Medal of Honor Convention (2014)
The Knoxville Medal of Honor Convention committee sponsored the creation of a documentary film about the Medal’s history and design. Such a film had not been produced previously. The documentary had its world premiere in Washington, DC, followed shortly thereafter by a premiere on March 31, 2014, in Knoxville. Here is the invitation to the documentary.
Profiles of Courage
WBIR (Channel 10) in Knoxville has put together a series of videos entitled Profiles of Courage, each of which deals with one of the 14 recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor who hail from East Tennessee. The videos are all narrated by WBIR anchor, John Becker, who also hosts the acclaimed “Service and Sacrifice” series on the station. WBIR has also added additional text that supplements the videos. WBIR has graciously given ETMAC permission to re-link and re-publish that content, and it is shown here.
WBIR Medal of Honor Vignette: Troy McGill
Knoxville native Sergeant Troy McGill served in the 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division in the U.S. Army during World War II.
At Los Negros Island, Sgt. McGill led a squad of eight men as they were attacked by “approximately 200 drink-crazed enemy troops.”
All members of his squad were killed or wounded except one and Sgt. McGill himself. He held his position while covered by machine gun crossfire until his weapon stopped working.
Then, with the enemy only five yards away, Sgt. McGill charged from his foxhill to club the enemy with his rifle until he was killed. More than 100 of the enemy were found dead near his position the following morning.
WBIR Medal of Honor Vignette: Elbert Kinser
Originally from Greeneville, Sergeant Elbert Kinser served in the Marine Corps, 1st Division, during World War II.
Sgt. Kinser displayed great bravery in action against Japanese forces on Okinawa Shima in the Ryukyu Chain. During a sudden, close attack against hostile troops, Sgt. Kinser became involved in a fierce hand grenade battle.
When a Japanese grenade landed nearby, Sgt. Kinser threw himself on the deadly missile and absorbed the full charge, protecting his men from serious injury and possible death.
His Medal of Honor citation says, “His courage, cool decision and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of certain death sustained and enhanced the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.”
WBIR Medal of Honor Vignette: Paul Huff
Born in Cleveland, Tennessee, by his early 20s, Paul Huff was crawling solo through a hail of bullets and a mine field in Italy firing on an enemy machine gun nest.
Corporal Huff and his unit of six took on a company of 125 Germans and won that fight in World War II.
After that war, Huff became an officer and also went to Vietnam.
WBIR Medal of Honor Vignette: Charles Coolidge
Technical Sergeant Charles Coolidge, from Signal Mountain in Hamilton County, led a group on a mission during World War II in France that ran into an enemy force int he woods. Coolidge assumed command because there was no officer present.
The enemy launched repeated attacks against their position for two days, but T/Sgt. Coolidge’s leadership helped stop each push.
On the third day, he grabbed all the grenades he could to push back on the advancing enemy, which was now supported by two tanks.
Coolidge directed a withdrawal from the area when it became apparent the enemy would overrun the position.
WBIR Medal of Honor Vignette: Raymond Cooley
Staff Sergeant Raymond Cooley was from Dunlap, part of Marion County.
During World War II, Sgt. Cooley went out under heavy gunfire to attack an enemy machine gun in the Philippine Islands. He destroyed a machine gun and its crew with a grenade, and was about to throw another when six enemy troops rushed at him.
Cooley deliberately covered the grenade with his body because there was no way to get rid of it without possibly injuring any of his fellow soldiers who had run in to assist in the fight. He survived, but was severely wounded as a result of the courageous act.
WBIR Medal of Honor Vignette: Alexander “Sandy” Bonnyman
First Lieutenant Alexander Bonnyman Jr., a Knoxville resident, showed true courage and leadership while serving in the United States Marine Corps during World War II.
He risked his live on several occasions during the assault against Japanese-held Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands from November 20-22, 1943.
In his last act before his death, he led his men in a charge against a bombproof Japanese stronghold. He was mortally wounded while defending his position on the top of the structure.
1st Lt. Bonnyman is credited with inspiring his men during the three-day assault so they could eventually break through the hostile resistance to gain 400 more yards.
WBIR Medal of Honor Vignette: Alvin York
Alvin York became one of the most celebrated soldiers in American history, thanks to his efforts during World War I. The Fentress County native received international recognition after the Battle of Argonne Forest.
During that battle, York took over command after his platoon suffered heavy casualties. He led a group of only seven men in a charge against a German machine gun nest. During the assault, they killed at least 20 men and forced 132 more to surrender.
After World War I, he returned to the states but his children said he never discussed in detail the events that earned him the Medal of Honor. The Paul Mall home of York became a state park after his death.
WBIR Medal of Honor Vignette: Edward Talley
Edward R. Talley, a Hamblen County native, entered the Army after serving in the Tennessee National Guard. He fought in World War I as part of the 117th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division.
While armed with only a rifle, Sgt. Edward R. Talley single-handedly took out an enemy machine gun nest and its crew on October 7, 1918. His rifle fire then stopped the enemy from bringing another machine gun forward.
He’s been awarded the Silver Star and Medal of Honor.
WBIR Medal of Honor Vignette: James Buck Karnes
James “Buck” Karnes, a Knoxville native, served in World War I as a soldier in the 117th Infantry, 30th Division, alongside Hamblen County native and fellow Medal of Honor recipient Calvin J. Ward.
When German machine guns pinned down the entire 117th company in a vulnerable position, Karnes, Ward, and their fellow soldiers said they “had enough” and went on the offensive. In all, the troop killed three and captured seven more enemy soldiers.
WBIR Medal of Honor Vignette: Charles McGaha
Cosby native Master Sergeant Charles McGaha served in the 35th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division in the U.S. Army during World War II.
While serving in the Philippine Islands, M/Sgt. McGaha’s platoon and another platoon found themselves pinned in a roadside ditch with heavy fire from five Japanese tanks and 10 machine guns.
When one of his men was wounded 40 yards away, McGaha crossed the road under a hail of heavy fire to move the man 75 yards to safety. He also picked up other wounded soldiers after a shell exploded near the platoon.
WBIR Medal of Honor Vignette: Ray Duke
Master Sergeant Ray Duke, originally from Whitwell in Marion County, was a member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division.
He was a veteran of World War II, but earned his Medal of Honor during the Korean War.
M/Sgt. Duke was seriously wounded in Korea, but led a daring assault to recover several of his men who he learned were isolated. When his troops were forced to withdraw due to the advancing enemy, M/Sgt. Duke directed his men to leave him and go to safety.
He was taken as a Prisoner of War and died a prisoner a few months later.
Duke has been awarded the Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, Combat Infantrymans Badge, Prisoner of War Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Presidential Unit Citation, Republic of Korea War Service Medal, and World War II Victory Medal.
WBIR Medal of Honor Vignette: Mitchell Stout
Lenoir City native Mitchell Stout is the only East Tennessean to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War.
Stout served as a sergeant in the Battery C, 1st Battalion, 44th Artillery of the U.S. Army.
During an attack by North Vietnamese enemy, Sgt. Stout was in a bunker when his crew came under heavy enemy fire. A grenade was thrown into his bunker, and Sgt. Stout picked it up and started out of the bunker.
As he reached the exit, the grenade exploded. Sgt. Stout held it close to his body to shield the blast and protect his fellow soldiers.
His Medal of Honor citation reads, “Sgt. Stout’s conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action, at the cost of his own life, are in keeping with the highest tradition of the Military service and reflect great credit upon him, his unit and the U.S. Army.”