Valor Friday

| August 18, 2023

USS Harvey C. Barnum Jr. (DDG-124)

It’s not often that a US Naval vessel is named after someone still living. When they do honor a living person, it’s usually someone of great importance like former Presidents. Recently, a US Marine was privileged enough to witness the launch of a new Arleigh Burke-class destroyer that bears his name.

Harvey Barnum as a Lt. Col.

Harvey C. Barnum Jr. received the Medal of Honor for actions in Vietnam, on his first foray into combat. He’d only been with his unit for a few days when he was thrust into command of a rifle company on the death of the unit’s commander. The men he led didn’t even know his name and he wasn’t even an infantry officer. Barnum was an artillery officer acting as a forward observer.

Barnum was a 25-year old first lieutenant on 18 December 1965 with Company H, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines (2/9 Marines). As a forward observer, his role with the ground troops would be to call in supporting fire from aircraft, artillery, and naval gunfire.

As the Marines moved through the jungles of Vietnam, just a week before Christmas, they were suddenly pinned down by heavy enemy fire. With the company separated from the rest of the battalion by about 500 yards of open, fire swept terrain.

Barnum swung into action. With casualties among the Americans mounting, Barnum conducted a hazardous personal reconnaissance of the company’s area, looking for targets for his artillery. He discovered the company commander mortally wounded and the officer’s radioman already dead.

With the area of the company commander under heavy, direct enemy fire, Barnum ignored the danger. He provided medical aid to the dying officer and took the radio pack of the radioman and put it on himself.

It’s worth taking a moment to remember that the man-portable radios of the Vietnam area were large, backpack sized units with long, very visible aerial antennas protruding off the top (and above the operator’s head). The enemy quickly realized that the man with the radio was the one calling in supporting fire from artillery and aircraft, not to mention he’d also be calling in medical evacuation helicopters. The enemy found an easily visible target in the man with the radio.

Barnum, with radio on his back, assumed command of the rifle company he’d just met for the first time days before. Moving among the company’s defensive position, through constant enemy fire, he directed the men in their hasty defense.

Encouraging them, he reorganized them as casualties continued to claim key, experienced personnel. He personally led them in counter attacks against the enemy positions as they continued to pour fire into the Marines.

The men of Company H rallied. They were inspired by watching their ersatz company commander stand in the open, among the enemy fire, to personally point out enemy targets.

Barnum didn’t forget his original role with the company. While now commanding the operation on the ground, he used his radio to direct supporting fire. With two armed helicopters overhead for close air support, Barnum continued to move through exposed positions, under constant enemy fire, to accurately direct the choppers onto enemy targets.

Leading a platoon in a counterattack, they eliminated several enemy positions, and Barnum was able to make enough open area for a landing zone. Two transport helicopters were then called in to evacuate the dead and wounded. Barnum then led his men in the mopping up, reconnecting with their battalion, and finally the securement of the battalion’s objective.

Barnum would be the fourth Marine to receive the Medal of Honor during Vietnam. He would continue his service, becoming the first Medal of Honor recipient to return for a second tour in Vietnam.

Barnum would receive two Bronze Star Medals (with “V”), a Navy Commendation Medal with “V”, and a Purple Heart on his trips through Southeast Asia. He would ultimately retire as a colonel from the Marines in August 1989 with 27 years of service.

He worked in the office of the Secretary of Defense immediately after retirement, and later was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Reserve Affairs. He held the latter position for almost all of the George W Bush Administration. He’s also held several civic leadership positions and is active in many veterans organizations.

Barnum is married to Martha Hill, for whom he is the primary caregiver after she suffered a stroke about five years ago. She served as the sponsor (from her wheelchair) for the ship that bears her husband’s name. Also in attendance at the event in July 2023 were a daughter, two granddaughters, and one great granddaughter.

Barnum said that during his first trial by combat in Vietnam he was scared, they all were. He just tried not to show it.

Colonel Barnum says of war, “It’s a tough business. But when it gets tough, the tough get going and that’s what Marines do. We came together as a team. And, you know, there’s no fury unleashed that’s greater than that of a bunch of Marines that know that their buddies have been shot.”

Category: Historical, Marines, Medal of Honor, Valor, We Remember

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I’d be proud to serve onboard a ship named after such a hero.
Bravo Zulu Big Navy for doing something right.


3 beers for Colonel Barnum!

May the Good Lord watch over him and his.

USMC Steve

ALL Marine officers are infantry officers.



Another King Of Battle.

“And, you know, there’s no fury unleashed that’s greater than that of a bunch of Marines that know that their buddies have been shot.”


Thank You, Mason, for sharing another Valor story about an Unsung Hero.


Glad to see the Navy naming a ship for a real hero! If memory serves me the Knox Class Frigates were all named after MOH recipients. Served on 2 of those. Thanks for the great article.


I am guessing his RTO had a PRC-25? About 25 pounds of bulky.
I remember in Basic wr were taught to target in order 1) Radio cuz they could call in hurt 2) heavier MGs cuz they dealt hurt and 3)anyone looking like a leader.

President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande

PRC-25 or PRC-77.
Same package, different imnards.
(ask me how I know)


A couple of things:
In 1979, then LtCol Barnum was battalion commander for 2nd Bn, RTR, MCRD Parris Island. Even a lowly scumbag recruit like me recognized the significance of that light blue ribbon with five stars at the top of the rack during the Battalion Commander’s inspection.
Second point: The concept of “every Marine a rifleman” is proven by men like Col Bynum.


Tried to fix spelling of Barnum in the last sentence. Website fought me the whole way.


No circus clown about this Warrior. Did him a Gun Bunny Hop bringing rings of fire and the dam dam down on the bad guys. Pretty good Radio Operator, too.

Battery Gun Salute for this Hero. Fire by the piece, from right to left….PREPARE….COMMENCE FIRING!

Great story, again, Mason. Thanks!