Although every American who has served in the United States military is a hero in their own right, there are those who stand out for their acts of valor and bravery in the face of danger.
The United States government does the best they can to honor and give thanks to particular soldiers who rose beyond the call of duty. Here are some of the highest-decorated servicemen in American history, and the stories that separate them from the rest.
Lieutenant General James F. Hollingsworth
James Hollingsworth began his career in the United States Army in 1940 shortly after graduating from Texas A&M University. He served overseas in World War II where he participated in seven major campaigns ranging from North Africa to the occupation of Berlin.
When he was just 26, he was placed in command of an armored regiment which was greatly involved in the Allied invasion of Europe, mostly in Germany.
During the Vietnam War, Hollingsworth became well-known by his radio call sign “Danger 79er.” He is credited as the commander who led the victory at the Battle of An Loc, a relentless 66-day battle that proved to be a huge victory for South Vietnam.
For his numerous years of service and wars fought, he was awarded four Distinguished Service Medals, four Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Legion Merits, the Soldiers Medal, and six Purple Hearts. He also went on to become the commander of the U.S. Army of Alaska.
Major Audie Murphy
Born in 1925 in Kingston, Texas, Audie Leon Murphy was one of 12 children born to an Irish-American sharecropper family. Unfortunately, his father abandoned his family when he was just a boy, and his mother passed away when he was a teenager.
Because of this, Murphy was forced to leave school and take up work picking cotton. In 1942, at the age of 17, Murphy falsified his age and joined the United States Army for a chance at a better life.
War Hero Turned Film Star
In July 1943, Murphy took part in the seaborne invasion of Sicily, although he ended up landing in mainland Italy. There, he was awarded a Bronze Star after taking out an enemy tank in March 1944. He then went on to join in the invasion of France, where he was distinguished with a Medal of Honor for his bravery, repelling a German attack while wounded.
By the end of the war, he had obtained every American bravery award then available. He was also granted several foreign awards from the French and Belgians. He then returned home and became a movie star.
Sergeant William Henry Johnson
Born in 1892 in North Carolina, William Henry Johnson was eager to enlist in the United States Army just weeks after America had joined in the first World War. An African American soldier, he was sent to France for labor duties rather than combat.
At the time, this wasn’t uncommon for non-white servicemen during World War I. However, when Johnson’s unit was taken over by the French, his segregated regiment was given a chance to fight.
He Single-Handedly Fought Off A German Raiding Party
One night in May 1918, Johnson had been assigned guard patrol in the Argonne Forest. To his horror, he discovered that 24 German soldiers were approaching with intentions to raid the area. Instead of fleeing, he single-handedly fought them off by himself using whatever he had on him, which included grenades, a Bolo knife, and even his fists.
His prowess in combat earned him the nickname the “Black Death.” The French were amazed by his actions and presented him with the prestigious Croix de Guerre. Unfortunately, the United States was slow to follow and honored him with the Purple Cross, The Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross more than half a century after his death.
Colonel David H. Hackworth
Born in 1930, at the age of 15, David Hackworth served on a Merchant Marine ship until joining the US Army, using forged Marine documents where he served as a rifleman in Italy.
However, upon returning to the United States, he volunteered his service again, fighting in the Korean War, eventually volunteering for a second term. At age 20, he was the youngest captain in the Korean War where he was awarded three Silver Stars for his bravery.
The Patton Of Vietnam
When the Vietnam War started, Hackworth volunteered yet again and was sent into the war zone. It was there that he founded a unit called Tiger Force, designed to fight against the North Vietnamese fighting style of guerrilla warfare. he was regarded for hos effective methods although they are noted for being regarded as unconventional at times.
By the end of the Vietnam War, Hackworth was credited with eliminating more than 2,500 enemies while losing only 25 men under his own command. In his years of service, he received two Distinguished Service Crosses, 10 Silver Stars, 8 Bronze Stars, and 8 Purple Hearts.
Sergeant Major Daniel “Dan” Daly
Daniel Joseph “Dan” Daly was born in Glen Cove, New York in 1873. As a young man, he joined the United States Marine Corps in 1899, and just one year later was sent to China.
There, he fought in what is known as the Boxer Rebellion, a conflict in which Chinese citizens rose up against the spread of Western and Japanese influences. In one engagement, Daly held a critical defensive position, in which he repelled numerous attacks, killing over 200 enemies. For this, he earned his first Medal of Honor.
One Medal Of Honor Down, One To Go
In 1915, while fighting rebels in Haiti at the Battle of Fort Diptite, Daly’s unit was ambushed a much larger force of Haitian rebels. Although they were heavily outnumbered, Daly managed to fight his way through the chaos and return his men to safety. This earned him his second Medal of Honor.
Furthermore, he went on to fight in World War I during the horrific battle Belleau Wood in France in 1918 and was awarded a Navy Cross for his bravery. To this day, he is one of two soldiers to have earned two Medals of Honors during separate conflicts.
Lieutenant General Lewis “Chesty” Puller
Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller was born in West Point, Virginia, in 1898. In 1918, he joined up with the United States Marines with the intention of serving in France during World War I. Unfortunately for Puller, the war ended just before he could land in Europe.
However, he did serve during the United States occupation of Haiti and Nicaragua, where he would demonstrate his bravery in battle. There, he earned a Navy Cross in 1930 and a second Navy Cross in 1932.
He Was In Command Of The First Batallion Marines
Upon the outbreak of World War II, Puller was then in command of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. He was then sent to Samoa in the Pacific Theater and eventually to the harsh fighting at Guadalcanal. There, he earned his third Navy Cross for defending an airfield from a Japanese attack and a subsequent fourth Navy Cross for his heroism in battle once again.
After World War II, he continued his service fighting in the Korean War, where he earned a Distinguished Service Cross and another Navy Cross fighting at the Chosin Reservoir where he oversaw the defenses that were under attack for five days.
Colonel Edward V. Rickenbacker
Born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1880, Rickenbacker was a race car driver before joining the United States Army in 1917 when America entered World War I. He was sent to France with the rank of sergeant with the desire to fly planes.
However, his lack of formal occupation didn’t allow it, as he was forced to drop out of school when he was just 13 after his father had died. Instead, he was consigned as a staff driver. However, this would all change when he met Col. Billy Mitchell, an aviation pioneer, who saw him reassigned to the new Army Air Corps.
An Ace Of Aces
Rickenbacker took out his first enemy aircraft on April 29, 1918, with many more to come. Within his first month flying, he shot down five German planes, making him an “Ace” in the Air Force, also earning him the French Croix de Guerre.
In just nine months, he shot down a total of 26 enemy planes where he became an “Ace of Aces,” simultaneously earning him the Distinguished Service Cross on seven occasions. Furthermore, he also received the Medal of Honor, making him one of the most decorated American in World War One and a legend in the Air Force.
Boatswain’s Mate First Class James “Willie” Williams
A Cherokee Indian, James Elliot Williams was born in Fort Mill, South Carolina, in 1930. He went on to join the United States Navy in 1947 when he was just 16 years old. His first chance at active-duty came just three years later when he served in the Korean War on the USS Douglas H. Fox.
There, he led small boats to perform raiding parties on the shores of North Korea. After his service in Korea, in 1966, Williams was deployed to Vietnam, where he commanded River Patrol Boat 105, assigned with fighting Viet Cong soldiers and arms shipments.
He Was Ambushed On The Water
During a pursuit of an enemy watercraft, Williams and his men were led into a surprise attack in which the Viet Cong outnumbered them three to one. However, after an extensive three-hour bloody battle, Williams led his crew to victory resulting in the deaths of over 1,000 Viet Cong and the destruction of more than 60 enemy vessels.
For this, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in this battle. On top of this, over the course of his career, he earned every level of valor award, making him the most decorated sailor in US Naval history.
Lieutenant General Thomas Tackaberry
Born in 1923 in Los Angeles, Thomas Howard Tackaberry made a name for himself fighting in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. After training as a parachutist, he took his position as 2nd lieutenant in September 1945, shortly after the end of World War II.
Following his numerous peacetime assignments, after the start of the Korean War, he was shipped to Korea where he commanded a company of the 9th Infantry Regiment. For his actions in combat, he was awarded two Silver Stars and a Distinguished Service Cross.
Heroism In Vietnam
He earned himself another Distinguished Service Cross during the Vietnam War when, in 1966, he led an attack on a North Vietnamese position with no regard for his own safety. Again, in 1969, he was awarded a third Distinguished Service Cross after he showed superior leadership during a fierce engagement with the enemy.
All in all, during his military career, he received three Distinguished Service Crosses, the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Purple Heart, three Bronze Stars, and the Legion Merits, five Silver Stars, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Captain Joe Ronnie Hooper
Born in Piedmont, South Carolina in 1938, Joe Ronnie Hooper enlisted in the United States Navy when he was just 18 years old. After some time as an Airman on the USS Wasp and USS Hancock, he was honorably discharged in July 1959.
Itching for more action, he enlisted into the United States Army in 1960 where he found himself in trouble on more than one occasion. He went on to serve a tour of duty in Vietnam where he was made squad leader before being assigned to Fort Hood, Texas.
He Personally Saved Several His Own Men Under Heavy Fire
Hooper later continued on to serve two tours in Vietnam in which he earned an incredible eight Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars, six Bronze Stars, and the most prestigious of all, the Medal of Honor. He received this honor for his actions of February 21, 1968, when he led an attack on a heavily defended position.
It was at that time that Hooper and his men came under heavy fire from the enemy with many of his men and himself becoming gravely wounded. However, Hooper ignored the danger and disregarded his own safety, fighting back and personally evacuating several men. He then continued to fight, leading his men to victory.
Sergeant First Class Sammy Lee Davis
In 1965, Sammy Lee Davis joined the United States Army, just a year and a half after finishing high school. The War in Vietnam was already well underway, so that’s where he was going. After extensive training, in 1967, he was shipped to Vietnam with the rank of private first class.
It wasn’t long before his skills and bravery were tested when his 43-man unit was ambushed by over 1,500 Viet Cong at their position known as Firebase Cudgel in the Mekong Delta.
He Used A Raft To Save Other Men
With bullets and motor fire hailing in all directions, Davis jumped into action providing cover fire so his men could fire artillery shells at the enemy. In the process, he was injured badly enough to make him incapable of swimming.
Yet, he managed to acquire a floating mattress, which he used to save three other soldiers trapped on the other side of the river. For his bravery during the battle and his determination to save his fellow soldiers, he received the Medal of Honor.
Brigadier General Robin Olds
A fighter pilot, Robin Olds was first introduced to military combat when he was 21 years old during World War II, flying in missions from England in 1944. Still a young man, he demonstrated his prowess in the air, taking down twelve German planes, earning him the title of double ace.
Although he stayed in the Air Force after the end of World War II, he was assigned a station that refused permission to fight in the Korean War, something that deeply irritated him.
He Eventually Became A Triple Ace
Upon arriving in Vietnam, Olds was the holding command of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing in 1966. The next year, on August 11, 1967, Olds took a unit of eight fighter planes on a mission to destroy a bridge that was of utmost strategic importance to the North Vietnamese. Knowing his crew would come under considerable fire, they faced the challenge head-on and completed their mission.
By the end of his military career, he was a triple ace and was awarded numerous decorations as well as the renowned Air Force Cross. Today, along with his mustache, he is a legend in the Air Force.
Lieutenant Colonel Matt Urban
The American-Polish Matt Luis Urbanowicz was born in Buffalo, New York in 1919, although he later shortened his name to Urban. Enlisting in the military and fighting during World War II, Urban is known for participating in more than seven extensive military campaigns, including the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.
It was reported that just two days after landing in France, Urban picked up a fallen soldier’s bazooka and single-handedly destroyed two enemy Panzer tanks.
Injuries Wouldn’t Stop Him
Although taking out two tanks with a bazooka is an impressive feat, this was just one of the many impressive acts done by Urban. From June to September of 1944, Urban continued to lead his unit through extremely dangerous missions, even after sustaining a serious leg injury.
In a charge against the enemy in Belgium on September 3, he was wounded again in the neck, one of his countless injuries during the war. For his actions in World War II, he was given numerous accolades and was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1980.
Major Richard Ira Bong
Born in Superior, Wisconsin, Richard Ira Bong had his first flights while he was in college as a member of the Civilian Pilot Training Program. Bong put his flight knowledge to use when he joined the Army Air Corps Aviator Cadet Program in 1941.
By January 1942, he was a full-blown pilot. From there, he trained to become a pilot of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning and was then posted for combat in the West Pacific during World War II.
He Was Death In The Skies
In 1942, the same year that he earned his wings, he shot down two Japanese airplanes which earned him his first Silver Star. As the war progressed, he was responsible for the destruction of another four Japanese aircraft for which he received a Distinguished Service Cross.
By December 1944, Bong had personally taken down a remarkable 40 enemy airplanes, the most of any other American pilot fighting during World War II. The same month, he was presented with the Medal of Honor. Tragically, Bong died in a test pilot crash in August 1945.
Rear Admiral Eugene Bennet Fluckey
Born in 1913 in Washington D.C., Eugene Bennet Fluckey graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1935. Just three years later, he enrolled in Basic Enlisted Submarine School in Connecticut. After graduating, he served on two different submarines but still wasn’t done with his education yet.
In 1943, he sought out further training at the Prospective Commanding Officer’s School in New London. Now ready for combat, and at the peak of World War II, he was assigned command of the USS Barb.
For 18 months, Fluckey commanded the USS Barb, and during that time, he proved to be more than formidable. Under his command, the USS Barb was responsible for an incredible 17 confirmed sinkings, which included a cruiser and an entire aircraft carrier, giving him the name “Lucky Fluckey.”
Because of efforts, he received four Navy Crosses as well as a Medal of Honor. Of course, it is known that his nickname wasn’t given to him because he was lucky in combat but a skilled soldier and leader.
Sergeant First Class Jorge A. Otero Barreto
When he completed the 101st Airborne Division’s training program in 1960, Jorge A. Otero Barreto eas the first Puerto Rican to have done so. Just a year later he started the first of five tours of duty in Vietnam.
Eventually earning the nickname the “Puerto Rican Rambo,” Barreto initially studied biology in college before enlisting in the armed services and becoming one of the most decorated soldiers of the Vietnam War.
More Than 200 Combat Missions
During the course of his distinguished service, Otero Barreto participated in more than 200 combat missions. Unfortunately, he was injured five times during those missions. As a result of his sacrifices, he earned many prestigious medals. These included 38 total awards which included five Purple Hearts, five Bronze Stars and two Silver Stars.
One of the Silver Stars was earned after Barreto led a successful, although incredibly risky, attack against a heavily-defended position in North Vietnam.
Major Thomas Buchanan McGuire Jr.
Thomas Buchanan McGuire Jr. was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey, in 1920. After briefly attending college, he left to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Program. In 1942 he became a pilot and was soon afterward being sent on dangerous combat missions in the Northern Pacific.
1943 saw McGuire soar, in more ways than one. Stationed in the Southwest Pacific theater during the second world war, he proved that he was an excellent pilot. In fact, he downed five enemy Japanese aircraft in a span of just two days that August.
He Took Down 38 Enemy Planes
In total, McGuire took down 38 enemy planes during his service in WWII. For his bravery and excellent piloting skills, he was awarded a Silver Star and a Purple Heart. Sadly, he didn’t make it out of the war. On January 7, 1945, he took what would ultimately prove to be his final mission.
During a risky maneuver, his P-38 stalled and went down. Despite his attempts to pull out, McGuire crashed and died on impact. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1946, and in 2007, a memorial to McGuire was erected at the site of his fatal crash.
Sergeant First Class Edward A. Carter Jr.
Although Edward Allen Carter Jr. was born in Los Angeles, California, he grew up in India and China as his parents were missionaries. He initially enlisted with the Chinese National Army during its war against Japan, but later joined the U.S. Army in 1941. This was just a few months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
He was stationed in Europe in 1944, becoming a sergeant in the 56th Armored Infantry Battalion. Badly wounded by German troops who attacked his tank, he nevertheless managed to slay six enemies and capture two more. For his valor, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, which was later upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
Carter was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery in Germany. He and six other black WWII veterans were given the Medal of Honor in 1997. They are the first, and the only, black Americans who were given the honor for their service during the second world war.
After his death, he was first was buried at Los Angeles National Cemetery and later re-interred at Arlington National Cemetery in 1997.
Determined To Join The Military From The Start
Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller was born in 1898. His birth city was West Point, Virginia. If you’re sharp on your military knowledge, then you’re aware that the one of the most notable academies goes by the name West Point as well.
Ever since Puller was young, he had a desire to join the military. Similar to how young athletes aspire to turn professional. The young lad wasn’t going to let any obstacles get in his way from reaching this goal.
Puller Looked Up To Military Men
Puller’s father was a grocer, but sadly, he would pass away before Puller became a teenager. With his dad gone, Puller still had ample masculine influences while in his youth. He would listen to stories and happenings shared by heroes from the American Civil War.
He placed those men on high pedestals. In only a few years, Puller would be in the same position as some of them. His journey to the top of the ladder was a struggle, but he kept his head high…
He Tried To Enlist In The The Military At A Young Age
By the time 1916 rolled around, Puller entered his teenage years. Since most of his inspiration came from war heroes who risked their lives, he wished to make these memories as well. The young man wanted to achieve his goals quickly.
He attempted to enroll in the U.S. Army so he could aid them in the Border War with Mexico. It was a little too early in his life for him to do that, and his mother wouldn’t sign the permission slip. What could he do to enter the military?
Don’t Stop After Failure
If at first, you don’t succeed, try again. That’s how Puller modeled his actions after not getting into the military on his first try. He was disappointed after getting rejected, thinking his dreams were going down the drain.
There were many young men who were declined by the military for being too young, so his case wasn’t rare. But that’s when Puller’s determination showed face, and he didn’t quit. There was more he needed to do, or at least try, in order to get the ball rolling…
Puller Finally Enlisted in 1917
After many attempts at joining the military, his work finally paid off when he enlisted to the Virginia Military Institute in 1917. Puller did everything that he could to prepare for the first World War. Their training took place inside of the U.S. borders, which was not enough for Puller.
All he wanted to do was serve his country and fight the enemies. Unfortunately, it looked as though he might not be able to participate in the big war, and that was highly disappointing for him.
Waiting For His Chance To See Battle
If trying to catch a chicken in the cold is what it took to fight in the war, then consider Puller a hen catcher. He would have done anything if it meant being able to go to war. Some men around Puller said that his main aim was to “go where the guns are.”
Puller was eager to go and fight for his country, but he would get his chance to shine sooner than expected. But first, there was something he needed to do.
Puller Joined the Marine Corps In 1918
Nothing was going to stop Puller on his path to achieving his dream of preparing for battle and fighting for the country. That’s why he decided to leave the Virginian institution. Instead, he opted to enlist in the United States Marine Corps privately.
He did that in 1918, a few years after finally getting admitted into the military. Now, he was one step closer to doing what his heart really desired. Would there be any more challenges ahead?
Joining The Elite
Puller joined the elite branch’s boot camp on Parris Island in South Carolina as his next move. He became inspired by the Marines who were doing their best alongside the British and French army at the 1918 Battle of Belleau Wood in France.
Things didn’t go Puller’s way more times than he anticipated at the start of his journey. Still, he carried on waiting for his time to carry out the duties of a Marine.
A Little Too Late For WWI
Sadly, it was too late for Puller to join in on the action going on during World War I. The war ended before he had a shot to prove himself or even fire a single bullet. Things weren’t going his way at all.
The desire of going overseas to fight for his country burned mightily in Puller’s brain. There’s no way he was going to let his military career end this way, but there was only so much he could do at this point.
He Graduated as a Second Lieutenant
Training for Puller wouldn’t last much longer. He finally graduated as a second lieutenant by 1919. Graduating as a lieutenant showed Puller’s potential for greatness. Many Marines don’t rank that high so soon in the military.
The war had already ended, however, and more troops, including Puller, weren’t needed because of the peace cutback. This might’ve been the case, but Puller kept his spirits high and welcomed any further challenges that were undoubtedly coming his way.
Heading To Haiti
It would be best if you kept in mind that Marines have a reputation for never giving up. Puller, whose name is still in the Marines chant at boot camp, epitomized the “Devil Dog” Marine Corps spirit.
Puller decided to reenlist as a corporal, even with the war done. He joined the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, which was the paramilitary police located in Haiti. Being stationed in the Caribbean was just a small step he needed to take for his career path.
Working In The Caribbean
The Gendarmerie d’Haiti force had to maintain peace and harmony in the Caribbean country at all times while Americans were stationed in the country under the directions of President Woodrow Wilson. It was at this point that Puller saw this as his chance.
He spent five years in Haiti, taking part in 40 operations fighting insurgents. That sounds like a lot, but this was only the beginning for young Puller. There was so much more he wanted to accomplish. Not everyone could have pulled off what he did…
Would He Finally See Action?
There’s always the calm before the storm. Puller spent a few years in Haiti and was stationed at several bases in Virginia, working hard as a trainer.
He was still operating as a second lieutenant during this time, in 1942. This had to be the calmest point in Puller’s military career as a Marine. Certainly, he would see action soon, right? Would he finally get what he had hoped for after all these years?
Traveling To Nicaragua
The year that Puller reached the age of 30, he traveled to the South American country of Nicaragua. He lent his hand in the battle against insurgents that opposed the U.S. occupation. It was a task that he was already familiar with doing, but this time it was a little different.
At last, Puller was in the midst of something he looked for his whole life. He was in the presence of a brutal fight, and he was going to be able to use all of his training.
Time For Recognition
During his time in Nicaragua, Puller managed to secure his first Navy Cross. If you don’t know what that is, it’s the second-highest military award for bravery if you’ve taken part in a battle. That’s a great achievement!
He earned this reward by helping fend off the Sandinista rebels who went against the U.S. occupation. It was his first time putting his skills to the test, and he didn’t disappoint. He helped tremendously in leading the Nicaraguan National Guard troop to victory.
Many Believed He Deserved Another Medal
That wouldn’t be the last Navy Cross Puller would receive. He went on to secure five in total during his time serving. Some even feel that Puller deserved a Medal of Honor for his contribution.
They might’ve felt that way, but folks still speak about “Chesty” Puller to this day without having that medal of recognition. What made him become the transcendent military man that we know today? The answer to that might surprise you…
Displaying Courage When Outnumbered By The Enemy
Something Puller did exceptionally well was lead his men to victory, no matter the circumstances. That means even if the opposition outnumbered his men– which was the case while in Nicaragua– he would fight through it. Some see being outnumbered by enemies and think defeat, but not Puller.
He earned the Navy Cross for “five successful engagements against superior numbers of armed bandit forces,” reads an excerpt from the One Mind Any Weapon book. The man was a tank, bulldozing any obstacles in his way.
“We’re Surrounded, That Simplifies The Problem”
The intangibles Puller possessed like his efficiency and bravery were crucial. These traits helped lead the American Marines and Nicaraguan National Guardsmen in combat against the insurgents. He has a famous quote that says: “we’re surrounded, that simplifies the problem.”
This feat took place towards the end of his great Central American tenure in the military. There is no question that he made a big impression and would do even greater things while he served.
His Second Prolific Medal
It wouldn’t take long for Puller to claim his second Navy Cross. It was only a week and a few days before he led another group of Marines against the rebel Sandinistas. He won that scuffle as well with the team and his time in Central America had ended.
He would leave with two medals, a feat that most military men only dream about accomplishing. This was the moment he had waited for his entire life, and things worked out just how he hoped they would.
How “Chesty” Earned His Nickname
How does one earn the nickname of “Chesty?” That’s a fair question considering that we’ve never heard of anyone else having a name like that. Puller received this name because he was always stern, and his posture stayed disciplined.
The men Puller led in action say that supposedly he replaced his chest after bandits slashed it off during battle. It allegedly happened in the Banana Wars, and he received a steel chest as the replacement. That is one way you can get that nickname.
Rumors On How He Earned His Nickname
Some men have different ideas on how he earned his nickname “Chesty.” As you’re well aware, he was a fierce man with a ton of energy. Some say “We don’t need no frontline communications, Chesty yells commands up and down the line. You can hear him for miles.”
That sounds very Chesty of him. By the time the Banana Wars ended, his rank was very high up. Many respected the man Chest was and knew he meant well.
The China Marines
After Puller’s time in Central America ended, he had to do something. He wasn’t going to sit around and let life pass him by when there was ample opportunity for him to do what he loves doing so much.
That’s when he moved all the way to China after receiving a posting. His new unit’s name was the China Marines and their duty was to guard the American diplomatic service in Beijing. Who better than Chesty to do that?
The Shanghai Life
After heading to Shanghai, Chesty became a very busy man. He joined the USS Augusta and also went to Philadelphia so he could train a few troops. That all sounds nice, but he had to get back to China.
They appointed him the executive officer there. While in the Chinese coastal city, the unit Puller led would find themselves involved in a pretty chaotic battle. Even Chesty experienced some struggles during this insane battle that happened…
No Fear For Puller
In the summer of 1941, Puller was the then-acting battalion commander and he went into a non-commissioned officers meeting. Tension filled the room as people wondered if the United States would have to enter a second World War.
A sergeant asked Puller how he would respond if Japan started something and he said, “I don’t know what the United States Government will do; I don’t know what Marine Headquarters will do, and I don’t know what the regiment will do. But – no orders to the contrary – I’ll take my battalion and fight my way the hell back to Frisco.”
The Wounded Legend
Puller and his men headed to the island of Guadalcanal after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. It was there he earned his third Navy Cross after a grueling battle. He saved three lives, even with the Japanese forces being larger than his.
He also had to fend off the attackers for three long hours in the night, and that’s when Puller became wounded. His leg was hit seven times by shrapnel in one single engagement, and that’s when he gave the world this famous quote after that came from a conversation with doctors. “Evacuate me! Take that tag and label a bottle with it. I will remain in command!”
Bravery Is His Middle Name
After the epic battle, Puller became an executive officer of the 7th Marine Regiment. A few years later, he had the chance to show his courage once more in the Pacific. He led his team to an unbelievable feat once more.
He and his men went up against the Japanese machine guns and mortar fire during the Battle of Cape Gloucester. Puller figured that doing a counteroffensive was the best way to go and that ended up earning him his fourth Navy Cross!
Losing A Loved One
Yet again Puller commanded more troops but this time it was the 1st Marine Regiment at the battle in Peleliu. It turned out to be one of the craziest battles ever recorded in Marine Corps history. There, he would earn his first of the two Legion of Merit awards he received in his career.
That’s all fine and swell, but he also lost his brother Samuel D. Puller during this fight. A sniper caught him while they were in Guam and Puller had to travel back home right after.
Puller Served With The Future Marine Corps Commandant
The Commandant of the Marine Corps is the highest-ranking officer, who also holds a position in the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It’s a big job, which includes advising the President of the United States and the Department of Defense.
In 1992, while stationed in Haiti, Puller worked adjunct to Alexander Vandegrift. A Major at the time, Vandegrift went on to become a four-star general and the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps.
He Trained Other Top Marines
In June 1936, Puller went to Philadelphia to become an instructor at The Basic School, teaching new officers the basics on how to be an “Officer of Marines”. Several of the Marines he instructed went on to have highly successful careers.
Puller instructed Louis Robertshaw, who became a Lieutenant General and led combat missions as a Commanding General in the Vietnam War. He also instructed Combat Pilot Pappy Boyington, and Lew Walt, who would go on to become a four-star general in the United States Marine Corps.
Puller Earned a Bronze Star Medal
Puller left Samoa and arrived at Guadalcanal, an island in the South-Western Pacific, on September 18, 1942. Soon after his arrival, a battle broke out. Puller jumped into action, leading his battalion against oncoming fire. He led three of his companies to safety, then ran to the shore. Nearby was the USS Ballard United States Navy Destroyer. Puller signaled to U.S. Coast Guard Signalman First Class Douglas Albert Munro on the landing craft that they needed backup.
The USS Ballard exchanged fire with the enemy Japanese force, saving the battalion from annihilation. Munro lost his life in the process and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Puller was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” for his actions that day.
“Lead By Example”
Puller lived by the motto, “lead by example.” To him, it meant not only setting the tone for his men, but living with his men. He may have been the leader, but he fell in line with the privates in his outfit and carried his own mess gear.
He may have marched at the head of his battalion, but he didn’t ask anyone to do any dirty work for him.
He Did His Own Dirty Work
One story about Puller in New Britain really shows how he went about his business. While patrolling the area, he didn’t let natives carry his gear, eat special food, or enjoy a comfortable bed.
Instead, Puller stuck to the “K” rations diet his Marines had to eat, he slept on the floor and carried his bag (which only carried the essentials). This story, among many others, has helped to grow the legend of Chesty Puller.
The Marines Came First
Throughout his years of service, Chesty lived by one rule; that the Marines came first. When a young Marine asked him for permission to get married once, Puller responded, “Son, when the Marine Corps wants you to have a wife, you will be issued one.”
It takes a lot of dedication and love for ones country to put defending it above all else. To Chesty Puller, however, that kind of patriotism was just another day at the office.