Valor Friday

| September 15, 2023

A recent message reminded me that Poetrooper had asked a while back about the number of Medals of Honor earned in Vietnam for jumping on grenades. He told me at the time,

Checking out the Wikipedia list of MoH awardees in Vietnam today, I was particularly struck by something I’d never heard before: an astonishing percentage, if not a majority, of MoH’s awarded in that war were for the personal sacrifice of following on an enemy grenade to save one’s buddies. I have never read or heard that before in spite of decades of reading and researching my war.

I didn’t have time to do the math, but it is a very large percentage and it might make for a different sort of Valor Friday story.

Today is that different sort of Valor Friday.

Some backstory. Jumping on a live grenade is about the only sure fire way to get serious (and nearly immediate) consideration for a Medal of Honor. As you might expect, smothering an anti-personnel weapon like a grenade with your own body, while incredibly fearlessly brave, is often fatal. Though a surprisingly large number do survive. I’ve talked about some posthumous and surviving recipients before. Three Anoka County, Minnesota Marines and Jack Lucas immediately come to mind, all from World War II. I’ve already talked about some from the Vietnam War as well, like Rodney Davis.

To date, 268 Medals of Honor have been awarded for heroism in Vietnam. US Army soldiers account for 179, 15 were in the US Navy, 58 in the USMC, and 14 in the USAF. Of all awards, 163 (60.8%) were posthumous. Now, I went through all of those awards and looked at how many were for jumping on a grenade. Sixty-four (23.88%) of all awards were for diving on grenades. I also include the very similar acts of using one’s body as a human shield (three awards), defusing a claymore (one), grabbing live explosives and carrying them away (one), and throwing himself on a triggered booby trap or claymore (two) as these acts are so closely related to jumping on a grenade. That means in total there were 71 Medals of Honor earned in such fashion, more than 25% of all awards. While not a majority, it is a large percentage of awards for the war.

Of those 71 MoHs, 64 were posthumous. Six men lived to receive their medals. Then-Private First Class (posthumously promoted to sergeant) William Port of the Army, already wounded in the hand, survived smothering a grenade with his body, saving three comrades. Seriously wounded, he was captured by the enemy and died in captivity ten months later. This means that nearly 40% of all posthumous Medals of Honor awarded for Vietnam were to men who jumped on grenades. Poe was on the right track here as that’s the bulk of the awards. Self-sacrifice on a grenade blast is the single largest type of action for which the medal was received.

For more statistical analysis, two sailors of the USN jumped on grenades (one lived, one did not), 22 Marines (only one survived), and 47 were soldiers of the US Army (five survived). To date, I’m not aware of any Air Force airmen who have jumped on grenades, but John Levitow and Red Erwin wrestled with live phosphorous munitions in the air.


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

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John 15:13 notwithstanding, I can go ahead and attest that I do not think I have the wherewithal to jump on a live hand grenade. Instinctually you’re going to run away from that and seek cover.


Thank You, Mason and Poetrooper, for sharing this.

President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande


RGR 4-78

Speaking of Poetrooper, I haven’t seen him post in several days.

I hope you are doing okay Poe.


And one from mine. No greater love, indeed. Never forget!

Thanks, Mason.

Slow Joe

Is Poetrooper ok?