Sgt. Thomas Shaw: Buffalo Soldier & Medal of Honor Recipient
Did you know Thomas Shaw, the subject of yesterday’s post, was a Buffalo Soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, and is interred at Arlington National Cemetery?
"…Receiving the regimental colors, the Sergeant pressed forward to the front rank near the Colonel, who was leading the assault. He received a severe wound in the thigh but fell only upon his knees. He planted the Flag on the parapet and for shelter lay down upon the outer slope, where he lay until the second Brigade came up - Keeping the colors flying until the second conflict was ended. When our forces retired he followed upon his knees. Upon reaching the Hospital where lay his wounded companions., he said in reply to their cheers ‘Boys, the old Flag never touched the ground.’”
From the service file of Sergeant William H. Carney with Company C of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Infantry.
If you have watched the movie Glory, you saw a recreation of the assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina, by the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry. But a real-life hero from that battle was Sgt. William Harvey Carney, who was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 23, 1900—37 years after the assault on Fort Wagner.
Carney’s actions were detailed in the above letter by Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts to Secretary of War Stanton, calling Carney a “brave man,” detailing his determination to keep the flag upright during the attack, and recommending a 30-day furlough so that he could visit his family in New Bedford, MA.
On July 18, 1863, Sergeant Carney led the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry to the rampart amid a barrage of gunfire and planted the nation’s colors there. As the contingent fell back, the young sergeant once again protected the flag despite a rain of bullets that left him severely wounded.
This the act of heroism took place in 1863, but Sergeant Carney was not awarded the country’s highest military honor until May 23, 1900. Although his actions were the earliest by an African American to earn the Medal of Honor, 21 African Americans had received the Medal of Honor by 1900.
Daniel K. Inouye, Senator and Medal of Honor Recipient, 9/07/1924 – 12/17/2012
Sen. Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii speaks to the Remembrance Day audience at the USS ARIZONA Memorial Visitors Center. USS ARIZONA survivors are honored during the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, 12/04/1991
Accepting his honor
On December 2, 1969, the widow of Army Staff Sergeant Clifford Sims accepted the Medal of Honor on her husband’s behalf from Vice President Spiro Agnew. SSG Sims was killed when he threw himself on a booby-trap as it exploded, saving the lives of his fellow soldiers.
Photograph of Spiro Agnew Posthumously Awarding Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Clifford C. Sims, 12/02/1969
Escaping with secrets of the German submarines
On May 31, 1918, the German submarine U-90 attacked and sank the USS President Lincoln. U.S. Navy Lieutenant Edouard V.M. Isaacs was captured and taken prisoner. While a prisoner on board the submarine, Isaacs managed to gather information about German submarine movements for the United States. Lt. Isaacs eventually escaped from a prison camp in Germany and brought Germany’s submarine secrets back to the Allies. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism.
The citation that accompanied his award is shown, along with excerpts from his detailed report on his capture, imprisonment and escape.
Draft of letter from Harry S. Truman to Eleanor Roosevelt, 05/17/1948
Truman explains his general low regard for most conscientious objectors in this draft to Eleanor Roosevelt. However he makes special mention of one, more than likely Desmond Doss, featured earlier this week. (Although Doss was an Army medic, not a Navy Corpsman.)
During World War II, Private First Class Desmond Doss was a conscientious objector who refused to carry or touch a weapon. He served as a medic and was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1945 for his heroic action assisting injured soldiers near Urasoe-Mura, Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands.
On January 26, 1945, 2nd Lieutenant Audie Murphy climbed atop a burning tank destroyer and held 2 companies of German infantry and 6 tanks at bay, with only a mounted machine gun and field telephone to direct artillery fire, until a counter attack could be mounted. This is just one of several narratives describing his actions which earned him the Medal of Honor.
Just six months earlier then-Sergeant Murphy had earned the Distinguished Service Cross.
Sergeant Alvin C. York, 328th Infantry, who with aid of 17 men, captured 132 German prisoners; shows hill on which raid took place. Argonne Forest, near Cornay, France. 02/07/1919
York, who stated on his draft registration card “…Don’t want to fight,” would later be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions from October 8, 1918.
May 25 - Letter from William Carney to General Fred C. Ainsworth
In this letter William H. Carney of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Infantry acknowledges his receipt of a Congressional Medal of Honor. Carney’s actions at the Battle of Fort Wagner on July 18 1863 were the earliest by an African American to earn the Medal of Honor.