as he is still stationed overseas. “This great distinction please me more than I can say,” he writes, “as it comes from soldier comrades who proved themselves in the campaign and battle at least the equal of the best and bravest of the war…” The Major General is the first to receive the American Legion’s Distinguished Service Medal in 12 years.

Receiving the Distinguished Service Medal from the United States Government is slightly different than the one given out by the American Legion. Although both have the same name, this award, given out by the Marine Corps, is awarded to men or women who show exceptionally meritorious service in a duty of great responsibility. In 1942, two men were said to have exemplified these qualities: Col. Francis G. Brink and Lieut. Col. Warren J. Clear. Both Army officers, they did their country a great service while at their posts in the Far East. Lieut. Col. Clear was the first American officer to return to the United States via Australia from his posts in Bataan and Corregidor, in the Philippines. He was cited for his exceptionally meritorious service while on an intelligence mission early this year, where he described life to be like “living on a bull’s eye.” Unfortunately, details about his 10 month service in the Far East have been classified. Lieut. Col. Clear is now on the home front working for the War Department.

Rarely do civilians get awards or certificates from the military, but the past year has shown that you don’t need to be enlisted to be a hero. Mrs. W.D. Chandler and her husband, a lieutenant commander, were living close to the harbor during the Pearl Harbor attacks. She established a field hospital in her home and gave first aid treatment to over 100 men who were seriously injured during the attack, earning a letter of commendation from the Navy.

The White House has also recognized civilian contributions, giving out medals to those who are involved in war production on the home front. Clinton R. Hanna of Pittsburgh was one of the men receiving a Certificate of Merit. During his time as manager at Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Co., he has made suggestions that have directly led to the improved effectiveness in the production of Army tanks. There are 9 other men from all areas of the country who were also awarded for their suggestions that have helped improve war output. Hanna like many other men is leading the home front towards victory.

Near the end of a year full heroes, President Roosevelt made some changes to the country’s oldest military award. He issued an executive order on Dec. 7 stating that the Purple Heart can now be given to any military personnel who “are wounded in action against an enemy of the United States.” This gives a greater appreciation to all of those men who are putting themselves on the front line fighting for freedom.  Since this decree, there have been nominations, but nobody has yet received the Purple Heart.

Americans at home and abroad have shown a true spirit of heroism. They have thought of others before themselves and helped to save lives. With new awards and committees in place, 1943 will bring even more opportunities to recognize and thank all of those who are helping the United States to fight.



Nimitz Honors 15 Marines, New York times December 1st 1942

America’s Hero Awards, Washington Post, December 12th 1942

Board set up to Pass on Civilian medal, Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec 27th 1942

Cols. Brink and Clear Given Distinguished Service Medal, Washington Post, June 23rd 1942

First Medals for Production Awarded to Six, Washington Post, Dec 11, 1942

Filipino Wins U.S Medal of Honor, Washington Post, Feb 18th 1942

General Ulio to Accept Medal given to MacArthur by Legion, The Washington Post, Sept 13, 1942

Medal for our Allies, The New York Times, Dec 27 1942

Medals Awarded to 62 Heroes of Pearl Harbor and Wake, The Washington Post, Mar 15th 1942

Jerry Kluttz, Merit medals of be Awarded Civilian Government Employees, Washington Post Dec 23, 1942

Wendell Webb, San Francisco’s Commander receives Congressional Medal, Washington Post, Dec 13th 1942