Valor Friday

| December 24, 2021

With Valor Friday falling on Christmas Eve this year, I thought it might be interesting to explore American valor during that time of the year. Specifically those who have earned the Medal of Honor on Christmas Eve or Day. Hang in there, this one is much longer than my usual.

Most interesting to me was that of all the 20th and 21st Century conflicts, only World War II resulted in any Medals of Honor on Christmas. There were several men who earned the medal for large periods of time during both the Korean and Vietnam Wars for gallantry in action while a prisoner of war (which included Christmastime), but I’ll not be including them here. Examples of those brave men are Father (Captain) Emil Kapaun, Corporal Tibor Rubin, Captain Rocky Versace, and Captain Lance Sijan.

A large group of men earned the Medal of Honor on Christmases during the Civil War, so I’ll have to cover them in a separate article. Today’s list will be limited to those who earned the Medal of Honor on Christmas during World War II.

By my count, seven men received the Medal of Honor during World War II for gallantry in action above and beyond the call of duty on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Four of these were posthumous awards and one was awarded for actions the man survived, but he died in action before receiving the medal. That means only two men survived the war after earning the medal.

Kenneth Gruennert

Kenneth Gruennert was from Wisconsin. He enlisted in 1939 into the Wisconsin National Guard at age 16. As an infantryman of the 32nd Infantry Division, he was part of the first group of American infantry formations to engage in offensive ground combat with the enemy.

Fighting in the Pacific Theater of the war, now-Sergeant Gruennert was in L Company, 127th Infantry Regiment fighting in the Battle of Buna–Gona in Papua New Guinea. The battle, fought from mid-November 1942 through the following January, would show the Allies the determined defense that the Japanese would become known for during the rest of the war.

Twenty thousand Allied men would face off against up to 12,000 enemy. Being one of the most malarial parts of the world, the men were just as likely to die of tropical disease as they were enemy action. The Allies suffered nearly 2,000 killed in action and an astonishing 12,000+ men wounded or sick (an overall 70% casualty rate). The Japanese didn’t fare much better, they lost 4,000 in action, 3,000 killed from disease, and 250 captured, while the rest were hastily evacuated.

In the middle of this was Sergeant Gruennert. The 20 year old on Christmas Eve, 1942 was second-in-command of a rifle platoon. They were given a mission to drive forward through enemy lines until they hit the beach some 600 yards ahead of them.

The soldiers had made it no more than 150 yards towards their objective when two Japanese pillboxes stopped them in their tracks. The enemy strongholds were notoriously well concealed and hardened.

Gruennert moved up to the first pillbox alone. Utilizing hand grenades and rifle fire, he silenced the enemy fortification and killed the three men within it.

Gruennert had been injured during his lone assault. With a serious bullet wound to his shoulder, he sheltered in the enemy pillbox to dress his own wound. He refused to retreat to the safety of his own line (from which he’d be evacuated to an aid station) and didn’t want to leave his men.

Gruennert, bearing the full brunt of the enemy fusillade, left his position of cover and single-handedly assaulted the second pillbox. As he neared the position, he lobbed hand grenades in with enough accuracy to force the enemy troops out into the open.

Gruennert’s platoon made short work of the Japanese soldiers once they weren’t under cover. Unfortunately, the sergeant who had displayed “undiminished daring” according to his award citation had been killed by enemy snipers or by fire from within the final pillbox. His bravery was an inspiration, and his platoon drove forward. Following Gruennert’s example, they achieved their objective.

Gruennert was returned home to be buried and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Elmer Burr

Also from Wisconsin, and also embroiled in battle in Papua New Guinea as a member of the 32nd Infantry Division was Elmer Burr. He’d enlisted in 1928 into the Wisconsin National Guard, where he remained for several years. When the division was federalized in early 1940, he joined the division in the massive wargame known as the Louisiana Maneuvers.

Towards the end of the year, Burr was discharged as he’d exceeded the 28-year old upper threshold for retention. He was 33. He returned home to Wisconsin, but his reprieve was brief. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Burr was one of the first to re-enlist, rejoining his men in the 32nd Infantry Division.

As first sergeant of I Company, 127th Infantry Regiment, he was, like Gruennert, spending his Christmas of 1942 slogging through the tropics, fighting malaria and the Japanese in equal measure.

During one of these battles, while standing next to his company commander, First Sergeant Burr saw an enemy grenade land near his CO. Instantly and without hesitation he jumped on the grenade, absorbing the blast fully with his own body. Saving the life of his comrades, Burr was mortally wounded. He survived for a time, but died in a field hospital the following day, 25 December 1942.

Burr was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor for his heroic sacrifice.

Frederick Castle

Frederick Castle was born in 1908 in the Philippines. His father was a US Army officer. Castle was the first child born to a graduate of his father’s West Point class of 1907. This made him the godson of the whole class. Among his godfathers was future-General Henry “Hap” Arnold.

When Castle came of age, he enlisted into the Army in the New Jersey National Guard, in preparation for an appointment to West Point. He eventually secured the appointment, graduating in the class of 1930. He became an Air Corps pilot, assigned to the 17th Pursuit Squadron, flying Curtis P-6 Hawk bi-plane fighters out of Kelly Field, Texas.

In 1933 the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal-era organization that put unemployed youths into a paramilitary environment to carry out public works projects, forced the secondment of some of the Pursuit Group’s officers to the CCC. Castle was one of those officers. He did that for a year before leaving for the private sector, though he remained active in the Army Reserve.

For the remainder of the 1930s, Castle worked for Sperry Gyroscope Company (famous for developing electric-power gun turrets and the Norden Bombsight). This again brought him to the attention of his godfather Hap Arnold, by now chief of the Army Air Corps.

When war broke out, Castle was recalled to active duty in the rank of captain in 1942. By 1 Jan 1943 he’d risen the wartime ranks to full colonel while on the staff of General Ira Eaker, who had raised and was commanding the legendary Eighth Air Force in England. Colonel Castle though wanted a combat command.

By May 1943, the Eighth Air Force had swelled to double its size of a year before. Combat losses for the daytime bomber formations, going up against the battle hardened Nazi Luftwaffe, were so high (it was statistically impossible for a man to complete his 25 missions to rotate home) that some of the general staff officers were rotated to command combat units. Castle was one of those officers.

Castle would earn a dizzying array of medals over the coming months. First, he received a Silver Star for leading his bomb wing from the front-most plane on 28 July 1943 on a successful bombing raid of a important and well defended military target over continental Europe.

He then received four Distinguished Flying Crosses for heroism in the air. His first came for leading, what to that time was the deepest penetration by American bombers, on 17 August 1943. The mission required the men to overfly their targets and land in a different theater than they’d taken off from. “During one of the greatest aerial battles of the war, lasting over two hours, approximately one hundred and fifty enemy aircraft were destroyed,” According to his award citation.

Castle earned his second DFC for leading a mission on 16 December 1943. Again in the leading aircraft of the formation, Castle led his bombers through heavy enemy resistance to hit their target. He did the same on 25 February 1944. His fourth DFC was for crossing the 25 mission threshold, after which a man would normally be able to go home.

In November of 1944 Castle was promoted to brigadier general, at age 36, one of the youngest to hold the rank. He received the Legion of Merit during this time for his “exceptionally meritorious conduct”.

By December 1944 the Allies had succeeded in bombing deep into Germany, the landing at Normandy had succeeded, and Allied ground forces had pushed their way clear through France and into the Rhineland. On the very doorstep to Germany, the Germans put up one last great offensive action in the hopes of stopping the Allies. This would become known as the Battle of the Bulge.

On Christmas Eve 1944 General Castle was overall commander for a mission to bomb German airfields which had been supporting the German advance. The operation involved more than 2,000 heavy bombers. As air commander, he was flying in the lead plane as co-pilot. It was Castle’s 30th combat mission.

The bombers had missed their rendezvous with their escorting P-51 fighters and continued alone. Along the way, Castle’s aircraft suffered intermittent issues with one of their engines. Being the lead aircraft, Castle’s plane was attacked early by German fighters while still over Allied-occupied Belgium.

Due to their engine troubles and battle damage, Castle’s B-17 (“Treble Four”) fell out of formation almost instantly. He radioed to his deputy commander to assume command of the mission as Castle and his pilot attempted to fly and fight their aircraft.

Dropping from the safety of the bomber formation, Treble Four became easy prey for the enemy fighters coming up from below. Struck again, the crew of Treble Four fought back, the pilots trying to bring it back into the relative safety of the formation.

As Castle and the other pilot, First Lieutenant Robert Harriman (, fought to reach the cover of their fellow bombers, a third attack proved fatal to the Flying Fortress. Both engines on the right wing exploded in flame. Castle rang the intercom, giving the command to abandon ship. Before the crew could bail, the aircraft entered a spin and dove.

Castle and the other pilot wrestled with the controls of the stricken airplane. For those who don’t know, the B-17 had no hydraulic controls. It was all pulleys and ropes. That made it an especially rugged aircraft, as it didn’t suffer from a loss of hydraulic pressure during combat. It did make recovering from a dive difficult to say the least. When I say they wrestled the controls back into controlled flight, they were literally doing so, through great physical exertion, and regained command of the plane.

Coming out of the spin, seven of the nine men aboard bailed out. The pilot, ostensibly the last man aboard, was last seen in the nose of the aircraft. Through the perspex nose of the bomber he could be seen strapping his parachute on. Still at the controls was Castle.

Before either man could escape though, the right wing’s fuel tank exploded, sending the aircraft into a downward spiral from which it never came back. Of the seven men who bailed out, five survived. All because of the heroism of Castle and his pilot in regaining control of the stricken bomber.

Castle received a posthumous Medal of Honor for his actions that Christmas. The government of Belgium awarded him their Croix de Guerre (War Cross) with palm (signifying a citation in orders at the Army-level), while France made him a Chevalier (Knight) of their Legion of Honor, Poland gave him a Virtuti Militari (Class V) for outstanding bravery on the battlefield, and the Soviet Union awarded him the Order of Kutuzov, 2nd Class for outstanding military leadership. An Army Airfield outside Sacramento was renamed in Castle’s honor. Under the newly separate Air Force in 1947 it became Castle Air Force Base, a Strategic Air Command (the intercontinental bombing command) facility, until it was shut down in the mid-1990s.

Gus Kefurt

While Castle was flying over France and Belgium, the 15th Infantry Regiment, part of the 3rd Infantry Division, was below. On Christmas Day 1944 near Bennwihr, France was Staff Sergeant Gus Kefurt. The quaint little village on the northeastern end of France, which dated to at least the year 777 (during the reign of Charlemagne), was being leveled by battle. It would be one of the starting locations for what would be the following month the battle in the Colmar Pocket.

Kefurt had enlisted from Youngstown, Ohio. Starting on 23 December 1944, Kefurt’s K Company would be engaged by the determined Germans (who as I said earlier were pushing hard in the Battle of the Bulge) near Bennwihr.

Early in the attack, Kefurt jumped through a breach in a wall. As soon as he did, he was confronted by 15 German soldiers. Despite the overwhelming odds, he killed 10 and took the others captive.

Later in the day, as the battle went back and forth, Kefurt was able to guide artillery rounds directly into an enemy tank near his position. He did this despite being exposed to enemy fire.

As night fell, Kefurt was part of a three-man outpost in the middle of town. Placed right in the middle of German positions, Kefurt fended off numerous probing attacks, holding the position through the night.

When morning came, Kefurt took command of his platoon. He led them in hand-to-hand fighting through the streets of the village, only stopped when their way was blocked by an enemy tank. The young NCO then used rifle grenades to disable the tank, which forced the surrender of the tank’s crew and some nearby supporting infantry.

Kefurt then led his men in house to house fighting through the rest of the village despite heavy enemy machine gun and small arms fire. His company held up at an enemy strongpoint, his platoon started to face heavy infiltration from behind. Kefurt’s men held their position with determination only because of the steadfast and resolute leadership of their platoon leader.

As casualties mounted, Kefurt repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to move from man to man to direct fire. It’s estimated the staff sergeant killed another 15 enemy in close range combat during this time.

As the battle raged from the 24th and into the 25th, Kefurt was severely wounded. Hit in the leg, he refused first aid or evacuation. Three hours later, when the forces to his rear were pushed back, affording him and his men some breathing room, he again dispelled any notion of evacuation.

Despite his wound hindering his ability to move with any rapidity, Kefurt continued to move from position to position as the enemy pressed them in counterattack after counterattack. His platoon’s defense held, buoyed by the leadership of Kefurt.

Kefurt continued to fire on the enemy into his final moment. As Christmas bells were ringing and family supper was being prepared at home, Kefurt died. He too was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. He also received the Silver Star posthumously for his gallantry in action on the first day of his final battle, 23 December.

Paul Wiedorfer

Of the two men who lived to receive their awards, I talked about Private (later M/Sgt) Paul Wiedorfer last year on Christmas. The other is Melvin “Bud” Biddle.

Melvin Biddle

Biddle had worked for Delco Remy in Anderson, Indiana before he was drafted in January 1943 into the Army. Volunteering for the paratroops, he was eventually assigned to the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

By Christmas 1944, the 517th PIR had seen heavy action in the Italian Campaign in June 1944, Operation Dragoon (the Invasion of Southern France) in August, and after the Liberation of France, was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, who was about to participate in the Battle of the Bulge.

On 23 December 1944, Biddle, a private first class, went out to reconnoiter enemy lines alone. Crawling through the frozen underbrush, he penetrated 400 yards, where he was taken under heavy enemy small arms fire. He had moved to within 20 yards of three enemy snipers, and displaying amazing marksmanship, dispatched all three.

Biddle continued his one-man push into the enemy. He and his unit were trying to break the siege of Hotton (encircled by the Germans). Another 200 yards forward, Biddle came across an enemy machine gun. He took out both men manning it.

He wasn’t done yet. He continued forward until he figured out where a well concealed enemy machine gun nest was. Crawling forward, Biddle lobbed hand grenades. This killed two of the Germans manning the nest and fatally wounding the third.

The scout was then ready to call up his company. As his company advanced behind him, Biddle moved into the enemy’s own defensive line. Moving with coolness and surety, he stalked his enemy and killed three more from within their ranks.

The enemy now had Biddle. Focusing all their fire on the lone paratroop decimating their ranks, he was undaunted. He found yet a third enemy machine gun emplacement and assaulted it alone. Rushing forward, Biddle hurled his final hand grenade. After the explosive retort, he stormed into the enemy position alone with only his rifle, silencing the position.

As if that wasn’t enough for a day’s work, Biddle continued into the night and morning of the 24th. He stalked alone through the night for several hours, returning with valuable intelligence. This enabled friendly infantry and armor to successfully take out two enemy tanks.

At daybreak on Christmas Eve, he took the lead position when his platoon advanced. As the enemy flanked his position, threatening the whole line’s advance, he saw an enemy machine gun had stopped one arm of the advance. Without hesitation he charged once more into a German strongpoint. Fifty yards out, the lone infantryman had taken out the machine gun’s team, two supporting riflemen, and caused the rest of the enemy (now without automatic weapons support) to flee in a panic.

A week later, Biddle was finally wounded by the enemy. A piece of shrapnel hit his neck, narrowly missing his jugular vein. Sent to England for recovery, after several weeks he started to make his way back to his unit. Along the road he picked up a copy of Stars and Stripes and was surprised to see that he was to receive the Medal of Honor.

Biddle received the medal from President Truman in October 1945. When giving him the medal, Truman whispered, “People don’t believe me when I tell them that I’d rather have one of these than be President.” Biddle had been promoted to corporal by the time he left the service shortly thereafter.

Biddle returned home to Indiana after the war. Going to work for the Veterans Affairs Department, he helped vets get loans and other benefits for the next 26 years until he retired. Along the way he continued his life of public service by sitting on the city council in his hometown of Anderson. A member of the VFW, Biddle rarely spoke of his wartime exploits.

Biddle died of congestive heart failure in 2010. He died on 16 December, the 66th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Bulge. In accordance with Biddle’s wishes as a Jehovah’s Witness, his funeral was not conducted with any military honors. At the time of his death, Biddle was Indiana’s last living Medal of Honor recipient from the Second World War.

Finally, our last WWII subject who received a Medal of Honor for bravery on Christmas is a name many students of the war will instantly recognize. He was the second-highest scoring American fighter ace of the war.

Thomas McGuire

Looking like a less square-jawed Errol Flynn, Thomas McGuire cut a dashing figure. When World War II started, McGuire had been in his third year studying aeronautical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. A sergeant major in the school’s ROTC cadet corps, he left in July 1941 to join the Army’s Aviation Cadet Program.

Earning his pilot wings at Kelly Field, Texas, his first combat experience came in the Aleutian Islands Campaign in June 1942. Flying P-39 Airacobras, he didn’t score any of his many aerial victories here, but did hone his piloting skills. Returning to the lower 48, he married in December, then was given transition training to the legendary P-38 Lightning.

In March 1943, McGuire was sent to the South Pacific. Part of the Fifth Air Force, he flew out of New Guinea initially. On 17 August he flew his first combat missions here. He scored his first kills, taking out two Japanese Oscar fighters and one Tony fighter while flying on the 18th. He earned his first Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for that day.

Three days later, on 21 August he became an ace when he shot down another two Japanese fighters, this time Zeroes. He also earned another DFC. Just over a week later, on the 29th, he tallied two more enemy kills, and his third DFC. For his overall performance in late August, McGuire was given the Silver Star.

On September 28 he’d score more kills, his eighth and ninth. During the day’s combat his plane was shot up, forcing him to land at a nearby friendly airfield instead of returning home. This earned him his fourth DFC.

On 15 October he scored another kill, within sight of cheering ground crews at McGuire’s base at Dobodura. Two days later, he’d rack up a few more, but it nearly cost him his life.

On 17 October he scrambled from Dobodura to intercept a group of Japanese bombers escorted by Zero fighters. During the heated aerial combat, McGuire saw at least seven enemy fighters attacking a lone P-38 that appeared to be in distress. Without hesitating, McGuire drove down into the enemy, quickly sending three of them down in flame.

The remaining four aircraft then targeted McGuire. Severely damaging his plane, his controls went dead. He made the decision to bail out, flying about 12,000 ft altitude. This would normally be a reasonably safe altitude for a jump, but when he went to leave the cockpit, McGuire’s gear snagged on something within the cockpit.

For the next several seconds that probably seemed an eternity he tried to struggle free, while his aircraft plummeted to the ground. Finally at about 5,000 ft he freed himself. Falling away from his doomed plane, he pulled his ‘chute’s ripcord at just 1,000 ft. Deploying successfully, he landed in the water, to be rescued by a nearby PT boat.

McGuire had broken some ribs, had numerous other injuries, and had taken an enemy .30-caliber bullet through his wrist. He was sent to Australia to recover. It took him six weeks in hospital before he could rejoin his unit. For his troubles that day he earned a Purple Heart and another Silver Star.

Returning to the air in December, McGuire flew two missions a day for a while. He’d been promoted to captain, and celebrated Christmas 1943 by shooting down three Val dive bombers over Cape Gloucester.

Not on Christmas Day, it was actually 26 December, but McGuire was leading a flight of protective cover to an invasion convoy over Cape Gloucester. He sighted 35 enemy fighters and directed a frontal assault on the formation. As soon as they commenced their attack, another 15 to 20 enemy fighters dove in, sucking the tactical advantage away from McGuire’s men. In this melee, McGuire looked down and saw a group of 30 Val dive bombers preparing to make their run on the Allied convoy.

McGuire was faced with a difficult decision. If he ordered his men to break off their attack on the enemy fighters, they would be easy pickings for the enemy aviators. However, allowing the bombers to complete their run would endanger the convoy. McGuire ordered his men to protect the convoy, it was their mission after all.

Despite the overwhelming enemy numerical superiority, McGuire led his men into two successive waves attacking the enemy bombers. Avoiding the enemy fighters, the American airmen downed 10 Val bombers (three of those belong to McGuire alone, and he shared credit for downing a fourth) and three enemy fighters.

McGuire received the Distinguished Service Cross for this action. After that he entered a bit of a slump. From the end of December 1943 until May 1944 he flew frequently, but saw little combat, and scored no more kills.

By the end of June he’d scored another four kills (two Oscars, one Tojo, and one Sonia) and been promoted to Major. His total kill count was 20 enemy aircraft.

Over the summer he scored only one more kill, but his unit did play host to Charles Lindburgh. McGuire shared a tent with the Medal of Honor recipient and partook of some leisure time together.

The fall saw much more action for McGuire. In October he downed three and in November four more. His total stood at 28. Around December he began flying with American ace of aces, Major Richard Ira Bong, who had by this point scored 33 kills.

By mid-December, Bong had scored seven more kills. After he hit 40 he was sent back to the States, where he received the Medal of Honor and was reassigned to flight test duties (from which he would sadly perish when his F-80 Shooting Star jet fighter would crash 6 August 1945). By the time Bong had been sent home, McGuire (holding the second place high score) had 31 kills.

So it was on Christmas Day 1944 that McGuire again took to the skies in his P-38. He was leading a group of 15 fighters providing top cover for a group of American bombers striking Mabalacat Airdrome in the Philippines.

They were suddenly attacked by 20 determined enemy fighters. As the air battle began, McGuire was seemingly everywhere. He and his men wove through the enemy formations, hunting down their prey despite the odds stacked against them.

Throughout the fight, McGuire frequently came to the aid of fellow pilots when they found themselves in the enemy’s sights. Driving the enemy off, he was outnumbered 3 to 1 at points in the fight.

McGuire didn’t even let his guns jamming stop him. Losing his offensive capabilities, he instead used his aircraft to drive an enemy plane into the line of fire of one of his comrades. By the time he turned to return home, McGuire had downed another three enemy aircraft, all Zeroes.

On the next day, 26 December, he again volunteered to lead the fighter escorts over the heavily contested Manilla airfield. When the enemy attacked the formation, McGuire used his skilful airmanship to draw fire away from one of the crippled bombers.

McGuire then in quick succession shot down one enemy fighter, deflected an attack from four enemy planes, one of which he shot down, single-handedly fought the remaining three, sending another one down, and then took out a fourth. His 38th overall victory and nearly making himself an ace in a day.

McGuire received the Medal of Honor for his bravery under fire over Christmas and Boxing Day 1944. You’ll recall that it was Boxing Day in 1943 that McGuire had earned the nation’s second highest award for bravery under similar circumstances.

McGuire’s Medal of Honor citation also references his final mission, and why he didn’t live to have the medal he so rightfully earned placed around his neck.

On 7 January 1945 McGuire again led a group of American fighters over central Philippines. McGuire desperately wanted to surpass his comrade and friend Bong’s 40 kills. McGuire and his three wingmen took to the skies with the sole purpose of adding Japanese flags to the fuselage of their fighters.

Descending from the clouds they circled one enemy airfield and found little movement. They moved to another one and the flight of four was attacked by a lone Japanese Oscar. The Japanese pilot was an experienced warrant officer who had logged more than 3,000 hours in the type.

The Oscar attacked the Americans from the front. McGuire and his wingman broke right, while the third and fourth aircraft broke left. The Oscar followed the two planes that had gone left. After shooting at them, the Oscar then turned to find McGuire and his wingman straight in front of him. The lightweight Oscar had no trouble catching up to the Americans and attacking them from behind.

McGuire’s wingman radioed he was under attack and cut his turn more sharply, to present a harder target for the Oscar. Meanwhile, McGuire went wide, hoping to draw off the enemy.

Despite being only 300 feet off the deck, McGuire increased his turn rate. A dangerous maneuver as the Lightning went closer and closer to stall speed, which at this altitude would be completely unrecoverable.

As he tried to tickle the dragon, he pulled too hard. The twin engine fighter stalled. This caused McGuire’s aircraft to snap roll, which as the name implies, is a quick roll. In planned conditions, the aircraft rolls completely around its longitudinal axis, but maintains a straight flight pattern.

In McGuire’s case it flipped him upside down and drove the aircraft nose down into the ground. McGuire died instantly when his plane crashed. Despite the low altitude, McGuire was almost able to pull out of the fatal dive. If he’d dropped his external fuel tanks, he might have been light and aerodynamic enough to recover.

Filipinos on the ground witnessed the crash of the valiant American aviator. They rushed to the scene and secured Major McGuire’s body so that it would not fall into the enemy’s hands. It wasn’t until 1949 that his remains were repatriated. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

In total McGuire earned the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, three Silver Stars, six Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Purple Hearts, 15 Air Medals, and four Presidential Unit Citations. In my rundown of the “Most Decorated” men, he came out as the most decorated American man in World War II, narrowly edging out Major Bong.

Both McGuire and Bong accomplished so much in such a short time. It’s hard to think about these towering figures of our history as the young men they were. They were both only 24 when their planes went down. They wouldn’t be able to rent a car today, but together they’d shot down more than 75 enemy aircraft, saving untold Allied lives.

When the US Air Force became a separate service in 1947, they renamed Fort Dix Army Air Force Base in New Jersey to McGuire Air Force Base.

So it is this Christmas that I’ll be saying thanks to Sergeant Kenneth Gruennert, First Sergeant Elmer Burr, Brigadier General Frederick Castle, Staff Sergeant Gus Kefurt, Master Sergeant Paul Wiedorfer, Private First Class Bud Biddle, and Major Thomas McGuire for their Christmas sacrifices as they fought for our freedom.

Category: Air Force, Army, Distinguished Service Cross, Historical, Medal of Honor, Real Soldiers, Valor, We Remember

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They should all get their MOH with brass balls cluster.


DAAYYUUUM! “…that such men lived.” Indeed! Reading the stories of these titanium balled Heroes, just makes the Valor Thieves claiming a Purple Heart just that more despicably scummy.

Great write up, Mason. Thanks!


You’ve outdone yourself, Mason. Thanks!

Hand Salute.
Ready, Two!

Steve 1371

Wonderful story Mason. I found a paperback book that talks about the fighter pilots in this story. A scarce item these days. It would probably not be allowed to be sold on Amazon for offending someone.
For all the great stories that survived WW2 there are many more that have gone untold I am sure. That goes for all wars.