Valor Friday

| March 6, 2020

Hospital Corpsman David Hayden

Today’s Valor Friday honoree comes to us via a roundabout way, from Ex-PH2, to me and then on to our own Mason, who could, and does, do justice to the heroism of Hospital Corpsman David Hayden, USN, and his service in WWI.


This week I had some requests from Ex-PH2. In her recent stay in the hospital her attention was directed to two Navy Medical Corps heroes whose stories lined the hall at the hospital. The first was a man we’ve already visited; the most decorated medical officer in American history Vice Admiral Joel Thomas Boone. We explored his story, along with that of another legendary medical officer Army Major General Leonard Wood, almost exactly a year ago back on 3/22/19. That article can be found here:

The second request was for World War I US Navy Hospital Corpsman David Hayden. He will be our subject for today.

Hayden enlisted at the age of 20 in October 1917 shortly after the US entered the raging, vicious war in Europe. Enlisting from his home in Florence, Texas he received basic training in San Diego and Corpsman training in Quantico.

As a Hospital Apprentice First Class (a rate changed to Pharmacist’s Mate Third Class during and after WWI) he was assigned to the American Expeditionary Force in France with the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines.

The 2/6 Marines fought at the Battle of Belleau Wood, a battle which lasted the whole of the month of June, 1918. Starting on October 3rd, 1918 they led the offensive to retake Blanc Mont Ridge which pushed the Germans out of the Champagne region of France. Before the war ended, in the final major battle of the war, 2/6 Marines fought in the Meusse-Argonne Offensive in November, 1918. In September 1918 though Corpsman Hayden would find himself in a battle that would see him earn the nation’s highest honor.

September 12th saw the 2/6 Marines as part of a large scale, American led offensive in the area of Saint-Mihiel. The three day long battle was unique and historic for a few reasons.

The Battle of Saint-Mihiel was the first and only American-led offensive of the war. The nascent US Army Air Service played a large role in the battle, with nearly 1,500 aircraft assigned to the operation. Similarly, then-Lieutenant Colonel George Patton led his two newly formed battalions of armor in their first major engagement. Another historical footnote, this battle was the first time that the terms “D-Day” and “H-Hour” were used for planning purposes.

The result of this battle was a decisive victory for the Allies, in particular the Americans. Pershing’s meticulous planning, including large-scale combined arms operations, elevated the stature of the AEF among the French and British troops.

The Allied forces were also impressed by the lead from the front mentality for junior and field grade officers. British and Continental officers often directed the battle from behind their troops. American officers, such as Patton, preferred to be in the thick of the battle, believing that their presence would calm the chaos of combat. Patton even walked in front of his tanks into unsecured towns and rode on them into battle to inspire his troops.

It was on the final day of the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, September 15th, 1918, that David Hayden would distinguish himself in armed combat with the enemy near Thiacout, France.

A corporal in Hayden’s unit was struck down by machine gun fire during an advance across an open field. Caught in the open, the corporal was pinned down by heavy enemy fire. Hayden, with no regard for his own safety, rushed into the breach to attend to the corporal’s wounds. Upon arriving at the downed man, Hayden assessed his patient was mortally wounded and in need of immediate medical care. While under targeted enemy fire, and in the open, Hayden remained at the corporal’s side, dressing his wounds, before carrying the man back to the relative safety of friendly lines.

Hayden was wounded during his rescue, but the corporal’s life was saved due to his heroic efforts. For his gallantry in action, Hayden was awarded the Medal of Honor. He was also awarded a Silver Citation Star by the commander of the Second Division, A.E.F, none other than Major General John Lejeune. This was later upgraded to the Silver Star Medal. Similarly, Hayden received two wound chevrons for injuries sustained in combat. These were later upgraded to the Purple Heart. The 6th Marines (to include Hayden) also received the French Fourragere (which they and the 5th Marines wear to this day in honor of the bravery of these Marines) and Croix de Guerre three times (with two palms and a gilt star).

After the war Hayden remained in the Navy. He served aboard the troopship USS Princess Matoika until he mustered out in 1920. If you’re wondering who Princess Matoika was, the ship’s namesake is Pocahontas, with “Matoika” being a variant spelling of one of her names.

Hayden then joined the US Marshals, serving with them until the age of 70. That’s impressive. Chasing federal fugitives is a young man’s game to say the least. That means he retired in 1967 or 1968.

David Hayden died in 1974 at the age of 76. He is interred with many, many other American heroes at Arlington National Cemetery.

Thanks Ex, for pointing us to this incredible man’s story.

US Navy Medal of Honor

For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. During the advance, when Cpl. Creed was mortally wounded while crossing an open field swept by machinegun fire, Hayden unhesitatingly ran to his assistance and, finding him so severely wounded as to require immediate attention, disregarded his own personal safety to dress the wound under intense machinegun fire, and then carried the wounded man back to a place of safety.
Hand Salute. Ready, Two!
Thanks Ex, and Mason, for another Valor Friday hero.

Category: Devil Doc, Guest Post, Marines, Valor

Comments (4)

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  1. 5th/77th FA says:

    BZ Hospital Corpsman David Hayden! Job well done. The Marines here don’t have to be told what a meat grinder the battles listed above were. Those stories have been ingrained in every boot that ever stood on the yellow footprints. Most of the 320K + casualties Americans suffered (killed/died of other/wounded/MIA happened between June and the FIRST part of November 1918.

    Hand Salute! Ready…Two!

    Thanks Ex, Mason.

  2. ninja says:

    Thank You again, Mason, for sharing. Also Thank You to Ex-PH2 and AW1Ed for acknowledging PHM3 David Ehraim Hayden, US Navy.

    Some interesting tidbits about PHM3 Hayden and CPL Creed:

    (1) Corporal Creed:

    * The name of the Corporal cited in PHM3 Hayden’s Medal of Honor (MOH) citation is Carlos Dickson Creed of Columbus, Ohio.

    * Corporal Creed was born in Columbus, Ohio on 3 January 1886. He was a Marine who enlisted on 17 June 1917 and was a member of the 96th Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Regiment.

    * There was some confusion as to when and if Corporal Creed was KIA or seriously wounded. His Sister, Mrs. Frank Tidball of Coshocton, Ohio, was initially contacted in October 1918 that her Brother was Killed in Action (KIA) on 15 September 1918. However, she was then told in November 1918 that her Brother was still alive and was severely wounded.

    * Further research shows that Corporal Creed DID return to the US in 1921, but was deceased. A Manifest from the USAT Wheaton had the Ship sailing from Antwerp, Belgium on 19 July 1921 with arrival on 2 July 1921 carrying the remains of those who died in France. Corporal Creed in listed in the Manifest as “Remains of Overseas Dead”.

    * Additionally, a Graves Registration Card was initiated for him in August 1921 which listed his death as 15 September 1918 and KIA with Burial on 1 August 1921 at the Greenlawn Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio. His other Sister, Mrs. Emma L. Moore was listed as Next Of Kin.

    (2) PHM3 Hayden:

    * PHM3 David Ehraim Hayden was born in Florence, Texas on 2 October 1897 and spent him early life as a Cowboy and Bronco Buster.

    *In 1920, after PHM3 Hayden was discharged in July 1920 and moved to Southern California, he received his MOH via Registered Mail. At that time, Hayden was under the constant care of Army Doctors based on the two machine gun wounds he received during the Battle of Saint-Mihiel. Because of his wounds, he was too incapacitated to work and ran out of money where he was then compelled to ask assistance from the Disabled Veterans of the World War. On 11 December 1920, the MOH was conferred to Hayden at a Los Angeles, CA Twin Harbor Submarine Base with Captain Chancy Shackford, US Navy, presiding over the formal ceremony and reading Hayden’s MOH citation that was signed by the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels in a crowd of Veterans.

    *On 18 May 1962, while living in Fresno, CA, Hayden, now a US Marshal, was officially presented the MOH by Rear Admiral Frank Akers, who at the order of the Secretary of the Navy, placed it around Hayden’s neck. According to sources, Hayden’s was not aware that his friends contacted the Navy Department about presenting the MOH to Hayden in an official presentation.

    * In November 1921, Hayden was appointed to represent Los Angeles, CA as an Official Mourner in the Burial of the Unknown Soldier World War I ceremony at Arlington National. At that time, he was a Trainee of the United States Veteran Bureau and was in preparation of working at the University of California, Southern Branch as a Salesman.

    * On 5 May 1922, Hayden officially received the Cruz de Guerra Medal at the University of California, Southern Branch by the Portuguese Government. Colonel Guy G. Palmer, head of the ROTC of the the University, presented Hayden with this award.

    * The Depression hit Hayden. In 1932, he was discovered in Los Angeles washing windows for 20 cents an hour as well as washing dishes for 10 cents an hour. His reply to the reporters who tracked him down with his employment was “It’s work, isn’t it? Maybe not the kind I would prefer, but I want to work”.

    * Hayden eventually found work as a Deputy US Marshal in 1934, worked in Los Angeles and San Diego and retired in 1968 as the Head of the Fresno, California US Marshal’s office after serving for 34 years in that occupation.

    * In 1958, Hayden once again participated in the burial of Unknown Soldiers at Arlington National, this time for Soldiers from WWII and Korea.

    * On 18 March 1974, Hayden passed away from a long illness at the age of 76. Sadly, divorced in the 1940s, he had no known surviving relatives.

    Hopefully, Mason, oneday, you will do a story about John Henry Balch, who in WWI was a Pharmacist First Class Mate, USN, who also received the MOH.

  3. AW1Ed says:

    One of the passageways (halls to our Nautically Challenged TAH’ers) at the clinic on base is lined with posters of heroic HMs, their deeds and awards. Sadly, quite a few were awarded posthumously.
    Semper Fi, Devil Docs.

  4. 11B-Mailclerk says:

    I very much appreciate the Valor Friday posts. They remind us why it is important to shame those who would assume unearned honors. They also are inspiring in and of themselves.

    And the “never forget” part is also there.