Since 1991, we have celebrated Medal of Honor Day On March 25. On November 15, 1990 President George H.W. Bush signed Public Law 101-564 into place securing March 25th as the day in which we honor those who went above and beyond. When did the Medal of Honor originate?
1861– President Abraham Lincoln created the U.S. Navy Medal of Valor
1862– President Lincoln awarded the U.S. Army Medal of Honor
1863– The Medal of Honor was made a permanent military decoration to all members who served. Since its creation, more than 3,400 men and one woman have received the Medal of Honor.
March 25th was chosen as the official day to honor the 23 men who received the first official Medal of Honor on March 25, 1863. The first award was given to the men of the Great Locomotive Chase in April of 1862. During the chase, Union soldiers commandeered a train and did as much damage as possible to the railroad line that the Confederates relied upon.
The law signed by President Bush, reads in part “Whereas the Medal of Honor is the highest distinction that can be awarded by the president, in the name of Congress, to members of the armed forces who have distinguished themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty…Whereas public awareness of the importance of the Medal of Honor has declined in recent years; and Whereas the designation of National Medal of Honor Day will focus the efforts of national, State, and local organizations striving to foster public appreciation and recognition of Medal of Honor recipients.”
Some Interesting Facts
Since 1863, only one woman has ever won the award. A medical doctor named Mary Edwards Walker. Mary had volunteered with the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War. Having crossed enemy lines in order to treat civilians, Mary was captured by Confederate troops in the summer of 1864. She was later released and received the Medal of Honor from President Andrew Johnson on November 11, 1865.
Only one president has received the award, President Theodore Roosevelt. His son, Theodore Roosevelt Jr., earned one in World War II, making them the only father-son pair to win the prestigious award. President Roosevelt’s award was given posthumously by President Bill Clinton in 2001. The Medal was awarded to Roosevelt for his actions during the Spanish-American War with his regiment known as the Rough Riders.
The youngest recipient of the award in the 20th century was Jack Lucas, a marine who fought in Iwo Jima. He was only 17 when it was awarded.
The award is not named the Congressional Medal of Honor. Its official name is simply Medal of Honor. Many confuse the title in part because when being awarded the President says, “in the name of Congress.”
Submariners and the Medal of Honor
Since its creation, only a small number of Submariners have been awarded the prestigious medal. Their stories can be found on display in our permanent Medal of Honor Gallery here at the museum. The courageous men held within the gallery are:
Henry Breault- Torpedoman 2nd Class, U.S. Navy, U.S.S. 0-5
Howard Walter Gilmore- Commander, U.S. Navy, U.S.S. Growler
John Philip Cromwell- Captain, U.S. Navy, U.S.S. Sculpin
Samuel David Dealey- Commander, U.S. Navy, U.S.S. Harder
Lawson Paterson Ramage- Commander, U.S. Navy, U.S.S Parche
Richard Hetherington O’Kane- Commander, U.S Navy, U.S.S. Tang
Eugene Bennett Fluckey- Commander, U.S. Navy, U.S.S Barb
George Levick Street III- Commander, U.S. Navy, U.S.S. Tirante