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The Medal of Honor recipients of D-Day

Numerous acts of bravery were displayed by servicemen who participated in the Allied invasion of Normandy. Some of these went straight into legend and were eventually recompensed with the most prestigious military decorations: the Victoria Cross — awarded to Commonwealth troops — or the Medal of Honor. The latter is the highest military award bestowed on an individual by the United States Congress in recognition of acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.

Of the ten servicemen who were presented with this unique distinction for their remarkable courage and selflessness in the first week of the campaign, four received it for their actions on D-Day:

1. Brig. General Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the 54-year-old son and namesake of the 26th President of the United States, was the assistant commander of the 4th infantry division, the outfit earmarked for the assault on Utah Beach. Despite being burdened by health problems which, in at least one case, resulted from his military service in France during WWI, he landed on D-Day with the first wave of troops (after two verbal requests and one written petition to the Divisional Commander). Teddy Roosevelt Jr. directed the troops through enemy fire, personally reconnoitered the area and lead his men inland. The Medal of Honor was presented to him post-mortem, as the general died of a heart attack on July 12, 1944. He is now resting in Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville s/ Mer.

Check out the CMOHS website for the full citation here

Normandy tours, D-Day tours, Normandy Cemetery
Teddy Roosevelt Jr. is resting in Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville s/ Mer, France

2. 1st Lt. Jimmie W. Monteith Jr., a 26-year-old native of Low Moor, Virginia, served as a platoon leader in L Company, III/16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. On June 6, 1944, at Omaha Beach, Monteith led his men in an assault against the heavily fortified enemy positions covering Cabourg draw. Disconsidering his personal safety ‘Punk’ — as his high-school friends used to call the young Virginian — continued to lead and inspire his troops until he was killed by an enemy shell. Monteith was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and, like Teddy Roosevelt, was laid to rest in Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

Check out the CMOHS website for the full citation here


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3. Private Carlton W. Barrett, a 24-year-old serviceman from Fulton, New York, was also a member of the ‘Big Red One’ (1st Infantry Division). According to the official report he landed at Omaha beach in neck-deep water. Dead and wounded were strewn on the sand that was vanishing little by little from the effect of the rising tide. In the face of intense enemy fire and wounded himself, Barrett repeatedly carried other wounded soldiers through difficult surf and over a sandbar, helping them into evacuation boats. Carlton received his Medal of Honor during a ceremony held in Paris on November 17, 1944. He continued to serve in the Army after the war until his retirement as a Staff Sergeant in June 1963.

Check out the CMOHS website for the full citation here

4. Technician Fifth Grade John J. Pinder, Jr., a 32-year-old native of McKees, Pennsylvania, was carrying important radio equipment when he landed at Omaha Beach with the assault regiment of the 1st Infantry Divison. Enemy fire was so intense that the former professional baseball player suffered a first wound before he could get to the shore. After pulling his radio onto the sand, he went back into the surf to find and salvage more equipment. He was to be wounded twice more during three successive trips back into the surf. As he worked onshore to establish radio communications, John was fatally wounded. He is buried in Grandview Cemetery in Florence, Pennsylvania.

Check out the CMOHS website for the full citation here

It is quite remarkable and speaks for the gallantry of the American troops at Omaha Beach that all these four Medal of Honor recipients were de facto members of the Big Red One. Although Teddy Roosevelt Jr. landed at Utah beach in his awkward capacity of 'spare general' - slightly derisive term used by General Omar Bradley to discribe the famous New Yorker in his war memoir - he had served with the 1st Division in WWI and saw action with the divison (after his return to active duty in 1941) in both North Africa and Sicily. It was only in the spring of 1944 that Teddy Roosevelt was reasigned, against his own wishes, to the 4th Division.


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