Valor Friday

| March 22, 2019


Mason’s back with a pair of heroes whose examples of calm in the face of incredible personal danger would be worthy of high awards for just one instance of valor. These men faced those numerous times, leading or rendering aid as the situations required. Read on..

American military history is filled with some very interesting characters. From the boisterous and bombastic personality of a Teddy Roosevelt to the quiet dignity of Bill Crawford, American military heroes come in all colors, creeds, and backgrounds. Last week’s discussion of some brave medical officers continues. Today, I’ll discuss two who have a rightly earned place in American military history.

Leonard Wood

Many of us have been to Fort Leonard Wood, colloquially known as “Fort Lost-in-the-Woods” for its, shall we say, ample and scenic forests and little else (though there are some good caves for spelunking). As with many military bases, we don’t give much thought to the namesake for such places. At first glance, Leonard Wood, having been a major general and Chief of Staff of the United States Army, would seem a fitting person to name any facility after. Dig a little deeper and you’ll see a much more incredible story of a man who truly deserves to be remembered.

Born in 1860 in New Hampshire, Wood went to Harvard Medical School and earned his MD there in 1884. Of English descent, he is said to have had several ancestors on the Mayflower. In 1886, Wood took a post as a contract surgeon for the Army, later being upgraded to an assistant surgeon in the regular Army (an officer rank at the time equivalent to 1LT).

Wood was a surgeon in the 8th Infantry Regiment when it was sent to Arizona Territory to participate in the final hunt for Geronimo. This was a grueling campaign that saw the American troopers march hundreds of miles over rugged terrain in pursuit of the Apache, who were believed to be heading to Mexico to escape American authorities.

It was here that the young surgeon would distinguish himself, not as a medical doctor, but as a soldier in combat. First, Assistant Surgeon Wood volunteered to carry dispatches from his forward deployed unit, across hostile Indian territory. He went 70 miles in a single night and walked 30 miles the next day. As if that wasn’t enough, he also took command of his infantry detachment, whose officers were all casualties, in hand-to-hand combat against the Apache. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for these actions.

Promoted to surgeon (equivalent to captain) in 1891, he attended graduate school at Georgia Tech in 1893 and coached the school’s football team while playing left guard. This is as a 33 year old man, remember. He led them to a victorious season with a 2-1-1 record.

Up to the start of the Spanish American War, Wood served as personal physician to the presidencies of Grover Cleveland and William McKinley. At the outbreak of the war, Wood, along with his friend Theodore Roosevelt, helped to raise the 1st Volunteer Cavalry Regiment (you may know them better as the “Rough Riders”).

Appointed as a colonel in the US Volunteers, Wood led the Rough Riders in the successful engagement of the Battle of Las Guasimas. After the CG for the brigade became ill, Wood was field promoted to brigadier general of volunteers and assumed command of the 2nd Brigade, Cavalry Division, 5th Army Corps, leading the brigade during their famous victories at Kettle Hill and San Juan Heights. Wood remained in command of the 2nd Brigade for the remainder of the war. After the war, he was military governor of Santiago from 1889, and military governor of Cuba from 1899-1902.

Wood was called to the Philippines in 1902, commanding the Philippines Division and eventually the Department of the East. Promoted to major general in 1903, he was governor of Moro province, a Muslim stronghold, until 1906.

Wood was named Army Chief of Staff in 1910 by President Taft. He was, and to date is, the only medical officer to hold that position. His tenure as Chief of Staff saw Wood implement the forerunner of the ROTC program and was active in Teddy Roosevelt and the Republican’s Preparedness Movement, a campaign for universal military training and wartime conscription ahead of World War I.

As World War I started, Wood was replaced by President Wilson (a Democrat) due to his ties to the Republicans. He was recommended for field command of the American Expeditionary Force, but Pershing was chosen instead, since he was a far less partisan figure. During the US involvement in the war, Wood was in charge of training the 10th and 89th Infantry Divisions.

Maj Gen Leonard Wood, medical doctor, former CSA, MoH recipient, college football coach, and Rough Rider retired from the Army in 1921 and served as the Governor General of the Philippines from 1921 until his death in 1927.


Voluntarily carried dispatches through a region inhabited by hostile Indians, making a journey of 70 miles in one night and walking 30 miles the next day. Also for several weeks, while in close pursuit of Geronimo’s band and constantly expecting an encounter, commanded a detachment of Infantry, which was then without an officer, and to the command of which he was assigned upon his own request.

Joel Thomas Boone

Boone has the distinction of being the most decorated medical officer in the history of the United States armed forces. His list of valor awards includes the Medal of Honor, an Army Distinguished Service Cross, no less than six Silver Stars, and a Bronze Star with combat “V”. That’s just his valor awards. His story is one worth listening to as he seems to have had a knack for being everyplace something big was happening.

A native of Pennsylvania, and a distant relative to Daniel Boone, Joel Boone graduated medical school in Philadelphia in 1913. He joined the Navy Reserve the following year and was commissioned as a lieutenant (junior grade). Boone then attended the US Naval Medical School in D.C in 1915, then was commissioned into the regular Navy and assigned to a Marine artillery battalion in Haiti until 1916.

When the US joined the First World War, Boone was assigned to the dreadnought battleship USS Wyoming and promoted to lieutenant in 1917. Arriving in Europe, Boone was assigned as surgeon to the 6th Marine Regiment, part of the Army’s 2nd Division, itself part of the American Expeditionary Force. It was here that Boone first displayed exemplary bravery.

During the battle of Belleau Wood in France, the days of June 9th and 10th, 1918 saw ferocious fighting on the Western Front. Arriving during a French retreat, AEF forces refused to retreat. As one intrepid American captain said, “Retreat, Hell! We just got here.”

Staffing a regimental aid station near the front Dr. Boone was tending to the wounded when not once, but twice, the aid station was struck by such heavy German shell fire that it was demolished. At least 10 men were killed and many more wounded were hurt by falling debris. During these harrowing conditions, Boone continued without ceasing, in his care of the wounded and guiding the evacuation of the casualties. His stoicism under fire was called “an inspiring example of heroism to the officers and men serving under him.”

As if not enough, on June 25, 1918, Boone continued to put his safety at risk to tend to the front line troops, setting up an advanced dressing station under continuous shell fire after an attack on an enemy machine gun position. For his actions during June, 1918, the US Army would award Boone the Distinguished Service Cross.

July 19, 1918 saw Lieutenant Boone’s unwavering willingness to charge into danger to help those injured. It was in Vierzy, France that Boone was in a ravine at the front. He saw, out in the open wounded Marines. Leaving the safety of said ravine, Boone rushed onto the open field. Without protection, under heavy enemy fire of multiple calibers, and through a mist of poison gas, Boone applied dressings and gave first aid to the injured Marines.

When his supply of dressings ran out, he ran through a heavy barrage of enemy shells (both explosive and gas) to replenish his supplies. Reloaded with more bandages, the good doctor, rushed back into the breach to tend to the wounded. He made this return trip for more supplies again later in the day and again went back out to give aid to the casualties. This awe inspiring episode of personal heroism was recognized with the Medal of Honor.

Boone also received six silver citation stars (later upgraded to silver star medals) for his WWI service. All of these awards were for displaying unnatural coolness in the heat of battle as he set up aid stations at the front, under constant shell and small arms fire, and directly removing wounded from the field of battle himself. Dates of action range from June 1, 1918 to Nov 11, 1918.

Shortly before the end of the war, in September 1918, he was promoted to lieutenant commander. After the Great War, Boone was made director of the Bureau of Naval Affairs at the American Red Cross in D.C. In 1922, Boone was called to service aboard the presidential yacht the USS Mayflower for President Warren G Harding.

An attentive physician, Dr. Boone monitored the failing health of President Harding and his wife, while the President’s official personal physician spent more time with the press pool. He was with the President in Alaska when he died in 1923. Boone remained the medical officer to the president, first for Calvin Coolidge, then Herbert Hoover, and, for a short time, Franklin Roosevelt when he took office in 1933.

Made a commander in 1931 and captain in 1939, Boone spent the 30’s, as most active duty officers of the time, moving around several leadership positions. During World War II, Boone served as Senior Medical Officer at NAS San Diego from 1940-1943 and then commander of the Naval Hospital at Seattle.

April, 1945 saw Boone promoted to commodore and assigned to the Third Fleet as the Fleet Medical Officer. He was tasked with the care and evacuation of Allied POWs held at the Japanese Omori POW camp in Tokyo. Three boarding parties left the USS San Juan on August 31st, and not surprisingly, Commodore Boone was in the first Higgins boat.

“While entering the channel a large number of waving and very excited prisoners of war, unclad or partially clad, were seen to be standing on the dock. As the first LCVP arrived, many prisoners jumped into the water and swam toward the boat. The excitement of the prisoners was a never-forgettable sight. They carried homemade improvised national flags of the United States and Great Britain,” according to the United States Pacific Fleet’s report on the “Initial Release of Prisoners of War in Japan.”

Boone was the first American ashore, eager to give every effort to the starved and suffering Allied POWs. He was also unarmed, since he was a medical officer. After liberating Omori, Boone requisitioned a car and went to the Shinagawa Prison Hospital. Pushing aside the armed guards (who had bayonets attached), the Commodore stormed into the hospital. Once the Allied POWs realized he was an American officer, “their excitement knew no bounds. Those who were able to ran out of doors and jumped through windows, running toward him, hugging him, yelling and literally kissing him and falling at his feet in their excitement.”

Boone was then present onboard the USS Missouri on Sept 2, 1945 at the signing of the Japanese instruments of surrender.

After his second World War, Boone served in a variety of staff positions, making rear admiral in 1946. His final posting was as IG of the Medical Department, a position which brought him to Korea in 1950, in the earliest days of that war. He retired in December, 1950 due to health issues, being promoted to the rank of vice admiral.

Towards the end of his career, Admiral Boone’s accomplishments include putting helicopter decks on hospital ships for the Korean War and conducting the first medical and safety survey of US coal mines.

Boone had a long and well deserved retirement, passing away in 1974.

Medal of Honor
World War I
Service: Navy
Division: 2d Division, American Expeditionary Forces
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant (MC) Joel Thompson Boone, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism, conspicuous gallantry, and intrepidity while serving with the Sixth Regiment, U.S. Marines, in actual conflict with the enemy. With absolute disregard for personal safety, ever conscious and mindful of the suffering fallen, Surgeon Boone, leaving the shelter of a ravine, went forward onto the open field where there was no protection and despite the extreme enemy fire of all calibers, through a heavy mist of gas, applied dressings and first aid to wounded Marines. This occurred southeast of Vierzy, France, near the cemetery, and on the road south from that town. When the dressings and supplies had been exhausted, he went through a heavy barrage of large-caliber shells, both high explosive and gas, to replenish these supplies, returning quickly with a sidecar load, and administered them in saving the lives of the wounded. A second trip, under the same conditions and for the same purpose, was made by Surgeon Boone later that day.

Hand salute. Ready, TWO!

Category: Army, Marines, Navy, Politics, The Warrior Code, Valor

Comments (8)

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  1. AnotherPat says:

    Thank You so much, Mason, for researching and sharing these stories…Kudos to Ed for posting them.

    Salute. May We Never Forget.

  2. Jay says:

    Love reading these on a Friday. Thanks for posting them.

  3. 5th/77th FA says:

    Outstanding posts Mason. Really appreciate the research and effort that it takes to brings these to us. Gonna forward this to my doc. Let him see what a real medico could do. Keep it up.

    Sorry it took me so long to get here. Had a lot to take care of FIRST thing today.

  4. Jeffery D Monroe says:


  5. HMC Ret says:

    I appreciate reading these each week and thank you for doing the research to post them. I am humbled by men and women such as these.

  6. 26Limabeans says:

    “walking 30 miles the next day”

    Between this hero and the swimmers escaping East Germany in recent WOT posts, I am amazed at the human spirit and the will to survive.

  7. CDR_D says:

    Another post about awesome people. Thanks.

  8. HMCS(FMF) ret says:

    Kudos to both Mason and AW1Ed for posting these weekly.