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Veterans Services @ USC: Medal of Honor Recipients affiliated with USC

This guide provides contact information for available services at USC for Veterans.

History of the Medal of Honor

According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, On December 9, 1861 Iowa Senator James W. Grimes introduced S. No. 82 in the United States Senate, a bill designed to "promote the efficiency of the Navy" by authorizing the production and distribution of   "medals of honor". On December 21st the bill was passed, authorizing 200 such medals be produced "which shall be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen and marines as shall distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action and other seamanlike qualities during the present war (Civil War)." President Lincoln signed the bill and the (Navy) Medal of Honor was born. 

Two months later on February 17, 1862 Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson introduced a similar bill, this one to authorize "the President to distribute medals to privates in the Army of the United States who shall distinguish themselves in battle." Over the following months wording changed slightly as the bill made its way through Congress. When President Abraham Lincoln signed S.J.R. No. 82 on July 12, 1862, the Army Medal of Honor was born. It read in part:

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President of the United States be, and he is hereby, authorized to cause two thousand "medals of honor" to be prepared with suitable emblematic devices, and to direct that the same be presented, in the name of the Congress, to such non--commissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities, during the present insurrection (Civil War).

With this simple and rather obscure act Congress created a unique award that would achieve prominence in American history like few others.

Each branch of service has its distinct medal.  Marine Corps and Coast Guard receive the US Navy version.

US Army                                             US Navy                                        US Air Force

A full chronology of the medal's history and key events are found at:  http://www.cmohs.org/medal-history.php

William Loren McGonagle Captain, United States Navy

William Loren McGonagle, graduated from USC in 1947.  Born in Wichita, Kansas on 19 Nov 1925.  He enlisted in the US Navy in 1944 and attended the Naval training crops at USC.  His service in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam is listed in his Arlington Cemetery headstone.  Captain McGonagle as awarded the Medal of Honor in 1967.  

The President of the United States
in the name of The Congress
takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor
to

McGONAGLE, WILLIAM Rank and organization: Captain (then Comdr.) U.S. Navy, U.S.S. Liberty (AGTR-5).   Place and date: International waters, Eastern Mediterranean, 8-9 June 1967. Entered service at: Thermal, Calif. Born: 19 November 1925, Wichita, Kans.
 

The citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. LIBERTY in the Mediterranean Sea on 8 and 9 June 1. Sailing in international waters, the LIBERTY was attacked without warning by jet fighter aircraft and motor torpedo boats which inflicted many casualties among the crew and caused extreme damage to the ship. Although severely wounded during the first air attack, Captain McGonagle remained at his battle station on the badly damaged bridge and, with full knowledge of the seriousness of his wounds, subordinated his own welfare to the safety and survival of his command. Steadfastly refusing any treatment which would take him away from his post, he calmly continued to exercise firm command of his ship. Despite continuous exposure to fire, he maneuvered his ship, directed its defense, supervised the control of flooding and fire, and saw to the care of the casualties. Captain McGonagle’s extraordinary valor under these conditions inspired the surviving members of the LIBERTY’s crew, many of them seriously wounded, to heroic efforts to overcome the battle damage and keep the ship afloat. Subsequent to the attack, although in great pain and weak from the loss of blood, Captain McGonagle remained at his battle station and continued to command his ship for more than 17 hours. It was only after rendezvous with a U.S. destroyer that he relinquished personal control of the LIBERTY and permitted himself to be removed from the bridge. Even then, he refused much needed medical attention until convinced that the seriously wounded among his crew had been treated. Captain McGonagle’s superb professionalism, courageous fighting spirit, and valiant leadership saved his ship and many lives. His actions sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

CPT Benjamin Salomon, United States Army

Benjamin L. Salomon, graduated from the USC School of Dentistry in 1937. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 1 Sep 1914, Salomon grew up in the city, graduated from Shorewood High School and attended Marquette University before moving to Los Angeles, California, to finish his undergraduate education at the University of Southern California.  He went on to graduate from the USC Dental College.  In 1940, Ben Salomon was ordered to report for induction into the Army, Dr. Ben Salomon became an infantry private. 

The President of the United States
in the name of
The Congress
takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor
to

*SALOMON, BEN LOUIS

Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Army, 2d Battalion, 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division. Place and date: Saipan, Marianas Islands, 7 July 1944.  Entered service at: Milwaukee, WI. Birth: Milwaukee, WI. 

 

The citation reads:

Captain Ben L. Salomon was serving at Saipan, in the Marianas Islands on July 7, 1944, as the Surgeon for the 2d Battalion, 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division. The Regiment's 1st and 2d Battalions were attacked by an overwhelming force estimated between 3,000 and 5,000 Japanese soldiers. It was one of the largest attacks attempted in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Although both units fought furiously, the enemy soon penetrated the Battalions' combined perimeter and inflicted overwhelming casualties. In the first minutes of the attack, approximately 30 wounded soldiers walked, crawled, or were carried into Captain Salomon's aid station, and the small tent soon filled with wounded men. As the perimeter began to be overrun, it became increasingly difficult for Captain Salomon to work on the wounded. He then saw a Japanese soldier bayoneting one of the wounded soldiers lying near the tent. Firing from a squatting position, Captain Salomon quickly killed the enemy soldier. Then, as he turned his attention back to the wounded, two more Japanese soldiers appeared in the front entrance of the tent. As these enemy soldiers were killed, four more crawled under the tent walls. Rushing them, Captain Salomon kicked the knife out of the hand of one, shot another, and bayoneted a third. Captain Salomon butted the fourth enemy soldier in the stomach and a wounded comrade then shot and killed the enemy soldier. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Captain Salomon ordered the wounded to make their way as best they could back to the regimental aid station, while he attempted to hold off the enemy until they were clear. Captain Salomon then grabbed a rifle from one of the wounded and rushed out of the tent. After four men were killed while manning a machine gun, Captain Salomon took control of it. When his body was later found, 98 dead enemy soldiers were piled in front of his position. Captain Salomon's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

Captain Benjamin Lewis Salomon was killed in action on 7 July 1944. He is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Los Angeles County, CA, in Great Mausoleum, Columbarium of Guidance, N-21994.

Rudolph B. Davila Second Lieutenant, United States Army

Rudolph B. Davila, graduated from USC with a BA in Education in 1959. He went on to earn a master's degree and teach high school history in Los Angeles.  Born in El Paso, Texas on 27 Apr 1916.  He received the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroic actions in the Italian campaign of WWII, however, in 1998, after an long review of his actions, the DSC was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

The President of the United States
in the name of The Congress
takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor to

Davila, Rudolph B.

Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company H, 7th Infantry. Place and date: Artena, Italy, 28 May, 1944. Born:   27 April 1916, El Paso, TX Entered service at: Los Angeles, Calif.

The citation reads:

Staff Sergeant Rudolph B. Davila distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action, on 28 May 1944, near Artena, Italy. During the offensive which broke through the German mountain strongholds surrounding the Anzio beachhead, Staff Sergeant Davila risked death to provide heavy weapons support for a beleaguered rifle company. Caught on an exposed hillside by heavy, grazing fire from a well-entrenched German force, his machine gunners were reluctant to risk putting their guns into action. Crawling fifty yards to the nearest machine gun, Staff Sergeant Davila set it up alone and opened fire on the enemy. In order to observe the effect of his fire, Sergeant Davila fired from the kneeling position, ignoring the enemy fire that struck the tripod and passed between his legs. Ordering a gunner to take over, he crawled forward to a vantage point and directed the firefight with hand and arm signals until both hostile machine guns were silenced. Bringing his three remaining machine guns into action, he drove the enemy to a reserve position two hundred yards to the rear. When he received a painful wound in the leg, he dashed to a burned tank and, despite the crash of bullets on the hull, engaged a second enemy force from the tank’s turret. Dismounting, he advanced 130 yards in short rushes, crawled 20 yards and charged into an enemy-held house to eliminate the defending force of five with a hand grenade and rifle fire. Climbing to the attic, he straddled a large shell hole in the wall and opened fire on the enemy. Although the walls of the house were crumbling, he continued to fire until he had destroyed two more machine guns. His intrepid actions brought desperately needed heavy weapons support to a hard-pressed rifle company and silenced four machine gunners, which forced the enemy to abandon their prepared positions. Staff Sergeant Davila's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.

 

 

Additional Information on the Medal of Honor

There are many resources available for additional information on these, and all other Medal of Honor recipients.  Here are a few resources:

 

The Congressional Medal of Honor Society: http://www.cmohs.org/

  • this page contains a full archive of all the recipients

The Medal of Honor Foundation:  http://themedalofhonor.com

US Army Center of Military History: http://www.history.army.mil/index.html